Author's Notes: I'd like to thank everyone who has reviewed my Farscape stories. My muses have been overactive lately and stuck in Farscape-mode, and it's always nice to know someone is reading the results. You guys are awesome for taking the time to do it.
Special thanks to ForCryinOutLoud, for putting up with my constant talk of Farscape and my incurable Aeryn/John shippiness, and to ixchup, for all your kind reviews and insights.
xxxxx"This is the store?"
"Yep," Chiana said with a nod. She turned to watch him. John sighed and ran a hand agitatedly through his hair.
The others weren't happy with them at the moment. They had wanted to move on, not backwards. But Chiana had understood without him telling her, and she had backed him up. Told them she needed to return to the planet too, and D'Argo had backed down, yelled at them to go then, but that they only had three arns before they were left behind.
That didn't leave them much time. Not that they thought they would actually be left behind, but it had taken an arn and a half to get here, and that gave them less than two arns until someone came to drag them back.
When he didn't move she grabbed his hand and led him inside. The Sebecean-like Crien behind the counter glared at them, before turning back to the customer in front of him. Without a word, Chiana pulled him towards the back.
"There they are," she said.
John looked at the organic matrix games without enthusiasm. There were about twenty of them, and no way to find out which of them were which without going inside. "We're going to have to get them all, aren't we?"
Chiana tried to hold back a grin, but was only mildly successful. "Well, yeah, but I'll keep the ones we don't trash."
John turned to look at her. "And how do you suggest we find out which if any of them were made using my memories? We can't go into it; it could be another Psycho-Stark trap."
"I'll test 'em," she said. "Stark doesn't want me, I left the first time I went into the game, besides, if anything happens--you can come get me out by kissing the princess again."
"D'Argo will kill us if we come back with games, we said we were doing something important," he pointed out.
She squeezed the hand she had not released, and turned to watch him. "This is important. And if D'Argo can't understand that, then frell him."
"Chiana," John said exasperated."I know you didn't want to tell them why you were coming back, but I don't know why."
"I was afraid they wouldn't think it was worth it," he whispered.
Chiana let her fingers slip from his and grabbed all the games in her arms, before marching purposely to the counter. "It's more than worth it, Crichton. No one has a right to those memories but you."
Chiana sat on the floor of the transport the moment they entered, laying the games out before her. John stepped up behind her with a worried frown. "Maybe we should just destroy them all, Chi."
"I can try them, it won't take long."
"Brain damage?" John said pointedly.
"Very rare," Chiana said vaguely. Then she sighed and turned to meet his worried gaze. "Look, I need something to keep me occupied, something to keep my mind off things while we're stuck in this fahrbot area of space. These help. I promise I'll give you all of them I find with your memories."
John nodded and headed towards the console, fingering the small bag in his pocket as he did. He couldn't begrudge Chiana her method of distraction, he decided, not considering he had his own.
He tried not to look when Chiana zapped herself into one of the games. If those things had freaked him out before...it was nothing on now.
She came back a moment later with a smug smile that John didn't have to turn to see. He smiled too. "Porn again, huh?" he asked.
She tossed it behind her with a broad smile. "Yes. Hey, you don't think they made a porn one from your memories, do you?"
She sounded thrilled at the idea, John looked horrified. "No," he snapped. Then he pointed at her. "But if they do--"
"Right," she said sadly. "I'll give it to you. But--"
"I'll give it right to you," she repeated, sounding dispirited.
John nodded and turned back to the controls.
"Maybe," she whispered at his back, before turning to pick up the next game.
When next she came out of the game, she wasn't smiling. "That one, we destroy," she said. "Gammak base." Then she placed it in a pile at her left, and grabbed up another one.
John turned to look at the game, and wondered if he would be able to get D'Argo to disintegrate it with his ship. Then he changed his mind and decided it would be more satisfying to tear it to pieces.
"Whoa!" Chiana shouted, rushing back to life. "Oh, Crichton, you have to try this!"
He promptly pulled his hands out of her reach and glared at her. "Chiana, don't even try it--"
"Not now," she said, rolling her eyes. "I know now. Two people alone on a transport, two people in a game, not smart. But later--you have to try it later."
He glanced at her suspiciously. "What is it?"
"You get to fly," she said, and there was something in her voice that hadn't been there for weekens. Hearing it made him smile.
"Yeah. Maybe I will try that," he said. "The auto-out works, right?"
She smiled at him. "Yes. I didn't see any Aeryns sitting on the clouds, either, so I don't think it was made with your memories."
"Cute," he said dryly.
She smiled but didn't meet his eyes as she grabbed up another game. Her head shot back and her eyes slipped back in her head. John looked away with a wince. Definitely creepy.
There was still about a half an arn left until they would reach Moya by the time Chiana finished. Only two of the twenty one were made from his memories, and he was trying not to think how many might already have been sold.
