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Brothers in Arms

John Sheppard would do just about anything to rescue a captured teammate, including work with Todd the Wraith. But that shouldn’t mean he has to be nice to the guy…. Post-”The Last Man”.

Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis belongs to MGM Studios. No infringement intended.

Many thanks to bittermint, dragondancer5150, and spike21 for beta and encouragement.

* * *

The message from Todd was brief: a planetary designation, followed by “He will be here soon.” No need to wonder who “he” was—there was only one man the Atlantis team and the Wraith Todd both wanted: Michael.

John didn’t stop to question it. Todd might be a Wraith, but his intel was good, and he wanted Michael just as badly as they did, for his own reasons. Anyway, it was a lead, a chance for action, and they were all going stir-crazy with the need to do something, anything to get Teyla back. The last disastrous rescue attempt had been three weeks ago. Three weeks of waiting, spinning their wheels without a single lead to follow.

Within half an hour, John had assembled what was left of his team, along with Lorne and a squad of Marines. They took a jumper and were on their way.

They emerged through the gate and landed the jumper on a dry, rocky field. A tumbleweed blew past the jumper’s viewscreen. Beyond the field, a rubble-strewn town sat slump-shouldered and apparently deserted. Dust devils swirled around them.

“I don’t see anybody,” John said. “Rodney, are you picking up any life signs?”

Staring at his hand-held life sign detector, Rodney shook his head. “Inconclusive. There’s too much interference from… something.” He looked at the desolate scene on the viewscreen. “This is one of the planets the Replicators wiped out. There’s still a lot of residual radiation from the destruction. There shouldn’t be anybody here, except maybe a few scavengers. And Michael, if he’s here.”

“I don’t see a ship in orbit. Or on the ground.” John studied the jumper’s sensors, frowning. “It looks like another dead end.”

“Well, Todd didn’t say Michael was here. He said he’d be here soon. Maybe we’re early.” Rodney didn’t add “again.” They all remembered far too well that they’d arrived too early at their last rescue attempt, only to find an empty laboratory that was wired to explode the moment they accessed its computers.

“Maybe. We’re here, anyway,” John said disappointedly. “Let’s check it out.”

They opened the hatch—and found Todd standing there waiting for them, flanked by four warrior Wraith.

The Wraith inclined his head in greeting. “I see you got my message.”

Rodney shook the life sign detector, then slapped it with the palm of his hand. “Still no life signs.”

Todd smiled. “Good. It’s working.”

“What?” Rodney asked flatly. Then he got it. Snapping his fingers, he said, “You’re creating the interference to suppress your life signs. How?”

Todd waved his hand. “Just a little masking transmitter. But we can discuss that later. The one you call Michael will be here in less than two hours. We need to be ready.”

John took a deep breath and nodded once. It was not a trap. Not a dead end. A battle-ready calm washed through him, his hands tightening around his weapon. “How do you know he’ll be here?”

“My hive is tracking his ship. After he has landed, my hive will move in and establish orbit to prevent his ship from leaving. If we deploy our forces correctly, he will be caught in our trap.”

“What makes you so sure he’ll land his ship?” This was Ronon’s question.

Todd gestured towards the buildings nearby. “Come, we have much to go over. I’ll explain along the way.”

As they all began to walk towards the buildings, warriors falling in with the Marines in a way that John found a bit unsettling, Todd continued, “Michael does not control his hybrids well enough to leave them in charge of the ship while he is on the ground. He will land, and take everyone off the ship. We have seen this on other worlds where he has landed.” He paused to point towards the rocky field just beyond the gate. “I believe he will land his ship there. It’s the closest safe area to the laboratory he has set up here. You will need to move your jumper and cloak it. My Dart is already hidden over there.” He gestured vaguely towards a stand of blasted trees beyond the field, then turned to the others with a sly grin. “As Dr. McKay has verified, my masking transmitter will disguise our presence. Michael will land his ship, unaware that he is entering a trap. Once all his people are out of the ship, we will move in and take them.”

As Todd turned to continue towards the buildings, John and Ronon exchanged a look. John cleared his throat. Todd stopped and waited while John came around to stand in front of him.

“Look,” John said, “You’ve obviously done your recon, and that’s good. And you were here first and called us in, so you think you’re in charge of this mission….”

“Why did you call us in?” Rodney interrupted. “It looks like you’ve got the situation under control.”

