Aboard Moya
One solarday later

The otherwise calm serenity of Command was interrupted by a sudden curse. "Frell it!" John was lying under one of the consoles and had been there for the better part of two arns without having much luck at fixing the failing equipment. Much to Pilot's regret, John had insisted on trying to fix the malfunctioning console, an attempt hampered by the many loose-hanging, live wires around him. He had given himself more than one shock already and the disarray along with the multitude of connection points on the underside of the console made his head hurt. He took a deep breath, focused on the task at hand and grabbed a handful of wires in an attempt to find the one he needed and instantly got shocked. "SHIT!" he snapped, releasing the wires again before sticking his now tingling, sore thumb in his mouth. "How hard can it be?" he muttered to himself, then raised his head. "Hey, Pip," he called out, knowing that Chiana was hanging around Command with seemingly nothing better to do.

"Yeah, John?" she asked and dropped down on her hands and knees next to him to see how far he'd gotten. She couldn't see a thing from where she was, so she moseyed a little closer, sticking her head into the confines under the console. A very characteristic chuckle escaped her at the mess he had made.

"Could you give me those schematics again?" he asked, his eyes on the connection points.

"Maybe you should get out of there before you shock yourself into oblivion?" Chiana suggested, grinning broadly when he gave her an annoyed look. "Hey, it's just a suggestion," she defended herself with a grin.

"Just get me those schematics, okay?" he said, a little dismissive.

"What's your problem anyway?" she wanted to know as she pulled back to grab one of the many schematics spread out over the floor around him.

"I don't have a problem," John said a little sharply and instantly regretted it. "Sorry. I'm just getting a little tired of getting shocked all the time," he added.

Chiana merely chuckled and handed him the blueprint. "Why don't you let the DRDs fix that? That's what they're here for, isn't it?" she asked and hunkered down next to his legs so she could keep an eye on what he was doing. "You could have gone down to the surface with the others. Maybe there's something interesting down there that you want to buy."

Moya was in orbit around a commerce planet and Aeryn, D'Argo and Jool had gone down to buy supplies, which left John behind with Chiana hanging around him, annoying him with silly questions about what he was doing, while Rygel was off somewhere, probably stuffing his face again. John had declined the chance to go planetside mainly because he wanted to be alone and divert his thoughts a little. Shopping wasn't his idea of fun anyway, so he had opted to stay aboard Moya. The only excuse he had been able to come up with had been the malfunctioning console, which the DRDs could easily have fixed and at half the time, but that hadn't stopped John at that point.

The sense of foreboding that had bothered him for the past many days now made him fidgety and incapable of sitting still. He needed something to do, something which would force him to use his mental faculties, and trying to fix something he didn't know much about had seemed like a challenge at the time. He wasn't so sure he could do it any more, though, and it had crossed his mind that maybe he should have gone shopping with the others. But whenever he thought of that option, that gnat-in-the-ear feeling seemed to intensify. So, he had stayed and was, in every sense, getting on Pilot's nerves.

With a sigh, he shifted a little. "There is nothing I want to buy, Pip. Besides, I don't like shopping. It's boring," he replied to her suggestion. "And, as Aeryn is so fond of telling me, I'm hopeless when it comes to identifying perishables from pure poison."

He hated to have to admit it, but Aeryn had a point. He had more than once been about to pick up something which would kill a Sebacean in an instant. Aeryn had gone as far as claiming that he needed a nursemaid when they were planetside. Whenever he made a mistake, she wouldn't let him live it down. It always came up at some point. And being as frustrated as he was at the moment, he hadn't felt the need to add to the already impressive amount of incidents that Aeryn could throw at him at any given moment. Or D'Argo. Fortunately, neither Jool nor Chiana seemed to have the habit of reminding him of how inadequate he was. Jool settled for reminding everybody how inferior they were. Chiana just asked the wrong questions at the wrong time. Slightly irritated already, he sighed again.

Chiana chuckled again. "Well, I have to agree with Aeryn on one point. You are strange," she commented, watching him fiddle with the wires for a moment before zapping himself again, which only made her chuckle more.

