Ship Wreck
(First posted August 4, 2007)
Rating:  G.
Disclaimer:  The characters and universe of Farscape are the property of the Henson Co.  I have not made
any profit off this little tale … with the exception of having a ton of fun writing it.    
Time Frame/Spoilers:  This takes place roughly within a cycle after PKWars.  
Test Driver:  PKLibrarian.  When it comes to spotting inconsistencies, continuity errors, and sections of the
story where I’ve been just plain lazy and need to patch things in order to make them correct, she absolutely
rocks!  

Gestation:  This story grew out of a very brief reference to a very rare natural phenomenon mentioned in a
science magazine.  If I describe the phenomenon ahead of time, it will ruin the story.  I think you’ll know it when
you see it.

Hope you enjoy it.


*  *  *  *  *

She was beginning to believe that she had lost John Crichton forever.

Aeryn Sun stood in the middle of the footpath leading toward the island’s minimal spaceport -- if a cracked and
aging landing slab and a Landing Master dozing in a one-room office could be called a spaceport -- without a
clue where to hunt for John next.  It was a sign of her steadily increasing despair that she had chosen to stop in
this particular spot.  Cut off from the cooling ocean breezes by the shear bluffs dropping down to the shoreline,
and a good half-metra from the shade provided by the inland forests, this was very likely the sunniest, hottest
place on the entire island:  the exact wrong place for a sebacean to stand in contemplation.    

An unpleasant, aching spasm galloped from her stomach to a spot between her shoulder blades, lingered there
just long enough to tighten every muscle in her back, and then moved on, eventually coming to rest at the base
of her skull where it mutated into the beginnings of a headache.  Aeryn closed her eyes, pushed her shoulders
downward in time with a slow exhalation, and did her best to believe that the symptoms were the first sign of
heat stress, precursor to full-fledged heat delirium. She would rather have it be that, a disorder that could be
quickly and easily banished by seeking out cooler surroundings, than admit that the unwelcome sensations had
anything to do with the chance that she had managed to drive John away from her … possibly for all time.

“Help the lady?”

The question startled her.  She had been drifting, caught up in the imagery of what life might be like if John
never came back.  Aeryn looked down toward the source of the query.  

A green-skinned, placid-looking little alien less than half her height stood beside her left leg.  He wore an
emblem indicating that he was employed by the leisure facility that was the island’s primary source of income,
and not much else.  “Service required?” he asked.

“This tall,” she said, indicating a height slightly above her head, “male, sebacean, wearing black.  Have you
seen him?”   

The creature’s bald head bobbed up and down.  “Of course.  He arrives with you.  Yesterday evening you
came, lady.”  

Aeryn bit down on her tongue, trapping a furious yell before it made it past her teeth.  “Not yesterday,” she said
once she had the burst of frustration under control.  “When he was with me, I knew where he was.  I’m talking
about today.  Have you seen him today?  In the last few arns?”    

“No, lady.  Not there” -- a stubby finger ending in a black, thickly-ridged nail pointed toward the disorganized
assembly of parked spacecraft in the distance -- “or there or there or there.”  The finger pointed toward several
groups of buildings tucked in beneath the trees, indicating in sequence the main building, the commissary
where the guests could purchase meals and other foodstuffs, and the cluster of squat buildings that included
the tiny residence where she and John were supposed to be spending a pleasant, relaxing five-day ‘vacation’.  

“How recently?” she asked.  Round unblinking eyes stared at her.  Aeryn tried again, searching for simpler
terms.  “When were you at those places?  One arn ago?  Two arns? … Yesterday?”  

“Today.”  The finger traced out a route between the buildings, added in a loop toward the craggy headlands
overlooking the ocean, completed a circuit of the outlying grounds and the spaceport, and ended with a
gesture toward their feet.  “Two arns, lady.  My function, to make sure all is proper.  The paths.  The grounds.  
My job.”  After making another vague motion that seemed to refer to the well-tended vegetation bordering the
walkways, followed by a glance to make sure Aeryn was watching, he approached one of the nearby bushes,
surveyed it for several microts, and then nibbled off several errant shoots.  

