Two medical teams from the convoy boarded the yacht and took over where Aeryn had left off. They took both John and the baby into the convoy and Aeryn followed close behind, comforted to a degree by the clean sterility of this obviously highly professional vessel.

The thought that she should have waited for this convoy rather than put her trust in that grimy commercial tug ended almost immediately. She knew that John would probably have died on her if she had waited and that was one thing she could not live with.

She was told to wait in a designated area until they had a chance to assess both John's and the baby's situation and Aeryn reluctantly agreed. The worst possible scenario was if she lost both. She couldn't stomach the thought and felt slightly queasy as she paced back and forth in the waiting area while chewing on her knuckles in the process.

She continued to pace until she suddenly caught sight of herself in a glass surface. The reflection staring back at her made her stop short in her tracks. She looked downright frazzled. Her hair was a mess, her face gaunt and tired. She almost felt the urge to smile when she realized that she didn't care one bit what she looked like. The only thing that mattered were John and the baby.

Her haggard reflection did one thing, though. It stopped her from pacing further. Instead, she settled down on a chair and just sat and stared ahead of herself, trying not to think, not to imagine what was going on.

And then one of the medics who had been on the team taking care of John entered the waiting area. Aeryn rose abruptly. "How is he?"

"He will live. We are purging his system right now. He has junk genetic codes throughout his entire makeup, which is in part causing the fever and the convulsions you mentioned. But he will be fine. He will be back to normal. It will just take time," he said and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "You should get some rest," he added with concern. "You need it."

But Aeryn shook her head. "No," she disagreed. "Not until I know how my son is doing."

Before the medic could make any comment on that, another medic entered the room, this time one from the team that was taking care of the baby. This one, however, did not look happy. He met Aeryn's eyes for a brief microt, then looked down at the floor.

Afraid to ask, yet needing to know, Aeryn stepped up to him. "How is my son?" she asked quietly, hoping desperately to get the same positive answer as for John.

The medic raised his eyes again and met hers dead on. Any words he might utter were superfluous, yet she did nothing to stop him from saying them. "I'm sorry. He was too weak. He didn't survive."

For a moment, all she could think of doing was just close her eyes. Then she shook her head. "No," she said sternly. "I won't accept that. He is not dead." Part of her knew that she was being ridiculous, that she of all people should know that death was irreversible, but she found it almost impossible to accept the mere idea that the baby she had given birth to, that little boy that was hers and Johns, was gone. "He can't be dead," she insisted, but her tone wavered at that.

"I am truly sorry," the medic repeated. "We did everything we could, but it was too late. The blood poisoning was too advanced for such a tiny body."

The gruesome fact of what he was saying slowly pressed itself into her mind and she went numb inside. But only for a few microts. Then the pain rose, replacing the numbness, and she shook her head as tears started spilling down her face. "No," she whispered. "Please no."

The medic grabbed her shoulders and squeezed them hard. But he said nothing further. He obviously knew that no words of his could lessen her agony. Instead he sighed deeply and left her behind. The other medic, the one with the good news, sat down next to her when she sank down on a chair.

"I am sorry," he said quietly. "Your mate needs you now. And I think you need him too."

Aeryn pressed both hands over her mouth for a microt. "How can I tell him?" she whispered.

"Tell him what?" the medic asked, his tone soothing.

"That I killed his son," she rasped.

"But... you didn't. You tried to save him," the medic tried, obviously a little taken aback by her words.

"No, it's my fault. My fault," she whispered helplessly.

"If it makes it any easier, I will explain to him what happened once he wakes up. He will understand. I am certain of it. And you did not kill your son. There was nothing you could have done more to save him."

She nodded while more tears spilled down her face. She had never felt so empty and alone before. It was the most terrifying feeling. "Yes, I could have," she said, but refused to elaborate more.


John woke up slowly, his consciousness oozing into reality like molasses on a hot summer morning. It took precious time before he was finally able to pry his eyelids apart and when he finally did, he noticed two things at once. One was that the ceiling was too high above him. The other was the unmistakable smell of the crisp cleanness of a hospital.

The smell made him smile vaguely. Apparently it didn't matter how far away one was from Earth, there were always some things that were the same.

The next thing that intruded on him was how hard it was to move. Just rolling his head to one side was nearly enough to deplete him again. But at least they were in a hospital now. That should give Aeryn time to rest.

Something started beeping to his left and he rolled his eyes up to the column of blinking lights and wires next to the bed. And then a door opened somewhere. He laboriously turned his head to face the man in a dark-gray coat who stepped into the room.

