Disclaimer: I don't own Farscape. And I'm certainly not making any money from this fic.
Setting: 9 days after PKW
Spoiler Warning: Everything up to PKW
Whispers of the Soul
"I see you found Winona."
John recognized Aeryn's footsteps walking through Talyn's hallways long before she said a word. "DRD had it," John mumbled.
"Have you seen this?" Aeryn asked as she threw a vid chip next to him.
"When did you see it?" Aeryn asked.
He felt himself lose patience and quickly answered, "Aeryn, I'm not your boyfriend, I'm not your husband, I'm not your anything. You can do what you want." John tossed the vid chip away from him and went back to pretending to focus on his notebook.
"It's not real. You know that, don't you? The last part… Talyn altered the image... I never recreated with Crais," Aeryn said, obviously trying to hide her exasperation. As an afterthought, she added, "Not that it should matter."
After a microt, John found himself whispering, "It does."
"Crichton! Crichton!" John was jolted from the vision he was having. He suddenly felt the cold floor against his face. Someone – Chiana it sounded like – was yelling in his ear.
"Why you shakin' me, Pip?" John mumbled, trying to get his bearings.
"I found you on the floor, old man! You were mumbling stuff and you're bleeding from the head!" Chiana answered.
Just then, Stark and Rygel came in. "Are you alright, John?" Stark asked.
"Uhh… Yeah…" John answered, looking around and realizing he was in the maintenance bay. "I was just working on my module and I… don't remember the rest."
"Well, it looked like you decided to take a nap in the middle of the day," Rygel said.
Before John could answer, Chiana commed Pilot and asked, "Pilot, have you gotten a hold of Aeryn yet?"
"Not yet, Chiana, she, along with young D'Argo and Noranti are still on the commerce planet shopping for infant supplies. Their comms must be out of range," Pilot answered.
"Pilot, don't try to reach Aeryn. I'm fine! Last thing I want to do is worry her," John said.
"You frellnick! She has a right to know. I found you kissin' the floor which probably means you collapsed," Chiana argued.
"I'm fine! I was probably just a bit tired. Lack of sleep, you know. I mean, give the poor human a break here, guys. I just woke up from a coma a weeken ago, not to mention I'm a new dad who has to wake up every two arns to tend to my little boy. I'm just a bit tired. No need to add to my wife's worries. She's just as exhausted as I am," John said, trying to hide his exasperation as he knew his friends were just worried for him.
"What if that frelling wormhole weapon caused your inferior body more damage than we know?" Rygel asked.
"Rygel's right, what if that thing hurt you and we don't know it. Like, like… uhh… damaged your mind or somethin'?" Chiana added.
"Look, guys, I really don't think so. But Aeryn's been worried about the same thing, and I don't want her losing anymore sleep on top of the sleep she's been losing with Little D," John said, trying his best to sound firm. "Pilot, please," John spoke into his comms. "Don't narc on me to Aeryn. If I'm not feeling well, I'll tell her myself."
Pilot didn't say anything for a microt or two. Then reluctantly, he answered, "Very well, Commander. But Moya and I worry for you ourselves. Who knows what that wormhole weapon did to you?"
"If I experience anything else, I promise, I'll tell Aeryn myself," John said, making a crossing gesture over his heart. A gesture he was sure his friends would just attribute to his many confusing Earth references.
"If you're sure…" Stark said, slowly making his way to the door.
"I'm sure! Now go, I'll see you guys at evening meal," John said, putting on his most charming smile, making it look like all was right in the world.
Rygel soon followed Stark out. Chiana looked back at him one final time, a doubtful look on her face. "You need help with that cut on your head?" Chiana asked.
"Nah, I got it, thanks, Pip," John answered.
Chiana nodded and left him alone in the middle of the maintenance bay. If there was one good thing that came from Chiana finding him unconscious on the floor was it took her mind off her grief for a little while. Losing D'Argo the way she did, well, John knew she'd be hurting for a long time coming.
John felt the familiar ache in his heart at the thought of losing his best friend. He had been so grateful to Aeryn when she suggested they name their firstborn after D'Argo. Considering his wife was the one who went through the agony of childbirth, he was definitely going to leave the naming of their children to her. But he was incredibly touched that Aeryn thought of him and the magnitude of his loss… well, their loss.
Putting aside thoughts of his friend, he couldn't help but think back to the image he was bombarded with while he had been unconscious on the floor. He had been on Talyn. He had been talking to Aeryn. He had lost Winona? His twin had taken Winona with him on Talyn. Was what he saw something that actually happened, or was it just a mere dream? Something his imagination conjured up? If he was being honest with himself, he'd always been jealous of the fact he'd been the one left behind on Moya almost two cycles ago. Was it just his subconscious manifesting that?
What in the world happened to him? As nonchalant as he tried acting with his friends, he had to admit, at least to himself, that he was a bit worried. Did his blood sugar just crash? Was that why he collapsed? The cut on his head was definitely evidence that he did not just lie down on the floor for a nap. John sighed and ran his hand through his hair. A part of him was scared that Rygel was right and the wormhole weapon had frelled up his mind. But the optimistic part of him tried to convince himself he was just tired. And so, he made his way to the quarters he shared with his wife and son and decided to get some rest.
Several arns later
Aeryn placed a tray of food next to her sleeping husband. He had missed the evening meal. She looked down at the man she loved and watched him for a few microts, debating whether to wake him. She ultimately decided against it, seeing as how deeply he was sleeping. Rygel made mention to her that John had seemed tired that day. Thinking back, it had been a strange comment coming from the little Hynerian. He wasn't the type to care whether others seemed tired or not. She made a mental note to get her husband to rest more. She was still worried that there were unforeseen consequences on John's health from that frelling wormhole weapon of his.
