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Little Drop of Poison

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It was wrong, they all felt that, but everyone had different reasons for why.

But the crux of the problem was that they had a Wraith in their prison, and nobody really knew what to do with him. Atlantis had returned home to Earth, and Todd had been placed in stasis because nobody was willing to find the Wraith food.

Now, however, was a different problem entirely. Months later, Atlantis was to return to the Pegasus Galaxy, and that meant returning to the Wraith. The problems facing Todd would no longer exist, and that meant they had to reevaluate what they'd do with the slumbering Wraith.

Todd still had connections to the Wraith, and some authority. If they ever had any hope of inoculating the Wraith and changing their diet . . . unfortunately, their best chances probably lay with Todd. Even if Todd was untrustworthy.

Which had brought them all to Richard Woolsey's office, each determined to argue their case about the Wraith in question.

Teyla had argued that he was still sentient, still deserving of their respect (and Jennifer herself had agreed). Ronon mostly wanted to shoot him. Woolsey, of course, thought negotiation might still be on the table, and well, Sheppard mostly agreed with Ronon. McKay wanted more ZPMs, more technology, but he also didn't like Todd or Wraith in general, so he mostly complained about the whole deal. Carson, at least, was mostly silent, but Jennifer suspected that he felt there was more they could learn about the Wraith before they released Todd.

Woolsey, however, continued to press his case that Todd could be a useful ally if he kept up his end of the deal . . . though Sheppard had quickly argued that Todd would never agree to help them. And, if he did, he wouldn't bother to follow through.

At some point in the discussion, Dr. McKay had snarked, "Well why don't we just wake him up and ask him, hmm?"

Ultimately, Todd had been awakened, though he'd looked surprised that he was still alive.

Once awakened, however, Todd had been swiftly returned to his prison cell, and Woolsey had promptly descended on why they'd awakened him. The whole ordeal had taken entirely too long with Woolsey's bureaucratic attempts at negotiation, but Jennifer didn't dare complain.

"You understand that this arrangement is final," Woolsey explained patiently, after outlining the deal he'd drafted that Todd would be allowed his freedom in order to convince the Wraith to work alongside humans to perfect the serum. "There'll be no changes, no rearranging, no retracting, and no withholding information. Do you understand, Todd? That's the name you go by, right?"

Todd didn't answer beyond a small grunt of agreement, mostly because Sheppard didn't let him.

"I still don't trust the guy," Sheppard complained, leaning against the wall by the prison doorway. "Every time we make a deal, it ends up in his favor. What's to stop him from doing it this time?"

"I seem to recall quite a few of our deals benefiting you as well, Colonel Sheppard," Todd hissed back, drawling out each syllable in the colonel's name.

"We practically gifted you leadership of all the hives!" Sheppard glowered right back, but Todd didn't seem particularly intimidated.

"Leadership I've no doubt lost since my imprisonment here," Todd retorted dryly.

"You stole from us!" Sheppard moved to stand in front of the prison door.

"And you stole from me, Colonel Sheppard," Todd replied, moving to stand in front of the colonel on the other side of the prison. "Neither of us are without our own share of the blame."

"We can't just send him somewhere alone!" Sheppard turned to face Woolsey. "He can't just be allowed to go out there on his own."

"I'll go," Ronon volunteered, leaning back on the opposite wall besides Amelia. He stopped twirling his gun around on his finger, and pointed it straight at Todd. "I have no problem shooting him if he gets out of line."

"I'll go, too," Amelia volunteered, placing a calming hand on Ronon's arm.

Or, at least, that's what Jennifer assumed she was doing.

"Why bother sending the brawn?" Rodney complained, glancing up at last from his tablet. "They can't read Wraith! For all they know, he could be typing in his little Wraith language where we are and how to kill us as soon as he leaves here!"

When everyone turned to look at Rodney, surprised that he seemed to be volunteering, he promptly waved his tablet around. "What? I'm not volunteering! I have no desire to be around a bunch of life-sucking vampires!"

Todd looked as unhappy with the idea of being stuck with Rodney as Rodney himself looked, though Todd, at least, didn't bother to say anything.

Jennifer sighed to herself. She cared about Rodney—she suspected she always would—but though he'd been her intellectual match, and she'd been thoroughly charmed in the beginning, it had begun to dry out. It wasn't his fault, she admitted that to herself, but while at first she'd thought his stammering and scaredy-cat attitude was cute in his own way, now she couldn't help but wish that he was more than ego and fear. Rodney was brilliant, and he was caring, but it wasn't enough to balance out the rest.

Perhaps that was why she'd broken things off a few weeks before.

"Well, who else would you recommend, Rodney?" Sheppard's tone was mocking, and Rodney easily rose to the bait.

"Send Zalenka! He's not me, of course, but he should at least be able to keep an eye on one Wraith!" Rodney huffed as he typed something in on the tablet.

"Neither Rodney nor Zalenka have the diplomatic skills necessary for this," Teyla spoke up, eyeing Rodney and Woolsey carefully. "And I cannot leave my son or my people for so long, Mr. Woolsey."

"You don't need diplomacy, just someone who understands medicine and DNA," Jennifer added with a shrug. "That's what we want, right? A cure for the Wraith?"

