Let the Captain Have Some Dignity

by Mistress Sarah

Summary: John and Matt meet up again.
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

"Let the Captain have some Dignity, shall we?"

"Ok. St. John, Dags, you set up the ropes. Dr. Zbignewski, bring the package with the Stokes basket, we'll probably need to set it up." O'Neill was snapping orders right and left and I gave him a bemused smile. "Sorry, Lt. Commander." He whispered that softly, when he realized that he was overstepping his bounds.

"Knot to worry. I don't want to interfere with your ropes." I told him dryly. He winced at the pun, and for a moment, I found myself really liking O'Neill. He was good-natured normally but also fierce, loyal and quick to defend those he deemed worthy. A good man, after all, even if at first, he hadn't trusted me. Not that I'd ever tell him that I approved of him, as he'd probably be horrified. Tommy was a career military man, that was all he had ever tried to be and certainly he HAD never tried to be a hero. Probably that's why he was one.

O'Neill warned us not to enter the room until he had secured it, and I saw that Dureena was right behind him. When they cleared it, Vladi was the first person into the room, and I heard him mumble something loudly in Russian. "My dear... God... " his voice sounded strange and for once his enthusiasm had disappeared.

"What?" I asked.

"It's not pretty. Warn everyone. It's really not pretty at all. The squeamish better stay outside."

I entered next, and I felt like vomiting. He was there, naked and bloody, pinned to a circle with nails that pierced his feet and hands. Wearing a crown of thorns, he appeared to be dead, except for the fact that he was still breathing shallowly. Scrawled beneath him was a warning to EF, warning of God's wrath to those that tried to cure His divine plague.

Looking closely, I saw that Matthew had wept recently, possibly during our last mental conversation, when he had known we were nearby. But he had decided to let go of the pain, and he wasn't responding to my mental probe. Before he died, Matthew had wanted my forgiveness, and I had given it. Did that mean that since he finally believed that I had forgiven him that Matthew was letting himself die?

MATTHEW! I kept screaming that at the bloody figure mentally, and I heard nothing from him.

Dureena checked quickly the area around the circle. "It's safe. Let's get him the hell down."

There were others in the room. They seemed upset with what they were seeing, and for a moment, I wondered if I should make the effort to let them know that I could hear them.


Let's not.

It was probably them. Back again. Just to see if I was still here, hanging around. Yup. I was. Nothing better to do on a Saturday night.

For a moment, I thought I heard a familiar voice screaming my name, mentally, but I ignored it. Just another trick. There would be no way that particular person would be nearby. Nor would he ever be using that tone of voice with me, soft, compassionate and full of love for me. Not after what I had done to him. He thought I hated him, and so he had fled from me.

The pain through my wrists was incredible, as my weight was pulling down on my arms. Pain. I felt someone grab me by my pelvis, and I moaned, despite my vow not to utter a sound. That had really irked them, in the beginning. They'd inflict pain, and I'd do everything I could to remain mute. Stupid, stupid me. The only thing remaining mute did was to annoy them. So they'd hurt me again and again, until I'd weep from the pain. But I didn't beg them to stop; I had too much pride for them to think that they had beaten ME.

No more pain, please. No more. I just couldn't handle any more. Let me die in peace, I begged whoever might be listening. Suddenly, I felt strong arms supporting me, trying to relieve the pressure on my wrists by supporting the weight of my body.

"Can we get him off the wheel?" "He might have c-spine injuries." "Take the wheel off the wall." "He's septic." "Dehydrated too." "Vladi! Careful! They might have broken his pelvis." A thousand and one voices were having a rather noisy conversation, probably dealing with whoever the hell was hanging on the wall, trying to die. I wish he would finish dying so I'd get some rest. He was being so damn noisy about it, screaming for forgiveness from somebody who wasn't really there.

I was tempted to ask them all to shut up so that poor guy could PLEASE die in peace. Least before they showed up, it had been rather peaceful and quiet except when he got noisy and begged for forgiveness from a ghost. He would scream hysterically, wailing for forgiveness, and I think that at last he had gotten it, as I had heard someone weeping in gratitude while whispering repeatedly "Thank you." Let the poor guy die, already, quietly with his dignity retained.

It wasn't quiet now, as it sounded like they were having a damn party. God! Here I was completely naked, and they're having a damn party. "Careful! Careful!" "Take the circle down, we can lay him flat." "He might go into respiratory arrest. He's got a flailed chest. Lungs' sounds diminished. Probably a hemopneumothorax." "Make the decision quickly. I can't stand here all day supporting him." "Take the wheel down." "Listen. I have to let go of you." "Take the wheel down and be ready for a chest tube." "This is going to hurt more." "There's no other way." There was an ungodly noise, and the damn circle was shaking. "Careful with that blasted saw, Michael!"

Then whoever it was, holding me let go of me, carefully, trying to ease me back into position and I gasped with the return of pain to my wrists. I was falling, falling, falling, falling. Couldn't breathe. Lying? On the Floor? Holding me down. CAN'T BREATHE? CAN'T BREATHE? "No anesthesia. Just place the tube and do it now." Can't breathe? Pain. Something slammed into my side. "A good job. The tube's in place. Matt! You should be able to breathe easily now!" [Sarah? Dureena? JOHN??? Who the hell were the other voices?] I can breathe again. Oh God, I can breathe again. "Ok. I'm taking these things out of his wrists." "Getting the ones from his legs."

PAIN. PAIN. I gasped, slightly, and I head someone whisper "I'm truly sorry, Captain." That was a male voice, one that I didn't recognize. Possibly because he was using something mechanical to get the damn nails out. The sound of the machinery filled my ears, and I realized that he was having a devil of a time getting them out. Pain. PAIN.

Captain? I was a Captain? REALLY? Then why the hell was I here? Instead of being out captaining something someplace? Wasn't that what Captains did? They didn't hang on the bridge's walls like decorations, now did they?

I think not.

