Thanks to the gang at Moya for being my sounding board, and to Leonard for the scene I didn't use (glad to see it's turned up elsewhere on its own, it's super!) and all the good advice I got.
Timeline is right after A BUG'S LIFE, and has spoilers from both it and RHAPSODY IN BLUES, so caveat emptor, all...
It always started the same way - coming out of the wormhole, seeing the ship hurtling toward him, the impact that sent the sleek black craft careening out of control, and the fireball that engulfed it. He saw the panicked face of the pilot - handsome, dark, a younger version of his brother -- and heard his scream of fear and anguish as his ship exploded.....
.....another ship, this one trailing fuel behind it, carrying a lifeform bent on destruction, housed in the usurped body of a Peacekeeper captain. Once again, he saw the pilot's face, malicious glee in the greenish glow from his eyes, watched the satisfaction turn to alarm as the pilot saw the streak of fire heading toward his ship. He heard two screams this time - one from the malevolent virus, shrieking its rage at the frustration of its plans, and one from the host body, crying out at the injustice of his fate in the last microts of his life....
....and he saw himself sauntering into the medlab, approaching the unsuspecting Peacekeeper science officer slowly, savoring the thought of what he was about to do. His fingers trailed the edge of the workbench, his hooded eyes regarding the attractive face of the woman before him. It was a pity, in a way ...... A pleasantry or two, another brush of his fingers on the back of her neck, then his savage downward thrust, pinning her to the workbench. He felt her struggle, smiling as he picked up the metal rod, its weight satisfying in his hand. Three blows - hard, efficient, deadly - and he released her, barely giving her a second glance as he smashed the stasis gun. Then, as nonchalantly as he had entered, he left, stepping over the limp body on the floor. He adjusted his uniform sleeves, straightened his tunic, his face calm, impassive. Another minor annoyance dealt with.
And a voice in his head screamed through it all, trying to warn the woman, begging him to stop, pleading to be released .....
John woke in the darkness, blinking back tears, as he had every night for the last week. God, not again..... The silence of the ship was not shattered by the cry of torment echoing in his dream, and for that he was grateful. Long minutes passed as he forced himself to close his eyes, try to coax back the sleep that mocked his desperate need for it. He felt on his bedside stand for the small bottle Zhaan had given him the day before. He had gone to her, telling her he'd been having trouble sleeping, and she concocted a potion for him, not asking for any details. He hated the idea of using artificial means to get to sleep, but he had to try something.
He uncapped the bottle and swallowed the contents, grimacing at the taste, then stretched out and waited. His eyes grew heavy after a moment and he slipped off....
...and the dream replayed, spooling out in the cinema of his mind, sharp in every detail. And at the last, it didn't end, but changed, the effects of the potion not allowing him to waken:
He left the medlab in the red and black Peacekeeper uniform and found himself in another room, dressed in his regular T-shirt and pants, standing in what looked like the prisoner's dock of a courtroom. He could only make out shadows of the furnishings - a bright light was shining down on him, and a pool of light in front of him obliterated everything behind it. A voice above him, behind him, all around him: "John Robert Crichton, you are brought before this tribunal and charged with the crime of murder. How do you plead?"
"What? Who are you?" John looked around him but could see no one. "What the hell is going on here?"
"You are accused of taking the lives of three fellow beings. How do you plead?" the voice continued, unrelenting.
John strained to see into the darkness but it was no use. "Not guilty," he finally said.
"Prosecution will call its first witness." Into the pool of light in front of the prisoner's dock stepped a tall young man, erect and proud, uniform fitted flawlessly to his athletic figure. John looked at him and his breath caught. Dark eyes locked on blue-green ones, and the disembodied voice said, "State name and rank for the tribunal."
"Tauvo Crais, officer, assigned to command carrier under Captain Bialar Crais."
"Officer Crais, tell this tribunal how you came to die."
"My ship was struck by that of the accused. It was an unprovoked attack...."
"Attack? It was an accident! I tried to get out of the way. You ran into me!"
"Your white death pod robbed me of my life, my future. I am dead because of you, John Crichton." As Tauvo Crais spoke these last words he began to change, to melt like a wax effigy in the flames that suddenly appeared around him. His mouth opened, and his wordless cry reverberated against the walls of the room.
John gripped the railing in front of him, closing his eyes tightly against the horror. "It was an accident," he choked out. "Why are you doing this?"
There was a silence, then the unseen 'judge' intoned: "Prosecution will call its next witness." There was a sound of footsteps, then the voice said, "State name and rank for the tribunal."
"Vessen Larraq, captain, Peacekeeper Special Ops unit." John opened his eyes and faced his accuser. Brown eyes blazing with reproach and hatred looked back at him, and John felt himself flinch before that unwavering gaze.
