Disclaimer: Farscape is owned by the Jim Henson Company and all the grand high Mucky Mucks. I am making no money from this, and of course, no copyright infringement is intended.
Rating: PG or PG 13 at most for violence and some suggestive situations; mild swearing.
Timeline: Between "Twice Shy" and "Mental as Anything"
Summary: Scarrens, and Peacekeepers, and mind probes, oh my! John and Aeryn go on a supply run, and of course, things go wrong :)
Author's Notes: This is only my second attempt at a fanfiction short story, and not a ficlit or an original work. It draws very heavily on the series and for those unfamiliar with it, there may be moments of, "huh?" But, I'm going to assume that if you're reading this, you are a Farscape fan, so I don't think that there should be any problems :)
This is a re-post as the first posting has gone MIA. There should be no real changes except typo correction.
Episodes referenced(more or less in order): "Twice Shy"; "Thank God it's Friday Again"; "Rhaspody in Blue"; "Kansas"; "What Was Lost"; "Taking the Stone"; "Crichton Kicks"; "Nerve"; "Die Me Dichotomy"; "Premire"; "A Human Reaction";"Promises"; "WWL"; "Look at the Princess Pt1"; "Season of Death"; "LATP Pt3"; "Fractures"; "Green Eyed Monster"; "Dog with Two Bones";"DMD"
Deus ex machina: Literally, "god from a machine." In ancient greek theater this was the convention of bringing in gods on a machine. The term has now come to refer to any unjustified or arbitrary dramatic device used to resolve the plot, particularily in the final moments.
Feedback: Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Thank you to everyone and "Agent Rouka" for first reading and reviewing the original posting.
Deus ex machina
The laka bulb looked so innocuous in her hand, nothing but a black shiny bulb shape no larger than a section of her smallest finger. Aeryn turned it slowly in her fingers. The small cloth bag that it had come from was in her other hand, filled with dozens of similar bulbs. She sat in the corridor not far from Crichton's quarters, her back resting against the warm wall of Moya as she contemplated the laka bulbs.
John saw Aeryn sitting in the corridor, and for a moment, he was tempted to turn and walk the other way. Each time he was near the beautiful Sebacean woman he found it harder to deny the need to take her in his arms and tell her precisely how he felt.
"Damn, and that's exactly why I have to go past her," he thought painfully. "The laka bulbs that Noranti just made for me are still in my quarters."
John took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and headed toward where Aeryn sat on the floor in front of him. He meant to walk right past her, but something in her face stopped him.
"Do you have any idea what you've done?" Aeryn said, holding the laka bulb before her.
"Damn," John thought quietly. He squared his mental shoulders and prepared to wound the woman that he loved more than anything.
"You won the coin toss," John said, putting Alystian winter winds in his voice.
Before he had to say anything else, John began to walk past Aeryn, only to be stopped by the sound of her rising to her feet. When she spoke, he could feel the pain in her voice like a sharp sliver of a knife in his heart.
"But we lost...didn't we?" Aeryn said, trying to hold back the tears in her voice, both needing and dreading John's answer.
John turned back to Aeryn, and before he could allow himself to answer otherwise, he spoke solemnly "Aeryn...it's over."
It hurt more than Aeryn had ever thought possible to hear those words coming from him. And suddenly, she was angry. Angry at the universe that constantly pulled them apart as much as it drove them together. Angry with herself for being unable to get him back, andangry at him for denying what was there between them. And finally, angry at Noranti for ever giving John the laka.
She lashed out, furiousand scared, "So, your mind is now so full of this dren that you can't even see straight, is that it?
Aeryn held the bag of laka bulbs out in front of her, tempted to simply drop the bag to the floor and stomp it beneath her boot.
John tried very hard to not acknowledge the fear and pain that he heard in Aeryn's voice and saw in her face. He forced his face into a stony resemblance of his own.
"Move on, Aeryn."
"You see, I did everything...everything I could to keep us together. I did exactly what you told me to do, and the whole time, you've been cheating," Aeryn said fiercely.
"Yeah, I'm a coward. Move on. It's over."
"No, I'm going to tell you how this is going to go from now on. You're going to stop sniffing this dren..." Aeryn began, waving the cloth bag of laka in front of him.
"Shut up," John said, turning his back on Aeryn as he began to walk away from her.
"Don't you tell me to shut up!" Aeryn said, unshed tears in her eyes.
John paused, his heart breaking inside his chest. "No more," he thought fiercely, "no more. Frell Scorpius, frell it all. I can't do this anymore. I love her too damn much."
"Pilot, my comms are a bit buggy. Can you test the system, please?"
"Yes, Commander, but that will take all comms off-line for about thirty microts," came Pilot's answer.
"I thought so. That'll be fine, thank you," John said, waiting for Pilot to begin the check. Once he was certain that the comms were off-line, John turned back to where Aeryn stood with tears shining in her eyes and a bemused expression on her face.
John held his hand up, pointing at Aeryn to emphasize his words, "Shut up and listen to me." John's voice held an urgent conviction, "Scorpius is here, looking for the key to what's inside my head. Neural chips, aurora chair, threatening Earth...none of it works, because he doesn't understand me."
"Scorpius?" Aeryn thought in pain and confusion. "What does he have to do with what's between us?"
"Stop using him as an excuse," she said, her voice wavering despite her best efforts.
John held two fingers up to Aeryn's face in his need to interrupt her and get said what needed to be said. He needed her know what was going on. "Please! You're the key; my Achilles; you. If he figures that out...the world and all that's in it is nothing." John paused, willing Aeryn to understand.
"He will use you, and the baby, and I will not be able to stop him," John finished, his voice deep with the strength of his emotion. The worst thing that he could ever imagine, his worst nightmare, was loosing Aeryn and the baby to the monsters of the universe because they wanted to use his loved ones to get to him.
"So you think he's been using the comms?" Aeryn asked, trying to believe, if only for a moment, but there was incredulity in her voice.
John was silent, letting Aeryn work through it.
"Look what it's done to you. You're completely paranoid."
A crackle of static hissed over the comms as they came back on-line.
"Pilot," Scorpius' cool elegant voice said, "Are we having a problem with the comms?"
"I was just checking them. Some slight irregularities, but they appear to be functioning normally," Pilot replied.
John watched as realization appeared on Aeryn's face. He saw the horror flicker over her face at the thought of Scorpius and what he was doing. She looked deep into John's eyes, and he saw something else pass over Aeryn's face. John willed her to understand, and he saw it happen behind her eyes; saw her realize exactly what he had just told her.
"S...so, it's over," she said a little loudly, her voice somewhat stilted.
John replied, "It's over."
"There's nothing more between us," Aeryn said, as if reciting lines in a play, turning her eyes up to meet John's.
John gave her a lopsided grin, and whispered, "Nothing."
Aeryn smiled quietly in response, then bit her lip before smiling brightly.
John laughed silently, the joy almost too much to bear. After so long, too long, he was here with her. He had Aeryn. His face shone with love as he brought his mouth to Aeryn's to claim a long denied kiss.
Aeryn lost herself in the sweetness of the kiss. Gently, she slipped her hand up to John's neck, and deepened it. Finally, they broke the kiss and John lowered his forehead to touch Aeryn's lightly.
"I love you," Aeryn mouthed.
John kissed her gently. When they had broke this second kiss, John mouthed, "I love you."
Aeryn drew him down for another kiss as they slowly backed toward the wall of the corridor. She felt her back pressed against the wall and Aeryn slid her hands down the length of John until she reached his belt, pulling him closer. Hungrily, she kissed him, resisting the urge to moan as he matched her passion with his own. His hands moved to her hips and his thumbs caressed the skin between the bottom of her leather vest and the waist of her pants.
John's mouth had just left Aeryn's lips, and he had begun to nuzzle her neck, when a voice came over the comms.
"Aeryn," D'Argo's deep voice said, "we may have found a small trading outpost where we can replace some of our stores. Meet me in Command. And if you see Crichton, bring him as well."
"I'll be right there, D'Argo," Aeryn answered, trying to not sound breathless.
John pulled away a little and Aeryn reached for him once more. She kissed him passionately before releasing him and indicating that she was going to head up to Command. John nodded and waited a few microts before he followed her, picking up the bag of laka and tossing it into his room to be disposed of later.
He arrived in Command shortly after Aeryn. Rygel and D'Argo were already there, looking through the front portal at the large asteroid floating in space before them.
"That's it?" John asked.
"Rygel's already spoken with a trader down there willing to barter with us for some of the things we're running low on or that we need now," D'Argo replied.
"Yes, a reasonable enough sounding fellow. Toqra, I believe his name was," Rygel said, brushing his eyebrow ridges as he hovered in his chair.
D'Argo made a sound almost like a growl.
"What's wrong Big D?" John said as he moved closer to get a better look at the dark asteroid.
"Toqra refuses to deal with Luxons, Nebari, or Kalish," answered Rygel before D'Argo could say anything.
"Then I'll go," Aeryn said.
"You can't go alone, Aeryn," D'Argo said firmly.
"Then I'll take Crichton," she replied.
D'Argo looked over to Crichton, trying to judge how the human felt about that. John shrugged. "She can't go alone, D. And if this guy, this Toqra, isn't going to deal with you or Pip, or Sikozu, that really just leaves me. Rygel's not gonna be any good ifAeryn runs in to trouble with Scarrens or Peacekeepers," John said as he turned to Rygel. "No offense Sparky."
Rygel simply huffed.
John turned back to D'Argo, "It'll be ok, D," he said quietly.
D'Argo looked doubtful, but otherwise said nothing.
John turned back to where Aeryn stood. "I'll meet you at the transport pod," he said, and walked out of Command.
John headed to his quarters to make sure that he had everything that he would need then began to make his way to the transport pod. Halfway there, Scorpius stopped him in the corridor.
"I must object to this, John. You are putting yourself in danger. I will accompany you and Officer Sun to the trading post," he said in his menacing, elegant voice.
"No way, Grasshopper," John said as he tried to move past the half-Scarran.
"I insist, John. I cannot risk the knowledge that you carry falling into the wrong hands."
"Move outta my way, Scorpius," John said as he brushed past him and ducked into the central chamber.
Noranti was cooking something over the central flame, tasting various colored plants and herbs and muttering to herself.
"Hey Granny, Aeryn and I are going down to the trading post, is there anything you need?" He asked, ignoring the fact the Scorpius had followed him.
"Need?" Noranti asked, almost as if she was confused by the question.
"Yeah, herbs, medicines?" John asked.
"Oh, oh yes, Crichton," Noranti began, bustling about.
"Crichton..." Scorpius said.
"I told you, Grasshopper," John interrupted him, turning to face Scorpius, pointing at him, "I'm not taking you with us. Aeryn and I are doing this alone. You're going to stay on board, Moya."
Neither man noticed Noranti give John a considering look before she snuck forward to quickly blow a blue powder into Scorpius' face. The half-Scarran gave a low growl and moved forward as if to grab Noranti. Suddenly, Scorpius fell heavily at her feet as the old woman stepped back.
John looked to Noranti in shock. "Granny, what did you do?"
Noranti made dismissive noises, "Nothing that will hurt him. But if you and Aeryn are going to leave without any further interference from Scorpius, I suggest that you leave now."
"Noranti," John began, worried that the second Scorpius woke up, he was going to kill the old woman.
"It'll be fine, Crichton. He won't even remember what happened," she looked at Crichton, her third eye glowing red and blue. "Go John."
John gave a last look at where Scorpius lay prone on the floor, then to Noranti before he turned to leave.
"Oh, and Crichton," Noranti stopped him, "I need some hatha root if you and Aeryn find any."
"Ok, Granny, we'll get some if they have any," and John stepped out of the room.
Aeryn was already in the transport pod when John finally made it to the docking bay. As soon as John was seated, Aeryn spoke to Pilot, "We're ready to go, Pilot."
"Docking bay doors opening, Officer Sun," Pilot replied.
Skillfully, Aeryn piloted the transport pod out of Moya and down to the asteroid, landing on the outskirts of where the trading post had been established.
"Ok, Crichton, lets find this Toqra and get back to Moya."
Suddenly, John grabbed for Aeryn's hand and pulled her close. Before she could protest, he kissed her, lips capturing hers quickly. After a moment, Aeryn returned the kiss, molding herself to John's body. His hands went to her hips and he pulled her even closer, deepening the kiss.
When they finally parted, they were both a little breathless. John gave Aeryn a small lopsided grin. Irresistibly, Aeryn returned the smile with one of her own before she pulled back.
"Let's go, Crichton."
Aeryn confidently walked away, moving into the stalls and shops of the outpost followed by John who quickly caught up with her. The primary trading center seemed small and crowded with a wild mix of people and goods. Tent stalls pushed up one against another, cheek and jowl with more permanent buildings of stone. The smells of over cooked food mingled with the scent of chakkan oil from the weapons shops, and the unwashed masses of the people around them.
