14 January 2009 @ 12:37 pm
Farscape: Dice (R), John/Aeryn, Chiana/D'Argo.  
Some knowledge ran too deep to be removed; some had bled into his soul.



(set almost directly after The Peacekeeper Wars)


----prologue----


He could hear Aeryn behind him, laughing softly at D'Argo as he played with her hair, but he didn't turn to look at them—he wanted to, but he was drawn inexplicably away from them instead, a feeling inside of him, something, something familiar, tugging him inevitably towards the window as he watched the empty space.

Chiana turned to follow his movements, her new eyes shadowed and all but lifeless, before she turned away again, unconcerned. Rygel was on his thronesled, writing off John's strange movements as mere human madness.

"Quatro," John whispered into the silence, and everyone froze. They turned to look at him with disbelief. Chiana rose to a crouch. "Tres, dos…uno…"

A wormhole flashed in front of them, Pilot yelling incoherently from his den as Moya turned frantic away. John watched the wormhole carefully, and all the others watched him.

"John," Aeryn whispered disbelievingly. "How did you do that?"

He kept his gaze fixed on the wormhole. "I don't know."




I.


"So it's all still there?" Chiana demanded.

"No," John said tiredly. "None of it's here. It's all gone, the equations, the knowledge—it's just gone."

"But you knew there would be a wormhole," Chiana snapped. "You asked us to come here, Crichton, and you said you didn't know why."

"I didn't know why," he snapped. "And then I did, but I don't know how I knew. I just did."

"You just did," she echoed, reaching out to grab him and pull him closer. "And that means not everything is gone. That means you can still predict them, navigate them . . . Crichton, you could—"

He pulled away. "Don't ask me that, Pip," he pleaded. "I can't, we can't—too much is at stake."

"You can save him," Chiana said, her voice filled with pure determination.

Aeryn stood silently behind them, watching. D'Argo was asleep in her arms. She would let John handle it for now.

"You can go back," Chiana said. "Back to before he was hit, and you could stop it."

"You can't go back in a wormhole before the time you last left," he whispered. "It's too dangerous. The timeline—"

"Frell the timeline," Chiana shouted, before trapping his face between her hands. "You could save him."

"Maybe," John admitted reluctantly. "But maybe I do it, maybe I save him, and we lose everything else."

"Who cares about anything else?" Chiana growled, but John wasn't watching her any longer, his eyes had slid in the direction of his wife and his son.

"I do," he whispered. Chiana followed his line of sight, and her hands fell away as she backed up.

"He'd do it for you," she said quietly, so much pain in her voice that John couldn't bear to meet her eyes. "You know he would."

"He did," John whispered. "He already did, Chiana. He already gave up everything for me."

"So get it back," she said fiercely. "You never give anything up without a fight, Crichton, don't start now." Her eyes had more fire in them now than he'd seen since they had left D'Argo behind, and as much as he wanted to keep it there, he couldn't do what she was asking. They had played with time more than once already, and almost lost everything.

"That's right, John, don't even consider it. The Nebari lets emotion cloud her thinking, don't be so foolish yourself."

The voice snapped his head up, and he stumbled back, the fire in Chiana's eyes lit instead to concern and Aeryn stepped forward calling his name, but he couldn't hear her…he could only hear him.

Harvey.

Harvey wearing his old I.A.S.A. uniform and his trademark smirk, as he sat perched on one of Moya's consoles. "You're dead," he whispered. "You deleted yourself."

"John, who are you talking to?" Aeryn's voice, from his left, her fingers gripping the sleeve of his shirt, trying to pull him back, but he couldn't go to her. Couldn't, because Harvey was staring at him with those eyes that still had Scorpius staring out of them, and he couldn't move.

"Did you honestly think I would not leave behind a back up?" Harvey asked coyly. "I thought you knew me better."

John shook his head, pressing the palm of his hand against the center of his forehead as though to block him out, but it had never worked before, and it wasn't working now.

"You live an interesting life, John, Scorpius did not believe you would go off simply to live some dull life with your wife and half breed child. He thought you might stumble upon something useful again, and it appears he was right."

John's hand fell to his side, he pulled away from Aeryn, backed away from them both. "No," he said. "Nothing's changed. Go away."

"John!" Aeryn yelled. "Look at me."

He almost did, but he still couldn't pry his eyes from Harvey's gaze. "Go away," he said again.

Harvey pretended not to hear him. "This is fascinating, really. The actual knowledge is gone, but the instinct remains, an invisible blueprint on your soul. Not even the ancients, powerful as they are, could take that from you."

John was trying not to get caught up in fascination himself. He'd had his obsessive kick, it had gotten him nothing but trouble. He wondered if Harvey was right, if there was no way to be rid of it. He wondered if the ancients knew the legacy they had left him.

"Doubtful," Harvey said, in answer to his unspoken question. "Einstein, as you call him, underestimates you. Not like Jack, now he saw your potential. Just as I do."

He heard Aeryn shouting at Chiana to get Noranti, and he thought he heard Rygel mumble something that sounded like fahrbot human, but couldn't be sure. The room around him was spinning, and only Harvey, at the center, remained unmoving.

"You've told Scorpius," John whispered. "You're communicating with him, and you told him I can still predict wormholes."

He could feel Aeryn's cool hand against his cheek, his forehead, his whispered name against his ear. Harvey smiled, slyly, slowly, and then glanced up, looking at the vast ceiling of the living ship. "Of course," he said simply, and with those words the ground beneath John's feet melted away to nothing, and he slid from Aeryn's grasp to the floor.


- - - - -


It was over. They had decided they were done, done with all of it, no more, finito, finished. Let the bad guys have their fun because they were retiring and moving to Florida…this wasn't supposed to happen. All of their plans weren't supposed to unravel in an instant, not from one little mistake, not because he'd let curiosity get the best of him again and led Moya right to a forming wormhole.

