Title: That My Days Have Been a Dream
Author: Nerys (ki-nerys@SWBell.net)
Classification: story, fair bit of J/A
Time frame: Before 'Look at the Princess'
Rating: I'd say PG, but due to one scene with a 'suicidal' moment, I guess I'll say R.
Spoilers: premiere episode, small spoilers for 'Hidden Memory'
Summary: Crichton's hope for returning home diminishes as he learns more about worm holes and when he is given the chance to cross the divide between one reality and the next, he must choose between home and the possibility of his life having been a dream.
Disclaimer: Farscape is owned by Hallmark, Number 9 Australia, Henson Television, yadda, yadda. I own nothing and dream about a great deal.
Feedback: Please! And to the above addy
Flames: Smoke if ya got 'em!
Archive: Yes and please! Please keep all headers attached. If you could notify me, that'd be pretty spiffy as well.
Author's note: I am a secretary, not an astrophysicist. Please excuse any large improbabilities on my assumptions of wormholes-theoretical as they may be. Thank you.
Special thanks to Kim (for the wonderful beta read)and Joy (for moral support). I couldn't have done it without ya!
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow:
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
--from Edgar Allen Poe's 'Dream Within a Dream'
Crichton knew that he should not have even come to this place and now that hours had passed as opposed to minutes, he thought for perhaps the tenth time that he should go. Aeryn, D'Argo, and the others would be worried, angry, and even fearful that something had once again happened to him. But he was simply too curious, too fascinated, and frankly, too hopeful to abandon his quest for knowledge just yet.
They'd come to the Kreccix commerce planet with the usual list of much needed supplies. He'd never planned on doing anything other than bartering and, perhaps keep an eye on Chiana as they wandered through the bustling, noisy metropolis. That was until Nuara had found him. She said that she had knowledge that he needed. Crichton, wary and cynical, had brushed her off. He'd been on the receiving end of too many less than altruistic attempts to 'help' him and wasn't ready to be duped again so soon. But the wizened old woman had been insistent, telling him that she'd caught his thoughts from her home and had rushed out to meet him. That did not convince John, instead it set him further on edge. He'd had one too many people in his head these days and didn't feel like he needed anyone else watching his memories on home movie. He'd turned to leave, to fetch Chiana from the Kreccix bar she'd wandered into. Then Nuara said the magic word. Wormholes. She said she was an expert in wormholes. He warred with himself for several moments and then, with a shrug, had relented. He knew the worst that could happened, he still had nightmares about it in fact. But, he was still a hopeful man, and in the end, he gave into that.
That had been six arns ago. He was no longer worried that Nuara might shove him in the Kreccix equivalent of the Aurora Chair or pull a Scorpy rabbit out of her hat. She had been just what she had claimed, an expert in wormholes. They'd spent pleasant hours in her observatory, arguing and discussing cosmic theory as her huge model of the local system spun and swooped above and around them. He'd forgotten how good it was to simply have a good old intellectual chat with an equal, if not far superior, mind.
"So," John said as he hopped over a low riding arm of the display, "what is it that you're saying exactly, Nuara? Wormholes don't really exist? I've gotta tell you, I went through one. Felt pretty damned real for a theoretical impossibility."
The old woman laughed gleefully as she jumped down from the center display of the model. She walked towards him, dodging the various appendages of the model instinctively. "No, no, young Crichton, that is not what I'm saying at all. I told you I was an expert in wormholes after all. Can't be an expert in something that doesn't exist, eh? Now, let's see if I can take this from a different approach. As you understand it, what is a wormhole?"
"Well," John replied, "theoretically, they're rips in space. No more like twists, bends. Like a whirlpool in the middle of the ocean. The surface of the water is far removed from the ocean floor, but when there's a whirlpool, they can suddenly connect as the water twists around itself, joining the two. Same thing with a wormhole. Space twists around itself connecting two distant points."
"Ah!" Nuara said as she clapped him on the shoulder. "That is very nearly correct and yet, doesn't even come close."
John looked at her in consternation. "So what the hell is it then? The magical mystery tour? I hate to tell you, Nuara, what happened to me is exactly as I just described. Space twisted, I went through, and wound up here."
"It is, it is, young Crichton, but it is only *part* of what happened to you. Are you sure that you want to hear the rest of it?"
"That's why I came here, isn't it? To learn about wormholes?"
Nuara looked at him, squinting. "Yes, yes I suppose it is. And no doubt at your friends' expense. No, do not look at me like that. I am not judging you. However, since they are likely very worried and most displeased, let us make sure that you come away from this little chat with information that might be useful to you one day."
John refused to look at the chronometer in his leather coat or to turn on his comms. Both acts would result in immediate recrimination and he was not yet ready to end this discussion. It had been six hours, after all. What could a few more minutes hurt? "All right, I can take it. Lay it on me, Nuara."
"Very well, I will be as simple and concise as I can then. You are correct when you say that wormholes are twists or bends in space. But they are more than that. They are fissures in space and time. Whirlwinds between all manners of being. From dimension to dimension. From reality to reality. From universe to universe."
John's mouth gaped open. "Okay, okay. I can possibly accept the connection between space and time, but to say that wormholes cross dimensions universes that's, that's crazy!"
"Why? Why is it so crazy? Because you cannot see it? Because you cannot hold the proof in your primitive hand? It is true, young Crichton and your disbelief does not make it any less so. Now would you like to know the part that will have your bowels twisting later as you think about it?"
"Worse? You're telling me that it gets worse?"
"Worse and yet better, depending on how you look at things."
Crichton groaned. "I've come this far, after all "
"When a whirlpool is created in the water, are the two points connected, the surface and the ocean floor, are they always the same two points?"
It was on his tongue to say something flippant when the meaning of what Nuara was saying sunk in. "No," he said softly. "It depends on currents, the geography of the ocean floor, the tides, weather it's totally random. Oh, God. Wormholes are the same, aren't they? Spatial eddies, solar flares I could wind up anywhere. Going through a wormhole won't necessarily get me any closer to home than I am now, will it?"
"No. At least not as we understand it. We meaning my species, who have studied these fissures for a millennia. But hope is not lost, young Crichton. Though none of my kind agree with me, I have something of a theory which may explain how you got here and how you could, possibly, return home. Or as close to home as you can get."
"And that would be?"
"Earlier I said that wormholes were fissures in the fabric of space, time, and reality. I also believe that they are more. I believe that they are also connected with thought."
"Whoa, whoa thought? So, you're saying that I thought a wormhole into being? Now, I've enjoyed our little chat here, Nuara, but that's just crap!"
"No, Crichton, that is not what I'm saying at all. Do not be so dense when you have already come so far in so short a time," Nuara said with a disgusted shake of her gray head. "You did not think the wormhole into being. I do not even think that is possible. The wormhole was already there, created by solar flares, electromagnetic variances, your experiment, what have you. It was there and it was inevitable that you, being in its path, were pulled in. What I am saying is that your ultimate destination was determined by your thoughts."
"My thoughts? I believe my exact thoughts at the time were 'oh crap' and 'what the hell'. You're telling me that those transported me to the Uncharted Territories?"
The old woman grimaced at him. "For one able to understand such complex theories, you are an increasingly stubborn breed, you know that? You are so eager to believe what most cannot even begin to wrap their minds around and yet so unwilling to accept that which is so simple."
"It's a human thing" Crichton said apologetically. "We've had no one but ourselves to establish the laws of the cosmos and we've just taken what we came up with as fact."
Nuara nodded in understanding. "It is not a fault of just your kind, young one. Many underdeveloped and isolated races share this same sort of egocentrism. As your race grows and ventures out into space further, it will change. But the growing pains will be fierce, of that I assure you. Now then, when you began your experiment, what were you thinking?"
"I--" Crichton paused, taking himself back to that day. 'But each man gets a chance to be his own kind of hero. You're time will come and when it does, watch out. Chances are, it'll be the last thing you ever expected.' "I was thinking of something my father said to me, about being a hero. And I was thinking about space. Exploration. New life. Things that mankind had never seen."
"Then that was it. That was what brought you here. You wanted to explore beyond the boundaries of your kind's existence. You wanted adventure, excitement. Well, John Crichton, I'll wager that's exactly what you got."
"It it actually makes a strange sort of sense. I was dropped in the middle of a firefight. Peacekeepers, escaped prisoners, and I haven't slowed down since. It's been one damned adventure after another. Im a little sick of the excitement, you know? I could use a few quiet, boring days. I should have thought about that when I went into the wormhole."
Nuara nodded sympathetically. "I can imagine. For what it's worth, to survive the experiences you have told me of, indeed to have flourished, that takes a special kind of creature, John Crichton. You are far more formidable than you give yourself credit for."
John smiled. "Nah, just too damned stupid and stubborn to give up."
"That can be it's own sort of formidability, young one. Do not think otherwise."
"So, how does all of this help me? When I encounter my next wormhole, I should just click my heels and think there's no place like home, there's no place like home?"
"Essentially, yes. But, you must be very cautious, young Crichton. You must remember that life is a series of choices made, paths taken. It forms a pattern that we can only see in retrospect. And for each choice made in this time, in this reality, somewhere, half a step away, another John Crichton makes a different choice entirely, thus changing the sequence of events and leading his path in his universe away from your own. You must be careful that it is YOUR reality, your universe, or at least one that you can live with, that you return too. Should it be otherwise, you may return home to find things not of your liking."
Crichton rubbed his head wearily. "I know this was all meant to help, but it really just seems to make things more complicated, more impossible. Not only do I have to create a wormhole, I have to hope like hell that it's not a random event and all the while think really hard about home. And still, no guarantees that I return to my earth, my life. Well, I have to tell you, this just sucks. No offense."
"None taken. It was not my intention to rob you of your hope, but when I caught your thoughts, I delved deeper and saw in you much of what I have spent my life studying. I could not in good conscience let you go unaware into the abyss. Not without telling you what may happen."
"Yeah, thanks. Probably saved my butt too."
"I have disappointed you. Forgive me. I only wanted to keep you from harm. You seemed like a good man. Is it really so terrible? You have a home you have a life. You have friends that you love. Is that not enough, especially when faced with the alternative?"
"It is. It does mean a lot. They mean a lot. I just, I dunno. I just always thought that somehow, someday, I would get home. I haven't considered the consequences of leaving them behind."
