Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit.
Spoilers/Time Frame: No spoilers. Set sometime about 14 cycles after Bad Timing.
Beta-readers: Written quickly, posted even faster. Scrubschick gave it the mandatory once over , with
additional input from CrystalMoon and Jadeshand. It has received a miserably low level of editing on my part,
therefore any errors, typos, poor grammar, or redundant use of words are all mine.
Note to the reader: I’ve wanted to write this particular story for quite some time, and just haven’t had time to
get it on the page. John, Aeryn, and Ian finally stopped by, well-armed with pulse weapons, and demanded that
I put Real Life on hold long enough to bang it out. Never argue with a Youses Muses Gang that arrives heavily
* * * * *
It had been a very long, very irritating day. Aeryn Sun wanted little more than to get to her quarters, take a
long shower -- possibly with John along to wash her back, provided he wasn’t in one of his more annoying
moods -- and then collapse into bed with the hope that a good night’s sleep would restore her patience.
Hearing the heavy tromp of D’Argo’s footsteps approaching from an intersecting corridor, she darted back the
way she had come and slid down one of the ladders to the next lower tier. It wasn’t D’Argo’s behavior she was
interested in avoiding; it was her own. A day of futile bartering had yielded a single questionable purchase of
supplies, which wouldn’t be delivered for two solar days, and she was hovering on the thin edge of an
explosion. Aeryn knew that a single misplaced comment was likely to provoke an unreasonable reaction.
The doors to their quarters were open as she approached the modified cell she shared with John. Over the
cycles, they’d gradually acquired enough possessions that a single chamber would no longer hold the
combined mass of their belongings. When they had approached Pilot with the request for larger quarters, they
had been pleased to speechlessness at Moya’s willingness to remove the walls between two of the adjoining
cells. The process had taken more than twenty solar days. Everyone aboard had visited occasionally to watch
as the leviathan began by cutting off all nutrient flow to the areas that would be removed, effectively killing off
the biological components in the walls. The gleaming metalloid walls had faded to a muted brown and then
black as they died, after which the DRDs excised the deadened material.
Their expansive living quarters now took up the space originally occupying three cells, while the multi-cultural
clutter that Ian had managed to collect took up two cells on the opposite side of the corridor. Thirteen cycles
old and beginning to show all the idiosyncrasies that John claimed a young adolescent was supposed to
display, their son had decided not to have the wall removed between the two cells. He moved from one to the
other depending on mood and whatever he wanted to be doing on any particular day. This small section of
Moya had come to be ‘home’ to her even more than the Command Carrier where she had been born and
Aeryn’s aggressive, athletic stride faltered and stumbled to a stop as she entered their quarters. Two sets of
clothing were tossed haphazardly on the oversized bed. Nearly identical black leather pants, one large and
one smaller, two pairs of boots, t-shirts, and a small herd of socks littered the coverlet and the floor alongside
the bed. It didn’t take a Peacekeeper Crimes Detection Officer to figure out that John and Ian were somewhere
nearby. The evidence indicated that they were both very likely naked.
“Relax,” John’s voice emanated from the waste alcove. “Don’t hold it so tight.”
“I’m nervous,” an unseen Ian replied.
“Take a deep breath. It’ll come naturally in no time at all.”
There was a pause in the conversation. Aeryn dropped the satchel holding her helmet and the breather gear
for the Prowler in a corner and debated whether to interrupt whatever was going on in the small room.
“Take it easy. There’s no rush. Even strokes,” John instructed. “Try using your other hand to keep the skin
taut. Like this.”
“Dad! I can do it myself. Just show me!” Ian objected, sounding mortified.
Aeryn eased toward the open door, increasingly suspicious of what John might be teaching their son.
“That’s a really sensitive spot. Try putting your finger … right … there.”
“Oh yeah. That’s better.”
“You’ve got two hands. This doesn’t have to be a one-handed process.”
Silence reigned for several microts.
“You know Mom hates when you do this in the shower.”
“It’s easier to clean up afterwards if you do it in the shower.”
“Kind of messy.”
