by Mistress Sarah

Summary: Matthew Gideon realizes that his karma has not been met.
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: R

After my run with Eilerson, I decided that perhaps it would be best if I went to bed and avoid any other possible disputes that might be hanging in the air. Eilerson down, and Elizabeth Lochley tomorrow.

That was a lovely thought that I brooded on for a bit, until I found my way back to my room. No, suite. Let’s not upset Eilerson more by not using the correct term.

"Matt?" John mumbled as I got undressed in the dark.

Thankfully, he had rolled over, leaving most of the bed unoccupied. Crawling into the bed, I curled around him, enjoying the warmth of his body. Whispering softly, I urged him to go back to sleep. "Shhh... go to sleep. I didn’t mean to wake you. We’ve got a long day tomorrow."

But John didn’t answer me, as he was already asleep.

Next morning.

I wasn’t planning on having a serious conversation. No, I was just trying to get dressed. Elizabeth Lochley was downstairs, unbelievably early, and she wanted to speak with me. My nerves were in an uproar, and John Matheson was obviously worried about me.

"What are you going to say to her?" He was lying in bed, watching me get dressed.

"To Elizabeth?" I asked, playing stupid. Where was my damn shirt? I had hung it up carefully before I went to bed last night. It should be hanging neatly on the chair over there, so I could find it immediately. I was nervous enough about meeting Lochley, so I had decided to keep everything as simple as possible. Clothes would be there. Jacket would be over there, and the shoes... would be right there. Shit! There was only the left shoe! Where the hell was the right one?

"Yes." Once again, John had failed to rise to the bait, and he was looking at me intently.

"There’s nothing really to say. We never had a real 'relationship’ of any type. It was really nothing more than a convenient fuck between... friends. There weren’t any promises made on either end." I didn’t want to have this conversation with John, as I wanted to concentrate on important things. Like not getting anything vital caught in a zipper. Button then zip? Or zip then button? It’s hard to get dressed when someone is watching you. Meanwhile...If I was a shirt, where the hell would I be? It couldn’t have become sentient, and decided to evolve a few legs? Ah! Right shoe, right next to the left one, I must have nudged it under the chair by mistake when I took them off last night.

"You sound like you’re trying to convince yourself."

"No. I’m not trying to talk myself into anything. I’m just really hoping that I get this over with as quickly as possible." I walked over to John’s side of the bed, and I found my shirt. It was hanging neatly on the coat rack, and I had ignored it, thinking that John had hung his shirt up there. "How the hell did it end up there?"

"I hung it up for you when you dropped it on the floor last night."

"Did not!"

"Did too."

"John, I didn’t throw my shirt on the floor."

John ignored that last comment, and then threw me a curve ball. "If there was nothing going on between you two, then why are you so nervous about talking to her?" My lover looked at me, and I saw in his dark eyes the fact that he was always the one person I could never fool. I could con everyone including myself, but never John Matheson. "You’re dressing up like you’re meeting a general... or Makam..."

I sat down on the edge of the bed, and he gave me a smile, urging me to talk. Instead of looking at him, I concentrated on putting on my shirt. Shit. Nearly buttoned it incorrectly. Goddamn it, I hated my dress uniform. "Because at one time, I had hoped... that it might lead to more. But that was a lifetime ago, before... what happened. I’m nervous meeting her because she knows the old Matthew Gideon and that is not who I am anymore. I’m a battered, bruised and scarred wreck of the man she knew, and she represents part of my past. In a way, I guess I don’t want to talk to her, because when I talk to her, I’ll... know that the old Matthew Gideon is dead and buried." I turned away from John, and I felt his hand touch my back.

"Do you really believe that?"

"Yes." I stood up, wanting to pace the room, but I realized that would amuse John. It was bad enough that my hands were shaking. Calm down, Matt. You’re just meeting Liz for a cup of coffee. That’s all.


"She represents... who I was before... everything happened." There, it was out in the open.

"Before you shacked up with your male XO?"

John was teasing me, trying to pull me out of the depression I felt nipping at my heels.

"Don’t you think it’s time you got out of bed? It’s almost ten in the morning, local time. You’re not my first male relationship, John. Even though I’ve leaned to the more delicate sex over the years. No, she just reminds me of the fact that at one time I wasn’t terrified of being touched by a female."

"You still are?" John was getting out of bed, one leg at a time, and I envied the easy way he could walk around in the nude. He wasn’t strutting or anything like that, he was merely comfortable with his body, while I still tried to hide the worse of my scars from him. He sat on the edge of the bed, and stretched.

