Author's Notes: This is fluff. Pure, PWP *fluff*. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Thanks to everyone who helped out with my questions (way back in *August*,when I started this thing...). A big thanks to my twins Kelly and Laura - Cheeese! - for their suggestions and encouragement. And a special thanks to Paulie, for being my advice-giver extraordinaire. Again. Comments are appreciated, constructive criticism is fine, but flames will be used to make S'mores.
Timeline: Later. ;)
Spoilers: A Human Reaction, vague references to various Season One eps
Archive: If you're already archiving some of my fic, go ahead and take this if you want it. Anyone else - if you want it, my only requests are that you keep my name and e-mail with it, and that you let me know where it's at so I can come visit. :)
11:11.2 Moya time
Aeryn Sun and John Crichton stood huddled together over a secondary console in Command, shoulders brushing as they concentrated intently on the surface before them. "Like this?"
"Ummmm..." John craned his neck to carefully scrutinize her work. "Close. More like... this."
Brow furrowing, she tried again. "There."
"Yep, that's it!" John beamed proudly, and Aeryn responded with a triumphant smile. "Okay, so now put them all together. Like this. 'Aeryn'." Leaning over the console once more, she painstakingly retraced the letters with Crichton looking on.
For over a weeken, Moya had glided calmly through the Uncharted Territories with no problems, no encounters with other ships, no systems to visit. As the days slowly dragged on, the crew had become increasingly bored and irritable. John had finally persuaded Aeryn to let him teach her how to write in English. Well, not so much 'persuaded' as 'whined and cajoled'. Finally, he had won her over. "C'mon, if Rygel learned Ancient Hynerian, you can handle English." His not-so-subtle jibe, coupled with extreme restlessness, had finally convinced Aeryn to agree.
The translator microbes were primarily verbal, capable only of translating the standardized written language used throughout the Known Territory. Everyone - including John - could read and write the language, but English remained incomprehensible to the others. Aeryn, however, was proving to be a quick study. Pilot had provided a seemingly unlimited supply of blank schematic sheets, but John worried that his only pen wouldn't last as long as Aeryn's desire to learn.
Their latest lesson was interrupted by D'Argo, who walked in waving a small, shiny square. "Finally. We have something to do! Pilot says we need staoin to make some of the repairs on tier forty-six."
D'Argo rolled his eyes and thrust a flat piece of metal into Crichton's hand. "This. Staoin."
Crichton glanced down at his hand, then looked closer. Holding the metal up to the light, he tapped it with his finger. "Tin? We need *tin*? Oh, great, we just need to find a recycling planet, then."
D'Argo regarded him for a moment, then grabbed the metal piece. "I don't even want to ask," he growled.
As if on cue, Pilot appeared, interrupting John's attempt at yet another explanation. "We may have found such a place. Moya's sensors detect a planet in a nearby system that produces generous quantities of staoin."
"All right, then, let's go!" Crichton clapped his hands together, desperate for something, *anything* to do.
Pilot bobbed his head. "Prepare for starburst."
John groaned. "I knew you were gonna say that."
As soon as they had completed starburst, Pilot reappeared. "Ah, yes, and here we are. The planet is directly in ... Oh my! Crichton!"
Everyone stumbled to their feet to gaze at the image before them. Far in the distance, a small blue planet lingered, a solitary moon hovering nearby.
"Is it real, Pilot." John's soft voice was emotionless. He stared unwaveringly at the image, not quite daring to hope.
Pilot's arms moved rapidly across Moya's controls. "There is no wormhole, nor any indicators that would suggest anything exists between the planet and our current position. Moya's readings are completely unaffected. The planet is definitely there."
Crichton silently stepped forward, hovering between happiness and hesitation. His attention was completely focused on Earth, his heart aching, wanting to believe, while his mind realistically reminded him of the potential for disappointment. D'Argo watched him closely, observing his wistful expression. Unnoticed, Aeryn turned and silently left the room.
Finally, John spoke. "Pilot - go ahead and take us closer." D'Argo turned his head, ready to argue, but John simply waved a dismissive hand in his direction. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Trust me on this one. I know a *great* place to hide." Pilot inclined his head inquisitively. "Head towards that moon, but make sure Moya stays on the dark side."
D'Argo made a disapproving sound. "How can you be sure we'll be unnoticed?"
"I told you before, we don't even bother going there anymore. Besides, that side of the moon never faces the planet. We send up a lunar probe every once in a while, but other than that... Cassini should be long-gone by now, and as far as I know we haven't even bothered to photograph that side since Galileo went to Jupiter."
"Let's just say it's been a long time, okay? We don't go that way very often."
D'Argo grumbled as Pilot confirmed that they were heading towards the shadows of the moon.
John finally found Aeryn on the terrace. She stared silently at the same stars he had watched for as long as he could remember. He moved to stand behind her. She stiffened, but refused to acknowledge his presence. Everything he had planned to say suddenly seemed woefully inadequate. He shoved his hands in his pockets, then gathered his courage and plunged ahead, anyway. "I was looking for you."
"Well, you found me." Her voice was flat; her eyes never wavered from the stars. Not a good start.
After a few moments, John broke the tense silence. "I'm not staying."
Aeryn finally reacted. Whirling around, she said incredulously, "Of course you are! It's your home. It's what you've been searching for all this time; it's where you belong." She shook her head like he was a dense child. "Of *course* you're staying."
