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.
from page 1
she realizes that Crichton is trying to stand, D'Argo is already
by the Human's side, offering a hand up, steadying him.
and anger have abetted. D'Argo's quixotic mood is both considerate
and concerned - a relent of unfamiliar guilt, which has been
lingering around the Luxan since the shadow depository debacle.
He was tempted to give Crichton up to Scorpius, then failed
to kill his friend when he begged him for release. The warrior
still grapples with the self-ascribed betrayals, although the
Human never so much as mentions either.
struggles to his feet with a muffled groan, left hand tightly
gripping the Luxan's powerful forearm. He sways a little and
leans against the wall.
you walk?" Aeryn inquires softly.
he answers between clenched teeth, gaze averted. "Piece
can he think about food at a time like this?
soft voice and purple shadows circle red-rimmed eyes. His hands
shake, and she hovers close, prepared to catch him should he
fall. He nods to acknowledge her closeness, shivers when the
tips of her fingers drift along the back of his hand. Does she
dream up the regret etched in the little lines, which crease
the handsome face? Does she imagine the familiar shudder of
want snaking down her spine?
doesn't, and this is precisely why the rational Peacekeeper
cannot afford to become more attached to the Human than she
already is. Her senses cannot be dulled by the most basic instinct.
first, individual second.
creed is ingrained in her very genetic code.
always been one among many. A member of a division, platoon,
a unit, a team. I've never been on my own, John. Never been
can't place the good //desires// of one above the safety of
I find a way home -- if I find a way home -- I'll take you with
Aeryn is alone with her private terrors, in the early arns of
the sleeping cycle, she stands on the terrace and remembers
that she never had a friend like John. That she never had a
friend. She stares without passion at the cold infinity of space
and pokes morbidly at her fears. She's afraid of the shifts
he triggered in her and fights to maintain her balance amid
the chaos. She dreads losing the strength to do what needs to
happened, once, and she drowned.
ex-Peacekeeper measures her own valor in terms of efficiency
first, emotional integrity second - compassion if there is room
left for it. One must stay alive before they can hope to be
of some good to others. The journey is long, treacherous and
painful - she didn't lie to Pilot about that - and watching
John only reminds her of how many more obstacles lay ahead.
Crichton also shares the journey, by virtue of standing at her
side. He asks much of her - gentle expectations devoid of reproach
and guilt. They walk the same path. Even though, lately, they
seem to be trekking in opposite directions.
stars have no advice for her, no ancient, secret wisdom to share,
and she shakes so hard that she must sit down or fall.
is gone. John is weighted down by his guilt and her fear. If
John's spirit gives way, she might just cave in on herself.
He's been their foundation for so long, whether they choose
to acknowledge it or not. She can only hope not to collapse
under the pull of his gravity.
is the center now.
unwanted realization makes her shake harder.
knows what fear is.
isn't being pronounced irreversibly contaminated; fear isn't
alien DNA replicating inside your cells; fear isn't dying alone.
is responsibility. Fear is holding them together.
didn't understand until now how much John did for the crew.
liked to say that Crichton taught them about hope, compassion,
trust. Aeryn doesn't think that she has it in her to be the
one to remind him of hope - it's not her function, not her duty,
her station - but there is no one else left. What will become
of them the day John can find no compassion left in himself?
Will they fracture when he does? Not his mind this time, but
will look after them if he breaks? Who will do the things she
cannot do, save their hearts when all she can protect is their
bodies? Who will care?
never had to hope for anything, dream of anything, because John
was willing to take on the responsibility for them both - dream
for them both, hope for them both. She was free to focus her
energies on her duty - on being their first line of defense.
These days she carries the hope by herself; she must hold it
close, keep it safe. She's afraid to crumble under the weight
of the precious, unfamiliar cargo, now that John is unwilling,
or unable to shoulder his share.
already destroyed, Aeryn. It's just that some of us don't know
she leaves the terrace, her traitorous feet systematically take
the long way back to her quarters past his rooms. She blames
the detour on a muddled mind and too little rest. She is very
quiet. John's sleep is light. He flinches and moans, tangled
in the sheets, but she never goes to him. She stands on the
threshold of the converted cell and watches. Breathes in his
warm, clean, sleepy smell. Wonders. Is he back in that cold
cell on the Gammak base, strapped to the surgeon's table, tortured
in the shadow depository? Is he condemned to err through another
perfidious illusion of his earth?
had to call twice to get her attention. This is unacceptable.
will get them killed.
distraction. His death.
you hear me? We're getting the hell out of this dump. Are you
way he steals a look at her under thick eyelashes - he thinks
that she never will be. But he'll keep waiting.
