By The Time I Read This, You'll Be Gone
by Selena Ulrich

These days Crichton 's room was always dark, and he kept it that way on purpose. The Scorpius inside his head had complained, taunting him that it looked more like a cell than ever, but he hadn't replied. Just smiled and nodded and sipped his beer, and wondered at what point the two of them had gained this perverse imitation of friendship, when outside his head were all the friends he should have ever truly needed. Not that there was much camaraderie left on Moya, and whose fault was that, the Scorpius clone was always eager to ask him. But this never fazed him because he knew the answer; 'Yours' he would reply, and then the two of them would smile at each other and he'd crack open another brew, and they'd resume their night's fishing while his body just lay there, staring through the darkness and wondering what would come next.

He wished they hadn't rescued him, but he hadn't had a say in the matter. Literally. They had tried to be understanding about his new condition, but the rare times he had been present in reality he could see it was taking its toll. D'Argo had tried the hardest, sitting by his bedside day after day and telling him everything from day-to-day events to really filthy jokes. But then something had blown up between him and Chiana over his son Jothi, and the next thing he knew Zhaan was by his side looking her most solemn and informing him that D'Argo had sabotaged an airlock and stepped outside forever. He had tried to feel something when he heard this, but the hole in him created by Aeryn's death was just too big, and the news of the death of his Luxan friend just fell straight through it. Of course, Zhaan hadn't helped; although she had appeared compassionate and had tried to take D'Argo 's place in keeping him company, Crichton could see that her heart wasn't really in it, being more preoccupied with her new-found relationship with Stark and her endless involvement with the Delvian Seek. Not forgetting of course the little detail that Zhaan still believed Crichton to be possessed by some great evil, and didn't that give Scorpy something to laugh about!

Eventually he decided to try getting out of his cell more, but it didn't help. On one of his wanderings through Moya's tiers he met Chiana and a new girl; a tall, flighty looking woman with orange hair and a name he could barely remember, let alone pronounce. The newcomer had stared contemptuously when he tried to communicate and had responded by calling him an obvious degenerate; a description that had caused Chiana to smack the girl hard in the shoulder and glare at her in a way only someone at odds with their lover can truly master. After that he took to writing notes instead of speaking, and as an off-shoot of that found a new hobby in writing some of the most clumsy verse that anyone had ever read in this part of the galaxy, if Stark' s expressions and Zhaan's comments of 'Very nice John' were anything to go by.

Surprisingly, it was Rygel who spent most time with him out of those who were left. True, most of this involved long and pompous speeches on the part of the slug, who was clearly enjoying Crichton 's inability to interrupt him coherently. Even so, Crichton couldn't quite believe it was all done out of malicious satisfaction, and although the Dominar always claimed otherwise there were moments when John thought he saw looks of sympathy, of understanding, crossing that slimy Hynerian face.

Eventually though it became too much. Watching his crewmates drift into self-involved groups, with only a greedy deposed ruler and the mental clone of a man he despised as his friends. Entering each room, walkway and crawlspace of Moya and finding himself there without Aeryn. On the day he decided to follow in D'Argo's footsteps, he left one final note stuck to a crate of food cubes so that everyone could see it. It read

Sometimes I thought to write it down
Describing everything; our song
A memento mori I could turn to
When things between us went so wrong.
But then I saw the fatal flaw
The truth that I could not ignore
No matter what it brought me back to
By the time I read this, you'll be gone


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