A/N: Here you are my faithful followers, the very last installment of season 7 is finally here! I'm so, so sorry about the delay and I apologize profusely for keeping you all waiting for so long. This chapter is huge, weighing in at a little over 26,000 words and I did quite a bit or trimming, rewriting and editing to get it down to that (it was MUCH larger, almost ridiculously so). But, nonetheless, here it is and I hope you all enjoy the conclusion; I worked so very hard on it for you all. As such, I expect reviews by the bucket loads so I'd best get one from each and every one of you. That having been said, please read, review and enjoy. The next time you read an author's not it will be at the top of the first episode for season eight. Until then, cheers!


Episode XXV: Dark Angel

Atlantis, city of wonder, was still; subdued. Her towers did not bustle with exuberant life, her hallways did not bolster activity and her laboratories and other science rooms stood silent and empty. The people that called her home stayed in their rooms or sat quietly in the mess hall in groups of two or three, speaking softly to each other about how the search was going and whether or not the next search team would come back with anything or nothing at all. There was little hope now, that she would be found. It had been two months and more and more often the search teams that came back through the gate returned empty handed, no sign or trace or word of her at all. It was only a matter of time now before it was an accepted fact that Major Sheppard would never come back. She was lost to them and, soon, even her most persistent searches would come to realize that it was too late.

It was only a matter of time.

~xXx~

"They'll find her John, never doubt it," Teyla attempted to soothe the miserable colonel who sat across from her in the mess hall. "They will bring her home."

John sighed and fiddled with his coffee cup the contents of which had long since gone cold. "Yeah," he said hollowly, not really sure he believed what his friends all kept telling him. It was a big damned galaxy and as good as Ronon and Todd both were, there was statistically very little chance that they'd be able to find her and bring her back alive.

Alive.

John shuddered the thought but he knew that there was a very really possibility that he'd never see his baby sister alive again. At night, he'd started having nightmares where Todd and Ronon did bring her back but where Kate was already dead. As a result, John had stopped sleeping.

Around the table, the people assembled there all looked down at their hands or, in Rodney's case, his plate. None of them knew how to comfort the man at least not well. Teyla had tried to reassure him, Lorne and Cadman had tried to cheer him up and Jennifer had even offered to give him a sedative to take the edge off of things but, it was all for nothing. John just wouldn't be happy until he heard something, some news that Kate was alive and fine; as fine as a runner could be that is. All on them, even Rodney who believed to much in science to really put faith in a higher power, silently prayed day in and day out that something would happen, someone would come through the gate and then they'd all know.

"Colonel Sheppard."

John looked up and espied a nervous looking Williams standing at the end of the table looking at him. "Yes Sergeant?"

Williams swallowed hard. "Sir, Ronon just came back."

John was on his feet instantly. "And?"

Williams shook his head. "He came back alone."

John frowned. "Where's Todd?"

"He doesn't know, he lost him Sir."

John cursed and ran his left hand through his hair in agitation. "Well is that all?" he demanded.

Again, Williams shook his head. "No Sir. Ronon's in Woolsey's office right now talking to him and Dr. Weir, they sent me to come get you."

John nodded. "Right, I'll…I'll be right there," he took a deep breath as Williams saluted and walked off before turning back to the table and his teams mates. They were all looking at him expectantly. "I've gotta -"

"You'll tell us if there's anything right?" Cadman asked, her voice pitched just slightly higher then it normally was; it was desperate sounding almost.

John shook his head. "Of course I will but I gotta -"

"Go," Teyla told him and, without saying anything else, watched as John turned around on his heel and sprinted out of the mess hall at an almost breakneck speed.

He arrived in Woolsey's office in a matter of minutes. Coming in, he glanced to the right and saw Ronon standing off to the side. He turned towards his teammate and looked at him pleadingly. "Please tell me you've got good news," he begged.

Ronon grunted. "I've got good news."

John breathed a sigh of relief. "Well?"

Ronon took a deep breath. "We tracked Kate to Heterass, it's a city kind of like that one in the pirate movies you made us all watch."

Woolsey squinted. "What pirate movies?" he asked, confused. When Ronon had been briefing him, he hadn't mentioned this.

John turned towards Woolsey. "Pirates of the Caribbean," he looked back at Ronon. "You mean Tortuga? Why would Kate go there?"

Ronon let out another grunt. "It's a good place to hide. Rogue wraith, ones that don't or won't bow to a queen live there on the other side of the river. There's enough wraith technology there and spar tracking devices to confuse a runners signal for a couple days."

Woolsey looked up at the large man standing just to the left of his desk. "You sound like you know this from experience."

Ronon nodded. "I do. When I was a runner and I needed a place to rest for a couple of days, have a hot meal and get my strength back up, I'd go to Heterass."

John waved away the extra information. "And you found Kate there?" he asked, growing impatient. "Why didn't you bring her back to the city then it -"

"I didn't find her," Ronon interrupted the man feeling sorry that he was the one that had to tell him this. "She was gone by the time I found the place she was staying."

John was silent for a few moments before he yelped and exclaimed, "That's not good news! You said you had god news!"

Ronon pitied him and, knowing the situation he was in and what he must be feeling, didn't care at all about the way that Sheppard was talking to him. "I do. We found out that Kate's not going it alone. She stayed with a family on another planet and they asked a guy they knew that used to be a runner to go with her. They figured that because she's female and she's your sister the wraith after her would want her more. So far, from what we've been able to tell, he's taking pretty good care of her."

John felt only slightly better upon hearing this information which, while good to hear, wasn't exactly what he'd consider 'good news'. "Anything else?" he asked, desperate for there to be more to Ronon's return then what he'd already been told.

The former runner nodded. "Yeah. I lost Todd, but he found Kate."

John felt all the air leave his body at once. "He…he did?" he stared at Ronon before realizing that there was a flaw in his logic. "Wait, how do you know?"

Woolsey agreed with the colonel. "Yes," he said, leaning forwards over his desk. "How do you know?"

Ronon looked around him at the other people in the room. Woolsey and Sheppard looked incredulous and Elizabeth looked hopeful. He finished his story. "Todd and I split up when we got to the city so that we could cover more ground. I went north and Todd headed towards the river. I was doing my search when I heard somebody talking about a fight down on the water at an inn called the 'Runner's Inn'."

Woolsey sniffed. "Aptly named I'm sure."

Ronon grunted , flicking his eyes towards the balding man before he continued. "When I got there, the fight was over but it got what happened out of the bar man. Kate and the other runner had gotten rooms there and Todd had found them but then the hunters had shown up. The other runner didn't believe that Todd wouldn't hurt Kate and so he attacked him and while they were fighting, the hunters went after Kate. Todd saw and defended her. The bar man said that most of the other wraith looked afraid of him and backed out of the hunt as soon as they saw him but there were a couple that didn't. Todd killed them, he even drained one of them dry, before he grabbed Kate gave her the gift and then left."

When Ronon was done, he took a deep breath and looked around the room again to see how everyone took the news. Sheppard was looking at the floor, his face screwed up in an unreadable expression, Woolsey was looking at his desk and Elizabeth was looking at him.

"So," she said after there'd been silence in the officer for a few minutes. "I think it's safe to assume that Todd's with Kate and that she's a lot better off now then she was before," she stepped out from behind Woolsey's desk and walked towards John. "John," she said, laying a hand on his shoulder. The man looked up at her. "You and I both know that Todd won't let anything happen to her. He'll find a way to bring her home."

John was about to open his mouth and agree with her when Ronon interrupted him.

"I've got bad news," he deadpanned.

John glared at him. "You said you had good news!"

Ronon looked at him. "You asked me if I had good news and I did so I told you that first, but there's also some bad news."

John made a whimpering noise and sank down into a chair. Woolsey looked up at Ronon from over the rim of his glasses. "What's the bad news?"

Ronon sighed. "Kate's not just being hunted by one hive," he looked pointedly around at everyone. "She's being hunted by them all."

Woolsey made a noise that was half cry half yelp. "All of them!"

Ronon inclined his head. "The queen's have set a bounty on her head, every hive in the galaxy is after her right now."

Elizabeth took this in. "Which means that Todd won't be bringing her back to Atlantis," she looked around and then looked down on the utterly defeated looking John Sheppard. Squeezing his shoulder tightly to show him that he had support, she continued. "Atlantis is still recovering from the attack, Todd knows that if he brings her here he'll be essentially leading every wraith in the galaxy right to us. They'll have to keep running."

Woolsey nodded, the gravity of the situation sinking in. "Then there's nothing we can do."

John cried and dropped his head into his hands.

Ronon made a noise. "I wouldn't say that."

Woolsey looked up at him. "What do you propose?" he asked, willing to take anything right now. The alternative was to let despair win and Richard Woolsey wasn't about to give up, not when somebody, anybody had a plan that had even the smallest chance at succeeding.

Ronon uncrossed his arms and took two steps towards Woolsey's desk so that he was now in the middle of the room. "Todd can't bring Kate to us, but we can go to her. If we can find them -"

"Then we can remove the transmitter and bring her home," Elizabeth concluded. She frowned. "How are we going to do that? We don't have access to the new runner devices, only a wraith can track a runner."

Ronon looked at her. "She's with Todd right?" she nodded and he went on. "So we track Todd."

The room was silent for all of three seconds before John sat up straight and smiled, a look of gleeful joy on his face. "Todd's transmitter!" he yelled in triumph. "We can get his wraith to turn it on."

Woolsey nodded. "Do it," he said, hope swelling in him for the first time since he didn't know when. "Take a jumper, Todd's son's hive is still in orbit as too, I believe, is the fortress commanders. Tell them what's going on and ask them to activate Todd's sub-space transmitter. Once you have a location, you and your team have leave to go."

John nodded enthusiastically and literally skipped from the office. "Come on, Chewie, I promised everyone I'd tell them what's going on. Then we can go have a chat with the wraith."

Ronon smirked at Sheppard's enthusiasm and followed. As excited as he knew his friend was about this somehow, deep down in a place he couldn't describe, he had a feeling that it wouldn't be that easy.

Nothing ever was.

~xXx~

Wraith stunner fire whizzed past Kate's head as she ran flat out through the thick woods of the planet she was on. The wraith currently hunting her were older Todd had said, not quiet his age but close and as such, had not been scared off her trail by his presence or the fact that she was under his protection. Instead, knowing that, seemed to only increase their want for her capture. These wraith were working in cohesion whereas the majority of the others that hunted her worked alone and fought quiet frequently with one another over who got to claim her. Todd said that the former hunters were more dangerous and Kate, as she ducked a branch and nearly tripped over a log, was inclined to agree.

"Turn left, Katherine, bring them to me," Todd's mental voice directed her and Kate obeyed. They had been doing this for some time now because outrunning them all simply wasn't feasible. Todd, as much as he abhorred the idea, and Kiryk who had come up with it would let the wraith chase Kate over whatever terrain there was while they lay in wait. She would bring her pursuers straight to them where they and she could then eliminate them the idea of it all being that a dead wraith couldn't track and that for every wraith she, Todd and Kiryk killed, there was one less hunter out there after her.

The snarls of her pursuers spurred her onwards even as Kate's legs and arms begged her to stop. To stop was to die and so she kept running, never looking back as she led the wraith closer and closer to Todd and Kiryk's position. Only a few more yards left, Kate chanted to herself, forcing herself to keep running, Almost there, almost there, almost -

Kate cried out in pain as a clawed hand grabbed her from behind and sank it's finger guards into the flesh of her back. The force of the attack was enough to upset her balance and Kate fell to the ground. She landed on her belly and tried desperately to crawl away from her assailant only to feel his hold on her tighten, his fingers digging deeper into her back and staying her attempts at retreat. She hadn't been fast enough and now, her failure to execute the plan was going to cost her. She could feel the wraith crouching over her breath and nearly cried when she felt him reach out and grab her with his other hand in order to turn her over so that she could face him. A terrified sob came to Kate's throat and lodged itself there as she felt her body be forcefully turned onto it's back. She shut her eyes tightly and then, there was nothing.

The wraith was pulled off of her and Kate, freed, scrambled into a sitting position and reverse crawled backwards, away from her attacker. Her bleeding back hit a tree and Kate pressed herself into it trying to get away only to feel herself get pulled to the side and brought around to face whoever it was that held her now.

She screamed.

"Kate, it's me," Kiryk called out loudly over her cries and struggles to get away from him. She stilled and then stopped, her eyes opening to look up into his frantically.

"Kiryk," Kate breathed, a feeling of relief now flooding through her as she looked at him. "I'm sorry I didn't make it," she stammered. "I just wasn't -"

"It's not your fault," Kiryk interrupted her, grabbing hold on her with both hands now and trying to lift her to her feet. She was halfway up when her legs gave out and they both collapsed back to the moss and leaf littered forest floor.

Kate took a deep breath. "I'm -"

Kiryk cut her off. "Don't say it," he ordered her, settling her back against the tree stump they were currently hiding behind. Peeking around it, the former runner watched in awe intermingled with fascination as the wraith that Kate had told him he could call Todd grappled with the wraith that had grabbed Kate before she'd been able to reach their hiding place. Kiryk had to admit, as he watched the two wraith fight, Kate's Todd was very skilled; very.

"He's good," Kiryk muttered, more to himself then to Kate or anyone else in particular but she heard him anyway and, as she continued to breath heavily, still clearly exhausted from her run, he saw a smile settle on her lips and twist the corners of her mouth upwards.

"He is," Kate agreed, smirking in light amusement. "He's very -"

A growl interrupted her mid-sentence and suddenly, she and Kiryk were ripped apart the latter being flung backwards away from Kate and into a tree. The man's back cracked against the wooden trunk of a large everblue and he rolled to the side, pushing himself up just in time to see the other wraith, the hunter that Todd was not currently engaged in fighting, reach down and grab Kate by the throat, lift her up and then slam her backwards into the tree they'd been using as shelter. She struggled of course but, this wraith was nearly as large as her Todd and he held her firm, pressing her backwards, his fingers tightening their grip on her neck and squeezing harder. Kiryk could see the blood being drained from her face as precious amounts of air were bled from her lungs.

Kate thrashed about violently trying to wriggle out of her captors grasp but to no avail. She could feel the blood leaving her face, could feel him choking her and, even as she scratched and clawed at his the hand that held her by her throat, she could feel her body weakening. In one last desperate attempt to free herself, Kate angled her head downwards and bit down hard on the wraith's wrist. He snarled in pain and dropped her; Kate landed on her ass and slumped against the tree behind her, gasping for breath and gulping in huge lungfulls of much needed air.

