Just One Look
by CrystalMoon

Feedback: It's always welcome.
Spoilers: Everything up to and including Fractures.
Rating: G
Summary: John tries to get crucial information about Scorpius's command carrier.

John rubbed a spot between his eyes. The headache seemed to be radiating from there, surging through his skull and into his brain and then down into his neck, shoulders and spine. Thinking had become a chore. A long silence told him that it was his turn to talk. John glanced around the room. D'Argo and Crais looked at him expectantly while the Bocreel tapped a long claw against his fang. The three of them sat on stools around a makeshift table in the back of a tavern, facing the blue-furred alien. Aeryn stood by the door as still as one of those guards at Buckingham Palace, one hand on the pulse pistol at her hip, her eyes straight ahead.

She still only acknowledged him when absolutely necessary. It'd been three felling weeks since she'd come back on board Moya -- three -- and she still barely spoke to him and almost never looked at him.

John knew he should be grateful for her presence here, grateful that she was accompanying them on this mission. He desperately needed her expertise if he was going to stand a chance against Scorpius. But it was hard to be grateful when being around her made his stomach clench so much that he'd found himself holding his fist against it when she walked into the room. He'd started skipping meals and was sure he'd lost weight.

And now he had the headache to beat all headaches.

The Bocreel unsheathed another claw.

"Um, D'Argo," said John, pulling his fingers away from his forehead. "What do you think?"

D'Argo gave him a funny look. "Like I JUST said, I don't trust him. Anyone who has sold arms to the peace keepers is not someone we should be doing business with. And furthermore-"

John held up his hand and nodded. Big mistake. Snap, crackle and pop started doing their tap dance behind his eyeballs. "All right," he said, bringing his fingers back to his forehead. "I don't trust him either, but I don't see that we have another choice. Crais?"

Crais gave the Bocreel a calculating look over his crossed arms. "I agree with the Luxan; however, we shouldn't be too hasty. I suggest we take the data back to Moya and verify its authenticity before making a decision."

The Bocreel covered the data chip with one enormous paw. All four claws formed a razor-sharp shield around it. "No, no verifying. You take my chip, you pay."

"We wouldn't take the entire chip, of course," said Crais. "We only want confirm where the data came from."

The Bocreel showed his teeth and two long fangs in some sort of smile. "Do I look like idiot to you? Do I? I stay in business by being smart. Three men die to get what is on chip. Another man, he was captured by the peace keepers. Lost his mind in the aurora chair. You not touch this chip without paying."

"Whoa, hold on there, grizzly," said John. "Listen, we don't mean to offend you, okay? We're sorry." He looked from Aeryn to Crais to D'Argo. "We'll take the chip."

The Bocreel scooped the chip into his fist. "No, the data is not for sale. I take offense. You will find other way to know Scorpius's security codes."

The chair scraped back as the Bocreel stood up, a long unfolding of powerful blue limbs. He made D'Argo look small as he passed by them on his way out to the tavern.

"Wait." John grabbed the Bocreel's arm. "I said I was sor-"

With one smooth motion, the Bocreel wrapped his claws around John's throat and hoisted him into the air. John grabbed onto the claws, trying to loosen the grip. He saw spots in front of his eyes and his head pounded so badly that he barely heard the rasp of two pulse pistols and one Qualta blade being drawn. His breath came out in short gasps.

"Drop him, now," said Aeryn. Out of the corner of his eye, John saw her gun pressed against the Bocreel's throat.

"Ah, you not so different from peace keepers, are you?" said the Bocreel. "Or maybe you are a peace keeper and you want to trap me."

"I will shoot you if you do not let him go." Aeryn's voice was like steel.

"As will I," said Crais.

"And I," said D'Argo.

"How well do you know about my race? You know about poisonous fifth claw? It runs in family, misses every other generation. It did not miss me."

The room was starting to lose focus as John felt one of the claws press tighter against his throat. After a long moment, Aeryn's gun disappeared and the Bocreel loosened his grip slightly, though he still held onto John. John finally gulped in air, huge desperate gulps.

