by Mistress Sarah

Summary: Starship Captains never give up on their own, especially when it's their XO.
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine, but instead have been placed on the side of the internet superhighway looking to brought back to life.
Rating: NC-17
Pairings : John Matheson/Matthew Gideon
Notes: regular- speech that is spoken. italicized font - John Matheson's telepathing. Yes -- I know this story is odd, but I'd like to hear any other comments besides that.
Warnings: Hurt/Comfort/Angst/Rape
Archiving: SW & WWOMB

Where once there was blessed quietness, now there were voices.  Formerly silence had existed, but had been replaced by a disharmony of speech and utterances. Young, old, human alien all of them screaming in my head, distracting me, splintering my self-control, each trying for dominance.  Yet through it all, there was one voice that I could hear, no matter how hard I tried to silence it.  No matter how the other voices raged and fought, they could not overpower that single calm voice that chased me through the streets of this alien world. It promised me hope, compassion and understanding, and I fled still harder from it.

Where are you, John Matheson?

Getting closer, that’s what Matthew Gideon was doing.  As though he was a telepathic hound used to track a blip, he was drawing closer and closer to me.

Damn it, you better not be dead. I’ll never forgive myself if something happens to you…

His self-hate and grief began overwhelming me, and I started weeping softly.  The others in the alley thought…. No…. knew I was insane, screaming and lamenting about the endless voices in my head, and they began moving away from me.

Their looks of unease made me realize that it was now past time to move on.

FUCKING insane crazy Drugged Sick Disease Might be catching Easy Mark Dirty His screaming will bring coppers here don’t want that – mercy killing Brain Damaged Screaming about Voices Weeping…

Time to run from the voices in my head, hoping that each step would take me farther away from the man who was hunting me.  I got up from where I had been resting, wondering if this was how a blip had felt, tired of running but realizing that there was only one other choice - to be silenced forever. Again I made the same choice, the only choice available to me,  blearily putting one foot ahead of the other.  Wouldn’t run, not in front of these others, running would make them chase after me, thinking I had something valuable to steal.

I had learned that the hard way, my first day on the streets, and I had severely damaged the one who had tried to jump me. She had thought me an easy mark, for I still bleeding from numerous wounds and I had appeared dazed.  But the cutthroat had picked the wrong target, for touching a Telepath whose shielding was in tatters was a quick road to madness, for even though I had tried not to hurt her, I still heard her never ending screams at night when I tried to rest for another day of flight and fear.

Where the HELL are you, John? You’ve dropped completely out of sight.

Closer, closer, closer. No! Leaving the alley, I began to run. Running sometimes made the voices stop for they couldn’t run as fast as I could.

Steal something Looks sick Crazy filthy call the cops Suspicious Why I hope tonight that you and I can meet Too much money for that piece of junk- Hungry Mamma hungry Look at that one - easy mark One swift blow and he won’t bother us no more!

She had sea-green eyes, and golden hair like the sun.  Easily a P12, she had been an untrained blip for whom the never-ending voices had snapped her tenuous hold on sanity. Searching for another of her kind, she had tracked me down in the market place.

Paranoid, and desperate for peace, she had grabbed my arm tightly, while I had been examining the vendor’s wares that had been spread out for display.  Assorted items designed to attract the attention of even the wariest of tourists, gaudy and bright, I had stopped merely to be amused by the garish and crass objects.

I’ve been waiting for you.  Searching for me, have you?

Her mental voice had intruded loudly into the solitude of my mental landscape.  Her voice had been frantic and manic, and I had tried to push her out of my mind.  She had been too strong for me, and I had suddenly tried to call for help.

No. No. NO!  She had laughed in delight. Mine! Mine! MINE! I’m the stronger!

I had been able to mentally screamed for help, while she had been pushing her awareness on mine, trying to take my soul in the process.

HELP! I had screamed on a wide mind band, which she had crudely but effectively blocked.  Overpowering me through her sheer mental force, I had tried again, focusing all my energy on a tight sending. MATTHEW! HELP ME! I’m in TROUBLE! HELP!

For a moment, I had thought that I had touched his mind, but then she grabbed my thought, and silenced it.

None of that now.  She had smiled at me, and I had realized that she was crazed.  Don’t want anyone chasing after me now. Tired of running, Tired of hiding. Want Silence. Going to kill me if they find me. That’s why I’ve killed the ones they’ve sent, like I’m going to have to kill you. Too bad, you’re young and pretty. Perhaps…. Some fun first? Before I kill you? Yes, I’d like some fun with you, pretty boy!

Then I had known no more as she had mentally overpowered me. It had been a mental rape, and her touch had been foul and diseased, corrupting and soiling my soul with her madness and paranoia.


I had been dreaming, when suddenly I heard a familiar voice screaming. MATTHEW! HELP ME! I’m in TROUBLE! HELP!

“John?” I called out, wondering if I was imagining that my Executive Officer had been calling for help.  He was on much needed shore leave, and I had bustled him off the ship a few hours ago, telling him to have fun for once.

“You do know how? Don’t you?” I had asked whimsically.

“Don’t worry, Captain, I’ll try to do everything that you’d do, except for getting beaten up and arrested.” John had dryly assured me.

“But that’s part of the fun!” I had assured him while he shook his head in disbelief about his Captain, the madman.

“Locate John Matheson,” I ordered the ship’s computer. My Captain’s sixth sense was in full force, warning me that John was in a great deal of danger. One never ignored that voice for sometimes the subconscious saw more clearly than the conscious mind.

“Unable to locate due to planet’s graviometric field.” The computer voice always irked me to no end, what with its calm, cool serenity.

“Modify probes to compensate. How long will that take?”

“3.4287 hours.”

“Modify and advice me if you are able to contact him.”

The voice, having been given its orders, remained silent, but my subconscious was still poking me hard. I’ve learned to heed that voice, and it was screaming at me. JOHN’S IN TROUBLE.  HURRY MATTHEW HURRY!

