The next morning, Bones made his way down to the transporter room with a rare public smile on his face.
He had more of those dreams last night, both during his two-hour nap and when he went to bed proper. When he awoke from the first one, Jim was patient with him. They talked about it, tried to analyze it, came to no conclusions, made each other laugh, and made love before calling it a night.
It made Bones realize something.
The content of his dreams didn’t matter because Jim was real, and so was what they had together. It was stable and warm, and he had never been happier than we was in the last three months.
He was deeply in love with Jim, Jim loved him back, and that was all that was important.
Bones stepped off the turbo lift, walking down the hallway to the transporter room. He could feel Jim through the rapport; he thought about Bones, and it made him feel a bit lighter. He used his telepathy to see where Jim was; he stood outside of the transporter room with his hands in his pockets. Bones could sense that he was nervous about something.
It wouldn’t take much to just slip inside his mind and see what was getting to him. Bones concentrated and “listened” a little closer. It was just listening. They already had the rapport, he was only using that to get details. No harm, no foul.
//Should I just ask him? Maybe getting it out in the open, or maybe if I make it seem casual, like I don’t really care. God, this is why I never really dated much...all these rules and boundaries are so fucking complicated. I mean, I’m pretty sure he’ll say yes...//
Jim was going to ask him on a date?
Like...an actual date?
In three months of being in a relationship together, he and Jim did many things. They talked a lot, sometimes even with an ease they hadn’t known just as friends. They would touch each other more freely, although they did watch it when they were on duty or in front of other people. They had sex almost every night. They were there for each other. They would share their feelings, either through their bond or out loud.
But they had never been on a date.
Bones didn’t really mind this. He had done the whole courtship thing with Jocelyn; dating was a type of pretense. You had to do certain things, act certain ways, and it just...it wasn’t for him. It wasn’t really for Jim, either, he thought.
Jim apparently felt differently.
Well...he wasn’t opposed to going on a date with Jim. It would be nice. They could be somewhere together in public and not have to pretend to just be friends. They could touch each other, or even kiss, and no one could say anything.
Something about that was freeing for Bones, and it made his smile widen.
Okay, then. Jim was going to ask him on a date, and his answer would be yes.
Shielding his thoughts from Jim so he would be surprised, he schooled his features into a more neutral expression. He was almost at the transporter room now, and sure enough he could see Jim standing. He shifted so instead of in his pockets, his hands clenched at his sides. Jim was a very handsome man, even if he knew it, and he couldn’t hide the jumping of his heart when he saw him.
//There he is.// Jim thought. //It’s show time.// He straightened and grinned at Bones. “Hey Bones. You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” Bones replied. He brushed warmth and love across Jim’s thoughts. There was a pause as Jim stood, the set of his body and face somewhat awkward. Bones sent what he hoped were calming feelings to him. He decided he would help Jim by getting the ball rolling. “You seem uptight about something. Want to talk about it?”
Jim looked at him for a minute before he could feel him become more resolved. “Well, there’s something I wanted to ask you. You can totally say no if you want, there’s no pressure or anything, and I’ll understand.”
Bones decided to play along. “Okay. What is it?”
“Well it’s...it’s about this party we have to go to tomorrow,” Jim began, and Bones could feel him pushing himself through his nerves. “We’ve been together for three months now, and I said we’d tell people about us. And there’s this party...and we’d tell everyone at once...and I like the thought of being able to dance with you...and...”
Jim wasn’t just asking him on a date; Jim was asking him to be his date to the Hellfire Club gala. He was asking his permission to make their relationship public in the most dramatic way possible. That was why he was nervous about his answer; he wasn’t sure if Bones would want that.
Except he did want it, very much so.
He realized that Jim still rambled.
“We can dress up and everything...I can pick you up if you want...and we’ll walk in together and leave together and...”
“And I really want...yeah?” Jim looked at him with a confused expression, and his thoughts were hopeful and shone like a lone light in the darkness.
“I’d love to be your date for the gala tomorrow,” Bones said with a smile. He also let down his guard and let Jim feel how happy he was to be asked.
Jim’s answering smile was radiant. “Yeah?”
“You can pick me up at 20:30.” He raised an eyebrow. //You should wear that grey shirt you have.//
//Really? The grey one?//
//Yeah. It makes your eyes pop.// Bones winked. //It suits you, darlin’.//
Jim took a step towards him, before he remembered where he was. //I really want to kiss you.// A wave of frustration passed through the rapport. //Stupid hallway.//
Bones chuckled, and his eyes turned white. Activity all over the ship froze as if someone pushed pause. Even the crewmembers that passed by them stopped in mid-step. Jim blinked in amazement. “Did you just...?”
//C’mere.// Bones opened his arms to him, and Jim crushed his lips to his own as he wound a hand into his hair. They kissed for a while, and the only sound was the beating of their hearts. Bones could feel Jim’s happiness in the touch of his lips and in his thoughts.
Eventually the need to breathe won, and they parted. Jim’s eyes and smile were bright and sparkling in the fluorescent lighting of the ship’s hallway. Bones reached down and touched his hands.
