The Fantastic Four
Spoilers for Revenging Angel, and small ones for Scratch N' Sniff and Losing Time.
"You are not going down to that planet. You are still not well."
My mouth fell open in a way it hasn't for over a cycle now. D'Argo had taken my pledge to get through the latest road bump in our relationship to heart far more than usual--meaning, this time he actually had. Ever since I came back from my EVA stint of inner contemplation on Moya's hull, he hasn't left me alone.
Apparently almost killing me affected him more than I first expected.
"Well, I'm not staying up here while you guys have all the fun," I said firmly. He couldn't stop me from going, even if he was bigger--he was working on controlling his rage now, so I was pretty sure he wouldn't slam me into another wall.
D'Argo's eyes softened--it was, quite frankly, a frightening sight to behold. "I will stay with you," he told me, using that same, soft, 'don't have another tantrum, Johnny,' tone that I've become depressingly used to hearing on this ship.
That sealed it. I was going down to that planet if I had to steal D'Argo's OZME rocket to get there.
"I'm going, D'Argo," I said firmly.
Pip leaped quickly to my defense, coming up behind me and resting her chin on my left shoulder. She turned on the eyes for D'Argo. "Can he come if I promise to watch him?" she asked.
I rolled my eyes and swatted her away. She giggled that Chi-giggle and headed off into the transport after Jool.
"Fine," D'Argo snapped. "You can come. But you're going to stay with me."
"D'Argo, buddy, much as I enjoy your company and all--"
He glared at me.
"Sounds like a plan," I said promptly. D'Argo was doing the whole controlling his rage thing, but it was still probably best I didn't press my luck.
I grabbed my Winona-wannabe off one of the table and strapped her in.
D'Argo nodded approval. I rolled my eyes again. I had been carrying a pulse pistol around for well over two cycles now--they could go ahead and quit with being impressed that I no longer bounce up to people that are trying to kill me and cheerfully introduce myself.
"Are you coming?" D'Argo demands--obviously still peeved that I was going at all.
I didn't know what his problem was. My latest brush with death had been on Moya--by this point I think it has been pretty well established that I was safe nowhere, ever. What was one more planet that wanted me dead?
"Yes," I responded, moving past him and into the transport where the Princess and the Pip were waiting.
He followed me with one of his Luxan growls, but in the interest of pretending he was improving control over his rage, I choose not to notice.
"Oh, good--" Jool said, sounding rather unnecessarily sarcastic, "You're coming."
Chiana grinned over at me and grabbed my arm to pull me beside her. I was grateful for the support. Ever since I woke up, Jool had been pointing out and listing repeatedly all my weaknesses and D'Argo had turned into the Luxan mother hen from hell--but Chiana was helping to keep me sane. She didn't mother, and she didn't criticize. She flirted. And licked...I slid discreetly away from her, and she winked over at me innocently. Ri-ight.
"When we reach Ovaeir, do not overexert yourself," D'Argo told me.
"It's been almost a weeken," I said dismissively. "Jool says I'm fine."
"It's been three days, and I only said that you were better," she corrected absently.
I turned to glare at her, but she remained unaffected.
"You worry too much, D'Argo," Chiana purred. Yes, she actually purred. I tend to be melodramatic, I admit, but there's really no other way to describe it. "Crichton can take care of himself."
I grinned smugly. Finally, someone acknowledges it. D'Argo looks at Chiana disbelievingly, and Jool raises an eyebrow. Well, I just have to convince them one at a time. Chiana was a start.
"That's right. I can take care of myself--and I've been down on many, many planets--"
D'Argo holds up his hand. "And how many times, out of these many, many times were your trips entirely uneventful?"
That was not a fair question. Sometimes he got me into trouble when we went down together. "I do not have to answer that," I said, crossing my arms and putting on an offended look.
He snorted. "Just stay with one of us. You are still not well and that is my fault, if anything happens to you now because of it, it would be my fault also--and I do not know how I would deal with that."
I winced. He knocked me into a coma, and then he guilts me into wanting to make him feel less guilty. How did he do that?