It was then that Aeryn realized that she was attempting to obtain help from a semi-sentient, living version of a
foliage trimmer.  The clues had been plain to see if she had been able to focus on them.  Every other employee
of this peaceful leisure facility had been intelligent, attentive, well-trained, and more importantly, fully clothed.  
She forced her breath out through tightly clenched teeth.  Snapping at the creature wouldn’t help.  It would
undoubtedly only upset him, and he had, admittedly, done his best to help her.  

“How often?”  Aeryn repeated the pattern the creature had traced out for her moments earlier.  “How many time
each day?  Once?  Twice?  More?”  

“Always, lady.  Begin with the sun, end with the sun.”  

Her luck in being approached by the simpleminded yet diligent little worker had been better than she first
thought.  Even if he wasn’t able to suggest new places to search, he had provided critical clues to where she
would not find John, which was equally important.  Bits of information continued to settle into a better thought
out whole.  The creature waiting patiently beside her boot had included the buildings set farthest into the trees
in his gestured description of his daily routine.  That meant that his eyesight was reasonably acute.  Since he
hadn’t seen John today, she could eliminate any portion of the grounds that were within sight of the network of
footpaths.  

“You have been helpful.  Thank you.”  Aeryn enforced the dismissal with a wave of her hand.  The creature
bobbed a silent acknowledgement before resuming his interrupted rounds.  He shuffled away, wandering from
one side of the pathway to the other, seemingly without purpose, pausing frequently to nibble and munch.  He
left a trail of impeccably trimmed shrubbery in his wake.  

Aeryn watched his progress until he moved out of sight.  Her eyes remained locked on the slow moving little
alien; her thoughts returned to the events that had taken place several arns and half a motra away, inside the
small, organic-looking hummock of a building that John insisted on calling a ‘bungalow’.  

The fight was, by far, the worst argument they’d had in all their cycles together.  The shouting had raged for
arns.  It began shortly after sunup, carried on through the quiet chimes announcing First Meal, and onward into
midmorning without showing any sign of letting up.  By the time John stormed out of their room in a fury, they
had managed to reopen every wound they had ever laid upon each other, no matter how small or insignificant,
and had ripped and gouged their way to a new level of verbal viciousness.  

There had been no carefully laid out strategies, no tactical retreats to lull the other person into a false sense of
security in order to make them more vulnerable to the next attack, no attempts to convince or dissuade … no
reason or logic.  Both sides had waged a full out, no-holds-barred, bludgeoning assault.   Finesse had been
abandoned early in the process, giving way to head-on attacks.  No actual physical battle she had participated
in had ever been so brutally forthright or as exhausting.  

The battle had come to an end when Aeryn -- knowing full well that it wasn’t truth even as the words flooded
from her lips -- had accused John of secretly wanting to kill her all those cycles ago on Tocot’s ice planet.  The
shouted accusation had slashed deep, exposing what she now knew was well-hidden, long-festering guilt.  John
had taken a step backwards, speechless, reeling from the onslaught, and she had gone in for the kill.  The
neural clone hadn’t been in control at all, she had yelled at him.  John had been in control of the module that
day, carrying out a secret wish to be rid of her for once and for all.  

Aeryn snapped out of her reverie to discover that she was sitting on an earth embankment alongside the
footpath.  She had moved several motras to one side while caught up in her memories and, momentarily
divorced from good sense, had elected to sit down in the direct sunlight.  Her body was doing its best to let her
know that she had made a mistake.  Nausea, uncontrollable shaking, and the chills had set in while she was
sitting in a daze, each symptom doing its best to warn her that she was at risk of full-fledged heat delirium.

