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

Rating: G

Synopsis: Sometimes what you dream of isn't what you really want.

The late afternoon sun's sparkling golden rays brightened the livingroom of the 16th floor one-bedroom apartment, where dust moths danced in the rays above the black leather couch and the glass-and-steel coffee table sitting in front of it. The long-haired off-white afghan carpet beneath it gave the whole scene a homy impression. The counter separating the kitchen from the livingroom was tidy with a bundle of letters, unopened, lying on one end and an empty vase sitting at the other end. The kitchen, too, was tidy and the whole place could give the immediate appearance of not having been used in a good long while; but only if the pile of unopened letters and a flat metallic rectangular object occupying one corner of the coffee table were ignored.

Moments later, the tranquillity of the room was disturbed when the sound of a key in the door disrupted the silence. The front door swung open and the owner of the apartment, clad in tightfitting jeans, a black t-shirt, sneakers and a black leather jacket stepped inside, pulled the key out of the lock and swung the door shut again. He dropped the keys on the kitchen counter and ran a hand through his short cropped hair before continuing into the livingroom where he shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it onto the back of the couch. He dropped down on it with a new stack of mail in one hand, which ended, unopened, on top of the coffee table while the man's blue eyes sought out and found the metallic rectangle on the table. He blinked, his expression set in stone, then reached out and touched it. A holographic image appeared above the metallic object, displaying a raven haired woman sitting on a metal crate in an undefinable environment. She hadn't been looking at the camera at the time of the picture, but was instead looking off to the side.

"Hey, baby, I'm home," he said, his voice slightly hoarse. With a sigh, he settled back on the couch, his eyes not leaving the hologram until it faded away again. Once the image had disappeared, he let his head drop against the back of the couch and stared up at the ceiling, his expression never changing.

John Crichton was back on Earth. He had been home for almost a year now and any illusions he might have harboured about being able to regain what he had lost had been shattered upon his arrival.

Coming home had been a disaster. After struggling against the tides of a different galaxy for nearly three and a half years, he had finally mastered the technology of getting back home and had done so in the blink of an eye. But Earth had not received her prodigal son with open arms. He had spent the better part of six long months in quarantine, being examined, studied, prodded, stung and all but taken apart by scientists dying to know how he had survive three and a half years in space. Only reluctantly, and upon continued insistence by his father, Jack Crichton, had they finally released him into the world again.

Jack had made sure that his son had a place of his own and did not stop telling him how happy he was that John was home again. John, however, didn't share his father's enthusiasm. Even though he was happy to see both his father and his sisters again and had caught up on current events with DK, he felt totally and utterly alone. Because despite everybody's reassurance that they were oh-so-happy to see him again and that everybody had missed him terribly, he knew that they stared at him when he wasn't looking, knew that they wondered what had happened to him out there.

John knew he was different. Three and a half years in a hostile environment had made him a different person. He was paranoid, cautious, distrustful and sometimes downright violent when he felt threatened and that was a far cry from whom he had been when he had left Earth behind three and a half years ago. Gone was the boyish wonder at all he saw, all he was about to do. The kid he had been despite his age back then had grown up and become a cautious adult with too much action and death behind him.

He had returned to working on the Farscape project a week after his release, but had opted to keep his extensive knowledge of interstellar travel to himself. He did not consider humanity capable of handling the responsibility that came with being able to go anywhere in the universe within minutes. DK had been dying to learn about the technology out there, had virtually ripped Farscape One apart to find out what the modifications did, but John hadn't helped him and without his help, his childhood friend didn't understand the weird and wondrous additions.

To everybody's regret, the module along with its alien modifications had mysteriously blown up one night. John's only explanation had been that the alien fuel apparently hadn't reacted well with Earth's environment and had left it at that, refusing to even try and come up with a better and more plausible explanation. DK had suspected that there was something more going on, that perhaps John had blown the module up himself, but John had refused to talk to him about it and they were at odds because of it. Not that John really cared anymore.

Closing his eyes, he thought back over the past six months and the fact that he'd just kicked himself off the Farscape project this morning, and it made him feel slightly odd that he didn't care much about it. The Farscape project had been his life-long dream, his ambition. But it wasn't any more. He had other goals, other ambitions now. He had quit the project, but there would be repercussions. He had decked his benefactor, telling the man where he could shove his well-meant advice. Everybody had treated him like an outsider ever since he had returned and he was extremely tired of the attitude.

People on the street recognized him because his return had been sensational news. They pointed at him, whispered about him, but none of them spoke to him. Nobody came over to shake hands with the first human to ever have taken a trip out of the galaxy. They all treated him with equal amounts of respect and suspicion and he couldn't stand either.

