Subject: Farscape: Worlds Enough, and Time Date: Friday, February 14, 2003 8:52 AM TITLE: Worlds Enough, and Time FANDOM: Farscape AUTHOR: Fialka SUMMARY: It's the price you pay to keep him. SPOILERS: None really CATEGORY: Futurefic, J/A RATING: PG FEEDBACK: email@example.com DISCLAIMER: Contrary to popular belief, Farscape belongs to me (evil laugh). No? Sigh, okay. DK, Henson, Ben, Claudia, etc. Beta by Cofax and Marasmus, and by Maayan, who was gracious enough to lend me the key to her sandbox.
NOTE: "Worlds" takes place in Maayan's "Sleep While I Drive" universe. Recommend you read that first, just because...well, it's brilliant. Go ahead, we'll wait. http://www.shriftweb.org/leviathan/archive/3/sleepwhile.html
Worlds Enough, and Time
It is night on Romek 7, and the stars hang low in a double-mooned sky. You sit in a refreshment house, cold glass of raslak twirling between your hands. You've been sitting here for arns, for days, for almost a monen. The barkeep can't figure you out, the woman who comes alone and leaves alone, shoulders hunching tighter with every passing night.
It's the price you pay to keep him -- never to know, never to even dare a guess. He'll be here sooner or later, maybe an arn, maybe a cycle off the mark. You'll wait because you have to, because long ago you promised, because there isn't anything else left.
The war broke upon your heads, a tidal wave, he called it. Mercilessly brutal but mercifully short, as these things are when the opening salvo leaves little of the enemy to vanquish. Few Sebaceans survived, and even fewer Scarrans, but the black holes never swallowed the universe so you closed your eyes and tried to think of it as success.
You made it back to Moya, found you'd lost one John in your absence. D'Argo notched a dreadnought in a blaze of guilty glory, but you never forgave him for that.
Moya's luck held and the rest of you came through, all but Scorpius and the old woman, neither of whom you missed. You mourned the lost Johns in silence, counted yourself lucky, counted blessings as he taught you, counted the scars on your John's hardened chest.
When it seemed safe at last, you chose a tattered Sebacean colony, parked the ships side by side in a field of infant grass. There you found a surgeon, and suddenly there was life where there had been so little left. She grew against his hands and when the time came you bit his vest and pulled his hair, but you didn't cry out. She arrived in a blast of love and pride and sheer blind terror; a soft, helpless creature mewling and waving in his calloused hands.
You always thought she'd have his eyes and your hair, his ease with emotion and your skill as a pilot. You thought she'd be resistant to heat, and long-lived as a Sebacean. Instead, she was born with no resistance and no paraphoral nerve.
She lasted five hundred forty two arns, and you remember every microt.
When it was done, you got in your ship and blasted off, not a clue what you were doing, why you were going or even where. There was nothing within the range of your prowler. Maybe that's why you were out there.
A prowler is fast and you were giving it all you had, but still they overtook you. You blacked out when the immobiliser hit, woke up in the back of the marauder. You'd forgotten all about that stolen ship. Chiana was shouting at you, but you couldn't answer; John was holding you too tight, sobbing like a child with his face buried against your chest.
You couldn't talk then, you couldn't talk later; the words you needed simply didn't exist. You became a stranger to your friends, to yourself, to him.
You did what you knew how to do. Maintained the ships, fought when fight was needed, kept the body alive and gave it to him without hesitation any time he asked. That much of you survived unbroken, and you loved him and loved him and loved him but there was never another child.
One night you lay beside him as he slept; counted the lines, measured the grey in his hair, and you understood at last. It was never fate that conspired against you. You survived the wars, you outlived them all --Crais, Scorpius, Grayza -- but time would have the final, bitter laugh.
He had nine cycles on you; you were going to have two hundred on him.
It took another three cycles to convince him. Somewhere in the universe, you picked a planet and prepared yourself to live on land.
"You stay alive. That's your Prime Directive," he told you, desperate humour darkening his smile. "I don't care what you have to do, you stay alive, and you be here."
It was not the wedding vow he'd described, but at least death would not part you, not so fast. You toyed with the ring, strange and heavy on your finger, drifted a safe distance from the wormhole, watched it open up and swallow him. You couldn't see it, but you were sure he waved at you just before he went.
It would be easy from his side, just a few short microts. You had the next 5.6 cycles to get through without him.
You thought he'd find it easy, but the way his heart was pounding when you met again, you wondered if he'd been holding his breath since the minute he left. He was the same, of course, but he held you away and ran his hands down your arms, looked you over every inch. You'd missed him beyond endurance, but he wouldn't stop kissing you, so you never said.
He's calmed down since; age will do that to a man. Even you don't have the fire you once had.
You got used to it because the alternative was unacceptable; a cycle of happiness in trade for five or ten in which you simply exist. But no matter how carefully he calculates, how many cycles forward he skips, your body goes on being younger than his.
