One Spare Crichton, Slightly Used
This is an AU that splits off before Infinite Possibilities, and centers around a different version of Into the Lion's Den, so you might recognize some of the dialogue from these episodes.
Author's Note: This is a slightly altered and edited version of a story previously posted on my personal Farscape fansite. It has been retitled from "Twisted Fate" because "Twisted Fate" was a pretty generic title.
"This isn't fair!" Chiana cried. "Make him leave. Make them both leave--you don't have to go anywhere!"
"It's not that easy," John said softly, throwing a bag onto the seat of his module. "This makes more sense, Pip. I'm just the spare, you can do without me."
"Hey," Chiana said fiercely, she grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around. "Look, maybe he's her Crichton, but you're ours. You're not a frelling spare, so quit talking like that!"
D'Argo nodded his agreement. "She's right, John, don't do this. Just how far do you expect to get in that piece of dren module anyway?"
"There's a commerce planet close enough," John said. "I'll survive."
"This is not frelling fair!" Chiana growled. "You can both stay, you know. One for Aeryn. One for me."
"Chiana," D'Argo said darkly.
"One for us," Chiana corrected, looking at D'Argo innocently. "I meant one for us."
John grinned ruefully. "I'm going to miss you, Pip."
"Then don't frelling leave," she whispered fiercely. When he wouldn't meet her eyes, she grabbed his bag from his module and threw it impressively far across the expansive docking bay.
"I have to," he said softly, ignoring her outburst. "You should understand, Chiana. You were twinned too--if she were still around, here on this ship, and she was the one everyone saw as real . . . could you deal with that?"
"But that isn't how this is, you're real to us." Chiana had tears in her eyes as she spoke. D'Argo lowered his head. "You're the one that rescued me on that so-called pleasure planet, you're the one that protected me when that energy rider was inside me--Crichton, please, I don't want to lose you. I can't. I know . . . I know he's you, but…he isn't, and I can't stand the thought of you out there alone. We stick together. That's how it's been."
"I'll still be here," John whispered. "You'll forget soon enough there were two of us once."
"It's not that easy," she said, echoing his early words.
"Nothing with us ever is," John said, crossing the floor to pick up his bag where it had landed.
"So what then?" she demanded. "You just let him have everything? You just walk away and let him have your life?"
"He's not getting everything," John said slyly, motioning to his thigh. "I grabbed Winona last night. And I'm taking the module."
"Fine," Chiana snapped. "Fine, okay--I'm going with you."
"And I will," D'Argo said promptly. "Our time on Moya has been good, but perhaps this is our time to part."
"No," John said, turning to look at them. "I'm going alone, I have to go alone. And you two need to stay here. The others need you, they've already got a me."
"Stop acting like he can just replace you!" Chiana shouted.
John grinned slyly. "Pip, he can. Exact copies, remember? We're just the same, only thing is, he ended up with everything I want. And I can't stay here to watch him live my dreams, I just can't."
"Have you forgotten you're hunted?" D'Argo demanded. "How do you plan to get away with only that module? It's a toy compared to a prowler, the Peacekeepers wouldn't break a tairat taking it down."
"I'll hide, I'm good at hiding," John said. He sighed deeply, placing his bag back in his module before turning to face his two friends.
He had never intended to tell any of them about his plans at all, he didn't want them to know. Didn't want to say goodbye. But Chiana knew him too well, and she had been watching him since the other John had shown back up on Moya, with Aeryn's hand in his.
She had caught on to his plans, and told on him to D'Argo. He grinned at the thought. Chiana had practically tried to sic the Luxan warrior on him, demanding D'Argo not let him leave.
"We may see each other again," he said tightly. "Tell the others I said goodbye, tell Crichton number two that he's a lucky bastard, and he better not screw things up with Aeryn."
"John, please," Chiana whispered.
He turned to face her, she hardly ever called him John. He grabbed her hand and tugged her close, then kissed her softly on her forehead and wiped away her tears. "Things will be okay, trust me--its better this way."
"John--" D'Argo started, stepping forward and holding out his hand.
John took it and tumbled off balance when D'Argo used the hold on his hand to pull him into a bear hug. "Take care of yourself," he demanded.
"Hey, who do you think you're talking to?" John asked, a ghost of a smile appearing and disappearing as he took a step away from his friends, and towards his ship.
"He'll be in trouble within an arn," Chiana said knowingly. "We'd better stay around and wait until we need to rescue you."
"Not this time, Chi," John whispered, and he lowered himself into his module--then closed the hatch.
x x x x x
Aeryn leaned back against John, examining his fingers as he let his eyes wander across the terrace, and out towards the stars.
"You're thinking about him again," she said. It wasn't a question.
"Yeah. Can't seem to stop."
"We could not have stopped him," Aeryn said softly. "You know how stubborn you are when you have your mind set on something."
"Yeah," he said. "But I keep thinking…what if it was me…what if I was out there alone, and I knew he were here with you." He sighed. "And I can't even imagine what it must be like for him. It isn't fair."
Aeryn leaned her head back on his shoulder. "No, it's not."
"Maybe we should look for him--" he started, only to get cut off by Rygel's angry yell over their coms.
"Crichton! Get the frell up here, you fahrbot!"
John grinned fleetingly. "His majesty calls," he said wryly, before getting to his feet and holding out a hand to help Aeryn up.
They headed quickly to command, and when they walked into the room they were lit up with an eerie blue glow--a wormhole hung spiraling outside the window, Earth appearing and disappearing as it moved in waves.
"What is that?" Crais demanded. "Rygel said you would know."
"Yeah," John said. "I know. Hello, anybody out there? Ancients. Jack. Whatever you want to call yourself. This is John Crichton. Hello… Come out, come out, wherever you are…!"
All of them spun around, Crais and Aeryn both reaching for their weapons.
"No, wait," John said quickly, stepping forward into their line of fire. "I know this guy."
"And I thought I knew you," Jack said. "I may have been wrong. If I was…"
5 Weekens Later
John Crichton sighed and leaned against the bar, wiping Chakkan oil from his hands. When he had been a kid, dreaming about space, this was not exactly the life he had imagined. Living on a backwater planet on the other side of the galaxy, as a mechanic working on alien space crafts and weapons simply had not entered even his overactive imagination.
He had barely been able to even get this job, but he had been able to charm Mirlain into hiring him on, just barely. She called him deficient and threatened to fire him twice daily, but at least once a week he would do something right, something the rest had never considered, and she would grudgingly admit he had his uses.
He grinned, he didn't quite have any friends on this planet, certainly no one he could count on or trust, but at least Mirlain could provide amusement every once and awhile. He always enjoyed her expressions when he actually found a way to fix things they couldn't.
He didn't have a clue about most of the ships that came through for repairs, but he was a quick learner, and though Mirlain was a horrible teacher--she was still teaching.
His break over, he headed back to the shop, coming up short when he saw a prowler in the hanger. For a moment he froze, imagining the dark tinted glass lifting away and Aeryn grinning out at him. Then he got a darker vision, clearer, the hatch pulling up and Scorpius's grotesque smile shinning back at him, Braca smug in the seat behind him--ready for rematch number three.
He almost forgot to breathe when he realized this second vision was real.
Winona was out of her holster and aimed at their heads with speed that would have put Clint Eastwood to shame, and John's lips curled backwards into a predatory smile as he faced them down.
"Hello, John," Scorpius said, still smiling. Behind him, Braca stood and straightened his uniform.
"Grasshopper," John said, giving a nod as a greeting, and tightening his grip on the gun.
"Shoot him, John, shoot him--he's dangerous, I know, shoot him!"
"Go away, Harvey, not now," John thought angrily back.
"Fancy meeting you here," John said. "Doesn't exactly seem your usual hangout."
"I received a call," Scorpius said slowly, his eyes straying to the left side of the room.
John followed his gaze, and laughed out loud when he saw Mirlain hiding her eyes guiltily in the shadows. "Oh, this is perfect," he said. "You just can't trust anyone out here, can you?"
"Put down the weapon, John," Scorpius said, as though he were talking to a child. "You will not win."
John aimed the gun with renewed focus. "Funny, you've said that to me before."
"And I was right, I retrieved the knowledge from your mind."
John adjusted his grip on Winona. "Uh huh. Right. And you've got everything you ever wanted. Then just what are you doing here if you don't need me? You wouldn't waste the time. You're not the type."
"Oh, you are beginning to understand me, aren't you, John?"
John gave a surrepetious glance over at Harvey, who was glaring at him from two feet away. "I've had help."
"Braca, please disarm him."
Braca took a step forward and John turned to aim the weapon at him. "Try it," he said. "Make my day."
"He can't hurt you," Mirlain said from her shadows. "I disabled it like you asked."
"You're bluffing," John said, backing up. "Winona doesn't leave my side."
"She didn't have to," Mirlain said. "I deactivated the triggering device remotely--easily fixed, but easily destructible if you know what you're doing."
"You never showed me how to do that," John said, though he'd been in the Uncharted Territories too long now to allow himself to be hurt by her betrayal.
"I would have," Mirlain said sadly. "If I hadn't found out just how high a bounty you had on your head."
"I feel for you, choices, choices--It's a bitch having no soul, ain't it?" John snapped. "Just ask Scorpy Sue."
"Enough, John," Scorpius said, his voice deeper than usual. "You're coming with us. If you cooperate, things can go smoothly. We don't have to be enemies, I'd rather you work with me than against me."
"Of course you would!" John said with a laugh. "You also want all the powers of the universe, keep dreaming, Grasshopper."
"Braca," Scorpius hissed.
Braca reluctantly took another step. Winona was aimed at his head in microt, and John fired instantly. But nothing happened. Mirlain hadn't been bluffing.
And he was screwed.
With a sigh, John lifted his hands, pointing the sabotaged pulse pistol towards the ceiling. "Right," he said quietly, "I guess you win again."
Braca's smug grin formed again and he stepped over to disarm him. The second he was close, John brought his arms down, slamming Winona into the side of the Lieutenant's head, then grabbed his arm to pull him as a shield against him. He reached for Braca's holster and pulled out his gun, aiming it with one hand as Winona slipped from his other--clattering to the floor with a crash that made him wince. He didn't risk leaning down to pick her up as he started to back away, much as it hurt to leave her behind.