"Better." The Bocreel pressed his bristly cheek against John's, his steamy breath puffing into John's ear. "I hear of you, Crichton, hear of your exploits. You want to bring down the peace keepers. That is bad for business. I need my business. Tell me, why should I sell this to you?"

John had to try two times before a sound came out. "We got money."

"Not good enough." The Bocreel opened his claws, and John dropped to the floor in a heap. "Come back tomorrow with better answer, and perhaps I sell you data. Double price, of course."

The Bocreel laughed as he left, a guttural, scraping sound. John lay on the floor taking deep shuddering breaths, each one slightly less painful than the one before it. The pain in his head should've been a distant memory compared to what his throat had just been through, but instead it was worse than ever - if that was even possible.

"John," said D'Argo, kneeling beside him, "are you all right?"

"I'll live." The words were barely more than a rough whisper.

"You're bleeding," said Crais.

"I'm bleeding?" John gingerly touched his neck. His fingers came away sticky with blood. Crais handed him a cloth napkin, which John pressed against his neck. "Oh, god."

"Of all the stupid ..." began Aeryn. "I don't suppose anyone ever told you never to touch a Bocreel, have they?"

"What do you think?" John looked up. Aeryn stood by the door, her pulse pistol in hand, surveying the room. Nope, not even a glance in his direction.

As he struggled to stand, D'Argo grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet. The sudden movement, caused fireworks to explode in John's head. He felt his knees buckle and his stomach roil. D'Argo's grip at his elbow was the only thing that kept him on his feet.

"Did you get poisoned?" asked D'Argo.

John waved a hand in dismissal and swallowed, trying to stave off the nausea. "No, it's a killer headache. Had it before I came in here. I just need some fresh air."

"Good idea," said Crais. "The sooner we get out of here the better. Aeryn, how does the common room look?"

Aeryn poked her head out the door. "It's clear."

With Aeryn leading the way, the four of them wove through the tavern, trying not to draw too much attention to themselves. As if that were possible, John thought. Three peace keepers and a Luxan warrior. Still, they made it through without eliciting more than a few curious glances, and John felt his strength returning along with the fresh air and sunshine of the outdoors. He shrugged his arm free of D'Argo's grasp, pleased to find that his knees were steady.

"Well, that was a complete waste of time," announced D'Argo as they made their way toward the landing area of the pod.

"I'm not certain we'll find a better contact," said Crais. "We may have to come up with another method of infiltrating the command carrier."

"And just what other method do you suggest?"

"I do not have another idea just now. If you'll recall, contacting the Bocreel was my idea."

"Yes, and it almost got John killed."

"Or course I am to blame for that." Crais pressed his lips together and turned to D'Argo, one eyebrow raised. "Perhaps you have some knowledge of Scorpius's command carrier that you haven't shared with us, Ka D'Argo. Please, do us the honor of mapping out our next strategy."

D'Argo growled.

"Oh, for Pete's sake." John shouldered his way between them. "Just shut up, both of you. We'll figure something out. Let's just get off this planet first. I think I'm allergic to it or something."

The rest of the walk to the pod was made in blessed silence. And when John saw Chiana and the pod, he almost ran up and kissed her, except running wouldn't have been a good idea right now. That, and the fact that what he really wanted to kiss was the nice soft bunk he was going to sprawl on as soon as he was inside the pod.

Chiana was practically bouncing as she waited for them to board. "What went wrong?"

"Ask D'Argo," mumbled John as he climbed inside.

"Your neck is bleeding."


Chiana turned her attention to D'Argo. She flitted around him as he stowed his Qualta Blade against the wall of the pod. "I knew something was going to go wrong. I knew it. When're you going to start listening to me? You're going to have to let Aeryn do the talking next time if you want to get those security codes."

"Aeryn?" said D'Argo, looking at her.

"Yeah, Aeryn, she'll get you what you need."

John glanced at Crais and D'Argo, who looked as puzzled as he did. Then he glanced at Aeryn, but she wasn't paying attention to any of them.

"Prepare for departure," she said from the pilot's chair.

John shrugged and let himself collapse on the bunk in the back of the pod. Right now, it was time to think about nothing more than closing his eyes.