|Yesterdays and Tomorrows
(First posted August 29, 2005)
Disclaimer: The characters and universe of Farscape are not mine. If they were, we’d have a Farscape
Channel playing nothing but angst and action 24 hours a day. And just for the record, I have not made a profit
off this little tale.
Time Frame: Future Fic. Approximately 12 cycles after the end of PK Wars.
Test Driver: No one to blame but myself. PKLibrarian test drove this months ago, but if I recall correctly, I
ignored all her suggestions, so I don't get to foist any responsibility off on anyone else.
* * * * *
John Crichton watched the misty, indistinct curtain of a rainstorm scud across what had once been a sterile,
barren landscape. Not much had changed since the last time he had stood in this spot. Sand still prevailed.
But there were hints of green beginning to show here and there, fighting tenaciously to survive in the midst of
what had until recently been nothing but shifting sand dunes. Give it a few decades, he mused idly, and the
monotone scenery stretching out before him would begin to look like grassland. The growth would be meager
at first, perhaps nothing more than sporadic clumps of growth waving in the breeze, defying the wind’s attempts
to rip it loose. Then one day, possibly hundreds of cycles in the future, a seed carried here on the boot of a
traveler would find a hospitable little patch of earth in which to thrive, and soon after there would be trees.
What made it more remarkable was that this planet had never been destined to sustain forests and meadows.
Continuously lashed by solar flares, most forms of life had long since been scorched off its surface. It had
been well on its way to becoming a deserted ball of dirt when a monstrosity of a weapon had been unleashed --
devouring several solar systems in the process -- and the planet’s destiny had been altered.
It didn’t matter that the singularity had been shut down after no more than several hundred microts worth of
devastation. The heavy tug of its gravity had put many of the neighboring systems into motion, and where they
would eventually wind up remained anyone’s guess. Even the most advanced astronomers didn’t have the kind
of computer modeling that could predict where entire solar systems would end up once they had begun a
cosmic-sized migration. Over the past twelve cycles the weapon’s lingering influence had continued the
destruction: two suns had gone nova a few million cycles ahead of schedule; an asteroid field had shifted
several light years from its former location, pummeling a planet out of existence in the process; and an
inhabited planet had been yanked out of its elliptic and was sailing away into space, taking several billion
helpless souls along for the increasingly chilly ride. Stories with happy endings were depressingly rare.
Crichton shrugged several times and then craned his neck to one side, trying to ease the phantom weight he
sometimes felt settling onto his shoulders as a result of that fateful decision. Most days he felt as though he
had done the right thing. At the very least, a tenuous peace remained in place, thanks to the tireless efforts of
the Eidelons. But there weren’t enough moments like this one, when he discovered that something beneficial
had sprung out of the wider pattern of destruction. He never would have predicted, for instance, that an
imperceptible shift in gravity would have quieted the flares, or that it would have been enough to add a few
degrees of tilt to the planet’s axis, creating seasons. Until today, he wouldn’t have said anything good had
come out of creating that weapon.
He sighed, stretched, and went on staring out at the bland scenery. The storm was moving closer. The first
hesitant drops pattered down onto the sun-scorched chunks of ferro-ceramic surrounding the building. It had
the familiar scent of rain hitting August-hot pavement, the back-of-the-throat, metallic sourness that said a
thunderstorm was approaching. The smell summoned memories he had not visited in cycles, transporting him
back to a time of bare feet cringing on hot concrete, over-sized droplets trickling coolly into summer-long hair,
and the slow thunder-grumbles rolling their way across the outskirts of town. For a moment he was a child
again, cutting across the neighbors’ yards, scaling the fence behind the church with the ease born of practice,
and then sprinting along the alley behind the houses until he reached their back gate and swerved through it
seconds ahead of the storm.
The smell took on more presence than a single evocative odor. It was the first gust of cool air running ahead of
the storm, the crawl of moist air running along bare arms and legs, and the smell of new mown grass drifting
from next door as Mr. Jenkins hurried to put his mower away, plastic wheels rattling up the driveway. It became
the slam of the screen door, the silent rebound, and then the quieter wooden smack; his mother yelling for him
to close it quietly; and the clatter of dishes in the kitchen. Sound always compressed right before a storm hit.
So the smell became the remembered quiet yammer of someone’s TV set half a block away, the rhythmic spit of
a sprinkler still soaking a lawn somewhere despite the impending deluge, and the slow hissing wave of wind-
tossed leaves moving in his direction.