Wouldn't be respectable, especially if they were completely and totally naked like I was. Even though I knew them to be nothing more than hallucinations, I really wanted to ask why the hell they didn't cover me up with something. Unless they were all gawking and staring in awe at the Captain's physique, then I guess that made everything alright.

"Here!" Spoken by a male with an Irish brogue. "Let the Captain have some dignity, shall we?" Something was now covering me. Blankets? Apparently being a Captain rated blankets, and I hadn't even had to remind them. Nice to know that while the rest of the group was busy staring at my "attribute," that the Irish guy was keeping an eye on the important stuff, like blankets. Wonderful, warm blankets that covered my naked and shattered body. I made a mental note that since I was a *Captain* that I'd nominate that Irish guy for a Medal of Honor or something. Biting my lip, I prevented myself from giggling at the mental thought of what the reaction would be to me nominating a figment of my imagination for the Medal of Honor.

The voices continued, while I kept my eyes shut, fearing this was a rather realistic hallucination. John simply couldn't be here, snapping orders like a drill sergeant. That guy up on the wall must be a horrible mess, as John's voice was very tightly controlled. My XO... my former XO only used that particular voice when something had him rattled to the very depths of his soul. It was one of his little endearing personality quirks that I had noted over the years. I had noticed a lot of things about John over the years, but I had never noticed that my XO was in love with me...

"Splinting both legs and arms."

"Apparent bilateral distal tib-fib fractures. And they've managed to shatter the distal radials and ulnas."

"We're looking at a hell of a lot of surgery here. Ortho, Vascular, Plastics. Anyone good with plastics on the Dya?"

"Got some experience, I'll able to take care of the burns on his chest, but for the face, I'd prefer to ship him out. How about the Excalibur?"

"No. Not for this."

Excalibur? I just KNEW that name for some reason. For a moment, I opened my eyes, dizzily, and I saw someone that looked familiar. Dark hair, female, dark eyes?

"Sarah?" I whispered, but she didn't hear me, so I closed my eyes again. She wasn't really there, after all. Just a feverish hallucination I was having. Then I felt pain, as someone was trying to remove something from my head. Whoever it was, was really trying to be careful, but I could still feel everything. I dizzily opened my eyes, expecting to see no one there, and I looked into the deep green eyes of a stranger who wore an EF Marine uniform. Noticing that I was looking at him, he gave me a gentle smile and whispered at me to go to sleep.

It was the Irish male again, and he looked somewhat familiar, with a nose that had been broken a few too many times in a few too many bar fights to be ever set completely straight again. BAR FIGHTS? Where the hell did that thought come from? I must be *completely* off my rocker, imagining Irish leprechauns, blankets and bar fights.

"Damnable thorns," he whispered at me again. "Close your eyes, Captain. You can rest now, as the reinforcements have finally arrived."

I closed my eyes, grateful that the hallucinations I was having were of the pleasant variety. So I must be dying, but at least, I was surrounded by the voices of the people I had considered friends, and the visions of a few stray EF personnel.

Thirty minutes later

"Is he stable enough to transport?" O'Neill asked the doctors who were still treating Gideon. He was carefully removing the crown of thorns from Matthew's head, and he was obviously sickened by the damage they had left. I had heard him murmuring softly to Matthew, assuring him repeatedly that he was finally safe. The doctors had put a chest tube in and had done quite a few other things to stabilize Matthew's critical condition. All their procedures had been done without the benefit of any type of anesthesia with barely a moan from their patient, which had Vladi shaking his head in disbelief. During Matt's medical treatment, the two people on the team with a mechanical bent, Dags and St. John, had managed to get Matthew the hell off that circle. I had been mentally screaming at Matthew to get some sort of response from him, but he was ignoring us all, firmly believing us a hallucination. All my fault. ALL MY FAULT, I kept screaming at myself. If I hadn't left, this wouldn't have happened.

"Not really," admitted Sarah.

"But we can't do much more here. We need to get him back to Medbay." Vladi asserted. "I'm giving him a sedative right now, but I'm going to have to watch his airway as we take him down in the stokes."

"The Stokes has been set up. Here's the order. The Captain is going to go down first. I'm suggesting Dr. Zbignewski, Lt. Commander Matheson and I be the relay team going down with him. Dr. Zbignewski," he continued over Chambers' objections, "has rope experience. Which you don't, Madam. Bringing down a patient in one of these things, I need *experienced* people. Not a novice, no matter how willing, and no matter how LIGHT she is." He scowled at Vladi, who was easily 6'6"+ and solidly built. "Lt. Commander Matheson, at least has some experience with the ropes, and he'll go down with Captain Gideon so the Captain has someone he knows with him. I'll be with them to keep them out of trouble."

"What about me? You're not leaving me back here," Dureena asked him. "I'll go down too."

"No. You have to stay here and keep the young 'uns out of trouble. I won't be able to do it. Then you are to have Dags, St. John and Dr. Chambers follow us. You make up the rest of the landing order, but I want Dr. Chambers on the ground within ten minutes of us landing. You are to be the last person down."

Gideon had been heavily drugged but still he fought like a wildcat when they tied him to the stretcher, ignoring the shattered bones in his wrists and feet. For a moment, I got a burst of terror, and I reached for him, mentally, while everyone started speaking at once, trying to calm him down. Meanwhile, he fought and screamed, refusing to be restrained by O'Neill and St. John. He didn't realize it was US. He thought we were his captors, returning for him again. I ordered everyone to shut up as I realized that the various voices were terrifying him even more.

MATTHEW! STOP IT! STOP IT NOW! I touched the side of his face, directing that thought at him.

J-j-john? Is that really you? The voice was full of terror and fear.

Who else could it be? I tried to be warm, assuring him that I was here. Dureena and Chambers are here too. Plus a few other good souls from the Dya and the Excalibur who you are beating up right now. You're safe, Matt. The Good Guys have you.

No. You're not here! You're trying to scan me again. NO! NO! NO! NO! Images of someone that looked like me, scanning him. Hurting him. Raping and violating his mind.

