by Mistress Sarah


She strode onto the Excalibur, looking like Kali incarnate, and I was walking quickly next to her, acknowledging the grateful looks of the Excalibur crew. Dryly, I wondered if they were so happy to see me because I was back, or because I was a friendlier looking face than the Dragon Lady. Vladi, Dags and O'Neill were behind her, as they were going to be part of the rescue team.  A RESCUE... not recovery. We were going to rescue Gideon, not recover his body.

"As per EF orders, Lt. Commander Matheson is taking temporary control of the Excalibur as he is the only person in EF currently familiar enough with the Excalibur to handle this situation.  You are to assist him in any way possible, have I made myself clear?" Makam announced that on the ship's PA system.

She then began snapping orders at the normally laconic O Neill, who was answering her steady stream of questions with lightning speed. Half-sentences heavily mixed with something that sounded like Sanskrit, combined with a few hand gestures and the occasional facial grimace, and soon the bereted O Neill was running down the hallway, followed by Chen and Dags.  His face was a thundercloud, and he was looking like a Devotee on a direct mission from Kali.

"What the hell was that?" I asked St. John. Did they just have a conversation?

"Yes. She made a few suggestions and Tommy critiqued them. Makam s just given him carte blanche to plan out whatever he thinks will get Gideon back alive while the two of you get this ship running again.  You ve just seen why she keeps him as her head of security even though he s only a NCO, because being an academy graduate doesn t prepare you for the way Kali thinks. Nothing does except for serving together for thirty odd years. It also helps being fluent in whatever damn language she s shrieking in at that particular moment. I learned enough to know when she s threatening to castrate someone." He gave me his usual smirk. "Especially when it s me."

"Knowing our dear commanding officer for as long as I have, I believe that she added a motivational comment or two just now. Probably told Tommy that this was his only chance to get back in her good graces after the bar fight, so he's going to move every damn star in the galaxy if necessary."

Makam quickly ordered some reports from a few scared looking Excalibur crew members, that done, she turned to me, and spoke loudly.  Far louder than normal for her, as though she was trying to make sure everyone heard her. "Lt. Commander Matheson. "Do you possess any psychometric skills? Do you think that if you focused on Gideon you might be able to help place him?"

"I... haven't tried that, Captain. But I'll go to his quarters, and his office and try to find something that might help me focus. Crystal is best, metal second..."

"Very well. Lay on, McDuff."

She sat in Gideon's quarters, and she kept her mouth shut.  I tried to concentrate, tried to find something that focused my powers on him. Grasping, straining, I couldn't find it. I was growing ever more frustrated, rummaging through his stuff, and finally Makam snapped at me. "You're doing this wrong."

"Funny, I don't remember you suddenly developing psychic ability." I growled that at her, and then sighed. I was obviously exhausted if I was getting nasty with Madame Dragon.

"Before you came on board, I did a lot of reading."

"Madam! A lot of reading a Telepath does not make!" I assured her.

She continued, ignoring my comments. "I read some things, some of which Gideon had recommended to me, and what a few others had recommended.  Sit on the floor, John. Clear your mind. Use your third eye, Matheson, to focus on Matthew.  What is your strongest memory of him?" As always, she ignored sarcasm directed at her. Such an odd woman, what would have happened if she had been my commanding officer for my entire career?  How would things have been different? Or was I doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. My karma, my Dharma, my doom.

Would I have fallen for her also, as she only the second person I had ever met that treated me no differently from a Mundane officer under her command? As it was, sometimes I felt that I was under her terrible thrall, just like St. John was, as was O'Neill and the rest. If she had been my first commanding officer, would I be now wearing a Dragon somewhere on my body?  Even Vladi wore his Russian dragon proudly for her, but Gideon's invisible mark was still on my heart and soul, long after his physical marking of my shoulder had been healed. Even after all this time, he was still MY captain, and I regretted that I couldn't offer Makam the same loyalty and devotion that I had given my Gideon. But Makam had never asked for it, as though accepting the fact that it simply wasn't mine to give to her.

I sat on the floor, crossed my legs ruefully. "These jumpsuits aren't made for Yoga."

"Strip then. It's nothing I haven't seen before," she remarked dryly. "In various shapes, colors and sizes."

"I'll pass on remarking on that comment."

"Modest, aren't we?" she quipped.

I laughed at her, and she gave me a tight grin. Closing my eyes, I thought of Matthew. Various images appeared in my mind... Leather Jacket. Lochley. Sunglasses. Skimmer. Yelling at Eilerson. Meetings in his office. When his hair got too long, I'd have to remind him to get a haircut. The way he always played chess with himself. Single. Solitary. Alone. For a moment, I lingered on that thought.

