Indoctrination
(First posted October 30, 2004)
Rating:  NC-17.    
Category:  More in the realm of “wishful thinking” than full-blown AU, but this story definitely runs contrary to
most people’s interpretation of canon.
Disclaimer:  Not mine; no profit.  Please forgive me, oh wondrous creators of Farscape, I had a severe attack
of the smuts.  
Time Frame:  We are going back to Season 1, Scaper readers.  This takes place after The Flax.
Test Drivers/Betareaders:  I ran into a bit of a quandary when I started writing this story (sometimes known
as a creative brick wall).  Fortunately, I was able to turn to a wonderful group of talented writers and readers for
help, and they willingly flung ideas and feedback in my direction.  (It was a very nice change from the cyber-
missiles I always wind up dodging whenever I post an overnight cliffhanger.)  In addition, the following people all
looked the story over at some point prior to posting (funny how the volunteers tend to line up when I’m doing
something NC-17).  Listed in no particular order, and all equally valued for their input, I’d like to thank
PKLibrarian, imloco2, aeryncrichton, CrystalMoon, AtanaMirtai, Shipscat, Auna, and shipsister for their help.  


*  *  *  *  *

John Crichton’s latest misunderstanding with Aeryn had begun innocently enough … or at least it had seemed
so when it occurred.  At the time, he had been circling some of the components of their so-called defense
shield, trying to decide which chunk of semi-scorched circuitry to dismantle as part of his continuing effort to
learn how things worked at this end of the universe.  Aeryn had marched into the chamber and come to a stop
next to him, her shoulder no more than six denches away from his.  “I’ve been feeling very tense lately,” she
had said, after which she had stared into his eyes for several microts and then had left just as abruptly as she
arrived.  He had stood rooted to that spot on Moya’s burnished floor for nearly a quarter arn, feeling very much
like a freshman geek who had just been asked out on a date by the Home Coming Queen.  The word ‘stunned’
couldn’t begin to describe his condition.  

Once he regained the ability to think, he had spent several hundred microts trying to decide whether to run
after her and fling her onto a bed caveman-style for a casual romp in the thermal sheets, or whether she had
been warning him that she was uptight beyond restraint and that if he came near her he stood a good chance
of getting shot.  In the end, he had decided to err on the side of self-preservation and had done nothing.  

Twelve days had passed since she had offered up that initial enigmatic comment, and Moya’s version of
nighttime was fast approaching when Crichton paused in the junction of two corridors and tried to figure out
how they had proceeded from that baffling but otherwise simple beginning to his current state of mental and
physical frustration.  He had already considered the possibility that the problem might have originated sometime
earlier.  It could have been triggered by his exchange with Aeryn that had taken place shortly after they
escaped from the flax.  

One thing … just to be absolutely certain … you are the female of your species.  Right?   

Her response -- although not what he would normally call unequivocal proof -- had banished any uncertainty
about her gender.  

“Not that there was ever any question in the first place,” John said to himself.  He turned in a circle, debating
whether to wander up to Command to see if D’Argo could shed some light on the courting habits of bred-to-kill
Sebaceans, or whether he should abandon the fantasy that Aeryn might ever wanted to engage in some
recreational sex and head for the shower instead.

He had spent dozens of arns considering the possibility that their squabbling might have just as easily begun
with the kiss and the desperate groping in the transport pod.  Or it could have begun when Aeryn gave him
CPR.  He had regained consciousness with a lingering not-quite-memory of her lips pressing against his, and
he had hungered for a more thorough, intimate exploration ever since.  That might explain why he had jumped
to the conclusion that she had been offering an invitation.  

“Except she never did anything,” he said to himself, continuing his indecisive revolutions.  

He had waited several days for Aeryn to make a move, and then, uncertain about her motives, had said exactly
the same thing to her as a kind of experiment -- just to see what sort of reaction it drew.  He hadn’t gotten the
sort of response he had been hoping for.  For several microts she had looked like she was going to hit him,
then she had snarled something in Sebacean that his microbes steadfastly refused to translate, and had
stalked out of Command fuming.  They had been going back and forth like that ever since.  So far, he had
survived twelve solar days of her saying things that he could have sworn was a signal that she wanted a little
fun in the sack, only to nearly rip his head off each time he got around to suggesting they carry through on the
idea.  

“Empirical method is useless out here … as is any form of logic I’ve ever been taught,” he said, and decided to
head for his quarters.  There was more than one way for a guy to relieve tension and he was fed up with waiting
for Aeryn to clue him in about whatever it was she wanted.  The shower, one hand, the right amount of friction,
and when he was done he could hit the sack a drained, if not thoroughly satisfied, man.  

The doors to his cell were open and he went in at a lope, already shucking off his uniform jacket and pulling his
gray shirt loose from the waist of his pants, thinking only of the release that could be achieved once he was
undressed and in the privacy of the waste alcove.  The fast, eager stride faltered to a stop.  Aeryn was sitting
on his bed, waiting for him.  Crichton flung his jacket to one side and launched in without bothering to ask why
she was there.  

“Just shoot me now, Aeryn!  Put me out of my misery.  I don’t know what the hell you want!  I’m a human.  I don’t
get all this far-end-of-the-universe stuff.  So, please, either tell me straight out what you want or leave now.”

Aeryn got to her feet and went over to the shelves lining the far wall of the cell, somehow managing to look as
though she was on a parade ground and yet totally lacking in direction at the same time.  The contradiction
didn’t fade as the microts passed in silence.  Standing rigidly erect, back straight, head up, she drifted aimlessly
to one side with one fist resting against the small of her back, half at attention, while the other hand drifted idly
across his few possessions.  

“You need to understand something,” she started.  The tone was soldier; the slow pacing was the sound of a
woman desperately out of her element.  

“I need to understand a lot of things.”  When Aeryn’s head jerked up even straighter, an all too familiar sign of
defensiveness, John bit down on the rest of what he had been planning to say.  “Explain it to me.”

She turned to face him, rested her hips against the top shelf, and crossed her arms in front of her.  “I was
raised to believe that racial purity was inviolate.  The Sebacean bloodline was to be kept pure no matter what
the cost.”  A laser-like glare from her stilled Crichton’s intended reply.  “You need to understand that this wasn’t
just something we were taught during our training.  The belief permeates every aspect of the Peacekeepers.  It
has been a way of life from my earliest memory.  It is part of who I am.”  

John scratched one temple for a moment, wondering if this had to do with their combative waltz over the past
several days or if it was a separate issue.  “Okay,” he said slowly, inviting her to continue.  Aeryn grimaced and
headed for the door.  He reached for her, only to yank his hand back when she whirled to face him already
preparing a counterattack.  He stumbled backward out of range, both hands raised to show he was no threat.  
“I still don’t get it.  You’re going to have to spit it out, Aeryn.  Whatever brought you here, just … tell me!”  

