Lemonade

Title: Lemonade

Author: Iocane

E-mail: iocane@crosswinds.net

Summary: It's time for John's semi-annual review, but they're doing things a little differently this time.

Rating: NC-17

Series/sequel: Part thirteen of "Dreams of Silence"

Disclaimer: Galen, John, the Excalibur, and all related names, places, and people belong to JMS and many
other people.  The story itself is mine.

Archiving: CDC, WWOBM, Selena's Galen Page, Lady May's Slash Archive, DM's Place, and the Crusade
Fic Archive all have ongoing permission. Anyone else, please ask.

Warnings: Explicit m/m sex, and a teeny tiny bit of strong language.

Notes: First and foremost, thanks to Antoinette for her expert beta'ing, comments, suggestions, motivations,
and generally beating me over the head until I finished it. :)

Second, the following notations are used throughout the series
...

Single brackets [] around text indicate personal thoughts.
Double brackets [[]] around words indicate telepathy.

The character of Jessica Saunders is entirely my creation.

Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated. This is my first planned out story of this scope, so any
suggestions you have would be wonderful.

                                       Prologue

"I'm asking you again, Captain. Why can't I see Lieutenant Matheson?"

"I told you, Ms. Jones." Gideon sighed, glaring at the woman sitting across his desk. "Lieutenant Matheson
is off the ship at the moment."

"What kind of fool do you take me for, Captain?" Her ice blue eyes blazed with anger. "I have been on your
ship for two days. We're no where near a planet, or any other ships. How the HELL could he be OFF the
ship?!"

Gideon took a deep breath, he refused to let this woman get to him. "Ms. Jones." He repeated calmly. "I
don't care what you think. The fact is that John Matheson is not on the Excalibur, and is not expected to BE
on the Excalibur for another three days. You know I'm not lying."

He fixed her with a look that dared her to challenge him. "Very well captain." She stood, glaring down her
sharp nose at him. "I still have my orders, and you won't be rid of me until they are carried out to the letter."

"I'm sure I won't." He said, knowing his calmness was annoying the woman.

Turning on her heel, she left his office, nearly running into Lieutenant Saunders.

"She still looking for Lieutenant Matheson?" The petite brunette asked, when the black clad woman was out
of ear shot.

Gideon nodded. "Problem on the bridge?" Saunders was his second officer, and a fine woman. He was taking
the opportunities presented by John's absences to give her more time in command of the bridge.

"No sir. I just thought you'd like to know ..." The corners of her lips turned upwards. "They're back early,
sir."

                              Chapter 1 - Returning the Favor

John opened the door to his quarters, tossing his bag onto the couch. He sighed softly, feeling Galen's arms
sliding around his waist, the technomage's lips brushing the back of his neck. "I have to check my messages
..." He shivered lightly, leaning back against his lover.

"Can't they wait?" Galen whispered into his ear, his hands sliding up John's front, teasing his nipples through
his shirt. He heard John whimper softly, pressing back against his crotch. "You still have three days off ..."

"God, Galen ..." John panted slightly as Galen's hands moved down to cup his growing erection. "I'm never
letting you near that planet again ..."

"Well how was I supposed to know about those thorns?" Galen nibbled John's neck, his nimble fingers
working at the younger man's zipper.

"You're a technomage!" John tried to sound annoyed, but his groan of passion spoilt the effect. "You're
*supposed* to know things like that." He batted Galen's hands away from his crotch. "And besides-"

"Oh, shut up ..." Galen growled softly in his lover's ear, tilting his head and devouring John's mouth.

John struggled briefly, turning to press his body against Galen's. As they kissed, he turned his lover slowly so
Galen's back was to the bed. John guided his lover backwards. Placing his hands firmly on Galen's chest, he
pushed the technomage backwards onto the bed. Enjoying the stunned look on Galen's face, John straddled
his hips. "Galen ..." He pulled Galen's hands away from his hips as the technomage tried to caress him. "For
the last three days you've been fucking me senseless ... We left Asir early because of it." He grinned as
Galen struggled against him. John knew that Galen could easily overpower him, but Galen sometimes enjoyed
letting John control him. "And now I'm going to return the favor."

"Please ..." Galen said, arching upwards, his cock throbbing painfully at John's frank words. His blue eyes
burned with lust as he looked up at his lover. His body arched upwards as John slid off him, standing at the
foot of the bed.

"Stand up." John ordered, pulling his shirt over his head and taking a step back.

Galen stood, his chest rising and falling as he tried to breathe normally. Trying to keep still as John undressed
him, he replayed the last three days in his mind. John had been under a great deal of stress lately, his telepath
review was rapidly approaching. So Galen had convinced him to take some time off. Gideon had consented,
nearly kicking the two men off his ship.

He'd taken John to a small moon he'd heard about. It was supposed to be one of the more romantic spots in
the galaxy. The man who'd told him this had warned them to be wary of the flowers. After two hours there,
they had discovered why. Galen had been picking a perfect looking blossom from a tall bush when a thorn
pricked his finger. Ever since then, the technomage had been in a near constant state of arousal. Nothing in
his internal systems could fix the problem, or indeed, find anything wrong at all. John had insisted they leave
the moon, in case something in the air was effecting Galen as well, heightening his condition perhaps. Galen's
thoughts snapped to the present as he felt John's mouth slide over his cock.

John grinned as Galen thrust gently into his mouth. Pulling away, he stood, stepping close to Galen. He tugged
Galen's head down to his, their lips meeting in a kiss that was just this side of brutal. Again surprising his
lover, John stepped back, turning Galen to face the bed and pushing him forward.

The technomage sprawled facedown on the bed, legs spread slightly, showing his engorged cock pressing into
the covers. Knowing what John planned, Galen quickly tucked a pillow under himself, raising his hips. John's
warm hands moved up his legs, caressing the skin on the insides of Galen's thighs. Grabbing another pillow,
Galen clutched it to his face and chest, muffling his groans.

John knelt between his lover's legs, the leather of his pants brushing against Galen's bare skin. He gently
gripped Galen's firm ass and pressed his crotch against his lover, moaning softly as Galen's squirms
stimulated his throbbing cock. "Galen ..." John said, one hand unzipping his pants. "Because of you, I'm going
to be sitting funny for a week ..." He hissed slightly, freeing his rigid shaft. Grinning, he ran the tip lightly over
the cleft of Galen's ass.