//I’m not crazy about you freezing everyone on the ship, but I have to admit I’m finding it hard to care right now.//
//It’s harmless. When I bring them out of it, they’ll be none the wiser.// He leaned forward and kissed Jim a second time, albeit more quickly. //It’s nothing.//
//Hm.// Jim kissed him back, but his thoughts didn’t seem convinced. //I think it might be better for you not do things like that, though, just in case.//
Bones sighed. //Fine, fine.// They broke apart, he let go of Jim’s hands, and the ship returned to its normal business all in the same instant. Jim blinked, and his cheeks flushed a little.
//You really are a show-off.//
//You don’t mind, and yours is the only opinion that matters to me.// The transporter room door slid open, and Jim and Bones walked inside. Uhura and Spock waited on the pad as Scotty mumbled under his breath at the console. They joined the others as Bones inspected his tricorder.
“Good morning Captain, Leonard,” Nyota said. “You both look chipper today.” There was a hint of something in her voice, almost like knowing. Spock raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment. Bones scanned their minds.
//She thinks she’s on to us; Spock isn’t sure what she’s referring to.//
//Well...she kinda is.// “It’s a good day to meet with a planet that normally hates us, Lieutenant.”
“Curious to see what this high-falutin’ club’s all about,” Bones added. //I can...persuade her that she’s wrong.//
Jim furrowed his brows. //Wait, what? Why? She’ll know tomorrow along with everyone else. Let it go, Bones, it’s not a big deal.//
//As you wish.// Bones smiled. “Of course if they have a quality bourbon, then they’re okay in my book.”
Nyota laughed. “Not a hard convert, then.”
Bones shrugged. “Not really.”
Spock folded his hands behind his back. “If this Hellfire Club is as amenable as they claim, I am certain we will be treated with the utmost class and hospitality.”
“Which could easily be them luring us into a false sense of security before springing a trap,” Jim countered. He placed a hand on his hip where normally a phaser would be holstered. They were going unarmed as a sign of goodwill, and Bones could sense that it made Jim anxious.
//You really think they’re up to no good?//
“It would be a sound strategy if that is their intention,” Spock conceded. “However, it would be more prudent to err on the assumption that they are welcoming us.”
//Something smells wrong about this whole set up.// “Agreed,” Jim said with a shrug. “Come on, if we take too much longer we’ll be late. I get the feeling this Shaw guy isn’t someone who likes to be kept waiting.”
Wait a second.
“Shaw?” Bones furrowed his brows. //Did you just say Shaw?//
“Yeah, he’s the chairman,” Jim answered. “He’s the one who invited us.” //Why? Is he in your dreams?//
//I’ve never seen him, but there is a Shaw, yeah.// Now Bones was wary about their mission to this club. What could this all mean?
//You sure you still want to go? I can pull you out, and just take Nyota and Spock...//
Bones shook his head. “That’s what I was figuring.” //No, if anything this makes me want to go more than I did. I just...I have to know, Jim.//
Jim looked at him with reassurance in his eyes. //Okay.// He stood on one transporter pad in between Nyota and Bones. “We’re ready when you are, Scotty.”
“Righty-o, then,” Scotty called back as he adjusted his eyepiece. “This should put you right at their doorstep.”
“Energize,” Jim called. The warning lights went red, and the transporter whirred around them. With that, they were gone.
Overall, it was what he expected. Impressive, austere, and old-fashioned.
They barely had time to take in their surroundings when the doors were opened from the inside. A man in a white powdered wig, pink jacket, and gold breeches greeted them with a smile.
“You must be Mister Shaw’s guests,” he said with a slight incline of his head. “He’s expecting you.”
Nyota got a look of concern. “Are we late?” Jim walked up the steps, Spock and the others following.
“Not at all,” the man said. “Just on time. Follow me, this way please.”
They entered the building, and they all looked up at the large crystal chandelier hanging above their heads. The floors were the same dark wood as the doors, with red carpets over them. A large room could be seen straight ahead which had dozens of tables being set up in it for the party. Servants got everything ready; all of the men were dressed like the doorman, and the women looked like French maids complete with fishnet stockings.
//Nyota doesn’t like how the women are dressed.// Bones stood next to Jim. //Which is funny considering what her uniform consists of.//
//Yeah, but she chose the skirt uniform. She could wear pants if she wants; I’m pretty sure these women don’t get a say.//
Bones nodded slightly. //Good point.// Spock took readings with his tricorder as Bones narrowed his eyes.
//It’s...not exactly a familiarity, but it’s more something along the lines of deja vu. It’s like I’ve been here before, but I haven’t been. So it’s causing a bit of a disconnect, especially since I’m not actively recognizing anything or anyone.//
//Makes sense.// Jim turned his attention to the doorman. “And where is Mister Shaw?”
“On the terrace upstairs,” he said with a gesture to an elevator. “Oh don’t let the first look fool you, the Hellfire Club’s mansion has all order of modern conveyances. There is a lunch prepared for you up there, as well as Mister Shaw and some of the most respected members of our club.”
“Right,” Jim said as he headed to the elevator. //Bones?//
//He means what he says. They’re good to the employees and pay a decent wage.//
They all stood in the elevator as the doorman pushed a button on the console. The doors slid shut, and they rode for two floors to their destination. The elevator opened to reveal a balcony overlooking the club on one side, and heavy glass doors leading out to a large stone terrace on the other.
They were shown quickly to the glass doors, and a different servant held them open. Jim stepped out onto the terrace, blinking for a second in the bright sunlight.
