"Chi?" John called, walking along the corridor leading away from Command. "Hey, Pip," he tried again, receiving no answer. "Chiana!"

"What?"

She startled him by dropping down from the ceiling right in front of him. "Jeez, Chi. Don't do that," he gasped, reeling back a step. "That's where heart attacks come from."

Chiana chuckled lightheartedly, her previous preoccupation with his present state of mind obviously forgotten. "Why are you calling me?" she wanted to know, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, swaying like a tree in the wind.

"Aeryn needs something and she won't tell me what it is," he replied. "I would guess that it's something ... feminine," he added, a little curious about it.

"Why doesn't she pick it up herself?" Chiana asked, giving him a frown.

"Because she hurt her foot. She can't walk. Ryg left stuff on the floor in the galley and she took a spill. We need to pick up some of the stuff she dropped and ... whatever it is she won't tell me. Lipstick, eyeliner, who knows. Go find out what it is and meet me at the prowler," he told her and pushed past her to continue to the landing bay.

***

Chiana hurried to Command to find out what Aeryn wanted her to pick up. "Hey," she said, her eyes drifting to Aeryn's feet. "Quite a bandage you got there," she added.

"Yes, well, if I get my hands on Rygel, I'm going to strangle him to death for this," Aeryn replied angrily. "I need you to pick up a few things for me," she added and handed her a datapad.

Eyeing the items listed, Chiana frowned a little. "Why can't you tell John to pick this up?" Chiana wanted to know, getting straight to the point as always.

"Because ... he doesn't know these items, Chiana. He would pick up the wrong things. You know what he's like," Aeryn replied, a dark look in her eyes. "Besides, he has seemed a little distracted lately," she added and sighed. "Is he going with you?"

"Yeah," Chiana replied, looking a little uncertain all of a sudden. "Is he having some kind of problem, Aeryn? He's been a little ... short-tempered lately."

Aeryn eyed her for a second, then made a face. "No, he's not having any kind of problem. He's probably just having one of his bad days," she replied. "Just ... don't push him. And remind him to pick up the things I dropped in the galley," she added.

Chiana frowned again, not liking it that everybody seemingly considered her to be incapable of handling other people's bad days. It annoyed her. "Aeryn, I can't help thinking that something's wrong with him," she tried.

"Nothing's wrong with him," Aeryn said, her tone of voice dismissive. "Get going. We don't want to stay here any longer than we have to."

"You have a bad feeling about Theath, don't you?" Chiana asked, wishing that for once the ex-peacekeeper would confide in her. Not that she had ever known Aeryn to do something so out of character.

"I said you should get going, Chiana," Aeryn warned.

"Alright, alright," Chiana said, raising her hands in a deprecating gesture. "No need to bite my head off," she added and hurried out of Command again. She was getting a little tired of being snapped at by everybody when all she was trying to do was figure out what was wrong with John.

***

John stood leaning against the prowler when Chiana came rushing in, certain that he would snap at her again for being tardy. He didn't however.

"Chi-a-na," he said, drawing her name out. "Let's go, grey girl."

Happy that at least one of her so-called friends didn't see the need to snap at her every chance he got, the Nebari chuckled lightly and climbed up the ladder, making sure he got an eyeful before she settled into the cramped confines of the prowler.

John settled himself, too, strapping in for the ride, then glanced back at her. "So, you'll remember everything she asked for? I don't want to have to run down there again to pick up tampax and whatnots."

Chiana frowned. "What's that, tampax?" she wanted to know.

Making a face, he waved a dismissive hand at her and turned back to the controls. "Something only girls use," he replied. "Let's head on down and pick up what we need. I'm getting hungry."

***

On Theath

Despite the late hour, the market place was still teeming with activity, all stands still open. While Chiana took care of whatever it was that Aeryn wanted, John browsed around for the few things they might need, and took the opportunity to take a look at the merchandise. He certainly didn't need to know the deeper aspects of Sebacean females secret life. Not yet, anyway. The thought made him grin as he stopped to pick up something that looked much like a carrot. The thing turned out to be alive though, wiggling in his hand like some kind of mutated snake.

A little startled, he put it back on the display, where it instantly stopped moving again. "Moving carrots. Gotta remember that," he muttered to himself and browsed on, continuously in awe over this odd galaxy he had ended up in. "Might be awesome, but they do not have McDonalds," he added to himself and grinned. "Or anything else remotely like home."

Only three cycles ago, he had still been on Earth, watching the skies, contemplating his next step in the Farscape-project and wondering if his theories would pan out. His biggest concerns back then had been budget cuts, what he was going to eat for breakfast and the fact that Alex had chosen her job over him. "Easier times, less worries," he told himself.

