Oh Captain, My Captain
Summary: Requiem for Crais, Aeryn's POV. Spoilers for Into The Lions Den.
Disclaimer: I don't own them, I just like crawling inside their heads from time to time.
Oh Captain, My Captain
It's strange, but it was Crichton who suggested the funeral and I was the one who was against it. I wasn't entirely sure that he would have wanted a funeral. He was a Peacekeeper Captain, after all, and funerals aren't the Peacekeeper way, I told Crichton. To which he calmly replied that Crais wasn't born a Peacekeeper and he certainly hadn't died one.
Good point, John.
No body, of course, but we filled a coffin with his personal affects and gathered around that. I'd been planning on doing most of the talking, but Crichton was the first to speak, which surprised me. I hadn't really expected any of them to say very much. Chiana and Jool hadn't known him very well, after all, and D'Argo and Rygel... well, they had suffered a lot from the Peacekeepers, from Crais.
So had Crichton, which is why it surprised me that he had anything to say that day. Especially considering how much animosity he'd always displayed towards him in the past. But, as always, he rose to the occasion. His speech was short and amazingly appropriate.
"Sorry I misjudged you, man. Thanks for saving our eemas over there." He sighed deeply, touched his fist to the top of the coffin, and started to back away from the coffin. Then he paused. "And for all the other times you've done the same thing. Thank you and I'm sorry."
That was it. Short, unemotional, and to the point, but it brought tears to my eyes. In those brief sentences, he had laid to rest years of pain and contention, forgiven Crais for every wrong that he had ever been subjected to at his hands, and, in the same breath, gone a step further and called him a good man. He had been blinking very hard then, probably trying not to cry. That surprised me, too.
"We didn't always fight on the same side..." D'Argo had muttered then. "But I'm glad that, in the end, we did. He was a fine warrior and a faithful ally."
High praise coming from D'Argo. Rygel looked ready to say something, but abruptly left instead. I think he might have been crying, the little toad. And why not. Crais had saved his life more than once, too.
"That's what binds us here today..." I muttered quietly.
"What?" Jool asked softly.
"We're bound here today in our grief," I said more loudly, "because Crais has saved every one of our lives more than once." The speech I had prepared went from my head, then, and I was glad. He had saved so many people by his death. He deserved better than a prepared speech.
So I decided to be spontaneous, speaking as my heart told me to. "I served under him for... better than thirty cycles, and in that time, he saved my life more times than I can count. I admired and respected him as greatly then as I do now. He was not just my Commanding officer. After a while, I was proud to call him my friend as well. He never let down those who put their trust in him. He would have willingly died for any one of us."
I could see the shocked look on their faces. None of them had known about the afternoons spent in the Officer's lounge, laughing and joking together, playing games, or just relaxing over drinks. More than any Captain I'd ever served under, this one had been a part of his crew. We had all been friends. Me, Crais, Teeg, Braca, Tauvlo, and a half dozen others. When I experienced regrets over leaving the Peacekeepers, these were the times that I was truly regretting. How could I put that into words that they would understand, though? Especially Crichton, who had always, for some insane reason, been jealous.
"We were friends..." I repeated more firmly. "He was a good man. He was always loyal to the things he believed in and the people he cared about." I realized that I was crying, but I didn't care. "He loved Tauvlo more than he loved anything or anyone. He would have done anything for him. When Tauvlo died, I really think that it killed a part of Crais. That might not forgive the things he did afterwards, but... it's true."
I saw the surprised look on John's face, saw it finally sink in why Crais had done the things he had after his brother's death. I imagine he must have been thinking about how he would have reacted to the death of his friend D.K. "He changed after that, lost himself. He was a good man before, as good as anyone in his position could have been, but there was a hole in his life. He lost everything he ever loved, Tauvlo, the Peacekeepers, everything. And then he found Talyn. He loved Talyn so much... He never wanted anything from him but a friend, another ship, another someone to take care of. Shutting Talyn down was hard for me, but it was torture for him."
"He told me later in private, that he blamed himself for it. He believed that it was his failing that had led to Talyn's deterioration, that if he had been stronger Talyn might not have turned out as he did. He was so guilty that he couldn't have been a better Captain to Talyn..." I shook my head, trailing off.
They did not need to know about the tears shed in private, that time or any other. They did not need to know that he had grown to love me, actually love me, or that I had once offered myself to him as barter in exchange for a promise to help Crichton, and that Crais had turned me down but still helped me. They did not need to know about the surprise party that he had thrown for Teeg when she had been promoted, or that he had cried over her death almost as much as he had cried over Tauvlo's.
Or that he had loved children and could frequently be found in one of the planet-simulations playing with them, laughing happily as seven or eight of them ganged up to wrestle him to the ground. And that sometimes, after a particularly destructive mission, he would look at the reports with a sad, confused look on his face, as though trying to figure out how we could be responsible for so much death and chaos. Weren't we supposed to bring peace and order? Wasn't that our job? And how it was me who convinced him that sometimes it was necessary to remind the lesser species who was in charge.
Somehow, I thought that these were all things that he would rather have kept private. "He believed very strongly in certain things. Loyalty was the main one. He promised to help John subvert the wormhole project, so he did, even though it cost him his life, because he had also promised me that there would be no more needless death. He hated killing... hated it." I shook my head violently, wondering how many of them had known that. "He hated it..." I repeated quietly. "He was a good man. If you could have known him under different circumstances, I know you would agree with me."
There was nothing else I could say then. Well, there were volumes more that I could have said if I hadn't been crying. He was a good man. A good friend. I'm going to miss him, and I find myself hoping that Crichton is right about what he calls the 'afterlife'. Because, more than anything else, Crais was a lonely man, but if Crichton is right, then he's not alone anymore, and that comforts me greatly.The End