A man sat at the head of a large table in a green suit. His long black hair was tied back with a green silk bow, and his black eyes lit up at the sight of them. “Excellent,” he said as he stood and re-buttoned his jacket. “Captain Kirk.”
The man stepped over to them, and he held out a welcoming hand. Jim extended his in return. “Mister Shaw,” Jim replied with a smile. “It’s a pleasure.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” Shaw said as he shook his hand. Jim noted that his grip was firm; it was a good handshake. “These must be your officers,” he added after a moment.
“Yes,” Jim said and he gestured at his friends. “Commander Spock, Doctor McCoy, and Lieutenant Uhura.” Shaw shook each of their hands in turn, although with Uhura he was gentler. Jim watched him; there was something about this Sebastian Shaw that bothered him. It was almost like when he would smile, the light wouldn’t reach his eyes.
“Please, seat yourselves,” Shaw said as he went back to the head of the table. A black haired woman in a black business suit busied herself opening a bottle of champagne. “I hope you all like Perrier-Jouet, although...” He gave Spock a considering glance. “Perhaps tea for you, Commander? Our house blend is a jasmine that may be more to your liking...”
“That would be acceptable,” Spock conceded.
“Tessa,” Shaw began, and the woman made a little bow.
“At once, sir,” she said and she made her way off the terrace to take care of getting Spock’s tea. Sebastian looked at all of them. “Please, have a seat. This is pleasure as much as it is business.”
//He means it. I’m getting nothing from him but hospitality, and...no, just the hospitality.//
“All right,” Jim said as he took the seat to the right of Shaw. The others followed suit; Spock took the seat next to him, and Bones sat directly across. Uhura took the seat across from Spock. Other servants appeared as they wheeled out carts with silver trays on top of them. The champagne poured into their crystal flutes, starting with Jim and ending with Shaw.
He smiled. “You are in for a treat; ordinarily, Rodolpho only prepares meals for our special events, but when I told him about your visit, he insisted. I’m certain you’ll find the salmon to be exquisite. Before we begin with the main course, we have some halibut confit with a chilled tomato jam...”
Jim half-smiled back. “I’m sure it’s fine.”
Fine china plates were placed in front of each of them, with a bed of greens and green onions topped with pieces of a moist-looking white fish and a dollop of red paste. Jim was confused by the food in front of him.
//You’ll like it.// Bones didn’t quite smile at him, but his eyes twinkled. //Halibut’s a mild fish, and you’re not allergic to tomatoes. Tomato jam’s like a pasta sauce that’s been reduced a lot.//
Jim couldn’t help but smile back. //Thanks for translating. You know how I get with fancy shit.//
Bones surreptitiously winked at him. //I got your back, darlin’.//
Spock inspected the halibut as politely as he could.
Nyota looked at Spock. “Is something wrong?” she asked.
Shaw watched him with interest. “I didn’t realize that we would have a Vulcan guest when Rodolpho and I planned the menu, Commander. If it’s not to your taste...”
“It is fine,” Spock said with a slight shrug. “While it is not common for Vulcans to consume fish, it does us no harm to do so. Also, I am half-human. It is more logical to eat what has been prepared than cause you the difficulty of creating a separate meal for me. It would also waste our time, something I believe you are not particularly inclined to doing.”
Shaw smiled, and again Jim noticed how the light didn’t quite reach his eyes. “An astute observation, but I did not become a billionaire by the age of forty by wasting time. Then again, you didn’t come here to discuss my background.”
“Yes, indeed,” Spock agreed. Jim narrowed his eyes as he took a bite of the halibut; Bones was right, it was good.
For a few minutes, they all ate in silence. Jim took a sip of the champagne and fought to not make a face.
//I can feel your distaste. At least it’s not Dom, that tastes like cat piss.//
Jim suppressed a snort.
“So, and you’ll have to forgive me as I find as much use for small talk as I do wasting time,” Shaw said, causing Jim to look up at him. “How was the voyage here? I trust there were no issues.”
“It was smooth,” Jim answered. “We were only a few parsecs away. Our most recent mission took us to Platonius.”
“Oh, Platonius.” Shaw paused to take a bite of the fish.
Jim paused. “You know of them? They seemed...reclusive.”
“A polite way of putting it,” Shaw said. “We know of them, but have not had many dealings with them I’m afraid.”
//He’s...// Bones brought his hand up to his temple. //I want to say he’s telling the truth, but there’s something around the edges of his thoughts, like a kind of feedback. I can’t push too much further, or else it might come back on me.//
//Is that normal?// “Yeah, honestly Starfleet had never heard of them until they called the Enterprise with a distress signal.”
//It’s not exactly abnormal. Some people are naturally more resistant to telepathy than others.// Bones took a sip of champagne as Tessa returned with Spock’s tea. She poured him a cup and he accepted it with a nod of thanks. //I think Shaw’s just one of those people, but I don’t want to force it. He might notice that I’m scanning him.//
Jim nodded. //Good thinking.//
“A distress signal? Is everything all right?” Shaw’s face was concerned but his posture...it didn’t match up.
At this point, Jim was certain he didn’t like him. “I can’t go into particulars as they’re of a classified nature, but yes. Everything’s fine.” He took another bite of the halibut. “This is excellent, by the way.”