"And why's that?" he asked in an irritated tone of voice, which totally bypassed Chiana's understanding as usual.

"You seem so tense. Why don't you do something about it?" she asked, leaning closer to get a better look at what he was doing. "Why not try that one there?" she asked, pointing at the wire he was holding onto and then to one of the many connection points.

He paused for a moment, annoyed that she had caught that one before he had. "Would you stay out of this?" he snapped, trying not to sound too terse. It was getting a little hard, though. "And get out of my light," he added and tried the connection. It worked, which didn't do much for his confidence in his own abilities.

Chiana pulled back a little and nearly lost her balance, bracing herself against him. The heel of her hand made contact with more sensitive areas, which caused him to sit up with a jerk, banging his head against the edge of the console. In the process, he dropped a handful of wires and got shocked again. "OW," he yelped. "Watch it, Chi, okay?" he then snapped, rubbing his brow.

Fully aware of what she had done, Chiana chuckled and withdrew her hand again. She would usually do anything to get a rise out of him. "What's the matter? Don't you get everything you need at the moment?" she asked, teasing him.

"Can it, grey girl," he growled. "Can't you go bug Rygel instead?"

"Rygel is eating," she said. "You're such a ... what is it you call it? ... killsport," she teased. "I just wanna have a little fun. D'Argo and Aeryn are down on the planet and I'm bored."

"Killjoy, Pip. The word is killjoy. And I don't care if they're two solardays away. I'm not interested in having fun right now," he replied tersely. "Just leave me alone, okay?" he added, raising his head to give her an annoyed look.

Chiana blinked and tilted her head to the right. "Why are you so angry?" she asked, suddenly serious.

Most of the time, she seemed to consider their banter a game, knowing she could make fun of him without chance of retribution. But he was overly annoyed at the moment, something which didn't sit well with her, he could tell.

"I am not angry," he growled, stressing each word.

"Oh really?" she asked. "Then why are you snapping at me?"

John closed his eyes and sighed heavily. It took him a moment to find a fitting reply to that one. "Sorry, Pip," he finally said. "I'm not in a very good mood today, okay? Just ... go play somewhere else," he added.

"Is it something you want to talk about?" she asked, watching him intently while he continued to try and fit the pieces of the console together.

"No, Pip, it's nothing I want to talk about," he replied, not looking at her. What was it with these aliens, anyway? Couldn't they take a hint? "Why didn't you go shopping with the rest of them?" he asked, glancing at her.

"What, and have Aeryn tell me what a grolash I am for wanting to help out? Nah. I'd rather stay up here and help you out," she replied, grinning again. As always with her, seriousness didn't last long.

"You're not helping me. And Aeryn does not think you're a ... grolash," he disagreed, then frowned. "Whatever the hell that means," he added mostly to himself. The microbes didn't translate it into anything useful.

"Oh, she does. She treats me like I'm some kind of renki," she insisted.

John sighed for the umpteenth time and shook his head in slight dismay. "Enough with the slang, Pip. Just give me some space, okay?"

She regarded him for a moment, then rose. "I'll just ... go bug Rygel or something," she said, her tone a little dejected.

***

John tried to and failed to find neither head nor tail in the disarray of wires and connection points for a few moments longer, then sighed again and let go of everything at once. Almost as if on cue, Pilot's voice rang from the com system. "How go the repairs, Commander?"

"Slowly," he replied. "Do you need control back or something?"

"No, not presently. We are still in orbit around Theath and will remain here until the others return from the surface," Pilot replied. "Perhaps ... you should join them?"

John sighed again, an annoying habit he was picking up, pushed out of the confines under the console and sat up. "Can the DRDs fix this faster?" he wanted to know.

"Well ... yes ... I would think so," Pilot replied.

"Then let them. I'm not having any luck," John said and got up. "Sorry for the mess. It seemed easier when I first looked at it."

"That is all right, Commander," Pilot replied, a definite tone of relief in his voice.

John grinned halfheartedly. That was so typical for Pilot. He might be against the tinkering, but he would never say so. "Alrighty then. I'll just ... uh ... go join the others down on Theath," he said, mostly to himself, and headed toward the landing bay.

