Title: Counterpoint
Author: Karolyn Gray
ScifiBB/Chat Handle: Gray3
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Synopsis: J&A fluff (well, sort of), a post RiB scene.
Spoilers: Rhapsody in Blue
Archiving: Yes
Disclaimers: All Farscape names, characters and other related indicia are the property of Jim Henson Productions, Hallmark Entertainment, Nine Networks, the Scifi Channel and all associated parties. No copyright infringement is intended.

Counterpoint
by
Karolyn Gray

Aeryn winced at the clanging sound that echoed throughout the maintenance bay. Turning to glare at Crichton, the biting remark she had intended died before passing her lips.

John Crichton was leaned up against his module, his head grasped between his grimy hands. Frowning, Aeryn jumped down from the cockpit of her Prowler and approached the human quietly.

She debated silently with herself whether to disturb him or not. The human had completely obsessed with his ship since they'd left the New Moon of Delvia two solar days ago. He'd snapped at all of them at one time or another when they'd inquired into his sudden shift in behavior. It had only been Zhaan's calming influence that had prevented D'argo from ending the matter in violence.

She knew he hadn't been back to his quarters as evidenced by the fact that his sweat and oil stained clothes were the same ones he'd worn on the planet, not to mention the stubble just starting to show on his haggard looking face. Seeing the tray full of uneaten food cubes nearby decided her course of action.

"Crichton."

Instantly the human straightened with a barely concealed scowl on his face. "What?"

For some reason the look reminding her of recalcitrant child, a thought she actually found amusing, She found she unable to stop the curling of lips and simply allowed her amusement to become apparent. "If you desire rest than I suggest you return to your quarters."

"I wasn't resting. I was thinking." John replied, turning back to the open access port of his module.

She frowned at that, realizing he was 'shutting her out' as he was want to say. He'd been doing that as well since coming back from the Delvian sanctuary and she was tired of it.

"Crichton."

He continued working as if not hearing her. She knew better. She grabbed his arm and jerked him away from the small craft. "Crichton, what is wrong with you?"

"Nothing is wrong with me. OK?" John snapped, pushing her away and turning back to his small craft.

Aeryn jerked him back, this time not bothering to be as gentle as she had been the first time. "You have not eaten or rested in over two days, not to mention you look like dren. You are *not* OK. Something is obviously bothering you."

"Aeryn. Don't. Go. There." John emphasized each word, the hostility growing with each one. He tried to pull his arm from her grasp but she held firm.

"Get some rest, Crichton. You can finish working on the module tomorrow." She replied ignoring the dark look he gave her.

"Or what?" He asked, challenging.

She smiled at that. "Don't go there, John. You will not relish the experience should I be forced to remove you from this chamber."

For a moment Aeryn wondered if he would risk a confrontation with her when she saw the angry spark in his eyes. Almost as soon as she had seen it, the emotion passed and his shoulders slumped in defeat.

"Fine." He muttered as he looked away, refusing to meet her gaze. "I'll see you tomorrow." He turned to leave the maintenance bay still refusing to even give her so much as a cursory glance.

But she'd seen the pain in his eyes as he turned away. The lonely, world-weary stoop to his shoulders as he reached the chamber's entrance conveying that pain in a way his eyes had not. She shouldn't care, a part of her mind reminded her unnecessarily, but she did.

"Do you want to talk about it?" She asked suddenly. She smiled slightly as the human stopped in mid stride and turned to face her. The surprised expression on his face only made her smile grow.

"There's nothing to talk about." He finally said. Aeryn recognized it for the lie that it was.

Walking over to him she tilted her head and raked her eyes up and down his frame as if intently studying one of those field strategy exercises she had mentioned to Crichton once. The human shifted nervously under her frank gaze, but surprisingly remained silent.

"What's bothering you, John?" Aeryn asked. "Did something happen at the temple?"

"No. Nothing." John said quickly. A little too quickly for Aeryn's comfort. It was if he were trying to convince himself more than her.

"Then why have you not been to your quarters to rest or clean yourself up since you and Zhaan came back? You haven't eaten properly since then and you've snapped at all of us whenever we approach you." Aeryn said, ticking off her concerns in short order.