"Unique is always valuable," he mumbled and raised his head. "Well, you were right about that one, Scorpy. I guess I just don't fit in anywhere now, do I?" With a shake of his head, he leaned forward and pressed the holographic projector again. The image reappeared and he stared at her for a long moment before tracing her outline with one finger. "I miss you, Aeryn," he said, leaning his head to the right. "Damn, I miss you."

*Then leave. Go back to your precious Earth. Nobody here cares anyway.*

He could hear her words as if she were standing right there, saying them to him. They had hurt, those words. It had been another slap in the face, another reminder of what he had lost. "I had a chance to go home and I took it. And look what that brought me," he told the image. "Six months in a cage and six months on probation with daddy watching over me like a hawk. No leeway, no spare time, no frelling nothing. I'm a freak here. Much more than I was out there. Can you believe that, baby?" He snorted and leaned back again to watch her until her outline once again faded away.

He had toyed with the idea of going back out there, of getting off Earth and back to his real friends. Sure, he could understand why people might respond the way they did, but he couldn't get it through his head why they continued to treat him as if he were an alien. He could understand all languages, but only speak English. He could build a drive that created stabile wormholes, but wouldn't even consider it. He could probably build a spaceship that would take mankind to the moon in the matter of minutes, but he didn't even want to try. He was afraid of what mankind would use that knowledge for. And the longer he refused to work with them, the harder they made life on him.

He had given them a run for their money, though, and the inquisition-like question sessions he had been put through almost daily the first three months had tapered off after they had started to realize that he wasn't going to talk. And he had warned them about getting too physical about it, too. If they tried to make him, he would kill himself. The threat had been made with the same expression he wore now and they had obviously believed him back then. At least until now.

With another sigh, he closed his eyes. He was so tired of this, tired of constantly being under the watchful eye of the cameras build into this apartment, the microphones listening in on everything he said. Hell, he couldn't even use the bathroom without them watching. And he knew he was coming to the end of his rope. He would have to find a way out of this predicament before he decided to blow out the window in his livingroom and taking the high dive to the pavement below. It sure would beat being watched and listened to all the time.

One thing that had managed to surprise him about his homecoming had been that Alex had called him the week after he had moved into this place. She had sounded happy, but also a little apprehensive. When she had insisted they meet and that maybe they should pick up where they had left off, he had told her that he didn't want her back in his life. His tone had been cool and indifferent and he felt nothing at all when he hung up the phone moments later. He only felt something when he looked at that hologram of Aeryn. Or when he thought of his other friends out there, far away from Earth, struggling against the same tide he had decided to leave behind.

He remembered it as if it had been yesterday and not a year ago. Aeryn, cold and aloof as she had been ever since his copy had died on her, had actually shed a tear. He'd had second thoughts then, but it had been too late. And the need to go home, to see his family again, had been too strong a tug. D'Argo, Chiana, Jool. They had all looked depressed, but had pretended to understand. Rygel, hovering on his throne sled, had even managed to look a little misty-eyed. Even Crais hadn't looked happy about his leaving. And Pilot had been decidedly unhappy about it, had told him at length how they would miss him. If only he had listened to them.

Well, the government people constantly following him around and the IASA-representatives constantly bugging him for details had helped him make up his mind. And the straw that had broken the camel's back had been a friendly bit of advice from his benefactor this morning, telling him that he should probably consider doing as he was told or someone he cared about might get hurt. He had nearly broken the man's face with his fist and had told him to go to hell before he had left the Farscape project for good. He had wandered the streets for hours after losing the tail constantly following him around and had eventually returned home to think about the whole thing one more time. But the more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that he didn't fit in on Earth any more.

He rose from the couch, grabbed the holographic projector and stuffed it in his pocket, grabbed his jacket and briefly glanced around. There was nothing he wanted here any more, nothing he couldn't live without. He hadn't even bothered to watch any television since his return. The first six months they hadn't let him. Now that he could, he didn't want to. Set on doing things his way now, he left the apartment again.


Jack Crichton was not a man who worried unnecessarily, but after a call from IASA, he had found a new reason to worry about his son. He knew that he had only heard one side of the story and would reserve judgement of the situation until he'd had a chance to talk to John. He had told Clarke Judson off, insisting that he was certain that John wouldn't have hit him unless Judson had pushed John to do so. Judson had claimed that John had gone stark raving mad and belonged in a padded cell, but Jack had only hung up on him. That didn't stop him from worrying though. Especially since he hadn't been able to get a hold of John since.

