Characters: John Sheppard/Todd, past Sheppard/McKay, Todd/William Shakespeare (yeah, sick, I know)
Prompt: Tourist Attractions
Category: Angst, Romance
Summary: Todd's hive has lived on Earth since the defeat of Ra. He wants John for his Companion, but John has his own agenda.
One Thousand and One Days
John first meets the Warrior Poet at a planning meeting out in the Nevada base. As a test pilot, he's fairly extraneous at administrative functions, but since Rodney is miserable and misery loves company, John is lucky enough to attend. Rodney hadn't even bothered to mention that an Immortal would be there - a typical Rodney oversight. John couldn't care less about politics, but even he is a little embarrassed to show up in jeans and a t-shirt instead of the customary white tunic.
Mr. Woolsey, who John has never seen in anything other than the formal flowing white of a Worshipper, is in his element, greeting their guest with his most obsequious bow and following the welcoming ceremony with precision he could only have learned in Japan-grounds. But instead of focusing on the intricate comity he must know so well, the Immortal seems only to have eyes for John, who flushes under his accusing eye.
Later, after Rodney has presented yet another brilliant insight that John only follows so far as to understand that he will get to fly a new Immortal fighter craft in the near future, John finds himself alone in the conference with the Warrior Poet, trapped there by a current of emotion communicated directly to his mind.
"Who is this one?" the Warrior Poet asks, drawing images around John and luring him closer. "It has been a long time since I smelled such defiance."
John blushes, man enough to admit he is frightened. The Immortals only rarely take Class A citizens for food, unless they have outlived their use, but John hears occasional, whispered stories. He is not cowed by fame or power, but by the avaricious gleam in the Immortal's yellow eyes.
But his father sent him to a good school of worship. He knows to hold his head high, meet the beast's wild eyes with a seductive smirk and a deferential bow. He doesn't get to the bow, halted by the Warrior Poet cupping his chin with cold fingers. Its skin feels like silk over steel - soft and hard at once, just as the Warrior Poet is both the best advocate for humane treatment of the herd and the most devious of generals in the wars with the Goa'uld.
John remembers the war from his brief time in infantry, before they reversed the effects of the Immortal retrovirus and allowed him to rejoin civilization, if only as a lab rat for testing. John has always borne the blood of the Ancient Enemy. He is lucky to be flying planes rather than locked up in a cage for study.
The Warrior Poet pulls John to him, claws digging into John's back. It's hard to fight his instinct to struggle when faced with a predator, but John drags in deep breaths of the Immortal's sweet musk, leaning into the embrace rather than away.
"Let me taste," the Poet whispers. "Beautiful, burning defiance. An ode to what might have been. I would love to vanquish you as in the days of old. I could take you to the Running worlds and let you taunt me in exquisite foreplay. But waste not, I have told my brothers. And you are far too beautiful a thing to waste."
John could always say no. Many of the remaining Immortals have taken Companions, and taste tested those auditioning for the right. The new laws require consent from possible Companions, but so far as John knows, no one has ever said no for fear that an angry immortal would simply feed.
He reaches down to shyly pull up his shirt, revealing the vulnerable skin of his heaving chest. In the movies they make feeding look easy, but John heard the screams before the door shut on the Wise Mystery, leader of this facility. Pain like that does not lie.
The Poet caresses John's chest, making him shiver. He can't be sure if it's out of fear or that strange, silky skin rubbing against sensitive nipples. He wants to cry out, but he holds it in. He's always believed that there was something wrong about the Immortals - more than his simple fear of them. It wasn't right that people should die so that they could live, even if the people who died were undesirables.
John sometimes brags about standing up to the Immortals in little stupid ways - like when he ran away from home to sneak into a Class B school for a month, or daring to gather in secret to speak about an overthrow he knew would never happen. But it seems stupidly hypocritical now, when he has one standing before him, hypnotizing him with those fierce gold eyes.
The Poet leans forward, trying to bring his lips to John's, with those sharp, disgusting teeth and those strange eyes and all of a sudden, it hits John - this is an alien. Coupling with an alien is completely unnatural. John's body cries out with the wrongness of it. He barely suppresses a flinch when the Poet's hand moves up to loosely grip his neck. John can feel the feeding mouth opening, waiting to suck his life in, or maybe to kiss.
He's not sure what sick fascination brings him to do it, but he grabs that hand, bringing to his mouth so he can press kisses along the delicate membranes of the palm, lick along those unnatural lips as he would a lover's. The Poet shudders from his touch, watching John with rapt, yellow eyes.
"In all your years," John grinds out, feeling power surge up from within. "Have you ever been denied?"
The Poet snorts. "Long ago. Only one could lie with the Queen. I would not insult her by taking a lover such as you. It was beneath me."
"Then you don't know courtship," John whispers, his fear and defiance edging him forward. "You don't know how it is to want and wait for a lover's consent. How sweet it is when they finally give in."
The Poet's breath catches. His other hand snakes down John's waist and beneath his shirt, claws leaving subtle scratches on John's back. "I know how defiance tastes. I know the sweet rush of victory. I know patience, a thousand years of sleep in the void."
"But, have you ever had a consort who was with you because he wanted to be?"
"The Gift of Life creates many--"
"The Gift of Life isn't love," John can't believe he's daring to interrupt this disgusting creature who could kill him where he stands. He can see it now, turning the Poet's simmering want into power, control over those who had controlled John's people since the dawn of time. And then, when he's intruded into their innermost circle, he could end it once and for all. Rodney says that the Immortals had allowed him enough access to their technology that if they all died, he could keep the world running at the same level of technology.
