Categories > TV > Farscape > Perish Twice

Part 3

by OneEye 0 reviews

This is a sequel to "No One Left Behind", a hypothetical season finale scenario for Season 3, written before the broadcast of episodes 319-322. A hypothetical finale, though, implies the existence ...

Category: Farscape - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst, Drama - Warnings: [!!] [?] - Published: 2006-07-20 - Updated: 2006-07-21 - 2629 words

The wind coming over the top of the mountains was chilly as John limped his way along the shore of the lake, leaning heavily on his staff. The trees all around him were bright with autumn colors -- another strange and welcome parallel to Earth. The beauty was both familiar and comforting.

Winter was coming; at this altitude, it would come on quickly, and soon. Maybe even tonight -- the clouds just peeking over the hilltops might herald a storm. Possibly even one with snow, given how fast the temperature was already dropping. It was something of a relief to have the end in sight.

The decision to leave, to abandon his friends and die alone, had been hard. But no matter how difficult it had been in the abstract, the reality was worse. He'd started getting severe headaches in the past few weeks, which were growing more frequent and more intense with every passing day. There were gaps in his memory, faces he no longer had names for. The loneliness and the silence pressed in on all sides, offering no relief from the pain, no distraction from the ever-increasing chaos that was the remnants of his mind. He gazed out over the lake often these days, part of him wishing for Winona back in his hand, the rest grateful for his foresight in discarding her.

Just ahead, Anubis trotted out of the woods and paused to watch him. "Hey, fella," Crichton called out. "Sorry I don't have any fish for you today. Probably best if you start fending for yourself again, anyway." Not that the quasi-canine had ever gotten dependent on him; the few fish scraps he'd provided weren't anything more than a tasty tidbit for the large carnivore. Over the months, John had seen him take down a couple of deer-like creatures who came to the lake to drink, so he knew this was a serious and quite capable predator.

Anubis merely watched as he hobbled by, gazing at the human's back long after he had passed. Suddenly, he turned and looked up into the sky, tracking a strange object as it descended towards the opposite lake shore. The sound that had alerted him was too faint for human ears, though; John just kept walking, oblivious.

A hundred yards further on, John felt his left leg give way beneath him, as it had been threatening to do for weeks. Not even his grip on the staff could keep him upright, so he fell over onto the sand about ten yards from the water's edge. That leg had been getting progressively weaker for a long time, but now it was just a dead weight hanging off of his body. With his left arm long since paralyzed, John found he could not get up, not even to crawl.

He struggled for a few minutes, but finally just lay back and tried to get comfortable. With the module, his food supplies, warm clothes, and campfire out of reach on the opposite side of the lake, he realized this was it. Storm or no storm, being exposed to the cold and damp all night, without shelter or protection, would resolve things quite handily by morning. A surge of fear came over him unexpectedly, but faded under a wash of simple relief. Free at last.

He lay quietly, watching the clouds pile up over the hills as the storm approached, the sun descend towards the horizon, and the bright leaves rain down from the alien trees, all with the intensity of one who is seeing these things for the first time. Or for the last.

Aeryn landed the transport pod not far from Crichton's module. This was the fourth pristine, potential colony world they had searched in the area Crichton's map would have covered; according to the map seller, that had been what Crichton was searching for. When they had finally detected the module from orbit, Aeryn had insisted on coming down alone to speak to him.

Walking into the makeshift camp, she found many signs of his long-term habitation, including a campfire still burning low, but no sign of the human himself. Since the presence of the fire implied that he would soon return, she sat down to wait.

Half an arn later, she was growing worried. The fire was almost out, and still there was no sign of him. A storm was rising quickly, blowing a strong, cold wind at her back. She started to wonder if John had seen the pod land and was hiding from her for some reason.

Sensing motion out of the corner of her eye, Aeryn looked up to see a large six-legged creature standing at the edge of the campsite. It stared at her for several microts, then turned and walked a few steps away. Stopping again, it turned its head to stare at her some more, as if it was trying to tell her something.

