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Title: SHADOW GAMES

Author: Ennix Sun

Email: Ennixsun@hotmail.com (feedback would be much appreciated!)

Rating: PG

Summary: Set just after IP:Pt 2, a few days after John has died, Aeryn has a dream on Talyn, which proves to be more than she expected. *SHIPPER ALERT!* I apologize for the amount of sap in this story but hey a shipper has to release it all somewhere.

Spoiler Warnings: Anything up to IP:Pt2 (if there is any at all)

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters etc., I just take them out for an adventure now and then.

*

SHADOW GAMES

"Where the frell am I?"

Aeryn looked around slowly taking in the scene. A market. One which tickled her memory from long ago. The bustling crowds and innumerable examples of different species on display all seemed familiar somehow. The roar of landing vessels and the smell of smoky engines, hanging thick in the spicy air, all tickled her senses with familiarity. She knew this place; knew she'd been here before, but she didn't know why she was here now.

"You're in a dream." said a sudden voice behind her. Aeryn stopped abruptly. The voice was again something from cherished memory but this time clear and sharp. A voice she missed reverently and who's echo tore her heart in two. She knew who he was.

Aeryn turned slowly - an unearthly calm masking her torment - to face John Crichton.

"What are you doing here?"

Her voice was full of weariness, as though she was being forced to repeat some arduous task against her will. After a fleeting glance at his face she quickly turned her back on the human apparition and continued to walk down the bustling street.

"Well you shouldn't be surprised," he countered plainly "I've been in every dream you've had since it happened."

He wasn't giving up easily. 'Just like Crichton' she thought sadly, as to her not-too-huge surprise he began to follow her down the road.

"I think nightmare is a better name for them, don't you?" she called back over her shoulder. Her voice was clipped and cold. Her nights had been haunted by the images of her dead lover ever since she had held him in her arms as he'd slipped away on board Talyn. Helpless. And now she held his memory in the midst of terrible nightmares each night in her bed. Here again the process was about to be repeated, a ghost, a shadow fooling her heart, making her feel. She couldn't stand the illusion anymore.

"I give you nightmares now do I?" asked the ghost laughing.

The Sebacean laughed down her nose in reply.

"What do you think? Having to watch him die over and over again. It isn't exactly a pleasure trip for me. And now you, some dream some copy, come to rub it in." She rounded on her stalker angrily. Her eyes flashed with a sudden pain and passion which had been building up for a long time, releasing only in the dead of night when she woke from her torturous sleep shaking, sobbing and covered in sweat. Tears glistened threateningly in her eyes as she finished,

"Just leave me alone. Let me mourn you in peace."

Her eyes swept his face urgently, taking in every detail to fix it all in her memory, for fear that she would forget them as time went by. She fed hungrily on each curve and line, drinking in the illusion and allowing her suffering mind, for a few precious moments, to live in the pretence surrounding her. John was back. He was alive and well. And he was with her. Then her resistance returned. Her heart hardened to shield itself from anymore pain. She turned reluctantly on her heel and began to slowly walk away.

"I can't do that Aeryn." John said loudly, once more pursuing at her shoulder, "I can't go away and do you know why? It's because.." and he cut in front of the Ex-Peacekeeper preventing her escape. He reached out to hold her shoulders but she flinched violently at his touch, so he merely let his hands drop to his side.

"It's because" he finished quietly "I love you Aeryn and I'm not letting you go on like this because of me."

Her face froze. No movement. No visible reaction. Nothing in response to those three words she had come to crave hearing when he was alive.

But inside Aeryn was breaking apart. What remained of her beaten heart was finally shattered by four little syllables. Why was he doing this to her? Why did he keep torturing her, making her remember and miss him so much more? It hurt her to feel now, to have emotions as she'd had under his wing,  so she'd simply stopped. Cut herself off. Become the cold hard Peacekeeper she'd been bred to be. And yet here he was again, the human deficient, her one true love, forcing her to feel once more. And she did. She felt the pain burn in her chest, the tears build up ready to overflow down her cheeks, melting her icy façade. But she kept it all inside. Her features remained set in stone. If she showed any sign of emotion, she knew she would break.

Crichton stared into her face. He saw the pain in her eyes, heavy and sad, but he knew she had to release it all before Aeryn would ever let him rest in peace. He knew she thought he was a ghost, a dream, a fantasy created by her weary heart, but he knew differently. He'd watched over her now since the day he'd died in her warm embrace. He'd stayed behind to watch over her and consequently had watched her rip herself apart from the inside. Finally he decided he had to help her, make her understand.

It was all Stark's doing. The Banik had realized Crichton had refused to leave Talyn and thanks to his unique talents contacted him. When John explained he wouldn't leave Aeryn in such a fragile state  the Stykara offered his assistance. Thanks to Stark, this was John's one chance to make Aeryn live again. So standing before her he knew he had to get it right. All John wanted was to reach out and take the wretched woman before him in his arms and cradle her in a loving embrace. Obviously she wasn't prepared for that. Instead he looked into her face once more and then smiled broadly, hoping to evoke some response.

"Well I at least used to get a reaction from you when I told you that I loved you." He laughed uneasily, willing her to laugh with him, begging her to forget.