Suddenly freedom didn't seem like just an empty word. For the first time in his life, John realizes that it's attainable.
"Love is humanity's greatest gift. Its strongest weakness," the Poet acknowledges. "All these years and I have not known it."
"You're missing out on the most beautiful of human poetry."
The Poet nods. "That reminds more of my favorite Companion, the Rose. He wrote 'Alas, that love, so gentle in his view, Should be so tyrannous and rough in proof.' He wrote such beautiful plays." The Poet seems genuinely sad. John can't imagine finding those to share your life then watching them all die when their bodies aged beyond even the healing powers of the Gift of Life. The Rose had taken his own life, if John remembers his history correctly. "But he loved another. I should have seen in the depths of his tragedies, so much longing that I did not think to value." The Poet had not taken a Companion since.
"Then value it. Let me fall in love with you." John could even find admiration for the Poet. Of all the Immortals, the Warrior Poet was both the most mysterious and the most sympathetic. Something in those glowing yellow eyes spoke of caring. And caring opened the door for manipulation.
"Yes, I think I shall," the Poet acknowledged. "What will I call you, John Sheppard? Are you more precious than a Rose? More dangerous, certainly. A Defiant One? A Brother? A Tiger? A Swan?"
"You will call me John. The question is, what should I call you?"
"My title will suffice."
"No, a name. You want to experience human love? Human love comes between equals."
"My true name is," completely unpronounceable - a silken whisper wrapped in images of many a battle, hard won, the mysteries of science, wonders of the universe.
"You sound like a Todd to me," John replied.
"Todd, then," the Immortal replies, reaching once again for John's chest.
"Hey, not so fast." John is quick to pull his ripped shirt back over his heart. "When you've earned it."
"I can't believe the Poet wants Soldier Sheppard as a Companion. I mean, one of a hundred of his kind verses two billion people on this planet and who knows how many on other worlds and he picks Sheppard?" McKay is nothing if not consistent - whining even though this is a great victory for them.
Carson shakes his head, sitting across the table from John. "Don't mind him, lad. You're a fine catch, for an Immortal or otherwise. I'm just worried about the exposure from this. I worked with the Curious One on several projects designed to increase the efficiency of the feeding process and it's quite clear that during feeding, the Immortals gain even greater access to the mind. We may have to leave John out of our future plans."
"It's okay, guys. I haven't let him feed yet. And I'll kill him before I do. I'll just keep stringing him along until we can execute the plan."
"What plan?" Rodney shakes his head, looking grumpy. "The Immortals are never in the same place at the same time. Some don't even come to Earth anymore. And if we did manage to overthrow the ones who are here, there are still the others and plenty of Goa'uld ships out there for them to hijack."
"Well, there is a more biological option. If I could get anyone other than the Curious One as my supervisor and get some time alone in the lab, I think I could engineer a virus. The Immortals were human once, like the soldiers. With access to the stem cell samples we use to reverse soldiers like John I might be able to turn them human."
"They still have control over the kill switch on Dakara." Rodney looks like he's suddenlin the middle of one of his epiphanies. "Earth is shielded, but if Carson's virus can take out the Immortals here, we could use the kill switch to wipe out the rest of them."
No small task. But then it beats being a sex slave to a monster for the next couple hundred years, watching Rodney and Carson and everyone he knew get older and die before he appeared to age a day. "So all I have to do is get Carson away from the Curious One, find him lab time and access to stem cells. Then I have to seduce an Immortal without letting him feed on me, release a plague, get us all to Dakara and fight the Immortals there and then use the weapon. Simple."
"We're all going to die," Rodney adds. John's afraid he may be right.
Todd's new quarters on base are luxurious, covered in the finest silks and the most beautiful paintings. The lighting is dark, but seductive too. He's made an effort with the food as well. Though Immortals have different taste buds than humans, John finds that it's the finest meal he's ever had, even coming from a very wealthy Class A family.
"To progress," Todd raises his wine glass, smiling subtly at John.
"To courage," John adds, for himself more than Todd.
Todd has lived many years. He's had many lives. His history is human history. The war with Ra, the first ruling council, the establishment of the Class system. John is surprised to learn that Todd had been the one to suggest that Class Bs be allowed to develop human society on its own, as though there were no Immortals, while keeping Class Cs for consumption and Class As for well-paid service.
"Why not leave all of us alone?"
Todd laughs, his eyes age-old and wild. "Some days I wonder why we did not. But the Goa'uld are a formidable enemy and with their armies of Jaffa, we could not fight them on our own. They are a threat to you as much as they are a threat to us, John. We are together in this. And the Undesirables in your society - just as well that we consume them. Otherwise, what a burden to human progress."
John can understand that. He has never met a Class C. The do not live long past the age of maturity. John has heard stories from the Class As whom the Immortals task with tending the undesirables. They are disfigured, sometimes immobile, sometimes too dumb for coherency, sometimes unbalanced and dangerous. And sometimes, they have special gifts - intelligence that belies their outward form, brilliant truisms in the madness. John had made friends with Evan Lorne, the warden of Nevada's biggest Class C processing facility and he had mentioned that every time he brought a good case to appeal Class C status, the Immortal in charge had always approved it.
