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Outride the Sun, Part Seven



PART SEVEN: AMENDS



When he returns to school, Leonard doesn’t expect his friends to talk to him, not after what he’s done. He walks into Intermediate Vulcan on the first day of finals, unsure of where to sit. Cupcake glares at him, but Leonard ignores him.

“Hey, Leonard!” Gaila waves at him cheerfully. “Welcome back.”

“Oh. Hey.” He gingerly slips into his usual chair.

“So are you ready for this? I’ve been going through my notes, but—” She breaks off, shrugging.

“Yeah, I—I guess I’m as good as I’m ever going to be at it,” he says slowly. “I’m sure you’ll be fine, though.”

Nyota runs in just before the bell, slamming her bag to the ground under her chair. “Made it!” she sighs in relief. She turns to them. “Hey, guys.”

“Nyota, remind me again how the past subjunctive works, I can never remember! Please!” Gaila gives the Slayer her patented puppy dog eyes.

“Oh, please, you know this better than either of us.” Nyota turns to him. “Leonard, tell her she knows this better than anyone?”

“Gaila, you know this better than anyone,” he says obediently.

“Alright, class, time to get started,” their teacher says, and when the girls wish him luck, Leonard knows that, somehow past hoping, they’ve forgiven him.

~

Leonard gets through finals. Hell, he even gets through the flight to Georgia for Christmas break.

Georgia feels odd after all this time. It smells different. The air has no bite to it. The sun hits the earth at a different angle, and that just seems wrong now.

Mom is happy to be home, but to Leonard, it doesn’t feel like home, not anymore.

He turns eighteen. On his birthday, he spends an afternoon on his own, wandering around his old haunts, trying to feel something familiar and right, and failing spectacularly.

“Well, well. Look at what the cat dragged in.” Jocelyn and some of her friends are in the coffee shop he’s ducked into for some hot chocolate.

“Hi, Joce.” He smiles politely at her as he wipes his muddy boots on the mat. Last summer he would have turned around and left, but right now, he can’t quite remember what the point of avoiding Jocelyn Darnell is anymore. She’s beautiful, yeah, but she’s also vapid and boring and, well, she’s just without.

She also has this little frown between her eyebrows as he ignores her and makes his order at the counter. It reminds him of the gossipy old ladies he sees in church. (He tends to ignore them, too.) She smirks at her friends, then comes over to him with that little mincing walk he’d forgotten about, hips swinging with each step.

He can’t help it. He laughs at her, because she is so not nearly as sexy as she clearly thinks she is.

She stops, staring at him. “What?”

“Hot chocolate for Leonard,” the barista announces.

“Thanks,” Leonard smiles at her, and she smiles back when she hands him his cup. He takes it and walks around Jocelyn, who still looks confused, not to mention angry.

“What?” she repeats to his retreating back.

He doesn’t answer, just waves goodbye casually.

Much later, he’ll think of this as the moment when adulthood began, but right now, all he’s really thinking is how much he wants to get back home, back to San Francisco.

He gets things now, you see: He gets the thing he had with Jocelyn, and the almost-thing with Nyota. He gets the grades and the college applications, and he almost even gets an idea of what life might be like beyond high school.

What he doesn’t get, though, is where Jim could have disappeared to.

~

“Leonard, one of your friends is here!” Mom calls upstairs as he’s almost done unpacking the night they get back.

“Be right there!” He drops the stack of shirts he’s holding, running to the stairs.

“It’s Nyota!” Mom adds, and he trips just as he reaches the bottom step, stumbling into the Slayer’s view.

He rights himself carefully as she waves in greeting, repressing a sympathetic laugh at his clumsiness. Oh yeah, I’m cool. “Hey!” he says instead.

“Hey, you. Welcome back.” She smiles at him, and—it doesn’t really hurt to look at her anymore, he realizes.

“Yeah, thanks.” He runs his fingers through his hair awkwardly. “D’you want to, uh, come upstairs?” He glances at Mom to see her reaction, but she’s just shaking her head in amusement and heading back to the living room where she’d been folding laundry.

“Uh, sure,” Nyota agrees, and follows him upstairs. He hastily picks up the discarded shirts as she enters, dumping them into a drawer quickly. “I still need to bring your Bulldogs shirt back,” she says ruefully.

“Nah, keep it.” He gestures for her to sit down in the chair at his desk, while he perches at the end of his bed. “Consider it a—souvenir, or somethin’.”

“Will do.” She gives him a small smile that evaporates after a moment. “Have you heard from—?” She gestures helpfully.

“Jim?” He smiles when she looks sheepish at being unsure of saying the vampire’s name. “No. He’s, uh, he’s—“ He breaks off, shaking his head and looking away. “I don’t know where he is.”

“Maybe it’s for the best?” Nyota offers quietly. “I hate saying that,” she continues quickly when he turns to stare at her, “but it might be true, okay? You’re human, and he’s not.”

