Child Of The Night - Chapter 15

“All set?”  

Aeryn backed away gradually, waiting to see if John had himself braced well enough to continue sitting on his
own.  He leaned heavily on his forearms and nodded, saving every bit of energy for the exhausting effort of
sitting up and feeding himself.  She walked to the warmer, keeping him in her peripheral vision, and tried to
think of something that he might agree to eat.  He continued to refuse to eat most of the foods they had on
board with the singular exception of dried food cubes.  

As she turned to check on him, he started to slip.  She froze, ready to cross the short distance in a rush if it
looked as if he was going to topple over, and waited to see if he could catch it before it went too far.  Crichton
scrabbled desperately at the table for several microts, stopped the dangerous tilt, and pushed himself upright
again.  It looked as if it was taking every bit of his strength and concentration to stay there.  After waiting
several more microts to make sure he was stable, she returned to the problem of finding something he would
eat.  John had always liked krawlak well enough, but that would take too long to cook.  She decided to try some
Vantass broth.  Soaking some of the crackly food cubes in it would provide a small change in his diet.  

Aeryn turned around to get his approval of the menu only to discover that he had once again fallen asleep
mid-activity.  He had dropped his head onto his folded arms and was slumped over on the table.  She would
never be able to get him up on her own, and until he had slept for a while, it was unlikely that he would respond
to any attempt to rouse him.  It was worth a try anyway, she decided.  

“John.”  She shook him carefully by the back of the neck.  There was no response other than his head rocking
laxly on his forearms.  “Can you wake up and come back to your quarters with me?  John, wake up.”  She pulled
one of his hands out from under his forehead.  There was no sign that the adjustment registered on his
awareness.  She picked his hand up and dropped it back to the table with a thump.  It started to slide off the
surface.  The shut down was complete.  Aeryn caught the hand and laid it more securely beside him.  

“Unbelievable,” she said, amazed at the depth of his slumber.  

“Again?” Rygel asked.  The hynerian was hovering just inside the doorway.  “Isn’t that the sixth time today?”  

“Seventh.  But he’s only been back on board fourteen solar days, and look at how much progress he’s made.  I
think he deserves as many naps as he wants.”  John had made enormous progress, especially since his single-
handed rescue of the entire ship and crew, and was very close to being able to walk on his own, but his
rehabilitation was exacting an equally enormous toll on his energy reserves.

“Aeryn.”  Rygel stopped, looking uncomfortable.  She waited, raising her eyebrows in a silent invitation to
continue whatever he was going to say.  “After what we saw on New Delvia, I believe Crichton could fall asleep
twenty times a day and would deserve it.”  Rygel turned his throne sled and floated out of sight without
delivering any of his customary derogatory comments.  

Aeryn looked at the hunched body next to her, listened to the small rasping snores that were the result of his
hunched over position.  “He’s right you know.  You sleep whenever and wherever you want, John Crichton.”  
She leaned against him, careful not to upset his precarious position, her head on the back of his shoulder, and
let him sleep.  

After several microts of sitting that way, deriving a measure of peace from the physical contact, she got herself
something to eat and waited.  Just over an arn had passed before he sighed, raised his head, and looked
around him dully.  “What’s goin’ on?”  

He said it in the quiet wistful voice that had the capacity to break her heart every time she heard it.  The small
question, a frequent query after many of his abrupt naps, embodied all the confusion and insecurity that she
had lived through during the sessions with the delvians.  It sounded as though he was asking much more than
what had transpired while he was sleeping; as though he needed to be told who he was, where he was, or even
what epoch they inhabited.     

Aeryn answered with a far simpler concept.  “It’s time for you to go to bed.  Can you walk back there if I help
you?”  She was already pulling on his arm, coaxing him to stand up.  

“Uh huh.”  He struggled to get to his feet.  His legs refused to make the transition on their own.  Aeryn slid
under his arm and waited for his next uncoordinated effort to pull him upright.  “I’m okay, I can do it.”  His words
were stumbling as badly as his feet.    

“I know.  I’ll just guide you a little.  You look tired.”  