He shouldn't be so surprised, he knew, this was the story of his life. He was the boy named John.

"John, talk to me please," Aeryn whispered. She sounded scared. She didn't hide fear from him anymore. She came to him instead, when she was overwhelmed, when she didn't know what to do with D'Argo or why he was crying… "John…please…"

He looked over at her, their child was in her arms, and Harvey was running a leather clad hand down the small face. He felt himself tense, reminded himself that Harvey was only there for him, and resisted the urge to push him away from his son. "I'm fine," he said, but his voice broke over the words and her frown deepened.

"What just happened?" she demanded. "John, you were talking about Scorpius."

He heard Noranti and Chiana enter the room, but only glanced at them a moment before returning his gaze to his wife. "I—" he paused, wanting nothing more than to tell her everything was fine, and to get them the hell away from here. But Scorpius would find him if they left, Scorpius always found him, and sending Aeryn and his child away to protect them wasn't an option—he already knew Aeryn would never go. "Harvey's back."

Her eyes widened and she sat back on her heels. As if he sensed the change in his mother, D'Argo started crying.

"Such odd creatures, babies, aren't they?" Harvey asked, watching D'Argo with an expression akin to disgust. "They're completely useless. It's amazing any of us manage to grow at all."

John ignored him, with effort. He used to be good at it, and it looked like he was going to have to relearn the skill. He reached out towards his son, and D'Argo reached up a small hand, wrapping tiny fingers around one of his. He stopped crying, and Aeryn gave a soft smile, though tears had begun to build up in her own eyes. "What are we going to do?" she whispered.

"Maybe he won't come," John said—something of the optimist he used to be slipping back. "The war is over."

"Not for him," Harvey sneered. "You know that, don't delude yourself, Crichton. He wants the Scarran Empire to fall, and he will use you to do it. He will use them to force you to do it."

Aeryn looked almost as disbelieving as Harvey. "Even if he was content with things, John, he would still come." She watched him intently. "He would come for you."

"Not if he isn't here," Chiana said, meeting John's eyes. "If you go back, back to the start of this whole war, and instead of creating a truce you just kill off the Scarrans instead—"

"Chiana," he interrupted softly. "You don't mean that."

"The frell I don't! He will never stop, Crichton, not until he gets what he wants. He'll keep pulling us in after him, just like before, and eventually there's going to be nothing left." Chiana shook her head. "You're not supposed to mess with time, I know, but do you really want to live like that again, on the run?"

"I'm not going to do it," John said firmly. "I want to, just as much as you do, and it sounds so simple but it's not, Chiana. Have you forgotten the time I was almost erased like something out of 'Back to the Future'? Or maybe you don't remember the Jocation Memorial, and all of the innocent nurses that died because of me." His tirade faded back, and he shook his head desperately, trying to get her to understand. "We can only make things worse."

She winced at the reminders, having conveniently forgotten them both. She remembered, now, the look in John's eyes then, when he realized how they had changed history and the rewrite was so much worse, and even if she couldn't recall the bleakness that had rested there she need only look at him now. "I know," she whispered. "I do know…I just…"

John grabbed her arm and pulled her into a hug. She wrapped her arms around his neck, holding on for her life, and John buried his face in her hair. He could still see the smiling visage through the strands, the figure of Scorpius gliding across the ground in front of him.

"How sweet," he said, kneeling on the floor so he was eye level with John. "You've made the right decision, John, and I'm sure Scorpius will be pleased when he arrives."

Go to hell, John thought, having remembered enough of the rules about imaginary friends to not speak out loud.

Harvey's smile didn't falter. "It will not be so bad, you know, Crichton. You could still have that life you want so badly, you could have the protection of the entire Peacekeeper armada if you only do as he asks…you will never have to run again."

John pressed his eyes closed, and within his arms, Chiana started to shake. Sure, Scorpius probably would grant him that, protection, a five star room, an all you can eat buffet, and all John would have to give in return is what's left of his soul. All he would have to do is let himself be used as a weapon, to tell Scorpius when and where wormholes were opening, so he could arrange wars that couldn't be lost.

He heard the faint sound of Rygel's thronesled, and when he opened his eyes he saw him slip from the room along with Noranti. Aeryn's hand had come to rest at his back, and he could feel Chiana's tears running down along his neck. At least she was crying, he thought. It sounded cruel but he was glad she was, she'd been too emotionless these last weeks, too much like Aeryn when she'd come back from Talyn and he'd just been counting the days until she stole one of the transports and disappeared for good.

He didn't want to lose her, too, but he knew he had no right to ask her to stay. He held on to her a little tighter as he realized that really, he was the one that had no right to stay.


- - - - -


"It'll just be for a little while, just until things calm down."

John didn't stop moving as he spoke, and he didn't dare turn to meet Aeryn's glare. He threw his old duffle bag through the open door of the transport, and went to grab a box of food cubes.

"You're not going," Aeryn said fiercely, "if I have to tie you to our bed."

He grinned at her. "Kinky," he said, "and tempting." He paused, his smile fading away. He pulled his eyes away from hers again. "I can't ask them to go through it all again, Aeryn, I can't. I'm not going to ask you to either."

"Then we'll leave," Aeryn said firmly, "we'll leave together. We're a family, John, you've taught me that that's what they do."

He took a deep breath, and turned to her, placing his hands on either side of her neck and tilting her face up to his. "And D'Argo?" he whispered. "We can't tote him across the universe with us like he's some pulse rifle, Aeryn, he needs a home."

"We're his home," Aeryn snapped. "I grew up on a ship; he can grow up on a ship. It doesn't have to be this one."

