The Witches of Eriadne:
Interlude Four S - Part 1: Alternatives

by The Space Witches

Jack Gideon - Matthew's alter ego from a parallel universe.
Jack Gideon - Matthew's alter ego from a parallel universe.

Chapter 2

4th May 2273 - early hours of the morning

The sound of sirens and the computer's voice brought Demon bolt upright in bed, roused from a deep sleep.

"Battle stations. Battle stations. All hands to battle stations." The voice repeated the warning over and over again.

"Shit! What now? Computer off!" Demon turned to watch her husband hopping on one foot, as he pulled on his pants. He didn't bother with socks, just pushed his bare feet into shoes and grabbed a sweater from the wardrobe as he said, "Follow the usual drill. Stay here and monitor the situation. If things start going badly, I'll try to call you and tell you to get to the life-pods." His words became muffled as he pulled the sweater over his head. "Don't wait for me. If you think things are looking dangerous, get out."

Demon nodded and pushed the covers back, kneeling on the bed to grab Matthew quickly before he left. She gave him a quick but passionate kiss, then said, "Be careful!" as he grinned at her and ran from the room. Demon sat back on her heels, taking a deep breath to calm herself, before climbing out of bed and finding her own clothes. She quickly checked her link with her son and found that he was still fast asleep. They had disabled the alarm in his room, after the last midnight battle drill had brought the child screaming from a deep sleep into terrified consciousness.

As soon as she was dressed, Demon moved through into the living area, and called for a computer battle summary on the viewscreen. What she saw there wasn't reassuring. It appeared that the rift between the universes had opened again, and five alien ships had surged through, before the rift had snapped closed behind them. Each was the size of an Earthforce Destroyer, but they seemed to have weapons that were much stronger than those of the equivalent Earthforce ship. A sudden bang, and the rocking of the Excalibur, testified to the power of those weapons. [Shit! Marcus won't have slept through that!]

Demon rushed through to her son's bedroom and found him sitting up in bed, rubbing his eyes. He looked up as his mother came through the door, and whimpered, "Mummy? What was that?"

The tall blonde sat on the bed and took her son into her arms, pulling him onto her lap and cuddling him. "Nothing for you to worry about. The ship is just bouncing around a little. Remember when we played bouncy ships before? She'll be fine soon, Daddy has gone to take care of it." Demon knew that her son was convinced that his father could do anything. Telling him that Daddy was on the case was the greatest reassurance that Marcus could be given.

Marcus tucked his head into his mother's shoulder and muttered, "Want it to stop. Want Half-Ted." Marcus wasn't happy. The ship lurched again, and there was another loud bang. Demon felt her son's arms tightening around her, and she could feel his fear. She sent soothing waves of calm and reassurance through their link, as she reached for Half-Ted. The teddy bear had fallen to the floor with the movement of the ship, so Demon made a point of kissing the battered toy, before passing it to her son.

"See? Half-Ted is fine. Now hang on to him, while we go into the living room." At four years old, Marcus was getting a little heavy to carry for long periods, but Demon hoisted her son and his bear into her arms, cradling them both against her shoulder, as she carried them through to the connecting quarters she shared with her husband. She settled herself and the child into the corner of the sofa, holding Marcus in her lap, as she continued to send calming feelings.

When Demon and Marcus had first come to live with Matthew on the Excalibur, they had practiced battle drills with everyone else. In those drills, Demon had always taken Marcus to Medbay, where they would be safe, in the best protected part of the ship and close to the life-pods. Unfortunately, when they had encountered their first real battle, those plans had fallen apart. Marcus had inherited enough of his mother's empathic ability to become seriously upset at the feelings flying around Medbay.

Even though they had screened the crèche area of Medbay since then, to get there Demon would have been forced to carry her son through corridors crowded with crew, all feeling the fear and apprehension that a real battle produced. She and Matthew had decided that if they were in their shielded quarters at the start of a battle, she and Marcus should stay there, safe from the emotional turmoil, unless and until the ship seemed in imminent danger of destruction.

Another time the Excalibur had gone into battle, Demon had been able to distract Marcus by getting him to bounce on her bed in time with the ship rocking. This time wasn't going to be that simple. It seemed that being woken up in the middle of the night was rather different to being allowed to bounce on his mother's bed in the afternoon.

As she settled on the sofa, the picture Demon could see on the viewscreen had not improved. She had to control herself, to prevent any of her anxieties escaping and being detected by her son. While she watched the progress of the battle, Demon sang softly to Marcus, rocking him gently, trying to use that motion to cover up some of the movement of the ship. It seemed to be working, as she could feel Marcus drifting off to sleep in her arms, although he still clutched Half-Ted and sucked on the bear's ear, something he only did now when he was unhappy or scared.

Continuing to hold her dozing child, Demon watched the progress of the battle, becoming increasingly anxious. It wasn't going well. The Excalibur had deployed all of her fighters, and had managed to destroy two of the other ships, but the three remaining enemies were still fighting strongly. Although she still sent soothing feelings to her son, Demon was silently berating herself for her selfishness.

Some months before, Demon had discovered that she carried part of a Vorlon inside her. She had been unable to bear the knowledge that she held within her a part of one of the things that had kidnapped and tortured her and her sisters. That knowledge had driven Demon to the edge of suicide, and it was only her husband's love and care that had brought her back from the brink. Matthew had somehow communicated with the Vorlon inside her, and convinced it to sleep, to go into hibernation, so that Demon could carry on living with it. But the price that had been paid for that concession was the loss of much of the sisters' strength. They could no longer merge to become the weapon that the Vorlon had created them to be.

Once before, when the Excalibur had been attacked, Demon and her sisters had merged to defend the ship. They had succeeded in destroying the main attacker, leaving the Excalibur to cope with the lesser enemies, and they had thereby won the battle. This was something the sisters could no longer do. Demon blamed her own weakness, her own inability to live with the knowledge of the Vorlon inside her, for the vulnerability of the ship, and all the people she loved, to this new threat. If only she had been stronger, if only she could have ignored the alien consciousness inside her, if only...Demon watched the viewscreen with growing concern for the safety of the ship, her husband, her son and all her family and friends.

Her self-recrimination was interrupted by the sound of Angel's voice coming through their link. That link had been weakened by the hibernation of the Vorlon, but it was still strong enough to operate within the boundaries of the ship. [[Demon? Are you and Marcus OK? I'm on my way over.]]

[[Angel, no! You should be with Lily and her children in Medbay. You'll be closer to the life-pods there. I'll join you there if I have to.]] Demon's mental voice was stern.

The sound that came back was suspiciously close to a raspberry. Demon hadn't known it was possible to make that noise over the mental link. Angel must have been practicing. [[You can't stop me, and I'm on my way. If you do have to leave, I'll help you with Marcus.]] The mental connection was severed, and Demon knew it was no use trying to argue. Angel would do exactly what she wanted.

Demon's anxieties rose during the next few minutes, as the Excalibur rocked harder with the impact of the weapons being used against her. At one point, the motion was sufficiently violent to rouse Marcus, and he started to cry softly into his mother's shoulder. Demon could feel his fear and did everything she could to reassure and calm her son, but it was becoming increasingly difficult, as the bangs and thuds of impacts against the hull shook the ship ever more violently. Her own fear for her husband's safety was becoming hard to handle. Could she leave him this time? Twice before, Demon had refused to leave Matthew when faced with the possibility of losing him. She didn't think she'd be able to do so now, any more than she had before. Life without Matthew was unthinkable.

She had just decided that she could wait no longer, she would have to take Marcus to the life-pods, when Angel's voice sounded in Demon's head. [[Open the door! Now!]]

Demon called for the door to open, and a split second later, her sister rushed through. Angel screamed at the door to close behind her, just as a rush of air sent every loose object in the room flying toward the opening. Demon hung onto her son, fighting the pull of the escaping air. The doors slammed shut, sealing the remaining air inside the room. Demon could hear the pumps whining into overdrive to replace the missing atmosphere, as she stared up at Angel. Demon's face was a mask as she tried to conceal her terror. Marcus was screaming now, and Demon could do little to calm him. She yelled over the sound of his wails of dismay, "What happened? What was that?"

Angel leaned her back against the door, her face white with fear. "We've been holed and boarded. They're coming through into the corridor."

Jack watched the progress of the battle on the viewscreen in his room, trying to decide what action to take, if any. He'd been pacing the floor of his side room off Medbay when the battle stations warning had sounded. It was muted within Medbay, intended to alert the crew there, without unnecessarily disturbing any patients. If Jack had been asleep, he might never have known about the battle, at least until the ship started shaking.

As soon as the alarm sounded, Jack had turned to the computer and tried to access the battle summary data he wanted. Not surprisingly, the Medbay computer wasn't authorized to allow patients access to that material. Jack had been forced to use voice authorization, and a back door into the computer system that he'd set up when given command of the Excalibur. [It's a good thing Gideon hadn't changed that access!] he thought.

As the battle developed, Jack had been torn. He knew this enemy, having fought them several times. He knew their tactics, their strengths and their weaknesses. Jack could have provided valuable information to Gideon on how to fight these attackers, but he also knew that by the time he made it up to the bridge, the situation might have changed so much that his advice would be worthless. And he did not intend to interrupt the Captain with unasked for advice in the middle of a battle. Jack had gritted his teeth and told himself to accept that this ship already had one Captain, and it wasn't him. Well, not quite.

One of the attacking ships exploded into a ball of fire, and a malicious smile spread across Jack's face. It was good to see those bastards destroyed. They'd killed enough of his crew in their time. He was surprised that they'd sent so many ships through the rift. The enemy would only have expected to find Jack's own battle weary ship waiting for them, yet they had still felt it was dangerous enough to require five destroyers to take her out. Jack felt flattered. They couldn't have known that they'd done so much damage to his Excalibur that she'd self-destructed.

Jack watched with malevolent pleasure as another of the enemy ships exploded. His respect for the Captain and crew of this Excalibur rose another notch, as he saw how the battle was turning in their favor. For novices with these aliens, they were doing a damned good job.

A flare of light on the right of the screen caught Jack's eye, and he inhaled sharply. It was a breaching pod, and it was headed directly for the central section of the Excalibur. Jack exhaled in relief when he saw one of the fighters dive in to intercept the pod, blowing it out of the sky. The last thing the Excalibur needed was to allow these bastards in too close. Their breaching pods could drill through even the Excalibur's ten meter thick plasteel hull in minutes, and once on board, the enemy aliens were vicious fighters at close quarters.

Jack was dismayed when he saw dozens more of the breaching pods heading for the Excalibur. Could the fighters stop them all? The Excalibur's gun crews were too busy fighting the remaining three destroyers to be able to divert their attention to the smaller ships. It was the fighters or nothing. Jack watched, as one by one, the pods were destroyed. Only two of the evil little bastards eventually got through. One of them attached itself to the landing bay cowling, where it could be dislodged easily, but the other managed to get through to the central section of the Excalibur, only a few tens of meters from the bridge. Jack watched in horror as it latched on and started to drill. The fighters tried to get to it, to blow it off the main hull, but a swarm of enemy fighters dived in to protect it.

Switching to internal view, Jack flicked from camera to camera, corridor to corridor, trying to zero in on where the pod had attached itself. An alarm, warning of a hull breach, drew him to the right place. He watched as the breaching pod's drill bit through the corridor wall in a flare of sparks, showing where cables and electrical power supplies were cut. Jack's memory of the ship's systems at least assured him that no serious damage had been done. Flicking to another camera, he breathed a sigh of relief as he saw a squad of Narn Marines heading for the breached corridor. The boarding party might be vicious fighters, but Jack would put money on the Narns any day.

Jack did a quick check on exactly where the breach had occurred, and he suddenly felt uneasy. The pod had drilled through into the corridor that ran from the Captain's quarters to the bridge. While the Captain would be on the bridge, where would his wife and son be? On their way to the life-pods, Jack hoped, but how could he be sure? He smiled to himself, as he realized that he had developed a certain affection for that tall, cool, blonde. She had been kind to him, as had the Captain of this ship. Jack wouldn't want anything bad to happen to her or her son. He needed to know where Demon was. If she was safe in a life-pod with her son, there was no need for him to worry.

Glancing up from the viewscreen, Jack could see that Luke Raven was outside in the main Medbay, with his team, waiting for casualties. It was still early enough in the battle for the main Medbay to be quiet, although Jack knew that injured crew members would soon start to arrive.

Jack slipped out of his side-room and over to where Luke Raven was preparing some medical instruments. Tapping Raven on the shoulder, Jack asked, "Is the Captain's wife in the life-pods?"

Raven looked up quickly, frowning with annoyance at the interruption, "No. She and Marcus stay in their shielded quarters as long as they can. The emotions flying around in a battle are difficult for them to cope with. As empaths, they're both..." Raven paused in mid-sentence, staring at Jack. "Why do you want to know? Why have you left your room? The Captain wanted you to stay put."

Jack nodded, holding up his hands. "It's OK, I'm going back. Don't worry." He turned and headed back to his room, but paused in the doorway, looking back over his shoulder. Raven had gone back to prepping his instruments, and the other Medbay staff were all occupied with their own tasks. A sudden yell was followed by a team of medics rushing a stretcher through the door, and the Medbay team leaped into action. They were now all too occupied to pay attention to Jack.

Suppressing the qualms he felt about breaking his promise to Gideon, Jack slipped out of the door of Medbay, quickly stepping aside to let another stretcher team enter. It was getting messy now, and he knew that everyone in Medbay was going to be too busy to notice his absence for some time to come. Jack hoped that Raven wouldn't get into too much trouble for having let him get out. Again.

As he ran along the corridors separating Medbay from the bridge, Jack thought about Raven's words--"The emotions flying around in a battle are difficult for them to cope with. As empaths, they're both..." Empaths? Gideon's wife and son were empaths? That certainly explained a few things that had happened during the time Jack had spent with Demon. If she'd been able to read his feelings, it was no wonder she'd come close to tears a few times. She would have felt as bad as he had. Jack wondered whether Demon could project as well as receive emotions. Had she forced him to trust her?

Jack wondered just how much Gideon's wife had manipulated him, and pushed down a surge of resentment. It didn't matter. She had still been kind to him. She had fed him, clothed him, listened to him and told him what he needed to know. And if Demon was still in her quarters, then she and her son were in more danger than anyone on the Excalibur realized.

By the time he reached the corner of the corridor where the Gideons had their quarters, Jack was gasping for air. He was more out of condition than he'd thought. He was appalled to see three dead crew members, lying in a heap at the end of the corridor. They had burn holes punched through their chests, in a pattern that was horribly familiar. Jack grabbed the PPG rifle that was lying next to one of the dead men, and slid to the corner, quickly poking his head around, then just as quickly withdrawing it.

The aliens all had their backs to him in the corridor beyond. Twenty or more of them were engaged in a battle with a group of Narn Marines who held the far end of the passageway. The two groups were pretty evenly matched, as far as Jack's quick glimpse could tell, but what concerned him more were the two aliens who weren't fighting.

It was evident that the invaders had sealed their entry point behind them with a force-field, then recompressed the corridor. They'd then progressed toward the bridge, forcing open every set of doors to side rooms they'd come across, checking that they weren't leaving anyone behind them to attack them from the rear. They must have killed the men at this end of the corridor, then been drawn into a fight with the Narns at the far end, as they headed toward the bridge.

The two aliens who were forcing doors had just arrived at the Gideons' quarters. In the next few minutes, they were going to get those doors open, and get to the woman and child inside. Jack did not intend to allow that to happen. Taking advantage of the invaders distraction with the Narn Marines, Jack slid around the corner, using one of the dead bodies as a shield. He fired at one of the aliens who had got the doors to Demon's quarters half open, and felt malicious satisfaction as the invader screamed and fell forward, a hole punched right through its back.

What happened next came as a complete surprise. The second alien was picked up by some unseen force and flew backwards down the corridor toward Jack, arms and legs spread wide. Jack had no idea what had caused it, but he wasn't going to miss an opportunity. It felt a little like clay pigeon shooting, but he caught the alien in mid-flight with his next shot, almost severing it in two.

The remaining invaders realized that they were now being attacked on two fronts, and two of them turned, firing toward Jack where he lay behind the dead body. One of them had started to run toward him, when it too was lifted into the air and slammed into the wall. [What the fuck?!]

Jack still hadn't a clue what was happening, but he wasn't arguing. He shot the alien as it was pinned to the wall, then turned his aim and took out the other one, still charging toward him. Then all hell broke loose, with alien bodies flying in all directions, jerked around like puppets on strings. Jack had never seen anything like it, but he kept firing, taking down every target that presented itself.

When there were only five invaders left standing, all fully occupied with the Narn Marines at the far end of the corridor, Jack broke cover and ran for the half open doors of the Gideons' quarters. The sight that met him there knocked the wind right out of him. Jack stood for a moment, gasping for air, like a fish out of water. The woman who stood in the doorway was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

Her skin was dead white, although there was a scattering of freckles across her nose that only enhanced her pallor. Her shoulder length, black hair half covered her beautiful face, as she whipped her head back and forth, glaring out into the corridor, obviously looking for new enemies. She was of medium height, slender almost to the point of thinness, but her breasts stretched the tight red sweater she wore, showing that she was generously proportioned in that respect. Her waist and hips were slim, but curvaceous, and Jack was sure that the rear view would be spectacular.

But what drew his attention away from her stunning body were her eyes. They were a clear, crystal blue, piercing and full of fire. Jack found himself staring into those eyes, suddenly unaware of the fight at the far end of the corridor, deaf to the sound of the battle still raging outside the ship, blind to everything other than those startling blue eyes, which were now glaring at him.

"Well, it took you long enough! What the hell kept you?" For some reason, this gorgeous creature was furious with him. What had he done?

"Sorry. If I'd known you were waiting, I'd have busted out of Medbay and fought my way here sooner." Jack couldn't keep the sarcasm from his voice.

The woman blinked and looked at him more closely, her mouth forming a silent, "Oh." Jack realized that he'd never wanted to kiss a mouth quite as much as he did hers.

