by Mistress Sarah

Summary: Prayaschitta is a personal attempt for atonement for wrongs committed against another.
Disclaimer: These are not my characters. They are owned, copyrighted and created by far wiser people than me. I have attempted to bring them back to life for a short time, attempting to ease that gaping hole in my heart where B5/Crusade once was.
Note: John Matheson; Matthew Gideon. NC-17. m/m. Angst.
Archiving: SW and WWOMB archive
Rating: NC-17
Warning: Rape/ Violence

Several months later.

It was now the fifth month I was on the Dya and I was finding a rhythm and a flow to follow. It wasn't  that I was suddenly welcomed with open arms by my fellow crewmembers, instead, they were becoming more comfortable with me, and I with them.  Understanding their personalities, I was able to command them more efficiently.

Lu Chen wanted nothing more than to deal with the Dya's maintenance as she took personal pride in everything being ship shape and working properly. St. John had a magical touch with the computers and had earned his nickname of Warlock because he was able to adapt and modify his equipment to do things that simply weren't in the user's manual. Give him a few hours and some duct tape, and he'd solve your problem with a rather unique whimsical style that was completely and totally his own. Michael had even managed to help me with my dart throws after watching me for several hours.

Yes, it was all in scientific equations, but it helped.


Even though he had to yell, "Throw the bloody dart, boy!" when he was finished with his rather long winded explanation.

If you left Tamberlin to her microscopes, she was happy while the silent O Neill would die for the old lady and consider the trade fair.

I think that the senior officers finally got around to accepting me right after Makam had made us all suffer through the "How to be an EF officer" course together. She had been furious that there had been Dya personnel involved in a brawl, and when she had found out her senior staff had been involved, she had literallymetamorphisized into Kali.

Her commissioned officers that had been involved in the DarkStar brawl, and were still standing, had been sent directly to her office after our arrival on the Dya.  Softly, she had ordered our handcuffs removed, and the Dragon  had... sighed. Not screamed, ranted or raved, but instead, Makam sighed. Zbignewski, Andersen, Chen, Tamberlin and a few others including myself were standing at attention, waiting for the screaming to start and the objects to be thrown. Makam didn't scream when she began walking around us, talking ever so softly about how her senior officers were... disappointments. Disappointment s to family, friends and most importantly, to those dying on Earth. We had failed those people on Earth that were praying that we'd find the Cure. We were on a holy mission, and we had desecrated it with our actions. She reminded us that we were simply no longer fit to wear our Earth Force uniforms, and that perhaps a brush up course might be in order for all of us.

"Let us not forget that you have displeased other people. You have disappointed your fellow crewmembers on the Dya, as I've cancelled all shore leave for the remainder of our voyage. You have also disappointed so many other people. Do you have any idea who else you've disappointed? Captain Elizabeth Lochley, Captain Thuy Nyugen, Captain Ivo Lee and..." Makam stopped directly in front of me, and she continued on. "Captain Matthew Gideon."

I flinched, and she noted that she had scored on me. Her comment was a direct hit and Makam knew it. "Lt. Matheson, did you pay attention? Is there anyone else that you think your boorish behavior might have displeased?"

"Yes, Madam. Captain Kritika Makam of the Dya." I whispered that, and she shook her head in denial.

"You didn't disappoint me. Does that surprise you?" Her voice was soft, and I knew that she was irate, meaning one false step and she'd pounce.

"Madam? It does surprise me." Whispering that softly, I saw a few officers nod their heads in agreement. Hadn't we disappointed her?

"I disappointed myself as I thought all of you were better than this. Having seriously misjudged my senior officers this badly, perhaps I should have retired earlier. Devi knows what other serious errors in judgement I may have made, considering I obviously put my trust.... and my respect... in the wrong people. Fortunately, one of my senior officers didn't fail me, so I have at least one bright spot in this mess. You are restricted to your quarters until I decide that you are fit to associate with the rest of my crew. Dismissed. Get out of my sight, you disgust me."

