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Outride the Sun, Part Four



PART FOUR: INNOCENCE


Life settles back into its accustomed rhythms after that. Well, more or less.

School and slaying—and increasingly, healing—take up most of Leonard’s waking hours. The others are filled with Jim Kirk.

Leonard knows it’s a bad idea, knows it’s a kind of betrayal even.

The thing is—the thing is, is that as terrifying the idea of being alone with a vampire is? Of being in the presence of a soulless demon who thrives off the blood of the living?

The reality of it…isn’t.

The Master vampire known as Jim Kirk is… Well. He’s a lot of things. He’s arrogant and obnoxious. He’s gorgeous. He’s funny as hell and sometimes a bit of an idiot. He’s more than a bit of a genius.

“No, seriously,” Jim says to him one night. He’s on his accustomed perch outside Leonard’s window, gesticulating animatedly as he tells another ridiculous adventure. “I said to him, ‘Look, dude, if you’re a chaos demon, what’s with the antlers?’ And then he looks at me and says, completely without irony, ‘I ran out of moose.’”

Leonard stares, then the pun clicks and he laughs. “You made that up!”

Jim puts his hand over his heart solemnly. “I couldn’t if I tried,” he says. “Besides, Bones, I’d never lie to you.”

He’s so patently sincere that Leonard is struck for a moment. “How can I believe you, Jim?” he asks softly. “You’re a vampire!”

Jim shrugs nonchalantly. “And you’re a human. We’re all more than our biology, man.” He cocks his head to the side, questioningly. “Or are you just an omnivore? And no more than that?”

Leonard has no answer for him.

Too many nights are like that, really: Ending in a détente. It’s annoying as hell.

The problem is, they like arguing with each other. Jim has a unique gift for getting under Leonard’s skin, leaving him breathlessly angry with this or that blunt observation. Leonard makes up for it with cutting remarks that usually make the vampire grin widely.

Except tonight.

Tonight they are arguing about eating habits. Well, they weren’t, but now they are.

“Dammit, Jim, it’s different,” Leonard maintains stubbornly. “Are you saying vampires can drink replicated blood?”

“No,” Jim replies with infuriating smoothness. “But I do say that not all vampires kill all the time.”

“And where did these magical ethics come from?” Leonard snorts.

“It’s not ethics,” Jim responds. “It’s enlightened self-interest.”

“Enlightened my—” Leonard breaks off when the vampire cocks his head to the side suddenly, as if he’s heard something, and places a finger over his lips.

There’s a knock on Leonard’s door, and Dad peeks in. “Still up, son?”

Leonard nods, feeling guilty sweat at the back of his neck. He knows Jim has undoubtedly disappeared into the dark in that uncanny way he has by now, but—still. “Uh, yeah. Hey, Dad. What’s up?”

“Oh, not much.” Dad ambles into his room, hands in his pockets. “You’re gone so much these days. Growing up.”

Leonard feels guilty as hell as he looks away. “Yeah. Well.”

“Yeah.” Dad’s a man of few words, so he settles for ruffling Leonard’s hair and leaving him be. “Just—try not to keep the candle burning on both ends for too long, okay?”

“Okay,” Leonard says. “I promise.”

Dad shuts the door as he leaves, and Leonard exhales with something that is and is not relief.

“Bones.” Jim is back, his voice low and—worried. “Your Dad. He’s—”

He pauses, so Leonard finishes the sentence for him. “Sick. Yeah. We know.” He doesn’t look at the vampire, instead choosing to conscientiously analyze the lines of the closed door, the pigments of its paint. Anything but, y’know, what’s real. Here. Now.

“Oh.” Jim sounds uneasy. “Is it—?”

“Xenopolycythemnia,” Leonard says vaguely. “Terminal.”

“Shit,” Jim breathes. “Sorry. How—how long?”

“A year,” Leonard answers after a long moment. “Less than, now.” He finally brings himself to face the vampire again. Jim’s expression is remarkably open, and sympathetic, and Leonard just—he can’t— “It’s not fair, Jim!” he says, wincing at the childishness in that plea.

“Life’s not fair, Bones,” Jim says evenly. “That’s that.”

“What would you know about it?” Leonard asks, suddenly, inexplicably angry all over again. “Tell me that, Jim! What would you know about life being fair?”

“I barely knew my Dad,” Jim answers, unperturbed. “He died when I was a kid.” Leonard stares at him, wordless, and the vampire gives him a small, unhappy smile. “Hey, I used to be human, remember? That means parents. Anyway, my Mom married some asshole who liked to beat the shit out of me and my brother. Sam ran away when he was fourteen and I never saw him again. Frank kicked me out of the house before I was seventeen.” He shrugs. “I died when I was twenty-two. What does that tell you about life, kid?”

