By Darkman

Rating:  PG for minor violence and language.

Category:  Action/Adventure

Time/Spoilers:  Some Season 3 spoilers.  Takes place somewhere near the end of Season 3 after John and Aeryn's resolution of their relationship problems

Summary:  After a strange encounter on a Commerce planet, the crew begins to plan their assault on Scorpius, but they need more currency.

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.

CHAPTER 1 - Torn

Chiana and Rygel came around a corner together on their way to Command for their shift.  She seemed to be the only one of the crew who could stomach the Dominar for any period of time.  Since Rygel had spent the last couple of arns complaining about the last load of rations that D'Argo, John and Aeryn had brought up from the Commerce planet, Chiana was not looking forward to this particular period of time.

As they drew nearer to Command, Aeryn's voice floated out the door and caused them both to stop and glance at each other.  Slowly they began grinning.

"It seems we are of like mind as to our future course of action," Rygel said.

"Yeah, let's not be in too big a hurry to interrupt this," whispered Chiana as they both hovered just outside the door to listen to the conversation inside.

The statement that caused them both to stop short and begin eavesdropping hung in the air.

"Well, John.  I am waiting for an answer.  How did you know that Jenavian Chatto was a Peacekeeper disruptor?"

Chiana glanced at Rygel and whispered, "I never did find out what happened to Crichton on the Royal planet while I was being held by the by the Scarran and Clavor.  Looks like this is my chance."

Rygel nodded and grinned widely.

Meanwhile back in Command John began to fidget.  He knew that patience wasn't high on Aeryn's list of priorities, but tenacity was.  He wasn't getting off the hook.

"Aeryn, you remember the Royal planet, right?"  Lame start, John.  Of course, she remembers.

Aeryn leaned back against a wall and crossed her arms.

"How could I forget?  Palace intrigue, beautiful princess, statue John, Scorpius, a Scarran, broken leg, and Jenavian, of course."

She fixed John with a piercing gaze.

"I also remember my original question."

"She saved my bacon twice during that little adventure," John began.  "First, she killed Clavor's hirelings before they frelled my DNA.  Second, she recovered my head from Scorpius after the Scarran cut it off and got it reattached to my body without crippling me in the process."

"So, you felt gratitude towards her.  Maybe even a little attraction, mm?" Aeryn replied in a low voice.  "I know you, John.  You are hiding something from me about this episode and I would like to know what it is."

Crichton could feel himself beginning to sweat.  Oh my God, she knows.

"Aeryn.  You were gone.  You left angry.  For all I knew you weren't coming back.  I knew you were disappointed in me for agreeing to the wedding and for being scared of Scorpius.  I was alone."

"No, John.  You had Jena.  What happened after she repaired your body?"

Rygel nudged Chiana.  "Here it comes," he said.

John sighed.

"She got me out of town.  Away from everybody."

Aeryn arched an eyebrow and murmured,  "So she got you away from everyone.  That would mean she took you somewhere to interrogate you in privacy, just you and her.  Alone."  Just you and that tralk.

Watching John nod his agreement, Aeryn continued, "What form did this interrogation take, John?"

"She threatened to cut my throat if I didn't tell her what I was doing there.  She believed my pathetic story and asked me to help her keep Sebaceans in control of the planet," he replied.

Aeryn continued in a slightly louder voice.

"What else, John?  Are you forgetting that I was a Peacekeeper?  I know what I would have done back then to enlist the aid of a male asset," Aeryn persisted.  "Did you and she click?  Did you recreate with her, John?"

She knew John exceedingly well.  As she saw his face begin to flush and heard his breathing speed up, she knew she was right.

"That is it, is it not?  That is why I have not heard of this rescue before.  Correct, John?" Aeryn said in a low, flat voice.

She strained to hear his whispered affirmative.

Chiana looked at Rygel.  Rygel thought she looked upset, but he couldn't be sure.