John worked to keep his position next to Aeryn through the bustling of the crowd.
"Where is this Toqra at anyway?" John asked.
"Rygel says that the shop should be at the end of this section of the marketplace. There should be a red marker," Aeryn replied.
John nodded and followed a pace behind as they continued to work their way through the marketplace. But somewhere between a stall of strange foods and another of screeching cat like creatures, John and Aeryn got separated.
"Aeryn?" John called, casting his eye about for the beautiful Sebacean woman. "Aeryn?"
When Aeryn noticed that she had gotten separated from John, she too began calling for her lost companion and looking around the crowded marketplace trying to spot him. When that didn't work, she tried her comms, "John? John where are you?"
The comms hissed static at her.
"Frell," she swore. "John, can you hear me?" Aeryn tried again with her comms.
"Aeryn?...hiss...I'm...hiss," the comms spit back, full of static.
"Frell," she swore again with feeling.
Aeryn began to make her way back to where she last remembered having John by her side, hoping that he would be thinking along the same lines. When she reached the food stall though, John was no where to be seen. She looked about, trying vainly to see a glimpse of the human. She refused to panic just yet, she didn't see any immediate danger, they were just separated.
"Maybe he went back to the pod," she thought hopefully and began to make her own way back to where they had left it.
When she reached the pod, she was disappointed to discover that Crichton was not there. After several moments, Aeryn was about to move back out into the market when John strode into view. On his face was a grin of relief that Aeryn found herself matching.
After a moment though, Aeryn's grin began to fade.
"My comms isn't working right," Aeryn explained.
"Mine's buggy too."
"That's not good," she replied, her face looking somewhat concerned.
Suddenly, John's face brightened with his charming lopsided grin.
"What?" Aeryn asked, raising an eyebrow.
John stepped forward, getting very close as he whispered, "That could be very good."
Gently, he leaned forward and kissed her, a light brush of lips. When he pulled away, he looked deeply into Aeryn's sapphire blue eyes. He reached a hand forward to run it tenderly through her dark hair.
"I've wanted to do that for so long," he whispered.
"Let me show you what else I've wanted to do," he said very suggestively, giving her another charming lopsided grin.
He chuckled happily as he saw Aeryn's eyes start to glimmer, drawing him in. Carefully, he took her hand and lead Aeryn into the transport. As soon as they were inside the pod he whispered, "I love you," and bent to nuzzle at her neck.
"John," she said softly.
"Aeryn," he murmured.
"Aeryn," he whispered as he moved his mouth down her neck to the hollow of her throat as he began to show her just how much he loved, and had missed her. With a passionate tenderness, John proceeded to show her for the next arn and a half.
After, as John and Aeryn were getting dressed, she said, "We need to finish getting the supplies and get back to Moya, John."
"Yeah, I know," he sighed, watching Aeryn with tender eyes.
Aeryn smiled, zipping her vest closed as she stepped forward to kiss John lightly, a soft brush of lips against his "Let's go, John."
John nodded and slipped his own tee-shirt on as he headed out of the transport pod and back into the market with Aeryn. They were careful to keep close to each other, and eventually, they reached a large, almost menacing stone building. As Rygel had told them, there was a red marker with the odd circular design, showing that it was the shop that they were looking for.
Aeryn lead the way into the building with John close at her heels. As a matter of course, they both kept a wary eye out, ready to act if need be. This visible part of the shop seemed to be a strange mix of food stuffs, mechanical parts, and various odds and ends. At a counter at the end of the shop stood Toqra.
Toqra was a short, sour looking little being, no taller than Rygel. In truth, he looked like nothing so much as a ill tempered wart hog, complete with wicked looking tusks. He had small red eyes that seemed to glare out of his wrinkled face. His hands were small and tipped with sharp black claws. And when he opened his mouth to speak, sharp ebony teeth could be seen.
Looking at the little man, one would expect to hear a high pitched sort of squeal issuing from him. Instead, Toqra had a soft melodic voice sharply in contrast with his appearance. "What can I do for you?"
"I believe that you spoke with one of our shipmates about a trade transaction," Aeryn answered.
The small man tilted his head slightly then nodded, "Ah yes, you must be the Dominar's attendants," Toqra said in his soft voice.
Aeryn made a slight face at this statement, but John stepped forward and said, "Yes, we're the Dominar's attendants." He looked to Aeryn with a look that said, 'play along.'
"Good, good. I told him no Luxons, Kalish, or Nebari. Don't deal with them, nothing but trouble," Toqra muttered. "You have payment?"
"The Dominar would like us to inspect the goods first," John said quickly.
Toqra snorted, sounding finally like the pig he looked, then hopped down from the platform he had been standing on. He disappeared behind his counter and into the back part of the shop. Aeryn and John heard a great deal of shuffling and squealing, then three small creatures looking like Toqra started hauling boxes and crates out to where John and Aeryn stood. Toqra was behind his workers every step of the way, squealing as they did, and sounding very upset. But when he spoke to John, his voice was once again the melodic one that he had used before.
"It's all there, everything that you wanted," he said. Then, lowering his voice, he added, "The special things you requested are at the bottom of the blue crate."
John nodded to Toqra as Aeryn went to inspect what the 'special' things were. After she had, she walked back to John and whispered, "Notma beetles and sutha snicks."
"Finest quality to be found in the quadrant," Toqra said proudly.
At a brief flicker of surprise on John's face that the little man had heard Aeryn's soft whisper, Toqra said, "We Unthar have excellent hearing and smell." Then he chuckled a moment before getting back to business. "Now, my payment."
Aeryn stepped forward and brought out a bag of small silver coins and green gems.
Toqra's small red eyes glowed with avarice and he took the payment eagerly. Then he turned to squeal at his workers before addressing Aeryn., "Just lead them, and these ones will carry your purchases to where you need them."
Aeryn nodded and started out the door followed by the three Unthar carrying the crates, and John taking up the rear. Once they were well out of the shop, Toqra called another small Unthar to him.
"Go to Captain Neracc. Tell him that the two Peacekeepers that were just here match the description of Crichton and the woman that they want so badly. Tell him that if he's willing to pay, I'll give him the frequency for the tracking device that I put in the Notma beetles." When the other Unthar stood unmoving too long for Toqra's patience, he hit her and said harshly, "Go, now."
The small female, who's name was Mushi, squealed and practically ran out the door. She was still running when she ran into the tall warrior caste Scarran. With a growl, the Scarran lifted the small Unthar up to the level of his face. "Watch where you're going, or I'll make you my lunch," he hissed.
She squealed a moment before she could say in Scarran, "Apologies mighty warrior. Please, let me go. My master wishes me to seek out the Peacekeeper, Neracc. Toqra will be most displeased with me if I do not deliver my message," the little Unthar babbled in her fear before she could stop herself.
"What message is that, Unthar?" The Scarran growled, his face in Mushi's terrified one. "The Unthar belong to the Scarran Empire, why are you delivering messages to the Peacekeepers?"
Mushi gulped loudly, but otherwise attempted to keep silent.
"Answer me, Unthar," the Scarran hissed, using his heat probe on the small pig like being.
"My master wishes to make a deal with the Peacekeeper," Mushi ground out under the pain of the heat probe.
"What deal?" The Scarran warrior asked.
"My master, Toqra, knows where the human, Crichton, and the Sebacean, Aeryn, are," Mushi gasped.
"Where?" The Scarran growled, intensifying his heat probe.
Mushi gasped and began to make distressed gurgling noises, then suddenly died in the Scarran's grasp.
The Scarran dropped the Unthar corpse in disgust. "Weak species," he hissed.
People had backed as far away from the Scarran warrior as they could in the crowded space, but they backed even further away, if possible, when he growled and pushed his way through. Determined, the warrior made his way back to his elite special unit. They were not hard to find, standing by the small ship that they had just arrived in. Six more warrior caste and two ruling caste Scarran stood by the ship waiting for a report from their Scout.
"Report," commanded Iajo, the ruling caste Scarren in charge of the mission.
"Crichton and the female Sebacean are here. An Unthar, Toqra, was trying to reach the Peacekeepers that are tracking the human, to tell them where Crichton is," Daska the Scout reported.
"Where are they?"
"The Unthar I was questioning died before I could discover that information," Daska replied.
Iajo viciously hit the Scout before turning to the other ruling caste Scarran, his second in command. "Gaio," he addressed the female Scarran, "you and two warriors will accompany me. We will seek this Crichton and his female." He turned to Daska, "You will find this Unthar, Toqra, and find out what dealings he has had with the Peacekeepers and where they are." He turned to the remaining warriors, "You will find Crichton's transport and secure it."
With a growl, Iajo stalked into the busy marketplace of the trade-post, followed by Gaio and two warriors. Their keen eyes scanned the crowded market for the sight of their prey.
Never very patient, Iajo growled in irritation after their search proved unsuccessful for half an arn. When Daska came striding up, Iajo turned to lash out at him. The Scout accepted the abuse then spoke, his grating voice the only indication that he was angered by Iajo's action.
"The Unthar has been selling information to the Peacekeepers about the Scarran Empire. He had found a way to track our ships and communications. These Peacekeepers though are on a special mission to find this Crichton. The Unthar was going to sell the information of the human's location to Captain Neracc, the Peacekeeper leading the mission."
Daska paused a moment, certain that he had his leader's attention now as more than something to lash out at. "I destroyed the Unthar's devices and shop and secured him for interrogation."
"Very good," Iajo hissed.
Daska held up a small blinking device. "The Unthar put a tracking device in the goods that he sold the human. This will lead us to Crichton."
"Very good Scout. If this proves to be useful, you will be rewarded."
Daska hissed in pleasure and followed the direction that the tracking beacon lead them in. The small blinking red light flared brighter the closer that they got to the position of the corresponding beacon. As the light flared ever brighter, Daska began lashing out more at the crowds of people, clearing a path. His fellow Scarrans walked menacingly in the wake of his violence.
The pulsing beacon finally lead them to the transport pod from Moya being secured by Peacekeeper commando forces. Iajo hissed his anger at the sight and seemed ready to attack the Peacekeepers immediately. It was Gaio that held the enraged mission leader back, standing her ground even as he growled at her.
"Wait," she commanded. "We'll send Daska to find the others."
"They are a weak species," Iajo hissed.
"Perhaps, but War Minster Ahkna wants the human and the woman alive and unharmed until she can interrogate them. If we attack now, we risk damaging Crichton. I for one, do not want to explain to the War Minister why we failed when we were so close to success," Gaio asserted. "We wait."
Iajo paused, seeing the Scarran female's wisdom. He turned to Daska. "Go find the others." Then he turned back to Gaio, "Then we attack."
She nodded as she turned to watch three of the Peacekeeper commandos dragging Crichton from the direction of the market and toward the secured transport pod. The human was being held firmly between two of the commandos dressed in black leathers. Crichton struggled, trying to free himself from their grip and ignoring the threats of the third commando behind him, also dressed in black leather.
John kicked out and wrenched his arms, trying to pull out of the grip of his captors. Finally, the commando following the imprisoned Crichton used his pulse pistol to hit the human viciously on the back of the head. The fierce blow was enough to stun Crichton long enough to drag him into Moya's transport pod.
"Secure him," the commando that had hit Crichton ordered.
The two that still held the human tossed him roughly to the ground next to the unconscious form of Aeryn lying half slumped against the wall.
"Aeryn," John said in a sickening mix of hope, concern, and despair.
The beautiful Sebacean woman did not stir and for one terrifying moment, John feared the worst. Then he saw her chest rise in a shallow breath. "Aeryn," he whispered.
A tall Sebacean man entered the pod as two of the commandos proceeded to secure John's hands and feet with simple rope like ties. The man was dressed in red and black special command captain's leathers. He had dark hair and eyes, with skin the color of rich oak. His hair and goatee were neatly trimmed and he held a pulse pistol loosely in his left hand.
"Former Officer Sun is quite alive, I assure you. Grayza wants both of you alive for questioning if possible," Captain Neracc said calmly.
"Grayza," John hissed.
Captain Neracc didn't respond directly and called out for Officer Jadasa. A smaller blonde woman with very pale skin stepped forward. Like her fellow commandos of this special Retrieval squad, she wore full black fighting leathers. The color made her appear washed out and her gray eyes cold. She came forward carrying something very carefully cupped in her right hand.
When she got closer to John, he suddenly began to struggle, knowing that whatever Officer Jadasa held in her hand, he wasn't going to like it. One of her team moved forward to restrain John, and the human managed to bring his knees up just right to clip the Peacekeeper on the jaw, sending him staggering back. And immediately after, the next Peacekeeper was caught in the gut when Crichton kicked his bound feet back out. Officer Jadasa had stepped back to protect whatever she held, as more of her team moved forward to restrain the human without unduly hurting or killing him.