Chess. Players. King. Rook. Knight. Sword. Excalibur.


When I "returned" a significant amount of time had passed, and the Old Lady was looking at me in concern. "You were gone for a while there, I was getting worried."

"His chess set. He always plays chess with himself. As far as I know of, he's never let anyone ever play a game against him. Where is it? He's moved it since I was last here."

"In the kitchen."

I picked up a "black" knight. Metal. Good conduction points. The "white" side was made of... YES! Crystal. I quickly grabbed several pieces from the white side. King Gideon. Deliberate. Methodical. EF- slow moving. Slow to react. Queen- Makam, dangerous and unpredictable. Earth- dying from the plague. Knight. Matheson. Chambers. Both of us constantly going in dangerous situations because of the King and Queen. Bishop- GALEN. Mystic. Sliding through space and time for his own reasons. I thought also of Warlock and his occult knowledge of computers. Rook- Dureena. Looking for home, a place to belong after her people were destroyed. But what was EILERSON? Hiding behind thick walls so no one could ever hurt him. Hiding his heart behind... a fortress. Eilerson... I made him a rook too. I grabbed a pawn for all those who were pawns in our fight for the cure, Trace, O'Neill, Dags...

I held them tightly in my hands, concentrated on them strongly... and I felt him.

"J-j-john?" I whispered in a voice that I didn't recognize as my own. "J-john?"  Why did I suddenly feel as though he was nearby? But it couldn't be he, as he had fled from my darkness.

"He's alive. Someplace dark. They're going to kill him. As a warning to EF," I whispered. So much sorrow and regret. Why did Matthew grieve like that?  Oh dear God, my fault. Completely, and totally.

I was feeling disorientated, and I couldn't remember what the hell I was doing here.  Then they threw someone in the darkness with me. I could...  see...  someone. Battered face. Oriental. Young. Military uniform. WAIT- he shouldn't be here. He wasn't here. What was he doing here? Was he here? Was that why I had felt him so strongly a few minutes ago. Oh God, NO!

"JOHN?" I whispered.

He nodded. Terrified. He was TERRIFIED. This was wrong. John wasn't here! JOHN WASN'T HERE. He was on some cruiser with... Vishnu? Kali? Devi? What was that captain's name? I couldn't remember. How that frightened me that I couldn't remember her name. We had talked numerous times, so I knew I should know what her name was. What was it?  She was short and acidic, but I knew she cared deeply for her crew and would take good care of John for me. Perhaps she would be the one able to heal the wound in his soul that I had caused. I had been worried with the way she had treated John, but I finally accepted it, as she was trying to rid John of my corruption as though she was a blacksmith smelting raw metal ore. She would burn off the impurities, hammering away at the molten metal, and making John stronger in the process. But why was he HERE?

"Help me. Please." I whispered. "Untie me. Please."

He touched me, and then I felt him enter my mind. Pain. Such Pain. John... was raping my mind. NO. NOT JOHN! NOT JOHN!!! It wasn't Matheson, so I tried to prevent him from touching my soul. "NO!" I screamed at him, while he continued to delve, to dig, and to search for something. Singing children's songs, trying to remember what I had learned to defend myself against a deep scan, I tried to deny him access to my mind, but I had no defense against him.

The one time John had touched my mind, he had been gentle and tender as he had been so very terrified of the man he loved. But this Teep was stronger than John was, so he took everything from me. Taking what they wanted from me, he also managed to take my pride, my dignity and my self-esteem. But they didn't take my anger away from me. Burning brightly, it would keep me alive for the next few weeks.

When I woke up after a sleep full of nightmares where I destroyed John over and over again, my throat was dry and I was cold.  There were a few young women in the room, probably the youngest was seventeen or so, and the oldest was in her early twenties. Dressed in white, they gave me such a feeling of absolute terror that I was stunned by how strongly I felt it. Was it the look in their eyes?

"We should begin the ceremony of purity" whispered one of the younger girls.

"No. We should have some fun first.  We have several hours to complete the ceremony of purity, but... first things first. Have you ever seen a naked man before?"  She was the oldest, and by far the cruelest. I could see that much in her ice blue eyes.  She gently touched my stomach, and I tried to remain calm.

OH GOD NO!!!!!!!! My skin crawled from her touch, and I found myself trying to crawl into a ball to protect myself. It was an useless attempt as I was still tied down, spread eagle on the table, but my vain struggle appeared to amuse her.

"No." That rather shy admission from the youngest, earned giggles from the rest of the crowd.

