She couldn't remember being this weary even as a cadet. Sore to the bone, muscles aching and scars itching, her mind a heavy, oppressive thing just behind her eyes. In spite of it all, she had found herself trudging past her quarters, past the central chamber where her stomach rolled and rumbled in demand. She had wandered past Zhaan's chamber and the promise of medicinal relief and Crichton's quarters where she had paused briefly to observe the empty space, to end up perched on Pilot's console, the last of her strength used to haul herself up to sit eye to eye with him. She caught a whiff of herself as she lifted an arm out of Pilot's way and realized she couldn't remember how long it had been since she bathed last. Her scalp itched, fine hairs loosened from her hair binding tickled her nose and she was too exhausted to lift a hand to brush them away. The physical exhaustion wasn't so hard to live with, she had been taught such endurance since infancy. It was the mental exhaustion, the soul catching grip of emotions, thoughts and words and concepts that had only been fiction to her less than a cycle before.
"How is Moya," she asked, her voice sounding odd and mechanical to her own ears. Her throat still felt raw from yelling at Crais through her comms. She still couldn't understand why Talyn's abduction had caught her on such a visceral level, but she was trying to accept it. Right now, accepting it meant focusing on her numerous physical aches and ailments while ignoring the churning of an unquiet mind. She shifted uncomfortably, favoring ribs Crais might have very well broken and not noticing the single figure at the end of the walkway to Pilot's chamber. Absently, she fingered the welt at the back of her neck from D'Argo's tongue and winced as she prodded the broken skin. In a perverse way, the ache and sting of it felt good, reminded her she was alive.
Pilot paused, his four arms hovering for a microt before resuming their tasks. "She is…distraught. As Crichton might say, she feels very much as you look, Officer Sun." Before Aeryn could form a rebuttal, an assurance that she was well, Pilot raised an arm to stop her. "You should rest. This has been a long, trying time for all of us."
"Thank you, Pilot but I thought I should-" should what? Her mind hovered, blank and tumultuous, too many foreign sensibilities nagging at her at once.
She caught the movement out of the corner of her eye, and if Crichton had been foe instead of friend she would have been dead. So tired. So tired. Without saying anything, he sat on the floor at the base of Pilot's console, the shuffle and thud of his efforts to get comfortable echoing hollow on the periphery of her consciousness. Idly, he flicked at the sole of her boot where it dangled just over his head and stared up at her, a silent invitation. She knew, just as she needed to seek out Pilot and Moya, so Crichton had needed to seek her out. To share, to reestablish connections, to remind themselves and each other there was always hope.
If this had been a military campaign, after the discipline had been meeted out, those left standing would have paired off, found solace in each other, though as peacekeepers they would never have called it that. She didn't let her mind drift too far in that direction, too many wounds too fresh festered there. How ironic that what she would have offered Crais to save the human, was what she could not offer the human himself.
She watched John casually follow the line of her boot up to gently cup her calf, his eyes still searching her face until she swung her other leg around from where it crooked under her. He scooted over as if to make room for her. She batted his hand away when he reached out to steady her as she slid down next to him, momentarily noting to herself that her knee would need attending to as it threatened to give out. She tried to mask it in a graceful slide to the floor and realized she had fooled no one as John's eyes narrowed in concern.
Ignoring him, she drew her knees up, resting her chin on the good knee and noted out of the corner of her eye how he did the same. They sat, despondent twins, listening to Moya vibrate beneath them, listening the hum of DRD's, Pilot's smooth respirations, each other's breath.
She sensed John move and pivoted her head on her knee to see him looking at her. He reached out and brushed a loose hair off her face.
"It's hard," he said.
She wanted to respond. She wanted to open her mouth and pour it all out to him but was terrified of the tears that threatened to tumble out before the words. Her head felt impossibly large on her shoulders. Before she could stop herself, the weight of it pulled her forward to rest against John's arm. Though the crown of her head barely touched him, the contact was enough to drain her of the last of her defenses and she sagged against him. Quickly, his arms came up and she felt him scoot around to support her from behind. What a lesson it was for her to learn that her weaknesses could be as accepted as her strength. For the moment, she could accept what John lent her and sunk bonelessly against his chest before restlessly pulling forward again.
