Spaced Out
(First posted February 26, 2002)
Disclaimer:  The characters and vision of Farscape belong to Henson Co., and the Sci-Fi Channel.  I promise I
didn’t profit from writing this story, except to get the tale out of my noggin.
Time Frame/Spoilers:  The time frame for this story is right after “Self Inflicted Wounds”.  This story includes
significant spoilers for that episode.

Note to the reader:  I don’t have much to offer in way of explanation for this story.  The first portion was
salvaged from a mess that my beta-reader at that time (Scapeartist) very justifiably tore apart for me.  It’s more
a lesson in not giving up on a story with potential than anything else.  I threw out about three quarters of the
original effort, and turned the tale into something entirely different than I’d intended.  

*  *  *  *  *

Aeryn Sun stalked into the Central Chamber, seeking something warm to drink before she went to bed.  She’d
been helping with the repairs to Moya all day, and her nervous system was singing with the cumulative stress
brought on by cramped positions and frustration.  So many areas had been deliberately harmed by Neeyala’s
crew that they had begun to chase the damage around in circles.  As soon as one circuit was repaired and
power restored, the energy flow seemed to overload another one causing ruptures and burnouts.  

Pilot was doing his best, but short of shutting down vast sections of Moya’s systems, he was hard pressed to
manage the flows of her various resources while directing the repair gangs of both the crew and the DRDs.  
They had been working in shifts for three solar days, and they were just beginning to get Moya’s systems
running correctly again.  

Aeryn came to a stop as she realized someone was sitting in the shadows, almost completely obscured in the
dark.  She didn’t need to step closer to know it was Crichton, she could almost feel him there.  Whenever she
was around him, his presence weighed on her like comfortable armor.  It was something that felt familiar to her
warrior spirit, a shield and protection that she was learning to carry easily out of habit.  But tonight she knew it
was him for a simpler reason.  

Everyone on board knew he hadn’t slept since they had freed themselves from the wormhole and the
Pathfinder ship.  He had refused to quit working no matter who had approached him.  Perhaps he was driving
himself for Moya’s sake, but the common opinion was that he was being driven by something instead.   He was
here once again, sitting in the dark, watching the stars that surrounded their floating home.  

“John, have you had any rest yet?”  Aeryn pulled a cup of steaming haklandt tea out of the warmer and went to
sit near him in the shadows.  She pulled her feet up on the bench, tucking her knees against her chest to try
and retain some warmth.  It was getting cold in the chamber, the temperature lowered by Pilot to begin the
ship’s night cycle.  The rise and fall of light levels and temperatures were set to a deliberate schedule in order
to help the lifeforms on board maintain a natural circadian rhythm -- necessary to generate deep sleep and
good health.

“I’m still not really tired, Aeryn.  I’ll go get some sleep when I’m ready.”  John sipped from his own cup and set it
down on the bench between them.  She could hear the heaviness in his voice, the slow dragging tones, but
refrained from saying that she thought he was already tired enough.  She set her tea next to his cup and
wrapped her arms around her knees, shivering a little as her body began its own shutdown in preparation for
rest.

“Find anything else interesting today?”  She wasn’t good at small talk, but she wanted to try and get him started
somehow.  If someone could just get him to start communicating then maybe they could find out exactly what
was forcing him out of his chamber every night, driving him to keep working or just wandering the tiers.  Aeryn
thought she had a good idea of what was hounding him, but she couldn’t do anything unless he opened up at
least a little bit.    

“No.”  They had found tools and small personal items scattered through the ship near damaged panels, the last
signs of the Pathfinder crew whose sabotage had nearly cost Moya and Pilot their lives.  

Aeryn reached down for her cup and took another sip of her tea.  She choked and spit it back into the mug.  
She had picked up Crichton’s by accident.  “What IS this stuff?  This is terrible.”  She set it down on the floor so
that neither one of them would pick it up again by accident.   

