THAT'S MY UNDERWEAR!
SUMMARY:Hoo, boy… Okay… um… John is having a very bad day. Everyone keeps stealing his underwear. Crais does something very naughty, Jool becomes Moya's resident pathologist, Harvey finds a new career path, Chiana makes a little mistake, Rygel gets hungry, Stark does his job, Zhaan uses all her Delvian powers for the greater good, and Aeryn gets framed. I'm tempted to say it'll make more sense when you read it, but it probably won't…
RATING:We're going PG-13 on this to be safe, for frightening randomness if nothing else. Also language and very odd situations… And it's very, very silly.
DISCLAIMER:The characters are not ours, we are merely borrowing them for our own perverted uses. However, we have also stolen John's pants. If Aeryn can get away with it, so can we…
SETTING:AU again, and set after "My Funny Valentine", using the same cast (that is, everyone…)
AUTHOR'S NOTES:Before I go any further with this, can I just say something? Thank you. *clears throat* First of all, IT WAS FOUR IN THE MORNING!! Secondly, it was her fault. *points to Naomi* Right. Okay, this really stemmed from two things - too much frelling cola, too damn early in the morning, and "Rhapsody In Blue" with that wonderful opening scene where Aeryn steals John's Calvins… Combine these things, and this is the end result. (Also add in excessive and addictive re-watching of "Meltdown"…)
Being British, we have an unhealthy obsession with underwear (or so it would appear) and I feel it is my duty to explain the usage of "pants" in this fic for our trans-Atlantic friends. We mean the Calvins. All the time. When we want to say 'trousers', we will say 'trousers'… Just to save on confusion later…
This is a two-author fic. We hope you enjoy the foray into the insane. Many thanks to Ennixeve for her random quote-throwing and ideas-generating
That's MY Underwear!
The fic © T'eyla Minh and Naomi
Darkness. That was all he could see. It permeated the room, filled every crevice and corner, and fell like a blanket around him. It was a deafening sort of blackness, the kind that absorbed every sound it came in contact with. Silence, ebony air, and very little else, in a small room that tasted of sleep and was vaguely metallic-smelling.
John liked the dark. He especially liked it after the Solar day he'd just experienced. It was well into the sleep cycle, almost four arns, and he couldn't sleep. As usual at times like this, he began to mutter to himself. He directed his ramblings at the ceiling of his quarters, pondering on the past events as he did so, and feigning an English accent. For once, he could pop-culture himself to death without fear of receiving a line of confused expressions.
"These… are the voyages… of John Crichton's Calvins… on their continuing journey through the Uncharted Territories. To seek out strange new behinds, and to boldly go-"
"You split an infinitive, John."
He rolled his eyes as Harvey interrupted him. "I'll split you if you don't leave me alone."
"Well… you did…"
John ignored him and continued his ramblings, losing the accent completely. "To boldly go - don't you frelling dare! - where no Calvins have gone before…"
He stopped. Yup, it had been a frelling weird few days…
Another voice reached his ears. "John… I hope you don't mind me asking, but… what are you on about?"
"Sorry, Aeryn… just babbling." He turned in her direction, seeking her out in the darkness.
"So I noticed." There was a sigh. "Look, if this whole thing has really left you head-frelled… I mean, you'd tell me, wouldn't you?"
"Probably." It may have been pitch black, but it didn't stop her from hitting him with a damn good aim. "Hey!"
"Yeah, I'd tell you, and no, I'm not crazy…"
"Good." She rolled over, deliberately ignoring him. "Now shut up."
John finally realised he was actually tired, and closed his eyes. Just before he drifted off to sleep, he ran through the events of the previous weeken one last time…
Earlier that Solar Day…
One of these days, Crichton was going to learn not to provoke Peacekeepers. In fact, he was going to learn to avoid them at all costs, even if he was pretending to be one. It just wasn't worth the aggravation. It was one of the many things on his "List of Things I Shouldn't Attempt", beneath "Flirt With Alien Women", "Sing In Public", "Fend Off A Pantak Jab", "Talk To/Touch/Approach/Look At Aeryn When She's Pissed At Me" and "Find Out Why Aeryn's Pissed At Me" amongst others. Now he'd added a very definite "Provoke Peacekeepers" to the list in bold red marker (or, at the very least, he pretended it was red, since he didn't have a red marker.)
He'd been having such a good day, too. The food cubes actually tasted of something, Rygel wasn't stealing things, Chiana and Jool weren't fighting, D'Argo was all sweetness and light, with absolutely no sign of an impending hyper-rage (which actually scared him for a while), Stark was being remarkably sane for once, Zhaan was deeply involved in her quest to take up the Seek again, and Crais was being Crais… but in a good way. To top all of this off, ever since the Valentine's ploy a monen ago he'd been happily 'together' with Aeryn. Life was, very definitely, good.
The trouble started when he went to Command. Aeryn and Crais were already in there, compensating for whatever trivial problem Pilot couldn't be bothered to deal with this time, and he figured they could probably use some extra help. When he walked in, the first thing he saw was Crais at one panel and Aeryn at another, both with their heads down, studiously examining the readouts. Aeryn spotted him first and looked up, smiling in greeting. Crais ignored him. That wasn't unusual, and he didn't take it to heart.
"Hey, baby," he said, partly because he knew she wasn't particularly keen on the nickname, and partly because he liked it. "What's going on?"
"Very little," she told him. John ambled over and stood behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and looked over her shoulder. She tried to look annoyed, but it didn't last long; close proximity to John for any period of time immediately meant that her Peacekeeper traits got buried. Crais looked up for the briefest of moments, looked in their direction, sighed in obvious distaste, and returned his gaze to his console.
"What's that?" John asked, pointing to a flashing, bleeping light on her panel.
"Well, it's gotta be something, Aeryn. I mean, what's the point of a light if it doesn't mean anything?" Apparently, he was in one of those moods where everything was new and interesting, even if he'd seen it countless times before, and even if it did nothing, like this particular little light. Crais found it incredibly irritating. Aeryn was putting up with it, and actually humouring him.
"Would you like me to go and ask Pilot?"
He assessed the situation, wondered briefly if it was worth it, and instantly discounted it. He was enjoying this, and Aeryn wasn't going to go anywhere. "Nah…" He squeezed her tighter for no reason other than he enjoyed it. Aeryn seemed to enjoy it too… until she caught Crais glaring at her with his "you are a Peacekeeper" look, and removed John's arms before they could start to wander, which they had a tendency to do.
Instead, he placed both hands on either side of her on top of the console, effectively trapping her. She could feel Crais' eyes boring into her skull, even through John's body, so she attempted to concentrate on her work. It wasn't easy.
Crais continued to glare in the hope he might melt the back of Crichton's head if he looked at it long enough. It wasn't working, power of the mind over matter not being one of his special talents, so instead, he ignored them. As if it wasn't bad enough they had to flaunt what they had every day of every weeken in every room on the Leviathan, but no… they had to do it in front of him. It was, frankly, sickening.
He realised it had suddenly gotten very quiet on the other side of Command, and he looked across again, cautiously. As he suspected, they were engaged in a less than productive activity. He held back a groan at the sight of them, and rolled his eyes.
His second attempt to ignore them lasted all of five microts, when Aeryn giggled and the last shred of his self-control completely disintegrated. Peacekeepers… did not… giggle… He stormed into the middle of Command, stomping as he went.
"Will you two desist?!"
It took a while, but they eventually extricated themselves and stood side by side, examining him with equally amused expressions.
"Just havin' a little fun, Crais," ventured John. "No need to blow your top."
Crais ignored John, and directed his words at Aeryn. "This behaviour is completely unacceptable, Officer Sun. You are a Peacekeeper, and-"
"Hey, leave off her, Crais. She's not a Peacekeeper any more, and you're not her Captain."
"Maybe not, but that's no excuse to disregard her breeding."
"Excuse me, but-" started Aeryn, only to be cut off by the argument.
"What about you? Last I heard, you were sniffing around Jool's door."
Crais sighed. "One gift, one time. And that was before I realised how absolutely frelling annoying she is…" It must have been bad - he hardly ever swore. Aeryn watched the sparring with interest and some amusement, and laughed when John noted that she used to think the exact same thing about him. "Aeryn, I hardly think this is a laughing matter."
John intervened again. "And she doesn't answer to you. If she wants to laugh, she'll laugh."
"Nor do you answer for her, Crichton," said Crais, scowling. Aeryn poked John.
"He does have a point."
"Sorry, hon." He grinned and directed his next comment at Crais. "So what you're saying is that Aeryn is her own woman and neither of us can tell her what to do?"
"Yes!" The comment came through tightly clenched teeth.
"And she can do what she likes?"
"So what's your damn problem?"
Crais was utterly exasperated. "I… you… but…" He was unable to form anything even remotely coherent to say, so he screamed instead and ran out of Command. This was the final straw. The Human had gone too far. He must seek revenge… but how?
The ex-Captain's thoughts were tumultuous and furious as he stomped through Moya's corridors… revenge… Must. Get. Revenge. Eventually, he collapsed against a bulkhead and slid to the floor, kicking the DRD out of the way which came to stare at him. It felt all the better for the fact that it was 'DRD Pike', infamous on the ship for being John's personal favourite. That was something else he didn't understand - the need to favour a drone. They were all the same - useful, but ultimately annoying.
His thoughts came full circle again back to Crichton and the need for vengeance. He forced himself to his feet again and began to make his way towards Crichton's quarters. He would steal one of his personal effects. Yes. Perfect. But what? It would have to be something important to him. His first few ideas, he decided, were stupid. Aeryn - that would be impossible, or at the very least, very difficult, and potentially dangerous. The primitive Farscape module - well, it was easier, but he couldn't exactly hide it under his bed, or smuggle it off under his coat. Something smaller, then… that strange silver recording device? Feasible… except that Crichton hadn't used the thing for monens and probably wouldn't notice it was gone.
