Edit to ask: Is anyone else not getting an email everytime when someone replies to their LJ? It started doing that right after they changed the look of this place.
Happy Birthday part 2
“What the hell is going on here, Aeryn? Why do you…” ‘John’ stared at her for a moment then stepped back a few steps. “I’m not falling for it, Stark!” he screamed, his eyes filled with anger.
It felt surreal to hear Ralin speaking English, standing up Aeryn said quietly, “John? Is that….really you?”
Immediately John backed away. “Ah uh…Stark is slipped another notch if he thinks this will work again.” he yelled before turning and running out of the room. Aeryn heard him scream Chiana’s name as he ran down the corridor.
“D’Argo, we have a problem. Pilot, I need you to track Ralin’s comm signal.”
“Aeryn, what’s wrong?” D’Argo asked, his voice sounding wary.
Running out of the room, Aeryn said, “Just meet me wherever Pilot says that Ralin has gone.”
“Aeryn, Ralin has just entered tier eighteen, he continues to call Chiana’s name and talking about finding a green door. What has happened to him?” she could hear the concern in Pilot’s voice as he updated her.
“I don’t know exactly, Pilot, but…I think…”
The possibility of what was happening still continued to shock her.
“Aeryn?” Pilot prompted her to continue.
“Ralin had the game matrix that we found in John and Chiana’s hands when they…died. I don’t know ‘how’ this happened, but I think that is John’s consciousness inside of Ralin.”
“How do you know this?” D’Argo asked. She could tell from the sound of his voice that he was running as he spoke.
“Ralin spoke perfect English, he also mentioned Stark, and asked where Chiana was.”
“He has just entered your quarters, Aeryn.” Pilot said.
“Thank you, Pilot.” Aeryn responded, trying to quicken her pace.
D‘Argo said before she called him, “I will meet you there, Aeryn.”
Entering into the room, she found Ralin on the verge of hysteria, shouting curses at Stark into the air.
Approaching him cautiously, she said, “John…what is the last thing you remember?” she couldn’t help the tears that ran down her face as he turned to face her.
What did she do to deserve this? What did John do? Frell, what of their son? He was only sixteen cycles, and he had not hurt anyone. Why did he have to… No, she wouldn’t think of him as being dead, there had to be something that they could do.
“Remember?” he asked, obvious surprise at the question crossing his face. Looking around him once more, he noticed the differences in the room. “I’m not…inside the game anymore?”
“No, you are not.” Aeryn had no idea how to tell him that he had been dead for the last seventeen cycles and now inhabited their son’s body. She had no idea of how he would believe her, frell, she couldn’t believe it herself.
Slowly reaching out her hand, Aeryn said, “I want you to come with me for a microt.”
Her feelings were mixed as ‘John’ apprehensively took her hand, “If I’m out of the game… Why do you look so different?”
“Seventeen cycles have passed since I last spoke to you. You are…you and Chiana have been dead for that time.” her voice choked on the words as she spoke.
“Dead?” He whispered in disbelief. The look on his face told her that much as she led him to the mirror on the far side of the room.
John stared at the mirror for a few microts. “How…who?” he said, his finger softly touching his face as he continued to look in the mirror.
Taking a deep breath, Aeryn said, “I never thought I would get to say this to you, but, John…I’d like you to meet your son. Ralin Crichton.”
Inside the game:
“This is seriously messed up.” Ralin said to himself as he hid from the soldiers. “I am ‘never’ going to play this game again.” Rubbing his hands nervously against the red leather pants he wore continuing to kick himself for not listening to his mother and D’Argo about getting into things he had no knowledge of.
He had thought he have a little fun before the party, but frell he never expected this. “Mom is going to frelling kill me.”
The instant he touched the organic matrix, he had found himself standing in the center of dimly lit stone hallway. Looking down at the clothing he wore, Ralin had smiled and said, “This is Drad!” Or at least it was until the pretty little blond came running up shouting that he had to hurry and follow her, then to see the Peacekeeper Scorpius coming toward him with a weapon in his hand.
