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TITLE: The Way We Are
AUTHOR: Nestra
SUMMARY: Post-ep for "The Way We Weren't".
NOTES: Thanks to Shrift and cofax for beta, and the DRV girls for encouragement.
DISTRIBUTION: List archive, yes. Anyone else, ask.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. And the puppets would be too complicated to maintain anyway.

Aeryn closed her eyes and listened to the gentle, almost inaudible hum of Moya's systems, reassured by the familiar sounds. Pilot had regained control over propulsion and life support almost as soon as D'Argo had reconnected him, but then Moya was as anxious as the rest of them to get things back to normal.

She heard footsteps approaching Command and easily identified Crichton. Too heavy to be Chiana, too light to be D'Argo, not graceful enough to be Zhaan.

"How's Pilot doing?"

"Better," Aeryn answered. "He's regaining more and more control over Moya's systems with every arn. He thinks that the bonding's going quicker because of their previous attachment."

"Good. The last thing we need is for the Peacekeepers to catch us dead in the water."

She nodded and reached for a control, nudging the internal temperature back to optimum. Now that Pilot had less control over Moya, more tasks had to be handled manually.

She heard Crichton step up behind her, close enough for his breath to stir her hair and brush against her cheek. "And how are you doing?"

"I'm better too." Her tone brusque, but not rude.

"You wanna talk about it?"

She didn't like the sound of the slightly bitter chuckle that escaped her. "No, I think I've had enough talking for a while. And I have plenty to do here."

Hardly a pause. "Want some help?"

She turned to face him, exasperated. "You know you can't help. You still don't understand how half of Moya's systems work."

He grinned at her, unrepentant, and she couldn't help smiling back. His good humor was often infectious, and she'd become less and less able to resist it as they'd grown closer. She poked his chest with a finger. "You're not helping."

"I know I'm not," he said. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"And if I weren't? What could you do about it?"

He had an answer for that too. Must have thought his way through this conversation before he'd come to find her. "Not much. But I could be here for you."

She smiled again at that. For all the things Crichton managed to trip over or break or simply frell up, he was very, very good at comfort. And she'd learned how to accept it, when necessary.

"I'll be okay, especially since Pilot will be okay." She turned back to the console and began another minute adjustment, this time to the internal sensors.

"He had me pretty worried for a while," John said. "I've never seen him like that."

She distractedly poked the wrong button, then sighed. Apparently her choices were to have this conversation or to bodily throw Crichton out of Command. She didn't think she had the energy for either.

"He's spent the last three cycles dealing with all of this, John. The constant pain, the guilt over the previous Pilot's death, the responsibility for keeping us safe. And he is still young."

He put a hand on her shoulder, and she resisted only slightly before turning to face him. "You don't blame him for trying to kill you?" he asked.

Her hair slithered against her vest as she shook her head. "No. I understand. I understand what guilt did to him, and I understand why he made the choices he made three cycles ago."

Crichton leaned in close and pulled her into a hug, his lips grazing her cheek. "Just like that?"

The memories still tumbled around her mind, close to the surface, but they didn't hurt as much now, especially not with John's warm arms wrapped around her. She thought of what she had been, and what she had become. What she hoped to be in the future. The rush of awe that struck her every time she looked at Pilot's quiet magnificence and felt the influence of his DNA in her reflexes and movements.

And she remembered Velorek's voice and hands. His trust in her, and the combination of sadness and pride in his eyes when she'd betrayed him. The streaks of light that rushed past her as her Prowler maneuvered around ships and planets and asteroids, and the constant challenges that her new life presented.

"It's easy for me to understand why Pilot did what he did, John. I needed the stars too."


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