Aeryn apparently believed that the worst was over and with D'Argo's help got John back to his quarters and back to bed. She went as far as propping his foot up on a few pillows she got from neighboring cells, draped the cover over him and handed him his com. "Just in case you need something," she stated.

John eyed her for a moment, then nodded once. "Thanks," he said, not so sure he meant it. He was a little tired of her insensitivity and found that he was more homesick at this very moment than he had been at any time since arriving in this wacky part of the universe.

Aeryn stared at him for a moment, then sighed, nodded once as if undecided about what to do next, and then took off. D'Argo had gone back to bed already and that left John pretty much to his own devices.

Uncertain about the whole deal in general, John settled in for what would undoubtably be a painful night and wished desperately that Zhaan was here. They were all aliens, but Zhaan was more of a mother figure than any of the others could possibly be. Chiana, where ever she was at the moment, was like his baby sister. Aeryn was like the girl next door who hated his guts because she thought he was stupid. D'Argo was the semi-intelligent next door neighbor who thought he had all the answers but in truth knew very little. Rygel didn't care. He couldn't be compared to anyone on that account alone. Which left Pilot and Moya, who could do fairly little on account of being who they were.

Half-asleep already, John focused on his throbbing foot and wished himself far away before sleep claimed him completely.

***

Aeryn tried to sleep after this eventful end of the daycycle, but found that she could not get her mind off Crichton. She tossed and turned for awhile until she gave up on sleeping and got up again.

To compensate for the lower temperatures during the nightcycle, she pulled on some loose-fitting pant, pulled a long-sleeved top over her head and headed on bare feet toward Crichton's quarters.

Almost there, she slowed down and listened more carefully. He was probably dreaming, because he was mumbling and moaning. With a slight shrug of the shoulders, she continued on to the doorway and stepped inside. She figured she would sit with him a while to make sure he was all right.

When she stepped closer to the bed, she realized that this was probably a good idea. He had halfway kicked the covers off and was literally bathed in sweat. At the same time he was moving restlessly, rolling his head from side to side and seemed to have trouble breathing properly.

Aeryn settled down on the edge of his bed and even before touching him, she could feel the heat radiating off him. Gingerly, she touched the back of one hand to his sweat soaked brow and just as quickly yanked it away again. He was uncomfortably hot for her to touch.

Without delay, she pulled the covers completely off him and noted that the tourniquet had loosened. "Frell," she muttered and made a quick survey of how far the red lines on his leg had progressed. They were almost to his hip now. "This is not good," she whispered. "Crichton," she added, louder. "Crichton, wake up," she repeated, grabbed his right shoulder and tried to shake him lightly. His eyelids slid open halfway, revealing glassy, bloodshot eyes underneath. He blinked heavily a few times, then finally focused on her.

"Aeryn?" he muttered.

She pressed two fingers to his lips. "Shh. Be quiet. I just wanted to make sure you were still aware. The tourniquet has loosened. The toxin has spread," she added. "You need to take some more Nasthin pills. Is there anything else you need?"

"Water," he muttered. "I need water." With a bit of an effort, he raised his head and looked down at his leg. "Damn. This is not good."

"No, it is not," she agreed. "Do you have any ideas on how to stop it?"

He appeared to struggle with his mind for a moment, then let his head drop back down on the pillow and closed his eyes with a anguished sigh. "Cut it off," he suggested sluggishly.

Aeryn frowned. "Cut what off?" she asked. Surely he did not mean she should cut his leg off. That would be crazy.

"Stop it from going further," he rasped.

Aeryn assumed he meant she should stem the progress of the toxin somehow. She eyed his thigh for a moment, then nodded and moved the tourniquet further up, tightened it around his upper thigh which drew a grunt of pain from him, and then took off for the med bay to get some essentials that might help her deal with this situation better.

***

John couldn't think straight. His head was full of cotton balls and they got in the way of his thoughts. All he could focus on at that point was that there was something around his thigh that was hurting.