"KATE!" Kiryk yelled.

The wraith's head turned towards him and Kate used the opportunity to force her body to move, to get up and try and run. The wraith who had dropped her growled in fury and took up the chase, catching up with her easily. This time, however, when he grabbed her and Kate went flying into the earth, she didn't wait for him to kneel and to turn her around but did so herself and, grabbing up a fistful of dirt and debris, threw the whole of it into the wraith's face.

His head reared back and he clawed at his eyes with his hands trying to clear them. While he was doing that Kiryk tackled him, the both of them falling to the ground with Kiryk on top straddling the hunter. Within moments it was all over and the wraith was dead.

Kate let out a ragged breath of relief.

"Katherine!"

Todd, newly finished with his own battle, had turned to look for Katherine before his opponent's body had even hit the ground. His eyes had found her a short ways off, laying on her back on the forest floor whilst the human male, Kiryk, sat atop his kill. Her eyes flashed up to his in worry, a bewildered and frightened look to them that cast a shadow of lingering fear over her whole being. Concerned, Todd went quickly to her side and crouched down besides her, reaching out to cup her cheek with his feeding hand.

"Katherine," he spoke gently, his golden gaze locked onto her face. "You are well?"

Kate gasped and choked back a sob, nodding. "I-I'm fine," she lied, knowing that she was anything but. She was tired, her whole body ached and her face, neck and arms were covered in scratches and abrasions from her last few encounters with her hunters. This last one had been the worst to be sure but, there had been others before them that had occurred since she, Todd and Kiryk had left Heterass that had left her with injures. Some of those injures had been pretty severe and hadn't all healed yet which is why she'd been unable to outrun her hunters today and make it all the way to the place where Todd and Kiryk had been laying in wait for them. It was her fault and her own weakness that had almost gotten her killed today and she wasn't about to show anymore by admitting to being less then well.

"You are not fine," Todd countered, calling her bluff with a statement of unequivocal truth.

Kate turned her head from him and dropped her eyes, sitting up and backing away a bit, distancing herself from him. "I'm fine," she repeated stubbornly.

Todd sighed. "Katherine," he implored, reaching out to her only to have her draw away some more. "Katherine, look at me."

It took a moment but, eventually, her eyes shifted and focused on his. Todd continued. "I do not see your human-ness as the weakness that you clearly do," he informed her, his normally piercing gaze softening as he looked at her. "You are not weak, you are tired. That is all."

Kate shook her head, her bottom lip quavering. "I wasn't fast enough today," she argued, "I was slow and that's why -"

"No, Katherine, do not blame yourself," Todd interrupted her, grabbing hold of her face with both his hands and forcing her to look at him, not giving her the option to look away. "This is not your doing, none of this is. You have been constantly under attack from numerous individuals for the past several weeks now, your body is fatigued and you are tired; it is natural. It is not a weakness, you simply need rest."

Kate snapped. "And where and I supposed to get this rest that I need!" she screeched. "We can't stop moving which means that I'll never recover my strength; not all the way. It's my fault, my inadequacies that prevent me -"

"You cannot find fault nor blame in your own biological shortcomings anymore then can I," Todd argued, his deeper voice overriding hers and forcing her to quiet. "Now, I have said that you are tired and that you need rest," he looked closing at her. "There is a place to which we can go where this may be achieved."

Kate remained silent and said nothing.

Kiryk looked at the wraith. "And where might this place be?" he inquired, curious.

Todd sighed. "There is a wraith I know who deals his trade on the ground; his hive is nearly always in the same location save for when it must move to a safer resting place for hibernation."

Kiryk's left eyebrow went up. "You want to take us to a hive?" he asked, uncertain and more than a little bit incredulous of the idea. "A grounded hive?"

Todd nodded. "You will come to no harm so long as you are with me, this I can assure you."

Kiryk believed it. If there was one thing he'd learned since leaving Heterass almost three weeks before it was that even the other wraith were afraid of Kate's Todd to the point where, when the majority of them saw him, they gave up the perusal of Kate turned tail and ran away. If he said that his reputation would protect them if they went to this hive then, Kiryk was inclined to go along with it. Kate needed a soft, warm, dry place to sleep for at least one night and she needed a good meal and a warm bath all of which could be provided for her if they went along with Todd's idea.

"Okay," he said after having thought about it. Standing up, he got off of the dead wraith he was still sitting on and looked expectantly towards Todd.

Todd inclined his head and rose to his feet, pulling Katherine up with him and then holding her securely to his side. He looked down on her as she tiredly lay her head on his shoulder and took several deep, steadying breaths inwards. "I trust you have no objections?" he queried, wrapping his arm more tightly around her waist in order to provide as much comfort for her as he could in this brief moment of contact.

Kate shook her head weakly. "No," she whispered, closing her eyes for just a few seconds. "I trust you."

Todd nodded. "Then let us go, quickly, before more hunters are able to find our location."

The two humans gave their consent of the plan in the form of two very slight nods. Todd hissed in approval and dropped his arm form Katherine's waist only to feel her catch his hand as it fell back down to his side. Curiously he looked at her but she did not meet his eyes. Instead, she simply interlaced her fingers with his and held onto his feeding hand more tightly then she ever has before.

Todd dismissed the oddity and began walking.

~xXx~

Oft times when there are an over abundance of choice, it is difficult to reach a decision upon any one thing. The wraith currently walking down the double line of individuals was faced with that dilemma, of which one to take, and he was growing frustrated.

"Take your time," another wraith said calmly, standing off to the side and watching as his fellow paced back and forth with indecision. "There is no hurry."

The first wraith inclined his head ever so slightly towards his benefactor in this endeavor, the wraith whom had spoken, and continued his appraisal of the many specimens of human females he could choose to have as his companion.

"My Lord," a soft female voice called and, together, the two wraith turned to watch as the graceful and ever poised Loranna came towards them, stopped and bowed her head.

Emmagan stepped away from the companion line and over towards his concubine. "You know better than to interrupt me when I am watching a choosing," he hissed, looking down on her as displeasure for her actions began to well up inside of him.

Loranna kept her head bowed but said, "My Lord, forgive me the interruption but, the Eldest bid me to fetch you and I…I dared not say no."

Emmagan's eyes widened. "The Eldest?" he questioned, peering at her. "He is here?"

She inclined her head. "He is my Lord, he and two others."

Turning to the commander whom had sought out his services, Emmagan resisted the urge to show his agitation. The commander was an elder although, not of the Eldest's alliance, and he had paid handsomely for this session. Were it any other wraith, Emmagan would have them wait but, he could not ask that of the Eldest; to do so would spell punishment and possibly death. The Eldest was not known for his forgiving or lenient disposition.

"You will forgive me," Emmagan said, looking to the visiting commander and forcing himself to smile pleasantly. "But I am afraid that there is a matter to which I must attend."

The commander hissed darkly. "A matter more pressing then the choice I am about to make?" he inquired. "Did I not reward you well for this!"

"I assure you that I do not interrupt our session together for anything less than absolute need," Emmagan countered. If he could only get the commander to agree to wait for him to return after dealing with the Eldest; it would be a shame indeed and a great nuisance to have to cancel this transaction altogether rather than simply suspend it.

The commander was not appeased. "Whatever other business you must conduct I am sure that it can w -"

Emmagan lost his false pleasantness and took a step towards the visiting commander. "Perhaps you would like to be the one, then, to tell the Eldest to wait."

The expression on the commander's face changed and he eyed Emmagan dubiously. "The Eldest," he echoed. "What manner of transaction does the Eldest have to offer you?"

Emmagan snorted. "I doubt very much he is here for any of this," he waved his hand about the room in which all his females that were available for selection were housed, lined up in two neat and orderly rows. "Believe me, I know all too well his abhorrence for my trade. He is likely here for some other reason, a reason that I must go and discover presently so, if you will excuse me?"

The hosting wraith did not wait for his visitor to utter a response before he turned on his heel and left his companion's hall, Loranna following obediently along behind him. "Tell me," he hissed to her as he made his way up through his grounded ship to the audience chamber by the bridge. "What reason has the Eldest for coming here?"

Loranna answered meekly. "He did not say," she said, her steps always one behind her lord and masters. "He said only to go and fetch you to him, that is all."

Emmagan hissed and nodded, coming around the last corner that separated him from the chamber in question, stepping inwards and prepared to face the greatest and most deadly of wraith. He did not expect to see, upon entering, the two humans that accompanied the great one nor did he expect the female one of them to be the woman he had once traded to Commander Caavin. Despite his shock, however, Emmagan knew better then to comment on either of the human's presences and so, he bowed respectfully towards the Eldest and greeted him as formally as he could.

Todd sniffed and looked down his nose at the wraith that now stood before him. "Emmagan."

The younger wraith's head snapped up and his eyes narrowed. The Eldest had just spoken his name, his given name, aloud and in the presence of two such lowly individuals. "You dare," he hissed angrily, affronted and angry at the Eldest's gall.

Todd snorted, slightly amused. "Your identity is well known amongst a fair many humans, Emmagan and is therefore, not something which I should even bother to try and keep confidential."

The Eldest's avowal did nothing to improve Emmagan's mood. "What humans know -"

Todd silenced him with a look. "I have had the fortunate pleasure of meeting and, upon occasion, working with a descendant of yours," he said, smirking, enjoying the knowledge and the power that he held over this lesser one. "Her name is Teyla and she bears your given name as her sir name thus, my statement."

Loranna, whom at the mention of her granddaughter could no longer keep quiet, stepped out from behind her master and looked hopefully upwards to the wraith that had spoken of her. Emmagan made a sound of protest for her actions but she ignored him, feeling rebellious for the first time in many years. "You know of Teyla?"

Todd turned his golden eyes towards the once proud and defiant woman that had, over the centuries, been reduced to nothing more than a terrified, simpering slave. "I do," he said, his head tilting to one side. "How is it, that you know of her?"

Loranna's bravo failed her at being asked so direct a question from one such as he. She fell silent and dropped her eyes to the floor.

Kate took pity on her. Stepping out of Todd's shadow, she turned her eyes towards the broken woman. "She's met her," she said. Loranna's eyes rose to meet hers as she spoke and, Kate could see that the woman was surprised to see her.

Todd looked down on his Katherine. "When was this?" he asked.

Kate let out a sigh that had nothing to do with the story she was about to relay and everything to do with how tired she was. "When I got made into a companion for the first time, Teyla and Ronon were captured with me. She," she nodded towards Loranna, "Convinced him to let all but one of us go. I volunteered to stay behind and was -"

"Given as a companion to my eldest, yes I know," Todd ground out, agitated by the reminder of it. He looked back around to Emmagan. "Never mind that," he said impatiently, "I have a…favor to ask of you."

Emmagan, who found the Eldest's exchange with the human female odd, lifted one brow ridge and replied, "And what service may I render?"

"Shelter," Todd replied.

Intrigued farther but unwilling to probe too deeply, Emmagan repeated the request that had been asked of him. "You wish for me to shelter you and your…travelling companions?"

Todd nodded stoutly. "I do."

The younger wraith considered this. "And what is in it for me if I comply?" he asked, curious to know what he could and would get out of this.

Todd growled. "You get to live."

The threat in his voice was very clear and Emmagan gulped down his own foolishness for even daring to ask such a stupid question. What the Eldest asked of you you did, without question and without expectations of reimbursement; your reward for submitting was the Eldest's goodwill. To have that was to be untouchable.

"Of course," Emmagan stammered, afraid of this wraith for not the first time. "I shall prepare rooms for you," his eyes swept over the two humans; the male had yet to utter a word. "All of you."

Todd nodded but, before Emmagan could give instruction to Loranna, added. "We are in need of only two chambers," he informed their host who, in obvious question and curiosity, turned to look back at him in confusion. Todd hissed and pulled Katherine back into his side, surrounding her with the cloak of his presence and power. "Katherine stays with me."

Emmagan's eyes widened so greatly that they hurt. He blinked and looked again, sure he had imagined it only to find that he had not. The Eldest, known far and wide for his abhorrence of the companion trade, for the complete and utter lack of attraction he found in human females and his hatred for the various practices that involved them, was standing in Emmagan's own audience chamber holding tightly to one such a female wearing an expression on his face of such deep and consuming menace that Emmagan pitied the wraith stupid enough to try and touch her. He would have liked to have thought that none of his brothers or their brothers or theirs would be so brainless as to try such a thing but, the way in which the Eldest held her, the way he lorded over her not in dominance but in protection, the way she in turn pressed herself to him, drawing strength from the contact he gave her, afforded Emmagan the knowledge that more than one wraith probably had.

He shuddered the thought of what the Eldest would do to him if he had as much lack of sense as so many other of his brothers seemed to have.

Wordlessly, Emmagan nodded and turned to give instruction to Loranna before turning back and requesting respectfully that the three of them follow him. They did and, it was not long afterwards that the male had been sent off to one of his unused crew rooms whilst the Eldest and the female had been let into the stay room that Emmagan reserved for his clients. Since the visiting commander was not going to stay for any length of time, the room sat empty and unused. Emmagan showed the Eldest and his female into it, closed the door and then left to return to his transaction with the other commander.

Within the room, alone, Todd considered the wisdom in his insistence that Katherine remain with him. He supposed that, knowing what had befallen her the last time she had been exposed to Emmagan and his whore trade, he felt some need to have her remain close but even Todd knew that that was hardly all of it. In truth, he trusted no one and knew that the only way to be certain that Katherine was safe was to have her forever remain by his side and in view of his eyes.

"Valloran."

His considerations of the implications of their rooming arrangements vanished as Todd turned to look at Katherine. "Yes?"

Kate took a step towards him. "What's wrong?" she asked him, worried. There had been a look to his eyes just now that scared her.

Todd sighed. "There is nothing the matter, Katherine," he told her. His eyes searched hers. "Tell me," he said after a while, "What is it that you wish to do first? Bathe? Sleep?"

Kate considered her options. "Sleep, I think," she said, suddenly realizing how tired she really was, how much her body ached. Stifling a yawn, she turned and wandered over to the bed that had been grown out of the floor and graced the left wall by the windows. Sitting down, she moaned at how soft the cushioning was as she began to unbuckle and unlace the ties on her boots.

