Thanks to Spike for the beta.

The queen focuses almost completely on Elizabeth. John guesses that's only natural; Elizabeth's in charge, and the Wraith culture is matriarchal. Even when he escorts her to and from her ship (can't have just two marines guarding the queen, can't leave her alone), she barely favors him with a glance. It annoys him. He doesn't like being ignored. But maybe it's just as well.

When she drops her dead eyes to him, the silver smear of scar on his right arm burns cold, twisting metallic almost up to his wrist. He has to restrain himself from rubbing at it. He thinks she might have noticed.

An anthropologist whose name he can't remember once told him that John had met more Wraith queens than the average drone probably did in a lifetime.

The first night after their arrival, John finds Teyla sitting in the deserted conference room.

"Thought you were off-duty hours ago."

"I was," she says, shifting her arms more tightly around herself. "I cannot sleep with the Wraith in the city."

"Me neither."

She nods, but frowns. She thinks he means something different than she does. He doesn't correct her.

He doesn't remember much of that first time on his knees, drowning in the sweet rush of his will giving way to hers. The first queen had tortured Sumner, but this one was younger, softer. Subtler. It had been a long moment before he could surface.

He's still not sure why, when she'd walked away from him, he'd called out so urgently to know her name.

The feeling comes back to him now, as he walks with the queen or watches the Wraith scientists. That sense of being swept away from everything important to him, losing himself in honey and dread.

He does his best to bury it, to pretend. Of course he's worried. There's a Wraith queen sitting enthroned in Elizabeth's office, like her equal.

John had enjoyed holding the Wraith he'd named Michael down, struggling and cursing. He'd wanted it to fight more, give them an excuse. He's never admitted that to anyone.

The feeling hadn't gone when the Wraith had melted away, leaving a shell of a human behind. Abomination, abomination, his blood had sung to him.

If Teyla hadn't been there, he and Ronon would have killed it.

He can't leave her alone.

He's escorting her back to her ship before the big test. She walks a little more slowly this time, though her step is still haughty. She looks at him, casually, again and again. Before long, his skin crawls with sweat and his left arm trembles from fighting the urge to scratch at the alien blur on his skin.

"I am sorry to be leaving," she remarks.

It's surreal to hear small talk from a Wraith queen. War is surreal. That's one of the first things John learned. "Yes, well, we'll miss you, too," he says, managing to make it dry.

"Do you see these shoes?" Her fingers are too long, the large open gesture like she's letting blood run from her hands.

"I'm not really into fashion. What about 'em?"

"They are made from the skin of your kind. Your young have very fine hides, much finer than our own. What do you think of that?"

He stares at her hands. The current carries him away from himself again. He can't speak.

She laughs, and it echoes in his ears.

He reacts on pure instinct when he realizes the hive ship is about to go into hyperspace, darting the X-302 into its hangar.

He has to try to stop the ship somehow. They have Rodney and Ronon, and there's only one place they can be headed. It's his responsibility.

He tells himself those are his reasons, and he almost believes them.

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