“Yeah, well, human-alien couples have been known to get along just fine.” Leonard’s voice is gruff. “Look at Gaila’s parents.” He swallows the urge to say something about her and Spock, but that’s just—low.

As if following his thoughts, Nyota says, “Spock’s Mom is human.”

“Huh.” Leonard watches his Slayer carefully; she’s looking down at her hands, folded in her lap. “I did not know that.”

She does that thing with her mouth where she wants to force a smile but can’t quite make it, but she’s embarrassed about it so the not-smile is a little more real for the wrong reason. “He doesn’t talk about it much. Didn’t. He had to take a lot of crap from the other kids at his schools on Vulcan for it, growing up. Then he came here, and had to take shit from the kids here, too.”

“I did—not know that either.” Leonard remembers Jim’s words ruefully. “All this stuff about how people deal with each other.”

Unaware of the reference, the Slayer agrees. “Pretty much. Or not deal, as the case may be.” She sighs, then gets up. “I just—wanted to see how you’re doing. See you at school tomorrow?”

“Yeah.” He gives her the ghost of a smile. “See you at school tomorrow.”

~

The air is like ice on his cheeks as he speeds through the night, growing ever closer to the cluster of sparkling lights in the distance. He checks his watch and decides he has time to stop for a quick break. He goes off-road then, glad these twenty-third century bikes are hardier than their predecessors; he doesn’t have to worry about internal combustion engines getting knocked around or spokes getting thrown out by the hard terrain. He finds the perfect spot to overlook the city across the bay and stops; the engine makes a faint whistling sound as it powers down.

“This isn’t going to work the way you think it will,” Carol says softly behind him.

Jim tries to ignore her. “Shut up.”

She laughs softly. “You should turn around now, sweet boy. You’ve got nothing to gain and everything to lose.”

He keeps his eyes on the city before him. The immense complex that is Starfleet Academy has most of its lights on; Fleeters never sleep. In his mind, he can mentally trace the roads from the Academy to Cochrane High, and from there to—well. It hurts to think about him.

“I don’t believe in no-win scenarios,” he says to Carol, finally turning around. “You know that.”

But Carol isn’t Carol anymore; she’s Winona. Mom shakes her head, looking sorrowful, and he feels sick inside. “I know what they meant to your Father,” she says, near tears. “Know what they meant to him right up until they shot him down over Iraq when you were just a boy.”

“Go away,” he says to her firmly. He forces a laugh. “You seriously think this is gonna work? On me? ‘Cause let me tell you, you really need to do better than that!”

“Fine,” George Kirk says. His eyes, so like Jim’s own, are entreating. “Remember what I told you before I left, son? I told you to take care of your Ma and your brother.” He looks—disappointed. “That was all I wanted, and you couldn’t even do that!”

Jim feels sick. “Stop it!” he yells at the—the thing that is not Dad. “Stop it!”

Dad shifts into Jim himself, who smirks. “Demons don’t lie,” he says. “Remember?”

“Stop it!” Jim says again. He starts up his motorcycle, and speeds away.

Once he’s left, Khan laughs. “It begins.”

~

They meet in the library before school in the morning. Pike holds a cup of steaming coffee. “Welcome back,” he says.

“It’s almost like we never left,” Nyota says with a grin.

“Okay, schedules!” Gaila claps her hands. “Who’s got what for first period?”

“Differential Equations for me,” Hikaru says.

“Me too,” says Scotty.

“Likevise,” agrees Pavel.

“Andorian Literature here,” Leonard volunteers.

“Me too!” Gaila looks relieved.

“I’ve got Advanced Vulcan on my own, then.” Nyota looks rueful. “Great.”

“Not entirely.” They turn to stare as one. Spock looks much like his usual self, dressed in a dark tunic and loose-fitting trousers. His hands are clasped behind his back, and he regards them all with seeming equanimity. For all that, it’s clear he only has eyes for Nyota. “I will be assisting in proctoring the course in question. Greetings,” he continues to them all.

Leonard is barely aware of having moved, but suddenly he’s in the Vulcan’s face. “You’ve got some nerve coming back here,” he says, and then his fist is colliding with Spock’s face.

It—it really fucking hurts.

“Ow!” Leonard holds onto his hand carefully. He touches it gingerly; nothing appears to be broken, only—bruised. Just like my ego, he thinks dryly.

The hobgoblin, damn him, just looks stunned, rubbing his jaw in bewilderment. “I fail to see the source of this—ah!”

Gaila, God bless her, lands a much better shot—enough to send Spock reeling at least. “That was for Nyota,” she says clearly, then pulls back and hits him again. “And that’s for Leonard!” she adds.