“I have only four warriors at my side. My hive is depleted, and we have no queen. Michael’s hybrids number at least twenty. I believe that if we can take him out, his control over his hybrids will end and they will no longer be a threat. But getting to Michael through them will not be easy. I thought it best if we work together.”

“All right, together—that’s the key.” John determinedly brought the conversation back around. “If we’re going to work together on this, there’s one thing that’s not negotiable. We want to take Michael out just as much as you do, but even more than that, we’re here to rescue Teyla. She’s not going to be collateral damage. I want your word that she won’t be caught in the crossfire.”

Todd’s serpentine yellow eyes flashed, and he regarded John stonily for a long moment. Then his expression softened and he grunted his agreement. “I understand your devotion to your friend, John Sheppard. I agree. She will not be harmed.”

“And your warriors… ?” John gestured toward the faceless Wraith.

Todd shrugged. “They also agree, since I do. But if you wish….” He turned to his warriors. “The human queen is to be rescued. Do not allow her to come to harm.” The warriors nodded.

It was more than John had expected. Still, he thought it best not to add that the hybrids were mostly Teyla’s people, whom Michael had captured and converted, and they’d like to try to save as many of them as they could. They were all concentrating on Michael. That would have to be good enough. “Okay, let’s get down to it.”

* * *

From the outside, the building was just another abandoned hulk, but inside, it was obvious that Michael had been there—the laboratory was a near carbon-copy of the one they had found during the previous rescue attempt.

“Do not touch anything,” Todd warned, with a smile that made it obvious he knew how much such a warning was unnecessary.

“Thank you, Mr. I-Wasn’t-There-When-You-Blew-Up-the-Last-Place,” Rodney grumbled. “It’s booby-trapped. We know.”

Chuckling softly to himself, Todd looked around the lab. “I do not understand the purpose of this equipment, but it is clearly Wraith-like in origin, as are Michael’s other installations.”

“It’s a maternity room.” Rodney said. “A very creepy maternity room.”

“For the queen,” Todd said, nodding. “But where are the pods?”

“Humans don’t use pods. The baby grows inside the woman.”

Todd grimaced in distaste. “Truly?”

“Okay, enough of the birds and bees,” John interjected. “We get it. He’ll be bringing Teyla here.”

“If all goes well, they will never reach this room. It will be easier to fight them outside, in the open. I suggest you deploy several of your men near the entrance to this building. The rest can be hidden along the route to their most likely landing point.”

“Why don’t we just blow this place up?” Ronon asked.

“Please do,” Todd replied. “After Michael has landed and left his ship. If he sees that the building has been destroyed before he lands, he will most likely just leave.”

“I can set the C-4… ,” Ronon began, but Rodney shook his head.

“We won’t need it. The place is booby-trapped, remember? I can blow it from a distance, just by tapping into the computer with this.” He held up his tablet.

“You sure you don’t need to be hard-wired to their computer?” John asked.

“No. I’m sure. At least, I’m pretty sure. Let me just see….” His hand hovered above the tablet.

John grabbed Rodney’s arm before he could touch the tablet. “Wait until we get out of here before you do that. Or, better yet—”

He glanced at Ronon, who grinned, and said, “I’ll set the C-4.”

It didn’t take Ronon long to plant a few blocks of C-4 and wire it to detonate. John didn’t much like seeing Ronon, Todd, and explosives all in close proximity, considering what he’d learned when a gate malfunction had sent him 40,000 years into the future: in that timeline, Ronon and Todd had died together, working to blow up one of Michael’s installations.

But that wasn’t going to happen now, John firmly told himself. None of it would. He was back, and they were going to save Teyla, and Michael’s plans to dominate the galaxy would end right here.

Afterwards, John went to move the jumper. He parked it near the Stargate, under the assumption that no matter where Michael decided to set down, he wouldn’t land on top of the gate. Since it was out in the open, he left the jumper cloaked, leaving a distinctive-looking rock near the hatch so he could find it again. Then he rejoined the others, who had just finished deciding where to distribute the warriors and Marines.

“The trouble is, we don’t know exactly where he’s going to land,” Lorne told John. “We want to make sure we can get between Michael and his ship, so he won’t be able to retreat to it.”

“My hive has orders to fire on his ship if it attempts to lift off, but… ,” Todd began.

