Child Of The Night - Chapter 11

John was sleeping so peacefully Aeryn almost did not have the resolve to wake him.  Despite the constant
improvement in his condition, much of his rest continued to be disturbed by muscle cramps, pain, or the
delvians’ frequent adjustments to his healing nervous system.  It did not seem right to wake him deliberately.  
This particular morning he was burrowed into the pillow with a small lingering smile on his face, sleeping
soundly even after a full night’s undisturbed rest.  Her quiet movements around the room as she changed into
her own clothes did not break into his slumber, leaving Aeryn with the unpleasant task of waking him up in order
to tell him what they had all agreed had to be done … whether they liked it or not.  

“John,” she said softly.  

He took in a breath, let it out on the sort of sigh that only came from someone who was asleep, and then
squirmed further into the blankets, burying his face deeper into the pillow.  

“John, I need to talk to you.”  

“’ryn?”  His head came up, eyes half open as he struggled up from the depths.  He devoted several microts to
clearing his throat.  “Sure.  Whaddya need?”  He wriggled a bit, struggling to shift his upper body so he could
look at her.  She helped him turn onto his side, and then tugged another pillow under his head, taking some of
the strain off the recalcitrant muscles.  

“We need to leave this moon for a little while.  Moya and Pilot are concerned about some scans that have been
sweeping this part of the solar system.  We are going to go back aboard and make sure everything is all right.”  
Aeryn waited for any type of response, either verbal or physical, giving him time to first make sense of what she
had told him and then let her know he understood.  Anything but short statements strained his recovering
storehouse of terms.  

After several microts, John said, “H’okay.  Tha’s good.  I get t’ see M’ya.”  

“John.”  Aeryn took a deep breath, bracing herself for what had to be done.  “We have been discussing this
ever since Pilot commed us.  This sounds like real trouble, the type of trouble that always seems to find us.”  
She waited for comprehension to show on his face, mentally lecturing herself to be direct in order to get it over
with quickly.  “We think it would be best if you stay here with Meylan and the delvians until you’ve had more time
to get better.”  

“I want go wih you.  Won’ get in way,” he said, immediately resorting to lopping words out of his sentences in an
effort to get the thoughts out more quickly.  

“We are not worried about you getting in the way.  We know you won’t do that.  We are worried that you might
get hurt.”  She clipped off the word ‘again’ at the last instant.

“So I got stay wid Nice People?”  

“We think this would be best; it would be safest for all of us.”  Despite the reassurance, he did not look happy.  
Aeryn ran a thumb across the one eyebrow she could reach, shifting back to his temple to smooth his hair back
repeatedly, hoping it would calm him.  “We promise we will be back for you.  By then you will be able to walk and
take care of yourself.”  

John buried his face in the pillow, scrubbing down into the padding long enough that she suspected he was
crying.  

“Do you want the others to come say goodbye before we leave?” Aeryn asked.

He shook his head, mumbling into the pillow.  

“I couldn’t understand that,” she said.  “Come here and talk to me.”  

“I wan’ go wid you.”  Although John reappeared dry-eyed, the low-pitched guttural tone of his voice suggested
that his emotions were getting the best of him.  It quickly became apparent that his efforts to stay in control
were succumbing to his growing depression.  A look of mere anxiety shifted into sorrow, and from there it
transformed into a fully evolved version of the look he got when he was battling the type of fear generated by a
comprehensive lack of understanding.  He was about to say something more when Lorana entered the room.  
The priest glided forward with the distinctive delvian gait that was so smooth she seemed to float across the
short distance from the door to the bunk.  John looked up at her, face wiped clean of emotion.  

“We have promised your friends that you will be able to leap tall buildings at a single bounce by the time they
return.”  Lorana glanced at Aeryn, verifying that she had delivered the prepared phrase correctly.   

“I don’ need jump over houses.  Tha’s stupid.”  John rocked to one side, struggling to roll on to his back.  Aeryn
started to help him.  “Don’t!” he said angrily.  He continued his solitary battle, eventually giving up when his
body refused to cooperate.  “Fine.  I can’t care m’self.  Go.”  He let his muscles relax, allowing his body to sag
back onto the bunk so he was on his stomach again, and turned his head away from her.  “I be here.”  