Leonard shakes his head, wordless.

“Look,” Jim continues seriously. “You—have you told your friends?”

“No. I—I can’t think how.” Leonard makes a face. “‘Hey, guys, how’s it going? Good weekend? Yeah, mine too. Hey, my Dad’s dying. So, d’you guys want to catch a movie tonight?’ What the fuck ever, Jim!”

“You need to talk to somebody, Bones.” Jim looks—worried, and Leonard has to fight off the hysterical urge to laugh unhingedly.

“Yeah, well, I’m talking to you, aren’t I, Jim?” Leonard says.

A tiny smile quirks the edges of Jim’s mouth up, though he still looks concerned. “Yeah, I guess you are. Any port in the storm, huh?”

~

Leonard ponders Jim’s words at school the next morning. Well, at least up until he joins the gang hanging out in the library before class. This morning, it’s just Gaila and Spock, who has brought a Vulcan instrument with him and is demonstrating it for the Orion girl.

Leonard eyes the lyre with interest. “You’re a musician?”

“Of sorts,” Spock allows cautiously, but Gaila grins.

“He has a band,” she says.

“Yeah? Cool!” Leonard is sincere in his admiration, and not a little envious. “Got a name?”

Spock looks away, as if embarrassed. “Not as such—”

Sehlats Ate My Baby!” Gaila says in glee. Spock glares at her. “What? It’s a great name for a band!”

“We are—in between—proper nomenclatures for the moment,” Spock says dourly.

“Huh,” Leonard says intelligently. “’Kay.”

The bell rings, and they gather their things to head to their respective classes.

“Where are you heading, Spock?” Leonard asks conversationally.

“Intermediate Vulcan,” Spock answers. “I will be assisting in instruction—”

He breaks off because that’s when Janice Rand opens her locker and a body falls out, hitting the floor with a dull sound that is quickly muffled by her screams.

At most high schools, an event such as this would at least postpone, if not cancel, classes. Because this is Cochrane High, everyone goes to class anyway and tries not to notice the EMTs and the cops in the hallways.

“Hellmouths,” Nyota says with false cheer after class. “Gotta love ‘em.”

“Seriously,” Gaila agrees.

Pavel runs up to them, breathless. “Is wampire,” he says in a low voice. “Zhose were definitely bite marks.”

“Kirk,” Nyota says immediately, glowering. “It’s gotta be.”

“Well—” Leonard starts to explain the unlikelihood of this, all things considered, but when everyone looks at him the words stick in his throat. “Never mind.”

“I fail to understand the rationale of this place,” Spock says. “It is completely illogical for an entire population to overlook the significant recurrence of unnatural fatalities!”

“You fail to understand human beings, Spock,” Leonard says dryly. “We see only what we want to see.”

“It is a most alarming habit,” Spock notes. He pauses, tilting his head to the side quizzically. “Can you explain the impulse behind such behavior?”

“Dammit, man!” Leonard slams his PADD on the table with sudden heat. “Sometimes people act in weird, unexpected ways to things, okay? There’s no, like, guidebook for how to deal with everything, no perfect plan. Sometimes you do things because—just because!” He’s breathing heavily after his rant, and the others stare at him. “What?!”

“Dude, you need to back off the coffee or something,” Hikaru says in his even way. “Or stims, or whatever.” He pauses, looking apologetic. “You look like sh—”

“What he means to say,” Gaila interrupts quickly, “is that you’re tired. Or stressed. Or something. Um. You need to take better care of yourself,” she concludes quietly.

He stares at them. “I’ll think about it.”

“Bullshit.” Nyota speaks up at last, her eyes sharp and sympathetic. “You’re staying home tonight and getting some actual rest. That’s an order,” she says when he starts to argue.

“Fine,” he grits out, and stalks away.

~

The name of the murdered boy is Gary Mitchell. He was in the same year as Leonard, though they didn’t share classes or anything.

He reads about it on the newsfeeds at home that afternoon.

“No study group tonight?” Mom asks, industriously cleaning the kitchen countertops as he does homework at the table.

“No,” Leonard answers. “I feel kinda beat.” This part is true; he’s exhausted, actually. Too many late nights, too little sleep, too much—just too much.

“Well that’ll be nice,” Mom says, scrubbing the tile as if determined to make it sparkle. “Your father’s staying at Medical overnight for observation,” she continues casually. “It’ll just be you and me tonight.”

“Oh.” Leonard isn’t sure what else to say to that. “Okay, then.”