"Then you should do so. And you should also not abandon hope. There is always hope, young Crichton. And you must remember, there are more doors to alternate realities than just your wormholes. The universe exists in a state of infinite possibilities just as it exists in infinite realities. You may find a way home that you have not dreamed of, that I have not even conceived of. Do not give up hope, it will find you. And when you least expect it at that. Just be certain that it is what you want. Be certain that what you find is worth what and who you give up."
John felt like he'd been kicked several times in the gut, but still he managed a smile for the old woman that had sought to help him. There weren't enough of that sort in the Uncharteds and it would be foolhardy not to be grateful. "Thank you, Nuara. I'll keep looking and I won't give up hope. Not yet anyway." It was a lie and he was certain that she knew it, but he said it none the less.
"I have faith in you, young one. Even if you do not have faith in yourself. Go now. Go find your friends before that Sebacean woman starts shooting bystanders."
Crichton cracked a grin. "Aeryn. She's probably going to choke the life out of me for this."
"It is only because she cares, you know."
"Yeah, I know." With a last look at Nuara and her rapidly spinning display, John turned and walked down the steep ramp leading from the observatory. He tapped his comms as he exited the structure. "Aeryn, you there?"
"Ah! Where the frell have you been? Are you hurt? We've spent arns looking for you, Crichton!"
"I'm fine, sorry to keep you waiting. I'll meet you at the transport pod in quarter of an arn."
"You all right?" Aeryn's voice came back through the comms badge. "You sound odd."
"Yeah," he said with a sigh. "I'm fine. Great. Just freaking terrific. I'll see you in a few." He tapped the badge again before Aeryn could reply. He took in a breath of the Kreccix air and began to walk in the direction of the pod. Though Nuara had tried to instill him with hope, he felt himself spiraling down a deep pit of despair. No hope. No way. He would never get home again. All he wanted to do was go back to Moya and lay down on his bed. Perhaps in the morning things would not seem so bleak.
One month later .
John Crichton wrapped his dark coat around him a bit tighter. Though it was ostensibly to ward off the frigid chill of the planet, he found the cold inviting, familiar in a way he hadn't expected. He took several steps away from the transport pod, his boots crunching pleasantly in the hard packed snow. The wind whipped across the desolate, icy plain, whistling a tune that was forlorn and yet welcome. It fit his mood of the last several weeks. Cold, hopeless. Since he'd left Nuara and the knowledge that she had imparted to him on the Kreccix commerce planet, he had himself been cold, desolate, and without hope.
The change had not gone unnoticed among the rest of Moya's crew. D'Argo had been quiet, respectfully leaving him be. Perhaps it was one man knowing when another needed time to adjust and reevaluate. Or, perhaps he simply felt that a man's personal demons were his own to conquer. Whatever it had been, Crichton had been grateful for the Luxan's willingness to let him wallow in his own despair. If only the same could have been said of the others. Chiana's repeated attempts to cheer him up, while appreciated, had failed miserably and her repeated failures had begun to transform her into Crichton's pale shadow of depression. Silent and bleak. Zhaan and Aeryn, well, he could have only hoped for sulleness from the pair of them. Zhaan, in sheer desperation, had begun to explore biological possibilities for his behavior. John, not having the heart to tell her, had simply let her be. Aeryn had not been so easy. She had given him two days after leaving Kreccix to absorb the information that he'd sketchingly relayed to the rest of them. After his repeated refusals to discuss it further, she'd finally just told him to snap out of it. To accept it and move on. And, oh, how he had tried. He'd even wanted to. It simply would not come. His chances of going home had dwindled from highly unlikely to infinitesimal and the information was simply too much to digest. It was eating away at him like a virulent plague of the soul. He would never see his earth. His sky. His father, his sisters, DK they were nothing but memories to him now. That was all he had left. The module, a few scraps of clothing, and memories. John Crichton, stranger in a stranger universe. A man with no home, no place to belong. A man who could never move beyond the fact that he would never see any of it again. It was sadly ironic and he knew it. He'd spent his life wanting to understand, to explore. He'd wanted to see more than the earth that had seemed so confining. And now, now all he wanted was to be held in sweet confinement by that terrestrial sphere once more. The knowledge that it wouldn't happen, that trying would get him further from home and away from the safety of newfound comrades, was killing him. As surely as a knife in his heart, it was killing him.
The trip to the icy surface on which he stood had been Pilot's idea. He'd either been conspiring with Chiana or had been filled with his own need to cheer up the once irrepressible human. He'd sent the stream of data on the planet to a terminal in the maintenance bay, urging Crichton to look at it. He hadn't wanted to. In truth, he hadn't wanted to do anything but lay back on his bed and think. But, Pilot had been insistent and Crichton had gone, if only to appease Pilot and to get him off of his back. The data from Moya's sensors had been interesting, downright fascinating. A month ago, he'd have hopped in his module faster than Chiana could hustle a man into buying her a drink. Instead, he'd gone back to his quarters to return to his bed. It had been Aeryn that had roused him, pulling him insistently by the arm, all but shoving him down the corridor to the transport pod with D'Argo and Chiana.
"Well?" Aeryn said as she marched across the snow to him.
"Well what?" John asked, looking up at the snow that wafted from the gray sky.
"Are you not going to look? Do you plan on standing there until you freeze?"
"Thought had crossed my mind" Crichton answered absently. He closed his eyes, relishing the feel of newborn snowflakes landing on his eyelids.
Aeryn grabbed his arm roughly and began to lead him the direction that D'Argo and Chiana had taken. "You're really starting to...what's the phrase? Piss me off? That's it, isn't it?"
"Yep. I'm really starting to piss you off. Sorry, Aeryn. Didn't mean to. I just don't see the point of being here."
"We're here, you idiot, for you. Because Pilot and Moya discerned that the energy reading in that direction," she said pointing to a series of snow laden cliffs, "is decidedly similar to your precious wormholes. We came here for you, Crichton. You might at least be thankful."
"Gee, thanks, Aeryn. It was sweet of you all. Can we go now?"
"No, we cannot, you frelling, selfish, ingrate!" She took his face in her hands and forced him to look into her eyes. "Wormholes, Crichton. You have babbled about nothing else since I first met you. And now you suddenly despise the topic? Why?"
"Look, I've told you. I know a little bit more now than I did before and I don't see the point of any continuing research into wormholes. Okay?"
"No, it's not okay, Crichton. You still have not told me why and until you do or you snap out of this miserable, frelling mood of yours, you're coming along with me. Do you understand that or am I to drag you through the snow?"
Crichton repressed a groan and, for perhaps the fiftieth time in the past month, decided to go along with the game plan. Anything to get them off of his back. He'd take a few readings, make the appropriate oohs and ahs, and then say thanks. If that's what it took to get him back to his bed, then he could go that far. "Fine. Let's just go then. Preferably before I'm Crichton the snow man, all right?"
Aeryn gazed at him speculatively and then nodded. She dropped her hands from his face. "Right. Frell, Crichton. I just don't understand you. At times I think I begin to understand, then you change, everything's different, and I feel like I don't know a thing."
He blew out a sigh, his breath becoming a foggy vapor. "Aeryn...I crap. I'm sorry."
"I know you are. You've been nothing but for days and days now. And you know what? I don't care. I don't care if you're sorry. In fact, I'm sick of you being sorry. Be angry. Hit me. Hate me. Just stop being frelling sorry."
"I don't hate you. I don't think I could."
"Well, you know what? I wish you would. At least it would be something. Now let's go." She turned and began to walk briskly though the snow, following the path that D'Argo and Chiana had already made.
Crichton hung his head for a moment and then, resolutely, followed her. He hadn't wanted to sink into his private hell, but he'd wanted to drag the others down with him even less. He'd had no idea how much his mood could affect them, did affect them. Once he might have found comfort in that. Now, he found it only to be a burden. One more burden for a man whose back was already hunched from them. He didn't know how much more that he could take and, in the end, it didn't matter. He would bear whatever they laid upon him, however unintentional it may be. It had been his way, the way he had established. He could no more change that than he could rid himself of the heartbreaking desire to be home. Crichton was, in despair and out of it, the man that he had made himself to be.
They trudged silently through the snow, neither speaking. John supposed that he should try to fill the silence, but the words were not there. All he could think was 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry'. And that didn't seem to be anything that Aeryn wanted to hear. So he walked, watching the snow fall on Aeryn's bare head.
They reached D'Argo and Chiana in a quarter of an arn. Both stood silently, staring at the cliff in front of them. Chiana, resplendent in her dark traveling garb and a layer of fur, turned at their approach. She looked at John hopefully. "Have you ever seen anything like it? It's it's something else, wouldn't you say?"
John looked around Chiana to stare at the icy cliff before him. It *was* unlike anything he'd ever seen. The side of the cliff should have been rock and snow. Instead, it was comprised of a layer of ice that glowed with a blue luminescence that he found familiar. Part of him wanted to say 'yep, it's a wormhole. Neato. Can we go?' But that part was dwarfed by frank curiosity. It *did* look like a wormhole and the fact that one, or something that at least looked like one, could exist on the confines of a planet, trapped behind a layer of unyielding ice piqued his curiosity. He took a half step forward. "How the hell is that possible?" he asked of no one.
Chiana fairly beamed at Aeryn, smiling in triumph. "See? I toldya he'd find it fascinating. And you do, don't you?"
John nodded and stepped closer, coming to stand next to D'Argo who still stared at the cliff raptly. "What do you think, big guy?" he asked softly as he rubbed the stubble on his chin absently.
"I think this is beyond my comprehension, John," D'Argo replied.
"Yeah, me too." John reached a hand out towards the icy wall.
"Crichton!" Aeryn said harshly as she rushed forward to grab his hand. "What the frell are you doing?"
"You thought I should take a look at it, didn't you?"
She shook her head in negation. "Look, yes. This was not what I had in mind. Can't you take readings or some other frelling thing?"
"Pilot's already taken readings, Aeryn. It's behind a wall of ice. What could happen?"
"Any number of things," D'Argo said. "We do not know what this is or what it can do. We brought you here to look at it, to give you a chance to study it."
"Yeah," Chiana replied earnestly as she moved to stand next to Aeryn. "We wanted to cheer you up, not get you killed. Wasn't, ah, part of the plan. You know?"
John smiled at Chiana. Though it was but a weak ghost of the usual smile, it none the less brought one in return to Chiana's gray face. "I know, Pip, and thanks. I know I've been kind of down lately and I'm sorry." He ignored Aeryn's grimace and continued. "I haven't been fair to you, to any of you. You're more than my shipmates, you're my friends, my family." He didn't add that they were the only family he had now. It seemed too much a statement of the obvious. "For what it's worth, this is the craziest thing that I've ever seen." He pulled his arm from Aeryn's grasp and turned to look at the icy wall once more. "It just shouldn't be."