“John --”  Aeryn wanted to hug him goodbye.  She wanted to find out if he remembered the gentle, spine
tingling kisses yet, wanted to feel the warmth of his body against hers before she left, and felt completely
incapable of asking him to let her turn him over as long as Lorana was standing there.  “We will be back soon.  I
promise.”  

She stopped at the door, close to relenting.  She looked back at the slender delvian standing over the
motionless figure buried under the thermal covers, discouraged that this would be the last memory she had of
him until they could return to the colony.  So many of their planned rendezvous’ had gone awry during the past
cycles; she could not rule out that it would not happen this time as well.  Her thoughts spiraled inward, devolving
into the single fear that they might not be able to get back to retrieve John as quickly as they had vowed.  He
would be stranded here until they returned, cut off from everything and everyone he had ever known, his mind
a perpetual blank without the reminders that would allow him to put his memories back together.

It was possible that she would return to find an entirely different person who was not interested in resuming his
life as John Crichton, mislaid astronaut.  There was no telling what the effect of being stranded in a delvian
community would have on the predominantly blank psyche.  If his memories were overwritten until they
consisted of little more than meditation and pursuit of the Delvian Seek, would he find Unity with like-minded
souls a more attractive future than being hounded across the galaxy by a variety of heartless, power-hungry
species?  That John loved her with ever fiber of his soul could never be called into question, but that might not
be enough to lure him away from an existence that enticed him with peace.  

Aeryn continued to hesitate, standing half in and half out of the door to his room.  In the end however, it was
John himself who convinced her to stick with her original decision.  It was the unnaturally still body, incapable of
getting out of bed or even rolling over on his own that convinced her that the decision to leave him behind was
the correct one.  He had survived an exceptional amount of abuse over the past several cycles.  This last
experience had very nearly been too much, and not just physically.  His grip on sanity was as yet too tenuous to
put him at risk of more violence.  It was during the first of what had become daily visits in the pool -- where John
could communicate with her without the hindrance of language getting in the way -- that she had come across a
highly unwelcome set of thoughts buried deep in John’s psyche.  

The quiet dreaming place continued to beckon to him.

He had done an admirable job of burying the longing.  It was only because they had inadvertently slipped into
Unity one afternoon that she had discovered the lingering desire to resume that senseless and yet relaxing
destruction of all rational thought.  The quiet dreaming place represented a new kind of freedom to him, one
that no instrument of torture could usurp.  Once enraptured in the blizzard of disorganized thoughts, there was
nothing to do except let the images flow around him and occasionally sleep.  There was no heartache, no pain,
no fear, and no confusion in the quiet dreaming place.  There was only a whirlwind of disjointed memories, and
the single requirement that he do absolutely nothing.  At this point he had no true desire to go back, that much
was clear.  But Aeryn feared that it might take something as little as knowing that Scorpius or the Peacekeepers
had located them to drive John into the arms of that unqualified safety.  John had to be protected long enough
for him to rebuild the strength to resist not only life’s tragedies, but the lure of the quiet dreaming place as
well.    

Lorana watched the silent, internal debate without commenting.  It was not until Aeryn gave a little nod,
reaffirming her original decision, that the Pa’u spoke.  “We will take very good care of John Crichton,” the priest
assured her.  

Aeryn gave a second nod, this time in response to Lorana’s reassuring smile, and hurried out the door before
she changed her mind.

                                                                              * * * * *

John listened to the footsteps fading down the hallway and remembered the clatter of a currency chip hitting the
floor.  His mind replayed the wobbling vibrations as a coin spun down and rattled to a stop.  He could not
remember when he had heard the noise before, but his depression swelled to fill his entire chest, increasing to
the point that he thought he might throw up.  Lorana was asking him if he needed anything.  The only thing he
needed was walking away from him wrapped in a promise he was not sure she could keep.    

“C’n I be ‘lone for while?” he asked.  

He was on the verge of crying again, feeling completely abandoned.  An isolated memory of hanging alone in
space rocketed into his mind, but even that did not carry the same feeling of desolation that was overwhelming
him now.  He turned his head, checking on the delvian.  She had left him alone as he had asked.  John
squirmed in the bunk, grunting with the effort that it took to get his torso rocked up on one side, panting harder
as he jerked one shoulder and arm repeatedly until the useless limb shifted across his ribs to slump onto the
mattress behind him.  His shoulders went with it, pulling him over on his back at last.  He did not care that it left
his legs and hips twisted uncomfortably.  He had rolled over on his own, and aside from being progress, it made
it easier to breathe.  