John interrupted, “Not if Teyla’s on board.”

Todd glared at him. “Then your people had better make sure it does not lift off. If he escapes us again, we will not soon have another chance. He becomes more powerful with each passing day.”

“We will. Just tell your hive to fire across his bow, or something. If they blast the ship while it’s on the ground, it’s likely to kill us all, anyway.”

Todd nodded tightly. “Come. I will show you where the warriors have been placed.”

Lorne and Ronon split off to get into position, while John and Rodney followed Todd as he walked toward the field, pointing out the outcroppings and trees where the Marines and warriors were hidden. John had to admit that he couldn’t have done better in placing the men himself. Now, there was nothing to do but wait.

They had turned back towards the settlement when Todd suddenly said, “My hive is as important to me as your people are to you, John Sheppard. You expect me to risk my hive and my warriors to protect one of yours, yet you would not do the same for any of us.”

It wasn’t like Todd to complain about… feelings. John didn’t like it. He didn’t like it with people, and he really didn’t like it from a Wraith. “You asked us for our help. I’m sure you know us well enough by now to know what our terms would be. Take it or leave it.”

Todd stopped and turned to face John, pulled up to his full height, which was considerable. He loomed over John. “And if I said your terms were unacceptable, would you now take your men and return to Atlantis?”

John had had plenty of practice facing down Ronon, who was equally tall and formidable, and declined to be intimidated. “Would you want us to? Four warriors against twenty hybrids, remember. Isn’t that why you wanted us here?”

“We could have remained on the hive and fired on him from orbit.”

“Then why didn’t you?” Rodney interjected. “In fact, if you know where his ship is, why not just destroy it in space?” At John’s glare, he hastily added, “Not that we think you should.”

Todd continued to glower for a moment, then sighed. “As you have seen for yourself, battles between two hive ships often result in the destruction of both. I did not want to risk it. Even if we could disable his ship, we could not be certain that all aboard would die. He has Darts and could easily escape again.” Then his eyes hardened. “My faction is all but destroyed because of him. I want him dead. I want to look in his face as he dies.” He turned on his heel and strode away. John and Rodney were caught off-guard, and had to hurry to catch up.

John made an attempt to be placating. “Look, we both want the same thing here. We want Michael stopped. We sure don’t want him escaping with Teyla again. So let’s just concentrate on making that happen, okay?”

Todd glanced at him without slowing down. His strange Wraith gait, a long-legged glide, wasn’t easy to keep up with. He looks pretty ragged, John thought to himself. The Wraith was obviously on edge. His usual equanimity was badly frayed. How long since Todd had fed? With Michael poisoning the Wraith’s food supply, Todd would risk death every time he fed. He must be getting desperate.

And let’s not forget what it is that he feeds on. No feeling sorry for the Wraith, John firmly told himself.

“Yes,” Todd finally agreed. “Let us make sure Michael is stopped.”

* * *

Todd went off to join his warriors, while John and Rodney stationed themselves near the gate. There was still nearly an hour before Michael’s ship would arrive. Ronon was with some of the Marines guarding the building, waiting to detonate the C-4, while Lorne was stationed with the rest of the Marines closer to the field, ready to move in and cut off any retreat to the ship. Todd and his warriors were arrayed between the field and the settlement. Everyone was in place. There was nothing now to do but wait.

“I wish we had more Marines,” Rodney worried.

“We’re fine,” John told him. “Between Lorne and the Marines, Todd and his warriors, and you, me, and Ronon, we’ve got twenty-one people. That will be plenty.”

“But what if Michael doesn’t land where we think he will? Our people won’t be in the right place to surround him. Or what if he doesn’t land at all? What if he leaves his ship in orbit and just takes a Dart down to the surface? Or, I don’t know….”

“That would be just great, actually. Just Michael and Teyla and maybe one or two others in a Dart? Much easier to deal with than a whole ship full of hybrids.”

“Well, but….”

“If Michael doesn’t land where we think he will, we’ll just have to deal with it. But Todd seemed pretty sure of himself, and he knows hive ships a whole lot better than we do.”

Rodney thought about that for a moment. Then he said, “Todd seemed kind of touchy, didn’t he?”

John shrugged. “Probably just hungry.”

“I don’t know. He wasn’t like that when we were working on Jeannie’s nanites.”

