John slipped through Moya’s corridors, enjoying the opportunity to practice stealth. Not that he really needed to at the moment since the ship was practically empty. Scorpius and Rygel were being sent as negotiators for entry past the planet and to trade. An odd pair of negotiators, oh yeah, but the perfect ones. D’Argo had insisted on accompanying them to keep an eye on everything, which John was grateful for, and Sikozu had wanted to go for her own nefarious reasons. John didn’t even pretend to understand her or her motivations. Chiana had discovered the planet was the source of some of her favorite forms of pleasure and had literally done one of her bizarre ass leaps onto the transport pod. That just left Noranti fiddling around with some potion or other in the habitation chamber.
It also left Aeryn waiting for him in Pilot’s den.
The thought made him smile and he then laughed at himself for his own dopey grin. It didn’t stop him though. After all the torture and time he deserved a grin and he was going to grin if he wanted to.
“Hello, Commander,” said Pilot as John entered the den.
“How’s my favorite Pilot today?” he asked.
Pilot widened his eyes in a fashion that showed he was amused. It always amazed John how much Pilot could express with his eyes.
“I am well, thank you.”
“And our beautiful lady Leviathan?” Joh asked, perching himself up on the console.
“Moya is feeling well. She is glad for a chance of rest while the others seek to negotiate our passage.”
“Tell her to hit the snooze button all she likes,” said John. “I’d like a bit of leisure time myself.”
“I am sure you would,” said Pilot, his tone meaningful.
“Can it, you romantic. Where is she at anyway?”
“I am here,” said Aeryn, appearing as if out of nowhere.
He jumped. If John was getting good at stealth, Aeryn would always be better.
“Hello, beautiful,” he said, sliding down and kissing her eagerly.
She kissed him back which was wonderful. It finally felt like they were on the same page, which, if he had to pick one thing, was pretty much all John wanted out of life.
“Must you torture Pilot so?” she asked, breaking apart from him.
“A valid question,” said Pilot.
“As if you don’t get a kick out of being the only one to know about us,” said John, gesturing to him and Aeryn, his arm still around her. “Playing chaperone is a role you were meant for.”
“I do not deny that I am pleased the two of you appear to have finally managed to come to an agreement about your attachment,” said Pilot, tone dripping with the kind of sardonic chastisement only his race seemed fully capable of. “The question remains why my den must be the meeting place for such displays?”
“Be grateful we’re doing the horizontal mambo in other places,” said John, anticipating Aeryn’s elbow into his ribs enough to keep from wincing. “But here is the only safe place from Scorpius, you know that.”
Pilot sighed but he did not disagree.
“Your discretion and permission is much appreciated, Pilot,” said Aeryn.
“You are welcome, Aeryn,” said Pilot and John noticed that Aeryn flushed a little, like she always did since Pilot had started to use her name more. “Go on then, do what you will,” Pilot continued. “I do have a ship to maintain.”
John appreciated Pilot’s forbearance and didn’t even mind Pilot technically sharing his time with Aeryn. It was practically impossible to hide anything from Pilot any way; his own senses and his DRDs were, like God, everywhere.
“Carry on,” said John, saluting Pilot and then pulling Aeryn down to sit between his legs as he leaned against the console, one of his very favorite positions to be in. “Hi,” he said, letting the smell of her hair wash over him.
“Hi,” she said back in English and the realization hit him like it always did.
“Woman, you gotta stop doing that,” said John. “You know whenever you speak English I feel a terrible urge to jump your bones.”
“I’ll have to risk it, I’m afraid,” she said. “I’m practicing hard and I can’t let your hormones dictate my studies.”
“Of course not,” said John. “So, honey, how was your day?”
“I saw you a few arns ago and we all ate together,” she said. “You know how it was.”
“Indulge me,” he said. “It’s what people do.”
“People?” she repeated.
“People,” he reiterated, nudging his nose into the side of her face.
“Well, fellow person,” she said. “I fixed the issue with my Prowler and I repaired three conduits in Moya’s neural cluster. What did you do?”
“I was a good boy and cleaned up my quarters,” said John.