“I’ll tell you what it ISN’T,” he said, the sound of a smile finally in his voice.  “It isn’t Juan Valdez’s Columbian
Roast coffee brought to us on the back of a burro.”  A replacement for coffee had joined his list of critical items
to locate in the Uncharted Territories -- right after the number one item, a replacement for chocolate.  “This
liquefied waste tastes awful, but it is four hundred percent kick-in-the-ass get up and go juice.  Better than a
gallon of hot cappuccino.”

He waited for Aeryn’s mystified response, but she didn’t say anything. She hadn’t understood most of what he
had said, but her microbes had faithfully translated the part about get up and go juice, and she finally knew how
he had kept going for so long.  She had finally gotten him to give her more than his recently typical short
answers, but it wasn’t the type of response she wanted to hear.  Her concern took another step up on its
ladder.  

“Pilot says Moya’s systems are stabilized now and we can all take a rest.  We can work at a slower pace
finishing the rest of the repairs.”  She was still gently prodding, trying to get him to open up.  

“That’s great to hear.  I guess I’ll head to my room and get some rest then.  It’s overdue.”  He got up and left,
none of his usual relaxed manner in his gait.  He looked like he had somewhere to get to in a hurry.  Aeryn
continued to stare at the empty door long after he disappeared from sight, her concern for him expanding in
her chest.  She knew he needed to release something, and felt powerless to help him find an outlet.    

*  *  *  *  *

Crichton sat up on his bed, once again abandoning the attempt to get some sleep.  He hadn’t completely lied to
Aeryn, he knew he was long past due for some rest, but each time he laid down his mind seemed to leap into
starburst.  Images and emotions rolled out in front of him, coasting down a path of memories that led to the
same place each time -- the vision of Zhaan standing on the bridge of the Pathfinder ship, smiling serenely as it
was ripped into quantum vapor.

He shook his head, flinging the image roughly out of his mind.  He had played this rerun enough times already,
he decided.  He wasn’t going to even try to sleep until it left him alone.  He looked across his room at the
broken Pathfinder recording device, a giant’s jack propped in the corner, its contents lost to him.  That damn
thing had been a part of it.  He walked over and picked it up, turned it around in his hands listening to the soft
rattle of internal rupture.  

He looked at the doors of his chamber, bars tightly closed against the visits of his own friends.  The frustration
and pain welled up inside him.  Pivoting to gather momentum, he angrily flung the shining device against the
grating.  Fragments showered into the corridor accompanied by a melody of tinkling destruction.  He watched
the last fragments skitter across the bronze floors and didn’t feel any better.      

It wasn’t more than sixty microts before a soft whine came down the corridor.  A DRD pulled up and examined
the scattered fragments, searching for a pattern.  It turned its eyestalks toward him, logic circuits debating the
proximity of the debris to his cell.  

“Yes!  I did it.  Now clean it up and get it the frell out of here.  Deep six it, toss it overboard, blow it out your
ejection port!  I don’t care, just take it away.”  The DRD extended its claw and began collecting the pieces and
placing them in a pile for another drone to collect.  It seemed to be glancing at him reproachfully, feelings hurt
by his outburst.  

“Oh, get a grip, John,” he mocked his own reaction.  “Pilot?  What else needs to be fixed around the Good Ship
Lollipop?”  He paced as he waited for an answer, needing physical release for the tension he felt.    

“Any further repairs are not of an immediate nature, Commander.  I am sure they could wait until morning.”  
Pilot’s voice drifted coolly over his comms.  

“That wasn’t my question, Pilot.  I feel like working some more.  So what is the most urgent repair that Moya
needs completed?”  He stopped at the table, running his hands through the tools he hadn’t put away in three
days.  He started a motion that would have scattered the entire collection clattering onto the floor, but managed
to control his physical outburst at the last minute.  He settled for picking up a single cable splicer and flinging it
across the chamber in frustration.    

“I don’t believe there is anything that …”  

Crichton cut off Pilot’s slow, carefully phrased statement.  “Don’t make me come up there, Pilot.”  An empty
threat that he had used on several occasions.  “Just tell me where to go work.”  

A heavy sigh preceded the answer.  “There IS a jammed valve in one of the amnexus system’s waste discharge
flushlines.  It should take only an arn to repair.”    

