A few solardays later

For every day that passed, Aeryn watched John become a little less sensitive. He didn't care very much about what others thought and his sense of humor took a nosedive as well. He did this job that he suddenly thought was so important with the same zeal as he did everything else and always had, but there was something definite missing.

Aeryn took a few days to realize what exactly it was that made him different now and it worried her even more when it dawned on her. He spoke fairly little now and he of course never mentioned Earth or his father or anything else related to that topic any more. He never made crackpot comments about anything any more either. It was as if a big chunk of his personality had been ripped out and thrown away.

He was still attentive to her and seemed to care about his friends too, but however subtle the change in him was at first, it kept increasing steadily. Watching him from where she was reclining on the sofa in the living quarters, she mulled over what precisely it was that made the difference and decided after debating this with herself for a while that it was the anger. He was angrier now and his temper was very bad. And that, along with his indifference, seemed to keep growing. He seemed more like a Peacekeeper than he did the soft-spoke, wise-cracking scientist he had been when he had arrived.

This one was also crazier than her John. 'Frell, stop thinking about him like that,' she admonished herself. But he was. There was something under the surface, something she couldn't quite get a grasp on. It had been there when she had returned to Moya after losing the other John and it was still there; only it seemed to have multiplied in strength.

He was sitting on one of the stools by the bar, polishing that frelling pulse pistol of his with an attention that was disturbing at times. He loved that frelling piece of hardware, had named it even, and that essentially made him appear crazy to her. Sebacean males did not name their hardware. Luxans did, but that did not mean much to Aeryn. Her gaze shifted to the weapon he was polishing and she briefly wondered which version if it he was holding so close to his heart; the one he'd had on Moya all the time she had been gone or the one that her John had lavished with the same attention and consideration.

The twinning had only twinned the man, not the clothes and the hardware. The gun had not been twinned. Essentially, this version of John should be interested in the other's weapon only. She shifted her gaze back up to his face, to the tense worry lines creasing his brow and the thin lines spreading from the corners of his eyes. He slept like the dead now, not a moan or a move all through the night. He shifted from side to side like anyone would, but he did not appear to dream any more. There were no more nightmares, no more tossing and turning that she could soothe in the early arns of the morning. He just slept; and enough if she was not mistaken. He was well rested nowadays, but he was angry too.

The anger she couldn't really place at first. Why was he angry? He had always been sad about his circumstances and tried so very hard to hide that by being sarcastic or funny or whatever the frell he thought it looked like to the outside world. But he had not been angry; not like this. Even when he had gone after Scorpius, he had been filled with concern and fears; much more so than any type of anger. Now, however, there was nothing but anger.

In a sense it was understandable, of course. He had reason to be angry. This part of the universe had frelled him over since the very microt he had set foot here. But up until the moment where he had lost his memories of home, he had never been this angry. Disappointed, sad, unhappy and a little crazy maybe, but never really angry.

He sighed and stopped polishing the weapon. "Stop staring at me," he said and glanced at her.

"Why?" she countered and sat up straighter. "What's wrong with me staring at you?"

He frowned briefly, sighed again and returned to polishing the weapon. He did not deign to answer her question.

Aeryn swung her feet off the sofa and rose. She had taken to walking around barefoot in the apartment, dressed only in her tank top and her pants, and there was another change in him. He wore his boots all the time, his leather pants, his t-shirt, his vest. He hardly ever took it off any more.

She arched her back and feigned a yawn, then strolled as casually as she could across the room to where he sat. She slid in behind him, grabbed his shoulders and leaned in a little to better watch him work. "Isn't that frelling pulsepistol clean enough?"

"And what if it is?" he countered, his tone a little tense.

"Why are you angry?" She knew that asking that question might result in an explosion of some kind, but she was not inclined to leave things to chance. And he would not open up unless she prodded him to do so.

"I'm not," he claimed, pulled the pulse-charge out of the pistol and inspected it briefly before slamming it home with an almost aggressive move.

"Yes, you are," she stated. "You're angry. I know you and you're angry."

"Oh, you know me, do you?" he asked and raised his head, all movement stopping for the time being. "If you know me so well, why don't you tell me why I'm angry then?"

