There seem to be one constant thought of late and that was John Crichton. Thoughts of his indifference which was slowly eating away at her resolve making it difficult for her to concentrate on anything she put her mind to. Give him space. That had been her plan when she came back from all those moens away. Give him time and not pressure him about the status of their relationship. It was the best plan, at least at the time it made sense. But since her return things were tense, awkward at best. She loved him. There had never been any doubt about that. It was why she had left and why she had come back. He loved her too. Beyond hope he had said all those moens ago. At least she thought he still did. When he laid eyes on her for the first time since she had been gone she could see the love shining there. But then suddenly things changed. At the crux of this change had been that she had returned to Moya with Scorpius in tow. That alone had given him reason to mistrust her. But she had felt she had no choice to grant him asylum. He had saved her life when he found her unconscious in her prowler. She was in the throes of heat delirium and if he had not found her when he had…
Moens had passed since she returned and John was retreating further and further away from her. There seemed to be a wall that had been created between them. With each passing solar day it was getting wider and thicker. She was at a loss as to how to get John to open up to her. She wanted to talk. It sounded so strange those words coming from her. How many times did she find John's need for conversation so annoying? But that had all changed. She longed for those moments, yearned for his need to talk to her, about anything or everything. What was left now was the exchange of pleasantries that were becoming excruciatingly painful to engage in. She missed the spark that use to light his eyes when he spoke to her. Missed the moments when their eyes would lock making the need for words unecessary. But those moments were just distant memories. Now as she gazed into those eyes she couldn't read anything, she couldn't see anything. The blue eyes that would melt her heart were void of any emotion. The only thing she could detect was the detachment that resided behind them. That was crystal clear.
"Just come back when you have your story straight." He had told her. It had cut her deeply when he had told her his life he would gladly put in her hands but not his heart. Then just recently when she had been sitting in the passageway outside her quarters she offered up a comment as he walked towards her. He had totally ignored her. He stopped for a split microt but then kept walking without even giving her a backward glance. It left her feeling uneasy. What was he thinking when he stopped for that quick moment? Strange, as a Peacekeeper, Aeryn had never really cared about someone else's thoughts or feelings. As a Peacekeeper thoughts and feelings were not part of the daily regiment instead rules and regulations dictated your life. She had been comfortable with that kind of life. But that seemed like a lifetime ago and a life she didn't want anymore.
Aeryn stood right outside the doors to the Maintenance Bay. She could hear John humming from where she stood. As the door opened she caught sight of John's body partially beneath his module he was working on. As John worked on the module by his side was the DRD 1812. He had christened it for some symbolic Earth reference that she still didn't completely understand. As she lingered a moment to watch him she could feel the wisp of a smile take form on her face. He seemed so involved in the adjustments he was making that she almost felt guilty interrupting his efforts. She had it made this far, there was no turning back.
Shit, that was Aeryn. Frell, he hadn't brought any of Granny's secret magic snuff that she had been supplying him to help take his mind off Aeryn as well as a few other things. He crawled out from under the module rubbing his forehead. Damn, I'm gonna have one hell of a goose egg.
John had not heard the sound of footsteps that crossed the floor. He had been too busy making the final adjustments when he heard her. He stood up and looked Aeryn squarely in the eyes.
"Next time don't sneak up on a guy." He said gruffly as turned his back and proceeded to collect the tools he had been using and place them back into the toolbox. He hoped that whatever brought her down here was going to be short and sweet.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." Aeryn replied as she watched him fiddle with the toolbox.
"Was there something you needed?" He replied in a carefree tone as he resumed putting some of the tools away.
Crap he really didn't want to be around her right now. Not when he didn't have any of the laka bulbs to help take the edge off. Well you're an idiot he thought to himself. You know she lives on this boat too. What happened to the Boy Scout motto, "always be prepared." You should have never left your quarters without the stuff. You're frelled now. He needed to keep himself under control. But with Aeryn nothing was ever easy.
Aeryn walked closer to where John stood. She felt on edge, tense. Could John sense it as well? She didn't like the feeling. She was always in control but with this man her sense of order and control had been abandoned long ago. She needed to carefully choose her words. She didn't want to put John on the defensive. She returned to Moya with every intention of staying. She had hope of rebuilding what she and John had before things became so complicated. Hope…another emotion she learned from John. She had hope. Hope that whatever was between them was strong enough to breakdown the wall that had been built between them.
