The Jigsaw Man
Everything up to 'Different Destinations'
Please ask first.
In the midst of yet another crisis, Aeryn's reflects on the cost
of John's journey. Angst.
I'm new to the list, and this is my way of introducing myself.
English isn't my first language, so forgive obvious mistakes,
Not mine. Henson's and Co.
the frell happened?"
of light disturb the dust on the unforgiving, beaten floor of
their hideout. The sun sets, night crawling in after thirty-six
arns of uninterrupted daylight.
been no time for explanations until now. Nothing but frantic planning
going to waste, running around, holding onto their weapons for
dear life, dodging fire and keeping to the walls. Business as
usual for the armed phalange of Moya's crew.
she waits for an answer, Aeryn activates the comm badge pinned
to her vest. Still nothing. Residual magnetic interference from
the solar flares. Hopefully, as the planet rotates on its tilted
axis, the disturbance will clear. They can call Chiana, arrange
for a rendez-vous point.
a few more arns.
blinks in the dimming tendrils of sunlight.
felt like ripping Crichton to shreds when they woke up to find
him gone. Down on the planet, Pilot said. Took his module.
were prompt to judge. John had disappointed them too often over
the last few weekens. They weren't used to making allowances for
him. They didn't feel like starting now.
half-heartedly toyed with the idea of abandoning him down there.
True to form, Rygel was the most vocal, but they knew what the
outcome of the discussion would be. They would go after him. The
reasons were numerous, most of them too nebulous or personal to
and Aeryn climbed into the prowler and took off, following John's
last known vector down to the surface.
flares. No way to reach him.
could have guessed that their suspicions were unfounded. If John
were chasing wormhole data, he would have been in the air, not
on the ground. 'Slingshoting' as he calls it. Opening doors he
has no clue how to close again. Shades of the scientist, now a
twisted shadow of his old curious self, which she had been relieved
to glimpse after Scorpius, when he talked to her about wormholes.
wonderment has faded, leaving only thirst in its wake. Obsession.
Empty revenge. Hate without the dislike. Dislike without the hate.
There's anger. Anger and very little wonder. She hasn't forgotten
the Delvian ship - Crichton asking her if anything surprised her
appears to surprise him now.
takes a moment to investigate their refuge. They stumbled across
the abandoned shed on the outskirts of town. The walls are thin,
no protection against high-velocity projectiles. Their pursuers
don't carry pulse riffles. The ground is unsuitable for the culture
of tannet, and the people are poor. No chakan oil for the cartridges.
Their weapons are crude, but nevertheless deadly. There were small
craters and puffs of smoke at her feet while they were running
through town earlier. Dodging bullets, Crichton had called it.
Little pellets of some metal propelled through the air by a controlled
paces back and forth in front of the unique window, on watch.
Not still. Shivering in the silence, head lowered. No crackling
all their complains that the Human talks too much, each of them
feels the vacuum of unassuming, self-deprecating wisdom when John
gives up the incessant chatter.
thinks of the cruel words exchanged the day before. Another fight.
He came to her when she was exhausted and annoyed. He felt that
she needed to talk about Zhann and pushed a little too hard. She
shouldered him out of the way and he hit the door with a grunt.
let her get away with it that time.
know you don't give a shit, Aeryn, but where I come from you don't
resort to violence with friends and family just because you can.
It's an irremediable break of trust. How many times do I have
to take this shit from you?//
had almost felt shame, but John wasn't done with her.
she was the one who had pushed a little too hard.
can fracture the crew? Bullshit, Aeryn. Distrust can fracture
the crew. You love me, I'll believe that, but you don't trust
me. You don't trust me at your back. And that's fine. I'll get
used to it. Hell, I have already. But don't lie to me, and don't
tell me it's about relationships.
have a breaking point, Aeryn, and I'm sorry that it isn't set
high enough for your standards. You'll never know how sorry. I'm
just this puny little Human who likes to dress up and play captain.
