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

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: After Katratzi, things should have looked up. But something unexplained happens that once again throws everything into turmoil.

After Katratzi

Command was silent this early in the day cycle and despite all they had been through so far and all the distrust that had erupted after her return, he still could not get enough of looking at her.

John stood in the doorway, one shoulder leaning against the frame, arms crossed over his chest, while he watched Aeryn work at the console. She was meticulous as always, fast, unerring in so many ways it made his head spin, and still she wanted him. And not only that. His gaze slid down her back. She was carrying his child. She was going to be the mother of his children. That alone was a miracle to behold.

She paused briefly, let out a light sigh and wiped the back of one hand over her brow. That caused John to frown in response. They were in no immediate danger and here she was, sounding like the weight of the universe was resting on her shoulders.

"You okay, babe?" he asked.

She started at the sound of his voice, a clear indication that she had not been aware of his presence, and that was cause for alarm. Aeryn had a sixth sense when it came to detecting others around her, be they hidden or not. That she hadn't heard him come in or realized he was there since was enough for him to start worrying about her.

She glanced at him over one shoulder and smiled briefly. "Yes, just a little tired," she replied and returned to her work on the console.

Without delay, John pushed away from the doorframe and walked over to her. He slipped a hand onto the small of her back and eyed her intently from the side. "Are you sure?" he asked. "You look awfully pale."

She paused briefly again and stared ahead of herself for a second or two. Then she turned her head a little and met his gaze. "Must be the pregnancy," she said quietly. "I wouldn't know. I've never been pregnant before."

That would explain a lot. John didn't like that she became so tired from it, though. "Maybe you're not eating right," he suggested. "Maybe you need more ... I don't know ... fresh fruit and meat and stuff."

She nodded. "Could be," she agreed and stopped working once again. She closed her eyes briefly and rocked backwards against his hand. "I'm not feeling so well," she finally said.

John slipped his arm around her back and moved closer to her. "Then go rest. Being pregnant can be very taxing ... or so I hear. I wouldn't know first hand, of course," he said with a smile.

"I will," she agreed with a slight nod, then turned her head and looked at him with a soft smile. "I love you so much," she whispered.

His smile widened a little at her words and he briefly kissed her. "And I you," he replied. "Now, go rest. Take care of yourself and my offspring."

A little unsteadily, she turned around and headed toward the door. John watched her go and barely prevented himself from sighing out loud. She had been through a lot in the past cycle and things didn't seem to get much better for her.

It hadn't dawned on him until recently what a mixed-breed pregnancy like this might do to her. It had never occurred to him that it would be a problem for her. Aeryn, being the tough ex-Peacekeeper that she was, had never before struck him as frail. But she did now and it was a disconcerting prospect.

His contemplations were suddenly and harshly interrupted when he heard a sound he could only identify as someone falling. Startled as well as afraid of what it meant, he rushed out into the corridor and found Aeryn on the floor a few feet from the door. She hadn't gotten very far and had obviously been overcome by dizziness. With an effort that was beyond her, she was struggling to get back up, but did not manage.

Scared now, he rushed to her side and helped her up, but her legs would no longer carry her. She smiled in that apologetic way she had adopted since returning with Scorpius and clawed her fingers weakly into his arm to steady herself. "I feel so frelling weak," she nearly whispered.

Without delay, he scooped her up in his arms. "Don't worry, baby. We'll get you some help," he reassured her, then turned his attention toward the ceiling. "Pilot, we need to find a medic for Aeryn. She's sick or something," he called.

"Right away," Pilot replied at once. "Is it bad?"

John eyed Aeryn worriedly as he quickly carried her toward the sleeping quarters. "I don't know, buddy. I wish I did, but I don't know."


Half an arn later

D'Argo stood quietly just inside the door to John and Aeryn's shared quarters and watched with a heavy heart while John paced around the room, angry and scared to death at the same time. Whatever was happening with Aeryn, it wasn't good. She was pale, cold, and could hardly bring up the strength to move any more. And this illness that had befallen her seemed to be progressing steadily.

John stopped short and stared ahead of himself for a moment. "Pilot? How long?" he asked.

"A little over two arns," Pilot replied, as patient as a mother.

