D'Argo and Stark looked at each other and increased their pace, arriving in the dining area at a run. There, they skidded to a halt as Zhaan walked towards them, irritation and concern warring in her face. "Perhaps you should speak with him, Stark. You seem to be able to get through," she murmured, passing them and continuing down the corridor.
Stark could see the Luxan hesitate, trying to decide which of his friends to comfort. Looking into the room and seeing Crichton sitting alone at the table, he said, "Go to her, make sure she's okay. I'll handle John." D'Argo nodded and turned to follow Zhaan, and Stark walked over to Crichton and sat down.
Crichton jumped as he sat next to him, turned to look at the alien who was studying him back. "What?" he asked almost accusingly.
"John, it's all right -- they're worried about you," Stark said softly, reaching out to gently stroke his cheek.
Crichton closed his eyes and let out a long sigh, then leaned back in an attempt to stretch muscles he hadn't realized were tensed. "I know -- it's just that...Damn it, every time someone bumps into me or touches me, I go off on them, and I know they're just worried about me. I just can't..."
"Ssh, it's okay," Stark said, projecting calm as best he could. "You haven't told them what happened, have you..."
"No, why would I -- I don't -- I--" Crichton sighed and tried again, "I can't tell them."
"Why not? It would at least help them understand why you're suddenly so..."
"Afraid?" Crichton asked uncomfortably. "I can't just tell them that Scorpy raped me -- it's not something that... I don't-- oh dren." He took a deep breath and scrubbed a hand over his face, then looked down at the table. "On my world," he said, pausing to clear his throat, "if a guy has sex with another guy, it's not really accepted. Not much, anyway. Most of -- most of society views it as...disgusting. They think that he's not really a guy anymore -- that it makes him less of a man. When a guy is raped, well, obviously he's less of a man, because any man would fight. Any man would be able to stop that kind of thing, and he certainly wouldn't enjoy it!"
"John..." Stark said softly, edging slightly closer and gently encircling Crichton's shoulders with an arm, "do you believe you're less of a man because of what happened?"
"No!" Crichton answered, surprised by the vehemence of his denial. "I dunno... I know intellectually that I didn't have any way to fight Scorpy, but... The attitudes you get raised with; the attitudes of everyone around you -- it's hard to get past that... It's like-- it's like expecting a Peacekeeper to really understand treating other races as individuals, as equals; even when they've had the same treatment from their own kind, part of them still thinks of the others as inferior..."
"The attitudes are so much a part of you that you do it without realizing," Aeryn said, sitting down across from them.
At the sound of her voice, Crichton jumped, badly startled. Stricken, he glanced up at her in time to see the sympathy in her eyes before she continued, "John, did you say that Scorpius raped you?"
He swallowed and asked, "You heard the whole thing?"
She nodded, but continued with her original line of thought, "It's a serious offense, John -- there are many things one is allowed to do to prisoners, but that..."
"You're telling me no Peacekeeper ever rapes their prisoners?" Crichton asked, looking her right in the eyes. "None?" He shook his head and said, "I'm betting it happens all the time..."
His intense stare made her uncomfortable, but she continued to meet it. "It does," she admitted, "but it's still against regulations..."
"Well, we'll just go contact First Command and report him, then, won't we," he growled sarcastically, standing up and storming from the room.
By the time Aeryn managed to open her mouth to ask him to wait, he was already gone. She looked back at Stark and tried to explain, "It's part of the contamination regulations -- it is a serious offense..."
"Doesn't matter with Scorpy," Stark answered, looking down the corridor Crichton had taken, "He's above all of that. I have to--"
"Yes. Take care of him -- I-- I'm sorry..." she answered sadly. He nodded, then followed Crichton, leaving her alone with her thoughts.
Unable to figure out where Crichton had gone, Stark asked Pilot for his location. A few moments later he arrived at the cargo bay where Crichton's module was stored, to find Crichton sitting in the cockpit, hunched over the controls with his face buried in his folded arms. The sight of Crichton's strong shoulders shaking with his sobs made Stark's heart ache.
