D'Argo had managed to rouse Chiana in the meantime and Sikozu had turned up again, her arm in a sling, her demeanor very subdued. The Luxan was annoyed by these recent events, even though he could understand Moya's frantic dash for freedom. If anyone could relate to the loss of control, it would have to be him. That did not mean that he appreciated the injuries this had caused all of them.

Chiana sat on the examination table, elbows on thighs, head in hands, and quietly recovered from what was probably a concussion. As much as D'Argo hated to admit it, Aeryn was right. Chiana was pretty thick-skulled and would most likely not suffer any greater side-effects from this. That did not mean she was happy about the enormous bruise on her brow or the resulting headache this was causing her.

D'Argo stared at his own battered reflection in a shiny surface and grumbled under his breath. The one thing that really annoyed him beyond reason, the thing he could not justify without feeling awful about it, was that he missed Bioloid-Aeryn. The real version was a lot more obnoxious and her tendency to give them all orders made him bristle.

"What the frell happened?" Chiana asked wearily.

D'Argo turned around to face her and sighed. "Moya panicked," he said. "She was afraid of recapture and nearly killed herself and us in the process."

Chiana winced when she gingerly touched her brow. "She didn't, though, did she?" she asked and gave him an annoyed look. "And you can't blame her for being scared, right? She doesn't want to be a slave again. Just like you."

The Luxan growled, but could find nothing to say to that. She was right, after all.

Moments later, John and Aeryn walked back in and D'Argo did not have to try very hard to see that something had happened between them which might complicate things between them yet again. He eyed them suspiciously for a moment. "What happened?"

Aeryn gave him a glare, which he chose to ignore. "Nothing," she grumbled.

"Not nothing," John countered and flinched when Aeryn jabbed an elbow into his side. "But it doesn't matter," he added and rubbed his sore ribs pensively.

Aeryn's expression did not change much. She looked as sullen as ever and D'Argo did not appreciate the way she treated John, considering what he had gone through for her. Before he could say something about it, though, Chiana hopped shakily off the examination table. "Why the frell can't you two just get on with your lives?" she growled, one gloved hand pressed lightly against her bruised brow. "You've both been given a second chance and you're both behaving like fekkiks about it," she added, glowered at them for a moment and then stalked off.

D'Argo watched her go, glanced at John and Aeryn with a saying look, and took off after her.

***

Sikozu was hovering in the background, watching the Human and the Sebacean with weary eyes. She was not too keen on being among them as it were, but these two were the biggest idiots she had met in a long time; and that was saying something. She had met a lot of idiots in her time.

At the same time she was still hurting over Scorpius' refusal. It irked her that the Human had been right about Scorpius all along and it scared her too. How could she have fallen for someone so obviously indifferent to others?

With a light sigh and another cautious glance at those two, she slipped out of the med bay as well and headed for an undisturbed corner on the obviously frelled leviathan.

***

John fiddled. He hardly ever did that any more, a habit he had kicked easily a few cycles back, but right now, he felt as if he had been transferred back to his first cycle on Moya. The insecurity he had felt then around Aeryn was back with a vengeance, but it was peppered with an uncanny amount of doubt and sadness as well; doubt that she would never get over the other one and find her way back to him; sadness that he had quite obviously lost her a long time ago.

'Give her time!' The other's words rang in his ears still and he felt utterly annoyed that he had to take advice from a dead man and more prominently one who had had her complete affection and had been himself in every sense but one. "I'm me," he muttered and made a face. Was he being stubborn? Was he being stupid about this? Probably! He was always being stupid where Aeryn was concerned; stupid and insecure and stubborn. Angered, he thumped a fist against his brow and grumbled with annoyance.

"What the frell are you doing that for?" Aeryn asked, her tone disclosing that she had probably both heard him and seen him.

He closed his eyes and barely prevented himself from sighing out loud, while he kept fiddling with some of the things spread out over the counter. He had no sense for what he was looking at, only that Aeryn was watching him and being judgmental.