A soft throaty noise drew Aeryn's attention away from her husband and to her nine-day old son. She walked over to the make-shift crib John had made for D'Argo whom they affectionately called Little D. Just when it seemed her son would wake up, he settled down quickly again. Aeryn smiled to herself, her heart overflowing with love for her baby. She was also pleased that she and Noranti were able to procure virtually everything they needed for her son down at the commerce planet. They shouldn't have to make another trip for at least a monen.
Aeryn was about to place a tiny blanket on her sleeping son, when a yell from her husband had her dropping the blanket and immediately reaching for her pulse pistol.
"No! Noooo! Get out of my head!" John yelled, his eyes still closed.
The baby was startled awake and started crying. Aeryn, torn between her husband and son, quickly ascertained that John was in the throes of some kind of nightmare. She decided that John was in no immediate danger and stayed with D'Argo. She stroked her son's back for a microt or two, trying to get him to calm down. From across the room, Aeryn tried to calm her husband down who was still mumbling in his sleep. At least he was no longer yelling.
"John, it's just a dream. Wake up, John!" Aeryn said as loudly as she could without startling the baby again.
John didn't seem to hear her. He kept on moving his head side to side and kept mumbling something like, "I wasn't there… not mine… get out of my head."
Seeing that her son had calmed dow, Aeryn made her way to her husband. "John, it's just a dream. Please wake up," Aeryn said, gently shaking his shoulder.
"Hmm… Aeryn? That you?" John woke up, finally seeming to realize he was in their quarters. He winced slightly as he tried to sit up.
"Are you alright?" Aeryn asked, stroking her husband's cheek. She knew he'd been through hezmana with using that frelling wormhole weapon he was lucky enough to live through… just.
"Ummm… yeah, just uhh, a dream. Yeah, just a dream. Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," John answered, sheepishly.
"You were saying 'get out of my head'. Is it Harvey? Is he back?" Aeryn asked, trying to sound calm, when she felt anything but.
"No, honey. Harvey's gone. No need to worry. He's not lurking anywhere nearby," John answered.
"Then what was it?" Aeryn asked.
"I uhhh… can't remember anymore," John answered, looking down at his lap.
Aeryn wasn't sure if he was trying to hide something. She knew that her husband sometimes had a tendency to withhold information from her if he thought it might upset her. She was about to probe some more, but then he sat up, smiled that Crichton smile he saved only for her, and took her in his arms.
"I'm fine, baby. It's just the events of the last little while…. They sneak up on me in my sleep every now and again. Nothin' to worry about."
Aeryn relaxed a little in her husband's arms. "You would tell me if there was."
"Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye," John said, playfully nuzzling her neck.
"I hate that saying of yours," Aeryn said, but didn't push the matter.
Aeryn allowed herself to enjoy the feeling of her husband's arms around her. Arms that she had feared a weeken ago, would never hold her again. She told herself she would never take these moments for granted again.
"Did you and granny get everything you needed down at the commerce planet?" John asked.
"Pretty much," Aeryn answered smiling.
"Mission accomplished, huh? That's great, honey. Did Little D give you a hard time?" John asked.
Aeryn's smile grew wider, as it usually did when she spoke of their son. "He was well-behaved. Did not give me any grief whatsoever." She gave her husband an 'I told you so' look.
"Considering he's a Crichton, I was just worried he'd attract trouble or something," John said, only semi-jokingly.
"Well, good to know our son takes after me in some way," Aeryn said. She often marveled how at only nine-days old, their son looked so much like his father. She had never said it out loud, but she was incredibly pleased that her first-born looked so much like the man before her. The man she adored so much.
"He takes after you in many ways, baby. For one, he's got your eyes," John said.
"Only the color," Aeryn said, snuggling closer to her husband.
"Well, I tell ya what, our next one will be a girl. I can already picture it in my mind, she'll be a mini-Aeryn," John said, smiling at the image in his mind.
Aeryn wondered for a moment what a daughter of theirs might look like. John must have misunderstood her silence because he quickly added, "But just having Little D is fine. I mean, you're the one who has to go through childbirth and all. We don't have to have more kids, honey."
"No, it's not that. I was just imagining what our daughter might look like. Would she take more after me, or would she perhaps resemble one of your sisters? Either way, I would like to have another baby when D'Argo is a little older. Perhaps in a cycle or two," Aeryn said.
John looked relieved. "I guess since three didn't turn out to be such a scary number, you're open to four?"
"You could say that," Aeryn said, running her fingers through her husband's hair.
Aeryn felt something on the side of John's head. She pulled away from him and looked closer at the rough patch of hair. It was dried-up blood. "John, what happened to your head?"
"Oh, this…. I was working on my module earlier and I hit my head. It's worse than it looks, really, Aer," John said.
Aeryn ignored John's protests and examined the cut for herself. After several microts of inspecting the area around his head, she concluded that the cut was superficial. She then grabbed a light and proceeded to look into his eyes and made sure he wasn't suffering from some type of concussion.
"Hold still, John!" Aeryn chastised her squirming husband.
"That's a bright light. Look, now my eyes are watering," John said, whining.
Seeing that his eyes weren't dilated, Aeryn breathed a sigh of relief. "You have to be more careful, John! You just woke up from a coma a weeken ago," Aeryn said angrily, trying to hide how worried she had been.
"I know, I'm sorry. I just wasn't paying attention. I'll be more careful next time," John said, looking contrite.
Before Aeryn could answer, Pilot interrupted and said over the comms, "Officer Sun, we have a slight problem on tier nine treblin side. Several of Moya's ammiox have eroded from being underwater on Qujaga. Moya's amnexus fluids are not circulating optimally."