Officer Sun. Focus.//
and his Qualta blade lead the way. The big Luxan slips through
the door with an effortless economy of movement. Crichton, one
hand clasped to his wound, the other holding his pulse pistol
flat against his leg, follows with an easy grace which belies
his lack of military training. Aeryn brings up the rear, the
heavy pulse riffle propped against her hip.
night is cold. The ex-Peacekeeper and the Luxan are unaffected,
but Aeryn can't ignore John renewed shivering. The fever and
the freezing cold make for a crippling combination. Soon his
movements will grow sluggish. She can already make out his lips,
forming silent words in the dark.
the last thing they need. The clone reasserting himself because
of the fever.
hears them first. Without looking, the Luxan throws one arm
across Crichton's chest and forces him flat against a wall.
He doesn't see John go pale when the impact jars his injury.
Aeryn has only a microt to press herself against him and clamp
her hand over his mouth, muffling the involuntary gasp of pain.
John squeezes his eyes shut.
burning lips against her palm. Strong, hard body - solid and
real and so frelling hot - underneath her own.
the echo of footsteps fades, John opens his eyes and blinks
removes her hand.
wants to ask if he's all right, but can't afford to speak right
now. John nods and she is reminded that, whatever else might
be going on, there's been very little need for words between
them for a long time.
his anger cannot shroud his thoughts from her.
needs her to step back, and so she does.
to their little dance, D'Argo barely spares them a glance before
air is thick with mist. As long as they remain silent, they'll
be invisible. There's nothing they can do to cloak the scent
of blood from the hounds, but they'll hear the beasts coming.
Cateriens traders may be ferocious, but they're no Peacekeepers.
Organized search patterns are probably not their thing.
only concern is John. Although he's doing his best to hide it,
he's struggling to keep up the pace, teeth clenched tight around
the pain. The wound is bleeding freely - precious liquid dripping
between his fingers. They are at least one thousand metras away
from the transport pod. She doesn't think he can make it that
far without losing consciousness. Their progression is slow
by necessity. They must keep to the walls, stopping regularly
to scan the silence and consult D'Argo's compass.
town is small and the dwellings are gathered close together,
rudimentary constructions of wood and some sort of dark stone
- isolation against the day's heat and the night's cold. They
would advance much faster jumping from roof to roof, but John
can't possibly follow.
again, their silent connection is as much a burden as it is
an asset. She is close enough to Crichton to see his eyes darken,
his gaze stray to the ledges above him before shooting back
even think it, John. We're not leaving you behind."
actually uttered the warning out loud, and D'Argo's annoyed
stare crucifies her to the wall at her back. She frowns.
can come back for me..."
makes no sense," she whispers harshly. She feels like hitting
him. Hard. The bastard. Staying behind is the easy solution,
for him. Has he no respect left for her, that he must force
her to confront all the hard choices?
are always choices, Aeryn.//
Doesn't she know it.
anger flows comfortably through wired limbs and she grabs his
wrist, dragging him forward after D'Argo's fading form.
the frell up, Crichton! You'd be dead by the time we came back.
There's nothing we could do later that we can't do now. End
of discussion. Now keep quiet and do as I say for once in your
the last two hundred microts, Aeryn has practically been carrying
Crichton, and his voice is warm and feathery in her ear.
she whispers back, focused on the transport pod fifteen metras
in front of them.
trap... the trick, the ambush. There gotta be one... of... those."
breathing is ragged, his words a bit slurred. He's fading fast
and D'Argo inches closer, ready to carry the Human the rest
of the way.
catch," Aeryn says, wrapping her tongue experimentally
around the word, "is that we have to cross the distance
peers over the slope of dirt they're hiding behind. The mist
has lifted. The temperature is rising already. It seems that
night on this part of the planet lasts less than three arns.
we b... better get going, dontcha... think? Before sun... up."
you make it?"
bites his lower lip. "I don't... know."
he always have to be so frelling honest?
we'll find out soon enough," Aeryn mutters.
Human struggles to his knees, Winona firmly in hand. Aeryn has
seen him care for the pulse pistol many times and trail the
tips of his fingers over the lethal, sleek shape like a concerned
in their right mind would name their weapon?
you smell anything, D'Argo?"
