(Oh, I'm just messing around, gatorjen)
Based on a dream, told in five parts, a story where wormholes, sex, and gravity collide. And it's kind of longish, but believe me, it's worth it.
Title: mending horizons
Author: Regala Electra
Rating: NC 17
Warnings: Sex, language, violence
Spoilers: Set after S4 finale "Bad Timing"
Summary: 'The universe cuts like a knife - the directive cannot fail.'
Author's Notes: Told in five parts, a tale of wormholes and the space-time continuum. Thanks to gatorjen and nariya for acting as an audience for the first four parts.
Down the white corridor, there is no one there, she walks silently, with a caution she does not intend. The air is stale - he calls it 'the hospital stench' - she can sense that there is something permanent here. Not death, but dying, has fused to the walls, refusing to ever let go. It is also a place of healing; there is vague intangible hanging cheerlessly in the air, it is discomforting in its quietness but necessary.
It is bathed in brightness, the day outside is hot and sticky, and John had cheerfully told her some of his colorful - and baffling - euphemisms about this kind of weather. She had smiled at him and said something about him and his strange language, making a point of reminding him that even though she's learned English, he still makes no sense.
And he had chuckled and kissed her.
Simple memory - yet her belly, now bulging lightly, warms from the remembrance of that moment.
She passes a window, looks outside and sees the sun blazing recklessly. Blinking, she focuses on the scope of the earth, narrowing her eyes to make out the melting point of the horizon. Opening the window, letting fresh air pour into the invisible gloom, the drapes flow freely, blindingly white like the walls, ceiling, and floor.
The floor is tiled and she makes no noise as she stops. The door's number is emblazoned clearly on coppery metal. It reminds her of Moya and she doesn't knock.
John opens the door, his eyes, the face, the smile, the hair, familiar details that comfort her; it is him, and the despair and solitude, as she walked down the corridor, as she kept herself hidden from the human medics, becomes worth it.
She smiles at him and asks if everything's all right.
"Well, he's stabilized," John answers, beckoning her in. Aeryn has been careful to keep her opinions of Earth's medical skills to herself, but even he must know her displeasure at the crude technology implemented to heal the sick.
She doesn't go up to the bed right away; she can't stop herself from assessing the room: empty, blank walls, the window's been opened and the air is fresh, full of life, much like the single occupant in the room. He is not alone.
The woman sitting by the man's bed is frail and has dark upswept hair; her eyes betray nothing. She does not trust them, nor should she dare.
Aeryn and John move towards the bed and the woman furiously demands, "I want answers, John. Who is this woman?"
"My wife," he says, keeping his voice normal and light, but Aeryn understands him better now, she hears the slight weariness obscured, and the man on the bed looks surprised.
The woman eyes Aeryn sharply, a flicker of recognition, and shakes her head, "I don't care. I need to speak to my husband's doctor." She kisses the formerly ill man - he now looks healthy - on the head, it is tender, a perfect imitation of love, and promises, "I'll be back, darling."
"Rita Dougal," John says, implying the name is an explanation for the woman's cold behavior. Aeryn merely nods fleetingly before observing the door closing after the thin woman - it flutters shut a little too slowly, a little too lazily. "A debutante if there ever was one. And she married good ole Mikey here."
"Now John," the man's voice is friendly, but wheezes as though he hasn't spoken for a long time, "That's Mrs. Rita Dougal-Kinney."
"Right," John's smile is unnaturally bright; it could unsettle her if she didn't know his reasons this forced happiness. "I get tied up in IASA and you turn out to be a married man, marrying Miss Southern Belle, no less."
"I can say the same for you," the man says, and his eyes crinkle as he says this, they are a blue like a clear Earth sky.
He is clearly eyeing her so she becomes interested in his medic chart, smiling to herself as English words are becoming easier to read - she is almost completely fluent now.
His name is Michael Kinney and he is stated as being in "stable" condition. This is clearly obvious: he is conversing with John, laughing and though he lies in a bed, he does not look ill. She doesn't understand the human arrangement of medical knowledge. The reason why Michael awoke from his long-term coma early this morning is not mentioned anywhere in the chart.
She surveys the room again and there is only one hideously bright arrangement of floral plants on his table next to his bed - a symbol of well-wishers, John had explained. The medics are keeping it quiet. John said that the medics would think it a miracle - for he was never expected to wake.
Aeryn does not believe in miracles. The concept means that there is not a price, but there is always one. She does not let those thoughts go any further.
Going back to the chart, it says Michael had been in an accident when he was in his early twenties, newly married, and the truck - she repeats this word under her breath, unintentionally adding in an unintended *click* sound which causes John to stare at her, asking her if she's alright - the truck had been going too fast and Michael had no chance. That he hadn't died would also be classified under the notion of miracle.
Looking back at John, she tells him hesitantly (though she has mastered the language, when she does not concentrate her accent is heavy and the words sound wrong), "I am fine, John."