"I'm on my way, Pilot," Aeryn answered, getting off the bed.
"I'll come help," John added, getting up himself.
"I've got it, John. Stay here with D'Argo, he'll probably wake up soon," Aeryn said.
"You sure?" John asked.
"Yes, I'm sure. I won't be long," Aeryn said, giving him a quick kiss on the lips before leaving their quarters.
John watched his wife's retreating form. He sighed deeply and ran a hand through his disheveled hair. He quietly cursed himself for being careless and leaving traces of blood on his head.
He hadn't been completely honest with his wife when she asked him what he had been dreaming about. He did remember. And it had nothing to do with wars or wormhole weapons. It was another vision of him and Aeryn on Talyn. The vision had been very much x-rated. But he had never been on Talyn with Aeryn, and he had fought off the images. They had felt like memories. The dream left him with a splitting headache.
A part of him was glad Aeryn left to tend to some maintenance on Moya. It gave him a chance to just cradle his head in his hands and try to ease the pain. He knew she went through hell watching him collapse after he had shut down the wormhole weapon. He didn't want to mention the headache. Besides, headaches were a common enough occurrence for him.
He was suspecting more and more that the images of him and Aeryn on Talyn were from the dead Crichton's memories. The visions were too vivid for them to be merely dreams. But if his suspicions were correct, why was it happening? What possible explanation could there be for him to start "remembering" events that didn't happen to him? He realized there really wasn't much he could do at the moment. So, he closed his eyes and hoped he wouldn't get any more of those visions. John scoffed. With his luck, it was probably just the beginning.
The next day
"He's a handsome one that Little D'Argo," Rygel said, proudly, looking at the half human, half Sebacean child cradled in his mother's arms.
"Let me guess, he's got your nose?" John said.
"Indeed! If he'd been Hynerian, I would have made him the heir to my throne," Rygel answered.
John just shook his head in amusement. For whatever reason, Rygel didn't seem to be in much of a hurry to retake his throne. He kept postponing the trip to Hyneria for one reason or another. John suspected it was the fact that Rygel now considered Moya his home, and the people in it, his family. And of everyone aboard Moya, Rygel seemed to have the softest spot for Little D. Not that the little slug would ever admit it.
"So how ya feelin' today, Crichton?" Chiana asked. This drew a look from Aeryn which made Chiana backtrack. "Uhhh… I mean, you seemed a bit tired yesterday…"
"Slept like a baby, thanks, Pip," John said.
"Is that a good thing? Little D'Argo seems to wake up every couple of arns or so," Stark said.
John forced a laugh. "It's just a saying, Stark. But really, I slept quite well. I feel great."
John looked back down at his food. He wasn't being entirely honest. His headaches seemed to have gotten worse. More images invaded his mind the night before, and he kept fighting them off, but the more he resisted, the more painful his headache became. But the vision seemed to revolve around Aeryn and him on Talyn… or was it the other him?
Wanting a quick change in topic, John turned to Aeryn and asked, "Honey, were you able to fix Moya's damaged amnexus valves last night? I had fallen asleep by the time you got back and forgot to ask."
Aeryn took a moment to swallow her food. "Yes, most of it. Moya should be able to heal the rest of it on her own."
"Good. We wouldn't want the drexim to leak and the vapours getting into our air. Last thing we needed when there was that crisis with Mu-Quillus going on around us," John said as he took a sip of his drink.
"Whatcha talkin' about Crichton? Moya's never had drexim leak into our air. And what's 'makillis'?" Chiana said, looking confused.
"That happened on Talyn," Stark said, suddenly looking pensive.
It took a moment for John to realize what he had just said. He looked up to see an astounded look on his wife's face.
"John, who told you about that?" Aeryn asked, a concerned look on her face.
That was a good question. He hadn't even been thinking. He remembered the time like he'd lived it. But he was never on Talyn. Frustrated, he tried backtracking. "Ummm… well, it was uhhh… Rygel! Yeah, Rygel mentioned the incident to me, and well-"
"I didn't mention anything to you, you Yotz!" Rygel said, as he stuffed his face with more of granny's challa bread.
John was about to say he was mistaken, and it had been Stark who told him, but then he couldn't be sure the guy wouldn't call out his lie. John was not yet prepared to share the fact that the other guy's memories seemed to be finding a new home in him.
"Sorry, faulty memory. Crais mentioned it to me," John said quickly, looking away from everyone and back down to his food. Hey, dead men tell no tales.
Everyone seemed to be mollified by that and went back to eating. Stark and Aeryn, however, continued to stare at him, at least from what he could see from his peripheral vision. After a few microts, his wife asked, "Are you alright, John? You look a little pale."
"Do I?" John asked, feigning innocence. He knew he probably looked like dren. He had the worst headache he could remember having.
Aeryn nodded with a few murmured 'yesses' from the peanut gallery. "You know, John, I'd feel better if you saw a diagnosan. It's been ten solar days since you fell into that coma. I want to make sure you're truly alright."
"Honey, I told you, I'm fine. I feel great. Why are you worried all of a sudden?" John asked, unable to completely hide the irritation in his voice.
"First of all, I've been worried since you collapsed from that frelling wormhole weapon. Second of all, you don't look fine. Your complexion is pale, far more than normal. Thirdly, you were apparently exhausted yesterday when you weren't even exerting yourself much-"
"Little D keeps us up at night, babe, a bit of tiredness is expected," John said.
Aeryn didn't look convinced. "I'm the one who's up more than you during the middle of the sleep cycle, John. But I'm nowhere near as tired as you are. And anyway, regardless of anything else, I still want you to see a diagnosan for the simple fact that I want to make sure you're fine. I should have insisted on it sooner."