"I just…." Aeryn began. He still had his back towards her.
"Would you please turn around when I'm talking to you?"
A part of her actually thought it would be easier to say what she needed to say without seeing his face. But a bigger part of her needed to look him in squarely in the eyes. Did her words have any affect on him? Did she still have any affect on him? It was hard to gauge what he felt since most of their contact was always in the presence of someone from the crew. But regardless whether they were among others or alone, it was clear he kept himself well guarded.
John knew. He could tell by her voice. This was not going to be good. He knew Aeryn, she wasn't going to take no for an answer not this time. John halfheartedly turned around and faced Aeryn.
"Since my return to Moya I have tried to keep my distance and not pressure you. In fact I have been more than patient, giving you all the time and space you need."
Her voice was steady, strong and not wanting to waiver and give way to the apprehension she felt she pushed on.
"I need to know how much longer do you plan on shutting me out."
Did he just hear what he thought he heard?
"Excuse me?" John's eyes narrowed as he glared at Aeryn.
"You've got to be kidding me right? I'm shutting you out?"
An expression of total disbelief was etched on his face.
He was anxious as he began to pace back and forth. But Aeryn had thrown the gauntlet down and this time he would pick it up and let the chips fall where they may.
"Who came back to Moya after months on Talyn and shut me out? Ringing any bells Aeryn?"
He was angry but Aeryn wasn't about to back down now. Not when he was finally opening up and showing some emotion. He was actually having a real conversation with her rather than the flat monotone one word answers she had been getting from him.
"Two lefts don't make a right!" Aeryn shot back, an Earth expression she thought she had heard John use before.
"What?" Oh holy hell she was trying to speak English again. "It's two wrongs don't make a right, two wrongs Aeryn."
He ran his fingers through his hair, making it a tangled mess.
Crap! This was going exactly the way he hoped it wouldn't. But what did he expect? When did anything go according to plan? Not since his fantastic voyage through the rabbit hole.
He could see by Aeryn's expression that she was on edge. It was exactly the reason he didn't want to be in the same room with her. Not until he had time to straighten things out in his own head. He didn't want to say something he would regret later and with his frame of mind the way it was there was no counting on what would come out of his mouth.
He took a deep breath and collected his thoughts and then began again.
"Look Aeryn it was you who walked away because you couldn't face seeing me, being near me. I reminded you of him and all that happened. Okay, I got that. Well now you've come back, you've had some time to sort things out and expect to pick up where we left off."
He turned his back on her again for a moment but quickly turned back to face her.
"I'm sorry Aeryn but I don't even know where to start. I don't even know where we were so how do we do we pick up where we left off? Does an "us" even exist any more?"
That certainly hit a nerve. He could see her eyes started to pool with tears. This is what he had wanted to avoid. God knows he had more than enough pain and by now he figured Aeryn had too.
Aeryn moved closer to John refusing to let the tears that were burning the back of her eyes to spill over.
"That's not fair John."
"Not fair to whom?" he spat back. "Once upon a time there wasn't anything we couldn't talk about. Anything… Aeryn it doesn't take a rocket scientist… I know I am rocket scientist, shit!"
He backed away from her for a microt turning his back again. He needed to pull himself together but it was damn hard with her staring at him with those tear filled eyes.
"I'm not stupid Aeryn. I don't need anyone to draw me any pictures to tell me what it was like for you and him on Talyn. And do you know why?"
John slowly turned around to face her again.
"He and I shared the same thoughts and feelings when it came to you. Remember equal and original in every way. If it had been me instead of him..."
He stopped for a moment and turned his eyes upward before he began speaking again.
"But it wasn't me who was with you Aeryn. I was left here on Moya alone with my thoughts while you were with him."
God he had not realized how jealous he had been over his clone. D'Argo had been right after all.
"Did you even spare me a thought while you two played house on Talyn?"
He knew as soon as the words were out of his mouth that they had cut her deeply. All color drained from her face and she looked at him with eyes filled with sadness. He wanted, no he needed to keep her at a distance. He knew his words would have the desired effect he sought. They both stood there just staring at each other as the silence became deafening.
