Aeryn had spent a full arn trying to figure out how to handle John's hand. He woke up now and again, groaning over the pain because she just couldn't elevate his hand enough for it to remain fairly pain-free.

He didn't move much, shifted a little now and again, but he didn't turn on his side at any point, so she decided to be a little inventive. He had told her a few times to use her imagination and now seemed to be the time.

Using resident materials, she created a splint that was formed after the natural, relaxed state of his lower arm and hand. She covered the upper part of it with gauze and soaked it in some of the last antiseptic liquid they had left and then placed it under his hand and arm. The splint went all the way to his elbow. She proceeded to bandage the splint to his arm and then used the hole in the top of the splint to hook it to the line she had hung from the ceiling. She adjusted the length of the line a little and then stepped back to eye her handiwork.

His elbow was resting on the bed beside him and his lower arm was raised at a ninety percent angle from there. That would keep the blood from clogging up his hand and making the wound more painful than it needed to be.

Content with her idea, she then settled down on the floor next to him and took his left hand in hers. His little and ring finger were broken and splinted and Chiana's splint had given her the idea to do the same for his right hand. And with the pulley system and the hook in the hole of the split, it was easy to get him off it if he needed to be moved.

His index and middle finger suddenly jerked and closed around her hand, telling her that he was awake again. She turned her attention to his face and found him staring bleary-eyed up at her creation. "That's smart," he whispered and a small smile tugged at the corners of his lips. He turned his head and gave her a shadow of a grin. "See? You're a hell of a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for," he added, his words slow and slightly slurred.

She smiled back at him. "I know," she agreed. "Chiana splinted your left hand. I assumed it could be done to your right as well. Does it feel any better?" she asked.

"Yeah," he whispered. "Much better." With that, either sleep or unconsciousness claimed him yet again and Aeryn wrapped both hands around his left and pressed her lips against the back of it.

"I love you," she whispered against his skin and that made him smile weakly. So, he was asleep then rather than unconscious; that was an improvement.


A weeken later

John was up and about, but he had a slight limp, his right arm was in a sling around his neck and his left hand was still fairly useless. Healing broken bones should have been no big deal except for the fact that they did not have the necessary equipment to heal such injuries fast.

He was black and blue, some of the bruises fading while others remained as evident as they had been at the beginning, and his mood suffered greatly because of the constant pain he was in. His right hand was a mess. It was no longer infected, but the hole in it was open and raw. His body did not have the necessary healing abilities to close up this big a hole and the blunt trauma it had been subjected to left it completely useless. His fingers were still swollen and the skin was discolored. He claimed that even thinking about moving his fingers hurt.

Aeryn watched him as he made his way slowly from the door of the center chamber to the bench where she was sitting. He was using his left arm to cradle his right despite the splint and the sling holding it, but she assumed it was jostled too much if he didn't support it.

He paused when he reached the bench, then stepped over it and sat down carefully. Aeryn didn't help him unless he needed it. It was best for him to learn to cope and not be cuddled, no matter what D'Argo and Chiana had to say on the matter. The little slug was on her side in this, but Aeryn didn't care about his opinion.

"Can I get you anything?" Chiana asked when she rose to get herself something more to eat.

John eyed the set table for a moment, then shrugged lightly with his left shoulder. "I don't know," he muttered. "Whatever you're getting."

Chiana nodded and got herself a pile of grolash, fresh-made. She then piled the same amount onto another plate and set it down in front of him before sitting down on the other side of the table again.

Aeryn kept an eye on him from the corners of her eyes and wondered if he would ask for help. He didn't like to do that. She knew that. That was probably one of the reasons why he was sporting a weeken-old bread growth, which Aeryn essentially didn't like much. But she kept her mouth shut. If he wanted help, he would have to ask for it. She was not going to invade his private space by forcing things on him he might not want.

Chiana watched him intently too while he just sat there and stared at his plate. "Do you need any help?" she asked.

John raised his head and eyed her for a moment, then he gingerly released his right arm, easing it into the sling's hold, picked up a fork and with his left hand and flinched visibly. Holding anything with any weight behind it caused him pain, but he kept trying anyway.

Aeryn arched an eyebrow and returned her attention to her own food. She knew it was only a matter of time before he would ask someone for assistance. And she was right. A moment later, the fork dropped out of his hand and he cursed silently. Then he glanced at her.

Without further ado, she grabbed the fork, turned around so she straddled the bench and started to feed him. They always did it like this. He didn't have to ask aloud, only make it known that he needed her help. She would go to the end of the universe for him in that respect and he knew that. But she was not going to crowd him and push herself on him.