"You have discovered much in your young history, John. In the beginning, we took the Class As in the wilderness of the North or to the base of the Ancient Enemy in Antarctica. We allowed rulers to gather Class Cs for us in dank dungeons that stank of rot and filth. The average man did not know of us and if he did it was Poetry, legend. But you are such a curious race and soon you had 'conquered' the planet, laid claim with meaningless borders, wasted so many lives in war. But you grew smart and developed technology of your own right and look at you now! We are so old I sometimes wonder if the Wise among us are too set in our ways to learn. But you! In mere thousands of years you have invented mathematics to rival ours. You understand the works of the Ancient Enemy whose blood you share and both our civilizations are the greater for it."
It sounds more like the relationship between a parasite and a host to John. The Immortals enslave just as the Goa'uld do. The only difference is that the Immortals did not ask to be worshipped. People simply worship them. And that disturbs John even more than the avarice in Todd's eyes.
"Tonight I will have you?" Todd begs.
"You just told me four thousand years was a short time. I think you can wait."
"I will not stand for this! I have given you gifts! The rarest foodstuffs! The finest things! And still you will not allow me to taste you!" Todd punctuates the statement by throwing a bouquet of lilies off John's balcony.
"Maybe I don't want flowers," John replies. "Maybe I don't want things. But you've never bothered to ask."
John sighs, watching the world fall away beneath him. This ship is like nothing he's ever seen and it's capable of going through the ring, making it a perfect vehicle to attack the stronghold at Dakara. But right now he's nothing thinking about that. He's reveling in the simple joy of the atmosphere thinning, space cold and dark and beautiful around him.
Todd is watching him and not the beautiful blue marble that is the Earth. The Immortal licks his lips. "You grow more beautiful by the day," he whispers, stroking a hand down John's face. John doesn't have the instinct to flinch away this time. He leans into the touch and for a second he feels the compulsion in his mind. He could give it away. It's what he wants. It's what Todd deserves for an experience like this, but then John snaps out of it. If Todd can read his thoughts then that would be it, not just for John but for Rodney and Carson too.
"I know what you're doing," John snaps. "No more mind games. And you owe me something spectacular for even trying it on me."
Todd snorts, but acquiesces, releasing John with a lingering touch, the kiss of his feeding lips against John's cheek.
Todd makes up for it by taking John to the Grand Canyon. It's not at all what John expected, but it's impressive nonetheless. John has been here before, but there had been no Immortals about. In fact, Immortals tended to prefer dark, moist places. Their meeting halls were all cool sunken caverns, hidden from heat and daylight. They had hide from burgeoning human civilization in the North, not bothering with the tropical jungles that could have kept them hidden to this day.
"Why here?" John asks.
"You are a man of stark beauty. You love space and solitude. I taste other realities sometimes. You either die surrounded by ocean or in a vast desert."
"So you brought me here to kill me?" John is long past that fear. Todd wants him too much to do away with him. But still, a predator speaks of death in a way that makes it all too palpable for John's tastes.
Todd laughs. "I brought you here because I knew you would like it, and you would like watching me struggle to do as humans do when I could have a dart bring us back to the base to my bed with a simple call."
"So we're camping?" John asks, astounded. He has never known an Immortal to stoop so low. "I do love to camp."
Todd nods, hoisting on a backpack and following John down a narrow trail into the Canyon. Immortals don't so much sweat as turn a paler shade of green under the intense heat of the sun. Todd doesn't complain however, staying focused on John.
It's not until they have made camp above a brilliant turquoise-colored waterfall that Todd throws himself heavily to the ground and asks, "Why do humans do this?"
John smiles. "You said it yourself: we're a young species. We're not that far from the wild."
"When my kind were of the wild, we were nothing but mere insects. We did not find beauty in red rocks and deep gorges in the ground. We wanted warmth and water and to feed. It was not a life to be glorified."
"You used to be bugs?" John is surprised by this.
Todd chuckles. "Bugs no bigger than one forearm. It was one day when a bug fed on a creature much like yourself that their DNA meshed and we Immortals were born. Civilization took a single step from the darkness into the light. Nature for us is comforting dark and warmth, as it would have been on our Mothership."
"Your ship?" John asked. The Immortals let humans write the history, and as far as humans could understand, it began with the death of Ra, when the Immortals allowed all human beings to write for the first time.
"It crashed here long ago."
"But you said you were bugs before you meshed with humans."
"I didn't say we meshed with humans of Earth. The Ancient Enemy seeded your species throughout at least two galaxies. Maybe there are more out there - rich feeding grounds that our brothers may discover one day. But enough history for now. I will bring you to the crash site one day and you will understand. Perhaps then you will no longer fear me."
John is shocked. "I don't fear you," he responds automatically.
"A part of you does. For all your defiance, you are smart enough to know what I can to do you." Todd extends his feeding hand to run up John's bare chest, under his shirt. "You fear letting me taste you."
"I don't. I told you. I don't want to resent you. I want to be with you because I want to, not because you're making me."
"I have hiked here for you. We are here with the sun setting over these luminescent pools. I would tell you our history even though it is forbidden. I would have you now if not for the strength of how much I have grown to care for you in these short days." The Immortal's chest heaves. He trembles with want, using his unnatural strength to yank John over to him until John is pressed against his cool skin, practically sitting in his lap.