A shot from the far end of the corridor cannoned off the wall next to Jack, and he was suddenly dragged inside the door. What made it interesting was that no one had touched him. He half fell into the room, and found that he was now only centimeters away from the bluest eyes he'd ever seen. A quick glance down revealed that his chest and the woman's breasts were separated by the width of a coat of paint. If he took a deep breath...

Jack resisted the temptation, and tried to drag his eyes away from the figure in front of him, hard as it was. [And that ain't the only thing around here that's getting hard!] He shook away the thought.

"Where's Demon? Is she all right?" Jack tried to look beyond the woman, who for some reason seemed to fill his view.

A calm voice broke the spell the raven haired woman had cast. "I'm here and we're fine. Angel saved us."

Jack turned slightly, to see Demon standing by the kitchen area, holding a small child. The boy was hanging onto his mother, gripping her neck so tightly that Jack was surprised she could breathe, never mind speak. The tall blonde was nearly as pale as the other woman, but her face was impassive, showing none of the fear that Jack was sure she must have been feeling.

Before he could speak, a large, spotted hand descended onto Jack's shoulder and yanked him backwards. He looked up into a pair of very angry red eyes and swallowed hastily. The Narn holding him looked seriously pissed. Jack had always been careful to stay on the good side of any Narns he'd encountered in his own universe, before they'd been wiped out. Narns were dangerous enough when happy. When they were mad, they were lethal. This one wasn't so much angry as absolutely and completely furious, and for some reason the Narn was infuriated with him.

The spotted hand lifted Jack off his feet and shook him gently. "You are not supposed to be here. You were ordered to stay in Medbay." Jack thought fast. Somehow, he didn't think a glib answer was going to get him out of this one.

"I came to help Demon." As a statement, it had the virtue of being both truthful and short, as Jack found that his position, dangling a couple of centimeters above the floor, didn't make speaking very easy. He just hoped that the huge Narn Marine's other spotted hand wasn't about to be clamped around his windpipe.

"G'Tan, put him down." The words were spoken quietly, but with authority. Jack wondered where Demon had learned that tone. It took Earthforce years to train its officers in that command voice. "I'll take responsibility for him. I'm sure you and your people are needed elsewhere. We'll be fine now. Thank you, for all you and your team have done."

Jack found himself dropped abruptly, landing on his heels with a loud thud. The Narn might have followed Demon's orders, but that didn't mean he liked them. G'Tan saluted Demon, saying, "I'll leave one of my people in the corridor. No one will get past him." Then he spun on his heel and walked out, leaving the doors gaping open. Jack had absolutely no doubt that G'Tan was correct. If that Narn said no one would get past his people, you'd better believe it. The three remaining occupants of the room looked at each other in silence, gradually becoming aware that the battle was over. The ship had stopped rocking and silence had fallen all around.

Rubbing his sore shoulder, Jack turned to Demon and smiled. "Thanks." He was desperately trying to ignore the other woman, although her scent was assaulting his nostrils, begging for his immediate attention. He suddenly had a vision of himself burying his head in that raven black hair, kissing that soft, white neck, moving his lips...[Stop!]

Before he could say anything more, the little boy in Demon's arms lifted his head and whimpered, "Daddy! I want my Daddy!" Tears streaked the child's face and all the fear that Demon was hiding so well was written clearly on her son's face. The boy started to struggle in the tall blonde's arms, reaching out for Jack, saying over and over that he wanted his Daddy.

Demon's face flickered and Jack saw, just for a moment, how distressed she was. A wave of fear, anguish and panic washed over him, and Jack realized that the little boy was somehow projecting his emotions. Demon must have been suppressing those feelings before, but now she had lost control. As the boy's cries became more urgent, Jack stepped forward and held out his arms. Demon whispered, "I'm sorry," then let him take the child from her.

Jack held the boy tightly, and rocked him gently, whispering that he was safe now, the bad men had gone and everything was going to be all right. He watched as the dark haired beauty went to Demon and hugged her. After a few moments, the waves of panic that the boy was projecting started to calm, and he wriggled in Jack's arms. Jack looked down into a pair of large, golden brown eyes, looking up at him from a face that showed his parentage clearly. The blond curls came from his mother, but the shape of the mouth and eyes were obviously inherited from his father. Jack wondered if his own son would have looked like that, if he'd ever had one.

"You're not my Daddy." The boy's tone was accusatory.

Jack smiled. "Didn't say I was. But I bet I can hug as well as he can."

A half flicker of a smile crossed the child's face as he nodded, then he turned his head to look over at his mother. "Where's Half-Ted?"

Demon laughed and stooped to pick up the battered bear from the floor where it had fallen, passing it to her son, and gently tousling his curls. Jack could tell that she was still controlling herself carefully, but she held out her arms, saying, "Can Mummy have a cuddle now?"

Jack passed the little boy back to his mother, constantly aware of the intense scrutiny of the dark haired woman. She was watching him as a cat might watch a mouse hole. Jack pushed aside a wish that she'd pounce on him, like a cat jumping on a mouse. He patted the little boy on the head, then smiled at Demon and gestured at the other woman. "Are you going to introduce us?"

Demon hugged her son tightly to her, but managed a small smile back. "This is my sister, Angelique Denier."

Jack turned to the woman and nodded his head, murmuring, "Angelique," as he did so. Even her name entranced him.

Angelique smiled at him and his heart did a double black flip, with twist. "Everyone calls me Angel."

Jack thought, [I bet they do!] then realized that he'd whispered it aloud. He shook his head and smiled softly. "Not me. I'm going to call you Angelique."

He ran his eyes over her, looking at her from her neat, sandal clad feet, up her long, slim legs to the gentle swell of her hips, all enclosed in tight fitting black jeans. He forced his gaze up from her waist, beyond the generous breasts that threatened to snag his attention permanently, to the slender neck, firm jaw and stunning face. Angelique's mouth was wide and generous, her lips red and moist from where her tongue flicked out to lick them. Then Jack met those crystal blue eyes. Very angry blue eyes.

"When you've quite finished enjoying the view, you can call me Angel like everyone else. I'll decide who gets to use my full name!"

Jack gave her his very best whipped puppy dog smile. "Sorry. I just haven't seen anything as beautiful as you in...well, ever."

Angelique fought to suppress a smile, but didn't quite manage it, and her face flushed at his compliment. The color made her even more beautiful. She tilted her head to one side, and said, "You have the advantage of me. Are you going to tell me your name?"

Jack didn't even want to think about how many ways he'd like to take advantage of her, but he held out his hand, saying, "Jack Gideon. At your service." He then wished he hadn't said that. When he thought of servicing her, the ache in his groin got stronger and Jack began to regret the snug fit of the jeans Demon had given him.

"Jack, you're hurt." Demon's voice dragged his attention away from Angelique, and he glanced down at his right arm, as she pointed. Sure enough, there was a hole in the sleeve of his shirt and the skin beneath was burned. Jack hadn't even noticed it until that moment, but now he knew it was there, it started to sting like hell.

Angelique sucked in her breath and moved to take his hand, examining the burned area closely. She turned to her sister, who still held her son in her arms. "Demon, do you have a regenerator to hand? I can fix this."

Demon smiled over at Jack. "My sister works in Medbay. No, Angel, I can't lay my hands on one right now. Maybe the best thing would be for you to take Jack back to your quarters. I know you have a regenerator there, and you could use it to treat him. Medbay will be in total chaos."

Angelique protested that she ought to get to Medbay herself, that they would need her help there. Demon disagreed. "Not in the state you're in. Angel, you're exhausted. Tossing those intruders around like that was hard work. You need to rest, and Jack needs treatment. Be logical for once."

Jack looked closely at the dark haired woman and realized that her sister was right. The dark shadows underneath her eyes showed her fatigue, but did nothing to diminish her beauty. The implications of that statement about tossing intruders around were something he'd get to later. Right now...

He reached out with his uninjured left arm and grasped Angelique's hand gently. "Please? I don't want to have to trouble the medics if I don't have to. And it really does hurt." He tried the puppy dog smile again. It seemed to have worked the first time.

Angelique sighed theatrically. "Oh, I can't say 'no' to both of you! Come on, Jack, let's fix that arm up." She held on to his hand, pulling him toward the door, which was still wide open.

Pausing in the doorway, Jack glanced back over his shoulder, and saw Demon and her son both watching, with amused smiles on their faces. For just one moment, Jack thought he saw Demon wink, then he dismissed it as his imagination, and followed the most beautiful woman he'd ever met to her rooms.

Demon smiled as the couple disappeared out of the door, then looked down, as her son tugged on her hair to attract her attention. She was still holding him in her arms, and Marcus frowned up at her as he asked, "Who was that man, Mummy? He looked like Daddy, but he didn't feel right."

"You can call him Uncle Jack. He's a sort of relative of your Daddy. What did you think of him? Did you like him?" Marcus could be remarkably perceptive for a four year old. The combination of his empathic abilities, with a child's uncomplicated view of the universe, often gave him a clarity of vision that an adult could never match.

The little boy frowned for a moment, staring at the empty doorway, then nodded slowly. "He's nice." If Demon had any doubts about another version of Lucas Buck hiding behind the Jack personality, they vanished at that moment. Marcus would have seen straight through the façade. After a brief pause, Marcus looked up at his mother again and said, "But he feels funny when he looks at Auntie Angel."

"Funny peculiar or funny ha ha?" Demon asked, smiling down at her son.

"Both." Marcus lowered his head, sucking on Half-Ted's only ear in concentration, before saying. "He felt like hot fizzy soda." He grinned up at his mother. "He was all warm and bubbly inside. Daddy feels like that sometimes, when he looks at you. Why did Uncle Jack feel like that, Mummy?"

Demon laughed. "It's a grown-up thing, darling, and you know it's really not polite to pick up people's feelings like that. Now, let's go see if your Daddy is coming, shall we?" She carried the little boy out into the corridor, smiling at the Narn Marine who still stood on duty outside.

The Marine saluted and nodded to the engineers, who were working on the hole in the corridor wall. "They'll come and fix your door as soon as they're finished here, ma'am. G'Tan told me stay here until I'm relieved. I think he wants a guard here permanently, until we leave this sector of space."

Demon smiled her thanks up at the large Narn, telling him that there was no hurry for the door, then asking if he needed anything. The Marine shook his head, so Demon turned to look toward the bridge, wondering how long it would be before her husband came home. Marcus' head rested on her shoulder, and Demon could feel him drifting off to sleep again, all his fears forgotten now the ship was stable again. She kissed the top of his head and whispered, "Let's send Daddy a hug, so he knows we're OK."

Marcus looked up sleepily and smiled. They closed their eyes and linked, then sent a wave of love and contentment toward the bridge. Demon heard the Narn behind her give a happy sigh, then she turned and went back into her quarters, carrying her son through to his bedroom and tucking him up in bed. She returned to her living room, and having tidied the room of the things that had been thrown around during the battle, Demon curled up on the sofa, waiting for Matthew to come home.

Gideon was busy on the bridge, receiving damage reports, organizing the clean up, and making sure that all his fighters got home safely. The damage could have been a lot worse. Only one breaching pod had managed to attach itself, and while the enemies' weapons had packed a lot of clout, they hadn't managed to punch through the Excalibur's hull. His ship was battered and bruised, but intact.

Much the same could be said for the crew. Gideon had taken a casualty report from Medbay and sighed in relief when he was told that, although they had five seriously injured, all should survive. The only deaths were the three crewmen killed in the corridor where the breaching pod had drilled through.

Gideon shuddered when he remembered the moment when he saw that happening. His instinct had been to leap from his chair and run to save his wife and son, but he had held fast. The only action he'd taken was to dispatch G'Tan and his toughest Marines to deal with the intruders. Anything more would have been a dereliction of duty, and could have cost many more lives. A Captain didn't run out in the middle of a battle, no matter how worried he was about his wife and child.

Gideon leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath, giving himself a few seconds of calm, before he continued the million and one tasks that needed to be done after the battle. In those few seconds of contemplation, he asked himself whether a battle ship was the right place to bring up a child. Was it fair to Marcus to keep him on this ship? It hadn't mattered so much when he was a baby, but now? The confinement and the dangers were hardly fair on a bright, perceptive four year old.

The wave of love and contentment that washed over him just then left Gideon in no doubt that Deborah and Marcus were safe and well. He opened his eyes and looked around the bridge, only to find that most of the crew were looking back at him, trying to hide their smiles.

"What? You never heard of a man's wife calling him at the office?" Gideon grinned.

Angel sat in the bullet car, all too aware of the man sitting next to her. He hadn't released her hand after she'd taken his to lead him from Demon's rooms, and he still held it now. The heat from that hand seemed to run through Angel's body, raising her temperature, making her feel hot and shaky. And one part of her was getting very warm and wet indeed.

She tried to tell herself to calm down, but from the moment she'd seen that this man wasn't Matt, her hormones had taken over. Angel was in a lather of lust and could do nothing to stop it. She was powerless to remove her hand from the cause of her emotions.

Angel thought back to the moment when the doors of Demon's quarters had opened, and she had seen the man standing outside. For a moment, she had thought it was Matt, but as soon as he had spoken, she had realized her mistake. The voice was the same, but the tone was completely different. Angel had looked more closely and had seen the longer hair, with the gray strands running through it. The gray strands that in no way detracted from the silky softness that begged her to run her fingers...[Stop it!]

The gentle squeezing of her hand drew Angel's attention to the man sitting next to her. She looked around and his gentle smile nearly turned her to Jell-O. Hot, wet Jell-O. Angel looked at him and saw the ways in which he was familiar and how he was different from Matt. He reminded her of the Captain she had first met, when he came to Eriadne. That memory made Angel flush, all too aware of how badly she had behaved then. The man sitting next to her smiled, obviously attributing her heightened color to the pressure of his hand. Little did he know.

In many ways, Angel found it hard to believe that she had been that girl who had taken Gideon captive, who had used him for her own pleasure, even while satisfying him. She had learned so much and changed so much since then that she almost felt like a different person. But she was very much the same person she'd been a few months earlier on Centauri Prime. After her experiences there, she had told Gideon that it would be a long time before she trusted another man. Everything in Angel wanted to trust this man sitting beside her, but no matter what her eyes told her, this man wasn't Matt. Not quite. Could she trust him?

She turned to look at the man. On closer inspection, Angel could see that although there were similarities between the Captain she had met all those years before and the man she sat next to now, there were differences, too. His build was much as Gideon's had been, slim to the point of being too thin, but like Gideon's, his muscles were well defined, as Angel had seen through the hole in the upper arm of his right shirt sleeve. But this man looked sad and tired, in a way Matt hadn't looked even then, when he'd been weary to the point of exhaustion.

The man sitting next to Angel had endured much more than the Captain she had met on Eriadne. Angel found herself wanting both to trust this man and to comfort him. Physically. Very physically. [Down girl!] That annoying little voice inside her spoke and Angel told it, firmly, to shut the hell up. The warmth of the hand clasping hers was sending little shivers of excitement and pleasure up and down Angel's spine, and she wondered if the man, [Jack, he said to call him Jack,] could feel her trembling.

Thinking of names reminded Angel of what he had called her. Angelique. Jack had used her full name. Only one man had done that in a long while. Angel's mind was irresistibly drawn back to the time she'd spent in another universe, with another starship Captain. Dylan Hunt had called her Angelique. Dylan, who had helped her believe that one day she would find a man to truly love her. Was this the man? This other man who called her Angelique? Angel found herself almost daring to hope he might be the one.

When the bullet car finally arrived at their destination, Angel found that she was almost reluctant to stand, for fear of leaving a damp patch on the seat beneath her. It must be obvious to Jack how strongly she was attracted to him, but Angel preferred him not to know that she couldn't keep her panties dry.

Angel's only consolation came when she realized that Jack was nearly as reluctant to stand as she was. Glancing down, she could see the reason why. The pants Demon had given him fitted snugly, and the bulge in his groin, while not obvious, was evident. Angel bit her lip, trying not to smile. It seemed that Jack was as worked up as she was.

When she tried to stand, Angel found herself wobbling, and it didn't help at all when Jack slid his injured right arm around her waist, looking at her with concern, whispering, "Are you all right?" Then Angel saw his gaze drift downwards, and she blushed. Her nipples were standing out so far that she could have hung a clothesline from them. They all but stood up and waved at Jack, whistling and shouting, 'Over here! Slut ready for action!'

Angel cleared her throat and tried to bring herself under control, pushing herself back from Jack's loose embrace. She stammered, but managed to say, "Come with me," her brain went into overdrive, [Brilliant! You can't even get three words out without making it a come-on!] "and I'll fix you up," [Oh for god's sake woman! Get a grip!] "but then I must get on." Angel could hardly believe the words coming out of her mouth. A glance at Jack's face showed that he was struggling to keep himself from laughing.

Angel pulled hard on the hand still holding hers, and yanked Jack off the bullet car, towing him toward her rooms, clamping her lips firmly shut. [God alone knows what I'll say next!]

When they arrived in her quarters, Angel tried to pull away from Jack, moving to the bedroom where she kept her regenerator, but he wouldn't let go of her hand. Suddenly, Angel found herself standing in her bedroom, her bed only inches away, with a man she lusted after more than she had any man since...[Don't!]

Taking a very deep breath, in a completely futile attempt to calm herself, Angel smiled up at Jack saying, "You're going to have to let go of my hand. I need both hands to work on you."

Jack let go and gave Angel a smile that sent her hormones rocketing again. This wasn't a sad smile, or even the apologetic puppy dog grin he'd given her earlier. This smile was pure wickedness, and his golden eyes twinkled as he said, softly, "Oh, by all means. Please use both hands to work on me."

This time the blush started from Angel's feet and worked its way up her body, pausing briefly to stiffen her nipples a little more, and then spread all the way up her neck and face. She could hardly bring herself to look at Jack, but when she did, she realized that he'd probably never even seen her blush. His eyes were fixed so firmly on her breasts that Angel was concerned she could take his eye out if her nipples popped out any further. That thought was enough to make her giggle. Jack dragged his eyes from her breasts and looked quizzical.

"Never mind. Just a random thought. Let me see your arm." Angel had retrieved the regenerator, and tried to focus on tending Jack's injury. He turned slightly away from her, and hissed as she tried to pull his shirtsleeve away from the burned area. "I'm sorry. I just need to get the material away from the wound." As gently as she knew how, Angel cut the shirtsleeve away.

