Moya's nightcycle

Aeryn was awake and uncommonly worried about the male sleeping by her side. His head was resting on her shoulder, one arm draped over her mid-section, and he seemed to be resting comfortably, but she couldn't push the incident of earlier out of her mind, of how worried he had seemed, how downright scared.

As far as she knew, the business he'd had with Scorpius was over and done with and that again meant that no Peacekeepers would be looking for him. Not on Scorpius' command, anyway. And the only other person who might have had some kind of interest in finding him, namely Crais, was now on their side.

John had explained the situation briefly and Aeryn knew Peacekeeper tactics well enough to know that they had been aware of his presence, of his whereabouts. They weren't just searching randomly. They had been heading towards him, intent on arresting him.

He groaned in his sleep, shifting uneasily, and she idly started caressing his back, a technique she had discovered helped him calm down again without waking him up. He'd had his share of nightmares over the past three cycles, more than any of the others, and she couldn't readily remember how many times she had roused him from one or found him sitting on the edge of his bed, out of breath and deadly pale. The Aurora chair had left its mark on him. The chip even more so. And that frelling neural clone he still had in his mind had driven him to distraction more times than she cared to remember. He seemed capable of controlling its influence, but it was still there, dividing his attention at crucial moments.

Shifting a little herself, she wondered how long it would take before he cracked. Although most of the time he appeared to be in complete control, alas as odd as he had ever been, there was the underlying darkness she had sensed after they had rescued him from that Gamak Base. Being as frightfully honest as only he could be, he had told her what had happened in some detail, had given her the lay-down, as he called it, of the events. And she had felt for him, had winced inwardly at the thought of having to go through that herself. She understood his fear. He had told her that he would rather die than go back in that chair and she believed him. Because if, for some unfathomable reason, Scorpius wanted to get a hold of him again, she knew he would do anything he could to prevent them from taking him alive. And that scared her more than anything could.

She would do anything in her power to prevent that from happening, but she also knew that they were grossly outnumbered out here. Closing her eyes, she tried to clear her mind of those troubling thoughts so she could get some rest, but knew that the night ahead would give her little peace.

***

Electrical impulses surging through his brain made him scream in agony. He could feel how his memories were ripped from him, one by one, leaving his mind barren, empty and devoid of all the things he had cherished. The pain was bad, but it got worse with every passing second. Every time that red-haired bitch pressed her buttons and pushed that lever to the top, he felt like his mind was being liquified. It affected his eyes, his ears, every fiber of his body. He could feel himself deteriorating and there was nothing he could do to stop it, to stop them from killing him slowly from the inside out.

With a gasp, he sat up straight, blinking rapidly a few times to clear his vision, his heart thumping away in his chest as if it was intent on breaking out through his ribcage. His eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness around him as the shroud of the dream fell off him, reminding him that he was safe and sound aboard Moya.

Aeryn sat up too, blinking sleepily at him. "Another dream?" she asked quietly while pushing a hand through his sweat-soaked hair.

"Uh-huh," he replied, took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself and then dropped back down on the mattress. "Bad one," he added.

"I can tell," she agreed and settled down next to him again, placing one hand on his chest. "The chair again?" she asked quietly.

"Yup," he mumbled and draped an arm over his face and almost nervously licked his lips. "Damn chair," he added. "I can't let it go." Edging closer to him, she nuzzled his ear with her nose. With a sigh, he let his arm slip away from his face and gave her a halfhearted smile. "I wish it would just ... go away. Because if this doesn't stop soon, I'm going to crack," he confessed, his tone sarcastic.

That made her smile a little. She had learned to decipher his sarcasm from seriousness, well aware that he was being sarcastic about this. "I thought you already had," she replied, her tone slightly mocking. That was another thing she was learning from him. How to take the edge off by making fun of him.

He frowned with mock annoyance. "I have not," he informed her. "Do I seem crazy to you?" he asked, half-serious about it. He felt a little crazy, realized that he probably was. It would be a miracle if he had come through that experience unscathed.