But her face didn't smile. Her features remained expressionless. Except for her eyes. He saw a flicker of pain flash deep within them as she was reminded of the man she had lost..

"But you don't love me do you?" she whispered hoarsely " Because you're not him. You're not Crichton! He's gone! You're not my John!"

Her voice had risen to a shout. All the creatures around her had suddenly vanished and she found herself standing alone in an empty market square with no-one but her tormentor. Her barrier was broken. A tear cut down her cheek betraying her defiance. She felt such a strong compulsion to fall into the familiar arms of this illusion, but she held back, somehow.

"Please" she whispered finally " Just leave me alone."

She walked past her torturer, tears now running steadily down her face. She stopped in the centre if the square before a large stone monument. She looked up at it and sighed heavily, lost in thought. In memory.

Crichton stared despairingly after his haunted lover. He didn't know what to do, she was proving a harder challenge than he had expected. Aeryn was blinded by her grief, refusing to see him for what he really was, for what her heart saw him as. He had to pull out the stops; bite the bullet; take the Peacekeeper by the pulse rifle. For her sake.

He approached her cautiously from behind. He could hear her breaths ragged and shaking and could clearly imagine her beautiful tear stained face, staring blankly at the stone before her. He considered saying something to her, explaining his amazing circumstances, hopefully enticing some trust through speech. But he realized that this was useless, she wouldn't listen. Her PK conditioning would never entertain such fantasies. He'd have to try some other form of communication. One he knew would penetrate even her new PK defenses. He took a long steadying breath and steeled his courage. He prayed she wouldn't struggle, wouldn't run and flee from him once more. But he still trusted her. Trusted her feelings. He stopped directly behind the silent Sebacean and softly whispered her name.

"Aeryn..."

There was a slight pause and Crichton's hopes wilted. Then with a shuddering breath Aeryn slowly began to turn to face him.

He didn't say anything, didn't wait for a reply. As soon as she was within his reach Crichton, grasped the Sebacean's shoulders and pulled her to him. Swiftly he took her face in his hands and before she could protest he crushed her lips against his own.

He kissed her hard. At first he felt her struggle like a trapped animal, but he held her firmly. This was the only way to prove to her that what her heart said was right. Then, as time passed he suddenly felt her struggling cease. Aeryn's body relaxed, she released her grip on his shoulders and instead slowly curled her arms up and around his neck, her fingers gripped tenderly in his hair. Oh to feel her skin so close to his own, it was a feeling he had sorely missed. One he now took full advantage of. He moved his own hands so one was entwined in her soft dark tresses as the other lovingly held her in his arms.

Their kiss deepened as Aeryn opened herself up to her confined emotions and lost herself in a contented delirium. It was him. The real John. How and why she couldn't explain but she knew, with every fibre of her being, that this was the John she loved. So after her initial resistance had faded she dropped all her defenses and relinquished herself to him and the happiness he brought.

They broke apart finally, gasping for breath. Aeryn looked urgently into his eyes.

"It's you John. " she said breathlessly, "It's really you." Her face split into a smile that touched John's heart. He grinned too.

"So you believe me now?" he said teasingly

"I'm sorry" she said quietly "but these past nights, I...."

"I know, I know" he interrupted soothingly. He didn't want this moment ruining not by anything.

"But how?" Aeryn asked with a serious look "I mean how are you here? Did you..."

Crichton reached out and placed a gentle finger on her lips silencing her questioning tongue.

"I think that's something you should ask Stark about when you wake up. He'll be able to explain everything." He smiled down at her. Aeryn looked thoughtful. Her face changed as a new realization crept into her mind.

"This is only for tonight isn't it?" she asked slowly " You're not really back are you? This is all just a dream?"

Crichton sighed wearily.

"No you're right." he whispered "Just tonight. Bit of a Rogers and Hammerstein set up right." He laughed halfheartedly. Aeryn just looked back quizzically.

"Even in my own dreams I still can't understand you!" she sighed sarcastically. Crichton feigned a look of hurt.

"Oh really?" he said "Well can you understand this?"

He swept her into his arms once more and kissed her softly. Aeryn responded readily and they once again lost themselves in their embrace. As their passion increased, Aeryn felt herself being moved slowly backwards. She resisted, waiting till she rested on the stone monument behind her; when..

"Ow!"

Cold stone struck the back of her head. She broke away from John's lips and drew her hand up to feel for injury. She met his worried eyes. Suddenly she laughed at the strange - thus, she concluded, 'human' - situation.

"This isn't the most comfortable position is it?" Crichton laughed. Aeryn shook her head, smiling broadly, then stopped with a pained gasp.

" Let's go somewhere less painful huh?" he asked warmly.

"Where?" Aeryn asked, confused "How do you know your way around my dream?"

"I don't. But you do."

"I don't understand."

"Look," John began, wrapping his arms softly around her slim frame " Just close your eyes and imagine some place else. If Stark is right we should get there."

"Really?" said Aeryn suspiciously " You do know that sounds really, really stupid."