I thought I was finally getting on top of the game, and now I've
realized that all this time, it was just blind luck. I still don't
have a clue. I may be stupid, Aeryn, but eventually I do learn.//
was the last she heard of John until now.
wants to cross the space between them, go to him. Grab him by
the shoulders and shake. D'Argo's back is taut. The Luxan is getting
ready to launch into a tirade, and she might not manage to stifle
her anger long enough to stop him from going for Crichton's throat.
the frell happened?" she asks again, her stance rigid.
words aren't whispered, but so very soft nonetheless. They grate
on her frayed nerves.
be sorry," she snarls. "It achieves nothing. Just tell
us what the frell is going on. How did you manage to annoy that
many people this time?"
flinches, one arm wrapped around his drawn knees, the other curled
around his mid-section. She doesn't consider taking the words
back - doesn't bother softening the blow.
grips his Qualta blade. His eyes never stray from the window and
the street outside. He hisses. "This better have nothing
to do with wormholes, Crichton."
is not blind and sees that it hurts. The enduring silence, punctuated
by too harsh breaths, leaves her unbalanced. Mesmerized, she watches
John's thumb caress that soft bottom lip. His eyelids flutter.
The silence is wrong on so many levels, but it's nothing new.
Crichton uses stillness to cover up his anger, but the rage is
there. She needn't even look at him. She listens to the roughness
of his tone when he talks to Rygel. The sharp humor, the banter
are giving way to pettiness in spades, until all that remains
is childish cruelty.
doesn't want to see this man's spirit destroyed. She doesn't think
she could bear it. She would survive it - there is nothing she
wouldn't survive. But she couldn't bear it.
are you listening to me?"
snaps. "Then frelling answer me!"
Will *you* listen to me?"
playing, Crichton," D'Argo growls, having reached the boundaries
of his limited patience. "We're here saving your eema, again.
The least you can do is explain why those men are trying to kill
us. Is there anyone in this galaxy who isn't after your head?"
barb is harsher than D'Argo intended, Aeryn can tell. The warrior
never wounds on purpose. He has no gift for cruelty, no matter
how much he wished otherwise.
face goes blank for a microt, then the lips tighten. He doesn't
brother, sometimes even father to D'Argo.
all of them he knows how to handle the Luxan best. Even more so
now that Zhann is gone.
kills that train of thought there and then.
shifts against the wooden panel, raising a small cloud of thin
dust. Side-stepping the dying sun rays, Aeryn watches the play
of copper hues on the ground.
used to be streaks of rich gold in John's hair. It's darker now,
like the rest of him, and not because he has done anything to
alter the shade. He rarely lets the light touch him. At rest,
he keeps to the shadowed corners, a wall at his back, visceral
protection against the unseen enemy. When disaster strikes, when
a crisis must be averted, he drifts back in the center, standing
tall and unfazed, and Aeryn wonders at his unconcern, his eagerness.
Is he learning that foes of flesh and blood should not be feared
- their threat paling by comparison to the nemesis within?
must confront your fears with strength.//
gaze locks in on her. His head tilts - right, left - his eyes
never shy from her own. Beautiful expressiveness of his face,
sweet fullness of his mouth, stark, luminous eyes - and yes, there
is strength there.
guys are Caterien traders."
D'Argo groans at that. "Hezmana, Crichton, what did you do?"
traders are as ruthless as they come. They could teach negotiating
skills to Rygel and overcome Scorpius on the psychopathic scale.
How Crichton managed to annoy so many of them in such a short
time is one of the universe's great mysteries. He couldn't have
been on the planet alone for more than four arns.
is well aware that John doesn't mind a little improvisation here
and there. 'Flying by the seat of his pants' he said once, and
she stared at him until he came up with an explanation, because
the microbes couldn't possibly have gotten that one right. He's
as likely to pause and think than rush headlong into danger -
a strange hybrid of scientist and mercenary, which the Uncharted
Territories and a significant fraction of its inhabitants, including
Moya's crew, share a responsibility in birthing. Crichton has
agendas. He does not need anyone to give him directions. There
is always something going on in his head, an idea brewing behind
those violently blue irises.