Well, they might have been easier, but they sure hadn't been as exciting as this. Although there were aspects of this existence that he could have happily done without. Like the Aurora-chair incident.

A shiver ran up his spin at the memory and he pushed it away, not wanting it to spoil his presently good mood. Stark had told him how to control the neural clone and he hadn't had that much trouble with him since, except lately. And he sure wasn't fond of sharing his mind with a copy of Scorpius.

He shook his head briefly to rid himself of the thoughts, not wanting Harvey to make an appearance in the middle of everything. Somehow, he had managed to move on with life without too many side effects from that experience, although he was beginning to wonder if he really had moved on. The frequentness with which the neural clone turned up at the moment really bothered him. With a sigh, he shifted his backpack a little, figuring he had everything he needed for now. All he had to do was wait for Chiana to turn up again, which meant he still had some time to browse around.

To preoccupy himself and get his mind off the darker aspects of his life, he picked up a crystal cube, which displayed various colors, depending on what direction it was turned in. A toy, no doubt, but still interesting.

***

Chiana had managed to gather the things that Aeryn had asked her for, grinning at the idea that Crichton would be stumped if he knew what they could be used for. Chiana wasn't too sure why Aeryn wanted all this stuff, but she knew what she would use it for and figured that Sebacean females had weird taste. "Aeryn, you're kinkoid," she muttered and stuffed the rest of the items into the bag she was carrying. "I hope John doesn't freak if you want to use them," she added and chuckled at the mental image that produced. "Maybe I can borrow them sometime. I'm sure D'Argo would appreciate that," she continued her solitary conversation and headed toward the spot where she had last seen Crichton. He was still there, admiring something he had picked up.

Her grin faded, though, when her eyes fixed on something she had noticed beyond the place where he stood. Tapping her comlink, she rose up on her toes to keep an eye on those dark-clad shapes advancing on the human. "John," she hissed into the comlink.

At the other end of the market place, John raised his head and glanced around. "What's up, Chi?" he asked back, frowning.

"PKs. Coming your way. Head toward me and hurry before they spot you," she replied, catching his attention simply by standing still.

John didn't need to be told twice. Dropping the cube he had been considering, he headed quickly toward Chiana, not daring to look back.

Chiana kept an eye on the advancing Peacekeepers until John reached her, grabbed her arm and hauled her with him toward the spot outside of town where they had landed the prowler. "We'd better hurry. They look like they've got a purpose," she hissed.

They started running, pushing through the crowd which was big enough to hide their departure. With a little luck and more than a little fear driving them on, they both finally broke out of the crowd and could speed up their departure toward the waiting prowler.

John was rather frantic when they finally reached the vessel and he nearly pushed Chiana up the rungs of the ladder, constantly looking backward to make sure they weren't followed. Only when they were airborne did he start to relax again. "Damn, that was close. Thanks for the warning, Chi," he said.

"A little too close. What the frell were they looking for?" Chiana asked, looking back down at the dwindling city scape beneath them.

John shrugged. "Escaped prisoners, maybe. Us. Hell if I know," he replied and steered them toward Moya. "Doesn't matter much, either. We gave them the slip."

"Sure we did," Chiana agreed, smiling. But there was something about this setup that bothered her. Something she couldn't really put a finger on yet.

***

Aeryn was more than miffed by the time they returned, a natural side effect of her injury. And the fact that Rygel was nowhere in sight could prove that she had tried to catch him without luck to make him pay for this. He was, essentially, responsible for her injury.

Chiana sauntered into Command with the bag in her hand, and smiled as she handed it over. "Aeryn, I never knew you had it in you," she teased.

Aeryn gave her a frown. "What are you talking about?" she wanted to know and opened the bag to take a peek at what Chiana had brought back.

Chiana leaned a little closer, glancing down at the items too. "All that for one male?" she asked.

With something near a sigh, Aeryn briefly closed her eyes. "These ingredients make a powerful substitute for pulse rifle fuel, Chiana. I don't know what is going through your head sometimes," she replied.

Chiana arched an eyebrow. "Yeah, sure. Always thinking about weapons, huh?" she asked and chuckled, not believing Aeryn's explanation. "I bet John can think about other things too," she added.

Aeryn gave her a sneer. "Yes, I bet he can. Where is he anyway? Did you leave him down there?" she wanted to know.

Chiana's expression briefly caught on uncomfortable before falling back into her usual untroubled look. "Nah, I wouldn't do that. He'll be here in a microt," she said, then took off without another word.

And, true to Chiana's word, John strode into Command about a microt after the Nebari girl had left. "Hey, baby. Did she get everything you needed?" he asked.

