Aeryn shifted her weight a little to get more comfortable, her conscious mind constantly shying away from what had happened to her. A part of her, the last remnants of her Peacekeeper past, was appalled by her weakness, but this new part of her that John had managed to conjure up was in opposition and getting stronger all the time. Her Peacekeeper self saw only one honourable way out of this one. If she had still been on a regiment among Peacekeepers, she would have been considered irreversibly contaminated and she would have shared that sentiment. On the other hand, if she had been part of a regiment now, they wouldn't have come for her. They would have left her to die among the bugs.

For a moment, she closed her eyes and focussed on the shoulder she was leaning against. "I'm tired," she muttered. She was and the thought of having to spend time here, in the med bay, made her shudder.

"Then let's get you to bed, babe," John said quietly. "I could use a little downtime myself."

There was healing in his nearness, a sense of belonging so strong it overrode her basic instincts, her upbringing, and levelled her urge to end this to get rid of the vermin inside her. Some part of her believed that if he could have, he would have carried her. She would have opposed it, but she knew him well enough by now to know that he did things like that. He just couldn't right now. Not with a bad arm and leg.

John slid off the examination table and helped her off it too, then wrapped his uninjured arm protectively around her. "We're gonna go get some shuteye," he said to D'Argo. "Could you make sure Sikozu gets her ass in gear before Aeryn needs another shot of that crap she cooked up?"

D'Argo nodded. "Of course," he agreed and left the bay with them. Chiana trailed after them, uncommonly quiet.

John guided her gently forward and she was very aware of the gentleness of his actions right now. In a sense, it should have either annoyed her or warmed her that he took such great care of her, but she was still rattled by the events that had lead to this moment and the thought of what she carried – twisted, disgusting life that did not belong inside her – made her feel stiff and cold and borderline nauseous.

They reached their quarters before she realized that she had somehow zoned out, lost track of the path they had taken, and she knew a few of her old instructors who would have kicked her behind for that sort of response.

John was tried, worn out from his fight and his wounds, and even though it was the last thing she wanted to do, she slipped into bed beside him and curled up against him. His warmth – at times too much for her to handle – was life-giving and calming. For a few moments, she managed to push it all out of her mind. But then the memories started pushing in again.

"Where is Little D?" she whispered.

"With Ryg," John replied, his voice a little sluggish. He was almost asleep and she knew he needed sleep. He had lost blood, had been wounded.

"You have to keep him away from me until this is over," she whispered.

John shifted a little and squinted at her. "Aeryn, babe ..."

"No," she said and slipped a hand over his lips to stop whatever he was going to say. "I'm infected. I can't risk anything with him." The thought of her son becoming infected made her physically sick. She shifted, sat up, and briefly considered the options, then got off the bed.

"Aeryn?" John pushed up on one elbow and watched her with concern. "Babe, come on."

"No, I shouldn't be around you either. What if I infect you too?" she tried.

John sat up and pulled his legs over the edge of the bed, displaying all the signs of fatigue and yet still he was getting up. "You're not going to infect me, Aeryn," he tried.

"But ..." She shook her head and grimaced. "I smell," she muttered. "I hate that smell." Intent on at least washing that stink of herself as she had intended previously, she turned toward the cleansing room, but stopped short again. "Frell," she whispered. "Something's wrong."

John pushed off the bed, got shakily to his feet, his expression marred by concern now. "Aeryn?"

She shifted back toward him, while her attention was locked on her torso and her fingers hovered denches away from the abominations hiding inside her. "Something's wrong," she repeated in a shaky voice.


John closed the distance to Aeryn and grabbed her shoulders, ignoring the pain in his right arm, and tried to determine what was going on. She had gone very pale all of a sudden. "Something's wrong," she insisted in a failing voice.

"Like what? What's wrong?" John countered and glanced down at her hands moving restlessly over her chest.

"I don't know. It feels different than before," she whispered, grabbed the hem of her t-shirt and pulled it up.

All John could think of doing was stare for a moment. The wounds, which had been mere slits before, were now gaping holes, and something white and slimy was wiggling its way out of them. They weren't bigger than the circumference of his thumb and the wormlike things wiggling their way out of Aeryn were smaller still.

She had gone completely rigid while she stared down herself and watched as one after another of these disgusting little worms wiggled their way out of the holes in her torso and dropped to the floor, where they continued to wiggle around.

