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All Bets Are Off

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When John came to again, slowly opening his eyes, panic threatened to overcome him, because his eyes were wide open, but he still could see absolutely nothing.

What had happened? Had he been blinded by his attackers? John stared in the complete darkness surrounding him, taking slow, deep and calm breaths and after two or three minutes, he could detect some dark-gray shadows within the blackness.

Good. John relaxed. He hadn't been blinded, the room, cave, prison cell or whatever it might be he was in, was totally dark, only a slight, gloomy light shining through a small slit in the height where he was sitting on a cool and uneven ground. He turned his head from one side to the other, but there was nothing but blackness and John realized that the small slit just above the ground probably meant that it had to be the door to his prison cell, certainly the only way in or out of this room.

The panic had faded by the assurance of his eyesight being still intact and now, he was able to concentrate on his other senses and listen to the silent sound of water dripping from the ceiling or a wall somewhere behind him. A small, grim smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. It might be an unpleasant thought, but to know that there was water he could lick up in case his unknown enemies would let him suffer thirst and hunger had something calming. He was a soldier and would do what was needed to stay alive as long as possible. The steady sound of water dripping constantly to the ground was the only thing he could hear and this had a calming effect, too, because he didn't like the thought of having to share his current 'home' with the counterparts to Earth's rats, spiders, bugs or other unpleasant 'room-mates'.

John relaxed a little bit, feeling carefully and warily with his hands as far around as he could without moving his body. He could reach the rough, stony wall as he stretched his left arm a little bit and when there was nothing sharp, wet or hindering him, he slowly sat up, gliding on his backside back until he could lean against the wall. He leaned back, closing his eyes to fight the dizziness that had overcome him when he had sat up, the aftermath of the unconsciousness caused by a stunner still not having worn off completely.

He moved his hands over his body and clothing, feeling for injuries and his equipment. His body seemed to be unharmed, except for the effect the stunning had caused, but his equipment had been taken away from him by his attackers, of course, only his wristwatch was still in place and he found two power-bars in one of his pockets. Good, water and at least a little bit of food that would help him through the next few hours.

He sat there for a while and when he was sure that he would be able to stand on his feet without stumbling and falling down to the ground again, he slowly stood up and made his way through his prison, walking along the walls and counting his steps, orientating himself by the gloomy slit underneath the door. He needed four steps for every wall until he reached the next corner, so it had to be a square room with an area of around six square-meters. There was no other entrance, no hidden window, only the door in one of the walls. He had felt the depressions of the door-frame, but it seemed that this damn door could only be opened from the outside.

John mused about making himself audible by shouting and hammering against the door, but then, he decided to wait until someone would come to him. If his unknown attackers would have wanted to kill him, they could have shot him instead of stun and throw him in a prison cell.

John sat down again and let the last things he remembered pass before his mind's eye. He had been on one of the planets they were trading with from time to time with his team, because Jennifer needed a special root for a medicine and this root grew only in a few places. This planet was one of those few places and the roots were difficult to harvest. Rodney had stayed in the city because there had been something wrong with their energy supplies and so he had gone with only Teyla and Ronon. They knew the settlers and they had been trustworthy until now. Maybe that had changed since their last visit nine months ago.

A lot had happened during these nine months. There had been the incident with the attero device and a few other things and John was angry with himself that he had been so careless in trusting the villagers so much. Teyla had wanted to visit one of the young women who was pregnant and Ronon had stayed behind because he had seen something he wanted to buy at one of the small market stalls, a hand-made knife and John had strolled around, waiting for them, bored and unaware of his surroundings, distracted by his musings about how to beat Rodney the next time they would have their radio-controlled cars race against each other.

Suddenly, something had hit his back, white, hot pain spreading out from there through his whole body and the next thing he knew was waking up in that unpleasant and absolutely dark prison cell. He didn't know what had happened to Teyla and Ronon and he really hoped that they were free and uninjured and maybe would find a possibility to rescue him or contact Atlantis to send another team. He just had to believe that a rescue team was already on their way...

 

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He must have been dozed off, because he was roused from his slight slumber by some noise coming from the door. He blinked, feeling a little bit dazed and jumped to his feet, his back pressed against the wall, his torso bent forward, his body tense and stiff, ready to move or jump, instantly, in case he would be attacked again.

The door opened and the sudden light made John's eyes water and hurt, although it was still rather dark and gloomy, but much brighter than the light in his prison cell. He blinked several times and when he was able to keep his eyes open, he could see someone standing in the doorway. It was just a black shadow against the gloomy shine of a few torches attached to the wall of the corridor he could see behind the doorway.

The figure was rather dark and wore a large cape with a hood covering his face. The unknown being just stood there, watching him in complete silence and John stared at the person, not sure what he was supposed to do or what the other one wanted from him.

“Uhm, hello, I'm Lt. Colonel John Sheppard, nice to meet you,” he finally tried, waiting for a reaction to come from the figure just watching him. “But, I think, you already know that by now. I don't know what you want from me or why I'm here, but I'm sure, we can come to an arrangement.” He went silent, searching for something else he could say to convince his adversary to talk to him, when the person hidden underneath the cape raised his arm, waving at him to come to him. John hesitated, but then, he shrugged his shoulders. It probably would be another trap, but at least, it would be better than staying in that dark hole.

He rushed to the door and the other person turned around before he could see his or her face and headed along the corridor without looking back to see if John actually followed him. John looked around, but his cell had been at the end of the corridor and there was no other way than the one the tall figure was heading along several meters in front of him and so he hurried to follow his liberator.

The corridor was long and there were no other doors or tunnels crossing this one and John lost all his sense of time while he followed the blowing cape, wishing he had his weapon and his radio, but that probably would be too much to ask for. He was out of the cell and maybe he would find a way to contact Teyla or Ronon or the opportunity to regain his freedom again.

The tunnel was slowly, but constantly leading upwards and John realized that he must have been deep under the surface of the planet, wherever this planet was. John had no clue if he was still on the planet where he had been stunned and he didn't know if he would be able to find out where he was very soon. He had never been to this place before, he knew that for sure.

Sweat was dripping from his forehead in his eyes and his breathing became heavier, because he was still suffering from the shot of the stunners and because he hadn't drunk and eaten for several hours. His liberator had set up a very fast pace and John had to run after him if he didn't want to be left behind. During the first few hundred meters, he had asked the figure running before him some questions, but he hadn't gotten an answer and after a few more questions he had given up his tries to talk to the other being.

Just when he thought that he wouldn't be able to keep up the fast run, the corridor opened to something like a hall or cave and the person before him came to a sudden halt. John stopped, bending his torso, catching his breath again.

When he was able to speak between his ragged breathing again, he raised his head and looked around, wiping the sweat from his forehead. Now, he could see that the hall they were standing in actually was a natural cave, but revised by other beings. John couldn't tell if he had seen something similar to this before and he turned around to look at his liberator again.

“Oh no, no you don't have to do this! I'm sure we can talk about it, whatever it is you want...” he cried out when he saw the pale hand pointing a weapon at him, but before he could finish his sentence, the bright green light of the stunner blinded him and all went dark again.

 

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When John regained his consciousness again for the second time within a few hours, his hands were tied behind his back with some ropes and his feet were tied with his belt. He was leaned against one of the walls of the large cave, but this time, he could see his surroundings because of the torches attached to the wall.

He groaned because his whole body was aching after the next large dose of stunner-fire and his tongue felt thick and heavy in his dry mouth. He tried to remember the last thought he had had before unconsciousness had overcome him, something about the hand with the weapon, frowning, because he knew that it was important, but he couldn't put his finger on it, no matter how hard he tried to remember what it had been that had caught his attention.

He heard a sound and looked up, watching the person who had stunned him loom over him, still dressed in the black cape, the hood covering his face.

“Ah, I have to tell you that your last move wasn't a very kind one. Did your parents never tell you that stunning the one you just rescued isn't a very polite and appropriate behavior? I'm sure we could have come to an agreement without you having to stun and tie me like a sausage,” he joked, craning his neck to catch a look at the other one's face.

The person looming over him finally removed the hood from his head, revealing a face John had thought he would never see again. The other being bared his teeth in a rather smug grin, tilting his head to the side in a way John had come to know very well during the weeks his enemy had been imprisoned in one of the holding cells in Atlantis.

“I'm afraid that over the last thousands of years, I have forgotten how to behave polite and nice, especially in front of the Lanteans, no matter if they were the old ones long gone or the impudent new ones like you, John Sheppard.” he considered John for a while, pursing his lips and lost in his thoughts or maybe some old memories haunting him. “So, you're a Lt. Colonel now, my sincerest congratulations to that, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard,” the Wraith drawled in his dark and a little bit husky multi-toned voice. “Let us say that - hm – special circumstances caused me to change my behavior due to the happenings three years ago. But, I can assure you that I'm really pleased to see you again. I have not forgotten that you were – willing – to help me escape. I told you that we would meet again, some day and I told you that I would be your death, Lt. Colonel Sheppard. But, before it comes to that, you will help me with something your ATA-gene is needed for. So, you will live for a while longer yet, John Sheppard.”

John swallowed, staring up at the strange and alien, but handsome and fascinating male features of the first Wraith they had imprisoned. The split goatee was well-trimmed and every single hair of his hairdo was properly in place. The green-golden cat's eyes were watching him with the hunger John had noticed there every time the Wraith had looked at him and as the other male shrugged out of his cape now, John could see the heavy dark coat underneath accentuating the slim and tall body very nicely.

John looked in the Wraith's eyes again and smiled his usual crooked smile: “Hello Steve, nice to see you again.”

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“I'm really pleased to see that you're healthy and unharmed, Steve. It's been a rather long time, since we’ve last seen each other. The last time I saw you, you were walking through cold and salty water that reached almost to your waist, but you managed to not even get your hair wet!” John tried to joke, mockingly, scowling playfully at his adversary, but the effect was diminished by the fact that he had to crane his neck and that he was tied together like a sausage.

Steve's grin deepened. “Indeed, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard, indeed. I even managed to get back to my Hive and reclaim my position there.” The Wraith clasped his hands behind his back, watching the human colonel with an appraising look in his eyes. John returned the thoughtful gaze unmoved and expressionless, musing about his possibilities to free himself, but the Wraith of course knew quite well how to tie someone's hands behind their backs and there was no chance that John would be able to liberate himself. Steve noticed the movements of his arms and slightly shook his head. “I'm truly sorry, John Sheppard, but I have to tell you that you won't be able to free yourself from my fetters. But, you don't have to worry, you won't die right now. As I told you before, your ATA-gene is needed for something and this also will only work if you're still alive.”

John pursed his lips. “Then, you better kill me now, Steve, because I'm sure that I won't help you, no matter what it is,” he stated, steeling himself for the forthcoming when Steve raised his feeding hand with sudden anger, hissing dangerously and annoyed by the human's stubbornness.

After a moment, the Wraith had regained his self-control again, grinning once more and letting his hand drop to his side. “I can assure you that you will help me, if not willingly then we will find another way, John Sheppard. I'm eager to taste your strength and I have to admit that the thought of turning you into a personal worshiper has something striking and tempting.”

He began to pace up and down in front of John, his coat swinging around his legs every time he changed his direction, his soft silvery mane cascading over his back, whirling around his handsome face as he turned around. John's eyes never left the tall and impressive figure, feeling the strange fascination he had always felt when he had visited Steve in Atlantis in his prison cell. He really shouldn't be drawn in by a Wraith and especially not by this Wraith, the first Wraith he had given a human name to. Todd came briefly to his mind. John could understand why he felt this odd bond between Todd and he himself. Todd had fed upon him and given him back what he had taken, even more and the intimacy they had shared by this had tied them together in a connection John simply could not ignore. But he really could not understand why he felt almost the same bond with Steve who had never fed on him – at least not until now.

“Where are your brethren? You said that you joined your former Hive again? I can't believe that you came here all alone.” John eventually asked when the Wraith did nothing more than to keep pacing up and down in front of him, trying to distract him from his intentions. He realized the second he had asked this question that he must have pushed the wrong button, because Steve all of a sudden turned to him and John could see that he was truly angry now, balling his fists to keep himself from attacking John and feeding on him.

“Yes, John Sheppard, I actually joined my former Hive and reclaimed my position again. It could have been perfect if you and your people hadn't stuck your damn noses in things you really better should have left alone once more! If I had to guess, I would say that your creepy scientist, this McKay, had put his hands on something that turned out to be the attero device and blew up a lot of Stargates and, most importantly – MY HIVE!” Steve yelled at him and John couldn't help his startled flinch, because he had known Steve only as reserved and perfectly self-controlled. Of course, he had threatened him and almost fed on him before his escape, but the Wraith had never lost his temper before. He knew that he better not do anything more to annoy the Wraith further, but he wouldn't have been John Sheppard if these words hadn't slipped from his lips before he could hold himself back:

“Uhm, I can't say that I'm sorry to hear that, but it wasn't our fault at all. The Pegasus-Asgard were the ones who used the attero device,” he remarked, biting his lip to keep himself from saying anything more when he saw Steve's green-golden eyes light up with fury. He prepared himself for the most painful death he could imagine, but the Wraith surprised him once more by throwing his head back, laughing out loudly as if John's words had truly amused him.

When Steve finally had caught his breath again, he looked down at John with narrowed eyes and pursed lips, his arms crossed over his chest, his posture much more relaxed than John had ever seen him before.

“I knew that you would say that, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard. You new Lanteans never take responsibility for your actions. You always keep saying that it was somebody else's fault. That's the reason why no one else in this galaxy really likes you. If your damn scientist hadn't stuck his cheeky nose in things that hadn't been his business, the Asgard from this galaxy would never have been able to activate that horrible device,” the Wraith replied, his voice sounding controlled and mocking again.

For a short moment, John had a bad feeling of true guilt and shame, knowing that Steve was right with the things he had said, but he suppressed those feelings not wanting to feel this way because of a Wraith who had killed countless humans by feeding on them and pushed them back deep inside a hidden corner of his heart and mind. Instead, he decided to push his luck a little bit more by asking:

“What happened to your Hive? Not to mention the astonishing fact that you are still alive. You somehow seem to have the nine lives of a cat, I guess. Why are you here, all alone?” he now knew for sure that the Wraith was alone and this knowledge gave him some of his self-confidence back, maybe there would be a real chance to stay alive until his people had found him.

Steve frowned at John's words. “What is a 'cat'? And why does this 'cat' have nine lives?” he inquired, curiously, obviously playing for time, not willing to answer John's question. He watched John with his head tilted to the side in the familiar way John knew so well and John could sense some of the Wraith's anger fading because of his curiosity.

“A cat is an animal from Earth. Cats are beautiful and skilled hunters, they prefer to live on their own and they are hard to tame – just like you. Not to mention that they have the same astonishing abilities to stay alive as you already seem to have,” John finally answered.
He really wanted to know what had happened to Steve's Hive and so he added after few seconds: “Maybe, I’ll be more willing to help you with what you need my ATA-gene for if you tell me what happened to your Hive and why you're stuck here.”
He hoped that Steve would take up the challenge and tell him what had happened, playing for time himself. He couldn't see his wristwatch and he had no clue how long he had been out after being stunned for a second time, but it must have been hours since he had been captured, more than half a day and Atlantis must know by now that he was missing.

Steve moved to the side, leaning comfortably against the wall next to John, but not within reach of his legs or torso making sure that John would not be able to take him by surprise and attack him, grinning down at him. “I know that you have no intention to help me, don't try to fool me, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard. But, you're lucky that I'm in a good mood right now and so I will tell you what happened and why it is your fault for what happened to my Hive! So listen carefully, because I won't tell it a second time.”

 

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John slowly nodded his head and after few more seconds, Steve began to tell: “After my escape from Atlantis with your kind 'help', I dialed the Gate and went to a planet with an outpost of some of my brethren. They contacted my Hive and I was allowed to come back on board again. The first weeks, I had a hard time, being punished by my Queen for my stupidity of having myself been captured without using the self-destruct, but I did my very best to regain my former position as the third-in-command and the communication officer.”

Steve paused for one moment, some emotions flickering over his face and John could see that the Wraith was mourning his loss as he himself would have been mourning the loss of his people if he had been in the Wraith's place.

John swallowed, turning his head away, because he didn't want to be a witness to his enemy's heartbreaking grief. The obvious pain Steve felt made him more human somehow and John didn't want to feel sorry for a Wraith and his loss. To know that Wraith were able to feel as deep for their brethren, that they were able to love as much as humans did had something disturbing and weakened his determination to stay strong and do everything he could to keep the Wraith from using him and his gene for his own surely bad intentions.

When Steve continued to tell his story, John looked up at him again, feeling the slight ache of his neck, because he had to crane it all of the time to see the Wraith's face. Steve must have noticed his discomfort and John watched with astonishment that he suddenly knelt down, so John could look at him without having to crane his neck all the while and John suppressed his unconscious grateful smile only with effort. He wasn't about to make it easy for the Wraith, no way.

“Few days before your impudent scientist decided to give the Asgard living in this galaxy the opportunity to lay their dirty hands on the attero device, I discovered some strange energy-signs on the surface of this planet and my Queen rewarded me for this important discovery by letting me be the first to explore the Ancient facility. We wanted to stay unnoticed, because we were close to the feeding grounds of another alliance of five powerful Hives and so I only took one Dart and some of my brethren who would go with me in the Dart's buffer. We prepared everything that would be necessary for the exploration thinking we were still unnoticed and then, I left my Hive with the Dart and my brethren in the buffer. But, we had been wrong. I was about to enter the atmosphere of the planet, when a window to hyper-space all of a sudden opened and one of the hostile Hives showed up. Unfortunately, it happened exactly at the same time, the attero device was activated again and the hostile Hive exploded. The explosion was close to my own Hive and the shock-wave hit my Hive badly. It exploded a few seconds after the other Hive.”

Steve stared at John with new anger and hate in his striking green-golden eyes. “I felt them dying, John Sheppard! My Queen and all of my brethren. I heard them scream in my head and I felt their pain in my head. The shock-wave of the explosion hit my Dart and there was nothing I could do to avoid the crash. I was able to land it on the surface near this facility, but it hit the ground, badly and the buffer was destroyed by the crash. My brethren in the buffer died because of the circumstances as well and I was alone again, left on my own once more without any of my own Hive-mates still alive. And all of this only happened because you and your people from another galaxy couldn't keep your hands to yourself!” Steve had started to shout again and John could feel his despair and fury, his helplessness and loneliness coming off of him in strong waves.

He stared at the Wraith, not knowing what to say, feeling a new wave of guilt and shame wash over him. Damn it. He didn't want to feel this way. He should have been glad that so many Wraith had been killed because of the attero device, but he wasn't. Todd came to his mind again. Todd had also lost a whole Hive and its crew because of the incident. Not to mention the countless humans who had been killed because of that, too and the many Stargates that had been destroyed because of these happenings. Todd hadn't shown up since then and John was sure that the other Wraith was as angry and mad with him as Steve already was. Maybe even more, because he had begun to trust John and his people and helped them with some things.

He swallowed, searching for anything to say, but his mind was blank. Eventually, he asked the first question coming to his mind. “How did you bring me here? We're not on the planet with the village any longer. If the facility had been on that planet, we would have noticed it.”

Steve drew in some deep breaths to calm himself down again. “There is a Stargate near the facility. After recovering from the crash, I explored the facility and found – something interesting. But, I knew immediately that I would need someone with the ATA-gene for this. I dialed several addresses, but the only one I could dial to establish a wormhole was the one to the planet with said village. It's likely that the Ancients locked the other addresses to hide their facility and the other planet wasn't populated when they did so.” Steve grinned wolfishly at him. “I was able to - hm convince - one of the human leaders of the village to help me and when you showed up on that planet, he captured you and let me bring you here to this place. No one else knows of this place and your team was captured, too. Your people in Atlantis surely won't find out where you are for a rather long time and that is enough time for me to do what I want to do.”

John pressed his lips to a thin line, scowling at the Wraith kneeling in front of him. “I won't help you, no way, Steve. You better kill me right now,” he said, suppressing all of his feelings, his guilt, his shame and his sorrow, allowing himself only to feel his own anger and his regret about his weak moment back then in Atlantis three years ago when he had wanted to help Steve instead of letting him die in the floated prison cell.

Steve nodded his head. “I knew that you would say that. But, to my luck, there is a very pleasurable way for me to convince you to help me. I've been waiting to taste your delicious strength for so long, John Sheppard and now, I will do it. Plus, when I'm done with you, you will be my personal worshiper and do everything you can to please me. Maybe, if you are a good boy, I will let you live after that and take you with me.”

Steve jumped forward, ripping John's jacket and shirt open and slamming his feeding hand onto his naked chest. John groaned, arching his back, knowing what would come next. He tried to pull away from the claws digging painfully in his skin, but there was no chance for him to get rid of the feeding hand. The pain was agonizing and as horrible as he had remembered it and John groaned and cried out again, as the Wraith began to feed on him. He felt his strength and life-force floating out of his body and into the Wraith and he stared into the green-golden eyes, unable to stop the Wraith from feeding on him. Suddenly, Steve paused, his hand still on John's chest, but the process had stopped. John breathed heavily, his whole body throbbing with pain, his mind dizzy by the weakness that had overcome him. He didn't know how many years the Wraith had taken from him, but he felt that it had to be many, many years.

Steve sniffed several times, narrowing his eyes. “Someone fed upon you before. He fed on you and gave you the Gift of Life! Who was it who bonded with you that way? Tell me!” Steve growled, angrily and disappointed.

John kept his mouth shut, not willing to answer that question, but then, he heard a voice coming from somewhere in front of him.

“I guess, it was me who did this, officer. I was the one who fed on this human and gave him the Gift of Life. I was the first who bonded with John Sheppard this way and I tell you now that you will give back to him all of what you have taken, now, officer!”

John raised his eyes to the other person who was about to enter the hidden cave, staring in disbelief at the other being. “Good timing. Nice to see you again, too Todd,” he croaked out, managing to smile at the Wraith, weakly. “I must admit that I'm really pleased to see you again.”

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John lay on the floor of the cave, his torso somehow leaning against the wall behind him as his whole body throbbed heavily with agonizing pain while his limbs felt numb, not only from the fetters tying him together, but also from the feeding process.

His vision was blurred and every color had a reddish undertone as he lifted his head up with effort and a hoarse groan of new pain that shot through his back, to look at the newcomer strolling into the hidden cave in a casual and relaxed manner, taking his time, as he did so.

John blinked several times to see the other Wraith clearer, searching for any sign to see if the clever ancient Commander had come to his rescue or if he wanted to be the person to fulfill the human's destiny and feed on him until there was nothing left but his drained, wrinkled corpse, which seemed to be more likely at the moment, judging by the short annoyed and appraising look Todd briefly shot in his direction.

The new Wraith with the odd human name Todd seemed to be completely unaffected by his obvious pain, because he 'gifted' him with only a short, almost threatening glare, before he focused on the other Wraith again, the one John had given the name Steve.

Steve had gotten to his feet in the meantime, staring at his adversary and ignoring John now, too. His arms hung loosely at his sides, but John could see the tension in his body and the way Steve was clenching his fists several times told John that the two old Wraith weren't about to have a nice chat with each other.

Todd still stood there near the entrance in his relaxed posture, his arms crossed comfortably over his chest, but his eyes were narrowed and John knew the Wraith who had bonded with him in that very special way right after their first encounter well enough to be able to see that he would jump his challenger within the blink of an eye if Steve made one false move, even in his current weak state.

Both of them ignored him on purpose, just glaring at each other and yet this whole thing was about him, an unimportant cheeky human colonel from another galaxy. If he hadn't felt as weak and aching as he actually felt, he surely would have laughed out loud about the oddity that two strong and ancient Wraith warriors were fighting about him like two kids fought about the only shovel left to play with in the sandbox.

He briefly mused about the thought of whether or not a mouse sitting between two abandoned tomcats who were hissing at each other, arching their backs and raising their hackles to impress the adversary would feel the same way as he felt right now. Probably yes. The only question was, which one of these two angry 'tomcats' would win in the end and have him as his dinner.

John watched them stare at each other in complete silence and he frowned, confused, until he realized that the ancient warriors had already begun with their not-so-nice-chat – telepathically. He tried to get into a better sitting position and groaned, because the pain in his back and chest let his heavy breathing falter even more.

“Hey, it's not nice to communicate telepathically in front of someone who cannot share this kind of important conversation that way! You're talking about me, it's only fair to let me know what's going on!” he complained, trying to scowl at the two alien males. Of course, he failed, knowing that he probably looked totally ridiculous as he narrowed his eyes, giving his face a strict and threatening expression, due to the fact that he was still half lying on the floor, tied like a sausage and looking like his own grandfather.

Todd's golden cat's eyes flickered shortly in his direction, before he concentrated on the other male standing before him once more. “Stay still human. You're not allowed to talk in front of two high-ranking officers without permission, otherwise I will silence you and make sure that you stay that way,” the impressive Commander only stated, dryly, but with a dangerous growl in his dark multi-toned voice.

John gulped and stared at Todd in disbelief with his mouth hanging open, almost forgetting his weakness and the terrible pain burning inside his throbbing body. He opened and closed his mouth several times, and then, opened it once more to speak again, but with the wolfish grin from Todd and the next threatening glare 'gifted' to him from the second he let out the first sound, helped him to quickly make up his mind and decide that he would dwell in his righteous indignation later. So he snapped his mouth shut again, realizing that he was walking on very thin ice and in acute danger of breaking through it so he could drown in the ice-cold water underneath the thin layers of ice.
He could already see the slits spreading out from where he was 'standing' like the long legs of a great spider and he swallowed again and hung his head in a subdued manner until he felt Todd's eyes leave his figure and focus on Steve again.

He carefully raised his eyes to watch the two Wraith and maybe get a clue about what they were talking about from Todd's expression, but the ancient Commander kept his face impassive and Steve had turned his back on John, his posture giving nothing away.

To his surprise, Todd actually took pity on him and changed to a conversation with spoken words. He hadn't expected that, not after the way Todd had behaved since his arrival.

“I was the one who has lain their claim upon this human by feeding on him and gifting him with the Gift of Life. You're not allowed to do this, as well, not without my permission, officer. So, you will give him back what you have taken away from him!” Todd snarled, being all the old, experienced and impressive Wraith Commander of an alliance of twelve powerful Hives – no, of course there were 'only' eleven left, after the destruction of the twelfth one from the attero device.

“But, I was the first who had the opportunity to feed on him and lay my claim upon him. I was the first one he gave a human name to!” Steve snapped back, trying to hold his ground and find a reason why he actually had more rights or at least the same right to feed on the human and turn him into his personal worshiper.

John saw Steve balling his fists again and the tension in his back. The Wraith stood there, stiff as a poker, torn between his annoyance and his – could he actually call it jealousy? - because that was what it seemed to be. John suppressed his both, painful and amused snort, shaking his head in disbelief again. This could only happen to him, that two Wraith were fighting about him, jealous of each other and arguing about which of them had more 'rights' to claim him. He really wasn't sure if he should feel honored or more frightened than he already felt.

He could see that Steve was also struggling with his instinctive response to another Wraith, a Commander who was of higher-ranking than Steve himself. John was sure that this important fact was the only reason why Steve hadn't attacked Todd until now, this and the conclusion that Todd obviously hadn't come here alone, there had to be some drones or other Wraith waiting for them somewhere outside. At first, John had had the hope that Todd had brought another team from Atlantis with him, but now, he was sure that this wasn't the case.

He could see that Todd was enjoying himself and the fact that this time, their roles were changed. Every time, John had dealt with the Wraith, it had ended with Todd being alone in Atlantis in a prison cell with guards standing outside, his hands tied, completely at the mercy of his unwilling human 'allies'. His stay on board the Daedalus had been the only exception from the rule, but back then, one of his Hives had been destroyed because of the attero device and Todd had lost the entire crew of this Hive. John might not like it, but he had been a witness to Steve's obvious grief about his loss just half an hour ago and now, he knew that Todd must have felt the same way, probably even worse, because he had been their Commander and given the order to enter hyper-space the minute before they had been destroyed.

This time, it was John who was tied and alone and Todd, finally, was the one who would retain the upper hand and have John completely under his own mercy and the brief looks Todd shot at him from time to time while dealing with the annoyed officer standing before him told him that John had better do as Todd told him to do and behave nicely and subdued, because otherwise, John surely wouldn't like the outcome of these happenings.

