A cycle earlier

As soon as he had said his goodbyes to Kal, John was literally overwhelmed by the need to hurry. This had gone too smoothly so far, had been too easy. When he thought back on Kia's response to his interaction with Kal, he knew he should have been worried before. Kia could still read minds. Just not his. And there were two who knew he was leaving.

He swung his duffle over his shoulder and broke into a run toward the landing bays. Braca had wisely chosen not to use a remote and disused bay, but rather to prepare the prowler in the biggest and most frequently used bay.

Some gave him curious glances as he hurried past them, but he doubted anybody would make a move to stop him. He went flying sometimes and was allowed to, so why should they stop him? But he was nervous and it showed.

He rounded a corner and forced himself to slow down as he neared the main doors into the main landing bay. Soldiers were coming and going and he was dressed like one of them, so there wasn't much any of them could say to him being there in the first place, but he was still nervous and getting more nervous by the moment.

When the doors parted again to admit him into the bay, he understood immediately that his worries were justified. He stopped, hesitated, but then took one step forward to clear the doors, which closed behind him again. There stood Kia with a compliment of soldiers and her expression was anything but happy. What was worse was the fact that one of the soldiers was holding a very disheveled-looking Braca on his feet and there was no doubt in John's mind that Kia had questioned the man thoroughly.

Anger and fear burned inside him, vying for control, as he took a few steps closer to what he basically considered a firing squad. Kia had her arms folded over her chest and her pale grey eyes burned with indignant fire.

"So you're leaving, are you?" she asked.

John dropped the duffle at his feet and forced himself to be calm. He could not let her stop him. Not now. "You all but told me to," he replied, his steady tone belying the way he felt inside.

"I did not tell you to leave," she countered coldly. "And if you do leave," she added, "you do so 'only' because I say so. You do not have my permission to leave."

"And why not?" he snapped, suddenly aggressive. "Why the frell won't you let me leave? I've been sitting around here for six cycles with nothing to do. If you're intent on boring me to death, you're doing an excellent job, Admiral." He focused on Braca and figured it was time to push the limits. The man had risked his life to give John a fighting chance and John repaid in kind. "How'd you find out anyway, Admiral?" he sneered.

Kia's eyes widened and he knew she was warning him to not take this any further. But John was stubborn now. And when he got stubborn, he did stupid things.

"Did you read his mind? I doubt he volunteered the information," he said heatedly. "Oh, my, now look what I've done," he added in mock surprise. "I let your little secret slip." He focused on the soldiers. "Did you know that she isn't the real Admiral Turran? This is her shape-shifting daughter, Kia."

The soldiers frowned and glanced at Kia, who in turned was snarling like an angry wolf at that point. "You," she said and pointed at him, "are dead!"

"Not yet, I'm not," John disagreed. "What's the matter, Kia? Can't keep your temper in check?" he pushed her. The only way to get her to show the others who she really was, was by pushing her so far that she lost control. "You know, Kia, in the end you're just like dear old mom, aren't you? You had dreams and hopes that have gone up in smoke and now you're just another little Peacekeeper tralk who can't see the tip of her own nose over her ambition."

Kia let out a roar that would have belittled D'Argo on a bad day and all her ten tentacles sprang out of her back, impaling anything that didn't move out of her way. That unfortunately meant one of the soldiers as well. The man holding onto Braca let out the equivalent of a girlish scream, pushed the obviously very unsteady captain away and ran as fast as he could from the scene.

John caught Braca and hauled him backwards a few steps. "Take a good look at the freak you've elected as your Admiral, guys," he then said loudly. Under all his bravado, he was shaking in his boots. He had experienced first hand what Kia could do with those tentacles and he had no desire to try it again. At the same time, he had to create enough tumult to hopefully get away unhindered. But by the look in Kia's eyes, he figured she would go for him no matter what was between them.

Her head was lowered and pushed forward while her tentacles wove in the air like twisted, headless, flesh-colored snakes. She took a step forward and Braca made a sound that was somewhere between a moan and a sigh.

"You do not make a fool of me, John Crichton," she snarled. The grey in her eyes was slowly being taken over by a sick sulphur yellow. "You are going to die slowly. I will rip you apart a little at a time and make sure you stay awake long enough to feel it all."