Todd watched her now knowing the flaw in this plan. While his presence with her while she slept was nothing new, whilst they ran Katherine often found the warmth and comfort she needed in order to sleep at his side or in his arms, their current situation was difference. In this one, Katherine was offered the opportunity to undress and be more comfortable, in this one she would be in a bed, the only bed, and not on the hard ground in a cave somewhere or in the prickly moss under a tree.

Todd swallowed his uncomfortableness and crossed the room, coming closer to her. He would handle this with grace and, as Katherine removed her bodice and placed it with her boots, he choked down his rising desire for her in favor of the overwhelming need he had to protect her and keep her safe. "Katherine," he said gently, stopping before her and looking down. "We are at an impasse."

Kate stopped trying to take her belt off and looked up, confused. "What are you talking about?"

Todd turned his head to the left and to the right, indicating the room around them. "There are two of us, this room was made for one."

Kate was still confused. "So?" she finally managed to get her belt off and, adding it to the pile of discarded clothing, began to work on the laces at the front of her pants.

Todd's eyes widened. "This situation is different than when we are travel -"

Kate stepped out of her pants and tossed then aside, sitting back down on the bed. "No it's not," she said not sure, exactly, where Todd was going with this. "We sleep together all the time while we're running. How is this any -"

"You are half dressed," Todd deadpanned, barely able to keep his want for her from coloring the undertones of his voice.

Kate looked down at herself. It was true, what he'd said, she was half dressed but even with most of her clothes gone she was still modestly covered. She was still wearing the long sleeved linen shirt that Ma had given her and the undergarments, the bottoms of which covered more than of her then her normal panties did.

She looked back up at Todd. "I trust you."

Todd let out a long, low hiss and contemplated what the effects would be if he admitted to her that he did not trust himself. He decided against it and sat down heavily on the bed besides her. "What is it you wish to do?" he inquired, curious to know what her expectations for this arrangement were.

Kate looked at him and shook her head, he really was a silly wraith sometimes. "Get undressed," she told him, her smirk festering when she saw the look of horror flash across his face. "Not all the way, just so that you're comfortable. It's a big bed, I'm sure we can managed to sleep together and not end up cuddling."

Todd didn't like this idea because, for starters, he didn't trust himself not to want to hold her at some point later in the night when he knew she was asleep and also, because if he disrobed, his skin would be exposed and if Katherine touched it, in any way no matter how innocently, it would put him in an awkward situation. He said nothing however and did not object because that would mean disclosing his reservations about this course of action to her and Todd did not wish to have to do that. Instead, he bowed his head to her logic and stood, begging to work on the fastening to his battle-coat.

Kate watched him, smiling to herself. She liked looking at him, that was no secret. Todd was beautiful to her, perfect and so wonderfully male that it was hard not to like looking at him. The tattoos that he sported only increased his physical appeal and made him look that much more attractive in a primal, dangerous sort of way that, on more than one occasion, had reduced Kate's insides to butter when she saw them. As Todd pulled his undershirt over his head and exposed his back, with its spinal ridges and tribal markings that stretched from shoulder to shoulder and down to his waist, Kate had to bite back the groan that threatened to spill from her throat. She wanted him, wanted him badly and neither her exhaustion nor the complete inappropriateness of the situation could keep the heat of need from beginning to pool in her belly.

Forcefully, Kate pulled her eyes away and crawled over the cushionings to the far side of the bed. Settling down, she pulled the covers up over her and turned onto her side, facing away from Todd, closed her eyes and tried to go to sleep.

Todd came to the bed as soon as he was done undressing and as soon as he had mentally readied himself for the physical torture that this sleeping arrangement was going to cause him. Katherine was already snuggled into the many coverings that adorned the bed and, slipping under them himself, Todd positioned himself as far away from her as he could manage. It was not long before he heard the soft, even breathing of his bedmate that signaled to him that she slumbered.

Knowing that he was now safe to observe her, he rolled over and propped himself up on one elbow. Katherine was beautiful when she slept, not that she was not when she was awake but, there was a calmness to her when she slumbered, an innocence, that bade him to look on her intensely and for long periods of time. When she slept, Todd was able to see how very young she truly was and he mourned for her the loss of so much of her innocence so early in her life. The damage that had been done to her had been done by her own kin, her own kind and the government that she had pledged her life to serve. It was cruel, the fate that had been given to her but, Todd could not find that he wished for her not to have been given it. Her fate had lead her to him and the ancient wraith could not find himself wishing for it to be otherwise even if it would spare her past pains.

Katherine's breathing changed and Todd stared, prepared to move away from her and pretend to be asleep so that she would not catch him observing her, only to stay himself as he realized that something was wrong. Her body began to shake, to jerk back and forth and to writhe in an almost pain, a small gasp of some terror escaping her lips as her hands balled into fists. Katherine was having a night terror as she often did and Todd reacted to it in the same manner as he always did. When they were travelling and she shook from her dreams, Todd would more times than not, tighten his hold about her, soothing her in her sleep until she quieted. Instinctively, he reached out to her, bringing her to him and holding onto her tightly to assuage her subconscious' fears and offer her comfort.

His ministrations worked and Katherine quieted, falling back into peaceful slumber. After several moments of listening to her peaceful breaths however, Todd did not release her or make to move away. Now that he had her in his arms, the warmth of her pressed firmly into his chest, he found that he could not relinquish her no matter how much or how strongly he knew that he should. In a moment of absolute clarity, Todd realized that it was not desire that he felt for her right now at least, not a desire for her body. Here and now, his only want of her was to be hers, to have her and to hold her for as long as he lived.

As he succumbed too to slumber, Valloran, greatest of wraith surrendered what little of himself he could still call his own to the female that slept softly in his embrace. Within them both, on a level that neither one of them was aware of or even knew existed, the bond that had begun to form betwixt them, binding them to one another, strengthened and took on an even stronger hold. It was almost complete, it was almost whole.

Almost.

~xXx~

The soft and almost innocuous knocking of someone at the door woke Todd from his sleep and dragged him back into the realm of the conscious. Opening his eyes, the wraith immediately took stock of his surroundings and became aware of the female nestled securely in the circle of his arms, her head at his shoulder, her body pressed into his, her hand over his heart. Stirring, careful as so not to wake her, Todd extracted himself their entanglement and crossed the chamber to the door. Opening it, he found Emmagan's companion on the other side.

"Yes?"

Loranna looked up at the wraith her master so feared and held his eyes. "I brought these, for her," she explained, holding up the clothing that she had procured for the woman's use.

Todd eyed the offering. "Did your master bid this of you?"

Loranna shook her head. "He did not," she replied, setting her lip stubbornly. "This I do for her. She has strength where I do not and so, I wish to thank her for it; for being stronger then I."

Todd hissed, reaching out to take the gift. This opened the door more widely and, as the female's eyes took in his state of dress more accurately described as a lack thereof, Todd hissed and let out a sigh. "It is not what you think," he tried to explain.

Loranna's eyes flashed inwards, searching what expanse of the bed chamber she could see. They landed on the bed, it's state and the woman that still slumbered within it. She looked back to the wraith fearfully. "You are no different -"

"I am nothing like the one that broke you!" Todd hissed angrily.

Loranna held her ground. The woman he was with had the love of her granddaughter, this she knew; Teyla had spoke well of her and highly of her during Loranna's time in the village of New Athos. For this reason, the shattered woman felt some sort of obligation to the one called Kate that she was honor bound to heed. "You bed her," she retorted back to the old one, her lip trembling in fear of her own audacity.

Todd snarled. "Would that that were true," he admitted hollowly. "I sleep with her yes, but I do not bed her. She was in need of comfort and I provided it for her. That is all."

Loranna looked upwards at him in curiosity, stunned by what he had said. "You desire her but do not take her," she frowned. "Why do you abstain?"

Todd looked at the ground. "Because I do not deserve her."

Loranna stared at him. "How can you not?" she asked, the world as she knew it seeming to no longer make sense; a wraith had said that they were undeserving of the affections of a human. "You are wraith."

Todd growled. "And she is beyond me," he looked down on her, finding it odd that he would feel it necessary to answer any of her inquiries into the nature of his and Katherine's relationship at all. In some effort to regain control, he reached out and took the bundle of clothing that was still being held out, aloft, between them. When he had it in his possession, he looked down on the very confused human female. "I will give these to Katherine," he assured her and then turned to go.

"Katherine?" Loranna questioned, a memory coming up through her mind of a story she had heard several of the newest girls her master had acquired to train for his trade speak of and whisper back and forth to themselves. "As in Katherine Sheppard, sister to Colonel John Sheppard? Katherine of Atlantis?"

Todd nodded slowly, not understanding the relevance of this line of inquiry or why it mattered. "Yes," he responded. "Why does her name mat -"

"Many of my Lord's newest acquisitions have told me stories, tales, of a human woman named Katherine of Atlantis. It is said that she is beautiful, that she is strong, is sister to Colonel Sheppard and that," she stopped and looked up at the Eldest, "And that she has captured the heart of a powerful wraith," she peered at him, examining him more closely. "I wonder, how much of the tales I have heard are truly fancy?"

Loranna retreated and Todd was left standing there in open mouthed shock, his eyes wide, his body frozen. Emmagan's companion's query rang in his ears and, as Todd closed the door and crossed back to the bed to look down on the still sleeping Katherine, he, too, wondered over how much truth there was in what he had just been told. A great deal, his consciousness told him as he watched her continue to slumber, his eyes tracing her body's contours, A very great deal.

"Valloran?"

Todd's attention removed itself from its current line of thought and focused entirely on the now awake woman that was blinking up at him in her first moment's of wakefulness. "Katherine," he managed to speak her name, still reeling from the dawning of his own realizations into the amount of true care he had for her.

"Good morning," she whispered before stretching, lifting her arms above her head and extending her body to its fullest length.

Above her, Todd swallowed, hard, and turned away forcing himself to look away from her as he set Loranna's gift of clothes to the side and reaching for his own garments; the sooner that they were both clothed the better. "You slept well?" he asked, trying to sound as casual as he could.

Kate nodded and got up, throwing the covers to one side and stretching once more before turning around to look at Todd. "Thank you," she said to him and watched his hands, which were fastening his long, leather coat still. "For last night."

Todd nodded mutely, not trusting his voice if he were to speak.

Kate smiled, still a bit dreamily, and walked over to him. Stopping in front of him, she reached out and laid her right hand on his chest, directly over his heart while at the same time she looked up at him. "Really," she whispered. "Thank you."

Todd gulped. "You are welcomed," he hissed softly; he could feel the warmth from her hand through the leather of his robe.

Kate nodded and moved away from him, towards the bathing chamber. "I'm going to take a bath," she told him as she disappeared into the adjoining room and began to run the water.

Todd nodded dumbly, the blood in his veins calling to him to follow her. He repressed the desire and focused on finishing his dressing of himself, completing the task and then stilling his actions to think for one moment. It was now obvious to him that Romulus was right: he was an idiot. Katherine was everything to him, his world and his life and, knowing this, Todd knew that he would stop at nothing in order to keep her safe.

Sighing heavily, Todd took his leave of the room and went to inquire after Kiryk leaving Katherine to bathe in peace while the ancient wraith came to grips with the fact that the heart he had not thought himself to have was, and always would be, hers.

~xXx~

"How can you consume that?"

John paused, his fork halfway to his mouth, and looked up from his lunch towards the wraith that nobody had come up with a name for yet. The wraith had agreed to turn on Todd's transmitter but couldn't do it from any of the hives still in orbit because their long range sensors were still down. This had prompted Rodney to suggest they load up all the necessary equipment onto a jumper and try and configure Atlantis's own scanners to work with the wraith tech so that they could track Todd that way. Kenny had agreed and because he was, apparently, the only one of the three wraith that were still hanging out in orbit around Atlantis that had any real technological skills, he and Rodney were in the process of frankifying the city's scanners and the wraith's equipment together into one big, massive long range sub-space receiver.

So far, it was going well in that Rodney and Kenny seemed to work together better then Rodney and Todd did and the project was making headway. This, of course, left the other two wraith, Todd's son - John had decided to call him TJ for Todd Jr. - and the fortress commander from the prison planet, with nothing to do. As a result, John, Teyla, Ronon, Jennifer, Cadman and Lorne had invited them both to come eat dinner with them. Surprisingly, the wraith had gone along with it and now, the fortress commander was eyeing John disgustingly whilst the colonel shoveled spaghetti into his mouth with the aid of a fork and a spoon.

John swallowed and grinned up at the wraith from across the table. "It tastes better the it looks," he said, leaning back in his chair. "Todd likes it."

Romulus' left eye ridge went up in incredulous inquiry. "The Eldest is willing to consume such as that?"

Lorne slurped up a noodle and glanced towards the wraith. "Don't knock it 'till you've tried it. Here," he speared a meatball with his fork and held it out to the dubious looking alien, "Eat this."

Romulus eyed the offering darkly. "I do not -"

"Perhaps you should humor the humans," Caavin suggested, crossing his arms whilst leaning back in his chair. There was a smirk of epic proportions on his face as he gazed sideways at the elder wraith sitting next to him. "Unless you wish to concede to the fact that my sire is more brave at trying new substances then you are."

Romulus glared at him. "Your sire is not more courageous then am I."

Caavin snickered. "Oh, I believe he might be."

While vaguely aware that he was allowing the much younger Caavin to bait him, Romulus couldn't really find in himself to either resist or to care. "Give me that!" he snapped, grabbing the utensil from the one called Lorne and the ball of meat that was still speared on the end of it. Whilst Caavin smirked wildly and looked on, the elder wraith put the bit of food in his mouth, chewed and swallowed before handing the fork back to the major.

"Well?" the table full of humans chorused in unison, all eyeing him expectantly.

Romulus considered telling them the truth, that the morsel had actually been quite tasteful, before deciding that he would not give Caavin that satisfaction. "It was palatable."

The Atlantians all snickered, Colonel Sheppard laughed outright, while Caavin simply grinned at him. "You are very brave," the young wraith conceded with a smirk, bowing his head towards his sire's closest companion and truest friend.

Romulus glared at him. "You will be silent."

Caavin inclined his head and turned towards Sheppard only to sit up straight as he espied both his sire's second and the one called McKay coming towards them. "You succeeded?" he hailed them when they were both within normal speaking range of the table and its occupants.

The humans all twisted around just as Kenny and Rodney came to a stop at the end of the table. "We were," Kenny informed the gathered group of individuals. "And we have a location."