When he finishes his homework he realizes that night has fallen without him noticing it. The fall days are growing shorter, and anyway, he’s used to thinking of nighttime as the time to be out with his friends. He puts away his PADD, feeling suddenly at loose ends.

“Do you need help fixing supper?” he offers. Mom is at the stove, mixing spaghetti sauce. She’s still clearly on her non-synthetic food kick, which is fine by him.

The doorbell rings.

“Here, you look after this while I answer that,” Mom says, passing him the wooden spoon.

He takes it, and sneaks a taste of the sauce while she goes to answer the door. He makes a face and adds more oregano, only half-listening to the sound of voices.

That is, until there’s a brief surprised cry and familiar growl.

Leonard is at the door in seconds, but Mom’s gone. There’s a pair of droplets of blood on the front step. “Mom?” His voice is barely a horrified, strangled whisper. “Mom!” he calls out again, louder, as he steps out into the night. The air is still and cool, silent. There’s no sign of anything. “Mom?!”

“Bones? What are you doing out here?” Jim’s voice is directly behind him, quizzical.

Leonard whirls around, glaring at him. “Where is she?!”

“Where’s who?” Jim holds up empty hands, looking genuinely confused. Then his nostrils twitch, and his expression turns dark. “Blood. What’s happened?”

“I—I don’t know. Mom—she was just—she—” Leonard knows his words are disjointed, but he can’t quite seem to put them in proper order.

Jim seems to understand, at least. “Go back inside. I’ll do what I can.”

“Jim—”

“Bones!” Jim’s eyes flicker gold. “Wait for me inside.”

That pushes Leonard over the edge. “The hell you say! I’m coming with you, so get that through whatever tiny excuse for a dead brain you have! She’s my Mom and that makes her my responsibility!”

Jim’s jaw tightens as he glares at him. “Alright. Fine. We’ll do this. But you’re going to follow my lead on this, you got me?” When Leonard says nothing he steps closer, face coming close to his. “We’re gonna have to move quick, Bones. And you’re gonna have to trust me. Okay?”

Leonard takes a deep breath. “Okay.”

Jim nods in satisfaction, and they head out.

It turns out a vampire on the trail is not unlike being with a bloodhound. Jim says very little as they journey through the city. Now and then he pauses, looking this way or that, then unerringly makes his next move.

Eventually they come to a dark, empty warehouse by the wharf.

“This is it.” Jim’s voice is low. “You ready?”

Leonard swallows. “Yeah.”

“Good.” Jim switches into game-face, demonic ridges disfiguring his brow, his eyes turning a deep topaz. He seizes Leonard roughly by the neck. “Showtime!” His grin displays sharp teeth, and his voice sounds different, rougher and inhuman.

Leonard’s mind is frozen in horror, stuck in a mental mantra of Should’ve known, should’ve known, should’ve known…

Jim escorts him through the entrance of the warehouse. It is dark inside, only a couple of lights here and there flickering weakly. Tall wooden crates are stacked here and there throughout the building, making it difficult to tell if they are alone here or not. “Hey!” He calls out. “Why wasn’t I invited to the party?” He lets Leonard go, pushing him to the floor roughly. “C’mon, you left me a favor!”

“Jim?” A young, feminine voice, delighted. “You came!”

Jim is sufficiently surprised that his game-face melts away. “Carol!” He grins when he sees a young, petite woman skip out to meet him. She looks about eighteen, and she’s dressed in a quintessential Catholic schoolgirl outfit—white blouse, plaid skirt, her short blonde hair pulled back from her face. “Lookit you! It’s been ages!”

The pair of them hug enthusiastically. “I haven’t seen you since Florida!” They come together on the last word, laughing. “You look great!” she continues.

“Yeah, so do you!” Jim beams down at her. “So, catch me up, what have you been up to?”

“Oh, this and that.” Carol giggles flirtatiously. “I met the most amazing guy.”

“Now you’re just tryin’ to make me jealous.” Jim’s voice is low with promise, and an angry flood of jealousy mixes with Leonard’s disgust.

“Trying or succeeding?” Carol smiles up at him.

“Both,” Jim answers, and he kisses her.

“Oh, this is so fucked up,” Leonard mutters as he gets to his feet. “I don’t even know—there’s not even ways to count this!”

Jim pulls back from his, well, friend. Leonard could think of other words, but he doesn’t really want to use them. “I brought you something.”

“You shouldn’t have.” Carol regards him eagerly, with a wide-eyed desire that reminds him uncomfortably of Jocelyn. “Can I taste?”

“So impatient.” Jim’s expression is soft and fond. “You never could wait to open your presents.”