I never found out exactly what she did to the enlisted personnel who were involved in the fight, but I noticed that the entire ship was rather subdued and quiet after she had "talked" to the personnel involved. O'Neill was very quiet during the month of the "penance", as Makam had made it fully obvious to one and all that Tom had especially failed to match her standards of conduct. St. John was now the temporary acting head of the security department with Tom being remanded to his quarters at all times except for when his work schedule and Kali's classes demanded it.

For a month, her senior officers were forced to wear their dress uniforms everywhere. It was a reminder, I believe, of the standards we should have upheld, but we had failed to do so. I began to hate wearing the dress uniform by the third day, realizing that I had miserably failed my position of XO to Makam. The others seemed to share my distaste for the dress uniforms especially the heavier decorated officers and I was glad that I wasn't a Marine since I didn't have to wear their damn dress sword.

Dags tried to cheer O Neill by telling him not to fall on his sword, but her feeble attempt at humor failed.

Makam, wearing her many medals as she was wearing her dress uniform also, had made up a schedule of classes that we would be forced to take, such as etiquette, diplomacy, history, ethics, philosophy and a few other subjects besides forcing us to work additional shifts. The senior staff was required to eat together and make intelligent, pleasant and witty conversations at all times.

I had been surprised when St. John had dragged himself out of Medbay on the first day of our schooling, and had joined the senior officers for lunch. Vladi had put him on medical leave for two weeks due to a cerebral contusion he had received during the bar fight. Instead, he had pulled himself of his bed, and he was reporting for "duty." He was wearing his dress uniform also, and he looked decidedly green.

"Madam?" St. John spoke quietly. "May I join my fellow officers?"

She looked at him, and gruffly told him he should be back in Medbay.

"Perhaps, Madam. Perhaps, I should be here also with the rest of the senior staff." He had remarked, and she had nodded in agreement.

St. John sat next to me for the lunch, and he kept rubbing his head throughout the entire meal, while he turned ever more off-color. It was a rather stupid thing to do, as Michael got violently ill right after the meal ended, but it was something Matthew would have done. Matthew would have dragged himself out of Medbay because he felt an obligation to his crew and officers. Michael ended back in Medbay, while each senior officer separately protested to Kali about Michael being forced to take the course.

"Madam. He tried to stop the fight. There's no reason why he should be required to take this course." I had argued with her, and she gave me a tight grin.

"St. John is doing it for no other reason than the fact that he believes he should support his fellow officers in his matter. Michael's not doing this because of me, but only because he believes he should. Loyalty to his crew and his fellow officers. Not a bad trait for a senior officer to have, do you agree Lt.? Besides, I haven't made these classes mandatory to any of you. I just made a suggestion that perhaps a brush up course might be appropriate as apparently many of my senior staff appear to have forgotten the basics of what being an officer in Earth Force means."

She was trying to teach me, so I acknowledged the point.

It was after our first class when I realized that I had forgotten to get Makam to authorize some form or another. When St. John had gotten ill, Vladi and I had taken him down to Medbay. After he had been stabilized, I had returned to the officer s dining quarters, as I had thought I could catch Makam before she had disappeared on her ship s rounds. I was in the corridor about to enter the room, as I thought she was alone, until I heard her sigh.

"I don't know what I m going to do with you, I really don't. Brawling, O'Neill? BRAWLING like a drunken cadet on his first RnR. Fist fights, Old man? I m surprised you didn't get your damn instructor baton out and crack his skull." Her soft voice was full of disapproval.

"The thought had entered my mind, Madam." His tone was somber. "Unfortunately, I had left it on the ship."

"O Neill, I m not laughing. I m NOT. You and I have been together for a very long time, ever since I first stepped foot on my first assignment and in all those years, I never expected you to start a riot. You are supposed to set an example for the other officers and crew members to follow." There was a pause, and then Makam continued tightening the screw. "You failed them and you failed ME."