"Then you should look upon him and see." She said that in the exact tone of voice that the head Zealot used earlier with me, telling me to look upon the face of God and see his displeasure with my actions. Why did zealots always make God male? I'd have to ask God when I met up with Him or Her. It?

More giggles.

"Is this...?" The voice paused, and I saw it was a young red head that had placed her hands on my hips, and I knew what was going to happen. [Oh GOD. NO.] My breathing increased due to my fear, and I was terrified to realize that one of the women was stroking my chest as though trying to soothe a wild animal.

"Yes." More laughter. "Go ahead. You can touch it. He'll enjoy it."

The redhead obviously didn't want to do that, so the eldest came over and did more than touch. I tried to remain aloof, and not respond to what she was doing to me as she began to give me a hand job.  Suddenly a damn broke, and I felt more hands on me. This would have been a dream come true for Eilerson, to have eight "Vestal Virgins" exploring him, but not for me.

Their hands were everywhere, especially on my scrotum, nipples and my penis. Exploring and commenting on the differences between male and female with happy little laughs. While they examined, and commented, I closed my eyes, and begged for help. But Mother Nature had other ideas. Apparently that response was an automatic reaction as I assuredly wasn't looking forward to this nor was I enjoying it. I decompartimentalized myself, trying to remove myself from what was going on. It was an act, nothing more. I wasn't enjoying this; I wasn't participating in this. Someone else's body was having this done to him. Someone else was responding to their hands. NOT I.

"What's happening?" that was the hushed voice of one of them.

"He's getting aroused. That's how they make babies."

"Really?" I heard giggling again, and I knew my face was scarlet. Trying to leave my body behind, I day dreamed that I was in the Excalibur, in the bullet car. This was my karma, my doom. As I had injured John, so was I to be harmed.  Asad...harana Prayasch...itta?  Was that what it was called? When John had transferred to the Dya, I had thoroughly researched his new Captain and her Hindu background, wanting to understand his new Captain and her strong personality. I had found myself fascinated by her cultural background, and I had spent many hours reading on to satisfy my curiosity about Makam. Asadharana Prayaschitta was extraordinary penance, in which the person willing submits to numerous horrors to try and atone for his crimes of action and desire. As the wheel of life turned, I would find myself reborn, with the stain of my crime against John weighing against my soul. Perhaps by submitting to these bitches, I could at last wipe the stain of my crime from my heart. Maybe... I could wipe the stain off my heart, as I just knew I wasn't getting out here alive.

"REALLY." More giggles.

The purity ritual was forgotten as the young women started to play harder with their captive toy. A few tried to kiss me, and I found myself trying to remain unresponsive, while still they continued to play with me. It was inevitable that I would ejaculate after all their hands on work. But a few had missed THAT, so they decided that I needed to repeat that trick. Again and Again and Again. While I allowed my body to react, but kept my soul and mind completely out of it. Ignoring their giggles, ignoring their touches, I was not here. This was not happening to me. Not MATTHEW GIDEON, CAPTAIN. Not I. NO! Damn it. Submit, Matt. SUBMIT.

And so it continued until I was just too sore for them to touch me without pain. But they continued trying for some time. At last, they gave up in disgust, as their new toy was apparently broken. A few of the young ladies kissed me before they left and I remained a galaxy away from them. For a brief moment, I had looked into the eyes of the young red head, and realized that she was terrified also. She leaned over, kissed me softly and I "responded" emotionally, feeling pity for her obvious terror.

Then she traced my beard with her fingers as though debating what she should do. "Red" bit her lip, looked quickly about to make sure that everyone had left the room, and then she offered me something to drink. It was lukewarm and metallic tasting, but still I blessed her. Foolish me, for my blessings were worthless.


I was sitting in Gideon's chair, and I was listening to the reports from both crews regarding our attempts at rescuing Gideon. Galen wasn't on ship, and I found myself regretting that for two reasons. One was that his assistance would have been invaluable, especially with figuring out what exactly the hell O'Keefe had done to the scanners, and secondly, St. John would have been absolutely speechless to meet a legendary Technomage. I think I would have preferred him speechless, rather than listening to him loudly cursing in Sanskrit, Gaelic and a few other languages over the damage that had been done to the scanners. There had been a rather spectacular display of fireworks at one point, which had put our weapons array offline for an hour.

I tried to be reassuring to my crew, displaying a serene faith in the rather unorthodox fellow who was rewiring my ship. He had slammed his hand hard on one of the panels, managing to startle the majority of Excalibur Bridge crew who obviously had serious doubts about his ability. But the panel had suddenly lit up, and began working after Mike had hit it and cursed at it. "Got to show those damn electrons who's boss." He growled that while Chen laughed softly. Lu and Dags were assisting him, but he was the one splicing and dicing wire wildly, trying to get the scanners working.

