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Make-Believe

Title: Make-Believe
Author: Angel Leviathan
Disclaimer: The Farscape characters aren't mine.
Rating: PG
Summary: The Uncharted Territories has very few rules with regard to opening hours. One is that it is closes midday on Christmas Eve and does not reopen until the conclusion of Boxing Day.
Notes: None.


She finds him at the end of the bar, in his usual seat, sitting in the dim light cast only by the fairy-lights that Chiana has insisted on bedecking the place in. Sequences of blue and white dots cast him in light and then in shadow; he barely notices.

The Uncharted Territories has very few rules with regard to opening hours. One is that it is closes midday on Christmas Eve and does not reopen until the conclusion of Boxing Day. That is, it closes to the general public. Aeryn has learned over the years that the place never really closes, just like London never really sleeps. The city suits go home, out of the city, to the ‘burbs and beyond, the traffic slows and the natives head out to their favourite haunts. She keeps the bar open until she can barely stand, because it’s better than remembering that she’s not a native: these people in her home; in her lap; they don’t know that. She walks and talks like a proper Londoner: they don’t even think to ask about her past.

“Crichton,” she says, quietly. Aeryn repeats his name in a stronger voice, a little unnerved by the gentle quality to her previous call. It wouldn’t do for him to think she was going soft. John looks up from the bar top, which is strangely devoid of paperwork and his endless scribbling, and for a moment she thinks he’s been scrawling all over the varnished surface. It’ll be the last thing he ever does if he has, and-

“Thought you were asleep. Pip headed out on the town hours ago.”

The problem with having him living in the second floor flat is that he hears almost everything that goes on in her flat. He hears the screaming rows, the slanging matches between she and Chiana and somewhere along the line has figured out that she really does care about people, however much she pretends not to. She’s well-aware that he’s lying; that he never thought she was asleep, because he’s heard her scrabbling around for the past few hours putting up that Christmas tree that she swore she wasn’t going to bother with, but means so much to her little sister.

Just like she heard him sneak downstairs, but not leave.

“I know,” Aeryn replies. “I don’t expect her back until the early hours.” She doesn’t move from the opposite end of the bar, nor does she attempt to join him on the other side. “You should go home,” comes from nowhere, surprising herself.

He laughs, a hollow sound that frightens her. There’s nothing there, no bitterness, no humour, as if he’s forgotten how to do that one simple thing. It echoes across the empty room and washes over her as she realizes just what’s facing her, aside from a man on the edge. If he speaks the truth, then she has a trained killer on her hands. Someone trained to be that emotionally detached. She’s by no means defenceless, but guns aren’t legal over here and... Well. That’s a start.

“Can’t go back. Got no home.”

“You have no job, it’s not the same as-“

“They don’t remember me. Or pretend not to. It’s like I never existed, Aeryn, never existed,” John counters, low and intense. “What if I go home and it doesn’t exist? What if my family don’t know who I am?” He shakes his head and snorts. “And even if it’s all some game, you’ve got no idea how deep these things go. Say the right thing to the right person and your mom might have borne you, but she’ll forget you quick enough.”

She misses a beat – she’s not so callous as to shoot a retort back straight away – and returns, “So, you’re going to sit here in the dark and mope.”

“I’m going to sit here in the dark.”

“And mope.”

He narrows his eyes and angles his gaze at her more precisely. “I don’t see you out with Pip or calling your Mom or-“

“I can do those any day of the year. One of my rare days off is exactly that: a day off,” Aeryn states. “I don’t care for religion or the enforced togetherness of the season, so why should what time is my own be affected by such things?”

John smirks. “Why tell me to go home?”

She folds her arms across her chest and leans back against the far wall. “Because whilst I don’t care, most people do.”

“Or you want me out of the bar in-case I drink your New Year stock dry.”

She smirks this time, generated more by amusement and more natural than his cold effort. “That too,” Aeryn concedes, only half-joking.

He’s silent another few seconds and glances down at the bare bar top, then laces his fingers before him. “What’re you doing tomorrow?” he asks.

“Going over the books,” is a quick and honest reply. She shrugs and tries a smile in response to his expression of disgust. “On the one day of the year I know I won’t be interrupted. Too good an opportunity to miss.”

“Oh great joy,” John intones. “Sounds thrilling.”

“And you?”

“I’ll be trying to hack into my old department’s system on the one day of the year I know half of them will be too illegally paralytic at the office to notice.”

She knows it’s a try for a proper joke and yet quite possibly the truth all wrapped into one. He’s not so stupid as to try, but almost desperate enough. She just doesn’t know if he’s really skilled enough to not get caught. If anything of what he says is ever the truth, then surely nobody would risk alienating someone with talent enough to figure everything out. Perhaps he was just a really, really lousy agent?

Aeryn reaches smoothly for the light switch and flicks it on suddenly enough to catch his expression in the split-seconds it takes for light to spill through the room. Open; lost; bereft. Frustrated. Broken. Then he blinks and it’s back to the madman she’s beginning to understand he’s playing at being. Better to be mad than genuinely damaged. That, she knows well. Very well.

She presses the switch once more and plunges the bar back into its fairy-light gloom.

“If you can count and calculate, I wouldn’t mind being interrupted tomorrow,” Aeryn murmurs. “But we don’t watch the queen’s speech and we don’t do Christmas dinner.” She turns to leave and head back upstairs, then lingers a moment longer. “It would... reassure Chiana, for her to know you’ve not thrown yourself under a bus.”

John looks right at her again. She makes sure she doesn’t quite meet his gaze as she makes for the stairs.

“Merry Christmas, Crichton.”

Fin

Comments

( 1 tequila sunrise — Name your poison )
barker9
Dec. 14th, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)
Wonderful. Lovely. :)
( 1 tequila sunrise — Name your poison )

[ The Uncharted Territories ]

A Farscape AU. Set in the same universe as Atlantis AU lust_and_fame.

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