He had resorted to doing the same thing he had done the day John's mother had died. Her son had not been by her side when she had passed on and Jack had driven around town afterward, searching for him, and had found him eventually. But this time around, he couldn't find him. He had no idea where John would go. It was with no small amount of regret that he had realized that he didn't know his son. He had been able to read him like an open book before, but not any more.

Killing the engine of his car, he sat back in his seat for a moment and thought about the past year. It had been a nightmare in every sense. His deepest wish had come true when Farscape One had set down on the landing strip and he had been able to hug his son, whom he had thought had died on that fateful day three and a half years earlier. But from that minute on, everything had gone down hill and he didn't blame John for losing his patience. The worst thing he could imagine right around now was actually two different scenarios. Either John had found a way off the planet and had left without saying goodbye or Judson had seen fit to force whatever knowledge John had out of him. If it was the latter, he would kill Judson himself. If it was the first, it would break his heart.

With a sigh, he slipped out of the car and headed up the pathway to the house. So engrossed was he in his thoughts that he didn't notice the shadow waiting for him on the porch steps.

"Hey, dad."

Raising his head, he came to a stop and stared at John, who was sitting on the steps. "John," he exclaimed. "I've been out looking for you. Judson called me. What the hell happened?"

John chewed on the inside of his cheek while staring at his father for a moment, then sighed deeply and dropped his eyes. "I decked him," he admitted without any sign of remorse. "He threatened me, so I decked him and quit."

Jack sat down next to John, taking up much the same posture as his son with his hands folded and his arms resting on his knees. "What did he threaten you with?" he asked.

"He basically said that if I didn't do as I was told, someone I care about might get hurt," John replied with a tense expression. "I told him to shove his advice where the sun never shines, broke his nose and left. That's all there is to it."

With a nod, Jack acknowledged the behaviour for what it was; understandable under the current circumstances. "They're not going to let you quit. You know that, don't you?" he asked and John nodded silently. "So, what now? Are you going to apologize to him? Are you going to play ball?"

"Nope," John replied, not a flicker of doubt in his voice. "No way, dad. I came by, hoping to find you here, because I'm ..." he tried, but trailed off, a dark look in his eyes.

"You're leaving, aren't you?" Jack asked. "You've found a way to get back out there, haven't you?" He couldn't deny the sense of dread he felt at that prospect, but he also knew that right now, John didn't have any other options unless he wanted to jeopardize his friends or his family. And he knew John would never do that.

John fished the holographic projector out of his pocket. "I guess you could say that E.T. phoned home," he replied and pressed the device, once again producing an image of Aeryn. It was a different one this time, though. "This isn't just an image device, dad. It's a distress signal, too. If I activate this image of her," he went on, staring at the transparent image of Aeryn with a pretty big gun in her hands, "it sends a message out to them. If they're still out there, they'll pick me up within one day from receiving it. Which means tomorrow morning when the sun comes up."

Jack stared at the image, too. If there was one thing he could say, it was that his son had improved his taste in women. This Aeryn Sun looked like a tough cookie. He wished he'd had the chance to meet her, but figured he would just have to take John's word for what she was like. "How are they going to get here undetected?" he asked, glancing at John.

"Oh, I'm not so worried about the undetected part, dad. Aeryn is gonna pick me up in her prowler. It's fast and it's armed to the teeth. There's nothing similar on Earth. They won't be able to even put a dent in her," he said.

Jack nodded again. "I'm not happy that you're leaving, John. I won't deny that. But I know you have no other choice at this point. I wouldn't want you to be under any more duress than you've already been and I figure Judson isn't going to quit now," he said, thoughtfully staring ahead of himself.

"I know, dad. I wish things could have worked out differently. I wish you could have met Aeryn. I wish Judson would leave me the hell alone," John replied and sighed again. "But wishing for it isn't going to make it happen. So, I'm going to leave tomorrow and ... I'm probably not coming back any time soon."

Turning a little, Jack faced his son and put a hand on his arm. "Let's be honest here, John. What you mean is that you're probably not coming back. Period. Right?" he asked.

John glanced at him, then dropped his gaze and nodded. "Yeah, dad. It's not likely that I'm coming back," he replied. "Not if that's the type of reception I'll get."

"I understand, son," Jack said. "I don't like it, but I understand. Have you told your sisters?"

That made John smile vaguely. "No, I haven't. I was kinda hoping you'd convey my love to them," he said with regret in his voice, then glanced at his father again. "And tell DK that I'm sorry for what I said. I didn't mean it."

"I'm sure he knows, son," Jack said and patted his shoulder. "But I'll tell him just the same. Are you leaving now?"

