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Title: Absolution
Author: cofax
Rated: R for language
Summary: "Let's do what we have to do here, and then we'll go." That was what she had said.
Notes: post-Fractures, just a little slice of angst
Feedback: makes me do the wacky but please no spoilers!

By cofax
February 2002

She walked down the curving hallway and paused at the entrance to the treblin-side maintenance bay. Even from down the corridor she could hear the muttering, punctuated occasionally by a mumble or one of his incomprehensible curses. Her hair was tightly bound, her face pale but composed; the only evidence of her indecision was a brief hesitation before striding into the bay.

The main table in the maintenance bay had been rearranged; the usual clutter from Crichton's tinkering had been shoved into an unsteady pile at one end of the table, while the other end was occupied by an object she recognized immediately. The phase stabilizer had been pried open, and Crichton was bent over it, his head craned to one side, poking at the interior with a screwdriver. "Okay, fine, if this goes here, then that runs from the compensator -- But why? Shit, this makes no sense!"

They'd run careful tests before removing the stabilizer from Furlow's module, but the radiation had dissipated. Now the stabilizer was useless, its components burnt out by the energy it had channelled. Crichton had argued that he could take it apart, learn from it, maybe even rebuild it. They needed every advantage, he'd said. They could not hope to take on a command carrier with two primitive modules and one reluctant adolescent leviathan.

The irony of using wormhole technology against Scorpius had not been lost on any of them. But they were committed now; the plan had been set in motion and the time left before they would strike was now measured in arns.

Crichton dropped the tool onto the table with a clatter, and stood up, stretching his back. "Oh, hey," he said. He met her eyes and then looked down again at his hands. One of them was scratched, and he put the back of his hand to his mouth. His eyes were tired, his face drawn. Pilot had said he'd been here for fourteen arns.

She nodded, and gestured to the stabilizer. "Have you learned anything?"

"Not much." He tapped the surface of the stabilizer, frowning, then smoothed a hand across it. "It's so fucking complicated. I can only guess at about a quarter of what's in here. He really built it, huh --all of it?"

His sharp eyes caught at hers; she wrenched her gaze away, back to the machine on the table. "He and the ancient, Jack. But he finished it himself. He said it was -- cool."

"Cool." He repeated the word dully, and looked at the stabilizer, innocent on the table. "Well, hell." His lips twisted as if he'd tasted one of Jool's bitter tisanes. "It's not cool, it's a fucking mess. I'm not going to understand this in time, Aeryn. I don't think I'm ever going to understand it!"

His face darkening with frustration, he swept the workbench clear of everything but the stabilizer. Tools, equipment, and spare parts went crashing to the floor. Among the casualties was a glass beaker; shards scattered across the floor all the way to Aeryn's boots.

"No!" she said, her voice raw. "No, don't. You're not -- " She stopped, her thoughts tangled between the past and the present, between the living and the dead. She shook her head roughly to clear it.

His voice was vicious in response. "Not *what*, Aeryn? Not lucky enough, not smart enough? Not *dead* enough?"

The words hung in the air between them, air freighted with his anger and her grief; he opened his mouth, as if to take them back. It never used to be so hard for them.

"No! Not --" she struggled for the words: she felt as if John had taken them with him, " -- not *lesser.*"

He took in a sharp breath and dropped his head again. "Shit, I'm sorry, Aeryn. That was -- "

"No," she said. "No. It was -- I have been -- " She stopped again, shook her head. This was not what she came here to say. What she had to say, before they went into battle together. And then he would know, and they could go on. One way or another.

He shrugged and squatted down to pick up some of the mess on the floor. She came around the bench and joined him, passing tools and sundry items up onto the table. They worked in silence for a few dozen microts, handing items to one another, wordless all the while. They'd always done better when they had a job to do.

Finally all that was left was the shattered glass. Tiny shards of light sparkled in her palm as she picked them up. She sat back on her heels; he was just denches away, his head down as he pried a twist of wire out from underneath the leg of the table.


"Yeah?" He looked up at her for a moment, then back down at what he was doing. The scratch on his hand had started bleeding again.

She took one breath and then another. "I -- after he built the stabilizer, he said he knew enough to go home. To Earth. We were going to go, after it was over."

He looked up again, his full attention on her now. He sat back on his heels, mirroring her posture, his eyes unreadable. "Uh-huh."

"We weren't going to come back for you." It was said. She looked away, found a DRD to examine. The glass splinters were closed in her palm, grinding into her flesh.

There was a soft huff of breath, and he pulled himself up with a hand on the edge of the table. He picked up a calibrator and began threading some wiring to it. "I know," he said after a pause, his face occupied, intent.

Two DRDs approached from the doorway and began humming around their feet. Aeryn stood up herself and stepped backwards over the DRDs, watching his face. "You know?"

He looked up at her quickly, then dropped his gaze again, flipped the calibrator in his hands over onto its back, and picked up a screwdriver. "He told me. But you know, you wouldn't have. His job wasn't done yet, Aeryn. Scorpius is still out there."

"He told you." How much had John told him, she wondered. How much that had been theirs alone --

"He didn't say much," he continued, turning away to drop a tool in the crate behind him. He stayed there, fishing through the bin for something else, his back to her. "That you'd agreed to go after you settled with the Scarrans. But he'd forgotten about Scorpius. He wouldn't have gone."

*He wouldn't have gone.* The air in the bay had more oxygen in it now, it seemed. He was right. Despite his longing for home, once he'd seen the damage the wormhole technology could do, John could not have walked away from it. He would have come back to Moya and demanded they take on Scorpius.

"No, he wouldn't have gone," she said, and her face twisted in grief. She did not try to hide it, but he wasn't looking at her. She had said what she'd needed to say, and it had been enough. It had not broken their fragile companionship.

Crichton was still facing away, fingering a component, his head bent. "Thank you," she said to his back, and opened her hand. The shards fell to the floor, were crushed beneath her boots as she turned away.

John dropped the component into the bin and picked up a wrench. After some microts the sound of her step faded. The bay was quiet and still; the DRDs had finished their work and departed for some other tier. He stood by the workbench for a long moment, his right hand, still bleeding, flexing around the handle of the wrench.

"God DAMNIT!" he howled, and spun around, throwing the wrench hard into the emptiness in the rear of the bay. It clattered against a strut and dropped to the floor.

"You son of a bitch, John Crichton," he whispered, and dropped his head into his hands.

"You god-damned mother-fucking son of a bitch."


Notes: Beta by Marasmus and Nestra; many thanks to you both.

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