“I’ll extend your compliments to Rodolpho,” Shaw said with a smile.
Once more, they ate in silence. Tessa opened another bottle of a white wine, placing it into a chiller.
“This is a lovely club,” Uhura said, breaking the silence. “How long ago was it built?”
Shaw wiped his mouth with his napkin. “E-616 was colonized one hundred years ago. We modeled this club after the Manhattan branch of the Hellfire Club, down to the building materials. It was one of the first establishments we built,” he finished with pride, and Jim thought it was the first genuine emotion he saw from Shaw.
Their plates were cleared, and new ones sat in front of them. Jim looked down at the square of brown whatever that had grill marks on it sitting in the deep white dish. Tessa poured them glasses of the wine, which Jim saw on the label was a sauvignon blanc.
//Foie gras.// Bones paused before taking a bite. //I’m pretty sure you won’t be as fond of this as you were the fish.//
Nyota had taken a bite, and her eyes lit up at the flavor. “This is exquisite,” she said after swallowing.
“We raise the ducks and fish here on the planet, although we do so without cruelty. Sustainability is the key to our lifestyle on E-616, and as we are accustomed to certain luxuries we found it more prudent to farm them ourselves instead of importing them all the way from Earth.”
Jim took a small bite of the foie gras; it was thick and rich and not something he would choose on his own. He didn’t dislike it, but Bones was right; he didn’t like it as much as the fish.
//Oh, shut up.// Jim smiled at him before turning his attention back to Shaw. “So, you all farm here, even though you could easily use replicators for everything?”
Shaw shrugged. “We’re a bit old-fashioned in some respects. Replicated food lacks a certain...heart to it.”
“I suppose you all hunt for sport as well,” Jim couldn’t help but retort.
Uhura gave him a pointed look at the same time Bones went //Easy, Jim.//
Shaw merely raised an eyebrow. “A few of the people on the Eastern end of the planet have expressed interest in revisiting the traditions of the old fox hunts, but they’ve been voted down every time. Hunting’s a bit barbarous for most of the citizens here. Generally, everyone on our planet gets along.”
Jim frowned, but didn’t argue. //United in their having more money than they could ever spend, I bet.//
Shaw took a sip of wine and held Jim’s gaze. “You seem troubled by something, Captain. Is it the food? Or something else?”
Jim didn’t break eye contact as he considered his options. It was pretty clear that Sebastian Shaw issued him a challenge.
Very well then.
//Save it.// Jim put his fork down and raised an eyebrow. “What’s your angle?” Uhura sighed and cast her eyes down at her plate. Spock watched Shaw’s reaction with curiosity as Bones sent a wave of fond irritation through the rapport.
Shaw looked incredulous, although again Jim didn’t feel like it was genuine. There was nothing in his eyes. “Angle? I don’t...”
“You know exactly what I mean,” Jim argued. “In all the time this colony’s existed, no one has ever requested a meeting with any Starfleet personnel. In fact, you people have gone to great lengths to ensure that we not come anywhere near this place, let alone set foot on it.” He crossed his arms. “So why now, and why you?”
Tessa gave a worried frown. Before she could open her mouth, however, Shaw began to laugh.
Jim blinked; that was not the response he expected, and judging from everyone else’s faces, they hadn’t expected it either.
Bones furrowed his brows. //He’s genuinely amused. Surprised, too. From what I can read of his thoughts, he expected you to be some Starfleet yes-man and not question things.//
//He obviously didn’t do his homework.//
//No, pretty sure he didn’t.// Bones took a sip of the wine. Nyota looked relieved, but she did do something rather uncharacteristic for her.
She kicked Jim under the table.
Jim didn’t quite grimace as he subtly reached a hand down to rub his shin.
Bones took another long sip of wine. //You deserve it.//
Shaw’s laughter ceased, and he regained his composure. “I underestimated you, Captain. I won’t be making that mistake again in the future.”
//He means it. He thought you’re a Federation lapdog.//
Jim smirked. “You thought I was just another...what’s the term? Oh right, Federation Dog?”
Shaw leaned forward. “Indeed, that is the term I would have used.” He sat back as the plates of foie gras were cleared. “I must admit, I’m impressed. Your intelligence does you a great deal of credit.” He smiled, and it was conspiratorial. “There is indeed something that I wish to gain from our new alliance.”
Fresh glasses of wine were poured, and plates of baked salmon were placed in front of them. Jim was relieved; salmon he understood.
“Shaw Industries has been developing new weapons technology, in cooperation with Pierce-Consolidated Mining and Frost International to manufacture things that I think Starfleet would find useful.”
“What technology is this?” Spock asked as he poured himself some more tea.
Shaw shrugged. “We call it Project: Wideawake13 . It’s a program designed to counter-act hostile alien threats by fighting them on their terms. In fact, my associates and myself believe that being pro-active is the best defense, and that it would behoove the Federation to adopt a similar policy. We’re aware of the recent alliance made with the Shi’ar, which could have devastating consequences should they decide to annex us, or worse, begin a war. Wideawake simply would...even the odds of such a skirmish.”
Jim narrowed his eyes. “You called us here to make a business contract?”
