Part 4 – Life and Death
Gideon sat bolt upright in bed, choking, gasping for air that didn’t seem to be there. He knew he was going to die, going to suffocate in the misty void of the Box where he’d been banished. For a moment he was blind and deaf, seeing, hearing and feeling nothing. Then a deep, soft voice said, “Matthew, what’s wrong? Breathe, darling, breathe!”
Gideon felt hands rubbing his back as the soft voice went on, telling him to swallow, urging him to breathe and slowly he began to suck in the air he so desperately needed. His heart and head were still pounding but he could breathe at last; he could hear, he could feel, and when he opened his eyes he realized he could see. He wasn’t trapped in the Box; it had been a dream. Gideon was in Deborah’s bed, and she was holding him, helping him fight his way back from the nightmare images that filled his head and haunted him now he was awake.
Taking a final deep breath, Gideon turned to Deborah and gave her a weak smile. “I’m OK now. It was just a bad dream.” It had been far worse than that.
Deborah moved to kneel beside him, then pushed him back gently until he was lying down, his head resting on the pillow. Although there was a light on in the living room and the door was open, Gideon wanted more light. He needed to escape the darkness of the void. He called for the bedroom lights, then looked up at his lover, seeing the concern in her expression as she gazed down at him.
Deborah held his hand, her fingers on his wrist and said, “You’re not OK at all. Your pulse is racing and you’re shaking. Wait here.” Her empathic powers may not have been working, but Deborah wasn’t easily fooled. She moved swiftly off the bed and strode into the living room, giving Gideon a wonderful view of her naked butt that he was far too shaken to appreciate just then. She returned a moment later with a glass in her hand and said, “Drink this. It might help.”
Remembering when Deborah had brought him a drink after she’d released him from the ropes that Angel had used to tie him down, Gideon took the glass from her. His hand was still shaking so Deborah steadied it while Gideon sat up and took a sip of the amber liquid it contained. It was the same brandy he’d been drinking the previous evening so he took a more generous mouthful. The warmth of the liquid passing down his throat and into his stomach was soothing and steadying. Emptying the glass with one final gulp, Gideon collapsed back on the pillow and watched as Deborah climbed back onto the bed, taking the glass and putting it aside, then lying down, stretching out alongside him with her head on his shoulder, pressing herself against him. Moving his arm to pull her tightly to his side, Gideon gave a deep sigh and tried to get his breathing and heart rate under control.
After a few moments of silence, Deborah asked quietly, “Do you want to talk about it?”
Gideon smiled at her question. She’d given him the option of saying no, and he knew if he did, she wouldn’t question him further. But did he want to say no? The only person he’d spoken to about his more recent nightmares was Sarah Chambers. She’d recommended he should speak to a therapist he trusted, but he’d never found the time. Deborah might not be a therapist but he trusted her completely. Maybe now was the time to let it out. To share with someone.
So he told her about the Cerberus and how he’d been left, alone in his spacesuit, waiting to die. “I’d just about given up when Galen’s ship appeared out of nowhere and he rescued me.”
Deborah said nothing for a while then whispered, “I can’t even imagine how awful that must have been. No wonder you have nightmares.” Gideon kissed the top of her head and wondered if he should stop there. But having started talking, he needed to tell her everything.
“That was just the start of it. In the dream, I’m hanging in space, gasping my last breaths, and then I’m elsewhere. Somewhere I can’t see, or hear, or feel anything. I can’t hear my own heartbeat or feel myself breathing. I’m trying to breathe but nothing happens because I don’t have a body. I’m just adrift in a void of total sensory deprivation.” Gideon felt his heart starting to race again as his body reacted to his fear. He took a deep breath and continued.
“Then I start to get flashes, just glimpses, of something outside the void. And the first thing I see is you.” He looked down at Deborah, who shifted her head against his shoulder so she could look up into his face.
“Me? What did you see?” Gideon could hear the concern and caring in Deborah’s voice and he squeezed her tightly against him.
“You were lying right here in this bed, naked, with your hands tied above your head. I could see the bindings were cutting into your wrists, there were scratches and bruises on your arms, and bite marks on your breasts. But I didn’t remember doing anything like that to you. And then I felt…”
Gideon hesitated, wondering if he should tell her the rest, but she kissed his shoulder and said, “Tell me.”
“I could see you were in pain, and you had tear stains on your face, and I wanted to stop, to ask you what was wrong, but I wasn’t in control. I could feel myself…” Gideon paused, trying to find the right words. “I was forcing myself into you. Hard. Too hard. I was hurting you and I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t, I just kept driving in deeper and deeper, ignoring your pain. And then everything went blank and I was back in the void.”
He looked down to see that Deborah was crying. She whispered, “It wasn’t you, Matthew. You didn’t do that. You would never hurt me like that.”
Gideon shook his head. “But I did. It was my body that did those things to you. My body that hurt you.”
Deborah shook her head. “Your body, but not your mind. Not your will. You weren’t in control. If you had been, what you saw would never have happened.”
They lay in silence for a while, then Deborah asked, “Was that it? Was that the end of the nightmare?”
Gideon shook his head. “No. I got two more flashes. In the first I was in bed with Angel. And I was hurting her even more than I’d hurt you.” He could barely bring himself to speak of what he’d seen and felt. He lifted up his left hand and saw it was shaking. He went on, “I was torturing her. I had my hand… this hand… buried deep inside her and I was twisting it, hurting her so badly that she was screaming in agony, but she was tied down so she couldn’t get away from me.” Pulling Deborah toward him, Gideon held her tightly, fighting down nausea at the memory of what he’d done. He couldn’t bring himself to tell her that he remembered wearing his class ring on that hand, the ring that he’d lost somewhere during his previous visit but which he was sure he’d been wearing then, on the hand that had been forced inside Angel, twisting…
Again Deborah tried to reassure him that he hadn’t done those terrible things, but Gideon could see she was shaken by what he’d described. And he knew it had been him, his body, his hand, his ring that had tortured Angel.
“In the last flash I was looking down at my hand, holding Lily’s neck, forcing her head down. I could see I was hurting her but I couldn’t stop. Then I pushed her away and she fell. I pulled a PPG out of my shirt and I shot John Matheson.” Gideon held up his right hand this time. It was shaking. “I shot him, Deborah. It was a miracle I didn’t kill him.” He took a deep breath. “Then I was back in the void, hanging there, helpless. I couldn’t breathe, there was no air, and I had no lungs, no body, nothing. In my dream I started to panic, but I couldn’t even feel the fear. I wanted to scream but I had no mouth or throat to scream with. There was just nothing and I knew it would go on like that for eternity and I’d go mad.”
The last words came in a rush and Gideon realized his whole body shaking, his heart and breath racing again at the memories he’d just shared. [Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe I should have kept this to myself.]
But then Deborah moved, rolling onto her side to pull him against her. Cradling his head, she kissed him again and again, holding him tightly and whispering over and over that it hadn’t been him who had done those terrible things and that he was safe now. “I’ll never let anything like that happen to you again, Matthew. Never.”
She sat up suddenly, looking down at him with a fierce expression on her face. “I want you to call Galen, right now, and get him to come back here. Then I’m going down to the cellars with him and together we’ll destroy the Box. Once it’s gone, along with the monster inside it, you’ll know that you can never be taken back there again.”
Gideon could almost have laughed at her vehemence and protectiveness. Deborah was fierce in her defense of her lover. Demon indeed! He reached up to caress her face and said quietly. “I can’t let you do that. I know you took a vow, after the Vorlons changed you and made you into their weapon, never to kill again. I won’t ask you to break the promise you made then. But I will call Galen and ask him to take the damned thing away with him and keep it somewhere safe. I’ve never been happy with it being here. It’s been too damned close to Angel for my liking.”
In the silence that followed, Gideon thought, [And if Galen thinks ‘somewhere safe’ is in the middle of a star, then I’m not going to argue with him.]
Deborah sighed and curled up alongside him again, her right arm and leg draped over him. Gideon moved to put his arms around her and held her tightly. After a few moments, Deborah sighed and said, “Why can’t we have a simple life, Matthew? I just want you with me, watching our baby grow inside me. I want you holding me when he’s born and helping with the smelly diapers and sleepless nights. And I want you by my side, helping him to grow into the wonderful man I know he’ll become.” She looked up at him and smiled, “Just like his father.” Before Gideon could reply she went on. “And I want my sisters to be happy. All of them. I want Angel to find someone to love, someone kind and good, someone who will love her back and make her happy. Is that all too much to ask?”
Gideon squeezed her tightly again and said, “Maybe we’ll get lucky. Maybe we’ll find the cure on the next planet I visit. Then I can come back and be with you.” He looked down at her and smiled again. “Although I might give the smelly diapers a miss.” Deborah chuckled and thumped his arm gently. He went on, “And maybe I can bring a few handsome young Lieutenants with me, and they’ll all fall head over heels in love with Angel and she’ll fall for one or more of them and forget all about Lucas Buck. Do you think that would work?”
Deborah smiled again, but then her face fell into more serious lines. “Is that why you’re so angry with Angel, Matthew? Because she cast that ‘spell’ that put you in the Box? But it was partly my fault too, you know. If I hadn’t overreacted and taken you back to that cell…”
Gideon put his fingers to her lips to hush her. “Angel would have cast her spell… whatever the hell that means… at some time. She was determined to have me, regardless of what I wanted. And yes, the memories of what I felt and saw while I was trapped in the Box make me angry with Angel, who put me there. Angry with her selfishness, thoughtlessness, and stupidity. But ultimately, it was my own fault. If I hadn’t carried that damn Box around with me for years, letting it help me, letting it into my head, none of that would have happened.”
They fell silent again, holding each other tightly, taking comfort from the warmth of each other’s bodies. Eventually, Deborah said softly, “I want to talk to Lily in the morning. She’s asleep now, but I need to find out what she knows. She’s much more familiar with the ‘magic’ side of our powers than I am. Maybe she can find a way to bind the Box so completely that Lucas can never escape again, never damage the people around him as he did to all of us. I want to be certain that Lucas can never contact or control Angel, or anyone else, ever again. I’ll talk to Lily after breakfast.”
Gideon nodded, although he didn’t entirely believe that what Deborah suggested was possible. [But hey, what do I know about magic?] He remembered the quote by a 20th century author: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Whatever the Vorlons had done to the sisters was beyond any technology available to the younger races of the galaxy. So maybe what the sisters did, the ‘spells’ they cast, were just them unconsciously using some kind of Vorlon technology that was beyond their current understanding. Gideon gave a mental shrug. He was never going to solve that particular mystery. [I just hope Lucas suffers for eternity for the things he did and the way he used my body to do them. Burning in hell is too good for Lucas Buck.]
“Let’s get some sleep and we can work out what to do tomorrow.” Gideon called for the lights to go out, still holding Deborah tightly against him, needing the warmth and softness of her body to protect him from the demons in his head. Wondering if he would have the nightmare again, Gideon kissed Deborah’s forehead, then lowered his head to the pillow, falling instantly into a deep and dreamless sleep.
Angel stood in the middle of the room, holding her fire-torch, nervously eyeing the Apocalypse Box, which Lucas had instructed her to place in the middle of the floor. As she stood looking down at it, a quote from Macbeth popped into her head. "And that, distilled by magic sleight / Shall raise such artificial sprites As / by the strength of their illusion / Shall draw him on to his confusion."
She jumped when Lucas’ voice sounded in her head. [[Now get the powder out, Angel-face, and use it to draw a perfect pentagram around the Box.]]
Placing her torch into a holder on the wall, Angel slipped her carry-bag off her shoulder and took out the bottle and the paper on which the spell was written. She took the cork out of the bottle, making sure to breathe through her mouth so that she couldn’t smell the pungent ingredients. Going down on hands and knees, Angel began to draw the pentagram on the ground. When she was finished, she stood up and threw the bottle into a corner of the room where it shattered as it hit the wall. She brushed the dirt from her hands and knees and looked at the pentagram. It was perfect. [[I’ve finished Lucas,]] she informed him softly.
[[About time. Now set the powder on fire and read out the spell. Remember to repeat it three times.]]
Ignoring Lucas’ cold, impatient tone of voice, Angel walked over to the fire-torch and brought it back to the star on the ground. She stood by one of its points, careful not to smudge the line, then lowered the flame to the powder, which ignited with a hiss. She stepped back as the flames jumped up and quickly put the fire-torch back into its holder.
Angel stood near one of the points of the star, then took the paper and unfolded it. She hesitated, again unsure how something this simple could work to bring Lucas back. [[Lucas, are you sure this is going to work?]] There was a long silence and for an instant, she thought he wasn’t going to reply. When he did, his voice was gentle, a tone she wasn’t used to at all.
[[Trust me Angel-face. Now come on. Let’s get the party started.]] Angel nodded. She took a deep breath, clearing her mind of everything but the task at hand, then looked down at the spell and began to recite the words.
As she finished the first time, her eyes widened. The lid of the Apocalypse Box began to open, but she didn’t stop, just repeated the spell. A wind started to kick up in the cellar, and the Box began to glow brighter. A humming sound gradually grew louder until it filled the room. The wind blew her hair around her face, but she was oblivious to it, as now in a trance-like state, she started on the spell for the final time.
“From time long past I summon you, Lucas Buck. From the past bring body and spirit to play their role, from the present reach out and take power from the soul, and in the future, be one and whole. As you were then, so shall you be now and from now on.”
The torch blew out as the wind intensified with every word she spoke; only the flames of the pentagram remained alight. The wind was howling now, and the humming sound deafening. The Apocalypse Box was glowing with an intense white light that filled the room, almost blinding Angel as she ended her chant.