Todd had collapsed from hunger then, unable to work any more until he’d been fed. John didn’t want to think about what he’d had to do to arrange that. “Maybe he had a bad day. I don’t really care about his moods, as long as he helps us get Teyla back.”

Rodney ignored the hint, as usual. “He seems really worried about his hive. I wonder if this is all that’s left of his faction? Between the Hoffan drug and all the Wraith infighting….”

“Fewer Wraith? I’m going to say that would be a good thing.”

“I know, but Todd’s our….”

“Don’t call him our friend. It’s weird.”

“I was going to say he’s our… Wraith.” Rodney paused a moment, then hurried on. “He has helped us. A lot.”

“He’s helped himself. He doesn’t save humans because he likes them, he saves them because he wants to eat them.”

“Yeah, okay, I know that. But still. He saved my sister’s life. We couldn’t have defeated the Replicators without his help. And we wouldn’t be here right now without him. We’d still be on Atlantis with no idea even where to look for Teyla.”

John sighed. “That’s why we don’t kill him. It doesn’t mean we have to worry about his feelings.”

* * *

The wait stretched on. For a military man, this kind of waiting was part of the job. John took a few deep breaths, tuned out Rodney’s chatter, and concentrated on the operation. Michael’s hive ship would land over there on the field. When Michael and Teyla had reached a point approximately half way between the ship and the settlement—marked by a particular rock grouping they’d all noted and agreed on—Ronon would blow the building and the Marines and warriors would move in. If she was able, they knew that Teyla would use the distraction to break away from Michael. If they were lucky, those few moments of surprise would be all they needed to take Michael out. In any case, if everyone did his part, they’d have Michael and his men surrounded and out in the open.

The biggest worry was the risk that Michael would use Teyla as a hostage. John had agreed to let Todd and his warriors be placed closest to the intercept point, in hopes that Michael would think the ambush was an all-Wraith operation, and let Teyla go in order to fight. He’d have no reason to think the Wraith would care about rescuing her. Then, by the time the Atlantis team moved in, Teyla would be out of his reach.

But that left the attack on Michael in Todd’s control for crucial seconds while Teyla got out of the way. Could Todd be trusted to keep Teyla safe in the heat of the battle? Todd really wanted Michael dead, and if Teyla got in his way… no, John wouldn’t think about that. Todd had given his word, and he would have to trust him. Todd had even told his warriors to protect Teyla from harm—not just to avoid hurting her, but to protect her. John didn’t know why Todd would have done that. Perhaps the warriors were too simple to know the difference.

He hated having to depend on a Wraith for Teyla’s safety. Even Todd. Especially Todd. Todd, with his weird sense of humor and his quick intelligence and his casual determination to treat the Atlantis team as his friends. It was too easy to start thinking of him as… as a person. As someone you could trust, maybe even like. But John could never let himself forget that Todd was Wraith: every time they let him walk away, people died for it. Sure, he could count up all the people they’d saved because of Todd—all the people the Replicants would have killed, plus Rodney’s sister, plus even himself, and now Teyla and all of Michael’s future victims—and balance it out and say that Todd saved more people than he fed on, and that made it acceptable. But it didn’t change the fact that as long as Todd was alive, people would die to feed him.

And he didn’t want to think about it any more. John tuned Rodney back in, listening until he picked up the thread of what Rodney was saying, and waited.

* * *

At first, it all went down like clockwork. The hive ship arrived right on time, just as Todd had predicted, and landed in the middle of the rocky field. It was an impressive sight, throwing a wide shadow over them as it settled to the ground, but its landing was whisper-soft, barely stirring a breeze. Somebody was a good pilot, John thought.

A few minutes later, Michael and the others began to disembark. Two of the hybrids came first, followed by Michael and Teyla, then five more hybrids. John squinted at Teyla, her hugely pregnant belly obvious even from a distance, but she was too far away for him to tell more than that she was on her feet, moving under her own power. Even that was good news—however Michael had been treating her, she was still strong enough to walk along beside him.

Four more hybrids followed, and then no more. That made eleven… Todd had said at least twenty, so where were the others? Could some have been left on the ship? Perhaps Todd’s life-sign scrambler had made him suspicious enough to leave a few crew members aboard for a quick get-away. As far as John was concerned, that would be fine. Eleven on the ground meant they had a nearly two-to-one advantage, and Michael and Teyla were all he really cared about.

