Notes: A little birdy (named ceallaig) whispered in my ear about this lovely love story set in an old black and white movie starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The scene she described to me is very much like the one John describes to Aeryn, and of course the inspiration for this fic. The rest of course is a product of my warped imagination and hopeful aspirations. Hope you all enjoy.
Rated: PG-13 for adult situations. It could probably pass for PG, but I'm erring on the side of caution here.
Disclaimer: All the usual, characters are all property of Henson, Farscape, and everyone else who's making money off of them…me, I just do this because I have no life. J No profit is derived from this work of fiction…yadda yadda yadda.
No snurching or you WILL be fed to Vit, the pet keedva.
Peace, love, and happy shipping everybody…
WALLS OF JERICHO
"You're all gonna die," Chiana had said with that new indomitable certainty of hers.
"You seein' that one, Pip, or are you just guessing?" His answer had been false bravado, words to cure the slick feel of ice creeping up through his intestines. Yet, despite his fear and false certainty and the rattlers that always accompanied a person standing in front of his friends doing something he knows they all think is too stupid for words, he had to desperately fight the urge to shift his weight just a hair's breadth to the right. Just a microcosm of space and he could touch her. Bump her shoulder. It was maddening enough that if he moved his head, pretending perhaps to look at Jool, he could smell her. Fresh soap and chakon oil. If he twitched the fingers of his right hand, he could brush her hip. And so, he stood perfectly still.
He hadn't expected them to jump at the prospect of revisiting the command carrier. Of course, he hadn't expected them to leave him with a "good luck, you fahrbot probakto" either. Really, he hadn't known what to expect. He was aware, however, that Aeryn walking forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with him had been the one thing he had NOT anticipated at the conception of his plan. It gave him hope. It saddened him beyond words. He felt as though she were standing with her dead lover, honoring a last wish, not coming forward to stand with the man she loved now, but rather the man she had loved then.
When she had taken that first step, he had expected it to carry her right out of Pilot's chamber. He could hear her footsteps receding away from him in much the same way one hears the crunch of metal before impact in a car crash. Her stony face, her ashen limbs, her "Peacekeeper with attitude" demeanor would walk her right back to Talyn and out of his life. Then she had stopped, and with precision military training performed an about face that left him lost in an ecstasy of mental confusion. Crais following her in much the same manner was barely a blip on his internal radar. Crais meant Talyn. Talyn meant firepower. But Aeryn. Aeryn meant everything.
As they all left Pilot's chamber, John knew they would each have their own private conversations, with themselves and each other, but they would eventually stand with him. They were all the same brand of insane in this corner of the universe.
Aeryn still said nothing as they parted company. Crais looked at him with that mixture of pity and morbidity one reserves for staring on the faces of the walking dead. He paused as he turned from Crichton, staring at the floor.
"Do you have a plan?" He asked.
"I will." John answered. Crais nodded at him.
"I'm sure it will be adequate." John watched his back recede down the corridor and wondered if Cpt. Bialar Crais, former Peacekeeper and once sworn enemy of said human, had just complimented him.
John stood outside Pilot's chamber, his impetus stolen by his mental soliloquy. Where should he go? Central chamber? Not really hungry. Medical? Didn't really need to see the boolite again. At least until the creature was a bit more himself. Command? Aeryn was headed that way and he didn't need more of the silent treatment. He could return to his own quarters and under usual circumstances spend the next couple arns writing in his notebook, but it was a habit he had fallen out of since the Other had taken the original. He looked up suddenly from his thoughts. By the way, where was his notebook? Everything had been returned to him, right down to an EVA suit he'd never even seen before, but his notebook was still missing.
He grabbed Rygel's throne sled as he heard it whine by.
"What?" the diminutive dominar asked. "Unhand me this microt, I have had a series of traumatic experiences today and I need to rest. And eat. Yes, I need to eat then rest."
"Yeah, yeah, Sparky. Food. Just wondering, where is my notebook?"
"How would I know? It's not my job to babysit your belongings."
John scratched the back of his head as he followed Rygel down the hall towards the central chamber. "I know, and I'm not accusing you of anything. Mostly because it's completely worthless to you…" John tried to smile but the Hynerian only grunted in his general direction. "But anyway, the other…the other me took it, and I was just wondering if you happened to know what happened to it."
Rygel turned the throne sled towards John and he could tell for the first time since he had known the Dominar that the little guy actually felt remorse for something. "Aeryn packed all of his things," he said quietly, " all of your things…you'd do better asking her."
"Well," John said, stopping outside the central chamber, "we're kind of having a failure to communicate these days."
"Then," Rygel said, his voice again taking on its characteristic arrogance, "I'd say you have a problem. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to make sure that little green trelk didn't eat all my marjhols. I think two of my stomachs are empty. This is very bad. Very bad indeed."
