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

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Grayza's 'treatment' messed John up and Aeryn has been watching him circling the drain for the past year. Enough is enough.

Another bustling space station with nothing but junk, junk and more junk. John Crichton sometimes wondered if the universe itself wasn't made of floating junkyards. It had been eons it seemed since he had seen a planet that looked even marginally habitable. And these space stations were just the pits of existence. Yet there was nowhere else to go when spare parts were needed. And Aeryn had once again managed to break something in her prowler. He almost smiled, but that little twitch of one corner of his lips was all it amounted to. Smiling didn't come easy these days. There was too much baggage now, too many deep, un-healing wounds on his soul for him to find a reason to smile. His eyes, still blue and clear, scanned his surroundings with suspicion and little to no wonder. He didn't find this so damned exciting any more.

Stopping short, he looked around for the appropriate place to find the part he was after and briefly ran a scarred, lightly shivering hand through his short-cropped hair. His ring and little finger were bandaged together, keeping the fractured bone of his ring finger in place. He couldn't even remember the incident which had crushed his finger. All he knew was that he would probably never be able to use it again without the help of a Diagnosian. And they sure didn't have currency for that sort of thing.

While his eyes trailed over the merchandise offered in the open booths along the passageway, he took a moment to focus his mind. It had a habit of wandering off to unknown destinations if he didn't watch it. And being inattentive in this place didn't pay off. Besides, if he allowed his mind to wander, it would only dredge up old memories that he didn't need. And thoughts like 'if-dad-could-see-me-now' or 'what-would-dad-think-of-this' had long since ceased to cruise through his mind. Thinking of his father was painful and he didn't feel the need to punish himself any more than he already had. So he had decided to let the past be the past and forget about where he came from. What did it matter anyway? He would never see that place again, so why bother thinking about it?

With a sigh that stemmed mostly from exhaustion, he continued onwards until he found a place that looked about right. The dealer offered him the part he was after, but at a too high price. John had learned a thing or two from Aeryn about negotiating, so he pulled his pulsepistol and aimed it at the quivering mass that was the dealer and so brought down the price by almost fifty percent. Satisfied and not the least bit sorry for nearly having scared the life out of the creature, he bagged the part and headed back to the landing grids to wait for the others to return.


Aeryn had not had any luck in tracking down the part she was missing, but she was fairly confident that John had found it. He had a nose for things like that and managed to procure what they needed the most at the lowest price. Instead of searching aimlessly for the part, she picked up a few perishables on the way back to the pod, walking slowly and keeping an eye out for trouble. Stopping briefly at a stand of fruits she recognized, she bought a bag full of them before moving on.

Whenever she thought of John these days, she found it almost impossible to compare the hardened soldier she knew now to the open, wide-eyed alien she had encountered almost five cycles ago. He had been through Hezmana and lived to tell the tale. She just wasn't so sure she liked him as much now as she had before. Well, the other John, the one she had lost, had been a completely different creature than this John was now. They were lightcycles apart in behaviour, but considering what this one had gone through at the hands of that frelling tralk Grayza, Aeryn wasn't at all surprised that he had cut back on his emotions and sealed off his mind. The last time she had seen him smile had been almost a cycle ago when she had returned, intent on freeing him from the clutches of that murdering tralk. She had succeeded in her endeavour and had spent the first three monans trying to stop him from killing himself. He had tried and he had been frelling sneaky about it most times too. She didn't know exactly what Grazya had done to him and he hadn't told her anything worth while, but she figured that it had been really bad if it pushed him that far out. What had surprised the frell out of her had been the message she had received, alerting her to his whereabouts and the desperate need to get him away from Grayza. The message had come from none other than Scorpius and Aeryn had only reacted to it because it had been entirely possible that John had been captured again.

Scorpius had also been the one to show her where he was and how to get him out. Aeryn hadn't known how to respond to the halfbreed's help, but had figured that Scorpius didn't want Grayza to destroy the wormhole technology in John's mind and had therefore deemed it safer to get the human away from Grayza, even if it did mean that he didn't have access to him himself. Aeryn hadn't thanked him, but then again, she hadn't killed him either. Instead she had freed the others as well, including that weird alien girl, and had taken the whole lot of them back to Moya after making sure that the control collar had no effect any more. As soon as possible, they had shed the collar and given Moya and Pilot their freedom back. Aeryn had enlisted Sikozu's help to keep John from putting a rather brutal end to himself while she tried to find a way to deal with current affairs. Naturally, the whole Peacekeeper outfit was breathing down their necks, but Aeryn had refused to give up.

