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

Rating: G

Synopsis: A slightly different outcome to Aeryn's return to Moya after TalynJohn's death.

"Ducks." The word was muttered, barely audible. "I just had to mention ducks. And not just any ducks. No! It had to be cartoon ducks." John shook his head with a sigh and wiggled back into the confines of the duct running beneath the floor where he was trying to fix a faulty powerline. "Of all the stupid, insane things to say to her," he continued his solitary conversation. "Ducks," he repeated and snorted. "Mickey Mouse," he mumbled, hesitated for a moment, then returned to tinkering with the line. "You are so stupid, John," he berated himself. "Stupid, stupid, stupid." The connector he had tried to apply to bring the line up to speed fell apart in his hands and the live wire beneath shocked him when his hand connected with it. "SHIT," he yelped and moved a little too quickly backwards, banging the back of his head against the edge of the opening. "Oh, that is enough. I'm quitting. I don't want this job any more," he snapped and carefully edged back out of the opening. With vehemence, he sat back and tossed the tool he had been using across the room, hitting the opposite wall. "Sorry, Moya," he mumbled, wondering if something like that actually hurt her. He hoped not.

For a moment, he just sat there, rubbing the back of his head, feeling sorry for himself. The tears he had felt stinging his eyes from the moment when she had just taken off without saying a word to him were still there, unshed, burning behind his lids. "Fuck it," he growled and covered his face with both hands. "Why is nothing ever easy? Huh?" he asked nobody and rubbed his eyes. "Nothing is ever easy. Not here and not at home." Annoyed at himself and at everything around him, he got up to retrieve the tool he had tossed away so he could get back to work. He needed to fix this line to reestablish the lights in this sector.

With another sigh, he eased back into the confines of the duct and focused on fixing the line instead of scolding himself. But John wasn't a man who could keep silent for very long. "Damn it all to hell in a handbasket," he muttered after a moment. "Or something along those lines," he added, quite certain he was mixing up metaphors. "This is gonna be one hell of a fun ride from now on, isn't it? I love her and she loves him and where the hell does that leave me? I am him, for crying out loud. But I have no fucking clue what they've been up to," he went on, paused for a moment and sneered, "well, I do have a clue, don't I? Yeah, sure I do. I just don't wanna think about it." He stopped moving, and just stared at the connector for a second, then sighed once more. "I am so fucking stupid. Don't push her, he said. Yeah, sure. How the hell could I? She doesn't even talk to me. And what the hell was that reference to that Budong all about? I don't wanna know what they've done together."

He tightened the bolt on the connector, eyed it thoughtfully for a moment, then eased back out of the hole. "Scratch that. Of course I wanna know. I'm curious. Can't keep my nose out of other people's business," he corrected himself derisively and looked around his immediate vicinity to find the tool that would help him put the casing over the line back in place. "Where the hell is it?" he grumbled. He spotted a DRD hiding in the shadows and narrowed his gaze at it. "Did you take it?" he wanted to know. The DRD chirped like some kind of metallic bird and he couldn't help grinning a little helplessly at it. "Remember. Once for yes, twice for no," he told it. "Did you take the spanner?" It blinked twice. "So where is it?" he asked.

The sound of something rolling across the floor made him look to his right, where he saw the tool he had sought rolling toward him. With a frown, he grabbed it and then looked in the direction it had come from to find Aeryn sitting there against the bulkhead, watching him with that expressionless face of hers. Because this sector was blacked out, he hadn't noticed her before. And he had no idea how long she'd been there. "Hey," he said a little tentatively because he didn't know what else to say. She merely continued to stare at him. "Been here long?" he asked, not expecting an answer.

"Long enough," she replied, her tone of voice sounding dead.

He looked away then, uncertain, unhappy. "Guess you heard me talking to myself, huh?" he asked and fiddled with the spanner, not sure how to react.

"Yes, but then you've always talked to yourself a lot, John," she said.

He realized that this was the longest sentence she had said to him since her return. Without looking at her, he started chewing on his lower lip, a sure sign of insecurity. "Sorry. Didn't know I had an audience," he said, grabbed the casing for the line and slipped back into the duct to put it on. He figured she'd be gone when he pulled out again, but to his immediate surprise, she wasn't. She still sat there, watching him almost intensely.

"Listening to you talking to yourself is actually the best way to find out what you are thinking about," she said, once she had his attention again. "Do you want to know about the Budong?" she asked.

He sat back and stared at her, not sure what to expect. Why was she talking to him now? She seemingly couldn't stand to be in the same room with him most of the time. Why would she stay and watch him work on this powerline. "Sure," he replied. He was afraid to turn her down. If he did, she might walk away and this to him fragile balance between them would break into a thousand pieces, maybe preventing them from ever finding a common path again.