He considered his situation, free of the light-headedness that sometimes occurred when his anxiety demanded
more air than his lungs could normally provide.  He knew that the delvians would take care of him.  They smiled
and were kind to him, but they were strangers, not family.  There were no memories of them in the void that his
past had become.  When Aeryn and D’Argo and the others were around he could feel the connection to his
missing history, small bits of information swirling around in the muddled mess of his mind, touching him with the
promise that he would eventually remember his life.  

He would have to feel the empty confusion all the time if he stayed here -- day and night.  He would have to rely
on his own faulty recall to keep his friends in his life until they returned.  

If they returned.  

The memory of what had happened after that ratting coin had settled to the floor attached itself to the incident
like another car coupling onto the end of a freight train, and the sense of dread was complete.  The final
outcome was missing, but the events of the subsequent arn were as clear as if it had just happened to him.  
John wriggled sideways until his head dropped off the pillow.  The new position made it even easier to breathe
than simply lying on his back.  It took several fast breaths to work enough air into his lungs, building up to the
sound he desperately needed to make.  

                                                                              * * * * *

Aeryn walked slowly to join the others where they waited at the end of the corridor.  She slid down the wall to sit
at their feet when she reached them, staring at the smooth surface on the far side of the hallway, feeling like a
traitor for the first time since she left the Peacekeepers.  

“This was almost the worst thing I’ve ever had to do,” she said.  She thought about John’s fragile grip on his
own behavior, his perpetual confusion that never eased unless someone was helping him with his recall, and
reconsidered her statement.  “No, that was absolutely the worst thing I’ve ever had to do.”  

“We agreed that this was safer for all of us, Aeryn.  And safer for John, too.”  The warrior stared morosely back
up the corridor toward the door to Crichton’s room.    

“He didn’t care about that, D’Argo.  All he heard was that he was getting left behind.  Why don’t you go in there
and try to explain it to him?”  She gestured angrily toward the door at the end of the hallway.  “Door’s still open.  
Help yourself.”  

“That is not what I meant and I do not like this any better than you do.  I’m not happy about leaving him, and I
don’t envy you having to tell him.”  He squatted next to her.  “I’m sorry you had to be the one to tell him, Aeryn,
but you know he would not have listened to the rest of us without checking with you anyway.”    

“None of us are happy about it,” Chiana added.  “But we all agreed that if we ran into trouble this would be
safer for Crichton.  He’s been through enough already.”  She watched Rygel start to open his mouth, his stubby
body relaxing back in his chair with an arrogant demeanor.  “Shut up, Rygel,” she commanded before he could
speak.  

Aeryn got to her feet, moving slowly past the others.  “I hate this.  Let’s get out of here before we change …”  

“AERRYYYYNNNN!”  The panic in the scream bursting out of the open doorway was complete, lacking any hint
of emotional control.  “DON’ LEAVE ME HERE!”

D’Argo was forced to move fast in order to get out of Aeryn’s way.  She had spun around and started toward
John’s room before the first notes of his desperate plea had begun to fade.  She completed five fast steps
toward the doorway before pulling up short.  Everyone watched sympathetically as she turned from one end of
the hallway to the other several times in conflict, and then looked back at the assembled group, her feet still
easing slowly toward the room.  After several additional microts of indecision she finally returned to her spot
sitting on the floor, her arms wrapped tightly around her ribs, holding herself as securely as she wanted to be
holding John at that moment.  

“Now what do I do?” she asked the others as she started to shake.  Aeryn looked toward the open door and
added the part that was generating the greatest portion of her agony.  “I cannot walk away from him.  Not
again.”

“We cannot take him into another situation where he might get hurt,” D’Argo insisted.  “John has been through
too much already.”  

Chiana nodded.  

“AERYYYYYYNNNNNNN!!!!”  The second scream managed to pack even more panic into the drawn out
syllables.  “P’EEEEEEASE.  Don’d leave me here!!!”  A sob echoed down the hallway.  The group remained
silent, waiting as one to see if the desperate pleas had ended.  

“I left him before,” Aeryn whispered.  “I know he is going to remember that.  It is unavoidable.  I cannot do that
again.”  She lowered her forehead to rest against her knees.  “I cannot do that to John a second time.  I can’t.  
Not the way he is now.  He needs us too much.”   

