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What You Don't Fear

Chapter Text

There was pain everywhere inside his body, spreading out from his skull until even his toes and his fingertips hurt. The pain must have woken him up, because the last thing he remembered was the surface of the planet coming closer at high speed until the dark green of the thick jungle-like forest was all he could see through the windscreen of his small spaceship.

Captain Erik Drum slowly blinked his eyes open with a pained groan as he tried to recall the impact when his fighter had hit the canopies of the tall trees and the hard ground only seconds later.

The pain made it hard for him to think, but he actually welcomed it, because it told him that his spine almost certainly hadn't been damaged too severely in the crash landing. He could feel and move his legs and his arms with ease, the pain bearable as he did so, and the young captain hoped that he hadn't suffered any serious internal bleeding but only some nasty bruises. His head hurt pretty much from the crash, but he didn't feel dizzy, and his vision had cleared and was as sharp as usual after the first three or four seconds of disorientation after his unconsciousness.

Erik let out another groan when he struggled into a more upright position, fumbling for the fastener of his safety belt. “What a great start to introduce yourself to Atlantis and the Second Alliance, Erik Drum,” he muttered to himself. “There couldn't have been a better way to prove your skills to Colonel Sheppard and Colonel Mitchell than to crash one of their new precious and very expensive space fighters on an unknown planet. They will be so pleased with you, congratulating you on your wonderful performance!”

If they would ever find him, that is!

Erik had no clue where he was, and the lights on the console in front of his seat remained stubbornly dark and silent when he pressed the buttons to check over his small plane. His D-1404 was one of the five new fighters Earth had worked on for more than two years, using the technology of the Asgards, the Ancients and the Wraith to create something entirely new. The small plane was actually a hybrid of the old Earth fighters F-302 and the Wraith Darts, and it contained not only a buffer like Wraith Darts did and the beam technology of the Asgards and the Wraith in combination, but also Ancient technology which could only be operated by those pilots possessing the ATA-gene.

Lady Artemis, High Commander Todd and their allied Commanders had eventually given access to their technology after years of negotiations with the IOA and General O'Neill as the emissary of the united military command on Earth, and Commander Sinamore's consort – the ascended Ancient Atreyus – had helped them with the technology of his own people.

It was only a small part of their technology because the ascended Ancients had strict rules when it came to that, but it gave the New Lanteans a huge advantage and would allow them to protect and support their allied planets from the attacks of hostile Wraith much better in the future than they had been able to do before building these new ships. If the new fighters worked without problems, then Earth would try to create bigger scout-ships with the same technology, but all of this depended on the experiences of the handful of carefully chosen pilots with the D-1404s.

Erik was a strong natural gene-carrier of the ATA-gene, and he had been so proud when he had been chosen to join the Atlantis mission and fly one of the new and so precious spaceships – not only because of his gene as Colonel Mitchell had assured him, but also because of his skills as a pilot. The D-1404 didn't need Stargates to bridge long distances any longer like the old F-302 or the Puddle Jumpers needed them, the new Dart Fighters as Erik's direct superior Colonel Mitchell called them possessed a hyper drive and had a range of several hundred light years.

The Stardust had arrived over Atlantis a couple of weeks ago, carrying the brand-new fighters in her belly to test them in the Pegasus Galaxy, and Erik had felt as if his biggest dream had come true when he'd set foot in Atlantis for the first time in his life.

The young captain had felt overwhelmed and in awe of everything, especially the fearsome Wraith he had heard so much about. The things others had told him about these amazing beings hadn't prepared him in the slightest for the 'real' Wraith strolling through the city as though they'd always belonged there, talking and sometimes even joking with the humans they encountered as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do. Colonel Mitchell had spent several weeks on Earth choosing the new expedition members and pilots himself with greatest care, and he'd only smiled and winked at Erik when the young captain with the light-brown hair and the hazel-green eyes had asked him about their alien allies before they had left Earth to fly to Pegasus with the Stardust.

“You will get to know them soon enough, Captain Drum. Nothing I could tell you about them would do them real justice, you have to find out for yourself, I fear. There is only one thing you'll always have to think of: the Wraith belonging to our alliance will always protect you with their own life, you'll never have to fear them. But the Wraith living outside our alliance are still our lethal enemies, so you'd better stay away from them if you can!”

This was all Colonel Mitchell had said, and Erik had been confused and hesitant to come closer to any Wraith he'd encountered during his first three weeks in Atlantis. Watching the proud Commanders interacting with their human allies, especially their beloved consorts, had made him feel curious and intrigued at last, and Erik had hoped to get to know one of the greenish alien beings better in the course of the time.

This surely wouldn't happen now, not after him crashing one of the new and long-awaited Dart Fighters. Erik was certain that Colonel Sheppard would send him back to Earth again straight away if he was lucky enough that they would find him in time that was, his career ending before it had even really begun.

The young captain gave up his useless attempts to bring his small plane back to life, letting out a frustrated sound with an angry expression on his handsome features. He would have to check the hyper radio device and try to make it work again, but first of all he needed to get out of here and search for a place where he could rest in relative safety. He needed to find water and something he could eat, some berries or other plants, perhaps some animals he could hunt. Erik wasn't really fond of the idea of going hunting, but he only had limited supplies, and he wanted to save the energy bars for as long as possible.

Erik suppressed another groan when he pushed against the hatch of his Dart Fighter to force it open, glad when the metal frame obeyed him after the third attempt, giving in with a creaking noise of protest. The material the D-1404 was made of was a completely new alloy of steel, naquadah and aluminum, the hatch and the windscreen made of a special transparent glass and plastic alloy that was space-proof.

Erik climbed outside gritting his teeth, carefully examining and stretching his limbs as he checked himself for possible serious damage. When he didn't find any, he straightened his shoulders and looked around. His fighter had left a large swath of broken trees and bushes behind, and the young captain felt a cold shiver running down on his spine when he realized how lucky he had actually been. His plane didn't even look as badly damaged as he had feared that it might be, perhaps it could be repaired – if Atlantis found him and brought both of them back to the city that is.

“Okay Erik. You're in trouble, but not as much as you thought you were. You need to find a good place to shelter where you can stay during the nights, and after some hours of rest and hopefully having found some food and fresh water, you'll come back here and see to repairing the hyper radio device,” the handsome young captain said to himself, rummaging around in the fighter for the medical bag and the bag with the supplies. He knew that the bag also contained a scanner to check whether or not the berries and plants he hoped to find were edible, and there was also a compass and a small GPS device he needed to orientate himself. Both items were working when he tried them, and Erik let out a sound of relief and fixed the coordinates of his landing site to be able to find his way back to his plane later again.

He wasn't happy that he had to leave his fighter, but Erik was experienced enough to know that it was too risky to stay here. He didn't know this planet, and hostile species like the Genii that had refused to accept Ladon Radim as their president or the Wraith not belonging to the Second Alliance would come here first to search for possible survivors. He needed a place where he would be safe from animal predators as much as from other intelligent beings who weren't on friendly terms with Atlantis, and he needed to find a creek or other water source because his water supplies wouldn't last for more than perhaps two or three days. When he had found everything in his bags that he had been searching for, he closed the hatch of his Dart Fighter, trying the remote control that would make it invisible for others. Erik hadn't really thought that it would still work, but much to his surprise and joy it did work, and the young captain watched his precious plane disappear behind a wall of flickering air.

He turned around when his small spaceship had become invisible, musing for a few seconds about which direction to take. Finally, he looked at his compass and drew in a deep breath, starting off towards the line of green mountains he could see shimmering in the distance through the swath of destruction his plane had left. It melted with the azure-blue sky on the horizon, and Erik guessed that they were about ten or fifteen miles away. It was hard to tell, but he was young and military, and the sun was still high in the sky, so he should reach the mountains before nightfall.

Erik ignored the pain every step made shoot through his bruised body and started to walk.

 

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The squealing noise of the small ship going down with far too much speed was audible even miles away. The tall creature paused what it was doing, raising its head to stare at the deep blue sky with glittering yellow-golden eyes.

The air was formed into a long white stripe where the black dot raced through the atmosphere, sinking deeper and deeper until it disappeared between the trees of the thick forests near the mountains where the creature had found a temporary home.

The yellow-golden eyes narrowed as they tried to follow the black spot, but the canopies of the trees were too thick. The mouth of the creature bared to a hiss of annoyance, clawed fingers clenching around a large knife as their owner suppressed the urge to reach out for the unknown pilot with its mind.

Whoever the pilot of the small spaceship was - if they survived the crash relatively unharmed - then they would find their way here sooner rather than later anyway, for this place had the only source of fresh water within a radius of at least thirty miles.

It was only a matter of time, and all the creature had to do was wait for its prey to come here.

 

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Erik had been faster than he had actually anticipated, reaching the base of the mountains when the sun was still hovering over the horizon. He was totally exhausted and thirsty, and only the distant sound of what must be a waterfall had kept him walking. His compass and his GPS device told him where he had to go, but he had to search his way through the trees and the bushes and would have to climb the last two miles, hoping to find some kind of plateau with a cave or something similar where he would be safe enough from attacks of the predators that surely lived in these jungle-like forests.

Erik was glad that at least the temperature was bearable, he was sweating because of his pain and the long march through the wilderness, but it wasn't as hot and humid as he remembered it from his first off-world mission when he had visited a planet that consisted more or less of nothing but humid and hot jungles and even hotter deserts.

The air was fresh and not too thick or thin, and the radiation was low according to what he could read on his scanner, so he could live here for a while if necessary, hoping that Atlantis would send out a search party for an unimportant and greenish young captain who had damaged one of their planes on its maiden flight.

Erik walked along the mountain for a while, finally turning round a large rock to find the best place where he could start his climbing, coming to an abrupt halt when his eyes fell upon the wake of devastation in front of him. Something had cut the trees and the bushes with violent force when it had gone down just like Erik's fighter had done it a couple of hours ago, forming a large clearing in the middle of the forest.

That said something was still lying at the end of the long gash in the trees like a huge whale or fish that had stranded on the cost, and Erik didn't have any trouble recognizing what it was because he had seen these planes on pictures and on the piers of Atlantis often enough to feel an icy-cold shiver wrecking him at the sight.

The 'stranded fish' in front of him was a Dart – a real Wraith Dart – and the young captain with the hazel-green eyes was damn sure that it wasn't one of those Darts belonging to the Second Alliance because none of them had been missing when he had left the City of the Ancients early in the morning. Colonel Sheppard would have delayed Erik's flight with one of their new spaceships if there had been an incident with one of their allied Wraith, he was sure of that.

This Dart must have crashed a few days or weeks before his own landing judging by its state and the damage it had caused. The marks it had left on the grass-covered ground and on the trunks and branches of the trees were still rather fresh, and the Dart wasn't overgrown with vegetation, the dark organic surface still shimmering and unscathed by the sun, wind and rain, so it couldn't have been lying here for very long.

Erik swallowed, his hand clenching around the knife he'd used to cut the twigs in his way during his long march as he now scanned the landscape with narrowed eyes, his heart hammering hard and fast in his chest with a sudden bout of mortal fear.

There was an unknown and most-likely hostile Wraith hidden somewhere on this planet, and they were almost certainly already waiting for him to run into them so they could feed on him.

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The one waiting had been able to feel the presence of the human clearly for quite some time, almost tasting their tantalizing scent on their tongue. Patience was something that normally came naturally to the waiter's race, but it was a virtue hard to keep when stranded on a deserted planet without any chance to escape, and the creature hiding in the shadows of the tall trees found itself counting down the seconds, holding its breath when the sounds of light footsteps made their way to its sensitive ears.

The human was really good at approaching the plateau quietly and without giving their arrival away too soon – at least they would have been good at that if the secret watcher had been human too. But this was not the case, and the slim figure pressing itself against one of the thick trunks bared its teeth in an inaudible hiss of anticipation, flinching slightly when its claws dug painfully into the vulnerable flesh of its palms, hungry eyes glittering through the dark green of the leaves to search for the human who must reach the plateau any second now.