"Enough," Captain Neracc commanded coldly from where he had moved to come up along the other side of the still unconscious Aeryn. The Peacekeeper captain was calmly holding a pulse pistol aimed for a kill shot to Aeryn's temple. His shrewd eyes measured John's response to his threat.
"Grayza wants Officer Sun alive if possible, but it's not a part of our mission parameters. If you continue to struggle, I may not kill you, but I have no reason not to shoot her," Captain Neracc assured the struggling human.
John went very still, locking eyes with the Peackeeper threatening Aeryn. For all that Neracc's eyes were a warm brown in color, they were cold as the Nebari winds of winter. The expression on the Sebacean man's face was almost dead in it's absence of any warmth. John could very clearly see that Captain Neracc was not bluffing. Slowly and carefully, he forced himself to relax against the wall.
"Officer Jadasa," Captain Neracc said calmly, ordering her forward.
The blonde commando moved forward and knelt down next to Crichton. She opened her hand, and John could still barely see what she held, so tiny was it.
"Mind probe," she said, bringing her hand closer.
As if Captain Neracc could read John's thoughts, he said, "Don't think about knocking it from Officer Jadasa's hand Crichton. If you do, I'll kill Officer Sun."
John flicked his own blue eyes to where the captain still stood, his gun poised to shoot Aeryn. Then he turned his attention back to what Officer Jadasa held in her hand.
"Mind probe?" he asked, not really expecting much of an answer.
Officer Jadasa held it a little closer though, and John could finally make out an small round object no bigger than the tiniest spider, smaller even than a person's smallest fingernail. It was a pale sort of brown, and as John watched, it developed hair thin legs, making it resemble an insect even more.
The blonde Sebacean held her hand next to John's left ear. After a moment, she stepped back and nodded to Captain Neracc, who finally lowered his weapon.
After first, John felt nothing. "Well I hate to break it to ya guys, but I've had my mind frelled by worse in a bar."
That's when John felt it, like a pressure at the top of his skull.
Captain Neracc smiled smugly. "I'm certain you have, Crichton. But this will be far more effective."
John felt the pressure increase to an almost pain, then...
He was being held down by red hands.
"What the hell?" John demanded answers from his attackers dressed in their customary red-orange work clothes, their large brimmed hats tipped back on ties resting against their necks.
One of the Sykaran men hissed to his fellow, "Hybin, do it now."
"There's no time," the other Sykaran man hissed back.
The first one gave Hybin a fierce urgent look. Hybin swallowed and stepped forward with the worm. With the others holding the human down, Hybin placed the pale writhing creature on Crichton's belly. Immediately, the large pale worm dug into John's navel.
Crichton struggled, crying out in pain. Another Sykaran red hand muffled his mouth. John couldn't see who it belonged to. The hand was removed though as soon as the worm had fully burrowed into John's flesh, as were the other restraining hands.
Still reeling from the pain, John barely registered Hybin urgently saying in a low voice, "Listen, you must tell no one of this. If they know you carry the worm, they will kill you for it. Eat and the pain will go away. Do you understand? You must eat..."
Gasping, John became aware of his present surroundings once more. He could still almost feel the sensation of the worm in his belly, so strong was the flashback to his memory. He looked down to his stomach, half expecting to see a large pale worm.
He looked over to where Captain Neracc still stood next to the prone Aeryn.
"Good," the captain said. "It appears to be working."
John took a couple of more deep breaths.
"It shouldn't kill you," the captain continued. "The probe will work it's way through your brain, and when it has the information that we require it will record it. The process shouldn't take too long I would think."
John felt the pressure in his skull build again and he started to shake. Suddenly, a blurring flash of memory took him. Bits and pieces of times that he had been in pain or in a fight flickered through his mind's eye...
...seventh grade against a bully, the aurora chair, the Gammak Base. There did not seem to be any pattern, merely recollections of pain flashing through his thoughts...
When it had passed, John sat gasping, remembered pain echoing through his limbs. After the reaction had passed, John looked to where Captain Neracc stood. The Peacekeeper was watching him intently. The captain's face was like stone, and John could read nothing there.
Captain Neracc turned to some of his commandos. "Return to the ship. Signal the Carrier that we have Crichton and Officer Sun."
The two selectedcommandos saluted their Captain and made their way out of the pod.
"Now we wait," Captain Neracc said. "Watch him," he commanded Officer Jadasa, and stepped out of the pod.
John watched as Officer Jadasa settled in to do as she had been ordered.
"Got to find a way out of here," John thought just as the pressure in his mind built up once more..
The sacred flame of the temple alcove warmed the air and the scent of flowers seemed to be everywhere. John knelt in front of Zhann, his forehead pressed gently to hers.
"What-what's happening? What-what's happening to me?"
"There is something else, John. Do not absorb any of my rage," Zhann said in warning.
"All right. All right," John said pausing a moment as he focused, "All right."
"We must separate now, John. I don't know how much longer I can protect you," Zhann said, her mind's voice rich with concern for the human.
"No," John insisted. "There's something in me that you need to see," he explained.
"Look at yourself as I see you," John directed. "Gentle; giving; that's you, Zhaan. Tahleen can't take that, and she didn't. You're still that Pa'u. Follow me, Zhaan. See what I see. Build on that peace. Be pure again"
After a moment, John and Zhann separated. Zhann crouched a small distance from John, her eyes red with the madness that she was experiencing. John watched as the Delvian priestess struggled to contain the rage and darkness that threatened to consume her.
"Zhaan! Zhaan! Fight it. Fight all the things that betray you.," John urged.
Zhann looked to John, her eyes menacing.
Slowly, Zhann gained control of the rage that had filled her and was driving her mad. And slowly, her eyes faded from the red ones of a stranger, back to the blue eyes of John's friend. Weary, the Delvian priestess made her way over to John and settled her head in his lap, taking strength from her friend...
John broke free of the memory with a gasp. "Zhann," he whispered.
Quickly, John sought the sight of Aeryn, memories of Zhann's sacrifice bright in his thoughts after the experience of remembering his lost friend. Aeryn was still unconscious and John worried about how long she had been so.
"What did you do to her?" John asked Officer Jadasa.
The Peacekeeper turned cold gray eyes first in Aeryn's direction and then back to John's.
"She fought," the officer answered simply. Then quietly, she added, a hint of respect in her voice, "She fought well."
"She should come to eventually," Officer Jadasa stated, her voice saying that she didn't want to answer any more questions. "Besides, I would worry more about yourself than Officer Sun."
John opened his mouth to say something when another flash of memory overtook him...
John entered the trashed living room of the abandoned house that they had been hiding out in. Carefully he made his way around the couch to find a spot and sat down next to Rygel.
The Hynerian sat with a large orange pumpkin nearly half his size. In his hand he had a large carving knife with which he was stabbing the vegetable. Rygel continued to stab at the pumpkin as John filled him in on the progress of the plan.
"Well, I've arranged it with Kim. I'm gonna meet my young self at the canal tomorrow."
John sighed then looked over at Rygel once more. Gently, he put his hand on the Dominar's head, noticing the frantic way that Rygel was still stabbing the pumpkin. The Hynerian's wide eyes also held a strange sort of crazed look.
"What're you doin'?"
"Cutting. Just cutting. Make them scaaary you said. Scary. Uhh!" Rygel replied, his voice holding an unusual manic tone that contrasted sharply with his normally pompous one.
Gingerly, John picked out a piece of chocolate from the pile of candy and candy wrappers piled about the Dominar.
"Well, somebody's got a sugar high. You been stealin' candy, Mr. Burroughs?"
"Ohh, Crichton! How illegal is this dren? You've got to get me more! I don't care what it costs!" Rygel said, his voice as frantic as any junkie's.
"Buckwheat, breathe. Breathe," John replied, taking the knife gently out of Rygel's hand, a little concerned over the state that the Hynerian was in.
John wished that he had known that sugar would have such an effect on the small Dominar. He noticed that Rygel continued to make stabbing motions with his left hand, even without the knife.
"Get some sleep. We've got a big day tomorrow," John said, patting Rygel on the head and hoping that the sugar high would wear off soon.
John rose from the couch as Rygel said, "Okay. Okay. Good idea," still shaking in the throes of his sugar overload...
It was easier this time coming back from the memory. He looked around cautiously, trying to determine how many Peacekeeper commandos there were. He knew there were at least five, the three that had caught him in the marketplace, Officer Jadasa, and Captain Neracc.
Suddenly heard Aeryn's soft moan as she regained consciousness. He looked in her direction anxiously.
"John?" Aeryn asked softly, her voice sounding groggy and disorientated.
"Right here, Aeryn. I'm right here," he whispered next to her.
"Retrieval squad," she said, her voice still fuzzy as she continued to find her way back to awareness.
"Yeah, yeah, they shanghaied me in the market," John replied quietly, trying to not let any of the commandos hear. "I count at least five."
"There are eight," Aeryn answered, "I eliminated four before they knocked me unconscious."
"Are you okay?" John asked, his voice full of quiet concern.
"I think so, they wanted me alive," Aeryn replied.
"Captain Neracc says that Grayza wants us alive. She wants to deal with us personally."
"Grayza?" Aeryn asked quietly.
"Yeah, and there's a Command Carrier near. Neracc sent someone to let them know that they have us."
"We have to get back to Moya, John; warn them. We need to starburst out of here immediately," Aeryn said, her voice low and concerned for Moya and her crew.
"You have a plan?" John asked, also keeping his voice low. But before Aeryn could answer, one of the Peacekeeper commandos grabbed her, lifting her to her feet.
"Well, look who's awake," he drawled.
Suddenly, Aeryn brought her knees up, twisting to make contact with the commando's exposed stomach. He groaned and dropped her hard. She landed with an thud next to John. For his part, John tilted to his side and swung his bound legs along the ground, taking the stunned commando's feet out from under him.
Then the other members of the squad were moving, two grabbed Aeryn and another held John down.
"Hold her still," Officer Jadasa said crisply as she moved forward from where she had been preparing the hypodermic in her hand.
"Aeryn," John called, struggling with his captor.
Officer Jadasa quickly held the hypodermic to Aeryn's neck, and almost instantly, the beautiful Sebacean woman slumped in her opponents' arms. Her head dropped forward and her unbound hair cascaded down to cover her face.
"Aeryn," John gasped, concerned.
"Take her to the back of the pod," Officer Jadasa ordered.
The blonde Sebacean looked to where one of the squad continued to restrain John.
"She's fine, for now," she said significantly.
John stilled and Officer Jadasa signaled for the other commando to release him.
Suddenly, John felt the pressure in his skull build. He groaned as another flash of memory took him...
John and Chiana stood facing the Interion holding the pulse rifle when Jool came running up with D'Argo. The red haired girl called out, "Wait! Tarnat, stop!"
D'Argo laughed joyfully and hugged John, practically lifting him from the ground.
"D'Argo! Ah, you're breaking my back," John gasped. "Let go!"
As John embraced his friend, Jool rushed forward to hug Chiana.
"It's you!" Jool said, excited to be reunited with the Nebari and the human.
"Yeah, it's really me, Princess," Chiana replied good naturedly, even if she was somewhat surprised by Jool's reaction.
"Chiana," Jool said, trying to embrace Chiana once more, before the Nebari girl shoved her away.
"Look at you," D'Argo addressed John, pleased as well to have his friends back.
The Interion man, impatient with all of it ground out his question, "Who is this Peacekeeper and why is he with the tralk?"
John and Chiana answered simultaneously, "She's not a tralk."
"He's not a Peacekeeper."
"Forgive Tarnat," Jool said, stepping in front of him. "He's new security here and he's just a little gung ho about protecting the dig."
"You've been warned," Tarnat practically growled. "There are races who would kill for what we've discovered," he said, eyeing the new arrivals significantly.
"Tarnat, these are my friends," Jool replied patiently.
D'Argo ignored the belligerent Interion and asked John, "So, are Aeryn and Rygel with you?
"Rygel, yeah. Aeryn we haven't heard from." John couldn't keep the hopeful tone out of his voice as he asked, "Has she contacted you?"
"No, not yet. But, uh, you know, she will," D'Argo said, trying to give his friend something to cling to.
"Right," John replied, trying to keep his voice level. He reloaded his pistol and started to walk away.
Jool, Chiana and D'Argo followed, Tarnat behind them, his expression closed off and angry.
"Is Moya here? We didn't detect her when we came aboard," Chiana asked quietly.
"No," answered Jool carefully.
As John walked up to one of the walls being excavated he touched it gingerly. Tarnat behind him raised his pulse rifle as if to shoot it.
"Tarnat, just put it back in your pants and calm down," Jool ordered, exasperated.
John looked back to Tarnat once before he moved into the ancient building.
