Archiving: Yeah sure, please drop me a mail if you do and I'll be sure to drop by the site.
The wonderful Kiki + Perri from TGUT asked for this, so they got it! I think it's turned out a little more dark and painful than I intended (maybe the SACCers should give it a miss?), but it seemed to follow on from the episode. Still, there's some comfort in there too--- thanks to Jigs for her great suggestions, and kicking my ass to finish it :)
Big thanks to Quilt Lady and Jigs for beta reading, top job girls! The world is saved from my English once again :)
Rating: PG-13 for general unpleasantness. Sorry, no sex this time.
Disclaimer: Farscape and all it entails, belongs to all those nice people who own the copyrights to it, I'm just borrowing it - I promise to give it back in time for The Locket. :)
Category: Doesn't fit neatly, drama or adventure I suppose.
The crash of broken ceramics filled the air as the trader flew back over his stall and collapsed in a heap amongst his shattered wares. As he lay there and groaned, he looked up to see the black boots of his assailant close to his face.
"But I know nothing!" He pleaded.
As his attacker grabbed him by the hair and pulled him to his knees, he glanced around to see the other market goers had stopped to watch.
"I saw you talking to him." The voice was calm, level, but with just a tint of repressed anger.
The trader looked around again, the large Luxan standing behind his assailant was glaring at the crowd, no chance of help there. He gave up and admitted it, "Yes, I did talk to your Sebacean friend."
"Ah wonderful. Wouldn't it have been so much easier if you'd have just said that in the first place?" She said, her tone mocking in victory.
"We just talked briefly; he didn't even buy anything." He replied, trying, and failing, to keep the note of panic from his voice.
Grabbing him by the collar, she hauled him up close to her face, "well in that case, you can just explain to me where he went." She hissed at him. It wasn't a request, more a statement.
The blinding sunlight in his eyes, he swallowed and nodded anxiously. "He, he headed for the old town. He…" The frightened man paused.
"Yes?" She prompted, stretching out the word menacingly.
"He wanted to buy some jewellery. I told him where to find the goldsmith's district."
"If I find out you're lying…" she began.
"No! No, I swear," begged the trader, his tanned and weather-beaten face twisted in a sincere grimace.
She dropped him back to the floor, and then spun on her heels. "D'Argo, let's go," she ordered. The Luxan growled at his prone form and followed the Sebacean female as the crowd swiftly parted to let them out.
The trader sighed with relief as he got to his feet and brushed off the ever-present dust of this world from his ragged clothes. The spectacle over, the bustling crowd returned to their business and the murmur of many conversations slowly returned to full volume.
I awoke with a start, lurching forward and gasping for air from my seated position. My head swam as if somebody was mixing the contents with whisk, the image of the chamber floating and insubstantial. Closing my eyes as the nausea built, I could feel the sweat on my skin, soaking my clothes. It was too late though, and I pitched forward onto my hands and knees, vomiting violently on the cold stone floor.
It's needs temporarily fulfilled, my body gave out again, and I barely managed to push myself to the side to avoid the mixture of blood and bile on the floor. A minute passed, an eternity, I couldn't tell. I slowly opened my eyes again as I reeled away from the stench next to me, my stomach tightening again but there was nothing left there.
Lying on my back, the room still spun around me, stinging sweat in my eyes, nausea burning in my throat. This had to be real, there couldn't be this much pain if it wasn't. My breathing had slowed a little and my vision gradually returned to some sort of focus. Shafts of brilliant light came through various holes in the walls and ceiling, the other light from the group of small fires in the centre of the chamber.
There was something else on top of the smell of sweat and vomit, something burning. My mind was cast back to a camping expedition with Dad and DK back home. The smell of cooking snake back when he'd taught us survival skills when we were kids.
We'd been out in the desert, camping out, warming our hands near the fire that guarded us from the cold of the night. Dad had caught this…this…the memory changed, shifting and warping. Dad and DK, looking at me, with disappointment, disgust? They'd seen me kill Logan, no Rygel, Logan? Rygel. The whole thing flashed before me again. The loss of control, the pleasure of throwing him off the stairs to his death, the guilt as I spun and released him in a moribund circle, his small body shattering on the distant floor below.
I gasped again and found myself back in the chamber, in the grip of fever as my body tried to cope with the abuse it had suffered. There was something I had to remember, something important…had to remember, no couldn't remember, must not remember. I rolled onto my front, must not remember, no more pain.