"Depending on who it is. Dags scared me to death, even though I was expecting her to show up as Vladi had asked if she could come in and see me. I nearly lost it before I realized who she was... and more importantly... who she wasn’t. It was a good thing that Zbignewski was in the room, or else Dags would have run."

Andersen, Lt. Dagmar, Engineer, had been deeply upset to realize that I was terrified of her, and it had taken what remained of the Gideon charm to convince Dags to stay and have lunch with me. I had pretended not to notice that she had kept looking at Zbignewski for reassurance during the first few minutes, and that Vladi was motioning for her to continue to talk.

It started off awkwardly, but I had worked hard on drawing her out of her shell. Getting an engineer to talk about engines isn’t that difficult; the problem was getting them off the subject. By the time lunch had ended, we had been chatting easier, and I had steeled my nerves enough to take her hand in mine. Squeezing it softly, I had tried to convey my thanks in that gesture and I had hoped she heard it.

"Makam was the only female I wasn’t afraid of after it happened, and even then she was damn careful about not getting too close to me. She would usually stay about three feet away from me, whenever we had to talk, unless I told her to sit by my bedside." I sat next to John on the bed. Makam always dressed in civvies when she visited me, which made it appear that her visits were merely social. They weren’t by a long shot, as she would question me repeatedly about certain events. "Now, I’m only truly comfortable around Dureena, Sarah and Sheila."

"That is rather interesting as I thought you were afraid of Madam Makam, berserker and fire breathing Dragon, before it happened."

I stuck my tongue out at him, and John leaned over to kiss me on my cheek.

"It’ll take time."

"I want my life back." The old familiar refrain was growing tiresome, because by now, I should just admit the fact that I never was going to get my life back. "I want the innocence that I once had and that you seem to have in such abundance."

"Hello Elizabeth." There, first sentence. I said hello, now I’ll say goodbye and maybe we’ll meet again in a few years at the Retirement Home for Old Space Captains, Elizabeth. We can sit on the porch, and lie about how we saved the universe more times than we could count and the number of personnel involved in that bar fight will increase dramatically. Except this time, you and I will be the ones in charge, throwing pepper spray with wild abandon, ok? Let Makam, Nguyen and Lee tell the story their way, and we’ll tell the story how it 'really happened.’

"Hello, Matthew. You... look... good."

Her voice suddenly reminded me of our few stolen moments together. Elizabeth, I was so grateful when we had both found comfort together but right now, Elizabeth Lochley, you are a liar. I look like a scared animal with the barrel of a rifle in my face. I had always counted on you to be brutally honest with me, and now, you were shamming me. Did you think that I wasn’t strong enough to know that I looked like Hell?

"Better than I was a few short months ago." At that comment, she moved to give me a quick hug, and I flinched. Unintentionally, I had recoiled from her, but I could tell that my reaction hurt her. Elizabeth had moved too fast for my comfort, but I felt that I was the one who needed to apologize for my response. "Sorry. Sudden movements still make me... nervous."


Silence. Thankfully, Elizabeth stepped back a few feet, pretending that she was looking for a place to sit down. She settled on the couch, and I sat in the chair opposite it. There was a large table between us, a point of no return, which I was hoping that she’d not cross. If she spanned that gap, then she’d be close enough to touch me.

"You never answered any of my messages."

Her voice wasn’t accusatory, but still I found myself defending myself. "Elizabeth, I didn’t answer anyone’s messages. There were billions of them daily from numerous people, so I didn’t accept any of them."

"How are you... doing?"

The way she stressed that final word, meant that she was wondering if I was ready for the four-point restraints and the rubber room. "I have my ups and downs."

"You talking to anyone?"

"Yes. Friend of Makam’s apparently. Sheila Masterson? She’s EF retired, medical discharge."

"Masterson? That sounds... familiar. She was... the Captain of the cruiser that had to go rescue Captain Lipinski? Sheila ended up in a prisoner of war camp for a few years until she and the remnants of the two crews escaped. She broke her back during the escape attempt and they refused to leave her to die. She tried to write them all up on charges for insubordination, but thankfully, EF talked her out of it."

Was that what had happened? She’d never mentioned it to me, and I had never had the courage to ask. Oh...so now I know why her name was so familiar. God... she was THAT Masterson? I was stunned, after all that she had been through, why the hell didn’t she just tell me to stop my whining and get on with my life? I hadn’t been a POW for over a year...