The waiting being paid deference to them for their careful and cautious approach despite having already sensed their arrival for more than an hour, not making the mistake of underestimating the newcomer just because they were human. He or she must possess certain skills and abilities to be the pilot of such a spaceship, having survived the crash landing more or less unharmed and marching the long distance in such a short amount of time after the crash.

Curiosity was the strongest emotion the hidden creature felt, the wish to get to know this human better before doing what it would have to do sooner or later. The hidden watcher almost regretted that their acquaintance would have to come to an end at some point, the thought of being alone and without the company of another intelligent being pulling another quiet hiss of disappointment from the tall being.

A rather loud sound as the other one finally reached the large plateau pulled the secret watcher out of their thoughts, and a strangled sound fled pale lips when the human looked around for a few seconds before directing his gaze at their hiding place as if he could see right through them.

It was a young man – an admittedly beautiful young man with shimmering light-brown hair, sparkling hazel-green eyes and delicate and handsome male features. He was tall and of slender shape, his uniform dusty and stained from his march through the wilderness, but still relatively undamaged, the olive-green the perfect color to melt into his surroundings. His scent was even more tempting and delicious so close by, and the creature unconsciously licked its lips, even though it felt a strange unwillingness to harm this beautiful human.

The young man let his eyes wander over the bushes and trees, and the secret watcher let out a startled growl when the human suddenly opened his mouth and started to speak, his eyes fixed on the tree where they were hiding.

“I know that you are here and watching me, Wraith! I have seen your Dart at the base of the mountain and I can feel you watching me. I most certainly won't stand a real chance against you, but I'd prefer to die after a fair fight instead of being attacked from an ambush, so please come out and let me take a look at you before you kill me.”

The Wraith hissed at the brave words of the remarkable human, and he obeyed the young man's order and left his cover to step onto the plateau before he even knew what he was doing, stopping at the other side of the open space and staring at his opponent with astonishment and fascination.

 

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Erik had recovered from the shock of his unexpected revelation surprisingly quickly, torn between his understandable fear of finding himself on a planet with a probably hungry Wraith and his relief that he wasn't the only intelligent being in the thick forests of this world.

He had stood before the Dart for a few more minutes before deciding to continue on his way and search for the waterfall he could still hear. Dying of thirst was not the better option he thought, and maybe he could do the same as Colonel Sheppard had done when he had first met High Commander Todd, offering a temporary alliance that would help both of them to leave this planet again.

The path was steep and dangerous, but Erik had been born in a region with mountains and he had spent a large amount of his youth with climbing the rocks of his beautiful home. It didn't take long until he could see a large plateau three hundred meters above him, and half an hour later, he had solid ground under his feet again, stopping at the edge of the plateau to observe the trees and bushes at the other side of it.

He could feel invisible eyes upon him, sizing him up, and his throat clenched with fear, but he suppressed it, thinking that taking matters in his own hands was better than waiting for the Wraith to make the first move and ambush him.

“I know that you are here and watching me, Wraith! I have seen your Dart at the base of the mountain and I can feel you watching me. I most certainly won't stand a real chance against you, but I'd prefer to die after a fair fight instead of being attacked from an ambush, so please come out and let me take a look at you before you kill me.”

His words sounded through the air before Erik even knew what he was doing, and he held his breath as he waited for his adversary to react to his challenge, hoping that his tough speech wasn't the last words he'd uttered in his life.

The leaves made rustling sounds when the Wraith slowly emerged from behind the tree trunk where they had been hiding, and Erik felt a strange shiver run down on his back, a mixture of fear, relief and anticipation wrecking his slim figure.

Captain Drum had encountered many Wraith during his first weeks in Atlantis, but none of them had been like the Wraith that now stood in front of him, only ten or fifteen meters away, staring at him in silence with glittering eyes.

It must be a male Wraith – Erik had met Lady Athena only one time and only briefly, but it was clear that this Wraith wasn't a Queen or another female Wraith, even though he looked differently from any other male Wraith Erik had seen before.

The Wraith was as tall as Erik was, slim and gracious like all Wraith the young captain had seen before, but there was a strange aura surrounding him, and Erik couldn't help but think that he must be a young Wraith. He wore a heavy and long coat like Erik knew from most of the higher ranking officers from the Alliance, but it didn't really fit him, hanging like a sack around his slim frame.

But the too large coat wasn't what made the Wraith look different from the Wraith Erik had encountered so far, it was his hair and his face. The young captain had learned that male Wraith always had white hair while the queens often had dark or red hair, but the hair-color of this Wraith was more silver-blond than actually white, cascading over his shoulders down to his shoulder-blades in soft waves that shimmered almost red-golden where the sun fell upon the silky strands. The face of the Wraith exhibited the usual distinguishing features like the sensor-slits beside the delicate nose and the hairless eye-ridges instead of furry brows, but his skin was not of the greenish-gray color of most Wraith, but pale-white with a bluish undertone, resembling human skin much more than Erik had expected Wraith-skin to look like.

He was a truly beautiful sight, but what Erik fascinated the most were his eyes. The pupils were only slightly reptile- or cat-like - depending on how one looked at Wraith – and their color was of a warm amber-gold, looking much more human than Erik had thought it possible.

These eyes regarded Erik with the same fascination and curiosity Erik felt towards the Wraith, and the young captain cautiously stepped closer, opening his arms to show the other male that he didn't want to attack him. He still held his knife in his hand, but he pushed it back into its sheath now, hoping that he hadn't just made the biggest mistake of his life. Erik hadn't thought that he would need a machine gun on his maiden flight, and anyway the small revolver he had taken with him wouldn't stop a Wraith from attacking and draining him, as far as he knew from the stories he had heard.

“You're either pretty dense or foolhardy approaching me without a proper weapon, human,” the Wraith broke the silence between them when he saw Erik putting the knife away, and his voice was higher in pitch than Erik had expected it to be, but possessed the unique multi-tone layers of a real Wraith.

“Probably,” Erik agreed, his eyes fixed on the strange and yet fascinating features of his new acquaintance. “But my knife wouldn't keep you from trying to feed on me anyway, I guess, and I have no reason to attack you. Quite the opposite, I'm glad that I'm not the only one stuck on this planet.”

“You are?” the Wraith asked, obviously taken aback by the human's fearless behavior. Erik's heart was still hammering in his chest, and he was sweating, the acid stench of his fear must be clearly detectable considering how sensitive the sense of smell of every adult Wraith was, but Erik was determined to keep his dignity and not beg for his life.

“Yes, I am. My plane crashed on this planet just like yours did, but I am positive that I can make the hyper radio device work again, and four hands and two pairs of eyes are always better than two hands and one pair. I don't plan to stay here for longer than necessary, and I do believe that you would be grateful to leave this world and return to your Hive again as well.”

This made the Wraith flinch and turn his head to the side as though Erik had said something that had hurt him. Erik swallowed, hoping that he hadn't offended his counterpart in any way. He didn't know enough about Wraith culture to avoid committing a blunder, and the sad expression flickering over the delicate features of the other male made him wish to learn more about the young Wraith.

“I don't have a Hive I can return to,” the Wraith murmured after a long moment of silence, and Erik felt sympathy with him. Wraith were not meant to be alone and without company, and the few days or weeks this Wraith had spent here in this world without any other intelligent being he could talk to must have been pretty hard for him.

“Has your Hive been destroyed?” he dared to ask, but the other one shook his head. “No. I just haven't had a Hive I belonged to for a very long time.” He looked back at Erik, putting on a menacing expression, but to Erik it looked more like the desperate attempt of the Wraith to hide his sorrow and his loneliness with that.

“My wish to leave this planet might not be as strong as yours actually is, human. You can't run away from me here, I will always catch you in the end, being stronger and faster, and you're young and healthy, your life-force will provide me with enough energy for a long time!” the Wraith threatened, and Erik instinctively stepped back.

“I could be poison to you. You can't know whether or not I'm a carrier of the Hoffanian disease,” he said the first thing that came into his mind as he searched for a way to keep the alien male from trying to feed on him, making the Wraith tilt his head in curiosity.

“What makes you think that this would keep me from feeding on you, human?”

Erik blinked. “You would feed on me even knowing that it will kill you because of the Hoffanian disease?”

The Wraith regarded him thoughtfully. “It wouldn't kill me. I'm immune against it,” he finally revealed, and Erik made another step back. He hadn't expected this, and he felt his stomach clench with a new bout of fear. “It wouldn't?”

Erik had lived only a few weeks in Atlantis before he had crashed on this planet, but he knew enough about the short history of the Second Alliance to be aware of the serious problem this horrible disease had caused. The young captain had never heard of any Wraith who was immune against the disease, and the Wraith of the Second Alliance were very careful when they had to feed, their research to find a solution for the feeding problem having priority over anything else.

“No. Besides, you're not a carrier of this disease. You're one of the New Lanteans, you're wearing the same uniform as they do, and none of them has ever been infected with the disease as far as I know. Plus, only they have such spaceships like the one you have crashed here, so you can't be born in the Pegasus Galaxy, being a Genii or a Traveler.”

“You know Atlantis and the New Lanteans pretty well then?” Erik wondered, not willing to comment on the other one's assumption and confirm or deny it with that, and the Wraith looked away again. “I've never met them personally, but I've once known someone who knew them better than anybody else in this galaxy.”

Erik was really confused now. “And who would that have been?”

The Wraith pulled a face as if the memory of this someone pained him, and Erik's eyes widened in shock when he heard the name coming out of the other one's mouth.

“Michael. Michael Kenmore – the Wraith your people turned into a human at first and then into their biggest enemy.”

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The Wraith watched the hazel-green eyes of the human widen in surprise and shock, and he felt drawn in to those eyes against his will. They reminded him of the beautiful lake he had discovered when he had found the plateau and the waterfall nearby, deep and endless, the green of his hazel-brown eyes becoming darker and more visible because of the young man's surprise.

“I see,” the human stammered when he had recovered from his shock, clearing his throat from both discomfort and curiosity. It was more than apparent that he knew who Michael Kenmore was – who he had been, the name Colonel Sheppard had given the Wraith he had condemned to live the life of an outlaw with his experiment being the best known and most hated name in the entire galaxy. “So... Michael... and you served on the same Hive and for the same queen before he was... uhm trapped?” he mumbled, and the Wraith unconsciously balled his clawed hands to tight fists, suppressing a groan of pain when his sharp nails dug into his palms. Some memories were still too painful to remember them, even though they were memories of events that had taken place years ago.

“No, we did not.” The Wraith felt anger rising in his guts at the New Lantean's tactless question, but it subsided again when he realized that the ignorance of the young pilot wasn't faked but real. He knew the name Michael and had certainly heard the stories the New Lanteans had told him, but he seemed to be rather ignorant when it came to what the Wraith-human-hybrid had done after his flight from Atlantis, this was clear to see in his face. The human probably couldn't even hide his true feelings and his intentions even if he wanted to, he was far too expressive to deceive others that easily, and he was definitely too expressive and inexperienced to deceive a Wraith who saw and noticed much more than humans with their dull senses would ever be able to do.

“I see,” the young man repeated, although it was pretty clear that he didn't understand anything, his gaze searching the Wraith's face for answers he couldn't give him. Not that he would have wanted to give him those answers, at least not at this early stage of their acquaintance.

“It's complicated.” He only said defensively, and the human offered him a smile of apology and regret. “I can imagine. I'm sorry, I didn't want to be nosy. I am Captain Erik Drum, and I have joined the Atlantis expedition only recently,” the young man introduced himself, biting down on his full bottom lip as though he had revealed an important secret. The Wraith had already figured that the handsome pilot must be new in the Pegasus Galaxy, and he found himself smiling back automatically.