Struggling onto all fours, I crawl forward towards the centre of the room. Have to get out of here, have to survive....
Aeryn Sun paused for a microt, taking a swig from her water bottle. Suffering silently in the heat of the relentless sun, they had been searching for arns. D'Argo gladly accepted a mouthful of water and then put the top on before the omnipresent dust could infiltrate yet another place where it was not wanted.
"Typical Crichton, getting into trouble." He commented into the silence between them. Once they had realised he was missing, Chiana and Rygel had been sent back up to Moya, despite their protests, but it made sure they would have no further trouble here.
Aeryn turned her head towards him and nodded in quiet agreement, a distant look in her eyes. He noted her troubled expression, her violent "questioning" of the market trader only demonstrated her anxiety over the lost Human. He was also beginning to worry about her being out in this heat for so long.
"We must keep looking, I think this is the old town." She said as she indicated the narrow streets ahead. The densely packed sandstone buildings overlooked the smaller slums and stalls of the market area.
"At least we will get some shelter from this frelling sun," he grumbled as they proceeded into the shade of tall, white buildings. Trails of rope and some battered looking banners occupied the space far above their heads, stretching from building to building in places.
As they proceeded in, the streets grew quieter and less packed with people; the old town had a certain eeriness about it that seemed to hush conversation. The two companions headed further in, disappearing up a flight of narrow steps, into the mass of tangled alleyways.
Have to get out of here, have to survive. It was all I could think, my most basic instincts taking over. The pain wasn't quite so bad now, probably nulled by natural endorphins - the thought popped up out of nowhere into the swirling chaos of my mind.
With a supreme effort I managed to pull myself to my feet and staggered into the nearby control desk. The desk, it had caused the pain, I pounded on it feebly with my fist once, twice, before collapsing to my knees from the effort. I breathed heavily and tried to wipe the sweat and grime from my brow.
I pull my body upright using the cursed desk, my legs shaky and my balance unsure. There seem to be a few exits from this hellhole, something directs my attention to the one on the left, good as any I figure. I stumble across the room to it, using the wall for support as my legs scream their protests.
This corridor is dark, no rays of light, but something drives me forward, one hand clutching against the wall, while the other is almost dragging along the floor as my knees threaten to buckle. Have to get out of here, have to survive, the words circling round and round my head in the darkness.
My knees give way and I'm crawling forward on all fours, before finally succumbing to the exhaustion and collapsing face down on the floor. The darkness presses in, suffocating, engulfing.
Then, a sound - the slow squeak of small plastic wheels, moving towards me, from somewhere behind. The squeak was accompanied by another sound, muffled footfalls, slow and stopping.
"John..." a familiar voice stuttered slowly.
No, this couldn't be real.
"Johnny... come to Mommy... you've got to be with me at the end...."
"Johnny... oh Johnny!"
"NOOOOOooooo!" I screamed. "No, not real. No, not real." I repeated it again and again, like a mantra to protect me. Have to get out of here, have to survive. Chest heaving, I felt consciousness fade away like the distant memory of Earth.
"This is not getting us anywhere," D'Argo angrily stated. They had been searching the old town for what felt likes arns, this part of town was much less crowded, but they had nearly gotten lost more than once in the tight maze of streets and backways.
"Aeryn?" He asked as he touched her on the shoulder. She was startled, arms still crossed, she turned to face him.
"What?" She said impatiently, still preoccupied with scanning their surroundings for any sign of him.
Sighing and leaving her to it, he activated his comms, "Pilot, have you managed to locate his signal yet?"
The familiar voice responded, "we have detected a faint sign, Commander Crichton is definitely within two metras of your current location. However the signal seems to be blocked in some way."
"You're going to have to do better than that Pilot," was the irritated Luxan's reply.
Zhaan's soft tones interrupted the exchange, "please keep looking D'Argo, if John's hurt you must find him as soon as possible."
"Alright," he responded more calmly. "We will take a last look around here and then move on to a different area."
They headed north, further into the old town, away from the Smith's District. D'Argo paused suddenly, sniffing the air with a puzzled look on his face.
Aeryn turned to watch him, her features hard-set. "What is it?" She asked.
He held up his hand to quiet her, bending to smell closer to the sand covered floor. "Scarran," he murmured. "Smells exactly like that one on the Royal Planet."
Aeryn drew her pistol from its concealed holster as D'Argo brandished his Qualta Blade and looked around cautiously. "Can you track it?" She asked, suddenly full of energy and determination.
