Laughter Becomes Something More

By David W.
Copyright 2000

Author's Note:
Usual disclaimers: I don't own 'em, I'm just enthralled by 'em. Henson or some other equally gothic corporate entity owns 'em. But I'll play nicely with the Farscape characters, honest. I'll even put them back where they belong when I'm done.

Archiving: Please email me first. Failure to do so will result in Peacekeepers using your bones for dice.

"No. That's no frelling good. Do it again."

Aeryn Sun slapped her hand on the nearly unyielding mats of her private space from her prone position. She was unsure whether the rhythm of the strikes matched her ragged breath or the remembered mocking cadence of Senior Officer Dreeson, one of her instructors in unarmed combat. Not that it mattered.

"Get up, Aeryn. Do it again." Despite her tiredness (after all, this was her sixth attempt in full Peacekeeper combat gear), she levered her lithe figure up and resumed her ready position.

"Now, remember. Snap the draw hand over your striking hand. You need complete and unimpeded travel for the blow to be fatal," she coached herself as she rocked her body. This was Hand-To-Hand Boarding Response Drill No. 138.

She knew this drill, had practiced it nearly daily since she was very young and had even excelled in it. Like an old friend, it helped her to connect to her past. "That is, I excelled when I was still Officer Aeryn Sun of the Pleisar Regiment's Icarians," she said. The mere mention of her former unit helped her to square her shoulders and renew her practice.

The drill's scenario called for her to seize, bare-handed, the command center of a vessel from a minimum of three bridge personnel. She was required to coordinate a series of attacks, drawn from the Peacekeeper diversified arsenal of martial arts techniques, to accomplish this. While somewhat stylized, the drill honed her hand strikes and kicks.

With a final breath, she hurled herself into the exercise. Unfortunately, as she had the previous six times, she crossed her feet while executing a complicated kick. The shin guards of her armor caught, locked and knocked her off-balance, leaving her in a very un-Peacekeeper like heap on the mats again.

Over her own breathing and blood pounding in her ears, she thought she heard laughter. Willing herself to be quieter, she confirmed that it was, indeed, laughter. And she knew exactly who was doing the laughing without even looking.

"Crichton! What the yotz do you find so funny?"

John Crichton strode over to his fallen shipmate, still chuckling. As far as Aeryn was currently concerned, his chief attributes were an addiction to incessant talk, curiousity of a foolhardy and dangerous level and one of the most irritating laughs in the Uncharted (or any other) Territories.

"C'mon, Sunshine. I don't know why I was laughing. Well, I do, actually. You did look kinda silly swinging your hands and feet around in the air. Is that some kind of Sebacean or Peacekeeper dance?" he said, extending his hand with those damnable blue eyes just screaming sincerity. "Let me help you up and you can tell me all about it."

His proffered hand was accepted and consequently used, very efficiently, against its owner. John Crichton found himself in a very uncomfortable position against a far bulkhead. Pulling himself around from his mostly upside down position, he groaned against the pull of some abused muscles but fixed Aeryn with one of his patented lopsided grins and said, "Well, it wasn't a pantak jab but that was pretty painful."

He let his eyes travel up to take in a Peacekeeper, once again in the ready position and "full kick-ass mode" as he termed it. "Y'know, Aeryn, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were gonna knock the crap out of me."

"Crichton, I can't remember what 'crap' means but if it entails making you very uncomfortable for the next weeken, you are so right!" she said, launching herself forward.

Chrichton had no intention of being made uncomfortable for a microt, much less a weeken. He figured his best bet was to make a run for the door, beat cheeks (let them try to figure out that Earth expression!) and come back later to apologize when his favorite ex-Peacekeeper had a chance to calm down.

Unfortunately, Aeryn had tossed him (How the hell had she managed that, he thought to himself) against the wall opposite the door. From his vantage point, even now that he was rightside up, the door looked very, very far away.

"Now, Aeryn, I'm sorry. I do know you take your training very seriously," he began, gathering his feet beneath in preparation for his escape.