didn't come down on this barren planet just for the view.
stare shifts away from her to an empty corner of the room. He
blinks sleepily, absorbed by some internal dialogue. Aeryn can
only be grateful that he's not talking out loud.
doesn't care to be reminded that the thing which killed her is
still in there, somewhere.
lapse is short. Crichton snaps to attention when he feels her
eyes on him. Acts as if nothing out of the ordinary happened,
which is not so much of a stretch. John's forays into the psychotic
landscape of his own mind have almost become part of their daily
doesn't stop the Human from going to great lengths to try and
hide his continued interaction with the clone.
hard. He's trying too hard.
hurts to look at him.
tastes bitter in her throat. Aeryn grapples with it. She doesn't
have enough experience with strong emotions to school her features
into an unfeeling mask.
sideways smile betrays the strain that his natural cool-headedness
would otherwise skillfully hide.
was on watch in Command, running a standard scan of the planet's
surface. I know you guys said you didn't want to come down here,
that you were just interested in getting supplies from the orbiting
mining colony, but the analysis revealed traces of kronite. So
I decided to nip down and try to get some."
takes his attention off the window for the briefest moment, his
thick eyebrows furrowed. "What in Hezmana would you need
kronite for? There's plenty in the cargo bay."
is shaking her head before John can respond. "No, in fact
there's almost none left."
does it matter?" D'Argo asks. "We don't need to make
another ignition device, do we?"
not the first purpose of kronite," says the ex-Peacekeeper,
still watching John. "The shavings are a byproduct of Moya's
functions. They're recycled by the DRDs. They use it as fuel,
and to repair themselves..." D'Argo still looks confused.
She shakes her head. "Why wouldn't Pilot tell us...?"
doesn't say that out loud.
answer is mild.
said that it wasn't a big deal. Moya's taken quite a beating between
the parasites and the... the collision with Neeyala's ship. Her
energies are focused on healing. Some of her functions and regulating
systems run at a lower level, which means she produces less kronite..."
means the DRDs are operating under optimum capacity, and do not
perform their maintenance duties as well as could be expected,"
shrugs. "Pilot told me the problem would be dealt with in
a weeken, two at the most, that there was no immediate need to
go out of our way and find kronite. But when I saw the planet's
readings... I had to come here."
wears the guilt like his Peacekeeper cloak.
wanted to help Moya heal faster."
reply is forthcoming. Aeryn did not expect any.
do the Cateriens factor into this?" D'Argo asks roughly,
appeased. It's clear John's excursion has nothing to do with wormholes.
even if it had, Aeryn unexpectedly wonders, what right would they
have to begrudge him? They have all allowed their personal quests
to jeopardize the safety of the crew at one time or another. And
they have all been forgiven. So why can't they forgive this man?
was followed from the moment I landed. They trailed me to the
main square, probably testing the waters or something. I don't
get the feeling many strangers stop by these parts. The Cateriens
have been stranded here for monens - some propulsion failure.
They heard me inquire about the kronite."
realized there was a Leviathan in orbit," Aeryn says.
nods. "Yep. They wanted me to take them on board with their
cargo, whatever that is. I told them no. They were rather vocal.
I said they should go frell themselves. They got physical, so
I ran. Tried to make it back to my module. Then I collided right
smack into you." He frowns. "Why did you come after
didn't know what you were up to. We couldn't get the comms to
work because of the solar flares," D'Argo explains.
chuckle is not at all amused.
So that's what this is all about. Why all the freakin'. The flares."
makes it a point to mollify her tone. "It was a reasonable
deceptive snigger. "*Reasonable*..." - barely a murmur
- "yes," Crichton snorts quietly, nodding his head a
little. "Of course."
all he says. Still sitting on the floor almost hugging himself
and not looking at either of them.
too quick to shoulder the blame. Aeryn doesn't like it. From the
first day, that man tormented her with his beautiful, glorious
individualism, his annoying unpredictability, his self-confidence
which ran so much deeper than her own. He taught her about being
*one*. About standing on her own. About thinking for herself.