She had learned not to contradict his claims head on, choosing gentler excuses for providing assistance when
he was attempting something beyond his current capabilities.  Both John’s confidence and his frustration had
increased since his solitary venture against the bounty hunters, making his mood swings even more difficult to
deal with at times.  When he encountered a task he could not complete, John’s aggravation reached new,
incredibly violent limits.  Only D’Argo and Rygel, the father and the monarch, could cope with his wilder
outbursts, and even they were sometimes forced to expend more than an arn getting him to calm down.  

“Okay.”  

The simple, disjointed phrases told her he was not totally awake, so she tried to hurry him along, urging him to
move a little faster in order to get him to his quarters before he passed out again.  They just made it.  Crichton
started to stagger and his head dropped in fatigue as they turned in through the doors to his cell.  His arrival on
his bed was a cross between lying down and a complete collapse.  

She pulled his boots loose and shifted his legs onto the bed, but otherwise left him almost as he had landed,
belly down with his head cradled on one arm.  She pulled the thermal sheet over him and then sat down beside
him, rubbing him between the shoulders for a few microts.  She could feel new resilience in the muscles there,
the first return of his strength and vitality.  So much of his physiology had been altered by the devastation of his
nervous system that he sometimes looked like another person.  Each day yielded another small return of the
man that had been destroyed in the scarran stronghold.  

John’s hands clenched into fists.  A furrow appeared across his forehead, a tightening of his features into
anxiety.  This was something new.  Normally all expression was extinguished when he collapsed in exhaustion.  
The tension lasted for no more than five microts before he sagged back into complete relaxation.  She watched
over him for another quarter arn.  Nothing similar happened again.  

Aeryn got to her feet and started to leave the chamber, then paused to look back in concern.  There were still
portions of his ordeal locked up in John’s head that no one knew anything about.  She felt the first touch of
apprehension about what those secreted moments might do to him in the future.  She looked at the sleeping
body though, and compared it to how he had looked when they had rescued him.  Tahleen’s assurance that he
would fight all the way back drifted into her mind, and she clutched that image to her, using it to restore her
momentarily shaken confidence.  

John grumbled unintelligibly in his sleep, something else that was new.  Aeryn looked uncertainly between him
and the empty corridor, debating whether to leave him to his dreams or stay.  There was little that needed to be
done.  Moya was taking her time zig-zagging away from the New Moon of Delvia and with it, Peacekeeper
controlled territory. Pilot had plotted a course that would avoid the areas of space they knew posed the
greatest danger.  The extra distance had increased the length of their trip by dozens of solar days; days that
they could use to concentrate on John’s recovery.  Everyone on board was aware that if they ran into more
trouble before he was able to take care of himself, they were unlikely to be as lucky as the last time.  John
needed to regain his strength and mobility, and he needed to do it quickly.  

Aeryn considered the quiet arns with little to do, worried her lower lip between her teeth for a microt while
considering her options, then waved the doors shut and went back to stay with John.   

“Wha’?”  He woke as she slid under the covers.  

“Go back to sleep,” she ordered.  “Everything is fine.”  She snuggled in against his back, working an arm
around him to hold them together.  

“’Snice,” he commented and went back to sleep.  

Aeryn watched him for a half arn, concerned about the frown and the grumbles, but there were no more signs
of anxiety, and at some point she dozed off herself.  

                                                                              * * * * *

A small tug woke her.  Aeryn opened her eyes to find John playing with a lock of her hair, wrapping it
laboriously around a finger then pulling loose, creating the light yanking sensation that had awakened her.  He
froze mid-wrap when he noticed her watching him.  

“Sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t mean to wake you.”  

“I don’t mind.  Any idea how long we’ve been asleep?”  

John shook his head, lowering it to brush his lips across the tendril of hair.  “I remember this,” he whispered.  
She waited, not sure exactly what he was referring to.  “The smell, the feel.  I remember being in my ship with
you and your hair.”  

“You remember everything about me.”

“Not everything.”  He was looking at her with something resembling hunger.  “I’d forgotten a few things until I
woke up a little while ago.”  John pushed himself up on one elbow so he could look down at her.  

