Chapter Four - Triangular Exceptions

Scorpius watched the unconscious Ex-Peacekeeper in silence. She had fought well and yet he had found all the little memories concerning John Crichton. He was amazed of how much this defector had learnt over the last two cycles. Additionally, the Scarren was surprised about how much she felt for the human emotionally, her conditioning should have made it near impossible to overcome and yet, Aeryn Sun had managed to do just that.

He was so deeply involved in his thoughts that he almost didn't notice Lieutenant Veron, who had come in.

"We have word from the command carrier, they have detected a leviathan in the shadow of the planet."

Scorpius smiled and turned around.

"A leviathan you say, Veron? What a fortunate incidence," he motioned Niem to switch off the chair, then he turned towards Veron again.

"Bring her back to the prisoners and prepare my prowler, I will oversee the capture of the errant leviathan and the escaped prisoners myself. When I come back we will then proceed on that little experiment we have been talking about. This Ex-Peacekeeper will be the first to demonstrate that we have found an antidote to the Living Death..."

"But ..." Veron started but quickly shut his mouth again. It was no good to cross words with Scorpius and he didn't want to end up like this Ex-Peacekeeper - another guinea pig in Scorpius' experiments.

"I thought so," Scorpius commented, having watched his security chief. With this he walked out of the lab room.

A shudder went down Veron's spine and with a shivering hand he loosened the restraints on Aeryn's arms. Somehow Veron felt sympathy with the Ex-Peacekeeper. Of course, her defection would ensure her extermination, but that she should serve as an experiment, to submit her to the Living Death only to be brought back and then be executed, that was even for him too much to stomach.

"Better you than me," he said out loud and hauled the unconscious Aeryn Sun out of the chair and over his shoulder.

The young Luxan had kept his eyes trained closely onto the entry to the base. He had been waiting for more than seven arns, since the Peacekeepers had taken Aeryn away and he was more than scared. The other prisoners had smirked at him when he had voiced his concerns out loud but only Muntagh, the old Illanic, had so much as shared his fear for the Sebacean.

When Jo'thee saw one of the newly arrived Peacekeepers stumbling out of the gate with a heavy load on his shoulders, accompanied by two other armed guards, he jumped to his feet and ran up to the fence. He recognised the mane of black hair immediately and his hands clawed into the fence.

Confusion and fear was replaced by anger, bordering on the first stirs of Luxan Hyperrage. With every step that the Peacekeeper officer advanced Jo'thee moved closer to the gate in the fence. With every step, his muscles prepared for a fight.

Veron had noticed the young Luxan, even before his gaze had met that of the furious young bantling. He shifted Aeryn's weight on his shoulders as he opened the gate, careful to keep out of the range of the fuming Luxan.

Unceremoniously, he dumped Aeryn Sun onto the hard, frozen ground, the two Peacekeeper soldiers covering his back. When he saw the hatred in the eyes of the child, he was taken aback momentarily at the intensity, then Veron shrugged his shoulders. What was it to him, that someone was reacting so strongly to his maltreatment of the traitor? In two solar days time, they would be either dead or sold into slavery, never to surface again either way.

Confident, that the two soldiers of the Peacekeeper regiment were covering him, he kicked the traitor into the ribs, smiling at the sickening sound of breaking bones, then he turned around.

Jo'thee let out a howl and charged forward only to come short up with the muzzled of two rifles trained onto his head.

"One move, and you're dead, Luxan," one of the Peacekeepers snarled and shoved him away.

Zhaan had retreated to her cell, leaving Chiana and Rygel to keep Pilot company. The two of them were sitting in front of one of Moya's controls, each engrossed in their own thoughts. One of Rygel's three stomachs growled loudly and Chiana looked at him with a quirked eyebrow.

"Frell, you've just eaten, Sparky," she said and shook her head. Rygel huffed and moved his thronesled closer to the Nebari.

"I have not eaten properly, for at least two solar days ... all we have are these obnoxious foodcubes!"

Chiana looked at the Hynerian. "But .. I thought you .. liked them.." she breathed and pecked him under his chin.