"Too tight," he muttered and fingered the tourniquet in an attempt to loosen it. But it wouldn't budge.

There was something about some pills. He couldn't remember who had said it or where they were, but someone had mentioned some pills. And he figured he needed them. With an almost inhuman effort, he focused his eyes and looked around. Every move he made with his eyes made him dizzy and he was most inclined to just give it up, but there was a strong undercurrent of need there. He needed those pills.

Eventually, he found them and stuffed two of them into his mouth, but he couldn't swallow them. Not until someone held a cup of water to his lips, that was.

He gulped the life-giving water down eagerly and for some reason, the water seemed to clear his mind a little. He blinked sluggishly up at Aeryn and licked his lips. "I don't feel so good," he whispered.

"I realize that," she agreed. Her attention was turned away from him and he wondered what she was doing until he felt a sharp pain in his thigh.

"Ow," he rasped and tried to sit up, but Aeryn pushed him back down. This was followed by another sharp pain on the other side of his thigh, which again brought a sound of suffering from him. "What are you doing?" he rasped.

"What you told me to do," she countered indifferently.

He somehow managed to get his head up and noted that she had put something under his leg and that he was bleeding. He couldn't remember what he might have said to her right now, but he assumed she knew what she was doing.

For a moment, he couldn't think of anything to say and he almost drifted off again. But then something sprang to mind and he blinked furiously for a moment to keep his eyes open before focusing on her again. "You don't like me very much, do you?"

Aeryn glanced briefly at him before returning her attention to his leg. "I like you just fine," she replied, but to him she didn't sound very sincere.

"No, you don't. You don't like me. Why not?" he asked.

Again she glanced at him for a brief moment before returning her attention to whatever she was looking for. "You're not Sebacean," she stated quietly. "I have to get used to that. You look Sebacean."

"And you look Human, but you're not one. That doesn't mean I don't like you," he tried.

She sighed, a heavy, heartfelt sound, and shook her head. Then she set about bandaging the cuts in his thigh after cleaning them and didn't deign to answer him.

"You don't like me," he stated quietly. "Guess I'll have to live with that, huh?"

Aeryn finished bandaging his thigh, then turned her attention fully to him. "I do like you, Crichton," she said. "I'm just not used to your kind, all right?"

***

Aeryn assumed that his babbling was caused by the fever and she knew no better way to lower a high temperature than by making the surroundings colder. Since she did not want to drag him out of bed and into the cleansing unit at this point, she settled for the next best thing. "Pilot, could you please lower the temperatures on this level? Crichton is not doing so well. He needs it cooler," she said.

"Of course, Officer Sun," Pilot replied at once. She assumed he and Moya were keeping an eye on their protegee as well and couldn't help smiling vaguely at the thought.

"Thank you," she said. The part where she thanked the pilot of a leviathan for doing what should be natural was something she still had to get used to completely, but she found it easier to deal with the others if she did not take their help for granted and showed appreciation for it as well.

The temperatures on their tier plummeted within moments and it became even a little frigid for Aeryn. But the lower temperatures seemed to do Crichton good. The level of intense heat he radiated abated to a tolerable level and after a moment, he slipped off to sleep again.

Moments later, a large, looming shape turned up in the doorway. The Luxan had his bedsheets wrapped around him and looked positively miserable. "Why the frell is it so cold here?" he asked, his voice heavy with sleep.

"He has a fever. I do not want to get those wounds of his wet, so I decided to ask Pilot to lower the temperatures instead. It is working," she explained and rose. "If you don't like these temperatures, I suggest you move one tier up or down," she added and hugged herself against the chill.

D'Argo eyed her for a moment, then nodded. For once he did not take everything she had to say as a personal insult, but rather agreed with her. Well, wonders certainly would never cease. Where they actually beginning to get along? Aeryn could not help but smile at the thought. Only days before, the idea would have been farfetched. Now it seemed plausible.