After a few moments, she looked up at Jack, seeing that he had his eyes closed and his lips firmly pressed together. Despite her best efforts, Angel knew she was hurting him. She knew what she had to do next, but just hoped that she'd survive the result. "Jack, you're going to have to take your shirt off. I can't treat this properly through the hole in the sleeve."

Jack nodded and raised his left hand to start unfastening the buttons. Angel realized that he was struggling, being naturally right handed, and moved to help him. He dropped his hand and watched as she undid the buttons, her hands trembling with the effort not to run her fingers over his chest. As she opened Jack's shirt, Angel's temperature rose. By the time she had pulled the shirt out from the waistband of his jeans, and he stood bare-chested in front of her, Angel thought she might spontaneously combust.

His chest was just like Matt's, like Lucas', with a fine covering of soft hair that she longed to touch. The soft pink of Jack's nipples, half hidden by the hair, just begged to be sucked and licked, to be fondled until he groaned with pleasure. Angel's eyes were drawn irresistibly downwards, following that line of fine hair down his belly to where his navel showed above his jeans, then on and down to...[Get a grip, girl! And not on that!]

Angel dragged her gaze upwards and looked into two golden brown eyes, twinkling with amusement. There was no doubt that Jack knew exactly where her thoughts had wandered. [Just keep your hands from wandering there, too!] Angel told herself.

Jack's voice was deep and low as he asked, "Will you help me strip?" Angel's eyes widened, and she was convinced that her nipples were now hard enough to drill diamonds, as he continued, "My shirt. Will you help me get my shirt off? My shoulder is a little sore."

With a shiver of anticipation, Angel reached up to push the shirt off Jack's shoulders, the movements bringing her closer to him, until her breasts touched his chest. She felt as if someone had applied a jolt of electricity directly to her sensitive nipples, and she jerked back, quickly glancing up, to see if Jack had noticed her reaction. The amused smile playing on his lips made it pretty damned obvious that he hadn't missed a thing, and was enjoying Angel's predicament.

Taking a deep breath to steady herself, Angel moved forward again, lowering the shirt from Jack's shoulders gently, taking great care to keep the material away from the wound on his upper arm. Lifting each of his hands in turn, she unfastened the buttons at the cuffs, until the shirt fell to the floor. Angel moved to Jack's side and inspected the burned area. It wasn't too serious, but it looked sore and sensitive. She brought the regenerator to rest over the wound and turned it on, moving it slowly over the affected area, very much aware that Jack was watching her closely.

Gradually, the burn mark faded, and a new layer of skin grew over the sore area, closing the wound until every trace was gone, leaving the new, pink skin glowing. When Angel had finished, she looked up at Jack and smiled. She was surprised to see that the smile had faded from his lips, the twinkle had disappeared from his eyes, and he was now frowning at her.

"What's the matter?"

Jack used his chin to gesture at the instrument she held. "Is that one of the things you brought from Eriadne?" Angel nodded. "I thought as much. Something we didn't have in my universe, something that might have made a difference." His voice trailed off, and Angel watched as his expression darkened, reflecting his withdrawal into brooding silence.

Angel didn't know what to say. Nothing she could say would change the awful things that had happened to him. She told herself not to expect thanks; that Jack had greater concerns and deeper worries than any slight hurt to her feelings he might have caused, by failing to acknowledge the treatment she had given him. Angel turned to put away the regenerator. Keeping her back to Jack, she said quietly, "I ought to get to Medbay. There are other patients there who need my help."

His hand on her shoulder pulled Angel around to face Jack. His expression was still troubled but he tried to smile, as he lifted his hand to stroke her cheek. "You still have a patient here. An ungrateful one, who doesn't say 'thank you', but a patient, nevertheless. Stay with me a while? I don't want to go back to Medbay and I don't have anywhere else to go."

Angel swallowed hard and nodded. "Of course. You can stay here as long as you want. Here..." she reached for his shirt and gave it to him. She knew she had to get him covered, for as long as he stood there in front of her, half naked, her desire for him threatened to overwhelm her sympathy. [Oh god, I want him!]

Jack took the shirt from her, but just stood staring down at it, his face falling back into an expression of bitterness and gloom.

"Jack? Is something wrong?" Angel was concerned.

He looked up at her and held out the shirt. "When I woke up yesterday morning, I had nothing in this universe, not a shirt or pants, not even a pair of shoes. Then your sister was kind enough to give me clothes. So by evening, I at least had a shirt to put on my back. Now I don't even have that." Jack flung the damaged shirt into the corner of the room and turned away from Angel, starting to move toward the bedroom door. "There's nothing for me here. I should take up the Captain's offer. I'll go back where I belong."

Angel grabbed Jack's arm, pulling him back to face her, using her telekinesis to give her the strength she needed to stop him. "No! You can't go back there! If you go back you'll..." She couldn't bring herself to say the word.

"Die? That's what I'd planned on doing anyway. It's going to happen sooner or later, why not sooner? I can't stay here, there's nothing for me here." The look of despair on Jack's face made Angel want to weep. The thought of this man leaving now was intolerable. She wanted him in a way that she hadn't wanted any man since Lucas. Jack was everything she wanted and needed. He was gentler and kinder than Lucas, but he had a darkness to him, a darkness that appealed to Angel. His bitterness and anger at what had happened in his universe excited her, made her want to help and heal him. The prospect of losing Jack so soon after she'd found him was unbearable.

Angel clung to his arm, whispering, "That's not true. You can make something for yourself here. You can make a new life. We'll help you." She pulled him toward her bed, pushing him down until he was sitting on the edge, then she sat next to him, gripping his hand firmly. Looking down at where their hands were clasped, Angel couldn't help but think of how different this was to being with Lucas. Jack needed her comfort and support, while she had never felt that Lucas needed her. Wanted her, yes, lusted for her, yes, but needed her? Lucas had never really needed anyone.

Looking into Jack's sad eyes, Angel could see that this man might not only want her, but he might need her in the way that she was so desperate to be needed. She looked down at their clasped hands again and started to speak, slowly and softly.

"I know how you feel. I know what it's like to lose everything, to even lose hope. To be alone, with nothing and no one." Angel went on to tell him what had happened to her years before. About her time with Lucas, and how she had escaped with Nikarran. About how she had ended up on Mars, alone, with no home or credits, and how she'd had to steal to survive.

Jack listened to her in silence, staring at the floor. When she finally finished her story, Angel squeezed his hand, getting him to look up at her. His eyes were still full of pain and sorrow, but this time Angel could see that he was feeling those emotions for her. Jack lifted his free hand and ran his thumb along her cheekbone, whispering, "I'm sorry."

Angel smiled sadly, "Don't be. In many ways I brought it on myself, but the point is that I survived long enough for my friends and family to find me and help me. You just have to do the same."

Jack smiled sadly at her and then stood. He tried to let go of Angel's hand but she clung on to him, refusing to let him go. Jack lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed it gently, then said, "I'm glad they found you and helped you, but I don't have any friends or family, not in this universe or my own. No one is going to help me, Angelique."

"Don't say that!" Angel gripped his hand fiercely and pounded his chest with her other fist. She was trying not to let the way he'd said her name overwhelm her as she pushed on. "You're just like Matt. In many ways, you are Matt. There are people here who love him and care for him, and they'll love and care for you too, if you'll only let them." Tears started trickling down Angel's face, as she tried to persuade Jack to stay.

Suddenly, Angel found herself grabbed and pulled hard against Jack's bare chest. Her heart was beating so hard and fast, she knew Jack must be able to feel it, as she looked up into a pair of angry hazel eyes.

"Them? Who is that, Angelique? Who are these people who will love and care for me? I don't give a damn about them. But what about you? Will you love me? Will you care for me?"

Angel knew what he wanted. If she promised him that she'd care for him, that she'd love him, then he'd stay. He wouldn't go back to that awful place where only death awaited him. Angel could only say one word. "Yes."

Before she could say anything more, Angel's mouth was taken with a brutal ferocity she hadn't experienced since Lucas. Hands roamed her body, ripping her clothes, stripping her bare in a way no man had done since Lucas. In seconds, Angel found herself naked. Jack lifted her into his arms, and lowered her to the bed, before straightening to look at her, letting his eyes roam every centimeter of her body. Angel felt herself melting as he stared at her, getting hotter and wetter with every moment that passed, unable to take her eyes away from the prominent bulge in Jack's pants.

Eventually, Jack broke the silence as he whispered, "I haven't done this for a very long time. I hope I remember how." The sad smile he gave Angel nearly broke her heart. She sat up on the bed and ran her hands over his chest, up to his shoulders, pulling him down onto the bed with her.

When Jack lay alongside her, Angel put her hands either side of his face and looked deep into his amber eyes, whispering, "It's like riding a bike, you never forget." She smiled mischievously to cover her emotions, saying, "Let's go for a ride"

Demon was roused from her doze by a presence above her. She opened her eyes to see her husband standing next to the sofa, smiling down at her.

"Hello, sleepy," Matthew smiled as he asked, "Why aren't you in bed?"

Demon sat up, rubbing her eyes and yawning, seeing from the clock on the wall that it was after 05:00 ship's time. She smiled up at her husband, saying, "You know I can't sleep properly when you're not beside me."

Matthew laughed. "Then that was a damn good imitation you were just doing. You were snoring." Beneath his laughter, Demon could feel how weary and sad her husband felt.

Demon shook her head. "I never snore."

Matthew laughed again, and held out his hand to help her stand. "Then I'd better call Security. I think we must have another of those breaching pods trying to drill its way in."

Demon punched his arm lightly, but leaned into Matthew's chest as he pulled her tight against him, burying his face in her hair. She could feel his sadness, his exhaustion and his guilt about the death of members of his crew, and she knew that all she could do to help her husband was to hold him and to love him. They stood in silence for a moment, before Matthew whispered, "Are you OK? Is Marcus OK?"

Demon pushed him back gently, until she could see his face. "We're both fine. Marcus was upset during the battle but he soon calmed down afterwards. Jack helped."

In answer to the quizzical look Matthew gave her, Demon told him how Jack had comforted Marcus after the battle. "I told you he was a good guy." Demon ran her fingers through her husband's hair, glad that it didn't have the strands of gray that showed so clearly in Jack's hair.

Matthew looked at her seriously, and Demon could feel his pain, regret and guilt as he said quietly, "Jack did what I wanted to do and couldn't. He came to take care of you. I suppose I should be grateful, but it just makes me feel bad that I couldn't be here, couldn't protect you..."

Demon placed her fingers on his mouth to stop him. "You had a job to do, I know that. You were protecting everyone on this ship, including Marcus and me. And I didn't really need protecting anyway. I didn't let Angel or Jack know, but I had your PPG and I was just hiding Marcus in the kitchen when Jack arrived. Those invaders would have had to get past me, before they got to Marcus."

Matthew pulled her into his arms, holding her close, and Demon could feel his relief that she and Marcus were all right. After a few moments, Matthew pushed her away and asked, "So where is Jack? G'Tan reported that he left him here in your custody. You know, at some point Jack and I are going to have a discussion about his promise to stay in Medbay."

Demon smiled and started to lead Matthew to the bedroom. "He's enough like you to want to help, if he thinks someone is in trouble, and he thought I was. And he's with Angel now."

Matthew halted suddenly, and pulled Demon to a stop in the doorway to their bedroom. "With Angel? Is that wise?" Demon could see that he was struggling with a wide range of emotions, and did her best not to examine those feelings too closely. She knew how her husband and sister felt about each other, but had always been careful to keep that knowledge to herself. She decided that it was time to let her husband know some of what she knew.

Leading Matthew into the bedroom, Demon pushed him down until he sat on the edge of the bed, then she knelt in front of him. She began to undress him as he sat, starting with his shoes. Keeping her eyes on what she was doing, and trying hard not to pry into Matthew's feelings, Demon spoke softly.

"Matthew, Angel loves you and has done for a long time. She's always been very attracted to you physically, too. And I know how you feel about her, but I also know how much you love me."

Demon took Matthew's shoes and socks off, then glanced up quickly, seeing the love and pain in her husband's face, as he whispered, "I would never..."

She interrupted him quickly, saying, "I know. I know exactly how you feel, and that means Angel ends up alone. I hate that, Matthew. I hate my sister not being able to have the man she loves, but I love you too much to let you go." Tears filled Demon's eyes as she gazed up at Matthew, and he reached out to wipe her cheek. She leaned her head into his hand, closing her eyes as she continued. "So, this is the perfect solution. Jack is enough like you for Angel to love him, and I think he may just fall for Angel. He was certainly bowled over by her when they met." Demon allowed herself an impish smile, as she remembered sensing Jack's feelings, when he first saw Angel. Bowled over hardly covered it.

Demon looked up into Matthew's face and saw his sad smile. She whispered, "Can you let her go, Matthew? Can you be happy for Angel, if she finds someone to love?"

Matthew stood abruptly, pulling Demon to her feet, then quickly removing the rest of his clothes. Demon undressed hurriedly, and within seconds, they were naked in bed together. He pulled her into his arms, and she rested her head on his shoulder, again closing her mind to the turmoil of emotions that her husband was experiencing. After some time, he eventually let out a deep sigh and said, "I have to, don't I? I just hope that Jack can love her as much as I love you."

Demon lifted her mouth to be kissed, then snuggled down to sleep in the only place in the universe where she felt truly safe.

4th May 2273 – early afternoon

Angel pulled herself off the bed without disturbing Jack, who lay beside her, snoring softly. It wasn't easy to do, as her body was heavy and awkward after the intense, exhausting lovemaking session she and Jack had shared. Angel stood, slipped into an oversized red T-shirt, then watched Jack sleeping, while she thought about the night before.

Both she and Jack had recently experienced a great deal of pain and suffering, Jack more so than Angel. All those experiences had been blended into a night of overwhelming passion that had shifted from rough to tender, holding onto each other, letting each other know, at a purely physical level, that they weren't alone.

Angel sighed softly, and watched her new lover. In sleep, the harsh lines of pain and bitterness still etched the handsome planes of his face. Knowing what terrible things had caused those lines tore at Angel's heart. She wished there were some way she could snap her fingers and make it better, but she knew from experience that only time could heal that kind of emotional and psychological damage. [And someone's love], added Angel's inner voice.

Jack stirred in his sleep, bringing Angel back to the present. His brow had creased into a frown and he mumbled something incoherently. Angel moved to his side of the bed and lifted her hand, with the intention of running it soothingly over his forehead, but she stopped herself, knowing that if she touched him, she would wake him. After all Jack had been through, including last night's activities, he should be allowed to sleep for a little longer.

Besides that, Angel knew that once he was awake, neither of them would be able to keep their hands off each other, and she needed to take a shower and run a regenerator over herself first. Angel dropped her hand to her side and closed her eyes, whispering the spell she had learned many years before, a spell that soothed troubled sleep. Almost the instant she completed it, Jack settled into a more restful sleep. Smiling, Angel turned and silently left the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

First, she would take a vibe shower and then she needed to contact Demon. It had been nearly twelve hours since she had brought Jack back to her quarters, and although she knew Demon wouldn't be worried, Angel was aware that Gideon would be concerned. She knew Gideon didn't trust Jack, and she wanted to stop the Captain barging in with a dozen Narn Marines, to save her from the big bad alternative him.

Angel wanted to let Demon know that everything was fine, to reassure Matthew. Once she had done that, she would go and wake Jack up. As Angel headed for the bathroom, she smiled mischievously, thinking about just how she would do that.

Jack awoke with a start, staring at the ceiling, his mind clouded with the memories of a nightmare. It had changed from a pleasant dream about Angelique to a nightmare world, where everything he ever knew and cared for was ripped away from him. Holding onto thoughts of Angelique, Jack reached out for the one thing that he knew hadn't been taken from him. When his hand felt empty space, he sat upright, feeling an irrational anger that she had left his side.

Pushing off the covers, Jack leaped out of bed, not bothering to pull his pants on, intent only on finding the woman who had deserted him. The sound of muffled voices coming through the closed door to the living room stopped him. Jack moved soundlessly to the door and listened. He could just make out Angelique and Demon's voices, but they were too quiet for him to make out words. Jack's gut twisted with the suspicion that they were talking about him.

Instantly, his mood darkened, as he began to doubt Angelique's reasons for bringing him to her bed. Was she reporting to Demon, telling her sister that she had succeeded in using sex to control him? That they had succeeded in getting him to trust them, to believe they were his friends and not his enemies.

The rational part of Jack tried to tell himself that he wasn't being manipulated and misled. But the dark and bitter side overruled the rational man. He had just found something...someone he felt he could trust, who he could hold onto, and who could chase away the darkness, maybe even make him happy. The thought that Angelique might not be everything he had thought her to be, made the rage at the injustice of it all grow almost uncontrollably. Jack clamped down on his anger, for the moment. He would let Angelique finish talking with her sister, then when she came back into the bedroom, he would confront her and demand the truth.

[Even if I have throttle it out of her.]

As Angel walked into her bedroom, she was grabbed painfully by her shoulders and spun around, to face a furious looking Jack. He tossed her onto the bed, straddling her hips, as he grasped her wrists with bruising force and pinned them above her head. Ignoring Angel's cries of pain, Jack glared down at her.

"Jack, please, you're hurting me!" Angel's eyes widened in surprise, as Jack ignored her.

Laughing coldly, he hissed at her. "You're lucky I want some answers or I'd do more than just hurt you!"

Despite her fear, Angel managed to focus her power, and with one concerted effort, she loosened Jack's hold and threw him off. As he landed against the wall with a thud, Angel sprang off the bed.

Jack recovered quickly and jumped up, grabbing Angel before she reached the bedroom door. She struggled violently against him, begging him to let her go and to explain why he was so angry. Jack only tightened his hold and snarled at her, as once again he threw her onto the bed, holding her down. "I want to know what you and your friends want from me."

Angel tried to move Jack off her, but now fear and confusion had taken over completely, rendering her telekinesis inactive, as always happened when her emotions were out of control. She considered linking to her sisters to call for help, but she didn't want to risk their safety if Jack was really dangerous. Angel decided to try and deal with this herself.

