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Aeryn Soon
by ExquisiteIrony and TheThinGray

About Aeryn Soon

Feedback: Don't mind if you do! Me at TheThinGrayChi@yahoo.com , he at ExquisiteIrony@hotmail.com . :-o

Notes: This fic picks up after Aeryn makes "The Choice". Aeryn has just returned to Moya. This fic makes a choice to remember that Chiana went through Taking The Stone, and that both she and Aeryn are people who have been through a hell of a lot in each other's company for a few years now. If you haven't seen Taking The Stone and The Choice, it may not make full sense. Also it attempts to deal with why Aeryn should be so utterly bereft with a spare Crichton in her trunk.

Consider it another choice. Make no mistake, the show will never do any of this, but that's one of the wonderful things about fanfic!

A lot of serious stuff is presented as self evident by scenario and not spoken, or only part spoken, a challenge to write. Also somewhat unconventionally structured, why will be obvious. Hope it worked....

Warning: this is NOT happy. Lots of loneliness. Introspective. Character study.

Rating: For mature people.

Disclaimer: Farscape and yotz pertaining thereto are "property" of The Jim Henson Company, and this financially profitless writing, the author’s property, makes no claim or infringement, just hopefully a great reading experience.

Credit: Written by myself, whos fault, original overall arc, some rewriting and proofing it is, and ExquisiteIrony, who wrote anything profound in it *g*, including most character parts. Most of it in fact. Got it? Me, general, he, profound *g*. If it's great, tell him, if it's not, please don't hurt me *|*


Aeryn Sun was beaten. Not overcome by an enemy, not other than herself.

It was time to regroup and counter attack. But she had chosen retreat.

****

In authorative stride, Aeryn enters the dining room and stops. Across the room, through the space between the shelf of food containers and the grill counter, Aeryn finds Chiana. She narrows her eyes slightly to perceive the weight in the air about Chiana. Her life weighs heavily upon her now. Somehow she had not noticed. But then again, somehow she knew.

"Chiana."

Chiana turns and smiles, frankly glad to see her again. Yet there is a forced air to her smile. A defiance of the gravity. "Aeryn. Uh, won't you come over, I'm making some gre-"

"Do you want to find your brother?"

Chiana freezes.

"Do you want to go find your brother?"

"Well, yeah, but he said I shouldn't and John thi-"

"You would fight for the resistance if you did?"

She makes a simple, blunt, sharp nod. "Yeah but-"

"And even if you couldn't be with him, what would you do? If you could still fight for the resistance? Would you do it?"

"Aeryn, look, I don't know what you're getting at, I know you don't like hellos, but can we talk about it? I thought you might like some of your favo-"

"There's nothing to talk about. Answer my question."

"Aeryn. I like it here. I like Pilot, I like Moya, I like John, I like D'Argo.... the zeltic, I like, well okay it isn't so great here with the trelk-Princess from Hezmana, yeah I miss Zhaan, but I like my room, I like you and even froggie can be almost tolerable. Sometimes. It isn't lik-"

"I thought everyone was so lame on this ship". It was not a tease; it was flat, and Chiana detects a stab to it. Aeryn had never mentioned what she went though at the cemetery planet before.

"Well some maybe, but they weren't here then." Her smirk and humor is desperate and fragile.

"Right", Aeryn impatiently cuts, not in answer to what was said.

"Aeryn." She walks around the barriers to confront her but holds several feet before her. "You know I wasn't-... You know I was frelled up inside when, when I said that. You know I never really thought that of you. I just", she looks away for a moment, "I didn't know what to think, o-or feel, or do, or... I didn't know what was inside and what was out. Or what was me. I didn't... I didn't know if I survived that. Frell, it was killing me," her voice and frustration grew intense, "Don't hold that over me anymore, Aeryn, I'm warning you."

Despite the harsh shadows of the mostly dark room, Aeryn can see the tears well in Chiana's eyes. And the ghosts. So she survived. And so have the shadows of her soul's misery.

"I thought you would, you would never bring that up. Not you".

Aeryn hardly heard. The one she thought could run from the universe and ever preserve herself from it. Could even she not run from it? Could she not entirely let go? Did the pain imprint upon the soul? Could it not be buried? Did they follow the soul like the ghosts she feels in the air and sees haunting within the quantum singularity manner of the Nebari's endlessly black and deep eyes...

The dream that died was alive in her, haunting her.