"John." Her voice was quiet, full of concern. "I know that what I told you before wasn't what you wanted to hear, but ..." She sighed and shook her head sadly. "But ..."

"Don't start being understanding about this now, Aeryn," John said, suddenly furious. "You're the one who's got to get over this, not me," he added and pulled away from her when she tried to touch him.

"Get over what?" she asked, her expression a little bewildered.

"The other one's death. What do I need to do? Paint you a picture? For heaven's sake, Aeryn. Time has moved on while you were in deepfreeze. Things have happened. You ... I've spent a whole damn cycle trying to find a way to get back in your good graces and then I find out it isn't really you. You haven't moved an inch since we parted and I've moved a whole cycle."

Aeryn stared at him, her eyes a little bit too wide at the moment. "Are you saying it's my fault?"

"Yes, damn it, that's what I'm saying," John snapped. His frustration and pain over the whole sorry affair was getting the better of him right now. He knew very well that even if it was her fault, yelling at her about it now was not going to change anything, but he just could not help himself. "You shouldn't have left. You should have stayed here and worked things out. But you had to damned well leave, didn't you? You had to mess everything up. I spent almost half a cycle on a dying leviathan, alone, trying not to go crazy. I'm not sure I succeeded."

Aeryn kept staring at him, her eyes seeming almost liquid. "Why?" she asked and frowned.

"Because I was stranded in the middle of nowhere in my goddamn pod with no fuel and fairly little air left. I was damned lucky that Elack turned up when he did. I was only out there because you left. I would never have left Moya if you hadn't left," he yelled. In aggravation, he wiped everything off the counter and found it gave him no satisfaction at all; mainly because he was being unfair and childish about this whole deal. But the more he became aware of that, the more his temper flared.

Aeryn blinked and stepped back when several unnameable gadgets hit the floor at her feet. She glanced down at them for a moment and then looked up again to meet his eyes, her expression almost placid. "So, it's my fault that you can't deal with the fact that you don't always get things your way?" she asked, her tone as placid as her expression.

That approach took the wind right out of his sails and he just stared back at her, his mouth ajar, while he felt his mind go blank. He couldn't come up with a single thing to say to that.

"I had to leave," she insisted. "I had no other option. Being around you was driving me insane. I had no way of handling my grief while you were near. As I said before, I was grieving for you, but you were still there." She shook her head and took another step back. "This is not about you and about what you feel you've lost, John. It's about so much more than that. If you can't appreciate what I am going through ..." She trailed off, her eyes swimming with tears. Then she shook her head almost angrily, swirled around and ran from the bay.

John swallowed hard. He was being a complete ass about this; he knew that without a doubt. He deflated visibly; his shoulders dropped and he lowered his head with a pained sigh. "You idiot," he muttered to himself. "You complete and utter idiot." What could he do now other than find a corner to hide in? He had completely messed things up once again and there was nothing he could do to take all that crap back that he'd just thrown at her. All he could hope for now was that she would eventually forgive him and accept a heartfelt apology. "Idiot," he muttered again and started picking the things up he'd wiped off the counter.

***

The silence in Pilot's den was almost touchable. Aeryn stood very still and stared at the giant creature, her mind refusing to accept what she had just heard. The only explanation was that Pilot was still pretty much out of it; that he wasn't too sure of anything until Moya woke up completely. That had to be it. It could not be what he had just said.

"What do you mean, you have no idea where we are?"

Leave it to Crichton to shatter her carefully created illusion with another stupid question. She gave him a dark glare, which he either chose to ignore or didn't see at all. She opted for the latter since he was staring at Pilot with wide eyes.

"Just what I said," Pilot replied, his voice still slow. "I have attempted to run an analysis of our course, but due to the strain both Moya and I have been under, it is very hard to estimate the exact course we have taken. And this part of space is unfamiliar to both of us. Apart from that, there are no signals, no indication of anyone being in transmission range. There are not even any sub-space distortions that might indicate intelligent life forms anywhere in this vicinity."

