Aeryn's taken to carrying around a bottle of water with a metal screw cap and a loop that attaches to her belt. At least he thinks it's water. She reminds him of those kids in high school who went on Outward Bound, half bent from the weight of oversized backpacks and always a little shivery even in Nepalese sweaters, with that look that says they're just a little better than you are because they've got water and a backpack and they'll be okay if the world ends. He thinks, Aeryn will be okay if the world ends. He thinks, she's a little bent and shivery too.
He feels older, but not as old as Aeryn looks. When she's not working -- and she's almost always working -- she's in a corridor somewhere, crouched and quiet, whispering to Moya. Melodrama, he recognizes the signs. "I am sorry," he heard her say once, and she punched the "am" and sounded pretentious. And he felt embarrassed for her, like she was looking for pity, but then at night he'd swear he could hear Moya calling and crying, and he'd feel like an asshole again.
It's a mourning competition, and he's losing.
A day goes by, and another, and Spanky's spread out on the command floor mapping battle plans, and Pip's convinced her calls are being traced by Nebari baddies, and D'Argo's teaching Jool to fly his ship.
All Crichton has, as his own, to mourn for, is Scorpius. And all he has to keep him company when he does it is Harvey, who laughs at him.
It is one of these days with Rygel on the floor and Chi on the phone, and Harvey singing "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To," and Crichton's in his quarters, cleaning Winona and trying not to hum along. The door chime sounds bizarre. He says "come in," without realizing it, or maybe he sings it. Aeryn comes in.
"Hey, Aeryn." He puts the gun down.
"What was your mother's name?"
It's more than she's said to him in too long, and he wants to say, "thank you for talking to me," but he doesn't. "My mom?"
She's got that serious look, like the chick in the back row in science class, hunched over her notebook, writing poetry, begging for acknowledgement, her profundity lost in a misunderstanding world.
"Never mind," Aeryn says, and she turns to leave, and he wants to say "don't go," but he doesn't. He wants to grab her. He doesn't.
"Why do you want to know?" he says, standing up, but she's gone again. He picks up Winona, and Harvey is giggling.
He laughed at his mother's funeral, and he hasn't forgiven himself for it yet. It was nervous, but it was laughing, and the look his father gave him wasn't anger, wasn't even disappointment, just scared. The minister had said something and it reminded John of something and he can't remember what, but he laughed, quick, clapped a hand over his mouth and his father looked so scared, sitting there next to him with wide, weary eyes. His father cried. John didn't cry.
He tries to think about Scorpius again. Rubber-stretched face and that wise cackle, that slow, delicate tease of torture, the comic-book arch-nemesis. Intimate. He knows what it was.
"Naturally," Harvey says. "He was your very own. You two were well matched. It's a shame, really."
Harvey's called up the church, the day of John's mother's funeral. Harvey and John, side-by-side, in the pews. Harvey is laughing. "Like this?" Harvey says. "Is this what it was like?"
"No," Crichton says, and misses the real Scorpius. "You don't know me."
"Ah, my dear John, are we back there again? We're buddies. Pals. Comrades in arms, you and me. I know everything. And I can tell you this much -- " Crichton doesn't want to hear it, and the church echoes. "He would miss you too."
"Makes sense," Crichton says. "All those times he tried to kill me and drink my brains like Gatorade."
"He would miss you if you left him," Harvey says, and they run for the bus stop, too late. "Of course, he'd laugh too."
Crichton collapses on his bed, closes his eyes. "At least Aeryn's not pretending she's mourning for Scorpius," he says.
"At least," Harvey agrees, nodding enthusiastically. "That would be ridiculous."
"It'd be insane," Crichton says.
"Stranger things have happened, of course," Harvey says, and goes back to his knitting.
It's later and Rygel's drawing up blueprints and Chiana's on the phone, speaking in code. The DRDs are on vacation, because Crichton thought they deserved it and Pilot pretended to agree.
Aeryn's working in the StarBurst chamber, and Crichton's spotting, doing the work of four DRDs because it seems like a good idea. She's wearing the green shirt, the one he likes, the one Crais said she picked up while they were on Talyn. The one Crais always liked.
He remembers when Crais told him that, the twang of jealousy for no reason. He remembers Crais. He misses Crais, but he can't miss Crais, because when they all got back from the command carrier Aeryn sent a message to Crais' parents expressing her grief. Hers. Not the crew's grief, hers. When she mutters to Moya, she says "I miss Talyn too." Not "we miss." Never "we." There's no "we" anymore with Aeryn, and no "we" for John now that Scorpius is gone.
He hands Aeryn a little air puffer and a sponge and he feels like a manicurist, but she's down on her hands and knees staring into the glow of the StarBurst chamber and she couldn't see him if she tried.
"Elizabeth," he says.
"Excuse me?" She doesn't look up.
"Was my mother's name," he says. "Libby. I know you sent a message to Crais' parents. I know you've been sharing your grief with Moya, so I just wanted you to have the complete set. You know, Aeryn's band of merry mourners." He wants to punch himself for that, but it's not like her face changes any.
