Author's Notes: Takes place after "Durka Returns" and before "Human Reaction." Spoilers for "Durka Returns" and "They've Got a Secret" and, well, the entire show, really.
She watched him in his sleep. He was so peaceful there; so restful. John Crichton was different from the rest of the crew. Perhaps it was the lack of misconceptions, the simple way he looked at life, or the fact he was a species unheard of by any of the other crew members. She sensed a child-like wonderment of the universe through his eyes. It was certainly that alien way of thinking which enabled him to reach out to her when she could think of nothing but the well being of herself -- and her baby.
She felt that twinge of regret again, remembering how she had severed her link to her life partner. To think her instinct for her unborn child's welfare was so strong that she betrayed her love. Even now the desire to isolate herself and fend for only the survival of herself and the baby was so urgent, she felt her systems automatically adjust itself to protect it. She had hurt her Pilot, she knew, but he had forgiven her wholeheartedly upon rejoining. His happiness to touch her mind again filled her with renewed strength. And trust.
Yes...trust. What was this issue of trust? She had felt a disruption of trust again after she and Pilot had taken the damaged ship aboard. Her inability to control her functions and her lack of concentration had caused the accident. Her shame of this made her complacent. She had lost her functions to the old Peacekeeper who had deceived them. She was unable to regain control until it was almost too late.
She focused again on Crichton. Thanks to him, she was able to expel the Peacekeeper Durka from the hanger. Had he succeeded in his task, she would have been irrevocably damaged -- along with her unborn child. She sensed John's stirring mind and quickly withdrew from him.
John Crichton rubbed his sleep-filled eyes. Was it a dream? He was sure he felt a presence in his room. Someone familiar. John shrugged it off, pulled his t-shirt down over his head and made his way to command.
"I was WHERE?" asked Aeryn incredulously.
John took another gulp of the flavorless liquid in his mug before he answered. "Standing over me. At my bed. And you had your hair up in a type of bun or something." His free hand gestured around his head to give a vague idea of what he meant.
"Hardly." Aeyrn's eyebrows shrugged him off as she refocused her attention unnecessarily to the controls. Since Durka's "departure" from the ship, she worked hard on acting like nothing happened. The old war leader had brought too many memories back for one of Moya's crew as well as reminding some of the others of what cruelty Peacekeepers were capable. And despite of his insanity for control, she remained a Peacekeeper in mind and spirit for everyone, including herself.
"The strangest thing," John continued in spite of her attempts to ignore him, interrupting her reverie of the past couple of days, "was that YOU were wearing ZHAAN'S dress."
Aeryn's nose wrinkled as if she had caught a whiff of rotting food cubes. Not that they actually could, of course. She glanced at him again and thought better of responding.
"Well, it was only a dream," John retorted before he emptied the contents of his mug.
Suddenly a distressed squeal and gruff voice cried argumentatively over the open comlink. "Help! Intruder!" spat His Eminence, the Dominar Rygel, obviously quite in distress.
"What is it now, Rygel?" sighed Aeryn, doing nothing to cover up her annoyance.
A few muffled sounds made it through the comlink before he answered, "That--that female was in my quarters! She tried to kill me while I was...I was...meditating!" Rygel was unable to stifle a belch that indicated he was "meditating" over a large pile of food cubes again.
Crichton looked unusually worried as he set his mug down. "Chiana?" he seemed to both ask Rygel as well as call out her name over the ship's comm system.
"Yes. I'm sure it was her," Rygel confirmed. "She stood behind me, watching me. That vixen swore revenge on me! She's still after me, I know it!"
"Calm down, Rygel," Aeryn tried to soothe the Dominar, but it was of no use. Even John seemed to think he was in the right to be so upset.
John announced, "Right. I'm having a 'talk' with our new crew member."
"Crichton, wait!" Aeryn called out to him, but John had already marched off command.
"John? Is that you?" the lithe figure unfolded from her meditation position. She cocked her head slightly, her bird-like features intently feeling out her surroundings. Zhaan stood and glanced around the room. She clasped her hands, touching her sect ring s for reassurance.
No one was there. At least not physically. But there was a lingering presence. Chiana? No, this was familiar somehow. A mind had briefly touched her own, bringing back thoughts of home, trust, and...pain. Worried about the strange and unusual presence she had felt, Zhaan left her chambers in search for her crew mates.