She couldn't recall exactly when John had stopped trying to kill himself and had started shutting down his feelings. It had been a blur of hectic activity back then and even Rygel had helped to keep John out of trouble until the human had settled for how things were instead of taking the coward's way out.

Ravenous, she picked one of the fruits out of the bag and started eating it as she rounded the corner to the landing grids and saw John sitting on the stairs of the pod, waiting. Coming to a stop, she watched him from a distance for a few microts, suddenly realizing what was missing. The light in his eyes, his almost child-like wonder, his infectious smile. He was half the man he had been and she just knew that Grayza had done something unspeakable to him, something even Scorpius with his frelling Aurora chair hadn't managed to do.

Drawing in a deep breath, she started forward again and raised a hand in greeting when he spotted her. The way he looked at her, the fact that he didn't even attempt to smile, had started to make her a little uneasy and she was beginning to believe that forcing him to face the reality of his ordeal might be the only way to go.

"Hey," she greeted him and tossed the bag of fruit to him. Without delay, he caught it and fished out a fruit. "Where are the others?" she asked and glanced around.

"Still out scouring this pile of junk for something useful," he replied, his tone a tad indifferent, his expression matching his tone. Sinking his teeth into the fruit, he bit off a piece and chewed almost thoughtfully on it. "I got the part," he added and gave the bag at his feet a light kick.

"I knew you would," she agreed and picked it up to inspect the part. "Looks almost new," she added.

"Yeah, I know. I got it for half the price the dealer wanted. Only fifty cretmars," he replied and got up.

Aeryn eyed him for a microt, realizing that he didn't ask her what the fruit was. He hadn't cared what he ate for the past cycle and she knew it all went back to Grayza. "That's cheap," she said, appreciative of the fact that he could haggle his way through anything now. Well, he usually pulled a gun when the dealer didn't comply and he seemed to have no qualms about it any more. He merely shrugged in reply. "John," she said, not sure how to approach a topic he had deemed off limits almost a cycle ago." There's something I think we should talk about when we get back to Moya."

"Like what?" he asked and gave her a scrutinizing look.

"Like what's bothering you. You've been closed-off and uptight for the past cycle and I think you need to talk about it," she tried.

That pulled a grimace from him. It wasn't quite a smirk because a smirk would be too closely related to a smile, but the corner of his mouth rose for a microt. Then he shook his head and climbed into the pod, not deigning to answer her.

Aeryn watched him go and frowned. Well, if he wanted to play this rough, she could do that too. She was fully aware that she would have to corner him and probably restrain him to get the truth out of him, but if that was what it took to get him back on track, that was what she would do.

Deciding not to follow him in until the others turned up, she settled down to wait for them. Only when Sikozu and Chiana turned up, the red-head leading the Nebari who was still blind, did she get up again.


Once back on Moya, John did short work of Aeryn's powler in the sense that he removed the old, defective part and replaced it with the new one in the matter of half an arn. He had left Aeryn behind in Command, where she was having a shouting match with Chiana about what was going to be their next stop. Despite his presently tough exterior, he didn't like to hear the girls bickering, which they did more than enough as it was. And Sikozu wasn't much help. When she interfered, it was like pouring oil on fire.

To get away from the upset females, he withdrew to the landing bay to tinker with the prowler and spend some more time on his own. He would do mostly anything to avoid thinking too much about anything.


Aeryn's tone of voice sent a shiver up his spine. He knew what she wanted and there was no way in Hell that he would get into that right now. He was feeling a little ragged around the edges and knew it would take very little to upset his precarious balance right now. The last thing he needed was to be grilled by Aeryn about something that happened a year ago. What was it about women and the past anyway? Why did they always have to find your most painful moment and dredge it up by the hair roots? Deciding that ignoring her might be the way to go, he did just that.

"John," she repeated, her tone somewhat commanding.

He glanced at her over one shoulder and noted that she had not only closed but locked the door. She wanted to make damned sure he didn't run off before she'd had her say. Making a face, he turned a little and gave her a frown for her trouble. "What?"

With her arms crossed over her chest and her head leaning slightly to one side, he knew she wasn't going to make this easy on him. "I think we should talk," she stated, confirming his suspicions.

"And I don't. Stalemate," he replied, made his way over to the cockpit of the prowler and slipped into it.

"Stalemate?" she asked. "What does that mean?"

