Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: Loss can drive you crazy if you let it. John is having his own problems with loss these days and Sikozu is not helping.

The single sun was high in the sky and the weather in general was milder than it should be for this time of the season. The tall, willowy Ashanti made her way across the market place with a basket over one arm which contained the day's shopping; a few roots, a few bottles of raslac, and a news-chip. It was early in the day, but Ur'dur was not shying back from taking in a little refreshment, so she headed toward the nearest open bar, found a single seat at the counter itself and settled her fragile-looking frame easily onto the stool.

"What'll it be, pretty girl?" the barkeep asked and winked at her. He was Sebacean, but did not shy back from other races.

Ur'dur smiled. "A raslac, if you please," she countered and glanced at the other patrons of the bar. On her left sat a Nasduc male, his deadly dark-gray spines flattened against his back, deeply engrossed in conversation with the Nebari male sitting next to him. On her right side sat - or rather half lay half hung on the bar - a Sebacean male with an array of glasses and bottles in front of him, all empty. Ur'dur arched a sculpted eyebrow. She herself was having such a marvelous day that she had not considered that there might be others whose lives might not be so wonderful.

"Warm or chilled?" the barkeep asked.

"Warm, please," she responded instinctively while she eyed her neighbor for a moment. "What has happened to you that you are this depressed this early in the day?" she asked and gently put a hand on the man's shoulder.

He jerked, raised his head off the counter and blinked sluggishly at her. His eyes were bloodshot, his skin waxen and he reeked of alcohol.

Being an Ashanti could both be a blessing and a curse at times. His sorrow almost overwhelmed Ur'dur as their eyes locked, but she did not pull back from this one. Most life forms had crude, base thoughts - even the sad ones - and she would rather be without their intrusion in her mind, but this one harbored true sorrows, true pain.

He sniffed and tried in vain to dry the shells of some local delicacy off his cheek, attempted a smile which failed miserably and turned his wobbly attention toward the empty glasses on the counter. "I used to have it all," he rasped and reached unsteadily for one of the glasses that wasn't entirely empty. "Not so long ago, I had everything a man could ever want." He snorted, then sniffed again and upended the contents of the glass on the counter. He watched the liquid spread, then traced a finger through it and subsequently stuck it in his mouth, sucking the liquid off it. "Now, I've got nothing. Nada, zip, zero."

Ur'dur could not determine what he had lost, but she assumed it had to be what he said if the feelings he gave off were for real and not just phantoms from a drunken mind. "All things happen for a reason," she said with a vague smile.

"Oh yeah," he agreed and barked a joyless laugh. "The reason is very clear to me now. It's only taken me five damned cycles to figure it out, you know." He glanced at her, frowned briefly, and then shook his head.

"And what is that reason?" Ur'dur asked kindly. Others might not care about his misery, but in her opinion, no one should be this sad on a day like this.

He grimaced and rubbed the heel of one hand over one eye, smearing traces of tears over his cheek. "I must have done something really bad in a past life to deserve this," he muttered.

Before Ur'dur could enquire further, a gloved hand grabbed his shoulder from behind. "It is time to leave, Crichton."

Ur'dur glanced at the newcomer and flinched at the emotional storm brewing in that one. Hatred, betrayal, and a thirst for revenge so strong it nearly took the Ashanti's breath away. The Kalish female dragged her companion off the stool he had so far been sitting on and, holding onto his arm, somehow managed to keep the unsteady male on his feet.

The Kalish's eyes locked on Ur'dur's. "What the frell are you staring at, Ashanti?" she spat.

Ur'dur glanced at the male. "I was just wondering what had happened to this one to leave him in so much pain," she said quietly, not taking offence at the kitling's harsh words.

"None of your frelling business," the Kalish shot back. "Come along, Crichton. We have work to do," she added and hauled the male with her as she left.

Ur'dur watched them go, then sighed and turned back to her raslac. Why could not everybody be happy on a day like this? It defied her understanding.


Loneliness had always been his biggest enemy. He hated being alone; even as a child. And solitude did little for his general state of mind at this point. But what could he do?