It is I. How can I prove it?

Can't? Unless you tell me something that only... HE... would know.

Liz thinks you're ruggedly handsome? I asked him whimsically.

He still didn't trust that it was me. I could feel the doubts in his mind, and I tried to reassure him. How's this? I mentally sent him something that only he and I would ever know. A moment when I had blurted out that I loved him, and he had been furious with me. Does that prove it's me? I asked him softly. To bring that incident, still so sore and raw, up now, greatly pained me. If I had kept my mouth shut, I never would have left, and this NEVER would have happened.

J-j-john? Is that you? Furious at you? ... Never... Mad at myself. Hurt you. Oh dear God. It IS you. Never said you... scanned me. Believe me? ... Please?

Shhhhh... relax. You've been rescued and we're getting you the hell outta here. But you're going to have to let us restrain you. We don't want to drop you if you start grabbing the safety lines.

Can't stand to be restrained. Not now. Not ever. Can you knock me out for this? Don't just paralyze me? Knock me out.

"Sarah. Matthew wants to know if he can get knocked out for this? He's a little nervous that he might grab for the ropes. He doesn't want to be paralyzed for the drop. He just wants to be unconscious." Sarah gave me a startled look, and I realized it was because I had called Gideon "Matthew." Not, Captain, instead MATTHEW. Dureena said I had 'grown' during my tour on the Dya, and perhaps I had.

"Can't... " Vladi and Sarah answered together. The tall Russian gave Sarah an amused look and motioned for her to continue.

"Between the collapsed lung and the other injuries, we can't knock him out. He might go into respiratory arrest half way down. Or he might vomit and aspirate it. I can't even paralyze him for that reason. He's going to have to be aware of what's going on, John. I'm sorry, Matthew. There's nothing safely I can do."

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I cannot do this! I can't. I CAN'T.

He was screaming that at me, mentally, and I was trying to calm him down. Mentally, I assured him that everything would be fine, but he had to trust us.

He couldn't. He kept screaming that at me over and over again.

"MATTHEW! STOP IT!" I roared at him. "We HAVE to do it this way. There is no other choice in the matter. Unless you want us to leave you here."

No. No. No. Dear God No. Please? Don't. Don't. Don't. His mind voice was pitiful and frightened, and I found myself hating his captures with a vengeance for what they had done to him.

"We have to restrain you. It'll be ok. I'll be going down with you, right next to the Stokes. I won't be further away from you than an inch or two. Ok?"


Buckling him in carefully, we brought the Stokes basket over to the spot we were going to utilize for our descent.

"On the count of Ten, boys. Then we'll bring the Captain over, carefully." O'Neill ordered. "One... " we stepped off carefully, adjusting the ropes to where we needed to be. "Two... Three." The Stokes basket was over the side, and was descending by the time we got to the count of Five.

????? Matthew was terrified as he had been prepared for the count of TEN. Which is exactly why we didn't wait until the count of ten to "drop" the Stokes.

O'Neill can't count. A good man other than that, but he can't count pass five. That's why he's an NCO, not a commissioned officer. Even St. John can count to ten without using his fingers. I tried not to laugh when I sent that to Matthew. But since he’s a Marine, he doesn’t need to count, he just needs to know how to fight and kill.

??? John, you're lying to me. LYING. What the hell else did Makam teach you?

"Madam Makam taught me many things, Matthew. Yoga. Karma. Dharma. Rope climbing. The Power of Intimidation with a single look. Other things too many to mention. But I'm still here! Like I promised you!" I assured him.

Feeling his terror, I tried to speak to him for the entire descent, until I got too winded to continue, and then O'Neill began chatting calmly with Gideon, as though the two of them had met for coffee. He kept talking about ME for some reason, while I just glared at him.

"A good lad, there. Had a few rough edges before Captain Makam wore them off of him. Could be a good Captain, if he keeps at it? Might need a good security officer like myself then. Just to keep him from getting into trouble. Guess I won't hang up the ropes then and retire with the Old Lady."

Then Vladi joined in, while I just tried to shut the two of them up. They both sounded like two proud parents, bragging about their child's achievements. How embarrassing? Especially when they started chatting about my first away mission when Makam had O'Neill and St. John purposely give me a hard time just to see if I'd catch them. The damnable duo had been proud and delighted that I had found them out, and done the correct thing with them. DELIGHTED? I had nightmares still of requesting those two men to strip, and they had been delighted? The entire ship was mad!

"Took him a bit to figure out that his trusty Head of Security & Operations Officer were the ones making all the problems on the away mission." O'Neill laughed about that, and I could feel Matthew's concern about my stay on the Dya. "Oh, the trouble Mike and I caused poor Lt. Commander Matheson, who was trying so hard to run his away team, as he was fearing Madam Dragon's disapproval."

LT. COMMANDER? WERE YOU... PROMOTED? Matthew asked mentally while I tried to shush him.

"The look on his face when he realized who was causing all his problems!" O'Neill continued with his tall tale, while I mentally groaned.

"Mike said it was PRICELESS," laughed Vladi. "He wishes he could have taken a picture. But he drew this picture of it on a napkin in the cafeteria one day!" Then the two men continued to laugh really hard over that damn drawing. Probably it was in Makam's personal collection, right now. Damn it, I must have looked a sight when I realized that my Operations Officer and Security head were the two people who were deliberately sabotaging my away team, but did they have to tell MATTHEW?

They're all... insane... on that ship. Aren't they? From the Captain on down to the NCO's?

The hallways were cleared upon our arrival to the Excalibur, but I heard Makam had announced ship wide that Gideon had been rescued as we were docking. Rescued. Not RECOVERED. He was taken immediately to Medbay where the two doctors went to repair the life threatening injuries and reset his shattered bones. I understood that the two doctors worked pretty much thirty-hours straight trying to repair the major damage. Meanwhile I was trying to get the Excalibur back in shape, as there was still significant damage that needed to be repaired.