"Honey, it's not that simple. We can't trust just any diagnosan. What if they somehow find out that I no longer have wormhole knowledge? Would they sell that information to the Peacekeepers or Scarrans?" John argued. It was clear on Aeryn's face she hadn't considered that point.
"Still, old man, you can't just avoid medical help for the rest of your life!" Chiana argued.
"Hoomans are frail," Noranti added.
"John has a point," Rygel said. "It's too risky. Let's wait to get back to Hyneria. We have physicians that might be able to help. At least there, I could better determine who we could trust."
"There, see, we'll do that, Aer," John said, wanting to buy time.
"Fine," Aeryn said, obviously not happy they weren't going to see a healer sooner.
The rest of the morning meal was pretty quiet. Just small talk for the most part, mostly from Rygel and Noranti. John knew Aeryn suspected not everything was well, especially with the fact that he remained quiet for the most part. But he just couldn't bring himself to be the chatterbox he usually was because of the splitting headache he was nursing. Whether he liked it or not, his wife would be keeping an eye on him.
After another half arn, everyone left the kitchen to tend to their daily tasks. All except for John and Stark. John noticed Stark staring intently at him. It had been a while since Stark acted a little… well, insane was probably the word he was looking for. He no longer talked in riddles or rants, but at that moment, he was a little unnerved with the way the former Banik slave looked at him.
"Something on your mind, Stark?" John asked, never one to be comfortable during awkward silences.
"You know I'm attuned to souls, don't you?" Stark said.
"Of course, I know that. You're Stykera," John answered.
"You know at first, I didn't think much of it…" Stark started.
John sat there, waiting for Stark to continue. When he didn't say anymore, John asked, "Think much of what?"
"I helped the John on Talyn cross over, did you know that?" Stark asked.
"Yeah…?" John asked, frustrated that his friend seemed to be reverting back to his riddles.
"I felt his soul nearby. I didn't think much of it at first. I merely attributed it to your near-death experience recently. But I still sense its presence…" Stark said.
John did not give a rat's ass about his twin's soul or whatever it was Stark was sensing. His headache all of a sudden just got worse. "Look, man… I gotta go…" John pushed back his chair and stood up.
"You spoke like you experienced the drexim leak on Talyn yourself," Stark said, matter-of-factly.
"No, I didn't," John sputtered.
Stark just gave him a doubtful look. John didn't give him a chance to say anymore. He left the chamber and got as far away from the Stykera as he could.
Several arns later
"Did you see that, John? He smiled at me," Aeryn said proudly, looking up from little D'Argo in his crib.
"He's ten days old, Aer. His eyes can't even focus that well yet. It's more likely gas," John said, teasing her.
"What do you mean his eyes can't focus?" Aeryn asked, concerned.
"Babies can't focus until around a monen and a half to two monens old," John said.
"Don't you mean human babies? Well, our baby is half Sebacean. His eyes are superior than even yours are now," Aeryn said, not willing to accept the thought that her baby wasn't truly smiling at her.
John chuckled and wisely didn't contradict her. Her husband knew she was nothing but proud of their little boy. She smiled at him, unable to remember ever being this happy. Not even on Talyn. Her life was complete. It was so perfect, a part of her was afraid she'd lose it all in a puff of smoke. Kind of like the way John was perfectly fine that morning on Talyn, then died not long after. Aeryn shoved the heartbreaking thought away.
"Are you still feeling tired?" Aeryn asked her husband. Perhaps the only thing marring her perfect life at the moment was the somewhat uncertain state of John's health.
"Nah, I've got energy to spare, hon," John said, smiling back at her.
"Are you sure? You're still looking kind of pale," Aeryn said.
"You gotta stop worrying, Aeryn. It'll give you wrinkles," John said, teasingly.
"Oh, you're one to tell me I'm getting wrinkles?" Aeryn said, raising her eyebrow. "I'm not the one who has the lifespan of a silver-gill-dermi."
John burst out laughing, finding her comment hilarious. But Aeryn just frowned. Her little come-back reminded her of just how short the human lifespan was. She felt like a vise just squeezed her heart. The thought of outliving John by at least a hundred cycles made her suddenly feel bereft.
John didn't seem to catch her change in mood. "You know, it's funny, sometimes I have this dream of us growing old together, doing some farming, going for leisurely walks together. For some strange reason, you're always wearing that locket Chiana gave you…"
Aeryn decided to change the subject. "You didn't answer me. Are you sure you're feeling fine? You were quiet most of the morning and your complexion is still kind of sallow."
"Baby, for the hundredth time, I feel-" John stopped mid-sentence. His index and middle finger went straight to his temple and he winced in pain.
"John, what's the matter?" Aeryn said, quickly reaching for him.
After another agonizing microt, John opened his eyes and said, "Sorry, just a headache… minor… nothing to worry about. I'm gonna grab some water, be right back."
Before Aeryn could say anything, the baby started crying and John left immediately. Aeryn wanted to follow him, but her motherly instincts won out and she picked up her son. Something was definitely wrong with her husband. She could only hope that they'd make it to Hyneria sooner rather than later.
Damn it! That vision came from nowhere. Hit him like a ton of bricks. In the vision, he was surrounded by sand. Sort of reminded him of Dam Ba Da… It probably was, if it was a memory from the dead him. He shoved it out of his mind, fought it back. But that just caused his head to hurt even more. It hurt so much, he couldn't hide it from Aeryn. Now she was really going to insist he get some help.
He found himself walking into the kitchen, and grabbed some water. But instead of drinking it, he poured it all over his head, hoping the cold water would make him feel better.
"We have showers here, you know." John whipped around and saw Chiana sitting behind him.
"Pip…" John said.
"You okay, Crichton?" Chiana asked.
"… I don't know," John said, sighing.