Now, Todd pursed his lips, considering Steve with a mocking and self-confident expression on his chiseled features. “But, the truth is that you did NOT feed on him when you had the choice to do so, officer. You know our rights and laws quite well and you know what you have to do! I was the first one who ever fed upon him and it's my right to decide if you're allowed to take his life-force or not. And right now, I order you to give back to him all what you have taken and even a little bit more. I can smell that you're freshly fed, you probably tasted the weak life-force of this false village-leader you talked about several minutes ago. Or maybe one of the poor beings he always captures because of some minor crimes in case that Wraith show up, so he can leave them as food for those of us who don't value honor and appropriate behavior. Unfortunately, our race isn't immune to such offers of malicious humans who betray their own kind.” he commanded, staring at the other Wraith without blinking.

 

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Steve growled, annoyed and helplessly, but after one more minute of hesitation, he turned around and knelt down in front of John. John instinctively flinched, trying to pull away from the feeding hand grazing over his hurting naked chest, but he was too weak and too immovable to get out of reach of the clawed hand that pressed down on his skin for the second time within an hour.

He groaned when the feeding organ bit down and the ice-cold sensation of the enzyme flooded his system again, leaving him tingling and itching, just before the delicious stream of power, strength and precious life rushed back into his body. John cried out in both, pain and ecstasy. Pain because the stream was rather fast and harsh, filling his cells with new life in a way that he thought he would explode the very next second, and ecstasy because there was nothing else in this entire universe compared to this experience, nothing similar to the breathtaking pleasure of receiving the Gift of Life.

He could feel the years the Wraith had taken from him floating back into his body spreading out from his chest and rushing into every limb, his head, his belly and especially into his groin. John knew that he would feel deeply ashamed and embarrassed later, but right now, he arched into the touch to get more of this delicious pleasure and ecstasy. He stared into the green-golden eyes of the first Wraith he had had something akin to a relationship with and Steve stared right back, some strange emotions clear to see on his handsome face.

John was very aware of the fact that Steve could see his own emotions, his pleasure and his arousal, but he did nothing to hide them and he didn't look away from the Wraith's face and when Steve's pupils dilated to almost perfect rounds, John realized that the other Wraith felt much the same way as he did.

His breathing came hard and ragged and John felt light-headed and dazed with the sensations overwhelming his senses, but also as powerful and strong as he had felt only one single time, back then, when Todd had given him the Gift of Life.

John raised his eyes to look at the first Wraith who had bonded with him that way and he found the other one leaned against the wall near the entrance in the same posture as before, relaxed and his arms crossed over his chest, watching Steve give him the Gift of Life with an impassive mask on his remarkable and beautiful alien face. He didn't seem to be jealous of the fact that John felt aroused because of the Gift of Life from another Wraith, but maybe, he simply was hiding his annoyance and jealousy, because Todd had been the one who had ordered Steve to do so.

Steve hesitantly drew back from his chest, slick with the enzyme and a little bit of blood and John groaned, disappointed, his throbbing arousal pressing painfully against his BDU, aching with the need for release. Steve slowly got up to his feet, staring down at him, a rather smug grin tugging at one corner of his mouth.

“Now, you belong to me as much as you belong to the High Commander, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard. He might have been the first, but I laid my claim upon you just like he did.”

John stared at him and then he looked up at Todd again, who hadn't changed his posture, but now, a content smile was ghosting over his face. John frowned, trying to clear his lust-fogged mind from the aftermath of the delicious ecstasy and then, the realization of Todd's earlier words sank in.

He stared at Todd, stunned and speechless and he struggled to find his tongue again, fighting against the ropes tying him and hindering him from getting up to his feet, desperately, before he took a deep shaky breath, shouting in blind fury at the ancient Commander:

“You were there! You heard him, you listened to what he told me, probably for a rather long time! You knew what he wanted to do, but you did nothing to keep him from feeding on me! Damn it, Todd, you could have stopped him before he fed on me!”

Chapter Text

John glared at Todd, fuming with anger and fury, tugging at his fetters again, but Steve really knew how to tie someone's hands and the ropes didn't loosen themselves, no matter how hard he tried to get rid of them. After a moment, John gave up his tries, breathing heavily, his hands numb and his shoulders hurting from the effort.

Todd still leaned against the wall, watching John's distortions unmoved and unimpressed. “Yes, I heard what he said, John Sheppard,” he only stated and his dark voice gave nothing away of his feelings or thoughts.

“Why. Didn't. You. Stop. Him?!” John yelled, not caring whether he was actually allowed to speak or not, not caring whether one of the two Wraith would feed on him again or not. The only thing he cared about right now was the answer to the question of why Todd had allowed another Wraith to feed on him. Todd had heard what Steve had told him, he had heard what Steve had wanted to do and yet he hadn't come to his rescue and keep the other Wraith from feeding on him.

He had known that Todd had been angry because of the incident with the attero device, but he hadn't known how angry he must have been. John was angry himself, with Rodney, with Dr. Jackson and most of all with Richard Woolsey, because the civilian leader of the Ancient city had insisted on meeting Todd and his crew-members on board the Daedalus instead of letting John do this. John was quite sure that the outcome of these happenings wouldn’t have gotten worse than it already had been if John had been on board the Daedalus. John was sure that he would have found a way to keep Todd from trying to let the Daedalus crash on the planet and that he could have been able to do something to convince him that Atlantis had nothing to do with what the Asgards had planned with the attero device.

But, he hadn't been there, because an arrogant diplomat had decided to deal with the members of a species he didn't know and didn't understand at all and now, John sat here, stuck with two annoyed Wraith in a secret cave without hope that anyone would come to his rescue.

He stared at the so strange and yet so beautiful alien face and his fury faded to disappointment and hopelessness when Todd did nothing than just look back at him. He swallowed against the sudden lump in his throat. “Why didn't you stop him, Todd?” he asked once more, his voice now stifled and strangled because of his hurt and disappointment.

John had been so focused on Todd that he had almost forgotten the other Wraith standing beside him, watching the High Commander of a powerful alliance with narrowed eyes. “Yes, Commander, I want to know that, too. Why didn't you stop me? Not to mention that I didn't notice the arrival of you and your Hive-mates!” he now rasped, his own confusion clear to hear in his voice.

After one more minute of silence, with John and Steve just glaring at the ancient Wraith Commander, Todd finally pushed himself away from the wall, slowly making his way across the hall, before he knelt down in front of John. John flinched when he reached out with his hand, but then, John realized that it was the Wraith's off-hand and that Todd wasn't about to feed on him, as well. Todd briefly stroked his stubbly cheek, considering him, lost in his thoughts. He didn't look at Steve, obviously trusting that the officer would respect his higher rank and the fact that Todd hadn't come alone to this place.

“Will you stay calm and listen to me if I untie your hands, John Sheppard?” Todd asked, watching him intently, and this time, his face wasn't impassive any longer. John could see some strong emotions on the chiseled features with their lines and shadows.

A muscle in John's cheek twitched and his jaw cramped as his teeth gritted against each other, while he stared at the Wraith crouching in front of him, reproachfully, but then, John, almost invisibly, nodded his head. “Very well,” Todd stated, contentedly, reaching out, to gently turn the human around, so he could untie the ropes pressing John's hands painfully together. He seemed to trust John's word, even though the 'word' had only been a small nod of his head.

He loosened the ropes and took John's left arm, massaging it carefully. John groaned as the blood rushed back into his fingers, balling his fist several times to ease the pain. Todd let go of his left arm to do the same thing with the right one, still looking John in the eyes. John stared back, still hurt and confused, but he would keep his promise and listen to what Todd would tell him. Todd untied the belt from John's legs and turned his head to look at the other Wraith.

“If you hadn't been as focused on this 'unworthy' human as you actually were, you would have noticed my arrival much sooner, officer. But you were far too distracted by this special and strong human to see anything else than him. You're all alone here, while I brought several crewmen with me, so you better obey my orders, officer. Now, go to the other side of the cave and wait there for us,” he commanded and after few seconds of hesitation and another annoyed and helpless growl, Steve shot John a threatening, but also possessive glance, before he slowly stalked to the other side of the cave, his shoulders stiff and with his head held up high, his whole behavior showing his anger and offended feelings.

John watched him go to the opposite wall, leaning against it with his arms crossed over his chest in a reproachful posture and he couldn't help his amused grin. Todd apparently was able to give the arrogant and self-confident Wraith orders and for one moment, John felt surprised because Todd had managed to put Steve in his place so easily. But after thinking about it again, it seemed less surprising than it had been just one second before.

Todd was right, Steve was all alone, not only right now, but in general. His Hive had been destroyed and he had lost his Queen and every Hive-mate he had had. Wraith were not meant to be alone without their Hive-mates, they were not meant to be alone in their heads. Wraith were beings who relied on their brethren much more than humans ever would because of their telepathy and their social life and culture. Certainly, Steve craved to belong to another Hive again in a way John could not imagine. He must crave to be part of another crew and have Hive-mates again, badly, and that surely was the most important reason for him to obey the strange High Commander's orders without objecting, apart from the fact that Todd and Steve now 'shared' a human. John swallowed, suddenly feeling so sorry for Steve's loss that it hurt himself.

John blinked. Maybe, it was only because of the bond the feeding and the Gift of Life had formed between them, but John doubted that. He should have been glad that so many Wraith had been killed because of the attero device, but to tell the truth – he wasn't. Steve had lost his Hive and Todd had lost one of his as well; and both Hives had been filled with so many sentient and intelligent sensitive living beings, John found himself unable to be as happy about their death as he had been just a couple of weeks ago any longer.

He knew that no one on his team would understand him, even Teyla had destroyed another Hive when she had gotten the chance to, but John had been a witness to Steve's heartbreaking grief and as he now looked at him again, he was able to see through the defiant posture and notice his despair and loneliness. Suddenly, he hoped that Todd would take Steve with him and let him be a part of one of his Hives to give him the chance to find a new home.

John frowned about that unexpected and unwelcome wish and pulled himself together. He might have no other choice than to do what the two Wraith ordered him to do at the moment, but he wouldn't let them see his mixed and disturbing feelings, his confusion and his understanding for their loss, at least not until he knew what they wanted to do with him.

He turned his head to look at Todd again and when Todd felt his eyes upon him, he got up to his feet and reached out, offering his hand to John to help him get on his feet, as well. John sighed, taking the offered hand and getting up to his own feet. He stumbled and Todd gently leaned him against the wall, considering him, musing. “Your legs will support your weight, properly, very soon. He gave you back more than he had taken,” the Wraith assured him, almost gently. John scowled at him.

“I know, Todd. I know these feelings more than I actually would like to know them,” he growled. “Now, tell me why you let him feed on me!” he demanded, feeling his anger rising again.

Todd sighed. “I let him feed on you to save you, John. You would always have been in danger if I hadn't let him do it. Now, you are as connected with him as you are with me and he won't let any other Wraith come near you, except for me. Plus, he will never feed on you to kill you after your bonding. He might not like it at the moment and he probably don't want to admit that right now, but it's the truth and I'm sure that he will accept your new bond and his changed role as soon as you have to accept it, either. You don't know our culture and our laws, John Sheppard, but I actually let him feed on you to save you. I would never have allowed him to drain you and kill you, Sheppard, please, believe me in that.”

 

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John stared at him, stunned and speechless. “You're kidding me, right?” he finally asked, incredulously. “Not to mention that I have no reason to believe you after our last 'meeting' and what you tried to do with the Daedalus!” he growled, suppressing his bad conscience and his sorrow, forcefully.

Todd narrowed his eyes, considering him with both, mockery and annoyance. “I did what I did to save my brethren and countless humans, Sheppard,” he stated. “Atlantis would have been destroyed by the attero device, as well and you know that! You left me no other choice than to do what I did and your scientists also were responsible for what happened back then. Stop being so self-righteous, John Sheppard! You always consider us Wraith as a species not worthy of actually living, but most of my kind only feed on humans to survive! Humans kill not only Wraith, but also their own kind and for much less than hunger or self-defense! You are a soldier yourself, Lt. Colonel Sheppard! Please, tell me how many humans did you kill, just because they fought on the other side of the trench?”

John stared at the Wraith, not knowing how to answer to this question. He hated it, to feel so helpless and to know that Todd was right with what he had said. It had been easy to dwell in self-pity and consider every Wraith as the 'bad guy', but after today, he would never be able to think and feel this way and he hated it, because he knew that Todd knew this quite well.

He slumped against the wall with hanging shoulders and turned his head away from the first Wraith who had forced him into this special kind of bond, staring at the other side of the cave without seeing anything, feeling exhausted, although every cell in his body had been filled with strength and new life just a few minutes ago.

Todd sighed, his anger fading as he noticed John's own despair and confusion. He reached out and let his fingertips grazing over his stubbly cheek in another gentle caress with an expression in his golden eyes close to tenderness. “Every time we met each other, you have threatened to kill me, John Sheppard and yet I always knew that you would never do so because the way you looked at me always spoke the truth while your mouth always lied to me. I never minded, because I knew that you had to say that because of your team-mates and the New Lanteans under your charge with their trust in you, but you have to admit that I have never said anything like that to you. My eyes and my mouth have always told the truth, so there's no reason for you to believe that I'm lying to you now.”

John bit his lips, but then he looked up and slowly nodded his head. Todd smiled, sighing wistfully. “Apart from that, you wanted him to do this to you, John Sheppard. You craved to bond with 'Steve' the way we both had done as much as he had craved to do this,” he remarked, quietly. John's head snapped back against the wall with a dull sound and John's eyes stared at Todd, wide with shock and instinctive denial.

“No! No! That's not true! I never wanted this to happen!” he cried out, startled and desperate, noticing from the corner of his eyes Steve's reaction on the other side of the cave. Steve seemed to be as shocked about this statement as John was himself. Todd didn't answer his words, just watched him with his intensive look, the golden cat's eyes filled with understanding, resignation and regret.

John gulped for air, balling his fists. His mind was spinning and he desperately searched for the right words to convince both, Todd and Steve that Todd had been wrong, but there was nothing he could say against it.

Suddenly, he felt sick and his knees buckled, not supporting his weight any longer and he slid down to the ground along the wall, making scratching sounds with his clothes as he did so. Then, he sat there on the floor, crouched together and with his arms wrapped around his knees, burying his face in them. Todd was wrong. He had to be wrong. It could not be that Todd had spoken the truth. He had never wanted to 'bond' with any Wraith, not this way and not in any other way.

'But, you were the only one who actually wanted to save him!' His inner voice ridiculed him with mockery. 'Everyone had been quite content with letting him drown and die, you risked your own life to save him! You couldn't stand the thought of this Wraith dying because of you and you risked everything, even your position in Atlantis and everything that was important to you, just to save this special Wraith you had given the name Steve, a name you truly liked, because you once had had a good friend named Steve,' his inner voice continued, mercilessly.

John groaned, struggling with his own feelings and thoughts that revealed a truth he had denied for three years. Yes, the thought of letting Steve die had almost driven him crazy and yes, after his bonding with Todd he always had wished that Steve had bonded with him the same way. There was no denial of this truth any longer.

John slowly raised his head, looking up at the beautiful alien male still standing on the other side of the cave. Steve had changed his posture, his arms now hanging down at his sides, watching John with astonishment, curiosity and confusion and – for the first time – without hate, anger or mockery, struggling with his own feelings about Todd's statement. John suddenly realized that Steve had craved to bond with him this way the entire time as well, but that he had hidden his own longing behind his hate and arrogance, thinking that John would never return his feelings.

Todd had waited patiently for John to come to terms with his feelings and now only offered his hand for a second time to help John get up to his feet.

John let himself be pulled up again, scowling at Todd. “That doesn't mean that in the future, I will do whatever you order me to do!” he growled and Todd chuckled with true amusement.

“Of course, John Sheppard, I would never have even considered that,” he snorted, shaking his head. He nodded in Steve's direction and John's second 'personal' Wraith slowly came nearer, his movements not as elegant as usual, but jerky and uneven. John could tell by the stern expression on the handsome and delicate features that Steve struggled to keep his composure, being close to a break down and to his astonishment, he found himself smiling at him, crooked and unsure, but honest and sincerely. At first, Steve scowled at him, remembering that he had to be 'John Sheppard's death', but when John didn't flinch, his smile deepening, he gave up his tries to intimidate the human he had bonded with and stepped beside Todd.

John put his hands on his hips and looked from Todd to Steve. “Okay, both of you 'bonded' with me and at the moment, I'm stuck with you here. Do either one of you care to explain to me what that actually means? Are we 'mated' or something like that?” he demanded. Todd and Steve exchanged a quick glance.

“Something like that, Sheppard,” Steve finally answered, not very helpfully.

John pulled a face. “I see.” He looked at Todd. “Fine, you won't tell me, at least not now. But, what did you mean when you said that I would have been in permanent danger if you hadn't let Steve bond with me this way. Do you want me to live permanently on your Hive? I won't do that!”

Todd shook his head. “No, Sheppard. I haven't decided yet if I will let you return to Atlantis, this depends on your cooperation, but I meant that I will take 'Steve' with me on board my Hive after exploring this facility. If you cooperate than you may go back to Atlantis and maybe, we can renew our alliance. If you refuse to cooperate with us, than I certainly will find a way to convince you to help us, John Sheppard. Atlantis owe us for the 'incident' with the attero device – you owe us and you know that, Lt. Colonel Sheppard,” Todd stated, coolly, becoming the reserved High Commander of several powerful Hives again.

John growled, wincing slightly, because he didn't like to be reminded of the happenings with the attero device and his own behavior back then once more. “Yeah, I'm sure you would. But, why do you want to take Steve on board your Hive? I know that it's not that easy for a strange and most of all lonely Wraith to join another Hive when he has lost his old one and is the only one left behind. Normally, they’re treated as outlaws.” he remarked, watching Todd's reaction. John knew that most Wraith considered other Wraith who didn't use the self-destruct in case they were trapped or left behind as cowards or untrustworthy and therefore as outsiders of their society.

He remembered very well how Michael had been treated because of him not being used for their own experiments and for not being fully Wraith any longer and he knew that Steve hadn't told him all of his difficulties after rejoining his old Hive. He had sensed it from the Wraith's behavior and seen it on his face, even though Steve had tried to hide it from him.

Steve looked at his new Commander, questioningly. “Yes, Commander. I would like to know that, too,” he inquired, hoarsely, but also with slight hope in his voice, watching the other Wraith, suspiciously.

Todd crossed his arms over his chest grinning rather smug. “You're right, Sheppard. But, this Wraith you gave the name Steve isn't a 'strange' Wraith. The truth is that Steve is closely related to my second-in-command. 'Kenny' is Steve's elder brother and he has asked me to bring his brother with me and accept him on board my flagship.”

Chapter Text

John found himself staring at his first 'personal' Wraith again, disbelievingly and stunned for probably the fourth or fifth time within one hour. Todd must be joking, it couldn't be that Steve was Kenny's younger brother. It simply was not on that to be.

He was about to open his mouth and ask him if he was joking or not, but before the words slipped from his lips, he closed his mouth again. Todd wouldn't joke about something like that. Not after Steve had lost all of what had mattered to him. Todd sometimes behaved like a son-of-a-bitch, but he had never been cruel and John knew that Todd wouldn't hurt the Wraith he had allowed to bond with him the way he himself had bonded with John by giving him first the hope that he would have a new home and then tell him that he had been joking. He shot a quick sidelong glance at Steve, his second 'personal' Wraith.

Steve stood there, his hands clenched into tight fists, his lips pressed to a thin line, his eyes burning with golden fire while he stared at Todd with such longing that John had to swallow against the lump in his throat. Steve must have had several siblings, but it was clear to see that Steve knew quite well which brother Todd had meant. Of course, Steve hadn't known him as 'Kenny', but Kenny apparently had been very special to Steve.

“He's dead!” Steve rasped after several minutes. “My brother died a very long time ago! You're lying!” he ground out through gritted teeth. Todd's expression was almost tender as he considered Steve with understanding and regret.

“No, Steve, he didn't die, back then a long time ago.” John suppressed his truly amused smile when he heard Todd calling the officer by the human name John had given him.

He looked at Todd and then back at Steve who still was tense and stiff as a poker, struggling with the emotions the astonishing revelation had aroused in him. John felt sorry for the other Wraith. Steve had had to endure so much within the last weeks, far too much, even for someone who was thousands of years old and who had seen more in his life than John could ever imagine. He had lost his Hive, his Queen and all of his brethren, he had lost his home and John didn't want him to suffer more than he already had.

John knew that he had to do something to ease the tension lying in the air. He might not have wanted to be stuck with two Wraith who had claimed him in a hidden cave, but he also didn't want them to fight against each other, just because of this incredible revelation. So, he cleared his throat, waiting for the two Wraith to look at him. The expression on Todd's face was curious and the expression on Steve's handsome features was the usual annoyed and threatening one, but John didn't even blinked. Steve wouldn't hurt him. He might think that he still had to say that he was 'John Sheppard's death', but he wouldn't hurt him and John just smiled at the confused Wraith.

“Hey guys, I really want to hear that story. But, I would be glad if I could drink and eat something, I'm starving and I'm thirsty like a stranded fish, so why don't we all sit down while Todd tells us the story about your brother, ok?” he suggested and after one more moment of hesitation and another annoyed and helpless, but not very convincing growl, Steve nodded his head.

He turned around and went to a small niche in the wall. John could see his backpack lying there and he watched Steve take his water-bottle out of it and make his way across the hall back to where Todd and he himself were standing.

John took the bottle from Steve's hand with a grateful glance and searched for the power-bars in his pocket. He slid down the wall again and made himself comfortable on the ground, patting with his hands on the stony floor of the cave at each side. Todd first made an indignant face because of the invitation, snorting offended, but then, the impressive ancient Wraith Commander sat down on the ground beside the human and after a while, Steve followed his example sitting down at John's other side, trying to look as arrogant and unmoved as he was able to in this position, his back leaned against the wall and his legs spread out in front of him. He rearranged his coat, knocking off the dust from the black leather like garment.

John took several big gulps from his bottle and began to nibble at his power-bar with a content sigh. “Okay, Todd, now tell us the story about Kenny and why Steve was thinking that he died a long time ago. I'm sure that this story will be very interesting and enlightening. I'm really eager to hear it and I'm sure that Steve is as eager as I already am. Our ears are all yours!”

Todd pulled a face, snorting again. But he obeyed, leaning against the cool stony wall, staring at the other side of the cave, but his eyes were focused on something that had happened thousands of years ago, John could tell by Todd's melancholy and almost wistful expression. John instinctively leaned closer to Steve and to his surprise, Steve nestled against his side, only slightly, but John could feel the soft pressure of Steve's arm against his shoulder. He smiled, ready to listen to Todd's story, nibbling at his power-bar again. Todd took a deep breath and began to speak:

 

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Ten thousand years ago, somewhere in Pegasus:

 

The young blade knelt before his Queen, his head lowered to the ground in a deep respectful bow. He knew that he hadn't obeyed his Commander's strict orders and now, his Queen would punish him for his disrespectful behavior and for having put his squadron in danger.

It had been the first time that he had been in charge of a whole squadron of Darts during an important battle against the Ancients and he had had strict instructions as to what he had to do.

His Hive had fought with two other Hives of his Queen's alliance against three warships of the Ancients that had protected a transporter with settlers who had left their planet to find shelter in Atlantis, the great Ancient's city. On board the transporter had been a lot of scientists and heads of the government and the Ancient's warships were heavily armed and shielded and more than capable of beating three single Hives. But, his Queen knew that they had to keep the transporter from flying to Atlantis and so, she had decided to take the risk and attack the convoy. The young blade who would be called by the human name Todd, that one special human would give him ten thousand years from now in the future, had been ordered to the Dart-bay to take the leader-ship of a squadron of ten Darts. The Commander of his Hive was desperate and had no other choice than to order several young blades without any experience to take the charge of their squadrons as there were only a few old and experienced officers left and they were needed to control the Hives themselves.

The young blade had gladly accepted the order, he was young, only a few hundred years old and he was eager to prove himself and take the lead. His ten Darts had followed him out of the Hive and their order had been to distract and confuse the warship in front of the convoy, but to stay out of reach of their weapons. First, he had flown the maneuver he had been ordered to, but then, he had had an idea. The weapons of the Hive weren't strong enough to crack the shields of the warships, but the transporter had much weaker shields and if he had the chance to come near enough, the Darts could concentrate their fire at one special point of the transporter's shield and let it break down. The warships would have to lower their shields then, too, because they surely would try to beam their people on board to save them.

The young blade smiled, grimly and made his decision. He had noticed the space between the warship and the transporter at the nose of the transporter and he knew that if they were fast enough, they would be able to get between the warship and the transporter. The Commander of the warship wouldn't dare to fire at his own transporter and that was all the young blade needed to know. He ordered his wing-men into the new formation and sped up.

The rest of the happenings were history, his daredevil maneuver had been successful and the three Hives had been able to destroy the warships and the transporter. He hadn't even lost one of his Darts, but he knew quite well what he had risked and most of all, that he had disobeyed the direct orders of his Commander.

Now, he knelt in front of his Queen, waiting for his punishment. He adored his Queen with all he had, his body, his mind and his heart. She was a young Queen, but with great skills and abilities and she was an astonishing beauty. Every single Wraith of her five Hives adored her deeply and he would accept every punishment she chose for him, hoping that she wouldn't throw him out of her alliance because of his impudent behavior.

He didn't have to look up, to know what she looked like as she now gazed down at him, sitting in her throne and considering him. Her beautiful face was surrounded by her wonderful golden-brown hair, reaching down to her waist and cascading in untamed thick and silky waves over her elegant shoulders and back.

She wore a magnificent dress made of white velvet, adorned with silvery and golden embroideries, showing her creamy-white shoulders and enclosing her slim torso with the perfect hills of her breasts in a very seductive way. The long sleeves ended at her slim and elegant wrists and the robe opened in the height of her waist to show the tight trousers made of the same garment underneath. She was a breathtaking sight and she was also intelligent and kind to her underlings.

The young blade felt her golden eyes upon his lowered head, but he didn't dare look up when she started to 'talk' to him. The soft touch of her mind was calming and he relaxed a little bit, because he really had feared that she would tell him to leave her Hive.

'So, you didn't obey my Commander's orders, young blade,' she stated, rising to her feet and coming closer to the spot where he was kneeling with small elegant steps.

'Yes, my Queen,’ he answered, respectfully, because there was no denying of this truth. Now, she stood directly in front of him, reaching out with her feeding hand for him. The young blade who would listen to the name Todd millennia after these happenings braced himself for her to feed on him. If his beloved Queen decided to punish him by taking his strength, he would gladly die.

The Queen gently lay her hand under his chin, lifting his head up to look him in the eyes. 'You didn't obey my Commander's orders and you will be punished for that, don't you doubt that, young blade. But, your daredevil maneuver also allowed us to beat the Ancients and win an important battle. I appreciate your clever and agile mind, young blade. If you learn to be not only a daredevil, but also wise and clever, you will become a strong and remarkable Commander someday.'

She considered him, thoughtfully and the young blade didn't dare breathe, looking his beloved female ruler in her beautiful golden eyes, showing a wisdom and experience only few Queens would have had in her young age. She smiled at him and his heart began to race. Her smiled deepened when she noticed his longing for her and she let go of his chin, her elegant fingertips ghosting over his cheek instead in a soft caress.

'Maybe, one day, young blade,' she whispered in his head and he swallowed, trying to get his desire and lust back under control. It was neither the right place, nor the right time to have such feelings right now.

'I have an important job for you, young blade, and I do believe that you are the right one to do this job. Your agile and clever mind will be needed for this and if you are successful than you will get your tattoo when you return to me and become a full-ranking officer, young blade. Fulfilling your job won't keep me from punishing you, but this job is pressing and needs to be done first.'

The young blade bowed his head again. 'I will do whatever you want me to do, my Queen,' he hurried to assure his Queen and he felt her smile in his head.

'I'm sure that you will do it and your adventurous nature will surely help you to get the job done, young blade. So listen to me what you have to do...'

Chapter Text

Tenthousand years ago, somewhere in Pegasus on an unknown planet:

 

The young blade, who several millennia from now would be named Todd by a strong and uncommon human, stood in the darkness, considering the Ancient facility several hundred meters in front of him. He would do the job his Queen had ordered him to do, he wouldn’t disappoint her and he wouldn’t betray her trust and faith in him. He had no doubts that he would be able to do it and he had chosen his four team-mates very carefully. The only thing disturbing him was that he had to rely on the “trustworthiness” of an Ancient who was betraying his own kin. The reason why he was doing so was because of one important issue. He was one of the few Ancients who would never gain the ability to ascend like most of his brothers and sisters would.