“Idiot,” she said under her breath.  “You are a frelling idiot.”  Even as she said it, she didn’t know if she was
criticizing herself for her choice of resting place, or for the ridiculous accusations she had heaped on John.  A
short walk into the cool shade beneath the trees cured one problem in a matter of microts; the other was not so
easily remedied.  If John had been nursing a hidden guilt for over three cycles, it couldn’t begin to compare with
how miserable she felt at that moment.  

“Keep looking.  Keep looking.  He has to be here.”  

Walking gave her something to do.  It burned off the energy generated by poorly contained anger, kept the
portion of her mind that was attempting to panic focused on other duties, and made her feel like she was doing
something productive.  Standing in one spot while she resisted the temptation to cry was helpless and weak;
walking and searching meant she was in control.  Aeryn began another circuit of the grounds, following a route
that ran parallel to the outermost perimeter paths, offset by twenty motras.  She would continue to expand each
circuit until she had covered the entire island, if that’s what it took to find John.  

Walking, however, gave her time for contemplation; and that, in turn, led back to the fight.  

She couldn’t remember a fraction of what she had said to him.  There was only the nightmarish recall of
shouting, an unquenchable desire to hit him that had lasted for arns, and a thought-robbing level of anger.  
The verbal strikes, counterstrikes, parries and stabs had taken as much out of her as hand-to-hand combat
would have demanded -- perhaps even more.  If they had resorted to slugging it out, trading punch for punch,
kick for kick, at least it would have been over quickly and decisively.  When they ran out of energy, they could
have staggered to opposite sides of the room nursing split lips, bruises, and whatever injuries they had inflicted
on each other, and moved on from that point.  

Worse than any of the yelled accusations or insults was the fact that she couldn’t remember how the fight had
started -- or what it had originally been about.  The trigger had been minor.  She knew that much.  It might have
been Crichton’s infuriating habit of tossing his dirty clothes in a corner, or how he always left his boots right
where she would trip over them when she got out of bed.  The spark might have been any one of a dozen or
more of John’s habits that she found annoying, but now that she had calmed down, Aeryn was forced to admit
that she had been well-primed for a confrontation long before they had dumped their belongings in the small
structure the previous evening and had taken their first tour of their surroundings.  

She hadn’t wanted to come to this resort planet in the first place.  Crichton had insisted, saying they needed a
break from being cooped up on Moya and that the time together could serve as a long overdue honeymoon.  It
had been Crichton who had arranged to leave D’Argo with Rygel on Hyneria; Crichton who had found the
secluded ocean-side resort on the southern continent of this out-of-the-way planet; Crichton who had made all
the plans without checking with her other than to let her know that everything had been arranged.  

When he had vowed to find some place that both of them would enjoy, she had envisioned a gleaming, modern
facility with all of the automated conveniences she had missed since the day she had inadvertently cut herself
off from the Command Carrier and the only life she had ever known.  Her first sight of this sprawling, apparently
disordered compound had been a crushing disappointment.  Instead of regimented order, the buildings
appeared to have been set down without any rhyme or reason.  In place of the symmetrically laid out housing
blocks that she had expected, they had been greeted by rustic, primitive little huts scattered beneath the trees;
a crowded, noisy mess-hall arrangement for meals; and not a single servicer in sight to take care of menial
tasks.  

Crichton had been delighted with the accommodations.  She had been furious.  

Aeryn stumbled to a halt.  “It shouldn’t have mattered,” she said, frustrated to the point of hitting something.  
“It doesn’t matter.”  

The arns spent hunting for John had revealed what she had overlooked during their arrival.  The individual
buildings were clean, well-maintained, with every conceivable modern convenience tucked away behind a
variety of facades meant to camouflage their true nature.  The illogical arrangement of the units, it turned out,
provided a measure of privacy; none of the windows faced another building, no doorway opened out toward
another door.  The inappropriately named ‘commissary’ would deliver prepared meals to the residences, if that
was what the guests preferred; or would arrange a private dining area for two, with full services, inside the main
building.  The cuisine of more than a dozen cultures were available, each of them expertly prepared.  And the
apparent lack of servicers was nothing more than a highly trained staff that excelled at staying out of sight.  

Most important of all was that John had selected a balmy, temperate location that seldom got hot.  He had
chosen this place because it was perfect for a space-bred sebacean.  Strong coastal breezes kept a majority
of the landmass cool even on the sunniest day, and the few areas protected from the ocean air were heavily
forested.  Rain and fog bathed the entire island each morning, which in turn encouraged lingering in bed and a
slow start to the day; cool, clear evenings were a perfect excuse for late nights spent sitting on an outcrop of
rock with nothing but ocean and stars spread out before them as far as they could see.  

None of it meant anything if John had decided he had had enough of Aeryn Sun for one lifetime.  The idea of
spending several arns wallowing in bed while the rain played hushed rhythms on the roof didn’t appeal to her
unless she could imagine that John was lying alongside her.  Cold tendrils of fog drifting in through the slatted
shutters were nothing more than damp air unless there was friction, passion, laughter, and sweating exertion to
offset the chill.  And the solitude of a rock overlooking the ocean would be just that unless she found the one
man who made the sea and the stars a welcome symbol for the cycles stretching out before them.  

They had managed to survive so many catastrophic events, any one of which could have driven them apart.  
After all the hard times and heartache; the disasters, forever deaths, and near death experiences; the gun
fights, fist fights, lonely nights, fatal blights, and horrific sights, it didn’t seem possible that she had lost John as
the result of something so insignificant as a verbal disagreement.  They had fought before, although never so
viciously, and John had always reappeared within an arn -- sometimes furious, sometimes sheepish, sometimes
ready to make up, but he had never stomped off and disappeared.  

Tears threatened, provoked by equal amounts of frustration and what she hoped was premature grief.  Aeryn
fought it down, tapping into the last reserves of anger to quash the useless emotions.  “Frell you, John
Crichton!  Where have you gone?”  

The anger was gone as fast as it had reappeared, vanquished by concern.  Her list of possibilities was rapidly
spiraling in toward two unavoidable conclusions.  Either John had found a way off this planet without leaving
any trace; or he had been kidnapped.  

“Except no one is after us,” she said.  “And the Landing Master said no ships have left the island.”  

All the evidence said that he was still here.  Her arns worth of fruitless searching was telling a different story.  

“I’m sorry,” she said to the person who had disappeared.  “I didn’t mean any of it.  I would take it back if you
were here.  It was cruel and stupid, and I didn’t mean any of it.”  The apology went unanswered.  He did not
magically appear, smiling, willing to forgive and forget.  “John, where the frell are you?  You’re starting to scare
me.”

She had completed her first expanded circuit of the grounds.  Aeryn paced off an additional twenty motras,
shifting outward so her route would take her farther into the trees, traverse more of the headlands near the
shoreline, and would include a larger portion of the spaceport, and started again.  She walked and watched,
letting her eyes coast automatically from one edge of the horizon to the other, trusting that if they encountered
a familiar object, such as a distinctive male figure, that she would notice immediately.  And in that half-aware
state, where her brain was left primarily untended, she suddenly found herself making bargains with a deity that
she did not believe in.  She vowed that if she located John, she would never again threaten to shoot him, even
in jest.  If John reappeared unharmed, she would never yell at him, no matter how severely he provoked her.  
The deal-making began to escalate, spiraling out of control:  she would stop badgering John to allow her to
teach D’Argo self-defense as soon as he was old enough to walk; she would stop wearing a pulse pistol every
waking moment of every day; shooting would no longer be her first solution to most problems.  

Aeryn stumbled to a stop at the top of the bluffs leading down to the shore, stared out at the water, and tried to
use the slow, rhythmic surge of the waves to steady both her thoughts and her runaway emotions.  

That was when she saw him.  