He'd reached the room, but stopped before entering. What if he got caught? What if Crichton and Aeryn decided to… no, he wasn't going to think about that. However, the brief, fleeting mental image was enough to drive him inside the darkened converted cell. He didn't turn the lights on. He could work in the dark, and it would make his little ploy all the more covert. He began to regret this decision when he tripped over something hard, and landed on something equally hard, and twice as sharp. He muttered a personal pledge to kill the next defenceless living thing he saw, and persevered. Crichton had far too many pointless possessions; how could he decide which to snerch?
Just when he was beginning to think he should have had an in-depth conversation with Aeryn over the associated values of all the objects, he spotted it. The perfect item. It was lying on the floor, defenceless and unaware, just ready for the kill. He only found it because it was white, and was reflecting what little light seeped in from the corridor. John's pants!! What better thing to steal? It was a connection to his Erp, part of what made him who he was… and not having any underwear was sure to drive him slowly insane.
Grinning positively gleefully, Crais snatched up the pants, bundled them up, and stuffed them into his pocket. Then, whistling rather too nonchalantly, he sauntered back out of Crichton's quarters.
Somewhere in the lower levels, Chiana was, once again, knee-deep in amnexus fluid, playing the laundress for the rest of Moya's inhabitants. She wasn't entirely sure why - she had been down there, trying to get something disgusting and probably Rygel's fault out of one of D'argo's shirts, and somehow word had got around. The crew had, one at a time, wandered down to toss clothes and miscellaneous items of underwear onto the pile that was now a quite appreciable and very soggy, but relatively clean, heap in the corner.
Well, at least she had nearly finished. She reached into the fluid and swirled her hand around the bottom, looking for any escaped bits, and came up with one sock. One extremely brightly-coloured, stripy sock. She blinked at it, trying to work out if she had ever seen the thing before and, upon deciding that she quite definitely hadn't, why the frell anybody on board would have anything quite so...odd. The sock made her uncomfortable. It had a definite feeling of foreboding about it, something that didn't belong on Moya. She stared at it for a few more microts, before deciding that it was almost certainly John's and not worth worrying about.
Splash. Scrub. Wring. Toss. "Finally!"
Chiana straightened her back carefully and stretched, then clambered out of the fluid and gathered together the various bits of wet fabric into one bundle and lifted it, muttering as it soaked her entire front and poured water into her boots. She turned, staggered a few dripping steps to the door, opened it, and gasped, losing her balance and pitching forward into Crais, who had been coming to see if the funny orange stain had come out of his trousers, and now found himself lying beneath first a large quantity of soaking wet clothing and, on top of that, a hysterical and unhealthily clairvoyant Chiana.
"I...I...Crais!" she stuttered. "Had...v-vision...M-M-Moya... s-s-s-swallowed... p-p-pants!"
Crais gulped. She couldn't know, could she? He had been so careful! What did she mean, Moya swallowed the pants? He had the pants! He surreptitiously tried to check that they were still in the pocket, but was trapped by the weight of Chiana and the laundry.
"Oh. I see. Well, I think…" He trailed off, scanning the corridor nervously for signs of Crichton, and panicked. Pushing the heap off his chest, he scrambled to his feet and ran for it. Chiana watched him in utter confusion, wondering if covering him in laundry and Nebari had scared him off. It must have, she decided. Despite the overwhelming importance of pants at the moment, they were not frightening unless by some very long stretch of a very twisted imagination. On the other hand...this was Crais...no. Not even Crais could have been chased away by the prospect of visions of pants. Must have been the laundry. Yeah. Shaking her head to try and clear it a little, she gathered up the clothes again and stumbled down the corridor in the opposite direction, dripping, and shedding socks.
What happened next was probably unfair to inflict on a somewhat fragile Chiana. There was a loud squelch some distance behind her, and something short and loud hurtled past in a flurry of frighteningly large hair, screaming: "Socks! My socks! Must have my socks!" It descended on Chiana's laundry-bundle, knocking it to the floor for the second time, and scrabbled among the clothes until it found the sock that had so troubled her when she had found it in the amnexus fluid. It cackled and, waving the sock triumphantly, pounded round the corner and headed for Command.
Chiana had a somewhat delayed reaction. Long after the mass of hair-monster had vanished, she was still staring down the corridor. She thought she really ought to tell Pilot, or someone, but she wasn't entirely sure if she'd imagined the whole thing. She shook herself and got busy picking up the pile of laundry for what felt like the fiftieth frelling time, pondered what had happened with Crais, wondered if her vision meant something, and tried to ignore the harrowing experience she'd just been through.
The bundle was getting heavier every time, and seemed to be getting wetter rather than drier, and she staggered down the corridor. Why did everyone quarters have to be so frelling far away from the amnexus chamber anyway? She stopped dead still when she thought she heard a familiar cackle some way behind her. No. She was going fahrbot. There was nothing there. She started to move again, slightly quicker, and then faster still, and, finally, broke into a run, screaming. If there was a hair-monster on Moya, she didn't want to be the first thing it ate.
Meanwhile, a panting and now completely fraught Crais had reached his quarters, and was safely behind a closed door, gazing in slightly dazed triumph at Crichton's underpants, still safely in his possession. He was exhausted, shaking from the after-effects of adrenaline, and sitting with his back against the door in a pointless attempt to ensure no-one walked in on him. His hair, always a reliable indicator of his level of sanity, was rapidly losing any semblance of control and dissolving into a wispy, sweat-streaked halo. However, he had achieved his goal. He had the pants. Now to carry out the rest of his plan.
He pulled himself to his feet and crossed to the cupboard where he had secreted a few bits and pieces of Peacekeeper technology he had managed to filch before fleeing his command carrier, and fished out something smallish, rectangular and shiny with a slot through the middle, in which rows of little steel blades glinted. It was originally intended for disposing of...well, anything, really...in circumstances where it needed to be obliterated and fire wasn't an option. Crais had the perfect use for it. He knew just what he wanted to obliterate, and he had it right here. The pants were going to go. Crais smiled evilly, poked the waistband of Crichton's pants into the slot, and flicked a switch.
The teeth of the little device began to move ponderously, tugging at the fabric of the pants. Crais held on. He had expended too much effort on this plan to let them go all at once. He intended to really enjoy this - Crichton had made him suffer enough, hadn't he? He kept hold of the fabric, letting it run achingly slowly through his fingers, watching, entranced, as the label in the back covered with strange alien symbols caught and perished in the device's jaws. There went (although Crais was, of course, unaware of this) John Crichton, hand wash only. The little plastic buttons at the front were crunched as they succumbed, and Crais leaned closer, every hurt he had suffered at Crichton's hands surfacing to be cleansed in the death of the pants. Hezmana, the first thing the human had done when he dropped into Crais's life was cause the death of his brother. However accidentally, Tauvo was dead, and it was Crichton's fault.
The waistband was gone. The machine gnawed its way through the fabric of the main part of the pants, reducing it to a mass of tangled cotton. Crais smiled again. The Peacekeepers, there was another thing. Until Crichton, he had had a life with the Peacekeepers. He had been a captain; successful, powerful, just where he wanted to be. And now what did he have? A ship full of escaped prisoners and nothing much else. Of course, that was partially that half-breed tralk Scorpius' fault, but these weren't his pants. His pants would have to wait, but Crais vowed that one day he would have them.
And then there was Aeryn, of course. That was the final straw. Crichton fawned over her like a pet and she loved it. He could tell. It was obscene, ridiculous. The woman was a Peacekeeper, born and raised! What she saw in some weak creature like Crichton was anybody's guess.
The pants were gone. Crais reached inside the device and extracted the mass of threads that they had become, and studied it. He definitely felt better, could feel his hair settling itself back into its correct sleek arrangement. Now all he had to do was hide the evidence, and so long as that idiot Nebari hadn't really seen something, nobody need ever know what had happened to the pants. Stuffing the ball of cotton into his pocket, he stalked out of the room and through Moya's corridors, maintaining an expression of smiling innocence that would have terrified anyone he met (had he met anyone.) Finally, he arrived in front of a wall panel in a far corner of the ship, which he carefully removed to reveal a small space. Inside was a heap of socks, explanation of odd-socked plague that had swept Moya of late, and testimony to Crais' frequent need for revenge. He carefully buried the threads near the back of the pile, replaced the panel and made his way toward Command.
Deep in Moya, in the room recently vacated by Chiana and her laundry, something gurgled. The surface of the pool of amnexus fluid she had been using as a washbasin quivered and broke into ripples. There was another organic rumble from somewhere below, and the fluid began to swirl gently towards the centre of the pool, disappearing into the vortex that had appeared in its centre as Moya pulled the plug.
The pool drained quickly, revealing a small, soggy heap of white cloth moving with the current. For a moment the pants stuck in the plughole, making a noise like the dregs of a milkshake, and then disappeared, sucked into the ship's innards.
John's quarters were the last stop on Chiana's drop-off route, but, even though she was nearly finished returning everyone's now clean clothing, she wasn't very pleased about it. At the far end of the corridor was another awaiting pile of dirty laundry which had gotten thrown upon her as she did her rounds. She was praying by this point that John had managed to keep what few things he owned relatively dirt-free.
Chiana entered the room and dumped the remains of the pile on the end of the bed. At the other end, John was scribbling in his notebook. He looked up as she was leaving, and called her back.
She forced a smile before turning around. "Yeah?"
