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Author: Angel

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Up to, and including Fractures

Summary: A little shippy number with a twist.

Disclaimer: Not mine, none of them mine *sigh*

She cursed herself for the fifth time. Why were things never easy? All they had to do was come down to the planet, collect supplies and leave. Simple. So simple that she had agreed to escort Crichton - under duress. The planet did not welcome other species, only Sebaceans. He had offered to go down alone. She hadn't objected. That was, until she saw the look on the other crewmembers faces. Of course she couldn't let him go alone. They always went in pairs. And, as she was the only other that would fit the criteria of this particular planet she had sighed and agreed. Truth be known she was scared to be alone with him. She had felt the familiar feelings creep back slowly. He had been good, told her they would always be friends. Said that she could rely on him, talk to him, confide in him. She hadn't though. She had kept her distance afraid of what his touch might do to her - again.

So here they were. A simple plan gone wrong. She had commed the others, explained the situation, omitting that one piece of vital information. That one piece that would almost certainly cause the others to doubt her competence - her stability. No, she had told them the basics - that was all they needed to know for now she reasoned. Who was she trying to kid? How could she possibly explain that she had shot Crichton?

She looked at him now, lying on the hotel bed. The pale, silky sheets contrasting the red blood that stained them now. His blood. He looked so innocent in sleep, so John, yet not. But he was, wasn't he? He was John Crichton, human, astronaut, stealer of her heart.  He had reacted exactly the same way, as the other would have, of course he had.  With trust, confidence and love. She had shot him in the leg and he had apologised to her! She recalled the conversation.

"Aeryn, the gun's fine. Stop checking it all the time."

"I am not checking it! I was just making sure we are prepared!" Her voice was clipped and sounded harsher than intended. She had to make sure that he was protected at all times. She couldn't go through the pain of losing him again.

"Yeah, right, whatever." He sounded defeated, knowing he would lose this argument like the many that they had had since landing on the planet. He left the stall and walked on ahead.

She followed him trying to keep up. "Wait!"

He turned. "You are not my bodyguard Aeryn. I can look after myself you know. I mean, I did it when..." His voice trailed as he tried desperately to control his tone. He stood tall "I can take care of myself Aeryn" With that he started to walk again.

When had he become so perceptive? She chewed on her lip, a habit she had picked up fro him -the other -no him - dam it was so confusing, so frustrating! "John!" The use of his forename had the desired effect and he turned. "I...you..." she stamped her foot. Dam him for making her feel this way. "The gun needed to be checked!" The only thing she could think to say that would show him that she was backing down.

His anger suddenly deflated. He knew she was trying. He swore softly under his breath. She had been through enough - hadn't he promised to be her friend? She was trying. "Its fine Aeryn, you've checked it a thousand times - look" And that's when it happened.

When had she become so careless? Safety on at all times unless in battle, wasn't that the first rule of Peacekeeper training? Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. He grabbed the gun to show her how safe and functional it was. She had automatically flinched at his touch and pulled back. Bang. In an instant. One minute he was standing in front of her, the next he was on the ground. She had shot him.

He had looked up at her wavering between shock and consciousness, the colour draining from his face. She couldn't believe it; he had actually smiled through the pain. "Aeryn Sun, I didn't think you would be the one to finally shoot me with one of those things." He panted then grimaced and held his bleeding leg.

She had dropped to one knee. "John, John, oh dren..." her voice trailed off. How could this happen? She was his protector. She was trying to save him from this.

He saw her face and cupped it with his free hand. She didn't flinch this time, too wrapped up in the situation. "I'm sorry Aeryn. I should have trusted you" She looked at him confused. He was apologising to her! Frelling human!

She was brought back to the present by his groan. She moved to the bed. Sat at the edge, scared to get close, yet too scared not to. A million thoughts running through her mind. He had given her time, given her space. Had taught her many things. Taught her to love, feel, and show compassion. What had she taught him? Battle procedures, weapon control and how to kill using his bear hands. No comparison.

Then what had she done? Closed him off, kept him at a distance for reasons beyond his control. Traded his lessons for abuse, confrontations and arguments. Her Peacekeeper training allowed her to put up a barricade. What did he have? Nothing, nothing to fall back on - he had taken everything she had thrown at him. She knew they were the same person. It didn't ease the pain though. He had died in her arms - she couldn't lose him again. She had thought it safer to keep him at arms length. Safer for them both. She let out a heartless laugh at the irony of it all.

He was looking at her now, quizzical and confused. Face pale, eyes piercing her soul. Saying nothing - so unlike him. She knew him well though, he was waiting for her. Waiting patiently as always.

"How are you feeling?" It was a silly question, but she didn't know what else to say.