After it repeated its performance several more times, she decided that the animal wanted her to follow. Rising, she paced after it, trailing the creature along the shore for almost half a metra to the opposite side of the lake. There, at last, she spotted Crichton's figure lying sprawled on the sand in the distance. His posture was somewhat awkward, but he looked relaxed, as if he was just enjoying the view.

Her guide disappeared into the woods once she had seen their quarry, so she covered the final stretch alone. She approached him in silence, determined to make him speak first and explain himself.

To her surprise, John didn't move to rise when he saw her. He looked terrible. With his hair and beard both long and unkempt, he was barely recognizable as John Crichton, and his entire body seemed to have shrunken into itself. If not for the eyes, and the derelict module on the opposite shore, she might have thought she had the wrong castaway. The extent of his deterioration spoke of a bit more than simply being alone in the wilds for a few monens. He hadn't looked nearly this far gone on his return from Aquara. There was something wrong here.

He didn't look surprised at her sudden appearance, for some reason. He let her stand there, the silence stretching out, as he just looked at her. When he did finally speak, it was not at all what she'd been expecting.

"Hey, darlin'. Glad my swiss-cheese brain finally decided to conjure you up. I was getting tired of arguing with DK and Scorpy."

She just stood there in shock. He thought she was a dream? A hallucination? What was going on?

With his right hand, John reached into a pocket of his vest and pulled out a lock of dark hair, tied together. "Thought this was all I'd have of you," he mumbled cryptically, almost too quietly for her to hear. "It'll be nice to have you here, if only in spirit. I'm glad I'll get to say goodbye."

"John," she whispered, her voice trembling with dread, "what are you talking about? Why are you here?"

He just smiled. "Yeah, I suppose you would ask that. Have a seat, Aeryn. Take a load off."

"Shouldn't we go back to your camp, John? It's getting cold."

John chuckled. "Sorry, Sunshine, ain't gonna happen. John Crichton's coveted brain is in the final stages of turning into so much grits 'n gravy, and my leg's finally given out on me for good. 'I've fallen, and I can't get up!'" His voice rose into a strange, creaky falsetto at that last statement, then he burst into helpless giggles. Aeryn just stared at him, uncomprehending.

John turned his laughing blue eyes towards her again, and she felt her heart lurch. His expression was totally open, every emotion written plainly on his face with nothing held back. Love, and joy, and sadness, and calm resignation.

"Why did you come here, John? Why did you leave"

For a moment, his eyes clouded and the sadness in his expression intensified. "Scorpy got the last laugh, Aeryn. I killed the bastard, but not before he killed me. Between the Chair, the chip, and the surgery, plus all the concussions, possessions, divisions, and serious mind-frells I've been through in the last three cycles, I guess it was just more than my poor human brain could take."

Aeryn was frozen in shock as she finally understood what he was saying. "When did you...?"

"Selkar," John offered, correctly guessing her question. "She found the problem while she was treating my injuries." He looked her in the eyes with depthless sympathy. "You'd already watched me die once; I didn't want you to go through that again. Especially like this. Look at me -- weak, paralyzed, hallucinating left and right. On Moya, with you all to care for me, this could have gone on for months. I'd have been a burden to you, putting you all at risk. I'm getting gaps in my memory; how long would it have been before I didn't know you, any of you? The pain isn't bad yet, just the occasional headache, but it's been getting worse. It's a lot like the Living Death, Aeryn. If I'd stayed, eventually someone would have to decide to just put me out of my misery, and the only thing worse than having to watch me die a second time would be if you'd had to kill me yourself. Better to come here, and let the planet do it instead. Almost as quick, and no one else gets hurt. I'm glad you're not really here to see this. Better that you believe I'm alive and happy back on Earth. What you don't know won't hurt you."

Aeryn had stopped breathing at his comparison of his condition to the Living Death. She only remembered to start again when John looked away from her, gazing instead into the distance at the approaching storm and the last rays of the setting sun. She couldn't speak, couldn't move, as much paralyzed as Crichton himself lying on the cooling sand..