"Captain Larraq, tell this tribunal how you came to die."
"I was taken, possessed if you will, by a virus. I had no control over my actions. The virus fled in my ship, and the accused used his ship's starburst power to destroy it - and destroy me."
"It was the only way to stop the virus," John protested.
"Be honest with yourself, John Crichton. If there had been another way, would you have taken it? Didn't you want to see me dead? Because of her?"
An image shimmered into view - Larraq holding Aeryn, his voice breathy against her ear: "This Larraq guy, he really liked you - a lot." The knife in his hand came down, cutting into her side, her bright blood flowing over it as he shoved her forward into John's arms. This image dissolved into another - a tight shot of John's face as he watched Moya's starburst ignite the trail of cesium fuel. He spoke only one word, a word laden with rage and grim satisfaction: "Boom..."
The image faded, and Larraq's gaze held John's like a vise. "You wanted revenge, and you wanted to eliminate the competition..."
"Look into your heart," Larraq overrode him. "Look at the place deep inside that you don't want to see. There's a part of you that wanted to make sure I would never come back."
John was frozen - he wanted to say something, anything, but no words would come. He didn't want to believe it, but he could feel a shameful laugh build and echo in the darkest part of his soul. "No," he whispered into the silence. "God, no..." He tore his gaze away from Larraq's and addressed the invisible magistrate. "That's enough of this crap!" he grated out between clenched teeth. "I am outta here."
He tried to leave the dock and found he could not move beyond its perimeter. "What the .... ?" He swung a fist against the unseen barrier, feeling it give slightly and spring back against the impact, pushing his hand back with the same force, wrenching him sideways. His eyes widened and he stared at his hand for a moment, fighting down panic.
"You can't get away that easily," Larraq said. "You can't run from what you've done. You can't hide, anymore than I could from that fireball. I'm dead because of you, John Crichton."
The Peacekeeper captain lifted one hand and pointed at the prisoner. John watched as Larraq's skin began to blacken and crisp, unable to look away, feeling his stomach roil and his chest heave. "Because of you..." came from nearly destroyed lips, a rasping whisper as he disappeared.
John swallowed convulsively, struggling to compose himself as the disembodied voice said, "Prosecution will call its final witness."
Tall, blond and severely beautiful, the woman stepped into the light. John didn't want to look at her, but he made himself do it. "State name and rank for the tribunal," the voice said.
"Ro Hassan, lieutenant, Peacekeeper science officer, Special Ops Unit."
"Lieutenant Hassan, tell this tribunal how you came to die."
"The accused found me in the leviathan's medlab. He began to talk to me, and I thought nothing of his being there. Then he pinned my head to a table and bludgeoned me to death. I was no threat to him - there was no reason for me to die that way."
"But it wasn't me, it was the virus...."
"Was it your hand on my neck, holding me down?" Hassan spat. "Was it your fingers that held the metal rod? Was it your arm that swung it down and smashed my skull? I am dead because of you, John Crichton." She turned to leave the pool of light, and John could see the back of her head - dear God.... there was nothing left of it.... He felt something warm and wet on his hands, and looked down at them, at the dark blood dripping off his fingertips. Her blood - their blood, all of them...
He collapsed to his knees in the dock, and the scream that ripped from him was harsh, choked with tears of revulsion, and seemed to go on forever....
John jerked awake, gasping for air. His throat felt raw, swollen, and this time the tears had spilled over onto his cheeks. His hands were clean, but he could still feel the phantom blood there as he dried his face. Slowly he calmed down and tried to relax, but the images did not fade, reappearing the second he closed his eyes. After nearly an hour, he switched on the light next to his bed and reached for his clothes. He might as well head for the maintenance bay and work on the Farscape - there would be no more sleep tonight.
"You look like dren, John," Aeryn commented next morning at breakfast. "Are you all right?"
"You're a fine one to talk, you're not supposed to even be up and around yet."
Aeryn grimaced a bit as she sat down with her tray, but said, "I'm fine, and don't change the subject. Do you feel well?"
John looked at her and saw the concern in her eyes. He almost told her about the dream, then stopped. How could a soldier, someone trained to kill, understand, much as she might want to? He forced a small smile. "I didn't sleep so hot last night, that's all. I'm okay."
"Maybe you should see Zhaan ... about some kind of sleeping potion." Aeryn's expression told him she clearly did not believe that was the whole story, but she was not going to push him for more.