"I don’t know. Never asked, and she never volunteered the information. If she thought I needed to know, I’m sure she would have told me." I think the vehemence in my voice surprised her, as she gave me an intense look.

"Oh." She whispered that softly.

Obviously, Elizabeth was trying to figure out what she wanted to say, and I was throwing her all sorts of confusing signals. No, Elizabeth, I was no longer the man that had seduced you in the water shower of Babylon 5.



"Are you... all right? Seriously? Do you have anyone to talk to besides...? Sheila?"

There, it was out in the open. What the hell was our relationship going to be now? We couldn’t be lovers, but... maybe we conceivably could be friends? Or would even tolerant, compassionate John Matheson draw the line at that?

"Yes. I’ve... found someone..."

"Someone?" There was a wealth of questions hidden in that one word.

"Someone... I can talk to... whom my scars or I don’t repulse. I have a significant amount of scars, even after all those plastic surgeries. It’s been... difficult at times but my partner..." There, I broached the subject. Elizabeth, I’m involved with someone else, right now, and it’s someone that was always standing there between you and me. But I was too blind to see it, until after I managed to kick him in the teeth and nearly destroy him.

"Partner?" She was surprised, I could tell by her voice.

"Yes, my partner is rather understanding... sometimes too understanding about what I’ve gone through. Pushes me constantly, smacks me around when I start acting badly... and when things get too overwhelming for me, my partner is willing to let me... vent."

"Does your partner have a name?" She questioned me softly.

"No." I’m not telling you, Elizabeth. For his sake, and mine, I’ve got to keep this as secret as possible

"Matt...." Reproaching me for my lack of faith in her, her answer burned me to the quick.

Suddenly, I had this overwhelming urge to talk to Elizabeth. I had moments where I couldn’t and wouldn’t speak. Then sometimes I got into these talking jags, where a simple "How the hell are you?" could have me verbalizing for hours. Poor Sarah Chambers; she had learned that the hard way. I had vented at her for over an hour one day, when she had casually commented on something.

"Elizabeth, no, I won’t tell you who my partner is." I got up from the chair, and I sat down on the table, next to the couch. Grabbing my courage, I touched her hand, and began speaking to her intensely in a low voice. "Understand, please, last night, my genitalia were broadcast on ISN and are right now gracing the front cover of "The Universe Today." My crew has seen those pictures, and I’m sure most of EF has seen me in various states of undress."

Elizabeth was looking stunned at my extreme verbosity, and I found myself talking even more to her, trying to assure her... that I wasn’t crazy. She didn’t understand what I had been through, and what I was facing. For some reason, I needed to make Elizabeth understand what had happened to the Old Matthew, and who this new person was. Maybe, if I explained it often enough to other people, I could figure out who I was now. Sheila had kept telling me that I needed to answer several questions before she’d release me from counseling. Who am I? What did I want?

"Allow me some dignity and privacy, please? I haven’t had any for such a long time, and I don’t think I’ll have any for a while longer. If I ever do. I mean, don’t you think Masterson is tired of being known as the EF Captain who broke her back while trying to rescue that idiot Lipinski from the prison camp? She probably gets tired of being known as the 'Crippled Captain’ because Lipinski totally misread the first contact signs. I figured if she wanted me to know what happened to her, she would tell me."

"Sometimes, privacy is the one thing I wish most that I still had. I’ll never have it again, and for the remainder of my life, and for years afterwards, I won’t be known as Matthew Gideon, Finder of the Cure for the Plague. No, I’ll forever be known as ... Matthew Gideon, boy-toy and stud stallion to a bunch of doomsday cultists."

"Those women not only took my pride away from me; they took my self-esteem and self-worth. Do you have any idea... what it’s been like for me? If you’re female, and a bunch of men attack you, the victim is seen with more compassion and respect than if the victim is male. If you’re male, and this happens to you, it’s a Goddamn sign of weakness."

"They’ve tried to emasculate me to take my dignity and self-respect from me, and that’s why I won’t mention my partner’s name. We really deserve some privacy; don’t you agree? People would comment incessantly... and I’m really rather tired... of it. It’s difficult enough to be involved with someone like me at the best of times, and with everything that’s happened, it’s even worse. Adding the rumors and innuendoes into the mixture would probably destroy our relationship."

Talking like a man possessed, I spoke to her for over fifteen minutes. Now, Elizabeth was looking a little wild-eyed, just like Sarah had looked, right after I was done venting at her. Come to think of it, Sarah never again asked me how my day was going after my conversation with her.