"Fine--fine," I said. "I'll stick with Chiana."
Chiana grinned over at me smugly, and I had second thoughts. I loved Chiana to death, but she was as good at finding trouble as I was.
"I will go with you," D'Argo said decisively.
Jool's head snapped up. "Well, you're not all leaving me behind!"
"We wouldn't dream of it, Princess," Chiana said wryly.
"Great," I said. "Field trip. Who brought their bag lunch?"
This comment, after brief glances of resigned bemusement, was entirely ignored. It might have bothered me, but I was as tired of explaining my 'Earthisms' as they were of hearing the explanations. It was easier this way. I got to be witty, got to be the only one who knew I was witty, and everyone else just thought I was nuts. Everyone's happy.
We landed down on the planet, and filed out together, before pausing just outside the pod and standing there looking lost. This is where we usually went our separate ways. Chiana would search for a club, Jool would follow her, I'd go look at the machine shops, D'Argo'd go dancing--well, if what he did qualified as dancing. He wasn't quite as suave as me.
"Well," I said.
We all looked at each other.
"I heard about a club here," Chiana offered. Shocking. "Drinks, dancing--it will be fun."
Drinks, dancing, fun--funny, she'd said that about LoMo too, and I'd ended up under D'Argo wearing fishnet stockings and very little else. In a window. With people watching.
Maybe I should have stayed on Moya.
"Sounds like a plan," D'Argo said, before motioning Chiana to lead and then giving me a gentle push after her.
I allowed myself to be pushed around for the time being, but it was getting tiresome. The only one I didn't get tired of pushing me around was Aeryn--and she'd run off with...well, me, so there you go. That's my life. Unfair, and screwed up as can be.
The club looks remarkably like all the other alien dance clubs I've been to during my grand tour of the Uncharted Territories, which is to say, it looked like a rave on Earth--on October 31st. I was unimpressed. LoMo had sucked all the fun right out of feathered women and Raslak.
"Are you okay?" D'Argo asked me suddenly. "Do you need to sit down?"
I stared at him--was reminded of my first view of him, when he picked me up by the neck one-handed and started growling at me in Luxan, and I wondered what the hell had happened to him.
"I'm fine," I said. I resisted the urge to ask what was wrong with him. "Let's just find a table."
We all sat down and stared at each other. It was eerily reminiscent of when I made them all sit and watch me in case I started that creepy bleeding-without-a-wound thing, only this time, Jool and Chiana seemed to be enjoying themselves, and D'Argo and I both looked like we'd rather be somewhere else.
I almost asked if I could go visit some of the shops, then got mad at the notion I should even have to ask. Then I worried D'Argo wouldn't want to let me leave and might make a scene--and one scene with D'Argo on one vacation planet was really one too many as it was--then a scarier thought occurred, he might offer to go with me. Shopping for module parts with D'Argo while he's being supportive was a frightening thing to contemplate.
Usually he just suggested we trade my module and save up for a small fighter ship. My response to this would be suitably caustic, of course, but at least that fell into the boundaries of how we dealt with each other. D'Argo like this was so far outside the boundaries of how I expected him to act, I didn't know what to do around him right now.
"Well...?" I started.
Chiana leaned into me. "Well what?"
"Is this what we're going to do the entire time?" I asked.
"Aren't you having fun?" she questioned, smiling evilly as she slid a two foot tall glass of Raslak towards me.
"No. Hey, D'Argo, you having fun?"
"Didn't think so. What do you say we break up the Fantastic Four and go our separate ways?"
D'Argo didn't seem particularly thrilled by this request, Jool was drunk already so pretty much indifferent to anything we did--and Chiana would have fun either way.
Apparently trying to stall me, and not being at all subtle, D'Argo asked, "Who are these Fantastic Four?"
"Comics," I said with a dismissive wave of my hand. "Superheroes. Had all kinds of special powers."
"And you believe the four of us are like these Fantastic Four?" Jool asked, her voice slurring as she searched her empty glass for any sign something was still inside it.
