The Witches of Eriadne:
Something Wicked this Way Comes - Part 5: Finale

by The Space Witches

Can Demon help her sister this time?
Can Demon help her sister this time?

Chapter 2

Gideon closed his book and sighed, placing it on the bedside table next to him. It was useless. He couldn't concentrate; his mind kept drifting to the events of the last few days and distracting him. A glance at the clock on the table showed that it was nearly 3:00 a.m. and he still had a long night ahead of him.

[Maybe I shouldn't have volunteered for night duty. I'm not used to pulling this sort of shift any more. Not like when I was in Earthforce.]

He smiled to himself, remembering a time when he could have worked thirty-six hours straight, taken a four hour nap, then gone back on duty. Well, those days were long past, as were his twenties, thirties and even forties, when he still had that sort of stamina.

Standing up, he paced across the room to the fireplace, peering into the mirror over the mantle. For a man nearing his fifty-third birthday, he still looked pretty good. He smiled again as he thought that Deborah certainly seemed to think so, and the gray streaks in his hair never seemed to diminish her desire for him. She wasn't so fond of the gray hairs on his chest, and Gideon's smile widened as he remembered some of their tussles, when she had tried to pluck those hairs out. Somehow that always seemed to lead to him carrying out an inspection of his own, to see if his wife had any silver streaks in her hair anywhere, and his Earthforce training meant that such inspections were always very thorough.

A soft exhalation of air from the bed behind him brought Gideon's attention back to the present, and his current duties. Standing night watch over Angel's sleeping form wasn't exactly the most arduous duty he'd ever pulled; the least he could do was give it his full attention.

Returning to his seat by the bed, Gideon reached out and gently touched Angel's raven hair. It was now sleek and shiny again, not the tangled mass of rats' tails that had whipped around her face when she'd arrived. That was a moment Gideon wouldn't soon forget.

Angel collapsed into his arms and Mattie let out a shriek that brought everyone rushing into the hallway. Gideon was eternally grateful that Alwyn, Sarah and Jaysen were visiting at the time. Sarah took one look at the frail, wet and ashen faced figure in Gideon's arms and took charge.

The doctor yelled at Deborah to call for an ambulance, but Gideon's wife was too shocked to hear. She rushed to Gideon's side, almost snatching her sister from his arms, and held her, rocking her gently, whispering her name over and over again.

Alwyn disappeared for a second, then reappeared with a throw from the couch, which he brought over and helped wrap Angel in it, while Sarah continued her examination of the raven haired witch.

Gideon took a moment to put a call through to the emergency services, then he took a deep breath. He turned his attention to the three children who stood huddled together at the back of the hallway, watching with wide eyes as the scene unfolded. Marcus was holding Mattie tightly, as the little girl struggled and whined, begging to go to her daddy, while young Jaysen watched everything with evident curiosity. Gideon decided it was only to be expected that the eight-year-old son of a Technomage and a doctor wouldn't be unsettled by the sight of a strange woman collapsed in the hallway of the house he was visiting. Young Jaysen had probably seen far more unusual sights.

The retired Captain quickly lifted his daughter into his arms, then ushered the two boys back into the living room. Marcus looked up at him and asked anxiously, "Is that Auntie Angel? She looks sick. Is she going to be all right?"

Gideon nodded, and sat with Mattie on his knee, explaining that Auntie Sarah and Grandpa Alwyn would take care of Angel, and that there was nothing to worry about. He gave Marcus a warning look, as he knew the empathic child would have picked up on his doubts. Marcus opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again, nodding at his father. He was a smart kid.

At that moment, Alwyn followed them into the living room, and suggested that he and Ishtar should take the children up to their playroom and stay with them. Gideon gave him a grateful nod, passed his daughter over to her surrogate grandfather, then rejoined the women in the hall.

Deborah still held Angel close, stroking her hair and rocking her gently. Sarah kneeled next to the sisters, looking down at them anxiously. She looked up when Gideon returned, as he asked, "What's happened to her, Sarah? Is she going to be OK?"

Sarah tried to smile reassuringly. "She should be, but we need to get her to a hospital and quickly."

Deborah lifted her head to protest that she wanted Angel to stay at home. "I'll take care of her, Sarah. Whatever she needs, I'll give her."

Gideon lowered himself to the floor next to his wife, and put his arm around her shoulder as Sarah shook her head again. "Unless you have several liters of whole blood stored in the house somewhere, you can't give her what she needs right now. She's hemorrhaging, and she needs a transfusion. Once her blood count is back to normal, you'll be able to bring her home, but right now, she needs to be in a hospital."

Looking at Angel's face, stark white against the warm red of the throw in which she was wrapped, Gideon understood Sarah's concern. Angel had looked as if she didn't have a drop of blood left in her body.

"I don't see any blood, Sarah. Where's she bleeding? And how was she injured?" Gideon felt his anger rising as he asked the question. If Lucas Buck had harmed Angel in some way, he would...

His thoughts were interrupted by Sarah's response. "She's bleeding internally, Matt. Not from an injury though. She's had a baby within the last few days, and I'd say she had a really rough time of it. She shouldn't have been allowed out of bed, never mind dragging herself from wherever she and Lucas have been hiding."

Bringing his thoughts back to the present, Gideon frowned as he looked down at Angel's sleeping form again. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead, whispering quietly, "Where's your baby, Angel? Did he die, or did you leave him behind? Why would you leave your baby?" Somehow he never doubted that Angel's baby was a boy. He couldn't imagine Lucas Buck allowing himself to sire a girl. Lucas would want a man-child as his heir.

Angel stirred in her sleep at the sound of Gideon's voice, but she didn't wake. She'd remained unconscious most of the time since making her dramatic reentry into their lives. During her second day at the hospital, she'd come round for a few moments, but her eyes had remained unfocused, and Gideon wasn't sure she'd really been aware of the people who surrounded her bed at the time. Angel had just whispered, almost incoherent in her rambling, but with just a few words becoming clear at the end.

"I want to go home please take me home take me to Demon please. She'll take care of me I want my sister please take me home."