It was Aeryn who finally broke the silence that had shrouded them both as she turned away.
"I can't erase everything that happened. Even if I could I don't know if I would want to. I told you once before that in my mind there was no distinction. There is only one John Crichton."
She met his gaze again hoping to see a glimpse of the old John again. But that John didn't exist any longer. He was not the same man she remembered leaving aboard Moya. Was it too late for them? Had their time apart caused a rift too large to overcome?
"Are you ever going to forgive me?" Her voice was barely above a whisper that John had to strain to hear what she had said.
John shrugged, shaking his head feeling a little guilty for putting her through this.
"It's not a matter of forgiveness Aeryn. It was never about forgiveness. It's a about trust."
His face softened a bit as he stared into those stormy gray eyes that sliced his heart to ribbons.
"I do trust you John." She replied her eyes never leaving his.
"No Aeryn you don't or at least you didn't. You would have told me about the baby instead I had to hear it third hand."
The fact that she couldn't tell him about the pregnancy hurt. He had asked her point blank and she still remained silent. The news of the pregnancy and uncertainty of who the father was should have come from her lips. Instead it was D'Argo who had told him. She couldn't talk to him. Was it that she didn't believe he would not care who the father was? That it would be enough that the baby was hers?
"John, it had nothing to do with trusting you."
She felt a little optimistic that maybe they had reached the turning point. Maybe this could be the beginning of the healing process for them both. He was finally admitting what he had been feeling. He was finally giving her something other than non committal responses.
"Then why couldn't you tell me?"
Aeryn shook her head as if she didn't know what to say. But she knew.
"I was still dealing with the discovery myself and I didn't know how you would react to the news let alone not know who the father was."
She had to be honest. It was what had been going through her mind when she had discovered that she was pregnant.
"You didn't trust in my love to know that I would stand by you no matter what. That's what hurts the most Aeryn, you didn't trust me enough."
John didn't give Aeryn a chance to respond and just continued on.
"Aeryn I know I told you to come back when you had your story straight but I need to be honest with you, I'm not sure what I want anymore. I have some sorting out of my own to do."
He sighed, bowing his head. He looked up catching Aeryn's eyes as he walked a step closer to where she stood. His arms ached to wrap her in his embrace. If he held her and just closed his eyes for a moment he could wipe away all the insanity that had been his life for the last three and half cycles. But he didn't. Instead he remained impassive, his arms by his side, wallowing in the emptiness he felt.
"I'm tired of all the crap that's happened since my grand entrance into this universe through a frelling wormhole. I am tired of having our asses chased all over the galaxy. Aeryn…."
He stopped himself there. He wouldn't say anymore. He couldn't. But at the same time seeing those blue eyes filling with tears was ripping what was left of his heart out of his chest. He knew she wanted some reassurance from him that in time they would be okay. He just doesn't think he could give her that right now.
Aeryn looked into those blue eyes which had grown distant again, her own still brimming with tears. She gave him a nod and turned her heels making her way towards the door. She was overwhelmed by the feeling of loss. She had witnessed his death once. As painful as it was to have watched him die this was far more brutal and torturous. John Crichton was very much alive. But she wasn't so sure about his love for her.
As Aeryn made her way out of the Maintenance Bay to head to the next tier she ran into Chiana.
Aeryn glared at Chiana obviously angry assuming the worst which didn't seem to surprise Chiana. Their friendship had never been trouble-free. She couldn't help feeling that Aeryn still didn't trust her completely. After all it was Chiana who broke Aeryn's confidence about her pregnancy.
"I wasn't spying Aeryn. I was making my way to the Cargo Bay, and you know you have to pass the Maintenance Bay to get there. I heard some voices so I stopped."
"Stopped – oh I see. And how long have been stopped?"
Aeryn's head was still reeling from the effects of her conversation with John.
"No more than a few microts. What's the problem?" Chiana shot back not a complete lie. It really had only been that long.
"Just a few microts…" Aeryn replied her voice laced with suspicion.
"Look Aeryn I stopped. Okay so I stopped. What's the big frelling deal anyway? I didn't hear much. I heard enough to see that things are still pretty bad between you and Crichton."