Chiana watched them for a microt, then shrugged lightly and returned her attention to her own meal. Aeryn knew that she would love to pamper John, but she had to get past Aeryn to do that and she knew better than to try her luck there. Aeryn smirked a little at the thought.

John frowned lightly at her. "What?" he asked. His frowns didn't amount to much these days because of the gash still healing on his forehead.

She shook her head. "Nothing. How is your hand today?"

He glanced down at it and sighed. "It's still there," he said, shifted his arm a little and closed his eyes for a brief moment. She knew enough of his expressions to understand that it had hurt.

Gently, she rubbed his shoulder, forked another piece of gloash off the plate and held it up to him. "Do you still want to chop it off?" she asked.

He made a face, grabbed the piece of grolash between his teeth and pulled it into his mouth. He chewed for a moment, swallowed and then gave her a saying look. "Might as well. It's more trouble than its worth now," he said, his tone thick with sarcasm.

Aeryn had long since realized that the only reason for that he allowed her to feed him like this was because she didn't make a big deal out of it. There was no cooing and patronizing from her side. She fed him and they talked. Sometimes they shared a plate and it seemed to go down better that way.

"Well, I can always go get a lumarburner. That way we cauterize the wound at the same time," she said and smirked when he wrinkled his nose at the idea.

"Could you not talk about cutting limbs off while we're eating?" D'Argo complained.

Aeryn glanced over at him and couldn't help grinning. "I wasn't aware that you were so squirmish, Luxan," she said.

D'Argo gave her an evil look, grabbed his plate and got up. "If I cannot be allowed to eat in peace, I'll have my meal elsewhere," he stated and left.

"Frelling Luxan," Rygel muttered from his place at the head of the table. "Although he does have a point. Even I find this conversation to be a little too morbid," he added.

Aeryn picked up a piece of gloash and flung it at Rygel. "Shut the frell up, your eminence," she advised him and then returned her attention to John. "You need a shave," she stated. She hadn't said so before because she was waiting for him to complain about it. But so far, he hadn't.

"Yeah, I know," he agreed and rubbed his left cheek against his shoulder. "But I can't shave myself with my left hand. Especially not when I can't hold on to the frelling razor long enough to do anything about it."

"Do you need help?" Chiana asked, still hoping.

Aeryn gave her a warning glance and she backed off immediately. "I had a company mate who broke both arms during combat once. We had no way of getting him back to the carrier for several days and he was very concerned about the way he looked, that silly fool," she said to John. "I shaved him every day for three solardays and he never complained about my technique. You want to give it a try?"

John glanced at Chiana and then looked back to meet Aeryn's eyes. "Sure," he said. "It's not like I have a choice, is it?"

"Exactly," she agreed. "You still hungry?" she then asked to which he shook his head. "Fine. Let's get it done," she added and got up.


John sat on a stool and stared at himself in the mirror. He had looked better, he assumed, but he had definitely looked worse too. Aeryn wrapped a sheet around his neck, placed her hands on his shoulders and leaned down to look into the mirror as well. "I'm not sure about this beard of yours," she said and frowned.

He met her eyes in the mirror. "What do you mean?"

"You look odd with it, but I think I could get used to it," she said. "And it would be good camouflage. It completely changes your face," she added and ran her fingers over his stubbled cheek. "It's very coarse, though."

"Yeah, I know. That's why I usually don't go for a beard. It's uncomfortable," he said and gave her a weak smile.

"Well, let's remove it then," she said and went about her business without further chatter.

John watched her while she meticulously shaved him and she didn't as much as nick him even once. When she was finally done, she removed the remedies she had used and then crouched down in front of him. "Looks better," she stated and smiled.

He flexed his jaw and gave her a lopsided smile in return. "Feels better too," he agreed.

"And now I think it's time for you to lie down for a bit. You look about ready to drop off this stool any microt," she said and got up.

He nodded. He was not going to fight her on this because she was more than right. Feeling a little shaky, he got up and felt his precarious balance compromised by the gravity of Moya almost at once. Aeryn lashed out and grabbed his left upper arm, stopping him before he could stumble backwards and fall over the stool. The last thing he needed right now was to jostle his already aching right hand even more than it had been already just by him walking around.

"That's what I said to you yesterday already, John. You're up and about too early. You should stay in bed," she admonished and helped him over to the bed.

"I don't want a sermon, Aeryn," he said, a little testy from the pain and fatigue.