Scorpius growled and started to step forward but John made tsk tsk-ing sounds. "Not so close, Grasshopper."
Braca was unconscious, but John held him up. He knew he didn't have to worry about Scorpius shooting him anyway, but he was just glad for a barrier between himself and his number one fan.
"Tell me, Scorpy, you guys got restraining orders out here in the Uncharteds? Because this whole stalking kick is growing old."
"You are only making things harder on yourself, John," Scorpius said slowly. "Surrender."
"Why do you all say the same things? I didn't get this far by surrendering to every freak show that wants a piece of me."
"Then shoot me, John," Scorpius said--it was a dare.
"Yes, shoot him," Harvey echoed. "He'll use you, John, we cannot let him!"
John aimed the weapon, willing himself to pull the trigger. It was harder to do than it should have been. After everything Scorpius had done, he should have been relishing the chance. Something held him back, though, and the hesitation cost him everything.
A pipe crashed into the back of his head, and he and Braca both crumpled gracelessly to the floor. Mirlian stood over him, regretful but resolved. "Now, about my payment," she started.
Scorpius smiled. "Oh . . . yes, of course."
x x x x x
Chiana sat on one of the control panels on Command, staring out into space. Things had always been tinked on Moya, but never had they been this bad.
John, Aeryn, Crais, Stark and Rygel had all left on Talyn when the Ancient Jack had shown up, and together they had gone to find Furlow on Dam-Ba-Da. John hadn't come back--Aeryn hadn't really either. His sacrifice had cost her almost as much, and the rest of them were struggling to cope. Half of them had been forced to watch John die--the rest felt his loss just as deeply, but it wasn't that black and white. Nothing with them ever was.
Because though John Crichton was dead--he was still alive, too. Not that they knew where he was.
"How much longer, Pilot?" Chiana asked softly.
Jool walked up behind her, quietly, her eyes sad. She and Chiana had their problems, but they had come to care for each other. Despite herself, Jool had come to care for almost all of them, but none of them as much as she did D'Argo, John, and Chiana--who she had been through hezmana with.
"We will arrive at the commerce planet any microt, Chiana," Pilot said, sounding worn--but then, he almost always did.
"Thanks, Pilot," she said.
"We'll find him," Jool said.
"We never should have let him leave," Chiana said.
"We couldn't have stopped him," D'Argo said as he entered command. "He had made up his mind."
"I assume Aeryn won't be coming with us, as usual?" Chiana asked harshly.
"Chiana," D'Argo said regretfully. "She's mourning."
"We're all frelling mourning, D'Argo! But while she's playing the Peacekeeper ice-queen, John is still out there somewhere, and if I know him--in some kind of trouble. He left because of her, the least she can do is try to get him back. But no, the last three planets we've gone down to look for him, she hasn't come with us to one."
"It's different for the others, Chiana," D'Argo said softly. "They were there, watched it happen--and we were here. It's easier for us to just pretend it wasn't real because we know that John's still out there."
Chiana turned away from him, leaning against the console. "You know he's going to think this is the only reason we came back for him. When we find him, he's going to think we're only there because the other John is dead. That we only came to get our frelling spare." Chiana pushed away from the console and stalked towards the exit. "This universe is fahrbot."
"Ka D'Argo, Chiana!" Pilot called, alarmed. Chiana halted and turned back around. "We have just detected the presence of a command carrier at the limit of our sensors."
"What?" D'Argo growled, moving towards a console.
"Have they detected us?"
"I believe so, Ka D'Argo, but they are making no move towards us. They are headed full speed in the opposite direction."
"Well that's good," Jool said, giving a smile. Chiana and D'Argo looked anything but happy, and her smile slowly disappeared. "Isn't that good?"
Chiana didn't answer, stepping silently towards the window to space. "Crichton," she whispered. It was the only reason they would be ignored--Scorpius had him, and the rest of them didn't matter.
"Oh no," D'Argo said softly, closing his eyes.
x x x x x
John slowly came to, he opened his eyes, feeling like he was underwater--and with a gasp he shot up, grabbing the edges of the bed he had been placed on.
"Ah, you're awake."
The voice made him freeze. It was one he was absurdly familiar with, one that whispered daily in his mind, but Harvey he had become reluctantly used to--Scorpius was another matter entirely.
"Where are we?" he ground out as the room spun, not sure he wanted to know.
"On my command carrier. I trust you will find the accommodations more to your liking than those you were given on my Gammak base."
John looked around the large room. The bed was covered with soft red sheets, a small table across the floor held a floral centerpiece. He blinked. "It's a regular five star hotel. You guys got good room service?"
Scorpius eyed him for a moment before deciding to ignore the comment. "John, I need you to listen to me."
John ran a hand through his hair, feeling the cut near the base of his neck where he had been knocked out. He pulled his hand away covered in flecks of dry blood. "And why should I?" he asked. "Go ahead, start the torture show, see where it gets you. I can't tell you what I don't know."
Scorpius growled and struck out, grabbing John's arm and pulling up the sleeve of his jacket. John winced when he realized he'd been writing on his arm again. Equations littered the skin from elbow to wrist. "Do not lie to me, John."
John pulled away angrily. "You do not get to TOUCH me."
When Scorpius backed away, John looked at his arm ruefully, almost not sure how the writing had got there. He had been using Mirlian's equipment and database to sort through everything he had learned about wormholes, and lately, things would enter his mind--equations, answers, would drift suddenly within his reach. He would grab a pen and begin writing them down wherever he could--only realizing he was doing it half of the time.
"Your subconscious is blossoming," Scorpius said, trying to regain control. "But I believe you are correct that torture would get me nowhere, the information would simply be locked away again. That is why I need your help."
John grabbed a flower from the vase beside his bed, eyeing it curiously, intrigued by this sudden insight into Peacekeeper sentimentality--he wondered if they had interior designers. "Well, since you asked so nicely," he said sardonically.
"I want to show you something. Something to help you understand about the threat of Scarrens."
"You're preaching to the choir, Scorpy, I have no love of Scarrens."
Scorpius seemed taken aback a moment by the comment, before smiling. "Yes, I know." He placed a vid chip into the console across from the bed, and a picture flashed into the air. "But perhaps this will give you a clearer idea of my intentions. My earliest memory…was pain--"
x x x x x
"We have to go after them," Chiana said suddenly, her voice dangerously calm.
"Are you fahrbot?!" Jool screamed. "It's a command carrier, Chiana, just what do you expect to do? Ask really nicely that they give John back so we can be on our way?"
"Well we have to do something," she snapped. "He's out there because of us. We abandoned him."
"He left," Jool said. "I'm not saying he deserves any of this, Chiana, he doesn't--but it was his decision to go."
"Get out of my sight, Princess," Chiana growled. "Now."
D'Argo stepped between them. "Calm down, both of you. Chiana, Jool is right--"
Chiana turned to glare at him. "We cannot just leave him there!"
"I didn't say we would, but rushing after a command carrier, where will that get us? We need a plan. I say we go down to the planet first, check things out--maybe John wasn't even there. Maybe the Peacekeepers simply didn't see us. We can't jump to conclusions. John could be fine."
Chiana took a step back, shaking her head angrily. "You don't believe that."
"Either way, our best course of action is to go down to the planet and see if we can learn anything. Pilot?"
"Moving into orbit now," Pilot responded promptly.
"We won't give up, Chiana," D'Argo said with resolve.
Chiana took a deep breath, and nodded. "Right. We'll take a transport down. Come on."
"Wait," Jool said. "Shouldn't we tell the others? Aeryn?"
Chiana pushed past her angrily, bumping into her shoulder. "What, like they care? Stay, if you want, but we're leaving now. Come on, D'Argo."
D'Argo followed her without a word, and with a deep sigh and a frustrated growl, Jool trailed after them towards the docking bay.
x x x x x
Jool looked around the planet with disgust. "I don't know what you expect to find here," she said.
"Something," Chiana said harshly. "Anything. So make yourself useful or go back to the transport pod."
D'Argo sighed at their bickering, but said nothing--usually he had John to help keep them from killing each other, and he was growing weary of the task that had fallen solely to him.
Jool tilted her head, looking smug, and pointed over Chiana's shoulder. "Okay--there you go. There's something."
Chiana spun around, and saw a small hologram of Crichton flashing in the booth two shops down. The three of them took off towards it. There was a man tinkering with the imager, and by the time they reached him, the hologram had flashed off.
"What are you doing?" Chiana demanded, breathless.
The man turned to look at her, surprised. "Useless now," he said. "What, you bounty hunters? Bit late, I'm afraid."
"Yeah," Chiana said. "Yeah, we're bounty hunters. What happened to this one?"
"Captured," the man said. "Shame too, I rather liked him."
Chiana was taken aback. "You knew him?"
"Worked over at Mirlian's maintenance shop," he said, absently pointing the shop out from where it sat across the busy street. "Always said hello when he walked by." The man frowned. "Thought he was tinked at first, turns out he was just nice. Strange. Don't know what he did to get the Peacekeepers after him. Frelling shame, though."
"Do you know what happened?" Chiana asked.
He seemed suspicious by her interest, but since she could do no more damage than had been done, he answered, "Some creepy half-breed Sebecean came down--flew away with him in a Prowler, while his Lieutenant flew off with Crichton's ship."
Behind her, Chiana could hear D'Argo growl angrily. The man looked startled. "He's just upset at the loss of bounty," Chiana said quickly.
The man glared at them, obviously unimpressed by their supposed occupation. "Look, if you want to know more, ask Mirlian. She knew him best." Then the man shook his head sadly and walked away.
The three walked over to the shop, but it seemed empty. "I've got a bad feeling about this," Chiana said. When she entered, and saw the old Sebecean woman sprawled on the floor, she knew she was right. "Oh, really bad feeling. Frell. Who wants to bet that's Mirlian?"
"It is," a voice said from behind them. "Can I help you?"
D'Argo stepped forward angrily. "Who are you?"