"Aeryn," John said desperately. "I can't protect you, I've tried, it never works. The best thing for me to do is to get the hell away from you, as far as I can. Scorpy'll find me, you know he will. He's got a frelling homing beacon in my head and it ain't comin' out."

"What if it did," Aeryn whispered. "We could find a diagnosion…"

"Been there, done that," John said softly. "Got the t-shirt."

"You're not leaving me, John," Aeryn said, and though her voice remained calm, it was as dangerous as he'd ever heard it. "We find trouble together, but it's worse when we're apart. It never solves anything, and maybe you think D'Argo will be better off with me, but you're wrong and I know nothing about being a mother, you can't—"

"It's not forever, Aeryn, just for a little while," he said, moving his hands down from her neck and grasping hers, trying to still their sudden shaking.

"Leaving will change nothing, time will change nothing, and you know that as well as I do." Aeryn turned her hands over so she could grab his instead.

"Yeah, so give up, old man." The wry voice caused both Aeryn and John to turn towards the doorway. Chiana stood leaning against the wall, smiling slightly, not quite a real smile, but as close as she'd come in awhile. "I had a little chat with Pilot," she said. "We decided not to let you leave. We started this together, we'll see it through."

"I've made up my mind, Pip," John said softly. "I'm not putting you guys at risk."

Chiana shrugged, as though this didn't really interest her, and the small smile didn't disappear. "Fine, have it your way. But it'll be a little hard to fly out of here if Pilot won't open the doors."

Aeryn broke out in a smile at the words, so bright that John almost decided it was worth allowing them both to pull one over on him. He turned towards Chiana. "You've been through enough because of me," he said.

"Yeah," she shrugged again, the smile growing marginally wider. "But you're worth it. D'Argo thought so too."

"Then it's settled," Aeryn said, her voice controlled and confident again. "We do this together, and if Scorpius comes, we deal with it together."

"We kill him," Chiana broke in, her smile now gone, leaving no trace. "We don't deal, we don't ask questions, we kill the fekface before he can screw us over again."

Aeryn glanced over at her, thought about her son, about his namesake, and then she looked at John, and she knew he was thinking the same things. He shook his head and reluctantly pulled his bag from the transport. "It's a plan," he said softly, heading out of the room without looking back, "but you know how those go."


- - - - -


John frowned as he watched the stars outside the terrace. D'Argo was strapped to his chest in a baby carrier that Noranti had fashioned, and he'd had Chiana crash test for durability before he'd use. Aeryn got endless amusement watching him walk around with it, though she refused to wear it herself. He didn't mind it, it was like the ones he used to see on Earth, and it kept D'Argo happy to pull and tug at his black leather collar.

He couldn't seem to focus on the simple enjoyment his son could bring at the moment, and not even the stars brought any comfort, because he knew somewhere out there Scorpius was lurking behind them, biding his time…

Part of him was still holding out hope that Scorpius would leave them alone, that because John could no longer create wormhole weapons Scorpius wouldn't bother, but he knew better. He could still predict them, like an alert service in his mind, and to Scorpius, the commander of the fleet, that knowledge was invaluable. Unique.

And he was screwed. Again.

"I was wondering where you had gotten to," Aeryn said softly, walking up beside him. She smiled when she caught sight of their son, and grabbed one of his hands. He giggled and her smile grew wider, but the smile John gave in response was weak and fading. "You look ridiculous with him strapped onto you like that," Aeryn said slyly, and not for the first time. "Wasn't it you that said we can't tote him around like a pulse rifle?"

A genuine smile broke free as he met her eyes. "Yeah, yeah," he said teasingly. "I'm a poor weak human, remember? I can't carry him around all day like you do. My arms go numb."

Aeryn smiled and leaned forward to kiss him softly, mindful of D'Argo between them. "I haven't forgotten," she said, her eyes sparkling.

When she pulled back, and stepped aside, John caught sight of something black moving to block the light of a star. He froze and Aeryn spun around, in time to see it start to loom closer. "He's here," he said, resignation suffusing his voice, and Aeryn gave no response other than to reach out and grab his hand as they watched the command carrier approach.


- - - - -


"Chiana, stop fighting me!" John yelled. Aeryn was standing firm behind him, a pulse rifle thrown over her shoulder. "Take D'Argo, and hide. If something goes wrong, you take him and you get the hell out of here."

Chiana looked at the baby she was holding with terror. "I don't know what to do with him! Give him to Noranti, I can help, Crichton. I'm not leaving you to do this alone!"

"Noranti?" John repeated incredulously. "Do you know Noranti? Have you met her?" Chiana winced and John softened, moving closer. "Chi, darlin', pipsqueak...I only trust you with him."

Chiana felt herself giving in even as she said, "You shouldn't."

"I know it’s a lot to ask," John said, quietly. "But I want you and D'Argo to be safe. I'd send Aeryn with you if I could, but I'm sure you can guess how much luck I had with that."

Chiana glanced at Aeryn's steely expression and knew that yes, that had probably been an interesting conversation. Rygel, behind her, snorted haughtily. "What about me? No one ever worries about me!"

John glanced at him then back to Chiana. "You can take Rygel," he said.

Chiana met his eyes incredulously. "Gee, thanks."

John smiled tightly. "If it comes to it, you guys go to Hyneria, get his throne back, live in peace and take care of D'Argo, okay?"

"A domestic life," Chiana repeated dully. "Crichton, you know me so well."

"Chiana," John said slowly, drawing her name out, and she winced and nodded.

"Yeah, yeah. Alright. But we're not going anywhere unless it's absolutely necessary," she snapped. "We said we were going to do this together."

"We are," John said, carefully. "But you know we can't predict Scorpius. We have no idea what's going to happen, and it doesn't hurt to have a backup plan."