John's heart beats faster. Is it fear that's making his cock go hard? Or is it something hypnotic in the Immortal's eyes? Is it the wisdom of lifetimes lurking in that grotesque smile? John leans forward inexorably, bringing his lips to touch Todd's. The kiss is not disgusting. Those black teeth do not taste of rot. In fact the Immortal tastes too clean, without even the salty flavor of sweat.
John moans into the kiss as a long tongue meets his, caressing it gently. The Immortal lifts John up effortlessly, carrying him down into one of the pools that now glow red with reflections of the sunset. He lays John out on his back, peeling off his own dark clothes before divesting John of the simple white robe he chose more for the heat than for formalities.
The Immortal's spine is a ridged carapace, but it's not sharp, only hard when John presses against it, pulling Todd to him for another kiss. Todd's feeding hand is gaping again, and John must pull it from his chest, allowing the Immortal to kiss and nip delicately at his neck. "Among my kind this is so much more intimate than feeding," Todd admits. "Had we not lost our Queen, I would never get to do this."
"But you have done it before?" John asks.
"With only one Companion. She was the Queen of a desert people, in the land of Ra, but after his fall. She did not fear me. She did not even fear my wrath when she took mortal lovers and bore their children. She was beautiful, my Cat Goddess. It was hard not to intervene when they killed her in their mortal war, for empires that covered a continent only to crumble in an instant. I wanted her to be my Queen and carry on our species, but she could not be. Even the Curious One admits that our hive will eventually die here in the land of plenty."
"I can't bear your children for you," John whispers. "But I can give you this. It's what I have to give." He leans down, surprised to find two barbed protrusions instead of the familiar smooth cock. He tests the strange ridges with his tongue. They could do damage if extended, but if Todd's previous lover had gone on to have more children, it couldn't do too much damage.
"In the water," Todd whispers against John's skin. "My kind prefers to be in the water."
He picks John up again, lowering him into one of the pools like something precious. But then he's there, pressing John up against a hard rock at his back and kissing him, deeper this time, a hand stroking John's own erection. "It's best I did not name you. No description would suit you better than John. I could not find the Poetry to describe what you do to me."
Then something nudges at John's hole. It feels like fingers, but he knows with Todd's claws it can't be that. It twists with a kind of drilling motion, pushing inside. John gasps at the sensation as it brushes up against his prostate, biting down on Todd's narrow lips with a whimper. It feels so good and John wants more. He wants all he can get.
He hitches his knees up, wrapping his legs around Todd's body and crying out as what he assumes must be the other part of the bifurcated penis enters him. The friction is softened by some kind of natural lubricant that Todd must give off, but he can feel all those ridges all the same. They feel amazing, twisting and expanding and drilling into him as Todd thrusts up into him. He's lifting John now and carrying him to the center of the pool where he hugs him tight, the strange penis still pistoning inside. John comes before he realizes what's happening. Then he's holding on for dear life as Todd grabs his hips and moves him up and down to match the thrusts, hitting John's prostate every time.
"If I were to feed," Todd grinds out. "You would stay hard for hours."
John shakes his head. It's hard to find words with his mind soft from orgasm and Todd still pushing in to him. "I can get it up again," he finally manages to pant. "Use me until you're done. Trust me, I'll enjoy it."
"Very well," Todd sighs, suddenly flipping John around so he's leaning against the side of the pool so he can use all his strength to fuck John hard. John practically cries when the appendages inside him massage his prostate even harder. His arms are shaking from the effort of propping himself up when he feels himself get hard again.
"I will ejaculate soon," Todd warns him. "You should be prepared."
John has just enough time to wonder what the hell that means when the things inside him seem to swell to twice their sizes and something burning and tingling spills inside him, only adding to the feeling of being split open. John screams, collapsing hard and letting Todd hold him still while he shakes through the weirdest orgasm of his life.
He doesn't remember Todd lifting him out of the pool or wrapping him in a fresh white robe. He comes back to himself looking at the stars, propped up against Todd and high from adrenaline and whatever ejaculated inside him. He feels powerful now. He feels on top of the world.
"That's not as good as it could be," Todd remarks, pulling John against him for a kiss. "But it's enough for a very long time."
John can't think enough to form the words to agree so he curls against Todd and watches the stars peak out to steal the twilight into the stark beauty of night.
John is content here and it scares him.
The ship is old. It smells of rot and must and dead and dying things. But John is fascinated. Carson has made progress with his virus thanks to John's information about the origins of the Immortals and the insectoid nature of the stem cells he's using, but if he could bring Rodney here John envisions an even better end to the rule of the Immortals.
John is smeared with some kind of disgusting slime from where Todd took him against the walls of what had once been a mating chamber earlier. He had enjoyed jokingly reminding Todd that he couldn't get pregnant, but had secretly been a little worried. The last thing he wanted was to help create more Immortals.
"So this is how you came here." John is in awe. The ship is the same size as a Goa'uld pyramid vessel, but it's living. In fact, it's still alive, even if the altered sections of John's DNA help him feel its sickness.
"Yes. This was once the only one of our vessels capable of traveling between galaxies, but now it is nothing but an empty hulk, a museum to our old glory."
"Your old glory?" John asks, stunned. "Your people rule most of the worlds in this galaxy!" John hopes that what he's saying is more than just propaganda, that the endless wars have had some purpose, that John had been a Soldier and then had that power ripped away for something meaningful.