John sidestepped one, stunned by what he was seeing, and utterly disgusted by the implications of these critters. As he brought his foot down again, he stepped on and crushed one of those slithering things and that broke his mental paralysis.

Within a moment he had crushed the lot of them, never once releasing Aeryn in the process. Every time another one of the larvae dropped to the floor, he stepped on it, squashing it into a pulp. The DRDs in the area were quick to respond to the mess and kept up with him by removing the remains almost at once.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, no further worms emerged. Aeryn had the whole time been rigid, her eyes locked on the emerging larvae, and John had to commend her for not losing it completely. He knew that if he had been in the same situation, he would have been screaming himself hoarse by now.

"Are they done?" she finally asked, her voice not above a whisper. She glanced up at him and he realized how close she was to how he would have felt if he was in her shoes.

"I think so," he whispered back and made a face. "We should scan you. Just in case," he added, realizing that his voice was just as unsteady as hers.

A shudder ran through her and for a moment he thought she might suffer the after-effects of this right now. But then she lowered the t-shirt and headed toward the door. Her gait was uneven at best and John hurried after her, still managing to ignore his own injuries that by comparison weren't interesting at all, and wrapped an arm around her. "Take it easy, babe," he admonished and cleared his throat to steady his voice.


They met the others halfway to the med bay and Sikozu held out the glass to Aeryn, who pushed it away.

"She doesn't need it any more," John said.

"What do you mean? If she does not drink this, the Nur'dur inside her will continue their growth," Sikozu countered almost angrily.

"Well, they decided to cut the occupancy short. They're gone," John replied. "I just want to scan her to make sure they're all out."

"Gone?" Chiana asked, her voice thick with surprise. "How can they be gone? What the frell is going on?"

"I don't know and I don't care. All I know is they're out," John said and pushed Aeryn forward.

"Crichton," Sikozu snapped, making them both stop dead in their tracks.

He glanced back at her. "What?"

"This is unprecedented. No female survives the Nur'dur. That is why they raid planets all the time. They need new breeders," she insisted, seeming almost upset that things had turned out okay.

John glanced at Aeryn, who looked like she'd rather be anywhere but here, and then sighed. "Look, Sputnik, whatever you think you know about these bugs, this is obviously wrong. Can't you just be happy that she's no longer in danger?"

"Perhaps it would be best if we take her to the medic anyway. Just in case," D'Argo inserted quietly.

John nodded. "I agree," he said and pushed Aeryn forward again, leaving the others behind.

Moments later, Aeryn was lying on the examination table and John was running the hand-held scanner over her chest and abdomen. Aeryn watched the three-dimensional rendition of herself carefully.

If it hadn't been for the once again closed wounds and the fact that she was tense enough to break something, it would appear nothing at all was wrong, and John couldn't help wondering about that. It was obvious that Aeryn was generally stronger than him, but her mentality since her return to Moya had seemed generally fragile.

"You okay?" he asked and finally lowered the scanner.

"Yes," she countered, still eying the results. "They seem to be gone," she added and sat up. Her voice was now painfully steady.

John eyed her for a moment. "Are you sure?" he insisted.

Aeryn turned her attention toward him and he could literally see the shutters closing. She was shutting down her emotions to handle this incident. It was probably instinct based on her upbringing, but he also knew what that could mean for their relationship. "I'm fine," she stressed and swung her legs over the edge of the table.

"I don't think so," he said quietly. "Aeryn, what you've just been through was traumatic enough to send you into a state of catatonia while you were among those bugs. I know you've reacted to it since, but ... I think I would have lost what little is left of my sanity if this had happened to me. I don't buy that you're fine."

She stared at him, her eyes wide, her demeanor that of a cornered and wounded animal, and he knew he hadn't heard the last of this. She was going to blow up at some point and when she did, it would be more dangerous if she was trying to hold it all in.

He put the scanner aside and instead grabbed her shoulders, getting as close to her as the table would let him. "I know you don't want to break down, Aeryn. I know you're tough and I know – without a doubt – that you can handle yourself. But you can't keep this in. You can't bottle this up and leave it to fester. If you do, it'll be so much harder to deal with when it finally comes to the surface. Just let it out. Just ... give in. There's no shame in that."