He crossed his arms over his chest, just as insistent. "No. I don't belong there anymore. I belong *here*. I have since I arrived, I just didn't know it."
"And now you do?"
John stopped to consider her words, hearing the doubt in her voice. She had every right to question him - he had come to her knowing that she would. "Yes. This is my home now, and everyone here is my family - dysfunctional though it may be." He smiled, but Aeryn was not amused. She turned her back to him once again.
"Look, we have to get the tin... staoin... anyway. I'm going to get it, and while I'm there, I'm going to visit my father. And DK. I need to let them know I'm okay... tell them goodbye..." His voice trailed off, his eyes searching the faraway stars. He focused on the constellations of his childhood, drawing strength from their familiarity. "And then I'm coming back. Pilot says that we can stay here safely for about twenty-eight arns. That gives me plenty of time. Who knows, if everything goes well - we have the coordinates now. Maybe I can come back someday."
"And what happens when you change your mind?"
"I'm not *going* to change my mind." She shrugged like she didn't really believe him. Drawing a deep breath, he hesitated, then continued. "Aeryn, I already know your answer, but I still have to ask. Please - will you come with me? Let me show you Earth. For real, this time."
She didn't answer.
"What happened before - it was my memory, but it was also my worst nightmare come true. It *will*...*not*...*happen*. Not this time. I won't let it. Moya is perfectly hidden here. We're close enough now that I know where I'm going, and I can get there without passing out and crashing. With the alterations we've made to Farscape, she won't even be detected - well, except for maybe by a few UFO-fanatics, but - "
He stopped, not sure if he had heard correctly. "What?" "Yes. I'll come with you."
He had to know. "Aeryn... why?"
She sighed and finally turned to face him. "Because you're right. Your nightmare is not your reality. And because you were right before - I didn't go with you last time because I was scared. But as I stood there and watched you leave, I realized I was more scared to stay here without you. I still am."
Her gaze dropped to the floor. "You told me once that you'd never leave me. Going with you is the best way to make sure you keep your promise."
Reaching out, he lifted her chin and looked into her eyes. Softly, he asked, "You're sure?"
"Yes," she whispered.
"Okay, then." Relieved, his mouth slowly quirked into a lazy grin, and she couldn't help but smile back. He reached out to grab her hand. "Let's get going."
April 3 2:57 pm, EST
John Crichton popped the hatch on Farscape and stuck his head out. They had landed in the middle of an open field, well away from civilization. Breathing in the cool spring air, he sighed. Home. Finally. For real, this time - of that he was certain. It just... felt *right*. He should have noticed, the last time. Something - he couldn't explain quite what - had been missing, and he hadn't even realized it until now. Something important. But not this time.
Smiling, he jumped to the ground, then reached back as Aeryn Sun appeared in the opening. She took a moment to look around before speaking. "So. This is your Earth." He nodded, and she accepted his hand as she exited the craft.
"Yep, this is it. Florida, to be exact. But there's a lot more to it than this, I promise. And this time it must be real - 'cause I have absolutely *no* idea where we are," he yelled, spinning around with his arms spread wide. Aeryn shook her head and muttered something about 'human nonsense'. John just laughed. "As we came in, I saw a gas station a little ways back. Hopefully they'll have a phone. Ready for a walk?" Aeryn turned to him and nodded. They quickly stripped off their flight suits and tossed them back into Farscape. John briefly considered trying to hide the module, then decided the waist-high grass surrounding it provided sufficient camouflage. Trudging through the field, they came to the road and started back the way they had come.
After about a mile, they came to the gas station. It looked deserted, but luck was with them. A phone booth stood in the corner of the overgrown parking lot. John entered the small structure, leaving the door open, but Aeryn remained outside. She surveyed her surroundings, intrigued. She had been to many different planets in her time - once she had even believed she was here, on Earth. But this time was different. This was real. This was Crichton's home. He may consider Moya his home now, but she would always think of Earth in those terms. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she turned her attention back to Crichton and the strange contraption he was using.
"Yes, I'd like to make a collect call." John gave the operator the number, praying that DK was home. After two rings, a familiar voice carried over the line.
"Sir, will you accept a collect call from - "
Recognizing his cue, John took a deep breath and said, "Roy Neary."
Silence. *C'mon, DK, remember....*
After a few seconds, his friend replied, "Uh, yeah. Sure, I accept." John sagged against the wall of the booth in relief. Aeryn peeked into the booth, concerned until she saw the huge smile on his face.
"John? Is that really you?" DK asked hesitantly. "Because if this is another damn prank - "
"Yeah, man, it's me. It's really me." John winced and held the receiver away from his ear as DK whooped with joy.
"How the hell... where? What the hell happened? You were there, and then suddenly you weren't there, *nothing* was there, and - "
John cut him off, otherwise DK would prattle on forever. "Look, this isn't really something I want to discuss over the phone. I'm calling from some deserted gas station out on -" He squinted, trying to make out the number on the faded sign farther up the road. "- eleven. North of forty, I think. How soon can you be here? And bring the trailer, too. We'll be up the road about a mile with Farscape."
"Okay, if you're where I think you are, I can be there in about forty-five min-.... wait a minute. We? Holy shit, John, WE??"