Deborah had been sitting by the side of the bed at the time, and she had gripped Angel's hand tightly, calling to her, reassuring her that everything was going to be all right. Angel had slipped back into oblivion, and Deborah had dropped her head and wept. Later she had called her other sisters to tell them of Angel's reappearance. Both Lily and Ilas were far out in deep space, so messages had been sent, but Gideon knew it would be days yet before they had a response.

Angel had stayed in the hospital for three days before they had agreed to release her, even though she hadn't fully regained consciousness, subject to Sarah's assurances that she would remain with Angel as her personal physician. They had brought Angel back to the house, and Gideon had carried her up to the room they had prepared for her.

To Gideon's surprise, Deborah had insisted that Angel should not stay in her old room, the one they had decorated for her when they had first moved into the house years before. That room had been designed to suit Angel's taste for dramatic colors and fabrics with varied textures. Angel's old room had been swathed in red silks and satins, faux furs and suede, and the raven haired beauty had always loved staying there. This time, Deborah had asked Gideon to carry her sister to the guest room on the south side of the house, a bright room decorated in sunny yellow and white, with gold fabrics adding a touch of luxury. The sun streamed into the room all day, but the sea breeze entering through the windows on two sides made it cool and comfortable.

When they had Angel settled, Deborah had explained that Angel's old room would hold too many memories for her. Memories of when she had stayed there with her husband, Michael Healy.

"I don't want her to wake up and be dragged back into the past. Whatever has happened to her is over. This is a new start and a new beginning. This will help her start over."

Looking down at the sleeping Angel, Gideon wasn't so sure. Whatever Angel had been through had left its marks in the new lines that showed at the corners of her eyes. While she was still as beautiful as ever, Angel no longer looked like the girl she had once been. She was now a woman in her thirties, and it showed. The experiences Angel had endured during her life could not be forgotten or ignored. They had to be dealt with and accepted, before she could move on.

Gideon leaned forward and lifted Angel's hand in his, kissing it gently as he whispered, "And whatever help you need in doing that, Angel, we're here for you."

Since they had brought Angel back to the house the day before, someone had sat with her at every moment. Sarah had said she wasn't sure why Angel hadn't yet roused, but that she was just sleeping now, not unconscious.

"She needs the rest, Matt. She's pushed herself to her limits and beyond. Now she needs peace and quiet to recuperate."

Sarah's words came back to Gideon, and he lowered Angel's hand to the bed, covering it gently with his own, glancing at his book, wondering whether he might be able to concentrate now. Another glance at the clock showed that it was nearing 3:30. Just four more hours to go before Alwyn came to take over the watch.

Of course, if Deborah had been allowed her way, she would have stayed with her sister every minute of every day since she'd returned. Gideon and Sarah had been forced to be stern with her, ordering her to rest. This, combined with the emotional traumas of the previous few days, had led to one of the most explosive arguments the Gideons had engaged in for many years.

When the shouting, screaming, temper tantrums, throwing of cushions, and tears were finally over, Deborah had collapsed and allowed Gideon to comfort her in the way she liked best: they had made love, giving each other the pleasure, the love and the consolation they both needed.

Gideon shifted his shoulders a little, easing the sore spot on his neck left by one of Deborah's bites. She had used a regenerator on the wound afterwards, but it still ached a little. The retired Captain smiled as he remembered having to use the same regenerator on Deborah's butt, where the somewhat vigorous spanking he had given her had left a few bruises. It had been one hell of a fight and he hadn't had so much all round erotic fun in a long time.

Fighting down the arousal that the memories evoked, Gideon turned his thoughts to his children. Marcus had wanted to visit his Auntie Angel, as he had fond memories of her from before she had been taken away by Lucas. The ten year old had tiptoed into his aunt's room, and held her hand for a while, before turning to his mother who stood with her hand on his shoulder and saying softly, "It's OK, Mum. Auntie Angel is going to be fine."

Mattie had been too young when Angel had disappeared to remember her aunt, and the little girl was less than excited by Angel's return. As far as Mattie was concerned, this was just one more rival for her father's attention. Gideon sighed, wondering yet again whether they should see a child-psychologist about Mattie's fixation with her father and distaste for her mother. There was no doubt that Gideon's daughter was proving much more a challenge than his son had been. Why did that surprise him? The women in his life had always been challenging, particularly the one lying asleep in the bed in front of him.

As he smiled fondly down at Angel, he saw her brow flicker and then her eyelashes fluttered. Gideon squeezed her hand gently, as he said quietly, "Angel? It's time to wake up, Angel. Be a good girl and wake up now."

He almost laughed at his own words. Angel had never been a good girl, and he could hardly expect her to change the habits of a lifetime now. To his surprise, just this once, she seemed willing to cooperate, as her eyelashes fluttered again, and then her eyes opened completely. Their brilliant blue was no longer surrounded by red, but Angel's eyes remained unfocused, so Gideon leaned forward again.

"It's OK, Angel. Wake up. You're safe now."

His voice attracted her attention, and Gideon sighed as he saw her face fill with fear. Her voice was a croak as she tried to speak with vocal chords grown stiff from lack of use after several days' unconsciousness, but he could discern the single word she ground out.


Angel struggled up to consciousness, somehow aware that a long time had passed, but no longer sure where she was or what had happened to her. A face loomed out of the darkness and a wave of panic swept through her. This was the face she was trying to run from, this was the man she hated and feared. Had she failed? Had Lucas tracked her down and brought her back to Regula? Was she trapped again?

Deep down, under the panic and fear, Angel's inner voice asked softly, [And would that be so bad? Isn't that what you want? Don't you want him to find you and take you back?]

Angel screamed aloud. "No! No, I don't want you! Go away and leave me alone. You promised. You said I could leave once I'd given you what you need. Let me go, Lucas, let me go!"

Her words were in defiance of the doubts that undermined her strength and her certainty. She hated Lucas and wanted to be free of him but...

[But a part of you will always love him.] Her inner voice rang with certainty. Angel couldn't deny the truth, but she could choose to ignore it.