Most humans took the smile of a Wraith for a grimace of threat and danger, but Captain Drum relaxed visibly when he saw it, so he must have seen a Wraith smile beforehand, probably from dealing with Wraith who belonged to the Hives of the Wraith Todd on a more regular basis.

The Wraith regretted that he didn't know more about the things that had happened in his galaxy over the last three years than he actually did, but judging by Captain Drum's words, this Todd must have formed a real and rather well functioning alliance with Colonel Sheppard and Atlantis – something the military commander of the City of the Ancients had refused to do with Michael Kenmore for obvious reasons. Maybe accepting the young man's proposal to form an alliance of their own wasn't as bad as he had first thought it to be. He didn't want to stay on this planet forever, and he didn't need to feed for the next weeks and perhaps even months, and he really longed to have someone he could talk to.

The Wraith cocked his head to the side and looked at the human with the odd name Captain Erik Drum. He would never understand the human need for names, and having more than one name seemed even weirder to him. Names were a rather weak attempt to describe an intelligent being, and they were not only meaningless in most cases as far as he knew, but they could even be offensive and hurtful instead of honorable. 'Captain' was most likely the young man's military rank, because he had pronounced it with audible pride in his voice, unconsciously straightening his posture as he had uttered it. This was something the Wraith did understand, ranks had always been important to his species from the very beginning.

“So you want to propose an alliance with me, Captain Erik Drum?” he asked curiously after a few more seconds of silent scrutiny, and Captain Drum's cheeks colored in a visible pink that suited the young man surprisingly well. “Uhm, yes. And Erik will do fine, I guess. There is no need to use my full name and my military rank.” the human gave back, the pink color increasing, and the Wraith cocked his head to the other side, frowning in confusion because the human apparently didn't know what he really wanted. Why had he introduced himself as Captain Erik Drum if he wanted to be called by his first name only in the first place? Another human oddity he would never fully understand.

“It's not? I must admit that I find human habits rather confusing. Why wouldn't you want me to use your full name if you tell it to me? Names are important to you, aren't they? And so are your ranks, right?”

Captain Drum looked confused now too. “Yes, names are important to us, but you don't belong to my military, and in private – with our friends and families – we normally prefer to use the first names only. Sometimes people address each other with their surnames alone, Colonel Sheppard does that with some of his friends for example, but I've never liked that.”

“I see. We're neither friends, nor family, though, so why would I want to address you in this rather intimate way?” the Wraith pointed out, and Captain Drum worried his lip again. He had paled again, apparently because he took his remark as some kind of refusal or threat, and to his own surprise the Wraith regretted that he had made the young man feel this way, watching the green sparks in his beautiful eyes die out. The human swallowed audibly and shifted his weight, his back and shoulders tensing as he readied himself for a possible attack.

“No, we're not. But we're stuck here on this planet, all alone and needing to cooperate to get away from here again, so I thought that it would be better if we addressed each other with our names or if you addressed me with my name at least. You... you don't have a name, do you? I've heard that Wraith normally don't use names when they don't belong to the Second Alliance.”

The Wraith flinched at that, clenching and flexing his fingers to keep his emotions at bay. “No, I don't have a name.” At least no name he ever wanted to be addressed with.

“I see.” Captain Drum hesitated. “I'd still prefer that you called me Erik.”

“You're really serious about this... cooperation,” the Wraith stated in amazement, and the young man shrugged his shoulders. He looked tired and worn out now, and his hands hanging at his sides trembled slightly. His scent had changed as well, filling the Wraith's nose and sensor slits with the heavy and acid smell of fear, pain and tiredness. There was still the tempting and delicious natural fragrance of a healthy and strong young human detectable underneath, but Captain Drum really needed to rest and recover from the crash landing and the long march, not to mention that he looked dehydrated and hungry. The New Lantean rubbed his eyes in a tired gesture before looking at him again.

“I have no other choice after all, have I? I can't run away from you as you've said so rightly, and I need to sleep sooner rather than later – as opposed to you. I know that Wraith don't need as much sleep as we humans do, so you don't even need to fight against me, you just need to wait until I've fallen asleep to drain me dry. Not to mention that I wouldn't win such a fight in my current state anyway. I'm tired and hurting all over from my crash landing, I'm thirsty and I need to find something to eat within the next few hours if I don't want to become too weak to defend myself against you or the predators that must live in these forests, so the advantage is all on your side.
But my fighter seems to be less damaged than your Dart is, and together we could bring the hyper radio back to life and send a message to my people. I promise you that they won't trap you but bring you to a world of your choice if you let me live and help me, the humans and the Wraith of the Second Alliance stick to the promises one of them has given to somebody else, and no one will harm you when I tell them that you helped me.
And before you tell me that you can try to make the hyper radio device of my fighter work again on your own – you cannot because you need someone with the ATA-gene for making it work. Someone with the ATA-gene who is still alive, I mean. So you can either agree to a temporary alliance with me – a truce or whatever you want to call it - or you can finish me right here and now and wait for the next spaceship to discover this world – whenever this might be. All I'm asking of you then is that you'll make it quick and as painless as possible, please. You don't look like someone enjoying the suffering of another intelligent and sentient being to me.”

Captain Drum held his head up high, even though he must be aware that he could smell his fear with his sensitive sense of smell, and the human didn't avert his eyes but looked him straight in the eyes.

The Wraith felt impressed at the tough and reasonable behavior, and he finally opened his arms to mirror Captain Drum's gesture from half an hour earlier.

“You're right, human – Erik. Working together with you is the better option – at least for the time being - and I don't need to feed at the moment. I accept your proposal for a truce and a temporary alliance, but don't make the mistake of thinking that you can betray me. I won't hesitate to kill you if you so much as only think of trying to deceive me.”

“I won't, thank you... Wraith. I'd be grateful if you showed me the way to the waterfall that must be nearby. I really need to drink something sometime soon.”

The Wraith nodded slowly. “Yes, I can smell your thirst and your exhaustion, Erik. There is a lake where the waterfall is, and the water is drinkable. I've also found a cave where you'll be quite safe. There are indeed some predators in this region, but only a few and they are rather small. They live at the base of the mountains and have problems with climbing. I don't recommend you try and fight them without my help, they are still a lethal threat to humans, but none of them has been able to reach this plateau since I've been here.”

“That's good to know. You didn't happen to find some berries or plants that are edible too perhaps?” Erik asked hopefully, and the Wraith bared his teeth to a throaty chuckle at his hopeful expression. “Yes, I did. Welcome to your new home, Captain Erik Drum. I hope that you will find my hospitality to your liking,” he said in the attempt to make a joke, and the young man surprised him as he came closer and offered his hand to him with a genuine smile that lit up his beautiful features.

“Thank you, Wraith. I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. It's good to know that I am not the only intelligent being on this planet. I'm not good at talking only to myself for long periods, and I really appreciate your company.”

The Wraith took the proffered hand and grinned wolfishly at him. “Let us hope that you will still feel the same way about my company in a couple of days, Erik.”

 

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The Wraith had taken him to the waterfall and the lake, and Erik would undoubtedly have appreciated the breathtakingly beautiful landscape if he hadn't been as exhausted and hurting as he actually was. The cave the alien male had found was about half a mile away from the lake, on another, smaller plateau, surrounded by bushes and trees that protected them at least partly from the harsh wind that had started to blow when the sun had begun to go down.

Erik was leaning against the hard stone of the cave wall near the entrance where his new ally had made a campfire, watching the flickering light of the flames throw odd shadows against the walls. He was nibbling at some of the delicious, juicy berries the Wraith had collected for him while Erik had rested a little bit, and the young captain was astonished when he saw the other one taking some berries to chew them as well.

“You eat normal food?” he asked, and the Wraith gave him a strange look. “Wraith eat normal food until they reach their adolescence,” he finally said, and Erik nodded. “Yes, I knew that. But most of them stop doing that when they start to feed. I have seen those Wraith who have human consorts eat food to make their consorts feel more comfortable, and I know that some of them enjoy the taste, but I didn't think that Wraith outside our alliance would show such behavior.”

The Wraith looked down at his hand holding the berries. “Do you mind me eating food? There is enough for both of us.”

“No, I don't mind you eating together with me, on the contrary, I appreciate it. I was just surprised.” Erik couldn't see the other one's face because the Wraith had turned his head away, but he did notice the tension in his shoulders. The other male was hiding something from him, something he apparently felt embarrassed and ashamed about. Erik hadn't meant anything bad with his question, and he hurried to apologize to his reluctant ally. “I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to offend you. I arrived in Pegasus only a few weeks ago, this is still all new to me,” he said with a cautious smile, and his counterpart sighed and stared outside, watching the flickering flames, but Erik had the impression that he didn't see the fire but some memories haunting him.

“I'll have to feed in the end, but food helps me to prolong the time span until I have to do it again. I'm not... what you would call the usual Wraith, I guess.” he eventually said, his voice so quiet that Erik found it difficult to understand him. The young captain had already guessed from his unusual looks that this Wraith was different from the Wraith he knew, but he sensed that this was a painful topic for the other male and that asking nosy questions right on their first evening spent together would make the other one become angry with him and endanger their fragile truce.

“I have noticed that you look not like the Wraith I've seen before, but they haven't been that many, so I don't know enough about your race to tell whether or not you are different. Not that it really matters to me. You are who you are, and you don't have to tell me anything about you that you don't want to tell me. I'm grateful that I don't need to eat alone and that food helps you to go without feeding for a while, but I respect your privacy and won't bother you with questions, I promise you. Only those I have to ask to make our cooperation work,” he assured him gently, shivering when a sudden gust of wind blew through the cave. He wished for a blanket, but there hadn't been any in the small storage of his Dart Fighter, and Erik wrapped his arms around himself in the fruitless attempt to stay warm.

The Wraith narrowed his eyes when he noticed the shivers wrecking Erik from the corner of his glittering amber-golden eye. “You're freezing, Erik.” He shrugged out of his coat, crawling into the cave to kneel down beside Erik to wrap it around his shoulders. “Please take it, I don't need it as much as you do. Wraith can deal with the cold better than humans.”

“Are you sure? This is your coat, after all.” Erik asked through his clattering teeth, and the Wraith smiled at him. It was a real smile, a little bit lopsided, and it made warmth pool in Erik's stomach.

“Yes, I am sure, Erik. You should try to sleep, I'll watch the fire. I can take some naps during the day when you're awake. Tomorrow I will make a mattress for you from the twigs and the long leaves of the bushes. It will warm you from underneath and be more comfortable for you. You can use my coat as a cover, it should warm you even better than a normal blanket.”

Erik wrapped the coat tightly around himself, grateful when the heavy garment warmed up from his body heat, easing the chills wrecking him almost instantly. “Thank you. I wish you a good night.”

The Wraith regarded him musingly for a moment. “You're welcome, Erik. Sleep well. You'll still be alive when you wake up tomorrow, I promise you.”

Erik rewarded this dry statement with a grin. “It might be foolish of me, but I do trust you in this matter. I actually feel safer than I would most likely have felt alone and without you watching over the fire and my sleep. I know that I don't really have a choice, but that's not the only reason for my trust. You... just look like one of the nice Wraith to me.”

The amber-golden eyes widened at that. “You meant that as a compliment, I guess.”

“Yes, I did.” Erik covered his mouth with his hand when a heartfelt yawn wrecked him, and the Wraith chuckled. “Thank you then, Erik. Now sleep, you reek of exhaustion.”

“That was not really a compliment, you know!” Erik tried to scowl at the Wraith, earning another chuckle, because his eyelids were already drooping shut of their own will. “No, it was not. It was the simple truth. I'm certain that you will smell much better when you have slept properly, human.”

“Good night then, Wraith!”

Chapter Text

Erik woke up with a start, and he was wide awake in a split second when he saw the face of a Wraith looming over him at close distance. He made an instinctive defensive motion with his hands, and the Wraith let out a snarl and backed away, watching him with eyes that glowed dangerously in the gloom that surrounded them.