"That is why we brought you to see it," D'Argo said as he clapped Crichton on the shoulder. "That and the fact that you have been the most unbearable piece of dren for the last several weekens. It may have been misguided, but we had hoped that rousing your curiosity might snap you out of it."
John laughed softly. "You know me too well, D'Argo. Better than I know myself it seems." He moved to back away from the cliff and then stopped, contemplating the icy luminescence once more. He stared at it for a moment and then before the others knew what he was doing, he lurched forward reaching his hand out to touch the icy wall. His hand should have come up against the ice, but it didn't. Instead it slid through. John gasped as the cold shot up his arm and enveloped him. As he began to lose consciousness, Nuara's words came back to him. 'There is always hope, young Crichton. And you must remember, there are more doors to alternate realities than just your wormholes. The universe exists in a state of infinite possibilities just as it exists in infinite realities. You may find a way home that you have not dreamed of, that I have not even conceived of. Do not give up hope, it will find you. And when you least expect it at that. Just be certain that it is what you want. Be certain that what you find is worth what and who you give up.'
"Crichton!" Aeryn and D'Argo yelled in unison. Both rushed to his side. He stood still, his eyes closed, and his hand embedded to the wrist in the ice. D'Argo grabbed John's arm and tried to pull it free without success.
"I cannot pull him free!" the Luxan said in worried consternation. Aeryn took hold of Crichton's arm and pulled as D'Argo tried again. It did not budge.
"Right" Aeryn said and pulled D'Argo back. She yanked her Peacekeeper pistol out of its holster and fired at the icy wall. The shot spread throughout the wall and then dissipated. "Okay, we'll try cutting him free. Chiana-" she turned to the Nebari, only to see her running across the snow. "Chiana! Were the frell are you going?"
She turned and yelled back across the ice. "I'm going to get Zhaan!"
Aeryn nodded. "Tell her to bring solvents!" she yelled back.
Chiana waved in understanding and continued her sprint back to the transport pod.
D'Argo reached behind his back and brought his Qualta blade out. "Cut through it?" he asked.
"It's all I can think to do. If it doesn't work, we will have to hope that Zhaan has further suggestions."
The Luxan nodded and brought the blade high over his head. With a shout, he swung it fiercely at the ice and was rewarded with a minute chip. He shook his head and swung again.
Aeryn stepped close to Crichton to shield him from any shards that might fly towards him. She took off her gloves and let them drop to the snow. Aeryn put her trembling hands on either side of Crichton's face. "John? John, can you hear me?" He stood still, his eyes closed, giving her no sign that he heard or felt anything at all.
"John? Son, can you hear me?"
Crichton groaned and shifted on the uncomfortable bed.
"Son?" the insistent voice came again.
John opened his eyes, squinting until the harsh glare evened out. The blurred shape in front of him took form. He sat up in surprise and nearly toppled from the bed as a wave of dizziness overcame him. "Dad?" he asked in confusion.
"Whoa, take it easy there. You're not ready to jump out of bed just yet." Jack Crichton said as he put a restraining hand on his son's shoulder. He pushed him gently back down on the hospital bed.
"How do you feel?"
"I-what happened? I'm confused. How the hell did I get here? The-the wormhole? Aeryn, D'Argo, Chiana where are they?"
"Wormhole? Durgo? Son, what the hell are you talking about?"
John put a hand to his aching head. "The experiment, the Farscape One. An electromagnetic wave hit and created a wormhole. I went through it. Didn't you see it? Didn't the shuttle see it? How long have I been gone?"
Jack looked at his son in distress. "You must have hit your head harder than we thought. I'll be right back. I'm going to get your doctor. Someone that can tell us what's going on."
"No, Dad, wait. Please. Not yet. Just a minute. Tell me what happened. How long have I been gone?" John begged.
The elder Crichton sat down on the bed gingerly. "I don't understand, son. You weren't gone. There was no wormhole. An electromagnetic wave did hit and you were spun out a few thousand miles, but the shuttle retrieved you in less than a day. We had you on tracking the whole time. That was two days ago."
"Two days!" John said in disbelief. "So, where am I now? Australia?"
"Why the hell would you be there? We're in New Mexico. The shuttle landed, they had you, and we brought you here to the base hospital. You've been unconscious since the shuttle crew found you. The farscape's O2 was getting pretty damn thin. A few minutes more and they would have had to resuscitate you. I'd say you were pretty damn lucky."
John shook his head. "This just doesn't make any sense. I've been gone months, Dad. Months. I've been across the universe, seen things you wouldn't believe."
"Well, you're right about one part, I wouldn't believe it. Simply for the fact that you were never gone. You just sit tight, I'm going to go fetch that doctor of yours. He was supposed to be here anyway."
"No," Jack said as he stood up. "Something is wrong, son. Very wrong. I thought I'd lost you for a minute there and I want to make damned sure that it doesn't happen again. I'll be right back." He patted his son's shoulder and left the small room hurriedly.
John lay back on the bed. His head was spinning, reeling. This couldn't be happening. It wasn't possible. He could have accepted that it had been a dream once, months ago. But not now. Not after the amount of time that had passed, the things he'd seen and done. It was real. He knew it was. It wasn't possible that everyone and everything had been some sort of dream created by a knock in his head and a little oxygen deprivation. He had to be dreaming now. That was the only explanation that made sense. He was dreaming or he was in some Uncharted Territories dark fairy tale. As he tried to wrap his thoughts around possible explanations a snippet of something once said came back to him, though from who or when he could not say. 'There are more doors to alternate realities than just your wormholes. The universe exists in a state of infinite possibilities just as it exists in infinite realities. You may find a way home that you have not dreamed of, that I have not even conceived of.' Crichton shook his head, trying in vain to push the thought from him. "More doors" he said softly. "Yeah, right. Well this is one hell of a door, then." He had no idea what was going on. No idea what had befallen him. He was, however, certain of one thing. Judging from his father's reaction and what he'd told him, everyone here thought he'd never left the solar system. Here, in this place, according to what his father had said, there was no wormhole. If he persisted, it was very likely that he'd be held hostage by doctors and psychologists for a very long time. He was not ready to be a prisoner, no matter how much they wanted to help him. If he was going to find out what was going on, he had to be free to move about. And that meant lying about what he'd just said. He didn't like the idea of setting his father up to look the fool, but he didn't know what else to do.
He sat up in the bed again as his father and the tall, dark skinned doctor entered the room. "Spence!" he said in recognition of his old friend.
Dr. Elliot Spencer looked at Jack Crichton for a moment and then walked to the bed, clasping John's hand. "Crichton, you goat. You look like hell. Gave us quite a scare too. So, you remember me?"
John shook his head. "Yeah, Spence, I remember you. You still owe me twenty bucks. I remember that too."
Spencer laughed. "And here I was hoping for amnesia on that count. Still a bet's a bet. Am I still good for a little credit?"
"It's been a year after all, a few more days won't break the bank. How'd you get assigned to me anyway? I thought O'Neil was the project's doctor."
"O'Neil broke his leg roller blading. Real tragedy too. I offered to set the pompous little fool's leg, but he declined. I'm heartbroken. I was flown in before the shuttle landed. I-we that is, thought it might be good for you too see a familiar face."
John smiled honestly. "It is good to see you, man. Both of you. I, uh, was a little out of it a minute ago. Been having the strangest dreams."
"Oh?" Spencer said almost casually. "Just dreams? Your father says that a minute ago you insisted that you'd been gone months. And you've been calling out since we brought you here. Tell me, who's this Erin? Someone you've been keeping on the side, hmmm?"
Crichton thought frantically. "Uh, yeah. Kind of. She's, uh, a girl I met once. Long time ago. I don't know why I'd be thinking of her now. Mind's a funny thing, isn't it Spence?"
"Yep" he said looking at Jack Crichton once more. "That it is. Tell me, how are you feeling? Any dizziness? Headaches? That kind of thing?"
"I was a little dizzy when I woke up, but I feel better now. What-what's going on, Spence?" Crichton asked with real concern, despite the fact that he wasn't ready to accept this as reality.
"Nothing, John. Really it's nothing. We were just a little unsettled by what you said when you woke up, that's all. Your blood work is fine, great in fact. The MRI didn't show anything other than a couple of bumps, but man, you should see your flight helmet. One of the module's consoles came loose and knocked you a good one in the back of your head."
"Blood work" John said slowly. "It-it came back normal? Nothing, you know, weird?"
Spencer looked at him speculatively. "Weird like what, John? It doesnt matter though, it was fine. Nothing out of the ordinary for a guy shot into space. Why?"
"I, uh, just wanted to make sure. One too many guy-goes-into-space-and-comes-back-to-earth-with-an-alien-virus kind of movies, I guess."
"See? I told you to lay off the horror flicks. You never did listen," Spencer replied with a laugh. "For what it's worth, no alien viruses. So, you don't have to worry about transforming into Crichton from Planet Ten, okay?"
John laughed weakly. "Well that's a relief," he said lamely. Though he'd played it off as no big deal, he was more confused now than he'd been a few moments ago. Spence had said that the lab results had come back normal. But they shouldnt have. Red flags should have been popping up everywhere from the microbes in his head. Unless they were right. Unless he had only been gone for two days and everything he remembered was nothing more than a dream. He found the thought nauseating. "Hey, Spence," he said as an idea began to take shape in his mind. "When can I get out of here? I want to see the module, the Farscape."
Dr. Spencer rocked back on his heels for a moment. "Well, we'd like to run a few more tests, maybe an EEG. And I'd be happier keeping an eye on you for a bit. A day, maybe two? Think you can hold out for that long?"
Crichton moaned and rubbed his eyes. He looked to his so far silent father for help. "Dad?"
Jack Crichton shook his head. "No, I think Doctor Spencer is right, son. Best to be sure. Don't worry though, we'll see if we can sneak some take out past the nurses."
John actually smiled. "French fries, no pizza. No get both and a cheeseburger too. And a coke. One giant mother of a coke."
"Ugh," Spence said retreating to the door. "Eat like that and you'll be seeing me soon for heartburn, Crichton. I think I'll just add Mylanta to your list of meds now. Just to be on the safe side."