She felt Jack move his hold on her wrists to one hand, while he reached out with the other, to grab the two Minbari silk scarves Angel kept draped over the headboard for decoration. She knew immediately what Jack intended to do, and she cursed herself for leaving potential restraints so accessible. [Don't you ever learn, stupid girl?]

Angel again attempted to get free, but Jack was too strong for her. He tied the scarves around her already bruised wrists, and then tied them above her head to the headboard. "You aren't going anywhere, until I've got some answers out of you. Understand?"

Angel knew she didn't have a choice, so she nodded. Then, as Jack settled astride her, she noticed for the first time that he was aroused. [He's turned on by this!] Her mind was dragged to thoughts of Lucas, and the times she had been tied up by him during sex, both of them highly aroused by the roughness. Because of those memories, and the sight of Jack's arousal, [So like Lucas,] Angel could feel her own excitement growing. [Stop it!] Thought Angel, disgusted with herself. She cleared her throat and asked Jack as calmly as possible, "What do you want to know?"

She felt as if she'd been plunged into a nightmare, as Jack bombarded her with question after question, demanding that she tell him the truth about this universe and what they really wanted from him. Angel tried to convince him that they were not his enemies, that it wasn't an elaborate scheme to get to him, but Jack didn't believe her. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her, until her head ached and her arms felt if they were about to tear from the rest of her body.

When he asked her why she had been talking to Demon, and she told him, he yelled at her not to lie to him, asking Angel what kind of whore she was that she would use her body to deceive him. Those words hurt Angel deeply, and she begged him not to say that. Finally, exhausted and now angry herself, Angel snapped and screamed at him, "To hell with you, you bastard, if you don't believe me!"

For an instant, Angel regretted her outburst, as it seemed that Jack was going to strike her. Instead, he went dead still. She let out the breath she had been holding, and made one last attempt to appeal to him.

Her voice was weak and shaky as she spoke. "Please, Jack. You have to know in your heart that I'm telling you the truth?" Jack remained silent and Angel continued, "Last night wasn't a lie or a means to mislead you. It was just what it seemed. It was me showing you love, and letting you know you had found someone to love you, to give you the hope and happiness you have been missing for so long. You have to know that, Jack?"

Jack shook his head. "I don't know anything, except that in this universe Matthew Gideon has the life I wanted. He found the cure, became the savior of humanity and found love. He has a wife and son, friends and family, and I have nothing. I don't even have my own name! I have to be 'Jack' and pretend I don't mind giving up 'Matthew'. Why does he have all that, when all I got was pain and damnation? Why is he the hero, when my name was a curse on every remaining human's lips?" He glared down at Angel, letting her see the full burden of pain and anguish that he suffered. "The only mistake I made was to trust a friend. Does that mistake deserve so much punishment?"

Angel watched nervously as Jack remained still and unmoving, then suddenly his head came down to claim her mouth in the most intense, bruising kiss she had ever received in her life.

Jack's mouth remained fastened to Angel's, as his tongue dueled with hers. It was as if with that one kiss he was trying to possess her. When he broke the kiss she could see the anger still reflected in the depths of his eyes, but there was also something else...pain. It stole Angel's heart and made her want to reach out to him. Swallowing a lump in her throat, she spoke his name softly. "Jack."

"No!" Jack's outburst caused her to jump. Then, before Angel could question his reaction, he kissed her again, his lips crushing hers in a brief but thorough kiss. As he pulled back, he cupped her face between his hands and said roughly, "Don't be kind to me, because right now, I can't return that feeling. There's still too much anger inside me for that." Angel didn't know how to respond to that. Jack's eyes raked down her body before returning to her face. "I have to work this off."

The tone of his voice made Angel tremble. His meaning was clear. "If it helps you, then do it," she said, softly.

Jack paused, as he moved to lie beside her. "I don't think I can be gentle. Can you understand that?" She understood. He needed to work out his feelings in a physical way. Again, Angel was assaulted by thoughts of the similarities between Jack and Lucas. [Jack is not Lucas!] she told herself, vehemently. She nodded.

Jack's eyes darkened and he reached out, grabbing her T-shirt at the front and ripping it apart roughly, exposing her naked body. Angel felt his hand move down, between her legs, and without hesitation he found her entrance, then slid two fingers inside her. Although Angel's arousal had lubricated her, his forceful penetration stretched the walls of her vagina painfully. Her gasp of pain was cut off, as Jack's mouth descended on hers again.

For nearly an hour, Jack took Angel's body and inflicted both pain and pleasure, as he worked his way through his feelings, culminating in him driving his cock deep inside her and riding her hard until he climaxed, filling her with his hot seed. Jack's needs had been satisfied, but it left Angel still yearning for release.

Jack knelt between Angel's legs, now intent on her pleasure, as he moved a finger in and out of her wet center, while his tongue and mouth worked on her sensitive, swollen clit. Angel moaned, as he flicked his tongue around her clit before sucking it gently. Any pain that she had been feeling, especially from her still bound hands and arms, disappeared as pleasure took over her body. She gasped softly, as Jack inserted another finger and pushed deeper into her, driving her closer to release. Just as Angel was about to reach that peak of pleasure, Jack withdrew his fingers and mouth.

A small sob of disappointment and frustration broke from Angel's throat, but then, as Jack straightened up to kneel in front of her, she noticed his cock. Despite his recent release, his cock was once again hard and engorged. Angel looked up hungrily and as their eyes met, she could no longer see anger in the hazel depths, but something gentler. As Jack moved forward to lie on top of her, positioning his hard shaft at the entrance of her vagina, Angel couldn't take her eyes off his face. His mouth lowered to hers and he began to kiss her tenderly, entering her in one slow, gentle stroke.

Angel could feel her head spinning, as he brought her closer to climax. Their mouths remained locked, as they moved in unison. Angel raised her hips to meet Jack's thrusts, taking him deeper. She moaned loudly, as Jack's thrusts got harder and faster. He released her mouth and buried his face against her neck, his mouth sucking on the soft flesh at the base of her throat. Finally, with one hard thrust deep inside her, Angel came, screaming as an overpowering series of orgasms tore loose from her center and crashed over her entire body. As her body spasmed with intense pleasure, she could feel her walls tighten around Jack's cock, bringing him to climax, as one last orgasm hit her, milking him of his essence until he was drained completely.

Jack collapsed against her, their bodies flushed and wet, shaking with release, inhaling deeply to catch their breath. For a long time, they remained motionless, getting their bodies back under control. Finally, he managed to pull himself off Angel and settled beside her.

Jack looked down at Angelique as he lay beside her, then without speaking, he reached to release her arms, which were still tied above her head. As he carefully untied the knots that bound her, he could see where the scarves had cut into Angelique's wrists, leaving them red and raw. The sense of shame he felt when he saw the injuries almost overwhelmed him. This was his fault, he'd done this. He'd hurt her, this woman who had been kind and gentle, loving and giving. Jack despised himself for his anger and his actions. He could hardly bring himself to look into Angelique's eyes as she lowered her arms, gasping gently with pain, her stiff muscles protesting the movement.

Angelique lifted her hands above her as she lay, examining the damage to her wrists. Jack reached out very slowly and took her right hand, gently pulling it toward him, then kissing her wrist where it was rubbed raw. He heard her gasp, as his lips touched the tender area, and his shame grew.

Swallowing hard, Jack forced himself to face the woman he'd just hurt. [Tell it how it is, you bastard. You just raped her. You tied her up and raped her, just to release your own anger. You're despicable.] Whatever words he used would be totally inadequate to express his shame and sorrow at what he'd done, but he had to try.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I can't tell you how ashamed I am and I don't expect you to forgive me, but I'm sorry. If you'll show me how to use that instrument you used on me earlier, I'll try to make it better. Then I'll leave. I'm probably the last person you want around right now. I'll call your sister and leave. I'll go back to my own universe. I don't belong here. This place is too good for someone like me. You're too good for what I am now. So I'll go back and..."

The words had flooded out of him but the torrent was dammed by Angelique's fingers, laid gently against his lips.

"Stop. This isn't necessary. You think you've hurt me and you're sorry, but you'd hurt me a lot more if you left me now. Stay. Please." The words were whispered softly, and to Jack's amazement, all he could see in her face was love and kindness that he knew he didn't deserve

Jack didn't know what to say. He just looked at Angelique as she lay beside him, letting him hold onto her right hand, while her left hand still rested against his mouth. He moved his lips to kiss her fingers gently, whispering, "I'm sorry," again, then smiling sadly. "If you want me to stay, I can't say no to you. But can you forgive me?"

Angelique smiled as she whispered, "Of course." Then her smile turned mischievous, and her brilliant blue eyes sparkled with naughtiness, as she said, "On one condition."

Jack tilted his head to one side in query, as he kissed her hand again. "What condition? Whatever you want, it's yours if I can give it."

Angelique laughed softly. "Oh, this one is easy. You just have to promise me..." She paused and lifted her head so her lips just touched Jack's ear as she whispered, "Will you tie me up again, sometime? Please?"

Jack started to laugh as he pulled her into his arms. He couldn't even begin to understand his luck in meeting someone so right for him in this universe.

5th May 2273 – late at night

"Captain's Personal journal – May 5th, 23:00 hours. We've been sitting looking at the anomaly for more than two days now. Every few hours, it flicks open and then shuts again. Sometimes nothing happens, but more often than not, something comes through. We've destroyed three shuttles, four fighters and two probes during the last thirty-six hours. So far, nothing has got back through the rift, to tell whoever is on the other side about us."

The Captain ran through the events of the last two days in his mind. The ship had been on a constant state of alert, every crew member tense and ready for battle. Short and frantic bursts of action had interspersed long periods of inactivity. Gideon had been on duty for most of this time, coming back to his quarters only briefly, to sleep when he had to, and to dictate the letters he had to send to the families of his dead crew members. It had been a tough couple of days.

"I spent a few hours today debriefing 'Jack' and getting as much data as I can on these life forms. If he's to be believed, they have absolutely no redeeming features. They're close allies of the Drakh, and they're vicious, deadly and unremitting in their desire to kill every human they come across. Not the sort of neighbors we want in our universe. I guess we have their equivalent around somewhere, but fortunately, we haven't come across them yet and forewarned is forearmed. I've put everything I've got from Jack into a report to Sheridan, for circulation to the White Star fleet, who can then keep an eye out for these characters."

"In the meantime, my orders are to stay put, and play cat at the mouse-hole. Sheridan says he thinks he can get help for us, but he won't say from where."

Gideon paused in his recording, smiling to himself as he recalled how irritated he'd been at Sheridan's reticence. Maybe Deborah was right when she said her husband was nosy. The Captain resumed his record.

"Every time one of those damned things comes through the rift, I wonder what they might throw at us this time. Jack tells me they have ships big enough to take on the Excalibur, and on a couple of occasions only his ship's superior speed kept them in one piece. He had to run to keep his ship and crew alive."

Gideon leaned back, remembering his discussions with his counterpart from the other universe. He hoped that he never had to make the choices the other Gideon had been forced to make. Everything Jack told him about that other place made Gideon shudder. He would do anything he had to in his efforts to prevent his own universe becoming like that. Much as he disliked having his counterpart in this universe, Gideon hoped that Jack would decide to stay. They hadn't discussed whether Jack would stay or go, and they certainly hadn't discussed Jack's relationship with Angel, but Gideon was sure that no one deserved to live or die in that other place. Thinking of Angel led his thoughts inevitably to Deborah. Gideon continued.

"And every time one of those ships comes through and attacks us, I know how much fear my son is feeling. Deborah keeps her own fears to herself, and she's handled everything that's happened in the last couple of days, but I can't help worrying about her and Marcus. I keep asking myself if it's fair to keep them on board, when we risk being attacked at any time, but I know that Deborah would refuse to leave. I know that Marcus would be miserable if I sent them away. So maybe the time has come to consider my options. In two months, I'll complete twenty-five years service in Earthforce and I can retire on a full pension. Maybe it's time..."

The Captain stopped speaking, unwilling to verbalize his next thoughts. He wasn't yet ready to put his vague feelings into words. Gideon instructed the computer to erase everything after '...ship and crew alive.' Then he resumed his journal entry.

"I still have some more questions I want to ask Jack, but I'll cover those tomorrow. If I can drag him out of Angel's bed."

Falling back into silence, Gideon brooded for a while. He'd tried to tell himself that he wasn't jealous, and he'd then had to admit that he was. Although he was ashamed of those feelings, he couldn't deny them. The thought of another man, especially one identical to himself, making love to Angel, was difficult for him to accept. Gideon had thought he'd gotten over that, when she'd been with Luke, then Ursa, and finally Fillion, but it seemed that his brief affair with Angel the previous year had brought back all those possessive feelings. He told himself to get over it and move on.

Easier said than done.

The Captain leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and sighed. "Personal journal, end recording." It was late and he was tired. Time for bed. And maybe he wasn't too tired for... Gideon smiled and stood, looking forward to what he knew was waiting for him.

Gideon paused as he pulled off his sweater, and looked over to the bed, where his wife was sitting up, reading, with her back to the wall. The Captain smiled to himself. He knew Deborah had read that book several times before, but for her, reading was an addiction. She'd read anything and everything she could get her hands on, and once she'd got her nose in a book, only two things could distract her. The first was her son, and the second was her husband--not necessarily in that order. Gideon intended providing her with a great deal of distraction in the very near future. Deborah had the quilt pulled up under her arms, covering her breasts, but that was something else Gideon planned on changing soon.

He finished undressing and slid into bed, leaning across and taking the book from Deborah's hands. She protested as he placed it on the bedside table, saying, "Hey! I was just getting to the good bit!"

Gideon grinned and pulled her into his arms. "I have a good bit waiting for you over here. And it requires your undivided attention."

Just as he'd anticipated, Deborah chuckled and snuggled closer. "Well, if you mean what I think you do, it's certainly good, but it's a bit too big to be called a 'bit'. More like a gigabyte," she paused and gave Gideon a wicked smile, "and I might just have to give it a bit of a bite soon!"

Gideon laughed and rolled Deborah onto her back, pinning her to the bed by her shoulders, and pulling the quilt down to her waist, as he whispered, "No biting! Or I'll put a bit between your teeth." He lowered his head and started to kiss her, before she could come back with any smart mouthed response. He only wanted her to do one thing with her smart mouth just then.

"Hello, Captain. I do hope I'm not inconveniencing you, but I think we should talk."

The sonorous tone of the words jerked Gideon back from his preoccupation with his wife's body. Glancing over his shoulder, he was stunned and infuriated to see an elderly looking Minbari standing in the corner of the room.

"Who the fuck are you and what are you doing in my bedroom?!" Gideon grabbed the quilt, and pulled it up to cover Deborah's breasts. "Don't tell me. You're another fucking Technomage. You all seem to think that you can waltz into my bedroom at any time you like and..."

The Minbari interrupted the Captain's tirade with a booming and apparently outraged denial. "I am NOT a Technomage, and I am not in the habit of waltzing anywhere. Minbari do not waltz. Only humans indulge themselves in such undignified pursuits, and my current position would make waltzing quite impossible, even if I wished to pander to such base instincts, which I do not."

Gideon had opened his mouth to interrupt several times during this speech, but the volume and resonance of the voice delivering it, made all such attempts futile. [This bastard is worse than Alwyn!] When the Minbari finally stopped speaking, Gideon hissed, "I don't give a flying fuck whether you waltz, polka or jive your way out of here, although my personal preference would be for a quick step. Just get the hell out of my bedroom! NOW!"

The Minbari drew himself up, looking as offended and affronted as only a Minbari could. "If you feel so strongly about it, I will move next door and speak to you there. Do NOT keep me waiting!" He then disappeared, instantly and completely.

Gideon's jaw hung open, and he turned to stare at Deborah, who was trying to disguise her laughter as a coughing fit. "It's not funny! I'm going to get a complex, and I'll start looking over my shoulder every time I want to make love to you. You'll be the first to complain if these damned interruptions make me impotent!"

Deborah pulled his head down and kissed him quickly, whispering, "It'll never happen." Then she pushed Gideon away, saying, "You'd better go see your visitor. If he can pop in and out like that, he certainly merits some investigation. Can I come, too?"

Gideon grinned back at her. "I'd planned on making damned sure that you came. Get some clothes on and let's see what our visitor wants."

Demon followed her husband into the living area of their quarters, pulling the belt of her robe tightly around her waist. Matthew strode ahead of her--well, as much as someone in bare feet and a bathrobe could be said to stride--talking before he was fully out of the bedroom.

"So, do I get an answer to my questions? Who the hell are you? And just what were you doing in my bedroom?"

The Minbari was bent over, examining the books along the far wall. He straightened and turned, looking as supercilious as ever, as he said, "If you will phrase your question more politely, I will consider responding in kind. I was advised that President Sheridan and Delenn both hold you in high regard, but I must say that based on your recent behavior, I find that quite surprising. I don't like surprises."

Demon found it hard to suppress a smile. Very few people could stand up to her husband when he was in a rage, but this Minbari seemed completely unperturbed by Matthew's ranting. The almost Shakespearean delivery of his words added weight to the impressive manner of the visitor. Demon lowered herself to the couch and prepared herself for an interesting time. She had absolutely no doubt in Matthew's ability to subdue even a Minbari as haughty as this one.

"If you know Sheridan and Delenn so well, maybe I should call them and ask them who the hell you are. I doubt if they'd mind. After all, it's daytime in Tuzanor right now. At least, we won't be getting them out of bed!" Matthew's smile resembled that of a shark. Demon started to feel sorry for the Minbari and hoped that he was good at that vanishing act. He just might need it.

The Minbari drew himself up to his full height and boomed, "I am Draal!"

There was a long silence, which Matthew eventually broke. "And? Is that supposed to impress me? I still haven't heard a good reason for why you thought it appropriate to materialize in my bedroom. And you might like to tell me just how you do that."

Draal shook his head. "I did not 'materialize' as you put it. I have projected a holographic image of myself from where I reside on Epsilon III. And I do so at the request of President Sheridan, although I am beginning to believe that he was mistaken in his desire for me to offer my help. Perhaps I should return and ask him if he is sure you require assistance. Or should I just leave you here, and let the next wave of invaders from beyond the rift destroy you, your ship and your family, in whatever horribly painful way would be appropriate for such impertinence?"