Crichton made a deliberate shiver, “Waste discharge flushlines … great.  This sounds like something right up
my alley.  I’m familiar with most of Moya’s amnexus system by now, but this is a new one on me.”  He recalled
their constant difficulty keeping the Leviathan’s fluidic systems running correctly during her pregnancy.  He had
learned too many of the miles of her vessels and capillaries during her gestation.   

“Is this biomechanoid or mechanical, and what exactly does it do?”  Crichton asked as he gathered the handful
of tools off the table and palmed his doors open.  “Which way?”  

“Tier seven, I will direct you to the correct access point.  It is a muscular biomechanoid valve that regulates the
flow of toxic substances that are being shunted out of Moya’s reclamation system for disposal.  The damaged
valve is creating a backlog of fluids that must be jettisoned.”  

Crichton stopped and thought about what Pilot was describing.  This was the perfect job to begin another
night.  He was going to go give a multi-ton space beast a kick in the kidneys.  

*  *  *  *  *

“Officer Sun.  Am I disturbing you?”  Pilot reverted to his more formal address of Aeryn as he called her in her
quarters.  His voice was full of concern and Aeryn sat up quickly.  

“No, Pilot.  I wasn’t doing anything.  What is it?”  She hadn’t been sleeping, wasn’t even feeling tired.  She had
been replaying every small moment she’d spent with Crichton in the last five or six days, trying to come up with
some way to break down the wall he’d put up.  He had always been stubborn, but she had never seen him at
this extreme.  This was calling upon skills she hadn’t been forced to develop yet, and she didn’t know how to
handle it.   

“You asked me to notify you if Crichton was working again.  He is on his way to begin another repair.”  Pilot’s
voice was slow and quiet, his tone making his simple sentences much more than a statement of fact.  “I did try
to convince him that there was nothing more to do tonight, as you asked, but he insisted.”  

The entire crew, including Pilot, had gathered one evening while Crichton was involved in a messy repair to
discuss his increasingly unbalanced behavior.  Pilot had assigned DRDs to ensure that he was still involved in
his work while they tried to decide if there was anything they had overlooked in their attempts to get him to deal
with what was bothering him.  Aeryn knew it had to do with Zhaan’s death, but she didn’t have any suggestions.  
They were almost ready to let D’Argo tongue him just to shut him down for a while, hoping he’d be more rational
when he woke up.

Aeryn sighed and knew she couldn’t give up yet.  “It’s all right, Pilot.  I think I’ll go and try one more time.”  She
was still dressed and only had to pull on her boots.  “Where is he working?”  She straightened up, palmed open
the doors and started into the tier.  

*  *  *  *  *

John placed one hand on the bulkhead above the access hatch and peered down into the tunnel.  It was not
one of Moya’s larger passageways, and the lights in this section were still running on half power.  His view was
one of a dimly lit confine, and tension curled in his stomach.  He had never had a problem with small places --
claustrophobia would have disqualified him from IASA -- but something about this made him feel trapped
already.  

“Please be careful with this repair, Commander Crichton,” Pilot said over the comms.  “Moya has several critical
systems crossing through this area.  Any additional damage would adversely affect her operations.”  

“I’ll be careful, Pilot.  I told you that the first two times you mentioned this to me.”  John picked up a handheld
spotlight and some tools, and considered the tight fit again.  “How far down did you say this jam was?”  

“Approximately fifteen motras, you should just be able to see the location where the corridor turns a corner.”  

“That isn’t a corridor.  That is a weasel burrow, and I’m a woodchuck.”  He considered leaving the repair until
morning as the dark, trapped feeling passed through him a second time.  He straightened and glanced back up
the tier, thinking about going back to his quarters.  His poorly contained emotions roiled within him again.   

“I’m sorry, Commander, but that didn’t …” Pilot began to object.  Crichton’s last statement had been
untranslatable.  

“Never mind Pilot.  I’m heading down now.”  He heard his comms channel close and moved into the
passageway, talking quietly to himself.  “Aaaoooga, aaooogaa, dive, dive, dive.”  

