SPOILERS for: "Jeremiah Crichton," "Durka Returns," and "A Human Reaction."
** Part 1 **
Nights on Moya were like all other times--quiet. Perhaps more so, or maybe that was just how it seemed to her: quiet enough she could almost hear Moya breathe. It was at night that she felt the most alone.
Aeryn Sun sat, a solitary figure in the middle of the terrace, hugging her knees to her chest and gently rocking. She took a deep breath, trying to fight the tears she that burned in her eyes. She had to get control of herself. A year ago, her entire squadron could have been killed in front of her and she wouldn't have been affected like this--and no one had really died this time. They were all back, safe aboard Moya. Even John.
She should not be so upset. Yet, here she was, sitting here in the dark, wallowing like she was the one who had been granted her dream and had it snatched away. John was the one who had been hurt--but he wasn't the one sitting on the terrace wallowing! No, John was sleeping peacefully in his quarters; she'd already checked.
Raising a bottled drink to her lips, she poured the rest of the sweet concoction down her throat, then discarded the bottle with the three others she had finished. She'd hoped to quell the tightness in her chest permanently, but it always returned, stronger than before.
It was too much, all of it. It hadn't been too long ago that he had stormed off the ship, angry and frustrated, only to have Moya starburst and leave him behind. When he had left, she had been angry at how he had treated her, but when they had returned and not found him, she had felt panic in her heart. The time without him had been awful, lonely and empty. She had missed him, more than she wanted to.
It had taken them a quarter of a cycle, but the had found him. He'd come back to Moya, and after apologies and a few awkward days, things had slipped back into their old familiar and comfortable patterns. She'd been happy. She, Aeryn Sun, had been happy. And when Durka had resurfaced, John had been there even then, quietly supporting her and helping her through the disillusionment.
And then he had left again. A wormhole to Earth appeared and she had let her fear of the unknown override her desire to go with him. She just hadn't been able to trade the security of the life she had worked hard over the last eight months to build to leave it, even to be with him. And as much as she wanted him to stay...she knew she couldn't ask it. Knowing he would be safe, at home with people who loved him, enabled her to stand still and let him go.
When his ship and Earth had disappeared from Moya's sensors, her emotions finally had gotten the better of her. She'd immediately begun preparations to go after him. She'd just wanted to get a closer look, she'd lied. She'd known damn well that if she couldn't verify he was okay using the transport's sensors, she would have gone in after him.
She hadn't been surprised when D'Argo had volunteered to accompany her. He and John had built a relationship--not a friendship, per se, but a bond nonetheless. Rygel's insistence on coming had surprised her, but she hadn't cared to argue at the moment. She had just wanted to get to John.
When they'd gotten pulled into the wormhole, her natural self-preservation instincts had kicked in- -she'd used every piloting skill she had to get them out, and none had worked. And then she'd seen it. Earth. She'd been able to pick up John's trail and had followed it.
That day had been hell for her. The captivity, Rygel dying, knowing that she and D'Argo would be next. Knowing that there wasn't anything John could do to stop it, any more than she could have stopped Crais from killing him. But even knowing that hadn't stopped her from lashing out at him and telling him to leave when all she had really wanted was for him to stay.
And then he'd chosen her over his own people--he'd gone with her, protected her. And even with an uncertain tomorrow, she'd felt safe in his arms that night. She'd felt comfortable, the physical contact lulling her, allowing her to sleep. She had never felt that before, even after sex. Sex had always been a means of physical release for her, nothing more. She had always slept alone.
Not wanting to be alone anymore, she rose from her place on the terrace floor and started walking.
How many arns had he been lying here, trying to sleep, he didn't know. He just wished the exhaustion would finally claim him, so that he could sleep and forget. All he had wanted the first seven months he had been in this part of the galaxy was to go home. Even while stranded for those months, at night he had dreamed of home, and in all the dreams, he'd shared it with Aeryn.
It was ironic, though; she had lost her world, her home, defending him. And now, in a way, he had done the same.
He felt more than heard the door to his quarters slide open, and he lay still, listening. He knew it was her almost immediately. He heard her walk slowly towards him and kneel beside his bed. He felt her touch his head, gently stroking her fingers through his hair. He didn't want to move, to startle her, and truth be told, he found her presence comforting.
It was the sound of the shaky inhalation that made him realize that she was crying.