One look at him told Aeryn that something had happened on the surface. He had that haunted look in his eyes which she had seen the first time after their attack on the Shadow Depository and it didn't bode well. It wasn't nearly as strong as it had been then, but he was edgy and that was enough to set off her warning bells. With a frown, she took a careful step closer, keeping her weight off her injured foot. "Something went wrong down there, didn't it?"

John blinked, slightly surprised by her perceptiveness, then sighed. "Peacekeepers. They were headed straight for me. Chi warned me and we got out of there," he explained, trying to sound casual about it without succeeding.

"Peacekeepers?" Aeryn asked, startled. "On Theath?"

"Yeah, just a few of them. Maybe we should ... you know ... like vacate the area. There might be a command carrier around," he replied. "Pilot?"

"Yes, Commander?" the reply came instantly and Pilot's image appeared on the clamshell.

"I think we should leave the area. There might be a command carrier around and I sure don't want to have a run-in with it. Is everybody back on board?" John asked.

"Neither would Moya and I," Pilot agreed. "Everyone is back on board. Setting a new course now."

They felt the forward motion when Moya picked up speed, but only for a few microts. Then the stabilizers kicked in full power and all sense of motion ceased.

Managing to completely ignore her aching foot, Aeryn moved closer to John, who was watching the main viewscreen intently, obviously expecting to see the absent command carrier if he looked hard enough. "Are you feeling alright?" she asked, a little concerned about how badly shook up he seemed by this.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he claimed, then turned his head to face her. "Just a little ... shaken over this near miss. If Chi hadn't turned up when she did, I wouldn't have seen them before they were on top of me. And there were at least six of them."

"Well, things worked out okay. You got away. And next time you'll be more careful, right?" she replied, eying him thoughtfully. It was quite obvious that he was shaken by the turn of events and she didn't blame him. In her opinion, there was only one Peacekeeper who could have any kind of interest in him and that was Scorpius. The question was just why.

"Yeah, you betcha," he said in response to her question, then shifted his attention to the bag she had set down on the console she had been leaning against when he came in, both curious about the contents and desperately needing to change the subject. "So, what was that all about?" he wanted to know, nodding toward the bag.

Aeryn made a face. "Nothing specific," she claimed. "Just something ... I need." She figured that it could get a little touchy if she told him what it was for. She wasn't exactly sure how he would respond to it in the first place that she felt the need to stock up on some extra powerful pulse riffle fuel and she didn't want to make him more nervous than he already appeared to be.

He eyed her for a second, then shifted his attention back to the bag. "Something ... you need? Like what?" he wanted to know, taking a step closer, his previous preoccupation obviously temporarily suspended because he had something different to focus on at the moment.

Aeryn gave him a warning glance and backed up a step to get back to the console. "None of your business," she told him, actually a little confused by her own need to hide this from him. When it really came down to it, it wasn't such a big deal.

"Oh, come on. I almost got bagged down there for this. The least you can do is let me have a look," he urged, taking another step forward. "What could be so damned important that you can't share it with me?"

"There are some things that are private," she replied, grabbed the bag and shifted away from him when he stepped closer still.

"Private?" he asked with sudden realization shining in his eyes. "Ha! I knew it," he then claimed.

"You knew what?" Aeryn asked back, wondering if he had actually managed to guess it. It would surprise her severely if that were the case.

"It's some type of feminine hygiene product, isn't it?" He looked almost satisfied.

Aeryn's eyes narrowed as she stared at him, speechless for a few microts. "That's what you think this is?" she asked.

"Well, isn't it?" he asked back, looking a little disappointed all of a sudden.

Giving him a look that she knew he wouldn't be able to interpret, she considered what to do for a moment, then held the bag out to him. "Take a look and tell me what you think this is," she suggested.

Somewhat hesitantly, he took the bag, his gaze never leaving hers. Then he opened the bag and glanced inside. The contents made him frown and Aeryn couldn't prevent herself from smiling a little triumphantly. He was rather gullible sometimes.

After having eyed the contents for a moment without touching any of it, he looked up to meet her eyes again. "I have no idea. What is this?" he asked.

"Components for pulse rifle fuel," she said, not sure he would understand the implications of what she wanted it for.

"Pulse rifle fuel?" he asked, a look of confusion in his eyes. "Pulse rifle fuel? I thought that was something Moya produced or something."

"Don't be silly. You know where the fuel comes from. Or have you forgotten the worm?" she asked, knowing it wasn't fair to remind him of that. She did not believe she had ever seen him look that miserable before or after. Even his experience with the Aurora chair had not left him looking that sick.

He almost sneered in reply to that one. "Well ..." he tried, but trailed off again. "You couldn't have asked me to pick this up, huh?"

