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© Copyright Dylan Pemberton 2002.



Chapter Nine

And This Gift Goes To


The next day, at the allotted time, everyone was gathered on the Terrace. Everyone, that is, except Aeryn. John was getting worried - she was never late, and she knew what time they were supposed to be meeting. He gave her the benefit of doubt and decided to wait a while before he commed her.

When everyone was settled around the room, with similarly devious expressions on their faces, and avoiding all eye-contact with each other, John cleared his throat.

"May I have your attention, please?" All eyes turned to him. "Okay, here we go, people! Let's do this in reverse alphabetical order."

"Why?" asked Jool.

"Because," was the reply. "That means you're first, Blue."

Zhaan smiled, and produced something from behind her back. "Thank you. I hope you'll forgive me, John, but I found this particular custom one of the most difficult yet. I was only able to follow one of your rules - as you can see, there is only one present here. However" She smiled, sheepishly. "I was unable to decide who to give it to. I love you all, in very different ways. So this" She pulled the silk-like cover off the object. "is my gift to you."

In front of her stood a small, statuesque thing. Nobody but Zhaan seemed to know what it was. It was approximately a foot high and resembled something that was half-person and half-rock. They all looked at it curiously, and then at Zhaan.

"What is it?" asked Crais.

"It's a Delvian good luck charm but not in the traditional sense. Instead of carrying it with you, you come to it when you need good fortune."

"So how's it work?" That was Chiana.

"You simply wish."

"It's a mini-wishing well" noted John. "Aw, Zhaan. That's very thoughtful." There was a general murmur of agreement. "Even though you cheated, I'll let you off Right, next up is you, Spanky."

Rygel brought his throne sled slightly forwards. "Even though I agreed to this, I could think of nobody I particularly wanted to give a gift to excepting myself. Which is why I present this lovely box of food cubes to Dominar Rygel XVI"

"Wait a minute," said John. "Hold the phone you're telling me you're giving a Valentine to yourself?" Rygel smiled self-satisfactorily. "Get the hell outta here!"

"Gladly" Rygel vacated the area, food cubes and all.

"Anyway, Stark, you're next."

The Bannick looked slightly nervous, then cleared his throat. "Well, my gift is for Zhaan, obviously." He turned to face her. "I'm sorry, but I'm not accustomed to giving and receiving gifts the only thing I've ever given is the chance for lost souls to pass over" He stopped to think. "I'm afraid I can't even give you my gift not yet, anyway. I offer you this:" He gestured to indicate the mask he always wore. "In the event that something should happen to me, I want you to have my mask and, should anything happen to you, I promise to see you safely where you belong."

Stark looked petrified after he'd said this until Zhaan placed a hand over his, and he smiled. John smiled, too, along with everyone else, in spite of themselves.

"Wow, Stark never knew you had it in you. Big romantic fool." He grinned. "'Kay, Pilot, you're up next. Sorry you couldn't be here, but we figured there wasn't much room in the Den."

"Perfectly understandable, Commander."

"So who've you chosen?"

"The decision was an easy one to make. I choose Moya." There was a unanimous 'aw' from the group on the Terrace. "And my gift is to be the best Pilot I can be. Moya deserves much better, but I will endeavour to make myself worthy of her." More 'aw's.

"Damn, Pilot you got me all choked up," said John. "The next on the list would be Moya what's she say?"

There was a pause.

"That is between Moya and I."

Everyone laughed.

"Okay Jool, you're next."

The Interon looked almost as nervous as Stark. She cleared her throat unnecessarily, then stood up. "I'm really embarrassed about this, okay? So nobody laugh." She deliberately ignored Chiana as she said this. "It also took me ages to find this frelling present, and my backside still hurts from where I fell, so you'll forgive me if I'm a little irritable."

"Fell?" asked D'Argo.

"It's a long story" said Chiana, which confused him even more. Jool continued.

"Anyway, here it is." She pulled the present from a pocket about her person - it was a small dagger, about four inches in length, with a black handle, which she'd managed to shine up to a bright finish. Holding it carefully, she stepped forwards heading directly towards Crais.

He appeared to be as surprised as everybody else in the room.

Jool began to fidget. "I'm not good at speeches but I noticed that you must have lost your old dagger somewhere, since there's an empty sheath for one next to your pulse pistol holster So, I saw this, and I thought Captain Crais might like this, to replace his old one." There was silence, and then she added: "I even cleaned it."