Luxan shakes his head. "We're too close to the woods. All
I smell is vegetation and some wild animals."
have to take our chances," Aeryn says, kneeling next to
John. "I'll stay close to Crichton. Whatever happens, you
plot a straight course for the transport pod, and get the engine
started. We'll be right behind you."
realizes how serious John's condition is when he doesn't argue
with her. She wedges her shoulder under his arm, one knee bent,
ready to take them both off the ground with a single push. Her
free hand holds the riffle straight in front of her.
D'Argo. Now!" she orders urgently.
Luxan leaps over the slope with a speed and agility, which belie
on!" She drags Crichton roughly to his feet and sets after
the running warrior.
harsh commands come up in small puffs of moisture in the residual
cold air. Her shoulder aches with exertion, but the pain and
the fatigue are only another input to be processed along with
their surroundings, D'Argo's position, the distance to the pod,
and John's laborious breathing.
hears them first.
are only five metras from safety when the four Cateriens charge.
D'Argo is already inside the transport. The engine hums and
the ground shakes.
not going to make it.
the traders don't open fire.
they want to take them hostage, use them to negotiate transport
aboard the Leviathan, who knows?
manages to take one out, but the other three keep on coming,
undeterred. Cateriens will not slow down, even for one of their
own. She has to let go of Crichton to handle the recoil of the
riffle, and he falls to his knees at her feet, dazed. He finds
the strength to stagger away from her and raise his pistol.
assailants overcome him before he can pull the trigger. The
three Cateriens go for the weakest prey, like Borlgian beasts
maddened by the scent of blood. Aeryn cannot shoot for fear
of hitting Crichton.
on the ground, on his back, his wound unprotected.
largest of the Cateriens lifts his antique riffle and drives
the butt down in John's stomach. Again. And again.
gasps of pain echo loudly through the clearing.
rage is colder than the peeking dawn and just as crystal-clear.
The woods rustle, heralding more hunters, and there's no frelling
time. She rushes forward with a feral battle-cry, trading the
riffle for the large knife strapped to the inside of her forearm.
a blur, the blade cuts through skin, flesh, muscle, bone. Kill,
disable... it doesn't matter, as long as the Cateriens fall.
grabs John by the collar of his Peacekeeper coat, not stopping
to check if he's conscious //alive//. She literally drags him
to the transport, unmindful of anything but the edge of trees
to their left, beyond the three warm corpses. When her back
hits the pod, Aeryn forces John as upright as she can and throws
door hisses loudly after them.
never missed Zhann more.
knows some rudimentary medical science, but he is no Pa'u.
ex-Peacekeeper relays John's words about infection and removing
the bullet. They perform the surgery as soon as the pod lands.
They have no painkiller to offer. D'Argo volunteers to hold
John down through the procedure, until the Human blessedly passes
out. Chiana, who has sworn not to leave his side until he regains
consciousness, has to excuse herself or be ill right there and
there is nothing left to do but wait, D'Argo goes to retrieve
John's module with Rygel and Chiana, all heavily armed, and
manages to bring back the human craft unscathed. Very few words
are exchanged, but the untold meaning is clear to all. The Farscape
might soon become all that remains of John Crichton aboard Moya.
Jool seems to understand, and drops the obnoxious whining.
twelve arns later, the planet is far behind, and John's fever
still hasn't broken.
no. Let go... Scorpy..."
what John needs.
has been in and out with cold towels, fresh bandages and warm
food, but she mostly leaves Aeryn alone. The older woman resolves
to never again call her a tralk.
the hell out of... my... mind... freak."
mumbles are not always intelligible, but the meaning is clear.
John is trapped with Scorpius inside his own head. Again.
sits quietly by the bed. She'd rather share his nightmares than
be left alone with her own.
hail is hesitant, as unobtrusive as can be.
change, Pilot. He's still unconscious."
unworded question comes like clockwork, every arn. Pilot heard
that John went down to the planet to procure kronite for Moya,
and the tang of guilt flows thickly through the comms.
soon as Crichton is out of danger, Aeryn will go up to Pilot's
chamber and talk to him.
closes her eyes and listens to Moya breathe around them... the
closest thing to a mother's embrace she's ever known.
God... no... please..."
words - reluctant and afraid.
lays her hand on Crichton's twitching brow. Her fingers tingle
- perhaps the shared essence of Zhann, dragging them together
like some magnetic beacon, some homing device.
Moya is home, she can accept it now. Between those living walls
there is kinship, if there is not always friendship. An ease
and a familiarity. Comfort flows from habit and known surroundings.