"Yeah, but do the Wraith want it?" Sheppard demanded, waving a hand towards Todd.

"We do," Todd agreed. "It is to the benefit of both of our peoples to find a working cure as quickly as possible."

"He's said that before," Ronon pointed out. "I still say we shoot him. We can figure this out on our own."

"I don't know, Ronon," Carson spoke up. "What we've done so far isn't working. Nobody understands the Wraith better than the Wraith. I think Doctor Keller is right, that we should work side-by-side."

"Yeah, but who's to say he'll use the cure after we find it, make it, and then release him?" Sheppard clearly sided with Ronon, and without any trust, there was no way their plan could go through.

"We have a deal, Colonel," Woolsey reminded them.

"And he's broken those before," Sheppard pointed out.

"I would not do so this time, Colonel Sheppard," Todd replied, sitting back down on the bench in the cell. "But the longer I am in here, the more power I will lose out there."

Jennifer exchanged glances with both Carson and Teyla; this was getting them nowhere. They could sit around and argue until they were blue in the face, but unfortunately, Todd was their best chance of solving the puzzle. Without him, it could easily take years, if not decades.

"Look, we can't work on it here," Jennifer spoke up, hoping that, this time, the others would be more willing to listen. "We haven't been able to work out the enzymes needed to substitute his diet. But if we all worked on mutual ground, together, we might get somewhere. Carson and I," she smiled at Carson, who nodded, "are both willing to go and take whatever risks to make this work."

"You may be, doctor, but we can't afford to lose both of you," Woolsey remarked calmly. "I'm afraid I could only let one of you go."

She knew he'd pick Carson before Woolsey said anything further. Carson was still, in some ways, seen as an outsider, a clone. As much as he'd proved himself, to many others in the IOA and back home, Carson was still a security risk, and therefore, more of an acceptable loss.

But Jennifer refused to let him go. This was why she'd returned to Atlantis. This project needed her as much as she needed it, and she did need it. She'd save so many lives if she could work this out, and that was why she'd gotten into medicine in the first place. She took risks, she reveled in them, but most of all, she craved adventure, craved the adrenaline that rushed through her. But more than that, she wanted to heal, she wanted to make a difference, and most of all, she needed to be needed.

If Carson went, she'd return to being his replacement on Atlantis, and she could be so much more.

So, she interrupted Woolsey before he could continue.

"Okay, then I'm going." She spoke with finality, daring them to argue with her. "Dr. Beckett started out studying the Wraith, but I took the project over, and I've worked with Todd before. I know what he's capable of, and I know his tricks. I've been working on the cure myself. Dr. Beckett, he may not be trusted by the Wraith—he helped create Michael. Not that it was your fault, Carson; we couldn't have predicted that," she added, giving him an apologetic smile. "But it's different with me."

Teyla inclined her head. "The Wraith . . . do not handle betrayal well."

"I'm not sure I agree," Woolsey replied. "Dr. Beckett has a lot of experience with Wraith DNA, and I'm sure the Wraith will understand why he's necessary. You could help from Atlantis, of course," he quickly added, "but I think it'd be best to let Dr. Beckett accompany Todd. I'm sure Todd wouldn't disagree."

Jennifer moved to stand in front of Todd's cell, though whether she did that because she wanted to prove she could handle the Wraith's overwhelming presence or because of something else, she didn't know.

Todd, however, met her gaze head-on as he rose once more to his feet, and narrowed his eyes as if he dared her to look away.

She didn't. She glared right back, though her heart pumped furiously away in its excitement. In her mind, she saw the times they'd worked together before, his tricks and games, and her heart raced with the thrill of the challenge.

This was worth living for. Todd could keep her on her feet, and challenge her in ways Rodney never could. That even Atlantis couldn't.

"I will accept your terms, Mr. Woolsey," Todd drawled a moment later, "but only with Dr. Keller's aid."

"Now, Todd—" Woolsey began, but Todd seemed to have lost his general lethargy and apathy.

"It is on those terms, or we have no bargain," the Wraith pressed.

"I don't think you really understand your situation here, buddy." Sheppard glared at Todd from beside Jennifer, but the Wraith didn't seem to move his eyes from the doctor. "You're the one in the cage, and you're the one who's going to starve if you don't help us."

"And yet without me, you will have no cure, and no way to pass it to the other Wraith," Todd drawled. "Do we have a deal, Mr. Woolsey?"

Jennifer held her breath, hoping no one else would argue, hoping they would let her, hoping—

"It has to be a planet of my choosing for the compound," Mr. Woolsey said, straightening his tie. "I want Atlantis personnel allowed on the compound at all times, and I want progress reports daily. I also want information on the Wraith who join the compound, and the addresses of your hive ships."

"Done." Todd agreed too easily, and Jennifer narrowed her eyes as he studied her.

He's up to something, I know he is, she thought to herself as Woolsey almost reached out to shake hands with Todd to seal the deal.

But even as Sheppard and Ronon looked unhappy with the deal, even as Woolsey made plans, she kept her eyes on Todd. And once the bargain had been struck and settled, Todd, slowly, smirked at her.

And Jennifer, without realizing it, fell into a new obsession.