The Immortal chuckles, stroking a hand down John's back like he is some quaint pet. "Power is meaningless without the ability to reproduce. Without our Queen we are nothing more than drones in a hive, living out eternity in fear of our deaths. Our hive is already extinct, though we live on. Without our Queen the bounty were came to capture is meaningless."
John can't understand. The Immortals have whole societies that worship them. Now that the Goa'uld are nearly defeated, the Immortals will not even need to fight. They are the only truly Free beings in the galaxy. How could they be unsatisfied? "You're Immortal. How can you be extinct?"
"We cannot live forever even if we need never die. It may take a million years of accidents and suicides, but eventually there will be none of us left. We will have reached the limits of our progress by then. Without new blood, we settle into old ideas. Without the drive for war we will become even more complacent. Our society will die with a whimper while our Brothers a galaxy away will breed, evolve, grow stronger, all because of scarcity."
"You can't want that." John tried to imagine a world full of uncertainty, where he might face death by starvation, of all the ridiculous things. He tried to imagine the world before the Immortals intervened, when people fought each other for something so stupid as territory.
Todd looks sad, even though John never figured him for a melancholy figure. "Once, I would not have bothered with the opinion of a human. Once, you would have been nothing more than an exquisite meal, to be savored, not indulged. I would have commanded armies."
"You still do."
"A shadow of what I had. We fed from most of our Drones to make the journey here. They are like the Soldiers, but the mental connection is even more of the parody you felt when you fought. Imagine living with a thousand eyes, being everywhere and fighting everywhere at once. Imagine a hive of thoughts, acting in concert, in one beautiful whole. Once, we were Wraith, a terrifying, mythical enemy. Now, we are defined by eternity. Immortality mocks us and yet we have lived too long to have the courage to die."
John wants to soothe him. He wants to take Todd's hand and place it on his chest, give him a little to live for. He's beginning to wonder if when the time comes he will be able to kill Todd along with all the others.
"You are by far the most exciting thing to happen to me in hundreds of years." Todd kisses John then, pulling him close. "I wish I could take you back with me to the home galaxy and show you the true glory of Wraith. I wish the Queen had not died in our six thousand year journey in the void and I could show you how beautiful she would be. I wish to feed on you, but I am beginning to wonder if the anticipation is the only thing I live for now."
John smiles, trying to be seductive. "Then don't feed off me yet. We can wait."
John's palms sweat with nerves, but Rodney has promised that things will work out and that this is necessary. John doesn't know what Rodney plans, but he can see the doubt and fear in his eyes when he steps into the lab. Whatever the plan is, John cannot know, according to Rodney. He assumes that Rodney has some way to kill the Curious One, however. The only way to keep that particular Immortal out of the labs is death.
John isn't expecting Rodney to make a sudden excuse to leave and he isn't expecting the Curious One to turn an suddenly set upon John, a familiar hunger in his eyes. "What have you done to him," the Immortal hisses. "What spell does mating with you bring? What manipulation do you create?"
The Curious One tastes like slime and bile, his tongue and sharp teeth seem to tear at John instead of caress him. "I'll find out what you have done even if I must drain you dry."
John can't even comprehend that statement. He didn't see this coming at all. By the time he realizes he should be running, the Curious One has him backed into a corner behind one of the lab benches, looking suddenly looking so large that John can't imagine fighting him. Maybe if he were still a soldier, but now he has only human weakness. He's been spoiled by Todd into forgetting that any Immortal could take him and he's helpless to stop it.
"No," John pleads. "You know better. I'm a Class A. You can't do this."
The Curious One laughs. "The rules are mere guidelines for us. This world moves to our will. There will be no consequences if I feed off of one measly human."
"Todd would find a consequence for you."
"Not when I find out what you're really doing to him."
"I'm not doing anything," John gasps, fear and adrenaline are choking him. If the Curious One finds out, it won't be just John who will pay. Rodney and Carson will be co-conspirators.
John finds the strength to lash out futilely against the Immortal. He gets in a good kick and a few punches before he is thrown hard against the wall, feeling something painful give in his shoulder. He falls in a pile of glass and broken equipment, whimpering and struggling to his feet only to be kicked in the ribs and hauled back against the Curious One's solid bulk.
"I can see the attraction. You defiance is sweet." The Immortal grabs John's injured shoulder, making him howl as he spins him around, pinning him back against the lab bench with a terrifying grin.
The feeding hand hovers above John, its lips gaping wide. John struggles, ignoring the pain in his shoulder. But the hand descends nonetheless, and John screams with a pain like nothing he has ever felt. His head is collapsing with the weight of the Curious One's mind. His soul is writhing in agony. There is no happiness in this instant. No life, no love, only pain blinding everything. But even worse is the violation. What is being taken is something intimate, private, sacred, and everything in John's being cries out against it. It seems like an eternity has passed before the violation is gone.
John opens bleary eyes to a ghastly green face, a toothy maw, awful, alien eyes. The monster reaches a hand towards the soreness in John's chest and John pushes painfully back from it, begging, "No, please, no."
John hears Rodney's strident voice then. "Stop it! Can't you see he's traumatized enough? Go call for a medic. I'll take care of him."
Rodney's hands are stroking his hair. "You're okay, John," he says. "He's gone now. Oh, god. I didn't think-- You'll be okay. Just hang in there and we'll get you patched up. Don't worry."
John wants to snap that he's not okay. That Rodney doesn't have the right to tell him not to worry with this awful vulnerability, the emptiness festering somewhere deep inside. Things will never be the same again.