Crais, luckily, took the dagger from her and sheathed it. "Thank you Very thoughtful."

"It doesn't mean I like you, or anything I just thought you'd appreciate it."

"I do I mean, I do appreciate it."

There was a hideously awkward silence, and then John broke it. "See, that's what this is all about! Making new buddies."

Thankful to be saved, Jool sat back down again. Crais watched her, partly dubious, and partly curious, before tearing his gaze back to John, attempting to feign interest.

"Next up is me." Damn, where is she? he thought, looking around. "But uh my recipient isn't here, so we'd better move on D'Argo."

D'Argo, still undecided, did a mental coin-toss by closing his eyes and thinking of the first name that came to mind. When he did, he wasn't that surprised. He opened his eyes again and brought out his gift.

"This is a Luxan decoration, an ornament. It belonged to Lo-lann's grandmother and she gave it to me so now I'm giving it away." He walked over to Chiana, who grinned. "It's always been a source of inner strength for me and I hope it will provide the same for you, Chiana."

She squealed happily and hugged him after taking the ornament. "Thank you, D'Argo. It's lovely."

John smirked. "See, even cynics can have fun on Valentine's Day." D'Argo scowled again, but it didn't last long when he saw how happy Chiana was. "Okay, Crais. Let's see what you got."

The ex-Captain, without realising, looked across the room and held Jool's gaze a fraction of a microt too long, before looking at Crichton. He was about to say something when he appeared to have a minor heart attack, and froze before he could say anything. He swallowed, nervously.

"Actually I forgot all about this."

"You forgot?"

"I did. I apologise." Nobody else seemed to notice the positively murderous look that Jool threw at him. He flinched slightly.

John frowned. "Well, okay, Crais in theory, what would you have given and who would it go to?" There was no answer. Instead, Crais sat sulking, and eventually, John gave up. "You're useless" He sighed. "Chiana?"

The Nebari stood up slowly and walked over towards D'Argo. "Well," she said, "I know how much you like weapons, D'Argo, so I saw this, and I thought it would be perfect for you." She pulled out a larger version of the dagger Jool had acquired, clearly part of a set. "Even if you don't use it, I figure you could maybe put it on your wall, or something."

"Thank you, Chiana." D'Argo took the blade, examined it, and secured it near his Qualta Blade.

"And finally" said John, talking into his comms. "Aeryn?" No answer. "Aeryn, if you're there, get yourself down to the damn Terrace." Still no answer. "Frell, fine." He huffed. "I guess you can all go now."

The assembled group all stood and filed off the Terrace, not sure whether to feel sorry for John or be amused by the dejected look on his face. Zhaan was the last to leave, staying behind to offer some moral support.

"John, don't worry," she said. "I'm sure you will manage to sort something out."

"Yeah, I know, Zhaan"

The Delvian nodded sagely, patted him on the shoulder, and walked off to join the others. John stayed sitting on the Terrace, staring out into space, thinking. As usual, just when he didn't need any company, Harvey took it upon himself to start offering advice. He appeared behind him and hovered just to his right.

"Did you really think it would work, John?"

"Just what I need. Advice from Aunt Harvey." He resisted the urge to punch him as he walked around to .

"Less of the sarcasm, if you please."

"What do you want?"

"Merely to offer moral support." John looked up, raised an eyebrow, and gave him a very obvious "Pull-the-other-one" look. Harvey looked vaguely nervous, and cleared his throat. "All right, there is something else. In light of Officer Sun's non-appearance and obvious disinterest in your plan, I thought I might attempt to cheer you up."

"Go ahead. Gimme your best shot," said John, not really interested.

"A gift" he said, and suddenly manifested a very large bunch of roses. Blue roses.

"What the"

"For my valentine."

John blinked as the information registered. It seemed to take four times longer than it should do. He scrabbled to his feet and backed off as fast as it was physically possible to do so. "Excuse me??"

"I should have been between you and the Luxan, really, but since you managed to conveniently forget about me"

"Hold the phone, Harvey!" said John, still backing away. "Just just no. Okay? No."

With that, he promptly legged it, leaving a very upset Harvey behind him. He had to find Aeryn before he went insane, and whatever her reason for not turning up was, it had better be a frelling good one.

(Endnote: I am NOT a John/Harvey-er. The Harvey gift-giving thing was a request by the aforementioned very strange friend. Blame her Also, anything which gets misconstrued is entirely the fault of the reader. I am not responsible for my actions)

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