Crichton reached what had been designated as Chiana's new quarters. She was, not surprisingly, not there. "Dammit, Chiana," John swore under his breath.
The voice, sensual and sweet at the same time, came from behind him, "You were...looking...for me?" The grey-skinned girl smiled impishly up at him through her haphazard bangs.
"Yes," Crichton turned and responded pointedly. "You were in Rygel's quarters, and scared him nearly half to death. If you want to get along with the others, you have to stop stalking them."
Chiana was rather indignant with her answer. "I was...NOT...in the Hynerian's quarters."
"Oh, yeah?" Crichton challenged. "When it comes to threats on his life, Rygel may exaggerate a little, but he's quite serious."
"So am...I...!" Chiana finished with a playful smile.
John was too pissed off about having to reprimand an alien teenager to play her game. He sighed exasperatedly. "And you can drop the act, sister. I'm not interested. Okay?"
Chiana was angered by his lack of faith in her. "You don't...trust me?"
"Well, I can't say you've been very forthcoming in that department since you boarded Moya. I've yet to get a straight answer from you."
Chiana's black eyes flickered down as she debated how to respond. Part of her want to jump him and rip his head off; it would end the argument. But it would be unwise, especially considering his strength over hers. She looked back up at him and replied, "Then...trust me when I tell you...I was NOT in his quarters."
Crichton appeared to adjust his lower jaw a few times as his grey-blue eyes gave her an icy stare. Take her word for it or go for the obvious answer? If he didn't show her some respect now, he would never get it back in return, and in order for her to fol low the rules, she had to respect the person giving them to her. "All right," he agreed. "I believe you. So...that begs the question -- who WAS in Rygel's quarters?"
"How should I know?" Chiana gave him a playful smile again. Seeing his displeasure, she quickly wiped it off.
"Well, you could tell me if there were others on board your ship we didn't know about," Crichton stated.
She shook her head lightly, tousling her white tresses. "No. Just the two. And me...." She smirked again out of habit.
Crichton nodded. If she were lying, he was buying it hook, line and sinker. But what else was he to do. "Then, we got a problem."
"We've got an uninvited guest on board."
Ka D'Argo was practicing his Qualta blade moves when Zhaan entered the exercise area. He was not expecting to see her, and his blade came precariously close to Zhaan's neck as D'Argo swung himself in a semicircular loop.
"Zhaan!" D'Argo exclaimed, thankfully stopping his blade before impact. "Please be more careful next time. I could have hurt you."
Zhaan, who had frozen on the spot when she spotted the blade flash before her, calmly pushed the tip of the blade aside as she responded, "I shall do so in the future. D'Argo -- have you seen or...felt...anyone else aboard Moya besides ourselves?"
"There is that Nebari woman. She is very good at avoiding me." D'Argo added the mental note, 'Which suits me fine.'
"Yes," acknowledged Zhaan. "But her presence is simplistic compared to what touched my mind. D'Argo...I think there is someone else on board who is observing us."
D'Argo was confused. "How do you know this?"
"I was meditating in my quarters. Something touched my mind. Very briefly. It was...familiar. Although I cannot place it." She had been staring at an imaginary space between the Luxan and the floor. Suddenly she looked up, the worry in her eyes. "I think we may be in danger."
Part II: Trust
Moya approached the remnants of a star system. The bright supernova glowed orange-red, its edges flared with blue and green. The ship rolled her belly towards the sight, soaking in the radiation with child-like glee. Pilot sensed the playful happiness Moy a felt dancing in the light.
Apparently the rest of the crew sensed something else. "Pilot?" Aeryn's voice filtered through the comm system. "Is there something wrong with Moya?"
"On the contrary," Pilot informed her, "Moya is very...happy. She is just being...playful."
Back in command, Aeryn held on to a console as the ship made a hard bank and righted itself. The supernova appeared on the holographic viewscreen before her.
"Speak to me, Aeryn," Crichton's voice called out over the intercom, "What's going on?"
"Moya's being...'playful,'" Aeryn explained somewhat annoyed at the ship's unusual temperament since her pregnancy.
