Category: Missing Scene: Die Me Dichotomy
Notes: Thanks, as usual, to my betas. Dedicated to the kind souls who've provided me with episode copies.
"Out, damned spot; out, I say."
Macbeth, Scene 5, Act 1
The cold swirled around him.
Dark, murky water pushed and tugged at his clothing in a macabre dance. Like a living thing, it clawed at him, preventing him from reaching his goal. It was as if fate was determined that no one reach Aeryn Sun alive.
But D'Argo would not give in. Just as he had not given in for all the tormenting years his son was missing from him. He concentrated on his target instead, forcing all other concerns to fade into the background. It grew more difficult as he descended farther below the ice--the cold grew, the clouded water faded everything to a dark uniform grey, and the pressure on his body worsened. But he continued to press on, reduced largely to feeling around blindly.
And then she was there. Or at least, the very thing that had condemned her to a watery end. The egress chair, slowly sinking even as he grabbed at it. His grip slipped twice, hampered by the incessant cold and grime of the water and his own waning stamina. But the third attempt was good. He wrapped his left hand in the strap as well as he could and made for the light. His hand pressed tightly against her shoulder as he did so, but it was not the warm give of living flesh. It was the hard, unforgiving resistance of death.
And he knew.
As he broke the surface, gasping for air and hauling his prize behind him, he knew beyond a doubt. He knew as his friends lay across the ice, reaching out so many hands to pull Aeryn Sun from her watery grave, that death had reached out its hand and snatched her from them today. It had tried so hard to claim them for two cycles now, and it had at long last found success. It had won and they had all lost.
With the chair pulled from the lake, he floated in the water half-draped on the ice and fumbled underwater for his knife. He threw it across the short space, where Stark caught it and deftly began sawing at the straps keeping Aeryn's body pinned down. Chiana and Jothee pulled him out of the water. Chiana's beautiful face was marred by tears--something he could only have dreamed to ever spare her again. He had been so wrong to even have the tiniest shred of hope to do so.
Lying on the frozen ground, he watched them pull Aeryn's body from the chair and roll her onto the ice. Zhaan's graceful hands moved up and down the body, punctuated by frantic yelling and unfocussed helpers. She was mumbling something about Sebacean body temperature and severe cold. D'Argo ignored her. She would not be successful.
From his vantage point on the ground, D'Argo found himself alone looking Aeryn in the face as she was jostled around, his view only occasionally blocked by the small vapor clouds of his own breathing. It looked like Aeryn, but he could tell it was merely a body now. What it had housed--her soul--was gone already. He could see the difference so easily, even if the others couldn't. There had always been a spark to Aeryn Sun, evident from the first moment they had known her. Whatever she did, whether by choice or by accident, she did with full force--lacking nothing in conviction or execution. But that force was no longer there. It was not in this grey, beautiful, rigid block of ice. She had moved on to wherever she was to go next.
He sent up a prayer that she would be as triumphant there as she had been here.
"The doctor. We--we should take her to him." Chiana's voice cracked and stammered as she sat on her heels next to Zhaan, who was ignoring her. "He can help her, can't he? I mean he--"
"Shut up, child." Zhaan laid her head down on Aeryn's chest, her face taking on that faraway look she held whenever she entered her spiritual realm. D'Argo knew she was looking for some sign that Aeryn was still inside somewhere to be saved. But she would not find any.
"She's right. We should try." Stark was suddenly calm now, the essence of composure. D'Argo wanted to hit him. It was as though death was his sanctuary.
"Yeah. Didja find your friend?"
"We have. We require the Diagnosian's help."
"Well, of course. Time-sensitive work costs a bundle, though, just so ya know. And we get to keep the body if he can't repair it."
"No," she countered. "That is not acceptable."
"Don't matter to me. She's not *my* friend."
How dare he? D'Argo felt a low growl of rage leak out, but it was not even audible beyond the howling wind and frenzied attempts to find a miracle. How dare that pathetic little man desecrate Aeryn's honor by trying to profit from her death? He was not even fit to breathe the same air as she. If he had been even remotely within reach, his neck would have been snapped.
Instead of responding, Zhaan looked up at D'Argo, an unspoken question in her eyes. The currency they had left was for Crichton's surgery, to restore him to his right mind. But if they used that to try to save Aeryn, there might not be enough for both. They could be condemning John to a fate worse than death. And if, as D'Argo knew, it would be futile, what would be the point?
But would John want the money if they *did* not try?
Zhaan closed her eyes and took a breath. "We will pay whatever is necessary."
Zhaan and Chiana lifted Aeryn, still dripping water as her head flopped suspended between them, and ran across the ice to the transport. Their run was awkward, artless. So unlike the three women involved, usually the epitome of that which was graceful and beautiful in women everywhere.
Stark started to follow them, then stopped and turned around. "D'Argo. What of Crichton?"
What *of* Crichton?
"I will find Crichton. Go with them. Call me as soon as you have any word."
D'Argo pushed himself off the ice and to his feet. His body was heavy and sluggish. But he suspected it wasn't from the cold water. He looked around the bleak landscape at this world that they had come to with so much hope. The one that had robbed them of things they had not even considered.