Crichton nodded as both Spencer and his father turned to leave. "And ice cream, Dad! Chocolate!"
John lay back on the bed and pulled the blanket up around his chest. He was cold. He looked down at his arms to see goosebumps covered them. "It's all so strange," he said out loud as his teeth began to chatter. "The microbes should have shown up. They should have seen that. What the hell is going on? What the hell is happening to me?"
Rygel sped across the snow, his floating chair laden down with blankets. Chiana and Zhaan ran next to his sled, both of them packing their own burdens as well. "What the yotz happened again, Chiana? Crichton's frozen you say?"
Chiana nodded breathlessly. "Sort of. He's, he's stuck. You'll see."
"Hmmm," the Hynerian snorted. "Leave it to Crichton. We try to cheer the bastard up and he gets himself stuck in ice. I can't count the number of times we've had to save his human ass."
"Not now, Rygel" Zhaan said reproachfully as they reached the icy cliff.
It was on the Hynerian's tongue to make a sharp retort, but he quieted the notion as they came in view of Crichton standing still next to the wall of ice, his arm embedded halfway to his elbow. "Yotz" he said in wonder.
"Zhaan!" D'Argo said in obvious relief. "Crichton's gotten stuck and he seems to be pulled in further now as well. I've spent the last arn trying to hack at that ice and I've barely scratched it."
"This is most unusual," Zhaan said in wonderment. She walked in a slow circle around Crichton ducking under his arm to do so. "Have you tried waking him, Aeryn?"
The Sebacean nodded. "Several times. He doesn't seem to hear me, Zhaan. He doesn't move. He doesn't blink, not even when I hit him," Aeryn said with a shrug. "Whatever is on the other side of that ice," she said pointing to the pulsating luminescence. "It's put him in some sort of trance. We have to get him out. Before he's pulled all the way in or he freezes to death."
"Then we'll have to see if we can't dissolve or melt the ice somehow. D'Argo, move the transport closer. I've brought along as much equipment as we could pack inside and I'll have need of it."
The Luxan nodded and hurried across the ice.
Chiana grabbed a blanket from Rygel and wrapped it around Crichton, securing it with a torn strip of material. "Frell, he's freezing."
"I know," Aeryn said morosely. "I've tried to keep him warm, rubbing his skin, trying to increase his circulation. It hasn't done much good. We need a fire."
"That, I can do." Chiana replied. "I snurched two of the heating units from Moya. We can connect them to the transport pod once D'Argo brings it over. It should warm things up a bit. Maybe maybe even melt that?" She asked hopefully.
"We could always cut his arm off," Rygel said speculatively.
Aeryn spun around and grabbed him roughly by the eyebrows. "Listen you little slug, we aren't going to cut him up to get him out of there, so don't suggest that again. Not unless you want me to see how far I can kick you!"
"Now you listen to me, Aeryn Sun. I'm just as concerned about him as you are. I've-I've grown rather fond of him, despite his annoyances. I'm only saying better to have Crichton minus an arm than no Crichton at all. Or a dead one."
"Rygel," she replied reaching back to strike the Hynerian.
"Aeryn! Rygel, please!" Zhaan said harshly. "We need to get him out of there, not bicker amongst ourselves. Now, you two help me, or go sit in the transport pod. You do nothing but distract me, fighting like children!"
"Right," Aeryn said apologetically. "Sorry."
"I forgive you, this time. You're upset. I can see that," Rygel said magnanimously.
Aeryn made a face and sighed irritably. "I was talking to Zhaan, not you."
"Well, I accept your apology anyway. Here," he said tossing a blanket to her. "You look as cold as he is. Wouldn't do to have you more frigid than you already are."
Aeryn snorted in derision, but wrapped the blanket around herself none the less. "Thank you." She held her hand up, blocking the harsh glare of the newly emerged sun off of the snow. "Ah, there's D'Argo now. What do you need, Zhaan?"
The Delvian jabbed viciously at the ice and was rewarded with a small fraction. She dropped it into a waiting vial. "I need to take this back to the pod and run some tests. Aeryn, you contact Pilot and have him run more scans. See what he can make of this. Rygel, Chiana, hook up those heating units. We need to warm him up if we can."
Rygel nodded and sped off towards the pod that D'Argo had just landed, Chiana followed close behind. Zhaan turned to leave, but stopped. "Don't lose hope yet, Aeryn. We will find a way to get him loose."
Aeryn nodded. "I hope so, Zhaan. I hope so." She sighed as the Delvian turned and hurried towards the pod. She reached up and pulled the blanket tighter around Crichton, laying a hand on his cold cheek as she did so. "Where are you, John? Where are you really?" She was disappointed, but not surprised when he did not respond. She tapped her comms badge despondently. "Pilot? Are you there?"
"I am here, Officer Sun."
"Good," she said. "That's something at least. You said Moya detected this anomaly several days ago. Can you tell us anything about what this is or how we can get him out?"
"I know little more than you do, Officer Sun. I fear that the one person best qualified to figure this out is Crichton himself."
"Well," Aeryn said with a sigh, "then we're all just going to have to start thinking like Crichton, disturbing as that may be."
"I will try, Aeryn."
"I know, Pilot. I know."
"Oh, God," John said as he licked the spoon. "Ben and Jerry's. I've had wet dreams about Ben and Jerry's. One of the best things in the universe, Dad. Trust me on that one."
Jack Crichton laughed, but leaned in closer. "Son, tell me something. Yesterday when you woke up, you were pretty damned confused. You insisted that you'd been gone for months, that you'd been shot through a wormhole. Then, when Spencer comes in, you blow it off. Act like it's nothing."
John set the empty ice cream container down on the bedside table. "Look, ah, Dad. I was just messed up, you know? Crazy, confused. It was dream, I know that now."
"No, I don't think so. You're a smart kid, John, but you could never lie to your old man worth a damn. Remember homecoming your senior year in high school?"
"Yeah," he said with a groan. "DK and I took your car, got drunk, and wrapped it around a phone pole. I, uh, seem to remember saying it was stolen."
"I knew that was crap just like I know that what you told Spencer, what you're telling me now is crap."
"Look, son, I don't blame you. I wouldn't want to stay here any longer than I had to either. But, John, if something is wrong, if something is really wrong, it's better that we find out now, while something can be done."
"Nothing's wrong, Dad. I was messed up, that's all. A bump on the head, lack of oxygen, that's it." John said convincingly. What disturbed him, what frightened him, was how easy it was to believe what he'd just said. The longer he spent in this place, in this reality, the more it became real to him. He could feel. He could taste and what he'd been so sure of on awakening was becoming hazy and confused. He still clung to it, still clung to one face, one voice in particular. Everything else could come and go as illusion, but he wasn't ready to accept that Aeryn and everything he'd felt for her had been a dream. That was asking too much of his addled brain and his equally addled heart.
"Well, I'm still not sure I believe you, but, for what it's worth, Spencer does. He's letting you go later tonight, under my supervision."
"Geez," John said with half-hearted grin. "It'll be just like old times. Where we going? Home?" he asked hopefully.
"No, not yet. The module is still here, in fact DK's been ripping it apart for the last three days."
"Ripping it apart? My module? That little "
Jack laughed. "Don't worry, son. He's not breaking it, just checking everything out. He'd have come in to see you, but it's been family only."
"Ah, hell, Dad. DK is family."
"I know, but frankly, I don't think he wanted to be torn away from the module for a second. You'll see him tomorrow, and the Farscape." Jack grinned. "If you're good, that is."
John groaned. "I'm a little too old to be grounded, ya know," he said good-naturedly. "So, where are we going?"
"I've rented a small ranch out for the year. You'll like it. Lot's of space, open sky. Just what a man needs to relax and tell his old man just what the hell went on up there."
"Man, this just keeps getting better and better. Next you're going to tell me that you've hired a shrink."
His father cleared his throat and looked away.
"You did? You hired a shrink? Oh, hell, Dad! That's the last thing I need!"
"Dr. Kauffman comes highly recommended. She works with astronauts and test pilots all of the time. Besides, you'll like her. She's a cute little red-head."
"Hate to tell you, Dad, but I'm rather partial to brunettes these days."
"Then we'll dye her hair. Listen son, I'm willing to get you out of here, but you have to come part way for me. At least talk to her, that's all I'm asking."
John held up his hands in mollification. "Fine, I'll talk. Just give me a couple of days, okay?"
Aeryn looked up as she heard the sound of footsteps squelching in the melting snow. Zhaan walked through the muck created by the heating units, her blue face grim. "I take it that it does not go well," Aeryn said matter-of-factly.
"No, it does not. It is ice, so far as I can tell. But just as soon as it begins to melt, it solidifies once more. It's the most unusual thing that I've encountered."
"Can you melt it long enough for us to pull him free?" Aeryn asked hopefully.
"No, I don't think so, Aeryn. There is one possibility. An idea of Rygel's actually."
"Oh, don't tell me you're thinking of cutting his arm off now, too!"
Chiana looked up from where she sat next to D'Argo. "I'm not in favor of that either, Aeryn. But if it's the only way I'm not ready to lose him yet." She cast her eyes downward, hanging her head to keep from meeting Aeryn's fierce gaze.
D'Argo covered Chiana's hand with his own. "I am not ready to lose him either."
"What?" Aeryn asked incredulously. "You agree with this fool of a plan? We don't even know if it will wake him from this trance. We don't even know what will happen if we do it! We could kill him, D'Argo!"
Zhaan held up her hands in placation. "We will deal with that when and if the time comes. As it happens, severing John's arm was not Rygel's latest idea."
"What was?" Aeryn asked harshly. "Leave him here? Eat and see if he just wakes up? What brilliant plan has his lowness come up with now?"
Rygel came hovering from the transport pod, scowling. "Always ready to suspect the worst of me aren't you?"
"Call it learning from past experiences!" Aeryn spat.
"Sebacean bitch! My idea, which I might add, Zhaan thinks is a good one, is for her to try to reach him mentally. You may recall that they were joined once in the Delvian unity?"
"Well, I don't " Aeryn stopped speaking as Rygel's words sunk in.
"Ahh, you see, I'm right and you know it. How nice."
"Rygel please," Zhaan said gently. "Aeryn, it is a good plan and moreover the best we've come up with so far. And it shouldn't put me in any real danger either."
"Well? What are you looking at me for? It's not as though he belongs to me. You don't have to wait for my permission, unless you plan on maiming him. Just do it."
"As you say, my dear. If I should go slack, please hold me up. I don't want to lose contact."