Rygel huffed again and sped away on his sled. Chiana sighed and looked around. With John and D'Argo gone she felt bored.

She jumped to her feet and surveyed the controls. When she noticed two smaller bleeps on one of the controls, her head snapped up.

"Pilot!" she shouted and looked up. "Pilot!" she shouted again, as the image of Pilot appeared on the holoscreen.

"Yes, Chiana, Moya and I have already noticed the two marauders."

"What? And you are not telling us?" Chiana yelled and turned her head from one side to the other. "You have sold us out, haven't you, Pilot?"

Pilot watched the young Nebari then shook his head. "No I haven't, Chiana. Moya is already rising the habitual temperature by 2 Kemps per nanosecond and we hope to greet the boarding Peacekeepers with all due ... respect."

Chiana nodded to that but she didn't feel any remorse at being angry at Pilot and for accusing him. Restlessly, she watched the two bleeps on the controls drawing nearer and nearer and she got the uncanny feeling that the Peacekeepers wouldn't fall for that old trick .. What if ... What if those weren't Peacekeepers? What if they were a different species on which the Heat Delirium did not work?

The clang of chains unnerved both D'Argo and John. Ever since Larraq and his team had come aboard Moya, D'Argo had not worn the prisoner chains again. Even though they fit only loosely the feeling of despair and helplessness washed over the Luxan. Gruffly, he leant back in the chair and watched John working the controls. They were flying high over the surface of the planet, range after range of snow topped mountains alternated with snow covered plains and when the Luxan saw how excited John was pointing out this or that, he tried to make sense of the babble of the human.

"You know, big guy, this really looks like Hoth from Star Wars ..." John said and was humming a strange tune.

"Star Wars?" D'Argo asked.

"Yeah, Black cloaked, dark helmeted Vader and his evil Empire ...and Han and the princess ..." John stated.

"Sounds like Scorpius and his PK henchmen," D'Argo commented and immediately bit his tongue. To lighten the situation he added, "Princess? Is that why you call Aeryn Princess?"

John had heard his reference, and he wondered if he had some how found himself in some kind of weird Star Wars universe. He just hoped he was not some second Luke Skywalker to a Scorpy Vader. He shuddered at that thought and shot D'Argo a quick glance.

"Naw," John drawled light-heartedly. "Though Aeryn can kick ass just like Princess Leia - perhaps even better than that." He grinned at that thought. "Good thing is, she doesn't wear the same hairdo ..."

D'Argo frowned at that but knew better than to ask, most of these Earth references eluded him, but over the last two cycles he had learnt to live with them - it was part of what John was, part of his home. Since that experience on the false Earth, where he had seen how strange the Humans really were, he counted John lucky that he had not lost his mind completely.

They sat in companionable silence when one of the controls gave off a soft blip. Both men looked at each other then, D'Argo confirmed.

"It is Aeryn's prowler, about 1000 metras away from what appears a penal colony - manned," D'Argo said and John let out his breath.

"Just our luck," John muttered under his breath and sighed. He closed his eyes for a moment, before he prepared the pod for landing inside the base. He had gotten quite expert with the pod now, especially as Aeryn had taken it upon herself to train him even in the strangest hours.
When she had first thrown me out of bed for a training spin in the middle of the night, I had thought she wanted to ... ah ... Better not go there, John thought and shrugged. He needed to keep a level mind, and he shouldn't think about something that was never going to happen anyway. He and Aeryn would probably end up an old couple, still arguing and kicking each other's asses instead of loving each other. He shuddered at that thought, as much as he would love to grow old with Aeryn, arguing wasn't part of that little fantasy of his.

D'Argo had watched John while he had been musing. Lately, John had been more introspective than he was used of the Human, and D'Argo asked himself again and again why Aeryn and John couldn't get over all the things - he and Chiana had, why couldn't the human and the Sebacean, who had more in common than just being bi-pedal humanoids like himself and Chiana.

D'Argo shook his head slightly and stared out the window. "Show ... Time," he said and stood up, John who had caught his muttering, shook his head.