John was no more than twenty motras away from where she was standing, only straight down.  He was on the
beach, stripped down to nothing but his black trunks, performing some sort of repetitious exercises on the
damp, compacted sand.  From the extent of the tracks around where he was standing, it was clear that he had
been down there the entire time she had been searching.  

“I will frelling kill him!”  

She began working her way along the edge of the cliffs, looking for a route down.  The sheer faces were made
up of vertical rock ledges, long spills of loose dirt and gravel, and areas of scrubby vegetation that seemed to
be begging for an excuse to release their grip and tumble to the beach below.  There were also rock stairways
provided at regular intervals, but the closest one was almost a half a metra away.  

“Frell that,” she said.  After all the walking she had done that day, Aeryn didn’t feel like backtracking the extra
distance just to make her descent to the beach easier.  There was also the anger to be considered.  The
difficult scramble down through a jumble of boulders, dirt, and waist-high bushes would serve to burn off some
of the aggravation that was urging her to go back to their room, grab her possessions, and leave the planet.  
The longer she watched John exercise, the more difficult it became to ignore the fact that he had been here, on
the beach, all morning.  While she had been worrying about what might have happened to him, envisioning a
variety of horrific possibilities and worrying that their marriage might have ended in a barrage of poorly chosen
words, he had been basking in the sunshine and cool ocean breezes.  

“He is a dead man,” she said.  “It will be a slow, painful death.”  

She found a small ravine of sorts, more a shallow notch carved into the rock by wind and weather than an
actually gulley, bounded almost entirely by rock.  The footing looked stable enough to make the descent
without setting off a landslide.  Aeryn glanced back toward John’s spot on the beach in order to make sure he
hadn’t seen her coming.  

There was something wrong with him.  He was still exercising, just as he had been when she first discovered
where he had been hiding, but the movements made no sense and he was repeating the same peculiar
movements over and over again.  She noticed for the first time that he had rearranged a number of medium-
sized rocks into a rough walkway, and several deep gouges in the sand showed where he had dragged a
water-smoothed log so it lay with one end near the surf’s edge and the other near the base of the cliffs.  The
pattern began again as she watched.  It consisted of strangely rhythmic leaps and bounds with no upper body
involvement.  It wasn’t a dance, and it wasn’t self-defense.  As far as she could tell, he was simply hopping
around on the beach.  The circuit came to an end near the bottom of the log.  John ran up its length, bounded
athletically across his arrangement of rocks, and began to repeat the routine.  

This concerned her more than his arns-long absence.  She had watched him exercise aboard Moya quite
often.  None of his workouts resembled what he was doing on the beach.  What he was doing here was
inexplicable and erratic.  Several explanations occurred to her.  This could be the result of a human version of
heat delirium.  John had once explained that humans were susceptible to overheating, although not to the same
degree as sebaceans.  Or he might be reacting to a poison.  He was wearing nothing but his black trunks.  It
was reasonable to assume that he might have gone swimming at some point, and come in contact with some
venomous sea creature.  

Or he might be trying to send a signal.  

Aeryn hunkered down so her body wouldn’t show against the skyline, and methodically studied every dench of
the beach and the cliffs that was visible.  There were no flickering, quickly arrested movements; no symmetrical
patterns to indicate that a craft had landed or passed over the sand; no footprints other than John’s.  As far as
she could tell from her limited surveillance, he was alone.  That left either some sort of poisoning, heat-related
breakdown, or emotional imbalance:  none of which could be diagnosed from where she was crouched in the
bushes.  

She made her way down to the beach, moving slowly, taking her time, concentrating on not making any noise.  
John was acting so strangely, Aeryn wasn’t sure how he would react once he saw her approaching.  She
wanted to be sure she was close enough to catch him if he decided to bolt.  Three motras from the bottom, a
rock slid out from under her boot.  It clattered down the remaining distance, fell free for a single instant, and
plopped into the soft sand.  John spun around, his right hand headed for his thigh.  It hovered there, confused
by the absence of his pulse pistol, then moved upward and slapped the middle of his bare chest.  