Chiana's smile became more natural. John was the first (and only, usually) person to thank her for what she did, and it made the chore seem a little more worthwhile. "No problem for you, Old Man."
John grinned… then threw a shirt at her head. She glowered at him. "Sorry, Pip. That's the last one, I promise…"
She sighed, nodded, and made her way out of the room again to her awaiting pile of new laundry. John put down his notebook and started to sort through the pile of clean stuff, making a mental note of the contents. He put it all away carefully, and then realised something. His underpants weren't there…
He ventured to the door and stuck his head out to see Chiana struggling with her latest bundle. She kept continually dropping various items of underwear, bending to pick them up, and losing yet more in the process until, exponentially, the trail on the floor became larger than what she had in her arms. Cautiously, somewhat scared of the Nebari when she was getting irritated, John coughed.
The clothes seemed to explode as the sheet which was holding most of them together fell apart and dumped everything on the floor. Chiana growled. "What?!"
"Nothing… uh… just wondering if you happened to see my Calvins today… I'm sure I put them to be washed but they weren't in with the stuff you brought up."
She systematically began to place everything in the middle of the sheet with deliberate, sharp movements, attempting to look in control of her rapidly diminishing patience. "You know what? I don't know. I don't know, and I don't care. I am not your frellin' wash-tralk."
"Whoa, I never said you were… but you were the last person to have them…"
"I probably left them in the amnexus chamber, then. If you can wait a microt, I will go and find them." The washing pile seemed to have bred as well as spread down the corridor, and she was getting very frustrated with finding yet more of the damn stuff whenever she turned around. "But right now, I kinda have a bigger probl- look, could you just help me?"
John gathered up the remaining anomalous socks from his vicinity and placed them on top of the collection so she could wrap everything in the sheet again. She tied it up, hauled it over her shoulder, and got to her feet. With a final grunt, she marched off towards the amnexus chamber again, putting on her very best dejected-and-unloved expression.
"Um… thanks, Chi…" called John. He heard a very quiet "yeah, whatever" from the vanishing form ahead of him, and then returned to his quarters. It couldn't hurt to have another look around, but he was absolutely certain that he'd definitely given them to Chiana the last time to be washed. That was when he realised. His other pair was missing as well… He widened his search but was continually unsuccessful in turning up his spare pants. This was not a good thing. He couldn't go around Moya with no pants; he refused to.
He sat down to think. There was only one other place they could be. He activated his comms. "Aeryn?"
"Yes?" She appeared at his doorway. "Problem?"
"Yeah…" He cleared his throat. "Chiana lost my underwear… and I can't find my spares… you didn't steal 'em again, did you?"
"No…" Aeryn entered the room, realising this probably wasn't something they should discuss while she was in the corridor. "Did you look everywhere?" she asked, lifting up various things in a pathetic attempt to help.
"Yes, mother…" he replied, somewhat sarcastically. "Look, I don't mind if you've got them, but I really need them back."
"I haven't got them!" she said, vehemently. "For once…"
John's eyebrow went up at that, but he didn't pursue the matter. He had more important things to worry about than any of the other times she might have snerched his Calvins. Which brought him back to the fact that he didn't believe her. "Dammit, Aeryn, just give them back!"
"If I had them, I would." She sighed. "They must be somewhere…" She started searching, going over all the same places he'd already tried twice. He watched with some interest, with his head tilted to one side. When she stretched up to feel along the top of a particularly high shelf, he ambled over to stand much too close behind her, and trapped her against the wall. "John?"
"You're wearing them now, aren't you?"
She wasn't entirely certain how to react. She could either kill him, or play along… she chose to play along. "What if I am?"
"Would you like to check?"
John appeared to briefly consider the offer for several microts, and then he stepped back, releasing her. "Nah. If you were really wearing them, you wouldn't say that…"
Aeryn smiled. "Exactly…" She checked a few more places and then gave up. "Are you sure they were even in here?"
He nodded. "Yeah, they were right there, on the floor." He indicated the general area. "You don't suppose the DRDs woulda… cleaned them up, or anything, do you?"
"I doubt it." She sighed. Then, she seemed to realise something. "Just a microt…"
"Yeah?" There was no immediate answer, and he looked across to see her staring at him with some interest. "What now?"
"Oh… nothing…" A smirk.
"Just… you said that you gave one pair to Chiana, and she lost them… and your spares were in here, and you lost them… so…" A pause. "John, you're not wearing any underwear, are you?"
Damn. Busted. "Nope…" Off her half-amused and half-incredulous look, he attempted to justify himself. "Oh, come on! I thought it would only be for a day!"
"That's beside the point…"
"I know… Just don't tell anyone… please?"
She looked as though that was the very thing she was going to do, but she agreed not to. "You'd better hope they turn up soon, then…" With that, she wandered off, leaving John with a certain sense of dread that she might go back on her word, and the entire crew would know of his pantless predicament within a few arns. He removed the thought from his mind. He'd just pretend everything was normal. With this as his plan for however long it took for the Calvins (either pair, preferably both) to reappear, he left his quarters and made his way towards the Mess.
Moya was getting slightly irritated. Usually when she drained her amnexus fluid, there was nothing but that to drain… however, this time, there appeared to be something else there. The amnexus fluid itself had long since been recycled, but she could feel something. It wasn't very big, but it was definitely stuck, and it was incredibly annoying.
In an attempt to shift it, she performed the Leviathan equivalent of a sneeze, and the blockage shifted slightly. Within a few microts, however, it was stuck in another conduit. If she could have sighed, she would have done. Instead, she resigned to keep sneezing until the thing was gone.
In one of the converted cells, the familiar, short, blob-like shape of Rygel on his Throne Sled hovered around, searching for something. He'd run out of food. In fact, everyone had run out of food, other than a few emergency rations of food cubes that he'd been forbidden to touch; to make sure he didn't, they were hidden in a place only Pilot knew about, and were periodically handed out whenever it was time to eat. Nobody else was complaining, and he knew there had to be a commerce planet somewhere up ahead. Nevertheless, he was hungry now. He needed food, and there had to be something in the room for him to eat.
He was sure he'd hidden some marhjols inside a panel under his bed, but then, when he went to look for them, he remembered that he'd eaten them the last time there was a food shortage. In desperation, he hopped off his Sled, shuffled under the bed, and laughed triumphantly when he found some crumbs. He scooped them up, and added them to the pathetically small pile in the middle of a plate - the few bits he'd already managed to scrounge. Sometimes, being a very messy eater paid off.
Rygel pulled himself back out from under the bed again, gathered up his plate, and sat down to eat it. It didn't take long, and it didn't quell his hunger, either. He was getting annoyed; he was a Dominar, he shouldn't have to live like this! This was the final straw. He was going to march (well, fly…) up to Pilot's Den, and demand he give him the rest of the food cubes.
He got halfway to the door, when a strange rumbling, gurgling, blowing sound alerted him on the other side of the room. It seemed to be coming from inside the wall. He'd already taken the cover off the access panel to see if there was any food in there, and he could clearly hear the noise was coming from that panel. He ventured a little closer, but not too close, just to see if he could catch a glimpse of anything that might be awry. The noise stopped, just as suddenly as it had begun. After a few microts, he shrugged, and turned to leave again.
As soon as his back was turned, something small, white, and fabric-y came flying out of the access shaft, sailed gracefully across the room, and landed squarely on Rygel's head. His Throne Sled briefly wobbled in his shock, and, once he'd managed to stabilise it, he reached up to pull the offensive article from his head. He didn't recognise it, but it looked vaguely clothing shaped. He sniffed it, suspiciously.
It smelt of amnexus fluid, which further persuaded him that it was probably clothing-related, but his sensitive Hynerian nose also picked out a distinctly organic smell. There appeared to be some kind of label in the back covered in strange symbols he didn't recognise. That clinched it - whatever this thing was, it obviously belonged to Crichton, and, if he'd been careless enough to lose it, it obviously wasn't important. And… it was organic. That meant it was edible. He examined one of the more picturesque symbols and attempted to identify it. It looked like a child's picture (which confirmed his belief that Humans were most definitely inferior) of what could have been a bowl, with what might, at a push, have been a hand, inside it. Perhaps it was a temperature guide…
In a matter of minutes, Rygel had set up a bowl of water and a heat source, and was happily boiling away. He muttered a brief "thank you" to Moya for favouring him with the gift of food, then dropped the white item into the water.
At that moment, John rounded the corner and rapped on his door before sticking his head through.
"Go away, Crichton."
"It's okay, Sparky, I'm just wondering if you happened to see Chiana anywhere."
"No." He picked up the fabric with a stick, plopped it back into the bowl, and stirred it. "And if you're here to steal my food-"
"I'm not. So, no Chi?"
"No. Go away."
"I'm going…" John vanished again and continued his search for Chiana. Rygel resumed stirring, and several microts later, the Nebari herself appeared.
"Rygel, you seen Crichton anywhere?"
"He was just looking for you."
"Oh, well didja see which way he went?"
"I did not." Rygel repeated the picking-up-dropping-and-stirring process a second time, attempting to ignore the Nebari.
"Whatcha doin'?" asked Chiana, suspiciously.
"Nothing that concerns you."
She ventured further into the room and grabbed Rygel's meal. "What's this?"
"Hands off! It's mine. I found it fair and square!"
"Where'd you get this?"
"It flew out of that access panel there," he said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the wall. "I must be in Moya's favour if she's bestowing gifts on me."
Chiana couldn't decide whether to laugh or be disgusted. She chose laughing. "This isn't food, ya yotz! It's John's frellin' underpants."