"Yes, I do, Crichton. But, do you know," and she gave Crichton a sarcastic shade of a smile and that tilt of her head that Crichton usually found completely enthralling.

"It's been so frelling difficult not to practice with a live opponent. How convenient for my training regimen that you have volunteered," she snarled out the words as she swung a heavy boot at his mid-section.

Dodging by a margin narrower than he would have wished, Crichton rolled sideways and somehow got to his feet. Abandoning all pretense of dignity or Earthman machismo, he sprinted for the door.

Or he would have if an enraged Peacekeeper hadn't spun around quickly. She dropped to one knee and used an outstretched leg to sweep his feet out from under him. In the process of falling, Crichton managed to latch onto one of the shoulder extensions of Aeryn's armor. He pulled instinctively and ended by falling on top of Aeryn.

"Hoo, boy. Talking about riding the tiger," he said as his face bounced off her chestplate. Slightly dazed, he looked up and saw only the stormy intensity in Aeryn's eyes. He figured that, since escape now seemed to be impossible, it was time to go on the offensive.

This, he thought, was going to be something of a problem against a professional in the art and science of seriously hurting other beings. So Crichton decided to do the unexpected and bizarre, a trait for which he was justly famous.

He pulled his body upward to kiss her on the mouth, realizing that she might bite his lips completely off. He used his own not inconsiderable strength to pin her arms. He spread his legs wide to better hold her down, remembering some moves from his high school wrestling days.

"Burning hezmana! Why can't you even fight back, you frelling human!" she yelled when she could finally free her mouth.

"Be... cause... I... respect... your... ab... ilities," Crichton said, the effort at speaking punctuated by a very active Aeryn struggling to dislodge him.

With a speed and strength that only raised his respect for her, Crichton suddenly found himself on his right side with Aeryn poising a gloved left fist for striking. A very hard, pain-dealing fist, from Crichton's point of view.

"I give. I surrender. Uncle. No hitting. 'kay?" Crichton said with palms up and outstretched, hoping his sudden submission might deter the fist.

It did. Mostly. She drew the fist back further and bumped his forehead just enough to push his head back.

"That was for cheating, Crichton," she said and flopped down on her back.

"Yeah, but I enjoy that kind of cheating," he confessed, easing down onto one elbow.

He gazed from her raven-black tresses to her eyes and once again appreciated her sculpted cheeks and proud chin. "Yes, I did," he said again. He involuntarily drew back when he saw those eyes lose their focus. When Aeryn wasn't in action, which wasn't often, she was thinking. And that was nearly as dangerous.

He watched as the most complex, most beautiful, most deadly woman in his experience slowly unlock and then remove her heavy gloves. Her fingertips seemed to travel on her own to her lips.

"Yes, I believe you did, Crichton. And I did, too," she said quietly. "But that doesn't stop me from being irritated and annoyed that not only did you interrupt my training but you also laughed at me."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Peacekeepers don't exactly have wide and deep senses of humor. I'm sorry, Aeryn, really I am," He said and braved the distance between them with a hand to brush a lank strand of hair away from her forehead.

Thankfully, she accepted his touch and even seemed to turn toward him in subtle recognition, in silent acceptance.

"So tell me what you were doing?" Crichton said, in a conversational tone.

Aeryn happily retreated from where that fleeting touch of her forehead may have lead to explain, "It's a Peacekeeper training drill. It's designed to test and extend martial techniques in a given scenario."

"And what is the scenario?" Crichton asked, relaxing with his head propped onto his hand. Both of them chose to ignore that his other hand stayed in contact with Aeryn's cheek.

She eased into the familiar territory of Peacekeeper doctrine and practice, seemingly grateful to return to a place of familiarity if not superiority. "This drill, Number 1-3-8, takes place aboard ship. The goal is to seize the bridge from a minimum of three defenders. The Peacekeeper is unarmed."

"Why unarmed?"

"What the yotz difference does it make? It's an exercise, Crichton. Do I ask you to explain your lifting of weights?" she said, a bit of the usual Aeryn blaze escaping.

