Walking down the corridor, Aeryn made sure the band on the end of her braid was tight. She didn’t blame John for being upset this time with Johnny, she was still more than a little angry at him for deciding to throw water on them in his attempt at humor.
What had began as a relaxing meal before going down to the planet had ended being anything but. After changing his clothes, John started toward Johnny’s room in order to get him a clean shirt, but she thought it would be better for both men if she were the one to do so while he prepared the transports to leave.
"Come on, John. I need you to wake up," the voice said quietly, sending a chill up Aeryn's spine. It was a voice she hadn't heard in almost a cycle, and one she sorely missed.
Gripping Johnny's clean shirt tightly in her hand, Aeryn approached the galley quickly when she heard the voice replaced with a gurgling noise.
Entering the room, she saw Johnny sitting amid the spilled food and drink from his meal, looking at a projection that suddenly faded out.
"Play it again! Play it again!" Johnny said excitedly to the sopping-wet DRD in front of him.
The projection displayed itself once more, and Aeryn found herself staring at D'Argo sitting on a bed beside an unconscious John, wiping blood from the man's face.
"Oh, John, my friend. I need for you to wake up now. Pilot and Chiana are dead, and Jool has disappeared," D'Argo said solemnly. "If I cannot find her soon, I have to assume the Energy Rider has killed her as well."
Johnny shifted his body onto the tabletop, apparently to get a closer look at the images in front of him and noticed Aeryn standing in the doorway.
"Rin...look. Daddy on TV!" He watched back at the figures in front of him for a moment before asking, "How is the doggie playing TV?"
"I don't know, Johnny," Aeryn answered as she watched the man who was obviously Johnny on the projection barely open his eyes and begin to cry when he saw D'Argo in front of him.
"Shhh...shhh...Why are you crying? Are you in pain?" A moment later, Johnny fell back unconscious. D'Argo let out a soft hiss in frustration, but continued to sit beside his companion patiently.
"Come on, John. I need you to wake up." Without warning, D'Argo fell backward from the bed. The only sounds coming from him were choking and gurgling as Aeryn watched his body levitate in the air. His body remained that way for several microts before settling back onto the floor.
Johnny laughed as D'Argo awoke and stood up. Without a word, the Luxan turned away from the human lying on the bed and the projection faded from view.
"Play it again. Play it again." Johnny shook the DRD, but the image would not display itself. He looked up at Aeryn and asked, "Can you make him play it again for me, Rin?"
Closing the distance between them, Aeryn picked up the DRD. "I will have John look at it for you, maybe he fix it." Seeing D’Argo’s face, and hearing his voice brought back all of the feelings of friendship and camaraderie between them. Neither one of them had anyone else to turn to when they were first joined together on Moya. Days and nights spent in the center chamber over drinks or dinner telling stories of battles had bonded them together like unlike anyone else aboard. Clutching the droid close to her as if it were a precious gift, she gave Johnny the clean shirt she held in her hand.
Curious, she asked, "Johnny, do you know who that was on the display?"
His voice muffled as he pulled the shirt over his head, "Daddy and a funny man who did magic."
It hurt to hear him to say those words, as if D'Argo's willingness to sacrifice his own safety was in vain. Holding back on the renewed grief, Aeryn told herself that it was not Johnny's fault he no longer remembered his good friend, but both she and John would never forget what he had done for both of them in the past.
"Gather your things, it is time for us to go."
Trying to remember terms that he would understand, Aeryn said, "We're going shopping."
"Yay! Can I get a toy? Candy? Can I?" he asked excitedly, grabbing up his blanket and several toy men he had brought with him while he ate.
"We'll see, but I do know you need more clothing. You have already torn all of the shirts that John bought."
Checking the quality of the cesium fuel they were purchasing on the scanner in her hand, Aeryn noticed out of the corner of her eye that Johnny was standing as far away from the containers as possible. His hands covered his mouth and nose, and it looked as if he were about to be sick any microt.
“John,” she said quietly as she gently elbowed him in the side.
Taking his attention from the data pad in his own hand, John saved the spot where he had stopped counting the barrels and looked at her. She jerked her head in Johnny’s direction and asked, “What is wrong with him?”
“Don’t know. Hopefully he didn’t eat sneak any foods from one of the vendors,” he said with a sigh and walked over to the man.