"St. John was always the one I always thought would cause a riot and you were the one that I had thought had settled that wild child down. Little did I realize that when the riot occurred, my head of security would be the one starting it and MICHAEL would be the one calling for security! Like it or not, I have all these crew members, NCOs and yes-even the commissioned officers who respect you. That s why I have you do the crew orientation, because these young, gung-ho, wet behind the ears kids coming on board respect you. Vishnu only knows what they think of you now."

"They probably respect me more as I refused to let a bunch of drunken snots insult my ship s Captain and my Ship s Executive Officer , Madam."

I really should be leaving, but I found myself staying.

"I don't need you defending my honor, O Neill. Let them insult me, let them insult Matheson, and Gideon for all I know and care. Might and RIGHT aren t always the same thing and you know it quite well. Their opinions don't matter to me."

"As the highest ranked Marine there, and since Captain Lee was not available to correct his crew members, it was necessary for me to..."

"It was not NECESSARY for you." She hurled that comment at him.

"I will not have my Captain's reputation besmirched. Not while I have breath in my body."

The argument had continued for some time and I knew that I should leave them alone. This was a private dressing down that I shouldn t be hearing, but O'Neill was calmly repeating his defense over and over again while Kali grew madder and madder at him. So I stayed where I was, intrigued with what I was hearing. I decided that since I was hidden from view, and close to the door I could enter the room when the two of them were leaving.

"Eight of them. EIGHT. You're fifty six years old, O'Neill.  What the hell is someone your age doing taking on eight twenty year olds?"

"Winning, I believe, Madam."

I could imagine O'Neill saying that with the slightly superior smirk that is part of every Marine s psyche.

"No. You weren't winning. You maybe would have knocked a few more of them down, maybe three, maybe four of them. Then the rest of them would formed some sort of plan, and they would have killed you."

There was a rapid exchange of words at this point, but in no language that I was familiar with. The Sergeant Major had decided to plead his case with his Captain in her native language, in a valiant attempt at defending himself. It lent an intimate quality to the exchange between the two officers, and I found myself warning myself that I really should be leaving. If the two of them were conversing softly in Sanskrit, it was because they didn't want anyone to understand what the two of them were saying.

This was not a dressing down, but instead it was a rather heated disagreement between friends of long standing. While Makam was Captain, O Neill was still firmly standing his ground, and defending what he had done.

"So, Star-bright, you do still care if I live or die?" Tom's low voice was rather surprised.

"O'NEILL!" There was a spat of Sanskrit, and whatever Makam was saying sounded rather evil.

I still heard Tom s mild comment while I escaped from the room.

"This old jar head had some doubts."

Fortunately no one was in the hallway, so no one saw me leave the room. I decided to meander through the hallways for a while. When I returned, O'Neill was leaving the room. He didn t see me, and for a moment, I was surprised by the pained look in his green eyes. The Marine nearly ran into me, while he yanked at the medals around his neck. Obviously, Tommy felt choked by their spiritual weight, especially after his conversation with Makam.

His distressed mien quickly disappeared to be replaced by his regular Marine façade but for a moment, I had wondered about the depths of the suffering in his eyes.  If I didn't know better, I swear that Makam had just ripped his heart out and fed it to a Pak'Ma'Ra.

"Sorry, Sir. I didn't see you." He quietly apologized.

When Tom had realized he had nearly barreled down his Telepathic XO, he had made a Herculean attempt at trying to prevent me from falling on my face. I noticed without commenting that he had grabbed me by my jacket, and that Tom was wearing his dress gloves. For a moment, I wondered what would have happened if he hadn't been wearing his gloves. Would he have left me fall flat on my face?

"Don't worry. But have you seen the Captain? I thought she still might be here."

"No, Sir."

Then he disappeared quickly from my sight. I couldn't help thinking about how he had quietly asked Makam if she still cared whether he lived or died, and how Matthew would possibly answer that same question.