She arched an eyebrow and slipped her arms around his neck. "Because I don't know why you're angry. I can guess, of course, but it would save us both some time if you just told me."

For a long moment he just sat there. Then he placed the pulse pistol and the rag he'd used to clean it with on the bar, grabbed her arms and disengaged them. "Don't make associations to things you don't understand," he said, got up and headed toward the sleeping quarters.

Aeryn watched him go and wondered when he had changed so much that her touch no longer turned him on. She glanced at the pulse pistol, then grabbed the weapon and examined it cursory. He had done a good job of cleaning it. She put it down again and turned toward the bedroom door. It was open, but he obviously wasn't coming back out.

With a light sigh she decided to go after him and corner him. It might mean he wouldn't speak to her for a day or so, but she knew him well enough to know that he would come around quickly. With or without the memories of his home, John Crichton did not like to be alone.

***

He stood in the doorway leading out into the garden and stared at the vegetation with a strange feeling brewing in his guts. Some small part of him insisted that this was important to him, that seeing all these growths should remind him of something that he held dear. But there was no association in his mind, not even a glimmer of a memory at seeing the grass and trees and bushes.

He knew the concepts, remembered seeing growths like these before, but they created no really feelings in him. There was no deeper-lying connection to anything there. And the lack of this connection, of the association he felt certain he should feel, left him feeling hollow and not entirely whole.

But that was not why he was angry. Aeryn was right; he was angry. But not because he couldn't remember. The hollow feeling was barely noticeable most of the time, because it was overshadowed by his savage need for revenge. It had hit him two days ago early in the morning, when he had woken up from a dreamless night and the very first thing he had thought of was Scorpius. The name invoked unfathomable hatred and disgust in him and these feelings had been growing ever since.

His present situation and all the dren that had happened to him since he had arrived here from a past he no longer remembered all went back to one man. He snorted at the concept. Man? Scorpius was hardly a man. He was a thing, an abomination, and creatures like that had no business being alive let alone being the masters of anything. A sneer spread over his lips and he clenched his teeth together so hard, they creaked.

"You are angry."

Aeryn's voice made him close his eyes. Yes, he was angry. So what? And if he dedicated the rest of his life to hunting that bastard down and killing him in the most heinous of ways, so what? Who cared? Nobody would miss Scorpius. He was probably considered a blemish on the Peacekeeper name; a blemish that could not be removed without upsetting someone or something in charge. There had to be someone holding a hand over Scorpius or else that freak wouldn't have survived for long.

Her hands slipped onto his tense shoulders and he almost flinched away from it. Not that he didn't like her touching him. He liked it very much, was grateful that she had come around so much that she wanted to touch him, but the way he felt right now would constitute anything he did to her as a rape and the last thing he wanted to do was hurt her in any way.

"Yes, I'm angry," he said, his tone shivering lightly. "Just leave it be for now, okay? I'm not in the mood to discuss it." Hoping against hope that she would back off, he knew her better than that. Aeryn didn't back off from a challenge and his anger had her concerned.

He decided to level with her, to tell her what was on his mind. Perhaps that would change her mind about trying to coax it out of him by being physical. But he had to admit that he knew her better than this.

"No," she said, "I will not leave it be. There's obviously something bothering you, John. Is it that you can't remember your past?"

He closed his eyes again, hard this time, and tried to think of pleasant things. She had spoken of Earth and he remembered being there, remembered the man who was supposedly his father, but again he had no association to the man, only knew that it hurt to leave Earth and that he couldn't emotionally understand why. "No," he said quietly, not trusting his voice any more. "It's not about what I can't remember," he added and turned around. "It's about what I can remember."

She did not look surprised, but her gaze was penetrating, scrutinizing. "Which memories are making you angry then?" she asked.

For some reason he could not readily explain, the realization that she had no idea what was going on in his head right now turned him on like nothing else. At the same time he was furious enough to drive a fist through the wall and he desperately wanted to do it to prevent himself from doing harm to her.

Aeryn grabbed the front of his vest, effectively stopping him from taking his blistering anger out on inanimate things, and looked him straight in the eye. "It's Scorpius, isn't it?" she asked quietly. "You've lost your grounding and now your anger at Scorpius has ten-folded, hasn't it?"