Would it be so with herself?

As the Nebari approaches closer, her eyes locked upon hers no matter the slightly aside tilt of her face, Aeryn feels the answer, and inside she pains for this young woman, her face so exquisite, the character of it, the flawless silk skin, gray and colorless, so beautiful in the sharp contrast of shadow and light that plays across it as she nears. A face upon this spirit so young, so free, that she suddenly feels should not rightly have known those horrors it has. One she thought impervious. One like she thought she could be as well.

She fears she knows. She fears Chiana can see. That the ghosts recognize themselves in their presence.

Chiana sees more. "He is here Aeryn, he's alive, and fine. Waiting for you to get the frell back here. Why? Why Aeryn? He is alive. And he's right here", she gestures angrily at the floor.

"Your brother is alive".

"Nerri, Aeryn. I know he is. And if I didn't care thi-"

"-You're afraid."

Her mouth opens but only a slight whisper of "What?" emerges.

"You're afraid if you are together again, you might find it dead. What you loved. What you lived for."

"No. No, we'll... be fine, just together again, I'll, we'll find a way we can-"

"-You're afraid you can't go back and do it over again." She sees in Chiana's eyes that it hit somewhere. Hard.

"No. No. It's not th-..."

Aeryn sees Chiana's searching, implacable stare suddenly refiguring her perception of her.

"We can find a way." She is pitiful to Aeryn in her determination. The pity is true. It is the same pity for herself. She hates it, but cannot let it go.

It is a dream. And its death gave it its own life. She will carry its life and its death ever on.

"You haven't gone Chiana. To find out. I don't know if you can find a way. I'm not sure I care. But we're going."

Perhaps Chiana can live it. Perhaps her dream can be more.

"Nuh-uh. No. No way. Not me, not you, not 'we'. 'We' aren't going anywhere", she smiled, but it was somehow eerie. Haunted.

"I will be in the transport hanger. I bought a Prowler. When you are ready, we'll be leaving". She turns and walks out, as authoratively as she walked in.

Chiana turns and swipes all the items on the counter off, sending them, with her meal, to the floor.

She screams.

It doesn't ease its grip within.

****

"No, Officer Sun. You must reconsider. There is no cause for you to leave us", Pilot pleads.

"We, Pilot. Chiana is leaving with me. That is. I think she is," Aeryn flatly informs as she hurriedly prepares the Prowler, performing the necessary maintenance the used black-market jet was in need of.

"I do not believe she will", Pilot contradicts. He was unwilling to accept.

She understands. "I think she will, Pilot." She looks for a moment at his image on the holo screen over the workbenches beside the Prowler. "She has to. I don't want to talk about it, Pilot. There is no point. You know how we feel about you and Moya, and the others. We may meet again. That is all there is to that".

With a moment's pensive look down, he turns off the connection. Aeryn returns to work.

****

Her room was dark and ringingly empty as it usually was. Chiana lays herself down on her sleeping fur. As with most of the time she has ever spent in it, she does not sleep.

She feels the life of Moya somehow. She thinks, sometimes, it was all that kept her here. All that kept her from a dark loneliness.

She thinks of Aeryn. Somehow the vision comes:

She stands beside her, their pulserifles at the ready, their black capes, one soft, the other tough, flow in a bitter off-world colony breeze in the night air. Aeryn is aloof. Lost in her world. But with her, if no one else. They stand over a body. Aeryn liked this man. There are also others around. She could recognize them, but she doesn't care to think of them. Only Aeryn.

She was saying something to Aeryn. Something meant to be comforting. Over her shoulder. With her forearm, Aeryn lightly strikes her chest to stop her. She tells her to shut up. To keep her "feelings talk" to herself. But as they walk sideways towards their exit, keeping eyes ahead, Aeryn stretches protectively before her, and she softens her pushing at the clasp of a hand around her for security.

It turns to a grab and a push, as she shoves Aeryn out of the way the instant after a shot glances Aeryn's arm. She braces with full tension and fires a volley into the unprepared lot. It scatters them, for a moment, and one falls. Aeryn probably could not see them in the dark like she can. Aeryn scrambles to the protection of a pillar several feet away and curses her.

It hurts, but in this raw state, it doesn't really matter, she ducks over and checks Aeryn's wound. She'll heal fine. They will have matching scars on their right upper arms.

Aeryn's eyes were like ice. Or was it fire?