Matthew? Do you care?

I was busy between the extra work Kali had given up as penance, combined with other projects that the Dragon Lady was throwing at me to complete, so I found myself with very little free time. But the comment that the drunk Marine had said festered and grew. What if Matthew had actually said that? That voice would wake me up in the middle of the night, and I would try to convince myself that Matthew never would have said that. He wouldn't have, would he? But the look in his eyes when our eyes had met in the DarkStar haunted me as Matthew's eyes had been full of rage.

As part of my penance, I even began eating regularly with Madam Makam. Eating dinner with Makam was a pleasant diversion as I had suddenly realized that she had a very keen, dry wit which fooled most of the people she dealt with. She was far from humorless, as she appreciated greatly my attempts at humor, and I had learned a great deal from working with her, including how to bend my body into the most unusual positions in yoga. When I found myself joining her for her yoga exercises, I had wanted to ask if this would help with leg cramps, but that was still a bitter moment for me, so I refrained from asking.

She was meditating, her body in an impossible position one day, and I joined her, trying to find my "ground and center" through mediation when I suddenly felt dizzy, felt a sharp shooting pain to the back of my head. "Matthew?" I whispered, before I collapsed on the floor. Makam reached for me, checked for a pulse, and I lost consciousness while she was calling for a medical team to her office.

Dya Medbay.

"Funny. I've read your damn psyche records, your social ability scores and everything else that EF has on you. Believe me, when I tell you that I been reading and rereading a veritable mountain of your personnel records since you collapsed. When the hell did you decide to become precognitive? It would have been nice if you told me that you suddenly developed that talent. Captain's like to know stuff like this." That was Makam who was standing next to Vladi.

"What?" I asked groggily.

"Vladi, is he stable to leave here? I need to talk to him in private."

"Sure, just don't let him overdue it. I'll check up on you later, ok?" Zhivago gave me a cheerful grin, but I could see that it was forced. What the hell had happened?  Why did I feel such fear for Gideon?

I had escaped for a bit, enjoying the chance to have a shore leave to myself. I was wearing my best impersonation of civilian clothes, and I was finally free from everyone! No responsibilities! No pressure! Just Matthew Gideon, out on the town, completely and utterly by himself. That when I noticed someone following me. Two or Three or Five really big someone following me so I had tried to escape from them. Dodging between the vendors and the crowds, I called for help on my comlink.

My comlink was disabled.  DISABLED. That meant that someone on the Excalibur had disabled it . . . Jenn O'Keefe, my new XO.  I raced through the crowds, not sure who or what I should trust, and suddenly I realized that I was at a dead end.  I turned to face them, and I knew I was in trouble. SIX against One.

I fought, trying to defend myself.

Pain. Splintering pain. Like I had been clubbed. Or drugged, and dragged for miles. Actually I think I might have been. I opened my eyes, which wasn't a really bright thing to do, as everything began to spin and twirl in front of me.

"I better sit. I feel really, really dizzy all of a sudden." I admitted to Makam. She gave me a slight smile.

"We're almost to your quarters. Hang on, John. Hang on."

I collapsed on my couch, and suddenly I felt nauseous.

"Here drink this. This will help." I tasted flat ginger ale, and I gave her a slight smile.

"I hate flat soda," I mumbled.

"Tough."  She wasn't being very sympathetic, but then she sat in the chair next to me and she sighed. "Better?"

"Yes. What's going on? Why do you want to speak to me in private?"  I tried to sit up, felt dizzy again, and she shook her head, warning me not to try that move again. I certainly wasn't going to disagree with her.

"I have to be blunt. You're being reassigned to the Excalibur.  We're about a week or so out from her current position, and I'm trying to break every speed limit known to the universe to get us there faster."

"I'm being TRANSFERRED? Did you have some problems with my performance?" Oh GOD! I would be back working with Gideon again. Oh no!

