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

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Still new to each other, John and Aeryn don't quite understand or trust each other yet.

Author's note: Written for the 53. Starburst Challenge on Terra Firma.


'Oh god, I can't believe it.' Those were the words that kept tumbling through his head. Many had told him not to trust others so easily, but it was so hard for him to see the dark side of things. He preferred to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. Trusting her had seemed the right thing to do even though she considered him inferior. "It is the only way we can get off this world without being captured." Her words rang loud and clear in his head. The idea she had offered had not been one he considered to be the ultimate solution to their problem, but man, he hadn't expected her to turn him over to the PKs without so much as the bat of an eyelash.

"Stupid, John," he berated himself and gave the locked door that kept him from freedom a solid kick. "Stupid, stupid, stupid! You should know better than trusting those that don't like you."

He leaned into the door, pressed his brow against it, and wished once more that he'd heeded the butterflies in his stomach and had stayed at home where it was safe.

A snort escaped him. Safe? Yeah, but then again ... he'd always been drawn to the unsafe, hadn't he? What was the fun in safe, after all? "Dammit," he growled, pushed away from the door and took a few steps back, a cynic little smile playing on his lips. "Not human. She may look it, but she sure as hell isn't human." Despair crept up on him, threatening to dim his otherwise positive outlook on life.



The moment they had grabbed him, roughly, she had started to doubt. The plan had been so well formed in her mind. Obviously there were always uncertainties in plans that involved others there weren't in on the plan, but if he had been a Peacekeeper, this plan would have gone off without a hitch. But he was weak, inferior. She could take him down without trying too hard. And there was that incessant trust he bestowed on others, that compassion he clung to so tightly. "Frell," she muttered.

The Peacekeeper soldiers were gone. None of them had questioned her right to be there. As planned, they had taken Crichton to the local prison, to await transfer to the next Command Carrier, but that was were the plan began to unravel. At least she feared it would because how would Crichton ever be able to live up to his part of this plan? Handing him over to the Peacekeepers had been the first step and would give her the in she needed. But she feared he had misunderstood the next step if his expression had been anything to go by. And she feared even more that he would not have been able to carry out his side of the plan anyway. "Dren," she added more forcefully and decided to revise the plan. The Peacekeepers on this world did not know her. Apparently, the word of her 'betrayal' had not reached this far yet. And that gave her an advantage and the opportunity to revise the plan.



Pacing brought him nothing. He couldn't concentrate because of the fear he felt. It was the betrayal at her hands that he couldn't get over. It numbed him.

Then suddenly he came to a stop. What exactly had she said? The plan was they got arrested. But then she had turned him over to the others without any hesitation and had gone free herself. But was that right? He thought back over their hasty and whispered discussion. No, she had said he would have to get arrested to give her an in. She would then break him out once she was among the Peacekeepers. And then what?

If he had that right, she would be here soon and they would have to fight their way out. But was that the only way? Had she set him up or had he just misunderstood the plan? Admittedly, there were times when he didn't really understand her. All that military lingo she used, and her attitude. It made him see red. He kept it under wraps, but sometimes her distrust of him was really rubbing him the wrong way.

What if she decided to leave him here? She had, more than once, declared that she'd had enough of him and his inferiority, and that he was no good to her in a fight.

So, if she had abandoned him, gone back to the others with some bullshit story about how his inferiority had gotten him killed, what then? Where would he end up? Would that psycho Crais get his grubby little hands on him? These Peacekeepers really didn't seem to be that nice a bunch.



She made her way into the base without any resistence. Nobody gave her a second look. She was just another grunt with some undefined purpose and as long as she could keep that up, she was going to get through this.


The sound of that voice was commanding. Superior officer, it would appear. She stopped and turned back to face the man. "Sir?" It was frightening how easily she slipped back into the old patterns of the life she had been forced to leave behind.

He eyed her up and down, obviously appreciating what he saw. "Would you be free to recreate now?"

Sometimes she wondered about males. They appeared to have little other than fighting or frelling in mind. "I have orders, sir." A quick look at his insignia told her she was not obligated to divulge the contents of those orders to him. He had no right to ask.

His expression tightened a little. He was displeased by her refusal and obviously less than interested in the contents of her made-up orders. "I am certain your orders can wait an arn."

"They cannot," she countered sternly. The corridor was deserted now apart from the officer and herself. It hadn't been vastly populated to begin with, which was why she had chosen this route to the prison. "I am on a tight schedule."

He stepped toward her, obviously intent on pursuing his interests despite her opposition. "Half an arn then?"

She eyed him and wondered if she would ever have found him attractive. At this point in time he nearly repulsed her and she was hard pressed to not show it. "I have my orders, sir," she insisted and sent quick glances either way to reassure herself that there were no witnesses.