Now he was scared for real, because he knew that she could do it and none of the Peacekeepers around them were going to interfere. A lot just stood around and gawked while others took off, not wanting any part of this incident. John swallowed hard and took a step back, pulling Braca with him. "Can you run?" John asked him in a near whisper.

Braca glanced up at him with blood-shot eyes. "Are you frelling mad?" he rasped back. "I can barely stand."

John didn't have to look closely to know he was right. He made a face and glanced at Kia. "Well, it was nice knowing you," he said and generally counted on that this was going to be his last moment and that he would never see Aeryn or Ayla or any of the others again. And they would never know what had happened to him either.

John glanced around, saw curious expression, scared expressions, indifferent expressions, even expectant expressions, but none of them would help him and none of them would help Braca. They were on their own and John got the feeling that it would take more than their combined effort to stop Kia from going berserk. And part of this he could thank himself for. He had overdone it, had pushed her too hard in an effort to expose her. And why had he exposed her? Because he had thought it was the only way to stop her. But he was wrong. The Peacekeepers standing around him would not stop her. They would stand by and watch as she took him apart and that was all there was to it.

Kia exposed her teeth in a feral snarl and stepped closer. "What's the matter, John? Have you run out of stupid sayings?" she asked. "Did you really think that anybody here would help you? Nobody's stupid enough to go between you and me," she added.

John glanced at Braca, then figured if he couldn't save himself, he could at least prolong Braca's existence. So he pushed him away. "Marauder. Go. Now," he hissed.

Braca gave him a confused look, but then caught on. But his response to John's obvious order was to just stand unsteadily and stare at him. It took a moment longer than John would have liked before Braca turned and headed toward the marauder. Nobody tried to stop him, but it had cost John valuable time. He had not been able to keep an eye on Kia the whole time and neglecting to do so became a physical impairment for him the second Kia slammed a tentacle into his side. The impact drove him back and he hit the side of another marauder.

While his hands clamped around the tentacle to prevent it from penetrating further, he had the hardest time remaining on his feet. Kia had meant for this to hurt and it did. Badly. He dug his fingers into the tentacle, intending to inflict his own kind of pain, but she didn't even flinch. Instead she moved closer, the remaining nine tentacles waving around her.

"I change my mind," she said, her tone acid-sour. "Now you die," she added.

He pressed back against the marauder while trying to keep all nine tentacles in his line of sight while trying not to let the pain from his side distract him. One of them lashed out and he moved his head just in time to avoid it putting a hole in his skull. Another one lashed out and again he managed to avoid serious injury by moving sideways in a flash. He had trusted her, believed in her, but she had turned on him and all he could think of right then was that Aeryn had warned him. She had sensed the danger in Kia and she had wanted to leave.

"Stupid," he muttered under his breath, fully aware that he could not keep avoiding her attacks forever.

"Who are you calling stupid?" Kia snarled. "You are an inferior species. Do not claim to know my mind."

John swallowed hard and put a lot of effort into pulling the offensive tentacle out of his abdomen. But he couldn't move it, no matter how much pressure he put on it. "Frell you, you bitch," he spat instead, pressing the words out through clenched teeth. "You're no better than Scorpius. Hell, you're worse. He at least had a little shred of integrity," he added, figuring that if he made her angry enough, she would kill him fast.

A gasp went through the crowd behind Kia, but she paid no attention. Her eyes, now completely sulphur yellow, stared unblinking at him. "Compare me to Scorpius if you like. But I will prevail. He perished," she hissed like an angry snake.

John's eyes shifted to the crowd beyond because they dispersed rather suddenly, some drawing back, some running away. Most of them were looking upward. John followed their line of sight and almost smiled at what he saw.

Kia noted the twitch of his lips, but mistook it for something else than what it really was. "What? Are you seeing your deity already?" she spat and used his inattentiveness to drive the tentacle all the way through him.

He yelped in anguish and nearly doubled over, his attention back at this creature he had dared trust.


The voice was hoarse, grating, but no less powerful. And Kia knew who it belonged to. There was no doubt about that. She pulled back a little, her eyes shifting to the side. "Go away, Kal. This is none of your business," she said calmly.

Kal hit the floor in true spider form, having descended not on a line of silk, but on what appeared to be a chain from a loading crane. Her expression was anything but kind. She looked about as agitated as she had when she had killed her mother. "Yes, it is," she snarled. "John is my friend and you are hurting him."

