PRIORITIES
By Darkman

Rating: PG

Category: Romance, Short Story

Time/Spoilers: Some spoilers. Takes place during the last four episodes.

Summary: John gives up.

Disclaimer: I don't own them, didn't create them, and certainly don't profit from them. Wish I did or had. I promise that I'll put them back where I found them.

Reader's note: Character's thoughts are shown in italics.

"That tears it," John Crichton muttered under his breath as he watched Aeryn Sun leave Command. He turned and kicked the nearest object. Unfortunately, the object was Moya's quite solid and extremely unyielding command console. "Damn, double damn, triple damn," he yelled as he hopped on one foot and attempted to rub his injured toe through his boot.

I know my twin told me to be patient, but enough is enough. The Pope wouldn't have patience after this. How could she say that to me?

As the pain lessened, he began to hobble around, muttering to himself the whole time. He turned to see Harvey appraising him intently.

With a small smile, Harvey asked, "John, what caused this juvenile outburst, as if I didn't know."

"Can it, Harv. Remember I told you that you lived in the country, but didn't speak the language. This is definitely one of those times."

"Ah, I see. Are you having problems with Officer Sun?"

"Not anymore, I'm not. She just told me that I missed the boat. My twin got all there was and I'm an idiot if I think I can replace him. So I am officially giving up."

Harvey looked at John hopefully. "Then I can get back to my rest without worrying about any more emotional explosions and you can get on to more pressing matters." With that Harvey disappeared.

D'Argo entered Command and seeing that Crichton was upset, decided to be helpful. "Would you like to talk, John?" he gently asked.

"Hell, no! Talking is over. I am not going to waste another breath on this subject." He stormed out leaving D'Argo perplexed and confused.

He entered his quarters and locked the door, dropping the privacy screen over the entrance of his converted cell. Sitting on his bunk, he took off his boots and examined his toes. After satisfying himself that he hadn't broken anything, he sat down with his back against the wall and considered his decision.

If this was Star Trek, I could check the star date and begin counting my new life now. Today is the first day of my life without Aeryn Sun. My twin got the goodies and died a hero while I was back here going out of my mind worrying about her. Was she all right? Would she think about me? How would we deal with two Crichtons in the same place at the same time? Stuff like that!

Boy, what a moron I was. Not only did she not think about me, she ignores me when she gets back. I can't believe I was so stupid.

He imagined he heard his father's voice speaking to him in a disappointed tone. He could almost see the disapproving look.

"Self-pity doesn't become you, son. You've always been determined to succeed no matter what."

"Well, Dad, this isn't self-pity. This is facing reality. This is just like the time Alex chose her career over me. I hurt for a long while and then I moved on. Right now, my very existence causes Ms. Sun pain and that's not fair to either of us. I'm tired of hurting."

"Crichtons don't give up, John. We keep fighting no matter what the odds."

"You know, Dad, I think Mom had a better handle on us than we did. What you called patience she called just flat out stubborn. She knew us better than we knew ourselves. One time when you were away, she told me that there was a fine line between being determined and being pig-headed. She said that I was so much like you that it scared her sometimes. She was afraid that I wouldn't learn the difference until I got hurt really bad."

John shook his head and wiped his eyes. He chuckled humorlessly at his situation. He had made an important decision and was going to see it through.

She doesn't want me. She made that crystal clear. Mom was right, but I see the difference now. All it takes is a change in priorities. My first goal is to stop Scorpius or die trying. If I survive, I'm going to find a way back to Earth. I don't think Moya is my home anymore.

He heard a soft knock on his door. Never a moment's rest is there? Someone else wants to talk about the fragile Human's emotional state.

"Go away," he said loudly. "Unless Moya is about to explode, I don't want to be bothered."

The knock came again and he got up with a sigh. Storming to his door, he threw back the curtain and was about to yell at the interloper, but thought better of it when he saw who was there. Rygel was hovering just outside his chamber.

"Crichton, may I have a word?"

Shrugging indifferently, he palmed the privacy release and gestured for him to enter. "Come on in, Sparky. We can have as many words as you like as long as none of them involve a certain Peacekeeper female."

"Actually, I came to thank you for your timely rescue. Orrhn had me completely fooled and if it hadn't been for you and …"

"Don't say that name in here. Understand?"