It took Erik a few more seconds to remember his crash landing and everything that had happened afterwards, and he groaned and sat up with an apologetic gesture. “I'm sorry, but you must have woken me up from a very deep sleep. Humans need some time to remember what's happened when woken like that after having been sound asleep only seconds before,” he said, his voice still slurred and hoarse.

The Wraith offered him the bottle Erik had filled with fresh water from the lake the previous day, and Erik took it gratefully and emptied it in several large gulps.

“I am sorry that I had to wake you, Erik, but a storm is coming, and I need you to help me collect enough wood and food. There was a storm shortly after my arrival, and it lasted two days. If this one is as bad as that one was, then we won't be able to leave the cave until it's over.”

Erik peeled himself out of the heavy coat to crawl to the entrance of the cave and take a look outside. He had thought that it was still early in the morning, but he could now see the heavy dark-gray clouds rolling towards the mountains, and he didn't waste any time with questions he could ask later, only nodded and said: “Of course, just tell me what you want me to do.”

“I'd started to collect twigs and leaves for your mattress while you were still sleeping, and I will be the one refilling our water and food supplies because I am faster than you, Erik. Just collect as much firewood as possible before it starts to rain and look for more berries, please. I know a place with some vegetables and mushrooms that are edible for both of us.”

Erik nodded again and left the cave to do as he had been told without saying another word, and the Wraith made a sound of approval and disappeared in the direction of the lake with Erik's canister and his own hose pipe. Wraith needed to drink water only every few days, and Erik had been surprised about that at first, but it made sense that Wraith needed to drink on a fairly regular basis even though they fed on human life-force instead of eating food. They had a circulatory system like every living being, and it was logical that they needed liquid to avoid their blood thickening too much.

The Wraith who ate food for the sake of their human allies needed much more water than those who refused to eat, but if it was true that Erik's special Wraith could prolong the time span between his feeding with food, than it was also logical that he needed to almost as much to drink as Erik.

The young captain flushed when he realized that he'd already started to think of his new acquaintance as his Wraith, but he couldn't help but feel intrigued and drawn to the fascinating alien male. It was more than bad timing that the storm would hit them within the next two or three hours, because Erik really wanted to go back to his fighter and repair the hyper radio device, but on the other hand the storm would perhaps give him the chance to get to know his new ally better.

Erik had never been a pessimistic kind of guy, he'd always tried to make the best out of whatever situation he found himself in, and he wouldn't start to change his positive view on things now of all times.

He piled the firewood in the corner of the large cave, where a large protrusion would protect it from the rain that would start to pour down soon enough if the harsh wind and the dark clouds over the plateau were any indication to go by.

His Wraith had left the coat in the cave, when he had run off in the direction of the lake, and Erik put the coat in the same corner as the firewood since it was their only protection and cover during the nights. Then he went outside again to relieve himself before plucking more berries from the bush the Wraith had shown him when they'd arrived here last evening.

He resisted the temptation to eat them right where he stood, using his jacket to carry them back to the cave. After the fourth trip, the pile of berries on the natural bench formed by one of the cave walls had become impressively high, and Erik decided that they should last for two or three days.

Rain had started to fall in heavy drops a few minutes ago, and the young captain with the hazel-green eyes felt his stomach clench with fear that his Wraith wouldn't make it back in time, but just when he was about to leave the cave and search for him, his new ally emerged from the tree line, running towards the entrance of the cave, shaking off the wetness with triumphant growl when he saw the firewood Erik had collected.

“I'm pleased to see that you haven't been idle and lazy, human,” he stated, putting the canister and the water hose on the bench next to the berries before doing the same with the two bags he carried over his shoulders. His black shirt clung wet to his slim frame, and Erik hurried to avert his eyes when he realized that he was staring at the Wraith's chest. Tight black trousers completed the other male's outfit, and Erik thought that he looked much better without the heavy coat.

“It's not my style to sit around and let others do all the work. I would feel useless, and I really want us to cooperate and work together,” Erik said to distract himself from his inappropriate thoughts. The young pilot was aware that the friends and family he'd left on Earth when he'd come to Pegasus wouldn't understand him if he told them that he found the Wraith beautiful and attractive, but he had always been curious and longed to see more of the universe and the many different races that lived there.

“I appreciate that, Erik.” the Wraith turned his head to look at him, and Erik smiled, sitting down to take a look into the bags. “Oh wow, I didn't think that you would find that much food,” he said, trying to recognize the vegetables his companion had collected. “I think I know these.” Erik pointed at the vegetables that looked like beans, “they are nourishing and delicious. I've eaten them once or twice in Atlantis.”

The Wraith looked surprised. “You are very attentive, Erik. I'd heard that a lot of humans don't really pay attention to what they eat, but apparently you are not one of them.”

“No, I'm not. I'm very careful with what I eat. Even more when I'm stuck on a new planet without knowing anything about the flora and fauna. I have a scanner to test plants and berries for their edibility, but I must admit that I trust you more than the scanner in this matter. You don't have any reason to want to poison me with some plants.”

This earned him one of the Wraith's unique lopsided smiles, and Erik's heart started to beat faster at the sight of his Wraith smiling at him like that. “Thank you, and you're right, I don't want to poison you. I'm sorry that I didn't have enough time to go hunting for you to provide you with meat, but the storm was too fast.”

Erik hadn't paid attention to the weather after the Wraith's return, but he flinched when a loud peal of thunder echoed in the cave, followed quickly by more lightnings and rolling thunder. The rain was like a wall before the entrance, running over the plateau in powerful creeks. Fortunately the plateau inclined slightly in the other direction, otherwise the floor of the cave would already have been flooded with water.

Erik unconsciously ducked his head when the next clap of thunder roared, shivering in the cold air. “That's kind of you, but you don't need to go hunting for me. I could do that myself – probably not as well as you – but I actually don't eat meat if I don't have to.”

“You don't like meat? But you're military, Earth military above all things!” the Wraith exclaimed as though this explained everything, and Erik glanced at him with a raised eyebrow. “What has me being military – Earth military - to do with my eating preferences?” he asked curiously, and the Wraith frowned in confusion. “I don't know... I just thought that all soldiers coming from Earth are the same, I guess. Judging from what Michael had told me about Colonel Sheppard and Earth military I thought that they all have the same way of life, that they...” the other male shrugged his shoulders in an astonishingly human way, searching carefully for his next words. “Soldiers need to be strong, don't they? Especially here in Pegasus having to fight against us Wraith, and meat is a valuable source for protein – which is good for the muscles.”

His Wraith looked so young and uncertain in this moment that Erik couldn't really be angry with him because of his assumption. Somehow it was even comforting to know that Wraith tended to have prejudices and generalize things just like humans did far too often. Erik always did his best not to draw false conclusions too quickly, but he had made such mistakes more than once or twice as well.

The young pilot was more curious about the connection between his Wraith and the hybrid Michael Kenmore than annoyed by what he'd said, but Erik didn't dare to ask him about his relationship with Michael at this point and mused about a good explanation for his 'unusual' eating preferences instead. “Hmm, you're right with the protein, but there are other things I can eat to get enough protein and the nutrients I need to stay healthy. I can eat meat when I have to do that, when I'm on an off-world mission for example and when I would risk offending my host and endangering the mission if I refused to eat what they are offering me. But I prefer not to touch meat if I don't have to. The vegetables you've collected are a good source of protein by the way, and they are really delicious when they're fried or cooked,” Erik explained, and his Wraith looked almost happy at his words.

“These should last until the storm is over, there are more where I found them. Please take the coat, Erik. It will take some time for the fire to warm up our cave, and we have to be careful with having a fire in the cave for too long because of the poisonous gas. I'll start to work on your mattress after breakfast,” the other male said, and Erik took the coat and put it on, feeling cozy and comforted when he inhaled the unique scent of his Wraith the heavy garment emanated.

“I want to help you,” he said, and the Wraith smiled at him. “You can cook the vegetables once I've made the fire.”

Erik watched him pile up some of the firewood as close to the entrance of the cave as possible because of the rain and the wind, and it didn't take long until tiny red flames were licking eagerly at the branches and twigs, blazing higher and higher with every second that passed. Erik took two long twigs to skewer the bean-like tubers, his mouth watering when the tempting smell of roasted vegetables wafted through the cave.

Maybe being stuck with a Wraith wasn't as bad as he had feared it would be at first, and Erik was determined to make the best out of his enforced vacation and learn more about the most fascinating being he had ever met.

 

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They had eaten their grilled 'beans' in companionable silence and were now working on making a mattress out of the flexible twigs and palm branch-like leaves his Wraith had brought to their cave early that morning. Erik had put up a lot of camps in his life, but he was much slower and clumsier than the other male, who didn't stub or cut his fingers on the twigs because of his Wraith skin. The Wraith looked up when Erik cut his index finger for the fifth time within half an hour, uttering a quiet curse under his breath and sucking at the small bleeding wound.

“You really don't have to help me, Erik. I can do it alone,” he said, and Erik felt the childish urge to stomp his foot in frustration like a little boy. “But I don't want to be useless! I want to do something! It's bad enough that this storm is trapping me in this cave. I'd hoped that I could fix the damage the crash has done to the hyper radio device today. I don't even know in which region of the Pegasus this damn anomaly has brought me!” he whined, scowling at the Wraith when he barked out a laugh.

“Humans are so impatient! Instead of being grateful that you're dry and safe here, you're complaining about things you can't change anyway. The storm isn't as bad as the last one, I think that it will be gone by tomorrow evening at the latest. Then we only need to wait until the sun has dried the worst of the mess before we can go to your ship, which won't take that long considering how fast the ground dried after the last storm.”

“If you say so,” was all Erik grumbled, staring unseeing on the long palm leaf the Wraith was weaving through the twigs he had tied together with astonishing skill.

“Yes, I do. Your anomaly must have been the same as the one that hit me, I guess. We're far away from Atlantis – at least if Atlantis is still in the same part of the galaxy where she was when Michael was still alive.” Erik could feel the amber-golden eyes upon his face, but he refused to look up, just nodded his head.

“Yes, she is. Not on the same planet, but rather close by.”

“I see. Your people will need some time to get here then, but the good thing is that there are only few habitable planets in this region and that we don't have to fear that hostile Wraith will show up because of that. Did you encounter a large blue star during your flight?”

Erik raised his head in surprise. “Yes, I did. I'd actually thought that my distance from the star was far enough not to get into trouble, but there was a large solar flare all of a sudden, larger than any other solar prominence I've ever seen, and it caused the anomaly that swallowed me and brought me here. If my ship had been bigger, than I could have escaped it, I guess.”

The Wraith nodded. “Yes, it was the same with my ship. We were both lucky that this planet was close by when we dropped out of the hyper space again, and I could read the data of my navigation system before I crashed, so I know where we are – which might be helpful for your people to find us in time,” he said in a calm and reassuring voice, obviously trying to console the frustrated human.

Erik had a bad conscience about his behavior, and he smiled ruefully at his ally. “That is indeed good news. Sorry for having been such a prick. I'm just not really good at sitting around doing nothing and watching others work.”

“You don't need to be sorry, Erik, I understand you better than you think that I do. You could tell me something about you if you want to. I'm starting to think that Michael Kenmore's 'knowledge' about the New Lanteans was pretty biased.”

Erik pursed his lips. “Yes, it was. But that's understandable given the circumstances.” The young captain was grateful for the Wraith's curiosity, if he was willing to tell his Wraith more about himself, then he would perhaps be willing to tell Erik more about his own life and his connection with Michael as well. Erik straightened his shoulders under the heavy coat and smiled at the other one.

“Alright, what do you want to know?”

The Wraith cocked his head to the side, returning his smile. “Everything you are willing to share with me, Captain Erik Drum. I'm pretty sure that you have a lot of interesting things to tell.”

Chapter Text

The Wraith had to admit that this human fascinated him more than anybody else had ever fascinated him before.

