Chapter 2

Aboard Moya

Navigating wormholes was no picnic and nobody knew that better now than Moya. Despite the fact that she was inarticulate, she felt things as intensely as other species, and racing through the water-like tunnel, desperately trying to avoid colliding with the walls of this far too tight funnel, scared her badly. Pilot did his best to try and soothe her, but Moya was intelligent enough to understand the danger.

The wormhole finally ceased and spat her out in the middle of unknown territory. With everything that had happened to her lately, the death of Talyn, the attack by that rogue leviathan and now this, she was at the end of her considerable wits and wanted nothing more than to find a place to hide where she could regain her balance.

She ran a quick scan of the area and found a planet that would do just nicely; a gas giant with the right composition to calm her already frayed nerves. Ignoring her pilot's confusion, she rushed toward the safety of the gas giant and already felt better when she eased into its dense layers.

Here she could hide and recuperate until her crew and her pilot came up with a way for them to return to familiar space. This was anything but. She didn't recognize any of the constellations and wanted nothing more than to be away from this place; to return to the leviathan graveyard and say her final good-byes to her son.

With that in mind, she lulled herself into a state of denial and refused to move from the gas clouds of the planet until someone started to make sense to her.

***

"Where the frell are we?" Jool screeched, putting considerable strain on the surrounding metal with the force of her voice.

Pilot glanced at her sternly while trying to manipulate Moya to respond to his questions. But there was no answer forthcoming from the leviathan. "Calm yourself, Joolushka," he tried, hoping that he could at least convince the Interion female to calm down.

Jool's hair was bright red while she paced back and forth in front of his console, very agitated. "Calm myself? How can you tell me to calm myself, Pilot? We have no idea where we are, do we? We're stuck out here ... with no means of going home again ..."

"Please, Joolushka," Pilot stopped her before she could screech again, "let me confer with Moya first. We have to find out what happened."

"Happened? We all know what happened," D'Argo said, stalking into Pilot's den, angry and upset. "We got sucked through one of Crichton's wormholes. All we need to find out now is where we are so we can go back again."

"Right," Chiana agreed. She had followed him in and looked almost as agitated as Jool did.

Pilot looked from one to the other and sighed. What he wouldn't give for the levelheadedness of one specific ex-Peacekeeper. "Everybody, please calm down," he tried again, hoping that he could get through to some of them. "Moya is very frightened by what has just happened to her and she refuses to leave the shelter of this gas giant. I need a few moments to establish our present position."

"Our present position? You know where we are?" D'Argo asked, surprised.

"Yes, of course. We are ... somewhere else," Pilot replied and grumbled under his breath. Why couldn't they all just go away and let him do his job?

"Well?" D'Argo demanded when nothing happened for a few microts.

"We are ..." Pilot tried, desperate to find the information he was after although he had a pretty good idea that their present whereabouts would not be on any of the charts he and Moya had so far managed to compile from their extensive travels through the Uncharted Territories. "We are ..." he tried again.

"Lost," D'Argo finished for him. "Aren't we? Yes, of course we are. We need to find out where we are. Are there any populated worlds in the area, Pilot?"

"We are not lost. I have just not been able to pinpoint our position yet," Pilot claimed angrily and returned his attention to the stream of information bombarding him at all times. "There is one world which appears to be populated," he finally said.

"Good. Then we go there for information," D'Argo said, standing tall in front of Pilot's console.

"Uh ... where is Rygel?" Chiana inserted, glancing around for the Hynerian without finding him.

"Probably stuffing his face again," Jool said with a pout.

"We cannot go near that world before we know more about it," Pilot disagreed. "It might be a Peacekeeper outpost. Besides, Moya will not leave the safety of this planet right now." He was trying not to get upset, but it was hard to maintain a calm exterior when everybody was focused on his or her own selfish goals.

"I do not have time for this," D'Argo began.

"I want to go home," Jool whined.

"Nerri may need me. I ... we should hurry and get back to where we came from," Chiana added.