“What did you remember?” she asked eagerly, pleased that he discovered another fragment of his past.  

John leaned down and kissed her.  It was not one of the gentle caresses that he had rediscovered while on the
New Moon of Delvia.  It was something more urgent, more needful … more demanding.

“No.”  She pushed him away.  “Not yet, John.”  

“Why not?” he demanded.  The tone and inflection were entirely John Crichton; the hurt look belonged to the
person she still did not know how to handle, to the partially restored psyche that left her longing for the body’s
original owner.  He reached for her again, an ill-directed grab that emphasized how much of his recovery still lay
ahead of him.  

“I think we should wait.”  She slid out of bed and looked around for her pants.  She had not expected him to
make this demand so soon.  He had caught her unprepared.  She was not ready for yet another argument
about the physical relationship they had resolved less than a half-cycle earlier.  

“Why not?”  

She didn’t answer him.  

“Because I’m a dunce?  Because I don’t remember?”  He sounded intensely wounded.  

“You’re not a dunce, and you will remember,” she insisted, sitting back down on the edge of the bed.  “John,
you’re still recovering, and … and I don’t know.  This simply should not be happening.  Give it some more
time.”  He was childlike in so many respects; even his quick temper lacked the mature stability of adult
behavior.  Somehow kissing him felt acceptable, but anything more had the taste of immorality about it.  

When she turned to look at him, John was laboriously arranging the covers, looking angry as he concentrated
on getting his hands to function correctly.  She reached to help him and he barked at her.  “DON’T!!”  

“I think I had better go,” she said as calmly as possible, reaching for her pants.  He did not answer.  She
watched as he got a firm grasp on the thermal sheet and yanked it up over his head, reinforcing the image of
immaturity.  Aeryn looked at the pants in her hands and then pulled them on, not happy with the way their brief
argument had ended.  John remained motionless and silent while she finished dressing and walked to the
door.    

“You make me feel like I’m not me,” he mumbled under the covers just as the heavy bars slid open.  “Everyone
else, it’s like I’m me but I’m sick.  You’re the only one who really knows, and you’re the one who treats me like
I’m defective.”  John reappeared, flipping the sheet aside.  “I’m still the same HERE!”  He banged himself
against the side of the head with a half-closed fist.  “I’m here, here, here!!”  He continued hitting himself.  “I
can’t get it to work.  It’s in there but I can’t get it to work right!”  

Aeryn hurried back, caught the flailing hand and waited for him to calm down.  John yanked his hand out of her
grasp.  

“I don’t think you’re defective,” she said.  “You’re misreading me.”  She smiled when he rolled away from her
and shook his head, stubbornly refusing to accept that his interpretation was wrong.  His recalcitrant behaviors
were the ones most like the Crichton they were accustomed to having aboard Moya.  Dealing with him when he
got stubborn might be frustrating, but it was also reassuring.  John Crichton was alive and well and hiding inside
this temporarily immature person.  

Aeryn took the strongest grip possible on her emotional control before continuing.  “John, I was the first one
through that door when we rescued you.  I had to listen …”  Aeryn broke off and took another deep breath,
overwhelmed by the memory of the howling she had heard that day.  “D’Argo and I were in the corridor with the
mercenaries.  We heard what was happening, and we saw what they had done.”  She was forced to talk to his
back which meant that she did not know if she was getting through to him.  “You know I saw more about that
than anyone else.  I’m the only one you have allowed to see the whole truth.”  

His fist was rubbing his head now, and his entire body had gone rigid.  Her explanation was forcing him to
remember his hideous mistreatment.  She decided to approach the problem from another direction, hoping to
avoid any further reminders of what had caused the extensive damage to his nervous system.  

“I could never think of you as defective.  Every microt that I spend with you I can think of only one thing -- how
lucky I am to have you back here with me.  No one … NO ONE should have been able to survive that.  Do you
understand?”  

He was taking long deep breaths now, on the verge of crying.  John nodded anyway.    

“I did not say I wouldn’t, and I did not say never.  I said not now.”  When she tried giving him a hug, intending
something more than a sisterly squeeze and less than a passionate clench, he pulled away from her.  