On his knees in front of the waste receptacle, he held onto the sides of it for dear life while his stomach attempted to follow the meager remains of bile up his throat. Damn, he hated throwing up and he was beginning to hate what came before as well. Getting drunk no longer held any allure for him; especially when it ended in this.

For the moment, his stomach settled a little and he took the opportunity to wipe the back of one hand under his nose. His nose was running, his eyes were watering, his throat felt like he'd tried to swallow dragonfly paper with the business side out, and in general he just felt so damned lousy that his best option right around now would have to be death.

Wasted from too much alcohol, too little food and being sick too many times, he sat back on his heels and ran a lightly shivering hand through his hair. It was longer now, long enough to fall in his eyes if he didn't push it back all the time. Although he made halfhearted attempts at shaving at least a couple of times per week, he still had the stubble forming on his cheeks and chin most of the time.

He closed his eyes and braced himself against the floor with one hand while the world started spinning around him. That blasted Kalish kept her distance when he was sick. She wouldn't make much of a mother, he thought to himself and then pressed his lips together into a thin line to keep his raging emotions in check.

It did little good, though. The tears rose in his eyes again and a few broke loose and trickled down his face. He wiped them away and shakily forced himself back to his feet. There were three things he didn't think of any more if he could avoid it in any way. Friends, motherhood and freedom. And all three things kept crowding in on him. Silenced voices demanded attention, ghosts of familiar and understanding kindness left him aching for the real thing, and through it all she was there, watching him, being verbally abusive, derisive; corrosive to every aspect of his life.

They only had one thing in common, him and that damned Kalish he shared this leviathan with; only one common goal. But it was enough to keep them together. She was the brain, he the muscle. She was the planner, he the errand boy. In the end, it would kill him. He knew that. But it would be worth it if he reached his goal first. Death was preferable at this point, but he needed to settle the score before he moved on to whatever lay beyond. It was payback time and, as one of his friends back home had once said: Payback's a bitch.

"Are you done being sick?"

Her voice was coarse in his ears, not the softly melodic voice he wanted to hear. His knees gave a little and he braced his hands against them, hoping to remain upright for a moment longer. Then he glanced at her. There was no pity in her fabulous eyes.

She had lost as much as he had, more even. They both had to settle a score. But she was cold, harsh and angry. He was sad, drunk and devastated.

"Make yourself useful then," she suggested. "I need to run a diagnostic of the system. I cannot do that by myself and that frelling Pilot continuously refuses to aide me."

He straightened up and froze briefly when his stomach rolled uneasily. Then he sniffed and turned around to face her. "Maybe you should learn to ask nicely, Sputnik," he suggested. Any attempt at sounding casual had gone down the drain long ago.

"He is there to serve. He should serve," she stated coldly. "You look like dren."

"Thanks. You're not much prettier," he countered. At times, his temper flared and he snapped at her. Then she responded in a way he assumed she had picked up from their common nemesis. She backhanded him across the face, throwing him easily off his feet. He hit the floor on his shoulder, bruising already bruised muscles there.

"This is all your fault," she snapped and kicked him in the chest when he tried to sit up again. "You should have given in to Scorpius the first frelling time he demanded the wormhole technology. All of this dren could have been avoided."

He coughed weakly and rubbed the sore spot on his chest. They had been down this road countless times before and it just wasn't getting any better. For a moment he considered leaving it at that. Maybe he should just curl up here on the floor of his quarters and die. But he knew she would not let him and he knew he couldn't let go until all was avenged.

Without much conviction, he propped himself up on his elbows and gave her a tired look. He had actually been happy to see her, to realize she was alive. Well, that happiness sure had worn off. Like with Scorpius before her, he was nothing but a prop to her, a means to an end. She needed him for some obscure reason.

"What the hell do you want from me?" he asked. There was not much force left in his words, his voice. "Why can't you just leave me the hell alone?"