Angel slowly became aware that the figure looming over her was stroking her hair softly, trying to soothe her and calm her. The voice was somehow different, and when she finally focused her attention on the words, Angel let out a sigh of relief. She was safe after all.

"Angel, it's OK. It's Matt. Not Lucas, just Matt. You're safe now. You're home. Everything is going to be fine. Just calm down. It's OK."

The words were repeated over and over, and gradually Angel's panic was stilled. She looked up into the warm brown eyes above her and knew the truth. This was Matt, her brother-in-law, and he would keep her safe. Matt would always look out for her. She could trust him to take care of her.

Eventually calming enough to allow Matt to lift her head and put a drink to her mouth, Angel found she had a raging thirst. She became petulant when Matt would only let her take small sips, as she wanted to drain the glass and keep drinking until her thirst was quenched.

Matt chuckled softly, saying, "You're obviously feeling better. You're strong enough to get mad at me again."

Angel gave a weak laugh and slumped back against the pillows, becoming aware of her surroundings for the first time. She was lying in a wonderfully comfortable four-poster bed, hung around with white voile drapes. The quilt that covered her was so light she could hardly feel it, but it warmed her and comforted her. The room smelled of jasmine, and somehow, indefinably, it also smelled of Demon and of the security her big sister represented. Angel closed her eyes and sighed. For the first time in years she felt safe. She had come home.

"Don't go back to sleep just yet, Angel. You need to drink a little more, and Sarah said I should get you to take these pills if you had a headache."

Angel opened her eyes at Matt's quiet words and she smiled, then pouted. "I do have a bit of a headache, but you know I hate pills. Couldn't she have left me some powders?"

Matt chuckled again. "Typical. Back in the land of the living less than five minutes and already complaining. I can never do anything right, can I?"

Licking her lips to moisten them, Angel whispered, "Of course not. You're a man, you can't help it."

Matt put his arm under Angel's shoulders and gently lifted her into a more upright position, then held the glass to her lips to help her drink. Swallowing the pills with difficulty, Angel became aware of the warmth of Matt's arm around her, of the soft scent of him, of the care and concern in his eyes as he looked down at her.

Suddenly, his similarities to Lucas and his difference became too much for her to bear. Why couldn't Lucas have ever looked at her like that? Why couldn't Lucas have ever held her, not for sex, but for love and caring and kindness? Why couldn't Lucas have been the husband to her that Matt was to her sister? And why couldn't Lucas have allowed her to be a mother to her son, as Demon was to Marcus.

The knowledge of everything she had lost, everything she had never had and would never have from Lucas became overwhelming and Angel broke down, clinging to Matt, burying her head into his shoulder and sobbing so hard she could barely breathe. She felt Matt's hands on her back, patting her, soothing her, trying to comfort her in her pain, but Angel knew it would never be enough. A part of her was broken and could never be mended. She would never stop grieving for the life she had never known and the child she would never be allowed to love.

Gideon held onto the weeping woman, knowing that there was nothing he could do but to hold her until the storm passed. Angel needed this; she needed to let go of the pain and sorrow bottled up inside her. He would just hug her and hold her until she ran out of tears, as he would have held his daughter if she had hurt herself.

The problem was that this wasn't Mattie who Gideon was holding in his arms. It was Angel, who to him was one of the two most attractive women in the universe. Even in her frailty, she was still beautiful, still desirable, and tears had always acted as an aphrodisiac on Gideon. He told himself to get a grip; this was hardly the time to start indulging in his own passions for the woman sobbing in his arms.

But it was hard. [And that ain't the only thing that's hard.] Gideon sighed softly, and ignored the urgings of his groin.

Eventually Angel exhausted herself, and the sobbing and weeping subsided into hiccups, and finally into silence. Gideon continued to hold her, until she pushed herself away from him, then he lowered her gently back to the pillows. Reaching for a tissue from the box on the bedside table, he passed it to her, smiling as he said, "Here. Blow. I sometimes think that my main function in life is to have handkerchiefs ready for the women in my family."

Angel smiled sadly, then wiped her tears away and blew her nose noisily. Several tissues later, she lay back and sighed again, closing her eyes.

Gideon watched her in silence for a few minutes, knowing from her breathing that she was still awake, but respecting her need for quiet. He eventually murmured softly, "How's your head?"

Angel opened her eyes and gave him a sad little smile. "Better, thanks." She gazed at him solemnly, her bright blue eyes full of sorrow, before finally saying quietly, "I guess you want to know what happened, don't you?"

Gideon's curiosity was almost overwhelming him, but he had enough self-control to smile back and pat Angel's hand gently as he said, "When you're ready. Only when and what you want to tell. I'll be here for you, whenever you want to talk."

Memories of another time Angel had talked to him washed over Gideon. Memories of a beach in California, when they had sat next to each other, nearly but not quite touching, while Angel had poured out the story of her life with Michael Healy. At that time, Gideon had listened to her describe the joy she had shared with Michael, and the pain of his loss. He could only wish that the story of what Angel had lived through since he had last seen her would also include such joys and happiness, but he knew it wouldn't. Lucas Buck wasn't the kind of man who brought happiness to his victims, only pain.

And whatever anyone else thought, Gideon would always consider Angel to be Lucas' greatest victim. She had endured more pain and sorrow than anyone else, more even than those who Lucas had ordered killed. Even Michael Healy had died quickly. He hadn't suffered in the way Angel had.

Angel had remained silent all the time Gideon had been thinking, but now she said quietly, "If I tell you, Matt, will you tell my sisters? I don't think I can bear to see their faces when they hear what I've done. Can you do that for me?"

Tears trickled down Angel's cheeks as she spoke, and Gideon reached for another tissue, gently wiping the tears away as he said, "Whatever you want, I'll do. You know I'll do anything I can for you, Angel. I just wish I could have done more. I wish I could have stopped..."

Gideon cut himself off, not wishing to mention Lucas' name before Angel did. He fell back into silence, and waited for Angel to speak.

She lay quietly with her eyes closed for a while, then she began to talk. Her voice was quiet and controlled, as she described what had happened after Gideon and the rest of her family had left Eriadne nearly three years before.

