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Heaven is Bloodless, Part Seven



Masterpost

They are in the old courtyard. Spock flanks him, daggers drawn. Mattheu faces them, waiting for them to make the first move.

They have been training for four years. Jim is seventeen, his lanky form starting to take on some of the breadth of a man’s shoulders. He will never be large, not like Mattheu, or the silent, bearded student of his who watches with his arms crossed near Nyota, but he is strong nonetheless. Spock is three years his elder, long body ever graceful—he can bend this way and that like a reed. Jim envies him, sometimes, envies his D’Angeline grace and the way Nyota watches him in a way she does not watch Jim.

The signal to begin their bout is unspoken. One minute they wait, the next—they are moving.

Sparring is rather like a dance, Jim has always thought. You learn the places where your feet and hands go, how to guide and move with your partner—how their body turns to fit or fly from yours. He and Spock have practiced this game for years, they know one another more intimately by now than some lovers, he thinks.

Mattheu meets each of their jabs with parries, twisting and turning this way and that to avoid the two sets of daggers thrust his way. He bends, cutting through the air in a sweeping arc, and Spock ducks beneath his blades with ease while Jim spins behind him.

“Hold!”

Mattheu’s student makes the call, his deep voice ringing in the autumn air. Mattheu laughs, wheezing. “You hothouse flowers have turned deadly,” he says with approval to Pike, who watches stonily. “One on one, then.”

Jim and Spock exchange a look. The dark-haired man gives him a short nod, and Jim sheathes his daggers, bowing to the other men before leaving the circle.

“Continue!”

Spock and Mattheu face one another, and the dance starts all over again.

Pike strokes his chin thoughtfully as he watches. “You look worried,” Jim observes quietly. “What’s up?”

Nyota flicks her gaze to him at his words, exasperated, though he’s not sure why. He stiffens in affront, then makes his body loose, like he hasn’t a care in the world. All of her attention is focused on Spock, anyway.

“Something’s happened,” Pike mutters to himself. “Something’s changed.” The Duke is focused on the old Cassiline, but Jim can’t detect anything out of the ordinary. The man has been coming here for years; he seems the same as he ever has, frankly. Jim says nothing, just watches the bout, willing himself to see whatever it is that Pike does.

Mattheu’s fighting style is short and brutal; it always has been. There is poetry in the method of Cassiline arms, the turn of dagger and even the swords that are only drawn for killing. Mattheu taught them both sword fighting too, but he only ever used a wooden dummy for a blade, and yet, he was good enough that the hard wood was always a match for their steel. It takes Jim a few moments of study to see what his mentor sees.

And then: “He’s fighting. Really fighting.” He feels nervous then, and quickly understands Nyota’s own tension. His foster-sister reaches out to grasp his hand—whether for comfort or for him to swallow his words, he doesn’t know. He looks down at their joined fingers, her palm dark and lithe against his. Her warm skin feels like it burns. He inhales softly, but doesn’t let go. “Does Spock know?” he asks Pike instead.

The Duke shakes his head in a short negative. “Why aren’t we doing anything?” he asks, a nervous laugh rippling through his words uncomfortably.

“Silence.” The single command is sharp, and Jim flinches from it. He’s never heard that low, angry tone from Pike before, and it rankles.

“The hell with this, I’m stopping it!” Jim moves back to the circle.

“Jim, no!” Nyota’s plea cuts the air, and he feels strangely vindicated in her concern for him—at least, until he remembers it’s possibly more for Spock’s sake than his own.

“Shh!” Pike hisses, pulling his foster-daughter back. Jim inhales, pushing his awareness of the others away, already pulling his daggers from their sheathes.

Mattheu’s student steps in front of him. “No interference!”

“Oh come on,” Jim says angrily. “Who are you kidding, cupcake, this isn’t a real fight and you know it!”

Fury flickers over the younger Cassiline’s features, and Jim feels a moment of smug pleasure: the Cassiline Brothers pride themselves on their control, after all, their ability to push themselves beyond the needs of mortal flesh or feeling. Mattheu’s student—or Cupcake as Jim now thinks of him—is a few years older than he himself, but he lacks discipline, judging from the angry fist that Jim dodges. Whirling around, he snakes a leg in front of Cupcake just as the other man moves to confront him again, and Cupcake hits the ground hard.

Jim is moving past Cupcake, back to Mattheu and Spock, when a hard grip on his ankle trips him. He doesn’t fall neatly; he cracks his chin on the ground, his teeth snapping together painfully. He rolls over. Cupcake is on his feet again, bearing down again, and Jim hops to his feet.

“Dammit, what is this?” Jim grinds out angrily. He wishes he dared to look over at Mattheu and Spock—he can hear his foster-brother’s grunts of exertion along with the steady ringing of blade hitting blade—but he doesn’t, not when he’s in a fight himself. “Look, your master’s losing it, okay? We need to help Spock!”

That at least gets a reaction.

Cupcake frowns, pausing. “It’s a practice match,” he says, but there’s uncertainty in his words.

“Yeah, it was supposed to be.” Jim looks at the other men; by now, the bout is heated enough that it’s clear that simple practice is no longer their goal. Spock’s is to stay ahead of Mattheu, and Mattheu—Well, Jim doesn’t know what he wants, he’s just sure it’s not good. “C’mon!”

Cupcake nods, and they enter the fray.

When Mattheu whirls behind Spock to catch the younger man in the back, Jim is already there, parrying his dagger away. His foster-brother spins to flank Jim, and he can hear the ragged sound of his breathing.

“You hurt, Spock?” he asks, already moving to block another blow.

“I am sufficient for the moment,” his foster-brother answers, “though I appreciate your inquiry into the matter.”

Jim snorts a laugh. “No problem.” They stand back to back, daggers drawn and waiting for the next onslaught, but Cupcake is already moving into Mattheu’s space, telling the hours around them with cool efficiency.

The older Cassiline does not break his stride, but meets his pupil blow for blow. Cupcake is a big guy, but it is soon clear they are more than an even match.

Jim catches Spock’s eye. “You in?”

His foster-brother nods. “My brother,” he says shortly, and then they move forward as one.

They flank Mattheu to start, switching stances as he whirls behind them, Cupcake pressing forward implacably. In concert, the three younger man guide their elder to the outer wall of the carriage house. It takes deft precision, patience, and time, but finally his back is to the wall, and they have him.

The older man’s eyes are wild by the time they have his daggers knocked from his fists. He’s breathing heavily, his face pale: he looks sick, is what Jim thinks.

Once he’s disarmed, a pair of stable hands run out, grabbing Mattheu by the arms firmly. “Careful, careful!” Pike cautions as he joins them. Nyota runs past him, barely heeding; she throws herself into Spock’s arms.

“Are you alright?” she asks, very near tears. Jim feels unaccountably guilty at that—and envious. He looks away as Spock quietly reassures her.

“I am well, my beloved,” he says, lips in her hair.

Cupcake claps Jim on the back. “You were good,” he says shortly. “I am sorry for my master.”

“The three of you, inside, now!” Pike orders. His gaze on his three fosterlings is like steel.

“What? We were helping—“ Jim starts, but the Duke interrupts.

“That’s enough! Inside! Go!” They look at one another, then nod and do as bid. The last thing Jim sees is Pike with his head bent close to Mattheu’s, telling him something, and Cupcake frowning.

They wait in Pike’s study. Nyota sits close to Spock while Jim paces impatiently. It
feels like they are in trouble somehow, except that doesn’t make sense, because the only one who did something wrong was Mattheu. Anger roils in Jim’s gut until he’s almost sick with it.
At last, Pike joins them.

“Duke!” Jim greets him immediately, but the older man glares at him. His steely gaze takes in all three of them, and none of them say anything.

“I am disappointed,” Pike says at last, looking over each of them but ending with Jim. “I told you to stay out of the fight.”

“Technically, you only told me to be silent,” Jim quips. “Oh come on,” he continues as Pike looks even angrier, “the whole thing was getting out of hand. You even
knew it! That’s why you didn’t try to stop me, isn’t it?”

Pike moves quickly, face close to Jim in a few long strides. “You could have been killed!” he growls, and it takes Jim several heartbeats to realize that isn’t the answer to the question Jim had asked.

“Both of you,” Pike continues, turning to face Spock.

“What will happen to Mattheu?” Spock asks coolly, as if all other matters were immaterial.