John leapt up and was followed by Lorne, Ronon, TJ and the other one; he really had to come up with a name for him. "Let's go," he looked back and nodded to Cadman. "You're in charge Captain, until we get back."

Cadman nodded. "If you find her, bring her home, Sir."

John gave his promise in the form of a sow nod. "We will," he turned to look at his second in command and the two wraith. "I take it you two are coming with?"

Caavin nodded. "We are."

John sighed. "Then let's go."

They left and made it to the jumper bay in record time. They were gone and on the planet where the signal had come from in under fifteen minutes and, when they landed, they walked for a bit before coming out of a dense forest on the edge of a valley in the middle of which was perched a grounded hive that didn't look like it'd flown in several centuries.

"Well this is new," Lorne commented, eyeing the thing.

Caavin nodded. He knew of course whose hive this was but, could not for the life of him think of why his sire would've come here.

John took a deep breath. "Right, so Kenny and McKay said that Todd's signal is coming to them with a time delay so, let's all cross our fingers and pray that they're still here or that, at least, whoever's hive this is knows where they went."

John started down the ravine with Lorne, Ronon and the wraith following him. "So what's the plan?" Lorne asked his commanding officer. "We just gonna walk up to their front door and ring the doorbell?"

"That's the plan," John said because, really, there wasn't much else they could do.

Lorne shook his head. "That's a crap plan. We're going to get eaten."

Ronon silently agreed. Walking up to random hives was almost never a god idea and no matter how much he knew that Sheppard wanted to find his sister, the former runner couldn't help but agree with Lorne on this one.

Caavin snorted. "I shall not allow you to be eaten," he promised the humans, amused slightly by their antics. They were a theatrical lot these Atlantians.

John glanced back and looked at TJ before turning to look at Lorne. "See? The wraith'll protect us."

Lorne sighed and rolled his eyes but none the less continued to follow his commander. This, he could tell was going to end badly.

~xXx~

Emmagan was, again, busy, overseeing another choosing when Loranna came to him and informed him that, not only was Commander Caavin here but that there was another elder with him as well as a group of humans that included the colonel John Sheppard. The wraith had growled softly to himself and, after giving the visiting commander an excuse that was admittedly not one of his best, he followed his companion from the hall and up to the waiting room of his hive entering angrily and glaring at the large group of individuals that he found in it.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked, crossing his arms and glaring at the person that happened to be the nearest to him; a dark haired male that looked vaguely like the Eldest's Katherine.

John eyed the wraith who looked a lot like the late Steve only about ten times vainer. "I'm sorry," he said, not sounding sorry at all, "Did we interrupt something?"

Emmagan snarled. "As a matter of fact, human, you did, now," he broke off and looked about the gathered persons until he found Commander Caavin. "Commander," he said respectively, even in the mood he was in he didn't dare treat an elder disrespectfully. "What service may I give to you?"

Caavin hissed. "We are tracking my sire and, according to our calibrations, his last known transmission was from this location. Have you seen him?"

Emmagan shook his head. "With all due respect, elder, I do not know who your sire -"

"Aw come on!" John shouted, interrupting the wraith and rounding on TJ whom he proceeded to glare at in irritation. "Does nobody know who your dad is?"

Caavin crossed his arms and eyed the human in annoyance. "To those of importance, the connection is known but, amongst others, I can assure you that the topics of genealogy and whom is related by blood to whom is not widely discussed."

John harrumphed and promptly smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand before turning back to the wraith whose hive they'd literally walked right up to. "Okay, so his dad, sire or whatever you call him is about this tall," he made a gesture at a spot roughly a six inches above his head, "has green skin and white hair like the rest of you and is -"

"My sire is the Eldest."

John rounded on him. "You interrupted me."

Caavin snorted. "Your description was lacking sufficiently in substance. My way was more direct and faster."

John huffed irritably. "Kill joy."

Emmagan's left eye twitched. "You…" he peered at the commander with whom he had traded with frequently for many centuries. "You are the Eldest's -"

"I am his first born," Caavin filled in more of his identity and then, losing patience with the other wraith, snapped. "Now, have you or have you not seen -"

"He was here," Emmagan replied in answer. "Two days ago and in the company of two humans; a male and a female. The male I do not know and have never seen and the female was the one that I gave to you in exchange for your assistance."

John made an unhappy noise. "But he's not here now?" he asked, angry that they were still playing catch up. He had been so hoping that Todd and Kate were still here, he'd crossed his fingers and toes and everything. He sighed and was about to ask another question when his brain froze and latched on to something that the wraith had said. Wordlessly he turned and eyed TJ darkly. "What does he mean he gave Kate to you?"

Caavin sighed and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He had known of course, as soon as he realized that his sire had gone to Emmagan, that Katherine's brief roll as his companion might come to light but now that it had, he found himself at a loss to explain the situation in a way that the humans would accept. "She was given to me," he began only to be cut off by the brother of the female in question.

"Yes, we got that part," John snapped at the wraith irritably. "Why?"

Lorne raised his hand. "I know."

John rounded on him. "Well by all means, enlighten me."

"Remember when Kate got made into a companion the first time and was only held for like two days?" Lorne explained looking pointedly at the colonel who, at the reminder of that particular ordeal, whirled around and fixed Todd's son with a look that could've wilted a flower.

"That was you!" he screeched angrily, pissed. "What is it with your family and my sister?"

Caavin balked. "I do not know -"

John ignored him and began to rant. "I mean, Kate was your companion for two days and she was Todd's companion for three months during which time he -"

"My sire took Katherine as his companion?" Caavin cut the ranting human off, his eyes wide.

John stopped talking and deflated. "Yes, well, he kind of had to," he explained. "It was either he take her or she would've been given to some other…you know what? Ask him!" John yelled, pointing at the fortress commander who, since they'd gotten here, hadn't said a word and had just stood there hovering in the background.

Caavin took the human's advice and rounded on Romulus who had the gall to look bored; as if nothing out of the ordinary had just been disclosed and that Valloran's taking of companions was something that happened often. "Well?" the younger wraith demanded of his sire's closest friend.

Romulus heaved a dramatic sigh and eyed Valloran's son. "While your sire was incarcerated in my prison there was an incident and Katherine was brought before me to be given judgment upon. My second suggested that she be given as a companion to break her of her sprit and, for reasons that were not known to me at the time but that are obvious now, your sire could not allow that to happen and so he petitioned for her. She was given to him and she stayed with him until we were rescued and removed from that hell hole."

Caavin digested this. When he had found out through a slip of his sire's tongue, or perhaps it had been simply carelessness, that Katherine had been a companion to another wraith since having been his, Caavin had been enraged by the thought. While he himself would not have forced her indeed, he had planned to court her had he been allowed to keep her and had made an offer to court her even after he had released her and their paths had crossed again, he knew that there were few other wraith who would have sustained. Learning that she had been taken by his sire and that it had been done to save her made the younger wraith feel only slightly better about the issue. Knowing of his sire's disposition towards Katherine, he found himself curious over one thing.

"And," he began, hoping quiet reverently that he would be given a negative answer top his inquiry, "Did anything -"

"I hardly think it is any of your concern what transpired between your sire and Katherine whilst she was under his care," Romulus cut the younger wraith off with a look while he inwardly sighed; this would all be so much easier if Caavin did not care for Katherine as much as he did.

Caavin dropped his eyes and John peered at him. The colonel wasn't actually as pissed at the wraith as he'd come off as being. This probably had something to do with the fact that he knew that TJ hadn't touched Kate whereas Todd most certainly hadn't had the same control. There was also the fact that he was fairly certain that TJ cared about Kate and that, if he found out all that his dad had done to her, he'd give Todd hell for it. This alone was enough motivation for John to tell him what had happened. Maybe if Todd got enough flack for his actions from someone whose opinion of him he actually cared about he'd get the picture and leave Kate the hell alone.

Romulus took a deep breath and turned back to Emmagan. "Now, I do not suppose you know or were told in what direction -"

"They had to make it look like they were sleeping together," John cut in, turning so that he could look directly at TJ so that the wraith knew he was talking to him.

Caavin sucked in a breath of air that burned on its way down to his lungs. "And?'

John shrugged. "Oh, he did all sorts of things. He'd touch her face, play with her hair, lay his hand on her arm or on the small of her back. He kissed her once while they were out on a walk up on the battlements," he paused and tossed aside his casual demeanor before continuing again in deadly seriousness. "And then he actually tried to sleep with her; got all the way to third base before Rodney knocked on the door and interrupted them but not before he bit her. Kate's now got a lovely bite mark on her shoulder have you seen it?" Caavin made a noise and John continued. "You have? Well, it's a perfect impression of your dad's teeth."

Caavin stood there in shock, silently seething, while Romulus turned to colonel Sheppard and glared at him. "Was that entirely necessary?" he asked the human darkly.

John nodded. "Yes, yes it was; I feel better now."

Romulus curled his lip and returned his attention to Emmagan who had taken to standing off to the side with his arms crossed, the expression on his face one of intense amusement. "Do you or do you not know where they have gone?" he ground out, angry at both Sheppard and Caavin and needing this whole situation to be over so that they could move on.

Emmagan, who had enjoyed the theatricality of the tale he had just been told unfold before his eyes, shook his head with mirth still in his eyes. "No, I do not."

Romulus huffed and straightened, turning back to the others. "Come, we must return to Atlantis," when nobody but Major Lorne moved, the elder wraith snarled and fixed both Caavin and Sheppard with a heated glare. "Now!"

Both human and wraith snapped out of the trances they'd been inhabiting and began to walk, retracing the path they'd taken that had lead them to the anti-chamber in the first place. With one last sigh of annoyance, Romulus followed and Emmagan was left alone in his hive still greatly amused by the apparent drama that was the life of the Eldest and his kin.

"Milord."

The wraith turned and found that both Loranna and the commander whom had come to choose standing behind him. His eyes shifted to the right and he saw that the commander had with him a young female human with reddish hair. "You have chosen?"

The commander nodded. "I have. I will take my leave."

Emmagan nodded. "Of course," he gestured towards Loranna. "My companion will see you to your transport."

The commander inclined his head and then left leaving Emmagan alone to contemplate all that he had just witnessed and all that he had heard.

~xXx~

The Commander was pleased. Not only had he a new companion courtesy of Emmagan but, he also now knew that the female runner, Katherine of Atlantis, was with the Eldest. All was going according to plan and once he returned to his hive he would tell his Queen of his discovery. The runner's tracking device had a time delay in it and could not be tracked in real time while, the sub-space transmitter that the Eldest had implanted within himself could be. Oh yes, he smiled inwardly to himself, his queen and her sisters would be pleased. Soon they would be rid of the Eldest once and for all, he and his human whore.

~xXx~

The moon on the planet they were on wasn't bright enough or at least, Kate didn't think so. For the hundredth time or so she tripped on the ground and stumbled, pitching forwards and catching herself against the solid trunk of a tree. Breathing heavily, she pushed herself back up and continued walking. She was at the back of the line of three with Kiryk in the lead and Todd between the two of them. They'd been on this planet for a little over a day now and were just now looping back around and to head back towards the gate. Kate was tired and she wanted to ask the boys to stop so that she could rest but she didn't dare. Her weakness had already cost her dear during her run and she wasn't about to let it do so again. She would go on.

Her foot caught on a root and she fell forwards again only this time there wasn't anything around her that she could catch herself with. She hit the ground on her knees and let out a little cry of despair that was almost inaudible before she got up and brought herself into a sitting position and proceeded to attempt to stand. She couldn't do it and so she remained sitting on the ground and temporality let herself dwell on how tired she was, how much her head hurt and how very cold and miserable she was.

"Katherine?"

Kate looked up. "Todd," she breathed at seeing the wraith hovering over her, looking down on her in concern. "I just need a minute."

Her voice was weak and unfocused, coming out in an almost breathy quality and Todd frowned in worry. Crouching, he studied her. "Are you certain?' he inquired, reaching out a hand to touch her face and lift her chin up towards his. He started as his fingers brushed her skin. "You are warm Katherine," he told her concernedly. "Your temperature is elevated."

Kate jerked her face away from his touch. "I'm fine," she insisted stubbornly. "I just need a couple of minutes to rest and they we can keep- "

"What's wrong?" Kiryk asked, coming to stand behind the kneeling wraith before crouching down himself so that he could be on the same level as Kate who, now that he thought about it, looked a little pale. "You don't look so good."

Kate hissed and growled. "I'm fine."

Todd ignored her protests that she was indeed well and moved closer to her, grabbing hold of her arm in order to stay her whilst leaning forwards to cup her cheek with his feeding hand. "You are not fine," he told her, looking steadily into her eyes. "Your skin is warm to the touch and your color is less than it should be," she looked away from him and he continued. "You have not been feeling well for same time now. Why have you said nothing?"

Kate ground her teeth together. "We haven't had the time to stop," she bit out tersely.

Todd let out a low, soft hiss before gathering Katherine to him and standing. He could tell from the way her body leaned into his that she was having trouble remaining upright and so he lent her his strength and support by wrapping an arm around her waist. "We would have made time, Katherine, to stop and rest for you," he told her quietly as he felt her head lower to rest on his collarbone.

Rather then continue to protest, Kate stayed silent and simply let herself be held. Todd was warm and he made some of the aches her body was suffering from bleed away. Todd stood still and seemed to understand what it was that she needed from him right now and so, together, they stayed that way until Kiryk cleared his throat and they moved apart. Kate's legs were a bit unsteady but they held and she didn't fall. Todd continued to hover near her anyways; his concern and worry for her almost tangible and that, like his embrace, made her warm.

Kiryk looked over his traveling companion and, not for the first time, begrudged her the closeness that she had with the wraith. The predator was as cold and indifferent as the rest of his kind accept when it came to her and that, was just unnatural. It made Kiryk uneasy. "She needs a bath, a hot meal and a bed to sleep in," he said, shrugging his resentment of the relationship she had with the wraith and focusing on the situation at hand. "I saw a house a little ways back ."

Todd nodded. "Lead the way," he offered the human who turned and began to walk back the way that they had come. He turned to Katherine. "Lean on me."

Kate was too tired to argue and did as she was told. It took some time but eventually they came to the dwelling that Kiryk had said he'd seen and their leader stopped and turned back to the wrath and the woman.

"You're gonna have to stay here," he told the wraith, indicating the woods around the house. "They won't help us if they know you're here."

