Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: Separated by forces outside of their control, John and Aeryn must make the best of it until they're reunited.

Timeline: After Peacekeeper Wars.

Author's note: Ixchup asked me to finish this, so I did. It took time, but it got ready in time for her birthday. Happy Birthday, girl. Hope you have a good one. :)

The present

The bay doors of Command Carrier Zahrtan opened and the prowler eased inside, gliding effortlessly through the giant bay to settle down neatly next to a row of other prowlers. The engine huffed briefly and then fell silent. Moments later, the canopy opened and the pilot, clad in the traditional garb of a prowler pilot, hauled himself out of the cockpit and climbed down the ladder to turn to the waiting ground crew below.

"Good flight, Officer?" one of the techs asked, a tentative smile on his lips.

The pilot pulled his helmet off and ran a quick hand through his short-cropped hair, then nodded. "Yeah, but she banks a little to hammond-side. I think the stabilizer is shot."

The tech nodded. "We'll get right on it, Officer Crichton," he assured and turned his attention to the prowler.

John Crichton glanced up at the ship for a moment, then turned around and walked away. At the rank of officer he was only a crash-test dummy. Granted, he was allowed to fly and that made a world of difference, but it still did not counterbalance the reason for him being on this ship in the first place.

He returned to the locker rooms and got out of the flight suit, got back into uniform and made his way back out into the humdrum of the command carrier. It had been a long day and he looked forward to getting some rest. But first things first. He needed food.

The mess hall wasn't very busy at this time and that suited him just fine. Despite the fact that he had been a part of the crew of this Command Carrier for almost two years now, he was still regarded as a bit of an outcast; not by everybody, but by those that mattered.

He had barely settled down before one of the other officers came over to his table. She was tall, lean, with short black hair and deep brown eyes. "Officer Crichton, I was wondering if you were off duty now?" she asked.

John glanced up at her, well aware what she wanted, and nodded. "Yeah, I am," he agreed.

"Would you care to recreate later?" she asked.

Even after two years in an environment where everybody slept with everybody, he still couldn't get used to the directness of these people. He had gotten past the point where he nearly choked whenever someone approached him about sex. "Uh ... no, thanks. It's been a long day. I just want to get some sleep," he countered, a standard answer by now.

She nodded once and left again. The only thing they were interested in was having sex with the alien, or at least that was how it seemed at times. In general, he thought they dared each other to approach him and he couldn't help thinking what would happen if he agreed. They'd probably make a run for it.

With a heartfelt sigh kept under wraps, he finished his meal and left the mess hall again. Many bad things could be said about Peacekeepers, but after having seen the inner workings of a command carrier from the other side for two years, he realized that the age-old saying was true. You had to walk a mile in someone else's shoes to see what their life was like. But even though he had gained a deeper understanding of Peacekeeper ways, it still did not mean that he wanted to be here.

He made his way back toward the sleeping quarters with little else on his mind but sleep. Only during the few hours he was allowed to rest in peace did he get the chance to escape the rigidness of a soldier's life; and it was the only time when he allowed himself to think of Aeryn.

He had almost reached his quarters; the only benefit he had been granted; when another solider caught up to him. "Officer Crichton," he called.

John came to a stop and briefly closed his eyes, wishing desperately that these people would just leave him the hell alone. He was tired and sick at heart. All he wanted was a few hours of sleep before the whole rigmarole started again. Then he turned around to face the man. "What?"

The cadet was nothing but a kid, yet he carried himself like a solider. "Sir, Captain Amada would like to see you if you have time," the cadet said, standing at attention. "He tried to reach you on the comm, but you did not reply."

"My comm is on the blink. I was going to get a new one in the morning," John countered. "Where does he want to see me?"

"Stateroom, sir," the cadet said.