Crichton shook his head and grinned. "Look, just get here, okay?" He hung up the phone as DK continued to sputter in his ear. He exited the phone booth and tapped Aeryn on the shoulder. "He'll be here in about forty... a little less than an arn. Let's get back to the ship."
As they walked, John rambled non-stop, pointing out things he never realized he had taken for granted. "And that's an oak tree. In a few months it won't be green - it'll be yellow, or red, or orange." When he didn't hear the expected remark about trees that changed color, John turned to find Aeryn gone from his side.
Looking around frantically, he breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted her standing next to a fence at the edge of a field. A herd of cows had wandered into the field to graze, and a small brown calf had approached the fence. Aeryn stared at it, fascinated. The calf stared back, its soft brown eyes regarding her curiously. *So that's what I look like half the time,* John thought, amused. He approached the pair slowly so as not to frighten the animal. Without taking her eyes from the calf, Aeryn softly whispered, "What is it?"
"It's a cow," he answered. "A baby cow, so it's technically called a calf."
Aeryn slowly reached out and touched the top of the calf's head. Crichton was surprised when it didn't back away. Aeryn smiled as its soft coat tickled the palm of her hand. "What are they for?"
"Ummmm, we get milk from them. It's something we drink." Mentally, John crossed 'big, juicy burgers' off his list of dinner possibilities. Oh, well.
He hated to disturb Aeryn's thrilling discovery, but even though he hadn't seen a single car since they had arrived, he felt uneasy about leaving Farscape alone and out in the open for very long. He gently placed his hand on the small of Aeryn's back and told her, "Considering the way DK drives, I imagine he'll be here in just over half an arn. We should get going." Across the field, a cow bellowed. Apparently the calf's mother thought it was time to go, too.
Aeryn patted the calf one last time, then they all turned from the fence and started on their way.
John was wrong. DK made it in twenty-five minutes. He and Aeryn had just arrived at Farscape when a junky blue pickup rattled to a stop, the door flying open.
Aeryn watched curiously as a dark-haired man jumped out and ran towards John. Both humans were yelling and laughing and hugging, slapping each other repeatedly on the back. A strange feeling flowed over her. Crichton had told her about his friend - he had moved next door to DK when the boys were twelve, and from that point on DK had practically been raised by the Crichton family. John had always insisted that they were closer than brothers. At the time she had not been able to identify with the strength of his emotions. Now she realized just how important DK must be to him. She really had no basis of comparison, but even so, seeing them together made her feel... happy. *How confusing...* She shrugged it off, deciding she was just caught up in the moment as the men separated. John's friend was grinning widely as he said, "Damn, I can't believe you're actually here!"
"Me, either. Me, either..."
DK finally looked past John, his eyes widening as they settled on Aeryn. He took in her flowing hair, the snug gray tank under her black vest, and the black pants tucked into heavy boots. He whistled softly, then muttered, "You always were a lucky s.o.b..."
John rolled his eyes and called for Aeryn to come closer. "DK, this is Aeryn Sun. Aeryn, this is my best friend, DK Moore."
Aeryn nodded and smiled. "I am glad to finally meet you."
DK's eyebrows shot up and he took a small step backwards. "Whoa! What was that???"
John looked at him, confused. Then it dawned on him. "Damn, no microbes," he said to Aeryn. "I totally forgot."
Aeryn, too, had forgotten. "Yes, you're right. I can understand him, but he won't be able to understand me. Nor will anyone else."
Perplexed, DK interrupted their conversation. "Wait a minute, buddy, you know what she's saying??"
John looked back at DK and sighed. "Yeah, it's a long story. Basically, she can understand everything we say - well, almost everything - and I can understand her. Guess I'll have to be the interpreter for this little vacation."
DK suddenly remembered there was a bigger question to be answered. "Back up a minute. How'd you hook up with her? You flew out alone."
"Uh, that's a long story, too. We kinda... met... right after I arrived."
"You mean she was already there? Humans are already out there?"
"Oh, she's not human." John grinned evilly as DK's jaw dropped. "She's Sebacean. There are a few differences, but as far as we can tell, we're almost identical physiologically." Unbidden, various memories of close encounters with Aeryn's 'physiology' popped into his mind. Stuttering slightly, he quickly amended, "Well, uh, not 'we' as in 'Aeryn and me', but 'we' as in 'humans and Sebaceans'. In general."
He watched DK try to process this new revelation. "Shocking, ain't it?"
Shaking his head in amazement, DK carefully studied Aeryn from head to toe. "I never thought they'd look like us."
"Oh, not all of them do," John answered casually. DK's head shot up, and John tried not to laugh. It *was* shocking, and he shouldn't tease DK like this. But it was sooo much fun. *No wonder they all get such a kick out of me,* he thought.
"Look, DK, if you open the trailer I can stick this thing inside and we can get going," John said as he moved towards Farscape.
DK, still staring at Aeryn, nodded absently. "Yeah, sure, whatever." He moved to the trailer and lowered the back door, then returned to stand near Aeryn. "So, you can understand me. Okay, how about I ask questions, and you tell me yes or no? Just nod your head if it's yes, shake it if it's no." DK spoke slowly, demonstrating the actions. Aeryn stifled a laugh. Had she been like this with Crichton?
DK eventually relaxed as he asked question after question. "Are there lots of others like you out there?"
