The Dance: Separation

By Koren M.
Copyright 1999

Time line: It's over a year into the future. Two things. One: in this reality, Jeremiah Crichton NEVER HAPPENED! Two: yes, Moya's *still* pregnant. I see it like this. If whales have over a year for gestation time, and a leviathan is *much* larger than a whale, then she's *gonna* be pregnant for awhile. D'Argo's just gonna have to learn how to deal. (heeheehee)

Author's Note: Ok, I'm gonna ramble a little bit here... This story needs a little bit of an explanation. Right after watching Jeremiah Crichton (and throwing my stuffed penguin, Sigmund, at the screen) I settled down to read the new Linda Howard novel "All the Queen's Men". About ten pages into it, Aeryn started babbling this idea at me, and I had to go turn the computer back on and get it down. It's by *no* means any kind of parody (it's no kind of parody at all...) or rewrite of that novel (which was wonderful, btw.), that was just the springboard for the idea. Then, after several rewrites and *lots* of help from my wonderful beta readers, this is what I ended up with. And before anyone asks... no, this isn't the end. Sharon and I are collaborating on the second part of the "Dance" trilogy, "Temptation".

Title note: This was *originally* titled "Explosions".

Acknowledgments: I have the *best* beta readers in the world. Many thanks to Sharon and Becca. {{{{{{{Sharon and Becca}}}}}}}

Song note: If you own the X-Files Movie Album (the one w/ the songs that they never ended up using in the movie), go get it. Put the *FIRST* song on repeat as you read this. I didn't realize it until I was almost finished writing this, but it's *perfect* for what's going on inside Aeryn.

"Crichton, you're drifting a little to your left. Can you compensate?"

"I'm tryin' Aeryn. Use a little more of the secondary, right?"

She glanced back and forth between the view screen and the co-ordinates readout. "Yes. That should do it."

They'd been at this all week, trying to get the Farscape refitted with enough of Moya's parts that it would work, while still retaining it's original control systems. "How is the left thruster doing? Is the temperature still stable?"

"Sure is. I think whatever you added this morning is balancing the heat distribution out... nothing's showing abnormal readings..."

"Good. How much longer are you going to stay out there?"

"Just let me try one more thing- wait a minute. Aeryn, I think I've got a problem..."

"What is it?" She pulled up a second display, this time a schematic of the refitted ship. "Crichton?"

"There's something weird about the way the thruster's firing. What're you getting?"

She scanned the array of data before her frantically. "Nothing. Are you sure you didn't push it too fast? Slack off some, see if that-"

"Oh shit."

"Crichton?" No answer. "Crichton, come in!" Nothing. "John, answer me!" Panic crept into her voice. Something was wrong.

"Aeryn, I think I'm gonna have to-"

The flare of light on the screen coupled with the concussion that reverberated out of the com unit nearly knocked her off her feet.


Time moved slowly and the world around her dimmed. She focused on the now-empty view screen, not even seeing the stars. She didn't register Pilot's voice trying to speak to her, nor did she notice Zhaan and D'Argo rush into command to see what was wrong.

"Aeryn?" Zhaan laid a hand on her shoulder. "What was that we heard?" She didn't respond, and Zhaan shook her slightly. Nothing.

"Pilot, what happened?"

"I believe it was...Crichton's ship." Pilot's voice was soft, reluctant. "It seems to have been destroyed."

"It...something was wrong with the thrusters we- *I*- put in this morning...I don't know what- but the explosion-" Aeryn came back to herself, suddenly painfully aware of everything around her.

Zhaan glanced back at D'Argo, who barely shook his head. Rygel hovered in, about to begin a tirade, but Zhaan stopped him with a look.

"Pilot, is there anything to be...recovered?"

"I've been scanning outside the ship, but I can't locate anything. I'm sorry." There was genuine sadness in his voice.

It was too much. Aeryn suddenly pulled away from Zhaan and took off out of command. Zhaan moved to follow her, but D'Argo blocked the door. "Let her go," he whispered.