"I didn't hear you complaining at the time ..." Galen defended weakly, his hips rising, his hands digging into
the bedclothes as he felt John's shaft nestled against him.

"And I'm not complaining now ..." John pulled a small container of lubricant from his pocket. Gently, he slid a
slick finger into Galen, feeling his lover wiggle at the touch. He massaged him gently, working the tight
muscles loose, sending tiny shocks through Galen's body. "Like I said ..." Removing his finger, he replaced
with the head of his glistening cock, pushing in the tip. Moving very carefully, he leaned down to whisper in
Galen's ear. "I'm just returning the favor ..." Thrusting his hips hard, he pushed into Galen, feeling the other
man open around him.

Galen groaned loudly as John entered him, spreading him fully in a single thrust. The tender roughness his
lover exhibited on those occasions when he was in charge never failed to send waves of lust though his body.

Not resting long inside Galen, John pulled back quickly, driving in again and again. He gripped Galen's rear,
digging his fingers into the firm flesh as he felt his lover writhe beneath him. John felt his body shudder with
lust as he came suddenly, emptying himself into Galen. He knew Galen still hadn't come as he slid back.
Gently gripping his hips, John rolled Galen over, moving quickly to devour his painfully hard cock.

Galen moaned wordlessly as he felt John's mouth surround him. Reaching down, he ran his hand over the
younger man's hair, his body arching upwards. His lover's skilled tongue knew his body better than he knew it
himself, and Galen was soon bucking wildly into John's mouth. John milked him, sucking every drop of his
tangy essence before letting Galen's softening cock fall from his lips. John quickly stripped, then began
crawling slowly onto the bed, kissing his way up Galen's body.

Reaching down, Galen pulled John up his body, capturing his lips in a passionate kiss. They shifted, John
laying on his back, Galen half over him. After some moments the passion faded and the kiss turned gentle.
Galen moved to nuzzle John's neck, his mind whispering faintly against John's.

[[It's wearing off ...]] John thought to Galen, wondering if his lover would pick it up. Whatever had jumped up
Galen's libido had also served to dampen his telepathic abilities.

[[Yes ... It is.]] Galen's mind voice felt distant, as though John were sensing him from a great distance rather
than laying in his arms.

[[Slowly though ...]] Glancing down, he eyed Galen's shaft, noting with a small smile that it was still flaccid.

[[Never thought *that* would bring a smile to your face.]] Galen's thought came much clearer this time.

[[Seems to be almost gone already. That was fast.]]

[[It's also exactly two Asirian days since it began.]]

[[How do you know that so exactly?]]

"I'm a technomage, John." Galen said against John's lips before kissing him slowly. "As enjoyable as those
days were, I prefer it this way ..." He gazed into John's eyes. "I don't need some plant to make me want to
fuck you within an inch of your life." He grinned, watching John shiver slightly at his words. "Besides ..."
Galen rolled gingerly onto his back, glancing down at his abused member. "You're not the only one whose
anatomy took a beating."

"Maybe Dr. Chambers would have something that could help ..."

"I can see the conversation how ... " Galen smiled, pulling John's head down onto his shoulder. For the next
several moments, the pair chuckled over how they would explain their predicament to the ship's chief medical
officer.

They were laying together quietly, their limbs heavy with fatigue from not having slept much while on their
vacation. "I need a vacation to recover from our vacation ..." John chuckled.

A moment later, he heard a sharp beep from his living area. "Emergency override," the Excalibur computer
said. "Transmission from Captain Gideon."

"John! I know you're there." Gideon's voice came from the living area.

John groaned and buried his face against Galen's arm. "Go away!" he muttered, the sound muffled against
Galen's skin. Galen chuckled and sat up, forcing John to do the same.

"John, get something on and get out here where I can see you. There's something you need to know. And I'm
guessing you haven't checked your messages yet since I can see the light blinking. Ahh, there you are. Out of
uniform." Gideon tried to sound annoyed, but the look of mirth on his face was clear to someone who knew him
as well as John and Galen did.

"Yes captain?" John pulled Galen's cloak around him. It had been the first thing his hand had encountered
looking for something to wear. "I'm sorry I didn't check my messages but ..."

"I kept him rather busy Matthew." Galen said, moving to stand beside his lover, fully clothed, save for his
cloak.

"And I thought you were the restrained one in that relationship." He smirked slightly, but continued before
either could say anything. "John, you know that review from Mr. Jones that was supposed to happen in a few
weeks?" John stiffened and felt Galen lay a comforting hand on his back. [[It'll be all right John.]] Galen
soothed. "Yes, what about it?" John asked.  "There's been a change of plans."

                                  Chapter 2 - Preparations

"I'm sorry about this, John." Gideon said. "She arrived a few hours after you two left." He looked up at the
two men standing in his quarters. Both had refused seats and Gideon had a pretty good idea why. The captain
could see the faint twitch of John's limbs as the younger man held himself in place, repressing the urge to
pace.

"And she's going to be here for a whole week?" John asked, clearly upset by the news, though he tried to hide
it. He felt Galen's mind brushing his gently, calming him. He replied with gratefulness and thanks, knowing
that every gesture could be another nail in the proverbial coffin.

"She said that there were some anomalies in the last report, things she wanted to check for herself. So she got
permission to do a one week on-the-job monitoring."

"Anomalies? Matthew, I thought you spoke to Mr. Jones about that ..." Galen interjected.

"Look, all I know is that she's here and she won't leave until she's done. She said ... " Gideon consulted a
sheet of paper. "According to  this, it's not what was *in* the last report ... It's what wasn't mentioned.
Location, for instance."

"So he didn't mention the Well." Galen said, sounding vaguely distracted. "Good man, we'll have to send him
a Christmas card." Even under stress, Galen was as glib as ever.

"Apparently, he also didn't mention much of anything at all. According to our Ms. Jones, that's suspicious. But
I get the impression from talking to her that she finds everything suspicious."

John tried not to panic, but Galen could feel his mind working faster and faster. Concentrating his efforts, he
clamped down on the younger man's fears, forcibly calming him down. Galen's face showed nothing, but a tiny
crease formed next to his right eye, indicating extreme concentration. "Thank you Matthew. When does she
insist on monitoring him?" He noticed John had a hand on his temple, massaging away the headache he knew
the young man was feeling.