"No," I said. "I think there are four of us, and it was convenient. Though that melting metal thing might make a good power. And Chiana does see the future. You guys would be cool super-chicks."
They both looked pleased with the praise, but D'Argo glared at me.
"What?" I asked.
"You don't think I would belong in this Fantastic Four? Why not?"
I looked him over. "You don't have any special powers," I pointed out, trying to be reasonable. I wasn't special either, it wasn't like I singled him out.
"I can knock people out with my tongue," he told me smugly.
I paused. "Huh. You're right. That could be a power. I guess you all make the team but me."
"Hey, don't be so hard on yourself," Chiana told me cheerfully, swinging one of her arms over my shoulders.
"I want a special power," I said. Apparently everyone had them but me. How had I missed this until now? Zhaan had had all kinds of freaky powers. Stark could disintegrate and come back like he'd only gone on holiday. Aeryn was Lara Croft and Batgirl combined. Rygel farted helium, which, admittedly, wasn't really all that impressive as far as superpowers go.
"Well," D'Argo started trying to appease me, "You're good at all that tech stuff."
"Tech stuff isn't a superpower," I pointed out irritably.
"You've got Scorpius inside your head!" Chiana yelled excitedly.
I winced. "Way to kick me when I'm down, Pip."
"No, I mean--that's something, isn't it? He gives you advice and stuff, right?"
"Bad advice," I admitted grudgingly.
"Well, he's your power. You've got access to someone else's personality. That's pretty impressive." Chiana gives me a little nudge. "Right?"
"Not really, no," I said. "Harvey can't melt metal, he can't knock people out with his tongue, and he doesn't see the future. Harvey's useless."
"You're being depressed," Chiana said, rolling her eyes. "Ever since Aeryn left, always you're getting depressed.""This has nothing to do with Aeryn. This has to do with me being deficient."
"You're not deficient," Chiana said with a grin. "Believe me."
I gave her a sideways glance. Chiana had been the only one not to call me deficient on a regular basis that first cycle, but in defense of those who had, they had needed to teach me to open doors--and I'd finally had them figured out by the time Chiana showed up.
"Chiana's right, John," D'Argo added quickly. "You aren't deficient."
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Stop that."
He looked hurt. "Stop what?"
"Being nice to me. It's creeping me out. You're only nice to me when I'm going nuts, or I'm dying."
"That is not true," D'Argo snapped. "I am very nice to you."
Jool snorted into her Raslak, and Chiana laughed.
D'Argo glared at them. "What?"
"You two try to kill each other--daily," Chiana said. "I have to agree with Crichton, you're acting odd. Not that it isn't a nice switch from all the bickering..."
"We do NOT bicker--" D'Argo and I snapped as one.
I turned to glare at him, only to find him glaring at me. "Don't do that!" I demanded.
"Do what?" he snapped.
"Say the same thing as me."
"You said the same thing as me."
"Oh please. I was so saying it before you."
Chiana cleared her throat. "You were saying...? How you don't bicker...?"
Both D'Argo and I immediately shut up and leaned back in our seats.
Chiana grinned and took a large sip of her Raslak. "That's what I thought," she said. After a pause, Chiana slid from her seat, and pulled Jool up. "I have something I need to get--you two behave while we're gone."
"Chiana--" I started pleadingly. She could not leave me here alone with the bickering Luxan mother hen.
She winked. "We'll be back before you know it."
The way she had to drag Jool along behind her, I wasn't sure how fast she would be going anywhere.
"John," D'Argo said softly, bringing my attention back to him even as Chiana and Jool reached the doors of the club.
"How are you, really?"
I sighed, and ran a hand through my hair. "I'm fine, D'Argo. Stop worrying. It doesn't suit you."
He frowned. "I am responsible.""It was an accident," I snapped, harsher than I had meant to. "Let it go."
"You could have died, John, and it would have been my fault."
"D'Argo--" I whispered, but he didn't even pause.
"You gave yourself to your worst nightmare to save my son, you've risked your life for mine countless times, and then you almost died due to my careless rage. I can never make up for that."