***

Theath
Commerce planet

Shopping! When had she been degraded to a supply runner? Frowning at the displayed food items in front of her, Aeryn found herself growing tense at the mere thought. She was a soldier, not a supply runner. But leaving such a delicate task up to any of the others would only get them in trouble.

D'Argo, who was off somewhere trying to find a vendor who sold larger quantities of durable food, didn't know what the frell he was doing, although he was the only one among the mobile part of the crew who could procure halfway decent food. Left to Chiana, they would only end up with crackers again and the mere memory gave Aeryn the creeps. Jool wouldn't know what to buy unless it was high quality food, which was way out of their price range. And even then she wouldn't trust the obnoxious Interion to be able to take her mind off her looks long enough to find something that was even remotely edible. Rygel would just buy slugs and leave the rest of them to starve and John was likely to poison the whole lot of them. "Frell," she grumbled and gave the front of the display a light kick.

"Watch it, Peacekeeper," the shop keeper growled, trying to be brave.

Aeryn gave him a withering glare, which made him back off instantly, and then she sighed and moved on to the next stand in search of something they could use. She set the bags of goods down on the ground and inspected the display of pale, oblong roots closely. "This is all dren," she muttered and picked up one of the roots, broke a piece off it of and tasted it.

When someone settled a hand on the small of her back, she ripped her pulse pistol out and swirled around, aiming the muzzle at the perpetrator. "John," she then said, lowering the pistol again, a little surprised to see him.

"Don't shoot!" he said, raising his hands in surrender. "I come in peace," he added and gave her a crooked grin.

"If you do that again, you'll leave in pieces," she replied, somewhat annoyed that he had managed to sneak up on her. "Done with the repairs?" she then asked and re-holstered her weapon.

"Well, kinda," he replied. "I more or less got kicked out by Pilot," he added and leaned in to kiss her briefly. "Have you found anything interesting?" he wanted to know, frowning at the odd assortment of whatever they were on the stand in front of them.

"Furlock root. Very tasty," she replied, broke a piece off one of them and stuffed it into his mouth before he had a chance to object.

He chewed, expecting it to taste horrible, and was rather surprised to find that he recognized the taste. It was a bit off, but it tasted mostly like a boiled potato. "Wow! I can almost see the golden arches," he said.

"The golden what?" she asked with a sideways glance at him while indicating to the shop keeper that she wanted a bundle of the roots. She had no idea what he was talking about. Although she herself was partial to furlock root, some of his metaphors just made no sense at all. "Furlock root is not supposed to have any kind of narcotic effect, you know," she told him, concerned that his comments might stem from an unusual response to the root.

He grabbed one of the roots and examined it more closely. "I'm not high, sunshine. Just reminded of home," he tried to explain, broke another piece off the root and chewed on it. "Fry this puppy up and it's like going to McDonalds," he said.

Aeryn frowned, then grabbed the root back from him and dropped it into the bag with the rest of them. "I have no frelling clue what you're talking about," she told him. "You make less sense than normally."

Grinning, he wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled her neck. "How's that possible?" he asked, tracing his lips over the edge of her ear. "Man, I never thought the idea of french fries could be a turn-on," he added in a breathy voice.

Craning her neck, she eased into his touch, allowing herself to be swept up in the moment. "I've got no clue what those french fries are, but I like the implications," she whispered playfully and shifted her hips. Then she suddenly became very aware of the shopkeeper's curious looks and gave him a warning glance. The man quickly averted his eyes and began sorting his goods aimlessly.

Once again becoming aware of why she had previously been so agitated, Aeryn leaned forward a little. "We need a few more things and then I'm done here. Almost," she said, reaching back to pat John's behind. "D'Argo is trying to find something in bigger quantities and Jool ... well, she's being Jool. Last I saw her, she was inspecting scent waters."

"Scent waters. Hmm!" he replied, his face buried in her hair. "Still Zhaan's stash?" he then inquired.

Aeryn stopped moving for a second, then turned her head a little. "I am not scenting my hair," she said.

