Woggles
Written for the colllaborative series, "The Aeryn Years".
Disclaimer:  The characters and vision of Farscape belong to Henson Co., and the Sci-Fi Channel.  If they
want me to stop writing stories, then they need to keep these folks locked up.  This time Aeryn started talking to
me in the car and I almost drove into a telephone pole.  
Summary:  Aeryn, one young son, mud.  It’s a familiar story to any parent.   

Note to the reader:  This was actually the second of two stories I wrote for the “Aeryn Years” collection.  I’d
already written ‘Warm Welcome’, which occurs after this one according to Farscape Chronology, when I read
aeryncrichton’s exceptionally powerful ‘Guilt’.  ‘Woggles’ was written to deliberately play into ‘Guilt’, and came
about in part because of an event involving my then four-year-old nephew and a bowl of spaghetti and sauce.

Kids and messy things … they’re funnier than most things on the planet, and make me exceptionally glad that
I’m not a parent.     

*  *  *  *  *

Aeryn stood up and stretched, easing the tight muscles in her back.  She shaded her eyes against the summer
sun and scanned the fields for the boys.  Cerric was working several rows over, contentedly crouched among
the plants, chatting with their neighbor as they plucked the ripened vegetables from the stalks.  She scanned
methodically but couldn’t see either of her sons moving among the plants.  

She wasn’t alarmed as she continued checking the landscape; there were few dangers on their Favored
Planet.  It was only her cautious reserve that urged her to check on their adventures periodically.   She finally
spotted Rhys running toward the gardens, hair looking golden-red in the angling sunlight.  She waved to him
and beckoned, still looking for his younger brother.  

Rhys swung around the corner before entering the garden, jogging along the row but taking care not to brush
against the fragile leaves of the plants.  Aeryn was still scanning for her youngest, but was somewhat relieved
that he hadn’t arrived with his brother.  John had a tendency to cut across the gardens with little regard to the
direction of the furrows, leaving a path of destruction in his wake.  The six year old’s sturdy legs seemed to
carry him into trouble at twice the pace of his older brother.  

“Hello, Mum!”  Rhys called when he got closer.  “Where’s Da?”  Aeryn pointed at Cerric’s bowed head.  The two
men had stopped moving and were deep in a conversation, no doubt discussing something as fascinating as
crop fertilization or the correct way to rid the plants of skelta bugs.  Aeryn was glad that they had come to a
stop in order to talk, perhaps Cerric wouldn’t need to expound on his theories this evening.  She had learned to
enjoy the physical labor that gardening demanded, but his endless discussion of growing methods tended to
bore her.

She turned back to Rhys who was waiting patiently.  “Where’s your brother?  I asked you to stay together if you
left the gardens.”  Aeryn had been trying to use his steadier behavior to influence John, to get him to pay more
attention to what was going on around him.  The child seemed to charge through life chasing the ideas in his
head, sometimes oblivious to the rest of the world.  

Rhys started drifting toward his father as he answered.  “We were exploring near the pond, but I couldn’t get
him to come back.  I got bored, but I think he’s still down there.”  

Aeryn felt a surge of annoyance.  She had told him to look after John, and the pond was one of the few hazards
in the vicinity of their home.  John hadn’t learned how to swim yet.  She looked at the thirteen year old and
pushed the anger back down.  He was as steady as his father, placid almost, and did his best when it came to
protecting his brother.  His body was taking on the angular form of an adult, but he was still only a boy, and
deserved to make a child’s mistakes.  

“Tell your father I’m going to look for John.  I’ll be back as soon as I find him.”  Rhys waved and nodded, then
he squatted down between the older men and began listening to their conversation.  

*  *  *  *  *

Aeryn walked down the slope to the pond looking for the blue shirt she knew he’d been wearing.  It would stand
out against the colors of nature faster than any other feature her eye could detect.  John was no where to be
seen, and she moved a little faster.  