Carol runs her fingers lightly over Leonard’s face. “No,” she agrees. “I never could.” She slips into game face. “Don’t worry, sugar, this won’t hurt a bit.” She bends down to bite.

Leonard closes his eyes tightly, shaking. “Jim!” He really wishes the vampire’s name wasn’t his last word, he really does, but he honestly can’t think of anything else to say.

He feels nothing except a whoosh of air.

He opens his eyes. Carol is halfway across the warehouse floor, grappling with Jim.

“Bones! Hurry!”

At first Leonard isn’t sure what he’s meant to be doing, then realizes that the haphazard crates are something of a labyrinth to be navigated. He can hear Jim and the other vampire arguing now, but it’s only vague background noise as he runs.

“I told you—”

“—it’s not like that—”

“—you’ll see—”

Their angry voices grow increasingly louder as he darts through the aisles of crates, searching for Mom. He finally finds her lying on the ground, unconscious. Her heartbeat is strong though, which is something. He picks her up, flinching as he hears a series of short pops. He has no idea what the sound is, but it doesn’t sound pleasant.

“Bones? Got her?” Jim appears abruptly, bright red blood staining his shirt. He’s back in game-face.

“Yeah,” Leonard answers. “What happened to you?”

The vampire makes a face. “Bullets,” he says shortly. “They won’t kill me but they sure hurt like hell.”

“Guns?” Leonard’s jaw drops in horror. “That’s—that’s medieval!”

Jim flashes him an irritated look. “It’s really not,” he says. They both duck as Carol fires another series of shots nearby. “Also, you fight with axes and crossbows, you can’t talk!”

“Who is she?” Leonard keeps low to the ground, trying not to flinch each time the gun goes off. The sound of it isn’t as loud as he thought it would be—not much more than pops—but he’s seen enough old vids and knows enough anatomy to have an idea of what kind of damage the bullets are capable of. The thought makes him sick.

“She is my sire,” Jim answers. His game-face melts away abruptly, replaced by his human visage. He motions for Leonard to follow him; they start to move through the aisles again, carefully.

“Your…sire?” Leonard echoes.

“She made me what I am,” Jim answers.

Leonard can’t think of anything to say in response to that, so instead he says nothing. There’s another pop, and Jim falls to his knees with a harsh grunt.

“You really aren’t making this as fun as I’d hoped,” Carol says, blowing a plume of smoke from the end of her gun. “I mean, Khan had told me, but I just figured it was all posturing, y’know? I didn’t think it was real!”

Jim groans as he gets to his feet. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh please!” Carol looks—sad, Leonard thinks, sad and regretful. “I mean, are you going to lie to me when he’s right there with you?!” She sounds disgusted. “You reek of humanity, my precious boy!”

“Yeah, well.” Jim sounds pained as red slowly spreads across his shirt. “You just reek, period.”

“Oh, honey,” she says, disappointed. “That was just…pathetic.”

Leonard takes a deep breath. “Look,” he says carefully. “Just—just let us go, okay? My Mom needs help, and—” He breaks off, because now the gun is trained on him.

“Whatever,” Carol says, and she releases the trigger.

At the same time, Jim growls and moves forward. The gun discharges away from them, and Carol looks shocked as he catches her in a mockery of an embrace.

“I’m sorry,” Jim says. Then he slips into game-face and bites her neck.

~

Leonard is silent when they leave, as is Jim.

“Do you need, um, any help with that?” he asks the vampire after a while, nodding at his wounds. He had fed until Carol was paralyzed before staking her. Her expression throughout had been a rictus of horror.

A part of Leonard is disgusted and appalled beyond words. Another part of him holds onto his mother’s body, still unconscious, and thinks that justice has been served. He is not sure which feeling is right, or if either of them are.

“No, I’m good,” Jim answers, and they lapse into silence again.

They don’t speak until they are back at the McCoy house. Leonard takes Mom inside, uses the sterilizer and the dermal regenerator—God, he’s getting good with patching people up—and when she’s in a regular sleep in her room, goes back outside.

Jim is sitting on the steps of the porch, but he stands up when Leonard joins him.

“Well. Here we are,” Leonard says.

“Yeah,” agrees Jim.

They stare at each other.

“I owe you, Jim,” Leonard blurts. “Like, huge.”

“No, you don’t, kid.” Jim looks very tired.

“Yes, I do—”

“No. You don’t.” Jim frowns at him almost angrily. “This whole thing, it was my fault, Bones.”

“No, it’s not—” Leonard starts, but Jim cuts him off.

“Yes, it is.” Jim’s eyes are very dark in the low light of the porch. “Look, you and me? We’re a bad idea, but—I can’t seem to help it.”

