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Outride the Sun, Part Two



PART TWO: SCHOOL HARD



Somehow Leonard never imagined that fighting monsters could become routine, but—it does.

He gets up in the morning, washes his face, shaves and dresses. Eats something for breakfast, goes out the door.

Goes to classes, passes notes with his friends when they get bored. Lunch, then more classes.

After school there’s research (or fighting practice, or any of a half dozen tasks to prepare for the next battle) in the library with Gaila and Scotty, Pavel and Hikaru. Nyota goes to cheerleading practice and then joins them after, usually sparring with Pike. Sometimes when it’s quiet, he can get his homework done then, but usually it’s really looking up what enemies they are facing, and he discovers why Nyota is so good at languages—Hell, why all of them are.

It turns out that researching the hordes of darkness? Usually necessitates a really good grasp of Sumerian and Latin, Greek and French. (And strangely enough, Sumerian is more than a bit like Vulcan, so his grade average is gently pulled up over a few weeks.)

Gaila is a consummate hacker as well, able to make use of a variety of databases they probably shouldn’t have access to. Pavel and Scotty use their brains to their advantage, building or improving various arcane weapons as needed. Leonard will never forget that trebuchet…pity it was destroyed with the demon Tamarta. Sulu is also the Captain of the fencing team and is solid muscle to back up Nyota.

And Nyota. Well.

She’s the Slayer: the one girl in all the world who was chosen to fight vampires.

“It’s a fascinating myth,” Pike explains to him one day. “The records were lost in the early twenty-first century, but the Second Watchers Council wrote down what they could.” He shows Leonard a thick tome, its heavy pages covered in neat handwriting. “This was written down by Xander Harris himself,” Pike says with pride. “He was one of the most important figures in documenting the Rift.”

“The Rift?” Leonard echoes.

“Here we go again,” Gaila mutters from where she’s working with her PADD.

“The Rift. For thousands of years, only one Slayer was called at a time. Then a Slayer died, only to be resuscitated moments later, and so two Slayers were called. Some years later, there was the War of the First. The Slayer and her army used magic to activate hundreds of Slayers at once, and the first Hellmouth was closed in Sunnydale, California. It was sometime after that when the one here opened. Unfortunately, this caused what became known as the Rift: a shift in the balance. In the twenty-second century, another Slayer, Melaka Fray, corrected it in another great battle. Now only one Slayer is called at a time.”

“That—seems dumb,” Leonard says.

Pike shrugs. “Magic works differently. And since the Rift it works more differently still. Once there were great witches and wizards, like Willow Rosenberg and Rupert Giles. Now, magic is so rare as to be virtually extinct.”

“Unless zhere is a wery powerful vitch.” Pavel makes a face. “Vitches are wery sneaky, Leonard. You must be wery careful.”

“He’s just bitter because his first girlfriend could do magic, and then she tried to eat him,” Hikaru explains. He ruffles the boy’s hair affectionately, and Pavel glares at him. (It’s an open secret that Pavel is in love with Hikaru and that the older boy is oblivious. It’s likewise clear that no one is going to interfere. Leonard thinks this is cruel, but since Pavel is only fourteen, perhaps leaving things alone is better than the alternative.)

“Eat him?” Leonard stares, unsure if Hikaru is serious. When Pavel flinches—well. “What?! Look, are like all metaphors disturbingly real here or somethin’?”

“High school is hell,” Nyota says dourly. “It’s, like, the most obvious thing in the world.”

“Up there with the grass being green and the sky being blue,” says Hikaru.

“And red jello bein’ delicious,” contributes Scotty.

Afterwards, Leonard walks home. Gaila walks with him for part of the way.

“You like her, don’t you? It’s okay, I won’t tell,” she says quickly when he stares at her. “Unless you want me to?”

“No! I—er—” Leonard flushes, and Gaila laughs.

“It’s okay. It’s just—she’s the Slayer, y’know? We’re all a little in love with her, but—she won’t let herself be with anybody.” The girl bites her lip, looking regretful. “She thinks it’s safer that way. You wouldn’t believe how hard she tried to keep us all from helping her, at first.”

“How did you guys start helping, anyway?” Leonard is continually bemused that they seem to be the only ones who know about vampires and the other things out there. Particularly since, after a while, it all seems so blatantly obvious.

“Well,” the Orion girl hedges. “She’s saved us all at one time or another. Some of us feel that merits sticking around.” She looks very serious. “Nyota has saved so many kids here, Leonard, and others. And they go back to their lives like—like they want to forget! On my planet,” she continues, “we have blood debts. Nyota saved my life, so I owe her. I’ll be at her side ‘til the day I die.” He’s struck by the vehemence in her voice. “Do you have any idea what that’s like?”

He thinks of Mom and Dad at the hospital. Dad has another therapy round today, so they’ll be home late. “Yeah,” he says, voice rough. “I do.”

Gaila nods, satisfied. “Good.”

~

“I’ve got bad news,” Nyota says when she finds them in the morning, before class starts. “There’s some biggy going down.”

Leonard blinks. “What does that mean?”

