Déjà Vu A Sequel to 'Phantasms' (First posted October 23, 2011)
Rating: G. Spoilers/Time Frame: Future Fic. This story takes place approximately 24 cycles after PK Wars, and shortly after Phantasms. John and Aeryn have three children now: D’Argo, age 24; Ian, age 17; and Malii’ya, age 14. This story may be a little baffling unless you have read Yesterdays and Tomorrows and Phantasms (or you may cruise right through it without a problem). There are several references to events that occur in those stories, and I have not bothered to provide the background in this one. Disclaimer: The characters and universe of Farscape are the property of the Henson Co. I have not made any profit off this tale, and I am giving the characters back the way I found them. Almost. Deke-Disclaimer: I am not fond of the nickname Deke. I stubbornly continue to use my own nickname for the kid. When I refer to DJ, I am talking about D’Argo Sun-Crichton. Test Drivers: PKLibrarian, shester, and Nette. Their input, as always, was invaluable.
Genesis:Click here for a small amount of blather about this story came into existence.
I hope you enjoy it.
* * * * *
John Crichton was drawn toward the Center Chamber by a familiar series of noises: the quiet clank of one flask gently striking another, the liquid gurgle of a substance being poured into a vessel, the uncertain rattle of an object being placed on a table. It was not the collection of sounds that caught his attention and initiated the detour; it was the time of day, and the fact that he would not have expected to hear that particular sequence in the early afternoon. Less than two arns had passed since their midday meal. It was a bit early in the day for anyone to be drinking. He veered away from his original destination and crossed the short distance to the open door, using the microts to run through who might be in the Center Chamber and why they might be there at this particular arn.
DJ sat at one of the tables, drinking flask in one hand, staring out the view portal. He did not seem to be looking at anything in particular. It was a blank, fixed, contemplative stare.
John picked up the serving container that was sitting in the middle of the table, sniffed, and was treated to a ticklish squirming thump of surprise in the pit of his stomach. He had expected raslak, fellip nectar, or possibly ornyut, the closest thing to beer he had discovered during the cycles since he arrived at this end of the universe. The last thing he had expected to encounter was the sharp, slightly acidic scent of prazno. Prazno was the luxan version of moonshine … or a first class explosive if someone was foolish enough to ignite it. If raslak was the alcoholic equivalent of a hand grenade, then prazno was a nuclear bomb. Four moderate-sized flasks of prazno could turn the largest luxan into a drooling, insensible idiot. It took a great deal less to achieve the same effect with a human. The only reason to resort to prazno was to wipe out all brain activity for the best part of a solar day.
“Getting started a little early, aren’t you?” he asked his son.
DJ took a large swallow from his flask, let out a strangled sounding cough, and then shrugged.
John snared a drinking flask from a shelf and poured himself a small measure of the beverage. “I supposed it’s five o’clock somewhere in the universe. Cheers.”
He tapped the rim of his container against the side of DJ’s and then took a cautious sip. It was like swallowing a cross between liquid oxygen and lava; a burning cold conflagration made its way into his stomach, simultaneously searing and freezing the tissues all the way down. He counted to ten, all too familiar with how quickly the alcohol would hit his bloodstream, and could feel it begin to infiltrate his brain. Three more swallows and he would be staggering drunk. He wondered how much DJ had already consumed.
“What’s the occasion?” he asked.
DJ started to raise his flask, preparing to take another swallow. John caught his wrist, stopping him. He did not care if DJ drank himself into a stupor. His son was twenty-four, which was old enough to make his own decisions about the size and longevity of a hangover. All he cared about was keeping him coherent long enough to find out what was bothering him. DJ rarely got drunk, and had never resorted to drinking when he was upset. Alcohol and inebriation were for celebrations, not for drowning his problems. The fact that he was doing it now meant that something monumental had happened.
“Let go,” DJ said, tugging against John’s grip.
“Answer my question first. After that you can drink yourself into a coma.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” DJ allowed John to force his hand back to the table, then went back to staring out the view portal.
John spent several microts thinking about his son’s personality, his strength of character, his maturity, and how he normally handled problems. He and Aeryn had raised all of their children to meet difficulties straight on, preferably with cold reason and intelligence but a pulse weapon was also acceptable if all other solutions had failed. None of their children knew how to run away or hide when life dealt them a lousy hand. DJ had faced dozens of calamities since he had become an adult, and had met each one of them squarely and with courage, if not entirely calmly. The prazno could mean only one thing.
“Where’s Kharli?” he asked.
DJ turned away from him and shook his head.
