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The Bet is Still On

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The Pegasus Galaxy was the most wondrous place David Parrish could imagine. Many of the members of the Atlantean mission tended to dismiss the Pegasus worlds as all alike, all reminiscent of Canadian forests, but David always found that viewpoint mind-bogglingly dense. Each world was obviously seeded by the Ancients, but had evolved uniquely. One of the greatest regrets of his life would be the lack of time to explore each variation. He found every planet so amazing, he did tend to a bit of absent-minded wandering, despite regular scolding by his team leader.

He was looking up as he strolled among the trees, admiring the structure and beauty of the individual limbs, which is why it took a moment to register that he had bumped into a tall figure, all dressed in black. Surprised, he blinked, and finally registered that the figure had a greenish-tinged face and unruly white hair. A scream emerged unbidden from his lungs as he scrambled for the gun in his holster. He'd been trained, and trained, repeatedly; he knew what to do, "Now shoot!" he could hear Evan saying at target practice, but shooting was impossible when panic wouldn't let him get the gun out of his holster.

The Wraith grabbed one hand and held it firmly, saying strangely, "Peace, human. I mean you no harm."

Shocked, David yanked backwards, finally freeing his gun and holding it in both hands, aiming at the Wraith.

The Wraith took a step back, raising both hands in apparent surrender. "You are one of Sheppard's people, are you not?"

Crashing sounds told David that the others had heard his scream and had come running. He sensed Sheppard, Evan, and Hector spreading out around him, P90s at the ready.

"Hold!" Sheppard said.

"Sheppard," the Wraith said. "I did not expect to see you again, especially not so soon."

"And I told you that if I saw you again, all bets were off."

"You two know each other?" David asked weakly.

"That's the Wraith that Kolya used," Evan muttered to him, deliberately standing close. The Wraith's face actually looked like he was smiling, which made David shudder a bit. Smiling Wraith looked unnatural.

"I'm unarmed, Sheppard. Would you shoot me without a means to defend myself?" the Wraith asked.

"That hand is all the weapon you need," Sheppard said, pointing toward the Wraith's feeding hand with his P90, but David noticed that he didn't give the order to fire. "What are you doing here?"

"Nothing of consequence," the Wraith replied. "What are you doing here?"

"Nothing of consequence," Sheppard sniped back. "Parrish, holster your gun. Everyone, slowly back to the gate. You first," he said directly to the Wraith, again gesturing with his P90.

"Of course," the Wraith said, amiably. David was happy to move to the side, letting the Wraith walk past him, in the direction that the other three had come running. He holstered his gun, shaking with the rush of adrenaline. He loved his job; he loved exploring the Pegasus Galaxy; he loved being with Evan and his team. He did not love the Wraith, and he would be happy to never see another one ever again.