Reaching up, he caught her hand so she couldn't leave, and rolled over to face her.
They gazed at each other for what seemed an eternity. Tears still ran from Aeryn's eyes as thoughts and emotions raced through her mind. She wanted to tell him so much, but didn't have the words to say what she felt. "Aeryn..." John began. She looked away. His voice was affecting her in far too powerful a way.
"What are you doing to me, Crichton?" she whispered. John sat up in his bed, his hand still grasping Aeryn's. "The same thing you're doing to me."
Gazing intently into her eyes, he slowly leaned forward--and stopped. The faint smell of alcohol drifted across the scant space separating them. Aeryn's eyes, sparkling with unshed tears, looked...unfocused. When they closed in anticipation of his kiss, she swayed alarmingly. John reached out to steady her, his brow furrowed.
"Aeryn? Are you *drunk*?" he asked incredulously. Her eyes flew open, anger immediately replacing the smoky sensuality. Wrenching her hand from his, she stumbled to her feet and ran from his room.
"Ah, hell," John muttered. He grabbed a t-shirt and rolled off the bed, running after her.
** Part 2 **
Chiana sauntered back to her quarters after her late night snack. Hearing the sound of pounding feet behind her, she quickly abandoned the main corridor for one of the many hallways that branched from it. Turning, she watched Aeryn come around the corner and skid to a halt. The woman looked indecisively down one hall, then another. She seemed flustered, almost panicky. It was very unlike Aeryn to not even notice that she was being observed. Chiana opened her mouth to say something flippant, then wisely snapped it shut instead. Aeryn was obviously upset, and the Peacekeeper was dangerous enough when she was calm. *I might be a bit...reckless, but I do have some sense of self-preservation,* Chiana thought. Curious as always, she faded back into the recessed doorway of her quarters to watch.
"Aeryn!" The voice was faint, but Chiana instantly recognized it. Crichton. Aeryn had apparently heard him, too, as she turned and sprinted down the main hallway once again. Interesting. Very interesting.
Deciding to make the most of this little adventure, Chiana stepped from the shadows and casually leaned against the wall, patiently awaiting Crichton's arrival.
Even drunk, a Peacekeeper was hard to keep up with. John was panting for breath as he turned down yet another hall. "Aeryn!" he called again. He slowed as he realized this hallway branched several times. Looking down the first corridor on the right, he was startled to see Chiana lounging against the wall a few feet away. "Chiana! Did you see Aeryn?"
"Maybe. Maybe not." She gazed up at him from beneath her bangs and sighed dramatically. "I just don't seem to remember..."
Crichton glared at the young Nebari, not in the mood for her little games. Suddenly he realized the obvious. If Aeryn had turned down this hall, she would have passed by Chiana. And if *that* had happened, given Aeryn's current state of mind, the girl would *not* be standing here. Or standing, at all....
"Forget it," he muttered. Exasperated, he turned and continued to jog down the hall. Reaching the end, where the hall branched into a 'Y,' he slowed once more. He looked down the right branch, then the left--just in time to see a long flow of hair vanish around a corner.
"Aeryn! Dammit, wait up!"
With the last of his strength, John accelerated and rounded the corner at full speed. A split second later his mind registered a dark form standing indignantly in the middle of the hall, but it was already too late.
Years of football practice finally paid off. John reflexively grabbed her around the waist, twisting his body as they fell. Aeryn's legs tangled with his, her arms flailing wildly. He managed to land on the bottom, absorbing the brunt of the blow as Aeryn landed squarely on his chest. The air whooshed out of his lungs and for a moment he was unable to breathe. Hesitantly, he opened his eyes to see Aeryn's face above him, her eyes closed.
"Oh, God, Aeryn, are you okay?" Worried when she didn't respond, he reached up to gently cradle her face in his hands. Her eyes slowly opened to gaze into his, only inches away.
They stayed like that for a few seconds, blue eyes locking with gray, words passing between the eyes that would not be allowed to slip past the lips just yet. John's thumb brushed an errant strand of raven hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear, before moving his hand back to her face, feeling her small shiver travel through her and into him.
Aeryn's thoughts were free-falling through her mind, coalescing and then becoming disjointed the longer she stared into his eyes, which were doing more to intoxicate her than the fellip nectar. The rational side of her brain was telling her to get away, get away from whatever it was this human was doing to her, the way he was making her feel all these confusing, conflicting things. But the part of her that she rarely listened to, the part she had been taught not to listen to, was telling her that she could trust him, that she should go for it.