She nodded, her expression mockingly serious. "Yes, you do. From the very first microt I laid eyes on you," she replied. "And you haven't gotten any saner since."

That was so typical for her. She never handled him with kid-gloves. Although she might be teasing him, there was always a certain amount of truth in her words. If for nothing else, he could count on her to tell him exactly what she thought. She hardly ever circumvented the truth as she saw it. "Yeah, well, you know the saying, don't you?" he asked and grinned, knowing she didn't. "Never sleep with anyone crazier than yourself," he added.

"Oh, so now I'm the crazy one?" she asked back, mock offended. "At least I don't spend half the day talking to myself. And, for your information, you do talk to yourself and have since you arrived."

That made him chuckle, although he didn't find it half as funny as it might appear. He was actually a little scared of it. "Yeah, well, what can I say? If ever I do find a way back home – and you're coming with me when I do – you'll find that humans are a funny bunch. We're all insane," he said.

Smiling, she ran a finger from his brow down to the tip of his nose and then ran it over his lips. "I don't doubt that," she agreed and leaned in to plant a kiss on the tip of his nose. "Tired?" she asked.

"Exhausted," he admitted. "What about you?"

"Mhm," she mumbled, slightly preoccupied with staring at his lips. She leaned in again and kissed him. "Totally exhausted," she added and started chewing on her lower lip, her eyes skimming over his face. She shifted her position and kissed his cheek. "You could use some more sleep, you know," she added.

John considered that for a second, then sighed. "Maybe so, but I don't think I can sleep any more," he replied and sat up again. "I'm gonna go take a shower," he added and slipped off the bed. "Might clear my head a little."

He pulled his pants back on, grabbed his t-shirt and left her quarters, leaving his boots behind. He ended up taking a rather long walk through Moya's countless tiers instead, his mind buzzing with fears and speculations. Life used to be easy back on Earth. There were no aliens, no madmen trying to stick things in his head and then pull them out again, no government forces trying to subdue him. But, then again, there hadn't been good friends who would go out of their way to help him, to keep him safe, either. On more occasions than one had he found himself comparing DK to D'Argo and couldn't help thinking that if he had to ask for help, he'd go to the Luxan first. At least he knew he could count on him in a fix. All he and DK had ever been involved in, which had been semi-serious, had been the Farscape-project. John wasn't too certain that DK would stand by him if they really got in a fix.

"Not that it really matters now, does it, John?"

He came to a stop, his expression tense. "Go away, Harvey," he muttered to the clone in his head. "I'm not in the mood to listen to one of your lectures today."

"Oh, but you should, John. You should listen. You know something's going on, don't you?" the clone whispered.

"I know no such thing. Buzz off. Take a hike. Leave me the hell alone," he growled and forced the voice back into the depth of his subconscious mind.

***

Ten solardays later

The crew of Moya had steered clear of populated worlds until they ran out of food, which had taken them approximately ten solardays. After that, they had cautiously approached an inhabited system and Chiana, Jool, Rygel and D'Argo had gone down to the surface of the commerce planet in the system to stock up on food supplies. It had been a general consensus that John should not set foot on any world they came across unless it was uninhabited. Aeryn knew that this was a precaution that was driving him nuts even though he had agreed to it initially.

She had watched him for the past few days and knew that he was on the verged of going stir-crazy, having exhausted all possible options of keeping himself occupied onboard Moya. He had to know every single tier in and out at this time, she figured, and he was slowly but surely running out of things to do. At the same time, he had confessed to her that his so-called gnat-in-the-ear feeling kept growing, kept pushing him further toward the edge. Harvey the clone had a lot to do with it. He kept popping up unbidden and a lot more frequently than usual, making John feel like he was losing his mind again. At least that was what Aeryn assumed from what he had told her.