I never got the chance to say goodbye to Matt while he was awake, as he was kept unconscious for his stay in Medbay. Makam and her crew were going to take him to a starbase for extensive Medical Care and rehabilitation. Then the ship would be decommissioned, and the crew would be disbursed to other ships. I had wanted the Excalibur to take him there, but we had another mission take priority. To find the Cure. Gideon would never have forgiven me if I had been using the Excalibur to transport him, especially with the Dyavaprthivi right next door.

Sitting next to his still form, I gently touched his face, tracing my fingers on his beard. He was drugged heavily, and intubated but still I wanted Matthew to hear me. Vladi and his medical staff were about to transfer him to the Dya and I had wanted to say goodbye.

I'll take good care of your ship until you come back, Matthew. I sent that to him as hard as I could, but I don't think he was aware enough to hear me.

I was never relieved of my temporary command of the Excalibur, until after Matthew came back to full duty. I was left in charge, as the only spare Captain available without a ship was Makam, and she refused to reenlist even for that brief time frame. In a way, I was disappointed as I would have loved to have seen her get into a fight with Eilerson or Galen. The two men wouldn't have a chance of winning an argument with her, and I would have loved to have seen the expression on their face when they realized that this short, slight woman had won.

"No. Thirty five years, and not a damn day longer!" she had roared at the EF admiral who had timidly suggested that idea to her. "Let Matheson handle it until you can figure out another idea that won't involve me being mentioned." She signed off, and she gave me a wink.

"Could take them years before they figure out who to send out here. Matthew's going to need a strong XO to keep the ship running while he's getting rehabilitation. It'll take a few months before he's back to feeling his oats, I'm sure. So that means you get to lead all the away missions until then." That was Makam who was still giving me the look I had deemed the Evil Eye.

"So, Captain?" I asked. "What now?"

"Admiral. I'm being retired as an Admiral. Good increase in the retirement salary." She displayed her new insignia, and I laughed.

"Admiral. Admiral Makam. What do you plan to do for your retirement?"

"Traveling. A lot of traveling. One day I'll hear the quarantine on Earth has been lifted, thanks to brave people like Matheson and Gideon, and I'm going on a pilgrimage. I've never been on Terra Prime for any significant amount of time, so I'd like to see the land of my ancestors. There's this several day festival of lights, Diwali, that's simply incredible."

"Sounds delightful."

"Should be? Good luck. Take care of Gideon. He's going to need a lot of support facing what happened to him down there. Be strong. Faith and Courage, John."

"Strength and Courage, Kritika."

"We'll take good care of him, and we won't leave him alone while he's on the Dya. I know he's medicated right now, but quite a few of the officers have volunteered to sit by his bedside, and talk to him. Matthew might be able to hear them, and it might make it easier for him, if Matt doesn't think he's with the cultists again."

"Thank you." I said that softly, and she gave me a brief smile.

Then I said goodbye to my other friends on the Dya. How I would miss Vladi and Dags, and even O'Neill... b not his cigars. I wouldn't miss those. Poor Michael, he was getting promoted, in spite of his best efforts. He was going to be the new XO for Captain Matrando, and I knew that St. John was going to try to ignore the paperwork until it overwhelmed him again. At least O'Neill was being transferred along with him, as it would be a shame to break up that Tuesday 3rd shift poker game.

It was later on, when I was unpacking, did I realize that Makam had given me a smaller version of her most prized possession, the statue of Shiva dancing the world into creation. Apparently, she had seen me admiring it, and had decided to give a copy of it to me, as a constant reminder that from life comes death, and from destruction comes life. From sorrow, hope, and from regrets, joy.

Jones arrived, promptly and on schedule, almost before the Dya had left the scene. Had it been only six months since my scan on the Dya? It seemed like a lifetime. Jones was a short man, who poked and prodded in my mind, and focused mainly on the situation with Matthew. I had reported to EF that I had used my psychometric abilities to locate Matthew and EF wanted to be reassured about me.

He hit a raw nerve, and suddenly I sent him "everything." Matthew's physical pain, the rescue, how guilty I felt about transferring from the Excalibur. But I kept my love for Matthew, hidden, just focusing on the scene when we had found him. I think the darkness and Gideon's pain overwhelmed Jones as the mind rape was by far the shortest I had ever endured.

"You did the right thing," was all he said before he left. "They're fools if they don't realize it."

It was a month before Gideon returned to the ship, even though he wasn't supposed to have been medically cleared for another month. He had been through many procedures to try and repair the damage that he had suffered and he had countless more lined up as soon as he was stronger. Matt was using crutches, as his feet and wrists were still splinted from his original surgeries. Somehow he had managed to get into his jumpsuit, and he was now trying to take command of the Excalibur from me. The man that returned to the Excalibur wasn't the old Matt, as he lost his devilish grin.

No, this Gideon looked old and weary and I could tell that he was still in a great deal of pain from the gingerly way he walked. His hair was still quite short from when they had to shave his head, and he wore a baseball cap for the longest time. It wasn't simply vanity for his lost hair, as Matt was actually trying to hide the vivid scars on his forehead. Gideon would go for more plastic surgery later on, but for now, he wanted back to the Excalibur.

"Lt. Commander Matheson. I'm back, and I want my ship back. So, I'm ordering you to get the hell outta my chair." He growled at me, and I smiled. He was tugging at his sleeves, trying to cover his damaged wrists, and I nodded. I got out of the captain's chair, and motioned for him to sit. I noticed without commenting that he wasn't wearing his class ring, and I wondered if we had lost it somewhere during the rescue. I also wondered how I could get it replaced for him.

"Of course, Sir." I grinned at him, and he gave me a slight smile back.

He sat in his chair, and there was a spontaneous burst of applause from the bridge crew. Matthew pretended it didn't affect him at all, so he then made a ship wide announcement that the Old Man was back in charge, and we still had a Cure to find. I tried not to smile when I noticed that his voice was emotional, and that Matthew wiped his eyes quickly after his announcement.