Her eyes seemed to widen a little more, but then she shut them, drew in a deep breath and held it for longer than he felt comfortable with. Then she opened her eyes again and focused on him. "I am not going to break down, John," she said firmly, her tone steady. "I am not going to deny what happened to me and I am not going to 'bottle it up', as you say. But there is no sense in losing my mind over something that is over. I was irrational before. I wanted them gone at any price. Well, now they are. It happened quickly and it happened painlessly. My life is not in danger and the larvae are dead. I got what I wanted. I'm fine."

He blinked rapidly a few times, then released her shoulders and took a step back. "Aeryn ..." he tried, but she interrupted him.

"I will see that medic if it makes you feel better, John, but I will not have a temper tantrum just to accommodate your idea of how I should respond to this. I am certain that once whatever those larvae secreted wears off I will be in pain. How could I not be? But the worst is over. I am alive, the larvae are no longer inside me, and I do not feel sick. Only disgusted," she said.

Once again, John was reminded of the fact that she wasn't human. He couldn't think of one single human female he'd ever known who could have taken a situation like this in stride. For a moment he was at a loss for words. Then he brushed the fingers of his left hand through his hair and made a face. "I'd feel better if you did see that medic," he agreed, then gave her a lopsided grin. "To be honest, Aeryn, I don't get how you can take it so calmly, all things considered," he added.

She arched an eyebrow in true Spock-style and slid off the table. "I can't discount that there won't be after-effects of this, John, but I do not feel like screaming or crying or anything like that. I'm glad it's over. I'm relieved it happened so quickly," she said and pushed away from the table. Almost immediately she grabbed his left arm to steady herself. "I may need to lie down for a bit, though," she added ruefully.

John could only grin. She was quite the character sometimes. "So do I," he admitted.


The medic turned out to be of the generous kind which was just as well since none of them had any credits worth speaking of. Upon learning that the Nur'dur larvae had left Aeryn of their own volition, he checked her out thoroughly without saying a word and Aeryn could tell that John was beginning to get a bit 'antsy', as he called it. He was watching the medic with a frown furrowing his brow and seemed set on standing as close to her as he could get.

"Well," the medic, a Sebacean male, said while still eying the results of his tests on a table-embedded screen in the examination room of this hospital – the best on the planet, he claimed. "It would seem that all is in order."

"We kinda knew that already," John replied and even his tone of voice gave away that he was having second thoughts about accepting the help of this medic. And Aeryn knew why. Nothing came for free in the Uncharted Territories. The chance that this medic had already turned them in was present, although Aeryn wasn't entirely certain the Peacekeepers were even looking for them any more.

The medic glanced up, appearing surprised that anyone was actually there, and then smiled. "Oh yes, of course," he agreed. "I must admit that I was rather surprised to learn that the larvae left you of their own volition," he added, turning his attention to Aeryn. "Normally, they pupate inside the host and ... well, let's say that their growth isn't something that allows the host to survive. They were worms, you say?"

Aeryn nodded. "About this thick," she said, holding up her thumb, "and twice as long."

The medic nodded. "How many do you estimate there were?" he asked and prodded the wounds on her chest lightly.

"About twelve or fourteen," she countered and glanced at John, who nodded.

"It seems like they had not grown at all since they hatched from the eggs," the medic said with a slight frown. "Very peculiar," he added thoughtfully, then sighed. "Well, it would be peculiar if you were fully Sebacean. But there is something else in your DNA that disputes that."

Aeryn sat up abruptly. "What the frell do you mean, I'm not fully Sebacean?" she demanded.

"That upsets you?" John asked, looking a little stunned.

She made a face, but refused to reply to that. "What the frell does that mean?" she insisted, her attention on the medic.

The medic had that look of surprise on his face again. "Uh ... well, it means that your DNA isn't that of a full Sebacean. Have you ever had any gene therapy or something similar?" he asked.

"No, I have not ..." she began, but stopped short and glanced at John. "Actually, yes, I have," she added more calmly. "I was ... mutated with pilot DNA."

The medic cheered up at once. "Ah yes, of course. I should have recognized the pattern. That's probably why the Nur'dur hatchlings didn't like you very much. The Nur'dur are very specialized creatures. Anything other than Sebaceans is out of the question. And even among Sebaceans they can only use the females."

"Sorry for seeming dense here, but ... according to our data stores not much is known about these bugs. How come you know so much?" John asked with a frown.

"Well, the Peacekeepers do not know very much about the Nur'dur because the Nur'dur don't generally attack Peacekeeper territory. We out here close to them have to know about them. It's our neighborhood they raid when they are searching for females," the medic replied.