Aeryn nodded and D'Argo stood, coming to stand next to them. "Is there any way that we can help, Zhaan?"
"Yes, see if you can get any more heat from those units. It's still far too cold."
D'Argo inclined his head and trudged through the melting snow to the closer of the two heating units.
Aeryn backed off as Zhaan approached, clearly uncertain and uncomfortable. "I I'm not much good in spiritual matters, Zhaan, but I'll help when I can."
The Delvian smiled. "No, Peacekeepers were never taught much in the way of spirituality. Pity, it might have made all the difference. But, we'll save that discussion for another time. Goddess willing, John will join us when we have it."
"He'd better, otherwise I don't believe I will be able to sit through that one. And even then, I cannot guarantee you anything."
Zhaan flashed a grin at Aeryn as she moved in close to Crichton. "Humor. How unexpectedly delightful of you, Aeryn. Don't lose that, we may need it in the arns to come." She closed her eyes and began to pray in a slow, even rhythm. She did nothing for several microts as she reached into herself and outward to Crichton or perhaps her goddess.
Aeryn began to fidget silently, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. 'Why,' she thought idly, 'do spiritual ventures always have to be so frelling slow? Communing with your god should be like any other conversation, short and to the point. It would make life inherently more simple if you could just walk up to them and say 'hello, I'm one of the mortal creatures who follows your faith. I have need of you now, help me or frell off'. I have to wonder if all of this preparation is nothing more than trying to put Zhaan's goddess in the mood to help us. You'd think that if there are higher powers that they would take care of things like this themselves. Unless, of course, they enjoy it. What a frelling waste of time! Do it, already, Zhaan! Do it before he's too far gone. I don't know why, but I feel like he's slipping away. Like he walks further from us with each passing breath. Oh, I hope your goddess is in the mood to help us. Beg her for me, if you must. Just don't let him go. Not like this.' It was on the tip of her tongue to ask the Delvian how much longer this was going to take. Her impatience was becoming consuming. As she stepped forward, however, Zhaan placed her blue hands on either side of Crichton's face and touched her forehead to his own. Aeryn was there in a microt. She leaned against Zhaan, holding her up with her body, with her hands on both of their heads. She kept them together as Zhaan's consciousness went, hopefully, where ever John's was. Aeryn felt decidedly useless. But she did not move and, astonishingly enough, after several moments, her own lips moved in silent prayer, though to what or whom she could not say.
John Crichton felt good, very good in fact. It had been three days since he was released from the base hospital and with each passing minute, his confusion eased. Everything that he had been so sure of upon awakening, all of those brightly colored memories, had taken on a pleasant dream-like quality. He couldnt imagine why they had seemed so real in the beginning. It had all been a dream, a very detailed, very long and twisted dream. Still, enough of it lingered that when he'd first stepped out into the sunshine he'd very nearly wept. The sky had seemed like a perfect, endless expanse of blue and the warm New Mexico breeze carried with it smells that could have only been associated with earth. He knew it had all been a dream, he didn't doubt it. And still he reveled in the sunshine like one who had not stood under their native sky for a year. It was baffling and yet so wonderful. This was home. This was what he knew. Any lingering doubts he had were silenced when he'd finally gotten to see his module. It was just as he remembered it before launch. Oh, there were the expected scorch marks from his maneuvers, but it bore nothing that bespoke of alien technology. For a brief moment, he'd insisted that components had been removed, that DK had hidden them away. It passed as soon as he'd said it and he'd forgotten about it as he and DK spent the next couple of hours amid the Farscape and her scattered components. He was home. That was what mattered, though he wasn't certain why. He just knew that being home was of tantamount importance.
John could have very likely let it all go if it weren't for the dreams. Every time he closed his eyes, he nearly drowned in them. Some where terrifying beyond compare, while others only served to make him wake with a longing despair that he could not fathom. It was in those first moments upon waking that he felt as though he'd lost something invaluable. Not only the faces and friends he dreamt of, but more importantly a sense of self. It was as though he'd become far more than the man he used to be and that he'd left that man and all of his accomplishments behind. Those first minutes while he wrestled with the dream, he always felt disappointed. In the universe, in fate, but most of all, in himself. He could not reconcile the feeling as the day wore on, but he always woke feeling that nothing was worth what he'd left behind. He was considering asking the psychologist for dream suppressants when he had his first session with her the next day. He felt like he could go on with life if he would only stop dreaming.
For the moment, he was content to enjoy the arid desert warmth and the sun that blazed over head. He was, for the first time in days, alone. His father had gone back to the base to check on the progress being made with the readings from the module. It was really more his task, his research, but John hadn't wanted to go. Truthfully, he only wanted to be alone and was grateful when his father agreed. He'd promised to bring the data back with him and John was surprised to find that he really didn't care, though he didn't say so.
John reclined on the warmth of the back steps, a beer dripping perspiration next to him. He was leaning back, supported on his elbows, his face turned up to the late morning sun. He felt, at that moment, very normal, very far removed from the man who'd come back from a short jaunt in space insisting that he'd been across the universe. A slight breeze blew in from the desert and he was lulled into a comfortable stupor by the hum of the air conditioning unit churning not far from him. He was very nearly asleep when he felt a slight, but not uncomfortable, tickling in his head. It felt like a hand caressing him from within his skull. He did not open his eyes, but instead continue to lay there, wondering what new sensation this was.
The tickling became more pronounced until it carried a voice with it, one that he could not hear with his ears, but instead with his mind.
"John, can you hear me?"
"Well, it's official, ladies and gentleman. John Crichton is losing it," he mumbled to himself. Still, he was too curious by this new development in his sanity not to explore it some. "Yeah," he thought back. "I hear you. I don't know what the hell you are, but I hear you."
"Oh, thank the goddess! John, it's Zhaan. Do you remember?"
An image presented itself with perfect clarity. The one image spun into several. Zhaan looking up at him from Command. Zhaan meditating in naked, blue perfection. Zhaan smiling, praying, shouting, weeping. The images spun so fast that for a moment, he thought he might vomit. It brought to mind an intrinsic fear that he could not push from him. He didn't like having memories, even dreams, pulled out of his head like this. It had happened before in decidedly more painful circumstances. It set him on edge even as he tried to quell the irrational fear.
"I remember you. You're in my dreams. Blue, right?"
"Yes, John, yes! But, it is no dream. It's all real. You must believe me. Everything is real."
"Real. Right, that's good. My own dreams are trying to make themselves real. Perfect. Just freaking perfect. Next thing you know, I'll be having that dream where I show up to work naked."
"John, listen to me. You must concentrate, you must remember. You're in very real danger. If you don't wake up, if you don't come back, you'll freeze to death."
"Freeze? Well, you're not very observant for a dream, Zhaanie. It's a very dry ninety-two degrees out here. The sun is shining and I'm anything but freezing. Go play in somebody else's head, Blue. I'm in the real world here."
"I know it seems very real to you, Goddess, it might even be real somehow. But you are still here with us as well. Do you remember? You stuck your hand in the ice, John. You haven't moved since. You're still here. As much as you are there, you're still here as well. Remember, you must remember!" She pulled images from his brain, yanking them up into his conscious mind, forcing him to see.
John nearly screamed. He sat up so fast that he knocked the beer over and it rolled down the steps, leaking its contents on the way. "Get out of my head! Get out! I won't do this again! I'm not in the chair! There is no chair!" He pressed his hands to his eyes, trying to shut out memories that had unwittingly been brought to mind. The chair spun around rapidly, making him nauseous. His life, his memories were ripped from his head, one painful shred at a time. All the while Scorpius loomed over him, taunting him, baiting him, smiling as John screamed and screamed.
"No, no, you are not in the chair. I should have known better than to push like that. I'd forgotten what you endured in the hands of Scorpius. Forgive me, John. I'm desperate. I only wanted you to remember, to see that everything was real. Please, John. Please try. You have to remember. It's real, it's all real."
"No! It can't be, it just can't be. I thought it was when I woke up, but it's all gone. There's no weird alien technology on the module, I don't have any microbes colonizing in my brain. None of it is real! Not you, not Scorpius, and not that damn chair!"
"Listen, John. Please. There are no microbes because your body is still here with us. I don't know how it is that you have form there, but believe me, you are still here. And you're dying. You're freezing to death."
"No," Crichton said out loud this time. "It isn't real. I don't want it to be real! I don't want any of it to be real!"
"You cannot mean that, John. Think of all that we have shared, all of us. You, me, Aeryn, Chiana, Pilot, D'Argo, even Rygel. We're all real, John and we don't want to lose you. We need you very badly, perhaps more than we realized. Who will look after Chiana if you're gone? Who will irritate Rygel with such consummate skill? And Aeryn, John. What will become of her without you?"
"If you're real, then so is everything else, right?"
"Crais? Scorpius? The chair, Zhaan, that God damned chair?"
"Yes, John, but "
"No, no buts. Get out of my head, Blue. Get out."
"John, please "
"No! No more!" John yelled and then he began to push. With his mind he began to push against the patient voice tickling within his skull. She fought him for a moment, pushing back with strength that he found daunting. That only served to frighten him more and strengthen his resolve. He pushed back so hard that his head was instantly pounding with a migraine. He concentrated on the pain, letting the blinding pulses take substance over the voice. Soon, she was gone and only the headache remained.
Crichton lowered his head, his breathing ragged. "Not real, not real, not real!" he muttered to himself. He was panicked and he knew it. "It can't be. It just can't be."
Zhaan's head jerked back against Aeryn's hand and she gasped. "Sweet goddess, I had no idea. What have I done?" she asked morosely. "What have I done?" She would have fallen to the ground had Aeryn not been supporting her.
"Zhaan? Zhaan what happened?" Aeryn asked fearfully. She pulled away from Crichton and gently dropped to her knees, bringing Zhaan with her. She gratefully took the blanket that Rygel proffered and wrapped it around the Delvian's shoulders. D'Argo and Chiana were there in an instant as well, all of them drawing around the pair of women kneeling in the snow. Chiana sat helplessly as D'Argo and Aeryn both held the weeping priestess. She was surprised, but thankful, when she felt Rygel's small hand on her shoulder.
"Courage, girl," he said softly. "We don't even know what happened yet."
"Yeah," Chiana whispered back, "but we know that it wasn't good, whatever it was."
Rygel said nothing, but nodded in agreement.