"Well, well isn't this cozy," a voice purred at the couple on the floor. John and Aeryn both snapped their heads toward the sound, sending baleful glares at the young mop-topped Nebari for having broken the moment. Aeryn rolled off him and onto her feet, extending a hand to help him up, which he accepted. She stumbled backwards slightly and he clasped her arm.
"Are you okay?" he reiterated, giving her a concerned look.
Aeryn nodded mutely. "I'm fine," she assured him and spun on her heel, breaking the eye contact once more as she stalked off down the corridor, brushing past Chiana with a glare that would've melted volcanic rock.
John sighed, staring at her retreating figure for a few seconds before following her. He entered the terrace seconds after her and took a seat on the floor at her right. "Why did you run away from me?" he queried after a few minutes of stargazing-filled silence. Aeryn sighed heavily.
He felt the guilt hit him again. It had been creeping up on him more and more the longer he knew Aeryn. At first he had told himself there had been no helping it, that fate had tossed them together. He couldn't have left her there to die at Crais' hands...and yet there it was, still haunting him. To see her break down in front of him tore at his heart. He had tried to tell her before, to apologize in some way for tearing up her life, but what could he say? I'm sorry? It sounded so inadequate. She could--should--have blamed him, but she didn't. Or, at least, if she did in fact hold him to blame, she had not told him out loud. She instead forgave him, and stayed with him.
As he hesitantly put his arms around her, he closed his eyes tightly, thinking of that; she, a Sebacean...someone not even of his species...had accepted him.
"Oh, God, John, you love her," he whispered aloud, then immediately chided himself for speaking it. He didn't think she was ready to hear him say that to her. With his luck, she wouldn't understand and take it as another microbe hiccup. He chuckled to himself at the thought, then frowned. *What if it really did happen?* He inwardly groaned. *Well, John, that would be just your luck, wouldn't it?*
He felt Aeryn shift in his arms, but she did not awaken. When had she fallen asleep? One thing was for certain; they couldn't stay here for the rest of the night. He carefully pulled her closer, and tucked an arm under her legs, scooping her up and standing slowly.
"Come on, Sleeping Beauty, time to get you to bed." As he turned to leave he saw four DRD's near the door quietly rolling away four large brown bottles. There was a fifth facing towards himself and Aeryn, watching. At first glance it could have appeared as though he was directing the rest, but John knew better. He walked over and bent over to look at the DRD.
"You heard that, didn't you, Pilot?" The DRD let out an indignant squeak.
He smiled. "Don't worry, I'll get her to bed. Goodnight, Pilot." He watched as the DRD spun around and fled the room to follow the others. *Brings a whole new meaning to 'Big Brother is watching you,'* he thought. Shaking his head, he left the large, starlight-filled room.
John opened the door with one hand while carefully balancing Aeryn and walked into her quarters. He glanced around the small, well-kept room for a moment before depositing the Peacekeeper gently onto the bed. He was surprised by how little she weighed. She always held herself in a manner which gave those who saw her the illusion of strength. But in truth, she felt so...frail.
*Oh, you know better than that, John, she nearly killed you at your first meeting.* His side remembered that very well. He sat down next to her and brushed away a lock of her hair from her face. Aeryn's eyes fluttered open and looked up to him.
"Stay here with me?"
"Always," he said without even thinking about it. She smiled at him and reached up to grasp the collar of his T-shirt, pulling him down to kiss her. John returned her kiss, echoing her passion, but pulled back as the faint smell of alcohol assailed his nostrils, reminding him she was not totally herself.
"John?" she asked. The sad tone in her voice broke his heart and forced him to make up his mind. He tried to think of himself as a gentleman, and he knew doing this now wasn't fair to her.
"Aeryn, you're not thinking straight. I want to make sure when you wake up tomorrow you don't kill me."
"I would never do that, John," she whispered, letting her hands start to wander.
He blinked, partly in shock at her statement, and partly at where her hands were beginning to go. "May I remind you of the time you knocked me out?" He slowly pulled her hands away.
"You were being annoying..." She raised her hand and pointed to his chest. "You kept saying Tabloid." She poked him several times, as if to make her point. "And you have no idea how...how annoying that was."
