Todd turned off the communicator and beckoned for John to move back into sight. “I am sorry, Sheppard, but there is a complication.”
“What?” John hadn’t been thrilled by the details of this operation to begin with, from the pretending to be a companion to a wraith to the working under the nose of a queen without backup, so he wasn’t sure a complication wouldn’t be worth calling the whole thing off. They really needed to study this lab; there was a rumored cure for Wraiths being developed in it, but there were just too many holes in the plan for John’s liking.
“Our ploy isn’t that uncommon, but it is apparently uncommon enough that the Queen wants proof,” Todd said.
“Proof of what?” John tried to remember which aspects of their plan could require proof. Proof of what they were researching could only be gained after looking at the ruins. Of course, what they were looking for and what the wraith queen believed they were looking for were two different things, but surely a little flash-drive switcheroo would solve that problem.
“You know the only way to get you in here was to claim that you were my pet.”
John frowned. Oh, right, that part of the plan. The part that actually got him into the ruins beside Todd. “Right, and she wants proof? So what, I have to wear a leash?”
“No.” Todd paused and smirked. “Well, you could.”
Todd’s smirk widened. “I thought so.” Then he sobered up. “And no, that is not the meaning of a wraith pet.”
John tried to remember the part of the briefing he had mostly zoned out of, less concerned with his cover story and more concerned with exactly how he was supposed to extract the information from the ancient hard drives in the ruins. “Oh, like those Satedans we found. Humans who work for the Wraith.”
“Sort of. Certainly their conversion was similar.” Todd stopped and looked at the computer.
After a few minutes John growled. “Just spit it out. What are you saying, here?”
“Those three you mentioned could be considered slaves or servants, but of a general nature. A pet is also a slave or servant, but of a more, personal and... intimate nature.”
John nodded. “Oh. Oh! Ooooohhh!” His eyes widened. “Wait now. This wraith queen thinks that I’m your… your…”
Todd looked uncomfortable, for a Wraith. “It was the only way to get us close to the Ancients’ ruined lab. She wouldn't trust a general human servant, but the bonds between a wraith and a pet are unbreakable; unbetrayable.”
John began debating if it was too late to just stun Todd and go back to Atlantis. Surely the database in these ruins wasn’t all that essential, despite what Rodney whined, right? So what if the secret to defeating the wraith was supposed to be in those computers; the work of centuries of study by a team of Ancient scientists. They were doing just fine on their own, right? … Crap. “Okay, so she believes I'm your pet. And because of that she’ll let us study the ruins we need. I can live with that.” As long as Rodney never got word of the details; he’d never let John live that down.
Todd did the wraith equivalent of squirming. “Well, she doesn't exactly believe.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“She requires a demonstration of our bond.”
“And what exactly would that entail, which I'm sure I'll be sorry I asked?” John muttered.
“She requires some proof of our affection during their ritualistic Solar Veil Ceremony.”
“Solar Veil Ceremony?” John asked, deliberately focusing on the least uncomfortable part of the sentence.
“Yes. Without a hive, or access to subspace communications, they have been tied to this planet. They have, over the last one thousand years, become land-dwellers instead of space-dwellers, but they still worship what they can see of space. They have ceremonies once every solar cycle, which is roughly equivalent to your month, linguistically. However, in terms of duration, it is closer to three months.”
“Okay, so they have some kind of regular pow-wow. What about?” John asked.
“They worship the moment that a sister planet passes between them and the sun, as a symbol of the... deity, for lack of a better word, that gave their queen her power.”
Todd snorted. “Actually a ship, I suspect, but they have no way of getting there, and their gate is a space gate, so they have no contact with the outside world. I assume the original intent was to celebrate the fact that the hive was still there when they could see it pass in front of the sun, and over the centuries, the mythos changed. With no ship to hibernate in, and few humans to feed on, these wraith don't have a much longer lifespan than that of their prey. With that many generations, things are bound to get lost in translation.”
John nodded. “Okay, so that makes sense. Now about that other thing you said?” He really didn’t want to ask, but he had to know before they could study the Ancient ruins.
“Proof of our affection.” Todd said. “The Solar Veil ceremony has become a time of declaring of relationships and performing relationship rituals.”
“Okay, so, like, a hug?” John asked, desperately hoping that it could be that simple, though knowing deep down that it wouldn't be.
“More than that. Substantially more than that,” Todd confirmed.
“I'm not kissing you.” John said. Unbidden, he thought about kissing Todd’s human form. Michael had been pretty hot during the human stage between wraith and hybrid, and John had to admit to wondering about Todd’s human face once or twice.
“Kissing is not necessarily required.” Todd said.
“Oh, good.” John was totally not disappointed about that.
“As I understand it, your species copulates without kissing quite often.”
“Copulates?” John squeaked.