Michael’s group reached the stone marker. John braced himself. Right on cue, the building went up in a blast of orange flame. John was on his feet before the first chunk of debris hit the ground, running towards Teyla. He could see the warriors and Marines boiling out of the rocks, moving in.

Then it all started to go wrong. Perhaps Michael had seen Ronon burst into view from a distance. Perhaps he knew if he let Teyla get away now, he would lose any chance to use her later. Perhaps it was a fighter’s instinct. In any case, Michael’s first move was to grab Teyla and hold her in front of him, one arm tight around her throat, weapon at the ready in his free hand.

At the same time, there was a rumbling hum, and the ground beneath their feet vibrated: the hive ship’s engines were starting.

The remaining Marines moved into position, blocking Michael’s retreat to the ship. Michael and his hybrids were surrounded. But Michael had Teyla.

John stopped about twenty feet away from Michael and Teyla. He studied her face. She was sweating, and she looked pale and ill. But her eyes were bright and alert, and there was a determined look on her face. A look that clearly told him to do what he must, and she’d be ready. As calmly as he could, John said, “Michael, let Teyla go.”

Michael smiled. “So you can kill me? I don’t think so.”

“You know if you hurt her, you’re dead.”

“And if you hurt me, she’s dead. Looks like a standoff.”

“All right, let’s see if we can work something out.” John took a few steps closer, holding his palms out. “We just want Teyla back.”

Michael glanced off to his left, where Todd was standing, right hand poised to strike, growling softly. “I don’t think your friend over there agrees.”

“He’s not my friend,” John said. “This is my operation, and all I want is Teyla.” He hoped Todd would understand and wait. Once they got Teyla away from Michael, Todd could do his worst; but if Michael realized that, he would have no reason to keep Teyla alive.

Michael laughed. “Please. I have no intention of letting her go. Back off now and let us leave, or I’ll kill her.”

John thought furiously. What could he even offer Michael that would make him let Teyla go? He had to think of something quickly. Todd wasn’t going to hold back much longer.

The hum of the hive ship’s engine changed slightly. Were they powering weapons? Preparing to lift off? John didn’t know, but Todd apparently did. John saw him talking quietly into his left sleeve—communicating with his own hive.

Hold on, John urged him silently. Michael was slowly backing away, pulling Teyla with him, his hybrids keeping him covered. The surrounding Marines and warriors followed, keeping their distance.

A bolt of fire shot out of the sky, striking Michael’s ship. Four more followed in quick succession. Todd’s hive was firing from orbit. John didn’t know whether to be glad or not. No way was he going to let Michael escape with Teyla. But if Michael’s ship was disabled, what would he do? Give up—or kill Teyla out of spite?

A brilliant white light spat from Michael’s ship. Counterfire. It was like no hive weapon John had ever seen.

A few tense seconds ticked away. Then everything went white. John heard a low rumble, then a shock wave hit him. He was blown off his feet, landing on his back with a hard thump.

John struggled to his feet, blinking furiously. An ear-splitting shriek filled the air. Through the glare of afterfire, John made out Teyla on her hands and knees a few feet from Michael, who was standing unsteadily, one hand to his head. Michael turned towards Teyla.

A screaming black streak flew into Michael, slamming him to the ground. It was Todd.

John pitched himself towards Teyla. Still half-blinded from the flash, he saw Ronon reach her first. “Teyla!” he called out.

She was sitting up, hanging onto Ronon for support, exhaustion and pain mixed with the relief in her face. She, like everyone else, was blinking from the glare of the explosion. “John,” she said, as her eyes focused on him. “Where is Michael?”

He glanced past her, to where Todd was kneeling over Michael’s body, howling as he fed. Michael shriveled to an empty husk, then Todd jerked to his feet, still hissing and growling. Abruptly, Todd turned and stalked away. The hybrids lowered their weapons, seeming lost and confused. It was as Todd had predicted—without Michael’s control, they were no longer a threat. The battle was over.

“Um, he’s dead. Todd just… finished him off.” John would have liked to say that no one deserved to be fed on by a Wraith, but he had no sympathy for Michael. Todd’s fury was a little disturbing, though. That explosion….

“Todd?” Teyla was struggling to her feet with Ronon’s help.