"Not at all. But, Excalibur is a tough bind right now, and they need you back. Realistically, you're the only possible candidate for the job of XO right now. They've been through at least sixteen of them in the last five months, and I don't think there's anyone in all of EF stupid enough to take that position. So EF has reassigned you back to the Excalibur. But if it makes you feel any better, you've been promoted to Lt. Commander, so you got an increase in your pay." She gave me a dry smile for that comment.

I got PROMOTED? WHAT? That thought whirled through my mind when suddenly I had this overwhelming sense of fear. Something had happened to Matthew, that's the only reason why I'd be able to return to the Excalibur as Matthew wouldn't ever willingly allow me back on his ship. "What's going on? What happened to Matt?" I needed to know. What had happened?

"You and Matt were pretty good friends at one time. Right?" She was avoiding the issue, and I couldn't believe that she wasn't answering my question.

"I don't know what business of yours that is." I answered her shortly. "What's going on that means I have to be transferred back to the Excalibur?"

"Let me finish. I have to ask you something. Look. Don't try to lie to me. I took the reason why you left the Excalibur at face value. Though I had my doubts why you would accept a transfer from the flag ship of the fleet to my beloved bucket of rust."

"Captain!" I protested her comments, and she ignored my protests. This was Kali, intent and fearsome, that caused lesser crew members to run and hide, and she was directing her intensity at me.

"You two were obviously pretty close there. Then you and Matt had a falling out of some sort. Right after you two were trapped in that cave-in, I believe. You know, Gideon's been telling everyone the reason you left was because of that cave-in. That you took stock of your career and decided the best thing to do was request a transfer, so you'd get back on the command track. You know, he told me that he thought he'd be a stumbling block to your career." Her voice was soft, and she was giving me a rather searching stare, waiting for my reaction to that comment.

"Captain."  I sat up, and I began to protest again. She ignored me, and continued talking.

"That's a crock of shit. The XO on the ship that found the cure for the plague could write his own ticket anywhere in EF. Even if you are a TELEPATH. You two had a falling out, over what I don't know.  That Marine had mentioned that supposedly you scanned Gideon. Hmm... I don't think you purposely scanned him. Your morals are too strong for that. Maybe you were exhausted, maybe it was because of the tight quarters that you found yourself in, that you just couldn't help but hear him."

"You would have been terrified, thinking that you'd be court martialed for it, if you ever got out of there. Were you scared that the watchers would come for you, and find out your little secret? That you could hear your captain in your mind?" She looked at me, staring at me, judging my response. Tapping her finger against her lip, she looked uncertain. My Madam Dragon uncertain? The universe would come to end, before she was ambivalent.

"If you did scan him, it was consensual. He allowed you to do it as you have too much respect for him to violate him. I'm thinking that Matthew knew you pretty damn well after all your years together. He knew how much difficulty you were having in not scanning him for whatever reason so he willingly gave you permission to lower your shields. Perhaps he even ordered you to do so? Letting your shields down, you probably could hear him clearly. So, I need to know. Did you touch Matthew Gideon's mind?"

"Captain! How could you think I'd breech protocol like that? I hope you've got facts to back that ridiculous idea up to the Board of Inquisition." I was afraid, what did she know? That damn Marine in the DarkStar. St. John had been there for that part of the incident, and no doubt Makam had gotten a fully detailed report from Mike.

Makam sighed, and she began counting off the facts on her fingers.

"Fact. You and Gideon worked together since you got out of the Academy. Fact. Gideon specifically requested you for the Excalibur mission over significant objections from the boys and girls in HQ. Fact. You have sterling recommendations from Gideon on all your evaluations. FACT. All fourteen or so of the XOs Gideon's had since you left the Excalibur have been rumored to have been given the absolute worse evaluations ever seen in the entire recorded history of the universe. One of them allegedly said that the XO couldn't sharpen a pencil without injuring himself and four other people in the process."