“I do not understand.” To be fair, Spock clearly doesn’t. Strangely, Leonard is reminded of Jim then, just for a moment. You can’t apply human morals to demons, Bones. It’s—antithetical.

“Just go, Spock.” Nyota sounds very tired. “Please.”

“Nyota, I—” Spock starts, but he stops when he realizes they are all glaring at him. “I will—see you later, perhaps?” He sounds hopeful.

“Maybe,” Nyota says. She is all Slayer: steel to her core, unbending, invincible.

Spock nods in farewell and departs without another word.

When he is out of sight, Nyota makes a choking sound and runs in the opposite direction. Gaila follows, leaving Pavel, Hikaru, and Scotty staring at one another in confusion.

“Did we miss somethin’, then?” Scotty asks.

“I am zinking ze answer is ‘da’,” Pavel says dryly. He turns to Hikaru. “Also, is girl zing?”

Hikaru shrugs and opens his mouth to speak, but Pike cuts him off.

“I think you all should go to class now,” the Watcher says. “Gentlemen.” And with that, he disappears into the stacks.

~

The day drags on forever, it seems like to Nyota. She ignores Spock as best as she can, considering he’s, like, one of her teachers now. All day she’s filled with restless, jittery energy, and after classes are over even an intense sparring session with Hikaru isn’t enough to calm her down.

“I’m going on patrol tonight by myself,” she announces when she’s left the boy panting.

“You can’t be serious!” Leonard’s dark eyes are wide and concerned. “Dammit, Nyota, how stupid can you get?!”

“Pretty stupid, clearly,” she says dryly. The image of Spock appears in her mind, unbidden. At least he didn’t come to the library this afternoon. “Look.” She tries to smile at them, and judging from their faces she’s failing pretty spectacularly. “I just—I need a little Slayer alone time, okay?”

Several hours later, when seven vamps circle her, she wishes she were a little less stubborn.

By, like, a lot.

“Khan sends his greetings,” the first vamp says. He’s in game-face, his voice a low growl. “He’s hoping to get the message across this time.”

“I’d let the machine get it if I were you.” They all turn at the unexpected voice: Jim Kirk, loping lazily into the scene. “Like, seriously,” he continues as he takes a position flanking Nyota, standing a few feet away from her. He winks at her. “It’s a good idea.”

She shoots the Master vampire a feral grin. She might not like him, but if he’s really on her side in this fight, it’ll go down better. And if he’s not? Well, she owes him some payback for what he did to Leonard.

The other vamps look confused, but their leader speaks again. “The Hellmouths are going to open, Slayer. The world will burn in all its glory, as it did so long ago! The strong shall rise, the weak shall perish—” He looks down at the stake Nyota has thrown, lodged in his chest. “You just had to interrupt—” He dissolves into dust.

“I knew I liked you,” Kirk says approvingly.

“Thanks,” Nyota says lightly.

That’s when the fight begins in earnest. Nyota will give Kirk this much: he is damn good to have on your side. He’s fast and brutal—even more so than she remembers, honestly. He doesn’t have a stake, instead using his hands and feet as his weapons, doling out remorseless kicks and punches, dispatching the vamps at the end by snapping their necks.

When they are all gone, they whirl to face one another. She crouches in a defensive position, because, really, he looked like he almost enjoyed that fight.

“Relax, Slayer, I’m not here for you,” Kirk says. He stands at his ease, hands in his pockets. “In fact, I’ve got a favor to ask.”

“What’s that?” Nyota asks. She slowly rises, still not sure exactly how much she dares to trust him.

He takes a deep breath; needlessly, more to show her that he’s nervous rather than because he has any need for oxygen. “First off. Bones—Leonard,” he explains when she looks at him blankly. “Is he—is he okay?”

“He’s getting there,” she says carefully. “Disappearing like that? Not cool.”

“Yeah. Well. I had something to do.” He almost flinches, and she wonders what it was. “Okay, the favor? Something big is going down. You need my help to stop it, and I—I need your help.”

“My help?” she echoes. “My help with what?”

Kirk licks his lips. “Look, when I left, when I—Well, I did something. It didn’t work out the way I thought it would. I meant to go—fix something. I did it for Bones,” he explains, like that makes sense. “I think I came back wrong.”

Nyota is suspicious now. “What did you do?” she asks carefully, getting a good grip on her stake.

“I got my soul back,” he answers.

For a long moment, she can only stare at him. “You got your soul back,” she repeats. God, I’m such a fucking parrot tonight! Get a grip, girl! “Like a—?”

“Like a firefly in a jar,” he finishes for her mockingly. “What do you think? Look, the thing is,’ he continues seriously, “I did it and I’m not right. I—I’m seeing things, things I know aren’t real. I need you and the Watcher to help me before I do something stupid.”

“How are we supposed to help you? You’re a vampire, remember!” She’s starting to get a headache now, she really, really is.