Rygel looked nauseated. "You mean… I nearly ate his undergarments…?" Chiana nodded, and he paled slightly, his greenish skin going slightly greener. "Excuse me…" He swiftly disappeared behind a screen and promptly threw up, as Chiana giggled and pocketed the pants, trying to figure out which direction John had gone in. She turned back the way she'd come, and headed towards his quarters.
Halfway up the corridor, a little way behind Chiana, John suddenly realised something, and headed back towards Rygel's quarters. He was absolutely sure he'd just seen the Hynerian attempting to boil his pants, but he knew that was insane… the only way he was going to know for sure would be to go back and check, just in case he was going crazy. He arrived back there just as Rygel re-emerged from behind the screen looking flushed and very ill, not to mention incredibly annoyed.
"You okay, Ryge?" He received a scowl in reply. The pants were nowhere in sight, so he assumed he must have been dreaming. "Are you sure you haven't seen Chiana?"
"She was just here," he managed to mutter. "Frelling Nebari tralk… she stole my food and lied about it. Came up with some ridiculous story. I hope if you find her you repay her in kind from me."
"Um… 'kay…" said John, and, thinking Rygel had completely lost it at last, headed off towards the amnexus chamber to find Chiana.
Chiana had all but forgotten about her vision by the time she'd recovered Crichton's pants. Perhaps she was losing her curious ability to preminisce things. Well, that was fine by her; she'd had quite enough of seeing, hearing, smelling, and generally pre-experiencing Bad Things Which Had Yet To Occur.
So, now, she had the pants back, the latest batch of laundry was soaking nicely, she could return the damn underwear, and get back to whatever passed as her normal routine. Then, just as she was almost at John's door, Pilot's voice came sifting through her comms.
"What now…" she muttered, then feigned something she hoped passed as interest. "Yeah, Pilot?"
"I require your immediate assistance. Please come to the Den."
She sighed. "On my way." She turned on her heel and headed towards Pilot's chamber, John's underwear still about her person and momentarily forgotten.
Ka D'Argo had just returned to his quarters, having been messing about (or, as he called it, "investigating") in his recently acquired ship. He was pleased to find a lovely pile of clean laundry waiting on his bed - Chiana had evidently finished her first round - and even more pleased to find she'd taken the hint and collected the rather obvious pile he'd left in the doorway. Although, on reflection, he thought perhaps the "clean me" sign was going a little far…
He started to sort through the clean pile, putting things away. After a few minutes, he got to the bottom of the pile and the final shirt. He picked it up, moved to a shelf to fold it up, then stopped, stared, and dropped it on the floor. He picked up his Qualta blade and ran out of the door, suddenly very irritated…
Chiana arrived in Pilot's Den in a matter of microts. The scene which greeted her instinctually made her panic. Pilot was… well… freaking out, if she was going to be honest about it. He was controlling Moya's myriad systems with one hand, while his other three limbs flailed around frantically, as he apparently tried to do something and failed.
"Pilot? What's wrong?"
"Ah! I… I can't… I need… ah! Help…"
Chiana rushed over to him. He looked to be in a great deal of pain and she was wondering what he expected her to do. "What? What is it? Where does it hurt?" Pilot winced, and waved his arms again, this time just narrowly missing her head. "Should I get Aeryn?"
"No… won't be… necessary…" he managed to say. "Just need… scratching…"
Chiana blinked, once. "Huh?"
"Itchy… itchy back…" he confirmed, writhing as he did so.
"Wait a microt. You're telling me you called me all the way up here just to scratch your frelling back?!"
Pilot nodded. Chiana let out what felt her hundredth heavy sigh that day, then clambered on top of Pilot's console for better access. She barely dodged another flying claw.
"Hold still. Where?" She began to scratch, following his directions.
"Down a bit… a dench to the left… no, the other left, Chiana… up a little… ahhhh… much better."
"Can I go now?" she asked. "I have laundry to do. Again."
"Yes. Thank you."
Chiana started to climb down again, but stopped when she spotted D'Argo. He didn't look happy.
"Don't you 'Hey, D'Argo' me…"
She looked puzzled, wondering what she'd done to upset him this time.
"What've I done now?"
"It's what you haven't done. My favourite shirt is still filthy!"
"Oh… sorry. Take it down to the amnexus chamber and I'll do it again."
"That is beside the point. When I ask you to do something, I expect it to be done properly!"
Chiana was reaching the end of her proverbial rope. "Fine. Next time, do it your-frelling-self!"
D'Argo growled, and that was when she suddenly realised he was verging very close to a hyper-rage. Pathetically, and far too late, she tried to calm him down.
"Okay, D'Argo. Nothin' to get upset-" He cut her off with a loud snarl, and she yelped. He unsheathed his Qualta blade and held it in an attack position. Just as he was about to charge, Chiana remembered the pants, and whipped them out of her pocket, holding them in front of her like some kind of shield. Briefly stunned and a tad confused, D'Argo halted.
"What the Hezmana are you doing now?"
"Uh…" she floundered. "I'm… surrendering. Yeah. That's it. Like Crichton said, when you hold out a white flag…"
Just when she thought it was working, D'Argo recovered from his confusion and started to run, Qualta blade directed at her head. Chiana screamed, jumped off the console, and ran for it, leaping high over the Luxan's head and accidentally letting go of the pants in the process. As D'Argo spun to give chase, his blade caught them and sent them flying through Moya's manufactured air, before they landed silently on Pilot's head.
Long after Chiana's screams and D'Argo's yelling faded into the distance, Pilot noticed a cluster of DRDs hovering around him. He shooed them away but they refused to budge, and when, after the tenth try, they became more persistent, he said, "Please desist. My itch is gone now." Then he sent them off to do utterly pointless and menial tasks.
John stalked back into command, exasperated beyond belief. He had been wandering around the ship for arns, and had completely failed to find either Chiana or his pants. The crew had collectively denied any knowledge of them, and, in what must have been some kind of bizarre hallucination, he was certain he had seen Rygel cooking the things. At any other time, the image of the Hynerian gnawing on his underpants would have been hysterically funny. Now it was merely irritating.
Please, let it have been a hallucination. Tell me Rygel hasn't eaten my only spare underwear.
He'd bumped into Crais, too, but as soon as he enquired as to whether Crais had, perhaps, any idea where any of his underwear might be, the ex-Captain had looked utterly terrified, stammered something about a broken conduit and run away. Either Crais had a hitherto unrealised pathological fear of other people's underwear, or something very odd was going on. Although it could quite easily have been the generalised insanity that was Crais.
"Pilot, I don't suppose you would like to tell me where my underpants are?" he demanded, tapping irritably at the console.
"I don't know. Have you asked the rest of the crew?"
"Yes. They 'didn't know' either."
"Could you not have simply... lost them?"
It was a possibility, John thought. He could merely, by some freakish coincidence, have lost both pairs of pants at the same time. And things did go missing in the wash. The crew were rapidly running out of socks, since one of almost every pair had taken to disappearing in transit.
But...he'd searched his whole room, several times, and there wasn't all that much stuff in there. His pants really weren't among it. Maybe he could ask Pilot to...
Wait a microt. Pilot. The clamshell.
He looked round. Yes, Pilot was still there. Still transparent, still purple, still...wearing his underwear. Well, wearing was probably too strong a term. His pants were hanging forlornly from one of the odd protuberances on Pilot's head, and Pilot was apparently unaware of this.
"I...you...my...my…" he managed to get out. Pilot looked at him with an expression that suggested raised eyebrows despite his lack of eyebrows. John gaped, giving a fairly accurate impression of a goldfish in distress. This was mad. They were plotting to drive him insane. They were...
"Dah, dadadadum, dah, dadadadum, dah, dadadadum, DAAAAAAAHHH!"
Someone was humming 'The Ride of the Valkyries' in the corridor outside, somewhat off-key. John turned round, wondering if this was part of the generalised determination to drive him out of his mind.
Harvey strolled through the door, stopped singing and struck a heroic pose, hands on his hips and chest stuck out.
Harvey was festooned with pants. John's pants. There was absolutely no doubt that they were John's pants; nobody else on the ship owned white Calvin Klein underwear. He was wearing one pair over his leather, in the normally accepted legs-through-the-legholes fashion. Another adorned his head, falling rakishly over one eye, and yet more were draped over his arms and shoulders and tucked into his boots, trailing on the floor. And, buttoned round his neck, he wore a billowing cape made of perhaps twenty pairs of Calvins sewn together. To top off the ensemble, on his chest was a large, erratically flashing red letter 'H'.
"Tadaa!" he cried. "Do you like it, John? I think it suits me, you know. Maybe I should change career path, become a superhero, hmm?"
John couldn't cope. He sat down, put his head on the table and wished fervently that Harvey would go away. After a while he looked up again. Harvey was now sitting opposite him, still dressed in his pants-man costume.
"Oh, frell," he said. "They really are trying to drive me insane, aren't they?"
Harvey leaned forward to pat his shoulder.
"Don't fret, John. They're only pants, after all. You can get more. Don't let them do this to you."
"Yeah, but they were my Calvins, man. I like having them there, I need Earth close to my...er...heart. Anyway, why're you so worried? You're a figment of my imagination. If I was sane, you wouldn't exist."
"John! You know that's not true."
"All right, I'm sorry. But why are you so concerned for my sanity?"
"You think I want to look like this forever?"
"You have a point."
There was a reflective silence. Harvey reached up and removed John's pants from his head, holding them up for examination. Something occurred to him.
"You only have two pairs of pants. You've lost them both."
"I know. What's your point?"
"You're not wearing any pants, are you?"
John threw a food cube at him. Unfortunately, Harvey being Harvey and therefore not, in the strictest sense of the word, 'existing', the food cube hit thin air. Or rather, it hit Aeryn as she entered Command. She looked mildly unimpressed.