"I know that," she agreed and helped him ease down on the bed. "But you're really not up to this," she added.

He stretched out on the bed and gave her a chance to hook the splint back into the wire that would keep his hand elevated. "I know my limits, Aeryn. And I can't stand lying down any more." He couldn't keep the edge out of his voice. He was tired to the bone, and hurting all over.

Aeryn eyed him solemnly for a moment, then nodded and sighed lightly. "I know," she agreed again and left it at that.

He felt like such a shit for snapping at her when she was only trying to help him. With a sigh of his own, he closed his eyes briefly. "I'm sorry, Aeryn," he finally said and opened his eyes again to look up at her. "I know you're only trying to help. But I don't do depending on others very well, if you know what I mean."

Aeryn settled down on the edge of his bed and brushed her fingers through his hair. "I know," she said with a smile. "No need to apologize. I would be the same if I was in your shoes," she added.

"Now that I can believe," he said with a small smile.

Aeryn grinned, leaned in over him and kissed him gently. "Sleep. That's an order," she replied and kissed him again.

John wasn't very responsive though, so she sat up again and was unable to hide the hurt in her eyes. "Sorry," he said with a somewhat concerned look. "It's just ... you're so damned hot and I'm so not up to this," he added.

Aeryn pursed her lips, but nodded again. "I'm sorry," she said with a small smile. "Get some rest," she added and rose. "And comm me if you need anything."

"Gotcha," he replied and watched her go. As soon as her footsteps had faded away, he closed his eyes hard and chomped down on his lower lip. "Damn it," he rasped. His mentality might not be up to her being that close and so damned hot, but his body sure was. And it would be awhile before he could even allow himself to think of anything in that direction.

For now, he couldn't even walk normally without jostling his hand too much. He didn't even want to think about what it would do to him if they started anything. The thought of the pain it might cause was enough to make him calm down again. But he still mourned the receding sense of arousal. If there was one thing that could get his mind off the predicament he was in right now, it was having sex with Aeryn.

"Later, dude," he whispered to himself. "Think of that later."


A weeken later

Aeryn grumbled under her breath, then pursed her lips. "What the frell don't you understand?" she barked at the holographic projection of a medic they had contacted. "His hand is a mess. He needs help. Now!"

"You keep insisting on this and yet tell me you have next to no currency. You think I do this kind of thing for free?" the medic asked. He was Sebacean and as obnoxious as they came.

"Frell you," Aeryn snarled. "Have you ever heard of helping others?"

"I am not in the charity business," the medic replied with a snort. "If I were, I would not be able to afford the type of advertising needed for the likes of you to know I exist."

"Fine then," Aeryn growled and slapped a flat hand down on the panel in front of her. The projection flickered and disappeared. "Frell you and all your kind," she added darkly. "Who else do we have in the vicinity, Pilot?" she then asked and turned her attention toward the clamshell.

"There is a charity organization on the next commerce planet," he replied. "From what I can detect, they do good work for little currency."

"Let's go there then," Aeryn replied. With a sigh, she braced herself against the console and let her head drop.

"You're doing all that for me?"

She straightened her back and turned around to face John, who stood in the doorway, his right arm still cradled in his left. He looked tired, in pain, and it hit her right there and then that he looked about ready to give up. Putting on her best smile, she stepped up to him. "Yes," she said and carefully draped her fingers onto his right arm. "You're pretty frelling useless this way."

He smiled a little, but Aeryn could tell that he didn't think she was being funny. Being dependant on others wasn't his idea of fun. And she understood him completely. She would have been the same way if it had been her. "Useless I may be," he agreed and glanced toward the comm station she had just left, "but you still can't live without me." That statement brought a grin to his lips and Aeryn relished seeing it there. It had been too long.

Unable to stop herself, she reached up and traced her fingertips over his right cheek. "You'll be as good as new soon," she promised. "Just ... don't give up."

He met her eyes and the grin became a tender smile. "I won't. I wouldn't dare," he said, leaned forward and kissed her brow.

She so longed to wrap her arms around him, to 'get it on', as he called it, but as long as he was in this poor a condition with a hand that hurt constantly and other cuts and bruises that were still healing, she didn't know how they could possibly do anything that wouldn't be a study in pain for him. "We'll find a medic who can deal with your hand," she promised. And, frell, the sooner the better.