"So, in other words we're lost," John stated and folded his arms over his chest.

"Not so much lost as not in the known galaxy any more," Pilot corrected him tiredly.

"No," Aeryn inserted and took a step forward. "This is not frelling right. How can we not be in the known galaxy any more?"

"Weren't you here when we starburst like crazy half a solarday ago?" Crichton asked and gave her that look she knew so well; the one that indicated that he was baffled by her lack of understanding.

"Yes, I was," she stated, but kept her eyes on Pilot. "To leave the known galaxy, we would have had to starburst a lot more than we did," she added. "Am I right, Pilot?"

"Under normal circumstances, I would be inclined to agree with you, Officer Sun," Pilot replied. "However ... the fact remains that we are no longer in familiar territory. This part of space, wherever it is, is not even vaguely familiar. Hence I must assume that we are beyond the borders of our galaxy." With some difficulty, Pilot called up a display of what seemed like an awful lot of emptiness. "This is where we presently are. Worlds are few and far between," he said and raised a claw to indicate the odd glowing dots on the display.

"Oh brother," Crichton muttered under his breath. "Can't you retrace your steps? Go back the way we came?"

Pilot turned his head a little. "I was barely conscious during the last starburst and Moya was not intent on marking her way," he said. "So, no, we cannot 'retrace our steps', as you say, because we have no idea where we were last."

John seemed to deflate a little and Aeryn was certain that the pale fear in his eyes matched her own. Leaving the Peacekeepers behind had been hard on her, but she had at least spent time on a vessel she knew, surrounded by things she understood. This was different, though. This was bad news.

"Well, keep trying to rouse Moya, Pilot. Once you do, the two of you can try and work out how we get back to where we came from," she said matter-of-fact like. "Staying out here is not an option."

Pilot sighed heavily, but nodded his head. Content that things would be dealt with, Aeryn turned and strode back to the door, still limping lightly because of her somewhat sore hip.

John followed her and stopped her just outside of Pilot's den. "Don't you think the two of them deserve a little downtime? It's not like it's been an easy ride for them, you know."

Aeryn eyed him and tried to separate the feelings vying for control inside her. It was hard for her to focus on anything at the moment because of the controversy of how she felt about John and his dead twin. She closed her eyes briefly and tried hard not to let the surging anger get the better of her. She was angry with him for dying even though he wasn't dead, and as long as she could not make sense of how she felt, she could not make sense of anything. Not for the first time did she long for the times where she had been totally in control and utterly indifferent to the sufferings of others.

"It hasn't exactly been an easy ride for us either," she countered. "Leviathans and their pilots feel best when they can serve others. I thought you'd learned that by now. We do not accomplish anything by cuddling them," she added.

His expression told her that he once again thought she was being cruel. Before he could say anything, though, she clapped a hand over his mouth and looked him straight in the eyes. "I am not being cruel," she said without hesitation. "We are in a stack of dren here, John, and we will not get out of it by being lenient. Moya panicked, which is not something leviathans are prone to doing. Pilot lost control, which is not what he's supposed to do. We depend on their unity, on their ability to work together and keep their heads cool," she continued. "By losing control, they endanger their passengers. Right now, we need to fortify Moya and support Pilot. The best way to do that is to give them both something to do."

He grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand away from his lips, his expression still one of concern. "No, the best way we do that is by giving them some time to recover and then helping them in any way we can. Don't go into PK-mode again, Aeryn. You're not a Peacekeeper any more."

She frowned. "What the frell is that supposed to mean?" she demanded, well aware what he meant. She just did not want to acknowledge that he could be right.

"What the frell do you think it's supposed to mean? I know you care more about Pilot and Moya than this. This PK-crap is really starting to tick me off. You were all high and mighty and aloof when you got back from Talyn and that's just not you," John countered, his tone as tense as his expression. "Don't get me wrong here," he added hastily, obviously seeing some sign of anger in her eyes. "I know what you went through. I know what you're probably still going through. But ... Aeryn ... honey ... this isn't gonna work. You can't go back to being what you once were. That's just not how the universe works."