"Keep me posted," he said, turned around and headed toward the passage for the next tier.

"I will," she said quietly, grabbed another blanket from one of the shelves and wrapped it around herself. She was not about to leave Crichton to his own devices while he was this affected by the toxin.

Intent on keeping vigil over him for this night, she settled down on the floor and leaned back against the edge of the bed. Only time would tell if he would feel better at the start of the daycycle.

***

John woke up shivering. He felt lousy to say the least. His right leg hurt from the tip of his toes to his hip, his mouth was dry, and for a brief moment he wished someone or something would knock him out, because he sure didn't feel like being awake.

His right hand felt numb and at first his brain sluggishly came up with the idea that the toxin has spread further in his bloodstream and that he was going to die soon. But then he realized that he had pulled the covers off his right side and that every bit of exposed skin felt frozen. He exhaled shakily and his breath formed a small cloud in front of his mouth.

"Shit, that's cold," he whispered hoarsely.

Despite the chills rippling through him, he slowly became more alert and more aware of his surroundings. At that point, he also realized that Aeryn was sitting next to his bed, asleep from what he could tell.

With a shaking hand, he reached out for her shoulder and she nearly jump to her feet when he touched her. A sharp intake of breath and then she froze in position, up on one knee, her right hand slapped against her right thigh where her pulse pistol normally would be. It took her a second or two to realize that there was no danger and then she exhaled in a sigh. "Frell, Crichton," she said through clenched teeth. "You scared the dren out of me."

He managed a shaky smile. "Sorry," he rasped, his voice as shaky as his smile. "Could you turn up the heat? I'm freezing my ass off here."

"Of course," she agreed. "Pilot? I think the temperatures are a little low at the moment," she called.

"I only just became aware of how low they had become. My apologies," Pilot's voice rang from the com.

"No harm done," Aeryn assured him and touched the back of one hand to John's brow. "It did the trick. He's no longer feverish."

"That is good to hear," Pilot replied.

The temperatures began to rise as Aeryn settled down on the edge of John's bed. "How are you feeling?" she inquired.

"Like shit," he confessed. "My leg hurts like hell. What the hell happened?"

She pulled the cover away from his leg and inspected the tourniquet and the general state of his leg. "Your condition worsened," she said and frowned briefly. "The lines have not disappeared," she added.

He tried to raise his head, but gave up on it again. He felt dizzy and weak. "How'd they get all the way up there?" he asked, assuming that the tourniquet around the upper part of his thigh indicated that the toxin had spread further despite all attempts to prevent it.

"You must have loosened the tourniquet while you were feverish. I looked in on you and found you with a very high fever," she explained, then frowned and touched his brow again. "Why are you so dry?" she asked. "Your skin is dry and hot."

"I don't feel hot," he countered and struggled to suppress a shiver.

"Frell," Aeryn muttered. "I never thought I would say this, but I wish Zhaan was here. I have no frelling idea what I am supposed to do about this," she added.

"Keep the tourniquet in place, I guess," John tried, but had to admit to himself that he didn't know the procedure either. He coughed lightly, but found he didn't have much strength to do so.

"Well, as long as the lines do not spread further, I think we can safely assume that we have stemmed the flow of the toxin. But I do not think it is out of your body," Aeryn said and glanced toward the ceiling. "Pilot, how far are we away from the rendevous point?"

"About a solarday at our present speed," Pilot replied.

"Is there any way to cut that short and let Zhaan know we're coming?" Aeryn asked on, still looking up at the ceiling.

"We can make a few starburst. That would cut the travel time by half. I shall try to raise Zhaan. Is the Commander not getting better?" Pilot replied, the concern in his tone obvious.

"No, he is not," Aeryn confirmed. "Please do so, Pilot. The sooner we get there, the better."

"Agreed," Pilot said.