She paused near the door, looking indecisive.  “Over the past several cycles, I have been assigned to serve on
a number of prison ships.  No matter what the type of ship, for reasons of security as well as to break down
their ability to offer any mental resistance, prisoners are never allowed any privacy.  In the course of my duties,
I have … I have …”

Driven beyond the limits of his patience by her halting explanation, John abandoned tact and shouted, “You’ve
what, Aeryn?”

“I’ve seen all sorts of species,” she finished quickly.  “Some are quite … different.”

John stared at her dumbfounded, aware in a detached sort of way that his eyebrows were conducting an
inexorable ascent of their own accord while he was rendered powerless to stop them.  “This is about --”  
Stepping to one side, he checked to make sure they hadn’t picked up any eavesdroppers.  There was no way
to be certain that Rygel wasn’t wandering around in the air vents, but he could at least make sure that the
corridor was empty.  He didn’t want to hear about this conversation afterwards from D’Argo or Zhaan.  

Scan completed, he turned his attention back to Aeryn.  “This has all been about anatomy?”  The last word
ended on an incredulous squeak.  John cleared his throat and tried again, this time working hard to sound as
though he was taking it all in stride.  “You’re worried about what my --”  Aeryn’s furious glare trapped his next
word in his throat.  He searched for an alternate term.  “You’re worried about the equipment?”

“That’s not … It wasn’t the … Not at first,” she stammered, beginning to blush.  Abruptly, the disciplined soldier
took over from the uncertain woman, eliminating both the hesitant explanation and the confusion.  “Yes.”

He unfastened his belt and zipper, hooked his thumbs into the top of his rumpled, threadbare khakis in
preparation for taking them off, and then froze.  “Doors are open.”  

“It hardly matters.  You haven’t put up anything to block the view anyway.”  

“If this leads to --”  He considered what he was going to say and who he was about to say it to,  and chose a
different approach to the problem.  “We need to put something up.”

They turned as one to look at the golden covers heaped in a tangle at the foot of John’s bed.  Twenty microts
later discretion had been addressed, the doorways had been covered with several spare thermal sheets, and
John was standing with his thumbs inside the waist of his pants, poised to drop them.  Again, he hesitated.
“I can’t do it this way.”  

“Is there some reason for you to be embarrassed?” she asked, cocking her head to one side.

“Yes … I mean no!  At least, I don’t think so.  Not the way you mean,” he corrected when he saw a smirk
appear.  “This feels too much like ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’.”

Aeryn began unfastening her pants.  “Perhaps you would you like to examine my anatomy first?”  

“No!  Definitely not.  I mean … I don’t …”  Once again, she had him thoroughly flustered.  He let go of his pants
and rubbed his forehead, striving to reassemble some small measure of confidence.  Visions of a
gynecologist’s office generated an unidentifiable feeling that was far closer to revulsion than titillation.  When
he looked back at Aeryn, she was staring at him with one eyebrow raised.  He fumbled for a better answer.  
“That’s not what I mean … exactly.  Look, you can inspect my accessory package, and if you say we’re
compatible, I’ll take your word for it.”  

“Fine.”  

Once again John tried to lower his pants, and once again his hands froze just shy of the point where gravity
would take over and finish the job for him.  He knew that if Aeryn had come into his cell to propose a straight-
forward session of what she referred to as ‘recreating’, his clothes would have been strewn across the chamber
before either one of them had time to consider such critical details as open doors and privacy.  But her request
for what he feared might turn into an all too clinical examination had him more off balance than any moment he
could remember that involved a woman.  The desire to take a quick peek inside his pants -- just to make sure
everything was there, intact, and of adequate quality -- grew from an illogical whim to an irrepressible need in
the space of two microts.  

“Is this not what you wanted?” Aeryn asked.  “Should I leave?”

“No, don’t leave.”  

John tried to envision Aeryn without any clothes in hopes that it would generate a desire to disrobe.  It wasn’t
difficult to imagine.  He was certain he knew how she would look:  high sparse breasts honed down to the softly
rounded essentials by a lifetime of conditioning, below them the often seen taut belly, smooth shoulders
bearing the woman’s less bulky and more elegantly curved muscles, narrow waist emphasizing hips that
distracted him too frequently even when they were encased in pants, and legs that seemed to stretch forever.  
Obligingly, the image of her lean, well-toned body standing naked before him came to life in his mind.  
Unfortunately, the imagined version had her hands on her hips and was shaking her head in disappointment
while making that purely Aeryn ‘tsk’ sound of derision.  He could practically feel his nuts shriveling up from
anticipated humiliation.         

“Crichton, what is your problem?” she asked, interrupting the waking nightmare.  

He wanted this moment more than almost anything else he had ever wanted in his entire life, and there was no
way to explain to this self-disciplined, alien woman that none of his sexual encounters had ever begun with a
girlfriend cooing, “Ohhhhh, Johnny, show me your dick so I can be sure it will fit.”  It was the perfect prescription
for inducing impotence.  Hollow-stomached excitement morphed into a gut-clenching case of nerves.

After several microts spent reflecting on the dilemma, he said, “Problem is that I’m not taking off my clothes
unless you take off yours.  We should do it together.”  John braced himself for the possibility of an argument, a
furious exit from the cell, or perhaps just one of Aeryn’s awe-inspiring explosions.  

Instead, after a single microt’s consideration, she bent down and began unfastening her boots.  It was an
intensely graceful movement, one that could only be performed by a woman.  A man would jam his foot up on
any bit of convenient furniture, regardless of the piece’s finish or value, and make a scant effort at unlacing his
boot before yanking it off primarily by force.  Aeryn did the sinuous, feminine trick of leaning to the side with one
knee bent, opposing hip cocked out to the side.  She then proceeded to loosen each loop of lace without, as
far as he could see, ever touching them.  Strong slender fingers danced quickly up her boot, yanked the
tongue forward, and she lifted her foot out of it without disturbing the way the footwear sat on the floor.  It was
at once elegant and exciting.    

Mesmerized by this bit of magic, John watched without moving, admiring the flex and stretch of muscles beneath
the flimsy intervention of her pants.  Aeryn had recently switched from wearing her Peacekeeper-issue uniform
pants with the built-in suspenders to baggier but lighter weight trousers that sometimes slid a provocative
distance down her hips.  They did it again as she removed her second boot.  The vest and shirt rode up, the
pants shifted down, and he gazed in admiration at her lower back and midriff.  It was just as he had imagined.  
Smooth, pale skin stretched easily over shifting muscle and bone, allowing brief hints of what it would be like to
touch and to hold that body.  

The desire to be naked arrived at last.  He was consumed by the need to cast off his clothes, grab Aeryn, and
launch them both toward the bed in a flurry of arms, legs, lips, sweat, effort, and desire.  His boots thumped into
a corner, followed a microt later by a brief shower of socks and his gray t-shirt.  John took a deep breath,
ignored the lingering mild embarrassment, and a moment later his pants and shorts joined the fast growing
heap of discard clothing.