“Non-standard apocalypse,” Gaila answers, sounding surprisingly blasé. “Usually there’s, like, at least one a year or something.”

Pike frowns. “What is it?”

Nyota fishes in her bag, and pulls out a heavy amulet on a leather cord. “Vamps. One of them wore this,” she says.

Pike takes it, turning it over in his hands. “I’ll do some research,” he says as the bell rings.

Nyota is jittery all through their first class, and all but runs to the library once it’s over.

Gaila looks worried. “I think I’m gonna skip Xenochemistry,” she says. “Take good notes for me?” He nods, and she disappears, following her friend.

Leonard is surprised to find a Vulcan boy sitting at his lab table when he gets there. Pavel and Scotty look bemused, too.

“Hi,” Leonard says to his new seatmate.

“Greetings,” says the Vulcan shortly. He is working on his PADD, and seems to have no interest in socializing. Leonard regrets his choice to come to class instead of skipping.

“We have a special guest with us today,” Moscowitz says when the bell rings and it’s time for class to start. “Mister Spock—” and she gestures at the Vulcan boy, who stares at
them all implacably “—is here as a visiting co-instructor for the linguistics program. He’s going to be sitting in on our class today to audit Terran lecturing strategies as part of his dissertation. Would you care to say anything before we start?” She looks expectant.

“No,” he says.

Moscowitz blinks. “Alright then. Class, turn to Lab Exercise Twelve.”

Leonard quickly gives up on making small talk with Spock. In its own way, it’s kind of nice not to have to put up with any stilted conversation, but he misses the easy camaraderie of working with Gaila. That’s why he’s relieved when, halfway through class, she abruptly returns, sneaking in quietly.

“Hey guys,” she says, slipping her bag under the table. “What’s up?”

“We’re halfway through our problem set,” Leonard says, turning his PADD around so she can see.

“Is tardiness a common occurrence in Terran education?” Spock asks abruptly. His expression is neutral, but somehow he radiates disapproval anyway.

“What bug crawled up your butt?” Gaila snaps back immediately. Her skin is flushed dark green with anger, making the red of her hair even more vivid in comparison. Scotty and Hikaru both pause to stare at her as well, all of them taken aback at her uncharacteristic display of temper.

Spock, however, is either unaware of the girl’s mood or just doesn’t care. “I fail to see how an insect penetrating my—“

“Okay let’s just stop while we’re ahead,” Leonard interrupts. “I do not need visuals like this before lunch.”

“I’m so glad to see you could join us, Miss Orcia.” Moscowitz joins them, frowning. “Do you have a note?”

“Uh, no,” Gaila says. “I was—“

“No note, no excuse,” their teacher says. “See me after class.”

Gaila is silent the rest of the period, her color still high as she intermittently glares daggers at Spock, who quietly ignores her. When class is over, she rushes into the hallway, where Nyota waits.

“Y’know, you should at least try to get on with the others,” Leonard says to Spock before he leaves. “You don’t know what they’re goin’ through.”

Spock blinks at him; Leonard supposes this is the Vulcan equivalent of surprise. “I do not understand how my subjective empathy would assist in social relations.”

Leonard sighs. “No, you wouldn’t, would ya.” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Whatever. See ya.”

“Wait!”

Leonard turns around, baffled. The Vulcan had sounded—well, desperate almost. Curious, at least. “What?”

“Who is that girl?” The Vulcan asks, staring at Nyota, who is still talking with Gaila just outside of the classroom. Gaila nods at her, and Nyota runs back to the library.

“Oh, that’s—” Leonard starts to answer, but Gaila hurries to him, grabbing his hand and pulling him away.

“Leonard, we have to talk,” she says seriously, and he abruptly forgets about Spock as she all but drags him to the library. “Major pow-wow, like now.”

“Weren’t you supposed to see Moscowitz?” he asks, but she makes an impatient sound.

“Yeah, but I’ll do it later. Pike’ll give me a note,” she says. “This is more important.”

They enter the library. The Watcher is frowning over a number of books spread over tables, Nyota fidgeting. Hikaru is perched at the end of one table, arms crossed. They look up as he and Gaila arrive, Pavel and Scotty following.

“Hey guys,” Nyota says. “My bad news? Just got worse.”

~

“He’s called Nero,” Pike explains to them. He points at a picture of a man in one of the books. It’s only an ink sketch, but the simple lines nonetheless emphasize threatening brutality: clad in black robes, his head is shaven and dark tattoos distort otherwise handsome features. “He’s a Master vampire—very old, very dangerous. This—” and he picks up the amulet Nyota had given him that morning, “—is the sign of the Narada cult.”

“A cult?” Leonard asks.

“They want to destroy the Earth,” Nyota explains. “With the feast of St. Geagnian coming up, apparently it’s the perfect time.”

“Wait, I thought that was weeks ago?” Hikaru frowns in confusion.

“Apparently there was an, ah, problem with converting to Gregorian calendar,” Pike says. “It’s this Saturday.”

“Right after an away game.” Nyota scowls. “And it’s Parents Weekend, too!”