John nodded and waved Rygel away with the back of his hand. He began chewing the pad of his thumb as he walked, losing himself in thought. It wasn't any place he relished being, but he was accustomed to roaming the dark spaces of his own mind, much like the time he spent wandering the hollow and lonely corridors of a ship far too big for only a handful of beings to inhabit.
So, Aeryn had packed all of the Other's belongings, all of his belongings. How hard that must have been for her. He knew how hard it would have been on him. No one should have to put a dead lover's few belongings into a duffle bag. He could imagine their places switched, still smelling her scent, still feeling the same familiarity of texture and weight in items that were as intimately known as the person who had worn them. He remembered his father calling his aunts to pack his mother's clothes in those first few days after. The man who had walked on the moon, walked in space, survived missions that by all rights should have put him in the ground could not face the fabric of his dead wife's life. For the week after her funeral it had been a houseful of women, his sisters, his mother's sisters, he and his father out on the porch sitting in silence, displaced by well meaning females.
Aeryn with no family, the only one close enough she could trust with such a task was the same one who had left her with it. He pictured her in his mind and for a moment it was like imagining his own funeral. He remembered those first days without her aboard Moya had been bad enough. He remembered finding himself outside her quarters more often than not. An easy walk then knowing she was still alive. He'd had no souvenir but memory. What kind of souvenir had life granted Officer Sun to have a man to whom she could finally surrender die in her arms? Would Aeryn keep something else to hold the dead close to heart? He would almost say no, considering her deterioration back into the Peacekeeper hard line. As John further considered the possibility he decided her attitude was reserved for him. Honor the dead man. Keep the one you could love at bay. It was cold comfort to know she could love him. She had loved him. The question remained, could she love him again?
His mental ramblings were interrupted as one foot sloshed into a puddle of some thick, viscous liquid and he was left clinging to a bulkhead for support after sliding a dench and a half down the corridor. He picked up his foot and watched the clear liquid ooze and drip off the sole. He frowned and shook his foot, the offending substance landing in small droplets along the corridor, some flying up and splattering his shirt. He frowned again, more in distaste than confusion this time.
John hit his com, reaching down to slide a finger along the pitted and ribbed sole of his boot. It came away clear and slick.
"Yes?" Pilot's voice answered his page.
"Pilot, you got a puddle of," John sniffed his hand, rubbing thumb and forefinger together trying to identify the substance, "KY jelly down here."
"I beg your pardon, Commander?" Pilot answered.
"Some sort of slick, slimy stuff is pooling in the corridor on tier 12. You might want to send a DRD down here to clean it up before someone breaks their neck." He sniffed his fingers again. Mostly odorless. He shook his boot but the gooey substance released itself to the floor in long thin strings like egg white, according to its own time and in its own way.
"We wouldn't want that to happen," Pilot said in that polite way of his that made you wonder about his actual sincerity. Ever since that whole freslin incident he had become particularly snarky.
"No, we wouldn't, Pilot," John answered, moving to take a step and finding his right foot sliding wildly across the floor. He sighed and knelt to untie his laces. Carrying his boot carefully in front of him he made his way back towards quarters in his stocking feet.
Knowing what he had to do was different than knowing how to do it. Creating a battle plan was different than calculating trajectories, balancing gravitational forces against other laws of physics, planning the last few arns of your life. The dubious elation he had felt earlier at Aeryn standing beside him, watching his back, Butch and Sundance ride again was replaced in the middle of what should have been his sleep cycle by fear. What if he got her killed. What if she had to watch HIM die again. Now there's a vain thought, John looked up from trying to rub the goo off his boot, it implies that she actually cares what happens to me.
A flash of white caught his eye and John lay the boot carefully on the floor, tucking the rag lightly into the top so it wouldn't be misplaced. He lay a hand on Wynona, cocking his head in the direction of the door.
"Pip, that you?" He asked carefully.
A small white face peered around the corner of the door, jet black eyes glittering in the dim lights of ships night. He moved his hand away from his side arm and picked up his boot again.
"Hey, Old Man," she said, coming full into view. She was barefoot, the long white robe she had acquired on the royal planet held closed only by her hands clasping the folds.
"A little late even for you to be up, don't you think," he asked.
She stood in the doorway and shrugged. "Can I sleep with you?"
John stopped and followed the pattern of the grooves on the bottom of his boot with his eyes. This was not what he needed right now. Ever since the energy rider had made its not so shocking confession that "this body wants you" he had been waiting for the inevitable pass. He thought it might happen when they were on Lomo, but circumstances then being what they were he was quite happy he never had the opportunity to find out. Why now? Why with Aeryn back on the ship? Why with Aeryn only a tier down and two cells over?