I kept my mouth shut, as there was nothing I wanted to say.

"FACT. When Gideon heard you were transferring here, he specifically contacted me to check me out as your new commanding officer. Grilled me rather thoroughly, I might add. He even made a few suggestions about what books I should look at to help your transition here. FACT. I've been in contact with Matt almost weekly ever since you arrived on this ship, as he's been asking for detailed reports on how you've been adjusting here. FACT. You and Gideon haven't talked to each other since you left the Excalibur, since I've just taken the liberty on checking all your incoming and outgoing correspondence. FACT. You and your former Commanding officer were both on B5 at the SAME time, in the SAME room and neither of you spoke to each other. You didn't even look at each other."

The list kept coming from her mouth, while I listened in horror.

"FACT! I saw Gideon's face and yours when O'Neill repeated that comment about Gideon kicking you off the Excalibur because you scanned him. Gideon was absolutely horrified by that accusation, beneath that poker face of his, and you looked like you were just knifed in the kidneys. I don't think anyone else saw that look on your face, except for me. Not Vladi, and not Dags. FACT! The next time Gideon contacted me, in fact, the only time, I've heard from him since that incident, all he wanted to know was if you truly believed what that Marine said. The only answer I could give him was to talk to you. But he didn't, now did he? As though he truly feared knowing the answer would be yes."

She stopped for a moment, and spoke softly. "FACT!  You just spoke Matthew's name and then collapsed, at apparently the very same time he was attacked and abducted."

I just looked at her in horror.

"HYPOTHESIS. You are a Telepath. Gideon is not. But at some time and place, you touched his mind. You can sense him, feel him and know when he's in danger. You left the Excalibur thinking it was a way to protect your Captain, didn't you?"

"N-n-no." I shook my head.

She gave me a penetrating look, and then I realized that she was thinking hard. A brief flash of a memory, Makam walking in during the middle of my session with Jones and Makam standing quietly behind Jones, so Jones didn't see her.


"What's this? You touched a Mundane's mind? Who was he?" Jones had asked. "How sweet. You gave him both your virginities. Your physical one and your mental one. But he didn't love you, now did he? Poor. Poor. Matheson. Who was he? You know there's not really a problem with that. Apparently, he willingly let you share everything with him. You didn't scan him; you just shared everything with him. Your body and your mind. But he didn't love you. Who was he? Why do you still defend him after he rejected you? After being cast aside and abandoned just for being what you are? Who is he?"

"MMMM . . . MMMAAAAAA . . . MAAAAAAAXXXXXXXXX" She had pulled a name from me, and I had almost failed to protect him.

"You touched his mind, didn't you? Willingly, and with Gideon's full, informed consent. Admit it, it's not a violation, John. Not if Gideon willingly consented to it."

I nodded my head, sadly. "You are a... a horrible, wicked old crone. Why did you need to know that?" I whispered.

"That's CAPTAIN CRONE, to you, Lt. Commander Buttercup," she growled. Makam had looked away from me, and I could tell she was unhappy with what she had just done. But it still didn't make it any easier for me. "Because it might save Gideon's life. He's been kidnapped by a fringe element. O'Keefe, his last XO, was actually a doomsday cultist, and she helped him be abducted during a shore leave. It's obvious things went faster than she thought it would, so she couldn't destroy all the evidence before she left the ship. She's gone, the Excalibur had been trying to conduct a rescue mission but... it doesn't look good. HQ wants to keep this quiet, because if the news that there is Doomsday cultists in EF ever escapes, the mood on Earth will grow even more desperate. We're being sent in to do help a RECOVERY... NOT A RESCUE. You're being sent in to take over as XO for the Excalibur as they're too damn shell shocked to think straight right now. Plus she managed to scramble most of the on board computer system so they have little more than life support available to them right now."