“I don’t believe it,” said Aeryn.
“I swear to God,” he said, lifting his free hand.
“And what did you find there?” she asked.
“Moldy food cubes and dirty clothes,” he said and then remembered the other important item, the one that had been niggling at the back of his mind since he’d found it. “And I found Stark’s mask…you know, the one he wanted me to have when he left Talyn.”
“Does that bother you?” Aeryn asked as she shifted to look at him better.
“Gotta admit I’m curious. What did the crazy bastard want me to know so badly? The damn mask won’t reactive or do whatever the hell it’s supposed to do.”
“He did not share that confidence when he left,” Aeryn said. “Admittedly, none of us were inclined to share much at that time.”
John paused because he wanted to ask a question but he didn’t want to destroy whatever solidity he and Aeryn had been building. Everything was still so new, despite the history between them, and they were finding their way together over what sometimes felt like a mine field. The difference though was, this time, they were finding their way together.
“Does it mess you up to talk about back then?” he finally asked outright.
She scrunched up her nose slightly, seemingly more in confusion than anything else, and he resisted the urge to kiss the end of it.
“It’s not my favorite period of time,” she said. “Why do you ask?”
“Sometimes I wonder,” he said, leaning his head back. “I wonder about him. I know we were the same but we became different, me and him. He got to experience all that with you and I just…wonder.”
“Would you like me to tell you about it?” she asked quietly.
“Not if it’s too painful,” he said. “I’m sensitive that way.”
“Yes, so very sensitive,” she said, her tone light and he took that to be a good sign.
“Seriously, don’t tell me if it hurts or whatever,” he said, trying to be casual because he wasn’t quite sure how he’d gotten into this mess of actually asking about her time with the other Crichton.
“John, stop being fahrbot,” she said. “I thought we trusted each other now.”
There was an undercurrent of insecurity in her voice and he hastened to reassure her.
“Aeryn, baby, I trust you with both my life and my heart. I just…don’t want to hurt you anymore.”
“I doubt either of us could promise that,” she said.
“You’re grown and mature in the ways of the heart all of a sudden,” he said, teasing.
She smiled and he liked it when she looked happy.
“I would say you taught me well but I’m afraid it wouldn’t be true.”
“Probably not,” he agreed. “Let’s just say we’ve both learned from the past.”
“So I don’t mind sharing it with you,” she said, threading her fingers through his. “If they are anybody’s memories, they’re yours, and it would be nice to be able to reference them to you.”
“So tell me,” he said, “tell me how I won the heart of Officer Aeryn Sun.”
“You had my heart before Talyn,” she reminded him. “But for us both to admit that and be ready to move forward…it took a budong attack and a petulant Leviathan.”
“Somehow I’m not surprised,” said John.
“Talyn did not take kindly to your presence onboard,” said Aeryn. “I actually didn’t believe you at first, but he deliberately did his best to separate the two of us, out of loyalty to Crais, I think, or a desire to keep me there.” She explained further, their attempt to escape the budong, Crais and Talyn’s tenuous tether, and Talyn’s attempt to drive John away through the fabricated tryst between her and Crais. “I was…impressed,” she finally said, “by your ability to keep your mouth shut.” He laughed. “Also annoyed,” she ended.
“Clearly it was all right in the end,” he said, attempting to fold into his own psyche the feelings of the other Crichton, if it was possible.
“Once I was able to prove to you it was not true,” she said, “and expressed my frustration over the way you had taken over my life, you took my hand and you showed me a star, the brightest star.”
“Aeryn,” he breathed.
“What?” she asked, looking annoyed at him for interrupting her.
“No, Aeryn, the star,” he said, explaining.
“Yes,” she said, smiling again. “My star.”
“My guide, my constant,” he said, hearing the slight hitch in her breath as he said the words. “Still is.”
“I’m…glad to hear it,” she said, squeezing his hand.
“That won you over, huh?” he asked. “Should’ve tried the ‘center of my chart’ move earlier.”
“It was the start,” she said. “A kiss led to star gazing which led to other things.”
