Summary: Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space.
Characters: Ensemble (John/Aeryn)
Notes: Spoilers up to episode 2:1 - Mind The Baby.
Original Story: There Is Never Enough Food by hossgal.
Aeryn reaches across his plate, and he half-heartedly slaps her hand away. It's not like he cares, really, not like the blackened wafers bear any real resemblance to actual food, but the motion is familiar; he can picture them sitting at his parents' table, the television blaring somewhere in the background -
She's looking at him askance, her head tilted and what might be a smile playing on her lips, and if this didn't feel so much like family, he'd think she didn't know.
D'Argo mumbles a complaint about the food, as if they haven't been living off the same stuff for weeks, now -
(It was probably already stale when they bought it, and there's a thought he doesn't dwell on.)
- and Zhaan smiles, faintly; she looks like his mother.
"I did the best I could with what we have. If you think you could do better with these ingredients -"
(Raises the glass of water to his lips, pretends it isn't filtered through Moya's systems -)
"It tastes fine to me," Chiana says; the lie rolls easily off her tongue. "Kinda like gruba nuts."
"Doka bread," Aeryn says, and John closes his eyes; biscuits and gravy, Thanksgiving turkey and sweet potato -
"You've all gone fahrbot," Rygel says, and nobody's really paying attention. "My servants ate better than this."
(Maybe, but could they fly? He always wanted to see the galaxy.)
He offers to wash up, as if this is home; Aeryn's hand brushes his.
"This is not open for negotiation."
Not a negotiation; this is war, or maybe piracy. The scruffy band of heroes -
(Every man gets to be his own kind of hero; John's still waiting.)
- armed as if they're going into battle and not to pick up supplies for dinner, milk and bread at the corner store.
(Aeryn introduced him to lashak juice, once. It had tasted like rancid goat's milk, and he had smiled.)
But Chiana doesn't compromise. They're all going in the transport, as if there's real food down there somewhere they can afford and they'll each be the one to find it.
(The definition of insanity -)
The credits are too light in his pocket, and it's too late to blame Crais for this. He's beginning to think he won't die in a Peacekeeper jail cell.
Chiana's new trinket shines in the light when she thinks nobody is looking, and they needed more chakan oil. Zhaan offers to cook.
He still hasn't got the hang of this, washing his clothes in Moya's amnexus fluid. He remembers fabric softener, chemicals and detergent, his first year at college when the washing machines broke and he took to doing laundry in the shower. This is not like that, more like beating clothes against rocks and laying them out to dry, and his always come out stiff to the touch and smelling of saltwater.
Aeryn's kneeling next to him, and she has no more trouble with this than with anything else she's tried. Rygel had asked her, once, to turn down his bedsheets, and John's hand had grazed her hip as she reached for her pulse pistol -
(The leather is tight against her skin; he won't ever ask her to do laundry.)
Rygel's muttering something about a stained robe, Stark and sartia oil; John wonders what silk sheets would look like against Aeryn's skin. She turns her head, and he's sure her expression matches his; she raises an eyebrow, and he thinks of a place that was almost Earth.
(He can't picture her in bed on Sundays, sports section and crossword puzzles, but he knows what she looks like in the rain.)
The amnexus fluid splashes against his elbow, and a stray lock of hair falls down over her cheek -
(He thinks she'd like coffee; dark and bitter, hot and sweet and strong. He's starting to forget the taste of chocolate.)
He remembers the taste of her skin, hope and desperation; he was never really home.
Later, he remembers more.
He eats the soup standing up, hot water and dried meat. Nobody reaches across the table to share, and they're past the point of complaining as if something better exists. Aeryn leans against the wall, her back to them, glances over her shoulder to catch his eye -
(In another life, he'd have cooked her breakfast.)
D'Argo's too tall for the table, and his knees knock against the underside -
They're past pretending, too, that this is anything it's not.
(Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space.)
The conversation is stilted, awkward; once, Chiana had laughed so hard she fell off the upended store-all she's using as a chair.
(I could knock you off your feet.)
"There's got to be some place -"
But there isn't, really, and he doesn't even sound like he believes it. This far out, the only planets they've come across aren't safe for trade; he thinks they'll chance it, anyway, when food gets scarce enough.
(At least he has Winona.)
Pilot fixes him with what might be a glare, and he shrugs, kind of; he's pretty sure he used to be able to think straight.