This Ancient, who went by the name Mattheus, was obsessed by the thought of becoming immortal and he had chosen another way to reach his final goal. He would spy on his own kin and help his former enemies destroy important facilities and in return the young blade's Queen would reward him with the Gift of Life to let him live as long as their worshipers could live if they received the Gift of Life on a regular basis.

The young blade loathed the thought of having to work with someone who betrayed his own race, but he would never have even thought of disobeying his Queen’s personal order and so, he waited for the signal of Mattheus to modulate the shield around the facility and open a small hole in it to let him and his team-mates go through. Of course, he would keep a careful eye on Mattheus to make sure that the Ancient scientist didn’t play foul on his Queen as well.

The facility was important to the Ancients and its shields were powered by several ZPMs and so they couldn’t destroy it from outer space with their weapons. Apart from that, his Queen had ordered him to get as many ZPMs as he could get and most importantly, plans of the new weapon the Ancients had constructed. This weapon had a wide range and could shoot two Hives at once and destroy them with only a few shots. They had tried to get the plans out of one of the warships they had entered, but there was one detail that had been missing and Mattheus had told them that they would find the complete construction plans within this facility. Mattheus, for some reason, could not or did not want to smuggle them out of the facility and his Queen didn’t trust him enough to bring her the complete set of plans. So she had decided to trust her young and uncommon blade to see to this important matter. A grim, but also proud smile tugged at the corner of the young blade’s mind. He would get the job done, no matter the cost.

He peeked into the darkness and inhaled deeply the scents of the night surrounding him, his nose and sensor slits flaring as he did so and a startled and annoyed growl escaped his lips as he inhaled all of a sudden the scent of different Wraith close to their position. They had shielded their thoughts and therefore he hadn’t noticed them earlier, but, there was nothing they could do to cover their musky scent.

He turned to the side and there they were, hidden in the blackness of the night, standing behind two large trees watching him and his own team-mates. The leader of the four unknown Wraith watched him with narrowed eyes. He seemed to be very young, probably not older than he himself and he had delicate features and two strands of his straight silky hair tied back at each side to hold it out of his face.

For one long moment, they just stared each other in the eyes and the young blade felt an odd connection between himself and the unknown stranger. The other blade seemed to feel the same way, because his face softened a little bit as his stared became curious instead of angry and mistrustful.

The young blade who would be called Todd by the new Lanteans living in Atlantis thousands of years in the future pulled himself together, forcefully and contacted the other blade with his mind. He wouldn't allow the other ones to break into his mission and endanger it by trying to do their own thing. When he felt the Hive-mind behind the thoughts of the other blade, he knew immediately that they came from a Hive of another alliance and that their Queen had trouble with his own adored Queen. The other Queen had only three Hives under her control and had had to move to other feeding grounds, because she once had tried to poach in their own feeding grounds.

'What are you doing here?' he demanded, his attempt to 'sound' strong and self-confident diminished by the uncertainty of whether or not Mattheus had made a similar deal with the other Queen.

'We are here to destroy the facility. They construct new weapons there and need to be destroyed, so move out of the way!' the other Wraith snarled in his head and the young blade growled, disappointed and angry.

‘We were the first here, so it's your turn to move away!' he snapped back. 'We won't be successful if we are too many!' he tried to convince the other Wraith to stay behind. Both parties couldn't risk using their stunners because the energy of them would be noticed in the facility and it had already been difficult to get here, they had had to take a long walk because he had had to land the Dart far away to stay unnoticed. To his luck, the other blade knew that, too and didn't dare use his own weapon.

They argued for a while, the young blade's eyes flying to the facility covered under the gloomy power-shield and back to the other male all the while and just when he started to get nervous, the shield flickered at one spot near to the ground and he jumped forward and threw himself through the fading barrier, hoping his team-mates would get through it in time, as well. There was no time to make sure that the other party would stay behind and when he rose to his feet again on the other side of the shield, he could see that the strange Wraith had made it through, at least three of them. One Wraith of the other party lay dead on the floor, killed by the power-shield, because he hadn't made it through the hole in time.

The leader scowled at him, not willing to give up his own attempt to destroy the facility and regain the goodwill of his own Queen again. The young blade had sensed the stress and worries behind the defiance and anger of the other young Wraith who apparently had done something wrong and now hoped to get her forgiveness after his – successful – return.

The young blade quickly made up his mind. He couldn't fight at two ends, and he also couldn't risk being discovered because the other one had possibly done something stupid. So, it would be best if they worked together, at least as long as it was necessary. He shot the other one a threatening glance and growled: 'You may work with us, but I'm the one in charge and you will obey my orders! I need to get the plans for the new weapon and I also want to get some of the ZPMs before we destroy the facility and you won't do anything to get into my way and make my mission impossible to fulfill!'

The other one flinched and hissed silently and angrily, but after few a seconds, he slowly and hesitantly nodded his head. His companions were too young and too inexperienced to protest and his own team-mates had enough faith in him not to question his decisions and just waited patiently for the next orders.

They stood near the wall of the facility, but the young blade suspected that the largest part of the building was in the underground and that they had to be careful and fast to get to the labs underneath the building. Mattheus had assured his Queen that there were only few a scientists, because the soldiers were needed on board their warships and because the Ancients thought that the shield would protect the facility against every attack from outer space. They surely hadn't suspected that few a Wraith would try to destroy the building from the inside and that one of their own scientists would betray them. He waved at his team-mates and the other three Wraith and rushed to the wall searching for the entrance to the house. It had to be here, if Mattheus actually had told the truth.

He sighed relieved when he found the hidden door and reached out with his hand to use the code the Ancient had given him. His fingers flew over the panel and the door slid to the side revealing the corridor behind it, bathed in warm light. The young blade stepped into the corridor, followed by his team-mates and the three strange Wraith and the door closed behind them with a hiss.

 

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They had made it to the corridor that led to the lab, but then, everything had went wrong.

Mattheus obviously had been caught when he had opened the shield for them and the Ancients had awaited them in the corridor, hidden in secret niches. They had fired at them the second they had emerged in the entrance to the corridor and their weapons had killed two of his own brothers and the two companions of the other team, only their leader was left, shooting at the Ancients with single-minded determination. He was injured like he himself, but it didn't keep the other blade from fighting. He himself was bleeding out of several heavy wounds and he felt his strength fade, but he wouldn't give up. One of his two team-mates who were left went down to the ground, but before he died, he shot the last Ancient keeping them from entering the lab.

The young blade crawled to the place where the former hostile Wraith and now unwilling ally lay on the floor, breathing heavily, knowing that he would die if he couldn't feed right now. The other blade looked up at him, his pain clear to see in his golden eyes. “Feed on me, so you will fulfill the mission!” he croaked out and after one moment of hesitation, the young blade who would be called Todd somewhere in the future did what he had to do to complete their mission and make it a success. He opened the waistcoat of the other Wraith and placed his feeding hand on the greenish chest.

He connected with his mind, because he wanted to share the pain he would cause him and try to ease it as best as he was able to. The other Wraith deserved to feel as little pain as possible. He locked eyes with him and felt the strange bond again as he began to feed. The young blade lying underneath him didn't flinch and he didn't cry, only a silent groan escaping his trembling lips. He saw the other face crumple and felt his own strength return, his injuries healing while he fed on his brother from another Hive.

He stopped, leaving the last spark of life in the other male and rose to his feet. “Take care of him until I return!” he ordered his last team-mate who was still alive and headed for the lab. The Ancients lay there, shot and dead, killed because they had defended their ZPMs and the important plans of the new weapon with their lives.

The young blade bared his teeth in a content grin. They hadn't succeeded. Here he was, alive and almost healthy; and he would take the ZPMs and the plans and return to his Queen, because another Wraith had offered him freely his own strength. He swallowed and looked around. The lab had been the center of the facility and he could see the power-station with the ZPMs and two large consoles. There he would find the plans of the weapon.

To his luck, he wasn't only a warrior, but a skilled scientist, too and it didn't take long until he had found what he had been searching for, connecting the Ancient-computer with his data-pad, and then connecting the different technologies with the patch Mattheus had given him, he downloaded the data to his pad.

He was about to leave the lab when he heard a silent sound coming from somewhere on the ground and when he bent his torso to look under one of the consoles, he saw Mattheus sitting there, his hands and feet tied, almost hidden by the body of one of the dead Ancients. Mattheus was tied and scared to death, but he was alive. The young blade was sure that he had somehow betrayed them and that he would do so in the future. Maybe, his Queen would punish him if he did what he was about to do right now, but he doubted that.

He came closer, pulling Mattheus out of his hiding place, showing all of his sharp teeth as he grinned at him, dangerously and malicious. ‘Nice to see you again, Mattheus, so alive and unharmed...” he stated, contentedly.

Not long after that, one could hear a loud scream, fading to a low gurgling before it finally stopped.

 

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The young blade knelt down beside his no longer strange brother, placing his feeding hand gently on the other's chest. The blade was only barely alive and he knew that the other would need more to heal completely than he could give him right now, because of the heavy multiple injuries still bleeding and his own still rather weak state, but he could keep him alive until he would reach his Hive again. He was sure that his beloved Queen would see to this brave one personally and reward his braveness by giving him the Gift of Life herself.

He let some of his strength float into the weak and crumpled body and when he was sure that his new brother would stay alive until he reached his Hive and survive the time in the buffer, he gently pulled him up, lifting him until he could carry him upon his shoulder and waved at his last team-mate. They made their way out of the facility without any further incident and when they were far enough he pressed the button of his transmitter and the facility exploded behind them in a big ball of fire.

The young blade who would be called Todd someday carried the young blade would be called Kenny some day in the future by John Sheppard to his Dart and left the planet after taking his team-mate, the drone he had left to guard the Dart and the young blade into his buffer.

The Dart spiraled itself into the dark sky, leaving the burning facility behind. The young blade sitting in the cockpit smiled. His Queen would be satisfied, he actually had gotten the job done. They would be able to find a way to crack the weapon and they had enough ZPMs to power the clone-facility.

His mission had been a success and he would gladly accept his punishment. In the end, they would defeat the Ancients, he was sure about that now. Plus, he had found a new brother and he knew for sure that their bond would last during the forthcoming centuries, forged by the act of feeding and the Gift of Life. This bond was strong and would never break, Todd could feel it in his heart.

 

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Todd went silent and John blinked against the wet feeling in his eyes. Steve's arm pressed heavily against his shoulder and John had to fight against the urge to wrap his arm around him and stroke his hair to comfort him. It was simply ridiculous that he sat here in this cave, wanting to comfort and soothe a Wraith who always had threatened to kill him, just because he had heard the story of his missing brother. He risked a short look at Steve's face and found him staring at the opposite wall, without seeing anything. John gently patted his knee and Steve didn't pull back, simply leaning even heavier against John.

John turned to Todd again and cleared his throat. “I guess, your Queen rewarded Kenny by giving him the Gift of Life, personally?” he asked, his voice husky and a little bit shaky.

Todd nodded his head. “Yes, she did. She also offered him a place on board and to make him a full-ranking officer if he proved himself to her. 'Kenny' didn't dare go back to his own Hive, not because of his own life, but because of his younger brother. He had left his former Hive in shame and had wanted to make up for his behavior by destroying the facility, but he had lost his brothers and his Queen wasn't like my Queen at all. She would never have forgiven a 'cheeky' young blade and my second didn't want to let Steve suffer for his own mistakes. Their Queen liked Steve better than him and my second thought it best to leave him where he belonged and start anew.”

John looked at Steve again and so did Todd and finally, Steve nodded his head slowly. “Yes, she liked me and I had a good life on board her Hive. But, I always missed my brother. We thought that he had been killed when he destroyed the facility and my Queen honored him for that. If he had returned to our Hive alone and without our brethren, she would have killed him, because she hadn't allowed him to go there and take some of our brethren with him. My Queen's eldest son went with him. She would never have forgiven him if he had returned without her son.”

John nodded his head, lost in his thoughts. Yes, he knew that behavior, humans behaved much the same more than oftentimes. He smiled. After all, Wraith and humans had more in common than both species cared to admit.

“I'm sure he missed you as much as you missed him during the last millennia, Steve. He left you only to save you,” he said, gently. When he heard Steve's annoyed snort, he knew that his attempt to soothe his second Wraith had achieved quite the opposite with Steve. Steve got up to his feet vigorously and scowled down at him.

At least, his tries had caused Steve to find his composure again and John could see that the other Wraith tried to cover his embarrassment and his temporary weakness by his now defiant reaction. He tilted his head to the side, swallowing the rest of his power-bar and placing the other back in his pocket. He knew for sure that Steve would never hurt him, not after they had 'bonded' with each other. If Steve needed to growl and scowl right now to win back his composure, then so be it. He looked up at him and could tell instantly  by the look in the Wraith's eyes what would come next and he steeled himself for the forthcoming. He had been right with his suspicion, because Steve put his hands on his hips and rumbled:

“Enough stories for now! Now, you will do what I order you to do and help me with your ATA-gene, human!”

Chapter Text

John sighed and slowly got up to his feet. He didn't know what it was that Steve wanted him to do and what his ATA-gene was needed for, but one thing he knew for sure – he certainly wouldn't like it whatever it might be.

Todd had risen to his full height in the meantime, as well, knocking the dust off of his coat, the usual impassive mask back in place on his handsome alien features and now, he was no longer the story-teller, dwelling in precious memories about his wild and dangerous youth, but the old and experienced Commander who knew quite well how to use everything coming along his way to his advantage.

“Yes, I'm very curious, as well. We noticed the strange energy-signs from the orbit and I can tell that they are Ancient, but nothing more. What did you find here, officer?” Todd asked, laying all of his natural authority in his dark multi-toned voice in the attempt to stay in charge of their joined 'mission', just as he had done back then when he had met Steve's elder brother Kenny. It seemed to work, though, because Steve accepted his new role as an officer of Todd's Hive very quickly, submitting to the higher ranking Commander in a way John had never thought possible.

John folded his arms around his chest and pursed his lips in a very stubborn manner. “Maybe, I will help you, freely, but first, I want to know how did you find us, Todd!” he demanded, playing for time, dragging out the inevitable.

Todd frowned, but he knew his stubborn human colonel well enough than to try to force him into helping them without satisfying his curiosity at first.

“After the 'incident' with the attero device,” he finally started to explain, stretching the word 'incident', “I decided to observe Atlantis for a while.” He paused and John knew what was coming.