Sometimes the Pegasus Galaxy wasn't completely wonderful.

~~~

The Wraith known as Guide walked slowly toward the gate, wondering if most of Sheppard's people saw the Wraith as the one in the brown clothing certainly did, a horror to be feared. Sheppard, he thought, saw the Wraith with more nuance. As a dangerous collective certainly, but as individuals too. At least, he thought that Sheppard did, after their experience being held prisoner by Kolya.

He was concerned about technically being held a prisoner again, but curious too, welcoming the chance to interact with Sheppard again. The human was so unusual, in his stubborn optimism and willingness to work with a Wraith.

"You are collecting trees," he said, as they reached the cleared area surrounding the stargate. There was a vehicle parked close to the gate, a vehicle that looked like the small ships that the Ancients used to fly. It appeared that the rumors were true, that Sheppard's people were the ones who had occupied the ancient city of the enemy. Two small trees rested on their sides by the vehicle, as well as another pile of branches.

"And you were…what?" Sheppard asked, not denying Guide's observation.

"Taking a walk," Guide responded, not seeing any particular reason to lie.

"Taking a walk," Sheppard parroted.

Guide responded with a nod.

"Lorne, take Parrish and do a quick aerial survey. Make sure that there's no hive ship in orbit. Run some scans, see if you can figure out what about this planet appeals to a Wraith."

"Sir, we could just go," the one called Lorne suggested.

"I want to know why he's here."

Watching the humans was strangely fascinating. For most of his millennia, Guide had not bothered caring about people's expressions. Generally, the faces of their prey were scared, while the Wraith followers wore blissed-out vacuous expressions. Their bodies and souls were delicious, which was Guide's main concern. But then he'd spent years being tortured by Kolya, only to be freed with Sheppard's help, and suddenly he wanted to know everything about Sheppard and his people and how they interacted.

Sheppard was clearly the leader in this group. The other human, Lorne, wanted to argue more, but he nodded, his face grimacing as he jerked his head toward the ship. "David, come on." He wanted to take action, but he was a faithful follower of his leader. Lorne might be interesting. The one called David was scared, and walked quickly to the ship, disappearing into the back. David did not interest Guide.

"Martinez, stand by the DHD. If he tries anything, fill him with holes. Then reload and fill him again. Do not approach him until you're sure he's dead."

"Yes, sir," the one called Martinez said, positioning himself by the DHD in a stance that seemed relaxed but ready. Martinez was well trained at hiding his fear, but also a follower. Martinez did not interest Guide.

"So, just taking a walk, you said?" Sheppard asked, probing. "It must have been a long walk."

"Indeed. You have been here a while." He looked around the area. Several stumps were positioned around a small fire. Guide had noted the stumps when he arrived, not concerned. Travelers often used vacant worlds as exchange points and left signs of their visits. The fire was new, as was the small metal pot that sat to one side, being warmed by the flames. However, cutting the trees and the branches had all happened after he'd arrived on this world. He had wandered farther than he'd thought, that they could have done so much. Sheppard made what sounded like an instinctive protest when Guide picked up the pot. "Are you worried that I'll burn myself?" he asked, amused.

"Burn away," Sheppard said. "Especially that hand."

Guide sniffed at the pot. "This is a beverage."

"Coffee."

Interesting, this coffee. Guide had never smelled it before. He had actually spent decades, or perhaps centuries, he'd never kept track, seeing to the needs of the Wraith followers, and had never smelled this beverage. Were the rumors true, that these people had come from another galaxy, a galaxy rich with feeding grounds? How else did Sheppard's people have an unknown beverage? There were metal cups sitting on the ground. Guide picked up one, and poured a little of the beverage in it, tasting it carefully. The beverage was immaterial but he found it appealing, the way Sheppard watched his every move, like Todd was the prey and Sheppard a savage predator waiting to strike.

"You can drink?"

"A little."

"So you were taking a walk. We've noticed that about Wraith, how much you guys are nature lovers," Sheppard said, his tone clearly sarcastic.

"You saw me, Sheppard." A Wraith would normally never remind another of his vulnerability, but Sheppard knew him in a way that no one else ever had. "I appreciate the beauty of the night sky."

"It's daylight."

"The beauty of the sun." He put the pot and cup back down and sat on one stump, sweeping back the tails of his coat. "I will make you a bargain, Sheppard. You tell me why you need trees, and I will tell you why I was here."

"And we'll just be honest with each other?"

"Why not? Are you not a human who keeps his word?"

"You first."