She didn't know where she was running to, she just knew that she didn't want to be able to see the stars. When she finally slowed and stopped, she wasn't in a part of Moya that she recognized. But it was quiet, and she was alone. There weren't even any DRDs. She slumped against the nearest bulkhead because her legs, wether from running or shock or both, just wouldn't hold her up anymore. When she reached the floor she curled against the bulkhead as if it could comfort her.

She'd always been trained to ignore death. Peacekeepers couldn't afford to be distracted if something happened to those around them on a mission. Emotions like that didn't help, and more often, could get someone else killed too. When a mission was over, if there were casualties, there would be the necessary commendations issued at a military ceremony, and life would go on.

But now...

Zhaan and D'Argo sat at the table, lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Zhaan spoke.

"Pilot, where has Aeryn gone?"

"I do not know."

D'Argo looked up. "What do you mean, you don't know?"

"I believe she has deactivated her com unit. I cannot pick up her signal." He didn't add that he could have easily found her by her life signs. If she was going to those lengths to remain away from the others, he would honor her wishes.

Zhaan looked as if she was about to ask another question, so D'Argo spoke up. "She'll come to us when she's ready. Pushing her now wouldn't be a good idea."

"But she's needed up here-"

"Right now she needs time to herself."

She looked at D'Argo, surprised that he had spoken so sharply. "What is it that you obviously aren't telling me, D'Argo?"

"Just leave it alone."

Arns later, Aeryn wandered into Pilot's chamber. He looked up at her when she entered, but didn't seem surprised to see her.

"The others have been looking for you."

She walked around the room until she was standing beside him. She wouldn't meet his eyes. "Why?" Her tone was flat, colorless.

"They are worried about you. As am I."

"I'm fine."

"You turned off your com unit. No one has been able to reach you."

"I didn't want to talk to anyone."

"I will tell the others that you are...unhurt. Will you-"

"Have you ever been alone?"

Pilot paused. "Before I was joined with Moya, yes, I was alone at times."

"I'd never been alone. I was born on a Peacekeeper ship, I grew up on a Peacekeeper ship, I was trained on a Peacekeeper ship...and in all that time, there were always people around me. Most of my unit were the same people that I had grown up with." She looked over at Pilot then, and he saw just how far down the pain reached. "When I came here, I was alone for the first time in my life. Literally. For a long time I wished that Crichton had left me there, had let me face the death that my 'contamination' warranted. Anything had to be better than this." She pushed away from the panel and gestured to indicate the room. "But he... he *understood*. This was new to him too... the others had been in prison for years, and it was a world they were familiar with. In some ways, this life was as alien to me as it was to Crichton."

Pilot frowned as he listened to her ramble. "Aeryn-"

"They have no idea. Perhaps they did once, but they just don't know. I'm just a Peacekeeper to them, they've never seen past that..." it was too much. She abruptly turned and headed toward the door.

She found herself out on the terrace this time, facing the stars she'd avoided a few arns earlier.


She turned when she heard his voice. "You're supposed to be dead," she stated flatly.

"Well, things out here just never seem to be what they seem to be."

"More earth riddles?"

"Maybe. Wanna talk about it?"

"No." She turned back to the starscape.

"I think you need to."

"You don't know what I *need*."

He leaned back against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. "I know better than you think. I know that you need someone to rant at, and you don't trust yourself around the others enough to let go."

She made a non-committal sound.

"You started to, when you went to Pilot, but you couldn't do it. He's different to you somehow. It's me you really want to bitch at."

All the things that were swirling and bubbling inside her were edging closer and closer to the surface. "And why is that?"

"You know why."

In a rush it all swept over her. "I know why? I don't know anything anymore. I don't know who I am, what I am, what I can and cannot do!" She turned to him. "Nothing that I learned makes sense out here, I have no place! And it's all *your* fault!"

"You were too close to Moya when she starburst that day. How's that my fault?"