Deciding to heed the advice, I quickly got dressed in civilian clothes, advising Lt. Jackson that she had command of the ship while I did some sight seeing. If you could call carrying several concealed weapons, ‘sight seeing’.

I had been unable to recall what happened next, but suddenly I had become aware of the fact, that she was dead.  Quite dead, and I had then remembered bits and pieces of what she had believed was ‘fun’.  She had overpowered my awareness, allowing her to control me like a puppet, and she had enjoyed making my body hers. In desperation, I had struck out at her, trying to remove her from my mind, and somehow… I had killed her.

It didn’t matter to me that she had inflicted wounds on me, some of which could have been fatal, if I hadn’t been lucky.

She was dead.


I had killed her!

Dirty. God, I had felt so dirty, that I hadn’t realized that I was broadcasting that thought on a wide band.

What do you mean, I’m dirty? I just washed! You’re filthy! Dirty!

That conversation had been repeated in my mind by a thousand different voices, and when I had suddenly tried to silence them, I couldn’t. The multitude of voices had overwhelmed me, and I suddenly had to run. I did so blindly, stopping when I was finally in an alley, and I had fallen to the ground, vomiting what remained of my breakfast.

I had MURDERED her, and my shields had collapsed.  Trying to calm myself, I had tried to repeat the first lessons taught to a Telepath. Grounding. You are one with the Earth, steady, constant, never changing.  I had been unable to ground myself, and I had rapidly gotten frantic. If I couldn’t ground myself, then I couldn’t shield.

No! NO!  I couldn’t go back to the ship, not like this. I had MURDERED, and my shields were…GONE.  That meant I’d hear everything and anything. How could I ever face Matthew like this? Oh God, no. Please. No. As though my thoughts of Matthew had been a beacon, I suddenly heard his thoughts, loud and clear above the raging voices of the mindless crowds.

John? Where are you? I know you haven’t gone AWOL, but … Can you hear me? I’m here on the planet, looking for you.  You’ve been gone almost a week. God, you’re not DEAD are you?

Flash of the murdered Telepath. The scene was gorier than I remembered, and I suddenly felt ill.

If that bastard did that to you, I’ll get them, if it’s the last thing I do.  It was a mindless, brutal act of absolute rage. Dear God, I hope the bastard didn’t do that to you. John, if you can hear me, it’ll be all right. Right now, it’s me looking for you, and the local police. Not the MPs.

God, no! I had started running then and I hadn’t stopped for more than an hour or two since then.

I couldn’t find him. I had backtracked his steps as a vendor remembered seeing him, and a blonde.

John? You got a girlfriend while on shore leave? I had grinned in delight. Good for John! He was too serious for his own good, and I worried about him. He needed a chance to relax, enjoy life, and enjoy the companionship of a special someone.

Or even a quick mindless affair.

But it took me over a week to find out where he might be, as  I had difficulty locating the blonde, and when I finally did, I was concerned to see that the police were there. EF  had wanted to know why we were still on shore leave, so I had asked the Head Engineer to have some problems. She had been delighted to help, as I was rotating the crew on shore leave, and it was her turn coming up next for some R&R.

“You look like you need a week off. It’ll be our little secret,” I promised.

I had been concerned about John, thinking he might be injured or ill, but not involved with a crime.

“Captain Matthew Gideon of the EF Excalibur,” I had identified myself, and they had let me in to view what remained of her body. She was a young thing, and might have been pretty at one time, but now, she was dead. There was blood everywhere, and a faint whiff of something in the air.

“Lord, it was brutal,” said one Sergeant.  “Mindless rage.”

“Or a state of sheer panic,” commented the detective in charge of the scene. She was thin, dark haired, and her eyes showed that this wasn’t the first time she had viewed a scene like this.  “Detective Vasta, Captain.. I’m the local cop in charge of solving murders of street ghosts like her.  I’m disagreeing with Bough over there, it looks like the someone who killed her was in a state of absolute hysteria.’

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“I know her. Or … I knew of her. Crazy, psychotic, paranoid to boot. Always claimed that someone was after her. She’d start fights with people, because of that damn paranoia. Look at these wounds.  I need our guys to confirm this, but I think she started something, with someone or somebody, and then she realized that she had picked on the wrong person. She’s got wounds that seem to suggest that she was attacking, and  then these overlapping wounds are defensive. Why are you here Captain? Don’t tell me a starship boy like yourself gets his jollies looking at a dead street rat.”

“Looking for a crewmember of mine.” I glibly assured her.  I wasn’t going to mention to her that my Executive Officer was seen in the deceased’s company.  “Say, I have an idea.”

“What, Captain?”

“You help me look for my absent crew member who’s missed roll call, and I’ll have my ship’s doctor do an autopsy on her.  As a favor.”

“I don’t like favors.” Vasta sighed. “You end up owing more than you thought you did.”

“Come on, you get an autopsy done by the best doctor in the area, with the most up-to-date equipment, and I find out where Crewmember Cole has gone.”

“Ok. Deal then.” We shook hands.

John, where are you? You weren’t involved were you?

“Least, it’ll be quiet from now on, I hope for your sake.”

“No, Captain. We have gotten reports of another one just like her before the body was cold. Screaming about hearing voices, all that stuff, the only difference is that he appears to run when you get too close. Had someone claim that he hurt her, but … Lacey’s a druggie and messed up in the head . She’s taking a nice long rest now, so take what she said with a grain of salt. Word on the street is that this guy had a bad trip, and it messed up his mind. Pathetic.”


“Captain. Why are we doing an autopsy on a crime victim?” Sarah asked me.

“Because, I’m thinking… John Matheson is somehow involved as he’s. been missing for some time now, and I’m… getting a bad feeling about it. Don’t let anyone know that John’s missing, Sarah. I’ve told EF  and everyone who asks, that he’s taken a vacation. John’s easily got six months’ worth of time.”