"I'm the new owner of this shop." The figure stepped from the shadows, revealing a pretty young alien. Her skin was tinged gold, and her eyes a vacant white. None of them recognized her species.
"Did you kill her?" D'Argo demanded. "We had some things we wished to ask her."
The woman appeared unmoved. "So ask me. Mirlian was a lying fool anyway--she got what she deserved."
Jool looked disgusted, and glared over at her. "What could she possibly have done to deserve this?"
"She tried to sell John Crichton to the Peacekeepers," she responded.
Chiana and D'Argo instantly became murderous, Jool looked shocked. "What? She--she's the reason--"
The odd alien shrugged. "She had very little in the way of moral fiber."
"Wait," Chiana said. "You said try---is John, I mean, he's not still here?"
The woman narrowed her eyes. "No, they took him--she just didn't get paid. Why? You knew him?"
"That's none of your concern," D'Argo said harshly, not at all thrilled with the woman's use of past tense.
"Right," the woman said. "Well, if you don't have any business, then I suggest you leave." She turned and walked away, leaving Mirlian's body untouched, apparently a new centerpiece to the décor. Jool was appalled.
"So they have him them," D'Argo said, angry and exhausted all at once. "Frell. Let's get back to Moya. We'll have to tell the others. We'll think of something."
Jool and D'Argo started back for the transport, but as Chiana went to leave, something caught her eye. Any doubt that she had about Crichton having been here, and taken against his will, evaporated in a haze of terrible realization. A pulse pistol was tossed carelessly in the corner, at the top of a bucket filled with worn-out weapons, a small scrape ripping through the lower part of its side, almost unnoticeable, but very familiar to her.
It had happened on Trenex Five, when John had used the weapon to deflect a knife strike aimed for her heart. She had again stolen from the wrong man. John had been very upset at the time, and knocked the guy out with little effort--Winona had jammed, and he hated when that happened.
Chiana grinned fleetingly and secured the weapon in the waistband of her pants. "Crichton'll be wanting you back," she said softly, before darting off towards the transport.
x x x x x
"This is insane, John!" Harvey yelled over the wind rushing by the open hatch.
John didn't turn to look at him. He adjusted his parachute. "Tell me, Harv, is that all true?"
Harvey leaned out of the plane, eyeing the drop with apprehension. "Scorpius's treatment at the hands of the Scarrens? Yes. Tragic. You should have killed him. Huh!"
John frowned. "I thought you wanted Scorpius to succeed."
"I want to live, John," he said pathetically, closing his eyes as the plane rose higher.
John looked down at the landscape below. "Are the Scarrens really that much of a threat?"
"Oh, undoubtedly," Harvey said.
"But Scorpius--" John said. "No, not even if it would destroy the Scarrens' base of power. He can't be trusted. Not with this."
"He'll kill us if we do not help him," Harvey cried. "He'll put us in the chair, he won't care if it kills us if it's the only option he has left."
John's gaze remained downward. "I know."
"Maybe we should tell him," Harvey said, changing sides again without even blinking.
"No," John said. "Never. He knows too much already. He has to be stopped."
"You're crazy," Harvey yelled. "You'll get us both killed!"
"I'll take him out of the running for emperor of the universe," John said, deadly serious. "I'll destroy his whole little wormhole operation from the inside."
"You'll never succeed, he'll figure it out!"
"I don't have a choice. No one person should have this much power."
"But you do," Harvey pointed out.
John put on his goggles, and closed his eyes. "I know."
x x x x x
John opened his eyes. Scorpius was leaning against the wall on the other side of the room, his arms crossed.
"Have you decided?" he asked.
John took a shaky breath. "And then he made a deal with the devil," he whispered, his eyes straying upwards--seeing only cold grey metal.
Scorpius looked suddenly hopeful, and he pushed away from wall.
"You say the Scarrens will destroy everything," John said slowly, looking over at Scorpius.
"They will take over this entire galaxy if we do not stop them, John."
John placed his head in his hands, wiping agitatedly at his eyes. "Then I guess we don't have a choice."
"You will help?" Scorpius asked, suspicious but hopeful.
"Yeah," John said. He met his eyes. "I'll help."
x x x x x
"Oh, very convincing, John," Harvey said approvingly, as he struggled to free himself out from under his open parachute. He took it off and scrambled away, glaring back at it.
John calmly slipped his off and sat down in the grass, looking up at the sky. "It wasn't entirely a lie. I've made a deal with you, haven't I?"
Harvey looked offended. "You can't possibly compare us now. Scorpius doesn't have my taste."
John turned to glare at him from the corner of his eye, only to see Harvey was now decked out in Hugh Hefner's threads. Harvey smiled and held up a wine glass in silent toast--unimpressed, John let his eyes slip back towards the sky.
"I have been sure to balance your signature, Scorpius does not know you were lying."
John laid back on the grass. "Thanks," he said absently. "Now go away."
"You must focus, John," Harvey said. "Focus. If you insist on going through with this, you cannot afford distraction."
"Then go away," he said again, lacing his fingers together and letting them rest on his chest. "You're distracting me."
x x x x x
John got up from the bed and walked agitatedly to the table in the center of the room. He trapped a petal of one of the flowers between his fingers, and looked up to meet Scorpius's eyes. "So what do I get for this?" he asked.
"How very mercenary of you," Scorpius said with a wry grin.
"I'm in the lion's den here, Scorpy, don't begrudge me trying to find a way out."
"A full pardon," Scorpius said solicitously. "You do this for me, John, and you'll walk out of here, and never be hunted again."
John lowered his eyes, spinning the flower between his fingers until its petals began to fall. "And . . . ?"
Scorpius grinned, almost admiringly. "And pardons for all your friends, of course."
John raised his head. "Deal."
x x x x x
"And you didn't think to tell me?"
Aeryn was showing more emotion than she had in weekens, but Chiana was still unimpressed. "You could have been here, if you were so interested in what was happening with Crichton. But no. You were walking around Moya like a ghost."
Aeryn glared at her. "If Crichton has been captured, I have a right to know."
"We're telling you now," D'Argo said, trying to appease her.
Rygel also looked irritated, Stark was muttering to himself and pacing over by the window. Crais appeared for the most part unmoved.
"You say he is on Scorpius's command carrier?" Crais asked thoughtfully.
"Yes," Jool said.
"Then he is lost," Crais said with a shake of his head. "There is no way to infiltrate the ship. I commanded it, I know."
"We are not just leaving him there," Chiana hissed vehemently.
"Agreed," Aeryn said coldly. "I'll take my Prowler, go in undercover. It's worked before."
Crais gave a long-suffering sigh. "If you insist on this, let's at least not rush into anything," he said. "Let's simply try to track them for now, I'll go on Talyn and see if we can pick up any coded transmissions--perhaps gain more information on Crichton's situation."
D'Argo nodded with reluctant approval, while both Chiana and Aeryn bristled with barely suppressed irritation. "That sounds reasonable, doesn't it, girls?"
Jool nodded, Aeryn raised her head and looked at no one--Chiana simply made a sound of frustration and walked away from them all.
x x x x x
"Here they are, John," Scorpius said.
John held up the documents, he wouldn't have had a chance of reading them, if Harvey hadn't been whispering translations in his mind. Everything seemed in order.
"And you made these for all of my friends?" John asked, looking through them to make sure all of them where there.
"Yes, John. Officer Sun, Ka D'Argo, Stark, Dominar Rygel, Chiana, and Captain Crais. Your Interon friend has no charges against her, and therefore needs no pardon. Moya and her Pilot have been granted their freedom."
"Crais?" John said absently. "I thought I said friends?"
"I can have it destroyed," Scorpius began.
John cut him off. "Nah. Keep it. What the hell, it'll be my selfless good deed for the day."
"As you wish," Scorpius said, tilting his head in acknowledgement.
x x x x x
John walked over to Harvey, who was floating by in a swimming pool. He was on an inflatable pink raft, sipping a drink with an Umbrella--blue swim trunks with palm trees printed on them were pulled over his black leather coolant-suit. "These places in your mind, John," he said, "are fascinating."
"Glad you're having fun," John said.
"Just trying to enjoy myself before you get us both killed," he replied, splashing one hand into the water.
"Tell me--if Scorpius is kicked out of the Peacekeepers, will those pardons stick?"
"Possibly. They come from High Command. If Scorpius falls out of power, he will be unable to void them."
"And if Scorpius is set back in his wormhole tech…" John started. "If he lost everything…"
Harvey grinned. "It is likely he will end up in his favorite interrogation tool of choice himself, the Aurora chair."
John nodded. "Right."
"Second thoughts?" Harvey asked.
John put on a pair of sunglasses. "No. Just trying to figure out how I can set him back. He's not stupid, he'll know if I try to sidetrack him. Tell me, Harv, there's no magic erase button is there?"
"Afraid not, John--Mai Tai?" Harvey held out the drink with a grin.
John simply walked away.
x x x x x
"I am interested, John," Scorpius said, "to know what you were doing on that planet alone. Mirlian said you had been working for her for weekens."
"Mirlian has a big mouth," John said.
Scorpius watched him. "Tell me, Crichton, have your friends abandoned you?"
John didn't look up. "If they had, would I have wasted my time getting them pardoned?"
Scorpius grinned, unconvinced. "I suppose not. And we did pick Moya up on sensors as we left."
This finally caught his attention, and John's head snapped up. "What?"
"Surely you knew they were coming back for you," Scorpius said. "Or didn't you?"
John met his eyes angrily. "Why so interested in my personal life, Scorpy Sue? I thought you brought me here to work."
"Yes . . . yes. It is of no matter. You are correct," Scorpius said, though obviously still wondering about what John was hiding--and if it could be used to his advantage.
"So take me to the bat cave," John said. "Let's get crackin'."
x x x x x
"I have some . . . interesting news," Crais said, as he looked across at the others gathered in Moya's command.
Aeryn stood up straight. "I assume you were able to intercept something from Scorpius's command carrier."
"Several transmissions," Crais said with a nod, "all of them to High Command. Including one requesting pardons for us all, a request that was granted almost immediately."