"Well, you look worse than you did yesterday…"
"Can I ask you something, Pip?"
"You never talk about the time you were twinned…." John said.
"I try not to think about it."
"But do you ever? Think about it, I mean."
"Yeah…. I wonder if I'm me. I wonder if I'm the copy. I wonder if the real Chiana died at Kaarvok's hands that day," Chiana answered.
"And?" John prompted.
"It shouldn't matter, I guess…"
"But… I guess… it bothers me. That's why I try not to think about it. Am I the copy or the original? It's a mystery that we'll never solve."
"Kaarvok said 'equal and original'. Do you think he was lying?"
"I don't know. You had Jool do a DNA test on you and the other guy. She couldn't find any deterioration in either of your DNA, or anything lost in the copying process…"
"But we also saw the Peacekeepers that Kaarvok copied dozens and dozens of times and they deteriorated to a point they were hardly more than savages," John said.
"… Like I said, probably a mystery we'll never get answers to," Chiana said. "What's on your mind, old man? Why all these questions?"
"I've uhhh… been getting visions… like memories…. And they seem to be from the other Crichton. I'm being bombarded by these visions of me on Talyn and Dam Ba Da and always with Aeryn. I fight them off, or at least I try, but they just keep getting stronger. And the more I fight, the more it hurts."
"Does Aeryn know?" Chiana asked.
"No. I haven't said anything," John answered.
"Don't you think she should know?"
"What could she do about it anyway, Pip? More than that, if she found out, would she think I'm him? I guess maybe she'd love that," John said, bitterly.
"After all this time, you're still jealous!" Chiana said in astonishment.
John just shook his head. He was in too much pain to try to explain what he was feeling. "You wouldn't understand, Pip."
John just ignored her and instead asked, "Do you ever get flashes of memory from the other you?"
"A while back, I had dreams of being killed by Kaarvok. But that was about it. I had no idea if that was just my imagination or if it was the memory of the other me. But then she didn't live very long so it's not like there was a whole lot for me to remember," Chiana said.
"I guess not."
"Does it cause you pain only when you fight off the visions?" Chiana asked.
"Then why don't you just stop fighting the visions?"
"Because I don't want them! I'm not him, I'm me!" John said, angrily.
"You're John Crichton," Stark said. John hadn't even noticed him enter the kitchen.
"I don't care! And where did you come from, Stark?"
"I've been meaning to talk to you, and I think I know what's happening," Stark said.
"Enlighten me," John said.
"I believe the soul of the dead John Crichton is trying to find its way back to you," Stark said.
"What are you saying? That because I'm the copy I have no soul and I have to borrow one from the other guy?"
"Not at all. What I'm saying is that-"
"John?" Aeryn said through the comms, interrupting Stark. "Everything alright?"
"Hey, Aeryn, yeah, everything is fine," John said, speaking into his comms and giving Stark and Chiana both the shush signal with his finger to his mouth.
"I was worried you didn't come back right away. Is your head still hurting?" Aeryn asked.
"Nope, went away just as quickly as it came. Probably just a lack of sleep," John said, forcing some cheerfulness into his voice.
"I'm going to talk to Pilot and see if there's a faster way to get to Hyneria. Maybe we can look into an extended starburst-"
"No need to exhaust Moya, Aeryn. I'm fine. I can wait," John said.
"Come back to our quarters so we can talk about this further," Aeryn said, brooking no room for argument.
Before John could answer, his wife's comms went offline. There were several microts of silence until Chiana spoke up. "If what Stark is saying is true, and considering how attuned he is to souls, it probably is… How long do you think you'll be able to fight this off, John?"
It wasn't often Chiana called him by his first name and John knew she was worried for him. "I don't want them, Pip. The other Crichton had his chance. I'll be damned if I'm going to let him steal my life now."
"But it's not like that-" Stark started.
But John didn't care anymore what his friends had to say. Actually, that wasn't entirely true. He cared… he just didn't want to hear it. He didn't want anything to do with his twin. And he swore to himself he would fight whatever was happening to him with everything he had.
A quarter of an arn later
"What is it you're not telling me, John?" Aeryn asked trying to keep her patience.
"Nothing, Aeryn," John said, not looking her in the eyes.
"You're lying to me," Aeryn said, matter-of-factly.
John threw his hands up in the air. "Fine, I've been having headaches."
"I don't know, believe it or not, headaches tend to be a common occurrence with me, and I don't really pay attention to them. It's only been the last couple of days that I started noticing."
"And you've been hiding this from me?"
"I wouldn't use the word 'hiding'…. More like, I didn't want to unnecessarily alarm you, when it's probably nothing."
"How could you just assume it's nothing when you've just woken up from a coma? That damn wormhole weapon could have done something to your mind, how could you think-"
"It's not the wormhole weapon, Aeryn," John said, sounding defeated.
Aeryn tried to calm herself. "And how do you know?"
John just shrugged. Her husband looked so desolate. She couldn't help herself, despite her anger for being kept in the dark, she took him in her arms. "We're in this together. You know as well as I do that we're stronger together than we are apart. Considering what we had to go through to learn that difficult lesson, I have no idea why you insist on dealing with whatever it is you're dealing with alone."
"Look, honey, if it was someone wanting to kick my ass, or if it's me needing to infiltrate another Gammak Base or Shadow Depository, you'd be the first person I'd tell. But it's not like you can help me with my headaches," John said. "Telling you every time I feel slightly unwell would serve no purpose other than to worry you."
"I still have the right to know, John. You're my husband. What happens to you, happens to me," Aeryn said. "How would you feel if I was ill and I hid that from you?"
John didn't answer for several microts. "I'd be pissed."
"Glad you can admit it."