"Thank you," she says, and goes back to the thing with the sponge and the air and the light. He sits next to her.
It's been two weeks and if this goes on any longer he's going to throw a tantrum. "Aeryn," he says. "We need to talk."
"Box spanner," she says. He hands it to her. "We do?"
"Listen," he says. "I miss Crais too. I feel bad about Talyn too. I hurt for Moya too."
"You didn't know them," she says through clenched teeth. He hears "they're not yours" and in there "I'm not yours either."
"Yes, Aeryn, I did," he says, and he stares into the light. She's polished the panel to a sickening iridescence, and she's working on the crystal bolts now, unscrewing each one, cleaning it, putting it back. "I knew Crais. He was my friend. What he did for us --"
"What he did, he did because he has the morals of a Peacekeeper," Aeryn says. "He sacrificed himself because he couldn't allow Scorpius to complete his research. He didn't do it for us, Crichton. He didn't do it for you."
But she doesn't sound angry, she sounds...bored. Like she's said it before. Like she's memorized a script and she's not a very good actress, and she doesn't really care one way or the other. Almost sing-song. He wants to laugh, nervous, and Harvey says, "See? I told you. Laughing."
Crichton bites his tongue, because he was about to say, "Crais killed my Scorpius!" and he can't believe it himself. Harvey's found Star Trek pinball in his brain. Winner alarms ring.
"What's wrong with you?" Crichton says instead. "I mean, aside from --"
"There's nothing wrong with me, Crichton," Aeryn says. She looks at him. "Really." That bad actress again.
"Can I -- tell you something?"
She sighs. "Of course."
"I sorta miss Scorpius," he says, mostly to see what she'll do. "I mean, not the super-villain stuff. But he was a big part of my life out here. A lot of what distracted me from trying to get home, you know? Like all I had."
"Like my mother," she says, and looks back into the depths of the iridescent pit. "You never knew her." Like he's forgotten that.
He stands up. "You need anything else?" he asks. She doesn't answer, and he doesn't let himself hope it's because she wants him to stay. When she looks up, she has a wrench in her mouth. She takes it out and wipes it on her sleeve.
"No," he shakes his head, and Harvey goes back to his knitting. "I'm sorry." He turns to leave.
He wheels around. "What do I -- what do I have to do, Aeryn? I have to DIE to get you to talk to me? Is that it? Because I'll tell you, you never paid this much attention to Crais or Talyn when they were alive!"
"I'm talking to you now," she says. Quietly. He shakes his head.
"No, John," she says. "I'm talking to you. I'm talking to you now."
He feels immediately guilty, and she doesn't look so much like those broody teenagers he used to hate. She just looks like Aeryn, and sad, and just a little bit beautiful. Most of the time he turns and sees her and his breath catches, because he can't believe how beautiful she is, but this time it looks familiar, and that's better. He sees himself in her face. He smiles.
"Sorry," he says again. He sits down, crouches really, and plays with the wrench on the ground.
"He's not dead, you know," she says. "Scorpius."
He blows air between his lips. "They never are."
"No," she says. "Sometimes they are."
"Yeah," he says. "Sometimes they are." He remembers his mother and he doesn't laugh this time. Harvey curls up on the end of the sofa and goes to sleep.
"I wish you could have known him," she says. "I mean, I know you know him, you ARE him, but I wish --"
"Because he died for the cause, and I didn't," Crichton says.
"Because he died and I didn't," Aeryn says. "And Crais!" He feels like she's changing the subject, and he lets her. "Crais died and I didn't. And here we are."
"We took out the command carrier. We got rid of Scorpius," Crichton says. "We're done."
"And here we are."
She nods. "See."
He does, finally. "Aeryn --" But he doesn't know how to say it. "Did he ever say anything? About -- what he wanted to do -- I mean -- about going back home?"
"Yes," she says, and for a minute it feels like all she'll say. "We talked about it."
Crichton looks at the floor, spins the wrench and watches it bleed into a circle. "Good, okay," he says. "I was just curious."
"I wasn't sure," she says. "No. I was sure. I would have gone with him."
"Me too," Crichton says, and tries to laugh. The wrench stops.
"But I had the chance to see him again, and I said no --" She presses her palms to her knees, hoists herself up like an old woman. "I said no, I was a Peacekeeper, and there's no room for me to be beyond what I was bred to be."
He loves her like a heart attack, and he holds his breath, and he listens. "Oh."
"But there was room for Crais. And Scorpius -- " She looks at Crichton like she's expecting to see Scorpius there, and for a minute he thinks she does. "Even Scorpius grew beyond his programming. And here we are." She walks away a little, stands near the door, looking thin and tall, like a shadow, like an alien.
"I will still go with him," she says, and it's closer than anything she's ever said before, to him, anyway. And it's close enough.
He stands up, crosses to her, puts a hand on her shoulder. "I'm glad you're not dead," he says, because it's all he can think of to say.
"Yes," she says. "But it's not up to you." And she leaves the room.