A/N – This is just a one shot that came to mind as I rewatched the series for the…oh heck, lost count…time. I put it early season four, after the team reunites in "Promises" and before it's learned Crichton is taking the laka drug to block his feelings for Aeryn.
Chiana rolled over onto her right side and punched her pillow. Determinedly, she closed her eyes and willed sleep to come. Instead, images of her time in prison, and what the guards did to her there, kept intruding. She then imagined what would have happened if she'd just been smarter, if she'd just done what she knew had to be done. Win some, lose a little back. Come back again, win some more, lose a little back. Amass just enough to keep her comfortable, at least for a while, over the course of a few days and then quit. Nothing that would make them suspicious she was cheating. Instead, intoxicated with her ability to see those few microts into the future, she'd forgotten everything that had kept her safe her whole life and just kept winning, thrilled with the number of credits that piled up in front of her. It wasn't all that surprising that they'd confiscated her winnings and thrown her into prison. What happened to her there was the stuff of her nightmares. Her eyes popped open and she sighed, knowing there would be no sleep for her tonight, something she was becoming all too familiar with. Sitting up, she perched on the edge of her bed and thought over her alternatives.
What she really wanted to do, was to go to D'Argo and climb into his bed, the bed where she'd slept so many times before Jothee. She knew lying beside him would make her feel safe and allow her to finally get a good night's sleep. Still, she also knew she wouldn't be welcome there. Her heart stuttered in her chest as she remembered what she'd given up, what she'd done to get out of their relationship. A relationship where D'Argo imposed his view of their future on her. How could he know her so little that he thought she'd be happy being a good little farmer's wife? She knew some who would be happy with that life and she didn't judge them for it, it just wasn't in her makeup. Perhaps she could have gone about it differently, but he just hadn't wanted to listen to her, so she'd done what she always did, made someone want no part of her instead of trying to work things out. She sighed again and stood up. Maybe something to eat or drink would help her. She reached out and snagged her dressing gown off the chair, standing as she covered her naked body. She wouldn't have bothered but the others had told her more than once that she couldn't parade around Moya with no clothes on. Something she didn't really understand. Her body wasn't displeasing, so what was the problem?
She cinched the belt around her waist and opened the door to her chambers. The ship was silent, the rest of the crew sleeping while Moya and Pilot kept watch. She silently padded her way in bare feet towards the center chamber. Maybe there was some Raz'lak left. She could use a good strong drink, anything to take the edge off. She passed Rygel's quarters and could hear his snoring all the way out in the hall and she had to smile. The little Hynerian was a greedy drannit but when push came to shove, his heart was usually in the right place. She kept going and passed several unused quarters. They lived on top of each other day after day so chose rooms separated by empty chambers to give them some semblance of privacy. As the chambers used to be prison cells, the doors were open to the hall and each had hung a covering that blocked the casual passerby's view into the room. As she thought about it, she realized each of them had stamped their own personality on the covering. Hers was gold silk, Rygel's was covered in expensive embroidery and Aeryn's was an unrelieved black material that offered no decorative value whatsoever.
She reached Crichton's chambers and had a momentary thought of seeing if he was up. She knew he'd suffered the same treatment at the hands of Grayza as she had at the hands of the prison guards. Yes, his had been less violent, but a violation all the same, maybe even worse as the drugs that tralk has used on him had taken away his ability to fight, but not the memories that came later. She knew there were many who believed a man couldn't be raped, but she knew otherwise. She recognized the look on his face in unguarded moments. A look she was all too familiar with as she was often confronted with it in the mirror in her chambers. She decided against bothering him as he seemed to be trying to deal with it in his own, human, way. She paused when she heard a low moan from inside. She smiled faintly, thinking finally, he and Aeryn had found their way back to each other, not wanting to admit the little frisson of jealousy that reared up. When the moan came again, the smile slipped as she realized it didn't sound like what she'd thought it was. This time the sound was also low but agonized. She stopped and stared at the covering on his chamber, wondering if she should go in and see if he was okay. When she heard a strangled "NO!" from inside, she made up her mind. Gently pushing aside the blue material that she knew he'd hung to remind him of Zhaan, she stealthily made her way inside, just in case she was wrong. If she was, then she would just slither out again, no one the wiser.
What she saw tugged at her heart. John was tangled in the covers, obviously asleep, his face and chest covered in sweat as he frowned, thrashed and moaned again. She walked slowly to the side of the bed in time to hear him mutter "No, please!" and then toss some more, becoming even more entangled. She reached out a hand and placed it gently on his shoulder.
"Crichton?" No response. She jiggled his shoulder a little harder, expecting him to wake up and maybe be embarrassed she'd found him this way. "John? Wake up, you're having a nightmare." What she didn't expect was for him to grab her by the throat, somehow getting out of the covers, up on his knees and strangling her in the blink of an eye.