John at least had the grace to appear sheepish. "Let's give it a few days, huh, Aer? Honestly, I've had worse headaches before. I'm not worried. Don't make Moya go on extended starbursts all the way to Hyneria."
"Fine. But you need to promise me that if it gets worse, or at the least, not improve, you'll let me know."
Later – the middle of the sleep cycle
John was violently ripped from his sleep. He was being bombarded with memories. He fought them off. Forcing his mind to think of anything else, he refused to accept any more visions. But there were some that slipped through his defenses, nonetheless.
The most vivid one, was of him… no, wait, not him, the other guy…. He was staring at the device that he'd just chased Furlow across the desert for. The device's casing had been opened. It was emitting radiation at certain intervals. He tried to time the emission of the radiation and attempted to close the casing. He was successful in closing it. But his timing sucked and he was hit by a fatal dose.
Recalling the memory, John knew somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind that he'd have done the same… probably. But he couldn't help but call the other him a selfish idiot for being so reckless. He could have waited for help. He could have tried finding something that would have helped him close the casing without having to be right in the radiation's path. But no, he had to be the reckless cowboy. The one who broke Aeryn's heart.
John looked to his left and saw his wife sleeping peacefully next to him. He was feeling too frustrated to stay in bed. So, he tried as gently as he could to get out of bed without waking Aeryn. No small task considering she'd been trained to be a light sleeper from her Peacekeeper upbringing. But it looked like she was more tired than she'd admit being a full-time mom. She didn't even stir. John took a quick peek at Little D, and seeing that he was sound asleep too, he made his way to command.
As John walked the halls of Moya, he allowed the familiar hums of the leviathan calm his nerves. When he reached command, he allowed himself to just stare into space. He thought back to what Chiana said earlier. Why was he fighting off the memories when it caused him so much pain? Why not just let them in? He'd been mind-fucked so many times in the last four plus cycles, what's one more?
But he knew why he was being so stubborn. He refused to be him. Not even for Aeryn. He was him. He was the one who got left behind. He's the one who had to pay for the consequences of the other one deciding to be a hero. After everything he'd been through because of the other guy's decisions, after he'd finally put Humpty Dumpty back together again, this guy's soul was insisting to reap the rewards he'd sown.
"Over my dead body," John mumbled.
The next solar day
The headaches had gotten worse. So much so, that John could no longer hide how much pain he was in. He told everyone he'd be working on his module and that he'd meet everyone later for mid-meal. Aeryn would come to the maintenance bay every arn or so to check on him. Luckily, the pain wasn't constant, but it was coming in greater intervals, usually with a new set of memories he refused to see.
John was in the middle of re-installing the air filter on his module when a vision came crashing at him with no warning.
He fell on the ground. He fell from his module, or rather, a replica of his module. He felt incredibly ill. His heart was racing. He felt like vomiting.
"John? Are you hurt?" It was Aeryn.
"No, no. I'm fine."
"What happened? What did she do to you?"
"No, she didn't do anything."
"What's the matter?"
"She didn't-" He didn't finish what he was going to say. Instead, he grabbed Aeryn and kissed her desperately.
Aeryn pushed him away. "What's the matter?"
He finally caved and told her the truth. "Radiation. Massive radiation…. I couldn't help it. I couldn't stop it." The look of devastation on Aeryn's face would haunt him for the rest of his life.
"STOP IT!" John screamed in agony. He couldn't bear to see anymore. His eyes were looking around frantically, trying to focus on anything that would help him fight off the visions.
He struggled to his feet, clutching his head. "Why are you doing this to me?!" John yelled like a madman. Not truly knowing who he was yelling at.
"Are you fahrbot? Who in hezmana are you talking to?" John heard Rygel ask from behind him.
John turned around to see his little Hynerian friend staring at him as if he'd grown another head.
"Crichton, your nose is bleeding," Rygel said, pointing at his face.
John put his hand to his face and saw the red liquid staining his fingers. He then looked around on the floor and there was a trail of blood behind him. The stress on his mind must have caused it. At that moment, Chiana walked into the room.
"What the-" Chiana started to say. "You're bleeding! That's it, I'm telling Aeryn!"
But before John could reach Chiana, she turned towards her comm and said "Aeryn, you need to come to the maintenance bay. John is having nosebleeds now."
"What?! Is he alright?" Aeryn asked through the comms.
"We think so, but he's pretty agitated."
"I'm on tier twelve. I'm on my way," Aeryn said, not waiting for Chiana's response.
"God damn it, Chiana! Why would you call Aeryn?" John asked, furiously.
"Because this isn't nothing anymore, John!" Chiana answered, not letting him intimidate her. "I heard you yelling from across the tier. You're losing it!"
"You don't know anything!" John said.
"I know enough that your headaches have gotten so bad your nose is bleeding from them," Chiana said. "You need to stop fighting these visions!"
"You don't know what you're asking," John said, dropping to knees, his voice cracking.
"I do know! I know you feel like you're going to lose who you are. But you'll always be John to me. You're our John. Mine, D'Argo's, Jool's, Pilot's and Moya's! We became a family those monens the others were away. And no matter what, you're you!" Chiana said, taking his face in her hands.
At that moment, Aeryn came running into the maintenance bay. She dropped to her knees next to John and Chiana. "John, what happened?"
John just continued to stare at the floor. Rygel answered for him. "I found him clutching his head, blood pouring from his nose."
John saw the stricken look on Aeryn's face. Not so unlike the look she had in his vision when she learned the other him had been hit by a massive dose of radiation.
"That's it, John! You will not argue with me on this. We'll find the nearest commerce planet, find a diagnosan and get you help. We're not waiting to get to Hyneria," Aeryn said.