"Chiana I swear, the next time you try a stunt like that I'll shoot you myself".

Chiana finds herself smiling, and she pauses her hasty patching in spite of Aeryn's objection, as Zhaan had once done for her: "You're welcome".

"Shut up."

"Sure. Just as soon as we talk about who did the foolishness out there," she rapidly and excitedly corrects, "If I want to stand and blaze the pulse rifle like a PeaceKeeper recruitment holo, that's my stupid choice to save your flat ass. But if you hadn't gotten yourself shot making yourself a target like that, I wouldn't have had to, would I?"

Aeryn locks into her eyes. "Chiana. Shut up."

"Right", she decides, and takes a squat facing the edge of the pillar to defend.

Aeryn pulls herself up to a squat, over her shoulder. "That makes it six I owe your bony ass, doesn't it?"

"Seven", Chiana corrects. "And it's not bony, just very very lean".

"Seven. Right. Well," she places her hand on her shoulder a moment, "We'd better be getting out of here."

"Yeah", they scramble to the other side of the pillar. "Seven", Chiana echoes over her shoulder this time, "you definitely owe. You do. Seven times. Definitely", she rapidly rubs in.

Aeryn looks irritably over her shoulder then breaks into a smile, looking back around the corner again. "Chiana. Shut. Up. Don't make me tell you again", she way less than authoratively tells her. "Ready?"

"Ready", Chiana echoes, placing her hand on Aeryn's shoulder as Aeryn had on hers. And they stole into the guarded night in their defended stealth.

****

"Yes. We will provide escort for a distance", Crais agrees.

"And Talyn understands why?"

"Yes, Aeryn. He understands."

"And he will return here as soon as he's sure he's not being followed?"

"Yes, Aeryn. He will return. You don't seriously think I'll follow you into Nebari Territory? The Nebari destroy command carriers, never mind a single gunship, however powerful."

She blinks to herself a moment. Somehow she hadn't quite thought of their superior military advantage.

"Unless, of course: you ask".

She knows he's smiling to himself. Really not expecting a positive reply.

She feels a sense of fondness for him she'd never have expected to associate with him. She smiles. "Would you escort us to Nebari Prime?" She barely holds the amusement from her voice.

"Officer Sun. Aeryn. You can't be expecting-" he stops himself. He went for it for a second. He smiles to himself. "We would be pleased to escort you to Nebari Prime, Aeryn."

"Why Crais. Thank you."

"Provided, of course, your Nebari friend is actually a secret ambassador and not a top stakes Nebari fugitive as we were led to believe, provided we had been invited there, and provided some reason to believe we would survive the journey".

"With eyeballs intact" Aeryn muses to herself. Then speaks up. "I accept you kind offer of refusal".

He makes a perfunctory bow, "You are quite welcome, Aeryn." He taps the comm off at the console, and his amused face settles to a lost, blank stare at the console.

****

Chiana makes a cry of triumph: can't resist piping in some excitement about the explosion she saw over her shoulder as they fly away in the Prowler.

The Prowler Chiana now flies for the injured Aeryn. It took a while to get the trust built, and she still feels the pride of achieving the confidence. She never thought she'd care.

"Frell, can't you get D'Argo any faster?"

"Nope. Always was the problem with him."

Aeryn laughs. "So is that why you called this thing the D'Argo? I thought it was some personal dren I didn't want to know".

"Well, that and his reliability wasn't, well, and he kept running out of fuel, and he was a little clumsy, and he was a fighter that kept wanting to quit and get a farm, and -"

"-And sometimes you think this Prowler wants to quit and be piece of farm equipment?"

"Yeah, only I wouldn't say that while we're depending on it".

Aeryn shakes her head, lost in pain and laughter. "Chiana you are too frelling funny sometimes".

"You're just too stiff. Sometimes", she replies, too wryly for Aeryn to manage being insulted.

Instead Aeryn leans forwards and rests her forehead on her shoulder.

"That's why I got the fur shoulder pads. Never know when someone might want a spare shoulder."

Aeryn lifts her head and squeezes her shoulder with a hand: "Spare is right. I'm glad you had fur over these shoulder bones." She smiles then drops it. A totally frank voice picks up, still near her shoulder: "Do you miss him? D'Argo?".

"Uh, that would be personal dren you don't want to hear about", she stalls, trying to think of something to take advantage of this. It isn't every day she is this present and open with her.