The Minbari had placed his hands on his hips and leaned forward, mirroring Matthew's aggressive stance. Demon was irresistibly reminded of two stags going head to head, locking horns, neither willing to back down. She sent a wave of calm and serenity flowing through the room, and stood to move between the combatants.

"Gentlemen, please. If President Sheridan and Entil'zha Delenn thought you could help each other, then I'm sure you can." She turned to face Draal, leaning back against her husband's chest, drawing his arms around her waist, and she smiled. "Please, Draal, will you tell us how you can help us?" Demon could feel Matthew's hot breath against her neck, but could also feel that he was calming a little under the onslaught of her projections.

The Minbari bowed slightly. "You must be this..." He paused, obviously searching for a suitably insulting epithet, before finally deciding on, "human's wife. Delenn told me about you. You are an empath, are you not?"

Demon nodded and elbowed her husband into silence, when she felt him start to respond to the Minbari's rude tone.

"Very well. I am Draal, and I inhabit the Great Machine on Epsilon III, living with it and in it. I can use its powers to open and close holes in space and time. I can close this rift and keep it closed. You may go about your affairs and leave this to me. For you, it is a tedious and onerous chore, for me, it will be fun!"

The arrogance with which the message was delivered left both Gideon and Deborah speechless for a moment. Gently moving his wife to one side, Gideon glared at the intruder. "Epsilon III is the planet that Babylon 5 orbits. How come I've never heard of you before, if you're so goddamned omnipotent?"

He ignored Deborah's tugging on his sleeve and tried to disregard the waves of calm she was sending. Gideon had had enough of smart-mouthed, superior, senior citizens thinking they had free access to his bedroom.

The Minbari drew himself up again and looked down his nose at the Captain. "You are not privy to every secret of the President and Entil'zha, you know. Some things are best known to as few people as possible. The power of the Great Machine is one of those things. You would not know now, if you had not been required to."

That was the first thing Draal had said that Gideon could accept. He was quite familiar with the concept of 'need to know'. He applied it often enough himself, when it suited him. But before he was prepared to accept this Minbari's word, the Captain had a few more questions to ask and have answered.

"If you can open and close these holes, where the hell have you been these last few days, when we've had invaders dropping in whenever they feel like it? Why didn't you close this hole before?"

Draal did his best to cover, but even Gideon could tell he was slightly embarrassed. "I have been otherwise occupied. I did not appreciate your inability to handle this invasion, until President Sheridan drew your inadequacies to my attention." The embarrassment had faded as the Minbari spoke, to be replaced by his previous arrogance.

"Well, excuse me for being so inadequate, but it seems to me that we've done a pretty good job in keeping these bastards at bay, while you were 'distracted'. And I think I'll check with the President, before I just pull out and leave this area unprotected."

The Minbari gave Gideon a supercilious sneer and snapped, "If you must. I have other things to do, anyway. Dusting for one," then blinked out.

"Dusting? Goddamn it, that 'projecting' is really annoying!" Gideon glared at the empty space previously occupied by Draal. Then he turned to his wife and pulled her into his arms. "You know, somewhere, I think there's a large blinking neon sign that says, 'If you want to piss off Matthew Gideon, pop into his bedroom while he's making love to his wife.' I'd better call Sheridan and check this out. Go on to bed, and turn the lights out. At least that way, if he comes back, he won't be able to see what we're up to."

Deborah grinned, kissed him quickly and said, "Don't keep me waiting too long, or I may go looking for action elsewhere."

Gideon slapped Deborah's butt as she left the living area, shaking his head as he walked through to his desk. A man couldn't even climb into bed with his wife in peace and privacy these days.

Gideon sat back in his chair, waiting for his call to the President's office to go through. Even though he'd used his direct access, top priority channel, the Captain still expected to get stalled, delayed and entangled in the inevitable bureaucracy that attached itself to the office of any high ranking official.

He wondered for a moment whether he should take the time allowed by the delay to put some clothes on. Maybe the President wouldn't find the sight of a Starship Captain in his bathrobe particularly edifying. Then again, if Gideon bothered to get dressed, he could be sure that either a) the call would go through just as he had one leg in his pants and one leg out, or b) they would wait until he was fully dressed, then tell him that the President would call him back, at a time that was utterly inconvenient.

[Stuff it. Sheridan's a soldier. He's seen worse things than me in my bathrobe. It's a nice bathrobe, anyway. Nice and simple.] Gideon looked down at his robe and smiled. Being a gift from his wife, it was--inevitably--black.

The screen cleared, and to Gideon's surprise, the face he saw there was President Sheridan's. The Captain moved to stand and salute, but the President waved him back down, with a smile. "Nice robe, Captain. I assume you didn't call to show it to me?"

Gideon grinned and explained the reason for his call. Sheridan started to laugh, saying, "Can I assume from your attire that Draal got you out of bed? I hope he didn't interrupt anything important. If it's any consolation, he did the same to me the first time we met. Well, he bounced in when I'd just gotten out of the shower. I was a single man in those days so..."

Gideon interrupted before Sheridan could complete his sentence. "Let's just say it's a good thing Draal dropped in when he did. Another few minutes, and it could have been much more embarrassing." The Captain couldn't quite suppress the smile that played on his lips.

When Sheridan stopped laughing he said, "Draal contacted you at my request, Captain. He'll take over watching the mouse hole, and prevent any intruders getting through. You can leave that job to him now."

Gideon looked skeptical. "Excuse me for asking, but is that quite safe? I mean, he got distracted enough to let this happen in the first place, how do we know he won't get distracted again? From what Jack tells us, there are some mean bastards on his side of that rift. We really don't need them over here."

Sheridan nodded. "I agree, but don't worry about Draal. Even if he gets distracted, he'll put one of the Zathrases onto the job, and they'll take care of it. Zathras is reliable. I'll tell you about Zathras another time, but for now, you can leave the rift, and proceed to B5 for re-supply." The President looked troubled, then went on, "And your mention of 'Jack' reminds me. I have new orders for you. After you leave Babylon 5, I want you to come here to Minbar."

Gideon looked surprised. They had previously intended to go straight out to a planet on the Rim that had been discovered by the Rangers, and identified by them as having good potential for joining the ISA. Sheridan explained the Excalibur's new orders.

After ordering the Excalibur to move from their current station and proceed to Babylon 5, Gideon climbed into bed, took his wife in his arms and held her silently for a while. Deborah snuggled up to him, resting her head on his shoulder and her arm across his chest, while twining her leg through his. Gideon half-smiled, enjoying the warm softness of his wife's body against his. After a few moments of lying in silence, Deborah moved her head a little and kissed his shoulder. Then she looked up at him and smiled sadly. "I do try to block, but when we're this close, it's difficult. Is there anything I can do?"

Gideon looked down into the warm hazel eyes gazing up at him and smiled. She'd picked up on his worried feelings. He kissed his wife's forehead gently, saying, "Not really. I'm just concerned."

Deborah looked puzzled, but didn't speak, waiting for him to decide if he wanted to talk to her about whatever was troubling him. On this occasion, he did.

"It's Angel I'm worried about. Well, Angel and Jack. They've hardly come out of her rooms for the past two days, except when Jack was needed for questioning. Even then, he turned up about thirty seconds before the time we arranged, answered every question we asked, then left, moving like a bat out of hell, headed straight back to Angel's quarters."

Deborah smiled. "What do you expect? Do you remember what we were like, when we first met? We couldn't keep our hands off each other. Well, Angel and Jack are just the same. They're like bunnies on aphrodisiacs. Hot and heavy sex, whenever and wherever they can get it. Is Jack walking straight? Because when Angel came around here earlier, while you were interviewing Jack, she was definitely limping." She kissed Gideon's shoulder again and ran her hand down his flat belly, her intentions obvious. "Leave them alone, Matthew. They make each other happy, and they both need that. I'm hoping that at last Angel has found someone to love, someone who can give her the love she needs."

Gideon moved his hand to intercept Deborah's. "Don't try to distract me. It's Angel loving Jack that has me worried." He paused for a moment, thinking it through, telling himself that his anxiety didn't arise from jealousy, but from a genuine concern for Angel's well being. [Oh yeah, sure it does. No jealousy at all.] The Captain suppressed the nagging voice of his conscience and sighed heavily, aware that his wife was waiting for him to continue.

"I know you think Jack is a good man, but he worries me." Gideon went on to explain what had happened when he'd first met Jack. "The first thing he wanted to know about was that damned Box." He felt Deborah stiffen in his arms, and squeezed her gently. He explained his concerns.

"Jack kept his Box right until the end. He was under Lucas' influence a lot longer than I was. You say you'd know if Lucas had taken him over, but would you pick up on Lucas' influence? Would you sense the corruption and darkness that such an influence would bring? It's there you know. It was there in me, although I didn't realize it at the time. With hindsight, I can see how that damned thing was dragging me down, eating away at my sense of right and wrong. Jack was being manipulated by Lucas right up until a couple of days ago. He's not me, Deborah, no matter how much you and Angel want to think he is, and it worries me if Angel is getting too..." he searched for a neutral word, "involved with him."

Gideon took a deep breath and continued, "When I told him what had happened on Eriadne, about Lucas and how he took control of my body, Jack seemed shocked. He said he was glad the Box was destroyed, but..." He ran down, unable to put all his fears and concerns into words.

Deborah pushed herself away from him a little, looking at him seriously. "Matthew, I understand, but honestly, I'd know if Jack was like Lucas. Jack isn't you. He's darker than you, bitter and angry about many of the things that have happened to him, even more so since he's discovered that it was his own decisions and mistakes, particularly the mistake of trusting the wrong person, that led to so much tragedy in his universe. But underneath all that pain and rage, he's a good man."

Gideon reached up and stroked Deborah's cheek as she spoke. She closed her eyes and leaned into his hand, smiling as she went on. "He has your sense of justice and compassion, feelings Lucas never had. I don't think Lucas would even understand the meaning of those words. But Jack does. It's Jack's sense of justice that makes him angry at what happened to his Earth. It's his sense of compassion that drives his guilt about the wrong choices he made." She opened her eyes again, and the look she gave her husband was filled with love and passion. "He may be bitter and angry, but he has many of your good qualities."

The Captain smiled and pulled his wife into his arms, kissing the top of her head and asking quietly, "And what good qualities might they be? My rugged handsomeness? My poker face?"

Deborah gave a throaty chuckle and moved quickly. The next thing Gideon knew, he was lying on his back and his wife was sitting astride his hips. [How the hell does she do that? Oh hell, who cares? As long as she keeps on doing it.]

Leaning down to kiss him, Deborah whispered against his lips, "You know what your best quality is. And this is one occasion where quality and quantity are combined."

Gideon grinned up at his wife. "You only want me for sex, don't you? One of these days, I'm not going to be able to perform on demand and you're going to trade me in for a younger model." He was suddenly enveloped in a cocoon of love and passion, leaving him in no doubt that it wasn't just desire Deborah felt for him but much, much more. He laughed aloud, saying, "And what do you mean, we couldn't keep our hands off each other when we first met? We're just as bad now as we were then. Or at least you are. You can't keep your hands off me. I keep trying to fight you off but..."

Deborah interrupted him with a laugh and a raspberry, then she straightened and looked down at him, fondly. This gave Gideon the opportunity to lift his hand and caress her breast, running his thumb over her nipple, feeling it harden under his touch. No matter how many years he and his wife lived together, they could still arouse each other quickly and completely. The sensation of blood rushing into his cock, hardening it, as it lay pressed against Deborah's groin, was a testament to how she aroused him.

Gideon used his free hand to reach up and pull her down to kiss her, then smiled up at her, saying, "I'm hurt. Do you really think my best quality is my cock?"

Deborah laughed and shifted her hips, the movement causing him to groan and stiffen more. She lowered her head to his neck, and started to nibble on his ear as she whispered, "You'd be a damn sight more hurt if I didn't think that. Now shut up and use that best quality. I want it, and I want it now."

Gideon rolled over quickly, turning Deborah onto her back, and lying on top of her. He felt her move her legs apart, opening herself up to him, and he smiled wickedly. "Just for that, I'm going to make you wait. You're going to have to beg for it."

He then did everything that he knew would drive his wife wild with passion, building her arousal, teasing her, stroking her clit, fingering her, doing everything except letting her come. Finally, Deborah was screaming his name, sweat running from her body, as she begged him to fuck her. Gideon's restraint broke, and lifting himself above her, he drove into her, with one long, deep thrust. When he finally gave her what she needed, she came in long shuddering waves, projecting her orgasm outwards, forcing him to the brink, then holding him there, until Gideon was screaming as loudly as his wife. With one final contraction of every muscle, Deborah drove him into release, a climax that seemed to go on forever, until he finally collapsed into a sweaty, exhausted heap.

Gideon lay on top of his wife, panting for air, feeling as if he'd run a marathon, feeling the sweat between him and Deborah making their bodies slide over each other. He could feel her chest lifting as she inhaled air in great gasps, recovering slowly from their excesses.

After a few moments, Gideon lifted his head and looked down at his wife. "Was that good for you?"

Deborah started to laugh, and Gideon couldn't help doing the same. He slid off to one side of her, then pulled her tight against him, holding her until they both sobered enough to speak.

"I'm still worried." Gideon stroked Deborah's hair as she lay in his arms. He found that he was no longer tired, that somehow their love-making had refreshed him.

His wife sounded sleepy as she replied, "I know. I can feel it. Still about Jack and Angel?"

The Captain nodded, "Yes. Even if Jack is what you say he is, they may not have much of a future together."

That captured Deborah's attention and she moved her head from his shoulder, lying on her side, with her head propped on one hand, looking at him seriously. "Why not? If you're worried about the link between us, it's been getting weaker ever since..." Gideon watched as she swallowed hard, still unable to speak freely about what had happened on Centauri Prime months before.

Deborah cleared her throat and continued, "I don't think it would be a problem anymore for my sisters and me to be apart. Lily and I now have stronger links with our children than with each other, and it's getting harder for me to make contact with Angel, too. So if that's what's worrying you, it's OK."

Gideon shook his head. "Not that, although it's good to know that you aren't so closely linked any more." He paused for a moment. That might make it easier to put into effect some other plans he'd been pondering. He pushed that thought aside as he continued, "No, it's the orders I've just received from Sheridan."

The President had been very clear about those orders. After leaving Babylon 5, the Excalibur was to proceed at top speed to Minbar, where Jack Gideon was to leave the ship and submit himself for questioning. Gideon had asked why, when he'd already done a complete debriefing. Sheridan had looked unhappy as he'd explained that there were some members of the Gray Council, the Minbari ruling body, who weren't confident that Gideon had done a thorough job of interrogating his counterpart from another universe.

"They think you might have gone easy on him, Matt. That you might have been influenced by him being an alternative version of you. The Warrior caste wants to carry out more tests, ask more questions, to be certain they get everything he knows, everything that can stop us repeating the mistakes the people in Jack's universe made."

Gideon had expressed his outrage at the allegations, and his concern over what the Minbari had planned for Jack. "Tests? What the hell does that mean? Mental? Physical? I know some of those Warriors can play rough; I heard enough stories about that during the war. Surely Jack Gideon has rights? He doesn't have to subject himself to that, does he?"

Sheridan had sighed. "Technically, he has no rights. He's not from this universe, so he has no citizenship with any member of the ISA. Before he acquires such rights, he's going to have to demonstrate his commitment and cooperation. I know it stinks, but that's how it is. My hands are tied on this one, Matt. Just bring him along to Minbar. Delenn and I will do our best to make sure he's well treated and released after a full debriefing."

Gideon had been forced to accept that and had signed off, unhappy with the whole situation, but unable to see a way around it.

"Matthew? What is it? What orders?" Gideon's attention was drawn back to his wife, who was now frowning at him as she waited for him to speak. He briefly debated whether he should stay silent, whether by divulging his orders he would be breaching a confidence. [Fuck it, why not? She'll find out soon enough.]

The Captain sighed and told Deborah that he was required to take Jack to Minbar, for questioning. He didn't mention the Warriors, or his concerns about what might be done to Jack there, restricting his comments to wishing that Angel wouldn't get too involved with Jack. Unless she wanted to leave the ship at Minbar, it looked as if the couple would only have a few days together.

Deborah listened in silence, still frowning as she watched him carefully. Gideon knew that she could feel his concern, even if she didn't know the exact cause of it. When he finished, Deborah nodded, seriously. "That could be a problem. What would Angel do on Minbar?" She stared at Gideon silently for a while, before sighing and saying, "Well, it's too late to think of an answer to that tonight. Let's sleep on it."

She snuggled down into Gideon's arms, and he waved the light out, glad that his change of orders at least meant he wasn't on duty until noon.

Demon lay awake, listening to her husband's breathing slow, as he slid into a deep sleep. She knew it wasn't going to be quite so easy to get off to sleep herself. She was deeply concerned about what Matthew had told her. About what would happen to Jack, and how Angel would deal with the prospect of losing her new lover. Demon was careful to keep all this worry carefully buried within her, keeping her face and body still, and her emotions under tight control. Matthew might be asleep, but if she projected any of her worries, he would feel it in his dreams.

Moving slowly, to reposition her head as it lay on Matthew's shoulder, Demon settled herself to think about the future. She had a lot of questions with no answers, but she needed those answers desperately.

What would they do to Jack on Minbar? Could Angel stay with him there? What would she do if she couldn't? What future did Angel and Jack have together? Even if the Minbari let him go, what would Jack do with his life in this universe and how would Angel fit into that life? One thing Demon was totally sure of; she would do whatever was needed to ensure her sister's happiness.

Demon was also sure that Jack would be very unhappy about the idea of being questioned on Minbar. Matthew had been very discrete about what that questioning might involve, but Demon was sure that Jack wouldn't want to be constrained in any way. She knew that Matthew would hate such restrictions. It made sense that Jack would hate it too.

Jack's past was painful enough, he didn't need it to be constantly dredged over. What he needed was a future, and it would be best if that future could include Angel. They deserved to be together.

Demon decided that she would start making plans. Plans for a different future than the one the Minbari or even the President might envisage.

