Pairing: Todd/John (with very slight John/Rodney)
Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis does not belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made from this fanwork.
Author's Notes: Thank you so much to paperflowered for the beta!
Summary: There is an old Wraith saying and it goes something like this: "Humans are always food, and occasionally entertainment, but never worthy of trust."
There is an old Wraith saying and it goes something like this: "Humans are always food, and occasionally entertainment, but never worthy of trust."
Todd is reminded of this when the door to his cell scrapes open and Sheppard walks in. "Come to gloat?" Todd asks, flexing his muscles. He can almost smell the life force pulsing thorough Sheppard's veins and his hands ache with the desire to feed. He still has control; he hasn't yet reached the stage where he would ravage anybody who came close to him, but the smell of Sheppard is still intoxicating. It reminds him of those long, cold days in yet another cell where the warm smell of humans wafted through the vents.
To his surprise, Sheppard looks almost hurt. "No," he says. "I've come to tell you that we may be spending a few more weeks on Earth than we first planned."
Todd shifts. The restraints on his arms chafe. He can't help but notice the almost unlimited human capacity for self-deception. "And why are you telling me this?" he growls. "I thought I was going to be kept here as your pet forever."
Sheppard hesitates before replying. "The IOA have decided that when we return to Pegasus, you will be beamed down to a Wraith-occupied planet of your own choosing."
"How generous of them," Todd says, with a sneer. He can feel his head spinning with hunger. It's torture having a human so close to him and yet, so far. "Meanwhile, I'll just starve comfortably in my cell."
"We provide you with food," Sheppard protests.
Todd stares. Sometimes, he thinks that these human allies of his just don't get it. It isn't some sort of sadistic urge that drives him to consume humans. It's primal hunger. It's a necessity. He raises an eyebrow.
"Not that kind of food," Sheppard says quickly.
Todd bares his teeth and is amused when Sheppard winces slightly.
There's a human saying about betrayal being the only truth that sticks. Todd finds it oddly accurate and admires the human who came up with it. If the human was in his cell with him, Todd thought that he might even indulge in the human custom of shaking hands. If he were to accidentally absorb some life force through the handshake, then it would be entirely an accident.
Todd's lying on the bed when the door opens. He finds that lying down conserves energy; this is something he remembers from his long years in Kolya's prison. Although, his current prison is more of a guarded, locked room, Todd finds that it is not much better than the dirty cell. In fact, in some ways, it's much, much worse. The smell of food is so much closer.
"Come with us," one of the humans tells him.
Idly, Todd notices that this human is not one of the Atlantis team. "Where are we going?" he asks, without moving.
The muzzle of a gun prods him in the shoulder. "Move!" the human orders again, this time in a harsher tone.
Reluctantly, Todd swings his legs over the side of the bed. His restraints minimize his ability to move his hands so he's limited to only being able to feed himself human food. Sometimes, Todd wonders if Sheppard knows how much the spaghetti and orange juice is a curse rather than a gift. It only gives him fleeting satisfaction, which is almost worse than nothing.
He follows the humans out of the cell. One of the humans takes up a position behind him and Todd can smell the fear in him. As they walk, Todd recognises the way towards the Atlantis Command Centre.
"Ah, Sheppard," he says, as they arrive. "Did you miss me already?"
Sheppard rolls his eyes slightly at the comment. Todd looks around and sees the entire team there. McKay is typing furiously on a keyboard, while Teyla stands behind him. Ronon is watching him warily, his fingers resting on his gun. Keller is also there, holding a computer in her arms.
"Any chance of removing these?" Todd asks casually, holding up his arms.
Sheppard smiles wryly. "Funny you should mention that," he says. "We would if it could be guaranteed that you wouldn't feed on us."
Todd is starting to get a bad feeling about this. He can sense it in the air around him and in the way Sheppard won't look at him. The stench of humanity is almost strong enough to distract him, but not quite. He feels the urge to feed and knows if his hands were loosened then he would have difficulty controlling himself. However, as his hands are tied, Todd forces himself to concentrate.
Keller steps forward with a pathetically earnest expression on her face. "Over the past few months, I've been working with Carson. We've been using data from Michael's records as well as our own research. We think that we can get rid of the Iratus bug part of your DNA."
"What you mean," Todd says carefully, "is that you want another chance to try to turn me into a human." He takes a step forward, closer to Keller, and is gratified when he sees her step back.
"Not completely human," she counters. "But you won't have the urge to feed anymore."
The thought is tempting; Todd doesn't deny that fact. Feeding has always been one of his greatest weaknesses - but at the same time, it has also been one of his greatest pleasures. It's intoxicating pressing his palm onto a chest. Not every human tastes the same. Many taste of fear, some taste of defiance; John Sheppard tastes of strength and fury. "What makes you think that it will work?" he demands.