“It means to-”
“I know what it means!” John blurted out. “I'm just thinking, we're both men. Men don't usually…”
“There are very few wraith women, compared to the number of men. It is quite common among wraith for two males to copulate.” Todd said nonchalantly.
“But they don't- I mean, they can't…”
John’s brain stalled. He couldn’t think of the words. “They can’t… make little wraith?”
Todd looked confused for a moment before his expression cleared. “You mean procreate?”
“Oh, no, that is only done between a Queen and a male. Drones are incapable of it entirely.”
“Oh, good. And wraith can't-- I mean, with humans?” John wasn’t even sure he wanted the answers to these questions, despite the image of a very sexy human-Todd that had sprung into his mind.
“Research indicates that they may indeed be cross-compatible. Certainly they are from an engineering standpoint, if not naturally so. I'm sure a hybrid could be created in a lab, at the least. But whether that could occur naturally…” Todd shrugged.
John didn’t like the word hybrid, it was too reminiscent of Michael. “So are you saying that we might…”
“No, it would still require a male and a female of their respective species. I believe.” Todd said quickly.
“I have not tested it yet.”
“Oh.” That was reassuring. “Wait, yet?”
“Is that not the correct word?” Todd asked.
John tried not to squirm. “Well, that depends. Are you saying yet as in 'you plan to do it soon' or yet as in 'it could happen someday a long time from now?'”
“I have not picked my next research project. I also do not know how much time we will spend on studying these ruins, or even if the queen will believe us and allow us to study them. I cannot estimate the length of time between now and my next research project.” Todd replied.
John sighed at the Rodney-esque answer. Why was he always surrounded by these scientific types? “Okay, I suppose that's fair. As long as it isn't on your immediate agenda.”
“It is not.”
“Okay, good. Now let’s get back to the part where you were saying that I needed to copulate with you in order to prove to this wraith queen that I'm your pet, so that she will let us study the ancient lab on her planet.” John wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to go back to that part, unbidden mental fantasies or not, but the others were counting on him to get this information from the ruins, and they had already established that Todd’s plan was the best way to get that.
“Are you sure that is the only way to get to it?”
Todd pulled up the map of the planet that their space probe had provided; the ancient ruins outlined in blue. “The lab is in the open, not underground or hidden. It is located right next to the queen's palace. Stealthy reconnaissance of the lab has a very low probability of success.”
“Rodney's done pretty well with low odds in the past. How low are they?” John said, seizing on the slightest out he could.
“Roughly a chance of one in one thousand times we would not be caught, tortured for years, and eventually killed.”
John whistled. “Those are pretty low odds.”
“Okay, so let's say that I go through with this pet thing. And we do… you know. What does… what do you… what does it… look like?”
“Would you like to see?” Todd asked with a smirk.
“No! Yes. Maybe.” John found he couldn’t meet Todd’s eyes. “I'm just… curious, if we're actually going to copulate. I want to know what I'm getting myself in for. I assume that as your pet I will be on the… receiving end.”
Todd nodded. “Generally speaking, yes.”
“So is… it... normal? I doesn't have spikes on the end or curls like a snake or anything weird, right?”
Todd considered that for a moment. “In my experience with human subjects, they are roughly comparable.”
“Okay, good to know.”
There was a long pause.
Finally John found his voice again. “Anything else?”
“Well, as my pet, a certain amount of… affection is expected.”
“You want me to call you pookie?” John snarked.
“If you would like to. Is that a human tradition?” Todd asked genuinely.
“Never mind.” John sighed. “What were you talking about?”
“Close proximity. Hugging. Nuzzling. Acting as though we are sexually and emotionally attracted to each other, rather than being forced into each other's company.”
“Ah. yeah. That'll take a little work.” Regardless of his fantasies, John would find it a little difficult to snuggle with someone who had sucked the life out of him before, regardless of the tentative alliance they had since formed.
“Do you think we should practice?” Todd asked.
“Probably a good idea. Wait, are you hitting on me?” John demanded, seeing the hint of a smirk on the wraith’s face.
“A good pet rarely needs to be hit.” Todd said seriously.
John held up a finger. “Okay, we'll come back to that, but that isn't what I met. Are you saying that we need to practice being… affectionate with each other?”
John considered that. Despite his misgivings, they really did need the information from this lab, if the information on it was accurate. An end to the wraith was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. Pretending to be Todd’s pet really was the best plan they had for getting to the planet.
Right, they’d at least try. And if he and Todd couldn’t be realistically affectionate enough, John would call it off and go with plan B; storming the planet and hoping that the Ancient database wasn’t destroyed in the process. John consoled himself with the thought that, at least here, alone on Todd’s ship in deep space, there was no one else around to see their… practice.
“Okay, I’m in. Let’s practice,” John agreed. “But if you say one word about this to Rodney, I’ll kill you myself.”
Todd nodded. “As you wish… Pookie.”