“Listen.” Sarah spoke intently and quietly.  “If someone is involved with this, then I’m recommending you don’t mention that person’s name ANYWHERE that someone might connect the two.  He could be… unbalanced… which means that he’d need specialized help and rather quickly.”

“Detective Vasta.”

“Captain?” She looked at me in amazement. “The autopsy is done already?”

“Yes.  It’s been almost five days.  I’m sending you the report. Any luck locating my missing crewman?”

“No. Not yet. We’ve searched the brothels, and none of the ladies or men claimed to have seen him. What’s the basic M.O.?” she asked.

“Aren’t you going to read the nice report that my doctor wrote up?”

“I’ll look at it when I have time, but this isn’t a high priority case of mine.  No family putting pressure on me, and everyone I’ve talked to is quite glad that she’s dead.”

“Ok. She appears to have been a high level Telepath with some sort of mental instability.  Wounds appear to be of both types. From what my doctor can determine, the victim attacked someone, and then had to defend herself.  It looks like it might be a case of self-defense.”

“Looks like I won my bet with Bough, then. I’ll have to review it, but I’m not doubting it from what I know of her. Crazy bitch finally got what she deserved.  Thanks for the help, Captain.”

That done, I sat back in my chair, and wondered about what Sarah had left off the report.  John’s DNA from blood, saliva and semen were all over the body of the deceased.   Sarah had been shaken to find that out after I had asked her to check John’s DNA against what she had found on the victim.

“Matt. It’s got to have been self-defense.”

I heard a trace of doubt in Sarah’s voice, and I looked at her quickly.

“You’re not sure, are you?” I asked. “You don’t think… that… he’s… unstable, do you?”

“Matt. If John did this, he must have been… terrified, as the injuries are… like a mindless animal, in fear of his life. No rational thought at all, he just wanted to escape from her, damn the consequences.”

I was getting better at rifling through refuse to find useful items, and a  few of the local churches ran shelters for the homeless.  They enabled me to spend an occasional night off the streets, and to get a meal. I didn’t like spending the night in the shelters, as the mental presence of my fellow homeless was overpowering in close quarters but when the weather was bad, at least I wasn’t out in the rain.

Moving further and further from the tourist area of the city, I would search the skies at night, trying to determine which of the wandering bright lights was the Excalibur.  The day it disappeared from the heavens found me grateful and regretful at the same time.

Free. But…  Not.

I slept easier that night, as I’d no longer have to worry about facing Matthew with my shields in tatters, and as… a murderer.   For once, I had a dreamless sleep, until I woke up with a familiar voice in my head.

John? Where are you? I’m still looking for you! I’ll never leave you behind!

No… He was getting closer.

I had taken a leave from EF, which had annoyed HQ. “Your XO’s on vacation, and you’re taking a leave?”

“Family issues,” I lied.   It wasn’t a complete fabrication, as John and my crew… were my family. “I’m the only one who can help him.”  Once again, it was quite true.

“Ok.  We’ll be sending someone to take over for you. I can only give you a month though, as her ship is being retrofitted.”

“More than fair,” I agreed, while inside I was wondering if I was crazy for being so certain that John needed my help.  I’d wake up in the middle of the night, having this overpowering concern for John.

John? Where are you?

Sarah had been a godsend to me, even though I had hated trusting anyone with John’s possible… secret.  The doctor had given me numerous medications and assorted paraphernalia to use in case John was… disturbed. Restraints. God, I hated the thought of restraining John, but… it might be necessary.

The two of us had discussed what would need to be done in case John had been affected by what happened.  Approach him carefully, like an injured wild animal. Sedate him if necessary, and then get the local Telepath psychiatrist to deal with him.

I didn’t tell Sarah that I wasn’t going to do that. John was my personnel, my crewmember and most importantly, my friend. Like hell, I’d turn him over to Jones.

I didn’t have a set plan, or any idea of where to look, but I figured that if I were John, then I’d try my hardest to flee from where everything had happened.  So I went northeast, hoping that John would know that I was trying to help him, and stop running.

He was getting closer, and I was getting tired of running. I had been fleeing for almost three weeks now, and the lack of sleep and food was getting to me.  I had a hacking cough, which made the others look at me in concern. Everywhere, voices... voices… VOICES.

Sick He’ll spread it among us Plague Fever Death like Harry died.

Staggering off into the night, I felt Matthew’s mind.  Closer… Closer…

John? Where are you? It’s all right. Stop running. I’m here to help you. I know it was self-defense. CAN YOU HEAR ME?

I was following my instincts, trying to find him, when suddenly I saw … John.  He was disheveled, dirty and he had the look of a frightened animal.  For a moment, I hadn’t recognized him, because he had fallen so far in the three weeks since I had last seen him. If I hadn’t worked with John for years, I never would have recognized that the man rummaging through the dumpster was my missing XO.

JOHN!  Mentally, I screamed  never thinking that he’d hear me.

John looked up, and saw me. There was a look of terror in his eyes that frightened me, and then he turned and fled.   My XO wasn’t thinking clearly in his desire for flight, that he found himself trapped in a dead end.  Collapsing into the fetal position, he began sobbing softly as I approached him.

John? What happened?

I guess the two of us being that physically close, John panicked at my thoughts, for I suddenly felt his mind. Wild, raging, it was completely out of control with guilt, shame, and a sick horror predominating.


He mentally kept screaming that over and over again, and his terror began to overwhelm me.  Fortunately the Gods smile on little children, fools and Captains of the EA Excalibur, as I hit him hard, across the face. Once then twice.  I probably hit him a little too hard, as John Matheson collapsed.

People were looking at me, and I suddenly growled, “That will show that stealing my wallet isn’t a good idea. Shouldn’t have hit him so hard, now I’ve got to drag him off to Vasta.”

Fuck! What the hell was I going to do now?