Captain Erik Drum was young and didn't really know anything about his new home and the dangerous race that lived there – nothing except for the few things he had seen and heard since his arrival a couple of weeks ago, that is. But Erik didn't look at him with mistrust, disgust or arrogance like Michael had told him that the New Lanteans felt towards the Wraith and especially the creature they had brought to life themselves when they'd captured a young Wraith to turn him into a human.

Erik had made himself comfortable on the hard ground of the cave after his short breakdown – accepting that he couldn't be of any help at the moment. Instead of pouting and grousing or whining about his temporary uselessness and forced stay in the cave he had begun to tell some stories of his childhood, laughing together with his new ally about the funny parts.

The Wraith caught himself staring at Erik's face with something akin to rapt admiration whenever the young man snickered, wishing to see him laughing again because Erik's eyes sparkled golden and his cheeks turned pink whenever he did so. They had extinguished the fire earlier to save the firewood for later when it would get colder, and the cave was gloomy because of the storm and their sitting place near the back of the cave, but Wraith had very good night vision, and he could detect the human's face and the change of his skin-color without any difficulties.

It was a wonderful sight, and the Wraith could hardly believe that this was truly happening – a human sitting close to him and looking at him with sparks of mischief dancing in his eyes instead of the fierce yellow fire of hate and loathing.

“I don't think that you have ever been as clumsy as you want me to believe that you were when you were a small boy, human,” he said after listening to a particularly funny story about Erik's encounter with a goat in what the young man called a petting zoo. The Wraith had never seen a goat in his life, but he could easily imagine this special animal from Erik's description, and his heart made a strange flip in his chest when the beautiful hazel-green depths crinkled into another cheerful snicker.

“Oh, I was, believe me. The billy goat was truly angry because I had teased him like that, running after me and tearing my jeans with his horns. He ripped it open right over my backside, and all the other kids laughed when they saw my yellow underwear shining through the hole. I walked around with my hands pressed against my butt for the rest of the day.” Erik grinned at the Wraith, sitting beside him, leaning against the wall with his knees pulled to his chest and his arms wrapped around them, and his heart flipped again, hammering much faster in his chest than he was used to it.

The human's still youthfully rounded cheeks were glowing in this adorable pink color again, and he turned bright red when the Wraith said nothing, just kept staring at Erik intently.

“Why are you looking at me like this?” Erik asked curiously, and the Wraith licked over his suddenly dry lips. “Your skin changes its color with your feelings. Normally, it's rather pale, but right now it's rosy. The color suits you, I like it much better than the usual white.”

“Uhm, thank you,” Erik mumbled sheepishly, his cheeks glowing deep red now. The Wraith mirrored the human's giggle, hoping that it expressed his own feelings and didn't make the young man think that he was mocking him. “I will do my best to make your cheeks shine rosy more often in the future. Your eyes sparkle green-golden when you're enjoying yourself.”

“You shouldn't even be able to see my face properly as dark as it is here!” Erik groaned in a strangled voice, his face literally burning now, and he scowled at him, but the Wraith could see that his human wasn't really angry with him, only deeply embarrassed. “I meant that as a compliment, Erik. Plus, you should know enough about Wraith to remember that our vision is much more sensitive than yours. Our Hives are not gloomy because we love spooky surroundings so much,” he hurried to assure the young man, and Erik relaxed and gifted him with a crooked smile. “Yes, I know. I'm just not used to getting compliments about my blushing. I really hate it that this happens to me all of the time.”

“There is no need to feel this way about yourself. I like your blushing and the faces you're making when you're telling stories about your childhood very much. It makes you special. I have never met anyone like you before, I think. Are all humans as expressive as you are, Erik?” the Wraith inquired, suppressing the strong urge to touch his face and find out whether or not Erik's skin was as soft as it looked like.

The young man shook his head. “No, a lot of people I know never blush, at least not as often as I'm blushing. This is something my former commander has always chided me for, telling me that I should keep my feelings to myself instead of letting them show on my face so clearly. I tried to do that, I'm actually still trying hard to keep my face as expressionless as would be appropriate for a captain of the USAF, but I always fail miserably.”

“I'm glad that you fail then. I like your expressiveness. It helps me to get to know and understand you better, Erik.”

His human smiled at him, and the Wraith smiled back, his heart still beating fast as if he had just finished a straining exercise. Erik was not like any other human or Wraith he had ever known, and he was surely not the least like Michael Kenmore. A cold shiver ran down on his spine at the memory of the Wraith-hybrid, and he bent over his task to hide his feelings from the young man, fearing that Erik would think that he had said or done something that displeased his dangerous ally.

The captain with the fascinating hazel-green eyes obviously sensed his mood change, because he didn't start another story, just watched him weaving the palm leaves through the twigs, but whenever he raised his head to peer at Erik, his human would return his gaze without fear and smile at him, the golden sparks in his eyes chasing the darkness and the sudden chill in his bones away.

 

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The day was going by quickly, much quicker than Erik had anticipated. The mattress was finished by the time the sun behind the thick clouds disappeared behind the dark horizon and the light turned from dark-gray to pitch black, only illuminated by the lightning that was still visible in the distance. The center of the storm was raging several miles away now, in the direction where his Dart Fighter had crashed, and Erik hoped that the shield that made it invisible would also protect it from the worst of the bad weather and avoid doing more damage than the crash had already caused.

It was still raining though, the water pouring down on the plateau making it hardly possible to leave the cave, even when Erik needed to relieve himself. Wraith obviously didn't need to do that as often as humans, and Erik held back as long as he was able to, using the heavy black coat as protection against the rain in the hope that the heat of the fire would have dried the leather-like garment when it was time for sleeping.

He had told his Wraith more stories to distract the other male from the strange mood that had fallen upon him after their talk about Erik's annoying habit of blushing at each and everything, stories of his childhood home in the Pfälzer Forest before his parents had moved back to the States when he had been seventeen.

Stories about his time in the USAF followed – those Erik thought to be harmless and safe enough to tell to a Wraith he'd only known for one day and who could turn into an enemy again in the blink of an eye. He had told him about his dreams to become a fighter pilot and join the Atlantis mission, and the Wraith listened to him with glittering amber-golden eyes – which looked much more human-like than Wraith-like in the flickering light of the fire.

They nibbled at their roasted vegetables, looking at each other over the fire, and the Wraith tilted his head in his unique way, like he always did when he felt curious and intrigued, regarding Erik thoughtfully. “Are you homesick, Erik? You are very far away indeed from your home.”

Erik shrugged his shoulders. “Sometimes. But only when I have too much time to think about it. I miss my family and my friends of course, but Pegasus and Atlantis feel like home now too. I wanted to come here more than anything ever since I'd learned about the City of the Ancients. It was as if she was calling out for me. Maybe it's the ATA-gene, I don't know, but I've never felt like a stranger who doesn't belong here since my arrival, and I haven't had any real problems with adjusting to my new surroundings. I'm making mistakes and committing blunders all of the time because the senior people on Earth couldn't tell me the really important things about the Second Alliance and the Wraith, but they were all really nice to me, and I felt welcome and not at all like an outsider right from the beginning. A few people were reserved at first, but that happens on Earth as well all the time. The city is so beautiful, and I love being there. Even now – stuck on a planet with you I don't feel as homesick as I feared that I would do.”

A brief emotion was ghosting over the alien and yet so beautiful male features of the Wraith. “It's been a long time since any place has felt like home to me, but sitting here with you comes close to it, I think” he admitted, and Erik unconsciously reached out to touch his hand but hesitated, fearing that by doing so he'd cross a line he'd better not cross after only one day of them knowing each other.

“Tell me more about this Second Alliance you've mentioned before,” the other male asked him before Erik had the chance to question him about his past, and Erik thoughtfully chewed the bite he had just taken from his grilled 'beans' and considered his next words for a moment. He was aware that Colonel Sheppard wouldn't approve of him telling a hostile Wraith anything about their alliance, but Erik hoped that they wouldn't be enemies any longer by the time the rescue party arrived to pick them up, and he cleared his throat and started to tell his attentive listener the things most of the Wraith and humans living outside the Second Alliance must know about Atlantis and High Commander Todd's thirteen Hives anyway.

“The center of the Second Alliance is Atlantis and the thirteen Hives under High Commander Todd's command,” Erik started to tell with a small smile, and his Wraith mirrored his posture and pulled his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around them. He looked so young, lonely and wistful that Erik's heart clenched with a wave of sympathy and longing. “Wraith and humans are true equals in our alliance, but it has been a rather long journey until both sides really trusted each other,” he continued, the other male's amber-golden eyes fixed on his face, and Erik lost himself in his own narration, hoping that he could prove to his Wraith that they didn't need to be enemies but become real friends one day.

 

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“We are true allies, and a lot of Wraith have taken humans as their chosen consorts over the last three years. The colonel who chose me to join the Atlantis mission, Colonel Mitchell, has even persuaded the Commanders to accept names so we can distinguish them apart more easily,” the handsome young captain finished his narration proudly after more than half an hour, and the Wraith frowned slightly. “And they don't feel offended about them?” he wanted to know, “I can hardly believe that, and I must admit that names like Steve, Todd or Michael sound very odd to me.”

Erik chuckled. “I know what you mean, but Steven – coming from the old name Stephanus - Todd and Michael are actually pretty old and honorable names, even though only a few people know about their meaning. Todd is a name that comes from the Celts for example, which were several related ancient tribes that lived on Earth hundreds and even thousands of years ago. They had a rich and impressive culture, and the name Todd is their name for the animal we call the fox nowadays. The Celts thought that this animal had certain virtues like cleverness for example, and the name is very fitting for our High Commander, even though it sounds a little bit odd at first.”

“I see.” His Wraith didn't look convinced, and Erik hurried to tell him more about the names Colonel Mitchell had chosen for the other Commanders. “He spent time on board their Hives for a couple of days to get to know them, and he chose each name with greatest care. The Commanders I have met since my arrival in Atlantis are actually proud of their names and they even address each other with their names when they are alone without any New Lanteans nearby as far as I know. I do believe that Alexandros, Germanus, Patricius or Kyrillos are very honorable names for fierce and brave Wraith Commanders. The meaning of these names are more than honorable, and even our two Queens have accept their names happily.”

His Wraith remained silent for a while as he digested what Erik had told him, and Erik busied himself with his now cold food to give the other one the time he needed to come to terms with all the astonishing things he had heard. There was still this wistful expression in his eyes, and Erik longed to ease his mind and console him so much that it was like a physical ache in his chest.

“It sounds to good to be true,” the Wraith finally said quietly, and Erik swallowed with disappointment, but his gaze was soft and not angry when he looked at him. “But I believe you, Erik, I can see and smell that you're not lying to me. It's just that everything you've told me is the opposite from what I thought I knew about Colonel Sheppard and the New Lanteans.”

“Was Michael the one telling you things about Colonel Sheppard?” Erik asked, and the Wraith nodded hesitantly. “Yes, but he wasn't the only one. Colonel Sheppard is well-known to every Wraith living in this galaxy, and there are a lot of rumors and stories in circulation about him.”

Erik pursed his lips. “I can imagine. But you'll be surprised when you meet him, I promise you. I was told that he's changed a lot since his first arrival in Atlantis. He's a great commander, and this alliance would never have been possible without him.”

“Yes, I think so, Erik. Hmm, he and his people have managed to achieve what no inhabitant of the Pegasus Galaxy would ever have thought it possible – neither the humans, nor the Wraith - becoming friends with some of their former lethal enemies. The names Colonel Mitchell has chosen for the thirteen Commanders and the Queens prove that. I have to admit that the ones you've told me actually sound decent and honorable to me.” The Wraith stared into the flickering flames, and his loneliness was so tangible that Erik felt a huge lump in his throat. All he wanted to do was to chase the loneliness away and make his Wraith smile again, and before Erik knew what he was doing he opened his mouth and asked him:

“Would you mind me giving you a name? A really honorable name like the ones our Commanders have?”