Michael smiles at her and says, "Your bonehead husband hasn't introduced us. I'm Mike."
Mike - the sound of that word agrees with her, the Michael is too soft and she would've had to be careful not to under pronounce it - Mike is far easier. "Mike, I am Aeryn."
"Pretty name for such a beautiful woman." He coughs and John is quick to offer a glass of water. "Thanks, John. I really am glad to see you. You'd think just seeing Rita after - after all this time would be enough, but I'm going batty. Only seen docs and nurses. Rita hasn't even told me what's happened in the past few - well, it been a few years, hasn't it?"
John's smile is tight and Aeryn wants to remind him to relax, but doesn't dare. Perhaps if she comes closer - she moves behind him and makes a point of resting her hand on top his shoulder - a gesture she is sure that is both affective and speaks of their bond. Mike agrees with this assessment by giving them an indulgent smile. He must have missed contact greatly for this small gesture to be noticed by his weary, yet friendly eyes.
She understands now, why John had to go first. It would be easy to believe.
"Yeah man," John keeps his voice wistful and thoughtful, there is a tenseness under his skin that Aeryn can feel, "We had come here, 'cause well..."
She can see John's shy, approachable grin though she is looking into Mike's face. She examines him as best she can, keeping her countenance as compassionate as possible. John nods to her and she knows this to be her cue.
"I am pregnant," she carefully announces, hoping her accent and her revelation sound correct.
"Hey, congrats Johnny," Mike's smile is bright, but unlike John's similar smile of before, he clearly means it.
"It was a bit of a struggle," John says and Aeryn can't help but tighten her grip, only relaxing when John's hand covers her own, "but we made it. We were on own way to visit a friend of the family when Aeryn was complaining about the weather and the morning sickness, oh well, you'll understand when you have some of your own, won't you?"
It is sometimes hard to realize just how John can inspire others, why she is here at this point in her life when she could have still been a peacekeeper. This is one of the moments that she understands it. Michael believes this lie and thanks them both for coming.
Though Aeryn is not sick, she feels an illness stirring in her stomach, irritably stirring as she forces a grin on her face.
She has excused herself to the bathroom, finding the extreme sparseness of the small room oddly comforting.
The overhead light beats down harshly on her skin. She does not think herself as young or old, her face is paler than it should be; yet she does look healthy enough. The pregnancy feels normal and she grips the shiny whiteness of the sink as her forehead rests against the mirror. The heat in the room seems to be increasing and it is only with slow, studied breathing that she brings her temperature down to a more manageable level.
Exiting, the door noisily creaks open - she is again reminded of Earth's poor technologies - and she is confronted with the dank heat in the room. John turns and there are faint beads of sweat on his forehead that he hasn't bothered to wipe away. It makes his skin look better, fuller and heavier; he looks a word she cannot recall. There is solidity to him in the slow warmth.
Mike seems to be in a cheerier mood, although he too is overwhelmed by the irritating weather; his hair, bright yellow (messy in a way that makes it clear that he does not keep his hair this length normally), clings wetly to his face.
"Rita just came in while you were in the bathroom," John informs her, gesturing to the seat he had vacated while she was in the bathroom. He is sitting on another chair, made of poorer material that was formerly nested in one of the bare corners. "She had to leave."
"Her mom, well, my mother-in-law, just called her. I think the family will be coming down soon, too bad this weather's making me look like I just came out of a coma."
John and Mike laugh at this, and their laughs compliment each other.
Still puzzling over 'mother-in-law,' it translates moderately with her microbes, but it comes out as a single, rushed word when she tries listen to it in English, she remarks, "You did come out of a coma, Mike."
Her pronunciation of 'Mike' sounds too Sebeacean, John's smile curves roguishly in response. Settling down on the empty chair, John takes her hand. He is so solid, for a moment, she feels relaxed; she can ignore the sweltering staleness clinging to every particle in the hospital room.
Mike lets loose a dry chuckle and says, "Guess my jokes aren't as good as they used to be."
"Naw man," John remarks quickly, the thickness of his voice coming back, the twang he sometimes affects unintentionally - much to Aeryn's amusement - enriching every word, "For that to be true, you'd have to be funny in the first place."
"Still Crichton after all this time, I see," Mike nods at that and doesn't notice the harsh flex of John's jaw at this moment. "You haven't changed a bit."
John pauses before he says anything. He does not look at her when he finally speaks. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"Aeryn," Mike's bright blue eyes turn to her and she tries to smile but fails, "Since I've been out of the loop for the past ten years, maybe I should ask how you and John met. See, if I ask Johnny-boy over here, he'll make the story sound like something out of a movie - you know how he gets."
"Yes," she does, and she continues, pulling back her long hair (though it has been cut shorter, it is still far too long for this weather) to cool her neck, "John and his - movies."
She pretends not to hear John snort, but takes time to glare at him when he rolls his eyes.
"We met four years ago," John says and his eyes are far away. She still prefers saying 'cycles' to 'years' even when speaking English. "Well, just a bit over four years now. Ain't that right, baby?"