Todd inclined his head in acquiescence. "So be it," he turned to Katherine and lifted her face up towards his. "Sleep well, my Katherine. I shall be watching over you."

Kate swallowed thickly and shook her head before backing away from Todd and following Kiryk towards the house.

Behind them, Todd hunkered down to wait out the night.

When Kiryk knocked on the door it was opened by a young woman who looked surprised to see him and who had a small child with her that peeked out curiously from behind her skirts. "Yes?" the woman asked, looking over both the man and the young woman that stood on her doorstep.

"We need shelter," Kiryk told her, appealing to the woman by indicating Kate. "We have been traveling for some time and she has become ill. Please, we only ask that you provide for us for one night."

The woman's eyes widened as she took in all of the young woman that had to be supported by her companion. "Of course, come in," she said and stood back s that they could enter her home. She led them over towards the fire and called out to her husband. "Rolland, these travelers will be staying the night. Have you any objection?"

The man, who looked to be about John's age, looked up from the doll he was whittling for his daughter to see the two people his wife had invited into their home. He took one look at the woman and was on his feet, immediately helping her to sit down by the fire. "No," he answered his wife as he searched and found a blanket to wrap around her shoulders, "I have no objections," he looked at the young woman, she looked frightfully pale. "Are you alright miss? How long has she been like this?"

"Too long by the looks of it," his wife said, bustling out of the room to the kitchen so that she could fix the pour woman something to eat. "Here," she said upon returning as she handed the girl some leftovers from their own evening meal. "It is a little cold but it is hearty and it will do you good."

Kate accepted the food gratefully and looked up at both the woman and her husband. "Thank you," she managed after some effort. "I -"

Rolland shook his head. "Never you mind, child," he told her before he stood and looked around to his daughter. "Come with me Sara. We need to fix this nice lady a bed to sleep on here by the fire."

The little girl nodded and went with her father while the mother turned to the man who had come with the girl. "I'm afraid that we only have enough spare bedding to fix a spot for her," she said sadly. "I'm sorry that we cannot provide -"

"It's fine, I'll make do," he assured her, smiling at her kindly. "You do more than enough by allowing us to stay here."

The wife nodded and moved off, going to help her husband locate the extra blankets since he didn't know where to look for them; men never did. She sent Sara to go and keep the visitors company while she helped her husband search.

The little girl wandered back into the man room and sat some ways away from both Kate and Kiryk before she focused in on Kate and studied her. "You look like her," the girl said, her innocent voice sounding almost mystified. "The woman from the stories."

Kate looked up. "What woman?" she asked, curious.

Sara smiled. "Katherine of Atlantis," she answered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "They say that she's beautiful in a real sort of way, whatever that means, and that she's got eyes like storm clouds before it rains," she looked at Kate. "Like yours."

Kate was dumbfounded. There were stories about her? Since when? And they said that she was beautiful; Kate didn't consider herself a beauty and actually thought that she was quite ordinary. She was attractive enough she supposed and she could even pass as pretty if she put in the effort, did her hair and put on some make-up but, just as she was, she wasn't anything special. The only one that had ever called her beautiful was John and he was as biased as they came; not even Todd has ever said that she was beautiful. He'd said she was desirable but being desirable wasn't the same as being told you were beautiful.

Kiryk shook his head at Kate's own ignorance of her appearance and turned towards the little girl just as both her mother and father came back with armloads of bedding materials and blankets. "What do the stories say?" he asked kindly, trying to keep the little girl entertained.

Sara smiled and her mother looked over to her. "Here now," she said, eyeing her daughter. "What stories are you telling our visitors?" she asked before giving her daughter a stern look. "You aren't about to tell the one about the woman and the wraith are you?"

Sara dropped her eyes and her smile faded. "No mama."

Her mother inclined her head. "Good because a more ridiculous story has never been told and it will not be repeated by a daughter of mine. You should know better now, get on off to bed. You can tell our visitors more stories in the morning."

Sara nodded obediently and scampered off to her bedroom leaving Kiryk and Kate alone in the company of Rolland and his wife.

"I you don't mind me asking," Kate said, now overly curious having heard the word wraith. "What story was she about to tell us and why is it ridiculous?"

The woman looked at her. "You haven't heard it then?" she asked and, at Kate's shake of her head she sighed. "It's been going around for a time now. It's silly really, purely a fantasy; there's no truth to it."

Kate frowned. "No truth to what?"

Rolland shook his head. "Stop dancing around the subject Martha and tell her, she obviously hasn't heard it so she can't know that it's just make believe."

Martha huffed and turned back to the girl who looked a bit better now that she'd eaten but was still pale and sickly looking. "There are always stories out in the worlds about women who are stupid enough to let themselves fall in love with wraith. Sara and I were at market the other day and we heard one such as that only it was different. There is this woman, apparently, named Katherine who comes from the city of the ancestors. She is strong of body and strong of mind and very beautiful or at least, that's what they say and the story goes that she, unlike the women in all the other stories, not only loves a wraith but that her wraith loves her back."

Kate blinked and felt her mouth fall open. Kiryk nodded her so that she'd close it before Martha or Rolland asked her about her reaction. "That's…" she tailed off, not really sure what to say. She knew the story was about her and she was pretty sure that the wraith in the story was supposed to be Todd. Hearing that he loved her, or that at least, the people in the Pegasus galaxy seemed to think so, made her almost giddy with happiness but at the same time it made her sad because she knew she wished that that part of the story was true.

Kiryk snorted. "I can see why you'd not want your daughter to tell that story," he said, masking his own surprise to having been told a fable about the woman sitting next to him and the wraith that he was sure was outside right now prowling laps around the house by reacting in a way that he was sure was expected of him.

Rolland chuckled. "Yes, it does her no good to have such false hope that the wraith are anything other than monsters. It still surprises me that there are so many that swear that the story is true."

Martha sniffed. "More the fools are they," she said before finished her making of the bed and turning to look at the girl. "Your bed is ready dear," she said before frowning slightly. "I'm sorry, but I don't believe I asked for your name."

Kate set the plate of half eaten food down and went to the pallet by the fire to lay down. "My name's Kate," she told the kindly woman who didn't believe that Todd loved her anymore then she did. It was a nice thought though and maybe she'd dream about it when she slept tonight.

Martha smiled down at her. "Well then Kate, sleep tightly and I pray for your health in the morning."

Kate nodded her head in thanks and lay down. She was asleep almost instantly and about her, the others moved off to also seek slumber while Todd, whom was outside, stood by the window and peered inwards to watch his Katherine while she slept.

Morning came and the people in the house stirred and awoke all except Kate who did not move or stir as those around her busied themselves with the making of the morning meal. When Kiryk sent to wake her, her skin burned at his touch and even after shaking her for several minutes she did not wake.

"What's wrong?" Rolland asked as he g=came to stand besides the man who and stooped in order to wake his friend. "Will she not wake?"

Kiryk sat back on his heels and looked up at the man who had opened his house to them. "No," he said, worried. "And her skin feels like fire."

Rolland made a face and knelt so that he could feel eh forehead. He drew his hand away quickly. "You are right," he said in concern, "Her skin does burn."

Kiryk shook his head worriedly. "I don't understand," he said. "She shouldn't be -"

A scream erupted from the kitchen followed by the sound of breaking dishes and both Kiryk and Rolland looked up to see Martha standing some feet away, looking utterly horrified while staring at the door. Sara cowered behind her and clung to her mother's skirts, her little eyes wide and terrified.

Rolland and Kiryk stood and walked to within sight of the door. Kiryk groaned as Rolland immediately leapt the distance between himself and his family and put them protectively behind him.

"Nice entrance," the former runner scolded the wraith who stood framed in the doorway looking as wholly frightening as he always did in the dark before dawn. Rolland, Martha and even Sara frowned and turned to look questioningly at Kiryk who ignored them. "I trust there's a reason you just decided to barge in here and -"

"Katherine will not wake?" he interrupted the human, taking several more steps into the house, ignoring the sounds of terror that his entrance elicited from the owners of the home as he strode past them and Kiryk and began to seek out his Katherine. He found her resting on a pallet of blankets and other bed coverings on the floor by a dying fire and, with a soft hiss, went to her and crouched down to examine her.

Kiryk glared at him as he walked by. "How the hell do you know?"

Todd growled softly and reached out to touch Katherine's face, starting at how warm her skin was before he began to check over the rest of her, measuring her pulse and counting her heartbeats before he answered the human. "I can feel her," he informed Kiryk as he felt her pulse flutter weakly against his fingertips. "Her presence is a constant in my mind. During the night I felt it weaken."

Kiryk stared at him. "How.." he began, now completely lost. "Does that work?"

Todd growled. "That is not any of your concern human, you need only know that it exists and that through it I may gage Katherine's health and condition."

The former runner didn't want to let this whole link thing go but knew that they had bigger problems to worry about now besides the fact that Todd and Kate were somehow connected. "So why won't she wake up?" he asked, taking a few steps towards the wraith who was now starting to look quite panicked.

Kiryk took that as a bad sign.

Todd let out a breath through his nose and looked up at the human that traveled with both he and Katherine. "She is dying."

Kiryk felt the blood leave his face. "She's…we have to fix her!"

Todd snapped at him. "Why do you think I am here?" he snarled before returning his attention back to Katherine and readying himself. What he was about to do was not a particularly wise thing to do and if Romulus was here he would tell him that it was outright stupid but Todd didn't care. He would not let Katherine die while it was within his power to save her.

Kiryk frowned and eyed the wraith quizzically. "What are you going to…" he trailed off when he saw the wraith place his hand on Kate's chest and press down. The family gasped in horror but Kiryk knew that Todd wasn't going to feed on her no, he was going to do something else. He was going to give her the gift of life.

Again.

The process took perhaps two minutes during which time Todd could feel his energy draining away from him so that when he was done and the transference was complete he was quite tired and very near to collapse. He stayed himself though, from succumbing to his own weariness and focused his eyes onto Katherine's face, watching as she opened her eyes; her cheeks now more near to the color that they should be.

"Va -" Kate remembered where she was and stopped short, restarting with, "Todd?"

The wraith swayed were he sat and was forced to brace himself by placing a hand on the ground besides him. "Katherine," he hissed, his voice weak and barely audible. "You fell better?"

Kate nodded and sat up, scooting back until her back hit a wall. Blinking sleep out of her eyes she gazed at the wraith in front of her and, at seeing how shaken he looked, how weak, she looked down at her chest and saw the evidence of what he'd done staring at her glaringly. Her eyes snapped back up to his. "You haven't fed in days how could you possible afford to give me the gift when you don't have any energy to sp -"

"I gave you energy from my own life Katherine, to heal you and make you well."

A collective gasp rang out through the house as everyone in it - Rolland, Martha, Kiryk, Kate and even little Sara - stared at the wraith in complete and utter shock.

Kate reached out and touched his face with her fingertips. "But," she started as she felt Todd lean into her caress. "It could've killed you."

The wraith hissed and fought to stay conscious. "Your life is more important to me, Katherine, then mine."

Another round of gasps sounded out and, after speaking, Todd's strength gave out and his eyes rolled up into the back of his head as he collapsed forwards. Kate caught him and pulled the wraith into her embrace, wrapping her arms around his torso and moving just a little so that his head lay pillowed on her shoulder. "Stupid wraith," she whispered both angry at him and touched that he would do that for her at his own risk. On impulse, she kissed his forehead before turning her head to rest her cheek on top of his head.

The house was quiet until Sara, stunned by what she had seen but still curious, stepped out from behind her mother's skirts and looked at Kate and the wraith. "The story's true isn't it?" she asked, looking up from the sight and turning towards the man that had come with Kate. "She's Katherine of Atlantis and that's her wraith."

Kiryk, who knew that there wasn't really anyway he could deny the accusation after what they'd all just witnessed, nodded. "Yes," he said. "That's Katherine of Atlantis and that's her wraith."

Sara looked leased with herself. "He loves her," she said in a small voice that Kiryk was sure only he, the little girl and her parents heard.

Kiryk again, could do nothing but nod. "Yes," he said slowly, certain that had he not seen what had just happened with his own eyes, he wouldn't have believed it could ever, possibly be true. "Yes he does."

Sara smiled and looked back at the two of them. "Good," she said, looking up at her mother and father who both looked absolutely stunned. "I'm glad," and with that she turned around and skipped into the kitchen to set the table leaving the grownups to stand and stare at the beautiful lady and the wraith that loved her.

~xXx~

Todd recovered somewhat from his nap and Rolland even offered to let the wraith feed from one of the family's stock animals. The wraith took up the offer and was only slightly better off then Kate was by the time that they left and continued their trek towards the gate. As soon as they were on another world once again, Kate's condition backpedaled and with Todd still too weak to even attempt to give her gift aging - although he did offer - Kiryk suggested that they find the nearest settlement and have Kate get checked out of a doctor. Todd gave in because they didn't have a choice and while Kiryk took Kate into the village that they'd found about a miles hike from the gate, Todd went hunting for something with a bit more substance to it then a goat.

As Kate and Kiryk entered the village, the people skirted away from them and Kiryk thought that that was probably because of the way Kate looked, she was white as a sheet and was having trouble walking. He told her to ignore it and they found the healers soon enough, not even bothering to knock as they walked in and then sat down to wait.

And old man waddled out from a back room within minutes and, upon taking one look at Kate, shot the both of them a saddened look like he knew she was getting ready to die. "you have my sympathies my child," he told her gently, patting her hand before looking up at Kiryk. "But there's nothing I can do for her."

Kiryk glared at him. "But you just saw her!" he exclaimed. Todd was not going to like this.

The old healer sighed and looked at them both. "I've seen her condition many times before on many worlds. What she has cannot be cured by anything but the will of the ancestors. Not even the wraith's gift can undo the toll the disease takes on those that contract it."

Kiryk snorted. "Yeah, we know," he muttered under his breath.

The healer frowned but went on. "You, my child, have what we on this world at least call the Sangarian fever. It is a disease that weakens the body and caused those who have it to experience chills and fatigue even whilst their temperatures rise rapidly. In the end, you will burn from the inside out and you will die."

Kiryk cursed. Todd really wasn't going to like this. The wraith, he'd learned, didn't like accepting defeat any more then Kate did.

"But I'm stronger than most people," she protested, not willing to yet accept that she was on death's doorstep; not on top of everything else. "I could get better -"

The healer looked at her sadly and bowed his shaggy head. "Hold on to that hope my dear, you will need it in the coming days. It will keep you warm."