"Hey, big guy, it is Showtime ... not show ... time ... Ahh never mind, let's kick some ass and get Aeryn out of here," John said with a smile and pushed the strap of the pulse rifle over his shoulder, D'Argo's Qualta blade an unfamiliar weight underneath the coat where he had hidden it.

Crichton, complete in Peacekeeper demeanour, pushed D'Argo forward and the Luxan grunted, as they advanced towards the biggest building. They noticed they had put on quite a show, the prisoners were lined up against the fences and were gawking at them. With casual ease D'Argo and John skimmed the prisoners until D'Argo seemed to have noticed the pony-tailed Sebacean, he and John were so fond of.

"Three o'clock high," D'Argo muttered and at first, John wanted to say something, that it meant Twelve o'clock high, when he happened to glance into the direction.

"Aeryn," he whispered and D'Argo nodded shortly. They walked up to three Peacekeepers who had been standing on the steps to their quarters, their breaths visible in the cold air.

"Showtime," John muttered and started his little speech.

D'Argo and John were both surprised that the Peacekeepers had so readily agreed to accommodate the Luxan prisoner as well as offering the Special Ops Peacekeeper a bed far away from the co-ed bunk room. They both took notice of everything as Kentak walked them through a maze of corridors.

Momentarily, John had considered posing as Larraq again but then they had dug into the database of Moya and had gotten the ID of a Special Ops Captain who had been MIA for over a cycle now.

Now he posed as Dashaq and Kentak had bought it. The Peacekeeper had even explained why they couldn't do some genetic scans as they had all equipment securely stashed away for transport. John was glad of this circumstance because this time there was no Gilina with them who could ...
Gilina, John thought and sad smile curved his lips. What had she said? There is someone who loves you more than I do ... and she had been right. Whereas John and Aeryn had not noticed, Gilina had. When she had asked him why he had come to the Gammak Base, he had stalled her questioning, had tried to persuade himself that Aeryn was but a crewmate. But Gilina had known, perhaps she had even known from the start that Aeryn and John were the perfect match.

Yeah, perfect match made in hell, he grinned to himself. Mentally shaking himself out of his reverie, John turned his focus back on Kentak who was walking in front of him. The Peacekeeper had droned on and on about the traitor and how she had dealt with the Aurora Chair. Upon hearing this John tensed and he could feel D'Argo at his side doing likewise.

"So you say, Scorpius is here?" John inquired casually and Kentak nodded his head.

"At the moment he is off-planet, hunting down a renegade leviathan but as soon as he returns he will subject the traitor to the Chair again. It serves her right, because of her we were submitted to the dren hole in the first place!" Kentak snarled and walked over to one of the prison cells. "You can leave your prisoner here, Dashaq. We will be having a short reprieve tonight before we will get out of here tomorrow. The Pleisar Regiment catching Aeryn Sun was fortunate. Who ever thought that her old regiment would be the one to catch her, huh?"

Crichton's eyes flashed with anger when he saw Kentak's smug face. Not her own former regiment, he thought and hid his shock by shoving D'Argo into the cell. Pretending to check his handcuffs he loosened them. When he was sure that Kentak was busy walking up and down the aisle in front of the cell, John even dared to slip out the Qalta Blade and hid it quickly underneath one of the bunks in the cell.

"Find her," that was all D'Argo had to say and John nodded, having heard the concern in his friend's voice.

Zhaan was jerked out of her meditation when Pilot's face appeared on the viewscreen. The Delvian gathered her garments about her and turned towards the symbiote, asking "What is it Pilot?"

"Zhaan, it appears that two Marauders and a Prowler are advancing quickly. Moya and I have received transmission that we will surrender or Officer Aeryn Sun dies down on planet ..." His voice trailed away and with baleful eyes Pilot looked out from the screen.

"Crais?" Zhaan asked, not a trace of fear lacing her still calm voice.

"No, it appears, the officer in charge here goes by the name of ... Scorpius ..." Pilot said, momentarily pausing and looking deeply into Zhaan's eyes. "Incoming communication, they demand to come aboard!"