He laughed softly. Oh how she had missed that sound. "I've been better. And you?"

Even now in his condition, he still worried for her "I've been worse."

He blinked unsure of what he had heard then smiled. That dam smile - it was the cause of all her problems. It could melt ice as well as her resolve. But she felt herself returning the smile in spite of her self.

She looked away first. "I haven't dressed the wound yet. Jool said I needed to bind it tightly then clean it and dress it. We will leave tomorrow when you have more strength." It was back - her Peacekeeper facade. She chewed on her lip again. Why was she so nervous? She had been in a room alone with him before. She could handle this - couldn't she?

He tried to sit and immediately regretted it wincing. She quickly laid a hand on his chest and pushed him back gently. "You spoke to Jool? What did you tell her? What did you tell them?"

She lowered her eyes. Shame flooded her. Dam human. Introducing her to all of these emotions. "I...I...just...I"

She never ceased to amaze him. Aeryn Sun, ice maiden, kick ass Peacekeeper, owner of his soul stuttering! He knew she had lied, or at least bent the truth. Knew that she couldn't tell their friends what she had done. "S'ok, tell me what you said. I'll back you up." Then as an afterthought "It was an accident Aeryn you know that don't you?"

She looked at him then. He still believed in her, still trusted her. He would always be there for her no matter what she did to him. She could push him away from now till eternity and he would never be pushed too far. He would always be within reach; she just had to be the one doing the reaching this time.

"I just told them that you had been shot and that I, we would answer their questions when we got back."

He nodded. "Sounds good. Mind you, if they ever found out the truth, they'd probably give you a pat on the back for it. They came pretty close to shooting me themselves when you were.... away." Humour. His defence against everything. He used it to hide his hurt, to defuse a situation, to make her feel better. After everything, he was still trying to make her feel better.

She reached out and touched his face. He drew back, unsure of what to expect - not from fear, but from past experience she suspected. She pulled her hand away and stood.  "We need to clean the wound. Do you think you can stand?"

"Soon find out" And with that he carefully swung his good leg off the bed first.  He waited until both feet were firmly on the ground then stood. As soon as he was standing, his leg gave out and he sat with a thud. He inhaled sharply as pain coursed through his leg. "Looks like that'll be a no then. Do you think you could help me a little?"

She laughed. Not a response he was expecting. He tilted his head to one side furrowing his eyebrows. "Wanna share the joke? I could do with a laugh right about now."

"Sorry. It's not funny. It's just that, I shoot you, and you apologise to me. I shoot you and you ask if I mind helping you. Are all humans so forgiving?"

He replied without hesitation. "Only with the ones you love..." He trailed off realising what he had said. "Sorry"

She sat beside him putting a hand on his knee. "Don't apologise. Please, don't apologise. It should be me who is apol..." she was silenced with a finger to her lips. Their eyes locked. She could feel her heart pounding and wondered vaguely if he could feel it too. She hadn't been this close to him since, well since the other. He didn't try to kiss her, didn't try to move forward. Just sat, finger to lips, looking at her.

As if sensing her turmoil he dropped his hand and said "Right, how are we gonna do this?"

She shook her head slightly trying to rid her mind of his touch, his scent, and his body. She knew then what was going to happen. Tonight she was going to reach out. She knew he would never push her, never infringe on her. It had to be her doing. She smiled slowly. "We have to remove your pants."

He looked down at his legs then back to her "We...We do?" God, could he do this? Could he keep control? Show her that he was just her friend? She was so close, yet so far away. He began to shake his head no.

"John, the wound is on your thigh. We need to remove your pants so that I can clean the wound. It's that simple." She tried to keep her face straight, tried to sound nonchalant. It wasn't funny, well not really. She watched as he struggled with his conscience.

"Ahh, ummm, well, ahh, maybe I can do this on my own?" It sounded like a plea.

"You can barely stand." Before he could argue anymore she ducked down and began unbuckling his belt. She heard him gasp and draw his stomach away from her touch. "Am I hurting you?"

The answer was soft; almost a whisper but it cut her deep none the less. "Not in the way you think" She looked up at him but his eyes were closed. He hadn't meant to inflict the pain back to her. Had said it without thinking. As he always did. Say first, think later. She loved that about him; his ability to speak freely, discuss his emotions, show how he felt. Never trying to analyse them. So unlike her. She had to dissect everything then say nothing.

What had she done to deserve the unconditional love of this man - not just once but twice? Then be given this chance to correct the error of her ways? She had shown the other so much and he had basked in it, become stronger with it.