Kate scowled. "I won't just give up."

The healer smiled. "I am not asking you to," he said. "I am simply telling you the truth. What kind of medicine man would I be if I offered my patients false hope?"

He had a point and so, after thanking him for his time Kiryk helped Kate to stand and together they hobbled out of the village back towards the gate.

Todd met up with them as soon as they were no longer within sight of anyone in the village. "Katherine?" he asked, his voice pronouncing that he, at least, had been successful and was feeling once more up to par.

Kiryk shook his head. "There's nothing that can be done. What's she's got is incurable."

Todd's head reared back and his nostrils flared wide. "Impossible! No illness cannot be cured -"

"There are some Todd," Kate said weakly. Now that they were away from the village, the healer's words were starting to sink in and she was starting to see that he had a valid point. There was a very real possibility that she was going to die.

Todd snorted. "I refuse to believe that," he looked at Katherine and reached out to her to lift her face towards his. "I will find a way to make you well again. I -"

"Ah, Todd," Kiryk interrupted the vowing wraith and pointed skywards. "We have a problem."

The wraith looked up and felt his eyes widen as they took in the oncoming darts. "How did they -"

Kate cut in over him. "Never mind how," she screeched. "Run!"

Todd grabbed her hand and pulled her to him, picking her up and then taking off quickly back towards the gate. Kiryk followed and both he and Todd made certain to not travel in straight line so as to confuse their pursers but, the darts always remained directly over them; following their every move.

"This is impossible," Todd complained as they took shelter in a cave to rest as the darts flew by overhead. "A runner's tracking device does not operate in real time and is not so accurate that they would be able to so proficiently follow us and…" he trailed off, a peculiar look settling on his features.

Kiryk looked at him. "What?"

Todd hissed angrily and, in the place of an answer, crouched and retrieved a dagger from his boot. Standing he held it out to Kiryk. "I need you to do something for me," he said before placing the knife into Kiryk's hand and turning around to indicate the exact place on his back where the human should begin to cut.

~xXx~

"I'm tired of playing catch up!" John yelled, throwing his hands up as he paced the length of the briefing room for what had to be the eightieth time or so. "Why can't Todd just stay still!"

Woolsey eyed the man in sympathy. "I would imagine that he continues to move around because he is trying to protect Kate and he knows that lingering in any one place for too long isn't a good idea."

The irritated colonel growled but made no response because Woolsey was right, Todd couldn't just sit still and wait for them to come and find him, he had to keep the both of them moving. That didn't mean that John had t be happy about it.

"Well, at least we know that he's taking his job seriously," Elizabeth tried to comfort John who she knew felt absolutely helpless right now. Lorne, Ronon and the two wraith were off world tracking down Todd's last transmitter coordinates and they, the three of them, were waiting for them to get back with the results. "It means that he's doing everything in his power to keep her safe."

John sorted and collapsed into a nearby chair. "Not everything. I'm sure there's something he hasn't done yet that he could try."

Woolsey and Elizabeth looked at each other, not quite sure what to say to that or even if there was anything that could be said to it at all. Just as the both of them were about to try and console the military leader once again the gate activated and they were all on their feet, their eyes trained towards the doors.

Ronon appeared and he had a grim expression on his face. "Bad news I take it?" John asked scornfully and with a scowl. "Let me guess, Todd wasn't there?"

The Setedan shook his head. "No he wasn't but his transmitter was."

John yelped and nearly fell out of his chair. "What do you mean 'his transmitter was'?"

Ronon sighed and took something out of his pocket, tossing it to Sheppard who caught it, looked down at it and gave out a horrid sounding wail of despair. "We found that on the ground in a cave."

John struggled against the sudden urge he had to cry. "So…so then," he gulped and swallowed hard, a lump he couldn't shake forming in the back of his throat. "We have no way of…this is it?"

Ronon looked sorrowfully at his commanding officer. "Sheppard," he said. "I'm sorry."

John could no longer fight back the tears and let them fall. As they slid down his face he sat back down and realized, with a heart wrenching tug of his heart, that he would never see his sister again. Katie Beth was lost to him and now all he could do was mourn.

"I've got to tell David," he said, standing up and making his way towards the door. His feet on autopilot towards his office.

Woolsey's voice stopped him. "We don't know that she'd dead, colonel. She could still be -"

"Yes we do," John said brokenly. "I'll have the funeral arrangements on your desk by tomorrow," and with that, he left while he knew he could still walk; before the real despair had a chance to set in.

Ronon hung back and looked at Woolsey. "Please tell me that you're not gonna give up yet?" he begged earnestly. Sheppard might have let it all go but he wasn't ready to do the same and he needed to know that at least one person wasn't ready to either.

Woolsey shook his head. "No, I'm not and I won't. Not until he have proof that she's dead will I tell the search teams to stop looking."

There was conviction in his voice and Ronon nodded his head in satisfaction before turning on his heel to go give the others the news.

~xXx~

"She is hot, her temperature is rising rapidly. If we do not get it down soon then she will -"

"Do you know how many people die from the Sangarian fever each season?" Kiryk irritably asked the wraith who seemed to not totally understand that there was very little that could be done for Kate at this point. Even in its early stages, the disease that had taken hold of her body was hard to get rid of and Kate was well past the early stages. With the rate at which she was deteriorating, she'd be lucky to last another two days.

Todd snarled and kept up his ministrations for Katherine's benefit. Again, the three of them found themselves in a cave on some rotten, wet world and keeping Katherine dry and warm was his top priority. At the moment, she was sleeping securely before him in the space between his legs whilst he kept his arms wrapped around her for added warmth. She was shivering, her body shaking and shuddering violently, despite the fact that her body's internal temperature was alarmingly high and it was all that Todd could do to keep her comfortable enough so that she could continue to slumber; whiling away the hours until either he or the human could come up with a way to cure her.

From across the cave, which really wasn't any more than a recess - albeit a large one - betwixt two impressively large boulders, Kiryk eyed the wraith who had consistently and for the ten hours or so done nothing other than hold on tightly to Kate, soothe her and check her temperature over and over again. It had occurred to him quite a while back that the wraith had no idea how much trouble she was in as wraith, as far as Kiryk knew, never got sick. The former runner was quite sure that Todd was still suffering under the delusion that the illness that Kate was suffering from would run its course and that, in the end, she'd be fine. Someone was going to have to rid him of that idea and, since there was no one else around, the unfortunate task of telling Todd the wraith that Kate was, in all likelihood, going to die, fell to him.

And he was not looking forwards to it.

"Ah, Todd," Kiryk began, not at all sure of how to go through with this. The wraith said nothing and made no move so, he continued. "I don't know how much you know about the Sangarian fever but, at this point, there's nothing we can do for her. She's gonna -"

"Do not say it!" Todd hissed angrily, snapping his head up and fixing his angry gaze on that of the human sitting across from him. "Katherine is stronger than the rest of your race and can survive many things that would otherwise kill any other of you. She can -"

"But she's still human!" Kiryk interrupted him, glaring at him reproachfully. "Stronger than average or not, inside, under the skin, she's the same as me and I'm telling you that there is nothing we can do for her. She's too far gone. Maybe if we'd have caught it sooner, maybe then we could do something but it's too late. She's going to die and all we can do now is ease her suffering so that she -"

"I will not let her die!" Todd growled, tightening his arms around Katherine as much as he dared to do without harming her.

Kiryk scowled at him. "What are you going to do about it?" he demanded, kicking angrily at a rock that had the misfortune of being too near to his left foot. "You've tried the gift, twice, and nothing happened. She's still sick. Face it, this is out of your power, deal with it and move on so that you can at least be there for her in the end."

Todd hissed. "You want for me to accept the fact that I will lose her?" he made a noise that didn't quite constitute a growl but was more than a snarl. "That I cannot do. I will not let her die."

Kiryk threw up his hands; stars on high this wraith was stubborn, probably the most stubborn out of the whole damned bunch. "Well then, " he eyed the creature from across the cave, "What miraculous thing are you going to do to -"

"Not me," Todd said softly, dropping his eyes back down to Katherine's sleeping face where it lay pillowed on his shoulder. She was out of options and so, too, was he. The human male was right, the ability to cure her of her condition was out of his power but, he knew of others who had with the capabilities to do what he could not. For her, for her life, Todd would do anything including ending his if he thought that the fates would accept the trade. Sacrificing his pride, therefore, was a small price to pay.

Kiryk blinked at him. "What do you mean, not you?"

Todd looked up at the male. "There are those, three individuals, that I believe may be able to save her."

Kiryk stared at him for a few long seconds before growing angry. "And you're just now mentioning this why?"

Todd snarled at him. "There is much hatred between them and I," he attempted to explain. "If I ask this of them, there is a good chance that they will require a great deal from me in order to secure their agreement."

Having said that, Kiryk thought he got the idea. Whoever these people were, Todd had waited until he knew he was out of other options before suggesting them and that, quite honestly, made Kiryk very nervous. Todd was the absolute last person any sane person would want to anger and so, the thought that there might be three people out there that had - so much so that the wraith hated them - made those three people almost as equally scary as the wraith now sitting so benignly across from him holding an unconscious human woman in his lap.

Kiryk swallowed. "And you think that they'll help?" he asked, not quite sure that this plan would even work. If Todd hated them then it was a good bet to say they felt the same way towards him and if they did, then Kiryk wasn't so sure that the wraith asking nicely would get Kate the help she needed.

Todd nodded. "They will, they have a certain predisposition to the humans in this galaxy."

Kiryk sighed. "Well, if you think -"

Todd stood, carefully so as not to awaken the woman he held now cradled in his arms. "I do," he started to walk towards the mouth of the cave. "Come," he called back to the still seated human. "We have to go now, before Katherine's condition deteriorates farther."

Kiryk hopped up and followed Todd out of the miniature cave and out into the rain which, thankfully, was now nothing more than a light drizzle. "So, what's the plan?" he asked as they started back towards the gate.

Todd grunted and shifted Katherine so that she was held more securely in his arms. She groaned but didn't wake. "For this to work, we must go to them," he answered the male who easily kept pace besides him. "You will have to be the one to contact them, they will not answer to me."

Kiryk frowned. "And you think they'll go along with it once they find out you sent me?"

Todd inclined his head and shifted Katherine again so that he could dial. Once the gate had activated, he gathered her to him again and walked through. On the other side, he turned to Kiryk in order to give him direction before he started walking again, the human keeping up from behind.

Since it didn't look like Todd'd be answering him any time soon, Kiryk sighed and didn't bother to repeat his question. The wraith was doing this completely on hope and since that in and of itself was a miraculous and almost unheard of thing, Kiryk wasn't really ready to dash them just yet. He'd let Todd hold on to his optimism for now and be ready to tell him 'I told you so' later.

Before him, Todd lead the way up the side of the mountains they'd immediately started to climb as soon as they'd stepped through the gate and fixed his thoughts on what he was going to say in order to convince them to give him their assistance. He knew that he would do anything they asked of him regardless of what it was but, as always, Todd did not like not knowing what was going to happen and, at the particular point in time, he was walking into this completely blind.

It took a little over an hour to get to the top but, in the end, both he and Kiryk achieved the desired goal and came out of the forest onto a plateau halfway up the mountain's face. Around them, the ruins of an ancient city lay scattered and Todd sighed to himself as he looked on them; remembering the last time he had been here.

Kiryk eyed the stone columns and crumbling walls with disinters before turning to the wraith. "So, what now?" he asked.

Todd looked down on him. "You must go into the center of the stones, anywhere will do, and discharge your weapon."

Kiryk raised an eyebrow. "What am I shooting at?"

Todd shrugged. "Nothing."

The humans was confused. "But then -"

"Just do it!"

Kiryk sighed. "Fine," he said in a huff before trotting out into the middle of the ruins and then, with a glare towards Todd the I-speak-in-riddles wraith, pulled out his gun and fired off one shot straight up into the air. He waited and just when he was about to ask the wraith what was supposed to happen now, he was engulfed in a brilliant flash of light before vanishing entirely.

Satisfied, Todd began looking for a place to sit and wait. It did not take long and, with another flash of light, Kiryk reappeared this time in the company of one who was familiar to the wraith and he thanked whoever would listen that the one that Kiryk had gotten to come with him to investigate was this one.

Kiryk was feeling a bit dazed but quite a bit more confidant in the wraith's plan then he had been fifteen minutes ago. "She's over here," he said to the man that was walking besides him.

The man turned to him. When he'd agreed to help this young man he'd done it on very little information and without asking any questions as soon as the man had told him what the girl he was asking for help for was suffering from. The Sangarian fever was an unfortunate side effect of a project once tried by he and his brothers and so he felt responsible. Normally, he and his brothers didn't interfere with the lives of the humans but, given the circumstances, he made an exception. Now, he thought, might be the right time to make some inquires about the patient he was about to treat.

"And how long did you say, she has been suffering from the fever?"

Kiryk did the math in his head. "About a week."

The man stopped short. "A week?" he repeated and looked at the young man who had stopped walking and turned back to him. "No one who contracts the fever lasts a week, she should be dead!"

Kiryk looked at the ground, not quite sure what to say.

The man took a step towards him, his eyes narrowed, now wondering about the wisdom involved in accepting the plea for help without first knowing all the fact. "What aren't you telling me?" he demanded, scrutinizing the man standing before him looking very guilty about something. "What trick do you play for your own amusement?"

Kiryk opened his mouth to answer that he wasn't playing any trick when Todd the wraith did it for him.

"I can assure you that there is not fowl being executed here."

The man whirled around at the sound of the multi-toned voice and locked his eyes onto the face of perhaps the one being he hated more than any other. "You!" he screamed, glaring at the wraith who was still more than half covered his shadow, suddenly weary. "What reason have you sought us out, traitor!"

Todd hissed and stepped from the shade of the falling stones that he had sought refuge under in order to protect Katherine from the elements while he waited. "For exactly the reason that I am sure Kiryk has relayed to you," he said, refusing to be baited as he was sure the Lantean would like for him to be. "There is one that requires your help."

The Lantean sniffed and looked up at the creature now wholly visible to him fully prepared to tell him to go to hell when he stopped and felt his mouth drop open wide. The once High Commander of wraith and most heated being in all the stars to him and any other of his race, stood before him tenderly and carefully holding a woman in his arms. The Lantean let his eyes drop to her face and gasped, his gaze lifting quickly upwards to lock with that of the wraith's.

