Panicked and enraged he had watched her descend like a falling star, the ice opening beneath her and receiving her. He had expected silence when he heard every last crack and splash and gurgle as she struggled for life. His heart stopped short at the sound of his own name, "Crichton…" and he could hear her swallowing water, imagine her hands slapping against the surface of the ice in her vain attempts at saving herself. He strained against the restraints in his cockpit, wishing the comm would short out, waiting for the splashing to stop and praying it wouldn't. He felt nauseous as the adrenaline kept pumping through him and he had nowhere to go, nothing he could do. "…Ugh…Cricht-" It was over and he wanted to claw out of his own skin. He wanted to launch himself out of his cockpit, chew through her restraints with his teeth if he had to…he felt the gun metal taste of fear and grief creep into his mouth. His tongue felt thick as he said aloud "O my god, what have I done." He sagged back in his seat and waited for the nightmare to end.
D'Argo had been the first to reach her, though Crais had been so near behind him they virtually came upon the jagged hole in the ice simultaneously. They circled each other wildly like two angry bees, trying to figure out how to touch down without themselves losing their ships. Anxious with futile hope and limbs lethargic from pragmatic grief they touched down on the shore of the ice covered lake. The sensors indicated that not only was the ice frozen thick enough to support their weight, but also water currents had carried Aeryn's body close enough to shore as to make a long walk along the surface unnecessary. Each looked at the other at the foot of their walk ways, neither saying anything though both realized with renewed pain that this was no longer a search and rescue, it never had been. It was, rather, a recovery mission.
They walked side by side, the sound of their booted feet crunching in the snow and the creak of Crais' leather great coat the only sounds. "Here," Crais said, unholstering his weapon. D'Argo instinctively took a step back but the Peacekeeper ignored him and fired into the frozen ground, blasting a small hole in the ice. D'Argo could see the water moving beneath as he unsheathed his Qualta blade. The ice, several metras thick seemed to groan as he wedged the blade into the opening and levered it back and forth, forcing great chunks to chip off and fall into the ever widening gap. He worked around the hole, finally making a rough hexagon big enough to fit his massive frame. Down there, he thought to himself, Aeryn's down there…
Looking down on Crais, he threw the weapon aside and said "I'll go." The smaller man nodded, hardly looking up. D'Argo wondered briefly what sort of relationship Crais had had with the former Officer Sun to prompt such devotion from a man of Crais' such moral…ambiguity. The Luxan pulled his knife out before tossing his belt aside, disrobed to his undergarments and plunged into the frigid depths. It had seemed the logical decision to him, he who could survive a quarter arn or longer in the vacuum of space, he whose tough Luxan hide could survive temperatures and climates of varying extremes. But not his physical stamina, not even two battle campaigns, the death of his wife and his subsequent imprisonment for 8 cycles could have readied him for the emotional jolt he felt when he found his fallen crew mate in the blue green depths. The horrors of battle and his own pain could not prepare him for the sterility of Aeryn's death. She sat, her arms floating barely above her head as though she were beckoning him for an embrace. Stray hair from her PK regulation ponytail framed her face like a jet-black halo and her eyes remained open, opaque in the water while her half-open mouth still forming her lover's name. The frigid waters tickled him with icicle fingers as he fought against the sharp intake of breath at seeing her so perfect, so…unharmed.
He wanted to cry, he wanted to scream…he wanted to hurt something, kill somebody. But who was there but Crichton, and he was really as good as dead already. Bubbles rose from his mouth as he groaned and moved forward, brushing her hand aside to begin sawing at the harness. He flinched as she caressed his cheek, his lungs burning as he fought back tears and curses. When the last harness finally came free she slumped slowly towards him, the current pulling her first right, then left, then right again like a drunken dancer. D'Argo gathered her in his arms, her cold limbs moving against his own, and headed for the surface, her body heavy against him with the weight of the water in her lungs.