"Because we have work to do and I am not going to let you frelling crawl off into a corner somewhere and die before we have accomplished what we need to do," she snapped. She eyed him with nothing short of distaste. "Weak species," she snarled, swirled around and strode out.

He watched her go and wished she would just blow up or something. No matter how motivated he may be to seek revenge, death was really beginning to look good to him.

Too tired to get up and too sad to care, he rolled over on his stomach, pushed up on his hands and knees and crawled over to his bed. He dragged himself up on top of the covers and collapsed there, eyes closed. But only for a moment.

That scent. His lids slid open and he focused slowly on the black fabric underneath his head. The sling. The mere thought of that sling brought tears to his eyes and raised a lump in his throat.

He pulled the sling out from under his head with trembling fingers and pressed the fabric against his face, inhaling deeply. Keeping it pressed against his face, he curled up on himself and allowed himself to drown once more in the misery that was his life now. What would it matter if he got revenge? It wouldn't change anything. He would still lie here with his heart torn out and his soul burned to cinders. To hell with the universe and to hell with everybody else.


How incompetent could one person be? Sikozu gave Crichton a nasty glance from where she stood by the door of the center chamber. That incompetent Human sat at the table, his head resting on his arms, and he hadn't moved for an arn.

She sneered. She knew he was in pain, knew the suffering that had brought on this behavior, but why could he not use the pain and channel it into anger or even hatred? Why did he have to be so frelling weak? She had lost a lot on this frelled deal too. Scorpius had betrayed her trust much in the same way as she had betrayed his. The only problem in this equation was that she had not expected him to take it personally. That frelling half-breed had spent the majority of his life twisting and turning things to his own needs, betraying others, setting them up, manipulating them. Why he had responded the way he had at her apparent 'betrayal' was beyond her.

She was nothing if she was not a survivor though. Betrayal by both the Scarrans and Scorpius at once should probably have left her teetering on some edge, but all she felt was the overwhelming need to get back at him, at them. If she could combine this with the freedom of her people ... who was she to deny herself that chance? With the healing of her body came the healing of her mind. Once all was said and done, the Scarrans would have one less species to kick around and Scorpius? Scorpius would have learned a valuable lesson. If, that was, he survived her teachings.

Once again, she sneered. She needed Crichton to help her carry out her plans. But he was weak, incompetent, wallowing in self-pity. If she had known he would lose all will to live after what had happened, she would have done much more to save that frelling Sebacean and her wailing infant. But things could not be undone and there was always a chance that Crichton's overwhelming sadness would turn to anger and hatred. Fueled by such powerful emotions, he would become what she needed the most.

She herself had tried to facilitate a change in his state of mind by being harsh. But all words of hers seemed to bounce off him or, even worse, increase his depression. She did not understand his need to remember by scent and touch. It was such a base, animal way to be. Animals! That was all these creatures were. It was impossible to even for a moment entertain the thought that Sebaceans could in any way originate from that.

With a snort, she considered her options for a moment. She was smarter, faster, better than him. She should be able to change his mind about crawling into a corner to die. And now that she really bothered to think about it, there was really only one way to facilitate that. She pushed away from the doorframe she had so far been leaning against and sidled up behind him.

"Crichton," she said, lending her voice a softer tone. "Listen to me. There is nothing gained by your sadness. You will never find peace until you strike back at the one who did this to you."

"Go away," he mumbled into the crook of one arm.

Sikozu sighed lightly and placed a hand on his back. "If you were really serious about dying, Crichton, you would have accomplished it by now. Why do you hang on?"

For a long moment, it appeared that he would continue to be weak and not answer her, but then he raised his head. "For two glorious months, I had it all," he rasped and drew in a shaky breath. "Everything a man could want. Peace, a wife and a kid." He paused and she felt him tense under her hand. "Now I've got nothing. What's there to live for? What good will it do if I kill Scorpius?" He pushed himself up and sniffed before turning around to look up at her. "Nothing. That's what it'll do. Nada, zip, zero. They won't come back if I kill Scorpius. Nobody will come back if I kill him. They're all dead, Sikozu. Don't you get it?"