"Moya can attempt to starburst -"
He wants to tell Pilot to forget about it; it's not like they have much left to trade, anyway.
(He'll be dead before he sells his module.)
He rests his head on the console, and prepares to jump.
Moya isn't dark at night. It used to bother him, he thinks, but -
(Where the wild things are.)
- now it's kind of comforting, disorienting; he almost doesn't notice he's losing sleep. He thinks about going to her room, but his feet take him to control, instead. He's not surprised to find he isn't the first one there.
"Stealing food, spanky?" Rygel almost jumps, and John laughs, the sound echoing high and brittle off the walls.
(This living ship.)
"I was preparing a meal," Rygel says, adjusting the braid of his robe; John shrugs, like it was a joke anyway. He isn't hungry.
(He's always hungry; he just doesn't notice it any more.)
"Is it still darkcycle?" Zhaan's bluer than usual in the doorway, and she doesn't quite make eye contact -
(Go back to sleep.)
"I was preparing a meal," Rygel says again, like a mantra, so low John almost doesn't hear. None of them mention that what he's eating doesn't really qualify as food.
He leans back against the wall, closes his eyes; he feels Zhaan's touch, light on his arm, pretends -
(Nothing to see here.)
"This one is mine." D'Argo's growl should be forceful, dangerous, but it comes out as petulant; Chiana laughs, and takes the wafer anyway.
(The sound grates across his skin.)
Zhaan looks like she's about to step in - children, play nice - but after a minute, her eyes unfocus, and John wonders if she's still seeing them.
"When I was Dominar -"
Rygel is easy enough to drown out. John's heard it all before, anyway; it's all repetition, now. His eyes scan over to Aeryn, instead. She stiffens a little, as if she can feel his gaze, and doesn't look up.
"- always the perfect temperature, and now -"
"Do you need -"
"- give it back!"
"- amusement, once -"
He doesn't put his hands over his ears, but he closes his eyes; he can feel Aeryn looking at him, and he doesn't open them.
(The voices in my head -)
"D'Argo, really, I don't think -"
He reaches out, and she isn't there -
(He's forgotten the way the leaves change in October.)
He wonders how quiet it is, out in space.
(- giving me nightmares.)
Something's broken on the ship, which comes as a surprise to no-one. It takes two days of crawling through every level before Pilot admits he doesn't know what's wrong. Moya, as ever, is silent.
(And the rest is -)
The air is thick, the humidity enveloping them, stifling communication. Aeryn closes her eyes in the corridor, and John takes her hand, leans into her; he rests his head on her forehead, and then his lips -
(Form prayers to broken -)
- and she breathes in. The condensation pools like sweat on her skin -
(Like rain, and she sticks out her tongue -)
- and he traces the lines of it, so close he can feel her breath. He remembers how she looked after Zhaan had taken her into the shower, remembers the living death -
(Come take us all.)
Rygel looks happy about the sudden change, and John doesn't think for a moment he isn't capable of this. Chiana looks studiously innocent, later, when Rygel's muttering something about a broken throne, and John thinks -
(You'll never get out of this metaphor in time.)
Nobody speaks as they distribute the last of the food. It isn't a sombre occasion, really, not a time for reflection; he thinks they've simply run out of words to say. Pilot's image flickers on the clamshell; they'll find a planet soon.
(It should be noted, here, that their last meal doesn't taste anything like freedom.)
He glances up at Aeryn across the table; she's picking crumbs off her plate. Nobody offers to clean the dishes.
Chiana will accuse Rygel, later, of hoarding food. He will accuse her of being sorry she didn't think of it first. They will both be right.
A pulse pistol will discharge; nobody will be hurt.
It will almost be a pity.
The only sound he can hear is his breathing, and hers. Her cries ring in his ears, meeting the silence of the ship; they might as well be the only two people alive.
(If they knew -)
His fingers trace her skin lightly, almost reverently, and then harder, as she shudders beneath him. His lips meet her neck, salt and sweat, and he almost whispers her name -
(In another life, everyone gets out alive.)
He closes his eyes against the not-quite-darkness; she rolls over, her limbs draped across his, and he chooses not to register the feeling in the pit of his stomach as hunger.
Neither of them sleep; when she shifts, her fingers tracing idle patterns on his chest, his breath catches, and he kisses her again. Later, she calls his name -
(He'd do it all again, and that thought should scare him more than it does.)
- and he breathes into her hair, almost black against the sheets.
(Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space.)