Crais had taken his eyes off the hole into which the Luxan had disappeared only momentarily as a dark shadow had passed overhead-Crichton's ship. The sight of it forced him to regurgitate an entire series of emotions, both old and new, that he was completely unprepared to deal with. He focused his attention on the hole and waited. As bubbles broke the surface, he hunkered down, squatting in his great coat with hands clasped before him. He felt the chill at the back of his neck and ignored it. The tips of his fingers started to go numb and he ignored it. His mind wandered, the irony of the situation not lost on him. The man who had repeatedly vowed to kill him was now returning to him the only thing he held dear since the loss of his brother 2 cycles ago. And while he waited for his escapee to deliver to him his precious Sun, above him circled the man who had not only taken away from him his brother, but now the closest thing to an ally he had since his defection from the Peacekeepers. He sighed deeply, impatiently, and watched a dark shape form in the water behind the pale plume of frozen breath.
The water stirred and he could see a shape ascending, closer and closer until her slick black hair broke the surface. He reached out quickly, desperately trying to get a grip on her, realizing with a grimace he had her braid gripped in one hand like a life line as he tried to haul her waterlogged body onto the frozen surface. He wrapped an arm under her chin and heaved, pulling her half way to the surface. He grabbed under her breasts, embracing her tightly from behind and gave one last, giant pull. He lay sprawled on the icy surface with her body on top of his, panting loudly and oblivious to the enormous Luxan as D'Argo pulled himself, blue and panting, out of the water. Crais pulled himself into a sitting position, still clutching Aeryn like a life sized doll and propped her between his legs, trying to steady her limp head on his shoulder.
D'Argo padded bare foot over to him and draped his tunic over Aeryn, as though he could hope to warm her, before putting his trousers and boots back on and re-sheathing his weapon. The water froze on his limbs, making his long flesh locks living icicles. Both men had moved frantically to get her out, as though there had still been hope of reviving her, and seeing D'Argo dressed Crais struggled to lift her up, to carry back to a warm transport, to…he didn't know what he wanted to do. D'Argo ignored him and scooped her up like a child, turning back to shore. He noticed for the first time Crichton's module, parked between the two leviathan transports. Crichton himself stood anxiously in the hatchway of Moya's transport, his coat off and open like a receiving blanket. Crais unholstered his weapon at the sight, at this point more out of habit than actual fear.
As D'Argo entered the vessel, John moved forward, reaching up to cover Aeryn in the coat, struggling to take her into his own arms. Tears streamed down his face and froze in the arctic breeze that blew through the open hatchway. His usual confident stature was humbled under weight of his guilt. "O Baby, Baby I am so sorry," D'Argo heard him repeat over and over under his breath.
"John," D'Argo started, but the rest of the words were lost in the knowing. He helped Crichton lower her onto the rough bunk and backed away, turning towards the controls to ready for take off and leave Crichton alone with his pain. John held her head in his hands, pressing his face nose to nose with hers, "O god Aeryn, I am so sorry…sorry….sorry…" he kept repeating the word, as though it were a mantra that would bring her back. He kissed her lips. Cold. Pliable. He smoothed the stray strands of hair off her forehead and winced at the goose egg his fingers passed over.
"D'Argo," he managed to choke out, but he was uncertain where the words wanted to go. He opened and closed his mouth like he was gulping for air, then heaved a great sigh. He gently lay her head back down, pausing to briefly run a finger over each feature before turning away from her. "D'Argo," he said again, extending his hands in front of him, wrists together. "D'Argo, I can't be allowed to hurt anyone else."
D'Argo looked at his friend from the corner of his eye, trying not to see the still and dripping form behind him, and unable to formulate a rebuttal. Crais, on the other hand, had made it half way across the pod, barely pausing to grab a set of restraints from the console. D'Argo sensed Crais' movement and held a massive hand against his chest as he tried to shoulder by. Seeing Crais, still in Peacekeeper uniform, moving toward his friend with the restraints caused a visceral reaction in D'Argo. One hand keeping Crais firmly in check, he reached for the cuffs with the other. "I'll do it," he growled, "you go ready your own transport and meet us back at that surgeons. Maybe he can fix some of this dren."
Crais paused a moment, cocking his head as though reflecting on D'Argo's sincerity. He gave a curt nod and released the cuffs before turning brusquely to leave. D'Argo heard his foot steps descend the ramp, his scent getting fainter in the cold.
"I'm sorry," was all D'Argo could manage to say as the locking mechanism fell into place. He remembered the night his own wife had been murdered, how he had suddenly been set upon and imprisoned without even a chance to mourn. He still did not even know what sort of last rites had been arranged for her, if any. He could only imagine what Crichton was enduring. For D'Argo what had been anger and confusion was for John genuine guilt and grief.