Ralin knew who Scorpius was, his mother had made sure that he knew everything there was about his father. At times it felt as if he never wanted to hear the name John Crichton again.
He jumped at the sound of a man‘s voice say, “You know, you’re never going to get anywhere sitting here hiding like this.”
Turning quickly, Ralin looked up and saw a man dressed in ragged clothe, half of his face covered with a metal mask.
“Who the frell are you?” Ralin asked.
“I am Stark…Avatar, guide to the game embodied, and you are not going to find your way through this game if you continue to sit there, Player.”
“Well, I don’t know where the frell I am and no idea how to play the game. And my name is Ralin Crichton…not Player.” he said harshly.
“Crichton…you are Crichton.” Stark said, his eye taking on a look of hatred.
Suddenly a myriad of images flashed before Ralin’s eyes and he found himself standing in a different area of the game. Looking around him, he saw a strange world, unlike anything he had ever seen before, surrounding him. A large building towered above them both, Ralin had to squint his eyes to see the top of it.
“What the…” he said, turning around in a circle slowly. Looking down, he saw his clothing was different, he was now wearing a different type of leather pants, his shirt was of a thin white material and he had a metal plate upon his chest.
Ralin noticed the Avatar Stark standing not too far away. “Is the game suppose to switch like that?” he asked.
“I noticed that John Crichton was no longer within the game, and I wondered how that came to be. Now I know…you must be his child, and so you shall take his place here, to continue his punishment for the atrocities he has performed.”
“Punishment? Atrocities? My father did not perform any atrocities….”
“Leave him alone, you fekket!” said a female voice. Suddenly a Nebari girl appeared from around the corner of the building. Ralin instantly recognized her as well from the data stores. This was Chiana, the girl that had died alongside his father. Sometimes when D’Argo had a too much too drink, he would tell Ralin of how much he had loved this girl.
Ralin watched as she approached him and took his hand. “Come with me.” she said, smiling.
“I’m inside…my son’s…” John whispered in disbelief as he stare at the unfamiliar reflection. It felt as if their was a fifty pound weight sitting on his chest and he thought he was going to pass out for a moment. “I’m…Harvey!
Aeryn watched him for a moment, concern and grief over the entire situation etched deeply into her face.
“John…” Aeryn said his name quietly, almost afraid that if she spoke any louder she would find herself waking from a nightmare and fantasy rolled into one.
John turned to face her, and it hurt to see that expression of pain on Ralin’s face as John stared at her. “I can’t…stay here. You know that right?”
Nodding her head, Aeryn couldn’t find the words that she had yearned for so long to tell him. She wanted to kiss him, to touch him and never allow him to leave her side, but she couldn’t do more that look at him in silence.
John took a step towards her, and Aeryn couldn’t hold back any longer. Wrapping her arms around him, she allowed herself the luxury of believing he was back with her for good as his own arms curled around her waist. Seventeen cycles of grieving fell from her shoulders, the tears falling with no control. Both of them tightened their grip around the other, knowing that this would be the only way they could ever express their love for one another beyond mere words.
He never wanted to let her go, but John knew that he could never live with himself if he were the cause of their son’s death. “Come on, take me back to that storage room, and let’s bring our son home,” he whispered in her ear a microt before he let go.
Entering into the storage room, Aeryn searched for the game matrix in the area that she had hit it. Once finding it, she picked it up with a gloved hand and gave it to John as D’Argo and the others stood in silence around the perimeter of the room. Each in turn had expressed their sorrow and joy over John’s return to them, but agree that his decision was the right one. Had lived his life, while Ralin’s had only truly begun.
Aeryn watched as he sat down on the floor, giving her a sad smile and touched the fleshy nodules of the game. Suddenly the smile turned into a frown and he looked closely at the game in his hands.
“Dammit! It‘s not working for some reason.” John said as he picked up the game and turned it over in his hand. “Aww…frelling hell!”
Aeryn caught herself a microt before trying to correct his language, it was still hard to constantly keep it in her mind that this was not Ralin.
“What is wrong?” she asked.