"Oh gods, yes, please, oh, don't, please..." Angelique moaned as Jack thrust into her. She was bent over the back of the chair in her living area, legs spread wide as Jack stood behind her, his cock buried deep inside her, as it had been for most of the previous two days.

They had made love, then they'd eaten, then made love, then slept, then made love, then talked, laughed and cried, then made love again. Jack was fascinated and captivated by Angelique. She was everything that he had ever dreamed of in a woman, and he'd amazed himself by thinking of the future, a future in which he and Angelique could be together. It had been a long time since Jack had allowed himself to think about the future. He had trained himself to avoid such thoughts, to forbid himself any desires about love, partnership, family and home. Such a future had been impossible. But now he had begun to think that in this universe he might just have a future after all, and that future might not have to be solitary.

In the last two days, Jack had become besotted with Angelique, devoting himself to her pleasure. He reached around her thigh and rubbed her clit in time with his thrusts, bringing her to climax, holding himself back as she got nearer and nearer, clamping down on his own need to come.

Finally, Jack felt her vagina tightening around his cock, and knew she was almost there. With one final hard thrust, he let go, releasing himself inside her, feeling his balls contract as he came, screaming Angelique's name. She climaxed with him, screaming her own ecstasy, as wave after wave of pleasure swept through her.

"Oh, please, yes, Lucas, harder, Lucas, harder, oh god, Lucas, yes!"

Jack collapsed over Angelique's sweating back and rested for a moment, getting his breath back, before he straightened and withdrew abruptly, turning and walking from the room. Clamping down on the despair he felt, Jack ignored Angelique's voice calling after him, as he charged through the bedroom into the bathroom, and climbed into the vibe shower. Everything in him wanted to scream, to strike out, to hurt someone for what had just happened, and he knew the only way to control himself was to hide himself away. If he could just have a little time alone, he could come to terms with his anger, with his sense of loss, bring himself back under control. Jack cursed himself for his own stupidity. How could he have allowed himself to believe in the future? He turned on the vibe and stood still, his head back and his eyes closed, as the vibrations rippled across his skin.

"Jack? What's the matter?" Angelique's voice came from outside the shower door, sounding hurt and concerned. Jack ignored her, wishing she would go away and leave him alone for a while. If she'd leave him alone, maybe he wouldn't be so angry, so hurt, so lost. Maybe he wouldn't lash out at her, hurting her in return for how she had hurt him.

"Jack? Talk to me." The door of the shower started to open, and Jack knew it was useless. She wanted an explanation, and she wasn't going to leave until she had it. Hanging onto the last shreds of his temper, he turned off the vibe and pushed past Angelique, as she stood in the open doorway. Grabbing a towel from the rail, Jack pulled it around his waist, covering himself. He tried to ignore Angelique's naked body as she stood looking at him, her hurt and confusion clear on her face. She obviously had no idea what she'd done.

Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then spoke in an even tone. "Clean yourself up, then we'll talk." He pointed to where his semen had dried on her thigh.

Angelique looked down and blushed, then looked back up at Jack, her expression puzzled. "Do I look dirty to you? Do you think I'm dirty, Jack? I don't understand. What have I done?"

Jack grabbed another towel and threw it at her. "Clean yourself, cover yourself, I don't care which." He walked out of the bathroom, moving over to the chair in the bedroom where his clothes lay. He was still struggling with his anger and temper, and he was very much aware that Angelique stood in the doorway, watching him as he dressed quickly. The silence between them lengthened, as Jack bent to pull on his socks and tie his shoes. He stood to pull on the shirt that Angelique had brought him, to replace the one that had been damaged.

As he buttoned the shirt, he glanced over at Angelique. She stood watching him, the towel he had thrown at her clutched in front of her. The expression on Angelique's face had changed from puzzlement to anger. As Jack fastened his collar, she threw the towel back at him and yelled, "Well, fuck you!" then spun around to go back into the bathroom.

Her words broke the dam of Jack's control. He lunged across the room, grabbed her arm and pulled her around to face him. "Not until you can remember who's fucking you!" He dropped her arm and turned to storm out of the bedroom into the living area, then froze in his tracks, unable to move. Angelique was using her telekinesis to hold him in place.

Forcing words through frozen lips, Jack managed to hiss, "Is this how you keep your lovers? It's what you did to the Captain when he first arrived on Eriadne, isn't it? Are you planning on using your powers to rape me, too?" His anger was now completely unleashed.

"You bastard! How could you throw that at me, after I confided in you? Why are you doing this?" Angelique's words were full of pain and anger, but Jack felt his limbs relax as she released her hold on him.

Jack took another deep breath and turned to face her. Angelique stood in the doorway to her bedroom, still naked, but furious. She had never looked more beautiful to him, but he hardened his heart to her loveliness and her obvious pain. "You really don't know, do you? You have no idea what you said."

Angelique's blue eyes blazed and the freckles stood out across her nose and cheekbones. "What did I say? What could I have said that would make you be such a bastard?"

Jack glared back at her, saying only one word. "Lucas." He watched as Angelique's hand flew to cover her mouth and her eyes opened wide, but she said nothing. The silence between them seemed to stretch on forever, until eventually Jack sighed. "It's not the first time, but it's the last. I can't do this any more. I won't pretend to be someone else, someone you still love, Angelique. If you want him so much, go find him. I won't try to be a substitute for him."

Angelique's eyes filled with tears. "It's not like that! I can't help it. I can't change my past. I can't pretend I never knew Lucas, and you remind me of him in so many ways. You look like him and sound like him, you even smell like him. I know who's making love to me, I know it's you, Jack, but..." She ran out of words, unable to explain what she felt, what she wanted. Jack had to steel himself against her. He longed to take her into his arms, to comfort her, to tell her that he loved her, but he was too proud for that. Jack wasn't prepared to be second best to anyone, especially not to Lucas Buck, not after what he'd heard about that bastard.

"But what? If you know it's me, why do you call out his name? Why do you dream of him, saying his name in your sleep? You didn't know that, did you? You didn't know you call out for him at night. 'Lucas. Come back to me, Lucas.' I've listened to that these last two nights, over and over. Well, I'm not Lucas, and I never will be. If he means that much to you, then you'd better go looking for him, as it seems that no one else can replace him."

Jack's anger had grown as he spoke. He wouldn't allow himself to feel the pain that Angelique's betrayal caused him. He didn't want to experience the anguish that her inability to love him created. This was the first woman he'd ever met who he'd thought he might be able to spend the rest of his life with. Everything about her had been perfect. Her beauty, both in body and spirit, her generosity and kindness, her intelligence, her humor and her passion had all entranced him. Jack felt that somehow it was only just that she couldn't love him in return. He knew that he didn't deserve that sort of happiness, but it hurt too much to admit all of that, so he buried his pain in anger, and turned that anger on the woman who didn't love him, as he loved her. He turned that anger outwards and continued to rant.

"It would be bad enough if it was just Lucas' name you called out in the night, in moments of passion, but it seems that you can't even be faithful to one lover. Do you know that you call out Matt's name, too? Your brother-in-law. It seems you've never quite gotten over him, either. That stinks. Demon is a kind, generous woman. She doesn't deserve to have her sister lusting after her husband. Do you plan on trying to take Matt away from her? Maybe you want all three of us together. Three identical lovers, would that satisfy you? Because it seems that I can't."

Angelique's eyes had flared as Jack spoke, the bright blue sparkling with anger. Her voice was filled with fury as she replied. "How dare you! I love my sister, and I would never do anything to hurt her! You don't know her, and it seems that you don't know me. If you think I'm capable of doing that to Demon, then you must think I'm pretty despicable. I don't know why you'd even want to spend time with me, never mind make love to me. I must disgust you, so why don't you leave? Just get out and don't come back!" Her voice ascended to a scream as she spoke and with her last words, Angelique picked up a vase that stood on the shelf next to the door and flung it at Jack.

He ducked, and the vase just missed him. Without another word, Jack turned and walked out of Angelique's room, vowing to himself that he would never set eyes on her again. As the doors closed behind him, he wondered if he had heard her call his name softly, then dismissed the thought. After what had been said, there was no turning back.

Jack stormed along the corridors, aware that they were quiet, few of the crew being on duty in the early hours of the morning ship's time. Arriving at the door to the bullet car, Jack signaled and waited for the car to arrive, wondering where he could go. Back to Medbay? Would the side room there still be available? Somehow the thought of going back there was unbearable. He'd feel as if his tail was between his legs after Angelique had kicked him out. No, his pride wouldn't let him go back to Luke Raven begging for a bed.

The bullet car arrived and Jack climbed aboard, lowering himself wearily into his seat, glad that the car was empty. He sat back and closed his eyes. The last few days had been exhausting. Making love to Angelique may have been intensely pleasurable, but it hadn't been exactly relaxing. Every muscle and bone in Jack's body seemed to ache and for a brief moment, he longed for a regenerator. The thought of how good it would feel to be stretched out on Angelique's bed, while she ran the regenerator over his tired, aching body made Jack groan aloud. Banishing the image from his mind, he slumped forward, holding his head in his hands, wondering where to go and what to do next.

Jack straightened and smiled sadly, realizing that he was in the perfect place for a man with nowhere to go. He would just stay on the bullet car, circling the ship, going nowhere at one hundred and twenty miles per hour.

6th May 2273 – morning

Demon and Marcus were finishing their breakfast, Matthew having left for his shift a few minutes before. Demon was listening, smiling, as Marcus told her exactly what games he planned on playing with Dasha and Faylinn later. He fitted his words in between mouthfuls of cereal, his mother occasionally suggesting that he might like to slow down, before he choked. Like most four year olds, Marcus hadn't quite gotten to grips with table manners, but Demon was working on it.

She reached out to wipe her son's chin, as he spluttered, "Flynn wants to play with my new Rangers' game, but I won't let her. Only Dasha and I can play, 'cause Flynn's a girl!"

Marcus' tone as he said the last word was so full of outrage, his mother had to bite her lip to hide her amusement. She had just decided that she needed to have further words with her son about equality and discrimination, and to remind him about what had happened to Half-Ted when he had pushed Faylinn too far in the past, when the door buzzer sounded. Demon wondered who might be visiting at that time. Her sisters usually called through their link before arriving at her door, and the members of the crew who were her friends, such as G'Tan, also usually called ahead, to make sure that she was free, and not tied up with either Marcus or writing.

Demon called for the door to open, and inhaled sharply when she saw who stood outside. It was Jack, and from his haggard looks, and the aura of pain he projected, Demon could tell that something was very wrong. A quiet whimper of sadness from her son brought her attention back to the child. Marcus was looking at the man in the doorway, and the little boy's eyes had filled with tears. He leaned against his mother for comfort and sent through their link, [[Why is Uncle Jack so sad?]]

Demon caught her son up in her arms and hugged him, projecting calm and happiness. She sent back, [[I don't know, but I think perhaps he wants to tell me. That's probably why he's come to see me. Let's find out, shall we?]]

She smiled at Jack, and gestured for him to enter the room, saying, "You caught us at breakfast. Let me just clear these things away." Demon paused and looked at Jack again. He stood frozen in the doorway, his face a mask. "Have you had anything to eat yet? Can I get you something?"

Jack shook his head. "I'm sorry. I'll come back later." He turned and started to leave, but Demon called him back.

"Don't go. Let me get you some breakfast, then I'll take Marcus to the Medbay crèche. We can talk when I get back."

Jack hesitated. Marcus squirmed in his mother's arms, indicating that he wanted her to put him down. Demon stooped and let her son go, watching as he immediately ran to the man in the doorway, taking his hand and leading him to the dining table.

Marcus' voice was very serious as he pushed Jack into a seat. "Mummy says that breakfast is very important. She says I won't grow up big and strong if I don't eat my cereal." He looked up into Jack's face and gave his most disarming smile. "You're big already, but if you want to be strong, you have to eat your breakfast."

Demon watched as Jack reached out and stroked the child's hair, smiling sadly. "Your Mommy is a clever lady, Marcus. So I guess we'd both better do as she says." Demon could feel the pain and sorrow that Jack felt, his sadness and regret as he looked at her son. She knew that Marcus would also be picking up on those feelings, and that he wouldn't understand them, so she wanted to get her son out of the room as quickly as she could. Then she could devote her attention to Jack and his troubles.

"OK, Mister. Go wash your hands and face, while I get Jack his very important breakfast, then I'll take you to the crèche." Marcus protested that his hands and face were quite clean, and that he was big enough to take himself to the crèche. Demon laughed and gently swatted his butt, sending him on his way to the bathroom. Then she cleared away the dirty dishes and got toast and coffee ready for Jack. As she prepared the food, Demon chatted about Marcus, his eating habits, his table manners, and his current contempt for females. She filled the silence, allowing Jack to sit quietly, not having to contribute to the conversation, until Marcus rushed back into the room. His face and hands showed little improvement since he'd left, but he now held Half-Ted tightly in his arms.

Marcus approached the man sitting silently at the table, and held out the teddy bear. Jack took it from him and looked questioningly at the child. Marcus smiled tentatively, then said quietly, "When I feel scared and sad, I hug Half-Ted, and he makes me feel better. I chewed off one of his ears when I was a baby, but I'm a big boy now, so I don't do that any more. I thought you might like to hug him."

Demon's eyes filled with tears as she watched her son stand on tiptoe and kiss Jack's cheek. When Marcus ran to her, she swept him into her arms and hugged him fiercely, then turned to Jack, saying, "I won't be long. Please, eat." Then she almost ran from the room, unable to bear the waves of sadness emanating from the man sitting at the table.

Jack sat at the table, holding his head in his hands, his food untouched in front of him. He told himself that he should leave, go back to Medbay, go hide on the bullet car, go anywhere, somewhere, away from here. The sight of Demon and Marcus, and the child's sadness and kindness, had reduced him to tears. Jack was glad that Demon had left so abruptly, giving him time to pull himself together again.

Taking a deep breath, he straightened and wiped away the tears, then stood and walked through to the kitchen area. Dampening a towel at the sink, he scrubbed his face quickly, then returned to the table and began methodically eating the now cold toast, and drinking the coffee Demon had prepared for him. The idea of wasting good food and drink was abhorrent after Jack's experiences in his own universe, so he forced every mouthful down, staring at the teddy bear as he did so.

Had his pain and sorrow been so obvious that even a small child could see it? Jack found the idea humiliating. He'd always thought he had a good poker face. Then he remembered what Luke had told him. Marcus was an empath like his mother. Of course the little boy had known what Jack was feeling, he could hardly help it. It also explained Demon's sudden departure with her son. She probably wanted to get the child away from Jack, when he was feeling so depressed.

Jack picked up the teddy bear and smiled sadly. It had been a kind and generous gesture by the little boy, but then these people had all been kind and generous to him. Even Angelique... Jack stopped his thoughts abruptly, not allowing himself to think of the woman he had lost. But looking at the bear made thoughts of her inevitable. If she had loved him, could they have had a child of their own? What would their child have been like?

His thoughts wandered, and he found himself imagining a little girl. A beautiful little girl with raven hair and hazel eyes, slim and strong, with a mischievous streak a mile wide and a great sense of fun. For a moment, Jack longed for that little girl, the child that he and Angelique would never have. He shook himself and banished those thoughts from his mind. That was never going to happen.

The sound of the doors sliding open made Jack look up, and he saw Demon standing in the doorway. She walked silently over to the table and held out her hand, smiling at him as he took it, and she pulled him to his feet, then led him across to the sofa. When they were sitting side by side, Demon squeezed his hand gently, and said quietly, "Tell me what's wrong."

Jack hesitated before he said quietly, "I have no idea why I came here. There's nothing I need to trouble you with. I should go." He started to stand, but Demon pulled him back down onto the sofa. In the time she had been away, Jack's pain hadn't diminished in any way. The depth of his sadness worried Demon. Although he had declined the offer to go back to his own universe, and that option was no longer open to him anyway, Demon could sense a self-destructiveness in Jack, a darkness that could turn in on itself and lead him into total despair. She was all too aware of her husband's tendencies in that direction, and Jack had the same traits, but magnified by his last few years of hopelessness.

Demon squeezed his hand gently again, and smiled sadly at him. "You came here to talk. But now you're wondering if you should talk to me, when it involves my sister." Seeing the surprised look on Jack's face, Demon held up her hand and smiled. "Don't worry, I'm not a telepath. I'm not reading your mind. What I am is an empath, so I can sense what you're feeling, and I'm not stupid, either. You've spent every moment of the last two days with Angel. It's a strong probability that whatever you're feeling now has something to do with her."

Jack smiled sadly, then looked carefully at the side of Demon's head. When she looked quizzically at him, he half laughed, "I was just checking for pointed ears. You're way too logical to be human."

Demon laughed and raised her free hand to Jack's hair, pushing back a lock that had fallen over his forehead. "So tell me, before I do a mind-meld on you." She felt a shift in Jack's emotions at that moment. His previous depression and despair turned to determination, underpinned by anger, but Demon was sure that his anger wasn't directed at her or her joke. He had decided to talk.

Jack raised her hand to his lips and kissed it, then started speaking. He told her how he had felt for Angel, how he had began to think they had a future together. Demon wanted to cheer. That was exactly what she had hoped for when she'd thrown them together, but she was well aware that his presence here now meant that all had not gone well. She waited for him to get to the bad news. It was worse than Demon had thought. Her heart went out to the man in front of her, as he described how Angel had called out Lucas' name in her dreams, and at the height of her passion. She knew how devastating that must have been to Jack, when he had fallen so much in love with Angel.

Demon tried not to become angry with her sister. She told herself that Angel couldn't help what had happened to her, that it wasn't her fault. Lucas had taken Angel, twisted and molded her to become his own, body and soul. Despite the years they had been apart, Demon knew that Angel still wasn't free of him. What Jack was telling her only reinforced that knowledge.

Jack had fallen silent, while Demon brooded on her sister's past. When she looked up at him again, Demon was aware that he was still holding something back. There was something else, but he wasn't prepared to talk about it. For a moment, she wondered what it could be. Then it was obvious. If Angel had called out Lucas' name, then it was likely that she had called out the name of another man she loved.

Matthew's name.