Aeryn baps her upper arm jokingly scolding: "I am sorry alright? Don't get smart, brat".

"Yeah. Sometimes." She decides on a difficult honesty. "Then I remember what a painful fit he was, and forget the idea", she tries enlivening it.

It works. Aeryn laughs. It's a wonderful thing to hear, she makes a point of eliciting it.

"Do you?"

"No, Chiana, I don't think D'Argo would've been any better for me".

She feels Aeryn's need for diverting the question. She knows the answer. Someday, maybe, when she needs to be more, more than she needs to be satisfied and secure in herself, maybe then it will work, and they may find John...

****

Aeryn halts as she checks fluid levels, at a memory. And how long had it been since she serviced a Prowler completely without John coming in and frelling things up at least once?

One moment he would be harmlessly checking the - what did he call that lubricant? Oy el - the next pestering her over some barely perceptible wound of carelessness he wanted her to notice, or else wrecking something by accident. When he wasn't hanging on her like he wanted to be a symbiont, as D'Argo once said of Chiana. Well D'Argo learned there's more to it than being a "hitching post", as John used to call it. That John that lives here will have to learn she may not be his hitching post. She takes a steeling inhale.

****

Aeryn was what she felt best being. A soldier. And Chiana was so amazed to be so proud, seeing Aeryn so self justified, so satisfied in achieving her mission, as she stands watching Aeryn brief Nerri before the rebel assembly.

"... then the informants did not recover the holochip?" Nerri asks.

"Hardly", Chiana, beside and behind his right, can't resist chiming in, "they couldn't find their eemas after she got through with them, never mind a holochip. They got away, but empty handed and with a healthy respect for Special Ops Sun," Chiana wryly observes with pride and a head nod towards Aeryn.

"As we all do," Nerri praises.

"Proof the small minds can learn", one rebel pipes up to a round of laughs.

"Hardly fair, as the mission was only a partial success" Aeryn devalues.

"Yeah, and several times more successful than we'd hoped!" Chiana enthuses. "They were sure we'd never be able to plant explosives enough to blow their chemical lab off the planet, never mind make it out," she steps between them, to the center of the small meeting hall, "so I showed her how to crawl on knees", she demonstrates, "and still keep your hands free, and she cleared out, oh, about two dozen guards, about ten at once at one point. I was behind her, and uh she heard them, and it almost hit me, a shot, but she took it, instead, and then," she demonstrates, "blew them out of action like, like a frelling PeaceKeeper recruitment holo-"

Aeryn rolls her eyes a tad, as Nerri's eyes beam at her. She was being a show off kid again, she knows the looks. What the hell, it was attention, and a wonderful victory for the cause.

The praise really helps Aeryn. Despite the arguing, Aeryn likes her for building it too.

Object she must though. Aeryn has to pursue the matter into Nerri's command tent that night, just as she and Nerri were enjoying some company. There were always others around.

It's relatively cheerful, warm and colorful in here, with fires in and out, colorful alien rugs and cushions. She sits in a petite seat of loud red, blue and yellow cushions just her comfy size. They just hit on a non-resistance subject when Aeryn walks in, clearly with something on her mind. She was hopeless at any pretense otherwise.

Nerri wisely gestured the company out, and they went, for a change. No one but Chiana was quite her friend.

"Nerri. I have to tell you that report was not accurate."

He blinked huge black eyes.

"Chiana misrepresented the confrontation with the guards-"

"Oh!", his face changed to its pretty, dark yet kind, sexy smile. Chiana smiles back to it, while putting her head in her hands, looking down, her fingers splayed through her mop. Embarrassed.

He makes a head shift Aeryn finds ambiguous; she looks to Chiana, who clearly has no problem interpreting and even laughs.

"It was not correct that I shot down a dozen guards. Chiana, if anyone, was the one resembling a PeaceKeeper recruitment holo, after I got hit through my own carelessness. I could not see them, but I believe she hit two or three." She looks to Chiana for confirmation.

Chiana glances up at her and keeps a straight tone long enough to manage: "That's about right, yeah, two, maybe three. The rest would have perished if they'd seen your look at me!", she dissolves into laughter.

"I believe you should get full and accurate accounts."

"Yes. Dear. Isn't she awful that way?" he snaps into a mimic of her demonstration, and then throws a cushion at Chiana.

Chiana catches it in her teeth and shakes it like a playful animal; Nerri bends before her and tugs at it as they make animal noises.