"Did I ever tell you why I started the Farscape project, Aeryn?" John murmured wistfully, changing the subject at random. Without waiting on a reply, he kept speaking. "Space exploration is a high-prestige occupation on my world. Rockets and space ships are the stuff dreams are made of. Lots of kids want to grow up to be astronauts.

"But those weren't my reasons. They may have been partially DK's reasons; he was always a bit more of a publicity hound than I was, and he liked the respect he got when he told people he worked at IASA. I think he always cared more about the recognition and funding the project would get us when it succeeded than he did about the project itself. That was okay with me, though; he was my best friend, and he was a brilliant engineer. We had the same dream, even if we were looking at it from different perspectives.

"My dream for Farscape wasn't about what I could get from it. It was about what I could give to the world with it. Humanity was drowning in its own success, Aeryn. The population growing too fast, using too much, and saving too little. Space was our one hope, or so I believed. In space there would be limitless supplies of energy for the harnessing, resources we could use, and planets we could settle. The Farscape project would have been a big step towards that goal."

His face suddenly broke into a wry grin. "Of course, the reason I decided to pilot the experiment had nothing to do with any of that; that was just me being my usual insane-since-birth, suicidal-test-pilot self. I went because I loved to fly, loved being in space, and didn't trust anyone else not to screw it up. Then I got myself drop-kicked into the freakin' twilight zone; I sometimes wonder if DK managed to pull it all back together and overcome that little...setback."

Aeryn almost smiled at his ironic, casual dismissal of the catastrophic accident that had dragged him away from his life and his dreams. John continued to ramble on about whatever came to mind, through chattering teeth as the temperature continued to fall. Shrugging out of her leather coat, Aeryn used it to cover him and provide a little warmth; he seemed to hardly notice. She wanted to do more, to hold him in her arms, to carry him away to Moya, but the whole situation was throwing her mind into a whirl of self-contradictory impulses.

"I once told D'Argo that hope was what kept me going. Even now, that's still true, though the hopes have changed. For a long time, I hung on to just two things, really: you and Earth. Then I lost both, so I had to find new things to hope for. Now, when I look forward, I find I want D'Argo to find his son again, to be able to forgive him, and to find a place to settle down and be happy and at peace. I want Jool to find her way home to see her parents; she and I had that in common, our simple desire to see our homes and families again, and I'd like her to succeed where I failed. I hope Sparky manages to kick his cousin's ass off the throne and reclaim his title; he's still a selfish bastard, but in spite of that I think he might have the makings of a good ruler. I even hope Pilot and Moya find themselves a nice Relgarian someday, someone who'll take them off to explore deep space when you and the rest find your own places or paths and don't need them anymore.

"And as for you, Aeryn Sun, I hope you grow and blossom again, once you're done mourning the other John. Find love, have a family if you decide that's what you want. You deserve to be happy, even if it can't be with me."

John's voice trailed away into silence as the darkness deepened and the wind blew colder. There was a flash of lightning, and the first drops of water struck her head as the storm moved in at last. She could see John shivering violently and realized she needed to get him out of here and up to Moya without delay. Somehow. After a brief debate about picking him up and carrying him to the transport, she decided it would be faster to go get the transport herself and bring it to him.

He accepted her departure with the same calm equanimity that had greeted her arrival, bidding her goodbye in a shaky, heartbreakingly sincere voice. She ran for the transport pod as fast as she could, stumbling several times in the darkness but never slowing down. Within a quarter of an arn, she'd taken off and re-landed the pod much closer to John's location, all the while yelling through her comms at Jool to get to the med bay and ready supplies to counteract hypothermia. By the time she climbed out and ran back over to John again, an icy, driving rain was falling. John was no longer shivering, and his eyes, though slightly open, did not see her. He was still alive, but he wouldn't be for long if he stayed here.

He might hate her tomorrow for taking this decision away from him. She might, indeed, be condemning him to a far worse fate by keeping him alive. But she wasn't willing to let him just die here, no matter what he said. Not now, not after finding him again. She had to get him home now, get him warm and dry again, and soon. Everything else could wait.

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