"I've failed," Zhaan said finally as she raised her head. It was difficult to face them, all of them. Though it was to Aeryn that she spoke. "He doesn't think it's real. He doesn't think I'm real. He thought everything that he's experienced here has been a dream. He-he was confused and I pushed. By the goddess, how could I be so stupid?"
"You're not making sense, Zhaan," Aeryn said. "What do you mean you pushed? What happened?"
"He couldn't accept that what I told him was real, not when I was but a voice in his head. Not when he has physical form there. I tried to make him remember. I found his memories of us and I forced him to look at them. It frightened him and he resisted. I pushed harder and for a moment he was back on the Gammak Base. He was back with Scorpius in the Aurora chair. Goddess, I had no idea it was so terrible for him. You cannot imagine. None of you can imagine. He-he didn't want that memory to be real. He didn't want the pain to have been real. He pushed me away. I tried to fight him, but he was too strong, too certain that where he was, what he felt, was real. Now, I've only frightened him very badly and perhaps pushed him even further away from us. I'm sorry," she said looking at Aeryn. "I'm so sorry."
Aeryn sat back on her heels and closed her eyes, rubbing them with her fingertips. "It's not your fault, Zhaan. Crichton has always been too frelling stubborn."
"So-so what do we do now?" Chiana asked. "We can't just leave him here. We have to do something!"
"No one has proposed that we leave, Chiana," D'Argo said quietly.
"So what do we do?"
"How the hezzmona should I know?" The Luxan asked irritably. He was instantly contrite and he reached out to her, laying his hand on top of Rygel's. The Hynerian looked at it for a moment, and cautiously slid his hand out from beneath D'Argo's. "I do not know what to do. We'll think of something," he cast a sidelong look at Aeryn, "no matter how drastic."
"Oh, no," Aeryn said as she stood to her feet. "Don't even suggest that again. We are not going to cut his arm off. Besides, I think I think I may have an idea."
They all turned to stare at her. "Yes, Aeryn?" Zhaan asked hopefully. "Go on."
"Earlier I told Pilot that in order to figure this out that we may need to think like Crichton."
"Oh, yotz!" Rygel said with a groan. "Crichton's thinking is what started this mess!"
"Exactly," Aeryn said, surprisingly not bothering to argue.
"Now who is making no sense?" Zhaan asked in confusion.
"Yeah, spit it out already," Chiana added in.
"Although I know very little about wormholes, really only what John has told me, Pilot and I have been discussing this phenomenon. He, we that is, think that this is some sort of wormhole, but not the sort that Crichton has been laboring to create. We," she paused, momentarily overwhelmed by the wildness of the speculation that she and Pilot had indulged in. "Pilot and I think that, somehow, this whatever it is, is some kind of portal between dimensions, possibly even universes. Now, I know that this kind of speculation is way the frell beyond me, but we think that John as somehow gone part way through that doorway into the body of another John Crichton in another universe. What Zhaan said seems to confirm that, strangely enough." She looked at all of them as they stared silently at her. "Well? Frell, say something!"
"Aeryn that's " Zhaan began.
"Amazing," D'Argo finished for her.
"I was going to say completely farboht, myself," Chiana added.
"That too," the Luxan said in agreement.
Zhaan held up a hand, silencing the others. "That would explain why he said there were no microbes found inside of him, why he said that he had the module even though we all know that it's on Moya. But, Aeryn, if John's consciousness is within this other Crichton's body, where has that body's mind gone?"
"I think, maybe, that it's gone or dead."
"What?" D'Argo asked.
"Think about it," Aeryn said pacing slightly. "It's not our universe. Who knows what life, what destiny that other Crichton was meant to have? Perhaps he was meant to die or meant to live in a-in a-frell! What did Crichton call it? A coma, yes, a coma. What if that Crichton was meant to be alive but with his brain shut down and that destiny was changed when our John stepped into that body?"
Chiana looked at her speculatively. "Just how much time have you spent with Crichton anyway? You sound just frelling like him."
Aeryn made a low sound in her throat and lunged at her only to be stopped by D'Argo. "Not now," he said, looking at both of them menacingly. "Once this is over the two of you can fight to your heart's content. You need to get it out of your systems as it is. But, not now. This is far from the time."
"Later then," Aeryn said, staring at the Nebari.
Chiana blanched but smiled none the less. "If you can find me, that is."
Rygel snorted and lowered his hovering throne slightly. "This is all just fascinating, really. But how the yotz does this lecture in spatial anomalies help us? Help him?"
"I was getting to that," Aeryn said. "I said we had to think like Crichton. We also have to act like him. Impulsive, foolish even."
"And that means what exactly, Aeryn?" Zhaan asked as she wiped the last of her tears from her eyes.
"Someone needs to go in after him."
"What?" Zhaan and D'Argo asked in unison.
"I was right," Chiana said with a shake of her head. "She is completely farboht."
"I'm inclined to agree," D'Argo replied.
"No, no," Aeryn said hastily. "Think about it. Just think about it for a moment. If we, somehow, secure ourselves to this reality, this world, then one of us could go into that universe and bring Crichton back with us."
"In that body? Or would his consciousness merely follow, I'm not certain that I understand all of this, Aeryn," Zhaan said in confusion.
"Neither am I. Frell, I must be thinking like Crichton because I swear I'm making this up as I go. I don't know how this will work, Zhaan. Or even if it will. But, it seems like the best chance we have."
"Or just a way to lose someone else!" Chiana said. "Whoever goes in there might never come back!"
"She's right," D'Argo replied. "Therefore, I will go."
"That was NOT what I meant, D'Argo! No one should go!" Chiana said in near hysteria. D'Argo put both hands on her this time and made a low, soothing sound. "Chiana, John would do this for us. We have to try."
"But that that doesn't mean that is has to be you."
"It won't be," Aeryn said, her tone softening at the Nebari's obvious distress. "I'm going."
"No," D'Argo countered. "I am."
"No, you're not. To begin with, we have no idea where he will be or who will be with him. I can pass for human, D'Argo. You cannot. It has to be me."
"Aeryn," Zhaan said interrupting. "He won't be able to understand you. Without the microbes, he won't know what you're saying."
"He doesn't have to know what I'm saying for him to understand me, Zhaan. He'll know, trust me, he'll know."
Chiana's lower lip trembled dangerously. "How-how do you know that you'll end up where he is, Aeryn?"
"I don't. I just I just have to hope."
"It's crazy. You're crazy and you're going to die too."
"Maybe," Aeryn replied. "But at least I'll die trying. Look, I can't let it go. I can't let him go. Not like this."
Rygel had been silent for several moments, but he cleared his throat finally. "Ah, you're not going to like this, but has anyone considered that maybe maybe we should let him go?"
"Oh, how very noble of you!" D'Argo growled.
Rygel snorted at the Luxan. "I would have thought you, all of you, would understand. Very well, let me spell it out for you. What has Crichton wanted more than anything since he first got here? To go home! And it seems to me, that is exactly what has happened. Maybe it's not really his body or really his home, but it is his earth or something close to it. He has life there. Do you really think he'd thank us for taking that away from him?"
Zhaan inclined her head towards the Hynerian. "Quite right, Rygel. We must think about what John's wishes would be."
"No," Aeryn said angrily. "No we don't. Look you said it yourself, he doesn't think that any of this has been real. He may want to go home, but the John Crichton I know would never trade reality for a dream. He's confused. He doesn't know what's happened to him. He's not the same man that he was when we first met him. He's changed he's grown. Would he really ever be happy feeling like he doesn't quite belong in the skin that he's in? I wouldn't be and I don't think he would be either. He at least deserves to know that his life here was real. I can give him that. I can prove it to him, simply by going there, I can prove it to him. And I'm going to do it. You can help me or you can stay the frell out of my way. It doesn't matter to me either way."
They were all silent for several moments, all of them looking at anything but the raw emotion on the former Peacekeeper's face. "Fine," Aeryn said decisively. "I'll do it myself." She stalked off to the transport pod and returned shortly with a length of cable. She looped it around Crichton's still form and then secured the cable to herself, tying it in several secure knots.
Zhaan stood finally. "Aeryn, wait."
"No. Nothing you can say is going to make me change my mind, Zhaan."
The Delvian nodded. "I wouldn't expect that it would. I was I was only going to say go with the goddess, Aeryn."
"You're really going to let her do this?" Chiana asked as she jumped to her feet. D'Argo also stood, but said nothing.
"Yes, Chiana, I am. It may all be motivated by selfishness on my part, but I believe that she is right. Crichton would never be willing to accept a life that wasn't truly his. We owe it to him to make the choice knowing that everything here has been real. Even if it means losing them both."
"Look, I'll do everything I can to come back, to bring him with me."
Chiana nodded numbly, but said nothing further.
D'Argo moved forward and grabbed hold of part of the cable. "Should it be necessary, I will pull you back. Different universe or no, I will pull you back."
Aeryn smiled at him and took a deep breath. She reached a hand out and lay it on top of Crichton's arm. After only the briefest moments of hesitation, she slid her hand down his arm and into the icy wall. Her eyes widened and she gasped, but she did not falter. She moved closer and slowly pushed her arm through. Then, without a backward glance, she stepped through completely.
D'Argo kept a firm hold on the cable as the slack was taken up. Soon, it was pulled taut. They all stood in silence, all of them watching the flickering luminescence behind the wall. Zhaan closed her eyes and began to pray softly. Chiana moved to stand next to D'Argo. She ducked under his arms and then reached out, grabbing a hold of the cable as well. "Come back," she said softly as tears fell from her dark eyes. "Both of you."
Rygel backed off from the wall slightly until he was standing next to Crichton's unmoving body. He placed a hand on his shoulder and continued to watch both Crichton's face and the wall of ice for any signs of life. "For what its worth," he said softly, "if anyone has a chance of making it work, it's that stubborn Peacekeeper bitch of yours. She's quite formidable when she's made her mind up. Though, I still say it would have been easier to cut your arm off."
John paced from one end of the ranch's spacious living room to the other. The phone had rung several times and when he'd failed to answer it, it had begun to ring constantly. He was certain that it was his father or perhaps DK on the phone, but he didn't trust himself to speak. He'd finally yanked the cord from the wall, silencing it. He knew that it would only worry them and he felt no small measure of guilt on that count. But how could he even try to make sense at this point? Though the pain in his head had dulled to a low, throbbing ache, his head was spinning. He wanted nothing more than to forget everything that had happened earlier in the morning, but he couldn't. The images that had been forced upon him continued to plague him. It was more than a little disturbing for him to realize that so few of those memories, he couldn't even think of them as dreams any longer, so few of them frightened him. There were some that did. Dark, sinister ones that he shied away from as he paced the darkening room.