Aeryn almost smiles at a hilarious, playful sight, but she's simply too black in soul. She glares at Chiana when she glances at her, and stalks out. "Frelling child".

Chiana laughs and plays a few moments until he is done with indulging play, shoves her head and calls her hopeless, affectionately. Her hand lingers on his belt as he gets up until he steps away. It lingers in the air, slowly settling back onto her lap. After a moment she puts her head in her hands again, lightly laughing, short of breath and keeping her face ducked.

The tear in an eye is not only from laughing too hard.

He returns in a few minutes, and takes some of her mussed up hair in his gloved fingers. "You should- why don't we get you a nice break at a good place to relax and play? Maybe your sour friend... though I can't quite picture that..." he remarks out loud, as he fingers the hair. "You always go too hard, sis."

She shakes her head no. "No, Ner, me? Yeah, um, since when was that likely for me?"

"Sweet", he bends down right up to her head, rather her hair, as she keeps her face away, "you really have to. You never know when to cut yourself some care. You are far too overdriven. I know. I can tell when you're over strained."

"Nah I'm fine. I'm okay.", she sniffs in.

He detects it and tilts his head to try seeing her eyes: "You said that then, and what happened... Don't chance it. You have so much almost every day to live with, you have to take care. If that happens again-"

"-It won't, I won't let it. No, sweet, it won't," she runs her hand through the hair at the back of his head, "it won't. I'm okay. I am. I'm stronger. So much stronger, Ner. Been so much since then. You'll never know. So much to tell you. I'd love to tell you, and I will. I will someday."

And the others wander in...

"Don't worry yourself so much, sister. Go rest and forget everything for a while. Okay? Hmm?"

"Mmm-hmm", she agrees quietly. He gets up and picks up the resistance talk. She wipes her face and plays the attention of anyone, if it's not too serious to play at, and controls the laughing and the tears.

She knows the microt she steps out, Aeryn will find her and argue.

And Aeryn had to argue. But then, later, she was all the more willing to talk.

It's then Chiana feels she does her best work...

****

It was hard to work with the sounds of him hitting and welding at the hanger entrance door in her mind. And his voice.

"Dammit Aeryn if this is some kind of sick joke I swear-"

A joke. The irony was too bitter to laugh at. And her lies, that she'd break the door open eventually. Only Pilot persuaded him not to camp at the door and return to do something else, that he'd notify him the microt the door was opened.

She knows she sounds a bit crazy laughing to herself. She doesn't hate him, this man. For he is one and not a ghost of him in her mind, she knows. Yet somehow he may as well be. He is the same man to her, as the ghost in her mind. They cannot both be there.

She has to sit. And laugh. And cry.

They bunked together to keep warm, sometimes in the same sleeping sack, sometimes, as now, in two, up against one another. It could be warmer if Aeryn were interested. No go. And she wouldn't press with her. Too close. Wouldn't press that, that is.

"Next monen or two we get the Krutahd Border project. Going to bust the border camps wide open", she enthuses to Aeryn, a quiet whisper in her ear as she lay behind Aeryn, hazarding an arm over her side. "Can't believe it's that far out. We might have to escape into the Uncharteds if they catch onto us. Hey," she scoots up more comfortably, "I didn't tell you how I had to escape out there, and Salis caught me, lucky for me I ran into you and Moya".

She wonders if Aeryn is awake; her training routine usually makes her tired at night, and anyway she wakes and sleeps at disciplined will. As for herself, well, hunger has her pretty wiped. She scolds herself to be more practical. Again. But she's not dozing; this is too good a chance to plant persuasive seeds.

She leans her head forwards and sees Aeryn's eyes are open. Good.

She works her head under Aeryn's arm. "So tell me, would you really have spaced me if he hadn't been able to put up with me?"

"I never wanted to 'space' you, Chiana".

"Oh yes you did".

"Rygel might have said I did. Maybe I said it. You know I didn't mean it."

"You didn't... ?"

"No. Besides, you saved my life. And his. And Moya's. And Pilot's and Talyn's. Why would you think that?"

"Jealous?"

"Oh don't be so childish. Go to sleep. For a change."

"Jealous. Yup. Definitely. You're the one who's naive. You have to work at it, not wait for him to bust his way into your lap. So, if I hadn't ran out into the Uncharteds, the frelling officers would've had me mind frelled before I knew what way was Nebari Prime. And if I hadn-"

She chokes her with her arm: "-you'd be sleeping better. Now let me get to sleep." She lets go. She has to grin as Chiana laughs and she shoves her head off her side.

