Shadows in Her Eyes
She left without telling anyone. She slipped silently from her vigil beside John's fading shell, and grabbed her pulse rifle from the table near the door. She almost couldn't let herself believe he was gone. But looking at his closed eyes, the way he was laying there so unnaturally still--she had never seen him still--she knew there was no denying it.
Her tears were gone, dried up long before she had stopped shaking. Grief was ruling her, but there was anger too. Anger at John. At herself. She couldn't yell at John for sacrificing himself for them all now, and self-recrimination at the moment was no good. Because she had something she had to do.
Someone had lived when they shouldn't have--someone who had brought this all upon them.
Furlow would not leave this planet alive.
She pulled herself into the replica of John's module, deciding this was the appropriate ship for the flight. Her fingers caressed her weapon absently even as she ran a quick pre-flight check--wondering even as she did why she was bothering. She wasn't even sure she cared if she crashed or not, as long as Furlow was caught in the collision.
Talyn had been monitoring the planet as his sensors returned, and no ships had left the surface. If Furlow had an escape plan, which Aeryn was betting she did, she was waiting until they left to see it through.
Her base was completely destroyed, everything in it reduced to ashes and shrapnel, but the walls still stood. Furlow would have had little choice but to take shelter from the solar flares there. Aeryn would search there first. But one never knew, maybe she'd be lucky, and find Furlow dead in the sand somewhere.
It was no more than she deserved. Less even. If Aeryn wasn't positive it would have hurt John to know she had done it, she would be making sure Furlow suffered greatly before she died. But John wouldn't even approve of her even doing this--he always tried to protect her from herself, from the Peacekeeper instincts that were still so deep within her. He wasn't here now to stop her, though. He wouldn't ever again.
Oh, of course--there was a John on Moya. A John with the same eyes, the same soul--but he wasn't hers. Hers was gone, and not even that exact replica could replace him. She wouldn't let him even if he could. Because she knew she couldn't survive losing John Crichton twice. She wasn't even sure she would survive this.
She pulled the module out into the cold vacuum of space, and spiraled downwards on a reckless course to the planet below. This ship had no good sensors, she couldn't track Furlow that way. She didn't care. It would be more rewarding like this.
She should have insisted they tie Furlow up. She should have known. She had a role in her relationship with John too, one just as important as his, she had protected him from himself as well--because he had blind spots, he trusted sometimes when he shouldn't. He had trusted Furlow, and she'd begun a series of events that would later cost him his life.
Furlow would not leave this planet alive, Aeryn thought again. The mantra danced around her mind, anchoring her safely away from the despairing grief that had consumed her when John had closed his eyes. If only temporarily.
Furlow's base came into view, the centerpiece of an endless sea of white sand. Aeryn's hands tightened around the controls, and she tried to focus on what she was doing. If she kept letting herself get distracted by thoughts of revenge, she'd kill herself before she even got near Furlow.
A sand buggy was parked haphazardly by the entrance, tilted and looking worse for the wear. There was a strap on the passenger side, a strap that had held John's device as Furlow had fled. Aeryn tightened her grip on the gun, and pulled herself from the ship out into the dangerous sun. She hadn't thought to bring goggles, but it was too late now. Maybe she would grab Furlow's when she left.
There were no lights on in the base. They'd all gone out with the explosion, but there was something flickering in the distance. A flashlight, maybe, or an emergency lamp. Furlow's large silhouette was impossible to miss.
Aeryn's boots were heavy, but they moved soundlessly across the stone floor. She had Furlow against the wall, the pulse rifle jammed into her throat, before the other woman registered she wasn't alone.
"Hello, Furlow," Aeryn whispered--her voice silky and light, and as dangerous as it had ever been. "I see you managed to keep yourself alive. At least until now."
Furlow's hollow white eyes widened at the ex-Peacekeeper's sudden appearance, and she backed up desperately into unyielding stone as the gun pressed deeper into her flesh. "Where's Johnny?" she asked, her voice strained as she fought for air.
"John is dead," Aeryn said, too calmly to be sane. "As you will be."
Furlow instantly started weighing the situation, odds and chances--looking for a way out and not finding a single one. She had seen Aeryn with John, she hadn't missed what was between them. She'd been a little jealous watching what she could never have, the one thing money would never buy her--but she hadn't really cared. Hadn't thought too much about it. It hadn't been important. Now it was everything. There was no way Aeryn was going to leave without vengeance for the death of one she loved, and this time Furlow had nowhere to run, and no hero to save her.