Pike shakes his head. “He will be taken back to the Brotherhood; their healers will see to him. I fear—” He frowns. “I have seen such things happen on my travels. Sometimes when a man has had a fever, or a wound to the head, he changes—perceives things differently.”

Spock raises a single eyebrow. “He murmured as we fought—I did not quite understand. It was about the glory of Adonai.”

The glory of Adonai…


Jim wakes up, somehow still not used to the morning cool yet. The winter dawn breaking through the window seems chilly, too, as if the sun peeking past dark clouds has no warmth left to it to share. Or maybe it’s just that he misses Bones.

He dresses quickly, heading downstairs. He misses the morning post of the City here in New Londinium: letters are irregular at best, and that’s not when a fever is sweeping the settlements along the river, Algonquin and colonist alike—be they Alban, Aragonian, Tiberian, or D’Angeline. Bones had left a month ago after a message came from the Rebbe, but he had uncharacteristically refused to allow Jim to accompany him, though he relented enough to allow Scotty as an escort.

“You’ve heard what Melakon wants, and Gill isn’t going to stop him. Escabarres either.” Bones had a physician’s contempt for politicians, and it was true that Melakon was agitating to burn the disease from the Algonquin while Gill did nothing to dissuade him. Escabarres, as a member of the Unseen Guild, merely peddled and traded scraps of information among all parties. Jim, in frustration, had sent a message to Komack respectfully requesting further instructions and what aid the Crown felt it could provide. The silence was deafening. “You’re the last man with some sanity in this thrice damned place, Jim.”

Neither of them had returned. Bones had said to expect as much, that if the fevers were as bad as he feared he would institute a form of quarantine if he could. “Assuming anyone listens. It’s worse’n the Dark Ages around here sometimes.”

Jim would almost feel foolish at his earlier foreboding if he hadn’t felt it before: twice. The morning of the day he and his brother had been separated, he had awakened from a dream of rough seas, each of them in one of the small row boats common to Tiberian vessels, drifting further and further apart.

The second time had been before Lord Nero had attacked Pike’s estate, before the long venture over the Camaeline Mountains into Tiberium and Hellas.

You could be a scion of Azza, with eyes like that.

Azza, fallen from Heaven, walking at the side of Elua for love: the angel of justice, servant of Mattatron, He journeyed the globe. In Terre d’Ange, He was the patron of travelers and wayfarers.

Scion of Azza…

Bones’s words: they seemed too near and too far away all at once. Jim remembers when he first met the man, in the Dowayne’s chambers of Balm House. The dark-skinned adept, head bent abeyante but all the lines of his body clearly resisting his training to serve.

Jim, too, knew what it was like to owe one’s welfare to another. On Tiberian galleys, the custom had been to bow in thanks to the Captain at every meal, for he was the one provided and protected his crew. He had hated it all his life, and though it shamed him to admit it, he had hated the Duke Pike for a time, too. Loved him, oh yes, but hate—hate had its place in his heart as well.

He kept his face carefully set in its cheerful, sensual expression, slowly turning around with his arms held up as the eager masque-goers cried number after number in the air.

His virgin price was going to be very high, indeed. He took pride in this, and ignored the itching of his back—old scars, and healed skin greedy to be endowed with the marque of his freedom.

“Two thousand ducats!” A woman’s voice, low and rich, and a gasp of astonished, prurient delight.

Jim caught Pike’s eye as the bidding went once, twice, thrice—to the Lady in the back! The Duke’s expression held that small little smile in the corner of his mouth, the one he wore when he won a bet with himself.

“Congratulations, Jim,” Pike offered after the papers for the assignation had been drawn up: an evening in four days’ time, with the Contess d’Une. The Duke peered more closely at him then. “Something wrong?”

“No, no, nothing.” Jim smiled, putting more effort into his light façade. He even allowed himself a self-confident smirk. “I’ll make sure she gets her money’s worth.”

“I see,” Pike drawled. His gaze shifted and closed, became almost unreadable. “May Naamah give you joy.”

When the day of his first assignation came, Jim took care with his preparations: he selected a brilliant blue tunic he knew would emphasize his eyes as well as the long lines of his form, and leather breeches that molded themselves to his legs and his other—attributes—perfectly. He was surprised when there was a knock on his door: surely the carriage wasn’t ready so soon?

“Come,” he said.

