Better Off Forgotten
"Where's Crichton?" Chiana asked wearily. Now that things had slowed down at last, they had all come into D'Argo's ship to rest. All of them except Jool, who had gone off to make some new friends. And Crichton, who she hadn't seen since Jool had left.
D'Argo looked up with a frown. "I haven't seen him for awhile."
Chiana sighed. "What did that tralk do to him?"
"Heppel oil," D'Argo said. "She had the gland that produces it implanted."
Chiana gasped. "Heppel oil? She--oh, I'll kill her!"
"What did you think?" D'Argo asked quietly. "That John found her suddenly irresistible?"
"Of course not! I thought maybe she threatened him with something. Or something. I didn't know what to think. And he went back to her?" Chiana snapped angrily. "Why the frell would he do that?"
"Chiana--" D'Argo started.
"I should find him. The planet might still not be safe. I'll be back when I can." Chiana turned and exited the ship. D'Argo called after her once, but when she didn't turn back, he let her go.
She found him by the water. Standing in it with the waves lapping at his knees and his gaze fixed on the horizon. Whatever it was he was seeing, she got the feeling it wasn't the same thing as her.
"Crichton?" she called softly. He remained where he was. "Frell," she whispered, before walking into the water. "Crichton?" she tried again, reaching out to touch his shoulder as she called his name.
He spun suddenly, tipping off balance, and falling backwards to land chest deep in the water. Chiana stepped back, stunned. She was reminded of their time on Elack, when John had touched her and she'd reacted the same exact way.
"Crichton?" she whispered.
"Hey, Pip," he said, obviously trying to sound as though nothing had just happened. He struggled to his feet. "I didn't hear you."
"I noticed. I was calling your name," she said.
He nodded, but said nothing.
Chiana tilted her head. "What are you doing out here?"
"It's been a long time since I've seen an ocean."
"This is one ocean I would be happy to never see again," Chiana said. "This planet is nothing but trouble."John returned his gaze to where the water met the sky. "I'm nothing but trouble."
"Good point," she said playfully.
Her response didn't gain her that dazzling smile she'd been so hoping to see. She wondered if he'd even heard her. "Why don't you come back to the ship?"
"Are we leaving?" he asked quietly.
"Not quite yet, no--"
"Then I'll just stay here for awhile," he interrupted absently. He started walking further into the waves.
Chiana watched him, wanting to reach out to grab him and pull him back towards solid ground--but not wanting to risk having him look at her again the way he had when she'd done it moments before.
"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" she called after him. "You'd make me tell you."
"You know what happened, Pip," he said. "Isn't that why you're here?"
"Well, yeah," she said honestly.
"Then why do you ask?" he asked, but it sounded almost as though he wasn't even talking to her.
"Because you like to talk. You're always saying it helps. And you're not always wrong. You've gotten me through things, Crichton. Let me help you with this. I'm the only one of us that could understand."
He turned to look at her then, and smiled. Not one of his dazzling ones, but a sad one and there were tears in his eyes. He held out his hand, and she took it--stepping up beside him and following his gaze out at the far-reaching water.
"Having you here helps," he said. "But I don't want to talk. Not yet."
"Okay," Chiana said, tangling her arm through his and leaning against him. "No talking."
They stood there until it grew dark, until D'Argo showed up looking for them calling their names, and they both followed him back to the ship. D'Argo was watching them. He'd hoped maybe they would be better when he found them. But they both looked worse.
When John despondently climbed up the steps to the ship, D'Argo held Chiana back. "How is he?" he asked.
"How do you think?" Chiana asked softly. "I would really love to get my hands on Grayza about now." She paused, getting a hold on her anger. "How could you let him go back there?"
D'Argo lowered his eyes. "It was my idea."
Chiana froze. "What?"
"We decided it was the best thing. I tongued him and set him out for the Peacekeepers to find."
Chiana's expression remained closed. "You did what?"
"Chiana--it was the only way. We needed a distraction. We might never have got you out otherwise."
Chiana took a step back, looking like she'd been struck. "I can't believe---I cannot believe you would do that."
"D'Argo, how could you?" She was yelling now--and she didn't know why, but she was crying.
"John knew it was the only way, I didn't force him." D'Argo tried to explain, alarmed to see her so upset. "You don't understand!"
"Oh, I think I do. Far more than you ever could." Chiana glared at him. "You sent him off to be raped. Tell me, D'Argo, if it had been me you needed to send instead--would you be as certain that it was the only way things had to go down? Would you have done it? Or was it just easier to send Crichton because he's a guy?" Chiana paused, moving right in front of D'Argo. "Because let me tell you something--when I look in his eyes, I see the same thing I see in mine."
"What do you mean?" D'Argo asked softly, not sure he wanted to know. "What do you mean you see the same thing?"
"He's your friend," Chiana said, ignoring his question. "D'Argo, he's your friend.""I know that," D'Argo said. "But we didn't have the time, we had to get you out."
Chiana didn't seem to hear him. "A friend would have kept him from going, D'Argo! A friend would not have been the one to convince him to walk back into a hell."
"Chiana--" he reached out to grab her arm but she pulled immediately away.
"He would never have done this to you. You know that right?" she asked. "He'd give his life for you."
"Chiana, he isn't hurt--"
"Not hurt?" she repeated. "Do you not see what I see, D'Argo? Are you really that blind?"
This voice stopped her cold. Chiana turned startled eyes towards the door of the ship. John had one arm resting against the side of the doorjamb, looking exhausted and still wet. He looked only half-alive. She didn't want to know how long he had been there.