Gideon raised an eyebrow in surprise as Angel described how Bubba--one of the two identical oafs Lucas had employed--had died, and how his brother, Harry had grieved. Even more surprising was how calm Angel sounded as she told him that she knew Lucas had been responsible for Bubba's death.

"When Bubba shot you, Matt, he disobeyed Lucas' orders, and Lucas wouldn't tolerate that. Even worse, to save your life, Lucas had to give you some of his own life force, and he had to take on some of your wound. He didn't like having to do that, so someone had to pay. Poor Bubba paid the price with his life."

Gideon stayed silent as Angel went on to tell of the move to Regula IV. He gritted his teeth in fury as he realized Lucas had found the ideal hiding place on that backwater colony, and that Lucas knew about the place from when he was trapped inside the Apocalypse Box, watching and listening to everything Gideon did. Some of his anger must have shown in his face, as Angel paused, and laid her hand over his.

"There's no point in trying to find him there now, Matt. He'll be long gone."

Gideon could only agree, and he gestured at Angel to continue her story, schooling his features into the poker face he could assume when he wanted. He needed that self-discipline as he listened to Angel's tale of how she had eventually succumbed to Lucas' charms on their trip to Disneyplanet. Gideon's fury calmed as she then told of her life afterwards, back on Regula, and how Harry had become her friend and protector, when she had lived in her own home, with her puppy, Baby, for company.

He found it hard to listen as Angel described how she had eventually conceived, and the difficulty of her early months of pregnancy. She shouldn't have had to go through that alone. She should have had her sisters with her to help her.

Angel skated over the details of the birth of her baby, only saying that it had been difficult and painful, leaving her weak afterwards.

"But I knew I had to leave, Matt. I couldn't stay any longer. The baby wasn't really mine. He was Lucas' son, through and through. There was no hope of changing him or redeeming him. So..." Angel's voice cracked, and she swallowed and closed her eyes before she could go on. "So I left. The journey back to Earth was more difficult than I'd anticipated, and I knew I was bleeding inside, but I had to go on. I had to get home. I got a transfer from the space station down to the London Heathrow Space Port, then I hired an automated shuttle which took me as far as Boscastle, but I hadn't realized it was Sunday when I arrived, so the local taxi service was closed, and I had to walk from the village. I was so tired, so very tired..."

Angel's voice faded and she closed her eyes again. Gideon wondered why she hadn't called ahead, and was just relieved that he and his family had been at home when Angel had arrived. If they had been away on a mission, he dreaded to think what would have happened to Angel, had she arrived to find the house shut up against her.

Gideon watched his sister-in-law quietly for a moment, then he could contain himself no longer. "I don't understand, Angel. There must have been something more to make you leave Lucas and your baby. What happened? What did he do to you, to make you go?" As Gideon spoke he found his temper rising, as he couldn't help but imagine the things that Lucas might have done to Angel. He found himself on his feet, pacing the floor of the bedroom, his voice rising as he went on, "I should have stopped him. I should have found a way to stop you going with him. I should have..."

"Matt, please stop!" Angel's tearful plea cut through Gideon's ranting and brought him to an abrupt halt. When he looked at the bed, he could see that tears were streaming down Angel's face again as she begged, "Don't blame yourself. Believe me when I say I know how that feels. You nearly died trying to stop Lucas, and he would have killed you if you'd tried again. I couldn't bear to have your death on my conscience. One death is bad enough. I think I'd go mad if I knew that another man I loved had died because of me."

Angel's words brought Gideon rushing to the side of her bed. Again he lifted her into his arms and held her as she wept, patting her back and whispering soothing words and murmurs to her, trying to quiet and calm her as he admonished himself bitterly, [Stupid, Matt, stupid! This isn't about you and your eternal guilt; this is about Angel and what's been done to her. What did that bastard do to make her leave her child behind?] Gideon was determined to find out, but Angel's words had aroused an awful misgiving in his mind. He suspected that somehow Angel had discovered the one thing Gideon would have given his life to protect her from.

Angel brought herself back under control and pushed gently away from Matt, dropping back to the pillows. She was exhausted and all she really wanted to do was sleep, but she knew that before she could rest easy, she would have to tell Matt the rest. To tell Matt the real reason she had been able to leave Lucas and her child.

It wasn't easy. Matt and Michael had become friends in the short time they had known each other, and she wondered whether Matt would forgive her for having been the cause of Michael's death. She knew she could never forgive herself. The only thing she had left of Michael was... Her thoughts ground to a halt as a wave of panic swept over her. She was in bed in Matt and Demon's house, wearing a pretty red silk nightgown. Where were her clothes? And more importantly, what had happened to the contents of her pockets? Where was the small lump of twisted gold that was all that remained of her wedding ring?

Angel started to plead with Matt to tell her where her clothes were. She had to find them, she had to find that scrap of gold. If it was gone, if she had lost it now... Matt's words finally penetrated the panic that had clouded Angel's mind.

"Everything you arrived in is here. Deborah had everything washed, and your clothes are ready for you, when you're fit to get up. We still have all your old clothes as well, although they may be a little big on you now." Matt smiled ruefully, reminding Angel how much weight she had lost while sick during her pregnancy. He went on, "Deborah had all your things brought over from California and we've stored them here since, waiting for you to come home."

Angel didn't care about her old things, any more than she cared about her old life. There was only one thing that interested her, one thing that mattered more than anything else. She begged Matt to check the pockets of her pants and to find the lump of metal that should be there. Matt smiled and opened the drawer of the bedside table.

"You mean this?" He held up the nugget of gold that had once been a ring, and Angel snatched it from his hand as he went on, "We didn't know what it was, but Deborah said to keep it. She kept everything, Angel. She never gave up hope."

Angel closed her eyes and silently thanked her sister, eternally grateful for Demon's care and love. Feeling tentatively with her mind, she tried to reactivate the mental link she had once shared with her sister, but failed. Perhaps it was because Demon was asleep. She'd try again when they were both awake. For the moment, she clung to the remains of her wedding ring as if her life depended on it.

"What is it? It looks like a lump of gold."

Angel opened her eyes and looked up at Matt, warmed by the concern she could see in his face.

"It's what's left of my wedding ring. Lucas tried to destroy it, but I saved it. It was the only thing of Michael's I still had. Lucas wanted to destroy everything that reminded me of Michael, just as..." Angel choked on her own words, but swallowed and forced herself to go on, gazing up at Matt's handsome face, waiting to see the condemnation there as she ground out the words, "Just as Lucas destroyed Michael. That's what happened, Matt. That's what made me leave after I found out. Lucas had Michael killed because of me. I could never forgive Lucas for that, and I don't think I'll ever forgive myself."

Angel waited, watching Matt carefully, alert for any sign of anger, surprise, emotion of any kind, but none came. Matt maintained a completely blank expression, his face showing nothing. An awful suspicion crept over Angel, and she suddenly knew the truth.

"You knew, didn't you? You already knew that Lucas had Michael killed. How long have you known? How did you find out?" The words came out in a rush, and Angel watched as Matt looked down at her, chewing the inside of his lip, obviously considering his answer.

The silence dragged on painfully, until eventually Matt sighed and said quietly, "I've known for a long time. I never wanted you to find out. I never wanted you to have to carry that burden. Angel, I wish I could make you believe that Michael's death wasn't your fault, but I know you too well. I know you'll blame yourself, but try not to. Lucas is the one responsible for Michael's death, not you."

Angel forced back tears as she cried out, "But it is my fault, Matt! If I hadn't married Michael, maybe he'd still be alive. We didn't have to be married. We could have lived together quietly. But no, I wanted a wedding, with a pretty dress and flowers, and all the trappings. I wanted to be a princess for a day, and the publicity surrounding the wedding meant Lucas found out about us. Michael ended up paying for our wedding day with his life." By now Angel was sobbing, and for the third time that night, Matt lifted her into his arms, and held her.

It felt so good to be held like that. The warmth of Matt's arms and chest was comforting, the strength of his hold made her feel protected and sheltered, and Angel found herself melting into his embrace, wanting him to hold her forever, to never let her go. She had to remind herself forcefully that Matt wasn't hers. Matt belonged to her sister. But Angel longed to have someone of her own to hold her like that, just as she had once had Michael.

Matt's soft words eventually got through to her as he said, quietly, "Lucas didn't kill Michael because you were married, Angel. Lucas is a destroyer, and he was obsessed with you. He would have found out and done the same to any man you loved, and who loved you, married or not. At least by marrying Michael, you both had the happiness of that wonderful day, and the joy of the time you shared together. And one thing I'm sure of: if Michael had been given the choice between a short life with you, and a long life without you, he wouldn't have hesitated. He would have seized those brief days of happiness with you, and rejoiced in them, even knowing they would soon be over. I know that's what I would have done, Angel, and if it's possible, Michael loved you even more than I do."

Angel sobbed harder than ever as she listened, grateful for Matt's assurances, happy that he still loved her, sad that she could never enjoy the benefits of that love, but reassured that at least he didn't hate her for having caused Michael's death. Because despite everything Matt said, Angel knew deep down that Michael had died because of her, and nothing would ever change that.

When she finally cried herself out, Angel blew her nose again--[It's a good thing that box of tissues was full!] Her inner voice quipped, irrepressible even in Angel's deepest distress--and lay back down, feeling drained. The emotional rollercoaster she had subjected herself to since she had awoken had exhausted her. All she wanted to do was to sleep again, but she needed to know one more thing. One more question needed an answer.

"How did you know, Matt? And when did you find out?"

Matt smiled, and reached out to stroke her hair. "I'll tell you in the morning." He looked at the clock and smiled again, ruefully. "Well, maybe this afternoon, as half the morning has gone already."

Angel followed his glance, and realized how much time had passed. It was 6:30 a.m. and while the heavy curtains at the windows blocked out most of the light, beams peeped around the edges of the material, bright with the promise of a sunny day ahead. Eyelids heavy with exhaustion, and eyes sore from crying, Angel decided Matt was right. The rest of the story could wait. She was too tired to think about it now. She would think about it this afternoon. Or tomorrow. Or whenever it was she next woke up.

Smiling sleepily up at her brother-in-law, Angel whispered, "OK, later then. Goodnight, Matt, and thanks for listening."

Angel felt the soft, warm touch of Matt's lips against her forehead, as he whispered, "Sweet dreams, Angel, and welcome home."

The last thought Angel had as she drifted into sleep was that she was indeed home at last, and just maybe her dreams would be sweet. Maybe she would dream of Michael. She held onto the twisted nugget of gold in her hand tightly, praying that her beloved would visit her in her dreams.

Gideon looked down at Angel as her eyes closed and her breathing changed, wondering how he was going to tell her the awful news. Once she knew that Marcus Cole had been the source of Gideon's knowledge about Michael's death, her next questions were inevitable. She would ask about Marcus, and Gideon would have to tell her that Marcus was gone. It had now been over four months since the Ranger's White Star had gone missing without a trace, and even Delenn and Sheridan had given up hope.

The Rangers had held a small memorial service for Marcus and his crew on Minbar the previous month, and Gideon had attended, with Deborah, watching with deep sorrow as Susan Ivanova held herself rigidly throughout the service, refusing to show her grief at the loss of her husband. In a private interview with Sheridan afterwards, the President had told Gideon that General Ivanova had refused all compassionate leave from Earthforce. She had initially refused to attend the Rangers' service, until given direct orders from her superior officer. Susan had walled off her grief into a private part of herself, and seemed determined to carry on her professional life, denying that she had ever needed or wanted anything more.

Since then, Ivanova had refused all calls from her friends, programming her answering service with a message telling everyone who called that she could be contacted at her office. There, she had instructed her staff to block all personal calls.

Gideon knew that Angel would be devastated by the news that her friend, Marcus, was gone. It was just another loss in Angel's life, and Gideon wasn't sure she could take any more. She had lost so much, even her own child, and Gideon was well aware that she had still not really explained why she had left her baby behind. Everything he knew about Angel told him that there was something more. Even hating Lucas, she would have stayed with him for the sake of her child. Something more must have driven her away, something that involved the child. Well, whatever it was would have to wait.