The others stood in shock. "What?" Chiana asked in disbelief. "We've been pardoned? By…by the Peacekeepers? Why would they do that?"
Crais took a breath. "Apparently Crichton has made a deal with Scorpius--agreed to give him the information he wants in exchange for our freedom."
Aeryn stiffened. Chiana laughed with disbelief.
D'Argo took a step towards Crais. "That is a bucket of dren," he said assuredly. "John is NOT working with Scorpius."
Crais held up his hands. "I am only passing the information on. The only thing I am certain of, is whatever Crichton's actual intentions, Scorpius believes that he plans to help him."
"So he doesn't need rescuing then," Rygel said, sounding relieved. "He seems to be handling things on his own."
"No," Aeryn said coldly. "He will not give Scorpius the information, and when Scorpius finds out he's lying, he'll kill him. We cannot let that happen."
"Aeryn," Crais said. "I do not know what you believe we can do."
Aeryn raised her head. "We go with Chiana's earlier plan."
Chiana's head snapped up. "What? Me?"
"Jool told me how you wanted to chase down the command carrier earlier," she said, sounding almost approving. "I suggest we do."
"Aeryn," D'Argo said, "You can't be serious."
"She's gone fahrbot!" Rygel yelled.
"No, I haven't," Aeryn said frostily. "Were none of you listening? We've been pardoned. If Scorpius wants what John is supposedly going to give him--he can't touch us. Any of us."
Chiana laughed delightedly at the simplicity of it all.
"Pardon me for interrupting," Pilot broke in, "but Moya and I must express our concern at approaching a Peacekeeper vessel."
"We will take my ship," D'Argo said.
"No," Crais interrupted. "We will take Talyn, your ship responds to voice command, yes?"
"Then you may need it as backup. Leave it close by, so you can call it to you if you must."
"Scorpius will never let Talyn near his carrier," Rygel said disbelievingly. "Pardons or not."
"I am sure he will need to take Talyn into custody," Crais agreed. "But perhaps that would be for the best."
"Crais--what are you talking about?" Aeryn demanded.
"If Talyn is docked, he will be easy to reach for our escape," Crais said.
"Oh yes," Rygel muttered. "It will only be swarming with Peacekeeper grunts."
"It sounds very dangerous," Pilot said. "Moya is very concerned, as am I."
"We cannot just leave John in Scorpius's hands," D'Argo said firmly.
Pilot frowned. "Agreed. Moya says Talyn is willing to help--we . . . give our blessing."
Crais nodded, then turned to Aeryn. "We must talk," he said. Together, they left.
x x x x x
Co-Kura watched Crichton scribbling equations on the back of his hand with unrestrained excitement. "Oh yes, yes, Crichton! This is magnificent, brilliant!"
"Huh?" John muttered distractedly, staring into the stream of data on the display in front of him, the data that had been retrieved from his own mind.
"The data--it's all coming to you now! Oh this is wonderful--wonderful!"
John barely spared him a glance. He looked at his hand in wonder--this wasn't what he was supposed to be doing. He was supposed to be sabotaging Scorpius--not helping. "Yeah," he said. "Glad to help." He just hoped the pen was washable ink.
John sighed and placed his head in his hands. He could really do with Gilina's help right about now. She could probably think of something, hack into the computer system and erase everything without breaking a sweat. But she wasn't here, no one was, just him--and he needed to figure out a way to do this on his own.
He just didn't know if he could.
x x x x x
"Crais." Disbelief and surprise tinged Scorpius's voice, as he looked at the former prisoners from Talyn's view screen.
Stepping beside Jool, Chiana glanced at D'Argo nervously--absurdly wishing Rygel had come with them. She trusted him to negotiate with Scorpius more than Crais, and since she had left to talk with Crais earlier, Aeryn had barely been seen. Rygel had stayed on Moya, though, after giving a long-winded speech about how he must stay to protect the ship that was his home, and see it fell to no harm during their absence.
Stark had remained on Moya per everyone else's advice, after they decided things would be smoother that way. The last Chiana had seen of him, he had been in Pilot's den, saying, "do not worry, Pilot, Moya, I will stay here--I will protect you." Pilot's answer had been to groan and allow his eyes to roll upwards. Chiana did not blame him, Stark and Rygel weren't exactly the most reassuring of allies to have.
"We wish to come aboard," Crais said evenly. "I know that we have been pardoned, due to a deal between yourself and Crichton. We wish to help. To provide . . . moral support for Crichton."
Chiana hid her eyes. Maybe she should have been the one to talk to Scorpius.
"Moral support?" Scorpius repeated disbelievingly. "Crais, certainly you are aware that I cannot allow you free range in a warship--even considering you've been pardoned."
"Of course," he said, clasping his hands behind his back. "I understand you will want to take Talyn into custody immediately. Guard him as you like, Scorpius, my only condition is no control collar."
"You are in no position to be making conditions," Scorpius said.
"On the contrary," Crais said with a small smile. "I believe you will find Crichton to be even more cooperative should you do as we wish."
"Have you spoken with him?" Scorpius asked carefully.
"No, of course not. I simply know he would not look kindly on the mistreatment of his friends."
Scorpius tilted his head back. "Last time I talked with him, John did not count you among his friends."
"Well he's with us," Chiana said suddenly, stepping forward. "And right now, that's friend enough. We take what we can get."
Scorpius seemed to consider. "Prepare to be brought in with a docking web," he said, and he cut the transmission.
Crais nodded his thanks to Chiana when the screen went blank, but she only stalked from the room. D'Argo's eyes followed her out.
Chiana knew exactly where to find Aeryn, and though part of her dreaded going there, she knew it had to be done. Still, the thought of seeing the quarters Aeryn had shared with the John Crichton that had died gave her chills.
Aeryn was standing in the center of the room, her back ram-rod straight, her eyes straight ahead. She didn't move when Chiana stepped behind her, but Chiana was not about to be ignored.
"This was your idea," she said. "Yours. And you leave us with Crais as our spokesperson? Where the frell were you?"
"Not now, Chiana," Aeryn said, her voice cracking as she tried to force all emotion from it.
"When then? When would you like to finally have this out? While we're on the command carrier and your negligence gets us all killed?"
"Look, if you have a problem with me…"
"I'm not the one with the problem!"
"Chiana," Aeryn said, her tone was soft, but still held very little infliction.
"Look, you should have handled things better. It shouldn't have been me trying to convince John he wasn't unwanted, it should have been you--" Chiana met her eyes. "You're the only one he would have listened too."
"I was with a John already," Aeryn said quietly.
"Yeah," Chiana said. "And it was easy to pretend that there wasn't another one that loved you just as much. I get it. This whole thing is about as frelled as things can be--but remember this, this John, the one in Scorpius's hands, he's the same guy. And he needs you. All of us. Don't let him down."
Chiana walked from the room, stopping only when she turned the corner and couldn't continue on. She leaned heavily against the wall, closed her eyes, and slid down to the floor. She shouldn't have done that--shouldn't judge, but Aeryn just didn't get it, any of this. She was being given a second chance at a love most people would spend their whole lives searching for and never find. Chiana could imagine what it had been like, to finally give yourself over to someone so completely only to watch them die--but things weren't that simple, because there was a John still living and he shared the very same soul.
He was just as important, and while Aeryn grieved for the one she lost, she was letting the other slip away.
x x x x x
Scorpius entered the wormhole research center, watching silently as John scribbled the answers he sought on his skin. Scorpius wasn't sure if John was writing everything that came to him on his own arm as an act of defiance, or simply as a result of distraction. Either way, the information was his now, because Scorpius had no intention of letting John leave until he had everything he wanted.
And he would get it by any means.
"Crichton, Co-Kura--how are things progressing?"
"Magnificently," Co-Kura said, shaking with excitement. "We're close. Very close."
John turned to glare at Scorpius from the corner of his eye, but said nothing. He went back to what he was doing, writing on the palm of his hand. Neither Scorpius nor Co-Kura had looked close enough to notice he had switched from writing complex equations to drawing the cast of The Simpsons. He decided that was probably for the best.
"John," Scorpius started, "I have some good news."
John didn't look up. "Good for you or good for me?"
"Your friends have shown up."
John's head snapped up. "What?"
"They will be joining us shortly."
John jumped to his feet and took a step towards Scorpius. The techs standing nearby watched nervously. "No . . . no! Send them away. You gave them pardons, you leave them out of this, Scorpius."
"Oh, but they asked to come aboard, John--as guests, I assure you," Scorpius said with a smile. "And I think it is a very good idea. I know you've finally seen reason, that you want to help, but it can not hurt to have some extra incentive."
"You son of a bitch! You touch one of them, hell, even Crais--and you get nothing. And I don't care if the whole universe goes to hell because of it."
Scorpius tilted his head. "Understood. But know this, John--" he moved close, and John just barely resisted the urge to back away. "If you don't give me something, someone will get hurt."
"I don't respond well to threats," John said coldly. "If we're going to work together, let's work together, Scorp. I can't focus if I have to watch you out of the corner of my eye. I need to trust you."
"Oh, you can, John. You can." But his reassuring smile had the opposite of the intended effect.
x x x x x
John stood nervously in the docking bay, waiting for his friends to show up. He didn't know what they were doing here. He had been nearly resigned to never seeing them again. This complicated everything.
He just hoped that the other him, at least, had the sense not to come. Scorpy would have a field day if he knew there were two John Crichtons. But knowing . . . himself, as he did, he wouldn't be entirely shocked if his mirror image showed up with a grin, and a bomb strapped to his chest. He mulled over that idea for a moment. It had possibilities. He'd have to remember that.
They appeared from around the corner, wary but with their heads held high. He couldn't help the smile that formed as, for an instant, all his worries faded away and he just took them in. Jool was nervous and sticking close to Chiana, who, for her part, was looking around with her signature sultry grin. Crais and D'Argo were behind them, battle-ready and tense. He didn't see Aeryn at first, not until D'Argo moved a bit to his left, and he caught a glimpse of her standing still as a statue--her gaze straight ahead in his direction, but boring through him with an indifference that broke his heart.