"And stop talking about it. What happened, happened, Chiana. Now go to sleep."

Chiana turns over, facing away, feeling... alone. For the millionth time, she scolds herself to live with one of the men she can get.

"The Krutahd Border is in the region they call Felias? That's pretty rough territory."

Her mind returns to the past, out there with Nerri, and without him...

She curls up. She may as well be without him now. She is lonely for him, and could go be with him, and be an intimacy-spoiling guest between he and his girl. She curls tighter.

"Chiana?"

"Yeah. It can be pretty rough."

"I suppose you were there? Is there any dump or back world hole you haven't sold and stole at."

"Nope. I never miss one."

"Yeah. Well at least we're doing something more useful."

After a moment's silence she prompts: "Right?"

"Yeah. For every frelling person but us."

"Oh, shut up, Chiana. It was your idea. You wanted to help your brother."

For the millionth time she wants to put it straight.

But no. "Yeah. My idea." Cut, she sheds silent tears.

"Oh, stop it."

"Stop what?"

"Stop crying like a frelling child."

"I'm not."

"Yes you are."

"No I'm not!"

"Yes you are. Do you actually think that kind of crap is going to work with me?"

She can take no more. She bolts over to grab at the collar of the uniform shirt she sleeps in, clasping it in her fist and glaring down at a startled Aeryn, shameless of the tears streaking her face: "I am not trying to seduce you and don't blame me for trying what I know!" Her voice shakes with fury and emotion. "And do you think you know about what works? You ran away from trying to find out what might work for you, to be what other people thought you should be and settle for what they made you, you frelling, ungrateful Sebacean drenhead! Do you think there's anything for me here? Well he doesn't need me here, he doesn't want me here so unless you have some better idea, I'm going to find out if there's any time left to make my own place, where I chose to, preferably making the Uncharteds more welcoming to a lost acronot."

She lets go of her collar, her eyes burning intensely: she doesn't care what that frelled up, she feels she was frelling brilliant! She gets up with a nod and a smile to herself. Aeryn is staring as if she were mad.

She grabs her clothes and hurriedly dresses en route to the transport flat. Ignoring the looks of a few who lift their heads at the spectacle as she strides dexterously amongst the great hall of rolled up campers.

In delayed reaction, Aeryn bolts up, Chiana sees in a glance back.

****

But this is easy. It is natural, it is comfortable. With practiced ease, Aeryn calibrates the energy controls.

She had never needed him, no, nor all the things that try her as he; not to do this, not to pilot her fighter into what may, in the contexts familiar and decided and immediately purposeful.

Oh, how could she not have understood Pilot? Her, born pilot as he, differing in dreams and all else, but not in being a Pilot.

She understands because she has had to, and came to; was it all him? No, it had to have been her, but without him? Would it have mattered as it did? As it does? No, and now that is done.

It was him too, it was them. It was alive; she lived it; now she knows it dies. She will be what she was bred to be, she will find her own way to do it. It will stay special to her, within her.

There are more important things, she has to find them and apply herself to them, instead. These Nebari. Chiana, she loves and hates that girl. She does respect her. But never so as she does now. She is a survivor, and as far as she is concerned she deserves to be. Surely her way serves, not destroys, such freedom to live as hers. Or rather, it can, if it serves the right ideal - and this she can now find. So surely it is best this way.

****

Aeryn catches up to her in the ruins between the camping area and the transport flat, nearly stumbling in the near total dark.

"What we are doing is more important than us, Chiana".

"No. No." Chiana hurries and looks back over her shoulder. "This is all about everyone not being a frelling machine. Well everyone here can either do it in their life or do it because they lost theirs. Not me. Not me. I am not a frelling soldier and I'm not one of anything but me."

"Would Nerri agree with that? I very greatly doubt it!” she incredulously pursues, "You're not thinking, Chiana".

Chiana halts and turns. "No. I am thinking. And it's been too slow. Nerri, he knows. He knows I have my own mind about things. He'll understand. That's the difference between them, and me and that's the difference between you and me. I'm here for everyone. You came here to belong with a frelling purpose, a - a gear in a machine. You just want to keep what you used to have and quit trying to be more."