When he turned around, Aeryn was just stepping out of her pants, still wearing her underclothes.  He didn’t
object in the least to the bits of cloth that remained.  As much as he enjoyed imagining what her naked body
would look like, he found the mystery every bit as exciting as the unadorned reality.  Hungering after the sight
of the more intimate details had the taste of a promise withheld for the right moment.  The bare skin of her
shoulders and upper chest led his eye downward, only to be turned away from its goal by her black top.  It
teased him with the possibility that he might soon pull it over her head and be allowed to feast his attention on
what lay hidden beneath.

Aeryn watched him watching her, and a small smile appeared -- one that suggested pleasure rather than
humor.  She moved closer, and it was as though he was viewing her through a special lens that allowed him to
zoom in on every detail without losing sight of the rest of her.  He watched the way her feet flattened on the
floor under her weight, the way her hair drifted along her shoulders, small individual strands sailing in the
induced breeze of her movement, and the easy sway of her body.  From the lifting quirk of her eyebrow down
past her breasts to a small red spot on the edge of her foot that spoke of a poorly fitting boot, he saw each tiny
detail and the entire woman all at once.  And she excited him in a way no woman ever had.  

Officer Aeryn Sun was beautiful and lethal, sensuous and strong.  The apparent contradictions combined to
create an effect on his head and heart that no woman on Earth could ever hope to challenge.   The hollow
feeling returned to his stomach, accompanied by a faint stirring deep within his groin.  Anticipation drew his skin
into goosebumps and raised the hair along the back of his neck.  He wanted to explore the amalgam of
opposites standing before him with fingers and tongue until he knew every scrap of her body intimately.  He
wanted to know if her voice would rise to a breathless, whistling squeak as she approached orgasm, or if it
would drop into a husky, smooth-toned growl of the sort that only a woman could produce.  Was there an
unknown bit of anatomy waiting within her?  Did Sebacean women have extra muscles that humans weren’t
designed to encounter, or something even more harmful?  Crichton pondered all these questions and dozens
more in the brief moment it took for Aeryn to cross the short distance separating them.  He stood before her
excited, leery, and more bashful than he ever could have imagined.    

Aeryn came to a stop three feet away and her gaze traveled slowly downward.  He waited.  The silence
stretched out until John couldn’t stand it anymore.  He asked, “Should I assume this is bad news?”

“It is a bit … well …”  She cocked her head to one side, peering more intently at his genitals.  “It does get
larger, doesn’t it?”

“Yes!  Of course!”  Far too late for a dignified recovery, he saw a muscle at the corner of her mouth twitch and
realized that he was being baited.  The usual metaphor involving a fish and a lure was too meager for how
thoroughly Aeryn had snared him; his rise to the challenge had been more reminiscent of Moby Dick lunging
after Ahab.  John took in a breath, let it out slowly, and for the first time since discovering the source of Aeryn’s
recent erratic behavior, switched from defense to offense.  “It gets about this long,” he said, indicating
something the length of his forearm, “and this big around.”  His fingers scribed a circle large enough to enclose
his wrist.  

A faint tinge of red glowed for a moment across Aeryn’s cheekbones, accompanied by a similar darkening at
the base of her throat.  Crichton was allowed a single microt to contemplate just how much or how little
experience a soldier might have had at making love before Aeryn went back on the attack.  She nodded,
looking disappointed, and said, “I suppose I could make do with that if it’s the best you can manage.  Does it do
anything else?”

“What, you mean like vibrate or grow knobs?”  

“Like not just lie there like a drunken Quarla worm.”  

Crichton looked down at himself and then back at Aeryn.  “Given the right motivation, it will stand up, salute,
and whistle the national anthem.  No, Aeryn, it doesn’t do anything else other than what you’d expect from a
dick.  It’s pretty much just your standard-issue length of male erectile tissue, although my parents chose to
make a small alteration to it right after I was born.  I’ve only managed to teach it a single trick, and that
happened back in my teens.  These are handed out one to a customer, it doesn’t come with a money back
guarantee, and there isn’t a lifetime service plan.  If I am ever so lucky that somehow manage to wear it out, I
don’t get a new one.  Did you have some sort of physical activity in mind or are we just going to stand around
and make fun of Wee Willie Wiener all evening?”

She spun away from him, and Crichton silently cursed himself, convinced that she was leaving because of his
outburst.  But Aeryn only went as far as her neatly piled stack of clothes before she slid her top off, stepped out
of her briefs, and then turned to face him.  The breath stopped in his throat for several microts, and he felt the
first thrilling surge of arousal between his legs.  She was every bit as beautiful as he had imagined.  Not
curvaceous, or voluptuous, or soft in the way so many of the girls he had known in school had been soft; this
woman was strong and resilient beneath the requisite girl-padding, and he suspected that the volatile temper
would turn love-making into a danger fraught adventure.

Aeryn moved toward the bed, keeping her eyes on him while her hands were busy with her hair.  The gleaming
dark mass was gathered, finger-combed into order, and then she reached behind her neck and looped it into a
knotted ponytail that would keep it out of the way.  Her breasts rose and fell in time with the motion of her arms,
a form of magical levitation uniquely female.  Watching the deft motions, gazing at the clean lines of her neck
and shoulders, and the way her thighs brushed against each other, barely touching as she walked, all the
awkwardness and her teasing fell away as though it had never occurred.  This was a member of that most
exquisite of creations, a woman, and he wanted to make love to her.  Intercourse, sex, recreating -- none of
those terms were adequate.  He wanted to love this body until it begged for him to stop, and then carry her a
little further until she arched and quivered and cried out for more.    

She came to a stop in front of him, and ran the back of a knuckle up his stomach from navel to sternum.  The
effect on him was immediate.  The change was not lost on Aeryn.  They looked down together, surveying the
gradually changing landscape below his waist.  Checking his expression before taking him into her hands, she
fingered his hardening cock, testing its resilience, and rubbed her thumb over the tip several times.  He was
treated to several firm squeezes before she moved on.  The grasp made its way from base to tip and back
down again, ending with a fluttering little examination of his balls.  The entire process felt more like one of
exploration than anything erotic, as though she might be checking its current state of rigidity and the potential
for further engorgement.  

Whatever her opinion on the comparative qualities of Human versus Sebacean sexual organs, the quiet little
smile he received seemed to say that he and his scrotum had passed muster.  John let his breath out shakily,
and decided that in light of his success so far that bellowing ‘Thank you, God!’ at the top of his lungs might not
be the right way to start things off with Aeryn.

“It has quite a ways to go before it gets as big as you claim it will,” she said.

“Give it a chance.”  He motioned with his hands.  “This long.  I swear.”  The boast summoned a single raised
eyebrow of skepticism from Aeryn.  “Okay, this long.”  His hands halved the distance.

“We’ll see.”

John copied her earlier gesture only in reverse.  He ran the back of a knuckle from the base of her throat down
through the valley between her breasts, made the small dip at her navel, and ended by slowly stroking her
abdomen from waist to pubic hairs several times.  He switched from knuckle to fingertips, rubbed lightly at the
crease of her hip, teasing his way closer to her crotch, and then grabbed her buttocks instead and pulled her
closer.  It pinned his erect cock between their bodies, massaging the underside with the whispering smooth
surface of her belly; one of her thighs treated his balls to a comfortable nudging.  It was all at once
un-emphatic, erotic, and exhilarating.  