John seemed to sag under the weight of the cuffs as he silently turned from D'Argo and knelt his forehead towards Aeryn, lying as though sharing Unity with her. D'Argo turned his back as John flopped his cuffed hands over her body in an awkward embrace.
"Pilot, we've got her," he said into the comm as the transport started to lift off. He was shocked to find out the whole process had taken less than an arn. It felt like days had passed.
"Is she…" Pilot started to ask.
"It doesn't look good. Have the rest of the crew meet us at that surgeons. For the amount we're paying this charlatan, I expect a miracle."
"Is here and himself. For the moment. Personally," he added under his breath, "I think he could use a hallucination about now."
They filed solemnly onto the remaining transport. Everything had already been said as Pilot alerted them that Aeryn's body had been recovered. Now all that was left was to sit in shocked silence. The fact that Pilot had said "Aeryn's body" instead of "Aeryn" had not been lost on them.
Zhaan quietly gathered incense for Aeryn's Ceremony of Passing. She paused in her work, not looking up. "Stark, has she really…is she…" she started, but her friend shook his head at her before she could find the words to finish.
"Zhaan, the energy of the place is fraught with death. I cannot even begin to pick out one spirit amidst the maelstrom. They are like a crowd poised on the brink of a great cliff. I cannot even begin to tell you who will jump first."
The Delvian nodded her acknowledgement, and held up a hand. "I should have realized. The place is an abomination." And she bent back to her task of separating her healing herbs from her ceremonial potions.
Chiana tore through her quarters, hers and D'Argo's belongings in wild disarray. She tended to have more than the others, as she didn't always wait to get the currency to pay for what she wanted. Baubles and scraps of this and that flew in all directions as Jothee watched bemusedly from the doorway.
"Your coat is on the bed," he finally offered, stepping forward and gesturing to it.
"No, no! I need," she said, pausing in a crouch and putting a hand on the top of her head, "I need…" she stooped and dug through a pile of small, scrappy bits of clothing. "My scarf." She finally finished. Jothee sat on the edge of her bed and held up a small, diaphanous piece of green material to examine it. He dropped it back on the bed and decided that his father was indeed a lucky man to get to see that tossed in a corner every so often.
He picked up another whitish piece, much like her skin tone, and couldn't help but smile at the thought that in that, it would probably seem like she wasn't wearing anything at all. She snatched it out of his hand.
"My scarf. Grey, thin," she got close to his face and cocked her head. He could see the tears in her glassy black eyes. He started to reach up to touch her face but she jerked away from and spun to survey the wreckage. "Y'know, the thing goes on my HEAD!" She considered for a moment that D'Argo was going to be so upset, he liked to keep the quarters as neat as a military barracks.
"I can't…I can't…" she started to say. Her shoulders started to tremble as she covered her face with her hands. Jothee thought for a moment that she had noticed his moment of tenderness and found the intent behind it. Instead, she stamped a foot angrily and blurted out "It would be too…too…" she searched for the right words, words that weren't usually a part of her personal vocabulary, "Disrespectful," she finally blurted out, "To go to a funeral without my head covered." Then, as she said the words and the reality hit home, the tears started rolling down her cheeks.
Jothee quietly bent over and reached under the bed. He pulled the thin, embroidered scarf out and held it out to her. When she only stared blankly at it, he stood, draped it over her shoulders and walked out without another word.
The repulsive, overindulgent translator didn't need to say anything when the Diagnosan had finished his brief examination.
Zhaan stepped forward, "You will, of course, allow us to prepare her." Her voice was calm and even, but Stark could hear the thickness in it, the suppressed emotions, and the pain.
"Of course, " Grunschlk said, "but you may want to consider leaving her down here until," his gaze shifted to Crichton where he hung back from the rest of Moya's crew, "all your crew mates are able to travel."
Zhaan nodded in agreement then motioned for Chiana to come forward.
"Come here, child," she said, as she lay the silver stasis suit across Aeryn's feet, "Help me with this." Zhaan did not relish the idea of preparing the woman as though she were being preserved for spare parts, but no one had thought to bring any of Aeryn's own clothes. Chiana's usual excuses in the face of work were forgotten as she joined Zhaan at Aeryn's head and gazed silently on the still form, cocking her head this way and that as though from a different angle she see something the surgeon had missed. She recognized John's and D'Argo's clothes still wrapped around her, and toyed with the seam on D'Argo's tunic.