"If you hadn't been on this ship, I would have gotten away. I would have contacted Crais, and there would have been no reason for me to be classified as "irreversibly contaminated"!"

"Uh-huh. *I* was the one who got us out of that cell, remember?" He pushed away from the wall and took a step toward her. "If it weren't for me, one of two things would have happened. You would've either been trapped on this ship with them for the rest of your life... which wouldn't have been that much longer...or you would've gone back to that controlled, restricted Peacekeeper world, and suffocated."

"I had a place there! I wasn't alone!" Tears threatened, making her eyes shine.

"You're not alone here."

"The others don't- *you* were the only one who knew what it was like for me! Who accepted me, who didn't care what I had been."


"And you *left* me!" The tears broke free, over a year of anger and pain finally being felt. "You put me here, destroyed everything that I thought I was, and then you *abandoned* me!"

She lashed out at him, only to meet thin air. Crichton was gone. Reality once again thundered down on her, and she slowly sank to her knees, cursing and crying, beating her fists against the floor.

Eventually, she got up and made her way back to her quarters, numb from the maelstrom of emotions. No one attempted to contact her, although if she'd been more aware of her surroundings she might have noticed the increase of DRDs in her area of the ship. When she finally slept, it was dreamless.

John Crichton looked at the readouts a second time. What had looked like a thruster malfunction only moments ago now manifested itself as an energy increase, remarkably similar to the electromagnetic wave that had caused that first wormhole. He attempted to pinpoint its location, but all of the readings kept pointing to Moya.

"That's *got* to be wrong," he mumbled to himself. "Hey Aeryn, you picking up anything weird coming from Moya? Does Pilot have any explanation for these readings?"

No answer.

"Aeryn?" Nothing.

Echoes of that first trip through space rattled through him. "Anyone?" He switched com frequencies. "Pilot?"

"CRICHTON?!" Pilot's voice came through, more surprised than he'd ever heard it.

"Uh... yeah... Pilot, are you ok?"

"Of course I- are *you* alright? We thought... we were certain we'd lost you."

"Lost me? I'm right here, Pilot. I've *been* right here. Moya's been giving off some strange readings, almost like a-"

"JOHN!" This time, Zhaan's voice nearly burst his eardrums.

"Guys, what the hell happened? And where's Aeryn?"

"Thank Ka'hallen, you're alright."

"Yeah, I'm *fine*. It's you guys I'm not so sure about. Look, I'm heading back in." He turned the Farscape back toward Moya. "And then will someone *please* explain what the hell's going on?"

Zhaan, D'Argo, and Rygel met him in the maintenance bay they used for a hangar. He'd barely made it out of his ship when he was swept up in a huge bear hug from D'Argo, followed closely by a slightly less bone-crushing hug from Zhaan. Even Rygel was genuinely smiling.

"What is going *on*!?"

"We saw- we *thought* we saw your ship explode, John. Yesterday, when you and Aeryn were testing it." Zhaan started.

"Yesterday!? What do you mean, yesterday? I was talking to her less than half an arn ago...where *is* Aeryn?" he asked, realizing she wasn't there.

"We aren't sure. What ever happened to you, it's been over a day for us. There was a loud sound from command, and when we arrived Aeryn was staring at the screen. Pilot couldn't find any trace of your ship... not even debris."

"Whoa. All I remember is one of the thrusters acting up, which turned out to be an electromagnetic wave coming from Moya, and then you guys wigging out on me."

"And electromagnetic wave coming from Moya?" Pilot asked.

"Yeah, or something about that frequency." He looked back at Zhaan. "Why aren't you sure where Aeryn is? Why didn't she answer me on her comm link?"

"After what happened, she ran off. Apparently she disabled her comm unit, because we haven't been able to pinpoint her location." Zhaan trailed after him as he headed toward command. "She isn't... *wasn't* handling this well..."

"Pilot, see if you can figure out where those weird energy waves were coming from. If you don't have a record of them, there's one in the Farscape. And do *you* know where Aeryn is?"

"She was in her quarters, the last time I checked. But be careful... this will most likely come as quite a shock to her."

He knocked on her door. When she didn't answer, he had Pilot open it. Inside, the lights were off and he stood in the doorway until his eyes adjusted. She was sitting on the floor by the window, looking outside. The light from the stars shadowed her face, making her features harsher, more angular. She looked exhausted and wrung out, like she had when she'd been suffering from the heat delirium.

"Aeryn?" He pitched his voice low in an attempt not to startle her.

"Back again?" She sounded more irritated than shocked or pleased.

"Well... yeah. We think- well, actually we don't know what to think yet. It wasn't the thrusters though."

"I'm tired. Go away." She still didn't look at him.

"Aeryn-" He took a few steps toward her. "This isn't quite the reaction I expected. I'm not sure *what* I expected...," he mumbled the last part to himself.

"Would you like me to yell at you again? Will you leave me alone if I do that?" He wasn't really there, like before. She wondered how long he would follow her... perhaps it was payback. She'd fitted the thruster that had malfunctioned after all. He'd told her stories, ghost stories he'd called them, where the spirit of someone came back to torment those they held responsible for their deaths. "How long are you going to haunt me? Is there something that I can do to make you go away?"

"Haunt you?" Now he was thoroughly confused. "Why would I be haunting you?"

"Isn't that what humans call it? When the spirits of the dead return?"

Realization dawned on him. "I'm not a ghost, Aeryn. I'm not dead." He closed the rest of the distance between them, kneeling beside her and grabbing her arms almost roughly to turn her to face him. "I. Am. Real." He spoke sharply, shaking her slightly to punctuate each word.

She met his eyes. Within them he saw a war being waged. Part of her believed him, part of her was fighting it. "I want it to be real...I want *you* to be real. But you're not, are you? You're just here to torture me." She looked down.

"I *am* real, dammit! Aeryn, look me in the eye!" He grasped her chin in one hand, forcing her head up. He caught her eyes with his own. "It was an accident, some kind of time loop...but I came back. Alive."

He was touching her. Ghosts couldn't touch people.

He was *touching* her.

"You're really here..."

"Yes, I'm really he-" Her arms went around him tightly. At a loss, he reciprocated, cradling her against him. Her face was buried against his chest and he could feel her shaking. He slid one hand up into her hair and pressed his lips against the top of her head, whispering nonsense words of comfort to her.

She pulled back as abruptly as she'd clung to him, tears and anger shining in her eyes. "Don't *ever* do that to me again!" she hissed, grabbing his arms roughly.


"Abandon me like that!" He felt her nails digging into him. Anger and fear were coming off of her in waves. The realization of what she'd felt when she'd thought he was dead would have knocked him to his knees if he hadn't already been on the floor beside her.

"I'd *never* abandon you, Aeryn. Not if I had anything to say in the matter at all."

She was about to say something when the comm signal activated.

"Crichton, you're needed in command. Pilot thinks he knows what happened to the ship," D'Argo said.

Never taking his eyes away from hers, John responded. "I'm on my way." He stood up, pulling her with him. "Think you can handle the others for a little while?"

"You go on. I have some... thinking to do." Reluctantly she let go of him. He searched her eyes for a minute, then nodded slowly.

"Ok. I'll meet you on the terrace when they get done."

She pulled away slightly and he turned to leave, glancing back over his shoulder when he reached the door. She'd turned back to the starscape in her window.

If Zhaan or the others were surprised when he walked into command alone, they didn't show it.

"What's up?" he asked and boosted himself up onto one of the control panels.

"We believe that it was Moya's baby." Pilot said calmly.


"Apparently, the developing leviathan, like any other fetus, tests it's reflexes, so to speak." Zhaan stated. "In this case, the leviathan's starburst capability."

"But since the child cannot *actually* starburst in it's mother's womb, it simply releases electromagnetic waves such as those you recorded." Pilot paused, looking down at his readouts for a moment. "The low-level activity already in this system collided with it, forming a... *shift* in the space time continuum, for lack of a better description."

"A wrinkle in time, you mean?" John asked, a smile threatening at the corners of his mouth.

"Well, yes, that could be a possible description." Pilot conceded.

"No one saw any little old ladies running around the ship, did they?" The hint of a smile grew.

The others gave him an almost synchronized look of confusion.

"Never mind. Earth literary reference. Forget it." He almost laughed as the others glanced worriedly at each other.

"Hey, I'm OK." He jumped down from his perch on the control panel. "This time slip didn't affect my brain." Grinning he added, "Any more than usual."

As he turned to leave, Zhaan reached out and stopped him. "And how is Aeryn taking your unexpected return?"

John flicked a glance at D'Argo who returned his look with a noncommittal one of his own.

"Uh, I'm not sure," he said looking back to Zhaan who raised her eyebrows as she caught the exchange. She opened her mouth as if to say something, then reconsidered and nodded her head gracefully as John moved toward the doorway.

"Catch you guys later," he threw over his shoulder.

His amusement faded as he approached the terrace. It had disturbed him to see how Aeryn had been effected by his apparent death. He'd never seen her that scared before, except *maybe* when she'd become one of NamTar's experiments.

She didn't turn to look at him when he walked out into the stars. Her back was stiff and her arms were behind her, one hand locked over the other wrist. He wondered briefly if she realized her own tendency to use military stance when she was uncomfortable. He stopped when he was just behind her, close but not touching. Slowly, like he would with a wounded animal, he reached a hand out and touched her shoulder.


She didn't try to shrug him off, but she didn't acknowledge him either. He was struggling with what to say when, suddenly, she began speaking.

"It should not have affected me - not like that. Death is something I've been trained to face without question or reaction. I've been in battles where I've stepped over the bodies of soldiers I've known without a second glance. I've had teammates die right next to me and I never stopped firing. So many dead. *My* species. People I grew up with, and I could just push it away."

She turned around and looked him directly in the eye. "But every time you're involved, all those years of training disappear. I don't know how to handle that."

He stood there watching her, unable to think of what to say. "Aeryn, I-"

"Every since I met you, I have gone against what I've known was right. I *knew* that I should never have said anything to Crais, even if you had been a Sebacean I would have been disciplined for it. And then, when I was arrested, I knew that staying there and facing the charges was the right thing to do. Instead, I followed you and D'Argo and condemned my entire unit- my *family*- to suffer for *my* bad judgement. Why? Why do *you* affect me this way?"

He just stared, completely at a loss for what he should say or do. When he didn't respond she started to turn away, but he grabbed her arm and held her in place. "I don't know. I really don't... but I'm glad I do." Surprise, anger and hurt warred in her eyes. "If I could go back and change things, keep you from getting hurt, I would. I'm sorry that I've hurt you. But I'm not sorry that you're here and alive, rather than dead or at the very least still suffocating in that Peacekeeper box that they've kept you in your entire life. I've seen you come alive here -- learning to experience and figure things out rather than just react to them. It amazes me. I'm not sorry if I've been a part of that."


"Why what?"

"Why tell me this now?"

"Sometimes... sometimes something happens to make you realize that "later" may never come, that you shouldn't wait to say or do the things that you think are important. What I saw in your eyes this afternoon... what happened today - yesterday - it was one of those things. It made me realize that one day -- despite my promise -- I may not be here to tell you. I want you to know how much I admire you. For who you are now, and who you're trying to become."

She was silent for a long time, taking in what he'd said. There was no way she could respond without losing the precious control she was struggling to rebuild. Before, it had been as natural as breathing, but now it was as fragile as the "later" that he spoke of.

He watched her step back from him physically and look away, shutting him out mentally and emotionally. Her face shifted and became hard, her Peacekeeper mask slipping into place.

"Aeryn-" he reached out for her arm again, but she jerked away.

"You say that you admire me, who I'm trying to become, but who is that? How much do you *really* know about me?" She turned abruptly and stalked off the terrace without a backward glance.

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