She cannot help feel annoyance at his endearment. It could be her hormonal imbalance due to the pregnancy, though she is sure that she does not have the problem. Turning to Mike, she replies, "The first time we met, I had him on his back."
She is sure this will 'show up' John, a term he has used before to signify triumph, but instead Mike whistles, chuckling and sharing a strange look with John.
Reminding herself that punching the recently ill is unjustifiable, she raises an eyebrow at John, who briefly runs his hand over his face before saying, "Thanks, Aeryn."
"Well, I can see you've been have some wild times," Mike manages between half-laughs, he tries to keep himself from laughing; his face has a reddish color to it now.
"What?" She lets out her exasperation, glaring at both Mike and John, before finally frowning at John, "I did have you on his back."
"Aeryn's...not a native speaker," John begins to explain.
"I noticed." Mike calms himself down from his laughing fit, which is good because she's beginning to change her position on the treatment of the ill. "So where are you from, Aeryn?"
"Far away," she says before John can answer for her. She makes her voice sound harsher and firmer to declare the subject will not be up for further discussion.
"Mike, enough about us, we came to see you." John takes Aeryn's hand and his warmth, the vague sweat clinging to his palms, doesn't discomfort her. She squeezes his hand and he continues, "All these years..."
"You know what's strange?" Mike asks and there's a plain steadiness to his voice. "I thought I was going to die. When the truck came and - I just knew. Game over. I don't remember anything past that damned truck. Then I wake up and I don't remember a thing. Truck, then maybe a flash, like a memory almost, and then nothingness. And I open my eyes and Rita's staring at me and the doctors are looking at me like I've come back from the dead."
She remembers John asking her about death when they were trapped in the flax. She remembers her own death, it wasn't the blackness like he had told her when he awoke from the kill shot: it was coldness. It was patience. She waited in death, silent and without desire.
And she remembers every single moment.
John shakes his head to signify his amazement at Mike's story and Aeryn is unable to discern if the amazement is real or an illusion. "You survived, Mike. You're alive."
"Hey, I know, I'm one of the luckiest sonabitches on the planet. But then I've always been that way. You remember how nervous I was when I told you I was going to ask Rita out on a date, right?" John nods at this; she senses a connection pass between the two men. A true friendship, something rooted in the past, a shared history. Mike snaps out of his reverie, and continues, as though lost in his thoughts, "Just, it's weird. I guess maybe I suffered some amnesia - shouldn't I remember something else? Like, dreams or something? It was just darkness until I woke up this morning."
Aeryn surprises them all by taking Mike's hand in her own, trying to reassure him without using words.
"Thank you," he says and she nods.
"Mother's coming down in an hour, she's being held up, but she's - what's going on here?" Rita's voice is sharp and Aeryn turns around as quickly as John does. The woman's eyes are narrowed and her sharp-nailed hand clings, white-knuckled, on doorknob of the now-open door.
She is frozen and Aeryn lets go of Mike's hand.
After a pause, Rita says, "John, perhaps you and your wife should let my husband rest."
Aeryn sees the rapid shift of attitude, from a suspicious fury to a blank coolness, and she cannot help herself from standing up. It is a challenging stance and, surprisingly, Rita knows.
"Mrs. Crichton," and for a moment Rita's eyes travel to Aeryn's left hand. A single ring - the ring John gave to her - is there and something unusual flashes in the thin woman's sharp eyes, "If you *are* Mrs. Crichton-"
"Rita, what are you trying to say?" John takes up a stance next to Aeryn and she is hesitant at their shared used of power - it is too much, they are being too obvious. John has at least conceded to flank Aeryn's back and not to directly challenge the suspicious woman.
"That's a lovely engagement ring, John. I don't see a wedding band there, though." Rita's voice is overly gentle and her mouth is set in a hard white line. "Is there a reason for it - besides the fact that you two aren't married - that you'd like to share?"
"My -" Aeryn pauses, trying to think of proper words to convey her thoughts, "my religion - we do not require such symbols. I am wearing this ring for John's own peace of mind - my people do not consider jewelry to be proof of a bond. And my name is Aeryn Sun. Not Mrs. Crichton."
She is proud of this fast thinking - it does make some sense - and she hopes that her accent and 'foreigner' status are enough to sway the shrewd wife. She does not look at John to see his reaction to her last words; she had firmly stated she would not accept his last name.
Rita sweeps into the room, ignoring both Aeryn and John as she crosses the foot of the bed and sets herself to stand over Mike on the opposite side. She too knows how to stand and command power. Aeryn turns, slowly and purposely, to face her. "My husband needs his rest. You should understand that, John. I've heard all about your missions."
"What? Missions?" Mike's bright eyes sparkle with excitement, but Aeryn senses John's nervousness at explaining his current life. Rita only sighs, conceding that she will not be able to get her and John to leave the room. "John, did you become an astronaut like your old man?"