Elizabeth was quiet for a few minutes, pondering the truth of what I said, and I wondered if now perhaps we could simply say our good-byes. We had talked, actually, I HAD talked, and I had told her that I was involved with someone else; and that was all there was to say.


"Yes?" Hoping she was about to say good-bye, I was mistaken.

"Will you let me hug you?" Her voice was full of something that I hoped I understood. Elizabeth was a remarkable woman, and she was trying to tell me that she heard what I was trying to say. I hadn’t expected that question, so it took me a moment to formulate an answer.


We both stood up, and awkwardly we embraced. I was shaking hard, and I was cursing myself silently. Elizabeth whispered to me that it was ok to be nervous, and I shouldn’t be ashamed. She hugged me carefully, until I stopped shaking, and I then heard her whisper in my ear. "Tell John to take good care of you, or else I’ll talk to him. Also, you better be good to John, or else I’ll do more than talk to you."

"That obvious?" I whispered in her ear.

"To one who knows you both, yes. Keep in touch, Matthew? You know where I am."

"Thank you."

She left shortly afterwards, but I remained in the room for a while, thinking deep thoughts. I almost didn’t hear John as he entered the room, until he cleared his throat. "Here. I brought you freshly brewed coffee and something for breakfast. I thought you might be hungry as you didn’t really eat yesterday nor this morning."

"Oh... hello." My stomach growled at the food in front of me, and I suddenly realized that I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten in several days, except for a few bites here and there, and I was famished.

"How’d it go?" He sat down on the couch, and then whimsically decided to put his feet on the table. Noting my furtive looks about the room to see if Madeleine was around, John smiled at me.

"Better than I expected." It was the truth. I had been expecting the worst when I finally spoke with Elizabeth, and... it hadn’t been... that bad.

"Elizabeth stopped and chatted with me for a few minutes. She... knows, and approves." His dark eyes focused on me, and they judged my reaction to that news.

"How many people know now? Should we just put the advertisement on ISN, that way everyone can start commenting?" I winced at how acerbic I sounded, but... damn it, John. We had agreed to try and keep it secret.


"It’s not that bad, only a few of our friends know."

"Sheila, Sarah, Dureena, Elizabeth... and Max. Maybe Galen... That’s five or six... people too many." It was. Hey, John, loose lips wreck spaceships, remember?

"Sheila needed to know who I was, Matt. You’re leaving someone out... probably Makam too."

"Kritika? How the hell did Kali find out?" MAKAM! John, we were in big trouble now, as she was so damnable by the book, that I could just imagine her filing a complaint with EF right now. Unless she decided to be merciful, and take us out to the shed out back and horse whip us for this stupidity. Even that "Admiral" business, she was correct, as there was precedence for what she was claiming. She was a retired Admiral, of another world’s military, and she did have the Golden Eagle Insignia to prove it.

"When you got abducted, and knocked unconscious, the physic resonation knocked me senseless too. I’ve told you that, and I didn’t come around for almost a day. Put her on the list, as she knows there’s some sort of connection between us." His voice was unconcerned.

"Oh Goddamn it. Makam?" I sighed loudly. Makam was far too by the book to not have some opinion on a Captain fraternizing with his XO. I decided to ignore this potential problem for now, and I concentrated on sipping at my coffee. It was apparent that John Matheson hadn’t brewed this coffee, as he liked his strong enough to take paint off.

"Don’t worry. She won’t say anything."

"I wish you were right."

Hello, Supreme Ruler of the Universe, it’s me, Matthew Gideon! I could use some help here. Do you think you can help me out as you’ve ignored my last dozen or so requests? This one really isn’t for me, it’s for poor John Matheson?

"I don’t think she will say anything at all. Tom won’t let her, even if she wanted to complain."

"Why not?" Sipping at my coffee, I was confused why John was so damn convinced. "Last time I looked he’s just a Sergeant Major. Did he get promoted to Vice-Admiral or Supreme Commander of the Universe while I wasn’t looking?" Hey! Maybe he WAS the Supreme Commander, just hiding out incognito in EF. Stranger things have happened.

"Because Admiral Kritika Makam is..." John paused to give weight to what he was saying. Suddenly, he smirked, as he was obviously dying to see my reaction to his news. "Married to Sergeant Major Thomas O’Neill, that’s why..."