"I was about to say D'Argo," he answered in an imperious tone.

John looked at him disbelievingly as he continued, "As I was saying, I wanted to thank you."

"You're welcome. Anything else you want to say?"

Rygel had seen John angry, heartbroken, happy, insane, and full of wonder. He had never seen him as he was now: rude, cold, and indifferent. However, he had come to like the strange Human and definitely missed the one who had died. He owed a debt and Dominars always paid their debts.

Sighing, he chose his words carefully. "Crichton, in the three cycles we have been together I have come to appreciate that I am part of a family here. True, I would have never allowed any of you to even approach me when I ruled Hyneria, but life aboard Moya tends to change one's outlook. As much as I hate to admit it, I have become attached to all of you and it pains me greatly when any of you are upset or act foolishly."

"Yeah? What's your point?"

"You are upset and acting totally unlike yourself, you yotz. I want to help you avoid rash decisions if I can."

"No rash decisions here, Fluffy. I'm just being realistic."

"Are you really? I was there, Crichton. I saw and heard it all. I see the situation quite clearly, while you see things through eyes colored by your own emotions."

"OK, I'll bite. What's true reality from your perspective?"

"Quite simply, John loves Aeryn and Aeryn loves John."

"Correction! Aeryn loves dead John and always will. This John is out of luck and always will be. Which is why 'I give up' is my mantra from now on."

"Crichton, don't be an idiot. You know that you and your twin were exact duplicates. Aeryn will come to realize that, too. When she does, she will know that she still loves the John Crichton who lives aboard Moya."

John began giggling hysterically. "So, you are counseling patience, is that it? Where have I heard that before? Thanks, but no thanks." He stopped laughing as suddenly as he had begun and grabbing Rygel's thronesled, thrust him out the door.

"Besides, I told you NOT to mention that name in here," he yelled as he palmed the door shut and threw the privacy curtain down again.

May as well try to get some shuteye. Lord knows I'm gonna need it. With that, he slipped into his bunk and drifted into a troubled and restless sleep.

A few hours later, a loud screeching through his comms awakened him. He rolled out of bed cursing under his breath and hit the activation button to ask rather tersely, "Pilot, what the hell is going on? Is that an alarm or a signal or what?"

"I'm sorry, Commander. I seem to have inadvertently pressed the wrong switch," Pilot replied in his mild tone.

"Yeah, sure. OK, Pilot, you wanted my attention and you've got it. What's up?"

"I would like to see you in my Den, if you don't mind."

"Is there something wrong with Moya? Are we under attack? What crisis is it that can't wait for me to finish my sleep cycle?"

"No, Moya is fine. No, we are not under attack. And there is no crisis at the moment. I would just like to see you as soon as possible."

"And it couldn't wait? Pilot, this is a little inconsiderate, don't you think?" John snapped in a petulant tone.

"It is a matter of some importance and does involve efficiency," Pilot replied with some emphasis.

"OK, OK, I'm on my way, but this better be good."

He entered the Den and looked around. Seeing no one else, he approached Pilot and leaned against his console with an irritated expression.

"Well? What is so damned important that it couldn't wait?"

"Moya and I have been noticing a decided change in your behavior, Commander, and we are both concerned. We think that your efficiency is slipping and that your present course of action could cause you great harm unless you reconcile your emotions."

"Good news, Pilot. They are completely reconciled."

"Oh, really. In what way, if you do not mind us asking?"

"I'm now quite single-minded. I have a new set of priorities. I am now completely dedicated to stopping Scorpius and returning home."

"What about Officer Sun?"

"What about her? She has made it known that she wants nothing to do with me and I accept that. I am officially done with any hopes of reconciliation or a future relationship. Therefore, you and Moya have no worries."

"Moya and Talyn have been talking. They both think that your current emotional state is highly unstable, as do I."

"Well, butt out and mind your own business. My love life is none of your concern."

"If we are to join you on your crusade against Scorpius, we think we have every right to raise questions. Our continued existence depends on distraction-free thinking on your part."

"Pilot, you guys have nothing to worry about. Understand?"

"We would love to take your word on this, Commander, but certain eventualities cause us doubt."

"What eventualities?"

