Just to state the obvious, I do not own copyright in any of the characters belonging to 'Stargate: Atlantis' and MGM; as direct source of inspiration for Todd/Guide's story, step up Jo Graham, Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold, the authors of the 'Stargate Atlantis: Legacy' books, who have articulated the world of the Wraith so elegantly and with such (if this is the right word) humanity. They really should shoulder part of the blame for this!
The hermit crab is my own Original Character.
The hermit crab thought he had gone away. He could see the tips of its whip-like antennae moving beneath the little rock shelf down there, testing the water, watchful, cautious. But not cautious enough, not today. He had crawled round so that no shadow fell on the sandy bottom of the pool, and now he waited, schooling his breathing so that nothing disturbed the surface of the water.
A tiny fish flicked across his field of vision, a flash of iridescent blue-green that made him blink. For a second his focus jumped, confused by the dazzle of sunlight on the surface, and his own eyes glared up at him, startlingly yellow in a white mask, pupils narrowed to threads in the harsh light. He blinked again, and squinted past the reflection of face and hand to find that the crab had vanished.
No, wait; he held his breath, gritting his teeth against the burning ache in his hand. There: in the same place as before, the rust-red, hair-thin strands of questing antennae, longer now, further out, thinking it was safe. A few grains of sand shifted, just where the sun cast the little rock shelf into shadow. Just... hold... still. His eyes stung from squinting into the salty wind, and there was a tremor in his fingers that had nothing to do with muscle strain.
It was another fifty seconds before the tiny crab edged noncholantly out of its hiding-place, fifty seconds counted in unbearable stillness, the sun a searing weight on his bare back, his own hair tickling between his shoulder-blades where the breeze off the ocean had tugged it free of its binding.
The crab had adopted a broken shell as its home, and the lopsided thing dragged a tiny wobbly furrow in the sand as its occupant trundled along, black bobble eyes swivelling, unaware of its danger as he had been unaware, standing where Sheppard had left him that night beside the stargate, thinking that the warm net of the culling-beam meant rescue, safety, belonging, after so long alone in the dark.
He would not make such a mistake again; it had been a measure of his extremity that he had made it this time, and he hesitated, the claws of his feeding hand flexed, trembling, just above the surface of the water. Below, the crab paused, as if finally realising that something was wrong. Too late.
He thrust his hand into the water, grabbed the tiny wriggling thing and struggled to his knees, snarling involuntarily at the foreign sting of salt in his handmouth. The crab waved its oversized pincer in the air indignantly, and clamped it on to the tip of his thumb claw. He pulled it free with an effort, fingers clumsy with need, and crammed the creature against the swollen feeding membranes in his palm, shuddering at the hot lick of sensation. For a second, he felt the lips tighten around the struggling limbs, felt the familiar blossoming warmth spread out from his hand; only for a second.
He tried to eat the creature anyway, tearing off spindly limbs with his teeth, crunch and crack, bitter juices staining his beard and fingers. Futile. It wouldn't nourish him, couldn't give him what he truly needed. Guide, one-time Consort to a mighty Queen, Hivemaster and ship commander, spat the half-chewed mess into the sand and for the hundredth time, cursed the impulse that had driven him to take the first decent meal he'd had in years and bestow it all on John Sheppard. As if the human's life was worth the same as his own.
"Foolishness", he said out loud, and was startled by the dry rasp of his own voice. Foolishness or not, the giving of the gift had left him debilitated, almost as weak as he had been in the Genii cell. He felt he should be thirsty, but he could not concentrate on the thought long enough to bring it into focus. He dragged himself to his feet, shivering. He was too warm in the heavy leather trousers and boots, but the loose dry sand of the beach was hot enough to blister unprotected skin even in the late afternoon. He turned his face away from the sun, and gazed for a long moment at the pale phantom hanging in the sky like a watery reflection of the sun itself. Then he laughed, a humourless bark of sound, and quoted aloud, softly, "The harvest moon is rising, Wraith are never-ending..."
Which might or might not turn out to be true in his case. Guide hissed and shook his head, mocking at the moment, and trudged back up the shallow slope of the beach to where he had left his coat.