"You're awake," the man said needlessly, strode over to the column and made the beeping stop by pushing a button. "How are you feeling?"

John considered that question for a moment, then tried a tired smile. "Weaker than a newborn," he confessed in a near whisper.

"That is understandable. You have been through quite an ordeal," the man said.

John eyed him for a moment and decided that the dude had to be a doctor. "How'd I get here?" he asked and shifted a little. Damn, he hated being so wasted.

"Your mate brought you in," the doctor replied. He stood still beside the bed, hands in his pockets, while he watched John with a look in his eyes that John thought he recognized but couldn't really place.

Instead of asking questions he wasn't entirely sure he wanted the answer for, he glanced around, slowly regaining strength the more awake he became. "Where is she?" he asked, his voice hoarse.

The doctor made a face and glanced down at the floor for a moment. "She ... is on the observation deck," he said and looked up again to face John.

John got the distinct impression that something had gone horribly wrong the moment he identified that look in the doc's eyes. He looked sad, sorry. "Is she all right?" he asked and propped himself up on his elbows, once again tapping into hidden resources he didn't know he had. It was amazing what preoccupation could do against fatigue.

"Not really, no," the doc confessed. He looked downright uncomfortable at this point and that worried John more than anything.

"What's wrong?" he demanded, his voice gaining strength along with the rest of his body.

"Mr. Crichton," the doc said, hesitated briefly and then sighed. "There is no easy way to say this," he continued and he looked damned sorry already. "Your son unfortunately did not survive."

If the man had bitch-slapped him, he couldn't have been more flabbergasted. The words made little to no sense to him at this moment. His mind simply refused to wrap itself around the term 'not survive'. He blinked, then frowned and slowly shook his head, never taking his eyes off the doctor. "What?" he asked.

"The infant your mate gave birth to about a weeken ago. He died an arn after arriving here," the doctor said, his tone obviously meant to be soothing.

"Died?" John asked, still incapable of comprehending this. "But ... how? Why?"

Again the good doctor sighed. "From blood poisoning. The mutating agent you had been given was ... from what we can tell ... killing you. Your mate, afraid of losing you, searched for a medic. She found one on a commercial tug."

"I remember that," John agreed with a slight frown. "Vaguely," he added.

"The medic on this commercial tug ... well, let's just say that conditions were not optimum. He convinced your mate that the only way of saving you was to infuse you with clean genetic coding and he could not extract that from you at this point. The only other source he had available – considering that you are not Sebacean – was to get it from a tissue sample from your son," the doctor explained. "From what your mate has told us, this was the only course of action if you were to remain alive. The transformations you had undergone were pretty much draining your life force. Unfortunately for all, though, this medic used unclean tools."

"Unclean?" The first smoky fingers of anger rose in him. "So that ... bastard killed my kid?" He was getting worked up now and he could feel that it wasn't good for him.

The doctor glanced at the column beside the bed, then nodded once. "Essentially. The problem is, your mate blames herself for the child's demise now. She will not listen to reason. She is convinced that she could have done something to save him."

John struggled to sit up and felt a little short of breath when he finally managed. "Could she?" he asked quietly. It was not a question he would ever have considered asking if Aeryn had been in the room. But Aeryn had a tendency to be a little rash at times and he just needed to know this.

"In my humble opinion ... no," the doctor said. "Without a proper medical facility or above average supplies, there was little she could have done once the tissue sample had been extracted. The infection was already festering at that point and the infant was too small to fight it. Even under optimum conditions, we would have been hard pressed to save him. Newborns are notoriously fragile."

Suddenly, the fatigue set in again with a vengeance. John dropped back down on the bed and pressed both hands against his face. He couldn't deal with this right now. He was too bloody tired, too exhausted. Aeryn had done what she could and that was all there was to it.

'Just keep telling yourself that. You might believe it in the end,' a voice whispered in the back of his head. He ground the heels of his hands into his eyes and gritted his teeth. He was not going to take this out on Aeryn. She was suffering, hurting from the loss of the child. No matter what she had done that might have facilitated the child's demise, she had done it in good faith, intent on saving him, never knowing that the baby might be at risk.

'Yeah, but damn it, she should have known there was a risk,' that voice piped in again.

John let his hands drop away and raised his head to eyed the doctor. "Could she have known there was a risk?" Why was he asking such questions? Why was he doubting her? He knew her. This was Aeryn, for frell's sake, the woman he had loved endlessly, hopelessly, for over five years now. How could he doubt her motives?