“There’s a tear in the side of the squishy part of the game.”
Rushing forward, Aeryn said, “What?!” the panic she had felt earlier returning in full force. “
For a microt, she was afraid to touch the object, but then realized if it was indeed working, Ralin would have returned already. Taking the game from John, Aeryn turned it over and saw where part of the organic material was indeed torn, and several broken connections exposed.
Shaking her head, Aeryn said, “No, there must be a way to repair it.”
“If there’s a way, I’ll get this game fixed, Aeryn. I won’t let you lose Ralin. Not after all that you’ve been through.”
Looking at the heartbreak on Aeryn’s face, D’Argo couldn’t keep his silence any longer as he turned towards ’John’. “Do you know anything about repairing an organic matrix or it’s circuitry?”
Crestfallen, John said, “No…I had never even heard of it before Chiana had brought the things aboard the transport pod.”
“If you are unable to repair it…” D’Argo let his words trail off. The idea of losing the young man he had raised as a son caused his breathing to stop in his chest. It felt as if he were losing Lo’Lann and Jothee all over again in that moment.
Noranti stepped forward, ringing her hands in nervousness. “If you are able to repair the circuits within the game itself, there is possibly a way to repair the nerves in the organic material. I do not know how well it will work since it is not actually a living organism, but I will prepare a compound that is used to regenerate skin over burns and severe wounds.”
Nodding his head in agreement, John looked at each of his friends in turn, never more grateful that he knew than at that moment.
Everything about this situation unnerved her as she watched Ralin, hunched over the table, working on the circuitry of the game. No, not Ralin…John. This is John working for arns to return their son back to her. He was in a sense, working to kill himself to save their son.
Shifting her position slightly as she sat on the crate just behind him. “Do you know how frustrating it is to hear you breathing, to see you, and ’know’ I can’t touch you the way I want?” John said softly, keeping his back to her.
“Yes, I do. I have wished every day for the last seventeen cycles for you to return to me somehow. Silly…I know, but it had happened before. I thought I had finally prepared myself for the eventuality of losing you in battle or escape to get away from Peacekeepers. I wasn’t prepared to lose you to a frelling game.” she couldn’t help the harsh laugh that issued from her limps. “It took everything I had within me to go on each day, but it was Ralin that made me want to live. He is a part of you that I thought was lost to me forever.”
John’s head lifted up from his work. “If the frelling irony in this situation got any thicker, it would choke us.” he said. Taking a deep breath, John could smell her even from this distance, and it about drove him insane. It took every ounce of willpower John possessed, to not turn and grab her, to kiss her like he had desired for so long. Once again, he kicked himself, as he had done a million times since exiting the game, for telling her to come back to him when she had her story straight. He was a fool for throwing away their last moments together, and it killed him as he remembered the look on her face as he left her sitting on floor of Moya’s atmospherics.
Someone in the universe had a sick ass sense of humor, and they weren’t quite done playing their jokes out on the both of them. To be honest, it was the three of them that were the butt of this joke. It seemed as if Ralin had more just inherited his eye color and temperament, the poor kid had inherited his luck as well.
John’s mind turned over all the information that Aeryn had told him of what had occurred over the last seventeen cycles. Scorpius had left with Sikozu soon after he and Chiana’s bodies were discovered and they were buried on a nearby planet, that bit of information continued to disturb him, but he was happy that Aeryn had known him well enough to know where he would be ‘happy’. Within a cycle, the Scarrans had made their move against the Peacekeepers along with anyone allied with them, and for a time it seemed as if Scorpius’ predictions were about to come to fruition. The only thing the Scarrans did not expect was a resistance movement within their subordinates, the Kalish. With Scorpius’ aid to this movement, it had taken the Peacekeeper six cycles and countless Sebacean lives, but they found themselves on the winning end. Refugee colonies lined the entire length of Peacekeeper space, one of which they currently orbited. The Scarrans almost completely exterminated, no one really knew how it was done, and no one really cared as long as their threat was gone from this region of space. Despite being unable to use wormholes to quickly end the war, Scorpius honored his dept of sanctuary to Aeryn and provided full pardons to her and the rest of the crew, he also convinced High Command to leave Moya as a free Leviathan, and she would never again have to race away in fear at the idea of a control collar. John felt some peace at the idea that his love, his son, and his family would never have to fear becoming prisoners of the Peacekeepers again because of him.
