It took them three days, but eventually, they could return to the town and return to Moya without obstruction. The Peacekeepers were gone after they had made halfhearted attempts at sweeping the town and the hills beyond.

Aeryn had watched them and knew without a doubt that the loss of Scorpius was not something anybody would be upset about. Soldiers were lost in battle every day. That was nothing new. But to lose a commanding figure like Scorpius should have done something more than the feeble attempts they made at finding the culprits.

The fact that the Peacekeepers gave up the search for them after only two days furthermore strengthened her conviction that they were probably really relieved to be rid of the half-breed than anything else. What it all meant for the future was something Aeryn didn't worry about at this point. All she worried about was John, who had seemingly withdrawn into himself and had both refused to eat and talk ever since he had blown Scorpius away.

She had decided to leave it be for the moment, to deal with John's self-imposed catatonia once they were out of harms way, and D'Argo had followed her example.

On their way back to Moya, Aeryn kept glancing back at John, who sat very still in his seat and stared ahead of himself without seeing anything. And not for the first time since all this dren had begun did she wish that Zhaan was still with them. If for nothing else, the Delvian priestess could have mind-melded with him to shake him out of his obvious depression.

With a quiet sigh, Aeryn returned her attention to the front view screen. If she had to frelling beat him out of this odd behavior, she would.

***

He sat on the forward bench in Command, Winona in hand, and gently caressed the metal of the gun. The immediate threat to his life and sanity was gone and he had finally been able to prove – both to himself and to his friends – that his mind was his own once more. So why was he so damned depressed? Why couldn't he shake this odd melancholy that had overcome him the moment he had pulled the triggers? He had known without a shred of doubt what would happen once the plasma bolts hit Scorpy's eyes and at the last second before they struck, Scorpy had realized that too. That smug son of a bitch had gone to his death being fully aware of how angry John really was.

Angry? No, crazy was a better word for it. How could you be anything but crazy when your mind was constantly reeling with the memories of two different men who had set out as the same? The feelings the memories of the other John raised in him were docile, strong, content. The feelings his own memories raised in him very harried, shaken, unhappy, fearful. The controversy of those feelings had him reeling on the edge of an abyss. In a sense, it was like having the neural clone back. Only this neural clone didn't want to harm him. And, essentially, even though this was confusing at best and downright maddening at worst, this wasn't the reason for that he couldn't focus beyond his inside struggle.

The reason was much more profound than that. He remembered his death. His own, the other John's death, it didn't matter any more. The memories were all his own now, but being able to remember a death so painful, so crushing, was almost beyond what he could tolerate. To think that anyone could suffer that bad was devastating in the best of cases. And he knew how it felt, because he remembered every second of it.

So caught up in the memories was he that he didn't notice Aeryn approaching. He only realized she was there when she hunkered down in front of him and put her hands on his knees. "John?" she asked quietly, her expression one of concern.

He tried a smile, a brief twitch of the corners of his mouth, and gave up on it. How could he ever be happy again, knowing what he knew?

"How can you mourn that creature?" Aeryn asked. "How can you sit here and be sorry he's gone?"

Her words shook some sense back into him. He frowned at her. "What?" he asked.

"John, for three days you have been silent, you have eaten nothing, barely touched the water we've given you. Those are definite signs of mourning. What I don't understand, though, is why you would mourn Scorpius. After all he's done to you?" Her grip on his knees tightened. "I know you don't like to kill others, but think of the favor you have done others that might have ended up in the same situation."

"I'm not mourning Scorpius, Aeryn," he said slowly and sighed. "I don't like killing others, no. I don't think I ever will. But I'm glad he's gone. I'm not mourning him." He closed his eyes and tried to dispel the sense of dread the other John had felt at his imminent demise, at leaving Aeryn behind, at hurting her so badly that she might never recover. "You shouldn't be sad. He's in a better place now," he whispered, reflecting only on the world inside right now.

Aeryn's frown deepened. "I'm not sad about his death," she countered. "Scorpius was nothing but a nuisance."

"Not Scorpius," John said with a light shake of the head. "The other John."