“Simple. You guys have books—the old kind. The magic kind. Let me look at them, see what I can find. And if all else fails—” He takes another deep, unneeded breath, staring directly her eyes. “If all else fails, I need you to kill me.”

~

Life settles back into the comfortable routine of school and slayage. The dark gray of January slides into the dimmer gray of February. Spock returns to patrolling with the gang, though it’s clear that Nyota isn’t entirely happy about this. The thing is, with the increasing rumors of Khan, the demon they have yet to see, they need all the help they can get.

“Valentine’s is coming up,” Gaila says to Leonard casually after their Andorian Lit class. “We should do something.”

“Like what?” he asks vaguely, exchanging PADDs from his locker. He can’t help but think of Jim; the abandoned medical alert badge is warm against his skin, hidden under his shirt. “Bronze maybe?”

“Noooo,” she says slowly, drawing the word out. “I was thinking of something more intimate. Coffee, maybe.”

He blinks. He closes his locker and stares at her. Her expression is cheerful, patient. Hopeful.

Leonard swallows thickly. “Is this a date?”

The Orion girl flushes the color of new grass in spring. “Kind of?”

He pauses, flushing in return. “Um. Well.” He thinks for a minute, feeling oddly guilty. Jim isn’t here, and he’s probably never coming back. “Sure,” he says, trying to sound more upbeat. “It’s a date, then.”

Gaila grins widely. “Awesome!”

Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday. After school he goes home and changes into a nice button-down shirt, and combs his hair in the mirror. He stares at his reflection, his eyes going to the chain that peeks just above his neck. Very carefully, he takes it off, and puts it in a drawer.

“I’m going out,” he calls to Mom as he heads downstairs.

“Where are you off to? Oh!” she says in a completely different voice when she sees him. She pauses. “I’d forgotten what day it was. Do I know who you’re going out with?”

“Gaila,” he answers.

“Gaila,” Mom repeats, clearly searching her memory for which friend he’s talking about. “Ah, the sweet Orion girl.”

He flushes, because it’s true; she is sweet. He feels like an ass. “Yeah,” he says.

Mom smiles. “Have fun!”

“Yeah,” he says again, and goes out the door.

The coffee shop they’re meeting at isn’t that far from his house—just a few blocks, in fact. Gaila is visible inside, wearing a red dress under a black sweater coat. The colors are extra vivid against the dark green of her skin. She grins widely, waving when she sees him. He smiles and waves back.

He gets a latte and she gets a mocha; they share a palm-sized cookie shaped like a heart with an arrow through it that’s covered in sugary pink frosting. They talk about school and how much the wait to find out about their Academy applications is killing them.

It’s lovely and pleasant and easy, and Leonard has a great time.

Afterwards he walks her home, and they pause in front of her parents’ house.

“Leonard?” Gaila asks softly. Her eyes are wide, her skin flushed the color of a kudzu leaf in spring.

Leonard can’t quite think of anything to say in response, so instead he leans forward slowly, giving her time to move away if she wants to. She doesn’t, so he tilts his head just so as he bends down, and their lips meet.

They part a heartbeat later.

“Huh,” Gaila says, surprised. She looks up at him, and whatever she sees in his face makes her lips curve upwards, eyes sparkling with repressed laughter. “Wow.”

“Yeah,” Leonard agrees. He grins back, feeling strangely relieved. “I—”

“Felt nothing?”

“Not a thing.” He shrugs in apology, and that does make her laugh. “Sorry.”

“Me too,” she says. “Wow. We’re really—just not—“

“Nope.”

“Wow,” she repeats.

“Well.” Leonard can’t help it then, he laughs. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Gaila.”

She grins back. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Leonard.”

He goes back home, smiling, and looks at the chain in his drawer. Then, very carefully, he closes it shut again.

~

Weeks pass. The fights get worse.

“There’s too many of them!” Hikaru is spinning and whirling with his sword, but he’s panting heavily. “Nyota, we’ve got to get out of here!”

“Agreed!” the Slayer yells over the din. “Fall back!”

“I shall cover you!” Spock uses the Vulcan lirpa he brought back from home to dispatch two more vamps, the fan-like blades decapitating and slicing them neatly.

A vampire gets in front of Leonard, growling. He has his crossbow, but he’s out of arrows, so he takes the stock of it like he’s holding onto a baseball bat and tries to keep the demon at bay. Unfortunately, the vamp grabs it by the lathe, twisting it out his hands, and steps into his guard, throwing him to the ground heavily.

That’s when he hears a sound he never thought he’d ever hear again: a familiar, leonine growl.

“You stay away from him!” Jim is in game-face, gold eyes flickering dangerously. He stands between Leonard and the vamp.

“Or wha—” The vamp doesn’t even get to finish speaking before he’s dust.

“Next!” Jim growls. Two more vamps move in on him, but stakes appear in his hands, and they back off—too late.