“Aeryn?!!” the tear-thickened voice called, testing to see if she was there.  “AERYN?!!” he screamed again, this
time with the anguish that comes with the knowledge that the summons will go unanswered.  

She shook her head, rocking it against her knees, refusing to look up at the others where they stood around
her.  “He will get killed this time,” she said, contradicting her earlier statement.  “If we run into trouble before he
has recovered more fully, he is going to get killed.”

They waited as Aeryn worked her way through her dilemma, weighing the possibility of physical injury against
the certainty of emotional damage.  “Let’s go get him,” she conceded.  “We can’t leave him here.”  

“Yes!”  Chiana bounded away from them, headed back to the open door at a run.  “We’re coming back for you,
Old Man!” she shouted.  “You’re coming with us.”

“PIH?” he yelled back.  “You come ged me?”  

“We’re coming, Crichton.  You’re going to come with us.”  She sprinted the final motra and barged into his room
where she was greeted by a wordless yell of pure relief.  

Aeryn looked at the collection of smiles ranged around her.  “We know this is the wrong decision.  Why are we
so pleased?”  

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” Jool admitted.  “It might make an interesting study to examine how we talked
ourselves into thinking we should leave him in the first place though.”  

“I’ll comm Pilot and let him know that it will be a little longer before we come back on board,” D’Argo suggested.  
“And I’ll find out if there has been any change in those scans.”  

Aeryn nodded and went light-heartedly to apologize to John for scaring him.  

                                                                              * * * * *

“You’re sure you’re not mad at me anymore?” she asked an arn later.  John nodded vigorously.  “I don’t mind if
you’re mad at me.  You can still come with us even if you’re angry.”  

Nothing she had coped with over the past days had prepared her to handle his huge mood swings.  The
mercurial changes were testing her ability to react to a gamut of emotions in a short time span.  D’Argo
continued to assure her that no one was ever ready to be a parent until they actually had children, ignoring her
objections that she was not a mother and John was not a child.  D’Argo had insisted that she was wrong about
that, at least until Crichton had recovered more fully.  She looked into the smiling eyes and knew for certain that
D’Argo was wrong, seeing only the man and none of the temporary immaturity.    

“Don’t care ‘bout what you say a‘fore.  I get go wid you guys.”  He was on his back, a position he normally did
not like, and it seemed to be allowing him to breathe and talk more easily than when he was on his stomach.  
“Le’s go!”  

Aeryn slid a hip on to his bunk and lay down beside him, thinking of the embrace she had wanted before
leaving his room earlier.  “I want something first,” she told him.  She eased over his chest, trying not to put too
much weight on the overworked muscles, laid her head on his shoulder and hugged him fiercely.  He snuggled
his nose into the hollow of her shoulder and sighed contentedly.  A microt later, Aeryn jumped as something
touched the back of her shoulder.  She started to turn around to see who was behind her, expecting to see one
of the delvians.  But it was John’s hand resting against her back, requiring that he lift his entire arm to get it
there.  


“Come back ‘ere,” John told her in a tone so like his old self she found herself of the verge of tears.  “I like tha’.  
We done tha’ ‘fore?”  His laugh originated somewhere near the back of his throat, a sound from the familiar
John Crichton that she missed so much, overriding the dismay she felt every time she listened to his clipped,
damaged speech.

“Look at you,” she whispered enthusiastically into his shoulder, “you’re doing great.”  She hugged him again,
worming her way closer to his body.  A single thumb rubbed the back of her shoulder; a small stroking that
represented a huge step forward in his recovery.  

“Rather look a’ you.”  

                                                                              * * * * *

The door to John’s room opened halfway.  The gap was just large enough for a slim gray hand to pass a pile of
clothes through, followed by a gleaming, pristinely new pair of boots.  Aeryn took the collection, juggling the
unwieldy bundle, and then dropped the entire collection on the floor when she tried to grab the black jacket that
came through last.  “Thank you, Chiana,” she said, annoyed enough at both Chiana and her own clumsiness
that she was unable to keep the irritation out of her voice.  “That should do it.”  