"Any particular reason why you just did that?"
"Uh…" He could hardly mention Harvey. "Nope…"
A sigh. "I see…" She walked further into Command and, after a brief examination of his backside, added. "Still haven't found them, then?"
"No… hey, how do you even know?!"
He was rewarded with a knowing silence, and before he could pursue the matter further, Chiana came racing into Command, breathless and apparently terrified. She saw that the room was occupied and tried to stop, instead skidding on the floor and sliding towards them at top speed. John caught her before she hit the wall.
"Whoa, Pip!! Calm down, girl!"
"What's the matter, Chiana?" asked Aeryn, as the two of them struggled to calm her down. The Nebari twitched, and finally sat on the floor, wrapped her arms around her knees, and began to rock back and forth. One more twitch later, and she finally managed to explain herself, rather disjointedly.
"D'Argo… he… hyper-rage… and… I got away… or h-he lost me… n-not sure which…" She took a deep breath. "I… I was g-going back to… to… amnexus chamber… and… and…" She whimpered. "It ran at me! I thought… thought I was… d-dreaming… but… it's real… out there…" She gestured at the door and the corridor ahead.
"Did you catch any of that?" asked Aeryn.
"Pretty much…" said John, then knelt to Chiana's level. "What's out there, Chi?"
"Uh-huh…" He attempted to humour her, but his voice was lingering on disbelieving. "What kind of monster?"
"Don't know… all hair." Chiana was starting to calm down and had stopped rocking. She took another healthy breath and attempted to sound coherent. "I saw it earlier on one of the lower levels… it said it was looking for socks. It scared the dren outta me!"
"What did it look like?" asked Aeryn, already in full kill-the-alien mode.
"I think it was Sebacean, but… it had a LOT of hair… and I have no idea where it came from… It sounded female…" She shrugged. "If you find it… uh… just be careful. It might be dangerous."
John nodded and stood up again. "Just what we need. Another critter. I'll have Pilot look into it. Why don't you go back to your quarters and rest, Chi?" She nodded and stood, and the three of them headed out of Command. Chiana was decidedly jumpy. "Aeryn, I think you'd better go with her. I'm gonna see if I can find… uh… you know."
Aeryn nodded, and, somewhat grudgingly, escorted the still trembling Nebari towards her quarters. The group separated at a junction as John headed off towards the amnexus chamber. He didn't get very far. He stopped dead in the corridor when something short, cackling, and composed almost entirely of hair met him halfway travelling in the other direction. He pulled his gun on it almost immediately. Apparently, Chiana hadn't been lying, and there really was a monster on board.
"Stop right there, Rapunzel!" he yelled, training the gun on the creature. It obeyed and came to a halt, holding its arms up in surrender - one hand was adorned with a very stripey and frighteningly bright sock - and looking up to face him. Some of the hair fell back to reveal the face - Chiana was right again, it, or rather she, was definitely Sebacean. Or Human, if he was going to be optimistic. Whichever. "Okay. Good. Now, who are you?" There was no reply. "Okay, what are you doing here?"
This time, there was an answer. "Socks!"
A nod. "My socks! Must have them!"
John lowered the gun. Whoever this was, she was obviously harmless, if mildly insane. He really didn't have the time, patience, or energy to figure out how she'd got on board, or why, or even who she was, and as far as he was concerned she could have every goddamn sock in the galaxy so long as he found his underwear very soon. The sock-lady lowered her arms and walked past him, cautiously, then turned to face him again, apparently able to read his thoughts.
"Don't worry. You shall find your pants!" With that, she cackled again, and ran off. John briefly considered warning Aeryn that the sock-lady/hair-monster was in her area (or even vice versa, since only one of the two would survive a surprise encounter and he was willing to bet on it being Aeryn), but he really couldn't be bothered. He was going mad. Or paranoid. Or possibly both. Someone had stolen his underwear, replicated it, and dispersed it around Moya, with the sole purpose of driving him completely nuts. He wouldn't be at all surprised if the strange creature he'd just met was part of the plan.
He stopped briefly to rub away the headache he could feel forming, then carried on towards the amnexus chamber. If that didn't work, he'd go to the Den and rip the damn things off Pilot's head, just to prove he wasn't imagining it… but then he reconsidered. What if he had been imagining it? He really didn't want to go there and find Pilot sitting there in his usual, pants-not-on-the-head state. Instead, he went to find somewhere secluded and preferably dark, where he could sit and mope until such time as what passed as sanity returned to Moya. He could search for his pants in the process, too…
The DRDs skittered into the centre of the den's floor, having finally got close enough to remove the pants from Pilot's head. Since they now had them, and hadn't got a clue what they were, or what their relevance was to Moya, they decided to make use of them for themselves. It was time for something recreational - even DRDs needed time to relax.
One grasped one edge of the pants' waistband, another took the other side and the two stretched them out, holding it in the air between them. Two more took up position on either side and produced arms onto which they had attached large, flat paddles. In the side of one, a small panel slid back and extruded a shorter arm, this one ending in a scoop containing a small, shiny black ball, which it tossed into the air and lobbed over the pants, now serving as a net. The other DRD darted sideways, catching it and flicking it back over. The game had begun...
John was sitting, moping, as per his plan, in a dark corner of Moya. There was, as yet, no sign of his underwear. And people were beginning to put two and two together. Only Harvey and Aeryn so far, but soon absolutely everybody would know that he was going pantless. There was no way he was going to face that.
There was only one solution, then. The only other human-shaped, similarly-sized male on the ship.
It was not going to be pretty.
John stood proudly and faced his destiny, ready for this new challenge. The universe had thrown its worst at him and he was still alive and relatively sane. He could do this. Chin up, he marched boldly towards Crais' quarters.
The door was shut. John knocked tentatively, then, getting no reply, pressed the pad by its side and looked in as it opened. Crais was seated on the bed, staring moodily at the wall. He looked irritated, but the idea of Crais not looking irritated was more alien than most of the various critters that John had been eaten, savaged, head-frelled and seduced by since being catapulted to this side of the galaxy. He didn't seem to have heard the swish of the door.
"Ah, Crais...?" he began, cautiously.
Crais must have been incredibly tightly-wound. At the sound of John's voice he leapt to his feet, almost falling over in the process, and whirled round. Then, apparently realising he wasn't going to be attacked just yet, he relaxed a fraction and attempted to smile. It was a bad move.
"Are you all right, Crais?"
"Me? Yes! I'm fine! Just fine. Hah, of course I'm all right. Why would I not be all right? Everything's perfectly normal. Yes. Perfectly normal."
"Well, yes. So long as...oh, never mind. Look, Crais, I need to ask a favour…"
"I, ah, well, you see… Chiana was, ah, doing the laundry earlier and, well... the fact is, Crais, she lost my underwear. Are you sure you're all right?" John was, by now, blushing deep crimson, his manhood thoroughly affronted. But he was better off than Crais, who had gone grey and looked like he was about to be sick. He tried for the smile again, achieving the sort of watery grimace normally associated with sharp kicks in personal regions.
"Fine, John," he choked. "Wonderful. Do carry on.'
"Okay. Well, as I say, she lost my underwear. And I do have other underwear, but that... seems to have gone missing too. And so... well, I was wondering if... just for a while, I could, ah…"
Harvey stuck his head round the door, grinning and still wearing his pants-man outfit.
"Oh, do stop beating about the bush, John. Be a man!"
"I'm getting there!" he snarled, shoving Harvey out into the corridor and turning back to Crais. Right. Stop beating about the bush. Be a man.
"Crais, can I borrow some of your underwear?"
Crais relaxed visibly, and returned to something close to his normal expression of annoyed superiority.
"That's what you came here for? To borrow my underwear?"
"I just said so, didn't I?" John was in no mood for banter.
"Well... I suppose... if you need it. All right. I'll find you some. Wait here." He walked to the back of the room and rummaged in a cupboard.
"There now, that wasn't so hard, was it?"
"Shut up, Harv."
Crais returned and held out something made of black leather, the peacekeeper logo emblazoned in red on the hem. John stared, forcing himself to maintain a straight face.
"Those are your, ah, pants?"
"Standard peacekeeper issue. Take them or leave them."
John took the things gingerly and backed away.
"Thanks, man, you're a dude…"
He legged it, and made it round the corner before collapsing in helpless giggles.
"Well, I don't know what you're laughing about, I think they're quite fetching."
"Harvey, I do not want to frelling know."
"Yes. I can just see you in…"
"Fine, fine. I'll go."
John shook his head and made his way back to his own quarters, wondering if there was any possible way he could face actually wearing the things. Since the alternative was to stay pantless, he decided he probably could. He reached his quarters and stepped inside, closing the door firmly behind him. The crew didn't have to know about his solution to the pant problem, even if he did.
"Pilot! Pilot! What's happening? Are you all right? Is Moya all right? What's happening? I sensed a great evil! Deception and lies! Pilot! Aaaargh!"
The voice, which reverberated with complete and utter panic, had begun some distance away and was accompanied by the sound of running feet. The scream, however, was not, as it has resulted from its owner hurtling through the door of the Den, failing to notice the game of DRD tennis in progress, tripping over the net and landing heavily on his face. It was, of course, Stark.
"Moya and I are quite all right, Stark," said Pilot, addressing the fallen Banik's back. "Are you sure you sensed something?"
Stark pushed himself to his feet, slightly stunned, and looked at Pilot.