Aeryn moved up beside John. "Take care of him for us, Chiana." Her voice was tight and controlled, but those closest to her didn't miss the emotions swirling underneath.

Chiana let out a shaky sigh and nodded, though it was Rygel who spoke. "We shall guard him with our lives," he said, causing all eyes to snap to him in surprise.

Rygel seemed strangely uncomfortable under the attention. "I feel…a responsibility towards him," he explained. "I did harbor him for a short time, lest you've forgotten."

John smiled brightly. "All these years and you still surprise me, Sparky. I know you guys will take care of him. And take Noranti and Stark, too," John added as an afterthought, more because he wanted them out from underfoot than anything else.

"Are you trying to hinder or help us?" Chiana asked dryly.

Before he could answer, Pilot interrupted them. "A prowler has started towards us, Commander. As per your request I am allowing them to dock."

"Thanks, Pilot," John said, then he pointed at Chiana while he and Aeryn began to back up. "Hide," he said simply.

The last thing he saw before he and Aeryn shot around the corner was Chiana's terrified agreement as she shouted a warning, "Just kill the frellnik, Crichton!"


- - - - -


He walked quickly down the halls, Aeryn beside him, just as they had done a million times before. This time though, there was an extra weight pressing down on them, another life they had to protect besides their own. John's hand kept gravitating to his holster, and he knew he was getting twitchy. Scorpius…he was so ready to be done with that chapter of his life.

He saw black leather when they turned the next corner, and slid abruptly to a stop, Winona aimed instantly. Scorpius smiled, devilishly, and John adjusted his grip, preparing to fire.

"It's only me, John," Harvey said sweetly, at the same time Aeryn grabbed his sleeve and hissed, "John, there's no one there." At first, he didn't know which one of them to believe, but he relented and allowed himself to be pulled away. Harvey faded out of his vision, and he turned back to look in front of him.

His fingers curled tighter around Winona's handle as they walked determinedly towards the docking room. He knew who it would be, no question, but D'Argo wasn't there to bet with and he'd have agreed with him anyway, so he said nothing as they entered and watched as the cockpit of the small ship slid slowly back.

He noticed Aeryn had moved slightly in front of him, but as much as he wished she would stop trying to protect him at the risk of herself, he knew better than to call her on it or try to stop her. They needed a united front to face Scorpius, and even that might not be enough.

Scorpius stood up slowly, wearing the same smile Harvey had been sporting microts ago. "Hello, John," he said. John lifted his weapon to aim at him, and beside him Aeryn did the same. Scorpius looked unconcerned. "I've missed you."

John bit his lip briefly, keeping his weapon trained. "They have support groups for this kind of thing, you know," he said. "Do we have to have the 'it's not me it's you' talk again?"

So much for Chiana's no deals no questions plan, he thought, he'd already let Scorpius pull him in again. Fire, he told himself. Pull the damn trigger and blast the bastard to hell.

"Do you want me to do it?" Aeryn whispered.

He shook his head and Scorpius eyed them curiously. "If you're thinking of killing me, I wouldn't recommend it."

"I always knew you were smart," John said tightly.

"I have left Braca orders to destroy this Leviathan if I should not contact him within the arn," Scorpius told them calmly.

John took a step closer, his aim not wavering, though his eyes flickered away from Scorpius for a moment, when he thought he caught a flash of something red behind him. He looked back up at Scorpius. "Ever heard of a funny little thing called starburst?" he asked. "Let the good little soldier try his best, we'll be long gone. Haven't lost a match to him yet."

"They will hunt you, Crichton, I have left Braca orders to do so." Scorpius began to lower himself down, and John thrust his weapon forward.

"Ah, ah—" he said, "don't move." He paused. "Want to tell me who your ridin' partner is?"

Scorpius's smile reappeared. "I believe you've already been introduced," he said, moving aside to reveal the passenger in the seat behind him.

The close cropped red hair and sparse scattering of black leather took less than a microt to process in Crichton's mind. Sikozu stood, meeting John's eyes defiantly, and as usual, she could not have predicted his response.

He laughed. "Sputnik! Hey, how ya doin'?"

Aeryn glanced from Sikozu to John nervously, her weapon moving from Scorpius to the Kalish whilst John's aim remained steady.

"Crichton," Sikozu said tensely.

"I thought Scorpius killed you," he said, rolling his neck as he moved his eyes between Scorpius and her.

Sikozu watched him dispassionately. "We have come to an arrangement."

"Oh I bet you have," he said with a grin. "What do you say, honey?" John asked, turning into Aeryn. "Should we kill them?"

"It seems prudent," Aeryn answered smoothly.

"If you kill me, John," Scorpius said, "you will spend the rest of your life running. It will never be over."

"No!" John snapped. "No, you're wrong about that, with you alive it will never be over."

"We do not have to be enemies…"

"I am so sick and tired of this speech, save it for the afterlife, Scorp, I don't want to hear it." John aimed and his finger shook where it hovered over the trigger. Aim for the face, he told himself, the suit will keep everything else out.

Harvey appeared in front of him, blocking his view. "Don't do this, John."

"Shut up!" he yelled.

Aeryn glanced at him in concern, and moved to stand right beside him. "I will do it," she whispered, but when she raised her gun, Sikozu stepped in front of Scorpius.

"We must talk," she said. "You must listen to him, Crichton. You never listen—look at all the trouble you would have saved yourself had you simply followed his guidance from the beginning."

John took a step forward, straight through Harvey, and glared at her. "So you're back to his number one fan, then? After almost killing him. After almost killing me, my wife, my child. After killing D'Argo—an entire temple of innocent priests!"

Sikozu flinched, and John knew she wasn't the emotionless robot she would have him believe. Strangely, he found he didn't care. He was tired of trying to see life from two points of view, from now on, he was sticking to his.

