Author's Note: A big thanks to my beta readers Sarah, who encouraged me to write this down, and Paula, who keeps me honest. Feedback is appreciated and can be sent to me at the address above. Any resemblance to Becca Helton's Future Light is purely coincidental and yet another case of 'great minds think alike'. :-) Enjoy!
Rating: PG with some mild profanity and sexual tension. Nothing that you couldn't catch on TV at 8pm.
Spoilers: A tag scene to "Bone to Be Wild."
Archiving: Please e-mail me for permission. I'll probably give it to you, but I just want to know where it's going!
If life were a curveball contest, John Crichton mused, he'd be in the running for a lifetime achievement award. Hell, he could easily qualify for honorable mention if all he had to show was this past week. Aeryn, Gilina, Stark, Scorpius, Crais, and that damned chair followed by the bushy botanist and the spiky M'Lee. Even the birth of Moya's baby had been a threat until Aeryn had stepped in for the save. A very alive Aeryn who never ceased to surprise him. She was as much a curveball as anything else in his life, but he could handle that.
He had introduced her to Stark as "the radiant Aeryn Sun," but the truth was that she had been at her most radiant less than fifteen minutes ago as she described her impressions of the newborn to him. He would never have been able to picture Aeryn as the motherly type, but he could plainly see that her maternal instincts had kicked in one hundred percent. After Pilot had informed the crew of Moya's request that Aeryn name her progeny, she and Crichton had retired to the terrace to get a better view of the child. They sat side by side against a bulkhead, shivering underneath their respective coverings. He longed to remove the silly headgear he had donned for warmth, but his hypothermia overcame his vanity.
"Whoa! That kid is something else!" Crichton marveled as he watched Moya's offspring fly closely past the force field in front of them. The newborn continued to glide around the area directly in front of his mother, daring to roam a short distance before returning to her side. "I guess baby Leviathans know how to fly at birth."
"Fly, yes. Unfortunately it will be some time before he can Starburst on his own," replied Aeryn. She stared wide-eyed at the sleek red and black infant ship in what could only be described as awe.
"I think you're actually glowing," Crichton chuckled. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you were the kid's mom instead of his proud auntie."
Aeryn's cheeks colored slightly as she faced Crichton, tearing her gaze away from the circling child. "I was completely unprepared to feel this way, but I can't help sensing a connection with Moya's baby. It's as if everything in my life--everything I've suffered--has led me to this point. I don't know how else to describe it," she remarked, slightly breathless. She returned her attention to the scene outside the ship, her eyes tracing the offspring's tentative movements.
Crichton couldn't help but smile at her enthusiasm. He remembered someone consoling him after his mother died by telling him that "everything happens for a reason." At the time he greeted those words with skepticism and even hostility, but perhaps they held merit beyond mere platitude. "I think I understand."
She nodded slightly but said nothing more. Outside the window, the baby darted to and fro, enraptured by a game of his own creation. After a close call with debris from the asteroid belt, Moya shifted her position slightly to shoo the curious child away from potential dangers.
"Do you have any ideas about naming him?" Crichton asked as he watched the tiny ship reluctantly return to his mother's side. "We can't keep referring to him as 'Moya's baby' forever."
Aeryn sighed. "I am more than honored by Moya's request that I name her child, but I have never given a name to anything in my life. It's a great responsibility."
"W-w-wait a minute," he stammered, shaking his head. "You've never named *anything* before?"
"Not a pet or a junior G.I. Joe Peacekeeper Commando doll or even your very first prowler?" he continued, one eyebrow cocked reflecting his incredulity.
Aeryn shook her head. "No. I never had a doll or a pet, and Prowlers are referenced by their service numbers. Names are only assigned to living beings and ranking vessels. Why?"
"I don't know. I guess it's just another case of culture shock."
Out of the corner of his eye, Crichton caught an instant of perplexity cross her features as she translated the expression. After a brief hesitation, she nodded, drawing her knees to her chest and rearranging her cloak to accommodate the change in her position. They sat together in silence watching the newborn continue his exploration. Rather, Aeryn watched the neonate while Crichton observed her reactions. She was so enthralled by the young leviathan that she did not seem to notice Crichton's scrutiny. Every so often, he was rewarded with one of her rare, brilliant smiles. For an instant the room would almost feel warm again, but the cold reality of being hunted would descend quickly once her smile faded.
After a while, something on the other side of Moya captured the hybrid Leviathan's attention, and he ducked out of sight to finish his game elsewhere. Crichton shifted his focus from Aeryn and studied the asteroid belt outside Moya's hull. Beyond its screen of debris waited Crais's command carrier and his new best bud Scorpius. Crichton shivered involuntarily and yanked his own blanket tighter around him.
"Is it my imagination, or is it getting colder in here? I think my fingers are starting to turn blue," he complained.
"Colder than a frog's ass," Aeryn replied, smiling broadly. For an instant it was Florida in summertime.