"Thanks," John said and meant anything but. He wasn't grateful for being stopped from going to bed. He wasn't happy that the captain wanted to see him. Most of all, he wanted to go hide in a corner somewhere. Amada had made it very clear from the very beginning what he thought of John and being called to his stateroom wasn't an honor.

But if he refused to obey, things would get worse so fast, he wouldn't know what hit him. He'd done that repeatedly in the beginning and, boy, had he regretted it later. No wonder Peacekeepers were so dedicated. Refusing to obey orders, especially for grunts like him, always resulted in harsh punishments. With their medical skills, it was no big deal for a soldier to sustain injuries. Physical punishment was part of their lives here and nobody stepped out of line unless they had a death wish.

He took the nearest levelriser up to the command level and approached Captain Amada's stateroom cautiously while trying to remember if he had done something wrong lately. He couldn't remember and that scared him a little. He was living on a day-to-day basis here, trying to obstruct thoughts of both past and future to keep himself from misery. But it wasn't easy and sometimes he slipped. Sometimes he spoke out of line or was too slow to obey a command and it always, always resulted in immediate punishment. They were harsher with him than the others and he knew why too.

He stopped outside the door, straightened his back, clasped his hands behind him and stood at attention until the doors parted. Captain Amada was sitting behind his desk, going over flimsies. He glanced up, his piercing grey eyes locking on John in the usual unkind fashion.

"Captain. Reporting as ordered, sir," John said and waited patiently for the captain to tell him to come in.

"Your response time has improved, Crichton. Step inside," Amada said sternly.

John cleared the door opening and stopped halfway between the door and the desk. It was commonly known that Amada was paranoid and preferred others to keep their distance. John had also learned the hard way not to question the man at any point. If Amada wanted him to stand there and sweat for an hour, he would do that.

"How long have you been with us now, Crichton?" Amada asked and leaned back on his seat.

"Nearly two cycles, sir," John replied. It paid to have all the answers to any possible questions the man might ask.

"Two cycles too long if you ask me," Amada growled and glanced off to the right. "You have a visitor," he added.

John frowned lightly and glanced sideways without moving his head. Then he closed his eyes and pressed his lips together into a thin line. "Yes sir," he managed.

"Hello John." Scorpius rose from his seat.

Seeing that leather-clad freak again brought back memories he tried to suppress; memories of how he had ended up here, forced into servitude with no escape. But the Peacekeepers had trained him well and he maintained an almost perfect facade. "Scorpius," he replied, his voice a little hoarse now.


Two cycles earlier

There were times in his life where things went wrong. Actually, the past four years had consisted of nothing else; and every damned time things started looking up, someone came along and stuck a spoke in his wheel. But it didn't just trip him. No, it buried him in five feet of mud which he couldn't drag himself back out of.

Aeryn had forgiven him, he had forgiven her, they were parents now; things were getting back to normal. Sure, the whole Peacekeeper corps plus the Scarrans and in part also the Nebari were hunting them, set on getting whatever might hide in John's mind, but he had gotten it into his head – somehow – that if only he had Aeryn by his side, things would be fine.

But this time, things looked bleak in the worst sense. A shopping spree on a commerce planet had taken a turn for the worse and they had been hunted around the city for hours without chance of escape. John was getting a little frantic near the end and Aeryn – in an attempt to calm him down – had let her guard down for just a moment. And that had been all it took. Suddenly, they were surrounded by Peacekeepers on all sides.

They put up a fight; both of them. Aeryn took out half the squad all by herself, but in the end it just wasn't enough. Some overzealous rookie fired into the fray and hit Aeryn in the shoulder. John was subdued by three burley Peacekeepers halfway through the fight and found himself on the ground with all three of them on top of him while one of them was obviously trying to dislocate his right arm by shoving it as far up his back as it would go.

"Enough!" a voice called.

John struggled to get a glimpse of his impending doom, but couldn't move enough for it to matter. But he didn't need to see to know that Scorpius had finally caught up to him again.