“You’re welcome!”  The reply floated in on a laugh.  Aeryn chose to assume that it was something other than
her own fumbling reception of the clothing causing the nebari’s good humor.  Everyone seemed to be in
particularly good spirits as a result of their revised decision to take John back to Moya with them.  

The delvians had agreed that there was little left that they could do for John that could not be accomplished on
board the leviathan.  Daaren and his apprentices had checked him over one last time, declaring that they could
find no more adjustments to make for the ninth inspection in a row.  Crichton was ‘repaired’ to the best of their
abilities.  The rest of his recovery was up to him and his crewmates.   

Aeryn tried to pick up everything all at once, rather than ferrying it to the bunk in stages, and only succeeded in
scattering socks, boots and clothes farther around the room.  She looked up, the first itch of irritation tightening
the muscles in the back of her neck, to find that John was laughing at her.  Two delvians had him sitting up,
providing balance and support while they worked him out of his quilted tunic.  The position gave him the perfect
vantage point from which to watch the entire clothing debacle from the start.  His chuckle was muffled as the
tunic was pulled over his head, then it disappeared completely as they lost their grip on him and he almost fell
forward off the bunk.  

“Oops,” he said once they had caught him and levered him upright.

“Tipped over?” she asked as she tossed a black t-shirt to the delvians who were dressing him.  He emerged
from the collar laughing.  This was more of the new Crichton, the one that found everything funny and left
everyone around him grinning like Keljac kittens.  

The grin faded when he tried to do some of the work himself.  

“I can,” he said to the person next to him.  “I can,” he said a second time, more emphatically.  “Me do.”  They
fed his hand through the first sleeve, then let go of his arm, waiting to see if he could carry through on his
assurance.  His brow furrowed as he watched his own arm.  “Go, you bas’ard,” he said, grunting with the effort.  
His hand and arm slid through the opening.  “Ne’st,” he said.  The struggle to move his arm was repeated on
the other side, and they tugged the shirt neatly into place.

“Doing good,” Aeryn said.  “Let’s see if you can get into these on your own.”  She tossed them his shorts, and
then wheeled and headed for the door..  

“You do dese,” he called after her.  “No!  Her do dis part!” she heard him insisting to his two helpers, followed
by a long peal of laughter.     

                                                                              * * * * *

Aeryn watched the trigapods swooping back and forth through the water in the shallow pool taking up most of
the room.  She was waiting for D’Argo and Chiana, who were bringing Crichton to meet with the delvians for the
last time.  Jool and Rygel were on the other side of the room sampling some of the strange plant-animal food,
discussing the possible nutritional value.  They were all dressed in their normal clothes in preparation for a
return to Moya, and Aeryn shifted on the bench, debating whether her leather pants were as comfortable as
she had always thought.  She had been wandering around in the quilted delvian garments for more than forty
solar days, and had become accustomed to their loose comfort.  They would never hold up against the kind of
abuse her life demanded however, so she shifted to settle the heavy layers to a more comfortable position, and
concentrated on the familiar smooth warmth of the leather instead of the restrictive weight.  

“Where are they?” Rygel said in an impatient grumble.  

Aeryn was about to answer when she heard laughter in the passageway.  She could pick out Chiana and
D’Argo easily, as well as John’s new breathless laugh.  Aeryn walked into the corridor to investigate the source
of the hilarity.    

D’Argo was supporting John from behind -- brawny arms under his armpits and clasping him around the chest --
while Chiana walked in front of them, moving in reverse.  She had John’s boot laces in her hands and was
pulling one foot forward at a time, creating a jerking parody of a walk.  John lifted his head and looked at her,
still laughing at his own predicament.  Aeryn shook her head.  It was funny, but she also knew that lifting his
head was the only thing he was doing on his own at that moment, and that the small motion was probably an
exhausting effort.  

“Coming, honey.”  He seemed to think that was even funnier than what was already going on, and started to
laugh harder.  A microt later, he went pale and started to gasp for breath.

“D’Argo!” Aeryn said, recognizing that John had exceeded his limited capacity for physical effort.   

“That’s enough,” D’Argo said at the same moment, and Chiana immediately released the laces.  D’Argo moved
faster, turning sideways so he would not kick John’s legs, and swung him into the room.  He set John down on a
bench, holding him upright but in a position where John could let his head hang forward and gasp for air.  