Leonard has the insane urge to laugh. “You think we’re a bad idea!” You don’t have friends who think you’re a traitor. Or parents. He knows this thought is unjust, especially considering what just happened tonight, but he thinks it anyway.

“Yeah, I do, okay?” Jim scowls. “But—you—I like you, okay? And it’s stupid and dangerous, for me and for you. A good person would walk away, right now.” He doesn’t move.

Leonard licks his lips. “A bad person wouldn’t have helped me find my Mom,” he points out.

They stare at each other.

Jim chuckles without mirth. “What’re we gonna do, Bones?”

Leonard swallows, and he flushes involuntarily because Jim is so near. “You tell me, Jim.”

They come together, lips meeting, teeth clacking together in their eagerness. They don’t have anything else to say—not that makes sense anyway.

In the absence of any real solution, there is only this.

Détente.

~

Leonard could invite him in, he knows. He even trusts that it would be safe to do so, but he—doesn’t. Jim teases him about it now and then, but it’s good-natured teasing. To be honest, he doesn’t think Jim’s really ready to come inside either.

Because a vampire, with access to a human’s home? That’s…that’s something.

It’s towards the end of October when things change.

~

Leonard climbs up the tree, pressing fingers and feet into familiar handholds to pull himself up. He’s tired and sore from their latest hunt: eight vampires taken down at once. It had actually gone down pretty easily, but still, Nyota was equipped for this and they—weren’t.

All vampiric activity is up. Something’s going on, and no one knows what’s up, not even Pike.

He pauses on the branch nearest his window, slipping his backpack down carefully through the window he had left open. He takes a short breath as he takes the step over from branch to windowsill, wondering how it is that Jim makes this look so damn easy and then he’s inside. He rubs his eyes tiredly, trying to remember the last time he got a night with more than five hours of sleep—and failing.

“Would you like to explain exactly what you’re up to?”

Dad’s voice is low and firm, just this side of angry, and Leonard almost leaps out of his skin as he turns around to face him. His father is sitting in the chair at his desk, and he—does not look happy. Not one bit.

“Uh,” Leonard says, stalling for time. “There’s a reason for this,” he says after a moment. “It’s a good—reason.”

“I can’t wait to hear it,” Dad says. He doesn’t look angry anymore, Leonard notices, just sad and sort of, well, tired. “Well?” he prompts when Leonard doesn’t say anything.

“I—“ How to explain about vampires and Slayers, a cheerleader saving the world on a regular basis, and the tightest group of friends Leonard has ever known? “I—I can’t tell you. I’m sorry,” Leonard says miserably. “I wish I could, but it’s more than just me. So.”

“Mmhmm.” Dad stares at him for a long while. Finally, he says, “You know that when I’m gone, you’ll be all your mother has, don’t you?”

Leonard winces, and he can feel the burning pressure of tears behind his eyes. “I’m so sorry, but—this is important. It’s just—you have to trust me, Dad!”

Dad sighs and opens his arms, and Leonard hugs him roughly. Dad feels thin and fragile in his arms, a shadow of his old self. When his Dad steps back to look at him, Leonard realizes that he’s taller than the older man now—and he has been for a while.

Dad pats him on the back reassuringly. “I do, son. I don’t know what you’re up to—and frankly, it scares the shit out me—but I trust you to do what’s right. Now—and later, too.” He starts to leave, then pauses at the door. “And if you’re going to keep borrowing my old equipment, at least keep treating it right. They don’t make good portable osteo-regenerators like they used to.” And the doors close behind him with a soft whoosh, like a sigh.

Leonard stares after him, then lays down on his bed. He closes his eyes shut tightly, willing himself not to make a sound as he shakes with the tears that flood over his face.

~

They’re in the middle of lab when Moscowitz comes up to Leonard. “Can I have a word, please?” she asks. Leonard can tell from her expression that whatever’s going on is Not Good, but he nods and follows her out into the hall, aware of the stares of his friends, not to mention those of the other students as well.

Principal Komack stands just outside the door, expression unhappy. “Mister McCoy,” he says, “I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

~

When Leonard gets to the hospital, Mom is waiting outside one of the little rooms patients stay in. She holds one hand over her mouth like she’s going to be sick, but Leonard knows it’s to keep the tears inside. Then she sees him, and they spill anyway.

He holds onto her, lets her cry herself out. He can feel his comm in his pocket, buzzing madly, and firmly ignores it.

“Is he—?” he starts to ask, but he stops because he’s uncertain how to continue. He knows Dad’s not dead, or Mom would be much worse. Knows that of course, he will be soon, because he’s always known that. Knows that it must hurt like hell, because the last stage is unremitting hell.