About learning. About caring. It hasn't made her a better soldier,
quite the opposite in fact, but she has to believe that it's made
her better in more important ways. But what did she teach him
to pilot a transport pod.
a pulse riffle.
a man bare-handed.
harshness, the hardness are evident in his face - no longer rounded
and boyish, but sharp and thin, grave. Cerulean eyes, cold. Lean
muscles rigid, right hand never straying far from his thigh, from
the weapon strapped there.
they are again, being hunted on some remote planet, her standing
in a corner of a derelict house with a gun in her hand, John huddled
on the floor refusing to look at her, D'Argo standing between
them without a clue.
should be easy... It's never easy.//
is new to the concept.
need to get a move on."
microbes struggle with the wording, but she hardly takes notice.
think we should stay," D'Argo says. "We won't be able
to contact Moya for another few arns. At least here we have cover."
got hounds. They'll find us fast if we stay in one spot. And there's
only one door. I don't wanna get trapped in here. We should make
a break for it. I can come back for my module later. We could
try to make it to the transport pod, maybe they haven't found
it yet. In which case, we don't have to wait for reinforcements
arcs an eyebrow at that. Crichton the military expert.
crossed the river twice before coming back towards town. That
should throw them off the scent. They are probably looking for
us in the surrounding hills," D'Argo objects without heat.
smirks. "Trust me on this one, big guy," - he pauses,
as if the words taste sour - "they'll pick up the scent."
the first time, Aeryn notices how pale his skin looks in the cold
light of a rudimentary lamp. His breaths are shallow and irregular.
Sweat pearls on his brow.
doesn't answer her call. Just holds his arm tighter around his
lowers her riffle and crosses the room over to him. He doesn't
acknowledge her proximity. She gets down on one knee by his side.
He smells like pain, leather, sickness and that clean male scent
which is uniquely John.
fingers wrap gently around his wrist, prying his arm away from
his midsection. He doesn't resist.
blood glistens richly through the black T-shirt. She lifts the
dark material to reveal bruised skin and an angry wound.
clenches her teeth. "Frell you, Crichton. Why didn't you
chuckles and this time he doesn't swallow a gasp. "Nope,
no frelling me, babe. 'Member?"
quip stings. He keeps teaching her; she's never known that particular
brand of pain. His thoughts are loud and clear.
you can't beat 'em, mind-frell them.//
prods the wound a bit more roughly than necessary and pushes down
the guilt when the blood drains from John's face.
it hurts like a bitch, Aeryn. You could've just asked."
does her best to look contrite and knows she's failing miserably.
"What did this?"
It's still in my gut."
that she's close enough, she can tell that his eyes are burning
bright with fever. She's seen Crichton ill before - more times
than she cares to remember - and she understands the concept.
He feels so very hot underneath her cold hand. Too hot for her
sensitive Sebacean skin. Her palm settles on his cheek and he
shivers. That gets his attention.
John. How bad is it? Is there something I should be doing?"
sigh. "It's not bad. I think it's just a flesh wound. It'll
get infected if I don't clean it up soon and get the bullet out,
but I'll be fine for the next few arns."
d'Argo. "How much blood have you lost?"
laugh is almost sane. "Just what you see here."
closes his eyes and Aeryn doesn't remove her hand.
the beginning, his fingers would stray to her elbow, sometimes
to the small of her back when they walked down a tier. She would
scowl him, incapable of understanding his constant desire for
physical contact. The need might have been characteristic of his
species. It might have sprung from being lost, without friends,
family - even though she had trouble wrapping her mind around
memory of those small touches is distant now. Distant and foreign.
At times she finds herself looking longingly at the smooth dance
of muscles along a forearm, startled at the most inopportune moment
not to feel them wrapped around her.
are they doing so far apart?
do believe people can change, don't you, John?
you have... I have...//
have changed. He has changed.
last words taunt Aeryn still.
could Zhann see that innocence, while Aeryn struggles with the
simple duty of trusting him?
