The rescue, when it comes, is unexpected.
Cam thinks it's been about three days since he was captured, which means it's been about three days and five minutes since he walked through the stargate on what was supposed to be a routine mission and found himself without his team somewhere that definitely wasn't P3X 996.
The first day was spent trying to convince his interrogators that he really, really didn't understand their language. They'd finally responded to that by injecting something in his arm that suddenly rendered their speech intelligible to him, and wouldn't the scientists at home want to get hold of that?
The second and third days were devoted to trying to convince his captors that he wasn't the war criminal John Crichton, and that he had no idea how to create wormholes. Or wormhole weapons. Or anything like the monstrosity in the video they showed him. Judging by their decision to shift from simply asking questions to asking questions backed up by pain--and what that hell was that beam coming out of their hands?--he didn't think they believed him.
Their renewed interrogation efforts are a big part of the reason he plays along when armed...men?...break into the room and urge him to come with them. It's clear by then that his captors aren't going to give him answers, and Cam doesn't really want to spend another day being questioned about things he doesn't understand, so he stumbles to his feet and tries to keep up as his rescuers lead him out of the facility and into a waiting shuttle.
They dock in a huge waiting ship that his rescuers refer to as Moya. They wave him toward the exit while they hang around doing various thing on the shuttle that look suspiciously like make-work. Cam does what he's told. He's barely off the shuttle when he's pulled into a desperate embrace. He responds automatically, wrapping his arms around the woman who's pressing her face against his chest, and pulling her closer. As she leans into him, he takes the opportunity to peer over her shoulder and survey the room. It doesn't provide him with much information--an airy, nearly-empty landing bay that could have existed on any Earth battle cruiser, except for the colour of the walls. No signs of weapons or anything that might help him escape if the crew here proves less than thrilled by the discovery that he's not Crichton. Of course, even if he could escape them, he's not sure where he'd go. He's definitely not in Kansas anymore, and there's no Sam here, to tell him how to skip across universes and guide him home.
He feels the woman in his arms shift and begin to pull away.
"You're not him," she says dully, voice cracking just a little. She drops her arms and steps back, giving Cam his first clear look at her. His breath catches at the painfully familiar sight of long, black hair and intense eyes. He'd thought himself immune to the shocks of this place after the past few days, but the sight of Vala, whole and alive, shakes him.
Except, of course, that this isn't Vala. The accent is off, and so is the body language. He can't imagine this woman ever playing the cheerful seductress or clever con artist. The sharp intelligence in her gaze is the same, though, and the angle of her head as she studies him matches Vala exactly, and his heart aches at the sight.
"You're not her either," he says, because it's that or apologize for not being someone else and he's had enough of that. He spots a spark of curiosity beneath the raw grief that envelops her.
"You look just like him."
"That's what they tell me." He catches a hint of movement in the doorway of the shuttle, and knows that they can hear the conversation. He wonders how long they'll let it go on for before they burst out and take him down for not telling them sooner. Not that they'd given him a chance.
"I should have known better," she says. "It was too easy. But when Jothee told me he found him...."
"Yes." She gives him a longing look, just for a second, then visibly pulls herself inward, grief disappearing behind a mask.
"I'm Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell," he offers, leaving on the title for formality, doing what he can to give her the distance she needs. He leaves off the SG-1 designation. He's pretty sure it won't mean anything to anyone in this universe. He wonders if they've even heard of Earth. Maybe they have--John Crichton sounds like an Earth name.
"Aeryn Sun," she says. "And this is Moya." She gestures up and around, encompassing the ship beyond the room. It's a strange ship, he realizes. Stranger than he'd first given it credit for. He thinks again how interested Sam would be in all of this.
Jothee and his crew leave a few hours later, disappointed and determined that they'll eventually succeed in finding Crichton. After they're gone, Aeryn begins a discussion with Pilot, who far outstrips the Asgard for strangeness, and Cam's left by himself, not quite sure what's going to happen next.