Guide inclined his head. "Very well, on my honor. I was taking a walk, as I said. You know I was imprisoned by Kolya and his men for many years. You know that the Wraith can touch each other's minds?" He waited until Sheppard gave an abrupt nod. "I have craved it, for so many years, the touch of my own kind, and yet sometimes, it is overwhelming, the press of all those thoughts. I cannot block it out of my mind, I must escape it entirely. You are not so dissimilar from a Wraith. I am guessing that you have known this type of experience, feeling unique from your own kind." That much information was shockingly honest. Perhaps it was a holdover from his imprisonment, that Sheppard, the first person to help him, compelled such truth.

"You mean that Wraith have PTSD?" Sheppard asked, in a tone that sounded disbelieving.

"PTSD?"

"Post traumatic stress disorder."

"Post traumatic stress disorder. Fascinating. I don't know if I would say that Wraith often know this PTSD, but then we have rarely been tortured as I was."

"I'm going to kill Kolya if I see him again," Sheppard said, his tone now low and vicious.

Sheppard clearly hated Kolya as much if not more than he hated the Wraith. Wondering what Kolya had done to earn such hatred, Guide inclined his head. "Thank you. I would appreciate it. And I promise you that I also will kill him if I ever see him."

"Yeah," Sheppard said, and he'd regained control, his tone once again relaxed. "I'm not doing it for you. Kolya's a danger. He's attacked my people before."

"Regardless of the reason, I would be pleased to hear of his death. Is this PTSD common on your world?"

"The trees are for a holiday," Sheppard responded to the original bargain instead of answering the question. "We decorate them with lights and ornaments and make wreaths of the branches."

"A holiday?"

"A special day that you celebrate every year. Mostly we get together and eat a special meal, though I realize your special meals are pretty different than ours."

Sheppard was clearly contemplating what a special meal would mean for the Wraith, people on their knees, waiting to be drained of their life forces. It was an unfortunate reminder, hardening him against the Wraith when Guide had hoped to find more connection between them. "No, we do not celebrate special days every year. It is an interesting concept."

"Understood," Sheppard said, raising one hand to his ear. "Come back, we're getting out of here."

"Your Lorne has reported that there is no hive ship in orbit?"

"Yes."

"I do not think that you have fully answered my question though. Does your planet not have trees? Why did you come here?"

"You only asked why trees, not why this planet."

"I did, did I not?" Guide smiled. "I should have been more precise. Are you and Martinez going to fill me with holes now?"

"No."

"Why not? I am vulnerable. Surely any dead Wraith is a good Wraith."

Sheppard flinched. Something about the words must have hit him. Guide was sorry that he was about to leave. He wanted to spend more time getting to know Sheppard, dancing around bargains and reluctant nuggets of truth.

"My people aren't exactly fond of arbitrary killing."

Strange, that Sheppard would keep finding reasons to leave him alive. "And yet, you are a military man." He waved one hand, gesturing up and down Sheppard's body. "Your clothes, your manner, the way your people follow your commands, it is obvious."

"Would you like me to kill you? Believe me, I wouldn't mind."

Guide gave another smile. Sheppard was fascinating, defiant, sarcastic, honorable, so different from any other human that Guide had known. "I find I enjoy my life again, even when I need to be solitary. I would prefer to be left alive."

Sheppard's smile was tight, his eyes still wary. "Martinez, help Lorne and Parrish with the trees."

The ship touched down, the other three hastily loading their trees and branches. Sheppard didn't speak again, but stayed close to Guide, still standing, his weapon held loosely in his hands, but definitely aimed and ready to be fired. Guide knew he could attack, and probably succeed in overpowering all four, before draining them dry to recover his strength, but he had no desire to do so. Killing these humans wouldn't bring him any closer to finding the new feeding ground, and he wanted to know more about Sheppard and his people. Mostly Sheppard.

Still watching him warily, Sheppard gave the order to Martinez to dial the DHD, using a term that Guide didn't recognize. A code of some sort. The two humans let the ship fly through first. Sheppard bent, reaching down to pick up the pot that had held the coffee, but left the cups. His closeness was strange, almost a taunt, but Guide stayed sitting peacefully, his hands in his lap.

"I'd say it's been nice seeing you, but I'm not a liar. Remember, next time, all bets are off."

"I will remember," Guide promised.

Sheppard and Martinez backed carefully through the gate, guns pointing at Guide the entire time. Guide let the wormhole close, thinking about the reason that Sheppard and his people would have come to this planet, since that kind of tree could be found so many places. Maybe exploring? Finding a new site for their people? Whatever it was, Guide doubted that they would ever return here, now that Sheppard knew the Wraith were familiar with this planet.

Maybe next time Guide needed a break from his fellow Wraith, he would try a different planet, someplace new. Some place that he might encounter Sheppard again.