"Oh," he muttered. "I... was sure I... well, if you're all right. Maybe I was wrong...could have been wrong, I suppose…"
He fell silent, gazed at Pilot suspiciously for a few microts, then turned to leave. However, as he turned he caught sight of John's pants. They were lying, alone and lost-looking, on the floor, the DRDs having scarpered when they found Stark bearing down on them. They were, quite evidently, dying. Stark moaned softly and fell to his knees in front of them, eye filling with tears, and reached out to stroke their fabric.
"Oh, my friends," he whispered. "What have I done? Oh, I have brought death to you, my friends. I am...so sorry. So sorry."
He choked on his sobs and couldn't speak for a time, but sat, mouth twisted in shame and tears dripping from the end of his nose. Finally, he managed to regain his composure and remembered his duty to the dying pants. He reached up and pulled off his mask, bathing them in the glow of his energy.
"Yes, my friends," he murmured. "Take my thoughts, be at peace. Cross over now, find the other side. Peace, peace…"
"Stark? Stark, what are you doing?"
Zhaan was crouching in front of him, looking at him and the pants curiously.
"I am...helping the pants...to cross over."
"They are dying, then? Stark, perhaps I can save them! I can share unity with the pants, bring them back from the brink. Let me try?"
Stark turned a tearstained face towards her, eye full of desperate hope. He held out the pants with one hand, and with the other pulled the mask back over the glowing right half of his face. Zhaan gently grasped the pants and studied them. They lacked a head, so she would have to try something a little different. Seating herself cross-legged on the floor, she wrapped the pants around her head and closed her eyes, feeling her way into their clothy consciousness.
Stark watched her for a few microts with obvious respect and adoration, and then he got bored. He'd seen Unity performed enough times now to know what it entailed, and he therefore knew she'd probably be there a while, so he could leave her to it and find something more interesting to do.
John stepped out of his quarters again, somewhat cautiously, and found Stark sitting on the floor opposite the door, eyeing him. He stopped, puzzled.
"What are you doing, Stark?"
"I saw you, you know. I heard you, and I saw you. You needed his pants. You took his pants. You took pants from a Peacekeeper. Have you no shame, John?"
"Look, Stark, I…"
"You're wearing them now! I can sense it!"
Stark leaped to his feet and grabbed John by the chin, bringing their faces close together.
"Peacekeeper pants, John. Peacekeeper pants," he snarled, then pushed John away. "PEACEKEEPER PANTS!"
For the second time in ten minutes, John ran, Stark's cries of "Peacekeeper pants! Peacekeeper pants!" echoing down the corridor behind him.
Crais didn't feel better any more.
Yes, he had taken great pleasure in the destruction of John's Calvins, and had safely hidden the remains. But the effect had worn off, and now he needed something else.
He needed to know what, exactly, the Human had been doing with Officer Sun. Needed to reassure himself that their adolescent flirting was not becoming something more sordid. He didn't want to know, but he had to know. He couldn't keep wondering.
The pants could give him his answer. But he needed a scientist; he couldn't carry out the tests himself. Zhaan was too perceptive by half, and was certain to ask awkward questions. That left only one option.
In her semi-comatose state of Unity, Zhaan was only vaguely aware of how ridiculous she looked. However, it didn't matter; this was for the good of the pants, and she could, therefore, forego her vanity. She was persevering with all her spiritual might, but nothing seemed to be happening. Wherever Stark had sent the pants, they were obviously quite happy there and didn't want to leave, and, on top of this, she couldn't find them on any of the astral planes.
She brought herself out of it to think more clearly. She only just caught a glimpse of what could have been John as he bolted out of the Den, apparently terrified, but she didn't think much of it. Instead, she decided to try one last time to bring the pants back to the world of the living, closing her eyes and slipping into unconsciousness.
Somewhere slightly higher on Moya than Zhaan, John was running as fast as he could away from the Den, in a state of total, complete panic. This was the final straw. Zhaan was wearing his underwear now? And as a hat, of all things? Enough was enough. If they wanted to drive him crazy, fine, just so long as they did it quietly and without him knowing about it. All he wanted was his Calvins back. Was that too much to ask?
He rounded a corner and ran straight into Aeryn, knocking them both to the floor. She was the first to recover, and stood up to offer him a hand. He took it and got to his feet.
"John, are you all right?"
He gave up. He fell forward, grabbing her in a hug for his own support and taking her quite by surprise. She patted his back, nervously.
"That's it…" he muttered. "I concede. Just take me to the nice padded room and let me die quietly…" Aeryn said nothing at first, just let him lean on her. Eventually, he pulled back again, looking sheepish. "Sorry…" He looked down. "I can't cope any more… why is it always me everyone's trying to drive insane?"
"Because you're an easy target?"
That got a smile. Unfortunately, at that point, Stark happened to wander past; he looked at John dubiously, then carried on his way. That would have been enough for John, but Crais followed almost immediately after, heading in the direction of the apothecary, throwing him a knowing and holier-than-thou smile while he was at it. The last person to pass him was, naturally, Harvey, who skidded past on roller blades, still in his pants-man outfit, still singing 'The Ride of the Valkyries', with his arms outstretched to resemble Superman. He grinned, before rounding the corner. John immediately recoiled into himself and clung to Aeryn again, his brain and emotions now thoroughly mangled.
Aeryn pushed him back, attempting to make him focus on reality. "John, come on. It's not all that bad. I'm sure your pants will turn up eventually." He groaned. The pants were the least of his worries. He could feel himself slowly slipping into complete insanity, he could sense it… his mind was getting exponentially smaller, his judgement was clouding, his grasp of the real and unreal becoming gradually merged…
Aeryn, now getting worried by the lost and far-away look on his face, repeated his name in an effort to bring him back. John was only partially aware of this, but he could definitely hear her and knew that something must be wrong. He had to focus. So, he did what he usually did in these situations - he kissed her. She pushed him off almost immediately, but it worked. He was back.
He nodded. "Yeah. 'Mokay… Just weirded out there for a second…" He took a deep breath. "I can't wait for this day to be over… it seems like the entire ship is conspiring to drive me outta my frelling mind… I need to sleep. I'll wake up, and everything'll be normal…" He stopped, and shook his head to clear it a little more. Aeryn still looked concerned. "I'm okay, Aeryn. Honest. I'm going to the Terrace… clear my head."
She nodded, and they parted ways. Just before either of them moved, off, though, he added: "Oh, before I forget. That thing Chiana mentioned? It turns out to be real. I have no idea what the frell it is, but… just… be careful. It… she… seems harmless, but… well, thought I'd better warn you."
"Right." Aeryn checked her pulse pistol, nodded, and the two of them headed off.
Jool turned round from her table in the apothecary, and faced a strange vision. Crais looked nervous, his hair was once again slipping out of its braid, and he was clutching a wad of cotton threads as if his life depended on it. In fact, she noted, he looked even more nervous than he had that day on the Terrace when he failed to give her the pendant in front of everyone. But no… she wouldn't think about that again. They had been doomed for failure before they even began…
"I need a favour."
Jool sighed. Most of her time on this ship seemed to have been spent doing favours for one or other of the crew, often quite disgusting or downright dangerous.
"Does it involve bat dren?"
"What?? No. No...bat dren." Now he remembered why it hadn't worked… Jool's remarkable ability to confuse and befuddle him within about ten seconds of any conversation.
"Oh, good. All right, what do you want?"
"I need you to run some tests for me. On this." He held up the handful of threads.
"What kind of tests? And is it worth asking why?"
"DNA tests. Body fluids. Can you do that?"
"Well, yes, but why, Crais?"
"I... ah... I can't tell you. But do it for me, please?" He looked so expectant that she conceded.
"I suppose so. But I'll need some kind of database to match it up to if you want any kind of usable result."
"Not a problem. The Peacekeepers have DNA profiles most of their files, and if it isn't in there it probably isn't worth worrying about. Bring the me the data and I'll find you a match."
"Right. I'm going back to my quarters. Find me when you have something."
He turned on his heel and marched out of the room, leaving Jool to pick apart the threads and start her tests, wondering why she allowed herself to be used like this. One of these days, she'd just learn to say no, especially where Bialar Crais was concerned. Then, apparently, Crais thought of something else and darted back into the room.
"Oh, and Jool?"
A sigh. "Yes? What now?"
"Would you mind not telling anyone else about this until we know the result? Please?"
"Yes, yes. I doubt they'd be interested anyway."
Zhaan had finally decided to give up on Unity. Obviously, the pants did not want to be brought back. It didn't occur to her, obviously, that they were never alive to begin with - for Zhaan, everything had a soul, everything could be redeemed, and everything had a right to exist. Even John's underpants. She sighed, and returned herself to the usual level of existence. When she opened her eyes, she received a shock, and nearly toppled over backwards - in front of her, mere microts from her face, was a possibly Sebacean, possibly female, and incredibly frightening entity. Zhaan regained her composure and addressed… her.
"Hello?" No answer. "I am Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan. And you are?" Still no answer. "Do you have a name, child?" she asked, smiling warmly. The Sebacean cackled (which it seemed to enjoy doing), and snapped its be-socked hand at her like some kind of puppet. Zhaan started, but remained outwardly calm.
Suddenly, the strange female leapt forwards, ripped the underpants from Zhaan's head, and took off again, yelling at the top of her voice: "I have the pants!! Ahahahaha! Pants!!" Briefly dazed and slightly confused, Zhaan pulled herself to her feet, and turned to look at Pilot, who had been doing his very best trying not to laugh at her. He was still wearing something resembling an amused smile.
"Pilot, what was that?"
"I'm not entirely sure… but I think there have been several other sightings throughout Moya."
"Have the others been informed?"
"I believe Chiana was in the process of doing that."
Zhaan nodded, then made her way to Command, just for the sheer fact that she had nothing better to do, Jool was in charge of the apothecary, and everyone was bound to congregate there eventually.