"ENOUGH!" Pilot roared, attracting everybody's attention. He looked from one to the other with fierce eyes. "Right now, we are not going anywhere. As I have repeatedly tried to make you all understand, Moya is frightened and she will not move from the safety of this planet until she is convinced it is safe to do so," he said more calmly.

"Frelling leviathan," D'Argo muttered, then turned his attention fully on Pilot. "So, what do you suggest we do then?" he asked. "We can not sit around here and do nothing while Moya figures out that there is nothing dangerous out there."

"We do not know if there is anything dangerous out there. If that one populated world is a Peacekeeper outpost, we may be in more trouble than we can outrun right now. Moya is afraid of capture and she is still in mourning over the loss of her child," Pilot replied sharply, feeling very tense. He was tired of dealing with other life forms that had no interest in others than themselves. Sighing heavily, he briefly closed his eyes to regain some margin of control. He missed both Aeryn and John. They at least pretended to understand Moya's pain. Then he looked around at them all again.

"I will perform a scan of that world and determine whether it is safe to approach or not," he finally said. "Now, leave me alone."

"Thank you," D'Argo said, a little humbled by Pilot's display of temper.

"Tell Moya we're sorry," Chiana chimed in. "We didn't mean ... well ... to hurt her feelings or anything."

Pilot merely grumbled under his breath, not dignifying her with an answer. Although he was fast to forgive, there were certain things he could not forget. He returned to his tasks as the others left him alone for the time being. Once the door to his den had closed, he raised his head and stared at it for a moment, listening to Moya's comments on the whole thing. "Yes, Moya," he agreed. "You are right. They can be quite a nuisance."

***

Somewhere in the UTs

"Frell!" Aeryn felt like shooting something. Her hand twitched, her fingers closing over the butt of her pulsepistol. "Why the frell is it so frelling difficult to find one frelling individual in this frelling galaxy?" she snarled and gave the landing gear of the prowler a powerful kick.

John stood next to her, watching her with a sideways glance. "Would you calm down? I told you it wouldn't be easy," he claimed and sent a glance down her side. She immediately released the pulsepistol again and shot him a glare. "We should have just ..."

"What?" she snapped. "Towed your frelling module? Why the frell did you leave Moya when you had no fuel?"

John turned to face her, a frown furrowing his brow. "Could we move past that already? And, please, could you cut back on the cuss-words a little?" he asked. "It'll be fine. I'm sure we'll find someone here who has at least heard of her. We're close enough to her old haunt."

Aeryn gave him look that would have made other men wither, and then sneered. "The longer it takes us to track her down, John, the more likely it is that we will never see Moya or any of the others again. Do you understand that?"

"What do you think I am? Stupid?" he asked angrily. "What the hell would you like me to do, huh? I can't make her appear by snapping my fingers. If you hadn't been so damned stubborn in the first place and left, none of this would have happened," he added heatedly, turned and strode a few steps away from her.

He came to a stop again, clenched his hands into fists and just stood there for a moment, his back to her. Then he turned around and gave her a somewhat tense smile. "Sorry 'bout that. I didn't mean that," he apologized. "I'm tired, I'm hungry ... and I'm sure you're not feeling much better."

His words had hit their mark, but she wouldn't grant him the satisfaction of showing how it made her feel. Instead, she folded her arms over her chest and looked off into the distance for a microt. "I would kill for a bath," she agreed. Not one to apologize, Aeryn just assumed that he knew she didn't mean to snap either. She was just tired and worried and she felt dirty and frustrated and just a little bit hurt by his words. "Perhaps we should stay a day or two, get rested and cleaned up, and ask around for a little longer," she suggested.

John nodded. "Sounds like a good idea," he agreed. "We shouldn't fight. This is tough enough as it is."

"Agreed," Aeryn said and climbed back up the ladder of the prowler to get her bag. She tossed it over the edge, and then grabbed John's meager belongings and did the same with them before closing and sealing the prowler.

***

Aboard Moya

D'Argo paced command, stopping now and again to stare darkly at the vidscreen before continuing to wear grooves in Moya's floors. Chiana, who was sitting on top of one of the consoles, watched him anxiously. She was no fonder of being delayed in her mission than he was, but she didn't feel the need to take it out on everybody else.