Once more, Bones pressed two of his fingers to his temple. //Not just a business contract---//
Shaw laughed. “No, not just any contract. I could have gone to Starfleet directly, if that were the case. No, this would be the largest single military-civilian industrial contract in history.” He took a bite of the salmon. “After all, it would have to be. The Sentinels are very costly, though they would be quite convenient to deal with the Romulans, or any race that’s in opposition to the Federation’s noble goals.”
“Sentinels?” On any human, Spock would look patently confused. “I am unfamiliar with the term.”
Shaw made a tsking noise. “I can’t give away all of my secrets, but the Sentinels are a pet project of mine. They have certain...attributes that Starfleet ships do not. Indeed, the technology is cutting edge.”
//He’s holding something back.// Bones paused with his fork halfway to his mouth. “What attributes are these?”
Shaw considered his words, and it took him long enough Jim contemplated asking Bones to forcibly probe his mind. Finally, he answered. “Well...simply put, they adapt.”
Bones raised an eyebrow. //I’m not sure I like where this is going.//
“Adapt how?” Jim said with a frown. //I’m not sure I do either, Bones.//
Shaw shrugged. “Well, they are capable of analyzing a threat before them, and then reconfiguring themselves to be resistant to that threat.”
Jim sat for a moment in shock. “So...they can resist photon torpedoes?”
Shaw shrugged a second time. “Any threat, Captain, technological or organic.”
“I’m not following.”
Shaw smiled. “Say, for example...the Platonians. Had they decided to attack the Federation, things would probably have gotten messy would they not? Their psychic abilities are formidable.”
//He doesn’t...// Bones closed his eyes. //He doesn’t know about me, I don’t think. Sorry, Jim, with that interference I can’t be more specific.//
“That’s a fair point, but we’d handle it with the resources we’ve got. I don’t know that we need something like your Sentinels.” //It’s fine.//
“Things happen,” Shaw said with a smile; it was ingratiating, and yeah, Jim didn’t care for him. “Things happen, and situations change.” He looked over Jim’s shoulder. “Ah, it seems my associate is finally joining us.”
Bones and Uhura looked up at the man who walked towards them; Jim would have had to turn around in order to see him. Jim knew something was wrong by the rapid shift in Bones’ mood. He was floored, nauseous, and disbelieving. //Bones?// Jim turned in his chair to look at the man joining them.
He was tall, at least 190 centimeters in height. His hair was a rich brown and long like Shaw’s, but also like Shaw’s it was pulled back in a low ponytail. His thick sideburns joined with a mustache against angled cheekbones. The most striking feature about him was his eyes; Jim had never seen a person in real life with rich violet eyes, but this man had them, and he felt fascinated by them.
//I don’t...how...this doesn’t...// Bones thought gibberish.
//Calm down and tell me what’s wrong, Bones.//
The man stood by the seat next to Spock’s chair as he looked at each of them in turn. His eyes brightened and lingered on Bones, who flushed and looked down at his plate.
//It’s him. It’s---//
“Wyngarde,” Shaw said with a stern tone. “Do apologize to our guests for your tardiness.”
Wyngarde? Jim looked up at him; he wore a black suit, but his tie was a lavender that brought out the color of those strange eyes. Why did that name sound familiar?
//It’s familiar because I’ve said it to you.// Bones rushed to explain as he continued to pick at his food. //That’s...he’s the Jason Wyngarde from my dreams.//
Jim looked at the man in alarm as he unbuttoned his jacket and took his seat. Wyngarde smiled. “Forgive me, everyone, I was stuck tending a pressing business matter that simply could not be ignored,” he said, and again his gaze lingered on Bones. “I’m sure Sebastian’s company was more than entertaining enough to excuse my absence.” A servant wheeled the two prior courses to him, and he waved them off. “The salmon is fine, thank you, Maurice.”
“Captain Kirk, Commander, Doctor, Lieutenant,” Shaw said in turn, “This is my associate, Jason Wyngarde. He’s one of the key players in Project: Wideawake.”
“Enchante,” Wyngarde said to Nyota as he kissed her hand. She smiled at him. “Gentlemen,” he said to the others, “I trust Mister Shaw is not boring you.”
“Far from it,” Jim said with a fake smile. Bones’ emotions were in turmoil through the rapport, and Jim had a hard time concentrating because of it. //Calm down, Bones, you’re making me sick.//
//Sorry.// Bones looked up, but he only looked at Jim. //I just...I don’t...//
//It’s okay. I mean, it makes me even more suspicious than I was.// Jim thought as he looked at Wyngarde’s profile; he was a very good looking man, but almost too good looking, like he wasn’t even real. //You’re sure it’s him?//
//Yeah.// Bones sounded defeated. //I just wish I knew what it meant. I’m scanning him, and it’s the same thing as with Shaw. I can get surface thoughts, and they’re all amenable by the way, but I try to go deeper and I get that interference.//
//Well, obviously it means they can’t be trusted. They must be doing it on purpose.// “Mister Wyngarde, you have a hand in Project: Wideawake?”
Wyngarde nodded. “My company manufactures advanced artificial intelligence including hologram technology.” He folded his napkin into his lap. “It’s what enables the Sentinels to adapt to perceived threats.”
Shaw cleared his throat. “It does so in concert with the already superior AI of my Sentinel robots.”
Wyngarde smiled thinly. “Of course, Shaw.”