It unnerved her to no end that he was right about what he was saying. Worst of all, though, was the fact that she could so hear 'her John' saying this, although his tone would probably have been less tense. The sudden thought that this man standing before her was and always would be John Crichton, with or without the memories that had comprised their entire relationship on Talyn, made her take a hesitant step back. "Since when do you have any idea how the universe works?" she asked, her words feeble in her own ears.

"Like it or not, Ms. Tough-Chick-of-the-Universe, I know you. I've figured out how you work," he said. "And this isn't who you are inside. You're not a tough Peacekeeper. You care."

She mostly felt like denying this, although she knew he was right. She did care. But the only way she could survive at present, the only way she could adjust to this odd new universe she had been tossed into, was by falling back on routines that had helped her through some rough spots in her life. She shook her head lightly, wanting nothing more than to deny that she was feeble, that she couldn't cope with this development, but she could not. John's hand was locked around her wrist and he held her back when she tried to back away further.

"Yes, you do," he insisted, reading her like transparent flimsy. "You do care. Don't deny it."

For a moment she felt like kicking him, like pushing him away so forcefully that he would never bother her again, but then the tough wall she had tried to erect around her emotions crumbled and fell. Her shoulders slumped as she closed her eyes hard against everything for a moment. For one brief moment more, she wanted to pretend that she was on top of things, that she would not lose her cool. But then she realized that no matter how much she tried, John would always be able to break through the barrier.

"All right," she said and opened her eyes again. "I care. I don't want them to suffer any more than I want to suffer myself. But we can't stay out here, John. If we don't find a way back, we might starve to death. There might not be anything edible for us out here." She paused and gave him a meaningful look, silently praising herself for not breaking down right this instant. "Like it or not, John, but our lives depend on Moya and Pilot right now and neither of us has the ability to find our way back from here."

He stared at her and she thought she saw suspicion in his eyes. But he relented with a sigh and a nod. "You're right," he said. "Of course you're right. Let's just give them a bit of peace first, okay? Let them recover. Pilot is still groggy like hell and I don't blame him. And Moya isn't really responding yet. They're not going to be any good to us until they're back up to speed."

Aeryn nodded and wished he would go away so she could crumble in peace, but he showed no signs of wanting to leave. "All right," she consented and cleared her throat in an attempt to cover up what she considered to be a shivering tone of voice. "Actually, I think we should all take some downtime right now. We're all recovering from injuries." With that, she gently pulled her wrist out of his hand, turned and marched away as fast as her sore hip would allow.

***

John watched her go with an odd sensation that she had been on the verge of breaking down. She seemed to be strong on the outside, but both her voice and the look in her eyes had indicated that she might not be too far away from falling apart into tiny little pieces. That aspect scared him more than anything. If Aeryn broke down, none of them had a chance in hell of getting through this latest ordeal without mental injury.

"What the hell are you thinking?" he muttered to himself and slapped a hand against his brow. Just because life was finally catching up to Aeryn, that didn't mean it had to happen to all of them.

Aeryn appeared to be facing up to the fact that she couldn't return to her roots just because life didn't look so nice from the other side. He knew exactly what she was going through, too. Even though Bioloid-Aeryn hadn't been the real deal, she had still lived and laughed, cried and hated, just like the real one. In a sense, John could imagine that the real Aeryn would eventually become softer, more pliable, and more agreeable. He also knew that she had a long way to go before she turned into that pod-person he had accepted so easily. Maybe she never would. Probably she would always retain a certain margin of the Peacekeeper within, but just the thought that she would and could become less angry and more open to change made the agony of going through this change with her worth while.

He drew in a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let it out in a sigh. Things would be going from bad to worse within a foreseeable future. There was no doubt about that.