“Greetings, brother.” Spock’s voice was quiet; he stood with his arms behind his back, hands undoubtedly clasped together neatly. “Do you have a moment?”

“Sure,” Jim said immediately. He was rolling up the sleeves of his tunic, exposing his arms to emphasize the lean strength of them. “What’s up?”

Spock cocked his head to the side thoughtfully, then turned and shut the door behind him. “You do realize that you do not have to go through with this if it is displeasing to you,” he surprised Jim by saying. “Our Duke would not fault you in any way. There are other ways to serve.”

“I want my freedom,” Jim blurted, astonishing himself. “That’s all there is to it.”

“No, Jim, it is not.” Spock lifted both of his elegantly arched eyebrows in emphasis. “Your behavior has changed markedly of late—we have all noticed. Nyota is most worried, as am I.”

“And Pike?” Jim wanted to know. “Him, too?”

“He most of all.” Spock looked grimmer than ever, were such a thing possible. “He would say naught—that is his way—but I know it to be true nonetheless.”

Jim felt unaccountably rankled. “As you say then. It doesn’t matter.” He checked himself over once more in the looking glass. “I know what I must do.”

Spock bowed his head. “As you will,” he said. “Only—you do realize that such a contract is a little less than blasphemy, yes?”

Jim said nothing, and Spock left.

The carriage came soon enough.

The Contess’s estate was a half day’s journey from the Duke’s country home. They left mid-afternoon, and when he arrived it was time for the evening meal. The Contess d’Une was a beautiful woman—well, she was D’Angeline, after all. She was perhaps a few years younger than Pike, but she wore them lightly. Her long, dark hair was soft and luxurious, her skin fair and the color of cream. Her eyes were a luminous blue that could almost have rivaled Jim’s own.

As with all his pursuits, Jim threw himself into the matter wholeheartedly. The adepts of Orchis House had assured him that fewer pleasures were greater to practiced lovers than the untutored joy of new Servants, but ever the perfectionist, Jim had studied the
Trois Milles Joies thoroughly. His mind flicked over the pages in his memory like a catalog of delights: Orchid’s Flowering, Kisses of Butterflies, the Jade Fans.

Afterwards the Contess stretched out beside him, idly stroking his damp forehead. “Naamah’s arts suit you,” she said.

“I aim to please,” he said with a grin.

“You do indeed.” Her eyes looked into his, piercing. “You do it for Pike more than Naamah.”
His heart sped up at that. “What do you mean?” he asked, feigning lazy innocence.

“All the Night Court knows your story, lovely boy. An innocent, rescued from captivity by a nobleman who fancies himself an adventurer.” The Contess straddled him once more, and he felt his cock quiver, struggling to wakefulness after its earlier satiation. “You exchanged one form of servitude for another.”

Jim grew cold, but said nothing.

The Lady laughed. “I know you better than you know yourself. I offer you a challenge, because it suits me to do so.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

She whispered in his ear, palming his cock, and he felt himself grow hard again.

When her patron’s gift arrived, he had his freedom. Well, as free as lines of ink could make anyone.

“What are you going to do now?” the Duke asked.

Jim’s marque was yet fresh, and the whole of his skin buzzed and ached with it. He could go wherever he liked, do whatever he liked.

It—scared him to death.

“I don’t know.” He licked his lips, and for the first time in many years, he felt uncertain.
Pike gave him one of his small smiles. “Whatever you decide, you’ll always have a home here, if you want it,” he said. He clapped Jim on the back. “Son.”


Somehow, that was the thing that had decided Jim. He’d had a new family.

And then he lost them.

When he met Bones, it was like rediscovering a part of himself he had thought lost—a part of him that was truly free, truly loved. And Jim was left with nothing to do with him gone but play the delicate game of diplomacy, and keep the peace.

~

Leonard scrubs his hands over his face, eyes burning from too little sleep. More than anything in the world he wants home—Terre d’Ange, Jim’s country estate with its magnificent bathing room of running hot water, and Jim, always Jim.

What he has is a pallet in the longhouse of Goro, near that of his only daughter, a heavily pregnant priestess, and two healers who are just as tired as he. He hasn’t slept in almost two days, though, so even that pallet is merely a sweet, taunting thought.
As it is, he pauses in his work long enough to sit outside Selash’s longhouse for a short break. Dawn is breaking in the early November morning, and the promise of white sun turns his flesh chill.

“I’d give anything for a cup of tea,” Leila Kalomi says, echoing his thoughts. She sits next to him, equally haggard. “D’you remember tea?”

Leonard snorts. “Coffee.”

“Ah yes. D’Angelines do prefer coffee to tea, I had forgotten.” She leans against the longhouse, and makes a face.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not you too!” Leonard turns anxiously to regard her in the low light. Nausea is one of the symptoms of this fever—nausea and loose bowels, rendering the patient dehydrated and thus even more ill-equipped to fight the illness. He presses the back of his hands to her forehead and cheeks, feeling for the tell-tale burn, but it’s not present. Leila coughs and he backs away as she gags dryly for a moment.

“I’ve learned, you see,” she says with something like pride afterwards. “Only the lightest of dinner, and the morning sickness can be dealt with.”

“Morning sick—Leila!” he exclaims as she continues to beam softly. “Congratulations! You and Selash picked a helluva time!”

That makes her laugh. “My dear Selash doesn’t know yet, and I’ll thank you to keep the news to yourself for the moment.” Leila closes her eyes, her smile thoughtful. “I haven’t thought of how to tell him yet—I’m waiting for the right moment, aye? But I think it’s a girl—I hope it’s a girl—”

The report of the pistola is as sharp as a crack of thunder.

“Leila?” Leonard stares at her; she looks confused, blood on the smock of her dress like blooming anemones. “Leila!”

There are more shots now, and he drops instinctively to the ground, holding the botanist close.

She whimpers. “Tell—tell Selash—” But he doesn’t know what to tell Selash, because she’s gone.

He had vaguely been aware of the growing din all around him, but it’s only when he looks up to see a man—bearded, possibly Alban or Tiberian—that he’s aware that, as mad as it seems, a full-fledged battle has developed around him. Maybe it’s luck, or possibly just all those sparring sessions with Jim, but he spins away and knocks his attacker’s legs out from under him. The man falls down to the ground, and Leonard doesn’t hesitate in grabbing the man’s rifle from him, nor from using the butt of it to render the man unconscious. Well, hopefully unconscious; the adrenaline is kicking in now, and with distant shame Leonard thinks of how easy it is for cranial wounds to turn deadly, particularly if there’s sub-cranial bleeding…

“McCoy! What—?” Selash has a dagger in his hands, but he pauses when he sees Leila, going straight and stiff.

Leonard grabs his arm. “We need cover! Now!” He pulls the man inside the longhouse. For a moment he’s afraid his wife’s death has sent him into a deathly shock, but Selash is quick enough in helping Leonard block the doorway with the table they use for preparing herbs, overturned. The ground is dotted with stray bits of greenery, this and that, much of it now lost in the dirt.

When that’s done, he’s uncertain what else to do.

There are at least a dozen sick in here, unable to be moved. Miramanee had been sleeping in the Chief’s longhouse—at Leonard’s own orders, dammit, she’d been so tired and worn and he was worried about the baby, and now he had no idea where she was.

He takes a deep breath, does a quick inventory of everything they have in here, of how to get out if—when—they have to. He turns to Selash. “We need to be ready.”

~

Jim is awake when the messenger comes in the wee hours of the morning. He’s never been good at sleeping without Bones around, so he is the only one awake when there’s a rough knocking on the door. When he opens it, a slip of paper is on the ground; whoever left it, gone.
The paper is a torn page from the Rebbe’s Algonquin Bible. Handwritten in Yeshuite are the characters for Hurry!

“Rand!” Jim bellows. “Pavel, Hikaru, Scotty! We have to go, now!”

The household is awakened in quick order. Rand somehow has their provisions and gear ready just as Kyle leads the horses into the yard.

“What’s happenin’, sir?” Scotty asks, completely dressed but still wearing a ridiculous-looking sleeping cap. Jim pulls it off and places it in the man’s hands.

“Nothing good,” Jim says shortly.

The trip to the docks is brief, and somehow Jim isn’t surprised to see Sam Kirok with his men readying their skiffs.

Sam looks up at him, an expression of forced cheerfulness written across his features. “Ho, Duke Kirk! Fancy a trip upriver?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Jim desperately wants to know how Sam is as ready as they, if he got a message or just knew preternaturally, but he’s too strained to question his luck right now. Instead, he takes a spot at the tiller with Mitchell, and as dawn rises over the Rappahannock, he wishes that their boats could travel as fast as the light on the water.