John next wakes up in the familiar base infirmary. He's been here after a crash or two, not to mention to provide blood samples for Carson's research.
"How are you feeling lad?" Carson asks, looking tired and rubbed-raw.
John lets the physicality of his body sink in, fighting through the good drugs. He remembers this feeling from the vague haze of war. They must have him on Enzyme-based painkillers. But he still feels a twinge from the arm that is bound tightly to his chest, and from his ribs and his right ankle. "Sore," he answers, ignoring the real pain - the ache deep at his core, where the bandages cover a wound over his heart.
"Aye, I'd expect as much. I have quite the butcher's bill for you: dislocated shoulder, bruised kidneys and ribs, and a broken ankle."
"Carson," John rasps, just noting the familiar dryness in his throat, no doubt evidence of anesthesia. "How many years?"
"Less than a year. He was taking it slow in order to probe your mind. Soldier Mitchell stunned him after maybe ten seconds of feeding." But the stunners the base guards carried only knocked out humans, they gave Immortals a momentary shock, but didn't incapacitate.
"Happened?" John demands while Carson is kind enough to fetch him a glass of water.
"The Warrior Poet snapped his neck." Carson squeezes John's hand then. "We can all count that as a blessing."
Was that the plan? Get Todd to kill the Curious One? Is that why Carson looked so haggard? Was he guilty? "Carson?"
"Progress means to cull the weak and save the strong." How ironic that Carson should now quote Darwin, one of the Immortal's biggest pawns. But when John looks into Carson's weary eyes he can see that it doesn't sit right with him either. Take one step against the system and everything comes crumbling down.
"Todd?" He's conspicuous in his absence. "Will the Council prosecute him?"
Carson shrugged. John wondered if he cared at all. Sure, they were all using Todd, but Todd had feelings too, and he didn't deserve to be punished for Carson and Rodney's stupid plan. "They've designated a hearing, but Rodney researched the Rules. Taking another Immortal's Companion is one of the few defenses available to them. The Curious One was a right bastard, but Woolsey and all the traditionalists are doing a good job of trying to mourn him. It's a huge scandal."
"I'm not his Companion," John whispered, suddenly afraid for Todd. "I never let him feed."
"That will be a legal challenge, yes, but your Immortal has Elizabeth Weir to help strategize his defense."
"Is he there now?" John needed to be with Todd, assure him that John is fine, or that he will be at least. He needs to give him strength for the hearing. He pushes himself up, only to gasp at the pain that causes the wound on his chest. "What have they done with him?"
"Easy, John." Carson pushes John back down effortlessly. "The Council doesn't meet for another week. The Warrior Poet waited here the entire time you were in surgery, but he left when I said you were coming out of it. Apparently after he came to your rescue, you flinched away from him."
"I didn't." But he did. John remembers the monster, standing over him when he was already empty and vulnerable, hand extended. Was that Todd? Had John been afraid of his own lover? "I was out of it. I need to see him. Please."
Carson sighed. "I'll see what I can do."
Todd had been in strategy sessions with Weir when John called for him, but he's back now, hovering above John's bed uncertainly.
"Hey," John whispers. He's still in pain but Carson had released him from the infirmary to be monitored in his quarters. Of course, the first thing John did was to tell the nurse he'd be staying with Todd.
"Hello, John Sheppard," the Immortal replies, looking uncertain, less than confident for the first time John has seen.
"So," John is suddenly at a loss for words. He's never been good at expressing his emotions. "How's the hearing going?"
"Elizabeth Weir is confident that you are my Companion in every way that matters. There is no rule that says I must feed to take a Companion, only that the one I killed knew that he was feeding off of someone I had claimed. Such human machinations, these Rules. In a hive the Queen would simply decide. In a hive there would be no Companions."
"I'm sorry," John whispered, reaching out a hand for Todd. "I shouldn't have held out. I should have let you." It's a dangerous game, John knows, but he feels it in his bones. Without the stupid plan, without the threat of Todd looking into John's mind, John would have allowed him to feed long ago. He trusted him.
"No," Todd replies, taking John's hand in his own and kissing him with the feeding lips. "You were right when we started this. I don't love what you do for me. I love you. It is a gift greater than the Gift of Life. I will wait until you desire."
John can only give him a bitter laugh. "I was ready before. But nervous. Now, I don't think I can. It hurt so much," John gasps.
"I know that," Todd seems ashamed. "I know that's why they scream. Even the Rose would scream. But I thought maybe, if you loved me, it would not hurt. If it were a gift, freely given, surely you could not feel pain."
John feels his heart wrench then. Sure, Todd is an alien from a race that had enslaved John's people, but he doesn't deserve the be toyed with. "I want to believe that too." He squeezes Todd's hand for emphasis. "But I just can't right now."
Todd nods, looking as vulnerable as John feels. "I understand. I could heal you, though. I would freely give you the Gift of Life to wipe away the physical reminders."
John wants to say yes. He hates being bedridden and feeling weak, but then his mind flashes on that hand clamping down on his chest, the burst of fear that he no longer wants to feel for Todd. "Can you put up with me while I heal the slow way?"
"Of course." He leans forward a little then. "May I kiss you?"
John tenses but nods. Todd still tastes sweet, just as John remembers him.
After his acquittal, Todd takes John to spend a day in the reliquary. Immortals have strange museums - they prefer dead things.