I managed to pull him to his feet, and I staggered with him down to where I was staying. It was a dirt-cheap hotel, but clean, and the desk clerk wasn’t happy with me dragging in some skel off the street.

“Sir! If you want entertainment, I can… find someone…. cleaner,” she offered, her nose wrinkling in distaste.

I had to agree as John didn’t smell that fresh. “I’m going to need a lot more towels, a lot of soap, some first aid stuff, and a few more blankets.” My tone of voice brooked no more smart-ass comments from the wench behind the counter.  “Have room service send three of today’s specials up in about ninety minutes.”

“I’m going to have to charge you double occupancy if your friend stays longer than an hour!”

“Charge it! My credit’s perfectly fine.”

I dumped John Matheson upon the floor of the bathroom, and I shook my head in disbelief at the state he was in.  He was coming to, slowly, and I restrained his legs and his arms so that he wouldn’t try to flee again.  While John was slowly becoming aware of the world, I quickly examined him with one of Sarah’s medical scanners.

Dehydration. Exhaustion, well healed fractures and a few other minor things were all that were physically ailing my Telepath.   Emotionally, I think we had a hell of a lot of things going on right now. He began fighting wildly when he realized that I had restrained him, and then my mind began buckling from underneath the mental onslaught of thoughts and pictures coming from him.

“STOP IT!” I yelled.  “Don’t make me hit you again!”


The blind panic he was in threatened to overpower me, so I hit him again, knocking him unconscious.

“Shit! Third time I’ve hit my XO today!” I cursed for a bit, and then decided to contact Sarah. “Any more blows and I’m probably never going to get another XO!”

“You’re sure Vasta said it was self-defense?”

“Absolutely. Case closed.” For some reason, Matthew appeared to relax with my confirmation of that news. “It appears that she attacked her victim, and then the victim overpowered her. With her mental illness and her past arrests for assault, the police are content with declaring it death by self-defense, but they’d like to talk to the victim if possible. Have you found your relative?” I didn’t mention anyone’s name in particular, but Matthew nodded.

“Wonderful,” I sighed in relief. “And?”

“Not good but not life threatening by any means. Uncle Chester is feeling a little down.”


“Self-hate, guilt, and I think his mind’s a little shaky as he’s a little sensitive to noise.”

Matthew was tap dancing, I think trying to ask me for help without saying anything directly. My Captain had decided to go with Plan B, which probably meant that Captain Matthew Gideon, non-Telepath, would be handling his possible psychotic Telepathic Executive Officer by himself. Making a mental note to myself that Matthew was going to be stubborn and not do the so-called correct action by turning John into Jones, I decided to look up everything I could find out about Telepaths and Psychiatric Problems. Maybe it would be better if we kept John away from Jones, for I suddenly realized that Jones would probably destroy John instead of helping him.

“Oh. Try Txian R 300 milligrams for fever.”  I offered, while I wrote on a piece of paper “AUGETET, 100 Milligrams, I’ll start researching Uncle Chester’s condition!” and displayed it for him to read. “It should be in the medical kit I made for you! Brown bottle.” RED, I mouthed.

“OK. We’ll get things settled here, and I should be back shortly.  I’ve got three more weeks of leave left, and I have all this family stuff to straighten out.”

“They’re lucky to be related to you,” I assured Matthew, which earned me a tired smile.

I called Vasta next, and she appeared surprised to hear from me. “I thought your ship left?”

“It did. I’m on vacation, as I enjoyed this little slice of heaven so much I’m thinking of buying a home here.”

She looked at me, mentally marking me off as a potential space case, and then shook her head. “Spacers. You looking for Cole, still?”

“Actually not any more. Found him. So call off the dogs, little boy blue has been found, and by the time I’m done with him,  he’ll be fit to be in EF again.”

Red bottle. Ah! Red bottle, I carefully drew out 100 Milligrams, and I injected it right into his behind. Sarah had been her usual efficient self, and I read her instructions for  AUGETET. One usage maximum, and all that good stuff.  For good measure I also gave him the medication Sarah had suggested for fever.

One shot to deal with an emotionally damaged Telepath.

Then what?

Jones was not an option, no how, no way. So, I guess that meant that I’d have to make things up as I went along, which made me smile slightly.  Just like old times, John. You would be giving me your disapproving  frown because I was driving you… crazy…  The use of that particular term seemed to sober me up quickly, and the smile faded from my face. I’ll protect you,  I mentally vowed to the ill man next to me.

John began stirring again, and I smiled down at him. “You going to behave? Or do I have to hit you REALLY hard this time?  The police decided it was self-defense, John, you’re not a murderer.”

His eyes were a little fuzzy, and John nodded though he still looked like a trapped animal.

 “I think you need to take a shower!” I grimaced slightly. “Hate to complain, but you stink, John. Now I’ve restrained you, because… well, each time you and I meet up, you try to run away.  Before I untie you, I’m taking your shoes away from you.” I did that quickly and efficiently.  “Now, before I play this little piggy went to market, we’re going to have some ground rules here.”

I smiled my best smile, the one that had Eilerson whimpering in terror in a corner.  It had the same effect on John, as he was looking at me in wild-eyed fright. Where the hell was the confident, levelheaded Executive Officer of mine?  The young man in front of me might physically resemble my XO, but that was it. Personality wise, attitude and everything else was a full one eighty from what John had been.

What John. WAS… I’m not giving up on you.

“John, I’d never hurt you, if I could help it. I hit you repeatedly today as you were panicking. Are you having problems with your shields? Please don’t lie to me, I want to help you, and I will help you, as long as you’re completely honest with me.”  Speaking in low tones, I kept my hands open, and facing him, and I made no sudden movements.

Regretfully, he nodded.

“Are they down completely?”

The look of shame in his eyes was answer enough and my Telepath suddenly looked toward the floor.