"Well, at first she wanted a round the clock monitoring, but I told her that that was flatly out of the question.
She settled for on the job, and any where you might run into people. Which would mean she'd be following you
around everywhere but in your quarters. She wouldn't budge down from that. I'm sorry."

John nodded, swallowing his anger. He knew Gideon had tried, and at least he had gotten him the privacy of
his quarters. The idea of her discovering technomage shielding sent chills down his spine. "When does she
start, sir?"

"When you go back to work, tomorrow morning." Gideon sighed heavily, desperately wishing there were some
other boon he could offer his lieutenant. "I know you're technically off for a few more days," He considered
asking why the couple had returned ahead of schedule, but decided against it. "But I figured you'd want to get
this over as quickly as possible."

John nodded. "Thank you captain. If you'll excuse me, I need to go to my quarters. I'll see you tomorrow."
His head felt ready to explode and he wanted to return to the silence of his quarters, where at least his mind
could relax.

"Bye, John." He nodded sadly to them as they left.

Back in the safety and privacy of his quarters, John's anger exploded. "Monitoring?! For a week?!" He
shouted, pacing the floor. "Galen, there's no way I can ..."

"John ..." He said softly, watching his lover.

"I can't keep her out that long." He continued, not hearing. "She's going to find out everything. She's going to
see everything about us. She's going to find out what we do together ... " John's panic and rage were nearly
tangible. "She'll see what I know about technomancy ..." His heart was racing, as was his mind as he ran over
all the things he would be recalled and retrained for. Galen stretched his mind, finding John's locked down
tight. He could penetrate those barriers easily, but it would serve only to fuel John's rage, and add betrayal to
his already overloaded emotions.

Stepping in front of John, he grabbed the smaller man's shoulders. "John, Calm down!" He ordered, his voice
hard. The look of shock and hurt on John's face was more than the technomage could bear. "I'm sorry John."
He apologized, his quiet voice full of regret. "But you were panicking, you wouldn't let me in ..." He stroked
John's cheek lightly, his thumb grazing the almost invisible spot that was his mark on John. Galen brushed his
mind lightly against John's, testing the barrier.

It was gone. Or nearly so. [[John ... Haven't I told you I would take care of this when the time came?]]

John nodded, looking very much like a little boy who had just been beaten for crossing the school yard. [[Yes,
but how ...]]

Galen stepped away, taking John's hands. [[Come sit down ...]]

Galen sat John on the couch, pulling a chair close and sitting across from him. The technomage leaned closer,
his hands caressing John's neck, pulling him forward. Their foreheads met, and Galen extended his mind. His
clear blue eyes met John's still wild ones as he slipped into John's mind.

Slowly, tenderly, lovingly, Galen went to work. John didn't feel anything different, but he let Galen continue,
finding the contact with his lover to be extremely calming.

After what seemed like hours, Galen sat back, smiling warmly at John. [[Now our secrets are safe.]] The
weariness didn't come through in his thoughts, but John could see it in his eyes.

[[I don't feel any different.]]

[[You shouldn't. If you felt differently, she would know.]] Galen stood, shifting to sit beside the couch on John.
[[I just covered certain parts of your mind from prying eyes. She can still do a surface scan, pick up your
immediate thoughts, but nothing deeper.]]

[[Why didn't you do it sooner?]] John asked, immediately regretting it.

"Because it wasn't easy for me, John." The weariness was clear in Galen's voice this time.

"I'm sorry Galen ..." His lips grazed Galen's cheek. "Thank you for this ... I was ready to panic ..."

"You did panic, my love." Galen said softly, knowing John needed the comfort of spoken endearments. "But it
was understandable." He turned his head to meet John's lips in a feather light kiss. "Now let's go to bed.
We've been dangerously lacking in sleep the past few days." He chuckled softly.

"Good idea."

                                Chapter 3 - The Upper Hand

John Matheson felt a light tickle on the side of his neck. Groaning, he swatted it away, settling back into
sleep. The tickle became more insistent and when he reached to brush it away, something warm and solid
clamped around his wrist. Coming slowly awake, John blinked and glanced bleary eyed at the thing on his
wrist. [Hand.] He thought, strangely proud of himself. Making his mind focus, he followed the hand. [Wrist ...
elbow ... nice shoulder ...] He woke further, his eyes following the curve of the shoulder to the collarbone, and
from there up the neck to the face. Meeting Galen's blue eyes, he smiled.

Taking the cue that his lover was awake, Galen leaned down and planted a firm kiss on his lips, officially
beginning the morning. "Time to get up." he said gently, tugging John into a sitting position. "Today's the big
day. We find out if I did my job last night." He smiled, pushing John's feet off the bed.

John shook his head, wondering why he felt more heavy lidded and light headed than usual. Glancing at the
clock, he saw why. "Galen ..." He whined. "I'm not usually up for another hour." With that, he flopped
backwards onto the bed, one hand reaching blindly for the bedclothes.

"Oh, no you don't." Galen yanked the covers just out of John's reach, grabbing the man's arm again. "You
usually also rush or skip breakfast and today you *need* food and time to wake up." Giving his lover a
none-too-gentle tug, he pulled him to his feet, gripping his shoulder with his other hand to keep him upright.

[[John, I want to make sure you're doing to be all right today, and I don't want to do that at the last minute.]]
He told him, letting John glimpse the worry that had kept him up most of the night.

At Galen's thoughts, John began to pull himself together, dragging himself away from the edge of sleep. "I'm
up ... I'm up ..." As though it had a mind of its own, and a sick sense of humor, his body swayed, sending him
dangerously close to falling back into the bed.

Sighing gently, Galen reached behind John, running a hand lightly over the younger man's bare ass. In a
sudden move, he raised his hand and swatted the cheek beneath it.

"All right!" John gasped, his eyes opening widely as he jumped away from Galen's hand. He smiled sleepily,
thankful that Galen was helping him. Today, he needed all the help he could get.

"Are we awake now?" Galen asked, his voice light as he guided John firmly towards the vibe shower. He
turned the setting to high, and propped John against the wall, going to get his uniform ready.