John glanced over at Aeryn and Chiana, who was sitting on the edge of her bed, holding Aeryn's hand in hers while she was talking quietly to her. "That's too damned long. Can't we cut it short?"

"I'm sorry, Commander, but that is not possible. We have cut the time down as much as we can at this point. Moya cannot startburst for another half arn," Pilot replied.

Before John could make any remarks on that, Chiana turned her head. Although she could not see any more, she was pretty good at discerning where everybody was in relation to her. "Crichton," she said and held out a hand to him. "You should sit with her," she added and rose.

D'Argo noted the decrease in color on John's face and the hard set of his chin. If things progressed this way, the Luxan thought, then there would be tears today. John stalked across the floor and took the seat that Chiana had abandoned. D'Argo took her hand when she reached it out for him and pulled her to him.

As tenderly as he had previously been angry, John brushed his fingertips over Aeryn's pale face and smiled helplessly at her. "You just hang in there, honey. We'll get you some help," he said quietly.

"I know," she whispered. "You never stop trying, John. That's what I love about you."

"And I love you for being so damned tough, so you just fight. You hear me? You fight and you don't let go. Whatever this is, we can beat it," he insisted and cupped a hand against her cheek.

Weak as an infant, she brought a hand up to cup over his and pressed a quiet kiss into his palm. "I would have gone to Earth with you," she said, her voice hoarse, quiet, nearly non-existent.

"No, Aeryn, don't you dare give up. You hear me? People don't just keel over and die in the prime of their lives. You fight! You hear me? Fight!" He was desperate; D'Argo could hear it in the tone of his voice; desperate with fear and lack of understanding; as were they all.

Chiana clung to him with a fierceness that implied she knew what lay ahead and all D'Argo could do was hold her in return.


John felt the bitter and helpless sinking feeling of being unable to act, unable to prevent the inevitable. He knew that this was not going to right itself, but he could not and would not accept it. This was not the way it was supposed to end.

He pretended to be angry with her, scolded her to hold on, yet inside all he could think was: oh god no, please no.

"Aeryn, you hold on. You hear me? Fight! You can do it. I know you can. You're tough. You do not get to leave me!" He was furious and scared to death at the same time. It made no sense. Two days ago, she had been fine and now this? How did that make sense? How was that fair?

She smiled weakly, her lids half closed, her breathing painfully shallow and slow. She was leaving him and there was nothing he could do this time around to hold her back. Obviously all she had been through during the past cycle had been too much for her in the end, but that still did not explain why she would drop so fast. He couldn't wrap his mind around it, would not accept it.

"Aeryn, no. Please," he whispered and could no longer hold back the fear. It welled up in him like water from a stagnant well. As the tears rose in his eyes, she drew her last breath, exhaled and stopped. With shaking fingers, he touched her face, her hair, but there was no life there, no warmth. She had gone cold even before she had died and he couldn't believe it, couldn't understand it, and refused to accept it. "No, please. Oh god, no," he whispered hoarsely while the tears filling his eyes obscured his vision.

Time was frozen in an endless spiral going downwards and he felt himself sucked toward darkness and bitterness without being able to fight it. The emptiness that was her death filled him up and expanded outward, engulfing all and everything around him in terrible dullness and stillness.

Just then a heavy hand fell on his shoulder, squeezing lightly, and it broke the bubble that was forming around him and pulled him back to reality. "NO!" he yelled, shrugged D'Argo's hand off his shoulder and grabbed her face with both hands. "No, I don't accept this. You're not dead. You can't be dead. I won't let you be dead."

D'Argo grabbed his shoulder again, this time in a steel grip, and pulled him back. "Let her go, John," he said quietly.

"NO! Let go of me," he snapped. Sense had fled and left him teetering on the brink of insanity. This could not be real. He could not fathom the pain this was causing him, could not conceive of how he would ever be able to go on without her.

D'Argo grabbed him more firmly and pulled him away from his dead lover, back to his feet, and turned him around so he faced the Luxan rather than the thing he could not comprehend. "John," D'Argo insisted, holding onto his arms rather harshly. "Listen to me," he said, his tone tense. "She's gone. I know it's hard to understand, my friend, but there is nothing we can do about it. Let her go. Don't bind her to this life when it's obvious that she was ready to leave."