With a sigh, Gideon looked up into the folds of voile material that draped the top of the bed and said softly, "Deborah will probably wake up soon, and I want to be there when she does. Can you stay here until Alwyn arrives in an hour? Come get me if Angel wakes up again." Not that there was much chance of that happening. Angel had turned onto her side and was sleeping deeply. Gideon was relieved to see that a small smile had settled on her lips, and he could only hope it meant she was having a happy dream.

A small chirp from above his head was followed by the emergence of a golden head, at the end of a long, sinuous golden neck, from amongst the drapery. Ishtar's magenta eyes swirled slowly, a sign that she was contented and agreeable with his suggestion. She cocked her head to one side, and gave another chirp, this time somehow making it clear that she was asking a question.

Gideon laughed softly. "How did I know you were there? I know Alwyn and Sarah, that's how. They would never trust me to stay with their patient without supervision. I knew you were there all along. Besides that, I could hear you snoring. Do you have a cold?"

Ishtar gave a little sniff of contempt, and Gideon wondered if he'd gone too far in teasing her. She reassured him by flapping her wings once and gliding down to sit on his shoulder, rubbing her head against his ear. Gideon sat very still. Ishtar had never honored him in that way before, and from this gesture, he could only assume that she approved of the way he had handled Angel's painful disclosures. He reached up, carefully and slowly, giving the little dragon plenty of time to move if she wanted to, and rubbed her head, just behind the eyes, as he'd seen Alwyn do so many times.

Ishtar crooned gently in approval, shifting her head a little, until his fingers found the spot of slightly dry skin that she obviously wanted scratched.

Gideon couldn't help laughing softly to himself. This was the little monster that had flamed his ear, and totally destroyed his favorite leather jacket, and here he was, scratching her itchy eyebrow. What was even more surprising was that she was letting him. It had only taken eight and a half years, but it seemed that he and Ishtar were friends at last. He'd have to have a hunt through the kitchen cupboards and see if he could find her some peanut butter. Crunchy, of course.

With another gentle flap of her wings, Ishtar detached herself from Gideon's shoulder and settled onto the pillow next to Angel's head. With another soft croon, the golden dragon curled herself into a ball and closed her eyes, giving every appearance of falling asleep instantly. Gideon wasn't fooled. The first time he'd met Ishtar he'd made the mistake of thinking she was sleeping, and on that occasion she'd even been snoring! He'd paid for that mistake with a very sore ear.

Knowing that he was leaving Angel in safe hands--paws, or maybe claws--he stood and left the room, sighing as he thought about the task that awaited him. When Deborah awoke, he would have to tell her what had happened to Angel. It wasn't going to be easy.

July 2279

"Alden! What are you doing out here?" Captain John Matheson grinned at the old telepath on the viewscreen. He'd been going through some information for their latest mission, when Commander Jackson had announced the caller. They hadn't heard from Alden Catches in months, much less seen him, so this was a pleasant surprise. What was even more surprising was the news that the telepath's ship was nearby, in the same system as the Excalibur.

"You know the routine--I could tell you but then I'd have to mind-wipe you..." Alden Catches grinned back at John's snort, then continued, "I'm on the way back from a mission, and when I noticed the Excalibur here, I thought I'd call. The journey has been a rather dull one so far, and I won't be able to get off this ship before I arrive at Babylon 5, so..."

John's eyebrows rose slightly as Alden mentioned his destination. "Why don't you come over for dinner then? Do you have time?" At Alden's affirmative nod, John smiled. "Wonderful." He hesitated a moment, adding softly, "Alden? There's a favor I'd like to ask of you..."

On the bullet car, John explained the situation to Alden. Five days before, at tea-time, the loud shattering of crockery and an accompanying wave of shock had brought John, Luke and their three children rushing into the living room of their quarters. There they had found Lily, kneeling among the remains of her favorite tea service, hands clasped in front of her mouth, wide, tear-filled eyes glued to the viewscreen, which showed a message from Demon. Lily's state had been explained when it had become clear that Angel had returned. They'd had to watch Demon's message several times over, to ensure themselves it was real. Lily had almost broken down with relief, tears streaming down her face, but finally she'd pulled herself back together.

John winced at the memory of the following drama. Lily had insisted that she had to get back to Earth, or at least to somewhere within communications range, so she could talk to Angel.

"She's probably left the hospital by now. I have to see her and talk to her, I have to..."

But the Excalibur had only just started a long mission, so as much as he understood his red-headed partner's feelings, John's hands were tied. There was no way he could ignore his orders and abort the mission to take Lily back. Their argument, which they had taken into their bedroom for the children's sake, had been long and tearful, and John counted himself lucky that he hadn't ended up sleeping on the sofa. Even as desperate as she was to talk to her long lost sister, when he'd held her shaking form and 'pathed to her, Lily had felt how much John wished he could bring her into range of Earth communications, and she'd grudgingly admitted there was nothing he could do.

But that hadn't prevented her from feeling miserable and pining after Angel, especially since their mission had proven to be more complicated than they had originally thought, and therefore likely to last much longer.

Alden smiled softly as John ended his story. "So you'd like me to take her to Babylon 5?"

John sighed. "I know it's against regulations..."

The old telepath waved away that argument as the bullet car stopped, and they stood. "You know that Lily is like a daughter to me. Of course I will." His smile widened into a grin. "Even though I may come to regret it by the time we arrive on Babylon 5. We both know that Lily isn't best known for her patience."

Chuckling, the two telepaths left the bullet car.

As Lily had expected, Faylinn, Dasha and Naima almost bowled over their 'Uncle Alden' in their enthusiastic greeting. When he finally was able to stand again, the old telepath held out his arms, and Lily threw herself into his embrace. "It's good to see you again," she murmured into his chest, while trying to hold back tears. [Damn it, Lily, stop this! You've been way too emotional lately!] she told herself sternly.

"It's good to see you again, too. Although..." Alden gently pushed her back, giving her a fond smile, "I'd have preferred you to look happy."