“Now I’m really jealous,” he said, his thoughts quickly moving toward those other things.
“I hope not,” she said quietly. “It was you in my mind and heart.”
“Not gonna reopen old wounds,” he promised. “Just wish I could remember myself.”
“I hope you keep the same mindset for when I tell you that we were planning on leaving,” she said, hesitating before she spoke.
“Leaving?” he asked, confused.
“Right before he died, once he had the wormhole knowledge, I told him we should take his module and go to Earth,” she admitted, sounding like she didn’t want to say anything, but felt honor bound to.
He had to admit it was a bit like a cold punch to his gut, knowing how close he had come to never seeing her again and his twin getting to possess her forever on his planet. It actually made him a little bit angry. He also noticed her change to referring to them as separate people again. He didn’t really know how to feel about either way honestly, sometimes he felt like he should be that John and sometimes he desperately wanted to maintain his own identity. This whole conversation had been started by the former and now he was in the latter.
He didn’t say anything for a minute because he really didn’t want to say the wrong thing and he probably would if he didn’t wait.
“A little thoughtless of you two,” he said finally, as casually as he could.
“I thought of that later,” she admitted. “It was only the desire to get away and be together, but later on, when I saw you again and you were so Crichton, I realized that if we had done that, then it would have been cruel to deny you, who were fully John Crichton, the two things you had always wanted, to return home and…”
“And you,” he finished; somehow satisfied with her understanding that it would have devastated him.
He did not want to berate her for the past; he’d been punishing her in his own fashion for months since she’d been back, even if it was by trying to deny his feelings in an attempt to keep her safe. It never worked when either of them kept anything from the other and he didn’t want to start building more friction when they finally had everything so right.
“I am sorry for that,” she said.
“Don’t be,” he said. “I mean, sure, you can be sorry, probably should be, but don’t let it ruin your day. We got far bigger fish to fry and, in the end, I’m the lucky one.”
It was true. He had bemoaned for a long time that he hadn’t gotten to be the Crichton to go with Aeryn on Talyn and have Winona at his side, but now he realized that it was very possible if he had, he’d be dead right now. His hand strayed to his side and clutched Winona slightly at the thought.
Aeryn nodded sadly, her grief at that John’s death in her eyes. He knew that grief and understood it; after all, he’d watched her die, he’d even caused the death.
“Regret is something I do not wish to feel, but yet I do,” she said.
“We all do, Aeryn,” he said.
“What do you regret?” she asked, nothing but curiosity in her voice.
“Let’s see, you got a couple of arns?” he asked. She made a face at him and he snuck a kiss on to her temple. “I regret saying no when Steve Dilson invited me to the high school party in the sixth grade.”
“Serious regrets,” she said, bending his wrist in a mock move at causing pain.
“It was serious,” John protested. “I never got to see Sarah Thompson’s topless dive into the pool. That was school legend, man.”
“John, I will leave,” she threatened mildly.
“We’re never leaving each other again,” he said seriously, tightening his grip on her, unsure why he couldn’t even joke about it.
“No, we are not,” she agreed levelly. “Now tell me before I think of ways to extract the information from you.”
Well, if he was going in, he was going in big.
“I regret letting you leave,” he said, relenting, leading with one of the most recent and relevant. “I regret not being able to keep Scorpy from taking over my brain. I regret ever setting foot at that peace memorial. I regret not planting Zhaan in the damn ground the second we knew she was gonna die. Too many frelling things, Aeryn.”
“Do you…regret coming here in the first place?” she asked.
He let himself think seriously about that. There were many days, especially at first, when he had regretted it. There were days now when he wished he didn’t have to live this life, but he knew that sometimes he’d feel that way even if he’d never flown the Farscape flight. Everyone’s lives had issues and not knowing there was an intergalactic war brewing on the other side of the universe wouldn’t take away the trauma of someone’s problems.
“Nope,” he said. “I might have to wax romantic on you, but you’re here and that settles that question.”
“Are you going to ask me my regrets?” she asked next.
“What’s this? Open sharing time with Officer Sun? I’ll take it,” he said.