A chill ran up his spine at the look in her eyes, and he broke contact with the disconcerting stare. So this was what it would be like from now on? He didn't exist for her at all anymore. She had a John Crichton, she didn't need him. None of them did. He wondered again what they were doing here. If they hadn't come, he could have done what he planned, got rid of Scorpy's data, torn him from his Peacekeeper throne---the crew of Moya would no longer have been hunted, and he'd be dead, leaving only one of him.
He noticed Pip's grin falter when she caught sight of him, relief shinning in her eyes as Jool offered a small wave of greeting. D'Argo had that same strange sense of relief in his gaze, though both Crais and Aeryn's eyes remained glazed over with a blankness that was legacy to their training. He didn't understand the relief. And he felt the smallest tingling of hope with the realization that maybe they had actually missed him.
"Hey, guys," he said, filling his voice with the bravado he had to fall back on so often lately, "Nice of you to stop by."
"Crichton," Chiana said, looking as though she wanted to rush at him but was holding back for decorum's sake. "Long time no see."
John raised an eyebrow. "Did you really think this was a good idea?"
"Oh yes, John," Scorpius said, appearing behind him. He let one of his gloved hands slide across John's shoulders, daring the human to flinch. "It is an excellent idea. Lieutenant Braca, will you please show them to their accommodations."
Braca nodded reluctantly. "This way," he said.
Aeryn followed him without a word, but the rest of them stayed where they were.
"We'd like a moment with John, if that's alright with you," D'Argo said, with false deference.
"Of course," Scorpius said, giving them a sly grin before moving off. "But do not take too long, John. We are running out of time."
"Yeah, Scorpy," John called. "I get it. I'm on the clock."
When Scorpius had disappeared, John turned towards them and was about to demand answers--but Crais cut him off. "Not here. Follow me."
x x x x x
John looked around in disbelief. "You brought us to a day spa?"
Crais gave a long-suffering sigh. "The mist will keep our conversation from being listened in on."
"Super," he said, hopping up onto the edge of a large bath, and letting his hand slide across the surface of the water.
Chiana moved over to him, and let her arms slip around his neck. "It's good to see you, old man."
He grinned crookedly at her. "You too, little girl--I've missed you guys, even Rygel. Where is Buckwheat the sixteenth anyway?"
"He's on Moya with Stark…guarding them," D'Argo said, sounding less than convinced.
John laughed. "Okay. Question number two--what the hell are you guys doing here? And what's up with my favorite Peacekeeper? The other me piss her off, or something?"
"Not exactly," Jool said delicately. She took a deep breath. "He's dead."
John was caught off guard, and his smile slipped away. "What?"
"We can't get into the details now, John," D'Argo broke in gently. "We need to know what you're doing."
John leaned back, stunned. Suddenly the way Aeryn looked at him made sense. Not like he didn't exist. But like he was a ghost.
"What I'm doing…?" he repeated vaguely.
D'Argo appeared to becoming the slightest bit annoyed. "Yes, John. You're on a command carrier, SCORPIUS'S command carrier, apparently working with him. We'd like to know what fahrbot plan you have to get out of it."
"My plans didn't actually include getting out of it," he whispered, still shaken.
Chiana's hand had slid down to rest on John's arm, and at this confession she tightened her grip. "Well, we'll, ah, just have to think of something."
"We will fight our way out," D'Argo said decisively. "Aeryn is going to try and find a weapon's locker of some sort the moment she gets rid of Braca. We will retrieve weapons, and--"
"D'Argo, D'Argo," John cut him off, jumping to his feet. "Slow down, man, do you hear yourself? We're on a command carrier. We'd be dead before we got three feet into the docking bay--besides, I can't leave."
D'Argo put his hands on his hips, in what John found a creepily accurate impression of ole' Grandma Crichton. "What do you mean you can't leave?"
John met his eyes. "Harvey and I've got a plan."
"Harvey and you…?" he echoed, disbelievingly. "You're listening to the neural-clone?"
"Yeah, well, he was all I had at the time," John said, waving a dismissive hand. "And he has his uses."
Crais frowned and stepped into the conversation. "What is your plan, Crichton?"
John took a deep breath. "End it," he said. "Take Scorpius's wormhole project out once and for all. Even without me, he might eventually get there. I can't let that happen. I won't."
"John, this is insane," D'Argo said. "How do you expect--"
"I don't know, D'Argo," John snapped. "But I have access. Scorpy thinks I'm working with him. He trusts me more than he should. I'll find a way, I have to." He turned to Crais. "Crais, you commanded this ship, is there any way to get rid of the data stores?"
Crais shook his head. "No, there are far too many safety protocols protecting against just such an event, back up files upon back up files--it cannot be done. You would have to destroy the entire ship."
John's hands clenched and then opened. "Okay," he said. "Then maybe we destroy it."
Crais gave a sly half-grin, and didn't raise his eyes. "I was hoping you would say that."
John heard Chiana, behind him, laugh with disbelief.
Jool shook her head. "An entire command carrier?" she said. "You cannot be serious."
"No," D'Argo said. "Crais, you can't possibly--"
"Aeryn and I have discussed it," he said. "We have decided it is the only course of action."
"What?" John broke in. "You've discussed this with Aeryn? She's okay with this?"
"Yes," Crais said with a nod. "Aeryn, Talyn and I are of one mind on this."
"Glad you have consensus within your dream family," Crichton muttered.
"What does Talyn have to do with this?" Jool asked with a frown.
Crais looked upwards, his expression regretful. "Talyn has, become…increasingly hard to control. Disturbed. To continue this way, I fear, would result in disaster. I have been forced to consider shutting him down."
"You can't do that!" Chiana shouted, advancing towards him. John grabbed her arm to hold her back.
"No," Crais said. "I'm not going to. Because another opportunity has presented itself. A way to stop Scorpius, help keep him from gaining wormhole technology. Talyn and I will starburst…in the docking bay."
Jool gasped. "But Leviathans can't starburst in enclosed spaces, you'll both be killed!"
Crais lowered his head. "It will be the hero's death that Talyn deserves."
"Crais," John said softly. "You're going to die?"
Crais blinked, before turning to meet his gaze. "Scorpius must be stopped, I understand this. For all the access and leverage you may have gained from him, you cannot do this. I'm the only one that can. Talyn--he, he is willing to do it. To protect Moya. It is the only way--the only way the crew will have time to evacuate, the only way to destroy all of the data."
"And Aeryn is just okay with this?" John demanded. He found it hard to believe.
"Aeryn," Crais said, "was convinced you were going to get yourself killed in an effort to stop Scorpius." John met Crais's eyes unflinchingly, but Crais turned sadly away. "I believe she was willing to trade your sacrifice for mine. It is only fitting, as you have done it once already."
"What are you talking about?" John demanded.
"This isn't the time to get into it," D'Argo broke in quietly. "Are we actually considering this?"
"It has been decided," Crais said. "Aeryn is making preparations as we speak."
"Aeryn mention this to any of you?" John asked them.
Their shocked looks were answer enough.
"She didn't say a thing," Chiana said. "But then, she hardly says anything anymore."
"Talyn is being held under guard as expected," Crais began. "But Scorpius has held to his promise of no control collar. Together, Aeryn and I will be able to get me aboard Talyn."
"I'll help," John said immediately.
Crais shook his head. "You cannot. You would be more of a hindrance than anything. Scorpius has people watching you. There are two soldiers waiting outside the doors to shadow you even now. No, what I need from you is a distraction."
"A distraction?" John repeated.
"I need you to keep Scorpius occupied. He does not trust me."
"He doesn't trust any of us," John said.
Crais eyed him thoughtfully. "I think some part of him trusts--wants to trust you. He does not think clearly where you are concerned, Crichton. I'm beginning to believe you have that affect on Peacekeepers."
"It evens out," John said. "Peacekeepers have done enough to cloud my thinking."
Crais looked away. "Aeryn and I should be ready within the arn, I will need you to provide a distraction at that time."
As Crais turned to walk away, John had the sudden urge to call him back and thank him--but though he hated himself for it, something wouldn't let him. Too much had happened between them for that.
"Crais!" he called. Crais turned slowly, and their eyes met. John could see Crais didn't expect a thank you, but he couldn't let the man walk to his death without saying anything at all. "I'll get you your distraction," he said. And they both knew he was saying more than that.
x x x x x
John walked through the corridors in a daze. The other Crichton was dead, Crais soon to follow. Thousands of lives were about to be threatened so that countless more would be safer in the future. All because of him--always because of him.
He could hear the two guards Crais had mentioned break off and move down separate halls when he got closer to the research control room--inside of which Co-Kura would take over baby-sitting duties.
But before he entered, he felt another presence behind him--just as close to silent, just as trained as the two guards who had split off, but far more familiar. He spun around and Aeryn was standing at the end of the hall, just feet away--a pulse rifle thrown over her shoulder. He wasn't surprised she had managed to get her hands on it, and he wasn't surprised no one had attempted to take it back.
"Aeryn," he whispered--he didn't know what else to say.
She walked towards him, but it looked like it was painful for her to do. "Crichton," she said. And he got the feeling that if they had been in a different situation, she might have left it at that. "You know the plan?" she asked, her voice professional.
"Yeah. Distraction. Got it," he said. "Are you sure that we--"
"It has been decided," she interrupted, her tone clipped.
"Aeryn, don't you think we should maybe think about this--"
"Not here, no."
"Knows what he's doing. We have thought about this. You don't have all the information yet, but this must happen."
"You can't just decide--" John started, frustrated.
"This is how it's going to go," she interrupted. "You'll do as you're told if you want to live."
He stared hard in her eyes, and took a step closer--reaching out to grab her arm. "Do you…want to live?"
She lifted her chin. "I'm doing what I have to."
"You're taking all the risks," he said. "I can help."
"Keeping Scorpius occupied is risk enough," she snapped. "If it were up to me, you wouldn't be doing even that."
"I'm the only one that can," he said firmly.
"Which is why I'm not stopping you," she said, pulling her arm out of his grip. "Now you don't stop me."
