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by Andraste

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It wasn't as if they hadn't explored their other options, such as they were. First, Crais had shouted and Aeryn had attempted to open the door. Then Crais had paced and Aeryn had attempted to reason with Talyn. Then Crais had attempted to reason with Talyn and Aeryn had shouted. None of their efforts had been dignified with so much as a response from the recalcitrant hybrid: the door had remained locked.

"I don't think he's listening at all," Aeryn said with a sigh, slumping down beside her travelling companion on the bed. "If we just knew what he wanted ..."

Crais looked at the door to his cabin, and absently raised a hand to touch the non-responsive neural link. If Talyn would not see reason, perhaps it was time for him to at least offer Aeryn an explanation for the ship's strange behaviour. "I think I know what he wants," he admitted cautiously.

"What?" Aeryn said incredulously, "why didn't you say so two arns ago, when he shut us in here?"

"Because it is not something we can give him." He had argued with Talyn more and more often during the weekens since Aeryn had joined them on the ship, counseling the need for patience and caution. It seemed that Crais's pleas had done even less good than usual. At least he seemed much less inclined to inflict physical pain on his pilot since Aeryn had come aboard, but that was small consolation at the moment.

"Talyn is - unhappy with your refusal to join with him via the neural link."

Aeryn frowned. "I don't understand - we have discussed this before, and it hasn't ended with me locked in your quarters. Why would he shut you in here, too, if it's me that he's unhappy with?"

"Perhaps he believes that I have been insufficiently persuasive."

Crais considered himself a good liar, but Aeryn was becoming better and better at telling when he was less than entirely honest with her. "What is it that you're not telling me? If you know what will convince him to let us go, return to the planet where we left Stark and Rygel, just say so."

Personally, Crais was in no hurry at all to retrieve the remainder of their small crew. The aliens could rot on the commerce planet for all he cared - but for some reason it had become important to Aeryn that nobody was left behind. Even if she was not over-fond of the Banik and Hynerian herself, she would not agree to abandon them.

"I believe I know what he wants - that is not the same thing as being able to give it to him."

"Stop evading the question," Aeryn said, getting up off the bed in order to stand over him.

Crais hesitated, but there was no backing away from the awkward truth now. "His displeasure does not only concern his relationship with you. Talyn is also unhappy with the way you and I have behaved toward one another. He wishes for us to ... become closer."

Aeryn's eyes widened in disbelief as she realized what he was implying. "You mean he wants us to recreate?"

"That seems to be correct," Crais conceded.

"You didn't put the idea into his head? Suggest it to him?"

"No!" Crais said. Locking Aeryn in his cabin had not been among his preferred scenarios for getting her into his bed. "Talyn simply does not understand that these things are complicated. I have tried to explain."

"But he knows that you find me attractive?" Aeryn asked, crossing her arms.

There seemed to be little point in denying it - he had made no real attempt to hide his feelings for her. "Talyn could hardly fail to know my thoughts, given the presence of the neural link."

"In that case, the solution seems obvious."

Before Crais had a chance to object, Aeryn was back on the bed, and kissing him hard. For several moments he was so stunned that he did nothing, swallowed up by the sensation of her mouth on his. He had wanted this for so long ... but that did not make this a good idea.

"Officer Sun, please," he said, pushing her away gently, "I do not want to recreate with you."

Aeryn shook her head incredulously. "I will never understand you - you make no secret or your desire for me, but every time I offer myself to you, you refuse."

"It would not be wise to allow Talyn to force our actions - if we give in to him this time, he will think that he can behave this way in future."

"In case you haven't noticed, he can force us. He could raise the temperature or cut off the air supply at any time - and I'd rather not let things get to that point. We have to learn to negotiate with him, and this is something I'm willing to agree to. I'm surprised that you object."

"You're only agreeing to this because you want Talyn to let us go, just as you only offered yourself to me before because you wanted - our help."

He did not make the mistake of mentioning Crichton directly, but Aeryn's eyes hardened anyway. "Isn't that reason enough? You want me, I want to get out of here - and it's not as if I find you unattractive."

That was as close as Crais would ever get to hearing Aeryn return his feelings - he should have been grateful. But it was not enough. He had decided that it never could be.

"You were born into the ranks of Peacekeepers. I was not. I had parents, who cared for me, and cared for each other. When I was declared irreversibly contaminated, I decided that I wished to leave that way of life behind me."

It wasn't that he was against the idea of recreating - but he had discovered that he wanted more than that from Aeryn. He would not settle for less from a woman he cared about. If he hadn't been emotionally entangled ... but he was, and there was no help for it.

Crais knew himself to be unusual in this. Growing up on a succession of Peacekeper ships, he had done as his comrades in arms did and coupled with whoever was nearby for convenient release. Yet he had never forgotten the structure of the society he had left behind. Looking back, it had guided his behaviour even when he still thought himself a Peacekeeper.