Crichton announced, "D'Argo, Zhaan, meet us in command." As an afterthought, he added, "You, too, Rygel."
Crichton strode into command alone.
"Where's Chiana?" asked Aeryn.
John quickly turned round and saw...Chiana was no longer behind him. "That little--" he spoke under his breath. He turned back to Aeryn to answer, "The kid's gone AWOL again, looks like. I'm this close to putting her across my knee."
"Not if I get to it first," Zhaan retorted as she entered command with D'Argo.
"All right," Aeryn requested, "what was this meeting about, Crichton?"
"We got a problem," he revealed.
"What kind of problem?" queried Aeryn.
Zhaan answered, "A mind touched mine when I was meditating. I believe there is a presence on the ship."
"That's what Rygel saw in his quarters," Crichton said.
As Rygel glided in on his hoverchair, Aeryn said sotto voce, "Speak of the Wokard."
"Did you find her?" Rygel asked worriedly. "If this is a meeting to vote on dumping her out the spacelock -- my vote is yes!"
"Hold on there, Rygel," John commanded. "I don't think Chiana was in your quarters."
"No? Then where is she now?!" Rygel demanded.
"I don't know. Look, we've got other problems--" John began.
Rygel had a fit. "Other problems?! I have hundreds of political adversaries hunting me, and you tell me you can't take care of a thieving adolescent--!"
D'Argo grabbed Rygel by the collar and lifted him off the chair. Speaking pointedly, the Luxan said, "We have an intruder."
Pilot's image appeared on the holographic comm. He has been eavesdropping on their conversation. "That is impossible. Moya would have detected any entry onto the ship."
"Well, apparently she didn't," Aeryn reprimanded.
Pilot took a personal affront to Aeryn's implied statement. "Moya's systems are fully functional. Her pregnancy has not affected her detection systems."
John injected, "C'mon, folks, let's concentrate on the intruder, not each other."
D'Argo put Rygel back into his chair. The Hynerian quickly scooted to another side of command -- out of the Luxan's reach.
Zhaan nodded. "I agree with John."
"Okay, Zhaan," John prompted, taking a step toward her, "tell us about the presence you felt."
The Delvian sighed and searched inwardly to explain the emotions that had touched her earlier. "The presence was...female. Very powerful. When her mind touched mine, I suddenly thought of home...anger...and pain. A great deal of pain."
"Was the anger directed toward anyone specifically?" questioned John.
"No," Zhaan shook her head this time. "Anger at the pain. And anger of things past."
Aeryn asked, "Was the presence on the ship?"
Zhaan creased her face as she thought. "Perhaps.... Or nearby. I sensed she was watching us closely."
"Pilot," Aeryn called up to the comm system, "scan the area for other vessels."
Pilot's face glowed as he looked down at his board. "There are no other ships within a thousand metras of our location. However, Moya is having trouble with her external systems this close to the supernova."
"Let's see if we can get them to come out of hiding with a little cat and mouse," John suggested.
"What's 'bat and mouse'?" asked Aeryn.
"That's CAT and- never mind."
D'Argo spoke, "I believe Crichton is suggesting we lure our prey out into the open."
"You got it, big guy. So now we've gotta think like them. Where would you be hiding?"
D'Argo answered like a warrior, "Behind the supernova."
Aeryn, also trained in warring strategies, replied, "The radiation is too high to scan through it."
"That's why we need to get closer," Crichton explained. "Let them know we're on to them; drive them away from their veil."
Pilot injected, "I advise against it. The supernova's radiation is causing strange fluctuations in Moya's behavior."
"If we leave...will they follow?" questioned Aeryn.
"Quite likely," D'Argo reasoned, "but to their advantage, out of our scans."
John put his vote in, "I say we do the unexpected."
"Typical from you, human," Rygel spat.
Aeryn ignored him. "All right. Pilot, get Moya closer to the supernova."
The crew made their way to stations, watching the scans for unusual readings and movement.
Zhaan announced watching from her screen, "Nothing yet."
"Confirmed, no other movement in the system," D'Argo reported.
Suddenly the ship lurched. "Pilot, what's happening?" Aeryn called over the groaning of Moya's straining bulkhead.