"You'd better believe it," John answers, the cheer is so false even Rita notices, her puzzlement revealing itself in her wrinkled forehead. "Been farther than anyone else on the planet."
Aeryn is very adept at not rolling her eyes at John's enthusiasm and makes sure to note this moment so she can remind him she's still holding the record for distance traveled across the universe without using wormholes.
"Amazing." Mike doesn't bother to cover the child-like awe in his voice. "I was too ready to settle for a nice desk job, the life of a pencil-pusher, to pursue IASA."
"You say that like IASA isn't chock-full of some of the best pencil-pushing on the planet," John sarcastically comments.
Mike shakes his head, "I wanted to start working right away. Me and Rita, we have plans."
"Had," Rita says dully, "We had plans."
Something crosses Mike's face, but it is gone quickly. "Yeah."
Rita suddenly snaps out of the - whatever it was - and while clearly ignoring Aeryn and John, she affectionately kisses her husband's cheek. "We have time now, sweetheart. I can't believe it, it's been so long, but we finally do."
If only that moment, private, but so rare, could last. Aeryn takes John's hand and nods to him, understanding his reluctance.
The construct shatters and Aeryn stumbles back into John, trying not to shut her eyes as the room tears apart for a split microt.
The temperature destabilizes, she feels the cold ten times worse as the sweat on her body is shocked by the bitter chill broken across space and time - while she does not see Mike and Rita's stunned faces, she feels them - just as she feels the solid back of John, the only thing still maintaining stability - her stomach twinges sharply and she releases a strangled gasp.
And she thinks there will be silence -
Rita's scream - high-pitched and hysterical - pierces through Aeryn's head and the white room turns black in an instant.
Then there is nothing but John and herself.
"Stabilize it, DAMMIT!" John's voice shouts distantly - space has expanded - his arms circle tightly around her midsection and she can barely make out the words he screams frantically into the empty air. "DAMN - D'Argo...the directive...first button...no, don't!...can you...Aeryn!!!"
She cannot understand the rapidly dimming voice so she pats his arm once to prove she is still conscious. Though her eyes are open, she sees nothing but darkness.
The directive - John said something about it. Something must have gone wrong. The directive is failing. It has never happened before.
She quickly recalls all her knowledge, for she cannot ask John what is happening, she must only rely on what she has learned. The directive never fails unless, yes, she understands. Someone must have tampered with it or a small change must have broken the precious balance - a series of linking images and sounds and senses - all inevitably tied to the space-time continuum.
"You and your wormholes," she speaks the words but does not hear them.
John holds the record for wormhole travel, but, as she inanely recalls at this most ill opportune time, they decided there would be two different records for space travel - wormhole and traditional, which meant any travel using ordinary means of transport. John had said something about making it fair so 'the Missus gets her own shiny trophy.'
She remembers laughing at the horribly cheery statue he bought her at a commerce planet, garishly colored shiny yellow, with the hand-written insignia 'Aeryn Sun - Keep Reaching for that Rainbow.'
She's never gotten around to asking John why he's so amused by that joke. And there it is- a reason - she will not let herself be shattered across the universe just because she cannot focus on the problem at hand.
It is her understanding that if the directive fails, their mission is over, as are their lives. She laughs and her soundless cheer is noticed by John, he cautiously turns her around to face him in their embrace and he breathes, 'are you okay?'
While their plans never quite work out as well as they intend, this one, in case they find themselves speeding around the time-space continuum faster that sound and light, does work surprising well. Her signal is to kiss him twice.
His lips are dry and she stays a bit longer, offering the few wet drops clinging to her bottom lip, she parts her mouth and brushes his tongue with a gentle flick of her own. She leaves his mouth for a mere mircot, or it could very well be a lifetime, she can't quite remember how it works, before deepening the halted kiss, wrapping her arms securely around his neck.
Head lowering, he brushes her cheek with his forehead. That means, 'damn Aeryn, you're killing me.' It's not an actual signal, but she knows it well.
She taps her index finger against the back of the neck - she's asking about time. Not infinite time, but fallible time - her question is 'when is it going to right itself?"
He traces his thumb across her lips while holding her tightly in a one-armed grip. This is a weak attempt at distraction.
A scream cuts across their solitude and Aeryn listens impassively. They cannot inform Mike and Rita in time - as they are currently outside, above, below, and around time - to find something solid to hold onto, but she says it anyways, not caring whether she's saying it in English or Sebaecean.
John doesn't hear what she says, but he also manages something while unable to hear his own voice. She thinks he is imparting her directions, at least there is now a definite chance for there to be an echo for the other two to hear in their own tongue, if it not already too late.
John kisses her, this one means, 'I love you,' and she taps him once across his cheek.
She feels one of his fingers curling a lock of hair close to her temple - 'I'm not saying goodbye' - and she screams, as loudly as she can manage, "Shut down the auxiliary capacitators!"