After a few hours on the bridge, he escaped to his office to "catch up on paperwork" but I knew it to be a thinly disguised strategic retreat. Everyone had to come up to the bridge to see him, and Matt was obviously growing exhausted by all the damn hoopla. Even Max had shown up to see the prodigal captain, had made a few acidic comments and then left, pretending indifference to Matt's return. It didn't fool me, and I knew Max's act didn't fool Gideon in the slightest.

Galen had appeared for a brief time, and he assured Matthew that he had kept an eye on the Excalibur while Matthew was away. The Technomage had arrived a week earlier, unsurprised by the change in the chain of command. He hadn't commented on what had kept him away during the time we could have used his help with Matthew's rescue, but I knew that Dureena had given him the rough side of her tongue for some time in one of the bullet cars. He had disappeared right after Dureena's lecture, and I had wondered where he was. Probably sulking, I had thought dryly at the time.

"I was keeping an eye on them, Matthew. If they had needed help, I would have been there, but... sometimes fledglings must leave the nest to explore the universe. Can't keep them in the nest, all their lives. Sometimes they have to learn to fly. Don't you agree?" He had grinned broadly at me, and I had acknowledged his comment with a quick smile.

Matt stayed in his office for several hours, and then returned to the bridge where he greeted the second and third shifts on their arrivals. Gideon really overdid it, the first day back, so I had to help him back to his quarters.

"Do you think you can help me out of this damn jumpsuit?" he had asked plaintively while I was trying to get his boots off his feet. His feet were swollen and hot, and I had to ice them down to get their swelling down.

"Why the hell you put it on then?"

"I am not returning to my ship, looking like something the Drakh dragged in. I do have some pride." Gideon answered that tartly, and I grinned at him.

"Vain. Matthew Gideon's vain. I never expected it. But now I know. You wore it because you think you look better in black."

Undressing him was nerve wracking, as he didn't want me to see his scars and how he flinched at my touch, so I pretended that I didn't see anything. Instead, I kept offering him fashion tips according to John Matheson, EF Telepath and Fascist Fashion Designer. Perhaps tomorrow he'd wear something with long sleeves that didn't require two people to take it off him? Maybe he'd use the wheelchair like he was ordered? How about pants that were loose fitting? Who was he trying to impress by wearing that tight jumpsuit anyway? I winced when I saw exactly what his body looked like after his ordeal. Several of his injuries looked down right raw.

I noticed that he was wearing a necklace with his class ring on it, and I was relieved. Matthew saw my look, and he whispered "I'll need a few more rounds of plastic surgery to get me looking... better. In a few months, I'll be better than new, but not now. For now, I can't even wear my damn ring as my fingers are swollen." I helped him to his bed, and I covered him with a blanket. He sighed. "John. We need to talk."

"Not now, you're exhausted." I whispered that to him softly, and he shook his head.

"No. I need to know. How long are you staying on the Excalibur? Are you going to leave again?" For a moment, he looked at me intently with his hazel eyes, and he sighed again.

"We'll talk later, Matthew. Go to bed." I hadn't answered him, for I didn't know the answer to those questions myself. There was so much to say between the two of us, and only then, could I decide what I needed to do next. For tonight, I stayed in his quarters, just in case he might need something, and I dozed on his couch. I woke up that night, with a feeling of absolute terror. He was having a nightmare, I could feel it, and he just couldn't wake up.

He was screaming in his sleep, and I crawled into bed with him. "Matthew. Wake Up. Wake Up! It's a nightmare!" I kept repeating that to him until finally he stopped screaming. I was holding him, like Matthew was a young child, and suddenly he began to weep hard. "Let it out. Let it out. You should, you know. Don't let it fester and consume you." I kept stroking his hair, and at last, I realized that he wasn't crying anymore. Instead, he had fallen asleep in my arms. I continued stroking his hair, enjoying the feel of Matt's buzz cut. You should keep that. That way I don't have to remind you to keep getting your hair cut. For the remainder of the night, I held him while he slept, and I realized that my decision had been made. I would stay on the Excalibur for as long as Matthew needed me.

For the next few weeks, by an unspoken agreement between us, I would come to his quarters when he was trying to sleep or he'd come to my quarters. I'd lie next to him in bed, and only then could Matthew fall asleep, secure in the knowledge that I would be keeping watch over him. He'd still have the nightmares, but less frequently, and of less severity while I lay next to him. But never could I touch him as even the gentlest of physical contacts made him flinch.

A month after my return, I found myself on a more even emotional keel, and I found myself straightening up the odds and ends that I had let slide over the last few months. One of the odds and ends included a heart to heart with John Matheson. I wasn't sure if he was planning on staying on as my XO, and I wanted to clear up that matter. Plus we needed to talk about... other issues, and I regretted the fact that I knew I'd have difficulty in expressing myself to him. It was amazing how our roles had changed. His experience with Makam had apparently been for the best as I found him as more of an equal now. Before I had been the dominant one, now he'd stand up to me, and argue back at me when he thought I was being an absolute idiot. One of these days, I would have to thank Makam for her positive influence on John.

I rather nervously asked John for a chance to talk privately, and we found ourselves in Matheson's quarters. "So, what's so important that you wanted to talk to me," he asked playfully while he sprawled out on his couch, and for a moment, I found myself distracted by a few tawdry memories. I was silent for a moment or two, and he prompted me with a "Well?"

"U-us." I was nervous, and I damned myself for stuttering.

"Us?" he questioned me.

"Yes. Us." I said firmly.

"I don't think there was an US to discuss." John Matheson gave me a bittersweet smile, and for a moment, I thought he was playing hard to get.

"There is. We... " I looked at him, realized that he was enjoying me being flustered, and I scowled at him. "You've picked up quite a few bad habits from Makam, do you know that, John?"

"Funny, I seem to remember her saying the very same thing, except Madam Dragon mentioned Matthew Gideon as my downfall." His tone was joking, but something in his eyes made me realize that he wasn't really joking. I was his downfall, unless we talked about our relationship, both public and private. For a moment, I damned myself again for destroying our previous relationship, but I had no time for regrets.