"Having problems, Lt. St. John?" The Dragon asked that dryly while Michael was back to literally growling at the equipment.

"Damn it, she knew that they'd start looking for him, so she destroyed the scanners. I'm having to rebuild them from scratch right now, and I'm not that familiar with all the technology that was used to create the Excalibur." St. John had looked at the atmospheric readings of the planet, mumbled something about the Dya's scanners being too obsolete to deal with the ionic concentration of the atmosphere and had gone directly to work on fixing the Excalibur's equipment. He was right, but I couldn't help but think that St. John was having the time of his life playing with the up-to-date equipment on the Excalibur. I knew Dags and Lu were busy commenting on the equipment, and the two women were planning upgrades on the Dya even though the ship was going to be decommissioned after this mission.


They re never happy unless they re tinkering.

"Do your best, Michael" I told him.

"Don't I always?" he remarked dryly to Andersen who gave him a reassuring pat on his shoulder. I pretended to ignore his comment, and I called on O'Neill for a report.

"Lt. Commander Matheson, Dr. Eilerson and I were going over the planet's history.  The original inhabitants of this world have long since died out, but apparently IPX had been here before it became this tourist trap." O'Neill looked at Eilerson, and motioned for him to continue.

"Yes, the Sgt. Major is quite correct. They had a colorful history, including... sacrifice. Based on what we know about the original inhabitants, their sacrifices were intended to appease their Gods, and they were held... here." He pointed at the map of the world to a particularly remote spot. "Interesting, they just apparently left them to die, as the priest never killed them. It was the gods' will that determined if the sacrifices lived or died."

"He's probably being held captive there, Sir. Magnify!" Sgt. O'Neill commanded, and he continued with his briefing. "This is the supposedly holiest spot on the planet, and I'm betting that these..." for a moment, I knew O'Neill was going to curse, and then he thought better of it.  That would make Makam look bad, so he wouldn't ever do that. Not after the brawl in B5. "Zealots are there."

"I'm getting something there. Humanoids, a group of them, can't define it further, but we've got life forms there." That was St. John who had managed to coax something from the scanners.

"God. That's a climb." One stairway, 300 steps going up, and down. Everything else was a straight drop to the ground below. "There's no way we can get a skimmer near it?"

"No. It's not stable enough to land a skimmer on it. And if he's injured, we'll have to do a rope rescue." O'Neill's eyes sparkled and I mentally groaned. Damn O'Neill and his rope rescues. Vladi had convinced me to attend a practice or two of the Tom's practices for the rope rescue teams, and I had found myself being volunteered into becoming a member of their team. Madam Makam had thought it a simply *wondrous* idea. "So. I'm suggesting Dr. Zbignewski, Dags, St. John and myself for this, besides the regular team. Anyone from the Excalibur do you think could handle this type of rescue?"

"Leave me out of it," mumbled Eilerson.

"Dureena. Definitely Dureena. I'm going, of course." I mentioned a few other people, including Sarah Chambers.  If Gideon was injured, I wanted Sarah... and Vladi there.

The women came back occasionally to play.  My body reacted, while I remained quiet and still. Originally, I had tried my damnest not to let my body react, to remain secure in my emotional cocoon that I had constructed around my soul and my mind, but that had gotten them angry. After a few painful lessons conducted by the head bitch, I let them do whatever the hell they wanted to me. Give them what they wanted, and hopefully they'd leave. Not her. She was a terror, and she would often delight in hurting me. If I took too long to respond, or if I responded too quickly, she would punish me.  Physically, mentally and verbally, she delighted in injuring me.

"You deserve this. You realize that don't you?" She asked me that sweetly, while I tried not to scream in terror. "Answer me. You deserve this, don't you?"

"Yes. I do." I'd answer her before she'd hurt me again. I hated this, especially when I realized that I was looking forward to them showing up. Least when they were hurting me, I wasn't alone anymore. Oh God, had I sunk that far?

When I felt her weight settle around my hips, I wanted to scream in fear and disgust, but I remained mute, not wanting to allow her any type of satisfaction. How my skin crawled when she impaled herself on my dick, especially when she rode me to climax. She was obviously finding dominating and hurting an Earth Force Captain a real turn on. I was glad I had my implants current, as I'd hate to sire a child on that bitch. Or on the other four that enjoyed me as a source of amusement.