The doctor eyed him back and John could see the disapproval in his eyes. "Perhaps," he agreed a bit reluctantly. "But, as I'm sure you know, when you're faced with a life or death situation, you do what you can to remedy it and worry about the consequences later." He paused, his eyes narrowed a bit. "Are you blaming her?"

It took him a little bit too long to answer; too long in his own mind. "No," he finally said and let his head drop back down on the bed. "Of course not." He felt the tears threaten now, the sorrow gnawing at his insides, but this was not the time or the place to give in to it. "I'm just trying to understand," he added and closed his eyes against the pain. It was the same scenario all over again. Every damned time they thought their luck had finally turned, they were hit by another disaster, another heart wrenching failure.

"Of course," the doctor said, his tone a bit clipped. "I suggest you spare a thought or two for your mate's state of mind, Mr. Crichton. She is in mourning over the loss of the child."

With a heartfelt sigh, John propped himself up on his elbows. "I know," he nearly whispered, then struggled to sit up again. "Where is the observation deck?"

The doctor's expression turned from slightly miffed to surprised. "Oh no, you don't. Your condition does not allow for you to get out of bed for the next couple of days," he said, his tone suddenly stern.

"I can't wait a couple of days to see her," John countered, feeling aggressive all of a sudden.

"I will get her for you," the doctor said and raised a warning finger. "You just stay in bed. I will be right back." With that, the man turned around and left.

Once more, John eased back down on the bed and sent a brief look around the room. Sedate colors, big windows to one side facing space, soft-tone light. All of these things were conducive to expediting a patient to get better. This place was high-tech, he thought, and turned his attention to the windows. It had to be a ship of sorts, though.

With all his might, he subdued the pain inside and searched for things to occupy his mind so he could be a rock for Aeryn. His feelings on this matter would have to be dealt with in private. He couldn't break down when she needed him more than ever.

When the door opened again, he had himself as much under control as he could under the given circumstances. Readying himself for a distraught Aeryn, he turned his head and frowned when all he saw was the doctor, though. Again, he propped himself up on his elbows and eyed the door with a frown before turning his attention to the other man. "Where is she?"

The doctor pursed his lips. "She won't come," he said and sighed lightly. "She is certain that you will blame her as she blames herself and she won't face you right now."

That was a bit surprising to him at first, but then he realized that it shouldn't be. Aeryn dealt with things in her own special way and shutting others out was a part of that. "Screw that," John countered and sat up. "No way am I leaving her alone when she's grieving." He had seen what grief could do to her and he did not want her slipping back into that place of darkness again.

The doctor stepped forward, raising both hands in a deprecating gesture. "No, I cannot allow you to get up," he said.

"Don't touch me," John snapped and his sudden burst of anger drove the good doctor back a step. "My physical healing comes second to this. If she won't come to me, I'll damned well go to her. No matter what you say." He pulled his legs over the edge of the bed and knew he was in for a bit of a struggle here. Not so much with the doctor as with his own fatigued body.

For a moment it looked like the doctor was going to try and stop him, but then he raised his hands in surrender and backed up another step. "Do as you will, but your healing will be prolonged on account of this," he said.

"Screw my healing," John growled and pushed off the bed. His legs felt like jelly beneath him and it took him a second to gain enough balance to keep upright without the support of the bed. "Now where is that damned observation deck?"

"One floor down. When you step outside, there is a staircase going down a few steps to your right," the doctor said. "Maybe I should help you?"

"No, thanks. I've got it," John replied, pushed away from the bed and started toward the door. As weak as he was, this was going to take time. He hated being this weak, but he was not going to ask for help.


Aeryn stood with her back to the ship's interior and stared at the field of stars spreading out in front of her. The observation deck was generally just a stairwell with a view. The medical facilities stretched up around her, every level indicated by an oversized catwalk trailing along the walls both left and right. Stairs led down from all levels as well as levelrisers and there was greenery on every level as well. This ship was conducive for the recovery of the patients; she knew that, but she had no sense for it.

All that occupied her mind was the loss of that little body she had carried around with her for a weeken, a child of her own, a little life that had depended on her. And she had let it down. She had allowed some frelling drannit of a self-proclaimed medic with a grudge to stick a needle in her son's arm and now he was dead, ripped from her with almost as much agony as the other John. The helplessness she had vowed she would never feel again had overwhelmed her when she had seen his tiny little arm all black and blue and known deep down that whatever she did to save him, it would never be enough.