"I... want to know. Are you staying on as my XO? Are you just... waiting until you think I'm strong enough not to use you as a crutch anymore, and then you'll flee for greener pastures?" I trailed off, and I realized that he looked startled.

"I'm staying. Didn't you realize that? I'm staying here. As your XO, and your friend, as long as you want me to stay." John spoke to me softly. "I'm not going anywhere, Matthew, don't you believe me yet? I promised you that on your rescue, and I've promised it to you many a time since then. I'm here. On the Excalibur. For as long as you want me."

"And... in my bed?" I whispered that one, and John suddenly looked startled. I was rather embarrassed that I had actually mentioned that, and he suddenly realized that my question and his possible answer terrified me.

"I am in your bed, nightly, Matthew, sleeping next to you and being ever so careful not to touch you." His voice was quiet, and I think, sad.

Grabbing my shattered courage to continue with what I wanted to say, my practiced speech went completely and totally out of my head. "I mean... as... my... lover? I'm... not ready for it, not by a long shot, but... I want to keep that option available."

"Matt?" he questioned me. He looked startled, and sat up. Shaking his head, he appeared to be at a complete lost for words. "Matthew?"

"I'd... like that." I admitted softly. It was amazing, after all these years that most men found it difficult to talk openly about their private feelings. Must be something genetic on the Y chromosome? Gamely, I struggled on. "But, I don't know if it's possible. Wanted to let you know that... I'd like that. If you're... interested? The two of us would have to come up with a few ground rules. And I'm not sure if it's even possible... because of that Jones issue. While EF frowns on this type of relationship... unofficially, everyone knows that... it happens; especially on the long term deep space vessels." It was my longest conversation with him in months, and I was very nervous.

John completely ignored me for several minutes, and I grew even more anxious.

"Even if you don't, we really need to talk about what happened between us. Why the hell did you run from me, John?" I was surprised how upset my voice was. "I was the one that screwed things up, I should have known better. I was furious at myself, NEVER at you. Never did I say to anyone that you scanned me. NEVER. I never even thought it. John, it was completely my fault for everything that happened. Everything. I am deeply sorry that you were that terrified of me that you thought that your only option was to leave the Excalibur."

Matheson was still quiet for a bit, and at last, I figured it was my cue to exit 'ships' right'. I turned to face the door, and gathered up my battered pride before I exited his quarters. Gritting my teeth, I was determined that I'd walk out of his quarters, proudly, rather than with my usual limp. A man needed a few shreds of dignity after all.

"If... I was to get involved with you, I'd have to be an equal. A sharing, caring partnership, not a relationship where you're the dominant one always. Not you trying to protect me, and you always taking the complete blame when something goes wrong. I'm a consenting adult, and I knew what we did was going to open up a kettle of worms, but I *agreed* to it. *Willingly*." He didn't say anything more than that, but for now, it was enough.

"Thank you," I whispered, and I could hear him sigh.

"No, thank you, Matthew."

We talked a lot, even more than before our estrangement. It wasn't odd to see us chatting for long hours late at "ship's night" in the cafeteria about this or that, and we chatted even early in the morning, in the gym. Our friendship was back, stronger than ever, and I was quite happy about that.

As for our "relationship," Gideon tried very hard to keep that quiet, and I think we succeeded in fooling just about everyone. If you thought about it, like I had, really nothing had changed between the two of us, except for the fact that *Matthew* had admitted that he loved me. I had always loved Matthew, and he finally had acknowledged his feelings for me.

I'm not sure if we managed to fool the command staff, as I caught Sarah Chambers giving the two of us an odd smile one day. It was maybe six weeks after he had returned to the ship, and Gideon had decided to do something that he simply wasn't physically able to do just yet; and I disagreed with his plan wholeheartedly. He had glared at me, I had looked back at him, and shook my head slightly, silently warning him that it wasn't a great idea. For a few minutes, he stared back at me while I continued to shake my head in disapproval. At last, he shook his head in agreement, acknowledging that I was right about his physical status. Then Gideon saw Chambers smirking, and he growled at her. "What?"

Sarah laughed, and she refused to answer that question. But Sarah broadly smirked throughout that meeting, which apparently flustered Matthew to no end. He fumbled inarticulately for a bit, which soon had Dureena smiling, which in turn soon had Max grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. It's rather hard to run a meeting, especially when you know that everyone's laughing at a private joke, which probably involves you. Finally, Matthew declared the meeting a complete and total loss, and he ended it with a roar. "GET OUT!"

"Do you think they know?" He asked me that quietly later in the elevator.

"I don't know. And I don't really want to ask." I had answered him quickly, and he laughed.

"Always said you were smart."

I was always a light sleeper, which made it easy for me to find out when he was having a nightmare. And tonight, tonight, he was crying, again. His nightmares about his captivity would wake him up in the middle of the night, and he'd sometimes cry, softly, so as not to wake me. It wouldn't work, as I would be awake and lying next to him. Tonight was no different than the previous nights, except for the fact that he had left our bed, and was sitting on the floor while he wept. Getting off the bed, I pulled the covers off the bed, and I walked over to where he was. I gently covered him with them, and then I sat next to him, carefully covering myself with them.

"Did I wake you?" His voice was soft and he was rubbing his hands over and over again.

"No, couldn't sleep. Are you ok?" It was an inane question, as he wasn't ok, why else would he be on the floor, silently weeping? "Another nightmare?"


"About?" I asked that quietly.

"The usual, Eilerson's latest request for an increase in pay." Matthew was trying to flim-flam me so I played along. "HQ is going to scream when they see his latest request."

"Astronomical, was it?" I commented dryly.

"Quite." We were quiet for a bit, and then Matt softly spoke. "It was about... them again."