~~~

John lounged back in his chair, thinking that he'd never pictured tedious staff meetings as one of the constants in the two different galaxies he'd known. And yet, here they were, debriefing on having met a Wraith on an uninhabited planet for way, way too long.

"So M6R-510 is out as a beta site," Elizabeth said ruefully.

"Yeah, unfortunately," John agreed. They were always keeping an eye out for good worlds, either deserted or with agreeable populations. After the disaster with the storm and Kolya's attack, they'd learn to make contingency plans with multiple options. Finding a Wraith on any planet ruined its attractiveness.

"I do wonder whether you should have mentioned PTSD to him," Carson said, respectfully.

"What's wrong with PTSD?"

"People in the Pegasus Galaxy don't have PTSD," Ronon said. "We have Wraith fear."

"You don't."

"I hate them too much to fear them," Ronon said. His arms were resting on the table and his hands flexed, as if he was imagining strangling a Wraith right now.

John thought about promising Ronon that he could kill that Wraith if they met again, but something kept him silent. Strangely, he still felt a debt to that Wraith, even though they had both already received what they needed from their brief alliance.

"Anyway, it's too late now," Elizabeth said, standing to signal an end to the meeting. They all rose, heading to the door, Ronon and Teyla talking about meeting for dinner, while David tried to tell Rodney something about the planet's trees that Rodney clearly found tedious. John nodded genially to them all, and at the first chance, took the route to his quarters.

His door swooshed behind him, and John gave it a firm mental instruction to lock before throwing himself down on his bed, remembering the Wraith. He'd recognized it instantly as the one who had been held prisoner by Kolya. That star pattern around his eye was distinctive. Was it a tattoo, or some sort of natural variation in his skin? It reminded John of that KISS guy with the long, curling tongue.

John had downplayed the Gift of Life after being rescued from Kolya, reluctant to discuss it with friends, but he remembered it now. That whole experience had been so horrific, being captured by a man he hated, his life force drained by the Wraith that he had risked trusting, and then… the rush, the pleasure, life flowing into his body, feeling like every cell was reawakened and energized. Better than flying, better than an orgasm, or even parachuting with the blue sky all around, his entire body feeling alive. How could he have described how good that had felt to people like Elizabeth and Rodney? To Ronon or Teyla?

John groaned, feeling both turned on and slightly revolted. The Wraith were horrible murderers, not sexy, but John felt an undeniable connection to that Wraith. He could imagine tracing the star pattern with one finger.

Would an actual orgasm with a Wraith feel as good as the Gift of Life? The Wraith had evolved from people and the eratus bug, did they even have sex? He reached down, undoing the snap and zipper on his BDUs, pulling out his dick. The Wraith's mouth looked disgusting, black and dark. Maybe he had a long, curling tongue that would flash out of his mouth… John stroked his dick, picturing a wet tongue tracing the vein down the length, licking at the head.

The Wraith's skin must be all that same color, that strange white with green undertones. The arms on the drones looked muscled, would that Wraith's abdomen be ridged with a six-pack? How would it feel, to push into that Wraith's ass, to plunge deep and hard, the Wraith caressing John's skin with his feeding hand, his palm flattening on John's chest, pushing life force into John's chest as his dick spasmed, pouring come into the Wraith's ass?

Jerking himself frantically, his dick leaking pre-come, John pictured it, how good it would feel, the dual combination of an explosive orgasm, his seed shooting out of his body as the Gift of Life filled him. He came, groaning loudly, his eyes rolling back into his head.

Fuck, he'd masturbated to the thought of a Wraith. That was so messed up.

"Sheppard? Sheppard, are you there? Look, I managed to escape Parrish, can you believe he wanted to discuss trees? Ronon and Teyla are ready for dinner, are you going to join us?"

Sometimes Rodney's timing sucked. John looked at the mess on his hand. At least he hadn't gotten any on his BDUs. "Yeah, give me five. I'll be there."

"Don't be late. I hear there's chocolate cake today."

John didn't bother to reply, rolling off the bed and heading to his bathroom to clean up. He needed to put such thoughts out of his head. He wasn't likely to meet that Wraith ever again, and if he did, he would hold to his promise and kill him. Next time, all bets would be off. John would not find a reason to leave him alive again.

No, he wouldn't, John promised himself, knowing that a small voice in the back of his head was saying… maybe.

~ the end ~