"Spare me the crap," John snarled and pulled backwards out of D'Argo's grip. "She was okay two days ago. She was doing fine yesterday. Nobody drops that fast. Nobody!" He glared at D'Argo, then turned around and stopped short. The miracle had not happened. She had not revived. She was still as dead as she had been moments ago and the sight of her lying there, eyes closed, skin pale, unmoving, unchanging, filled him with an overwhelming stillness. It blocked out all sounds, all other sensations than the bottomless pit that had opened up inside of him and was sucking up all life, color and sound around him. "She was okay. Wasn't she?" he asked quietly, then tilted his head back and stared up at the ceiling. "Pilot?" He was actually amazed at how calm he sounded at this very moment.

"Yes, Commander?" Pilot sounded sad, serene.

"Are we still on route to that medic?" he asked.

"Yes, Commander," Pilot confirmed.

"Then keep going. I want to know what caused this. It doesn't make any sense," he said firmly, then closed his eyes and let his head drop. "This can't be happening," he whispered and shook his head. Then he returned to Aeryn's bedside and sat down on the edge. The stillness was huge inside him, but it did not prevent his tears from falling as he looked down at her and mourned her passing. "This isn't fair," he added and brushed his fingertips lightly over her face. "We were gonna be happy now."

Fumbling fingers settled on his shoulders and grabbed on. "D'Argo's right, Crichton. Let her go," Chiana said quietly.

John reached up and grabbed her hand as he squeezed his lids shut again, trying to block out the sight and pretend for a moment longer that things would be all right. "Why didn't you see this coming?" he asked quietly. It was not an accusation, but more a request for information that would help him understand. Because right now, he understood nothing.

Chiana settled down beside him, her hands still on his shoulders. "I don't know," she confessed. "Maybe I only see things that can be prevented." A sigh escaped her and she leaned forward to press her brow against the back of his right shoulder. "Maybe it was her time to go for whatever reason." She sniffed helplessly and tightened her grip on his shoulders. "Why do you want to see the medic, Crichton?" she asked after a moment of silence had stretched out between them.

John balled both hands into fists and stared sadly down at all his crushed dreams and knew that he had not yet reached to bottom of this pit of despair he was slowly sinking into. "I want to know why," he said quietly.

"Why what?" D'Argo asked and stepped closer.

Throughout this entire ordeal, Rygel had said nothing; had kept to the background, but now he nudged his throne-sled forward. "Why she died, you probacto. I'd want to know the same if one of my mates had died unexplained. And this is unexplained."

John felt that proverbial lump rise in his throat as tears started cruising down his face again. The last one he had expected to understand was the little Dominar, but Rygel had a tendency to surprise those around him.

"Let him do this. Maybe it will even bring him some peace," Rygel continued in a subdued tone of voice. The whirr of the throne-sled came closer and John briefly glanced at him, fighting to stay strong and failing miserably. "Although I doubt it," Rygel added and turned his attention to the prone figure on the bed. "At peace, Aeryn Sun. May your afterlife be filled with only goodness."

The little Hynerian nodded once to John, who accepted the condolences with a nod of his own, where after Rygel left.

John glanced at D'Argo and attempted to convey his need to be alone with Aeryn for a while. Fortunately, the big guy got the point. He gently took Chiana's arm and pulled her to her feet, then eyed Aeryn with tears in his eyes. "At peace," he whispered hoarsely and took Chiana with him as he left.

Heavy in heart and spirit, John turned back to the bed and folded his hands desperately in his lap while he stared at her. "This isn't fair," he whispered and blinked the tears away. "Not fair at all. We never had a chance." He knew that even if the medic found some indication of why this had happened that it wouldn't change the fact that Aeryn was gone. But John felt he needed to know, needed to understand why she had faded and died so fast. He could not make sense of it and until someone told him why, he would never be able to let it go. It would haunt him for the rest of eternity and he couldn't live with that thought.