“All right.  Get some more sleep.”  He still would not face her.  “Give this time, John,” she urged, and walked
toward the door again.  

“I don’t want to do this any more,” he said behind her, once again waiting until she had reached the door before
responding.  

“You don’t want to do what?  Sleep?”  She smiled at the idea that he might try to resist the frequent comas.  

“No.  I want my memory back.  I hate this.”  When she turned around it was the angry, frustrated adult who
greeted her.  Aeryn took a deep breath, tried to realign her reactions to the new personality, and went back to
perch next to him.  John had managed to sit up and was thumping his fist repeatedly into one of the pillows,
venting some of his aggravation.  “I hate this,” he repeated, and threw the pillow across the cell.     

Aeryn sat silently for several microts, uncertain how to deal with this latest problem.  He had frequently
expressed frustration with not being able to access his recall, but he had never voiced this particular complaint.  
“I know you do,” she started, still searching for an adequate response.  

“John.”  The deep voice from the doorway startled her.  She had been so absorbed with her attempt to
formulate an answer, she had not heard D’Argo approach.  Despite his bulk, D’Argo moved into the chamber
with only the slightest whisper of noise, settling on the other side of the bunk from Aeryn.  He placed a hand on
Crichton’s shoulder.  “What were you doing when you got caught?”  

“Don’t remember,” John sulked, staring at his feet.

“You do remember.  I know you have gotten that part of your memory back,” D’Argo said.  “I want you to tell me
what you were doing that day.”  

Aeryn watched with admiration as the father in her crewmate emerged, making mental notes so she could
reproduce the firm but calm attitude later.  

“Tell me out loud,” D’Argo urged one more time.

“Covering for you guys so we could escape.  Only I didn’t.”  John lay down on his stomach, turned away from
both of them, and dragged the covers up over his head for the second time.  

Aeryn let out a long sigh and rolled her eyes.  D’Argo raised his eyebrows, silently asking her for an
explanation.  She used one hand to trace a series of vertical waves in the air, indicating John’s erratic behavior
and abrupt mood changes.  They smiled at each other, remembering the delvians’ warning and the need for
patience, and then D’Argo pulled the covers away from John’s head and shoulders.  He had his face buried in a
pillow.    

“Would you prefer that one of us got caught instead of you?” D’Argo asked.  It seemed like such a simple
process, but Aeryn had not considered forcing John to recount his life-altering decision out loud.

“No,” the muffled voice said unhappily.

“The rest of us got away safely.  Was that worth the cost?”  

“I guess.  But D’Argo,” John protested in something approaching a whine, “I’m just so tired of --”  John looked at
D’Argo, swiveled his head to check Aeryn’s expression, and then buried his head in his pillow again.  “Never
mind.”  

D’Argo pulled the covers away from the prone body, his tender movements somehow appearing condescending
once the mature body was revealed.  Aeryn tried to concentrate on John’s quivering signals of insecurity rather
than the outer shell that was trying to convince her he was an adult.  The parent pulled at the shaking
shoulders, turned him over and pulled him into a hug.  “Say it.  We don’t mind.”  

“I’m tired of being scared and confused, D’Argo.  I’m confused all the time and I never know what’s going on.”  
John buried his face in his friend’s chest.  D’Argo jerked his head at Aeryn and she slid across the bunk to join
them.  

“I’m scared,” John repeated.  “I don’t like being scared.”  

“What else do you not like?” Aeryn prompted, suddenly understanding what John needed most at that
particular moment.  

“I don’t like waking up in the middle of the night and not knowing where I am, and I don’t like getting lost inside
Moya.  There’s supposed to be more of my life in my head that’s comfortable, and all of that is missing, and I
don’t like that either.  I can’t remember the food, or Jool, or Pilot.  Everything is strange and I’m tired of it all
being strange.  I want something familiar,” he wailed at last.  “And there’s someone else in my head, and he
scares me, too.”  

“Who else, John?” Aeryn asked, suddenly frightened beyond logical thought that the clone had somehow
survived, returning when John was totally incapable of fighting him.  “Who’s in your mind?”  

