Thank you and Uncle Jim for the cool prezzies! I know I should have written sooner, I'm sorry. There's just been so much going on with the new semester. Tresa--that's Tresabel McClay, you remember her, she fell out of the pear tree in the back yard at my sixth birthday party--broke up with Jonathan and Brad started hitting on her during PE. Jonathan got all the other kids to gang up on Brad during dodge ball. The doctors don't think Brad will lose his eye, but he'll have to wear a patch for a while to keep it from getting further damage.
The pinhead Jonathan got expelled and he deserved it. And, you're not going to like this, but I kinda got suspended, too. But I didn't know that would happen! Honestly! All I did was sock him on the shoulder. I didn't think I'd bruise him, much less dislocate a joint. Mom says I have to do some community service. I choose to do it at the children's hospital. I can't imagine being stuck in there for the holidays; maybe I can cheer them up some.
I still don't understand it, though. I didn't mean to hurt him. Much.
I miss you, Dad. It was nice having you and Uncle Jim on Earth between missions last year. I promise to write more often this time. For reals.
"Ow! Dammit, Jim! I think you broke my tibia." From his position flat on his back on the gym mat, Bones pulled his knee up to his chest and felt gently along his left shin, wincing as he pressed a little too hard against the sore limb as he evaluated the injury.
Jim knelt down by Bones' side, his face drawn into a look of concern. "I don't know how, Bones; it was just a simple leg sweep. That's never happened to anyone I've sparred with before." He watched without touching, struggling to keep his hands to himself. Jim itched to take the injured leg in his hands and soothe the ache with a little bit of a healing charm, but he knew that any attempt on his part to do that would be looked at with incomprehension and doubt, possibly even the fear that had led to witch hunts in less enlightened times.
Bones completed his examination and straightened the leg with a grunt. "Not broken. You just bruised the hell out of it. Next time, I'm wearing shin pads. Hell, just get me that outfit a baseball catcher wears, that should be enough padding. I'm too damn old for this shit, Jim." He rolled over on his side, then onto his hands and knees where he used his good leg to push himself upright. Jim took the extremely brief opportunity to admire the fine backside that was presented to him as he did.
"Sorry, old man, this is going to keep happening fairly regularly. Well, not the breaking your leg part, but the sparring part. You know the regs: semi-annual physical fitness test, mandatory training, blah, blah, blah. Besides, it doesn't hurt to be prepared for someone losing it from space madness in Sickbay, now does it?" Jim grinned at Bones and, under the guise of patting him on the back, clasped the back of his neck, sending a quick surge of healing energy into his friend. Jim let his hand linger just a second or two against the warm skin of Bones' neck before dropping it to his side. It wasn't something he could afford to do often onboard ship; there was less of an energy reservoir to draw from in the inert metals that comprised the hull and inner workings of the ship, which left him relying on his personal energy stores, unlike the massive life potential of an entire planet.
Bones rolled his eyes. "Fat lot of good training does me when it causes me more injuries than I'll ever inflict on someone else."
"Yeah, yeah, you're a lover, not a fighter." Jim looked off to one side and grimaced at the spectacularly stupid words that had just come out of his mouth.
"C'mon, Jim, you aren't still peeved about that, are you? Is that why I'm limping out of here on one good leg? Maybe you meant to do this?" Bones turned and poked a finger into Jim's chest.
Jim threw his hands up and backed away. "Hey, hey, no. I am not angry, I never was. Janice and I called it quits amicably. You had every right to take your best shot." Jim didn't say that he wished that best shot would be with him. Instead, he had to worry about Janice Rand and her Medusa-locks snaring the man of his dreams. Hell, Jim had been snared for a while, even knowing he wanted someone else. "Besides, after Teddy, I wasn't sure for a while that you'd ever decide to date again. I'm happy for you." The lie sat heavy in his mouth, but he had to convince Bones to drop the subject before he let his jealousy get the better of him and gave himself away.
The truth was, Jim had been in love with Bones for longer than he was even willing to admit to himself. He'd watched Bones date a lot of people over the past nine years, starting with Nancy Oglethorpe during their years at the Academy. Love hadn't been on Jim's agenda at the time, but somehow the people Bones dated disturbed him. He refused at the time to admit that it was jealousy. Not that he'd realized it back then, but now that he knew what it was and what he wanted he felt like a six-year-old with his nose pressed up against the glass wondering how much the puppy in window cost. At least back then, Roger Crater had solved the Nancy Oglethorpe problem for him. Now, he had to sit on his hands and do something he really didn't believe in--pray.
"Thanks, Jim. Janice is something...that could be special. I wouldn't want this new relationship to get in the way of our friendship." Bones snagged Jim's elbow and turned him towards the door. "C'mon, kid, let's go get some dinner. I figure you can make it up to me by eating your salad without any complaints about rabbit food for once. Besides, I gotta tell you about Jo's latest letter."
Jim grinned at the sound of the teen's name. "What's she been up to this time? Covering the boys’ locker room door in pink toilet paper after the boys’ cross country team lost to the girls was pretty inspired. Reminds me of the time Gary and I--"
"Jim, the last thing I want is Jo taking after your high school record in any way, shape or form." Bones squinted one eye at Jim in suspicion, as if he knew his friend had conspired with Jo long distance to pull off that particular prank. Her latest infraction seemed to be more well-intentioned, if somewhat less well-implemented, but the end results were still in the negative column.
Jim waved one hand in dismissal of Bones' complaint. "Bones, no one will ever achieve my record, again. I had more days suspended than they ever saw or ever will see at Riverside High and still held a 4.0 average. It's just high spirits. Didn't you get up to anything a little reprehensible back then? I seem to remember a few stories of whipped cream in the nurses’ surgical clogs at Emory and tying big toes to the door of the on-call suite so some poor schmuck would find himself pulled half out of bed when anyone came in to crash? Pot, meet kettle."
Bones ducked his head and forced a scowl when a grin threatened to come through, remembering some fun times. "Yeah, but none of those actually ever hurt anyone."
Jim stopped in the middle of the passageway. "Wait. What? Jo wouldn't hurt a fly."
"Not on purpose, no." Bones scrubbed both hands over his hair, mussing it up and then smoothing it down again. It left a few cowlicks standing that Jim itched to straighten out for him. Bones shook his head. "Her last letter, I don't know. I'll let you read it, I usually do anyway, but this one--there's just something off about it."
Jim put one hand on Bones' shoulder and turned him to face him. "Jo would never purposefully hurt anyone. Well, not with forethought, anyway. She might punch Jimmy Sudowski in the nose again for calling Mrs. McLennan fat, but that would be in the heat of the moment and she's, well, she's a girl. How much damage can she do?" And that was one area Jim was going to keep his mouth shut on; he knew all too well just how much damage females could do. His mother had taken him on more than one hunt, tucked away in safe corners where he had learned to be very, very quiet. He'd quit being quiet when he was twelve and his mother left him Earthside for the first time on that mission to Tarsus.
"She dislocated a kid's shoulder, Jim! That's pretty serious. I'm worried maybe she's hanging out with the wrong crowd, gotten herself into something she doesn't understand." Bones crossed his arms, hugging himself like he could hold onto his little girl and keep her from getting into more trouble. Jim was touched by the gesture, despite the cold chill that trickled down his spine. He needed to see that letter. And then he needed to call Chris Pike and find out which Slayer was down. He could be wrong and he sure as hell hoped so, he didn't want to see Jo become the isolated, emotionally distant killing-machine that most Slayers turned into; Jo was too kind-hearted, too compassionate to embrace that lifestyle willingly.
Don't ever let me dye my hair blond. Seriously. I had a really weird dream last night, where I was running through a cemetery chasing someone with a pointy stick. How stupid is that? What good is a stick? Even stupider is that when I stuck it into this guy's back in my dream he disappeared in a cloud of dust! Geez, why didn't I just use a phaser? Must have been the blond hair I had in the dream. Tell Uncle Jim his Clairol is safe from me!
The children's hospital is both fun and sad. I get to play all kinds of games with them and they are a bunch of sharks! I got totally taken in Candyland by a five-year-old. And it's really sad, because in just the last week I came in and found an empty bed. Ryan was allergic to the kidney pills and they couldn't get him a new one in time. It's just not fair that everyone can't have the benefits of all our medical knowledge, Daddy. Please don't let anything like that happen to Uncle Jim. 'Kay?
"Damnit, Jim! What the hell good did you think it would do to stick that thing with a letter opener?" Bones fumed as he spritzed Jim's arm with disinfectant before snatching up a dermal regenerator to run it over the scratches in his forearm. Jim flinched at the sting.
"It wasn't a letter opener, Bones, it was a silver poignard. I couldn't reach my phaser and the knife was right there in my boot. I stabbed it, it died, end of story." Well, as much of the story as he was willing to divulge. Jim couldn't tell Bones that the only thing that would kill a Fyarl demon was silver, so he had to "lose" his phaser in order to use what could kill it.
"About as useful as teats on a boar hog, if you ask me. You and Jo should compare notes sometime." Bones ran the regen unit over Jim's arm one last time, before spritzing the arm with a final coating of disinfectant. He turned to the tray of sterile dressings and picked one up to lay over the newly healed skin. "Keep that covered for another day, you should be fine."
Jim pulled his tattered shirt sleeve down over the bandage. "Will do. What's that about Jo, though? Did she get in trouble in school again?"
Bones chuckled slightly, his head shaking in negation. "No, she related some crazy dream she had in her last letter. Stabbing people with wooden sticks, even more useless than that toadsticker of yours."
"Wasn't useless at all, was it, though?" Jim jumped down off the biobed and shook his legs out to loosen up.
Bones looked at him, his eyes narrowed in contemplation. "No, it was pretty damn effective. And so was Jo's stick, in her dream."
Jim leaned back against the biobed with his legs crossed at the ankle. He looked down at his boots, the one where his knife was tucked turned prominently towards Bones. "If it gets the job done, that's all that matters, Bones."
"Still think a phaser would have been more efficient. Killing something with pointy weapons just seems so...uncivilized. Like me using a needle and thread to sew you up." Bones put the last of the unused supplies away in a cupboard before turning back toward where Jim was standing. "Didn't impress Jo much either. She would have used a phaser. Jo's right, must be something about blonds."
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with being blond, I know some awesome blonds." Jim lifted one hand to his mouth and blew on his knuckles, then rubbed them on his shirt.
Bones cocked a finger at him and smirked. "Jo knows about your Clairol, dipshit. It's the only reason either of us gives you the benefit of the doubt."
Jim slumped back with his arms crossed against his chest. "There's not enough sun out here; I wouldn't need the stuff if I could just get to a beach a little more often. Besides, you shouldn't impugn blonds when you're dating one. And your most competent nurse is a gorgeous blond. You wouldn't be caught dead saying anything bad about blonds around Chapel."
Bones looked over his shoulder, back toward the intake area of Sickbay, which was obscured by the curtain pulled around the biobed for privacy. "Shhhh. That woman has ears like a bat; you even mention her name and she appears to destroy my equanimity even worse than you do, Jim."
"Doctor McCoy, I've got Ensign Rosenberg out here with a strange rash." Chapel's voice penetrated the curtain, giving proof to Bones' words. "He claims he got it from working on the anti-matter containment grid, but it looks a lot like he brushed against the Denevian Wormwort in the botany lab. Where all the cool kids go to get their contraband cannabaceae products."
Jim and Bones looked at each other. Bones cocked an eyebrow and jerked his chin in Nurse Chapel's direction. "Case in point right there."
"Now, that is one hell of a buzz kill on that woman. I swear I could leave Chapel in charge and she'd have them more squared away than I could ever hope to. Good thing she never applied for command track or I'd be out of a job. Well, I'll leave you to it, Bones." Jim straightened up and pushed off from the biobed, stopping just momentarily next to Bones. "You going to share Jo's latest letter with me, again? It sounds like another humdinger."
Jim attempted not to fidget while Bones contemplated him silently. "You really get a kick out of her letters. You're not going to turn into some kind of creeper, are you, Jim? I'd hate to have to accidentally inject you with a libido suppressant during your next round of inoculations."
Jim got an appalled look on his face, then looked down at his feet. "Oh, hell, no. She just, okay, you never knew my mother, but she kinda reminds me of her. It's hard to explain." He rubbed his hand over the back of his neck and looked up at Bones from under his eyebrows. Jim knew it made him look a lot more boyish and vulnerable, and sure thing, Bones turned a little red at the semi-flirtatious glance. He didn't like to use it, but even Bones wasn't immune to it and he needed to see those letters. Pike had said none of the active Slayers had been reported missing and until there was a confirmed loss in the ranks, he wasn't assigning a Watcher to Joanna; there had to be some other explanation. Jim was convinced that Jo had been Chosen and that the letters would prove it.
"Well, sure, kid. If it means that much to you. I know you and Jo get along well. You know, you can even write her yourself, if you want. I don't mind. And I'll tell her to add your comm address to her letters so you don't have to ask to read them each time."
Jim clasped Bones by the shoulders and gave him a big grin. "Thanks, Bones. That means more to me than you'll ever know." Jim pulled the curtain around the biobed back to leave. Before he was able to get more than a couple steps away he was stopped by a hand on his shoulder. He turned back to Bones, who had a soft look on his face.
"Jim, I don't want you to think I think you're some kind of perv, not really. I guess I take it for granted sometimes that everyone has family that cares and keeps in contact with each other. Seriously, if you want to consider Joanna part of your family, that makes me very happy." Bones' eyes looked straight at him, sincere and frank. It was all Jim could do not to lean in and kiss him in gratitude, but he restrained himself to just a smile and a squeeze of the elbow.
"We're all one big family up here, but, yeah, it means a lot that you're willing to share Jo with me. Now, I've got to go change my shirt and get back to the bridge, duty calls." Jim turned away and nearly scurried out of Sickbay, a heaviness in his heart at the way he'd manipulated his friend. It wasn't like he didn't honestly like Jo and have her welfare at heart, but he couldn't tell his friend the truth and it was like acid in his veins. Family, the one thing that he could always count on to hurt him and he was betraying it with every word out of his mouth.
Dear Dad (and Uncle Jim),
Is getting better eyesight part of going through puberty? I don't care about the boobs and stuff, I kinda don't wish they'd happen. I mean, look at Tresa and Jonathan. He got back into school because his dad paid off the principal and half the Board of Education and what did Tresa do? She took him back! Probably because he's the one boy taller than her that doesn't squeak like a chipmunk. The only reason I know, though, is because I saw them. Which surprised me. Not that they were making out, but that I could see them. They were behind the bleachers out by the football field and I was over by the field house on the other side of the 50-yard line. Can one have, like, telescopic vision? Kinda cool, but it's a little freaky. Why now?
Uncle Jim, your record at skeet shooting is going down the next time you're on shore leave here!
Fuck! Jim stopped in his tracks, ducking behind the wide fronds of one of the palm-like plants that lined the sides of the path. Up ahead of him, Bones and Teddy Meers, were locked in a stare down. They were standing much closer than required for casual conversation, their shirts blended into a larger blur of blue with the stripes on their sleeves making them look like a bizarre combination of lieutenant commander and lieutenant. The stellar cartographer had one hand on Bones' arm, but Bones didn't seem to be shaking him off. They looked completely wrapped up in one another and Jim debated whether it would be wise to interrupt or let them complete their discourse before joining them. The sound of his name drew his attention back to the couple and sealed his decision; he kept his place, tucked away from view.
"I thought when you dumped me, that I'd be hearing you were dating Jim Kirk." Teddy sounded incredulous.
Bones' eyebrows twitched, one rising only slightly before settling back down; Jim realized this wasn't a major surprise to Bones. "You thought wrong, Teddy. I told you more times than I can remember that Jim and I are very good friends, best friends, but we aren't like that."
Teddy slashed one hand through the air. "You could have fooled me. The way you talk about him constantly, it's like he’s an obsession for you."
Jim didn't need to see Bones to know his eyes were bouncing from one side of his head to the other like the steel ball bearings in an antique pinball machine. "What part of ‘best friend’ don't you understand?"
Teddy pushed Bones' arm away from him. "Maybe I wanted you to be my best friend, not just my lover, Len! Did you ever consider that?"
Bones crossed his arms over his chest defensively. "It takes time, Teddy. We might have got there if you hadn't been so damn jealous."
Teddy reached out with both hands and smoothed them up Bones' arms to his shoulders. "Who's to say we still couldn't get there? I still think about you all the time. I miss you, Len."
"Sorry, but that ship sailed without you. Janice and I have something good going; I'm not about to throw that away when it's obvious my friendship with Jim still bothers you." Bones shrugged Teddy's hand off his shoulders, taking a step back.
Teddy grimaced. "You couldn't even choose your girlfriend for yourself? You had to take Kirk's leftovers?"
"Fuck you, Teddy. I'm starting to see I didn't know you nearly as well as I thought. You ever say something like that about Janice again, I'll put you down like a dog." Bones' hands were clenched into fists held close to his side, surprising Jim that he hadn't just decked the crude ass for what he'd said. Well, maybe that was more something Jim would do; Bones would just conveniently "lose" the officer's inoculation record so that he'd have to take them two--maybe three--times more often than required. Bones, being the sneaky bastard that he was, would give the chosen officer placebo injections--many, many injections. Jim rubbed his neck at the phantom pain left over from the last time that had been pulled on him.
"I'm not the one who heels when Jim Kirk calls. You go back to your master and beg for more scraps." Teddy sneered, but then stumbled back in shock when one of those fists finally came up from Bones' side and crashed right into his jaw. Jim nearly applauded, but held his silence watching the scene play out.
"Don't come near me, I want nothing to do with you ever again. I recommend if you need medical attention you wait until beta shift to visit Sickbay, when I’m off duty." Bones made an abrupt about face that had Jim scrambling further back into the scavvy looking for more cover.
Shit, shit, shit, he should have interrupted. He'd learned more than he'd bargained for and much of it didn't make him very happy. Bones was his best friend, going on close to ten years. Jim had hoped that maybe Bones would start to see him as more than a friend someday, but that had been firmly shot down by his own words just now. He slumped back against the trunk of a tree, his legs akimbo, arms lax between them.
Jim was startled out of his self pity by a pair of boots that planted themselves in front of his. He placed his elbows on his knees, chin in hands and addressed Bones with a wry grin. "Busted."
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Jim? I don't much appreciate being spied on. Hope you heard something good." Bones stood with his chin sticking out in defiance, his brows drawn down in anger.
"Sorry, Bones. I saw you two talking and it looked intense, so I didn't want to interrupt. I just meant to wait here until you were done so we could walk together." Jim scrubbed his hands through his hair. Christ, he was making some stupid decisions lately. Being in love with his best friend sucked.
"Yeah, well, you know what they say about eavesdroppers. Figure you got a good load from Teddy. C'mon, kid, let's take that walk." Jim noticed that Bones looked off to one side, his face a little flushed, before he reached a hand down to help Jim to his feet.
"Actually, how did you know I was here?" Jim gave Bones a sideways glance as they pushed through the underbrush back to the path. "I thought Jo was the one with the freakish eyesight, but maybe that's because she inherited it from you?"
Bones shook his head. "No, dumbass, I saw your back as you veered off the path earlier; the bright gold is kind of eye-catching, ya know. Honestly, I'm glad you didn't interrupt; I found out more about Teddy Meers in those last couple minutes than I did in the nine months we were going out. I can't believe I fell for that." Jim didn't like the look on Bones' face, the way his mouth turned down in disappointment and regret.
"Hey, he hid it well. I never figured him for such an uptight asshole. And I didn't realize you had to put up with so much jealous bullshit from him either. I would have made myself a lot more scarce if I'd had any clue." Jim wanted to sling an arm over Bones' shoulders, but the urge to pull him into his chest for more made him refrain. He'd had no problem being handsy with Bones until he'd discovered that every time he touched him he wanted more, and Bones didn't. So, he'd stopped. Well, as much as he was able to. The backslaps and a few occasional touches to the forearm and shoulder were all he'd allow himself these days.
Bones snorted. "I spent as much time with you as I wanted to, so don't you go blaming yourself for anything. Damn martyr complex you have."
Jim allowed himself one of those brief touches to Bones' arm. "You know, if you and Janice need more time with each other, don't let me--"
"Damnit, Jim. Have you heard one word out of my mouth in the last five minutes?" Bones stopped and turned towards Jim, looking him directly in the eye. "I have no problem saying 'no' to you. I have my time divided up exactly as I want it, no more, no less. Do you understand?"
"Yeah, yeah, I do." Jim teetered on the brink of delight that he got so much of Bones' time and despair at the way he could parcel it out so easily, like Jim was just another task to be coordinated on his schedule. He stretched his mouth into a smile that felt as fake as George Washington's teeth. "Thanks, Bones. I better get going; I was supposed to help Spock draw up a roster for the away mission on Manwah IV and I think I'm five minutes late. I don't know if I can handle the Vulcan pointy eyebrow of doom when I get there. If you don't see me in the mess by 1800, stop by my ready room and make sure I'm not bleeding out." Giving Bones one last slap on the back, Jim turned around and hustled back toward the entrance to the botany lab, cursing his heart the whole way.
Dear Dad and Uncle Jim,
We were studying the destruction of Vulcan in history this week and I had a really odd feeling of deja vu. Or deja dream, or something. Are lightning storms in space common? I never heard of one until yesterday, yet last week I had a dream about one. It was kind of freaky, because it looked like the same blond girl in my dream a couple of weeks ago. And this time, she had to jump into the middle of this rift in the sky that was full of lightning. I don't know what a black hole looks like, but it looked painful, Daddy. And I could hear a voice in my head whispering, "Summer's blood, it has to have summer's blood."
I wish I knew who or what summer's blood was. Is that the girl's name? Did she have to jump during the summer? What's so special about the blood? God, these dreams freak me out! I haven't slept well in months, and I can't concentrate in school. I wish it would all just stop.