"Just means we're not going forward from this point unless one of us gives in," he replied and pressed a few buttons. The engine roared to life, sounding much healthier than before.

Aeryn suddenly turned up beside him, reached inside and switched the engine off. "Well, then prepare to give in, Crichton, because I'm not letting this slide," she said.

He looked up at her with a frown. "Letting what slide, Aeryn? I'm not aware of anything that we need to talk about," he countered, well aware that he was losing ground fast. When Aeryn wanted to talk, really wanted to talk, he didn't have a leg to stand on until he told her what was on his mind. She hadn't pressured him to talk about anything for a good long while and she most certainly hadn't felt compelled to remind him of what had happened a year ago, but she obviously deemed it time to do so.

Her eyes narrowed as she stared at him. "Oh, you don't, do you?" she asked. "Well, then let me refresh your memory. One cycle ago, if I'm not entirely mistaken, I saved your sorry hide from the clutches of one frelled-up tralk of a Peacekeeper commandant. Am I correct so far?"

Somehow hoping that she would get annoyed and leave, he flipped the engine back on, drowning out anything she might have added to that. Aeryn's response was quick and to the point. She flipped the engine back off and broke the switch off in one smooth go. His expression tensed and he refused to look at her. "I don't wanna talk about it," he said, hauled himself out of the seat and slipped over the side of the prowler opposite from her. As she was standing on the ladder, he had no other option than to take the plunge from the other side. He slipped off the prowler and landed heavily on his feet. Without so much as a glance at her, he rounded the nose of the prowler and walked briskly over to the door. Waving his hand in front of the door opener, he expected nothing to happen and nothing was what he got.

"Pilot?" he called. "Open the damned door." There was no reply forthcoming, not even a crackle indicating that Pilot had heard him. "Pilot," he tried again and then gave up. Turning back to face Aeryn, who was still standing on the ladder, her back to the prowler now, he gave her a dark look. One that he knew from experience had no influence on her whatsoever. "Aeryn, you tell Pilot to open the door. Right now," he insisted.

Aeryn shook her head. "Not going to happen," she said matter-of-fact-like. "Not only have I told Pilot to lock the door after I entered, I've also told him to cut off any communication to this bay for the next arn. There is no way out unless you want to take a space walk without a suit."

Propping his hands on his hips, John glared at her, another look that would accomplish nothing. "Aeryn, I'm not playing this game. I do not want to talk about it now or ever. Do you understand? There's nothing to talk about. It's in the past, it's over and done with and that's all there is to say about it."

"Don't give me that dren," she said with a sneer and jumped off the ladder, landing easily on her feet. "You were suicidal for three monans, John. I may not be the best authority on emotional shutdown, but that is what you have done. You've shut down your emotions and it's going to tear you apart if you keep it up."

John snorted with contempt. "Who died and made you God?" he growled. "Look, honey, this is not going to happen, so why don't you just spare both of us the ordeal of having to flog a dead horse to no avail and tell Pilot to open the damned door. As I said before. There's nothing to talk about."

"The frell there is," she replied and started toward him. In the process, she shrugged out of her coat and let it drop to the floor. Stopping dead right in front of him, she looked him in the eye, her gaze unwavering, her expression set. Before he could do anything to stop her, she had hauled both his pulse pistols out of their holsters and thrown them over her shoulders, sending them skittering to the far corners of the bay. She then did the same with her own, her gaze never leaving his. "Now there is no chance of either of us pulling a gun on the other. What we will do is sit down on those crates over there and talk this through," she said, pointing toward a stack of crates not far from the door. "I don't care what it takes or how much of a fight you put up, John. You know I'm more patient than you when it comes to this. And I'm not the one with the mental baggage here."

She was definitely invading his personal space right now and he wasn't too sure how to handle this situation without either going completely nuts on her or becoming a shivering heap of misery. He opted for the first, but figured it would end with the second option. In any case, he liked neither. And how could he make her understand that she was basically pushing him over the edge by being so damned insistent without letting on how close to the truth she was? If she had left him alone and had ignored past events, he might actually have been able to forget eventually. What she was doing now was to dig red-hot pokers into an open wound that he had tried to hide from her. Feeling himself grow cold with anger over her indifference to his pain, he leaned forward a little. "I do not want to talk about this," he snarled, punctuating every single word.