"Hey, D'Argo," she tried and slipped off the console. "What do you say I make us all something to eat. It may take a while before Pilot finishes his scan and ... well ... you know, there isn't much to do right now anyway."

"I do not want to eat, Chiana," D'Argo informed her gruffly and came to a stop to give her an angry look. "I do not have time for this. What is taking Pilot so long? My mission cannot wait."

Chiana watched him thoughtfully, her expression bland. "You know, you could show some consideration for Moya. She's not having an easy time. She just lost her baby, for frell's sake."

"I know that, Chiana. I know," D'Argo assured her tersely. "I also know that it wasn't her fault that we were sucked into a wormhole. But still. Isn't she overreacting a little?"

"Frelling leviathans," Rygel muttered as he drifted into command on his thronesled. "Just when I have a chance to go home and regain my throne."

"You inconsiderate broadmouth," Jool huffed. She had been standing by the forward vidscreen, minding her own business, but Rygel's words made her turn around and join the conversation. "What if that were your baby?"

"Oh, shut up, tralk," Rygel snarled. "Who cares about you anyway? Interion," he snorted. "Lesser species. All of you."

Chiana stepped in his way, blocking his forward motion. "You shouldn't talk to her like that, you know," she said, a little hesitant. "She's ... right. Yeah! She's right. Who cares about your throne, anyway? You ... you ... nonentity."

"All right, let's all calm down a little, shall we?" D'Argo suggested, raising his hands. "We all have places to go, but we can't go there before we know where we are."

"Ka D'Argo," Pilot's voice sounded from the clamshell.

They all turned around to face it, hoping for good news.

"I have finished my scan of that world. Although it is populated, it seems to be very ... primitive. There is a ring of satellites in orbit around the planet, but their means of communication is so inferior that neither Moya nor I can pick up much of it. Even if we could get in contact with them, they may not be friendly toward outsiders. Moya is unwilling to approach the world and I have not been able to convince her otherwise," Pilot informed them. "I ... am at a loss of what to do next."

"Frell," D'Argo growled. "Well, there is really only one thing to do. I am going to take my ship and fly over there and see if I can't find someone who can help us. At least they might be able to tell us where we are," he said.

"Ka D'Argo," Pilot stopped him when he was about to stalk out of the room. "Neither Moya nor I believe that to be a good decision. Maybe we should monitor that world for a little longer and see if we can't pick up something further about them."

"If Moya wants to hide behind a gas giant, that's her business. But I must act. I will leave immediately," D'Argo replied and left command.

Chiana wavered, not sure she should let him go, but Jool grabbed her arm when she made a move toward the door. "Let him go. He can make his own decisions, however frelled up they may be," she said.

Still uncertain, the young Nebari continued to waver, but eventually was swayed toward Jool's way of thinking. "Yeah, you're right," she finally agreed. "He ... uh ... he can take care of himself. Right?"

"Sure he can," Jool assured her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Let's go get something to eat," she added.

Rygel perked up at the thought of food. "Excellent decision," he agreed and followed the two girls to the mess.

***

Somewhere in the UTs

The planet was a dustball, the city fast-paced and not much in it seemed even remotely attractive to John. It had struck him before that his initial awe over being on other worlds had worn thin and disappeared rather quickly. He stood next to the nose of the prowler and stared at another run-of-the-mill type of spaceport, dirty and in disrepair, and wondered why these races cared so little about the exterior on their worlds when all they ever saw was the exterior when dealing with other races. Sebaceans made him draw parallels to fundamentalist groups of various convictions on Earth and it made him sick to his stomach sometimes.

Aeryn climbed down from the prowler after dumping their belongings on the ground and stepped up beside him. "Another frelled-up place," she said.

"My thoughts exactly," he agreed. "Where to?"

