Title: Choose Your Battles
Setting: Story begins during Infinte Possibilites and goes slightly AU from there, although I don't think it should make much of a difference to canon in the end.
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 was originally posted on Terra Firma in August of 2006 – not sure how I missed posting it here, but that's life. I hope you enjoy it, feedback is always appreciated.
Choose Your Battles
Aeryn Sun stood in the center of the ruined shell that had once been the no-doubt unsanitary waste alcove previously used by Furlow's workers. Using every technique she could think of, she attempted to gain control over her breathing, and her thoughts.
This is not happening. Not now.
After gaining a measure of control, she allowed herself to give into the temptation to turn around once more and look at the evidence, to make sure it was real. It was the wrong move, however, for the microt she looked down she had to spin back around, nearly loosing what control she had mustered, feeling almost physically ill.
From the depths of where she had buried most of her Peacekeeper childhood, she dredged up the memories of her basic education, what little non-military knowledge had been necessary to ensure a soldier's survival. When she was older, she had known two fellow soldiers who'd experienced this situation firsthand, who'd woken up one day to discover the mix of discoloured liquid and drops of blood accompanying their liquid waste, the same combination that now filled the receptacle behind her.
When Aeryn first caught it out of the corner of her eye, her first reaction was alarm that she had been injured internally. It was only mere microts later that she realized just what she was looking at: the early warning that a stasis pregnancy had commenced. Despite the protocol written into her genetics to ensure pregnancy would not interfere with her duties as a soldier, biotech was not absolutely perfect, and females were still rendered less effective should the issue arise. If the symptoms of stasis initiation were recognized, action could be taken immediately to ensure optimum efficiency.
The two women Aeryn had known over the course of her duty amongst the Peacekeepers who had been fortunate enough to detect this in its inception had experienced different outcomes. One had the misfortune of being on an extended mission at the time, and had had to endure the situation until there was time available to release the stasis and undergo the geometric pregnancy. After that, the child had been taken to the creche and the soldier had returned to duty. The other had been more fortunate: a surrogate was almost immediately located, and she had suffered little inconvenience.
Aeryn was no longer a Peacekeeper. None of those options were open to her. And this was quite possibly the worst time for this. No, that was incorrect - this was definitely the worst time.
Once more pulling her breathing under control, she allowed herself to think of what options she did have. From what she could remember, presuming she had even been paying attention in the first place, the implication was that conception had just recently occurred; only one man could be the father of this child.
Despite herself, Aeryn felt a surge of warmth flow through her at that thought, and that confused her. Did she want a child? Since birth she had been taught, both through formal instruction and through those around her, that Peacekeeper soldiers were not expected to volunteer for the duty of filling the ranks; it was something that was assigned, but not hoped for or vaunted. Her own mother had apparently been an exception to that rule, but Aeryn had never felt herself to be one.
Whether John wanted a child - children - was not worth asking, she already knew the answer. Even had he not mentioned it to her in the past, she would have known through her own past experiences and observations that he not only wanted that outcome, but had simply expected that to be a natural inclusion in his future. Provided he lived long enough.
Before she met him, when she was still a soldier amongst those who had ingrained all of this into her brain, she never would have thought it possible to love this man, or to be loved by him. Was it possible her feelings on the subject of children had changed as well? That was a question without as simple an answer. She doubted it were possible. She knew of cultures where childrearing was considered a personal goal, a fulfilment of one's life…even her fellow non-military Sebaceans often subscribed to that ideal. But then again, not all did, just as John himself had mentioned to her that some humans purposely chose not to procreate.
Even if they chose to have this child - for she certainly would never choose to have it on her own - could they actually care for it? Aeryn immediately doubted her abilities based simply on her own experiences. And their lives were so frelled up already, matters would only complicate further.
No, this was simply the worst time for this to happen, present situation notwithstanding. She could not dwell on these thoughts any longer, not until they'd dealt with the Dreadnaught. John and Jack were probably wondering what was taking her so long, and she had work to do.
She couldn't tell John, not now - he couldn't have any distractions at the moment, especially not one so disastrous. But as Aeryn pushed her thoughts away to be dealt with later and proceeded to make her way through the ruined complex, she couldn't help the questions and "what ifs" that played at the edges of her mind.
They sped across the barren landscape in pursuit of the trelk who'd been double-crossing them from the start. John drove the transport - if one could call it that - as if he'd done it before, but to Aeryn's knowledge he hadn't. It must be similar to something he had on his homeworld, something familiar. She immediately took some comfort in that thought; she was a good pilot, and as a result she could be a somewhat apprehensive passenger.