Chiana came up behind him, and let her arms slip around his neck, resting her chin on his shoulder. "At least they weren't any good at advertising," she said. "No huge signs saying play the game made by the memories of the outlaw John Crichton--they obviously didn't realize what they had.""Is this supposed to make me feel better?" he asked wryly.
"Well, yeah. Not working, huh?"
Her grip tightened. "Well it was worth a shot."
He grinned. "Thanks, Pip."
"No problem, old man . . . So--" she trailed off before she finished, but she didn't have to for John to know what it was she was trying to ask.
"I don't want to talk about it," he said, his tone clipped.
"It's pulling you apart," she said, moving slowly around him so she could meet his eyes, but not releasing her hold around his neck.
"Nothing I can't handle," he said.
"Crichton," she said. "You should talk to someone."
"If I was going to, it would be you, I promise, but I'm not, Pip." He sighed. "Things are too screwed up for words."
"She still loves you," Chiana said.
"She doesn't always do it right," he whispered. "And I don't either, for that matter. Sometimes I think we're not compatible at all."
"But then you're not with her, and you feel like this, and you realize that maybe you are," Chiana said softly.
He slowly turned to meet her eyes, wondering how even after all this time he continued to be surprised by her. He should have known he didn't have to put in words what was wrong, because Chiana already knew. "Yeah," he said.
"I know how that is," Chiana said. "And there's no easy way to fix it."
"Is there a way?" he asked.
Chiana shook her head. "I don't know. For me? Probably not. You might still have a chance. You deserve to be happy."
He touched her cheek. "So do you."
Chiana grinned ruefully. "Anytime I'm happy, I get scared and sabotage myself--there's no fixing that."
"Just knock it off," he said with a small grin.
Chiana laughed. "You make it sound easy. You know its not."
"Nothing worth having ever is," he told her, his eyes straying back to the controls.
Chiana nodded and climbed slowly onto his lap, straddling him, and taking his hands to place them on her hips. She met his eyes.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Sabotaging myself," she whispered, before leaning forward to kiss him.
After only a moment she pulled away, and rested her forehead on his. He leaned against her tiredly. "It would never work," he told her softly.
"I know that," she said, pressing her eyes shut. "If I thought it might have, I probably wouldn't have done it."
He grinned slyly at that, reaching out to grab one of her hands. "It would be so much easier for us both if it could," he said.
"But I would only get what you haven't already given to her," she whispered knowingly. "And I don't think you kept much for yourself."
She pulled away, letting herself slip to the floor, one of her gloves catching on his jacket as she sunk to her knees beside the chair. She pulled it away, and a small pouch started falling from his pocket. He went to grab it but she was already looking at it.
Neither said a word, still too caught up in what had just happened to focus on what was happening now, but Chiana eventually broke the stalemate. "What is this?" she asked.
John glanced over at it, and then sighed. "Noranti gave them to me.""The old woman?" Chiana said incredulously. "Oh, we have to burn this along with those games."
"No," he said quietly. "They help."
Chiana looked up to meet his eyes, and suddenly the way he had been acting since they had left Stark's insane world became clear--that disconnected look in his eyes, like everything hurt but nothing could hurt him all at the same time.
Chiana glanced at the pouch. "It takes the pain."
"For awhile," John said. "It's never long enough."
Chiana nodded, not judging, not giving advice he didn't want to take--not telling him to stop. She would never know how grateful he was for that.
"Well," Chiana said. "Can I have some then?"
John laughed, and for the first time since they had all left Moya on their separate ways, it reached his eyes.
"Pilot picked the transport pod up on sensors," D'Argo said, as he walked up to Aeryn in one of Moya's corridors. "They'll be here in a few microts."
"Good," Aeryn said. "Have they contacted us yet?"
D'Argo shook his head. "No, I'm sure they will."
Aeryn looked like she doubted it. "We'll try in a few microts," she said. "We should go to the docking bay to meet them. Make sure they're both still in one piece."
D'Argo nodded. "Let's go."
Aeryn tried not to look at D'Argo as they walked. Their relationship was still somewhat strained. He had not completely forgiven her for all the pain she had caused John, or for bringing Scorpius back into their lives, and she could not really blame him--she had not forgiven herself.
John almost jumped when Aeryn's voice reached him from the com, and he quickly grabbed Chiana's hand, shaking one of the laaka bulbs from the pouch she still held.
"Yeah?" he snapped irritably.
There was a pause before she answered. "Is everything alright?" There was hurt in her voice now, John could hear it. He held the bulb under his nose and squeezed. By the time he brought his hands down, the hurt in her voice didn't bother him.
"We're fine, we're coming back. Go ahead and starburst as soon as we're docked. I know you're all waiting."
"It's fine," Aeryn said, and if he hadn't already inhaled the laaka he might have winced. It was weird to hear her being supportive, more disconcerting than if she had simply snapped at him to get his eema on board. At least that would have been something he understood.