She knew about it because he spoke about it continuously to her and her alone, and she was aware that every day spent on Moya with nothing to do brought him another step closer to the brink. He was fidgeting, muttering to himself, and spent unfathomable amounts of time pulling his module apart and putting it back together. She knew exactly what his problem was, and figured he needed some air, as he put it. She still had to understand that expression correctly, but in her opinion, it meant he needed shore leave. So she took matters into her own hands and headed for Pilot's den.

"Pilot," she said, smiling fondly at the big being.

"Officer Sun," Pilot replied, multitasking without interruption while paying attention to his visitor. "Is everything alright?"

Aeryn climbed up on his console, still favoring her slowly healing foot, and settled down where she wouldn't disturb him, pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "Well, both yes and no," she replied thoughtfully. "I think John is about to snap if he doesn't gets to feel dirt beneath his feet soon," she added.

Pilot eyed her for a moment, keeping whatever comments he might have on that one to himself. "The commander has seemed a little ... tense lately," he agreed.

That made Aeryn smile. "Oh, admit it, Pilot. He's getting on your nerves. He's getting on everybody's nerves right now," she urged, knowing that Pilot wasn't likely to say so even if he felt that way. "Can Moya find a world where we can take some shore leave? Preferably as far away from any Peacekeeper setups as possible. We don't want to risk anything."

"I should think so. I shall ask her," Pilot replied and seemed to listen for a moment. "Moya detects one such planet in the next system we're going to enter. We should be there in about one solarday. And we are far enough away from any Peacekeeper territories or installations to make it fairly safe."

"Good. Let's head that way then. I'm sure John will appreciate it," she replied and slid off the large console again.

***

In the maintenance bay, John sat on one of the tables and stared idly ahead of himself. Having run out of things to do he hadn't done a million times before, he just sat there and tried not to think. It was at times like these that the neural clone usually reared his head and started messing with his mind. Staying busy was the best solution, but there was nothing to be done on Moya right now.

Tossing a silver ball from one hand to the other and back again, his eyes wandered over the bay, searching in vain for something to do.

"You know, John," that voice whispered in the back of his head.

"Go away, Harvey," he replied, disgusted by the regularity with which that remnant of his tormentor popped into his mind.

"Oh, don't be that way. I've been useful to you. I can be useful again," the voice whispered conspiratorially. "Why don't you go for a ... 'drive'? Take the module out for a spin. You need to get off this ship for awhile so you can be alone, don't you?"

"I said, go away," John repeated, a little angry. The memory of his decent into madness not too long ago was still painfully clear in his mind and he would do whatever he could to prevent that from ever happening again. But a thought occurred to him right then and he frowned a little at that. "Why is Scorpy after me again?" he wanted to know.

He could virtually hear the satisfied breath the imaginary being in his mind took. "Well, how do you know it's Scorpius?" he wanted to know.

"Because I do. Who else would have any interest in me?" John replied, his tone of voice tense.

"True," the voice replied. "Well, I can think of only a few reasons. Either there was something wrong with the data he retrieved or he lost it. In any event, what is the use in running, John? You know he will catch up with you sooner or later."

"No, he won't. Because I'm not going to give him the opportunity," John growled and continued to toss the ball from hand to hand.

"Now who's being unreasonable?" Harvey asked and sighed. "Admit it, John. In the end, you know there's no escape. You don't belong out here. Never have, never will. Unless you can find a way home – and that would mean unlocking the wormhole technology in your mind – you don't stand a chance."

With a shake of the head, John slipped off the worktable and wandered toward his module. Running his fingers along the sleek hull, he wondered briefly if that voice in his head could be right. Then he shook his head again, this time a little more forcefully. "Stop messing with my thoughts, Harvey. As long as I don't go near any planets, I'm good. I don't need your advice, brainiac, so beat it. Get back in the dumpster. Get out of my damned head." He pressed his forehead against the hull of his module, closed his eyes and forced Harvey back to the dark confines of his subconscious mind. "And stay there," he muttered, wishing he could do more than just force him away.