Half an arn later, Crais was still standing in the corridor, poring over his sock collection. He was just picking up a grey argyle that he was particularly proud of acquiring when he heard footsteps, and Jool's exasperated squawk, shouting "Crais! Crais! Where the hezmana are you, you idiot?"
Crais panicked, again. He shoved the socks back into the cupboard and swung the door closed, in too much of a hurry to check it had closed all the way, turned and walked nonchalantly in the direction of Jool's voice. She stamped round the corner, flushed and breathless, microts later.
"Crais! There you are, frellnik! You weren't in your quarters, and I have been all over the frelling ship. This is the last place I expected anyone to be! What were you doing here?"
Dear Lord, did the woman never shut up? "I...er..."
"Oh, don't bother. I've got your precious result, shall we get on with it?"
"I... yes... right... good. This way, then."
He marched towards the nearest console and began punching buttons, Jool trailing behind and wondering if he always seemed this unstable and she had merely failed to notice.
"I think... yes. There. Results, please?"
She handed him the chip with the results on and watched him plug it into the console, punch a button and stand back to wait for a match.
"Do I ever get to find out what I was testing, then?"
"What? Oh. Yes, yes, yes. Just...aha!"
He was pushing buttons again, leaning forward eagerly.
Rygel was still starving, and Pilot was steadfastly refusing his demands for food. But there was hope. He had finally realised why it was that nobody else was as hideously, unbearably hungry as he was, and it wasn't because they had two less stomachs than him.
They had all been hiding food.
Rygel had no idea why this hadn't occurred to him sooner. Obviously they were all living out of private supplies, since there was no way that anyone could possibly live on the pittance that Pilot had been doling out. Well, their game was up. He was going to search every square dench of this ship until he had rooted out their stores, one at a time, and then he was going to...
At this point, his thoughts were interrupted. His search had taken him into the far corners of the ship, and Moya had chosen this precise moment to lurch to one side, flipping open the door of Crais's secret compartment and showering Rygel in stolen socks.
Aeryn was beginning to think John was right, and everybody was conspiring against him. She hadn't seen a single person around since they'd parted ways, and it was, frankly, bizarre. She shrugged and turned back the way she had come, heading towards the Terrace to find John (assuming he hadn't vanished as well), and then spotted something on the floor. She bent down for closer scrutiny.
It was a hair… Her first thought was that it was Jool's, but on examination, it wasn't fuzzy enough or orange enough to be Jool's. It was long, brown, wavy, and decidedly odd. She stood again, and barely had time to react when she heard footsteps come pounding down the corridor behind her, and someone who obviously wasn't looking where they were going come slamming into her back. Pride wouldn't let her fall over, even if she did stumble slightly.
She turned to face the heap on the floor and immediately trained her weapon on it. Suddenly, the hair made a whole lot more sense - whatever had bumped into her was apparently nothing but hair. John, and Chiana, apparently, had been right, and now the hair-monster was after her, too. Well, she was an ex-Peacekeeper. She'd taken on Scarrans, Tavleks, Sheyangs, and D'Argo in a hyper-rage - this was nothing compared to that… or so she thought.
"Now, listen carefully, and don't do any sudden moves, and you might just come out of this alive," she said, as the (now obviously female) creature stood up. "Who are you?" Naturally, there was no reply. Aeryn sighed. "Look, whoever, or… whatever… you are. I don't have time for this. So either get out of my way, tell me what you want, or-" She stopped. "Is that John's underwear?"
Hair-girl nodded. "Pants!"
"Oh, you can talk…" Hair-girl nodded again.
"Pants! Pants!! I found them!"
"So I see…" said Aeryn, trying as hard as she could to be civil, and putting her pulse pistol away. "Now, how about you just hand them over, hm?"
"Nooo… John's pants," she said, clutching the white clothing to herself protectively.
"I know they're John's pants. I'm going to give them back to him." Aeryn held out a hand in an attempt to take them, then very quickly recoiled it when her companion snarled. "All right… all right, just calm down. I'm not going to hurt them. I know John very well… I promise, the pants will get to him intact…"
After a few microts' procrastination, the pants were handed over. Aeryn nodded in thanks, and then turned to find Crichton. She felt her hand being tugged before she could move, however, and looked back to find her new friend pulling on her hand determinedly. She raised an eyebrow, questioningly.
She held up the hand wearing the stripey sock. "Socks! Need socks!"
"Right. Well… um… run along, then and find your socks…" Then, she vacated the area before anything else strange could happen, and hair-girl cackled (again) and ran off in the opposite direction.
"So... two separate matches... yes, that one is Crichton's..."
Jool's eyebrows ascended.
"...and this is, ah, what the frell??"
"What is it?"
"How... but why? It can't..."
Giving up on an answer, Jool peered over his shoulder at the image on the screen. It was definitely familiar. Sebacean male... hang on...
"Isn't that... that Peacekeeper. Thing."
Crais' face was a battleground of expressions, of which 'incredulous horror' seemed to be gaining the upper hand.
"This ship is insane, I would have you know! It is trying to drive us to distraction! Not content with continually subjecting us to its bizarre diseases and bodily functions, it now conspires to attack me with undergarments!"
Rygel glided round the corner, glaring furiously out from under his new suit of socks. The reactions of the two aliens his tirade was directed at were quite different.
Crais took one look, turned white and stood absolutely still, whimpering gently.
Jool stared at Rygel, blinked in an attempt to convince herself that he could not possibly be real, and then spotted one of her own socks dangling from his left earbrow and grabbed it, failing completely to suppress her giggles. The fact that Rygel was glaring at her in furiously affronted dignity only made it that bit harder.
"If you are quite finished", he growled, "I am going to find out what the hezmana is going on. Excuse me."
As anticipated, Aeryn found John on the Terrace. He was curled into a protective little ball on his side, in a futile attempt to keep himself away from the various Bad Things on Moya. He looked so innocent and childlike, she couldn't help but smile. In fact, she thought he might be asleep, so she approached him quietly and sat herself down next to him.
Apparently, he was quite awake, and, without rolling over, he said, "Hey, Aeryn."
"How do you do that?"
"That. Know it's me."
"Dunno. Just do." He sat up, stretched, and looked at her. "So… is the Mad Ship Moya starting to get any saner yet, or shall I just curl up and go back to pretending this is all some horrible dream?"
"I couldn't say, I haven't seen anyone." John nodded, then stood up to stretch his legs out. Aeryn joined him. "I did, however, find your curious monster."
"Damn, so it was real…"
"I'm afraid so. I also found these…" She held out the pants and he grabbed them and stuffed them in his jacket pocket, zipping it up for good measure.
"I think those are the ones Chiana lost."
"Yeah, they seem clean… wait just a cotton pickin' minute!" he said, his thoughts suddenly taking a U-turn. "You had 'em all along, didn't you? You were in on this!"
"I just found them, John!"
"Quit it, Aeryn, just admit it. You had them in your quarters the whole time and you just wanted to see how long it would be before I cracked."
She sighed. It had been a long day, and John wasn't helping to make it any shorter. "I did not steal your underwear. Which brings us back to the fact that you still only have one pair. I'm assuming the others haven't turned up yet?" He shook his head. "Right. Why don't we gather everyone in Command and hold a meeting? If anyone's seen them, they'll tell you, yes?" A nod. "Good. Come on…"
With that, before he could react, she grabbed his hand and pulled him off the Terrace, comming the crew as the two of them made their way to Command.
One by one, the crew drifted into command. Chiana edged round the door, still twitching and on the alert for sock-monsters. D'argo followed her, more or less down from his hyper-rage. Zhaan walked in slowly, looking drained from her efforts to share Unity with the pants. Rygel floated in, still furious and draped in socks, closely followed by Jool. He glared furiously around the room, daring the rest of its occupants to say something. Suddenly, everyone's expression was very blank.
Last, of course, came Harvey, never willing to miss out on the fun. He was now clad in a judge's wig and gown, having finally abandoned the pants, but had kept the rollerblades. The overall effect was enough to tip John over the edge, sending him into paroxysms of laughter. This set off the rest of the crew in sequence, Rygel sitting, seething, in the centre of it all. John finally brought himself under some kind of control, only snorting occasionally when the sight of a small, angry green alien sitting on a floating chair and draped with socks of all shapes and sizes became too much.
"Sparky, what the frell happened to you? Hey, hang on..."
He stepped forward, scrutinising Rygel closely, and grabbed something threadbare and grey-brown off his shoulder.
"Rygel," he said quietly. "Sparky, sweetheart? Do you know what this is, hmm? Any ideas? Want to know what it is? This, Rygel, is my frelling sock. My. Frelling. Sock!"
He spun round, brandishing the sock at the rest of the room.
"What is it with you people, huh?!" he demanded. "Why are you so frelling determined to drive me insane? What have I done?"
Zhaan took John by the shoulders.
"John, I promise, none of us are trying to do anything to you. Look, Rygel doesn't just have your socks. For instance, that one there--" she indicated one of the less worn items, blue and faintly shimmery, "--is mine. Actually... Rygel, why do you have all our socks?"
"Yeah, Ryge! Hey, you got mine there too?" Chiana detached herself from the floor and began picking through the sock debris, coming away triumphantly with a shiny black creation with individual toe-holes.
Everybody got the hint, and descended, Rygel's diminutive form disappearing under a multi-species scrum determined to retrieve its collective socks. D'argo, having a size advantage, emerged first, holding one fluffy orange and one red with white polka-dots. Next came Aeryn, expert in violence at a point, with several, all identically black and neatly-ironed. Jool came out with a single sock, striped in green and orange. And, finally, Zhaan, who had waited relatively calmly for everyone else to get theirs, took her blue one, along with another with interesting gold swirly patterns on.