Outside the sun was dropping in a bright, gaudy display of crimson and orange. It had been hours since he'd felt that voice in his head and he still could not shake it. He realized that he was very likely going mad. There was no evidence to support his previously discarded belief that he had indeed been flung across the universe and a great deal that defied it. Two days. He'd only been gone two days. He'd seen the telemetry from the tracking himself. The module, his lab results, everything proved that what his father had told him was true. Still, he could not shake the certainty that they were somehow wrong. The more he tried to deny the reality of it, the stronger the memories came back to him. He wasn't certain how much more that he could take. He felt as though he was spiraling rapidly out of control.
Though the house was sealed up tight from the outside, John felt a breeze blow across the bare nape of his neck. He stopped his pacing and slowly, cautiously turned around. The wall behind him twisted and bright blue iris opened up. He stood, watching slack jawed, as the vortex opened wider and a single form walked through. The wind turned to a gust and he felt it's frigid breath blow his hair back. The drapes flapped wildly and small things like photos and books toppled to the tiled floor.
John looked silently at the woman who had stepped through, his heart constricting painfully in his chest. "Aeryn," he said softly.
She said nothing, did nothing. Then she smiled slightly and nodded.
Crichton backed off several steps and fell awkwardly to the floor. He covered his face with his hands. "Oh, hell. I'm losing it. I'm just completely losing it."
Aeryn could not move but a foot towards him, the cable around her waist was simply holding her back. With the briefest moment of hesitation, she unwound it from her, hoping like hell that D'Argo would not pull it through to the other side. When she was free, she walked cautiously towards John, approaching him like a wounded animal.
She dropped slowly to her knees in front of him. "Crichton," she said softly, pleadingly.
He looked up at her, his eyes registering how alien her voice was to him. "You're not real, you just can't be, you know."
Aeryn looked at him in consternation and then took his hand in her own. She gave it a small squeeze and then raised it to her face. Crichton's hand moved out of hers and traveled over the plane of her cheeks, the line of her jaw. He reached up with his other hand, both of them moving into her hair. He said nothing. He simply touched her for several moments before letting his arms drop limply to his side.
She moved towards him then, her hands seeking out his face. She smoothed back his hair, noting absently that it was indeed different, more akin to how it was when she first met him. She ran one middle finger down the center of his forehead, his nose, and finally across his lips. Aeryn looked into his eyes then and was rewarded with sad, wary recognition. She pointed at him, then at herself, and finally to the vortex still swirling incomprehensibly in the wall behind them both.
Crichton shook his head. "No. No way. I'm home, I belong here. None of that was real. You," he said sadly, "aren't real. I'm crazy. I've lost my mind. I made you up and now you're here. Just a figment of my imagination."
Aeryn shook her head vehemently and pushed against him angrily. "Crichton, you stubborn, frelling idiot! If I'm not real, how can you feel me? What then is that?" she said pointing at the wall behind her. She stood up in frustration as she remembered that he could not understand her. She realized belatedly that it would have been worth the time to send someone to Moya to fetch a DRD. The microbes would have made this all so much simpler.
"I can't understand you," John said softly.
Aeryn grimaced and threw her hands up in the air. She paced in short, angry steps in front of him, stopping only when he spoke again.
"Aeryn, I can't understand you. If you were a dream, if I made you up, why wouldn't I understand?"
She looked at him angrily and spoke, knowing that her words would have no meaning. "Because that body has not been injected with translator microbes!"
John lurched to his feet, looking as though he might vomit. He pressed the heel of his palm against his head despairingly. "Microbes. I thought the lab results should have caught them, but they didn't. Because they weren't there." He turned in a slow circle, looking towards the back of the house. "She said I was there. Here and there. She Zhaan said my my body was there, that I was dying."
Aeryn bit her lip and crossed the short distance between them. She put her hands on his shoulders and nodded in affirmation. When he said nothing and continued to look at her with confused uncertainty, she gently grabbed his face, forcing him to look into her eyes. "I know you can't understand me, John, but you know me. You know me. You have to trust me, you have to remember. Please." She looked away as one frustrated tear fell from her eyes.
Crichton moved to intercept her. He wiped the tear from her face, looking at it as if that was a revelation in of itself. Aeryn stood silent before his scrutiny and nearly cursed when her lips began to tremble. This was not the time to fall prey to overwhelming emotions. Crichton was confused enough for the both of them, she didn't need to add her own to this. She was certain that she had reached some measure of control, that no more tears would fall. Then John heaved a small sigh and leaned into her, his hands twining in her hair.
"Aeryn," he said simply.
She let loose a small sob and wrapped her arms around him as well, her face crumpling. "Crichton, you have to come with me," she whispered.
John pulled away and looked at her with a small smile. "I know you. I thought I'd forgotten that none of it was real. But dreams, Aeryn. Dreams could not have the power over me that you do. Your eyes, your hair that's not something that I could dream up. I'd forgotten."
Aeryn closed her eyes for a moment and then leaned forward, brushing her lips against his. She pulled back and pointed to the wall once more. She took a step in that direction, beckoning him to follow.
Crichton did follow. He bent down and picked up the cable, studying it for a moment. He looped it around her waist and tied it securely. "I can't go back, Aeryn. Not that way. I will follow when I can, if I can, but I can't go back that way."
She looked at him confused and uncertain.
He smiled and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Trust me," he said softly. "You have to trust me. You do, don't you?"
Aeryn nodded and backed closer to the vortex that still blew with its frigid, arctic breeze. "I do trust you, Crichton, but if you let me down, I will come back and beat you senseless." She looked at him once more, fixing his face in her mind. Then, before she could change her mind, Aeryn stepped into the vortex and was gone.
Crichton swallowed the last of the pills down, grimacing as he did so. He'd taken everything that he could find within the house. Tylenol, the few sleeping pills he'd found, even a hefty shot of drain cleaner. He knew that it was all at work in his system because he was sweating profusely and his stomach clenched with painful spasms. He had started to write a letter with the first pill he swallowed, trying to explain to those left behind. As he began to feel increasingly worse, his writing took on a hasty, desperate edge. He had to finish. He had to explain, even if it was only to himself. In the back of his mind, he hated what he was doing. Not that he was taking his own life, but that he was taking any life. He tried to rationalize it and kept telling himself that if this John Crichton was meant to have life then he never would have been able enter his body. The Crichton in this universe was meant to die. It sounded hollow, but he clung to that belief and hoped that he was not taking another man's life, only his own.
He stopped writing finally and read the letter he'd written, though it was difficult to focus on the words or anything else for that matter.
I don't know if I can explain this to you, if I should even try. I have to, even if it's not any comfort to you, it is to me somehow. It was all real, Dad. All of it. I know you didn't believe the ease with which I'd forgotten it all and you were right not to. I should have listened to you, it might have made things easier now.
Do you remember what I said when I woke up? I said that I'd created a wormhole and went through it. I know that none of the evidence supports this, but, Dad, it's true. I did go through. Your son did not. So what I'm I saying? I'm saying I am not your son. Not really. I have all of his memories and his life up until that one very critical point seems to have been exactly like my own. I know that it will be difficult for you to believe, but I think your son died or was meant to during the experiment. Somehow, I got into his body at just the right moment and took on his life as my own. You see, since I've gone through, all I've wanted to do was come home. You cannot imagine how powerful home can be until you realize that you might never see it again. It wasn't just the need to see my own sky, to drink beer, and catch a game. It was more than that. So much more. I wanted to be back where I belonged, where everything was familiar. Where the people I love are. In the pursuit of that, I think maybe, I made a stupid, foolish mistake. I wanted to be home so badly, that for a moment, I didn't care if it was my home, my family, my life.
Someone very wise told me, not so long ago, that the universe exists in a state of infinite possibilities and that there are doorways to all manner of creation. I stepped through one such door and I was home. For a while, I truly thought that I was home. I might have been able to accept it as such if it weren't for the dreams. Everything that I was, everything that I saw, endured even, called out to me every moment that I closed my eyes. I didn't want to believe it at first, not while there was sky over my head and sand beneath my feet. I really would have shut it all out and lived the rest of my life here knowing that I didn't belong and that I'd left something invaluable behind. When she came, when I saw her, when I touched her, I knew that I was a fool. A stupid, selfish fool.
I have a life out there, Dad. Somewhere, one universe away THIS John Crichton has a life. And it's one that you would never imagine. I've seen things, wondrous things that mankind has not even begun to realize. I've also seen terrible, frightening things. I've felt pain. I've had my heart broken, my sanity tested. For a while, I held on to those terrifying things, making them be the reason why I didn't want any of it to be real. And do you know what's strange? They don't mean a thing in comparison to the good things, the good moments. I have people that I love out there, Dad, and I cannot leave them behind. Not like this. Someday, someday I may have to. I'd thought for a while that there was no hope, that I'd never get home and you'd think that this experience would only serve to strengthen that. Strangely, it's done the exact opposite. If I can come here, so close to home, who's to say that I cannot find my own home, my own earth one day? That time is likely very far off and for the moment, I'm okay with that. I'm not ready to leave my friends just yet. I'm not ready to leave her yet. I think, in the back of my mind, I cling to the belief that somehow, she'll come with me. It's a foolish wish, really. But, for the moment, I continue to hope. It's an unrealistic dream, Dad, but I want it all. I want MY home and I want her with me when I find it. If I cannot have both, then perhaps the time will come when I have to choose between the two.
That time is not now. I may have to choose my home over the woman that I love, but I cannot, will not, trade her for a dream. As real as this is, as real as you are, this isn't my life, Dad. I am not the John Crichton that is your son. Somewhere, in my universe, my father waits for me, wonders what happened to me. As much as I hate taking away your son and your hopes for him, I cannot do the same to my own father. I know it's difficult to believe, but I think, maybe, your son was supposed to die up there. The thinning oxygen, the bump to the head, I don't know, but something. I don't think if he was still alive that I would have been able to put my own consciousness in his body. I know that isn't much comfort, it's not to me either really. I feel like I'm taking another man's life and you must just see that I'm taking my own. If there were another way, God you have to believe me, I would take it. If I could go back and keep him from whatever happened to take his life, I would. Without a second thought, even if it meant my own death. Life is too precious to squander, even-no especially-when it's not your own.