As it is, they make good time: it had taken them four days before, but with Sam’s men they arrive in three.

And still, they are too late.

They are met by Pamouic and his party in the forest. The man looks exhausted, jaw tight and drawn. “You’ll forgive me if I’m not too happy to see you,” he says dryly, Alban speech pointedly flawless.

“Tell us what’s happened?” Jim says, just as Sam demands, “Miramanee, is she well?” Jim turns to look at him, recognizing the desperation in his voice for what it is.

Pamouic flicks a glance between the two of them. “My sister,” and he lays a careful emphasis on these words, “is well. She attends our father—who is not.”

“Our father will be dead before the day is out.” Parahunt is miserable, grief and anger written across the lines of his body like words.

“Brother!” Pamouic makes the one word a fierce upbraid, but Parahunt does not look at him.

“It’s the ghosts’ fault!” he says, “Why should they not know?”

“We’ve come to help.” Jim licks dry lips, wanting to ask after Bones and completely aware that doing so would be a diplomatic error. A human one, perhaps, but as an ambassador, he is allowed very few of those. Perhaps none.

Pamouic sends Parahunt with them as an escort; the remainder of the men remain with Pamouic on their patrol. “They were Aragonian, I think,” Parahunt says, unbidden. His eyes flash, at Jim and Sam both. “You are my brother, and you would have been. You are something like human. What is the matter with the ghosts, that they would do this thing?”

The village is a dark shadow of what it had been.

Some of the longhouses are still burning when they arrive; others are charred lumps on the ground, not even smoking. A few—too few—are untouched, children peering wide-eyed from the doorways. In the easier days of summer, their youthful nudity had been innocent and cheerful, but amidst the wreck that is their world, they looks vulnerable and bereft.

Thus came the Fall of Man.

Jim isn’t aware of having spoken aloud until Pavel turns to him, eyes wide. “Sir?”

“Nothing, Mr. Chekov,” he says. “I—”

“Jim!”

Hearing Bones’s voice is like being able to breathe after having been submerged in water for—days, Jim supposes. Tears prick at his eyes and his heart stutters in his chest, and he has his arms around the healer without knowing he’d even moved. Bones smells like blood and ash and sweat, but he is whole, and his arms around Jim are tight and warm. They remain like that for seconds or minutes, and when they part, Jim’s eyes never leave his face, that perfect imperfect face with the moles over one eye, the little lines at the corners of his eyes, the green and gold eyes.

“Bones,” Jim says, a single syllable of thanks given, and then Bones is kissing him, hard, teeth clacking against each other, warm hands cupping his neck.

It's a long moment before they are aware of discrete coughing behind them. They break, and Sam looks amused but unapologetic. “Glad to see ye again, Doctor McCoy, I am, really, but would ye mind tellin’ us what exactly has happened—” He stops when Miramanee emerges from a nearby longhouse, face tearstained, expression closed, heavily pregnant. She pauses when she sees them.

Her grace is still there, even with her new center of gravity, even in grief. She nods at them regally as she joins their odd band. “Jim Kirk of Terre d’Ange, be welcome. Sam Kirok.” Her gaze flicks to Bones and then back to Jim. “It is known who our friends are in our darkest hour.”

“Friends,” Sam says, like the word leaves a bad taste in his mouth. He swallows heavily and, to
Jim’s surprise, shifts into flawless Algonquin, gaze unmoving from Miramanee. “Little Mischief, what’s happened here? I dreamed—I had to see—what—” He reaches out to touch her belly, but she takes a step backwards.

“My father, Goro, is dead. My brothers Nantaquas, Pochins, and Taux are dead.” Her voice quakes a little. “The ghost men have done this to us, and war is inevitable now. Some may rejoice at it. I do not.”

~

They all help where they can, rescuing food stores from broken longhouses, repairing what buildings they can, collecting wood for the funeral pyres. The Algonquin are uncharacteristically silent, and it’s clear that even though Jim and Sam and the others might be friends of the tribe, they are still ghosts.

Still among those who had shed their blood.