Aeryn's eyes widened in obvious shock and she pulled back a little, but did not release her hold on his knees. "What?" she asked, her voice barely more than a whisper.

"I remember his death," he said and closed his eyes hard. "I feel it. Every second of it. His fear, his sorrow over leaving you. I feel it all." He forced his lids open again and focused on Aeryn. "It hit me when I blew Scorpy away. Suddenly, it was there in all its clarity. I ..." He ground to a halt at the look in her eyes. They were brimming with tears as she slowly shook her head in denial. Feeling the weight of eternity on his shoulders, he reached a hand out and cupped it against her cheek. "I shouldn't have told you," he whispered.

Aeryn rose abruptly, shooting up to her full height so fast she nearly lost her balance. "Shouldn't have told me?" She grabbed the front of his coat and yanked him to his feet. "Are you frelling mad, John? You remember your own death. There is no him and you. There's only you, only one John Crichton." Her tone was strong, angry, full of pain. Tears cruised down her face at the same time. "Don't you listen. Don't feel it. Push it away. Others have felt death before and succumbed to it."

He realized why she was angry, why she was crying too. She was afraid that his memory of the other John's death would pull him over the brink too. And for some odd reason, that released him from the pull he had felt, the need to give in and follow the other one into the darkness. He hadn't been consciously aware that it was affecting him that way, but he was now and it scared him senseless to realize how close he had been to giving in.

Wouldn't that have been the essence of cruel irony if he had finally given up and died; not because of any outside influence, but because of himself? Again he closed his eyes and realized that the melancholy was dissipating. He could still remember, still feel, but it was more distant now, and it made him smile.

"What the frell are you smiling at? Open your eyes, John," Aeryn demanded, her voice breaking with the emotions obviously flooding her.

John opened his eyes again, wrapped his hands around her face and kissed her. Then he gently caressed her cheekbone with his thumb. "I was lost for a little bit there," he said quietly. "But I'm back now."

She stood rigid, her eyes wide, tears still streaking her face. "What the frell does that mean?" she asked in a husky tone of voice.

He sighed and slipped his arms around her back. "I don't know. Maybe I've finally lost my mind completely. But, truth be told Aeryn, I feel better already," he replied with a smile. "I remember him remembering me. It's damned weird to say the least, but it's beginning to feel normal too."

***

A change she had at first considered a good thing had turned sour. Aeryn didn't know how to respond at first, but her love for John overcame her reluctance fast enough. Even though, his bout of melancholy had really scared her, and finding out the reason for it had worsened it rather than easing her mind.

The change in him she could have accepted, but knowing that he remembered the other one's death made her feel cold inside. It brought back memories she would just as soon have left forgotten, but she also knew that no matter what happened, she would never truly forget.

He said things now that reminded her of that fateful day; things that strummed cords in her that made her feel sick inside. The vibrations of his death still clung to her; she had just managed to forget for a little while.

It brought back memories of her time spent alone on that frelled world with all the ghosts; ghosts that in part had been real people until they died at her hand. Her mother, John, Zhaan, Talyn, even Crais. How many more would give up their lives for her? Zhaan was the one she owed the most. Zhaan had brought her back to life, sacrificing her own existence so she could be with John.

Aeryn stood alone on the terrace and watched the stars glide by up above and for the first time since losing the other John, she felt compelled to speak to the dead. "Was this what you envisioned, Zhaan?" she asked and watched hard for a reply. But there was none. "Did you give up your life for this? We're frelled. Both of us. How will we ever gain any semblance of normalcy while John is so out of wack and I am so frelled up inside that I cannot understand myself any more?"

She imagined she could hear Zhaan laughing, good-naturedly, still so full of life so many cycles after her death. "Who did that seer show me? Was it this John or the one that died? Is there a difference between them?" She shook her head and let out a slow breath. "I'm at the end of my wits here. I don't know what to do. He's the same and yet not. There are bits of both of them now, words, gestures, a look here, a touch there. He knows the secret spots now and I never taught him to find them. He speaks of things he has not experienced. He remembers the budong, the jealousy that drove him to distraction. He remembers my mother's death. How could he remember that? Neither of them were there."