He gritted his teeth, swallowed hard, and gave her a curt nod. "Yes, it has. I want him to pay. I want to rip that frelling cooling device out of his head and stuff it down his throat. And if I ever see him again, I will do just that. I'll make him suffer the way he's made me suffer. He's an abomination, Aeryn, and he doesn't give a frell about anybody or anything. Just look at Sikozu. She's a mess because of him."

"You're a mess because of him. Sikozu will manage. She's got self-confidence enough to support an entire platoon," Aeryn countered. "Scorpius is to blame for a lot, John, but you know what going after him will do to you. Think of the command carrier. Think of the Gamak base. Think of the frelling Shadow Depository."

He grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands away from his vest. "Yeah, Aeryn, I think of nothing else," he said calmly, "but there's a big difference from then to now. I don't have the frelling clone in my head any more and I don't have the technology to blind me. I'm free to pursue that bastard and win the fight."

"Is that what you want to do?" She eyed him thoughtfully for a moment, then took a step back. "You want to go after Scorpius again? What if he turns the tables on you yet again? What if he manages to convince you that what he's doing is all right? How will you handle that?"

"He won't convince me because I don't care any more," he replied angrily. The anger surged through him like a live current, making him feel like he would be able to take on the entire universe without getting a scratch.

Aeryn's response was not what he had expected, though. She stepped forward again, grabbed his face and looked deeply into his eyes. "You do care," she nearly whispered. "You've just forgotten how."

For a long moment he just stared into her eyes. Then he sighed, grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands away from his face. "No, Aeryn, I haven't forgotten how to care," he said quietly. "But I haven't forgotten what he's done to me either and I'll be damned if I'll let him get away with it."

"You're not vengeful, John. Not like this," she said and shook her head lightly. "This isn't you."

"It is now," he said and slipped a hand behind her head, weaving his fingers into her hair and making it near impossible for her to pull free without hurting herself. "You may be right, you know. I may have lost something substantial by losing the memories of my past. But you know what? It's made me stronger in the end."

That said, he pulled her in and kissed her. She made no move to oppose him, but he had the feeling that she wasn't entirely happy about the situation either. And at this point, he realized he was right. He didn't care. Not right now.

***

Two solardays later

D'Argo had not seen Aeryn for two days straight and John was uninformative and appeared indifferent. That alone was disconcerting, so near the end of the second day, D'Argo decided to look her up. He pressed the door buzzer for the apartment, but there was no reply. With a bad feeling in his guts he opened the door and stepped inside anyway.

"Aeryn?" he tried and glanced around the living area. It was quiet and there was no immediate sign of life, but still D'Argo proceeded toward the sleeping quarters, intent on settling this odd sensation that was brewing in the pit of his stomach.

When he stepped through the open door, he took in two things at once. Aeryn was present, in the garden beyond, and the sleeping quarters looked messy. There were clothes all over the floor and the bed was rumpled. That did not look like Aeryn's quarters at all despite the fact that she shared these quarters with John. That, in turn, worried him even more.

He stepped up to the doorway leading into the garden and came to a stop to just observe her for a moment. She was sitting on a box of some sort not too far from the door, her back to him. Apparently, she just sat there.

"Aeryn," he said, alerting her to his presence. "Are you all right?"

She sighed audibly, but made no move to turn around at first. "I'm fine," she replied. She sounded tired and sad.

"Are you sure?" he pressed and took a few steps closer. She rose then and turned around to face him finally and D'Argo's eyes widened a little. "What the frell is that?" he demanded, nodding toward a sizable bruise blooming on her left cheekbone.

"It's a bruise," she countered, her tone painfully placid.

"I can see that," he said, closed the distance between them and grabbed her chin so he could see the bruise better. "How did it happen?"

Aeryn eyed him for a moment, then nodded toward a nearby tree. "I wasn't looking," she stated.

D'Argo glanced at the tree and noted the protruding branch. It was at the right height and it looked solid enough to have done this. There was just one problem. Aeryn never ran into things. She was very attentive to her surroundings. "Really? And since when have you stopped paying attention to where you go?" he asked.