Bones is immune from this, whether because he was actually present for the attack or because his darker coloring makes him stand out from the other white men, however slightly. The healer is exhausted, his eyes burning holes in skin smudged purple, but he balks at the thought of sleep. Jim, who understands all too well, sits with him as they work at the mindnumbing task of weaving together cornstalks for the funeral ceremonies.

“I thought watching people die from the fever would be the worst of it, d’you know that, Jim?” he asks. His voice is a low, ragged monotone, going on and on, as if now that he’s started talking he can’t stop. “Selash and I worked so hard to save people, and we did, we only lost a couple, Jim! And then there was the attack, and we fought—” He breaks off, licking his lips. “I killed people, Jim. And I’m not sorry for it.

“Oh, Bones.” Jim drops his work, takes his consort in his arms as Bones breaks. He holds onto him tightly through the tears of rage and despair. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so fucking sorry.”

“Sorry,” Bones echoes, ending the word on a hiccup. “Sorry?” He can’t stop hiccupping, which makes him laugh madly, and then cry harder than ever because he’s laughing, and Jim holds him through that too. When he’s done, emptied of everything, he finally sleeps, and Jim wraps him in his coat, and lets him be.

When night falls, Miramanee, Pamouic, Tatacoope, and the tribal elders are secluded for a time with the body of Goro. When they emerge Pamouic is the new chief, the magnificent symbolic cloak with its hem of raccoon tails spread across his shoulders. He raises his staff high and gives the order for the funeral fires to be lit. “Now is the time for mourning. Clear your minds of grief, my brothers and sisters, my fathers and mothers, my sons and daughters. Remember those we have lost. Know they shall be avenged.”

There’s more to it, and it’s a helluva speech, and Jim wishes the world wasn’t burning all around him. So instead he stands with Miramanee when she comes to him, takes her hand in his. “Where is Friend Leonard?” she asks, staring at the flames.

“Sleeping,” Jim says. “I don’t think he’s slept in days and didn’t want to wake him.” He feels like he should apologize for this, but can’t bring himself to do so.

Miramanee nods. “Good. I envy him.” She inhales raggedly, and Jim sees Sam staring at them darkly through the flames before disappearing. She moves to follow, but her way is blocked by Selash.

“And so I have burned two wives, Miramanee, Goro’s daughter.” He uses the old honorific pointedly, and Jim feels cold at the cold bitterness in Selash’s words. “Tell me, is this Okee’s plan?”

“I know not,” Miramanee says miserably. “I’m sorry.”

Selash shakes his head and stalks away.

Miramanee is shaking, and Jim puts an arm around her. She feels cold, and he rubs her arms, trying to get her warm. “Do you trust the gods, Jim Kirk?” she asks after a while.

“I—” He pauses. “I wish I could say yes without reservation, but I can’t. I’m sorry.” He takes a deep breath. “They give and they take, and we’re always told it makes sense, and sometimes it even feels like it, but I—I don’t know, not really.”

The priestess nods her head and presses her hands to his. “I will bear your child into this world. Once I looked forward to teaching him the ways of the world, its beauty, its joy.” She buries her face in his shoulder. “I fear all that has fled, now.”

Jim wants to tell her she is wrong, but the words are stuck in his throat, so instead he holds her close, because that at least is something he can do.

~

In the morning, they find Selash’s body in his longhouse. “Poison,” Bones says after checking the body.

“He had no successor,” Pamouic says, expression blank as he tugs the amulet of Selash’s station from his neck. He turns to Miramanee and hands the thing to her. “You hold all the medicine we have now, my sister. Much good may it do us all.”

“Yes, my brother.” Miramanee holds the amulet, a beaded representation of the sun. “Okee’s will be done.”

Pamouic pauses as he leaves the longhouse. “You should go,” he says to Jim, then flicks his gaze across all of the white men there. “Ghosts have no place here. Not anymore.”

“My brother, wait—” Miramanee says in protest, just as Sam pushes forward. “Pamouic, wait, you know it’s not that simple!”

Pamouic nods in thought, and for a heartbeat Jim thinks he sees sense. Miramanee is still talking. “He’s right, it’s never as simple as ‘us’ versus ‘them’. When you divide people, it’s—Pamouic, what—”

The new Chief has his hands on Miramanee’s shoulders, pushing her back, between Jim and Sam. “You may as well be a ghost now too, my sister. Leave. Now.”

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