Sheppard shrugs. "We aren't positive," he says. "But the IOA wants Atlantis to remain on Earth indefinitely."
Suddenly, it all makes sense to Todd. The clarity with which he sees everything even manages to drown out his overwhelming hunger for a second. "I won't take your charity," he spits. "I'd rather rot in my cell."
As the guards come to escort him away again, Todd sees a fleeting look over Sheppard's face. If he wasn't so hungry, he could have mistaken the look for concern.
There's an old Wraith superstition about death by starvation. It's said that when a Wraith nears death, they can feel what it is to be human, to feel the very life force being sucked out of them. It's supposed to be terrifying. Todd doesn't believe in superstitions. While he was enjoying Kolya's hospitality, he never felt human. Instead, all he felt was a stomach-clenching hunger and a twitch in his hand that never seemed to go away.
Todd feels the same hunger now. The turkey sandwich on his cell floor mocks him with its odour. He's almost glad for the distraction when Sheppard walks into his cell.
"Why won't you take our offer?" Sheppard asks abruptly.
"How would you like to be turned into a Wraith?" Todd counters.
"That's not the point."
"Is it not?" Todd raises an eyebrow. "You are trying to change my genetic makeup. What makes you think that I even want to be human?"
Sheppard's face arranges itself into an expression of surprise and Todd's palms just itch to remove it, to see Sheppard's skin shrivel and tighten until the bright light slips from those eyes. "Do you like starving?" Sheppard says pointedly.
"I prefer it to being human," Todd snaps. "I prefer it to trusting your scientists again." His head is spinning and there is nothing more that he would like than to snap the restraints, push Sheppard up against the wall and suck the very life force out of him, but Todd forces himself to remain calm.
Sheppard takes a few steps closer, his eyes narrowing. "I can see it in your eyes. You're starving."
Todd's head spins as he can feel Sheppard's warm skin just a few inches away from him. Involuntarily, his hands come up, but the restraints do their job and he's prevented from sinking his palm into Sheppard's chest.
"See?" Sheppard points out quietly, stepping back. "We're trying to help you."
Rodney McKay once said that humans have a saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Todd agrees.
He's being hooked up to a human machine that Keller says will make the process faster and less risky. She tells him that it should be painless. Humans crowd around him and attach electrodes to his head and insert needles into his veins. It takes all of Todd's self-control not to rip his restraints and feed on all of them.
"How long will this take?" he asks.
"Several days," Keller tells him. "You need to be hooked up to this for at least eight hours each day."
Todd stares at the needles feeding human drugs into his system and wonders what it would be like to be human, to not feel the biting hunger and the heady intoxication of feeding on defiance. He wonders if humans ever feel anything even remotely close to the kind of pleasure a Wraith gets from feeding.
There are many Wraith secrets that Todd would never dream of revealing to any human, not even John Sheppard. Not even if they were still locked in Kolya's dungeons together. Some of these involve Wraith weaknesses and others involve Wraith technology.
Some of these secrets, Todd isn't even privy to. The Wraith Queens guard their secrets jealously.
When Todd wakes up several mornings later, he feels different. It's a subtle difference but it's there. It feels as though his centre of balance has shifted. The terrible hunger is still there; in fact, it seems to have increased during the night, so Todd knows he's still a Wraith. But, something else has changed and he knows it.
He's almost glad when he hears the scrape of a key in the lock of his cell. He knows it's Sheppard; he can hear the distinct pulses of Sheppard's heartbeat and the unique smell Sheppard exudes. "I bought you some breakfast," Sheppard says as he enters.
"I would prefer a human," Todd growls. "I hear that you have many starving on your streets. I would be glad to take one off your hands."
Sheppard looks up from where he's carefully balancing the tray of food. Todd can tell that he's about to roll his eyes, but he stops the motion halfway through. Sheppard's mouth drops open and the tray in his hands shakes. A bread roll falls to the ground.
"Your drug hasn't worked," Todd informs him. "I'm definitely not human. Why are you staring?" Oddly enough, Todd realises that he doesn't mind Sheppard's stare. In fact, somewhere deep down, he finds it intoxicating, if rather peculiar.
"You..." Sheppard swallows. "You look different."
"Possibly because you're starving me," Todd retorts. "Starvation does not look pleasant on anybody." A vivid image unfolds in his mind of Sheppard's face, his hand on Sheppard's chest, feeding until Sheppard's face seems gaunt and starved. Todd is startled to find that he finds the image erotic.
Sheppard taps his earpiece. "Keller? I think you should come here. Yeah, bring McKay as well."
Todd doesn't like the expression on Sheppard's face. "I take it that I'm exhibiting one of those very rare side effects," he surmises.
"You could say that," Sheppard says. To Todd's surprise, it looks almost as though Sheppard is trying to suppress a smile. He points towards the mirror. "Have you looked at yourself this morning?"