"Are there lots of others *not* like you out there?"
"Wow. Ummm, do all the different species get along?"
Emphatic shaking 'no'.
"Where is your home? Oh, wait... let me try that one again..."
They 'talked' continually for over ten minutes. John finished securing Farscape and exited the trailer. DK was waving his hands in the air while Aeryn shook her head, smiling. John grinned, then closed the trailer securely. He watched them interact for another minute or so, then reluctantly interrupted. "All right, we're all set."
DK looked at him, his eyes all but glazed over as he tried to process the new information. "Wow. This is so incredible."
John laughed. "Tell me about it. C'mon, let's go."
DK crawled into the pickup while John led Aeryn to the passenger side. Opening the door, he told her to climb in. "Now, scoot." She slid to the middle and John settled next to her, digging around for her seat belt. "Restraints. The way DK drives, you'll need them." DK made a face as he held up the other end for Aeryn. Amused by their banter, she secured the belt around her waist.
John nudged her hip out of the way as he fastened his own safety belt, then unrolled his window and hung his arm down the side of the truck. His left arm stretched comfortably across the back of the seat. "Home, James," he instructed.
"My pleasure." DK put the truck in gear and they started towards town.
Along the way, John continued to point things out to Aeryn. She questioned him constantly, never before realizing that learning about a new planet could be so interesting. Usually she had a specific mission to be accomplished, no time for exploration - or, as was often the case recently, she found herself on the run from someone who wanted to capture or kill her. As they sped down the road, she discovered that she loved the feel of the wind in her hair, the open windows making it whip wildly around her head.
While Aeryn was enthralled by everything around her, DK was simply captivated by Aeryn. He watched her every move as carefully as he could without driving them into a ditch, often adding his own remarks to John's running commentary.
He took great delight in demonstrating the radio when she questioned him about the soft voices she could hear. Pointless entertainment was unacceptable among the Peacekeepers, so the idea of communication devices designed exclusively for transmitting music was fascinating. Experimentally she pushed a button. Everyone winced as their ears were assaulted by unintelligible chanting, accompanied by screeching noises and a pulsating rhythm that made the windows rattle and the seat vibrate. Aeryn quickly pushed the button again. A few tries later, gentle sounds that reminded her of ancient Sebacean music filtered through the vehicle and she stopped, fascinated. Next to her, DK made a strangled noise. "Oh God, Aeryn, no. Not Zamfir. Please, not Zamfir."
With an exasperated sigh, she tried again. She continued to push buttons and turn dials for another three minutes before John finally grabbed her hands and placed them firmly in her lap. "This one's good. Trust me. Keep it here. *Please*." He looked over her head to meet DK's amused gaze. "You've created a monster," he told his friend. They laughed as Aeryn scowled at John before settling back against the seat.
As they approached town, John opened the glove compartment and grabbed the battered cap DK always kept there. Pulling it low over his eyes, he ducked his head and slumped in his seat, pretending to sleep. DeLand wasn't a small town, but he didn't want to take the chance someone would recognize him.
He monitored their progress through half-open eyes, his breath catching in his chest as they pulled onto his street. His final childhood home. The house where his mother had died, only weeks before he and DK had graduated from high school. His father, in a rare show of emotion, had chosen to retire here. It sat on a full acre of wooded land, well-hidden from the road and even the nearest neighbors.
As they turned into the winding driveway, Aeryn glanced at him, then reached out to gently touch his arm. "Home?" she asked softly.
"Yeah," he whispered.
DK pulled the truck through the carport into the large garage attached to the back of the house. He turned the engine off and they sat silently for a moment. "Are you ready?" he asked John.
Taking a deep breath, John unhooked his seatbelt and opened the door. Aeryn turned to follow him, momentarily surprised when she couldn't. Remembering the restraints, she fumbled with them before DK reached over to help her. She looked up at him questioningly. He might not comprehend her language, but he understood the concern in her eyes. "He'll be okay. And his dad hasn't been the same since he disappeared. It'll be good for both of them." Aeryn smiled gratefully in response, and they both left the pickup.
John stood near the door connecting the garage to the kitchen, lost in his thoughts. He looked up as DK approached. "Why don't you - "
"Yeah, I'll go first."
DK opened the door and Jack Crichton's voice floated through the house. "DK? That you? I was wondering if you were ever gonna bring my truck back."
At the sound of his father's voice, John froze. This time it was really happening. He barely heard DK reply, "Yeah, well, I had to pick up a surprise."
"Hmmph. And what surprise is that?"
Aeryn's gentle push propelled John through the door just as his father rounded the corner.
Jack stopped instantly, the color draining from his face. Suddenly he looked very, very old. "Johnny?"
Crichton smiled, trying to remember the last time his dad had called him that. "Yeah, Dad, it's me. I'm home."
Both men moved at the same time. Tears gathered in their eyes as they hugged each other tightly. DK observed them happily, and Aeryn even felt moisture pricking the back of her eyelids. This must be that family-connection thing Crichton and D'Argo were always talking about. Strange.
She carefully studied the man she knew as Crichton's father. She recognized him from John's memory, but this time she felt no hostility. Maybe deep down inside, she had known, too.
After a few moments, Aeryn decided that he looked different than she remembered - than John had remembered. Older, perhaps a little thinner, with dark circles under his eyes. Obviously John's disappearance had taken its toll on his health.
