(First posted August 8, 2002)
Disclaimer: They don’t belong to me. I offer my gratitude to the creators for letting me play with them from time
Spoilers: This takes place after “I Shrink Therefore I Am”.
Procreation: No, this isn’t about Aeryn’s pregnancy. I meant ‘why I wrote this’. My offering last night
(“Worship”) seemed to turn out a bit darker than I intended. I was mowing the lawn this morning, which always
results in a wandering mind and wandering rows, and Aeryn popped in asking for a slightly lighter view. This is
the story she told me. (Which will work until tomorrow’s episode.) Pardon any typos, I was kind of in a hurry.
Note to the reader: This is what happens whenever I mow the lawn. My brain wants out of doing the
yardwork and begins coming up with stories. The section above labeled “Procreation” was posted along with
the story when it first appeared, and when I said I wrote this in a hurry, I wasn’t kidding. It got written on a
Thursday afternoon, and the premise lasted exactly as long as I predicted it would … until Friday’s episode
aired (so we're talking about 30 arns ... er .. hours before it got run over by canon).
* * * * *
She always seemed to have spare time on her hands now. Aeryn had never realized how much of her time in
the past cycles had disappeared into arn-long conversations with John until his presence was no longer tucked
alongside her like the comfortable weight of her pulse pistol. Talking with Pilot absorbed only just so much time,
and wandering the tiers consumed a bit more, but that left the same empty gap in each solar day. She’d finally
taken to sitting in the main corridor on Tier Seven. It gave her time to think -- mostly about hoping he’d pass by
and exchange some small comment that might turn into the opening through which they could establish the
beginning of a new relationship.
Aeryn pushed herself to her feet and wandered in the direction of the Center Chamber. It was pathetic to wait
for him, she decided. She was acting like some sort of besotted menial waiting for her latest crush to happen
by. The chances were equally good that she’d run into John if she just wandered around Moya long enough.
Although it would be more effective, asking Pilot to find him for her was out of the question. John had made it
very clear that talk alone wasn’t going to resolve anything, but he hadn’t told her what act of contrition she’d
have to perform to break down his mistrust.
The constant grumbles from her stomach told her that she’d skipped one meal too many, and she’d have to
convince the old woman to give her something to eat. Noranti had treated her with cool distain at first, and had
completely ignored her presence since she’d knocked her senseless the first day of their reunion aboard Moya.
Unless John was in the room.
Then the woman would simper and laugh, prancing around him like a courtesan, lifting her skirts to move
quickly between them. Aeryn frowned in annoyance, the mere memory of the gliding figure shouldering her
away from John enough to make her want to hit the woman again.
She stopped for a microt, and then moved more slowly as she approached the open door to the Center
Chamber, hearing the low rumble of John’s voice and the faster, more excitable tones of Noranti. He laughed
shortly, the humorless bark that seemed to have taken over his life recently. Aeryn thought of his all too rare
chuckle and felt the sharp pang of regret in her stomach, muscling all hunger aside. She paced forward more
quietly, stepping with care to the edge of the door to watch before disturbing them.
John sat on the edge of the table, looking down at his hands. The old woman rubbed his shoulders
possessively, then leaned alongside him and with a deft motion scattered dust in his face. Aeryn started to
move forward, an angry objection on her lips, but John jerked once then looked up with a smile of delight. That
was the look she’d waited to see for so many long days and nights, and could no longer generate. Aeryn
shifted her weight back onto her rear foot, preparing to leave them to their distractions, then froze as Noranti
moved around the table.
John got to his feet, and she slid into his arms. They began to dance, whirling around the chamber, her faded
skirts billowing out as they spun, looking blissful and pleased. John’s eyes were closed to slits, his head tilted
slightly to one side as he smiled into the beaming, wrinkled face, pulling her closer as they moved around the
heating unit to spin into the open area in the center of the floor once more. Aeryn gnawed at her lower lip,
debating whether she should go forward or retreat, uncertain exactly why John was letting this happen. She
finally settled on leaving them alone with their odd, silent dance, and turned away.
“You are so radiant,” he said behind her. “I love you.” Aeryn spun around, afraid he had seen her and was
mocking her as retaliation for her spying. John had lowered his head to face the beaming, wrinkled face, but
his eyes were closed now. He was seeing something else other than Noranti’s aged features, and Aeryn was
suddenly enraged. She stood and shook with anger, her hand pressing down on the butt of the pulse pistol,
teetering on the thin edge of an explosion. John spun Noranti around once more, and then stumbled. The old
woman pulled away from him quickly, using his reaching hands to guide him back to his seat on the table.