For the first time since Bioloid-Aeryn had been declared dead did he allow himself to think of the consequences of the lies Scorpius had fed him by handing him a robot with a heart instead of the real deal. The promise of a life together, the prospect of a more docile lover, a wife, someone he could count on not only in a fight but also on the emotional front, and it had all been a lie.

His mind grazed the one thing that had really brought him out of the emotional hiding place he had been stuck in for so long; the baby. The thought of that child was and always would be both the most painful and the most beautiful thing and it was nearly tearing him apart inside. The pain it had been to realize that the mother had died and had taken the child with her had nearly cost him his sanity. To realize that, essentially, there never had been a child in the first place left him with a hollow feeling in his chest. Until that point in time, he had never realized how desperately he wanted children. The plans that had started stirring in his mind for the unborn one had been grand. The ghost of the child, even though it had never actually been, would haunt him forever with prospects and promises unfulfilled.

He drew in a shaky breath and steadied himself against the wall with one hand while the pain of what could have been washed over him in a searing wave. How stupid he had been to believe that times would get better; how naive. The after-effects of his addiction were still haunting him and he felt pretty weak at the knees all of a sudden. His stomach lurched and he closed his eyes hard to keep the need to throw up at bay. "Crap," he grumbled under his breath and decided to follow Aeryn. She was right. They all needed some rest.

***

Two weekens later

If John had thought that Aeryn would become softer after her near-breakdown, he was sorely mistaken. If nothing else, she became tougher. In a sense, she reminded him very much of how she had been at the very beginning; derisive, tougher than nails and impossible to talk to.

D'Argo kept his distance and so did Chiana. Sikozu they hardly ever saw and all Rygel did was complain about the scarceness of food. And true enough, they were running out of food. And John was hard pressed to admit that Aeryn had had a point when she had said they needed to find a way back to familiar space, because none of the planets they had come close to so far could sustain any form of life that was even vaguely familiar to any of them.

Roiling gas giants, glittering frozen moons, fire spewing lava pits; that seemed to be all they came across. The few worlds with marginally solid ground that weren't frozen were covered in layers and layers of gas rather than air and nothing grew on them.

For two weekens now, they had drifted around this inhospitable part of space and the mood on board was generally bad. They were all more or less depressed. They might have outrun the war, but that didn't matter if they starved to death in the end.

There was one good thing about this, though, that John could not deny no matter how he tried. He got enough sleep. Actually, he got more than he needed and it ended up making him groggy. As there was nothing much to do and Aeryn was intent on running her PK-routine for now, he was bored out of his head. Chiana and D'Argo kept each other company and John assumed that despite Rygel's continued complaints about that 'frelling Kalish', he and Sikozu hung out as well. Pilot, of course, had Moya and vice-versa. Which left him on his own and Aeryn on her own. She, however, seemed to thrive on being lonely and defiant. John didn't and it was beginning to show near the end of the second weeken.

John knew one fact about himself for certain and it was unfortunately something he could do nothing about at this point. When he was bored, he got annoying, and Pilot, who was generally up to speed again, was beginning to despair. John sat on his console, feet dangling, and he talked; incessantly. He knew he wasn't even marginally interesting for Pilot to listen to as most of his one-sided conversation was generally rubbish, but that did not deter him from going on and on and on.

Eventually, Pilot sighed and then growled dangerously and John assumed it might be time to pack it up and get going again. "Well, I'd better be on my way," he said, trying to sound cheerful without really being it. He slipped off the console and gave Pilot an almost apologetic smile. "Sorry for talking so much, dude. I'm just ..."

"Lonely. I know," Pilot replied and sighed again. "It is not that I do not appreciate the state of things right now, Commander, but it is very hard for me to concentrate when you talk constantly."

John nodded. "Yeah, I know," he agreed, smiled helplessly for a moment and gave up on it again. "I'll just get out of your way now, shall I?" he asked, saluted Pilot and strolled out of his den.