Jack would never understand that Demon didn't consider this a betrayal, that she knew of the love that existed between her husband and her sister and accepted it, being unthreatened by it. Demon decided that it would be too complicated to try to explain, so she didn't press Jack for more details, leaving him to think he had kept his secret. She smiled inside at how Jack was trying to protect her. Yet another way in which he and Matthew were the same.

"I'm sorry, Jack. I wish there was something I could say or do to change this, but I don't think there's anything anyone can do. Lucas is like an infection in Angel's soul. I don't know how to cure it, or even if there is a cure. I suspect that one day she'll have to confront him again. It's the only way she'll ever be free of him."

That thought frightened and angered Demon. She couldn't help remembering the choice Lucas had offered her when they'd last met. The choice she still hadn't made. Demon was careful to keep her emotions under control and her face impassive, as she thought about the monster who had done so much damage. Lucas was like a stone of evil dropped into the pool of their lives. Sometimes it seemed as if the ripples of pain he had created would never end.

Demon smiled sadly at the man sitting next to her, the man who looked so like her husband, the man she couldn't help but love for that resemblance. "What do you want to do now, Jack?"

Jack shrugged, the gesture trying to hide the sense of despair he felt when the future was mentioned. Demon knew that any dreams he might have harbored had been shattered by his argument with Angel. She listened as he said quietly, "I don't know. I can't stay here. I have to get away from Angelique. I can't bear to see her, knowing that she..." His voice stopped in mid-sentence, as he all but choked on his own words. He began again. "I have to go somewhere, start a new life for myself. I'm just not sure how or where to start."

Demon fell silent, wondering what she should do. Should she tell Jack about Matthew's orders? Wouldn't that be a betrayal of Matthew's confidence? She looked at Jack closely, still holding his hand tightly, and his resemblance to her husband was her undoing. Demon knew that she could never allow this man to be taken to Minbar to be questioned. She knew how much Matthew would have hated that confinement. Jack was enough like Matthew to hate it just as much. Demon reached her decision. Jack had suffered enough, she wouldn't allow him to suffer more. No matter how well-meaning his captors might be, they would still hold and detain Jack in a way he would find intolerable.

Taking a deep breath, and swearing to herself that somehow, someday, she would make this up to her husband, Demon told Jack what she knew about Matthew's orders. She could feel his horror growing, as she outlined what the President had told Matthew. How they wanted question Jack further, to find out more.

Jack exploded to his feet, pacing the room. "NO! Absolutely not! I've told them everything I know. I can't tell them anymore and I won't be locked up in some Minbari cage, no matter how beautifully gilded, while they try to screw more out of me. I have to get out of here before..."

Demon leaped to her feet and stood in front of him, interrupting his angry flow of words. "I know! I'll help."

Jack stared at her in amazement, then shook his head. "You can't. You've done more than enough by telling me this. If I were your husband, I'd be furious with you for doing that much. I won't let you make things worse by actively helping me." He started to head toward the door, but Demon grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

"Let me worry about Matthew. I'll deal with that when I have to. But without my help, you'll never get off this ship, and I can make it easier for you to start a new life."

Jack's lips curved into a contemptuous smile. "Want to bet I can't make it past any security this ship has in place?"

Demon laughed, then dragged him back over to the sofa, forcing him to sit. "I never bet against my husband, so I certainly won't bet against you, but I can make it one hell of a lot easier for you. We'll arrive at Babylon 5 in a few hours, for re-supply. We'll be there for over a day, before we leave for Minbar. As soon as we arrive, Matthew has told me he'll be going over there to meet up with the Captain. They're old friends from their academy days." Demon paused and looked quizzically at Jack. "You probably knew his equivalent in your universe. Captain Ben Marriot."

Jack laughed. "They made Ben the Captain of B5? God help them. He's a bigger rogue than I am." His face fell into sad lines as he went on, "In my universe, Ben died a while ago. It's good to hear he's still alive here."

Demon smiled. "Alive and well. He's out of his wheelchair and happily married now." She hurried on before they could get sidetracked again. "You can take one of Matthew's uniforms. I'll let you know when Matthew gets back from B5. Once he gets home, he won't be leaving these rooms again until morning." Demon smiled to herself. She knew exactly how she could keep Matthew at home. A part of her rebelled at the idea of using her husband's passion for her against him in this way, but Demon knew she would never forgive herself if anything bad happened to Jack.

She steeled herself and went on. "You can leave the ship then. Dress in Matthew's uniform, and take the bag I'll give you. If anyone asks, you can say you're going back to see Ben with a little gift for him. Once aboard B5, you can disappear into Downbelow. They'll never find you there, and you can start building a new life for yourself." Demon swallowed hard as she saw the sadness in Jack's eyes and felt his pain. It was obvious that he'd begun to think that he could share that new life with Angel, but that wasn't to be.

Shaking her sorrow for Jack aside, Demon reached out and ran her fingers through his hair, smiling. "I'd better get hold of some hair dye for you before then. I'm afraid that you're going to have to lose those distinguished gray streaks." His hair was shorter now than when he'd arrived on the Excalibur, and Demon realized that Angel must have trimmed it for him. It was pretty much the same length as Matthew's, and without the gray, no one would notice the difference.

Jack took her hand and kissed it. He shook his head, saying, "It's a good plan, but I can't let you do that. The Captain...Matt, would never forgive you. I know I wouldn't. I'll find another way."

Demon squeezed his hand, determined now. "I'll find a way to make Matthew forgive me, and he might not be as angry as you think. I know he's not happy with the orders he's been given about you. He may, deep down, be grateful that he won't have to follow them. I'll just have to be especially nice to him for a while to make it up to him." She mentally crossed her fingers, hoping against hope that her words were the truth.

To cover her doubts, Demon smiled lasciviously and Jack laughed. "I could almost envy him." His face turned serious as he went on, "Are you sure? It is a good plan, but I can probably find some other way..."

Demon interrupted him again, by laying her fingers on his lips. "No more discussion. It's agreed. Now, when you get to B5, you're going to need some credits. If I try to transfer any to you from my accounts, they could be traced, but there's another way." She stood up and led Jack across to the bookshelves. "Matthew and I are very well off these days. We don't spend what he earns, and we've made some shrewd investments. We also have these." She gestured at the shelves and Jack looked puzzled. "The books. They're nearly all first editions, and all very valuable. I'll pick a few out and give you the name of a dealer we've used on B5. He's very discrete, and he won't ask any questions, if he thinks you're Matthew."

The expression on Jack's face was incredulous. Demon could sense his astonishment at what she had just offered and she laughed, "Don't worry! There are lots more where these came from, and Matthew will never notice they've gone. Now, I'll just get a bag that won't look out of place with Matthew's uniform."

Demon went to leave the room, but Jack caught her hand and pulled her back to face him. The look of gratitude in his eyes made Demon want to weep, but she smiled as he asked, "Why? Why are you doing all this? Giving me so much and risking angering your husband. Why would you do this for someone you only met a couple of days ago, and hardly know?"

Demon smiled again, raising her hand to caress Jack's face. "You may have met me only a couple of days ago, but I've loved most of you for years." She saw the questioning look on Jack's face and sensed his bemusement at her words. "Let me explain. Until five years ago, you and Matthew were essentially the same person. So about 90% of you is the same as the man I adore. I would do anything for him, anything in my power to help him, so I will do 90% of anything for you. Just common sense, really." She grinned as she spoke.

Jack laughed and pulled her into his arms, kissing her gently and chastely, mouth closed. It took Demon by surprise and she had to fight not to melt into his arms, opening her mouth, surrendering herself to him as she would have done to her husband. [Pull yourself together, woman! This is NOT Matthew.]

When Jack released her, Demon took a step back and looked at him in surprise. Jack laughed, "You're far too beautiful to be a Vulcan, but I still think you're hiding pointy ears under all that hair. Your logic is inescapable. How can I ever repay you?"

Demon looked at Jack seriously, hoping that he wouldn't find her next words too painful, but knowing that he probably would.

"You can repay me by not giving up on Angel. I know that you love her, I can feel it, and one day I hope that she may be able to see beyond Lucas and love you properly in return, love you as you deserve to be loved. Don't dismiss that possibility." Jack was shaking his head, so Demon went on. "That's what I want in return. Do we have a deal? I know that Matthew is a man of his word, despite being a bit of a rogue and a gambler, so I know that you are, too. Promise me you won't totally give up on Angel, and promise you'll send me messages from time to time. I want to be able to call on you if I need you. Will you promise me those things?"

Jack looked at her long and hard, and Demon knew that he was having trouble deciding. Could she refuse to help him if he wouldn't promise? Probably not, but she had to try. She had to try to keep that door open, no matter how tiny the crack, for her sister's sake.

Eventually, Jack nodded. "I'll try. I'll certainly get messages to you, and find a way for you to contact me if you need me. As for Angelique...I'll try. Is that enough?"

Demon smiled, sensing that he was telling the truth. "More than enough. It's as much as anyone could ask."

She turned to the bookshelves and selected four books, then went to the bedroom. There she took out a hold-all, putting the books, a few items of clothing and a uniform into it. As she folded the uniform, Demon wondered just how angry Matthew would be. He had only worn this a few times, it had been delivered with their last supplies. She smiled and shook her head. The loss of a uniform wouldn't make Matthew angry. He would be far more upset by what he might see as his wife's betrayal. Demon could only hope that he would give her chance to explain, that he would listen. She told herself that he was a fair man, and that he loved her. Of course, he'd give her a chance.

Pushing all her doubts aside, Demon took the hold-all back to the living room, where Jack waited. She held out the bag and he took it from her, then turned toward the door.

Jack stopped abruptly, then turned to Demon, saying, "I don't know where to go. Where's the best place for me to stay, until we get to Babylon 5?"

Demon smiled and took his hand, leading him out of the door and along the corridor. After a few minutes walking, they arrived at some doors and Demon told Jack to order them open. The doors responded instantly.

Leading Jack into the room, Demon explained. "These rooms were set aside for you two days ago. You can stay here, until I call you to let you know we're at B5."

As she turned to leave, Jack caught her hand and held her back. Demon looked into Jack's golden eyes, so like her husband's, and saw the pain and gratitude there. He whispered, "I don't have the words to thank you. Your husband is a very lucky man." Then he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it gently, almost reverently.

Demon swallowed hard, sensing Jack's real appreciation for what she was doing, overlaying his pain and despair. She could only hope that one day this sorrowful man could find some happiness. She kissed him on the cheek, whispering, "One day you'll be lucky, too," before turning and almost running from the room.

6th May 2273 - evening

Jack leaned forward and examined his hair in the mirror. The stuff Demon had brought him had eradicated the gray streaks, but he still wasn't sure how closely he resembled the Matthew Gideon of this universe. That Gideon looked younger than Jack, not having the lines of pain etched into the planes of his face. He was also heavier than Jack, having fed regularly and well for the past few years.

Looking down at the uniform he now wore, Jack wondered if this plan was going to work. He ran his fingers over the fabric of the black jacket. It was much softer and more comfortable than the one Jack had worn for so many years, even if it did hang a little loosely. Yet another way in which this universe's Matthew Gideon had got a better deal. Life was unfair. Jack shrugged and straightened. No one had ever pretended that it wasn't. He'd just have to play the hand he was dealt. For a while, he'd hoped that he wouldn't have to play it alone, that Angelique could partner him, but he'd been wrong. So be it.

Jack turned and picked up the bag Demon had given him. He had checked inside earlier when he'd changed into his uniform and found that she had filled it with things he might need, as well as the books he could sell. Yet again, Jack had wondered why Demon had been so generous to him and hoped that it wouldn't cause her problems with her husband. She had called a few minutes before, to let him know that Gideon was home and in the shower, so it was safe for Jack to depart.

Bracing himself, Jack turned and left the room, striding confidently down the corridor to the bullet car, nodding to the people he passed, relieved when they just nodded back, none of them looking at him too closely. The bullet car was empty, giving Jack the opportunity to prepare himself for the biggest hurdle.

Arriving at landing bay, Jack noticed Trace Miller lounging against the wall, chatting to an attractive young Ensign. Jack smiled to himself. [Perfect.]

"Trace? Sorry to drag you away, but could you do me a favor? I need to get back to B5. I forgot to take this over with me earlier." Jack held up his bag and smiled at the young Ensign, wishing he knew her name.

Trace grinned. "Sure. Would you mind if Louise came with us? She just got off duty, and I was hoping to be able to show her the station. She's never been to B5 before." He indicated the Ensign, and Jack smiled at her again.

"Sounds like a plan. Let's go."

Within a few minutes, they were on the shuttle heading for Babylon 5. Jack sat in the co-pilot's seat, watching the station grow larger as they approached. The sight brought back so many memories, good and bad. He remembered when he had first gone there with the Excalibur, when he and Elizabeth had first...That was one of the good times. The bad times had come later, when he and Elizabeth had fought, both too wrapped up in their careers to make room for each other in their lives.

Jack sighed. Demon had told him that Elizabeth had made General, and Jack hoped that made her happy. He hoped that she could also find someone to let into her life and give her the happiness that no career could ever give. He wished that he could find that for himself, too, but having lost Angelique...

The slight jolt of the shuttle docking roused Jack from his thoughts. He thanked Trace, smiled again at Louise and disembarked, grateful that the pilot didn't seem to have noticed any change in his Captain. Sometimes having a reputation for being taciturn could be useful.

Jack strode through the corridor to Security, smiling broadly at Zack Allen when he arrived at the check point, pleased that someone he knew was waiting there. "Good evening, Mr. Allen. I think my memory is failing me. I forgot to bring this over with me when I saw Captain Marriot earlier."

Zack glowered back at him, muttering something about his memory being fine and it being nice to see the Captain back in uniform. Jack wondered what the hell Zack was talking about, and what Gideon might have done to piss off the Security Chief. He smiled and kept his mouth shut, while Zack ran a scanner over his bag and waved him through.

Following well remembered corridors, Jack finally arrived at the Zocalo. He breathed in the smells of the place, smells that dragged him right back to years before, when he had walked this market with Elizabeth. A sudden glimpse of the entrance to the Eclipse Café reminded him of the time she had first taken him for dinner there. He could hardly believe that this place still existed in this universe, and he felt a moment's regret for its loss in his own. [No time for regrets,] Jack told himself sternly. He had places to go and things to do. The first thing was to sell the books Demon had given him, then lose the uniform, and then...

Jack had little idea what he would do after that, but it didn't matter. Somehow, he would build a new life for himself in this new universe. One step at a time.

7th May 2273 – morning

Gideon sat at his desk, waiting for his call to President Sheridan's office to go through. He was not looking forward to this conversation. It was certain to be more problematical than his discussion with the President thirty-six hours earlier. The Captain was quietly seething, hoping that he could get rid of some of the anger he was feeling before he saw his wife. He hadn't spoken to her yet, but he knew what she had done. He knew that Deborah had helped Jack get off the Excalibur, and in doing so, Gideon felt she had betrayed his confidence. Telling himself that he should never have trusted her with the knowledge of what the Minbari had planned for Jack, Gideon sighed deeply, wondering how long it would be before the President could speak to him. This was one message that the Captain wanted to deliver in person.

While waiting, Gideon ran over the events of the last few hours in his mind. He had gone to see Ben Marriot as soon as they'd arrived at Babylon 5, and made all the necessary arrangements, before returning to his quarters for a quiet evening at home with his wife and son. With hindsight, Gideon wondered whether Deborah had been more affectionate than usual, more attentive to his needs, to ensure that he didn't leave their quarters that night, giving Jack the opportunity to escape. The Captain would have liked to dismiss that possibility, knowing that his wife was always affectionate and attentive. Surely she wouldn't have gone so far in her betrayal.

Would she?

The doubt nagged at Gideon's mind, increasing his irritation. Why couldn't Deborah have talked to him? Why hadn't she shared her concerns, her fears of what would be done to Jack? And why did she feel so much for this stranger that she was willing to betray her husband's confidence to help him? Gideon realized that this question lay at the heart of his anger. He wanted to know just how much Deborah had cared for Jack. Obviously enough to help him escape, but just how far...Gideon shook his head, telling himself to stop being stupid. Whatever she had done, Deborah loved him. Even if she had helped Jack, she would never have betrayed her husband in any other way.

Would she?

Doubt now turned to jealousy and continued to nag at the Captain's mind. He knew that Deborah had been alone with Jack for long periods. He was sure that Jack must have been attracted to Deborah, and he knew that Deborah would have been attracted to Jack. Gideon could never quite forget that she had strayed once before. In her loneliness, years earlier Deborah had turned to John and Luke for comfort. Could she have given comfort to Jack, where she had once sought it for herself? Just how close had Deborah and Jack become?

Gideon shook his head again, telling himself that he was being stupid. Deborah loved him, completely, passionately, without reserve. A malicious little voice whispered at the back of his mind. [You love her, completely, passionately, and without reserve, but you still slept with her sister. Why do you think she's different?]

He screamed back, [Because she is! Deborah is different! She loves me!] Deborah had allowed him to feel that love again and again. Of course, she would never make love to another man. The nagging voice wouldn't let up. [No, she made love to two of them!] He shook his head. Deborah wouldn't do that again, not even with a man nearly identical to her husband. Of course, she wouldn't.

The Captain told the voice to shut up. Deborah was different. She would never betray him like that. And she would never betray her sister in that way, even if Angel and Jack had fought and parted, as Deborah had told him that morning. Gideon didn't want to examine his feelings about that too closely. He felt sad that Angel was hurting, sorry that she was in pain, but the same little voice that put ugly thoughts about Deborah in his mind asked if he was really so sorry.

Did he really want Angel to be happy with another man? Did he want her to love someone else? Didn't Gideon want Angel to love him, and him alone? When he thought of her and Jack being together, having sex, making love...The Captain pushed his jealousy aside, telling himself that he should be ashamed of himself. He should only want what was best for Angel and if that included Jack, then so be it. Of course, if he'd known about their falling out the previous evening...Gideon pushed that thought away, too, as other, darker thoughts came unbidden to his mind.