"Oh." I whispered that softly, waiting for my silent partner to continue to vent. He vented rarely, as though he was afraid that what he would repulse me by talking about what he had experienced during his captivity. My foolish, scared Matthew. How was he going to heal if he didn't talk to me? After all, I was planning on being with him for the long haul, and I wanted him to talk to me. Forty or fifty years of silence would drive anything crazy! He didn't say anything for almost fifteen minutes, so I prompted him. "Come on, don't you trust me?"

"I do!"

I was surprised by his vehemence, and I guess he saw that I was surprised. For a moment, our eyes met, and I saw his trust of me in his eyes. For a person such as myself, that had been an outsider for most of his life, it was... amazing to see that look directed toward me.

"I trust you, completely and utterly. You are the only person here that I can talk to... about what happened. But I'm still afraid." Matthew whispered that softly.

"Afraid of what?"

Again, this time his answer took a while, as though he was terrified that he'd say the wrong thing to me, and that I'd run off. "That... I'll never be clean again. Sometimes, I wash over and over again, trying to get their damn taint off my skin. I wash myself until I'm almost bleeding, and it's never going to work. It'll never get out of my soul."

"You are not dirty. It is not in your soul, Matthew."

"I'm so uncomfortable around most of the crew. I know that ... only you and Sarah know exactly what happened down there, and nobody else on board does. But Dureena scares me, as sometimes, I think ... that Dureena is actually... HER. I think Dureena knows something else happened down there, as she's been asking me if I want to talk."

For some reason, tonight my damaged lover was in the mood to talk, so I let him. These moments were rare, and I would always encourage him to open up to me.

"Did I ever thank you?" he asked.

"For what?" I prompted him.

"For saving me. For getting me outta Hell. Did I mention that I had hallucinations after a while? That while I was hanging there, thinking I was going to die, that I'd see them?"

"No... you never mentioned that to me."

"They came back to hurt me again... but... you were there... and you stopped them. You wouldn't let them hurt me. And... I kept asking you why you were defending me, after all I did to hurt you, and you know what you kept telling me?" Matthew's voice was shaky.

"No... what?"

"That you loved me, and that's why. I'm embarrassed to admit that I wept like a baby after that."

"Why is that so embarrassing?" I questioned him softly. "It's a rather nice sentiment, besides being completely true. You know if I had been there, I would have done everything I could to have protected you."

"It's embarrassing. Starship Captains aren't allowed to cry, it's in the Handbook. We're supposed to be invincible, and breathe fire. You know... like Kritika Makam." He was silent for a bit, his attempt at humor having failed to make me laugh, and then he asked, "We're not suppose to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and have nightmares every Goddamn night. John?"

"Yes, Matthew."

"Will you... make love to me? Maybe, if you do, I won't feel so... I mean, I trust you with everything, including the Excalibur. When we get back into bed tonight, would you? I mean that I'm thinking, if I let you... maybe I won't be constantly...think of them. I trust you, so you can do anything you want to me. Really. You'll be the top and the one in charge, and I'll let you do anything you want to me, just as long as you're satisfied. Please? I just want to know that you're not... repulsed by me." Matthew sighed, and looked away from me. "I just want to know that you don't think... I'm..." He didn't finish what he was going to say, but I pretty much knew what he hadn't said.





My lover was just so nervous and uncertain, and I found myself wanting to console him, emotionally, and physically.

"Matthew... why do we have to go to bed? How about here? And how about ... Now?" I gave him a wolfish smile that appeared to amuse him for some reason.

I gently pushed him onto his back, and he let me. I straddled him, making sure that I wasn't touching him, and then I lowered my lips to his forehead. I kissed him gently, and I had the sudden realization that he was shaking.

"Don't be afraid. I won't hurt you." I consoled him softly.

"I know. I know."

I continued kissing him on his face for a few minutes, and then I touched his lips. His body jumped when I did, and I suddenly realized that he was terrified, but he was going to let me do anything I wanted to him. So I gave him a gentle, and thoroughly chaste kiss on his lips until his tense body relaxed, and then I rolled over to his side. "Matthew. Let's go back to bed."

This couldn't be allowed to continue. I suddenly realized that unintentionally, I had just come rather close to emotionally injuring my Matthew. If I did this tonight, it would put our relationship into an unhealthy position of me being the dominant partner. Without a shadow of a doubt, I could have made sure that Matthew enjoyed tonight. I would have relaxed him, by taking as long as necessary until he felt comfortable with what I was doing to him. Matthew would have enjoyed it, and he would be happy as he would have known that I wasn't repulsed by him or his experience. But it wouldn't have been healthy for our long-term relationship. Gideon was far too Alpha Male to be willing to be the submissive partner for long in our relationship, so it would be best if we didn't start off on a bad foot. Matthew wasn't the dominant one, nor should I be the one in charge. Instead, I wanted us to have an equal partnership.

Gideon trusted me, so I hoped he wouldn't be too let down when I decided to stop what we were doing. It was the right thing to do for our relationship.

"You're stopping?" His voice was shaky, and disappointed. "Why? Why? I didn't mean to jump when you kissed me. I really didn't. Believe me?"

"You said you trust me. So trust me enough to agree with me when I say that if I made love with you tonight, it would have been a mistake. You're not ready for this. I want to be your partner in this experience, not the top, not the bottom, but your equal partner. If I did this tonight, you'd regret it, Matt."

"No, I wouldn't. I swear I wouldn't. I trust you, completely."

"In time, you'd heal enough to be unhappy with the fact that I was the dominant partner in this experience. You'd regret it, Matthew, and I don't want you to have any regrets with our relationship as they would only fester, and destroy it. Our friendship is strong as ever, but... this love thing between us... it's only just been acknowledged, and so it's a little fragile right now. It needs to be given some TLC and time to grow stronger. I'll wait as long as necessary for you to heal, as I only want to make love with you as your equal."

Matthew looked at me for a long time, and I grew nervous. Then he smiled. "How the hell did you ever last in Earth Force this long, having morals like that?"

"I fell in with a Captain that appreciated them."

My answer seemed to cheer him, so we went back to bed.