Turning the game under the lighted magnifier, John tried to join several connecting points, but he immediately saw a piece was missing.
“We have a problem here.” he said, trying to keep his voice neutral and keep himself from showing the panic he felt.
“What kind of problem?” Aeryn asked, jumping down from her seat.
Turning to face her, John said, “I’m missing one of the connecting nodes, we need to find it, then we can have Noranti use the compound to heal the organic skin on this sucker.”
Afraid of his answer, Aeryn asked, “And if we cannot find it?”
John didn’t bother to look at her as he put the game down on the table. “We need to find it…that’s all there is to it.” he said as he left the room.
Down on their hands and knees they both searched every dench of the floor with lights for the missing circuit connector. Aeryn’s comm suddenly came to life with D’Argo’s voice.
“Aeryn, meet me in the medical bay, bring Ralin…John.” he said, his voice betraying a hint of excitement.
Touching the comm on his chest, John said, “What is it, D? Noranti have a problem finding the herbs she needed?”
“No, we found plenty of supplies, it is just…just come to medical.”
John looked at Aeryn for a moment before saying, “You go…I have to find this.”
“All right, I’ll be back shortly.” she said standing and brushing off her hands.
Turning his attention back to the floor, John continued to search as Aeryn left the room. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but he found the piece stuck within the crack of a crate lining the storage room wall. He had forgotten about D’Argo’s message as he raced back to the maintenance bay. Just as he reached the table, his comm crackled to life with Aeryn’s urgent voice, “John, did you find it yet?”
“Yeah, I’m fixing to attach it now.”
He expected Aeryn to say that she would be right down, and was surprised when she said, “Put it down for just a microt. We…we need you in the medical bay.” her voice sounded strange and hesitant as she spoke and it immediately caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end.
“I’ll be right there.” Putting the game and circuit in a safe place in cause there was trouble, John immediately pulled Ralin’s pulse pistol from his side.
Entering the room, John expected some form of chaos, but what he found was everyone standing around an elderly Sebacean man.
“John…you can put away your weapon. This is Dr. Varkarn, he runs the refugee colony.” Aeryn said.
Holstering his weapon, John looked from Aeryn to the doctor. “What’s going on?”
Dr. Varkarn looked at him and explained, “Most Sebacean colonists that encountered the Scarran threat died quick, gruesome deaths. They were the lucky ones, the not so lucky and suffer the living death are now packed away in hospitals cared for by Peacekeeper physicians. I run such a facility.”
“And?” John said irritably, he had work to do and he didn’t need a sociology lesson at the moment. Then a thought occurred to him. “Wait, I thought Peacekeepers killed their own when living death occurs.”
“Yes, that is true, Peacekeepers do show that kindness to their own. This is not the case here. These were civilians and are not subjected to such a reward.” Aeryn said sadly.
“Why doesn’t anyone else do it then?” John asked, looking at the doctor.
“High Command does not want anyone to forget what happened to the Sebacean people, these unfortunate souls are not to be touched…to serve as a reminder of what was almost lost forever.”
He had never liked the idea of killing someone just because they were in a coma, so in a way, he found the Peacekeepers attitude a step in the right direction.
“What does this have to do with us….our situation?”
Aeryn hesitated for a few microts before speaking, “The doctor has told us that there are several Sebaceans down on the surface suffering from the living death, that have no families, and we thought…”
John knew instantly what Aeryn was about to say, “No! I am not going to invade move into someone’s mind like…like…I don’t frelling know what, but it’s not going to happen.”
Turning away, he heard the pleading in her voice as she said, “John…don’t…leave.” His heart instantly broke in two at the sound in her voice. He stopped, and returned back to the room.