Suddenly Jack Crichton laughed and moved to hold his son at arm's length. "So what the hell happened? Where have you been?" Glancing towards the door, he caught sight of Aeryn. He raised an eyebrow and grinned at John. "Looks like you've got some things to tell me..."
7:44 pm EST
Hours of intense discussion had finally been interrupted by the arrival of their dinner. DK and Jack had been full of questions, which John and Aeryn had tried to answer as best as they could. Even though John had needed to repeat everything she said, Aeryn felt fully included in the conversation. She couldn't ever remember having been accepted so readily. It was a good feeling, she decided.
They moved from the living room to the kitchen. DK paid the delivery boy, then entered the kitchen and dropped a flat box on the table. Amazing smells emanated from the container, and Aeryn inhaled appreciatively. Placing an armful of metal cylinders next to the box, John sat down across from DK and motioned for Aeryn to sit next to him. Jack passed everyone a thin plate, then sat at the head of the table. Aeryn watched John grab a silver cylinder and manipulate a lever on the top. An explosive pop followed, startling her. He grinned and handed it to her. "Here. It's beer. Remember? You liked it. Besides, it goes great with pizza."
She remembered, but she wasn't sure about this odd container. John had told her that it was made of staoin, so the idea of drinking from it seemed odd. Experimentally sniffing the 'beer', Aeryn wrinkled her nose and thrust the cylinder back into John's hands. "Ugh, Crichton, it smells like dren!"
DK and Jack laughed, not needing a translation to understand her reaction. John just stared at her, confused. She had liked it before; even compared it to Fellip Nectar. Then it dawned on him. It had probably *been* Fellip Nectar. He had expected it to taste like beer, so it had. But Aeryn had no perception of what 'beer' tasted like, so she had tasted the liquid for what it really was. Intrigued by his discovery, he reached over and grabbed another cylinder, this one red. "All right then, try this. Soda. It's a bit more... tame than beer."
This one smelled better, so Aeryn took a hesitant sip, then a larger one. The sweet liquid made her nose tickle. "Okay?" John asked. She nodded appreciatively and turned her attention to the box as DK finally opened it. He pulled out multi-colored wedges of something that looked rather... slimy. Her apprehensiveness about its appearance was immediately outweighed by the wonderful smell.
John closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. "Oh God, pizza," he groaned. Opening one eye, he looked pointedly at Aeryn. "*Sausage* pizza." Having absolutely no idea what he was talking about, she simply smiled and took another drink.
The pizza tasted as good as it smelled. John drained his beer, then switched to soda. Aeryn was quietly savoring the new tastes and smells when DK suddenly raised his cylinder. "A toast." John and his father nodded and raised their drinks to touch DK's. John turned to explain to Aeryn, but she merely raised an eyebrow and followed along.
DK cleared his throat. "To John, who certainly knows something about making the best of a bad situation."
Everyone laughed, and DK looked across the table to John, who suddenly became very serious. "To home. Wherever it may be."
Jack nodded knowingly. "To family. Whoever they may be." His gaze rested on DK for a moment, then he turned to Aeryn, a small smile softening the harsh lines of his face. "And to Aeryn, for gracing this household with beauty it hasn't seen in a long, long time."
DK whooped in agreement, gulping down the remainder of his beer. John softly seconded DK's response, then glanced at Aeryn. Catching her eye, he winked, then reached out and traded drinks with her. DK and Jack exchanged a curious look, but Aeryn and John just laughed as he tilted her can to his mouth.
Aeryn took a long drink of John's soda as DK turned to her. "So, Aeryn, what's the food like in space?" A funny feeling rumbled through her chest as she opened her mouth to respond.
John choked on the soda. Aeryn clapped her hand over her mouth, mortified. *Hezmana, that was worse than Rygel!* After a second of silence, DK started to roar. He doubled over with laughter, finally rolling out of his chair to collapse on the floor. John's father swallowed a bite of pizza, wiped his lips with a napkin, then smiled gently at Aeryn. "Well, my dear, that one certainly came from your toes."
Aeryn glared accusingly at John, whose eyes glinted with amusement. He recognized that look and hid his mouth with his napkin, knowing better than to let her see him laughing. DK could get away with it, but she'd probably kill him for it - she definitely knew how... Trying to regain his composure, he cleared his throat, then explained, "It's the soda. It's carbonated. Don't worry, it happens to everyone. Really. We just say 'excuse me' and it's fine."
Aeryn dropped her hand and looked suspiciously at him. "I say 'excuse me.' And then it's fine."
John risked a grin. "Yeah, that's it." She muttered something under her breath that he couldn't quite catch as DK pulled himself back up to the table.
Jack smiled at Aeryn again and told her, "It's all right, Aeryn. I imagine this is all rather new to you."
Wiping his eyes with his sleeve, DK finally recovered some self-control. "Wow. Impressive. What a - OW!" He reached down to rub his shin and glared at John, who looked back innocently. DK's mouth quirked into a devilish grin. "Sorry, but you're the first woman John's ever brought home who wasn't too snotty to drink soda out of a can, much less show her appreciation for the meal."
Now it was John's turn to glare. Aeryn looked questioningly at him. "There's that word again. Surely it can't mean..."