“What I just gave you should be enough to keep you relaxed for the next few hours. After this shower, you and I are going to have a long conversation about what we are going to do about this mess.”

He shook his head, not wanting my help and I sighed at his stubbornness.

“We’re going to work on this together. But first, I want you to take a nice long shower.  Will you promise me that you’re not going to run away? Second thought, I’m staying here while you shower, just so you don’t try to escape. Get undressed. I’m going to burn your clothes when you’re done.”  I cut his bonds, and extended my hand to help him stand.  “Take it, because you’re in no condition not to.  Like it or not, you’ve touched my mind, so don’t worry about making physical contact. The two of us have pretty much obliterated any and all rules of  Officer conduct today”

The silent figure in front of me didn’t say anything, and I found myself deeply concerned about him.  God, Sarah’s report said John’s blood, saliva and semen were found on the body, and my friend was looking shell-shocked and dazed.

“You’re not a cold blooded murderer. She hurt you, John, and you defended yourself.  She was mentally unbalanced, and she had a history of paranoia.  Go use the shower, John. Clean yourself off. Take as long as you need.”  I tried to speak with conviction,  hoping that somewhere in his misery , my friend would hear that I truly believed that he couldn’t have murdered in cold blood.

Slowly, he stood up with my help, then John  undressed himself, and I pretended to be staring at the wall, to give him some privacy.  I heard him fumbling with the faucets, and then I heard the sound of water running.  He stood under the hot water for a while, as though letting the events of the past few weeks wash away down the drain. The water draining was black with the layers of filth and dirt that John had hidden behind.

After twenty minutes of me trying to think white noise, I noticed that John Matheson was leaning on the wall of the shower, and weeping softly.  The bar of soap I had given him hadn’t been touched yet as it was still wrapped.

“Let it out, John.” I tried keeping my voice soft.  “You need to. Don’t be ashamed.”

John nodded his head, and he tried to unwrap the soap, fumbling with it in his nervousness. The third time it dropped  he gave it up as a lost cause.

“John, You need to use it.” I unwrapped it, pretending that my XO wasn’t naked in a shower, and I presented the soap to him. “It’s an order.”

“Yes, Sir.” It was the first thing John had said to me since we had met up again, and for a moment, I had hoped it was the old John, with his quick wit and sarcasm, commenting about my paternal attitude toward him.

No… this quiet man lost in his self-hate wasn’t making a quip.

The soap was dropped again, and I grabbed it, getting soaking wet in the process. “Ok. I was trying to be nice, but it’s time for Staff Sargent Gideon to show the new recruit how to take a shower.” I put the soap on the counter, and I began stripping.  As my pants were already wet, I decided to keep them on, to preserve some dignity for the two of us.

“Hands on the wall, Mister.” I ordered in my best Drill Sargent voice. “In this man’s army, we use soap like this.”

I carefully began soaping his back while John placed his hands against the wall.  “Lots of lather, to get rid of those enlisted man germs of yours.”  Pretending to ignore how the younger man trembled underneath my hands, I tried to think the same thought over and over again.

Not your fault. Never was. Never will be. There is no shame in being hurt by someone stronger than you are.

That part of the body soaped to my specifications, I warned him that I was going a little lower, which earned me a rather tentative nod.  Long, gentle strokes with a heck of a lot of lather and soon I was making him lift each foot up.

“Got to make sure you enlistees get your toes clean, so you don’t get toe rot.”  Continuing with my pretense, I told him to turn around.  “You’ll have to wash your own hair, as I’m not a beautician for enlistees.”  I washed the front of him, trying not to think how uneasy I was when I washed his chest and abdomen.  The two of us kept eye contact, trying not to show the other man how close both of us were to an emotional point of no return. John suddenly swallowed when he noticed what part of his body was next to be scrubbed.

Not your fault. Never was. Never will be. There is no shame in being hurt by someone stronger than you are.

“John?” I asked softly as I handed him the soap.

“I’ll… wash… this…” was uttered in the softest of whispers.

“Absolutely. Rinse yourself off, and when you’re done, we’ll shave your beard. I’ll do it, as I think your hands are a little too shaky for a razor.”

Dressed in clean, dry clothes, I made another mental note to burn John’s clothes, and I handed him a robe to wear. “For now, that’s what I have in your size. You’ve looked like you’ve lost some weight.”

“Haven’t eaten… in a while.”

“Now, we have about twenty or so minutes until room service arrives. Shall I shave you now?”


I lathered his face up carefully, and whimsically I put a large dab of shaving cream on the center of his nose.


His haunted eyes met mine, and I could see how John thought that I was making light of his situation. I wasn’t really, I was just trying to cut some of the tension in the room. “My old man did that to me when he first taught me how to shave.”  I told John, in the way of an explanation.

“Oh… was worried you were going to shave… my nose.” John gave me a weak smile as I wiped the shaving cream off his nose.

“I like my first officer having a nose as he’d look odd without one. The rumor mills would start churning out stuff about how I bit off my XO’s nose in a fit of pique.” I took my straight edge out, and tried to gauge how nervous John was about me having a razor next to his throat. “Don’t worry, I didn’t drink any coffee today. My hands are steady.”

“I trust you.” For some reason, John needed to further clarify that simple statement. “Like no one else in the universe.”

Blinking rapidly, I think I managed to hide how those two sentences had affected me. I trust you. Like no one else in the universe, yet he had decided to run from me, and no doubt would run again at his first chance.

I managed to shave him without any blood being spilled, and I was cleaning up my shaving supplies when room service arrived.

“Don’t leave. It’s your favorite.”

John Matheson ate like someone who was starving and fearful of having his food taken from him if he didn’t eat it fast enough.  I lost my appetite watching him inhale his two sandwiches, so I pushed my plate over to him. “Have it.” I ordered.

“Are you sure? You’re not hungry?”  His hand was over the plate, about to grab it quickly so he could wolf it down, but still John needed confirmation that it was OK.

