He would be so proud of her.
He had always been proud of her for the strangest things.
I told you, you were special....
She had changed so much. Become so different by now, that just seeing who she used to be tore her apart. Part of her wished she could forget, but she wouldn't give the memories for anything because if she ever did--she ran the risk of doing them again.
This is what he deserved, this life, not her. It wasn't a great life, but it was a free one, and no one gave orders that you had to follow. She made her own choices now, and she'd like to think they were mostly the right ones.
John helped with that.
John. Crichton. The man who had ruined her life, and then saved it.
He was so much like Velorek, but so different too. Velorek knew both lives, both John's and hers. He did just as many horrible things as she did, but unlike her, he hadn't needed to get torn from his home to know to regret them. He had done good, too. And died for it. Because of her.
If she could go back, as she was now, she would have died to help him with the sabotage she had labeled him a traitor for. There was no going back, however, and such thoughts did no good.
John was playing with her hair now, and she leaned back against him but didn't speak. Pilot's heavy breathing behind them was all either of them could hear. John was probably the only one on the ship besides Pilot with a right to judge her for what she had done, and he was the only one that didn't.
She couldn't help thinking, that maybe, this was another of those times she would have been dead without him.
She was trained never to love, trained by her own people to see the emotion as weak. And when she had started feeling it anyway, she had been terrified. Velorek had made her smile in a way no one else did, and part of her had hated him for it. She had been so scared of him for reasons, that at the time, she could not begin to understand.
It was easy enough to say she had turned him in for duty, for promotion. But she'd also done it because she was terrified what would happen if she didn't. Scared she would have gone with him if he asked her again.
John's arm tightened around her waist and she closed her eyes. She was scared now, too, of John. She wouldn't make the same mistakes with him. The person that made those kinds of mistakes was as alien to her now as he was. So she let him hold her, remembering the way she had never let Velorek touch her outside of quarters, and she placed her hand over his, weaving their fingers together.
Things were so different this time, she was so different. She knew now what she was feeling for him, the same confused emotions that had risen up within her every time Velorek had said her name, only stronger--and with less fear mixed in than had been there the last time.
She could admit, if only to herself, she felt love for the strange human she still could not accept. And part of her was so afraid she would betray him, hurt him as she had Velorek, and that he would tell her he forgave her before he disappeared.
That was the worst part. Anger, fear, hate, those she could have understood. Compassion, disappointment, forgiveness as he was pulled to his death because of her--that had nearly destroyed her. She still heard him sometimes at night, not with recriminations, not haunting her with phantom screams, but whispering words of forgiveness to her as she slept. It pulled her apart.
Her hand tightened around John's, and he leaned down so his lips brushed her ear. It would be so easy to let John explain away her past, forgive her for it and move on. But she didn't want forgiveness, it was the last thing she deserved for what she had done.
Maybe Velorek knew, maybe he had known what it would do to her, and that was why he had forgiven her. If he had hated her, she could have put it past her, told herself it was duty and he was a traitor. She would never have thought about it again, just like all those other things she had done and forgotten, that if she could see played back for her now would pull her apart all over again.
"Hey, are you okay?"
The whisper registered slowly and she nodded. If she didn't say anything out loud, then it wasn't really a lie.
"Don't destroy yourself over the past. Pilot forgives you," he said softly.
No. Don't say that. Anything but forgiveness. She didn't want to be forgiven.
"And the others, they understand, Aeryn, we know it isn't you anymore..."
But it was her, and time didn't erase sins. Pilot was living proof of that.
"Think of all the good you've done."
Think of all the good Velorek never had the chance to do.
"You saved the ship he died to save, Aeryn, more than once. He would be proud of you."
How did he always know what she was thinking? But he was so wrong this time, because he spoke as if she wanted Velorek to be proud of her. He spoke as though forgiveness would help. And it didn't.
She could hear Pilot's claw tapping on the console as he pretended not to hear them, getting used to his new connection, finally free from pain. Pain caused because of Velorek, because of Crais, because of her. He could forgive them all and it would never be enough.
"I'm so sorry this happened, Aeryn," he told her, and this time his voice was soft enough Pilot could not hear.
She wasn't sorry. She deserved it, but he was holding her and telling her it was alright and that was what she didn't understand. She didn't deserve him, just as she had never deserved Velorek, and she did not know what they had seen in her to make them care.
The potential to become more, she supposed, which she had--but too late for Velorek.
She understood about compassion now, she knew why there were some Peacekeepers that cared about families when she had been taught to see it as weakness, she knew that so many things she had been taught were wrong. But with these lessons came the new understanding that she had done terrible things, things that were never justified as she had been told, and there was no way to take any of them back.
Now she fought beside people that had compassion too, and they fought for each other as well as themselves. And they stumbled through the universe, together, sometimes doing good and never intending, at least, to do anything bad. They had somehow managed to come to care about each other, and it was them, she realized, that had made her more.
She cared now, about things she never would have before. She worried when John went down on a planet without her, because she knew he would find trouble, and when Moya and Pilot were hurt she was too--could feel it in her bones even though the blasts that hit them didn't ever touch her.
She would die for any of them; give her life for them all. Risk everything just to make sure they were safe. The compassion she had disdained had become ingrained in her and there was no escaping it now.
Just like Velorek would have wanted, just like it had been for him.
He would be so proud of her, and she would feel so much better if he would have hated her instead.