But, hard as this was, this was not the worst. She believed she could get over the loss of the child in time. She had gotten over losses before and moved on. But there was a distinct difference to this scenario. 'And a couple of kids'. John's words when she had asked him what he wanted for the future. He wanted peace and her and a couple of kids. He'd had one for a brief moment there, but she had sacrificed the child to keep the man.

Granted she had been unaware of just how big the price would be when she had agreed to accept that fekkik's help, but it still did not justify the life that had been lost to save another. The pain of losing a child was strong inside her. It was a memory she would carry with her until the day she died. Losing a child was never easy. But – and this was what troubled her beyond her ability to comprehend – the thought of losing John – yet again – had nearly driven her insane. To have to stand by and watch him die again, for whatever reason, would have killed her too.

Her mind was riddled with guilt. A thought that had not yet been fully formed was the source of that feeling and she knew without a doubt that she would have chosen John over the child any day. It made her feel sick inside that she had sacrificed that little life, John's child, to save him. She knew of the harsh realities of life, knew that sometimes people like her had to face challenges like that. Her mother had been faced with that and she had chosen her child over the man she loved. But Aeryn doubted that Xhalax had been in the unique position of having lost the man she loved, then regained him and then nearly lost him again.

She clenched her teeth together hard to stave off the need to scream in frustration and mental pain. How could she ever face him again, knowing what she knew, knowing that he would find out? How could she look into his eyes and tell him what had happened and not risk seeing anger, disappointment or even disgust in his eyes. Would he choose his child over her? She wasn't so sure, but some part of her believed he would. Children meant a lot to John. The one child he had been forced to leave behind on the Royal Planet ... she could still see the pain in his eyes when they had left after he'd been granted the chance of seeing what this child would look like.

No, she couldn't face him and tell him what she'd done. He would never accept it, would never be at peace with it. Granted, she hadn't willingly chosen to sacrifice the child to save him, but somewhere inside, somewhere in the back of her head, she had known that the chance existed, that something could go wrong and the child could die. And he did not want another life sacrificed to save his own. He had said so before and she doubted he had changed his mind about that.


Hearing his voice made her straighten her back instantly. She hugged herself and was torn between guilt, relief and bottomless grief. She hadn't heard him coming. He walked slowly, with difficulty, something she heard now that she was aware of his presence. But she could not get herself to turn around and face him. She did not want to see the anger, the disgust that was bound to be there; if he knew. And she was certain he did. She was convinced that the medic had filled him in.

He sighed audibly and came to a stop behind her. "Aeryn," he tried again, his voice full of fatigue and ... something else? She wasn't certain. "Aeryn, the doc told me what happened." He sounded so tired and she didn't blame him. He had once again been to Hezmana and back, had once again beaten all the odds and lived to tell the tale. It had to leave its mark on him somehow.

For a moment, there was nothing between them but silence; long, lingering and full of tension. Then he draped a hand onto her shoulder and tightened his grip a little.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, his voice hoarse.

For another few microts she stared out at the stars and the endless blackness of space and tried to understand what he was sorry for. And then the tears welled up in her eyes. Try as she might, she could not stop them. The pain, the shame, the doubt and fear ripped through her, shaking her to the core of her being, and still she could not bear to turn around and face him.

Her chest became too tight; she couldn't breathe properly. It was like drowning in ice water all over again, strapped helplessly to a chair that would not release its grip on her and pulled her down into the darkness, cutting off her air supply. She started shivering with the effort of convincing herself to draw breath and only managed to do so when John wrapped his arms around her from behind and pressed his face into the crook of her neck.

With the breath came the sobs. She teetered on the brink of insanity as she cried helplessly, partly with shame and partly with grief. The pain was far too big for her. She could not comprehend it, could not process it. And through it all, he kept telling her how sorry he was, that he knew how much she hurt and how horrible an ordeal this had been for her. She wanted to disagree, wanted to beg his forgiveness for killing his son, but she couldn't form the words. They were too strong, too painful for her right now and she was convinced that if she spoke them out loud, they would suffocate her, lacerate her with their bottomless intensity. So all she did was cry and all he did was hold her.


John didn't know what to say apart from what he kept repeating, over and over again. "I'm so sorry. I know how much you hurt. I know how horrible you must feel." Stupid, useless words that did nothing to comfort her. Whatever she had gone through to make the decisions she had made, the pain she displayed was real and endless and he would never, ever hold any of this against her.