Physically and mentally what they did to me amounted to nothing more than rape, while I wondered if I'd ever feel 'clean' again.

Had he felt like that? Did he still feel dirty from my touch? Did he bitterly regret what had occurred between us? Yes. I'm sure he did, why else would he have fled? Those thoughts drove my nightmares, which filled my broken sleep.

Inside, I was trying to remember things, such as who was commanding the Excalibur right now.  Had they notified my next of kin? Did I even have one? Had I mentioned to Maintenance to do preventive maintenance on my Starfury? How many days had I been held? I couldn't remember. I couldn't REMEMBER. All I knew is the minute I saw her face, I was terrified, like a little boy, wanting to run and hide from the Big Bad Monsters.

"Red" was back frequently.  She gave me water to drink, and fed me small bits of food, while she looked frequently afraid for me. It was horrible, as I started looking forward to her arrival also. She was one of my captives, but... that still didn't make me stop hoping that when I heard the cell door opening, it would be her.  In my mind, I called her "Julia" as she reminded me of a Julia I had once known.  Humanizing her, empathizing with her, she would become my greatest weak point in my captivity. I knew that, and still it didn't stop me from feeling for her.

I knew they were using her to get to me, but still, after my days of never ending torture mixed with hours upon hours of solitude, I'd kiss her fingers softly when she was done feeding me, as a way of thanking her.  Warning her not to do this with my eyes, she ignored my pleas. Then "Julia" got "caught."  They had set her up. I knew it, and still I was furious.

It was the head zealot, and he hit her hard. She crumpled to the floor and I heard her cries of pain. I started raging at him, screaming at him, cursing at him, and demanding that he take it out on me, not her.

"Not to worry. I'll make sure both of you pay for this... blasphemy."

"Prepare him!"  That was the head zealot whom I nicknamed "Bob." He was crazier than a mad hatter was, and I really wanted to kill him. Slowly. Especially after he had hit "Julia".

By now, I was dreadfully thirsty and my chest hurt like blazes.  They had decided to brand their logo on my chest a few days ago, and the pain was still rather intense. Not as bad as when they first burned me. Now it just hurt occasionally, like when I tried to inhale and exhale. Other than that, I felt FINE! Apparently my little zealot friends weren't very original, as they had decided to crucify me.  They took great joy pinning my EF insignia pins into my chest and shoulders, and I realized that dear DEAD Jennie had given them my insignia as I remembered leaving them on the Excalibur before I had left for my final shore leave.

They forced my class ring on my shattered ring finger, and I realized that it was probably a good idea that they had done so. Providing positive ID for my body was rather thoughtful of them, as I wasn't going to be able to answer that question. I tried to ignore the throbbing ache of my hand, but I was unsuccessful until more pain overwhelmed me. Crowning me with a crown of six-inch thorns, they proceeded to hang me from a circle of some sort, using metal nails to pin my hands and feet against the metal of the circle. Soon I was bleeding freely from numerous spots.

I tried to hide from the pain, allowing my mind to wander away from the physical realm. It didn't work one God damn bit, but I still tried to keep quiet. Like hell, I'd let them see me wince in pain, and I certainly wasn't going to ask for forgiveness for them as they definitely knew what they were doing.  Forgive Julia, I begged silently to whatever deity might be listening. She who was another innocent destroyed by me.

As John had suffered after what I had done to him, so must I.  My pain must equal his so that one day I may be forgiven for what I had done. Growing feverish, I began thinking odd thoughts, about life, death, religion, JOHN.  Perhaps I'd die, and our souls would be reincarnated together at a later time. Perhaps next time, I wouldn't mess everything up so damn well?  If I willingly accepted the penance now, perhaps next time I wouldn't hurt my lonely Telepath again? These thoughts whirled through my mind when the zealots decided to leave me there.  Alone. Hanging.

What? Weren't they going to watch me die? Gloat? Twirl their moustache dramatically while the hero died? While there was a fade out and some unseen announcer intoned "Tune in Tomorrow for the Continuing Episodes of Captain Gideon and his sidekick, The Boy Teep." Oh I forgot. The Boy Teep got his own spin off show.

Didn't he?

 I think he did.

I couldn't remember anymore.

Nope, they were definitely leaving, as playtime was over, they're just going to leave me hanging here. Naked. Couldn't you at least cover part of me? The hours passed slowly as I grew ever more feverish and I started having delusions.  SHE showed up, to wound and rape me again, while I was helpless and immobile on the circle, but her way was blocked by a young Oriental wearing an EF uniform with a Psi badge.  No matter how many of the specters showed up to harm me, that lone figure defended me.