Momentarily lost in his past, John took another breath and this time smelled nothing more than ionized air and
the acrid bitterness of rain soaking into sand. He spent several additional microts gazing toward where the
recently built shipyards were being drenched by the passing storm, and finally managed to drag his attention
back to the small errand that had drawn him to this particular spot at the mouth of a long abandoned hangar.
Taking in a lungful of moist air, he yelled, “Dizz!”
There was a quiet scuffling noise off to one side. After several microts, it was replaced by the sounds of
footsteps approaching at a leisurely pace, and his son finally rounded the corner of the heavily reinforced
entrance to the building. Hands jammed into the pockets of his pants and elbows flopping with every step, DJ
shambled toward his father, scuffing up clouds of dust with his boots.
At twelve-cycles old, DJ was a lot like the landscape visible beyond the boy’s slender body: more promise of
what was yet to come than reflection of the past. He had thinned out over the past cycle, the forgiving
roundness of childhood giving way to the more angular planes of adolescence, and he had begun to put on
height at an astonishing rate. As far as John was concerned, it was happening too early. Aside from wanting
more time with the predominantly cheerful, happy-go-lucky version of his son, twelve seemed like too young to
begin the transformation into a man. After several discussions with Aeryn, who felt that DJ was maturing late,
he had chalked it up to the Sebacean-Human mix and did his best to reconcile himself to an early end to his
Drawing to a stop once he was under cover, DJ said, “I hate when you call me that. You don’t have to yell it
across the whole planet.”
“I’ve been calling you Dizz most of your life. You didn’t have a problem with it up until a half cycle ago.”
“I don’t like it anymore.” DJ started to frown. “It’s stupid and it doesn’t make any sense.
“D’Argo Sun Crichton, DSC,” John said, repeating the often told explanation of how he had come up with the
nickname. “Dizzy. Dizz. It makes plenty of sense. The Dizz Man. My man the Dizzster.” He reached for his
son, intending to pull the boy into a hug, only to have DJ sidle out of range. John relented. “Okay. I’ll try to
stop using it. You’re asking a lot of me though. Not even your mother has been able to retrain me.”
DJ flapped his arms as if to say that the entire situation was hopeless, and wandered a motra to one side. “I
don’t want to go through the rest of my life with everyone calling me Dizz.”
It wasn’t a realistic concern. John recognized the complaint for the weak excuse that it was, and didn’t bother
pointing out that he was the only one who ever called him Dizz. Everyone else, with the possible exception of
Pilot, had been calling him DJ since he was ten solar days old. Chiana had initiated the nickname by referring
to the baby as D’Argo Junior, just to differentiate from his namesake. John had shortened it to DJ in the same
conversation, everyone else had jumped on the bandwagon in a hurry, and the initials had stuck. The only
time their son was called D’Argo was if Aeryn was on a rampage; and when that happened it got served up with
his entire name, as in “D’Argo Sun Crichton, get your butt in here right now!”
“What do you want? Are we leaving yet?” DJ asked in a belligerent, disrespectful grumble.
There was a strong temptation to slap the back of his son’s head as punishment for the tone of voice. John
ignored the urge. He had never laid a hand on DJ in anger, and wasn’t about to start at this point in his life, no
matter how hard the boy worked to provoke him. “No, we’re not leaving yet. Your mother isn’t finished. We’re
here for her, so cut the crap. I don’t mind when you pull this attitude on me; act like this in front of her, and you
will find yourself walking back to Moya.”
“Yes, sir,” DJ said through tightly clenched teeth. “You called. I came. What would you like, sir?”
John took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and silently counted to ten in three different languages. When he
was done, the desire to pick DJ up by the collar of his jacket and shake him hadn’t eased. “What is your
problem today?” he asked instead. “You haven’t yelled at me yet, so it’s not something I’ve done, and I know
you can keep yourself occupied when your mother and I are busy, so don’t tell me it’s because you’re bored.
Spit it out. Whatever has got you acting like a celibate flibisk, get it off your chest so the rest of us can relax.”
DJ stomped several motras to one side, his entire body sending out angular signals of both fury and
reluctance. After several microts of kicking at bits of dirt and gravel littering the floor, he made a thoroughly
Aeryn-esque gesture of frustration with both hands, and said, “I shouldn’t say.”
“If it’s bothering you, then you should tell me about it. It took your mother and me a long time to learn not to
keep stuff bottled up inside. No fair making the same mistakes we did. That’s not the way it works, so you’re
going to have to find your own supply of idiotic behaviors, kid. So cough it up. What’s eating you?”