"Aeryn," he thought sadly, an ache lodging itself in his heart as he thought of the woman that he loved and missed.
Seeing his friend's dour face, D'Argo stepped up along side him. "Cheer up, John. I have a lot to tell you about my travels," D'Argo said lightly, trying to distract the human from his dark thoughts.
"Can you believe it, we're here. We're here and we're alive and no one is trying to kill us. Come on!" Jool was vibrant with her joy as she lead her friends further into the building. "We've got so much to show you..."
John barely had enough time to register that the memory flash had passed, when another one took his awareness once more...
John entered the gathering chamber slowly, his eyes watching Chiana where she was poised precariously at the edge of the cliff. Below lay one of the diving stones and Chiana was focused entirely on the stone below, even as she spoke to John.
"Hey, old man."
"Chiana," he began.
"Don't come any closer."
John paused and stood still where he was. "I won't," he assured the strangely distant Nebari.
"The clans voted?" Chiana asked in reference to John trying to help the other young people on the royal cemetery planet.
"And they're gonna stop jumping?"
John sat wearily, feeling sad, and tired, and a little old. He watched Chiana where she continued to contemplate the pit, still not looking at him. She had become as close as any sister to him, and it hurt to see her in so much silent pain now. He had become used to the vibrancy of the young Nebari's spirit, and it was strange to see her so withdrawn. He wanted to reach out to the girl. He wished that there was something that he could say that would pull her back from the ledge, both literally and figuratively.
"No," he finally answered. "They voted to keep jumping. They want to die. I just can't believe that you want to die."
"I never had any courage. As a kid, Nerri gave me everything. I just...I just followed him," Chiana said quietly, her voice still holding a strange calm borne of despair.
"You've shown me courage plenty of times," John said, willing Chiana to hear the truth in his words.
Finally Chiana looked up, meeting John's eyes. "I've just gotta do this, Crichton."
"And if you die?"
Chiana broke eye contact and began to hum a deep tone that reverberated through the chamber. As the tone gained in strength, Chiana poised at the very edge of the pit, her back to the fatal drop. John watched helplessly, his face a mask of dread and fear.
Suddenly, Chiana dropped over the edge of the pit, her arms held wide. John leapt to the edge to see Chiana falling and falling, endlessly. The humming grew louder until John could feel it in his bones and knew that it was the sound that he would always associate with Chiana falling away from him.
Chiana fell rapidly as the ground rose up the meet her. Jagged cold stone reached for the young Nebari, wanting to break her. Almost, she hit the stone floor, when, at the last instant, the vibrations of the stone held her. Chiana rebounded and landed gracefully on her feet.
Above, John watched in terror and wild relief.
"Chiana! You did it!"
He leaned as far as he could over the cliff edge, needing to see her safe. He was almost giddy with relief at seeing the small gray girl alive and whole. He raised his clenched fist, cheering.
"I did it?" Chiana asked, amazed to be alive.
"Woo!" John continued to cheer from above.
Both John and Chiana began to laugh wildly as John cheered her. Finally, John took a chance to breathe and clasped a hand over his chest near his heart. Shuddering with relief, he exhaled slowly and lowered his head to the cold stone.
"I did it!" Chiana cheered from below, purged of the despair that had been consuming her...
"It's happening quicker now, isn't it?" Officer Jadasa asked where she crouched down near Crichton. "It works," she said, sounding somewhat proud
John gasped as he recovered from the most recent flash, his heart racing.
"And you still have the memories don't you? If Grayza interrogates you, you'll still have the knowledge."
John looked at the cold Peacekeeper, his face as closed off as he could make it.
Whatever Officer Jadasa saw, still seemed to please her, and she nodded to herself, satisfied.
John tilted his head to look to the blonde Sebacean.
"I devised it you see," she explained, a hint of wistful pride in her voice
"You're a tech?"
"I used to be," Officer Jadasa replied.
"I thought once a tech, always a tech."
Officer Jadasa shrugged. "I just follow orders. They told me I was no longer a tech. I didn't question it. A good Peacekeeper doesn't question orders." She looked back to where Aeryn lay, still unconscious. A look of contempt filled Officer Jadasa's face a moment before she schooled her expression.
"Hey, Alicianth," one of the black clad commandos called from the back of the pod near the supplies that John and Aeryn had loaded. "Look here," she said, holding up a black fur blanket. "Come help us see if they have anything good."
John watched as the former tech went to help her fellow Peackeepers loot the supply crates. As he looked back, he caught a glimpse of Aeryn slumped against a back wall, still unconscious from whatever she had been given. He hoped desperately that she was okay.
Then he felt it again, the pressure in his forehead. It felt like the probe was expanding in his skull and he had a ringing in his ears this time as the probe read yet another memory...
John stood watching all his calculations literally go up in smoke. All his careful work, lost in an instant.
"This is a dying ship. There shouldn't be anyone on board a dying ship!" Sikozu spoke with firm conviction in her voice, bringing John back to the situation at hand.
"Absolutely correct, Tinkerbell. Okay, now my turn. Who, what, when, where, why and how?"
"You must listen to me," Sikozu insisted urgently.
John turned around brandishing his pulse pistol. "Oh, no. No, no. I'm no good at listening."
"Just ask, Aeryn, " he thought, completing the statement in his mind. "Oh, and if you find her, tell her that coin tosses suck," he continued his inner monologue.
"My brain cannot tolerate translator microbes," Sikozu said clearly as she walked in front of the distracted human to get his attention.
John aimed Winona at the new arrival once more.
"I'm...I must learn your language through hearing it," Sikozu insisted, ignoring the threat of the weapon. "This...the name, the word," she asked, pointing at the gun.
"Winona, my pulse pistol," John supplied, kissing the weapon dramatically.
"More words," Sikozu demanded.
When John ignored her, she grabbed his face and turned it to her own. "They will be here soon and you will be dead before you see them," she said in a kind of slow sing-song chant voice, as if she spoke to a particularly dense student.
She began to point to various objects as John began to name them.
"Module, box, workbench..."
Then John began to point as he listed out the names.
"Junk, more junk, tools, bulkhead, ceiling, floor, shirt, wine, face..."
"Your alphabet," Sikozu demanded, then added, "in order."
"God, I haven't done this in a long time," he began, pausing with a strange smile on his face as he proceeded to sing the Alphabet Song...
John fought against the probe, struggling to find his way back to awareness. For a moment, he found himself free of the memory flash, but then he felt his mind being twisted by the probe as he delved back into his memories. In a strange blur of thought, he saw Sikozu as she was in the alternate universe as Stark. Her image blurred and he saw her change into Stark himself. The pressure built in John's head and he was thrust back into a memory of the Gammak Base...
John sagged in the guards' arms as they dragged him into the prison cell.
"Hey! Hey you! Don't put that thing in here! I don't want a roommate! Get it out!" Stark raged as the guards slammed the door home. "Hey, that's my mat! Now get off my mat! Go on! Go!"
John crawled on all fours to the other side of the cell feeling like a building had fallen on top of him and he was still carrying it on his back.
"Fine. I don't want any trouble."
Stark continued to rave on his side of the cell. His arms waved wildly to illustrate his words, back and forth.
"That's mine! This is my side! That's your side. You stay on your side. My side, your side! My side, your side! My side, your side..."
"Report," Captain Neracc bellowed as he entered the transport pod.
Startled, the commandos came to attention and saluted their commander. Officer Jadasa stepped forward.
"Officer Sun and Crichton were plotting escape. When we moved to separate them, they became aggressive. I thought it necessary to sedate Officer Sun."
Captain Neracc looked over to where Aeryn lay against the wall, still unconscious.
"And Crichton?" The captain prompted.
"The probe appears to be effective. It is searching his mind and memories for information on wormholes," Officer Jadasa reported.
"Have they returned from reporting to the Command Carrier yet?"
Captain Neracc looked to where John shivered on the floor of the transport pod.
"I'll be glad when this assignment is over," the Peacekeeper captain said quietly.
"Hey, why don't you just let us go and you can get back to dominating the lesser races without any further inconvenience," John quipped through chattering teeth as he continued to recover from the last mind probe memory flash.
Captain Neracc ignored Crichton and turned to the other members of the retrieval squad. The four commandos stood at attention still in the back of the transport pod. "I want you on reconnaissance," he ordered.
"Yes, sir," they said in unison and made their way out of the pod.
Captain Neracc crouched down in front of Crichton once the soldiers had left.
"I'll also be glad to deliver you to Grayza personally," he said, his voice cold as he hit Crichton.
With the contact of the captain's fist, John felt the mind probe pull him back into his memories once more...
John was strapped tightly into the Aurora chair. Scorpius stood on the platform, holding onto a support bar as he watched John's reactions.
"My name is Larraq, Peacekeeper, Special Ops."
"Unfortunately wrong...on all counts," Scorpius said in his cold elegant voice.
John strained in the chair as Scorpius' female assistant, Niem, adjusted the control dials, sending another wave of pain through the human.
"I am Scorpius."
"But of course you are...Peacekeeper. Funny, you don't look like a Sebacean," John quipped, his voice strained.
"On the other hand, you do look Sebacean," Scorpius drawled. "Yet your energy signature is quite dissimilar. What species are you? And who are you working for?"
"Get stuffed," John spat, defiant.
Again a shock of pain made John strain at the straps of the Aurora chair as Neim adjusted the control dials.
"You attempt to provoke me. Perhaps you are hoping I will lose my composure and kill you before I have extracted any information. I long ago learned the advantages of patience," Scorpius spoke in his calculated and educated voice.
He signaled to Niem to adjust the control dials once more. This time, the chair forcibly recalled memories from Crichton's mind. John writhed in pain as much as his restraints would allow. Scorpius watched with interest.
"What the hell was that?" John gasped in pain.
"Pain memory - random and indistinct at the moment. It will take some time to map your neural patterns."
"You stay the hell out of my mind, you..."
John was interrupted by more pain as the chair stripped his mind bare.
"That was a leviathan ship, was it not?" Scorpius asked, almost casually.
He spoke to Neim, " I seem to remember a report of an escaped leviathan prison transport. Have Javio check the data files."
Scorpius returned his attention to the gasping human in his chair.
"You're a most interesting spy..."
Scorpius," John hissed as he came out of the memory dredged up by the mind probe. He felt like he had just come straight out of the Aurora chair.
"Scorpius?" Captain Neracc asked.
John was surprised the see the dark Peacekeeper captain crouched down in front of him, staring intently.
"Where is he? Where is Scorpius?" Captain Neracc asked, his voice containing more than just Peacekeeper tenacity. There was, in fact, a distinct note of personal interest in the captain's voice.
Before he could stop himself, John looked over to where Aeryn slumped, her breath shallow but regular. Captain Neracc noticed John's look.
"Tell me where Scorpius is. Give him to me, and I'll let her go," the Peacekeeper said, low and intense.
John looked carefully at the captain.
"Give him to me, and I will let Officer Sun go free. I have no reason to lie to you. Grayza will be satisfied with you and the knowledge that you carry. It will be easy enough to say that we never got Officer Sun, or that she escaped."
"Why? Why do you want this?" John asked, his voice full of distrust.
"Does it matter?"
"What about the others," John asked, knowing that Captain Neracc would understand who he was referring to.
"They are not our mission's prime objectives."
John began to shake as the pressure built to pain in his skull, interrupting his conversation with Captain Neracc...
Scorpius walked around the surgical platform where John lay. The gasping Diagnosian flailing on the floor behind Scorpius was already forgotten. Coolly, Scorpius considered the helpless man, his brain exposed to the chilled air. John raged with a stream of irate gibberish.
"Well, Crichton... So much to say," Scorpius drawled in his cultured voice.
John continued to rage incoherently.
"And yet, so little capacity," Scorpius finished, taunting and smug.
The half-Scarran worked his way to the head of the table as John continued to rage with a voice that was torrent of gibberish. Scorpius reached for the container holding the neurochip.
"I only hope the wormhole technology I've waited so patiently for makes more sense."
The incoherent response coming from John left no doubt as to his anger.
"Don't need a translator microbe for that one, do we?" Scorpius said, taking delight in his opponent's pain.
Still standing at the head of the surgical platform, Scorpius leaned over to address John directly. "You've cost me much. And I do not suffer disappointment well. I condemn you, John Crichton," he paused, taunting the human, "to live! So that your thirst for unfulfilled revenge... will consume you."
John struggled, helpless and unable to say anything.
"Goodbye," the triumphant scientist said coldly, leaving Crichton to scream in anger, unable to move...
John came back to awareness with a scream in his throat, his eyes wild and angry.
Captain Neracc waited for it to pass, his dark eyes intent on John's face. John gasped after his scream had died away. Panting, he considered the Peacekeeper before him. The dark man's face was both intensely focused and distant, making it very hard to read.