"He's dead?" I whispered. My grief was almost overwhelming as I knew that it was my fault this had happened. If I hadn't left the Excalibur, this wouldn't have happened.  Even if there were other Doomsday cultists on board to arrange the kidnapping, I would have been right there. I could have found his location quickly because of my gift. I would have been able to STOP it.

"Do you think he is?" she asked me quickly.

I thought about it, shook my head. Trying to sense him, I felt that our bond... was still there. Faintly, I could sense... something.  "No. I think he's alive."

"Good enough for me. We're going to meet up with the Excalibur, play a few games to keep your secret as safe as possible, and then we're going to rescue him. Since Gideon was kidnapped, they haven't let a ship off the planet. He's probably still there."

Pain. Darkness. My head was spinning around and around again, and I could taste the bitter after taste of drugs in my mouth.  Jenn O'Keefe had betrayed me. Betrayed my crew, betrayed Earth. Damn her.  And she had been the first XO I had actually liked since HE had left.  She had pushed herself to learn everything about the ship, and I had... respected that. Too bad she was using it for her own purposes. Damn HER!

Things had gotten ugly what with my mouth. Sometimes, I just shouldn't be sarcastic especially when dealing with religiously zealous. Maybe I wouldn't be lying here, tied down. Oh, and maybe I'd be clothed too.

Rule #1 - for a POW to have no dignity or identity, one should immediately remove his clothes.  After all, if a naked man escapes, it's rather noticeable. Especially when you're built like me, I remarked dryly. HUBRIS! That's how I got into this mess. If I hadn't let my damn pride get in the way with John Matheson, he'd probably still be my XO. Not that bitch O'Keefe who had apparently planned this. I thought of John strongly, and for a moment, I felt less alone. Damn it, JENN!

But she was dead. Her zealous buddies killed Jennie as they thought I had contaminated her. Certainly sucks to be Jennie, doesn't it? Well, it was certainly horrible to be ME right now.

They were an odd bunch of zealous, strange even for a fringe element. Apparently, they were going to kill me to leave a message to EF that one shouldn't fight God's will. If God wanted everyone dead, then God wanted everyone DEAD. For a brief moment, I had wanted to quip if they were absolutely 100% sure that God wanted me in particular, dead or perhaps someone else instead, but I decided against it. They just might kill me faster just so I could check that detail out. I made a mental note that if Jenn and I met up in the after life, I'd be sure to thank her personally for a fine job.

Lovely. Lovely. The job description never mentioned THIS. The savior of Humanity, yada yada yada. A fantastic career opportunity! Never mentioned the possibility of being sacrificed because your seventeenth XO in five months betrayed you to a doomsday cult.

While I was hanging around, all tied up with no particular place to go, I had plenty of time to think.  My thoughts, as always, had turned to John and I had come to the startling conclusion that I loved John Matheson. LOVE. Not the wild roller coaster rides with Lochley, each of us fighting to be the one in control. No, not that. Nor was it the heady first touch of romance that made one giddy. It wasn't even the flashy, showy insecure relationship where the one partner is constantly asking for attention and security from the other.  No, never Matheson. Not my stolid, dependable, self-reliant and absolutely terrified Telepath.

How lonely it must have been for you all those years, John. How devastating it must have been for you to think that I hated and blamed you for what had happened between us. But I hadn't, I had just been uncomfortable and tongue-tied when I finally realized how much you cared for me, and I had been wishing for a glib tongue so I could make things better between us with a few simple words. A few assurances, a promise or two and things would have been corrected. The hoped for words hadn't come to mind, and so the silence had spread and grown between us, until the gap seemed unbreechable.  All the days afterward, I had desperately wished that you might be the one to say something to me, as I couldn't simply find the words.

And you, thinking my silence as rejection, had fled from me to serve with an EF Captain that I feared who would break you, uncaring of you and your sterling qualities. I had kept in contact with her, wanting to make sure you were OK, until I had realized that I was only prolonging the break between us. So, I had sent one last message, hoping to give you the clean break you had deserved, and I had simply asked Kritika if you believed that damn Marine in the DarkStar. She had told me to talk to you about it. But as always, I was a coward, and I just couldn't seem to gather the courage to talk to you.