Zhaan shuddered. "Tell them they are welcome and that I will meet them in the transport bay," Zhaan replied calmly, too calmly on the outside, but fear and rage was surging through her every fibre.

Goddess, what should I do? she asked herself silently as she made her way to the transport bay.

Pilot kept the environmental controls under close guard. Moya had increased the temperature by 20 Kemps but it was not high enough to cause the advancing Sebaceans to suffer from Heat Delirium. Quietly conversing with Moya, he coerced her into rising the temperature more.

After a tour of the base, Kentak lead him to the recreational bar. The Peacekeeper had talked incessantly, referring to himself as a good solider, too good to be true and Crichton suspected that Kentak was trying to get a meal ticket into the Special Ops Commandos through him. After what seemed like hours - arns, John reminded himself - Kentak excused himself and sauntered off. Leaning against the bar, John sighed under his breath and checked his time piece casually.

D'Argo had about five arns till John was supposed to sound the emergency klaxon - creating the diversion they needed to rescue Aeryn. John had been appalled of what he had seen of the prisoners, they seemed all badly nourished and especially Aeryn looked as if she was about to collapse. He had tried to meet her eyes but she had stared past him, her eyes unblinking.

She needs warmth and a good night's sleep, John thought and squeezed his eyes shut for a short moment. If I get her out of the camp, it would be even easier to escape. He motioned the bar tender and ordered a Raslak. Now all I have to do is to persuade Kentak that I need to be alone with her, he thought.

John took a big swallow of Raslak and watched the Peacekeepers surrounding him. Most of them were casually chatting and drinking, while others just met with prospective procreation partners and got up to seek privacy else where.

So these are Aeryn's former buddies, John thought and took another sip. I can't picture Aeryn with them, not at all. They are so different, so cold and mechanical, not like Aeryn at all. He sighed heavily under his breath and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. It wouldn't do me any good to think of her now, he reminded himself. First I have to get her out of here - away from Scorpius!

A heavy hand slammed down on his left shoulder and John instinctively reached for his gun while he spun around, facing the opponent.

"You should relax," Kentak slurred and leant against the bar. Either he was too drunk or was deliberately ignoring the gun, John was not too sure what to think.

"I guess travelling through every dren hole in this part of the galaxy has made me .. fidgety," John replied and put the gun back into its holster. Leaning against the bar he ordered another round of Raslak for himself and Kentak.

"Why not recreate, I'm sure there will be some Peacekeepers here who could be persuaded," Kentak grinned and nodded towards two female Peacekeepers at a nearby table. John followed his gaze and pretended to check them out, then he shook his head and smiled.

"Ah, Kentak, buddy, I do have a slightly more extraordinary taste." John said with a smile and laid an arm around Kentak's shoulder. "I like my females soft and obedient - no battle hardened soldiers. As it happens I saw a Sebacean out there in the yard, she wore a Peacekeeper uniform but surely she isn't one, right?"

Kentak blinked to fight off the drowsiness. "You mean the traitor? She is irreversibly contaminated ... or so they say, but you know, we served together and at one time had procreation assigned. She is efficient - in a way." The Peacekeeper drowned his Raslak and John filled up his cup again.

John shot him a glance and tensed. Sooner or later it had to happen, he told himself. Even in the Uncharted Territories you were sure to run into one or two of Aeryn's ex-lovers. First Velorek and now Kentak. But why does it anger me so much? He asked himself.

"Efficient you say?" John inquired casually and he grinned. He looked around as if to make sure that no one was overhearing them, then leant in close towards Kentak. "How much efficiency are we talking about here?"

Kentak let out a laugh, then drowned another Raslak.
"Quite efficient. She is not much of a looker, too flat-butted but yeah, you could say after procreation you can just go out dominating the lesser races again."

John's first reaction was to beat the crap out of him but he quickly masked his true feelings by laughing suggestively.

"Well, I would be interested in some unregulated procreation and if she's not a Peacekeeper anymore who wants to know, right?" John suggested, leaving it to Kentak's imagination what he had in mind with his unregulated procreation.

And Kentak did not let him down, because the man shook his head. "She won't put up much of a fight, she had been with Scorpius in the Aurora Chair almost the complete solar day ... she would just let it happen, she is too far gone."