A hand snaked between their bodies to stroke him several times, and he was suddenly, achingly, irrevocably
erect, fully engorged and wallowing in the joyful knowledge that it was Aeryn’s hand on his erect cock instead of
his own -- the sort of change he had begun to fear might never happen.  The pleasure was so intense, it
bounded on discomfort.  There was a brief moment of sensory confusion while his entire nervous system
realigned itself to pay attention to the single organ, and when it was over, he was abruptly aware of every nerve
ending in his body.  His universe revolved around the single factor that he was naked and he was touching an
equally unclothed Aeryn Sun.  

“How do humans usually begin?” she asked.

“Can’t speak for the entire species, but you seem to be doing just fine so far.”  The easy, relaxed slide of her
hand moving from base to tip went on without interruption, coaxing a greater response from him with each pass
of her hand.  There was a portion of his brain that would have been quite happy to stay like that, standing
naked in the middle of the cell while she finished jerking him off, but there was Aeryn and her pleasure to think
of, and the arousal of a woman was rarely such a straight forward matter as it was for a man.   

Starting slow, John cupped her chin in both hands, gently raised her head to meet him, and kissed her.  Her lips
were familiar.  They had kissed in the transport pod.  He knew the feel and the taste of her, but not to the full
extent.  There had not been enough time before they were interrupted.  There was plenty of time now,
however.  He lingered, exploring and coaxing, and was thrilled to encounter a similar investigation by Aeryn.  
They spent long moments sparring, tasting:  discovering each other.  They broke apart, nipped, made small
forays, and went back for more.  He closed his eyes, the better to imprint every small detail of the moment on
his memory.  

His hands drifted downward, beginning an inventory that he hoped would last all night.  Bumping across her
collarbones, pausing there to stroke her shoulders for several microts, he crossed the smooth expanse of her
upper chest, and arrived at his first target.  Aeryn’s breasts coasted smoothly beneath his fingertips, the easy
swell of her chest neither too large nor too small.  They fit into his cupped hands to perfection.  John leaned
into her, aware of eager lips and teeth and tongue meeting his, but most of his awareness taken up by the
handfuls of warm, feminine flesh and the way it shifted when he applied pressure to one side or another.  

He found her nipples and pressed gently against the centers with his thumbs, stroking the outer curves with the
tips of his fingers.  A long sigh drifted across his cheek, and he continued the nudging caresses.  Impossibly
soft tissue gathered and hardened into well-defined nubs.  He pressed harder, massaging the entire mass of
her breasts now, mixing in lighter tickling touches and teasing pinches, and Aeryn made a small noise into his
mouth.

“No?” he whispered, opening his eyes to check on her reaction.  In place of an answer, her hands guided him
back to her breasts.  “What else do you like?” he asked, resuming the slow, insistent massage.   

Aeryn pulled her head away from him.  Grayish eyes stared into his from a distance of four denches.  “How do
you mean?”

“I mean, what do you like?  What gets you all hot and bothered?  What throws gas on your fire?”  

Aeryn’s expression went from mildly aroused to completely blank, forcing Crichton to wonder what sort of
Sebacean taboo he had blundered into this time.  Instead of answering, she asked, “What do you like?”

“Ears.  I’ve got this thing about my ears.”  

“Ears,” she echoed.  Grasping him firmly but carefully by the sides of his face, Aeryn turned his head to one
side and then the other, examining his ears with puzzled interest.  “They’re not --”

“They’re not a sexual organ,” he agreed.  “But wait until I’m wound up tight, and then do something to my ears
and see what happens.”  

“Ears,” she repeated one more time.  Releasing her grip, she ran her fingers lightly behind his ears, testing for
a response.  The slender digits probed, nails scratching lightly just behind his earlobes, and then worked their
way over the tops and around to the front, lingering along the way to probe the humps and ridges of cartilage.  
He closed his eyes and shivered, his nervous system responding in its usual inexplicable manner to what he
had discovered was one of his stronger erogenous zones.  He had never bothered to ponder why nature had
chosen to designate his ears as a trigger.  All he needed to know was that the first time Mary Ellen Landown
had stuck her tongue in his ear there had been an immediate and explosive -- not to mention embarrassing --
response, and he had made a mental note to reserve that particular bit of excitement for later in the evening
from then on.  

“You are … peculiar, Crichton,” hauled him back from remembered ecstasy.

He began walking backwards.  Encased inside a two-armed hug, Aeryn had a choice between fighting her way
free or going with him.  She went with him.  

“So what puts the fizz in your soda bottle?” he asked.  

She blushed deeply, and he again wondered what sort of Sebacean or Peacekeeper code he had unwittingly
violated.  But this time she answered the question.  In a low pitched whisper mumbled into his chest, she
admitted, “The backs of my knees.”

The edge of the bed caught him behind his legs, and he toppled over backwards, carrying Aeryn with him.  
“One set of knees, coming right up,” he mumbled into her lips, and kissed her again.    

They picked up where they had left off microts earlier:  with sparring tongues, his palms cupping her breasts,
and Aeryn’s hands rubbing his back.  It accelerated without the hindrance of being upright, transmuted into
larger movements, more insistent pressure, and the heavier breathing of growing arousal.  They wrestled,
grappled, rolled onto their sides, and fought their way into positions of equal satisfaction.  He began working his
way down the center of her body with gently lipped caresses and questing hands, and Aeryn sat hunched over
him, probing his back, shoulders, and chest, massaging bone and muscle until he felt as though he was turning
to liquid inside.

He pushed himself free of her body and knelt between her legs, surveying the sweat glistening body.  Aeryn lay
half on one side, her head propped up on one elbow, and gazed back at him quizzically.  John let one hand drift
down her thigh, watching carefully for a reaction, and then gently fingered the back of her knee.  Her entire
body underwent an indescribable change.  She didn’t writhe or move except to drop her head into the pillow,
but she somehow became more tense and yet relaxed at the same moment.  As though she had been emptied
of one substance and refilled with another made up of more volatile compounds, Aeryn shifted into a time and
space where small touches wrought enormous effects.  

Crichton laughed, and lifted her leg, squirming around until he could reach the appropriate spot without effort.  
He kissed the pale skin, and then ran the tip of his tongue across it.  Aeryn let out a thoroughly un-soldierly little
screech and arched her back.  He went on repeating the small erogenous tickling until she began emitting tiny
shudders.  She closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and began to surge with tension.  There was no reason to
question the cause behind the effect he was having on her.  This was no more or less reasonable than ears.  