“DJ, where is Kharli?” John asked again, this time with more force.
“Packing. She’s leaving.”
The announcement rocked him. John took a sip of his prazno, trying to give himself time to recover from the shock. It did not help. All it did was create a larger, mushier tangle inside his head. “I thought the two of you were talking about getting married.”
“I said we were working on it.”
“That implies moving forward.”
DJ made a fast left-right movement with his head. It was half denial, half dismissal of John’s comment. “It implies working on it. Nothing more. We ran into some problems.”
“I guess so.” He did not know what to say to DJ. The news was so unexpected, he was floundering.
When DJ had met Kharli four cycles ago, it had been love at first sight. The two of them had fit together like two halves of a whole, supporting each other, in harmony a majority of the time, always moving forward and strengthening their relationship even when they were quarreling. John had expected the pair to have some rough times; every couple did. But DJ and Kharli had always seemed to take the bad moments in stride; instinctively understanding that hard work forged the strongest bonds, that struggling through the discord together was the price they had to pay in order to spend the rest of their lives with someone they loved. The two were so in tune with each other, they frequently displayed an instinctive knowledge of the other’s thoughts that bordered on telepathy.
“What the frell happened?” he said after several dozen microts of silence.
DJ rubbed the heel of his hand against his eyes for several moments then turned so he was facing the view portals again. He took a deep breath, let it out on a long silent sigh, and shrugged. “Dunno.”
“The two of you were fine during the rescue,” John said.
“You guess? Were you or weren’t you? I thought you and Kharli were completely in sync during that fracas. You certainly did a better job of planning and execution than your mother and I have ever managed. You barely needed to communicate with Kharli to keep her air support timed to the assault. That sounds like teamwork to me.”
“We’ve been having some small problems for almost half a cycle. It was right after you and Mom disappeared that the first big cracks showed up,” DJ said. “Kharli put everything aside until we found the two of you. Then --” He shrugged again.
John watched his son, waiting for more, studying what little he could see of DJ’s face. The young man might have been fighting back tears. “Cut to the chase. Why is she leaving?”
It took thirty microts to get an answer. DJ sat motionless for half that time, staring down at the table, then began flicking one finger against the side of his drinking flask, triggering a quiet chiming metallic ring with each impact. Finally, just when John began to think he was not going to receive an explanation, DJ said, “Over the past couple of cycles, she has seen what our lives are like. She says trouble and violence follow us around.”
John summed it up in two words. “She’s frightened.”
DJ made a full-body movement that described both uncertainty and agreement. It was part shrug, part nod, part squirm. “She’s never scared when we’re in the middle of some dren storm. She was amazing when we came after you and Mom. More than half that plan was her idea. And you know she’s almost as fearless as Mom once the shooting starts.”
“Shooting makes her feel better.”
DJ nodded. “Yeah. Especially if she’s nervous or upset about something.”
“Keep that in mind for when you work this out and eventually have kids. It can get hazardous during childbirth.”
The comment drew a twitch of a smile from DJ. John rubbed his son’s back for a moment, trying to impart some sympathy and understanding through the gesture. All it did was bring the tears closer to the surface. DJ spent some time rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand.
John let the silence stretch out, giving DJ time to get himself under control. He stared out the view portal, just as DJ had been doing when he had found him, and considered the how the pieces of information fit together. “She’s worried about your future together. She’s scared by the prospect of going through the rest of her life like a Crichton.”
“She wants kids. She looks at us and can’t imagine raising children in the middle of this kind of life.”
John poured some more prazno into his flask. He did not intend to drink it. He needed all his wits intact if he was going to offer DJ any useful advice. He did it in order to give himself time to think. After several microts of contemplation, he said, “We’ve had a lot of quiet cycles.”
“And just as many when you and Mom had to worry about all of us getting killed, mangled, or kidnapped.”
He could not deny it. Their lives were equal parts tranquility and mayhem. “True.”
DJ turned his head just far enough so he could look at his father out of the corner of his eye. “Kharli has heard the story about when and where I was born.”
John came close to laughing. “We probably should not have told her about that. Not a good way to introduce a potential in-law into the family.”
“Try stopping Mom. She loves telling how I came into the universe in the middle of a full out war, complete with explosions, aerial bombardments, and a scarran ground assault.”
“In a fountain with Stark,” John added on.
“Funny how she always leaves that part out.” A grin flickered into life for several microts.