"She'll be free," the Peacekeeper said quietly before he rose and stepped back, giving John space.
Captain Neracc stood back considering John with a quiet intensity until he was interrupted with, "Sir?"
The captain looked over to Officer Jadasa, who was holding out a small meal packet.
"You should eat, sir. Get some rest," she said carefully.
Captain Neracc simply stared at the meal packet a moment before he finally took it from the blonde Sebaecen. Opening the packet, Captain Neracc began eating as he stepped outside of the pod. Officer Jadasa watched the direction that her commanding officer had gone for a moment longer before she crouched down to reach Crichton's eye level.
Before she could say anything, John asked her, "So what does Neracc want with Scorpius? What is it between them?"
Alicianth responded with a question of her own. "Do you know where he is, Scorpius?"
John was silent until the Sebacean woman sighed, looked to where Captain Neracc had gone, then turned back to John. "Scopius was given one of the special units that Captain Neracc commanded, to use as subjects to develop the Aurora chair." She paused a moment before continuing, "They all died in the experiments. One of them was the captain's sister."
Alicianth looked once more to the vacant pod door before speaking again, "Neracc defied High Command and attempted to retrieve his sister from Scorpius. It did no good. Scorpius killed her with his experiments and put Neracc in the chair. The only reason that Captain Neracc is here at all, is because of Grayza."
Something that Officer Jadasa saw in John's face made her continue. "I don't know how or why, but Grayza made sure High Command didn't try him for treason. He was reduced to captain and put in Special Ops."
"And you don't like that," John said quietly.
Alicianth shook her head in denial, "No, I didn't say that."
She looked back to where Aeryn could still be seen against the back wall and shook her head again before she looked to John. "I don't understand people like Neracc and Sun."
"Officer Sun was one of the most elite battle pilots. Those who knew, said that she would have her own command one day, that she would rise very high in the ranks. Then she gave it all up, for what, you?" Alicianth's face took on an expression of both disbelief and dismissal. "I don't understand. Why would anyone give up being elite, or being a Peacekeeper?"
John shook slightly as the mind probe triggered another memory flash...
Trapped in a cell on Moya, John saw what had to be one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen, one of the most beautiful 'human' women. His surprise couldn't have been more profound. And deep inside, not yet realized, John knew thatas he gazed upon the beautiful woman,he saw forever.
"Officer Aeryn Sun, Special Peacekeeper Commando, Ikarion Company, Pleisar Regiment. Identify yourself..."
The memory swirled and shifted as the probe dissected his thoughts...
"You can be more..."
John was hunched over now, bringing his head to his upraised knees as the probe tenaciously latched onto his thoughts...
Aeryn sat on the small bed in the nondescript hotel room, the bottle of beer held loose in her hand. She turned her head to look over to where John stood by the window, watching the rain and drinking his own bottle of dark beer.
"What for?" Aeryn asked quietly.
"Everything. What's happened here...getting you stuck on Moya. If it wasn't for me, you'd still be the happy little Peacekeeper dominating the lesser races."
"Hmmm...I've got a lot to blame you for, Crichton," she replied dryly.
"Look at that," John said, his voice low and deep.
"That's it, Earth, minus the sunshine," John answered, almost unable to understand it all.
"You know, you were right, it's actually very beautiful."
John watched the summer rain a moment longer before he moved to sit next to Aeryn on the bed, his shoulder touching hers. Then, because he had to know, "Were you scared to join me when I left Moya?"
So simple an answer, but John thought he understood what a tremendous amount of courage and trust it took for Aeryn to say it. He closed his eyes and let himself simply feel the warmth of Aeryn's shoulder against his.
"I won't be recaptured, Crichton, they will have to kill me if they come to take me tomorrow."
"I know," John said softly, feeling an ache at the thought that she had come here for him.
Slowly and carefully, John turned his head toward Aeryn. He looked at her for a moment, taking everything in; her deep blue eyes, her soft warm skin, her dark hair held back in its practical pony tail. John closed his eyes and rested his forehead on her shoulder. Then, before he could stop himself with all the reasons why he shouldn't be doing this, he kissed her shoulder softly.
Almost surprised at Aeryn's soft sigh, he lifted his head to look at her as she continued to look forward. He touched his forehead to her cheek, waiting.
Finally, Aeryn slowly turned to look at John, her eyes meeting his. Then, almost hesitantly, they met in a soft kiss. It was brief, and when they parted, they took a moment to look into each other's eyes before moving to kiss once more. The kiss deepened and gently, they moved to lay back on the bed...
John came back to himself and the present. He was rocking slightly and longed to hold his head against the deep pressure in his skull. It felt like someone had reached inside his head and was now beginning to squeeze. Worse still, through the pressure, John was also being bombarded by a thousand feelings and sensations brought on by the memories that the probe was accessing. He moaned, the sound coming up from deep in his chest.
"It's found something," Officer Jadasa said calmly, reaching for a scanner from her belt to confirm her assessment. "It's near what we need. If you don't try to fight it, we should be done soon. Besides, fighting the mind probe will do no good, we will still get the information that we require."
"I should go report to the captain," she said as she rose and headed out the pod door in search of Captain Neracc.
John took little note though, as another memory flash absorbed all his thought...
John held Winona in a level two handed grip, waiting. Then, from the shadows in the Maintenance Bay, a slim figure approached in an aching, slow fashion. John considered the figure and lowered his arms a fraction. He tilted his head to the side, trying to make sense of what he was seeing.
"Aeryn?" John asked softly, almost a whisper.
Aeryn stepped into the light. She was dressed unusually, in a black shiny suit very much like one of Scorpius' coolant suits. Her hair was longer than John remembered, loose and dark about her shoulders. She held her arms and hands flat to her sides. When she saw John, she began to cry quietly, the tears running unheeded down her face.
For the moment, John could simply stare. He still held Winona in his loose two handed grip, aimed in Aeryn's direction.
"You've come back," he said quietly, half question, half statement of wonder.
Hesitantly, gently, Aeryn nodded. Through her tears, she smiled softly.
John slowly lowered his pulse pistol to his side and for a moment, they simply looked at each other. Aeryn held her soft smile, seeming to be seeking reassurance of his welcome, his love. Slowly, John allowed himself to loose his tension. Quietly, he returned Aeryn's smile as he said gently, "Everything's going to be all right."
Then suddenly, Aeryn was crying fresh tears and a small whimper fell from her lips. She closed her eyes and shook her head in denial.
"Everything," he began, stepping forward.
Aeryn practically sobbed as she wavered on her feet.
"Is gonna be," John tried to complete the reassurance as he continued to make his way to where Aeryn wavered.
She reached for him. Then suddenly, she was collapsing to the floor and John ran forward to catch her. Together, they sank to floor. Aeryn dropped back, laying in John's lap, shuddering and gasping in terror, sadness, and pain. He pressed his lips to her forehead in an effort to comfort her.
"Baby, you're burnin' up," John whispered, his voice rich with concern.
He cradled her gently in his arms, his fingers stroking her face as she closed her eyes.
"I've... I've got heat delirium," Aeryn gasped.
John pressed his lips to her forehead kissing her, not wanting to believe, terrified of loosing her before even getting her back.
Aeryn's eyes opened, seeking his.
"You have to promise me something," she said quietly.
"Promise you what?"
"You have to promise that you will not kill him," she said, her voice low and intense, willing him to understand.
"Won't kill who?" John asked with a voice full of confusion and suspicion.
"He found me... he saved my life," Aeryn explained, trying to prepare John.
"Who... saved your life? Who?"
Before Aeryn could answer, the elegant voice of Scorpius filled the chamber, "I did..."
John returned back to the present, the emotional pain of the remembrance filling him, causing him to gasp. Scorpius' voice echoed in the ear of his memory.
"No," he gasped before the probe relentlessly dug through his thoughts...
Noranti looked over the pale white wall of the building that the Interions were excavating. With a rapid hand, she plucked a small one legged insect from the wall. Without any qualms, she squeezed the insect's thorax until its insides were pushed out, sticky and blue.
"Laka. It's all over this planet. Squeeze the juzemize out of it and stick it up your nose! You'll get a jolt-- wham! And for five hundred microts nothing bothers you. No thinking of Aeryn, nothing."
"Get that thing away from me," John said in disgust.
"Okay, away; away..."
John came back again, panting now, struggling as he felt the mind probe working inside his thoughts, his skull.
"No, no, no..." he gasped like a prayer to keep the darkness back..
Scorpius began to laugh inside his head.
"No, no, no," he panted. Then, desperately, like a man drowning, he reached for the thought of Aeryn.
"Aeryn, Aeryn, Aeryn," he chanted like a mantra; a spell against all the dark monsters.
Captain Neracc entered the pod followed by Officer Jadasa. He walked over to where John was rocking as he chanted Aeryn's name.
Crouching down to look John in the face, Captain Neracc asked, "What's wrong with him?"
Officer Jadasa came over to where the captain crouched by their prisoner. She crouched down to Crichton's level as well. Then, carefully, she took out a scanner and read John's wild blue eyes. He didn't respond to the red light as Alicianth ran the scanner over his pupils.
"I believe that the mind probe had found the key to the wormhole knowledge in Crichton's mind," she said.
"Grayza wants him alive and unbroken," Captain Neracc said, the warning clear in his voice.
"There should still be enough left for her to break, even if something goes wrong with the probe," Officer Jadasa replied coldly.
"Should, is not an acceptable answer Officer."
Officer Jadasa rose. "The probe is working. I see no reason why it should not continue to work. And, as you specified, it should neither effect his higher brain functions, nor kill him."
Before Captain Neracc could say anything further, three commandos came running into the transport pod. He rose. "Report?"
"Scarrans," the commando reported simply, her voice grim. "They've taken base camp. Larvan and Vash are dead," she said, referring to the two commandos sent to report back to the Command Carrier. "The Scarrans ambushed us, Avandar is dead and they're right behind us. They're surrounding this pod."
"Did our soliders report to the Command Carrier?" Captain Neracc asked even as he ordered his remaining team into position.
"Move him to the back, guard him and Officer Sun," Captain Neracc ordered Officer Jadasa, indicating where Crichton still sat bound on the floor.
Officer Jadasa moved quickly to respond to the order. Deftly, she released Crichton's bonds around his feet so that he could walk. Then she ordered him to stand up and walk to the back of the pod. He stumbled once or twice, shaken by the effects of the probe burning through his mind. When he did so, Officer Jadasa roughly hauled him up, or shoved him forward. Finally in position in the back of the pod, she told him to sit and bound his feet once more before turning to face the pod door, her pulse rifle held at the ready.
John had his attention fixed on the door when he heard a soft moan from beside him. He turned his head to see Aeryn finally regaining consciousness, struggling out of the fog of whatever drug they had dosed her with. He could feel her shifting against him where she sat pressed up next to his side.
"Aeryn?" John whispered, almost desperate to hear her voice; to know if she was okay.
Aeryn turned her head to him. She pushed herself up straighter using her feet. "John?"
"We've got a problem," he whispered low, trying to not speak so loudly that Officer Jadasa would hear them.
Aeryn raised one eyebrow.
"More than this," John said, shifting his bound feet. "Scarrans," he whispered grimly.
"Frell," Aeryn mouthed.
They both turned their attention to the door when they heard the sounds of weapons fire. Suddenly, a loud blast deafened them as a concussive grenade went off near the door of the transport pod. Weapons fire filled the air as the Peacekeepers returned the Scarran attack.
"Get down," Officer Jadasa ordered as she went forward to join the other commandos.
John and Aeryn could hear the weapons fire coming closer. Suddenly, two warrior Scarrans fell heavily through the door as they tried to charge the pod and were taken down by the Peacekeepers' rifles. A third quickly followed and the commandos began to use the fallen Scarrans as a shield so they could moved forward to better position themselves for countering the attacking force.
Captain Neracc was the first Peacekeeper to go down, taking a shot from a Scarran rifle and falling away from the dead Scarrans that he had been using as a shield. The rest of the commandos continued to fight, but when another of their number fell, the Scarrans were given the opportunity to charge as three Peacekeepers tried to hold off six Scarrans.
Once the remaining Peacekeeper commandos were eliminated, the warrior Scarrans moved to eliminate Aeryn and John as well, seeing nothing more than two more Sebaceans. John moved to cover Aeryn with his own body, shielding her from the Scarrens before she could protest or attempt to fight.
"Stop!" Gaio ordered fiercely as she strode into the transport pod.
The warrior Scarrans stepped back as the female Scarran stepped forward.
"This is the human that War Minister Akhna wants, Crichton."
"What about the Peacekeeper female?"
"Bring her with us," Gaio ordered, and strode out of the transport pod.
Roughly, a Scarran warrior removed their bonds, and using his rifle as a prod, shoved them to their feet. "Move," he hissed, pushing them forward.