Lily blushed. She had not slept well since hearing about Angel's return, and of course she hadn't yet received a response to the reply message she'd sent Demon--it may not even have arrived yet. Her worries showed in the rings under her eyes. But before she could say anything, Alden continued speaking.

"But I think we can remedy that."

Lily looked up at him wide-eyed, seeing a grin spread on his face. "How would you like to accompany me to Babylon 5? You'd have to stay there all on your own until the Excalibur returns from this mission of course..."

Lily hardly heard what Alden said after his question. She stood there, staring up at the old telepath who had become like a father to her, mouth open, feeling tears collect in her eyes--finding herself unable to say anything, as thoughts raced through her head. [Babylon 5? In range of Earth communications? And Angel?! I could speak to her every day. Every hour!]


She blinked, realizing John had called her name several times, and was shaking her shoulders lightly. She looked from Alden to her partner's concerned face, fighting to find her voice, then back to Alden. "I... oh... I..." Giving up on coherent speech as a lost cause, she pulled the two telepaths into her arms, hugging them fiercely, knowing they'd be able to feel her gratitude and joy.

"Can we go too?" Faylinn piped up, and Lily pulled herself together, wiping tears of joy from her face as she looked at John and Alden questioningly.

Alden gave the children a measuring look. "Well, you're not that tall yet, so I'm sure I can find enough space on my ship for you three as well."

Faylinn, Dasha and Naima were a little louder in expressing their thanks than their mother had been.

Suddenly a new voice said from the door, "Can a hard working man get some dinner around here?"

Everyone turned to find a smiling Luke standing in the doorway, and Lily and the children immediately rushed up to him, telling him the exciting news.

Nobody complained that dinner was served late that evening.

August 2279

Demon paused in the doorway that led from the kitchen onto the terrace, watching Angel as she sat quietly, looking out to sea. A book lay face down on the table next to her, the same book Angel had been reading for days. From the few pages she had turned, it was obvious that Angel's mind was not on reading. Sighing sadly to herself, Demon was sure she could guess where Angel's mind had wandered: to thoughts of Lucas and her son.

Respecting Angel's wishes, Demon had said nothing to Angel when they had rejoiced in a tearful reunion two months before. Matthew had told Demon everything Angel had told him, and while it didn't explain all that had happened, Demon understood why Angel wouldn't want to speak of those awful events again.

In the weeks that had passed since, Angel had made occasional references to her life with Lucas, but she had only once mentioned her child. While watching Mattie playing with her favorite toy soldiers, Angel had sighed softly, and said, "I wonder what kind of toys Gabriel will play with when he's older. That is if Lucas will allow him to play." That was how Demon had found out the name of Angel's son, but the subject had never been mentioned again.

It broke Demon's heart to see her sister so quiet and subdued. All Angel's fire and energy seemed to have deserted her. While she had recovered well physically, regaining the weight she had lost, recovering the color in her cheeks, Angel still had a long way to go before she recovered from the emotional traumas she had suffered. Deep down, Demon feared that her sister would never truly recover. Some scars went too deep. Even regular calls from Lily, during her stay on Babylon 5, had failed to rouse Angel's energy and the enthusiasm for life that she had always previously enjoyed.

Forcing a smile to her face, Demon stepped out onto the terrace, carrying two glasses of cool juice and placing them on the table that stood next to Angel's chair. Angel looked up and smiled as Demon said, "I thought you might like a glass of something cool. It's been hot out here this afternoon."

It had been a glorious summer. The sun had shone and the sky had been blue nearly every day, with cool breezes from the sea keeping the temperature comfortable. Matthew had been able to reschedule his work to remain on Earth for the whole time since Angel had arrived, although he'd had to make occasional trips to the Ranger office in New York, working on a project for President Sheridan right up until the time Sheridan had stood down at the last ISA elections, leaving Delenn to stand in his place and become the new ISA President..

Since mid-July, both Marcus and Mattie had been at home, and they had taken advantage of the warm weather to play on the beach, swim in the sea, and explore the beautiful countryside of Cornwall. Today, Matthew had taken the children down to Newquay for a day out on a fishing boat, leaving Demon to spend some time alone with her sister. By late afternoon, Demon had decided that she couldn't avoid the subject she needed to broach any longer.

Sitting down on the free chair, for a moment Demon collected her thoughts, playing with a piece of fruit from the bowl that rested on the table, untouched by Angel. Then she took a deep breath, forced a smile to her face and blurted, "Peter called last night after you'd gone to bed. I told him you were back."

On their return from Eriadne nearly three years before, Demon had called Angel's agent, Peter Williams, to let him know that Angel would not be coming back to Earth. She had refused to give him details, merely saying that circumstances had prevented Angel from returning, and that she had no idea where Angel had gone. Peter had been angry at first, then concerned when he had realized that Demon's frozen face was a cover for her deep distress at the disappearance of her sister. He had handled all the publicity arising from the cancellation of Angel's next role, and dealt with the potential law suits that had arisen as a consequence.

Since then, he had called periodically, asking if Demon had any news of Angel's whereabouts and condition. Demon had sensed Peter's genuine concern. He wasn't just interested in the income he made from Angel; he had liked and admired the raven haired beauty and was really interested in what had happened to her.

The previous night Peter had called late--he never seemed to grasp the time difference between California and England--and Demon had felt obliged to tell him that Angel had come home.

Before Angel could speak, Demon rushed on, "He wants to know whether you would consider going back to work. I told him it was much too soon, but he said that the offer is open if you're interested. He'd love to work with you again."

Demon watched as Angel smiled sadly and shook her head. "That was kind of him, but it would never work. I couldn't go back to that life."

Demon understood why Angel felt that way, but she wanted to be sure her sister had considered all the options. "Are you absolutely sure, Angel? We could sell the house in Santa Monica and buy you a new place, if that's what you wanted. You wouldn't have to go back to the old house." Demon knew that Angel would never be able to face that house again. The memories of Michael and the guilt she now carried would be too strong there.

Angel smiled and reached out to pat Demon's hand, saying softly, "That's kind, but no. That life seems like a dream now. I couldn't go back to it again. It was too false, too unreal. I need to find something more positive to do with my life."