John peered down into his drinking container. It was three quarters full of prazno. If he tossed it back all at once, he would very likely pass out within a quarter arn. It was tempting. DJ’s anguish had rekindled emotions and sensations that he had not felt in close to twenty cycles. He had lived with the loneliness, uncertainty, and despair for too long when this had happened to him. If he had been separated from Aeryn for days or even a few weeks, he probably would have forgotten what it felt like by now. But it had lasted for half a cycle, gradually etching the grief into his soul the way acid could burn so deeply into rock that the pattern would survive for eons. It was as though the memories and the feelings were encoded on a genetic level, accessible for all time if someone provided the right trigger. He did not like it. He had done his best to put the entire thing behind him.
Beside him, DJ shifted on his seat. His body language said that he was working up the courage to say something difficult. The silent struggle dragged John’s attention away from the past and back to his son’s current problem.
DJ said, “And there’s …” He dropped his head so his chin rested on his chest, started to speak again, and then shook his head.
Whatever he was trying to say was even more painful than talking about Kharli’s decision to leave him, John decided. In a leap of intuition so strong it felt like telepathy, he knew what his son was avoiding. DJ was the only one of their three surviving children who had been alive at the time of the tragedy. Ian and Malii’ya knew what had happened, but their knowledge was second hand. Only DJ had been there. He alone had suffered alongside his parents, had seen for himself how quickly an innocent life could be extinguished, and carried the emotional scars.
He finished the sentence that continued to hang, half-finished, over their heads like an impending storm. “Leslie.”
John took a deep breath and then let it out slowly, using the physical effort together with the few microts of silence to quell a sudden burst of anger. The surge of fury was laced with an additional ingredient that might have been panic. The combination was goading him to do something irrational. He did not speak until he was sure he had it under control. Even then, he let each word out with cautious reserve; the simple act of speaking threatened to rupture his self-control.
“Please tell me you did not tell Kharli about that.”
“No, of course not! I’m not that stupid. But …” Another squirm-shrug and another look of indecision so severe it verged on ‘fatal’.
“But what happened to her is always there, hidden away in the back of your brain, which makes it difficult to argue with Kharli.”
DJ stuck a finger into his drinking flask and swirled the liquid around several times. “I can’t tell her she’s wrong. I cannot look Kharli straight in the eye and tell her that it will all work out okay. It would be a lie.”
There did not seem to be anything to say after that. John stared out the view portal, feeling as dark and empty inside as the view that lay before his eyes, and tried to marshal his thoughts into some sort of useful insight or advice. His emotions kept hijacking the process, heart preempting his brain with ridiculous ease, repeatedly spiraling in on the single unhelpful insight that DJ was his son, his first born. John ached with the desire to hug DJ, to hold him in his arms, to have him rest his head on his shoulder, and to tell him it would be all right. But the person sitting next to him was also a grown man: capable, intelligent, self-assured, and -- despite his recent decision to continue living aboard Moya -- independent. John shoved his paternal instincts to one side and tried to treat DJ as he would a peer. For the moment, he needed to view the young man beside him the way he would a depressed drinking buddy.
He did his best to accomplish just that. John closed his eyes, and imagined that he was leaning on a bar on Earth with DK on the stool next to him, fall-down drunk and debating deeply philosophical concepts with the profound wisdom that can be comprehended only after consuming too much alcohol. A swallow of the prazno helped. The edges of his concentration blurred, as though his brain had been encased in a layer of furry insulation. It helped him pretend he was in that Earth bar for a few moments; the mild whirling in his brain opened the door to the place where beer-soaked secrets of life were kept hidden.
He asked the question that he would have asked an inebriated friend as they sat draped over the bar, relying on its stability to keep them from falling off their bar stools. His mental recreation was so thorough he almost slurred his words, as if he were, in fact, drunk. It took a conscious effort to speak clearly. “Do you still love her?”
DJ turned to stare at him. “Are you serious?”
“I’ll take that as a yes. Does she love you?”
“I don’t know. Up until a few arns ago, I would have said she couldn’t live without me the same way I’m not interested in living unless I’m with her. She claims she still loves me.”
“But she’s leaving anyway,” John said.
“She can’t stay, but she doesn’t want to go.” The words made his stomach hurt. More than twenty-four cycles had passed since he had heard them for the first time. He had spent most of those cycles married to Aeryn, they had raised several children, and the words still carried the power to make him ache with loss. He knew exactly how DJ felt. He was sick to his stomach. It hurt to breathe. The emptiness in his heart was so intense, it felt as though he was in danger of imploding.
“I guess,” said DJ. “I’m so confused at this point, I don’t know what to think.”
