The fifteenth planet seems vaguely familiar to John, but it's hard to tell. The light is different in the evening, and he's not sure how much of the overly intense green and pink is natural and how much is a result of his changed vision. He doesn't want to ask Teyla: the last time he'd asked her about a planet she'd led them to she'd looked as if it was lost to her. "It'll be over soon" had sounded lame the first time and even more so after the first week.
"So what's for dinner?" John asks, stretching his new senses. He can hear (feel) some birds, many fast rabbit-like creatures, and several herds of deer nearby. This must be a world used for hunting.
Sure enough, Teyla says, "There is additional hunting equipment not far from here."
"Great," he says. Teyla is a good teacher, but even with his freaky new vampire sight it had been a while before he stopped losing or breaking spears. On the other hand, even if guns didn't give them a headache they would probably be messier to hunt with.
"How about we take a bath first?" he suggests, gesturing into the direction where he can hear a small stream. "Lunch won't run away. Well, not figuratively."
"I am quite hungry," Teyla says, and an expression of distaste briefly crosses her face. "We can take a bath afterwards."
"In the moonlight," John says, nodding at the four partly full moons in various colors hanging in the sky. "It'll be all romantic and stuff."
"And we all know how much you love romantic moonlight dinners," Teyla says with a small smile.
He shrugs easily. "You know me. Race you for the first deer?"
Being a vampire has its upsides. The diet sucks – John doesn't think he will ever get used to drinking the blood of dead animals – but the enhanced senses and greater physical strength are cool. He can hunt down deer on foot, spot a falcon diving down from miles away, and spar or make love with Teyla a whole night without getting tired. He can run through endless fields with purple flowers and blue fireflies for hours, the sky open and full of stars above him, and feel like he is flying.
And then there are the times when he feels wrong from the inside out and wants to rip the thing out of himself with his bare hands. It's his body betraying him all over again, only this time he has fangs instead of blue scales, and he hates it. Sometimes he wonders if Teyla had felt like this when she discovered that she had Wraith DNA; if she still sometimes feels this way.
On those days he spars with Teyla until he lies panting on the floor and every cell in his body aches, almost like back when he was human.
John smells faint traces of smoke as soon as they step out of the gate. He looks around warily, half expecting another forest fire, but he can't see any flames. Something doesn't feel right, ghosting along his arms and making him shiver. For a second he relishes the feeling. He didn't know his body could still do that.
He can't hear any screams or weapons fire. Teyla shakes her head: If it was the Wraith, they have already left. John tries to shrug his unease away and follows Teyla, who is already making her way towards the source of the smoke, following the path to the village.
Normally they avoid human settlements, traveling by night whenever possible; Teyla, who apparently knows the different lengths of day of all the planets Athos kept track of, calculates their arrival times using John's watch as a reference point. It's not really necessary because daylight only makes them itchy, but it's more convenient, and their sharper sight usually makes it easy to navigate in the dark. But now the smoke stings his eyes, making it hard to avoid the stones and tree branches. John wishes for the hundredth time for a Jumper when they finally emerge.
The village is burning, as John had suspected. There are only a few people walking around, sorting through their possessions and not even noticing the new arrivals. It's the typical aftermath of a culling: in their haste to get away someone pushes over a lamp, and the few survivors don't even have homes to return to after the Wraith leave.
He turns away, but Teyla tenses and says, "Wait."
He looks at her, confused, but she stares at the villagers. From the size of the village, John guesses that less than a tenth of its inhabitants are left, or else the children and their caretakers are still hidden away somewhere. None of the men seem to be injured, and with a frown he notices that they don't even seem to try and extinguish the one shed that is still burning.
One of the men shouts something triumphant and holds up a bag with coins. The others laugh, and one of them kicks over a bag. An assortment of dried fruit falls out.
Scavengers, then. Teyla is already striding forward. Before the men even notice her she punches the man holding the purse in the face, following with a quick kick to his stomach. He falls down with a startled yell, groping for his knife.
"Whoa," John says in surprise. "No need…"
"Wraith-worshipping scum," Teyla spits, and John goes cold.
"Our masters will eat your soul," one of the men says with an ugly grin.
Even John, who's seen her fight plenty of times and knows that vampirism makes her even faster, is stunned for a long second. Before he can react the men are lying on the ground, bleeding, and half of them don't have a heartbeat anymore. The smell of smoke and blood makes John shiver; he knows without looking that his eyes have started to shimmer and he unconsciously bares his teeth. He tries to catch Teyla's eyes, but she is staring at the village centre. More men and women, several of them with sabres and a few with guns, appear between the huts.
Finally Teyla looks at him. Her eyes are dark silver and her canines clearly visible, but she still looks like Teyla, not a mindless vampire. For a moment, John feels weak with relief.
"We will rid this village of the scum that occupy it," Teyla says sharply and turns away again, and he remembers that Teyla is much more dangerous than a mindless vampire.
"Teyla," he says with difficulty. He can feel the anticipation of a fight tingling through his body, his eyes narrowing until all he can see are the men with the weapons. John doesn't have the control over his own mind that Teyla does over hers and he knows that if he lets go, they will all be dead: he will be among them before they see him, move before they can touch him, break their necks and feast on their blood until he stands victorious over their bodies. But he doesn't know if he could come back, and what is left of the human part in him is terrified of that thought.
Teyla glances at him and her eyes widen fractionally.
A gunshot rings, overly loud in John's head. Teyla jerks aside, stumbling, and the vampire in John takes over.
He kills the last one by snapping its neck. Power thrums through him, the strength of his victims' blood, and he throws the body away without even bothering to drain him. There will be more, fresher blood later.
Something moves behind him. He whirls around, faster than he was able to see a lifetime ago, and bares his teeth. One of his kind, with blood smeared on her chin. Ally.
He remembers her: she fought beside him, deadly force and cool brutality. Her strength is almost singing through the air, and he wants to taste the heat and victory from her lips. They will be magnificent together, unstoppable.
She steps closer and his body tightens in anticipation. Then she stops and closes her eyes. When she opens them again, they look straight into him.
"John," she says. The name slices through the vampire haze like a blunt knife.
They step onto four planets before they find one with water nearby where the light doesn't make John want to claw his eyes out. His head hurts, and even after he scrubs himself in the lake for what feels like hours he can still feel the blood on his skin and in his mouth.
Teyla meditates, humming softly to herself. John thinks he recognizes the melody from the last time she'd gone mind-on-mind with a Wraith, but he doesn't ask.
He dives down once and swims up again in near panic, desperately trying to escape the darkness threatening to swallow him.
"I hate this," he gasps when reaches the shore. Teyla is waiting for him, looking like she very much wants to wrap him into a warm blanket and hand him a cup of steaming hot tea. Instead she hugs him. He hugs her back carefully, trying hard to ignore the low song of her blood under his skin.