His eyes watering, Johnny looked at John and said, “I don’t feel good…and it’s stinky.”
It took John a couple of microts, but he soon realized what the problem was. “Hold on, we’ll get you out of here.”
Returning to Aeryn, John said, "I think he's sick from the cesium. I used to get sick after unloading it, but I got used to it."
With a quick glance in Johnny's direction, Aeryn shook her head. "I do not think he's going to adapt quickly enough to it today."
"You're right, he's looking pretty green about the gills. Here..." John said, handing her the data pad. "I'll take him outside for some fresh air."
"All right, but who is going to watch him while we load these containers? You know the shopkeeper doesn't have any extra laborers."
"Well, we have a toss up between Stark and Rygel."
They both looked at one another for a heartbeat and said at the same time, "Rygel."
Taking Johnny by the arm, John said, "Come on, buddy. You don't look too good."
They had barely made it outside before Johnny bent over and vomited up the remains of his breakfast all over the dirt-covered ground. All John could do was comfort him by rubbing his back while he did so and listen as Aeryn commed Rygel to meet them as soon as possible.
Once finished, Johnny stood still slightly bent over as he held his stomach. "My belly hurts bad. Can we go home now?"
"We can't just yet, but you don't have to stay here. How would you like to go with Rygel?"
Shaking his head, Johnny didn't look too happy at the idea. "I wanna lay down." Sitting on the ground, he looked up at John. "Pleease? I don feel good."
Rubbing his forehead, John regarded the man before him. It seemed as if the noise from the crowds were growing louder by the microt as Johnny continued to sit on the ground, moaning and pleading to leave. "Johnny, you can't just..."
"What the yotz was so important that you couldn't wait half an arn for me to finish my drink?" Rygel said, coming up behind John. He frowned at Johnny sitting on the ground clutching his stomach. "What's wrong with 'him' now?"
"He got sick from the fumes of the cesium. I need for you to keep an eye on him while Aeryn and I finish up this deal."
"I will 'not' babysit this moron."
Rygel's words finally broke the shreds of self-control John was holding onto at the moment. Whipping around, he grabbed Rygel by the back of the neck too quickly for the Hynerian to move out of reach.
Glaring into Rygel's eyes, he said with barely contained anger, "If I 'ever' hear you call him a moron or anything remotely like that again...YOU will become someone else's dinner. Johnny may not know what that means, but I sure as hell do. Do we have an understanding?" With the last sentence, John squeezed his neck tighter until Rygel grunted in acknowledgment.
Moving out of arms’ reach once John released him, Rygel said, "It's about time you showed something more for him other than disdain. I will watch over him, but you had best remember...I have not been the one to treat him as a burden."
John opened his mouth to protest the accusation, but heard Johnny moan a microt before vomiting again. Walking away from Rygel, he knelt down next to his twin and asked, "Your stomach still bothering you huh?"
Wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his coat, Johnny looked up at him and nodded his head, the misery he felt showing in the puffiness around his tear filled eyes.
Thinking about Rygel's words, John realized he had been about to blow up at Johnny for only getting sick when he couldn't help it. He made a silent promise to his brother that he would try to show a little more patience with him in the future.
Drying some of Johnny's tears with his hand and giving the man a smile. "You go with Rygel...and I'll let you ride in Aeryn's Prowler when you feel better."
"I know just the remedy to cure him. You worry about getting that fuel so we can get out of this frelling system. I've heard from six different merchants that there is a Peacekeeper transport due for resupply."
Standing up, John brushed the dirt off of his hands and said, "They go to most planets we stop at Rygel. Crais had Talyn scan the local radio traffic, there's nothing due for at least a weeken, but to be on the safe side we'll still be out of here in two arns. Does that make you feel better?"
"Hmpf...We had better," Rygel said, gliding his sled towards Johnny. "If you're coming with me, you had better stand up."
Johnny did as Rygel said, but continued to hold his stomach as John told Rygel before returning to Aeryn, "If he gets worse, comm me and take him to the transport pod."
Waving his hand as if dismissing John's words, Rygel looked at the other Crichton and began circling him. Stopping in front of Johnny and sitting back in his sled, he said, "Brush yourself off, show a little more respect for your appearance."
Wiping off his backside, Johnny then turned around at Rygel's prompting.