Rygel wasn't even angry any more. He found it impossible to believe that a Dominar of his status could possibly be treated with such disrespect, and most of his higher brain functions had shut down. He still had two socks adhering to his head, one gold and full of holes and mended tears, the other - Chiana had noticed it, and was retreating to a far corner of the room as a precaution - neon-striped.
"What's happening? Why did you call us? Is it the peacekeepers? It must be peacekeepers! Don't let them get- is that my sock?"
Stark careered through the door and skidded to a halt in front of Rygel. He reached down, removed his sock from the Hynerian's head with two fastidious fingers, slapped him once across the cheek and scuttled off to hide behind Zhaan.
"Ryge?" John said, trying to work out if Rygel was still actually conscious. "Rygel? Why the socks?"
Rygel was suddenly wide awake, and once again bristling with rage.
"I suggest, John", he said in the most determinedly icy, imperious, Dominar's voice he could muster, "that you ask the person who collected these… these garments, and following that I would think that your most productive line of enquiry would be to ask this ship, who apparently found something amusing in dropping them on my extremely sensitive head."
Chiana looked incredulous. "Collected them? Someone has been collecting… our socks?"
"How very odd," murmured Zhaan.
"You can say that again. But why?"
"Someone would have to be… so twisted. So determined to have control. The need must have been terrible…"
With an interesting domino effect, realisation dawned. He wasn't here. Rygel did not appear to have had any of his socks in his coating. And he was, without a doubt, as twisted as they come. John replayed the last couple of solar days mentally, circling incidents of odd behaviour, specifically a tendency to bolt at the mention of underwear. Suddenly everything made a sort of horribly bizarre sense. He turned to the clamshell.
"Pilot, where's Crais?"
"Captain Crais is on tier six."
"Could you get him to come up here?"
There was a pause.
"He is not responding."
"Well, get some DRDs to drag him here, then!"
"As you wish."
"This may be difficult. What are we going to do with him?"
"I intend," growled D'argo, "to rip out his intestines and weave them into chair-backs. I am going to suck his brains out of his nose and use his ribs as…"
"D'argo, sweet D'argo. We cannot do such harm to another for merely stealing our socks."
"Actually," said Aeryn, "I'm inclined to agree with D'argo on this one. Let's just kill him, save ourselves the trouble of having to guard our frelling underwear."
The fight, which looked like being quite an interesting one, was cut short by the sudden appearance of two figures at the other end of command. They were both apparently young and female, and of the Sebacean/human mould, but were marked out by a faint bluish glow as something different.
"Oh, great," John muttered. "Wonderful. Fabulous. Just what today needed. I mean, I was just thinking it was getting better, you know? It was all starting to make sense. And now this."
"John, what are you talking about?" Aeryn hissed, eyes still fixed on the two new arrivals.
John put his head on the console. "God-like aliens. God-like frelling aliens. I hate god-like aliens."
The shorter of the two glowing blue things smiled serenely. "Greetings," she said. "Do not be alarmed. We mean you no harm." John groaned and tried to burrow into the console. The alien ignored him. "I am Minh. This is Ennixeve. We sensed that you had need of us."
"Oh, yeah?" said Aeryn. "And what, exactly, do we need you for?"
"Your ship is in turmoil. You have aboard a man who cannot be trusted, the one called 'Crais'. You do not know what is to be done with him. Your difficulty is tearing apart your friendships. We can act as… mediators. Instruments of justice. We can find suitable atonement for his crimes, prevent this dissonance. Please, permit us to help you."
Aeryn still looked sceptical and D'argo merely looked murderous. Stark, however, was suddenly ecstatically happy. He jumped to his feet.
"Oh! Oh, Zhaan! Isn't it wonderful? They are full of light, Zhaan!"
"We can all see that much, Stark. They're glowing."
He rounded on her. "Inner light, Peacekeeper! They are filled with kindness! They will help us!"
Zhaan smiled again. "He is right, Aeryn. They mean us no harm."
Zhaan was slightly saner than Stark, at least most of the time. Aeryn relaxed a little.
Crais stumbled through the doorway, four DRDs poking at his ankles, and stopped, swaying gently, in the middle of command. He looked around muzzily, noting that the entire crew was standing around him and many of them seemed to be holding socks. There were also some glowing people. This did not seem terribly important.
Zhaan approached cautiously. Crais looked fragile, and she didn't want to damage him permanently.
"Crais, we know what you did. We know about the socks. And we know about John's pants."
Crais nodded. There was no point denying it. He'd known they would find out sooner or later. Now there was nothing for it but to face the inevitable: court-marshall and execution.
Minh stepped forward and snapped her fingers. The room instantly rearranged itself, confirming John's suspicions of god-like-ness. The two aliens stood on either side of a console, Harvey perched between them, still in his judge's robes but gagged to prevent any undue contributions. Evidently their powers extended beyond the realm of the physical. John found himself intensely irritated by this; however hideously annoying Harvey could be at times, he belonged to John, and it was not for anybody else to gag him.
Crais had not moved, but he had been rotated to face the console. Behind him were the rest of the crew, standing or, in Rygel's case, floating, in a semicircle. Ennixeve raised her hand and a scroll appeared, which she read from.
"Captain Bialar Crais, you are hereby charged with the theft of socks from the inhabitants of the ship known as Moya, and with the theft and destruction-"
"Destruction? Destruction?? He destroyed my Calvins?"
"Yes, Crichton. I destroyed them and had Jool run tests on them."
Jool started. "That was John's underwear?" she demanded. "You didn't say! And if it was, that means that…"
"Please! Can we concentrate on the matter in hand? You will have due time for discussion when this trial is complete. Bialar Crais, how do you plead?"
"Haven't I made that clear? Guilty."
"Does anyone else wish to speak?"
"Yes! I want to know what Jool was going to say about my pants."
"We… I… ran tests. DNA tests. I didn't know it was your underwear and… uh. We found… other DNA. Not yours. Someone else's."
Minh tapped her fingers. "Kindly reach your point."
"Um, yeah. The DNA. It was that guy's. Scorpius' guy. Lieutenant Braca."
As one, every pair of eyes in the room swivelled to focus on John. He winced.
"Ah. Yeah. Right. Well, okay, carry on, carry on." He stared straight ahead, trying to avoid looking at anyone. Nothing happened. "Come on!"
"Ahem. Yes. Bialar Crais, in view of the nature of your crimes, and that those crimes could have been attributed to the incompetence of the one known as Chiana, and that, indeed, her incompetence has caused suffering in conjunction with your thefts…"
"My incompetence! That's right, blame Chiana, that's what she's here for. Not as if I work my hands raw, oh no…"
"Please permit me to finish. In view of the nature of your crimes, we have devised a fitting punishment. You are, for as long as this crew shall remain aboard this vessel, to fulfil the role of Chiana as the ship's washer of clothes."
Chiana grinned. "No more laundry? Ever?"
"No more laundry. Ever."
Crais had been expecting to be sentenced to death. He looked up incredulously. "That's my punishment? Laundry duty? That's all?"
"Indeed. Oh, and…we have a request. We believe that a pet of ours is aboard your vessel. Have you seen her? She is quite small and has a great deal of hair. Oh, and she is very fond of socks."
"That monster…is your pet?" demanded Chiana in disbelief.
The hair-monster burst through the door, panting. It spotted its other sock, still dangling from Rygel, snatched it and pulled it over its other hand and waved them happily. "Socks!" it cried. "Soooooocks! My socks!"
"Io-Nim?" called Minh quietly. "Come, Io-Nim!"
The monster spun round, saw the aliens and dashed towards them, jumping into Ennixeve's arms and wrapping its legs round her waist. Aeryn, always a sucker for the cute and fawning, grinned, as did almost everyone else. Rygel glared, feeling that nobody was paying nearly enough attention to the indignities he had suffered, and floated sulkily out of the room as the aliens vanished, smiling, taking the hair-monster with them. Crais followed, wearing an expression of combined guilt and extreme relief, not having any desire at all to speak to anyone else just yet. Zhaan and Stark linked arms and wandered out, smiling knowingly at one another. Chiana jumped up and trotted cheerfully towards her quarters. D'argo glanced at John curiously but refrained from saying anything and left, shaking his head at the apparent insanity of absolutely everyone on board.
Aeryn looked at John and opened her mouth as if to say something.
"Don't ask. Please."
She shrugged and walked through the door and down the corridor. John waited until she was well and truly gone, then sighed, flopped into a chair and closed his eyes. Harvey was, naturally, still there, but now sitting on a table in the bar that John's subconscious had decided on for scenery. For some reason, he was also still wearing the gag that the aliens had put on him. John reached across and stripped the tape from his mouth.
"Ugh! Thank you. That was not a pleasant experience."
John grinned. "Shut you up for a while, though."
"I could take offence, you know."
"Ahh, but you won't. Have a drink."
Harvey gulped at the pint in front of him.
"That, Harv, is something you will never know. Just because you live in my head, doesn't mean I have to share everything with you. I make the rules in here, remember?"
"Oh, fine. So, are you going to talk to Aeryn?"
"I should, I guess. Be stupid not to."
John nodded, stood up, grinned, and planted a kiss on Harvey's forehead. Harvey blinked, then grinned back.
"Right. Biting the bullet. Wish me luck."
"Good luck, John."
"You're a dude."
A/N: It's done! It's all over!!! And… um… if anyone can still see and hasn't been put off by all the random insanity, please review and order us not to do this again. Ever. Thank you. Oh, and I say again… IT WAS FOUR IN THE MORNING!!! Flying frelling bananas make sense at four in the morning… Over and out…