I'm sorry, Dad, I'm being a real Debbie Downer. Tell me what you and Uncle Jim have been up to lately? Have you finally learned how to do a competent leg sweep? Next time you guys have shore leave on Earth, I want to try some of the things I've seen in my dreams with you two. I don't know if they would work or not, but Jim at least would know.
More later, I've got a report to write for Miss Flutie's civics class before bed.
Jim came awake slowly, the soft beep of the biobed monitors translated to a discordant buzzing in his ears by the headache just behind his eyes. He tried to sit up, but his stomach muscles protested in a way that told him he'd had a heavy dose of regeneration directed at the offending area. Curious, he lifted his covers and looked at the sterile dressing covering most of his lower abdomen. Oh, yeah. Manwah IV.
"Fucking Summers' blood," he mumbled, before dropping the covers and letting his head fall back on the pillow. His mouth was parched and he really, really wanted a drink of water right about then.
A startled grunt and a clatter of plastic came from Jim's left. He rolled his head to the side, taking in the sight of Bones looking between Jim and the PADD he'd just dropped.
"Hey, Bones. Would kill for a glass of water about now." Jim cracked a small grin and licked his lips; it didn't help.
"Sure, kid, I think we can do that." Bones walked over to the table by the side of Jim's bed, picking up a pitcher of water and pouring a glass half full. He stuck a straw in it before turning and holding it in front of Jim's mouth. Jim lipped gratefully at the straw, sucking down a good mouthful of water. Jim glanced up and noticed the way Bones' eyes watched his mouth as he sucked at the straw; he even thought he detected a slight flush across his cheekbones. It made his heart beat a little heavier in his chest at the thought that maybe, just maybe, Bones was a little more attracted to him than he let on. The slight increase in the tempo of the biobed monitors drew Bones' eyes away from Jim's mouth, but he didn't indicate that there was anything unusual or suspicious about the change.
"Thanks, man. My mouth was dry as a desert." Jim relaxed back into the pillows behind him. "Where's the control on this thing? I want to sit up a little, but I don't think my abs are in any shape to try that on my own for a while."
Bones dug around in his scrubs pocket and pulled out a little remote that he handed to Jim. A couple of mistaken buttons later, Jim finally had the head of his bed propped where he wanted it to look around his cubicle and the rest of Sickbay.
"Did G'lyx'el and Suskind make it back to the ship in one piece?" Jim took another worried glance around at the other cubicles, hoping the lack of the two members of his security team meant his ploy had been successful.
"G'lyx'el had to sit under a regen unit for a couple of minutes--strained a tendon in her ankle--but they're both just fine. Hell of a lot better than you, Jim." Bones turned from where he had been standing at the side of his bed, moving back to the counter where he had dropped his PADD earlier at Jim's waking.
Jim smoothed his hands over his stomach. He was looking forward to getting back to his own quarters as soon as possible. There were meditations he could do to encourage healing at a deeper level than Bones' equipment could provide. The sacrifice had required blood, quite a bit of blood, before the Manwahri were satisfied that the Federation had their best interests at heart. Even without some sort of mystical convergence, it seemed nothing but Summers' blood would be adequate. Sometimes, he fucking hated his great-whatever-grandfather Colin Finn for marrying a descendant of the Key. Lost in his ruminations, Jim was startled when Bones dropped his PADD in his lap. He looked up at him in surprise, his eyebrows--for once--doing the hairline acrobatics one was accustomed to seeing from the doctor.
"What's this? Is there something besides the condition of the security team I need to be made aware of?" Jim picked up the PADD and his eyebrows took a steep dive from curiosity to concern. "What's wrong? Is Jo in trouble again? Did someone--" His frantic questioning was cut off by Bones' finger as it pointed to a particular line of text in the latest comm.
"Care to explain this?" Bones tapped at the screen again. "You said, and I'll quote, 'Fucking summer’s blood'. Jim, this comm came while you were being held by the Manwahri, so I know you didn't see this earlier. What does it mean?"
Jim thought frantically. He didn't have a good explanation; meaning, he didn't have a scientific explanation that Bones would find acceptable. His chest clenched in denial at what he knew he should do. And he couldn't do it, not to his best friend. That kind of memory spell was a horrible violation of a person's integrity. He looked down at the PADD in his hands and back up at Bones, thinking as fast as he could. Could he fall back on something simple, like a plain old lie?
"It was something the Manwahri said to me; it appeared to be a metaphor. The sacrifice required 'summer's blood.' In case you didn't notice, I was the only blond on the away team. They equate blond hair with their summer season. Not surprisingly, most Terrans do, too. The fact it turned up in Jo's last comm is sheer coincidence. Unless your family is clairvoyant? Something you want to come clean on?" Jim handed the PADD back to Bones and leaned back against his pillow with his hands tucked behind his head, trying to make his body language as open as possible.
Bones grunted, but didn't look pacified. Instead, he scrolled through the comm to another passage and pointed this one out to Jim with a stabbing finger. "What about this? Lightning storms in space have only happened twice that we know of. Why would Jo be dreaming about one that has nothing to do with Nero? I know people can be suggestible, but the coincidences are piling up thick and fast here. Plus, she had that dream before they got to that section in her studies. I'm putting two and two together here and I don't think I'm going out on a limb to say you know something about how it makes four."
Jim stuck one hand out and took the PADD from Bones, reading over the passage. There wasn't a great amount of detail to go by; this could be spun his way. He didn't like the way Bones was standing by the side of his bed, his arms clasped tightly over his chest, shoulders hunched like he was waiting for a blow to fall.
"Bones, you're making a mountain out of a molehill. A lightning storm on Earth and a lightning storm in space are two very different things; there's no reason to believe the two are related. What's the big deal here? Is there something you're not telling me or that you're worried about?" Jim set the PADD down and clasped his hands over it, his head bent towards Bones attentively. He reached a hand out and gestured toward the chair by the side of his bed. "Sit."
Relaxing his tense pose only slightly, Bones took the seat offered. Jim reached out and laid a hand on his back, stroking his thumb across the short hairs on the nape of his neck. "Tell me what's going on in that worst-case-scenario generator you call a brain, Bones."
Bones leaned forward in his chair, planting his elbows on his thighs so his hands could drop between his knees where he wrung them. "I guess I'm just grasping at straws, Jim. I'm really worried that Jo has fallen in with a group of kids experimenting with drugs, particularly hallucinogenics. Her dreams are so bizarre and disjointed from reality. And the sensory overload sounds more like cannabis, but it could be so many different things. She's at that age that’s susceptible to peer pressure and experimentation--if I could find any other explanation for it, I'd jump at it. You understand." His head dropped even lower as he lifted his hands to clasp the back of his neck. Jim's hand dropped away, refusing the urge to grab one of Bones' and never let go.
Jim understood all too well--understood things that he was forbidden to tell his friend, and afraid to tell him, too--and wished he could say as much to Bones. He ached to run his hand over the mussed brown hair, to caress his cheek and give him the comfort of touch. Instead, he gave him the best comfort he could at the moment through his words. "Jo is a remarkably sensible young lady. I don't believe she'd fall for that kind of thing. She's got too much of you in her."
Bones looked up, his mouth quirking up at one corner, even with the slight tremor in it. "Yeah, she is pretty tough. Doesn't take much guff from anyone, not even me or her mother." Jim removed his hand from Bones' back as he finally leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath, some calm returning to his features.
"We've completed this current mission, secured the land for a trading post on Manwah IV. I'll ask Pike if we can pull in for some shore leave soon, get you in to Lunar Space Dock and you can spend some time with Jo. Would that help?" Jim laid a hand on Bones' shoulder, sending a burst of reassurance through the touch and watched Bones' face smooth out and the eyebrows open up across his forehead.
"Yeah, it would, a lot. Thanks, Jim." Bones reached up and scrubbed his hands across his face letting out a sigh.
"Well, I'm not doing it just for you, so don't go giving me the grateful damsel tears. We're due for a Service Period Adjustment on the ship at the end of next month; I've got a plus/minus factor of six weeks on when it has to be done, so we can head that way sooner rather than later." Jim picked up the control to the biobed and started fiddling with it, missing the physical contact with his friend, but knowing he had to restrain himself. Eventually, Bones would clue in to his desires if he didn't leave the man alone.
Bones slapped a hand down on the covers next to Jim's leg. "Don't go ruining your grand gesture, now. Let me maintain my rosy vision of you as a knight in shining armor. I know I don't always come first in your thoughts, but I'm quite happy with where I lie in your affections."
Jim's heart stuttered at the words. If only Bones knew, really knew. Would he still be happy?
Mom wants me to go to a therapist. She says my dreams are "a manifestation of your inability to accept separation and an unrealistic fear of space in the guise of death that your father has inculcated in you."
Bitch. Sorry! But, honestly, I'm not afraid of space. I've been out to see you on the Enterprise twice and didn't have any problem with the shuttle rides or the transporter. I'm not afraid of space, although I might be afraid of dying. But who wouldn't be? It's the end of everything, it's the end of you as a person. I'm not ready to be ended, yet. And not by some stinking monster that has green skin and red horns coming out of his head. Stupid dreams.
Jim looked at the cards in his hand, then back at the discard pile on the table. Was it worth it to scoop up most of the pile just to get one card? Yes, he'd be able to lay a spread of four cards down, but it would leave him with more in his hand than Bones, who had yet to lay anything. The right discard, though, should achieve exactly what he needed. Making up his mind, Jim scooped up the top six cards of the discard pile, made his run and discarded the two of spades.
"Why, thank you, Jim. You couldn't have discarded better than if you were reading my mind." Bones picked up the two, threw out an eight of hearts and then laid his whole hand out in two runs and a book of four. "Rummy." He picked up the PADD next to him and typed in his score.
"Tcha. Negative fifty-five." Jim threw his cards on the table in disgust. "What does that give you? Are you going to go out before we've even been playing an hour? C'mon, Bones!"
Bones looked at Jim over the rim of the glass he'd picked up, his smirk hidden by the bourbon that mostly filled it. "Whining does not become a starship captain. We've been playing two hours, infant, and I've only got three hundred and forty-five points. It'll be a while before either of us hits five hundred."
Damn, Jim had thrown as many hands as he safely could without Bones suspecting anything. He'd left a message with Spike to comm him at 2230 ship's time, believing that he had the night to himself and wouldn't be interrupted during the call. Only Bones had shown up at his door a little after he'd come back to his quarters from dinner and a chat with Spock about the upcoming visit to Deep Space Six.
"Okey-doke, then. Guess I'm going to have to meld like a badass this time around." Jim scooped all the cards together and started shuffling.
"If I didn't know better, I'd think you had a date tonight, Jim. You've been wiggling in your chair like you got ants in your pants." Bones watched as Jim dealt out the cards, ten each, then gathered his cards up. He fanned them and started placing them in order.
Jim leaned back in his chair, a little chagrined that Bones seemed to have tuned in to his underlying anxiety. Bending his head to hide the slight flush he could feel starting, he picked up his own cards to do likewise. "Nah, no other plans. Although, since you brought it up, I thought you were having dinner with Janice tonight?"
Two spots of color bloomed on Bones' cheeks. Jim was surprised that Bones would be embarrassed to admit he had a date; he'd been dating Janice for four weeks now. Did he think Jim was still pining over her?
Bones laid his cards face down with a sigh and picked up his drink, swirling the liquid around in the bottom of the glass. "We did, Jim. And during dinner we decided that it just wasn't quite working the way either of us thought it would. I have a great deal of affection and admiration for Janice; she’s a remarkable woman. I mean, she puts up with you on a daily basis and doesn't run screaming." He looked up at Jim with one corner of his mouth quirked up. "Anyone who can stomach that much unadulterated Jim Kirk is something all right in my book. But, well, I think what I liked most about her was that she isn't wowed by you."
Jim's head tipped back in surprise. "Plenty of people aren't wowed by me! Besides Janice, that is. Spock isn't wowed by me, or Uhura. You've seen how often I come back beaten and bloody; that's a hell of a lot of people who aren't wowed by me."
"Maybe not when they first meet you, but once they've known you for a while, they all fall under your spell." Bones grimaced and raised his glass to his lips to take a swig, hiding his disgruntlement behind the act of drinking. "Spock falls in behind you like a wingman slotting into formation, Uhura quit rolling her eyes when she called you captain about six months into our first tour. Look at how many treaties you've secured because of those beatings you take. People look up to you. It's hard not to."
Jim reached a hand across the table, palm up in entreaty. "Bones, that's just being a good leader. I am a good leader. You sound almost like you're jealous."
Bones shook his head. "Not of your leadership ability. I know I'm good at what I do and my people look up to me pretty much the same way."
"Then what is it?" Throwing out his arms in exasperation, Jim rocked back in his chair, the front feet coming off the floor and then thumping back down.
Bones slammed a hand down on the table. "They want you, Jim. They want you, I want you, we all want you and none of us can have you. Is that enough for your ego?" His face flushed red and then paled at what he had revealed. Jim could only stare, frozen in place by the spanner thrown into his smoothly running emotional cogs. They started up again, when he realized that Bones was admitting what he'd always wanted to hear: that Bones wanted him as much as he wanted Bones. Jim stood up, his chair crashing to the ground as he rushed over to the other side of the table.
Jim pushed Bones' chair away from the table, boxing him in with his hands on the chair arms. "Do you mean that?" He looked into Bones' eyes. When those eyes tried to slide away from him, he grabbed Bones' chin in one hand and tugged it back towards him.
"Please, Bones, you don't know--God, you have no idea how much I've wanted to hear something like that. Years, man, for years." Giving in to a long-standing urge, Jim brushed his knuckles against the side of Bones' face, his stubble a rough caress against the back of his fingers, before cupping one cheek with his palm. "Please, look at me."
"Years, Jim?" Bones looked directly at him, the pinched-in eyebrows loosening up to a more hopeful arch. One hand rose slowly to cover the one on his cheek. "I never would have guessed. Ever. You seem so driven, so single-minded. And that drive doesn't seem to include a permanent partner of any kind. You're so goal-oriented: one mission after the other"
Jim turned his hand to grasp Bones' and tugged him up out of his chair. Pulling him over to the love seat in the conversation area, he pushed Bones to sit on one side while he took a position facing him on the other side. He didn't let go of the hand he held, though. He had waited so long to be able to do something so simple, and by the time Jim was done confession to Bones, he wasn't sure if he would still let him have even that sop of comfort. Jim also hoped Bones wouldn't write him off as insane.
"I'll sum it up in one sentence, the family motto: the mission is what matters. I've lived with that all my life, knowing that someday the mission would take away everything I ever loved, the way it did my parents, if it didn't kill me first." Jim liked the way Bones was stroking his thumb across the back of his hand. He'd felt starved for this for so long, he was going to soak up as much of it as he could while he could.
"Jesus, kid. It's not like you were born into Starfleet." Bones tightened his grip on Jim's hand in sympathy.
"Not Starfleet. No, if it was just Starfleet, I could have resisted Pike when he attempted to recruit me in Riverside." Jim looked down at their linked hands, knowing that he was on very shaky ground from this point out. "Have you ever heard of Section 31?"
Bones scoffed. "That's a myth. Boogie men in black to scare cadets and midshipmen into behaving themselves until they get their space legs under them."
Jim shook his head. "No, it's not. What I'm going to tell you is so secure, even the people who think they know what Section 31 is, don't know what it is. Everyone thinks it's all cloak and dagger, espionage and counter-espionage. It's not." He took a deep breath.
"Section 31 is a cover for what was once known as the Watcher's Council. And to understand the Watcher's Council, you're going to have to take a hell of a lot on faith that what I am about to tell you is the truth."
"Never heard of it. But, you've never lied to me, kid--" Bones broke off when Jim shook his head and looked away from him.
"There's so many things I've never told you, Bones. Things I've kept from you, but you have to know I didn't want to." Jim clung to the hand in his even harder, knowing that the next few revelations could mean the end of everything, even their friendship.
Bones scoffed. "Not telling me every little detail of secret missions is not lying to me. I know where I stand in the food chain and I'm happy with my need to know."
"Even if it affects your family, even if it's about Jo?" Jim didn't have to wait long for the fallout of his words. Surprisingly, the hot-tempered doctor didn't explode with ire. Jim's hand started to ache, though, from the pressure being put on it. He found himself yanked closer to the scowling visage that practically growled the next words.
"So help me God, Jim, if you've done anything to my baby girl--" Jim could see Bones' eyes literally change color in front of him, the gold flecks in the hazel practically shooting sparks out at him. If he'd been dry tinder, or a vampire, he would have burst into flame.
"No, it's not what anyone alive has done to her." Jim tugged on his hand, which Bones released reluctantly. "I need to show you something. And don't wig out on me when you see it."
Jim got up from the sofa and walked over to the bookshelf behind his desk. Unlocking the one locked window casement, he withdrew a hand-tooled leather-bound book. He placed it on the coffee table in front of Bones.
"Are you shittin' me?" Bones looked at the book and then away, his lip curled in disgust. "Fairy tales, Jim?"
Jim sat down next to Bones and looked at the book. The single word sprawled across the ornate cover in fancy Gothic letters--VAMPYRE.
"Jo is what we call a Potential, one who I believe will be Chosen." He smoothed his hand over the leather, releasing the clasp on the binding and opening it up to the first page and started to read.
"Into every generation she is born: one girl in all the world, a Chosen One. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer."
Dear Dad and Uncle Jim,
I broke off another doorknob yesterday, after my argument with Mom. That's the first one in three weeks, though. I'm learning how to control my strength better. Guess something has to start going right, right?
Sorry there isn't more, today. I'm still mad at Mom. I'm not nuts! I have some crazy dreams; I tell her about them. I'm allowed to have fantastic dreams, aren't I?
P.S. I swear I saw someone dressed like that guy in my dream, green skin and red horns, coming out of a new Karoake bar in Little Five Points when we went to Vortex for burgers last night. Maybe I'm prophetic!
The next evening Jim had retired to his ready room after his shift to work on reports. He barely had time to register the swish of his door opening before the book he'd loaned Bones dropped with a loud thud on the desk in front of him. Jim looked up at Bones glowering down at him.
"That's some fantastic shit in there. How am I supposed to believe most of it?" Bones dropped into a chair, his hands clenched on the arms as if to keep himself from taking the book and throwing it into the nearest recycler and then possibly doing the same to his captain. Jim understood the feeling; he'd wanted to do it plenty of times after Tarsus.
Jim dropped his PADD and leaned back in his chair. "Trust me and believe it. Or, don't trust me and just watch."
"Watch what--" Bones' voice cut off with a snap of his teeth and his eyes bulged out when the book he'd dropped on Jim's desk came floating back into his lap. He shot out of the chair, the book dropping to the floor with a crash.
"Hey, hey, that book is centuries old! Not nice, not nice at all." Jim rushed around the desk and shook the book out, straightening pages and refastening the clasp holding the cover down. He leaned his butt back on his desk and clasped the thick tome to his chest.
Bones looked at him closely. Jim burned under his gaze, trying not to lose it at the thought that he was now something to be looked at with suspicion, like a deadly virus under a microscope, by the person he loved best in the world.
"What are you, Jim? That book dealt mainly with vampires and "higher" demons. And the Slayer. Where do you fit in there, what category?" Bones started pacing from one side of the ready room to the other, firing questions at Jim without giving him time to answer.
"Bones, sit down, please. And I'm human, purely human. Well, as human as someone descended from a green glowing mystical Key given human form can be." Jim set the book back on the desk and took one of the chairs in front of his desk. He wouldn't hide behind it; Bones needed to see him and they needed a level playing field for this.
Bones sat on the edge of the chair. Jim knew it was taking him considerable willpower not to just bolt and pretend none of this was happening. Hell, he'd pretended until Pike pulled him out of that bar in Riverside and dared him to do better.
Jim was shaken out of his maundering by Bones' next question. "So, you can move things with your mind because you're mystical?"
"There's no correlation. I move things with magic. Anyone with the right knack can do it, the ability to tap into the ley-lines and Gaia-force. Sometimes, all it takes is speaking Latin at the wrong place and time, no talent required. No, the magic is independent of having Summers' blood." Jim looked Bones in the eye as he dropped that bomb on him.
Bones jerked in his chair. "Damnit, Jim, you’ve lied to me! I asked you about that after Manwah IV."
Jim looked down at his hands and then shrugged his shoulders. "I'm sorry. There's only three people on this ship with a need to know, and you weren't one of them. That had nothing to do with Jo and everything to do with my family, my burden. Let me tell you one of those fairy tales you're so quick to dismiss."
Jim picked up his PADD and scrolled through until he found the file he wanted. He tapped it open and handed the PADD to Bones once it displayed a picture of a young blonde woman and a taller brunette. "At the beginning of the 21st century, there was a Hell-god named Glorificus who wanted to open a portal between our dimension and hers.
"A Hell-god named Glorificus?" Bones eyes rolled. "Was her superpower being a cliche?"
A laugh escaped Jim at Bones' comment. "Demons and Big Bads tend to take themselves awful seriously. They all have an overweening sense of their own superiority. Just ask the First Evil."
"Really, the First Evil? If evil is so unimaginative, I can't see it ever being triumphant."
"It's a balance, Bones; which is why we have Slayers to counteract the baddies. But, back to Glorificus and the family legends. Glorificus needed a mystical construct called the Key to open the portal. The monks that guarded the Key sent it to the Slayer of that day, Buffy Summers, in the form of a younger sister, Dawn. Dawn Summers was my great-times-eight-grandmother."
"Which one's Dawn?" Bones stared at the picture. Jim knew he was seeing the resemblance between the girls and Jim in the shape of the face, particularly the chin. It was pretty obvious, too, that Buffy's hair gained as much assistance from chemical enhancement as Jim's did.
Jim smiled faintly. "The one that looks like Jo. Dawn was quite feisty, forthright, fierce, and willing to fight the good fight with the only thing she had--her blood. She married one of Buffy's friends--Xander Harris." He reached over and touched the PADD again. A picture of Dawn and a tall man with black hair and an eye-patch popped up.