"The number the better, that will teach her a lesson," John commented and drank the rest of his Raslak. He ignored Kentak's dirty laughter and fought the overwhelming urge to wipe that laughter out of Kentak's face, preferably with his fist.

"There are several empty storage rooms in the other barrack across the yard, this way no one will hear her cry ..." Kentak commented but John shook his head.

"She won't cry, she'll be too frightened to raise a din," Crichton said and smirked.

Kentak himself walked him to the prisoner camp and opened up the gate. Crichton drew his gun and walked over to the prisoners who had huddled around a fire. He immediately noticed the young Luxan and frowned. Stepping further towards the youngster, he saw Aeryn sitting farthest away from the fire, a blanket had slipped unnoticed from her shoulder and she seemed as if she was not even taking any notice of her surroundings. He crossed the distance with three long strides when the Luxan jumped to his feet and took a stance.

"Keep your hands off her, she has suffered enough at your frelling hands!" Jo'thee growled and for a moment John was taken aback by the fierceness of the young Luxan.

"Get out of the way, kid. She's none of your business," Crichton growled and casually raised up his gun.

"Leave her be, Peacekeeper!" Jo'thee growled and reached up to put a hand on John's shoulder. Crichton turned on his heels and grabbed the youngster by his throat.

"Keep out of my business, Luxan. She will come with me!"

"Jo'thee, no," Aeryn breathed and scrambled to her feet. John's head snapped up into their direction. Jo'Thee, he mouthed and Aeryn, squinting her eyes to see his action, nodded her head slowly.

John's grip on the Luxan wanted to relax but then he shoved him out of the way.

Jo'thee staggered backwards, right into Aeryn who groaned when he slammed into her side with the cracked rib. They both stumbled backward and Crichton's hands sped out and grabbed them. All of them staggering, they heard Kentak's amused chuckles.

Shoving the young Luxan down into the snow again, John grabbed Aeryn and dragged her over to where Kentak was waiting, praying the kid had the right mind to stay back.

Aeryn groaned again and almost jack-knived and when Crichton noticed it, he was tempted to put a supporting arm around her shoulder.

"Don't," Aeryn breathed and for a short microt their eyes met, John understanding the meaning of that short word. John nodded curtly, then dragged her with him.

Shoving and dragging her towards the empty barrack, John turned a blind eye on her obvious discomfort. But after Kentak had passed them, leading the way towards the barrack, John made sure he was more supporting than dragging her. He heard Kentak babbling about sex and he sighed. He was not sure if he could pull this off.

"There are some pallets in there, but I guess you won't need them to get her comfy," Kentak said and grinned. Aeryn's arm flayed towards the Peacekeeper's face, but John grabbed her hard, taking her into a chokehold.

"No, we won't need them," John commented casually, grabbing Aeryn even harder to his body, pretending to clutch her in all the right places. "Goodnight, Kentak," he said with a grin and shoved Aeryn into the darkness of the barrack.

John waited till the footsteps were fading, then he followed Aeryn into the room. His instincts saved him from a hard pantak jab and he warded it off.

"Aeryn, lay off here for a moment!" He growled and caught her arms. "You can beat the crap out of me, when Kentak is gone, Sunshine!"

Aeryn tried to focus on his face in the darkness and slumped against the wall behind her - her resistance fading from her, her momentary energy drained from her body. John squeezed her arm shortly and went in search of a lamp.

When the barrack was ablaze in yellowish light, John turned back where he had left Aeryn and saw she had slid to the floor. Resting her head in her hands, she had drawn her knees up closely to her chest. John's heart went out to her. She looked so vulnerable and small, like a child.

Quickly he walked over and squatted in front of her. "Aeryn," he whispered softly, touching her hands ever so slightly.

Aeryn raised her head slowly and watched him. Hesitating, she entwined her fingers with his and closed her eyes.

"You shouldn't have come, Cri... John. Scorpius is here, if he finds out ... he wants to get you through me ..." she whispered and a sob rose in her throat. Angrily she wiped the tears away from her eyes and face and turned her face away from him.