"That is beside the point. Not now, Aeryn. You wait until you're thinking straight, okay?"
"What's the matter Crit...Crith...John? Humans don't know how to teelllisp?"
He laughed nervously. In a funny way, this was priceless. He only wished she was sober enough to tease him in return. "I'm not sure, Aeryn, since I'm not sure if it's because you're drunk, or my microbes are on the fritz...I didn't understand what you said."
She growled with annoyance and pulled him to her again, but he pushed her away. "Tomorrow, okay? That is, if you want to be in the same room with me then." He pushed her down gently and pulled the blanket over her, wrapping it tightly around her.
"Why? Why won't you...you..." She stopped, at a loss for words.
"It's because I care for you too much, Aeryn."
He smiled, realizing his slip. "Yeah, care." She seemed to settle down.
"Are you still going to stay here?" He thought about it, wondering if that was a good idea considering her condition.
"Yeah, I'll stay. *You* get some sleep." She nodded and muttered something, then closed her eyes. He waited until he thought she was asleep, then moved to stand up. Her hand shot out and grabbed at him. Her reflexes were still impressive.
"You said you would stay with me."
"I'm just gonna move to that chair over there," he said, pointing. She tugged him down to lay next to her on the bed.
"Stay here, okay, John? Stay right there..." She laid down and pulled him close to her. He lay there, tense as a guitar string, waiting for her to turn back into the mindless octopus again...but instead, she fell asleep. He waited, listening as her breathing steadied into that of deep sleep. When he was certain she wasn't faking it, he picked himself up and moved to the chair across the room. Having her that close, after the passes she had just made at him, was not helping his self control. In a way, it felt like his own private little hell with her tormenting him.
*You just had to go get yourself drunk and then proposition me, didn't you Aeryn?* He thought with a small laugh as he rested his head on the back of the chair. He instantly fell asleep.
** PART 3 **
Gradually, the deep oblivion of sleep gave way to consciousness. Her last memories of falling asleep curled against John's warm frame were the first to surface as she tried to press herself against the welcoming hard warmth she expected next to her. Instead, she found only cold, empty space and the conforming yield of her pillow.
With her eyes still closed, Aeryn rolled over onto her back and tried to push back the ache of disappointment she felt. He'd promised to stay. She'd wanted him to stay. Hezmanah, she'd gone so far as to proposition him, even mentioned Tellisp to him--*Tellisp*!--something that terrified her to her core. She had offered herself to him--not just her body, but mind, soul and life. But he'd turned her down. *Because he cared,* she reminded herself.
Then why did he leave? She could feel the anxiety creeping up on her as it had the night before when all she could think about was what the encounter with the false Earth had shown her about herself. Willfully, Aeryn pushed it away. She wouldn't give in, this wasn't the same.
She groaned, then forced her eyes to open, as her body reminded her of the binge the night before. Knowing that she needed to rid her body of the toxins before her system began to reabsorb them and left her with a nasty hangover, she threw her legs over the side of the bed and sat up.
There was John, half-slumped over in a chair, sleeping. He hadn't left. A slight smile curled her lips, a faint echo of the warmth and pleasure she felt at seeing him, his hair mussed, his head dropped down against his chest, his breathing deep and peaceful.
Stealthily, she slipped from the bed to kneel at his feet, gently laying one hand on his leg, the other gently caressing his face. He stirred gently at her touch, murmured her name, then drifted back into a deep sleep, a smile playing across his lips.
She felt her own smile down to her toes. It was an odd sensation, to be so contented that it would radiate through her body. Maybe Tellisp wasn't such a bad idea, after all--someday. Just not yet.
Rising slowly from her crouch, Aeryn made her way to the lavatory and finished her morning ablutions, then quickly dressed. When she emerged, John was still sleeping deeply. She stared at him for a while, the turned and exited the room, knowing she needed a little time and space to deal with her emotional reaction from the previous night before she could face him--before she had to explain Tellisp to him.
Standing in the doorway, she glanced back a last time at this slumbering form, a small smile quirking her lips at the thought of what his reaction would be to the truth, then turned and headed toward Pilot's chamber.
Several arns later, John opened his eyes, knowing at once something was not right. He looked up and across the room. The empty bed he saw reminded him of the events the night before.