Slowly, Todd walks towards the mirror. He's looked at his own reflection only a handful of times since he was incarcerated in this cell. Wraith ships don't have such adornments as mirrors and Todd doesn't like seeing the hungry look on his face. He looks at the mirror. At first, Todd doesn't see it. It isn't as though he's suddenly turned into a human or into an Iratus bug but as Todd steps towards the mirror, it all suddenly becomes apparent. With fury, he whirls around and narrows his eyes at Sheppard. "This," he says, his voice a low hiss, "is all your doing."
In human culture, Todd finds it surprising how much emphasis is placed on the very minor physical differences between male and female humans. Both human sexes are very similar, unlike the drastic differences between Wraith sexes.
He walks over to the mirror and stares at himself.
The face of a Wraith Queen looks back, her expression twisted into one of discomfort. Todd lifts his hands and run his fingers awkwardly over the bottom half of his face. The restraints stop him from doing more, but he's already felt enough. It feels like half of Atlantis has already traipsed through his cell to stare at him and some of them can barely disguise their amused expressions. "Aren't you glad you've made me into an exhibition," Todd snarls at Sheppard, leaning in. His breasts press up against Sheppard's chest and he can smell Sheppard's sweat. As Todd stares at Sheppard, he suddenly feels something inside his own mind twitch.
It's as though a switch has been turned on. It's as though everything else is suddenly turned off and Todd finds his entire mind, his entire self is focused entirely upon Sheppard. A feeling stirs inside of him and with extreme trepidation that Todd realises what he's feeling.
The heat of the mating call is worse than starvation. Todd finds that he's no longer plagued by the pulsing heartbeats of everybody else. His mind is entirely and absolutely focused upon John Sheppard. He can sense Sheppard walking around Atlantis. He can smell it when Sheppard arches his back in bed and calls out McKay's name. But all of this is bearable compared to when Sheppard comes to visit. Being in the same room as Sheppard is like being bathed in the light of a supernova. It's brilliant and deadly at the same time.
Todd takes a step closer to Sheppard. With surprise, he realises that he can sense Sheppard's quickened heartbeat. Todd's nostrils flare. "Look what you turned me into," he says, gesturing down at his body. They haven't provided him with different clothing yet, and it is doubtful if they will ever provide him with clothing suitable to a Wraith Queen. Yet, even with his normal clothing, the outlines of his new breasts are clear.
"Keller's working on a solution," Sheppard says quickly.
"Undoubtedly her next solution will turn me into a drone," Todd says wryly.
"At least you'd still be male," Sheppard offers, undoubtedly hoping that it would be of some fleeting comfort.
Todd snorts. He leans forward and is gratified to see tiny beads of sweat forming on Sheppard's forehead. "Do you know the differences between male and female Wraith?"
There's a startled expression on Sheppard's face. "No," he says cautiously.
Todd takes a step forward. "Hunger is the least of my problems right now," he says, baring his teeth. "Did you know that I can hear your heartbeat as if it is my own?" He's so close to Sheppard now that if he didn't have the restraints on his arms, he could reach forward and feed. Todd doesn't want to admit that, right now, he wants to do more than feed. He wants to see Sheppard spread out in front of him, a veritable feast to all his senses.
"Keller's almost figured out a solution," Sheppard tells him. "We'll fix this. I promise."
Todd would almost believe him if it wasn't for the racing, pounding heartbeat and quickened breath. "This," he says, his voice a low hiss, "is what I think of human promises." Todd leans forward. He can feel Sheppard's breath on his face and the sudden spike in fear that he can smell. That smell of fear is replaced by a smell of surprise as Todd kisses him. Sheppard's lips are dry and warm. Todd opens his mouth and draws his teeth lightly across Sheppard's bottom lip. The taste of blood makes his knees feel weak.
As Todd steps back, he smiles at the look on Sheppard's face.
He watches Sheppard visibly swallow. "What was that for?" Sheppard demands.
Todd reaches out with both hands and runs the back of one of his palms across Sheppard's cheek, enjoying the shiver that runs through the other man's body at the gesture. He can hear Sheppard's heartbeat race at his touch. Taking a deep breath, Todd can smell Sheppard's arousal. The ache deep inside grows stronger as Todd breathes in a smell that is purely John Sheppard. "That was my promise to you," he says softly and then steps back.
Sheppard stumbles slightly in his haste to leave the cell. Todd doesn't try to stop him. He knows that Sheppard will be back. It's in every motion Sheppard makes. Todd can smell it in Sheppard's sweat and he felt it in the way Sheppard reacted to his kiss. He knows that Sheppard wanted to kiss him back and he knows that next time, Sheppard will.
Todd sits down on the edge of his bed and smiles.