"Yes, I believe so." He responded.
I woke again, terrified and thrashing around with what little strength I had. Gradually I regained some composure and managed to calm my rampant paranoia. After resting, I pushed myself off the floor and got to my feet gingerly, reaching to find the wall to my left again. The nightmarish walk began again as I edged along the passage, every step a marathon to me.
I staggered on, the going got harder, there seemed to be an upward slope now, threatening to cast me down to the bottom again should I falter.
I rounded a corner; I could now faintly see my hand on the wall, pale and trembling. Another corner, then another, yes, it wasn't my imagination - it was getting brighter. In hope, my legs gained new strength as I struggled upwards.
And then, there it was, a gaping hole in the darkness, a portal to heaven just above and ahead. With one last effort I pushed towards the light. Have to get out of here, have to survive. A few more faltering steps and I was there, finally there.
I collapse once more onto my hands and knees, gasping in the warm air that surrounds me. I hear noises from behind me, but do not have the strength to turn and face them.
"John? JOHN!" I feel strong, lithe arms circle me from behind and I'm pulled round, cradled in a familiar lap.
"What the Hezmana has happened?" I hear a male voice demand.
"John, John, are you ok? Look at me John." I twist slightly to face the direction of the noise, my blurry vision shows me the bright light of the distant, cloudless sky and what must surely be an illusion, the concerned face of Aeryn Sun.
"Crichton, where is the Scarran?" The male voice asks.
I don't answer, and the illusion of Aeryn asks, "John, you must tell us where the Scarran is," her voice gentle, but insistent.
I can't help but let out a little smile, this is all too weird. "He died, just like me." I giggle slightly as it all starts to fade again and I feel my body going limp.
Just before I drift away entirely I can just make out the male talking, "Pilot, we have found him, get Zhaan here now!"
Pain, sharp pain in the front of my head, shooting down my neck to the base of my spine. I turned slightly and groaned loudly, my nerves gradually relaying the full gravity of my situation. My whole body, every muscle, fibre and organ ached at once. Another moan escapes as I tried to force my eyelids open, and failed, bringing my fingers to soothe my temples.
"John.... Crichton?" The groggy voice came from my left.
"Oh Jesus," I complained quietly.
I felt a cool, wet cloth wash over my brow, a moment's relief from the feverous heat.
"Zhaan, he's awake, you better get down here."
"I'll be right there, Aeryn," was the reply after a few seconds.
"Wha, wha happen?" I manage to stutter out.
"Don't try to talk Crichton, just keep still," was the soft answer. It carried enough authority to keep me quiet. I relax slightly, taking slow breaths to try and still my quaking body. After a few moments I open my eyes, the blur of the ceiling gradually coming into focus, Moya's warm light washing it a pastel red.
"I, we, were very worried about you Crichton." she continued.
I turned to face her, my neck muscles creaking in resistance. There she was, Aeryn Sun, large bags under her eyes and skin creases prominent.
"Hey," I manage to mutter.
She replied with a weak smile, putting her index finger over my lips to shush me. I looked her longingly in the eyes; she gazed back for a moment before blinking and turning to face the door.
There was a swish of blue robes as Zhaan entered the medical bay; I turned to face her as she approached the bed. "John, good to see you are back with us," she started, "I was worried the concussion could be serious."
"Guess I've got a harder head than you gave me credit for," I joked weakly.
They both smirked and exchanged relieved glances.
"Aeryn, time you got some rest." Zhaan said kindly, but firmly. Aeryn nodded and stood up, affectionately running her hand through my matted hair. She rubbed her eyes and stretched as she wandered out of the room.
Zhaan returned her attention to me, "how do you feel?" She asked, putting her hand on my shoulder.
"Like dren," I answered predictably.
Her voice full of compassion, she replied, "you've been through a lot, you must allow your body to heal itself." She turned round and began fiddling with something.
Turning back round to face me, she produced a small vial of light green liquid. "This should dull the pain, and allow you to sleep."
I opened my mouth slightly as she tipped in the contents. The medicine tasted foul, but I managed to swallow it. Mom had always made me take my medications, no matter how unpleasant. Mom, oh god.
The feelings wretched up inside me, my very soul twisted in pain and wracked with guilt. Seeing my reaction, Zhaan assumed it was her medicine, whispering reassuringly that it would make me better. She gently stroked my chest to comfort me, and I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
I felt better, the previous pain reduced to a dull background throb. I tried to push myself up to rest on my left elbow, my body quickly reminding me of why lying still felt so good.
As I eased myself back down on my side, my peripheral vision caught sight of movement near the doorway, a dark shadow from outside quickly gone as I turned to look at it directly. "Hello?" I questioned the darkness. There was no response. "Anyone there?" My croaky voice broke the silence.
Just my mind playing tricks, been there, done that. A wave of tiredness washed over me, and I failed to stifle a yawn. I settled down on the soft pillow, eyes quickly closing as I was swept up into sleep's cocoon. As my senses faded, I thought I could hear something, but oblivion claimed me first.
I woke again; glad as the faint memory of twisted images drained away. I opened my eyes to the increased light in the room. I turned as I heard Zhaan moving around to collect some herbs and chemicals.
"Good morning, John," she said as she approached.
"It is?" I asked.
She smiled softly, "lie back and relax," she said, "I'm just making you some more medicine."
"Oh that's great," I answer sarcastically. "I've already been beaten and tortured, now you're going to poison me?"
She smiled again, rolling her eyes upwards as she finished shaking the vial vigorously. She removed the stopper and held it near my mouth. Reluctantly I opened up and grudgingly swallowed the liquid.
"That's good, John," she encouraged as my face screwed up and I stuck my tongue out. She gave me a little water to wash it down with, but the aftertaste lingered like the dark dreams.
"You look a lot better," she continued, "some of the others would like to see you, do you feel up to it?"
I nodded slowly, "I'd be glad of the company."
A weeken passed quickly as I drifted between slow recovery and disturbed sleep, my strength returning slowly. I got visits from the rest of the crew, D'Argo, Chiana and even Rygel stopped by to see me. Although he claimed it was merely to see if I was dead or not, even the diminutive Dominar seemed to be a little concerned behind the facade of greed.
After a few more solar days I felt much better, the clammering nightmares finally starting to ease as I recovered from the Scarran's torture. Since finding her asleep next to the bed when I first woke, I had not seen much of Aeryn, and her absence worried me. Feeling restless from confinement in the medical bay, I finally broke Zhaan's doctors orders and ventured out.
Wearing nothing but a dressing gown and a pair of socks, I headed gingerly towards my room. My full memory was now returning rapidly and allowed me to start shaking off all the painful falsehoods the Scarran had created in there.
I entered my quarters, my meagre possessions were arranged neatly and the room had obviously been cleaned recently. A pile of clean, folded clothes lay on the bed. Feeling a little under dressed I slipped on a T-Shirt, it smelt fresh and sweet as I pulled it over my head. A pair of boxers from the stack completed the outfit. I looked around more in hope than expectation for the gift I'd bought down on the planet. No luck, it must have been lost somewhere down there in the dark, and I was in no hurry to revisit that place.
I took off and made for the Terrace. I really needed to get some air after being stuck in the med bay for so long. To my surprise I spied a slender figure, dressed in black, standing there looking at the stars. I took a breath and wandered in as casually as I could.
Surprised but not startled, she turned slowly to look over her shoulder, dark wisps of hair hanging over her face.
"Crichton, you should be in bed," she replied, a little coldly.
"Yeah, I'm happy to see you too." I countered, although the sentiment was real.
I thought I saw the edge of a smile for a moment, but the hint soon faded as gloom invaded her pretty face and she turned back to the window. I stepped closer and put my hand on her shoulder, leaning on her slightly.
A long pause passed between us, but it was not uncomfortable.
"What happened after you found me?" I asked. There were enough gaps in my swiss-cheesed memory as it was.
"After we found you, D'Argo carried you back the spaceport. We met Zhaan there and brought you back on the transport pod," she stated matter-of-factly.
Another brief pause, but I ventured on. I figure she won't try to kill me in my weakened state. "I told you I could look after myself." I half joked. Her head turned to me quickly, a flash of anger - and maybe something else - in her eyes:
"Crichton you nearly frelling died down there!" She snapped.
"Hell I did die down there," I replied. "But I killed the Scarran, that's gotta be worth a bit of credit."
"Yes, I suppose so," she answered, quietly.
She looked away. "John, I... we... nearlylostyoudownthere," the final words all escaping together.
She pulled away from my touch, moving quickly towards the door as she finished. I shifted my weight and just stopped from falling. I looked up just in time to see her disappear out of the door and to the right.
The emotional scars from this little adventure might not be confined to just myself.