That shocked me, and my coffee went down the wrong pipe. What? Then that thought fled as I began coughing. Damn it, I had faced death often enough in the last few years, but to die while drinking coffee was pathetic.

MAKAM? WHO THE HELL WOULD MARRY HER? That was going to be my last thought, I just knew it, and the funeral director would never get that stunned look off my face. They’d have the viewing, and I’d have a perplexed and baffled look on my face which would cause everyone to wonder what exactly I was thinking when I died. Makam? MARRIED?

"Matt?" John was obviously concerned.

"I’m ok... I just wasn’t expecting that one. You’re telling me, that Makam is married?" I must have heard him wrong. Makam. Married. To. O’NEILL? The Bar Room Brawler?

"To Tom." Confirming what I thought he said, John looked very amused.

"O’NEILL? Short guy, crew cut, crooked nose and looks like he can kill someone with his teeth and his bare hands?"

"The one and only. So put him on the list also, as I’m sure Makam probably mentioned her suspicions to him." He flashed me another grin. "Probably it was during pillow talk. I wonder if she makes him wear his sword when..."

John continued making a few comments about the Marine Dress Uniform but I ignored him.

"No wonder the guy doesn’t say anything." O’NEILL! You were a brave man, and I was definitely going to have to nominate you for an award of some sort. Lion-hearted, and fearless, that’s what the hell you were.

"Matthew!" John was rather amused with my catty comment.

"Well, he doesn’t talk. That’s what you told me, remember? Obviously the wife orders him to keep his mouth firmly shut."

"They’re a good match. Tom doesn’t quite have Makam’s temper, but when he’s angry, I’ve heard that he’s her equal. Rumor had it that one time the two of them had a row that nearly split the ship in half. Tom was unequivocally furious that she’d put herself needlessly at risk that he really reamed into her about proper security measures. St. John said he's never seen anyone dress Makam down like that and live to tell the tale. It’s rather funny though."

"What?" Lord, I can’t handle anything stranger than Makam being married right now, ok?

"All the complaints on his record have been filed by his wife. Thirty odd years of an almost perfect record, with the five incident reports signed by Kritika Pushpa Makam-O’Neill." John shook his head in disbelief. "His own wife wrote him up."

"That’s not funny." It wasn’t.

"It is, when you realize that they’re all from incidents where he’s been in fights, defending his wife’s reputation. Tommy took down a squad of Marines a few years ago when they referred to Makam as the crazy, Hindu bitch. After making sure that the entire group was unconscious, he then proceeded to calmly light up a cigar, and wait for the MPs to put him in the brig."

"They’re both strong people with healthy self-esteems, especially when you consider that Tom is constantly in the role of being her subordinate officer. Most men couldn’t handle having someone like Makam as their wife, because she’s just so headstrong. Next time Makam starts rearranging the galaxy, look at her former Head of Security. He’s in the background, grinning smugly because he’s delighted that he’s got such a valiant and headstrong wife."

"Look at them, and you can tell that they’re partners, through thick and thin. Yes, Makam may be his superior officer, but Tom’s also the only one that can get her to calm down when she’s really pissed off. She also heavily depends on his opinion. They’ll disagree occasionally on the small stuff, to fool their fellow officers, but on the important stuff, she always takes his opinion under advisement. If she’s uncertain about something..."

"Is that possible? I didn’t think she could be uncertain about anything." I quipped.

"She always watches Tom for his reaction. Then she votes accordingly."

"Did they invite you to the wedding?" That was the only wisecrack that came to mind. How the hell did John know with such certainty?

"Hardly. I think they’ve been married for years now. St. John apparently knew and that was it. The two of them used Mike as a smokescreen, and they still use him. He runs around and distracts people from seeing the obvious, as everybody thinks he and O’Neill are the ones who are involved."

"I looked at his records, and they’ve been separated by their careers maybe... a total of two years in the thirty odd years they’ve known each other. It’s rather sneaky of Makam. Whenever she got transferred to a new command, she always had her Head of Security and her Operations Officer transferred with her. Makam says she did it because they’re already housebroken, and everybody else thinks it’s because she didn’t want to break the boys up. The guys play it to the hilt, with the long suffering O’Neill silently sighing whenever Mike starts flirting."

"How did you find out?"

"Just a few things that I noticed. I overheard a conversation the two of them had after that riot on B5, and she was really angry with him about the fact that he could have been killed. Tom made a jest about 'So you do still care’ and then Makam stormed off to scare engineering. From what I could see, Tom looked like someone who’d his heart ripped apart and fed to a Pak’Ma’Ra. It was... exactly how I felt when I thought you were angry with me."