Kia snarled hatefully and turned around, her intent obvious in her eyes.

"Kal, watch out," John yelled, but was rather surprised to find that spider-girl was more than prepared for her sister's attack. Using four of her eight legs, she reared up, skewered four of Kia's tentacles with them, and grabbed the remaining five with her hands. Displaying superior strength, she pulled at Kia and caught her completely off guard. Kia hit the ground and in the process dislodged the tentacle she had speared John with.

He let out another anguished yelp and dropped to his knees, his fingers digging into the skin around the bleeding hole. But no matter how much he wanted to get out of there, he couldn't take his eyes of this battle of wills. Not that there was much of a battle. It seemed that Kal was superior in every sense when it came to a fight between these two. She was ruthless, relentless as she trampled her sister into the ground with her legs, severing four tentacles from Kia's back and driving one of her legs through her sister, effectively nailing her to the floor.

Then she looked up and met John's eyes. "Get out while you can, John," she advised him.

Breathing hard, he struggled to get to his feet, but the pain from his side was just too much and he was losing a lot of blood. He tried a few times, but couldn't get up. His legs would no longer carry him. "Can't," he rasped.

Kal's eyes darkened, then she kicked Kia in the face with one of her legs and disengaged herself from her. She strode over the now prone form of her sister and rushed over to John. Without delay, she reached down, hauled him to his feet and dragged him toward the marauder that Braca had gone to.

Almost there, John heard another gasp going through what remained of the crowd and he managed to catch a glimpse of Kia struggling back to her feet, bleeding and battered, but still very much alive. She swirled unsteadily around, took one staggering step forward and met his eyes. "Wherever you go, John, I'll find you," she promised in a wavering tone of voice which proved to him that she was more severely wounded than she looked.

With his luck, he hadn't seen the last of her. But right now, he was safe in the arms of this monster carrying him into a marauder. Whether they would make it out of the station and to safety in one piece was something that remained to be seen, but he was more optimistic about it than he'd been only moments before.


Kal half carried half dragged John into the marauder and barely managed to shut the hatch before the vessel rose from its pad, swivelled on its axis and started moving forward. Only by virtue of her eight legs did Kal manage to keep them both upright when the marauder accelerated.

She moved on toward the common area and deposited John on one of the more comfortable seats. He groaned in agony, his fingers stained red with his own blood. She eyed the wound and considered what to do. Her own injuries she treated in her own, unique manner and she assumed that to stop the bleeding from his wound, she could use that method on him.

She leaned down and slipped a hand behind his back to find the exit wound. The hole went all the way through and it was bleeding badly. Without letting him know what she was about to do, she grabbed his wrist and removed his hand from the wound. "Let me look," she said.

The marauder jerked violently to the side, but caught itself and then started moving rather erratically. "Braca, what the frell are you doing?" John called.

"Avoiding attacking prowlers," came the tense reply from the speakers.

Kal didn't bother about that right now. There were more important issues to be dealt with. She pulled John's t-shirt up and eyed the blood seeping from the wound. It was dark red, almost black. She briefly considered her actions, then shrugged lightly and opened her mouth. Her saliva in combination with the silk from her spinnerets, which were located in the back of her throat, worked like an antibiotic as well as a useful sealant for wounds and John didn't have time to respond to what she was about to do before she had filled and closed the wound. She held one hand pressed against the exit wound to prevent the sealant from spilling out and then gingerly padded the entrance wound to smooth it out.

Then she raised her head and met John's eyes. He didn't look so much horrified as totally stunned. His lips moved as if he wanted to speak, but nothing came out. "It is not toxic," she assured him, getting the sense from him that this was first and foremost on his mind. "And the plug will dissolve slowly while the wound heals," she added.

It took a moment before he breathed again and even then, his breathing was a little erratic. "What the hell ..." he tried and glanced down at the wound. The plug was slightly green, slightly stained by his blood, but none was seeping out. "Jesus," he muttered and shifted a little.

Kal made a face and pulled back. "I have no medical skills," she said. "This is the only way I know how to deal with injuries and ... you were bleeding badly," she added, suddenly uncertain about what she had done. She wasn't doubting the usefulness of the plug but rather fearing that he might be so disgusted with what she had done that he wouldn't want to be her friend any more.