Later that night, Aeryn offers him some unidentifiable food that's at least twice as edible as anything he's had since he got here. She doesn't explicitly tell him he can stay, but she doesn't kick him off either, so he claims one of the empty rooms and tries to make himself useful around the ship. Mostly he fails at that, beaten to every task by the little robots that are everywhere underfoot. He soon realizes that the ship is entirely unmanned apart from Aeryn, Pilot, and himself. Apparently Pilot and the robots between them can handle everything that comes up.
Aeryn spends most of her time holed up with Pilot, or staring out into space, so Cam begins wandering the ship, exploring shuttle bays and cargo holds and a strange room that he thinks might be the kitchen. He also comes across rooms that are clearly science labs, walls covered in equations, the whole so familiar that he wants to cry. He asks Pilot about them, and is told that the labs belong to Commander Crichton. He spends a couple of hours in there after that, staring at the equations, and wondering about paths that might have led him to a place where he could understand those symbols. It occurs to him that if they were to find Crichton, Crichton might have some ideas about how to get Cam home.
Sometimes Cam finds a window of his own and stares into space, daydreaming. He thinks about Vala then--the first time she smiled, really smiled at him, and the feel of her riding behind him on his bike with her arms around his waist, and the way her skin looked in the candlelight as she stripped off her shirt. He's careful not to think about the last time he saw her, not to think of her turning to grin at him, the sun all around her like a halo, the sound of the landmine as she stepped forward...it's the sound he remember most. He thinks that's probably better than remember what it looked like.
One day he comes across two rooms, side by side, and the furniture is so small that it clearly wasn't meant for adults.
"I left them with Chiana," comes a voice from behind him. Cam turns in the doorway, startled. He hadn't realized she could move so quietly.
"Even if we found him," Aeryn continues, "I wasn't sure...I didn't want to them to see him if things were bad. And I didn't want them wondering. Not until we knew."
"How old are they?"
"D'Argo is seven, and Zhaan is five." She hesitates, then adds with a hint of desperation, "I need to find him. I can't...I can't do that by myself. I don't know how."
"I'm sure you'll figure it out if you have to," he says. "It's the type of job you learn as you go."
She shakes her head. "Not when you're brought up like I was." She doesn't elaborate, and he doesn't want to drive her away by asking.
Instead he asks for pictures and she shows him holograms of two small children, one dark and one fair, both very serious looking. He stares at them curiously while a voice in his head tells him that this is what he lost on PX3 896. This is what he'll never have.
"It must have been hard, leaving them behind," he says, and then turns to realize he's talking to an empty room.
Cam lost his watch when he was taken prisoner, so he has trouble keeping track of time on Moya. There are no clocks that he can see, and no sunrises. The only way to mark the passage of days are the meals Aeryn periodically prepares and eats in silence. He tries to help her, but she turns him away. It's probably just as well, since he still has no idea what he's eating or how it's made.
Sixty-two meals after his arrival on Moya, an insistent voice wakes him.
"What is it, Pilot?" he asks, sitting up and shaking off sleep.
"Aeryn has just finished speaking with Jothee. He says...he says they have recovered Commander Crichton's body from the Scarrans. Aeryn is very upset. She will not speak to me, and I am afraid..."
Cam swings his feet over the side of the bed. "Where is she?"
"Her room. I can provide you with directions."
He pauses, a thought occurring to him. "Pilot...did he give them what they wanted?"
"I do not know, Colonel. He may not have been able to do so; I'm not sure he was allowed to retain that knowledge. But only time will tell for sure."
Aeryn doesn't respond when Cam knocks, but the door isn't locked, so he lets himself in. He finds her crouched beside the window, arms wrapped around her knees, rocking back and forth. He kneels down beside her, careful of old injuries.
"Aeryn?" he says gently. Her forehead is resting against her knees. She doesn't look up. "Aeryn," he says again, resting a hand on her shoulder. This time she turns her head just enough for him to see her tear-streaked face.
"I can't do this."
"Yes, you can."
She just shakes her head, still rocking, and he pulls her into his arms for the second time, and holds her while she cries, and for once he looks at her and doesn't see Vala at all.