Helpless to do more than wait for them to arrive at that specific world, John gave in to the grief. He pulled her limp body into his arms, rested her cold face against his shoulder, wove his fingers into her hair and cried his heart out. Life without his guiding star seemed impossible, and now he understood fully what she had gone through when the other him had died. Now he knew and he hated the feeling and would not wish it on his worst enemy.


A medical convoy

The silence was oppressive in a way that John could not make sense of. He hated waiting; especially for bad news. And no matter what news the medic of this floating medical station would bring back once the autopsy of Aeryn was over, it would be bad. How could it be anything but bad? Had she died of an aneurism? Or some unknown space bug that would eventually kill all of them? Did it have something to do with what the Scarrans had done to her? Or the drugs that hag of a nurse had injected her with to keep her docile? Or maybe it had been the baby? Maybe the pregnancy had killed her.

Frustrated, John sat on a chair in the waiting area, elbows on knees, his fingers clawed into his scalp while he drove himself crazy with what-ifs that would make no difference in the end. The one truth he had to learn to live with or it would be the end of him was that Aeryn, his light, his life, was gone. She had faded and died in the matter of a day and it made no sense. He could not wrap his mind around it, could not fathom it. He wanted hard cold evidence for why this had happened. If the medic could not explain it, he knew he would blow a gasket. There had to be some kind of reason, something that could make him understand why the Universe obviously hated his guts and was intent on making him miserable for the rest of his life.

With a heavy sigh he sat back on the chair and let his hands dangle down the side. Hours upon hours he had waited, half-consumed by grief that he would not allow to reach its full potential until he knew why the hell this was happening. Hadn't they suffered enough? Couldn't Fate just give them a frelling break?

He struggled with the tears rising in his eyes again, fought them back with a vengeance. There would be no more tears until he knew for certain that this was not something that had been done to her on purpose. If he found out that Scorpy had done this to her, he would hunt him down and kill him. To hell with the neural clone and all his attempts to intervene.

Briefly, he squeezed his eyes shut while vying for control; with himself, with Harvey 2.0, with whatever else might be trying to control him. The worst thought, the one he would not even acknowledge but still knew was there underneath it all, was that whatever Scorpy had done to him when he had supposedly removed the remnants of Harvey from his head, had been to install another chip, one that silently took control, one he didn't know was there. What if he had caused her death? What if a new chip had taken over briefly enough to kill her, briefly enough to not let him recognize the danger but just long enough to slip her some drug or some kind of poison? If that was the fact, he would take himself to the nearest airlock and take a spacewalk without a suit. He most certainly could not live with himself if he had killed her again.

This autopsy, which had caused a great many frowns from the medic and his assistant - apparently autopsies were not common in the UTs - was his way of finding out what had caused her death. Whether it was natural circumstances or it had been foul play, he needed to know. Even if it meant that he found out that he himself had done it in some way.

Suddenly the air seemed heavier in the waiting room. He got up and started pacing around, praising whatever deity was in charge of such things that he was the only one waiting at this point. He stuffed his hands into his pockets for a moment, then brought them back out and folded his arms over his chest to then drop them to his side while he walked back and forth, stopping occasionally to stare at the wall or a chair or the floor.

Eventually, he settled back down on another chair, one closer to the door, leaned back and covered his face with both hands. For a moment, he held his breath and just sat there, listening to his surroundings, to the light hum of the lights in the ceiling, the faint rumble of the great vessel's engines, the distant voices of medics and their assistants. The stillness that had befallen him when she had died, the great emptiness he had felt, reasserted itself and a feeling of unreality, of distance and dissociation overcame him to such an extent that he had the feeling of leaving his body. He let his hands drop and blinked almost sluggishly at his surroundings.

Was this what had happened to his father after his mother had died? Had he felt the same way? John was beginning to understand things that had always previously defied understanding; his father's responses after his mother had died had been similar to how he felt now. Detached, untouchable, unemotional, cold. Now John saw it as a mechanism of his subconscious mind that was trying to prevent him from going insane with speculation and self-loathing. He almost felt like laughing out loud, but even that would have been too much emotion at this point. He knew that if he started laughing, he wouldn't be able to stop again and that would probably land him in the psych-ward of this ship rather than back on Moya.