Chapter Text

“A name? You really want to give me a name?” The Wraith stared at his human companion, a fierce rush of emotions surging through him. His heart was hammering in his chest again, and he felt like choking for a moment, the memories of the first time he'd gotten a name floating his mind. It had been under totally different circumstances, and the memories were still painful, making it hard for him to breathe and not let his helpless despair and anger show on his face and in his actions.

Wraith had a photographic memory which was helpful in most situations, but sometimes he wished that he could simply forget his past and never remember anything of what had happened to him again, erase the Wraith he had once been and start a new life without the knowledge of what he'd lost weighing on his shoulders. He suppressed the snarl that wanted to escape him at the images flashing unbidden before his mind's eye knowing that Erik would take it the wrong way, focusing instead on the human watching him attentively over the flickering flames of their campfire.

Despite what he had said to the young captain the previous day - right when they had first met on the other plateau - the Wraith had secretly longed to be given a name after listening to Erik's stories about the Second Alliance. But he wasn't sure about his wish any longer - now that it was offered to him - fearing that his human ally would just choose the first human name coming into his mind without being considerate of his feelings and his dignity.

“Yes, a name.” Erik worried his smooth bottom lip, and the Wraith found himself staring at the soft pink flesh, unable to avert his eyes. The young man hesitated for a moment, taking a deep breath and straightening his shoulders as spoke up again.

“I know what you said about not wanting to have a name, and I'm aware that Wraith don't need names since you are a telepathic species. It's just that I'm human and can't talk telepathically to you, not without your help, I mean. Plus, even if we could do that now and then, I don't think that I would feel comfortable with being connected with you mentally the entire time because humans are not made for this kind of contact.
Therefore I would be happy if you accepted me calling you by a proper name. You must know that referring to someone by their race is usually meant to be insulting and disgraceful among humans,” Erik explained, making a calming gesture with his hand when he saw the look on the Wraith's face. “I know that you don't mean it as an insult when you call me 'human' instead of Erik, that you are mostly doing that to tease me.
I don't mind you calling me 'human' now and then and I actually like it when you're teasing me, but it's different when I have to call you Wraith because I have no other way to address you. It feels like classifying and judging you, reducing you to your looks and way of feeding as though I was refusing to acknowledge you as the individual you are. For me, you are not just any Wraith, but a very special individual, different from the other Wraith I've met, and I would be very happy if I was allowed to show you that I value you highly by calling you by a decent and carefully chosen name.”

The Wraith stared at Erik, his throat too tight to speak for a few seconds. Finally, he made a strangled sound, his voice hoarse when he forced himself to give the young man the answer he was waiting for. “You really want to give me a name, Erik, to become friends with me in doing so – and this even though you know that I might have to kill you by feeding on you if nobody comes to our rescue. Are you really sure that you have thought that through?”

Erik nodded, his voice firm as he looked him straight in the eyes. “Yes, I am sure. I know that you won't take pleasure out of draining me, having to kill me in order to survive yourself. Somehow, I'm in the better position here because I don't have to make this decision, and I don't expect you to spare me and die for my sake, although most people I know would call me foolish if I told them that. I'd actually prefer you to kill me instead of having to watch you die of starvation and staying alone on this planet without any chance of ever getting away from here. Humans are not meant to live on their own for years and decades, and I trust you to make it quick and as painless as possible if it should really come to that. The chances that they will find us when the hyper radio devices functions again are pretty high, I'm sure that they already are searching for me, even if it's only because they don't want my fighter to fall into the wrong hands. I don't want to offend you with my request. On the contrary, my wish to be allowed to address you by a name comes from my respect for you, and because I already think of you as my friend.” The Wraith could see him swallow after his admission that he considered him a friend, but he didn't look away, meeting his eyes with the astonishing courage he had showed right from the first minute of their acquaintance.

The Wraith returned the human's gaze thoughtfully, feeling impressed and humbled at Erik's speech. “I see. What kind of name do you want to give me? Would it have a special meaning like the names Colonel Mitchell chose for the thirteen Commanders?” he tried to keep his voice casual, but he held his breath as he waited anxiously for Erik's answer.

“Oh yes, it has. I have actually thought about a good name for you since you first agreed to my proposal for an alliance.” Erik smiled sheepishly at him, and his cheeks were glowing pink again. The Wraith felt a strange flutter in his guts, another wave of emotions coursing through him again. Erik's eyes sparkled when he looked at him, unconsciously mirroring his posture as he tilted his head to the side.

“I wanted to come to Pegasus, and I'm happy here, but there is someone I really miss. His name is Marco, and we have been best friends ever since I joined the USAF. He didn't have the ATA-gene and was chosen to join another expedition team a few months before Colonel Mitchell visited Earth to select the pilots for our new fighters, and we haven't seen each other for more than half a year, but I know for sure that we will always be friends, no matter how far the distance is between us. You remind me of him, you even have the same lopsided smile as him.” Erik paused, lost in the memories of his best friend, and the Wraith felt a sharp sting cutting through him right where his heart was.

He needed a moment to recognize the disturbing emotion, and he was dismayed that he felt jealous of a human he would most likely never meet. This Marco seemed to be very dear to his human, and he didn't like the thought of anybody else making Erik smile the way he smiled at him, even though it was ridiculous to feel this way of course.

“So you just want to call me Marco like your best friend?” he asked, his voice shallow and terse because of his disappointment. He should have known that the human would choose the easy way and not waste too much time and thought on coming up with a special name for any random Wraith he was stuck on a planet with, but he still felt betrayed and hurt because he had really thought that Erik would choose his name more carefully than Colonel Sheppard had been with his choices of names for the Wraith he had had to deal with after his arrival in Atlantis.

Erik blinked, shaking his head in confusion. “No, I don't want to call you Marco. That would be too simple and not respectful towards either of you, wouldn't it? But Marco is the modern version of a honorable name that has been valued highly for centuries, a lot of remarkable men and rulers have answered to it, and I do believe that it suits a fierce and brave Wraith very well.” He looked at him, and the Wraith felt intrigued against his will, nodding silently at the young man to go on.

Erik smiled at him and relaxed, eager to explain his choice of name to him. “Marco is a more modern form of the old and honorable name Marcus – which is Latin and means warrior of the God Mars. Mars was the Roman god of war, and he was worshiped as a very important god by the Romans who ruled over a huge empire on Earth more than two thousand years ago. Following Colonel Mitchell's way of choosing names for immortal beings, Marcus would be the right choice, but this version is too similar to the name of the training master of the Second Alliance, which is Marcos, and I really want you to have a special name on your own, honorable and beautiful sounding at the same time. We have many different languages on Earth, and the language that ancient Latin developed into over the centuries is Italian. It's a beautiful language, and the Italian version of Marco or Marcus is Marciano.”

Erik paused again, looking uncertain and excited at the same time. “Would you mind me calling you Marciano in the future? It is one of my favorite names since I was a boy, and it is not disgraceful in any way.”

The Wraith felt the same excitement that was displayed on Erik's face, and he cleared his throat to taste his new name on his tongue as he spoke it out loud for the first time. “Marciano. It sounds indeed beautiful, Erik. I think I like it, and I would be pleased if you called me Marciano in the future. Thank you for having chosen my name with care and respect. I... I think of you as my friend too. Friendship doesn't come naturally to us, our brethren on board our Hives are family and allied Hives are not the same as friends, but you have proved your friendship to me with your willingness to ally with me instead of trying to kill me,” he thanked his human, and Erik's genuine happy smile was all he needed to fall in love his new name right there and then. Now he had something he could cling to when the memories of his past were haunting him again, and Marciano the Wraith smiled back at the young man, happy that he had made Erik happy.

He tried to remember the last time he had felt as hopeful and content as he felt in this moment but failed, because no one had ever treated him the way Erik was doing, like the sentient and intelligent being he was, with care, friendliness and respect instead of mistrust and loathing. He had still been so young when he had been caught, torn apart from his Hive and his brethren, and ever since that fateful, terrible day, he had either been loathed, hated, feared or abused.

Marciano knew that he would never forget the young USAF captain with the beautiful smile and the hazel-green eyes, who was willing to put his trust in him instead of only seeing him as the hated Wraith and lethal enemy, offering his friendship to him and showing him respect and understanding where others would condemn him. From this day on, Erik would always be in his mind and his heart as long as he lived, no matter how long that would be.

 

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Erik was still excited that his Wraith had accepted his name when it was finally time for bed after their dinner, the grateful and astonished smile he had gotten warming him from the inside as he lay down on the mattress Marciano had made for him. The coat had dried astonishingly quickly, the heavy garment resembling leather and yet being different from the leather Erik knew. It served as a cozy blanket and smelled of Marciano, and the palm-like leaves and the flexible twigs warmed him from underneath and were much softer than he had anticipated.

The young man felt exhausted and tired even though he had been trapped in the cave all day long, but telling Marciano so many stories, dwelling in the memories of his happy childhood and his first straining weeks in Atlantis, had taken its toll, and the hazel-eyed USAF captain yawned and curled himself up on the mattress with a small sound of drowsy contentment.

Marciano was still sitting by the fire that was slowly dying out, the flames bathing his figure in their golden light. The alien male was a stunning sight, beautiful, elegant and dangerous like a big cat. Marciano's clothes were black, but he reminded Erik more of the young lion he had once seen on a safari trip when he had been a teenager, and the young man smiled at the comparison as he imagined his Wraith running through the wilderness of this world like the young lion had run over the savanna. Colonel Mitchell had told him that Wraith loved to hunt their chosen consorts – playing cat and mouse with them without ever hurting them – and Erik hoped that he and Marciano would be able to play this game one day as well, sharing some carefree moments and being real friends instead of only temporary allies because of their situation. The young Wraith aroused feelings in him he had never felt before, and Erik felt a lump in his throat at the mere thought of never seeing him again after their rescue as he now gazed at him from under his eyelashes.

Erik knew that it was impolite to stare at Marciano like that, the Wraith looking at his boots without really seeing them, lost deep in his thoughts, sitting there on the bench beside the pile of berries in the same position ever since he had wished Erik good night. The hazel-eyed captain couldn't look away though, feeling drawn to his Wraith like a moth felt drawn in to the light that would finally burn it. Marciano might have to kill him if he didn't want to die the painful death of starvation if no one came to their rescue, but Erik didn't feel any fear in his presence even though he knew that it was foolish to trust a Wraith he had just met a day ago. A small shiver was wrecking Marciano now, his expression melancholy as he allowed his guard to slip, unaware of Erik's furtive glances, and Erik called for him without thinking.

“Come here, Marciano. The mattress is big enough for the two of us, and the same goes for your coat.”

Marciano turned his head to look at him. “It's alright, Erik, I can deal with the cold.”

“I know that, Marciano.” Erik loved to call his Wraith by his name, it felt so right to do that, and loved the sound of it more than he had thought he would do when he had chosen it for the other male. “But I want you to come here nonetheless. You've said that the predators have problems with climbing, and the rain will only make it harder for them to come here. You can watch the fire from here just as well as you can do it sitting there all alone. Besides, you haven't taken a nap like you'd said that you would do during the day, and you need to preserve your strength if you want to go without feeding for long enough. You can wake me in case you don't want to leave the fire alone and become too tired to watch it.”

“Are you sure that you want to sleep lying close to a Wraith, human?” Marciano asked him in the weak attempt to keep his distance from him, and Erik lifted the coat and smiled at him. “I am sure that I want to sleep lying close to you, Marciano. Your body heat might be lower than mine, but it is warmer than the chilly night air, and I feel safe with you. I really want you to be comfortable too, my stubborn Wraith,” he insisted, using the word stubborn only to be able to call Marciano his Wraith at least once without arousing questions he wasn't ready to answer at this point.