“It’s this!” DJ said in a rush, swinging a hand toward the interior of the deserted hangar. “It’s Mom asking you to
come here with her, when she’s here to … because … for him! Why does she need you here, Dad? It’s not
fair to you!”
“Me?” John said. “You’re pissed at her for me?”
“Yes!” DJ kicked a pebble toward the open doorway. It skittered across the windswept ground near the
building, bounced off a larger rock, and then plopped into a miniature dune of dust-fine sand. “It’s not fair to
“Good god.” John rubbed an earlobe between his thumb and forefinger, stalling for time in order to get over his
surprise. “You’re a little off base there, buddy. It’s all kinds of cool that you’re looking out for me, but I agreed
to come along on this field trip. Your mother asked nicely. No pulse weapons or death threats involved.”
DJ turned in a circle several times and scratched the side of his head, clearly puzzled. “Are you saying that you
don’t mind, Dad? How can you not feel rotten about this? How can you not be angry that she hauled you
along? I’m angry that we’re here. He wasn’t … he’s not … You’re my father!” he blurted out after several tries.
“Come here,” John said, beckoning. He didn’t attempt to hug DJ. Instead, John pulled him in against his side,
rested a forearm across the boy’s shoulders and simply stood that way, staring out at the sand and the fast
changing mixture of sunshine and rain. “First of all, I’m your father. Me. No one else. Got it?”
The body underneath his arm relaxed. “Got it."
“Now,” John said, putting more weight on DJ’s shoulders, “as for that other part. What you need to think about
is how much I love your mother. Some day, if you’re lucky, you’re going to fall as hopelessly in love with
someone as I am with Aeryn. If that happens, when it happens, you’re going to find out that it hurts more to
make someone else unhappy than it does when you are unhappy.”
DJ scuffed at the dusty concrete with one foot. “You’re saying that you’d do anything for Mom.”
“I’m saying that making your mother happy makes me happy and that it’s not always easy to tell when that’s
going on. She doesn’t show happiness the same way I do, DJ. You have to watch for it. You catch her signals
most of the time; I can see when you get it. She’s your mother, and you know every one of her moods almost
better than I do. But you miss some of the smaller telltales, and those are the most important ones to
understand if you’re trying to decide if you’re about to get hugged or cold-cocked.”
“Like what?” DJ asked.
“Like when she hooks one thumb into her belt and lets that shoulder drop. Aeryn never does that unless she’s
feeling relaxed on some level. Or the way the corner of her eyebrow goes up and then down again, just this
much.” John made the adjustment to his own eyebrow with the tip of a finger. “That’s her version of busting a
gut laughing … usually at my expense. And have you ever seen her do this?” he asked. John’s eyes flicked
sideways toward DJ and then away.
“All the time.”
“Then pay more attention the next time you see it and keep your eyes on her mouth. That’s the giveaway.
She’s either on the verge of shooting something because she’s upset or angry, or she’s so happy she doesn’t
know what to do about it … or anywhere in between.”
“She looked like that last night,” DJ said slowly. He pulled out from under John’s arm, moving to where he could
watch his father. “I thought she was ticked about something and I took off before things got ugly.”
“You misread her,” John said, and shrugged. “When you were younger, you operated on instinct and that
worked most of the time. Now you’re starting to grow up and you’re putting thought into this stuff, and that
means you’re going to make a few mistakes at first. If you can learn to read and understand your mother’s
moods, you won’t have any trouble with every other living soul in the universe.”
“It sounds like it would have been easier to learn to live without her than figure all this junk out,” DJ said.
John began shaking his head before DJ had a chance to finish his sentence. “Now you’re talking about the
love part, Dizz. I never had a chance. I discovered a long time ago that life without Aeryn isn’t worth living. No
“And that’s how come you aren’t upset about this.” DJ waved his hands at their surroundings.
John grinned and made a small agreeing motion with his head. “Yup. I love her. I’d jump right off a cliff if she
“You’re getting all mushy,” DJ said, blushing.
“Big time mushy,” John agreed, still grinning. “Icky gooey hide in a corner where DJ can’t find us and kiss each
other kind of mushy.”
“Yuck!” the twelve-cycle old said, and pretended to gag. “Enough with the gross stuff, Dad. Why did you come
looking for me?”
“Do you mind getting a little wet?”
DJ looked out at the rain and hesitated. “Do I have to?”