"You don't have to," I said, resting my head in my hands. "That's the thing about friends, D'Argo--they let things go, and they don't cash in on supposed debts. You've saved my life enough times too."
"I could save your life a million times over, John," he said quietly. "And still it would not make up for almost taking it."
I lifted my head, and forced myself to meet his eyes. "D'Argo, man, don't do this to yourself. You didn't mean to put me in a coma, did you?"
"Of course not!"
"So what happened was an accident. It wasn't intentional, and it worked out in the end. And I've forgiven you for it--so forgive yourself."
"How can you possibly forgive me?" D'Argo demanded. "Just like that?"
"Because that's what friends do, D'Argo. It's what I do. Harvey kept whispering to me about revenge, but that just isn't my style." I shook my head. "Let's just move past this. It isn't important now."
D'Argo sighed, and didn't speak for a moment. "You know," he finally spoke. "If one of us doesn't belong on your Fantastic Four, it is me, and not you."
"D'Argo, that isn't true--"
"You have something that sets you apart, John, or you would be dead. You change almost everyone you meet--whether by turning them into homicidal maniacs or into friends--or both," he added with a wry grin.
I smiled over at him. "Yeah, okay. But you've got the cool tongue-power. So you don't get kicked off the team."
"D'Argo, Crichton," Chiana's voice reached us clearly through our coms.
"Yeah, Chiana?" I asked."Jool's just about passed out," she said, and I could hear the grin. "I rented us all a room at Bermiena, the hotel just to the right of the bar. I talked to Pilot and told him already we're staying the night."
D'Argo and I shared a wary glance. "Why don't we just take her back to Moya?" I asked.
We could hear Chiana laugh. "What's the fun in that? Get over here--I have surprises."
The com link went dead. D'Argo and I both sighed and got to our feet. Neither of us knew if we could survive a night together with all of us in one room, but Chiana was determined, I could tell--so there would be no way to get out of it.
The hotel room she got was a disaster. It was all grey concrete and litter, with one gigantic bed in the middle of the room--large enough for five D'Argos.
"Chiana," I said, resigned. "Why are we staying here again?"
Chiana pulled a huge bottle of Raslak out from behind her, adding a helpful "Ta Da!" sound effect as it was revealed.
D'Argo and I were both similarly unimpressed. "Correct me if I'm wrong," I said, "But didn't they have that at the bar too?"
She rolled her eyes. "This is more private. We can have fun." She pushed the barely awake Jool closer to the edge of the huge bed and motioned us to come join her.
With no intention of sleeping on the floor, we both walked over and collapsed onto the bed. It was crazy comfortable, and surprisingly clean in contrast to everything else. The four of us lay down side by side, Jool on one edge and Chiana on the other with D'Argo and me in the middle.
Chiana passed the bottle to me, and I took a large drink before handing it off to D'Argo. I figured, what the hell--why not. Let the other me be the responsible one. He had Aeryn, I should have some fun too.
"I have something for you," Chiana whispers in my ear, in that rare sincere Chiana voice.
I turned to look at her, and saw that she was watching me intently. D'Argo was preoccupied trying to wake Jool up, and so as Chiana pulls me up into a sitting position, he doesn't even turn.
She pulls a large red piece of material out from a box, and swings it around behind me, clasping it at the neck. I looked at her in confusion.
"It's a cape," she explained. "Like the one you said that Superman guy you love so much had. I thought it might help you realize you were special."
"God, Chiana--" I pulled her into a hug. Just when I had started to think I finally have her figured out, she went out and did something like this. "Thank you," I whispered.
"No problem, old man," she said, and I could feel her smiling against my neck.
I wrapped her in the cape with me and we both fell back down next to D'Argo and Jool, who is finally awake again though still looking very drunk. For all their alleged superiority, Interions could not hold their liquor. D'Argo passed the bottle back to me.
"Hey, guys---you think we might be spending too much time together?" I asked.
There was a moment of complete silence, then all of us burst out laughing. I tilted the bottle back for another sip. "Yeah," I said with a grin. "That's what I thought too."