“I don’t know,” he yelled into D’Argo’s chest, his body rigid with distress.  “I’m sitting down going in circles, and
he’s asking me questions.  He scares me, Aeryn.  He scares me a lot.  I’m tired of being frightened.”  Aeryn
realized that they had made a mistake in not telling him about his entire past.  She had known that Scorpius
was loose in his memory -- she was the one who had shown him the half-breed when they had been in Unity,
after all -- and without any surrounding details to put him into context he had become a constant, frightening
specter for the otherwise defenseless Crichton.  

“He’s real,” D’Argo was telling him, “but he’s not a threat any more.  His name is Scorpius and we all made sure
he could not hurt you ever again.  You were the one who figured out how to do that, and then we helped you,
John.”

“I’m still frightened,” came the repeated complaint.  “I don’t know how to be not scared.”  

“We’ll teach you,” Aeryn said softly, although she was not sure they could accomplish that.  Some of the tension
flowed out of John’s body.  It was replaced by a mild trembling, evidence of his growing fatigue.  Less than an
arn had passed since his last nap.  The emotional distress was sapping him of energy faster than the most
strenuous physical exercise he was currently capable of producing.

John pushed himself away from them, rolled to the side of the bunk, and sat up.  It was an accomplishment that
had been impossible just three solar days earlier.  He was making enormous strides in some areas, while
lagging in others.  

“I want to remember,” he repeated more forcefully, “I don’t like this.”  He reached behind him for a pillow and
threw it across the cell to join the other flung cushion, reverting to the anger that had started the wild cycle of
emotions.  

D’Argo laid a hand on the t-shirted shoulder for a microt.  “You’ll remember soon.  Be patient.”  

John swung his foot in frustration, kicking over one of his boots.  He reached down for it.  The boot sailed
across the chamber next, smashed into a wall, and joined the discarded pillows.  

“Crichton, calm down!” D’Argo commanded.  John reached for the second boot.  “I said calm down,” D’Argo
repeated more menacingly.  The hand retreated without picking up the footwear.  

Aeryn took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  John dropped his head onto one hand, shaking from
exhaustion.  This had been the wildest swing of emotions any of them had encountered so far, and they had
barely begun the long recovery that the delvians had promised them.  She wondered if it was a positive
development, signaling a return of more memories and responses, or a warning sign that Meylan’s hidden
trauma was at work.  

“I’m tired,” John announced without preamble.  

D’Argo swung his legs onto the bed and flipped the thermal sheet over his lower body.  The luxan ran his hand
reassuringly down Aeryn’s upper arm, detoured to the corner long enough to toss the pillows toward the bunk,
and then left them alone in the cell.  

“Aeryn?” John called.  

“Mm hmm?” she answered.  She had only stepped as far as the doorway to dim the lights.  

“Would you … hold me?” he asked hesitantly.  “Just hold me for a while?”   

She thought about his request for several microts, tapping into every memory she could recall when she had
observed a mother comforting a child.  John was too big for most of those embraces, so she settled for pulling
his head and shoulders into her lap.  Settling him against her stomach, she pulled the covers up to his ears.  “Is
that all right?”  She tucked a pillow under his head.  John nodded and began rocking slightly, both arms
wrapped tightly around his body.  Aeryn slid one arm under his head, wrapped the other around his shoulders,
and hugged him tightly, kissing him several times on the temple as she huddled over him.  “Is that better?”  

“Yes,” he whispered.  “I’m sorry.”  

“For what?”  

“For being so scared.”  

“Don’t apologize.  You need to tell us more often when you’re scared, John.  Tell us when you’re frightened so
we can find ways to make it less frightening.”  His body relaxed against her.  “Promise me you’ll tell from now
on.”  He lay motionless, his eyes barely open.  “Promise me?”  

“I promise, Aeryn.  I’ll tell you when I’m scared.”  He sighed one more time and went to sleep.  

Aeryn eased her embrace, but continued to hold him for almost an entire arn as he trembled in his sleep, letting
out small cries from time to time.  Her initial concern when he had frowned in his sleep earlier had multiplied.  
His fear, although justified, seemed out of proportion when compared to his progress toward recovery.  She
watched the twitching fingers and leaping muscles as another dream assaulted John, and each time was led
back to Meylan’s caution about the hidden trauma.  

“You’ve promised now, John,” she whispered to him.  “You’ve promised to tell.”  

John muttered in his sleep and finally lay still.  

                                                                              * * * * *

“So we have twice in the Center Chamber, once in Pilot’s Den, three times in the corridors, twice when he made
it back to his own bed --”  D’Argo paused, thinking.  

“Once in the shower, once in the maintenance bay, and I think you missed the one on Tier Six this afternoon,”
Aeryn finished.  “That’s eleven in one day.”  She turned around and looked at where John had fallen asleep on
the table next to his meal.  “And this, of course, makes twelve.”  

“I know they said he would need a lot of rest and would fall asleep anywhere,” Chiana laughed, “but this is
amazing.”  

“I’m not sure this one isn’t just an excuse not to eat his meal.  He won’t eat anything he doesn’t remember.”  
Aeryn slid closer, picked up one of Crichton’s hands and let it drop.  He did not stir.  “Or maybe it’s for real.”  

The others laughed.  No one seemed to mind.  Aeryn continued to sit next to him, one hand on his shoulder.  
Crichton started to snore.  

                                                                             * * * * *

Two motras shy of her quarters, Aeryn heard a shriek of frustration and a boot sailed into the passageway.  
She walked toward it with caution, concerned that its mate might follow.  When no other projectiles appeared,
she picked it up and walked into Crichton’s cell.  He was sitting on the edge of his bed, the second boot in his
hand, looking at it like it was a hated enemy.  

“What’s the matter, John?”  She sat down beside him and put the rejected footwear on the floor.  

“I learned how to do this once, I remember someone teaching me.  I should be able to do this.”  He flung the
second boot away, ignoring the damage when it smashed into some of his possessions sitting on a shelf.  

Aeryn recognized more of the frustration that had begun to appear more frequently as he continued to recover,
and did not know how to handle this particular problem.  He had begun to exhibit a nearly deranged level of
violence at certain times.  

“Do you want me to show you how?” she said quietly, trying to defuse his anger.  She had shown him how to tie
the laces more than a dozen times already.  He would remember one day and forget the next, providing more
evidence that his brain remained incapable of making certain permanent connections.    

Aeryn retrieved the spurned boot from where it had eventually fallen to the floor, resuming her place next to
Crichton as he pulled it on.  He pulled the laces tight and then waited for her, handing the long tails to her when
she moved closer.  He watched closely as she tied them, pulled the knot loose and did it again.  She pulled the
ends out a second time and handed them back to him.  She was careful not to look at his face as he worked
through the process on the first boot, then the second.  He did not seem happy with the small achievement.  

“You know how to do it now.  What’s the matter?”  

She sat without moving, trying to make sure that all of his reactions had to do with what was on his mind, not
with her.  She was also concerned because he was not forming the memory necessary to complete this simple
task.  There were several such holes that refused to be filled, including several of the routes through Moya.  
The frequency at which he was getting lost was actually increasing, due to a combination of his increased
confidence coupled with his faulty recall.      

Crichton slapped himself on the side of the head; it was a hard blow of anger.  “I can see a pair of hands
showing me, it’s an important memory.  There are dirty white shoes of some sort, and whoever is showing me is
behind me and they mean something special to me.  I CAN’T GET IT!”  His voice rose to a roar.  Aeryn froze
and waited, knowing that this was a problem he would have to resolve himself.  

John levered himself to his feet, took a moment to make sure he had his balance, and then worked his way to
one of the shelves that had suffered from the impact of the thrown boot.  He flicked fragments from a broken
flask onto the floor, in the process picking up a whole one to sweep beneath it.  When he began staring at the
ceramic cup for several microts, Aeryn got up and moved to stand beside one of Moya’s protruding ribs,
anticipating another outburst and the need for cover.  A moment later, as she had expected, John whirled and
flung the held cup against the far wall, almost tipping over in the process.  Once again, the frustration driven
anger took over his entire persona with little forewarning.   