"No sense in looking for help, solider. This corridor is rarely used and only during guard change which is still an arn away," the officer confided in her with a beginning leer on his lips. His intentions were clear. She had encountered males like him before, but never to this extent.

Aeryn met his gaze dead on, then gave him a cold smile. "Frell you," she countered and jerked one knee up. The impact sent him reeling and the butt of her pulse riffle sent him to the ground. Pressing the muzzle of the riffle against his head, she fought with herself over whether or not to shoot him. If she did, she would have to get rid of the body somehow. If she didn't, he would sound the alarm the microt he came around. The latter was unacceptable.

"Frell you," she repeated and pulled the trigger. The part of her that had been a Peacekeeper at heart died a little more with every injustice she encountered at her former colleagues hands. Shooting this fekkik made little difference to her at this point. With its charring abilities this close up, the blast not only killed him, but left no trace of his demise either. She dumped the body in the nearest waste disposal unit, briefly wondering if these units had been built this big to allow such actions, then hurried on toward the prison cells.



The sound of the door mechanism made him scurry backward, away from the door. There was no way for him to fight whatever came next, but he would give it his best, if only by shooting off his mouth.

The door swung open and there she was. In part surprised, in part relieved, he stared at her for a moment.

"What the frell are you waiting for? We have to go," she snapped and stepped aside to let him out.

"Right, we have to go," he agreed, a little rattled. Yup, he'd gotten it wrong, and the gratitude washed over him in the same wave as the embarrassment and guilt over his previous thoughts.

The second he was out in the corridor, she grabbed the front of his t-shirt and slammed him hard enough into the wall to make it hurt. "Now, you listen to me and you listen good, Crichton. From now on and until we reach the prowler bay, you are a Peacekeeper. You will not speak, you will not look at anyone, you will not smile, you will not crack your stupid jokes. You will do as I tell you and you will do it without hesitation. Do I make myself clear?"

Her attitude made him think she was nervous and he couldn't blame her. Despite these being her people, they were among enemies. "Yeah, sure. Not a word. I promise," he agreed readily. He could have words with her later about her attitude. Right now they needed to be gone, and fast.

She stared at him for a second longer, probably to ensure herself that he had understood her, then released him and stepped back. "Stay one step behind me and move quickly. The faster we get there, the less likely it is that we will be discovered," she said, turned and started walking.

He pushed away from the wall and hurried to follow her, still almost overwhelmed by gratitude that she hadn't just left him behind.



Somehow they made it out. Somehow, they managed to get back to Moya and away from this system. And Aeryn had time to think a little about what had actually gone on down there.

No matter what happened, she would never be able to return to the Peacekeepers. Not as long as Crais was around and the order for her irreversible contamination stood. But what had struck her most was the fact that she really didn't want to return to them. Their rules seemed rigid and arcane to her at this point.

The sound of footsteps made her look up from where she sat on the forward bench in Command and she watched Crichton stepping inside.

He stopped just inside the door, his attitude hesitant. "Hi," he tried, his right hand jerking upward a little.

Aeryn, who had so far been sitting with her elbows resting on her thighs, sat up straight.

"I ..." He hesitated, obviously uncertain around her as he seemed most of the time. He drew in a deep breath, steeling himself, then gave her that quirky little lop-sided grin he seemed to draw on in times of doubt. "I'm sorry. I misunderstood the plan."

She continued to eye him, well aware at this point how much her silence unnerved him.

"What was the plan? I get arrested? And then what?"

It had occurred to her, upon their arrival back at Moya, that he might have misunderstood her. He had seemed a little harried with the Peacekeepers breathing down their necks and the standing order for his arrest obviously more prominent than her betrayal. In part she felt she should have been annoyed by this, but for some reason she wasn't. "Does it matter?" she asked.

A frown fluttered over his brow and his gaze skipped over the interior of Command for a moment before settling back on her. "Guess not," he said with a vague shrug. "I just wanted to ... you know ... say I'm sorry. I messed up."

What response could she give to that? "It worked out. No need for apologies," she said and rose.

"Yeah, but it wouldn't have if you hadn't ..." He paused, still uncertain. "You revised the plan, didn't you? Maybe you're right. Maybe I am incompetent out here. I ... I'm still trying to adjust, you know."

Thinking back over the past weekens, she realized that her previous response to this would have been anger, to throw his incompetence in his face and rub it in, but she did not feel like doing that now. A growing part of her wanted to do what she had told him she hated; to sympathize. "Will you ever learn to leave well enough alone?" she asked.

He stared at her, a little taken aback, then smiled lightly. "Guess not. I'm just a dumb old Human, after all."

It very nearly made her smile too. If there was one thing she was beginning to understand about him at this point, then it was that he was anything but dumb. "You are hardly old by Sebacean standards," she claimed. "And, as I said, no need for apologies. It worked out as it should." With that, she left Command behind with a smile on her lips; one she had been sure to hide until he could no longer see her face.

The End