“Hikaru!” Nyota’s voice is clear in the air. “Flank him!”

Hikaru whirls into motion, his back to Jim’s as the fight continues. Nyota does several back flips to get back to Leonard; she pulls him to his feet, then presses a stake in his hand.

With Jim in their midst, the tables are quickly turned. They dust all but two vampires, who run away.

“Bones, are you okay?” Jim scrubs one hand under his nose, grimacing at the blood dotting his fingers. One of the vamps got a lucky blow in before being dusted, it seems.

“Vhat’s he doing here?” Pavel asks what Leonard’s thinking. Unfortunately, Leonard can’t seem to say anything himself. He’s too—too—he doesn’t even know what he is.

“Bones?” Jim repeats, walking over to him. His expression is one of concern.

That’s what galvanizes him. “What are you doing here?” Leonard backs away, and Jim pauses, coming to a stand-still.

“Library,” Nyota says firmly. “Now.”

“Bones—” Jim starts to say, but Leonard interrupts him.

“I waited for you! The hell, Jim—” He still can’t believe he’s here, after all this time.

“I didn’t want it to be this way,” Jim says quickly. “I thought I was helping!”

“You thought you were helping?!” Leonard feels a wild urge to laugh. “Are you nuts, Jim?” Gaila comes to stand by his side, holding onto her own stake with wide eyes as he continues to rant. “You left, remember?”

“Enough!” Nyota’s tone brooks no argument. “We’ll settle this inside.”

They return to the library, the lights of which are unexpectedly dark.

“Has Pike gone home, then?” Scotty asks uneasily. While it’s entirely possible, Leonard knows, it’s also unlikely; the Watcher never goes home until he’s sure they are all safe.

“Doubt it,” Nyota says darkly. “Careful, guys. Hikaru, you’re with me. Jim, you go with Spock.”

“I find this plan dubious—” the Vulcan starts, but Nyota interrupts him harshly.

“Leonard, take his place then. Spock, you’re with Gaila. Scotty and Pavel, you take the back perimeter.”

Spock subsides without another word, and Leonard moves to walk by Jim as they enter what they usually think of as their sanctuary.

They are quiet as they enter. The library seems eerie with the lights off, cold and unwelcoming. Abruptly, there’s a flare of light in the middle of the floor. A large man, immaculately dressed, stands next to a gagged Pike.

“Welcome back,” says the man Leonard recognizes as Mayor Singh. “I believe the time has come for a little—business arrangement.”

“Business arrangement?” Nyota echoes calmly after a beat. “Do tell.”

Pike tries to say something around his gag, but his words are muffled and nonsensical. Singh is holding onto one of the Watcher’s arms behind his back; he twists it, and Pike makes a sound of pain before subsiding into silence.

“I have been trying so very hard to get in touch with you,” Singh continues, “and yet all my messages seem to have gone astray.” His gaze flickers to Jim. “Why is that?”

“Nyota,” the Master vampire says, “that’s Khan.” His voice is tense, almost as if he’s—afraid. Leonard’s guts turn to ice, because he has never heard Jim sound uncertain like that before. The wrongness of it is terrifying.

If Nyota is surprised, she doesn’t show it. “I know what you’re up to,” she says instead. “You want to open up the Hellmouths. It’s not gonna work.”

“Ah, but you see, it will.” Singh, or Khan, or whatever his name is, looks smug. “I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time. Patience is a virtue, you see.”

“So’s brevity,” Nyota says with false sweetness. “Point. Get to it.”

Khan’s gaze is still fixed on Jim though. “You took someone very precious from me,” he says. “I owe you for this.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Jim says with his old arrogance. “Care to refresh me? A name would be nice. Failing that, hair color, and possibly gender.”

Khan makes a low, angry sound in the back of his throat. “Carol Marcus,” he says very clearly.

Leonard jerks in surprise, but Jim maintains his nonchalant expression. “Right,” he says slowly. “I remember her.”

“She was your sire!” Khan looks disgusted. “You really have no loyalties, do you?”

“Bored now.” Nyota announces, and looses a crossbow bolt into Khan’s heart. Well, where his heart should be, at any rate.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything.

Khan plucks the bolt out, tossing it to the floor with a negligent gesture. “This is my final warning. My glory is at hand. If you would save yourselves, now is the time. On the Day of Alphius, the world shall be cleansed once more.” He pushes Pike away from him roughly; Scotty catches him and removes the gag. “Be mindful of this.”

He turns to leave, but glances back one last time. “I admire your fighting spirits. I would so hate to see them wasted for nothing.”

And then he’s gone.

~

Leonard is silent while he takes care of people afterwards. Pike’s arm is wrenched but not broken. The others have the usual sets of marks and bruises.

“Go home, guys,” Nyota tells them all tiredly. “Get some rest.”

