?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Heaven is Bloodless, Part Three



Masterpost

Their first glimpse of New Londinium is from the rails of the Enterprize. Rebbe David stands with them, while Hikaru, Pavel, and Scotty fetch their baggage.

“My Ibrahim and Rebekah are saying their fare-thee-wells below,” the Rebbe says, almost in apology. “I will wait here for them.” He smiles at them. “I would be most delighted to continue our acquaintance, if you choose to stay in the city?”

Jim smiles back at the man. “Our plans are uncertain, but we thank you. We have letters of introduction from friends of ours to various persons about town, but we welcome the chance to see a familiar face.”

Bones, holding his healer’s bag with his trunk of medicines at his feet, nods in agreement. “I wouldn’t mind the chance to practice more Yeshuite,” he says.

The Rebbe beams at him. “I must give you a gift at our parting,” he says, searching his robes. “Ah, here it is!” He pulls a small, thick book from some interior pocket, and taking each of their hands he presses the little volume into them. “This,” he says slowly, “is my life’s work. I wish to share it with thee.”

Bones is the one to open it up. The title page is in red, the rest of it in densely printed black letters. It seems to be gibberish.

“It is,” Rebbe David says with not a little pride, “the entirety of the Life of Our Lord Yeshua ben Yosef, translated into the Algonquin tongue.” He gestures at the back of the book. “There is a grammar there, with a guide of pronunciation. I have traveled much among the peoples of these lands. I consider many of them my own sons and daughters, as I do you, my dear friends.”

Bones sounds unexpectedly touched. “We thank you for this, my Father,” he says.

“Not at all, my dear boy, not at all!” The Rebbe waves a dismissive hand, before giving them a self-deprecating grin. “Besides, this is an old man’s way of guaranteeing you to visit him. Did it work?” he asks with exaggerated worry in his voice.

Jim can’t help but laugh. “It did.”

Rebbe David nods at them approvingly. “I wish you every luck, my sons,” he says formally in Yeshuite. In D’Angeline, he continues, “I hope you count me among your friends, yes?”
Bones laughs one of his rare, free laughs. “If you count us among yours, then certainly, Rebbe,” he says.

“Uncle!” Ibrahim appears from below decks, and scowls when he sees them. “Are you ready?”

“Yes, yes, my nephew,” Rebbe David says with his cheerful patience. He bows to them. “Pleasant journeys and peaceful roads, my sons,” he says as he makes a final gesture of benediction. With that, he then follows his family down the disembarkation ramp to the new world.

“Ready, Bones?” Jim grins; it’s mostly not forced. He doesn’t see Captain Kirok around anywhere—and he’s not sure if he’s relieved or disappointed.

“No, but let’s go anyway.” Bones rolls his eyes in mock-grumpiness, and they too leave the ship. Jim shakes his head, chuckling genuinely in an abruptly lighter mood: his consort is ridiculously pleased to be on solid ground once more, this much is obvious.

“Duke! Ower here! My Duke!” Pavel and the others are already ashore; the young man is bouncing up and down in his eagerness.

“I wonder where Chekov got to,” Bones says dryly. “Kid’s like to disappear when he takes a mind to.”

Jim doesn’t think Pavel heard that, but if anything that makes him more animated.

“Ower here!” He waves his arms in the air helpfully. The absurdity of his desperation is underlined by the fact that the Enterprize is the only ship in port at the moment; this early in the season, they are undoubtedly the first to have made the long crossing across the sea to Terra Nova—at least, this part of it. Frankly, Jim would have expected even more hubbub for much the same reason.

“Gentlemen,” Jim addresses all three of his men, “I worried I would never find you in this din of activity.” But he smiles at Pavel when the young man’s eyes grow round with anxiety; he calms down immediately at that.

“We asked directions ta the address the Ki—ta the place we were given,” Scotty hastily corrects himself. Komack had indeed made sure arrangements were made for them, albeit not under his own name.

Bones, who had been carrying his medicinal trunk, puts it down heavily. “Do we know how far?”

“No, but I found us a ride.” