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<< Continued from page 1

Moving swiftly to the other side of the van he saw the other security guard talking to the driver and his companion. Crichton realized a surprise attack was out of the question in this case, so waited a microt while the guard finished talking and moved towards the back of the vehicle. At his footsteps, John rounded the corner pulse pistol raised at the man's face.

"Freeze!" he whispered firmly.

The man's eyes widened, then his lips curled into an arrogant smirk as he reached for his own rifle. Crichton had no other choice.

He fired.

The man before him crumpled as the pulse blast hit him square in his chest.

Shock flitted through John's mind as he immediately sped towards the open window. He'd killed a man. A human. His own kind. What had happened to him? When had he become a killer? But his mind immediately solved it's own question as he pictured Aeryn sitting captive mere inches away from him. The image drove all doubt from his mind. He reached the door just as the driver leaned out in response to the shot. Crichton shoved the muzzle of his primed pistol into the man's face.

"Alright, don't move!" he cried as the two men regarded him in fear. "Pass me your weapons." Crichton demanded. He received the two rifles immediately and flung them into the nearby shrubbery.

"Alright," he hissed through clenched teeth "Now don't move or I swear I'll fill you so full of holes they'll be able to market you as colanders!"

With that he ran swiftly to the back of the van. Stepping over the unconscious guard, he silently prayed he'd find Aeryn inside, alive and able to fight. After a moment's hesitation he raised the pulse pistol and fired at the heavy lock. It shattered and the doors swung open. As his eyes adjusted to the gloomy interior Crichton could make out the tense figure of his Sebacean crewmate.

"Aeryn." he whispered breathlessly, happiness brushing over him like a warm breeze. Then a little louder added "Ready to go?"

Aeryn sat frozen in the corner disbelief and gratitude clouding her beautiful blue eyes. He felt her doubt and fear bore into him mixed with a complex impression of gratitude and joy. Then the moment snapped and she shot from the van like a caged animal. Reaching out she took John's outstretched hand and gripped it tightly like a life belt. Both parties reveled in the warmth of the shared contact.

But the blissful reunion was suddenly shattered as Crichton heard the crackle of static followed by the sudden noise of alarms and sirens whining from every building in the complex.

"Damn!" he cried "Radios!"

Before Aeryn could translate the remark, shouts and running footsteps made the situation crystal clear. John extended to her the butt of her own pulse pistol and she grabbed it readily. In a microt she had jumped from the van and was at his side. Without words they both set off at a run, towards the shelter of the forest surrounding the base, as the whine of bullets filled the air around them.

"Those bastards are shooting at us!" cried Crichton venomously as his feet pounded the muddy ground.

"Don't worry John, we'll make it." Aeryn replied.

The rain still beat down almost blinding them both.

John saw the edge of the forest looming closer. Their escape was so near. When..

"Ahh!"

He stopped immediately and span to see Aeryn frozen where she stood. Her face was twisted into a grimace of pain and shock. Her eyes told him everything. He didn't need to see the gun slip from her fingers, her body twist in agony.. the red stain steadily seeping through her shirt. He just watched as her lips opened, closed and finally opened again to form a single pleading word

"John.."

Before she crumbled slowly to the ground.

"NO!" he cried, his voice dripping with anger and fear. His own pulse pistol fell to the ground forgotten and the oncoming soldiers became a blurred backdrop as he ran, on numb legs, towards the mocking movie scene which was dragging him in. He reached his wounded partner and collapsed heavily to his knees in the mud by her side. He gathered her quickly into his arms and cradled her there. Crichton's own body began to shake with chocked sobs as Aeryn contorted in his arms, trembling in agony. Her eyes were wide and unfocused and she mumbled incessantly

"John...John.."

"It's okay baby, I'm here." he whispered as tears streamed down his cheeks hidden by the rain. "You'll be okay. I'm here."

She looked deeply into his eyes and he watched the spark of recognition as she saw him there for the first time. Her pale lips contorted again as she forced a question to form there.

"What..what did they...." He interrupted,

"They-they shot you Aeryn. Those damn bastards shot you!"

He raised his head to see the oncoming soldiers slow to a stop as they watched the scene play out before them. The sirens stopped. They kept their distance. It didn't matter now.

His attention returned to the woman in his arms. She shook more violently now and tears tore down her cheeks, mixing with her beloved rain, as she whimpered softly like a child in unbearable pain.