Aeryn pulled out of his grip and took a step back while making a face. "I wasn't attentive because I was too busy yelling at John," she explained and gingerly prodded her sore cheek.

That in turn made D'Argo frown. "Why were you yelling at John? I thought you two were over that stage in your lives."

This drew another sigh from Aeryn and her facade crumbled a little. "So did I, but apparently we are not," she said and shook her head sadly. "D'Argo, have you noticed a change in him? He is behaving differently, isn't he?"

"Yes, he is," D'Argo agreed. "Very differently. He reminds me of Macton for some reason. The careless abandon, the indifference to other people's feelings. He told Sikozu that she had no right to have an opinion yesterday. His reason for that was that she's not real; she's a construct and therefore not worth listening to. He put a big strain on her self-confidence with that." He could not stop staring at the bruise on her face. "What did John say to that bruise?"

Aeryn chuckled helplessly. "Watch where you're going," she replied. "That's all he had to say to it. He's losing himself, losing who he used to be, and he doesn't even know it. He doesn't care, D'Argo, and it's getting worse all the time. Soon he'll be Peacekeeper captain material. There's no flicker of humility or consideration in him any more. He tries at times, but ..." Again, she shook her head and sighed sadly. "I'm running out of options. I keep trying to remind him of his past, but ... either he doesn't remember or doesn't want to. I'm not sure which. All I know is that for all intents and purposes, I'm losing him again. He's right here with me and I'm losing him."

Her words were full of pain and D'Argo understood her only too well. "What did the medic say? I assume you've had him checked out?" he asked.

"I have and there's nothing physically wrong with him and as long as it does not cause a severe depression that he's lost his past, they seem unwilling to do anything about it," she replied tensely.

"Maybe you should speak to Stug? She may be able to advise you what to do," D'Argo suggested, then draped an arm around her shoulders. "I find it hard to believe that he's lost the memories completely. Obviously whatever that old bat did to him has affected his memory, but I'm sure it'll come back. Eventually," he tried.

"That may be, D'Argo, but he's still changing and I'm afraid that if this keeps up, it won't make a difference if he gets his memories back in a cycle or two," Aeryn said, turned away from him and walked further out into the garden. She came to a stop at the tree that had given her the bruise and touched the branch. "There is irony in this," she said quietly and glanced back at him. "We're changing places. I'm becoming more emotional and he's becoming a Peacekeeper."

D'Argo folded his arms over his chest and stared at the ground for a moment. Then he looked up again. "That is ironic, isn't it?" he agreed. "I think perhaps we should all sit down and talk this through. With John," he added.

Aeryn eyed him thoughtfully, then sighed again and nodded. "It may not change anything, but I guess it's worth a try," she agreed.

***

One arn later in John and Aeryn's quarters

He sat quietly on the settee, eyes on nothing, mind carefully blanked, while he listened to them chatter about how he was losing himself and how he wasn't what he used to be. They seemed to ignore the fact that people changed, that change was inevitable; especially considering what he had been through over the past four cycles.

He knew he no longer had anything to compare these events to, but that did not mean that he was going to accept them for less than they were. Aeryn kept pretty much out of the conversation, but he knew she would agree with the rest of them. Some part of him knew that his anger and lack of memory was preventing him from seeing the bigger picture here, but in general he didn't much care about that. What he cared about was going after Scorpius and getting even. He would have to come up with a plan for that somehow.

With that idea festering in his mind, he glanced over at Sikozu who sat with her arms crossed over her chest while offering up her opinion every now and again. She sounded as derisive and arrogant as ever. What made her such an expert anyway? How long had she existed? A few cycles? She was a construct, a bioloid; one that Scorpius had had an affinity for.

His eyes narrowed while he eyed the Kalish thoughtfully. She became aware of his stare after a moment and glanced over to meet his eyes. And then she froze. Her eyes widened a little while their gazes were locked and she apparently saw something in his eyes that she didn't like, because she swallowed and shifted a little uncomfortably.

"John?"

D'Argo interrupted the staring match. John frowned and glanced at him. "What?" he countered darkly.

"Have you listened to what we're saying at all?" the Luxan wanted to know.