"I failed," she said, finally putting into words what had been devouring her since she saw the red energy stream of Talyn's Starburst.
"You did everything you could." From a dim corner of her mind, she could feel the gentle tug of his hands on her hair, the scratch and tickle of it against her neck, her shoulders. If she'd been consciously aware of it, it would have comforted.
She barely reacted when Pilot called her name. She didn't have the strength left to divert her attention between both he and John, though Pilot's words, the fact that Talyn had chosen Crais of his own volition, was like pouring cauteric acid on her wounds. Why Crais? Why not her? And then, would she have accepted if he had?
It was even more disturbing to hear the pessimism, the jaded edge to John's voice. "They say they'll call home, but they never do." More words from his homeworld that meant little to her. But his tone meant everything. He didn't believe it. And if John didn't have hope, what did that mean for her? For Talyn? If John didn't have hope, did that mean three days with Scorpius had finally beaten out of the human what a cycle on the run from a whole Command Carrier had not?
"Talyn will be all right, won't he?" She needed to hear it. She needed to give the human a chance to put her fears to rest. She needed to give him a chance to prove to her that the man she had met was still tucked in there, even if now locked away behind a tougher façade. Aeryn leaned back into him, pulling his arms around her, eager for the contact, the warmth. If his words would not bring her comfort, she would find it where she could. She stroked absently at the down on his forearm as he pulled her closer.
"Well, he's young. And he'll make mistakes," Aeryn thought back to her own Peacekeeper training. Those born into service were not allowed to make mistakes. She should, by all rights, be dead now. And Talyn, how would Crais treat him when he did make mistakes? "But he'll learn." Aeryn hoped the first lesson he learned was that there was more than Crais' command. That perhaps his brief contact with her would shape him in much the same way the brief contact she had had with her own mother had shaped her.
She wanted to sleep. His arms felt good around her. He felt solid, strong. Not a word she would have associated with the man a cycle ago. Aeryn felt like she could cozy down into the crook of his elbow and sleep for a monen. In spite of herself, she smiled when his face brushed hers, found herself returning the gesture. If she weren't so frelling exhausted, it would be so easy to stand up, lead him back to her quarters…sometimes it was hard to discern what she needed versus what she had been taught she needed.
Instead, she was playing against the opposite argument. Who could change? Did John really think people were incapable of changing? After all they had been through together?
"You do believe people can change, don't you?" She wrapped her arms around his. Such a simple question, such a complicated answer. If he said no, she would know he had, irrevocably, and would mourn the loss. If he said yes…
"Well," he drew the word out, voicing his answer carefully. "I have. You have." Aeryn felt his face against her temple again and smiled. There was hope. Even if he didn't believe that right now, it was there. Hope for him, hope for Talyn, hope for them. "But Crais…" There was uncertainty in everything.
As satisfied as she could be, she lounged against him. His breath in her ear lulled her away. While the human had always spoken with wistful words of home in relation to baking bread and the smell of a fresh mowed lawn, food stuffs and greenery, for her home was beginning to feel like solid arms to slip into, the familiar scratch of stubble against her temple, and the rumble of kind words against her ear as his hands slid through her hair. She thought briefly she should get up and go back to her quarters, but she was too comfortable. Too tired. One more microt.
Even in sleep the tension never left Aeryn Sun's body, but he was conscious of the microt she slid under as her breath changed and her head lolled against his shoulder. He smiled, enjoying the feel of her in his arms, burying his nose in her hair. He spared a hand to brush through the ponytail before snugging her tighter against himself.
"Hold all our calls, Pilot," John said, rising to his feet and cradling the sleeping soldier in his arms.
"As you wish, Commander," he barely spared the human a glance as went about his business, making sure the den door was open between regulating the pressure in Moya's amnexus conduits and ordering a DRD to seal a microscopic crack in Moya's internal hull.
He paused, however, as Commander Crichton's back turned through the doorway, carefully pivoting Officer Sun's body and then walking in the direction of her quarters with his lips pressed to her forehead. As little as he tried to entertain himself with thoughts of what went on between Moya's crewmates, he genuinely hoped they would find whatever comfort with each other as befit their species. Moya rumbled a thought back towards him. She agreed.