Categories > TV > Farscape > Perish Twice

Part 6

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 - 3936 words

Half an arn later, while D'Argo and Jool were deep in conversation with Selkar about locations of other medical facilities that might have answers the Diagnosan lacked, Aeryn ran back into the room wearing a tense, hopeful expression. She marched straight up to Selkar and handed her a data crystal.

"What...this?" the Diagnosan trilled, bypassing her translator.

"I believe that crystal contains all the information you will need to help John."

That announcement brought exclamations of disbelief from everyone; it took a dozen microts of overlapping questions before they all calmed down enough to allow Aeryn to explain.

She addressed her explanation to John himself, who had been lying quietly to one side and letting events just wash over him. "When you mentioned Scorpius, I suddenly remembered the wormhole data that Talyn stole from his command carrier just before it was destroyed. Crais and I went aboard to pull the files from Talyn's data banks, and my suspicions were confirmed: filed away amongst all of Scorpius' wormhole research was the complete record of your sessions in the Aurora Chair from three cycles ago. That includes detailed maps that the Chair compiled of your neural pathways. It should be exactly what Selkar needs; specific information on an undamaged human brain -- /your /brain -- before the chip, the surgery, or anything."

Crichton was speechless. Almost against his will, a flood of emotion welled up from inside him, feelings he almost didn't recognize. After repressing everything for so long, all at once his emotional barriers fell away and he collapsed into tears. Aeryn held him for a long time as he wept, unashamedly, releasing long-suppressed fear and grief and anger in a flood of hope.

Regaining consciousness this time was nothing like before. He opened his eyes in dizzy disorientation and found himself blinking groggily up at an unfamiliar gray ceiling. There was nothing familiar to latch onto at first.

It took several long minutes to reconstruct his memories of the past several days. He remembered clearly the moment when he'd learned that Selkar might be able to help after all. The surge of hope, relief, and release. The realization a quarter of an arn later that he was getting Aeryn's vest all soggy crying on her shoulder.

And then the waiting had begun, to find out if Selkar's analysis would confirm what Aeryn had assumed: that the information would indeed be exactly what she needed. After a few arns, the Diagnosan's translator had called back up to Moya with the news that, yes, it might be enough, but that there was still a problem: she needed a donor.

John had forgotten about that requirement until then, and vehemently refused to participate in anything that would 'use up' a donor. It took some time before he calmed down enough for the Diagnosan to clarify.

For one thing, the translator insisted, Selkar followed a stricter ethical code than the last Diagnosan they'd met had. Tocot's use of frozen-but-still-living creatures as donors was frowned upon by the rest of their race, to say nothing of the fact that either Tocot or Grunchlk had apparently been hijacking healthy people like Jool into their collection. These attitudes had made Tocot into a renegade, which was why such a "renowned physician" as he had claimed to be had been operating alone on a deserted backwater ice planet in the first place.

In any case, though, the issue was irrelevant. This surgery would not require any tissue donations -- just a small amount of cerebral fluid, to replace losses during the operation, something that could harmlessly be taken even from a living person. Selkar's problem was that she had no compatible species in her repository of fresh corpsicles, and since there were no other humans available....

John hadn't been able to hear most of the 'negotiations' that took place up in command, when D'Argo reminded everyone that Interons and humans were compatible, at least in the ability to cross-donate cerebral fluid. He suspected that Jool had been reluctant; she was still somewhat bitter over the deaths of her cousins. But whatever D'Argo had said to her, or threatened her with, she eventually agreed to help.

Selkar had been wary, even after that was settled, unwilling to promise much more than an attempt. This operation, she'd warned, might kill him. If he survived, it was possible she might not be able to stop the deterioration, or might stop it but be unable to repair all the damage that had already been done.

Much of the rest was a blur; his condition had deteriorated rapidly after that, almost as if racing against the potential cure. The last was a vague memory of lying on a table, under a green light. Did that mean it was done? If so, it seemed he'd survived, despite the Diagnosan's less-than-optimistic predictions.

No pain, that was a good sign; his headaches had become nearly constant in the last few days before the operation, and nothing had seemed to help. He knew without looking that there would be no marks, no stitches, no outward signs of the surgery. Gotta hand it to those Diagnosans -- they did good work.

His head felt clearer than it had in months, which was another good sign. But when he tried to move his left arm, nothing happened. Same with the leg. His right arm responded well, fortunately, and was free from the trembling that had begun to plague it. But half of his body was still off-line, probably forever.