After forcing his hands behind his back, the three PKs pulled him back up on his feet and ripped him around so he could face the scourge of his life. "Scorpius," he pressed out through gritted teeth.

"Hello John," Scorpius said pleasantly. "You've given us quite a run around, haven't you?" He smiled that benevolent, sick smile that made John cringe inside. "But no matter. It was only a matter of time before we caught you. High Chancellor Grayza has been very adamant about your capture and your subsequent punishment, John."

"High Chancellor?" John sputtered and couldn't help a half-hearted laugh. "That has got to be the joke of the century."

Obviously, the three goons holding onto him did not appreciate the pun against their leader. Before he knew what hit him, he was on the ground again with a rather heavy knee grinding into the back of his neck while his face was being squashed against the dusty street underneath.

"I said enough," Scorpius snapped, suddenly angry. "Get him back on his feet."

The goons obeyed instantly and dragged him back to his feet and John flinched at the raw feeling of his right cheek.

Scorpius stepped up to him and eyed him thoughtfully for a moment. "I cannot believe that I never saw your true weakness, John," he said and glanced over at Aeryn. "How peculiar that you would choose to attach yourself to a former Peacekeeper like that."

"Ironic, I know," John agreed and shifted, but couldn't move much with those goons holding onto him. "So, what do you want now, Scorpy? It's not like I'm going to give you anything at this point."

"Oh, I know that, John," Scorpius said. "I'm afraid that my being here has nothing to do with your – uhm – former abilities."

John touched his lower lip with the tip of his tongue, tasting dust and blood there. "Then what do you want? Can't you people just leave us the hell alone?" he countered.

Scorpius smiled, then sighed. "It is out of my hands, John. The High Chancellor wants to see you punished for former transgressions against the Peacekeepers in whole and – knowing of my previous success rate to get the job done, as you would say – she sent me to find you."

That didn't sound good; not good at all. John glanced at Aeryn and met her worried gaze. "Okay, you got me," he said and returned his attention to Scorpius. "Let Aeryn go and I'll come quietly."

"NO!" Aeryn snapped, then yelped when one of the soldiers holding her twisted her injured shoulder too much.

Apparently, John's plea for Aeryn's freedom was something Scorpius considered to be funny. "Ah John," he sighed and shook his head. "You continuously underestimate your enemy. That is a grave mistake. You cannot escape us and we will not willingly give up the one thing that will keep you in line." He reached up and patted John's cheek like an affectionate parent.

John counteracted by yanking his head back, hitting the right-hand goon's shoulder in the process. The man obviously didn't appreciate that and hammered the heel of one hand against the back of John's head. Grinding his teeth in frustration, John tilted his head to the left, cracking his neck in the process. "What's it gonna matter, Scorpy, if you're gonna blow my brains out anyway? Let her go. She's got nothing to do with this."

"Oh, we have no intention of killing you, John. I bargained for your life, you see. Normal Peacekeeper tradition demands that a traitor to the ranks is executed in public to state an example. You, of course, have never been of the ranks, but that makes little difference. I managed to persuade the High Chancellor that you should be punished mildly. After all, your intervention was what prevented an all-out war with the Scarrans that we would have lost without a doubt. So, compared to other war criminals, John, your sentence is lenient."

Somehow, that didn't sound very good to him. "How nice of you," he sneered. "And what will I have to do to atone then? Be your guinea pig until I die?"

Scorpius took a step back, mock surprise on his face. "But of course not. As I do believe that your ... resistence to aiding the Peacekeepers stems from nothing more than ... how shall I put this? ... lack of understanding, I managed to convince the High Chancellor that you should be allowed to see the ... flip-side of the coin, I believe you call it."

Again, John glanced at Aeryn, noting the concerned expression she had on her face. When their eyes met, she shook her head lightly, warning him not to overstep the line. He swallowed, then returned his attention to Scorpius. "What the hell does that mean, Scorpy? You gonna stick me in the brig for a few weeks?"