He stood by me, prepared to defend me, especially when the four other women appeared.  I screamed in unearthly terror while they smiled at me, promising me more pain. But his appearance managed to scare them off. That was John; always... protecting me.



"Why?" I would whisper at the still figure. After hurting him so badly, why was he the one that defended me from harm?

Because I love you.

"Why?" My voice cracked, and I realized that my throat was parched. "How could you? After all that I've done to you? Why?"

Simply, because I do, Matthew.

And I wept.

"I don't want you coming back with any medals," Makam had warned my team, thoroughly, before we had started off on the rescue. Especially you, O Neill, you ve only got a little bit longer before you retire, and I d hate tobreak in a new Head of Security.

"You re right as always, Captain, but you should know by now, I never plan on coming back with any medals." O'Neill assured her quietly.

"You do anyway." She growled.

I had been puzzled by that comment until Mike explained that for Makam, coming back from an away team with medals meant that someone had died on the mission. No wonder then that Makam never wore her medals then except when she was required to do so. That much death could wear a soul down.

"John. It's good to have you back. We've missed you." Dureena gave me a quick smile, and I sadly smiled back at her. "But you've grown since you left Gideon. So it was the right thing to do. But we're glad you're back with us now. Especially now. How is he?" The teams from the Dyavaprthivi and the Excalibur had both apparently accepted the fact that I could sense Gideon's aura while I was in the Excalibur without a qualm. If any of them had been more familiar with the Telepathic ratings system, they would have realized that the only way a P6 could sense a Mundane's aura from that distance was if the two people had touched minds previously. But Makam and I certainly weren't going to mention that tidbit of information.

"He's in a great deal of pain." I whispered at her. His pain was hammering at me and I had to be careful where I placed my feet on the steep staircase. Damn it, the original inhabitants had to have the steps one and half feet high didn't they? How the hell did they drag Gideon up here? "But I feel better that Makam was able to talk to a few of the prisoners after they were captured so they confirmed where he is."

Makam had told me that one of the young women, a red head, had spilled her guts the minute Makam had singled her out from the crowd of captives and Makam had given her the Evil Eye.  She warned me that Gideon was in bad shape, and even might be dead by the time we got to him. Looking up, I cursed the overcast skies. A chopper would have made this so much easier!  But no, it was windy and overcast so the choppers wouldn't launch.

"Forty-one, forty-two, forty-three." Vladi said cheerfully to O'Neill who was growling in disgust at him.

"Doctor.  If you're going to insist on counting each step we've climbed, I may end up pushing you down the bloody things myself." When O'Neill was annoyed and angry, he turned thoroughly Irish, and now the brogue had shown up.

"OK.  Two hundred fifty-six, two hundred fifty-five..." chimed in Dags.

I was awake again, alone with the darkness, the ever-present pain and my thoughts.  If I had only been brave enough to ask John to forgive me for hurting him, if I had apologized for I had done to him. If I had been man enough to say those little words, "I am so sorry for this. I should have known better. Please, please forgive me", John probably would have forgiven me. Maybe, he would  still have remained on the Excalibur while we figured out this new relationship between the two of us. It certainly would have been better than the mistake I had compounded by ignoring what had happened between the two of us. I had been so angry with myself... and I suddenly realized that John must have sensed my rage. Empathy and Telepathy don't always go hand in hand, but John was by far the most empathic person I knew.  He... hadn't felt my anger and thought that it was... directed toward him, did he? John... hadn't fled, thinking that I... furious with him?  My God, John, I am so sorry.

He had picked up all the little things I had done for him over the years, and he had remembered them. While they were nothing out of the ordinary to me, John had remembered and cherished them.  So, he easily could have picked up a thousand or so little things that had convinced him that I hated him. I didn't hate him. NEVER.

It's easier not to want forgiveness or to expect it. We just keep trying to fix the mistake so we don't have to ask. But you end up trying so hard to atone for one set of mistakes that you over compensate and make new ones. And then you can never break out of the cycle. You just keep going around and around. No way out and no where to go.

I was trapped in the wheel of life, spinning wildly, trying to earn a forgiveness that I hadn't ever asked for from the man I had wounded. Thinking I couldn't ask him for his forgiveness, I had to tried to earn it, to buy it with my soul.  By my desire to earn his forgiveness, I had ended up making more and more mistakes, and hurting more and more people like those poor damn XOs who I had destroyed merely for the crime of not being John Matheson.  People like Natalie, Chris, Jason, Nicholas, Fiona and the others. More and more karma weighing down my soul which I needed to resolve before I could break free of the cycle of life. Stupid, Matt. Stupid.  There was only one thing left to do before I died. A final checkmark on my long list of mistakes.  Bite the bullet, Matt.