“Come down to the planet and see for yourself, you would not be harming anyone. These are but empty shells, the consciousness long gone from these minds.” Dr Varkarn said solemnly.
“I thought the nervous system, then the motor controls shut down, and that causes the living death.” John said.
“It does, but we have been trying for cycles to reverse these effects in the victims. The damage has been repaired in each of my patients in the hope we could have restored them.”
“Our funding is limited, now we only have enough to make sure they are properly cared for.”
The idea scared the hell out of him for several reasons. One, his mind would be taking over another’s, and two…it gave him more hope for a future with Aeryn and Ralin than he had half an arn before. John could see the hope in Aeryn’s eyes and he didn’t want to see it crushed any more because of him, but John knew that he would be spending the rest of eternity hating himself for not taking the chance to be with his family.
“I’ll do it.”
Holding the game in his gloved, John eyed the repaired edges suspiciously. “I hope like hell this works, Aeryn.” he said quietly, sending up a quiet prayer.
“I will, because of one reason.” Aeryn answered.
“And why is that?”
A smile played at the edge of her lips as she spoke, “It’s our third time.”
“You told me once, third times the charm. This is our third time.”
John couldn’t stop the chuckle that escaped him, “You remembered that after all this time?”
“Yes, it sounds a little crazy, but I had Pilot go through the data stores and create data chips of your entire time on Moya, I wanted Ralin to know everything about you.”
“Crazy… Yeah, we were definitely made for one another.” he said smiling. “I want to tell you something. In case…in case something goes south here, and I don’t make it back to you.”
“John…don’t.” Aeryn said sadly, “We do not say goodbye. Remember?”
“This isn’t…goodbye. I just wanted to tell you. I was an ass for what I said. I didn’t need to know what happened while you were away. I was just so tired…tired of being hurt…”
“I know. You don’t have to explain your words. If our positions had been reversed, I would have said the same thing.”
“Except you would have knocked me on my ass as well.”
“Yes, I would have, but I know that I had hurt you a great deal. For a long time, I didn’t think I had ever deserved the right to be loved by you.”
“Don’t say that, you more than anyone deserve to be loved.” Touching the side of her face, John wished once more that he could kiss her. “Look how beautiful it made you, both inside and out.”
Leaning into his hand, she asked softly, “Are you ready?”
“No, but let’s get our son home.”
Looking around the room at his friends, John sat in the chair next to the Sebacean male lying on the hospital bed. “Give me at least a hundred and fifty microts to make sure I’ve found Ralin then place his hand on the game too.”
Aeryn nodded in agreement as John placed the game on the bed. No one knew if this would work because of the age of the organic matrix, but there was really no way any of them were willing to back out. It was the only way to bring Ralin back.
Touching the game, John found himself back inside the ‘Gammak base’. “Honey…John’s home!”
“Ahhhh, I see that you have returned to finish out your time with us, Crichton.” Stark said, appearing from around the corner in front of John, and he found himself suddenly standing once more in front of the castle.
“Nope…I’ve come to get my son and Chiana.” John said trying to hold back a laugh. He would never get used to seeing ‘Stark’ with the pantaloons and Lord Fauntleroy haircut. It made everything the avatar said seem even more ridiculous.
“Your son, Ralin. Nice boy, but I do not think you will be leaving with him. I already know that you and Chiana’s bodies have long been dead.” Stark said with a sneer to his lips.
Shaking his head, John said, “Doesn’t matter…someone has graciously decided to donate one to the cause.”
“Preposterous…no one would.” Stark’s voice trailed off as he stared at John for a moment. “You found someone suffering from the living death…Didn’t you?” he said quietly, his voice almost a growl.
John didn’t like the sound of that at all, he asked worriedly, “Where’s Ralin and Chiana?”
Throwing his arms up in the air, Stark said, “I don’t know! Chiana took him off soon after he arrived. You really must talk to her about that…”
“How can you not know? You’re the frelling avatar of the game!” John shouted. He wasn’t sure how much time had already passed in the real world, but he knew that what ever time he had left, it was very short.”