It wasn’t as bad as he expected once he got into the cramped quarters, and he always found Moya’s internal
sounds relaxing.  The idea of living inside another sentient being had finally become just another fact of life for
him.  He found the cavity where the valve could be exposed for just this kind of maintenance, and set the
spotlight down, aiming it to shine on the gleaming black and bronze duct work of Moya’s vascular system.  

John opened the hatch, exposing the outer workings of the muscular regulator.  It looked pretty much like a
mechanical rocker valve until he began to examine the fibrous connections and the supporting tissues around
it.  He could see where some sort of build up had jammed the actuator, and chose a large probe to start
chipping it loose.  The simple work gave his mind a respite, and his thoughts wandered unguided as his hands
labored.

John found himself at simultaneous impasses.  He dragged his awareness back to the recognition that he was
again mulling over their latest alien encounter at the same time that he encountered a nearly cauterized chunk
of solidified matter.       

“Stupid, single-minded, stubborn, self-centered, ignorant, moron!” he lambasted himself as he jammed the
probe harder and harder into the impacted area.  His last sight of Zhaan rose up in his mind again.  “Frelling
rat-bastard, low-life weasel butt, chicken lipped … “

“Commander!  Please be careful!  Moya has an atmospheric pressurization line directly behind the obstruction
you are clearing.  Puncturing that line would result in a catastrophic venting of the entire access shaft and
much of the surrounding tier!”  Pilot’s entreaty went unheard as Crichton continued his self-recriminations,
chipping even harder as he did, until the pick-like probe finally sank its full length into the shattered matrix of
the clog.  

*  *  *  *  *

Aeryn bolted headlong into the hangar bay and pulled herself up the steps to the transport pod two at a time.  
She slid into one of the seats and began the sequence to start the engines.  She felt the craft rock slightly just
as the engines fired, and the hatch closed with a shattering clang.  D’Argo moved up to stand beside her as
she maneuvered out of the bay.  He was breathing deeply and was still wearing his loose black sleep wear.

“What the hezmana has happened?”  His voice was even deeper than usual, thickened with sleep.  He steadied
himself on the back of Aeryn’s seat as she accelerated aggressively and swept through the hangar toward the
outer doors.    

“Crichton was working again, the frelling fool.  He ruptured something in an access shaft and Pilot says he’s
about to be swept out of Moya.  He’s trying to hang on inside her somewhere, but the shaft is open to space
and it’s losing atmosphere.”  Aeryn heard the note of anger in her voice and hoped D’Argo would understand
that it was only fear and concern bending the intent of her words.     

D’Argo’s hand covered her shoulder in implied sympathy.  “Can’t Moya close the shaft?”  The burst of guilt in
his stomach wasn’t a total surprise.  He had known that Crichton was suffering emotionally, and he had been
one of those who voted to wait a bit longer before intervening.  He knew now that they should have done
something.  

“No.  Whatever he ruptured it has set off a safety override and Moya can’t prevent the venting.  She’s trying to
slow it down, but she runs the chance of venting three entire tiers.”  They broke free of the hangar and she
rolled the pod to sweep beneath the Leviathan.

*  *  *  *  *

Crichton clung to a small ridge in the floor with fierce determination, sucking in what little air was left.  He was
still being buffeted by the explosive force of the atmosphere for almost an entire tier being vented into space.  
He felt himself starting to fade out as the oxygen levels dropped and tried to get his hands to hang on of their
own accord.  Any pressure was better than what was waiting for him a scant twenty motras below his boots.  He
knew he could survive up to about eighty microts in space without permanent damage, but it hadn’t been fun
the first time he had been forced to space himself without a suit.  He wasn’t looking forward to doing it again.  

The gale force wind of escaping gases was easing, and he knew there wasn’t much time left, but he had to give
the others the greatest amount of time possible to get out there before he let go.  He’d been able to make out
Pilot’s frantic call over the comms as the first enormous blast of air had blown him tumbling down the access
tunnel.  He’d landed just beyond where the shaft dropped to nearly vertical, and had slid out of control down
the rough surface.  