Jim looked at Bones, who busied himself studying his salmon. All the rest of them were done, but Bones hadn’t touched his. //Bones?//
Bones continued to pick at his food. //They don’t get along, but they’re working together on this Project: Wideawake thing. Wyngarde’s jealous of Shaw’s power.//
//That’s good to know, but that isn’t what I was asking. I was asking if you’re okay.//
//What? Yeah I’m...// Bones trailed off as he drained the rest of his wine. //I’m fine.//
Jim narrowed his eyes and looked at Wyngarde, who gave Bones a heated look as he ate a piece of fish. He looked back to Bones, who still pushed his food around his plate. //Right.//
Bones dropped his fork and shoved his chair back from the table. “I need some air,” he announced. Spock and Uhura looked at him with confused expressions, as they were already outside. He looked at Shaw. “Mister Shaw...Mister Wyngarde,” he said after a moment. Without another word he strode towards the mansion proper, although he did give Jim a backwards glance. //Sorry, darlin’. I just...I can’t...//
//It’s okay. Do what you need to do.// Jim said, and he meant it. One of the nameless Hellfire servants cleared the plates.
“Now...” Shaw said with a clap of his hands. “Who’s ready for dessert?”
Jason Wyngarde was a real person.
He rubbed his hand down his face, lingering it over his mouth in case of him throwing up.
Jason Wyngarde was a real person.
He had just met him.
He looked exactly the same as he did in his dreams.
Bones felt him watching him at the table, and it was too much to bear. So instead, he opted to leave. Jim was worried, he could feel it; he was at the front of his thoughts. But he just...not then. He couldn’t face Jim then.
He couldn’t face Jim because of the way he felt when he made eye contact with Wyngarde.
His heart had jumped, just like it did for Jim, and that was not okay. It didn’t matter what his stupid dreams told him, he belonged with Jim. Responding to a total stranger that way was unacceptable.
He focused on Jim as he continued his walk down the hall to a large ebony door. There was a control console in front of it, and he brought his hand up to touch it.
Identification please, the console chimed.
Bones turned and looked behind him; there was no one in the hallway. He turned back to the console.
“Leonard McCoy,” he said in a quiet voice. The computer hummed for a moment before a red warning light came up.
He sighed in relief.
Bones looked down the hallway again. It drove him crazy; this place felt so familiar, but he didn’t actually know anything about it. He couldn’t have even said where the bathroom was, but he felt like everything about it was intimate the same. He almost felt like he did on his uncle’s horse farm, but this was in no shape or form a place that should feel that way.
It was maddening!
The nausea abated as he turned and walked to a large picture window overlooking the club’s grounds. He pressed his hand up against the glass as he looked down below; they were lush, and filled with rose bushes among other beautiful plants and flowers.
Bones looked down at the gardens; it looked like there were a few magnolia trees. He felt a pang in his chest at that for his home. He normally didn’t feel homesick for Georgia on the Enterprise, but seeing magnolias was something else.
“We had them brought from Earth,” a voice said close to his ear. “You’re in luck, as they’re at their peak right now.”
Bones jumped and turned.
Jason Wyngarde stood before him with a slight smile. “I frightened you,” he said after a moment. “I meant no such offense.”
“I...” Bones looked up into his eyes before looking away. “Sorry. I was distracted and didn’t hear you approach.”
“It is my fault,” Wyngarde said. “I should have alerted you that I was coming,”
For some reason, Bones wanted to respond with but you never do, startling me is one of your favorite past-times. But he didn’t. “Right.” Bones turned his attention back to the window. “A bit late in the season for magnolias.”
“The climate here is more moderate than mild,” Jason (when did he become Jason?) answered. “They bloom nearly year ‘round as a result.”
“I see.” Bones tried to put a little distance between himself and Jason, but only enough to keep them from touching. They stood in silence for a while, although Bones tried not to notice that Jason kept looking at him.
“I’m sorry, I have to ask...do we know each other?” Jason smiled at him, his eyes twinkling in the light. “Your face is so familiar.”
Bones swallowed. “No, we’ve never met.” He turned back to the window, willing the other man to leave.
Jason continued to smile at him. “I see.” They both watched the breeze stir the trees below. Bones closed his eyes and began a mental probe of the man; he sensed a type of serenity and attraction.
Heat flooded his cheeks.
Jason was attracted to him?
Oh...no. No, that was no good at all. Bones took a deep breath and moved another couple of inches to the right.
Jason Wyngarde was an incredibly handsome man, and he couldn’t honestly tell if he felt that way because of the Wyngarde in his dreams or if it was a simple case of plain physical attraction. Everything was so confusing. Bones sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
“Is everything all right?” Wyngarde was looking at him with concern, and Bones could sense that it was genuine. “You’re flushed, do you need a doctor?”
“I am a doctor,” he couldn’t help but say. He sighed a second time; Jason was being polite. “No, it’s nothing. I’ll be fine.”
Jason didn’t say anything, but something like recognition passed through his eyes. Bones couldn’t help but meet his gaze, and they stared at each other. Finally being unable to take it, Bones looked away.
“Why do you do that?” Jason reached out and lifted his chin to make him look him in the eye. Part of Bones wanted to slap his hand away in irritation, but a stronger part of him allowed it. “Do I make you uncomfortable?”
Bones swallowed. “Yes, you do,” he answered.
“I am obvious then,” Jason said. “You can tell that I want you.”