"On the contrary, John. On the contrary," Scorpius assured him. "You will be made a part of a Command Carrier crew. Needless to say, you can't rise in rank, but you will see how the Peacekeepers function from the inside. Perhaps you will learn to see things our way then."

"See things your way?" John countered, a little taken aback by this development. "What makes you think we'll stay put? First given chance I get, I'll jump ship. And Aeryn will be right beside me when I do."

"Ah, but therein lies the challenge, does it not, John?" Scorpius said and put a hand on his shoulder. "You won't be together, of course. Officer Sun will be the collateral that we need to keep you in line."

Aeryn fought her way free of the soldiers holding her and rammed into the three holding John in a vain attempt to free them both. John, however, grabbed her, wrapped his arms around her and put himself between her and any potential attackers. "No, Aeryn. No," he snapped when she wouldn't stop fighting. "Don't do this. Don't give them a reason to hurt you. Please!"

He noted that Scorpius held up a hand, stopping the soldiers from breaking them up.

"It's not worth it, Aeryn. You gotta live. You hear me? No matter what, you gotta live," he insisted quietly.

"If you manage to get away, John, meet me on Kadesh. It's a commerce planet," she hissed into his ear and stopped struggling when the soldiers finally grabbed her again and pulled her away from John.

"You better be there," he said and gave her a sad smile.

"I will. I'll never stop looking. Never," she countered tensely.

He mouthed 'I love you' at her and she smiled in return and gave him a vague nod. And then the soldiers dragged her off.

John struggled for a moment, hating how close this pushed him to tears, and then turned an angry glare on Scorpius. "If you hurt her ..." he hissed.

"I won't," Scorpius said with a smile. "As long as you stay in line, no harm will come to her. You have my word."

"That's worth about as much as the dirt I stand on right now," John snarled. "Someday, Scorpy, you'll pay for this crap. And I don't care what you've been through so far. What goes around comes around."

Scorpius' expression had turned serious. "Indeed it does, John. Indeed it does," he agreed and waved a hand at the soldiers. "Take him away. Captain Amada is expecting him."

As they dragged him away in the opposite direction of Aeryn, he didn't stop the struggle to get free until they had secured him inside the marauder sent to pick them up. And even then he kept his gaze sternly on the exit hatch, not acknowledging any of the soldiers surrounding him, no matter how much they poked him. In truth, he had never feared the future more than he did right now.


The present

Not so much out of respect for Scorpius, but mainly because he feared the repercussions of any sign of disobedience, John stood at attention and stared straight ahead of himself. He was not able to keep the anger out of his voice and therefore opted to say nothing.

"I hear good things about you, John," Scorpius said and came to a stop in front of him.

John kept staring ahead of himself, avoiding Scorpius' intense eyes with a vengeance. "Thank you, sir," he countered, then pressed his lips together into a thin line. He had a few things he wanted to say to Scorpius, but he wouldn't as long as Amada was around. If he did, Amada would take it out of his hide the moment Scorpius was gone.

"Captain, may we have a moment alone?" Scorpius asked, not even bothering to turn around to face the captain.

John briefly glanced at Amada over Scorpius' shoulder and barely prevented himself from flinching. The man looked annoyed. "Certainly, Scorpius. We need to speak further. I will be in the officer's lounge."

"But of course," Scorpius said with a smile aimed at John.

Amada rose, gathered his flimsies and walked out and John just knew he was going to feel the brunt of Amada's annoyance once Scorpius had left.

Scorpius continued to eye John, obviously waiting for him to let down his guard, but he remained at attention and refused to do otherwise until he was told to; mainly because he was convinced that all rooms on this carrier were under constant surveillance and that Amada would know if he'd stepped out of line.

"No need to worry, John," Scorpius said. "There is no surveillance in this room."

John glanced at him, spooked by the fact that Scorpius knew him so well now that he could literally read his mind, but he made no move to relax.

