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[personal profile] tanaquiljall
Written for [community profile] fic_promptly prompts. Thanks to [personal profile] scribblesinink, who betaed all the pieces. Lengths are 325, 330, 225, 460, 530, 305 and 420 words.

Prompt: Any, any, commitment phobia

Slave to Love

Aeryn wants Crichton to kiss her. It's the way he kisses her that's the problem. That has her tearing herself away from him, pushing him off, forcing her way past him and out of his module.

"I will not be a slave to—."

She says hormones but she means emotions. She can sense them in how sweet and careful and caring his kiss is, and they terrify her.

Which is ridiculous. She's not afraid of anything. Not her. Not Officer Aeryn Sun, Special Peacekeeper Commando, Icarian Company, Pleisar Regiment. She can singlehandedly face—and defeat—the entire crew of a Sheyang raider if she has to. But his feelings, his demands, what he wants from her, what he wants to be for her and for her to be for him...? It scares her more than any of the times she's been pinned down under fire planetside, or in a shrapnel-ridden Prowler leaking engine fuel, or hand-to-hand with some species that has too many hands to be fair.

"Hey, I was lips, you were tongue!" he retorts, and frell, yes, doesn't he get it? That's what she wants. Not something slow and tender, where there's meaning, where—tried that, ended badly—it matters. Just a quick 'reduction in fluid levels'. She wants him to kiss her the way he kissed her the first time, when they both thought they were going to die, and it was now or never, and he didn't expect there to be a tomorrow or for her to give him anything but the moment and her body.

That's all she wants. To recreate. To frell each other's brains out. Not to—what was the expression he used, in that not-real version of his home world? Make love. She doesn't ever want to do that again. To see that look in his eyes as he brushes his fingertips over her skin, as they move together....

She ducks under his arm and storms away. She'll never want that, she tells herself.


Prompt: Any, Any, You can lead a horse to water, but that doesn't make it a duck.

No Fishing Allowed

Harvey's struggling with a fishing rod, getting into a tangle of line and reel, while the rod itself constantly threatens to overbalance and topple out of his unsteady grip. John has to hold himself back from stepping up to help, the way he used to help his nephew when Bobby was small. He knows it's all an act on Harvey's part. It has to be: Harvey knows what John knows, and John knows how to set a line with his eyes closed.

Instead, he asks wearily, "Why are we here?"

From under a hat into which a nightmarish-looking black fly has been stuck, Harvey bares his teeth in what's clearly supposed to be a smile. "You like the lake."

"Not any more," John mutters to himself, shoving his hands in his pockets. More loudly, he adds, "What do you want with me this time?"

"Why, nothing." Harvey has finally managed to get his line tidied up. He beams at it proudly for a moment, before reaching up for the Death-fly on his hat. "I merely thought it prudent to take a moment to advise you that this course of action you are embarked upon is... unwise. Unhelpful."

"Unhelpful for you, you mean." John leans on the top rail, arms crossed and squints out across the lightly rippled water. What he's doing, back in the real world, is the only thing that makes sense to him, with his friends in danger. And Harvey hijacking him for a chat is not helping anyone.


Harvey's voice is full of oily appeal, but John doesn't let him finish. He pushes back from the rail. "You can lead a horse to water, but that doesn't make it a duck. And I'm not gonna let you duck me and my friends over again, you hear me? Now why don't you duck the frell off and let me get back to doing what I need to do to save our asses from the Scarrans."


Prompt: Any, Any, There are only a few things that really belong to me: who I am, who I was, and who I wanna be.


He left a lot of possessions behind him when he left Earth. Things that seemed important once. Indispensible. A car, a laptop, a big-ass TV. A whole closetful of loud shirts. Now and then, he wonders what happened to it all, when it became clear he wasn't coming back.

Mostly he doesn't think about it. Out here, in this distant part of the galaxy, among all this strange, alien life, it doesn't seem at all relevant. He arrived with nothing but the clothes on his back, his Walkman with its IASA sticker, and his module, which was never designed to find itself so far from home.

He's gathered a few essentials as the months have passed: some more clothes; a razor; his notebook once his Walkman died. But most of all, what he's really come to own is who he is, with all the labels—of birth and education and profession—stripped away. American, PhD, astronaut. He carries those things with him and they're a part of him and they make him who he is, but the words, the concepts, mean nothing where he is now.