Chiana took a step forward and he realized for the first time he'd never seen her bare feet. He noticed the pads were a deep charcoal, her toe nails a shiny blueish gun metal gray. A thin white calf slipped out of the robe and then disappeared again as she took another step. It was easy to let his eyes wander so he concentrated on the grooves of his boot.
"Chi, I thought we already discussed these little send offs of yours."
"Send off?" Chiana cocked her head at him.
John finally looked up at her, his blue eyes daring her to take another step towards his bed. A small, uncertain smile curled the right side of her mouth.
"You know, send off. One more for the road. Let me say good bye with a bang? Give me something to remember you by?" His lips were pressed thin, his jaw felt tight from the effort of not verbally ripping her end from end. Not because he was particularly offended, just because she was there and he could.
She sat down at the table and arranged the robe over her legs. Her small gray toes wiggled on the cold floor while she considered the Human with narrowed eyes. John licked his lips, waiting for her answer and suddenly ashamed of himself. How many times had his sisters come to his room in the middle of night, bathrobes in disarray and toothbrushes sticking out of their mouths, cotton balls still stuck in between their toes while polish dried just to talk, share a problem, share a moment.
"I have to admit, John" she crooned, licking her lips with a small pink tongue, "that I've always been curious. But unless you're offering, neither am I."
"I'm sorry, Pip." John said against his hands as he rested his forehead against the heels of his palms. He scrubbed his face hard and looked at her. Her playfulness was gone, replaced by worry. "What can I do for you? What's wrong with your quarters?"
"I just need a place to sleep. I got some sort of stuff puddling on the floor. I don't know where it's coming from, but I'm not waiting around for it to start dripping from the bulkhead. Pilot said he'll look into it in the morning."
"Chi, there's half a dozen empty cells on this tier alone, you could crash anywhere for the night."
Chiana turned her attention from John to look around his cell. "Yeah, but they're all so…cold."
John followed her gaze, looking at all the things he had accumulated in the past three cycles. Machine parts. Bio-mechanoid components. Schematics. A shelf of clothes he never bothered with anymore. Peacekeeper off duty uniforms made getting dressed easy. Black on black was a no brainer to coordinate, though he would about sell his left arm for just one flannel shirt. A pair of Nikes. A new pair of Calvins. Bits of this and that. His home. Her eyes rested on his bed. He had to admit, the thick fur he had added as a coverlet was a far cry better than the hard all purpose mattress these bunks came with. Given the choice, he supposed he too would rather sleep in this bed than a bare bunk in an empty cell. He reached for his holster and lay it on the chair across from Chiana. He stood up and motioned to the bed.
"Go ahead. Get some sleep, I wasn't tired anyway." He fluffed a pillow for her.
She moved to the far side of the bed and lay down, primly arranging the robe over her limbs so the only gray flesh that showed were hands and feet. He realized she probably wasn't one for night clothes and had dug this up for his comfort more than her own. John arranged the blanket over her, brushing a hand lightly through corn silk hair.
"Thanks, Chi," he said, taking her place at the table.
"For what?" Her voice sounded far away and muffled against the pillows.
"For reminding me what an ass I can be."
She shifted her head to look at him, smiling again. "Glad to be of service." Her eyes rolled towards the ceiling in thought. "Hey, what do you suppose that dren is in my room?"
"Dunno," John answered absently. He comptemplated the irony that in the past solar day Aeryn had returned home, Rygel had gotten more action than he, and when he had finally gotten a woman into his bed it was Chiana. To further the irony, she was completely clothed and it was all purely platonic. What could be worse than this? Crais in Aeryn's bed. John shivered. Where the frell did THAT thought come from?
He dipped his rag in the solvent and started scrubbing at the sole of his boot again. This stuff didn't just wipe off, it clung for dear life. And he had learned the hard way even a light coating of it in the smallest crevice could give WD-40 a run for its money. After a perfunctory wipe he had put his boots back on with the intention of tracking down D'Argo and had slid in such a way that he was momentarily glad he was off Aeryn's dance card. Any performance on his part would have been sadly lacking and most likely deeply painful.
"I wouldn't go touching it, though," John said, wagging the cleaning cloth at her, "I ran into this stuff on tier 12 and I'm still wiping it off my boot. It's slicker'n Crisco."
Chiana continued staring at the ceiling, her eyes thoughtful. "Hey, you don't suppose, y'know…Rygel and Orrhn…" Her voice trailed off, letting the thought complete itself.
John looked at Chiana, then back at the cleaning cloth and his boot. He dropped both simultaneously.
"I think I need new boots." John looked at his hand. "I think I need new skin." Chiana chuckled, a throaty, seductive sound, before turning her face towards the wall and nestling in to sleep again.