Title: Happily Somewhere After
Setting: Shortly after PK Wars
Disclaimer: I own nothing, not even the words. Only the order in which they were placed.
Summary: Chiana has a strange question for John.
Author's Notes: This one pretty much came out of left field, I got the idea on a random during a 15-minute ride home from Tae Kwon Do the other night, of all things. I kept it a little vague on purpose, but I think it should be very obvious about what the characters are getting at. As always, feedback is encouraged and greatly appreciated.
Happily Somewhere After
John Crichton stood in the center chamber, the window to space filling his field of view and capturing his attention, just as it always had. This time, however, he had the opportunity to share this quite moment with his infant son, who was held securely in his arms, slowly slipping back to sleep.
It was Moya's night-cycle when he'd woken for what seemed like the fifth time (in all honestly, it was probably more) just so he could get up and go to the end of the bed, where the makeshift crib had been placed. When he went to confirm that yes, this was all real, the week-old infant had opened his eyes and stared up at his father. John knew he'd recently been fed, and so before the tiny being with monstrous lungs could wake up his mother, John scooped him up and headed out of the room, eventually making his way here. Aeryn desperately needed the rest, and he figured it was a good time for some father-son bonding…he'd already missed the first few days of the boy's existence, it was time to make it up when the rest of their world was asleep.
Looking back down to the tiny drooping eyelids, he thought about heading back to their room when the sound of quiet steps entering their solitude caused him to turn around. The movement in turn caused the child to open his eyes, but thankfully he didn't seem to be disturbed much beyond that.
The woman in question slowly shuffled further into the room. John had known her long enough to read her movements; hesitation wasn't something Chiana expressed very often.
"Hey. You, uh…" she gestured to the baby, "You teaching him astronaut things already?"
John grinned and looked down at his son for a moment before turning back to Chiana. "Naw, just saying hello to the stars, just the two of us this time."
"Oh," she replied, taking a step back. "I can go, if…"
"Chi." John just shook his head, amused. "Get over here."
She relaxed a little at his words, but the hesitance remained as she walked over to father and son. "How's he doing?"
John gave her a meaningful look. "I think he's in better shape than any of us." Chiana nodded absently, but kept her focus on the baby. The child in turn was looking at her. "You held him, yet?"
She gave a brief chuckle at that. "I think the only one Aeryn's let hold him is Rygel, and she didn't have a choice. Probably the only one person she'd consider, besides you, is Pilot."
John grinned at the mental picture that produced, then focused back on Chiana. "Well, Aeryn's not here right now. You want to hold him?"
Chiana quickly shook her head, unconsciously moving back a step. "No, no…me and narls, we don't really go together."
Sensing that if he pressed the issue it would cause her to close up further, decreasing the likelihood he would be able to drag whatever it was that was bothering her out into the open, he let the subject drop. Instead, he nodded in understanding and moved over to the table. When John took a seat, careful not to jostle to baby too much, Chiana did the same.
An awkward silence followed. He was tempted to ask her outright if she wanted to talk about D'Argo, but from what Aeryn had said, that approach had thus far only served to clam her up even more. He almost wished the big Luxan's namesake in his arms would get cranky, giving him something other than the giant elephant in the room to concentrate on.
Finally, when he was about to give in and ask, Chiana surprised him by speaking up. It wasn't quite what he'd been expecting, but it wasn't more silence, either.
"So Crichton, that…that unreality stuff…."
"Unrealized Reality," he supplied without thinking.
"Right, that. What, uh…how does it work?"
He frowned. "Chi, all that crap went the way of the wormhole weapon." When she looked at him with confusion, he brought a hand up to touch his temple, and with a brief whistle he tossed them away, arcing in the air as if shooting a basketball.
"Well, yeah, I know, but…but I mean, generally. What is it?"
He was about to tell her not to worry about it, but the urgency in her voice halted him. He wasn't sure what this had to do with anything, but maybe if he got her talking, they'd be able to slowly steer this conversation into a more personal direction.
"Well, like I said before, they're just different versions of us. What happens when those versions make the opposite decisions that we do. What happens when things go differently."
Chiana dropped her eyes and worried her bottom lip for a moment. When she looked up once more, John was surprised to see the urgency had faded, only to be replaced with something else entirely. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he sensed his friend was trying to find solace in…something, whatever that was.
"Th-they were frelled up, right? I, I mean, really different. You said. Right?"
John sat back in his chair, adjusting the tiny baby in his arms, and thought about her question for a moment before responding. "The ones I saw, the ones he showed me? Yeah, they were really frelled up, everyone was…well, everyone was someone else. But Einstein was trying to show me what could happen when things went completely wrong." As he watched the young gray girl beside him, he thought he saw a flash of disappointment in her bizarre new eyes before she dropped her chin to her chest.
The gears started to turn in John's head. Leaning forward slightly, trying his best not to jostle the infant that was once again starting to slip into sleep, he brought a finger up and under her shin, lifting it so he could look her in the eyes. He waited until her own eyes focused on him before adding, "But from what I understand of the theory, there are an infinite number of these things, and there gotta be some that are really close. I mean, one decision can change everything." Suddenly, John had the urge to look down at his son, just for a moment.
He leaned back and watched his friend closely. Apparently that had been the right thing to say…the sadness in her face wasn't gone, but it wasn't quite so desperate anymore.
Chiana took a deep, calming breath, letting it out slowly, before asking the heart of her questions. "S-so, you mean…there's a place out there where the only thing that's different is, is the decision from before? Or…" she suddenly looked away, eyes darting about the room as she swallowed hard. Finally, she regained her composure, looked back at him, and finished, "Or after?"
John gave her a sad smile, pinpricks attacking behind his eyes. He knew exactly what she was asking, and his heart ached for her…for both of them. "That's the theory," he answered softly.
"Good, that's…good." Chiana's words were so quiet he barely heard them.
She looked down for a moment, then back up, and suddenly the old Chiana was there, if rather muted from her usual self. She gestured to the child in his arms. "Looks like he fell back asleep."
John looked down at the now-sleeping infant. He couldn't help the small smile that turned his lips. "Yeah."
"You should probably get little D'Argo back to bed."
That caused John to look up sharply. To his knowledge, that was the first time Chiana had referred to the baby by name - she had claimed to be fine with his and Aeryn's decision to name their son, but hadn't once used it. His smile grew a little.
"You too, Old Man."
The concern in her voice warmed him. "Yeah, that's probably not such a bad idea." Careful so as not to jostle the sleeping bundle, John stood up and made his way to the door. Once there, he turned back to find Chiana still seated, her gaze trained on the window and the vastness beyond.
"Hey, Chi?" When she turned back to look at him, he asked, "What do Nebari believe happens when they die?"
She frowned, unsure of where he was going with that. "Different things. It's one of the things my people haven't been able to force conformation on."
"And what do you believe happens?"
She narrowed her eyes, thinking. "Nothing, I guess. I've never really considered it."
"Right," John replied, nodding his head. As he started to turn away once more, he added, "Well, it's something worth thinking about."
With nothing else to add, John quietly left with his son. Strangely, he felt as though the conversation with Chiana helped not only her, but eased his own mind as well.
Left on her own, Chiana turned back to watch black void doted with pinpricks of light. And with the turmoil in her mind settling a little, at least for now, she allowed herself to think.