“Good god, woman.  You can’t be sneaking up on a guy like that.  You’ll give me a heart attack!”  

“I wasn’t sneaking,” she said, snapping at him.  It was not how she wanted to start the conversation.  Aeryn took
in a breath, held it for several microts, then tried again, more calmly.  “I did not mean to sneak.”

John was shifting to his left, moving with exaggerated caution.  “What are you doing?” she asked.

He craned his neck to one side, peering at her right hip.  “Just making sure you’re not armed,” he said.  

Aeryn held her hands out to the sides, letting him see that for once she wasn’t wearing her pulse pistol.  “Why?”
she asked.

“After that blow up this morning, I was concerned about getting shot.”  

He was attempting a joke.  That was a good sign, she decided.  Aeryn hopped down the final motra; she sank
ankle-deep into soft sand.  “I’ve been looking for you for arns.  I was beginning to think you had left.  Are you all
right?”  

“I’m fine.  Left the planet, you mean?”

“Yes.  I couldn’t find you.  No one had seen you.”  

He stepped closer, paused to check on her reactions, and then gave her a cautious, stiff-bodied hug.  “Aeryn, it
was just a fight -- a stupid, mean, idiotic fight.  There will probably be more.  It’s part of being married.”  

“I didn’t like it when you disappeared.”

“I took off because I was about to hit something, probably you, and you had your hand on the butt of your pulse
pistol.  I knew you could blow a hole in me before I got off the first punch --”

“True,” Aeryn said.

“So I boogied,” John continued as though he hadn’t been interrupted, “before either one of us did something
we couldn’t take back.  Next time I’ll stay and slug it out, if that would make you happy, just so long as you
remove the chakan cartridge from any weapons in the room.”  

John seemed to be taking the entire situation in stride.  As far as Aeryn could tell, he wasn’t angry or upset.  If
anything, he seemed more relaxed than when they had arrived on the island the previous afternoon.  Wary
perhaps, but relaxed.  Almost lighthearted.  She had expected him to be wounded by the accusations she had
made in the heat of the battle.  His behavior confused her.  It compounded the already roiling mass of emotions
struggling to break free, made it difficult to think, and stripped her of the logic that was keeping a rein on her
anger.  

Aeryn turned her back on John.  She moved several motras away, seeking time and space in order to think.  
The waves thundering onto the beach provided a focus for both her eyes and her thoughts.   There was a
pattern to the way each one rose, crested with foam, tumbled head over heels, and collapsed onto the sand.  
There was a math to the patterns.  Given enough data, each and every breaker could be forecast:  the height,
the longevity, when and where it would crest, from its birth somewhere mid-ocean to the moment it flattened
itself on the shore.  The heavy surge and suck, mesmerizing in its regularity, tried to convince a portion of her
psyche that she should be able to align her emotions into the same rigidly regimented order; if she stood here
long enough, with her gaze fixed on the stretch of sand where the water rushed up, paused for a moment in a
shimmering pattern of bubbles and sunlit before running back to the sea, she would eventually lift her eyes to
the horizon and find that she felt as ordered inside as her surroundings.

It didn’t work that way.  The longer she watched, the more churned up she began to feel.  The eternal rumbling
crescendo only served as a backdrop to the chaos that had taken over her head and her heart.  For the first
time in several cycles, she ached for the rule-bound simplicity she had known aboard the Command Carrier,
and didn’t know how to untangle the snarl of feelings and thoughts currently raging inside her.  The tension
began to compound with each breath that she took.  Before she knew what was happening, it had begun the
hazardous transformation into anger.

“Look at me,” John said.  She hadn’t realized that he had followed her.  From the sound of his voice, he was
less than two motras away.  

“I can’t.”   She was afraid that if she turned to face him, she would start the senseless argument all over again.  