Before he could do anything to stop her, she had grabbed a hold of the front of his vest and slammed him back against the door with enough force for it to hurt. "You are going to talk about it before you lose your mind completely," she snarled back. "Don't you think I know what's going on? Don't you think I know that you have bad dreams every frelling night?" she demanded. "It is frelling difficult to get a good night's sleep when you're screaming your head off."

He swallowed, both taken aback by her violence and the fact that she knew what he was going through every night. A small voice in the back of his head, his own subconsciousness rather than Harvey, quipped that if she had heard him and she hadn't come to help him, she didn't really care. Grabbing her wrists, he pulled her hands away from his vest and pushed her back a few steps. "Well, I'm damned sorry to disturb your beauty sleep, sweety," he snapped. "Talking about it is not going to help, so leave it be. I'm dealing with it just nicely as long as the lot of you don't see the need to rip open old wounds all the time. Now, leave me alone." Every little bit of self-preservation and self-defence reared its head at that moment, almost making him see red.

Aeryn obviously noted the change in him because she backed up a step, her expression one of slight caution. But still she wouldn't let it rest. "Frell that," she said, her tone sharp, but her voice no longer as strong. "You are not dealing with it at all. That's why you don't sleep at night. That's why you never smile any more," she stated. "You haven't slept a full night in a cycle. You haven't worked on your module at all and you haven't touched the wormhole equations. You don't talk to yourself any more and you never mention Earth or your father any more. Don't you frelling tell me that you've just given up on all that, because I don't believe you. You're lying to yourself and you're lying to everybody else. And quite frankly, you're scaring the dren out of Chiana and Rygel, and Sikozu won't come near you right now." Stepping forward, she prodded his chest with one finger. "You need help," she told him in no uncertain terms. "And you need it now. Because, for the love of Cholok, if you don't deal with this now, I am going to kick you're sorry eema out the next airlock before you go completely fahrbot and kill someone."

Her eyes sparkled, her voice cracked with ice, and John had no doubts whatsoever that she would do what she said without the slightest hesitation if he showed even the slightest signs of a breakdown. For a long moment, he had no idea what to say or do. He clenched his hands into fists, barely avoiding a wince when he moved his broken ring finger. His hands were shivering badly now and he felt cold and dizzy and totally incapable of holding onto the barriers he had put up a year ago in order to survive his latest ordeal.

Aeryn stared at him, seeing all those signs, but when he did nothing more than stand there with his back pressed against the door, she grabbed his right hand and held it up for both of them to see. "Look at your hand," she said almost quietly. "You are shivering. You've been shivering for a cycle and no amounts of alcohol or tranquillizers do the trick, do they?" Her voice was calm now, level, and the look in her eyes had become softer. "You're coming apart, John, and you can't even see it. All this soldier-dren, this waving your pulse pistol about when someone doesn't comply ... that's not you."

He felt his resolve to be angry with her crumble like a castle of sand under a tidal wave. He had learned the hard way that being weak got you in trouble out here and he didn't want to be weak any more. Every time he had given in, it had earned him nothing but pain and suffering. But he couldn't stop the deterioration of his present state of mind and all at once he was happy that she had locked the door and cut off communications, because that would mean that he could have a breakdown without the others knowing about it. The only thing he was deadly afraid of was that he wouldn't be able to pick himself up again if he let go. With a tremendous effort, he pulled himself together, dragged himself back up, and in the process his hand stopped shaking and his expression, on the verge of dissolving, hardened again. "There's nothing to talk about, Aeryn. Whatever happened to me happened. There's nothing to be done about it. No amount of words is going to change it. The only thing it will accomplish is to set me back a cycle and I can't do that. I can't pick myself up again, Aeryn, so please ... leave it be."

Aeryn obviously recognized his plea for what it was, but that didn't mean she would back down. "I can't, John. I'm not going to stand by and watch you disintegrate and not do anything about it," she said quietly. "You have always insisted on that talking things through made them better. Well, I'm offering you that chance now and I think you'd better take it. Because you're going down and I will not allow you to drag the rest of us with you. And you will. You realize that, don't you?"

For a long moment all he could do was stare at her. Then he sighed. She wouldn't let up, he couldn't get away, so he might as well just deal with it. And he also realized that he didn't need to have a total meltdown to get over this one. What he needed was for her to understand that what had happened to him had been devastating in every sense of the word. He needed her to realize that having his mind torn apart by the Aurora chair and having to deal with the neural clone afterwards had been a damned picnic compared to what Grayza had put him through.