The two of us, TOGETHER, as a team, had hammered out a few ground rules for our... relationship, both in public and private. In public, nothing was to have changed, except that it was apparent to one and all that Lt. Commander Matheson was trying to quietly prevent his recovering Captain from over doing it while not making it obvious to Gideon. Publicly, I was having a lot of meetings with Gideon, with me groaning and moaning about being meeting'd to death by a rather stubborn Captain.

Privately, I threw the files in the corner of whatever quarters or whichever office we were in, and we'd talk. Occasionally about the ship and the crew, more often about how Gideon was progressing on his recovery. Sometimes, Gideon would fall asleep, secure in the knowledge that I was nearby. I was busy trying to catch up on paperwork that had apparently been neglected during his revolving door of XOs, and that took most of my spare time. Spare time? I didn't have any spare time! I didn't have enough hours in the day to sleep more than four or five hours a day.

Sometimes, when he was sleeping, I'd crawl into bed next to him, carefully, as not to touch him and I'd lie next to him. Smelling his cologne, listening to him breath, I'd fall asleep for a few hours. One night, he rolled over, and I found myself being held by him. Gently, yet firmly, and I suddenly realized how much I looked forward to these brief times of lying next to my Matthew. How he'd talk to me, softly, hesitantly, of what had happened to him, during the long hours when he couldn't sleep, while I listened carefully. His hand suddenly entwined with mine, and I felt a shiver run down my spine. Gently, I raised his hand to my lips, and I kissed each finger, softly. Since what had happened to him, this was the first time Matt had willingly touch me, and I was hoping for more.

"I've never really apologized for what I did to you. Do you know that?" His voice was soft in my ear.

"Yes." I whispered back to him. "You have, numerous times, Matthew. So many, many times, Matthew."

"I didn't mean to hurt you. I've always regretted that. Bitterly. I am sorry. Incredibly sorry that your first time was so rough and that you were... uncomfortable... after."

"I thought you were angry at me because I... was inexperienced. And because I admitted that I loved you. That's why I requested the transfer. I never thought you intentionally hurt me. I'm sorry also."

"Why?" He was startled by my apology.

"If I hadn't left... " I couldn't finish that statement, and he began to try to console me. If I hadn't left, O'Keefe never would have been on board.

"It's not your fault about that. Never. Never would I be angry with you. Never. I just can't believe that you could still respect me after what happened... between us. I'm honored that you wanted me to be your first, but... I'm still upset that I was so rough with you. Your first time should have been... special. I'm really sorry it wasn't."

"But it was special." I told him softly. "Because you were the one. Matthew, though I think Eilerson would have approved of a few things." I said that last comment in my driest possible tones, and Matthew's laugh rewarded my attempt at humor.

"Thank you." Then Matthew smiled at me, and I was glad to see that his smile had also returned. "I've... been talking to the counselors. They wanted to know how I was adjusting back to my life after what happened. For some reason, they really wanted to know about my social life. They refused to believe that as a Captain that I don't HAVE a social life, so I admitted to them that I had someone in my life. That while this person had been rather understanding about what I've been through, that I just still didn't feel comfortable with... 'touching'."

"Matthew... It'll take time. I know that." I whispered that softly.

"It's been over three months, damn it. So one of them talked to me after the others had logged off, and made a few suggestions." He carefully touched my face with his fingers, and he smiled. "I told her about what happened that night when you were moral enough not to take advantage of me, and she rather tartly told me that she was glad at least one of us in this relationship had some sense. So she poked and she prodded a bit, and I admitted that you really were worried about the fact that we're fumbling it through this relationship and that my head's not screwed on straight. So she made a few suggestions, to take everything slowly, and carefully. That I should make the effort to touch you, and to do nothing more than just touch you. Nothing erotic. Sheila Masterson suggested that I should practice it, for a while, and then when I got more comfortable, that I should let you do the same to me."

He used his fingers to touch my face, and he smiled when I tried to kiss his fingers. "Hey! Sheila said not to do that," he whispered while he avoided my lips. For the first few nights, Matthew was only able to touch me for a few minutes before his fear overcame him and he stopped. Gradually though, he became more relaxed and comfortable with me.

Over the next few weeks, while I lay next to him in bed, Matthew would touch me carefully. Sheila didn't want eroticism involved, but after a while, I found it extremely erotic. The sensation of Matthew's fingers slowly roaming over my hand, the feel of his hand as he explored my shoulder and my back, the way he curled his body next to mine while we slept, and I was ready to let it progress. But Matthew didn't, instead, he would give me a bittersweet smile and stop things before it went to the next level.

After a month or so, one night, I found him in my quarters, sitting on my couch. "Matthew?" I questioned him. "I wasn't expecting you here. Didn't you have second shift today?"

"Took a personal day," he assured me dryly.

"I better mark this in my calendar. Matthew Gideon... "

"Would like it if you... " he whispered at me, giving me a rather shy smile. He paused, looking embarrassed, and then he gritted his teeth. "Would... touch him?"

"Love too. Do you want to take your shirt off?" He agreed, and soon, he was shirtless, sitting on my bed. I just looked at him, trying to figure out where to start, and he gave me a sad look.

"I know. I know and I have to get more plastic surgery done." Matthew had been through a score of surgeries since his return, and he was due for another round shortly.

"It's not that. I just want to make sure you're ready for this." I stood next to him, and I carefully touched his face, concentrating on touching his scars. He trembled, and I gave him a smile. "I won't hurt you. Don't you believe me?" Letting my hands roam, I touched the scars on my love's chest and wrists. "They're fading at last."

"Physically. Yes. Emotionally?" Matthew shook his head.

"Don't try to protect me, Matt. I want to be an equal in our relationship, not someone whom you need to protect and coddle."

"Maybe, I like coddling you."

That night, I was very gentle with him, only touching his face and his arms, but I realized that he was still very uneasy with that intimacy, so I stopped after a few minutes.

"So soon?" he whispered.

"You're not ready for this, are you?"

"I WANT to be."

"Don't rush it."

{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}