Usual Disclaimer: Don't own it; don't sue me.

A/N - For those who might have been a bit confused by the interaction in the last chapter, consider how in all SGA episodes with Wraith queens, that they generally tend to treat each other more respectfully - even socially - as opposed to how they regard other Wraith; and if you're going to have progeny that you can be proud of, (as opposed to "oh god, I spawned THAT idiot?" *facepalm*) you'd want her to respect you, be loyal to you, an ally, and a decent successor in the event that you should get impaled with a stunner by John Sheppard. ;) So there you have it. Enjoy! P.S. Yes, the beforementioned Commander is Todd, way long before the Lantean war with the Wraith.

I look the shivering girl in the eyes, wide and brown, and full of terror, barely able to stand straight from all her shaking. I don't want to do this. I really don't. The matriarch sits behind me on her throne, relaxed and regal as always.

"Do it," she tells me gently.

The girl is looking at me as though she's never seen anything like me before, as though she had just woken from a nightmare only to find to her horror that it was all real. She swallows hard, her chest rising and falling noticeably beneath her worshipper's tunic, trying and failing to calm herself with deep breaths. Her dread and fear makes the atmosphere in the room stink with the thickness of it. I really don't want to do this.

"Do it," the matriarch orders, more firmly.

"No," I say softly. "Let it be someone else. Perhaps one of the cocoons-"

"No," she growls, interrupting me. "It will be this one."

"But I know her!" I protest. "She conducts herself admirably, and she is liked among the other worshippers. What has she done?"

The matriarch holds her head with her chin up, and says softly, plainly, "Nothing. Nothing at all."

"Then why are you punishing me this way?" I inquire, in a similarly soft tone.

"Punishing you?" The matriarch rises and comes to stand beside me. "It is not I that punish you, my dear. There are facts of our very existence that punish us all. And this-" she reaches down to take my hand and turns it palm-up, the recently developed feeding slit in the center of it slightly parted, showing starkly against the rest of my pale hand, "-is one of them... This thing that defines us as the dominant race of the galaxy." She releases my hand. "And it is something that you will not fully understand until you do this." She looks into my mind, searching for any further resistance to knock down with her reasons. "Yes, it must be this one for your first time, not one of the cocoons." Her green-gold eyes hold mine, twins of hers in every way; her tone is softer when she speaks next, "You can trust me when I tell you that you will not come to understand otherwise."

I plead with her silently, with my eyes and my mind, but she is adamant, and there is no getting around it. I really do not want to do this.

But you will, her voice fills my mind, her eyes harden. DO it.

I turn and step slowly towards the girl, and with each step her shaking intensifies, eyes growing wider and wider, until silent, shuddering tears stream down her cheeks. Such a pity, I sigh. I shut everything else out and focus on the hunger that's been steadily blooming since the slit in my hand began to open and develop into what it is now, barbs along the open inner lining glistening in the light of the hive. It is a most uncomfortable thing, like being badly overheated, but focused into the core of me, and sharper, carving into my insides like nothing I've ever known or imagined in my life. Strange, how all the inevitable things in life are never really quite as you had expected them to be, never something you're truly prepared for. I feel a curling, hot twinge in my insides and I growl.

The girl utters a gasping sob as I suddenly grip her shoulder and yank her forward onto her knees. My hand is poised and ready, and I give a rattling hiss. I turn to look at the matriarch one last time. She nods solemnly. I turn back to the girl and slam my open hand into her chest near her heart, barbs catching her flesh, enzyme releasing into her blood, and I feed deeply for the very first time in my life, as her life begins flowing into me.

The sensation is... unimaginably exquisite. I had surmised from observation that the experience would be enjoyable, but this is nothing short of truly amazing. I can feel every cell in my body come tingling into brilliant life; every sound, every scent, and every snatch of light, color, and shadow coming sharply into focus like I have never perceived before. I feel so energized, like I can do anything. The burning inside me dies away with a feeling that is more refreshing than a splash of cool water, and I let out a long, draw-out hiss of pleasure.

Fan-tas-tic... Did I say that out loud?

I am aware of the girl under my hand screaming, then gasping, and then... nothing. I remove my hand from what's left of what was the girl worshipper. Her blood trickles through my fingers and from my feeding slit, which is now closing. I look long at that slit in my hand, and then at the shriveled remains of the girl. I cannot help the sigh that escapes me. Pity. I would have much rather that the girl had lived - she was useful, entertaining, even. Even so, for the first time in my existence, I know how it feels now to be truly alive! Every part of me feels so wonderfully charged with life! ... The life that had been hers.

And then it hits me.

I whirl around to face the matriarch. She gives me another solemn nod, and she knows what my mind has come realize. Life comes at a cost, and there will be times when that expense will be felt more than others. This is something that I would not have understood otherwise, had it been some worthless human in the cocoons that served no other use than to be fodder. She was right, I do understand now.

"And now you know," she tells me softly, breaking the silence.

There's something in her voice that tells me more than perhaps she had intended. I sense it there, clearly, in her mind. This was only the beginning for me. There will be many, more difficult sacrifices and hard decisions that I will have to make, for myself and my hive, if we are to live... Just as she has done for herself and her own.

"You are not a child anymore," she says, as she steps towards me and gently tucks a stray plait of my long blonde hair back into place. With a smile on her face, she puts one elegant, clawed hand under my chin and tilts my face so that I look up into her glittering eyes. "I am proud of you."

A/N - Definitely not as fuzzy as the last chapter, but hey, they're Wraith, it's what they do. Right now the extent of the loss our Princess is feeling over the worshipper she's just fed on is about the same as you would feel if you had to "put down" your pet hamster. It's a pity, but it's no huge thing.

By the way, the Muse commands that I make this go longer than a three-shot, so stick around! ;)