“We’re here, John!” A voice called behind him, turning John smiled at his friend, and stared his son. It was one thing to be in the boy’s body for the past four solar days, but it was quite another to really meet him.
“Ralin…umm…I’m…” John hesitated, not exactly sure how to introduce himself.
Smiling, Ralin said, “You’re my father.”
“Yeah, I’m your Dad. God, this is weird. Okay, there’s no time for a real get to know you session, we have to get out of here.”
“How are we going to do that?” Chiana asked. “Ralin told me that our bodies have been dead for seventeen cycles.”
“Aeryn and the others have found….bodies for us. Sebaceans suffering from the living death.” he said, taking her hand. “It’ll be weird as frell, trust me on that one, but we’ll be alive.”
“No.” Chiana said pulling her hand from John’s.
John looked at her with shock, “What do you mean…no?” He saw Ralin turn and look at her as if she had suddenly grown three heads.
“Just what I said. No, Old Man. I’m not coming. When Ralin told me we were dead. It felt good to actually know in a way.” a sad smile playing at the edge of her lips.
“Don’t you want to come with us? You can’t possibly just except this…this ‘place’ as your fate. What about D‘Argo?” John said, pleading with her to understand as he stepped close to her. Taking her hand once more, John leaned his head against hers.
“It…it isn’t that I don’t want to go… It’s just something I know is the right choice. You go… Live your life with Aeryn and your son. He’s a great kid. Always knew you had it in you.“ Chiana said, chuckling as she hugged John one last time. “Tell…tell D’Argo I still love him…and I wish things had been different between us.”
Looking up into John’s eyes, she said, “Do me a favor though.”
“Destroy the game. I don’t want anyone else to become stuck in here like we were, and maybe I can go and…and….”
Taking her chin under his finger, John said his voice husky, “Tell Zhaan when you see her…I miss her.” Kissing Chiana soft on the forehead. “Love you, Little Girl.”
“Love you too, Old Man.”
Chiana turned towards Ralin and said, “You’re a good kid….”
“Time to go!” Stark suddenly screamed, rushing forward. With Chiana’s announcement, John had forgotten all about him.
“Well, then how do get out of here then?” John asked.
“Let me help you!” Stark shouted excitedly, and shoved Ralin. Suddenly his son was gone. Turning around, John shouted, “What the hell did…”
Suddenly, John found himself lying flat on his back, a burning sensation beneath his hand filtered through the fogginess of his mind. Several muffled voices pushed reached through the dark as he opened his eyes.
Everything was blurry as John tried to focus in the dim light of the room. At first he felt panic when the unrecognizable shapes moved in front of him, afraid that the body they had chosen was nearly blind. Then John realized, the man had lain with his eyes closed for almost twelve cycles, it would take time for his eyes to adjust. Curious as to the burning in his hand, John looked down and the smoldering remnants of the game. Suddenly, a blurred face appeared close to his own, and he could immediately tell it was Aeryn’s. He tried to bring his hand up to touch her face, but he couldn’t get his arm to move. It felt as if he had run a ten mile marathon, and he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer as he felt Aeryn’s soft kiss on his lips.
Three monens later:
Holding the bowl in both hands, Aeryn entered the room and smiled when John’s eyes turned to meet her own. “I thought you might be hungry and brought you some Lehreck soup.” she said, as she crossed the room and sat in the chair beside him. Picking up a clean towel off the beside table, she wiped the spittle off of his chin and gave him a gentle kiss. Placing the towel on John’s chest, Aeryn began to slowly spoon the soup between his lips. Tipping his head up slightly so the liquid didn’t trickle back out, she smiled at him. “Ralin is going on his second solo flight after first meal tomorrow. Would you like to watch him out on the Terrace?” she asked quietly, watching closely for John’s reaction. The corners of his eyes twitched slightly as his gaze shifted toward his view of the stars, a soft grunt escaping his lips.
“Good, I will have D’Argo come after…”
John let out another small grunt, this time his eyes shifted in the direction of the open door of their quarters.