“No, not if you don’t want to, but we set the transport down too far away to walk back now that it’s raining, and
someone needs to go get it.”
“You mean move it by myself?” DJ was suddenly all grins and eagerness.
“Yes!” DJ spun toward the exit and was out of the hangar like a shot.
“Hold it!” John yelled. “Get back in here for a microt.”
DJ jogged back inside looking crestfallen. “Don’t say you changed your mind.”
“Before you go charging off across the desert, point at where the transport is parked. I don’t feel like getting
yelled at for mislaying my kid.” He paused while DJ gestured in the correct direction, and then slid out of his
jacket. “Here, put this over your head so you don’t get soaked.”
The jacket was large enough for DJ to wear it and still get the back of it pulled up over his head to protect him
from the rain. He eyed his father as he pulled it on and tugged the collar over his head. “There could be bad
guys out there. I think I need a pulse pistol just in case.”
“I think you don’t,” John said dryly. “Do not crash the minivan.”
“I won’t!” DJ loped out into the drizzle, a black headless hunchback slogging eagerly through the wet sand.
John waited until DJ was half way up the nearest dune before leaning toward his comms. “Pilot?”
“Yes, Commander,” came the same calm answer that had been responding to his hails for more than fifteen
“You’re still monitoring the transport and can take primary control of its systems if something goes wrong?”
“That is correct.”
“Thanks, Pilot. Don’t take over unless he’s going to crash.”
John stayed where he was until DJ disappeared from sight, then turned and made his way slowly into the
abandoned building. The hangar doors and everything else of any possible value had been stripped cycles
ago. The building was a gutted carcass, not big enough to be of any use to the newly constructed shipyards or
close enough to the growing residential area to be turned into some sort of habitation. Constructed of nearly
indestructible ferro-ceramic, it would undoubtedly be here for the next thousand cycles, empty, rarely echoing
of the drama that had played out here fourteen cycles earlier.
John shook his head vigorously, using the motion to shift from the past to the present. Someone who was
supposed to be in the hangar was nowhere in sight. “Where’s the Green Bean Sprout?” he yelled.
“Here, Dad!” the shrill voice of their second son called. A dynamo on sturdy legs galloped out of the shadows,
arrowed straight toward John, and launched itself into his arms.
“God almighty!” John grunted, catching the child. “You are nine tenths Humvee, Sprout. You weigh more than
Moya! Are you sure you aren’t wearing a suit of armor in there somewhere?” He peered down inside the small
t-shirt, setting off a bout of giggles.
A dench short of the Sebacean norm for his age, dark-haired like his mother, and seemingly never at rest, five-
cycle-old Ian Sun Crichton was everything that his older brother wasn’t. Where DJ had been a healthy but
otherwise thin child, Ian was stocky to the point of verging on chunky. One had been a quietly inquisitive
toddler, the second barreled into life with more enthusiasm than thought; the first had been almost phlegmatic
in his acceptance of the oddities of life on a leviathan, Ian threw impressive tantrums when things didn’t go his
way; and where DJ was more like his mother in terms of showing happiness, Ian was positively effusive. One
was a quietly glowing spark that promised to go on giving off heat for eternity; his younger brother was a flaring
sun that John feared would expend its energy prematurely.
“You being careful?” John asked. Trying to get Ian to be careful was like trying to capture a fistful of wind.
Whatever combination of Sun and Crichton DNA had gone into creating their child, it was clear that the ‘caution
gene’ had been left out entirely.
The answer was typically non-specific. “I was ‘sploring, Dad!”
“Were you ‘sploring carefully? No touching, no crawling into small places, no picking things up without checking
first, like we talked about?”
“Ummm.” Ian stuck a filthy finger in his mouth and twisted within John’s embrace in order to look toward the
hallway leading off the main hangar. “Dad, there’s lots of places to ‘splore over there.” He pointed with his free
The lack of an answer and the liberal coating of grime was an answer in itself. Ian had not been following the
precautionary rules, which meant that if there were tunnels or access shafts that only a child could fit into, there
might still be aging, overly volatile booby traps or unexploded ordnance for him to find. John set him down and
dusted the worst of the dirt off his clothes. “Stay in this big room. You don’t leave my sight. And no climbing
on the stairs. Go run in circles.”