Galen was looking for John's other shoe when the young man  reentered the living room, much more awake
than he had been a short time earlier. He yawned prodigiously, stretching in such a way that made Galen stop
his search and watch, his blue eyes sparkling with appreciation for his lover's body. "Morning ..." The young
lieutenant said, lightly scratching his chest. He saw that Galen had his uniform already laid out, as well as
underwear, socks, and one shoe. "It's under the bed." he said, smiling at Galen's search for his missing shoe.

The image of a full fledged technomage, cloak and all, bending to retrieve a shoe from under his bed stuck
John as comical and he giggled. Walking over to where his clothes were piled, he began to dress.

Twenty minutes later, the two men entered the softly lit canteen. After getting their food, or rather, after John
loaded his plate upon Galen's insistence, they looked for a seat. The canteen was about half full, and no one
seemed to be bothered by the technomage in their midst. Galen wasn't exactly a social butterfly, but his
increasing presence with John off the bridge had begun to make people less nervous around him. They spied
Dureena sitting at a large corner table and joined her.

"Morning you two ... Gideon told me what was up." Her concern for John and Galen was clear in her voice and
on her face. "That woman's been looking all over the ship for you since she got here." She told John. "I hope
you two had fun." She smirked slightly, enjoying the "caught" look both men sported for a second.

At that moment, Max Eilerson appeared, bearing a tray filled with enough food for two. He eyed the two men
at the table for a moment before setting the tray down. Dureena thanked him and began to unload the tray as
Max settled into the chair beside her. It was clear to anyone with eyes in their head that Max and Dureena
were together, and had been so long  enough for the beginning awkwardness to be gone.

John had heard that the archeologist and the thief had paired off, and was pretty certain he knew what had
started it. This was the first time he'd seen them in public. He smiled happily at them, his joy clear in his eyes.
Galen smiled, remembering what John had told him about his suggestion to Dureena. As John, Dureena, and
Max began their meals, John realized something and questioned Galen silently.

[[I'm a technomage, remember?]] Galen replied, his mind voice light. [[Your mind wasn't the only thing I fixed
last night.]] He gently brushed a warm thought against John's mind, the mental equivalent of a peck on the
cheek and John's mouth twitched slightly.

[[Thank you. I'm going to be uncomfortable enough for the next week, it's nice to be able to sit, at least.]] At
Dureena's prompting, Max began to tell the other two men a joke involving three Narn and a Minbari.

[[You can thank me later.]] Galen teased. He noticed that John had stopped eating and was listening to Max.
[[Now eat.]] He ordered gently. The young man glanced at Galen briefly out of the corner of his eye and the
technomage could feel him sigh in his mind. He also felt the appreciation his lover felt at Galen's nagging.
John was nervous as hell about this, despite Galen's reassurances, and was grateful for his continued support.
Galen sent John a light reminder that Ms. Jones would be able to read his surface thoughts, so they had best
keep their below board conversation to a minimum.

Max delivered the punch line of his joke with professional timing and the group laughed, glad for the release
of tension.

"Lieutenant Matheson." A woman's harsh voice cut through the laughter, silencing them. Dureena tensed,
glaring at the woman standing behind John. Max covered her hand lightly with his, scowling at the blonde
woman. Galen's face was impassive, but John could see anger flare in his lover's blue eyes. John had a good
idea who the voice belonged to, and he stood, turning to face her.

Her blonde hair was tied back severely, giving her scarred face a pinched look. The puckered scar ran from
below her left eye, down her cheek, ending at her jaw. Her blue eyes were cold and dark as they glared at the
young man before her. Ms. Jones was a solidly built woman and carried an unmistakable air of command
around her. "Ms. Jones." He said, his voice coldly professional.

"Captain Gideon told me you weren't on board. Where were you hiding?" Her eyes flickered over the other
three at the table, noting with obvious surprise that one of them was apparently a technomage.

"I wasn't hiding. I was off the ship, as I'm sure he told you." John was panicking again, but with Galen's help,
he didn't show it, even to her. He could feel the cold tentacles of her mind probing the surface of his thoughts,
looking for a lie.

"You should be on the bridge, doing your job. What are you doing here?" Again she glared at the three people
silently watching the conversation. They returned her glares and she could feel their dislike of her quite
clearly. It was a sensation to which she had long ago become accustomed.

"I don't go on duty for another thirty minutes. I was trying to eat my breakfast." He put an unmistakable edge
on his last sentence, making sure she knew he resented the interruption. He could still feel her pressing
against the edges of her mind, her frustration clear. Reflexively, he was trying to block her. It was clear that
she was a powerful telepath, all the watch dogs were, but even so, John knew she was having difficulty with
him. It was a strange sensation, knowing she was out there, feeling her, but it was like a blanket was covering
his mind, muffling her, not effecting him.

"Your captain must have told you," She fixed her blue eyes on him. "That the Senate Committee for
Metasensory Abilities is doing things a bit differently this time."

"Yes." He said, keeping his voice calm, with Galen's help. "They're insisting on a week long monitoring of all
my public activities. Including, apparently, breakfast with friends. You're welcome to join us, but I won't
leave." He gestured at the table, where clearly she would not be welcome, even if there had been room. When
the woman simply glared at him, he continued. "If you don't mind, I'm going back to my meal. My shift starts
in half an hour, I'll be on the bridge then." With that, he turned away and sat down.

Ms. Jones stood for a moment, fuming, before taking a seat at a nearby table, facing the group. Deciding it
was time to begin her job in earnest, she concentrated on John, reaching her mind out to his. His surface
thoughts were normal -- the food he was eating, the time, the story Eilerson was telling. The technomage
appeared briefly in John's thoughts a few times, only to be quickly squelched. This interested her. To her
disappointment, she could find nothing wrong with his telepathic activities. Indeed, she could sense no
telepathy from him at all, not even shielding. That puzzled her, but she pushed it aside for a moment, turning
her attention instead to Lieutenant Matheson's breakfast companions. It was not strictly within the rules to do
so, but she wasn't exactly scanning them, merely observing.

Max Eilerson she had encountered several times in the two days since her arrival. The xenoarcheologist's
intellectual smugness rubbed her the wrong way, as it seemed to rub everyone the wrong way, from what she
gathered. She wondered how he had come to be chatting so amiably with the other three. The alien woman
beside Eilerson was clearly taken with him, and he with her. Their body language showed little, save for Max's
earlier gesture, but to a telepath, it was obvious.