Before he really had a chance to digest that, the door behind him swooshed open and he heard multiple footsteps approaching. Selkar and her translator appeared on one side of his bed; Moya's crew clustered together on the other side.

"Hey guys," he said to his friends.

"Sir Crichton?" the translator queried.

Turning, John realized distractedly that he'd never learned the translator's name. Well, now seemed like a poor time to bring it up, so he simply said, "Yeah?"

"Now that you are awake, Selkar would like to determine the extent of your recovery thus far."

"Well," he started, looking uncomfortably at Aeryn and the others, "I'm feeling better than I have in a while, so there's at least some improvement. Still can't move my arm or leg, though, so I guess that part didn't work. Is the problem fixed, or am I gonna relapse?"

The translator looked distressed, until Selkar started speaking quickly and urgently. After a moment, he turned back to Crichton. "Selkar would like me to reassure you, sir Crichton. The operation went far better than she expected, and she believes she has repaired all the damage that your brain had suffered. It will take some time for all the repaired pathways to re-establish themselves, however, but you should regain the feeling and the use of your limbs with time and practice." Selkar spoke again briefly, and he nodded. "The doctor suggests that you remain here for a weeken or two for the initial recovery; we have some excellent physical therapy specialists on staff here. After that, your friends can likely provide any assistance you may need."

"Fine," John said briefly, too stunned to be more eloquent. His relief was palpable; he really hadn't been looking forward to tooling around the Uncharted Territories in an extra-large version of Rygel's hover chair.

Aeryn strode down the hall of the medical facility towards Crichton's room, hoping that this time she could get him to really talk to her. He'd been here for eight solar days now, learning to walk again, and in all that time she hadn't managed to get more than a few words from him. As she reached the door, she heard voices and paused just outside.

"You can /not /be serious," D'Argo's deep voice rumbled.

"As a heart attack, D," John replied. "Here, help me up, would ya?" There were muffled sounds of movement from within.

"I do not want you to leave again, John."

She'd been about to enter the room and join them, but at that, Aeryn froze. Leave?

John grunted with effort, probably trying to walk around a bit with the Luxan's assistance. "D'Argo, it's not exactly an easy decision for me, either."

"Where would you go?"

"Well, as soon as I'm healthy again, going home has its attractions. Between what's in my head and what's in the files Talyn snurched, I might be able to figure out how to do it one of these days. I probably won't fit in there any better than I do here -- not anymore -- but at least I'd get to see my dad again, and there's a whole shitload of things I could teach people on my world now. Someday the Peacekeepers, or the Scarrans, or the Nebari, or someone equally as nasty could stumble across Earth, and I'd like humanity to have a fighting chance."

"I don't think Aeryn would want you to leave."

"Subtle, D, real subtle," John chuckled. "I don't want to leave Aeryn, either. I love her; I always will. I'd like nothing better than to spend the rest of my life with her. But it's not in the cards anymore. She and the other guy had something I can only dream about, and then she lost him. The last thing she needs now is a living, breathing reminder of him wandering around Moya's halls and bumping into her day after day."

D'Argo sounded confused. "But before you left, the last time, I thought you and she had...that you were..." He trailed off.

"We were, yeah. It was a mistake. It wasn't ever gonna last, even if I'd stayed. It was like she was sleeping with a ghost, y'know? Half the time she could barely look at me, and the other half I'm pretty sure it wasn't /me /she was seeing. I realized pretty quick that I was doing her more harm than good by...damn it, D, watch the furniture, would ya? I'm just getting the hang of this walking thing again, and I really don't need to break my foot."

Aeryn just heard D'Argo growl in mock annoyance as she turned and walked slowly away.

Ten days later, John was back aboard Moya, limping around her endless tiers and passageways with the aid of a cane and a lot of stubbornness. He was growing convinced that Aeryn was avoiding him for some reason; he hadn't caught even a glimpse of her since before he left the hospital.

When he wasn't exercising his recovering limbs, Crichton was putting his reconstructed mind to the test trying to analyze the massive amount of data Talyn took from the command carrier. So far, he wasn't having much luck, so he was heading up to the terrace in hopes that the scenery would help inspire greater insights.

He was breathing hard when he arrived; he'd lost a lot of stamina during his long illness. Pretty soon, he knew, he'd need to get back into a serious exercise regimen. There was a lot of work to be done, and the sooner he was ready to go, the better it would be for Aeryn and everyone.