"John... you know I can’t apologize enough for that..." God, my actions would continue to haunt me forever. How long was the statute of limitation for being an idiot? I’d like to know.

"So, I kept an eye on the two of them, and I saw a few signs that made me realize that they were... a couple..."

"What signs?" I was getting curious, in spite of my best efforts.

"I think the really obvious one was catching him sneaking out of her quarters at 4:30 in the morning, ship time. Rather odd, considering that his quarters are right next doors to her. He was smirking, and his hair was an absolute mess!"

"NO!" O’Neill? Dignity personified and made flesh? I simply couldn’t believe that he’d saunter down the hallway after a little RnR with the wife. No, he’d do a commando raid, and go through the ceiling, with a bowie knife clenched in his teeth.

"Ok. No. I wasn’t sure until Vladi told me. At the Dyavaphrtivi’s last staff meeting, they had a small party so the senior staff members could toast Makam and her retirement. All of them, except for O’Neill, as he was the very last one to honor her. The other officers had to tease him into doing it, as Tom just doesn’t like public speaking. I’ve told you that he’s an extremely private fellow except with a select few. Tom will stage any battle you need, but put him in front of a microphone and he won’t talk. It’s one of his quirks."

"If he’s married to HER, I think he’s allowed a few quirks." I commented wittily, and John ignored me.

"Anyway, O’Neill gave a rather eloquent toast to Makam, as apparently he had been writing and practicing it for a while. Everyone was impressed as Tom was positively verbose, but then he mentioned how she was the absolute center of his universe. Tom then expounded on that comment, by mentioning how he was damn proud of the fact that he had finally convinced her to marry him all those years ago. That’s when their senior staff found out."

John laughed. "Apparently, they nearly had to 'code’ Chen as she nearly choked to death also."

"Makam wasn’t that happy that he spilled the beans because he’s still an enlistee, but you could have scraped the senior staff off the walls after that bombshell. Except for St. John, who apparently was the best man at the wedding, and who then had to kiss the bride, and... the bridegroom. Vladi said O’Neill was grinning from ear to ear, as he managed to pull the wool completely over Makam’s eyes. She never thought that Tom would mention it while he was still an enlisted man, but O’Neill thought it was long past time that their friends knew the truth."

"It wasn’t a complete surprise to me, as Tom doesn’t say a lot, mind you, but it’s how he says it, especially when he talks to Makam. He’s fluent in Sanskrit and a few of the other languages that Makam was brought up on. Nobody else on the ship could carry on a conversation with her when she was shrieking in Sanskrit, except for O’Neill. Tom would die for her, and consider it an honor to do so. For Makam, Tom’s her solid wall at her back, to brace and support herself through her captainship. The feeling I get from them is that their relationship has been built upon year after year, and they trust each other explicitly. I envy them that."

"It must have been hell." Thirty odd years of slipping through hallways, having a stolen moment here or there, and always worried that someone would find out. How the hell did you manage to land Kritika, O’Neill? I’d like to know. Or should I ask Kritika how she managed to land you, Tom?

"Probably, they thought it would have been worse if they didn’t make the effort. Don’t you think it would be worse, to be forever alone, and then realize that it was because you had decided that your one chance to find a soul mate wasn’t worth the effort? In another year or so, Tom’s probably going to retire, and then maybe they’ll take their relationship public."

"I don’t think either one of us is going to retire for at least ten more years, if not longer." Softly, I was warning John that we had a long road ahead of us, if we decided to continue in this relationship. "Hopefully by that time, I will have my head screwed on straight."

"I know that we will have to hide this for a long time." He calmly assured me that he had thought everything out. No doubt John had, as he was entirely too methodical for his own good.

"Do you really want to hide it for that long?"

John was quiet for a bit. "Matthew.... Yes. I will hide this for as long as we need to, just so I can help support you. It’s enough for me, as I hadn’t ever hoped for even this much."

"All that, just for a few stolen moments with your cranky Captain, now and then? You deserve far better, John."

"So do you, but it’s simply not to be, Matthew."

John began to laugh softly.

"What’s so funny?" I asked.

"Least I can tell you how I feel, mentally, rather than having to learn Sanskrit."