She had saved the most puzzling for last. Narrowing her eyes, she focused on the black clad technomage.
Strangely, he didn't register to her on a telepathic level. If she closed her eyes, he vanished completely, as
though he weren't there. Concentrating, her brow furrowed as she searched for him, stretching her mind. When
her mind brushed the part of space where by all rights he should have been, she encountered a strange
nullness. After several moments, she gave up, for the time being.

Returning her attention to John, she again probed his mind, raising an eyebrow when she had difficulty delving
below the surface. She hadn't noticed before because she hadn't beentrying.  Focusing her thoughts into a tight
thought beam, she tried to punch through the strange barrier. When she was unsuccessful, she decided to
study the barrier itself. Spreading the fingers of her mind, she reached out and felt for texture, tasted for
flavor. There was something familiar about it, though she was certain she'd never encountered anything like it.
After a moment, her eyes widened. The barrier in John's mind resembled the null space that the technomage's
mind seemed to be made of. Withdrawing her mind, she turned inward, wondering what the barrier indicated,
and whether it was connected to the technomage.

Only a few feet away, John and Galen acted as though nothing were happening. Out of the corner of his eye,
though, John could see lines of weariness appearing around Galen's eyes. They were very subtle, and only the
fact that he knew his lover's face so well allowed him to see them. He also noticed that his normally subdued
partner seemed downright distant, as though he were concentrating hard on something. Checking the time, he
realized that he should be getting to the bridge. He stood and Galen followed suit. "I have to be on duty in five
minutes." He told Max and Dureena. "I'll see you both later." Giving them a small, quick smile, he walked
from the canteen, not even glancing in Ms. Jones' direction. Galen nodded silently to them, and quickly
followed John.

Dureena watched Ms. Jones rise, and give her and Max a scathing look. Returning the glare, she watched the
woman leave the canteen, obviously heading to the bridge. A small smile formed on her lips.

"What are you thinking, Dureena?" Max asked, using her native language. The xenoarchaeologist often did
so when they were in public, secretly enjoying the intimacy it gave them. It was highly unlikely that anyone
else spoke it.

"I'm not thinking anything." She sat back in the chair, shifting and leaning slightly closer to him. "Nothing at
all ..." Her tone, and the look on her face told Max otherwise.

"Are you going to tell me?" Adding subtleties to the words in Dureena's language that sent tiny shivers down
her spine. "Or do I have to coax it out of you?" He smiled briefly as he caressed the side of her leg with his
fingertips. His hand was below the level of the table, so there was little danger of being seen.

"You can coax me later, cha'vis." She purred, using a word that had no translation, knowing it thrilled Max to
hear it. In the three weeks since they had become lovers, she had learned a lot about the outwardly reserved
Max Eilerson. "Right now, I have to go take care of something." She gave his hand a gentle squeeze and
stood. Before she left, she whispered something that made Max shift in his chair, his ears turning an almost
unnoticeable shade of pink.

                               Chapter 4 - Facing the Music

John and Galen stepped onto the lift, the doors hissing quietly shut. "Galen, what's wrong?" John pressed the
emergency stop button, punching in the "No Maintenance" code before turning to the technomage.

"Nothing's wrong, John." Galen said, his normally strong voice carrying an almost unnoticeable hint of
fatigue.

"Yes there is." John snapped. Slowly, he reached up to Galen's face, gently touching the fine lines that had
appeared beside his eyes in the short time they'd been at breakfast. "There was something going on with Ms.
Jones. I could tell, but I couldn't sense anything. Whatever you did last night it - it's like a blanket on my mind.
It seems to have pissed her off tremendously. And I could feel her pushing at the edges of my mind ..." He
shivered, wondering how anyone's mind could get that cold.  "That's not all. She couldn't read me at all. That
angered her. But it wasn't easy to keep her out of your mind. She's quite good at what she  does." Granting
himself a moment's weakness, Galen sighed and closed his eyes, leaning back against the wall.

For the first time since they had become lovers, John worried about the technomage. He had kept telling John
not to worry about his review, and so he hadn't, trusting Galen. It never occurred to John just how hard Galen
would have to work to keep the hounds at bay. They also hadn't anticipated the sudden shift from a simple
deep scan to a week of monitoring. Stepping forward, he lay his hands on Galen's neck, his thumbs tracing the
other man's jaw. He planted a gentle kiss on Galen's mouth, feeling his lover's arms slide around him.

After they parted, John asked "There was something strange ... I could feel her trying to root around, but I
couldn't tell what she saw, or what she didn't see."

"Suffice it to say that she doesn't know any more now about technomancy than she ever did." Galen smiled.
"She also doesn't know ..." He sent John an image of them together that made John's face turn bright red.

Realizing that standing so near to Galen wasn't a good idea so close to having to be on duty, John stepped
back, breathing carefully. "I'm just glad you don't do that while I'm on the bridge." He said, still slightly
breathless.

Galen chuckled, slowly relaxing after the telepathic ordeal at breakfast. He knew the next eight hours would
be very difficult, for John as well, but mostly for him. "You'd better start this thing up again, or someone will
come looking for us."

Several minutes later, the two men stepped onto the bridge of the Excalibur. Ms. Jones was standing in an out
of the way nook, waiting to pounce on the young telepath. Galen shot her a dangerous look as she pushed
against the barrier in John's mind. She noted that for later analysis, still monitoring Matheson.

Galen remained close to John for his entire shift, keeping out of the way. The bridge crew was slightly uneasy
at his prolonged presence. Lieutenant Jessica Saunders seemed to be the only one who acted as though Galen
spent all his days there. She knew that things were rough on John with the Ms. Jones thing, so she tried to
keep his hassle to a minimum. Matheson was in charge of the bridge this shift, which made her second in
command for the time being. She had also done some switching of crew schedules. Saunders was aware that
emotions were easy for telepaths to pick up up. She was also aware that certain crew members kept them
under a tighter rein than others. When Gideon had told her of the monitoring, she had discreetly arranged for
the more emotional crew members to be off the bridge during Matheson's shifts.

Much to Ms. Jones's disappointment, in the eight solid hours that she watched him, she found no fault with
John's behavior, telepathic or otherwise. Finally John's shift was over.

John approached Ms. Jones, his face hard. "I'm going to my quarters now. As I understand it, I'm allowed that
privacy." Without waiting for a response, he turned on his heel and left the bridge, Galen close behind.