The doors to the research center opened with a flourish, and a woman stepped out. She paused when she caught sight of John and Aeryn, and with a sly grin, she stepped between them. Her uniform was slit almost to the belly button, leaving very little to the imagination, and as she approached she slid her hand across her chest discreetly, pulling it across the exposed skin and collecting small beads of her sweat.
She came to stand inches away from John, ignoring Aeryn entirely. He was completely caught off guard.
"I would very much like to talk with you," she whispered, touching his face.
John felt a subtle jolt, and he had the sudden urge to move closer to her. Aeryn was between them again before he had the chance to move--her pulse rifle aimed unerringly at the woman's head. "He's already talking with someone," she said.
The woman's eyes narrowed. "Aeryn Sun," she said. "The traitor."
"That's right," Aeryn said. "Now I suggest you get on your way."
"You are a fool," she sneered. "And you will regret pointing a weapon at me."
"I doubt it," Aeryn said coldly. "Now move along before I do more than just point."
John leaned against the wall, dizzy, and barely registering the encounter. He heard the woman leave with relief, and turned to thank Aeryn.
But she had already walked away.
x x x x x
John stumbled into the research center. Co-Kura Strappa glanced at him nervously, and Scorpius was pacing agitatedly across the room. John glanced at him warily, Scorpy didn't lose control over nothing.
"Trouble in Paradise?" he asked, as he dropped down into a chair.
Scorpius looked over at him from the corner of his eye. "I need you to hurry, John."
"Goin' fast as I can. I can't unlock the knowledge consciously." He leaned back in the chair, eyes focused on the data swirling in front of him. "You're going to have to be patient."
"Oh, I am very patient," Scorpius said, walking over to him. "But others are not willing to be so obliging."
"You talking about that chick that forgot to put her shirt on this morning?"
"She will shut me down, John. I cannot allow that to happen."
John looked up at him. "I feel for you, Scorp, I really do. And I'm working on it. Go away now, you're bothering me." John waved his hand dismissively, the way he might Harvey, never once stopping to consider that this particular Scorpius could do real harm.
Scorpius let out a faint growl and stalked from the room. John watched him go, knowing that even the half-Scarren's patience was running out--he leaned forward, watching the data—and knew it didn't matter. Soon there would be no wormhole project.
And if they got lucky, no Scorpius.
x x x x x
"Okay," D'Argo said, walking over to Jool and Chiana. "Aeryn just commed. They're almost ready. They want their distraction now, we have to tell John."
"I'll tell him," Chiana said quickly, before slipping down another corridor.
She ignored the glances of the Peacekeepers as she walked. She figured they had enough trouble headed their way without her challenging every last one that looked at her sideways. Tempting as it was.
She reached the research center just as John was rushing out, and she grabbed his arm to keep him from walking right by her. "Hey, hey—what's the rush?"
"Scorpy summons me," John said tiredly, turning to face her and using all his effort to give her a small grin.
"Well, ah, that's good," Chiana said with a nod. Though she really didn't think it was. "Because Aeryn needs that distraction now."
John nodded, and ran a hand through his hair. "Right. Okay. You got a way off this ship, Pip? You should find D'Argo and Jool and get the hell out of here now."
She smiled. "Yeah, yeah—we're going to. D'Argo has his ship nearby. Peacekeepers haven't bothered with it, think its derelict. We'll be fine."
He grabbed her hand and squeezed it, before backing up and spinning to continue on his way to Scorpius.
"Hey, Crichton!" she called.
He stopped and turned back to face her.
"Be careful, alright?"
He flashed her another grin, one that took less effort, and then disappeared around the corner.
x x x x x
Gathering his confidence, John headed towards Scorpius's office. He could handle Nosferatu, no problem. They said all you had to do to get rid of a fear was face it, and he was forced to do so every single day. Seeing Scorpius dressed up in insane get ups on a regular basis did wonders at taking away his menace.
So he was feet in front of the door, ready to face Scorpius and keep him occupied, when as usual, something happened that was out of his hands. Something to throw him off balance. The woman from earlier appeared behind him, and in one quick move, she had him held against the wall.
He met her eyes, and was a little disturbed at what he saw. Not making an effort to pull away, he straightened up as best as he could. "Do I...know you?" he asked, a sense of the ironic tingeing his words.
"I am Commandant Grayza, and you...are the outlaw John Crichton."
"Outlaw. I like it. It's got that romantic hero flair."
"I want you to tell me, John Crichton, do you intend to help Scorpius?"
Now he tried to back away, but he had nowhere to go. "Scorpy Sue?" he said. "Why he's my favorite person in all the universe. I'm going to give him whatever he wants."
"You're lying," she said, admiringly, moving far too close for comfort. "Perhaps...we can be allies."
"Listen, Mata Hari--"
Clearly not listening, Grayza ran a hand along her chest, and lifted it to rest on his cheek. He stilled suddenly, before gasping and losing his balance. Grayza caught him gleefully, holding him up against the wall.
"What are your intentions here?" she asked again.
His eyes rolled back into his head as she ran a hand through his hair. "Tell me, Crichton," she demanded. "Tell me your plans."
"I ain't got no plans," he gasped. "Don't matter anyway. They never work."
"Your record assures otherwise," she said slowly, watching him intently. "What if I said…I want you to destroy Scorpius for me?"
Breathing heavily, and off balance, John still managed to gasp out, "I'd say do it yourself."
Frowning, Grayza ran her hand along her chest again, then held it beneath John's nose. His eyes rolled into his head again, until all that could be seen was white. "Do not fight me, Crichton," she whispered. "I can help you. We want the same things."
Inexplicably, John reached out towards her in a haze, his hand running along the nape of her neck. "And what…do you think I want?"
"Peace," she said fiercely. "I can give us all peace, but Scorpius stands in my way. Removing him by official channels will take too long."
"Bureaucracy," John whispered, moving closer to her. "It's the same everywhere."
"Will you help me?" she asked him.
Even as something in him screamed to move away, John found himself nodding. "Yes. Anything--anything you want me to do."
x x x x x
Aeryn walked over to Crais inside the revitalization chamber, the mist swirling around her feet.
"Is everything ready?" he asked, not looking up.
"I've contacted the others, they're going to tell Crichton to start his distraction. We should head to the docking bay in a few microts."
Crais nodded and sank down onto the edge of one of the baths.
Aeryn watched him. "Are you having second thoughts?" she asked. "You do not have to be the one to do this."
Crais looked up at her, knowing what she was offering—and knowing, without a doubt, he did have to be the one to do it. Or she would. "No," he said. "I'm not having second thoughts. This must be done. We have both seen the devastation a wormhole weapon can wield—Scorpius can not have it. No one should."
"No," she said darkly. "No one should. Not even Crichton."
x x x x x
"Then tell me…your plans for Scorpius," Grayza demanded sweetly.
John closed his eyes. He wanted to tell her everything as much as he had ever wanted anything in his life. It was almost painful to hold back the truth--but something told him Grayza had her heart set on running this command carrier herself, and wouldn't take kindly to it being destroyed. Still, he had to give her something. "We want to kill him," John gasped out eventually, and it was true enough, they did. That just wasn't the plan.
Grayza grinned fiercely, not doubting for a moment it was the truth. "Perfect," she whispered. "I knew we wanted the same things."
"Sure," John said, helplessly running his hand along her arm.
"I want you to do it. Kill him," Grayza said, forcing his eyes to meet hers. "Go through with your plans. And come back to me."
John nodded vaguely and she smiled and released him, letting him collapse against the wall as she walked away. He stood there for a moment, unable to move, as he watched her leave.
"Why do I always attract the psychos?" he whispered, before taking a stumbling step forward, his hand reaching out for the wall to steady him.
Suddenly Scorpius ran up behind him, grabbed his arm and swung him around. The world shifted and John fell again against the wall--he looked around wildly but Scorpius was gone.
No, not Scorpius. Harvey.
"Not now," he growled, before taking off again.
"You cannot listen to her!"
"Give the neural-clone a gold star," he snapped.
"John, she is using heppel oil. It will cloud your thinking. You must not let it."
"Yeah, I'll work on that. Go away."
"You must stick to the plan."
"I'm trying to! So GO AWAY!"
A passing tech froze, his gaze shifting nervously to John's. John sighed upon realizing he'd been having his side of the conversation out loud. He waved reassuringly at the tech, who promptly ran away.
"Distraction," he muttered. "Distractions, distractions. Maybe I ought to just go on the flight deck and be myself." With a frustrated sigh, he pushed open the door and walked into Scorpius's office.
x x x x x
Crais moved down the corridors of his ship—his former ship, and watched all the people that passed him by. He recognized most of the faces, but knew none of their names. He had never taken the time to learn them, had never cared. Now he would be responsible for putting them all at risk.
It had to be done, he knew. This ship had become an instrument for Scorpius, a way to exert however little control he had gained over wormholes—and it could not be allowed to continue. Crais knew what the other Crichton had done with this power, a Dreadnought, indestructible—gone within the blink of an eye.
With power like that in the hands of a madman, no one would be safe.
Crais steeled himself and walked into the docking bay, glancing at Talyn, hovering in the distance, before turning his attention to the guards stalking towards him.
"I want to get aboard my ship," he said.
The Lieutenant in charge smirked at him, and adjusted his grip on his gun. "Scorpius says you're not allowed near it without his express permission. Under threat of death."
Crais sighed and shook his head. "It is my ship—and I do not have the time for this."
The Lieutenant aimed his weapon at him. "Leave now, Captain, or suffer the consequences."
x x x x x
As John was thrown to the floor, his right shoulder slamming into Scorpy's big chair, he decided that though this wasn't exactly the distraction he had in mind, it appeared to be doing the trick. All he had done was walk in the room, and Scorpius had immediately grabbed hold of his jacket, only to toss him across the room as though he weighed nothing--Scorpy was not happy about something, and he had a pretty good guess at what.
"My my--Scorpy Sue," he whispered. "You're losing your cool."
Scorpius dropped down on top of him, his face inches away from his own. "That woman," he hissed. "Will shut me down."
John glared at him and tilted his head back as the room spun, tendrils of blood began to trail down the side of his face. "I'm doing all I can," he said tiredly. "This isn't helping. This won't get what you want."