Suddenly Angel felt herself propelled backwards. She was slammed into the wall and screamed in pain as she hit her head hard and then fell to the floor. Too dazed to move, she covered her face with her arms. She tried to open her eyes, but the instant she did so, she had to close them again, as the intense light burned her retinas.
Then, abruptly it was over. The room was deathly quiet as the wind and humming stopped abruptly, and the intense light from the Box faded. Even the flames from the pentagram died down to nothing.
Angel struggled to stand, only vaguely aware that the torch had once again started to burn, providing the only light in the room. Her head was throbbing and she felt something warm and wet on her forehead. Touching her fingers to it, she brought her hand down and saw that her fingers were slick with blood. She closed her eyes and fought the wave of dizziness that washed over her. When she felt stable enough, Angel opened her eyes and looked over at the Apocalypse Box. The lid was now closed and it was no longer glowing, not even its usual eerie green. Then she saw movement in the shadows of the room.
Angel stared in horror as Gideon moved into the light cast by the torch. Dear God, somehow he must have heard or seen her and followed her down here. She’d been caught! Her mind raced, trying to find a way to explain. Angel opened her mouth and struggled to speak but couldn’t get anything out.
Gideon looked down at her and said, “Cat got your tongue, Angel?”
She moved forward with a jerk and managed to stutter, "Captain, I..." Angel faltered, unable to utter another word.
Gideon moved closer and she looked at him, dumbstruck. Instead of being angry, he gave her a small sexy smile. "Not the Space Cadet, Angel-face. Lucas Buck."
His face began to swim in front of her eyes. Angel felt herself falling as the darkness washed over her and dragged her to the ground.
When Gideon emerged from the bedroom, dressed in his jeans but still toweling his hair dry, he found Deborah standing in front of the comm console, looking down at it with a puzzled expression on her face. He was feeling completely recovered, having slept deeply and woken completely refreshed. He and Deborah had made love in the early morning light before moving to the shower and making love again. Gideon couldn’t think of a better way to start the day and banish the previous night’s dream.
The captain moved to stand behind his lover, putting his arms around her, pulling her close to him, his hands resting on her bump, kissing her neck. Deborah turned in his arms, putting her hands against his bare chest and smiling, kissing his lips softly. He could see that she still looked puzzled and raised an eyebrow. "What’s the matter? You look worried."
Deborah shook her head as she put her arms around Gideon’s neck, "Not worried. Surprised, I suppose." He waited for her to continue. "There was a message for me. From Nikarran, the guard captain. It was odd." She frowned again and stopped.
Gideon encouraged her to go on, "In what way odd?"
He could see her hesitation, then watched as she made up her mind to tell him. "He gave me a message from Angel. He said he’d met her yesterday evening, and she’d asked him to tell me that she was spending the night in the village." Deborah smiled at him. "Of course, I should have picked up the message last night, but when we got back someone had me too busy to even think about checking."
Gideon smiled and tightened his grip around her waist, bringing her close enough for another kiss. "I don’t remember you putting up much of a struggle, but what’s so odd about the message?"
Deborah frowned again. "Angel doesn’t normally bother letting me know what she’s doing, and after yesterday afternoon I’m surprised…" she trailed off as his expression changed.
"What about yesterday afternoon? Did something happen that I don’t know about?" Gideon was frowning now.
"You were asleep, so I went to see Angel…" Gideon took a deep breath and was about to start speaking when Deborah interrupted. "No, Matthew, don’t tell me. I know I shouldn’t have gone, but I wanted to talk to her. She’s my sister and I needed to know why she’d said that awful thing."
He let out the breath and asked, "So what happened?"
Deborah leaned her head against his neck and lowered her voice. Gideon couldn’t see her face, but he could tell that the meeting had upset her. "She told some horrible lies about you. She said… well, it doesn’t matter what she said. It was all lies." Deborah felt him go rigid against her and lifted her head to look at him. "Please, Matthew, don’t be angry. It doesn’t matter. It was just stupid, but we didn’t part on very good terms. So I’m surprised she bothered to send the message."
Gideon was frantically trying to get his reactions under control before she noticed anything wrong. He pulled Deborah’s head back close to his neck so she couldn’t see his face. Her comments had opened a floodgate of guilt, anger, apprehension, and shame. What had Angel told her? Had she told Deborah what had happened in the orchard? In the library? She must have, and Deborah hadn’t believed her. Gideon couldn’t believe that he could get that lucky, and he immediately felt deep shame that she should trust him so completely when he’d betrayed her. Gideon desperately sought for something neutral to say. "Maybe later she was sorry for what she’d said, and the message was the nearest she could get to an apology."
He felt Deborah nod and accept his explanation. His guilt increased another notch. "You’re probably right." Deborah lifted her head and smiled at him. "Now, I’m starving and I still want to speak to Lily about permanently binding that Box. Let’s go to breakfast." She reached up and finger-combed his damp hair. Gideon kissed her again, then released her so that he could pick up his t-shirt and pull it on.
"I’ll call Galen after you’ve had your talk with Lily. Then we should have a clearer idea of what we need him to do. I also need to catch up with Raven, John and Max about what progress they’re making. So far, this working vacation has been all vacation and not much work for me."
Gideon pushed aside his worries and his guilt, and taking Deborah’s hand, led her out of the room.
Max, Ilas, and Dureena had returned late the previous night from their trip and were eager to tell the others about what they’d found. When Matthew and Demon arrived in the dining room Max was waxing lyrical about the inscriptions they’d discovered and his own skill at translating them. It was the first time Max and Matthew had met since the evening of the dinner party held there.
As Matthew stood behind Deborah’s chair, he said, "Max, I owe you an apology. That crack about Chaucer was uncalled for and I’m sure, untrue. I’m sorry." He then moved to sit next to Demon.
Max looked at him, raising an eyebrow in surprise. "Thank you, Captain. You’re quite right; it was untrue. I occasionally read ‘The Wife of Bath’s Prologue,’ too." There was general laughter around the table. Max went back to describing their findings, which were limited at this stage. Matheson, Raven, and Matthew all joined in an animated discussion about where else they could search. Ilas and Dureena added their comments, but Lily took the opportunity to move around the table to sit on the other side of Demon from Matthew.
Lily spoke quietly to avoid the others hearing. "Have you seen Angel at all? I’m getting worried. I’ve tried to send to her, but she won’t answer me." Demon could see the concern in the small girl’s face. She described what had happened the previous afternoon and the message she had just picked up from the guard captain.
Lily frowned. "I wonder if someone in the village is seriously sick or injured. They must be if Angel had to stay overnight. Do you think we should ask Luke to go and see if he can help?"
Demon shook her head. "I’m sure if Angel needed help she would ask. She’s always taken her duties in the village very seriously. She’s not very happy at the moment, particularly with me so I suspect that this is an excuse to get away from us all for a time." She smiled sorrowfully at Lily. "This isn’t a very easy time for Angel. She can see that we’re all happy and she isn’t. In some ways it might be best if we leave her alone for a few days. Our visitors will be gone all too soon," Demon’s face briefly showed the pain this thought gave her. "and gone with them will be the main cause for her unhappiness." Demon took a deep breath then went on, “Can I come see you after breakfast? I need to pick your brains. You know so much more about the ‘magical’ side of our powers than I do, and I need your advice.”
Lily readily agreed, then placed her hand over Demon’s and squeezed. "Angel’s unhappiness isn’t your fault, Demon. You can’t help loving your captain and you can’t stop him from loving you. Not that you’d want to." She grinned broadly.
Demon gave a sad smile and whispered, “But does he love me, Lily? I know he’s fond of me, and he’s happy about the baby, but I can’t tell what he really feels now. Not now my empathic powers have gone. But I do love him, and oh Lily, what are we going to do when they go?" Demon’s eyes fill with tears.
Lily shook her head at her sister. “Of course he loves you, silly. You can see it every time he looks at you.” She smiled sadly and went on, “As for what we’ll do when they leave, don’t think about it. Let’s enjoy the time we have with them and worry about that when it happens." Lily squeezed Demon’s hand again, then stood and moved back around the table to take her previous seat between her lovers.
The discussion about the inscriptions continued.
"Aw, hell!" Lucas cursed as he moved forward to catch Angel. He lowered her unconscious form to the floor, placed one arm around her, and let her head rest against his shoulder. He looked at her still face. He’d expected her to be surprised by his likeness to Gideon, but he hadn’t expected her to faint.
Lucas’ eyes turned to the wound on Angel’s head. Taking a handkerchief from his pocket he dabbed gently at the cut, pleased to see that it wasn’t as bad as it looked. The last thing he needed was to have Angel seriously injured. Cleaning off some of the drying blood, he put the handkerchief back in his pocket and turned his attention to her again. He had to bring her round; they couldn’t hang out down here for too long. There were things to be done.
Lucas caressed Angel’s face and called to her. "Come on, darlin’. Rise and shine.’’ He frowned when there wasn’t even a flicker of her eyes. He sighed heavily and let his eyes stray down her body. Lucas smiled; he had a lot of plans for that body. [‘Course, I prefer my women conscious.]
Lucas watched as Angel finally opened her eyes and looked at him. Then he grunted in surprise as he felt himself being pushed away. He regained his balance before he fell to the ground and crouched down on his haunches in front of her, letting her look him over before he said anything. She was studying him closely, no doubt seeing his resemblance to Gideon, but also the differences.
Angel reached out and touched Lucas’ hair where it fell across his ears then lowered her gaze to take in the way he was dressed. She whispered, "I don’t understand. How is it possible? You look just like the captain."
Lucas smiled. "Well, I wouldn’t say just like Space-Cadet. I have a better hair-cut and better taste in clothes."
Angel shook her head in confusion and Lucas decided he’d better explain. "Let me tell you a little about myself, darlin’, then you’ll know I’m who I say I am."
He stood, his legs parted slightly and his thumbs hooked into the front pockets of his black jeans. Lucas watched as Angel struggled to her feet, never taking her eyes from him as she watched him in silence. He told her why he looked like Gideon, or more correctly, why Gideon looked like him. He explained that Gideon was descended from him in a direct male line, which explained the family resemblance. Somehow the genetic lottery had replicated Lucas exactly in the tenth generation. He told her that it had been fate that Gideon got the Apocalypse Box; it explained why the Space Cadet was the perfect host for him.
"Are you gonna stand there staring at me, Angel-face, or are you gonna show me how happy you are to see me?" Angel didn’t move as Lucas approached her, so he cupped her face and tilted her head back as his mouth came down to claim hers. It didn’t take long for her to respond to his kiss.
After a long moment, Lucas placed his hands on Angel’s arms and pushed her away. Her eyes were now sparkling an intense blue and her face was flushed with excitement. "Well, I’ll take that as a ‘yes’." Seeing Angel’s face, her body, her excitement at seeing him again was arousing him and if he hadn’t pushed her away, Lucas would have taken her right there on the floor of the cellar. He wanted her, but that had to wait. There were some issues that needed tending to first.
Angel laughed, then her face froze as she said, "Lucas, my sisters and the others. How am I going to explain? They hate you. Oh God, I have to hide you, at least until Gideon and the other men leave. They’ll hurt you if they see you, I.." Lucas shook her, trying to stop her rush of words.
"Angel, calm down, dammit!" He smiled down at the young witch. "I have no intention of hiding. Lucas Buck can take care of himself. Besides, they can’t hurt me," he said with his usual arrogance. Angel opened her mouth to say something, but he raised a finger to her lips, silencing her. "Relax darlin’. I have everything under control." Lucas traced his finger across Angel’s lips. "So why don’t we go meet the others, and get it out of the way?"
Angel’s eyes widened and her voice was filled with concern.. "Lucas, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. They’ll be very angry and they might hurt you. I don’t want to lose you just when I’ve got you back."
Lucas lowered his head and placed a brief kiss on her lips as he caressed her cheek. "They’re gonna have to know about me sooner or later. I’d rather it be sooner, and then I can get on with doing what, or rather who, I really want to do…" Lucas bent down to whisper into her ear, telling Angel exactly what it was he wanted to do to her. He felt her shudder in excitement and straightened enough so that he could kiss her again.
"C’mon, darlin’, let’s go find the others." Lucas took her hand in his. He felt her hesitate and looked at her questioningly.
"Please, Lucas I’m not sure we should do this," her voice wavered.
"Angel-face, believe me, nothing bad is gonna happen. Hell, they’re probably gonna be too stunned to move when they get a load of me, and I for one can’t wait to see their reactions." Lucas’ tone was low and dangerous. He was dying to see them. He had plans for all of them, a little payback for what they’d done to him. No one crossed Lucas Buck and got away with it. "Now tell me, Angel-face, where will all our friends be?" he asked. He hoped to have them all together when they first saw him.
Angel frowned for a moment, then said, "Breakfast! They’ll all be together in the dining room having breakfast."
Lucas smirked. [Good, all the eggs in one basket and I’ll soon have them scrambling.] He pulled Angel’s hand up to hold it against his chest. "Perfect. Then I’ll only have to make my grand entrance once. Much more impact that way. Well come on, Angel-face, lead the way."
Angel picked up the fire-torch and looked back at Lucas, who arched his eyebrow and nodded his head forward, indicating that they should leave. They walked out of the cellar together, not bothering to close the door, leaving the empty Apocalypse Box on the floor behind them.