Leonard waits until most of them have gone before he has his say. It seems only fair, he supposes. Unfortunately, Spock seems to have no inclination to leave Nyota, and Nyota’s not leaving Pike, and Jim just—lingers.

Finally, he gives up and just goes straight up to the Slayer. “When were you going to tell me?”

Nyota winces, but before she can say anything, Spock speaks up instead. “Your behavior is most illogical, Leonard.” The Vulcan boy cocks his head to the side, questioningly. “Was it not you who first did not disclose the entirety of your relationship with the vampire?”

“Um, I’m right here, ya know,” Jim says dryly. They all turn to glare at him. “Just saying.” He pauses. “This is me being quiet now.”

“Well, you’d know so much about not ‘disclosing’ everything, wouldn’t you?” Leonard responds snidely.

“Guys!” Nyota interrupts, but they ignore her.

“I fail to see the connection,” Spock answers. His dark eyes gleam almost dangerously.

“You would,” Leonard growls back.

“Your sarcasm does you no credit—”

“Guys!” This time Nyota is louder, angry with them both. “Stop with the pissing contest, okay? Geez—”

Leonard glares at her, opens his mouth only to realize he has nothing to say. He shuts his mouth again, teeth clacking with a snap as he glares at them all. He’s half way out the door when he realizes what he wants to say, so turns around, glaring at Nyota.

“I trusted you,” he says. His gaze flicks to Jim despite himself. “You, too.”

He hurries home, anger carrying him quickly. He slips inside the house with practiced stealth, and stands in the dark, breathing hard. He paces angrily, then yanks open the drawer that holds Jim’s medical alert badge. It gleams dully in the dim light from the window.

He shoves the drawer closed again, and tries to go to sleep.

~

He fails rather spectacularly, all things considered. Leonard drifts off to sleep maybe an hour or two before his alarm goes off. When he jerks awake to its familiar, obnoxious beeping, he slams the snooze button and contemplates exactly how immature it would be to just stay home.

Acute exhaustion does count as a medical condition, he thinks.

But staying home sick is the coward’s way out. And when it comes down to it, Leonard McCoy is no coward.

Not anymore.

“You should have told me,” he says to Nyota when he gets to school. She looks hardly better than he does: rings under her eyes, her normally glowing skin wan.

“You look like shit, sweetie,” Janice Rand says with false sweetness as she passes them in the hallway.

“You look like a slut, darlin’,” Leonard calls back automatically. Rand shoots him a venomous look.

Nyota giggles tiredly. “You’re a bad man, Leonard McCoy,” she says.

“I am,” he agrees. “And I’m still pissed with you.” Her smile fades. “Don’t worry, I’ll get over it. It’s just—it’s just—”

“You didn’t expect it from someone you care about. Yeah.” Nyota’s eyes shine up into his. “Believe it or not, I totally get that.”

That deflates him. “Yeah.” He presses his forehead to the cool metal of their lockers, before turning back to her. “Why do we keep doing this to each other?”

“Pretty sure it’s something to do with good intentions.” The Slayer’s voice is very light.

He grimaces, and puts an arm around her as the bell rings, signaling them to go to class. “I hear those lead into Hell.”

“I believe it.” She laughs when he gives her an affectionate squeeze, and they part.

He’s rounding the corner heading to class when Spock appears in his way. “We did not complete our discussion last night.”

“Um, pretty sure we did.” Leonard steps to the side to pass, but the Vulcan counters, moving with him to block him once more.

“You are inaccurate.”

“And you’re a green-blooded hobgoblin with no sense of shame.” Leonard’s words are heated as he speaks just above a furious whisper. “I have no idea how Nyota can even look at you, after what you did to her!”

That seems to catch Spock up short, at least. “I beg your pardon?” he asks as the bell rings. They are alone in the hall now.

“Nyota told me,” Leonard says, not really bothering to keep his voice down now. “She said you went and got yourself married to a nice Vulcan girl back home. Congratulations on that, by the way,” he adds nastily. To be honest, he’s more than a bit glad to finally get a chance to get all this off his chest. “I’m sure it was a lovely ceremony. Honeymoon was a bit short though, wasn’t it?”

“That was unavoidable,” Spock says without blinking. “T’Pring and I have been betrothed since we were children.”

“Ugh! Don’t tell me.” Leonard starts to storm away to class. “I really don’t need the gory details!”

“There are no details to share,” Spock continues implacably. “We did not consummate. We are no longer—joined.”

That brings Leonard up short. He turns around slowly. “What?”

Spock looks uncomfortable. “These things are not typically spoken of outside of one’s family,” he says after a moment. “However, we have spilled blood at one another’s sides. In the Old Ways, this would make us—brothers.” Leonard stares at him, and Spock looks—strangely vulnerable. “It is difficult to explain to an Outworlder, but it is—fit—that you should know.”