Marciano tilted his head to the side as he regarded him, and Erik was already fearing that he would refuse his offer, but the Wraith surprised him as he stood to come over to his sleeping place. “You continue to surprise me, human,” his new friend rumbled, lying down behind him, careful not to touch him. Erik felt a little bit disappointed, but he accepted Marciano's need to keep some space between them without trying to snuggle closer to him. Trust and closeness didn't come easily to his Wraith, that much was obvious, and Erik guessed that he must have had some bad experiences, but he would wait patiently and not ask Marciano about them until he trusted him enough to tell him his story.

“I continue to surprise myself,” was all he said with a light snicker, draping the coat over both of them and closing his eyes with another heartfelt yawn.

“Good night, Marciano,” he murmured already halfway asleep, tasting the name he had found for his Wraith on his tongue again, and the other male's low purring rumble followed him into his deep and dreamless slumber.

“Good night, Erik human, sleep well.”

Chapter Text

Erik woke up to a body pressed against his own, Marciano's arm a heavy weight around his waist.

It was the second night they had spent like this, but the previous morning Marciano had already been up and busied with making breakfast when Erik had opened his eyes. This time the Wraith must have succumbed to sleep sometime during the night, unconsciously cuddling up against a source of warmth that would protect him from the chilly night air so much better than any blanket could ever do.

Erik didn't dare to hope that Marciano had sought his embrace because he felt attracted to the human who was his only companion in this beautiful but lonely world, telling himself that Wraith most likely appreciated warmth as much as humans did, even though they could deal with cold better than humans because of their lower body temperature.

Their closeness had an unwanted side-effect though, and Erik cautiously shifted his weight to move his backside away from the Wraith's body, glad that Marciano was lying behind him and couldn't feel or see the inappropriate and unmistakable reaction of his cuddling partner.

“You're in need, human. Shall I leave you alone so you can take care of yourself or do you want me to stay and help you?”

Marciano's sleepy voice next to his ear made the young captain flinch violently with a strangled sound of surprise. The Wraith didn't sound uncomfortable or embarrassed, and he apparently didn't want to seduce Erik either, he was merely stating a matter of fact, his voice calm and casual as if he had made a remark about the weather.

“Marciano! What the heck...” Erik flinched again in embarrassment, hastily moving away from the other male as far as he could without rolling down from the mattress, burying his face in his elbow.

“There is no need to curse, Erik. I was told that humans – especially healthy young men – have a strong libido. This is obviously normal for you, and you don't need to be ashamed of your natural needs.”

Erik could feel Marciano's eyes on his back, but he refused to turn around and look at him, knowing that he was glowing crimson red with embarrassment. “How do you even know? You're lying behind me, you can't even see it from your position!” he grumbled, wishing for a hole in the ground to open up and swallow him.

“It? You mean your hmm – how did Michael call it – ah, yes, 'morning wood', I guess. No I can't see 'it', but your scent is thick with pheromones,” Marciano said, reluctantly removing his arm from Erik's midsection when he sensed Erik's serious discomfort.

“Yeah, of course it is. At least you didn't say that I stink this time,” Erik sighed, craning his head to peer at the Wraith from over his shoulder. It wouldn't help matters if he behaved like a shrinking violet, it was better to address this delicate topic now and get it out of the way for all time. “It is so unfair that you can always see or smell the state I'm in while my poor human senses are far too dull to be able to do the same,” he groused, and the Wraith tilted his head and raised one of his hairless eye-ridges at him.

“Having such a sensitive sense of smell is not always fortunate, human, believe me. I have wished for a less sensitive nose more than only once.”

Erik sighed again. “Yes, I can imagine. I'm sorry that you have to endure the reek of my unwashed body for so long.”

Marciano's expression softened, and he reached out to trail his clawed finger along Erik's jawline. His cheeks were still burning red, but the look in the Wraith's amber-golden eyes was gentle and almost tender when he smiled at him.

“Please don't be sorry for things you can't change, Erik. It was still raining yesterday and far too risky to leave the cave for longer than a few minutes. You can take a bath in the lake later, the sun is shining again, and depending on how fast the earth dries out, we can try to reach my Dart to get the coordinates of this planet I've saved before my crash and see whether or not the energy storage is still functioning. We'll need it for the repair of your hyper radio device if we want to make it send a message to Atlantis for long enough. Besides, you're not smelling bad to me. On the contrary, you actually smell quite delicious to me if I'm allowed to say that without offending you.”

Erik felt his cheeks heat up even more, but he couldn't be angry with his Wraith, not when Marciano looked at him this way, admiration and mischief making his eyes sparkle and his lips curl into that irresistible lopsided smile. His morning wood, as Marciano had put it, had luckily faded due to their awkward talk, and was there actually disappointment flashing in the amber-golden eyes when his Wraith drew in a deep breath, realizing that Erik's state had changed back to normal?

The young captain couldn't be sure, but what he knew for sure was that he wanted to end this conversation as soon as possible, and so he forced a smile upon his own face and inhaled deeply as well.

“You're right that a lot of men wake up in this state on a regular basis, but it normally fades again without problems. I appreciate your kind offer, but I don't need your help, and I'd prefer not having to talk about these things again. This is something very private, you know, and having to discuss my most private needs with you is making me feel uncomfortable and ashamed.”

Marciano nodded, even though he looked a little bit hurt. “Of course, Erik, I respect your boundaries,” he said, schooling his features into an expression of calm impassiveness. “We should get up now anyway. I will check the terrain if you don't mind making breakfast for us.”

“That's a good idea.” Erik disentangled his limbs from the heavy coat and got up to see to the campfire that had burned down during the night, and Marciano did the same to leave the cave and check the terrain.

The young man was glad that he had a few moments to himself as he arranged the berries and some of the mushrooms Marciano had collected on two palm-like leaves for their breakfast, their talk still echoing in his head.

His Wraith obviously didn't know that Erik's morning wood had nothing to do with the strong libido of a healthy young man but had been caused by their closeness and Erik's secret attraction to him, and the hazel-eyed USAF captain could only hope that Marciano would never find out about his desire for him.

 

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Five hours later they were making their way downwards to the base of the mountain where Erik had found Marciano's Dart three days ago, the descent taking much longer than Erik's ascent had taken due to the still dangerously slippery ground where the sun didn't reach to dry the soil. The young captain was grateful that he had to focus all of his energies on scrambling down the mountain in order not to risk a fall that would lead to severe injuries – if not his death - glad that he could take his mind off their talk from earlier today.

Marciano had busied himself with adding more twigs and palm leaves to their mattress while Erik had gone to the lake to take a bath and wash his clothes, wearing nothing but Marciano's coat while his underwear, shirt and BDUs were drying on the meadow. It felt good to be clean again, but Erik's thoughts had circled around the fact that he wouldn't be able to hide his feelings from his Wraith companion in the long run, and the sudden bout of homesickness had only served to make him feel worse.

Marciano had noticed his lack of appetite when they had had a quick lunch, but luckily not commented on it, only looked at Erik from the side now and then. Erik missed the lightheartedness they had shared during the last two days, and he hoped that the repair of the hyper radio device would establish some kind of normalcy between them again.

The young captain was so wrapped up in his thoughts when they finally reached the base of the mountain that he bumped into the Wraith when he stopped all of a sudden, pointing at something in front of him.

Erik held his breath when he saw what it was, two small rabbit-like animals crouching under a large bush. They used their tiny front paws as hands as they nibbled at the berries Erik liked so much, making purring and squeaking sounds of delight. The small rabbits were so busied with their lunch that they didn't notice the two watchers, or maybe they did notice Marciano and him but didn't consider them a threat, it was hard to tell.

Erik felt the tension leave his body as he stood there watching the cute animals, a huge smile on his face when Marciano turned his head to look at him.

“They are so cute!” he whispered barely moving his lips, and Marciano returned his smile and winked at him. “Yes, they are. There are other animals on this planet, but these are the cutest. They live in caves in the mountain not far away from here. I spent some time watching and studying them before your arrival.”

The two 'rabbits' scampered closer at the sound of Marciano's voice, and Erik watched the Wraith plucking some berries from the bush next to him, kneeling down on the ground to offer them to the animals. The bigger one made a chirping sound as it sniffed at the berries, and Erik wished that he could stroke the fur that looked soft and shimmered golden like Marciano's hair in the midday sun, but he knew that touching a strange animal on an unknown planet was not a clever idea, at least not when you were human and could get sick from such careless behavior.

“Put the berries on your flat palm, they won't bite you, Erik,” Marciano said as if he had read his thoughts, and Erik obeyed without thinking, trusting his Wraith that he wouldn't let any harm come to him.

“These two are the most curious ones, the rest of their kin are much more cautious. They must be brothers, I think, and they are always together. Their fur is golden-brown while the others have grayish fur.”

The smaller brother scampered over to Erik, craning his head to nibble at the berries in Erik's palm. Erik snickered because the furry snout of the 'rabbit' tickled at his skin, and his new friend chirped excitedly and rose on his hind legs to beg for more berries. Erik chuckled, forgetting his worries and his homesickness completely, beaming at Marciano when he plucked more berries to offer them to his small friend. The Wraith did the same, and the two brothers chewed happily, wagging their round backsides.

“Max and Hannes like these berries just as much as I like them.”

Marciano shook his head in faked exasperation, but Erik could see the smile playing on his lips. “You and your need to name each and everything crossing your way, human!”

“Don't complain, Wraith! You actually like the names I come up with!” Erik defended himself, and Marciano chuckled. “Yes, I actually do, Erik. So tell me – which one is Max?”

“Your rabbit of course. Max and Marciano. My rabbit is Hannes. I once had two rabbits that looked like these two and their names were Max and Hannes.”

“I see. What are rabbits, Erik?” Marciano reached out with his off hand to stroke Max behind his long ears, making him purr loudly. Erik had never heard of purring rabbits, but these were Pegasus rabbits after all, and he hadn't believed that Wraith were able to purr either until Marciano's purring had lulled him to sleep last night.

“Rabbits are animals living on Earth which are similar to these cuties here. They have soft fur, long ears, and they can scamper, but they can't purr, so Max and Hannes must have some cats in their family too,” Erik tried to explain. “I'll show you pictures of rabbits and cats when we're back in Atlantis.”

Marciano's hand stilled, hovering over Max' head. The Pegasus rabbit chirped unhappily, shooting the Wraith a reproachful look out of big brown eyes before scampering away with Hannes in tow. “Do you really believe that Colonel Sheppard would let me stay in Atlantis even if it was only for a few hours or days?” Marciano asked, his voice carefully controlled, and Erik lifted his chin in defiance and determination when he returned his appraising glance.

“He will, don't you doubt that, Marciano. He's not like the Colonel Sheppard you've heard so many stories about any longer. He has changed, and you will be welcome in Atlantis.”

“If you say so.” Marciano rose elegantly to his feet, his expression stern and impassive instead of cheerful and relaxed now. “Come on, we need to see to my Dart. We can come here and visit Max and Hannes more often after the repair of your fighter, it will take Atlantis some time to come here. They need to travel by ship, there is no Stargate within reach, and the sooner your hyper radio device functions again, the sooner they will come to our rescue.”

Erik wondered about the Wraith's sudden mood change, but he only nodded and followed him along the small path Marciano must have cut through the wilderness with his long knife before Erik's arrival, wishing for the other male to smile at him again so badly that it was a physical pain in his chest.

Chapter Text

They had settled in a more or less smoothly functioning working routine over the last two days, trying to establish some kind of normality in their complicated and still fragile alliance.

Marciano shot Erik a furtive sidelong glance, drawing secret pleasure out of watching his human while he was caught up in his work. Yesterday had been awkward after Marciano's clumsy attempt to learn more about Erik and his human needs, and he still wanted to slap himself for having upset his beautiful young man that much. He had spoken without thinking when he'd woken up enwrapped in Erik's tempting scent, the cool air in the cave perfumed with the pheromones of Erik's arousal.

Marciano had hoped that Erik would tell him that it wasn't just the normal reaction of his human body but something deeper and more serious, and Erik's violent reaction had confused and dismayed him, making him realize that the handsome young man obviously didn't belong to those New Lanteans who found Wraith attractive and desirable, wanting to come closer to them in a more intimate way.