Scorpius growled and grabbed his arm, pulling him to his feet and slamming him against the wall. "We are running out of TIME."
"There's never enough time," John whispered slowly. "Welcome to my life."
Scorpius slammed him against the wall again and stepped away. Laughing, John slid to the floor. "Oh, Grasshopper, you're so screwed."
x x x x x
Crais smirked at the barrel of the weapon, not intimidated in the least. "You should have let me pass," he said, then he pulled a stun bomb out and tossed it--in a flash, the guards were flying to the floor, and Aeryn was sliding down from the rafters on a length of red rope.
Together, they easily knocked out those left conscious.
The path to Talyn now clear, both of them went silent--staring at the magnificent ship that would soon be gone. Aeryn turned to face Crais, the commander that had once vowed to kill her, the Captain she had once wanted to please, and later wanted to see destroyed. So much had happened it was almost hard to comprehend it all.
Somewhere along the line, however, they became not so very different. She would miss him, not the aching horrible grief she had felt when she'd watched her John slip away, but there was pain still. And pride, because he had become so much more than he had been.
"Now you go," Aeryn said softly. She gave him a fond pat on the cheek, then fled the room.
Crais watched her go for a moment, making sure she reached the boundaries of the docking bay before returning his attention to Talyn. Somehow, with the tall Peacekeeper walls, the red and the black, set as a backdrop to his magnificent ship--Talyn looked more beautiful than he ever had before.
Crais approached, knowing he was short on time. Crichton could not keep Scorpius occupied indefinitely, and someone was bound to walk by and see the fallen guards. Only when he was safely barricaded within Talyn did he allow himself to pause, to breathe. There was no relief. Not yet. That would come later.
He could feel a surge of power within his veins, and vaguely, he wondered if it was something akin to that adrenaline that Crichton had spoken of. Whatever it was, it gave him the strength he needed, the strength he had been unable to find before--when all that had mattered were promotions and power, respect and fear.
Tauvo had had strength. A fierce kind of power that set him apart, but Tauvo had never had his drive--and Crais had always admired that. Tauvo cared more for his duty than his next promotion, and he knew without a doubt he would have had his brother's blessing in this, in his last act.
Crais knelt down, touching Talyn gently, feeling a tremor beneath his cold fingers. "Talyn," he said. "It is almost time. We have come so far together…grown so much, and this end--it will complete us." Crais closed his eyes, feeling Talyn respond to him even if now he could not directly understand. "Maybe now, we will both find peace."
A moment passed that Crais did not move, and then he stood, tall and proud, the way he had when this command carrier had been his. "Scorpius," he said, and he knew the entire ship would hear him--it only made his voice stronger. "I am just making my final...good-byes."
Scorpius's voice, curious, and mildly tense, sounded over the coms. "Where are you, Crais?"
Crais looked upwards, and around him, in his blood, he could feel Talyn powering up. "I am standing in your heart," he said, his voice controlled passion. "And I am about to squeeze."
x x x x x
"You are the most repellant of creatures, Scorpius. You weren't born into Peacekeepers. You weren't…conscripted against your will. You chose to be one."
Scorpius spun, glancing at the walls as though he should be able to see through them, locate this threat and destroy it with a look. "I want the bay doors sealed. All prowlers--scrambled. That hybrid must not get away!" he yelled, and behind him, he could hear Crichton breathing evenly--unafraid.
Braca's voice sounded over the coms. "The hybrid's building to maximum power—inside the hanger… I don't think he's planning to escape."
Crais continued speaking, heedless of Scorpius's rising agitation. "The last time I left this ship…my ship, I did so under a veil of secrecy. You forced that situation. You took away my command. You stole my life from me…"
John looked up, and watched as Scorpius's gloved hands clenched together. Once, Aeryn had told him about an encounter she had had with Crais on the Gammak base—and she had said to Crais almost the same things Crais was saying now. As he watched Scorpius's fall from grace, he wondered if the Scarren half-breed would ever give a similar speech to him.
"Well this time, Scorpius," Crais said. "I am not leaving quietly."
"Somebody find that fool... and get him out of that ship!" Scorpius turned angrily, and when he got no immediate response, shouted again, "Somebody get that traitor off that ship!"
Nobody came to take him off his ship, nobody stopped him. Crais took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "Talyn. Starburst."
For a moment, the words hung in the air. Scorpius froze--disbelief, denial, red tinged anger each fighting for control. Slowly, he turned, lowering his gaze to meet John's eyes where he sat still on the floor. John stared up at him blankly, giving nothing away. "I suggest you hang on to something," he said.
Scorpius made some kind of sound, not quite a scream, not exactly a growl. John wasn't sure what it was, because it was so far from human. Taking his chance, he pulled himself to his feet and stumbled from the room. He had only reached the hallway when the ship tilted and he was thrown against the wall. He saw Scorpius, still in his office, fall to the floor. Then he got his balance back and ran.
x x x x x
He was still running when he saw D'Argo, Chiana and Jool enter the corridor from the other direction. He slid abruptly to a stop.
"D'Argo!" he yelled. "What are you guys still doing here?"
"We came back to make sure you could get off," Chiana answered.
When D'Argo went to step closer, he quickly drew back instead. "What is that stench?"
John glanced at him, offended, before returning to the matters at hand. "Where's Aeryn?" he demanded.
"She's taking a Prowler," Chiana said. "She'll be fine. She can handle herself."
"Crichton," Chiana continued. "You should come with us. We're running out of time."
"No, no--" John said abruptly, not sure at first why he had protested so suddenly. His module, he remembered, he couldn't leave it. Or was it something else?
"What, you're going to get that frelling module? John, it's safer if you come with us," D'Argo said firmly.
"No," he said, backing away. Pieces of his encounter with Grayza flashed through his mind. He could hear her whispering.
"Go through with your plans. And come back to me."
"I can't hold it back any longer," Harvey yelled suddenly from beside him. "You'll have to fight against her oil yourself."
John turned to give him a glare, noticing his friends exchange worried looks at the action.
"Come back to me," Grayza's voice whispered in his mind again, and desire built up within him--he suddenly wished she were near, wanted to see her eyes…
He shook his head angrily, the last thing he needed was a female Harvey whispering in his head--his mind was frelled enough. But still, he couldn't shake it.
"I have to--" he started, frowning.
"You have to what?" Chiana demanded.
"Grayza?" Jool echoed. "Who--"
"Harvey says ah…heppel oil," John motioned wildly next to his head. "More bad guys that like to frell with my mind."
"Sounds like she's after more than that," Chiana said darkly, wondering if she had time to go kill the tralk before they had to leave.
"Heppel oil," Jool says incredulously.
"That's a myth," D'Argo said firmly. "Though," he admitted reluctantly, "It would explain the smell."
"No, not…definitely not a myth," John said shaking his head. He started to back away. "I should—"
"Hey, hey!" Chiana yelled, she stepped forward and trapped his face between her hands. "You've been nally-whipped. I need you to focus. You CANNOT go back to this woman."
"Right," he said, looking in her eyes and nodding. "Right. Of course not."
With a sigh of relief, Chiana released her grip. "Okay. Let's go then. This ship is falling to pieces. D'Argo's already called for his, it's headed towards the Hammon docking bay."
John shook his head, and this time it actually helped to clear it. Without Grayza in his mind, and Harvey off hiding in one of his fonder memories, he remembered his module--and wasn't about to leave it behind.
"John, I will tongue you," D'Argo said, angrily pointing at him.
"No, no it's fine," he said. "I just gotta grab my module. I'll be fine."
"John," D'Argo sighed.
"Don't worry. I'll see you on Moya--promise," John spun, pulling himself together, and ran down the opposite corridor.
Chiana stood looking despondently after him, until Jool grabbed her arm and led her after D'Argo.
x x x x x
John had been hoping he was free and clear now--just grab the module and go. Get back to Moya, break out the champagne. But the moment he rounded the corner to one of the last hallways leading to the docking bay, Co-Kura was suddenly charging at him, and he was getting thrown into a wall for the frelling six hundredth time that day. He really missed Winona.
The alien's stubby little blue fingers wrapped around his throat and held him immobile, choking, John's hands reached up instinctively and tried to pull them away--but Co-Kura was a lot stronger than he looked.
"You had something to do with this, didn't you?"
"You don't understand," John tried to say, but whether or not he formed actual words he wasn't sure. He could barely breathe. "Co-Kura, I can explain--"
"You're a scientist!" he yelled, outraged and terrified all at once. "How could you?"
The fingers around his neck tightened and then released at the sound of a pulse blast, and with wide eyes, Co-Kura fell away from him--betrayal lingering in his eyes even as the life in them burned quickly away.
John fell with him, his legs giving out as he struggled to catch his breath. He looked at Co-Kura in shock, lifeless right in front of him. The one person on this ship that, at the start, had been kind to him.
He looked up. Aeryn was gazing down at him with a look in her eyes that wasn't quite concern--but he would have been blind to miss the fear. The pistol she was holding was probably still warm.
"Aeryn, what have you done?" he whispered. His eyes were drawn back to Co-Kura in horror, this whole situation, what they were doing, suddenly transforming and becoming real. Inescapable. What had they done?
"He was trying to kill you," she said simply. "Can you get to your module?"
"Ye-ah," he said, still trying to catch his breath. She was gone again before he finished, but this time he didn't watch her leave.
He reached out slowly and touched Co-Kura's face—with a shaky hand, he closed the scientist's eyes, closing his own at the same time. He collapsed onto the floor, covering his face with his hands as everything spun out of control around him.
He could hear people screaming in the distance, their frantic footsteps as they tried to find their way off this collapsing ship. He knew he had to get off it too, so he forced himself to his feet, and not looking back at Co-Kura's still form, he started back towards the docking bay. One thought stuck in his mind the whole way—how could they still call themselves the good guys after this?
x x x x x
"You are a fool!"
John slid to a stop at the unwelcome voice, and pressed himself against the wall, out of sight. Out in the middle of the docking bay, facing off with Grayza, stood Scorpius and Braca.
And to their right and closer, was his module. Forgotten, but still surrounded.