"It is that," he agreed, laughing. He was struck by how nice a natural, good-natured laugh felt. It had been a long time since he had laughed out of hilarity rather than absurdity. His laugh trailed off as he remembered how he and Aeryn had remedied their hypothermia the last time he made that reference to amphibious anatomy. "Maybe it'd be warmer if we shared blankets," he suggested before common sense could change his mind. He sucked in a breath and bit his lip, waiting for her response.
"Perhaps you're right," she replied, opening the cloak that she had wrapped around herself to give him access.
Crichton maneuvered closer, tucking his head under the end of her cloak, but he couldn't settle on a position that conserved heat adequately. "Wait a minute," he said, shifting position again. "I have a better idea." He gently nudged Aeryn away from the bulkhead and slipped in behind her. "Here, move your cloak so that it covers you from the front, and I'll wrap my blanket around us from the back," he offered. She acquiesced, first leaning forward to remove the thick, wool-like garment from her shoulders then back against him as she arranged it over her knees and pulled it to her neck. Crichton straightened his blanket over his shoulders and enveloped both of them in its heat. With one arm around her midsection, he pulled her closer to his body, supporting his back against the bulkhead. It was definitely getting warmer, he noted. He straddled his legs around her drawn-up knees and felt her snuggle against his warmth. Oh yeah. Much warmer. Perhaps there was an upside to hypothermia. "How's that?" he asked into her hair.
She shivered slightly in response. "Better," she replied with a small sigh.
Crichton rested his head against hers, feeling the smooth silk of her hair against his cheek. With each breath, he inhaled its slightly sweet scent, which reminded him impossibly of eucalyptus and mint.
"What exactly does that expression mean, anyway?" she asked, barely perceptible tension edging her voice.
"Hmmm?" he asked, distracted.
"'Colder than a frog's ass.' What does it mean?" she elaborated.
Crichton laughed again, giving her a small squeeze. "A frog is an amphibian, probably several rungs below Rygel on the evolutionary latter." He snorted. "Maybe only a couple, actually."
"And they have... cold asses?" she pressed.
He smiled as he considered it. "I never really thought about it, Aeryn. It's not meant to be taken literally."
He couldn't see her expression from where he sat, but he could imagine her thick eyebrows drawing together in consternation. "No? Then why would anyone use it as an expression if it isn't accurate?"
"To make the conversation interesting. You know, colorful."
"Colorful?" she repeated, dubious. She turned in his embrace so that she faced him.
"Yeah, you know, to leave the listener with one hell of a mental image."
"Do all humans have this compulsion towards colorful conversation, or just you?"
"Some more than others," he admitted. He tried to read her expression, but at this distance all he could focus on were her eyes, which glimmered with amusement and a warmth that made him forget how cold it was. "I guess I just like colorful. Reminds me that I'm Human."
She quirked an eyebrow. "You sometimes forget?"
His sudden laugh sounded more like a disillusioned bark to his ears. "Sometimes I think I do forget." He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, tilting his head to look at the inky space above him as he collected his thoughts. "Sometimes it's hard being alone out here." He met her eyes and saw his own sadness reflected in the deep blue that greeted him.
"You're not alone," she corrected, her voice barely more than a whisper. His objection was silenced by the movement of her hand as it captured his face much in the same manner he had touched hers when he had revealed his intention to infiltrate the gammak base. Her fingers traced a path down his cheek, turning so that the back of her knuckles outlined his jaw and neck, her slight touch paralyzing him momentarily. She tilted his chin slightly with a thumb so that their foreheads touched.
"I'm not?" he asked, finally regaining motor control. Her nearness made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, and staying warm was no longer an issue.
She shifted her weight so that she faced him more completely. "No."
He let his fingers glide through her loose hair, grazing her ear as he passed it, then leaned in to close the miniscule distance still between them. Her lips met his, lightly but not tentatively, seeming to melt into his. When they had been stuck in the flax the kisses they shared had been desperate; on Earth, bittersweet. Now, time and circumstance seemed to dissipate, leaving only the two of them in their wake. They broke the kiss but did not move apart, their faces so close that Crichton could feel the heat radiating from her skin.
"I know I'm no more Human than you are Sebacean and that I can never replace what you lost when you came through that wormhole. We--I may not always be patient with you or follow your references, but you are never alone," she whispered, punctuating her words with light kisses that barely grazed his skin.
He angled his head so that he had better access and kissed her again, holding her even closer. "Thank you," he murmured as he released her. She shifted back to her original position and leaned against his chest, her body relaxing against his. Crichton's arms encircled her waist, and he rested his cheek against the side of her head. For a moment, all was right in this screwed-up end of the universe.
He stole a glance outside the ship, noting that the baby Leviathan had returned and was attempting a rather clumsy roll. Aeryn chuckled as she watched the infant's progress, and he leaned forward to brush his lips against her cheekbone. They sat entwined together, letting life's curveballs lob over their heads for as long as they dared, the chill dispersed for the time being.