Just then, the door opened and the medic he had met upon arrival on this ship stepped in. He was Sebacean, as tall as John and had been full of sympathy and understanding when John had told him what had happened and that he needed to know why it had happened. John rose and for some reason felt compelled to smooth his hair back in a quick, nervous stroke. "Well?" he asked.

The medic eyed him and John immediately had the feeling that this guy wasn't nearly as understanding as he had been a few hours ago. The man glanced down at his datapad and a muscle in his jaw twitched briefly. Then he sighed lightly and looked up again. "Did it at any point occur to you to replace her battery pack?" he asked, his tone a little dull and just a little bit annoyed.

If the man had hit him over the head with a baseball bat, he wouldn't have been more surprised. As a matter of fact, he wasn't even certain the medic had said what he just thought he'd heard. "What?" he asked. That stillness engulfed him and shrouded him in a blanket of cotton and numbness.

"We do have real patients to tend to on this convoy," the medic said and now he definitely sounded annoyed. "It is hardly our business to deal with a toy that is broken."

For the longest second in his life, John had no idea how to respond. Was this guy actually mocking his loss, making light of a situation that was earth-shattering to John? For a moment, anger surfaced, broiled just under his skin before it subsided again. This guy was talking about battery packs and broken toys. What the hell did that mean? His mind touched on possibilities and shied back immediately. It couldn't be. He would have known.

"What the frell are you talking about?" he asked quietly. He had not yet decided how to respond.

The medic eyed him, then frowned and managed to look ashamed even. "Oh ..." he started, then cleared his throat. "You didn't know?"

"Know what?" John asked, barely daring to breathe or blink, lest he should miss something the medic might say in that split second.

"The female you brought in for examination," the medic said and glanced down at his datapad briefly, "was a bioloid. Granted, she has been craftfully constructed. It has taken us this long to figure out what she was," he continued. "But she is a bioloid. The reason for her 'death' is simply that she was not built to last this long. Her battery pack ran out."

"A ... bioloid?" John couldn't even think straight at that moment. He shook his head lightly without taking his eyes off the medic. "No ... she couldn't have ... I would have ... a bioloid?" he stammered.

The medic smiled sadly. "Yes, I'm sorry. She's not real; not a real person," he said, obviously assuming that John had been tricked into believing that this was the real deal ... which essentially he had.

"A ... bioloid," John muttered and sank back down on the chair. The implications had not yet hit him, had not yet asserted themselves, and he was stuck in an emotional limbo where he didn't know whether he should laugh or cry. Then he looked up again to face the medic. "But ... she was pregnant. It was confirmed. She had it released."

"She appeared to be with child, yes. There was a fetus," he medic agreed. "But bioloids cannot produce offspring. They are not ... alive, per se," he continued. "The original could have been with child when they copied her. Or ... it was added later for whatever reason. That is impossible to determine."

"The ... original." It opened up new doors, made him see everything in a new light. He had yet to fully fathom the extent of what this meant, but it was beginning to sink in.

"Do you want her back or should we dispose of the remains?" the medic asked.

The need to laugh, albeit hysterically, bubbled up in him. He struggled against it and managed to subdue the need to go stark-raving-mad right there and then. Raising a hand, he took a step back. "Do whatever you want with ..." he began, but stopped himself. "No," he added.

"No?" the medic asked.

"Destroy her. Burn her. Whatever the frell you do with ... bioloids. Just make sure there's nothing left to salvage," John said, then paused and eyed the medic thoughtfully. "There is nothing left to salvage, is there? You can't reactivate her, can you?"

"No," the medic said with a light shake of the head. "Once a bioloid ... 'dies', its memory banks deteriorate within an arn after deactivation. There is no data left in this one either. We checked. It's all gone."

John nodded thoughtfully. Suddenly, he felt in control again. All the pain, the despair had been washed away in a single, huge wave of information. "Good," he said quietly, then grabbed the medic's arm. "Thank you. You have no idea what this means to me."

The medic arched an eyebrow. "I get the feeling I do," he countered and smiled weakly. "The real one is probably still alive out there somewhere."

John nodded. "Yeah, probably," he agreed and sighed deeply. "I gotta go. I gotta find the real one."

"Fly safe," the medic said and stepped aside to let John leave.