Crichton let out a soft sigh. He had never seen her so defeated, so out of her usual cool control. Slowly, he raised a hand and traced her cheekbones. He was surprised when she leant into his touch, rubbing her cheek against his palm.

"You have to go ... John ... leave me here..." She breathed again. "GO! ... Please..."

"So you can go down in true Peacekeeper blaze of glory fashion? Forget it, Aeryn," John said and gently turned her face towards him. Seeing the black and blue blotches on her other cheek, he gently touched her bruises. "We are in this together ... if it hadn't been for me, Scorpy wouldn't have been interested in you. Besides, I promised not to leave you ..."

Aeryn shook her head. "I let you out of this promise, Crichton. Scorpius is only one small step away from his ultimate goal, because you are here ... He knew you would come for me ... I ... we have to think of Jo'thee as well, if Scorpius ... if he finds out he's D'Argo's son ... And you ...," she grabbed John by the lapel of his duster with surprising strength. "You have to go. Scorpius has me, he will be satisfied for the time being, and I don't want you here with him so close by, you have to go ... now and don't come back ... ever!" Aeryn hung her head and sniffled, all her remaining strength suddenly leaving her body.

Crichton watched her and felt pain tug at his heart. She had not said it, had not told him why she wanted so easily give her life for his safety, but he was quite sure the meaning behind her words. He slowly put a finger underneath her chin and gently forced her to look at him.

"I'm not going, Aeryn, so stop bickering. Either we are in this together - or not at all. If you stay, I stay," he said gruffly, willing her to understand what it meant, wanting her to tell her that he appreciated her concern over his safety. Aeryn nodded shortly and she swallowed hard as another sob was threatening to come to the surface.

Hez, I hate it when I'm in a state like this, she thought and closed her eyes. I'm so tired, so tired of running away. She suddenly realised, she and Crichton had a similar conversation back on the Royal Planet. Now she knew why John had married Katralla, he must have felt like her back then. I have to protect him, even if I can't protect myself by doing so, she thought. All she knew was to get John out of here, the feeling of foreboding was almost overwhelming and for once in the last two cycles she was glad for her Peacekeeper training. She had been taught to risk her life for the benefit of others, and that was something she was about to do - to save Crichton's life over her own.

She was jolted out of her reverie when John inquired, "Are you sure, Jo'thee is .. D'Argo's son?" With effort she nodded her head.

"He told me he had a Sebacean mother. He was taken by the Peacekeepers about a cycle ago and is up for slavery. I did my best to pry any information about his past out of him and he offered that information for all it's worth," she sighed and looked up. "I know this is D'Argo's son. This is why you have to go, take Jo'thee with you and let me stay here." She closed her little speech with determination, almost challenging Crichton with it.

"Let's get you cleaned up a bit, Princess," John stated calmly instead. Like hell I would abandon you here, Aeryn, he thought. With this he raised and pulled her to her feet.

He shoved and pulled some crates out of the way and spread a pallet out onto the dirty floor, when he had finished, he gently pushed Aeryn towards the make shift bed.

John was lucky he had kept his container with him and now he poured some water in a cup. He gently and meticulously cleaned her face and hands as he squatted in front of her.
After he was done, he watched Aeryn. Her face was unusually calm and peaceful, as if life itself had drained out of her. Giving in to the urge to be close to her, to make her forget the experience in the Aurora Chair, he leant in and embraced her. She winced slightly but did not draw away, clutching her arms around his back as if she was not to let go of him anymore.

They sat there for the longest time, neither speaking, just relishing the closeness of each other. John had closed his eyes and was rocking her to and fro. When he felt a shudder going through her frail body, he looked up, searching her face intensely.

"You cold?" he asked and Aeryn simply nodded. Shrugging out of his duster, John pushed her gently down on the pallet and covered her shivering body with it. Quickly he searched the premise for additional blankets and when he came back, Aeryn was lying on the mattress shivering uncontrollably.

"Here, that will keep you warm," he said while spreading the blankets across her. Aeryn watched him, taking in his gentle face.