John had watched her idly throughout her conversation with Pilot and finally confirmed one thing he had been in doubt about ever since arriving in this end of the universe. She did like him. She had to or she would not go out of her way to help him like this.

His first inclination was to grab her hand and thank her, but he figured she would deny it and perhaps keep her distance in future and he didn't want that. So he kept quiet and reminded himself to thank her later; when she had defrosted a little more. There was hope for her yet.

"What are you grinning at?" Aeryn suddenly asked and looked back down at him.

"Nothing. Just tired, I guess," he countered.

"Rest. I will go freshen up and be back in half an arn. Call me on the com if you need anything," she added and rose again. "And do not try to play brave. If you feel worse, you let me know."

"Gotcha," he agreed. And he would stick to that too. He was too afraid of this crap spreading any further.

***

Aeryn took a quick shower and was back in action a quarter of an arn later. She checked in on Crichton, who was asleep, and with nothing else to do, she decided to find out how fast they could get to where they were going.

"Pilot," she called.

"Yes, Officer Sun," he replied immediately.

"How far do we still have to go? And did you get a hold of Zhaan?" she asked while heading toward Command.

"Moya and I have been able to cut our ETA down to six arns. And yes, I have managed to get through to Zhaan. She will be waiting for us at the rendevous point," he replied.

"Good. Six arns is better than a full solarday," Aeryn muttered under her breath. "Did you fill her in?" she added.

"I told her the essentials," Pilot agreed.

"I assume she thinks we're incompetent," Aeryn said and stopped in front of the console in Command. "Essentially, we are. We can't even go on a frelling supply run without one of us getting hurt."

Pilot rumbled something, fell silent for a moment and then focused on her. "The Commander seems especially prone to get himself in trouble," he said after a moment. "Zhaan, however, does not think you are incompetent," he added. "She really had nothing to say on the matter."

Aeryn arched an eyebrow. The Delvian was probably resting her case until she was back on board. With a halfhearted snort, Aeryn turned her attention to the console and studied the readouts. She needed to feel grounded right now and doing something she understood helped her immensely in that task. "Thank you for the update, Pilot," she said and glanced toward the clamshell. Pilot's image was gone, but she knew he heard her just the same.

***

D'Argo, annoyed over the previous night's interruption and the cold, was not in a good mood. Assuming that he would find that frelling ex-Peacekeeper hovering over that incompetent Human, he made his way to Crichton's quarters to get an update on the situation.

The microt he stepped into John's quarters, though, he took back any annoyed thoughts he'd had about the man. He looked pale enough to pass for a Nebari and did not generally strike D'Argo as being in good shape at all.

"John?" he asked quietly and stepped closer to the bed.

Crichton opened his eyes sluggishly. "Hey, D'Argo. What's new?" he asked, desperately trying to sound cheerful and missing by a metra.

"I'd like to ask you the same," D'Argo replied and settled down on the edge of the bed. "We can't frelling take you anywhere without you getting in trouble, now can we?" he asked with a smile to take any edges off his words. "You look like dren, my friend."

John grinned halfheartedly and briefly closed his eyes. "Trust me, I feel like it too," he said. "Where's the illustrious Officer Sun?"

"I thought she would be here, but as she is not, I assume she is in Command or elsewhere," D'Argo replied.

"Yeah, unless she's had enough and has taken off in that prowler of hers," John said with a grin that quickly turned to a grimace. "Damn, I feel crappy. My stomach is acting up too."

Before D'Argo could find an appropriate response to that comment, John suddenly pushed himself onto his side, hung his head over the edge of the bed and threw up. D'Argo only barely avoided being spattered by what appeared to large amounts of half-digested Nashtin pills. John coughed and started heaving again, bringing up more pills.

Although D'Argo felt mostly like abandoning the scene right there and then, he stayed put for John's sake. It was not very nice to leave someone so obviously in need of help to their own devices. Fortunately, the DRDs were quick to respond to the untidiness that John's vomiting caused and a barrage of them came in to clean it up microts after the event.