"John?"

For a moment, he was utterly confused by the sound of that voice, then turned around to face Aeryn, who stood next to one of the worktables, her arms crossed over her chest while she scrutinized him. Absentmindedly, he noted how she had leaned her hip against to worktable to take the weight off her injured foot. Depending on how long she had been there, he knew this looked bad. "Hey, baby," he said and tried a shaky smile.

"The clone?" she asked.

"Yup. Keeps popping in every so often to divert my thoughts," he confessed. "But I've got a handle on him. He's no problem – apart from his being there in the first place."

Aeryn kept watching him, not moving. "I just talked to Pilot. We're heading toward a recreational world right now for some much needed shore leave," she said, diverting from the dark matter of their brief conversation.

Frowning, John tried to determine whether that was good or not. He so desperately needed something else to do, but as he had just told the neural clone, if he stayed on Moya, he wasn't in any danger. Torn between those two options, he didn't know how to respond.

"I thought you'd be happy about that," Aeryn said, not sure she liked his lack of response. "Are you alright?" she wanted to know and took a step toward him, again favoring her foot.

"Yeah, I'm fine, baby," he replied and gave her a tentative smile.

***

Shore leave turned out to be a better idea than any of them had hoped. It took John about two arns to calm down once they were on the planet, but after that, he let loose and had some fun.

At first Aeryn had opted to watch rather than participate, but John noticed that she was quickly pulled into the frenzied crowd in the nightclub they had decided to go for and found herself in a position she had never expected. She was getting drunk and having fun while limping around on her still sore ankle like nothing had happened.

D'Argo and Chiana seemed attached at the hip, never leaving each others side for more than a microt at a time.

Jool was flirting with every male she got close to, enjoying herself immensely.

Rygel was off somewhere, conducting some type of transaction with the gullible and drunk patrons of the club.

John sat quietly and watched the commotion after having spent the better part of the evening on the dance floor with Aeryn, who had sauntered off to get them something more to drink, leaving him alone with his thoughts for the time being.

Through the noise and the smoke wafting through the air, he could hear whispers underneath, foretelling disaster. Attributing this to the neural clone, he pushed the signs aside and let his head drop back against the back of the rather comfortable couch he was sitting on. He was very drunk, had consumed more than the advisable amount of alcohol to make him comfortably drunk, and knew he would pay the price in the morning unless Aeryn had managed to procure some Nashtin cleansing pills without telling him about it. But right now, he couldn't care less. All he wanted was to quiet his mind, to stop the thoughts, to have mindless fun with his friends and the only woman he had ever truly loved.

Just then, someone dropped rather heavily down on his lap. "What are you doing?" Aeryn asked, her voice slightly slurred. "Are you sleeping?" She had consumed almost twice as much alcohol as he had and was still able to move on her own accord.

"Nada," he replied and grinned. Could her translator microbes grasp the sense of Spanish? "Where's my drink?" he asked and raised his head.

Aeryn wrapped an arm around his neck and handed him a tall glass of some type of milky liquid. "Here you go, babe," she slurred and downed hers in one go.

"You might wanna take it easy there, baby," he suggested, knowing he wasn't a hundred percent himself. "I get the feeling you don't drink much liquor."

"Li ... liqu ...," she tried and giggled girlishly at her inability to pronounce the word. "Whatever," she added and kissed him. "I love you so much."

"Ditto, baby," he replied and took a sip of the drink. "Not bad," he added, holding up the glass. Finding it increasingly difficult to focus, he let his head drop back again. "Damn, I'm drunk," he commented.

Aeryn giggled again and cuddled against him. "Me too. Feels good," she told him.

"Yeah, right now it does," he replied and smiled sleepily up at the ceiling. "Tomorrow will be a different story, though."

"Why's that?" she asked, her voice as sleepy as his.

"Ever hear of a hangover, baby?" he asked before drifting off on a wave of noise and alcohol.