You had teased me about my relationship with Liz, hiding your own feelings, and you had always been laughing at my obvious embarrassment about how much the crew really knew. Honestly, I had never really loved Liz, as it was relationship based on convenience, nothing more.  Each of us getting something out of it, and neither of us wanting to take it further than that. Two lonely souls looking for some companionship and an escape from the joys of command.

I shouldn't talk to you like you're really here, John.  You're not, thank God.  If you had been here, I would be tearing down every stone in this temple to get you out of here, safe and sound. My dear Telepath, you don't think that I would leave you here to face this horror?  I'd move heaven and earth to protect you. Believe me? Please?

Thank the Maker, you're not here.

Upon reflection, I realized that my love for John was far deeper than that what Lochley and I had shared, as our relationship had been built over a period of time. Brick by brick, shy smile by shy smile, it had taken over a long forgotten abandoned part of my heart, and I had ignored it, concentrating on other things. Filled with a need for vengeance for the crew of the Cerebus, and looking for the Cure to the Plague, I had turned my heart to stone. Even with my neglect and my barren heart, our love had still bloomed thanks to John's gentle wit, his compassion and his absolutely lousy cups of coffee.

God, I never met anyone who couldn't make a cup of coffee until I met Matheson. All these years, I had been grateful for the times we had talked, even while I sipped at his bitter coffee, knowing full well that I would later "pay" for drinking it. How I had loved it when he had softly mocked me out of my foul moods or when he chided me to get a haircut, and especially for the times he knew enough to be silent and let me vent my anger and frustration. John had loved me, and had silently offered me what he knew I needed most, his friendship and his emotional support.

All those years, all John had secretly wanted was for me to acknowledge him and accept his feelings toward me. John hadn't even dared hope that the feelings might be reciprocated. Behind his facade of a self-reliant EF officer, lurked a young man who had been absolutely terrified of being rejected by the man he trusted, respected and loved.

And he had thought I had rejected him, spurned him when I just couldn't find the words to speak with him about what I had done. So, John had fled from me, trying to avoid ever again having to see the man that he loved. Dear God, I didn't mean to hurt him. Why didn't I try harder to talk to him? I was so damn blind.  And he was ashamed of me, horrified by the darkness in the soul of the man he thought he loved.

John had given me everything, his trust, his soul and his virginity. Being so caught up with other things that I hadn't realized the value of what he was giving me, so I had squandered those precious gifts recklessly. Such a fool, I cursed myself, over and over again. Taking John's valuable gifts, given to me freely, I had corrupted and destroyed them due to my very nature. Forgive me, John, for I never knew. There are none so blind, as those who will not see are, and I had refused to see what was in front of me.

They were drugging me again, trying to get some sort of information from me. I don't know what it was... but they're NOT getting it! Even if it's merely the recipe for Auntie Bessie's pineapple turnover cake. NEVER! Ha ha! I'm taking it to my grave. Yeah. Right.

My mood suddenly darkened, and I suddenly begged for absolution from the man that I had wounded.  Before I died, I needed John's forgiveness, as my guilt would continue to haunt me for an eternity.

"Forgive me, John, for I cannot forgive myself."

Forgiveness was not to be found for one such as myself, and the pain started anew. Dizzily, I suddenly realized that I really needed a haircut. I don't think I had gotten one since John had fled.

{PAGE 2}

{Characters} {Introduction} {1 None So Blind} {2 Kshatriya} {3 Bingo, the Invisible Fish, and Starship Captain} {4 Because Warlocks Can't FLY} {5 Prayaschitta} {6 Let the Captain Have Some Dignity} {7 Epiphany} {8 Biases} {9 Moksha} {10 The Three Graces}

Witches Familiars

{Mistress Sarah}

{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}