Her hair hiding her expression, Aeryn stared at the floor for a long time.  Was it my failing or yours, John?  I was afraid to admit that you were more than a shipmate to me.  Did I drive you away one time too many?  Dregon described emotional pain well.  This pain is indescribableand it does sting exquisitely.

 John waited silently.  Oh, Aeryn.  Please don't leave me now.  You know I would never hurt you.  Yeah, right, John.  Can't you see that you already have?

Looking up Aeryn began, "I was just thinking how unimportant this would be if I were still a Peacekeeper.  There were no emotional entanglements because we had rules forbidding them.  Now I am at a loss.  My past training tells me that I should not care.  But what I have experienced over the past three cycles screams THE HEZMANA I SHOULD NOT."  I feel anger and sadness at the same time.  Why do I feel betrayed when there was nothing to betray then?

Aeryn continued, "I know this happened before we took the compatibility test.  I also know that you cared for me before that.  Do I trust you in the future, Crichton?  What can I expect the next time you think I am gone?"

He did not miss her use of "Crichton."

"I will tell you what I told your twin.  You are like a plague, John Crichton, and you have ruined my life.  You came along and turned my entire life's experiences upside down with your arrogant stubbornness and your words like "compassion" and "caring," Aeryn said in a monotone.

"Aeryn, I am so sorry.  Please forgive me," John begged.  Way to go, Johnny boy.  You know there's no such thing as a free lunch.  Every action has a reaction even if it is delayed.

"There is more," she snapped.  Smiling wanly and continuing in a pained voice, "Instead of killing you for disrupting my existence, I fell in love with you.  Now I find that emotional pain cuts deeper than a knife and causes agony like no physical injury.  This is the gift you have given me, Crichton.  I am not sure that I like it at all."  Listen to yourself.  If you had not felt empty inside as a Peacekeeper, do you think that a 'deficient Human' could have convinced you to accompany him with just four small words?  Would you trade your time with him for anything? 

After a long silence, she continued, "Let me ask you one thing, Crichton.  If you learned that I had promised Crais that I would recreate with him in return for his assistance in saving you from Scorpius, how would you feel?  If you later learned that I had kept my part of the bargain, how would you feel then?"  What are you doing?  Are you trying to hurt him more than he is hurting himself at this moment?

Aeryn pushed away from the wall and waited expectantly.

John looked as if he had been slapped.  How would I feel?  Worthless and unworthy come to mind.    "I would feel empty and hurt," he murmured. 

Aeryn smiled bleakly and said, "Exactly.  Now you know how I feel at this microt." 

Crichton blinked back tears and looked at the floor.  Way to go, you idiot.  We finally get close to reconciliation and you blow it.  She's going to retreat and you'll be right back where you were when she was gone.  Lost.

After another lengthy silence, Aeryn laughed ruefully and looked at John.  He raised his eyes to return her look.  Please don't run.

She sighed and said, "I find that this knowledge does not change a simple fact."

John looked up expectantly for her next words.  Please don't leave me, Sunshine.

Looking straight at John, she whispered, "Even though this revelation hurts deeply, I do love you, John.  I always will.  I cannot picture my life without you in it and I will do anything to keep you there."

Aeryn stepped up to John, grabbed his lapels, pulled his face within mere inches of her own, and growled,  "However, know this, Crichton.  I once said I was not good at nice.  Neither am I good at sharing."

John opened his mouth only to be stopped by Aeryn's hand. 

"Let me finish.  I will NOT lose you again.  We will live as one and die as one if that is what our future brings.  NOTHING and NO ONE will come between us again.  UNDERSTOOD?" she practically yelled.

John felt a goofy grin spreading over his face and he simply said, "Yes, Aeryn. I love you, too." 

Aeryn's lips sought his as she said, "Now that we have settled that…."

At that moment Pilot's voice and image came over the clamshell, "Commander, Aeryn, I believe you need to look at the sensor readouts, please."

End Chapter 1