What matters is what kind of man he is today—and how he faces the future, and how he treats these aliens (his friends) that he finds himself surrounded by. How he becomes—what did Dad say? His own kind of hero. That's what he truly owns.


Prompt: Any, any, "See you in hell."

Huis Clos

"See you in hell!" John yells, not bothering to look back at Harvey as he strides away from him. Not, he thinks sourly, that it'll necessarily do him any good: his attempts to banish Harvey don't always work. But it's worth a—.

He freezes mid-step and then carefully puts his foot down, rolling his eyes as he takes in the scene. Flames are leaping up on either side from deep pits and, in the distance, shrieking figures are being thrown from a precipice. When he turns, he finds Harvey dressed from head to toe in a red catsuit, with the obligatory horns on his head and a pitchfork in his hand.

"Really?" John asks, sighing heavily.

"Too literal? Too conventional? Too generic?" Harvey shrugs. "Maybe you'd prefer something a little more personal." He snaps his fingers and the flames are gone, to be replaced by inky blackness in which hangs a blue-green jewel. Off to one side, a wormhole is shimmering and ships, made small by the vastness of space, are streaming out of it. Scarran or Peacekeeper? It's hard to tell from this distance, but there's no mistaking the destruction they're raining down on John's home.

John takes a deep breath and turns away. "Not gonna happen, Harv."

"Not if you give me the knowledge I seek, John." Harvey, back in his familiar black, skips alongside him as they walk through the star-spangled darkness on ground that isn't there but feels like it is.

"Not ever," John says flatly.

Harvey gives him one of his unnerving smiles. "Maybe something a little closer to the heart, then, hmm?"

And then they're on Moya. In Command, where Aeryn is turning towards him, a smile lighting up her face for a microt, before she's thrown backwards by a pulse rifle blast that tears a hole in her chest. In Pilot's Den, where a smiling Scorpius is thrusting a thin dagger into her back in the exact spot to pierce her paraphoral nerve. Down in the Neural Cluster, where he sees himself take her face between his hands—and then dash her head back against the ladder that leads to the level above.

"Enough!" John yells, whirling round to reach out for Harvey, to dash his head against whatever he can find—.

And then he's back on Moya for real, back just where he was when Harvey hijacked him for a little chat. Gasping for air, he reaches out with one shaking hand to steady himself against Moya's ribs, while his other hand gropes for the vial Noranti gave him.

He may not be able to hide the truth about his own private vision of hell from Harvey inside his head, but he's going to do his damndest to make sure Scorpius never finds out.


Prompt: [Fortune Cookie] any, any, "If you want the rainbow, then you have to tolerate the rain."

Wanting the Rainbow

"Oh, look! They put fortune cookies in." Olivia shows them around the table, but no one's paying much attention. Rygel and Chiana are already squabbling over one of the dishes Olivia unpacked earlier, while D'Argo is frowning at the contents of his plate and Noranti is cheerfully sticking a licked finger into each of the opened containers, one after another, and then declaring the likely medicinal properties of what she tastes.

"Fortoon cuckees," Aeryn repeats carefully to herself, as she's done with every dish Olivia's explained. She wants to learn all she can about John's world, even though it probably won't help. He has good reasons for not spending much time with the rest of Moya's crew—catching up with family, boring meetings with government officials, being asked questions he can't answer by IASA's scientists—but Aeryn's afraid there's another reason. In any case, in the days since they've landed, she's seen more of his sister, Olivia, who's taken on a semi-official role helping "the aliens" learn about Earth. And Olivia doesn't seem to mind patiently answering Aeryn's questions about Earth and about English and about John.

At the end of the meal, Olivia hands out the fortune cookies, explaining that each of them hides some advice or a prediction. She has to read the messages for the others, but Aeryn carefully breaks open her own cookie and reads the slip of paper herself. She still doesn't understand it, though.

"What did you get?"

Aeryn looks up to find Olivia watching her, head tilted to one side. Olivia knows Aeryn can read and speak English, and Aeryn thinks she also knows why Aeryn's tried so hard to learn.

Aeryn clears her throat. "If you want the rainbow, then you have to tolerate the rain." She stumbles a little over rainbow and tolerate: too many sounds that could be one thing or another. "But I don't know what it means. Rain is water from the sky, yes?" She remembers that from the time she spent with John in the world constructed from his memories by the Ancients, when they first—. "But a rainbow...?"