"I don't want to talk about it." John replied softly.

"That much is obvious as you've been working on that ship of yours ever since." Aeryn retorted angrily. "Enough is enough. Something obviously happened down there to upset you. If you do not wish to discuss it that is your decision, but don't expect the rest of us to allow your behavior to pass unchallenged any longer."

She left the chamber and was three steps down the corridor when she heard him call her name. Turning slowly, she gave him a look that clearly stated he had better not be wasting her time.

He stood there nonplussed, obviously not expecting her to stop or even listen to his call. John held out his hands in a half shrug. "Aeryn, I know I've been a real ass lately. I'm sorry. It's just..." He waved his hands in a gesture of frustration and helplessness as his voice trailed off. He lowered his gaze to the floor shaking his head.

She walked back over to him. "Just what?" She prompted. For a moment she was certain he would not answer, perhaps even return to his sullen isolation.

He suddenly raised his head, sighing long and loudly, as he leaned against the corridor wall. When he spoke, his tone was such that caused an ache of pain within Aeryn. "I thought I'd gotten over her. That it didn't matter anymore."

Seeing the puzzled look in Aeryn's eyes, John smiled hoping the bitterness he still felt after all this time wasn't evident. "Her name was Alexandra O'Connor. Alex."

"She was your mate." Aeryn stated matter-of-factly with the usual Peace Keeper detachment. Or at least she tried to. John heard the thread of hurt and jealousy underlying her words.

John simply shook his head, closing his eyes. Understanding dawned for Aeryn. And with it a twinge of jealousy that she instantly quashed. "You wanted her to be your mate."

"Yeah. I did." John replied softly. "But I never asked her."

Aeryn frowned in confusion. "Why not? It is obvious that you still care for her even now."

"Because she placed her career over me." John replied softly.

Aeryn remained silent wondering why that had been a problem. It was common amongst the Peace Keepers to place career above familial obligations. An honor even when such occurrences benefited the Peace Keepers as a whole. A soldier could not allow blood to get in the way of duty.

He smiled sardonically at her silence. "I guess that makes perfect sense to a Peace Keeper, huh? Duty above all. Right?"

"Yes." Aeryn replied, reluctantly. "But you are not a soldier. Was she?"

John chuckled at that, an almost fond smile gracing his face. "No. She was a scientist. Doesn't mean she wasn't a scrapper when she wanted to be, though."

Aeryn nodded. "I cannot claim to understand your feelings, but I at least comprehend the reason for your behavior. Your feelings for her were not reciprocal."

John just shook his head, smiling. "Damn. Leave it to a Peace Keeper to make a break up sound like a tactical maneuver." He joked.

"I'm sorry. I did not mean..."

John waved his hand. "Forget it. You are right. No need to apologize for that. It's not your fault some blue bitch decided to mind rape me."

Aeryn winced slightly at that. Rarely did Crichton use such language and certainly never with the venom she heard now. But she couldn't blame him. She too had suffered at the Delvian's hands, though not nearly as much as her fellow shipmates had.

"What exactly did they do?" Aeryn asked, hoping her probing question wouldn't elicit a tirade like the one she'd received when he and Zhaan had returned.

John rubbed his face for a long moment. "They made me think...made me believe Alex was here. That she had come with me in Farscape 1. That we were married and living here on Moya while we looked for a way back to Earth. That I wasn't alone out here."

He sighed. "Then they ripped it away. All of it."

"And now you are alone." Aeryn said in understanding.

John met her gaze and nodded. "Yeah. Alone." He sighed, shaking his head. "Look, I better go get cleaned up before one of you guys ties me up and throw me into the nearest washer. I'll see you tomorrow."

Aeryn watched him as he walked down the corridor for a moment. He seemed better. Still in pain, but some of his easy manner had returned. "Crichton."

He turned at her call.

"You are not alone." With that she spun on her heal and quickly walked down the corridor, not waiting to see his reaction. She heard nothing but the background hum of Moya and her own footsteps as she went.

She smiled to herself. Just as the human had once given her something to consider, she now had returned the favor. She had no doubts he would understand.

None at all.

Fin.