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

Rating: G

Synopsis: Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Life was not always easy. Well, it had been before she had met ... him. Aeryn Sun closed her eyes tightly against that thought and forced herself back into that calm spot she had found; the spot where nobody could touch her; the spot where her heart was allowed to beat slowly and steadily without the painful cramps, the stabbing pain, which seemed to be a part of her existence now.

She had gone away, had taken the first step away from the shadow that was him, the man that wasn't quite the man she had loved and lost, and yet he was. It was so confusing, so upsetting, so painful and insane that she saw no other option. She needed to get away, needed some space, some time to figure out what to do next, how to handle the situation, her feelings, her aching heart. She needed to be away from him to work out how to heal the holes in her soul.

Tired after a long day of hard work, she dropped down on her cot in her sparse and very private quarters among a flock of people who had once been Peacekeepers, but were no more. Or rather, as their reluctant and reclusive leader had put it, they had returned to what it meant to be a Peacekeeper. Aeryn hadn't given this whole setup any real thought before, but over the past few solardays she had started to question the sanity in this. There really was none, now that she thought about it. But this felt too much like home, too much like the command carrier she had grown up on, lived on. These people were like her, thought like her, did everything like she used to, and it was so easy to fall back into the old patterns. There was comfort in it, comfort and security.

Oh, but to stop her stirring mind. Things learned since her departure from this life had made an impact, had burrowed deep into her soul and hung on with talons sharp and long. She could not shake them, could no longer pretend that all was well. This place, these people, they were living in a dream, her dream, her memories of how it had been, of how it should have been. A monan among them and she was beginning to long for more, for less maybe, for something different. Too much order, too little difference. They were like drones, copies, all doing what they were told, ordered by the one they called their leader. None of them questioned the orders, but she did. She found herself asking silently why, found herself wondering about the rightness of this order or that, wondered if the strategy had been thought through, if the consequences had been taken into consideration.

She missed his laugh. That was really all it came down to. When she had a quiet moment, spent from a day roaming the planet's surface, searching for intruders or just doing field exercises, she missed his quirky little laugh. She missed the way he would try to look angry when all she had to do was look into his eyes and see the smile there. He was never angry for long. But he was oh-so-vulnerable, oh-so-fragile. And she had realized that being around him made her that way too. She could look at him and feel her heart breaking in all the wrong ways. He was too open, too different to survive in an unforgiving galaxy where nothing was what it seemed. Perhaps, if she hadn't felt the way she did about him, she could have taught him to be tough, to be a soldier, but she couldn't bring herself to shatter what little was left of his innocence, his hope. For the hope was what made him who he was, either version of him.

Stretching out on the cot, she folded her hands behind her head and stared up at the slate-gray stone of her chamber while she felt the chill of the stone her elbow was resting against creep into her body. This place had ghosts. Many more than she had seen on Valldon. This world belonged to the dead, now and forever.

When she closed her eyes again, she could see the glitter of light reflected off a small, round object spinning through the air. A coin-toss, he had called it. It was supposed to resemble fate. He believed in fate, was convinced that there was something out there controlling their destinies. She wasn't so sure. If there really was some type of deity out there, an equivalent to the builders of the leviathan race, how could this ... being, this entity allow so much pain?

She sighed deeply when the scene of the falling coin once again played over the inside of her lids. Holding her breath, she had watched as time nearly crept to a halt while the silver slice of metal spun almost lazily through the air until it hit the floor of the bay, jumped off it and landed again. It had settled almost slowly and she had strained her eyes for a microt to see which side was up. Her side, the one she had chosen. So, was that fate?

She had raised her gaze then to look at him, to see the disappointment she knew would be there. What she hadn't really been prepared for was the pain and, more prominently, the fear. And then he had raised his gaze to meet hers and they had just stared at each other for a few, painful heartbeats.

"We're in the hands of fate now. We have to trust in that."

She had said those words, a halfhearted apology, a plea in disguise to make him understand why she had to do what she was about to. She had no words for how she really felt. The pain, the bewilderment, the anguish inside her. It had no voice, could not be spilt out on the floor like vicious liquid. All she could do was spout meaningless words and hope he realized that she had to go to maintain some margin of sanity.

Fate willing, they would meet again. What did that mean? Why had she even considered using a word she didn't really understand? Fate? What was fate? Fate was something he had brought with him. Wasn't it fair to assume that it would disappear again when he wasn't there any more? But no, it was still tumbling around in her mind and it was beginning to make sense; in a small way that she still did not entirely comprehend.

"What does it take?"

She heard his voice and for a moment believed she was imagining it. But then she raised her head a little and saw him sitting there, on the stool in the corner, dressed in those blue pants and the white tank top. His feet were bare, his hair short, his eyes questioning her.

"I thought I told you to go," she replied and sat up, almost afraid to blink lest he would disappear again. Despite her contrite words, she was glad to see him, her John.

"What does it take?" his ghost repeated.

"For what?" she asked back, not sure she wanted to talk to the dead.

"For you to understand."

Those words made her sigh. She didn't want to talk to him. She wanted him to come to her and hold her and tell her he loved her. "Understand what?" she asked.

"That he needs you."

"He doesn't need me. He's fine on his own," she disagreed and dropped back down on the cot. "He is John Crichton. There is nothing in this galaxy that can stop him."

"Except you, Aeryn Sun."

His voice so close, a whisper in her ear. When she closed her eyes, she could feel him near her, could feel his warm breath on her ear as he brushed his lips along the edge of it. "He's better off without me," she whispered back.

"I'm never better off without you, Aeryn. I need you. I will always need you."

So close. She refused to open her eyes, wanted nothing more than to feel him there, to listen to his voice. But his words disturbed her. "Yes," she agreed, "but you are not him. You're dead. He's alive."

"I am him. He is me. No matter what he says, no matter what I say. He needs you. I need you."

"Stop it," she demanded and sat up abruptly. "You are not him. He is not you. He said so. He does not believe it. Why should I?" Turning on the cot, she faced the ghost of her dead lover, angry and scared, close to tears. "Why do you torment me?"

He reached out and cupped a hand against her cheek, one she could almost feel. She wanted to close her eyes, lean into the touch. For the love of Cholok, how she missed his touch.

"I do not torment you, Aeryn. You do that yourself. You won't let me go, yet you won't embrace the living either. Don't you understand yet?"

Realization dawned in her like the sun of this world creeping over the horizon. What he said suddenly made sense. It penetrated her mind with a sharp, glowing blade and the knowledge of what he meant exploded like a thousand suns inside her mind.

"Embrace the living, Aeryn. Make me whole again."

She rose abruptly, her former fatigue forgotten, her mind clear and focused. After a monan, she suddenly knew the error of her ways, the almost fatal mistake she had made in leaving Moya and him behind. There was no time for thought, no time for goodbyes. She had to go, right now, take her prowler and search for the one she had lost. For there was only one and it was that one that she loved. With her gunbelt in one hand, she strode over to the door and opened it, but hesitated and glanced back over her shoulder at the ghost still sitting on the edge of her cot. He was smiling weakly at her and she couldn't help but return that smile with the sensation of tears in her eyes. "Now you can go," she whispered, turned her back on him and left.