"Hmm," Aeryn replied before giving in to sleep herself.

***

And all around them, the party continued. The only one keeping a clear head was Rygel and after having ripped off several of the other guests, he did the only thing he could do at that point. Not wanting to go outside on his own, he spent the rest of the night watching over the others. Although this was something he would never admit to anyone, he did care about the others and would not like to see them come to harm. Floating his sled up under the ceiling, he remained vigilant until the first of them started to stir again as the pale morning light started oozing in through the windows.

***

The first one to wake up was John. And the first thing he realized was that his head was about to explode. With no small amount of anguish, he tried to raise his head and figured he'd better not. The fraction of an inch he managed left his head spinning and that spinning quickly descended into his stomach, making it painfully obvious to him that if he insisted on moving, he would puke his guts out. Better not tempt fate, he figured, and closed his eyes again, wishing desperately that he was lying flat instead of sitting on the damned couch with his feet resting on the table in front of him and Aeryn draped across him. Well, the latter part wasn't bad. Only the fact that her arm was pressing heavily on his stomach, making him feel nauseous despite his best effort to suppress it. "Oh God," he groaned.

"Awake so soon?"

Opening his eyes, John blinked up at the fuzzy outline of something hovering above him. "Go away, Ryg," he groaned.

"Not feeling good, are you?" Rygel asked and virtually snickered with glee. "Well, perhaps you should watch how much you drink in future, human. I'll bet that Peacekeeper skank is not going to be sick when she wakes up."

"I said, go away, Buckwheat," John repeated and groaned when his stomach rolled lazily. If he had felt just a fraction better than he did right then, he would have told Rygel off for calling Aeryn a skank. But he just couldn't be bothered right then.

"Don't you think it's time we got moving?" Rygel inquired, continuing to jabber on much to John's dismay. "We have been here long enough."

With some effort, John hoisted himself up a little. "What does it take for you to bugger off, Sparky?" he asked forcefully and briefly covered his mouth to prevent himself from throwing up right where he sat. "Just leave me the hell alone, okay? I'm not feeling very good and I don't want any doomsday sayings out of you right now. That's the last thing I need."

"Doomsday sayings?" Rygel asked with a snort and hovered higher on his sled. "I'm bored. There is nothing more going on here. I want to leave. This instance."

John growled under his breath, then shifted himself a little so his head rested against the back of the couch again. "Scram, Buckwheat," he repeated, closed his eyes and somehow, he managed to drift off to sleep again.

***

Aeryn was the next to stir. She shifted her position, then raised her head and squinted sleepily at the windows. "Frelling light," she muttered and sat up to run both hands through her hair, trying to determine how crazy she had been the night before. Hangovers weren't as severe in Sebaceans as they were in Humans, but she still felt that she could easily have done without the experience of waking up with a thudding head and that dry feeling in her mouth and throat.

Glancing around, she searched for the others and found D'Argo, Chiana and Jool asleep together on another couch. With a smile, she then glanced around for Rygel and found him sitting on his throne sled not too far away, watching her. "What are you staring at?" she growled.

"As I tried to explain to that useless slap of meat your lying on, I want to leave this planet," Rygel replied in a huff.

Aeryn turned her attention to John, who was seemingly out cold. She briefly caressed his cheek, then got up, a dark expression in her eyes. "We leave when we're ready, Rygel. And don't you dare wake him up. Leave him alone," she warned, raising a finger in a warning gesture. "Take a walk outside. Find somebody else you can cheat out of their hard earned savings. Just stay off my case," she added.

"Skank," Rygel muttered, annoyed that nobody ever listened to him.

"What did you just call me?" she asked him, her expression becoming dangerous.

"I called you a frelling skank. And that's what you are. Skank," he said and quickly ascended up under the ceiling where she couldn't get to him. "You don't frighten me," he added and snorted with contempt.