Chiana grabbed his hand in silent support, and after they had landed safely, she used the hold on it to pull him down on the floor beside her. They leaned back against the console, and Chiana rested her head on his shoulder as she took some of the laaka for herself.
Her head snapped back at the first jolt, and snapshots of everything that mattered most flashed behind her eyes before it all faded into background noise, and she couldn't bring herself to care.
"Frell me dead," she said. "That's cool."
He nodded, grinning slightly at her use of the word cool, but doing no more to agree.
"They're probably standing out there waiting for us to come out," he said after a moment.
"Frell them," Chiana snapped, taking another laaka bulb from his hands and rolling it between her fingers. "Frell them both, we don't need them. They're nothing but trouble."
There was no need to ask who the both were. John grinned wryly. "I think we're the ones holding that title, Pip."
"Well, whatever," she said. "We still don't need them."
"No," he said. "We don't need them."
They carefully didn't meet each other's eyes--if they had, they knew they would have both seen the lie.
Aeryn stood beside D'Argo, watching the door of the transport, but no one came out. She resisted the urge to go inside to find out why they had not. From the movements beside her, D'Argo was having similar problems resisting doing the same thing.
Aeryn had noticed, since she had been on board, that Chiana and John--always close, seemed closer. Something had happened while she had been gone to both of them, and for some reason, it had drawn them together. They were defensive of each other to an extreme. The last planet she had been at with the two of them, John had pulled out Winona faster than she had known he could when a store clerk had called Chiana a tralk.
It used to be John had trouble pulling a weapon even on someone threatening his life. But she tried not to think about what that meant.
She thought that part of him might be using Chiana to keep her away, like how he tried to get Chiana to go down to the Royal Planet with him when she had turned him down. But it hadn't worked back then, it was working now. She couldn't find a moment alone with him, and whenever they needed something from a commerce planet, John and Chiana were always the first two to volunteer--and she was usually stuck on board to monitor Scorpius.
She was starting to lose patience.
She had to talk to John, had to work things out and he wasn't giving her the chance. She decided she would have to try and force the issue again.
D'Argo moved restlessly beside her, but it was only a microt later that the transport hatch finally opened, and Chiana and John came down the stairs hand in hand. It never would have bothered her before. John was tactile, he touched everyone, and he always had a special relationship with Chiana. But she was jealous, because at the moment, he wouldn't even let her touch him, and he was always reaching for Chiana.
Chiana was toting a lumpy bag along behind her and looked reserved, which was unusual for her, but she was still grinning as she started out of the docking bay, acting as though D'Argo and Aeryn were not there. "You're going to come play with me later, right, Crichton?" Chiana asked with a grin. "We're gonna fly?"
"We're gonna fly," he called after her with a grin, and her smile widened before she left the room.
When Chiana had left, John allowed his eyes to reluctantly meet Aeryn's, who returned the gaze without flinching. D'Argo, suddenly uncomfortable, turned on his heel. "Pilot," he said as he started to leave. "You can starburst."
When they were alone, John nodded a faint greeting and started to move past her.
"John," she called after him, exasperated--thankful when he did at least stop.
"This has to stop," she said quietly.
He glanced at her, then without a word, he left the docking bay.
Angrily, Aeryn followed him out into the corridor. "John! John, would you wait?!"
He slowed but didn't stop. "What?" he asked impatiently.
"You're using her, John--using her as a shield to protect yourself from me. Your little trips with Chiana--"
"Are none of your business," he said firmly.
Aeryn winced at the coldness in his voice, and stopped in the middle of the corridor. "I've apologized, John--I don't know what else to do. How long are you going to punish me?"
"Aeryn," he snapped, before pausing and spinning to face her. "I'm not doing this to punish you...god! This--this is exactly the problem. You think everything is about you."
"I just think you should take me on one these shopping runs once and awhile, John--we could use the opportunity to talk, since you can't seem to ever find one when we're here. There are so many things that need to be said."
John sighed, and when he spoke to her, he didn't look in her eyes. "Did you ever think maybe I like hanging around Chiana...because it's nice to be with someone who doesn't want anything from me for once?"
Aeryn snorted--for all his changes, John could still be startling naïve. "She wants plenty from you."
He shook his head angrily. "You don't understand her at all. You don't understand me either." He started moving again.
Aeryn started after him. "She falls all over you and you're using that against me!"
He stopped again, and this time Aeryn passed him before she turned to meet his eyes. "We are friends, Aeryn--see, see this is what I mean. You still don't trust me. Even now. You say things are different, but it's all exactly the same."
"John," Aeryn sighed, reaching out to touch his arm.
He pulled away. "No, don't--just . . . don't. Leave me alone, Aeryn. I need time. God knows I've given you enough--I think you owe it to me not to push."
So she let him walk away, and as she was left standing there alone, she realized that this must have been how he had felt--every time she had done it to him.