"As you know, Talyn was designed as a surveillance vessel as well as a warship. Moya and he have been comparing records of the behavior of you and your late twin. We have noticed what we think is a discrepancy which might put all of us at risk when you board the command carrier. Of course, being totally unfamiliar with human behavior, we may be reading the data incorrectly."

Pilot knew Crichton really didn't want to go there and would avoid the topic if at all possible. He hoped that his phrasing was just enticing enough to cause the human's well-known curiosity to be aroused, but not so much as to cause him to leave.

Pilots as a species rarely show emotion. This Pilot in particular believed that his charges should think he was in control most of the time, although they knew better. He had spoken of his fears or passions with these beings. He and Moya felt themselves to be part of the extended family this group of beings had formed. He rarely took charge of situations due to his immobility and his bond with Moya. He knew that he and Moya were servicers, but they had grown while with this crew. Now was the time for him to be as assertive as possible. Their continued existence depended on it.

Pilot watched John closely. He saw the conflicting emotions cross the human's face like the playing of a holochip. In Erp parlance, I guess Crichton would say that I am crossing my fingers. Of course, I have no fingers, but the description fits. He felt Moya slowing as if she too was waiting anxiously for the human to decide whether to stay or go.

Finally, John looked up and sighed. "OK, Pilot. Show me the videos and I'll see if you and your charges are onto something."

If John had been familiar with alien physiology, he would have immediately seen the relief flood across Pilot's face. However, Pilot was sure that the human wouldn't recognize that he had fallen into a deftly prepared snare until he was so enmeshed that retreat would be impossible. He began to play the first series of chips, which he had arranged quite carefully.

The clips began at the beginning with Aeryn kicking John's butt on his first day on Moya. They proceeded to various scenes of John and Aeryn working together, hugging, kissing and ending with John's grief at Aeryn's death. They picked up again with the twins and documented John's confusion and hurt on Moya without Aeryn. His lack of motivation and depression were evident as were his petulance and immaturity, especially when his arguments with the others were displayed. The images ended with John's heartbroken expression when Aeryn returned to Moya.

"Did you see a difference in your behavior, Crichton?" Pilot's question hung in the air like an invisible weight, pulling John's head and expression down until his head drooped on his chest and a frown covered his face.

"Yes, there was a difference. I was like a bird with a broken wing when she was gone. When she returned, I felt as if my heart had turned to ice. I have been numb since then."

Pilot decided that his gamble might pay off. He decided to take a large risk and play Talyn's tapes.

"These tapes were relayed to us by Talyn. See if you notice the difference in your behavior and that of your twin."

Talyn's tapes had been edited of all sexual encounters, since they would have served to do nothing other than cause this Crichton pain. However, they showed Aeryn sharing what it meant to be needed with Talyn in order to save Crichton's life, the teamwork displayed by the two against the Charrids, the death of Harvey, the conversation between the two regarding his star charts, Aeryn's devastation at his twin's death, and Aeryn's demeanor after Vallidon.

"Was there a difference between your behavior and that of your twin, Crichton? He appeared more self-assured and competent when working with Aeryn. Why do you suppose that was?"

"You know why that was, Pilot. Aeryn is my other half. The problem is that there is no way that you can make her love me like she loved him. She doesn't want me, Pilot. She told me as much just today. I have been patient, but I can't go through another two or three cycles living on hope. Hope, which may or may not be realized. I have no control over that," he said as tears flowed down his cheeks.

A quiet voice from the shadows interrupted his breakdown. "You once told me in another time and place that hope was what kept you going. Is that no longer true?"

"Aeryn, have you been here all along?"

"Yes, this is the second time I have viewed these tapes. They do show a different Crichton, but they also show a different Aeryn Sun. I told your twin that he was a plague, but that I just keep coming back. I didn't know then how true those words were."

As she spoke, John looked around to see the rest of their friends appear. D'Argo, Chiana, Jool, Rygel, and even Crais were there with the two. They watched the couple expectantly with a brief glimmer of hope in their eyes. They all broke into gentle smiles as the distance between the two star-crossed lovers slowly closed.

Aeryn's eyes searched Crichton's as if looking for some outward sign. Slowly she reached out to him and their hands touched.

With a wistful expression, Aeryn whispered, "He was right, John. I take time."

John broke into a large grin as he replied, "Then time is what you'll get. I'll just have to change my priorities again."

THE END