John stood up. “Get up.” He grabbed DJ under the arm and pulled him to his feet. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
John steered him through the door and into the passageway. “I have the answer. I know what you need to do.”
“You plan to share your insight with me?” DJ pulled his arm loose and stopped walking. “Where are we going?”
John gave him a small shove in the direction he wanted to go. “Hangar bay. You’re going to knock her down and sit on her if that’s what it takes to keep her from leaving.”
DJ once again came to a stop. This time he turned to face his father, blocking his way. “Are you serious?”
“I’m exaggerating a bit, but yes, basically I’m serious. If that’s what it takes to keep her from leaving, that is what you need to do.”
“Have you forgotten that Kharli grew up with six older brothers?”
“Just because I’m a couple of decades older than you doesn’t mean I’m senile, bucko. What’s your point?” John tried to grab DJ’s arm in order to get him moving again.
DJ danced out of reach. “The point is that Kharli’s opening move in any fight is to kick her opponent in the balls. If I attempt to keep her here using physical force, I’m going to wind up with my nuts relocated to a spot closer to my tonsils.”
John winced at the imagery. It took a conscious effort to resist the urge to protect his crotch with his hands. “In that case, your only choice may be to argue it out with her.”
“It might be faster and easier to deal with the kick to the groin.” DJ walked in a circle several times, scrubbing both hands through his hair. “We have tried to talk this out, Dad. Talking doesn’t work.”
“Then shoot her in the foot or kick her in the crotch before she kicks you or drop a net over her. All I know is that you cannot allow her to leave without you. Not like this. Get your butt down to the hangar bay, park your carcass between her and her ship, and do not move until the two of you have battled this out and reached an agreement. Stay there and talk and yell at each other and work it out; because if you let her walk away now, like this, you will regret it for the rest of your life. If you have to go with her, do it. Pack up everything you own, give your mother and me a hug, and go with her. Do not let her leave without you.”
John nudged DJ’s shoulder, encouraging him to turn around and resume his journey toward the maintenance bay where Kharli’s ship was stored. DJ stood his ground. “She says that’s not the answer. Kharli thinks the violence follows me around. She says the problem is that I’m a Crichton.”
“It doesn’t matter what she thinks. What matters is that the two of you find a solution that keeps you together. Here or out there, any place in the universe. I don’t know much, DJ, but the one thing I do know is that if you let her leave without you, both of you will regret it. So stop her.”
“Are you sure about this, Dad? This isn’t the same as what you and Mom went through.” DJ allowed himself to be turned around and herded into motion.
“The differences aren’t what matter. What counts are the parts that are the same.”
They rounded the final corner leading to the maintenance bay. Ahead of them, through the open door, John could see Kharli standing beside a small heap of gear bags and cargo containers, looking indecisive. There was also one other person in the large chamber.
She was coming toward them. She met them as they passed through the doorway.
“Go,” she said to DJ. She gave him a brief caress before nudging him toward Kharli. “Come talk to us later, after the two of you have worked this out.”
He took three steps forward then paused, hesitating. A glance back at Aeryn seemed to banish whatever had brought him to a stop, because he nodded once, as if confirming something to himself, and then hurried into the maintenance bay. John started to follow.
“Not you.” Aeryn caught his arm in hers as she moved past him and kept walking. It jerked him around, abruptly reversing his direction of travel. “They are going to sort this out on their own. They don’t need us.”
He disentangled himself from her grasp, got turned around, and matched her stride. “How can you be so sure they’re going to resolve this? I seem to recall some other people trying their best under similar circumstances and failing miserably.”
Aeryn paused long enough to give him a quick kiss. Initially he thought it was meant as reassurance; but when they broke apart, she was looking at him with what might have been the first glimmer of confusion showing in her eyes. Aeryn licked her lips several times, head tilted a few degrees to one side suggesting deep contemplation, and then leaned forward to kiss him again, harder and longer. His theory concerning her motivation shifted from reassurance to a scenario involving passion, privacy, and an absence of clothes.
It turned out Aeryn had something entirely different on her mind. “Isn’t it a little early in the day for prazno?”
There were half a dozen smart-assed replies clamoring to be voiced, all having to do with taste tests and each one funnier than the one before. John glanced at Aeryn before launching in. Twenty-four cycles of marriage had taught him to test the waters before unleashing a series of what he considered hysterically funny comments. His precaution paid off. Several tight muscles around her eyes and at the point of her jaw betrayed her. She was not as calm and relaxed as she wanted him to believe. Beneath the composed demeanor, she was worried about her son, and that meant that attempts at humor were not going to be well-received. “DJ,” he said succinctly, certain that Aeryn could figure out the rest on her own.