“Yeah. Try using more of this stuff. It’ll make things slippery. It makes it nicer.” There was a five microt pause,
and then John went back to coaching his son. “That’s better. Just the right amount of pressure. Even
strokes. Try turning your hand a bit when you reach the top.”
Aeryn eased her pulse pistol out of the holster, slid the chakan oil cartridge out to ensure that it would not go
off by accident, and slid another half-motra toward the door. She intended to give John the fright of his life as
payment for what she assumed he was doing in there with Ian. She took a deep breath and swung around the
“CRICHTON! What the frell --”
Two surprised figures turned in perfect synchronization. Wearing nothing but their shorts, both faces half
lathered, nearly identical looks of surprise, John stood behind Ian with his straight-razor in his hand. He
greeted her with all the caution of a hunter approaching a wounded mesla cat. “Hey there, gorgeous. Did we
get boarded by Imperial storm troopers and Pilot forgot to mention it?”
The pulse pistol slid into the holster with a loud clack, emphasizing the abrupt silence in the crowded alcove.
“No. Sorry. I thought you were -- never mind.” Unaccustomed to feeling this off balance, she searched for
something to say. Her gaze came to rest on Ian’s bewildered expression. The bare side of his face -- the side
he had shaved -- looked no different than its normal state. “Isn’t this a little early to be teaching him --”
John broke in before she could finish. “No, it’s not! He’s begun growing hair in all the right places. Face,
chest,” John punctuated his accelerating narration by reaching over Ian’s shoulder and pointing to the center of
his torso. There didn’t seem to be anything there. “Not to mention other important body --”
“DAD!” Ian stopped him, turning a deep shade of crimson.
“Manly!” John proclaimed. “It is time for him to learn the rites of manly things.”
“I’ll leave you to your male domain then.”
John gave her a wink and one of his silliest grins, and then turned toward the mirror to resume what she had
interrupted. Aeryn paused in the doorway, watching them for a few microts. Ian was showing the first signs of
the man he was about to become, transforming almost hourly from a child into an adult. For most of his life,
whenever she watched Ian with his father, it was as though she were looking at an echo of the child that John
might have been, as though it were John’s younger self following him about Moya like a small shadow.
Tonight, the roles were abruptly reversed. With John leaning over the young man, unconsciously mimicking his
posture, it was Ian’s future she saw hovering behind her son, the promise of what his life would hold perched
just out of his sight. In the cycles to come, Ian’s slender leanness of youth would take on the heavier build of
his father, the bony jutting shoulders would broaden and disappear beneath muscle, and the pale, nearly
unblemished skin of the child would almost certainly, through hardship and adversity, pick up the gnarled scars
that both his parents carried. The incessant concern over how those coming cycles would affect him
emotionally took up its usual place in her chest.
“You okay, Aeryn?” John asked. He was watching her in the mirror, eyes flicking back and forth between her
and Ian’s progress with the razor, the happy grin still firmly in place.
“Yes, I’m fine.” Watching Ian with John, thinking of everything they’d undergone since he’d been born, she
knew he would do much more than simply survive. Her son was tough, capable, and had used the incredible
intellect he’d inherited from John to balance ruthlessness and compassion. He would become more than either
of his parents, greater than the sum of what each of them had given him. The day’s irritations dropped away,
the trivial concerns forgotten. Aeryn relaxed.
“I need a shower when the two of you are done in here. John, maybe you’d be willing to wash my back,” she
“I think that’s enough shaving lessons for one day!” John grabbed the razor out of Ian’s hand and propelled
him toward the door. “Your mother needs the shower. Out!”
“What about all that manly things dren?” Ian seemed unbothered by the abrupt ending to his instruction. He
gathered his clothing and boots into an untidy bundle, tossing his father’s things carelessly to the floor in the
“There’s manly and there’s manly. I’ll go over the rest of the list --”
“In several more cycles,” Aeryn commanded.
“-- when your mother gives me permission.”
John waved the doors shut, glanced the length of the expanded chamber to make sure all the drapes had
dropped into place automatically as they were supposed to, then bounded gleefully into the alcove to join
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *