Summary:They knew his name, looked at him like he was a god or the Second Coming and if it hadn’t been so goddamned tragic it would almost have made him bust a gut laughing.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Untitled [For Stars] by kernezelda
Notes: Thanks to the ever helpful simplystars for the shove in the right direction and the read through of what I'd written. As always, my writing is better for her reading it. The title comes from the Jeffrey Foucault song I Dream an Old Lover.
Burn like a fire in the cold [The Smiles We Left Behind Remix]
One microt longer holding her in his arms wouldn’t hurt, the space of a heartbeat, one breath more.
His eyelids were heavy, but he wouldn’t let them drop because in the dark he couldn’t hold the nightmares at bay. They woke him almost every time he closed his eyes these days. After what he’d seen, done, had done to him, the thought that anything could still scare him was almost funny.
Aeryn in his arms, the knobs of her spine sharp where she pressed back against his chest. The smell of sex and dirt and smoke. She was too thin. Nothing but grit and tenacity stretched between her bones.
His eyes burned and his throat ached with a lump that he couldn’t swallow away. His mind skittered from one thing to the next to the next not settling on one thought for any length of time. Moments flashed by—smiles wide enough to ache, knowing grins, defiant tears, the lift of a chin, the toss of glossy dark hair. All he needed was Streisand in the background, warbling about scattered pictures and misty watercolor memories. Nothing like a sappy montage from a bona fide chick flick to get a guy going.
Aeryn wrapped around him, her cool skin caused him shiver. He didn’t complain, wouldn’t relinquish a microt of contact. He was used to being cold. ‘Not enough meat on your bones, boy’, he could hear Granny Crichton’s voice clear as a bell and was glad she wasn’t around to see the destruction he'd brought down on everyone…everything he loved.
Focus was what he needed. Exhaustion and lack of proper nutrition caused his mind to jump, caused the excess of emotion. That’s what he told himself. Scientifically, it was true. Too little sleep, not enough nutrients, constant stress could alter brain chemistry. Still he couldn’t help but think it was his mind avoiding the thought of what he was going to do. Had to do. They couldn’t hold out much longer. It was getting harder and harder to stay off the Scarran radar. Food supplies and ammunition sources grew scarce. Wanted beacons were being distributed on a stepped up schedule. It was just a matter of time before someone turned traitor, thinking they could bargain with a fire breathing devil and gain some advantage.
It had to be now and it had to be him. No one else had navigated as many wormholes as he had. Hell, no one had seen a frelling wormhole until one swirled blue and beautiful over the Gulf Coast and rained a never ending nightmare down on the world.
“Our child will not be born to die, John, or to live like this.”
They both knew what would happen if the Scarrans captured them. It wouldn’t end well. At least this way if they were going to fall on their sword, they'd do it on their own goddamn terms, whether they were ready or not.
When you trade this reality for the one that should be.
Red Rover, Red Rover, send Crichton right over. Aeryn was sure it would work. Acted like she was sure. She drilled him on the Stryker controls until he couldn’t think straight, made him recite the sequences and switches again, and again, and another 50 times after that. She never tried to argue that she should go with him because they both knew she was the only hope they had to get him to the ship and off the ground.
One last kiss before he went, all tongue and want and not a hint of goodbye. He didn’t look back when the blast bloomed golden behind him, just jumped the Stryker into the wormhole, rode the icy blue into the inky black on the other side and said a prayer to God or anyone he thought might listen.
The first trip back through the wormhole he landed outside of Canaveral. Same place, different reality. He hooked up with a ragtag group that called themselves Freedom Fighters. Computer programmers, grocery store clerks, truck drivers and soccer moms with the hope of future generations etched into the grime on their faces fought side by side with the few soldiers and pilots that had escaped the initial Scarran assault. They knew his name, looked at him like he was a god or the Second Coming and if it hadn’t been so goddamned tragic it would almost have made him bust a gut laughing. If they only knew his best plans almost always involved a banana in the tail pipe. If they only knew what he had done they’d run screaming as far away from him as they could. If they only knew what he was going to do again. Hell, he’d run screaming if he could.
And he would run, because this wasn’t the reality he needed. The ripple was too close.
Every time he met someone new he asked about Aeryn and drew nothing but blank stares until he hooked up with a small group of veteran fighter pilots who recognized her from his description. Their tired voices filled with awe when they described her hit and run tactics that had the Scarrans riled up and hot to capture her. All he got were apologies and shakes of the head when he asked for her location. Once the repairs were done on the Stryker he knew he couldn’t take any more time to search for Aeryn. As cold and harsh as the decision to leave again seemed he knew it wouldn't make a difference if he stayed. The only thing to do was try again.
The second time he put down at the shuttle landing facility on the north end of Canaveral even though he knew when he broke atmosphere that he was too late. Dust and ash swirled, cast a dim light over the burned out buildings, launch pads and IASA complex. The historic lighthouse stood broken in half, jagged edges reaching into the rust red haze. He hid the Stryker in a hangar that had escaped destruction and building by burnt out building searched for food, water, any supplies that he could find.
In one of the buildings that had withstood the attack chairs sat in neat rows. Familiar equations ran uphill on a dusty blackboard and brought to mind the ghost of Einsteins past. Black, unseeing eyes that looked inside him and saw everything he was. He could still recite the information: From every point of entry a wormhole branches into multiple paths. The subdivision continues until at length you’re deposited back in space time. The journey can be random or with purpose. Destination is the key. No shit, Sherlock.
At the hangar where he'd left the Stryker, he squatted outside, back pressed against cold concrete, nothing to keep him company but the whistle of a lonesome wind. His mind whirled as he stared unseeing at the few cans of food he'd found, the labels blurring as his eyes filled.
When it works.
With the back of a shaking hand he swiped at the tears he couldn’t fight back, knew he’d just left a streak of clean in the grime on his face that would give away his weakness if there'd been anyone around to see it. He dragged in one ragged breath and then another and another until his hands were steady and he could read the words on the cans in front of him.
Aeryn had looked at him with unwavering faith, certainty hard as steel in her voice. He could still see her backlit by the setting sun, a halo of gold adorning her with radiance. She’d promised to do everything in her power to get him to the ship then gave him her body and took his soul.
When you succeed.
He would. Or he'd die trying. It was the least he could promise in return.