"Yeah, you are," he claimed. "And it smells real good."

"Save it for later, John," she advised him and tried to pull out of his grip. When he wouldn't let her, she elbowed him in the guts, driving him back a step, and turned around to face him. "Make yourself useful, human," she said and nearly smirked at the mock-hurt look in his eyes. "Supplies are the priority right now. And I don't like this place very much."

"What's not to like?" he asked and took a closer look at one of the stands. "There doesn't seem to be much more going on here than trading. I, for one, haven't seen any Peacekeepers or anything else that might make me consider taking the high road out of here," he added.

Aeryn eyed him for a moment. "The high road? Why would you want to take a high road?" she asked, a little confused by that metaphor. "You'd better stick with me. You'll only get lost down here. And I don't feel much like having to search the entire planet for you," she said, hooked a finger into his belt and pulled him along with her. "Where's Chiana?"

"Still on Moya," John replied, trailing after her with little interest in the stands around him.

The way he said it made her stop short and glance back at him. "Is something wrong?" she wanted to know.

"Nah, nothing I can't handle," he replied, striking her as being somewhat distracted.

Snapping her fingers in front of his face, she attracted his attention. "What's up with you today?" she wanted to know, using a typical American term.

That made him grin. "Nothing, Aeryn. Honest. I'm ... bored. A little antsy, so to speak," he admitted.

"Antsy?" she asked, frowning at the translation. "What exactly does that mean?"

"Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Running circles around myself. Hell, Aeryn, I don't know," he tried to explain, then sighed. "I snapped at Chi. I should apologize to her."

"Yes, you should," she agreed, eying him thoughtfully. "How's your ... uh ... lodger?" she asked.

He gave her a glance she couldn't readily interpret, then shrugged. "Quiet."

She gave him a scrutinizing look, sensing more than knowing that he wasn't being entirely truthful. "Not that quiet, I assume, considering that you're snapping at Chiana and trying to fix things you don't know anything about," she said, stating the obvious. "Has he bothered you today?"

"Like a tick on a dog," John replied a little dejectedly. "I'm getting fed up with putting him in his place all the time. I do not like sharing my mind with him."

"Of course not. But as long as you keep him under control, he can't do anything to harm you. He's powerless, John. Always remember that," she advised. "Come on. Let's finish up here so we can get back to Moya."

***

Back on Moya

Packed with all sorts of food items, Aeryn couldn't see where she was going, but knew her way around the galley anyway. Walking briskly, she wanted nothing more than to get rid of the burden of the food and completely failed to see the danger ahead. One wrong step and her right foot slipped out from under her, spilling her and the food on the floor in a crash.

"FRELL!" she yelled, aggravated beyond her capacity. This day was just getting worse all the time. And when she saw several utensils all over the floor, she realized what had brought her down and it raised her anger by several notches. Not only had she been degraded to supply runner, she had been brought down by the haughty Hynerian, too. That was just too much for her. "RYGEL!" she roared. It was obvious that the Hynerian had once again been stuffing his face and hadn't bothered cleaning up after himself.

John turned up in the door with his own load, took a second to survey the area and navigated around the debris to set the food down on the counter before turning back to Aeryn, who hadn't gotten up yet. "Hey, baby. You okay?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm fine," she replied tensely. "I'll be better when I get my hands on that Hynerian slug," she added and glanced around her with a set expression on her face. Several of the goods she had been carrying were splattered and broken, which meant she would have to go back down to the surface to replace them. "Frell, frell, frell," she sputtered, slammed a fist down on the floor and then started to get up. With a snapped curse, she interrupted that endeavor, reaching for her right ankle instead.

John squatted down next to her and grabbed her leg, gently prodding her ankle until she jerked. "Either sprained or broken," he suggested, rose again and scooped her up in his arms. "Let's go take a look."

"If it's broken, I'm going to kill that little frelling ..." she sputtered, too angry at Rygel to get upset about the fact that John was carrying her.