"I got a ways to go," John replied and got up. He looked around the front yard of his father's house, the house he had been born in, and chewed thoughtfully on his lower lip. "When I was out there, I missed all this. I thought I'd go crazy if I never came home again," he said. "And then I come back here and it's all changed in some way. And then I realized that it is nothing here that has changed. It's me. I don't fit in any more."

Jack wanted to argue, wanted to convince John to stay, to take whatever came his way and just stay, but he also knew enough of this new person his son had become that no amount of convincing would make him stay. "Well, when did you ever?" he asked with a halfhearted smirk. "You've always been a little radical, John. Always been a little bit different."

That even drew a smile from John. "I guess," he agreed. "The funny thing is, dad, that all my dreams, my childhood dreams, they've come true. And I've realized that reality is a lot harsher than anything I've ever imagined." With a shake of the head, he stared down at the ground in front of his feet. "I've seen things you wouldn't believe, dad. Things I can't even begin to describe. But one thing's for sure. The universe is not a friendly place."

"Well, that I can believe," Jack said. "All I have to do is take a look at you, see how much you've changed. I only wish you had told me everything, John. I know there are things you've kept from me. Something that happened to you. I doubt your friends changed you this much."

John sighed heavily. Jack had asked him about this before, had tried to make him tell what had happened to make him change so radically, but John had continuously refused to let him know the full truth of his encounters out there.

"As I've said before, dad," John replied, "it's nothing I can't handle. Nothing you need to worry about. When you're on the run like I've been for three and a half years, you change. I had to change to survive."

"Why do you want to go out there again if you know you'll continue running?" Jack asked. He hadn't really understood that part yet and hoped that John would explain it to him.

"If I stay on Earth, I'm going to be on the run, too, dad. There's no way in hell that I'll stay and help Judson out with his insane little projects. And there are a hell of a lot more places out there where I can hide," John replied with a crooked yet joyless smile. "And I've got a lot of friends who'll do anything to keep me safe. I can't say that I've got that here, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah, I guess I do," Jack replied with a sigh. "I wish I had more influence."

"Don't blame yourself, dad. If you want to blame someone for this, you should blame me. I'm the one who came up with this crazy idea to slingshoot a craft out of Earth's gravity in the first place. If I hadn't been so damned pigheaded about it, I would never have made it that far. Which again means I wouldn't have taken the trip through that wormhole. The rest, as they say, is history," John said and turned back to face his father. "It was great to see you again, dad. You and the girls," he added.

"Where exactly are you going?" Jack wanted to know.

"Desert. We agreed on a rendevous point as remote as possible if the need should arise. When I headed back to Earth, I didn't think I'd need it. But Aeryn insisted. Just in case. I'm glad she did. If it hadn't been for this," he said, holding up the holographic projector, "I would have been stuck now."

Jack rose too. "Let me take you there, John. It'll give us a little more time to talk. And ... well ... maybe I can get a chance at seeing a real live alien, too," he said with a small smile.

"Sure, dad. That sounds like a great idea," John replied with a relieved smile.


The drive had been long and the conversation sparse, but once they were at the rendevous point, they talked some more. About everything and nothing, about what John would do once he got back to the others, about what Jack would tell the girls and how he would handle Judson.

"Judson is the least of my problems right now, John," Jack confessed. "I'm more worried about the girls. They'll be furious that I let you go without giving them a chance to say goodbye. Why don't you just call them?"

John, who was sitting on the hood of the car, rubbed his palms against each other while he stared out over the desolate landscape. "Well, you know how they are, dad. They'd cry and beg and I'd end up staying because they want me to. That would mean I'd end up in a cage again for trying to go awol. And I don't want to do that. Not even for them."

Jack nodded in understanding. "I know. And I wouldn't want you to. I'll handle them. They'll understand eventually. It may take some time, but they'll come around."

"I sure hope so. I don't want to think my sisters are gonna hate me for the rest of their lives," John said with a somewhat cynical little smile on his lips.

"They could never hate you, John," Jack assured him and turned his back on the car to gaze out over the landscape himself. "We'll all miss you, though."

"And I'll miss you guys, too," John replied, finding himself to be rather emotional all of a sudden. The thought that he would never see any of them again did hit a little too close to his centre right then, but his options were very limited at this point. Making a face, he glanced up at the sky, noting the light tinge at the horizon. "The sun's coming up," he said and got off the hood of the car to join his father.

"Yeah, it is," Jack agreed. "At least I'll know you're alive," he added and glanced at John, who continued to stare up at the sky without as much as blinking. "Promise me you'll try to stay safe out there."