"You are as bad as Crichton," Aeryn said, "or -" she cut herself off sharply. "There are billions of beings in the galaxy - billions of males who want nothing more than a mutual release of fluids. Why is it that I keep attracting the ones who want to make everything complicated?"

"Because you are," Crais looked at her, sitting here on his bed, and words failed him "... different."

She regarded him seriously. "There really isn't a good reason for us not to have sex, Crais."

"I can think of several. Firstly, we want different things. I do not expect you to - feel for me as I do for you, but Talyn and I need an ally we can trust and rely on. I will do nothing that could jeopardize that should things turn out badly. Secondly, you are in love with John Crichton."

Aeryn's expression turned dark, and Crais knew that he had spoken the truth. He hadn't wanted to acknowledge it himself, but he had watched her closely in the long days since they had been separated from Moya and her crew. It was obvious that she was pining for the human, difficult as Crais found that to understand.

"Crichon is not here," she said.

"We don't know how long that will last. Talyn and Moya will not stay separated forever. You will see him again."

"Or we could be dead tomorrow, or captured by a retrieval squad. For all we know, they're dead or in Scorpius's hands already."

"But if they are not, if you knew they were safe and free, and that you would see Crichton tomorrow -" Crais went on.

"It still wouldn't help me, would it?" Aeryn said softy. Crais froze - this was the last subject he had wanted to bring up. "That's what this is really about, isn't it? You won't be satisfied with a copy. You want the real thing."

He'd expected her to be angry, but she just sounded resigned. Giving in to an impulse he knew he should ignore, he reached over and touched her hand. "You feel real enough to me. Whether or not you're the clone or the original is immaterial to me, Aeryn."

"I doubt that," she said, dismissively.

Crais had tried not to speculate about whether the woman with him was the one he had first grown attached to, or if that Aeryn Sun was far away on Moya. But it truly didn't matter. "Surely you can understand how I feel - you wish that you were the other Aeryn Sun, the one still with John Crichton. You think me unwilling to settle for a less desirable option - but how can I allow you to settle for one?"

Aeryn squeezed his fingers. "If my life has taught me anything, it is to make do with what I have. Is that such a terrible lesson, Bialar? I don't have John, I probably never will, and most of the time I think she is welcome to him. All he ever did was cause trouble."

"I exiled you," Crais said, "drove you from all you had known. Pursued you for a cycle. Took Talyn away. You cannot tell me you have forgotten any of that."

Aeryn shrugged. "The past is past. The future may never happen - you understand that, even if you pretend not to. Crichton never will. I hope that she realises that, for her sake." Aeryn raised a hand to touch his cheek.

Crais knew that he should protest, but there was only one question he really needed an answer to. "You guessed that we are here because Talyn wishes us to recreate, but it isn't that simple. He has no interest in such actions, only in what they represent - or what they could represent. What he wants is for you to make a commitment to him, not to me. He may have forgotten the difference, but I have not"

"Talyn chose you to be his guide, not me. He does not need me."

And Aeryn did not need Talyn, or Crais - she needed Crichton. Who might be dead, in Peacekeeper custody, or returned to wherever it was he came from. Who was almost certainly making the best of the Aeryn Sun he had been left with.

"You chose to come with us," Crais said, "but I do not believe you have decided to stay. I think that's why you refused to accept the neural link. You must understand, I cannot enter any relationship with you if doing so would raise Talyn's hopes, and then dissapoint him. I need you to promise me that you will not abandon him. Not for Crichton, or for anything."

"You shouldn't need to ask - I care for Talyn, and I won't leave him again. There is nothing for me on Moya." It wasn't true, but it would be pleasant to believe it. "Now, if we're even going to get out of here, I think we've done enough talking." She moved closer to him again, and Crais couldn't make himself react as she climbed into his lap.

"If you and Talyn are both so determined," he said, "I suppose that I have no other option."

She smiled. "Promise me something, Bialar?"

"Anything," he murmured as her lips brushed against his.

"Stop pretending that you're not enjoying this."

Three hundred microts after they stopped talking, Talyn unlocked the door. Neither of them were paying enough attention to notice.

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Fandom:  Farscape
Title:  Ultimatum
Author:  Andraste   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  PG-13  |  het  |  10k  |  06/11/05
Characters:  Bialar Crais, Aeryn Sun
Pairings:  Crais/Aeryn
Summary:  It wasn't as if they hadn't explored their other options, such as they were.
Notes:  Alternative universe breaking off from . well, I'm sure you'll work it out.
Disclaimer/Other:  I do not own Farscape. Just imagine that. Also, nobody pays me to write about it.

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