"I--" the Pilot stumbled for an explanation, "Something is interfering with Moya's navigational systems. We are being drawn into the supernova."
The sound of an energy surge began to build throughout the ship. Blue flashes of light began to dance across its hull.
"What the--?!" John cried out. "Pilot! You gotta convince Moya not to Starburst! It's too dangerous next to the supernova!"
They could hardly hear the Pilot's response as the sounds of the Starburst began to rise and the ship blindly continued to fall into the gases of the supernova. "I--I'm trying!"
It was too late. They began to Starburst.
Part III: Surfacing
D'Argo found himself in the mists of the jungle at the foot of the mountain. This place was home. It was not the home where he had grown up. It was the home he had flown to in fear and refuge from the persecution of the Peacekeepers -- and his own people. This was the birth home of his son, Jothee.
D'Argo could not see her, but he felt her presence. It was amazingly strong and resilient. He could feel the love she had for their child; half-Luxan, half-Sebacean. He knew not how she loved him, only that she did. Despite his temper, despite his foolhardiness, despite his lack of being...Peacekeeper. She loved him nonetheless.
He could feel her behind him, reaching out for him. At that moment, her love for him and their son seemed strong enough to protect them all from the wrath that was about to come.
He turned around....
Zhaan was wracked with pain. It was as if every nerve in her body were being prodded with a long thin needle. Why were they doing this to her?! Had she not paid the price for her crime, all those long cycles of madness eating away at her, through her eyes, consuming her mind?
Suddenly she realized -- this was not pain inflicted upon her. This was her own doing.
Zhaan cried in silence as her own demons consumed her. She realized she was utterly and completely alone. She would spend eternity writhing in her own hell, the pain of others she had taken in and had not let go. So many cycles she held it in. So long she had beat herself with their pain and suffering, not wanting to let it go, punishing herself for the true crime she had committed long before the crimes for which the Peacekeepers had imprisoned her.
She imprisoned herself for being inadequate. She tortured herself for not being good enough. She surrounded herself with pain for succumbing to her weaker will.
But she was not alone. There was someone else who suffered with her. The presence was strong but weak, grand but small, bright but dark. Zhaan saw a reflection of her own soul in this being who had shared her pain for so long without her even realizing it.
The sharing gave her strength.
Knowing she was no longer alone, her pain began to ease.
She smiled upward....
Rygel was sitting in a patch of mud. He was filthy and tattered, looking and feeling like nothing more than dren. Frell it! Even his position of power could never take away his sense of inadequacy. He was nothing more than a bumbling buffoon, a puppet if you will, with a large mouth and appetite for respect.
She came to him and picked him out of the mud. Her soft delicate hands cleansed him of the weighted feeling from the water and dirt. Never once did the mud soil her, yet she took it upon herself to wipe away the muck that covered him.
All of Rygel's pretense was gone. It was obvious she was more regal than he; she didn't even have to breathe a word. He could feel it. She was complete. He knew he was incomplete without her.
"I--what--? Who--?" he stuttered. But nothing he could possibly say would be the right words. There was no need to negotiate. She understood.
For the first time in his life, he did not feel so small. As humbled as he was in her presence, he felt purpose. He was needed. He had a place. And it was right beside her.
He reached out his hand....
Chiana could feel the tears welling up inside of her again. All that pain, just under the surface. She had worked so hard at preventing from letting it out. No one could know the things she knew. It was too horrible to contain. Only she had the ability to keep it hidden inside.
But someone else was there, someone uninvited. She wanted nothing to do with it. She was content alone. She could manage it. So long as nothing else entered.
The presence was quiet and...soothing. It was gentle. It did not push her. It waited. It was patient. She felt it was...kind. She had never known kind before. It frightened her.
"Go away!" she shouted. But the presence remained. Waiting. Patient. Loving.
She knew nothing of love; she knew plenty about lust. How could this presence teach her of love? How could it love her -- HER -- in spite of all the things she had done?
But it did.
Slowly, softly, its hand reached out to her. She felt it tingle as it touched along her neck, her back, her soul. It was a long cool rain after a non-relenting drought. The rain washed over her, and she felt the floodgates release.
Finally the tears came again. Only this time, they were tears of joy.
She looked up....