Leonard walks back to him slowly. “So you’re not—not married?”

“No.” Spock’s expression is carefully neutral.

“And you didn’t—have sex—with this T’Pring of yours?”

Spock’s cheeks flush just the faintest tinge of green. “Definitely not.”

Leonard wants to laugh, relieved and annoyed all at once. “And does Nyota know?”

“Also, definitely not.” Spock looks uncomfortable again. “It would not be suitable for her to know. She is—unwed—herself.”

“Spock, you idiot!” Leonard grabs him by the shoulders and shakes him. “You need to tell her!”

“I do not see what purpose sharing such—details—would serve.” Spock seems offended.

“Spock, she’s totally in—” Leonard breaks off, because Principal Komack has come into the hall.

“Gentlemen,” he says in reproof, “don’t both of you have some place else to be? In class, perhaps?”

Both boys stare at him, then at each other.

“Spock, do me a favor and think about it. Okay?” Leonard says as he heads to Andorian Lit.

The Vulcan gives him a short nod. “I shall consider it—my friend.”

~

“So what’s the what, P-man?” Hikaru asks the Watcher when they arrive at the library after class.

“Don’t call me that,” Pike says tiredly. “And I have good news and bad news.”

“Oh goody, something new and different,” Gaila says, pulling out her PADD with a frown.

“Hit us.” Nyota’s arms are crossed, her expression stern.

“The good news is that I have determined the Day of Alphius,” the Watcher says. “The bad news is, it’s May 10.”

“That’s graduation day,” Scotty says.

“Less zhan two months avay.” Pavel looks unhappy.

“And what happens on the Day of Alphius?” Nyota wants to know. “Aside from Hellmouths opening, fire and brimstone, blah blah blah?”

“Well, according to the Prophecies, ah, Khan will become lord of all and we shall be as his slaves,” Pike answers.

“Can I just say I don’t like this plan?” Leonard says after a pause. “In fact, I heartily oppose it. Like, a lot.”

“Agreed,” Nyota says.

“Yep,” says Gaila, who is still working on her PADD. “Okay, so, radical idea. We figure out how to kill him, do that, and then save the day.”

“It’s a great plan,” the Watcher says, “except for the part where he’s invincible until Alphius’s Day.”

“Okay, but if he’s invincible until then, does that mean he’s not on that day?” The Slayer starts to look hopeful.

“That is the implication,” Pike assents. “And according to further lore”—he holds up a book—“Alphius’s Day doesn’t properly start until sunset of the day in question.”

“So he’s been calling all of his fangy friends to town.” Hikaru makes a face. “If the city’s full of vamps when he’s at his weakest point, then we’re still too overwhelmed to stand a chance.”

“Unless—” Spock speaks up, expression thoughtful. “—we take measures into our own hands in advance.”

“What are you saying?” But judging from the glimmer in Nyota’s eyes, she’s following his thoughts, she just wants to follow the line of reasoning through to its conclusion.

“There are many more here capable of fighting than just us,” the Vulcan says. “There always has been. We should enlist their aid.”

“D’ye mean Starfleet?” Scotty asks, shocked.

“No,” the Vulcan says, “I mean those who have experienced the Hellmouth for themselves.” He pauses. “Our classmates.”

They stare at him.

“Yeah,” Nyota says dryly, “and exactly how many Slayers have managed to get their high school to join a battle with them?”

To their surprise, Pike blinks rapidly and all but runs to the stacks.

“’Kay,” Hikaru says after a moment, “what just happened?”

Pike returns, bearing a heavy, leather tome. He sets it down in a book cradle and begins thumbing through it rapidly. “There was a Slayer who did just that,” the Watcher says with growing excitement. “A Slayer who did things others only dreamt of—”

“Um, okay,” Nyota says curiously, getting up to stand by him. She peers down at the pages curiously. “Who was she?”

Pike points, smiling widely. “Buffy Summers.”

The room is silent.

“Great,” Leonard says, “we’re going to follow the example of Buffy. This is gonna go great.”

~

Leonard still feels tired and sore from the night before, so he looks forward to going to bed as soon as he gets out of the shower—a real one with hot water for his protesting muscles. He wanders into his room, head down as he dries his hair energetically with a towel.

There’s a knock on his window. “Hey, Bones.”

He freezes when he hears that familiar voice, muffled through the glass. Very carefully, he lifts his head up and pulls the towel back.

The vampire is lounging on the tree branch, but Leonard can see that the casualness of his pose is feigned. He’s nervous. Leonard feels hardly better.

“Hey, Jim,” he says slowly, lifting up the windowpane. “What are you up to?”

“It’s a nice night.” Jim leans back, looking up at the stars in the clear air. He looks at Leonard then. “I wanted to see you. To explain.”