"Better, not much, but better." Turning back to the heavily populated crowds, he said, "Stay close, and do not touch 'anything.'" Realizing what he said, Rygel laughed and thought as Johnny held onto his throne sled, 'Who would think I would be telling Crichton that again.'
"Put this in between your teeth and suck on it for a few microts," he said putting the root in Johnny's hand.
"It's a stick. I not eat'n no stick," Johnny said as he wrinkled his nose.
Grabbing the Kivik root from the man's hand, Rygel said sternly, "It is not a frelling stick, it will make your stomach feel better. It works on Hynerians, so it will work on you as well."
Pressing his lips together, Johnny shook his head and backed up a step.
"Do as I say!" Lunging forward, Rygel grabbed Johnny's nose and pinched it hard. Johnny screamed in pain as the nimble fingered Hynerian shoved the Kivik root into his mouth and squeezed the Human's lips together.
"Now put this in between...your teeth," he said as Johnny jerked away and held his nose and rubbed it.
Grimacing, he did as he was told. Quickly a smile spread on his face. "It tastes like choklit! I gotta get Daddy to buy me some!"
"Choklit? That is that frelling candy Crichton has been mourning for since he got here. Unfortunately too much will cause numbness in your extremities." Snorting in laughter, he thought, ‘Maybe I’ll buy more for just that reason.’
Noticing the confused look on the Human's face, Rygel sighed. “We’ve wasted enough time due to you. Come with me."
Johnny grabbed onto the edge of his throne sled and walked beside him. The man's questions reminded him of when Crichton first fell in their path, and they were even more irritating. The questions themselves were not that bad, it was the repetition which began to wear on his nerves. Every few microts asking what that building was or who was that person.
"Rygel, how is Johnny feeling?" Aeryn asked over the comm as he and Johnny stopped examine Crawsin melons.
"Hi, Aeryn...I feel better. Rygel made me eat a stick that tastes like choklit!" Johnny yelled as he lifted the comm on his chest.
"Not so close, Johnny..." John said laughing, suddenly it stopped. "Wait...did you say chocolate?" he asked.
"Forget about it, Crichton, it has side effects if taken in too large of quantities."
"Damn! Oh...hey, we're going to be another arn. We got a good deal and were able to get more Cesium than we actually need. So Johnny's going to have to stay with you a little while longer."
"It had better be one Hezmana of a deal for putting up with this endless parade of questions."
"That's par for the course with him, especially in a market," John said. "We'll be as fast as we can, Rygel. If one of us can get away sooner, we'll come and take Johnny off of your hands."
"Just hurry...up! Anymore of these questions and I'll leave him with a sacmar of Kivik root so he can't follow me."
"Rygel, don't even joke like that where he can hear you," John hissed.
"Fine, fine, fine....just hurry. You will find us purchasing food of course."
Turning around, Rygel said, "Let's see if..." his voice trailed off when saw that Johnny was gone. "Dren...he's more trouble than he's worth." Elevating above the crowd, Rygel began searching for Johnny's familiar face, as he whispered to himself, "He couldn't have gone far, I only had my back turned for a few microts."
He spotted the Human as the man's back hit the wall in the alley of a poorly constructed shop. A local woman, one of the Serthia, leaned into him, rubbing her hands up and down his body as she kissed his neck. Even across the market place, Rygel could see the fear and confusion on Johnny's face as he tried to push her away.
None of them aboard Talyn could have thought a situation like this would occur, but other scenerios had came to mind when they decided to bring Johnny planetside with them. All of them had remarked on that though Johnny was still physically fit, he had no idea of his actual strength. He looked at his capacity to do or affect things as a child would, and right now it appeared that he didn’t think that he could fight back from the smaller built woman in front of him.
Pushing his throne sled forward faster, Rygel picked up the forgotten melon from his lap and screamed, "Get away from the child, you trelk!" Throwing the melon, he watched with satisfaction as the gourd smashed against the woman's head.
Hitting the ground the woman threw her arms protectively over her head. When nothing further hit her, she reached up and grabbed onto Johnny's pants and began to try to pull them down. He could see that Johnny had stopped fighting her and covered his face, his whole body trembling.
Laughing as she continued to rub against his legs, she said, “You do like to play don’t you? I hope you let me have my turn soon.”
"Frelling bitch..." Rygel muttered as he made his way to where Johnny had now fallen onto the ground and was trying to crawl away from the woman. He could hear Johnny crying out and repeating, "Please don't."
"I told you to leave the boy alone!" He yelled, bringing his throne sled against the prostitute’s head hard enough to stun her.
She quickly scrambled away, screaming, "He did it! He wanted it!"
He noticed that a crying Johnny had crawled behind some crates and had begun rocking and chewing on his knuckles. Looking back at the Serthia, he said, "Does he 'look' like he wanted you to molest his person?"
Pushing aside her stringy yellow hair, the female looked up at Rygel floating above her. "He came to me. It is part of the game. It is what they do, when they want to play with one like me." Blinking her feline-like eyes rapidly as if a thought had suddenly occurred to her, she asked, "Is he really only a child? I thought he was Sebacean."
"I suggest you leave here...before I summon his 'big' brother," Rygel said smugly and sat back in his throne sled.
Her eyes widened at the implications. Quickly scrambling to her feet, she ran away.
Turning his sled, Rygel edged it as close to Johnny as he could before setting it down on the ground and walking around the piled high crates. Sitting down on the ground next to the Human, he didn't say anything at first. It had been a quarter of a cycle that he had lived with this Crichton like this, and now more than ever he understood how completely vulnerable the man truly was now, both physically and mentally, and the Dominar was at a loss for words on how to comfort him.
"It does you no good to cry, you did nothing wrong."
Sniffing loudly, Johnny wiped his nose on the sleeve of his shirt.
"Argh! Use this..." Rygel said, pulling out a cloth from inside his robes. "Take it..wipe your face." He waited in silence for Johnny to calm down more and do as he said. This man…child…was a breathing paradox, and one that continued to confuse him in either of his incarnations. While Johnny repeatedly frustrated him with his forgetfulness and games. He also reminded Rygel of his own children, long ago grown and now either parents in their own right or dead under Bishan’s orders, and he was grateful for that reminder each day. To be a parent was a gift that he had, to his disgrace, too often forgotten.
"Do you know why she behaved in that way towards you?"
Shaking his head, Johnny said, "Na-uh, I said she had pretty eyes and she started trying to k-kiss me and...and hurt me." Shifting his body uncomfortably, Johnny pulled at the center of his pants a few times before continuing. "A-and she made me feel...funny...down there." Pointing down to his crotch, Johnny face became beet red with obvious embarrassment.
Rygel quickly realized that although this Crichton now was only mentally four cycles old, his body continued to respond to stimulus in accordance to his actual physical age. Deciding to allow the other Crichton to deal with this strange situation, Rygel said, "Now you know why I told you to stay close to me. Do you think you can listen to me this time?"
Nodding in agreement, Johnny reached over and picked up the Hynerian before standing.
"Put me down!"
Walking past the crates, Johnny put Rygel back on his throne sled. As he lifted back up to his accustomed height, Rygel saw Johnny looking sadly at the crowds of people walking by.
"Can we go home now?" Johnny asked, still sniffing slightly.
Wishing that he could tell him yes, Rygel shook his head and tried to remember how his own mother had made him happy. Finally the cycles long forgotten memory floated to the surface and Rygel reached into his robes. Pulling out a small stack of his private currency, Rygel said, "Hold out your hand."
Dropping four Brandar tiles into Johnny's out stretched hand, he scolded himself when the man looked at them with confusion and he remembered the man no longer knew the currency.
"Its currency...money. Your parents did give you money before?"
Smiling, Johnny said, "Uh huh...Mommy sometimes gives me and Susie a dollar for keepin our rooms cleaned up, and one time Aunt Ruth gave us five dollars to share for helpin with the chikens."
"I don't care about all that drivel...just take the money. Buy something, before I change my mind about it."
His snapping tone obviously was ignored as Johnny chewed on his lower lip and looked at the different shops around them. Suddenly his face lit up, and Johnny took off running through the crowd. Shaking his head, Rygel followed the Human to a merchant selling herbs.
Oh, and Stars, it wasn't just your story that made me depressed. After I read Flowers For Algernon yesterday, everything was making me cry. I'm just too much of a softy at times. I still love your story. As for the guy's accent in it. I thought that added flavor to it, and some people don't take that into account when they read fic. Okay, I'm splitting.