"Easy now. Although I agree that he can be a royal pain in the butt sometimes, he probably didn't do it on purpose," John tried to sooth her and eased her down on the examination table in the med bay. Gently, he pulled her boot off, then her sock and examined her foot more closely. "Swollen, sore," he commented, grabbed the scanner and ran it over her ankle while studying the bio-print. "But not broken. A bad sprain, though. Could be some tendon-damage. You have to stay off this for a bit," he ended the examination, grabbed a roll of blue bandage and started wrapping it around her foot.

Aeryn eyed him, her expression tense. "This is not the time," she snapped and slammed a fist down on the examination table. "That frelling Hynerian can thank his lucky stars that he isn't here right now. When I get my hands on him, I'm going to roast him over a slow flame."

"It's only a sprain, Aeryn," he told her with a sideways grin and put the finishing touches on the bandage. "No need to get so worked up about it. – There. That should keep it steady."

She sat up properly to inspect his handiwork, gingerly patting the bandage as if trying to determine if it would let her walk. "Good work," she said, swung her legs over the edge of the table and slipped off it. She put her weight on the foot and hissed at the pain shooting through her leg. "Frell!"

"You should stay off it," John repeated. "Why are you getting so worked up about this, Aeryn? It's not like we're in danger or anything."

Aeryn eyed him for a moment with a sinister look in her eyes. "And what if we do get in trouble? I can't run with this. I can't even walk, for frell's sake," she replied. "I do not like being incapacitated," she added forcefully, "and neither you nor that frelling Luxan is going to make a difference if we do get attacked."

"Thank you for that vote of confidence," he said sarcastically. "We're on Moya. We have everything we need for now. All we have to do is wait for D'Argo and Jool to get back and then leave Theath behind. No biggie," he claimed.

"That fall destroyed several of the food items we need to get by," Aeryn replied with annoyance. "And now I can't even go back down to the surface and get more because I can't frelling walk. This is a stack of dren!" Again, she hammered a fist down on the surface of the examination table, somehow trying to make a point of her anger.

And still John failed to see the problem. "So?" he asked with a shrug. "I'll just go down and get it for you. I really don't see what the problem is."

She considered that offer for a moment, realizing that he could probably do it without getting lost or bringing back things they didn't need or which might poison them. But she wasn't much in the mood to acknowledge his present usefulness. "I want to be in Command," she said instead.

That made John frown. "Well, you are the ex-peacekeeper ..." he started, but she cut him off.

"No, in Command. At the console. The viewscreen," she corrected him, giving him an aggravated look for once again being as dense as only he could be. She was not in the mood for wisecracks and was determined to make him understand that.

"Oh, that Command," he replied and grinned. "No problem, sunshine," he added and scooped her up in his arms.

"What are you doing?" she snapped, a look of surprise on her face. "I'm not a cripple. I can walk if I try."

"Yeah, but you shouldn't. It heals faster if you don't," he claimed and carried her to Command. Easing her down on the floor, he made sure she was all right before releasing her. "So, what do you need to get?"

Aeryn didn't look at him, merely kept her eyes on a point past his right shoulder. "Just what was wasted," she replied, eying him for a moment. Then she rolled her eyes and turned away. "And a few more items I forgot about. Frell!"

"And those few items would be ... what?" he asked.

Aeryn sneered. "Nothing you'd know how to find," she replied somewhat sharply.

"Jeez, have a little faith in me, huh?" he suggested, giving her a slightly annoyed look. "You're behaving like a feminist with PMS on a bad day."

She glared at him. "I have no frelling idea what that means, John, but if it means what I think it might ..." she threatened.

Raising both hands in a deprecating gesture, he backed up a step. "Aright, alright already," he said with a frown. "So ... who would know how to find these items? Should I get one of the girls?" he wanted to know.

Aeryn frowned a little, then turned back to give him a strained look. "Yes. Get Chiana. Jool isn't back yet," she replied.

"I know that," he claimed, his tone a little strained now. "I'll go find Chiana. And Aeryn?"

She gave him a dark look. "What?" she nearly snapped.

"Try not to rip her head off, okay?" he suggested and backed up another step before turning around to leave.

***