John glanced at him and smiled halfheartedly. "I'll sure try, dad. And I'm gonna have a lot of help," he replied, hoping that was true. It tore him apart to think that something might have happened to some of the others. They'd lost Zhaan already and nobody knew where Stark had gone to. It would devastate him if any of the others had come to harm during his year on Earth.

"Then why are you looking so worried, John? Are you afraid they might not come for you?" Jack asked, studying his son's expression.

"I'm more afraid they might not all be there any more," John confessed. Dropping his gaze to the sandy ground beneath his feet, he tried to control his suddenly rampant emotions. "I'm scared shitless that something may have happened to Aeryn," he added in a low tone of voice.

"Well, if what you've told me about her is true, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, I'm sure she'll be fine," Jack said with a smile.

John grinned joylessly. "Yeah, she's a tough cookie," he agreed. "She's protected my butt more times than I care to remember," he added and chuckled at the thought.

"Well, then don't worry about her," Jack suggested.

"I'm not worried about her, dad. I'm just scared I'll never see her again. Throughout all my time out there ... she was the one thing that kept me going. That and the thought of seeing you guys again," John said, then glanced up at the sky again, listening for something Jack couldn't hear. "Someone's coming," he added, squinting at the brightening sky.

Jack glanced in the same direction, trying to spot something on the horizon, but couldn't see or hear anything out of the ordinary.

Seconds later, a large craft swept by overhead, circled around and headed back towards them to settle down on the dusty layer not far from where they stood.

Jack glanced at John and noted the somewhat dismal expression on his face. "That's not them, is it?" he asked.

"It's not Aeryn's prowler. That's D'Argo's ship," John replied and started toward the ship as the hatch in the rear lowered to the ground. "Come on, dad. Here's your chance to meet that real live alien," he called over his shoulder and started running.

Jack was overcome by both sadness and the excitement of a little child. One thing was what John had told him about his friends, but to be able to see the Luxan, that was a whole different ball game. He followed his son at a more moderate pace, his eyes glued to the opening of the craft.

John came to a stop at the foot of the ramp, looking up into the ship to meet D'Argo's eyes as the Luxan came toward him. "Hey, big D," he said, grinning from ear to ear.

"John," D'Argo replied and strode down the steps with everlasting confidence.

Before John could do or say anything, the Luxan had wrapped his arms around him and was nearly hugging him to death. "Hey, hey, don't crush me," he laughed, hugging him back.

D'Argo released him again and took a step back, his grin nearly as wide as John's. "It is so good to see you again, my friend. When we received the signal, we feared the worst," he said, then glanced over at the second human, who was staring at him in wide-eyed wonder.

"D'Argo, that's my dad," John introduced his father. "Come on, dad," he added, waving his father closer.

Jack stepped up to them, finding himself completely enthralled by this being from another galaxy. Glancing at John, he tried to weather the situation because he hadn't understood a single word the Luxan had said. He had, however, understood the bear hug the tall being had given his son. John was loved by his friends. That much was for certain. Slowly and somewhat hesitantly, he reached a hand out to D'Argo. "It's ... an honour to meet you," he finally managed to say.

D'Argo took his hand, smiling, and said something Jack didn't understand. He glanced at John, who was displaying a hell of a lot more emotion than he had the past year. "What did he say?" he asked.

"He said the honour is all his," John translated, still grinning like an idiot. He was so happy to see the Luxan again, it made him emotional. But at the same time he was also deeply concerned that it was D'Argo who had come to pick him up and not Aeryn. "D'Argo, is everything okay? How are the others?"

D'Argo returned his attention to John, his expression never changing. "They're all fine. Aeryn would have come down, but she hurt her foot and can't walk. Nothing serious. Don't worry, my friend. She'll be fine in a weeken or so."

It was all John could do not to sigh out loud and his smile became a lot less strained. "Damn, it's good to see you again. Thanks for coming to my rescue here. Earth didn't turn out to be the good idea I thought it was," he said.

D'Argo's smile faltered a little. "On that note, my friend, we'd better hurry. They must have seen me land," he said, clapping a hand onto John's shoulder.

"Yeah, I know," he agreed and turned back to his father. "Well, dad, I guess this is goodbye," he said, once again torn between happy and sad.

"I guess it is, son," Jack agreed. "I'm glad we had some time to talk. And, if you do get a chance, contact me. I'd like to hear from you if at all possible."

John pulled the hologram projector out of his pocket and gave it to his father. "You keep this. If something goes wrong ... just find that picture of Aeryn and we'll all come running. It's the best I can do right now."