“Stop it!” she barked at him in her best parade ground voice.  

Crichton steadied himself against the wall and looked at her in surprise.  

“Calm down,” she ordered evenly, using the tones that D’Argo had coached her on.  “Get control of yourself,
Crichton.”  She used his family name deliberately, something that never failed to make him pause no matter
how irrational his outburst at the time.  

John started to answer her, looking as hurt as he always did when she called him ‘Crichton’ in that particular
manner, closed his mouth, and then simply nodded.  “I’m okay now,” he said more meekly.  “Back in control.”

“Good.  Let’s go get something to eat.”  She stepped away from her spot behind cover and took him firmly by
the elbow.  It was all the help he needed in order to walk these days, just some borrowed balance and the
knowledge that if he started to fall, someone was there to help him recover.  Together, moving at a cautious
pace, they headed for the Center Chamber.

Behind them several eyestalks peered cautiously around the corner, verifying that the rampaging biologic was
gone.  Two DRDs emerged from where they had been hiding and began cleaning up the scattered debris.   

                                                                              * * * * *

“Thank you, Pilot.”  Aeryn, Chiana and D’Argo hurried into the Den together.

“I would not have bothered you except that he fell asleep while we were talking and I was concerned for his
safety.”  Pilot looked at the human sleeping in the middle of one of the bridges leading to his station.  Crichton
was a scant four denches from the edge of the long drop to the bottom of Moya’s central neural cluster.  Six
DRDs surrounded him, all trying to wake him up.  He was in one of his exhausted states, however, and nothing
they did could penetrate to where his awareness was buried.  

“This was the right thing to do, Pilot.  He rarely moves when he’s like this, but there’s no telling what might have
happened when he woke up.”  Aeryn and Chiana helped D’Argo roll John away from the edge and then stood
by to help as he slung the astronaut over his shoulder and carried him out of the Den.  Chiana trailed along
after him, following them to Quarters to make sure he got settled without difficulty.  Aeryn lingered, drifting
toward the center of the enormous chamber.  

Pilot’s attention remained fixed on Crichton until he disappeared from sight.  “Aeryn, Commander Crichton has
been back on board for more than forty solar days.  How long should we expect this behavior to continue?”  

Aeryn leaned forward against the half-height wall surrounding Pilot, rested her chin on her forearm, and peered
up at the creature towering above her.  “I don’t know, Pilot.  It could take another half cycle, perhaps longer if
there are any setbacks.  I wish there was some way to share with you how much John has been through.  I
wouldn’t mind if this took over a cycle, not after what he survived.”  

“You misunderstand me, Aeryn.  Moya and I have been discussing ways of preventing Crichton from coming to
harm.  Some require more effort on Moya’s part and would be considered a long-term resolution.  She could,
for instance, grow railings along these walkways.”

“I don’t believe anything like that is necessary, Pilot.  John is improving every day.  You’ve been more than
helpful by providing DRDs to keep an eye on him.  Moya doesn’t need to do anything more.”  Aeryn stared at
Pilot silently, noticing for the first time in almost a cycle some of the smallest details of the markings on his shell,
intricate crenellations and overlapping plates that she often did not have time to appreciate.  

“Is there something wrong, Aeryn?” he asked as she continued to stare at him.  

“No, Pilot.  I was just thinking how lucky we are to have you and Moya taking care of us.  No one could ask for
better hosts.”  Aeryn knew that Pilot did not have the capacity to blush, but she could have sworn he changed
colors as his expression shifted to one of embarrassed pleasure.  “John has been falling asleep fewer than ten
times a day lately, and physically he’s almost back to normal.  I think we may see an end to this before too
long.  Moya doesn’t need to go to such extreme measures.”  

“It would not be any trouble, Aeryn, but I will convey your sentiments to Moya, and we will continue to maintain a
watch over Commander Crichton whenever possible.”   


                                                                           * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *   
Chapter 14                                                                                                                                                                              Chapter 16
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