Sikozu bit her lip and then met his eyes unflinchingly. "You were willing to commit mass murder for your cause, do not begrudge me my willingness to trade yours for mine. I was trying to save my people, Crichton, just as you were trying to save yours."

It was on the tip of his tongue to say it was different, but despite the fact he'd just said he wasn't going to do it anymore, he couldn't help but understand her. He wondered sometimes why he still let himself get suckered in, why he still showed at least some compassion, and then he looked at Scorpius and knew. He wasn't going to be like him. "Leave," he said, and he saw Aeryn turn to him in disbelief. "Both of you, just leave, and don't ever come back."

Scorpius glared down at him. "Unacceptable."

"This is the deal, Scorp," John said, jumping up on the side of the prowler before Aeryn could snag his jacket to pull him back. He met Scorpius's eyes. "You leave, or I kill you. Either way, I'm done playing. Got it?"

Scorpius tilted his head back, as though he was listening to something. "Braca has targeted tier three," he said simply.

John blinked, dropped down from the prowler, and he was about to say 'so?' when he knew. "You son of a bitch," he said, raising his gun again.

Aeryn glanced at him. "John, what is he talking about?"

Scorpius grinned. "Their energy signatures were easy enough to locate," he said, and Aeryn paled. "You are not in control here, John, you will stop making demands and you will listen to me—or Braca will open fire on your offspring's location."

John felt the bravado slip from him even as he held his gun steady, and he could feel Harvey's hand running along his shoulders as he moved from behind him. "He'll do it, John," the neural clone whispered. "You know he will. You know what you have to do."

"So talk," John said, emotionlessly, and Aeryn paled even further.

Scorpius very carefully removed his smile. "You come with me, John, and I will leave your family and your friends alone."

John hesitated, which didn't go unnoticed by Aeryn, who quickly grabbed the sleeve of his jacket to pull him back next to her. "John, no," Aeryn said tightly, her hands twitching around the pulse rifle. "You even consider it, and I'll kill Scorpius, even if it means Braca kills us all. You're not leaving with him."

John glanced at her, before his eyes moved back to Scorpius. "The missus doesn't like that idea," he said. "You'll have to do better."

Scorpius sighed. "She is welcome to join you, of course," he said. "The child as well. Care will be provided—"

"No, no, no," John said. "We're not living on casa de Scorpy. Now you tell me what you want."

"Wormholes, John," Scorpius hissed. "What I always want. I want to know where they are, which are stable, where they go."

Which, John knew, wasn't something he could just tell Scorpius all at once anymore. Now he only knew at the moment he knew, and after it would slip away again. He had no way to control it, no way to harness it. Scorpius was only going to be happy when he could control him.

"I'll go with you," he said, and pushed Aeryn's hand down when she grew dangerously close to pulling the trigger. His expression was pleading. "Aeryn, wait, let me talk." She nodded almost imperceptibly, and he continued, "But not on a permanent basis. I ain't gonna be your little love slave."

Scorpius frowned. "What are you suggesting, Crichton?"

He winced, wondering if he would be able to go through with it. "When we were with the Scarrans, we came up with this idea. Enter the negotiations with me at their side, so that all you Peacekeepers would think they had wormhole weapons and surrender. You want something from the Scarrans, I'm willing to let you use me to get it."

Scorpius hissed. "I don't want anything from them, Crichton. I want them dead."

"You're actually trying to start another war," John whispered disbelievingly. "You can't, we just stopped one!"

Scorpius watched him coolly. "Thousands of Kalish are still subjugated. They did not benefit so much as you from this peace."

John glanced from Scorpius to Sikozu. "Okay, so that's her reason, don't try to tell me it's yours. You don't give a damn about the Kalish, Scorpy, and we both know it. This is about revenge—always about revenge, and I'm not going to be a pawn in your vendetta."

"You don't have a choice, Crichton," Scorpius snapped. "You either come with me or your offspring dies. I don't care about your child, I don't care if it lives or dies, but if you force my hand I will take it from you."

John was so tired of being the door prize of the universe, his son wasn't supposed to be caught up in this. His son was supposed to live in peace—the universe as his playground. He glanced over at Aeryn, and she shook her head at him. Together, that was what he could see in her eyes. She wanted to die together if they couldn't live but it wasn't so easy for him, because he could stop it. He'd always had the power to stop it.

He could give them peace, even if he wasn't ever going to have it for himself. He slid his hand down Aeryn's until he felt the handle of her pulse rifle, and then he pulled it from her grasp. "John, no," she whispered.

He didn't look at her as he dropped the rifle and his pistol to the ground, and kicked them across the room. He didn't look up to see the smile on Scorpius's face. Aeryn grabbed his shoulders and jerked him around to face her. "No," she said. "We decided. Together."

Crichton's weren't supposed to cry often or long, but it seemed like he'd done it a hell of a lot, and he could feel the tears in his eyes again. "Together we'd all be dead."

Aeryn's hands dropped away, and she took a stumbling step back, shaking her head, looking for her gun. "No," she said. "No, I won't let you."

"You take care of our son," John demanded, backing up towards the prowler. Aeryn stood, frozen with denial. "You starburst the moment we're out of here, and you don't come looking for me. I'll find you if I can…but don't…don't try anything stupid, Aeryn, D'Argo needs you."

"He needs you," she snapped, starting towards him. "You can't—"

Behind him, Sikozu moved into the front with Scorpius, standing flush against him with a teasing grin, completely unaffected by the heartbreak a few feet away. Scorpius didn't smile, but the look in his eyes was the same as the look in hers.

John shook his head, stopping only when his back hit the prowler. "I love you," he said. "And I can't let you die for me." He turned and got into the prowler, dropping into the back. Aeryn started screaming then, yelling his name, shouting threats at Scorpius, and only when the cockpit clicked closed did the glass filter them out.