“What? Do you want to join us for first meal?” she asked.
Turning his eyes to meet her own once more, John looked back to the doorway. Nodding in agreement, Aeryn made a mental note to speak to D’Argo before first meal about bring John to the center chamber to join them.
Lying on the bed as Aeryn held his head, John wished that he could at least smile to let her know that he loved listening to her descriptions of the days activities even though Pilot kept the comm next to his head open to ensure that he was truly never alone. Over the course of the day, John listened to the sounds of the others going about their activities and wished that he was doing the same mundane repair and clean up jobs around Moya.
This boredom and helplessness was well worth the price to him, John realized that instantly once they discovered he couldn’t move or speak while still in the hospital at the refugee colony. Aeryn’s angry screams at the doctor had echoed through the quiet building. John remembered her hurried step as she crossed the room to him, tears running down her face as she carried her pulse pistol in her hand. ‘No….I’m not ready…’ he had thought as he looked into her eyes. Closing his eyes, John expected to hear the sound of the pistol charging. When he didn’t he opened them once more to the sound of her voice whispering, “Third time…” he watched as Aeryn tightened her grip on the weapon.
Blinking his eyes three times in quick succession, John thought, “Please understand, Aeryn. I don’t want to leave you…” When she simply stared at him, John closed his eyes again, opening them once more to repeat the same pattern. He watched as Aeryn dropped the gun onto the bed and leaned her body onto his own.
Her voice was a husky whisper as she said, “Tell me what to do, John. I just…I don’t want you to suffer because of me. If you want to live like this…in this body…close your eyes for five microts. Look off to my side if you want me to end this for you.”
Immediately closing his eyes, John heard her sigh of relief mixed with sobs as Aeryn buried her face against his chest. John felt her fingers against the side of his face, and opened his eyes to Aeryn saying the words, “Let’s take you home.”
“John…John… Look at me.” Aeryn said, trying to catch his attention as he looked out the view port that Moya had created for him. Turning his attention back to Aeryn, he looked into her eyes to let her know he was listening. As Aeryn took hold of his hand, John thought, ‘This is at least my choice at least. I may not like these cards I’m dealt with, but I can live this as long as I’m with her.’
“I am going to take these eating utensils back to the center chamber, then return to get us ready for the sleep cycle, we have a busy day tomorrow.” she said, happy that he would be joining them. Picking the towel off John’s chest, she placed it in the bowl in her hand.
“I’ll take it for you, Mom.”
Turning around, Aeryn saw Ralin standing in the doorway. “Thank you. I was going to comm you and let you know your father is coming to first meal and wants to see you fly tomorrow.”
A smile spread across Ralin’s face at her words, “You are?” he said looking at John. That’s Drad! I promise I’ll make you both proud of me.”
‘You already do.’ John thought as Aeryn spoke the same words.
Ralin took the bowl from Aeryn’s hand, then left the room to share the news with D’Argo. Closing the door and privacy curtain, Aeryn began bathing John, and shaved off the day’s worth of hair growth. Before she was even finished, John’s eyes were almost completely closed. Even these simple tasks continued to fatigue his still weakened body.
Dressing for bed herself, Aeryn then lay beside him in the dark, her hand resting on John’s chest. She listened to the sound of his heartbeat, and thanked the Goddess that she had John with her once more. At times she didn’t think the price was worth this limited happiness, and she cursed the doctor for not truly understanding the extent of the living death had on a body. The man thought he had reversed the physical damage caused by the heat, but had only inadvertently masked the loss of motor control and speech in the body John’s mind now inhabited.
There had been nothing any of them could once they realized what had happened. The game was completely destroyed, and John was now in a young, healthy Sebacean body. Only to live the rest of his life unable to speak or move anything but his eyes. The only good thing Aeryn could see of it all was that she would now be able to spend the rest of her days with the man she loved beyond life, death, and hope.
I had two endings in mind. The other was John simply went back into the game forever and Aeryn visited him there, but I didn't think John would want Aeryn to live in a fantasy world with him. That it would be taking too much away from her.