[But Deborah betrayed your confidence, didn't she? She helped Jack escape. She might have done more. She might...] He couldn't help remembering when Deborah had deceived him before, when she had helped Angel escape from Eriadne. On both occasions, Deborah had put someone else before Gideon. How could he be so sure that she loved him, if she was willing to put someone else's interests before his?

The screen lit up with Sheridan's image, breaking the train of Gideon's thoughts. The Captain stood to attention and saluted the President, saying, "I'm afraid I have some bad news, sir. Our visitor has escaped." He went on to describe how they had found Jack missing that morning.

Gideon had gone to Jack's quarters, only to find him gone. On questioning the crew on duty in the landing bay, he had discovered that Jack had left the ship soon after Gideon had returned to the Excalibur the previous evening. Disguised in one of the Captain's uniforms and carrying a bag, Jack had pretended to be Gideon, telling the crew he was returning to B5 to see Ben Marriot. No one had questioned Jack, all assuming he was their Captain. When Gideon asked Trace about the color of Jack's hair, he had confirmed that the man he had seen had brown hair, not streaked with gray. Jack had obviously got hold of some dye. [And I bet I know who helped him get that.]

Gideon went on to tell Sheridan how he had returned to his quarters and found one of his uniforms missing. He didn't tell the President that he was almost certain that some valuable books were missing, too. Gideon was sure that Jack hadn't stolen those books. No, they had been given to him by... Focusing on his report, the Captain continued, telling how he had immediately contacted Captain Marriot on B5 and asked for a station wide alert and search. Ben had confirmed that 'Gideon' had been logged through Security the previous evening, but he had then disappeared completely.

"Marriot thinks he's gone Downbelow. You know what it's like down there. The chances of him being found now are slim to none. The Security alert is still in force, but we all know that it's possible to slip off B5 without going through Security. It's not easy, but not impossible."

Sheridan nodded. "Not many people could do it, but I suspect that if your visitor is nearly identical to you, Captain, he won't be found unless and until he wants to be."

Gideon took a deep breath and said, "This is entirely my responsibility, sir. I didn't place him under guard when you gave your orders to bring him back to Minbar. I didn't think it was necessary. I was wrong, and I'm prepared to take the consequences of my misjudgment. Whatever action..."

Sheridan waved him into silence. "That's not necessary. I can read between the lines, Captain. I'm damned sure you didn't give him one of your uniforms, and I suspect they're not just left lying around for anyone to get hold of. Your visitor had some help, didn't he? And from a source rather closer to home than you find comfortable."

Gideon remained silent, unwilling to confirm or deny the President's suspicions. Sheridan smiled. "It's one of the penalties of being married to a strong minded woman, Captain. They sometimes do things we'd rather they didn't. In this case, I'm not displeased with the way things have worked out. As you know, I wasn't happy about the orders I gave you in respect of this other Captain Gideon. I was half hoping that you'd take matters into your own hands. His disappearance isn't unwelcome, although it will leave me with some explaining to do. I'm sure that between you, you and your wife got everything we needed to know out of him. The Wind Swords are just going to have to make do with the data they already have. I've never much cared for that particular Warrior clan, anyway."

With a few further carefully chosen words on the subject of headstrong wives, Sheridan signed off, leaving Gideon to ponder on how exactly to confront Deborah with her actions.

Demon sat quietly in her rooms, waiting for the axe to fall. She had taken Marcus to the Medbay crèche, not wanting him to be present when the storm broke. She and Matthew had always tried to keep their disagreements, of which there had been a few over the years, out of sight and hearing of their son. Demon had an uncomfortable feeling that this time Matthew would be angrier than he had ever been before, and with good reason.

This was the second time she had deceived and betrayed him. First for Angel, and now for Jack. She had allowed her concern for her sister to come between her and her husband. Demon didn't underestimate the depth of her betrayal of her husband's confidence. She only hoped that in time he might forgive her, and that he would at least allow her to explain. Right now, Demon just wished he would come home so they could get it all over with.

Her wishes were granted when the doors opened and Matthew stood unmoving in the doorway. [Be careful what you wish for...] the words ran through Demon's mind as she looked into her husband's frozen face and angry eyes. Taking a deep breath, Demon rose from her seat and spoke quietly. "Perhaps you should come in and let the door close. Unless you want any passersby to hear you yell at me." She took great care to block out Matthew's feelings. The least she could do at that moment was to allow him some privacy.

Matthew didn't move. His voice was quiet as he said, "Yelling would be too easy. If I yelled, you could shout back and tell me how unreasonable I am. This goes beyond yelling, Deborah. This goes to the root of our relationship. You betrayed my confidence. How can I ever trust you again?"

Demon felt sick as she heard the sorrow and disappointment in her husband's voice. She had expected him to be angry, not sad. Her conscience tore at her. How could she have betrayed the man she loved in this way? But how could she have allowed Jack to suffer, as she knew he would have done on Minbar? First, Demon knew she had to find an answer to Matthew's question.

Ignoring the still open door, telling herself that she had no right to privacy if Matthew didn't want it, Demon stared at the floor as she said quietly, "I have never lied to you, and I never will. I helped Jack escape, because I couldn't bear the thought of someone so like you being trapped and confined. He's suffered so much, and he was desperately unhappy after his fight with Angel. He needed time and space alone, just as you would have done in his position. I have no excuses, and I would do the same again, if the circumstances were unchanged. The only thing I'm sorry about is that I've hurt you. I have no idea how I can ever make that up to you, but I'm willing to spend the rest of my life trying, if you'll give me that chance." Tears ran unchecked down her face as she spoke, but Demon refused to let them distract her.

She was aware of movement in front of her and the sound of the door closing, then a hand touched her chin, lifting her face until she had no choice but to look into her husband's eyes. Sad eyes. Disappointed eyes. The emotions she could see there were almost more than Demon could bear. A wave of sorrow and love escaped her before she could stop herself.

Matthew ran his fingers across her cheek, wiping away the tears. Then he smiled, sadly. "What am I going to do with you? I ought to put you across my knee and spank you, but you'd enjoy it too much."

Demon fell into his arms and laid her head on his shoulder, refusing to allow herself to break down and sob. She whispered, "I'm sorry, Matthew. I'm so sorry, but I had to help him. I couldn't let them take him. It would have been like allowing that to happen to you."

Matthew pushed her back gently, looking deeply into Demon's eyes. "Is that the real reason? I want to believe that, but why didn't you talk to me? Why didn't you trust me to help?"

Demon was appalled at his doubts and hurried to reassure him. "Oh Matthew, I couldn't! I had to make sure you didn't know, or Sheridan and the others could have blamed you. This way, you're not responsible. It's my fault, and I'm not Earthforce, so they can't court martial me. I was scared that if I went to you, it would get you into trouble with your superiors. I know that you're probably in trouble anyway, but at least they can't say you colluded in Jack's escape. They can't court martial you for letting him escape, can they?"

The words flooded out, as Demon finally let her worst fears surface. She would never forgive herself if she had been wrong, and Matthew's career would be harmed by what she had done, but she had seen no realistic alternative. Of the choices open to her, helping Jack, without Matthew's knowledge, had seemed the only viable option.

Matthew laughed gently as he pushed Demon's hair back from where it had fallen across her face. "No, they won't court martial me. Sheridan isn't even that annoyed about it. I think he half expected this. In a way, he welcomed it." Demon pulled herself tightly against her husband's chest again, allowing her relief at his words to wash away all her doubts and concerns. She felt Matthew's lips pressed to her forehead and knew that she was forgiven. After a few moments, he moved Demon over to the sofa and sat down, pulling her down onto his knee, then settling her across his legs. They sat quietly for a while, holding each other, each thinking their separate thoughts.

Demon finally broke the silence. "Matthew, I'm not snooping, honestly, but you're nowhere near as angry as I expected you to be. You had every right to be mad with me, but you seem to have forgiven me all too easily." She looked up into his face and smiled, "I'm not questioning it. I'm delighted, but I don't understand. Why aren't you angry with me?"

Gideon looked down at his wife as she sat across his legs. All his doubts and fears had been wiped away by the surge of love and regret that Deborah had projected when she'd looked into his eyes. He told himself that he was an idiot for ever having doubted her. How could he have been so stupid as to question her love and loyalty?

He smiled down at Deborah and said, "I really am mad with you, but not for letting Jack escape. What I'm mad about is that you didn't tell me what you were up to. I could have helped, you know."

Deborah shook her head stubbornly. "Maybe you could, but I didn't want you to. Too risky. But if you're mad with me, why are you holding me like this? And is that a PPG in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?" She grinned naughtily at him, shifting her butt to rub against his arousal.

Gideon laughed. "I'm always pleased to see you, and you damn well know it, so keep still a minute, and I'll explain." Deborah kissed his cheek quickly, then settled down to listen. The Captain went on, "I'm mad because you pre-empted me. I had my own plans to get Jack away, but you got in before me."

He started to laugh as he saw Deborah's stunned expression. "You're not the only one who felt sorry for him, you know. When I went to see Ben on B5 last night, I arranged for Jack and Angel to be smuggled off the Excalibur in an empty crate we were sending over for supplies. Ben was going to sneak them through Security and get them new ID's. We had everything worked out, and I planned to get them both off the ship this morning. Of course, that was when you told me about Jack and Angel breaking up, and when I went to Jack's rooms and found he was already gone, I had to let Ben know that all bets were off."

Gideon reached out and closed Deborah's gaping mouth, laughing as he said, "You'll catch flies like that, and I have a much better use for that sexy mouth of yours anyway."

Deborah punched him lightly on the arm, saying, "You had all that planned and you didn't tell me! Why didn't you tell me?"

Gideon laughed, "Because I thought you'd tell Angel and Lily, and Lily would tell John and Luke and before we knew it, half the ship would know what I was up to! I was going to let you and Lily in on all this after I'd got Jack and Angel down to the landing bay. I wouldn't have sent Angel away without giving you chance to say goodbye. As it turned out..." He sighed, wondering how Angel would cope with the news that Jack was gone, before he went on, "And before you say anything, yes, I should have told you. Just like you should have told me what you had planned. Do you think that one day we might learn to stop trying to protect each other?"

Deborah smiled sadly and lifted her head to kiss him gently on the cheek. "Maybe when we're both old and gray. Thank you, Matthew." A wave of love swept across Gideon as she gazed up at him.

"For what?" Gideon was puzzled.

"For planning to get Jack and Angel away together. That was kind. You're a kind man, and I love you very much." The love and passion in Deborah's eyes increased Gideon's arousal, but he admonished himself, telling himself that they'd made love only a couple of hours before and that he was on duty anyway. [There are times when a cold shower on this ship would be incredibly useful...]

"Just remember that when I'm spanking you later. You might not think I'm so kind when your butt is red and stinging." He grinned at her lasciviously.

Deborah laughed. "Well, if I'm going to get spanked, so should you! You planned to help Jack escape, just like I did. And you didn't tell me, any more than I told you."

Gideon pulled his wife close and gave her a fast, hard kiss, before pushing her off his lap. Deborah landed on the floor with a thump and Gideon stood to grin down at her. "I'm not the one who gave Jack some valuable books and my newest uniform. The uniform that I've only worn a couple of times. The one that's made of the new, softer material. The most comfortable uniform I've had in years. You're going to pay for that. You're going to be eating your dinner off the kitchen counter for a week for that, Mrs. Gideon."

Deborah grinned up at Gideon and stuck out her tongue. Then she leaped to her feet and threw her arms around his neck, whispering, "I love you, Matthew Gideon. There's no one in any universe who I could ever love as much as I love you." The wave of love that accompanied her words left Gideon in no doubt as to the depth and sincerity of her meaning.

The Captain held his wife tightly in his arms and sent a silent thought to the other Matthew Gideon, the alternative version of himself, who was now wandering the universe alone. [Good luck, Jack. I hope that one day you can find a woman who can make you as happy as Deborah makes me.]

7th May 2272 – early afternoon

Angel lay with her head buried in her pillow, clutching her toy unicorn to her chest. Somehow the toy she had been given as a child provided a small degree of comfort for her all too adult sorrow. The toy had been with her during her mother's sickness and death. It had been with her during the difficult months of adjusting to her new life with Demon. It was with her now in her grief at losing Jack.

Since he had walked out of her quarters in the early hours of the previous morning, Angel hadn't stopped crying. She had been unable to eat, and the little liquid she'd drunk, she had immediately thrown up again. The previous day, she had reluctantly called Luke and told him she was sick and unable to report for duty. Luke had nodded sadly and told her to take whatever time she needed. He obviously knew. A few minutes after that, Demon had arrived, taking Angel into her arms and holding her while she sobbed. The sisters had said little to each other, but Angel had found some comfort in Demon's silent consolation. Later that day, Demon had left and Lily had taken over. Neither of Angel's sisters had commented or criticized, they had just accepted and done their best to comfort Angel in her sadness. Luke had called round in the evening, giving her a mild sedative to help her sleep, and Lily had reluctantly left with her partner.

The sedative had been useless. After a sleepless night, Angel had dragged herself out of bed that morning, knowing that she had to pull herself together. Life had to go on, and she had to face the possibility that she might have to see and talk to Jack sometime soon. Deep down, so deep that she was hardly aware of it, Angel had treasured a tiny hope that perhaps in time they might be reconciled. Perhaps Jack might be able to forgive her for the things she'd said and done, and perhaps she could learn to forgive him. Perhaps.

Then Demon had called and dropped another bombshell on her sister. Jack was gone. He had left the Excalibur and gone into hiding. It was quite possible that Angel would never see him again. Angel had been crying ever since she'd heard that news. She just wasn't sure why she was crying. Was it because Jack had gone for good? Why should that make a difference?

Angel told herself that any hopes she'd been harboring of reconciliation had been ridiculous. She told herself it was better that Jack had gone, better for him if not for her. She should be happy for him because he'd escaped. So why was she still sobbing?

When Demon had called, she'd explained why Jack had left, and what would have happened if he'd stayed. Angel was glad her sister had helped Jack escape the possibility of confinement by the Minbari. She was glad. She WAS glad. So why did a small part of her almost hate her sister for having helped Jack leave? Angel found herself resenting Demon for having been there for Jack when he needed help. It should have been Angel he turned to. It should have been Angel who helped him. It should have been Angel who left with him.

The thought of leaving with Jack brought Angel's tears back to the surface. She sobbed into her damp pillow, as she thought about what might have been. She might have had a future with Jack. He was everything she'd ever wanted. Physically, intellectually and in personality, Jack had been her perfect man. Wasn't it just typical that she had driven him away? He wasn't a bastard like Lucas and Ursa. He didn't belong to someone else like Matthew and Luke. Jack had been both free and able to love Angel, as she'd always longed to be loved. Angel knew that she would have been able to trust Jack with her love in return. They could have made each other happy. They could have healed each other's wounds and had a future together. All of that was gone; lost because of some stupid words and thoughtless actions.

A part of Angel wished she could turn back the clock and change the events that had led to the fight. Another part told her it was useless. The clash would have happened at some time or another. At some time, it was inevitable that she would have called out Lucas' name, mistaken Jack for Lucas, whispered the wrong name in her dreams. Lucas had infected her. Like a virus, he had buried a part of himself within her, and she could never be free of him. Angel wondered if there was any cure for the disease called Lucas Buck, but in her heart she feared it was incurable. Lucas had maimed her soul, damaging her so she could never give and receive love as she longed to do.

Angel ignored the door buzzer, which began to sound persistently from her living room. She didn't want to see anyone. She didn't want to talk or to listen. She curled around her one-eyed toy unicorn, once a thing of purity and beauty, battered and damaged by the passage of time, and she wept.

Strong arms lifted her from the bed and cradled her gently against a solid chest. Looking up, Angel nearly screamed in delight, then realized her mistake. Jack hadn't come back. It was Matt. He had used his Captain's override to enter her quarters and he now held her, rocking her gently. He looked down at her and smiled sadly.

"You didn't think I'd leave you to cope with this alone, did you? After all you did to help me last year?" The sadness in Matt's eyes sent Angel into another paroxysm of weeping. She cried into Matt's shoulder, until his uniform was wet. All the time, he just held her and rocked her, stroking her hair, saying nothing.

After what seemed like hours, Angel's sobs dried up. Her head ached, her throat hurt and her eyes were sore. She felt Matt gently kiss her forehead, and looked up to see the sorrow and sympathy in his face.

Angel choked out, "What am I going to do, Matt? How can I go on without him?"

Matt shook his head sadly. "I don't know, Angel. I wish I had answers for you, but I don't. Just don't give up. We're all here for you, and we all love you. I know it's hard to think positively right now, but try to remember that this isn't necessarily how it ends. None of us know what the future holds. There are always alternatives."

Angel laid her head against Matt's shoulder and sighed. She wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe that she might have a future that wasn't marred by the shadow of Lucas Buck, but it was difficult. One day, she was sure she would have to face Lucas again. Then it would be kill or cure. Those would be the only alternatives.

Jack sat in a bar Downbelow, the name of which caused him to smile at the irony. Happy Daze. Not very likely for him. He was listening to an old, 20th century song.

The walls are thin here in this motel room
Some fool is raging overhead
He's preaching the gospel according to
Johnnie Walker Red
Four hundred miles talking to myself
Me and your memory end up here
I tell myself I'm gonna be alright
But it's still not clear

Did I just miss
The last exit to Eden?
Is this the only love I'll know?
Like a Judas kiss
Did my heart betray me?

Back on the road I never chose
There are some sins that you can justify
But not the one I'm guilty of
I had a choice one last chance ago
But I turned my back on love
I can hear the man upstairs, he's crying out
"Fall on your knees, the end is near"
We both may need a savior, tonight I fear that mine
Is the one that I left waiting far from here

Did I just miss
The last exit to Eden?
Did I just miss
My only way out of here?
Did I just miss
The last exit to Eden?
Did I just miss
My only way out?

Jack dropped his head into his hands, fearing that he knew the answer to that question all too well.

{Chapter 1} {Chapter 2}

The Witches of Eriadne: Interlude Four S

{Part 1: Alternatives}

{The Main Gate} {HomePage} {Wytches World} {We are Family} {A Little Artistic Licence} {No, we don't mean "A"riadne} {Our Home Is Our Castle} {The Witches' Diary} {Witches Familiars} {The Gateway} {Webrings]