Still frowning, John nodded once. "So, the fact that she was mutated back then is a good thing?"

"Yes, absolutely. Makes her much more resilient than a pure-bred Peacekeeper could ever be. And more adaptable too," the medic agreed with a smile. "Well, Aeryn, you are in perfect health. The wounds should heal quickly and there is no immediate residue of the Nur'dur in your system. I hope you realize how lucky you are," he added.

"Oh, I do," Aeryn agreed, grabbed her t-shirt and pulled it over her head. Suddenly she couldn't wait to hold her son in her arms again. She jumped off the examination table and turned to John. "Very lucky," she said with a vague smile, leaned in and kissed him.

"Thanks, doc. This means a lot," John said to the medic and shook hands with him too.

The medic eyed him. "What about you? Your injuries look like they came from a Nur'dur," he said.

"Yeah, they do. I had to fight one to get her back," John countered and flexed his right arm lightly. In the process he completely managed to overlook the fact that the medic looked like he'd just punched him in the stomach.

"Say what?" he asked, his voice hoarse all of a sudden.

John frowned again. "What?" he asked back, at a loss.

"You said you had to fight one to get her back?" the medic asked and John nodded. "Where?"

"On their home world," John said, obviously a little taken aback by the fact that the medic thought that was upsetting.

"You've been to their home world and you're still alive?" the medic asked, his tone now breathless.

John glanced at Aeryn, who shrugged lightly in response. She had no idea why the man was getting so worked up about this. "Yeah," John agreed almost carefully.

"For the love of Cholok," the medic gasped. "I have never heard of anyone who survived an encounter with them in a fight and I certainly have never heard of anyone who would willingly go to their home world. Nobody has ever returned from there. Nobody. Not Scarran, not Peacekeeper, not anyone."

"Except for the Kalish res..." John began, but stopped when Aeryn jabbed an elbow into his stomach.

Fortunately, it seemed that the medic hadn't heard him. "What was it like? What are the Nur'dur like? I mean, you must have encountered them? How else could you have gotten her back?"

"They're bugs," John said and glanced at Aeryn with a slight frown. He didn't seem to get why she didn't want him to tell the medic what Sikozu had told them, but he didn't revert back to it either. "They seem to have some kind of honor code, though. If you can beat their champion in hand-to-hand combat, you get whatever you want from them. I did, so I got Aeryn back."

The medic stared at him, obviously impressed beyond reason by this tale. "Amazing," he breathed. "Are you aware how unique you are in this perspective?"

"Yes, we are all aware of how unique he is," Aeryn inserted. "Thank you for examining me. It is time for us to move on," she added, grabbed John's right arm and frowned when he hissed.

"Ow, ow, ow," he pressed out through clenched teeth and she realized she'd grabbed his arm where the wound was.

"Sorry," she said and released his arm again.

"I can fix that if you want me to," the medic suggested. "Your wounds as well. If you'll allow me?" he added to Aeryn.

Aeryn eyed him for a moment, then glanced at John again. He was in pain and she knew she would be eventually. And this drannit seemed immensely impressed with John's actions. "All right," she agreed and glanced at John again. "We could both use some fast healing here."


D'Argo was the only one who had come down to the planet with John and Aeryn. Chiana had stayed behind to rescue little D from Rygel's suffocating care and Sikozu was just not that much part of their little group that she got invited along on trips like this.

He stood at the window in the waiting area and watched the town below with nothing short of distaste. Sebaceans had no sense of beauty. Well, most of them didn't, anyway. Lo'La had been very good at decorating. Aeryn was a typical Peacekeeper, though, and D'Argo wondered what her home would look like when she finally got one. Not that he really believed that she and John would ever leave Moya. It seemed unlikely at this point. Aeryn was most comfortable on a ship and John would go wherever she went.

The cityscape beneath him was dirty, cramped and lagging the one thing Luxans excelled at. Growing things. There were no trees, no flowers, no plants. Just endless buildings and muck. He turned his attention toward the space port at the other side of the city and frowned. There were endless buildings, muck and ... "Peacekeepers," he growled. That fekkik of a medic had turned them in if the marauders coming in on a landing vector were anything to go by. It was time to go, to get off this planet and back to Moya. "There is no way that I will be caught in the crossfire again," he muttered, turned around and strode over to the doors separating him from John and Aeryn.