“Liddle … ‘head of … self.”  John wagged his head from side to side several times.  “No good.  Need … lie
down.”  D’Argo eased him on to his side.  “Whoa.  Gah nuch,” he said once he was breathing more easily.  

“Gah nuch?” Aeryn asked, using the calm, dispassionate tone they had discovered would not set off the
mercurial temper.  After consulting with Meylan, they had decided that each and every indecipherable comment
would be handled this way.  The more frequently he was required to find the right words, the faster John would
recover his ability to express himself.  

“Too much,” John said, getting it right on the second try.  He closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing for
several microts.  

Meylan, Lorana, and Daaren entered the room just as Crichton motioned that he wanted to sit up.  Aeryn
started to move toward the bench to sit with him, but D’Argo shook his head, stopping her before she had taken
a step.  “This may take a little while, Aeryn, and he’s heavy.”  

“Me?” Crichton said, feigning innocence.  

“Yes, you.  How much do you weigh?  A sakmar?”  

“No muh laughs.  No air.”  

D’Argo had John upright, holding him against his chest as he straddled the bench behind the crippled
astronaut.  The luxan rubbed John’s chest for a microt, a silent apology for encouraging his laughter to the
point of asphyxiation.  “Wha’s a sakmar?” Crichton asked over his shoulder.

“Later, John.”  D’Argo shifted backward several denches.  The new position allowed John to lean more of his
body weight against him with his head resting on D’Argo’s shoulder.  

Aeryn crossed the short distance to stand alongside the pair.  She wiped several trickles of sweat from John’s
temples, watching him carefully until his labored breathing finally slowed and settled into a steadier rhythm.  
“Are you all right?” she asked.  

“I’m fine, Aeryn.”  

It was the clearest sentence he had managed to utter so far, delivered in the familiar confident tones of John
Crichton.  For a single microt, she had him back the way he had been before his capture.  He tried to look up at
her, could not raise his head far enough, and the moment was gone.  She bent down, kissed him lightly, then
moved to take her place on a seat where she could watch both the delvians and John at the same time.   

Meylan led a repeat of the discussion they had held several days earlier.  He explained the recovery period that
lay before John, using far more simple terms than he had during the first conversation, and waiting for John’s
reaction after each small piece of information.  The center of attention seemed happy with the long explanation
concerning his defective memory, surprising only the delvians with his reaction.  

“Worried.  Begin thought I’s stupid.”  He grinned.  

Rygel jumped into the opening.  “You are.”

“Chi.  Hit for me.”  

The nebari leaned over and took a light swing at Rygel, missing by no less than a full motra.  

The discussion of his physical condition disturbed Crichton more than the one about his memory.  “How long?”  
He was forced to look down his nose at them due to the way his head was leaning against D’Argo’s shoulder.  
“Up, D?” he asked.

D’Argo leaned forward and levered him upright.  John made the effort to hold his head up in order to look at the
delvians levelly.  “H’long b‘fore normal?” he asked again, struggling through the syllables.

“That will be up to you.  You will find that over-exertion will lead to setbacks.  If you can maintain a steady but
not excessive progress, then possibly a quarter cycle to achieve a full recovery.”  

“Frell.”  John’s chin dropped onto his chest with a thump.  He pulled it back up, clearly struggling to accomplish
the small physical effort.  “A’ right,” he said, followed by a long sigh.  “Time and …”  His head dropped again
and he let out a growl of frustration.    

Aeryn finished the sentence for him.  “Patience.  Time and patience, John.  Start here.”   

“Uh huh.”  He was leaning back against D’Argo again, his head lolling to one side.  “Wha’ else?”  

The delvians were silent for a microt, considering their next topic.  Aeryn remembered something that had been
skipped over a number of days earlier, and decided to take advantage of their momentary silence to get the
answer to a question that had been nagging at her ever since.   

“Before you continue, I would like to ask you to explain something that got dropped a number of nights ago.”  
She paused long enough for them to redirect their attention toward her.  “You said there was something I
needed to know before we left.  What were you referring to?”  

Meylan turned in her direction and bestowed an enigmatic smile on her.  “The first time you entered Unity with
John Crichton …”

“Unity?  That’s wha’ was?”  John managed to pull his head forward long enough to look at squarely Aeryn for
several microts.  “That’s wha’ we did?”  His head fell back again.  