With something resembling pity stirring in the pit of her stomach, she frowned lightly. "I know they are, Crichton. I was there when it happened," she agreed, forcing her tone to remain calm. Most of all she wanted to shake some sense into him, to slap him again as she had before. But it had proven futile to be angry with him and that convinced her to try a different approach. "But do you not want to make him pay for what he has done to you?"

He eyed her for a moment, then closed his eyes and turned away from her. "It doesn't matter if I do make him pay. It will not change anything."

A little annoyed, she tried to think of a better strategy. There was probably only one thing he would respond to right now, though. "If you made him pay, Crichton, you would prevent him from doing the same thing to others."

He stiffened and turned his head just a little, but did not look at her.

She settled onto the bench next to him and eyed him for a moment. If only she didn't need him to carry out her plan. But she did and there was not much she could do about it. She had spent six monans with Scorpius and she was still in awe at his ability to adapt to any given situation. It also gave her a unique insight into his psyche, but Crichton was the only one who knew him on a completely mental stage. That clone he had carried with him had been a copy of Scorpius' personality, which gave the Human some very interesting insights. The only problem was that Crichton obviously was not aware that he knew the half-breed better than anyone else in the entire galaxy.

"I need your help," she said quietly. It was a hard thing to admit and she knew that he would have taunted her if he hadn't been so depressed. "The Scarrans are eradicating the Kalish. I need to make them stop. One way of doing so is to serve them Scorpius' head on a platter."

"You mean my head," Crichton corrected her. "The Scarrans are only out to get the Kalish because of the Katratzi-deal. That wasn't Scorpius' fault, that was mine."

"True, but that incident has only served to open their eyes to the fact that the Kalish have been working against them from the very beginning. We are smarter than they could ever be and now that they know this, they will do anything they can to wipe them all out. They are destroying my people, Crichton. You have to help me stop them." It was not in her nature to beg. As a matter of fact, it went against every dench of her being to beg for anything, but she was worried that if she did not somehow turn him around, he would put an end to himself before she could see her plans through.

He blinked, then scrubbed a palm over his cheek. For a moment, he just sat there, unmoving, unresponsive. Then he closed his eyes and shook his head. "What's the use? Whatever I do goes wrong, Sputnik. Find yourself another sacrificial lamb," he said and laid his head back down on his arms.

His depression was far worse than she had thought at first. This was not a cry for attention, but more the loss of his spirit. She sat still for a moment, considering her options, and assumed that now was the time to use the biggest pressure point she could ever exert on him. "They may not be dead," she said quietly.

For a moment, nothing happened. He just sat there, his head resting on his arms, his face turned away from her. But then he sat up, sighed deeply, ruffled his hair with both hands and then turned a little to face her fully. "What?" he asked. His tone was a mixture of dangerous and disturbed and Sikozu realized right there and then that he would have to be crazy to help her. If that was what it took, she would make him crazy.

"They may not be dead," she repeated and met his gaze dead on. "Think about it. Why would Scorpius remove the only pressure he can put on you? Scorpius does not act irrationally. Every step he takes is thought through, calculated, dissected to the smallest possible variant. He may presently consider it most ... advantageous to let you believe that your family and friends are gone only to bring it up at a later point."

His expression alone made her consider not to push this to the limit just yet. His pupils were slightly dilated, his lips pressed together into a thin line. "What?" he repeated. "What are you saying? That I've been mourning my wife and son, my friends, for half a year for no reason?"

She narrowed her eyes at him. "You should know better than anyone what Scorpius is capable of. He lies to suit his needs, will do whatever he can to obtain whatever it is that he is after. Scorpius is resourceful, but he is not infallible. He does make mistakes."

Crichton rose, stepped over the bench and took a few steps away before coming to a stop again, his back to her. Sikozu rose too and followed him.

"You must understand that you have a unique perspective on Scorpius. That neural clone he implanted in your mind ... that was Scorpius. You know what he is like much more than anyone does. You know his secrets if you only look deeply enough," she tried. Apparently, he needed to be coaxed. And she was all for using all weapons she had.