"It's ... alright," he finally managed to say and gave her a pale smile. "You just sort of surprised me," he added. "I wasn't expecting that." With a grunt, he sat up straighter and leaned forward. "I should help Braca," he added and tried to get up, but Kal pushed him back.

"No, you must wait a few microts. The plug will harden a little. Then you can move," she said.

"Then you go see if he needs any help," he replied.

Kal sent a glance toward the corridor leading to the cockpit. "I do not think he wants my help," she said and made a face.

John stared at her for a microt, then nodded in understanding. "That's just because he doesn't know you," he said and slumped back in the seat. "If he keeps dodging like that, I'm gonna throw up," he added and grimaced.

Kal couldn't help smiling. She sensed that it was a lie, that he wasn't really feeling sick, but was changing the subject for her benefit. She decided to say nothing about it and merely helped John strap in so he wasn't thrown from the seat if they were hit again.

"Braca," John called and winced when that obviously hurt him. "What's going on out there?"

"We're being pursued," came the reply tersely from the speakers. "I'm trying to avoid them. They don't seem too eager, though."

"Just keep dodging them," John said. "Just get us the hell out of here," he added more quietly and closed his eyes.

"Are you alright, John?" Kal asked, concerned about him in more ways than one.

"Yeah, Kal," he said and opened his eyes again. He smiled weakly. "I'll be fine. I just need to rest a little," he added and closed his eyes again.

Kal pulled back to let him rest and hunkered down a few hentas from him where she could keep an eye on him but stay out of his way at the same time.


Braca flew the marauder with all the cunning of a seasoned pilot and managed to avoid serious damage. Not that his former colleagues were trying too hard. But Braca wasn't happy about proving to himself that he could outrun a squadron of prowlers, mainly because it meant that he was heading away from the only life he'd ever known.

Although he would rather be tortured in the Aurora chair for a cycle without end than admit to this, he was scared out of his mind about the prospect of having to go on without the security that the Peacekeeper regime had so far offered him. He had always been a good soldier. He had risen through the ranks on ambition alone, furthered by his ability to read his superiors and give them what they wanted. And that made this situation so intolerable.

After striking up a rather uneasy friendship with this frelling human, he had, in a moment of weakness, felt sorry for the man for losing all he had ever had and being forced to stay among people Braca had no doubt Crichton still considered enemies. In a fit of what he now considered insanity, he had offered to help the man and that had lead to this disastrous development where Braca saw his own life crumbled and washed away in a matter of arns.

He ripped the control column to one side and avoided a barrage of blasts, then hit the accelerator and shot away from the pursuing prowlers at top speed. He had a few tricks up his sleeve which would get them away in one piece, but he wasn't so sure he really wanted to leave.

What could he expect out there but disorder and chaos? He didn't thrive on chaos, didn't appreciate disorder. He wanted to be within the framework of the Peacekeepers, secure in his knowledge that he could handle any superior without risking his neck.

Aggressively, he punched the overdrive switch and the marauder jerked forward, accelerating away from any remaining pursuers. He had no wish to die, but wasn't going out there the same as dying? Wouldn't it be preferable to stay and take his punishment like a true Peacekeeper? He had, after all, done the wrong thing. But on the other hand, so had Admiral Turran and it hadn't been his impression that she was going to take any kind of punishment. It had been an understanding between them that if she did not reveal her true heritage, he would not do it either. But she had upset the plan, had let Crichton antagonize her.

"Frelling human," he muttered under his breath and shut the overdrive off again before it managed to burn off all of their fuel. "Crichton?" he then called and glanced back toward the rear of the marauder. The thought of that half-breed Crichton had grown so attached to made him shudder. Scorpius had been bad enough and he had still been bipedal.

"Frell," he growled. "Crichton?" he tried again and still received no answer.

"He is not able to join you right now," came the reply and Braca barely prevented himself from jumping out of his seat.

He glanced over one shoulder to find that creature standing at the mouth of the passageway. How anything so obscene could be allowed to live was beyond him, but he had never questioned this being's right to exist while Kia Turran had been in charge. Now, however, he did.

"Why not?" he asked, his tone not nearly as derisive as he had intended for it to be.