"John?" I whispered in the darkness. "Are you there? Have you decided to forgive me at last? Please?"  For a moment, I thought he was standing there, sorrow in his dark eyes, and I remembered another time when I saw that look of despair in his eyes. After I had rejected him, cast him aside when he admitted that he loved someone as fundamentally flawed and damaged as myself. My fault. Completely. "Don't cry, John. Don't.  Doesn t hurt at all. Please. I beg of you. Don't. Never wanted to hurt you. Never. Believe me. I'm... so... sorry. I was never angry at you. Only angry with myself. Please.... John...Forgive me?"

"Careful about steps one hundred twenty five through one hundred twenty eight!" called down Dureena.  Apparently, everyone was now counting the steps just to annoy the Sgt. Major. Gamely, he was trying to ignore the counting, but I could tell that he was getting a little irked.  I was too, but that minor irritation was thankfully replacing the "THIS IS MY FAULT" mantra that I had been mentally chanting for the entire climb.

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"They're not there!"

"Shit!" snarled O'Neill.

"Forgive me?" I whispered to the hallucination in front of me. While I forgot everything else that had at one time mattered to me, I still held onto the thought that I needed to be forgiven for something I had done.  I had hurt someone... someone I cared about.  JOHN. His name was JOHN.

The ghostly figure had decided to console me, and he kissed me gently on my forehead, somehow avoiding the damn thorns that pierced my skin. He offered me absolution from my crimes, and I took it gratefully, wishing that now, having obtained his forgiveness, that the emotional and physical pain might now be allowed to finally end.

"Matthew" he whispered at me. "Don't be afraid. I'm here with you. I've always been here."

"It's going to be soon, John. I can feel it. Can't take much more of this?" I coughed, which turned into a long gurgling cough, and I suddenly realized that they had probably broken a few of my ribs somewhere during this misadventure. The broken ribs had probably just punctured a lung and I tasted blood on my lips. I was coughing up blood now, which wasn't a good sign. Or maybe it was, as it meant that the end was getting closer... and closer.  "Can't... breathe?"

"Hold on. We're here. On step two hundred and sixty-two in fact."

I mentally laughed, and I realized that he knew that I didn't believe him.  But it didn't matter; after all, he was merely a figment of my imagination. Even though I knew him to the product of my feverish imagination, and not John, I held onto his forgiveness tightly, trying to use it as a shield. He had forgiven me and now I could stop fighting. Now I could submit and accept what I saw looming at me. My death.

Focusing on the steps, I suddenly realized that I couldn't seem to catch my breath.  I had to stop for a moment, which earned me a concerned look from Sarah Chambers.

"What?" she whispered. She began waving one of her scanners at me, which I pushed out of my face with a growl.

"Matt can't breathe.  Pain's too intense. What I'm getting from him is that he's afraid, Sarah. I think he believes that he's going to die."

"Can you tell him that the calvary's coming?" She asked me quickly.

"I have... but he doesn't think it's real. He thinks he's having hallucinations."

"Assure him that three hundred Goddamn steps are not a hallucination. Won't you?" That was Vladi who was looking the worse for wear. He had carried a significant amount of medical equipment up with him, and he was weary.

"Come on! Thirty-four more to go!" called Dureena.

"Doctor Zhivago!" I was startled, as the voice sounded like a male version of Makam, complete with tonal inflections. "You better get up these steps as I am not going to carry your sorry ass up these steps just because you are simply far too big for your own good. Though if I need to, for the good of the mission, I will single-handedly drag your large body up the remaining steps by your boots, making sure that I hit your rather large head on each and every step. After I remove your helmet, of course."  St. John then flashed me a wicked smile, and I realized that the crew of the Dya was laughing slightly at Mike's impersonation of Makam. It was dead on accurate.

"Yes, Madam!" Vladi responded automatically, and the group from the Dya starting laughing harder.

"Matthew? Hold on. We're almost here."

It was "John" again, letting me know that I wasn't going to die alone. "John? Need to let you know? Something." I was trying not to gasp for breath, but it was getting harder and harder to breathe.

"Shh... Don't say anything. Save your strength." His voice was gentle and soft, like it always was.

"Listen... Love. You... Sorry... never said. Realized... after you... left. Forgive . . . me? Please? Before I die, forgive me? Please?" The effort to speak those words exhausted me, and I was panting from the exertion.

"Shh...  Shh... it's all right, Matthew."

"Forgive me?" Plaintively, I had to beg again for his forgiveness. Needed to make sure...