He spat on the whole frelling planet.
"Pilot. Where is Crichton's module?"
Pilot didn't respond at first. D'Argo opened his mouth to demand an answer when one finally came. Slow, stilted, as Chiana's voice had been. "It is on the ground, near your position. South-southeast beyond the edge of the frozen lake."
South-southeast. He could easily see where the hidden lake ended and barren hills rose beyond it. And, just barely visible in the relentless blue-white, he thought he saw the trace of rising smoke and exhaust that bespoke the human craft. He headed toward it, his concentration turned to keeping upright while trudging through the drifts of accumulated snow and ignoring his chilling body.
The only sound now was the crunching of his own boots. The comms, especially, were strangely silent now. Such a haunting difference from just a few microts ago, when they had been crowded with pleas for help and the cries of the damned. He wished for that moment back now, if only to replace the silence that had followed. For stunned microts, everything had been still. The blanket of death had fallen over them all. No one dared speak, except the man who had killed her.
"...god, what have I done?"
But as her friends had raced to the transport to try to retrieve Aeryn from her tomb, the yelling had begun. It was D'Argo that started it.
"Crichton! Crichton! Land that thing NOW!"
"...ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod..."
But his mantra had only made D'Argo angrier. He could not deal with John's insanity at that moment. "Crichton, get your FRELLING ass on the ground!"
'Can't?' Which was when D'Argo had realized his mistake. The chip was still in control. It was the reason John was still circling uselessly in the air while Aeryn had plunged to her death. D'Argo wasn't speaking to his friend--he was speaking to Aeryn Sun's murderer.
And he had nearly staggered to the floor under a sudden urge to tear his friend's beating heart from his body. He fought the hot pleasure the thought brought with it. It was shameful--it was not John's fault he had done what he had done.
But the image of standing over John's lifeless body--and the taste of the blood of the man who had, however unwittingly, taken her life from them--remained at the very edge of his mind.
"Crichton!" A new voice had broken into D'Argo's gruesome thoughts. Crais. A seething, angry call. "Crichton! I will finish the job Aeryn was unable to do! Do you hear me?"
D'Argo had reached the transport, where he found Zhaan, Stark, Chiana, Rygel, and Jothee skidding into the bay behind him. One of the few things this crew had managed to find complete, unspoken agreement about. "Crais! Do not get involved."
"I am already involved. Talyn is descending into the atmosphere now. I swear to you, Crichton, that I will not hesitate to kill you! Of that I vow!"
"Crais--" D'Argo followed the others inside the pod.
"Crichton! I. Will. Kill. You!"
"...no, no, don't...no, no, don't land. No. No...stop. Let him...kill me..."
Pilot had interrupted John's whispered pleas. "The module is descending to land."
As the pod had lifted off, D'Argo realized Crais was right. The thing holding John prisoner existed for two reasons, and two reasons only--to find what Scorpius was after, and to keep John Crichton alive. It knew--as John himself knew--that Crais would complete with a passion what Aeryn had hesitated to do. Surrender had become the only way to keep its prey alive.
And so it had surrendered. Mere microts too late.
Coming over the icy hill now, D'Argo could see the module sitting idly at the base of its northern side. As he descended toward it, it was obvious the hatch had been blown and John was not inside. Footprints in the snow led away from the craft.
He followed them until he could see John's body, a black smudge of contrast with the eternal white of this place.
John was standing with his back to D'Argo, his arms straight out to his sides. He didn't respond to his name being called. D'Argo tried again, with the same result. He gave up, continuing to push his way through the frelling snow.
Now that he was close enough, D'Argo became aware of the cliff in front of them. A vertical drop several stories deep that descended to a mass of rocks below. John stood a hands-breadth from the edge, facing the valley spread out below them, his arms still held out horizontally. He hadn't made a move since D'Argo first saw him.
D'Argo came to stand at his side. "John, what are you doing?"
"Nothing." John continued to look ahead, his voice distant. "Not a single freaking thing." His head rotated slowly to look across at D'Argo. They stared at each other over John's stiffly outstretched right arm. "It won't let me do it."
D'Argo looked down at the chasm below, a frigid wind riding up the cliff's edge to blow through his hair as he stood. John teetered on the very edge, so close and yet unable to complete the move. How long had he stood here? Long enough that his fingers and face were turning bright red.
"Come on. They've taken Aeryn to the doctor."
"NO!" John became a blur, rushing sideways to throw himself at D'Argo. Both fell back into the snow and rolled apart. John gasped for air, throwing himself at D'Argo again. He swung at D'Argo's head. "This is all your fault!"
D'Argo easily side-stepped his friend's attack now that he expected it. "It is *not* my fault!"
"It is!" John's feet slipped in the thick snow, dragging him to the ground again. He tried to pick himself up, panting. "I asked you to kill me! No, I *begged* you to kill me. Begged, D'Argo! Did you think I was kidding?" He fumbled at the snow with shaking, reddened hands, wiping it off himself as he advanced on D'Argo again. "If you had killed me then, Aeryn would still be alive. Your fault!"