For the next arn, he sat cross-legged on the floor of the terrace, alternately looking at the billions of stars strewn across the wide vista and studying incomplete wormhole equations on a portable data unit. Her approach was so silent, and his attention so focussed, that he didn't hear her come in or realize he had company until a fat sheaf of paper slapped onto the deck beside him.

Glancing only briefly at the booklet -- it was his notebook, the second one, which he'd been sure he'd misplaced somewhere -- he turned to look up at Aeryn's strained features. /Oh hell, /he thought, /here it comes. /He felt himself bracing, as if for a blow, though he couldn't have said why.

Aeryn said nothing for a long moment, then stepped over and sat down in front of him, mirroring his posture. She picked the data unit off of his lap, shut it off, and set it aside without a word.

OK, babe, you've got my full and undivided attention. More to break the silence than anything, John reached out and retrieved his notebook, flipping idly through the pages, and asked, "Where'd you find it?"

"In your quarters," Aeryn whispered. "After you...left. I've read some of it."

"That's o--you've what?" John broke off in disbelief. Microbes did nothing for written language; how could she read English?

Aeryn smiled slightly, with a hint of pride. "Before he died, John was teaching me how to read -- and thus how to speak -- his language. We didn't get very far -- just the symbols, sounds, and a few simple words. When I found this, I decided to teach myself, and eventually I managed a bit more. I couldn't read everything -- I remember John telling me that a lot of the rules of his language were strange and complex, and there were many words I could not decipher -- but I managed enough to get the sense of much of it. I hope you don't mind. You were gone, and I.... it was a way to have a connection with you."

"No, I don't mind," he assured her, though he was pretty sure there were things written in those pages that he wouldn't have wanted her to read. Private things. He'd started making his first notebook not long after the batteries in his tape recorder gave out, as a way to focus his scattered thoughts during the long months of anxiety as Scorpy's chip whittled away at his mind. He'd taken to making star charts, and giving the stars silly names, as something of a game for himself.

The original one had gone to Talyn with the other Crichton, and had either been lost or, more likely, been retained as a memento by the woman sitting across from him now. He'd never asked. The one he now held was the one he'd started after they were gone. There were no star charts in this one, just notes on wormhole physics and letters he'd probably never get to send. Therapy for the long months that Aeryn had been away, as he tried to keep from going out of his mind with worry for her.

"I don't want you to leave," Aeryn said suddenly, breaking into his reverie. He turned back to her, startled, and she explained. "I overheard you talking to D'Argo the other day, telling him about your plans."

"Is that why you've been avoiding me?" John asked.

"Yes. It's probably fortunate for you that I was, at least at first. I was angry, and if I had encountered you too soon I'm afraid I might have caused more damage for Selkar to repair."

"But not now?"

She shook her head. "There will be no need for me to hurt you as long as you'll do the sensible thing and listen to me."

John snickered softly at the implied threat, though he was sure -- fairly sure, anyway -- that it was an empty one. Then he looked at Aeryn's eyes again. Or maybe not....

Okay. He'd known he was going to have this conversation sooner or later -- he had no intention of sneaking off without a word this time like he'd done before -- but he'd been hoping for later. Lots later. "Aeryn, it's really best for everyone if I make myself scarc--"

He was cut off when Aeryn calmly reached over and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. He had a sudden flashback to Chiana doing the same thing not long ago, and wondered if the universe was trying to tell him something. "I said you're going to listen to me /for once, human," Aeryn said in a tone that brooked no back-talk. /Damn, he thought, /she's starting to sound like my mother. /He just nodded, and she released him.

"I heard what you told D'Argo. Probably the main reason I was so angry was because I knew you were right."

Crichton raised his eyebrows, as if to say, I was? Wow. Quick, alert the media!

She ignored him, now caught up in her own memories. "After John died, and my mother died -- again -- right before my eyes, I decided that I could never allow myself to love again, that the Peacekeepers had been right and emotions were nothing but unwanted baggage. So when we got back to Moya, I did my best not to allow myself to feel anything. The pain was just too great, and I couldn't face the possibility of having it happen again."

John just nodded, understanding Aeryn's need for his silence; she was walking on a knife's edge of control here, to be speaking of all this without breaking down.

"But I couldn't do it. Seeing your face -- his face -- every day...working side-by-side with you... knowing what you were going to say before you said was all so familiar. I guess I started to think that I could make things the way they had been, by pretending that you and he were the same person. I should have known I wouldn't be able to fool you as easily as I fooled myself."