Gently, he kissed her neck, wishing desperately that she would stop wailing like that, because it was breaking his heart. Instead, he used what little strength he had left and turned her around, pulled her close and smothered her pain against his chest. She trembled, shivered and shook in his arms, every muscle tensed to the breaking point, the tendons in her neck standing out in stark contrast to the paleness of her skin. He had never witnessed such pain before and a part of him wondered if she had cried like this when the other John had died. Had Crais held her and comforted her or had she suffered alone, in solitude? Considering the state of mind she had been in when she had returned, he guessed at the second option. Nobody had ever taught her how to process pain; at least not this type of pain.

Her knees folded up on her and he wasn't strong enough to keep her standing. Instead of letting her drop, he dropped with her and refused to release her. Her agony was a touchable beast, enveloping her in a crushing grip that might destroy her unless he could find a way to make it let go. It was up to him now. No matter how horrible he felt about the death of the baby, about the possibility of his own son having been sacrificed to save him, he had to be the strong one now, because there was no strength left in her, only pain and anguish.

How long it took before the rest of her resources tapered off and she stopped screaming her pain into his chest he didn't know, but when she finally did calm down, he couldn't form words yet. His throat was clogged up with a lump the size of a basketball and he knew if he spoke now, he would be the one to start crying. So all he did was hold her and rock her gently, while he ran one hand over her hair in a repetitive pattern, over and over again.

Her breath came in hitching little gasps now, the last remainder of her strength and stamina spent. He didn't know what was going through her head right now, if anything, but he knew that whatever he did, he could never let her feel even for a moment that he'd had second thoughts about her motives. It didn't matter anyway. The past was the past and there was nothing he or she could do to change that.

"Shhh," he whispered and planted a kiss on her hair. "It's okay." His voice broke, but he fought back the tears, forcing himself to stay strong. "You're okay." Was he trying to convince himself as much as her? Probably. But if there was one thing he knew for certain then it was that losing her was out of the question. He couldn't live without her any more. "I know that this isn't much of a consolation right now, honey," he continued in a hoarse, cracked voice, "but there can be other children. However much it hurts right now, it will get better."

His words made a difference somehow. She froze in his arms, stopped hiccuping and just sat still for a while. Then she wrapped her arms around him, but still refused to look at him.

"I'm so sorry, honey. So sorry," he repeated and again kissed her hair.

"My fault," she whispered back.

He knew without a doubt what she was saying and he couldn't let her believe that, not even for a second. "No, never," he disagreed, disengaged himself from her frantic hold, wrapped his hands around her face and forced her to look at him. There was shame in her eyes and it cut into him like a hot knife through butter. "You're not to blame, Aeryn," he insisted. "You did what you thought was right. Nobody could have predicted this outcome."

Her expression crumbled as fresh tears oozed from her eyes. Her lips trembled and she tried to curl up on herself, but he wouldn't let her.

"No, Aeryn, look at me," he demanded, on the verge of tears himself. "The idea was sound. It's not your fault. You've been under too much stress lately. Nobody can make logical, cool decisions under such circumstances. Do you hear me? I'm not blaming you and I do not want you to blame yourself. Okay?"

She stared into his eyes for a moment, then blinked rapidly and sat up a little straighter. "I should have known," she whispered and wrapped her hands around his wrists.

"No, you couldn't have," he said sternly. "It's not your fault. You're not to blame." He knew he would probably have to tell her this many times more before she believed him, but if that was what it took, then that was what he would do. "I love you. And I can't live without you. Do you hear me?"

She nodded vaguely, closed her eyes and drew in a shuddering breath. "I love you," she countered, then pressed her lips together into a thin line while new tears oozed from her eyes again. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"So am I, honey, but we gotta move on. There's nothing we can do now," he said quietly, leaned forward and pressed his lips against her sweat-moist brow. "I love you, Aeryn. Nothing will ever change that. Nothing."

She sniffed, then sighed deeply. "You shouldn't be out of bed," she said. He could literally feel how she pulled herself together and it made him smile vaguely.

"Probably not, but since you wouldn't come to me, I had to come to you," he replied and allowed her to help him up. His knees felt very wobbly beneath him and he leaned heavily on her with one arm around her shoulders. He grabbed her chin with one hand and turned her head to face him again. "We should talk more about this when the grief is not so fresh any more," he added.

She just looked into his eyes for a moment, then nodded silently. She had nothing further to say at this point, but that was okay. There would be time for talking later. Right now, they needed to heal a little; both mentally and physically.

The End