D'Argo retrieved a basin and put it on the floor next to the bed before going to the cleansing unit to moisten a piece of cloth which he then placed on John's decidedly hot and at the same time clammy brow. "You should perhaps cut back on the cleansing pills," he suggested. "They do not do anyone good if taken on an empty stomach."

John groaned and wiped the back of one shivering hand over his lips. If he had looked like death before, he looked the part even more now. His skin had become nearly transparent and he was sweating profusely despite the – in D'Argo's opinion – decidedly low temperatures of this tier.

"Tell that to Aeryn. She's the one who insists I should keep taking them," John rasped.

"And it is not a bad idea. They probably keep the poisoning at bay," D'Argo said. "But you should not take them without eating something first. I will find you some food. And maybe a good hot cup of raslac would make you feel better too," he added.

"No, no alcohol."

D'Argo glanced over at the doorway and found Aeryn standing there, arms crossed over her chest, her expression tense. "It always helps me feel better," he tried.

"Yes, but you are Luxan. He is not. If his physiology is similar to anyone on board, it would be mine," she stated. "And alcohol mixed with a poisoning is not a good idea." Her stern gaze flicked to John and it mellowed out a little, which surprised D'Argo somewhat. He had not expected the tough ex-Peacekeeper to have any compassion for their sick shipmate. "But you are correct. He should eat." Again, she flicked a gaze back to D'Argo. "Will you take care of that?"

D'Argo rose, glanced briefly down at John who looked like he would rather be anywhere else but here, and then nodded. "Yes, I will. Just do not give him any more of those pills before he has eaten," he replied.

Aeryn rolled her eyes, but refrained from commenting.

They changed places and D'Argo went in search of something edible for John while Aeryn settled down on the edge of his bed to keep an eye on him in the meantime.

***

"Feel lousy often?" John couldn't help a pained grin at his own words.

Aeryn eyed him suspiciously for a moment, then arched and eyebrow and glanced down her hands lying loosely in her lap. "Crichton," she said, but stalled, an unusual thing for her to do. She drew in a deep breath and let it out again in a sigh.

"Whatever you wanna say, Aeryn, it's okay. You don't have to say anything. I didn't watch my step and I should have realized by now what kind of crap that gets me into," he cut her off before she could say anything further.

She gave him a dark look and said nothing for a moment. Then she sighed again and he knew for certain that she had something on her mind, something she could not get herself to say. He fantasized briefly about how she would break down and tell him she really did care about him and she didn't want him to die and he almost felt like laughing out loud. She was a warrior, a solider, and people like her didn't have romantic breakdowns.

"I was not about to accuse you, although you could have been more careful," she said quietly. She hesitated again, but only briefly this time. "To be honest, I do not know what to say," she added. "This is not a situation I have experienced before."

"What? Other's being sick?" he asked with a slight frown of his own.

"Well, not so much sick as injured," she clarified. "Peacekeepers do not get sick."

"Oh, yeah, that's right," he said and wished she would leave him alone for a bit. He felt queasy again and had no particular need to hurl in front of her. With no control over such things, he begrudgingly had to acknowledge that she wasn't going away and his stomach wasn't going to behave itself.

Aeryn, however, surprised him by reaching for the basin suddenly and bringing it up just the minute he decided to have another go at getting rid of the cleansing pills; or rather what remained of them.

His stomach convulsed a couple of times and all the while Aeryn just sat there and held the basin without saying a word or making a move. Feeling a lot worse for wear, John rolled onto his back. He kept his eyes closed while trying to ascertain if he had met his destiny out here in the middle of nowhere or if there was still a chance of survival. Truth be told, he felt like he was dying, but he would not allow himself to even consider that option in any real way.

Aeryn pressed a hand onto his sweaty brow for a moment and her hand was wonderfully cool.

"Are you feeling better?" she asked quietly.