Lucas stood in the corridor outside the dining room, holding Angel’s shoulders as she leaned her back against his chest. He could feel how fast her heart was beating from fear, anticipation, and excitement. They both listened to the conversation going on inside, something to do with some inscriptions in nearby ruins. Nothing worth knowing about. Lucas was looking forward to the consternation that he knew his appearance would bring, as well as the opportunity to lay down some ground rules for the future. He’d given Angel careful instructions on what she was to do when she entered the dining room. Now she just had to carry out his instructions.
Lucas leaned forward and kissed Angel gently on the side of her neck. He could feel her pulse racing under his lips. "You know what to do, Angel-face, just do what I’ve told you and everything will be fine." He gently pushed her forward toward the door.
Demon was sitting back in her chair, listening to the conversation, when she caught sight of Angel in the doorway. She was surprised to see that Angel was still wearing the same clothes as when they’d last met but assumed that she must have just returned from the village and hadn’t had time to change. Angel took a couple of steps into the room and stopped, staring silently at the group around the table. One by one, the others noticed her arrival and the conversation gradually died down. When she had their full attention, Angel spoke, "I have a surprise for you. Someone who’s just dying to meet you all."
Demon was watching Angel closely, but a flicker of movement dragged her attention away. There was a man standing in the doorway. He stood with legs apart and his thumbs hooked into the pockets of his black jeans. His white shirt was partially covered by a tan suede jacket. There was no doubting who he was. It was Matthew, but Matthew was sitting next to her. When she looked around at him, she could see him staring at the man in the doorway, with the same look of stunned amazement shared by everyone around the table.
Demon looked back at the man. He was Matthew, but he wasn’t. The features were identical, but this man looked a little younger and a little heavier. His hair was longer, long enough to cover his ears. But the main difference was the look of cool contempt with which he surveyed the room. She’d never seen that expression on Matthew’s face.
The man spoke. "Well, surprise, surprise, surprise. Just thought I’d come along and introduce myself." His voice was pitched lower than Matthew’s, with a distinct drawl. The sound of it sent shivers down Demon’s spine. She’d had nightmares about the man with that voice, and the things he’d done to her and her sisters. She froze in her chair as he continued. "The name’s Lucas Buck, and that’s Buck with a B." The words slashed through her, bringing back the memories of what had happened between them in her rooms.
Demon watched as the man moved forward and placed his arm around Angel’s waist, pulling her toward him. Angel leaned in against him and looked up into his face, her total adoration clear in her expression. Demon felt sick. She could see that Angel had fallen completely under his influence and was obeying him again, as she had the last time. [But where has he come from? How is this possible?]
Demon became aware of movement around her. Matthew and John had jumped to their feet and were striding toward Lucas and Angel. They stopped dead in their tracks as Angel exerted her power. Demon watched as Raven, Max, and Dureena also froze in place. Only she, Lily, and Ilas were unaffected.
Demon rose from her chair and walked slowly toward the couple in the doorway. She felt Ilas following and heard Ilas’ voice in her head. [[Let me fight him, Demon. He hurt you and Lily, let me hurt him.]]
Demon sent back a calming message. [[Let’s see what he wants first. If we hurt him, then we hurt Angel, and she’s been hurt enough already. We don’t want to make this worse.]] She felt Ilas subside but knew that the little shapeshifter was still alert and ready to fight.
She came to a stop a few paces short of where Lucas and Angel stood. "What do you want?" She had a million other questions, but this seemed the most important.
Lucas smiled at her and for a moment, Demon could see why her sister was so fascinated by him. When he smiled, his attraction was undeniable. The coldness in his hazel eyes was replaced momentarily by a warmth that was almost irresistible. He spoke softly to her, "Well, when I arrived, I just wanted to say hello, but now I see you have something to tell me." He moved his arm from Angel’s waist and stepped forward, bringing his hand up to rest on Demon’s belly. She tried to back away, but he quickly grasped her arm and held her. He pulled her close and whispered in her ear. "Don’t fight me. I can stop Space Cadet’s heart any time I want. Shall I do that, Whiplash?" Demon looked at him, knowing whom he meant and knowing that he wasn’t bluffing.
Demon spoke equally quietly, "No, don’t. I won’t fight you, but if you hurt him or my baby, I’ll kill you. Believe that."
Lucas smiled at her again. "Oh, I’m not going to do a thing to hurt the baby, darlin’. Why should I, when it’s mine?" He stroked her belly and closed his eyes. Demon could feel his concentration, and then he opened them and smiled again. "Well, this one could go either way, but he certainly has potential."
Demon dragged her arm away from his grasp and stepped back. "He’s nothing to do with you. You are not his father."
Lucas’ smile became a sneer. "Beg to differ. And what have we here? Are you runnin’ a maternity ward around here?" Lucas moved toward where Lily was standing, arms wrapped around her stomach protectively, an expression of pure horror on her face as she stared at him. Ilas moved to block him and he looked down at her. "Do you want poor old Max to have a heart attack, darlin’? It can be arranged."
Ilas froze as Lucas moved past her and grabbed Lily’s arm. He pulled her close and again placed his hand on her swollen abdomen. "Do we have a spare to go with the heir?" Lucas closed his eyes and concentrated again. When he opened them, his disappointment was evident. "Looks like you were knocked up before I got to you, Lily-Love."
Lucas dropped Lily’s arm, grinning as she immediately pulled back and held her belly again, then he sauntered back to where Angel stood, watching and waiting. His arm went around her waist again, and she leaned her head against his shoulder. Demon could see the beads of sweat standing out on Angel’s forehead as she continued to hold the Excalibur crew immobile. It had always been easier for Angel to hold something still rather than to move it, but the strain was beginning to show.
Lucas bent his head and gently kissed Angel’s forehead. "Keep it up, darlin’, you’re doin’ a great job." He turned back to Demon. "You asked what I want? Well, the answer is not much, from you people. Angel and I have a lot of catching up to do, and we just want to be left alone for a while." He smiled down at Angel again. She was gazing up at him, her eyes and cheeks glowing with pleasure at his praise. "Just one question for you, Whiplash. There’s someone missing. Where’s the Magic Man?"
Demon frowned for a moment before realizing that he meant Galen. "He left for a few days. He should be back any time now. Why do you ask?" Lucas smiled and ignored her question. He turned to the others, still frozen by Angel’s powers.
"I know you’re pissed at me for what I did to him," gesturing to John with his free hand. "Forget it. Move on. You’re not going to be able to do a damned thing about it, so let it go. Leave us alone and we’ll leave you alone." He turned, pulling Angel with him.
Before they left, Demon called out, "Angel, wait!" Angel paused in the doorway and turned back to face her sister. Lucas moved his arm from her waist and leaned against the doorframe, his arms crossed in front of him, watching. Demon spoke again. "What have you done, Angel? And why?"
Angel face was strained with effort now. She was struggling to keep the five people still. They were fighting her power every instant and they were winning. The effort made her voice harsh as she replied.
"I brought Lucas back, Demon. I love him, so I got him out of that horrible place where you put him. Why should I be the only one without someone to love me? You should be happy; I won’t be fighting you for the captain anymore. Now I have the man I really love and he loves me. Why can’t you just be happy for me? But you can’t, can you? You hate to see me happy. You just want to see me miserable and lonely, but I won’t be like that ever again, Demon. I have Lucas now and that’s all that matters."
Angel turned back to the doorway where Lucas straightened up and opened his arms for her to flow against him. He kissed her gently on the mouth then pulled her head to his chest. He looked at Demon over the top of Angel’s head and his mouth twisted into a cynical smile. Demon realized that he didn’t really care about her sister. She was just a tool for him to use and discard when he was done with her, but she knew that Angel would never believe that. There was nothing she could do to save her sister from being terribly hurt again by this man.
Lucas and Angel left the dining room. As they walked away, the hold Angel’s mind had over the others gradually diminished and they found they could move again. Matthew and John started toward the door when Demon’s voice stopped them.
"Wait. Don’t go after them yet. Angel will just hold you off again. Let’s talk about this."
The men turned and watched as Demon walked over to where Lily stood. Raven and Demon reached Lily at the same moment and both put their arms around the tiny girl, who was shaking with reaction to Lucas’ touch. Matheson followed quickly and Demon handed her sister to him, for him and Raven to soothe and comfort. Demon had locked herself under control to prevent a similar reaction. She knew she would pay the price for the control she exerted now, but she’d deal with that later.
Matthew strode over to her and wrapped his arms around her. "Are you all right?" She could see his concern and hear it in his voice. It nearly cracked her façade, but she couldn’t afford to let go of her control.
"Not really, but we have more important things to consider. What do we do now?"
John was trying to persuade Lily to go back to their rooms but she refused to go, saying that she felt safer with the others. Max and Ilas were holding Dureena back as she tried to break free to go after Lucas. She hadn’t forgiven him for the harm he’d done John before, and she wanted revenge.
Gideon watched them while holding Deborah tightly. He called them to order. "OK people, let’s calm down and discuss this rationally. Everyone sit and we can talk." He helped Deborah to a chair and sat next to her, holding her hand tightly. He was concerned to see that she’d locked herself under control and her impassive mask was fully in place. She wasn’t allowing herself to react, and he wondered how long she could keep it up.
The others gathered and sat around the table, with Max almost dragging Dureena into her seat. Gideon looked around the table and asked, "So, will someone tell me who the hell that was, and why he looks like me?"
There was a long pause from around the table, only broken when Deborah said softly, "It’s probably best if I answer that. I think I spent more time with him than anyone other than Angel. Galen and I had some discussions later, which I should tell you about." She took a deep breath and went on. "I think I can explain why he looks like you, Matthew. Galen explained the origins and use of the Apocalypse Boxes and told me that this particular Box had been used to imprison a man who’d lived in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He was very powerful in his time and was only banished when his son rebelled against him and collaborated in his capture. Galen thought it was likely that you were a direct descendant of that son and by chance, had an almost identical genetic structure to Lucas. This made you an ideal host for him, but I don’t understand how he could come back in his own body, assuming that it is his own body that he’s now walking around in."
There was a brief silence round the table before Lily spoke in a shaky voice. "I think I know how it was done, but I can’t believe that Angel would do it. She couldn’t have known what she was doing, or the price…" she trailed off, obviously distressed.
Raven stood and lifted Lily out of her chair. Holding her closely against him he said, "I’m taking her back to our rooms. This isn’t good for her or the babies."
Lily struggled and protested. "No! It’s important that I tell you what I know."
Raven looked at her, obviously concerned, as he held her tight, then sat down again. "For the moment, I’ll go along with this, but if you get too distressed, then I’m taking you out of here." He kept her in his arms and she leaned back against his chest, comforted by his presence. John leaned over and took her hand, squeezing it for encouragement.
Gideon spoke gently to her. "Tell us what you know Lily, and how you found out."
Lily took a deep breath and launched into her story. She told them about her research after Lucas had been banished. She’d gone to the library to find the book that Angel had used to summon Lucas. She eventually found the spell and realized that it was both old and incredibly powerful. To make it work, Angel must have drawn on powers and forces that she hadn’t even been aware existed. Lily had carried on reading past the spell that Angel had used and saw that there was more to the process. She found that it was possible, under some very closely defined circumstances, to bring a person’s body back from the moment before death, into the current time and space, but there was a price to pay.
Lily paused, her eyes full of pain, then carried on. "When someone has died, the only way they can be brought back physically is for someone else to give up their life-force for them. From my reading, it seems that the ancients who developed this process were able to pass on a part of their life force to another and could bring them back that way…"
Before she could continue, Gideon leaped to his feet and started pacing. "Sheridan! That’s what happened to him. He died out on the rim, but some ancient being brought him back, giving up part of his life-force in the process." He spun around to look at Lily. "Could this be the same process?"
Lily shrugged. "I don’t know. The problem is that these days no one has enough of this life-force to give part of it away without it killing them. The book was very clear about that. The only way it will work is if a life is given for a life. Someone must die before the dead person can successfully be reborn, a soul must be sacrificed." Her voice began to waver and Raven held her more tightly, trying to give her the support she needed to carry on. Her next words were barely above a whisper, "The book was also very clear that the most powerful life-force available, the strongest soul that could be given in exchange is that of an… an unborn child." Trembling, she wrapped her arms around her stomach, as if trying to protect her babies.
Gideon froze in his tracks and stared in horror at Lily, then turned his gaze to Deborah. He saw that she’d turned white, all color draining from her face, and she, too, had wrapped her arms around her belly. He rushed to her, kneeling on the floor beside her chair, pulling her tightly to him. He looked across the table to see that John and Raven were both focused on Lily’s distress. Max was trying to restrain Dureena again, while at the same time coping with Ilas, who appeared to be in shock.
"John, help Max, will you?" Gideon watched as Matheson reluctantly left Raven and Lily and went to take Dureena from Max, holding her back, calming her down, leaving Max to comfort Ilas.
Gideon held Deborah tightly, while a sense of guilt swept over him. This was exactly what Galen had warned him about, that Angel’s desperation and loneliness would drive her to extremes in her attempt to bring Lucas back. Also, because he hadn’t been able to follow Galen’s advice and steer clear of Angel, Gideon knew he’d helped bring this evil down on them all. Gideon tried to tell himself that this would have happened anyway, that Angel’s obsession with Lucas would have driven her to this in the end but he didn’t really believe that. Last time, John had almost paid for Gideon’s mistake with his life. This time, an innocent child’s life was the price, and it could easily be his own child who paid.
He became aware that Deborah was pushing at his shoulders, trying to release herself from his tight hold. Gideon relaxed his arms a little and looked at her carefully. Deborah stared back at him, her eyes enormous in her dead white face, her voice cracking slightly when she spoke. "Angel wouldn’t do that, Matthew. I know you think her capable of anything, but not that. She wouldn’t take a child’s life to bring her lover back. She wouldn’t… she couldn’t." Her head fell on his shoulder and she started to sob, all her emotional control wrenched away from her at the thought of what her sister might have done.