“Nyota, you realize you can’t go to a football game this weekend?” Pike asks. “Not with—“

“I know!” Nyota all but yells back. Her anger is a palpable thing, and for a moment she looks damn near tears. “I know, okay?” she repeats more quietly, and then she runs out of the room.

They watch her go. Gaila twists her mouth, then glares at Pike. “I know you’re her Watcher,” she says, “and I know she’s the Slayer. But she’s more than that, too.”

“I know,” Pike says, his voice very low.

Gaila is unimpressed. “Then show it once in a while.” And then she follows her friend.

They are all quiet.

“Vomen,” Pavel says at last. Hikaru punches him lightly on the shoulder in reprobation. “Ow!”

Leonard holds up his hand and Hikaru silently high-fives him.

The rest of the afternoon is a blur. Leonard takes notes on his PADD absently, then returns to the library to help find more information about Nero. Nyota is conspicuous in her absence, but no one remarks on it.

Gaila sits next to him, throwing her bookbag to the ground unhappily. “I met with Moscowitz. She wants me to make up for missing class by helping set up for Parents Weekend,” she says glumly.

“That’s not too bad,” Leonard says. “What do you have to do?”

She looks unhappier than ever. “I have to make the banners and man the snacks table. All by myself.”

“We’ll help, lass,” Scotty says immediately, and she brightens. The other boy turns slightly pink and looks away.

Pavel looks at Hikaru pointedly, then nods at the girl. “Vhatever you need, ve vill do.”

Hikaru gives him a small smile. “Who’s this ‘we’?” he asks, but it’s clear that not only is he going to be helping, but that his early censure of Pavel is forgiven.

Leonard tilts his head back, staring at the ceiling. “If ya’ll are in, I’m in.”

Gaila squees, and throws herself at them all in turn, hugging them close. Leonard snorts as she lets him go.

“Fool girl,” he mutters.

“Ooh, talk Southern some more,” Gaila coos teasingly. “I love it!”

He flushes at that, and they all laugh.

And then they get to work. Gaila and Scotty skim through databases and other sources in the computers, while the rest of them look through the Watchers’ books. Leonard spends several hours trying to translate an Egyptian text, and largely, he suspects, failing.

“Debase the beef, canoe,” he reads. “Okay, that can’t be right.” He looks up. “Does anyone else come up with crap like this?”

“All the time,” Hikaru says lightly. He gets up, stretching. “I need a break. I’m going to go practice for a bit. Can I use one of the katanas in the armory?” he asks Pike.

Pike doesn’t look up. “You know the drill.”

Hikaru nods. The armory is hidden behind the book cage; it’s a large closet, filled with a variety of weapons, many of them more or less medieval in nature: swords, axes, crossbows and staffs. There’s a particularly odd ax in the back Leonard has seen before, with its head cast out of some brilliant red metal, but it seems like it hasn’t been used in a long time. Hikaru retrieves one of the katanas and moves to an open space in the middle of the room to practice a series of graceful arcs and whirling slashes.

Pavel sighs next to Leonard, watching avidly.

“Be patient, kid,” Leonard says, taking pity on him. “He’ll figure it out eventually.”

The boy turns a dark red and busies himself with his book. “I hef no idea vhat you are talking about,” he says.

Leonard chuckles without much real humor. “Yeah. Of course not. My mistake.”

“It’s late,” Pike says after a while. “You should all go home. We’ve done all we can for the moment.”

Leonard absently gathers his things. It’s only when he’s outside that he realizes how dark it is. The wind blows ominously too, promising rain later. He quickens his steps, eager to get home.

He’s almost there when he hears the unmistakable sound of a fight, and a harsh, low cry.

Nyota.

He breaks into a heedless run as he hurries in the direction of the din, and is shocked when the Slayer abruptly appears from around the corner, nearly bowling him over.

“C’mon, hurry!” Nyota grabs Leonard’s hand, pulling him along behind her urgently as they run. Her palm is sweaty in his, and he’s deeply aware of the racing beat of his heart loud in ears, overshadowing the low growls of the vampires pursuing them. “Go, go, go!”

“This way!” he says as they reach the main road again. “My house—!”

They run up the street, cut through two backyards, and then they are at the back door of the McCoy home. He enters the keycode hastily and the door opens with a soft sigh; they rush in and Leonard desperately punches the ‘close’ command. He is horrified at the slowness with which the door shuts, but to his surprise the vampires remain just outside, snarling as if thrown against some invisible barrier.

“We’re safe,” Nyota explains, breathing heavily herself. “A vampire can’t enter without an invitation.”

“Good—to—know,” Leonard says between panting breaths. He pauses, staring at the Slayer: specifically at the red stains blossoming through her white shirt like brilliant poppies. “You’re hurt!”

“It’s nothing,” the Slayer says dismissively.

“The hell you say,” Leonard mutters, and without pausing he lifts up the edge of her shirt. Her side is marred by a bloody slash. She winces with pain as the fabric pulls away from the wound. “Ergh! Well,” she says apologetically at his horrified look, “it’s not that bad, anyway.”

“’Not that bad,’” he echoes disbelievingly. “Hold on—I’ll be right back.” He darts through the nearby door to the garage, knowing roughly from memory where the boxes storing Dad’s med kits are. He rummages through one box impatiently, opening a second and then a third before finally locating the sterilizer and dermal regenerator he’s looking for. He runs back to where he left Nyota.

The Slayer is leaning against the wall for balance, half-hugging her injured side. She looks worn and tired, dark smudges under her eyes. Her hair, normally pinned up for slaying, is falling down in disarray, and when he turns another light on he can see another cut on her forehead, just at the edge of her hairline. Her clothes are dirty, filth smeared here and there.

For all that, as far as he is concerned, she is still perfect.

She catches him staring, and he swallows, suddenly awkward. “Your shirt,” he says, looking away. “You’ll have to—take it—off.” She stares at him, and he holds up the medical equipment in his hands. “I won’t look or—or anything.”

Nyota laughs ruefully. “If you don’t look how can you doctor me up?” She unbuttons her shirt, and he looks away as she slips it off her shoulders. “It’s okay, Leonard. I—trust you.” He looks back up, and she’s left in her white bra, holding her shirt in her hands. He focuses on being as gentle as possible as he arranges the sterilizer over the wound. “I was slow tonight,” she says as he works. She sounds angry. “Distracted.”

“Any reason why?” He keeps his eyes on his work, replacing the sterilizer with the regenerator.

“No,” she says after a moment. “Yes? It’s just—it’s personal.”

“Uh huh. I get that.” He flashes a short smile at her dubious look. “Seriously.”

“Yeah. I think you do.” She sounds surprised, and not a little incurious.

He looks into her face, and he’s surprised at how, well, young she looks. Vulnerable. Hell, she’s seventeen and she’s supposed to somehow save the world each night.

“I’ll find you another shirt,” he says after a pause. “C’mon.” He leads her upstairs, and she lingers in the doorway of his room as he finds a clean t-shirt. It’s old and worn, but it’s also something that won’t hang on her like a parachute—maybe. He holds it out to her. “Here. Um, bathroom’s in there, if you want to clean up or something. I can put that in the ‘cycler if you want,” he continues, nodding at her bloody garment.

She nods, and he takes the shirt from her as she disappears into the bathroom. The soft whine of the sonic shower starts as he heads down to the laundry room. He tosses the clothing into the ‘cycler, selecting the setting ‘heavy cleaning.’ As the machine starts, he presses his forehead to the wall tiredly. “I. Am. An. Idiot,” he mutters.

He hears the front door open. Leonard freezes.

“Leonard, are you home?” Mom calls out.

Leonard’s icy fear of vampires still lurking outside is abruptly replaced by an inexplicable guilt. He wonders if he can slip upstairs again and stay out of sight.

“Was tonight his study session at the library?” Dad asks vaguely. “I swear, I can’t keep up with that boy and where he is these days.”

“It’s good he’s making new friends, though,” Mom says. “I’d worried about him moving here and all but he’s doing fine—Oh there you are, honey! We didn’t know if you were home. Have you been sitting in the dark?”

Leonard laughs uneasily, caught mid-step. “No, I just—just got home a few minutes ago. There was a—a thing—at school.”

"A thing?" Dad echoes as both he and Mom look at him curiously, then flick their gazes upwards in surprise at a careful, feminine cough.

“Leonard was helping me with our—our history homework. My name’s Nyota,” the Slayer says with a small wave as she reaches the bottom step.

Mom and Dad exchange a look, but they smile at her politely. “I’m glad Leonard’s found another Bulldogs fan all the way out here,” Dad says. “Are your parents from Georgia?”

“Huh?” Nyota stares at them blankly, then glances down at her borrowed shirt. “Ah, er, not exactly. Um, I should be going,” she continues hastily. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Leonard!”

“Nyota!” She whirls around as she’s half out the door. He flushes, knowing his parents are staring at them in bewilderment, but he’s worried the vampires could still be out there. “Uh, are you going to be—okay?”

The Slayer gives him a small smile. “Better than. I owe you one, Leonard. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She nods at his parents. “Good night!” And then she’s gone.

“She seems nice,” Mom says. She and Dad are putting their things up. “You should ask her over for dinner sometime.”

“Maybe,” Leonard mutters, just as the ‘cycler beeps that the load is done. He focuses on walking at a casual speed to the laundry room, retrieving the clean shirt, and trying to carry it nonchalantly up to his room.

Of course, Mom sees it. She frowns. “That must’ve shrunk! What did you—oh!” She breaks off when it becomes clear that the garment is so totally not his. “Leonard, do we need to have a—talk?”

He flushes hotly all over again. “It’s not like that! It’s just—” Unfortunately he can’t think of a way to explain how they had narrowly avoided vampires, amongst other things, so instead he just settles for a rather lame, “Believe me, it’s not.”

And that is not him sounding regretful, no it is not, not at all.

“Hmm.” Mom looks sympathetic, but to his relief she lets it go.

They eat dinner quietly in the kitchen. Mom replicates grilled chicken with pineapple and asparagus, but he’s not really hungry. Neither is Dad.

“You need to eat more,” Mom prods Dad, but he just smiles tiredly at her and makes a show of trying to finish his plate, which of course he doesn’t.