She wanted him, this man in front of her. He was John Crichton and so was the other. The same person, unique in every way. She had known that from the beginning. It had just been easier to pretend that they were different. She didn't want to keep him at a distance anymore. She couldn't protect him all the time like this. Today was the perfect example of how short their life could be. An inch higher and he could be dead now - again.

She remained silent as she pulled the leather material slowly down. He sat up aiding her in her quest to get the pants off. Trusting her, even if he couldn't trust himself. He bit down on his lip as the material moved past the wound.

"All done." He opened his eyes to see her standing, looking down at him. Trying to keep her eyes on his. Trying not to take in his body - the one that she had so dearly missed for so long. "Now we need to shower"

He cleared his throat. "We?" he asked weakly. All the while his mind repeating like a mantra: control, control, control...

"Yes, we. You can hardly stand John. And under the circumstances it's the least I can do." He stood then - too quickly. The room blurred for a second and he felt a hand on his arm. He shook it away and promptly fell back on the bed. "What the frell are you trying to do?"

He struggled back to a sitting position and tried again to stand. "You shot me Aeryn. It was an accident. I don't want your sympathy. If you're going to help me, do it because you want to. Not because guilt tells you to."

She was surprised at the anger in his voice. Had she hurt him so badly? She swallowed the lump that was forming in her throat. "John Crichton! Since when have I felt compelled to act on guilt? Anything I do in this room tonight will not be because I feel guilt, sympathy or ..." her arms flayed as she tried to think of the word.

"Grief?" He interrupted. She shook her head but he continued, "Then why?" It sounded hopeful, nervous almost. He hadn't missed the last part of her conversation, didn't mention it, too afraid of what the answer might be.

"Because we are friends. Because we are always there for one another. Because we need each other." With that she took his arm and this time he didn't try to stop her.

"Need each other?" He echoed, that sounded good, that sounded promising, maybe they did have a future. He relaxed slightly. He could do this. He could stay in control. He could be what she needed him to be, friends. Maybe it wouldn't be so difficult after all.

She led him to the bathroom and checked the temperature of the shower. Once satisfied she made him step in and lean on the wall for support "Just stand like that, I will be with you in a microt."

He did as he was told, concentrating on the wall in front of him. Trying desperately to focus on some point while the water rinsed the blood away, acutely aware that he was wearing only boxer shorts. He felt a movement behind him then arms wrapping around his waist and a head resting on his shoulder. She felt the tension in his body. "Hey"

He responded, as he always did to that one word "Hey"

They stood, body to body. The closeness revealing that she too was clad as he was - in boxer shorts only. He could feel everything. He caught his breath, struggling to keep his composure. His hands moved holding on to either side of the cubicle. Eyes closed in concentration, trying to keep in control, trying to resist the overwhelming urge to turn and caress her body. "Aeryn..."

"Shhhh. Have I mentioned the fact that you talk to much?" He smiled, but his body was still rigid. She gently bathed the wound then used the soap to wash the rest of him - slowly, carefully, teasingly, afraid that each movement might cause him to panic, to stop her. He didn't though.

"Aeryn please...I can't.... this isn't very fair" His words were a whisper and she strained to hear them over the shower.

"Since when was life fair?" She felt him flinch at the words. She cursed herself; she hadn't meant it to sound that way. "I mean, don't we deserve some happiness John? Cant we just live for the moomen?"

He moved his head back, closer to hers relishing the friction it caused, but fearing it too. "Moment, live for the moment." It was a subtle correction to a saying that he hadn't taught her.

"I've missed you." She continued the rhythm of her movements, cleansing the wound them circling his stomach with the foamy clothe. She knew this body. She knew what it liked. It would be so easy to seduce him. She smiled at his back - wasn't that exactly what she was doing? Yes this man had taught her some interesting things.

"You wouldn't believe how much I've missed you." He turned slightly trying to see her face. "One thing though, I need to know one thing."

She stopped. "Uhuh?"

"Is this for real? Or is it for tonight?"

She knew what he was asking. "One step at a time. Isn't that what you always say?"

He laughed. "One step at a time. Yeah." He moved her backwards so that she had no other choice but to back out of the shower. She misread the action and moved quickly away from him.

"Hey? Where are you going?" He was smiling at her, dripping wet and looking adorable, nervous and vulnerable.

She smiled broadly. "I thought we would be more comfortable on the bed. That's. If you. Want...I mean..."

"Oh yes, that would be perfect as long as you promise not to hurt me."

"Not unless you want me to" God she was back, she was back and she was with him. He couldn't resist a slight dig.

"You're not trying to take advantage of a wounded, defenceless primitive being are you?"

She smiled again "Not unless you want me to." And with that she pulled him gently to the bed.

Yes, they were friends first, but now? Well, the future was looking decidedly better.

 

 

 

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