That, in turn, made Scorpius sigh. "At ease, Officer Crichton," he said.

John inhaled deeply, relaxed his stance, and finally focused on Scorpius. "What do you want?" he asked, his tone clipped. It took all he had to not attack the half-breed and wring the life out of him. He knew an act like that was wishful thinking, but it made him feel slightly better to envision the attack and the success of it.

"Easy, John. I was merely in the area and decided to check up on you," Scorpius countered and settled down on the edge of the desk. "Lately, there have been very few reports about your insubordinate behavior and I was keen to see if the reports were true. It would appear they are."

A sneer spread over John's lips. "Yeah, well, when you get fried alive for the tenth time, Scorpy, it tends to make an impression," he growled darkly.

Scorpius' expression changed and he rose again and took a step toward him. "Fried?" he asked. "What do you mean?"

John chuckled joylessly. "You really are a piece of work, Scorpy. Don't tell me you didn't know that Amada hits me with everything he's got if I just look at him wrong," he countered.

Judging by Scorpius' expression he didn't know, but John was no longer a very trusting soul. "I knew no such thing," Scorpius said, confirming what John had already gathered from the look on his face, but it made little difference to him. "Are you in any danger, John?" he asked, sounding almost as if he really cared.

John made a face in sheer frustration and took a step back, increasing the distance between them. "Not unless I breathe wrong," he countered angrily. "Where's Aeryn? Is she all right?"

"Officer Sun is quite well," Scorpius confirmed. "She sends her regards," he added almost thoughtfully and held out a hand, palm up.

John stared at the vid-chip lying there for a moment. "What's that?"

"Officer Sun's regards," Scorpius replied.

If Scorpius had claimed that it contained his release papers, he wouldn't have touched it. But on the off chance that this was actually a message from Aeryn, he just couldn't and wouldn't pass up on it, so he grabbed it and pocketed it, trying desperately not to show any outward signs of the fact that this chip was now burning a hole in his pocket.

"I must say, John, that it disturbs me that you are being treated so roughly. Personally, I'd much rather let you go, but it is out of my hands and the High Chancellor does not seem inclined to pardon you any time soon," Scorpius said and returned to the desk, where he shifted things around a little.

Even though John had expected nothing less, it was very depressing to hear those words spoken out loud. He shifted a little and struggled to subdue the surge of panic that rippled through him like a low-frequency current. He kept his mouth shut to keep his emotions at bay.

Scorpius turned back to face him, his expression curious now. "There is one thing I cannot help wonder about," he said. "What happened to your offspring? Did your ... shipmates on the leviathan keep it?"

Up until now, John had been able to maintain a reasonable grip on himself. But Scorpius overstepped the line when he mentioned little D. Still fighting to contain how the mention of his son made him feel, John turned a burning gaze on the half-breed. "That's none of your business," he pressed out through clenched teeth.

Scorpius managed to look mildly surprised at his response. "I am merely curious, John," he stated.

"Why? So you can go after him and use him to keep me in line too? You stay away from my kid," John snapped and stopped himself before he could lunge at the half-Scarran.

For a moment Scorpius just eyed him, then he shrugged lightly. "I merely assumed that you wished to see your offspring again at some point, John. And, I assure you, I have no interest in your son."

Scorpius started forward, but came to a stop again when he was shoulder to shoulder with John. "Do not despair, John. Things do have a tendency of changing for the better when you least expect it." That said, he started walking again and John heard the doors part and close behind him without turning around.

Only when he was certain that the leather-clad freak wasn't going to come back in and do something unspeakable to him, he turned around and left the stateroom to head to his quarters. Whatever Amada thought of this didn't matter right now. He wanted a chance to see that chip before they came and hauled him off to the brig. And there was no doubt in his mind that the posse would be coming for him soon. Amada did not let anything go by unpunished and he had been rather miffed at being sent away from his own stateroom.