She let out a sound that was a mixture between a halfhearted laugh and a groan. "I'm losing my mind. I'm speaking to ghosts," she whispered and then looked back up at the stars. "I want peace, Zhaan. I'll settle on a frelling planet with rich soil and blue skies if that's what he wants. But I cannot lose him again. And I know I will. I know I will outlive him. And I can't face it. Please, Zhaan, if you are still out there somewhere, if your goddess keeps you close, tell me what to do."

"Maybe we should find a way to prolong my life." His voice drifted to her so quietly, she was uncertain of it's reality. But then she turned around and found him standing in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest, blue eyes wide and full of love for her. He smiled wistfully at her. "You guys can grow replacement nerve tissue. Why not prolong someone's life? Hell, even Scorpy said he'd keep me alive long enough to see the destruction of Earth. There must be a way."

"I don't want you to change yourself for me," Aeryn replied sadly.

"I don't want to lose you any more than you want to lose me, baby. We're meant to be together. If this crazy roller coaster ride we've been on lately has proven anything, then that's it." He pushed away from the doorframe and strolled over to her. A long look up at the stars put the smile back on his lips. "Do you think Zhaan knew this would happen?" he asked and then glanced at her before slipping an arm around her back.

"This?" she asked, a little confused.

"This melding of minds," he said. "Zhaan was very wise. She knew a lot of shit. Maybe it's a Delvian thing to predict the future without really knowing what it is. I think Zhaan always knew what was ahead of her. And I shared unity with her once ... twice, actually." He sighed deeply and shook his head, that smile still on his lips. "God, what a weird and wonderful trip this has been," he muttered, then planted a kiss on her temple. "Throughout all of this, one thing has never changed. Not since the very first moment I laid eyes on you," he added. "I love you and I will always love you. No matter what."

"And I love you too," Aeryn replied and leaned in against him. "I love you so much sometimes that it hurts."

"Then don't love me that much," he countered and she could hear the smile in his voice.

"How can I stop?" she asked and slipped both arms around him. "It scares me sometimes," she admitted, then snorted. "Most times," she corrected herself. "I'm scared out of my mind that I'll lose you again."

"Then don't lose me," he muttered into her hair. "I'm not going anywhere, Aeryn. The menace is gone. Ding-dong the witch is dead." He kissed the top of her head and wrapped his other arm around her too. "The thing I feared the most is the thing I conquered. I proved to myself and the universe that I'm back in control, that I'm all me now." When she shifted, he tightened his grip a little. "Sure, I had a bit of a setback there for a moment, but it passed. And you know why it passed?" She shook her head and just relished the feel of his warm chest beneath her cheek. "Because you pulled me through it. You're my guiding star, Aeryn, and I'm not going to leave you."

For a moment, she just allowed herself to believe that he was right, that they had overcome whatever tests this frelled universe had thrown at them and were now destined to be together for the rest of their natural lives, but then she leaned back and looked up at him. "Promises are easily made, John," she said quietly. "But there are no guarantees."

He held her stare for a moment, then chuckled and planted a kiss on her brow. "There are no guarantees in life, baby," he agreed. "We'll just have to make the best of it while we're together. Just always know that I will never leave you willingly; not if I in any way can help it."

For a moment, she wanted more than that; more security, more guarantees, but then she relented and smiled. "And you're stuck with me too, for as long as it takes," she countered and kissed his chin. "I wonder what's out there now that Scorpius is gone. Do you think there will be peace?"

John shrugged and glanced up at the stars again. "Who knows? I think there's some god out there somewhere, making it up as he goes. So why don't we do the same? Let's just take it one day at a time."

"Good idea," she agreed and pushed back a little. "I'm hungry. Are you hungry?"

"Starving," he said with a light smile.

"Then let's go eat." She slipped out of his arms, grabbed his hand and meshed her fingers with his. "You have frelled up my life, John Crichton," she added. "And I love you for it."

His only response to that was a smile as he followed her back into Moya. And the stars just kept drifting by, promising new adventures in the future.

The End