Without warning, John groaned and dropped to his knees as the probe found another memory to lead it to the wormhole information...
"My ineptitude? You mean my improvisation. The kind that keeps bailing your… Sorry," John began to say from where he sat behind Aeryn in his stationary module in Moya's Hanger Bay.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, but what is that smell?" John said, distracted by the pleasant scent.
Carefully, he leaned forward to inhale the soft scent of Aeryn's hair.
"What?" Aeryn asked, keeping her voice carefully neutral.
"It's your hair," John answered softly. "It smells."
Intoxicated by the scent and the softness, John pressed his face gently to her hair. His warm breath tickled Aeryn's ear as he took in the nearness of her.
"Zhaan gave me something," Aeryn answered, clearly trying to not sound as distracted as he suspected she was.
"All right. It smells good. I like it," John replied, his voice deep and low.
"Well, it's not for you to like," she replied in a light teasing voice.
"Oh. Then what's it for?"
"For me to like."
"You don't like that I like it?" John asked as he nuzzled very lightly at her neck before Aeryn twisted to look at him.
"Personal indulgences can fracture a small crew."
"I would never tell them...that you scented your hair," John replied playfully, his voice showing how very much he desired Aeryn at the moment.
Aeryn smiled brightly and they met to kiss softly. When Aeryn pulled back to met his eyes, John saw the desire he felt, reflected back at him through her eyes. After a heated moment, they both moved forward to kiss once more. This time, it was passionate and they wrapped their arms around each other, attempting to get closer in the cramped confines of the module.
Abruptly, Aeryn broke the kiss, viciously punching the buttons to open up the module and climbing out rapidly.
"No!" Aeryn said fiercely...
John came back from the memory flash to find himself down on his knees in Moya's transport pod. Aeryn was kneeling next to him.
"John, what's wrong?" Aeryn asked quietly next to him, her voice showing her concern.
Behind them, the Scarran hissed and roughly hauled Aeryn up. "I said move," he growled.
Another Scarran turned and hauled an unresisting Crichton up as well. John panted as he recovered, and Aeryn was looking at him with a great deal of worry. Both Scarrans shoved their captives forward and out of the pod, casually disregarding the dead bodies of the Peacekeepers under their feet.
Once they were outside, Iajo spoke to the two warriors in Scarran phrases that the translator microbes couldn't translate. The two guards shoved Aeryn and John forward until they stood in front of Iajo.
"John Crichton," he growled. Without warning, he directed a heat probe at the human, driving him to his knees. "Tell me what you know about wormholes," Iajo hissed.
John felt as if his skull was going to explode as the mind probe of the Peacekeeper reacted to the heat probe of the Scarran...
John was standing next to one of the cyro-pods being stored in Moya's cargo bay. Aeryn entered slowly and the door closed behind her. Quietly, she moved to stand before the other cryo-pod, matching John's stance.
Finished making your rounds?"
"Mm-hmm," Aeryn answered, pausing before she continued quietly, "I shouldn't be here."
"This is exactly where you should be," with his heart in his voice, John replied.
"I love you," he said, his voice full of emotion.
"I love you, too," Aeryn replied, her voice also thick with the depth of her emotion.
John moved to where Aeryn stood. Gently, he took her face in his hands and kissed her. Irresistibly, the kiss became passionate. They lost themselves in the kiss, each other, and the moment. They sank to their knees still kissing...
'Tell me," Iajo growled, intensifying the heat probe...
Aeryn was holding a small crystal vial with amber liquid before her. Carefully she walked to where John knelt in his module watching her advance. She kept her eyes locked with him and came to stand next to the module. Quietly, Aeryn held the tiny vial out to John, keeping it well within his reach.
After several heartbeats, John took the vial from her hand. Carefully he removed the stopper and touched it to his tongue. Then he dipped the stopper into the vial and held it out to Aeryn, his hand steady. His eyes remained locked with hers as she opened her mouth slightly. Delicately, John touched the stopper to Aeryn's tongue then replaced it in the vial.
Eyes still locked with Aeryn, John leaned forward and down to reach her uplifted face. He touched his tongue to hers and when they parted, they continued to keep eye contact for several heartbeats.
Gently John leaned forward to met Aeryn's upturned face once more. The kiss was warm, lingering, and very, very sweet. When they broke the kiss, Aeryn turned and slowly walked away. John folded his arms on the edge of the module and lifted a thumb to stroke his smiling lower lip as he thought about how sweet the kiss was...
John came back to awareness to the sound of the female Scarran's growl and Aeryn's sound of pain. Through the blur of the heat probe, John saw Gaio hit Aeryn with the back of her hand, preventing the Sebacean from reaching John.
"Aeryn," he gasped.
Just as John felt like he was about to pass out, Iajo broke off the heat probe. "You will tell us what we want to know, John Crichton."
He turned to Daska, "Bring him."
Daska stepped forward, and with a small growl picked Crichton up to his feet, and half supporting him, followed where Iajo and Gaio lead. Another Scarran picked up and did the same with Aeryn. No one stopped them as they made their way back to the Scarran's base camp and their small ship.
John heard the warrior Scarran holding Aeryn say something dark and ugly that the translator microbes could not translate. Then he heard Aeryn make a small sound of pain.
"Enough." John twisted, dislocating his shoulder and slipping from Daska's grasp. Quicker than the scout could move to stop him, John grabbed the pulse pistol from Daska's belt and shot at the Scarran holding Aeryn. It only stunned him, but it was enough to make him release Aeryn. John and Aeryn ran into the marketplace. After them!" Gaio ordered and the Scarrans moved to tear through the marketplace seeking the human and the Sebacean.
Aeryn and John quickly attempted to loose themselves in the crowded passages through the stalls. The people were panicking, so John and Aeryn could easily blend in with the terrified mob. Though the Scarrans chased them relentlessly, John and Aeryn managed to stay a step ahead. Suddenly, Aeryn pulled John through a dark hole into an abandoned building. The Scarrans passed them by as they tore through the marketplace.
John winced as he slid down a dusty wall in the abandoned shop. The room that Aeryn and he had hid themselves in was crowded with broken shelves and shattered crockery with the smell of rotten food covering it all. It was dark and dusty with disuse.
Aeryn checked out the small hole that they had entered by. When she was certain that the Scarrans were well away, she returned to John. She crouched down by him.
"Let me check your arm," she said.
Gently she felt over it as John hissed in pain. "You've dislocated it. I'll have to shift it back into place. Are you ready?"
John nodded and Aeryn pulled on his arm firmly, a sharp tug to pop the shoulder back into place. John bit back a sound of pain.
"Well, Sundance," John began, wincing slightly as he rotated his relocated shoulder, "how do we get passed the Scarrans, to our pod, and back to Moya?"
"I think it's your turn for making the plan."
"Me? I had the last one, remember? Frightened little Miss Spider away," he replied, flipping around the old nursery rhyme.
Aeryn gave John a lopsided smile that he returned, then winced as the pressure began to build in his skull.
"John, what's wrong?"
"The Peacekeepers did something to me; put something in my head, some kind of mind probe. It's frelling with my mind; my memories. They said they wanted the wormhole equations stuck in here," he said, tapping his temple.
"I keep having these memory flashes as this thing keeps digging through my head. I can feel one coming on now."
"Like, like the neural clone?" Aeryn asked, trying to hide her concern by keeping her voice as neutral as possible.
"No, no, not really," John began before he gasped and grabbed at his temples, pressing his hands tight to his head...
John sat on the bed in his quarters on board Moya. Before him, was Stark's mask. From the mask, a blue hologram of John Black with his dying message, played. John listened quietly.
"Peacekeepers, they're your problem," the hologram said.
John looked away, looking down.
"Look at me," the hologram insisted as if he could see John, as if the hologram was something more than just an image.
"Now look at yourself."
John was silent.
"You know," the hologram said. "Don't let Scorpius crack this. Whatever it takes."
The hologram of John laughed lightly and a bit ruefully.
"Okay, I'm gonna piss you off now, man," the hologram paused before continuing as if waiting for the living John to be ready.
"Be smart. Don't push her. She takes time," the hologram paused once more, seemingly waiting for the living John to accept the words.
"Oh, one more thing," and one last time, they played rock, paper, scissors before the hologram faded, a blue light flickering over and into the living John...
John gasped as he came back to with Aeryn kneeling concerned before him.
"I'm okay," he replied, his breath coming in small pants. As he looked up, images flickered through his mind's eye, and he realized consciously, for the first time, that the other John had given him more than just advice or a message goodbye. John looked at Aeryn a moment before he whispered, "I remember."
Aeryn looked at him a little oddly before she suddenly found her lips captured in a brief fierce kiss. When they pulled apart, Aeryn smiled lightly, and with a somewhat bemused expression, replied softly, "I see."
When they heard the sounds of conflict outside, they both turned their heads in the direction of the noise. Quietly, Aeryn motioned for John to stay where he was, and she carefully made her way to the hole in the wall. John watched as Aeryn moved away until the pressure of the mind probe pulled him out of his awareness and into the past...
John sat next to Aeryn on his bunk next to the window looking out on the stars. Around them, Talyn hummed softly. John sat quietly listening, his journal book held open on his lap. Aeryn sat loosely, her head bowed and her arms resting lightly on her leather clad legs.
"You saw the recording, and you didn't say a word. You are like a plague, John Crichton, and you have ruined my life."
Aeryn continued to look down, so she could not see the intense and fragile look that John was giving her.
"And yet, I just keep coming back," she sighed, still keeping her head bowed. Her voice choked, "You could talk now," she said, her arm gesturing helplessly in John's direction.
John's face softened and seemed to reflect the hope that he held about his sudden decision. "Let me show you something."
John ducked under the low overhang above his bunk. He stretched out on the bunk and reached a hand out to Aeryn. "Come here, I'm not gonna bite."
Aeryn sighed softly and took John's hand to climb onto the bunk next to him. She stretched out next to him, the starlight reflecting through the window to wash over both of them. John paged through his notebook until he found the page that he wanted and smoothed it flat.
"This is a star chart," he explained, his voice soft.
He pointed to a small symbol that he had drawn on the parchment in black ink. Beneath the symbol, was a word written in English.
"These are the names I give the stars."
Aeryn glanced out of the portal, then down at John's star chart. "They've already got names," she said quietly, sounding as if didn't understand why John would be naming them.
"Yeah, I know, but Mintaka Three sounds boring to me," John answered her quietly as he looked out the window and then back down to his chart. "Anyway, that's Hewey, Louie, and Dewey," he continued, pointing to each symbol in turn. "You see that one?" John asked, tapping the symbol in the heart of the star chart.
Aeryn looked to the central symbol.
"That's that star right there, the bright one," he said, pointing to the brightest star glowing outside the widow.
Aeryn followed his gaze to look at the star that he had pointed out. John looked to Aeryn, watching her, the love he felt filling his quiet gaze. "That's my point of reference, my guide, and it always becomes the center of my chart."
Aeryn continued to watch the glowing star, listening to John's gentle voice as he spoke next to her.
"I always name it, Aeryn," John whispered, his heart in his voice.
Aeryn finally looked to John, seeking his blue eyes. "You say it's your guide?"
"It's my one constant," he answered, his voice deep and sincere.
Carefully, he lifted his hand to caress her face. "Would you like to name some stars?" John asked hopefully.
"There's a lot of them," Aeryn whispered.
"We could take our time."
Then, irresistibly, they were drawn together. With a sublime tenderness, they kissed. Outside, the stars glimmered, the light washing over them as they continued to kiss. John reveled in the feel of Aeryn's soft lips, warm against his...
His unfocused eyes flickered as he tried to respond to the sound of Aeryn's voice calling his name. He shook with convulsions as if in the throes of a seizure. The pressure in his skull had reached a point that was on the verge of pain that fought with the feelings that the memories recalled.
Even now, John could feel the memory of Aeryn's lips on his own, and that sensation conflicted with the pain that the Peacekeeper mind probe was causing. Violently, he shook as the probe dug deeper still. Dimly, John could still hear Aeryn calling his name and talking to him. And he realized that her voice held a deep fear and pain that he had rarely heard coming from her. He wanted to reach out to her and comfort her, but the pressure and pain were too great as the probe took over once more...
"I'm coming with you."
Aeryn ducked under the wing of her Prowler and moved to pick up a small case from amongst a large stack of containers nearby. "No. I'm sorry."
John stepped up a few steps on the ladder of the ship and peered inside the Prowler.
"Well, you're not leaving without me," he replied simply as he turned to face her, leaning against the side of the Prowler.
Gently, Aeryn set the case that she was holding back on the floor. With a quite voice, she asked, "What do you want?"
"You," John answered, his voice full of love, desire, and need.
"I'm afraid it's not that easy for me, you see," Aeryn began as she stepped forward to close the gap between them. "You died. I watched that happen and yet you're still alive," she said, pausing a moment. She looked up to John, her face filled with pain. "I have to go."