John decided it was time to speak, and damn the consequences. "You weren't totally wrong, Aeryn. We were the same person, in the beginning. Same life, same memories, same experiences. Neither one of us wanted to admit it at the time -- too attached to the idea of being unique, I guess. But after all those months apart, he and I were different people."

Aeryn nodded. Well, at least she didn't take my head off for talking, John mused.

After a moment, Aeryn said, "On Talyn, John showed me the star charts in your notebook, and the star he always named after me. His 'guide', he said. The center of his universe, there on almost every page.

"After you left, and I found your replacement notebook, I started to realize just how different you and he had become while I was gone. There were no stars in there, not one."

"Nope," John agreed. He'd never really wondered about the reasons for that. It had just...happened that way.

"You lost your guiding star when I left, so you had to find another. A goal. A purpose. Because John Crichton is not the kind of man who can wander through life without something to strive for. In a strange way, your leaving then was probably a good thing; it forced me to stop pretending.

"I understand now. You're not the John Crichton who helped Talyn escape from the budong, or the one who held me while I grieved for a mother I both hated and loved, or the one who died a hero at Dam-Ba-Da. But you are the John Crichton I fell in love with all those cycles ago. The one who risked his life to save mine by going to the gammak base, made love to me for the first time on the Ancients' illusory Earth, and clung to me for support when everything around him and inside him was falling into chaos. You are still that man, John Crichton."

"So what are you saying, Aeryn? That my presence no longer causes you pain? Can you honestly say you can look at me and not be reminded of my twin?" John wondered.

The woman across from him smiled. Smiled. "No, John, I can't say that. I will always remember him, and always love him. But I know now -- really /know /-- that you aren't him. Someone once told me that emotional pain was like a badge of honor. He said that even though every loss would hurt as badly as the first, the pain was worth it for all of the good days you shared before it hurt. It made no sense to me at the time, but I think I'm finally starting to understand what he meant.

"Losing John hurt so terribly that it almost killed me. I wanted to die myself, for a while. But thinking back on it now, I find I wouldn't want to give up the time we had together, not even to avoid that pain. The good times were indeed worth everything.

"When you left, the last time, I realized that losing you hurt just as much as losing him, though it was a small comfort to believe you were still alive somewhere. What was worse, though, was that I had the pain all over again, and so few good times to remember.

"Seeing you will always remind me of the other John, and it may hurt for a long time. But if you leave, it will hurt even more. You said you wanted to leave to spare me pain; I'd expect nothing less from you. But leaving will not spare me anything. I would rather suffer the small pangs of reminder when I see you than have you gone. Maybe, one day soon, we can start building some good times of our own."

"And you're willing to risk having me die on you again?" John asked. Aeryn's intent words were burrowing deep, wakening desires and dreams he'd tucked away for so long, but he was still wary. Once burned....

"Are you? I died once before, and I came back at great cost. I could see how much my death had hurt you in your eyes when you saw me again. I think Dregon was right: being in love is worth the risk."

John was silent for a long time, and Aeryn watched him, enjoying the play of thoughts and emotions across his expressive face. Finally, though, she got impatient. "So, am I going to have to hurt you?"

John's eyes darted up to her face, startled, only to find her dark eyes twinkling in amusement, reflecting all of the stars overhead. He chuckled. "No, I think we can bypass the 'kicking John Crichton's ass' portion of the evening. Sorry to disappoint you."

"You'll stay?" she asked, wanting confirmation.

John nodded. "Yeah, you've talked me into it. That was quite a speech, Babe; you should go into politics."

The other one had once made a similar comment about Crais after the incident with the Collartas, saying something about him being able to 'sell eyesgreem to eskeemous', whatever that meant. She'd asked for an explanation and gotten a long, mostly incomprehensible lecture on the governing system in his area of Earth. She hadn't understood much, but enough to know that John's comment was not exactly a compliment. Reaching out with one arm, she shoved Crichton just hard enough to tip him over onto his back.

"Hey!" he yelped in surprise, then burst out laughing. "What was that for?"

"I am not going into politics!" she stated firmly, but the twinkle in her eyes was even brighter than before.

Instead of getting up, Crichton just rolled over and lay on his side, facing Aeryn, with his head propped up on one hand. "I'll stick around, Aeryn, if it's that important to you. Anything more...well, we'll have to see. I think we both need to take things slow."

/Be smart, /they both heard a ghostly voice say, almost too clearly to be a mere memory.

/Thanks, John, /the living Crichton thought, gazing across the open space at the woman he loved. I think I finally am.

The End

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "In Memoriam A. H. H."

Sign up to rate and review this story