"Oh yeah? Then why are you hiding all the way up there, you little slug. Get down here," she snapped. When he made no move to comply, she sneered. "Ah, you're not worth the effort," she muttered and looked around for the bathroom. She needed to splash some water on her face to wake her up properly. Without further delay, she headed toward the door once she spotted it, muttering under her breath and favoring her sore ankle. Getting drunk while having a sprain wasn't a good idea, she figured. It hurt worse than it had the day before.

***

Moments later, John woke up again, the urgent need to get his stomach back under control getting him off the couch and out the door. He managed to get around the corner of the building before throwing up and it took him a moment to regain his composure where he stood leaning heavily against the wall, bracing himself with his hands, his head down. "Damn," he grumbled and coughed once.

"Really, John. You have no manners."

Closing his eyes harder, he tried to will that voice away. "Fuck off, Harvey," he finally muttered.

"This might be a good time to listen to my point of view," Harvey went on, happily ignoring John's anger. In his present state of mind, John didn't have the strength to push Harvey away. It just hurt his head too much.

"No, Harvey. I do not want to listen to anything or anyone right now. My head is killing me and I'm nauseous. Get lost," he groaned, his stomach rolling uneasily at the stress he suddenly found himself under.

"Maybe you'd like to listen to this?" a voice asked left of him.

John turned his head and squinted at the muzzle of the pulse rifle aimed at his head. Finding himself suddenly very sober and painfully aware of the dilemma he was in, he carefully pushed away from the wall and straightened up, trying to determine what race the being holding the rifle was. "Wow, man. Take it easy, would you?" he said, raising his hands to show the critter that he was unarmed.

"No, I will not," it replied, an almost nervous ripple running through its green fur. "Don't make any sudden moves," it added.

It looked like a caricature of the renderings of werewolves John had seen back home and that made it a little difficult for him to take this being serious. On the other hand, the rifle in its paws made up for that big time. "Look, whatever you think I've done to piss you off, I'm sorry and I won't do it again, okay?" he tried, not entirely certain what this thing was so upset about.

"I am a bounty hunter, alien," it hissed, exposing fangs big enough to rip a good chunk out of anyone it might decide to sink its teeth into. "And there is a prize on your head."

John stared at his opponent, blinking to keep his vision from wavering too much. "Oh yeah?" he asked. "That's the first I've heard of it. So, who's paying you and how much am I worth?"

The critter chittered nervously, an odd sound coming from this cartoon creature. "If you don't know, it doesn't matter, now does it? He wants you alive, though," it replied. "Drop your weapon. And be real careful about it."

Moving extremely slowly to not provoke this already jumpy being into shooting him in the face, John lowered his right hand to his pulsepistol and pulled it out of the holster. Before he had a chance to drop it, though, a blast of radiant white light hit the critter's head, killing it instantly.

Aeryn stood at the mouth of the alley, her pulsepistol in hand, and stared darkly at the now inanimate body of the bounty hunter before turning her attention to John. "Are you all right?" she asked.

A little startled by the incident, John returned his pulsepistol to its holster. "Yeah," he replied and exhaled slowly. "Did you have to kill it? I was trying to find out who sent it."

"Yes, I had to kill it," Aeryn replied and made a face. "If I hadn't, it would have put a hole in you. It was nervous enough to shoot itself by accident." She spat on the ground and kicked dirt on the body. "Bounty hunters," she growled. "Scum of the galaxy."

"It said there's a prize on my head," John said thoughtfully, staring down at what was left of the being. "Seems my paranoia wasn't completely off base, huh?"

"Nobody said it was," Aeryn reminded him. "First the Peacekeepers on Theath and now this. This does not look good, John. I think we'd better get the frell away from this world and this sector."

Propping his hands on his hips, he stared ahead of himself for a moment, the nausea from before returning with a vengeance. He swallowed hard and briefly closed his eyes, focusing on keeping his stomach at bay. "Good idea," he finally replied, stepped over the corpse and followed Aeryn back into the nightclub.

***