John quickly interrupted her. "It's a good thing. Really." He glared at DK again, who just smirked back - but not before quickly shifting his legs to the side. Giving up, John finally had to laugh.
John rolled over in bed, awakened by the noise outside his window. Initially confused by his surroundings, it took him a moment to realize he wasn't on Moya. A flash at the window caught his attention. Ahhh, a thunderstorm. He loved thunderstorms at night. The rumbling always seemed to calm him. But it usually didn't wake him... He listened intently for a moment, then he heard it. A muffled cry, barely audible over the wind. "Ah, hell - Aeryn," he mumbled as he scrambled out of bed, pulling on a t-shirt as he left the room.
Stumbling down the hall, he slowly pushed open the door next to his and peeked in. Aeryn sat huddled in the middle of the bed, her arms locked tightly around her knees, her head down. His blue plaid boxers peeked out from beneath the hem of his favorite long-sleeved t-shirt, which proclaimed Aeryn the "Property of NC State". It billowed around her slender form, but the cuffs were clenched firmly in her fists. Trying not to startle her, he slowly approached the bed and sank down next to her. She jumped, then relaxed as she recognized his presence. He moved closer, wrapping his arms around her. She leaned into him, and he gently rocked her, pressing his lips to her hair until the shaking subsided enough for her to speak.
"Frell, Crichton, what *is* it?"
"Rain. Don't you remember? It stormed in my memory, too."
Aeryn looked up at him, amazed and slightly annoyed. "This is also rain?? I remember rain, Crichton, and it was nothing like this! I certainly don't remember feeling as if we were in the middle of a battle!" A bright flash of lightning lit the room as thunder rattled the windows, and Aeryn again tucked her head into her arms.
Worried, Crichton held her tightly and desperately tried to think of ways to calm her. He had never seen Aeryn scared of something... normal, like this. *Not like I've ever freaked out about something Aeryn or the others considered 'normal'...* he reminded himself.
Lightning crashed again, and out of habit, he started counting. "One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand..." Thunder rumbled, and still Aeryn trembled. Another streak of lightning, more counting, and another clap of thunder. But this time, Aeryn looked up at him, curious.
"What are you doing?"
Surprised, John shifted to look down at her. "Wha - ? Oh, the counting. Ummm, it's a scientist thing. Sure you still want to know?" Aeryn gave him one of her looks, so he continued. "Well, since light travels faster than sound, you can figure out how far away the storm is. When you see the lightning, you start counting. When you hear the thunder, you stop. That's how many miles away the storm is. A mile - that's about how far we walked to the phone this afternoon."
Aeryn nodded, and after the next flash of lightning, she watched him as they both counted. "Two miles away."
"Yep. It's getting closer, but as fast as it's moving, it should blow over pretty quickly."
She shivered. "I hope you're right."
As the storm raged, John continued to distract Aeryn by rambling about thunderstorms. When he bored her with the science, he started relating old myths about dwarves bowling in the heavens. After about half an hour, he was able to turn her attention back to the storm itself. Once she was more intrigued than afraid, John moved to open the blinds covering the window. Returning to the bed, he again took Aeryn in his arms, shifting sideways to look out over the backyard. In the distance they could see the bolts of lightning striking the ground, and soon Aeryn was completely fascinated by the power of Mother Nature.
Finally, the pounding rain subsided into a heavy drizzle. Only an occasional rumble could be heard in the distance. Aeryn yawned, and John realized how late it was. "Better now?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yes, much."
"Good. Get some sleep, and I'll see you in the morning. Later in the morning," he amended. Crichton tightened his arms around her, hugging her to him one last time, then slowly stood, stretching his cramped muscles. As he started to walk towards the door, Aeryn called his name.
"Can we go outside?"
Wondering if he had misunderstood her, John's forehead wrinkled as he spun around. "What?" He studied her expression, his eyes widening. "You're serious. You were freaked, and now you want to go outside."
Aeryn looked back at him, slightly embarrassed, but determined. "Yes. Yes, I do. I remember... I liked the feel of the rain. On my face. I want to know if it *really* feels like that." She smiled like a small child asking for an impossible gift. Forgetting how exhausted he was, John suddenly realized he would do anything for that smile.
Nodding, he held out his hand. "Okay, then. Let's go." Aeryn reached up to grasp his hand, and together they left the room.
Jack Crichton could have sworn he heard laughing. He shifted to look at the clock. 0420 hours. They had talked well into the morning hours; obviously his exhausted mind was playing tricks on him. Or perhaps he had been dreaming.
No, there it was again... Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, he stood just as he heard someone softly padding down the hall. He opened the door to find DK slipping down the stairs. Following him into the living room, he watched the young man open the front door and look outside.
DK heard a slight shuffling noise behind him and turned, apologizing. "Oh, sorry I woke you."
"DK," Jack sighed, "when have you *ever* been able to slip out of this house unnoticed?"
Refusing to look even the least bit chagrined, DK waggled his eyebrows. "Like I'd tell you, even now."
They laughed, and DK inclined his head towards the door. "You heard them, too, huh?"
Jack suddenly remembered why he was awake. "Yeah, I guess so. What the hell are they doing?"
DK grinned. "Playing in the rain."
"What?" Shifting closer to the wall, DK motioned for Jack to look through the door with him.