"What ails her?"

Todd held the Lantean's eyes with his own and refused to look away. "She is dying," he said, choking on the words as they were most difficult for him to say. "I…I did not know what else to do, where else to take her. The gift of life has done nothing to help restore her and I cannot take her back to Atlantis. I have come to ask for your help to save her."

The Lantean stared at him. Never, not in twenty thousand years, had he or anyone else seen this wraith look so unsure, so lost. The look in his golden, reptilian eyes was one of utter helplessness and that alone was enough to bade him stay and not to simply walk away as he knew he should. "Why can you not return her to the city?" he asked, still not completely sure that he was indeed witnessing what his eyes told him he was: Valloran, desperate and afraid.

Todd dropped his eyes down to Katherine's face and gripped at her more tightly before returning his gaze to the Lantean's. "She is a runner."

The Lantean blinked. "A…" he looked down on her. "But she is female!"

Todd nodded. "The first of her kind. The queen's have placed a bounty on her head promising rewards for any hunter that brings her to them. She is being hunted not by only one hive but by them all. Atlantis was just recently attacked not three months hence, if I take her there, I would be leading every hive ship in the galaxy directly to them in a time when they cannot adequately defend themselves."

Again, the Lantean looked at him strangely. "And since when do you care about the fate of our city?" he demanded, crossing his arms and glaring reproachfully at the wraith. "As I recall, it was by your hand that the city was sunk and abandoned in the first place."

Todd growled. "My concern for or not for Atlantis is irrelevant! Katherine is dying and I do not have the power to save her you and your brothers however, do."

The Ancient grappled with what to say. While it was true that the fact that Valloran had sought him out in order to ask for favors was not lost on him, the Lantean had do wonder why the wraith was brothering to do any of this at all. "Why should -"

"Zallus," Todd interrupted the male and looked at him in as pleading a manner as he could for he was quite desperate by now. "I ask this of you for her sake; not for mine," he paused and, with some difficulty, swallowed every last ounce of pride he had that was left to him. "Please."

Silence descended upon the ruins and Zallus could do nothing but stand there for a few moments, slack jawed and wholly disbelieving of the fact that Valloran, High Commander of wraith, greatest and most feared warrior to have ever lived, had just asked him, a Lantean for help and used the word 'please'. The Lantean doctor could count on three fingers, four now, the number of times he'd heard of this particular individual using that word and because of that, found that he could not refuse the assistance that was being requested of him.

"Bring her," he said, swallowing the shock that was lodged thickly in the back of this throat. He trusted Valloran to obey him as he turned on his heel and led the way back towards the center of the ruins, both the wraith and the human following him. As he activated the transport, the four of them disappeared in a flash of light and reappeared in a subterranean complex that was as lavish as it was huge. Turning down a hallway, Zallus didn't bother to check and see if he was being followed as he lead the way to the compounds medical ward. Upon arriving, he stood back and gestured for Valloran to relinquish his burden mentally tallying the moments before his brothers would arrive and demand answers from him.

They appeared just as the wraith was setting Kate down and, predictably, upon seeing him, burst out in protests.

"What is he doing here!" Arius demanded of his younger brother who sighed and turned towards both he and Portan.

Zallus looked at both his brothers and opened his mouth to give them the speech he had been rehearsing since agreeing to Valloran's request. "He has asked for my help and I have granted it."

Portan's eyes widened indignantly whilst Arius let out an angry sounding growl. "You are assisting him!" the latter screeched, his eyes wild with rage. "With what!"

In place of an immediate answer, the youngest of the three brothers stepped to the side and allowed the older two to see into the infirmary behind him. Valloran had placed Kate carefully down on an examination table and was now hovering besides her protectively as though he thought that either Portan or Arius would attack her. Zallus almost, and fleetingly, wished that they would just to see what the wraith would do to them. If the expression on his face was any indication, the Lantean physician could well see Valloran literally ripping both his brother's heads off if they dared harm or even attempt to harm the woman he was acting as sentinel for.

His care for her was a sight to behold, truly.

Arius took in the sight and then let his eyes fall onto the face of the girl. He blinked and then allowed a slow, sadistic smile to spread over his features. "Major Sheppard," he acknowledged her, taking a step forwards. "What on earth did you do to her?"

Todd growled and came around the operations table he'd laid Katherine on and positioned himself between her and Arius, his mind flashing back to what the Lantean had tried to do to her when last they had met. "I did nothing!" he hissed, his teeth bared in evident threat. "She is ill, I have brought her here to -"

Arius smiled cruelly at the creature that had been quick to rise to the defensive. "And what makes you think," he said slowly, savoring the chance he was given to goad this wraith, "that me and my brothers should help you save your, what exactly is she to you again? Tell me, I've forgotten?"

"Arius," Portan said in warning, weary of the look on Valloran's face. The last time they had seen the wraith he had prevented his younger brother from forcing the unwilling Major Sheppard to share his bed and the eldest brother had no illusions about what Valloran would do to Arius if he threatened her again. As protectively inclined as he was towards her, the outcome of a confrontation between them would not be good.

Arius ignored his brother and eyed the wraith, waiting for a response to his question. "Well?" he inquired. "Why is it that she is so important to you?"

Todd growled. "That is none of your concern. Her value to me has no bearing on the situation at -"

"I say it does!" Arius spoke over him, cutting of the wraith's tirade. "And I say that your companion's health is of no concern to me and -"

"She is not my companion!"

"Your whore then!" Arius screamed, quite pleased with himself when he saw the look of utter fury pass over and then settle on Valloran's face. "Whatever she is I see no reason that me or my brothers should concern ourselves with -"

"Valloran?"

The weak call was barely audible but it was heard nonetheless. In an instant, the room grew silent and stilled as its occupants became frozen where they stood Todd, being the only one of them that retained any motion. Moving more quickly than on any other occasion in his life, the wraith was at Katherine's side almost before the last syllable of his name had finished forming on her lips. Reaching out to her, he touched the tips of his fingers to her face and drew a hissing breath inwards as she stirred and turned her head towards him.

"Katherine?"

Kate fought through the darkness that was oppressing her and forced her eyes to open, the first sight they saw being the worried face of Todd the wraith hovering over her. "Valloran," she whispered, her voice as weak as the rest of her. Her eyes felt heavy and she tried her very hardest to keep them open. "Valloran, I'm cold."

Todd felt his breath hitch in his throat as he looked down on Katherine in her weakened state. He could tell, feel, that she was close to death and that if nothing was done soon, he would lose her forever. It was an outcome he would do everything in his power to prevent and so, in the spirit of this, he thought to give her strength; any and all that he could. "You will be warm soon, my Katherine, I promise you."

Kate closed her eyes and lifted her hand upwards and out, seeking him. She needed to touch him, needed to feel his skin against hers for her to truly feel like his words were true. He seemed to know this and, just when she thought her strength would fail her and she felt her hand begin to tremble, she felt the warmth that was his skin against hers and felt the tiny, tickling prickle of his feeding slit slid over her hand; grasping it tightly. Having the touch she'd needed, Kate settled back onto whatever it was she was lain upon and allowed herself to slip away; the darkness calling her back into its embrace.

Todd started worriedly. "Katherine?" he called, begging her with his voice to answer him. "Katherine?"

She did not answer and, even more alarmingly, he felt her grip on his hand slacken and then go limp. Desperately he called out to her again and then, when that did not provoke a response, he resorted to calling out with his mind. Katherine, Katherine, can you hear me? Answer me, answer me please. Do not leave me. Katherine, Katherine, please…

When still she did not respond, the frightened wraith let out a cry of despair and turned wildly towards the Lanteans all of whom, his fevered mind noticed, were staring at him with various expressions of perplexed bewilderedness and complete shock. "Please," he begged, beseeching them as he had never in his life asked anything of anyone else, human, wraith, Lantean or otherwise. "Please save her. I…I cannot lose her she is…is is everything to me."

The truth of his words rang clear and could be seen in the way he looked at them. Wordlessly, both Portan and Zallus moved forwards and immediately began to administer various antibiotics and immune strengthening agents directly into her bloodstream that took effect almost immediately. Still without speaking, Portan fetched an IV so that they might be able to get some water and nutrients into her system whilst Zallus began to perform a scan to search for any other viral infections that might be contributing to her condition. When their work was done and Kate was stable, both brothers stepped away from her and looked towards the clearly very relieved looking wraith.

"She will recover," Portan informed Valloran whose eyes, instead of being on he and Zallus, were fixed onto the prone woman's face. Portan let him look, rather than call his attention onto him and continued. "She can remain here until -"

"We can't stay," Kiryk, who hadn't said a word since coming back down here, spoke up. "We have to leave."

Portan looked affronted. "The girl is in no condition to leave supervised care. She must remain -"

"The human is correct," Todd spoke, pulling his eyes forcibly away from Katherine's no longer quite so pale face. "We cannot linger."

Before Portan could protest, Zallus stepped up. "We could remove the tracking deivce while she is here," he looked back and forth between then wraith and the human male. "Then you could take her back to Atlantis."

Todd shook his head. "That would not work. If the device were to suddenly deactivate, then the hunters and their queens would know that it has been removed. They would converge on the city and destroy it. I cannot let that happen."

Portan and Arius frowned. "What do you mean?" they asked in unison before Arius added. "What are you not telling us?"

"The girl is a runner," Zallus provided the answer to his brother's question and then turned back to the wraith. "Perhaps we could -"

"There is no other way," Todd countered. "Unless we can somehow lead the hunters away whilst I retreat with her back to the city then we have no other choice but to -"

"Put it in me."

Todd stopped talking and turned towards Kiryk, one eye ridge raised. "What?"

Kiryk, who had weighed his options and found that this was the course of action that had the best chance of succeeding, sighed and repeated himself. "Take the tracker out of Kate and put it in me. The frequency will still read the same so I'll lead them away while you take her back to Atlantis."

Todd was silent on the issue for all of two seconds. "I do not wish for you to have to -"

"Look," said Kiryk stepping forwards and appealing to the side of Todd who he knew cared about Kate and Kate period. "It's either me or her, pick one."

Todd dropped his eyes. "I will always choose -"

"Yes, yes, I know, that's why I said it now," he turned to the three brothers whom he had worked out in his head were ancestors almost from the get-go. "Can you do it?"

Zallus nodded. "I can."

Todd protested. "But -"

"Then do it," Kiryk said, a note of finality in his voice that dared Todd the stubborn ass wraith to argue with him. He sighed and eyed the creature that he had, upon first meeting, tried to kill. "Take her home Todd, she's run long enough."

Todd nodded his head slowly accepting the sacrifice that the human was making for her and making no farther move to question it. "My thanks, human," he said sincerely, bowing his head in reverence. To be a runner was to suffer, that he was volunteering spoke greatly to his character and the character of his race; of their capacity.

Kiryk looked squarely at the wraith for a moment before turning and looking down on Kate who was now, for the first time in a long time, sleeping peacefully. "Take care of her," he said, his voice coming out thickly, sticking like mud in his throat. He looked back up to the wraith. "Make sure she gets home."

Todd inclined his head once in silent promise before allowing himself to be taken from the room by Portan who explained to him that Zallus would need the room clear in order to perform the double operation. "She will be fine for the few minutes that it takes to do this," he assured the wraith who, evidently, was reluctant to leave her side for even the smallest amount of time.

Todd grunted and let himself be vacated from the infirmary and steered down a corridor to a nearby room to wait.

As he sat, lost in thought, both Arius and Portan stood back and regarded him, the same exact thought on both of their minds.

"He loves her."

Portan nodded in acknowledgement. "Yes," he whispered softly, his eyes resting on the wraith who seemed ill at ease now that he was so far, two rooms, away from the woman that had managed to do what no other female before her had done; tame Valloran. "Yes, he does."

Arius shook his head in astonishment and shock. "If…if I had not seen it..i would not have…I would have never…" words failed him and, at a loss for them, the Lantean trailed off and fell silent.

Besides him, his brother understood his sentiments. Had he not seen for himself the evidence to support it, the idea that Valloran would lose his heart - or perhaps he gave it up willingly - to a human was one of absurdity. And yet, he had seen it and knew it to be true and was, therefore, in awe of it. "I do not believe that, there is anything that he would not do for her," Portan said softly, his mind replaying the cry the wraith had made when the girl had slipped from consciousness. Such a sound as that he had never heard before; it was as though despair itself had been vocalized and, quite truthfully, Portan never wished to hear such a sound again.

The cry would haunt him for the rest of his days.

Arius nodded, swallowing his resentment for the wraith in the wake of all of this. "Yes," he said, agreeing with his brother. "I believe you are correct."

Portan sighed. "He came to us for help, said please and begged us for her life," he paused and shook his head. "I do believe that the stars themselves are as shocked by his doings as are we."

For the remainder of the time it took for Zallus to perform the operation, the three of them were silent and, when the youngest brother came to tell them that it was done, Valloran stood and swept past them without a sound. The brothers offered to drop the wraith and the humans off at the gate and, having done so, watched first Kiryk and then Valloran and Katherine disappear into the vortex; one to some other planet and one back to their own lost city.

As the gate closed, the three of them began the trek back up the mountain each lost in thought and each, wondering what the future might hold now that there was a wraith alive that loved a human.

~xXx~

For the first time in his life, Richard Woolsey felt utterly and completely defeated. It had been a eight days now since Ronon had brought them Todd's transmitter and the trail had gone stone cold after that. Woolsey had done everything in his power to keep it going, authorizing search teams to go out and look for her, had called in every favor that any of their off-world allies had owed them and had even told the IOA and Stargate Command respectively to shove it and that he would not resume normal operations of the city until she was found and brought safely home, it had all been for nothing. They were no closer to finding her now then they had been a month and eight days ago and nobody, not a single person in the city nor any of the wraith that hovered above it, knew what to try now.

They'd lost and, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

"Richard."

Woolsey looked up from his contemplation of the funeral arrangements that Colonel Sheppard had delivered to him earlier that were laid out on his desk and saw Dr. Weir standing at the entrance to his office. He sighed, "Come in."

Elizabeth shot the director of Atlantis a look of remorse and stepped forwards, settling herself into one of the chairs opposite his desk without waiting for him to offer it to her. "Richard," she said again, worry coloring her tone for the man that sat so gloomily behind his desk, "There's nothing else you can do."