"I know," he replied " Disney couldn't have written it better! But hey, humour me. And if it doesn't work, I'm sure we can make this pillar more exciting." He smiled wickedly and leaned in to kiss her neck, but she pushed him away.

"Alright, alright" she sighed and reluctantly closed her eyes. She took a deep breath.

And as Crichton stared into the calm but disbelieving face before him, he suddenly realized that their surroundings had changed.

***

Pulsing red metal, dim lights and the habitual murmurings of a living ship now surrounded them.

"Talyn." he whispered wonderingly.

Aeryn smiled lazily as she opened her eyes.

"This is where I remember you best." she admitted shyly, " Remember us."

" It's perfect." he whispered softly, as he leaned down and gently kissed her forehead.

Aeryn sighed happily. She had John back, in the place they'd been most intimate, where she'd learnt so much about him. So much about herself. And even if it was only a dream; even if his ghost would leave her after she awoke; she wasn't going to waste a moment of their precious time together worrying about the future. She preferred to live in the past. She reached up, found his lips and kissed him once more. She felt her legs go weak, at his taste, and her body tingled with electricity. She felt John's strong arms enfolding her, then slowly lay her out on the soft bed below. Silence prevailed for some time.

***

Finally, with a sleepy Aeryn nestled lovingly in his arms, John lay under the sheets and realized how little time he had left. He had to tell her what he had come here to say, even if it meant shattering their idyllic bliss.

"Aeryn, baby, " he whispered softly, stroking her hair.

"Hmm" she replied sleepily.

"Aeryn, I need you awake, so I can talk to you. So I can tell you why I'm here."

"I don't care why you're here, " she replied softly "All that matters is you are here, with me."

She turned in his embrace and moved to kiss him again. Crichton pulled away reluctantly.

"Aeryn." he said a little more firmly " I need you to understand something. Please."

He looked at her pleadingly and Aeryn finally pulled back to look seriously into his eyes.

"Ok." she said quietly "Go ahead."

Crichton sighed as he stared into the beautiful face in front of him. It hurt him to think he was causing her so much pain and now here he was bringing more. But in the end he knew it was for the best. For everyone.

He began tracing a gentle finger down her soft cheek "Aeryn, you have to let me go..."

He proceeded to explain why he had returned to her, just for one night, to convince her she could live without him and to hopefully put her tortured mind at rest. Looking her in the eye he told her firmly, he was never really coming back.

It felt to Aeryn as though he was driving a blade straight through her heart. She began to cry. He held her and comforted her, promising he could never forget her and that everything would be okay. He cried too and Aeryn found herself drying his eyes and promising she would be okay. She would go on. For him.

" Promise me Aeryn," he said finally " Promise me you'll go back to Moya and live again. Don't forget about me, just...put me away for a while. You'll always have me back," he paused and touched a finger to her temple,  "every time you dream." he finished.

Aeryn smiled as tears streamed steadily down her face.

"I promise." she whispered hoarsely.

John smiled back, a sincere and relieved smile, and planted a soft kiss on her furrowed brow.

As they broke apart Aeryn felt another tug on her heart as the entirety of her loss finally hit home. Her breath caught in her chest and she suddenly let out a great sob,

"You're really never coming back are you?" she said tears blurring her vision.

Crichton sighed sadly, tears filling his own eyes as he watched her break down.

"No" he whispered finally " I'm not."

Aeryn took one look at his perfect face and collapsed completely. She sobbed violently, her head buried deep in his chest. She clung to him for dear life and it took what felt like an eternity before she finally quietened enough for her to speak.

"So what do I do now?" she asked, tears still straining her voice.

John looked into her eyes and softly kissed her lips. Finally he said

" Go to sleep Aeryn. I'll see you in the morning."

Out of nowhere, Aeryn was suddenly overcome with tiredness. She felt her mind begin to cloud as  darkness crept round the edges of her brain. Her senses dulled and an unearthly calm took hold of her fragile emotions. She took a last look at the human's face, then nodded numbly as her consciousness clouded. She settled herself into his embrace, felt his strong arms holding her tightly as she nestled against his warm chest. And as her eyes closed she sighed, a small contented sigh, and all she felt was happiness; home. Darkness surrounded her and Aeryn Sun slept one last time in John Crichton's arms.

***

She awoke slowly and opening her eyes realized everyone else on board Talyn was still sleeping. Only half way through the sleep cycle, arns till she had to get up. She turned slowly to see the space beside her in bed. Empty. As it had been now for the past few nights. Ever since John...

Was it true? Had he really come to her, one last time in a dream? To free her mind and say goodbye. Or was it all just her imagination, another cruel illusion created to satisfy her aching heart? She didn't know. She would have to speak to Stark in the morning. He would know something. If there was anything to know. Resolved she turned her back on the empty space and reached up to scratch her head. Her fingers brushed a small bump there.

"OW!" she gasped in surprise.

Then she smiled.

 She looked out into the darkness of her chamber and whispered softly to the void,

"Goodnight John."

Before she closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep.

***

And after a microt of hesitation, a shadow detached itself from the wall, took a fleeting look back at his past and finally moved on. Where to he didn't know...

 

Contact Ennixsun@hotmail.com (feedback would be much appreciated!)

 

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