As soon as he hit the corridor, he slowed down and came to a full stop with a heartfelt sigh. There was no point in time that he had wanted the Lakka back more than he did right now. It would have taken care of the boredom as well as everything else. Angrily, he clenched his hands into fists and just stood there for a moment. He tried not to think, tried not to take offence at Aeryn's hands-off approach right now, but it was getting harder by the day. He just wanted her to ease up and take things in strides rather than this tip-toeing around she was doing right now, but no matter what he said to her, she didn't listen. As it were, she avoided him right now. She did talk to him, but her general demeanor was one of cold aloofness.

"Shit," he muttered, shook his head to shake those thoughts and headed back to his sleeping quarters. If he couldn't find anything to do, he might as well sleep.

***

Aeryn trailed aimlessly through Moya's lower tiers, furiously trying to prevent her mind from going into overdrive. What she most of all wanted to do was be with John right now, but as soon as she laid eyes on him, the pain of losing his twin surfaced in her again and she transferred those fears onto him and somehow managed to convince herself that he would die too. As soon as she was away from him, those fears subsided and she realized how foolish she was.

"Frell," she muttered and came to a stop. What would it take for her to be able to make up her mind about him? She wanted nothing more than to be with him, yet somehow she could not stand to be in the same room with him. She made a face and glanced around her. "Maybe I should just go up there and frell him," she said quietly. "That seems to work for Chiana," she added thoughtfully.

Then she closed her eyes and sighed. She had lost a full cycle and he had moved on, yet he still wanted her as much as ever. How the frell was she going to interpret that? She loved him. There was no question about that. But she couldn't stand to be with him. And the adversity of those feelings made her doubt her own sanity. How could anyone exist with feelings so different constantly vying for control?

It was driving her crazy, making her feel like getting into her prowler and just blasting out of there, but she had to admit that what was out there scared her more than what was onboard Moya. Besides, she had realized that running did not change anything.

Aggravated, she leaned against the wall and slid down it until she was sitting on the floor. She pulled her knees up and rested her folded arms on top of them while she tried to make sense of her world. There was no sense left in it. That was the only explanation for what was going on.

"Perhaps you should consider other options than avoiding Crichton?"

That voice came out of nowhere, although the tone was definitely familiar. Aeryn looked up and locked eyes with the up-side-down Kalish, who had shifted her point of gravity and was standing on the ceiling.

"Perhaps you should mind your own business," Aeryn countered indifferently.

Sikozu walked down the wall and hopped onto the floor, where she stopped and eyed Aeryn for a moment. "I believe that I have seen John Crichton at his worst," she said. "He warned me about Scorpius, but I did not listen. It is a blow to my ego that he was right. I admit that. But nevertheless he was right. I saw him while he took the lakka and I saw him when you returned. I saw how he struggled against his feelings for you, tried so desperately to subdue them so he could save you and the infant he believed you carried. He took the lakka to protect you."

"No, he didn't," Aeryn disagreed. She could not find it in herself to get worked up about the Kalish's words. "He took it because someone gave it to him. It was the easy way out."

"Not easy," Sikozu disagreed. "Never easy. Nothing is ever easy with John Crichton." She shook her head. "Suit yourself, Peacekeeper. I just think he deserves better." With that, she strode away briskly and disappeared around a corner, her lithe footsteps disappearing as she disappeared from view.

Aeryn returned to staring into space for a moment, but eventually had to admit that the Kalish had a point. Nothing was ever easy with John. Tired to the bone all of a sudden, she leaned her head back against the wall and allowed herself to drift. And as she did, something became very clear to her; something she had sought an answer for ever since she had realized what it meant to love someone else. No matter how she turned and twisted things, John would always be the center of her life. This John or the one before. Essentially, they were the same, split from the same core with the same beautiful, incomprehensible mind; a commodity she needed to protect so he lost nothing further of what he was.

Unaware that she was doing so, she smiled softly to herself. Her rampant thoughts settled slowly as her temper evened out. She needed to put the pieces back together, needed to fill him in on a few things, but John was no more dead than she was. He had just forgotten. All she had to do was to remind him.

***