“Not at all.”

John looked at me, as though thinking I was joking, so I tried to reassure him. “I had a late breakfast.”


Then the ravenous man quickly crammed down my lunch while I wondered if I should have ordered more.

Lunch inhaled and the dishes cleared away before John started on them for dessert, John grew nervous as I tried to get him to talk to me. There was a great deal to be said and to be discussed, and I was wondering how to broach the subject.

“John.” That’s all I could say before he interrupted me.

“Please… no… I can’t talk about it. Respect my wishes.”

“When you need to talk, talk to me, but we’ve got to talk about your shielding. You’re too damn dangerous without having conscious control over your sendings.”

“I know. Believe me, I know.”

“This stuff is only good for a few more hours. We need..”

“We… nothing. I and… I… alone…. .Need to come up with a solution.”

The vehemence in his voice didn’t surprise me, but still it hurt. John, we were friends, and I was not going to let you try to solve this insurmountable problem by yourself.  “Running away isn’t going to solve your problem, John.”

For a moment, John Matheson was furious, and then… he collapsed inwardly as though admitting that I was correct.

“Nor is committing suicide, John. I won’t let you do that.”

It’s not your fault, this happened. Don’t let it destroy you, John.

Exhaustion was overwhelming me, physically, emotionally and mentally. I wanted nothing more than to lie in Gideon’s king size bed. Blankets, warm wonderful blankets, and soft pillows to rest my aching head on.  Hell, I’d sleep on the floor, if I could have one blanket and one pillow.

Gideon was trying to be helpful, perhaps too damn helpful.  I had tried to assure him that I could handle this on my own, and he called my bluff.  Reminding me that I hadn’t done so well on my own, he wanted to know what the two of us could do about my little problem.

So, I threw the wildest idea I could think of , directly at him, just to see the almighty, all-knowing Matthew Gideon back down. There’d be no way, he’d agree to it, but… really it was the only option that was available to me, the problem being that the other person had to be a high level Telepath.  While I rebuilt my shattered shields, and found my center, the other person would have to keep me mentally balanced.

It would be a matter of complete trust between the two of us, for my instability could easily pull us into madness.


To give him credit, he only blinked rapidly, not yelling “Are you Fucking NUTS?” as I had fully expected him to do.

“What does it entail?” Matthew asked quietly.

“We… link… and you help me find my …. center again.”

“You’ll be able to read everything in my mind, won’t you?”

“I’m not going to be rummaging through your mind trying to pick up Matthew Gideon’s assorted alien sex tips.” I snarled that at him, and he gave me a penetrating look.

“You’d have a rather long search for that, and I’d suggest Mr. Eilerson instead. What I meant was… I have… issues… in my past, that I’d prefer to remain… undisturbed.  For example… I’d rather not relive the Cerebus disaster over again. It was rather traumatizing the first time, and the intervening years have not made it any easier.” He said that with a quiet dignity, refusing to let me upset him. “I, of course, will do the same for you.”

I nodded an apology to him, which thankfully he seemed to accept. “If I hit a sensitive spot, then tell me, and I’ll stop. I’ll try not to … shuffle through your brain cells.”

“How is this going to help you with your shields?”

“If I’m linked to you, I won’t be able to send to anyone but you. I’ll be able to receive from you, and any… Telepath that transmits, but not… from a Normal, hopefully. When my shields are back up again, I’ll  slowly separate the two of us from this link. I’ll need to make sure I can block… others…. And  when I can do that, I’ll break the link between us.”

“How will you know that your shields are working?”

“I won’t hear the voices screaming in my head. Trust me, they’re rather noticeable.”

“Ok.” Matthew nodded, his decision made faster than I thought possible.

“Ok? That’s all you’re going to say?”

“Ok. Let’s do it! Is that better?”

I yawned. It seemed to come from my toes, and Gideon gave me a slight smirk that meant he was up to something.

“Did you drug the meals?” My voice was slurred, and I was so tired. Matthew hadn’t really eaten anything at all, and he had been the one to meet room service at the door. The medication must have been in the sandwiches, as it was a type he knew I liked.

“Would I do that? But after eating three of them, you should be nodding off to nap time. I need to get you some clothes, and I’ll be back. No more than an hour, can I leave you alone for that time?” You’re not going to run off in my bathrobe, was what he was really saying.

“Should be all right. I’ll be sleeping. Thanks to you.” I mumbled.

“No dreams, I can promise you that.” Gideon spoke quickly, and he must have seen my relief. ”You’re exhausted, so… when you wake up, we’ll discuss what we need to do with this … link.”

“Sarah? Can you talk? It’s about cranky Uncle Chester.”  I was speaking quietly at the local pay-vid-phone.

“Matt? I can’t hear you. Let me try something.”

The screen went blank, and I cursed. Damn it. Then it flared back up again, and I was surprised to see Sarah smiling at me.

“We can talk now.  Thanks to a certain… Mage who owes me a few. This line can’t be traced, or monitored as Galen’s piggybacking it through half the damn galaxy.”

We quickly got down to business.

“I drugged him, and he should be asleep for the next four hours.”

“What’s your view?” Sarah questioned.

 “Mentally, he’s in shock, and his shields are shattered. You researched this?

”Yes. Do you think he was a victim of an assault?  You wouldn’t be helping him out if he…” Killed her, Sarah couldn’t bring herself to say those two words.

“Yes. I’m thinking John experienced a rape that touched on the physical, mental and spiritual. The death was in self-defense, no doubt in my mind.”

“You’re going to help him, aren’t you? I’m start researching more into that, but from the little I’ve been able to find out, it’s not… a good thing when a Teep is mentally raped. They don’t usually heal, and that’s when professionally trained Staff are helping.”