Taking his orders literally, Ian took off at a full run, arms stretched out to the sides, an atmospheric craft
seeking enough velocity to take flight. John watched him gallop away across the dusty expanse, and felt the
first pangs of an unwelcome set of emotions begin to build within his chest. It might have been the sight of little
Ian zooming about the hangar that brought the ache back to life, but more than two cycles had passed since he
had last felt like this, which suggested that something else had triggered the response.
It was this damnable place, John decided, that had called forth the grief. This entire facility and the planet itself
were steeped in loss. It was impossible to stand here and not have death coming crawling out of every fissure
and crack in the walls and floor. Given the right setting and the right mood, he could usually ignore the age
gap between his sons. But in this place -- this repository of death and disaster -- he couldn’t help but
remember that there was supposed to be another child. He couldn’t stop from himself from remembering that
there had been a daughter and that nothing he had done to protect her had been enough to keep her safe.
To this day, he didn’t know who had suffered more, him or Aeryn. For the first half-cycle after it happened, he
had insisted that he had been burdened with the worst job, using the accusation to bludgeon Aeryn … to
bludgeon himself … to punish anyone who was near him in an attempt to dull the pain. Aeryn had insisted with
equal vehemence that she had suffered more, and their arguments over the useless determination had almost
driven them apart.
At times like this, when the pain was as raw as it had been at first, he still weighed both sides in his mind,
waiting for the imaginary scales to tip one way or another.
It had fallen on him to wash the dirt off the small body. He had taken more care with her than he had at any
time when she was alive, concentrating on the task in an attempt not to notice how the fingers no longer curled
around his and hung on tight, or how the arms and legs flopped more loosely than they would if she were
simply asleep. His mind had done its best to trick him into believing she was alive. It kept insisting that it was all
some sort of bad dream. She would wake, giggle up at him, and try to scuttle away as she always did, dripping
wet and naked. But no matter how many times he had stroked the wet hair lying plastered against her head, or
had kissed the cold forehead, she had refused to wake.
He had stayed strong for the time it had taken to finish washing her. He hadn’t cried once while he wrapped the
middle of her body in bandages to conceal the hideous wound, dressed her one last time in her favorite soft
sleep-suit, and tucked her into a padded cargo container along with several of her toys and her soft blanket. It
wasn’t until the DRDs had sealed it shut that he had knelt alongside her makeshift coffin, cradled his head in
his arms, and wept over the loss of Leslie Sun Crichton.
It had taken nearly a cycle for him to finally realize that Aeryn might have had it harder. Regaining
consciousness to discover that her suicidal attempt to save her daughter had not been enough might have
been worse than actually watching Leslie die. He had never seen Aeryn move so fast or with so much
determination as she had on that day. There hadn’t been a moment’s hesitation between the instant when
Aeryn had spotted the distraught, crying child wandering into the midst of the battle, and her lunge to place her
own body between that of her daughter’s and the source of the pulse weapon fire. He had come to understand
that waking to discover that it hadn’t been enough, to learn that she hadn’t been able to prevent the tragedy,
might have been worse than what he had been through.
DJ hadn’t been spared from the anguish. At the age of five, he hadn’t been able to comprehend why his little
sister had suddenly disappeared or why his parents seemed to spend all their time yelling at each other. It
didn’t matter that he had stood with them and watched while the gleaming container containing his sister’s body
had been sent on its way, arcing into the heart of a star so they would never have to worry that someone might
find her. DJ had become increasingly silent over the next half cycle, retreating into his own confusion and
sorrow while his parents swung erratically between tears and fury. He had taken to hiding in the access shafts
whenever they were fighting, and had been bewildered by the set of overly protective restrictions they had
placed on him.
They hadn’t realized what they were doing to him until he had crept hesitantly into their quarters one afternoon
carrying a damaged DRD and asked why Moya couldn’t repair his sister in the same way that the drone could
be brought back to life.
That was the day when they had vowed to move forward. He and Aeryn had gone up to the Terrace, stared out
at the pinpoint of light that was their daughter’s final resting place, said goodbye to her one more time, and
then had gone to find DJ. They had abolished the fear-driven set of rules, replacing them with some guidelines
that would keep him safe while allowing him to enjoy being a child.
Even then, with all their good intentions about moving forward, it had taken a full cycle before they could agree
to release the stasis on another child. The product of that difficult decision had been Ian. They had given in to
their fears and superstition long enough to name him after John’s grandfather, who had been 98 years-old and
going strong the year John had left Earth -- the longest-lived Crichton in the family’s history. Another daughter
had come next, which had delighted both of them and scared them silly at the same time. They had named her
Malii’ya, after a mythical Sebacean who supposedly lived forever, and prayed that she would follow in the
footsteps of her namesake. And eventually, somewhere amidst diapers and baths, and finding food and
clothing for three growing children, and chasing a mischievous toddler around Moya and playtime and DJ’s
education, they eventually began to forget that there was someone missing from their family.