Gideon pulled her back tightly against him, and then looked over to Raven, who was rocking Lily gently in his arms. "Doc, we need to get them checked over. That’s the only way we’ll know for sure if Lily is right about this."
Raven nodded. "We need to get them all to the infirmary. Then we’ll know."
Gideon sat with Deborah in the infirmary, watching his crew and the women, trying to judge who was coping and who wasn’t. Raven was torn between trying to prepare the equipment he needed to carry out the tests and staying with Lily, who was in deep distress. John was hanging onto Dureena; she was desperately trying to get away from him, screaming about her plans to kill Lucas, slowly, and she was going into detailed descriptions of exactly how she planned to do it. Every man in the room flinched as she moved on to what she had planned for his genitalia. John was trying to calm her, but obviously wanted to go to Lily and comfort her. Max was holding Ilas tightly, reassuring her that everything would be fine, that there was nothing to worry about. [I wish I shared his confidence.]
Since her momentary loss of control in the dining room, Deborah had pulled herself back together and was sitting silently, gripping his hand tightly. She leaned against Gideon and spoke softly. "We should help. Can you handle Dureena? She might listen to you. I’ll help Luke with Lily."
Gideon looked at her and kissed her gently. "If you can cope, I think that would be a good idea. Are you sure you don’t need me?"
Deborah smiled back at him. "I always need you, but right now, so do your crew. Go help them, Captain." Gideon hugged her tightly and helped her to her feet. Reluctantly letting go of her hand, he moved over to where John still struggled with Dureena. He saw the relief in Matheson’s eyes as he made his way over to them and took hold of Dureena’s arms, holding them tightly, and nodding at Matheson over her head. "It’s OK, John, I’ve got her. Go to Lily."
John fled across the room to where Deborah had already taken Lily into her arms, freeing Raven to start working with his equipment.
Gideon looked down at Dureena, who was still writhing in his grasp, screaming threats at the top of her voice. Shaking her gently he said, "Stop it, Dureena." He used the full weight of command in his tone, something he rarely did with his crew. "You’re making this more difficult for everybody. Just calm down. If you or your baby has been hurt, then I’ll go after whoever is responsible. I don’t know how, but I will and I’ll make sure they pay. That’s a promise." He looked her straight in the eyes to emphasize his point. "You know you can trust me, Dureena. I may be eccentric, but I won’t screw around with your trust. Will you believe that?" As he spoke, Dureena gradually calmed, and stopped trying to break his grip. He watched as her face changed. The rage and fury were slowly replaced by fear. Gideon knew that she’d been using her anger to prevent herself from feeling the panic that threatened to overwhelm her.
He pulled her close to his chest and hugged her hard. He couldn’t give her empty reassurances; all he could do was try to provide some sense of security and stability for her. As Gideon held Dureena, he watched over her head as Deborah left John and Lily to comfort each other and went to offer her help to Raven. [Where does she get the strength? And what am I going to do if our baby is dead?]
Raven turned quickly as he heard Demon approach. He’d just about finished the preparations he needed; it wasn’t a difficult job. [Hell, I could do it using an old-fashioned stethoscope.]
He smiled at her as she spoke. "Is there anything I can do to help?" Raven could see that she had herself under rigid control, and he was grateful. If she hadn’t been able to let Gideon take care of Dureena, John wouldn’t have been available to comfort Lily, and Lily was in desperate need of comfort. She’d been uncharacteristically quiet since they’d left the dining room.
Raven spoke gently. "No, but now that you’re here, let’s do it." He held up the scanner that he intended to use. "I’m sure you’re familiar with this. It can detect fetal life signs easily. It won’t take a minute to check." He became aware that the room had gone silent.
Demon drew herself up, throwing her shoulders back as if preparing for a confrontation. "Go ahead."
Raven could feel Gideon’s eyes boring into his back as he passed the scanner over Demon’s belly. A light flared brightly on the scanner and a sudden memory hit him. When they’d been in the Excalibur Medbay and he’d been checking Gideon after they freed him from the Apocalypse Box, he’d accidentally passed the scanner over Demon and that light had flickered. He realized that it had detected the first signs of her pregnancy. Raven knew that he now had evidence that Demon was already pregnant before she and Gideon returned to the planet together, exactly the opposite of what they wanted. But that piece of bad news could wait. For now, the news was good.
"You’re both fine, Demon. Your baby is fine."
Raven watched as Demon closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Thank you." She moved to where Gideon and Dureena were standing, both watching her closely. She put an arm around each of them but lowered her head to Gideon’s shoulder so he could kiss it without releasing his hold on Dureena.
Raven moved quickly to John and Lily. John was sitting on one of the infirmary beds, holding Lily tightly in his lap and rocking her gently. As Raven went to them, John moved his arms from around her, holding her arms instead. Raven passed the scanner over her belly, [please, God, let them be OK,] and nearly collapsed with relief as the light flared again. He reset the instrument to pick up the other child and again, the scanner lit up. His throat was so tight he could hardly get the words out. "They’re OK, they’re both OK." He wanted to drop the scanner and wrap his arms around Lily as she started to cry.
Instead, she jumped up and hugged Raven fiercely, then quickly drew back and said in a tight voice, "Go. The others need you now," and sank back onto John’s lap, turning her head into his shoulder.
John smiled at him over her head and spoke softly. "Go on. I’ll take care of her."
Raven turned reluctantly and walked to where Gideon stood, holding Dureena. Demon stepped back to allow him more room and Gideon slowly turned Dureena around to face Raven, never letting go of her. Raven passed the scanner over Dureena’s swollen belly. She was much larger than the other women, being closer to term, due to her species’ shorter gestation period. He waited for the scanner to light. Nothing. He reset it and tried again, desperately hoping that perhaps Dureena’s physical differences were confusing the instruments, but all he was checking for was a fetal heartbeat. Even the Zanderi had heartbeats. Still nothing. He looked up at Gideon, who was watching him closely over Dureena’s head. Raven shook his head. "I can’t find…" he didn’t know how to finish the sentence.
Dureena stood, completely rigid in Gideon’s arms. She was looking intently at him, but the meaning of what he’d said didn’t seem to have hit her. Raven watched as Gideon pulled the little Zanderi closer to him, wrapping his arms around her tightly. Raven stepped back and scanned one last time, but there was nothing there at all: no heartbeat, no life signs of any kind. The baby was dead.
Raven looked at Gideon again, then down to Dureena. "I’m so sorry, Dureena. There’s nothing… " He stopped and flinched as Dureena let out a scream of pain and loss that speared his skull. He watched as Demon rushed to help Gideon restrain the thief as she thrashed wildly. The couple held her between them, trying to calm and comfort her, knowing there could be no comfort for the loss that she’d suffered.
Raven stepped back and turned to fetch a tranquilizer. It wouldn’t stop Dureena’s pain, but it might numb it a little. As he applied it to her arm, he saw that Max and Ilas were both sitting in shocked silence. Then he remembered who the other parents of Dureena’s child were. The loss to them was nearly as great as to Dureena. Leaving Gideon and Demon to look after the little thief, Raven rushed over to Max and Ilas. The first thing he did was to pass the scanner over Ilas and confirmed that her baby was safe. Raven could see the immediate relief this brought, which freed Max and Ilas to go to Dureena.
Gideon and Demon stepped back and released her to the care of her partners. The tranquilizer was taking hold and gradually Dureena’s screams of loss were diminishing. Raven watched as she slumped against Ilas. Max lifted her into his arms and carried her to one of the infirmary beds, where he placed her gently. He sat on one side of the bed holding Dureena’s hand tightly, while Ilas sat by the other side and stroked Dureena’s face. The sense of loss emanating from the trio could be felt by them all.
Gideon had taken Demon back into his arms and was holding her, her head pressed to his neck, as she wept quietly. Raven could see the grim expression on Gideon’s face as he watched the three mourners across the room.
He looked at Raven and spoke. "I’m taking Deborah back to her rooms. I’d like to see you and John in the dining room in two hours. Will that give you enough time to do what you have to?" Raven nodded and watched as Gideon left with Demon.
Raven then went over to John and Lily. "I think you should do the same. Take Lily back to her rooms and I’ll join you as soon as I can." John nodded and stood, still holding Lily, and carried her out of the infirmary.
Raven went over to Max, Ilas, and Dureena, trying to think of a gentle way of explaining what had to be done next.
Gideon stopped outside the door to the infirmary and turned to Deborah. She’d stopped crying and had pulled herself back under control. He said sadly, “Looks like we should have called Galen last night after all. Maybe we could have prevented this.” Yet again, his guilt was almost overwhelming him. Why had he waited? Just because he’d been drained and shaken by his nightmare, he’d allowed himself to sleep again and now a life had been taken because of his neglect.
Deborah moved toward him and lifted her hand to caress his face. “It would already have been too late. There’s a very good chance that it was Angel’s spell, bringing Lucas out of the Box, that caused your nightmare. There must have been a remnant of a connection between you and the Box, enough for your subconscious to be aware of his escape, making you remember how you felt and what you saw when you were trapped. Those memories would have triggered the dream.”
Gideon let out a sigh of relief. It was a good theory, good enough for him to try to let go of his guilt and turn his attention to what needed doing. He smiled gently at Deborah and said, "I really want to take you back to your rooms and stay with you, but there are things I need to do. I could do with your help if you’re able. If you can’t, tell me and I’ll understand."
Deborah nodded as she looked at him. "I’ll do whatever I can and I’ll put the hysterics off until later." She managed a weak smile that nearly broke his heart.
He kissed her gently then pulled back. "You’re one amazing lady."
She continued, "What do you need, Matthew? What can I do to help?"
Gideon took a deep breath and ran through a quick list of what he needed. Floor plans of the castle, showing all possible access routes into Angel’s quarters, plus details of what weaponry they held in the armory and what manpower they had available. Deborah nodded. "We need to go to the guard captain’s office. He should have all of that to hand."
Gideon took her hand and they started walking through the corridors. After a while, Deborah spoke again. "I heard what you promised Dureena. I assume you plan to go after Lucas." Gideon nodded. Deborah pulled his arm, stopping him mid-stride, and spoke. "Two things, Matthew. First, you need to take Angel’s powers into account in any plans you make. Second, while Angel is with him, he has a potential hostage. Can you be sure Lucas won’t hurt her?"
Gideon looked at her carefully before he replied. "Deborah, this isn’t going to be easy to hear, but Angel is an accessory to what Lucas has done. She’ll have to face the consequences of her actions…" he raised his hand and laid his fingers on her lips as she started to interrupt, "I know, you said that she couldn’t have known what she was doing. Ignorance is no excuse, Deborah. A child is dead because of what she did. Whether she knew what she was doing or not, the child is still dead, and it could have been ours." He saw Deborah flinch at his last words and pulled her close to him, kissing her forehead lightly.
Gideon relaxed his hold a little and continued. "I’m going to have to deal with my own contribution to this mess, and how much of what I’ve done and said to Angel has driven her to this, but it doesn’t change the facts. I’ll do whatever I can to make sure Angel isn’t hurt, but taking Lucas down must be my priority. They’ll both have to pay for what they’ve done. I’m really sorry, Deborah, and I’ll understand if you decide you can’t help me detain your sister, but I have to do this."
Gideon wondered what he would do if Deborah decided against him. What if she hated him for what he was planning? Could he live with losing her? But he knew he couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t try to deliver on the promise he’d made to Dureena. He watched his lover as she thought through what he’d said, her eyes closed while she considered.
Deborah opened her eyes and looked straight at him, then said, "Promise me that you’ll do whatever you can to make sure that Angel isn’t hurt, and that you’ll give her chance to explain."
He nodded but knew that wouldn’t be enough. "I promise." Another commitment that he’d no idea how to honor.
"Then I’ll do whatever I can to help you take Lucas down, quickly and safely. But Matthew, that’s going to be extremely difficult. He and Angel are very powerful."
Gideon nodded and pulled her close again, kissing her gently. "Thank you." He released her and they started walking to the guard captain’s office. For the next two hours, they went over all the information Gideon had requested, then he left to meet up with Raven and Matheson in the dining room.
Angel entered her rooms with Lucas following. Their encounter with the others in the dining room had left her excited; it had gone better than she had imagined. Yes, they’d been shocked, and she’d seen their anger, but she didn’t care; all she could think about was that she had Lucas back. She turned to face him and threw her arms around him, speaking breathlessly.
"Oh Lucas, that went so much better than I thought it would."
His arms came around her and he gave her a small smile.
"Didn’t I tell you that?" Lucas asked softly. She gave a little laugh and looked up at him, her eyes sparkling.
"Yes, you did. Did you see their faces, Lucas? Oh, I wish they could know you as I do, then they wouldn’t have reacted so badly." Angel hesitated, thinking about the scene in the dining room again. She shook the thoughts away as they started to make her feel guilty. She would think about it later; right now all she wanted was to have Lucas make love to her.
"Why didn’t you tell me that your sisters are pregnant?" Lucas asked quietly.
Angel looked at him in surprise. "What does it matter, Lucas?"
He was silent for a moment, then said quietly. "Never mind darlin’, it’s not important."
"Good. Now please, Lucas, let’s not talk about the others. All I care about now is that we’re together, that you’re back. I want you so much." To prove her feelings, Angel pulled Lucas’ head down to hers, her mouth pushing against his roughly, putting everything she felt into the kiss. She cried out when Lucas took a painful hold on her arms. She gave him a startled look when he pushed her away from him with a force that almost sent her tumbling to the floor. He was standing now with his legs slightly parted and his arms crossed in front of him.