Leonard abruptly feels sick, and stares at his own half-eaten dinner.

“How was school, Leonard?” Dad asks.

“Fine,” he answers dimly.

“Still settling in alright and all?”

“Yeah.”

Leonard’s throat feels thick and hot, and he really can’t swallow to save his life. He hates that Dad is dying and none of them can really talk about it, and he has no idea what to say, and there’s fucking vampires out there who tried to kill him tonight, and it’s all too much.

He gets up quickly and puts his plate into the repli-cycler. “I’ve got to study,” he says quickly, and all but runs upstairs and away.

~

The next day is Friday. Classes speed by without a problem, and in the afternoon the group of them help Gaila with painting the banners for Parents Weekend.

“Does anyone actually ever come to this?” Hikaru asks as he and Leonard hold the ends of the first banner up. Pavel is holding onto a ladder while Gaila scurries up it, a roll of adhesive around her wrist.

“Only losers,” Gaila says with a derisive snort. Hikaru hands her the end of one banner as she starts to affix it to the door headers of the entrance to the cafeteria, where most of the actual event will take place Saturday.

“I think my parents were thinking of going,” Leonard says idly.

“I mean invested caregivers,” Gaila corrects herself hastily.

“Nah,” Leonard says with a low chuff of amusement, “they’re too busy with—” He almost says that Dad has another appointment at Starfleet Medical, but he quickly replaces it. “—with stuff.”

“Stuff’s good,” Hikaru says blandly. If he thinks Leonard meant something else, he doesn’t say anything, and Leonard is quiet while Gaila works.

“There!” she says in satisfaction. She climbs back down and takes a step back to admire their handiwork. “Perfect.”

The banner promptly falls to the ground.

“Okay, maybe not,” Gaila says.

They eventually get the banner to stay in place, as well as the other decorations. When all is done, Nyota and Pike join them.

“Well done,” Pike says with what seems like genuine admiration.

“How was the research session?” Scotty asks. “Find out anythin’ new?”

Nyota frowns, making a face. “Newsflash: Nero is evil and undead. No, nothing new,” she says ruefully, rubbing the back of her neck. “I’m going to go on a nice long patrol tonight, let me put it that way.”

“You mean we’re going on a long patrol tonight,” Gaila corrects her.

Nyota gives her friend a smile and a hug. “Yeah,” she says. “We.”

~

The patrol is actually pretty dull, right up until the end. That’s when a dozen vampires emerge.

Nyota moves quickly, whirling and kicking to dispatch multiple enemies at once. The others fight one on one, except for Hikaru, who uses his blade with deadly efficiency.

Leonard holds onto his stake and remembers the lessons the others gave him: aim high to get the heart, and don’t let the vampires get a grip on you.

He stakes one, dust fluttering in his face.

He blinks to find the battle is over. The others look at each other, sharing small grins of victory. No one is harmed. Excellent.

They freeze when they hear the steady, measured sound of clapping.

A man—well, vampire, because no human could look that deadly—emerges from the shadows, and Leonard thinks he may have never seen a more dangerous looking creature in his entire life. He’s tall—as tall as Leonard, though not so lanky. He has short, dark blonde hair, and clad as he is in typical street clothes, he looks almost normal except for that supernatural grace, that leonine, loping stride. Leonard is reminded of those jeweled snakes in tropical climates, bright and colorful and so venomous that a single bite could have you sick in seconds and dead in hours. The vampire grins, exposing bright white teeth.

“Wow,” he says, and he does sound truly impressed. “That was epic, guys. Truly.”

“Gee, thanks,” Nyota says, stake still in hand. “Want to dance so you can join your friends?”

The vampire’s grin becomes a self-confident smirk as he circles them at a distance. Leonard has the distinct feeling of being prey, and he doesn’t like it one bit. “Oh c’mon, you want to kill me without even knowing my name?”

Nyota gives him a sunny beam. “Only desperately,” she answers with false sweetness.

“Sorry to disappoint, princess,” he laughs, “but you’re gonna want my name. Trust me.”

Nyota rolls her eyes. “Fine. Give it to me.”

“Atta girl.” The vampire leers admiringly. “And in front of all your friends, too? God, I think I’m in love!”

Nyota flushes darkly with anger, and Leonard can’t help himself.

“Hey, watch it, pal!” he growls angrily, “You’re talkin’ to a lady!”

Nyota shoots him a glance of irritation mixed with affection. “Stay out of this,” she says. “It’s not your fight.”

“No, let him play if he wants,” the vampire tells the Slayer. His eyes are on Leonard now, and they are a brilliant, impossible blue. The worst part, Leonard thinks as he tries to not stare at the vamp, is how painfully beautiful he is: all sleek lines and taut muscles poured into form-fitting clothes, a white shirt that somehow doesn’t emphasize his unearthly pallor and tight jeans that mold themselves to him suggestively. He wears an old-fashioned leather jacket, too, the sleeves of it rolled up halfway to his elbows. “What’s your name, then?”

Leonard can feel himself grow warm. “None of your business,” he says gruffly. “You don’t give your name, I’m not givin’ mine.”