“Dad?” A hand tugged on the tie-down strap of his holster, summoning John back from that horrible era in their
lives to the present. “Dad?” Ian asked again.
“Yeah. Sorry, Sprout, I was drifting. What did you say?”
“Dad, what’s the name of this place again? I forgot.”
John looked around at the dirt encrusted walls of the hangar, for a moment seeing the small, perfectly formed
fingers of his dead daughter as he threaded them through the sleeves of her sleep-suit instead of dingy ferro-
ceramic, and then turned his attention back toward the dirt-smudged face of his very much alive son and the
grimy fist that was holding on to his belt. “You’re a bit of a mess, buddy.”
“Dirt gets on me.” Ian shrugged philosophically, as if to say that it was the dirt’s fault, and asked again, “Dad?
What’s the name?”
“Dam-Ba-Da, Ian. The planet is called Dam-Ba-Da.”
“’kay! Thanks!” Question answered, Ian made a beeline toward where a large puddle was forming near the
entrance to the hangar.
John started to yell at him to stay out of it. He watched the energy and the enthusiasm though, expended a
couple of microts thinking about how being wet and filthy never killed a child, and kept his mouth shut. Turning
away from the sight of Ian stamping about in the puddle, sending sheets of water everywhere, John finally went
to join Aeryn. She was right where he had left her when he had gone to look for DJ, the baby propped on her
hip, eyes looking at something that was no longer there. She hadn’t moved a dench, except perhaps to slide
fifteen cycles back in time.
“Want me to take the Tater Tot for a while?” he asked, nodding toward the youngest Sun-Crichton.
Aeryn turned her head slowly. It took several microts for her to focus on him. “I’m okay. She’s not heavy. Did
you find DJ?”
“Yup. He couldn’t wait to go get the transport. I checked on Ian. He’s managed to get dirty.”
Aeryn smiled at the last comment and then went back to staring at a bare spot on the floor.
“Is this where it happened?” John asked quietly.
“This isn’t where it actually happened. He was out there.” Aeryn jerked her head toward the sand and the
rain. “This is where I found out about it.” With the Malii’ya perched on her left hip, she leaned into him with her
right shoulder. “Thank you for coming with me.”
John wrapped his arm around her shoulders and held her tight, wondering if this moment held as much pain for
Aeryn as it did for him. Her loss would have been diminished by time. Despite what he had told Ian, the wound
he was feeling was new and achingly raw, inflicted two solar days ago at the moment when she had told him
that she wanted to come here. Until the precise instant when Aeryn had made the request, he had thought he
was long past the stage of being hurt by what had taken place so long ago. He had been wrong.
“Anything for you,” he said, and then cursed himself. The three words had sounded strained even to him. He
had wanted to express the same thing he had described to DJ: that he would do anything for Aeryn if it made
her happy. What had come out of his mouth had sounded more like truculent surrender to her wishes.
Before he could try again, Aeryn’s head came up and she tried to look at him. They were too close. She pulled
out from under his arm and turned to face him. Whatever she found in his expression, it caused her eyes to
widen, and she reached for him with her free hand. “You don’t understand why I needed to come here,” she
said. “John, I thought you understood. How could you stand to come with me if you didn’t understand why I
He tried to shrug. The muscles in his upper back and neck were so tight it was impossible to complete the small
gesture. He forced himself to relax and tried again, with no more success than the first attempt. Instead, the
motion turned into an uncertain sort of upper body quiver, coming to a halt with his shoulders raised
defensively as though ready for a physical assault. He forced them down where they belonged.
“DJ was just asking me the same thing. I told him it was because I love you. If you need to say goodbye to him,
then I’m going to do my best to let you do that.”
“No. I would never have asked you to come if that was all I wanted to do.” She stepped close, shifting the baby
further to one side, and stretched the small distance to kiss him. “This isn’t about him, John. Being here today
is about you and me, and the fact that we wouldn’t be together the way we are if he hadn’t died. He had to die
in order for all of this to be possible. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
“No. Not really,” he admitted.
