TITLE: Between the Stars
SUMMARY: Silence is so hard to hold around him, and the strangest things keep popping out of her mouth.
SPOILERS: A Human Reaction
CATEGORY: Post-ep, vignette, J/A
Beta thanks to Cofax (who did this to me) and Marasmus (who chortled with glee).
Between the Stars
Aeryn sits on the terrace and stares at the stars. She's lived all her life on ships but she's not quite at home on Moya, not like the others. Even him, the Human, he's made himself more at home than her.
Why not? They're not going anywhere else.
Or rather, they are, but it's not a where she wants to go. Not anymore. When it came down to the moment, she was afraid of going to his Earth, but as long as the idea remained mere possibility, she could stay quiet. Inside, where quiet mattered, where it had always been before.
--This is what I am.--
Such a simple phrase. She hadn't realised how much it meant until the 'what' had no meaning. He says she can be more but she doesn't think she can. One thing is certain -- there's no place for her on Earth. If he leaves again, she won't follow. She doesn't like to think that she followed him this time, that she might have killed Rygel and D'Argo because she couldn't let him go. Somewhere, deep inside, she must have known she was flying too close. She's too good a pilot to have simply got it wrong.
Then again...maybe she's not. That too is possible. She has no idea what she is. Not anymore.
"Yo, Aeryn. What's up?"
He drops down beside her, popping a rolled-up food cube into his mouth. There's a word for him, but she suspects it exists only in his language, not hers. "Open," he says, his mouth half a grin, half serious. He's holding another balled-up food cube by his ear, as if he expects to toss it into her mouth.
Frelling Human, she thinks, and stays silent, lips pressed together, staring at him until his grin fades.
"You know," he says, transparently disappointed, "with a stare like that, you don't need a gun."
He eats the ball himself. She turns her face back to the view, aware that he's still watching her profile. She should just get up and walk away, but she won't let herself be pushed from her place. And this is hers, this vast field of black, these tiny pinpoints of life going on unseen in other places. She's a child of the universe in the most literal way.
He's a child of noisy clouds and water falling from the sky. She's seen his world now, and once was enough. It didn't really happen, true, but her stomach clenches nonetheless. Some of it did happen. That's true as well.
"I was born between the stars," she says, surprising herself. Silence is so hard to hold around him and the strangest things keep popping out of her mouth.
"And?" he says, when she doesn't go on. She has no idea what to say next, no idea what prompted her remark in the first place. "Have a cube," he adds, when the silence has gone on too long, when Moya's hum has begun to vibrate in her bones.
He holds the cube in front of her face, a fresh one in its normal shape. "Aeryn, you need to eat."
"You've been here since we got back. You must be hungry by now."
"I'm not." She can't understand why he worries about things like that, like he did after NamTar. She can go without food for days and hardly notice. Maybe Humans can't.
She makes herself focus on a distant pulsar, instead of the image inside her mind. Crichton kneeling on the other side of the table, offering her a happy face on a plate, looking up at her with that wistful smile. She was hungry then, but the cubes tasted rotten and it was a weeken before she could eat her fill.
She's been trained to ignore her body if necessary, but willful abstinence goes against everything she's been taught. Food, water, rest, recreation --the four needs which must be filled. Well, she filled her needs on Earth and she's not entirely sure it wasn't the second biggest mistake of her life. Interesting that she was known as a perfectionist once, that her two biggest mistakes have both involved him.
"I'm sorry," he says, and she guesses that's the real reason he's here. "I'm so sorry I ran away and left you there. I thought you weren't real."
She lifts her chin and refuses to look at him. "Well, you were wrong."
"I know that now."
At least this time he doesn't ask if she was scared. He probably doesn't have to, though he doesn't quite understand. It's the fear of being left alone she hates, not the solitude itself. The cold metallic taste of a weakness she never knew she had.
"I'm sorry you had to see all that."
He said that to her then. Before. And after. After, when he wanted her to stay close, when he held her against his chest with his face against her hair and one hand wearing a path up and down her back. "When on Earth, do as the Earthlings do," he'd said, and she let him, but it felt like he was holding someone else. Officer Sun would have moved away, would have left if there'd been anywhere to go. She had never done anything else. But she was alone on a world where no one would understand a word she said, so she stayed beside him, listening for footsteps, listening to the heart beat on the wrong side of his chest.
"There's no place I fit." Her throat hurts as if the words have cut it coming out.
He reaches for her fist, jammed tight against her knee. She wants to hit him, but she also wants something else. She wishes she knew what the frell it was.
He rubs his fingertips against her bones, over and over until she opens her hand and lets him twine his fingers into hers.
He does understand, maybe the only other creature out here who knows what it is to have the whole universe before you, and nowhere to go. She looks down at their hands, sees her own knuckles white, the tendons standing out at her wrist. She's holding on too hard, but he seems content to sit beside her and stare at the stars, so she doesn't let go.
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