"John?" She inquired in a tiny voice that was so unlike her own. John's head snapped up and looked at her.

"Will you ... hold me?" she asked, blushing at her simple request. Aeryn, you are a Peacekeeper, quit playing coy, she chided herself, but right now she felt so defenceless, so vulnerable, that she couldn't think straight. Last time she had felt like this was on that false Earth. Better not go there, she reminded herself and watched as John shrugged out of the heavy Peacekeeper vest he had exchanged for his old IASA jacket after his three months stay on Acquara.

Aeryn moved to make room for Crichton's tall frame on the pallet and after he had laid back, she simply rolled onto her side, resting her head on his shoulder. John hesitated before he draped the duster and blankets around them again, tugging her in.

Aeryn closed her eyes, listening to his steady heartbeat underneath her. A thought occurred her mind, nagging her, tugging.

"Kentak thinks you are raping me, right?" she asked suddenly and John tensed as if hit by a whiplash. He let his body relax bit by bit and nodded.

"Yeah, he came up with the idea that this Special PK Commando officer would get lonely hunting the Uncharted Territories and he suggested some procreation ..." he turned his head slightly to be able to see her face, but her eyes were closed.

"I told him in not so many words that I was more interested in some ... ah ... dominating and he suggested you for some unregulated procreation." He felt Aeryn's body tensing underneath his touch and he slightly, reassuringly squeezed her shoulder.

"Whatever, he fell for the ruse, that is all that matters. I wanted to keep you warm and save." He stated and then a thought occurred to him. If Kentak had so easily let me get away with it what if ...

Crichton turned around, causing Aeryn to draw in her breath when he brushed hard against her fractured rib.

"Aeryn, he didn't ... did he?" John's voice was rasping and urgent. He searched her face for several microts and then let out a breath he had not been aware he had been holding, when she shook her head no at his inquiry.

"He would be too afraid to be claimed irreversibly contaminated. With you it is different. Special Peacekeeper Commandos are operating on need-to-know basis, and what they are up to ... is none of anyone's business beside that of the high command," John listened to her and was glad that she almost sounded like his old Aeryn, no-nonsense, emotionally controlled.

"Kentak wouldn't dare to lay hands on me, I made sure of that," Aeryn closed and John picked up one of her hands. They still showed the scraps and bloody jabs of her encounter with Kentak. Also he realised, that Kentak's face had looked as if it had hit a wall. He smiled to himself.

"Did handburger again, Aeryn?" he asked in a lighter mood and shot her an amused grin.

"More or less face ...burger," She replied and smiled. She leant in close, hiding her face at his shoulder, stifling a yawn.

"You should rest, Aeryn, tomorrow we'll need all the strength we have." He made sure, that she was tugged in warmly and closed his eyes. But he couldn't sleep. Too much adrenaline was still rushing through his body, a circumstance he had gotten used to over the last two cycles.

This is all so unreal, he thought and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. John Crichton, scientific astronaut, hunted down by some damn persistent mutants. Oh Dad, this is nothing like our vision of life out here. He hugged her closer, listening to her steady breath, though he was sure she was as wide awake as he was. He had found out soon enough, that Aeryn had a way of appearing to sleep when she wasn't. Probably some PK technique to calm the body rather than the mind.

Dad ... John started in his thoughts again. How come you and mom did ever get together? Okay, I give, you weren't pursued by some mad captain and an even worse scientist, but hey, how did you manage to stay together for that long? I can't imagine how it should work. It struck him that he suddenly understood how his parents had managed for so long being married despite all the long waking, lonely hours his mother had spent while his Dad was off walking on the moon, making history. The location didn't matter as long as they were together - just like Aeryn and him. I'm sorry, Dad, but you said, Home is where the heart is and it's right here, in my arms. He knew he would never go back to Earth, not without Aeryn anyway and as she was an alien ... He cut down on this train of thought. He didn't want to think about what scientists on Earth would do to Aeryn if they found out she was not human.

"It's all so unreal ..." he whispered underneath his breath, grinning at the realisation that he had found home and that he could take anything she would deal him.