"Crichton -- John," he said softly, walking to the module, "Please, come with me..."
Crichton looked up and met Stark's gaze, wiped away his tears and nodded. "I'm sorry, Stark... Aeryn's probably pissed again -- I just don't know what's wrong with me -- so damned out of control..." He hopped down to the deck and took a deep breath, then said, "I just -- I dunno."
"John, it's okay," Stark said, closing the distance between them and hugging him gently. "You've been through so much in such a short time, of course you're going to be off balance -- you just have to remember that your friends are trying to help you -- that they're worried about you."
Crichton nodded against him and took a deep, shuddering breath. "Yeah, I know...everything seems to be setting me off, and I just can't--"
"Shh," Stark soothed, "Get some more rest, then we can talk to them later. Let them know that you're having trouble dealing with what happened, and the stress has you on edge..."
Crichton nodded again, then stepped back to stand on his own. "Maybe I could do with a little more rest -- feel like I've been beaten...I'm just so worn out."
"Yeah, I know," Stark agreed, smiling slightly. "I think it's the fact that we finally don't have the daily torture sessions -- nothing to fight against so the adrenaline has finally run out."
"And the endorphins," Crichton added ruefully. "We're both crashing because our bodies have gotten used to being in agony -- that is ridiculous, you know," he said with a bit of a laugh. Stark put an arm around his shoulder and chuckled, sparking another burst of slightly mad laughter from both of them as they staggered down the corridor. "Oh man -- we are well and truly screwed up, Stark," Crichton said, turning to look at his companion.
Stark giggled slightly and nodded, and the two of them continued unsteadily on their way to Crichton's quarters. Once there, Crichton headed straight for the bathroom to deal with necessities. When he was done, he washed up and stuck his head under the stream of water, rinsing the tears from his face and soaking his hair. He straightened again and grabbed a towel, briskly dried his hair so that it was standing up in spikes.
"Huh. Look like I stuck my finger in a light socket," he mumbled, combing his hair into some semblance of neatness with his fingers. Then he stripped off everything except his shorts, and tossed the rest of his clothes onto a chair. Snagging his shirt back for a moment, he activated the communicator. "Pilot?"
"Yes, Commander Crichton," Pilot's voice responded.
"Are we safe at the moment -- heading deeper into the asteroids or something like that?" he asked, glancing over at Stark who paused in stripping, just in case they turned out to be in imminent danger.
"For the time being, the Peacekeepers seem to be searching a different area of the field. Gilina was most efficient at scrambling their data."
"Good," Crichton answered, feeling a pang at the mention of the Peacekeeper tech. "If there's nothing that needs my attention, I'm going to sleep for a while -- I've been a little stressed recently."
"That sounds like an excellent idea, Commander," Pilot answered, and Crichton had to wonder if Aeryn had been talking to Pilot about him. "I will alert you if a situation arises that requires your attention."
"Thanks." Crichton tossed the shirt back to the chair and stretched. "So, we'll get a little sleep, at least..."
He walked to the bed as Stark finished stripping, noticed that he hadn't stopped at his underwear. Somewhat self-consciously, he stripped off his own shorts, then climbed into bed and flopped down into the pillows. Stark slid into the bed next to him and gently wrapped his arms around him. "Sleep, John, you'll feel better when you wake up..."
"Yeah, that's a good idea..." Crichton answered, yawning. He snuggled into the embrace and drifted off in moments, Stark not far behind.
Crais sighed and slid deeper in his bed, pulling the covers nearly over his head. Relieved to be back on his own ship, he tried to force himself to relax despite the unwelcome guest who had arrived on a transport a short time earlier. It was bad enough that Scorpius had invited himself onto the command carrier, but Crais suspected he knew what was in the numerous shipping crates that he had brought. The half-breed was trying to move in where he was most unwelcome...
This is still my ship, still my command, Scorpius. You are not going to take it away from me without a fight! he thought angrily. Then, realizing that dwelling on it was not helping him relax one bit, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly, willing his muscles to relax. Calling on some of his earliest training, he breathed deeply again and emptied his mind of all thoughts. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in...