“Sarah- he’s asked me. I can’t turn him over to Jones. Links… He mentioned that he wants to link with me. What do you know about it? I’ve agreed to go with it, as he’s already touched my mind, and I’ve got to do something quickly. His mind is chaotic and wild, and I can’t take the risk that he gets out of control. He’s nearly brained me twice with his sendings.”

“Link? You’d be the dominant person, meaning that your stability should help his … instability.  And you’d be responsible for trying to help John get his shields up. He’ll have to walk you through that, but there’s something else, you might need to know.”


“Usually… when Telepaths link in a case like this… they’ve got to work out issues  regarding trust,  self-respect, and self-esteem, which are vital to someone’s mental health. A Teep can usually only shield if they’re mentally healthy, or else the shields collapse, so John has come to term with what happened to him”

I was sleeping soundly, when I felt the bed shift. Immediately, my heart began pounding, and I found myself trying to fight my way out of my drug-induced slumber. No. NO! Foggy, I was mentally vague, exactly when I most needed to be clear minded.

“It’s me, Matthew, John. I’m too old to sleep on the floor, and the couch isn’t comfortable.” His voice was soft in my ear. “Don’t even try to run away, as I’ve got the doors and windows booby trapped.”

My Executive officer was sleeping, thankfully.  John looked like hell, and there was something in his eyes that spoke loudly to me about the fact that he was still coming to terms with what had happened to him. Perhaps it was because he couldn’t and wouldn’t look me directly in the eyes, except with an obvious Herculean effort.

Linking? I was going to have John Matheson’s presence firmly in my mind, and I just hoped that I’d be strong enough to keep him functioning.  While a trained Telepath would have been the ideal choice to help him, I simply didn’t trust any of the Mr. & Mrs. Jones that I had met to be willing to help John through this ordeal.  They’d destroy my damaged ‘Path and cast him aside as defective.

Captains, especially Starship Captains, always took care of their crew.

“You sure about this?” John asked me.

“Absolutely.” I tried to be convincing, and John gave me a shadow of a smile.

“Thank you.” He whispered.

The two of us were lying on the bed, as I had suggested that if there was any type of disorientation due to this, that it would be better to be lying supine on a soft surface.  We were facing each other, in a lover like pose, as though we were about to have some pleasant pillow talk and John slowly touched my face.

There was a feeling of vertigo, of a hundred million voices babbling madly, and for a moment I was terrified.  Then I fought the feeling until I was breathing calmly and slowly. The noise… was still there… but more of a distant hum than the cacophony that it had first been.

“Was that… what is has been like? All that noise?” It’s goddamn noisy. I’m glad I’m not a ‘Path.

John nodded. It’s quiet again. Oh thank God, it’s quiet.  There was the sound of absolute relief in his mental voice, combined with exhaustion.

“It’s going to take a little bit for me to get used to this,”  I admitted softly.  “Hearing you mentally and physically.”

“It will take time.” John conceded.  “Now, I’d like … to get some sleep again. Will you… stay?”

I heard the unease in his voice, how John was embarrassed asking me to stay, but how he hoped that I would remain next to him and I marveled how that one word, STAY could be flavored with so many different shadings. Desire not to lose my respect, a need for companionship, and a burning desire to prove himself worthy of my trust.

“Of course!”  I will stay here, as long as you need me to.  Carefully, I tried to flavor my thought with the subtle nuances of my pride in him, my concern and our friendship.

Easier to talk like this. Matt, with spoken word, one misses so much.  Colors, flavors and meanings far too fragile for the spoken word. I’ve… always… wanted to talk mind to mind… with you.  That comment was tinged with embarrassment.

I can understand, and I wish it could have been done under happier times. Sleep, John. Sleep. No bad dreams, I hope.

John was amused by the junk that the traders had spread out in the morning sun to try and attract the unwary tourist into buying.  He was taking a quick look at one item, because it was just the ugliest thing he had ever seen. When suddenly…She had sea green eyes, and golden hair like the sun, and she reached over to touch John on the arm.  John recognized her, and he began to scream when the red blood ran from her mouth.

We both woke up at the same time, and I could taste his fear, embarrassment,  terror and shame. Oh God, you saw. Wasn’t supposed to share my dreams. Only… conscious thought. Oh God. Oh God.  You’ll see everything. EVERYTHING. No, oh please. Nononononononono.

JOHN!  Mentally I screamed at him to stop, as his maelstrom of emotions was threatening to capsize my sinking ship of sanity.  CALM DOWN. REPEAT AFTER ME. I had a dream. It was only a dream. I had a dream. It was only a dream.  We both repeated that out loud and mentally. She is not here.  She is not here She has never been here. She has NEVER been here.

“Since I’m the local non-Telepath here, can you possibly explain to me about this… grounding business? You say you can’t ground?” Matt was confused, but he was trying to understand what I was talking about.

Relax, Matt. You’ll need to look at it through my eyes.  Since the two of us had linked, I was using the spoken word less and less, retreating into the safety of the bond between the only person I trusted in the universe, and myself.

Watch.  Do you see the plain? It’s not really there, but it’s useful for imagining what I’m trying to do which is to ‘ground’ myself.  It’s a beginner’s trick, but I’m thinking that it might be helpful. It’s a simple concept that hides the true complexity of what I need to do.

“I think I do. It’s not very level, is it? There’s been… some upheaval to the land? Sort of a mental earthquake has shifted the land around?” What you’ve been through, has affected you deeply enough that your very bedrock of your soul  has been moved, John. It’s no wonder that the old tried and true method doesn’t work anymore.

There was a brief touch of compassion and understanding on my shattered nerves..

Yes.  You’re correct. Oh thank God, you do understand.

“That’s why I’m the Captain, and you’re the Executive Officer.” There was a brief fragment of wry amusement in his mind. “So, really, you need to level this out, right? You’ve been trying to ground yourself, but you can’t because the level of the plain is unequal in spots. You can’t land your mental airplane on a runway that’s got craters, and potholes. You might destroy the plane, John.”

