You have vague memories of being a different sort of whole, distant though they are. Pieces of yourself have gone missing, and the spaces somehow have been filled with bits of Aeryn.
It takes a while for you to wrap your mind around it. You care for Aeryn like the sister you never asked for, but it's taken weekens for you to adjust to having a Peacekeeper inside you.
And not in a good way, as Crichton would say.
After once trying to explain it to Jool and being met with an impatient shoulder shrug and the flip of red hair in your face, you keep your thoughts to yourself. Tempted as you are to talk to Crichton about it, you always get distracted by that expression on his face when he looks at you. Like he can see the other side of you, those pieces of Aeryn showing through grey skin.
Like he knows secrets about your body you've yet to discover.
How the mix-up happened is still a mystery, and now that you've gotten used to the changes the answers don't matter as much. You're still you, with a few additions. Having Aeryn inside you hasn't made you any less of a Nebari than you've always been.
You'd cut your hand soon after the mix-up -- accidentally or on purpose, the details don't matter -- and you'd stared at your hand palm up, body tucked into one of Moya's bulkheads.
Didn't fit as easily as you used to.
Watched the blood pool and drip down fingers that wiggled when you told them to but seemed out of your control all the same.
Stark had found you an arn later and spread a sticky paste on the cut that smelled frelling awful. You'd wanted to ask her where she'd gotten it, if she'd say Zhaan or- or someone else, but the moment passed and you were a fekkik anyway for even wanting to talk about it.
Stark had simply sat next to you with Sikozu's face, smelling both the same and different, and said to you calmly, "You still bleed blue, do you not?"
You'd rested your chin against her shoulder, felt the scratch of her clothing against your skin as you'd nodded.
"Then the changes you seek are not from the inside."
"S'not so simple, fella." You couldn't get your mouth to work right after, like your body was being pushed to the floor and not even Stark's slighter weight could hold you.
And Stark again... making shh noises above your head.
Dren. "You, you better not've drugged me..." you'd pushed against the heaviness until your words floated, "...frellin' Banik."
"I've certainly heard worse," Stark had whispered. Shh. "It helps."
She'd sounded so convincing that you'd relaxed and slipped under.
Later, you'd wondered how different that feeling was from being crossed over, and shuddered.
One memory from before the mix-up haunts you.
Well, one of many.
There was lots of raslak shared between you and Crichton, and a distinct lack of sex had by either of you in too frelling long. Crichton called it a dry spell. You remember laughing, licking his palm and telling him to get to work.
It haunts you now.
You've gotten used to carrying your new body around, with its longer legs and bigger loomas; have caught both Crichton and Jool staring at 'em. Your mouth is wider, cheeks higher. These differences you can see, but you want to be thorough.
Digging through your closet yields a male life cast (in a smaller size, of course; you don't need a complete body to frell yourself with) and you set about exploring. Sweet spots at the bend of your knee and on your hip are new, but the curve of your neck and mid-back are the same.
By the end of the sleep cycle you've discovered that not much has changed, but the exploration was worth the arns you'd locked yourself in your quarters.
Crichton has always been like a big brother, a substitute Nerri. But you've never wanted to frell your brother.
Most of the time it's easy to forget your attraction to him because you're usually knee-deep in dren and trying to fight your way out of it. Those frequent moments of boredom in between the chaos are when you allow your mind to wander -- sometimes your hands too, when you can catch him off guard.
You watch him, moving around the ship when he does -- tagging along behind him, like you followed at Nerri's heels -- after you've had your fill of annoying the toad and trying unsuccessfully to convince Jool to accompany you on a trip planet side. It's not like you have anything else better to do.
So you listen to the hum of his voice as he mumbles to himself and, Human that he is, he can't hear you when you follow. But the times he's caught you -- looking like you've caught him doing something wrong -- it's all in his eyes.
Crichton hesitates when he sees you, eyes wide like a narl, as if it's his first time seeing your face; a faint double-take before his expression shifts to one of recognition. After the Sheyangs board Moya and spew fire at anything that moves, your first thought is you've survived the assault long enough to die alone, and frell that.
Small fires in the corridor are close enough to singe your skin. You call out to Pilot when you hear Crichton's voice, shouting for D'Argo, and then he's calling for you.
You move in closer and there it is -- hesitation, as his voice drags and skips along your skin.
"It's you." You let the wonder show in your voice because frell, he really should be dead.
One microt you're leaning into his space and the next you've jumped into his arms, locking your long limbs around his waist and he staggers a little, but you know him -- he'd like your position just fine if Moya wasn't dying around you.
Crichton knows it's frelled ("right up the ass!") because you told him so, and it's because of his fahrbot plan that you both will die here with everyone else, the least he can do is give you what you want, what you've always wanted.
An explosion sends you both crashing to the floor, and you lick his mouth, just a small taste. Crichton wants this, you think. It's in those blue eyes that have blended you and Aeryn together. He grabs your arms but he's not stopping you; not really.
"Oh, come on," you murmur, close to his mouth, catching his puff of breath on your tongue. "Just once. You and me, like we should have from the very beginning."
If you're gonna die, you want to do something fun, something that feels good, that will make you forget. Having this moment with Crichton will be the one memory you'd like to keep before your life is over.
He's wrapped himself in leather but you still seek out warm skin beneath the layers, sliding down his body. His fingers snag in your hair but you've never minded a little pain so long as the sex was great. You just need to get his buckle loosened and pants pushed down so you can put your mouth on --
Crichton yanks your head and then there's pain -- so much pain, as Moya explodes around you.
Crichton hesitates when he sees you, eyes wide like a narl, as if it's his first time seeing your face; a faint double-take before his expression shifts to one of recognition. You can't do anything about it tied up as you are, being marched through Moya's corridors with Crichton on one side and some frellwit Peacekeeper on the other.
They bring you to the cargo bay, already occupied by Stark. You both huddle together and it's strange, to feel safer with Stark than with Crichton standing right in front of you. Crichton has you at a disadvantage, and now it's you who feels weak and unprepared for his next move.
You watch Crichton closely as he talks with the Peacekeeper across the room. "Wh-what are they up to?" you ask, lifting your chin in their direction.
Stark shakes her head but gives your shoulder a squeeze. It's not very comforting and your instinct to kick and fight increases along with your nerves.
Crichton finally approaches and you try not to let the fear show on your face as you plead with him to let you go. "I always tie up people I like." Your voice shakes and your words fall flat.
But Stark's voice, her words, are loud and clear: "If you kill her, I won't help you. I won't cross her over!"
You can't stop the flow of questions from spilling forth, from tripping over your own accelerated breathing. Who is this fek? and Are you in some type of trouble? I can help... I always do!
"It is not Aeryn," the Peacekeeper tells Crichton. No.
"Looks a lot like her." Yes.
Crichton cocks his pulse pistol.
A nervous giggle escapes and you don't bother holding it in. Maybe it's a joke and Crichton wants to see it to the end. Maybe Crichton's just playing along until he can overpower the Peacekeeper who won't leave his side. Maybe this isn't Crichton at all.
This can't be happening. He can't kill you.
You drag your eyes from the barrel of the gun, meeting Crichton's eyes, relieved to see his hesitation once again. That's it you think. He can't kill you when you carry a piece of Aeryn inside you; not when he can see Aeryn in your face.
No, Crichton would never hurt the people he loves.
You feel the truth more in this moment than any other. Both of you love him. He can't pull the trigger. He can't.