"Get used to hearing these names. The Watcher's Council is an extremely incestuous little organization, even after many millennia." Jim looked at the picture fondly. He never knew most of these people and he wasn't always grateful that they had given him such a bloodthirsty legacy, but their stories were inspiring and gave him a sense of belonging to something larger than himself and even Starfleet.
"The blonde, Buffy--she was the Slayer, then?" Bones paged back to the first picture and looked at her again. "She looks awful young for so much responsibility."
Jim nodded. "Buffy was called at sixteen. Most Slayers are called between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. Jo is a little on the young side, but not out of the zone for being Chosen."
"The Chosen One." Bones muttered to himself, staring at the picture of Buffy. "How do these girls get unchosen? When is their job done? What if Jo doesn't want to be a Slayer? Maybe she wants to be a doctor, or a teacher."
Jim wished he could wrap Bones up in his arms right now, because he knew the man was going to need it when he got the answer to those questions. He needed to make an end run around the explosion he knew was forthcoming.
"First, you have to know that there is no longer a Chosen One; it's more like the Chosen Two Thousand. She'll be in good company." A quick tap on the PADD and a picture of a castle set in green forested hills popped up, young women lined up in formation, filling the forecourt.
Bones' eyebrows shot up. "What did they do, start breeding them once they knew what genes controlled it? How did this ever get past the fallout of the Eugenics War and the ban on genetic manipulation? Is Jo a sport, a throwback to someone who left the program?"
Jim rubbed his forehead at Bones' obtuseness, more likely his unwillingness to believe that there was anything science couldn't provide an answer for. "It's not genetic, it's mystical. Think about it. There always has to be a Slayer. Evil doesn't sleep, it's always out there. If we had to wait for each girl to grow up after a Slayer vacated her post, there would be gaps. One girl is chosen at a time, therefore there has to be one girl ready to replace the next--she has to have Potential that can be triggered at a moment's notice. Being Chosen doesn't happen on a day that's planned, but it's planned for by the mystical forces that empower her."
"A moment's notice." Bones echoed the phrase, it taking a few seconds to sink in. And, as Jim had predicted, he could see the lit fuse in the sparks in Bones' eyes before he exploded into action.
"You mealy-mouthed bastard. Why don't you just say the only way a girl is Chosen is for another girl to die? How young? How long does Jo have before she dies and calls the next Slayer?" Bones tossed the PADD onto Jim's desk as he shot to his feet.
Jim stood up, too, striding over to stand in front of Bones, chest to chest, eye to eye. "Because most Slayers die in their beds these days. Of old age. Sit down." Jim put both his hands on Bones' biceps and urged him back into his chair. Bones resisted only a moment and then complied. Despite his anger, it was obvious to Jim that he wanted answers.
"I know you're concerned for Jo, but what I'm more concerned with is which Slayer has died who activated Jo, because we don't know who died. Pike has sent bulletins to all our Watcher outposts and we've got an agent tracking down some of the more far-flung Slayers who haven't reported in recently. There have been no confirmed Slayer deaths since Jo started exhibiting signs of being Chosen." Jim turned away to hide his face from Bones with his next words. He knew he wouldn't be able to keep the pain off his face with what he had to say next.
"It's highly possible that someone's mother or wife or daughter is dead and we don't know it yet," Jim's voice broke a little. "As large as this galaxy is, you know how long communications from one end to the other can take and how unforeseen events can affect them." Jim took a moment to get his face under control before he turned back to face Bones. His back to the desk, he sat on the edge and crossed his arms in front, holding in the hurt of that particular memory. It had taken three months to get word from Tarsus of the massacre. Three months to find out that even though his mother had eliminated Kodos and his renegade cell of the Scourge, she had perished during the attempt.
Jim could see the light bulb going on over Bones' head. "Your mother. You said Jo reminded you of your mother."
Jim scrubbed a hand across his eyes. Maybe he still wasn't as in control as he thought. "Yeah. I'm sorry, Bones. I didn't want to have to be the one to tell you this. Being a Slayer is a very dangerous job. And while many Slayers do live to a ripe old age, many don't. Just like not all members of Starfleet have uneventful careers to retire peacefully at home. Saving the universe one apocalypse at a time is a very dangerous business. But at least in Starfleet we're given a choice; Slayers aren't. I'm sorry, Bones. I'm so sorry."
Bones got up and walked over to stand in front of Jim. When he looked up he could see the the struggle Bones was having with himself. He was frowning, but he still reached out to Jim. "Jim. C'mere." Jim was caught totally by surprise when Bones pulled him into his arms, smoothing his hands up Jim's back, coaxing his muscles into relaxing.
Jim caught a small whimper coming out of his mouth before he could call it back. "Bones." He found himself shoving his nose in to the warm skin of Bones' neck and practically collapsing into the man's arms. It felt so good to be in those arms, something he'd only hoped for and still didn't really believe he'd have in the long term. Finally allowed to put his arms around the other man, he wanted to hold onto this moment forever.
"Just tell me that you're doing everything possible to keep Jo safe. That's all I want. Promise me." Bones' hands were warm on his back, one skimming up to the back of Jim's neck and used his thumb to prod his chin up to look at him.
Jim nodded, then squirmed out of the hold Bones had on him reluctantly. "Let me get my PADD."
Picking the PADD up off the desk, he paged quickly through to the picture he wanted. "Jo’s already spotted one of our allies." He held up the PADD so Bones could see a picture of Lorne.
Bones gave out a surprised grunt. "That guy looks like what Jo described in her last couple of letters. Who, what, who...does it have a name? "
"It's a he. Lorne is from Pylea, a demon dimension adjacent to ours. After we got Jo's letter where she started describing her dreams I was sure she'd been Chosen, but Pike wouldn't send out a Watcher until we had confirmation of a slayer down. Until then she's only listed as a Potential. She should still have a Watcher, but we needed to step lightly around Jocelyn."
Bones gave a start of surprise. "What's Joce got to do with this?"
"Possibly nothing. However, you were the one who told me that Jocelyn hired Wolfram and Hart to handle your divorce." Jim shook his head. "We couldn't risk it being a set up."
Bones looked at him, his brow furrowed in puzzlement. "I'll be the first to admit that Joce's lawyers took me to the cleaners, but any lawyer worth his salt probably would have gotten the same result. I was a mess and I didn't put up much of a fight. But I don't see what that has to do with Jo being a Potential."
Jim shook his head. "You don't have the background, yet, but I'll fill you in. By now, you do have the need to know, so it's going to have to be a crash course."
Jim pulled the two chairs facing his desk together and sat down in one, urging Bones into the other. He looked at Bones while he clasped two of their hands together and got a squeeze of confirmation in return. "Wolfram and Hart is the earthly presence and representatives of a trio of ancient demons who want to literally bring hell to Earth. They are the physical embodiment of evil in our dimension. The Council tends to play things very close to the vest around Wolfram and Hart. It's been centuries since their physical representatives, the Circle of the Black Thorn, were destroyed, but the firm, and its evil, is slowly making inroads into our dimension again."
Bones nodded along with this recitation, taking it all in. "So, this Council was afraid that Jo might be a puppet for this group, due to Jocelyn having a connection?"
Jim nodded. "Exactly. I have no doubt that she isn't; Jo has too strong a personality to be easily controlled by anyone. But the Council didn't want to take the chance that they were trying to plant a sleeper in the Slayer ranks."
"And this Lorne is there to protect her?" Bones looked relieved at the thought.
Jim picked at one of his cuticles with his free hand. "Not exactly."
Bones' eyebrows did a complicated dance from surprise, to suspicion, to ire and stayed beetled over his eyes, while his eyes started to heat up again. "Do not tell me he's an assassin." He didn't let go of Jim's hand, though, which showed his level of trust in Jim outmatched his mouth.
"No, no! That was only the one time! Lorne is an anagogic demon, he reads auras. He can tell if you're good or evil just from listening to you speak or sing." Jim pressed Bones' hand between both of his. "He was sent to check out the people around Jo, to make sure their motives were pure."
Bones grunted. "Wouldn't call Joce pure, but she's not evil."
"No, Joce is just a frazzled mother trying to navigate her daughter's passage through adolescence. Not knowing her daughter is a Slayer isn't helping things any. The sooner we get confirmation that Jo has been Chosen, the sooner we can send a bona fide representative of the Watcher's Council to convince Joce that Jo would do better at the Academy where she can get the proper training amongst her peers." Jim felt Bones relax next to him, his body molding closer to his seat as he digested the efforts that Jim and the Council were making to protect his daughter.
"That's not going to make Joce very happy; her life is in Atlanta. Isn't there any way Jo could get her training at home?" Bones picked up the PADD sitting in Jim's lap, paging through to the picture of the castle. "Where is this, anyway?"
Jim looked at the picture. "Scotland, but that place doesn't exist any more. The Slayer Academy was absorbed into Starfleet close to two centuries ago. Then, once the UFP was created, it was placed under the aegis of Section 31. The current Slayer Academy is in the Presidio, part of the UFP complex there."
"So there's going to be two thousand slayers there for Jo to go to school with?" Bones looked up at Jim, gesturing to the girls in the picture.
Jim chuckled. "No, only about forty or fifty at any given time. That picture was of the first class of slayers that Buffy activated. Before that, there was only one at a time. Then Buffy and Willow Rosenberg came along and activated every single Potential simultaneously."
"That sounds like a hell of a lot better odds than just one at a time. Smart girl." Bones had started paging through the photos in the file, when his head popped up in surprise. "Wait. Rosenberg? As in Ensign Rosenberg of the rash?"
Jim smirked at Bones and pushed his hand away from the scroll bar on the PADD, flipping quickly to a picture of a sweet-faced redhead with brilliant green eyes. "And yes, you would be right that Ensign Rosenberg is related to her. He's actually a fairly decent magic practitioner; he's our contact with the coven back at headquarters. If he was harvesting contraband from the botany lab it was for a spell of some kind, not to smoke."
"Is everyone on this ship in on the secret mumbo-jumbo handshake?" Bones frowned at Jim. "I thought you said only three people had the need to know."
Jim nodded. "Yes, and he's one of them. The other two are Uhura and Spock. It's not just alien languages that Uhura knows, but every demon dialect out there."
"How can she know all of them?" Bones sounded skeptical. Jim looked at him, at the way he was now completely relaxed in his chair, one ankle resting on the opposite knee, his body language saying he was likely open to more new experiences. Leaning over to his comm panel he hit a button.
"Lt. Uhura, could you meet me in my ready room? I'd like you to show something to Doctor McCoy." Jim settled back into his chair to await the next act of what was rapidly becoming a three-ring circus.
A moment later the door slid open and Uhura entered the ready room. Coming to a stop, she looked at the two men, her head cocked to one side like a bird evaluating a bug to be consumed.
"Lt. Uhura, thank you for--" Jim didn't get any of the niceties out before he was interrupted.
"Has the doctor's offspring finally been confirmed as one of those puny Slayers that you must call me in here to play show and tell?"
Jim saw Bones start at the tone of voice. He straightened up in his chair at the words, sputtering defensively. "Puny? What's a string bean like you calling someone puny?"
"Uhura, play nice. Doctor McCoy has had some tremendous shocks today; I would like you to--." Again, Uhura interrupted Jim.
"I care nothing for the likes and dislikes of someone who is but a worm beneath my frailest tentacle. But, in getting this humiliation over with quickly so I may return to my duties I will comply with your wishes." Jim felt Bones' hand jolt in his as his communications officer allowed the svelte form of Nyota Uhura in her Stafleet red uniform to fade away into the blues, reds and browns of the shell the Old One known as Illyria inhabited since she'd been resurrected in the body of Winifred Burkle. It still looked as if a stiff breeze would send the willowy brunette spinning away like a leaf before the storm, but Jim knew how deceptive that fragility was; he'd watched her and Spike spar more than once.
Illyria turned to face Bones completely. "I am much diminished from my original form. For millenia, I ruled over vast territories of the Primordium, crushing my enemies and feasting on their entrails. Now, I assist these measly humans in their quest to spread their pestilence throughout the galaxy."
Bones looked a little shocked, then turned to Jim with a pungent observation. "I always wondered what Nyota saw in Spock, now I understand completely. They've both got an overweening belief in their own superiority."
"I am superior; it would be illogical to attempt to refute it." Her form once more flowed between aspects until she was again Nyota Uhura in her red uniform. "I will go now. There is a strange disturbance in the frequencies in the subhertz range, yet we are not close enough to any stellar body that would be giving out those kinds of signals. I must observe this phenomenon more before I can decide if it is something of value to us."
"Thank you, Uhura." Jim smiled at her before she turned abruptly and marched out the door.
Bones turned in his chair to look at Jim. "So, this Illyria, what is she exactly?"
Jim ran his free hand through his hair and huffed out a breath while figuring out the best way to explain Illyria. "Well, what you see is only a shell. Illyria was an Old One, one of the original true demons that ruled over the Earth before mankind arose. Her form was shaped more in the nature of a giant cephalopod. Think something large enough to stomp a twenty story office building into dust. The shell you see now was Winifred Burkle, a scientist that worked for Wolfram and Hart's headquarters in Los Angeles back at the turn of the twenty-first century."
Bones' eyebrows shot up. "Wolfram and Hart, again. So why's this evil demon working for the good guys?"
"One--not all demons are inherently evil, although Illyria certainly was. Two--Wolfram and Hart took away most of her powers, and made her feel vulnerable. She swore vengeance and agreed to help take them down. It didn't hurt that the residual emotions of Fred that were left in the shell caused Illyria to feel pain, fear, love, attachment. She decided to live as a human since she couldn't escape them."
"Christ, Jim. This is all so unbelievable. Just answer me this: is Spock some kind of devil? Isn't him being Vulcan bad enough?" Bones tipped his head back and closed his eyes. He had dark rings under them, telling Jim he hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. Probably poring over the book Jim had pushed at him.
"No, Spock is exactly what he is: a human/Vulcan hybrid." Jim reassured him.
"Then why is he a member of the cool kids club?" Bones rolled his head sideways and leaned on Jim's shoulder. It was obvious there wasn't much more to be talked about tonight. Bones might have more questions, but it looked like he was going into information overload and there would be time for more revelations in the coming days.
"Well, he is a touch telepath; Illyria couldn't exactly hide what she was from him. So, we recruited him." Jim brushed his mouth against the rumpled brown hair presented to him by the top of Bones' head. He was tempted to let Bones fall asleep against his shoulder, but knew it would only result in more restless repose which the man obviously did not need. The fact Bones felt comfortable enough with him to let his guard down so far told him that he hadn't lost his trust and that there was still hope that they could find something together out of this quagmire of misunderstanding and secrets. Jim smiled to himself, happier than he'd been in a long, long time.
"Bones, I think you've had enough for today. Why don't you go get some sleep and I can answer more of your questions later." Jim raised one hand to stroke it through the bangs that had flopped over Bones' forehead, smoothing them back into place so he could see the droopy hazel eyes blink up at him.
Bones struggled to sit upright. "Yeah, yeah, you're right. I'm about useless right now. Can I take that book back to my quarters, again? There's still a lot of stuff I want to read about."
"Sure. Keep it for a while, just don't leave it where anyone can see it. I usually keep it locked up." Jim stood up and offered Bones a hand, giving a slight tug to help him out of his chair. Bones let himself be pulled up into Jim's space, the two of them standing chest to chest. Jim looked into Bones' eyes, searching for the remnants of his earlier anger.
"Are we good?" Jim raised one hand to clasp Bones' elbow, but it wasn't necessary. Bones stayed exactly where he was, his hands reaching for Jim's waist.
With a tug, he pulled Jim in tight. "Yeah, we're good. I'm sorry I went off half-cocked earlier. I guess you really understand where I was coming from, though, don't you?" Bones reached a hand up and skimmed it over Jim's mouth. "I just want Jo to be safe, to live a long life and be able to chase her dreams. Being a Slayer doesn't seem to bring anyone a lot of peace and joy, only an early death."
"The peace and joy are there, just interspersed with hard work and dedication. Not a lot different than any job that's worth doing." Jim smiled under Bones' touch. "Now, old man, why don't you go to bed before you start making promises your body can't keep."
Bones snorted. "Old man? I'll show you old man. But, yeah, not tonight." Pressing a brief kiss to Jim's mouth, he stepped back and straightened his shirt out from where it had crept up under Jim's hands while they'd been talking. "Give me that damn book and I'll get out of your hair."
Jim laughed. "I'll take that as a promise." He turned back to his desk, picked up the book that Bones had practically thrown at him earlier and handed it back to him.
"No more reading this tonight. We'll talk more about it later." Placing one hand on his shoulder, Jim walked Bones to the door.
"Sleep well, Bones. It's all going to turn out for the better, you'll see." Bones gave him one last tired smile before the door swished open, releasing him into the corridor to return to his quarters with much to think about. Jim watched him go from the open door, until he finally stepped back far enough for the door to automatically close. He reached up and touched his lips. Such a brief kiss, but he'd waited so many years for Bones, a few more days wouldn't matter until they could take time to really explore what had been building between them for so long. Jo came first, the mission, as always, came first.
Dear Dad and Uncle Jim,
I've quit trying to tell Mom about my dreams; she's starting to look a little crazy-eyed at me any time I mention them. She's got me scheduled to go see Doctor Schneider in two weeks. I'm not looking forward to it. I don't think I need it. Dreams are just dreams, right?
But I don't know! My dreams feel so real, sometimes. I'm dreaming of all these girls, that I am these girls. Most of the time, I'm running through cemeteries. Sometimes, I'm crawling through sewers. Stinky, by the way. Sucks having stinky dreams. And the weird creatures I keep killing. Yeah. Every dream, I'm a teenage girl and I'm doing my best to kill or not be killed.
Last night, I was in a fight in a train with this guy all dressed in black and denim, covered in safety pins. I smashed his head through the window, but all he did was laugh and come back at me. We fought up and down the car and I thought I had him when the lights went out. But when they came back on, I was on the ground with him kneeling over me and then his hands reached for my face and that's the last thing I remember. I think that girl died. It's a good thing a person can't really die in their dreams, but I think it would almost be better that way than to die from a real monster killing me. I think it would hurt. Those poor girls must get so tired. Heck, I'm tired and they're only dreams!
I just wish these dreams would go away, Dad. They creep me out and I'm only getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night because I wake up terrified. Could you prescribe me something? Maybe then I can tell this Doctor Schneider that it was all just a big mistake. I ate the wrong thing at lunch and it gave me nightmares.
P.S. I've included a drawing I made of the man in my dream. He's kinda dreamy looking, isn't he? Ha, I crack myself up! Hey, don't you think he looks a little like that guy you like who sings that song "Rebel Yell," Uncle Jim?
A few night later, Jim tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair as he waited for the comm panel on the desk in his quarters to signal that his connection was ready. When it finally activated, he was facing the agent from Section 31 that he'd sent out to investigate the whereabouts of the last three unaccounted-for Slayers. As soon as the picture was stable, he got right down to business.
"Listen, Spike, have you had any luck following up on McGivers, Lester or Madison?" Jim watched as the platinum-haired agent leaned back in his chair and threw booted feet up on the console in front of him. His left hand moved out of range of the video feed, only to come back into view a moment later with a pack of contraband cigarettes. Jim watched as Spike tapped one out of the pack, stuck it between his lips at the corner of his mouth and pulled out a silver lighter. A quick flick and he'd sucked the tip into a glowing ember, taking a drag before finally answering Jim's question. Jim shook his head; what a drama queen.
Spike wiggled a little, getting comfortable before he finally blew out a cloud of smoke. He had a distinct leer on his face as he reported the first of his findings. "Lester and Madison took a little detour together to Risa. Tracked them down to a cozy little seaside resort where they were sunning their bits side-by-side on a very isolated beach. Coulda made some serious dosh off the holovid rights to the action those two were getting. Sent them a private communiqué on Section 31 channels and told them to get their sunburned little arses back on their scheduled outing. Don't think they'll be taking any more unsanctioned vacations. Described in living color how I'd vivisect them for breakfast and fry up their organs for elevenses if they tried something like that again."
Jim smiled at the gory image he painted. "You old blowhard, you'd never--"
Spike cut him off with a pointed finger, his cigarette dangling precariously from the vee of his pointer and middle finger. "Oi! Don't even think it, Cornfed... I may have a soul, but I didn't get my teeth pulled the way the Poofter did." He sniffed and stuck the cigarette back into the corner of his mouth. "Couldn't even gum someone to death by the time he finally kicked it. That's what you get for Shanshuing: dentures and those nappies they had retired movie stars advertise on the telly back in the 21st. I'll go down fighting the good fight."
Jim rolled his eyes at the litany. "Yeah, yeah, Angel was lame and he had funny hair. You're a fine one to speak, Captain Peroxide. Your look hasn't changed in over two centuries."
Spike shook his head. "You know, if the overgrown hall monitor could have seen what his bloody progeny would come to, he'd bleedin' weep. You're a fine one to talk, Cadet Clairol." Stubbing his cigarette out on the bottom of his boot, Spike tossed the butt over his shoulder.
Jim tsked. "That's Captain Clairol to you. And look at you! Littering, is that the worst you can come up with these days?"
Spike tipped his head back, looking down his nose at Jim. "Nothing has been the same since World War III. Used to be a man could get a bit of crash and bash on when he'd had a hankering for a pint or two, count on the bobbies to come around for a nice dust up to top off the evening. These days, you get a ticket in your comm stack and your credit chip gets docked. What's the fun in that? Takes the piss out of a man." Spike's feet thudded to the floor and he leaned forward in his chair, his face suddenly serious.
"No whitewashing it, and if you tell anyone I said this, I'll bite that helmet-haired Ken-doll you're so stuck on: once the Scooby Gang passed on, there wasn't as much to keep me fighting the good fight. I thought of moving on to a new planet once reliable warp engines were developed. Somewhere I could stand under a sun that wouldn't burn me right to ashes. 'Snot anything you need to know, but it's about the mood a lot of folk were in, human or demon. We were all floundering in the wake of the Eugenics War. Around that time, started hearing some rumbling that some wanker had stuffed a ship full with desiccated Old Ones and taken off for Alpha Centauri. Planned to set up a new age of true demons. Thought for a while that's what we were going to find on Tarsus and all we'd have to do was smash up some sarcophagi, didn't plan on a whole host of the Scourge." Spike threw Jim a commiserating look.