“You spied on us,” he growled, but Todd only shrugged his shoulders.

“Yes, I did. I think that it's quite understandable after our last not so nice encounter, John Sheppard. Not to mention that you would have done much the same if you had been in my place,” he stated, mockingly and John to his own annoyance felt his cheeks reddening. He lowered his eyes and Todd chuckled, briefly. “No need to be shy now, John Sheppard. I would feel disappointed if you wouldn't have considered this possibility. But, you new Lanteans have managed to annoy most of the people living in Pegasus and it's much harder to find true allies and people willing to spy on Wraith for you than it is the other way around. I have my ways to – hm – convince unwilling humans to help me,” he continued, ironically and John snorted.

“Yeah, I'm sure about that,” he stated, nodding his head. “Please, go ahead and tell me the whole story.”

Todd smiled. “When Ronon Dex, Teyla Emagan and you showed up on that planet, my informant sent me a message. I had already been on my way to this planet, because another 'informant' had told me about a Dart that had crashed on the surface of this uninhabited planet and we had noticed the strange energy-signs on our way here. This planet is near our territory and I have to know what's going on close to my feeding grounds. We never noticed the signs before the crash, so either the crash brought some technology back to life, or most likely – my new officer did so.”

John flinched hearing the hated expression 'feeding ground', still not used to these two words, although he had lived in Pegasus for years.

Todd grinned wolfishly at him, obviously very content with his discomfort. “Imagine my surprise when my informant told me that you had been brought here, stunned and unconscious,” he told him with a rather smug undertone in his voice and all that John could do was snort and cling to the last pieces of his composure and annoyance, because he would rather die than to show Todd the relief and thankfulness he actually felt, because Todd had come here just in time to save him – okay, almost just in time.

“I see,” he snarled, looking at his first personal Wraith as reproachfully as he was able to. “And when you came here, you decided to enjoy yourself a little bit further than you already had by watching Steve feed on me!” he groused.

Todd's face softened and he reached out letting his fingers glide over the human's usual three-days-stubble on his cheek. “I told you why I did this, Sheppard. I didn't enjoy your pain. I never did, not even as I fed on you for the first time when I was halfway out of my mind with the hunger and pain of ten years of starvation; and I will never enjoy it, please, believe me in that,” he answered, sincerely and John's anger faded. He sighed, letting his arms drop to his sides, knowing when he had lost a battle.

“Okay, now I know why you found me, but I have one last question before I decide to help you willingly. What about Teyla and Ronon? Steve, you told me that they were captured, as well and I have to tell you that I won't help you before knowing that they are well, healthy and free again.”

Steve bared his teeth in an angry hiss and glared at the human he had claimed. John glared back, growling, neither of them willing to change his mind and give in, but Todd raised his hand in a calming gesture. “That can be arranged, easily,” he assured the human colonel and when Steve opened his mouth to protest, he raised his hand again. “Not the part with the freedom, of course – Steve. I do believe that John Sheppard can be convinced to help us much easier with his team-mates still - hm – enjoying our hospitality. But, I will see to them being brought here and after that to our Hive. Kenny will take good care of them while you help us, Sheppard, freely and gladly, if I'm allowed to make this guess.” The Commanders voice had changed to mockery again and John gritted his teeth to hold back his cheeky answer.

Instead, he decided to play nice and nodded his head in unwilling and hesitant agreement, pulling a face and scowling at his two 'something-like-mates'. He had to admit that he was curious himself to find out what Steve had found, but he wouldn't admit that out loud, not even under torture. When he heard Steve's hoarse snicker and Todd's silent chuckle, he knew that he had failed, his eagerness and curiosity clear to see on his face. He sighed, very aware of the fact that he had no other choice than to do what Steve and Todd wanted him to do. He wasn't a genius like Rodney, but he knew Ancient technology better than he would have liked it and Todd knew about his own math-skills and his knowledge of science and technology. He wouldn't let himself been fooled by John's attempts to deceive him and play the stupid one.

He watched Todd's eyes focusing on something he couldn't see as the ancient Commander gave the telepathic order to pick up Teyla and Ronon and when Todd eventually looked at him, he cleared his throat and said: “I want to see them before you bring them to your Hive, Todd.”

Todd slightly bent his head as if he wanted to bow before the remarkable human. “Of course, John Sheppard. I didn't believe that you would say otherwise. My officers are on their way and you will see your team-mates soon and unharmed, I promise you. But you will help us, now, John Sheppard.” His voice was hard and cold like steel and John knew that he would have no other choice than to obey.

He straightened and looked at Steve. “Okay, guys, then show me what you found.”

 

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John stood before the Ancient-console, staring in disbelief at the screen. He couldn't read the Ancient-language as good as Rodney or Dr. Zelenka or even Teyla and this script had to be much older than the scripts in Atlantis, but Todd had no problems with reading what showed up on the screen and Steve had also been able to read most of it.

He looked up at the opposite wall. It seemed to be only a wall, but the Ancients oftentimes had covered their secret labs behind walls and they only had to solve the puzzle and use his ATA-gene to remove the wall and see what was hidden behind it. If what Todd had translated was true than it was the most important discovery they had ever made.

John now could understand Steve's excitement and his determination to remove the wall and reveal the secret lab and he wished for his own team and, most of all, for Rodney and Dr, Keller to be here and work with them. The thought of Todd and Steve taking advantage of this incredible discovery made him shiver and he felt a lump in his throat.

Two of Todd's higher ranking officers had showed up with six drones about one hour ago and brought Teyla and Ronon with them. Teyla had smiled at him, obviously glad that nothing bad had happened to him, but Ronon had shouted and howled, desperately tugging at his fetters and three drones had been needed to hold him in place. John had only had time to assure them that he was fine and unharmed, before Todd had ordered to bring them on board his Hive, being the strict and unmoved Commander without mercy and John had watched them be led away, Ronon halfway stumbling, halfway being dragged over the dusty ground of the cave by the three drones, with burning eyes and gritted teeth.

He had known why Todd had done this. It was still all because of the damn attero device and the damn Asgard living in Pegasus.

John had never liked them, these aliens, having such an incredible technology and knowledge, but walking completely naked in front of their allies and presenting themselves in all of their ugliness had always aroused his suspicion.

John sighed, pushing the thoughts of his team-mates and the Asgards aside. All he could do to see Teyla and Ronon again very soon was to use his ATA-gene to remove the wall and reveal the lab and its important contents behind it. Of course, the Ancient scientist hadn't made it easy for anyone who found this lab. There was not just one button to press, but one of the well-known puzzles that turned into lethal traps when one failed with solving it the right way.

Todd and his new officer, Steve were discussing the puzzle telepathically and had left him alone with his own disturbing thoughts about the discovery they had made and John considered the nine square stones of the 'puzzle-console' in front of him lost in his thoughts. They had to press the stones in the right order or the lab would be destroyed by a self-destruct and there would be no chance for them run away and get out of the following inferno alive and healthy.

John stared at the carved pictures on the stones. The carver had been a real artist and John could discern the pictures easily. There was an Ancient at one of the stones, an Iratus-bug at another stone. He could see Atlantis, two planets on two other stones and a couple at the sixth stone. He looked at the other three stones and saw the picture of a planet circling its sun, a female looking like a Queen and something reminding him of a Hive. John frowned, watching the pictures again. The unknown Ancient scientist with the name 'Achimenes' hadn't left them any explanation how to solve the puzzle, only 'told' them what he had done and what was hidden behind the wall. He looked at the stones and tried to find the solution, remembering the last time he had had to do something like that, when Koyla had forced him to risk his life to find the hidden ZPM.

Suddenly, he had an idea. “Hey, guys, I think I know what we have to do!” he stated, excitedly and Todd and Steve turned their heads to look at him. “The pictures tell the story of the Wraith – your race! They tell how it all began!” He pointed to the stone with the picture of Atlantis. “Atlantis flew from Earth to Pegasus and the Ancients brought life to the galaxy by spreading out and settling humans in on countless planets. Then, the Iratus-bugs met the humans on one of the planets and after several centuries or millennia the first Queen was born. She built a Hive and the Wraith spread out in the entire galaxy. We have to retell the story and press the buttons in the right order.”

John looked at the planets and found the one looking like Earth. This was the place where it had all begun. The Ancients had left Earth because of the deadly epidemic hundreds of thousands of years ago. He pressed the button before Todd or Steve could say anything against it and held his breath for a couple of seconds. Nothing happened and John sighed with relief, pressing the button with the Ancient city called Atlantis. The wall lit up in a gloomy light and John held his breath again. Todd stepped beside him, considering the seven remaining buttons. He pushed the button with the Ancient and the light shimmering around the wall became brighter. John sighed. Which stone came next? The other planet or the humans? Steve stepped to John's other side.

“The planet first!” he decided, pushing the button down in the console. There was a low humming to be heard, but it didn't sound threatening. Steve stared at the stones, his eyes burning a hole in the carved surface. “The Iratus-bug was on that planet before the humans came,” he rasped, pressing the button with the bug down, forcefully. The low hum became louder and the light became brighter with every push of the buttons. John moved the button with the humans, sensing that it was much easier now. They stood before the console, side by side, considering the last three buttons. Todd's hand ghosted over the button with the planet and the sun. “I guess that this button stands for the time that past, before the first real Queen was born. We have to press this one and then the stone with the Queen and then the one with the Hive.”

John and Steve nodded and lay their hands upon the stones with the two pictures. Todd pressed the button and Steve followed his move, pushing the Queen down.

John swallowed, hesitating, before he pushed the last button down. The hum was loud and the light was bright when the console opened, revealing a small obelisk slowly moving upwards until it came to a halt in front of them. The obelisk shimmered in the same light like the humming wall and John could see the hand carved into the surface, knowing that he had to place his hand into it to activate the hidden mechanism to remove the wall and lower the power-shield before the secret laboratory.

Steve and Todd turned their heads to look at him, but neither of them said anything, just waiting patiently for him to place his hand into the carving.

John took a deep breath and placed his hand into the form. The stone beneath his sweaty, slightly trembling fingers was warm and surprisingly soft and John didn't feel uncomfortable or endangered. The obelisk began to hum too and then slowly, very slowly, the wall slid to the side, revealing what it had hidden for more than ten thousand years.

John, Steve and Todd stood there frozen in place, watching the wall sliding to the side and the power-shield behind it fading until they could enter the lab and see what Achimenes had been working on there.

John unconsciously grabbed Todd's and Steve's arms and began to walk towards the lab. Todd and Steve followed and together they entered the lab and stopped before the six stasis-pods standing at the wall in front of them, still intact and humming with the energy floating through them, keeping the beings inside the pods alive for more the ten millennia, beings who had been waiting for so long to wake up again.

John wiped with his hand over the milky glass of one of the pods, trying to see the being behind the glass better. The male being didn't look like he knew this race, he looked much more – human. But, he could see the pale-green undertone of the skin and the sensor slits at each side of the nose. The male was handsome and looked peaceful while he slept in the pod.

Steve bared his teeth and hissed with astonishment and uncertainty, unable to speak and John felt much the same way, opening his mouth, but no sound came out. Todd finally was the one to break the spell.

He cleared his throat and lay his hand on the glass of the pod. “I would never have thought that I would ever meet one of them in person,” he mused, his voice husky and rough. “One of the very first Wraith. These six Wraith are the last survivors of the first generation of our race.”

Chapter Text

John pressed his hand against the milky glass, deeply touched by the sight in front of him. He swallowed, knowing that he wouldn't be able to deny the truth any longer. He shot a quick sidelong glance at Steve to find him staring at his ancestor with burning eyes and balled fists. John suppressed his smile, because he didn't want his 'second' Wraith to think that he was laughing at him.

He didn't feel any malice, because Steve had to face the same truth as he himself right now, that this special Wraith who had always been the one to deny any relations or affinities with humans – his food, had to learn that his origin was the same origin as John's. Wraith and humans were much closer related than both race had wanted to admit until now.

John looked at the other side, watching Todd's fingertips glide over the cold glass with something akin to rapt devotion on his face. Todd had never had problems with admitting that humans and Wraith were related and John could see how fascinated and moved the ancient Commander was, seeing one of his ancestors for the first time in person.

The sleeping Wraith looked much more human than John had expected him to look and John was curious what the ancient male would tell them when he was awake again. Steve beside him growled, impatient and excited.

“We need to wake them up!” he demanded, almost looking like a little child, pouting and stamping his foot on the ground because things were not going as fast as he wanted them to go and John could understand his impatience, because he felt the same eagerness to learn more about the first Wraith as Steve felt. John was sure that they had a lot of interesting things to tell and he really wanted to know the truth about what had happened that had turned humans into Wraith without killing them during the process.

He slowly went to the next pod, wiping the glass to look at the person inside the pod. It was a young male, looking similar to the one in the first pod. John could see the sensor slits and the slight greenish undertone of the skin, but his hair was not white, but a golden-blonde color and he still had eyebrows, thin, but visible. The features were Wraith-like, but John felt drawn in by the young and yet so ancient alien, wanting nothing more than to wake him up and hear the story of his life.

John slowly made his way along the pods, wiping the milky glass and considering the beings sleeping in each pod. They were all male Wraith, looking still very young even though they had lived for ten thousand years many times over, except for the one being in the last pod who was a young female. John wasn't sure if she could be called a Queen already, he knew too little about the first Wraith to know if they had been ruled by Queens since the beginning or if the females only had become that important during the centuries of their development.

It was a beautiful young female though, with long black curly hair and delicate features that looked more human than the features of the males. She just looked like a sleeping innocent young woman and John suddenly had to think of the fairy tale 'Snow White'. Snow White had had black hair and had been sleeping in a coffin until her prince had woken her up.

He felt Todd and Steve step beside him while he watched Snow White sleep, staring at the beautiful young female and now, it was his turn to feel impatience. “We have to check the computers first,” he said. “We have to make sure that they are all still working before we wake them up. I don't want anything to happen to them!”

Todd shot him a surprised sidelong glance, but he said nothing, only nodded his head. “Of course, John Sheppard. But, you should get some rest while I check them with my new officer.” He noticed John's discomfort as the human colonel heard his words and smiled. “You don't have to worry that Steve or me myself shall try to feed on you while you sleep. You belong to us, now. We would never do that to you.”

John pulled a face. “I know. I don't think that you would try to do that. I'm only afraid that I will miss the interesting parts and that you will wake them up while I sleep,” he admitted, a little bit sheepishly, suppressing a yawn.