"There's nothing to forgive." He kept repeating that over and over to me which upset me more.  There was so much to forgive that I didn't even think it was possible for him to ever do so.

"There is. DYING... NEED... YOU... TO... FORGIVE... ME!" I screamed that at him, with all my failing strength, ignoring the pain in my side. Vainly hoping that he'd at last understand the pain I had  self-inflicted on myself as penance for what I had done to him.  Perhaps, after understanding that I had willingly matched his pain... he'd forgive me? John, my lonely Telepath, how I hated myself for what I had done to you.

Matt. Please. His voice was soft in my mind, and I could tell I had upset him with my self hate.  Unintentionally, I had wounded him again, as I was growing ever more agitated, begging him to shrive me before I died. I needed to make absolutely one hundred percent sure that John had forgiven me, and I repeated my request again. He finally did, softly, while I quietly wept from the pain and relief.

"Thank... you... Thank... you." I kept whispering that over and over again to the still figure in front of me. Lord, I wanted to look at his eyes, to see if he had truly forgiven me, but the one look I had managed to get had scared me anew. His eyes were full of pain, sorrow and grief.  Again, I had wounded him. I would wound him, again and again, tearing strip upon strip from his soul, until I died.  My poor lonely Telepath, what did you ever see in me that made you think I was an honorable, caring man?

[Matthew... Matthew... Please.]

Matthew had admitted that he loved me, only because he thought he was dying and he wanted my forgiveness.  His voice was full of self-hate, and self-despair, and I suddenly realized how much pain Matthew had inflicted on himself over what we had done.  But he said he LOVED me. How that thought had rocked my soul's foundation, and I had to stop and compose myself.  Once, that admission from Matthew would have been what I had always secretly wanted to hear. Now, I feared hearing it as... it only meant one thing.  Matthew couldn't be dying. Not now. Not when we only had to climb only a few more steps.  Oh Vishnu, Devi and Shiva, It was all my fault!

"FIVE!" St. John called that out, joyfully.  The Operations Officer for the Dya was looking somewhat ragged but Warlock had insisted on leading the pace.

"FOUR!" That was Sarah, grinning in exhaustion.

"THREE!" Dureena screamed that out, her voice echoing from the heights.

"TWO!" I yelled.

"LAST GODDAMN ONE!!"  That was O'Neill, as we had saved announcing the final step for him, as it was only right.

"SECOND Floor! Human Sacrifices!" St. John announced as though we were stopping for sporting goods in a classy store. "Come along now! Leave the Elevator behind, please! No pushing. No shoving!"

"Careful. They've probably booby trapped the entire floor." Dureena and O'Neill both mumbled that at the same time, and they gave each other a smile. Apparently the head of security for the Dya and Dureena were hitting it off just fine. I wasn't sure if I should be frightened or reassured by that development.

We stood there for a minute, and I decided to speak to let the wounded man know that we were there.  Loudly, I called out "GIDEON?" while O'Neill and Dureena discussed possible problems with the floor. Was that a dead fall? A trick step?

No response.

I thought I heard someone call my name so I tried to answer weakly.  But I don't think they heard me.  Fading into darkness, I let go of the pain...

Regrets? That was a familiar voice.  I tried to focus on it, and for a moment, I thought I saw someone in the mist.

Isn't that my question? I asked. In my last near death experience, I seem to remember that I was the one asking that particular question. To my eternal heartache, I had gotten an answer to that question.

[The roles have reversed, meaning that the questions can be changed and asked by another.]

Oh God. I knew it. God is actually a VORLON. I tried to laugh, and I began coughing hard. The pain was tearing in my side, and I found myself fighting for breath. Dear God, the pain. The PAIN.

Not a Vorlon, Matthew. Not by a long shot. The voice began whispering to me again. Regrets, Matthew? Do you have any?

"Hurt someone... I . . .  loved. So badly, he was afraid... of me." It was getting harder to speak, but I needed to say that out loud, and then I closed my eyes, enjoying the warmth of the blessed darkness.  There wasn't going to be any light for someone like me at the end, just never ending darkness. "Hurt him. So bad. Hate myself over ... what I did to him."

Loved? Is it truly over then? Before it had a chance to be acknowledged? For a moment, his thoughts had such a taste of sadness that I found myself crying.

No. Yes. Still, love him. But it's... over... for me. Will you stay with me? Until I pass over? Don't want to die alone, here. But, I'll understand if you... leave.

I'll never leave you, Matthew. Never.

I felt myself falling... free falling into ....






go . . . falling . . .


falling . . .









But I wasn't alone.

For he was with me.

{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}