Ms. Jones's anger was evident as she stormed from the bridge. She fumed all the way to her quarters. It irked
her that she couldn't find any fault with John, and that for some unknown reason, she couldn't scan below the
surface of his mind. Entering her quarters, she stopped dead. "What the..."

Everything in her quarters had been moved. The chairs, bed, other furniture. Nothing was in the same place it
had been in that morning. Angrily, she activated the communication network. "Captain Gideon!" She snapped,
not caring that he was off duty.

Gideon's face appeared upside down on the view screen and she realized someone had altered those settings
as well. He raised his eyebrows, since the signal he was receiving was also upside down, making it look as
though she were hanging from the ceiling. "Ms. Jones." He tried to keep the laughter out of his voice.
"Something wrong?"

"Obviously there is, captain." She snapped, her blue eyes blazing. "While I was doing my job, someone broke
into my quarters and rearranged everything. Including my terminal settings, as you can no doubt tell!"

"Is anything missing?" Gideon asked calmly, unable to keep the edges of his mouth from twitching.

She opened her mouth and froze. She hadn't bothered to check if anything was gone. Glancing around quickly,
she located all of her personal effects. "No, Captain. What are you going to do about this?!"

"Since nothing is missing, and nothing appears to be damaged, there's nothing I really can do, Ms. Jones."

"What?!" She was shocked. "You mean to tell me that someone can break into a guest's quarters, move
things all around, handle their personal property, and suffer no consequences?! That is unbelievable! I can
assure you that when I get back, I will lodge a complaint regarding the so-called security you maintain on this
ship."

Gideon glanced at something off screen, then returned his attention to Ms. Jones' scowling, upside down face.
"Ships logs indicate no intruders in your quarters, Ms. Jones, so unless you have any idea who did this, there
really is nothing I can do." He paused a moment. "*Do* you have a guess as to who it could be?"

The woman's scowl deepened. "No Captain. Thank you for nothing." With that, she disconnected the call.
Three seconds later, the view screen switched to a picture of a blue skinned alien woman, naked on a bed with
an equally naked Centauri male, and an apparently human man. Horrified, she tried desperately to shut the
image off. None of the buttons on the console seemed to do what they were supposed to. Finally she slammed
her palms down, pressing all the buttons at once. The image blinked off.

      So did the lights.

                                       --------------------

Galen lay back on John's bed, savoring the chance to rest. For eight hours he had fought Ms. Jones in a silent,
anonymous battle. He'd never felt so mentally tired in his life. A part of him wondered if he could keep it up for
another 6 days. Thankfully, John would be spending most of his free time in his quarters, the one place on the
ship where Ms. Jones was not welcome.

"Galen?" John asked softly, his worry evident. "Can I get you anything?"

"No thank you John ..." Galen smiled faintly and squeezed his lover's hand. John was sitting beside him on the
bed, tiny worry lines marring his otherwise smooth face. "I just need to rest ..." He closed his eyes, taking a
deep breath.

"All right. Galen ... If you don't want to come with me tomorrow, you don't have to ..."

"Yes John, I do." Galen kept his eyes closed, and his voice was tired. "What I did last night was set up
barriers in your mind. They can't be maintained from within, not without ..." He sighed heavily. "Significant
modifications on your part."

"Oh ..." Was all he could say. "Galen I ..." He didn't know what to do. All these months, and even today,
Galen had been taking care of him. John finally saw the toll that care could take.

"Shhh ..." Galen squeezed his hand and John could tell that he truly needed quiet. Standing, he bent and
brushed his lips against Galen's temple.

Slipping quietly from his bedroom, he activated the privacy shield, sealing the doorway, and soundproofing the
bedroom. Confidant that Galen wouldn't be disturbed, he called Gideon.

"Hello John ..." Gideon sounded as though he'd been chuckling over something when John called. "I just got a
call from Ms. Jones."

"Oh?" John had been calling about her. "What did she say?"

"Well ... She said that someone had broken into her quarters and rearranged everything. But that nothing was
missing."

John couldn't help but chuckle. "Any idea who might have done it?" He knew perfectly well who the culprit
was, and Gideon did as well.

"She couldn't name a suspect, so there's nothing to go on." [Except the fact that we have an expert thief on
board.] John thought, chuckling briefly.

"Sir ..." He hesitated, not wanting to sound self-important.

"She didn't say anything about you, John. I don't think she *had* anything to say." Gideon assured him.

"Thank you Captain." John noticed that the captain was playing his one man chess game. "Pawn to queen
four, sir."

Gideon looked at the board for a moment, then back at John. "You never told me you played chess, John."

"I don't really, but I remember seeing that configuration once before, when my grandfather and my mother
used to play." He paused and a brief shadow crossed his face at the memory. "The things you remember ..."
He said softly.

"Indeed. Thanks John."

After shutting off the terminal, he sat back, glancing worriedly in the direction of his bedroom.

Knowing he was stuck in his quarters, he called to the kitchen, asking if they could bring him some food in a
few hours.

                              Chapter 5 - Romantic Interlude

Gideon thought for a moment, then called the person he was certain would know about Ms. Jones's quarters.

He was somewhat surprised when Dureena accepted his call on audio only, keeping the visual off.
"Dureena?"

"Yes captain?" She sounded faintly breathless.

"I just got a call from Ms. Jones, she tells me her quarters had been rearranged when she got back from ...
Monitoring Lieutenant Matheson."

"Captain?" Dureena sounded confused. A soft growl could be heard over the comm, followed by a
not-too-sharp slap.

Gideon smirked, having a good idea who she was with. "I was just wondering if you knew anything about it. I'm
not accusing you, because technically, there wasn't any crime committed, except for breaking and entry, and
that ..." He stopped. He could swear he heard a quick scuffle, followed by Dureena grunting quietly.
"Dureena?"

"Yes captain?" She was clearly distracted.

Gideon chuckled. "Never mind. Sorry if I interrupted anything." He closed the connection.

In her quarters, Dureena let go of Max's wrists, looking down at the archeologist. She was straddling his hips,
his hands settling on her thighs, caressing them lightly. "What was that about?" He asked.

She laughed, running her hands over his bare chest. "Nothing ..." she purred.

Max moved his hands to her waist and flipped her onto her back, covering her body with his. "Gideon said that
her quarters had been rearranged ..." Max brushed his lips against hers, grinning and pulling away when she
tried to kiss him. Her hands moved to cup his head and he pulled them away, pressing her wrists against the
bed.