"Yeah. You all think I'm behaving differently and you all want me to return to the spineless coward I apparently was once," John countered and looked back over at Sikozu, who now looked downright frightened. "Generally, I don't give a frell what you all think. I'm doing fine. There's nothing wrong with me apart from the fact that I've lost some rather heavy baggage weighing me down and preventing me from doing what I need to do," he added, not taking his eyes off the now positively squirming Kalish.

"Stop staring at Sikozu that way," Aeryn said, grabbed his chin and forced him to look at her instead. "What the frell is the matter with you?"

He eyed her for a moment, then reached up and removed her hand from his chin. "You tell me. You've all suddenly become such experts on how I'm supposed to behave," he countered angrily. "I don't need to sit around and listen to this dren when there are more important issues at stake."

He started to get up, but D'Argo grabbed his shoulder in a steel grip and pushed him back down. "You're not going anywhere until you've heard what we have to say, John," he warned.

John sneered, his teeth clenched, but decided to stay put for now. "I've heard what you've got to say already and I don't see the point in all this," he said, trying hard to keep a grip on his rising temper. There was still that little voice in the back of his head telling him that he was going overboard and that he needed to listen to his friends. But there was another voice too, a new one telling him to let lose and just forget about them, they were holding him back. He made a face and folded his arms over his chest.

"What is it you think is so important that it takes precedence over this?" D'Argo asked.

"Yeah, what could be more important than this?" Chiana chipped in.

John glanced around at all of them and met Aeryn's eyes last. She looked concerned as well as suspicious. "Scorpius," she said before he could open his mouth and reply. She then glanced around at the others. "He wants to go after Scorpius and kill him."

A hushed kind of silence followed that. John stared at her for a moment, then glanced around at the others. All without fault looked horrified at the mere idea. "I never said any of you had to come along," he stated and rose. "I can handle this on my own," he added.

Before he could make another move, D'Argo had grabbed his arm and forcefully pulled him back down on the couch again. "You are out of your frelling mind, you know that?" he stated in no uncertain terms.

"Fahrbot," Rygel agreed. "Magra fahrbot. You cannot possibly think that it will go any better than it did the last time, Human." The small Hynerian huffed indignantly. "If you think any of us will participate in this charade once more, you'll be surprised."

"For once, I think we all agree with his Eminence," Chiana added. "You're totally tinked, Crichton. We barely got away from him the last time."

"And what about all the lives it cost?" Aeryn asked quietly. "Can you live with that, John?"

For a long moment John just sat there, then he nearly snarled and rose again, this time swatting D'Argo's hand away when the Luxan tried to stop him again. "I don't give a frell, Aeryn. I want that frelling half-breed to pay for what he did, no matter the cost."

Aeryn stared up at him for a moment and he could clearly see the shock in her eyes. Then she rose, grabbed the front of his vest and nearly lifted him off the floor with the intensity of her sudden anger. "You are not going after Scorpius. Not now, not ever," she said through gritted teeth, her tone still quiet, but now it also had a dangerous undercurrent. "You are out of your frelling mind if you think I will stand back and let you go. You will get yourself killed if you do."

He had to admit that he was somewhat surprised by her actions. He had not expected her to get that angry. Actually, he had more or less expected her to tell him to leave then, but not to expect her to be there when he came back. He blinked in slight confusion, then pushed it away in favor of the rising anger. He grabbed her wrists and forcefully pried her hands off his vest. "So what? Nobody here cares anyway. All you guys have ever thought about is going home. To Hezmana with those of us who can't."

He stopped before he could say more with a frown furrowing his brow. Where the frell had that come from? He did remember that he had been very preoccupied with going 'home', where ever the frell home was. But why should it matter now? He didn't remember his home. This was his home now and the fact that the others would not be around forever gave him all the incentive he needed to find a place to lay down his roots; and this station was as good as anywhere. So why should it matter if they left? He could find new friends. But no matter how he tried to rationalize it, he was still very unhappy about the idea of them leaving.