"You know, we are running out of time," she nearly shouted, so as to be heard over the roar of the engine.
"We've still got time," he cautioned.
He seemed fairly calm, under the circumstances. She managed to take comfort in that, too. She knew Jack's death had affected him, not only because, for a moment, he was visualizing his own father dying, but also because their fates and - if the Ancient was to be believed - the fates of so many others in the galaxy now rested in his hands. Aeryn herself felt confident - they only had to catch up with the treacherous mechanic, a goal of which she had no doubts, and then their mission, so to speak, could be completed. The Scarran threat would be eliminated, and John would finally be able to rest from his constant quest for wormholes; the knowledge was finally there.
The question pulled at her mind, and before she had time to stop it, it erupted from her lips. "You know this new knowledge you've got in your head? "
"Can you use it to get home?"
There was a brief, momentary hesitation, and then he nodded. "Yeah." It was almost as if the thought hadn't occurred to him before this moment. Considering what he'd had to deal with, it was quite possible.
"Let's do what we need to do here, and then we'll go." Aeryn wasn't sure what surprised her more - the fact that she had just suggested that, or the fact that she was completely serious. She had a feeling that that her subconscious, which she knew had been working overtime the last few hours beneath her conscious mind, had just taken over.
John snapped his head to look at her, and by his expression he must have thought he heard her wrong. But when she gave him the barest hint of a smile. He returned it.
"I love you, so much…."
"I love you."
This was not how it was supposed to be. They were together, after so much hardship and pain, and now he was going to leave her, bring her more pain. She couldn't help but feel angry, just as she'd said, but not with him. Never with him.
"I would have gone to Earth." And she would have, without any doubt, because they would have gone together. He needed to understand that, she wanted him to know just how much she trusted him, how much she loved him.
She was about to say something else, something she felt he needed to know. I would have gone to Earth, and I would have borne your child. It would be her last chance. She held back, however. Something within her, something she didn't understand, pulled those words back, and in that moment's hesitation, he spoke.
"I'm sorry you never got to meet my Dad…my real Dad. I'm sorry I never met your Dad. …I'm sorry about a lot of things."
She shook her head. "Don't be, I don't want you to go that way."
She felt a hint of relief course through the overwhelming sorrow that filled her bones - it barely registered, but she knew it was there. She would never want him to have regrets, he didn't deserve them. It was then that she recognized what had held her back from telling him her secret. If there was some sort of life after this that he was going to pass to - and she sincerely hoped there was, she needed to believe they would be together again - then she hoped that he could forgive her.
He made a familiar noise just then, pulling her from her thoughts. For a moment, she could pretend that nothing was wrong, that he was working on one of his projects and had just figured something out. But just for a moment. "What?"
"They say, it's a lucky or unambitious man who goes when he's ready. That said…Scorpius is gone, I'm at peace." She could hear how his voice weakened, how he weakened. She reached over and pulled the blanket up around him - whatever she could do to make him just the little bit more comfortable - while he continued. "I don't hurt…I did some good things. I'm proud of my life. And I'm with you."
As those words passed through her ears, the last doubts she had about not telling him vanished. She felt the guilt at her minute sense of contentment, realizing the immense sadness and pain he held at knowing he was leaving her, but her own sadness overpowered that guilt. How could she possibly think of adding any more suffering to the short remainder of his life than he already had to endure?
No, she would not tell him. Instead, she kissed him, pouring all her emotions into that one act, and taking everything he could give her until he could carry on no longer.
"Don't worry about me," he struggled to get out, but managed to do it with conviction. "I've never felt better."
The microts passed, and she kept the sobs quiet, but that was no amazing feat - the pain that wracked her body with each one was so intense, so raw and powerful, that it wrenched away her ability to make anything but the slightest of sounds, the gasping of breath that was required to form the next.
Gently she reached forward, her hand shaking, and closed his eyes for the last time, knowing he would never open them again. Without thinking, she slipped under the blanket and settled herself closer to him, holding the lifeless vessel of the man she loved. She gave in to her grief, allowed herself this precious time, because it was all she had left. Soon enough she would be forced to make decisions, to think, to figure out what must be done. She would have to decide what she was going to do, and that would be an impossible task itself; but that wasn't all - the life that resided within her, the life they had created together, the life he would now never know existed, would need to be considered as well.
But she would not think of that now. No matter what decisions would be made, for now she…no, they, would lie here with the man who was a part of them both, and for the first time, and the last time, they would be a family.