Sun will die protecting her home, and all those who share it
with her. She will die contented.
pathetic pleas of a mind stretched, prodded, raped one too many
times. It's there for everyone to see - everyone who can be
bothered to look. Memories of being strapped down, violated,
defiled, bound, trapped, chained. Memories of killing her. Memories
of bending and breaking.
tortured has that effect.//
think that John might relate more easily to Rygel than to her.
little slug knows what it's like to see the pain coming, to
be helpless to escape and defend yourself. Aeryn can't fathom
sitting in that frelling chair, being forced to stare into the
darkest corners of her mind, to relive the memories, have them
exposed for every one to see. Betray Velorek again, and again,
and again. Scorpius smiling over her shoulder.
former Peacekeeper knows what it is to stand on the other side
of the chair. Does that bother Crichton? Does he ever wonder
- what would have happened if they had never met, if she had
been stationed on the Gammak base, if he had gone down to save
someone else and been captured? If Scorpius had ordered her
to torture him.
fingers tighten around John's.
way madness lurks.
retrospect, it's a testament to his strength and resilience
that his mind has survived so well while forced to share quarters
with the consciousness of his nemesis. She remembers what it
was like, to have the thoughts of another inside her head -
but Pilot never had her tortured. There might be something to
all this 'admit to your fears' dren after all.
can't imagine how he dealt with the chip for so long. To feel
insanity creeping up on you, reality pulling away, and not be
able to do a frelling thing about it. To stare madness in the
eye. To shudder helplessly, scream a silent plea as the net
enfolds you tight. Yet even then she knew - the chip alone had
not pushed John over the edge. He had already been looking down
the abyss, trading ever more of his sanity for a chance to survive
in her world.
is so proud of his mind. He relies on it for everything. They
this is... is... cruel..."
fingers map out the web of invisible scars on John's forearm
and he settles down.
never asked about the cuts - cuts that even the long-sleeved
coat could not always hide. John had begun to make himself bleed,
before their assault on the shadow depository. Battling the
visions of Scorpius... trying to prove to himself that he could
still feel, that he was still John Crichton in there somewhere,
that he still held power over //something//, even if it was
only his own grief. Unconsciously going against the chip's imperative
of keeping him alive and unharmed. Pain must have become the
sharpest reality of all, the only anchor he had left when his
friends pulled away from him, disturbed by his growing instability.
old failure still leaves an acrid taste in her mouth.
never really understood the repercussions of what Scorpius did
to John, never tried to. Empathy is not her strongest suit.
How could she have believed that with the chip gone, he would
be back to his old self, simple as that?
she is the naive one.
I wrong? You're no longer the Crichton I knew?//
told him as much on the Royal Planet. He came right out and,
in typical John-fashion, shared with her the true depth of his
fear - no, his unadulterated terror. He was ready to let them
turn him into a statue. He allowed them to do this to him because
she didn't have the words to comfort him. He wasn't trying to
cover up his weakness and it made her angry. As angry as the
thought that he was giving up on both himself and her. He had
dragged her off the beaten path and was now abandoning her,
condemning her to journey alone.
her rage, she was unable to dredge up something more meaningful
than a furious //goodbye//.
later, Aeryn can only cringe at the absurdity of her words.
Not the Crichton that she knew? What does that mean? He is as
he is. He is who he is at any given moment. Her perception of
him has nothing to do with it. Fluctuation. Movement. Life is
the opposite of stasis - Zhann taught her that. He is Crichton.
Not what she wants him to be, or remembers him to be. More than
the potential she envisions or the sum of her dreams.
needs him now. They all do. She doesn't want to feel that he
is past repair. She doesn't want to think of him as a weapon
to be tended, but she does anyway. She knows the sharpness of
his mind is their greatest ally, whatever has happened of late.
will let him grieve for the man he has been. They haven't allowed
him to mourn and he hasn't shown signs of wanting to, but he
needs it. She needed it when they found the video-recorder.
The others have had cycles to grieve in their cells, and now
it is John's turn.
must come to terms with the change and embrace the hope that
still smothers under layers of scar tissue.
gets down on her knees by the bed.
her palm against his cheek and lingers above soft blue eyes.
staring into a collapsing star.
feathery shadow of his lips against her own.
going to be fine."
I'm so... sorry." Scared and lost and confused.
shushes him softly and catches a tear, which rolls lazily down
his temple. Kisses the matted silk of his dark hair.
is still hope.