Pushing away from the door, he walked over to the crates and dropped down on one. Chewing almost thoughtfully on his lower lip, he wondered how he could make her understand what was going through his mind. "You know what rape is, don't you?" he asked, not looking at her. He couldn't face her because he was quite certain he knew what he would see in her eyes once he revealed the truth about his internal torment.

Aeryn settled down on the crate next to him. "Yes," she said.

"I take it you've never ... experienced it," he tried.

"Not in the general sense, no," she agreed.

She had stopped pushing now that she knew he was going to talk about it, and he was grateful for that. For a moment, he closed his eyes and tried to will his emotions to disappear. If he could pretend that it had happened to someone else, he might be able to deal with it. But in the depth of his mind he knew it had happened to him and he cursed his inability to deal with it and move on. "In a sense ... that's what she did," he started, wondering if he could actually convey in words what he had felt both during and after Grayza's 'attacks'. "Both mentally and ... " He stalled, found himself incapable of saying what he needed to say. Why the hell was this so hard?

"I figured as much," Aeryn said.

Somewhat startled, he glanced at her. She sat there, her elbows resting on her knees, her palms pressed together, her eyes on a spot on the floor. "You figured as much?" he asked, uncertain of whether he had understood her correctly. "How ...?"

"Because I know Grazya by reputation," she stated and still stared at that spot on the floor. "Most males I ever got close to were both in awe and terrified of her. She's not Sebacean and she was and probably still is considered unclean. And that didn't make her reputation any less ... threatening." She paused, almost as if to think things over, and then sighed. "Any male subjected to her ... special type of ... interrogation became suicidal. Very few of them survived. When I received that message ... all I could think of was to get to you as quickly as I could. I enlisted the help of every frelling renegade I could convince, because I knew that time was of the essence." Turning her head, she looked back at him. "When I found you ... I didn't know what to do at first. I wasn't sure that keeping you alive would be kind. But I had lost you once and I could not lose you again. So I decided to fight for you when you wouldn't. I hoped that you would be able to get over this yourself, but apparently ... you have only managed to shut the memory away."

Somehow, her words put a twist on things and something inside him slowly started to unravel. He became aware that his greatest fear hadn't so much been Grayza and her particularly nasty way of handling her prisoners, but more Aeryn's reaction to what he had gone through. He had feared that she would distance herself from him, take away what little hope he'd had of ever getting close to her if she knew what had happened, and hearing her words now made him realize that he had been afraid of nothing. She wouldn't turn her back on him because she already knew what had happened. With a sigh, he leaned back against the crates behind him and closed his eyes. "It's not the memory of what happened that's been ... haunting me," he admitted somewhat reluctantly.

Again she nodded. "I know," she said and returned her attention to that spot on the floor. "I realized that. I was hoping you'd come to your senses, but ..." She shrugged lightly. "The more time passed, the less it was likely that you would open up about this on your own. So, when I saw you sitting on the steps today ... I thought it was time to clear things up."

He frowned slightly, slowly feeling the tension seeping out of him. "Why today?" he asked.

"I noted how your hand was shaking this morning and you kept avoiding me. I figured it might be time to do something about it before you had a total meltdown," she explained.

Somehow, he couldn't help smiling at that. He hadn't felt like smiling at all for a year now and those words of hers put a grin on his lips. "Me?" he asked and snorted. "I don't have meltdowns, Aeryn. I have breakdowns. And I think I'm going to get a little hysterical now," he added and found it impossible not to laugh. There was something so utterly ridiculous and so totally hopeless about the whole deal that he couldn't stop laughing at first. But it did tapper off quickly and left him feeling hollow and empty.

"Whatever the frell you want to call it, John, I was afraid of losing you. I couldn't do it twice and survive it," she confessed and turned to face him. "I want you to know that I know what you've been through and I don't blame you. I know what Grazya is capable of and nobody will hold it against you."

He suddenly found it hard to breathe, hard to think straight, as the memories came crashing down over him again, threatening to suffocate him with pure evil intent. He leaned forward, his breath coming in short, ragged little gasps while the bay around him slowly swam out of focus.

"John?" Aeryn was on her knees in front of him, one hand on his shoulder, the other cupping his face. "John, breathe," she insisted and he realized he wasn't. Even the ragged little gasps had ceased. With tears rising in his eyes from sheer frustration and lack of oxygen, he felt himself panic when nothing he did appeared to make a difference. It took only a moment before the world faded to black and Aeryn's voice disappeared down a long, metallic tunnel.