John and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together, until we were briskly ordered by Madeleine to get the hell out of the room so she could clean it. Fortunately, John had removed his feet from the table before the arrival of the Dowager Empress, the Czarina of Cleanliness. "You know, if we had a few more ladies like her in EF, the Drakh never would have been able to seed the Earth with the Plague."

"I have to agree with you, Matthew. More than likely, an army of Madeleines would have beaten them off with brooms."

John was in rare form today, and I wondered if it was because in his mind, the enemy had been met and conquered. Elizabeth Lochley held no hold on my heart and soul, and I think John that been a little nervous and... jealous.

"Game plan for today?"

"Going to HQ. They want to speak to me." John sighed.

"I’m lucky as Mal and the rest are coming here to see me. We were all suppose to meet at HQ, but Mal thought it would be best if we all met here. The Mountain is coming to Mohammed." Pretending a self-assurance that was a deliberate act, I tried to act like I didn’t have a care in the world. Or even the Universe!

"Matt?" John whispered.


"O’Neill’s a really... an extraordinarily... brave man, don’t you agree?"

I laughed. I just couldn’t help it, as I had been thinking that myself.

I had been dropped off at Earth Force Headquarters, and I was being interrogated. Uneasy. I felt very uncomfortable with talking to General Sukarnoputri. My skin was crawling, and I tried to ignore it. I don’t know why I felt that way, but my intuition was telling me that I really needed to be careful. Reciting my story by rote, I was amazed when Suki didn’t bother asking me any questions.

None. Not a single one, except ... for well... odd questions. Why was the meeting with Gideon being held at Eilerson’s rather than at Headquarters like it had been scheduled? When had the venue been changed, and why hadn’t anyone bothered informing her? Didn’t her rank entitle her to that courtesy? When Makam had interrogated me, I had spent hours in the hot seat while she poked and prodded at me. What did I see? What did I remember? What stood out in my mind? Question after question, after question. Now, this EF general wasn’t even taking notes. Maybe it was because she was so familiar with my story, that she wanted to see if I could verbalize it on command.

"Ok. Good enough. You should do fine as a witness. I sent your driver home, as I wasn’t sure how long this meeting would take."

"I’ll call and have someone pick me up." I wanted to get the hell out of here, and talk with Gideon. Sukarnoputri was known far and wide as an odd woman, but... something wasn’t quite right.

"Nonsense. I have a few personnel that aren’t doing anything, and they’d be more than willing to give you a lift." The firm, authoritative voice brooked no disagreement with her decision.

"It’ll be no problem."

"Nonsense, Lt. Commander. Don’t make me order you to accept this. Gentlemen, will you escort him to the shuttle?" Suki spoke crisply to the two large men that were suddenly standing in the doorway. They looked like street thugs, rather than EF personnel. Shit. Where the hell did these guys come from?

"Absolutely, General."

They were big, brawny guys, and I felt an increase in tension when I left the room. We walked out of HQ, and I began walking over to the shuttle bays, when I felt a needle in my back, and one of the men laughed softly. There was a brief hiss, as the injection went in, but not loud enough for anyone to hear in the crowded streets. Darkness descended quickly as I heard him say, "Oh, my friend has gotten ill. Can you help me get him to my shuttle?"

The lawyers had left, and I had managed not to have a breakdown when they were questioning me. More pictures, and more surprises. A few of Brigid’s friends had given birth during the interim. Actually, all of them had. I did a quick mental count in my head, and my heart sank.

"What?" I had spit that out, my calm, cool persona out the proverbial window. "Why the hell didn’t you tell me?"

"The girls were being used as brood-mares to produce more little doomsday cultists. As for telling you, you didn’t need to know." That was Makam.

"I think I needed to know." No. NO. NO! I wasn’t suing for custody nor paying for child support for any kid. Wasn’t going to send a birthday card or anything else. No how, no way, there was a limit to a lot of things, and quite frankly, I blew past my limit of my tolerance a year or so ago.

"The kids aren’t yours. When we found out that the girls were all pregnant, the girls immediately claimed that you were great inseminator." Makam drawled that softly, while Mal appeared amused.

Could someone just kill me now?

"I doubted it, and so did the rest. We did enough genetic testing to map the gene codes of the entire Mars population, and there’s no possible way that any of the ugly brats are yours. Besides, we would be more than willing to tell you these little things, but someone was playing uncooperative and refusing to answer our calls. All thirty-three of them, I might add, that you decided to ignore. You’ve been in Earth Force long enough to know that they only share information with boys that play nicely." Her tone was piquant, and I winced.