"Chiana. You don't know what the frell you're talking about."

"I do. Oh, I do. And you know it." She closes the distance to several feet; Aeryn stands stock still and unreadable. "I learned... I learned you can still be yourself, through anything. You can feed your own self, if you have to. And you can appreciate what you get, and you can even let go. John wanted you to find out what yourself is, because you don't know. Even though you had him, and you thought that was it, you thought he was it, well, he isn't. And he'd tell you so. I know he would. He'd just want to be a part of whatever you are, and you be a part of him. Maybe", she steps up to her, "maybe he still does."

Aeryn diverts her gaze away.

"How do you do it Aeryn? How do you think so much of him and not appreciate what he meant for you?"

She felt as though the distance may as well be sectors. But she reaches. And it is so very hard. Especially to reach for Aeryn. Especially now. But she reaches.

"You still might have everything, Aeryn. Everything to gain. Come with me. Come with me, and we'll look for him. We'll look for Moya."

She looks away again.

Chiana reluctantly turns and heads for the transport flat. Just past the doorway, Aeryn roughly backs her into the wall. She is too livid - lost? - for words: just a raw glare, emptiness in it. A need. Chiana recognizes it somehow; and she does not resist, despite the pain of her fierce grip on her shoulder straps. For a moment she thinks maybe a little of it is for them, but the excitement is just a flash, and just hers; Aeryn lets up and absently fusses one fur pad between her fingers; she is not stirred of them in such passion. Aeryn sinks her head down; was she crying?

"Thank you Chiana," comes a rough whisper. She puts her forehead into Chiana's mop. Yes she cries.

"It's okay, Aeryn, it's... ", Chiana runs a comforting hand on her back, "... it's okay, we'll, we'll find out. That's all we can do."

"How can he have survived without me there? With only D'Argo to watch him?” she makes a juicy intake that would be funny elsewhere.

"D'Argo's probably found some sop to run off with and farm, or maybe kill him... John, he'll be fine. He might be happily hooked up on Erth, but he's fine, I'm sure. We'll... we'll see."

She juicily sniffs again. So heart wrenching seeing her like this. Frell.

"And don't call him John."

"Oh, listen sister, you call him what you want and I'll call him what I want".

Aeryn looks at her confused, then they both break into smiles. They separate and head together towards the transports, an arm behind the other.

"Well, I'm sure you have better names then that", Chiana teases, running the tip of her tongue under her lower lip. Aeryn laughs.

"For John-"

- John! - what of John - are we getting back -

The intrusion of her conscious thought stream snaps the link. She abruptly finds herself in the dark, silent room. Her heart racing, her face streaked with tears.

How will she live all that knowing? Maybe, maybe she can do better. She gets up feeling like a thousand pounds.

****

Aeryn grabs the wrench. Wrench! Frelling Erp term! Frelling human! She bangs it on the wing. "Variable size triangular leverage utility!” she says out loud, willing away his abstraction.

Hurriedly she finishes the adjustment, and reaches for the oy el can-

She grimaces and sits.

It has pervaded her everywhere.

****

She approaches, stealthily, the room where D'Argo must be polishing his Qualta blade.

She looks in to surprise him. And there on the bed he sits, holding hands with Jool, and kissing her tenderly, in the soft way he kissed her, as though afraid to hurt her.

He had to her, and he had hurt her, and she had hurt him. And their kisses had ended. He would never kiss her that way again. She would take whatever she could get.

Instead, she would let him get what he wanted to take.

A kiss placed on her glove, then on the arch before his door, then the dream that could not let her live his carries her away from him forever, unseen. Perhaps not long missed.

Stealthily she leaves as she had come.

****

"It should be easy. It's never easy", John laments as he walks into his room. "Well, you waited this long, Johnny, you can wait for her to break that damned doorway open." He speaks louder: "Pilot? Any luck?"

"No, Commander. The door still won't open."

He flops on the bed. Then sees his tape recorder. He sits up and picks it up. Here's one for dad.

He presses record and talks for a moment or two before it stops. Out of tape! Impossible. He had used only a bit on this side yesterday. Or is he cracking up again? He backs it a ways and plays.

Chiana! "Shhhhi-, that little, sh. Damn. Chhheze. Frell! Little thief. Can't leave anyone’s stuff alone. Hey Pilo-"

"- and Aeryn won't let you. It's no-" he cuts it off. He feels a panic within. He rewinds to the beginning of the side, and plays.