"I'll kill you, Grayza! I'll kill you!" He ground out as he squeezed harder, his eyes glazed, and she knew he wasn't seeing her. Reaching up, she pulled at the hands at her throat. It surprised her just how strong and hard they were. She couldn't budge them. She opened her mouth to call his name, anything that would make him wake up and realize what he was doing, but nothing came out but a muffled whimper. She started to see black spots and knew she was losing consciousness. Why the frell hadn't her 'gift' warned her of this? What good was it anyway? Without thinking, she fisted her right hand and hit him in the temple as hard as she could. He fell sideways and his hands released her. She sucked in life giving oxygen and began to cough.
"Chiana? What…?" He reached out to her and she couldn't help but to flinch back. He looked at the burgeoning red marks on her neck then down to his hands and all the blood drained from his face as he remembered the vivid nightmare where Grayza was touching him, mauling him, and the feeling of intense satisfaction when he'd grabbed her by the throat and squeezed, threatening to kill her. "Oh…god…" His hands, the ones that just a short moment ago had been wrapped around her throat, wrapped around his stomach as he leaned forward, trying not to lose everything he'd ever eaten. Chiana…he'd hurt Chiana.
She watched him, knowing he'd never hurt her, not deliberately. Her reaction to his touch had been instinctive, her body still suffering from oxygen deprivation. The coughing eased and she reached out to touch him, to comfort him, to let him know she didn't blame him, but he jerked back at her touch, falling off the bed onto the floor. "John?" She crawled over the bed and looked over the edge at his prone body, noting that he was shaking. "John? It's okay."
He finally opened his eyes and looked up at her, haunted. "How can it be okay? I just tried to strangle you! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! God, Pip, you have to know that I'd never…."
She interrupted him. "I know you wouldn't. I should have been more careful when trying to wake you from your nightmare. Frell knows, I've had enough of my own over the last quarter cycle." She hadn't meant to sound so bitter. His shaking began to ease as he searched her eyes, seeing no condemnation there and noticing for the first time how tired she looked.
"Almost every night. Every time I close my eyes…" She couldn't go on.
"Yeah, I know exactly what you mean." He looked up from the floor and stared at her, lost. "I don't…I don't feel safe anywhere, not anymore." He said softly.
"Me either." She responded just as softly.
He cleared his throat and sat up, his hands wrapping around his legs, his head leaning on his knees as he looked at her out of the corner of his eyes. "So…" He tried again. "So, what made you decide to come in here?"
"I was heading to the center chamber to get a drink, when I heard you cry out."
He turned away from her, humiliated that she'd seen his weakness, something she understood only too well.
"Crichton?" He didn't answer, not sure what he could possibly say to her. "John?" He turned and looked at her, his face now a blank slate. They stared at each other for a few moments and she had a thought. Would he be interested? "What…what do you think about us spending the night together?"
He looked shocked and stuttered. "Chi, I…I love you but…but…you're like my little sister!"
She chuffed out a laugh, the first real one in a long time. "I don't mean like that! I mean…I mean, we just keep each other company. See if we can help each other hold back the nightmares."
He was silent as he thought about it. Would it work? Would having someone here, someone that he deeply cared about, help keep the dreams about Grayza, among other things, at bay? Aeryn certainly wasn't going to help. He shied away from that thought. He considered it and worried. What if he had another nightmare and took it out on her again? What if next time….what if next time he succeeded? He couldn't take that chance with her. She watched the thoughts chase across his face, this human who felt so deeply, who was such an open book, to her anyway.
"It won't happen again." She said softly, her conviction evident in her tone.
He didn't bother to pretend to misunderstand her. "How can you be so sure?"
"I know you. I know that, even in your sleep, you'd do everything in your power to protect me. What happened before was because you didn't know it was me. You had no idea I would be in your chambers, there was nothing to warn who it really was. This time, you'll know." It all sounded so simple when she put it like that. He'd always been amazed when the seemingly scatterbrained woman-child currently kneeling on his bed uttered something that was so simple yet so insightful. She was an enigma but he knew, in his heart, this time she was right and finally figured, why not?
"Okay, okay, I think it…it might be worth giving it a shot." She grinned at him and stood up, undoing the belt and he realized she had nothing on underneath it. Leaping to his feet, he turned his back. "How about I give you one of my t-shirts to sleep in?"
She shook her head, wondering what it was about the people on this boat that they were all so uptight about nudity. Zaahn had been the only one who hadn't cared. Zaahn…yotz, she missed the big blue Delvian. She reached out and took the proffered shirt, smiling as he waved it behind his back and slipped it on over her head. "You can turn around now." She'd been tempted to say that before she actually had it on, but she had a feeling this Crichton was not in the mood for teasing. He turned and smiled a little sickly at her. It was then that she, like he had with her, noticed for the first time how tired he looked. How had she missed that? How had all of them? Was she so wrapped up in her own misery that she'd ignored the signs that one of her best friends was struggling, just like her? She reached out a hand and said gently. "Come to bed." He hesitated and then took it, letting her pull him back to the bed.