“I think perhaps you are not so indifferent to me,” Jason continued. He leaned in close to Bones.
“I...I’m spoken for...” He should have broken away. He should have gone back to Jim.
He didn’t move.
Jason licked his lips. “Are you certain we’ve never met? I could swear I’ve seen your face...perhaps in my dreams...”
At the phrase in my dreams, Bones snapped out of the spell. He used his telepathy again on Wyngarde. It was difficult, although he got enough of an impression to know that he simply was using an expression.
He managed to take a step backwards from him. Jason’s hand was still on his chin, but he wasn’t as close anymore.
Bones took a deep, shaky breath. “No; we’ve never met, in our dreams or anywhere.” He brought his hand up to remove Jason’s from his face. “You’re being too bold.”
Jason smiled, but he did drop his hand; he did not, however, move away. “Am I?”
“I just told you I’m in a relationship,” Bones answered. “You’re touching me like I’m yours.”
“Does it really bother you on behalf of your loved one?”
Bones glared at him. “It bothers me because it’s disrespectful to me. It’s not proper to touch a stranger like this.”
Jason gave him a thoughtful look. “Forgive me, I did not realize that appearances and propriety were of such importance to you.”
The change in topic threw Bones off, and he lost some of his irritation at being manhandled. “It’s considered propriety for a reason. It’s not right.”
“Of course,” Jason said with a smile. “Though I daresay that you are powerful enough you could make your own rules.”
Powerful? Bones narrowed his eyes. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Jason kept smiling at him, and his violet eyes shone with a dark light. “You have a great deal of passion in you, and passion is power. You should be able to take what you desire without consequence.” He ran his hand down his arm to touch his hand. “Everything you want should be yours.”
A bolt of shock and anger came through the rapport. Bones looked to the left; Jim stood a few feet away with a sickened look on his face. “Jim...” he said, relieved by his appearance, and Jason turned to look at him. Bones jerked his hand out of his grasp. “We were just...”
//Not now.// More anger than Bones could recall feeling emanated from Jim, as did jealousy. Jim focused his attention on Wyngarde. “Care to explain what you’re doing, Mister Wyngarde?”
“We were just talking,” Jason answered. “Your doctor is quite remarkable. I was simply expressing this to him.”
“I’m well aware of how remarkable he is, thanks,” Jim said.
“Then I am certain he does not feel taken for granted.” Jason turned back to Bones with a smirk. “Do you?”
Before he could answer, Jim cleared his throat. “No, he’s not taken for granted, but thanks for the concern. And he’s not just my doctor, he’s my lover.”
Jason raised both eyebrows.
Bones’ jaw dropped. //Jim---//
//I said not now.//
“Forgive me,” Jason said, and although he sounded sorry, Bones could tell with his telepathy that he was anything but. “I meant no disrespect.”
“I’m sure you didn’t,” Jim replied. “Now if you’ll excuse us, Mister Wyngarde, it’s time for Bones and I to go back to meeting with Mister Shaw.”
Bones gave Jason a brief glance as he walked over to Jim. His hand was caught, and he paused. “You should fly free,” Wyngarde whispered, “unfettered, and uncaged.”
Bones wrenched his hand out of his grasp and took a position standing next to Jim. //We didn’t do anything, he just got too familiar. I swear, Jim, nothing happened.//
//Didn’t look like nothing.// The anger would have been radiating off Jim even if they didn’t share a telepathic bond. //You let him touch you in an intimate setting alone. You didn’t even reach out to me in the rapport to let me know he had you cornered. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you liked him getting in your personal space.//
Shock and guilt passed through Bones’ mind. He noticed Jim’s eyes narrowing, probably at the guilt. //What?//
//You did! You liked it!// They were back on the terrace now, and Jim stopped short to look at Bones. //You want him!//
The accusation stung because it was true. //Even if I did, Jim, I would never act on it! You didn’t see me tell him that I’m in a relationship or push his hand away from my face.//
//Maybe not, but I can feel you through the rapport. Part of you wants to do it; you want to sleep with him!// Jim pointed at him, and neither of them noticed Shaw and the others watching them argue without spoken words.
Bones found he grew angry at this. //You said yourself that fantasies don’t matter because the person who I want to be with, the only person that I love by the way, is you.//
Jim huffed. //When it was just something your head dreamed up, I was fine with it. And you’re seriously telling me you don’t think it’s fucked up that you start dreaming about this guy, and we come here and suddenly you meet him?//
Dread washed over Bones. //That honestly hadn’t occurred to me.//
//I don’t trust these people, Bones, you know that. I don’t trust Shaw, and I definitely don’t trust Wyngarde. This place is doing something to your head.//
//But do you trust me?// Bones frowned. //I mean, you said yesterday that you know I wouldn’t cheat on you. Is that still true? Do you trust me?//
Jim didn’t say anything, either in the rapport or out.
Bones took a step backwards from him, and he closed his eyes against the pain he felt.
Jim didn’t trust him.
All at once, Jim realized he did something wrong. //Bones...//
Bones didn’t let him finish; a fire raptor appeared around him and immediately took him away from the terrace, leaving Jim standing and the others shocked.
He went through the next day like any other as he used his time to get ahead on paperwork and requisitions. He also did not reach out to Bones through the rapport, even though he desperately wanted to.
Bones had his walls up pretty tight in their bond; it was the telepathic equivalent of putting Jim on the couch. It hurt, but it wasn’t undeserved.
He trusted Bones. He honestly did, he had just been angry after seeing Wyngarde pawing all over him. When he needed to say those words to him, he failed.
First they had that stupid fight about Bones bringing people back from the dead and now this. It wasn’t right for them to be fighting all the time. Jim would rather lose the romantic part of their relationship if it meant Bones would talk to him again.
He checked the chronometer.
It was 19:57.
He was supposed to pick Bones up for the gala in thirty minutes.
Jim made a low growl as he stalked over to his closet. He wasn’t going to sit and mope, and he wasn’t going to go down without a fight. He pulled out a black three-piece suit and the charcoal grey shirt Bones said he liked and got dressed. He left the top two buttons undone on the shirt, and he smoothed a wrinkle out of the black waistcoat.
Bones was right, his eyes popped.
After checking the time again, he realized he had plenty of time to swing by the botany lab and pick up a rose. He would then go to Bones’ quarters and grovel like he had never groveled before.
Assuming Bones hadn’t gone ahead down without him.
Well, he thought as he left his quarters and pushed the proper buttons for the turbo lift, while he wasn’t wild about a public display of affection at the party, he would do it if it would mean Bones would come back to him.
Jim made his way to the botany lab, where he saw a bush covered in beautiful red roses. He grabbed a pair of clippers from a nearby workbench and clipped one that was just blooming. After checking it for thorns, he carried it from the lab all the way down to Bones’ quarters.
He checked his watch; it read 20:29.
Nerves suddenly hitting him in full force, Jim hesitated. What if Bones was gone? What if he wanted nothing to do with him? What if he broke up with him?
For good or ill, there was only one way to find out.
Jim pushed the entry bell.
There was a long pause.
Jim’s heart sank. Right, he should have known better. Bones went ahead without him. He’d try at the party.
He turned to walk away when the door slid open; Bones stood in a black three-piece suit like Jim’s, only his shirt was white and he had a black cravat at his throat. His hair was neatly parted, and his eyes, while wary and guarded, were a dark green-gold.
Jim gave him a tentative smile. “You look amazing.”
Bones didn’t answer him, but he nodded.
Once more, Jim’s heart sank. “I got this for you,” he said as he held out the rose. “You can wear it in your buttonhole or...put it in water. Whatever you’d like to do with it.”
Bones took the rose without comment, and he brought it up to his nose. With his eyes closed, he inhaled the scent.
Jim’s heart thudded in his chest at the sight. //I’m sorry.// Jim couldn’t keep the pain out of his eyes. //I don’t know if you’re even listening to me, but I am sorry. I’m so sorry, Bones, and of course I trust you. I trust you more than anyone else. I’m so sorry I made you feel like I don’t.// “I’m sorry,” he said out loud for emphasis.
//I’m listening.// Bones said after a moment. //You really hurt me yesterday, Jim.//
Relieved that he wasn’t being completely shut out, Jim sighed. //I know, Bones, and I really didn’t mean to; I was angry, and I let it cloud my judgment.//
//Angry with me.//
//No, angry with Wyngarde.// Jim shook his head for emphasis. //Not you. I know it felt like I was angry with you, but I wasn’t. Not really. I mean, it hurts that part of you wants him, and I know you can’t really help that, but what matters is what you said, that you’d never do that to me.//
Bones looked at him then, and some hurt still showed in his eyes. //I can’t be with you if you think I’d betray you.//
//I know. I don’t think that. Read my mind and see, Bones. I’ll open all of my thoughts to you. You can see everything, and hopefully you’ll see that I mean what I say.//
Bones put the rose in his buttonhole like a boutonniere. He reached out to Jim and placed his hands on his temples. Bones’ eyes glowed white, and a warm flood crashed over Jim’s thoughts. A light cascaded over them, and he knew that it was Bones.
It felt just like that first time all those months ago.
Jim closed his eyes and fed all of his love and faith into the wave. He also fed all of the pain he felt over their fight. He gave Bones everything he had to offer, hoping that it would leave nothing in doubt about their relationship.
Just as quickly as it began, the wave receded. Bones dropped his hands down to his shoulders. Jim opened his eyes, and they were wet. He looked into Bones’ eyes and saw that his were the same. //I’m so sorry, Bones.//
//I know, darlin’.// Jim wrapped his arms around Bones’ waist. //I’m sorry too, for giving you a reason to be angry.// They held each other for a time, and Jim buried his face in Bones’ neck. When they parted, Bones smiled. Jim smiled back. //Thank you for the flower and for apologizing.//
//You’re welcome. Thank you for being worth it.// Bones leaned forward and kissed him. It was as if they were the only two people in this quadrant of the galaxy. The kiss ended, and Jim grinned at Bones. “We need to head out; I think we’re past fashionably late into being rude.”
“You’re probably right,” Bones said as he reached down and took Jim’s hand in his. “Transporter room or...?”
“You can take us,” Jim answered. “I want there to be no doubts about whom I’m there with.”
Bones smiled and his hair stirred in a mystical wind. His eyes once again turned white as he gripped Jim’s hand more tightly. The raptor effect formed around them, and Jim smiled as its flame surrounded him.
They were gone.