Under the hiss he hears a sad sigh, then the brittle, breathy sound of Chiana's voice through the recorder.

"Cri-... John. I hope you won't hate me for using your data recorder. I know I'm a frelling thief and a trelk. If you ever hear this, I- I want you to know why we had to. Once, once you told me people like you and me, we don't usually get... get what we want... I know that John. I wanted you too. And, and so does Aeryn. But we can't stay with you..."

****

She broke into the hanger where John could not. She knew she would. Aeryn checks the console calibrations again. Chiana lands in the rear seat, reaches around her alongside, and enters a correction.

"I didn't know you knew Prowler inner relay combinations." She looks aside with a smile, not quite at Chiana.

Chiana stares at it a moment. "Yeah. Sometimes I surprise myself". She smirks.

"Yes", Aeryn agrees flatly, "You're full of surprises".

"You're not surprised I'm here".

"No. We have to prime the Rotak emitters first." She gets out and performs the task under the wing.

Chiana cues the firing as if on cue. Aeryn makes an impressed face to herself. She returns to the cockpit and closes the top. Chiana at least spares her the "Don't you want to say goodbye" dren. She knows Chiana did not. Except to Pilot, whom she probably told everything to.

"Have you everything you want to take?"

"I have everything I came with."

Aeryn looks to see her in the clothes she had first seen her in.

"Fine, but I have our shares of the currency" Aeryn gestures to the storage hatch. "We will have to buy weapons and supplies. At least one of us has to be practical."

"Yeah, shut the frell up, Aeryn. Let's go."

The hanger opens.

****

The frelling Human plays it every night.

Rygel approaches the room and hears the sound of her voice. The one he misses more than any non-Hynerian he has known. He is here in hopes Crichton would be playing it again, true to habit. It didn't say anything for him, but that he understands.

"... so you can't follow us. We'll be all right when we find Nerri. I'm sure they'll want an ex-PeaceKeeper fighter pilot and commando and I'll... I'll work myself in there. A-after she finds out she's more, and the important thing isn't the guy, I mean, what happened... frell. It's what you mean, and what things mean to her. She'll want to... she'll work it out. She will. Aeryn. Soon."

"Aeryn. Soon." he repeats with her.

"I know it's stupid, but I'd like to think you're having fun, I mean, you're fine and... find someone too. For a while. It may be. Don't think we won't miss you too... Frell I can't think of things for a few hours without your Erth crap working the draz in my head", her laugh joined by his chuckle.

Rygel's mind wanders; he knows every word, every inflection, just as Crichton. It takes only a few moments of his wondering what became of them to gladly return to the here and now.

"... and I will bring her back, John. I know I will. I know... you can't trust me. Much. 'Any farther than you can throw me', you say. Don't forget: you can throw me pretty far", she makes her tense giggle - oh, Chiana, what resilient spirit - and falls silent a moment.

On preprogrammed cue he smiles and chuckles, then drops silent.

"Just trust me again. An- and take care of yourself old man, you- you have to be careful out here, you're pretty lousy at it. Take care of Pilot. And Moya. Hey if you get a way home, tell Pilot and Moya, so we'll know how we can find you, maybe. We... we miss you already".

The voice ends, and after a long silence, there is a sound, that her lips made kissing the recorder before leaving it. And Rygel turns after Crichton kisses the recorder on cue to match, and exhales heavily. He floats away on his Throne Sled knowing Crichton is lying down now, the recorder in his hand. Probably dreaming of that flat assed PeaceKeeper bitch. Why, he can't imagine.

Still, however misguided, it is a loyalty he has to admire. He doesn't doubt Chiana. For a change. He doesn't have as much stock in Aeryn, actually. But who knows? It's probable to him. Very probable.

Doesn't stop him from being concerned. Why shouldn't he be concerned? Dangerous territory out there. But he grins. A lot more dangerous for the territory, he always says.

"Attention", Pilot's voice comes through the comms, "A Prowler is in approach".

"This would never happen if he wasn't so popular with Sebacean females."

"I beg your pardon, Your Eminence?"

"Or Nebari females. What? Nothing. It couldn't be them this time?"

John bolts up and looks at the view screen Pilot thoughtfully puts it on.

He wipes his eyes dry. "Yes. Pilot! Open the hanger and the door this time!” he bolts out of his room.

The lights were blinking S - O - S

****

The End


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