"I might. If I need to." He forced himself to eat, though each bite felt like it was going to come back up. Aeryn made quiet, inconsequential conversation as they ate, and John knew she was watching him, trying to figure out what was wrong. Once again, he pushed back the urge to tell her - she was finally getting over the idea that he was an earth idiot, starting to respect him. She probably could wipe out an entire platoon and sleep like a rock afterward. If he told her, that might send her opinion of him back in the gutter again, and he didn't need that, on top of everything else.
The interminable meal finally concluded, and as Aeryn rose to put her tray away, she looked at him one last time. "I think you really should see Zhaan, you do look awful." John looked up at her, catching the hidden meaning in her words: if you won't talk to me, talk to someone.
He felt a smile twitch the corners of him mouth, a real smile. He should have known by now she could see right through him, and he was grateful for her caring. "I think I will. Don't have to use it if I don't need it. Thanks for the suggestion. And don't overdo it today, okay, Miss Alpha Female?
"I'll try." Aeryn smiled back and left him alone. He looked down at what remained of his food cubes and felt his stomach lurch. One more bite and he really would lose it.... He deposited his tray in the cleaning unit, thinking about what Aeryn had said. If he didn't let it out to someone, he was going to be a basket case before very long. And that wouldn't do him or anyone around him any good. He took a deep breath. It was time for confession, even if the available priest didn't believe she was one anymore ....
"Hey, Zhaan, you got a min...oops...." John glanced in to Zhaan's chamber and looked away quickly. The Delvian was meditating with her back to him, but her chanting was not what stopped him in his tracks. "Maybe I should come back later," he murmured.
"Nonsense, John, I was just finishing. Come in."
"Uh...." John felt his face flush, still unable to look up "I don't ... "
"Oh. Just a moment." He could hear the amusement in her voice. While he could appreciate how beautiful his shipmate was, John didn't think he would ever be totally comfortable with her nonchalant nudity. A rustle of fabric, then she said, "All right, John."
He looked up. She was swathed in the blue robe with the jeweled collar. "Thanks." The door swung open and he came in. It always amazed him what she had done with her quarters, considering the limited resources on this ship. The room was at once utilitarian and exotic, much like the Delvian herself. "I like coming in here," he said. "It feels ... calm."
"Thank you. It wasn't easy creating a piece of home, but I think I succeeded in a small way. Please, sit down." John parked himself in a chair, and Zhaan took the seat opposite him. "Forgive me if I'm assuming something that isn't true, but the way you said 'calm' just now makes me think you are having trouble finding it."
"That's probably the understatement of the millenium. I've got a problem, and I need to talk to somebody about it."
"Of course, John. I'll help any way I can. What is the problem?"
John looked down at his hands. "I've been...having these dreams." He recounted the nightmares to her, every detail he could remember. By the time he reached the end of his narrative he was trembling. "And that's when I woke up. I've got to find a way to stop them, Zhaan. I haven't had a decent night's sleep in what seems like forever."
"I take it the potion I gave you didn't help."
"Just made it worse, I couldn't wake up the last time."
"Well, dreams generally fade after a time, John. You may just have to wait them out."
"I can't. If this keeps up, and keeps getting worse, you'll have to find me a rubber room at the laughing academy." Zhaan looked puzzled, and John waved his hand dismissively. "Don't even try, no way the microbes can handle that one." He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I'm so tired I'm getting stupid. Not a good thing."
Zhaan thought a moment, then said, "Well, it's obvious what your dreams are trying to tell you. Do you believe it?"
"On some level I think I'm starting to. I mean, I can tell myself there's no way I'm responsible for Crais' brother, that he ran into me. But I saw Crais' face when Maldis conjured up Tauvo - I know what it's like to lose someone you love, how bad it hurts."
"You have a kind heart, John, you couldn't have seen his pain and been unmoved by it. So you feel guilt where perhaps none is warranted."
"Maybe. And Hassan - how can I have a dream about something I don't even remember doing? I saw her .... afterward .... but the virus was supposed to erase anything it did while it was inside me. How can I have such a clear picture of what happened?"
"The virus only affected your conscious memory, John. Everything records in the subconscious. You were told what happened, and you saw the result. Your subconscious provided the rest."
"Great - the hard drive in my brain goes into attack mode." He took a deep breath, steadying himself. "I can't help thinking there must have been something I could have done, some way I could have fought back, stopped the virus from using me to kill her. I know there wasn't, any more than Larraq could have stopped it from hurting Aeryn. But seeing Hassan dead on the floor, knowing it was me that did it ... that's going to haunt me for the rest of my life. And maybe it should."
Zhaan reached across and laid a gentle hand on John's arm. He smiled slightly in acknowledgement, then his face went bleak again. "And then there's Larraq. He was as much a puppet in the whole mess as I was. He shouldn't have had to die, not that way. He should have been able to take his crew and his little Pandora's box and go on his merry way. And God help me, I wonder if the dream wasn't right, if maybe I did want him out of the picture."