Sometimes Leonard regrets that he started reading Dad’s medical books. He knows too many things, now.

“Under sedation,” Mom says vaguely. “He can still—” She makes a broken noise. “You need to stay with him while I start making comms,” she says firmly. “I don’t want him to be alone, not now.”

Leonard nods. “Okay,” he says.

Dad looks very small in the hospital bed. He’s asleep right now, IVs in his arms, oxygen tubes in his nose and mouth. He whimpers now and then, and every sound he makes breaks Leonard’s heart just a little bit more.

His comm vibrates intermittently, but he doesn’t answer: he has nothing to say.

This is why, mid-afternoon, he’s shocked when Nyota and Gaila appear.

“Leonard?” Nyota sounds—surprised.

“We’re here to rescue—oh.” Gaila breaks off, staring.

“What are you guys doing here?” He stares at them. It’s kind of like cognitive dissonance for a moment: he literally cannot make sense of their presence.

“We were worried about you,” Nyota says. “You didn’t answer our messages—”

“—so we kinda assumed you had been kidnapped.” Gaila looks sheepish.

“Kidnapped?” Leonard echoes in disbelief. He thinks he’d be angry if he weren’t exhausted and frozen inside. “How did you even find me?”

Gaila holds up her own comm. “I may or may not have hacked Starfleet’s GPS, too,” she admits, slipping it back into her pocket.

“Why didn’t you say something?” Nyota asks, looking between Dad and Leonard.

Leonard shrugs, and to his horror, he can feel tears in his eyes. “What was I supposed to say?” His voice breaks on the last word.

That’s when the heart monitor stops its even, staccato report, and becomes a low, alarming whistle. A nurse runs in. “Everybody out, now!” she commands, and they are all pushed out of the room as other medical personnel arrive as well.

Leonard stares numbly, and Gaila and Nyota each take one of his arms. They are warm, and he is cold, and he feels nothing.

“What’s happened?” Mom arrives, her eyes wide. She tries to go into the little room, but a nurse prevents her. “What’s happened?” she repeats.

Leonard doesn’t hear the nurse’s answer. Nyota’s clutch on his arm is tight, almost painful.

Everything is in slow motion and on fast-forward at once. He is buffeted about, and he feels nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

~

When it’s over, Mom sends him home. She has things to take care of, she says. He doesn’t need to be there for this, she says. Go home, have dinner, you need it, she says. Do what she says, she says.

Nyota and Gaila go with him. They offer to stay but he shakes his head. He just—he can’t deal with people right now. He just—he can’t.

He replicates some lasagna, and sits down at the kitchen table. He takes a bite, and feels like throwing up, so he puts the remains of it back in the repli-cycler.

He takes a shower, because it’s something to do.

He sits at his desk, and stares at his computer that isn’t even turned on.

“Hey, Bones.” He looks up, and Jim is at his accustomed place at his window. The abrupt transformation from insouciant arrogance to intense concern is astonishing, both in its speed and how much it pulls at Leonard deep inside.

It seems wrong that he actually feels something, right now.

“What is it? What’s happened?” The vampire’s voice is a growl, and he’s all but plastered against the invisible barrier of the open window. “Has someone hurt you—?”

Something breaks inside of Leonard at that. “Dad,” he says, choking on the word.

Jim’s fierceness relaxes slowly, but he doesn’t look relieved—far from it. “Oh, Bones.”

Leonard nods, and something flips on inside of him like a switch. “Get in here, Jim. Please. I need—“

But he doesn’t know what he needs, any more than he can really believe he just did that. Jim stares at him as if the vampire can’t quite believe he did it either, God, he probably thinks he’s so fucking stupid, but then he’s moving with careful hesitance into his house, into Leonard’s room, and then he’s right in front of him looking sympathetic and upset.

“Oh, Bones,” Jim repeats miserably. “I’m so sorry. I just—I don’t even—” His arms go around Leonard cautiously, and that’s when Leonard completely loses any ounce of self-control he might have left. He burrows himself against the vampire, holding onto him tightly, muffling his angry sobs in the dark fabric of Jim’s shirt.

He’s vaguely aware of all the things that aren’t quite right—the coolness of Jim’s body against his, skin just at room temperature; the lack of sound in his chest with its heart that doesn’t beat and his lungs that don’t breathe; how Jim doesn’t really have his own smell, and instead the scent of clean fabric fills Leonard’s nostrils. The vampire holds Leonard gingerly, as if afraid he might break, and then more securely as he grows used to the human in his arms.