“Roll over,” he whispered, nudging the leg to one side.  Without opening her eyes, she willingly shifted onto her
back.  John knee-walked closer to her, working his way up her legs as he went:  massaging the taut, quivering
thighs, driving his thumbs in firmly to loosen tense muscles and tendons.  She caught one of his hands and
tugged, inviting him, telling him she was ready.  But he wasn’t ready for the more vigorous thump and shove, or
the exertion.  He wanted to spend more time learning her body first.  There were portions of this woman he
hadn’t ventured to investigate yet, awaiting hundreds of kisses and exploring touches, and arns of foreplay.  He
dug deep beneath her with both hands, massaging her lower back and her buttocks, and tried to decide where
to go next.  There were shoulders and toes and elbows and fingers to be traversed; and the small of her back,
and the nape of her neck.  And after everything else was discovered, tested, and catalogued, there were the
wet, smooth surfaces between her legs that he was longing to caress with his tongue.  

“Do you not want to?” Aeryn asked, interrupting his thoughts.  She looked both hurt and puzzled.  “Don’t you …
don’t humans …” She gestured toward his erection.  

“Of course!  But it’s fun to … to wait, to play.”  

Aeryn sat up.  There was no lurch, no struggle.  From a splayed leg sprawl, she simply sat up, showing no sign
of muscular strain, and squirmed her way toward where he knelt, wrapping her legs around the ouside of his
thighs in the process.  

“This is fun,” she said, and reached between his legs.  

Aeryn knew all the moves necessary to set his brain adrift from his body.  The firm stroking with the tighter grip
and a bit of a twist each time her hand crossed the sensitive head, accompanied by drifting touches across the
surface of his balls, one finger making occasional forays behind his sac to set his innards to quaking.  Each
time he thought he couldn’t stand it any longer, she would stop all motion and merely cups his balls in her hand,
the warmth and the fact that it was her hand holding him all that was needed to hold him at that point of gasping
tension.  Kneeling before her, legs splayed wide for no other reason than to allow Aeryn to torture him, he
buried his face in the side of her neck, leaned into her body, and let her take him up to the crest just short of a
climax repeatedly.  He tingled from head to foot; every nerve ending buzzed with sexual electricity, begging for
surcease.  His muscles began to act on their own, leaping about at random, doing their best to shed the excess
energy.  

“Enough fun?” she asked at last.  

For an answer, he laid her back on the bed.  His hands lingered, pressing against her back and rubbing the
muscles there because he liked the way her upper body fit into his forearms and hands, and the way her weight
seemed to complement his position, as though they were fulcrum and lever, two halves of a smoothly operating
whole.  There was a rightness to their being together.  And then, ignoring Aeryn’s tugging at his arms to
encourage him to do something else, he shuffled down to lay between her legs.  

“Do Sebaceans do this?” he asked, rubbing his hand across the hard rise of her pubic bone.  

“Do what?  Delay interminably?”

“No.  This.”  Looping one arm underneath her thigh and using the other hand to coax her legs open, he paused
for a single microt to admire the view and then cautiously dove in with his tongue, uncertain how she would
respond.  He got his answer to the ‘growl or squeak’ question right away:  it was a bit of both.  

“Hez … mana!”  Aeryn’s short exclamation started out with a shrill little yelp, dove to the bottom of her range
over the course of the first half of the word, got hung up on the ‘z’ for two full microts, and rumbled along
through her lowest register for the remainder.  “Oh … by Cholak,” she cried in a strangled voice and arched up
into his waiting hands and lips.  

Crichton laughed into her thigh, pinned one of her legs to the mattress, and went exploring.  Physically she was
the same as a human; the wondrously familiar territory provided all of the expected reactions.  Focusing first on
the fast swelling button of nerves, he worked around the edges, probing delicately, tickling at it with the tip of
his tongue until the hands above him started to flail and pull at his hair.  He stroked it more firmly after that,
pushing hard with the flat of his tongue on each pass.  Flicking at the slickly smooth rounded surface,
alternating with a hard sucking from time to time, he paid as much attention to the accelerating cries and the
foot kicking him in the ribs as he did to his own growing level of pleasure.  

He probed cautiously into her increasingly wet opening with two fingers, conducting an exploration every bit as
gentle and thorough as her earlier examination of his dick.  There were no surprises waiting inside, save
perhaps the quaking, spasming muscles that told him Aeryn was closer to her climax than he had suspected.  
Driving deep and pressing hard, massaging the rippling muscles from inside her, John used the buried hand to
gauge Aeryn’s reactions.  Nearing the point of no return, he could feel the first pulsing contractions and would
ease off, treating her to a gentler, wetter massage until she coasted down to a mere frenzy.  When the
shuddering gasps lengthened out into long sighs, he would start again, each round taking her closer to the
inevitable, unavoidable orgasm.  

“I will … KILL YOU!” she gasped into one of the relaxing interludes.  “Enough.”  

“You’re sure?”  John brushed one hand through the mat of dark hair that lay at eye level.  He kissed the hollow
of one thigh and then the other.  

“Positive.  Come here.”  He had little choice.  Aeryn grabbed him by the ears and pulled with a force just short
of damaging.  Crawling on all fours, he allowed her to guide him to a spot hovering over her body.  Legs
splayed to either side of her body, he lowered himself to his elbows and kissed her.  Mid-kiss, with her tongue
doing a form of acrobatics inside his mouth he never would have dared dream of, a hand groped between his
legs and treated the entire area, balls and cock both, to a firm but sensual massage.  

“Now,” Aeryn said.  “No more frelling around.”  

That was when he entered her:  gently, gradually, easing his way in, testing for her readiness, making sure they
were truly compatible and that he didn’t hurt her, until his entire length was buried within the moist warmth of
Aeryn Sun and he was leaning over her with his weight suspended on his arms.  She smiled up at him.  Like so
many things about her, he didn’t fully understand the smile.  It was languid, full of pleasure, and yet there was
something else there that didn’t belong -- as though some portion of the moment wasn’t what she had
expected.  

“Okay?” he asked.  

Aeryn rubbed him lightly beneath the ears, and nodded.  An arm snaked around his shoulders, and she pulled
him down on top of her.  Her legs captured his waist, changing the angles and driving her pelvis up into his,
demanding an equally vigorous response.  Their world devolved into thrust and surge, effort and sweat,
groping hands and wet-lipped kisses.  From the effortless, motionless sort of near ecstasy a few microts earlier,
he descended into a wilder, more physically challenging pursuit of orgasm.  He didn’t mind making the shift.  

Aeryn was soft in all the right places, her body was warm against his, and it was the sort of contact he had
missed intensely since the moment he fell into the rabbit hole leading to this out of control life.  This was
confirmation that he hadn’t lost everything of what he had once been.  This was energy turned toward a goal
other than destruction, it was companionship that didn’t begin and end with violence, and it was, unlike
everything else in this galaxy, incredibly human.  He changed from dislocated wanderer into a man again, found
sanity in the mindlessness of motion and friction, gasping breaths, whispered encouragements, and the feel of
her hands digging into his buttocks, encouraging him to thrust harder.  