She waits in infinity. She shuts her eyes and opens them and it's the same. Nothingness and everything, John is nearby but she does not see him.
She feels a quick, but nauseating lurch. Her equilibrium erodes and she plummets.
John's arms are as tight as ever; her grip is equal, if not stronger.
Someone will hear her - someone must hear her, before all is lost.
Colors explode across her vision and she wonders if she looks just as pale and startled as John.
His eyes are reflected in great gas clouds and spiraling galaxies and distant nebulas - the blues of his eyes swirl for a mircot - cycles perhaps, they are still lost in the infinite - like a wormhole.
Then the stars pierce the black emptiness and she is free, her burdens lift away as smallish spots of vague colors - she makes out blues, yellows, and reds shine inexorably - a solid, ominous brightness.
It is the universe - the dimensions find their borders and she feels herself being enclosed, the greatness of the expanse dissipates slowly at first.
The sensation is awful - she feels joy, pure and bright, it infuses in every cell of her body and she is a part and not a part of this immenseness - and she has a greater purpose of being.
She nearly loses everything in this union, her name, her shape, her memories, she is to be a part of space and a part of her DNA does not mind this, the part that longs for space and travel.
John's forehead touches her own, how it can bring her back, she does not know, but it is another sign, he is - he is...
She can't remember. She shuts her eyes and tries to ignore the calling vibrating in every cell of her body.
Everything slows down and she can hear John say feebly, "I think we're gonna be alright."
Gravity does not stabilize - she is slammed into the ground and the wind is knocked out of her lungs in one powerful blow. The universe cuts like a knife, it slashes her shut; her skin pricks heavily with the weight and weakness of her flesh.
Her body feels unpleasant and wrong; she takes a long time to concentrate on the feel and push of mortality.
She opens her eyes to the gray pallor of the hospital room and wheezes out, "You just had to say that."
John has shifted and moved her so that she lays on top of him to better catch her breath. He is checking her for damage, traveling through the space-time continuum should have killed them both, but they were protected with help from the directive.
When she closes her eyes, the stars dance only for her, timeless and without need.
He's staring at the ceiling when she finally moves off of him, he holds her close to his body; he is worried about something. Before she can ask him what's so interesting, he answers, "I think everything's gone sideways."
And the same voice that screamed while the universe fell apart (she realizes it sounds haughty and spoiled), cuts in, "What the fuck is going on?"
John shuts his eyes and Aeryn is sure he is memorizing the star patterns burned on the back of his eyelids, just as she was doing before. "Frell."
"Uh, John? Care to answer my wife?"
Aeryn can make out two other shapes - Rita and Mike - huddled together on the farthest wall, like they are lying on the floor.
Finally, John states clearly and without room for argument, "Whatever you guys do, do not lose sense of your balance."
"You've fallen on the wall." John states this very blandly, nearly the same as his request for them to maintain their equilibrium.
It is no easy feat to keep from panicking. Aeryn tries not to think about the distortion of gravity, she is on the floor, the floor, the floor.
The wall has gone a dusty, aged gray, but no, it's the floor now, she has to believe that.
"What?" Rita screams and it is Mike who holds her back, as she dizzily tries to move, flailing about as though her energy is draining with every movement.
"You know that dizziness people sometimes get from heights?" John doesn't wait for a response. "It's like that. Only worse, because if you really think about it, you kind of, well, lose gravity. Or gravity loses you."
"WHAT THE FUCKING HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" By now, Rita's voice must be ready to give out. Aeryn hopes for this, she's beginning to get a headache.
Mike is unreasonably silent and she wonders when John and Rita will notice.
"Look, just close your eyes and think of Disneyland - no, you better not, thinking about rides will just mess you up -"
"Aeryn, just a second, this is important. Mike, I know this doesn't seem real -" Mike still says nothing and only holds Rita closer to his body. "Think of it as a very bad dream. Payback for ten years of dreamless sleep-"
"Sleep? Michael was in a COMA! You bastard, I should have thrown you out the SECOND you waltzed in the very DAY my husband finally woke up. ALL these years - and you and your ALIEN WHORE show up-"
"Stop," she finally says, and if she can figure out a way to momentarily go weightless again and fall on the other floor where Rita screams her venom at John, she will. "This is not helping. It is best to-"
But she cannot advise the best course of action, the room shakes, a quaking tremor, and John keeps her from falling by pulling her back and holding her tight. His eyes are screwed tight; he is convincing himself that the room isn't moving.
She can feel the sick revolutions, they twist at her stomach, and she is only on the floor - the wall - the floor - the wall - she looks down (up, sideways, across) the room's getting wider and longer - the drop's growing with every second.
"Aeryn, baby," John whispers in her ear, "don't look down."
A wall, once the ceiling, tears away with a vicious rip and she stares at the world outside. Black clouds and heavy streaks of rain, raging thunder and lightning. A storm tears across the landscape - the air - the sky - the stars are burning up above.
It is night, it is still day.
Day. Night. Raindrops do not fall on her face. They fly there.
