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The Curse of Jim

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McCoy was just in the process of levering Jim upright against a wall and having a look at that head wound when the next two gentlemen in their merry temporal carnival ride stepped into the cave. At least these two had come from outside, rather than through the portal, so likely they weren't going to be as confused and aggressive as most of the visitors so far today had been. One pissed off and berserker Viking a day was enough for anyone, please and thank you.

On the downside, there were now two pistols pointed his and Jim's way. Revolvers, for the love of Pete, the portal had apparently dropped them back in Earth's dark ages, but no less deadly for that. McCoy swallowed, faintly, and made sure to shift Jim behind him while he turned to face them.

They certainly didn't seem all that aggressive, though. The pistols stayed up and ready, sure, but they weren't exactly threatening anybody so much as making sure nobody got rash and decided to threaten them. One of the gentlemen, soon as he saw McCoy and Jim behind him, bleeding gently under the hairline, made a little noise of sympathy and immediately holstered his weapon, leaving his partner to cover his back while he swept his neckerchief off and moved in their direction.

His partner didn't look too happy about this. Neither, for that matter, was McCoy, but with Jim dipping woozily in and out of consciousness, he wasn't goin' to make something of it unless pushed.

"Well hello there," said the friendlier gentleman, in a nice easy drawl that abruptly made McCoy homesick for somewhere he hadn't been in ages. He held out a canteen full of water and the neckerchief as an impromptu mop/bandage, which didn't help the sensation at all. "Looks like you two have been in the wars, hmm?"

McCoy snorted, trying not to snatch at the man's hands before they came in contact with Jim, maybe pointedly moving a shoulder in between them instead. "A war or six, yes. How could you tell?"

The man grinned, bright and sunny. "Oh, just a guess," he said airily, settling back on his haunches to give McCoy some space to start checking Jim's skull for any dents that didn't belong there. Thankfully, it looked as if that thick skull was miraculously as intact as ever, concussion aside. "By any chance, was one of those wars a large red-haired fellow with an axe and a hell of a temper?"

McCoy blinked, looking back at him. "How did you--"

He broke off with a snap, half coming to his feet, because while he'd been distracted with the one partner, the other one had decided to mosey over and poke at the temperamental portal through time. Because obviously. The James Tiberius Kirk method of determining threats was obviously alive and well in whatever the hell time period they'd been dumped in. The Wild West, by the looks of things.

"Are you insane," he snapped, striding over to yank the idiot away before he'd even really thought about it. Which wasn't wise, he remembered that as soon as the pistol was pointing back his way, but by that stage he was so far along he figured he might as well continue. "Don't touch the glowy doorway! First rule of ... of anything. If it's glowing, nine times out of ten it's bad for you, so don't touch it. Honestly!"

And if the nice man is pointing a weapon at you, don't aggravate him, that was the second rule of everything, but hell with it. McCoy was having a bad enough day without these idiots dropping by. If they were gonna shoot him for it, so be it.

Except it didn't look like he was getting shot. The man with the gun only looked at him, one eyebrow raised and a strange smile on his face, and the man behind him -crouched over an injured Jim, Len, shoulda remembered that too- took one second to look them over, and then ... chuckled. Cheerfully. At them both.

"What the man said, Jim," he agreed, gently tipping Jim ... McCoy's Jim back against the wall, before standing up and dusting off his knees. "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, don't touch glowy portals through time."

'Jim' turned his eyebrow from McCoy to his companion. "Really, Artie? Strangely, I don't remember having heard that particular admonition before."

Artie grinned, slinging a companionable arm around him, incidentally steering him back a step from McCoy in the process. "It was there in spirit," he assured, winking at a rather stupefied McCoy. "The life we lead, partner of mine, it was most definitely there in spirit."

McCoy blinked. There were any number of things wrong with that, a whole load of things, but first things first ... "Is there a curse on the name Jim? Are they all destined to jump headfirst into danger? Literally?"

They blinked at him in turn, and then, as one, towards the figure propped against the wall and beginning to focus well enough to be back in the world of the living. Jim, for his part, woozily brushed blood from his eyebrow, and glared warily at them.

"... I'm taking it Sleeping Beauty's name would be Jim?" Artie asked, with a face that was manfully struggling to remain straight. McCoy snorted agreement.

"James Kirk, at your service," Jim managed, scraping himself up the wall to standing, and staggering over to offer a hand in greeting. McCoy caught him absently as he went past, getting a shoulder under one arm and a stabilising grip on his waist with the ease of long practice. Jim grinned happily at him, even as the other Jim took the offered hand with warm amusement.

"James West, at yours," he smiled, holding fast. "I see you made the acquaintance of our axe-wielding berserker?" Jim nodded. "I wondered who'd been nice enough to wind him for us. Thanks for that."

"No problem," Jim said, wryly. "I always offer my skull in the name of temporal cooperation."

McCoy grunted. "And would that he were lying," he muttered. Artie, who was apparently his Old Western counterpart, snickered along with him, so McCoy stuck out his free hand in the man's direction to finish out the round of introductions. "Leonard McCoy. For my sins, I'm this idiot's doctor and chief patcher-upper."

Artie laughed, forgoing the handshake to clap him gently on the shoulder instead. "Artemus Gordon. Actor, inventor, occasional agent provocateur, and most days field medic by default. Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir!"

McCoy actually smiled at him. Terrible blow to his reputation as a grumpy so-and-so, but with the day he was having the man was a welcome breath of fresh air. "I could wish it was in better circumstances, but hell with it. Pleased to meet you too."

"Well whaddya know," Jim murmured softly. "I go to sleep for a bit, and Bones actually manages to make a friend instead of aggravating everyone in range. Will wonders never cease."

McCoy jostled him gently. "Shut up, you. I didn't go around greeting axe-handles with my forehead. I don't reckon you've got much room to talk about now."

"Ah, that aside!" West spoke up, before Jim could get his dander up and entertain them for a while more. "On the subject of those better circumstances? I'm assuming you two have a better idea than we do why there appears to be a time portal in a Californian mine shaft?"

Jim squinted at him, the way McCoy had been going to a while back, before he'd gotten distracted by the apparent universal foolhardiness of men named Jim. "And how," he asked slowly, "did you know it was a time portal? I hadn't realised you got many of those in ... the 1880s?"

"1870s," Artemus corrected cheerfully. "And you'd be surprised. Well. It's our first time portal, I'll admit that. Strangely not our first experience of time travelling, though. And after a few evil geniuses, magicians, and the odd haunted house on top of that, these things start to lose their novelty."

Jim blinked, McCoy along with him, and then glanced at each other. The man didn't look to be lying, as far as McCoy could tell, and from the look in Jim's face he agreed with the assessment. Which meant only one thing, as far as Len was concerned.

"Apparently," he said, slow and bright and rueful, "the Curse of Jim results in more than foolhardiness. It also entails random weirdness following you around for all your days, as well as whatever poor souls you happen to have dragged in alongside you."

Jim grinned at him, blinking lazily around the trickle of blood down his forehead, and both Artie and the other Jim grinned with him.

"Maybe," Jim agreed, squeezing the arm he had around McCoy's shoulder. "But it looks like the Curse of Jim also nets us some nice mother hens to run around after us and fix things, doesn't it?"

"And thank heavens for that," said Artemus Gordon, tugging his own Jim close in the process. "They wouldn't last a day without us. And I don't think we'd want them to, either."

The Jims looked at each other, counterparts roughly four hundred years distant in time, and came to a silent, bright-eyed agreement, turning in unison to their respective partners.

"Yessir and amen!"