by Wendy

Stories are currency, in the right market. And relationships always make the best stories.

Zhaan was like nobody else Chiana had ever met. Cool blue was something that didn't even cover it. Zhaan was tall where she was short, and smooth where she was plump. She was almost as ancient - perhaps more so - than Moya and Pilot, and it really annoyed Chiana that Zhaan always called her child.

"Do I look like a child?" Chiana opened her arms and swayed her head, and raised an appreciative cheer from her audience. They huddled in a corner of this huge cavern, a guttering fire at their centre. From the other side of the cave, Crichton looked over and thought of Neanderthals and ice ages before returning to his conversation with Aeryn.

"I tried so hard to make Zhaan see that I was not a child. I was independent, able to make my own decisions. I could frell with who I wanted and take all this talk of trelk and be done with it." Another cheer, as the wood sizzled and spat in the damp atmosphere. It was cold, and Chiana was glad of her coat, and the heat of the fire at her feet. The rough miners watched her with heavy lidded eyes - drunk with liquor or lust, she couldn't tell. Someone handed her a flask and she took a swig, eyes tearing at the strong brew.

Zhaan had tolerated her ways and always seemed to be laughing at her behind those calm, gold-flecked eyes.

"She was a priestess. A Pah-uh, whatever that means. And a Delvian. Now, from what I have heard, there's two types of Delvians. Ones who murder and ones who don't. And Zhaan - well Zhaan had been both." There was a reason why everyone was on Moya, and that was Zhaan's. Chiana's reasons were completely different, but the miners didn't need to know any of that. "I heard tell that when she got mad, she near completely changed colour and went red. And she loved sunshine - it hit her in a special spot, if you know Delvians."

The miners mostly grinned at each other, a younger one leaning forward to poke up the fire. Chiana reckoned he was embarrassed. "This tale holds a lot more of that special satisfaction, my lad." Warm lewd chuckles made him scurry to his friends. "Not quite ready for this group." But Chiana could take them all on, single-handed, and win.

"Zhaan was a medicine woman, and knew all about those secret potions to make a woman love a man, or a man choke and die. She could concoct all sorts of strange brews in her lab, and one day, while I was examining" - a pause for dramatic effect - "these powders, she breezed on in, startling me half to death. And one slipped from my fingers and smashed on the floor." She tossed the well-gnawed remains of dinner into the fire and watched it spark.

"That's what happened. Fire and sparks and suddenly Zhaan is looking at me with this whole new look in her eyes." Chiana clasped her hands together, in a mockery of every romantic heroine in every cube on pretty much every world. "Oh Chiana, she says. Oh."

Back when she knew Zhaan, it took a lot longer, and came after a lot more heartache that Zhaan looked at Chiana in this way. She was saying her goodbyes, and she was trusting Chiana to hold them all together. It didn't matter what had happened between her and D'Argo and Jothee. Oh Chiana, my child. I wish that I had more time, more life to live and to give you more comfort, more care, was what she said.

"And I don't know quite where to look, as she grabs my hand and leads me into her bedroom." Her room was sparse, with some cloth hanging on the walls and some artefacts scattered about the low surfaces. Moya's heart always seemed to beat loudest in Zhaan's cell. "And she starts humming this weird tune and taking off her clothes."

Zhaan was truly beautiful. Luminescent, almost unearthly as she softly glided through all the roles that the crew and Moya demanded of her.

"And I'm getting quite into it, so she starts popping all my buttons and kissing her way into my underwear. And we're getting quite hot and heavy - for a 600 cycle old plant, she had certainly picked up some tricks - when Aeryn bursts into the room." Chiana pauses, and the miners gin appreciatively. "She starts on about some emergency, looking quite shocked I can tell you, when all of a sudden she starts getting out of those tight leather pants and dives on top of us."

Chiana smirks, thinking that this story won't hurt Aeryn's reputation a bit. "So we're all going at it, getting hotter, and sweatier, and more incoherent with everybody's lips and fingers and tongues and hands and hips and legs all entangled. The power cuts out and it's dark and still we're going. I can vaguely hear Pilot yelling over the comm but I'm just too strung out to care. We're approaching the final hurdle and I can feel the ship shaking as she's obviously hit by some kind of weapon. But neither of them stop, and we finally collapse in a sticky, satisfied heap." The miners cheer, toasting her with their flasks. "The lights come back on, and Aeryn tells us what she came in to tell us - a Scarran Raider is on our tail. We pull on our clothes and rush up to the bridge to find that Moya somehow starbursted, and we never even noticed."

Zhaan always shared the pain of Moya when she starbursted, feeling every seam of the Leviathan strain against the massive power of her reactors.

"Crichton and D'Argo look at us all, as we pant and collapse against each other in a giggling heap. Neither of them is going to ask what we've been up to, even though they are dying of curiosity." Chiana smiles. "And Zhaan goes: at least I know that blend is a strong one."

The end of the story brought a fresh wave of laughter, and calls for more of the drink. They slapped each other on the back, and sighed lustily about how they would have liked to meet such a woman.

There was no one else in the universe like Zhaan. Chiana knew that she missed her more than even her words could say. Zhaan's true story would have these miners crying into their poisonous rotgut, and her death was part of what she was. Unselfish and heroic, everything Chiana was not. She'd never be able to live up to Zhaan, no matter how she tried.

"Tell us another," they ask. The crew of Moya have managed to buy refuge for another night.

People may think Chiana uses sex as currency, but it is always the stories that matter. Who cares if they aren't always completely true. They're always right.


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