He retains enough of his template's early memories that the idea of willfully bringing life into the universe disturbs him still. John's idyllic past only strengthened that fundamental conviction. Human childhood struck him as a period of intractable naivete that any sentient would consider appalling.
As in most things, the difference between theory and data is striking.
Ruth continually surprises him. She is shrewd in her innocence, discerning in her inexperience. She is a new intelligence encountering the universe for the first time, and it is compelling to watch. Harvey feels honored when he can take part in her discovery.
He's aware of her always, but he comes to know her in a series of moments. When John becomes too distracted or angry to pay attention to his surroundings, Harvey steps in to take care of things for him.
When they first met the infant she was frightened by John, flying into her mother's embrace like a spooked animal. Aeryn was startled by her daughter's reaction, but John tried to take it in stride.
"They go through a phase where they don't like strangers. She must be that age, just over a cycle."
Aeryn had corrected him. "Rudimentary safety is not a phase. She is simply doing what she has been taught; when she encounters danger she returns to base. Ruth, this is your father. All clear." She reached down and behind to cup the back of her daughter's head and guide her around to the front, but the girl held fast behind the shield of her mother's leg, chubby fists full of leather and her face eclipsed by her eyes.
John's own eyes were fastened on the child as if acquiring sustenance from the sight. "It's okay, sweetheart," he'd whispered to those huge pale eyes, "if I were dangerous your mothership would've already blown me out of the sky."
John had crouched down as small as possible, had coaxed and crooned and eventually charmed the girl from hiding. Harvey had watched, no less fascinated than Aeryn Sun, and wondered if humans had developed this technique as a hunting strategy, easing their prey out of cover.
The child herself didn't interest Harvey until later, when she began to talk in sentences.
John took shelter with them on Beyul, an older Leviathan than Moya, and much better at traveling discreetly. Beyul provided reliable sanctuary for the first time in years, and once John realized that he was indeed in a safe place, the trauma began to surface with increasing frequency.
At first Harvey tried to compensate for it, easing the headaches and the emotional outbursts, blanking out the repetitive dreams, trying to reason with John.
"What is the value of this irrational rage? Your physical injuries have healed, you are not in any immediate danger and what's more, Scorpius is dead, as is Grayza."
"It doesn't work like that, Harv. Horror clings to the soul like shit."
Harvey had by this time, by necessity, detached himself somewhat from his hosts' biologics. He tried to control what he could, but the headaches worsened and changed, compressed into piercing flashes of pain that struck without warning and blotted out vision for several microts. The rages became harder to control.
John hit Ruth.
She wasn't even four cycles. The pulse pistol in her hands was nearly as large as her head, and battered.
It did not belong to her parents, but to a new passenger on Beyul. Ru'Dien was a young Luxan, barely more than a child himself, and unfamiliar with the precautions necessary around small newly-minted sentients.
Ru'Dien had left his weapon on a table in a common area, and Ruth had climbed up and began playing with it.
John caught sight of his daughter and the spike of adrenaline ached even in Harvey's phantom temples.
In a flash John had seized the pistol from the child and smacked her hand hard enough that his own fingers stung. He shouted over Ruth's indignant wail, stalking toward the other passengers in the common area, bellowing "Whose gun is this? Whose?"
If John hadn't been stopped, he would probably have killed Ru'Dien. As it was, the Luxan disembarked on the next safe commerce station they found, two weekens later, his voice still raspy and his tankas dark with bruises.
By the order of Beyul and his Pilot, John was sequestered for two monens as punishment. Aeryn visited twice.
On the first day of his sentence she had gripped the bars of the cell and laid down the law about the physical discipline of her child. John's only response was a contrite series of "yes Ma'am" until Aeryn was satisfied enough to leave him to his punishment.
"Do you think she would carry out those threats?"
"Yeah," the flush of pride was something Harvey had difficulty understanding. "No one's gonna hurt Ruthie without answering to her momma."
"But you were spanked as a child, John."
"That's not how she's doing things."
"Peacekeepers also use physical punishment to shape the behaviour of their young."
"Not until six. Ruthie ain't old enough for kindergarten, much less cadet squad. And even when she is, discipline is her mother's area."
"Because she doesn't trust your control."
How could John have two intelligences, one dedicated to the support of the other, and yet still fly out of control? During their incarceration, Harvey had wondered if his well-intentioned efforts were in actuality subverting the human's own recovery mechanisms.
While John marked time, Harvey experimented with a different approach.
He had the advantage of being able to feel an episode build before John was aware of it, before the nightmares and sharp pains in the head escalated and the Human started to lose track of time and place. Through careful observation, Harvey learned when he could take complete control, and how to do it seamlessly.
By the end of the sentence in Beyul's tiny cell, Harvey no longer fought with John to control these episodes and remain alert to the outside world. Now when the storm hits, Harvey divides their consciousness by task, and lets each one do what he is best fit to do.
Harvey gives John time alone with the nightmares, letting him bask in the pain, sort through it, deal with it. Sometimes Harvey gives John a space of time to simply sleep, unaware as if he were dead. It keeps John sane, keeps him from hurting himself or anyone else.