Aeryn had listened to his heartbeat and had felt he was thinking. Even if not looking into his often so readable face, she had grown accustomed to his moods and emotional turmoil. His body warmth had lulled her into a comfortable state of half-waking and half-sleeping, relaxing her body while her mind was still racing with thoughts. She had tried to think of a way to plan their impending escape but all she could think of was John and his closeness. She had tried to push these thoughts far away from her but every time she drew in a breath, she was made aware of how close she was to him. How many times they had been close. Only once, she thought.

"It was real, you know," she suddenly said and bit her lip. She felt John tensing and relaxing again underneath her head.

"What was real?" he inquired with a definite catch in his voice.

"I ... it was real, down on that false Earth ... I was real," she whispered, drawing in a painful breath. Aeryn felt as if an iron ring was closing in on her chest, but all these cycles she had avoided speaking about that night on the false Earth. But tonight, here with their impending death right in front of their eyes, she had to speak out. This might be our last chance - MY last chance, she thought.

John had held his breath, listening to her little confession. Somewhere in his head, he had always suspected it was true, the Ancients had said as much, but the conscious part of his mind had negated this fact. He didn't want to fall deeper into his emotions for Aeryn. She didn't want to talk about, so be it, he had thought. But now, of all places, she wanted to talk about it. He shook his head.

"Aeryn ... let us not go there, that was in the past ..." he said through clenched teeth, unwanted tears stinging his eyes.

Aeryn had heard his pleading tone and propped herself up on her elbows, gazing down on him. I will not keep my tongue, she thought fiercely, Not now, not ever.

"You once told me that we never seem to say goodbye," she said softly, her breath fanning his face. "I ... I don't want to say good-bye, John. I ... can't. If I do that ... I would let you go ..." She closed her eyes as if to assemble her thoughts. John watched her intently, taking in every curve of her face, tracing the lines of her eyes, nose and lips with his eyes. She looked so vulnerable and yet strong while she tried to convey her thoughts and feelings.

Deep inside of himself, John felt as if a great lump was falling off his chest. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he felt greatly thankful for this moment. All his apprehensions for telling Aeryn his true feelings for her, fell away, somewhat unimportant.

He raised his hand to her face and he was still surprised that she did not draw away, in fact it flooded him with warmth when she turned her head and put a soft kiss into his palm.

"Aeryn ..." John whispered and a sad smile curved her lips, when she heard it. She had noticed the question in this simple word, had heard the urgency behind it.

"I can't ... live with ... without you ..." Her words came hesitatingly, and with each word she could see John's open reaction to them. She wanted so much to say the words, but the concept of love eluded her still. That was all she had to offer, and in her book that was much.

John stared at her in disbelief. First he had thought that she would hand him her old implementations again but when the meaning of her words came through his mind, he couldn't believe it at first.

"Aeryn ..." he said and pushed upward, turning her onto her back to stare down at her. She smiled that intriguing, sad smile, she only seemed to reserve for him. Then all broke, he leant down, closer and for a moment overcome with doubt, he paused, searching her eyes and when he found a confirmation, he bent down and kissed her.

They clung to each other, both afraid to voice out their feelings and yet overcome with emotion. One moment John found himself as if he could take on the whole universe, even take on Scorpius and the next he was overcome with doubt, the painful realisation, that if they came through this whole ordeal that Aeryn would close up on him again. He didn't want that to happen, not anymore.

Crichton drew back and stilled her with a raised hand, touching her opened lips with a finger.
"If you mean it ..." he squeezed his eyes shut for a short moment and forced great gulps of air into his lungs. "If you mean it, Aeryn, then there will be no retractions, no this isn't top priority. If you mean it, then we are an item. No discussion, no regrets," his intense gaze burned into her.

For a moment, she was not sure what he was talking about. An item? she asked herself. But John's eyes bored into her and she had understood the meaning of his other words.

"No regrets," she whispered and kissed him.

Chapter One - Binaries | Chapter Two - Singular Connective | Chapter Three - One And One Squares Nil | Chapter Four - Triangular Exceptions | Chapter Five - Deadly Squares