He hadn’t put all that much thought into why she wanted to revisit Dam-Ba-Da. All he had been able to focus
on for the past two solar days was that when Moya’s course had brought them close enough to make an easy
side-trip to the planet, Aeryn had taken off for the Den like a shot. She had asked Pilot to enter orbit around
the planet without stopping to consult anyone else. John had told himself repeatedly that twelve cycles and
three kids should have been enough to offset any doubt or jealousy. But in the end, it continued to feel as if
Aeryn was hurrying off to visit the grave of a former lover, and he had been hard pressed to keep the hurt and
jealousy under control. He tried to put his arm around her, to reassure Aeryn that all was well, and couldn’t get
himself to move.
“No,” he repeated. “I’m having trouble … never mind. It doesn’t matter.” He headed off toward a lightless
corner where the shadows would hide the emotions he couldn’t keep under control.
“John. Stop,” Aeryn said.
He came to a halt with his back turned. A moment later she arrived beside him, moving as silently as always,
reminding him that certain things had not changed over the cycles. Aeryn was as stealthy as ever; just as
lethal, just as fierce, just as stubborn as the day he had met her. It didn’t make him feel any better about what
“Listen and try to understand,” she said, putting emphasis on the first word.
“Go ahead.” With each exchange, he was feeling increasingly like a jealous twelve-year-old. If things didn’t
improve soon, he would need to go outside and find the spot where DJ had been hiding.
“Turn around,” Aeryn said.
When he turned, she was holding Malii’ya toward him. He took her automatically, without even thinking.
“Ours,” Aeryn said. “Yours and mine. Not his.” She grabbed him by the arm and turned him toward the hangar
doors. DJ was sprinting the short distance between the transport pod and the mouth of the building. “Ours.
Yours and mine. I wanted to visit the place where you and I began. This isn’t a memorial to him. It’s a
monument to us. This is where Aeryn Sun and John Crichton began. You and he ceased to exist here, and in
that moment, you and I came into being.”
DJ finished flicking water out of his hair and looked toward his parents. After several microts worth of staring,
he turned and went to join Ian, who was sitting on the metal stairs. One body gangly and lean with the onset of
adulthood, the smaller body sturdy and well-coordinated; one showing the indecision that came with greater
awareness and knowledge, the other barging through life with confidence born of innocence; alike in dress, the
color of their hair, and the similar Sun-Crichton features, in every other way as different as day and night.
“You’re celebrating an anniversary,” John said slowly.
“In a way.”
“This doesn’t match up very well with what I remember of those days. I don’t remember you spending a lot of
time looking toward the future, Aeryn.”
“I wasn’t. It took me a long time to learn how to turn away from what had happened.” She ran the back of her
hand down his chest, rubbing his stomach with her knuckles for several moments. “But I did learn, John. If I
hadn’t gone through what happened here, I never would have been able to move on after Leslie died. We
wouldn’t have Ian and we wouldn’t have Malii’ya.”
John concentrated on cuddling their daughter for several microts, doing his best in the brief interval to turn his
perception of what this place represented upside down so he could see it from Aeryn’s perspective. It didn’t
work. All he could feel was jealousy that she had mourned so deeply for another man’s death. He had never
been able to get used to the fact that she had been grieving over the loss of John Crichton when she had
returned to Moya, or that he hadn’t been aboard Talyn with her. Despite what he had told DJ, twelve cycles
hadn’t been enough to ease the hurt he felt on the rare occasion that he revisited his memories of that horrible
period in their lives. What mattered to him was that this somehow benefited Aeryn. If it made her feel better,
then the pain he felt was inconsequential.
“You still don’t get it,” Aeryn said.
“It doesn’t matter. You feel good about it. That’s enough.”
Aeryn paced several steps across the hangar, her boots making a quiet, gritty scrunching, and then pivoted so
she was looking at him. “When we closed the wormhole to Earth, you cut yourself off from everything you had
ever known. Do you regret that decision?”
“No! Of course not. I have you and the tribe of munchkins.”
“You were looking forward,” Aeryn said.
He saw the connection she was attempting to form. “I made a conscious decision. The choice wasn’t taken out
of my hands. Look, this doesn’t matter, Aeryn.”
She came back to stand in front of him, and kissed him. “It matters to me. I didn’t mean to hurt you with this.”
“I don’t want you to live through it. I want you to understand. Try to see it the way I do. The fact that I didn’t
choose to have this” -- she gestured toward the empty expanse of floor -- “happen doesn’t change the
outcome. It forced me to learn how to look forward toward the things I did have instead of backwards toward
the things that I had lost.”