There was something primordial about the exertion, as though the leftover caveman portions of his genes were
happy with the rhythmic physical effort.  Thousands of years of evolution had gone into assuring that the
muscles were in the right places, nerve endings positioned just so, soft skin, tender surfaces, textures, fluids,
and a brain that would, when the moment came, willingly convert it all into a thought-destroying blast of pure
sensation.  He was aware of his nakedness at first, of the cool drift of air across skin that was normally covered,
of Aeryn’s fingers tracing demanding patterns against ribs and hips, gripping his ass, massaging his chest and
stomach.  Sweat tickled its way down his sides, wormed its way between them, made him slippery.  Aeryn
gripped and grappled, strained against him and worked in tandem, added her own contributions to the small
rivulets of effort.    

“Can you …?” he said in a whisper, guiding one of her legs toward his waist.

“Turn.  More there,” she agreed, hanging on to his shoulders for a moment, seeking leverage.  “Harder.  More.”

“What about … here?” he asked, running his hand up the inside of her thigh to a spot she might enjoy, and
judged from the arching and trembling of her body that he had guessed correctly.  

“Knees?” he asked.  

The answer was yes, and he found a way to stroke behind both legs at the same time, setting her to panting
out small, throaty yelps in time with the first clenching internal precursors to her climax.  His engulfed cock was
massaged by a frenetic grip, specialized rings of muscles transmitting her excitement to him through the focus
of their union.  He let out a chuckling groan, and did it to Aeryn again, sharing the results of his small effort.  
They drew away from that almost-orgasm, indulged in lighter, less erotic touches for the length of time it took
for both of them to relax, and then started again.  Breast and nipple, teeth and tongue, nimble fingers doing
something along his spine that he couldn’t have dreamed up on his own and nearly divorcing him from reason
in the process, discovering that she enjoyed a wetter, harder sucking against a spot along one edge of her
breast while she cradled his head in her arm:  A dozen such small moments combined into a world of sweat and
trembling muscles that begged for just a little bit more.

“Ears?” she breathed later, and he shook his head, unable to talk, because neither of them was ready for that
moment.  Not quite yet.  

The tempo increased, approaching the moment for ears.  Moving faster, with more need, feeling the uncurling
of the energy within his guts, the first loosening of the final ecstatic effort, he worked to outpace the small cries
coming from Aeryn.  She groped for his hand, they fumbled, she intertwined her fingers into his and hung on
tight, arching and surging against him.  He shoved a little harder at the end of each stroke, responding to the
tugging, beckoning grasp, and he was almost there.  The cell disappeared from around him, leaving him
suspended in the moment, aware of nothing other than Aeryn, her sweat slick body moving in concert with his,
and the electric, joyous precursor to his orgasm.  The magical sensation swelled within, taking over his nervous
system, building toward the crystalline moment when it couldn’t be denied, and he leaned in close, finally ready
to tell her that it was time for …

“Stop!  Stop … stop … stop,” Aeryn said breathlessly into his ear in time with his efforts.  

“Stop?!  Stop NOW?”  With every lungful of air wholly devoted to fueling an impending orgasm, his breathing
was beyond his control, and the last word emerged in a falsetto screech.  “Jeeeesus Christ.  God save me from
fickle women!”  

John thrust himself away from Aeryn with both arms, rolled awkwardly off the bed, and staggered across the
cell, clutching at his overwrought balls with one hand while groping his way along the wall with the other.  He
was shaking, his knees were close to buckling with every step, and he felt like he was having a heart attack.  
“God almighty!”

“What is the matter with you?”  Aeryn’s yell sounded nearly as frustrated as he felt.  

“You said stop!  So I stopped!” he yelled back.  

“I didn’t say stop!  I said stop!”  

John shook his head vigorously, trying to decide if this was a nightmare, some sort of Peacekeeper torture, or a
Sebacean ritual involving death-by-unfulfilled-orgasm.  With his left hand grasping the base of his cock and his
balls, trying to ease what had turned into an ache of unendurable frustration, he pounded the side of his head
with his free hand, trying to jar a more sensible translation loose.  It didn’t help.  “You said stop!” he shouted at
her.  “Both times.”

“No, not stop.”  Aeryn looked away from him for several microts, showing all the signs of an impending
explosion, and then took a deep breath and turned back to him.  “Listen carefully.”  

This time he heard the difference.  Just as before, his translator microbes faithfully altered each word into
‘stop’, but by paying close attention to the sounds coming out of her mouth, he could hear that she was using
two different terms.  He staggered back to the bed and sat down next to her, both hands pressed into his lap.  

“They both come through as stop,” he said, complaining about the confusion.

“The word I used means--”  Aeryn made a frustrated two-handed gesture.  “It means ‘wait for me’, or ‘not so
soon’.”  

“The microbes need an upgrade if you want them to handle porn.  You couldn’t just yell wait?”  

“Why would I?  The word I used is specific to the situation!  Wait could mean anything!” Aeryn was shouting at
him from a distance of two denches.

They backed off at the same time, glaring at each other.  A moment later, without intending it, they let out
identical sighs that embodied every bit of their frustration, anger, and unrequited arousal.   

Aeryn was the first to relent.  She nodded toward his cupped hands, indicating what he had hidden beneath
them.  “Did you …”

“Did I what?”

“Did you finish without me?”  

“No!  Of course not.”  He lifted his hands, revealing an only slightly diminished erection that glistened in the
cell’s muted lighting from its coating of her fluids, shrugged, and made a confession.  “The other way around,
more like.  After that shock, it may take me a bit to come back up to a full boil.”  

Without warning, Aeryn shoved hard against his shoulder, knocking him over onto one side.  She pounced on
him and pinned him on his back.  Looking down at him from her vantage point straddling his hips, she gave him
a wolfish, predatory smile.  “This time if I yell stop … don’t.”

“No problem.  Not stopping I can do without having a heart attack.”

It didn’t take long to return to where they left off.  The arousal was waiting like an expertly banked fire, needing
only a whiff of oxygen to burst into flames.  They did not engage in anything that resembled gymnastics or in
striving to hit the more esoteric erogenous spots.  This was basic, straight forward thrust and friction, repetitive,
insistent, accompanied by as much tactile encouragement as they could manage.  

He discovered that this woman hummed happily in response to firm pressure as long as it involved the center of
her body, so he pressed hard with the heel of his hand as he stroked her from navel to throat, gripped her
tightly around the waist when he was guiding their efforts, and didn’t resist the urge to suck hard at her
breasts.  Her arms and legs cried for lighter, more ethereal touches, so he set about summoning out her small
inarticulate cries with gossamer tickles, the feathery brush of his lips, and tiny unhurtful nips.  Lying supine and
letting him perform all of the work bored her.  So they grappled, twisted, fought for dominance, and finally
discovered a limb-tangled position that allowed deep penetration and full involvement by both of the sweat-slick
partners.  

It was every bit as pleasurable for him.  He could hunch over Aeryn, stroke her body, kiss her, drive hard
without hurting, enjoying the effort, the tug and heavy vibration, and the full bodied thump at the end of each
thrust.  She, in turn, wrapped an arm around his neck while bracing them both with the other, held him close,
and rose up to meet him, fondling his entire body, urging him on, meeting him with strength and energy.  