Jack closed his fingers around the device, staring at his balled up fist for a moment, then nodded and looked up again to meet John's eyes. "You take care, son. Be careful out there."

John stepped forward and hugged his father hard for a moment, the sound of approaching helicopters making him a little nervous. "You'd better get out of here, dad," he said. "Just in case they get funny ideas."

"Yeah, you're right," Jack agreed, unwilling to leave, yet knowing he had to. He hugged John back, then took a step back. "Go on. Get out of here. Don't let them catch you," he said.

"Come on," D'Argo said, urging John to follow him.

"I'll find a way to contact you, dad. I promise," John called as Jack started to back up to give the craft some space to take off.

"I'm proud of you, John. I love you," Jack called back, finding it increasingly hard to retain his feelings.

"Ditto, dad," John whispered, blinking tears out of his eyes before following D'Argo into the ship. "Let's go, big guy."

"Already on the way," D'Argo replied as the ship rose from the ground and picked up speed.

Jack stood on the ground and watched as the craft zipped away, giving the helicopters and fighters sent after it a run for their money before disappearing at incredible speed straight up into the sky. He lingered for a moment longer, searching the sky for the ship that had taken his son away from him again, then shook his head and headed back to the car. To hell with it all as long as John was safe. And he had the distinct impression that his son would be a whole lot safer out there than he would be on Earth. A sad fact, but a true one nonetheless.


When D'Argo's ship left the atmosphere of Earth and raced into space toward the moon, behind which Moya was waiting, John felt at peace with the decision he had made. Even though he hated leaving his father behind, he felt at home out here now. And that was what this ascent felt like. It felt like coming home.

D'Argo glanced at him, noting the almost wistful expression on his friend's face, and couldn't help smiling. "Are you enjoying yourself?" he asked. John blinked in surprise and glanced back at him, which made D'Argo chuckle with delight. "You just have that look on your face again, John."

"What look is that?" John asked back, half grinning already.

"You look like you've just had some fantastic sex," the Luxan replied and bellowed with laughter.

John couldn't help but join in. "Oh, shut up, D'Argo," he laughed.

"There are a whole lot of people looking forward to seeing you again," D'Argo said after a moment. "Chiana has been totally electric since we received your message. Even Jool has mentioned that she's looking forward to seeing you again."

"You have to be kidding me. Jool? I don't believe it," John replied with a grin. "What about Sparky?"

"Oh, Rygel is Rygel. No change there. He'll be happy to see you, too. I think he missed trying to steal your stuff," D'Argo said. "And Pilot says even Moya has missed you."

"Well, there's a surprise," John said. "I thought she'd be happy to be rid of me and my damned wormholes."

D'Argo suddenly grew serious as they rounded the moon. "We have all missed you, John. Despite your damned wormholes," he admitted. "It just hasn't been the same. Chiana has even tried to talk like you at times. Not that she gets it right half the time. Aeryn is constantly correcting her."

"Really? I'm surprised. I thought she at least would be happy to be rid of me. No more reminders of the other me," John said, suddenly not so cheerful any more. "Did she at least get it right?"

D'Argo nodded, somewhat solemn all of a sudden. "Yes, she did. Frighteningly so sometimes," he said. "Chiana would try to quote you on something and Aeryn would just correct her quietly and then leave. She has been a ghost since you left, John. Not at all herself."

John frowned a little at that information, wondering how it could be that she had pushed him away when it obviously meant so much to her to have him around. "Well, I'll just have to see if I can't lighten her up a little," he said and smiled a little at the thought. Just seeing her again would do wonders to him. He just hoped it wouldn't be a torment for her.

Staring out at the gentle slope of the moon as they flew around it, John leaned forward when Moya came into view. "Damn, I'll never get used to seeing her," he said, wonder in his voice. "She's so big."

"That she is," D'Argo agreed, then switched the com system on. "Pilot, do you read me?"

"Yes, Ka D'Argo, we read you," Pilot's voice rang from the speakers. "Is all well?" he inquired.

"Yes, Pilot, all is well," D'Argo replied.

"Hi, Pilot," John inserted.

A brief patch of silence followed that. "Commander, it is good to hear your voice again," Pilot finally said, sounding somewhat emotional. "Welcome back."

"Thanks, Pilot. It's good to be home," John replied with a smile.


Even before the ship had settled entirely, John was up and standing before the opening hatch. He was eager to get out there and meet the others. Before the hatch had touched the floor of the landing bay, he walked down it, taking two steps at a time, and was nearly knocked over when Chiana threw herself into his arms.