Rodney, who’d just arrived, joined them on Teyla’s other side. “He’s the one who told us how to find you. And helped us plan the ambush,” Rodney said, then looked at John. “He looked pretty upset.”

“Yeah, well, I think that explosion was his hive ship being blown to bits.” John looked at the three of them: Rodney, Teyla, Ronon. His team, together again. John sighed happily.

“Kanaan!” Teyla pulled away from Ronon and Rodney, turning to search the milling crowd of hybrids, warriors, and Marines. “Where is he? Kanaan!”

“I am here.” One of the hybrids came to her side, shaking his head uncertainly, as if just coming awake. As he looked at Teyla, a light dawned in his eyes that soon grew into a fire. John looked away, not wanting to intrude on their moment.

Teyla and Kanaan separated, and stood with arms around each other. Teyla was beginning to shake. Relief, probably. But she was also eight and a half months pregnant, and had just been knocked down by an exploding hive ship, not to mention whatever Michael had done to her while he’d held her captive. Time to get her safely back to Atlantis, before anything else could happen to her.

“Teyla, there’s a gate right over there.” John gestured towards it. “Why don’t you get back to Atlantis so Dr. Keller can check you out? Ronon, you go with her. And Kanaan.” Teyla obviously wasn’t going anywhere without the father of her child. “We’ll handle the clean-up.”

Teyla nodded, gripping Kanaan tightly around the waist. Ronon grinned and took her other arm. Ronon hadn’t smiled like that since Teyla had been kidnapped. It was good to see.

But before moving off toward the gate, Teyla asked, “What about my people?”

“They’ll be safe here for now. Lorne and I will round them all up and make sure they’re okay.”

Teyla nodded. He could see she was torn, but getting herself and her baby safely to a doctor’s care won out. She let Ronon and Kanaan help her to the gate. It was slow going, but John waited, watching until they’d dialed and gone through.

Now, back to work. “Okay, let’s get these people sorted out.” Lorne and the Marines had already begun collecting weapons from the Athosian hybrids. He wasn’t quite sure what they’d do with them. Once Michael’s drugs wore off, he hoped they’d go back to being normal Athosians. Kanaan was obviously already nearly there, his feelings for Teyla having broken through his conditioning. But in the meantime—John didn’t like the idea of letting them wander around Atlantis, not knowing what might be left of Michael’s influence. Their home, New Athos, was in shambles. Maybe they could just keep them here for a while. Bring food and medical supplies from Atlantis and let them stay until they were all back to normal.

Rodney, hovering at his side, broke into his thoughts. “Where did Todd go?”

“I don’t know. He went off that way.” He gestured vaguely towards Michael’s ship. “Probably got in his Dart and flew away.” He knew before he finished saying it that it was wrong. Todd’s warriors were still here, helping the Marines with the Athosians. And even if Todd had been willing to leave his warriors, there was nowhere to go in a Dart except through the gate, and they’d have seen it if it had.

“But…” Rodney began to protest.

John didn’t let him finish. “I know. He’s still around somewhere. Probably wants to be left alone. So let’s let him.”

“He just lost another hive.”

“I know.”

“That’s his third hive in what, six months? And that might have been all that was left of his faction.”

“I know, Rodney.”

“He came to us. So we could save Teyla. And now he’s lost everything….”

“Look, Rodney, I get it. The Wraith is sad. What do you want me to do about it? It’s not like I can invite him back to Atlantis and take him out for a beer. He’s just going to have to deal with it himself.”

“Yeah. I just… feel sorry for him.”

“I don’t. He’s a Wraith.” A Wraith who’d helped them get Teyla back. Who helped them defeat Michael. And the Replicators. He sighed. “All right, I’ll go find him. Why don’t you go back to Atlantis, get with Sam and try to figure out what we’re going to do with all these hybrid Athosians?”

“You sure? I could talk to him.”

“No, go ahead. I want to check out Michael’s ship, anyway, and….” Then he remembered: there had been hybrids left on the ship. Hybrids who had fired on Todd’s hive and destroyed it. And Todd had been heading in their direction. “Uh oh.”

Rodney had obviously come to the same conclusion. “What do you want to bet the hybrids on that ship are Wraith food?”

“Yeah.” With Michael dead, a few confused hybrids would be no match for an enraged Wraith. “Let’s not mention this to Teyla just yet.” It was unfortunate, but he was inclined to cut Todd a little slack under the circumstances. He himself wouldn’t have hesitated to kill any hybrids who’d endangered Teyla, Athosian or not.

“Right.” Rodney hesitated a moment. “Are you sure you want to go find him? He might still be on a rampage.”

“It’ll be fine. He won’t hurt me.” As angry as Todd had been, he’d left the other hybrids, the ones outside the ship, alone. He’d known exactly who he was going after, and it wasn’t any of the Atlantis team. “I’ll get a couple of Marines to come with me, anyway, just in case there are still any hybrids hiding on the ship.”

Rodney nodded, then headed for the gate. John called Lorne over to tell him where he was going, and to pick out two of the Marines to accompany him. Then he started for Michael’s ship.

* * *

Todd was sitting on the ramp to the ship’s hatch, hunched over, elbows on his knees, staring at the ground beneath his feet. He looked pretty miserable. John knew what it was like to lose people. But he still had his team. What would it be like to lose so much? Ronon had lost his whole world, and John couldn’t really comprehend that, but Todd had lost his world three times now. My hive is as important to me as your people are to you, Todd had said. Could that really be true? And if it was… to lose Rodney and Ronon and Teyla… to build another team and lose them, and then again….

All right, it would be horrible, and Todd had every right to be devastated. But still… it wasn’t John’s problem, it wasn’t his job to make Todd feel better.

And yet, here he was, and he had to say something.

So what was he going to say? Sorry you lost your hive? He wasn’t sorry, and he wasn’t going to pretend he was. I know how you feel? But he didn’t, not really. Thanks for helping us save Teyla? That, at least, was true, but he didn’t think it would really matter to Todd.

John took a deep breath, and said, “Hey. Help me check out this ship.”

Todd looked up at him, expression blank. Then he grunted, stood up, and calmly headed up the ramp into the ship. John and the Marines followed.

They passed three hybrids on the way to the control room, all fed-upon husks lying in the corridors like thrown-away dolls. “So,” John said, as he noted three more in the control room itself. “I assume you made sure there isn’t anyone else alive on the ship?”

“Hnh,” Todd replied.

John took that as a yes. “Are there any more bodies?”


John spoke to the Marines. “Take the bodies out and put them with Michael’s for now. Maybe we can get some of the others to identify them.” The two Marines picked up the nearest body and went away with it. John and Todd continued to the control room. So, Todd had fed on six hybrids, plus Michael. John said, “I guess you won’t be hungry for a while.”

Todd smiled faintly. “I’ll share with the warriors. They haven’t fed in some time.”

“Oh. Yeah, you can do that, can’t you?” John looked around the control room. He’d been in hive ships before, and knew basically how they operated, but he didn’t know how to access the data he wanted. He should have brought Rodney with him. “I’m looking for anything that might help us turn the hybrids human again. Information on the drugs Michael used. Things like that.”

Todd nodded, and began operating one of the strange-looking consoles. “There is information here. I will download it to a chip. Your Doctor McKay will be able to read it.”

“Good.” John walked around the control room while Todd worked. “How badly damaged is this ship, anyway?”

“Not badly.” Todd didn’t look up from his console. “The self-repair systems are already working. It will fly in a few hours, be fully operational in a day or so. Sooner if it remains on the ground.”

“Really? Pretty souped-up model, isn’t it?”

“Yes. The weapons systems are quite advanced….” Todd stopped, hands dropping from the console. He held himself very still.

Advanced weapons—that had destroyed Todd’s ship. “Hey, maybe some of your people got away in Darts. You said yourself….”

Todd shook his head. “No. They are all dead.” He turned to John, his fist pressed against his chest. “I felt it.”

“Oh.” Another thing he’d forgotten about—the Wraiths’ telepathic abilities. “Well, you’ll get another hive. You’ve done it before.”

Todd gave a slight shake of his head. “There was one aboard this hive who was… special to me.”

“Oh.” Special? Special how, John wondered. Best friend? Lover? Brother? What did those things mean to a Wraith? Special like Teyla? “Sorry.” He almost winced while he said it, but what else could he say?

Todd grunted softly, and turned back to the console. “How is your friend?”

“Teyla? She’s fine. Or she will be. She’s gone back to Atlantis.”

Todd nodded, as he continued his work. Then he paused again. “This information could be very useful to me.” He gave John a grim smile. “In getting another hive.”