You feel him before you see him; the white noise of worry in your head suddenly going quiet, a blanket of singular warmth folding over your back. Your insides tingle like you're twenty-nine cycles old again, falling to your knees in the maintenance bay with the force of that first real kiss.
He puts his lips to your ear and whispers, "Hey, baby, how ya doing?" You turn and let him look. The skin has grown soft around your eyes and the white streak at your temple has spread across the top of your head. His eyes drink you in, starved and grateful, and you smile because you're a hundred and ninety-two cycles old and in all that time nothing between you has diminished.
You say, "I'm still not good at nice." He laughs, touches the insignia above your breast.
"Councillor Sun. It fits."
"It's a frelling bore. I wasn't bred to be a diplomat."
"Who better than someone who's been out there, seen the worst of it?"
You don't want to think about the things you've seen, about the work you do, about the cycles he's missed. You only want the man standing before you now, alive and well. It's your turn to run your hands up and down his arms, to check he's come back exactly as he left.
"You're late," you say.
He nods and moves closer, fingers tangling in your hair. "Misjudged it by a couple of solar days. Didn't seem worth the risk of going back."
It's been more than a couple of days, but you leave your objections on the counter with the raslak, and take his hand. He's got something to tell you, and you're afraid you already know what it is.
You take him home, back to the quarters you use on this planet. You never chose to stay this long, the staying chose you. Just like he did, once, and again and again and again.
When you make love to him, you forget everything you know, his white hair and his fading eyes and the way his skin has changed beneath your hands. You forget the cycles in between, the constant ache of loneliness, of moving through a galaxy where so few of your kind are left.
He has always been just one. Sometimes you think you're beginning to understand him.
You drift off in his arms and when you wake, he's standing by the window. The first sun has risen, bathing the high-rise city in an eerie purple glow. The second is just beginning, bright red streaks cutting through the tall buildings like fingers reaching to crush all that lies in their path.
Scarran sunrise, the oldest call it.
"Magnificent," he whispers, and you smile to yourself. You had hoped to give him that.
You join him at the window. You're so high up that some nights it seemed as if you could reach up and touch the invisible wormhole that would carry him back. Perhaps that's why you never left.
You slide your arms around his waist, rub your cheek against his neck. His skin has begun to slip over the bones, but the muscles are still firm and his heart beats strong against the palm of your hand.
"Are you happy, Aeryn?"
"Right now? Yes." Your fingers duck between his legs, doing their best to coax him back to bed.
He covers your hand with his, makes you stop, but doesn't make you let go. "Look in the window," he whispers. "Not through it, in it."
You look and see an old man, battles carved into his flesh. You see a woman, not quite so old, but no less scarred. You see Talyn and Xhalax, and you see them, the John and Aeryn that returned to Dam-Ba-Da and gave themselves so that you could bring the universe back.
"What is it?" you ask, though you don't want to hear.
"It's us, Aeryn. Look at us." He sighs against your chest. "Now look out there. Tell me, Aeryn, are you happy with this?"
You press your face into his neck. There's a promise you made to each other; a hundred and fifty-four cycles ago for you, twenty-six for him. If you couldn't take the solitude, if he couldn't take the wormhole...
"We could go back to Earth."
"No." The surety of his answer says he's thought about it. "Everyone I knew is long, long dead. Let John Crichton pass into legend."
There, as here. You know the legend of John Crichton as it's told out here. The Man That Was Everywhere.
So many Johns. All dead, save him.
"We don't need to talk about this now," you say. "We have a whole cycle together."
"I don't want a cycle. I want it all. Whatever I've got left."
"Listen." He turns in your arms, lays his forehead against yours, as if he could make you see what he sees, images for which you have no reference. "This is what it's like. I go where I left you and everything's different. You've changed, but I haven't, and by the time I catch up, it's time to do it all again."
You lift your head, and he takes your face between his hands. "And you. Instead of being Captain Sun cleaning up the universe, you're a low-level diplomat on a backwater leisure planet. You're afraid to let go, afraid to let yourself move forward. Aeryn, this is no way for you to live."
"It was your frelling plan," you say, but that's not true and you know it. He's not saying anything you haven't thought about yourself, it's just you always make the same decision. Anything you have to do, any world, any life, as long you know that some day he'll come back.
D'Argo died in the war, Rygel went home. Chiana is still out there; now and then your paths cross. She's probably on her way right now -- the old tralk has an unerring sense for when John is around.
"What do you want to do?" you ask.
"Stop. Get Moya on the phone. Go home, Aeryn. Go home and live, be who we are for as long as we can."
You draw him close, kiss the words from his tongue, taste them in your own mouth. They're not as bitter as you once feared. Fate was on your side, you've both survived far longer than either of you had a right to expect.
He will die in your arms, but maybe it will be a blessing this time around. He will die, and you will live, because in the unfathomable pattern of the universe there is only one constant: between fate and time, time always wins.
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