"But Aeryn, what about his lost wormhole knowledge?" Rygel asked.
Before Aeryn could answer, Stark walked in and said, "A diagnosan would be no help, I'm afraid."
"What do you mean?" Aeryn asked, looking confused.
"What John is suffering from is an illness of his own making. And only he can end his suffering," Stark said, solemnly.
He then proceeded to tell Aeryn everything he suspected. He explained the memories that John was trying so desperately to fight. He ended by saying, "I suspect this is a battle that John ultimately cannot win. And if he refuses to concede, I believe it will kill him."
John hadn't bothered to say anything the entire time Stark explained everything to his wife. What would have been the point? Aeryn was still on her knees beside him, obviously still trying to absorb everything Stark had just told her. Feeling entirely defeated, John got up and walked out of the maintenance bay. Not even waiting for things to sink in for Aeryn.
A quarter arn later
Aeryn found her husband in the same chamber they had named their son only two weekens ago. She had no idea if he'd heard her come in, as he stood perfectly still, his back to her. Aeryn was glad she hadn't gone after him immediately. She had been so stunned, not to mention hurt that John had kept so much from her. But unlike the last time they had to deal with the subject of his twin's death, she now understood the pain he'd gone through having been the one left behind… twice, no less.
"Hey," Aeryn said, by way of greeting.
John didn't answer. She tried again. "You don't look like you're in too much pain right now."
"It comes and goes."
"But lately it's coming more than it's going," Aeryn said it as a statement rather than a question.
"Yeah," John acknowledged, softly.
"Why did you feel you couldn't talk to me about this?" Aeryn asked, doing her best to keep the accusation out of her voice.
"I was scared that if you knew I was starting to get the memories of your John Crichton, you wouldn't see me as me anymore."
"You're my John Crichton too. I once told you that there was no distinction in my mind anymore."
"But that's just it, Aeryn! There's a distinction in mine! I was the one left behind. I was the one you couldn't bear to even look at when you came back from Talyn. I'm the one you saw as the copy. I'm the one who begged you to stay, but you didn't. I'm the one you abandoned. And I'm the one you wished had died instead of him."
Before Aeryn knew what happened, a loud crack rang in the air as the palm of her hand connected with her husband's cheek. The shock on his face, she was sure, mirrored the one on her own. John couldn't have cut her more deeply if he'd taken a knife and stabbed her in the gut with it.
"I have never once wished you dead. Don't you ever say that to me again."
John, clearly realizing he'd gone too far, only looked away.
"Let me make something clear to you, John. I know which John Crichton I married. I know you're not the one who died in my arms on Talyn. And I know that you're the one I had left behind… twice. Cholak knows you've punished me enough for it when I returned to Moya."
"Look, Aeryn, I'm-"
"No, you are going to let me finish. When I say that there is no distinction in my mind, it's because I know in my heart that you and he were equal and original. Had you been the one to end up on Talyn with me then you'd be dead, and I'd be having this conversation with him instead. Events would have unfolded exactly as they had regardless if it had been him or you who died. You two could have played that ridiculous rock, paper, scissor game forever and for eternity you would have remained tied for the simple fact that at your core, you were both John Crichton. The man I loved, long before you were split in two."
John at first remained silent. "I'm sorry I kept what was happening from you, Aeryn. And I'm sorry for beating a dead horse. We've resolved this, and I didn't mean to reopen old wounds. It's just… I just can't. I can't accept them, his memories. They're not mine, and I need to know I'm still me."
"You heard what Stark said. If you keep fighting this, it will kill you."
"He doesn't know that!"
"And if he's right? You would risk dying, abandoning your family to keep your stubborn pride? You would put me through the agony of losing you again?"
"You never lost me. I lost you."
"You listen to me carefully, John, because I'm only ever going to say this once. It was not my fault that you got yourself twinned. I neither chose him, nor you, fate did that for all of us. Did I push you out of my mind while I was on Talyn? Yes, I admit I did. But I'm afraid I had no prior experience with having the man I loved be split into two identical entities, so you'll just have to forgive me for that."
Aeryn looked up to see if John was still listening to her. When she saw that she had his full attention, she continued. "And just so you know, I did lose you. I lost you for two solar days after you deactivated that frelling wormhole weapon. When you collapsed, I thought you had died. And my world ended. You can't put me through that again, and especially not over your silly insecurities."
"Yes! You're the only one who's worried that allowing these memories in will somehow rob you of your identity. I know who you are. Everybody aboard this ship knows who you are. Absorbing the other John's memories won't change any of that. You will still have experienced everything you had after he died. You'll still be you."
John frowned in resignation. "I don't even know why this is happening to me."
Aeryn couldn't help but find John's pouting somewhat adorable. Although she'd never admit that to him. "You're John Crichton. If something like this had to happen to anyone it'd be you."
This brought out a small chuckle from her husband. "Why do you put up with a right bastard like me, Aeryn?"
"Don't think I haven't wondered that," Aeryn said, teasingly. "You know, I once compared you to a plague… one I keep coming back to."
John snorted, looking amused. "Yeah, I remember."
"Do you, now?"
Aeryn smiled when the realization dawned on her husband's face. He remembered something that she had said to the other Crichton.
"I guess if anything, having the other Crichton's memories should remind me not to make the same mistakes he did," John said. "There are no second chances this time around."
"And don't you forget it." Aeryn took her husband's face in her hands and forced him to look at her. "Come on, you look like you need to lie down and rest," Aeryn said, taking John's hand in hers.
"Hey baby." Aeryn turned to look at John. "Thanks. For putting up with me. For loving me, even when I make it hard."
"You do the same for me. Now, come on."
"I love you, Aer," John said, kissing her on the temple.