I have to go back, Dad. I have to go back to my life in my own universe. What I left behind was not worth the dream that I took in its place. I remember that lesson now too, and I think it was the really important one. I'm sorry that your son is dead, I'm sorry that I can do nothing to help him. I love you, Dad. No matter what universe, no matter what reality, I do love you. I think that is a constant in any land you travel. John Crichton loves his father. You gave me, and your own son, so much, perhaps more than you realize. You gave him confidence, you gave him dreams. You made him a man that others can depend on. I wish I could take you with me. Even though you are not my father, I still wish it. You'd be amazed at what's out there, Dad. You're enough like me to find the wonder, the beauty in all of it.
I have to go now. It's becoming difficult to write and I don't think I can last much longer. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry to have to do this, but I owe to myself and to my own father too. If it helps, know that even though your own son is dead, there are an infinite number of John Crichtons out there, living, breathing, fighting, and loving. I don't know what will happen to me when I go back. Hell, I don't even know if I can go back. But, know that in my own way, I am happy and I am loved. I love you,
Crichton set the pages down on the coffee table and rose slowly to his feet. He swayed as he walked to the door and, for a moment, he thought he would drop before he had a chance to go through it. He fumbled with the knob and opened the door, walking through. He did not walk down the steps so much as he fell down them. John struggled to his feet once more and took a few, faltering steps out into the desert night. He walked as far from the house as he could, as far as he feet could take him. When he had no more in him, he dropped to the sand and stared up at the blissfully familiar stars. Tears streamed from his eyes as he picked out the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, Orion, all of the constellations that made up his sky, his memory. He thought that someday, he would see them again, under his own sky, in his own skin, he believed that he would see them again. He remembered something that Nuara had said to him, something that he hadn't believed. 'And you should also not abandon hope. There is always hope, young Crichton.'
"You were right, Nuara, you crazy old bat. You were right. There is always hope. I forgot that. But, you were right. There is always hope." He smiled and added in a whisper: "There's no place like home. There's no place like home. She is my home and I I want to go back." John watched the sky for a moment longer and then closed his eyes. He let out one, shallow, shuddering breath and then lay still. His mind silent and his body dead.
Aeryn lurched forward into D'Argo and Chiana. She collapsed against them, her breath ragged, tears still streaming from her eyes. Zhaan was there in an instant, helping D'Argo untie the cable from around her waist. Only Rygel remained where he was. He looked at Crichton's still face hopefully, and then cast his eyes downward as he realized that there was no change.
"Aeryn, what happened?" Zhaan asked gently. "Couldn't you find him?"
"Yes," Aeryn replied slowly. "I found him."
"But, you're were only gone for a microt, maybe two," Chiana said in confusion.
"I think time moves differently there," Aeryn said as she stood. Her legs wobbled and for a moment, she didn't think that she would be able to remain upright. She forced her body to obey her and walked two steps to where Rygel hovered next to John. "He remembers now. He remembers everything, but he said he said he couldnt come back the same way I did. I don't understand, but he asked me to trust him. I do. I do trust him."
"So what do we do now?" Chiana asked.
Aeryn opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by D'Argo. "We wait. Until he returns or he is dead. We wait."
Aeryn nodded and secured the blanket tighter around Crichton, brushing a few renegade snowflakes from his head as she did so. "We wait," she said softly. She turned slightly and looked at Zhaan. "And maybe pray as well."
The Delvian nodded and smiled sadly. She stood and moved to stand close to Aeryn, Rygel, and John, motioning for D'Argo and Chiana to join them. They did without hesitation. All of them clustered around Crichton and closed their eyes solemnly as Zhaan began to pray. Aeryn sighed softly and leaned in closer to John, wrapping her arms around his cold, still body. "Come back to us," she whispered.
Jack Crichton sat on the couch, his entire body aching with harsh despair. He'd sent DK to pick up his daughters, John's sisters, at the airport. He knew that he should be there, that they would need him to be, but for the moment, he could do nothing. Spencer sat quietly next to him, reading the note that John had left behind.
He finished it and handed the pages back to Jack, shaking his head slowly. "I never should have released him, Jack. I had no idea that he was so far gone, that he'd do this. I thought it was just a little confusion. I never should have let him go."
Jack nodded numbly. "Neither did I, Spencer. Neither did I." He looked at the handwritten pages for a moment before letting them fall to the floor. "What's even crazier is the fact that I think I believe him. I think, maybe I have to. It doesn't change the fact that my son is dead, but the thought that there are infinite universes with infinite versions of my son, living and loving, as he said, it makes it easier. God, I hope so. I hope that he's right."
Spencer placed a consoling hand on Jack's shoulder. "Too bad we'll never know."
"Yeah," Jack replied as he stared out at the early morning sun. "Too bad." He watched out the window for a moment and when he spoke again, his voice cracked. "Godspeed, son. I hope you find what you're looking for, what you thought you'd left behind. And I hope she's worth it."
Zhaan's lilting voice had lulled Aeryn into a quiet stupor. Had the others not been pressed so close to her and to Crichton's body, that she still clung to, she thought perhaps that she might have slid to the ground and fallen asleep. She was so weary, so emotionally spent that she almost missed the first shudder that passed through Crichton.
She looked up to see his features contorting, his eyelids fluttering. "John, can you hear me?" she asked softly. For a terrible moment, she thought that she'd imagined it all. Then his eyes opened slowly and he opened his mouth trying to speak.
"D'Argo?" Aeryn said quietly. "Take his arm. See if you can't pull him free." She kept her eyes locked on Crichton's, willing him into existence with her gaze. "Stay with me, Crichton. Stay with me."
D'Argo turned slightly and took hold of John's arm, noting absently that Zhaan's prayers had not stopped, but only intensified. "If there are gods," the Luxan said quietly, "this would be an excellent time for them to show themselves." He pulled on Crichton's arm and was met with resistance. He dug his heels into the snow and pulled again fiercely. For a moment, nothing changed. Then slowly, inexorably, John's hand began to slide out of the ice and the portal beyond it. With a last heave, D'Argo pulled him free, knocking everyone except Rygel to the ground as he did so.
Aeryn shoved them off of her and sat up, pulling Crichton into a sitting position as well. She held him from behind, keeping him upright. "Are you all right?" she asked.
John shook his head, but didn't respond.
Chiana looked at him apprehensively. "Crichton? Frell, say something."
He raised his head and looked at her, a slow smile spreading across his face. "Hi, Pip," he said, his voice a slight whisper.
Chiana smiled, laughing and crying simultaneously. "Hi yourself." She leaned into D'Argo and looped her arm through his. The Luxan rested his head against hers for a moment and looked at John sternly.
"Crichton, if you ever do that again, you will make me very irritated. And you don't want me to be irritated, do you?"
John coughed and shook his head. "Glad to see you too, big guy." He turned to Zhaan who sat by silently. "I'm sorry," he said simply. "I'm sorry for what I said and you were right. I didn't mean it."
The Delvian smiled and put a hand on his face briefly. "I know, John, I know. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded."
"Thank you," he said softly. "All of you, thank you. I don't know what I did to deserve to have any of you in my life, but I'm glad that I do."
"As are we, John," D'Argo replied. "As are we."
"Aeryn?" Crichton asked.
She said nothing, but leaned her head down on the back of his shoulder, shuddering slightly.
He turned in her arms to find that she was crying. It was an uncharacteristic display for her and he found it alarming. "Aeryn?" he asked again. "Are you all right?"
Rygel hovered in closer and placed a hand on her head. "Let her be, Crichton. She's fine. More fine than you think."
John nodded and pulled Aeryn close to him, letting her hide her face in his neck. "Maybe you're right, Sparky. Maybe you're right."
Rygel snorted. "After everything, you still haven't learned the most important thing yet, have you?"
The Hynerian raised his brows. "I'm always right, Crichton."
John laughed and held Aeryn tighter. "God, it's good to be home."
Crichton sat up and he craned his head as he heard an indignant shout followed by a shrill peel of laughter. Aeryn dropped the load of blankets that she'd brought back into the transport pod and gently pushed him back down. "No, you're resting, remember. Don't try to get up again, or I'll tie you to that bench."
"What, ah, what's going on out there? Sounds like they're having an awfully good time packing everything up."
Aeryn sat down next to him, shaking her head with wry amusement. "Zhaan and D'Argo are packing up the heating units. Chiana seems to have decided that it's more entertaining to throw snow on Rygel."
"Pip's picking a snowball fight with Sparky? Man, why didn't I think of that?"
She smiled at him, content for the moment, to simply sit there. "I'm sure you would have, Crichton. If Zhaan hadn't insisted that you rest, I have no doubt that you would have."
John reached out and gently pulled at a tendril of her hair, twining it around his finger. "I would have believed it all if you hadn't come you know. No matter how wrong I felt, it was so close to my own home, that I would have forgotten everything and just stayed there."
"You could have," she replied quietly. "You didn't have to come. I only wanted you to know that we were real that I was real. I wouldn't have blamed you if you'd stayed. You may never get as close to your earth again, you know."
Crichton smiled, even as he shook his head. "I don't believe that. I think, somehow someday, I think I will get home. The right home, in the right universe this time. I really believe that, Aeryn."
She nodded. "Why did you come?" she asked. "It must have been a very difficult decision to make."
"At first, it was. But I realized that it wasn't my life, it was another man's life and nothing more than a dream to me. I could give up a lot Aeryn, but I'd never trade you for a dream, no matter how much it resembles my fondest wishes. You mean more to me than that. So much more." He leaned towards her and placed a small, soft kiss on her lips.
She returned his kiss and then pulled slightly away. "But someday it won't be a dream, will it?" she asked without accusation. "Someday you will find your way home and leave me here."
Crichton pulled her close to him and sighed into her hair. "Not if I dont have to. There's hope, Aeryn. There's always hope."
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow:
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
--from Edgar Allen Poe's 'Dream Within a Dream'
Author's note: Though they have very little bearing on this story, a
couple of songs were (pardon the pun) instrumental in writing this. If you
have them, they do provide excellent background. They are as follows:
Sting - "I Dream of Rain"
From the 'Last of the Mohicans Soundtrack'- "The Kiss"
Tangerine Dream- "Russian Soul"
From the 'Dune' soundtrack-"Paul Meets Chani"
Vangelis (from the 'Blade Runner' Soundtrack)- "Memories of the Green" and "Damask Rose"
I can write nothing without music, so, I thought I'd share these little gems with you.