Aeryn turned and hurried away from the chamber, certain that he was about to come out of his drug-induced
visit to some other time and place. She hurried toward the Den to ask Pilot to locate D’Argo, a plan for revenge
forming rapidly in her mind.
* * * * *
It took two entire solar days before the sequence of events she needed, and one surprise revelation, all fell into
place. Aeryn smiled with satisfaction as she ran headlong through the corridors, following a chirping DRD, to
get to the Center Chamber in time. She skidded to a halt while the DRD reconnoitered for her, then bolted
inside the empty room when it squealed and sailed away.
“Thank you, Pilot,” she said shortly and closed her comms. She chose a dark corner and folded herself onto a
seat, trying to look as if she’d been there for arns.
It was barely one hundred microts, and hardly enough time to regain her breath, before John walked quickly
into the chamber and looked around. “Granny?” he called, then spun around to leave.
“She’s busy doing something else right now,” Aeryn said calmly. “Did you want something to eat?” She picked
up some sort of plant from the center of the table and waved its leafy greenery at him.
“Uhh, no. She had something I meant to get from her earlier. I’ll find her later. Thanks, Aeryn.” He wandered
closer, looking uncertain. “You just sitting in here?”
“No. I thought I might be able to talk to you if I waited here long enough.” She held her fist out toward him,
fingers down, and waited silently. John looked puzzled, but eventually reached out and placed his palm under
hers. She dropped the nut-like bulb into his hand. “That’s what you wanted from the old woman. Isn’t it?”
John licked his lips, turning the bulb over and over in his fingers. “You took this out of my quarters, didn’t you?
You stole it.”
The obviously mindless accusation was so unbelievable that her self-control snapped, anger flaring inside.
Aeryn jumped to her feet and headed for the door, glancing back once to make sure he knew she was angry.
John hadn’t moved. He was standing with one thigh leaning against the edge of the table, with something very
much like hunger in his expression as he stared at the bulb in his fingers. Anger at John shifted, mutating into
another hot surge of fury aimed at Noranti.
She drifted slowly back toward him, unseen by the eyes that were fixed on the betrayer’s gift. “Not everything I
do is meant to hurt you, John,” she said quietly. He jumped, noticing her return for the first time. “One of the
DRDs found it in the maintenance hangar last night.”
“And you came charging up here to confront me. It’s my life, Aeryn.” He pushed away from the table and
started to leave, his fist closed tightly around his possession.
She stepped in front of him, blocking his way. “The DRD took it to Pilot, who recognized it, and notified D’Argo,
because he is now captain. D’Argo knew what it was immediately, but no one was sure who it belonged to at
that point.” The struggle to maintain an even, unemotional voice was making it difficult to remember everything
she wanted to say. “John, D’Argo knew about it because the Luxans use the distillate when a battle is
“So?” The muscles in his jaw bunched as he clamped it shut, as obstinate as ever. The familiar expression
reassured her that the John Crichton she loved was still very much in residence within that body.
“You don’t understand?” she asked cautiously.
“They use it so dying doesn’t frighten them so much. That seems reasonable.” He stepped to one side, trying
to go around her.
“They use it before they go into a battle that cannot be won, because hyper-rage is more effective and lasts
longer if they don’t remember the families they will leave behind, and aren’t distracted by thoughts of love and
caring. They have, on occasion, managed to reverse tactically impossible situations this way, but always at a
horrible cost. D’Argo approached me about it first, thinking I had been using it, but I suggested that perhaps
Noranti had given it to you.” He turned away from her and went to sit in one of the dark corners, pulling one
knee up to his chest. “She did, didn’t she?”
John shrugged. “It helps.”
“Not in the long run.” She went to sit near him, choosing a seat a little more than a motra away. Not too close to
him. “What do I have to do, John? You said come back when I got my story straight. What do you want from
me?” He shrugged again, rubbing at his temple. “Do you want me to break my promises? I’m not certain how
that will convince you or anyone else that I can be trusted.”
