The characters and situations belong to Jim Henson Productions and lots of other people who aren't me. No infringement on their property is intended or should be inferred. But you knew that.
Rating is for non-explicit adult situations. Set between LGM:PB and DMD, but consider anything before, oh, let's say "Meltdown" as spoiler-worthy. Since I've stopped thanking people for putting ideas into my head, the blame for this one goes to Carmen, Uriel, and Gwendolyn, who had equal parts getting me started on this show, but mostly to Emma, who last weekend sent me very good FS smut and consequently made me spend all this week at work with Blue running around naked in my head. And I know it doesn't top Jill, and I don't care.
Stark raised his head when the others ceased their shouting from the other side of the door. He crouched into the shadows as it slid open.
Zhaan was the only one to exit, but he could just see into the room.
"Come to my quarters later," she said in a voice too low to be heard by the rest, and she swept past him in the corridor. He stood in her wake, perplexed, until he finally allowed his senses to flow out, to taste the moods flickering in the air.
Anger, white-hot and lancing, knifed through his mind, and he gasped, clutching his head, his mask, as the pain wrenched and poked inside him. D'Argo's emotions were the strongest, always, and Aeryn's the coldest and most direct. The others varied behind them, less painful, but present. Even Crichton, his friend with the primary-colored emotions, sent ripples of anger towards him, mingled with ever-present guilt, and a vivid purple thought blazoned over all the rest. Stark could not say what tacos were and wondered briefly if a combo plate was a kind of shielding. The pain faded as he drew together the shards of his own shields.
He had sensed no anger from Zhaan, even during the crisis, and he could not feel her now as she went her way.
Come to my quarters. It could mean anything. They could have decided to throw him off the ship, chosen Zhaan as their tenderhearted delegate to tell him. He had fled the passage, muttering "Could mean anything," over and again.
He spent the next two arns in his own quarters, afraid to see the others, afraid to be seen. The anger would abate. Always had, always would. Or not. Maybe not this time.
He mumbled to himself as he paced, as he had in his cell, but this cell was voluntary. Did that make it less a prison? He ran to the door, stopped before opening it, before stepping out, where they would see him, and think pulse blasts in his mind. No, it was safer here, safer in the dark.
The lights had come when he'd been in Command, the bright poking lights behind his eyes, blocking everything but the pain and voices of the dead in his ears. He could block it, so much of the time. No, that was untrue. He'd once been able to block the lights, and the sounds, but his control had eroded away during his arns upon arns in the Aurora chair, and now they came when they chose, picking apart his brain mouthful by mouthful. The voices had come when they'd needed him these fellow-travelers, and he'd been unable to do anything but scream inside and mutter while Chiana wrested the controls from him.
In the darkness of his quarters, he wrung his hands anxiously, and whispered to himself. Back in his cell, the only voice he ever heard was his own, save when Scorpius was interrogating him. Some habits never died.
In his short time on board Moya, he'd nearly tread a groove in the floor where he paced. He had not slept for more than an arn at a time in recent memory, and the less recent memories were still all in a jumble. Sleep, no, sleep was bad. There were dark things in his dreams, and he could not stop the voices of the dead inside him while he slept. So he paced, and thought, and tried to remember what it was like to be alone in his own mind.
And now it seemed Crichton had the same problem.
"Too many people, not enough room to take sides," he told himself. Crichton had someone else in his head, someone Scorpy had given him with the chip, and soon the human would be as mad as Stark often suspected himself of being.
But today he was controlling it. Today he was fine. Crichton, yes, Crichton only had his own voice in his head today, or maybe he was being brave. But Crichton had been fine in Command, and so the crew would have to deal with just one madman on board.
And they were going to have Zhaan tell him to leave.
At last the wait was too much, the voices gibbering too loudly in his head, and he ran from his quarters, through the corridors, slowing only when he neared her chamber. He forced himself to stop, to take several deep, calming breaths before approaching. If this was to be it, if they were going to make him go, then he wanted some last measure of self-respect to go with him. He tugged his garb, wiped at his face with a shaking hand, made an attempt to stand straight.
As he went to swipe the console, she said from the other side, "Come in."
Not completely flustered, he let himself into her room. She sat facing away from him, arms extended, completely disrobed.
"I'm --- I'm sorry," he stammered. "I must be early. I can ... "
"Stay. I've been gathering my thoughts."
Thoughts. Thoughts could be about anything. "Am I being asked to leave?"
"Moya. Are you going to ask me to leave Moya?"
"No." She flowed to her feet, faced him. "Did you think I would?"
"After what happened in Command."
She inclined her head. "It was suggested, afterwards. But Rygel doesn't speak for all."
His anxiousness became bewilderment. "Then why ... ?"
"You have trouble controlling your gifts."
He let out a short laugh. "I have only one gift, and I can control it well enough." He stroked a finger over his mask. "It's everything else that I cannot restrain. Not anymore. Not anymore."
"Then I will help you. I have ... some experience with regaining clarity." A flicker passed over her eyes, unmentioned pain.
"I would be grateful."
"Do you recall when we shared Unity?" He nodded. "We will return to that place, and see what can be done."
He risked a glance to the rest of her body. "Should I ... ?"
She followed his gaze. "If you choose. If it makes you uncomfortable, I can dress before we begin."
"No," he said, perhaps too fast, and he read the amusement in her eyes. "I don't know if I should."
"For one who is not entirely corporeal, I didn't expect you to have a particular taboo on the subject." Now she was teasing him, as she turned towards her own clothing.
He averted his eyes as she pulled her robe over her shoulders; odd, that he was less concerned with her nudity so much as with her going from that state to the other. Self-consciously, he again straightened his own clothes, such as they ever were. Beneath the thin fabric ran rivulets of scar tissue. He had been a slave a long time. He could hide that much of his past, at least.
"Join me," she said, reseating herself on the floor. He knelt across from her, and then let his legs go out before him. She rested her own lightly on top of them.
He followed her lead, as she closed her eyes and took a handful of soft, calming breaths. When he felt ready, as if she knew, she reached and took his head lightly in her hands, and touched her forehead to his.
There was no hiding here. As before, his soul lay open before her scrutiny, and hers before him. For a microt, he thought of breaking the link, running from her, from this ship, away, and he knew she would let him go.
He could not run.
Without an effort, she nudged open the dark places within him. He flinched, within and without, as she pulled a memory of the Aurora chair, of Scorpius. Here, inside her mind, although there was some fear, he also felt her disdain for Scorpius, and knew the fear was for John, for himself, for their band of almost-friends, not for herself.
Through her vision, he saw Scorpius as no more than a small man, waving a tiny fist against the universe, and he laughed aloud as the little Scorpy squeaked and fumed. He saw Crais through her eyes, a distant figure, still with the heading "enemy," but only just. The others aboard the ship were musical notes to her. Strong melodic Aeryn. A rumble and burst of thunder for D'Argo. Chiana was a piping tune gradually growing into form. A wheezy strain underscored with soft tones held Rygel's face. Crichton was an instrument he'd never heard, out of place with the rest, but just as vibrant. Pilot and Moya were intermingled: soft, low, soothing strings.
He saw himself though her eyes, and he gaped.
That is not who I am.
It is to me, my beautiful.
All the pain, all the darkness, all washed from him as though by a rainstorm, cleansing the long years of slavery, leaving him raw and pink and new as she took his every foul word, every thought, every lie, every mistake into herself, and let it pass through her.
His mind, and where did his begin and hers end in this sacred place? Cleared, focused.
Here. When you need strength and clarity, you may come here.
He sensed that peace, but through the bond he perceived something else, and he cringed. He could find calm with her, yes, but even as he drank willingly, he could feel her own tranquility spooling from her, winding away into him.
No! Not if it means stealing yours. He struggled, and the whispers came back to him.
You cannot steal what is freely given. When I am gone from you, keep this gift. Again he felt the peace enter him, felt too the deep affection with which it was granted.
Not without you, he resisted feebly. A dream poked at him, half-remembered: Moya, locked in an impossible embrace with another ship, and then cast adrift, and Zhaan gone from him forever. No ...
A dream, my darling one. Only a dream. A glimmering note, a smile. I will always be here waiting, no matter how far away I might seem.
The fear of the dream passed. He was bathed in light, in serenity, and she was before him. He beheld her entirely.
Her strength was her father's, learned young. There had been lovers, yes, and he sensed the dark place within her which had murdered the last man she'd truly loved.
She trembled as he rolled the memory over his fingertips but did not back away. There was pain, and rage, and power, and he felt the vestiges of the madness still present.
This is who I was.
Flashes came of a bitter, snarling creature, trapped inside her own worst desires. Even as he approached the memory, it snapped and bit. He neared it again, and still the creature, so alien to the woman he knew and cared for, growled warnings at him.