"It's—." Olivia shrugs helplessly. "Let me find you a picture." She fetches the computer provided by the government, which has lots of information about Earth stored on it, and finds a photograph that shows a faint band of color arcing across a grey sky. "The sun and the rain drops interact to make the colors. It don't happen very often and people think it's pretty but—you have to have the rain to get one. And most people don't like rain."

"I see." Aeryn smoothes out the piece of paper from the fortune cookie, which is curling up. "You have to put up with the difficult parts to get the good thing?"

"Yes, exactly!" Olivia nods eagerly. "And there's supposed to be untold riches and happiness at the end of the rainbow, if you can find it. But you have to have the rain first."

"But then you get the rainbow." Aeryn nods quietly to herself. She can put up with a little rain along the way, with John throwing stormy weather in her direction, to get to that.


Prompt: Any, any, astrology is as far from a science as you can get

The Ghost of Christmas Future

She's reading the cards. Seeing her sitting there, carefully placing them in the prescribed pattern, frowning with concentration as she interprets them, John realizes it's how he remembers her best. How he wants to remember her, so he can blot out those other memories: weak and washed out from the cancer and the drugs. She was always happy reading the cards, even when what she read in them wasn't good. Even when her husband had walked all over her again and her son had told her the cards were stupid.

John still thinks the cards are nonsense: there's no way of predicting the future—and even if there is, a few squares of printed pasteboard and some flimsy mumbo-jumbo ain't it. Maybe what he hated most of all, back then, though, was the way his mom believing in the cards seemed to be a rejection of everything he was good at: everything he believed in, was and wanted to be. You keep your silly science, John, with its logic and its proof and its empirical evidence; I have the true knowledge.

Yes, he still thinks the cards are nonsense, but he doesn't think his mom using them is silly. Not any more. They gave her hope, and a path to the future, in a present that wasn't always easy. He understands now how important that is. Maybe if he'd taken a different course, studied axons and neurons rather than astrodynamics and rockets, he'd be able to explain why. But it's enough to know that it is.

And he knows now, too, that the story his mom sometimes told, the one that always made him roll his eyes, about how his spirit came to her when he was in trouble—.

That story? Yeah, turns out there's a perfectly scientific explanation for that story after all.


Prompt: Any, any, airing grievances

The Airing of Grievances

"And while we're on the subject of stealing food—again—could you not leave the empty packets behind so it looks like we've still got plenty of supplies. Instead of discovering we're frelled when we're still three solar days away from the next commerce planet." John slammed a pile of empty cartons down on the table in front of Rygel.

Rygel reached and poked at the boxes dismissively, before turning a smug smile in John's direction. "Only if you promise not to use all the hot water every single morning before the rest of us get a chance to wash."

John gave him an offended look. "I do not—."

"Yes you do." Chiana was jabbing irritably at the food cubes that were all they had left to eat. "I don't see why you need to shower every damn day, either. And why you need to make that fekking racket while you do."

"What racket?" John turned and glared at her.

"I believe he calls it zinging," Aeryn informed Chiana helpfully while she finished off the end of her own rations.

"Singing," John corrected her. "It's singing. And I'll have you know that, back on Earth, I was considered quite good. I was in a band."

Aeryn pushed her empty plate away. "Hoomans have no taste," she muttered, quietly enough that it might have been meant just for herself, but more than loud enough for John to hear. She added in a normal voice, "But I believe the problem for Chiana is not the noise but the timing. In the first arn after standardised solar sun-up—."

"Right, because you pounding around the sleeping tier in your big Peacekeeper boots at the same time is so much better," D'Argo growled, as he turned his water beaker round and round in his fingers.

Aeryn folded her arms and scowled at him. "A daily run is essential to—."

"Attention, everybody!" Pilot's peremptory hail stopped the argument dead. They turned as one to face his image on the clamshell. "Moya informs me that she will undertake an additional starburst in three arns so that we may reach the commerce planet by this evening."

John quirked an eyebrow at the clamshell. "I thought you said Moya didn't have the energy right now to starburst more than once a day."

"I did. However, Moya and I agree," Pilot waved a hand, "that draining her resources temporarily would be preferrable to the three hundred cycles of guilt that will result from murdering her crew if you don't all stop complaining right now."
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May 2016


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