John settled carefully on the bench in the center chamber and gently deposited his still thudding right hand on the tabletop. Walking was an ordeal because of a stab wound that refused to heal and a hand that was basically useless. His left hand was a little more mobile now. He didn't have so much trouble holding onto things with his three fingers, but if he overdid it, the result was instantaneous. Bone-deep fatigue was a routine by now and so was the pain. He could cope with both, but had no idea when either would pass. His right shoulder was all scrunched up, the muscle hard as stone, but he didn't dare ask anyone's help with that because it might jostle his hand and the thought alone was enough to keep him mum.

Chiana had a habit of setting things up for him even when he wasn't there so he could easily get whatever he might want without having to strain too much. She had set out a plate with a cover over it, which probably contained something she had cooked, and a cup of water with more within reach. He smiled a little at the setup. Aeryn and Chiana had become extremely competitive around him. It seemed to be a race over who could do whatever for him first. Aeryn was more subtle about it, but she was obviously intent on being the most attentive of the two, although Chiana had a much better feel for what he might want than Aeryn did.

He sighed and briefly closed his eyes. The cup of water stood right in front of where he had placed his right hand and for a moment, he desperately wished he could reach out and grab it with his right. But that was a pipe dream. His hand was toast and it would surprise him if he would be able to use any of his fingers again. They were still swollen and discolored and even when he thought of trying to move any of them, even his thumb, he could feel an instant response from the gaping hole in the middle, that refused to heal even around the edges. It was constantly borderline infected, oozing puss at some points or just making the change of the bandages a living hell for him because the fabric Chiana was using at the moment stuck in the wound.

Pip had promised to get some better quality bandages on the next commerce planet and apparently there was also a medic there, who did charity work. "Charity work," he muttered under his breath and sighed. "And to think I shelled out all that money for a health insurance back home," he added.

His quiet narrative was interrupted by the whirr of Rygel's thronesled as the minuscule dominar came zipping into the center chamber, probably in search of something edible. Rygel changed course just inside the door and zipped past John instead of going the other way around. In the process, he bumped into John, shoving him forward. The impact rolled his right hand onto its side and shoved it hard into the cup, which fell over and spilled water all over the place.

For the first few moments, John thought he was going to pass out. All blood left his face and cold sweat broke out all over his body as the pain exploded in his hand and radiated outwards and upwards.



D'Argo's voice boomed through the room, sending the little ruler off to the furthest corner of the center chamber, where he hovered as close to the ceiling as he could get. But he said nothing.

D'Argo, who had just entered the center chamber, was appalled. He had seen Rygel do much dren over the cycles, but this had to be the worst. He rushed to John's side and grabbed his friend's shoulders. "Are you all right, John?" he asked, concern in his voice.

John said nothing, only had the three healthy fingers of his left hand wrapped hard around his right wrist. And blood was slowly seeping through the bandage covering the hole in his hand.

"CHIANA!" he roared after tapping his comm. "GET TO THE CENTER CHAMBER RIGHT NOW. JOHN'S HURT."

John flinched and finally managed to draw in a shuddering breath. "I think she heard you without the comms," he rasped and blinked tears of pain away from his eyes.

D'Argo held onto his shoulders because he was afraid he would tip off the bench and hurt himself even worse. But his eyes were on Rygel. "You just wait, Hynerian. When I get my hands on you, I will stuff you down the nearest waste disposal shut," he snarled.

"Leave'm alone, D," John said, his tone of voice breaking with tension. "He's just being himself."

D'Argo returned his attention to John and couldn't help but marvel at the fact that John didn't want to kill that little beast right now.

Chiana came racing in with Aeryn hot on her heels, both of them carrying things they might need. Aeryn slid onto the bench next to John and eyed his now blood-soaked hand. "What the frell happened?" she asked and glanced up at him.

"Rygel," D'Argo said. "That little fekkik bumped into him and caused this."

Aeryn's gaze shifted to Rygel and she literally snarled at him. "You'll pay for this," she growled.

In the meantime, Chiana had climbed up on the table and had removed anything in her way to get to John's hand. The blood was steadily dripping from the soaked bandaged onto the tabletop. Aeryn helped her by holding his arm up and supporting the splint underneath.

John was breathing erratically and D'Argo maintained his grip on his shoulders while he watched the girls undo the bandage together. Aeryn pursed her lips and Chiana grumbled something incomprehensible under her breath when she pulled the last piece of bandage away from his hand. The hole looked raw, fresh, and dark-red artery blood was welling out of it at a steady pulse. "Frell," Chiana muttered.

"This isn't good" John rasped. "Not good at all."

"Put a tourniquet on his arm," Chiana urged. "We have to stop the bleeding."