Aeryn had been so sure of herself. Or at least...she thought she had. Suddenly she had a choice. She no longer knew if she was in control. She hated that, more than anything else. Control was important. She couldn't allow the enemy to see her weak and def enseless. Only...who was the enemy?
She was confused. She didn't like that. Confusion caused lack of concentration. Lack of control. It always came back to control.
She thought of him again. Avoid it as she might, he would be in her thoughts despite her ways of keeping busy, focusing on fitness training, and on learning something from the ship's enormous files Pilot had been so trusting to open to her; there he was a gain with his acidic humor and quirky alien ways.
She wanted it to all go away. She wanted it the way it used to be. She was certain. She was confident. ...But not now. *HE* took it all away.
Or did he?
She had a choice. "You can be more," he told her. She had no idea her ambition would make her act so STUPID.
Or was it intuition?
She clenched her fists and punched out into the darkness. She hated this unknowing, this uncertainty. Everything had been so straightforward before. Since he came into her life, there had been nothing but chaos.
Or was it lack of control?
So wrapped up was she, at first she had not noticed it. Apparently whatever it was had always been there, observing her. Again she felt betrayed. She lashed out at it.
It was sorry. It meant no offense. She backed down hesitantly.
What was it? What did it want? It wanted nothing. Nothing she could not give of herself.
How could she give of herself when she didn't know what she wanted?
She would learn what she wanted through the others, by responding to what they want. Life is teaching, the presence reassured her; life is learning.
She unclenched her fist....
Part IV: Solace
"Pilot...?" John called out into the darkness as he lifted his head from the floor. "Dammit, where is everybody?"
John crawled to the nearest console. It seemed so far away. Why couldn't he hear anyone else? Fumbling blindly, Crichton pulled himself up to his feet and fiddled with whatever he could feel inside the control panel. A couple of small lights dimly glowed, showing an outline of the command area.
"John...?" Aeryn mumbled as if coming out of a deep sleep. "What's going on?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out," he told her. He looked into the controls, but he didn't know enough about Moya's systems to understand it. "Aeryn, take a look at this and tell me what it says."
Aeryn struggled to her feet and walked up next to him. Peering down into the dimly lit console, she announced, "Not good. Pilot's unconscious. Moya's flying blind without him."
"All right. One of us should go to Pilot, the other one should stay here and watch the panels."
"I'll go," Aeryn volunteered.
John thought about it. "Uh...I'll go. I don't know how to read those damn panels."
Aeryn looked a little disappointed as John turned to go. "Oh, John?" she said over her shoulder. "Good luck."
John took a beat before he muttered a thanks and left command.
Crichton found Chiana hugging herself in the middle of a hallway. She squatted on the floor, her legs drawn up close to her body, arms wrapped around them.
"Chiana?" John bent down to help her.
Zhaan was already there. She sided up beside the Nebari girl and put a protective arm around her. "She's all right, John," the Delvian assured him. "We'll take care of each other."
John moved on toward Pilot's chamber to find D'Argo and Rygel apparently working together to open the doors to the chamber. D'Argo stepped aside and told John, "We weren't getting a response from anyone over the comms."
John nodded. "Pilot's unconscious. Let's get these doors open."
With Crichton's added weight, the doors finally gave way. As he entered the chamber, D'Argo said, "I'll check on the others."
"I'm coming with you," Rygel announced, sounding almost as if he actually wanted to be helpful.
John approached Pilot's station. The lights flickered dimly around him, his massive frame slumped unmoving over the controls. Crichton climbed into the Pilot's "chair" and gave him a good look-over. Pilot's eyes were closed, and he did not respond to John 's prods or calls of his name.
Crichton leaned against Pilot's lower tentacles and looked over the board. He found something similar to his hand-held commlink and pressed against it. The holographic link opened up to command.
"John," Aeryn spoke over the link, "how's Pilot?"
"Still out cold. How are the ship's systems?"
She replied, "Life support is okay. It would be better if you could bring up the lights. Moya still doesn't know where she is going, though."
"All right," John answered half to himself and the DRDs scooting near him in a cubby beside Pilot. "Navigation, navigation, wherefore art thou, navigation?"
Crichton tried a few things that looked like they could be navigational controls, but to no effect that he could see. Moving around to the left side of Pilot, John apparently triggered a control panel that rose out of the station.