John and Aeryn were running around the front yard, soaked to the skin. *And very nice skin*, DK thought absently, thinking back to John's earlier comparison of human and Sebacean physiology. Their laughter carried to the house, interrupted only by the fading rumblings of thunder. If he listened closely, he could hear John slaughtering the lyrics to "Singin' in the Rain".
Aeryn raised her face to the sky and called something to John in her fascinating language. John chuckled, then yelled, "Yeah, well it's a good thing you're not a chicken! You'd have drowned yourself by now!" Aeryn glared at him, exasperated, and DK laughed. Finally realizing they had spectators, the pair turned to the house to see DK and Jack observing from the doorway.
"Watch it, buddy! If you're gonna laugh, you're gonna get wet!" John threatened with a grin, grabbing Aeryn's hand and slowly advancing towards the house.
"Oh yeah?" DK challenged. He hesitated for a moment, then stripped off his socks. "Fine!" Jack shook his head as DK ran out the door, sliding across the wet grass to join the other two. Aeryn laughed again, pleased that he was joining their fun.
Thankful that the neighbors were too far away to be disturbed by the ruckus, Jack stood in the door and watched them cavort like children. He hadn't felt this happy - this alive - in a long time.
The blue pickup rumbled to a stop along a familiar stretch of deserted road. The four occupants, though cramped in the small confines of the cab, made no move to exit the vehicle.
Aeryn sat silently on John's lap, an arrangement she had protested until she realized it was the only way all four of them would fit in the truck. Back at the house there had been a few moments of awkward fumbling as they tried to situate themselves, but they had eventually settled into a rather comfortable position. Her arm was draped around his shoulders while John's right arm circled her waist, the other reaching across her legs to secure her in place. DK, incredibly amused by the whole situation, had finally muttered something cryptic about letting John drive so *he* could play 'Twister'. Crichton had replied with a comment about her 'bony butt' , to which Aeryn responded by tweaking his ear. Hard. That had effectively ended the conversation.
Now, after almost an arn in the same position, her neck had begun to stiffen. She stretched it experimentally. John noticed her discomfort and caught her gaze, a silent question in his eyes. She reassured him with a small smile, and he let go of her waist to finally reach for the door handle. With a sigh, DK switched off the engine. One by one, they exited the truck slowly but deliberately, each dreading what was to come, yet knowing it had to be.
After a few minutes, Farscape I had been unloaded from the trailer and sat in the field, waiting for the return trip to Moya. The small craft was packed tightly with canned food, satisfying both Pilot's request for staoin and John's craving for "real" food.
Standing alone in the open door of the truck, John reached into the small duffle that sat on the seat. He knew exactly what was in it, but he mentally checked off the items one more time. An atlas, to show his crewmates his little part of his world. Extra batteries and blank tapes for his recorder - he had left the original tapes with his father and DK, just as he had always hoped he would be able to. An electric razor with a package of compatible batteries. Half a dozen books. Two packages of pens and a large spiral notebook. A handful of t-shirts and socks. Another pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. Almost a dozen pairs of Calvins, as well as the outfit Aeryn had worn to bed the night before. He was just closing the bag when Aeryn and DK appeared over his shoulder.
"I thought everything was loaded. What's in there?" she asked curiously.
"Stuff," he answered evasively. "Like extra clothes, so you don't have to steal my underwear anymore." Aeryn gasped and put a hand to her chest, pretending to be offended. DK raised an eyebrow but wisely declined to comment.
John hefted the bag over his shoulder. "I'm just gonna toss this in, then we'll be ready to go." As he moved towards Farscape, Aeryn walked over to Jack Crichton to say her goodbyes.
"I'm glad to have met you, Aeryn Sun. Take good care of yourself, now." John's father grasped her shoulders and leaned towards her with a conspiratorial grin. "And take care of my son, too. He's always been good at getting himself into trouble." Aeryn rolled her eyes and smiled, nodding enthusiastically. Jack chuckled, then kissed both her cheeks. "Goodbye, dear." He didn't understand what she whispered, but he didn't have to know the words to recognize the promise in her voice.
With one last smile to the man who had come to mean so much to her, Aeryn moved to stand in front of DK. He smiled teasingly and said, "Okay, Officer Sun, we've got this down now. Ready?" Aeryn inclined her head in agreement.
"I had a great time."
"It was very nice to meet you, DK."
"John has told me so many wonderful things about you, and now I know they're all true."
Aeryn pretended to think for a moment, then nodded. DK grinned wickedly.
"In fact, I've decided to ditch the geeky fly-boy and stay here with you, instead."
Aeryn burst into peals of laughter. DK joined her as John's head popped up from Farscape's hatch. "I heard that!!!"
DK cleared his throat and reached for her hands. "Seriously, though, I'm glad John brought you with him." Aeryn smiled. He met her smile, then reverently brushed his lips across the back of her knuckles. "Come back soon, okay?" he whispered. Aeryn nodded and squeezed his hands.
As he dropped her hands and backed away, she suddenly felt sad. She would miss this place, these humans. She looked over her shoulder at John as he slowly walked towards them, knowing she could never comprehend how hard it must be for him to leave. As he moved to stand next to her, she squeezed his elbow gently. Smiling once more at Jack and DK, she retreated to Farscape, giving John the privacy to say his goodbyes.
After a moment of awkward silence, DK shifted uncomfortably and asked, "So, are you gonna be able to take off with all the supplies we stuffed in there?"