“Yes.”  Her smile was embarrassed but pleased, due in part to his delight in their combined achievement, but
also because he remembered what Unity was without any memory jogging.  

“Aeryn did it, Crichton.  She joined with you the first day you were here,” Chiana said.  

“No!” Meylan said, cutting in before anyone else could speak.  “That is precisely what we wanted to explain
before you left.  It was not Aeryn Sun who initiated the joining.”  

“I knew I hadn’t done it!” Aeryn said.  “I knew I did not have the ability to join us.”  

“Do not underestimate your abilities, Aeryn Sun.  It is no small feat for two uninitiated individuals to achieve
Unity, even after allowing for our participation in bringing your minds together.  It could not have been achieved
without your strong involvement.”  

“Then it was Daaren after all.  He joined us,” she said.  

“He only guided you to where Crichton existed.  He misunderstood what happened afterwards.  Daaren is a
healer of the physical realm and did not recognize the intricacies of the joining.  It was not until the two of you
joined with both myself and Lorana present that we realized that it was John Crichton who had initiated the
merging of your minds.”

“Hunh?”  John lifted his head without any apparent struggle.  “No!  Not me!”  

“Crichton?”  Rygel’s yell of disbelief echoed around the room.  

Aeryn looked at John with a thoughtful expression while D’Argo rubbed the top of his head in enthusiasm.  

“Un unh.  Was no me.”  John was trying to shake his head, but D’Argo’s rubbing was turning every one of his
attempts at a side to side motion into a nod.  “’nough, D,” he said with a hint of force in his voice.  

“That makes more sense,” Aeryn said into a break in the ruckus.  She looked across at Crichton, replaying
each experience with Unity in her mind.  “That makes a lot more sense.  When I tried to help on the last day
they had you in the pool, I felt like I got sucked into you.  I assumed it was a product of having both Meylan and
Lorana helping me get there, but it felt like a grab, not a push like the Meetings.”  She smiled at him.  “Humans
are not superior, but they do tend to be surprising.”  

“Get out o’ town,” John said.  He was allowed to lay back, the vibrations from D’Argo’s almost silent laughter
reverberating through his body, providing a wordless tale of good humor, acceptance, and approval.    

“The need was great, and the bond was already strong.  Do not expect to be able to do this again unless there
is equal need.”  Meylan gazed serenely first at Aeryn and then at Crichton.  “However, if you ever require it
again, the capacity is there.  You have joined.  The tie exists and can never be broken.”  

Aeryn was overwhelmed by the enormity of the revelation, and by the implications inherent in their
accomplishment.  John had not been told how long they had shared Unity during John’s last ordeal in the pool.  
Aeryn had overheard the delvians talking about the event on several occasions, and from their comments she
knew that the length and extent of the joining would enhance their ability to achieve Unity in the future.  Her
eyes followed the movements of her fingers as they picked at a small scuff on her pants.  Several microts
passed in silence before she had the courage to glance at John to check on his reaction to the news.  The look
on his face forced her to smile.  He was trying to contain his elation, but the mixture of joy and caution was
making such a mess of his expression it was comical.  

“I suppose I can live with that,” she said after several more microts worth of contemplation.  

His face cleared.  A single expression settled into place:  the happiness that Lorana had assured her John felt
whenever Aeryn was near.  “We go now?”  

“We would like to discuss one more thing before you leave, John Crichton.”  Meylan had become very serious.  

John tried to look at him directly, but his chin sank to his chest one more time.   This time it stayed there.  
Fatigue was winning out over tenacity.  “G’head,” he said.  It emerged as a guttural mumble.

D’Argo shifted back on the bench even further, taking on more dead weight, and lifted John’s head so it rested
on his shoulder, compensating for the failing muscles.  Daaren rose, wove his way between the benches until
he was standing next to the pair, and then placed one hand on Crichton’s forehead.  Aeryn watched with
wonder as John became more alert, understanding immediately that he was receiving a transfer of living energy
from the delvian.  John rolled his head on D’Argo’s shoulder, still too weak to lift it, and gazed up at Daaren in
awe.  The healer smiled back, placed his hand on Crichton’s shoulder for a moment, and then resumed his
seat.  

Meylan waited until John turned his attention back to the unfinished discussion.  “Do you recall the first time I
entered your mind in the pool, John Crichton?”  