“Well, make yourself a chip while you’re at it.” He’d probably regret it later, but it wasn’t like he could really stop Todd from using whatever he could find here anyway.

“This ship,” Todd gestured around himself, “could be converted back to a true hive ship fairly easily.”

Information was one thing, but letting Todd take the hive ship? John didn’t really like that idea. “Now, look, Todd….”

The Wraith tilted his head. ” ‘Todd’? You have given me a name?”

John swore to himself. He hadn’t meant to let that slip out—who knew how the Wraith would react? “Well, if you guys would ever tell us your real names, we wouldn’t have to make them up.”

Todd looked puzzled. “All names are made up, are they not? How is one more real than another?”

“You don’t have one name that your parents gave you when you were born? Well, not your parents, you were born in a pod, but….” Good grief, now he was sounding like Rodney. “Like ‘John Sheppard’ is my name.”

“No, we do not. We are named by our brothers, but that name has no meaning beyond the hive. Others call us by our position in the hive, or what they will, if they have need.”

Named by their brothers. So it was a hive thing… and did that mean that he’d made Todd his brother by naming him? Now, that was really creepy. “Well, don’t read too much into it. We just needed something to call you.”

“Of course.” Todd’s reply was smooth enough, but John could see the pain in his eyes.

Nice move, John, he told himself. The guy had just lost Hive Number Three, with someone “special” on it, and John had to go out of his way to remind Todd that he didn’t like him. “Okay, you can have the ship. Just stay here long enough for Rodney to come back and make sure we’ve got everything we need from it, all right?”

Todd nodded. “With this ship, and the information it holds, I will be able to build my own hive.”

“Great. Just great.”

Todd laughed, a short laugh with a bitter edge. “If you were Wraith, John Sheppard, I would ask you to join my hive.”

“Yeah? Well, if you were human, I’d ask you out for a beer.” At Todd’s raised brow, he added, shrugging, “Same thing. Sort of.” He wasn’t going to pull the rug out from under Todd this time. It wasn’t like they could really join each other’s “hives”, anyway, and Todd knew it as well as he did.

Todd’s laugh was a little more genuine this time. Then his smile faded, and he turned back to the console. A few moments later, he pulled a chip from a slot in front and handed it to John.

It was honeycombed amber, not like any computer chip John had ever seen. “You sure Rodney will know what to do with this?”

“Yes, he will know. In any case, he will be coming back to retrieve the information himself, will he not?”

“Right.” Okay, he was going to get out of here before he accidentally asked Todd to marry him. “Well, I’m going to head back. You want me to send your warriors here?”

“Are they of use to you?”

“I don’t know. They’re helping round up the hybrids, I think.”

“Then let them stay. Send them back when you’re through with them.”

It was yet another thing John hadn’t expected from the Wraith. Seeing John’s surprise, Todd added, “They like to work. It is what they are made for. Here, they would just hover around.” He gestured helplessly. “They worry, but what can they do?”

John knew the feeling.

* * *

It wasn’t the last time John was surprised by Todd: he’d expected the Wraith to be gone as soon as the hive ship was space-worthy, but Todd did in fact hang around for several days, long enough for Rodney to return and mine the ship’s data banks on his own. He also lent a hand and his warriors in setting up a place for the Athosians to stay while they regained their humanity.

Of course, he couldn’t stay indefinitely. It was the third day after the rescue that they heard the hive’s engines hum to life, and saw the ship lift off. Without a goodbye, Todd was gone. John watched it from the hybrid camp, where he and Rodney were overseeing the hybrids receiving some new medications.

“There he goes,” John said. “I wonder if he’ll make it?”

“He will. Didn’t he tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“It was in Michael’s data banks. A list of all the planets infected with the Hoffan drug.” Rodney busied himself with his tablet.

“Damn!” So that was the information Todd had been talking about, that would help him build a new hive! “So now he knows exactly which planets are safe to cull.”

“Yeah. Of course, so do we.”

One day, they’d meet up with Todd again, and there would be no greater threat to humanity, no kidnapped team member to save. Just a hungry Wraith, and the humans he meant to feed on. “One of these days, we’re going to have to kill him.”

Rodney looked up from his tablet toward the field, where Michael’s ship—now Todd’s—had been. “Maybe. But right now, I’m glad he’s okay.”

John sighed. “Yeah. Me, too.”


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