- - - - -


Aeryn stood transfixed as the prowler sped away, her pulse rifle lying useless at her feet. She should have known this would happen, she should have predicted John would do something like this. No one knew better than her how Scorpius affected him, and with Harvey back, she should have known better than to let him anywhere near him. She should have come here alone, or with Chiana, and they should have killed them and starburst away.

She knelt down, picking up the pulse rifle, and she noticed as she did, that her hands were shaking. "Pilot," she whispered. Her voice was shaking, too, but she knew, whatever measures she might have taken to prevent this it was in motion now—and John was right, they had to leave, or they would remain as leverage to be used against him. "Is the prowler clear?"

"Yes, Officer Sun…is…is something the matter?"

Aeryn blinked back tears as she got to her feet. "Starburst immediately, Pilot," she said, before shutting down the comms and starting towards tier three.

She placed her hand against the wall as she walked, keeping herself steady. She didn't know why she felt so suddenly weak. So suddenly cold. She could hear her own voice in the back of her mind, whispering, I will not accept this as a trade off for losing you…

Chiana, with D'Argo in her arms, and Stark, Noranti, and Rygel behind her came out in the hall to meet her. Chiana froze when she saw her, and carefully handed off D'Argo to Noranti. She took a cautious step forward, watching Aeryn warily. "We went to starburst," she said.

Aeryn nodded dully. The weapon in her hand slipped to the ground, but she didn't flinch when the metal crashed against the floor.

Chiana swallowed. "Where's Crichton?" she asked, and when she got no answer tears began to build in her eyes because she already knew. "Where is he?" Chiana was almost shouting now, but Aeryn remained unmoved, she stood there, her eyes fixed on D'Argo, like a statue.

"He's gone," she whispered finally, her eyes moving from D'Argo to Chiana and sparking somewhat back to life. "He had to be the frelling hero again."

Chiana shook her head. "No, no—he couldn't…why…why didn't you just kill Scorpius?"

"He would have fired on your position," Aeryn said tonelessly. "So he went with him."

The three others standing behind them had been silent through this all, stunned by the realization of what had happened, and when Stark reached out to place a hand on Chiana's shoulder she pulled away. She shook her head. "Well…ah…we'll just have to get him back," she said determinedly. "We always do."

"He said not to come for him," Aeryn said uncertainly. "He wants us to get D'Argo somewhere safe." If this had been a few monens earlier, if it was just her and John, she would already have been gone. She would have taken on the command carrier single-handedly and dragged John back with her, but that wasn't practical now. Not with another life in her hands.

She wondered if this was how her mother had felt, when they had asked her to choose, asked her to pick, her lover's life or her child's. She looked at her child, her son, and she knew she had to protect him, but she wasn't Xhalax, and she didn't think she could trade John's life for his. She couldn't trade his for John's either—she needed them both.

So, yes, she had to protect her child, but she couldn't leave John with Scorpius, either. Not for anything. She just needed a plan, and she needed somewhere safe to place D'Argo. "We need to get him away from all of this. Somewhere safe," she said again, as though such a place might actually exist.

Chiana shook her head. "Moya's always been the safest place for us, and we said we were going to do this together. Crichton may have decided he doesn't need us, but that doesn't mean we don't need him." Chiana moved up to Aeryn. "We get him back," she said firmly. "Right?" Aeryn met her eyes. "We get him back, Aeryn, no matter what."

Aeryn nodded, and then glanced at the others. Noranti smiled at her sadly, and even Rygel didn't protest. Stark watched her quietly, his mask still off, the scarred pink flesh moving slightly as the energy caught underneath fought to get out. They were a strange group of people, she knew, looking back to Chiana's determined gaze. But they were also the best friends she could have hoped for, and she realized that she had forgotten, as John had forgotten, that they were supposed to stick together.

They were so much stronger that way. She tilted her head back and took D'Argo from Noranti, before starting for command. "We need a plan," she said, her voice remaining steady.

They followed her without a word.


- - - - -


The prowler landed inside the command carrier docking bay with a dull thud, and John winced. His memories of command carriers were always less than fond, and it had always been the last place he wanted to find himself again. He heard Scorpius's voice whisper, "Welcome home, John," but he knew it was Harvey speaking, because Scorpius was looking at him, from the front seat, and his mouth wasn't moving.

He was going to have to live with two of them. Sikozu smiled at him before she jumped down to the metal floor and he winced again. And Sikozu. Two Scorpius's and one Sikozu, on a command carrier. With his luck, Grayza was probably lurking around somewhere, too.

Scorpius and Sikozu watched him impatiently. "Crichton, are you coming?" Sikozu asked haughtily and he reluctantly pulled himself up, and fell down next to them.

He noticed the way the sentries lining the back wall tensed when they saw him, and though their weapons weren't quite aimed at him, they were only a hair away. "Nice welcoming party," John said. "You arrange all this for little 'ole me?"

Scorpius gave one of his not-laughs and aimed a smile at the floor. "Not quite, John, I'm afraid the precautions were not my idea but the crew's. They fear you."

John glanced at them and saw Scorpius was right. The last time he had been on Scorpius's command carrier they had watched him with disdain, certainly, suspicion and curiosity, but this was more than that. This was terror—directed at him. He supposed he couldn't really blame them. He had almost killed the universe.

"You should not have to worry about them harassing you, Crichton," Sikozu said sweetly. "I'm sure they are all too frightened to get too close. They do not know you as I do."

"Did you ever think maybe you don't know me as well as you think?" John asked, glancing at her sideways.

Sikozu raised her chin and continued to watch him, but she didn't respond.

When neither Scorpius nor Sikozu immediately moved, John raised his eyebrows. "Well? You gonna give me the grand tour, or what?"