"Yeah, I know." Jim looked down for a minute; that had been a major clusterfuck. Bad intel had led to inadequate personnel assigned to the mission and a supply chain fuck-up that had left the few people involved scrambling to live off the land while waiting for supplies that came three months too late. Reinforcements that should have been part of the original mission. Too little, too late.
"Your mum was a real trooper, Sprout. She had some moves on her. Reminded me at times of Buffy, the way she thought at ninety degrees to everyone else, catch you totally by surprise. It would have been an honor to be done for by her; take my word for it." Spike's finger stabbed out at him again.
Jim nodded, a lump in his throat keeping him from saying anything in agreement, or disagreement. He knew how Spike felt about Slayers. After a moment, he regained his composure to ask after the final Slayer.
"What about McGivers?"
Spike nodded. "Getting to that. She was last seen leaving here about two weeks ago. I don't know if you knew the bint, but she was obsessed with the history of the Old Ones. Read up everything she could on them, took a sight-seeing tour of the Deeper Well, even found her trying to tap the Blue Meanie's comm records whenever she was in range of the Enterprise."
Jim startled at that. "That's not good. Those are supposed to be secure transmissions between members of Section 31 on a need-to-know basis. Why--?"
Spike leaned back in his chair, a frown on his face. "Think maybe she suspected Blue was in touch with other Old Ones, maybe had found the Botany Bay."
Jim shook his head at the thought. "Uhura would have told me if she made contact with them. She hasn't heard anything--" He sat up straight in his chair as a thought occurred to him.
"Something you forgetting to share with the class, Flyboy?" Spike cocked his head at Jim's sudden silence.
"Uhura did hear something she couldn't identify a couple of days ago. Considering she communes with plants, there 's not much out there that stumps her. I'll have her pinpoint the location on the star charts and we'll go back and check it out." Jim felt a sense of exhilaration that he had a lead toward finding something that had confounded section 31 for well over a century.
"Keep an eye out for that McGivers bint along the way. If she was playing peeping tom to Blue's frequencies, she may have gotten a jump on you. Her interest in Old Ones was unhealthy-like. Fair worshipped them, she did." Spike spun his chair sideways to the desk, throwing his feet up on the corner and one elbow on the console, apparently satisfied that their conclusions were correct and that Jim would follow up with action to resolve the issue. As Jim watched him tap another cigarette out of the pack in front of him, the door chime announced a visitor. He wasn't expecting anyone, so he hoped whoever it was could be fobbed off with a lick and a promise. Well, maybe not the lick, unless it was Bones.
"Don't go yet, Spike; I've got a couple of questions to ask you still. I'll get rid of whoever it is." Jim got up from his desk and went to the control panel on the wall, hitting the button that opened the door.
It was a pleasant surprise to find the visitor was Bones, but a little awkward, too, as he hadn't finished his conversation with Spike. Making a snap decision of the kind he was famous for, Jim went ahead and invited him in. It was time Bones was given a more in-depth tour of some of Section 31's inner workings.
"Hey, great timing, Bones. I have someone I want you to meet." Jim urged Bones forward into the office area of his quarters, one hand on the small of his back. He'd get that lick later when Spike wasn't around to mock him for it. As they came around the privacy screen, he saw Spike sit up in interest.
"Is this the heartthrob, then?" Jim felt his ears heat up at the words and a slight blush rose up in his cheeks at Spike's words. Considering he and Bones hadn't really had time to define the change in their relationship, it was a little embarrassing to hear Spike throwing out such laden buzzwords.
"Could you make me sound any more like a 15-year-old with his first crush, Spike? Thanks for nothing." Jim scowled at the agent. He turned to look at Bones, even though it was hard to meet his eyes after Spike's needling.
Jim started to introduce the two men to each other. "Bones, I'd like you to meet--"
"Jim, that man's a killer. What are you doing communicating with him?" Bones looked at Jim, his eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"You've heard of me, then?" Spike looked at Bones with interest, leaning forward slightly in his chair, the cigarette again being used as a pointer. "Has Buck Rogers over there been telling tales out of school to impress you?"
Bones scowled at Spike. "Jim hasn't told me anything. But you're the spittin' image of a picture Jo drew of a killer."
Jim scrubbed one hand through his hair. "Yeah. That's what I was going to talk to Spike about next. And since you're here, you can sit in. There's stuff you need to know and this will kill two birds with one stone."
"It better explain why you're talking to a murderer who's not in prison right now."
Jim pinched the bridge of his nose. "Yes, Bones, it will. Would you sit down, please? We need to talk about Jo's dreams." Jim pointed Bones to a chair and watched as he settled into it, his back straight and his shoulders stiff.
One of Spike's eyebrows peaked in interest. "'At's right; he's got a snack size back home, doesn't he?"
"Don't tell him anything, Jim. He might go after Jo next." Bones crossed his arms over his chest, reluctance in his entire posture.
"Spike is not a danger to Jo, okay? He's got a soul. For all he plays the evil undead, he's a pussycat." Jim quelled Spike's outraged squawk with a pointed glare. "Let me show him the letters and the picture she drew and we can talk about what it is and what it means." Jim laid a hand on Bones' knee in an attempt to soothe him. Bones' leg twitched, but he let Jim's hand stay where it was. Jim couldn't blame him for being wary, even if on the surface he seemed to be overreacting to what was ostensibly a very vivid dream not based in reality. Except...it was Jo's dream.
Bones nodded his head. "This better be good."
"Only the best, mate." Spike relaxed his interested hunch so he was sprawled back in his chair, one leg up on the console, the other one draped off to one side, bringing the thrust of his hips into prominence.
Jim shook his head at the display. "Knock it off, Spike. Bones isn't even your type. Tall, dark and forehead, right? Should be anathema to you."
"Spoil sport." Spike took another drag of his cigarette and blew a smoke ring at the viewscreen. He waved his hand at Jim in a 'go ahead' gesture, beckoning towards himself. "Right, then. What did you need the good sawbones here for?"
Jim keyed in a command at his console, pulling up Jo's letters tiled along the left side of the viewscreen for all of them to read. "Jo's been having dreams for a while now that smack of Slayer Prophecies."
"Prophecies, Jim? More occult claptrap?" Bones scoffed, one eyebrow flying high on his forehead.
"Bones, did you or did you not recognize Spike as soon as you saw him?" Bones conceded the point with a reluctant nod.
"Slayer dreams can be pretty damn accurate; we've learned that over the years. We need to know if Jo's are prophecy or just a result of the greater Slayer gestalt." He looked at Bones to expand on his comment. "Slayers have a form of inherited memory or consciousness; what one Slayer has felt or seen can be passed on through dreams, a timeline of past Slayers and their history, but not necessarily prophecy." Jim pulled up the picture she'd drawn and heard Spike curse at the likeness.
"Shit, must be me from back around the end of the twentieth century. Before I got the coat off Nicki Wood." Spike leaned towards the viewscreen, cataloging the piercings, the spiked hair, the eyeliner. "Might even be the last night I danced with her. Sister had a death wish."
Bones glared at him. "You killed her."
Spike shrugged, then looked straight at Bones from the viewscreen. His face rippled and the next thing they saw was the ridged brow, golden eyes and jagged teeth of his true visage. Bones shrank back in his chair at the change for only a moment before he straightened up again, attempting to remain uncowed by all the new information being thrown at him. Seeing pictures in a book was one thing, being confronted with the reality required a complete rearranging of his known world. "Vampire, mate. Kill or be killed when there's a Slayer in play." Jim watched as Spike's face smoothed back out and he ground his cigarette out in an ashtray off to one side.
Jim interrupted before it could turn into a verbal slinging match. "So the description of the fight in the subway car, that's accurate?"
Spike scanned the letter intently, fiddled with his lighter, looked to one side and then gave a short nod. "Yeah, that was Nicki Wood. My second Slayer."
Bones shot up out of his chair. "Listen to him, Jim! He admits killing her. Why are we having anything to do with him? I don't care what he knows, he's evil."
"Sit down! Now." Jim jumped up and pointed to the chair Bones had flown out of. "We need to know how accurate Jo's dreams are; they could be very important. To us and to her. To keeping her alive. And it's not just that we need Spike to help evaluate that, but he's earned his place."
Bones threw his hands up and sat down in his chair. "Fine. Fine, we need him."
"If it's any consolation to you, ya big girl's blouse, I won't be passing go and collecting two hundred dollars when I finally kick this immortal coil; I'll be going straight to bloody Hell. Think being punished for eternity will be enough retribution for you?" Spike shivered a little in his chair, his hands tucked into his armpits. A haunted look passed across his face. "Almost went there once already; not looking forward to that final journey."
Bones looked at him curiously. "How do you know you'll go there?"
"Evil dead, here; spent nearly one hundred an' thirty years doing evil, loving every minute of it until the bloody Initiative shoved a behavior modification chip in my noggin. You can thank the Sprout's great-whatever-grandad Finn for that. Then, well, then I went batshit insane and got a soul for love. Beside the point, though. The good, like Buffy, go to Heaven; us demons, the right evil ones, go to Hell. If you're lucky, your friends save you before that happens." Spike lit up another cigarette, attempting to look nonchalant, but Jim could see that he was still a little rattled by the way his hand shook.
"So the only reason you do good is because you're programmed to, like a robot or a computer?" Bones had a sour look on his face.
"Bleedin' hell, you tosser! How many times do we have to tell you; I have a soul. Now I see why it's taken Cadet Clairol so long to get through to you; you're bloody thick!" Spike kicked one of the legs of the console in frustration and Jim heard it give out a slight groan at the abuse. "Let me ask you this, Doctor--what keeps you from killing someone?"
Bones looked taken aback at the question. "My oath. I'm a doctor."
"Besides your oath. What, as the oh-so-special bloody human you are, keeps you doing the right thing time after time? When there's no one there to tell you what the right thing to do is, how do you know?" Spike stared at Bones, waiting for his answer.
It came immediately. "My conscience. I listen to my conscience." Bones peered sideways at Spike. "So, are you saying a soul is the conscience? And you've got a soul."
"Give the man a cigar. Bloody right I do. Had to fight for the bugger, too, and it wasn't a cake walk. Wasn't exactly what I asked for, either, but you know how that goes. Wishes and horses and all that rot." Spike looked at Jim through the viewscreen. "Can we get back to business, now? I've got places to be, people to do."
Jim shook his head with a wry grin. "Yeah, let's see if we can wrap this up. My last question for you, Spike: How accurate are Slayer dreams, in general?"
Spike looked surprised. "Didn't your mum ever talk to you about them? They could be fair cryptic at times, until you shook the pieces out on the table and put them together proper. But it was usually all there, just a mishmash until you made sense of it."
Jim swallowed past a lump in his throat. "She quit dreaming, she said. After I was born. Mom said the dreams were useless if they couldn't save my father. But I think if she'd still had them, she wouldn't have failed at Tarsus." He rubbed his hands against his thighs in agitation, only stilling when Bones reached over and took one of them to hold. Jim wouldn't look at him, though; didn't want to see the pity in his eyes. His mom was the only thing that could make him feel weak.
"That's a right shame, Sprout. No one on the Council ever realized that, I reckon. Dreams wouldn't have helped during the Kelvin Incident, though. Weren't no supernatural baddie that got your Da, just that tosser Nero. Slayer dreams don't work that way." Spike leaned forward, planting both elbows on the console and crowding in close to the viewscreen to speak directly to Jim. "Your mum didn't fail, though; I won't have you saying that. She saved four thousand colonists from the Scourge. Not many Slayers out there with that kind of moxie in her. Buffy, maybe one or two other and that's it."
Jim sat mute in the face of Spike's vehemence. He'd had to live with his mother, and without her, both during his childhood and after her death. Winona may have been a Slayer and heroic for all that was worth, but she never let him forget that the mission came first. All he had wanted to do was help and she wouldn't allow him to. He supposed he should be grateful she didn't let him go to Tarsus with her, but maybe she'd be alive today if he had. He'd never know and they might have, if she hadn't given up her dreams. Jim finally looked at Spike. "I know--it's the mission that matters."
"That's a crock of shite! And your mother knew it, as like any parent knows." Spike sat up straight and jammed a finger at the viewscreen. "Ask your Doctor McDreamy there why he does what he does out here in the black void."
Bones lifted a hand to Jim's face and turned it toward him. "For our children, Jim. To keep them safe, to protect them from harm. We may join from a sense of adventure, and if it serves a larger purpose in the long run, that's all to the better, but at the heart of it we want our children to be able to grow up without being afraid of the things that scare us. Sometimes that takes us far away from them, but it doesn't make it any less worthwhile. Do you think I'm a bad parent for being out here?"
"No, never! It's not that I didn't want Mom to go, I was proud of her. She was the best. I could see it with every mission; she got better and better. And I was helping her, but she--" he broke off, his mouth moving soundlessly in distress.
"She what, Jim? How were you helping?" Jim's hand pulled out of Bones' grip as he jumped out of his chair and he stalked from one side of the office space to the other. One hand on the back of his neck and the other clenched in front his mouth, Jim bit back words that would damn him. He was forced to stop his pacing when Bones stood up and blocked his restless movement, one hand reaching out to steady Jim under his elbow. "C'mon, tell me. Tell me what you did. It couldn't be that bad. You said you were helping."
Jim shook his hand off with a jerk and, turning abruptly, slammed his fist into the bulkhead. Keeping his back to Bones, he leaned his forehead against the cold metal, both hands resting on the wall next to his head. Strength...he could feel the strength of the ship; he let it flow into him, bolster him as he drew what he could from the inert metal. "She shouldn't have gone to Tarsus! I told her. I told her about my dreams and she wouldn't listen. She quit having dreams because I stole them. I don't know how, or why, but I started having them. If I'd never been born, she would never have gone to Tarsus or she would have been better prepared. I should have made her listen, really listen. It's all my fault." Jim's words were coming in gasps as he confessed to the blank wall how he had killed his mother. The cold comfort of the bulkhead was all Jim could hope for at the moment; there was no way that Bones would still want him when he found out his mother's death was his fault.
"Oh, Jim." Bones came up behind him and placed his arms around his waist, pulling him back into his chest. Jim remained stiff in his arms for a minute, before relaxing into the embrace, a shudder rippling through him as he took in a deep breath.
"I killed her, Bones," Jim whispered. He wrapped his arms around the ones holding him close, held on tight as if he'd never let Bones go. If this was all he ever got, he didn't want to forget it, ever.
"Darlin', you didn't. I don't know what it was that killed your mother, this Scourge or whateveryoucallit, but you did not kill your mother." Bones pressed his lips to the curve of Jim's jaw, just below the ear and left them there as he whispered his reassurances into Jim's ear. "No more than Jo would have killed me if I die out here in space. Children aren't responsible for their parent's choices. I'm sorry she didn't listen to you, but it was her decision, not yours." He went quiet for a minute, to give Jim time to think that over before he spoke again.
"Do you blame me for my father's death? For I surely administered the hypospray that killed him; you've known that about me since our second year at Starfleet." Jim was struck dumb for a moment before he managed to wiggle around so he could look Bones in they eyes.
"Never. What you did was the humane thing, done out of love. I could never believe ill of you." Jim pulled Bones close with both arms, his chin resting over one shoulder and his face tucked in tight to Bones' neck.
Caught in their own little world of two, both men gave a start and turned back to the viewscreen when Spike interrupted. "You lot sure go on about the most namby-pamby drivel. I had to stake my own mother, I'll have you know. Don't see me crying in my bitters."
"Oh, great. You don't just kill slayers, you killed your own mother, too?" Bones face wrinkled up in disgusst.
Spike fiddled with his pack of cigarettes, sliding one out, but not lighting it, just turning it end over end between his fingers while he stared at it. "She had consumption; was killin' her anyway. So I turned her. Turned out her demon didn't have much use for me and when she came after me with a piece of wood aimed at my heart, it was her or me. Like me mum said, even as a vampire I was too tender; although in the end, not too tender to do her demon right."
Bones looked at him consideringly, turning the revelation over in his head. He watched as Spike finally stuck the cigarette in his mouth and lit up. "Those things will kill you."
"Already dead, mate. Think I can suffer the slings and arrows." Spike smirked as he leaned back in his chair, smoke trailing lazily out of one corner of his mouth.
"Yeah, well, maybe the people around you shouldn't have to suffer them, either. Do you know what second-hand smoke can do to virgin lung tissue?" Jim could see Bones getting a head of steam built up again. This was something Bones could sink his teeth into, metaphorically speaking. Jim smothered his snicker behind the back of one hand. Bones could be one of the most compassionate men with other people's hurts, psychic or physical, but he could turn that compassion into a crusade when he felt other people were being harmed.
Spike flicked ash onto the floor in disdain. "Do you see any virgin lung tissue in this room? I don't do virgins...any more."
Jim laughed. "I told you, Bones; his bark is worse than his bite."
"Bite your tongue, O neg; I'm the Big Bad and you know it." Spike stuck his lower lip out at Jim, making the cigarette in his mouth dangle at a precarious angle.
Bones looked at Jim with raised eyebrows. "Are you sure we need his help? And, are we sure you two aren't related?"
"Unfortunately, yes on the first; impossible on the second. Spike is a wealth of demon lore and he speaks nearly as many demon languages as Uhura." Jim pulled his chair back in front of the viewscreen and took his seat again, gesturing at the other chair for Bones to do the same.
"Plus Latin and Greek. I had a proper Classical education, mind you. Never did cotton on to Sumerian, though; that was the Bit's specialty." Spike confided.
Bones looked a little lost. "The Bit?"
"My great-times-eight-grandmother, Dawn Summers." Jim clarified for him. "She had a real knack for languages, went to Oxford for a while and studied anthropology. I like to think it's where I get my facility for xenolinguistics."
Spike perked up at that. "Just means you've got a talented..."
"Tongue," finished Bones. He shook his head, a small chuckle escaping from him. "No wonder your lines never worked on Uhura; you weren't even using your own material."
Jim rubbed his hand over the back of his neck, feeling the heat and knowing it was showing in his face, too. "Yeah, well, they seem to have worked for Spike for over 300 years. And nothing would work on Uhura; Illyria would never settle for what she considers worm food." He shrugged, dropping the hand to rest on his knee. Leaning forward in his seat, he let his face take on a more sober cast.
"Okay, all kidding aside, we need to take a very close look at Jo's letters. Is there any hint of prophecy in any of them since she started talking about her dreams?" Jim and Spike started looking them over very carefully, cataloging the various scenarios with memories and bits of Slayer history they were familiar with while Bones listened carefully to the discussion, trying to learn a little bit more about his daughter's abilities. After barely five minutes of comparing notes, the two determined that every one of Jo's dreams were either set in the past or the immediate present.
Jim let out a frustrated sound. "We really need to find McGivers; I haven't been able to convince Pike to send out a Watcher to start training Jo. Maybe with some guidance, she could hone the ability."
The sound of Spike's front chair legs hitting the deck plating drew Jim and Bones' attention from their continued perusal of the letters. "That wanker. What's he waiting for? A bloody invitation from the Order of Taraka to her public execution?"
Bones sat up and leaned into the viewscreen. "What's the Order of Taraka?"
Spike waffled a hand wave at him. "Freelance mercenaries for the demon set, but ultimately irrelevant. It could be any sort of nasty out there, gunning for an unescorted Slayer, especially a baby slayer who isn't in the network yet."
"Lorne's there." Jim offered.
"Pffft. Lorne. His best parlor trick is breaking glass with his voice," Spike scoffed.
"Jim, is my baby girl in danger?" Bones demanded, his hand squeezing Jim's knee until Jim thought it would show bruises the next morning. He placed his own hand over Bones' in reassurance.
"Probably not. She's unaware of what she is. As long as she's not out actively hunting, the demon underworld won't really be aware of her. Plus, Atlanta's not near a Hellmouth, so the demon population is undoubtedly very small and itinerant. Jo's more of a danger to herself and her friends right now, which is why it's important she get some early training before she accidentally kills a human." Jim rubbed his hand up and down Bones' arm, soothing the tense muscles he could feel there.
Bones' hand finally released his grip on Jim's knee, allowing Jim to slide his hand down and clasp their two hands together.
Jim tapped the fingers of his free hand on the arm of his chair while he thought for a moment. "Listen, here's what we'll do. We'll swing by Deep Space Six, drop off Uhura so she and Spike can backtrack McGivers' warp trail. You two see if you can triangulate the location of the Botany Bay from where her path deviates between the station and the Enterprise's route to Manwah IV. In the meantime, I'm going to send a comm to Pike telling him to send Jo out to us; we can pick her up at the station. If he won't assign her a Watcher, then we'll be her Scooby gang until we can confirm McGivers' status."
"Scooby gang?" questioned Bones.
"Crack team that accompanied Buffy on most of her missions before the Great Choosing." Jim smiled at Bones. "They--"
"Were more likely all on crack than a crack team that solved anything," Spike interrupted. "They dragged Buffy down, and then out of Heaven."
Jim sighed. "Maybe, maybe not. Didn't you once say that having family anchored Buffy in the world? Made her unbeatable, because she cared so much for them?"
"Well, yeah. Doesn't mean they still weren't a bunch of boneheaded yahoos for the most part." Spike smirked at them out of the viewscreen.
Bones poked a finger at Spike accusingly. "You hung out with them, though, right? Does that make you one of the boneheaded yahoos? And Jim thinks you can help protect my daughter? I'm having second thoughts here, Jim."
Jim let go of Bones' hand to clap his own down on the console in front of him without any real force, but with finality. "Enough brangling. We've got a plan; let's get moving. Spike, we'll see you in eight hours. I'll notify Uhura and Pike about our plans once you're off the line. Bones, go to bed; we've got a lot to do tomorrow."