She let go of his hand and straightened the covers. Lying down and slipping under them, she looked up at him as he hesitated. "John? It's just two friends, helping each other out. Don't worry old man, your virtue is safe with me." He laughed, and it was music to her ears. When was the last time she'd heard him laugh? She felt lower than low when she realized she couldn't remember. He'd been through so much since being thrust into her end of the universe. Crais, Scorpius, almost marrying Princess Katralla, their betrothal forcing him to be turned into a statue that was later beheaded, killing Aeryn when he was under the influence of the chip Scorpius had put in his head, being twinned, losing Aeryn to that twin, Aeryn losing that twin, spurning him, everything that had happened to him with Grayza while the peacekeeper was off doing the gods knew what. The icing on the cake, as she'd heard him say more than once. Yet another Crichtonism that she wasn't one hundred percent sure she understood. She also wasn't sure how he was even sane at this point. He eased into the bed and she turned on her right side. He did the same and hesitantly placed his arm around her waist. She squirmed back into him.
"Chiana!" She giggled a little and found the experience liberating. She snuggled down into the pillow and caught a scent of something that made her breathe deeply and sigh with relief. It took a second to realize what she smelled was…Crichton. A mixture of sweat, musk and soap that smelled like home and safety. Within seconds, she was asleep. For Crichton, it took longer. The feel of the Nebari in his arms was nice but he wanted someone else. He thrust the thought from his mind and let his body relax. Soon, he followed her into sleep.
At some point during the night Chiana woke to the sound of distress coming from behind her. She blinked a few times, listened to the ragged breathing in her ear and then stroked the hand that wrapped around her. Gently she said. "Go back to sleep John. I'm here." The sounds stopped, and she fell back to sleep to the sound of his now even breathing.
A short time later, it was John who slowly came awake as he realized Chiana was twitching in his arms, mumbling something he couldn't make out. He pulled her closer to him and kissed the back of her head. "You're safe little girl. I've got you." He whispered into her ear. She stopped moving and sighed in her sleep. The sound made him feel ten feet tall. He fell back to sleep almost immediately. During the night, one comforted the other multiple times without fully coming awake.
After the first almost restful sleep either of them had had in longer than they would care to admit, both started to wake naturally. Chiana stretched and noted the hand around her waist, forgetting for a moment how it had come to be there. When she remembered, she closed her eyes and offered up silent thanks for the kind of friend, the kind of man, he was. To hold her all night and expect nothing in return, cemented her love of the fahrbot man from a species no one in her known universe had ever heard of. She turned in his arms and found him watching her through sleepy eyes. "Good morning."
"Good morning." He yawned and she smiled.
"Did you sleep well?"
He looked at her seriously. "I can't remember the last time I slept so well."
She smiled and nodded. "Me either. You ready for breakfast?"
He was startled when he realized he was hungry, really hungry, for the first time in a long time. "Yeah, yeah, actually I am." He leaned forward and placed a kiss on her nose. She fleetingly wondered what it would be like to be loved by this man, not as a sister but as a desirable mate. She pushed the thought away, knowing that something like that with Crichton would never happen, he was, and always would be, Aeryn's, even if that hazmot stubbornly refused him for the rest of his life. Moving to the edge of the bed, she sat up, stretched and rolled her head, working out the kinks. She actually felt mostly rested and well. She stood up and he followed her out of the bed. She reached for the bottom of the t-shirt to take it off and return it to him, only to have him stop her.
She nodded and had a feeling that she would be sleeping in it for many nights to come, reliving last night and allowing the scent of him to make her feel safe. For his part, he pictured her doing just that and felt some of what weighed him down, lift a little. He stood up behind her and followed her as she moved towards the doorway clad only in his t-shirt, he in his boxers and bare chested.
Once out in the hallway, she turned to him, not really knowing what to say. Give her a morning after and she was fine, but this? This was different. She leant towards him, not really surprised when he did the same. Their foreheads met, and they held, neither wanting the feeling of safety to go away. Sighing, John said. "I love you…" softer he continued. "…little girl." Lifting his head, he placed a soft kiss on her forehead.
She smiled and lifted her head to meet his eyes. "I love you too…." as soft as him, she continued. "…old man." Both smiled as she pulled away to head to her own quarters and he stood there, watching her go, shivering as some of his contentment drained away. He turned and went back into his chambers, feeling its emptiness. He sat on the bed, staring at the floor and thought over the night, remembering the horror of waking up to find he'd almost strangled one of his best friends. Her understanding and forgiveness had helped, but he wasn't sure it would ever completely go away. He sighed and lifted his head, noticing for the first time that she'd forgotten her dressing gown. He stood up and lifted it from the chair she'd tossed it over, taking a first step towards his door, vague plans of returning it to her flitting through his head. Instead, he stopped and raised the garment to his nose, breathing deep of the scent that was uniquely Chiana. Spicey and a hint something he didn't know but had always associated with her. He turned away from the door and held the gown close. Maybe, maybe tomorrow.