"The bars. I think it's most likely we find someone who's heard of Furlow in there," she replied and nodded toward the city. As if that nod of her head had been too much, she reached out for the belly of the prowler and steadied herself against it while she closed her eyes and swallowed hard a few times.

A little worried, John stepped toward her. "You okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine. Let's go," she replied, pushed away from the prowler and started walking.

John kept an uneasy eye on her. She had seemed a little out of sorts the past couple of days. She had been overcome by sudden dizzy-spells accompanied by nausea more than once. He figured it was part of her pregnancy, something like morning sickness in human women, but he wasn't about to mention anything unless she did. All he could do was watch over her and hope she didn't notice.

They hit the bars and kept asking around until late in the evening, by which time John felt mostly inclined to just find a bed somewhere and get some rest. Aeryn seemed hell-bent on going on, not allowing herself or him much rest in the process.

"Hey," he said, grabbing her arm when they left another bar behind.

She turned a little and gave him a look. "What?"

"I think it's time to slow down," he said. "I need some shuteye. I'm asleep on my feet here." He struggled to subdue a yawn and failed miserably. "We can't keep going like this. Let's find a hotel somewhere, rent a room and get a good night's sleep."

"We can sleep in the prowler," she countered, not missing a beat.

"No, we can't, Aeryn. I'm not getting any damned rest in that thing. It's like sleeping in a coffin, and a cheap one at that." He shook his head with a sigh and propped his hands on his hips. "Could you just give in a little here? If I have to sleep sitting up one more night, I'm gonna lose it."

"We don't have much currency left," she reminded him.

"That may be so, Aeryn, but I'm wasted. I need to sleep occasionally. And so do you. We've been on the move for almost a full weeken and in that time, I think we both have slept about five arns or less. That's just not enough," he claimed. "Let's find some place cheap and grab some downtime."

"All right," she consented and pointed toward the nearest hotel. "Let's start there."

***

Unbeknownst to her, she had used the right phrasing B "start there." Finding a place to stay proved to be harder than either of them had thought and when they finally found a hotel with a vacancy, even Aeryn was ready for some rest.

The receptionist, a brutish looking alien with three eyes and turquoise skin stared them down. "You're Peacekeepers. Why don't you stay in your barracks outside of town?" he demanded.

"Because we're not Peacekeepers," Aeryn replied. "Just give us the frelling rooms."

"I only have one left," the receptionist replied standoffishly. "If you're not Peacekeepers, why do you dress like them?"

"That's none of your business," Aeryn snarled.

John put a hand on her shoulder, stopping her before she could say something further, and leaned forward a little. "We'll take the room," he told the receptionist, who grumbled under his breath and gave them the pass-card.

With his hand still on her shoulder, John guided Aeryn toward the levelrisers and gently shoved her into the cabin.

"Frelling nosy alien," she muttered under her breath, more annoyed than usual. With an exhausted sigh, she leaned against the wall of the cabin while John tried to figure out how to get the damned thing to move. She watched him struggle for a moment, then snatched the card away from him and stuffed it into the slot by the door. "How hard can it be?" she asked and pulled the card out again when the doors closed.

John arched an eyebrow. "Hard enough, I guess," he said and made a face. "Let's sleep in tomorrow, okay? We both need the rest."

"Sleep in?" she asked. "I think I know what that means, but it's a stupid term. Besides, we won't find Furlow if we sleep the day away."

"We'll find her," John insisted and folded his arms over his chest.

"Yeah, whatever," Aeryn said. "Let's just see what the room looks like first. We may not want to stay here for too long."

"Point taken," he agreed.

They stepped of the levelriser when the doors opened and found themselves on a fairly clean and empty-looking level. It was very quiet while they made their way down the corridor to their room, which turned out to be habitable in every sense.

"Well, that's a nice change," John said and dropped his coat on the bed. "It even looks clean," he added and leaned over to peek under the bed. "No roaches or rats."