John felt as though his hands were on fire.  He knew some of the sensation was from his mad scrambling
against Moya’s rough surfaces to find a handhold, but the rest of the discomfort was the first effects of the
dropping pressure.  He closed his eyes tightly, and clamped his mouth shut, remembering the ferocious burning
sensation that had accompanied his last spacing.   He felt the need to exhale building in his chest as the
surrounding atmosphere was expelled and knew he was almost out of time.  His hands were going numb; he
could feel them starting to slip off his precarious hold.  

It was better to get rid of the rest his breath, the vacuum would only try to rip it out anyway.  He used his last
gasp to call the one person he wanted to talk to the most.  “Aeryn …”  He wanted to tell her that he loved her,
but his lungs were empty and his fingers released their grip.

*  *  *  *  *

The pod arced smoothly around Moya’s spreading midsection and eased in under her belly, slowing as they
searched for the figure Pilot had told them was now floating free.  

“There, Aeryn.  THERE!”  D’Argo pointed, standing close behind her and lining his finger up in her field of
vision.  She didn’t say anything, but the pod leapt forward like a startled flibbisk.  D’Argo used the acceleration
to propel him to the rear of the cockpit, passing into the rear of the pod and latching the inner hatch securely.  

Aeryn wanted to count microts in her head, checking the amount of time John was spaced, but she forced
herself to concentrate on the task of bringing the rear hatch of the pod as close as possible to the floating
human.  She could see that he had clamped his hands across his face, a futile protection for the blood vessels
that would be bursting under the absence of all air pressure.  She eased past him and maneuvered the pod
upward.  “Now, D’Argo.  He should be just outside the hatch right now.”  

*  *  *  *  *

“John.  Time to wake up.”  The voice was calm and insistent, beckoning him to join her.  

He looked up into Zhaan’s serene face.  “Hey, Blue.  What are you doing here?”  He sat up and swung his legs
over the edge of a bed.  He didn’t recognize his surroundings, but her chanting bell for the Seek was nearby,
and he could smell the rich mélange of herbs and incense that had always filled her chamber.  

She laughed the warm, rippling laugh that always made him feel like she was his foster mother.  “John, what are
YOU doing here?”  

“I came to see you, Zhaan.  I’ve been wanting to … talk with you.”  He suddenly couldn’t bring himself to look at
her.  He knew that he didn’t really want to talk to her.  He wanted to hear her tell him that it was all right, that
she understood and forgave him.  But it was more than he had any right to expect.  

“John, do you really think there is anything you need to say to me, that I don’t already know?”    Zhaan had
always been so aware of his moods and his needs.  Almost to the end.  Right up until she had told him that his
failure had cost Moya and Pilot their lives.  It hadn’t been his fault that the wormhole serpent had chased him
and Aeryn.  It hadn’t been his fault.  

But it was his fault that Zhaan hadn’t survived.  And now he was sitting next to her, and he still couldn’t say it.  
She leaned up against him and laid her cheek on his shoulder, just as she had one day when they had been
stranded in the transport pod.  It had been Zhaan who had confided in him that day.  Now it needed to be the
other way around.  

“I miss all of you,” she spoke first, breaking the long silence.  Her simple statement was an invitation to his
answer.    

“We miss you, Zhaan.”  Hot burning wetness threatened to escape from his eyes, and he couldn’t breathe
around the thick lump in his throat.  “Some of us …” he stopped and took a deep breath.  “I still need you.  I
didn’t realize how often I was coming to you for …” he broke off again and roughly palmed the moisture from his
eyes.  

“Is that why you came here, John?”  The comfortable weight left his shoulder, and Zhaan moved further away
from him.  He didn’t want her to leave.  Not again.  “You came here to seek my guidance again.  Don’t you think
you’ve moved beyond that point?”  

“I try to follow my own counsel, but it’s lousy advice.  I keep making bad decisions.”  There was more for him to
say, but the words stuck in his throat.