“I’m here, I’m here,” Jim murmurs into his hair, cool hands rubbing soothing circles against Leonard’s back. Leonard feels like a broken thing, loose and blown apart, and Jim may be the only one that can hold the little pieces of him together. “Shh. Bones. Bones.”

They remain like for a long time, the vampire murmuring soothing nonsense. He doesn’t ask if Leonard needs anything, he doesn’t ask how he’s feeling, he’s just there.

Leonard belatedly wonders how in the hell he survived this long without him.

“Because you’re strong, Bones,” Jim murmurs into his hair. “You’re so fucking strong. It kills me.”

“Is that why you’re dead?” Leonard asks, choking out a laugh like a sob.

Jim kisses him. “Yep. All your fault, kid. Ask anyone.” The vampire’s arms tighten around him. “C’mon, you. You need to get some rest.” He walks him backwards over to the bed, presses him down into it.

“Stay with me?” The words are out before Leonard’s even finished the thought. “Please,” he adds for good measure.

Jim freezes, then nods. “I’ll stay until dawn.” He lies down with him, the two of them just barely fitting into the single bed. Leonard is oddly embarrassed, suddenly unsure where to put arms and legs, but Jim wordlessly lies flat and gathers Leonard to him, lets him curl up against the vampire like some sort of dense body pillow. They shift a little, finally arranging themselves so that Leonard’s head is cushioned in the crook of Jim’s arm, one leg hooked over Jim’s, his arm around the vampire’s waist. Jim pulls the blanket up, settling it over Leonard’s shoulders. “Comfy?”

“Mmph.” Leonard grunts an assent, burrowing closer.

“Good.” There’s a ripple of amusement in the word, and then they are both quiet. Jim idly strokes Leonard’s hair; it’s oddly hypnotic, and soon enough, he falls asleep.

~

The next four days are filled with activity: family flying in from Georgia, various arrangements being made. The house always seems to be filled with people, and Leonard has no interest in speaking with any of them, but he has to.

He’s actually relieved when it’s time for the funeral.

It’s fucked up that he even thinks that, but it’s true.

It’s on Friday afternoon. Leonard shuffles through the visitation crowd, grimacing acknowledgements to people offering sympathetic wishes while privately praying for them all to just go away.

Despite everything they’ve been through up ‘til now, he thinks he has never, ever, been so happy in his life to see Jim as he is when he spies the vampire making his way to him through the mix of people.

Leonard hasn’t seen him since the other night, and somehow that seems like an eternity ago. He stops and stares at the vampire, waiting.

“Hi,” Jim says when he finally reaches him. He looks crisp and clean in a dark suit, though very pale. In the funeral crowd, however, this can easily pass as mourning. His light eyes are filled with concern. “How are you holding up?”

Leonard shrugs. His own suit, brand new and bought just for this, feels odd and stiff. He keeps fiddling with his cufflinks—which had been Dad’s. “I’m—here,” he says at last. Then he blinks, because it’s mid-afternoon. “Hey, how did you get here?”

Jim shrugs and grins. “Trade secrets, Bones. Seriously, though,” he continues soberly, “how are you doing?”

Leonard exhales heavily. He can’t answer because he doesn’t even feel like himself: he feels like a stranger in his own skin. So instead he regards Mom standing across the room, surrounded by a dozen friends and family members, and says, “I’m worried about Mom.”

Jim doesn’t say anything, just stands next to him, and—seems to get it. Leonard feels relieved beyond words. He’s sick of having to acknowledge the apologies and well wishes of friends and strangers, and though he’s undoubtedly the only one in the room who knows that Jim is a vampire, the humans have enough instinctual awareness to want to come no closer. So they stand in companionable silence, Leonard idly thumbing the cufflinks and Jim with inhuman stillness.

Finally the group around Mom dissipates, and she catches his eye. Her expression, carefully kept neutral, flickers in surprise followed by a soft amusement, and she heads towards them.

Leonard expects Jim to disappear, as is his habit—one of his super powers, even. Instead, the vampire remains right where he is, at his side, and Leonard’s not sure if he’s relieved or panicked.

Or both.

“Leonard,” Mom says when she reaches them. She puts an arm around him, drawing him close in a half hug. She’s not a big woman, only coming up to his chin, and in her dark dress she looks—old, suddenly. Frail. She peers up at Jim, lips quirking up in a small smile. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

Jim gives her a surprisingly hesitant grin. “My name’s Jim. I’m a—friend—of your son’s.”