To his surprise, it was Steve this time who answered to his worries. “We won't do that, John Sheppard. The Commander is right. You need some rest, I can smell it. We will check the consoles and that surely will take some hours. We will wake you up before we start with the awakening. Apart from that, we certainly will need your ATA-gene for that again and therefore would have to involve you despite from what we maybe would prefer.”

John shot him an annoyed look. “Good to know, Steve.” He sighed. “All right, I will take a nap. But, I will hold you to your word! I want to be there when you start!”

Todd nodded his head. “You will, I promise. Now, stop getting on our nerves with your unnecessary concerns and let us work while you rest,” he ordered and John obeyed without further complaints. He took his rucksack to use it as a pillow and lay down on the ground, curling himself up into a rather comfortable position. He closed his eyes and let his exhaustion overcome him.

The last thing he felt was a soft and brief caress on his cheek, light like a feather and someone covering him with something smelling like Wraith, but not bad. It was heavy and warm and comforted him in a way he had never thought possible before. He briefly mused about whom of his two Wraith had covered him with his own coat to warm him, but he was too tired to open his eyes again and have a look. After all, it doesn't matter any longer. Both, Todd and Steve had claimed him in their strange Wraith way and both of them would take care of him, no matter if they were growling and threatening sometimes or not. This was the only thing that mattered to him and John fell asleep with a content sigh, snuggling deep underneath the warm cover of a Wraith coat.

 

----------------------------------------------------

 

John woke up because someone was gently shaking his shoulder. He groaned, his bones and muscles protesting against the harsh treatment of lying on the hard ground for hours. He blinked, still feeling tired, instinctively wrapping his cover closer around his body. An amused low chuckle next to him caused him to open his eyes, fully. Todd was crouching beside him, considering him. John blinked again.

Todd was wearing his coat and he was still covered with something that smelled like Wraith. His eyes flickered around, searching for his other personal Wraith. Steve stood at one of the consoles, dressed only with a tight black shirt and the leather like black trousers, his magnificent white mane cascading over his back like a silky waterfall.

John had to swallow against the sudden dryness in his throat by the beautiful sight. Steve was really a handsome Wraith and John was also touched by the astonishing fact that Steve had been the one to use his coat to cover him against the cold. He also remembered the soft caress on his cheek, but John knew better than to mention either the caress, or the offered coat. Steve was ignoring his surprised glances on purpose, probably feeling embarrassed because of his 'weak' moment earlier and John didn't want to add to his discomfort.

Todd had waited for him to 'notice' him, patiently. “I ordered some food and fresh water for you, Sheppard,” he said as John finally looked at him again. His face gave nothing away of his feelings because John had gaped at his new officer like a young girl eying her secret crush, but John had the suspicion that Todd was more amused than annoyed. To be honest, there was no need for Todd to be jealous of anyone, either. Todd had been the first to form this strange and strong bond between them and this would never change. For John, Todd would always be very special.

John smiled gratefully at him. “It would be great to eat something,” he admitted, sitting up and stretching his poor limbs.

“Yes, I thought so,” Todd said, nodding his head. “I also think that you will want to see to your bodily needs. We found a small restroom when we checked the computers,” the Wraith Commander explained, pointing at an almost invisible door in one of the walls. John sighed, deeply grateful, because Todd had been right. He really needed to relieve himself and he was glad that he wouldn't have to do it in front of two Wraith.

Todd chuckled again, watching John's expressive face. “No need to be ashamed, Sheppard,” he stated dryly, “If there hadn't been a restroom, we certainly would have allowed you to go outside and give you the privacy you need to do that. Apart from that, Wraith do have to drink some water from time to time for our blood circulation and we know these things as much as humans do. We just don't need to do it as often as your species. But, this is an Ancient lab and Ancients were humans, eating and drinking on a regular basis, so it's only logical that there had to be a restroom.”

John nodded and stood up. He took the coat, knocking the dust off of it before walking towards Steve who was still ignoring him, pretending to read something on the screen in front of him. John handed the coat to him. “Thank you, Steve,” he only said with a friendly smile and Steve took the coat, growling something unintelligible. John saw through his attempts to keep his face and act as if he still would be 'John Sheppard's death' someday, but said nothing and went to the door with the restroom behind it.

When he came back, he took the package with the fruits and something looking like bread, sitting on the stony ground again, gulping down his meal hungrily. Steve wore his coat again and John felt oddly disappointed because the coat covered most of Steve's slim, muscular body again. Todd stood beside his officer next to the console, his fingers ghosting over the buttons.

“We know by now how we have to wake them up. We have to wake them up, one after the other and it will take some hours to do so. With whom do you want to start?” he asked, turning his head, glancing at John.

John almost coughed, because he hadn't expected that. “You giving me the choice?” he asked back, stunned. Todd shrugged his shoulders.

“You are the one with the gene, Sheppard. You agreed to work with us without objecting, so it's only fair to leave you the choice,” he simply stated.

John who in the meantime had caught his breath again, pursed his lips, chewing on the slice of bread. “I want to start with Snow White,” he eventually said and now, it was Steve's turn to look at him stunned.

“Snow White?” he snarled. “Whom do you mean with 'Snow White?” John grinned.

“Snow White is the beautiful young female. She has hair dark like ebony, skin soft like snow and lips red like blood. She's the perfect Snow White from an ancient fairy tale told to our kids on Earth. She had to flee because of her evil step-mother who wanted to kill her because of her beauty and innocence. She found shelter in a small house in the forest where seven dwarfs lived. Unfortunately, her step-mother found her because of a special mirror that answered to her question who was the most beautiful woman and she 'killed' her with a poisoned apple. The apple stayed in Snow White's mouth and so the Dwarfs didn't find it. They cried and laid her in a coffin made of glass. After some time, a handsome prince found the coffin and fell in love with her. He took the coffin with him and the apple fell out of her mouth when his underlings moved the coffin. Snow White woke up again and married her savior,” John told the fairy tale of Snow White, suppressing an amused grin, because both Wraith stared at him with rapt devotion, totally drawn in by that fairy tale.

Todd was the first to pull himself together again when John had ended his story. He blinked, shaking his head. “All right, John Sheppard. Then, your 'Snow White' will be the first we will wake up. Apart from that, I agree to it, because I would have wanted to wake up the young female first, as well.”

John lay the remains of his meal to the side and stood up. He came to the console where the Wraith were standing and considered the screen. All lights were green, the pods still worked properly, although it had been a very, very long time since someone had last seen to them. John had noticed that the pods included Wraith-technology, as well, probably to 'feed' the sleeping Wraith somehow.

Todd pointed at one button at the console on the right side of the screen. “You have to press this button to start the process, John Sheppard,” he said, his voice husky with his own mixed feelings. “Your gene is needed to initiate the awakening.”

John nodded, moving his hand to the button, hesitantly. It stilled a few centimeters above it, trembling slightly, but then, John took a deep breath and pressed the button down, forcefully and determined.

The almost inaudible humming of the pod became louder and the lights lit up. John stood between his two Wraith, staring at the pod with the young female Wraith. He knew that it would take at least two hours until she would be fully awake, but he just couldn't stop looking at her. These were the last six beings of the first Wraith who hadn't been hybrids any longer. Todd had translated the script on the screen for him and John had learned that the process that had turned humans who had become infected with the Iratus-bug DNA and then turned into the Wraith he knew had taken centuries. The first infections had been by accident.

The Ancients had settled humans on various planets all over Pegasus and some of them had been the home-world of the Iratus-bugs. There had been a few humans who had survived the contact, and the remaining DNA had made them faster, stronger and healthier. The Ancients had wanted to take advantage of that and tried to create hybrids, just like Michael had done using them as workers and servants.

When they finally had realized that their slaves had surpassed them, they had wanted to undo all of it and began to fight against their own creatures. But, the hybrids had fought back, developing their own culture and technology based on organic material and had become stronger and stronger. They had experimented with the DNA themselves. The most important differences had been their ability to feed on living beings like the bugs did and their slowly increasing ability to communicate telepathically.

After several centuries, the hybrid had changed into the first real Wraith. They still could eat normal food and make use of it, but they preferred to feed on humans because of their ability to regenerate and live much longer than normal humans if they did. They also still looked very human, but they were true Wraith.

Some of the new specie wanted to live in peace with the Ancients and their human brothers, but most of them hated the Ancients with all they had because of what the Ancients had tried to do to them and wanted to erase them as much as the Ancients tried to kill all of them.

Achimenes, one of the Ancients living during the last years of the bloody war with the Wraith had used the Puddle Jumper that had been able to travel through the time-lines to travel back in the past and save some of the first true Wraith. He had wanted to experiment with them to find a cure for the feeding. When the Ancients had decided to flee back to Earth, he had put them to sleep in the pods and left them, hoping that he would return some day.

Achimenes had never come back, but Steve had found the hidden lab and now, John, the descendant of the Ancients, Todd and Steve, true Wraith who had fought against John's ancestors a long time ago stood before the pods, waiting for the last six survivors of the first Wraith to wake up.

John didn't know how much time had passed when Steve's surprised hiss broke in on his musings. The humming had become louder and the ice on the pod had melted, completely. John found himself moving closer to the pod, almost against his own will. He came to a halt in front of the pod, staring at the beautiful female inside, holding his breath.

And then, he saw Snow White take her first deep breath after ten thousand years, the warm air condensing on the glass of the pod. John lay his hand upon the glass, unable to do anything else than look at her with fascination.

Snow White breathed a second time and slowly opened her golden eyes.

Chapter Text

John watched the gaze of the golden eyes flicker around, unfocused and dazed, but then, it became sharp surprisingly quick and Snow White locked her eyes with him, amber fire meeting hazel-colored curiosity and fascination. Snow White really looked like the beauty from an ancient fairy tale who had just woken up, even her dress reminded John of one of the dresses the Snow White from the fairy tale probably had worn. She wore a long magnificent dress in a ruby-red color with long tight sleeves and a long wide skirt. The top of her dress enclosed her body like a second skin and was adorned with golden and silvery threads. It was a dress every princess would be proud to call her own and accentuated Snow White's beauty perfectly.

They stared at each other for a rather long time and John forgot everything else, but when Snow White opened her mouth, the movement broke the spell and he realized that she was trying to say something.

“Can we open the pod now?” he asked, turning his head for a quick glance in Todd and Steve's direction. Todd nodded and pressed another button and the front-glass slowly moved to the side with a silent hiss.

Snow White stayed in the pod, watching John with wary eyes. “You're not Achimenes,” she stated after a few more seconds of silence and her voice was rough and hoarse from not being used for more than ten thousand years, but John found her voice beautiful, nonetheless. Snow White's voice was much sweeter than the dark voices of the Queen's John had heard and he found himself smiling at her reassuringly.

“No, I'm not Achimenes,” he said, nodding his head. “My name is John.” Snow White considered him for a while.

“John,” she repeated, listening to the sound of his name. “So you came to finish Achimenes' experiments?” she asked.

John was surprised that she didn't focus on the two Wraith in the room. She must have seen them or at least felt their presence, but she only looked at him. He knew that his gene was strong and maybe, she could sense it and thought that he was in charge over the two Wraith as the Ancient she obviously considered him to be.

“No. No one will ever abuse you for their experiments again, you have my word!” he said, shaking his head vigorously. He wouldn't allow anyone to use this beautiful female for their sick experiments, no way. He could feel Todd's astonished glance upon him, but he didn't care. If Todd or Steve wanted to continue with what Achimenes had started, than they would have to fight with him first.

Snow White tilted her head to the side, her long black wavy mane falling over her shoulder. “You don't fear that I shall try to feed on you,” she mused as she looked him in his eyes again. “You maybe should. I might be female and have been sleeping for a rather long time, but I could overpower you easily, nevertheless,” she threatened, but it didn't sound like a real threat to him.

“No. You won't feed on me,” John simply remarked, shrugging his shoulders. He still stood close to her pod and he neither flinched at her words, nor made any attempt to step back.

“You're pretty sure about that,” she mused thoughtfully, but then, a smile lit up her face and made it even more beautiful. “But, you're right. I won't try to feed on you. I actually like you, John.” John returned the smile and finally reached out, offering her his hand.

“It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Snow White,” he said politely and she took the offered hand and stepped out of the pod.

“Snow White?” she asked surprised and a little bit mistrustfully. John sheepishly grinned his crooked grin.

“On my home planet, we tell a fairy tale to our children about a beautiful young woman who slept in a coffin made of glass until a prince came to wake her up and she probably looked like you, so I gave you the name Snow White,” he admitted and she tilted her head to the side again and pursed her lips.

“I like the name you gave me,” she agreed after a minute of thinking about it. “To be honest, I like it much better than the name Achimenes gave me, so I will be Snow White for you and your mates.”

John stared at her. “Mates?” he inquired, incredulously. Snow White snickered and finally looked at the two Wraith standing a few steps behind them, watching John interacting with one of the first Wraith as if he had never done anything else, stunned and speechless.

“Yes, mates. Their thoughts are pretty possessive and even a little bit jealous at the moment,” she replied amused and John turned his head to gaze at his 'mates', too. Steve tried to look as if he didn't care, but failed and Todd watched them with narrowed eyes and his arms crossed over his chest, looking pretty pissed off. John grinned.

“I should introduce them to you then, I guess,” he stated mockingly, guiding Snow White to his two annoyed Wraith mates. “Todd, Steve, please meet Snow White. Snow White – the one with the ruffled hair is Todd, the High Commander of several powerful Hives and the one with the sleek hair is Steve, his new officer and the brother of his second-in-command.”

Todd shot him a threatening glare and Steve let out a strangled hiss, but both of them bowed slightly before the young female, their natural obedience to every female Wraith coming to the surface and forcing them to show respectful behavior in front of one of them. Snow White surprised them again.

“You don't have to bow before me, Commander, I'm not a Queen,” she said gently, laying her hand under Todd's chin and lifting it up. “The first Wraith lived in a democracy and weren't ruled by Queens.”

Now, all three males stared at her, completely taken aback. “A democracy?” Steve finally croaked out and Snow White nodded her head.

“I will tell you our story, but I need to drink some water and have something to eat, because I'm still weak from the hibernation. By the way, how long did I sleep?” she asked. John guided her to the place where he had slept and Steve and Todd followed them. Todd offered her his coat and she took it with a smile and a grateful look before she sat down on the ground. She waited until John and the two Wraith had sat down in a circle before her and took the water bottle and the energy bar John offered her. She really seemed to trust them and John was determined not to betray the faith she had in him.