Woolsey sighed. He knew that, of course, but that didn't mean he felt any better about his inability to fix this. "There has to be something," he said, sitting up in his chair and leaning forwards over his desk, rubbing his hand tiredly over his eyes, "Something we haven't tried yet. We've just got to -"

"It's a big galaxy, Richard," Elizabeth soothed him knowing that accepting defeat was as hard for the former bureaucrat as it was for John. "You did your best."

Richard Woolsey snapped. "My best was, obviously, not good enough!" he said loudly, not quite a yell but still, loud enough to startle the few control room personnel that were still at their posts at this hour. He sighed and sank back into his chair, his propriety and usual decorum flying completely out the window as he allowed himself to slouch, dejectedly behind his desk. "I failed her."

Elizabeth stared at him at a complete loss for words. "You failed…" she blinked several times rapidly. "This isn't your fault!"

Woolsey harrumphed. "Isn't it?" he asked, looking squarely at Dr. Weir. "I'm the one that let her leave, let her go on a mission right after coming out of a coma. I sent -"

"There was no way for you to have known that this would've happened!" Elizabeth argued, standing up indignantly. "Kate is a soldier and a Sheppard. Going off on crazy wild suicide missions is not only her job it runs in the family so don't blame -"

Before Woolsey could respond or really, before he could even think, the gate below them activated and began to dial. Woolsey was on his feet immediately and, in a matter of seconds, was in the control room standing besides Chuck with Dr. Weir hovering anxiously besides him. "Do we have an IDC yet?" he asked Mr. Campbell who was busy checking over his computers.

Chuck shook his head. "No," he replied, watching his screen carefully. "Not yet."

Woolsey nodded. "Then -"

Chuck's screen beeped and then began to flash as an old, deactivated identification code was entered by the person on the other side of the gate. The gate tech stared at his screen and then turned in his chair so that he could look upwards at Woolsey. "Sir," he said, his voice a bit shaky. "It's Todd."

Woolsey felt all the blood leave his face at once at the same time as his heart literally leapt to his throat and lodged itself there, refusing to move. "Lower the shield," he whispered hoarsely, turning to look at Dr. Weir whom, he saw, was wearing an expression of almost desperate hope.

"Do you think…" she trailed off, unable to complete the sentence for fear that it wasn't true and that the wraith was returning to them after all this time jus to tell them that it was time to give up.

Woolsey swallowed. "We can only hope," he said weakly before moving away from the control room and starting the decent down into the gateroom proper. Dr. Weir joined him and together, on baited breath, they waited for Todd the wraith to step through.

When he did, it was a sight that nether Richard Woolsey nor Elizabeth Weir would forget for as long as they lived. The wraith had come back to them and, in his arms, he held the woman that they had all but given up the hope of ever seeing again. He felt himself swallow, the bite of bile stinging the back of his throat. "Is she…" he couldn't bring himself to finish the sentence.

Todd turned towards the director of the Lantean city and the woman that had been the first to greet him upon his return. "She will live," he replied, assuaging their fears and watched as they both sagged in relief at the knowledge. He began to walk forwards.

Woolsey stopped him. "Where are you taking her?" he asked, a frown on his features as he looked at first the wraith and then down at the young woman whom was being held securely in his arms; her head pillowed against his shoulder. His eyes narrowed and widened in quick succession as they took in the various injuries she sported that he could see and, in an instant, he felt he knew just what she had lived through in the past two and a half months.

Hell.

Todd grunted and fixed his reptilian gaze onto that of Mr. Woolsey. "She has recently recovered from being ill," he informed the human as he took another step in the direction of the infirmary. "It would be best, if I take her to the infirmary immediately."

Knowing the destination that the wraith had in mind, Woolsey stepped back and let him pass turning to Dr. Weir as soon as he'd swept from the gateroom and disappeared down a nearby corridor. "Radio Colonel Sheppard and his team," he instructed her, trying very hard to keep the emotion he was currently feeling out of his voice. "Tell them…tell them that she's back."

Dr. Weir nodded and immediately got on her radio, calling out for John while Woolsey turned mutely around and walked back to his office. Taking a seat behind his desk once more, the director of Atlantis let out a great, racking sigh that shook his entire body before leaning forwards and dropping his head into his hands, his elbows perched on his knees. Tears came to his eyes and prickled but did not fall.

The bespectacled man let out another sigh. "Thank you," he whispered shakily. "Thank you, God, thank you for brining her back."

He let out a sob and then another whispered "Thank you," to whomever was there to listen before, alone in his office, he let it all go and openly began to cry in sheer, utter relief.

~xXx~

When Elizabeth's voice had come over his radio to tell him that Kate was back and that Todd was taking her to the infirmary, John had literally dropped what he was doing - which had resulted in Rodney crashing to floor, landing on his ass and shouting a myriad of explicative's - and bolted towards the medical bay. When he'd arrived, it had been to see Todd the very tired looking wraith gently lower Kate onto a gurney before stepping back and looking up. For a moment, their eyes had locked and they'd looked at one another before Todd'd nodded once and walked away, saying something about needing to inform his commanders that he had returned. John hadn't wasted any time in moving forwards to take up a vigil over his sister's bed and, he was still there hours later; watching as her chest rose and fell in a peaceful slumber.

"Colonel."

John looked up from his contemplation of his sister's face and locked eyes with Jennifer. "Yeah doc?" he asked.

Jennifer walked towards him. "I know that you don't want to leave her but, Mr. Woolsey needs you in his office to help him with the paperwork. As her power of attorney you -"

John waved her silent. "Yeah, yeah, I know," he said and then sighed, lowering his eyes back to Katie Beth's sleeping face. "You've probably got to run some tests on her anyways right?"

Jennifer nodded. "One or two."

John let out a huff of air through his nose and stood, reaching out a hand to gently tuck a stray strand of hair back behind Katie Beth's ear. "I'll be back," he promised her gently before pulling back his hand and, with a last nod to Jennifer, took his leave, inclining his head to the group of people that had taken to hanging about outside of the infirmary for some time now waiting to be allowed to see her before he got into the transporter and pressed the point on the screen that would take him to the control tower.

Behind him, the group of people - Teyla, Lorne, Cadman, Ronon, Todd, Caavin and Romulus - all turned their heads expectantly towards the entryway to Kate's isolation room and waited for Jennifer to come out and inform them of her condition. The humans had found it odd, at first, that both Todd's son and Romulus seemed invested in learning of Kate's status but then, Teyla had reasoned that perhaps they were simply there because they worried for Todd. Cadman had quickly latched on to that and commented on how utterly horrible their wraith ally looked. He looked ragged, drained and completely exhausted. Personally, having taken the time to look at him properly, the humans all thought it was a miracle that he was even still standing.

And, apparently, the wraith thought the same.

"Eldest," Romulus chided Valloran who had not stopped pacing since he had made the decision to come down here and await word of Katherine's health and condition, "Crease. You shall wear yourself out."

Todd growled. "I am fine," he insisted stubbornly, not willing to admit to anyone how very tired he was. The last few days of running, of worrying for Katherine and of caring for her in her weakened state had drained him and now, he felt very much like he was close to collapse. He refrained however, and fueled himself with the need to know that she would be well and that the Lantean brothers had indeed purged all traces of the disease from her system. Once he had that assurance, once he was sure that she would suffer no lasting effects of the illness and that she would recover fully from her ordeal then, only then, would he allow himself to seek the rest that his body so desperately needed.

Caavin rolled his eyes. "You are not fine, Sire," he insisted, annoyed that his sire was putting Katherine's health before his own. He himself cared for her yes, but not so greatly that he would put her before himself and everything else of importance. That his sire would angered him because, in the grand scheme of things, his sire's life had a great deal more value to it then hers and the thought that his sire would disregard that for her made him irrevocably angry.

Todd rounded on his son. "What right have you to tell me how I do or do not feel?" he snarled, the wildness of his response startling his first born considerably so much so that he, for the first time in centuries, flinched away from him. Todd growled at the sight and returned to his pacing as he willed his body not to give up on him until after he knew that Katherine would be safe.

Lorne eyed the wraith. "Maybe you should sit down," he offered, indicating a bench that nobody was currently sitting on. "You are looking a little bit peak -"

"I am fine!"

Lorne backtracked and shrank away from the clearly delusional and somewhat unbalanced life-sucking alien. "Okay," he said, gulping. "You're fine, we get it. I'm just going to -"

Todd let out another snarl and Lorne clamped his mouth shut, adverting his eyes to his knees as he began to twiddle his thumbs. Todd took a deep calming breath and turned back in the opposite direction to resume his pacing only to still as Jennifer came towards them from Katherine's isolation room. As one, all occupants in the hallway were immediately on their feet and looking expectantly at the good doctor.

"Well?" Cadman asked, a shining almost desperate look in her eyes. "Will she be alright?"

Jennifer took a deep breath and then nodded. "Yes," she confirmed and watched as every single one of them with the exceptions of the wraith, visibly sagged in relief. "She'll made a full recovery."

Teyla looked towards the doctor. "Has she awakened yet?" she inquired, curious to know if her eyes had yet opened and she knew that she was safe.

Jennifer frowned and looked down, hugging her tablet with Kate's test results to her chest. "She did, for a minute and now she's out again."

Lorne raised an eyebrow. "And?" he asked impatiently. "Did she say anything?"

Jennifer sighed and looked around at them all. "She said that word again."

"Oh," Cadman said, feeling somewhat dejected. She would have liked for her friend to have said something upon waking that made sense, something that let them know that she was okay, not a word that they still didn't know the meaning of.

Jennifer sighed. "Yeah," she said, feeling about the same way that they all did; confused. Whatever valloran was, it was obviously important to Kate and the fact that none of them knew what it was bothered her and, from the expressions of everyone else's faces - excluding the wraith - it bothered everyone else too.

Lorne looked at the floor. "Still don't know what it means?" he asked although he already knew the answer.

Jennifer shook her head. "Not a clue and Kate just keeps repeating it over and over like she expects something to happen but I…" she looked defeated, "I don't know what to do."

Caavin frowned. "What word does she keep repeating and why is it so important?"

Jennifer turned towards him. "We don't know," she said. "Kate said it the first time right before she went into her coma and just now, she said it again like four times."

Caavin felt his frown deepen and he glanced towards Romulus and his sire the latter of which had a contemplative look on his face. He turned back to the humans. "And you do not know what it means?"

As a collective they shook their heads.

The wraith snorted. "Perhaps it is in another tongue, have you thought of that?"

Lorne looked annoyed. "Yes we thought of that. We even typed it into every search engine we could think of; nothing came up."

Teyla nodded. "And it is not of a tongue that I recognize," she stated. "I have never heard of such a word nor anything that sounds like it."

Lorne eyed the wraith. "I don't suppose you could tell us if you've ever heard of it?"

Caavin rolled his shoulders. "What is the word?"

Jennifer let out a deep, heavy sigh. "Valloran."

Caavin stared at her, his mouth dropping open whilst his eyes widened go greatly that they hurt. In astonishment, he turned, his bewildered and befuddled brain seeking his sire whom he locked eyes with and gazed at in utter disbelief. "Sire?" he managed to whisper, his arms uncrossing and falling limply to his sides.

Todd sniffed and held his head up high, ignoring the look of inquiry that Romulus was sending him and the disorientated expression that Caavin had taken to eyeing him with and turned his attention onto that of the humans. They looked confused as his eldest did, if not so stunned. "And Katherine has said this?" he asked, one brow ridge lifting upwards. "Just now. She has called this out?"

Jennifer nodded, unsure and totally and completely mystified. Obviously the wraith knew what a valloran was because Todd's son looked like somebody had just kneed him in the stomach and Todd was looking not quite so tired all of a sudden and very, annoyingly, smug. "Yes," she confirmed, still looking at the alien with a curious expression on her face. "Do you know what -"

Todd hissed. "It is not a word," he announced, moving forwards towards the entrance to the isolation room, towards Katherine whom he now knew had been calling for him; it stung him that he had not been there to answer her.

Lorne watched him move and demanded angrily, "Well then what -?"

Todd grunted and stopped just before he was to walk into Katherine's stay room. "It is a name," he informed them before continuing on his way and coming quickly to Katherine's side. She appeared to be asleep and, gently, he reached out a hand and brushed the tips of his fingers across her cheek. "Katherine."

From outside the room, seven pairs of unbelieving and confused eyes peered inwards and watched Todd reach out to touch the bedridden Kate. She stirred as soon as the fingers of his feeding hand brushed against her and, with a soft moan of pain, she rolled towards the wraith and opened her eyes, blinking, into his face.

"Valloran?"

Todd hissed gently and inclined his head towards her in a bow. "I am here," he answered her, speaking softly as an overwhelming wave of pleasure at seeing her open her eyes into his face overtaking him. She was safe and, knowing that, eased the pain he had felt in his heart of not knowing if she would indeed be well again as had been promised.

Kate closed her eyes again briefly and turned her head so that she could press more of her cheek into his fingers; the warmth that they brought her affording her more reassurance that she was indeed safe than anything else could or ever would. "I called for you," she whispered, as great shudder racking through her unbidden as she remembered that he hadn't answered her. "You weren't here. I thought that, that maybe…" her voice trailed off as she shuddered again and rolled even more onto her side, curling around the hand of the wraith that now lay on her arm.

Todd looked down on her and knew that she was afraid, knew that she was uncertain and that it would take a while more before she was mentally recovered from the ordeal that she had just barely lived through. "Katherine, look at me," he called softly to her and, when her grey eyes had lifted and met with his own, he sat down on the side of her bed and lent toward hers, cupping her face in his hands. "I will never leave you," he swore to her, giving her his word and all the connotations that went along with it.

Kate nodded and leaned into the caress of his hands. When he made to move away, she reached out and caught him, staying his feeding hand and bringing it down to rest on her chest, directly over her heart. "Stay."

Todd hissed and gave his acquiesce in the form of a low, rumbling growl. "Always."

Hearing this, that he would stay with her, brought Kate the peace she needed and, moving so that she curled herself around the seated wraith, the battered woman closed her eyes and fell back into a deep, healing slumber.

Above her, Valloran - eldest and greatest of wraith - looked down on her and watched her sleep.


A/N: It's DONE! It's done, it's done! Now push the little rectangular button t let me know what you all thought of it. Please? It was my birthday on the 26th so please, please, please tell me how I did and what you think. It would make me oh so very happy.