"What’s... what’s wrong, Lucas?" her voice quivered.
His silence and the dangerous glint in his eyes as he looked at her was making her nervous. Angel’s heart was thumping loudly and when Lucas moved toward her, she stepped back involuntarily when he spoke. His voice was level and she could see that he was angry, but his voice wasn’t. "Nothing’s wrong, darlin’. I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. You did a good job bringing me back." His hand reached up and brushed gently across her cheek. Then his hand moved lightning fast to grab Angel’s hair tightly at the nape of her neck and he yanked on it, while he used his other arm to hold her immobile against him. She whimpered as he twisted her neck painfully.
"Lucas, please, you’re hurting me," Angel pleaded, as he continued to look down at her like a predatory beast. She thought about using her powers to throw Lucas off, but whenever she was afraid or her emotions were too strong, she couldn’t focus her abilities. She was helpless.
"This is nothing compared to the pain I felt when I was put back in that Box by you and the others," Lucas said in a tone as cold as steel. Angel gasped as she realized that he was going to make her pay for her betrayal.
She started to fight against his hold, but Lucas pulled on her hair even tighter. She screamed in pain and stopped struggling. Her voice was desperate. "You said you understood! That you forgave me! Please, I’m sorry, more than you could ever know. Please, Lucas, don’t hurt me! I’ll make it up to you. Please don’t hurt me."
Lucas sighed and a cold smile spread across his lips. "Don’t worry, Angel, I’m not going to hurt you; well, only later, and even then only in a way that you’ll enjoy. I’m not going to punish you for what you did. Consider it a reward for bringing me back, but I have to make sure, once and for all, that this time I can trust you, that you really are all mine, body and soul." Angel stared at him in confusion when he released his hold on her and moved away.
Angel found her voice, and spoke with conviction "You can trust me, Lucas, I love you. I’m all yours, body and soul. I’d never do anything to hurt you again. If I’d known what you were really like, that you didn’t really deserve to be in the Box, I would never have them helped banish you." Angel moved forward so that she could place her hands on his chest.
Lucas looked deeply into her eyes. "I need to be sure of that, Angel. I need proof of your love and your loyalty." He paused, letting his eyes move to where his thumb was stroking the smooth flesh of Angel’s arm, and then he slowly returned his eyes to hers. When he continued, his voice was neutral and calm. "I want to be able to stay here with you, darlin’, but for that to happen, we have to make sure that the others can’t threaten me."
Angel blinked as his words sunk in and she sucked in her breath. "Lucas, I... I can’t do anything that would hurt my sisters! I know they pose a threat, but I won’t hurt them. I can’t!" Her voice was frantic.
Lucas pulled her in closer. "Relax, Angel, I know that, and I don’t want to hurt your sisters, but I have to make sure they’re not a danger to me." His tone was soothing, and Angel relaxed. "So, will you help me, Angel?" asked Lucas softly.
She nodded. "As long as you don’t hurt my sisters, yes, I’ll help you." He smiled and bent down to place a kiss on her forehead.
"And Gideon? Will you help me get rid of Gideon?" Angel frowned; she knew what Lucas meant. "Why are you hesitating, darlin’? Is it ‘cause you love him?" Angel looked at him, her mind racing. If she helped Lucas get rid of Gideon, then her sister would never forgive her. But if she didn’t, Gideon might kill Lucas, and then she’d be alone. [No, I won’t be alone again!]
Angel’s tone was strong. "No, Lucas, I don’t. I’ll help you."
Lucas smiled at her. "That’s my girl. I want to stay here and make this into a place like Trinity. Will you help me do that, Angel? Will you help me take over?"
Angel nodded and said happily, "Oh yes, Lucas, I’ll help you." She moved into his arms. She felt the heat of his body against her cheek as she rested her face on his shoulder.
"Tell me again, Angel-face, who do you belong to?" Angel lifted her head to look lovingly into Lucas’ eyes.
"To you, Lucas, body and soul, always."
She parted her lips invitingly, wanting to stop talking; they could talk later. All she wanted now was to have his body merge with hers. Lucas lowered his head and claimed her mouth. He wasn’t gentle as he pressed his lips bruisingly against hers. Angel’s arms came around his neck and he pulled her roughly against him. Not breaking the kiss for a moment, he swept her into his arms and carried her through to her bedroom.
Angel lay against Lucas, her head resting on his shoulder as she listened to his gentle breathing. He’d been asleep for a while. They’d spent the hour before that making love. At times it had been gentle, followed by a heady mixture of both pleasure and pain.
Angel shifted against him, feeling the heat burn between her legs again at the memories of their lovemaking. She looked up at Lucas, [He’s slept enough] and then turned her head toward the dressing table, smiling when her eyes fell upon the black candles. Careful not to wake him, she moved off the bed and over to the dressing table, where she picked up a candle. Using a fire-spell, Angel lit it and returned to the bed, placing the candle on the side table before she lay back down.
Leaning against him, Angel took the lobe of his ear between her teeth and tugged gently. When she felt Lucas’ arm move around her shoulder, she pulled back to look at him. As she did so, his other hand moved to her chin and pulled her to him. As their lips met, Angel’s nipples hardened, brushing against his chest. After a moment, Lucas broke the kiss and fixed her with an amused look. "Haven’t you had enough yet?"
She gave him a wicked smile and in a quick movement, pulled free of his hands and kneeled astride his hips. "Never," Angel replied, shaking her head as she leaned forward to place a quick kiss on his lips before straightening up again. As she did so, she could feel that Lucas was becoming aroused. Her pulse quickened.
"Well, far be it from me to deny you." Lucas lifted his hands to touch her breasts but Angel reached out to stop him, taking his hand in hers.
Lucas watched in silence as Angel lowered her head to take the tip of his thumb in her mouth, the whole time keeping her eyes locked on his. She released his thumb and spoke huskily. "I want to play," she paused and took another finger in her mouth and sucked the tip before releasing it and continuing, "and these will distract me, so no touching." Lucas turned his head slightly and watched as she placed his hands down either side of him. "Hands off," she ordered, seriously.
Lucas nodded and said, "You’re the boss." She gave him a smile of satisfaction and then leaned over him and picked up the candle. As she straightened up, she watched the flame flicker and then slowly looked down at him.
From the way Lucas was looking at her, Angel could tell that he knew what she had in mind, and the fact that he wasn’t stopping her gave her the confidence to continue. There was no need for words now as she tipped the candle over his shoulder, watching as the wax melted. Lucas hissed as it hit his skin, then watched as she lowered her head to the spot, her tongue licking over him, soothing the burned area.
As Angel worked her way down, dropping wax on his chest, she felt him swelling against her thigh. The pain was a strong aphrodisiac for Lucas, for them both. She smiled at him as she let another drop of wax fall on his chest then shifted slightly and dropped wax onto his flat stomach. Lucas sucked in his breath as she alternated between kissing and licking him where the wax had fallen. Each time she blew on the wax it turned to powder and she instantly soothed the burned spot with her tongue and lips.
Holding the candle above his growing erection, Angel looked up at him with the same wicked smile on her lips. Lucas gave her a look that told her without words that he wanted her to do it. She tilted the candle over his semi-hard shaft, her eyes watching closely as a small drop of burning wax fell onto the head of his cock. Lucas arched his back and groaned at the pain. She blew on him quickly, cooling the wax and soothing the flesh. As the wax turned to powder, she brought the candle to her lips and blew out the flame. Angel threw it to the floor and turned her attention back to his cock.
Angel lowered her head and took Lucas into her mouth. As Lucas began to swell and harden, Angel continued to stroke and suck him. When his hand entwined and pulled on her hair, she let her mouth slide off him and looked up at his face.
Lucas fixed her with a dark, hungry look, his voice deep and seductive. "I have control, darlin’, but not that much control." Angel smiled at him and at what he was telling her. Placing a brief kiss on the head of his cock, she straightened up, now very aware of how wet she was. She moved to kneel above his hips, and without hesitation, impaled herself on him. Angel didn’t move at first, just savored the feeling of having Lucas buried deep inside her. When his hands moved to cup her breasts, she didn’t stop him. He sat up, his arms coming around her and his mouth taking a nipple. She arched her back, her own arms going around his neck, pulling him against her.
Angel gasped as Lucas held onto her tightly and turned over without moving out of her, so that she was now beneath him. "Time for me to take control. You’ve had your fun," he told her as he leaned forward to attack her mouth with a demanding kiss. Lucas straightened up, grabbing her wrists. He held her gaze as he shifted his hold, so that only one of his hands held her wrists. His voice was a low drawl as he spoke. "No touching." He pulled out of her, and Angel watched as he stretched to where her scarves hung off the headboard, her eyes widening in remembrance as he tied her wrists together. She winced as he pulled the knot tightly around them but couldn’t deny the thrill she felt as he tied her wrists to the headboard above her head.
Lucas looked down at her for a moment, then leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Brings back memories, don’t it?" Angel spread her legs and bent her knees, and as she did so he held her hips and pulled her further down toward him. Then he placed his arms on either side of her so that he could look down at her. Her position beneath him made her arms stretch painfully against the restraints, but she didn’t care as he suddenly moved forward and drove into her. She moaned in combined pain and pleasure, arching her back, raising her hips off the bed to meet his thrust and locking her legs around his waist.
Angel cried out as Lucas slammed into her deeper than he’d ever been before. She continued to meet every thrust as Lucas bent his arms, bringing his mouth down on hers to stifle another cry of pleasure or pain, she didn’t know which. He ground his lips to hers, his tongue deep inside her mouth.
Angel cried out his name as with a final deep thrust she came, her body arching up as the most incredible orgasm hit her. Lucas let go, coming hard, filling her with his hot stream. When the torrent ended, she lifted her legs from around his waist and he rolled off her.
After a few moments of silence while she recovered her breath, noticing that Lucas wasn’t even breathing hard, Angel she said his name softly.
"Yes, darlin’?" Lucas looked over at her and smiled.
Angel looked from him up to her arms. "Please?" She didn’t have to finish asking him as Lucas smiled and reached up to untie her hands from the headboard. Her skin was red, but not broken this time. She watched as he gently rubbed her wrists then kissed them.
At first she winced, and Lucas looked up at her asking her softly, "Does it hurt?" He continued rubbing and Angel felt the pain drifting away at his gentle touch.
"No, not anymore, Lucas. Thank you." She answered a little breathlessly, relieved that he hadn’t decided to leave her tied up. Lucas stopped rubbing. Taking her hand in his, he lay down on his back, pulling Angel to lie against him, with her head resting on his shoulder and her free arm tucked between them, while the hand he held rested on his chest.
Angel sighed, having never felt happier in Lucas’ arms. He’d been both gentle and rough with her. It was exactly how she had imagined it would be; a perfect mixture of pleasure and pain.
Lucas lay back in Angel’s bed, his arm around her as she slept with her head on his shoulder, exhausted by the night she’d spent bringing him back, and then their strenuous re-union. He hadn’t felt so good in a long time. Gideon’s body had been useful, but it was much better to be back in his own. He grinned when he thought about how he’d achieved that. Merlyn Temple might have been a damned nuisance, but he’d learned a lot from her, including this little "rebirth" trick.
Of course he’d added his own twist to the process, ensuring that Angel’s spell not only brought him back from the moment of his death, but also assured his future. ‘…As you were then, so shall you be now and from now on.’ There would be no ageing for Lucas Buck. He would remain the same physically until the day he died. Until the day his son murdered him. Because that was the fate of all Buck men. They raised their sons to be as vicious and cruel as they were themselves, so that they would be ready to host the Rage when their time came.
Lucas was relieved that it hadn’t been his own child’s life he’d taken to come back, but his contact with Demon had reassured him that his son was fine. He hadn’t answered Angel’s question about why she should have told him that her sisters were pregnant. If he’d known about Demon and Lily, he’d have been a damn sight more careful about whose life he stole.
He smiled when he remembered Demon’s reaction to his assertion of paternity. The kid might genetically be Gideon’s, but given the close similarity between the two men, that made little difference. And when Lucas had made contact with the child still in the womb, it was obvious that he had all the potential for carrying the Rage forward into the future. But it had worked out fine; his son was safe. Nevertheless, Lucas found himself hoping that the child Demon carried wouldn’t be a suitable host. That would give him more time to enjoy living in the 23rd century. More time to enjoy Angel.
Lucas moved on in his mind to the session he’d just had with her. He’d enjoyed her body as much as ever, but he knew that it was just a matter of time before the others came after them. It had now been three hours since he and Angel had left the dining room. It was time to start thinking about getting off the planet. Lucas needed two things to achieve that. First, access to the comm equipment in Demon’s rooms and then he needed Galen. He was annoyed that the Magic Man had gone off abruptly but was sure he’d be back soon. Gideon would make certain of that.
Lucas also had to think about where he’d take Angel. It had better be a long way from here, for the moment at least. He needed to make damn sure that Angel never found out the price that had been paid to release him. Lucas found her respect for life amusing, but he knew it was that which had driven her to betray him before. He wouldn’t test her that harshly again; he knew her limits now. He looked down at her and realized that she was so sound asleep that she wouldn’t feel him move. He slid out from under her, placing a hand under her head and lowering it to the pillow.