“John Crichton.”  It was more than his name.  She somehow made it into a statement of everything that he was,
weakness and strength all in one bundle.  “Our path in life doesn’t always lead us to the places we want to go.  
That doesn’t mean that we should abandon the route.  When I took up the Seek again, it was my hope to have
enough time journeying toward enlightenment that I might be deserving enough to meet my Goddess.  I thought
it would take cycles of prayer and meditation.  My path led me to a point that revealed that it only took one
moment and one action to find my place in her realm.”  

“When you went on the other ship,” he said tiredly.  

“No.  When I chose to bring Aeryn Sun back for the love of one other person.  When I saw there was a way to
touch more than one life with the salvation of just one soul.”  Somehow he knew that the soul she was referring
to was not that of Aeryn Sun, but his instead.  The responsibility settled on him more heavily.  

“Zhaan, I can’t do this anymore.  I just can’t keep on fighting like this.”  The tears streaked down his cheeks at
last.  

Zhaan took his head in both of her hands, but did not lean her forehead against his.  She merely stared into his
eyes with intensity, and forced him to look directly at her at last.  He was uncomfortable at first, but began to
relax when he was warmed by her most confident smile.  “Then you would choose to abandon Aeryn?”  

“Never!”  He shook his head against her hands to emphasize his commitment.  

“Would you leave Moya and Pilot to fend for themselves?  You would let sweet D’Argo fall prey to his own
passions and impulses?  If Rygel or Chiana needed you, would you turn away and ignore their needs?”  She
released him and waited for his answer.  

“No, none of those.”  He wiped his face dry again, not ashamed in front of Zhaan, but embarrassed by his own
weakness.  “But I turned …”  He looked away from her again.  It took all of his strength, but he finally blurted it
out, “but I turned away from YOU when you needed me most!”  His voice cracked.

It was too much like the other person he had abandoned in her need.  He had twice forsaken someone as they
were dying.  He couldn’t have saved the first one, but he’d discarded a chance to save Zhaan.  The twin
treacheries ate at him, burrowing into the core of his being.  

“We are nothing if not the product of our upbringing and our cultures, John.  You can be nothing more than the
person you are, and that’s all anyone should expect of you.  Including yourself.  Don’t ask more of yourself than
you can give.”  He could smell the clean, sweet fragrance of her, like the mixture of scents on a mild fall day.  
He let himself be calmed, his emotions slowly coming back under control.  Then she continued, “Gentle,
innocent Crichton.”  

“Not so innocent anymore, Zhaan.”  He tried to turn it into a laugh, but it came out a sob.  

“Yes.  Only an innocent allows himself to take on more responsibility than he really deserves to carry.  Given
time you can learn not to take possession of the emotions that don’t belong to you.  But the day you accomplish
that is the day you will cease to be John Crichton.”

“I’m not so sure I want to be that person anymore.”  He felt the weight of her soul sitting on his shoulders
instead of next to him.  He was convinced that this was the one burden that he had not taken on by mistake.  

“It has gotten you this far, John, don’t abandon what has helped you survive.  You can change the small pieces
without giving up that basic quality that makes you uniquely yourself.”  

Unique, unique, unique.  The words bounced around in his mind.  “Unique isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”  The
statement slipped out without thinking, an emotional reaction that didn’t belong in his conversation with Zhaan.  

“There have been moments when none of us would have survived without the unique qualities of the others.  
Together we are stronger than we would be working alone.  We proved that when we saved Pilot and Moya
from Neeyala and her ship.  It was our special abilities working together that finally overcame our problems.  If
any piece had been missing, the solution wouldn’t have worked.  We needed everyone … even you, John.”

She gave him some time to consider her words, then continued before he could argue with her.  “Be patient,
give yourself time.  The guidance you seek will come from within, but you must be patient.  The others need you
more than ever now … just as much as you need them.”

He looked at her and saw no accusations, no blame, no second thoughts about her final moments.  There was
still the last festering wound in his heart that said that it was still his fault that they had ever gotten into such
serious trouble, but he could live with that remaining pain now.  A portion of the tension and hurt flowed out of
him, and he felt every microt of sleep he had missed.  