I’m not trying to land an airplane, Matthew!   There was a tart tone to my voice, and I immediately apologized.

“It’s pretty much the same thing.  You’ve got to focus on leveling out the area. Like this.” Let’s see… you’re going to need some good quality topsoil.


Leveling the land out! I used to do my own lawn work at my house, until a few years ago. Rocky soil, so we had to remove a few rocks. Like that big one over there. We’re going to have to use a mental crowbar or two to get that monster out.  Hmmm… topsoil, and I’m thinking we need some grass.  Kentucky blue grass might be a nice touch.

Are you going to put a duck pond and a rose garden here, too? This is CRAZY! This is my MIND you’re fooling around with, Matthew!

Look at that rock. It’s getting bigger and uglier as we stand here and argue isn’t it?

Yes… it… is….

Obviously, it’s something in your subconscious you have to deal with.  Therefore the two of us, together, will take a crow bar to the damn thing, and try to get it out of the ground. There’s something underneath it, which you need to work on before we can fill the hole that’s going to be left.

I don’t believe I’m doing this!

Grab a crowbar, son! There’s a rock to be moved.

It took us several hours, the two of us in mental communion, with our psychic crowbars prying the monster before we moved it.  Matthew and I were getting muddy, and there was a cloudburst looming over the horizon.  We cursed, we swore, and we debated using dynamite, when finally I lost my temper and I screamed at it.


And it did, leaving a large hole behind it. It was dark as the abyss, and suddenly I heard her taunting voice floating up from the nether regions.

Hello, pretty boy. You’re such a pretty boy.

Then the heavens opened, and I began to scream.

It’s OK. I’m here, I’m here. Feel me? Hear me? Sense me? She’s not here. She’s not here, John. REPEAT IT.

I couldn’t, for I had felt her hand touch my soul when I had heard her voice.

Dirty. Foul. Filthy. Muddy. Soiled. Tainted. Defiled. Stained.   I kept hearing those words over and over again in my head.

That’s it. I’m throwing you in the shower. Go ahead, scrub yourself raw, John.

I ran the shower for over an hour, letting John stand underneath it, while I helped scour his taint away. It was only during our shower sessions that John let himself cry.

Not your fault. Never was. Never will be. There is no shame in being hurt by someone stronger than you are.

For some reason, of which I wasn’t quite sure,  John needed me in the shower with him to scrub him down when he was this worked up.  Perhaps he needed to be physically touched to be assured that he wasn’t as vile as he thought himself to be. Whatever the reason, I had gotten pretty good at stripping him, throwing him into the shower, and then disrobing down to my pants. I could do it in less than five minutes.

Well, will you look at that. When the hell did the duck pond show up?

There were even a few ducks floating serenely in the pond and a pair of swans. The majestic birds swam slowly in the pond, as though they didn’t have a care in the world.  For some reason, Matthew was really fascinated by the swans as he stared at them for a bit, until he suddenly lost interest.

I don’t know, Matthew. I thought it was part of your grand renovations of my psyche.

No, I just suggested topsoil and grass. Oh! This is wonderful! Adirondack chairs, and I think there’s a breeze.  All I need is some ice tea... and this would be perfect.

Don’t look now, but I think there’s a pitcher of ice tea sitting on the table.

Excellent! Now, let me go sit down, and you try to ground yourself. It’s gonna work this time, it’s as level as a pancake right now.

Closing my eyes, I tried to ground myself.  Landing perfectly, I felt a snap when I connected with the ground.

Yahoo!!! I knew you could do it!  Matthew recklessly threw down his ice tea and he ran over to me. Touching me on my shoulder, he stared in amazement as I toppled over. That’s not supposed to happen, John, now is it?

“So you found the ground, and now you’ve got to take root?”

I’m not a tree, MATTHEW!

“I’m not saying that. The problem is, you were uprooted, and you needed to find your grounding point again. You did so, and it worked wonderfully. But you haven’t put your roots down. You have no foundation, no basis, no tap root, if you will.”

One of these days, you must tell me why you didn’t become a horticulturist.

“JOHN! A brisk wind will just tear you up by the roots again. You have to put down roots for a variety of reasons, support, structure, nutrition, and even reproduction. Let’s look again.”

We were back in the level plain again, and Matthew refrained from commenting on the tent that had suddenly appeared from nowhere. It probably had some sort of deep psychological meaning, but I’m not Freud.

“OK. Whenever I planted anything at my house, I tried to find the perfect spot for it. I think you need a lot of sun, John, and a lot of space to grow. You’re gonna be a huge oak tree when you’re grown.”

I felt that he was complimenting me, and I tried to send him an impression of how much his approval meant to me.

“So, where do you want to grow?”

Walking around the plane, I found several spots that were suitable, but I kept getting pulled to one particular area.  Focusing on it, I felt a sense of unease, as though there was something underneath the surface that was fetid and putrid.

Matthew looked at me, and I could sense his concern.

John, there’s something there. It’s not a rock, but… yet it’s like that boulder.

It’s something I need to face, but I’m afraid to.  You’ll… help me?

Like you need to ask by now! John! We’re in this together!

OK.   Focusing on the ground beneath me, I concentrated on putting my roots down.  Down they borrowed, spreading across the field, until… I came to that spot.

I’m here. Do it, John. You have to.

I sensed Matthew offering his support, and I grabbed it, while I bored into the fetid mess beneath me.

You’re such a pretty boy.  Do you know that?

She was looking at me, again, and I felt her kiss me, while I began to scream.

I was still damp from the shower, but Matthew and I returned to where I had ‘rooted’ myself.

It’s not there anymore.   Sending my awareness deep into the ground, I couldn’t detect her taint anywhere.

No, you have to face this stuff, and then go on to the next challenge. Speaking of which.  Matthew suddenly pushed me hard, and I rocked hard, but managed to stay upright.

What the hell?

You’re planted, John!

[Voices Page 2]

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