Lucas climbed off the bed and began dressing, watching Angel as he did so. Asleep, she truly did look like an angel, with a gentle smile on her face, her black hair spread out around her on the pillow, one of her hands resting next to her, the other lying across her stomach. As he finished dressing, he watched the rise and fall of her breasts. Despite his recent release, he felt himself becoming aroused again in reaction to her body. If he didn’t have things to do, he would have just undressed and woken her up by taking her hard. Lucas realized that he was becoming fond of Angel, but immediately dismissed the notion. It was ridiculous to think that fondness was why he hadn’t punished her for betraying him.
He took in a breath and released it, letting his eyes rake over her one more time, then he turned and headed for the door. Lucas turned the key, amused that Angel’s fear of someone coming in had made her lock it. He unlocked and opened it. As Lucas pulled the door open, he heard Angel mumble in her sleep and turned to see if she was waking. She wasn’t, she just stirred, turning onto her stomach, giving him an enticing view of her butt. [Later. You’ve got work to do now.] He returned to the bed, pulling the sheet up to cover her.
Lucas turned away and slipped into the living room, closing and locking the door quietly behind him.
When Matthew and the guard captain left Demon in Nikarran’s office, she decided that she needed to see her sisters and discuss with them what they should do. She was deeply troubled by what Matthew had said about Angel. Could she really let him imprison Angel? Demon knew that morally and ethically, what Matthew said was right. But this was her sister; how could she let Angel be taken away? What about their link? If Matthew took Angel away, it would destroy her sisters.
Demon’s head spun. If she refused to let Matthew take Angel, she’d probably lose him. He’d promised Dureena that he’d go after the people responsible for hurting her and her baby. Demon knew that he wouldn’t renege on that promise. If she tried to make him do so, she’d destroy their relationship, but if she let Matthew do what he planned, it would destroy her and her sisters. There was no good way for this to end. Whichever way she looked at it, disaster loomed.
She stood and smoothed down the simple black sundress she’d put on that morning. She remembered planning a trip back to the pool, thinking, as she’d buttoned the front of the dress, how much fun it would be letting Matthew unfasten those buttons later. It seemed like an eternity since then, but it had been just that morning and it was still only noon. How could so much happen so quickly? How could life fall apart so easily? Demon left the office and headed for the infirmary.
When she opened the door to the main room, there were no signs of occupancy. She realized that Raven must have moved Dureena to a side room to give her more privacy. Each side room had a glass panel in the door, so she found the correct room quickly. Looking through the glass, Demon could see that Dureena was asleep, probably still sedated. Ilas had curled up next to her on the bed, her arm across Dureena’s body, hugging her.
Demon couldn’t see Max at first, then realized that he was sleeping in a chair, with its back to the wall beside the door. As she watched, Ilas opened her eyes and looked straight at Demon as she stood outside the room. Ilas carefully disentangled herself from Dureena and tiptoed across to the door, opened it carefully, then stepped through, silently closing it behind her. As soon as the door was shut, she flung herself into Demon’s arms and started to weep.
Demon held her sister tightly, pressing Ilas’ head to her shoulder, stroking her lavender hair, and making comforting noises. There were no words Demon could use to provide the solace her sister needed. Slowly, Ilas’ sobs diminished. She pulled back her head and looked up at Demon, sending, [[I’m going to kill him, Demon. I know you’ve taught me that killing is wrong, but I can’t help it. I’m going to kill him for what he’s done to us.]]
Demon wiped away the tears from her little sister’s face and replied, [[If we can, Ilas. I don’t know if we have the power, but if we have, I’ll help you. I think we need to talk to Lily. She knows much more about the powers we may need to draw on than either you or I do. We’re going to need all the help we can get.]]
Ilas looked back into the room where Max and Dureena both slept, reluctant to leave them, but then nodded and stepped back from Demon’s arms. She grasped Demon’s hand and tugged her toward the infirmary’s outer door. [[Let’s go.]]
Gideon was waiting in the dining room with Nikarran when Matheson and Raven arrived. He had all the castle floor plans spread out on the large dining table, and stood leaning forward on the table, studying one particular area. He looked up as the others arrived. "Good. Doctor, how’s Dureena?"
He looked keenly at Raven, who frowned as he replied, "She’s still out. I used a strong sedative that should keep her under for the next 24 hours, but sometime soon, I’m going to have to get that baby out of her or it’ll kill her. I just want to give Max and Ilas time to get used to the idea. The worst thing is that Zanderi physiology makes a caesarian impossible. I’ll have to induce labor. She’ll have to go through that for however long it takes, and at the end of it, her baby will be stillborn."
Matheson and Gideon both flinched as they tried to imagine what they would have gone through if faced with the same situation. Gideon silently thanked the God he didn’t really believe in for not having put Deborah through that.
Gideon asked, "How are Max and Ilas coping? Is there anything we can do?"
Raven shook his head. "They’re still pretty shocked by it all. They’re with Dureena and they have each other. I think they need some time alone for them to come to terms with what’s happened and what has to be done."
Gideon nodded and looked down at the plans in front of him. The only thing he could do to help Dureena now was to bring her baby’s murderer to justice. "Right. Now we try to figure out how we go after the bastard who did this. I want him locked up down here, ready for transfer to the brig when the Excalibur comes back. I don’t know how we’re going to do it, or what I’m going to charge him with, but he’s going down." His mouth set into a firm line as he finished, showing the determination he felt.
Matheson moved around the table to join Gideon in looking at the floor plans. He traced his finger across the plan, placing the dining room in context with Angel’s rooms, the infirmary, Demon’s rooms, the courtyard, Lily’s rooms, and the armory. He moved his finger back to Angel’s room and spoke.
"This isn’t going to be easy. Angel’s rooms are on the second floor. There’s no direct access to the windows from outside. We could use Max’s fly bike to get two people up there, but Angel and Lucas would be alerted by the noise of the window being opened or smashed and Angel would just freeze them. A fall from that height could be fatal. The corridor leading to her room is narrow, restricting the number of troops we can take in, and there’s only one entrance, so there’s no chance of flanking them." He looked up at Gideon standing next to him. "What weapons do we have? I didn’t bring a PPG down with me, did you?"
Gideon shook his head. "No. I never expected to need one, and Nikarran here has nothing more than swords and knives in the armory.” He nodded at the guard captain who stood with them, looking down at the floor plan. “The most sophisticated weapon on this planet is a crossbow. Ever used one, Lieutenant?" He looked up at Matheson quizzically.
Matheson grimaced. "No. I wouldn’t have a clue how."
"Me neither. William Tell I’m not. But these guys know how." Gideon pointed to the guard captain who silently nodded agreement. Gideon continued, "The problem is that there’s no field of fire. As you say, access is restricted, and we have to take Angel’s abilities into account. She can freeze up anyone who approaches and may be able to deflect any projectile weapons. We’ll take casualties at an unacceptable level if we try to go hand to hand. Angel will just knock down anyone going in."
Matheson agreed. "I don’t see how we can take him out with her around, Captain. Any ideas?"
Gideon nodded. "Yes. We get help. I’m calling Galen. Maybe he can use some of his talents on this one." He looked across at Matheson. "My commlink is back in Deborah’s room. Do you have yours?"
Matheson pushed his shirt cuff back to show the wristband and spoke. "I’ll call him now."
Ilas and Demon arrived at Lily’s room and found the door locked. Demon sent, [[Lily, it’s us, please let us in, we need to talk.]] They heard the key turning and the door opened. Demon took one look at Lily’s red eyes and hollow cheeks and threw her arms around the tiny girl, hugging her closely. Ilas leaned against Demon so she could move her arms to encircle them both. The three of them stood holding each other tightly, drawing strength and comfort from each other.
Demon straightened and spoke aloud, "We have things we must discuss and decide." She outlined Matthew’s plans as far as she knew them. She watched the horrified looks growing on her sisters’ faces as she talked.
Ilas burst out, "But he can’t do that! Gideon can’t take Angel away from us. She couldn’t have known what Lucas was doing! She would never have helped him if she’d known. How can she have committed a crime if she didn’t know what it was? Does he know what will happen to us all if he takes her away? Oh, you must stop him, Demon, you can’t let him do that." She was so agitated that she spoke aloud.
Demon looked sadly at her sister and sent, [[Matthew made a promise, Ilas. He promised Dureena that he’d go after whoever was responsible. Should he break that promise? Would Dureena forgive him if he did? Would she forgive you if she knew that he’d broken his promise because of you?]]
Lily looked up at Demon. [[And what would it do to your relationship, Demon, if you tried to stop Gideon delivering on his promise? Would he forgive you for stopping him? I think promises mean a lot to him.]]
Demon clamped down on her pain. [[I know. I seem to have the choice between losing my sister or losing the father of my child. How am I supposed to make that choice?]] Her eyes filled with tears that she fiercely quelled. [[Enough. We’ll deal with that when it happens. For now, we need to talk about what we can do to help Matthew take Lucas down. That’s one subject we’re all agreed on. Lily, I have questions for you, so why don’t we sit?]]
They moved to the lounging pit and sat. Demon started with her questions. [[First, if we kill Lucas, will the life force he stole go back to Dureena’s baby? Can we save the baby by killing him?]] She looked hopefully at Lily.
Lily shook her head. [[That would only work if he gave up the life force voluntarily. I think we can be sure he won’t do that. I’m sorry, Ilas.]] She turned and hugged her blue-haired sister, whose face had shown her hope for a moment.
Demon nodded. [[I didn’t think it would work but I wanted to be sure. Next question: Do we have any ideas about what powers Lucas has? I’ve been thinking about it and concluded that he’s probably a contact telepath. He can read minds if he chooses to, when in physical contact, but not otherwise. He raided my mind for the location of Angel’s rooms, but he doesn’t know everything. I think he has to touch or be very close to his target to be able to read them. The exception to that might be Angel. I think he got close enough to her last time, so maybe he can read her any time he wants.]] The other girls nodded. This seemed to fit the facts.
Demon continued, [[He also seems to have some telekinetic abilities. He can move so quickly at times that some form of self-teleportation must be involved. He can also move some objects. He threatened to stop Matthew’s heart, and I have no doubt that he could have done it.]]
Lily nodded enthusiastically. [[Yes! The first time I saw him, the doorway was empty, then he was standing there. He just appeared!]]
Demon concluded, [[And finally, we know that he can block a telepath. He did that to John. The problem is, when you put his powers together with Angel’s abilities, they’re formidable. I can’t think of a way to approach him without their knowing, or to tackle them if we could. We were lucky last time because Angel was on our side. Without her powers, we could never have put him back into the Box. Without her, we’re helpless. Unless you know any spells that might help, Lily?]] Demon looked hopefully at her sister.
Lily shook her head sadly. [[I’m sorry, Demon, I can’t think of anything, but I’ll start looking right now!]] The redhead leaped to her feet and rushed over to her workroom, disappearing through the tapestry.
Demon turned to Ilas and spoke aloud, "Shall I come back to the infirmary with you? Can I help at all?"
Ilas shook her head and replied, "Thanks, Demon, but there’s nothing anyone can do to make it better. Luke has told us that he needs to get Dureena’s baby out of her soon, or it will kill her." Demon leaned across and hugged her sister again.
Ilas pulled herself away and looked straight into Demon’s eyes, sending so Demon would know how strongly she felt. [[Just promise me one thing, Demon. When Gideon goes in to take Lucas down, promise me that you’ll tell me. I must be there. It was my baby he killed as well as Dureena’s. I fathered that baby; she was conceived in love, and now her life has been ended by evil. I know that Gideon will just want to take Lucas prisoner. I can’t allow that. I want him dead. I know that will hurt Angel, but I can’t help it. I’m going to kill him, Demon. Somehow, someday, I’m going to kill him.]]
Lucas walked silently through the corridors of the castle, all his senses fully alert for any signs of other people. He wanted to avoid confrontation if he could and until he’d had a chance to talk to Galen, it was in his best interest to stay out of sight. He stood outside the door to Demon’s rooms and stretched his perception outwards. Finding her rooms empty, he smiled in satisfaction and entered, closing the door behind him.
Looking around at the white room brought back pleasant memories of the time he’d spent with Demon here and in her bedroom. [Someday we’re gonna stage a rerun, Whiplash,] Lucas thought. He moved over to the comm equipment and studied it carefully. During the time he’d spent in the Box, he’d carefully observed everything his hosts had done. Everything that Gideon knew how to do, in theory, Lucas knew how to do too, but theory and practice weren’t always the same. The comm equipment was something he’d watched Gideon use, when Lucas was still inside the Box. Unlike the shuttle, this equipment wouldn’t kill him if he screwed up, so he was prepared to try to use it himself. He set to work.
After an hour, Lucas had achieved what he needed and sat back to study the result with some satisfaction. That should take care of Galen and the threat he represented. He downloaded a copy of his work onto a data crystal, and standing, pushed it into his jacket pocket. As he did so, he became aware of someone approaching the room. He moved instantly to stand beside the door, his back to the wall, waiting for the door to open.
Gideon paced the dining room, waiting impatiently. They’d contacted Galen’s ship, but he hadn’t been aboard and wasn’t answering directly. Matheson had left a message, asking Galen to call him urgently. They’d been waiting for his response for over an hour.
Matheson’s commlink beeped. He raised his wrist and responded. Galen’s cheerful voice echoed around the room. "Did you want me? Sorry about the delay. I got a little preoccupied; this place has proved quite fascinating."
Gideon grabbed Matheson’s arm and pulled it toward him. Speaking into the commlink, he said, "Galen, we need you back here, now. We’ve got a major problem on our hands and we need your help." He went on to outline the events of the morning, about Lucas’ return and the loss of Dureena’s baby. He was careful to play down Angel’s part in it all, knowing that Galen had feelings for the girl, but emphasized the difficulties they faced with her using her powers to protect Lucas.
