by Shrift

The surf roars in his ears, and John opens his eyes to see the ocean. The sun shines brightly, and off in the hazy blue horizon, white sails dot the deep water.

"This is new," John says, and it is, because every other time he has come here in the last six monens or so, he has always been awake.

But John doesn't come here anymore. He doesn't need to. Everyone's back on Moya, alive and in one piece, and if Aeryn's not exactly how he remembers, John knows he isn't what she expected to find, either.

Seeing Aeryn again after so long was seriously strange. He'd expected her to look the same, but she doesn't match his memories. He'd kind of expected her to act the same, too, but the Aeryn he remembers wouldn't brush off a baby or an assassination or three. And John's pretty sure he expected to feel relieved to see the real Aeryn Sun again after settling for the fake one in his head, but their happy reunion was pretty much all shock and terror.

Sometimes he thinks things were better when she couldn't even stand to look at him.

He still loves her, but right now he's got some serious trust issues with the space babe of his dreams, and John's been dealing with it by practicing some good, old-fashioned avoidance.

It's not the right thing to do, he knows that, but he's sick and tired of all the frelling drama right now, and there just isn't any couples' counseling for crap like this.

"I don't appreciate being made into an Aeryn substitute, John."

John wheels, falling to his ass on the hot sand. Scorpius is sitting in a pink beach chair under a large umbrella, wearing sunglasses and a straw hat. His belly is distended, like he stuck a basketball underneath his shiny black cooling suit. A dog-eared paperback balances precariously on Scorpius's knobby knee. John reads the title upside down: Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care.

"What the hell?" John says. Scorpius pulls down his sunglasses with one finger and he looks at John with this familiar expression, and suddenly John knows.

Not Scorpius. Harvey.

"You're gone," he insists, sand gritty and warm beneath his palms.

Aeryn's not the only thing John's in denial about, because Harvey's been creeping into his dreams since he took the neural clone out, a white-faced grin lurking between swirls of wormhole equations and Aeryn's dark hair.

But this is the first time Harvey's managed to speak. Usually, he's just sticking his tongue into Aeryn's ear and giving John a massive complex.

Harvey sighs and rolls his eyes, twirling his finger in a way that could mean anything from 'cuckoo' to 'whoopty-doo'. "Really, John, if I'm to be inconvenienced with carrying this child, you'd think I'd at least get to enjoy the act of procreation." He leers, and John's gut dances an ugly jig.

God help him if Harvey's his bitch.

John knows he's spluttering. "What? How -- huh? Aeryn substitute?"

Harvey pats his swollen belly with one hand. "I hope you don't expect me to state the obvious."

"This is displacement?" John says, struggling to his feet. "Displacement, my ass!"

Harvey just smiles and tilts his head back, oddly cheerful for a guy John whacked not too long ago. "Nothing so simple as that, of course."

This Harvey is sharper than he remembers, like a roughly cut length of black glass.

Maybe John needs to stop hitting the laka before bedtime. Or maybe he needs to up the dose.

"I'm dreaming, aren't I?" John asks. "Yeah, definitely in dreamland, here."

Harvey doesn't answer. He just sits there, rubbing circles on his big, black belly, and humming something that sounds suspiciously like Paul Anka.

It's making John long for the dumpster.

He actually misses Harvey a little, although he can't admit it to anyone, except maybe Pip. He thinks Zhaan would have understood, but talking to her memory just isn't the same.

John knows it's possible to be angry with someone and still miss them, and that someone is the woman he's currently avoiding.

Harvey's the only person who isn't just humoring him when he goes on a tear. Harvey knows all the things John knows, all the women, the slang, the beaches, and the tastes of coffee and beer. John also knows it's pretty sad that the only person he can click with like that is a demented figment of his imagination. His social circle is kind of limited these days.

But John doesn't interact with Harvey now -- not anymore, because Harvey's gone, and this is just a dream. So John figures he might as well play along, since this dream isn't terrorizing him with Harvey and Aeryn sexcapades, for once.

"You don't even look like Aeryn," John says. He frames Harvey with his hands and closes one eye. "Shouldn't you be wearing a wig, or something? Nice frilly maternity dress?"

"Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, and now I must wear a dress?" Harvey tsks, his pink tongue knocking against his ugly teeth. "Not very politically correct of you."

John snorts. "What's politically correct about a pregnant guy, Harv?"

Harvey cups his gloved hands under the lower part of his belly, and gasps like he's offended. "Don't you dare give our unborn child a gender bias, John."

John kicks sand in Harvey's direction. "Let's get this straight, numb nuts, you do not have my bun in the oven."

"Who else could be the father?" Harvey asks, and that's exactly the question John has very deliberately not been thinking about since he and D'Argo had that little talk after Chiana spilled Aeryn's beans.

John thinks about walking away, but there isn't any place in his head he can go where Harvey can't follow. "I don't think you understand that I am not having this conversation with you."

"I do believe I'm craving pickles and Rocky Road ice cream," Harvey announces. "The little sweet pickles -- you know the kind?"

"Yeah, they're --" And John's shaking his head and waving his hands like he's being attacked by bees, which would probably be more fun than what he's doing right now. "No! Go away! Get out of my head!"

"An expectant mother ought not to be subjected to undue stress," Harvey says. He sits back and crosses his arms over his massively pregnant belly, and if Harvey had more than a slash of a lower lip, John thinks he'd be pouting.

Stunned, John says, "God hates me."

"I hope you don't expect to raise this child with your backwards monotheistic religion," Harvey says grumpily. "I suspect our offspring will have enough trouble because of your inferior genetic contribution."

"I am not inferior, and there will be no raising of any kind," John says.

Harvey mutters something about deadbeat dads, and he pulls a pile of knitting out of a cloth bag next to his beach chair. The needles start to clack, and John realizes that Harvey is knitting a shiny black onesie. Harvey looks upset and disappointed, and John's brain is no longer computing. In fact, John's pretty sure his brain is attempting to commit ritual suicide by slamming itself repeatedly against the interior of his skull, and a large part of him is hoping it works.

"You're not real," John says, even though he's already tried repeating something until it came true, and it hasn't exactly worked yet.

"That's not a very nice thing to say, John," Harvey says, staring intently at the baby clothes he's making.

"You're gone," John says confidently.

"Gone?" Harvey looks up from his knitting. John's vision flickers like the opening credits to The Outer Limits, and suddenly, the knitting is gone, the beach is gone, Harvey's swollen belly is gone, and there's just a big, dark space in his dream. Harvey's standing next to him, his white face ghoulish in the fluorescent lighting suspended somewhere overhead. Harvey tilts his head and grins, his teeth sharp and uneven. "Am I, John?"

John wakes and rolls out of bed, his right hand clutching at Winona as he crouches on the floor.

He expects to feel relief, but he only feels lonely.

His room is empty, and he's alone in his head.


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