Aeryn pulled her wrists out of his grip and took a step backwards. She was livid to the point where she could not speak right now. The anger and resentment she obviously harbored shone in her eyes. D'Argo rose too and grabbed his shoulders from behind. There was nothing friendly about the grip, though. It was hard as rock and close to being painful. "All of us want to go home, yes," he agreed darkly. "But don't you dare suggest that we do not care about you, John. Don't you dare." The last part was whispered, the Luxan's voice tense.

The microts ticked by little by little while the scene had suddenly become immobile. Everybody was waiting for the outcome of this with bated breath while John struggled with a at this point equal need to get the frell out of there and the need to stay and discuss this.

The small voice in the back of his head, the one that was concerned about his behavior, won the battle in the end though. Although he was anything but happy about this situation, he assumed it could not hurt to hear the others out. "All right, fine," he finally said and relaxed a little. "We all want to go home. And I know you guys care," he added.

D'Argo relaxed his tense hold on his shoulders and Aeryn's expression softened. She even managed the ghost of a smile. "None of us have ulterior motives, John," she said and cupped a hand against his cheek. "But you are changing your personality rather radically and it has us all worried. Why can't you see that?"

He glanced around at the others, then sighed deeply and sat back down. He was still angry and he still wanted to grind Scorpius into the ground with all of his might, but he also realized that he needed his friends. They were the only ones who knew what he had been through and hence the only ones who could help him get to where he wanted to go in one piece.

***

No matter how much they talked about it, it did not change the fact that John had changed. He was willing to discuss it, even to a certain degree willing to admit that he had changed his behavior, but that was as far as it went. He didn't fly into a rage about it and he didn't get defensive about it either. He just didn't seem to care.

Aeryn had watched him all through that futile conversation and the more she watched him, the more she became convinced that he needed to be examined thoroughly by someone who understood this sort of thing. And she just did not feel that the medics on this station had that kind of understanding.

Keeping in mind what D'Argo had said to her earlier, she decided to take the matter up with station-head Stug. Although she was reluctant to involve the female in this, she at the same time felt that Stug and her people were responsible for this outcome and should do what they could to put it right.

As soon as this discussion was over, she left the apartment and did not let anyone know where she was heading. John didn't ask and the others simply did not get a reply when she strode out the door.

The trip to Stug's office – not the one in the make-believe part of the station, but the real one – gave her time to mull this all over. John's behavior was, in every sense, destructive; not only to himself, but their relationship as well. She had not come this far and lived through all this dren to give up on him now, though. No matter what anybody said or did.

Instead of taking the monorail the two stops, she decided to walk the distance and on the way got a unique view of this station in general. Her first impression – after hearing D'Argo talk about the Luxans and Chiana talk about the Nebari – she had assumed that the station was, more or less, divided into racial sections. That, however, turned out to be untrue. Luxans lived side by side with Nebari and Sebaceans and Hynerians and what other races might mingle on this station.

She felt her rather steady pace jerk a little when she caught sight of a Sebacean female sitting on the knee of a Luxan male, laughing happily while the male nuzzled her neck and caressed her back. The idea itself was not in any way disgusting to her any more. She had gotten used to the idea, knew that D'Argo's wife had been a Sebacean female, but to actually see the interaction made her realize that not all prejudices were so easily shed.

Having to use a bit of willpower, she tore her gaze away from the obviously happy couple and reminded herself sternly that she herself was engaged in a relationship with an alien. 'Yes, but he looks Sebacean, doesn't he?' a small voice whispered in the back of her head.

So what? It didn't matter. He was still an alien, no matter how much or how little he looked like a Sebacean. If her taught prejudice had survived all these cycles, it should have been directed against John too, but it wasn't. So seeing that Sebacean female and that Luxan male together was merely an unfamiliar scene and nothing more. It would not be so difficult the next time she saw it.

Besides, she had more pressing matters to think about. John's immediate health, his continued existence, and a chance for them to get back to basics was at stake here and she was not going to let this go until she had received a satisfying explanation of why he was the way he was and proof that there was nothing to be done about it. If that were to happen, she would have to consider which steps to take next.

Instead of taking the levelriser to the upper level where all the offices were located, she took the ladders instead. The workout did her good and she was satisfactorily warm by the time she reached the fifth level. It gave her energy to do what she had to do and at the same time calmed her roiling temper to the tolerable.

***