“Well, I’ll give you this, you’ve got balls of solid steel, even if you’re all skin and bones.” The vampire sounds amused, his focus purely on him now, and Leonard flushes even harder. “Fine. Name’s Jim Kirk. Now what’s yours?”

“Still none of your business,” Nyota interrupts, firmly putting herself between Kirk and Leonard. “Now do you want to do this or not?”

Kirk tilts his head, as if considering. “Nah. I’ve got a surprise coming up. Hate to spoil it too soon. I’ll be seeing you guys,” he says as he backs into the shadows, blending in almost seamlessly.

And he’s gone.

“Vhoa,” Pavel says, speaking up for the first time, “vho zhe hell vas zhat?”

“Trouble,” Hikaru says uneasily. “Pretty sure it’s big trouble.”

“Right. We need Pike,” Nyota says immediately.

~

“Jim Kirk,” the Watcher says thoughtfully when they return to the library. “I know that name.”

“That’s not good,” Gaila says.

Pike stiffens abruptly in that way he has when he’s had an epiphany of some sort: eyes wide, back held even more straight. He immediately disappears into the stacks, returning in seconds with a heavy, dusty tome: one of the few they have that are real paper pages and thick, shiny leather bindings. He blows on it ostentatiously before opening it up, thumbing through hurriedly.

“Yeah, it’s bad,” Hikaru says. They use a lot of paper books in their supernatural research, but the old ones like this always indicate the worst.

Nyota doesn’t say anything, just sets her mouth and waits.

Finally, Pike finds what he looks for. “Jim Kirk,” he reads. Then, “Oh my.”

“Oh my?” Leonard echoes.

“Why, what is it?” Nyota can’t take it anymore and moves to stand by her Watcher, peering at the book as well. “Whoa!”

“Vhat is it?” Pavel, ever eager and impatient for information, joins them as well. “Vhoa!” he echoes.

“Godammit, what is it?” Leonard feels himself alternating between hot and cold, wondering what the hell they’ve discovered and thinking of the mysterious Kirk. “Spit it out already!”

“He’s old,” Pike says. “Very old indeed. Turned in the twentieth century.”

Leonard can’t help it: he has to look. The book shows a sketch of Jim Kirk, looking damn near identical to the vampire they saw tonight, down to the jeans and leather jacket. The drawn lines capture his arrogance and predatory gaze to a remarkable degree: Leonard feels caught by his eyes, even though they are only ink on paper.

“And he’s killed Slayers,” Nyota says quietly. She turns away, looking sick to her stomach. “Two of them.”

Leonard feels like ice at that.

“Nyota,” he starts, but she’s running away, her head down.

“Let her go,” Pike says as Gaila and Leonard both start to follow. “She—she needs time.”

“Bullshit,” Leonard says, and follows her anyway.

Nyota is easy to find, sitting on the floor outside an empty classroom, her knees drawn up under her chin. Leonard sits down beside her carefully, like she’s a frightened creature who might bolt at any moment. She stays where she is, though. He tries to think of something to say, but he can’t, so he just echoes her posture, putting his arms around his knees too.

After a long moment she sighs and looks at him. “You think I’m gonna die too?”

“No,” he says honestly. “You’re way too alive. Seriously,” he continues when she gives him an irritated look. “You’ve—you’ve got that fire inside you. You’re gonna fight back, and you’re gonna win.” He thinks of Dad, who is fading away before his eyes—who has been for months. “You glow, Nyota. It’s like—like another superpower of yours. You know that?”

Nyota chuckles and looks down. “You’re so full of it,” she says, but her voice is warm with affection, and she looks at him directly. He feels himself flush at her steady regard, before he finally has to look away himself. “C’mon,” he says gruffly, “let’s go figure out how to beat this thing.” He stands up, and offers her his hand. She takes it, and they go back to the others.

They all stay up late researching, playing comm-tag with their parents, explaining a last minute sleepover. Each of the boys’ parents thinks they are at the Sulus, who are themselves conveniently out of town, while Nyota’s and Gaila’s mothers each think the one is with the other.

Leonard feels guilty about lying to his folks, but at the same time, he’s extraordinarily glad he’s not home tonight, either. It’s not right or fair, but—it’s true, nonetheless.

Leonard scrubs his hands over his face tiredly as the marathon research session continues. He picks up one book, recognizes it as a text he had skimmed two hours previous, and sets it aside. He picks up then next volume in the stack he had built earlier.

The Scrolls of Aberjian,” he reads aloud.

“Ah yes,” Pike says. “I was looking for that earlier. Is that the Wyndham-Price translation?”

Leonard shrugs, opening it up to take a look. The book falls open at random. At the top of one page, in very neat, precise handwriting, are the following words:

The vampire with a soul, once he fulfills his destiny, will shanshu. It is his reward. Commentary: The verb shanshu , translated literally, has two meanings: one is ‘to live’ and the other is ‘to die.’ However, this implies that a creature must itself be living in order to die. The possession of a soul thus indicates that the vampire is in fact no longer a vampire, but may in fact, be human…

“Huh,” Leonard says, “I didn’t think vampires could have souls.”