Aeryn shrugged out of her coat and gave him a frown. She was too tired to bother about asking for an explanation for those two terms. Neither 'roaches' nor 'rats' translated into anything she could identify and she didn't really care either. Instead, she turned her attention to the large bed. There would be plenty of room for both of them and they wouldn't even have to touch. Exhaustion had taken its toll already and she felt a little bit sick to her stomach. Blaming fatigue, she dropped down on the bed and stretched out, arching her back for a few microts. "You are far too concerned about clean, John," she said and raised her head.

He stood halfway between the bed and the door, a strange expression on his face while he stared at her. "Clean isn't so bad," he claimed, sounding as distracted as he looked. Then he seemingly pulled himself together and shook off whatever had been bothering him.

Aeryn had let her head drop again and hoped that he would stop talking and just get to bed so she could sleep, but he obviously wasn't inclined to do that right now.

"Let's get some shuteye. Me, I could sleep for about a cycle right now," he added, grabbed his coat off the bed and tossed it onto the back of a chair. "How are you doing?"

"I'm fine," she said. "Just very, very tired. So, if you don't mind?"

"Sure, no problem," he replied and she felt the bed give beneath her when he followed her example. "I'll be quiet," he added.

She draped an arm over her face and allowed herself to drift until sleep finally claimed her.

***

In the early morning hours, John stood by the window and stared out at this city with its mile-high buildings, dirt and clamor, and wondered how his childhood fantasies had been twisted into this. Then he grinned. Wasn't it more like his childhood fantasies had been the twisted ones? This was reality; the cities, the worlds, the spaceships.

'Aliens, John?' He could hear his mother's voice as she said those words, her laugher an echo in his mind. 'Whatever makes you believe that there really are aliens out there, honey?'

"Oh, I don't know, mom. Maybe because there are," he whispered to himself and couldn't stop a helpless little smile from slipping over his lips when he was once again faced with the ghost of his mother. Turning his head a little, he sent a lingering glance over at Aeryn, who was still asleep and dead to the world. "And I'm in love with one of them," he added quietly.

Aeryn stirred and shifted a little before letting out a low-key moan. Then her eyelids snapped open and she sat bolt upright, the color draining from her face with alarming speed. Before John could even think of anything to say, she had clapped her hand over her mouth and bolted for the bathroom to throw up. He followed her, not sure she wanted his presence, and stopped in the door opening. "Do you need any help?" he asked quietly. She had stopped retching, but remained hunkered down in front of the waste receptacle, her hands pressed against the wall on either side.

"No," she replied and slowly rose on shaky legs.

"Listen, maybe we should just slow down a little, huh? I mean, it's not like all this running around, not sleeping or eating right is good for you," he said, hoping she would see reason if he drew the health of her baby into the conversation.

Aeryn stood very still for a moment, her back to him, before she turned her head a little and glanced at him over one shoulder. "Are you claiming it's good for you?" she asked, her tone a little sharp. "Stop coddling me, John. I've told you repeatedly that I'm fine."

"You're fine? You're trying to throw up your guts and you tell me you're fine? Are you trying to tell me that it's normal for Sebaceans to toss their cookies when they're pregnant?" He was not going to back down this time.

Aeryn turned around, her eyes dark and stormy. "How do you know that?" she demanded in a wavering tone of voice.

"The old woman told me, but I only realized what she had said after you left. I was ... we were going to go after you, but then Moya disappeared and ..." he tried to explain, but she cut him off.

"How did the old woman know?" she demanded angrily. "How could she possibly have known?"

John was a little taken aback by her fierceness, uncertain why she was getting so worked up about it. "I ... uh ... don't know," he admitted.

"You don't know? You listen to a complete stranger and take her words for granted?" she snapped, but before she could say anything more, she swirled back to the waste receptacle and threw up again.

"Hey, chill, would you?" Her anger was a little over the top in his opinion and it struck him that she might feel guilty for not telling him about it sooner. "Normally I don't listen to complete strangers, no," he admitted once she had stopped trying to throw up her guts again. "But ... it makes sense somehow."

Aeryn sat down on the floor and brushed both hands through her hair, pulling it back from her face. "How does that make sense?" she asked without looking at him.

