Title: Love and War
Setting: Approx. 12 cycles post-PKW
Disclaimer: I own nothing, not even the words. Only the order in which they were placed. That said, the idea is mine - please do not repost this anywhere without my permission.
Author's Note: This is a response to the 16th Starburst Challenge over at Terra Firma. The challenge consisted of a post-PKW story in which either Aeryn or John teaches/taught something to their child (D'Argo or any other subsequent children) that the other disapproves of. I originally posted this at TF back in May of 2007 (yikes!), but never got around to putting it up here until now. I hope you enjoy - feedback is always appreciated.
Love and War
John had returned home from work earlier than normal, beating the rest of his family, and therefore set about preparing dinner. In a few microts, one wife and two ravenous children would step through the door.
After working her own job, Aeryn would get the children from school and take them to a nearby community center, where they would help her teach a combat defence class. D'Argo was only twelve, and his younger sister nine, but with he and especially Aeryn for parents, both kids were more experienced in self-defence than most of Aeryn's more advanced students. Only a couple students could give them a run for their money, and they were more than twice their age...relatively speaking. After more than a cycle, it was still difficult to keep track of the of all the various species that had come to settle on this (relatively) peaceful planet.
Sure enough, it wasn't too long until he heard the front door open and the sound of small, pounding feet as someone came running into the house. John stopped what he was doing and started towards the front entrance, but before he could take more than a handful of steps, a singsong call of "Daaadddddddyyyy..." followed by a short blur of motion forced him to stop and brace for impact.
The little girl launched herself at him, and John barely had the time to bring his arms up to catch her. As he always did, he let out a big groan and staggered for effect. The girl laughed, as she always did, not realizing that only part of her father's reaction was down to overacting - soon, he figured, she'd be too big to keep on greeting him that way.
When he finally locked eyes with her, she gave him a big grin. "Hi!"
John smiled at her and planted a sloppy kiss on her forehead. "Hi, sweetie," he replied, lightly dropping her to the floor. When he noticed her giant grin was still plastered to her face, he crossed his arms and asked jokingly, "So what's gotten into you, missy?"
If her grin could have gotten any larger - or cheekier - it would have. She paused dramatically for a few microts, and then, in another singsong voice..."D'Argo got in trou-ble!"
Despite her admission piquing his curiosity - and a little concern - John couldn't help but smile at her enthusiasm. It had been a long time, but he remembered well the childish behavior of taking pride in your sibling's misfortune. Ah, the good old days.
"What did he do?"
The girl opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by the sound of the main entrance opening once more, and his son's voice carrying through the house, "I said I was sorry."
He heard Aeryn answer with, "Sorry won't do it this time, and it won't help Sanida, either. Now I want to know why you did it."
John, meanwhile, had glanced down at his youngest, who had continued to blind the room with her satisfied smile as they listened to the exchange. He gave her a small, indulgent grin and nodded his head to the side, gesturing towards the other end of the house. His daughter merely bit down on her lower lip to keep from giggling out loud, nodded in agreement, and walked away. She knew the drill.
John braced himself once more, this time for an entirely different reason, and walked into the other room. He found his son seated in a chair, looking guilty as he watched his mother watch him from a few feet away. His entrance appeared to have been a welcome distraction for both of them.
"So...anything interesting happen today?" he asked lightly, looking pointedly at the boy. D'Argo just averted his eyes and waited for his mother to answer.
"D'Argo lost a match to a novice."
John blinked. Of course, if they were back on Earth, his wife could easily have been mistaken for a hockey parent or the like with that comment, someone who couldn't stand to watch their child come out anything but on top. But he knew his wife...and he knew his son, and he suspected there was more to this story.
Playing on his hunch, he asked, "On purpose?"
The renewed look of guilt as D'Argo looked to the floor was enough of an answer.
"Yes," Aeryn replied. "Sanida has only been training for a few monens --"
"But she's getting good!" D'Argo insisted to his father, showing a hint of excitement and enthusiasm.
"Don't interrupt your mother," John replied mechanically, on impulse. Despite any lack of emphasis in his tone, D'Argo quickly clammed up, the guilt returning to his features.
Aeryn took a deep breath and faced her son once more, noting the look on his face. She wasn't actually angry with him, just frustrated and a little disappointed. D'Argo knew how important his indoctrination in self-defence was, and he knew that it was important for their community, as well. For the moment their home was safe, but the winds of the Uncharted Territories never blew in the same direction for too long, and she and her family were just too frelling popular in the universe for her liking.
She sighed, and her features softened. "I know you only wanted to help her, but I pulled Sanida aside to work with you specifically so that her confidence would not surpass her own capabilities. I wanted you to challenge her, not effortlessly let her beat you up."
"I'm sorry, Mom," D'Argo replied, sounding much more genuine this time.
Unbeknownst to both of them, Aeryn's last comment had made John turn to his son with renewed interest.
"Sanida, you said?" he asked. "Isn't that the Sebacean girl, about D's age?"
"Yes," Aeryn said, disinterestedly.
John tried to suppress a grin as he looked at D'Argo. "And you let her beat you up?'
Aeryn heard the humor in her husband's voice, and it annoyed her. "John, this isn't funny."
He didn't answer her, just continued to stare at their son in amusement. She followed his gaze and realized that the earlier look of guilt on young D'Argo's face had been replaced by a much more uncomfortable one.
"John," she repeated, "What is going on?" Her frustration at being out of the loop was evident in her tone.
Aeryn's voice broke through to John, and finally he turned to acknowledge her. He walked over to her, and then guided her away from the chair currently occupied by their son. The action only served to increase D'Argo's look of discomfort.
"Remember how we met?"
The softly spoken question was so unexpected that it threw her for a microt. After a long pause, she nodded, frowning.
"You know I've told him them that story a bunch of times, right?"
"Yes," she responded impatiently. She was about to say something more when he beat her to it.
"And what's the joke I always make at the end of it?"
Aeryn all but rolled her eyes. "John, what does this have to do with any--"
It took a few microts for his words to break through to her, but when Aeryn finally realized what he meant by it, her eyes went wide with shock.
"If you want a girl to fall in love with you, all you gotta do is let her beat you up."
She looked to her husband, then back over to her son, her twelve-cycle old son. She wasn't too shocked to notice when her gaze prompted a bout of full-out embarrassment in the boy, something that had been curiously absent during the initial incident when that girl had laid him flat out on the mat. She doubted he could have heard their brief conversation, but he'd certainly figured out what it was about.
"Aeryn," John's voice pulled her attention away from her son. "I've probably got dinner burning back there, " he nodded his head to the adjoining room. "Maybe you could go check on it for me?"
She frowned and was about to object, but something inside her held back the protest. She realized that this next conversation with their son wasn't meant for her...at least, not yet. She still had a few things of her own to say to her son regarding today's incident...and to her husband, regarding this new revelation.
John watched Aeryn as she slowly acquiesced, taking one last second to look over at D'Argo before exiting the room. When she was gone, John turned around and slowly walked back over to his son, who was studiously avoiding looking at him.
Kneeling down, John folded his arms on the arm of the chair and brought his chin to rest on his hands, waiting for D'Argo to look at him. Finally, the boy turned his head and met his father's eyes. John raised an eyebrow and grinned.