“John!” she called, feeling the first quiet pang of concern.  She reached the edge of the water and found the
jumble of footprints in the mud.  She scanned in both directions and chose the one where a single line of small
footprints led off toward the tall rushes growing in the shallows.  

She called his name again, knowing that when his inquisitive mind became completely absorbed in what he was
doing he would shut out everything around him, even her shouting.  She heard splashing and veered toward
the noise.  John waded out of the tall weeds and looked around, brightening when he saw her.  

“Mum, come look!”  He beckoned to her and disappeared back into the thicket.  

“John, come out of there right now!” she commanded.  She stopped at the very edge of the grass and tried to
see where he’d entered the plants.  The dense wall of stalks seemed undisturbed and there wasn’t even the
briefest flash of blue.  

“Come look.  This is fastnading.”  John’s disembodied voice floated from somewhere inside the gently waving
mass of rushes.  He had learned the new word only three days ago, and everything in his life was suddenly
‘fascinating‘.  

“I am not coming in there after you, John.  Now get out here immediately.”  The tone had always worked with his
brother, but she suspected it was about to be put to the test.  Miraculously he appeared, with a frown on the
verge of tears.  He wiped one wet hand across his eyes and she could see him struggling not to cry.  

“But I found something.  I want to show you,” he argued, still not quite crying but getting closer.  Both hands
pushed his hair out of his eyes and he looked up at her, pleading.  Aeryn looked at her disappointed son, saw
the light eyes and dark hair, the love of everything new around him, and lost the battle.  She tried hard not to
think of the man who had possessed the same bounding energy when it came to anything new, and lost that
struggle as well.  

Aeryn slid her boots off and rolled up the bottoms of her pants.  She waded gingerly into the water, the muck
oozing between her toes and cringed at the sensation.  She saw something out of the corner of her eye and
looked down to discover the bottom of her loose tunic trailing in the greenish scum floating on the surface.  She
sighed and gathered the damp folds, tucking them into her belt.  There were only two people in this universe
who could ever get her to do something she disliked this much, and they both accomplished it with disarming
ease.  

John was waiting for her, bouncing a little in excitement, cloudy water rippling in all directions.  He was wet to his
chest, and his pants were hanging heavy with the weight of the water and mud that covered him to his waist.  
He reached out to take her hand and led his mother into the rushes.  He found a spot that looked no different
than all the rest and squatted into the water, pointing at the bases of the plants.  

“See?  They’re fixing the plant.”  Aeryn leaned in close to see where he was pointing.  He was watching tiny
underwater creatures swarming around the rigid shafts of the rushes.  

“Aren’t they eating the plant, John?” she challenged.  She knew the right answer.  She just wanted to see what
he would say.  

“No, they’re not,” he announced firmly.  “I’ve been checking.  They got out and now they’re fixing it.”  She
watched as he poked at the miniscule workers, disrupting their efforts.   He was right.  The kriltz hatched inside
the plants where it was safe, and fed on the shaft until they could break out.  But the plants were their breeding
ground, so when they began feeding on the other matter in the pond, they brought back detritus and repaired
their damage.  But John hadn’t been taught this yet.

“I found something else, but Rhys said it was boring.”  His disgust at his older brother’s lack of interest left her
struggling not to laugh.  

“Show me what you found,” she encouraged him.  Aeryn waited as he searched through his clothes, looking for
something of great importance.  She felt her pant legs letting go their loosely rolled restriction and tried to catch
them, but they flopped into the water before she could grab the gathers.  

John laughed, “Now you look like me, Mum.”  He reached inside his shirt and pulled out his offering.  “A four
legged pond woggle!”  She drew back from the amphibian and it leapt off his hand at her.  Aeryn dodged the
slippery creature and it disappeared into the muddy water with a quiet slurp.  She got ready for a tantrum over
the lost pet, but he looked at the ripples with calm indifference.  

“That’s okay.  I’ve got more in my shoes.”  Aeryn looked down where his legs disappeared into the water and
shuddered slightly.  Not even John would do that.  Would he?  

“You have more WHAT in your shoes?”  She looked at him sternly, trying to cover up an increasing desire to
laugh.  He looked up at her and grinned, the light hazel eyes almost obscured by the dark hair falling over his
eyebrows.  The stray thought occurred to her that her son needed a haircut.  The mischief in that expression
looked nothing like Cerric.  It wasn’t the first time she had caught herself seeing someone else in her son’s
smile.  Aeryn suddenly felt lonely.  

“I don’t have woggles in my shoes on my FEET!”  His peel of laughter was infectious and she found herself
grinning like a fool, the sorrow disappearing in a flash.  

“Then show me what you do have,” she encouraged him.  “Come on, let’s go.”  He turned and led the way
through the muck, happily splashing toward shore.  He stopped near the edge and she found his work shoes
submerged just to the tops, each filled with a collection of the immature forms of the amphibians he liked to
catch.  John went down on his knees to point, and Aeryn squatted beside him.  She had sunk to her ankles in
the soft mud, and found it strangely relaxing as he explained his discovery.      

“These are two-legged woggles,” he pointed to one shoe.  “And they breathe under water.  And these are
almost four-legged woggles, and they breathe like us.”  He turned one of the round little creatures over in his
hands and examined the emerging limbs.  He handed it to her absently and extracted another one from a
shoe.  Aeryn let the woggle slither out of her hands and wiped the slimy moisture on her pants.  “Did we ever
breathe under water, Mum?  We only have two legs.”  John turned the shoes over carefully and released his
round little captives.  They raced in their wriggling manner into the weeds.    

Aeryn was saved by a shout from Cerric.  She looked up the grassy slope and saw him walking toward them.  
“Is everything all right?  You’ve been gone for ages.”

“Hi, Da!”  John scrambled out of the pond in a shower of mud, and ran to meet his father.  Aeryn wiped a few
drops off her face, picked up his shoes and went to retrieve her own footwear.  “Da, can I have a ride?”  

John was holding his hands toward his father, asking to be swung up to ride on Cerric’s shoulders.  Woggles
were forgotten in his next rush into the world.  He loved to ride high on his father’s shoulders, directing their
progress from his raised viewpoint.  A short walk could become an afternoon’s chore if they took the route John
laid out for them.  

But this time Cerric was shaking his head, looking stern as he examined the dripping child.  “John, look at what
you’ve done to your clothes.”  

“Mum looks the same,” he tried to divert attention.  Aeryn caught Cerric’s eye and saw that he was about to
start laughing.  Discipline would evaporate if they couldn’t control themselves.  She tried to redirect their focus.  

“Where’s Rhys?” she asked as she walked to greet him.  

“He stayed to help with the picking.”  Cerric had relented to the point of swinging John in circles, holding the
giggling boy by his wrists.  Aeryn backed up as drops flew from the soaked pants, and watched the two
spinning, gradually working their way across the grass.  He finally brought John back to the ground and
staggered a little until his head stopped spinning along with his body.  John seemed unaffected and was off like
a shot again, an un-aimed projectile flashing for a moment in the sun.    

“It’s getting late,” she observed.  “Let’s find Rhys and go home.”  Aeryn slid an arm around her husband’s waist
and gave him a hug.  He was a good man, she couldn’t have asked for a better father for their children.  Cerric
steadied her as she pulled on her boots, damp feet going in slowly.  She looked up and found John stationary
for once, staring up into the sky.  She followed his gaze and saw the hawks soaring on the late afternoon
thermals, spiraling ever higher.   “Come on, John.  Time to go get cleaned up.”  

She started up the gentle hill, Cerric’s arm around her, looking back to make sure John was paying attention.  
He was still staring into the sky.  “John!  Come on, it’s time to go home.”  He broke free of his fixation and ran to
catch up.  

“Swing me, Da?”  He jogged between them until they grabbed a hand a piece and swung him along as they
walked.  He kicked his legs out and they swung him higher each time until he was shrieking with laughter.  

“Fly me, Mum, fly me higher!”  


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