It was clear now that he had crossed a line he'd better never cross again, and Marciano had deeply regretted that he had damaged their friendship right after Erik's willingness to show him his trust by letting him sleep close to him – even though he still didn't know anything about the creature that could have taken his life so easily while he was sleeping. Erik had told Marciano so much about himself without ever asking any questions about Marciano's past, and the young Wraith was aware that lack of interest wasn't the reason for Erik's silence, but his respect for Marciano's privacy and his strong wish to make their alliance work and prove himself to him. If friendship was all the hazel-eyed captain felt for him, then Marciano had to accept that and keep an appropriate distance to him in the future.

Addressing Erik's delicate state seconds after the young man had woken up in his arms had apparently been a big mistake, and Marciano had done his best to make up with his human again, trying to distract him from his inappropriate demeanor with the cute animals when they had left the cave to go to his Dart. It had worked better than he had hoped that it would, the 'rabbits' as Erik called the animals even had names now, and Marciano had to admit that he liked the names his human had chosen for them. Max and Hannes had already been waiting for them again today when they'd reached the small path that would lead them to Erik's fighter, chirping and purring excitedly when they'd been hand-fed with more berries by their new two-legged friends.

Erik's eyes had sparkled when he had fed Hannes, and the young man had beamed at him with joy, forgetting his discomfort because Marciano had intruded on his privacy so rudely the previous day. Marciano would have liked to stay longer and play with Max and Hannes for a while just to see Erik smile like that with rosy cheeks, but they really needed to repair the hyper radio device, and Erik hadn't objected when he had gently reminded him that they needed to go.

The trek to Erik's plane took them more than three hours because the ground was still muddy and slippery where the sun didn't reach it because of the tall trees standing so close, but his human didn't complain about the straining walk or the humidity that made him sweat, he just walked behind Marciano with his bag hanging over his shoulder, looking around in awe of the new world he explored.

The Wraith had already started to suspect that the things Michael had told him about humans in general, and the New Lanteans in particular, weren't true after the first days he had spent in Erik's company, and he now knew for sure that most of them had been lies. Last night, Marciano had watched Erik curl himself up on the mattress again, still sitting by the fire on the other side of the cave, and he had resigned himself to his fate of having to lie on the hard ground for the rest of their stay here after what he had said and done that morning. But his astonishing human had just looked at him with a smile on his face, making an inviting gesture with his hand and saying:

“What are you waiting for, Marciano? Just come here, you'll be much more comfortable lying on the mattress.”

The Wraith had lain down beside him with a lump in his throat, feeling humble and grateful that his human was able to forgive him for his behavior just like that.

Right now the young captain was busied checking his Dart Fighter as his spaceship was called, his cheeks rosy again when he saw that the damage wasn't as serious as it had first looked. Marciano could have spent hours with watching him, but he tore his hungry gaze away from the beautiful face of his companion to help him connect the energy storage they had disassembled from his own Dart the previous day with the hyper radio device of Erik's own plane.

If Marciano had needed any proof that Erik's stories about the Second Alliance were true and not just lies to deceive him and make him cooperate, then his fighter was all the Wraith needed to see to believe him. He hadn't really thought that Erik's stories were lies, but he had had the suspicion that his human was perhaps exaggerating things to convince Marciano that the Second Alliance was as powerful as he claimed it to be. However the Dart-like fighter proved better than words could ever do that the New Lanteans and Commander Todd's Hives had become true allies and friends, and Marciano longed to visit Atlantis and learn more about this alliance, although he knew that his dream would never come true.

The D-1404 was a perfect combination of a Wraith Dart and the fighters of the New Lanteans Michael had found in one of Atlantis' databases and shown to him shortly after his arrival in the Wraith-hybrid's labs, and Marciano had been truly impressed when Erik had used the remote control to make his plane visible again, seeing the new and much better version of these fighters for the first time. The Wraith had stared at the spaceship in stunned silence, his eyes roaming over the shimmering dark surface and his clawed fingers itching to touch and fly it.

This would never happen though, and Marciano willed his attention back to his task, telling himself that wishing for something he could never have would only make him feel bad. He was an outlaw, the home he had once had on board his birth Hive lost to him forever when Michael had come to get him. No Hive would ever accept him as a part of their crew again, no Wraith would ever look at him with anything but disgust and contempt because of what he had become.

The same went for the humans living in this galaxy, he was still a lethal threat to them, still the enemy they had to fight and kill, and all he could do was search for a planet like this one where he could live on his own, a planet that would hopefully have a Stargate so he could leave it for some time when he needed to feed. Perhaps it would be better to just stay here and wait for his death when Colonel Sheppard came to save Erik and the precious Dart Fighter, no one would miss him when he was gone - and parts of the terrible things Michael had done not only to him, but to an entire galaxy as well, would finally be gone with him then.

“Can you help me with these?” Erik's words pulled him out of his dark thoughts, and Marciano looked up at him. The young captain wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, leaving a small stripe of dirt there, but it only made him look more attractive in Marciano's admittedly biased opinion. Erik was much more sensitive to his moods than Marciano had given him credit for at the beginning, his gaze worried and his lips curling into a cautious smile as he waited for Marciano's reaction, regarding him attentively.

“Of course, Erik. Sorry, I was lost in my thoughts.” Marciano took the screwdriver to loosen the screws Erik hadn't been able to loosen. Erik watched him work for a moment. “That's understandable, Marciano. You're stuck here for much longer than I am, you're alone in your head without the comforting presence of your own kin. You have me as your only company – a head-blind human who is actually food for you, and you're depending on my people to rescue you, people you don't know how they will treat you. I know that this must be hard for you, much harder than it is for me.”

Erik's kind words made him swallow, and he looked up to smile at him. “You're not 'food' to me, Erik, please don't think that. You're... you're my friend, and I value your company highly.”

The young man looked surprised, and Marciano knew that he would never forget the expression on his face when Erik cleared his throat and said:

“Thank you, Marciano. You're my friend too, you really are.”

 

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They had worked on making the hyper radio device function for three hours, and Erik had already started to think that they wouldn't succeed, but Marciano had refused to give up and finally achieved the miracle, bringing the device back to life and sending a short transmission with their coordinates and the information Atlantis needed to find them. The message repeated itself in an endless loop with short breaks in between, and Erik prayed that Dr. McKay or another scientist would hear it and draw the right conclusions from it.

Marciano had done his best to focus the transmission to a radiated beam to minimize the risk that hostile Hives would receive it, but they couldn't be sure that it would work. The problem was that they couldn't remove the device and bring it to their cave, but had to leave it inside his fighter because the battery was too large to carry even for Marciano, and the energy storage of Marciano's Dart alone without the larger battery of Erik's fighter wasn't powerful enough to operate the radio reception on together with the transmitter and make the transmitter work for more than a day perhaps.

They would have to come back here on a regular basis over the next few days to check if Atlantis had received their message with the coordinates, and Erik hoped that the energy would last for long enough that they could answer to a possible message from the City of the Ancients. The other problem was that he couldn't use the remote control to hide the fighter behind the shield again as long as the device was transmitting, and Erik was worried that the predators Marciano had mentioned would come here and damage the ship.

The hyper radio was their only chance to be rescued before Marciano had to feed again, and Erik found himself turning his head round several times when they were finally leaving the place to go back to their cave, his lips moving in a soundless goodbye to his precious ship and a prayer that Atlantis would receive their transmission.

The sun was a large red ball that hovered over the horizon when they saw the base of the mountains in front of them, still about two or three miles away, and Erik wiped his forehead again, every single bone aching in his body. The bruises the crash landing had left were slowly fading but still visible, and the long march to his plane in the morning and now back to their shelter had used up most of his strength. Erik was walking behind Marciano, not really paying attention to his surroundings, trusting the Wraith to do that for him, and Marciano's sudden hiss made him flinch and cry out.

The Wraith had come to an abrupt halt, pushing against Erik to make him step back, and Erik felt his blood freezing in his veins when he saw the reason for Marciano's behavior.

The animal crouching in front of them, ready to jump and attack them at any second, was not quite as big as the bears Erik knew from Earth, but it was still impressive in size, the head and the torso resembling a brown bear while the rest of it looked more like the backside of a too short kangaroo, probably the reason why these animals weren't good at climbing, their hind legs not designed for that. But they definitely were good at jumping from a standing position, because this one did that the very next second, attacking Marciano with a low growl.

Erik stumbled back when the impact threw the Wraith against him, and he fell down on his butt with a loud “uff!”, searching desperately for his knife to help Marciano fight against the predator.

“Get out of the way, Erik! It will attack you if it learns that you are the easier prey of the two of us!” Marciano snarled when he saw Erik crawling in his direction, already up on his feet again, and the young man hesitated, torn between his instinctive urge to flee and his equally strong wish to help his Wraith.

“I've fought them before, I don't need your help! Just get out of the way, human!” the other male snarled impatiently, and Erik's limbs finally obeyed his brain's orders again. He hurried to roll to the side when the kangaroo-bear jumped again, the long claws of his front paws almost scratching Erik's cheek as it turned its attention to the human.

Marciano growled and whirled around his axis faster than Erik could follow him with his eyes, his fists raining down on the back of the creature to distract it from Erik, and the predator howled and turned around to defeat the more dangerous enemy before finishing Erik afterwards. It jumped again, but Marciano had seen it coming, ducking away and kicking the animal with his heavy boot in its softer belly. The predator howled in both, pain and blind fury, and Erik held his breath when it jumped again, its sharp teeth bared as it aimed for Marciano's throat.

The Wraith snarled when the fangs of the beast cut through his arm, his own fury doubling his powers. He managed to grab the front legs just when the creature crushed against him, whirling it around to throw it down onto the ground and keep it down with his own rather heavy body weight. The kangaroo-bear crashed down with a loud noise, and Marciano pressed it against the ground with his hands wrapped around its neck, kneeling on its back. The creature went still when it felt the Wraith's strong claws tighten around its windpipe, mortal fear darkening its gaze.

Erik's head was spinning from the lack of air, and he inhaled deeply with a strangled sob, staring at the two so different creatures with wide eyes. The animal lay on the ground with trembling flanks, letting out a small whine of surrender. Erik's throat was so tight that he could hardly breathe, and he squeezed his eyes shut because he didn't want to see Marciano finishing it. The kangaroo-bear was a predator that would have killed him without hesitation, Erik knew that, but it was still a sentient living being, and Erik felt pity and sympathy with it. The beast only acted out of its nature, it wasn't cruel or drawing pleasure out of killing other beings, and Erik hoped that Marciano would make it quick and painless for the kangaroo-bear.

He opened his eyes again when he heard another whine, watching in astonishment Marciano rising to his feet and stepping back from the beast that was still alive and breathing. It pulled its tail between its hind legs and crawled away in the direction of the bushes without trying to attack them again, and Erik struggled back onto his own feet, his knees feeling like jelly.

“You let it live.”

Marciano didn't turn his head to look at him, watching the kangaroo-bear disappearing between the trees. “Yes, I have. I thought that you would want me to let it live, Erik. It isn't evil, it just wants to eat and survive like all living beings.” The Wraith looked like an ancient warrior as he stood there dressed completely in tightly fitting black with slightly spread legs, his long silver-blond hair cascading over his shoulders in tousled waves. His hands hang loosely at his sides, but Erik could see the tension in his posture, that Marciano was ready to kill the defeated animal without blinking if the beast made the mistake of coming back and trying to attack them again.

Erik took in the sight of the amazing being, proud and fierce, even merciless if necessary, and yet so gentle and kind sometimes. Erik still remembered how Marciano had fed Max with an almost tender smile on his alien, beautiful male face, and in this moment he realized that he had fallen in love with Marciano.

It wasn't just physical desire Erik felt for the Wraith, but real and deep love.