"Now ... I'm not saying ..." he kissed her quickly. "... that you did that ..." he kissed her again. "... or that
you're going to do that ..." Another kiss, longer.

"Then what are you saying?" She asked breathlessly, squirming against him. She was tempted to tell him that
he already had helped, in a way.

"What I'm saying, is that if you *do* decide to do something like that..." his blue eyes danced with mischief.
"You let me help."

Dureena chuckled, wrapping her legs around Max's waist. "And what could you do? Assuming that I would
ever do that?" Max released her hands, shivering when she ran her fingers through his hair. Instead of letting
him answer, she pulled his mouth close to hers. She teased him, licking his lips slowly, pulling back when he
tried to deepen the kiss. He muttered something and she chuckled, finally letting him kiss her in full.

When they finally pulled apart, they were both panting slightly. Max groaned softly, pressing himself against
her.

"You didn't answer me, Max ..." She purred, wiggling against him, enjoying his quiet moan. "What could you
do?"

Max nuzzled her neck and began whispering exactly what he could do. His frank words had nothing to do with
furniture. Dureena moaned and arched against him, her pulse racing. Her language could be very explicit, and
Max took advantage of that, loving the wild look that filled her eyes.

Tiny shivers flew up and down her spine as Max's hands swept over her body, turning words into action. His
strong fingers slipped between her legs, caressing her wet folds. Dureena's face glowed as Max manipulated
her to orgasm, his eyes intense. He saw into her soul as she climaxed, arching beneath him.

As she relaxed, he slid into her, filling her, moaning softly against her neck. He began a slow rhythm, locking
eyes with her. Her gold eyes darkened to a rich amber as he sent lightning bolts of pleasure through her body.
With each thrust he brought them both closer and closer to the edge. Finally he buried his face in her neck and
exploded, whispering her name. She convulsed around him, milking him, her arms and legs tensing. Max lay
his head on her chest, hearing her heartbeat, feeling her hands on his back and in his hair.

After a moment, he rolled to his side, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her close. Cupping a full
breast, he nuzzled the back of her neck.

"Max?" She said quietly, enjoying the feel of his body wrapped around her.

"Hmm?" His teeth lightly grazed her skin, causing her to shiver.

"Do you remember that time a few months ago when you told Jamison to shut up about John and Galen?" She
sighed as he trailed kisses down to her shoulder and back up her neck. He was always so tender after making
love, it made Dureena's heart ache. Sometimes, she felt that he was somehow trying to make up for the
roughness of their first time.

"Mm-hmmm ..." He seemed to be only half listening, his mouth moving up to nibble on her ear.

"Why did you do it?"

There was a long silence, and Max's lips were unmoving on her skin as he considered his answer. Dureena
was about to ask again when he finally spoke, his voice slow, his breath hot against her neck.

"Because ... This universe is too big, and life is just too short to begrudge anyone any degree of happiness."
He kissed her ear. Max pulled away slightly and Dureena felt him roll her onto her back, his eyes meeting
hers. "I just wish I'd realized that sooner." One hand reached up to cup her face, his thumb brushing her
cheek.

Dureena bit her lip. He sounded so sincere, his voice was so full of unspoken emotions. Covering her hand
with his, she held it against her face, closing her eyes. Drawing up her courage, Dureena opened her eyes and
whispered. "V'ha ralenn, cha'var." I love you, my darling. Her heart raced, she'd wanted to speak those words
for a while, but had been too frightened.

"Kul v'ha ralenn." He responded, his lips brushing hers. I love you too.

                                  Chapter 6 - Revelations

Jessica Saunders juggled the tray of food and pressed the keypad, signaling her presence.

"Lieutenant Saunders, what are you doing here?" John Matheson was surprised to see the young woman.

"I bring food." She handed him the tray. "I was in the kitchen when they were making this up, so I thought I'd
bring it by. I also wanted to talk to you."

"Oh." He placed the tray on his desk and sat. "All right, have a seat." Saunders pulled a chair in front of the
desk and sat as well. "I hope you don't mind ..." He gestured at the plate.

"No, go right ahead."

"So what is it you wanted to talk about?" John found he was grateful for the interruption. He'd spent the past
three hours either pacing or sitting, worrying about Galen, or Ms. Jones, or both.

"Ms. Jones."

John's mouth froze in mid chew. Swallowing, he took a drink. "Don't beat around the bush, do you?"

"Never did." The small woman leaned forward in her chair, pulling something from her pocket back. She held
the papers for a moment, glancing sidelong at John. "I could very well get my ass court-martialed for showing
you this but ..." She unfolded the pages and showed them to John. "Given your position, I feel I can trust your
discretion."

Putting down the sandwich, he picked up the paper. " 'Amanda Christian ...' " he read, his eyes widening. After
a moment, he looked at Saunders. "Lieutenant, this information is ..."

"Highly classified. Yeah, it said that on the datanet too. Like I said, you could have me court-martialed, but
there's something about her that bugged me and I had to find out why. So I dug up her profile from the SCMA
files."

John read the whole thing silently, Saunders watching him. "That explains some of it." He said softly.

"Some of what?"

"You read it?"

"Of course."

John nodded. "All day today, I got the distinct impression that she hated me. That she hated everyone on the
ship, but me specifically. It was nothing like the last time. I thought I was just imagining it, but this ..." He
gestured at the papers in his hand. "Thank you. Don't worry about a court marshal. I won't be reporting this. I
don't know what I *will* do, but I won't report it."

"Thanks." Saunders stood. "Well, I'll leave you to your dinner."

"Okay. Thanks again. See you tomorrow."

"All right." She stopped at the door and looked back, her eyes full of concern. "How's Galen? I noticed he
looked tired today, is everything all right?"

John smiled briefly at the woman's compassion. "He'll be fine, thanks for asking."

After she left, John reread Ms. Jones' aka Amanda Christian's profile.

                                      ----------------------

"During my telepathic monitoring of Lieutenant Jonathan Lian Matheson I noticed a number of anomalies.
These do not concur with the reported  anomalies.

Item one: There appears to be a barrier on the Lieutenant's mind. It's like nothing I've encountered before.
Doing anything deeper than a surface scan seems impossible.