D'Argo grabbed Aeryn's belt when she handed it to him and wrapped it around John's upper arm.

"No, no," Chiana admonished immediately. "Aeryn, hold this pad on the wound," she added, grabbed Aeryn's hand and pressed it lightly down on the pad she had placed lightly over the wound. John flinched. "Not too hard," Chiana added, then grabbed the belt and wrapped it around his arm just below the elbow. She pulled it together, then grabbed D'Argo's hand and gave him the end. "Keep one hand on his arm and hold it tight. But not too tight," she instructed, then took over from Aeryn again.

Within microts, she had managed to slow the flow of blood down to an insignificant trickle. Then she glanced at John. "We need to seal this wound better," she said, her expression dark.

D'Argo glanced at John, noted that he had paled another degree, and realized what Chiana was saying. "Are you out of your frelling mind?" he asked.

"He is bleeding and it's been a frelling half monan since he got these frelling wounds, D'Argo," Chiana snapped. "He needs a frelling medic to take care of this, because I don't know what to do any more."

D'Argo just stared at her for a microt, but then he nodded. "You're right," he said and turned his attention to Aeryn. "How goes the search for a medic?"

Aeryn, who had one hand on John's left shoulder and looked very concerned about the whole thing, gave him a glance. "We should reach that commerce planet in two arns," she said. "They apparently have charity workers there," she added and made a face. "I would prefer a professional."


John looked from one to the other and back again and was only unable to respond to their blatant disregard for his opinion on this one because of the pain he was in. His dislike for being overlooked and having others talk about him as if he wasn't there got the better of him. "HEY," he snapped, drawing everybody's attention toward him immediately. "I'm still here, you know," he growled.

Aeryn pursed her lips and Chiana looked all flustered. "Sorry," Pip said.

"I'd prefer not to have anything burning hot stuck into any of my wounds. But I am awfully tired of having this crap leak all the time. So, what can we do about it?" It took everything out of him to focus on anything other than the pain, but these three were not going to make any progress if he didn't intervene. "What does it take to stop the bleeding?" he asked. "I don't care if it's neat. Do whatever you need to do to stop this crap from leaking all the time."

Chiana nodded. "We can cauterize the wound. But that might impair healing later," she said.

Not doing himself any favors, he raised his right hand and flinched when the pain exploded again. "Look at this," he said harshly. "I can look right through my frelling hand, Chiana. I don't frelling care if it impairs healing later. This hand is a goner and you know it. You might as well just chop it off right now. But you are not sticking anything hot in there. Do I make myself clear?"

Chiana pulled back a little, her eyes widening in surprise. "All right. But you're not gonna lose your hand, Crichton. A medic can fix it."

John pushed back, ripping the end of the belt around his lower arm out of D'Argo's hand, which instantly resulted in renewed bleeding. He grabbed a handful of the cotton-like material Chiana always used on wounds, clenched his teeth against the impending pain and shoved most of it into the hole. He nearly blacked out for a moment, but was determined to see this through to the end and fought the rising darkness until it receded again. Turning his attention to Aeryn, he held his hand out to her. "Put the frelling splint back on and wrap it up," he said, his tone tense and shaky.

Aeyrn frowned at him, but obviously assumed that he knew what he was talking about and followed his demand without question.

He felt like crying by the time she was done, but he kept it inside and lurched to his feet before looking back at a stunned Chiana. "I know you mean well, Pip, but there is no frelling way that my hand can be saved. That I haven't gotten gangrene already is a frelling surprise," he hissed through clenched teeth. "I'm tired of being in pain, tired of being frelling hunted all the time. We'll go to this commerce planet and whatever the medic there suggests is what we'll do. Once that's done, we'll leave. Unless you guys wanna stick around here. Then I'll go on my own."

Aeryn rose too, her expression now one of alarm. "Go where?" she asked.

"I don't know," he said and briefly closed his eyes. "Away from here. This galaxy is a frelling death trap for me and anyone who gets close to me. So I think it's time to call it quits and find new hunting grounds." He stepped shakily over the bench and turned for the door. "And now, if you guys don't mind, I'd like to be alone for a bit," he added tiredly and walked as fast as he could out the door.

The moment they couldn't see him any more, the tears would no longer be held back. They started trickling down his face, obscuring his surroundings, and he didn't care where he went. He just wanted to get away, to find someplace where he could curl up and not have everybody hover over him constantly. He hated being this decrepit, hated what it was doing to his mentality. All he needed was for this all to go away. Right now.