An image intruded on his meditation, undoing all of his effort to that point: John Crichton, lying naked, face down and spread-eagle on his bed; his wrists and ankles adorned with soft black and red leather cuffs that, for the moment, were not connected to anything but easily could be. Crais' eyes snapped open and he shook himself, his breathing no longer calm and his body anything but relaxed. Not now! he thought, squashing the urge to indulge himself. Crichton was an enemy; not only had he killed Tauvo, but he was responsible for Crais' own humiliation in the Aurora Chair -- he was probably also responsible for Officer Sun's treasonous attack on him!
Feeling his heart pounding in his chest as he thought about the agony he had suffered in the Chair thanks to Aeryn, he took another deep breath and resumed his attempt to relax. He closed his eyes again, calmed his breathing and tried to relax his tense muscles.
The moment he actually began to relax, another image flashed through his mind: Crichton, backing away from him as he advanced, the blue eyes wide with something that wasn't quite fear. A heady combination of lust and anger washed through him, settling in his groin and bringing his cock up hard. Sleep no longer seemed to be an option. Completely alone, as he should be in his own quarters -- Scorpius hadn't had a chance to bug the room yet, and he had long ago disabled any monitoring devices that had been planted by First Command -- it would be safe to indulge in a harmless fantasy...
Closing his eyes, he summoned up the image again, groaning softly as arousal burned through him at the thought of trapping Crichton against the wall and wrapping his hands around his throat...
He stroked across his own chest with one hand, sliding the other down over his belly to his groin; sighing as he pinched one nipple to hardness and then moved on to the other one; he closed his other hand around his erection. In his mind's eye, he backed Crichton into the wall and kissed him roughly, closing his hands around Crichton's steely biceps and keeping him pressed against the wall when he pulled back for air. He looked Crichton up and down, could see the impressive erection straining between them... He wasn't quite sure when his hands moved from Crichton's arms to his throat, but suddenly he found himself squeezing, hard; his heart pounding in his ears as Crichton gasped for breath.
Crichton's knees began to buckle, and Crais closed the distance to pin him against the wall with his body, holding him upright. Crichton's erection hadn't wilted at all, and when Crais pressed against him he moaned, surprising Crais. That wasn't the reaction Crais had been suspecting, and he loosened his grip slightly in surprise -- and suddenly, instead of pressing against the wall he was forcing Crichton down in his bed, leaning in for another bruising kiss as the human writhed beneath him. When he pulled back this time he released Crichton's throat, sliding his hands down across Crichton's chest and stroking up and down his sides until Crichton was moaning and squirming beneath him, hungry and ready for him. Despite all of his anger, he knew killing Crichton wasn't what he really wanted -- and from the look in the blue eyes as Crichton stared up at him, the human knew it, too. He leaned in to kiss Crichton again, planning to pull back and slide into his conquest, wanting so intensely to ram into him and own him.
Crichton's arms came up to encircle him, crushing him against the human's leanly muscled form. A strong hand slid bruisingly up his back and into his hair -- which had somehow come out of the tightly wrapped ponytail -- and closed around a fistful of hair. When he gasped in surprise, Crichton took the opportunity to kiss him, plunging his tongue deep into Crais' mouth; using the hand tangled in his hair to keep them from pulling apart. Moments later, Crichton was rolling them over and pinning Crais to the bed; forcing him down into the covers and sliding a knee smoothly between his parting thighs.
When Crichton finally allowed Crais to breathe, he groaned and arched up into him, hands desperately trying to reach every inch of Crichton's body at once. He could feel that glorious erection pressed between them, throbbing and unbelievably hot, and he knew what he wanted Crichton to do with it...
Apparently, so did Crichton. The blue eyes fixed him with a smouldering stare and Crichton smiled, leaned close and whispered, "Get ready for the frelling of your life, Crais..." He pulled back far enough to help Crais lift up his legs, not that he needed any help or urging... Part of him thought that he should be resisting this; that he shouldn't appear so eager to let an inferior species get the upper hand. The rest of him squashed that protesting Peacekeeper part viciously, thinking that any species so magnificently formed could not be that inferior. And then all thought fled as he felt the head of Crichton's cock pressing into him...
There was pain, but it was a sweet, sweet pain as Crichton's magnificent cock slid into him; forcing a groan from him as it slid in to the hilt. Crichton twitched his hips, smiling at Crais' lustful cry when his cock moved deep within him. Panting, Crais met the burning gaze and whispered, "Please..." and Crichton smiled smugly. And then the being who had so recently been his conquest; who had now become his conqueror, pulled nearly all the way out, and rammed back into him.
At his helpless moan of pleasure Crichton repeated the motion, again and again; that wonderful, hot thickness splitting him open; battering his insides, stretching and filling him so completely that he couldn't do anything more than lie there and enjoy it. Crichton made a sound deep in his throat -- wild, feral; a cross between a growl and a purr -- and straightened, the shift in position sending a thrill through Crais as he realized what Crichton was doing. If that magnificent cock was overwhelming now...
Crichton grasped his hips with bruising fingers, pulled him up into his lap the way Crais had taken him the first time, and thrust hard. Arching back, Crais cried out again, the change of pressure against his prostate sending shudders of pleasure through him. Helpless as Crichton settled into a punishing rhythm, he moaned and whimpered as the sensations overwhelmed him -- he knew it wouldn't be long but the pleasure was nearly more than he could bear. He could see the effect of his eagerness on Crichton, too; the human's skin slick with sweat and his eyes dilated in pleasure. His warm, musky scent tickled Crais' nostrils, heightening his arousal more than any aphrodisiac ever could.
And suddenly, Crais was screaming his release as Crichton shoved in as deep as he could reach and groaned, that magnificent cock spasming and shooting hot cum deep within him...
...Crais groaned and shuddered as the pleasure faded, opening his eyes to the darkness of his quarters and the loneliness of his bed. He shifted in the bed and slid his fingers from his ass, trying to ignore the ache in that wrist; tucked his now-tender cock back into his underwear, and decided cleaning up could wait until morning. The fantasy had been intense, but it was only that; a fantasy. It would never happen in reality, and he knew he had to accept that fact, as much as his subconscious obviously did not want to. He rolled onto his side and pulled the covers up again, closed his eyes, and quickly fell asleep...
Most of Moya's crew sat around the table, eating lunch and keeping an uneasy quiet. Stark sat between Crichton and Aeryn, glancing over at Crichton occasionally as he ate. Aeryn and D'Argo both noticed how uncharacteristically subdued Crichton was, but Aeryn remained quiet herself -- she had overheard enough to suspect, correctly or not, what the cause of his unusually taciturn behaviour was. D'Argo, on the other hand, neither suspected, nor cared, growing tired of Crichton's attitude since his escape from the Gammak base.
"Crichton, what is wrong with you?" he asked, his tone slightly irritated, but mainly concerned. "You have said nothing all meal."
"'M'fine, D'Argo," Crichton answered when he had managed to swallow at least part of his mouthful. "Didn't your mother ever teach you it's rude to talk with your mouth full?"
"No, she did not," D'Argo answered, before he realized Crichton didn't expect an answer.
Aeryn sighed and cut in, "Pilot says the search teams have expanded their perimeter. They will be coming closer to us, soon. We either need to hide in the asteroid belt, or we will be captured. Stark, have you made any decision?"
If anything, Crichton grew even quieter, feeling Stark's attention turn to him again before the alien answered. "I can't stay -- I'm sorry to run out on you like this, but I just can't take the risk of being captured by them again. After two cycles, I'm free -- I can't..."
"It's okay, Stark, honest," Crichton said, looking up at him. "You're not running out on us -- I know why you can't take that risk."
And that was the cause of the uneasy atmosphere, Aeryn reflected. Crichton and Stark had experienced things that they didn't seem willing to share with the others, and when Stark left, they had no buffer to help deal with Crichton's unpredictable moods. She knew enough to know why Crichton was so on edge, but not enough to know what would set him off -- and he had already caught her totally off-guard once. One of these times she might not be so in control of her own reactions and break his neck before she realized it was him...
"Well then," D'Argo said, not catching the flash of pain in Crichton's eyes, "we should finish this meal and prepare -- once Stark leaves, we will have to do our best to hide from the Peacekeepers."
"Just tell me what to do and I'll do it," Crichton responded quietly. "If you don't mind, I'll be helping Stark load the transport pod." He gently patted Stark's shoulder, then stood. "You coming?"
"I'll be there in a minute, John," Stark said softly. He could hear Crichton's footsteps heading away, then turned back to the others. "I really am sorry to run -- I just--"
"There is no reason to apologize, Stark," Zhaan said, speaking for the first time during the meal. "There is no shame in wanting to stay away from those who hurt you so badly."
"I just wish I'd been able to help more with John," Stark said softly, looking back down the corridor after him.
"He will get over it," D'Argo said, the irritation now clear in his tone. "He will have to, if we are to get through this."
"D'Argo, not everyone reacts to imprisonment and torture in the same manner. We cannot expect John to act the same way you would," Zhaan said. "We must have patience."
"We do not have time for patience," D'Argo muttered, returning to his meal.
Aeryn heaved a heavy sigh and said, "Look, you're both right. We don't have time for patience, but Crichton needs it. He's been hurt, very badly -- and not just the physical pain you had to endure when you were tortured, D'Argo. I saw that device Scorpius used on him. I'd heard things about Scorpius -- the kind of things you want to make yourself forget you ever heard because if you don't you'll never sleep well again..." She forcibly repressed a shudder, remembering what she had overheard Crichton discussing with Stark. "He will need time to recover -- we need to stop pushing him. I know, when it comes down to it, he will be there whenever we need him. We just need to stop pushing..."
Zhaan nodded and said, "I agree. I believe John will recover given time -- and we should prepare to move deeper into the asteroid field, so that he can have the time he needs."
"Very well," D'Argo said reluctantly. Then he activated his comm and asked, "Pilot, is the transport pod ready to go yet?"
"It will be shortly," Pilot answered, checking the instrument panels and looking into the docking bay. "Commander Crichton and Stark are saying their goodbyes."
"Stark, stop apologizing -- I'm not an idiot, I know you've gotta go. We can't afford to have all of us sitting in one place for them to grab up just like a handful of jacks..." Crichton said, settling a small satchel of food in the cabin of the pod.
"I'd ask you to explain, but it would probably take too long," the alien murmured, embracing Crichton. "Your shipmates are getting nervous enough without this dragging on..."
Crichton swallowed and ducked his gaze for a moment, trying to figure out how to ask his next question. Just spit it out, John-boy... "Um...are the dreams part of why you're leaving?" At Stark's confused look, he elaborated, "Not the nightmares of Scorpy -- I know we both have 'em. I mean the --uh-- the good ones, with Crais..."
Stark looked at him, fixing him with the one visible eye and studying him closely. Crichton thought for a moment he saw a flare of light from under Stark's mask, and then once again he felt the flood of love and caring that Stark had projected that day in the cell when he had been so despairing. "Don't worry about that, John," Stark whispered when he could see his friend had relaxed, "I'm not jealous, if that's what you're asking. I care about you, and I want you to be happy. Those dreams make you happy -- at least while you're having them -- so that makes them all right. Okay?"
Crichton nodded, not trusting his voice all of a sudden, and stepped forward to hug Stark again. "I'll miss you," he whispered, pulling back enough so they could kiss.
When he stepped back again, Stark was smiling. "Don't worry, John, we'll meet again."
"Yeah..." Then he turned and walked out of the pod and headed out of the docking bay, not turning back as he heard the pod door shut and the engines start up. "Okay, Pilot, he's getting ready," he said over the comm; then as the pod powered up and shot out of Moya's cargo bay, he sat down at a table and rested his head on his folded arms. "'Bye, Stark..."