“Aeryn, the answer isn’t out there.”  He stayed silent for several microts, then added, “Feelings are supposed to
be messy.  If they aren’t a mess, then something’s wrong.”  

“I want them to make sense.  I want --”  She had to stop because all of a sudden she didn’t know what she
wanted.  

“You want rules.  Boundaries,” John said.  

“Yes.”  She thought about how it had felt the first time she had known that she was falling in love with John, and
changed her mind.  “No.  I don’t want boundaries.  I want --”

He waited her out this time.

“I don’t know what to do.”

She heard him move closer.  “You’re losing me,” he said.  “Do you mean what to do about feelings, about the
fight, about being married, or some other part of it?”

She turned to face him.  “About what we said.  About how we feel about what we said.”

He scratched the top of his ear then ran his hand through his hair several times.  It looked as though he was
giving himself time to think.  After several microts of contemplation, he shrugged.  “Our choice.  It was a stupid
fight, and we can decide to forget about it and never mention it again, if that’s what you want.”

“It is.”  

She wanted to forget about it as quickly as possible.  The entire battle had been senseless.  Then, in the space
of time it took to produce the single small word, she remembered the look of guilt on John’s face when she had
accused him of wanting to kill her on the ice planet.  She didn’t care about anything that John had said to her.  
She wanted to make sure he didn’t go through the rest of his life thinking that she believed any portion of the
absurd accusation.  

“No.  That’s not want I want,” she said, reversing her decision.  It was the right choice.  She saw it in the brief
flicker of disappointment in John’s expression between her initial answer and the revised version.  A problem
remained, however.  “I don’t know how to do this.”  

“Talk about it but not talk about it?” he said.

“Yes.  I want to never fight like that again.  I did not enjoy that.”  

John let out a short, surprised laugh.  “No one does, Aeryn.  Not many people actually enjoy that kind of
hullabaloo -- not sane ones anyway.  But sometimes it’s part of being together.”  He scrawled an intricate
symbol in the sand with his big toe.  He spent several microts patting one or two small ridges of sand down with
the ball of his foot, then wiped the entire thing out with his instep.  “This part of a relationship doesn’t come with
an instruction manual,” he said when he was finished.  “We’ve survived a lot worse, Aeryn.  We can just … talk
about it.  Not all at once, and we don’t have to talk about all of it.  Only the parts we want to talk about.”  

“That doesn’t sound like much of a plan,” she said.     

He smiled.  “Probably better that way.  You know how my plans work out.”

“Too well.”    

For the first time, Aeryn noticed that his entire body was coated with a fine layer of sand.  He had been
sweating, and the breeze had deposited a dusting of glittering particles anywhere that he was damp:  thicker
across his chest, fading away to no more than a hint of grittiness across his shoulders, trickling into small silt-
laden rivulets along his ribs and the underside of his arms.  Fingers, feet, ankles, legs, and even his shorts; he
was coated from head to toe.  She wanted to touch him, to brush it away and feel the warm slide of sun-
reddened skin beneath her fingers.  She wanted John to bend over so she could ruffle the sand out of his hair,
and then to straighten up with a smile, eager for the touch of her fingers against his body.  

He noticed.  Aeryn raised her eyes to find that John was watching her in much the same way she was watching
him.  That was when she knew for sure that the fight was over.  

The knowledge was a relief.  It lightened the heavy sensation in her heart, loosened the tension across her
shoulders and throughout her midsection, and invited the muscles around her eyes and mouth to smile.  For
the first time in arns, she no longer felt like her world was coming to an end or that her heart would implode out
of remorse and worry.

One issue remained that begged for an explanation.  Aeryn gestured toward the log, the rocks, and the
churned up sand.  “What are you doing?”  