Grayza looked unimpressed by Scorpius's claims, and ignoring him, she faced Braca. "Lieutenant," she said. "Scorpius is obviously unfit for command--making deals with criminals, wasting funds on hopeless research. Arrest him. Now."
"Braca," Scorpius growled. "Shoot her. She is a traitor, and a fool."
Braca shook his head, and lifted his pulse rifle to aim at Scorpius instead. "Sorry, sir," he said, clasping a pair of handcuffs around Scorpius's wrists, Scorpius growled but Braca's weapon kept him at bay.
John frowned as he watched, knowing that Scorpy's super suit most likely could survive the blast--and knowing, without a doubt, that Braca wasn't exactly hard to take out. He wondered what Scorpy was up to.
"Get him in the ship, Lieutenant," Grayza said with disgust.
Dutifully, Braca pushed Scorpius into a Marauder, and remaining in the docking bay, Grayza motioned to a guard. "Have you found Crichton?" she demanded.
"Find him! And do not bother getting off this ship if you do not."
Grayza spun and entered the Marauder then, apparently having no qualms about getting off the ship with or without Crichton herself. Luckily, the guards sent to search for him went straight to their Prowlers and took off beside the Marauder, escaping the ship. They'd probably tell her they had found him dead. John wouldn't blame them.
When the bay was clear, he started off for his module. He checked it over quickly, making sure Scorpius hadn't had it torn apart--but it looked to be untouched. Exhausted, he leaned against it and watched as spider-web cracks appeared in the wall across from him, spreading outwards and growing wider as fires sprung up on both sides.
The ship wouldn't last much longer.
"Aeryn," he said, hoping she would answer him.
"Crichton," came the crisp response. "What's wrong? Are you off the ship?"
"Just about. Did you find a Prowler?"
"I'm on my way out now. I suggest you do the same."
John nodded, too tired to realize she wouldn't see it. Across from him, a piece of the rafters fell with a crash to the ground, and he decided leaving was very good advice.
He lowered himself into the module, and flew away without looking back.
x x x x x
John walked through Moya's corridors, letting his hand slip across her side, pretending that maybe it could provide some small comfort. He could hear her pain with every step, feel it beneath his feet. She had lost her child, and nothing he told himself made him feel any less responsible for it.
He knew that Talyn was headed for destruction long before now--the ship had even fired on Moya in its confusion. He knew that wasn't his fault. It was just that everything seemed to center on him, crash down on his shoulders, and it was getting harder and harder to remain standing under the weight.
He had finally gotten the story of John Crichton's death from Chiana, and he knew now why Crais and Aeryn both had been so fiercely determined to stop Scorpius. He now understood the magnitude of the power he possessed, and he knew they could have done nothing else. It didn't make it easier.
He didn't know how he had ended up there, but when he pulled himself from his thoughts he was standing in the doorway to the terrace. Aeryn was in the middle of the room, standing staring at the stars--her hair pulled in a tight braid that hung down her back.
He almost turned around and left her there, he knew it was what she was silently pleading he do. But she wouldn't even look at him now, and he didn't know how much he could take. He couldn't stand this distance between them, he had accepted it when the other John was alive and he had no choice, but however tragically--the situation had changed.
He was the one and the only again, but all she could see in him was a shadow of the man she had loved.
"Aeryn," he said softly.
She went tense--said nothing.
"We have to talk," he continued. "This isn't working."
"No, it's not," she said finally, and went she spoke her voice was cold. She sounded like she had the day they had met. "That's why I'm leaving."
"Look," John said. "No, don't go, we should talk about this--"
Aeryn turned to face him. "Not here, not this room," she said. "I'm leaving Moya."
John paled. "You can't."
"I can do what I like," she said, raising her head.
He walked over to her, tried to find something of the woman he loved in the eyes of the soldier before him. "I'm asking," he said. "I'm asking you not to go."
"Don't ask me that," she said, and for the first time since she had shown up in his life again, he could hear emotion in her voice.
Her heart was breaking just like his, but she wouldn't let him make it all go away. She wouldn't let him close--too afraid she would lose him too and it would start all again.
He stepped up to her, trying to get close enough to touch and she went rigid, staring through him as he reached to place his hand on her cheek. "Maybe you don't think I'm your John anymore," he whispered brokenly. "But you're still my Aeryn. And you're killing me."
She winced, a small break in her composure before she turned to stone again.
"You were willing to forget me for him, Aeryn," he whispered. "It's a strange situation. It isn't fair, it isn't sane. But I love you just like he did—and he would want you to be happy, I know he would, because I would. I do."
Aeryn pulled away from him. "It isn't that easy."
"It wouldn't be us if it was easy. But you have got to take a chance on me, Aeryn, or everything we've gone through together—it will all have been for nothing."
"I do not have to," Aeryn said. "I never had to. I let myself get attached. It was a mistake."
"So you would give it up then," John demanded. "You would forget everything we've shared together if it would take the pain away? Because I wouldn't. Even though my heart is breaking, I wouldn't give the memories for anything."
Aeryn turned away from him. "I wouldn't either, but it's gone now. Over. That's all they are now, Crichton. Memories."
"It doesn't have to be all, Aeryn," he shouted, drawing back and trying not to let his emotions get out of hand. "I'm here. I'm still here."
"Promise me you always will be," Aeryn said, not looking at him. "Promise me that and I'll stay."
"You know I can't do that," he said. "Not any more than you could give that promise to me."
"Then we'll both be better off," she said, raising her head and starting for the door.
John followed after her and grabbed her arm, she swung around at the contact and John had to jump backwards to keep from getting hit. He grabbed her wrist to stop her hand's momentum, and met her eyes. "You don't believe that. Don't tell me this is better."
She pulled away and glared at him, sparking back to life before his eyes. But it was only anger that broke through the Peacekeeper façade. "You do not know what I have gone through!" she shouted. "I can not live through it again, Crichton."
"I don't know?" he demanded. "Maybe you've forgotten I watched you die, I went to your funeral, Aeryn--but when you came back I still loved you. I didn't shut you out."
"Then you are stronger than I am," she said, her voice trembling.
"You're the strongest person I know," he said.
She backed away from him. "You make me weak," she said. "I can't be weak anymore, Crichton. I'm leaving. I have to. I need you to let me leave."
"I'll go with you," he said at once. "Wherever, Aeryn, wherever you want--we'll go there."
"No, you're not coming with me." She shook her head, and moved away from him, back towards the outer rim of the terrace.
"Aeryn, I'll do anything," he whispered.
"Go home, John," she said. "Make a wormhole and leave."
"I can't just leave, Aeryn. Maybe you can, but it would kill me." He moved over to her again, forced her to look at him, then leaned in a kissed her. She didn't pull away. She didn't do anything at all.
He could see in her eyes when he pulled away she wasn't giving in. She wouldn't stay. "I am so much better off dead," he whispered, with a bitter laugh. He started towards the doors, walking away from her for once instead of the other way around.
But she couldn't let him just walk away. Not with those as his last words. "If we're meant to be together, if it's like you said and its fate," she said. "Then this isn't the end."
He stopped but didn't turn. "Fate has done all it can to keep us together, Aeryn--but if you run away it all means nothing."
"It's too late for me," she said.
He moved back towards her. "Do you love John Crichton? Not him . . . not me. John Crichton."
She looks at him, actually meets his eyes without turning away since the first time she came to get him on the carrier. "Yes. But it's too late."
John angrily turned away, losing ground again. "You do this . . . and we'll never see each other again."
She didn't answer at first, but when he started to walk away her voice again brought him back.
"Do you love Aeryn Sun?"
He didn't have to think about the answer. "Beyond hope."
"Then don't make me say good-bye, and don't make me stay," she whispered brokenly.
So he didn't, and he pretended to watch the stars as she ran away.
x x x x x
John sat in the middle of his bed, watching the shadows around his room as Moya's movements made them sway. D'Argo was preparing his ship. Chi and Rygel would probably be leaving in a transport pod off to who knows where.
Aeryn would soon be gone.
Things had not changed all that much since he had been living alone on that planet as a mechanic. He still felt like a copy, something less than himself. When the other John Crichton had died, he'd taken both of their dreams with him, and he had nothing to hold onto now.
"Come in, Pip," he said tiredly.
She appeared in the corner of his eye, and he saw her kneel beside the bed. "You knew I was here?" she asked.
"You breathe loud," he said, a ghost of a grin appearing and disappearing just as quickly.
Chiana grinned and placed her hand on his arm. "I've been looking for you. But if this is a bad time . . ."
"No worries," he said quietly, tiredly.
"I have something for you," she said, though she knew it wouldn't take his hurt away. "Found her on that commerce planet."
He turned to look at her curiously, and Chiana revealed Winona with a flourish. "She's jammed up again, but you should be able to fix her."
John's eyes brightened, and he smiled beatifically--Chiana couldn't help but smile in return. Maybe she had helped take away some of his hurt after all. "I, ah, saw her, and knew you would want her back."
"Chi, you are amazing."
He put his arm around her and pulled her close. "Sometimes I don't know what I'd do without you--you're one of the few things keeping me sane."
"Who told you that you were sane? Harvey?" she asked wryly.
He smiled against her hair. "Saying things like that," he said wryly. "It helps. Thanks."
"I know things are frelled, Crichton, but I don't want you to leave again."
"I'm not," he said softly. "This time I'm not the one leaving."
"Everyone else is," she finished guiltily, realizing it was ridiculous to ask him to stay when she was thinking of leaving herself.
"It was bound to happen sometime, that's the way the world turns--like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives."
Not knowing quite why, she smiled at his rambling. "Just don't . . . don't ever forget that I love you," she said, turning in his arms to hug him tightly. "And don't . . . don't ever forget that Winona loves you."
John could feel Chiana smiling against his neck, and he laughed.
"I've gotta, go see D'Argo off--" she said. "You coming?"
"I've already said good-bye," he said. "And I've had all the good-bye's I can take."
She placed a hand on his neck and smiled sadly. "Hey, it will all turn out, okay?"
"Did you see that?" he asked. "Or is it just another guess?"
"I feel it. We're gonna all be together again, Crichton," she whispered, and then she was gone.