She stared for a moment, seemingly unable to take her eyes off him. "I loved him," she said instead. "And I've spent a lot of time thinking about that love, about what it was, about where it came from. And I realized that it started long before we split up. I grieved for him, almost allowed him to pull me with him. I was so close, John, so close to putting an end to it all. It seemed that all I had ever wanted was being torn away from me, that I had nothing left. So I shut down my emotions. I stopped feeling. I stopped loving, hating. I became a Peacekeeper again, controlled, cold. And I thought that was the best way to survive. The only way to survive. Because feelings hurt, John. They hurt badly. They tear you apart and never give you a chance to heal." She sighed and dropped her gaze to her hands folded on top of her knees, which she had pulled up to her chest. "I didn't want to feel again. And then we came back here, to Moya. I saw Pilot and I was happy to see him. I saw Moya and I felt her pain. I saw D'Argo and Chiana and Jool and I was relieved they were all still here, still alive and well. The only one I couldn't figure out how to feel about was you. I saw you and ... it both hurt and it didn't. I felt ... both relief and sorrow. I felt. I had vowed I wouldn't, but I did and I do." She shook her head, then she raised her eyes again and stared at him. "I saw the message, John. The one he left for you. I heard everything. I saw your ... game. And I realized that even though you don't remember the past quarter of a cycle on Talyn, you're still John Crichton."

He didn't know how to interpret her words, didn't know how to respond to her. Was she telling him that she was going to be okay with this, that they could continue where ever the two of them had left off? Or was she telling him that she was going to leave and that she just wanted to clear the air before she did? His heart thudding away in his chest made it harder for him to breathe. The anticipation and fear vying for control inside him made him ache almost physically, so he said nothing. He just waited for her to go on.

"I ..." she tried, but trailed off. "If you find a way back to Earth, John," she said, staring intently at him, "would you go?"

He knew it was a trick question of some kind, that she expected him to say something specific to that one and for a second he nearly panicked, not wanting to mess this up any more than it already was. But, when it came down to it, there was only one thing he could say to that. "Probably," he replied. "But I wouldn't want to go alone."

She kept staring at him, her face still expressionless. "We should talk about this," she said quietly.

Staring at her, he tried to estimate the outcome of this and couldn't. "Yeah," he said after a moment. "We could do lunch," he added, that sarcastic little remark escaping almost unbidden.

Aeryn closed her eyes for a moment and sighed. It seemed as if she were relieved by what he had said. Opening her eyes again, she tilted her head to the right and continued to stare at him for a moment. Then she got up, straightened her vest and left.

John was left behind, feeling very odd. This conversation had been more confusing than anything else, but at least she had talked to him. He wasn't so sure what her question had accomplished, but he felt he had seen something in her eyes which hadn't been there since her return, namely life. With a light shake of the head, he patted the floor, then put the cover back on the hole. "Let's see if this works, Moya," he said. For some reason he hadn't spent too much time thinking about, he could communicate directly with Moya through the little DRD that was seemingly always following him around. In response to his words, the power in the room kicked in and the lights flickered back on. "I would say that it works," he added and glanced at the DRD, which winked at him once. That made him smile. "Yup, it works just fine. I'm becoming quite the mechanic here," he said. "I could open my own shop. Crichton's Leviathan Repairs. No job's too big." He chuckled at his own little joke, gathered the tools and dropped them back into the box before heading out to find something else to fix. There was a definite bounce to his step as he walked briskly down the corridor.


The stars seemed different. She couldn't quite determine why, but they looked different. More alive. Not so cold and distant. Almost as if she could reach out and touch them. And that bright pulsar out there, the one shining with unrelenting brilliance in the blackness of space, that was the one that carried her name. The one in his book. Sitting cross-legged in the center of the terrace, Aeryn stared up at the stars while the book, or notepad as he had called it, lay open in her lap, giving her pointers from the crude star maps he had drawn.

It didn't hurt to look at it any more. It was still a little wistful, but there was no pain connected to it any more. "Can you hear me?" she asked the void before her. "Are you still there?"

The stars winked at her, a comet zipped by far away, but there was no reply, no sense that he was still there. But she still believed that he could hear her. "I had to let you go. I had to move on," she explained, her voice husky. "And then I came back here, back to Moya. And I think I've found you again. A little different, but it's you ... isn't it?" She smiled at her own question and looked back down at the notepad. "I thought I would never feel anything again when you died. I thought I had lost everything. That all I could be now was what I was bred to be. A Peacekeeper solider, devoid of emotion." Idly she ran a finger over the bumpy paper, traced lines from star to star. "Guess I was wrong," she added and looked back up at the stars. "I loved you." Her smile turned a little sad. "But I love him, too. Because, in some strange way, he is you. Minus a few memories, of course. But he is you." With a heavy sigh, she looked back down at the notepad. "I should give this back to him," she nearly whispered. "I have to go. There is something I haven't done yet that needs to be done. Something I need to say."

She rose and closed the notepad. Before turning away, she sent one last lingering look out at the stars and smiled. "The two become one again," she whispered and shook her head. Three cycles ago, she would never even had thought of saying something like that. She hadn't known love then, hadn't known the true meaning of friendship, of how much it hurt to lose someone you really loved. But now she knew.