“I see,” Mom says. “How did you two meet?” She turns to Leonard, raising an eyebrow inquiringly. He shifts awkwardly, mind blank, because while Jim of course doesn’t look anything close to his actual two and a half centuries in age, he still looks like a man in his early twenties—a man who doesn’t have any business being friends with a seventeen year old.

“I tutor at the school,” Jim lies smoothly, blue eyes wide. “Applied math. I’m an engineering student at the Academy, myself, though.”

“Oh,” Mom says, impressed and mollified. She looks between them again, and Leonard can feel himself grow warm. “I understand all the late nights at the library now.”

Jim laughs, white teeth flashing. “It’s not—like that, ma’am,” he says, but Leonard can still hear the wishful undercurrent of his words. Apparently his Mom can too, but she laughs; Leonard can see that she is charmed by the vampire.

For a few minutes, Leonard allows himself to relax.

To believe that somehow, he might actually get through all of this.

That’s when he sees Nyota, Spock, and Gaila arrive, Pavel, Hikaru, and Scotty trailing behind. All of them are dressed in formal clothing too, Spock even wearing Earth garb and looking deeply uncomfortable. Gaila probably forced him into it, Leonard thinks, before his mind catches up to the fact that his friend the Slayer is looking around for him and that Jim is standing right there.

“Excuse me,” Jim says hurriedly, and then he disappears in that way he has, just as the gang spots him and makes their way over.

“Oh!” Mom says in surprise, then her expression softens as she takes in the group of his friends about them. “Hello there.”

“Hi, Mrs. McCoy,” Nyota says to her before turning to Leonard. “Hey,” she says.

“Ve bring card,” Pavel says awkwardly, handing it to Mom.

Gaila doesn’t say a word, just hugs him, and Hikaru slaps him on the back in manly solidarity.

“We brought this, tae,” Scotty says, handing him a PADD. “It’s homeworks,” he explains to Mom.

Leonard nods. “Thanks,” he says. “I appreciate it.”

“You’re all very thoughtful,” Mom says, looking genuinely touched. “I’m so glad Leonard has so many friends!”

“He means a lot to us,” Nyota says, and Leonard feels like a complete shit, because he knows that she means it, they all do, and here he is lying to them, hell, inviting a frikking Master vampire into his own home, and—he can’t even complete the thought.

Instead, Mom smiles in farewell and drifts away to another group of adults, leaving the teenagers on their own.

Scotty points at the PADD. “I didna want ta say in front of yer Mam, but we already did all o’ yer work for ya.”

Leonard is caught between a laugh and a grimace of distaste. “Academic offense, thy name is Montgomery Scott. Thank you, Scotty,” he adds more mildly, and the other boy claps him on the back companionably. He looks around at his friends, all of whom mean so much to him, and tries to put aside the thought of the man—the vampire—who’s missing. “You guys are the best.”

~

It’s all a blur after that, really.

Obviously, Leonard makes it through the rest of the visitation, the funeral, the ceremony after. Somehow he makes it through the polite chatter of friends and family, all of whom want to know What Are They Doing Next and have to comment on What A Brave Boy You Are, Really, and he wonders if it’s possible to choke on impatience and platitudes.

Afterwards, he makes his excuses as best he can and retreats to his room.

Jim shows up just past sunset. Leonard opens the window wordlessly, and the vampire slips in without a sound. They look at each other, and then Leonard very deliberately takes Jim’s face in his hands and brings it to his, kissing him hard. Heat blazes through him, his cock is so hard it hurts, and he’s panting heavily by the time they stop for air.

“This is such a bad idea, kid,” Jim says, eyes closed almost in pain. “I’m not that strong—there’s only so many times I can warn you—”

“Shut up, Jim,” Leonard says roughly, and kisses him again.

~

Somewhere in an office downtown, a powerful man sits in his office. His assistant, a beautiful woman with hair the color of chestnuts and an expression of worship slips an envelope on his desk.

“We found them, sir,” she says, and only flinches a little when he waves her away.

“Thank you,” the man says. He waits for her to leave before he opens it, spilling its contents across his desk. It’s several holo-images: a grinning cheerleader with skin the color of dark caramel, several students sitting in a classroom (this one obviously taken by school security cameras), and a vampire walking across a parking lot to his motorcycle.

“Well now,” Khan Noonien Singh says. “This is very…interesting.”


Next

Comments

( 2 comments — Add your .02 )
blcwriter
May. 18th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC)
OOOOOOOOHHHH FLAPPY HANDS.
karmic_fic
May. 26th, 2011 09:05 pm (UTC)
another wonderful chapter, but OH i wish bones would just tell them, now's the perfect time what with his dad's funeral and jim being super supportive

*rushes off to next bit*
( 2 comments — Add your .02 )

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