John stepped up to her and squatted down. "You leaving. There is no ex-Peacekeeper outfit out there, is there?" he asked, and then glanced at her. "Why didn't you tell me?"

She closed her eyes, pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "Why should I? It's my responsibility, not yours," she said.

He let his head drop and tried to come up with the right thing to say. Aeryn's reasoning didn't always make sense to him and he figured he would never fully learn to understand her. "You know, Aeryn, friends are there to help you; especially during times like these. I mean, with morning sickness and all the issues you're going to have to deal with during a pregnancy ... you don't wanna be alone during that time, do you?"

She sat very still for a moment, staring at nothing, but then turned her head and gave him a frown for his trouble. "Morning sickness?" she asked.

He nodded, figuring that she might be unfamiliar with the term but not the concept. "Yeah, you know. The hormonal imbalance of a pregnancy causes human women to get sick in the morning during the first few monans of their pregnancy. You have that too, don't you?"

With a bit of an effort, she got to her feet and he rose with her. "I've never heard of that before," she claimed, a frown furrowing her brow. "Anyway, I do not have time to be sick. We have to find Moya and the others," she added and tried to walk past him.

John grabbed her arm, holding her back. "Are you sure you're okay? Maybe you need to see a doctor or something," he said. She was the type to shrug off symptoms that could become life-threatening.

She gave him an odd look, and then pulled out of his grip and turned to leave. But her balance seemed a little shot and he barely managed to catch her before she fell.

"Hey, ho-wow," he exclaimed, grabbing her and pulling her back up into a standing position. "I think you should get back to bed," he said and guided her back over to the bed.

"We don't have time for this," she muttered before she passed out on him.

He pulled the covers over her and sat down on the bed, intent on watching over her until she woke up again. At the same time he was trying to work out how he was going to handle her on this one. If she felt even marginally okay when she woke up again, she would shrug this incident off like nothing had ever happened and he was not going to let her do that. There was more at stake here now than her life and he would go a long way to protect that. Now that she was pregnant, he felt an even bigger need to protect her. In a sense, that thought struck him as being funny, seeing as she had been the one standing up for him ninety-five percent of the time.

***

Aeryn woke up slowly and that wasn't normal for her. Her usual way of returning to reality was to be asleep one moment and wide awake the next. This almost languid coming to worried her when she was finally aware of her surroundings again. All she really remembered was feeling sick and throwing up and then having a verbal fight with John before the world turned to mush and disappeared beneath her feet.

Still feeling weak, she rolled over on her back and stared up at the ceiling for a moment. There wasn't much going through her mind at first. All she wanted to do was go back to sleep, but the urgency to find missing friends tugged at her subconsciousness and gave her no peace.

She glanced around the room, noting that John was nowhere in sight. Wherever he had gone to, she was grateful for the chance to think without interruption and the solitude of the room for the first time allowed her to acknowledge what she had only found out about two weekens ago. Slipping her hands onto her belly, she thought about the being growing inside her, the child which would be a constant reminder of its father once it was born. She smiled vaguely, a somewhat bitter smile, at the thought. In a sense, this baby's father was still around. Jool had proven that the two Johns had been genetically identical. Nobody would be able to tell that this baby growing inside her wasn't the child of the one left standing.

The most important question remained though. How was she going to deal with the one left standing? She hadn't had a chance to process her grief yet, hadn't been able to mourn the other one's passing in any real sense. And it was frelling difficult to do that when the man she was mourning was still around. The confusion was the worst part of it. She couldn't put it straight in her mind and it was tearing her apart on a mental level.

She closed her eyes and sighed deeply, and then sat up slowly. There was no nausea, no dizziness. What ever had caused her to fall ill so suddenly had obviously subsided again.

The door opened and John stepped in, laden with some bags. He stopped short when he saw her sitting up, but then cleared the doorway and put the bags down on the floor as soon as the door had shut behind him. "You're up," he stated needlessly.

"Almost," she agreed and pushed herself to the edge of the bed. "Is that food?"

"Yup. Thought we both might need something with a bit of substance, so I went shopping. How are you doing?" he asked and took a hesitant step closer.