At a nod and a gesture from Zhaan, the men all turned and filed out in one grim procession. Only Crichton hung back, his eyes puffy and rimmed with red. Zhaan did not turn to look at him, her head and her spirit still aching from their Unity gone awry.
"Go with the others, John, " she said. Her fingers paused on the fasteners on Aeryn's jacket.
John wanted to say something, anything. He wanted to make right, somehow, what had happened here. He opened his mouth, but Zhaan's voice came out before he could formulate words, this time softer, gentler, but still strained.
"John, go. There is nothing for you here."
Chiana ignored the exchange, affectionately smoothing her hand over Aeryn's forehead until John turned to leave and she felt herself release the breath she'd been holding. Zhaan's nimble fingers went back to unfastening Aeryn's jacket.
"Unknot her hair, Dear, " she told Chiana as the door thudded closed behind Crichton.
The men all sat together, more or less, hunkered in a rough circle, resting on their haunches. John rhythmically banged his head against the sheer ice wall trying to ignore simultaneous images of Scorpius and Aeryn in his head.
"Doesn't that hurt him," Jothee asked.
"Probably," his father answered, momentarily unconcerned with the human's welfare. He couldn't see how anything the man did to himself now could make the situation worse.
Stark reached over and touched John lightly. "You're cold. Where is your coat." John made no motion that he had heard him.
"In there," D'Argo finally answered for him, tossing his head in the direction of the room where Zhaan and Chiana worked on their fallen friend. He made a hissing sound, realizing for the first time his own chill.
Inside his mind, John was torn between reliving every painful moment with Aeryn and listening to the frustratingly calm voice of Scorpius.
He fell into the one night they had spent together, he and Aeryn, on the false Earth. His mind relived every crisp detail, every scent and touch and taste that he glossed over when he thought about the moment every other day of his life.
"O really," the voice in his head scoffed, "Now what good does all this ruminating do, John?"
He ignored it. He was kissing her, tasting her, tasting the hint of beer and chocolate, tasting that barely perceptible hint of…something…something Sebacean. He had tasted it the first time they had kissed, he had tasted it on Gilina, too. Something earthy and alien. He liked it.
"John," cool, precise, the voice beckoned like a parent calling to a recalcitrant child, "We've work to do." Thump! Thump! His head thudded against the wall and the voice faded.
She'd been stiff at first. Uncertain, unsure, not in control of the situation and unwilling to give. He'd held her, pushed just a little harder, desperate for something, anything from the only person in the world he could trust. And she had responded. He lingered over the memory, savored it, and tortured himself with the feel of her hair, like thick, thick corn silk. With the scent of her skin, damp with rain and smelling faintly sweetish (he'd noticed that on Gilina, too). He reveled in the parts of her that were so familiar and yet so wholly exotic.
He finally risked the courage to reach up under her shirt and feel her breasts, supple, warm. He felt the nipple and brushed over it. Satisfied so far that her schematics fit into his known pattern of female physiology (the whole while Staanz gnawed at the back of his mind), he tried to hide his surprise when he lifted off her shirt to find her nipples pale, nearly translucent compared to the darker variations of coral, red and brown in the women he had known. His mind drifted over and over those nipples. He was amazed and excited and his first impulse had been to hide his surprise by devouring them, but they had looked so sensitive, painfully sensitive. He paused and she looked at him and he felt the defenses go up.
"What." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. What is the problem here?
He nervously scratched the back of his head. "Well, uh, you're going to have to help me out here."
She blinked at him then frowned, "You have done this before, right."
"O, hey, yeah," his Southern drawl became more apparent in his embarrassment, the full effect of his Southern upbringing making itself known in his voice, "I've done this, lots of times, PLENTY of times, just not THIS." He motioned back and forth between them to indicate that this situation was, quite frankly, alien to him. She stared blankly at him, the look he had come to know so well before and since that said "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."
"Y'know, you, me…how do we even know we're compatible…tab A, slot B…that sort of thing." He was desperate to touch her, he wanted her in that frenetic doomed way that had set the pattern for bringing them crashing together.