Later in their quarters
"Would you please listen, John," Stark said, obviously completely exasperated. "When the visions come, don't fight them. Instead, welcome them. And welcome the other half of your soul home."
"Yeah, yeah," John said, grudgingly. Although he'd agreed to stop fighting the visions, for the love of his family, he still wasn't happy about it.
"Stop being so stubborn, John," his wife said to him from across the room, while she tended the baby.
"Easy for you to say," John mumbled. "It's not you who has to share real estate with someone else's memories."
Before Aeryn could answer, Stark got up and started pacing the room. "Your memory, his memory, your memory, his memory, your memory, his memory, they're all John Crichton's!"
The baby started crying at Stark's mini-outburst. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake the baby," Stark said, looking contrite.
"Eh, don't worry about it. Aeryn will have him calmed in no time. I can test even a saint's patience," John said, smiling.
"Yes, you can," Aeryn said, as she picked her son up.
"But in fairness to me, no one else goes through the crap I do." John turned to Stark. "And I've been meaning to ask, why is this just happening to me now?"
Stark didn't answer right away. It was obvious he was contemplating the question. "I suspect it was because you came so close to dying yourself not too long ago."
"And?" John prompted his friend to tell him more.
"The one who twinned you said you were equal and original. And so, it's my belief that he didn't copy one John Crichton to create another. What he effectively did was split John Crichton in two. When he did that, the soul had no choice but to reside in two bodies at once."
"Kaarvok split John's soul as well, didn't he?" Aeryn asked.
"I believe so," Stark answered. "It would explain why, while John was near death two weekens ago, I had sensed the same soul, but in two places at once. It was probably in the process of merging together again, when John survived the experience, and his half of his soul was yanked back into his body before it had a chance to merge with the other half."
"But he'll be okay after all this, won't he?" Aeryn asked. "I mean, what's the true state of his soul? Is it supposed to be dead or alive?"
"Souls never die, Aeryn. John is alive and he'll be fine. Better, in fact, because for the first time since Kaarvok split him in two, he'll be whole again," Stark said, confidently.
John could see the relief cross his wife's face. Aeryn moved towards the bed that John was resting on, and sat down next to him, their son cradled in her arms.
"Thank you, Stark," Aeryn said, reaching for her friend's hand and squeezing it. "I know I haven't always been kind to you, especially after John died on Talyn. But know that I… well, we… consider you part of our family. And I have no idea what we would have done without you here."
Stark smiled. "I admit, Aeryn, that when Zhaan gave her life for you, I couldn't understand it…. And I suspect, neither did you…. But looking at you now, what you have become, how far you've come, well, I must say that Zhaan's wisdom saw much farther than any of us could then."
Stark placed a gentle hand on John's shoulder, and although the look he gave him was kind, it clearly said, don't be stubborn. John just nodded, and Stark turned and walked out of the room.
Two cycles later
"Hmmm… I wonder where Little D could be. He's such a good hider," John said, pretending to search for his little two-year old in Moya's command centre.
John heard a muffled giggle to his left, but didn't turn around, letting his little boy believe he'd one-upped his old man. Whenever the two of them played hide-and-seek, he always made sure 1812 followed his son to keep an eye on him.
John was about to 'find' his son in one of the vents when Aeryn walked in. "Aren't you two done yet? You've been playing hide-and-seek for the past two arns already."
John just grinned and took his wife in his arms. "Miss me?" John asked.
"I miss my son," Aeryn teased and kissed him passionately.
John dramatically put his hand over his chest. "I see I've been relegated to number two in your life… well, number three soon," John said, putting his hand on his wife's protruding belly.
A cycle ago, Aeryn had gone to see a sebacean physician for a routine check-up at one of the breakaway colonies they came across. She had asked him to remove her implanted contraceptive as she and John wanted to try for a second baby. They had also decided that although a geometric pregnancy was convenient, it wasn't the best thing for either mother or baby and so the physician suppressed that gene in Aeryn.
"Let's go get D'Argo. It's time for mid-meal," Aeryn said.
"But we have to find him first, honey," John said, giving his wife a look the said play along.
"Oh, right, he's gotten so good at this game," Aeryn said, emphasizing the words so her son could hear.
John walked around and pretended to look behind the console. "I wonder where D could be?"
"D'Argo, mommy gives up. Can you just come out?" Aeryn said, loudly. A cute little giggle was heard from the vent in the corner where 1812 was hovering.
Aeryn made one more round around command just to play along, then she made her way to where 1812 was chirping. She got down on her knees and removed the vent. A sandy blonde blur quickly jumped into her arms and giggled excitedly.
"You finded me, mommy!"
Aeryn laughed. "You didn't make it easy."
"I'm the best hider, right?" Little D asked, looking so proud of himself.
"Absolutely, son. You'd put your Uncle Rygel to shame," John said, picking up his little boy and tossing him in the air and catching him.
"I'm gonna tell Uncle Rygel I beat you in hide-and-seek, daddy!" Little D said.
"Well, you'll be able to tell him tomorrow when we reach Hyneria," Aeryn said as she put her arm around her husband's waist.
They were mere weekens away from Aeryn's due date. They wanted to go planet side for the baby's birth. With Rygel once again the rightful ruler of Hyneria, it was the safest place for them to welcome the fourth member of their growing family. Little D was also looking forward to seeing his Aunt Chiana who often split her time between Hyneria and Moya.
John looked at his family and smiled. What a wonderful life he had. He no longer hated that he now had the memories of his twin. If anything, it reminded him to treasure every moment he had with the people he loved. And the ones he loved the most were all in his arms at the moment.
Author's Notes: Thanks for reading. I was thinking about doing a follow-up fic on addressing the ridiculous gap between human and sebacean lifespans. Would you guys be interested?