With long, even strides, she reentered Moya's corridors and walked briskly toward the galley. Stepping inside, she looked around and found Crais. He was having some kind of in-depth discussion with Jool, plotting and planning, always trying to find an angle. She headed straight for them and stopped next to Jool, her eyes fixed on Crais. "Crais, the answer is no," she said. "I have thought about it and I have to turn you down. Thank you for the offer, though." That said, she turned and started to leave, feeling that nothing more should be said.

"Aeryn, wait a microt," Crais said, rising.

She stopped, her back to him. "There's nothing to discuss, Crais. I've made up my mind. I'm staying," she said and started walking again.

Crais watched her leave with no small amount of disappointment, but Aeryn didn't see that and even if she had, she wouldn't have cared. Her steps quickened as she headed toward the maintenance bay, the notepad still in her hand. She had a fluttering feeling in the pit of her stomach, making her almost ache to reach her destination. There was so much left unsaid, so many things left undone. She could not exist another microt without saying and doing those things.

Entering the bay, she saw at once that her assumption had been true. There he was, trying to fix something again, always trying to fix something. Be it Moya or Talyn or herself or someone or something else. He had so much to give and he gave it freely. "John," she said, not slowing her pace.

He turned around at the sound of her voice, some type of gadget in one hand and a rag in the other, his expression caught somewhere between expectant and cautious. She never broke her stride, but walked straight up to him, tossed the notepad on the workbench behind him, slipped a hand behind his neck and pulled his head down so she could kiss him without straining herself. When she broke the kiss and leaned back a little, she felt the need to laugh at the expression on his face, but didn't. He looked utterly stunned, still holding onto both the gadget and the rag.

"Did I miss something?" he asked.

"No, you did not. I love you. I just wanted you to know that," she said and stepped back.

Before she could make another move, he had dropped the rag and grabbed her arm, obviously wanting to assure himself that she wouldn't run away before he had found out what was going on. "You're leaving, aren't you?" he asked, his expression serious.

Aeryn smiled. Not the radiant smile that she had become accustomed to sending him, the other him. This one was a tad sad and she could see the pain in his eyes, knew he was misinterpreting the situation. "No," she said to still his fear. "I'm staying. I told Crais no. I'm not going with him on Talyn. I don't want to go back to Talyn."

"What exactly is going on, Aeryn?" he asked, confusion in his eyes.

"I've thought things through. I've made my peace with the situation. I want to feel again. I want to be whole again. And I can only achieve that here," she said, not quite certain she was explaining herself clearly. Feelings were still so odd to her, so uncustomary. They didn't come easy and when they came, they usually overwhelmed her. "Do you understand?"

With his hand still wrapped around her arm, he just stared at her. "I ... think so," he said hesitantly and pulled her a step closer. The gadget he had been holding onto this far fell to the floor and he reached his now free hand up to touch her, to trace his fingertips along the side of her face.

He watched what he was doing, his eyes trailing over her face with much of the wonder she had at first despised and later loved him for. Some of the innocense the other had lost was still lingering in this one. A new start, a different destination and, hopefully, a completely different outcome was what she hoped to gain from this. She didn't know of anyone who had been given such a chance, a second try to make things right. She would do whatever she could, however she could do it, to prevent him from dying on her. She would not allow him to be the hero, the one that saves the day. She would be selfish about this second chance, selfish because she knew it would destroy her if she were to lose him twice. It was unthinkable, really. "I love you," she repeated and reached up to cover his hand with her own, pressing it against her cheek. Would he answer her now, she wondered? Or was he still too confused to really understand what she was telling him?

John stared at her. "Ditto," he said and pulled her into his arms.

Aeryn frowned. "Ditto?" she asked. "What does that mean?"

That made him smile. "It means that I love you, too," he explained and brushed his fingers through her hair, pushing it away from her face. "For someone who doesn't think much before she acts, you sure have done a lot of talking over the past few arns," he added with a slight smile.

"And you never stopped talking," she replied. "Do you ever?"

"What? Stop talking?" he asked and she nodded. "I don't know. It's kinda like sex. I haven't maxed out yet."

She smiled at that. If she had been prone to blush, she probably would have, but Aeryn was hard to impress. Idly, she ran a finger along his collarbone, staring at his chest with an intenseness she didn't understand herself. "I need you to make me a promise," she said and looked up again to meet his eyes.

"Anything," he promised.

"I need you to promise that you won't be the hero. That you won't be the one to save the day and sacrifice yourself for the rest. Leave the hero-stuff to others." She knew she was being selfish, but she didn't mind. She had lost him once because he had been heroic. She didn't want heroics. She wanted him. And she felt that she was entitled to keep him now. "I do not want to ever have to face the possibility of losing you again. Ever!"

He looked into her eyes. "I promise," he said. "Cross my heart and hope to die," he added, making the cross over his heart.

She smiled a little at that phrase. "We will all die," she said with conviction. "But not today."