“I regret leaving,” she said in a rush. “But I don’t at the same time. Does that make sense?”
“Probably,” he said, not really wanting to analyze that at the moment. “Anything else?”
“I regret pushing you away when we reached the Royal Planet,” she admitted. “I don’t know if it would have changed anything, but perhaps we may not have needed to go through all of that. Maybe you would not have had to marry Katrala.”
John nodded, a lump in his throat because he tried very hard not to think about that time if he could help it. The only good thing that had come out of the whole experience was denied to him and locked away to the years.
“Not your fault,” he said around the lump.
“Do you think about her?” Aeryn asked, one hand on her belly, and he knew she meant his daughter, not Katrala.
It took him a moment to answer.
“Too much,” he said. “I try not to, but I always wonder about all the things I’ll miss and how she’ll never even know it. At least she won’t have to know it, but…” he trailed off, not really having words to finish his thought.
He had too many abandonment issues from his own father to not hate the fact that he had technically abandoned his daughter. He hated that more than most of the rotten things of his life. Most of the time he could comfort himself with the idea that he hadn’t had a choice in the matter and that she would be loved and cared for, a true princess. Times like now, that didn’t work so well.
He tried to turn his thoughts to the baby Aeryn was carrying, the baby that he almost always thought of his, even if weird alien reproductive cycles turned that into a false premise, and he made more mental promises to himself that this child would never need to be abandoned and would never feel the pain of not having their parents. At least not if he could help it. They lived in a dangerous universe and he was all too aware of the things outside of his control. All he had to do was think of D’Argo and Jothee to be reminded of that painful lesson.
“I do not really understand,” Aeryn admitted. “It’s not something I was brought up with. But I have often wondered about my parents, about if the night I saw my mother was a dream.”
“She wasn’t a dream,” he said.
“But she became a nightmare,” said Aeryn. “I lost her again right after I lost you.”
John nodded; they had already spoken about Xhalax’s death and even slightly about how Aeryn had reacted to the other John’s death. He didn’t really like those stories, empathetic to the pain Aeryn had been going through.
“Is she part of your regrets?” he asked, happy to move from the topic of children as it was still a rather sensitive subject between them and would be until they knew if the baby was his or not.
“In a way she is,” Aeryn said. “I regret that she could not be more, but I do not know what she could have done to be so. I have too many regrets of my own to want hers as well.”
“What else do you regret?” he asked.
“I regret many actions I committed while a Peacekeeper, I regret many words I have said to you and the others, I regret some of the same things you do,” she answered. There was a heavy pause while they both momentarily lived in the regret of the past. She broke the silence with a slow laugh. “But I do not regret becoming irreversibly contaminated,” she said, tilting her head up to his.
He gladly received her kiss, bringing one hand up to cup the back of her head. He did love the feel of her hair and couldn’t resist touching it whenever possible.
“I don’t regret that one bit,” he said, when they broke away. “And any chance to kiss you is all right by me.”
“That does put me in mind of another story to tell,” she said, clearly done with the dark and melancholy portion of their chat, shifting her body and bringing her leg across so that she was facing him, sitting on his lap rather than against it. It caused all sorts of thoughts to run through his galaxy’s most wanted brain. “We ran into a situation, drawn too close to a sun, and Talyn began emitting a mist.”
“Mist?” he asked, incredulous, wondering exactly why she felt the need to turn on the sex appeal so highly for a story about mist. Not that he was complaining.
“The mist affected us all differently,” she said, leaning close and speaking in his ear. “You and I could not keep away from each other,” she continued, kissing him below his ear and then said some more things that made him feel like his entire body was on fire.
“Holy dren, woman,” he said, “you can’t say things like that to a man.”
She simply pulled back and smiled at him, not in the least repentant.
Amidst an intense regret he had not been there to experience what she was telling him he scooped her up, ignoring Pilot’s exclamation of surprise and sending up a fervent prayer of thanks that everyone was off the ship, and marched with her out of the den to somewhere he could properly express that regret.
On the other hand, he didn’t regret that at all.