Guard Duty
(First posted November 15, 2002)
Rating:  G
Disclaimer:  The characters and vision of Farscape belong to Henson, Co.  I refuse to acknowledge Skiffy’s
claim because they don’t want them anymore.  If I made a profit off this, I’d send Henson a check.  Didn’t, won’t.  
Time Frame/Spoilers:  This takes place after ‘Hidden Memory’.  

Genesis:  There’s not much to tell you about why I went all the way back to Season 1 to write this story.  I’ve
always wondered what John’s first night back after being rescued from the Gammak Base might have been like,
but when the Youses Muses Gang decided to let me in on the secret, it was Aeryn who showed up to tell me the
tale.

Hope you enjoy it.

*  *  *  *  *

First assignment to guard duty.  An honor, a pleasure, a reward for exceptional performance in her
evaluations.  Training tours as a cadet hardly count because they were always under orders not to shoot
unless instructed by anyone ranked above an unrated trooper -- basically that’s anyone at all aside from
another cadet.  Last buff to the buckles, fold the cloth four times into a precise square and stow it in the left
corner of the upper shelf.  She’s ready.

They’d found him with his head on his forearm, one hand clasping the dead tech’s cold one, as still as the body
stretched out on the bed.  They’d had to comm D’Argo to come lift him, three of them struggling with the
unwieldy limbs that had no more muscle tone than a quarla worm.  There hadn’t been a single movement from
him as they’d carried him through the tier to his own quarters.      

Her breath booms inside the helmet as the squad moves at Fast-Trot through the corridors, not pausing as the
rear ranks drop off at preassigned positions.  Boots pounding in cadence echo off the hydrosteel walls, armor
clacks, fasteners make their almost cheerful jingle, ammunition pouches thud as they bounce off sixteen hips,
then fifteen, then fourteen.  Another spins away to the designated post, then another, then it’s her turn.  She
makes the fast turn, stops the momentum with a practiced foot plant, slaps her pulse rifle into position.  The
guard is relieved from his post.  He steps to one side, waiting as regulations demand until she’s in place.  She
spins, takes a measured twenty-eight dench step backward, and she’s at her post.

“Can I get you anything?” Zhaan asks, lowering her voice to a quiet hum.  

The others have encouraged her to go to her own quarters, assuring her that the DRDs will monitor him for any
change.  He’s only sleeping, they tell her, recovering from the exhaustion that had left him lagging nearly three
flights behind as they scrambled up the endless stairs out of the Gammak Base.  She’d had to stop and wait for
him several times, knowing that she could have outrun the level risers if he could have kept up.  He’d never had
trouble keeping up before.  She’d snapped at him at one point, anxious beyond good sense, and he’d only
nodded and tripped as he tried to move faster.    

“No.  I’ll get something to eat in a little while.”  Zhaan seems to understand why she can’t leave.  Perhaps the
priest will explain it to her later, because she doesn’t understand it herself.  She can’t leave until he wakes.  

The arns creep slowly, the weapon beginning to drag at her arms, but she loves holding the stance in the face
of her fatigue, feeling the rightness of the position.  The timing light flickers once in her helmet.  Three steps
out, scan the corridor in both directions, pivot smartly and return to her position.

She stretches, feeling the mild popping along her spine that says she’s been sitting in one position too long.  
He’d fallen into an exhausted sleep once before, after the Tavlek gauntlet, but she’d only seen him like this
once before, and that was after the killshot in the transport pod.  He’d been dead that time, motionless and
growing cold.  

He doesn’t move.  There’s no twitching of eyelids, no gentle flutter of fingers as his dreams goad him to small
motions; there’s only the nearly imperceptible movement of his chest as he breathes.  She dares herself to
touch him, a motion that feels riskier than anything she’s ever tried in her life.  Her fingertips drag through the
bristling friction of his beard, pulling away some of the sweat and grime.  There’s no change other than the one
pale mark along his cheek that says she’s been there.  