Spike gave a sloppy salute to his temple with his cigarette and the viewscreen went dead. Jim was surprised he didn't try to get in another snarky comment before closing the channel, but maybe he'd had as much soul-searching as he could handle for the evening, too.
"Jim, are you sure this is the right thing to do? Wouldn't Jo be safer at home with her mother, rather than traipsing around the galaxy looking for some superdemon out to destroy humanity?" Bones looked at Jim with a worried crease between his eyebrows.
Jim stood and pulled Bones up with him by one hand. "Until she has a Watcher of her own, the best place for Jo is here with us. We have two wizards, an Old One and a Vulcan to protect Jo; she'll be safe as houses. Best of all, she'll be here with us."
"But why should Pike send her all the way out here when she could have a Watcher out there? Who's to say he just doesn't decide to finally assign her one?" Bones brought one hand up to his mouth and bit down on the thumbnail. Jim pulled the hand down, clasping it in one of his.
"That would be the optimal outcome, really, and one of the reasons I'm suggesting bringing her out here. If I can force Pike's hand in the matter, all the better. But I want her here, because she seems to be the only Slayer currently reporting any dreams that might contain prophecy. If she can help us find the Botany Bay, we can do it faster with her input. McGivers is a loose canon and we need to make sure she doesn't try to resurrect an Old One out of a misguided desire to study one. Or become an acolyte or something. Once was bad enough." Jim turned toward the conversation area, leading Bones there by the hand.
Bones balked a little and Jim glanced back to see that he still had a doubtful expression on his face. "Jocelyn isn't going to want to let her come out here. What if--"
"Bones, don't worry, Pike will get her to see reason. She won't be the first parent with objections, or the last, when their daughter is Chosen. He can be very persuasive." Jim dropped the hand he was holding and threw an arm over Bones' shoulders, steering him toward the loveseat. Maybe he could get that lick, now, before Bones actually did leave to go to bed. But first he had to find out what was really bugging his friend.
"What are you really worried about? Why are you resisting bringing Jo out here?" Jim had to give a slight tug before Bones allowed himself to be guided down onto the loveseat.
"I just don't want anything to happen to Jo, Jim. At least with her on Earth, I felt she was safe as anyone could be, in familiar surroundings with her mother and other family. Now, I worry about her atoms being dissolved for transport across vast distances and running into improbable creatures that are trying to destroy the human race. I want to protect her and I don't feel like I can here." Bones looked away from Jim and then down at his hands, refusing to meet Jim's eyes.
"Is that all it really is, Bones? The transporter? You use it just fine." Jim pushed harder for Bones to give him a good explanation for his reticence.
Bones finally exploded. "It's bullshit! It's all bullshit! Demons and magic, Hell-gods and vampires. I've been scanning the ventilation system for hallucinogens for the past three days, Jim. I can't believe this is what my little girl's life is going to be. It's just not right. I won't let this be her life. If keeping her away from you means she's safe, then that's what I'll do."
Jim felt like someone had just punched him in the chest, the pain that radiated out from his center stopped his breath momentarily. Bones still didn't trust him. It didn't seem to matter that Jim had always come through for him and the crew for the past six years, no matter what it cost him physically or emotionally. He stood up abruptly, moving toward the door to his quarters. Jim should have known better than to get involved with anyone who wasn't raised around Section 31 and just stuck with the mission; it had always worked in the past.
"It's time for you to leave, Bones. I'll see you in the morning." Jim stood by the door, watching as Bones slowly rose from the loveseat. Bones stood there with his hands planted on his hips, looking at Jim with his head cocked slightly to one side.
"You want to tell me what bug just bit you in the ass? I didn't sit down with you just now expecting to be kicked out before we had a chance to make arrangements for Jo's stay onboard." Jim shook his head at Bones.
"I'll call Pike, but not to have Jo sent out; there's no point in having her come out here if you aren't in agreement with the plan." Jim stood by the door, shifting impatiently from one foot to the other for Bones to leave.
"What? I didn't say that!" Bones placed himself in front of Jim, his eyebrows drawn down in a frown.
Jim stood his ground and braced his shoulders. "No, you just basically said you don't trust me to keep Jo safe. I bow to your greater wisdom or the natural and not-so-natural world." He bent slightly at the waist and swept an arm toward the door, hitting the button that activated it with his other hand.
"Damnit, Jim; you know I didn't mean it that way. I--"
"Goodnight, Doctor McCoy." Jim stood by the door, his rigid stance implacable to Bones' words.
Bones closed his lips tightly, nodded once and strode through the door. Jim slumped against the wall when the door closed behind him, wishing that he'd never allowed any hope into his heart. Hope hurt and he thought he'd learned that lesson well before his mother ever left for Tarsus. Scrubbing his hands down his face, he straightened and walked back over to his comm console and opened up a channel to the Academy. He still needed to talk to Chris before he could allow himself to rest.
Dear Dad and Uncle Jim,
I guess I should be kinda grateful to the super-strength, even if I break more things than I like. Last night, I was walking home from the ice cream parlor with Tresa (she dumped Jonathan, again, YAY!) when some creep jumped out at us from behind a dumpster. Man, did he stink; I think he'd been living in the dumpster. Anyway, this guy jumps out at us and grabs Tresa by the shoulders and he goes to bite her neck! What a perv! He's been watching too many of those antique Hammer House of Horror holovids, if you ask me. So, I punched him in the side and he flew back about fifteen feet! When he got up and came at us again, I picked up a piece of wood from a broken pallet and jammed it at him. He ran right into it! How stupid can you get? But then, just like in my dream, he disappeared in a cloud of dust.
I don't know what to think. I don't believe in ghoulies and ghosties. You've always told me there's a scientific explanation for everything. Is there some alien species that happens to when they die? That wasn't a Vulcan, was it? It didn't look like a hobgoblin. I wish you'd left some of your xenobiology books at the house, I'd like to look it up.
At least Tresa is free of that creep, Jonathan. He disappeared from school a couple of weeks ago. Right after they broke up. I didn't think he'd take it that much to heart. Very puzzling, but it still makes me happy.
"A little help over here, Uhura?" Jim was struggling with the demon that had jumped out of a storage space on the space station they'd pulled into earlier in the day. It had latched onto Bones and now Jim had one arm around the demon's neck, pulling it backward without much success.
Uhura stood off to one side, absolutely still, her head turned to one side, legs spread shoulder width apart and one arm drawn back, waiting.
Jim grunted, lunging as far back as possible, the demon's head making its inexorable way closer to Bones' jugular.
"Uhura. Illyria!" Jim shouted again, sweat trickling down his temples at the effort he was making to hold the vampire off of Bones. "Now! Please?"
Uhura's head snapped forward at the same time as her arm, now encased in the browns and blues of Illyria's native armor, glided in past Jim's cheek as her fingers stabbed deep into the neck of the demon and ripped its spine out. The vampire crumbled in a cloud of dust around them, Bones collapsing against the wall as the super-strong arms holding him in place disintegrated, drawing in deep gasping breaths and choking on the dust-laden air.
Jim raised a hand to his cheek, bringing it back to examine the blood on the tips of his fingers. "Shit, Illyria, you need to clip those talons you call fingernails. Are those even regulation?"
Illyria sniffed. "It was a necessary modification to be able to pierce deep enough to extract his C2 vertebra. A thank-you is warranted, Captain; not that I expect a human to realize that and accord me my due deference."
When he had recovered his breath, Bones pushed past Illyria, raising one hand that trembled just slightly to turn Jim's face to the side to look at the cut closer. "It's the barest scratch, Jim. I'll run a dermal regenerator over it as soon as we get back to the Enterprise. You'll be fine until then." He pulled his tricorder forward to run it over Jim's torso, stopping when Jim held up one hand.
Jim motioned for Bones to put the instrument away. He knew he'd be fine. A quick press of his palm to the bulkhead at one side and he pulled enough energy from the mass of the space station to stop the bleeding and scab it over, but not to completely heal the cut. He caught Bones' eyes as they widened a little at the sight of the wound scabbing over right in front of him.
"Dammit, just how many more surprises have you got up your sleeve? Do you even need any of the services my Sickbay can provide, Captain?" Bones groused. He pushed his tricorder to the side of one hip, crossing his arms over his chest. His lower lip came out in a pout that Jim found quite adorable, but he crushed that feeling quickly. He'd spent the past six years sublimating those feelings; the habit was easy to pick up again and he could not afford to let that kind of thing distract him from the mission.
"Why are we lollygagging in this corridor?" Illyria interrupted the mild stare-down between Jim and Bones. "It has been many cycles since I have last seen my pet; I have an unnatural desire to reassure myself that he is still corporeal." She turned abruptly and marched down the corridor away from Jim and Bones.
"Lollygagging?" Bones mouthed at Jim, receiving a head shake and a shrug of the shoulders in return.
"So that was a vampire?" Bones asked as they followed Illyria towards the section of the space station that housed the offices set aside for the Council of Watchers.
Jim nodded curtly. "I'm a little surprised to find one here. Spike's pretty vigilant about hunting out any stragglers wherever he's stationed."
"He's an evil demon, Jim. Maybe he's letting them on the station because he has his own agenda," Bones offered acerbically, stopping Jim in his place with a hand on his arm.
"Christ, Bones, give it up. Spike has been on the side of good for over 250 years. I trusted him with my mother's life, I'd trust him with mine." Jim shook off the hand and kept going.
"Even if he's not evil, who's to say he just doesn't care enough about the people around here to really do a good job? Maybe he's not checking very thoroughly?" Bones persisted.
Jim started shaking his head before Bones stopped speaking. "You're null on psonic ability, so you wouldn't understand. All demonic creatures, and some humans with talent, are tapped into the universal psionic field. Planet-side, it's often referred to as the Gaia force. Out in space, it's more nebulous, but since it can't be measured by instruments, it's hard to describe using scientific terms. Vampires, in particular, can sense every living and unliving, creature around them. That vampire had to be shielded, somehow outside of the field, for Spike not to know he was there. We need to find out how he did it." He picked up his pace, drawing closer to Ilyria where she marched in front of them.
"Illyria, were you able to sense that vampire at all?" Jim asked once he was even with her.
Illyria's pace didn't slow, but her words held a slight unease to them. "I had not noticed him until he attacked Doctor McCoy. I should have been able to sense him. Not until he discorporated did I sense even the slightest of auras. Whatever was blocking his emanations must have discorporated with him."
Bones had caught up to them in time to overhear her comments. "Do you know of a device that could do that?"
Illyria got a far away look in her eyes. "The only thing I have seen that could drain the psionic force from a demon was called a Mutari generator. It is why I am much diminished from my original form. Wesley used one to strip much of my power from me."
"Didn't you destroy it, though?" Jim asked her. "I thought the Mutari generator was destroyed in your fight with that other Old One, Baticus?"
"It's whereabouts were unable to be ascertained after the battle." Illyria reported. She stopped abruptly, both Jim and Bones skidding to a halt a couple steps beyond her. "These are the coordinates of my pet's quarters. Announce me."
Jim rolled his eyes and pressed the comm button next to the door. "Spike, her highness, Illyria the Merciless, God-King of the Primordium is here to see you."
The door swooshed open and Spike stood there in his usual all-black ensemble with a sneer on his face. "Little Shiva, you're looking mighty spry for someone of your advanced age."
Illyria swung a fist at Spike without any warning, startling Jim; her red Starfleet uniform was subsumed by the brown and blue of her native armor as she moved. Spike ducked under the clenched fist, folding down into a leg sweep that Illyria anticipated and leapt completely over. Recovering from his crouch, Spike sprang back up and threw a punch into her midsection that barely rocked her. Both of Illyria's hands came down in an overhead sweep and knocked Spike onto the deck, her foot quickly coming down on his neck. Jim didn't even have time to pull his phaser and he wasn't sure it was necessary, much less be effective, against Illyria.
Bones hovered behind Jim's shoulder. "Do they always greet each other this way? I thought they were friends?"
Jim shrugged. "I've decided it's some form of foreplay for them. They often spar together and part of it is trying to catch the other one by surprise." He turned his attention back to the combatants.
"Do you yield, my pet?" Illyria demanded.
Spike scowled at her. "Not your pet, Blue."
"Do you yield?"
"Yeah, yeah, fine. Uncle." Spike pushed her foot off his throat and stood up once more. When he reached his feet, Illyria grabbed him around the waist and Jim thought she was going to wrestle with him some more. Instead, she laid her head on Spike's shoulder and sighed lightly. Jim watched as her form fluctuated again, this time settling on a slender brunette whose hair flowed loose over her shoulders, her pale skin holding a rosy tint, wearing a frilly blouse with a peasant skirt and beaded sandals. Jim realized this was her original human host, Winifred Burkle, whom he'd only seen pictures of in the Watcher's Diaries. The two stood there for a moment, hugging, Illyria's face crumpled in a pained frown.
"I miss them, Spike; I miss my boys. You're the last one left. The longer I am confined to this form, the more human I feel." Illyria cupped his face with one hand for a few moments before she slowly stepped back from the embrace.
"I do, too, luv. But we find new friends, good people to care for, they make it worthwhile." Spike clasped her hand before she could fully withdraw it and brought it to his mouth, placing a brief kiss on the back of her hand. When he let go of her hand, she had changed back to the mocha skin, high-crowned ponytail and red knit of Uhura's Starfleet uniform.
Her face hadn't resumed the arrogant cast of Illyria, but remained immobile and emotionless. "I have chosen a Vulcan for a mate this time. He is much more logical than these humans. I find it soothing. Fewer of those turbulent human emotions to disturb me."
Spike tipped his head in consideration. "Don't sell yourself short, Blue. Human emotion can bring as much joy as it does pain. You just have to trust in it."
Jim looked away, a knot in his chest twinging at Spike's words. He wanted to shout down Spike's words, to declare that trust was the death of love because you couldn't trust anybody, at least not with your heart. He resisted looking at Bones to see if he was reacting to Spike's words in any way. Instead, he interrupted to remind the others what they had come to discover.
"If the class reunion is over, we need to get to work. Let's sit." Jim grabbed a third chair when he saw there were only two in front of Spike's desk. By the time he had done that, everyone else was seated. Jim placed his chair to one side of Uhura where she sat upright so stiffly her shoulders didn't touch the back of the chair. Spike was sprawled in his seat behind the desk that held the comm console, beeping sounds indicating that it had just come online.
"Okay, we originally came because we need to track down McGivers' location. Uhura has isolated that odd signal we came across a few days ago and with Spike's records of McGiver's movements up until that time; we may be able to locate the Botany Bay." Jim leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, looking at Spike intently. "However, something happened this morning that puzzled me and we need to figure out if it's related to our current mission or if it's something else."
"What kind of something? More strange signals? We'll just add it to our current data set." Spike shrugged negligently, seemingly unconcerned with the new information coming his way.
"Something disturbing, very disturbing; we dusted a vampire on the way from the transporter room." Jim watched Spike carefully for his reaction to those words. He didn't think Spike had grown careless with his patrolling of the space station, but he wanted to be thorough. The stakes were getting higher the deeper into this puzzle they were being drawn. He wasn't disappointed in Spike's reaction.
"That's impossible." Spike sat up, his indignation evident in his face. "I'd sense any stray coming onboard. I even caught those M'fashnik demons that infiltrated the storage compartments off the aft docking bay two weeks ago. I admit, there were more of them nested up in there than I originally accounted for, but they're demons. We're sly buggers."
If it was possible, Uhura's posture stiffened even further. "Even I had no awareness of the piece of muck with my superior senses. He was undetectable until he discorporated."
"According to Illyria, the only thing that she knows that can nullify the power of the universal psionic field is a Mutari generator." Jim watched Spike's eyes widen at his words and his hands started flying over his comm panel, pulling up screens and opening a channel. His eyes narrowed. "You know something."
"Might. Have to check with the head boy." Spike tapped his fingers on the plasteel of his desk while he waited for whoever was on the other end of the connection to pick up.
"You're saying Pike knows something about this?" Jim's voice was incredulous. "Why hasn't he said anything to me? He knows we've been searching for McGivers and the Botany Bay."
"Yeah, but he didn't know someone had something like a Mutari generator. Maybe the Mutari generator." Spike muttered unflattering words at the comm panel that kept repeating a busy signal at him.
Bones tapped Jim on the shoulder, startling him. He looked over at Bones to see him holding up a PADD, a worried frown made a deep wrinkle between the black bar of his eyebrows. "Jim, read this. It's Jo's latest letter. Can you make head or tales of it?"
Jim read it quickly, slowing only to study the arcane symbols Jo had painstakingly drawn from memory. It wasn't anything he recognized. He shook his head at Bones. "Show them to Uhura. It looks like a dialect of Sanskrit, but I can't be sure."
When Bones handed her the PADD with a brief explanation, Uhura bent silently over the device. She read quickly, her attention only briefly lingering on the transcribed symbols.
"It is Primordial Sanskrit, the language of the Old Ones. An invocation to Falgoreth. He, too, was trapped in the Deeper Well." She sniffed. "He was a weakling; I took his land and forced him into the fringes along with the other muck-dwellers. If someone is attempting his resurrection, they are desperate."
Spike started swearing at the person speaking at him from the viewscreen on his console, drawing Jim's attention back to him.
"Bloody hell, Chalmers! This is important. Do you wankers even realize that the Mutari generator has probably gone walkabout with a psycho-slayer? Let me speak with the Wizard of Oz, now!" Spike flashed fangs at the screen momentarily.
Jim heard the person at the other end of the connection sigh in exasperation. "Admiral Pike is in a meeting. I will pass on your concerns when he gets out. I'm sure that none of our Slayers would misuse something that powerful. No one knows the whereabouts of that useless artifact anyway."
"Fine. You do that, you whey-faced bint. At least your great-granny Lydia had some respect for my brilliance. I've had academic papers written about my tactical genius, which is more than anyone will ever say about you." Spike stabbed viciously at the comm panel, severing the connection.
Uhura turned to Bones, still holding the PADD in one hand. "Your daughter, she dreams of things that have happened and things to come?" Her phrasing was stilted, reminding everyone that they weren't really dealing with Uhura right now, but the Old One, Illyria.
Bones nodded. "Past things we're relatively sure of, future is a little uncertain. Why? Do you recognize something in this letter?"
"It has some familiarity, but only in the broadest sense. Despite the fact that she recounts how I engineered my ascension, this is not my sarcophagus that your daughter describes, it is Falgoreth's. If she were not dreaming true, I would expect her to have written gibberish. We must find this artifact before it happens to someone else." Jim heard the plastic of the PADD creak under Uhura's grip. He reached out, laying his hand over the one holding the protesting device.
"We'll stop it, Uhura. Promise." Jim turned to Spike. "So spill. What do you and Pike have hidden up your sleeve that you're not telling me?"
Spike gave him a sour look. "It's need to know, Sprout."
"I think my need is pretty damn obvious and, as a starship captain, I have full clearance for virtually everything, much less as a member of Section 31. We've got a slayer at risk and maybe more than that if another Old One ascends with full power." Jim stared him down.
Spike sighed, but gave in to the pressure. "Fair point, but you're not going to like what you hear. Remember the Tarsus mission?"
"Not something I'm going to forget anymore than my own birthday, Spike." Jim gestured for Spike to continue.
"It wasn't just the Scourge getting all genocidal again. There were rumors that the leader of the Scourge, Kodos, had the Mutari generator then, too. That's why your mum was sent out; not to try to take out Kodos and the Scourge, but to verify its whereabouts. Unfortunately, they discovered your mum and everything went pear-shaped before we could get reinforcements out to help her."
Jim let the words wash over him, along with the shortness of breath he was left with whenever he thought of his mother's death. "So, was it there? Did you recover the Mutari generator?" She had died needlessly, then. If they'd just sent a full complement of slayers out from the beginning, she would have been safe. Why hadn't he told her that, why hadn't he seen what needed to be done?
Spike shook his head. "Wasn't there. We tore the whole colony apart after we evacuated the survivors."
"What else? What about the ship they came in on?" Jim pushed for answers, certain that he was grasping at straws. Of course he was, it wasn't like he could retroactively save his mother by finding the answer now.
"There wasn't one." Spike gave a helpless shrug. "Whoever dropped them off, abandoned them to our mercies once we came in to clean house."
"So the Mutari generator could still be out there, with more of the Scourge?"
"Seems so, if they've figured out a way to make more generators, or something like them that can nullify their own psionic field." Spike confirmed Jim's speculation.
"Damn, this just keeps getting more and more complicated. We've got a Scourge ship, the Botany Bay and a missing Slayer, and we're not sure if they're all related or not." Jim stood up to start walking the perimeter of the room. After one quick circuit around the room, he stopped and turned towards Spike. "Do we know what the Scourge planned to do with the Mutari generator on Tarsus? Did they have an Old One's sarcophagus?"
Spike shook his head. "Goes to figure they wanted it to try and raise another Old One. But if they'd had a sarcophagus, they would have just raised it and gone about conquering."
"Right. So where's the closest source of sarcophagi?" He gave Spike a 'come on' gesture.
Spike offered the obvious answer. "The Botany Bay."
Jim resumed his peregrinations while he thought things through. "Logically, then, we have to presume that they haven't found it yet or else we'd have a fully ascended Old One running rampant through the galaxy."
Spike listened carefully to Jim's conclusion, adding the next piece of the puzzle. "And we have a psycho-Slayer looking for the Botany Bay. Dunno which is worse: the Scourge resurrecting an Old One with the siphoned off psionic field from Illyria or a resurrected Old One in the body of a Slayer."
"The Mutari generator is useless to them." Uhura finally spoke up. "The sarcophagi hold only the essence of the Old One; it would need a shell such as mine to resurrect in."
"Could an Old One resurrect in the body of one of the Scourge?" Jim asked.
Uhura shook her head. "No, a shell can only contain one demonic essence. If an Old One entered a demon, that demon would fight being ejected from his own body."