When Gideon finished, Galen spoke. His voice was flat, lacking all emotion. "I’m coming straight back. It will take me two hours to reach you. Don’t do anything until I get there. You’ll only get hurt and make things worse. I think I have a way to deal with this." The commlink went dead.
Gideon turned to Raven and Matheson. "Well, we have our instructions, gentlemen." He smiled ironically. "I want to make sure that Deborah is OK, and I’m sure you want to check on your patients, Doctor. Let’s meet back here in two hours." The other men nodded and the three of them left the room after thanking Nikarran for his help. The guard captain watched them go, then carefully rolled up the floor plans and took them back to his office.
Demon walked slowly back to her rooms, trying to sort out what she could do to put things right, but she realized that she was facing problems she couldn’t fix. This was difficult for her to accept, as she’d spent her life solving problems, and making things right, always acting and taking charge. Helplessness was something she hated and was completely unfamiliar with.
She arrived at her room and opened the door. A hand grabbed her throat and threw her against the wall, as a body slammed into her. Demon fought with hands and feet, trying to break his grip, all the while conscious that she had to protect her belly. But he was much too strong and soon had her pinned against the wall. His hands had her wrists caught on either side of her, and his legs were pressed between hers, with his knees and feet placed so that Demon’s legs were spread apart, and unable to move. His body leaned in hard against her, his face millimeters away from hers. She could feel his breath on her cheek as he spoke.
"Welcome back, Whiplash. Pleased to see me?" Demon started to struggle again as Lucas pressed his hips hard against her and she could feel his erection through the fabric between them. "Stop fighting or I’ll hurt you." He growled at her, his voice low and threatening.
Demon stared him straight in the eyes, full of defiance. "You’re going to hurt me anyway, so what do I have to lose?"
Lucas smiled at her, easing back a little, giving her room to breathe. "It doesn’t have to be like that, darlin’. You liked me well enough before. I can make it so that you’d like it again. Do you want to keep this baby? Then you’d better start co-operatin’."
Demon stopped struggling and held herself rigidly. "You can rape me, Lucas, and I won’t fight you, for my baby’s sake, but I won’t do anything to make it easy, either."
Lucas let go of her arm and gave her a look that told her not to try anything. He brought his free hand to Demon’s face and gently stroked her cheek. "I don’t do rape, darlin’. Well, not anymore. And I don’t believe you can play dead-ass on me, either." His hand slid down to her shoulder and her breast. He unfastened the buttons at the front of her sundress and soon had her breasts exposed to his touch. He started to massage a nipple gently.
Demon’s mind was fighting her body. The man who was doing this to her was her worst nightmare. He’d killed her sister’s child and put another sister in danger of arrest and imprisonment. She hated him, but the body that was pressed against her, and the hand that was touching her, were identical to Matthew’s. Her body wanted to respond to his touch as she did to Matthew’s. All her senses told her this was Matthew who was now gently massaging her breast and kissing her neck. He looked like Matthew, smelled like Matthew and felt like Matthew. When he moved his mouth over hers, he tasted like Matthew. Demon could feel herself melting under his touches and kisses, as she did with Matthew. She knew this was a battle she was going to lose when he moved his hand down to her leg and pulled her skirt up.
Lucas shifted his hips slightly, rubbing his erection against her as he did so, but still keeping her legs pinned apart with his. His hand moved under her skirt and slid up the inside of her thigh. Demon closed her eyes and clamped herself as tightly shut as she could, but she knew it was too late. His hand had found her entrance and he slid a finger inside her. He whispered in her ear as he did so. "You’re a little too wet to be pretending you don’t want me, Whiplash. Just tell me, how do you want it? Right here against the wall?" Lucas slid in another finger and started moving his hand inside her, stimulating her further.
Demon was in turmoil. She hated Lucas for doing this and hated herself for letting him. She wanted him to stop and knew that if he did, she might beg him to continue. Her eyes were closed as she struggled with herself. His hand pulled out of her and she felt him grasp her chin, forcing her head back. "Look at who you’re doin’, darlin’. I don’t want you to be in any doubt as to who I am." Lucas let go of her chin and reached down to pinch her nipple hard. It had the effect he wanted. Demon’s eyes flew open and she gasped in pain.
Lucas reached down between them to undo his belt, then froze. Demon stared at him, wondering what had made him stop. He stood back quickly and let her go. Her legs had gone so weak that she nearly fell when he removed his support.
Demon watched as his mouth twisted into a bitter smile, then he spoke. "Looks like we’re gonna have to wait for our reunion, Whiplash. I’d hate for us to be interrupted." Then Lucas was gone. He’d disappeared out of the door so fast she hadn’t seen him move.
Demon stumbled away from the wall and staggered toward her bathroom, ripping her dress off as she walked. She almost ran to the shower and turned the water on full, with the temperature as hot as she could stand it. She then started to scrub herself, trying to remove any trace of Lucas that might linger on her body.
Lucas cursed as he moved quickly down the corridor away from the direction where he’d felt Gideon’s presence. [Why the hell couldn’t he have waited another half hour to come back?] He’d been enjoying Demon’s resistance, knowing that his close resemblance to Gideon was confusing her and making her respond. He just hoped that there would be another opportunity to finish what he’d started with her. Looping round the back corridors, keeping well away from the more frequented parts of the castle, he returned to Angel’s rooms. He locked the door to the living room behind him as he entered, then moved to unlock the bedroom door.
Glancing in, he could see that Angel was still sleeping deeply. She’d turned onto her back as she slept and the sheet that he’d placed over her had slipped down to her waist, exposing her breasts to view. Lucas still had the erection that the fight with Demon had brought on and he was tempted to use it on Angel. The thought of gently removing the sheet to bare her legs, which he could see were spread wide apart, and entering her hard as she slept, was enticing. But he hoped to have a visitor soon, so he pulled the bedroom door closed, moved to the living room door and unlocked it, then went to sit on the sofa. Pulling the data crystal from his jacket pocket, Lucas placed it carefully on the table in front of him. Then he waited.
Gideon opened the door to Deborah’s rooms and immediately heard the sound of the shower from the bathroom. [Now why is she taking a shower at this time of day?] He saw the dress on the floor and bent to pick it up, feeling even more puzzled. Deborah was one of the tidiest people he’d ever known; she never dropped her clothes on the floor. The noise of the shower stopped and a few seconds later the door from the bathroom opened. Deborah emerged, with her hair wrapped in a towel and another towel wrapped around her. She stopped dead when she saw him and for a moment, Gideon thought she looked frightened. Then her face cleared and she threw herself at him, almost knocking him over in her haste.
He put his arms around her and hugged her closely. "What’s going on? What’s the matter?" Gideon could feel Deborah trembling as he held her, her arms covered in goose bumps and her head buried in his neck. He pulled his arms from around her waist and started to rub her upper arms. "You’re freezing! Let’s get you covered up." Steering her into the bedroom, he sat her at the foot of the bed before taking a robe and pulling it around her. Sitting next to her on the bed, Gideon put his arm around her and pulled her close, feeling her shiver. "What happened? Is this delayed shock from this morning? Should I get Raven?" Deborah shook her head.
Gradually the shivering abated, and when Gideon touched her cheek, he could feel that it was warmer. Color seeped back into her face as her temperature rose, and her teeth stopped chattering. Little by little, he felt Deborah relax against him, as he rubbed her arms and back gently. He heard her take a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. Gideon put his hand to her chin and lifted her head, forcing her to look at him. "Tell me. What happened?"
He watched as Deborah looked him in the eyes and decided to tell him. "Lucas." She just said the name and nothing more.
Gideon felt his anger rising. "Lucas? What’s he done now? Deborah, what’s he done to you?" He could hear the anger in his voice and tried to control it. [If he’s hurt her, I’ll kill him now and be damned with Galen]
Deborah shook her head. "Nothing... nothing that matters. He felt you returning before he could... do what he wanted to do. He left."
Gideon surged to his feet. "He was here? In our rooms?" Deborah nodded. "What did he want? Oh God, it’s fucking obvious what he wanted. Did he hurt you?"
She shook her head again. "No, he didn’t get chance, but I don’t think that’s why Lucas was here. I think it was just bad luck that I came back when I did. He was doing something with the comm equipment. There were lights on it when I came in."
Gideon rushed through to the living room. He checked over the equipment carefully before returning to the bedroom and Deborah. Sitting back down on the bed, he took her hand. "He’s sent at least five messages, maybe more. He’s erased the logs so that I can’t tell what he sent or where he sent them. How the hell does he know how to use that equipment?"
Deborah lifted her free hand to his face and touched his cheek. "He was in your head for a long while, Matthew. From the time you acquired the Box until four months ago, he was watching everything you did or said. Everything you knew before then, he knows."
Gideon nodded and said, "Which means that he can probably anticipate any move I’m likely to make against him. Well, Galen told me to wait until he gets here, and I guess he was right. There’s not a lot I can do without him. So that gives me just over an hour until Galen arrives. Have you eaten? Shall I order us some food?"
Deborah shook her head. "Let’s wait until Galen gets here. We can eat while we plan. For the moment... Matthew, please hold me."
Galen strode through the castle, his coat trailing behind him like a black train, his staff thumping into the floor in time with his steps. All his unease and discomfort with this place had returned, and now he had good reason for his feelings. His worst fears had been realized, and Angel had brought Lucas back. The Technomage knew the price that was due for doing that but tried hard to believe that Angel couldn’t have known what she was doing. He pushed thoughts of Dureena and what she must be suffering out of his head; he’d deal with that later. He knew that she would want revenge and she’d look to him to help her. Galen had every intention of making sure she got what she wanted.
He flung both doors of the dining room open to see Gideon and Demon seated at the table waiting for him. The plans of the castle were once more spread across the table, along with plates of food. Galen heard movement behind him and spun around to find Matheson entering the room.
Gideon stood and spoke. "Galen, thanks for coming. John, is Raven going to join us?"
Matheson shook his head. "Max called. Dureena started to come out of the sedation. Luke and Lily are with her, along with Max and Ilas. They’re going to need to induce labor soon now."
Galen watched as Gideon put his arm around Demon, hugging her as she took in a sharp breath at Matheson’s news. Galen spoke. "The best thing we can do for Dureena now is to get the monster who did this to her.” Glaring at Demon he said, “I told you we should destroy the Box while we had chance. Had you listed to me, Dureena’s baby would still be alive and Lucas would be gone. Your so called ‘respect for life’ has cost Dureena the life of her child.”
Demon’s face paled and she closed her eyes, but before she could speak, Gideon interjected. “I don’t think saying ‘I told you so’ is particularly helpful at this stage, Galen. We’ve all played our part in this tragedy, and Deborah and I will have to deal with that in our own time, but so will you, Galen. You know what you did that’s contributed to us being where we are now.”
Galen drew in a sharp breath. Did Gideon know what had happened between Galen and Angel? How could he know? Unless Angel had told him, or perhaps told her sister. Yes, that was more likely, but if Demon knew, he would have expected the challenge to come from her rather than Gideon. Galen pushed those thoughts aside. He couldn’t change the past, but perhaps he could improve the future. Pushing down his anger as Gideon’s words he said, “Let’s see what you have there, Matthew."
For the next hour they ate while they went over the floor plans, the weapons, and the manpower available to them and potential tactics for dealing with the combined powers of Lucas and Angel. Galen was surprised to find himself allied with Demon when it came to the assessment of Angel’s responsibility for the mess they were in. They were agreed that Angel could not have known the cost of bringing Lucas back, and that she should be considered as much a potential hostage as a threat. At the end of the hour, they were little further forward.
Gideon summarized the situation. "He’s holed up in a strong defensible position with superior ‘firepower’ to anything we can bring against him. We can’t do much against that, unless you have something up your sleeve, Galen?" He turned to look at the Technomage.
Galen smiled. "Funny you should phrase it like that, Matthew. I have indeed got a number of things up my sleeves, but none that I’m willing to show you at the moment. In these circumstances, particularly as he has a potential hostage, I think the best thing to do is to find out what he wants. He can’t want to stay where he is indefinitely. I’m going to talk to him. I’ll find out what he wants and see if we can get him moving, then we’ll have more options." He stood and started toward the door, but Gideon blocked him.
"That could be very dangerous, Galen. I can’t let you go in there alone. I’m coming with you"
Galen shook his head. "That won’t work, Matthew. He’s more likely to feel threatened and react badly if there are two of us. Also, I want to see if Angel is unharmed. He won’t allow that if we’re both there, but he might let me see her if I go alone."
Gideon nodded reluctantly and stepped aside. "Be careful, Galen."
Galen laughed out loud. "Oh, I think I can take care of myself, Matthew, even against Lucas Buck."
He strode out through the dining room doors, not hearing Matheson’s murmured comment. "Perhaps, but can you take care of yourself against Angel?"
Galen swept through the corridors, coat buttoned tightly, hood up, and staff in hand. He clamped down on the anger raging through him, as he thought about what had been done to Dureena and what was probably happening to Angel. He’d spent the last few days trying to get Angel out of his mind and failing miserably. Whatever she thought of him, he couldn’t help but care for her and be concerned about her. Now she was back with the man who had abused her so badly before.
Would Lucas treat her as badly this time? Would Galen find her in the same state of panic and anxiety as before? He remembered his first sight of Angel, naked in Matthew’s bed, her beautiful breasts exposed to his view, the bedcovers having slipped down, barely covering her from the waist down. Thinking of how she’d looked then made Galen’s breath quicken; he quelled his arousal angrily. [No time for that!] But he couldn’t help but think of how Angel had looked when Matthew—or rather Lucas—had led her into his living room.