She shuts her eyes and can feel every single one; they connect with her skin wetly.
Then she is soaked, the sort of heavy downpour (that is falling directly on her, there is no order to direction now) that can drown a person, that John calls "soaked to the bones."
Her bones are fine; it's her lungs she's worried about. She feels trapped underwater.
John's voice comes sluggishly and she can barely make out the words, it is only with the assistance of the microbes that it comes to her. "Aeryn, don't breathe."
Yes, she doesn't have to breathe, if she doesn't want it, she will not desire it.
Will cannot overpower instinct. Her legs thrash out and slowly, moving under pressure, connect and then strike John's legs.
Her body tells her to let go, to fall, to rise, to sink, to fly, and her mind has gone blank.
Something is touching her.
No. Not right.
Right? Right - she is in half, one side left, the other right. The other is always right.
Someone -John- is kissing her.
The hair on her head soaks up the watery pellets and falls like a veil around their faces. Standing in a whirlwind, noise streaming around their bodies, she finds her balance.
It's the rest of the room that loses it center.
There is nothing to hold onto, formerly a wall (and formerly white, the color's draining everywhere and she can only see the color in John's eyes), the makeshift floor crumbles and they cannot stay here.
John says nothing, he pushes off the floor, she feels light and submerged under pliable weight, he is rigid, his every move too steady, too practiced. He spins out of control.
There is incoherent noise echoing in her ears, she flicks wet strands off her face. Aeryn reaches out, her hand outstretches and yes, she grabs it. Skin and bone, the flesh between, she can feel a sharp, metallic shock as she tightens her grip.
Her eyes study the bed; it flickers brightly then grows dull. The touch of it grows cold and her hand slips.
Right. Left. Two different sides.
She's holding onto the bed - body flailing nearly diagonal - with her left hand.
John yells for her and in the noise, she hears it.
Head turning, she is unsettled by the growing fury of the storm, she realizes she's letting go of him.
Tightening her right hand, squeezing John's hand, she says, "Sorry."
He looks up at her, looming closer as she pulls him back towards her, and shrugs. "My side, your side, everything's going abstract. Seems like we aren't gonna be able to color in the lines."
His body falls heavily on the bed and she follows suit. For security, she raises her other arm and clutches a metallic pole of the headboard. Under no circumstances can she forget this.
The bed is dry and the rain splits and turns before it dares fall on them, splintering off to drench the rest of the remaining room. The door snaps off and she can make out the storm clouds and rain. The rest of the hospital was fed to the storm.
A bolt of lightning strikes the center of the room, hitting emptiness, and she remembers Mike and Rita. The light in the room is dead and the flashes of the storm permit her to scrutinize the undermining area.
They are alone.
"The directive's falling apart, John. We should abort now."
"I know," he says, and his voice is lighter, if not his body, he moves his hand to reach out to the raindrops and it is too slow and too practiced. Too unlike John. "But we can't operate it here. We're in too deep. And my module's currently swallowed in one of those monster twisters." She sees a giant, gray mass, sinister in its approach, she knows it will be here sooner than later.
"Something's wrong," she begins and John laughs at this, hollow and ill sounding. She continues, her soaked clothing turning her body unpleasantly cold, "John, we're stuck."
He says nothing and his silence means nothing positive.
"Are they still alive?"
"They're protected," he finally answers.
She twists, her legs tangle with John's and he helps her lie on her side.
An illness creeps into her belly and she shivers.
"You're soaked, Aeryn."
John moves in closer to her and his breath tickles the back of her damp neck. "I faced the brunt of that hurricane."
"Sorry? If you hadn't held onto me, I would have floated away." She frowns and loosens her hands above her head. Bringing her arms down to a more comfortable position, she flexes her fists and winces at the pain. She's sprained her left wrist. The laugh comes out before she can stop it.
"I was just thinking," and she's balanced now, they're arns away from total chaos and she's laughing, "it's a good thing I'm at a hospital, I can get someone to look at my hand."
John is quiet, but she feels his body shake with silent laughter. He's curled against her back and his heat warms her chilled, 'soaked to the bone' body.
Her shirt is over her head and falls slowly on the bedside table.
"I think you're going into shock," John explains.
"Yes, of course," she covers his hand and immobilizes him from touching her skin; it hovers over her slightly rounded stomach. "Are my pants next?"
"Only if you're very good."
"John," she says, her eyes close and she takes a deep breath. John's hand touches her belly and she is stunned by the contact, a jolt strikes through her body. "We cannot have sex right now."
"One good reason," he says and does not ask. He kisses the back of her shoulder blade. She cannot let herself fall for this distraction.
"No, John." Then, she moves his hand over the top of her pants. "Take this off for me."
"I live to serve."
He doesn't, but she won't say it. He lives for many reasons, for wormholes, for the future, for their child. She knows these, he's said as much and she believes him. But he does not live to serve, his service comes of his own desires and he is the one who showed her it's a better way.