She swallowed, her eyes slipping down to look at the gun pressed to her throat. "Look, ah, I'm sorry about Johnny. Honest. I told him not to be a hero."
"Oh you did?" Aeryn said, her voice suddenly filled with false mirth. "Well then, I suppose I ought just leave you be."
"It was an accident!" Furlow said, shifting awkwardly but not far. Too far, and she feared Aeryn's trigger finger would tighten its fatal grip. "I never meant for him to be hurt--I was making the deal to save us all!"
"You have saved no one," Aeryn said in disgust. "Not even yourself. This is where your greed has brought you, Furlow. You have nothing. No one. You're going to die here, in this wreck of a base, and no one will know. No one will care."
Furlow did her best to look suitably upset at this prospect, and really, the fear was real enough. The shame and guilt were mildly put on, as after all, it was Furlow's motto to not waste time with regret. "What do you say we make a deal?"
Aeryn's lips slowly curled upwards, and for one insane moment, Furlow had thought she might laugh. "Make a deal? There are no deals now, Furlow. You have nothing I want. You took away the only thing I cared about."
"Johnny, ah, he wouldn't want you to do this," Furlow said nervously. Panic was beginning to set in as the wild look in her attackers eyes finally registered.
"Do NOT talk to me about John. You're a fool, Furlow. I know he wouldn't want this. But thanks to you, he isn't here, is he? John can't save you this time."
"Then what are you waiting for?" Furlow said at last.
"I'm trying to decide whether or not to make you suffer first," Aeryn said, and her voice was too controlled to be anything other than deadly serious.
Furlow's hands clenched and unclenched as her eyes slipped from one side of the dark room to the others. Nothing but shadows everywhere, even in Aeryn's eyes. The weapon pressing into her neck was pushed far enough now to bruise the skin, and Furlow opened her mouth, desperately trying to breathe. "If you want to blame someone, blame the Scarrens," she choked. "They're responsible. I didn't kill Johnny, I would never--I couldn't, I liked the flyboy, honest. If you want revenge--"
"You killed Jack. You stole the weapon. You caused the weapon to activate. Do not tell me that you are not responsible!"
Furlow's hands shot up in surrender. "Okay, okay--I made a lot of mistakes. But I could still be of use to you. I have knowledge about wormholes still--"
This time, Aeryn did laugh. "Wormholes? You think I care about wormholes?" Aeryn jammed the point of the weapon further into the skin. "I could not care any frelling less about wormholes."
"You should care," Furlow said desperately. "You could be rich, you wouldn't have to--"
"I could be rich," Aeryn echoed, her voice filled with disbelief. Suddenly, she released Furlow, and took a step back, adjusting the weapon to hold it in front of her with both hands--the nozzle aimed for Furlow's heart. "You actually think I would turn around and sell that technology after John sacrificed himself to keep it out of the wrong hands? You're more despicable than even I realized."
Furlow closed her eyes, realizing the time for talking was over and whatever small measure of control she had at all had just slipped forever from her grasp.
"Now you die," Aeryn said coldly.
Rygel watched Stark and Crais from the other side of the room. He knew they would be no help. He steered his thronsled from the room as they bickered over who should find Aeryn, and headed towards the transport pod.
After they had realized Aeryn was gone, it had not taken long for any of them to realize where she had gone. Stark and Crais had immediately begun fighting over who got to wear the white armor and ride to save the day. Rygel almost thought Aeryn would be better off staying down on that planet, than returning here to be exposed to them during her grief.
Her two unwavering crimson shadows had done enough with Crichton around to hold them in check, he hated to think what they would put Aeryn through now he was no longer here. Rygel, despite himself, had grown to like the ex-peacekeeper. He had grown to like almost all of them, and could admit he had quite a soft spot for the human. It pained him to know that Crichton had again sacrificed himself to save them all, but that unlike the other times this time there was no coming back.
He flew into the transport and started down to the surface, hoping he didn't catch any solar flares on the way down. He couldn't put the goggles on himself, as his arms didn't reach that far. He was determined though, he had to find Aeryn. Before it was too late.
He knew she was in no physical danger herself. In a match between Aeryn and Furlow he would bet on Aeryn's odds every time. But Aeryn wasn't like him--and she'd started to become a lot like Crichton over the years. He wasn't sure what killing someone in cold-blood would do to her now, even taking into account all the many times she had done it in the past.
He was concerned that Crichton's death would resurrect the Aeryn he had first met on Moya. The soldier--the Peacekeeper. That would not be good for her. That would not be good for any of them.
He landed the transport next to the module without incident, and flew into the base on his thronesled. It wasn't hard to locate Aeryn and her prey. He headed towards them.
"Now you die," he heard Aeryn whisper, and he shivered at the sound.
Furlow lived, but he began to fear he might still be too late for Aeryn.
"Aeryn," he said.
Aeryn did not move. The gun she held did not so much as twitch at his sudden appearance. "Go away, Rygel," she said simply.
"You do not want to do this--" he started.
"Do not preach to me," she hissed. "It was not me who tortured and killed a Charrid for revenge. Have you suddenly, within the day, gained something of a conscience?"
"No," he admitted without shame, "I wouldn't mind seeing the bitch dead either. But you can't do it. Not like this."
Furlow stared at the Hynerian in astonishment, and wondered at her lucky break, even as she remained well aware Aeryn's aim had not faltered.
Aeryn adjusted the grip on the gun. "What are you doing here, Rygel?" she demanded.
"I'm trying to stop you."
"Why?" she snapped. "If you're even thinking about trying to get a hold on the wormhole knowledge to--"
"You frelling Peacekeeper bitch," Rygel snapped. "Even I have some lines I won't cross. The thought never even crossed my mind. I'm here for you, though I can't remember why in the yotz I wanted to help you now."
"For me?" Aeryn asked for a laugh. "Well then, Rygel, sit back and watch. Because this is the only thing that will help me."
"You don't believe that," Rygel said. "Killing her won't help you."
"I have to kill her," Aeryn said. "She still knows more about wormholes than she should. She'd give the knowledge to anyone for a price."
"So we leave her here," Rygel said. "We can just leave her here--the place is abandoned, destroyed."
"Too risky," Aeryn said determinedly. "I won't let John have died for nothing."
"I, ah, won't tell anyone nothin'. Honest," Furlow interrupted.
"You don't speak," Aeryn demanded harshly, her finger pulling the trigger ever so closer to where it wanted to be.
"You can't do this, Aeryn. Don't," Rygel said, as much compassion in his voice as Aeryn had ever heard. Aeryn hadn't even imagined he had that much.
"Why shouldn't I kill her?" Aeryn whispered. "I've killed people for less before. Why shouldn't I do it?"
"Because John would have stopped you," Rygel said quietly in a moment of depth Aeryn wouldn't have believed him capable of.
The gun almost slipped from her hands then, because she knew how right he was. John would never have let her do this. He wouldn't have stopped her to save Furlow, he would have stopped her to save her.
It did matter to her that John wouldn't want this. He wouldn't want her to kill Furlow. He wouldn't want her to kill herself. He would want her to move on, learn to be happy again. She didn't know if she could.
Furlow, whatever she had done, wasn't worth doing something John wouldn't approve of. As much as she'd love to see her suffer and die, she couldn't do it. If she did, there was a chance all the changes John had brought about in her would disappear as surely as he had.
"You're right, Rygel," she said finally. She watched with disgust as relief spread through Furlow's eyes. All the woman cared about was herself. Even Rygel, who she had believed to be one of the most self-centered creatures she had ever encountered, had come down here when he hadn't had to--to help her. Even Rygel had more worth in his small self-absorbed form than Furlow ever could in hers.
She threw the gun's strap over her shoulder, and met Furlow's gaze. "If I find out you've continued your wormhole research, I will hunt you down, and I will kill you. Slowly. Do you understand?"
Furlow nodded. "Yeah, got it. Don't you worry. No more wormholes for me."
"I will enjoy killing you when you don't heed my warnings," Aeryn growled.
Rygel reached out and placed a hand on Aeryn's arm when he thought she might change her mind about leaving. For the first time he could remember, she didn't pull immediately away from his touch.
Aeryn grabbed a pair of goggles from a table that looked to have escaped the blast, and placed them on Rygel without ever taking her eyes from Furlow. Then she grabbed herself a pair and left without looking back.
Rygel followed her out. "Aeryn--"
"Do not talk to me," she said. Then she sighed, and turned to look at him. "I'm not sure whether or not to be happy about it, but I do thank you for coming down here."
Rygel nodded, then looked away. "I assume you're taking the module back?"
He turned back to her. "Are you sure you should--"
"I can find my own way back," she snapped. She moved to the module, and prepared to get in.
Rygel watched her. "Can you?" he asked.
Aeryn tilted her head back, and looked through the goggles up towards the sky. She didn't turn to look Rygel, but kept her gaze trained on the brilliant blue all around her. The color she had thought she might never see again at that moment when John had closed his eyes forever.
"I don't know," she whispered. She really didn't.