No. It hadn't been, had it? At the time, it had seemed the right choice. It was not hopeless yet. They had done 'desperate' so many times, and had yet survived them all. He had convinced himself that he would do it if it came time, but that it was not time yet. Perhaps he had been so wrong.... "No! It is no one's fault but Scorpius'."
"Bullshit. It's mine." John heaved himself at D'Argo, who allowed himself to be pushed over into the snow. He rolled over immediately to pin his opponent to the ground with his weight. John stilled instantly, his will deflated. He turned away to look across the landscape toward the steaming module. "Why didn't you do it, D'Argo? Why didn't you kill me?"
Why hadn't he? It would be far from the first time he had had to finish someone off to help them. But, for the first time in his life, when that moment had come, he had relented. Which was why he had tried to prevent Aeryn from doing the same thing. He had failed them all--twice.
He rolled off John, releasing him to climb awkwardly to his feet. "For the same reason Aeryn didn't."
"And look where it got her." John didn't attack again this time, instead moving back to his position on the edge. He raised his arms slowly and looked out over the drop again. His arms shook and his face turned red. But nothing happened. "I've been trying to do it, but he won't let me." He looked over at D'Argo, naked shame in his eyes. "All I need is a little push."
D'Argo came closer to him, drawn by his friend's need. "I am not going to kill you, John."
"Yes!" John spun around again, shoving full-body into D'Argo's chest, pushing them both stumbling back. "Yes! You are. You are going to do it now!" He swung a second time at D'Argo's head, connecting with a solid thump.
D'Argo shook his head and fought the urge to reach for his weapon. "No!"
"Yes!" Another shove. "Coward!"
The word boiled in his blood. A haze of red flashed down over his eyes and his hand lashed out to grab the nearest thing. It was John's vest. John thrashed at being captured, but D'Argo pulled him up until his feet dangled off the ground. Holding on tightly, he forced down the screaming of his abused pride. "John! Stop!"
"No! Do it! Do it, you son of a bitch! Do it!"
D'Argo clamped down on his own instincts. John was baiting him. He was trying to drive D'Argo to do in a rage what John wanted him to do. But he would not give in. No matter how much either of them may have wanted it. He grabbed hold of John with his other hand, hauling him by the collar up to eye level. John's eyes were vacant, glassed over as he hissed and cursed. Spittle flew from his mouth in his anger.
"Listen to me! Listen!" D'Argo shook his friend until he stopped fighting. "I am not going to kill you. You are not going to kill yourself. You are going to go to that doctor and get help."
"I don't want it."
"I don't care."
"It's my life, dammit. Let me go."
But D'Argo didn't. He pulled him closer until he could feel John's warm, ragged breathing on his face. He captured John's attention and reduced the universe to just the two of them. "It is *not* your choice. Aeryn is dead because she would not give up on you. And you will NOT defile her death by taking your own life. It is the coward's way out." And closer still, until they were chest-to-chest and nose-to-nose. "I. Will. Not. Allow. It. Do you understand?"
He threw John down onto his feet again. John twitched and shuddered, pent-up rage and pain battling for supremacy. "I killed her, D'Argo. How am I supposed to live with that?"
"You will find a way. Because she wanted you to survive. And so you will survive. You owe her that. We all have our debts to pay to Aeryn Sun."
"D'Argo?" Zhaan's voice penetrated the silence that followed.
John stopped his manic movements immediately. He rubbed one hand over his face, blocking himself from D'Argo's eyes.
"Was it successful?"
"No." The word was an exhalation, and carried with it all the hopes and nightmares of the whole crew.
"Ohmygod..." John turned away.
"D'Argo," she continued, "you must return to the facility. Greenschlick wants to keep Aeryn's body. You must come help us."
"Very well. I'm coming now--"
"No." The word was a whisper--a shadow of John's normal voice--barely carried over the short distance between D'Argo and him. He had moved to the edge of the cliff again, hands outstretched, head thrown back to look at the unbroken sky. "No. Let him keep her."
"John, it is not right--"
"No, it is right." John turned around, slowly and deliberately. Away from the precipice. He took four careful, measured steps to stand in front of D'Argo. Looked up into his eyes, causing D'Argo to step back mentally from the pain so evident--a pain that he saw reflected every morning in the mirror. What had he done? What had he done in condemning this man to a life of such pain as he himself would not wish on another being?
"Aeryn always honors her debts." John held up his hands, wrists together, between them. "And I must, too."
As D'Argo bound his closest friend's hands tight in a sodden, ice-encrusted rope, he could find no words to comfort. He knew well that nothing said nor done would ever salve the wounds of a knife plunged into a man's soul.
"You know what?" John finally asked.
"What?" He tugged tighter on the cord.
John looked down at his hands, as if seeing them for the first time. Then back up at D'Argo, a single tear streaking unnoticed down the side of his nose. "I don't even know what I said in the neural cluster. Something she thought of at that last moment--and I can't even remember it."
Without waiting for a response, he turned and began walking slowly, stiffly, back toward the module. As D'Argo watched him go, he swore he could hear the sound of the universe laughing.
The cold swirled around him.