"Because of Aeryn?"
He nodded. "I told myself the virus had to be taken out, it was for the greater good and all that crap. But I saw the knife go into her, I saw her bleeding, and I snapped. I don't know if it would have mattered if the virus was still in him or not."
"Was there more to it than that, John?"
"How could there be? I'm not blind - I saw what was happening between her and Larraq, sure. But what right would I have to be jealous? It's not like I have any real claim on her or anything."
"I'm not so sure about that," Zhaan murmured. "And anyway, that's logic talking, John - your head, not your heart. What does your heart say?"
John was silent for a long moment, warring emotions chasing each other across his face. Finally he answered softly, "I was jealous, at least a little bit. But my God, I'd never....I couldn't ....."
"Some part of you thinks differently, John. There's darkness in all of us - believe me, I know this better than I hope you ever will."
John remembered the laugh in his dream and shivered. "Maybe you're right, I don't know, I don't know anything anymore. I'm so frellin' tired..." He closed his eyes for a moment, then looked up at the Delvian, his eyes pleading. "So what do I do, Zhaan? Just hope the dreams give it a rest before I fall over or go insane?"
Zhaan thought a moment. "There may be a way I help you, if you're willing to try."
"I'll try anything - hypnosis, voodoo, listening to Anthony Robbins tapes ...."
"I can try to go into your mind and remove the memories from your subconscious. There is a risk of taking out more than just the unwanted memories, however. You could lose more than you gain by this."
John looked into her eyes. "I trust you, Zhaan, I know you'll do the best you can. When can we do it?"
"Right now if you like. Come over here and lie down." John crossed the room to the bed and stretched out. Zhaan sat next to him. "I need you to close your eyes and try to relax. Breathe deeply and slowly."
John did as she instructed, and felt her fingers, delicate as a surgeon's touch, on his temples. "Now you need to focus on the dreams, on the memories you want removed. I will try to isolate them. Remain as still as you can."
The images appeared instantly, and John had to force himself to lay quietly and take slow measured breaths. He could sense the Delvian's presence enter his mind, feel the calm, the caring. She touched the memories, began to draw them to her. Soon, there would be peace....
Another memory presented itself - one of his father, his voice stern. "We're going next door, and you're going to tell Mrs. Vanetti that you broke her window. A man takes responsibility for what he does, John. Do you understand that?"
He met his father's gaze and saw the blue eyes looking down at him were gentle. "Yes, sir...."
John pulled himself back from the link, and as his eyes snapped open, he grabbed Zhaan's hand. "Wait, stop!" Zhaan looked down at him. "I can't do this. It's wrong."
He sat up on the bed, pulling his knees up and resting his arms on them. "Back a long time ago, in my granddad's time, there was a guy who wanted to take over the world. And for some reason he blamed most of the world's problems on one group of people. He and his followers did their level best to exterminate these people - killed six million of them before they were stopped."
"Well, time went by, and people started to forget what happened, forgot the camps and the ovens and the experiments. More time passed, and some folks started saying none of it ever happened, it was all propaganda, even though there were still people around who had survived the horror. One of my neighbors as a kid was one of those survivors, Mrs. Vanetti. She and her husband lost both their children in the camps. She told me not to believe the lies, that it did happen, and to never ever forget."
John looked at his friend. "I can't let you take the memories, Zhaan, much as I'd like you to. Whether I wanted it to happen, whether I meant for it to happen, whether or not I even had anything to say about what happened, three people are dead, and I am responsible. If I have the memories removed, it would be like saying it didn't happen, and I can't do that to them. It would be one more insult added to what I've already done to them. For good or bad, their memories are a part of me now, part of who I am, and I can't forget them. I owe them that much."
"I understand. What about the dreams?"
"I'll live through them, and I'll be all right, eventually." John swung his feet over the side of the bed and stood up. "Thank you for trying, for caring, for listening .... just thank you."
"You're welcome. I wish I could have done more."
"You did more than you know." He paused, then said, "Tell me something, Zhaan. You said you loved the man you killed. I don't know if I'll ever understand how you could do it, but I think I understand why you did. How long did it take before you looked down and didn't see blood on your hands?"
"A long time, John. After all these cycles, sometimes I still do. His death will be a part of me forever. I can only take small comfort in the fact that what I did was necessary."
"Could you have had the memory removed?"
"Yes, but I chose not to. As you said, it would have been the final insult."
He nodded and left. Zhaan watched him go, and sent a prayer to the Goddess to send her friend peace. He would need it in the days and nights to come.