John put his hand inside. At first nothing happened. He was about to pull away when--
He saw her.
Her back was turned to him. She sensed him and turned. Her face was placid, as if she expected him to be there. Her features first reminded him of Aeryn, dark but softer with a purple-grey hue. Her face drew down to a point more like that of Zhaan's. Her dark hair was drawn back as if in a bun, but the "bun" was shaped like Moya's "tail." The rest of her hair fell down her back, bundled together like computer cable, secured in sections to the hem of her dress. When she moved, light danced across the dress' material, giving it a light blue sheen.
Appearing to seamlessly glide over the floor, she continued to turn. The front of the dress draped down softly in a similar fashion to Zhaan's dress. Over her right breast was a tattoo of sorts, reminiscent of the one which D'Argo sported in the same area.
Like the painting of Mona Lisa, she smiled at him. He looked into her eyes and saw...his own eyes reflected back at him.
He knew her. He had seen her in his dream.
"Moya...?" he asked incredulously.
She reached out her hands, clasping his in her own. A rush of sensations flowed through him. They were too overwhelming to distinguish. He felt humbled and inspired in her presence. Most of all, he felt an overwhelming sense of wonder.
No words were exchanged, but John understood what to do to help Pilot. All the controls seemed to make sense now, and Crichton touched various ones in a particular sequence he knew would redirect nutrients from the baby to Pilot. Not all of them, of course, but enough to help Pilot regain his strength.
Pilot's eyes flickered, and he sat up. Looking around, Pilot noticed John standing beside him. "John Crichton," he said John's name with some surprise.
"Hey," Crichton answered with a soft voice, part of him still deeply affected by the vision. "Moya needs you." John motioned to the woman who had stood before him...but she was gone. In her place sat a DRD, it's sensors twitching almost inquisitively.
"Thank you, John Crichton," Pilot responded, quickly returning to his tasks of Moya's systems.
Aeryn's face reappeared on the hologram. "You did it! Power's back up to optimum again as well."
"Thank Pilot," John responded. "All I did was wake him up."
"Well, then," Rygel's small form floated into the background of the hologram, "thank you, Pilot."
Pilot nodded to the others as a response. The hologram faded, and Pilot spoke his own thanks to John. "Moya and I thank you, John Crichton. We could not have been able to do it without you."
John climbed out of Pilot's control area. He wanted to say something before he left, but he wasn't quite sure how to word it.
"I...I saw her," he spoke in a whisper as if speaking would make the dream-like experience disappear. "I saw Moya. She appeared before me."
Pilot eyed John curiously. "How did she appear to you?"
"Well, she..." John struggled for words. "She was...one of us. An amalgamation. Parts of us had become parts of her."
Pilot's eyes flickered down for a moment as if remembering his own vision of Moya. "Yes," he spoke, "she has...chosen you. As she has chosen me. You are a part of her now, as she is a part of you."
John smirked and asked, "A little jealous, Pilot?"
Pilot's eyes focused deeply on John's. "Moya is a mother now. You are her children. A husband is not jealous of his wife's children."
For a moment, John felt uneasy. He had truly misunderstood the deeper connection that Moya and Pilot shared. This was not just a ship for which he guided through space -- this was his lover and life's companion. Never again would he question Pilot's loyal ty and reasons for his self-sacrifice. Moya was reason enough.
"I understand," John said with a nod and an honest smile. He left Pilot's chamber in silence, but not alone inside.
Wherein the deep night sky
The stars lie in its embrace
The courtyard still in its sleep
And peace comes over your face
'Come to me' it sings
'Hear the pulse of the land
The ocean's rhythms pull
To hold your heart in its hand'
And when the wind draws strong
Across the cypress trees
The nightbirds cease their songs
So gathers memories
Last night you spoke of a dream
Where forests stretched to the east
And each bird sang its song
A unicorn joined in a feast
And in a corner stood
A pomegranate tree
With wild flowers there
No mortal eye could see
Yet still some mystery befalls
Sure as the cock crows at morn
The world in stillness keeps
The secret of babes to be born
I heard an old voice say
'Don't go far from the land
The seasons have their way
No mortal can understand'