Crichton is a honorable man - a good man - but two cycles spent
fleeing through the Uncharted Territories have taken their toll.
is still at the forefront. There's softness when he deals with
her and Chiana. Guilt is too willingly shouldered, although he
has yet to let it cripple him. He has barely enough hope left
for himself, but will give it away when he can - when someone
needs the tether more. He cares and never makes it sound trite.
John possesses depths of self-knowledge and reserves of self-assurance
Aeryn only dreams about. He knows his limitations, while her first
impulse is to deny having any. She's still dubious of the idea
that there could be strength in admitting to your weaknesses.
watches. He's always watched a lot, but then he also talked a
lot. Now he mostly watches. There's the established incomprehensible
chatter, but its meaning seems to be lost to him as well.
listens still, but rarely encourages people to share. His innocence
allowed him to shoulder so many burdens; now he crumbles under
his own. His fear, which he never bothered to hide, comes through
as anger and cockiness.
transcend the despair, he has turned the cycle of powerlessness
can't remember the last time he celebrated "one of the good
days", the last time she found him on the terrace looking
at the stars for no reason at all, the last time she heard him
talk to his father in that little electromagnetic recording device
laughter is no longer soft, whole and warm, but cracked, bent
and frozen. He's quick to anger, his patience no longer boundless.
Eyes cold - colder than the lake had been. Shoulders taut. An
aplomb which would have put Larraq's to shame.
is a grave misfortune that uniform did not fit me.//
the dubious benefit of hindsight, Aeryn finds herself thinking
back and wonders when it all began. Was this the genesis? Was
John Crichton irremediably altered when he put on that uniform?
Seeing him clad in the black and crimson leather of a Peacekeeper
officer had sparked an irrational anger. She didn't understand
why at the time. She does now.
uniform stands for all the things John despises and struggles
he wears the colors still.
day, John killed. Twice. First Hassam, even if it wasn't his own
doing. Then Larraq. His quick-thinking saved them all, and Aeryn
never bothered to consider the cost. She has very little use for
daydreams and doesn't understand whimsical.
all those on board - save for Pilot - Crichton was the only one
who'd never taken a life. It means nothing to her, but must have
been significant to him. She's never really stopped to consider
the implications. She's never stopped period. Stopping isn't part
of her training. She doesn't want to stop. She fears the silence
and the stillness, for she might discover that when there is no
movement, there is no thought. Aeryn Sun ceases to exist. Sometimes,
she even dreads going to sleep.
could have started before the virus. She's vaguely disgusted at
her futile need to pin it down, but it doesn't stall the conjectures.
A little voice whispers about rejection of responsibility and
guilt, but she refuses to listen. She doesn't trust that voice.
the change began on the false Earth. Not because it was then that
the Ancients deposited the wormhole knowledge in John's head //frelling
poisoned gift// but because another seed was planted - a first
tear in the fabric of the ultimate naiveté, which was at once
John's greatest weapon and his staunchest foe. He learned that,
sometimes, one should doubt their own mind. Aeryn watched trust
and certitude burn out in his eyes. Until that moment, he didn't
believe in the existence of cruelty, not really. Possessed some
intellectual understanding of what it was, yes, but didn't believe
that anyone would do this to him, for no reason at all - or for
all the reasons in the universe.
twinge in her side - a memory.
knife in her belly set the charade rolling. Their existence has
been one long deception ever since - as if John accepted a long
time ago that, to survive he had to keep on lying, even to himself.
Pretend to be what he was not. A Sebecean. A Peacekeeper captain.
inflicted upon others scars deeper that violence bestowed upon
the rest of the crew pushed, too.
inadequate... always gets us into dren...//
Crichton is not one to accept failure meekly, and he strove to
you're not gonna die... There's something we can do.//
he didn't let her die. Has kept her alive, again and again, through
the sheer force of his will, when nothing else could. But at what
other times, she glimpses the depth of the shadows at his core,
and wonders at the darkness which resided there, ready to pounce
long before John encountered the wormhole. Maybe, just //maybe//,
her world has simply opened a door.
enough, the poetic irony is not lost on her.
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