“What’s to explain?” Leonard makes a show of paying him no mind. Instead he sets his alarm clock and sets out his clothes for tomorrow. He even busies himself with his box of vid-chips like he’s looking for something. “I’m cool. You’re cool. There’s cool here.”

“Liar.” Jim’s voice is fond and pained all at once. “I—hurt you. And I asked your friend to not tell you about me coming back, because—because—”

“Because why, Jim?” Leonard throws down the box of ‘chips, because he’s giving up on this cool thing. “I was angry, yeah. And I was dumb, and—I get that. Okay? But you know, when people do dumb things, you don’t leave for months, you call them out on the dumbness. Y’know?” he concludes weakly, sitting on the bed. Ridiculously, he feels very near tears. “Y’know?” he repeats helplessly.

“I know,” Jim says very quietly. “Look, can I—can I come in?”

Leonard nods, and Jim gingerly steps through the open window. He shuts it behind him, cutting off the cold draft in the room.

“Thanks,” the vampire says. “Um. So. The thing is—Well. I thought about what you said, and I meant to make it right.”

“Go on,” Leonard says. He’s really only half-following this, but Jim doesn’t need to know that quite yet. “Keep goin’.”

Jim nods rapidly. “See, I thought about—about everything we’d talked about before. About morality, and—and honesty. And, well. I’d said before I’d do anything for you, and I meant it. So—I went to get my soul back.”

Leonard stares. “What?”

“My soul.” Jim is talking even faster now. He doesn’t meet Leonard’s eyes; instead, he looks just past him, at the wall. “You said you loved me, before, and I—I realized I didn’t really deserve it. I mean, I thought I did, but I didn’t, so I thought if I got a soul that you’d understand that I understood, and, well, it all went so wrong, Bones!”

Leonard stares, because Jim’s voice is breaking in his misery.

The vampire continues speaking, still unable to even look at him. “And then I got it, and I realized how wrong I’d been about everything. Y’know? I knew that there was no way you could—could love someone who had done the things I had done.” Bloody tear drops fall down his cheek, leaving watery red smears as he scrubs them away, embarrassed. “You have no idea what it’s like to do the things I’ve done, and for them to—to matter to you.”

Leonard swallows, abruptly ashamed. He’d been so miserable while Jim was gone, but he’d had no idea what the vampire had been going through. “Dammit, Jim, why didn’t you say something? It didn’t—you didn’t have to do it all alone.”

“Yeah, I did, Bones.” Jim finally looks at him. “I wasn’t safe to be with, after. I—I wanted to kill myself, but I was too weak. Too afraid.” He swallows. “Remember what I said before? I know what’s going to happen to me now. I just—I care now.”

“No.” Leonard shakes his head. “No. It doesn’t work like that—it can’t work like that, Jim!”

The vampire gives him the ghost of a smile. “Pretty sure it does, kid.”

“But—it’s not fair!”

The vampire shrugs. “And we know how that goes. Look—I don’t—there’s not—I just wanted to tell you all this, Bones. I owed it to you. And I asked the Slayer to not tell you because I was afraid.”

“You. Afraid.” Leonard stares at him, resisting the urge to laugh because the idea is so absurd. “Of what I thought?”

“Your Slayer’s one cool chick,” Jim says in thoughtful admiration. “I totally get why some vampires fall for them now.”

“Wait, there’ve been vamps that fell for Slayers?” Leonard is distracted. “Hold on, no, focusing.” He rubs his eyes tiredly. “Look, Jim, I still love—”

But when he opens his eyes again, Jim’s gone.

Again.

~

They put their plans into motion the next day.

“Hey, um.” Okay this would be much better if Leonard had any idea what Cupcake’s actual name is.

“What is it, hick?” The football player looks annoyed.

Leonard takes a deep breath. “You ever notice odd things about this city?” he asks. “You know, like—people with weird eyes and fangs and stuff?”

Cupcake stares at him. “Keep talking.”

~

“Hey, Rand.”

“What is it, Uhura?” The other cheerleader looks bored as she slams her locker shut. “We haven’t even started tryouts yet, so it’s too early to bail already.”

Nyota feels heat flush her face, but she doesn’t let herself get angry. “I’ve got something to ask you,” she says instead.

“Ask me?” Rand’s blue eyes bore into her own. “About what?”

~

The days are getting longer as spring starts to bloom around them in earnest. Leonard comes home one afternoon to find Mom looking extremely pleased.

“You got something in the mail from the Academy,” she says.

Next

Comments

( 2 comments — Add your .02 )
rachelmorph
May. 17th, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)
Gaila rocks so hard in this chapter.
karmic_fic
May. 26th, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)
most excellent chapter!!! i especially adore the spock/bones convo and totally want some one to point out about the whole soul=redemption possibility thing to jim so he can get on that instead of ya know... wallowing
( 2 comments — Add your .02 )

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