"Hey baby," his lips press over the skin just above her pants as he begins pulling them off, "didn't anyone ever tell you that fear's an aphrodisiac?"
Knowing her line, she says, mocking shock and innocence, "But John, you fear nothing! You laugh in dangerous faces!"
"Laugh in the face of danger, Aeryn. Don't ruin my fantasy."
"So you prefer fantasy, do you?"
He groans as she purposely grinds her backside down on him. "Ain't nothing better than reality."
She blinks, momentarily dizzy, and she concentrates on the noises coming from John. He moves slowly, his lovemaking - this is what it is - has always been like this, he always finds new places to explore and mark as his own. She usually does the same, but not this time, she stays still as he moves down, slowly pulling down pants and undergarments, past her knees, a kiss to each of her calves; boots and socks gone before she's checked if they've become soaked by the storm.
John remains behind her and she listens to the sound of him removing his clothes. His naked body stretches flush against hers and she flexes her body to accommodate him in this position.
Hooking a leg back over him, John's hand slowly kneads muscle and flesh, teasing her skin with quicker strokes, he says, "I love you."
She bites her lip as he fills her, keeping herself from moaning. She thinks it weak, to moan out a declaration of love as his cock nestles inside her, warm and *right.*
His left hand flips her hair up and away. He slowly kisses her neck as his right hand moves away from her leg, making circular patterns as his hand travels up to her hip and it is only with control that she keeps herself from commanding him to hurry. She partly wishes he wouldn't be so gentle with her; it is born of her own impatience and her desire for efficiency.
It is then that he begins moving, smoothly, but not slowly and she cannot keep herself from showing her gratitude. She pushes back, John bites, too softly, on her shoulder to keep from screaming as she clenches around him.
His hand travels up to her breasts and tests each weight in his hand. They've become sensitive with the growing solar days and Aeryn does not mind this part of being pregnant as a jolt strikes through her body when John's fingertips glide over the peaks of her nipples.
She cranes her neck and is rewarded with John's lips, rain-wet and warm; this is perfection. It has never been recreation with him, even when she desired it, it is always more, it is deeper, it is what John means by 'soaked to the bone,' he invades her and he touches all of her. It is terrifying and worthwhile.
She breaks away, her body speaks for her before her mind can. She does not stop from shuddering, gasping as his release follows soon after; overpowering, sudden in a gradual way that she cares not to examine at the moment.
She is centered and she listens to John's heart, lying side by side.
It is hard to reconcile the past that has brought her here; she can see bruises forming on her knuckles and knows they will take time to heal. John's voice is soft against her temple, he says nonsense and she answers in kind. He has not forgotten that this is wrong, they are teetering on the edge and there's no longer a storm.
He tells her of plans and asks how she's feeling, covering her stomach with his hand for emphasis.
She smiles and tries not to look into the void.
The directive is not meant to fail.
It cannot fail.
John developed it from his own mind, a mind that is full of memories and information that he didn't want and keeps. He'd told her that this isn't an obsession, that this is his mission, his duty. And she understands duty; she knows purpose. She had twisted the ring on her finger and nodded in agreement.
Her stomach had just begun to swell and she made new promises to her child.
John told her it's a simple prime directive, a simple device, made of components John wouldn't have dreamed of before a wormhole changed his life.
He developed a weapon and offered her a choice. It was her escape from this path - a life spent always staying ahead of another race trying to control wormholes - a reason to go without regrets. She stayed.
Wormholes no longer called to him; he mastered them and she learned to love navigating through the wild ride, seeing time and space bend itself in the spiraling wormhole while John's eyes stayed closed, he told her that was the best way to see the possibilities. John taught her well and trained her on the directive, telling her that when she was ready, she would go with him on the missions he didn't talk about. His silence was a warning and she did not heed it.
The directive fails.
They fall to the ground naked. She rises to her feet, finds clothes and dresses quickly.
The room is now barren, it looks nothing like the room before, it is both dirty and aged, a place of death. John stops her from opening the window, smeared and filthy, his hand is warm and she is not comforted when he touches her shoulder.
There was a time before, after she and John had escaped from the examination quarters of the healing planet, that his touch had felt the same. She remembers their lovemaking: fiercely quiet and his arms reaching up to bring her down to him, he begged for her to come closer, "god Aeryn, please, need you so much."
She had pushed him away and pretended not to understand the flash of emotion on John's face. He did not understand. She'll never be able to disconnect, to let herself fall into the despair that love offers, like he can. Though she now wishes she had chosen to fall into his arms, to offer him the solace he needed, she knows her reasoning - she did not understand.
John reaches down on the floor, searching for his shirt. He finds an old, dusty chart, similar to the one she read before. She watches him flip through it; he is lost in thought.
"We have to go now," he finally says. "The module's outside."
He places it back, he doesn't move from his position. "Are you-" He walks over to her, his hand brushes hair off of her face, "are you okay? It wasn't supposed to be so physical."