"You don't even know what it is, John. How could you have picked it up?" she replied. "Besides, it isn't the same as what we use now. This is more powerful. And it is frelling dangerous if you get the combination wrong," she added.

A new frown furrowed his brow. "What is private about this?" he asked, giving her a strange look.

Aeryn shrugged. "I figured it would make you mind your own business if I said it was private. But I guess I was wrong. Why are you always so curious?" She just didn't understand him sometimes. Well, she had to admit that she didn't understand him most of the time. That didn't change the way she felt about him though.

"Good question," he replied and scratched the back of his head.

Aeryn found herself wondering about what he had thought it was. It was probably something that women on Earth used and despite herself she was a bit curious herself. "What type of feminine hygiene product did you think it was?" she asked.

"Never mind," he said and shook his head. "You wanna go somewhere?" he then asked and slipped his arms around her, adeptly changing the subject.

Aeryn smiled and shook her head. His behavior was so odd. "To my quarters. And I'm still not a cripple," she replied and tried to wiggle out of his arms.

"Nah, you're not. But you should stay off that foot," he replied and scooped her up, giving her a grin. "Don't get used to this, baby. Once you're foot is healed, I'm through carrying you all over this ship."

That made her snort contemptuously. "I didn't ask you to, John. Put me down. You'll break your back," she admonished him.

"Oh, you're not that heavy," he claimed and started walking, actually marveling at how light she was in his arms. "I wouldn't want to go mountain climbing this way, but I can easily carry you to your quarters without breaking my back."

"Well, it's good to know that you're such a big, strong male," she replied sarcastically. "Did you do that a lot on Earth too?"

"What? Carry injured women around?" he asked, grinning. "Yeah, sure, all the time."

Her eyes narrowed and she shook her head at him. "You are such a frelling liar," she told him. "I should smack you over the head for that. Now, put me down, John."

"Nope," he told her and finally deposited her on her bed when they reached her quarters. When she made a move to get up immediately, he pushed her back down. "What do I have to do? Tie you up? Stay there. I'll be at your beg and call until you can walk again."

"Oh, for frell's sake, John. I'm a solider. I can deal with injuries," she snapped, still aggravated. She couldn't walk and that made her angry because she had to rely on others. And she hated relying on others because they usually asked for something in return. Nobody ever did anybody any favors without ulterior motives in this galaxy. At least not among Peacekeepers. He, however, confused her because she knew he wanted nothing in return for helping her. She was not used to his selflessness yet, would probably never get used to it. He teased her, yes, but he didn't ask for 'payment'. He didn't ask for special favors which left her teetering on the edge of saying no.

"Look, this is not a contest of wills, Aeryn. It's a matter of healing your foot so you can walk again as soon as possible. The more you rest it, the sooner it will heal and the faster you are back to being your old, independent self. So, give it a try, okay? Just relax. And ask if you need anything instead of jumping out of bed to get it yourself," he replied and brushed a lightly trembling hand through his hair.

She saw it and recognized it for what it was. Despite his constant bravado, his smiles, his laughter, she knew he was still thinking about the near miss on Theath, shaken by it, nervous because of it. "John!" Patting the bed beside her, she urged him to sit down, which he did somewhat reluctantly. He knew she was on to him. She could see it in his eyes. "Stop evading this," she said, eying him intently.

"Evading? And what exactly do you think I'm evading here, huh?" he asked and gave her an uncertain look.

"What happened on Theath. If the Peacekeepers were headed straight for you, they knew you were there. They were after you. Why would they be after you now?" While she waited for him to get around to replying to that one, she studied his face, seeing every single emotion running through him as clearly as if he were spelling them out for her. He was nervous, uncertain, and he did nothing to suppress either. This would have been a fatal flaw in a Peacekeeper. But she no longer saw him as a flawed being. This was part of who he was, part of what made him a Human.

He stared at her for a moment, his expression a little tense. "Look, whether they were after me or not, Aeryn, they didn't catch me. And they won't. I won't give them the chance." With a thoughtful look in his eyes, he reached out and pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear. "I'm not going to get caught, Aeryn. No matter what."

She didn't like the sound of that. That was not who he was. That was Peacekeeper-talk. Never surrender, never give up. Begrudgingly, she realized that he had learned that from her. To be tougher than he was. "How can you be so certain?" she asked.

With a sigh, he turned his side to her. "Could we just ... leave it?" he asked, his tone a little tense. "Nothing happened. We got away in one piece. That's all that matters right now."

Aeryn figured she was pushing him too much and decided to leave it be for now. They would have this discussion later, though. Even if she had to pin him down and force him to listen. "Alright. We'll leave it for now," she agreed and eased back on the bed. "But at least stay and keep me company."

That made him smile vaguely. "That I can do," he told her.

***