"It's different when you know how things once were," Todd explains. "You humans prefer to sanitize and categorize your history. We remember it. All we need is a reminder. When this ship finally decays into orbit and we must destroy it, to prevent damage to the planet, then we can forget."
"Will you forget?" John asks. He doubts that Todd will ever forget his Queen, but perhaps after millenia, the battle with Ra and this doomed ship will fade away.
Todd laughs. "We Wraith live many lives. History is Epochs and the memory of the hive spans even before my birth. We do not forget. But things slip away. The emotion and details leave us, but memory is the architecture on which we hang our souls. For all happenings, there is one day a reckoning, a moment that draws us back into the past, if only subconsciously."
John is annoyed today. His ankle still aches and the cast itches, but Todd insists on exploring history and exposing his strange brand of nonsensical Immortal poetry. "Tell me again about the battle."
Todd is amused. "It was an accident. It took us six thousand years of hibernating and eating away at our vast stores to follow the hyperdrive trail to this planet. Our Queen had perished and our food supplies were dwindling. We had already begun to feed off some of the drones. We thought we would encounter a land of plenty, with no enemies and little resistance. But the Goa'uld Ra controlled the planet. We were not prepared for a war."
"Neither was he," John reminds him.
"Ra was an interesting character. Too bold, but not aggressive like a Queen. He would surround himself with servants and children. He was beautiful because he could take whatever body he desired. But he wanted obedience and worship. Such a strange creature."
"Don't your people want the same?" John was fighting that very thing - the fact that the Immortals controlled Earth and the galaxy. There were those that worshipped, but obedience was needed or risk being labeled a Class C.
Todd looks amused, pulling John against him as they gaze out at the rest of the derelict hulks floating out in space. He nips playfully at John's neck reaching down to tease at his cock. "A Queen commands obedience from her hive, but from our food? Evolution is a beautiful thing, John Sheppard. Ra wasted one of life's great beauty by daring to live as long as he did without seeing change. Peace is not the world of Wraith, though now we do not have the resources for fighting. Through strife comes challenge, from challenge comes change, from change comes beauty."
"This is beautiful?" John looks out at the dead silence of space and the wrecks hung suspended in time like a fly caught in a spider's sticky web to one day be consumed. For humans, beauty is hope. It is freedom, not dead things.
"Among other things," Todd replies gruffly, grabbing John's chin with a strong hand and twisting him around to face him. Todd is solid against him, his skin smooth like velvet. They fit together perfectly now and in a kiss, perhaps John can understand eternity.
The lights of the city sparkle behind them, the black mystery of the ocean stretches out like an infinite promise in front. John leans back into his seat. Sighing as the ferris wheel makes its slow circular motion, swinging down towards the ground, vaulting up and into the sky. He remembers the days when he lived with his parents, before his time at war and before Todd. He hadn't known what it meant to be a Class A then. He'd known very little about the Immortals.
"I don't see the attraction," Todd grumbles, but his arm is tight around John, the other coming around to rest patiently on John's knee.
"It's as close to flying as you get as a child," John acknowledges. And, when it comes to a stop, you get to do this." He turns to face Todd and give him a kiss. He knows that people are staring. They always will. Many of the Class Bs that go places like the Santa Monica pier have never set eyes on an honest-to-god Immortal, and to see one kissing a human must be even more strange.
"I am glad it makes you happy," Todd replies, pulling John until he is sitting in Todd's lap.
"What the hell is taking you guys so long. It's coming up on two years," John complained. "Todd killed the Curious One for you and you're still not ready."
"The Silent Gatherer barely understands my work, but he makes up for what he doesn't understand by ordering constant, disruptive status reports. I have less time to work on the virus than before, but at least I don't have to worry about him finding out."
John shakes his head. "What about the weapon? I could get Todd to take me to Dakara any time now."
Rodney snorted. "And do what to defeat all the Immortals living there? We need that virus and we need a delivery system that can knock out all the Immortals on that planet in order to give us access. The plan doesn't work without it."
"I've figured out a delivery system that can work on Earth. It involves beaming compressed gas into buildings known to house Immortals. I just need to build my own transporter and find a way to track the movements of the Immortals on this planet."
"In other words you have nothing so far." John does love Rodney as a friend and on a few occasions as a lover, but navigating his ego can be more dangerous than whitewater rafting.
"Not nothing, per se, just not to a finished stage in any particular project. I need you to find me an excuse to get access to the beaming technology. I have already found a way to extend the range to cover an entire planet and worked out the algorithms to do simultaneous beaming from the same source. It's just getting the materials. I need to find my way onto a project with a lot of discretionary purchase orders. In other words, not Stargates."
"So you're saying you have nothing so far."
"Nothing physical! But it's all up here, baby," Rodney points to his head as though that means anything.
"It doesn't exactly help 'up there.'"
"Well, Carson's not done either," Rodney fishes with a pout. John should know better than to go for his ego by now.
"I'll find out if you can get transferred over to the Prometheus Project. Samantha Carter is almost done reverse engineering the ship from the little naked grey guys the Sun Warrior captured a year ago. Beaming technology included."
"Fine," Rodney says.
Carson begs off the rest of their meeting, something about the project updates he needs to work on.
John's surprised when Rodney comes up to him, laying a hand on his arm with compassion in his wide blue eyes. "Are you okay with this?"
The anger is quick, deadly, beautiful. "Do I have a choice?"
"There's always a choice."
