Chapter 1

Zahn was intrigued by the "human" more than she would have liked to admit. Once they were well away from Crais and things had settled down, she found herself thinking about Crichton, wondering how he was handling all of the changes that had occurred in his life within one solar day. She was a priest, after all, and her vocation was to see to the spiritual and physical welfare of the people around her. It was only right she consider his welfare as well.

Once finished with her required meditation, Zahn went in search of John. She found him in command, slumped on the floor against the wall, head down on his chest. He appeared to be asleep or dozing.

"Crichton?"

Slowly, he raised his head and looked at her, blinking. "Darn. I was hoping that it had all been a dream."

She felt herself smile. "It's not been a dream. What are you doing here?"

"I was tired, and this seemed the quietest place on the ship. What's her name again?"

"Moya," Zahn told him. "A bed would be more comfortable, wouldn't it?"

"Is there a spare one on board?"

She smiled, amused in spite of herself. "There are several. Remember, Moya was used as a prison transport, and there are plenty of 'cells' available. Come with me, and I'll find you a room."

Wearily, John got to his feet, grabbed his bag, and followed her out of command and down the corridor. They stopped for a few moments at one of the store rooms to get John a few essentials he would need. She picked out a grooming kit and bedding for him and led him into the quarters area, opening the door to the first empty room. He followed her inside with a dazed look, staring around the room.

"You should be comfortable here," she said, making up the bed with a few deft movements and setting the grooming kit on a table so it could be within easy reach. "There are sanitary facilities behind that door--a shower unit, sink, and the necessary. There are storage cabinets over here," she told him, opening one so he could see it. "You can keep your things in there."

He blinked and nodded.

"Is this a typical human reaction, Crichton, or is it particular to you?"

He sank onto the edge of the bed. "I have no idea," he admitted. "Right now, I suppose my reaction could be due to a great deal of stress. Why?"

She sat down beside him and looked at him closely. "I am a priest, but the members of my priesthood are also healers and counselors. Your reactions...your behavior right now denotes that of someone near a breaking point. Someone under a great deal of mental distress."

He nodded. "That's how I would describe how I'm feeling."

"Could you tell me why? What is it that's bothering you the most?"

He gave a wan little smile. "Are you doing the priest-healer-counselor thing?"

She smiled warmly. "Yes," she said. "This ship is now part of my priesthood, and I would be remiss in my duties if I did not give you the same care as I gave the others. Besides, if I am to keep you in good health, I'll have to know a lot more than just what I learned in my initial examination. That was only to determine if you were Sebacean, and it did little more than that. I'll have to know how your body functions, what effects illness can have, how to treat your injuries, and I'll have to know a little more about your mental health."

John nodded. "Do we have to do a complete medical...thing...now?"

"Not right now. You are tired, and sleep would be the best thing for you."

John gave a little bark of a laugh. "I don't think I'm ever gonna sleep again. I mean, this morning, it was just a simple trial run of my module to test out a scientific theory, and next thing I know I'm sucked down a wormhole that's turned out to be a rabbit hole leading to Oz! I'm on a living ship with life forms my people have never even imagined could exist and I have no way to get home! I've got an insane military man out for my blood, a little floating slug after my stuff, and several people on this ship have threatened to kill me! I don't know what to do about this or even if I CAN do anything! I don't KNOW anything about life here! I'll probably have to have someone babysit me wherever we go so I don't do something stupid, and I probably won't be of any help here on the ship because I don't know anything of the technology here! What if a light bulb blows out? Or--or the faucet needs a new washer or the toilet backs up? I wouldn't know how to fix those things because I don't even know what a screwdriver, wrench, or even a PLUNGER looks like here!"

Zahn nodded, realizing that that was the thing that bothered him the most. He was trapped in a place far from his home, and he had no way to make himself feel at home, safe, or useful here. Well, what he needed first was not to look at the impossible, but the possible, so she thought of a question to ask. "You could always learn, couldn't you?" If he could be encouraged to think and to consider himself as capable of learning, then he would start to feel better.

John shook his head. "If I even live long enough to do it, I suppose. I don't doubt that you're a healer, but who knows what kind of an effect germs and things could have on me out here? I could get killed by your version of the common cold!"

"I can reassure you on that point," she said quickly, eager to give him something encouraging. "I can do a test with some of your blood to see what illnesses or substances here could cause you problems, and from those results I can formulate vaccines, medications, and preventatives for you. I can't promise that you won't become ill--we all will, at some point--but I can promise that you will be taken care of, John."

Was her mind playing tricks with her, or did she see a trace of relief in his eyes? "Thank you, Zahn."

"It is my pleasure, Crichton. Now," she said, rising. "You had best go to sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day, and it will come soon enough."

She left him alone then, wishing him good night, and went to her own quarters to sleep. She woke a few arns later, feeling that something wasn't quite right, and rose to wander the ship. It was rare that she slept an entire night through without waking up at least once, and tonight was no exception. As she passed John's quarters she realized that he was awake, so she went in to see him.

"Have you been awake all this time, John, or have you only now woken up?" she asked, moving out of the dim light so he could see her.

"I've been awake. I told you, I don't think I'll ever sleep again," he said, sitting up. "It seems that as soon as I close my eyes they pop open again."

Carefully, she laid a hand on his shoulder, measuring how tense he was, and she nearly winced at what she felt. "You are overwrought, John. You can't go to sleep because you haven't managed to relax enough to do so."

He gave a dry little chuckle. "I don't suppose you have anything like sleeping pills around here, do you?"

"We do, but I have something better," she said, smiling in relief that she had this option for him. "Remove your shirt and lie down on your stomach."

He looked at her, surprised. "Why?"

"So I can massage your back. It is nothing more than a light massage, designed to induce relaxation and sleep, and it works on Sebaceans, so it should work on you as well. Now, lie down on your stomach."

Gingerly, he did as he was told, asking, "Will this hurt?"

"Not at all," she assured him. "You should find it enjoyable, but if I hurt you, tell me. A good massage should not be painful." So saying, she began to work on his back, running her hands up his spine to the base of his neck and then fanning them out across his shoulders. He tensed when she first touched him, but gradually he began to relax, even closing his eyes. As she worked, she reflected on how fortunate she was to be able to do this for him. Giving a person permission to touch you was an ultimate act of trust, one that she hadn't been sure he would have been willing to undergo, yet here they were. Eventually, he would have moments with the others where he could give them his trust and gain theirs in return, and he would stop feeling so alone here.