“Hard t’ forget.”  John was doing his best to pay attention, but he was struggling inside a body that had already
done too much for one day.  Daaren’s gift of energy, which might have sustained a healthy person for several
arns, was not going to last for more than a few microts.  D’Argo slid his second arm around John’s chest to help
hold him up, supporting more of his weight as his body continued to shut down despite the infusion of energy.

“That should not have happened.  We have tried several times since then to determine the origin of your pain,
which was psychic in nature, but were unable to break through a block that you have built to hide the source.”  
He waited to make sure that Crichton understood his explanation, continuing only after he received a tiny nod.  
“We do not know what you have hidden, but if it emerges during your recovery, you should expect that it will be
highly traumatic.”  He watched the slumped figure carefully.  “Do you understand what I am telling you, John
Crichton?”  

John nodded and then tried to say something.  The best he could manage was an inaudible whisper.  D’Argo
ducked his head to listen.  “Stupid and a block head,” he repeated.  

Chiana laughed.  Aeryn and the delvians all smiled.  

D’Argo was listening again.  “He asked if the block was from what the scarrans did.”  D’Argo exchanged glances
with Aeryn, both of them thinking about the mental beatings Crichton had already suffered, and then he asked
his own question.  “Could it have come from something else in his past?”  

“It is conceivable that it originated from something else,” Meylan said slowly.

“Buh.” John had mustered enough energy to issue his own prompt for the priest to continue.  

“But the damage from this torture was extensive and severe.  It is unlikely that an existing block would have
remained in place under those circumstances.  It is much more likely that you are hiding something that even
your own mind is unwilling to consider.”  

“Wha’s mean?”  John’s eyes started to close.  He yanked himself back awake, expending the last of the energy
he had received from Daaren.  

“Rely on your friends, John Crichton.  If the memories reveal themselves, do not try to handle them yourself.  
These people have proven themselves to be dedicated to your well-being, allow your friends to continue
helping you.”  

John whispered something and D’Argo looked hurt.  “What do you mean ‘not friends’?”  He was about to say
more when he caught John’s look of panic.  He stopped and leaned in to catch the rest of the phrase.  The
luxan smiled at the four appalled faces, nodding at the addition.  “He said ‘Family’.”  Crichton returned Aeryn’s
pleased smile and promptly fell asleep.  

“Anything else?” Aeryn asked in his stead.  

Lorana stood up.  “Make sure he gives himself time.  It has been less than fifty solar days since the damage
was inflicted.  That is very little time considering the magnitude of the injuries.”  She moved to stand next to
D’Argo who continued to prop up the unconscious astronaut.  “Good luck in your travels, John Crichton.  I hope
to see you again when you are fully restored.”  She laid her hand on his forehead much as Daaren had earlier,
then moved away to one corner of the room.  

Daaren came over next, touching each of the group lightly and ending with Crichton.  “Take care of him,” he
said to no one in particular.  “He is a unique individual.”  

Meylan repeated the light touches, bestowing a small phrase on each of them, touched his forehead to Aeryn’s
briefly, and then stood next to John.  He looked down at the expressionless face for several microts, an
expression of deep sorrow appearing for a single microt before being replaced by his usual serene smile.  He
placed both hands on John’s forehead, said, “Be well,” and released him.  

Aeryn helped D’Argo cradle the limp body, swinging the long legs to one side so he could get his arm under
John’s knees, and then helping the luxan to his feet.  John woke up during the process, looked around in
confusion, and then spotted the three priests standing to one side.  

“Leavin’?” he asked sleepily.  “Time go home?”  

Aeryn touched his cheek to get his attention.  “Yes, we are leaving.  Where’s home?  Do you remember?”  

“Course!”  He turned away from her, looked back at the delvians and spoke deliberately, forcing each word out
correctly.  “Thank you for my life.”  

“Be well, John Crichton,” Meylan repeated his farewell.  “Take care of yourself, but come back if you ever need
our help again.”  

“’kay.  I promise … no more scarrans.”  His new laugh bubbled out of him, infecting everyone in the room.  He
looked up at D’Argo, “Le’s go home.”  

“Where’s home, John?”  D’Argo repeated Aeryn’s question.  

The human snorted.  “Not tha’ stupid!  Moya!”  He laughed lightly and fell asleep.  


                                                                          * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Chapter 10                                                                                                                                                                              Chapter 12
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