"The baby's fine, John," she says, weariness creeping in unintentionally. "I am tired, though."
"Yeah," he nods and kisses her, she makes him stay longer than he originally intended. "It, it does that. Drains you."
Her hand covers his chest where his heartbeat lies. "How are you, John?"
He hugs her fiercely then, he is trying to remember something. "It'll go away. The memories will fade - I've done this before, but it's never been so vivid. I have double memories, a life with my best buddy Mike and a life where Michael Kinney was this guy I didn't really know and died in a car accident when I was in college. I didn't even go to his funeral."
"What happens to them - Mike and Rita?"
"They don't exist. They never did, not those people. That reality, it wasn't supposed to exist and it's collapsed. Permanently."
She nods her head. The directive is a simple device, but one John discovered as a necessary precaution to stopping others from developing wormhole technology. The inherit instability of wormholes leaves "unrealized realities" as he's always explaining, dimensions that cannot be, yet exist on the outskirts of time and space. John had found that these variables were key in developing wormhole travel because they were such anomalies. Anyone who could find proto or unstable wormholes could eventually master long-distance travel via erratic realities.
So one day, he decided to develop a device that could eradicate the most severe of the anomalies, thus stabilizing wormhole travel by making it more difficult to unintentionally discover these anomalies - for they would no longer exist in the time-space continuum.
"These memories," she flinches when she closes her fist; she's not only bruised her hand, she's sprained it. "They don't fade, do they?"
He opens the door; the corridor is washed out, the lights beat gloomily on the floor and walls. "They never existed, Aeryn. Not in our universe."
Her cheeks burn and she knows he is trying to dismiss the truth. "That's why you didn't want me to help you. That's why you tried to leave - so you could do this alone without consequence."
He turns sharply to her, the fury of truth clear on his face. "We don't have time."
"No," her mouth twists and she keeps her voice low, "that is one of the few things we have."
"It's an illusion," he looks down the corridor, checking for any sign of medics. "Once we get into space and we get home through the wormhole express, this place is gone, forever."
"But not from your mind."
John says nothing more. He takes her hand, and they walk down the corridor. It is vacated, but bears the years of use heavily on its walls.
The walk will be long, but they know the path. Instead of taking the elevator, they move down the stairs.
As they exit the hospital, he wraps an arm around her. People will think them a happy couple and pay no further attention.
"If I didn't remember it all, if I didn't remember a world where you were human, a world were you were dead, a world where I was a monster, how could I keep it from repeating?"
She bites her lip and does not answer. The coppery tang is familiar and mixes with the salt of the rain still in her mouth.
"This is my job now. Sure the pay's low, the risk is high and since I'm the only shmuck hired for the position, there's no union, but there's a reason. I have to do this, Aeryn. It's all about the balance." His boots sound heavily on the concrete outside. She cannot look up into the sky - the day remains bright - she instead lowers her eyes to the shadows on the ground.
"I understand, John. How difficult this is for you. I just don't know how you can purposely do this. You didn't need to come here."
"No, that's the catch, Aeryn. The trick, the little snag to collapsing unstable realities, is to believe it. You have to believe that this is your world. It," he runs a hand through his hair, he is frustrated and is trying to calm down, "it has to hurt."
She shuts her eyes and the sunlight bleeds through her lids.
"Look," he says and she doesn't look at him, "this is dangerous stuff. I can't risk you again."
"That is where you are wrong, John," her smile is hard but true. "That is my choice."
He stares off into the horizon; the fine lines growing on his skin captivate her. He sighs, it is his defeated sigh, she has won this battle. She takes his hand, wincing slightly.
Studying the purpling bruises, he asks, "How bad is it?"
"It'll heal, it's only a sprain." She flexes her hand and keeps her face composed. "It would be best to get to Moya soon."
He nods and kisses her. His embrace is not gentle and she is grateful, his body crushes against her and her belly is covered by his solid weight. He lifts her carefully and she cannot help but smile against his mouth.
They walk across a landscape of a shattered world, it is not a facsimile of Earth, but it is best to think of it as one. She is silent and listens to John's babbling about reconfiguring the "G.R.I.V.A. directive."
As they enter the module, she says, "This mission was a success, Crichton. Another anomaly destroyed."
He doesn't notice her purposeful use of his name. She did not expect him to. He asks if she's comfortable and she is, so they set off, the ground contracts as they rise into the air, breaking through the atmosphere and rising into space. He finds the wormhole before she can see it.
The comms are turned on and he says, "Farscape One to Moya. Pilot? You guys out there? We're coming home."
They are engulfed in the monstrous blue twister of the wormhole, John is a steady pilot and she sees a flash of color - Moya.
"There it is, Aeryn," his voice is cast in relief, "the light at the end of the tunnel."
Her conscience is clear; her memories are not. A sound of laughter - Mike and John's - burns in her mind. She answers him, "I know, John. I know."
Feedback makes the world go vertical. *Sly wink*