Item two: I'm unable to detect any level of telepathy from Lieutenant Matheson, including shielding. This is a
phenomenon that has no apparent explanation as the young man is clearly not using sleepers.

Item three: I believe that these two items are not only related, but are somehow connected to a technomage
named Galen. Tomorrow I will explore these further. End log."

Amanda Christian turned off her personal computer and set it on the table beside her bed. Her quarters were
still dark and she didn't dare try and turn on the lights. Laying back on her bed, she sighed. [How are you
doing it, Lieutenant? How are you keeping me out? The reports say that you're only a P-6, so how can you
block me?] She silently questioned the absent lieutenant. [And why did that technomage follow you around?
What is he doing on this ship to begin with? Is he controlling you? Is he controlling Gideon? Why is he in your
thoughts so much?]

Amanda sighed and rolled onto her side. Not long after, she willed herself to sleep.

                                        - - - - - - - - -

"Amanda?"

She was standing on Earth, the spot where she'd first met her husband. Turning, she saw him standing there,
alive.

"Peter?" Her voice faltered. "But you're-"

"Dead, yeah." He smiled, his whole face lighting up. The gold and silver Psi-Corps pin on his chest gleamed in
the bright sun. "I am. But not to you."

"I'm dreaming." She whispered.

He nodded, his longish brown hair falling into his eyes, just as it did in life.

"Why am I dreaming this? I ... why now, Peter? Why this? Is it really just a dream, or have you-"

"Come back? You should know the answer to that, Amanda. When I died, a part of me stayed with you. You've
always known that."

"No ... When you died ... I died ..."

"No Amanda ... You're still alive. And if you're alive, so am I."

"You're dead. You were killed by Earth Force."

"And that's why you hate them, but Amanda ... " He reached for her and she flinched, stepping away. "You
have to stop. You know that Lieutenant Matheson isn't doing anything wrong. You knew that before you even
came out here."

"No! I saw the report, he-"

"He did nothing that wasn't acceptable. The last report just mentioned a few minor things, nothing worth what
you're putting him through."

"He shouldn't even be here. Earth Force is no place for a telepath! All the violence, the aggression, one day
it'll be too much and someone will get hurt. Then they'll finish what they started in the last war."

"Oh, Amanda ... What happened to you?" He sighed sadly.

"You left me. Why did you die, Peter? Why did you have to leave me alone?"

"I couldn't stay ... I tried, but it was too hard. I could only leave a piece of myself with you ... "

Again he reached to touch her and she awoke, panting in the darkness.

                                  -----------------------------------

"Captain Gideon, I've completed my monitoring of Lieutenant Matheson."

"Completed, but-"

"Yes. I know it's early, but based on yesterday's findings, there is little reason for my being here. It seems
highly unlikely, impossible even, that he could scan anyone." The woman's voice was cold, and she refused to
meet Gideon's eye, fixing instead on a spot over his shoulder. "With your permission, I'll take my ship and
leave."

"Ms. Jones, are you aware that we are five days travel from any Earth Force friendly outpost? I won't be
responsible for what happens if you leave the safety of the Excalibur." Normally, Gideon would never abandon
anyone under any circumstances, but in this woman's case, he was willing to make an exception.

"I understand, Captain. But I assure you, I'm well able to handle myself in space combat."

[Black Omega.] He thought to himself, knowing she would very likely 'overhear' him. Gideon was rewarded
when her scowl lessened just a bit. "Well in that case, I'll have a crew ready your ship."

When she left, Gideon called his second, knowing he wasn't on duty for another two hours.

John was leaning heavily on his desk when he activated his view screen. The young man was still in his
uniform and had apparently spent the night there, and given the tired look in his eyes, Gideon doubted he had
slept much, if at all. "Good news John." He told his lieutenant that Ms. Jones was leaving. The young man
was visibly relieved. "I'm also resuming your vacation. You still had three days scheduled to be off when this
started." John smiled tiredly, thanking his captain. "John," Gideon said seriously. "Something was draining
Galen yesterday. I've never seen him like that, and I hope it improves along with the situation."

Even as he spoke, he saw John's head turn to the side and he visibly brightened. "I think Galen's fine now
sir." He said, still turned sideways.

"All right then," Gideon smiled. "I'm still giving you the rest of your scheduled time off. I need you both in top
form when we reach Tarkus 3."

"Aye sir." John said, switching off the channel.

                                        Epilogue

After shutting off the link to Gideon, John leapt from his chair. He walked over to his lover, grateful that he
looked better this morning than he had the night before, though fatigue still showed on his face. He opened his
mouth to speak when Galen hushed him with a finger. In his excitement, he'd forgotten their little tradition.
Galen was more than happy to give him a long, lingering reminder. "Good morning." He whispered, his hand
caressing John's neck. His thumb brushed the tiny black mark that he'd inadvertently made on John so long
ago.

John leaned into the hand, happy to see Galen looking better. "I don't know how much you heard, but Ms.
Jones is leaving."

Galen's eyes widened. "Leaving? So soon? And I was hoping to have her over to tea." He said dryly. "Do you
know when?"

"A few hours I guess, why?"

"Because there is one final thing I must do, and then this will all be over."

Without another word, Galen picked up his staff from its resting place against John's wall, and left his
quarters.

                                   ----------------------------------

The blonde telepath known to the crew as Ms. Jones, was in the bullet car, on her way to the docking bay. The
car slowed to a stop and the doors hissed open.

She was surprised to see the technomage, but fought not to show it. To her surprise, he sat directly across
from her. Refusing to show her intimidation, she met his intense gaze, blue eyes meeting blue.

They stared silently, neither moving, neither seeming to breathe. At the next stop, Galen stood and
disembarked as though nothing had happened.

Pulling out her personal computer, the woman spoke, her voice hollow. "Computer, delete last entry. Replace
with the following. Nothing anomalous was found during my monitoring of Lieutenant Matheson. Recommend
follow-up no sooner than one year from now. End."

In her ship, after leaving the Excalibur, she switched to autopilot. Reaching into her bag, she removed a
picture in a silver frame. A woman and a man, young, and clearly in love.  The woman's unmarred face had
once belonged to her, and the man had been her husband. It had been taken just weeks before the fateful
battle that had torn them apart and scarred her, both body and soul.

A tear splashed on the glass and she whispered "I'm sorry."