An arm pulled him down, kept him close, and her breath was in his ear.  “Should … should I stop?” she asked,
her breath expelled jerkily in time with their efforts.  

“NO!” he cried in shock, and then remembered.  “Yes! … NO!  I mean … almost.  Don’t … Just wait a few more
…”  He was beyond the ability for rational thought.  

“What do you need?” an out of breath whisper asked.  “What can I do?”

He could feel her orgasm beginning; his body was lagging behind.  With each movement she was getting
closer, breathing more raggedly, gasping out small cries, the first spastic internal frissons clenching and
grabbing at his slick, sliding cock.  The small noises gained power, spoke a new language of near-climax and
visceral pleasure.  Her arms and legs gripped more frantically, shifting their purpose from urging on his efforts
to shoring up her impending climax.    

He managed to summon a few words, asking for the one thing that he knew could trigger his detonation in time
to match hers.  “Ears.  Time for ears.”  

A hand pushed hard on his head, forcing it to turn to one side, and then she did something to him that was
nothing short of heart-stopping.  If the bizarre ear kiss he had gotten from Zhaan had been exquisitely alien,
then this was inhumanly devastating.  Tongues weren’t supposed to be able to curl and surge like this.  It
burrowed in, wet and inquisitive, accompanied by a gusting hot breath, and seemed to dive straight for the
center of his skull.  It was almost too much.  His brain underwent a specialized schizophrenia, whirling dizzily
between the hot flooding movement beginning deep within his ass and the equally liquid warmth sliding around
and inside his ear.  Trapped in the moment, aware of nothing except the two sensations, all that he ever had
been dissolved until there was nothing left of John Crichton except unadorned tactile input.  John took in two
fast, howling breaths, clutched desperately at Aeryn, and gave himself over to his orgasm body and soul,
devoting every bit of energy to release.

He wasn’t alone.  Aeryn was crying something into his ear, her lips were moving wetly against the side of his
neck, and her body was seizing and surging against his.  The dueling partnership that had brought them this
far broke down, fragmented into wildly grasping fists, arching muscles, dissonant cries, and the hard driving
effort to extend their climax just a little longer.  Lungs heaved, muscles burned, nerves continued to fire in wild
patterns, and two bodies merged into a single ecstatic whole for several microts.    

They spun down gradually.  Groaning cries of ecstasy shifted over to breathy sighs of satiation, jerking
movements smoothed out into languid stretches, muscles relaxed, eyes opened, and they reentered their
surroundings to the reality of tired muscles, sweat soaked hair, rumpled sheets, and the mild chill of cooling
bodies.  

“Yee gods,” John sighed.  Careful not to hurt Aeryn in the process, he eased to one side and lowered himself to
lie alongside her.  She shifted, prodded him to lift himself up a little, and disentangled a leg.  He noticed for the
first time that she was limber almost to the point of being double jointed.  In the heat of the moment, he hadn’t
actually been aware of where she had put her legs.  All he had been able to register is that they had both been
comfortable and he had never before been allowed such thorough access to his partner’s entire body.    

“What?” she said, yawning her way through the query.  

John rubbed her hip.  “How can you do that without dislocating your entire leg?”

“You cannot?”

“I’d be in traction for a month if I tried that.”  

She snorted, managing to imply with a single sound that he -- and by extension all humans -- was inferior.  

“Humans do have some redeeming qualities,” he said.    

Aeryn gave him a sleepy, contented little smile and wiped a trickle of sweat away from his temple with her
thumb.  “There might be one or two.”

“I’m cold,” he said.  Receiving a nod of agreement, he lifted himself the rest of the way off her, and got up to
retrieve the covers.  

When he lay back down, this time on his back, Aeryn made herself comfortable beside him.  She propped her
head up on one hand, rested her elbow on his shoulder, and traced a simple up-down pattern along the center
of his chest with one finger of her other hand.  From the base of his throat, down across his sternum and
stomach, the light touch went all the way to his groin before reversing direction.  He kept his gaze on her face,
wondering if it was an idle habit, or if it was a prelude to a more thorough but less erotic exploration of his
body.  He wasn’t ready for a repeat.  At least not right away.

It turned out that she had something else on her mind.  

“You stopped,” she said after several trips from throat to pelvis and back.    

“Of course.  I thought you said stop, so I stopped.”  John waited for a response, finally adding, “Wasn’t I
supposed to?” when she didn’t say anything.  

Aeryn’s hand stopped mid-stomach and rested there for several microts before resuming the back and forth
migration.  “I … wouldn’t have asked.”  

“Wouldn’t have asked me to stop?”  He got a lopsided shrug for an answer.  After considering the silent
response for several moments, he decided it had been neither indecision nor a denial.  He hadn’t asked the
correct question.  “No Peacekeeper would ever ask to stop?” he asked, trying to keep his disbelief out of his
voice.  

Aeryn twisted her head on her hand, looking both confused and uncomfortable.  “If a woman accepts a man’s
invitation … there is …”  She shifted restlessly.  “Once they begin, there isn’t any reason to stop.”

“What if she changes her mind?  Or what if he changes his mind?”  John caught a loose strand of her hair and
tucked it behind her ear.  “What if he’s a nut case and starts smacking her around?”  

“In that case, the woman would be entitled to defend herself.  But it would never happen.”  

“Yeah, sure.  Peacekeepers are all mentally stable little angels, Aeryn.  None of them are lunatics.  None of
them are nut jobs like Crais.”  John shrugged her elbow off his shoulder and turned on his side so he faced her,
propping his head up on an elbow so they were eye to eye.  “What if you find out you’re in the sack with a jerk,
and don’t want to continue?”

“Within the Peacekeepers, recreating isn’t about passion.  It’s about release and compensating for natural,
biological urges.  Once an invitation is made and accepted, both of the personnel involved have a single goal.”  

John sat up.  “That’s what all that dancing around and back and forth bullshit was all about for the last twelve
solar days.  You invited, only I didn’t do anything.  Then I let you know I was willing …”  He stopped, puzzled
over why she had nearly taken his head off the evening he had repeated her initial, ambiguous statement.

“I was still angry because I thought you had turned me down.”

He ignored the easy but unkind comment that if sex was about release then she shouldn’t have been upset,
and concentrated instead on why it had taken twelve days to reach this point instead of just two or three.  “And
then you figured out that I was clueless, and came back to try again a couple of days later, and I did it again.”

Aeryn nodded.  

“And by the time I figured out what you wanted and came back to ask a second time, you had started worrying
about anatomy.”  She stared at him without humor, and didn’t bother answering.  John ran a finger down her
chest from throat to where there was a crease at her waist resulting from her half raised position, then flopped
back onto the mattress and looked up at her.  “Okay, so the next time you invite, I won’t dither around, and you
know how the goods function now.  Problem solved.”  