Galen had thought she was exquisite: slender to the point of thinness, her skin pale and flawless, her cheeks flushed. He’d seen that her lips were full and her chin firm. Her hair was raven black and her eyes a startling blue. But those beautiful eyes had been full of fear. It had taken considerable time and patience to gain her trust, and for Angel to eventually confess that Lucas had ordered her to kill him. And she might have succeeded! Galen had lowered his guard when he’d been in the company of the beautiful young witch. She could easily have slipped a knife into his heart.
But Angel hadn’t been able to kill, no matter how much she loved Lucas and wanted to do his bidding. This was why Galen was so convinced that Angel could now have known that a baby had to die to bring Lucas back. She would never have agreed to that bargain. Galen remembered looking at Angel when they first met and seeing how the Vorlons had changed her, and then he’d learned how Lucas had abused her, physically, mentally and emotionally. He’d done his best to undo that harm, but Galen suspected that he hadn’t been totally successful.
Now, the Technomage wanted to know what Lucas was doing, and what he planned now that he was present in his own body. His biggest fear was that Lucas planned to stay right where he was. Galen knew that his friends from the Excalibur could not leave their women unprotected, pregnant, and vulnerable if Lucas was still around. They would have to either kill him or take him with them. Either option could lead to his friends being hurt or killed. Or Angel could get hurt or killed. The Technomage needed to find an alternative solution. Either he had to kill Lucas himself, or he had to capture him in a way that didn’t involve his friends. With Angel fighting for Lucas, that wouldn’t be easy, even with the powers that Galen had available. Also he would do nothing that could hurt Angel.
Galen approached Angel’s rooms with no real plan of action in mind, but with a willingness to do whatever was necessary to protect his friends, but most of all to protect Angel.
Lucas sat on the sofa in Angel’s living room, his impatience growing. He’d expected Galen and the others to arrive within an hour or so of his return from Demon’s rooms, but had now been waiting well over two hours, his senses alert for any approach. When he felt Galen’s progress toward him and realized the Technomage was alone, Lucas smiled with satisfaction. He’d had a plan for how he could get Galen alone, but now it wouldn’t be necessary.
He picked up the large book he had ready and laid it across his knees. Time to see if his plan would work. Lucas always enjoyed this stage in the game. Could he manipulate Galen into doing what he wanted? How much would he have to adapt his plan as he went along? How much would he have to give to get what he wanted? He knew what he was prepared to sacrifice, but he’d much rather walk away with the whole game.
Lucas watched as the door opened slowly.
Galen pushed the door open and saw Lucas sitting on the sofa opposite, staring straight at him, a smile playing on his lips and apparently completely relaxed. Although the others had warned Galen of how alike Gideon and Lucas were, it still came as a shock. Galen realized that it would be hard to remember that this man wasn’t his friend Matthew, but an adversary.
Galen took a couple of paces into the room and stopped. He waited for Lucas to break the silence.
"Took your time, didn’t you, Galen?" The low drawl sounded warning bells in Galen’s mind. This man appeared totally confident and in control. He started to move his staff, ready to attack, but paused as the book lying on Lucas’s knee fell to one side, revealing a small crossbow aimed straight at Galen’s heart.
"Now you didn’t think I’d be unprepared, did you?" Lucas shook his head in mock astonishment. "Well, I’m disappointed in you, Technomage. I didn’t expect you to underestimate me." The crossbow was held rock steady and Galen could see that Lucas’s finger was resting on the trigger. He knew he couldn’t attack Lucas fast enough to prevent the bolt being launched, and he had no doubt that the aim would be perfect. Even a Technomage wouldn’t survive a bolt through the heart.
Galen spoke for the first time. "I won’t repeat that mistake. What do you want, Buck?" He almost spat out the name. "And where is Angel?"
Lucas’s smile broadened. "Oh yeah, you have a bit of a thing for that girl don’t you, Magic Man? Well, I’ll let you see her on one condition." He paused to watch Galen’s reaction. Galen nodded and Lucas continued. "Are you a man of your word, Galen? If we agree on a truce, will you keep your word?" Galen nodded again. "Then give me your word that as long as we remain in these rooms, you’ll do nothing to attack or harm me or Angel, and you can see her."
Galen spoke quietly. "You have my word." He wondered if Lucas would believe him. Apparently so. He watched as Lucas unwound the spring, removed the bolt from the stock, and put the crossbow down onto the sofa beside him.
"Don’t want any accidents do we, Galen? Angel shouldn’t leave such dangerous toys lyin’ around." Lucas stood and nodded toward the bedroom door. "Go look for yourself. But keep quiet; she’s asleep."
Galen moved quickly to the bedroom, aware that Lucas was following him closely. He opened the door quietly and looked in. His nostrils flared; the room reeked of sex. It was blatantly obvious what Lucas and Angel had been doing since Lucas’ return. He looked at the bed and saw Angel lying on her back, sprawled across it. Just as when Galen had first seen her, Angel was deeply asleep. But this time the sheet had fallen to the floor, exposing all of her naked her body to his view.
The Technomage took a deep breath at the sight of Angel’s beauty. Her hair was spread across the pillow, and her face was fixed in a half smile. Galen had never seen her look so happy. His eyes moved down her body to the perfect breasts, flat stomach and black triangle of hair. Her legs were slightly parted in silent invitation. Everything about her just begged to be touched, fondled, caressed and…
Galen was aware that Lucas was watching him and fought to control his reaction to the sight of Angel’s naked body. Lucas whispered in his ear, "She’s as energetic when she’s asleep as she is awake." Galen whipped his head round to see Lucas smirking at him. He watched as Lucas moved into the room, picking up the sheet from where it had fallen to the floor and covering the young witch with it. He turned back to Galen and gestured for him to leave.
Galen turned and walked back into the living room. Lucas followed and closed the bedroom door quietly behind him. He moved back to the sofa and sat, apparently still totally at ease. Galen was aware how easy it would be to attack him at this point, but his word meant something to him. Lucas had kept his side of the bargain, and so would he. He moved back to his position in front of the outer door and pushed his hood back onto his shoulders.
Lucas looked up at him, smiled and said, "Well, we’re off to a good start, Galen. Maybe we can trust each other enough to deal. Do you want to deal?" Lucas leaned forward and narrowed his eyes as he looked at Galen.
Galen considered. "That depends. What do you want and what are you offering?"
Lucas sat back in his seat again and watched Galen carefully. "What I want is simple. I want out of here. I want a lift to somewhere more civilized, somewhere a man of my talents will be appreciated."
Galen struggled to keep from smiling. This couldn’t be better; he’d get Lucas out of here onto his ship and then... Lucas continued, "And what I’m offering is to leave here quietly. I’ll just take Angel and we’ll be on our way."
Galen was appalled; he couldn’t let Angel go with Lucas. [God knows what will happen to her when he gets bored with her, as he will.] He kept his face immobile as he tried to give the impression that he was considering Lucas’s offer. "And if I say no? What then, Lucas?"
"Then I take Angel out of here, up into the hills, wait for you and the others to leave, then come back and take over. I could keep myself entertained with Angel, Demon, and Lily for some time." Lucas smiled lasciviously, and it was obvious what entertainment he had in mind. "I’ll probably have to kill the shape-shifter, though. Too risky to keep her around."
Galen smiled. He didn’t give a damn about what happened to the witches, but he knew that his friends would care. "Not enough, Lucas. If you want me to take you out of here, I need something else from you." Lucas nodded to indicate that Galen should continue. "I want Angel. You’re not taking her as a hostage. You can keep her with you until we arrive at our destination, but then you let her go. I’ll bring her back here to her sisters."
Lucas grinned at him. "Planning on a little fun on the way back, are you? She’s worth a ride, Galen. Liveliest little mover I’ve had under me for a long time. Well, not just under me. She has a way with that mouth of hers." Galen became aware that he was reddening with anger at the way Lucas talked about Angel and tried to clamp down on his reaction. He waited for Lucas to continue. "Well, I don’t know, Galen. You’re asking me to give up a lot. Where am I gonna find someone as willing and able as Angel? A man has his needs, after all. And she’s not gonna want to leave me, you know. I’ve been showing her just how a real man can satisfy her. You think you can satisfy her, Galen? Or is it true what they say about wizards?" Lucas paused, grinning up at Galen. "Is it true that the size of your staff is in inverse proportion to the size of your manhood? That’s a mighty big staff you’ve got there, Galen."
Galen fought to keep his temper, knowing that Lucas was deliberately goading him. "Are you always this rude to people from whom you need help? I thought you were brighter than that."
Lucas grinned. "Oh, you’re too good a target to miss, Magic Man. Tell you what. I’ll give up Angel when we get where we’re goin’, on one condition." He leaned forward again and pinned Galen with his stare. "She has to agree. She has free will, Galen. You can’t decide for her. Angel will make her own choice."
Galen hid the triumph he felt. The issue would never arise. Once he had Lucas on board the ship, he’d never walk out alive. Angel would never have to choose. He paused again, staring at Lucas, giving the impression he was thinking about the offer, then said, "Done."
Lucas stood abruptly and held out his hand, almost defying Galen to use the gesture to attack him. Galen shook the hand offered to him. Lucas smiled lazily. "We’ve got a deal, Technomage. When do we leave?"
Galen considered. He didn’t want the others to know his plans. He knew that her sisters would object to him taking Angel away from them, even temporarily. The least they knew about his deal with Lucas, the better. So, it would be best for them to leave when the others weren’t around. He decided, then replied, "Dawn. No. Just before, when it’s still dark." Lucas nodded and Galen turned to leave.
Just as he approached the door, Lucas spoke again. "Oh, Galen, I’ve got something for you." Galen turned to see that Lucas was holding a data crystal out toward him. He took it and looked at it, then looked at Lucas quizzically.
Lucas smiled. "Let’s call it insurance. I know that you’re a man of your word, but our truce expires when we leave this room. How do I know what you have planned for me when we’re aboard your ship? So I thought I’d better make sure that it was in your interests to deliver me safe and sound to where I want to go."
Galen frowned down at the data crystal again, listening to Lucas, but not looking at him. "Insurance? What do you mean?"
Lucas turned and sat back down on the sofa. "Let me fill in some background for you. You know I was in that damned Box for a long time don’t you, Galen?" Galen nodded, keeping his head down. Lucas’s voice continued, "Well, during that time, a number of people carried the Box. A while back now, one of those people was a Technomage." Galen tensed. He hadn’t known that. He kept his eyes on the data crystal, not willing to let Lucas see his reaction.
The drawl in Lucas’s voice got stronger. "Surprises you, don’t it? He was a bit of a rogue. Just like you, he got thrown out of the order." There was a pause. Galen stayed focused on the crystal. "But just like you, he knew everything there is to know about your order. And I know what he knew." The voice was dark and threatening now. "Including where you got your technology, your ‘magic’. There’s a lot of people who would like to know that, Galen. How much is it worth to you for them not to find out about your order’s long and profitable relationship with the Shadows?"
Galen’s hand moved involuntarily, bringing his staff up to strike. As he looked up he stared straight into the sights of the crossbow, which Lucas had reloaded while he talked.
"You disappoint me again, Magic Man. I thought you were a man of your word. You wouldn’t attack me when our truce is still in force, would you?" Lucas’s voice oozed sarcasm as he held the crossbow steadily. He nodded toward the data crystal that Galen still held. "And you might want to take a look at that before you try anything else."
Galen looked back down at the crystal, working hard to regain his control. "What’s on it?"
Lucas grinned maliciously. "A copy of some messages I’ve sent, telling what I know about the Technomages. They’re all time-delayed, and they’ve already been sent. It doesn’t matter how many systems you can infect with a virus, one or more will get through, but if I’m around to stop them, they’ll never get delivered. ‘Course, if anything happens to me, the messages go through. You’ll never know when or where the next one is due to be delivered, Galen. You’d better take good care of me."
Galen swallowed convulsively. He knew he couldn’t allow the secrets of his order to be revealed. "Where have you sent the messages?"
Lucas laughed aloud. "You think I’m gonna tell you that? Well, I’m gonna surprise you. I’ll tell you some of them, but not all. Copies have gone to Sheridan’s office on Minbar, and to the Rangers. More copies are on their way to Earth Gov, IPX, and Edgar’s Industries on Mars. Then I thought the Narn might be interested; they love the Shadows don’t they? Oh, and Liz Lochley’s office on B5 can expect a special delivery someday. There are others, but that’s enough for now."
He dropped the crossbow back onto the sofa, taunting Galen with his total security. "So we’re gonna stick to the terms of our deal, Galen. You’re gonna take me and Angel out of here, and you’re gonna deliver us safely to the place I choose. And to be certain of that, you’d better make damned sure that your friends don’t come after me before dawn."
Galen’s mind raced as he stared at Lucas, desperately trying to find a way out of this predicament. He had to stop those messages somehow, but couldn’t see a way, not without giving Lucas what he wanted. And how would he explain to Gideon and his crew why he’d helped Lucas to escape, taking Angel with him? He hardly heard Lucas’s final words.
"Just think of it as a blow to the enemy, Galen. The witches’ powers won’t be nearly so great with Angel gone. Did you think of that?"
Galen looked down at the crystal in his hand, then back up at Lucas. "I’ll see you at my ship just before dawn." He turned on his heels and left the room, his mind in turmoil, unaware of the satisfied smile that spread across Lucas’s face.
Lucas had won the game, and he hadn’t had to make a single sacrifice.