Summary: Almost reflexively, John spits out the bitterness of it…
Spoilers/Warnings: vague spoilers for Thank God It’s Friday Again
Title, author, and URL of original story: Lick of Sense by sugargroupie
“Hey, Aeryn!” John swings into the maintenance bay, but she isn’t there. All he finds are his module and Aeryn’s prowler and the usual DRDs, bustling around doing DRD stuff, nothing unusual. A pair of pulse pistols are in pieces on the workbench, evidence that although she isn’t there at that particular moment, she won’t be gone long. No way would Aeryn Sun leave her guns unattended like that if she wasn’t coming right back. John decides to wait; it’s not like he has anything better to do.
While he waits, he studies the weapons, for the most part without touching them. Springs and rods and pins; plastic and metal and the chakkan oil cartridges that are made of something that looks like semi-opaque glass, but aren’t. Glass would shatter or even melt with the punch those cartridges pack.
He picks up a cartridge, lifts it up so he can look more closely at it, holds it between his eyes and the work light beside the bench. Looking at it like that, he can see that it’s not quite half full, but otherwise there is no indicator on the pistols to warn when the ammunition runs low. As far as John’s been able to observe, the things worked until they didn’t, but Aeryn always seems to know when she needs a fresh cartridge. He’d asked her about it once.
“So what’s the deal with these?” John picked up one of Aeryn’s pulse pistols, which lay on a table in the center chamber. She took it firmly from his hands.
“Do not touch my weapons, Crichton.” Her voice was full of long-suffering irritation as she started to return it to the table and then thought better of it, returning it to its holster instead. John raised his hands in surrender.
“Sorry! I wasn’t going to fire it.”
She set her beverage on the table and swung one leg over the bench, straddling it. “I wasn’t concerned with you firing it. It’s out of ammo.” Her expression hadn’t changed, but the skin around her eyes crinkled, as close to a smile as she’d allow herself and John took it as an indication to sit with her.
“How can you tell?” he asked, leaning his elbows on the table.
“That it’s empty.”
“I can smell it.”
John brings the cartridge in close enough to give it a sniff. Nothing. He inhales more deeply, but all he gets from it is a slightly musky, earthy scent, and a lightheaded feeling. He picks up another cartridge and repeats his actions, looking at the light through it and then sniffing it. The only difference in the results is that the light shows him this one is nearly full and the lightheadedness morphs into the beginnings of a headache.
“Crichton, what are you doing?”
He nearly jumps out of his skin, he’s so focused on the cartridges. “Aeryn.” He lays them carefully back down on the workbench and turns around to face her. With the memory of the last time he handled her weapons without permission still fresh in his mind, he’s sure he has a guilty look on his face. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Clearly.” She walks closer to him, reaches around him, her bare arm brushing against his and sending a shiver up his spine that has nothing to do with the guns and everything to do with the woman. He fights the temptation to lean into her, just to see how she’ll react, but he doesn’t really feel like winding up face down on the maintenance bay floor with a Peacekeeper boot on his neck, and so he does nothing. She picks up one of the pistols and begins to wipe it down carefully with the soft gray cloth she carries. Given the resemblance to the tank top Aeryn’s wearing, John figures it’s probably an old tank left behind by one of the Peacekeepers who used to live on Moya.
She fixes her clear gray eyes on John. “I thought I told you not to touch my weapons?”
“I’m not so good with listening.” He grins at her and she shakes her head, goes back to her cleaning. John watches her in silence, paying attention to the order in which she replaces the parts into each pistol. He knows that one of these days, he’s going to have to learn to use one and he might as well get started on the basics.
She picks up a cartridge, holding it briefly to her nose, then reaches for a tube of oil. Twisting off the cap, she pushes the nozzle into a small valve-looking spot on one end of the cartridge and gives the tube a light squeeze, then pulls out the nozzle and gives the cartridge another sniff.
“You can really tell how much is in there just by sniffing it?”
She cocks her head at him, frowning slightly. “You can’t?”
“Barely smells like anything at all.”
The left side of her mouth quirks up in a half smile. “So you were sniffing them when I came in.”
John shrugs, a little embarrassed.
“And what did it smell like?” she asks.
“Like I said, I hardly smelled anything. I mean, maybe it was a little like that root, but…” He shrugs again.
Her smile grows a little wider. “D’Argo’s right: You humans have a weak sense of smell.”
But even as she makes the amused observation, John reaches for the cartridge she just filled. It smells no different to him than it did before, but he sees that now it’s full. A visual check isn’t all that practical in a tense situation, though, especially if there’s not handy light source. He can’t shake it to determine how much oil it holds, not unless he wants it blow up on him. The oil doesn’t weigh enough to be any more noticeable than the scent.
He opens his mouth and touches the tip of his tongue to the cartridge. It may not smell like anything, but it tastes like turnips – or tannot root – and copper, a little bitter but still with that earthiness which is the only scent he can pick up. His eyes meet hers as he reaches for the other one, holds it up to the light to confirm that it’s the one closer to empty.
He doesn’t miss it when her eyes focus on his tongue as he licks the second cartridge, but he clamps down on the self-satisfied smirk. This one still tastes coppery and bitter, but not nearly as strongly. Everything about it is less. Just to verify his findings, he licks the first cartridge again and, satisfied, he hands it back to Aeryn, who slams it home into the butt of her pulse pistol. The sharp taste of the oil lingers in his mouth. Almost reflexively, John spits out the bitterness of it and one of Moya’s DRDs hurries to clean it up.
“You’re not supposed to taste it,” Aeryn tells him, bemused.
“Well I sure as hell can’t smell it,” he says, grinning at her again. “Tastes like a loaded gun, to me.”