Scorpius nodded and motioned Sikozu ahead of him. "Follow me, John."

"You're the boss man," he said, before catching pace beside him and humming 'Follow the Leader' under his breath. He figured if he was going to be stuck here for awhile, the least he could do was be annoying until he found a way out.

The room Scorpius led them to was large and circular, with a round table in the center that took up most of the floor space. He assumed it was some kind of conference room, or planning area, and he ran his hand along the edge of the table, his fingers absentmindedly running over a series of keys, as he looked around. "Nice set up you got here, Scorpius. All you need is a big chair at the back wall and a white cat."

Scorpius ignored his words, but followed his progress closely. "This is the map room. This is all we have charted of the Uncharted Territories," Scorpius said, hitting a button and bringing a translucent star map to hover above the surface of the table.

John glanced at it and whistled, impressed despite himself. "You better be careful, Scorp, you chart too much more of it and you're gonna have to think up a new name."

Scorpius glanced at him, almost looking amused. "Your wit never ceases to amaze me, John."

John grinned at him widely, falsely, as though he actually gave a damn whether or not Scorpius had reason to be amazed. "Flattery will get you nowhere. Why don't we get to the point?"

"I'm planning a series of attacks on the Scarran Empire," Scorpius said simply, and John was less than surprised. "I want you to give me locations of stable wormholes, so I can arrange surprise attacks, do reconnaissance with a fail proof escape route—"

"Ect, ect, ad nauseam," John said, cutting him off. "What do you really want?" Scorpius didn't answer and John wandered back over to him, until they were less than a foot apart. "I saw you…" John said softly. "When that black hole was doubling and doubling and taking everything with it and you…you were getting off on it, weren't you? You didn't even care that we'd be the first to go. You just wanted them all dead."

Scorpius glanced at him, contemplatively, but did not speak.

John shook his head and turned away from him. "I'm not going to be some instrument for you to use to destroy the universe, Scorpius. I've done enough damage to it already."

Scorpius acted as though he had not heard him. "Enter the coordinates of all the stable wormholes you can remember, Crichton. If you have trouble, Sikozu will assist you." He turned to her. "Sikozu, take him to his new quarters when he is finished. See that he is guarded well."

Sikozu nodded and Scorpius, with a glance back at John, left the room. John, for his part, leaned forward on the table, his eyes caught up in the swirling mass of stars and planets hovering in front of him. So much life, he thought, and he wondered how much of it would be destroyed if Scorpius had his way.

"You have no intention of helping us," Sikozu sneered, "do you? You've never cared for anything but your own pathetic problems."

John didn't look at her, and didn't answer the question. "Tell me, Ms. Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu," he said, turning towards her now, and noticing with some satisfaction the way her eyes widened at the use of her full name. He just bet she hadn't thought he would remember it. "Just how did you keep Scorpius from killing you?"

"You've done worse to each other than I ever have," Sikozu said self-importantly. "And he always forgives you." When John didn't look convinced, Sikozu turned her eyes back to the map and continued. "Our goals, which were at one point diverging, have merged again. Scorpius will not waste an ally for the sake of revenge."

"As long as said ally isn't Scarran, you mean," John said.

Sikozu tilted her head in acknowledgement. "He told me that he would have done no less in my position, and I wonder, Crichton, would you?"

He didn't look at her. "I…tried to save the Eidelons, and now they're all almost dead. I tried my best to create peace, and Scorpius wants to make war again. I'm done, Sikozu. You want to save your people, then good luck, I hope you do, but you're on your own. I'll just give you one last piece of advice--don't trust him."

"We had an agreement, if he freed my people, I would serve him for the rest of my life." Sikozu watched him carefully. "I intend to keep it."

"And you're okay with that? You don't want to maybe switch sides, change your mind, because from what I remember, you've done that before and had no qualms about going back on promises," John snapped.

"I have never promised you anything, Crichton," Sikozu said coldly, and he had to admit, that was true enough.

"Yeah, I guess you didn't," he said. "That's what I get, I suppose. For not realizing that I should have tried to get your friendship in writing."

Sikozu's mouth tightened, and as she entered something into the keys, John noticed she was using slightly more pressure than was strictly necessary. "You asked why Scorpius did not kill me, but you never asked how I remained alive at all."

John scanned the planets on the map, looking for something familiar and seeing nothing. "What makes you think I would care?" he asked.

Sikozu cast him a quick furtive glance, before looking away again. "You destroyed that entire planet," she said, "and almost me with it."

"My heart bleeds," Crichton said, stepping back from the table to examine the wall instead.

"Grunschlk, of all creatures, aided my escape," Sikozu continued, either oblivious to John's disinterest or simply ignoring it. "Together we were able to find an old transport and escape the planet before it broke apart. Grayza intercepted us, and pulled us aboard her ship. She did not know, at the time, that I had been…providing information to the Scarrans, she knew only I had fled with Scorpius and believed I might be useful."

"How lucky for you," John said vaguely.

"Grunschlk," Sikozu said, "was not so lucky. Grayza had him executed on sight, and would have me as well, later, had Scorpius not intervened."

"Is there a point to this little fairy tale?" John asked impatiently.

Sikozu tensed slightly, but ignored him. "The other with us, well…there was no hope for him, but Grayza, in a moment of rare optimism, put him in stasis to use as a possible bargaining chip."

John frowned slightly, glancing at her for the first time since she had started her speech. "What other—who else escaped?"

Sikozu took a deep breath and wouldn't meet his eyes. She moved over to another console and started speaking in a deliberately casual tone, as though she were trying to pull his mind to a different subject. "What you said, earlier, about my killing D'Argo, that isn't true."

John felt the anger build back up again, along with something else he wasn't willing to face, and he glared over at her. "You sold us out, Sputnik, they found us 'cause of you, ergo, he's dead because of you."