“What I am trying to tell you is not solved,” she said, looking grim.  “You’ve missed the point about stopping.  
That shouldn’t have happened.”  

“The translator microbes need to get a sex life, and I know the difference now,” he argued.  

Aeryn sat the rest of the way up, and frowned down at him.  “John, even if I had told you to stop, which I never
would, no male would even think of stopping, and certainly not at that particular moment.”  

John shook his head, dismissing the suggestion that any of what she was saying was related to him.  “Aeryn, on
Earth, that’s called rape and I’d find myself in the slammer in a hurry.  It doesn’t matter how late a women
changes her mind.  If she says no, the man has got to bite the bullet and yank the meat out, no matter what.”  

“This isn’t Earth, and your moral code doesn’t work out here.  You’ve already seen that.”  

“You said it.  They’re my morals, Aeryn.  You can’t expect me to give them up.  It’s who I am.”  He ran a finger
up her arm from her wrist to the inside of her elbow.  “Drop it.  I get what you’re saying and I don’t care.  I refuse
to turn myself into Attila the Hun just to survive out here.  I draw the line at rape.”

“Crichton --”  Aeryn grimaced and tried again.  “John, you don’t ‘get it’.  You need to put some of who you are
aside, and listen to what I’m saying.  I don’t mean just my words.  You have to adjust to the fact that some things
are very different here.”  

“I’ll say.  Let’s talk about that tongue thing you did.”  He tucked an arm behind his head and reached out with
the other to caress one of her breasts.   

“Would you pay attention?”  

“I am.”  

“No, you’re not.  You’re fixated on my body.”  

“It is not a bad thing to be fixated on.  I can think of thousands of worse things.”  His cheerful grin drew another
grimace, and he admitted to himself that Aeryn was not going to relent until he heard her out.  John let his
breath out on a long sigh, and tried to concentrate on what she was saying instead of the naked body sitting
beside him.  “Okay.  I’m listening.”

Aeryn sat up straighter, effectively taking her body out of range of his hands.  “For most species here, sexual
encounters do not hold the emotional connection that they do for you.  Sex is a weapon, to be wielded just as
ruthlessly as a pulse rifle or a shock grenade.  I’m not suggesting that you use it in that manner, but if you do
not come to terms with this now, you leave yourself open to more damage than is necessary.  You would do well
to divorce sentiment and compassion from the biological drive.”  

Some portion of what she was saying struck hard, deep and hurtful.  His voice, when he spoke, was harsh with
suppressed anger.  “What about you, Aeryn?  Was this just a tool for you?  Am I just an easy lay whenever you
need to get your rocks off?  John Crichton, male prostitute?”

If he hadn’t known better, he would have said that the born soldier sitting next to him was on the verge of tears,
except that he couldn’t think of a situation that would drive her to that sort of emotional outburst.  His anger
evaporated as quickly as it had formed.  The fact that the improbable tears never formed didn’t disrupt his
calm.  

Aeryn’s face twisted into one of her humorless smiles, and then shifted several degrees into an expression that
resembled regret.  “No.  This was not easy and it also was not trivial.  John, your entire species has been
coddled by seclusion.  It has allowed you to maintain a degree of gentleness long after the age when all others
have had it beaten or conquered out of them.  If you don’t learn how to set it aside when the situation demands,
that gentleness is going to cause you nothing but misery.”  

John lay looking up at Aeryn, thinking about not only the message she was trying to deliver, but her choice of
words as wekk.  In one of the rare intuitive leaps that he wished would come to him more often, he suddenly
knew why she had looked surprised when he had first entered her.  It was the way she spoken the word ‘gentle’
that gave him the necessary clue, and an instant later he was certain beyond any doubt that the beautiful,
combat-trained ex-soldier sitting next to him had looked surprised because she wasn’t accustomed to being
treated with care.  It also explained why she had looked at him blankly when he asked what sorts of things got
her excited.  No one had ever asked her that question, so she hadn’t known what he was talking about.  

Because he had treated her with kindness and affection, she was doing her best within the limitations of her
upbringing to return the favor, and she was clearly venturing far into unfamiliar territory.  Or perhaps it was
more than that, he mused.  Maybe she really did care what happened to him.

“Did you hear what I said?” she asked.  

“Sex.  Tool.  Weapon.  I’ve got it,” he said.  “I’ll be sure to protect Peter the Pecker at all costs.”  

Aeryn’s smile, subtle as it was, had the power to light up his existence.  She shook her head at his humor,
stretched, and looked around the cell for several microts.  “It isn’t your mivonks that need to be protected,
Crichton.  It is the significance you attach to using them that puts you at risk.”

“I got it!  I need to be heartless.  I’ll work on it.”

Aeryn nodded several times, looking more satisfied with his more recent answer, and turned toward where she
had left her clothes.   

“Don’t go,” he said, recognizing the signs of a woman who was leaving now that the business portion of the
evening was concluded.  “Stay.”  

She considered him for a while, as unreadable as the first day they had met, then shook her head and
continued toward her clothes.  

He tried again.  “It’s not like it’s going to be a secret that we’ve been doing the big nasty in here tonight.  We
were making enough noise to raise the dead.  I’m betting Pilot heard your screams all the way up in the Den.”

“I don’t scream.  You were the one making all the noise.”  Despite her denials, she had stopped moving.  Aeryn
was stalled in the middle of the floor with her back turned toward John.  She wasn’t returning, but she wasn’t
leaving either.  

John took hope from her indecision.  “Stay here and sleep for at least a few arns.  Just in case either of us
starts to feel tense again.”  

It took Aeryn more than one hundred microts to make up her mind.  In the end, she turned and made her way
slowly back to the bed.  “Only because you might feel tense,” she said as she slid under the thermal sheet.  

John didn’t care what her reasons were, be they hidden, obvious, or otherwise.  He pulled her close,
persevering until her reluctance faded, and then wallowed happily in her proximity, the musky smell of sex-
stressed woman, and the sound of her breathing beside him.  

Aeryn fell asleep first.  John lay awake, staring at the curved, dimly seen leviathan ceiling, thinking about the
last few arns and their post-coital conversation.  He meant to take her warnings to heart.  Aeryn had been so
uncharacteristically worried about his welfare that he was left with no choice but to take her advice seriously.  
Compassion was as yet an erratic quality within Aeryn Sun.  She would not have gone to the trouble of
mentioning his vulnerability if she didn’t consider it a real threat.  At the time he was drifting off to sleep, John
fully intended to set aside some time over the next few solar days to think about what she had told him, to ask
some more questions, and to go about making the mental adjustments … just in case Aeryn was right.  

But his intentions were derailed in the early arns of morning.  He woke to find not a purring little sex kitten
curled next to him, but a lean and hungry ebony-coated panther staring at him from the dark, eager for another
round of exuberant, physically demanding sex.  He agreed enthusiastically, and at some point in the strenuous
celebration of life and togetherness and release and orgasm and the first stirrings of what he thought might
eventually become love, he forgot Aeryn’s warning entirely.


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