"He's right. I had to do it," he said. Despite his appearance, his voice was strong. "And I'm fine. And you're safe. And that's what matters."
She almost laughed. He looked anything but fine. And she knew he had to feel worse--she'd felt the way he must too. "Well, we all know your habit of jumping into things without thinking and risking yourself to save us," Chiana said. "But we're supposed to stop you from it, look for other options." She turned again to glare at D'Argo. "Not give you a push."
"I wouldn't have went if I didn't think it was right, Chiana," John said. "You know me well enough to know I wouldn't allow myself to be pushed into something I thought was wrong."
"How can you think it was right?" Chiana demanded.
"You're here aren't you?" he asked softly. "You and Jool? You're both alive. It was worth it. I'd do it again."
"Something else to worry about," she said, her voice growing distant. She was beginning to think the universe would never leave John alone, and her either while she was with him. But they'd come too far together now for her to leave. Not again.
But it scared her how he attracted trouble. First Crais was after him for revenge, then Scorpius was after him for his brain. Now Grayza was after him for his body. They'd each of them taken pieces of his soul.
Not that he could be blamed for all her trouble. After all, he'd been metrons away, in the midst of a Leviathan graveyard and wandering the corridors of a dying ship when she'd found the worst trouble of her life.
She didn't know how he had gotten there, but John was suddenly in front of her, his hands resting against her neck and his thumbs brushing the tears off her cheeks. "It was no more than you were willing to do to save Zhaan on the Budong."
"But you both stopped me," she said. "And we found another way. We owed you that much too."
"But if there'd been no other way?" John asked. "Would you have done it?"
"Yes," she said it without even needing to think about it.
"It was no different for me. I wasn't happy about it, but I wasn't going to leave you there, Chi. And if I hadn't given a distraction and I had just let D'Argo charge in Qualta Blade blastin', you might all have been killed."
"Or we might all have been fine," she countered.
"It's too late for might haves now."
D'Argo came up behind them, looking uncharacteristically distraught. "No, she's right, John--I should--"
John spun, cutting him off. "No. It was the only way. Don't say it wasn't, D'Argo, or that would mean I didn't have to do it. And I need to believe I had to."
D'Argo backed down. He didn't protest--because he wanted to believe that too. He turned to look at Chiana, reaching for her and wincing when she backed away. "Chiana--"
"We're fine, D'Argo," she said, trying to convince them both. "Just later, okay? Later."
D'Argo nodded, and turned to head up the steps into the ship.
After he'd gone. John looked carefully at her. "Hey, are you alright?"
"I'm supposed to be helping you," she whispered. She gave a strained laugh. "I've dealt with this kind of thing before."
"Have you?" John asked softly.
Chiana's eyes shot to his. "You know about what's happened to me," she said stiffly.
"Yes. But I'm asking if you dealt with it."
Chiana broke eye contact.
"Let's walk," he said, taking her hand again in his.
She tightened her fingers around his. He was the only one that could touch her right now, and not make her back away. Sometimes she trusted him more than she trusted herself.
They walked out into the dark, not talking at first--just finding comfort in their shared pain. When they finally came to a stop, it was at the edge of the cliff. Chiana didn't know how they had ended up there. Aside from Grayza's quarters, she would have thought this was the last place Crichton would want to be.
He sat on the ground, and though he didn't pull her down, she fell with him. Together, they collapsed on their backs and stared up at the stars.
"How did things get so screwed up?" he whispered.
"When haven't they been?" Chiana asked.
"So far back that I can barely remember it anymore," he admitted. "Before I fell through the rabbit hole.""You regret it," Chiana said, and there was a sadness in her voice. She didn't want John to be miserable--sometimes she wished for his sake that he'd never had to leave his home. But she couldn't imagine never having met him. She didn't want to.
"Sometimes," he admitted. "But sometimes I think I was meant to be here.""I think you were meant to be here too. Though to what end," she said wryly, "I've no idea. Maybe to drive us all crazy." She paused. "Maybe to keep us all sane."
"Do you think we should talk about it?" John asked quietly. "About what happened to us?"
"We'd only end up saying things we both already know," Chiana said.
"It was worse for you," John said. "Chiana, it doesn't even compare."
She pressed her eyes shut. "It was the same thing, Crichton. Different methods is all. The end result is the same."
John sighed, and let his eyes roll towards the black sky. "Things...have always been bad when we were together. But did you get the feeling it was worse when we're apart?"
Chiana turned on her side and pressed her lips to the sleeve of his black t-shirt. She rested her forehead against the nape of his neck. "Yeah."
"Do you think...that things are bad for Aeryn now?"
"I don't want to think about Aeryn." Chiana wrapped an arm around Crichton's chest, pulling him against her. "You've been hurt too many times by her."
"I love her."
"I know," Chiana said softly. "That's how she hurts you."
"You don't understand," he whispered.
"You have to forget about her, Crichton. You're gonna kill yourself if you don't."
"I try to forget. But I can't. I don't really want to."
"You think she's going to come back? That she's going to show up, and she's going to say she loves you, and everything will be perfect? When does that happen for us?"
"That's right. It doesn't. Forget about Aeryn. You have to." There was a pleading note to her voice now that didn't go unnoticed. Chiana knew what it was to be so destroyed by a relationship. But she'd been the Aeryn in hers--and she'd run as fast and as far as she could. She didn't quite know what it was like to be the one left behind.
"There are a lot of things I'd be better off forgetting," John whispered, placing his hand over Chiana's and turning it over, lacing his fingers through hers. "But Aeryn isn't one of them."