Rodney draws John in to kiss him. It's soft and chaste, nothing like their previous, desperate couplings. "You don't have to keep doing this. Get me assigned to the Prometheus Project and we won't even need the Poet's help to reach Dakara."
John pushes Rodney back carefully. I could have loved you, once, he thinks. If Rodney had pursued this thing between them before Todd entered John's life, it could have been something. "I'm his Companion, Rodney. The second he chose me, there was no going back."
Rodney looks away, cheeks flushing with shame. "You love him, don't you?"
No. The word hangs on John's tongue. He's using Todd. Freedom from the Immortals is more important. Yes, he cares for Todd and he doesn't want him to suffer needlessly. But love? John can't bring himself to deny it. "Some things are more important than love."
"Oh, god," John gasps into the soft silk of the bed. Todd is pounding into him hard from behind, his hand wrapped around John's chest to keep him from collapsing. All John wants is more, harder, deeper.
The feeding hand kisses at John's chest, but nothing happens. John doesn't expect anything to. But then Todd asks, "Let me. Please, John, let me. I'll do anything for you. Let me."
John wants it too, more than he's ever wanted anything. "I can't," he whispers.
"I cannot forgive what the Curious One did to you, but it doesn't have to be that way. Let me show you."
John cries out, because even a serious conversation can't stop Todd from pounding into him with a maddening pace. "I want you to, but then you'll know everything. I'll be just your Companion, nothing more."
Todd's rhythm slows. He pulls back and pulls out of John, leaving him panting against the sheets. "You will always be more."
"You'll know everything. You'll know my secrets. You'll know how I feel. I'll be just another part of you."
"Is that not a glorious thing?"
"It's narcissistic. Loving each other becomes self love if there's nothing separating us."
"But there is beauty. You humans wonder why you are always dissatisfied in your freedom. You wonder about your fruitless rebellions, then unease with our rule. But the truth is that you will never be happy searching for freedom in independence. Freedom is trust, opening yourself to another and knowing they will cherish you. Unity is the greatest freedom you will ever know and yet you fear it. Let me join with you and you will see."
John sighs, leaning back into Todd. "I'm not ready to be that way," he admits. "You may think I'm a stubborn idiot, but I can't be with you like that. Freedom is what makes us human."
Todd tightens his grip on John, kissing a little at his nape. "I will abide by your wish, John Sheppard. If you allow me to feed, I will not look into your mind. But we will be joined nonetheless."
It might be a lie. John can't tell if Todd is just humoring him and waiting for the opportunity to prove him wrong. He can never know what Todd will do anymore than he can know the future. Immortals are beasts unto themselves and he cannot know what motivates them. But he can trust. He finds he does.
He grabs Todd's hand. Their fingers intertwine. They touch the place above John's heart. The mouth opens and their is pleasure so bright, surrender, trust, beauty. John's thoughts are his own, but Todd's are open to him.
There is the world, a promise of a sphere below him in space. There is chaos and destruction. There are great loves. There is poetry in the beat of every heart, a bittersweet symphony in death. There are the words of Todd's long-ago companion. Human life is but a brief candle. And for Immortals life creeps. Time is a river. Eternity is a song. It is a tapestry woven like the myths of old. Todd sees souls grow old and die. He sees influence spread through time like the ripples from a rock tossed into the vast pool of the universe, but love endures and what Todd feels for John is nothing short of spectacular. It is transcendent. It is as tragic as taking a life so that one may know all the amazing things Todd knows. Such is the life of a poet.
Dakara looms beneath them. Rodney and Carson will have already eliminated the Immortals of Earth. It's too late to turn back now.
"What will you do when I finally get old and die?" John asks. He hasn't aged a day since Todd first gave him the Gift of Life.
Todd chuckles. "That will not happen for many years. Do not borrow worry." He pulls John back down to the nest of silk blanket's he's put in the back for this little vacation to see the ruins of a civilization long past. The temple of the Ancient Enemy has crumbled. The Goa'uld are finally defeated. There is no fight left for the Immortals. Todd said once that life is struggle. Such peace is not life, he'd said.
"I know, but it's important."
Todd turns to him, a fond smile on his face. "I will continue to live, as always, I suppose."
John doesn't know why he feels hurt by this. This isn't Romeo and Juliet and Todd's Rose didn't earn Todd's death either. "You're afraid to die," John states. But he supposes he'd feel vindicated then, to kill Todd and kill himself like lovers of old.
"There are far worse things. Should I die, my hive will live on. That is the wonder of Unity. A collective mind spirals onwards through time. Humans have it too even though you are not aware of it. When you die, your legacy will continue on your world. I will remember you and immortalize you."
"So you're the museum floating in space. When you die then that's it?"
Todd nods. "Extinction is what I fear."
Extinction is what John is bringing. He could stun Todd, pull him into the compound. Make him the last of his species. John feels the comforting weight of the vial in his hands. It holds the virus. If John takes it himself and Todd feeds, that will be the end. He reaches out to trace the lines of Todd's familiar face, wondering if he can face the future without it. Once Todd is human, he wonders what he will be.
Huxley imagined a brave new world without the Immortals. John does not know how it would be. Romeo and Juliet were cowards, he thinks. Love and beauty are consumptive. Death is inevitable as is extinction. But to end what could be another story in the collective memory, to simply end the comedy of life because you cannot carry your burden of memory, that is the greatest crime.
"Bond with me," John says, pressing the button to release the virus into his bloodstream.