She was all arms and legs wrapped around him, hugging him so tightly he could barely breathe. "Hey, Pip," he exclaimed, hugging her back.

"Crichton, it is so good to see you again," she whispered in a tear-filled voice, leaned back a little and kissed him fully on the lips.

"It's good to see you too, Pip," he replied with a grin. This welcome had already been a hell of a lot better than his return to Earth had been.

"Are you here to stay or did you just want to say hi?" Jool stood a few paces away, her arms crossed over her chest, her expression stuck somewhere between apprehensive and happy.

John disengaged himself from Chiana and took a step closer. "Princess," he said, grinning. "You're looking as beautiful as ever." That earned him a radiant although somewhat hesitant smile. "And I'm planning to stay," he added, stepped up to her and pecked her on the cheek.

"Welcome back, then," she said and returned the favour by giving him a light brush of a kiss on the cheek too.

The hum of Rygel's throne sled made John glance past Jool and grin broadly at the dominar. "Hey, hey, Sparky," he exclaimed and stepped around Jool. "How's it hanging, dude?"

"As crude as ever, I see," Rygel huffed, then had to grin despite himself. "It is good to see that some things never change," he added in a friendly tone of voice.

"Yeah? Well, I've missed you too, Buckweat," John replied and patted Rygel's head. "It's been so damned boring, not having to watch out for my stuff all the time."

That made Rygel laugh. "Good to have you back, human. That means there's more stuff to loot," he cooed.

John merely grinned at that, then directed his attention to Crais. "Crais," he said, nodding.

"Crichton. Far be it for me to say that I'm happy to see you, but I actually am," the ex-peacekeeper said. "It has been boring around here without you."

That made John smile. "You know what? I've actually missed you, too," he admitted and shook his head at that very notion. "Can you believe it?"

"It's a hard fact to associate with, but nevertheless true," Crais replied with a smile of his own.

"I guess Stark hasn't shown up yet?" John asked, glancing around at the others.

"Well, he was back briefly, but has left on one of his odd missions again," Crais said. "He has always been a little strange, hasn't he?"

"A little? That's the understatement of the year ... uh ... cycle," John replied, grinning at his slipup. "Anyway, there's still someone I haven't seen yet. Where's Aeryn?"

The rest of the assembled glanced at each other, none of them too sure it would be a good idea for anyone to approach her at the moment. "Well, the last I saw of her, she was working out," Crais finally said. "She is ... a little temperamental because of her injury. I assume D'Argo has told you?"

"Yeah, he has. I'll go say hi. I know when to keep my distance. Believe me. I do not want my ass kicked right now," John replied with a grin and headed off into the ship to find Aeryn.

"Do you think it's such a good idea that he sees her right now? I mean, with the way she's been behaving and all?" Chiana asked, looking worried.

"John can handle himself," D'Argo said, dismissing her worries. They'd know soon enough how Aeryn took to his return.


John couldn't help grinning as he hurried toward the training area. It really felt like coming home to be back on Moya. Much more so than it had been to come back to Earth and be treated like a genetic test gone wrong. Here at least nobody tried to stick him in a cage for six months. There were no suspicious looks, no resentment, no treating him like an outsider. They were happy to see him and that was all that mattered.

The closer he came to the training area, the clearer he could hear her working out. She was boxing again, a form of training she used to get rid of pent-up emotions as well as keeping fit. He rounded the corner and stepped in through the doorway where he came to a full stop so he could watch her for a bit. She fought swift and hard, using her entire body to punch the hell out of the dummy she was using to practice on while balancing on her right foot. Her left foot was heavily bandaged.

"Hey," he said after a moment, somehow hoping that she might actually be happy to see him. To his immediate regret, though, she ignored him and continue to pound the hell out of the dummy. He started forward, trying to catch a glimpse of her face and maybe determine what kind of mood she was in. "Remember me? I used to annoy the dren out of you," he tried, hoping for at least a smile. But she didn't acknowledge him and kept on training.

John moved closer still, knowing he might be treading on thin ice. She had a tendency to forget the space around her when she was training and could get dangerous if taken by surprise. "Could you at least say hi?" he asked her, trying to catch her gaze with his own without luck.

Before he had a chance to do something about it, she had grabbed him, thrown him to the floor and straddled his chest. Her whole demeanor was that of a predator pouncing on its prey and he briefly found himself being a little scared that she was going to break his neck. But the second she had him on the floor, she stopped moving, her eyes meeting his with the same kind of fierceness he had experienced the first time he had met her. That was when she had kicked his ass and nearly killed him, he reminded himself.

"Hi," he tried again, giving her a tentative smile.

Aeryn leaned forward until their noses almost touched and stared him in the eye, her hands supporting her weight on either side of his head. What happened next took him completely by surprise, though. She grabbed his chin rather harshly and kissed him. Then she raised her head and resumed staring at him. "Don't you ever leave me behind again," she told him in a stern tone of voice.

The whole scenario was so completely off kilter, he had no idea how to respond to it. He didn't know if she was angry with him or happy to see him and hence he had no idea how to react.

Aeryn shifted backward, grabbed the front of his t-shirt and hauled him up into a sitting position. "Are you here to stay or is this some kind of warped idea that we should visit on occasion?" she asked.

He cleared his throat, aware that her fingers were still wrapped tightly into his t-shirt, her other hand clenched into a fist, and he got the distinct impression that she was going to beat the crap out of him if he said the wrong thing. "I'm here to stay," he said quickly. "If that's okay, of course," he added tentatively.

She pursed her lips and for the first time, he saw a hint of something new in her eyes. "Well, I don't know. Have you asked the others?" she asked.

"Not yet, but I figure they want me to stay after the welcome they gave me," he replied, trying a rather careful smile. He was still likely to get a split lip if he said or did the wrong thing.

The something new he saw in her eyes blossomed into a smile. "You're here to stay for good?" she asked.

"That's my intention, yeah," he said, slowly relaxing. The smile brightened up her face in so many ways and he just soaked it all up.

Using only her right foot, she got back up after releasing his t-shirt again. "You okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, I think so," he said and got up, too, straightening his clothes as he did. "What happened to your foot?"

"Nothing. I took a wrong step ... on one of Rygel's leftovers," she replied. "I would have come down to pick you up, but I can't walk very well. Besides, there's more space in D'Argo's ship anyway."

"Not that I mind cramped, confined spaces as long as I share them with you," he said and grinned at her. "How have you been? What's been going on? What did I miss?"

Aeryn eyed him for a second, her expression not telling him anything in specific. "You've missed a whole lot of fun," she said. "A lot has happened and I'm sure the others will be more than happy to fill you in. Right now, though, I need some help to get to my quarters."

That made him arch an eyebrow. She was actually asking for help? "Sure thing," he agreed without further delay and scooped her up in his arms.

"I meant support me while I walk," she told him.

"Yeah, but I like carrying you around," he argued and started walking. "Besides, this way we'll get there faster," he added and grinned.


"Prepare for wormhole re-entry," Pilot's voice rang from the speakers just as John eased Aeryn down on her bed. Having forgotten what exactly that meant in terms of stability, the jolt of the entry and the choppy flight through the wormhole would have sent him flying if Aeryn hadn't grabbed a hold of him and pulled him down on the bed with her.

"Hang on," she told him. "It's a really bumpy flight."

Grabbing a hold of the edges of her bed, he locked them both down with her beneath him. "Don't I know it. Hanging on," he replied, grinning despite the strength he had to put into keeping them both in place.

The jostling stopped as abruptly as it had started after what seemed like mere microts. "We have successfully navigated the wormhole," Pilot announced, sounding satisfied. "Commander, Moya asked me to inform you that she rather enjoys wormhole travel as it reminds her of her youth," he added, sounding a little surprised by that.

"Tell her I'm happy she likes it," John replied, then realized that Aeryn was looking at him rather strangely. "What?" he asked her.

"We're not bouncing all over the place any more. You can let go now," she told him, thereby directing his attention to that he was still keeping them both in place. Smiling at him in that way she had, she wiggled a little. "Are you comfortable? Can I get you a pillow?"

He couldn't help laughing at that as he released his grip, but made no move to get off her. "Actually, that would be nice. I'm kinda tired," he told her teasingly.

She pushed her fingers through his hair while staring into his eyes, her expression serious again. "What did they do to you?" she wanted to know.

That caused him to sigh and bury his face against her shoulder for a moment. "They put me in a cage for half a cycle, Aeryn. They wouldn't leave me alone, wouldn't give me space. I had no choice but to get out of there," he mumbled, then raised his head to face her again. "You were right. I can't go home. Not as long as they behave like savages."

She started caressing his face, tracing lines that hadn't been there before. "So, you and I are on the same ship now, huh?" she asked.

"Boat, Aeryn. You and I are in the same boat," he corrected her and smiled. "And that's true in every sense."

"Well, someday, they might change their ways. Someday you may be able to go home again," she said, unaccustomed to soothing others.

"Maybe," he agreed and kissed her softly. "But if I do, you're coming with me. We should talk some more about this."

She nodded and kissed him back. "Yes, but not right now," she replied, wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer.