No Joy (Operatic Extended Mix)

by sugargroupie

PG, 2305 words

Summary: she left them behind, she did it right this time.

Disclaimer: Not mine; O'Bannon, Henson, Kemper, et. al.

Notes: written for the We Invented the Remix... Redux IV challenge. I chose to remix The Devil To Pay by PDXScaper. Contains specific spoilers for A Clockwork Nebari and PKW. Huge thanks to Kernezelda for the beta, who went above and beyond what I expected. Also thanks to Ladyjax, for the extra eyes. Mistakes are mine.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

"It's a message from Chiana."

Pilot says the feed is encrypted, and sets about extricating the data while John and Aeryn lean against the center console on Command.

Aeryn stares at him, can't stop looking at him. Even though John has been awake and active for weekens she hasn't had the opportunity to measure the changes in him, the after-effects a six monens long coma has on the human body.

Her choice to seek out Scorpius still feels less like betrayal, and more like strategy; a recovery effort with maximum risk, but also maximum gain, that she committed herself to the moment she'd made her decision. And despite calling in a debt on his behalf, there's a wedge of space between she and John that hasn't filled.

She ignores the bit of hurt and anger that has settled in her chest. That he is standing next to her now, mostly because of Scorpius' threats, when her own entreaties were ignored, stings like a violent slice into skin. Aeryn shepherds that violence towards a more useful tactic; there will be time to dig out more of Crichton's secrets later, and if they don't survive then it won't really matter.

They watch the vid on the clamshell. The disorder behind provides background noise as Chiana warns them of the resistance's loss in numbers, and how Nebari Prime has developed weapons specifically to puncture time dimensions.

"Wait a minute, they're mind-cleansing retroactively?" John asks, not able to truly hide his curiosity no matter how appalling the method.

The coordinates are thrown out hastily, but Chiana's eyes seem to stare right into John as she speaks. "Nerri's source is positive all their research takes place at this planet. The commerce sector is just a cover. Crichton, the Peacekeepers and Scarrans got nothin' on the Nebari. W-we have to destroy it." An explosion shakes the feed on her end, and Chiana belts out a scream. "Aeryn, Crichton, just make a choice, ok?"

The screen blacks out, and Aeryn releases a shuddering breath. Make a choice, as if their actions up to this point have been anything but a series of choices. She knows what the girl really means: take responsibility for your part in this war. Stand up against the Nebari in the same way you stood up against the Scarrans and the Peacekeepers.

The challenge has been issued.


Meeting Nerri for the first time, is akin to what John calls meeting a third cousin twice removed, so far as she understands the sentiment. Aeryn and Chiana hug briefly, and then she is immediately apprised of the situation.

"Where's Crichton?" Chiana interrupts her brother, glancing around the hanger bay of the resistance's carrier.

Aeryn shifts her gaze from brother to sister, hand gravitating to her pulse pistol like sense memory. "Back on Moya. We're keeping in contact, Chi," she says, gesturing to her comms unit. "He knows what's going on."

"Will he help?" Nerri positions himself behind Chiana, offering protection and support against outside interference. Aeryn imagines she and John present a similar united front to others.

"We have no need for him to fight our battles," he continues at her silence, "but it would certainly help to have his expertise."

"John almost didn't recover from the last time," and the words are bitter in her mouth. Aeryn pushes past it. "Besides, he no longer carries the knowledge to create a wormhole weapon."

Chiana leans into her space. "N-none? It's all gone?"

Aeryn nods.


"We're committed to your cause, Chiana, and we'll help in whatever capacity that's needed." It's the most she can offer her friend at this point.

Nerri straightens his shoulders and leads them out of the cavernous room. "Chiana tells me you're one hezmana of a pilot."


Aboard the leviathan, Chiana asks John, "What'd ya bring?"

"A bomb," he says simply.

Chiana's frayed laugh trickles down her neck. "Crichton, you're farhbot, you know that?" She slinks up to John and lays her hands on his shoulders, foreheads close. "Is it gonna work?"

John pulls her into a hug, easing back into the familiarity of their friendship. "I hope so, Pip," he exhales, and steps away.

Nerri clears his throat and waits for all eyes to rest on him. "How big is the detonation?"

John and Aeryn glance at each other, half smiles on their faces. "Big," they both reply.

* * * *

They skip past plan A to plan C, which stands for Crichton, and chaos.

John stands before her, hands on his hips as they glare at one another, probably thinking they're at an impasse. "Aeryn," he warns.

"I'm going, and that's final."

"The hell it is! I built it, it has to be me."

Aeryn steps closer, looks him in the eye. "How far have you come with the equations for plan D?" She doesn't wait for an answer, but presses forward to prove her point. "We don't have time for this, John." She stares at him and softens her voice deliberately. "I'm going."

John grabs her hands and pulls her to him, resting her palms on his chest. "If you die on me, woman, I will kill you." They've both lost pieces of themselves with each death, and joking aside, it's one thread between them that won't fully heal.

He kisses her hard then, brief and demanding, before she can say anything else.


The satellite system comes into view just as Pilot announces their arrival, and she spares a moment to press a kiss to her son's fine hair and touch her husband's cheek, and then she's off to board her prowler for a milk run.


Aeryn plots a stealth trajectory to the satellite planet and thinks about Chiana and Nerri, debating strategy from their end; John, scribbling notes and equations for the worst laid plans. She thinks of her son, by now carefully hidden, as part of John's contingency plan, and weighs his future by their actions.

Signaling comms silence, she flies out, sets her course -- and... bombs away.

By the time the Nebari warship is in her sights, they've already snagged her prowler with their docking net.

So much for plan C.

We don't say goodbye.


She feels relief more than anything else.

Gray and white faces loom above, edging into her black-smudged double vision. "She is a peacekeeper," one says, and Aeryn doesn't have the strength to correct the error. She reaches out, wanting to touch Chi's flawless skin...

No, not Chiana, but similar.

A different one speaks, a male this time. "But why is she so important?"

"That's to be determined." The female leans closer to Aeryn's ear. "Who are you to the resistance, hmm? What would they need with a grunt like you?"

The answer is warm and fluid as blood leaks from the side of Aeryn's mouth. She's been tortured by better. Or worse, really.

"No matter, we'll find your secrets. You're important to someone."

Yes... but where is the child, where is he? In the stars, I left them, left them behind. I did it right this time.

She welcomes the blackness with open arms.

* * * *

The control collar loosens from her neck. Blunt fingers replace the offending weight with calming strokes.

She panics anyway.

Aeryn strikes out and grunts in satisfaction as her fist connects with someone's belly. Her hands are immediately pinned down. She stills at the voice in her ear, pleading and harsh.

"No, Aeryn! Calm down."

She knows that voice. Doesn't she?

"It's me, I've got you."

Relieved sigh flows out... Yes.

"You're okay, baby, just relax."

The human? Her human. "John?" she whispers, drawing him in because it could be a trick. They've done it before, the Scarrans --

"Yeah," his voice shakes with emotion, like he's been crying, or trying to stave back the tears. Aeryn reaches out to touch his cheek but finds no wetness there.

She struggles to sit upright, and vertigo drowns every other sensation and thought, save the instinct to make the queasy feelings go away. She grits her teeth and shuts her eyes, blurred vision doing nothing to help her current situation.

"Help me up," she forces out after a couple of deep breaths.

John hooks one hand to the back of her neck. The other clasps her wrist, and he hefts her forward until she's vertical. A rumbling boom rocks the surface beneath Aeryn, and she blinks hard, taking in her surroundings. She's sitting on a bed, in their quarters on Moya. She feels the leviathan swerve -- hears the heavy returning salvo from a further distance.

"What the frell?"

"The revolution will be televised," he murmurs.

Before she has time to question his statement, the familiar thrum of Moya's systems directs her attention outward. Starburst.