"What?.. How?" she whispered between laboured gasps.

John laughed blackly.

" A bullet Aeryn. A god damn run-of-the-mill metal bullet. Everything we've survived and all it took .." He broke off, trying desperately to hold together his resolve, for fear of collapsing completely in front of  her. His voice strained with tears as he managed to choke

"Aeryn, I'm so sorry."

Aeryn suddenly convulsed beneath him and a cry screamed from her tortured body .

"What is it?" he cried frantically, his heart bleeding too desperate to understand her pain " Aeryn, tell me, please, what's wrong?!"

"It hurts.," she suddenly sobbed as she writhed below him, desperately attempting to shake off the pain

"Too much...it..hurts more. Not like this. Pulse blast not like this. This hurts. Please.. It hurts. ..hurts..."

Her ragged words stopped but she still mumbled relentlessly as her movements gradually became slow and sluggish. But her eyes still held his, flashing wildly. Crichton didn't know what to do. He was helpless. Always so eager to talk John now found himself lost for something to say. He couldn't comfort her with soothing words. He couldn't take away this alien pain which seemed to be ravaging her Sebacean body. So he simply held her, rocking her back and forth, kissing her soaking hair, as her words burrowed deep in his heart.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, her trembling subsided and she became still. Exhausted and numb with pain and fear her body had simply stopped reacting. All that remained was the shallow movement of her labouring chest. He looked into her face and was surprised at the lucid expression which now replaced the rabid look of before.

He realized it was time. But still he didn't know what to say.

"Aeryn?" he finally whispered.

At the sound of his voice her lips curved slowly into a beautiful serene smile as she brought her heavy lidded eyes up to meet his. Their gaze locked and held. Finally she whispered

"I told you I wouldn't be recaptured...John."

The breath ended. Her body relaxed in his arms. Completely.

John stared down at her lifeless figure, the blood now dripping from her sodden shirt. He licked his lips subconsciously, and tasted her still. Then he threw back his head and howled in despair.

***

"What is it? What's the matter? John?!"

The rain had stopped.

Sunlight lit up the space behind his closed eyes. He tried to force himself back into the inky blackness he had just come from. It was safer there, no worry, no pain.. no loss.

"John!"

That voice.

Was it? Could it be? His eyelids shot back with a fierce desperation and his gaze immediately collided with heaven.

"Crichton? Are you alright?"

He sat bolt upright, almost knocking the woman before him off the bed. His breathing became short and sharp and his heart pounded in his ears like an angry drummer. With anxious fingers, he reached out and tentatively touched her cheek.

"Aeryn?"

The Sebacean smiled back at his gesture.

"Who else?" she said simply.

He smiled too, a broad grin which split his face like a toothy scar. But he continued to trace the contours of her face with the tenderness of a nervous child. She patiently allowed him to continue his explorations as she reiterated her earlier question.

"John what's wrong? You were thrashing about. I thought you'd hurt yourself. What happened?"

John stopped his confirmations and removed his hand, instead laying it over the centre of her chest. His eyes were still glazed in wonder and relief,

"No blood." he whispered almost silently.

"What?"

John looked deeply into the eyes opposite him once again and his heart leapt at the flicker of life still burning brightly in the blue/grey orbs.

"Nothing." he answered finally, "I'm fine."

At Aeryn's skeptical look he continued

"Nightmares, that's all. I had a bad dream. Really. I'm fine."

Her eyes fell to the hand still laid delicately on her breastbone. She reached out and took it in her comforting grip, as she reached out and softly caressed his brow. John leaned into her hand, wallowing in the warmth and life radiating from her touch.

"You're sure?" she asked finally.

John nodded warmly, the paused, smiling.

"Well there is one thing." he reached up, took her face in his hands and softly kissed her lips. At first she froze under his touch, but slowly she relinquished and returned the kiss to it's owner.

As he finally broke away, John's heart glowed at the small smile gracing her lips. He regarded her intently with wonder, relief and happiness spilling from his eyes.

"John what is it?" Aeryn asked lightly.

He smiled.

"Aeryn, I have to tell you something. Right now, before..before I lose the chance."

He ignored the puzzled look this elicited in her and continued

"I realized something. Last night. I realized just how much I..."

A crash.

Both heads turned instantly towards the white door.

Not again!

All it took...

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