"I don't know what you're talking about, but" and she reached down and grabbed him, not like a lover but matter of factly, to prove a point, "You seem pretty compatible to me." He closed his eyes, remembering that moment, feeling the emotions all over again. The fear and the wanting and the desperation. Until in the bedroom in his head Scorpius took a seat in the corner, intruder, observer.
"John, really, Sebacean women are, how do you say, a dime a dozen." The clone cocked his head and smiled, "Now my lovely Natira, now that's an experience to remember." Thump! He knocked himself back into his own memory, alone with the woman he loved.
She had shaken her head at him before standing up. He had thought she was going to grab her shirt and rush away in a huff. She had surprised him by swishing her hair out of her eyes to straddle him. His hands went up the back of her neck and buried themselves in her hair. They collided in a kiss that seemed like it never ended. He devoured her with kisses. Alice in Wonderland he wanted to eat her drink her breathe her all at the same time. He ached with wanting. Still not daring to touch her bare breasts he needed to see more of her. He fumbled with the clasps on her pants, not pausing to think that if there were variations north of the border, there would most certainly be variations south.
In his mind he could still see her pale smooth belly, her thick black hair hanging down in sharp contrast to the white of her skin. He could feel the bony ridge of her spine in his hand as he steadied her on his lap, pulling at what he could only classify as man proof pants. Raindrops on the window splattered her with spots of shadow, making her seem even more exotic. She brushed his fumbling hands away and worked the clasp free herself, never disengaging from his lips, the fingers of one hand curled around the short hair on the back of his head as though afraid he might get away.
He felt her skin under his hands and back on the ice planet his fingers flexed in their cuffs involuntarily. It had been so soft, so soft for a soldier, and yet…thicker…it seemed, than human skin. He ran his fingers up and down her back until they found their way back in to her hair. He cupped her face as he kissed her. Unable to stand the temptation of her half-opened pair of pants, he held her to him as he stood up and turned around, depositing her gently back on the bed. She obliged him by wiggling out of the form fitting pants as he turned his back to her and started working on her boots. He threw them in a corner. They landed with a loud thud. He stripped off his shirt as he climbed back onto the bed with her. Her body was still half-clothed in shadows, rainwater running down the windows reflected on her pale skin. Her breasts still fascinated him but he needed more. She reached down and caressed him briefly through his pants, perhaps, he thought, doing her own "system check". Aching and hard his hips ground out toward her retreating hand.
She rolled on top of him, forcing him back onto the bed, grinding her mouth against his and driving him mad with her nakedness. His hands brushed her breasts in his exploration and he felt her shiver. She sat up, full and glorious before him and tugged at his trousers, deftly unbuttoning and unzipping in one quick motion. She shifted her weight as he lifted himself off the bed to slide the pants over his well-muscled derriere and down his legs. He could feel thick black curls ticking his bare stomach.
"I never understood, John, your human obsession with hair," the clipped, careful voice of Scorpius pulled him back for the moment to the frozen crypt and his own chilling reality. Thunk!
Somehow he had landed on top and she was running her fingers through his chest hair, over his stomach, along the lines of his back…
He freed a hand from behind her head to reach between her legs and found…He found himself exploring something new and unfamiliar. He felt the thick, coarse hair that he had expected to be there, but the angle was wrong. Different. He felt like a high school kid again, alone in his ignorance. That part of her that beckoned him the loudest, that part of her that made her "woman" was more forward, less between her legs and more where the pubic bone would be in a human woman. And she was…thicker. Less delicate. He explored further and found her less fleshy, more compact. Then he found it, purely by accident. Barely perceptible beneath his fingertips she arched her back and shivered as he ran a finger over a small nub in the thick curls and fleshy folds. He brushed it again and was rewarded with a sharp intake of breath. Her breath, her breath…
The gurgling…he had expected splash down and the com to short out but he had heard her gasping and calling his name and he had been helpless…helpless…guilty.
She was slick, the curls matted and wet and he wanted her. She smelled muskier now, the smell of sex and…something else. He slid a finger in and she arched herself towards him, her kisses nearly biting him with her intensity. Her hands were everywhere, touching, exploring, memorizing every line and contour. Between her legs, his single finger was gripped by thick, hard muscles. This was definitely something different from the gentle massage and squeeze of a human woman. There was nothing about Aeryn Sun that didn't mean business. He remembered his reaction, how his male member had all but literally jumped at the thought, the prospect, but he had held himself back. It had taken every ounce of his will power not to pounce on her then and there.