The officer stalks the corridor, passing this way for the fifth time in six arns.  He walks past her, pauses, turns to
look back.  It’s an unusual behavior in a Command Carrier, so she follows protocol, shifting her rifle to ready
position and turns her head with a snap to look at him.  He returns to face her, the muzzle of her rifle trained on
his chest.

“Identify,” he orders, requesting name, rank, unit, assignment.  The reflex response almost gives him what he
wants.  

Ident chip,” she demands in return.  Even a cadet outranks an officer when they’re on guard duty.  He smiles,
nods once, and produces the tag.  She’s passed another test.

“Crichton,” she whispers, trying for a response.  This need to make sure he still inhabits his body is
inexplicable, goading her into a worried state where she can’t stop herself from doing mindless things.  Like
trying to wake him when he needs rest.  She gets to her feet without taking her eyes off him, and takes a
measured step back.

“Aeryn.”  It’s D’Argo this time, checking on her despite the fact that Zhaan had been here … she can’t
remember how long ago.  

“What time is it?” she asks before he can make another attempt to convince her to leave.  

“We brought him in here twelve arns ago,” he gives her the answer that has the most meaning.  “You should
get some rest.”  

It’s been less than two solar days since she’d received the paraphoral graft and her body is struggling to
recover.  D’Argo gives her that eye-squinting smile of indulgence -- the one where he tilts his head slightly to
one side -- and then leaves.  It’s been less than two solar days, not more than three.  He shouldn’t be sleeping
like this.  He shouldn’t be lying there like he was dead.

The timing light flicks.  A small opportunity to move.  An extended moment during which her body is offered
respite from the single position.  Step, scan, turn, step, turn, back in place for another quarter arn.  There is
little reason for a guard this deep within the safety of a Command Carrier.  It is regulations, it is training, it is her
life.

She paces from one end of the cell to the other hoping that the movement will help her untangle her thoughts.  
The cell doors stand open, the empty corridor beyond inviting her to leave.  Five careful strides take her to the
boundary, and she can’t go any further.  She paces back, trying to see what it is about this person that
commands her even from his sleep.  

The trooper slams to a stop in front of her as the squad continues down the corridor, slaps his rifle hard, and
then has to tilt his head down slightly to look at her.  He’s almost a head taller than the young, tired cadet.  She
steps aside and he spins into place.  She’s relieved from her post and is free to do whatever she wants for the
next eight arns.

Aeryn stands over him for several more microts, then lowers herself onto one knee beside him.  “John,” she
prods with her voice, because he’s too quiet.  He’s barely breathing now.  

“Aeryn?” he sighs, opening one eye to look at her blearily.  “What’s wrong?”  

“Nothing.  Do you need anything?”  She has the only thing that she needs right now.  He’s coherent and he
recognizes her, his mind still functioning despite whatever the chair had done to him.    

“Nuh,” he mumbles.  “I’m a bit tired though.”  He’s asleep again, his forehead furrowing slightly before he
relaxes back into the flattened belly-down sprawl.  

His hand twitches where it lies next to his chin.  The creases along his knuckles are lined with dirt; the nails are
chipped as though he’d grabbed at something convulsively, driving his fingertips into a hard surface without
self-restraint.  The rank odor of stale sweat drifts off him, the sweetly sour scent of stress and effort underlain
by the fragrance she’s come to know as that of a human male.  

“John Crichton,” she whispers, frightened in a new way because she thinks she knows why she has to stay until
he’s rested.  

“No,” he pleads on a sigh.  “Don’t.”    

“It’s all right,” she says more loudly and he settles down again.

She backs away silently and takes up her place perched on the top of the shelves lining the walls.  Moya is
hiding in an asteroid field, the scans of the Peacekeepers blinded by the mass of rock fragments.  She’s free to
do whatever she wants over the next several arns, so she tucks her feet beneath her, and watches.


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