He just nodded, if a little sheepishly, inviting her to continue.

She also chose to relent, rising up on her side to face Crichton, "Well, maybe it's because the Peacekeeper has just escaped custody or a lucky shot has disabled her weapon or she has run out of ammunition. The point is that she is unarmed."

"Okay, so she's unarmed. The bridge guys still don't stand a chance," he said, returning to his usual (and from Aeryn's point of view totally unwarranted) cheerfulness.

"The bridge has three entry points. Each of these offers advantages and disadvantages," she continued, unconsciously taking on a didactic tone.

"Of course. All good exercises do," he agreed, beginning to stroke her cheek.

"Crichton. John. Stop doing that. Do you know that I once bit off two fingers of a Transdidiahn rebel when we were fighting hand-to-hand?"

No. I don't believe you did. That you told me, that is. Is that a threat, Sunshine?"

"You may take it however you wish, John. I stated a fact to you. Do you want me to continue or not?"

"Yes, please, Instructor Sun. So how do you choose which entry?"

"In my case, two of the entrances require a certain space to be covered before reaching the bridge crew. As running is not of my greater assets, I usually choose the entrance with as little need to close as possible."

"Sounds sensible. But you seem to have no trouble running from me," he said, instantly regretting the injury made possible by a quick wit and even more glib tongue.

"Crichton. This is the last time I am going to tell you. Don't interrupt. You will regret it. And so will I."

"Sorry, Aeryn. I am listening."

"But there is a drawback to this as well because it requires a frontal approach in full view of my opponents, obviously sacrificing the advantage of surprise."

John chose to nod again, biting his lip to keep from making any sort of smart-assed response.

"However, fortunately, this plays into one of my own strengths as I can combine attacks at an acceptably high level of efficiency."

"Of that I have no doubt," John offered, hoping his tone would not provoke Aeryn.

"In Peacekeeper simulators, the bridge personnel change randomly in their position and in the order of their own attacks. Here on Moya, I am, of course, limited to my own imagination," Aeryn said with equal parts of wistfulness and regret in her voice.

"I'm sure you have a very adequate imagination for these kinds of exercises," John added.

"But it's still not the same, Crichton. You, as a scientist, should know that. I mean, you did all kinds of simulations with your toy, your module, but you had to do the actual test, didn't you?"

"Yeah. So can I help?" he dared with the question, almost hoping she'd say "no."

"Help. You?"

"Yeah, y'know. as in render assistance, provide support, render aid, that kind of thing."

"Well, I don't know. I hadn't thought of approaching anyone but D'Argo in the matter as he is the only other warrior convenient."

"Well, yeah, D'Argo is a warrior, the genuine article, no doubt. That's why I wouldn't trust either of your tempers. Drilling or sparring or whatever you want to call this could get out of hand really quickly." But, c'mon, I'm not in bad shape physically. And you're coming dangerously closing to wounding my male ego."

Aeryn allowed herself the luxury of minutely studying his shape; a decidedly pleasing male shape, despite his other irritating qualities.

After a moment, she said, "Very well. We will take it slowly and from the beginning. "

Another few moments passed and then she smiled. "Going slowly and doing the basics. That is not altogether a bad thing, Crichton. One can always learn something from the basics."

Aeryn clambered to her feet and hoisted John to his. While she enjoyed his nearness, the touching, she became all business.

"I'll start as I was taught, beginning when I was barely seven cycles old," she began tonelessly.

"Everything proceeds from your stance. What appears to be a punch or a throw is really nothing more than your upper body building on what your lower body does ..." she began, unconsciously mimicking the pedantic rhythm of Senior Officer Dreeson.

"Watch me, shoulders relaxed, feet shoulder width apart. Now pull your right foot straight back. No, John, bend your left knee more," she continued.

"Gee, Aeryn, isn't this just a bit too basic," Crichton complained, even as he emulated her movements.

She turned to him suddenly, her face an intoxicating distance from his. "Crichton. John. If you don't listen to me, how can you ever expect to be... more?"