"I'm fine," she said and smirked at the instant indignation on his face. "And this time I mean it. A little tired, but fine."

"No pain?" he asked, the concern in his eyes obvious.

"None," she said with a shake of the head. "No dizziness, no nausea. I guess I was more tired than I thought." It was an explanation she could live with. Any other option was out of the question at this point.

"Well, that settles it. We take it slow from now on. Wherever Moya is, I'm sure the others can handle themselves until we get there; if they haven't come back already," he replied and sat down next to her. "So, you wanna talk about this?"

His question made her frown while she fiddled with the edge of the covers. "About what?" she asked, not facing him.

He pursed his lips and frowned darkly. "Well, we could always start with the baby. And the fact that you passed out on me like nobody's business or the fact that you didn't trust me enough to tell me about this before you took off."

She sat there, her gaze on the floor, while she tried to find a way to make him back off. She didn't want to talk about that now, didn't want to tread on turf she knew was dangerous. "What's there to talk about?" she asked. "So? I didn't tell you. You're the one who keeps insisting that you and he were two different people. He didn't know either. I only just found out."

"Were you planning on telling me? Like ... ever?" he asked without looking at her. He didn't need to look at her. She could hear the hurt in his voice, had learned to identify that sound.

"I don't see how this relates to what we're doing right now, John. Besides, whether I had planned to tell you or not, I didn't and that's the end of that. If things had gone as I had planned, you would have been able to figure it out when you saw the child, if ... fate willing ... we would have met again," she explained, not really in the mood to do so. She wanted to stop talking about this and focus on other things, which should have been more important to both of them.

"So that was why you were leaving? So you wouldn't have to tell me about the kid?" he persisted.

Aeryn closed her eyes for a microt and tried to remain calm. "I just didn't tell you. That's all there is to it," she insisted and gave him a stern look. "You made it very clear to me that you and he were not the same. Why should I tell you about his child, then?" she asked tersely. She shifted a little to better face him. "Don't you understand, John? You are him."

"As I told you before, Aeryn, no I'm not. I'm me. I don't know what happened on Talyn, between the two of you, and I don't want to know, okay? It's obvious, of course, considering that you're pregnant, but still ..." He trailed off and sighed.

"Jool proved it with that test she did, John. You were completely alike on a genetic level. You and he, identical. Not twins, not two different persons. The same," she insisted. "And that makes this child as much yours as it was his."

Something about what she was saying upset him. She could tell just by looking at him and it became very obvious when he rose, walked a few steps away from her and kept his back turned. "No, Aeryn. We may have been one at one time, but the second that bastard doubled me, he created two different men," he said and turned around to face her. "It's not what we're made of that dictates who we are. It's what we experience."

"That's a stack of dren," she snapped. "If you don't want a part of this child, that's fine with me. Why do you think I left in the first place?" She knew that one wasn't fair, but she just couldn't help herself.

"If that child was mine, Aeryn, you would have had to be pregnant for over two cycles, because, as far as I remember, we only recreated once and that was on the fake Earth; over two cycles ago. Are you trying to tell me that Sebaceans carry their children for that long?" he asked angrily.

Aeryn rose from the bed, still feeling a little shaky but not allowing it to show. "I did not get pregnant on the fake Earth, John. I got pregnant on Talyn ..." she began, but he threw up both hands, stopping her.

"I don't want to hear about it," he snapped. "I've got trouble enough coping with the idea of you two being alone together."

"For frell's sake, John. What does it take for you to understand?" she snarled and closed her eyes for a microt. The dizziness was returning and she felt a little lightheaded too. "This is why I wanted to leave. This! The arguments, the accusations. I do not want to deal with this right now," she added darkly, grabbed her coat and pushed past him to the door.

"Aeryn," he called after her, reaching out for her arm to stop her.

But she evaded his hand and hurried out the door, once again feeling the treacherous sting of tears in her eyes. She walked briskly toward the levelrisers, angrily wiping away a stray tear. "You'll never understand," she muttered. "Never!"

***