“They generally don’t,” Pike answers, taking the book. “In fact, in all of recorded memory, only two vampires have ever had a soul.”

“What happened to them?” Leonard asks curiously.

Pike shrugs. “I don’t know, actually. If it was ever recorded, it was lost.”

“Huh,” Leonard says again, and picks up the next book in the pile. As interesting as the idea of ensouled vampires is, they still have work to do.

They take turns napping on couches as they start to droop from exhaustion. But, as Saturday morning dawns, they have the key they’ve been looking for.

~

“You’re going to school?” Dad looks amused and bewildered at once. “For Parents Weekend?”

“I told Gaila and Nyota I’d help them out,” Leonard says as he grabs some toast to eat on the way back to the school. It’s just after lunchtime, and Mom and Dad are themselves heading to the Starfleet campus for Dad’s appointment with Medical. “I, uh, might be late coming back though.”

“Uh huh.” Mom looks at him seriously. “Look, I’m very glad you’re making friends, but—well. Are you sure we don’t need to have a talk?”

“I’m sure, Mom! Geez!” Leonard feels his face burning. “I told you, it’s not like that!”

“I know, I know. You’re just friends. Friends who happen to leave their clothes with each another.” He stares at her. “I saw some of your things missing when I was doing laundry earlier. Care to explain?”

“They’re at school,” Leonard says, relieved he can give an honest answer. “Hikaru and I have been working out in the afternoons. You can ask him if you like. Mister Pike too, if you want.”

“Hmm.” Mom looks a little mollified, but still worried, as does Dad.

“Just—you know you can come to us if you have any, you know, questions, son,” Dad says. “Right? You’re almost an adult now, and—”

“Okay, I’m leaving,” Leonard says quickly. He pecks Mom on the cheek and squeezes Dad’s shoulder. “Love you. See you later!”

If there is a later, he thinks in one small, cynical part of his mind.

People are trickling into the school when he arrives. Teachers and parents mingle, chatting pleasantly, oblivious to the threatening doom that hangs over them all.

“Mayor Singh,” Principal Komack says to a very tall man in a crisp suit as Leonard passes. “I’m so glad you could make it!”

“It is a pleasure,” the Mayor answers in a deep, faintly accented voice. “I’m always so—happy—to come to events like this.”

Leonard pauses, looking for his friends, and he finally finds Gaila manning the snack table per her orders, looking jittery herself.

“Hey,” he greets her. “Where is everybody?”

“In the library,” she says. “They’re about to head out.” She gives a strained smile to a pair of women who stop at the table and hands them cups of punch. When they’ve left, she asks, “Remember the plan?”

“Burned into my brain,” he affirms as the Watcher joins them with Nyota.

“Hi, guys,” she greets them. “Ready for this?”

“As we’ll ever be,” Gaila says.

“Well this all looks very nice,” Pike says approvingly as he looks over the table with its neat cloth and trays of small snacks. “I’m impressed.”

“And this,” Principal Komack says as he brings the Mayor over to the table, “is where you can really see the benefits of our alternative education programs.”

Mayor Singh smiles at Gaila as he takes a small plate of snacks. “Enchanté,” he says to her with a small nod of the head.

“Hi,” Gaila giggles nervously.

“Do go on, Mister Komack,” Khan continues politely.

“Well, for instance,” Komack says, “Miss Orcia and Miss Uhura here are both what you might call historical ‘problem students.’” Both girls stiffen at that. “Since joining our program, their grade point averages have improved remarkably. In fact,” he continues with a glance at Pike, “they are both members of a book club that seems to have a number of students talking.”

“Well,” Leonard drawls as Pike and the girls exchange looks. “I know it’s something that drew me to the program.”

“Really?” The Mayor and Principal both regard him with interest. “Do go on, Mister—?”

“This is Leonard McCoy,” Komack says hurriedly. “He’s one of our newest students.”

“And such a good influence, too,” Nyota says sweetly, winking at Leonard. He grins back at her.

Behind Singh and Komack, Leonard can see Spock looking over at them with a curious expression, and he starts to make his way over just as Hikaru and Pavel arrive.

“Ve haf a problem,” Pavel says seriously.

“With the, er, special guests from the fencing team,” Hikaru adds as Principal Komack looks at them with confusion.

“I should look into that,” Nyota says with false brightness. “I’ll be right back.” The three disappear in a not-quite run.

“I should—go—too,” Leonard says, looking from Pike to Komack and back.

“Yes, yes, you should, that’s a good fellow.” Pike places a companionable arm around Komack. “All the students work so hard here, you see—“

Leonard leaves them to it as he follows the others, passing Spock again—who, to his surprise, follows them. Leonard halts abruptly, turning around just as the Vulcan comes very close to running into him, refraining from a head-on collision with a quick step.

“What are you doin’?” Leonard demands while Gaila pauses impatiently.

“You are preparing for a conflict,” Spock says unexpectedly. “I desire to be of assistance.”

They stare at him.

“How did you—?” Gaila starts to ask him, but the Vulcan interrupts her.