The dark haired witch paused, chewing her lip for a moment, then she leaned forward and took her sister's hand. They had discovered that their mental link could now only operate when they actually touched. Squeezing Demon's hand gently, Angel sent, [[In fact, I've been doing some thinking about that, and I've come to a decision. You and Matt have been wonderful letting me stay here while I recovered, but it's time for me to leave.]]

Demon started to protest out loud, appalled that her sister was considering leaving her. Hadn't they been apart for too long already? Demon never wanted Angel to leave her again. Angel stopped Demon's words, releasing her hand to lay her fingers gently over her sister's lips. "Hear me out. Let me tell you why I need to go."

Demon took a deep breath and fell silent, nodding to her sister to continue. She would save her arguments for later.

Angel smiled and said mischievously, "It never used to be so easy to shut you up. Matt must have been training you."

Demon gave a snort of amusement and picked up her juice again, waving at her sister to continue. Angel leaned back in her seat, and turned her face back to the sea, not looking at Demon as she spoke.

"There are a lot of reasons why I should go, but I'll start with the one that is most important to me." Angel turned back and looked at her sister, her face full of sadness.

"It's really difficult for me to be here with you, Matt and the children, because every day, you remind me of what I've lost. I watch Marcus and Mattie play, and all I can think of is my son. I keep wondering if he would look anything like his cousins. Will he have friends to play with? Will Lucas allow him that? It's hard, Demon, so hard. Then I see you and Matt together, and I know you've been doing your best to be sensitive around me, but you can't help it. Just the way you look at each other speaks volumes. You touch each other without even knowing it. Little gestures, soft touches, all make it clear how much you love each other."

Tears were now streaming down Angel's cheeks, and Demon had to hold back her own sobs as her sister went on.

"I had all that for a little while with Michael, but now it's gone, and I'll never have it again. I loved Lucas, but the thing inside him, the Rage he carries, meant he could never be like that with me. I think that deep down he really loved me, but he loved the power more. He was willing to give me up, before he'd give up the Rage, and that kills me, Demon. I know Matt would give up his life before he'd let you and the children go, but the man I loved wouldn't give up the evil that possessed him. Maybe he couldn't. Maybe he didn't know how. But it's breaking my heart to see you and Matt, loving each other so much, loving your children, and having everything I'll never have."

Angel broke down and sobbed, and Demon leaped to her feet, going to kneel at her sister's side, taking Angel in her arms, and hugging her. Demon knew there was nothing she could do or say to heal the wounds. There was nothing anyone could do to rebuild Angel's life and give her what she had lost. All Demon could do was to share her sister's sorrow, and to send waves of calmness and love.

When both sisters regained their composure, Demon stood and pulled on Angel's hand. "Let's walk. Then we can plan what's best for you."

Angel wiped her face and smiled up at Demon, then lifted herself from the chair and walked alongside her sister as they crossed the lawns, and descended the steps down to the beach. They walked in silence for a while, before Angel eventually said, "I think I know where I have to go, Demon. You might not agree, but there's one place where I think I could be at peace. A place where most of my memories are good, and where I could be useful again."

Demon paused and turned to look at her sister curiously as Angel smiled and took her hand, sending quietly, [[I want to go back to Eriadne.]]

The tall blonde opened her mouth to protest, but no sound emerged. She closed it again, as Angel went on, [[I could take up my duties as village healer again. I know they've probably got other healers by now, but I'm sure I could help. I know that some bad things happened there, but at least it's a place where I have no memories of Michael. Everywhere I look here reminds me of him, and it hurts, Demon. You have no idea how much it hurts.]]

Demon took her sister back into her arms and held her again. She wasn't sure that Angel was doing the right thing, but she knew she had to stand by her sister. After a few minutes, she sent quietly, [[I'll try to make Matthew understand, and we'll make the necessary arrangements. But you don't have to leave at once, do you? Can you at least stay until after all our birthdays next month? I wanted to bake you a cake.]]

Angel laughed at the pleading tone of Demon's mental voice, and she replied out loud, "As long as you don't expect me to bake you a cake in return. I don't do cakes."

Demon forced a laugh of her own. "You don't do cooking of any kind if you can avoid it! You'd better hope that the villagers are still willing to help out at the castle, or you might just starve to death on Eriadne."

Angel swatted her sister's arm, and they walked back toward the house together, while Demon tried to think how she would explain Angel's decision to Matthew. He wouldn't be happy, of that she was sure.

Demon sat bolt upright in bed. The room was still dark and Matthew slept silently at her side. There was just enough light to make out his long, lean body, and the soft waves of his hair--[He's let it get too long again.]--falling across his face. Demon reached out and gently pushed a stray lock from his forehead, and wondered yet again how she had ever got so lucky as to have this man fall in love with her.

They had argued passionately earlier, with Matthew stubbornly resisting the idea of Angel going back to Eriadne. Demon had been equally stubborn in her support of her sister, and Matthew had eventually backed down, saying that he thought they were completely wrong, that Angel would never be happy on Eriadne, but that he had long ago given up trying to out-stubborn witches.

Their argument had ended in laughter, as Matthew had said he'd found better ways to handle witches, and then he'd proceeded to demonstrate how well he knew how to handle the particular witch he was married to.

So what had awakened Demon so abruptly in the middle of the night? She listened carefully, and reached out with her mind. Her empathic powers were much reduced, but she could still feel the minds of everyone in the house, and all were fast asleep. It must have been a dream that had startled the tall blonde into such sudden wakefulness.

Then the dream came back to Demon in full force. A dream of a time years before, and of a man she hadn't seen since but had never forgotten. Demon snuggled down next to Matthew again, a broad smile on her lips as she realized what she had to do.

Tomorrow she would make a call.

{Chapter 1} {Chapter 2} {Chapter 3}

The Witches of Eriadne: Something Wicked this Way Comes

{Part 1: The Gathering} {Part 2: Persuasion} {Part 3: Divisions} {Part 4: Regrets} {Part 5: Finale}

{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]