Sikozu paused and glanced up at him. "Perhaps some of the blame of what happened might rest with me," she said, "but he is not dead."

John felt the whole room tilt, he grabbed onto the console next to him, his fingers spreading out over the keys—heedless of which ones he pushed. "You're lying," he said, and the words sounded harsh, as though his throat had dried up and he'd forgotten how to speak.

Sikozu stepped forward, watching him with something close to compassion. "He is in stasis aboard this command carrier," she said. "Do not allow yourself hope, Crichton, he is, as Grunschlk said, effectively dead. The wound is fatal. The blood would not run clear."

He closed his eyes, and he could hear his heart pounding so loudly in his chest he was sure Sikozu must hear it too. "Why is he in stasis then?" he asked, quietly, his voice breaking over the words. His eyes snapped up to glare at her, and when he took a step forward she took one back. "What is he, some kind of goddamn trophy?"

Sikozu shook her head, holding out her hands to appease him. "It isn't like that."

"Then tell me, red, what it is it like?" John's voice had shifted again, become falsely seductive, and Sikozu had watched him long enough to know giving the wrong answer would be a very bad idea.

"There might be a way," she said haltingly, "there might be one thing that could save him."

John tilted his head to the side, watching her for lies. "What one thing?" he asked slowly.

Sikozu shook her head. "You'd have to ask Scorpius about that."

John's eyes were burning brightly, dangerous, as Sikozu could see, and she understood now, though it had taken monens and a war, just how very dangerous he was. "I want to see D'Argo," he said firmly. "Now. I want to see him."

Sikozu shook her head. "There is nothing you can—"

"Don't waste your time, John," Harvey whispered in his ear, but John pretended as though he wasn't there, and for Sikozu, he wasn't. John stepped up to her, lowering his head to meet her eyes. "Now," he said slowly, and Sikozu didn't dare say no.


- - - - -


John walked into the room, and the cold mist that covered the floor swirled around his boots. There was a cryopod in the center of the room, one similar to the one that had held Jool, and he approached it slowly, his heart pounding in his ears. He could see the frost covering the glass when he stepped up beside it, and he could hear Sikozu shifting impatiently behind him. He ignored her, he couldn't move any faster than he was.

He placed his hand against the glass, spread the bits of ice off to the side, and his breath caught when he saw D'Argo asleep inside. Blood stained his shirt and his braids, the corners of his mouth, but he looked strangely peaceful beneath it all—John found that to be a small conciliation. His hand was shaking when he removed it from the glass and he took a staggering step back.

Harvey appeared on the other side, in medical scrubs, and he stared at John over D’Argo with manic eyes. “Pull the plug, John! He suffers, have some mercy!” John blinked, conscious of Harvey but trying so hard not to be, as the neural clone yelled, “Pull the plug!” one more time before he disappeared.

Sikozu moved up beside him. "He took out an entire unit of Scarran and Charrid troops before we found him," she said softly. "He was still conscious, but barely. Grunschlk and I carried him with us. By the time we reached Grayza's command carrier I was sure he was dead, but he is exceptionally resilient."

John said nothing in response. Nothing she said had surprised him. He already knew what D'Argo was capable of, but he was worried that it didn't include surviving this.

"Luxans always have been an amazing species." This voice was soft like Sikozu's, but it did not hold the same semblance of regret, and John winced when he heard it. "Built for war."

John's eyes remained fixed on D'Argo's face. "Can you save him?" he demanded without turning.

"It's possible," Scorpius admitted, "but unlikely."

"You've underestimated us before," John said, his tone lacking the bravado he usually would have taken the effort to put there.

"You are correct, John," Scorpius allowed, "but not even you will live forever."

"I don't want to live forever, Scorpy. Getting to see my kid's tenth birthday, that would be nice. His first date. Graduation. A wedding in black leather." John spun around. "That would be nice." Scorpius watched him, his gaze calculating, and John stepped forward so they were face to face. "And D'Argo, see, he had dreams too. So you tell me, how do we fix this?"

Scorpius paused for a moment, and cast a mildly censuring glance at Sikozu.

She was quick to defend herself. "I had to tell him about D'Argo, Scorpius, he wasn't planning on cooperating. And Moya will be extremely difficult, likely impossible, to track down without Crichton on board and your ability to locate him. I thought we needed to give him new incentive."

"And here I thought you told me out of the goodness of your heart," John said slowly, his eyes remaining on Scorpius. He paused for a moment, making sure he had Scorpius's attention, before speaking again. "You save him, Scorpius, and I'll help you."

"I've heard that from you before, Crichton," Scorpius said slyly. "I thought when I spared your family you were going to help me."

John flashed him a grin. "That deal stands. He's family. You help him or you get nothing from me."

Scorpius looked past John towards D'Argo. "His injuries are severe. Medical attention alone will not save him. However, I know a Luxan Orican who is indebted to me," Scorpius said reluctantly, "and who may be able to facilitate his healing with their Ritual of—"

"Renewal," John said, finishing the sentence. "Yeah. I've heard of it. My last experience didn't go so well."

Scorpius glanced back at John, and he looked impressed. "You are well traveled, Crichton."

John was unmoved by Scorpius's admiration. "I've got the postcards to prove it."

Scorpius looked back to D'Argo. "The Orican lives on a small insignificant planet that is out of our way, I have not as of yet had the opportunity nor the inclination to hand Ka D'Argo over to her care."

John stepped directly in front of him. "You've got the incentive to now," he whispered, his voice deadly. "Because if you don't…I'm not going to help you."

"I will do what I can for your friend, John," Scorpius said, measuring his words, "but you must do something for me first."

John watched him warily, and he had the worst feeling that whatever Scorpius asked of him, for D'Argo, he would do it.


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