He wiped a shivering hand over his lips and opened his eyes a little. "Not by a long shot," he replied hoarsely and tried to smile.

For some reason, that pulled a smile from her, a rare and rather radiant thing to behold for him. "Well, if it is any consolation, I am certain that you look worse than you feel," she said.

He couldn't stop himself from grinning helplessly at that. No matter how poorly he felt right now, she had found the key to the kingdom by making him smile. Thing always looked better to him if others could joke around him when he was sick. It was when the jokes stopped that things got bad for him. "Not possible," he claimed.

***

A few arns later, they had reached the rendevous point and Zhaan was back on board with all her medical knowledge. She examined John, then the spine, concocted an antidote and fed it to him. It would take a few arns to work, but in general she saw no reason for that John should suffer any side-effects apart from the obvious fatigue.

Like a caring mother, she sat at his bedside after administering the antidote. "You really should be more careful where you step, John," she said, her tone mildly admonishing and quite a bit bemused. Then she glanced at Aeryn and D'Argo, who both stood by the doorway. "And you two should know better. If there is no sentient life on a planet, it usually means that something small and nasty has wiped it out. Next time, I suggest you choose a regular commerce planet rather than an unpopulated one that might kill one of you."

Neither of them had anything to say to that, but John fancied that Aeryn did look a little guilt-ridden by Zhaan's words.

Zhaan returned her attention to John and smiled. "Now, I suggest we leave John alone so he can sleep a bit," she added, reached out and cupped a hand against his cheek. "You will be quite weak for a few solardays. I want you to take it easy, you hear me?"

"Yes, mommy," he replied with a tired grin. "Don't worry. Nothing short of a frontal attack on Moya is gonna get me out of this bed," he added.

"Good," Zhaan said and then glanced back at Aeryn and D'Argo. "Which one of you had the idea to use the Nashtin cleansing pills?"

Aeryn glanced at D'Argo, who in turn glanced at her. "I did," she then said and it was painfully obvious that she expected to be chewed out for it.

Zhaan rose. "That was very clever. It is most likely what saved his life," she said, glanced back down at John and winked at him.

Even though Zhaan was probably serious about it, John understood why she bothered to tell Aeryn that she had done good. Like anybody else John had ever met, Aeryn too needed a little pat on the back now and again. Even though she was a high-and-mighty Peacekeeper – according to Rygel, that was – she had feelings too.

To John's secret delight, the Delvian's words brought a bit of color to Aeryn's otherwise mostly pale cheeks. It was good to know that she was affected by Zhaan's words. That meant she was growing, becoming more than she had probably ever thought she could.

Zhaan left and D'Argo followed suit, but Aeryn lingered. She stood by the doorway, arms crossed over her chest, and looked absolutely stunning in the loose pants and a sweater that was too big for her and hence hung off one shoulder, leaving the other one bare.

For a moment, all she did was stand there and stare at him. Then she smiled. It was a quirky little smile, but a smile nonetheless. "I'm ..." she started, but hesitated. Something about what she was about to say either didn't sit well with her or left her searching for words. She sighed and glanced away briefly. Then she smirked. There was no other word for that twitch of one corner of her lips. "I'm glad you are going to be all right," she said. "It is always nice to know that there is someone dumber than me around."

At what point things had changed John didn't know, but he did not take offense at her words because he knew now that she didn't mean them. Instead, he gave her a grin back. "Thanks for the effort, Aeryn. I really appreciate it."

She pursed her lips. "And ... just for your information," she said, intent on ignoring his praise it seemed. "I do like you," she finished, nodded once as if confirming that she had said all she wanted, then turned around and left him to his own devices.

No matter how tired and sore he was, he couldn't help grinning like a goon at that. "Oh yeah, she likes me all right," he muttered to himself. Content in the knowledge that things were getting better, he shifted himself into a more comfortable position and drifted off to sleep mere moments later.

The End