He pulled away, but remained watchful. Suddenly, like a pinprick of light from the void, he sensed a Presence. The Goddess, as Zhaan had experienced Her that first time, reached down to the beast and stroked her. The memory-Zhaan changed. The strength she had used to kill, she used instead to claw her way up from what she had been. Control and dignity were the prizes, hard-won, and always in danger.
Every slip was unfolded before him: Maldis, Tahleen, and a heinous crime against Pilot. The last still pained her in the deepest places, for Stark could easily read how much she loved their Pilot, and there had been no good reason for the act that withstood any scrutiny.
This is what I fear. She showed him the creature again, after sharing Unity with Tahleen. She is also who I am.
For several breaths, he thought nothing, only watched the red-eyed beast as she growled and grumbled. Then, he brought forth another image, placed it before her.
This is who you are to me. The image was everything he knew of placid quietude, of kindness, of communion with the whole, and she breathed a song which chased away the creature from both minds. It was you.
Out among the stars, when I searched for Moya, it was you who drew me back. I could hear you.
He stretched forth a tendril, and felt her delight as he returned to her the song, her song, that had called him, led him unerringly to their renegade ship when the Peacekeepers would have kept him in the Chair for a thousand cycles to take that information from him.
The bond grew deeper. He heard a heartbeat in his ears, could not be sure whose. Stray thoughts, blurred memories of early childhood more fantasy than actual recollection sifted through him until he was unaware which were hers, and which his own. Surely they were one being now, without regard to form, and the heart he barely recognized as his own leapt, for he was with her.
Arns may have passed, but he thought not, before they began to pull apart. No two beings could be like this and live, not for long. He felt her mind slip from his, almost wept at her passage, as his thoughts, one by one, became his own again, and he was alone.
She smiled at him, from two fingers-breadths away, so very far, but he could feel her thought in his mind.
She nodded, and with a cry, he embraced her like a child, while she stroked his head.
They made love, almost in afterthought.
The humble joining of flesh to flesh following their bond of souls seemed to him superfluous, until her gifted fingers brushed against his lips, then skittered down his throat to place firm pads against the places in his neck he had forgotten still ached. Without resistance, he allowed her to remove his ragged garments one by one, as her skilled touch melted away the pain he knew she could sense.
He drew her to him. She rested her head softly beside his, rising and falling with each breath both took.
The lights were far, and the dead voices gone. The only voice was hers in his ear, half in song, half murmuring his name, and he knew her voice also in his mind, with the counterpoint to her melody. Their fingers entwined; he felt her soft, strong hand in his, felt too his own rough fingers against hers, and then he was within her and she as much within him, and in her mind he saw the births of stars, of oceans, and then he could see nothing but the curve at her azure lips as she rose and fell above him.
And there was joy.
After, long after, when they had finally curled around each other in sleepy contentment, he slipped into dreams. Momentarily, the fear slid back into place, as dark things moved into his subconscious view. Yet here too, she came, her somnolent thoughts brushing back and forth with his, sweeping the monsters away without even trying. He caught glimmers of her own dream, of a place she'd been when she was small, and when at last the deeper dreams of the night came for him, he was unafraid.
Stark woke, suddenly, body jerking upright without his being aware. He forced himself to calm, not an easy thing to do anymore, and he listened, wondering what had wakened him.
From across the cramped room, he could hear Rygel's uninterrupted snores, heard less distinctly the soft rumble that was Talyn, a sound so familiar he had nearly forgotten. Now he lay back, and let the comforting noises wash through him.
As he often did after the rest slept, he relaxed his shields, slowly at first. He felt the dreams of the others as whispering bubbles, felt Crichton stir awake briefly in the next room before nestling back into sleep within Aeryn's dozing arms. Talyn's resting thoughts were waves, cresting and sliding. Stark stretched farther, seeking minds out beyond the adolescent leviathan, out, out, out, listening for the one calm melody that would lead him back to where he belonged, knowing the song was gone forever and straining nevertheless for the briefest note.
Methought I saw my late espoused Saint,
Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,
Whom Jove's great Son to her glad Husband gave,
Rescued from death by force though pale and faint,
Mine as whom washed from spot of child-bed taint,
Purification in the old Law did save,
And yet, as once more I trust to have
Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind;
Her face was veiled, yet to my fancied sight,
Love, sweetness, goodness in her person shined
So clear, as in no face with more delight.
But O as to embrace me she inclined
I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night. --- Milton