“You have been asleep for more than ten thousand years,” Todd explained. “My officer found Achimenes' lab by accident and John Sheppard helped us with his strong gene. The Ancients lost the war and had to flee from Pegasus. They went back to the place they had come from and John is one of their descendants.”

Snow White nibbled at the bar and her eyes became sad. “Ten thousand years!” She glanced at the five pods where the male Wraith were still sleeping and said: “Then, my five brothers and I are the only ones left. Achimenes wanted to travel back into the past to 'save' more of us, but he didn't succeed then.”

John took her hand. “No, he didn't. But, I'm happy that he couldn't do you any harm with his experiments any longer.”

“Yes, I'm happy about that, too.” She sipped from the bottle and took a few more bites, before she laid both on the ground and leaned back against the wall. “Yes, we had a democracy. All, we wanted to do was live in peace and freedom, but the Ancients didn't let us and tried to kill us or bring us back under their rule again. It was a totalitarian rule and we loathed and hated it. The generation before mine was the first that had managed to settle down on various planets and they voted for a parliament and had the laws and rules of a true democracy. My parent's generation still needed to eat to survive, but, they increased the time-span in between and fed on each other in the meantime. Because of their ability to regenerate, nobody was harmed because of that. But, they found out that the feeding was not only pleasurable and increased their abilities to heal and their life-span, but also a way to get rid of the Ancients who oppressed them. A lot of them refused to use 'normal' food to live and chose the feeding as their only way to take what they needed to sate their hunger. This was their way to take their revenge on their oppressors. The only, but unfortunately very important advantage the Ancients still had were their number. They were so much more than the 'Wraith' and only a few female Wraith seemed to be able to reproduce. It took my ancestors a rather long time to find out the reason for the infertility so many females suffered from.”

Snow White went silent and took the bottle again. John could see the curiosity and impatience on Steve and Todd's features, but neither of the two Wraith, nor he himself tried to push the young female who looked exhausted and sad.

Snow White cleared her throat and continued to speak after she had handed the bottle to John. “The Ancients normally had used only the male Iratus Bugs for their experiments. They were weaker and easier to handle than the much stronger female bugs. This also had been the reason at the beginning why so many female humans had died, much more than male humans. The male bugs were compatible with males much better and only strong female humans survived the treatment. They had all the abilities and skills like their male brothers and mates, but, they couldn't reproduce. Only the queens of the bugs could give the female hybrids this ability and there had been only a few females infected with the DNA of the bug queens. To boost this problem, our species grows up much slower than the Ancients or humans and only grown up Wraith can reproduce. Apart from that, the females who were able to give birth mostly gave birth to male children and within the next generation – mine – the number of the male Wraith was much larger than that of the female Wraith. We watched our parents die – they lived much longer than any human or Ancient, but they weren't immortal like us and we saw what the Ancients had done to them. Most of my brethren hated the Ancients with all they had and lived only for the attempt to erase them. The others, like I, wanted to live in peace and freedom and didn't want to fight against them any longer. Finally, our nation broke into two parties, the Wraith who wanted to defeat the Ancients left our planet with three space-ships to hide somewhere deep in Pegasus until their number had become much bigger. They took the strongest females with them and we never heard from them again.

Achimenes told me that they began to attack various planets, feeding on the humans living there and taking the strongest ones with them to keep as their slaves and servants. That probably was the beginning of the worshipers you know in these days. The rest of us stayed on the planet and negotiated with those Ancients who didn't want to fight any longer either and for several years, we lived in peace and freedom. My mother had given birth to five sons before I was born and my parents were happy, because there were still so much less females than males. My elder brothers adored me and I had a wonderful childhood. I had just celebrated the party for my first initial 'heat' that proved that I was true female and able to reproduce when Achimenes came and captured me and my five brothers to search for a solution for the feeding problem. He took us with him to his future and we never saw our parents and friends again. I still wear the dress my parents had gifted me with for this special celebration.”

Snow White paused again, her fingers playing restlessly with the folds of her skirt. John took her small elegant hand in his own and she looked up and smiled at him. He had always clung to the image that the Wraith had been the 'bad guys' right from the beginning. It had eased his bad conscience at least a little bit, because John knew quite well that he had been the one to initiate the happenings of the last years after he had killed the Keeper who had watched over the sleeping Wraith. He had always told himself that the humans and the Ancients had been the victims and the Wraith the attackers and the lethal threat he had to destroy for the human's sake.

But now, he sat there on the ground of a secret cave, listening to a truth he couldn't deny any longer. His ancestors – the Ancients had been the one who had made their sick abusive experiments with humans to create servile slaves they could use to their own liking, just as they had created the replicators later to get rid of the ones they had abused, humiliated and killed. The Wraith had only fought back. They simply had done what the Ancients had wanted them to do – but they had used their abilities to defeat their hated oppressors. John was pretty sure that the three space-ships had been the first Hives with their few females who had been so important for the survival of the entire species that they had become the adored rulers, not only because of their ability to reproduce, that the other females didn't have, but also because the DNA of the bug's queens probably had made them stronger and therefore natural rulers. Now, he knew why Wraith were ruled by queens and why there were so many male Wraith and only so little Queens. This was the inheritance of the bugs.

In this special moment, John promised to himself that he would do everything he could to change things and give the humans and the Wraith living in Pegasus the hope for a better future. When he looked up and met Todd's calm gaze, the ancient Commander smiled briefly at him and John smiled back, knowing that Todd would be on his side and fight with him for their goal. He turned his head, gazing at Steve who sat beside him, deeply lost in his thoughts and when the other Wraith felt the human colonel's gaze upon him, he grabbed his other hand, squeezing it slightly. John smiled. It would be a hard fight, hard and difficult, but in the end it would be worth the effort and apart from that, John wouldn't have to fight alone. He had Todd and Steve by his side and that was all that was all that mattered to him.

Chapter Text

John stood before the last pod that still contained a sleeping Wraith, Snow White close to his side. Her other four brothers had been woken up successfully, they were standing a few steps behind their sister who might be the youngest one of the siblings, but her brothers obviously considered her as their 'leader' and had done everything she had told them to do after their awakening.

They all looked different, but, John could see their close kinship, nonetheless. Their features looked similar and they were all of astonishing beauty like Snow White. John suppressed a self-critical and resigned smirk, because if someone had told him only a few months earlier that he would be able to notice the beauty of these life-sucking alien creatures, he would have laughed in their faces.

Snow White had even asked him to give her brothers names as well, because she didn't want to be remembered of the names they once had worn. They had hated the names Archimenes had given them because of his ugly experiments and the memory of the names their parents had given them was too painful to still wear them after the incredibly long time span of ten thousand years.

This time, John hadn't just picked the first names that came into his mind, this time, he had thought carefully about appropriate names and chosen five names he truly liked. The first brother they had woken up now wore the name Nicolai, because Nicolai was the second first name of the author Tolstoi and John still had his great roman 'War and Peace' lying on his bedside table. The second brother they had woken up now listened to the name Alexander, because John had always admired the Macedonian emperor Alexander the Great who had traveled around half of the world to explore unknown places. Both of them had golden hair and delicate features and they didn't wear the usual black coats, but something like a long sleeveless tunic over a shirt with long sleeves and trousers made of a soft garment, the trousers and the tunic in a dark blue color and the shirt shimmering in a creamy white tone.

The third and the fourth brother had brown hair and wore green-colored tunics and trousers with the same shirt underneath like their brothers. John had chosen the names Marshall for the third Wraith to honor Colonel Sumner and Patrick for the fourth in remembrance of his father.
They all had accepted their names and Todd and Steve had looked as if they were a little bit jealous again, but, after one look at Snow White, they had decided to say nothing and pouted silently.

John shot them a brief reassuring glance. Steve and Todd would always be very special to him – his mates and there was no need for them to be jealous of anyone. His gaze seemed to help, because both of his mates relaxed visibly, waiting for the last brother to wake up like the others had. John had chosen the name James for him after James T. Kirk from the famous TV-series Star Trek and Snow White had uttered her agreement to every name he had suggested.

A silent sound coming from the pod announced that the process of bringing the Wraith back to life had been successful and John took Snow White's hand and pressed it. James was the eldest of the brothers and his relationship to his sister had always been special. His hair was as dark as Snow White's and his clothing was red like his sister's dress.

He opened his eyes and breathed for the first time within ten thousand years. His eyes flickered around and when they found Snow White's gaze, the young and yet so ancient male smiled at her.

“Open the pod!” Snow White ordered and Todd obeyed without hesitation and pushed the button that would give the sixth of the last First Wraith his freedom back. He stepped out of the pod having eyes only for his sister. John wasn't sure if he had noticed him, but he stepped back to give the alien male the opportunity to embrace his sister. Snow White wrapped her arms around her brother and they held each other tight, while John smiled, wiping furtively his eyes, deeply touched because of this special moment.

 

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John leaned against the slightly pulsing wall of Todd's Hive, watching another reunion. Kenny and Steve hadn't seen each other for more millennia than John could actually imagine and he could see Steve clenching his fists as he stood before Todd's second, considering the face of the brother who had given up everything to safe him and grant him a better life.

John was surprised as he felt the sudden strong urge to go to him and comfort him, but he suppressed it forcefully, knowing that Steve needed to do this alone. Todd stood at his console, watching attentively his second and his new officer. Apart from Todd and he himself, there was only Snow White and her brothers on the bridge and two officers who were busied with their work and simply ignored what was going on around them.

“Hello brother,” Steve's voice sounded hoarse and strangled and John was surprised that his second personal Wraith used spoken words, but, maybe, the mental connection was too intimate even for these telepathic beings after such a long time. Kenny's normally stern and impassive face showed his own strong emotions as he hesitantly reached out with his hand and touched Steve's face. John could see that the fingers of Todd's second trembled and that he tried to speak, but no word came out of his mouth at first. He swallowed and tried it again and John almost didn't recognize his voice as he answered: “Hello, my little brother. It has been a long time since we last saw each other.”

He stroked his face again and Steve closed his eyes and leaned into the caress. He bent his head until their foreheads touched and both of them closed their eyes, as they finally bonded telepathically for the first time within ten thousand years. At least John thought that this was what they did, because both of their faces softened and a slight smile ghosted around their lips. Todd relaxed behind his console and John looked at Snow White and her brothers who stood there, watching the reunion of the two brothers contentedly and happily. John was pretty sure that the six First Wraith were the only ones who could truly understand how Steve and Kenny now felt, because they had been sleeping as long as the two brothers had missed each other and their awakening and their reunion had been a true miracle, as well.

He looked at Todd who gently smiled at him as he felt John's eyes upon him and John smiled back before his gaze traveled back to his second personal Wraith who had become his mate just like his first personal Wraith, Todd.

He remembered so well how he had hated and feared these unknown dangerous creatures when he first had met the Wraith, right after their arrival in an unknown galaxy. But now, he knew that Wraith and humans were closely related and that Wraith were sensitive beings who loved and suffered just as much as humans did, maybe even more. They weren't only cruel and hungry and John was still under the spell of the story Snow White had told him. Todd had offered them to come to his Hive and stay there to start anew and the beautiful female Wraith and her brothers had agreed to it. They had also suggested to search for a solution for the feeding problem together with Atlantis and to build an alliance with the inhabitants of the city. John knew that it would be hard for the six siblings to live on board a Hive, because they had grown up on a beautiful planet, but, they would be free and able to live a life of their own will without having to endure experiments that someone wanted to make with them. And John knew that this alliance was the chance for not only Atlantis and Todd's Hive, but also for the whole Pegasus-galaxy.

He looked up when he felt a soft touch on his arm and found Snow White standing beside him. The female Wraith who was not a Queen and yet so much more than just a Wraith woman smiled at him.

“We all want to say thank you, John. You gave us our life back and hope for a real future here in this galaxy. You will always be very special to us and you will never have to fear that one of my brothers or me myself shall try to harm you or the ones you care for,” Snow White said and John took her hand and pressed a soft kiss to it.

“I know my sweet Snow White. I trust you and my two mates and I know now that we will be able to form a true alliance. But, it's time for me and my two friends to go back to Atlantis and prepare everything for the arrival of your Hive and the negotiations,” he answered and she nodded her head.

“Yes, John, you will. The Commander has everything prepared for your return.” She surprised him as she suddenly balanced on her toes, kissing him on his cheek, before she made her way back to her brothers. John smiled and left the bridge after one last glance to his two mates Steve and Todd, to go to the quarters where Teyla and Ronon were waiting for him. It was time to go home now.

 

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“Keep the Stargate open, I'll follow you soon,” John ordered and Ronon growled silently, shooting an annoyed look at Todd and Steve who stood behind the dialing console in front of the Stargate, but he obeyed John's unspoken wish to say goodbye to his two Wraith in private and stepped through the Gate, followed by Teyla who smiled reassuringly at John before she disappeared behind the 'curtain' of blue waves.

John cleared his throat and turned to Todd and Steve who stood side by side, watching him with similar impassive masks on their chiseled features.

To his own astonishment he felt a thick lump in his throat all of a sudden and he realized that he would miss his two Wraith deeply until they would see each other again.

He smiled his usual crooked smile in the attempt to not show his sadness, but when he noticed the understanding in Todd's eyes and the twitch of Steve's lip, he knew that he had failed.

“I'm sure that we will see each other soon again, John Sheppard, our Hive will be in orbit over Atlantis within the next two weeks,” Todd stated in his multi-toned voice and Steve nodded his head.

“Don't you ever think that you can stay away from us, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard. You belong to us now and I will make sure that you will never forget it!” he added and John found his good mood again as he watched Steve turn into his usual self again.

“Oh yes, I'm sure about that. You might not be 'my death' any longer, but, I'm sure that you will find another way test my patience,” he snorted and finally was able to make his way to the Gate.

He stopped before the event horizon could swallow him and turned around one last time. “See you in a few weeks, guys. Stay safe!” He waved at his two mates who raised their hands in unison for a last goodbye and then, he turned around and stepped through the wormhole to return to the place that had changed his life, completely.

But, it had been a good change and the human Lt. Colonel John Sheppard now knew exactly where and to whom he belonged – to Atlantis, the Pegasus-galaxy and his two mates Steve and Todd the Wraith.

The End

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