"Aeryn, I," he had started to say around her tongue, "I don't," but she had greedily pulled him back down to her. Her hand followed the trail of hair down his stomach to grip him. She paused and in a moment of blind panic he had thought she too was reconsidering this whole thing. But she pulled him towards her with renewed vigor, her hips rising off the bed to meet him. He felt her, her moisture clinging to him. He groaned against her mouth. "I don't want-" and she wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled herself onto him with such force he collapsed onto his elbows, lost in her scent and the sound of her breath and the little mewing noises that seemed to come from somewhere deep in her throat. He lost himself in the working of their two bodies, limbs entwined, her grip so tight around him his only conscious thought was that however manic, this run was not going to be very impressive unless they slowed the pace a bit. Her core felt impossibly muscular to him. As his hips thrust with her rhythm he managed to recover himself enough to blurt out "I don't want to hurt you." She answered him with a hard thrust of her hips and her blue eyes bore into him, daring him to retreat now.
Their lovemaking had been frantic, frenetic, animalistic. She had cried out at the end. He had felt those muscles quiver then contract and he was caught, unable to move, lost in another sensation wholly new and alien and incredible beyond words. He covered her mouth with his own to silence his own cry.
When it was over she rolled to her own side of the bed and crawled under the sheets, fidgeting until she got comfortable and dozed off into a fitful sleep. Until he had learned more about Peacekeeper "recreating" he had thought he had done something wrong. Her cool reception the next morning had only cemented that thought in his head. He spent the remainder of the night hiding inside his scientist mind, trying to explain her differences in physiology from an evolutionary standpoint. After much thought and consideration, he justified her unique musculature to having to birth in space without the benefit of natural gravity to aid in the descent. As for her nearly translucent nipples, he supposed that too could be contributed to a race of people that neither see the light of day, nor raise their own young and have no need of a good target for a little mouth. He wanted to ask her outright, but decided she would probably think it to be too much of a "tech" question.
He wanted to make love to her properly, explore all the vagaries of human/sebacean physiology, not just blow off tension. He had wanted to make it up to her, realizing the whole experience had been inelegant, not at all up to his usual standards. He wanted to lay with her afterwards and hold her. He wanted…he wanted her alive.
Aeryn's face swam up at him tired from battle, sweaty from training, good natured and mischievous, her eyes wide with wonder and slitted with suspicion. Her face came at him cold and blue and still and he realized how ironic it was that despite how much he hadn't wanted to hurt her making love, here he was a cycle later, responsible for her death.
"You can't change the past, Johnny boy," the voice in his head said. He realized as the others stood up around him that they had brought the stasis cell out for viewing. He struggled to his feet, the shackles tripping him until D'Argo and Stark had helped steady him on either side. He stood up and shuffled forward, repulsed by the sight of Scorpius moving towards Aeryn's body and laying a hand on her cheek. He looked sidelong at Crichton, as though daring him to intercept the contact.
"D'Argo, help me," another voice said at his side. He looked away from Scorpius to Stark, whose one insane and compassionate eye looked at him with concern. He held John's coat open. D'Argo paused a moment before releasing the cuffs. John's first impulse was to rush forward and knock that abomination away from his beloved, radiant Sun, but Stark put a steadying hand on his shoulder.
"Here, you're cold. Put it on," the voice was soft, warm. Voices, voices, he could hear Aeryn's in his head, calling his name…gagging on freezing water…He carefully maneuvered one arm into a sleeve, then the other. D'Argo cuffed him again while Stark rearranged the jacket over his frame like a fussing mother. He ignored them both and focused on the stasis cell.
When Zhaan started the ceremony he found himself expecting to wake up again, feeling much the same way that first day he had woken up cold and naked in the cell on Moya. He could hear Aeryn's voice coming at him from far away, and a part of him expected to come out of this Salvidore Dali painting with her banging on his head because he had missed another duty shift, or had forgotten to do something trivial or menial as he lost himself in the workings of a living ship, or he had fallen asleep in the central chamber over a plate of stale food cubes and she was coming to put him to bed, as she had a time or two before. But none of it happened and as they all made their peace with the radiant Aeryn Sun, John stepped forward and gave her the only thing he had left. "I love you."