His shoulders rose a little. Then he turned around and what she saw in his eyes was what she had been aiming at all along. There was fathomless anger there, bottomless hatred. What she had not expected, though, was that he might direct that anger and hatred at her. He grabbed the shoulder straps of her top and bodily lifted her off the floor. "Are you telling me that you knew this all along and you let me believe that my wife and child were dead?" he asked, his voice shaking with the control he was still exerting on himself.

All of a sudden, it no longer appeared to be such a good idea to make him crazy, to direct his anger and hatred. It was quite obvious that his anger and hatred could not be directed. "I am saying that it is a possibility, Crichton," she countered. "I do not know for certain, but I suspect Scorpius would not have killed them if he believed he could use them against you at a later point."

It was quite obvious that he was about to explode, but to his credit he seemed able to contain his anger enough to not hurt her. Instead, he set her down almost carefully and released her before balling his hands into fists and taking a step back. His eyes never left her face. "You want me to go after him? Fine! I'll go after him. I'll rip his frelling head off. But you better pray that Aeryn and my son are still alive. Because ... if they're not ... if you've given me false hope ... I am going to take them all out and you with them."

With those words, he turned around and strode out, suddenly full of purpose. Sikozu watched him go and wondered if she had just created a monster she could not contain. There was no doubt in her mind that he would destroy everything around him, himself and her included, if it turned out that her assessment of Scorpius had been wrong. But she believed that it was a possibility and she would stand by that belief until it was proven otherwise.


Not dead? Could it be? Did he dare hope? He stood still in the middle of his quarters - their quarters - and stared at D'Argo's knife lying on the palm of his hand; this knife that had cut a lock from Aeryn's hair when he had thought her dead on that ice planet eons ago; this knife that had released his son from his mother; this knife that he had carried with him ever since ... He mentally shied back from the memory, the inevitable scenes of destruction that would fill his mind to the breaking point. He had not once dared to follow them through to the end, because all he could focus on were his son's pitiful wails and the heat of the explosion.

He dropped down on the floor and closed his fingers over the razor sharp edge of the knife. It drew blood, sent sharp pain through his hand, but he held on, let the blood flow and allowed himself to be swept backwards to that time and place that he would rather forget.

Reminiscing was not always a good thing, but it could be if used in the right way. The tide of his memories subsided around him like water draining out of a pool, leaving him soaked in the potency of what had happened, sharp memories cutting through the veils of destruction, through the anguish, the horror of having lost all that he cared about in one fatal blow. Now, six months later, sitting here on the floor of their quarters while the hot-sharp pain of the knife's edge cutting into his hand centered his thoughts and stripped away all unnecessary rabble from the memories, he could still hear his son wailing pitifully after the explosion subsided.

His lids slid open and he stared ahead of himself for a long, silent moment. Little D had been screaming his head off before the explosion. He had heard him even through the closed doors. Aeryn had in vain tried to pacify her son while John had allowed himself to be lured outside. The explosion had knocked him off his feet, had given him painful, long-lasting burns on the back of his neck and arms. But the pain of the burns had been nothing compared to the pain it had been to have his heart and soul ripped out at the realization that his family - Aeryn, Little D, Chiana, Rygel - had all been inside.

Scorpius had turned up, followed by a platoon of Peacekeepers. He had smiled knowingly. But before John could respond, Sikozu had turned up out of nowhere, alive and livid. Her angry assault had surprised Scorpius, had driven the platoon into retreat. But Sikozu had no intention of finishing the job just then. Instead, she had hauled John out of there, gotten them both off the planet.

John realized now that he had been shell-shocked, that he had believed all hope to be lost, all light to be extinguished, at that explosion. The building behind him had collapsed. He'd had a broken ankle to prove it too. Nobody could have survived that explosion. And yet he could not shed the memory of his son's pitiful cries even after the explosion.

"Oh God," he whispered, swallowed hard and closed his lids again for a moment. "They were still alive."