In exchange, Harvey gets to drive.
The day before John's sentence ended Aeryn brought Ruth to visit, and made both of them apologize.
Ruth gripped a crossbar of the grill, set her tiny shoes on the bottom rung and pulled her self up toward her father. He knelt down and set his hands on top of hers. Her eyes were huge and her high voice solemn. "I'm sorry I worried you, Daddy. I was just going to give it back to Mr. Ru'Dien."
"And the next time you see something like that?" Aeryn prompted.
She shook her head, her tiny battle ponytail flicking. "I won't touch it, I'll get you or Daddy first."
"Thank you, Ruthie. I'm very sorry I hit you," Harvey was unsuccessful in loosening the clench of John's throat but the man spoke through it anyway, just as solemn as the child, "and I will never do that again."
Ruthie abandons her solemnity and brightens. "Coming out tomorrow?"
"Good." Ruth pointed a stiff stubby finger through the bars and used her Big Girl Voice. "No more hitting people."
John was wordless with gratitude and shame, while Harvey was utterly charmed by the resilience of Ruth.
Ruth spots the difference immediately, but doesn't know what it means. "Why are you talking like that?"
"This is how I normally talk. You are unfamiliar with it because we have not spoken before. I am called Harvey."
John rocks numbly in a small space underground while Harvey tells stories to Ruth, and Ruth pretends that her Daddy is someone else.
"Hey sweetheart, what are you drawing?"
She presses the tip of her finger into the paper in front of her on the bed, leaving a crinkled dent in the smooth paper that unfurls from a roll lodged near her pillow. Harvey makes a note to work with her on manual dexterity the next chance he gets. The dent is next to the misshapen figure with a spike coming out of the head. "This is mom."
"Okay." John interprets the head spike as a braid, which Aeryn had taken to wrapping when Ruth was a baby. John picks the easy one next, pointing to a small figure with wild brown hair. "Is that you?"
"Yeah, that's me."
John's not sure who the other two figures are, both mom-sized with blue dots for eyes. "And those guys?"
"That's you." Ruth rolls her eyes and Harvey feels sympathy for her exasperation. John is usually much better at this game. "See, I wrote your name there."
"You wrote my name, huh?" John follows her point and the squiggles above the figures resolve into scrawled Sebacean. He teases meaning from the tortured letters as he asks, "Did Mommy start teaching you already?"
Harvey feels the realization coming and decides to take shelter underground, in the small place inside where John does his screaming. Because Harvey remains quiet, he can still hear the conversation from there.
John comprehends the names above the two twin figures as she answers, "Uncle Harvey did." and the whole picture becomes monstrous.
He's always been careful to take his time alone when Ruth was with Aeryn, to keep that piece of himself well away from his child. Ever since the incident with the pulse pistol he's been so careful, sequestering himself when he's 'sick', but he really has no control over what Harvey does when he's gone.
Ruthie never met her real daddy but she's still got two Johns, a right one and a wrong one.
"...tells me stories and teaches me things. Did you know that the people on Prelka carve their cities out of big trees? Harvey told what a tree was and I was suitably impressed..."
And he'd assumed the big vocabulary was because she didn't have any other kids to play with, just adults. Didn't know how close to the truth he was. The way she's nattering on, it's obvious she's been spending some quality time with Harvey, and the comfort level is high.
His daughter has been babysat by his pooka, enough to recognize the demon in daddy's head as a member of the family. His episodes aren't as separate and contained as he'd thought.
"...Uncle Harvey says it's important to find out what the people you care about need, so you can give it to them..."
He stares at her bent head, soft brown curls laying against her rounded cheeks as she fills in the bottom of the picture with a golden Leviathan floor. He winces against the memory of Scorpius's hand on her mother's belly, inches from this child who's staggering innocence exists because her mother paid for it with her daddy's brain.
"You talk with Uncle Harvey a lot?"
"Only when you're sick, Daddy. Harvey comes and takes care of me when you're gone." The color of her eyes is still pale, but not as blue as when she was a baby, more grey.
"You know, whatever Uncle Harvey does, you can always tell me. Okay? You won't get in trouble, I won't be mad or anything. If he does anything weird, you tell Daddy, okay?"
In the place underground, Harvey bares his teeth.
Ruthie shrugs. "He doesn't do anything weird. He's kind of boring." She slaps her hand on the picture and shoves it to the side, unrolling a fresh surface for her pen.
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Title: Cut Some Slack (The Dr. Spock Remix)
Author: feldman [email] [website]
Details: Standalone | PG | gen | 11k | 07/01/04
Characters: Harvey, John
Summary: He retains enough of his template's early memories that the idea of willfully bringing life into the universe disturbs him still.
Notes: A re-mixed version of "Cut" by Kernezelda, http://www.livejournal.com/community/farscapefriday/155509.html#cutid1
Disclaimer/Other: Many thanks to FBF and Thea for the beta, and especially to Kernezelda for creating such a fascinating playground to run around in.
Though I love them so
and they are fun to to play with
I do not own them
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