"His injury," she replied. "He must rest. He lost a lot of blood."

"Not nearly enough," Braca growled, set the control to autopilot and turned around slowly. He eyed Kal for a few microts without saying anything, but then finally rose from his seat. "Have you dealt with his injuries?" he asked.

Kal inclined her head in a half-nod. "Yes, I have," she assured him. "He will be alright. He just needs to rest."

"I don't frelling care what he needs or doesn't need," Braca countered and eyed her again. "Get out of my way," he added.

Kal eyed him back, then shifted to the side to allow him to pass. He did so by brushing sideways along the wall, admittedly terrified of touching this creature.

Braca hurried back to the common area and found Crichton asleep in one of the seats. He ground his teeth together, walked over there and folded his arms over his chest. "Crichton," he said sternly.

The human shifted, then opened his eyes. "What's wrong?" he asked, his voice slightly slurred. He tried to sit up straighter and winced when it obviously caused him pain.

"Nothing," Braca replied. "Apart from the fact that you have once again managed to frell everything up," he added.

Crichton frowned and wiped the back of a blood-encrusted hand over his brow. "Me?" he asked and looked up at Braca again. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Braca made a sweeping gesture in the general direction of the motherstation. "My life," he stated, annoyed that Crichton didn't seem to know what he had done wrong. "You've frelled up my life. I was stupid enough to think I should help you, that I owed you for what you have done for the Peacekeepers. It was a stupid mistake."

Crichton blinked sluggishly, briefly closed his eyes and then shook his head and looked up at him again. "What are you telling me here, Braca? You're blaming me? For once, you've had the inclination to be friendly and you're blaming me that it backfires?" he asked.

Braca snorted. He couldn't talk to the man when he was like this. "We can talk about this later," he said, made a dismissive move with one hand and headed back toward the cockpit. At least there he felt in marginal control of the situation.


John felt disoriented and dizzy and so not up to this. Instead of dealing with it like he felt he should, he slumped back in the seat with a suppressed groan. The fact that Braca had been in the rear of the marauder and that the vessel seemed to be moving very smoothly told John that they'd managed to outrun their pursuers. Unless, of course, Braca had decided to turn them in and had returned to the motherstation. But somehow John didn't see that as being possible. Mainly because Braca was so damned upset about this.

He glanced down himself and gingerly prodded the skin around the wound. It still hurt, but not as badly as he would have thought. Apparently, Kal's ministrations had some painkilling effects as well. Despite his immediate disgust at what she had done, he realized that her actions had probably not only saved him from bleeding to death, but also saved him possible side-effects such as an infection or the likes.

With a bit of an effort, he pushed himself up on the seat, grinding his teeth together when that movement took nearly everything out of him. "Damn, I gotta learn to keep my big mouth shut," he muttered himself, well aware that it had been his obvious need to aggravate Kia that had brought this about.

"He's afraid, you know."

He turned his head and saw Kal in the doorway. He hadn't heard her arrive. "Hey, Kal," he said. "Listen, I didn't even thank you for saving my sorry hide here," he added.

"No need," she claimed and moved forward. "I could no more let Kia kill you than I could have allowed anyone else to do so," she added and came to a stop beside his seat. "How are you feeling?"

He grinned joylessly. "Oh, I don't know," he said. "Like I've been hit over the head with a baseball bat," he added and waved a hand when she gave him a frown. "Baseball," he tried. "It's a game played on my home world. With wooden bats."

"Ah," Kal said and placed a hand almost tentatively on his arm. "I would imagine that would hurt."

"Yeah, I believe it would," he agreed. "Who's afraid, by the way?"

"Braca," Kal countered and glanced up at the ceiling. "He is leaving behind everything he ever knew. It is a humbling thought for most Peacekeepers. They do not know how to exist outside the box."

"I kinda gathered that," he agreed and sighed. He wasn't feeling too good and mostly wanted to lie down. "Are there any bunks on this tub?" he asked and glanced at Kal.

She glanced around. "Not here," she stated.

"Crew quarters. There's gotta be that on board," John suggested and started to lean forward. His idea of this 'plug' Kal had stopped the bleeding with was that it would have hardened now and that it would therefore cause him pain when he moved. But he hardly felt it. Even though the wound did hurt, it was nowhere near as bad as he had thought it would be.