"Then say good-bye."
"We don't say good-byes," Aeryn replied simply.
"We do this time," John said, his voice deep and quiet. He leapt down from the ladder, and stepped close enough to Aeryn that if he reached out, he could have taken her in his arms. "You see, you leave, and then you come back and I…I can't... handle the in between, Aeryn." He paused a moment, and with his voice still deep and low said, "Say good-bye."
Aeryn watched him carefully a moment before she took a tight breath. Then she moved a step away from him and to the Prowler, saying tersely, "Fine. Good-bye, Crichton."
She was still one step away when he grabbed her arm to spin her around to face him. "John! My name," he began fiercely, before she pulled her arm free but continued to face him.
"Is John. Good-bye, John, to my face."
Suddenly furious, her face full of pain, Aeryn pushed him away. John stumbled back with both the force of her shove and her emotion.
"Guarantee you won't," she began, punctuating her words with shoves against his broad shoulders. "Die in my arms again!"
"Guarantee you won't die in mine," he raged back pushing her in return.
"I can," she replied as she shoved him back. "By leaving!"
She whirled, and while heading back to her Prowler, was stopped by John's next question, his voice full of anguish.
"Do you love John Crichton?"
He took a slow step toward Aeryn. "Not him." He took another small step toward her still form. "Not me." He reached her and she turned to slowly to face him. "John Crichton."
She nodded slowly, answering with a whisper, "Yes."
He leaned forward to kiss her. She was hesitant, but returned the kiss as if she could not help herself. All too soon, the kiss was over and he pulled back slightly, though still standing close enough to touch her.
"Then what does that taste like?" John whispered.
"Yesterday," she whispered back, closing her eyes.
John gave a small bitter laugh. "Well, nobody can compete with that. I am so much better dead."
He turned, retreating from the pain in her face and that which he felt.
"I can't do this again," Aeryn said fiercely.
John wheeled about, shouting, his voice choked with tears, "And I can't let the one thing I love fly away in a crappy little ship!"
They stood there looking at one another, both frozen with love and fear, and a desperate need. Aeryn was the one to break the emotional stand off by stepping toward John.
"You once said it was as if the fates meant for us to be together."
"And I believe that," John said quietly.
"Well, then, if it's true, we will be together again," she responded just as quietly.
"Running away is not fate, Aeryn. Running away, is running away," he replied, his voice intense.
He fumbled for something in the front right pocket of his black leather pants.
Quickly, he pulled a small object out. "Fine, if you want fate, here, I've...I've got fate."
He extended his hand, rotating a large coin in his fingers. "Fate, here."
"Coin toss," he answered.
John gestured Aeryn closer. She sighed and moved closer, gesturing to the shining coin. There were unshed tears in her eyes.
"What, like that side up, you stay?"
John kept his eyes on her sapphire ones as he flipped the coin up into the air. Aeryn's gaze followed its progress and she caught it on the descent.
She stared at the coin a moment before she said, her voice angry, "Just make a frelling wormhole and go home." She threw the coin at his feet and turned back toward her Prowler.
"There is no home! There is no wormhole! There's only you," John said, his heart in his voice.
He paused a moment, ran both hands over his face, and pressed his fingers to his lips as he searched for the words to express everything that he was feeling.
"Aeryn," John said softly, "anywhere in the universe. You pick the planet."
"It's too late for that," she replied quietly.
"It's not too late," John insisted.
"No, you're not listening to me. It's too late for me."
John looked deeply into Aeryn's pained eyes. "You do this, and we'll never see each other again."
She turned away again, but moved no further. She stood there, silent in her pain for a moment before she asked softly, "Do you love Aeryn Sun?"
A long moment of silence passed while Aeryn waited. A single tear slipped from her eye.
"Then, don't make me say good-bye, and don't make me stay..."
Aeryn tried to control the wave of helplessness that washed over her at seeing John convulsing on the ground before her. She took several deep breaths and calmed her racing heartbeat as John continued to shake in the throes of whatever gripped him. Aeryn crouched down and reached to brush his brow. Just as she touched him, John came back to awareness, his eyes searching, and his hand reaching for hers. When he finally found her eyes, he began to speak, his voice aching.
"Beyond hope," he whispered.
Still shaky, John tried to sit up. Aeryn quickly moved to assist him, and helped John to lean back against the wall. Unable to help herself, Aeryn brushed his brow and his cheeks, just touching as if to reassure herself.
"John," she whispered.
"Frell," John muttered, reaching up to take her hands.
His breath came in small pants and his skull felt like someone had been using it like a soccer ball. The memories that the mind probe had brought to the fore wracked him with pain, desire, and desperation. His grip tightened on Aeryn's hands in his.
Aeryn responded to something that she saw in John's eyes. She leaned forward to kiss him. Hungrily, John returned the kiss and intensified it. His hands moved from holding hers to resting on her waist. Her hands slipped around him, drawing closer. When they finally parted, John was breathless for another reason and most of his shaking had passed.
"John," she murmured.
"Come here," he whispered.
John pulled her gently onto his lap, the last of his shaking having subsided. "Come here," he whispered again.
"John, we have to try and figure out how to get out of here and back to Moya. We have to figure out how to get past the Scarrans. And we have to figure out how to get that probe out of your mind."
"Mmm," he murmured, his lips finding his way to nuzzle her neck.
"I know, Baby, I know," he murmured, acknowledging the truth of her words even as he trailed kisses along her jaw.
Aeryn sighed and when John trailed his kisses to her lips, she returned his kiss with passion. Suddenly, they heard shuffling sounds coming from the direction of the hole in the wall. Both moved as one, reaching for their weapons, only to realize that they had none, since the Retrieval team had taken them. They turned in the direction of the sound. Aeryn rose quickly, but John, still somewhat unsteady with the effects of the mind probe, stumbled slightly as he rose as well.
Aeryn stepped protectively before John, facing whatever threat might present itself. Though what presented itself, was nothing like what Aeryn expected. Through the dark hole in the abandoned building's wall, three small Unthar appeared, two males and a female.
The female Unthar suddenly raised a pulse pistol.
"Whoa there, Miss Piggy," John said carefully.
"Here," she said, tossing the gun to Aeryn.
Deftly, Aeryn caught the weapon. The female Unthar motioned the two males forward. They too had weapons, small grenades and a couple of guns. They set the weapons down in front of a wary Aeryn who held the new pulse gun ready in her hand.
"You're wondering how we found you," the female Unthar said. "And why we're helping you."
Aeryn was silent.
"We Unthar have highly sensitive senses of smell and hearing," she answered in her quiet, unexpectedly melodic voice. "You were not that hard to find. Usually, that's why the Scarrans use us as spies and scouts."
Aeryn's face turned dark.
"If we really wanted to help the Scarrans, why would I have given you the weapons?" the Unthar female pointed out reasonably.
John stepped forward to stand next to Aeryn. "Why are you helping us?"
"My people have been held under Scarran domination for cycles. There is no love lost between my people and theirs. And, they killed Toqra," she said grimly. "He was my father," she said simply.
"I've heard of you, John Crichton, Aeryn Sun."
John looked out of the corner of his eye at Aeryn where she stood tense and ready.
"The grenades were developed to fight Sacrrans. They target Scarran physiology, stunning them and disabling their heat probes. The pulse pistols, I'm certain that you know how they work," the female Unthar explained dryly.
The small Unthar gestured to the two male Unthar with her. We will attempt to try and distract the Scarrans so that you can get back to your pod."
"What will you do when we leave?" John asked.
"The Scarrans will not care about us. They will be too busy attempting to retrieve you."
She motioned the other Unthar away and toward the small hole in the wall. "Be prepared, there should be enough commotion to cover your escape."
After the Unthar had left, John bent to pick up one of the grenades, studying it. "Well, Sundance?"
"It's not one of our plans," Aeryn replied.
"So maybe it'll work," John finished in a wry tone.
Aeryn smirked slightly and bent to pick up some grenades. John did the same, eyeing the small black orbs, no bigger than grapes. He held one up to Aeryn, a question in his expression. She shrugged lightly, "At least we have the pulse pistols."
John nodded slightly and continued to gather up the grenades, putting them in small leather pouches that the Unthar had also provided. Once they had gathered up all the weapons, they made their way to the dark hole in the wall. Aeryn was the first one to duck out and John ducked out right after her. A quick scan of the immediate surroundings showed them that there were none of their pursuers nearby. In the distance though, they could hear the sounds of the commotion that the Unthar were causing with the Scarrans.
"We should hurry," Aeryn said.
John nodded, and they quickly began making their way through the marketplace, trying to go as unnoticed as possible. They were passing one of the bars when it went wrong.
"Peathekeeper," the very large, very drunk Sebacean looking man slurred.
Aeryn turned, pulse gun in her hand aimed as she tried to get a clear shot.
"Peathekeeper, your kind took my homeworld from usth," he slurred.
"Hey, buddy," John began, trying to free himself from the strong grip of the man.
Suddenly the situation went from bad, to worse.
"Crichton," Gaio growled.
"No, thiss one'ss mine," the drunken man slurred, dropping his grip on John's arm and stepping toward the Scarrans.
Suddenly, several things began to happen at once. Daska, who was with Gaio, shot the drunken man, Gaio herself turned a heat probe on Crichton, and Aeryn moved to attack. The gathered people suddenly saw their danger, and with yells and screams began to run from the area.
As John dropped to his knees, he yelled out to Aeryn, "Just run. Get out of here."
Aeryn looked prepared to attack, despite John's urgings so he called out once more. "Run," his voice full of desperate command.
It was the desperate cast of his tone that finally sent Aeryn ducking out of the reach of the Scarrans.
Daska began stepping over the dead man's body and through the panicked crowds after the retreating Aeryn.
"Stop," Gaio commanded. "The female is unimportant, only this one, Crichton, is necessary."
She looked to where Crichton was down on his knees under the effects of the heat probe. He had began to register the increasing pain of the continued probe.
"Take this one," Gaio ordered.
Daska growled, instinct telling him both to chase after his prey, and to follow Gaio's orders.
"Now," Gaio repeated, her voice menacing.
Daska hissed once more, and then grabbed Crichton from where he knelt. Gaio released the heat probe and John gasped. The female Scarran strode away, heading back to her unit's base camp. The Scout ripped the gun from the holster at John's hip, being the one recognizable weapon that the Scarran could see. Then Daska followed Gaio, holding onto Crichton's arm roughly, practically dragging him.
The crowds now parted quickly before the threat of the Scarrans and they reached the base camp in short order. Daska threw John down roughly and Gaio stepped over to where he knelt, his hands flat on the ground before him.
"Report to Iajo. Tell him that we have, Crichton."
Daska saluted and went back out into the now rapidly clearing marketplace to find Iajo and the other Scarrans of his team. Gaio turned back to Crichton and focused her heat probe back on the kneeling human.
"Tell me Crichton, what you know of wormholes."
John groaned in pain.
"Tell me human, and you may live. I promise you, if we do not get what we want from you alive, we could simply dissect your brain and get the information that way."
John laughed darkly with a touch of hysteria in his voice. Gaio intensified the probe and John collapsed to the ground as the Peacekeeper mind probe reacted with the Scarran probe. He struggled to maintain awareness as his thoughts and memories were torn through, the two probes conflicting, and throwing everything into chaos...
There was a wash of images and John felt almost dizzy with the rush of them: John sitting watch over Aeryn as she recovered from Larraq's attack; they reached hungrily for each other before D'Argo docked to save them from the flax; Aeryn taught him how to field strip a pulse rifle; he chased her down the corridor as they laughed after finally returning to their own bodies; Johnbrushed Aeryn's long dark hair; she taught him how to fight hand to hand and perform a pentak jab; John slid a plate toward Aeryn with food cubes in the design of a smiley face; John pressed Aeryn to the wall of Talyn as he kissed her; he lay dying and Aeryn sat crying next to him; John lay next to Aeryn as she worked through his journal slowly sounding out the English words written there...
The images continued to flow pass, a blur of memories and feelings about Aeryn...
John's eyes flickered, wild, as he tried to fight the probes and maintain consciousness.
"Gaio," Iajo said darkly as he, Daska, and the other Scarrans returned from the trading center.
Gaio broke off the probe and John collapsed fully to the ground, gasping in pain.
"As you reminded me, War Minister Ahkna wishes to interrogate this one. It is a weak species, try to not kill the human."
Gaio nodded respectfully and backed away, allowing Iajo to step up next to Crichton. The ruling caste Scarran considered the human laying before him, and sneered with contempt.
"Erasok," he addressed one of his warriors, "Report to the Dreadnought that we have the human, Crichton."
"Crichton, it is useless to resist. You will tell us what you know," Iajo growled out.
