*"Parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell."* --Emily Dickinson
Crais doesn't react as the terrace door swings shut behind her. If she didn't know him better, she'd think he didn't hear her come in at all. He stands perfectly still at the viewport, back rigid, shoulders straight, hands clasped behind him. She almost turns around and leaves him there.
She stops when he reaches for the transponder at the back of his neck. A thoughtless reflex--his arm freezes halfway there, a microt before his hand falls limply at his side. It's still there, still active; she can see the tiny lights winking above his collar. It just isn't connected to anyone anymore.
"It's a human saying." She breathes out slowly. "It means . . . do you want to talk?"
It means she wants to talk. It means she doesn't want to talk, but she can't sleep and she doesn't want to spend the rest of the night cycle wandering the halls and thinking. It means she doesn't want to be alone right now, even if the only company she can find is Crais' silence and his grief.
She doesn't know what it means. Frelling human. "If you don't, you say 'hey' back."
"Hey." He doesn't take his eyes from Talyn, lying beside his mother in eerie silence. She isn't sure whether the flat, neutral tone is a dismissal or not.
She decides she doesn't care. "Hey." The quiet hum of Moya's nighttime systems is the only answer, deeper than the familiar thrum of Talyn's engines, almost too low to hear. Two steps bring her to stand at his side. "If I say it again, it means you have to talk."
A soft, frustrated snort says he has no patience for Crichton's word-games. "Human methods of interrogation are clearly primitive."
Half his face is in shadow, but she can see his jaw clench. Looking away, back toward Talyn, she asks the question in both their minds. "What now?"
Standing this close, she can hear him breathing. Only faint starlight illuminates the chamber, here on the night side of the planet, reflecting dull maroon along Talyn's hull. "All of the data on Talyn's design is on board the command carrier." The words are soft, and betray nothing. "If I am to have any hope of . . . fixing him, I must gain access to those files."
"And you think Scorpius is just going to give them to you?"
"All the others have been granted a personal request, in return for Crichton's cooperation. I doubt he will consider me any great threat, once he has the information he seeks."
His right hand twitches again, his mind reaching automatically for someone who isn't there. The familiar gesture hurts, far more than she expected.
She catches his hand before he can reach again for the link, swallowing unexpected tears. Her grip is not gentle, but he doesn't pull away. Instead his fingers lace with hers, a crushing clasp that she returns with equal force.
They still do not look at each other. So close to the viewport, she imagines she can take one step and she will fall. No one to catch her, no one to see but the glorious, uncaring stars. This was home, once. All the endless black vistas of space were her playground, her territory, her birthright. She had her Prowler and her pulse rifle, and that was all she needed.
John never told her it would end this way when he promised her more. He never said he'd leave her burned out and aching and empty, falling through the endless dark without a spacesuit or a tether. A part of her always yearning after a fading memory, while the rest seems unable to feel anything at all. She isn't sure which is worse.
Crais' voice is harsh. "He cared deeply for you."
Can he really think she doesn't know that? Her eyes close, fighting more tears, and she can see Talyn's command deck as she saw it for the first time. Red and white lights flashing, a bright, inquisitive, frightened presence behind familiar Peacekeeper technology. Is Crais saying this is somehow her fault? Does he blame her for abandoning them when Talyn needed her--or simply for living when the one he needs is dead?
"He chose you."
His fingers tighten around hers, sending pain flaring up her arm. She can feel bruises forming, her nails cutting into the back of his hand, drawing blood. Perhaps he has no idea what he means to say. Their eyes meet briefly before he looks away, but there is no anger in his face now, none of the blind rage that followed his brother's death. Beneath the familiar military control, he looks about as lost as she feels.
She would rather see him angry.
"It was a poor choice."
"It was the only choice." The conviction behind the words surprises her. She cannot tell when she had accepted that Crais and Talyn belonged together, but the brief time she was joined with Talyn only confirmed what she already knew.
But their path was not hers, or so she believed at the time. Now part of her wants to ask if he still has the other transponder. If they survive this mission, if--by some crazy chance--Talyn remains himself, they could fly away from here, away from the Peacekeepers and the wormholes and the memories and the stranger with her lover's face.
It is a fool's hope and a coward's way out, but she is tempted all the same.
"If we can fix him--if we survive--will you stay with him?" She hears him take a sharp breath, but he says nothing. "If he isn't Talyn. If he doesn't remember you, or any of the times you were together. Will you keep the neural link?"
He doesn't respond, doesn't look at her, though he still clings to her hand with the bone-crushing grip of a drowning man. "I have promised Talyn he will never be alone."
"That's not an answer." She is watching closely, or she wouldn't see him flinch. "Can you keep that promise? Can you do that, just . . . go back to the way things were?"
"I don't kn--" It's almost a growl, the last word choked off abruptly. Anger flares in his eyes when he faces her, before dying quickly, smothered by a vast weariness. He knows what she is asking. "I don't . . . have any answers for you, Aeryn."
She turns away, squeezing his hand harder. Her fingers start to tingle as his iron grip threatens to cut off her circulation, a sensation like sharp needles shooting through her wrist. The pain is a distraction and she embraces it, his palm against hers the only warmth left in her universe, when all inside her is cold and hollow and crumbling. Mercifully, he pretends he doesn't see her tears.
They are soldiers still, as they have always been, now that everything that made them more is stripped away. And pain is a soldier's best friend. The old training mantra comes easily, drilled into her since she was old enough to talk. Pain is what tells you you're not dead yet.
This is the most important thing of all. Though right now neither of them can quite remember why.
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Title: All We Need of Hell
Author: Flora [email] [website]
Details: Standalone | PG | gen | 6k | 03/28/04
Characters: Aeryn, Crais
Summary: They are soldiers still, as they have always been, now that everything that made them more is stripped away. Aeryn and Crais, between "I-Yensch, You-Yensch" and "Into the Lion's Den".
Notes: Spoilers through the end of season three.
Disclaimer/Other: Huge thanks to GitonCrais for betaing this! Ever since I watched IYYY for the first time I wanted to see *something* between these two, some scene where they're alone together, reacting to what happened to Talyn. And this scene has been in my mind for a while now. Actually writing it was a lot harder than I expected, though. Writing Aeryn is *hard*. For me, anyway. I'm not entirely sure I like the way this turned out, or if I got her character right. Any comments, suggestions or criticism are very much appreciated!
I don't own any of these characters, I'm not making any money off of this, I'm just a poor broke college student, please don't sue.
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