Kal grabbed his arm and helped him up in the sense that she nearly lifted him out of the seat. "I could look for you," she suggested.

"Nah, that's okay, Kal," he assured her. Once he was on his feet, it was a little easier for him to move. "I'd like to freshen up a little too, get all this blood off me," he added and nearly lost his balance when he turned toward the door. "Or not," he added and allowed Kal to grab him before he fell flat on his face.

"You have lost a lot of blood, John," she said. "Let me help you."

"Okay then. If it makes you happy," he replied with slight sarcasm.


The present

John sighed and gingerly scratched his side. He grabbed the cup of raslac Aeryn had pushed across the table top and took a thoughtful sip of it.

"So, what happened to Kal and Braca?" she asked, her eyes never leaving his.

"Long story. But it's not worth telling if it's not told right," he replied and glanced around at the others.

D'Argo leaned back a little. "Well, it is late, John," he said. "Perhaps we should leave the rest of this tale for another night?"

John sighed and nodded. "Yeah, might be a good idea," he said and briefly closed his eyes.

Aeryn reached across the table and took his hand, giving it a light squeeze in the process. "A good night's rest is what you need," she suggested with a smile. "I think we all could use some sleep," she added and glanced at D'Argo and Chiana, who both nodded.

"I'd like to know one thing, though," Chiana said and focused on John.

"What's that, Pip?" he asked and hoped she wasn't fishing for big details.

"You didn't ... kill Braca, did you?" she asked with a grin.

John gazed into her dark eyes and then shook his head with a vague smile on his lips. "No, Pip, I didn't kill him. I was close a few times, but I didn't kill him. He's alive and happy," he replied, then rolled his eyes. "Well, he's alive anyway."

"Good," Chiana said and glanced at D'Argo before stretching noisily. "Well, I'm tired. See you all in the morning," she added, got up and stopped behind John on her way to her room. She grabbed his shoulders and leaned in close, her lips grazing the edge of his ear. "It's good to have you back, old man," she whispered, her eyes on Aeryn who watched her with a slightly disapproving expression.

John grinned. "It's good to be here, Pip," he replied and smacked her on the butt when she walked away. That merely caused her to chuckle.

D'Argo rose too, giving John a brief scowl, before replacing it with a grin. "Sleep well, my friends," he said and winked at Aeryn, who rolled her eyes.

Neither of them paid any attention to that D'Argo did not retire to his own room, but followed Chiana into hers.

They only had eyes for each other, sitting on opposite sides of the table, their fingers interwoven. After a while, John sighed and wrapped both hands around hers. She placed her other hand on top of his in response. "I'm..." he tried, but broke off again and closed his eyes. 'Keep it together, man', he thought to himself, drew in a deep breath and tried again. "There were times when I thought I'd never see you again. There were more times I thought that then not," he said quietly. "I kept it together, but not very well." Try as he might, he could not keep the tears from forming in his eyes.

Aeryn tightened her grip on his hands. "You're here now. That's the only thing that matters," she said. "What brought you here is only important if you allow it to be. Leave the past behind, John. Things should be easier from now on."

He smiled ruefully, his eyes on their interlocked hands. "Nothing is ever easy with us, baby," he said and looked up to meet her eyes. "I don't think the PKs disowned Kia. And if they didn't, she's gonna come after me," he said, the fear of that happening strong inside him.

Aeryn nodded in understanding. "She doesn't know where you are. And even if she did, John, we'll deal with that when we get to it. We always do. There's nothing we cannot do when we're together," she said.

It was hearing words like those that he had missed the most over the past seven cycles; having her stand by and tell him that things would be okay and they could deal with it. He had lost faith in his ability to deal with anything, but now that he had her back, he saw things in a different light. He grasped both her hands and brought them up to his lips. "I love you so much," he whispered and pressed a kiss onto her knuckles.

She merely smiled and rose. "I love you too," she countered and tugged at his hands. "Time for bed. Tomorrow, I'll show you around. You'll like it here. It's very peaceful."

He rose and followed her back to the bedroom. "I've had enough of peaceful, Aeryn. I want some action," he said and slipped his arms around her from behind.

"Whatever you want," she replied with a snide grin.

"You bet," he replied, nuzzled the back of her neck and kicked the door shut behind him.