John laughed grimly and a bit madly. "Okay, let's see, beer is best when you have a pepperoni pizza to go with it; you can't argue with a woman; God may not play dice with the universe, but She sure as hell plays a mean game of poker; love shows that God has a sense of humor..."
He was cut off when Iajo suddenly and viciously kicked him in the gut. John doubled in on himself, groaning in pain. When he did so, through the blur of shock, he noticed the grenades still in a small pouch at his belt. Daska had left them, taking only the obvious weapon, the gun. Before he could think of stopping himself, John reached into the pouch and activated the grenades, preparing to throw them.
"Okay, how 'bout, bomb beats rock?" John said grimly, and rapidly tossed the grenades out. "Or in this case, grenade beats Scarran."
The grenades burst in rapid succession. As they did, bright blue light spilled forth from each explosive. The Scarrans screamed as the grenades effected them, disrupting their ability to use their heat probes and stunning them. John took his chance. He scrambled up to his feet and tried to get his bearings enough to attempt to run from the Scarrans.
Then, shots from a pulsepistol began to come from the dubious cover of a small stall at the edge of the marketplace. John dashed in the direction of the shots. Aeryn continued to lay down cover fire until John reached her in the small stall.
"And Aeryn Sun beats all," John murmured.
Aeryn rapidly moved to help support John. Together, they ran out of the back entrance of the market stall and into the passageways of the marketplace. Behind them, the Scarrans were still in a disarray. Iajo growled out orders, but most of his warriors were still stunned and disabled by the multiple grenades that John had thrown into their midst. Only Daska, who had been reporting to the Scarran Dreadnought, was minimally effected. He pursued Aeryn and John into the marketplace.
"Crichton!" Daska growled as he chased them through the open market.
"I used all my grenades," John panted as he ran with Aeryn's support.
Aeryn twisted while still running and shot back at the pursuing Scarran, but it effected him very little. Daska tried to return her fire, but the pulsepistol that he had taken from John had no remaining charge. With a growl, he threw the gun from his hand, and continued to chase his prey.
"The pouch on my hip," Aeryn said.
John fumbled with the pouch, finding it difficult to remove as they ran. Finally, he managed to tug it off of Aeryn's belt, and he reached awkwardly inside. Several grenades tumbled out of the pouch, rolling harmlessly over the ground.
"Frell," John swore fiercely.
He continued to fumble with the pouch, finally pulling the last three grenades from the leather bag. He activated one and threw it, but it missed; as did a second. Finally, the third struck Daska and took him down.
Aeryn and John ran the rest of the way to the transport pod and stumbled into it. The door closed behind them and Aeryn quickly made her way to the controls. Deftly, she started the pod's engine and began to head back to Moya. Once she had the transport on its way, she went back to John who had collapsed just inside the door.
John lay shaking on the floor, his eyes flickering wildly as he tried to maintain awareness.
"Aeryn," he gasped.
Aeryn reached for John, half taking him into her lap as he continued to shake...
Gently, Aeryn rested her forehead on John's shoulder.
"I am reminded at this point, of a word that you actually brought to this vessel," Aeryn said and lifted her head to look at him. "Hope," she said simply.
Their eyes met and held each other in an intense gaze.
"I would be lost without you," John whispered.
"Then you'll never be lost."
Tenderly, they rested their foreheads together.
"No matter what happens," John spoke softly, "you...have worked your way...into my heart."
Aeryn looked up into John's eyes once more. She smiled softly and allowed him to see her naked emotion and love. "You've shown me that I have one," she whispered tenderly.
John cupped her face in his hands, intimate and gentle, and brought his lips close enough to hers that Aeryn could feel his soft breath. He remained close enough to kiss and in a low tender voice he said, "I love you."
"I love you, too," she replied in a voice as soft as his…
Suddenly, the wormhole equations that were buried in John's mind burst forth. They filled his mind in a swirl of blue equations, and the probe seemed to suddenly burn. As the equations twisted and turned in a strange dance of color and information, the probe recorded them in a cacophony of pain...
Aeryn brushed John's fevered brow as he writhed in her arms. The probe was burning through his brain.
"John, John," she repeated helplessly.
Suddenly, in a final flash of fire, the probe finished its task and made his way through John's skull and out of his ear.
"What the frell?" Aeryn gasped, reaching deftly for the tiny spider like probe. It tickled in her hand as it crawled against her skin. She clenched her fist, keeping the tiny thing within it despite her intense desire to drop it from her hand.
Carefully, she lowered John's head to the floor and moved back away from him. She drew her pulse pistol and then crouched down. Carefully, she released the tiny probe from her hand. Before it could get away, Aeryn used the butt of her gun to crush it. She did so several times, wanting to make absolutely certain that the probe was destroyed. When she was certain that the probe was indeed dead, she returned to where John lay.
"I feel like 'Disturbed' is playing a concert in my head," John groaned. He smiled somewhat weakly at Aeryn's confused look. "Never mind, Baby."
John reached a hand up to tenderly touch her cheek. "We got away?"
"For now," Aeryn replied. "Can you stand?"
John nodded and gingerly began to stand. He wavered on his feet and Aeryn reached for him. He waved her off gently. She hovered near as John made his way to one of the seats toward the front of the pod. Aeryn settled in the seat next to him.
"Do you think we can reach Moya with the comms yet?"
"We can try," Aeryn responded.
"Hey, Pilot, can you hear me? Pilot?"
"Hey, Pilot," John tried once more.
"Commander," John could finally hear clearly.
"Pilot, listen to me, we have to get out of here now. Deploy the docking web and have Moya starburst as far away as possible."
"Commander?" Pilot asked.
"Trust me, Pilot. Just do it."
As the pod continued away from the asteroid, John and Aeryn could finally see Moya ahead of them.
"Deploying docking web," Pilot informed them. "Preparing to starburst."
The docking web surround the transport pod and Moya immediately starburst away from the asteroid. Once Moya was safely away, the transport pod was brought into the docking bay. When Aeryn and John left the pod, they were greeted by D'Argo and Chiana.
"John, what happened?" D'Argo asked.
"What the frell happened to you?" Chiana asked at the same time.
"Peacekeepers, Scarrans," John and Aeryn replied simultaneously.
"Wait, what do you mean Peacekeepers?" D'Argo demanded.
"Scarrans?" Chiana asked nervously.
"Wait, guys," John said, holding his hand up a moment to hush them. "Pilot, do a scan for any Peacekeeper or Scarran vessels."
After a few moments of waiting for Pilot and Moya to scan for enemy vessels, Pilot spoke over the comms. "There are no Scarran or Peacekeeper vessels in the immediate area, Commander. But we will continue to scan if you wish."
"Yes, Pilot, good."
"John, will you explain what in the hezmanna happened?" D'Argo asked impatiently.
"Big D, I feel like dren right now. Aeryn will explain it. I'm going to go get some rest," John replied, moving past D'Argo before the Luxan warrior could protest, and making his way out of the bay and to his quarters.
As he walked down the corridor, Scorpius stopped him. "John."
"Not now, Grasshopper," John said, trying to brush past the half-Scarran.
Scorpius blocked John's path, forcing him to the wall of the corridor. "I will not allow the wormhole information that you possess to fall into Scarran hands, John," Scorpius said in his elegant and cultured sounding voice.
"Scorpius, you sound like a broken record," John replied as he took a deep breath before continuing. "I've had a really bad day and just about enough of people frelling with my head. Back off," John finished darkly.
"You do not understand just how 'bad' a day you will have if you end up in Scarran hands. This disregard of the Scarran threat is unacceptable," Scorpius said, his voice menacing.
John shoved at Scorpius, and the half-Scarran allowed himself to be pushed back some.
John began to walk away.
"Consider what would happen to your Earth, John," Scorpius said, almost casually.
John whirled on Scorpius. "I said, back off, Scorpius."
Then John turned to head to his own quarters once more, only to be stopped by Scorpius saying, "There is someone who is willing to provide you with information about the creature that Grayza sent to Earth, and what she may have learned about your homeworld from it."
Slowly, John turned to face Scorpius.
"Master Katoya will give you the information if you accept to receive training from him."
"What's in this for you, Grasshopper?"
"I have told you, I will not allow the information on wormholes to fall into Scarran hands. Master Katoya's training will teach you how to resist the Scarrans. Mental discipline is something that you are sorely lacking."
"There you're wrong, Grasshopper," John answered and began to sing, "I 'know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em; know when to walk away; know when to run..."
"This is not something to be taken lightly, John Crichton. The Scarrans will spare no one, not even your Earth, if they are allowed to gain access to wormhole technology." Scorpius moved menacingly toward John.
John was silent a moment before he spoke in a determined voice, "We'll talk about this later, Grasshopper."
"Yes, Crichton, we will." Scorpius replied simply, as he stopped when he was standing mere inches from Crichton's face.
John turned away without another word, and headed to his quarters. He immediately sought his bed and collapsed onto it without bothering to undress, or even take off his black boots. In moments, John fell into a deep sleep fractured only by vivid dreams...
The Scarran force surrounded the blue glowing orb and easily began to besiege the terrified inhabitants; DK and his wife were found dead in the car; Moya's crew were tortured and killed as Grayza's soldiers boarded the leviathan...
John shifted in his sleep as the nightmares slipped away and he fell into a better sort of dream...
Aeryn smiled as John slipped the engagement ring on her finger; John stared in love and wonder as Aeryn presented their child to his eager eyes; John laughed as his son and two daughters played in the field of flowers while he and Aeryn looked on, her hand in his...
When he finally awoke, it was to see Aeryn sitting watch by his bedside. At some point while he slept, she had removed his boots and wrapped a black fur blanket around him. He lay warm and comfortable, safe in her watchful and loving vigil.
"Aeryn?" John asked softly.
She looked up quietly as John raised himself up into a half sitting position on the bed. "I feel like I've been sleeping a thousand cycles."
"Closer to nine arns. How do you feel?" Aeryn replied softly.
John stretched experimentally. "Better," he answered her quiet question. "The Scarrans; the Peacekeepers?"
"Pilot says that we are clear of both since starbursting away from the asteroid."
"Good," John nodded.
Aeryn's sapphire eyes lingered over John, taking in every inch of him with loving regard.
"Aeryn," he whispered.
She smiled softly and took the hand that John held out to her. Gently, she lay in the bed next to him, settling against him so that she could lay her head lightly on John's chest.
"Comfortable?" John whispered, his voice smiling.
Gently, John reached over to stroke Aeryn's soft dark hair.
"God," he thought in one of the few moments of perfect contentment that they were allowed, "I can never get enough of her."
He whispered in Aeryn's ear, so that only she could hear him, "I'm never letting you go, Aeryn. I love you."
She sighed low and soft and snuggled closer to him. John felt the curious sensation of his heart racing at Aeryn's nearness, and, at the same time, murmuring with contentment. He sighed quietly.
Into the tender quiet, Pilot spoke, "Everyone, the DRD's are now proceeding in their repairs. Be advised, that the comms will be off-line for two arns."
"Repairs?" John asked, just as he heard a brief click of static as the comms shut down.
Aeryn smiled brightly and mischievously as she tilted her head up to look into John's eyes. His deep blue gaze met hers and he smiled in return, his expression full of a sweetly charming mischief of his own. Tenderly, he brushed his lips against hers. When they broke the kiss, John whispered blissfully, "Aeryn, I love you."
A few salty tears slipped unbidden from Aeryn's eyes and traveled down her soft cheek.
John cupped her face in his hands and brought his lips to her warm ones. He could taste the sweet salt of her tears in the kiss. "Hey, hey, hey, what's this?" John asked softly
"John," Aeryn whispered, her breath an intimate blessing brushing his lips. "I don't want to loose you again. I..."
"Baby, you're not going to loose me," John reassured her. "I'm right here, I'll always be right here where I belong, with you." He punctuated his statement with a tender kiss.
Aeryn shifted so that she straddled John, her hips over his. John looked into her star bright eyes, took a breath, and decided he didn't care how sappy he sounded, he had to tell this woman everything that he was feeling.
"Aeryn, this is going to sound hopelessly sappy," John began. He took a deep breath and lost himself in Aeryn's blue eyes, "This love is like nothing I've ever known, Aeryn. When I look in your eyes, I feel like my heart has finally come home. Every time I'm near you; every time you touch me; every time we kiss; it's like you're speaking right to my heart, even when you don't say anything."
He reached up with both hands to slide them gently through her soft hair, "I belong with you. You are the brightest star in my sky. You're my sun and my moon, and I would be lost without you. I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you, Aeryn Sun," John said quietly, his voice deep with emotion as he punctuated each statement with a kiss.
Aeryn's eyes were bright with tears as she whispered, "Everything; every star was leading me to you, John Crichton. I love you."
"Come here," John whispered in return, drawing Aeryn down into his arms, and together, they found forever in the moment…