“There are too many pieces missing Aeryn. I don’t know how you can trust Scorpius, I don’t know where you’ve
been or what you’ve been doing, I don’t really know why you changed your mind or why you came back. You’ve
given me nothing.” He shifted the bulb from one tightly clenched fist into the other, then rubbed his other
temple with the freed hand.
She considered it, tumbling the different possibilities around in her mind. “All right. Part of the reason I trust
Scorpius to do what he says he’ll do, is because before I agreed to argue on his behalf, he promised me that
he would take the clone out of your mind. I’m the one who told him that Harvey was in there.”
“You did that,” he said. He was shaking his head, looking disappointed.
“What was wrong with that? Please don’t tell me you wanted to keep him in there.” Her throat tightened at the
prospect that he would have wanted to retain the clone; breathing became a struggle.
“No, I didn’t,” John admitted. “But you have to understand that the entire time you were off doing whatever you
were doing,” he made a frustrated gesture, “the only people I had to talk to were the Pilot-poster-child for
AARP, a miniature version of Herby the Love Bug, and Harvey. He was far from my first choice for a cellmate,
Aeryn, but at least he stuck around.”
The sliding glance out of the side of his eyes to see her reaction was the only thing that prevented her from
storming out of the chamber that instant. Aeryn sat rigidly still, remembering why she had arranged this
confrontation, and letting her concern for John override her anger a second time. “Not nice,” she finally
answered, her tone making it clear that she was referring to his cruel comparison. John shrugged again.
“Do you want him back? I’m sure Scorpius can put him back in if you’d like.”
“I didn’t say that. What made you think I’d be in such a hurry to yank him out? Or maybe Scorpius wanted him
out for some reason.” He raised his eyebrows, jerking his head at her to ask if she’d taken that into account.
“I knew you’d want him out because I saw the look on John Crichton’s face when he had his mind to himself for
the first time in cycles,” she said with force.
“No, he isn’t!” she yelled, banging her fist down on the table. It had the effect she wanted. John straightened
up from his careless slump and began paying more attention to her. “There is only one John Crichton as far as
I’m concerned. There never was more than one. He was a bit …” she searched for a word, “spread around,
but there was only one.” John bit his lower lip, then finally nodded. “Is that enough for a start?”
“For a start,” he agreed. Some of the tension left his body. “What do you want from me now?”
“What will it take for you to stop using this?” She reached slowly for his wrist, forcing him to turn his fist over
and then waiting for him to open his tightly clenched fingers on his own.
“It helps,” he repeated. He stared intently as she took it out of his hand and placed it on the table.
“Then I’ll leave Moya if you want me to. If that’s what it takes.” She waited, all sound except the thump of her
heart fading as she waited for his answer. Time crawled, the pulse in her ears slowing to a muffled ‘tha --
thump’ as he rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand.
“No.” John shook his head. “I don’t want you to leave.” He looked into her eyes for the first time in days. “I
want you to stay, Aeryn.”
Time spooled out before her again, sound returning in a rush. His blue eyes didn’t waver as they looked at
each other. Aeryn let her breath out slowly, trying not to gasp with relief.
“I don’t really need to have this,” he asserted. John rolled the bulb about on the table with his finger. “It’s just
kind of nice from time to time.” His eyes wandered away from hers, crept back slowly.
“Then don’t use it for a while,” she suggested lightly. “Just to prove you don’t need it.” She tried to keep the
suggestion from becoming a challenge. If he felt pushed, she knew he’d get stubborn.
“Sure.” He slid it across to her. “How long is a while? I mean, how long to prove that I just use it when I want to
feel a little better.”
Aeryn considered the question. She hadn’t expected this part of the conversation to occur, and it was the one
piece they hadn’t mapped out in advance. “Pilot says we’ll cross out of the Uncharted Territories and into the
fringes of Tormented Space in five solar days. How about five days?”
“Until Friday. No problem.” He was staring at the bulb laying next to her fingertips.
“Five days was a work week on Earth. Friday was the last day of the work week, and after that we had two days
to do what we wanted and have fun. So … until Friday.”
“That sounds good,” she agreed, pleased to have his Earth-based nonsense rattling around her again. She
fingered up the drugs and tucked them into her pocket, watching his gaze follow her movements. John rubbed
his temple again. “John, look at me. Please.” He redirected his attention willingly. His eyes were bloodshot and
seemed a bit unfocussed. “How long have you been using the lahka?”
“I don’t know.” He scratched lightly at his cheekbone. “A while. She gave it to me after Chiana and I had that
problem with the game.”
“Do you have a headache?” He nodded, rubbing an eye. “How many of these things did she give you?”
“I lost track.” He seemed distracted now, but not annoyed by her probing.
“How much have you used, John? How often? Twice a day? Three times? Four?” He shrugged, starting to
look uncomfortable. “More?”
“Sometimes.” He scratched at the back of his neck.
“Oh, John,” Aeryn sighed. She got up and went to stand behind him, rubbing the back of his neck with both
thumbs. “You’ve already started withdrawal.” He jumped when she touched him, but didn’t fight the massaging
fingers. “This is going to take a while.”
“We’ll have to find out how much Noranti gave you. Probably about,” she gave him a small shove against his
shoulders, “five days.” He shook his head. Aeryn activated her comms, then called,
“Can you get Noranti for us? She’s got John addicted.”
A hiss of anger ripped through the comms. “I’ll head right out. Is everything else all right?”
Aeryn was working her thumbs into his neck again, while John had begun rubbing his forehead almost
non-stop. “Everything but that. I’ll make sure he gets back to his quarters.”
“I’ll let you know after I’ve talked to that witch,” the deep voice growled over the comms. “Which will be right
before I kill her.”
“Is this going to be bad?” John mumbled.
“Define bad.” She wanted to laugh at his dejected slump. The relief that he was talking to her again washed all
other concerns out of her mind.
“Bad. As in, this is going to hurt, isn’t it?”
“No, but hurting might be preferable to what is going to happen. Let’s just say that if you had a ship that we
could fly only if we had your DNA, we’re looking at having a five year supply here soon.”
She did laugh that time, the only reaction possible as he began shaking his head and muttering, “oh frell oh
frell oh frell” into his hands. John finally raised his head, staring blindly at the wall in front of him. “You must
think I’m an idiot,” he said. He sounded angry again.
Aeryn took another firm hold on her own temper, reminding herself that the first effects of withdrawal were very
likely already making him uncomfortable, and therefore belligerent. She pulled the lahka distillate out of her
pocket, examining it as she answered. “There is no way you could have know what this poison would do to
you. It’s not your fault.” She tossed it accurately into the waste funnel. It spun around the bowl once and
dropped down the pipe, pinging and rattling for several microts before the sound disappeared completely.
“Why don’t you go to your quarters? You’re going to want to be there most of the next few days.”
John pushed himself to his feet, nodding. “Thank you, Aeryn.” He walked unsteadily toward the door, looking a
“John?” He turned, waiting silently. “Would it be all right if I stayed with you through this? Just to help get you
things, and maybe to talk when you’re feeling up to it?” The tension wasn’t as bad as when she’d asked him if
he wanted her to leave Moya, but she knew that in some respects, this answer was almost more important.
A small smile appeared, the first glimmer of the beaming grin she’d come to miss. “That would be kind of nice,”
he admitted, and waited for her. “Maybe just a start.”
“We’ll take it one step at a time.” She tried not to skip in excitement as she moved to be beside him.
“Start with the next five days and then see what happens,” he agreed.
“Until friday,” she tried the new word. He nodded again.
Aeryn started to put her arm around his waist to help him but John pulled away from her. She swallowed hard
against the sudden lump in her throat. It was just the first step after all, she reminded herself. It was too much
to expect. He was asking her something. She shook herself mentally and tried to listen. “What?” she finally
had to ask.
“D’Argo said he’d go get Noranti. Where is the old hag?”
“I wanted to talk to you without her butting in, so I asked the captain if he had any ideas how to get her out of
the way.” She took his hand, and pulled him back into the Center Chamber. “We came up with the idea
together.” John’s hand tightened around hers as they peered out of the viewport toward where she was
pointing. Three or four motras above them, Noranti floated peacefully outside Moya, tethered by a long cable
that was being slowly reeled in by D’Argo.
“Good place for her,” John growled. His look of angry satisfaction turned suddenly to one of alarm. “Urck.” He
belched softly. “Oh, brother. Let’s go. You’re sure you want to help with this? It’s not exactly the nicest way to
spend a week.”
“I’m sure.” He still wouldn’t let her slide under his arm, but he let her hold his hand all the way to his quarters,
and for a long time after that.
* ~ * ~ * ~* ~ *