He was suddenly so tired it was almost too much effort to even breathe, and his head spun in one lazy
wandering circle.  He eased back on to the bed where they were sitting.  She took his hand in hers and he
could still feel it as he drifted off to sleep.  

*  *  *  *  *   

“D’Argo, is he in?   Do you have him?”  Aeryn’s voice shook with the strain of not knowing.  She had been so
angry at him just four days ago, frustrated to the point that she didn’t know if she could ever trust him again.  
She found in this single instant that she could forgive him for every action he had taken, right or wrong.  His
single-minded fixation with wormholes had gotten them into that hideous situation, but that was the John
Crichton she had come to love, and she didn’t want to change who he was or how he behaved.  He just HAD to
be alive.  

“We’re in, Aeryn, but he’s not breathing.”  D’Argo voice delivered the worst news possible.  

“Pilot, deploy the docking web and bring us in.”  Aeryn threw the controls for the thrusters into their idle power
setting and boosted herself out of the chair.  The inner hatch opened before she could reach it and D’Argo
stepped out of the way.  She scrambled through and went down on both knees next to John’s inert body.  

“How long was it, D’Argo?  How long do you think he was out there?”  She put her ear to his chest, but all she
could hear was her own pulse pounding out of control.  She tried putting her hand on his neck instead, and felt
a small flutter beneath her fingers.  

“Fifty, maybe sixty microts … I’m not certain, Aeryn.”  He was standing over her now, waiting for her to tell him
what to do.  

Aeryn tried to remember what he had taught her but it had been so long ago, and her worry was clogging her
thinking.  His heart was still beating, or at least it was trying to, so he didn’t need the chest part.  She just
needed to do the breathing to provide oxygen to his system.  

She carefully tilted his head back and wiped the blood away from around his mouth.  Small crimson trickles still
streamed from his nose and his ears, and a few droplets were leaking from beneath his eyelids.  That could be
taken care of later, she knew.  They had the equipment to repair the damage of burst capillaries and frozen
tissues.  He’d survived this before; he simply had to survive it again.  She would accept nothing less.  

*  *  *  *  *

Crichton could feel the warm rush of air forcing itself into his chest.  He had no desire to bother with the trouble
of breathing.  He was too tired, and he wanted to sink back into the warm place where he had found Zhaan.  
Another effortless expansion of lungs and ribs.  It was disturbing his sleep, taking him away from the quiet place
where his troubles existed but no longer plagued his every thought.  Someone was talking to him, attempting to
get his attention.    

“Frell you, Crichton.  Wake up.”  Unwanted breath was forced on him, his chest relaxing slowly.  “I’m sick and
tired of you letting me do all the hard things.”  Aeryn was accusing him.  It wasn’t fair.  Another rush of air.  He
did some of the hard things too.  Maybe he ought to talk to her.

Breath.  Small pressure against his chest.  “His heart is still beating.”  Soft warm lips upon his, but not a kiss.  
He considered his options carefully.  Another not-kiss.  Sweet and pleasant just the same.  Warm transfer of life
from her to him.  He suddenly knew what she was doing, and didn’t have the energy to care.  He knew where to
find the peace now, and turned toward it, leaving Aeryn to solve the other problems.    

The next breath was seasoned with the taste of salt tears.  “Zhaan gave her life to bring me back to you.  You
can’t just leave now!  FIGHT!”  Zhaan.  He remembered.  Deep lurch of grief.  More salt laden air.  The anger
and pain was manageable now, but Aeryn’s accusation struck straight to his heart.  He had to deny it, had to
tell her that she was wrong.  He took a deep breath so he could tell Aeryn that he wouldn’t do that.  He wouldn’t
desert the gift he had been given.  He would try one more time, he thought.  

“Aeryn, I’m here.”  The single breath hurt more than he could have imagined.  The statement was worth it.  For
Zhaan, he thought.   

“You bastard.”  Her words were harsh, but the tone was filled only with relief.  He was lifted a little, and he knew
his head was in her lap, her arms around him as he coughed and gasped and fought to breathe on his own.  
He would fight a little longer … for Aeryn.  


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