He was not disappointed. Aeryn nodded once, and then resumed her journey through the leviathan’s tiers.
John took several long strides to catch up, and then fell in beside her. “I’m still waiting for an answer. Why are you so confident they can do a better job of figuring this out than we did?”
“Two reasons. First, I talked with Kharli.”
“You’re doing marriage counseling now? Starting a new career now that your children are grown?”
Aeryn threaded her arm through his and pulled him close. After several coordinated steps together, she said, “Mostly I listened.”
“And when you weren’t listening, what did you say to her?”
“That when a person allows fear to rule their life, they make poor decisions.”
“That was all.”
“That was it?” John tried to slow down, intending to return to the maintenance bay, concerned about the outcome of the conflict occurring there.
Aeryn kept her arm firmly linked in his and kept moving, towing him along. “That was all I needed to say. Kharli already knew it. She just needed to hear it from someone other than DJ.”
John spent some time considering Aeryn’s assessment of Kharli’s mental and emotional state, and her confidence in a happy outcome. It took him a while. His thoughts kept branching off in odd directions. More than once, he found himself wondering if this was his legacy, if having him as a father meant that all three of his children were doomed to experience the same kind of emotional agony and heartache that he had gone through with Aeryn. He wondered if today’s events would play out a second and third time with Ian and Malii’ya, whether it would be Malii’ya who walked away or if someone she loved would eventually retreat from the relationship out of fear, leaving his little girl heartbroken and in tears. He began to worry that he had somehow -- unknowingly and unintentionally -- passed on a set of behaviors to DJ that had caused Kharli to pull away. Despite Aeryn’s optimism, he began to fear that he was the cause of his son’s unhappiness. In the space of several dozen microts, he went from trying to determine how Aeryn could be so sure that DJ and Kharli could resolve their differences to thinking that he was the ultimate source of the problem.
“It’s not your fault,” Aeryn said.
It startled him, yanking him out of his self-condemnation more quickly and thoroughly than any logical, rational explanation ever could. “You’re reading my mind again. You know I hate when you do that.”
Aeryn leaned against him more firmly as they walked, letting him know that it had been his body that had given him away. She had felt the changes in his breathing, his muscle tension, and the way that he moved. She had interpreted his physical reactions every bit as efficiently as a lie-detector, and then went one step further by managing to intuit what was causing them.
John pulled his arm loose from hers and looped it around her shoulders, pulling her closer. Aeryn responded by snaking her arm around his waist, encouraging the embrace. “I get it,” he said. “You could feel me getting uptight, but how did you know what I was thinking?” He figured it out before she could form an answer. It was obvious. “You knew because you were thinking the same thing.”
“Not right then,” Aeryn said. “Earlier, when I found out that Kharli intended to leave.”
“Immediate flashback,” he said.
“Immediate guilt.” She was nodding.
“Drop the guilt,” she said, finishing the progression.
“Okay, so we agree that we’re not terrible parents, that we did not cause this, and I’ll concede without an argument --”
“Wise choice,” Aeryn interjected.
“-- that you are right about what you told Kharli. You said you had two reasons why you were sure DJ can convince her not to leave him. What’s the second?”
“DJ is your son.” She put the emphasis on ‘your’, making it sound as though she had not been involved in bringing DJ into the universe.
“Is that your way of saying that he is handsome, pure of heart, blindingly intelligent, and loves her so much he’ll do anything to keep them together?” he said.
“No, it means that he is opinionated, pig-headed, and stubborn” -- Aeryn paused for the length of time it took her to give him a vigorous, sideways hug -- “which means that he loves her so much he would have refused to let her leave even if you had not told him to stop her.”
“What makes you think that’s what I told him?”
She tightened the arm that encircled his waist. “Because it is the right answer.”
He strode along, content to have Aeryn close beside him, feeling as though they were done talking. Situation successfully resolved. After several dozen steps, however, some aspect of her tone of voice began to niggle at his subconscious. The longer he thought about it and went on replaying her final comment in her mind, the more he became convinced that she had been using the inflection to impart a deeper meaning to her words. John looked across at Aeryn, intending to ask if she had been referring to DJ and Kharli, or their own heartache, strife, and separation more than twenty cycles ago. She was watching him, the gleam of a smile in her eyes. The answer he needed was there, waiting for him, clear and unmistakable.
“They’re going to find a way to resolve their problems. They’re going to work things out, and then they will live happily ever after,” John said.