Aeryn caught him before he could hit the deck face first and eased him down on the floor as gently as she could. She wasn't really surprised by his reaction, but she had to admit that she had expected it a lot sooner. He was breathing again, steadily, which proved to her that he had just been overcome with hysteria for a microt. Not that she blamed him. If only half of the things she had heard about Grayza were even remotely true, she could imagine what he was going through.

Cradling his head in her lap, she stared down at him and tried to imagine what was going through his mind. Having grown up in an environment where males and females were equals in most senses, she knew how Grayza's methods had grated against everything a male peacekeeper stood for. Peacekeepers were purebred and the thought of having any kind of physical interaction with an alien life form, no matter how much like Sebaceans they were, was unthinkable, disgusting and downright dishonourable.

A small smirk slipped over her lips. In that case, she should have shot herself a few times over. But there were differences between her relationship with Crichton and Grayza's ruthless exploitation of him. She loved this frelling alien more than she could ever have imagined. He was everything to her and she needed him so much that it hurt. She would walk a million metras to keep him safe. All Grayza had done was to exploit him, body and soul, to tear at the very fabric of his sanity and cut him down to size. She had pounded him into the ground and just when he had thought he could sink no deeper, she had demeaned him again. Any being out there would have trouble surviving such blatant cruelty.

Gently, she brushed her fingers through his hair and wondered if he would ever find anything worth marvelling about again. Without hesitation, she could now admit that she missed that part of him. The joy he could express, that smile, that glint in his eyes. His eyes had been dead for the last cycle, his face expressionless. The only time he had expressed any true feeling was when he woke up screaming. How many nights hadn't she ached to rush to his chamber and sooth him. But she had felt that he would not appreciate her interference. He was ashamed of what had happened and she had only now realized that if she had forced him to talk about this sooner, he would have gotten better faster.

He suddenly started and then his eyelids snapped open. For a microt he stared up at her with true terror in his eyes, but then it ebbed away and left him confused. "What happened?" he croaked and sat up a little too quickly.

Aeryn braced him by pressing a hand between his shoulder blades when he groaned and almost passed out again. "I believe your mind responded to too much stress," she said. "It shut down."

He drew in a few deep breaths and slowly seemed to steady himself. "I feel like shit," he grumbled and glanced at her. "I passed out?" he then asked.

"Essentially," she agreed. "Which was no great surprise," she added and thereby subdued the vulnerable look in his eyes. "Actually, you've shown much greater restraint than any Peacekeeper I've ever met who's been in that situation."

He actually managed a halfhearted smile in response to that one. "Well, that's great, isn't it? What does that make me then? Tougher or more stubborn?" he asked.

Aeryn smiled vaguely and knocked one knuckle against his brow. "More stubborn," she said. "You're through sleeping alone, John. I'm moving my things into your quarters today," she added.

To her immediate surprise, he gave her dark look. "Why? So you can keep an eye on me?" he asked, his tone somewhat cautious.

Aeryn stared at him for a moment, trying to determine why he responded that way, and figured that he had been more than a little paranoid over the last cycle and that it wouldn't be easy to shed all of this in one go. "Why else?" she asked in a serious voice. "As frelled up as you are, you think I want anything else?"

He eyed her thoughtfully for a moment. "Are you making fun of me?"

Keeping a straight face had always been one of Aeryn's stronger points and she just kept staring at him as if she were deadly serious. Aware of his frail state of mind, she figured it might not be a good idea to take this any further, though, so instead she wrapped her hands around his face and kissed him. "I want some frelling peace at night," she then said. "And I'm getting frelling tired of having to listen to you every night. So I'm going to move into your quarters to keep an eye on you. And a whole lot more if I can."

"So, you're not making fun of me?" he asked after a moment's worth of silence.

"No, John, I am not making fun of you. I am deeply worried about you and I will not stand by and let you crash and burn out without at least attempting to do something about it. And I will do whatever it takes," she promised and kissed him again. This time, he wasn't impassive and kissed her back.

"And you couldn't have done this a year ago," he commented and smiled weakly. Then he sighed and closed his eyes. "Damn, I'm tired. I feel like I haven't slept for a whole year."

Aeryn got up and held out her hand to him, which he took without delay. "Well, you almost haven't," she agreed. "There is still a lot to talk about, John. I think you know that. But I just want you to know that I understand. And I don't care what happened. I just want you to get it out of your system so we can get back to normal and do something about these frelling prizes on our heads."