"You’re...?" ABSOLUTELY SURE. I wanted to scream that at her.

"Absolutely. No way in hell they’re yours." Malcolm assured me, while the other lawyers nodded their heads.

They left, and I had taken another long bath to unwind. I was feeling uneasy, my nerves on edge, as though something was about to happen. Regretfully leaving the hot water, I returned to my bedroom where I began to dress. I heard a beeping noise on the computer, and there was a message. That was surprising, as I didn’t think anyone knew how to contact me here except for EF personnel and my lawyers, and I didn’t recognize the name. Opening it, I suddenly felt a chill down my spine.

"We’ve got your pet Teep. Only way the Freak lives for another day is if you show up at 47-98 Bradbury at 20:00 tonight, unarmed. If EF finds out, he’s dead." It was signed with the logo of my old friends, the Sacred Black Omega.

The message disappeared quickly, and I tried to recall it. The computer grew balky, insisting that no one had received a message in the house for the last several hours. I tried to reach John via the comlink, and there was no response, which was abnormal for John.

John. They had him. Oh shit.

They’d destroy him.

I had to protect him.

I was leery of asking St. John for help, as he was enough of a computer tech to have rigged that message. [Stop it. You can’t distrust everyone. John trusted... no... TRUSTS him.] "Michael. I need to return to my ship quickly. Think you can help arrange that? But... do it quietly?"

"I think we can do it. I've got a bike outside, and we can get to the landing field rather quickly. I've got one of the ship's two-seater shuttles, as I'm running errands for Gabriel." Michael looked at me, and he plainly wondered why I needed to go back to my ship this badly.

"Going stir crazy in here and I want to make sure things are running smoothly "upstairs." You know that written reports aren't the same thing as poking around and catching other people slacking."

He nodded. Apparently he had worked with Makam for long enough to understand that most superior officers were crazy, and my reason sounded plausible enough. I found myself strapping into a shuttle in record time after St. John's death defying motorcycle ride through the streets of Mars. I had managed not to panic, as I was busy counting all the traffic rules Warlock was breaking. On the sidewalk, Mike? Are you INSANE?

"ST. JOHN!" I had screamed at him. "YOU'RE TELLING ME MAKAM APPROVES OF THIS?" Clutching his middle for all I was worth, I hoped that Warlock would stop to pick me up when I fell off. Meanwhile Mike had ignored me, while he was playing chicken with an ISN cameraperson.


Why isn't that a comforting thought when you're riding a motorcycle down a set of stairs?

"Took a few shortcuts." Mike mumbled when I asked him about how close Eilerson's house was to the airfield. "Ivo was trying to ditch the press when he drove you there, so he took a few turns."

"A few?" I had been sleeping for a few hours in the limo, and Mike had gotten to the airfield in less than fifteen minutes. Then again Masterson was debriefing the troops while I had slept, while Mike had deliberately tried to scare the hell out of me with that motorcycle ride. He was fucking lucky I didn't piss in my pants after that stunt with the crowd of Minbari tourists. Mike just shrugged and continued to plot his course to the Excalibur. I had a plan forming in the back of my head, and I was going to hate doing what I had to do, but Mike was about my size and height, and I could probably fit into his uniform rather well.

Too bad, I didn't think I could talk him into giving up his uniform for me.

I entered the Excalibur, and quickly ran a few pretend errands, making sure that Mike remained unsuspicious. Really, I had missed my crew and ship while I was dirt-side, so it was good to be back, but I had something I had to do first. Rummaging through my office, I found a little item that I had picked up right after I had come back from rehabilitation, and that I had kept in my uniform whenever I was on an away mission. I had long since vowed that I'd never be trapped like an animal again, and this was the only sure way to prevent it from happening.

I'd go and see my old friends in the doomsday cult, and then get John out of there. Then, whatever they had planned to do with me would begin, but I'd have this final escape onboard. Taking the small vial, I opened it, and then swallowed it quickly. Its bitter taste burned going down my throat, and I realized that I had only a few short hours to get this plan in motion. No more than forty-eight hours, long enough to get me out of trouble if the Calvary was fast enough, but also not too long in the hands of the cult. Quickly, I sent a password protected message to Makam, making sure that she'd receive it after 20:00 hours, advising her of what was going on, where I would be, and that she should get the troops in immediately.

I hid another vial, one that I'd give to John somehow if they didn't release him. Hopefully, when and if they found us, someone would recognize the smell of the stuff and get the antidote.

{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}

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