John scrubbed the palms of his hands together, suddenly energetic, and grinned.  “I’m glad you asked!  This is
great, Aeryn!  You won’t believe what I found.  On Earth, we call this kind of place singing sands.”  He surveyed
the pattern of tracks on the beach, detoured to one side until he was standing in an unmarked area of sand,
and then hopped up and down on one foot.  Each time he landed, the impact triggered a hushed sustained
note.  The tone was coming from the beach itself, emanating from an area beneath where he was standing.  

“Harmonic compaction,” Aeryn said, recognizing the phenomenon immediately.  “The friction between the grains
of sand causes them to resonate --”

“I know, I know,” he said.  “It’s like when people play tunes by running their finger around the rim of a water
glass.  Don’t turn it into a mathematical equation, Aeryn!  Just --”  He made an exasperated gesture.  “Just
listen.”  

He began the circuit she had seen from the top of the cliff, this time singing along with each light-footed impact.  
The notes rang clear and true in the quiet air at the base of the bluffs.  

Hop hop step jump hop bound --  “I give her all my love,” John sang in time with his efforts.  

Bounce hop step lunge slide -- “That’s all I do.”

He veered to one side, balanced the length of the log, bounded across his roughly arranged rock pathway until
he was back where he had started, and began the route over again, this time with a minor difference near the
end.  

Hop hop step jump hop bound --  “And if you saw my love” -- Leap bounce jump hop hop -- “You’d love her
too.” --
Step step bound twist -- “And I love her.”  

He ran back to where he had started and began the circuit again, this time with a different set of words.  

“She gives me everything,
And tenderly,
The kiss my lover brings
She brings to me
And I love her.”
 

Panting slightly, John bounded back across the rocks one more time, and landed beside her with a happy grin
in place.  

“You’ve been down here all day working this out?” Aeryn asked.  

“All day?”  John spun in a circle, searching for and finding the sun.  He looked sheepish when he continued.  “I
lost track of time.  It took me a while to find the right notes once I realized that this part of the beach sings.  I
was hoping you wouldn’t find me until I had the whole thing figured out.”  

For the first time since she made her way down to the beach, Aeryn understood that John’s disappearance
hadn’t been intentional; he hadn’t been hiding from her as some form of indirect punishment.  This was pure
Crichton.  He had stumbled upon a phenomenon that fascinated him, and had become every bit as entranced
by his latest discovery as he ever had been with wormholes.  Then she considered the song he had chosen to
play upon the beach, and saw that her first conclusion had overlooked one crucial factor.  All the energy he
had put into this endeavor -- moving rocks and logs so his return route wouldn’t disrupt the tenuous
compaction, testing each square motra of the beach for specific notes, locating and memorizing the tune -- had
absolutely nothing to do with the unique arrangement of glassy crystals of sand.  John had been immersed in
an entirely different obsession.  He had been thinking about love.   

“You honestly didn’t know that you had been down here most of the day?” she said.  

“I got carried away.”  He watched her for several microts.  His expression shifted from semi-gleeful
embarrassment, to concern, and finally to comprehension.  “Aeryn, I would never just take off without telling
you.”  He stepped closer, to where he needed to tilt his head downward in order to look into her eyes.  “I love
you, Aeryn Sun.  You can’t get rid of me simply by yelling at me.”  

“I am finally beginning to understand that.”  She unfastened her boots, slid out of them, and tossed them to one
side.  They were followed in quick order by her socks, her vest, and her pants.  

“You’re getting undressed,” John said, eyeing the remaining black briefs and top.  “Is this good news for me?”  

“Not the way you think.”  She walked past John, stopping when she got to the beginning of his pattern on the
beach.  “Show me the notes.  Show me the rest of the song.”  

He moved up to stand beside her.  “The next part is tricky.”  

“Then we might have to try it several times.  It might take the rest of the afternoon.”  

John draped his arm over her shoulders, tucking her body in tight against his so their feet would land as close
together as possible, and together they bounced and jumped and laughed their way through the rest of the
musical pattern, with John singing along in time with the notes emanating from the sand beneath their feet.  

“A love like ours
Could never die
As long as I
Have you near me.”
 


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