“I have only been present in this city for a short time period, but I have observed many oddities within its environs: including those which seem to only exist, after due research, in folklore.” Spock tilts his head to the side thoughtfully. “Further investigation implies that some number of the population must not only acknowledge the existence of such entities but actively fight against them. After observing you this evening, I believe you to be involved in the matter and wish to offer my aid.”

“Can you fight?” Gaila asks as Leonard gapes at him.

“I am skilled in the Vulcan martial art of Suus Mahna as well as the Terran Jiu-Jitsu,” Spock replies immediately. “I am also familiar with the use of some hand weapons, albeit Vulcan in origin.”

“Right,” Leonard says, drawing the word out in astonishment.

“You’re coming with us,” Gaila says immediately. She grabs Spock’s hand and pulls him to the library, Leonard following.

They burst through the doors. Their friends are all already in various stages of battle dress, and they freeze in bewilderment.

“Gaila, what—?!” Nyota starts, but Spock steps forward to greet her, palm raised in some sort of Vulcan salute.

“I am Spock,” he says, sounding almost breathless as he stares at the Slayer with something like eagerness. His pale skin is almost luminous, and Leonard abruptly realizes that, whether or not the Vulcan knows it yet, he is enraptured by the Slayer. An unpleasant feeling of jealousy surges through Leonard; it reminds him of watching Jocelyn with Clay Treadway. “I wish to fight at your side.”

Nyota stares at him, lips quirked upwards slightly in amusement mixed with disbelief. She opens her mouth to speak, and for a wild, insane moment Leonard hopes she’s going to say no.

So of course, that’s when the lights go out.

“They’re here,” Nyota says, eyeing the emergency lights as they flicker on. She retrieves another sword from the armory and hands it to Spock. “Can you use this?”

“Yes,” he says without hesitation. He whirls it in an experimental arc before taking it in a ready grip; it’s clear he knows his way around a blade.

“Good,” Nyota says with a small smile, and Leonard knows that she’s impressed. “You’re with me.” She turns to the others, returning to battle readiness. “Remember, keep civilian casualties to a minimum, but we’re the only fighters here. If there’s a choice between saving yourself or someone else—save yourself. You can save more later.”

They all nod. Leonard swallows thickly; he’s not sure if he agrees with this strategy, but in a brutal way it does make its own sense.

“Right.” Nyota gives them a grin. “Happy hunting, gang. Now go take your positions.”

They split up in pairs, the emergency plan they had determined before falling into place with remarkable ease: Hikaru and Nyota—and now Spock—would be drawing out Nero’s vampires with the captured amulet, while Pavel and Scotty activated a series of phase points—phase beams set to stun humans, but calibrated to vaporize vamps. It was a neat bit of ingenuity, and they had come up with it themselves. Pike upstairs would try to take care of the civilians, and Leonard and Gaila were charged with protecting their armory and stash of magical books—their last, best defense against their enemies.

They could hear the growling approaching.

“You ready for this?” he asks. He feels clammy with sweat.

“Ready,” Gaila says with astonishing fierceness.

And she is. When the first vampires attack, she swings her axe, taking two of them out almost immediately. Leonard dusts one, dodging and punching as he tries to get another. Unfortunately, there’s just too many of them: they each take down one more, and then a vamp gets a lucky shot and knocks his stake out of his hands. Three more pull him down, grappling him to the floor.

“Gaila, run!” he yells as he struggles. They had come up with a back-up plan if this were to happen—not a terribly good one, but, well. Better than nothing.

She runs like hell into the back room, and turns on the small shield device she and Scotty had engineered. The tell-tale glimmer of a shield wall activating flickers in the air.

One of the vampires snarls in disgust. “We can outwait you,” he warns Gaila. “You’ll run out of air in there.”

Gaila swallows. “No, I won’t. It’s a recycler. I can stay here as long as I have to.” They’d built the thing last night. The recycler only had enough energy to recycle oxygen for one.

Leonard is relieved it’s Gaila, honestly.

The vampire growls, and punches Leonard hard. He doubles up with the pain. “Then we’ll kill your friend here!”

“Fine by me,” Leonard says with false bravado. He gives Gaila a weak grin. “Tell them I said something awesome, okay?”

“Leonard—” Gaila looks near tears.

“It’s okay,” he starts, but he doesn’t have time to finish. She’s crying, and it hurts him unexpectedly hard. He doesn’t see anything else, though, because that’s when one of the vampires hits him, and his vision goes black.

Next

Comments

( 3 comments — Add your .02 )
rachelmorph
May. 17th, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC)
Aw. Spock is so pitch perfect here, and Leonard is an awesome pseudo-Xander. I can't wait until he gets to get together with Jim so he can stop pining over Nyota.
blcwriter
May. 18th, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
OH, JIM'S FIRST FEW APPEARANCES AS JIM EVIL!VAMP, SO FUCKING SEXY.

And red jello IS completely delicious.
karmic_fic
May. 26th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
'tell them i said something awesome'> loved this!!!

i am seriously in awe of your pacing, your descriptions are so wonderful, i feel like i can see your fic happening and yet you don't waste a single word *happy sigh*
( 3 comments — Add your .02 )

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