John laughed. "Trust me, we should be fine. Assuming *I* fit."
Smiling, they repeated their mantra from dozens of teenage road trips. "Everything always fits!" Jack simply rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, well, the lady at the all-night supermarket thought I was nuts. I finally told her I was going to spend a few weeks in my cabin."
Raising an eyebrow, John reminded him, "DK? Your cabin's in *Canada*."
DK smirked mischievously. "Yeah, but she doesn't know that."
They laughed, then John suddenly looked thoughtful. "Hey, can I get a set of keys for that place?"
"Sure." DK dug around in his jacket pocket, pulling out the carabinier that doubled as his key ring. Unhooking a single key, he tossed it to John with a confused frown. "Why??"
John shrugged as he caught the key in midair. Stuffing it into the back pocket of his jeans, he answered, "If I get the chance to come back anytime soon, it'll have to be somewhere cooler than here. Aeryn doesn't handle heat very well." Jack and DK exchanged a look as John struggled to pull his flight suit over his shoulders. "Well, I guess it's time."
DK stuck out his hand and John grasped it tightly. "Thanks, man. For everything."
DK smiled. "Hey, what are friends for? And I wouldn't have missed this for the world." He stared at John for a moment, suddenly serious. "Be careful out there, okay?"
John nodded. "Yeah, I will. And if nothing else, Aeryn's gotten kind of used to babysitting me."
DK grinned and pulled him closer, whispering conspiratorially, "Do me a favor? See if she's got a sister." John glared at him in mock disapproval, then laughed and pulled his oldest friend into a hug.
Finally John turned to his father, who regarded him somberly. "I'm sorry, son."
"Dad, for what?"
"All those times. All those times when I put my career ahead of you and your mother. Now I know what it's truly like to wonder if someone you love is ever going to come home... and I regret having put you through that."
"It's okay, Dad." He glanced up at the sky. "Now I think I understand more why you went."
"I'm proud of you, you know. I always have been, even if I didn't say it very often."
John smiled, feeling years of bitterness fade. "I know. And I think I always did. Thanks, Dad."
Jack met his smile, then engulfed his son in a hug. After a few moments they separated, and John clasped hands one last time with his father, then DK. With a final smile, John turned and walked to his ship.
Once he had climbed into Farscape, John stood on the seat, leaning back against the edge of the opening to make room for Aeryn. She squeezed next to him and together they waved goodbye to his father and DK. After a moment she dropped back into the module, moving towards her seat. John lowered himself inside and with a sigh, slowly closed the hatch. He sat silently for a moment, then activated the engines. Still staring at his family, he asked, "Are you ready to go?"
Aeryn's smile was bittersweet, her voice gentle. "The question is, are you?"
He thought for a moment, then decided to answer honestly. "No, but I need to. And now that I know I can come back, leaving doesn't hurt so much."
He was finally starting to initiate the flight sequence when Aeryn said something in Sebacean that his microbes didn't translate. He twisted around in his seat, confused. "What was that?"
*Well, frell.* She had hoped that he wouldn't be able to hear her above the noise of the engine. Slightly embarrassed, she explained, "It's an ancient Sebacean blessing. When someone leaves, it is for the hope that they will return again safely. I hadn't thought of it in cycles, but... I don't know, it just seemed right." Crichton stared at her intently, and she suddenly worried that she had upset him.
She had opened her mouth to apologize when his lips lifted in a small smile. "Thanks." She nodded, and John turned back to the controls.
As the engines fired, Jack and DK moved well away from the small craft, knowing that its power far exceeded its size. Finally, the engines started to whine strangely, and in an instant, there was a streak of light. Farscape I was gone.
The humans stared for a moment in awed silence. "Wow," DK said finally. "We talked about the technology John's adapted, but that was pretty impressive." He softly started to whistle the 'Star Trek' theme. Jack nodded absently, still trying to reconcile the physics of what he had just witnessed.
After a moment, DK stopped whistling and grinned broadly. "He doesn't have a clue, does he?"
"No. And he's totally gone."
DK chuckled, knowing that they weren't talking about space travel. "Yeah. Hook, line, and sinker."
Jack Crichton sighed and looked towards the sky. "Leave it to my son to fall in love with an alien."
They laughed together, then Jack slapped DK on the back. "C'mon. I'll buy you dinner. And then we've got a pile of tapes to listen to. I'm curious to find out *exactly* what's been going on up there."
Returning to the truck, they headed for home.
More Author's Notes -
DeLand, Florida is a real place, about half an hour inland from Daytona Beach. This puts it about an hour to an hour and a half from Cape Canaveral. Average April temperature - 74 degrees F; cooler inland. Home to a former(?) Naval Air Station. "Oak-shaded streets." It sounded pretty good to me! ;) For more info and pictures - http://www.flausa.com/deland/index.html http://www.volusia.com/deland/
I don't know how Moya got to this solar system. I don't know what John could do to make Farscape undetectable. I don't know how it can disappear in a flash of light. If you have any theories, feel free to let me know. I just wanted them here, so darn it, they're here. You can figure out the other stuff on your own. ;)
I had 90% of this written *before* 'A Human Reaction' aired. The last three months have been spent *re*-writing it to make it fit with that episode, and some of the subsequent ones. But now, I quit, and it's all yours. :)