Aeryn shot her a venomous look with those eyes that appeared larger than life.
"It doesn't concern you Chiana so stay out of it. You've done enough damage already."
Aeryn was seething with anger.
So it wasn't her place but that didn't matter to Chiana. She really cared about John. Loved him like a brother and it her hurt to see how destroyed he was when Aeryn left. To see half the man he was now because of everything that had happened.
"Okay Aeryn, you're still pissed at me because I couldn't keep your secret. I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to cause you or Crichton any more pain. You've had enough of it already. I didn't hear much of your conversation but what I did hear was Crichton telling you he needs to figure things out. So don't push him. I care about Crichton and I care about you even though you might think I don't. I know what he was like when you were gone. I saw the kind of man that was left behind. He loves you, you know. That's what makes this so hard for him. But if you love him like you say you do you have to let him come to you when he's ready."
Chiana left Aeryn standing in the middle of the passageway. She probably was still angry with her but she didn't care. She was not going to keep her mouth shut. Give her some food for thought Chiana mused as she made way her way towards the Cargo Bay.
Aeryn remained where she stood for a couple of moments as she watched Chiana walk away. She couldn't help but feel a tinge of jealousy that Chiana seemed to know John more than she did at this moment. But then what did she expect? They had been apart and during that separation both of them had clearly changed. John was the not same man she remembered leaving on Moya the last time. She needed to get to know him again. She still felt troubled but as she began to make her way back to her quarters Chiana's words brought her a small measure of comfort.
He just stood there as if frozen in time. Not a muscle moved as he watched his life walk away from him. The anguish enveloped him knowing that with every step she took her heart was breaking bit by bit. But he couldn't help ease her pain. Not right now. He waited until enough time had passed, until he couldn't hear Aeryn's footsteps, until she was out of earshot. He toppled over the toolbox sitting on the bench by the module. The tools that had been carefully put away were strewn all over the floor. He wanted to hit something he felt so much rage coursing through his veins. Instead he sank to his knees feeling the tears threatening to spill over and stream down his face. His throat hurt as he forced himself to choke back the sobs he could feel coming. He had done enough of that already. Instead he forced himself to feel the indifference overtake him again. He had told her it was a matter of trust. She hadn't trusted him to tell him the truth.
Her time on Talyn, the pregnancy...excuses now for what raged inside him.
But he didn't trust her either, did he? If he did he would tell her what happened while she was away. Reveal the secret he held from her for fear of what she would say what she would feel.
Deep down inside he felt that he had betrayed Aeryn. Would she see it that way? He knew when he thought about it rationally that he had no control over what happened. The tralk bitch had drugged him. She had stolen his self control. He could still feel her hands on him, bare skin to bare skin. He could still smell her stench on him. The worst part was that under her spell he had wanted her, she had wielded her power over him and he couldn't stop her. She had reduced him to the lowest form. All that mattered was satiating his carnal desires. He felt the rise of bile in his throat and swallowed hard so he wouldn't vomit. How could he allow himself to be with Aeryn, to touch her and love her when he felt tainted by Grayza's touch? Too much had happened in the time they had been apart. He was a changed man. And the changes had begun even before Arnessk. He wanted Aeryn. He had never stopped loving her. But he couldn't allow himself to be with her. It wasn't just Grayza that clouded his mind. Scorpius was always there in the shadows. He didn't trust that half-breed. John could not help but feel on edge with him on board Moya. He was cognizant of the fact that if Scorpius knew the truth of the extent of his feelings for Aeryn he would use her to gain the coveted prize he sought Crichton for. His need for the wormhole technology had never wavered. The bastard still bated him, knew how to get under his skin by using his own patient means. It was cat and mouse game they played…every word and move watched under a careful eye from them both. He would not put Aeryn or the baby in harm's way. He had lost Aeryn once. He couldn't be so sure he would survive if he did again. He would sacrifice himself if it meant keeping Aeryn out of Scorpius's hands or anyone else's for that matter. He would not allow himself to be a liability again. It was an impossible situation to be in but he didn't see any other way out of it. At least for now there wasn't. As if in slow motion he pushed himself up from his knees. He knew what he had to do. He would keep taking the laka to help him forget. Forget Arnessk, forget Aeryn. He had no choice. It was all he could do…