Spike snapped his fingers excitedly. "Wait. The massacre on Tarsus is starting to make much more sense now. What if they were planning on bringing the Botany Bay to Tarsus? The Scourge could have killed everyone if they wanted. They must have been culling the population for the strongest and brightest humans. What's it to say they were going to use them as shells for all the sarcophagi on the Botany Bay?"
The thought was appalling. Jim laid out the obvious conclusion. "So we have to make sure we find the Botany Bay before either the Scourge or McGivers. Uhura, I need you and Spike to trace that anomaly as best you can. Doctor McCoy and I are going to be gone for a conference with Admiral Pike. You have two hours." Jim grabbed Bones' right arm and Uhura's left arm.
"Jim, what the blazes are you talking about? Pike's in a meeting and besides, we're here on Deep Space Six and he's back at Starfleet HQ." Bones objected to Jim's grip on his arm with a shake of his wrist.
Jim ignored Bones' question, looking to Uhura instead. "Uhura, may I borrow some of your power? It's imperative."
"If you must. I will not object, unless it means I am unable to maintain the integrity of my shell." Uhura's narrow-eyed stare should have been intimidating, but Jim just nodded his thanks.
"You'll be safe, I promise. C'mon, Bones. Buckle up!" With that warning, Jim homed in on the Coven's beacon signature in Sausalito and pulled on his and Illyria's combined psionic power. A brief flash of disorientation swam over him. When he was steady he looked around him and took in the antechamber of Admiral Pike's office with Yeoman Chalmers gaping at him from behind her desk.
"We're here to see Admiral Pike, Yeoman Chalmers; please inform him it's an emergency." A retching sound to his left made him look down to where Bones was crouched on his knees, coughing up the remains of his breakfast on the carpet.
"Ah, sorry about that, Bones. Teleportation can be a little hard on the inner ear." Jim's apology was met by the middle finger of Bones' free hand. He might have felt a little bad about it, except he was still a little pissed at Bones' lack of trust in him.
Dear Dad and Uncle Jim,
I had a freaky dream last night. There was a stone coffin--I think the Egyptian word for them is sarcophagus?--covered in arcane symbols with jewels set into it. It was pretty dull-looking, other than the gems, but I couldn't take my eyes off it in the dream. And while I was looking at it and touching it, I could see that my arm was covered in a red Starfleet uniform. It didn't make a lot of sense to me; I'm not in Starfleet yet, ya know? I'm not sure I was even dreaming about myself. Anyway, I was dreaming that I was trying to read the symbols on the coffin when it let out a puff of gas right as I leaned down for a closer look. The gas was choking me and I thought I was going to pass out when I woke up. I found my mouth full of pillow where I must have pulled it over my face and it was my own damn fool self trying to smother me! All my dreams end in death, Daddy. I'm so tired.
Anyway, I couldn't sleep so I got up and drew a couple of the symbols that I remembered before I went back to bed. I dunno why, they just looked like they should say something; some of the symbols repeat. Maybe they're something I saw somewhere else and they showed up in my dream where it thought they would fit. So, now I've got a mystery and it makes me wonder if they really do say something? I don't think they're hieroglyphics. Maybe you could show them to Uncle Jim or Lt. Uhura, they know lots of languages. Thanks!
Jim found himself being manhandled out into the corridor by his CMO as soon as Bones had recovered from his spell of nausea. He would have resisted more except that he didn't want to get into an argument with Bones in front of Chalmers. Chris would cut his meeting short as soon as he realized Jim was on an unscheduled stop on planet.
"What the hell, Jim? What do you think you're doing?" Bones' voice was rough and the breath that wafted across Jim's face had the sour smell of bile. Jim pushed Bones down the hallway to where he could see a water fountain jutting out of the wall.
"Drink, then we'll talk," Jim commanded. Bones glared at him out of eyes that were just a little too wide and skittish, but complied without comment. Jim waited until he'd drunk deep, rinsed a couple of times and then wiped his mouth. By then, the wild look in Bones' eyes had diminished and he just looked pissed.
"Would it be too much to have some warning before you go doing shit like that? And maybe an explanation or two?" Bones combed his fingers through his bangs, pushing it aside where it had fallen over his forehead while he bent over the fountain. Jim wanted to do that for himself, but he wasn't really sure what kind of touches might be accepted right now. Even though Jim was still a little angry about the previous night's outcome, he had to feel sorry for all the shit Bones had to put up with since they'd hit DS6 that morning. It left him itching to comfort Bones regardless. Jim recited the Starfleet code of conduct concerning public displays of affection in uniform in his head to convince him to keep his hands to himself. Later, he'd make it up to Bones later. The least he could do right now was listen to Bones and try to answer his questions, allay that fear that never seemed to quite leave him.
Jim took Bones by the elbow and steered him towards an alcove with two chairs and a small table between them. He perched on the edge of one chair and placed his elbows on his knees, his chin perched on top of his clasped hands. "I've been trying to explain to you for weeks now. Every time I think you've accepted the supernatural and come to terms with it, something sets you off on another of your sarcastic diatribes. You need to understand that this is going to be Jo's natural environment from now on and the sooner you accept that, the better it is for the both of you. It made me a little touchy last night. I'll try to answer your questions, but if you're not willing to really listen to me, there's nothing I can do to reassure you. All I can do is ask you to trust me."
Bones scrubbed his hands over his face, then looked at Jim with exasperation. "I do trust you. Did I give you any shit about almost getting eaten by a vampire today? You saved my life! I get that there's all kinds of ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night out there. Can I just get a little warning when you're going to yank me halfway across the universe against my will? I barely tolerate shuttles, transporters give me the heebie-jeebies, but at least they work on the known mechanics of the physical laws of the universe. Magic, well, I have no reason to trust it yet. But I trust you, so give me a break."
And that left Jim feeling all kinds of foolish. Thinking the hell with regulations, he sat up a little and reached out one hand to touch Bones' knee. When it was covered immediately by one of Bones' broad hands, he gave him a sheepish grin. "Yeah, sorry. I know firsthand the infinite flavors of your neuroses when it comes to interstellar travel. Next time, I'll warn you to bring some Dramamine for the trip, okay?"
Bones rolled his eyes, but squeezed Jim's hand in acknowledgement of the apology. "Could you just maybe, give me a list of the kinds of things you can do with magic? If I even knew what to expect, it wouldn't be such a shock all the time. Even though I've known you for nine years, I feel like I don't know anything about you anymore."
Jim nodded at the request, at the reasonableness of it. "I can do that. There's only so many basic ways of manipulating the psionic field and it follows rules, just like science. It even helps to know Latin, but be careful where you use it. The list will have to wait until we get back to the Enterprise, though."
The sound of a throat being cleared broke into their self-absorption, the two men drawing apart and bringing their hands back to their own laps. Christopher Pike stood there with a small smile tipping the corners of his mouth up. "Gentlemen, you seemed to be in a bit of hurry earlier, yes or no?"
Jim jumped up, jerking his head at Bones to follow him as he walked over to greet the admiral. "Admiral Pike, we have a number of things that need immediate attention. May we talk in your office?"
"By all means. Let me tell Yeoman Chalmers to hold my calls." Pike turned and headed down the hallway back to his office, Jim and Bones trailing in his wake. After speaking with his yeoman, he ushered both men into his office and closed the door behind them.
"What can I do for you today, Jim? You've set the coven in a tizzy with that stunt, 'porting into HQ without prior approval. You're lucky they didn't fry you to a crisp on the carpet in front of Yeoman Chalmers." Pike's head turned sharply at the choking sounds coming from the doctor seated to one side.
"Damnit, Jim! When were you going to explain that part of teleporting to me? After my remains had been delivered to Jo?" Bones looked on the verge of storming out of the office, so Jim laid a hand on his shoulder to keep him in his seat. Surprisingly, it didn't get shaken off. leaving Jim with a warm feeling inside. Bones did trust him; his words were just a knee-jerk reflex of anxiety and fear, but where it mattered--Bones trusted him. He had been so stupid. Maybe he was the one who didn't trust, and wasn't that a kicker.
"You got that out of your system, now, Bones?" Jim squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. At Bones' nod, he let go of him. Reaching into a pocket, Jim pulled out his communicator and pressed a few buttons. He looked back up at Admiral Pike when he was through. "I've sent a set of letters to you that Bones and I received from his daughter. The most important one is the last in the series; it was received today. After you read it, I think we can agree that Jo McCoy is a Potential and should be assigned a Watcher."
Admiral Pike turned to his comm console and pulled up the letters, perusing the list until he reached the last one. Reading it quickly, his eyebrows rose at the description of the sarcophagus and the transcribed symbols. He turned back to Jim when he was done reading. "What did Uhura have to say?"
Jim summed their discovery up for him. "The sarcophagus is that of an Old One she identified as Falgoreth. Since we know that Illyria is the only extant Old One, we believe this dream to be a true instance of slayer precognition."
Pike nodded in agreement while he activated another button on his comm panel. "Yeoman Chalmers, contact the Watcher's residence; inform Xander Wells he'll be leaving in the morning for Georgia, he's got a new Potential to evaluate."
"What's going to happen to Jo, now?" Leonard asked in a subdued voice.
"Xander will contact her and your ex-wife, make arrangements for Jo to transfer to the academy here in Sausalito. We offer a complete high school curriculum in addition to the more specific training required of a slayer. It is, of course, an all-girls school with the exception of a few boys who are children of active members of section 31 and can benefit from receiving full room and board while their parents are off planet. Most parents see it as a desirable alternative." Pike pulled a PADD out of one of the desk drawers and handed it to Bones. "When you have a chance, this explains everything that will be expected of Jo and what the facilities are comprised of, the opportunities that will be available to Jo. We are, at the heart of it, nothing more than a very selective boarding school."
Jim laid his hand on Bones arm again when the doctor remained silent at the end of the admiral's spiel. "Is that acceptable, Bones?"
Dragging his attention away from the graphic displayed by the PADD, Bones nodded and placed the PADD by his side for later perusal. "Yeah, it sounds really good. I'm just not sure Joce will go for it. She's a bit of a control freak."
Jim smirked. "Not like anyone else I know, I'm sure." He received and returned a grimace that included tongue that was on par for children around the age of five. Pike's disapproving voice interrupted their bickering, Jim and Bones jerking forward at the reprimand.
"When you two are done playing footsie, can we get to whatever pressing matters caused Jim to nearly drain half the coven to get you two here?" Pike tapped his fingers impatiently on the edge of the viewscreen set into his desk.
Jim straightened up in his chair, bringing his attention back to Pike. "Sorry, Admiral Pike. It won't happen again."
Pike snorted. "Like hell, but get on with it."
For the next few minutes, Jim outlined McGivers' covert activities and how they'd concluded that she was actively searching for the Botany Bay in hopes of resurrecting an Old One. Whether just to interview it or to worship it, they had no way of knowing, but it was going to backfire on the inquisitive Slayer if Jo's dream was to be trusted.
"I have to agree, I think that young lady is in for a world of disappointment if she continues on her misbegotten quest. Do you think you can find her?" Pike punched up a few numbers on his comm panel, sending alerts to a wetworks team notifying them to be ready to leave instantly on a bag and tag mission for a rogue Slayer.
Jim leaned forward in his chair, gazing at Pike intently. "There's something else going on, I'm not sure just how it ties into the McGivers affair, but it has to do with the original reason my mother was sent out to Tarsus."
Pike's hands stilled. "Did you find it?"
Jim waved the question away with one hand. "Not exactly. After talking to Uhura, we've determined that the Mutari generator is pretty much a red herring. It can't be used to resurrect any of the sarcophagi on the Botany Bay."
"It would still be good to have it in our custody, though. Who knows, they might even decide to reverse engineer it. Although, one can't imagine a demon bothering to take a degree in--" Pike broke off when Jim made a sound of disgust.
"We think they did, though." Jim raised his hands and pressed them to his forehead. "We were attacked by a vampire on DS6 in the open. No stealth was attempted. But after talking to Spike and Uhura, we determined he must have had some kind of device on him that could nullify the psionic field he projected because neither of them could sense him on the station. That had to be based on the technology of the Mutari generator."
"Wait, that sounds familiar. Let me check a few things." Pike pulled up a search box and, after typing in a query, reports started to quickly pop up on on his desktop viewscreen. After the search was complete, he arranged them in chronological order. "For the past six months, we've been getting reports of vampires that have managed to breach the anti-vampire wards around a number of the space stations in the Beta Quadrant, the same quadrant as DS6. We thought they were coming in with a magic user who could nullify the wards on the space stations, but from what you've just contributed we could be very wrong."
"All in the Beta Quadrant, Admiral? Could you plot them out for us?" Jim rubbed his hands together nervously, things were starting to come together in a way he didn't like.
Pike sent a command to his console and a hologram of the Beta Quadrant appeared over his desktop. "The bright green dots are where we had the breaches." The dots were spread out over about half the quadrant with no apparent pattern.
"Mark DS6 in red, please, Admiral?" Jim looked at the updated display and considered the ramifications of the data. "Now, can you vary the color gradient of the green dots by time?" The green dots shifted so it was now obvious that the security breaches started at one side of the quadrant and moved to the other, DS6 being the culminating endpoint to date, but there were still random outlying occurrences. It was the outliers that set off an alarm in Jim's head.
"Plot the Enterprise's course for the past six months in yellow." Pike quickly punched up the additional request and it became clear to Jim that the Enterprise was being stalked.
Jim pointed at one dot. "Look, Bones. That station is in the Kitalphar system. That's where I had the run-in with the Fyarl demon."
Bones looked at him with one eyebrow cocked. "What the blue blazes is a Fyarl demon, Jim? I still haven't made it past the B's in that bestiary you loaned me."
"Remember when I got clawed in the arm by that creature? The one I stabbed with my knife? You wondered why I didn't use my phaser on it?" Jim prompted his memory.
Bones eyes lit up in recognition. "Yeah, I said you may as well have used a pointy stick. That was a Fyarl demon?"
"Yes, and the only way to kill them is with silver." Jim lowered his hand down to the knife in his boot and slid it out partway where it glinted shiny silver against the black of his boot.
Bones raised one hand to his mouth in thought before he spoke. "So, silver."
Jim slid the knife back into his boot. "Good against a variety of other creatures, too. Best to have weapons on hand that are multipurpose. I also have one that's made of cold steel."
"All right. But I'm sure that's not the first or the last time you've run into a supernatural critter in the past six years."
"Not as frequent as you think. Demons are very conservative in their behavior. They've been around for a long time and are slow to change. Most of them don't like space travel, except for vampires. They follow humans because that's what their diet necessitates. Look at the date of the vampire breach at the Kitalphar starbase--it was the same day. I think they were waiting for us, have possibly been following us." Jim looked up at Pike for another request. "Admiral, could you open a subspace channel to DS6? Spike and Uhura have been evaluating some anomalous readings that Uhura has been tracking for a while. They may play into this."
Pike did as Jim requested and shortly afterward they had Spike on the desktop viewscreen. "Well, well, if the great and powerful Oz hasn't decided to pull back the curtain. What can I do for you, your highness?"
Pike rolled his eyes. "Would a little professionalism kill you, Agent Pratt?"
"Didn't hire me for my diplomatic skills, ya ponce." Spike swiveled in his chair and the men in Pike's office could see him throw his feet up on his desk, his attitude broadcast as loud as his words that he didn't care what the other man thought.
"You forget, we didn't hire you; we inherited you along with the trappings of the Council of Watchers. One of these days, we're writing you out of the will," Pike joked, jabbing a finger at him.
"Eh, you need me too badly. You don't chuck away almost 400 years of experience in the field over a little lack of personal dignity." Getting back to business, Spike dropped his feet down to the floor and leaned in toward the viewscreen. "But you wouldn't be calling me just to exchange unpleasantries, Pike. What do you need?"
"The data you and Uhura are working on--have you plotted out all the anomalous readings she took yet?" Pike waited for the answer with an intent look on his face, fingers tapping restlessly on the desktop.
"Yeah, we've got it all. Hang on a mo', I'll send it to you." Spike reached for his console and they could see him hit a few buttons and then an incoming chirp at Pike's panel signalled the arrival of the data.
Pike added the new data up into the cloud of dots above his desk, barely half a dozen points showing up in bright blue. It was immediately obvious that all the anomalous readings that Uhura had detected followed the same path as the Enterprise.
Jim considered the hologram carefully. "Not a lot of data points, but we are being followed. By whom and why, though?"
"Do I have to come over there and play connect the dots for you?" Spike's voice held an edge of exasperation. "Look at the dates. The anomalies started around the same time that McGivers dropped off the 'net and went walkabout."
"Okay, fine; it's McGivers. But why?" Jim felt frustrated at his lack of understanding. What was he missing?
"I'm thinking she's keeping an eye on Uhura. Maybe reporting back to someone on the Enterprise's movements," Spike offered tentatively.
Jim frowned. "That's not good. Didn't you say she had an Old One fetish, Spike?"
The three in Pike's office could see Spike's head nod on the desktop. "Yeah, she couldn't stop talking about them to anyone who was willing to listen to her. She did a competent enough job as a Slayer, so it didn't matter if she was a bit of a nutter over a bunch of long dead demons."
"Long dead except for me," Uhura broke in.
"So McGivers is tracking you. And possibly reporting that back to someone. We have vampire and other mercenary-type demons showing up wherever we do. What's the connection?" Jim struck the arm of his chair, still unable to come up with a unified theory.
Spike's voice interrupted Jim's ruminations. "You mean those M'Fashnik demons I cleared out of the cargo bay? Weren't that many of them. Not enough to do more than threaten a mugging or two before I found them all."
Jim filled Spike in on the encounter he'd had with Fyarl demons some weeks earlier. "Not just them, I ran into a Fyarl demon on Beta Kitalphar. You know they aren't loners, they're usually used as foot soldiers in packs, but I couldn't find any signs of others. I'm starting to wonder if there were more of them and they were carrying those nullifying devices. Shit, Spike, you may still have more of those bastards on DS6 and we wouldn't have any way of knowing."
Pike sat up at attention at Jim's words. "We may be looking at some kind of an invasion or a takeover. Spike, notify the security team at DS6, have them post extra watches on all the docking bays and transporter facilities, then start a compartment by compartment search of all storage and utility bays."
"Will do, Brigadier. Do you want me to--" Spike's words were cut off abruptly, the viewscreen on Pike's desktop suddenly reverting to static before being replaced with the Starfleet logo.
Pike punched buttons in an attempt to reactivate the connection, but it timed out with a grating buzz. "All right, you two; this does not seem like a coincidence. Get over to the Coven and have them boost you back to DS6. I'll have a squad meet you there for support." He hit another button on the console, throwing out orders to the section leader as Jim took off at a run out of his office, Bones on his heels.
"Where are we going?" Bones panted after Jim as they jogged down the corridor.
"The Coven has a sanctuary here; there's usually at least five to six heavy magic users on site. We'll have them 'port us back to DS6." Jim turned right and headed for a domed atrium filled with plants and trees.
Bones groaned. "I don't have any anti-nausea drugs on hand. Do I have to do this?"
"It's the fastest way, Bones. Suck it up." Jim strong-armed the door into the sanctuary, glad to see that Gwendolyn Giles was waiting for them in the center of the room with four other witches as he'd asked her through a mental link he'd thrown out as soon as he left Pike's office. Grabbing Bones' hand in his he came to a stop next to the head of the Coven.
"No time for introductions, Gwennie love--give us a boost?" Jim gave her his winsomest smile.
"Only you, James. At least you gave me more warning this time than that time when you were twelve and decided to drive a car off a cliff." Gwendolyn sniffed at him in disapproval. Before she could say more, eight more young women dressed in form-fitting black jumpsuits jogged in carrying a variety of weapons, most of them archaic. Jim gave a slight nod to the blond carrying a shiny red scythe, glad to see that the .
"Form up!" The lead Slayer barked at the others.
Jim and Bones quickly found themselves surrounded by the group of Slayers. The coven members spaced themselves evenly around the group, everyone with at least one hand touching a member of the group being transported. Once everyone had made contact, Jim nodded at Gwendolyn and then they were hurtling through time and space towards DS6 once more with Bones last epithet ringing in Jim's ears.
"Status report!" Jim demanded as soon as they'd materialized back in Spike's office. The slayers took up watch by the door as Spike started outlining everything he knew.
"Station communications have been shut down, the transporter room has been occupied by an unknown number of demons and the computers have been locked down and are inaccessible. Personal communicators are being jammed; only Blue here has been in contact with her honey through their fancy telepathic bond. According to Spock, the Enterprise has been similarly attacked." Spike related this all in clipped tones while pulling weapons out of a concealed cupboard built into the wall behind his desk.
Jim picked out a sword and over-the-shoulder harness. He watched as Bones looked over the weapons, tentatively reaching for a double-bladed axe and approved of his choice. It didn't take any fancy knowledge, just brute force, and Bones had a decent amount of upper body strength. Surrounded by slayers, he'd be relatively safe.
"Was Spock able to report how they got aboard the Enterprise?" After buckling the harness straps over his chest, he shrugged a couple of times to settle the blade between his shoulders comfortably. A quick reach over his shoulder verified that it was in the right spot for a fast draw.
"He stated that he was 98.4 percent certain they came in with a supply team bringing in spare parts through the shuttle bay. The description he gave was that of M'Fashnik demons." Having already changed into her armored form, Illyria chose a six-foot pike with a number of spikes and razor sharp protuberances along the shaft. Jim had seen her practice with javelins before. The weapon was as sleek and deadly looking as Illyria herself; in her hands it became poetry in motion when she wielded it.
Jim stood to one side as he watched Spike show Bones how to wield the axe--the best grip, how to swing it--while he continued questioning Illyria. "Did Spock say how many hijackers there are?"