At the word ‘lost’, everything seemed to snap into place for John. Aeryn wasn’t talking just about the death of
the other John Crichton; she was referring to her life as a Peacekeeper and everything she had known prior to
the day that the other John Crichton slid down the side of a duplicate module and delivered his own death
sentence. It didn’t stop there. She was talking about having the strength to look beyond the tragedy of their
daughter’s death and believe that they could bring more children into the universe and not have them all die
before they learned to walk. She was talking about faith and optimism … and hope.
He looked toward the mouth of the hangar. DJ and Ian were sitting on the floor facing each other, drawing
shapes in the dust. From the look of concentration on Ian’s face, he knew with complete certainty that they
were playing chess and that DJ was explaining some new tactic. Until Ian was in his twenties, at which point time
and maturity would finally erase the obvious age gap between the two boys, there would always be a reminder
of the other person who should have been sitting between her brothers, her body silhouetted against the
shimmering sheets of rain. She would have been nine by this time, and he was certain she would have been
quick, assured, and bossy like her mother.
The curtain of sun-brightened rain fluttered, wind-born gusts of water spattering down on the two chess
players, and for a moment he could have sworn there were three children sitting there, one with long blonde
hair giving the other two a lesson in how to lose gracefully to a girl. The sky outside went from golden to gray,
and the phantom child was gone.
John checked on Malii’ya. She was sound asleep in his arms, one fist resting against her cheek, a still wet
thumb half in and half out of her mouth. “I get it,” he said.
“You’re not just saying that in order to make me happy?” Aeryn asked.
“It’s about her,” he said, nodding at Malii’ya. “It’s about being able to have her and trust that it won’t happen
“And it’s about DJ and Ian and you,” Aeryn said. “It’s about being alive.”
“I was having trouble because I was trying to turn it into something that felt more cheerful.”
“You aren’t happy?” she said, sounding worried.
John turned toward the door just in time to watch Ian destroy the dusty, makeshift chess board with a fast
sweep of his hand, and to catch DJ’s look of dismay. Obviously Ian had been losing badly and chosen to
eradicate both the game and his ignominious defeat at the same time. A microt later the boys were wrestling:
rolling in the dirt, yelling, swearing like soldiers, vowing horrible deaths, and doing no real damage to each
other. It was one of the few benefits of the age gap between them. Because of the different in size, their
squabbles seldom broke down into full-out physical battles. Just as Ian was reaching an age when he
presented a realistic opponent for his older brother, DJ was beginning to outgrow the petty arguments. The
tangle of arms and legs rolling around near the hangar door represented a youthful release of energy, not
“What are you thinking?” Aeryn asked.
Without looking, he put his free arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “I’m thinking that I’m glad you
asked to come here.”
“What about the part about it not being cheerful?”
“I was wrong.” He rested his head against hers. “How do you feel about the number six?”
“Six!” Aeryn leaned against him, one arm around his waist. “I might consider four. Five at the most. Six is
pushing your luck.”
Ian and DJ’s battle had moved across the hangar. They were in the puddle now, both boys soaking wet and
picking up more dirt and dust in the form of slimy mud with every additional microt that the wrestling match
continued. The slender wraith was there as well, this time a deliberate product of John’s imagination rather
than a ghost whose comings and goings he could not control. She was dancing around the edge of the puddle,
ponytail flying, egging the boys on.
She would never be gone entirely. She would always be there, a flickering presence at the edge of his vision
that would disappear if he tried to look at her squarely, a memory he could bring to life whenever he needed to
see her. And today, for the first time since the day she had died, she was laughing. He could no longer hear
her screams of fear or the horrible little squawk she had made when she was shot. She glowed in the watery
sunshine, cheerful like Ian, thoughtful like DJ, blond like the other person in John’s life who had left him too
early, an eternal reminder that joy and sorrow are inextricably linked.
Aeryn had figured it out long before she had asked to come here. As usual, he had been lagging behind in the
comprehension department. “I get it now,” he said, finally understanding the lesson she had learned so long
ago. “Let’s go home.”
“Are you all right?” Aeryn asked. She slid out from under his arm, doing it in such a way that his hand fell
naturally into hers, and then held on tight. “What happened to the part about six?”
“I’m fine, and five is a good number if that’s what you want. Or four. Or three. Three’s an excellent number.”
With his hand in hers, Aeryn holding on to him instead of the other way around, they went to haul their sons out
of a puddle.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *