Moya and her Pilot soared freely through space, entwined mentally as well as physically while they explored the wonders of a brilliant pink and blue nebula they had encountered. The rays of light and energy brought pleasurable physical sensations to Moya’s outer skin, and images of great beauty to their eyes and sensors as well. It was for splendors such as these that Pilot had left his homeworld without the approval of the Elders. Though deep in his heart he accepted responsibility (and guilt) for his part in the death of the pilot he had replaced, at moments like these, Pilot had no doubts his decision had been the correct one. The universe was such a wondrous place!
Moya interrupted their communing to call Pilot’s attention to the fact that Aeryn Sun was approaching Pilot’s den, tiny D’Argo in her arms. To avoid feeling that he was eavesdropping on their passenger’s lives, Pilot generally kept only very vague tabs on Crichton and Aeryn’s whereabouts at any particular moment. Moya seemed to have no such scruples, or perhaps it was just that she could sense their presence more intuitively as they roamed within her body.
Now that he had been made aware of Aeryn’s proximity, Pilot followed her progress with one tendril of his consciousness. The baby was fussing, and she was attempting to soothe him.
“Hello, Pilot,” she said as she entered the den, her voice raised just enough to be heard over her son’s noise. She bounced the baby in her arms with an air of resignation, as if she didn’t expect her efforts to quiet the half-cycle old. Before Pilot could comment, she added, “I hope you don’t mind D’Argo’s screaming. He’s fond of you, and I thought being in here might distract him.”
The baby’s shrill cries sounded like they indicated pain. Concerned, Pilot asked, “What is wrong with him? Is he injured?”
Aeryn lifted the child up against her shoulder and patted his back. She walked closer to Pilot and said ruefully, “He’s teething. The first of his teeth are cutting through his gums, and apparently it’s quite painful.”
“Is there nothing you can do?”
She sighed. “I’ve put some painkiller on his gums, and it does seem to help some, but he’s not very happy right now.”
“I can see that.” Frowning, Pilot asked gently, “And where is Crichton? I’ve seen him work wonders with D’Argo.”
Aeryn sighed again. “Actually, John spent most of the night walking him around the lower tiers so he would sleep. But it seems he wants his mother just now.” Then she smiled and said, “We’re fine, Pilot. I don’t mean to keep you from your work. I’ll just walk around a little in here and see if he’ll finally drop off to sleep.”
Pilot nodded and went back to enjoying the external view with Moya. He didn’t completely shut Aeryn and her offspring out of his consciousness, and was vaguely aware of her voice murmuring gently to the child as she walked back and forth, swaying from side to side as she did so. At one point he noticed that D’Argo’s sobs had diminished, and when he looked up he saw that the baby had jammed several fingers into his mouth and was chewing. Apparently he was still upset enough to be complaining, but his fist muffled the sound somewhat.
When she realized that she had Pilot’s attention, Aeryn walked over to stand in front of his console. She smoothed D’Argo’s matted hair with her hand, then kissed the top of his drowsy head.
Pilot watched her, bemused. She had to be exhausted, and he would have expected her to be at the end of her patience as well, and yet, here she was, cuddling her cranky offspring. “You surprise me, Aeryn,” he commented.
She looked up from the baby and frowned. “In what way?”
“I remember you when you first came aboard Moya ,” Pilot said. “I would never have imagined you capable of such tenderness towards a helpless creature.”
Aeryn snorted softly. “It surprises me, too,” she admitted. “I never wanted to be a mother. I didn’t understand what it meant.”
Curious, hoping he wasn’t prying, Pilot asked, “How do you feel about it now?”
Aeryn didn’t seem offended. She thought for a few microts before beginning slowly, groping for words. “D’Argo is still completely helpless. He is unformed, and...and yet quite willful.” That apparently amused her, because she smiled broadly. “And at times I am exhausted, frustrated, and even angry at his demands.” She looked down at the infant now dozing in her arms. “But I’m his mother, Pilot. When he hurts, I hurt, and if I can take away his pain, it is the most wonderful feeling. I take joy in his smiles, in seeing his progress as he grows, in the way he interacts with John and me. I can’t imagine being apart from him.”
“Moya felt the same about Talyn,” Pilot said, a hint of wonder in his voice.
“I think all mothers must feel that way,” she said, though she frowned just a little.
Pilot thought for the first time in several cycles about the safe haven of his own childhood, of hugs and caresses and the endless encouragement of even his wildest dreams. He waved two clawed arms in dismay and gasped, “When I left with Velorek, I didn’t even say goodbye. I must have broken my mother’s heart.”
“Undoubtedly,” Aeryn agreed without sugar coating. “But surely she knew how much you wanted to see the stars. I think,” she added, reaching a hand out to touch Pilot’s carapace, “that she probably takes comfort in knowing you have accomplished your dream.”
“But, she doesn’t even know if I’m still alive.”
Aeryn’s eyes narrowed. “You haven’t contacted her since you’ve been away? Not once?”
Pilot shook his head in remorse. If he’d been capable of it, he would have blushed scarlet. Communication hadn’t been possible in the first cycles. First he and Moya had been under Peacekeeper control, and after that, they had been always on the run, never quite sure where they were.... But now, after the war, things were different. Deep within his consciousness, Moya registered dismay at Pilot’s thoughtless behavior.
Aeryn sucked in her lower lip and then offered her advice: “My mother is dead, Pilot, and so is John’s. You shouldn’t waste the chance to reconcile with yours.”
His guilt lifted just a bit. “Do you think she would see me, after what I did?”
Aeryn quirked a small smile. “I don’t know for certain. But I can’t imagine any circumstance where I would refuse to see my child. I’d want to know he was all right. What he’d been doing.”
Pilot could feel Moya agreeing strongly with Aeryn’s words. It was possible that the Elders had banned him from the planet entirely for his defiance, but he wouldn’t know until he tried to return. With a sigh, he said, “Moya and I will plot a course to my planet, then. I hope you and John won’t mind the diversion.”
“We aren’t going anywhere in particular, Pilot. I’m sure we’ll enjoy visiting your homeworld.” She shifted the baby in her arms. He whimpered, but didn’t quite wake up, and she looked back at Pilot. “I should take this little one back to our quarters and see if he’ll sleep in his bed for a while.”
Pilot bowed slightly. “Thank you for your excellent advice.”
Aeryn grinned. “We mothers need to support one another,” she said. “And so do we friends.”
Pilot let her take her leave, and turned his attention back to the beautiful nebula outside in the darkness of space. He tried to memorize the image, thinking how he would describe it to his mother, who had only ever seen the stars from the surface of the world of his birth....