"Starburst," he informs her needlessly, and she nods. Aeryn and John brace themselves while the leviathan jumps away.

Shifting on the bed, Aeryn finds her second attempt to force her body into action much more successful, and swings her legs around to plant her feet on the floor. "What's happened?" She's hesitant to admit that she can't remember much of the past few days, that her faulty memory is yet another obstacle to full strength. Especially with no outward proof that warrants such a hindrance. But one look at John's face says he already knows.

"Who was firing on us?" she asks.

He rubs his bottom lip and says one word as if it explains everything. "Nebari." It does.

It also triggers her memory in the form of aching limbs and a straining headache, the numbing helplessness of a mind cleansed; it all washes over her in an unpleasant wave of recall she'd just as soon forget.

John strokes her hair until she looks up, smoothing the thick strands behind her ears. She holds his wrists and pushes down gently until he kneels between her legs, and they're close enough to breathe each other's air.

This is not a new thing, but she savors how soft and warm his mouth is nonetheless. She feels like she's lost something along the way, and when his lips part on a sigh she delves inside greedily, groaning as he presses into her center. Aeryn's limbs are taxed beyond exhaustion, and she's holding him up as much as he is holding her, but they need this moment, and she will not be the one to deny them.

He threads his fingers through her hair and deepens the kiss before tapering off. As he trails his lips down her chin, she sucks in a breath, and suddenly jerks back. "Where's D'Argo?" She searches his eyes intently, reading for any attempt on his part to stall or mislead.

John makes 'shh' noises and caresses her cheekbone with his thumb. "He's safe, under Chiana's watchful eye in command," he begins quietly.

She murmurs, "Him watching her is more likely," and he chuckles, cants his head to concede her point.

"Missed his mom something awful, but he's fine."

She nods, releases held breath with a sharp exhalation. "And you?"

"I missed his mom, too."

Resting her palm on his chest, she gives him a light shove but brackets her thighs around his hips. "But are you all right?"

The silence unnerves her, makes her want to guard preemptively for the next assault. She studies him, takes in the clothes he so obviously slept in; runs her fingers unchecked through his hair; stares into blue eyes rimmed in red, all while waiting for an answer that never comes.

Resting his forehead against hers, John shakes his head slowly, then shifts back to bring her hands palm up to his face, pressing the heels against his eyes. Aeryn considers pushing for an answer but decides to wait him out instead. This is something he has to work through himself, something he is actively making an effort to share despite the struggle. He brings her hands down, brushing his lips across the digits. "No," he finally whispers.

He continues with, "I had to..." and shakes his head again, releasing a short laugh that is anything but humorous. "I chose to," he corrects himself, and she rests her palm along his cheek, wondering at the resolution in his voice.

"John." She tugs at his chin so he looks up. "What did you do?"

She's pulled into a tight embrace and she doesn't think about not returning the hug, because he needs it, and she needs to be the one to give it to him.

"Damned my soul again," he murmurs into her hair. "Damned the Nebari on that planet, but they needed to know, they had to see..."

And suddenly it makes sense. "You used wormholes?" John nods, and she wonders what he expects her to say, how he expects her to react. She has no words for him that will absolve the conflict. Not when she's still searching for the words herself. "How..."

"Built a drive using their technology against them," he begins slowly, voice whisper soft and broken. "I'm sorry," he tells her, and she wants to push the apology away, banish the memories of radiation eating away at human flesh. She breathes deep, and instead revisits the flaming black hole reflecting on her son's face, and John playing what he calls 'Russian roulette' with their lives.

John Crichton has cycled back to himself.

Tracing his jaw with her finger, she moves to cradle his face between her hands and lays kisses on his cheeks and on his brow. "You've made difficult choices in order to survive here. Became harder when you needed to, but you are not damned, John Crichton." She exhales a shuddering breath, fighting against the breakdown that threatens them both.

Give him what he needs, she thinks, and lies to him... lies to herself.


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