"Aeryn?" He sat up slowly, the little sleep he had got the night before catching up to him. "Aeryn?!" He didn't see her anywhere. His eyes fell back to the bed. It looked as if no one had slept there, but he knew better. He ran from the room and jogged down to the terrace. She wasn't there. He ran to what he had dubbed the 'cafeteria,' but she wasn't there, either, though Zhaan and D'Argo were, along with Chiana.
"John," Zhaan called out in greeting. "How is Aeryn this morning?"
He froze in his tracks. "You've been talking to Chiana, haven't you? Or better yet, Pilot!" He didn't take note of the puzzled looks on their faces as he quickly scanned the room, hoping Aeryn was there somewhere.
"No, John...is there something the matter?" Confusion was evident in Zhaan's voice.
"I didn't know the Sebacean was stupid enough to run out on you the night after..." Chiana started to add from her place across the room. John was surprised by a angry growl from D'Argo as he looked in Chiana's direction. John shook his head, not in the mood to go into what was none of their business.
"Listen, I'm not going to go into this right now. Has anyone seen Aeryn today?"
"No, John," Zhaan replied.
He looked over to D'Argo. "No, not today."
"I'm smart enough to avoid her whenever possible," Chiana said with a grin. John walked over to her table and gripped the sides, glaring down at her.
"Have you seen her?" he asked slowly.
There was a pause while Chiana debated whether to answer or not. Finally, good sense won out. "No."
"Thank you," he snapped and left before he had to explain himself. He also wanted to check in with Pilot, and he didn't need everyone to overhear. He had a fear that Aeryn had wandered off after he had fallen asleep, although he knew she couldn't have done anything too dumb, or Pilot would have noticed.
*But she made her bed...* he reminded himself. She couldn't have been too impaired if she managed that.
"Pilot? Have you seen Aeryn?" he asked into his commlink.
"Yes, she is right here with me. Do you wish to speak with her?"
"Yeah, I'm not that far away. I'll be right down. Is she okay?"
"Crichton, I am fine," Aeryn's voice broke in, sounding annoyed with him.
"Stay there, I'll be right down." He closed the link and ran. Several microts later he was at Pilot's chamber. He spotted Aeryn waiting for him at the door.
"You're okay," he said with a smile.
"Yes, of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" she snapped again. He frowned.
"Uh, I...when I woke up and saw you were gone, I started to worry."
"I can take care of myself, Crichton."
He nodded, shocked by her sudden change of behavior. "I...can see that," he said, at a loss for words. He hadn't thought last night she would react this way. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it.
"Is that all?" she asked coolly.
"I guess so," he said as he turned away from her and slowly walked down the hall. *Insert knife, give sharp twist,* he couldn't help thinking. "Forgive me, Ms. Sun, for caring," he said over his shoulder as he left.
"John!" He stopped as he heard her run up to meet him, but he didn't turn around. "John. I'm sorry. I...remember when I told you about how we deal with pain?" He turned around.
"Last night, my behavior was...I am sorry, John, I shouldn't have acted that way."
His eyes fluttered shut. *A mistake.* What part of last night, exactly, was she talking about? "Aeryn, how much do you remember of last night?" It scared him to ask her, knowing what the answer would be.
"All of it."
He nodded. "I was afraid you would say that. Don't worry, it's forgotten," he said glumly and turned away from her. She looked at him in confusion.
"Then you don't care?"
"Aeryn? What the hell do you want from me? You come on...there was last night, and now you act like nothing happened, and I go along with it, what ever the hell to make Aeryn Sun happy, and now you want me to...."
She leaned over and kissed him. "I am sorry, you didn't understand. I guess it was lost in the translation."
"Translation? Okay, where have I been?" He paused and thought back to last night, when he had wondered what her reaction would be if he had told her he lo... "You're having a hard time dealing with getting drunk last night, but at the same time you want you and me to..."
"You're not making this easy, you know that? Let me guess, Sebaceans don't deal with any emotions that well, do they?"
She shrugged. "It's not part of the training."
He laughed. "Well, then, I guess we're both even."
It was her turn to look puzzled. "How so?"
"I forgive you for last night, and you forgive me for messing with your head and for putting all those horrible thoughts in your mind."
"Not all of it," she said with a smile. He smiled back, suddenly happier than he had been in quite a while. For the first time since he had been trapped on Moya, he felt a little less homesick.
John stepped close and pulled her into an embrace. "But it's a start, right?"