"He was unable to ascertain an exact count. The humans manning the space were ejected and gave conflicting reports before internal communcations were disabled. But by his best estimation, the force that took over the transporter room was composed of ten large demons. Mr. Scott has been locked out of engineering along with the rest of the engineering crew. He reported that they counted approximately eight intruders and a female lieutenant in a red Starfleet uniform. It is his belief the lieutenant had access codes to disable the computer on her command." Illyria recited the numbers as she shouldered her way through the squad of slayers towards the door.
Spike had slung a crossbow over his back and was choosing a sword from the weapons closet when Jim looked over at him. "Wankers must have had more of those demon-cloaking devices; I thought I cleaned that entire nest out. And McGivers! Silly cow has gone native."
"Not your fault, Spike. We'll just have to make sure we do a thorough search-and- destroy mission when this is done. Good thing we've got a little extra help." Jim smiled at the squad of slayers. "What about the station security force--what's their status?"
"Locked in quarters with everyone else on the station. Doors won't respond to voice or manual control." Spike scowled. "We'll have to brute force our way out."
Jim nodded in agreement. "All right, ladies; let's get this show on the road. I want half of you with Spike and Illyria, the other half with me and the doctor. Spike, take your squad to the main engineering bay and see if you can get the computers back under our control or at least re-establish communications. My squad will take the transporter room. When we've secured those, we'll rendezvous at the docking bays. Once that's ours, we'll transport over to the Enterprise to break Spock and the crew out."
Standing by the door, Illyria drew a fist back and punched a hole through the wall next to the control panel. Reaching inside, she ripped the wiring out amidst a shower of sparks. "Follow me; I will ensure the soft-shelled atrocities arrive at our destination unmolested."
Spike laid a hand on Illyria's shoulder to hold her back. "Ah-ah, Blue. You may be the God-King, but I know the layout to the station. I'll play point, you take rear guard. It's where we can use you best."
"Your evaluation is sound, my pet. You would flourish by my side as a great general, if you ever chose to give up this pusillanimous existence serving a deluded quest for good." Illyria waited while the four slayers in her squad pried the door open, allowing everyone to file out into the corridor.
"I don't think your Vulcan honey would appreciate being part of a menagerie." Spike smirked at her, his tongue curling up behind his teeth. "I'm flattered you've never gotten over your taste for old Spike."
A cough from one of the slayers in Jim's half of the squad drew Spike's attention and his look turned into a more languorous smoulder at the blonde who leaned on her scythe, one foot tapping the floor in impatience. "Don't get your knickers in a twist, luv; I'll never give up serving my greater good." Jim stifled a laugh, though, when Spike's leer merely evoked an eyeroll from its target.
Jim clapped his hands. "Time's a wasting, people. Let's hit our objectives hard and fast so we can give the Enterprise a hand; we're going to shut these demons down. Be advised, we have a rogue slayer working with them. McGivers' loyalty is very much in question right now; but we still want to take her alive, folks. Be on your best."
After receiving affirmatives all around, the two groups formed up and started heading for their respective targets, Spike in the lead of one group and the blonde squad leader of the Slayers leading the other. Jim briefed Spock quickly over a psychic link that they were launching their counterattack on the space station. Then he was concentrating his whole being on the current mission. Still, he placed himself shoulder to shoulder with Bones instead of at the front. For the first time in his life he was going to acknowledge that there was something more important to him than the mission and that was Bones.
They found Jonathan's body behind the Double Meat Palace today. He was drained of blood and his heart had been ripped out of his chest. Not cut, ripped; that's what one of the EMTs told the manager.
I guess he was kinda heartbroken, after all. Sorry, that was sorta mean. I didn't like the guy, but no one deserves to have that done to them.
Nobody knows what could have done it, though. It wasn't an animal, but a human isn't strong enough to rip a heart out. Well, I think I am, but I'm a freak. And I wouldn't do something like that! Is there an alien that likes hearts? Was it a Romulan, or maybe a Klingon? They all seem pretty bloodthirsty to me. I wish you and Uncle Jim were here, you'd know what was going on, I'm sure.
Jim spun at Bones' shout, bringing his sword around in a slash that thudded into the shoulder of the demon lumbering toward him, leaving a bloody tear through the meat of the muscle. The demon staggered under the blow, but persisted in its forward movement toward Jim and the squad of Slayers. Cursing, Jim drew the sword back for another blow when a blur of blonde hair and shiny red metal swooped past him. The blade of the scythe swished easily through the neck of the demon. Its head bounced away in a gout of greenish blood as the creature dropped to the deck where it gave one last twitch before going still.
"Shit. Thought we'd gotten all of those. Thanks, Aunt B." Jim wiped his sword off on the demon's clothes and slid it back into the scabbard secured to his back. "They're like fucking cockroaches."
Bones came over to his side and looked down at the recently dispatched demon. "Good thing for us cockroaches don't come this big; I'm sure there's more of them out there than demons."
"Been around just as long. Hey, I wonder if cockroaches are actually demons?" Jim asked. "It would explain why they can live for so long with their heads cut off."
"Jesus, Jim, I've barely got used to the idea of demons as it is, don't go giving me nightmares about what might lurk under my kitchen sink." Bones shuddered a little at the thought.
Jim scoffed at him, poking him in the side with an elbow. "As if a cockroach would ever dare to set foot in your kitchen, Bones. I'm sure you're the boogie man of the mundane critters from microbes to millipedes." He jerked his chin over at the other side of the docking bay. "C'mon, we need to go join everyone else. You can make plans for the complete extermination of cockroaches at another time."
The two men jogged over to join the rest of the group clustered around one of the maneuvering tugs used to tow the massive starships away from the space dock.
Jim came to a stop in front of the blonde Slayer. "Status report, Agent Summers."
"Transporter room is secure with Molly on watch and a twelve-man security team standing by. Siobhan is standing guard over Engineering with Chief Engineer Nabbit rerouting all computer and communication access back under his control. No fatalities or major injuries, mostly bumps and bruises. Xiuping lost some skin off her left hand; she'll remember better than to get in the way of Fyarl snot, now. And I've told you, Jimmy, don't call me Agent Summers; it gives me the wiggens. Bad memories go with the wiggens." Agent Summers pouted at Jim.
Bones nudged Jim in the arm. "What's so special about Fyarl snot?"
"Paralyzes you, then hardens up into a cement-like substance. Get it in the face and you can suffocate," Jim's face scrunched up in disgust at the thought.
"That sure would fuck your day right up." Grabbing Jim by the elbow, Bones pulled him a short distance away from the rest of the group, tipping his head toward the Slayer that provided the status report. "Now tell me, did you just call that young lady 'Agent Summers'?"
Jim looked at his feet and then back at Bones. "You caught that, huh?"
"Is she a relative?" Bones' question carried a suspicious edge to it. He'd been holding up well under the pressure of eliminating the demons on the space station; he'd even been responsible for dispatching a couple on his own. Still, this next revelation might tip him into denial again and Jim wasn't looking forward to the explanation. Maybe he could leave the exact details out; his charm had to count for something.
"She's my aunt. Sort of. It's complicated, but she really knows what she's doing. Aunt B. is the best Slayer they have in Section 31; she's legendary. Don't let the Valley Girl speak fool you. We should get back to the others; some of them may need your skills, regardless of what Aunt B. said." Jim turned so he was crowding Bones, trying to get him to move back towards the larger group. He found himself bumping chests with him, but getting nowhere fast.
Bones grabbed the back of his neck with one hand and held him so they were staring eye to eye. "Uh-uh. There's more to it than that. Spill, or I tell Spike about the time on Risa you got drunk and passed out in the Talaxtan ambassador's bed with his underwear on your head, minus the ambassador even in the same room."
Jim huffed. "Fine. Yes, she's my Aunt Buffy. Remember, I told you about my great-umpty-grandmother Dawn and her sister Buffy?" Jim briefly tipped his head towards her. "That's Buffy."
Bones looked at him steadily for a moment, then pulled his tricorder off his hip. Turning it on, he ran it over Jim's head a couple of times. "You don't look delusional. Brain scans are perfectly normal, wave patterns all within your normal parameters. No suspicious substances in your blood. You're not drugged, high or under the control of another intellect; so what the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I'm not shittin' you, Bones. That's great-aunt Buffy. Seriously, you've met vampires, multiple species of demons, witches and warlocks; why should it surprise you to meet a human who is nearly three hundred years old?" Jim stuck his chin out. It was time Bones just gave up his attempts to hammer the supernatural pegs Jim handed him into mundane pigeonholes that they didn't fit.
Bones tucked his tricorder away and gave a weary sigh. "I don't know. I hate to quote Spock, but it's just not logical. It defies the laws of science and nature."
Jim shook his head. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Bones, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. It's magic, it can't be explained. Like faith, and love, it just has to be believed."
"But how is she even here?" Bones insisted, his voice getting louder.
"I died; then I got over it. Argue about it later, boys; we've got a problem." Buffy interrupted the heated exchange between Jim and Bones. "Take a look at Illyria."
Jim turned and felt all his blood head south in panic. "Oh, crap."
Bones craned his neck over Jim's shoulder and Jim heard him suck in his breath at the sight. "Is that--?"
"Yeah, that's Illyria's original form. The only thing that can restore it is the power of the Mutari generator or very, very powerful magic. No one here has that kind of power, so it's got to be the Mutari generator." Jim took off across the docking bay at a jog, Bones and Buffy following him. "Hopefully, we can reason with her in this form. It kind of goes to her head. The last time this happened, she tried to destroy Los Angeles."
They all looked up to that head that towered over them, mounted on top of a body that looked like a cross between a cockroach and a squid on steroids. Illyria's head and upper body were bent down by the ceiling of the docking bay, while a couple of her many tentacles that extruded from her hardened carapace curled around the overhead electrical conduits for stability. The remaining Slayers had spread out around her, their weapons at the ready.
Jim pulled up to the ring of Slayers, pushing the weapons of the ones closest to him down towards the ground. "Stand down, ladies. This is just Illyria's original form, everything is under control." He hoped. Jim wouldn't know until he tried talking to her.
"Uhura! Can you sense the Mutari generator?" Jim shouted up toward the ceiling of the docking bay, some thirty to forty feet above them. He waited a few moments to see if she would, in the guise of the God-King, acknowledge his appeal to her vestigial humanity without squashing him in a fit of petulance. The next thing he knew, he was being lifted up into the air by a tentacle as thick around as his thigh and brought up to the level of Illyria's head.
"Yes, I sense it. I sense, too, the miserable creature, Falgoreth. His essence is tainted by the shell, but it is him. I will crush him beneath my eminence. The galaxy will bow down at my transcendence, then all will--" The words resonated throughout the cavernous bay, vibrating Jim's skull like a struck tuning fork. He needed to nip that train of thought off like an aphid-infested vine.
"Then, we will destroy any remnant of the Scourge and dispose of the remaining sarcophagi of your old buddies from the Primordium. Right? No more competition for you? We can destroy that Mutari generator for once and for all, for the good of the galaxy and so you can return to your bondmate, Spock." Jim pulled out all his powers of persuasion as he spoke. He hoped his appeal to the remnants of Fred and her most recent manifestion as Uhura would remind her of ties to humanity, bring her back down to size, so to speak.
"Spock, he could rule by my side. With his intellect we could--" The tentacle around Jim's waist tightened a little, he wasn't sure if it was to prevent him from saying more or if she had just forgotten she was holding him. Regardless, he needed to get her to bring her thoughts back to a more human perspective.
Jim broke in again, his words coming in bursts as he struggled to breathe. "You could help keep the galaxy safe from others who wish to subjugate it. There are people depending on you, Uhura. Spock is depending on you, on your linguistics skills, on your affection for him and his people, his peaceful people. We are all depending on you because only you can give us what we need right now." He emphasized her human name when he spoke. As long as he kept appealing to the human side of her, the very merest sparks of humanity, he thought there was some chance he could keep her from deciding to go on a spree of conquest.
The tentacle loosened a little as he was brought closer to Illyria's eyes. "Affection, yes, I feel affection towards you. You are the little worm that makes my mate happy with your challenge to his genius, although you do not accede to his puissance nearly as often as is seemly."
"Aw, Uhura, are you saying Spock likes it when he loses at chess to me?" Jim smirked into Illyria's left eye.
Another tentacle reached up and poked him in the back of the head. "My mate would never admit to an emotion, however, your encounters do elicit a positive response from him. I find them quite enjoyable in the aftermath."
Jim's smirk wobbled a little at the corners. "I think that's a little more information than I really needed, Uhura. Now, could you put me down so we can get this show back on the road? We're burning daylight here."
"There is no sun out here, nor would daylight burn if there was one. My mate is correct in saying your speech and thus the workings of your mind are quite illogical. However, I will confess as a linguist, I find it intriguing." Jim found himself being deposited on the floor of the docking bay, the tip of the original tentacle now lying lightly across the back of his shoulders. He gave an internal sigh of relief that the God-King had taken a back seat to the persona of Uhura. Now they could get shit done without worrying about all of them becoming fodder for Illyria's ascension to Master of the Universe.
Letting out a sharp whistle to get everyone's attention, Jim outlined the next plan of attack. "Listen up, people. We have three things we need to accomplish to free the Enterprise: retake the transporter room, retake engineering and reestablish ship control to the bridge, and neutralize the demon invasion. We're going to have to work fast; we don't know if any of the demons we subdued here had a chance to fill in their counterparts on the Enterprise. We have to assume we've lost the advantage of surprise at this point, so we have to go in swinging as hard as we can. The only thing they don't know is that we now have a fully ascended Old One with us; Uhura is our secret weapon."
Jim looked up at Illyria. "Uhura, can you sense the location of Falgoreth inside the Enterprise? Chances are, wherever he is, we'll find the majority of his followers."
"The spineless grub is in the landing bay with many of his acolytes. We must go quickly, before he comes fully into his power. The Mutari generator is still operating, so he cannot be at full strength yet. I will crush him like an gnat's egg." Two of Illyria's tentacles slapped at the air like she was swatting a fly.
"Fine, you do that." Jim turned back the to the waiting Slayers. "Spike, I want you and Aunt B. to get to the transporter room, each of you take half of the security team and do whatever it takes to secure Engineering and the transporter room on the Enterprise. Our people are in danger and we can’t llet these demons retain control of a warp-capable starship. Bones and I are going with Uhura and the rest of the Slayers to take out Falgoreth and his followers. I'll let Spock know to expect our counter-attack. We'll wait here until you're in the transporter room; we'll all beam to our respective targets together."
Jim watched the Slayer and Vampire fall into step with each other as they walked across the docking bay. Buffy bumped shoulders with Spike and smiled up at him. "C'mon, Fangface, let's go play with the kiddies. Think you've got enough weapons on you to feel all manly for them?"
"You know me, pet, I'm all about the manly. Wanna let me practice being all manly with you later, try out my new handcuffs? I think you just might not be able to break this pair; I picked them up on Risa. Said they were impervious to Klingons and Gorn." Spike swung an arm over her shoulders as they walked, the amiable banter fading away as they reached the corridor leading to the transporter room.
"Those two seem to be pretty familiar with each other. Have they always been a couple?" Bones stood close behind Jim, his breath ruffling the hair on the back of his neck. Jim turned to look at him, taking in the tired look in his eyes. They needed to wrap this up soon. Everyone was starting to get a little fatigued; tired meant lack of attention to detail and accidents. He didn't want any accidents that Bones couldn't easily fix with a dermal regenerator and a hypospray.
"Yeah, mostly. For as long-lived as they are, they've been together more than they've been apart. Buffy was with Angel for a number of years after he Shanshued, but when they realized she wasn't aging they went their separate ways." Jim took a few moments to relax, throwing an arm over Bones shoulder and leaning into him, encouraging Bones to do the same. He was pleased to feel Bones lean into him, molding to his side comfortably; he was even more pleased by what Bones admitted to him next.
"I'm sorry I keep acting like I think you're crazy, Jim. I just never had any idea that there was a whole other world out there of things that made up humanity's worst nightmares. All those books you gave me still felt like they're fairy tales written for gullible fools. But, I figure if I can accept all the alien species that make up the Federation, I guess there's no reason I can't accept that the things that go bump in the night are equally real." Bones mouth twisted in a small grimace of self-mockery. "If I can believe we're a result of an alternate timeline, why shouldn't I believe that these creatures came from another dimension or reality, too?"
Jim gave Bones' shoulders a quick squeeze. "Don't sell yourself short, Bones. Plenty of people still can't see what's right in front of their noses. Back in Buffy's high school days they used to write off vamp attacks as kids on PCP. The human propensity for rationalization and disbelief is a long as the Nile. You can make it up to me later, though, if you feel the need." He gave Bones a wink, then dropped his arm and moved to stand in front of Illyria and the waiting Slayers.
"Form up, everyone, this is it. Spike and Buffy are ready to beam over to their respective targets. We'll be taking on an unknown number of demons with an Old One who is attempting to ascend. Keep an eye out for the Mutari generator, we need to get it shut off and out of the hands of whichever demon is controlling it. Work in pairs, watch your backs and kick ass!" When everyone was in place and had one hand on their neighbor, Jim mentally alerted Spike, Buffy and Spock to be ready on the count of three with a brief psychic message. For the sake of the people around him, he repeated it out loud.
"Three, two, one....now!" Reality twisted at him, turned him briefly inside-out and deposited him along with the rest of the party in the corresponding docking bay on the Enterprise. He barely had his footing under him, when his sword was out and swinging. From the corner of his eye, he could see his Slayers bringing the wrath of Section 31 down on the Scourge demons congregated in the docking bay. They appeared heavily outnumbered, but he wasn't worried. These Slayers were battle-hardened veterans more than capable of withstanding the forces in front of him. His biggest worry was Illyria and the awakening Old One, Falgoreth. He was less worried about Falgoreth, than he was Illyria.
As long as the Mutari generator was operating, she was gaining in strength, a strength that had once nearly resulted in an explosion that would have wiped half the state of California off the map. Finding the generator was the single most important thing they needed to do and they needed to do it now.
Jim welcomed the shout that echoed across the docking bay. They'd been fighting the Scourge for twenty minutes and, while they had made some headway against the mass of demons, it felt like they were pushing the rock of Sisyphus up the hill and were in danger of having it roll back over them soon if they didn't get reinforcements. The sound of his first officer's voice told him that Engineering was once more under the control of his own personnel. With the added forces, they should be able to regain complete control of the starship in a timely manner.
"Yo! Come on in, Spock, the water's fine!" Jim blocked a bare-fisted overhand blow aimed at his head with his left forearm. It hurt like a son of a bitch, but he gritted his teeth and pushed through the pain. He was able to divert the blow down to his left and deliver a resounding whack on the head to the demon with the pommel of his sword. The stunned demon sagged to the side where one of the Slayers used her own sword to cleave him in two.
Jim spun around as a demon hand clenched around a knife bounced away along the floor just to his right, victim to Bones' increasing competence with the battle axe that he'd picked up in Spike's office. Kicking the hand out of his way, Jim fended off the injured demon's attack with the edge of his sword into the demon's arm. Bones' axe swept low and hacked into the side of one knee, driving the demon to the floor. From there, Jim took its head off with a two-handed swing. As he looked around to assess how much needed to be done, Jim could see that Uhura was still grappling with Falgoreth farther down the hangar deck. A number of the Scourge were helping the Old One by tag-teamimg Illyria, while the Slayer squad was tied up with the bulk of the demon mob.
"Spock, get your ass over here!"
Jim was happy to see a mass of red shirts following behind Spock as he made his way across the floor of the docking bay. He didn't have a weapon, but with his increased Vulcan strength he was able to bodily throw the demons that tried to attack him away from himself and into the path of the convoy. The red shirts following in his wake were using their phasers set on kill. A number of them had knives and short swords strapped to their sides, too. Spock must have filled them in on the nature of the current threat. At the back of the pack was one gold-shirt; he could tell from the shape of the sword, a katana, that it was Sulu come to get in on the action. That was fine by him.
"Jim, Nyota has informed me that the Mutari generator is being wielded by a demon named Khan. He has sequestered himself on the auxiliary Bridge, for what purpose is uncertain since we have regained control of the master computer and all ship functions have been confined to Engineering." Spock grappled with a demon briefly before putting him in an arm-lock and pushing him into the path of two of the security party following him. They quickly dispatched the demon with a phaser stun and a sword through the neck. Jim was satisfied that the melee would soon be brought to an end.
"Let's wrap this up, Spock; rescue your snuggle-puppy over there and get that Mutari generator shut down." Jim swiped the arm of his sleeve across his forehead, sopping up the sweat dripping into his eyes.
Spock straight-armed a demon in the throat, then drove him down with a fist on his shoulder. "Nyota would, I think, object to being referred to as a 'snuggle-puppy', Jim." They both watched as Bones' axe came around and took the head off. Jim saw Spock give the doctor an appreciative nod at his quick and decisive action. Bones had already mentioned in passing that he didn't feel it was much different than chopping up a cord of wood for his parent's cabin, it was all in the follow through.
"But you don't object, Spock? Not going to come to your girlfriend's defense?" Jim took in his first's posture, it was relaxed, but vigilant--not pissed off.
"I think we can both agree she is more than capable of defending herself, in any guise." Spock looked over to where his bondmate was attempting to hold Falgoreth pinned to the deck with her lower tentacle cluster. The demon had morphed from its shell of Marla McGivers into something resembling a great snake. Unfortunately, Illyria was being stymied by a number of demons who would attack multiple tentacles at once making it hard for her to gain the advantage.
A quick glance around informed Jim that they had less than a handful of demons left in their part of the hangar bay. The security party could finish this up. He'd leave one Slayer with the red shirts. They needed to subdue Falgoreth before it grew as strong as Illyria. As of yet, it was about half the size of Illyria but it had incredible crushing power in its coils. It couldn't do any major damage to Illyria, but it was large enough to get a human in its coils and crush it. Jim was unsure what other powers it might manifest, though; they didn't need another demon with the ability to manipulate time and space the way Illyria could have at full strength. Human shells just weren't meant to hold the full power of an ascended Old One. They didn't need both of them going nuclear in the quadrant at the same time; who knew just how much of it they'd take out in their combined destruction? Best to get their hands on the Mutari generator so they could reverse the operation and shunt all that excess power back into the pocket dimension Wesley Wyndham-Price had created to hold it.
"Spock, take the Slayers to help subdue the remaining Scourge that are pestering Illyria. Stay out of the way of Falgoreth, though; we don't want to lose anyone to that thing. I'm going to find Khan and secure the Mutari generator. Bones, stay with Spock and the Slayers, they can watch your back." Jim didn't stop to see if his orders were followed, he reached inside and shifted.
As soon as Jim materialized on the auxiliary Bridge, he realized he was going to have problems; there was more than just the Scourge demon he expected on the Bridge. Khan had resurrected not just one, but two Old Ones. He wasn't sure who the first one was anymore, because the current one was still being ravaged by the resurrection process and it was obvious that this one was Marla McGivers. She was still alive, for now, her body wracked by shivers, low moans emanating from her chest. Jim knew it was too late, though; once the process started, it couldn't be reversed.
He was even more surprised by feeling another presence at his side; he'd intended to confront Khan alone. A quick glance at the hand on his shoulder and the ring on the little finger confirmed his worst fears--it was Bones. If Jim survived this mission, he was going to kill his friend, hoped for lover.
"Hedging your bets, Khan?" Jim held up a hand and fired off a bolt of fire from the palm of his hand that hit Khan in the chest. He heard Bones whisper a low curse at his side in surprise.
Khan staggered at the blow, but shrugged it off. He pointed to his chest where an incision trisected it, his skin dimpled by the items embedded in his body. "I am her high priest, I bear her gifts. As she gains power, so do I."
"Then we have no choice, do we?" Jim threw another blast, but this time at the figure of Marla McGivers. He was staggered when his arm was pulled off target by Bones, the firebolt going wild to slam into the bulkhead where it left a singe mark.
"What are you doing, Jim? You'll kill her!" Bones shook him by his upper arm where he had grabbed Jim.
"It's too late for her, anyway, Bones; once the process starts, it can't be reversed. Don't you think Spike and Angel would have saved Fred if they could have once they realized what was happening?" Jim wrenched his arm away from Bones, threw both hands up and fired at McGivers again. This time his blasts hit their target, but they bounced off the hardened shell of McGivers' skin; the transformation was too far along.
Khan laughed at them from where he stood holding the Mutari generator. "Our time has come once more, pure demons will rule not just one measly planet. We will rule the galaxy and someday the universe. There will be no stopping us once we have released all the Old Ones from the Deeper Well."
"Not gonna happen on my watch, buddy." Jim knew he had only one chance to do what he could to save them all. If he destroyed the Mutari generator, they would have no way of reversing the effects on Uhura, much less Falgoreth and McGivers. He couldn't leave the newly resurrected Old Ones loose in the galaxy either. There was only one place he could think of to take them where they would be no danger to the rest of the universe. Giving Bones his instructions through a mental link, he ran straight towards Khan while Bones ran over to McGivers. As soon as they were all in physical contact, Jim teleported them back to the hangar bay as close to Illyria and Falgoreth as he could get them.
"Uhura, send us to Vahla ha'nesh, now!" Jim held Khan as immobile as he could with more than just his arms, creating a kind of straight-jacket with his magic. Unfortunately, while his magic could do quite a bit, with everything that was being demanded of him he was running out of internal resources. They had to get the danger out of there to where it could be contained.
"I cannot. The portal between here and there was time-locked by Angel before he destroyed Wolfram and Hart." Illyria finally had Falgoreth bound by her lower tentacle cluster. The demon was still struggling, but it had the combined might of Illyria and all the Slayers holding it down. They just couldn't destroy it because its skin was impervious to their weapons. Spike, Spock, Sulu and the security party stood guard.
"I can open the portal; just get us to it, please." Jim bent over with his hands on his knees, breathing in deep gusts of air trying to maintain his grip on Khan.
"As you wish." This time the wrench to elsewhere was even more disorienting than before. When they materialized, everyone stood in front of a portal with arcane symbols carved around it, the same ones Jim had seen in Jo's drawing of Falgoreth's sarcophagus. Jim straightened long enough to take the poignard out of his boot and slash it across the palm of his left hand. As soon as it started to bleed, he slapped his palm onto the center of the portal. The portal shimmered open around them and they were swallowed into the depths of Illyria's abandoned temple, the dim light inside it throwing only a faint illumination over the shattered remains of her army lining the cavernous walls.
Jim sagged to the dusty floor just on the other side of the portal, his shoulders slumped against the wall behind him. He felt his grip on Khan relax, unable to maintain his control any longer. The danger was only partially contained in this realm. Vahla ha'nesh had been phase-shifted in time, so anything that happened here could have no effect on the universe where it had originated, but the portal was still open. There were two things that had to be done to keep everyone completely safe.
"Get the Mutari generator," he directed Spock. "We need to neutralize the Old Ones. Figure out how to reverse the effect and depower Falgoreth. Maybe we can save McGivers with it, too, despite how far along the transformation is." Spock acknowledge his words, turning away to gather up the security team and Spike to attack Khan from all sides, taking him down and wrenching the Mutari generator out of his hands. Jim watched only long enough to verify that Spock had the device in hand and was studying it intently for clues on how to reverse the alterations done to it.
"Bones, get out your dermal regenerator; the portal won't close until the bleeding stops." Jim held his hand up to Bones, watching as he opened up his medical bag and removed the requested instrument. After kneeling down next to him, Bones ran it over the palm, sealing the cut and leaving a pink line across the center of his hand. Once the cut closed, Jim looked at the portal and watched as the shimmer of air over it flowed away as the wall behind him solidified once more. The portal was closed, for now.
Bones tucked the regenerator away in his kit, but didn't let go of Jim's hand. "You're exhausted, Jim. If you do anymore magic, you're going to drive your body to the point of collapse." He rubbed his thumb gently over the faint mark on Jim's palm, a mark that had been there before this, too.
"That's an acceptable outcome, Bones. I'll take it." Jim gave him a small smile.
Jim shook his head. "Nothing, as long as we stop the Apocalypse."
Bones gave him a startled look. "There was an Apocalypse?"
Jim chuckled. "Many. Ask Buffy how many she's stopped in her life. Pretty much at least one a year."
Bones thumb stilled over the mark on Jim's palm. "You've done this before, haven't you?"
Jim clenched Bones hand and tugged him closer, encouraging him to sit. Spock had the Mutari generator, Falgoreth was held pinned by Illyria, and McGivers was still incapacitated by the transformation process; he could relax for a few minutes and take some time to reassure Bones, answer a few of the myriad dammed by his lips.
"What, stopped an Apocalypse? Helped a couple of times," Jim admitted.
"Well, that, too, but I've always wondered where that scar on your palm came from. Was that trying to stop an Apocalypse?" Bones sat down next to him.
He let out a small sigh. "No, that was something more personal. It's from the first time I tried to open a portal with my own blood when I was fourteen."
Bones eyes widened a little at the confession. "When your mother was on Tarsus?"
Jim grimaced. "Yeah. I wasn't successful as you can see."
"Couldn't you have just teleported?" Bones pulled Jim sideways until he was tucked under one arm. Jim relaxed into his side, letting his head drop back onto Bones' shoulder. It was nice to let someone take care of him for a while; it left him feeling remarkably content despite the ongoing danger.
"Teleportation is more or less instantaneous. I tried to open a dimensional portal that would take me back in time. After I got word that mom had been killed by the Scourge." Jim looked down at his other hand where he picked at the seam on the side of his pants.
"I'm sorry, Jim," Bones said gently, his arm pulling him just a little bit closer into his side with the words.
"Yeah, well I found out the hard way just what I was capable of. I'd only recently discovered that I could do magic, really minor stuff, but I was desperate. It left me in a coma for nearly a week. My step-father thought I'd tried to commit suicide." Jim pulled his hand free and waggled it. "Not the standard place to attempt that, but Frank wasn't thinking any clearer than I was. I awoke from my coma nearly thirty pounds lighter, I'd used so much of my own energy stores to try and power the portal along with the blood."
They were interrupted when Spock came up to them holding the Mutari generator. There was a look on his face that Jim wouldn't dare categorize as a smile, but a look that he nevertheless associated with Spock being very satisfied, as with solving a challenging puzzle or beating him at 3D chess.
"The device is ready to be activated in the manner it was originally intended. Reversing the circuitry was simple, however, I could not determine what many of those circuits were intended to do." Spock bent his head, a tacit admission that part of the puzzle had still eluded him.
Jim pulled his legs under him and stood up. He could feel Bones doing the same thing by his side. Jim smiled in gratitude at Bones when he felt a steadying hand on his shoulder. Once vertical, they lined up abreast with Spock and proceeded to where Illyria and the Slayers had Falgoreth pinned to the floor.
"Falgoreth first, to make sure the Mutari generator is working properly." Jim waved a hand at the snake demon writhing on the floor.
Spock lifted one eyebrow at Jim, as close as he came to exhibiting a sneer. "I am 99.87% sure it will operate according to its original specifications, Captain."
"It's that point three percent that could lead to another Apocalypse that I'm worried about, Spock. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Let's do it."
With a hum, the machine started up and a beam of light shot out to hit Falgoreth slightly behind the head. They could see a different beam, this one of blue energy, being drawn into the Mutari generator. Falgoreth's struggles grew weaker, until it was apparent that they didn't need the Slayers to help Illyria keep him pinned to the floor. The blue energy finally faded away and the Mutari generator wound to a stop. Where Falgoreth had been there was now a young man, his body covered in what looked like a rubbery green body suit and his skin a sallow yellow. He looked up at them from orange eyes with vertical slits for pupils. Illyria picked him up with one tentacle and shook him.
"Hey, Uhura, knock it off. He's mostly harmless, now." Jim gestured at Illyria to place the demoted demon back on the ground.
"I would teach this usurper that his machinations are for nought. He is lower than you that were the muck at our feet." Illyria gave him another vigorous shake, disregarding Jim's command.
"Lt. Uhura, put him down. Now." Jim bellowed the command sternly, counting on her ingrained response to his authority and her human name to bring her back to a sense of self.
Illyria straightened her carapace, bobbed her head and rapped out her acquiescence, "Aye-aye, sir." The tentacle holding Falgoreth lowered him to the floor, dropping him the last few feet. Not so compliant after all, but it fulfilled the letter of the law, so Jim wasn't going to bitch.
"You two, Padmi and Gabrielle? Secure him." The two Slayers took out a pair of manacles each from their utility belts, binding his wrists and ankles together.
"What are you going to do with him, Jim?" Bones looked at the creature, his brows pulled down in thought.
Jim ran his hand through his hair. "Can't take him back to our dimension as long as the Mutari generator is functional; the wrong person or demon gets their hands on it again, we're back to square one and Apocalypseville. Before we make a decision, let's see if we can reverse the transformation process on McGivers."
The three men walked over to where the Slayer was lying on the floor, curled up in a fetal position, wracked with shivers. Bones pulled the tricorder out of his medkit and ran it over her body.
"This says she's got a parasitic infection. If we can find what will purge the parasite, we may be able to reverse it." Bones looked at the analysis again and his eyebrows flew up in surprise. "Wait. The parasite is dying, we may not have to do anything to cure her, she may cure herself."
"How?" Jim asked.
"Our demon," Buffy said softly from behind him.
"You're not a demon, Aunt B." Jim's protest was instinctive. Slayers were the most powerful source for good he knew.
"Close enough. The Shadow Men chained the First Slayer to the Earth and forced the essence of a demon into her; bound it mystically so when one Slayer died, another arose to take her place. Marla's demon essence is fighting the essence of the Old One." Buffy hugged her arms tightly around herself, her face drawn in anguish.
Bones placed a hand on her shoulder in consolation. "That's barbaric. Isn't there any way the process can be reversed, so young women don't have to be Slayers?"
Buffy shook her head. "I nearly destroyed us all when I shared the power in order to take down the First Evil. It boomeranged back on me, superpowering me, and I ended up destroying the Seed of Wonder trying to fix it."
"What happened when you did that Aunt B?" Jim hadn't heard this part of her story before.
Buffy looked off in the distance. "It created a new dimension, sucked all the magic out of our world and left us unable to defend ourselves against demons and pure evil."
"But we do have magic, I use it all the time," Jim protested. He threw a few sparks out of his fingertips that sputtered weakly and faded out before they hit the ground. "Well, most of the time."
"I got it back." Buffy blushed a little.
Jim looked at her a little puzzled, then smirked at the red flush across her cheekbones. "Like Austin Powers, you just needed to get your mojo back, huh?"
"Jim, you're really cute, but I don't talk about my sex life with my nephew, okay?" Buffy tossed her head, kicking at the blade of her scythe where it rested against the floor.
"You bragging about the time you shagged tall, dark and forehead in outer space, again, pet?" Spike drew up behind Buffy and draped one arm over her shoulders.
Buffy clapped a hand against her face, covering her eyes. "Tell me again why I agree to have anything to do with you, William?"
"Bugger, she's using the proper first name, better mind my Ps and Qs like a proper Victorian gentleman, gents." Spike winked at them, his hand tugging at the pair of handcuffs he had buckled to a belt loop of his pants.
Jim hid his laugh behind his hand, turning it into a cough. Bones slapped him on the back, his mouth quirking up in a grin. "Gonna live there, kid?"
"Yeah, yeah, as long as you don't pound the breath out of me, Bones." Jim flapped a hand at him, waving him away. He thought he heard Bones mutter something under his breath about doing that later and he felt his ears pink a little. Not something he wanted his great-aunt knowing, either.
"Jim, we must decide on the disposition of the Old One, Falgoreth, and Khan. We cannot, in good conscience, leave them here," Spock interrupted. "This realm is barren. If we do not, or cannot, destroy them, we must contain them somehow."
Jim turned to face Spock. "You're right, Spock. We can take McGivers and Illyria back to the Enterprise, but the other two need to be put where they can't do any damage." He rubbed his chin in thought for a moment.
"Spike, the closest solar system to DS6 is Ceti Alpha, correct?"
Spike tipped his head back, considering the location. "Might do. Ceti Alpha V is uninhabited and is habitable. Could set them there and they can have their very own little realm to muck about in. Make minions of the wildlife if they have the hankering."
Jim clapped his hands together. "Good. Let's get everyone back to the ship, stash the bad demons in the brig for now, while we depower Illyria and make sure that McGivers is really on the road to discovery." With that decided, he strode back over to the portal. He was just taking his knife out of his boot when he felt something rush him from behind. Fangs sank into his neck and a burning pain immediately radiated up his neck exploding into his brain. The last thing he saw was Buffy's scythe slicing past his cheek and a gout of yellow gore before everything faded to black.
God, I am so stupid! How can you want me for a daughter? It was all there in front of me, even in my dreams! It shouldn't have taken Mr. Wells telling me about it for me to understand. And he didn't so much tell me as shove a stake in my hand and then push me at the grave. It was so horrible! Why does it have to me? Why do I have to be this Slayer girl that Mr. Wells keeps yammering on about?
Have you ever heard of the Slayer, Dad? I sure as hell hope not, because if you did and never told me I will never forgive you. Never!
When Jim woke, his head ached like he'd been on a three-day bender with a case of Romulan ale chased by a case of Saurian brandy. The beeps of the biobed, even as soft and unobtrusive as they were supposed to be, stabbed at his ears. He could sense the overhead lights were on from the translucence of his eyelids. There was no way he was opening his eyes until those lights were off. He opened his mouth to speak, but was forestalled when a straw was stuffed between his lips.
"Drink." Bones voice was gruff, like he could use the water as much as Jim could right then. He didn't hesitate, though, and started sucking on the water as fast as he could.
"Whoa, slow down, tiger; you'll choke." Bones pulled the straw back, forcing Jim to swallow what was in his mouth and left him gaping a little like a fish out of his element. He cleared his throat.
"More?" His tongue darted out to wet his lips; he could feel how dry and chapped they were.
"Only if you promise not to try and drown yourself while drinking it." The straw came back and Jim sucked slowly this time, cherishing the liquid as it hydrated the parched membranes of his mouth and throat.
"You're so dry because we had you on a ventilator for the past week." Jim could hear Bones pulling a chair into position by his biobed. He took a couple more slow sips and let the straw drop from his mouth.
"Lights? Off?" The query came out raspy, but understandable.
"Sure, kid." Buttons were pressed and Jim could sense the room around him dim through his eyelids. Jim took his chances and opened his eyes a little. The view was a little smudged, probably a build up of mucous from his eyes being closed so long. He reached up to rub at them, only to have them brushed away. Instead, a damp cloth was applied to the lids and the corners. He gave a sigh of pleasure; the moisture felt good there, too. When he finally opened his eyes all the way, he could see Bones sitting in the chair by his bed. Bones looked as bad as Jim felt, he was sure; bags you could pack for a week trip to Risa sagged under his eyes, his stubble was nearly at the ready for deer hunting season stage where it no longer itched, and his hair had that shine of oil that said it hadn't been washed in at least three days.
"How bad was it?" Jim wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer. If this latest disaster had scared Bones off permanently, it didn't really matter one way or the other.
Bones sighed. "Your heart stopped once before we got to the Presidio, another two times once we got you into medical at Starfleet. Then it was just a matter of countering the toxin Falgoreth pumped into you as fast as we could before it ate too much tissue away and destroyed your brain and nervous system."
"As long as I can still occasionally beat Spock at 3D chess, I don't care." Jim knew it was a feeble joke, but he figured alive was all that really mattered after that litany of death he'd managed to cheat.
"Shouldn't be a problem. Although, if it meant you'd lost some of those corny lines you picked up off of Spike, I don't think I would have minded." Jim was amazed; Bones was joking about it instead of berating him for putting himself into danger.
"Okay, who are you and what have you done with my boyfriend?" Jim reached out to poke at Bones chest. Maybe he was hallucinating.
"Are we?" Bones wrapped his hand around Jim's, stilling his nervous fingers.
"Well, yeah?" Jim gave him a hopeful look.
"You were pretty pissed at me, you passive-aggressive little shit." Bones' mouth turned down at the corners, but he didn't let go of Jim's hand.
Jim closed his eyes for a second, then opened them and looked Bones straight in the eye. "Yes, I was. I felt like you didn't trust me after all the years we've known each other. It was hard earning this crew's trust when I was so young when they gave me command. I always felt you were the one person I could count on to believe in me. But you wouldn't trust Jo with me, Bones. That hurt, but I think I got it straight in my head, now. I could have had a little more patience. After all, you followed me into what might well have been Hell, even when I tried to leave you behind."
"I do trust you, Jim. In fact, I've got something to show you." Bones mouth turned up in pleasure. "Hold on a second, I'll be right back." He stood up and placed Jim's hand back on top of the blankets, but not before he squeezed it gently.
"Wait! What about the Enterprise? Is Uhura back to normal? And McGivers?" Jim propped himself up on his elbows, where he wobbled for a couple of seconds before he collapsed back on the bed. He couldn't believe he'd nearly forgotten about them. All he'd cared about was that the world was still here and he still had Bones by his side. He hadn't allowed himself to feel like that for years. Jim thought his heart might have grown three sizes since he woke up.
Bones patted his hand. "They're all safe. Uhura is normal size, although still a little on the acerbic side. She played hide and seek with Spock for a little while before she let him do an "Honey, I shrunk the wife" schtick on her. McGivers woke up a couple days before you, and is in the custody of the Coven while they make a determination on how to handle her case. She's still waffling on whether she intended to get herself hijacked by an Old One or if it was pure accident. Bit of a nutter, as Spike would say."
"Good, that's good." Jim breathed out a sigh of relief.
"Now, let's get that surprise out of the way before you exhaust yourself remembering a million other petty details that just don't matter right now." Bones finally turned and left the room for the outer waiting room of the suite.
Jim wasn't sure what it was that Bones could have to show him, but he waited obediently for him to return. It couldn't have been more than a minute before Bones reappeared in the doorway.
"I have someone who wants to say 'hi.' You up for it?"
"Don't know. But I'm not ready to go back to sleep yet, so bring them in." Jim fumbled for the bed controls, getting the head of the bed raised just a little before he was engulfed in skinny arms that practically got a strangle hold on him.
"Hey, Jo-bug. I didn't know you were going to be here. Heck, I didn't know I was going to be here." Jim patted her on the back, smiling to the air since she had her face buried in his neck. He could feel her giving little hiccuping sobs.
"What's wrong? Why are you crying?" Jim raised his eyebrows at Bones in query. He got a shrug and a hand waggle in return.
"I almost killed you, Uncle Jim." The words came out in between little hitches of breath.
"How do you figure that?" Jim was startled at the thought that Jo might consider herself in any way responsible for anything that had happened in the past two months.
"I wrote you about my dreams. If I hadn't sent that letter with the funny words, this never would have happened to you." Jo pulled back and wiped her sleeve across her eyes, smudging her mascara. Shit, she was wearing mascara. Jim didn't think he was ready for that, yet.
Jim reached up to touch her cheek. "Sweetheart, those letters helped save the universe. Don't you ever regret sending them."
Jim shushed her off with a finger to her lips. "You will learn as a Slayer that the mission is what matters. Whatever you do that means the planet, the galaxy, the universe is here to survive for another day is the most important thing you can do and it is."
Bones and Jo looked at him a little doubtfully. Jim looked at Jo with encouragement.
"What's the most important thing in the world to you, Bug-a-bear?"
Jo instinctively turned her face toward her father. "Daddy is. Then Mom, and you, Uncle Jim."
"Exactly. Your family is the world. Your mission is saving the world, your world, your family."
Jo nodded seriously at his words. "I can do that. I want to do that. Even if it scares Dad."
"Welcome to the Scooby Gang." Jim pulled Jo into a big hug and smiled at Bones over her head. They had lots of time to explore the strange new world that would be their relationship. It could wait the few moments it took him to reassure a newly fledged Slayer that she would always be a part of their family, even if other duties made her feel isolated they would always be there for her. Always.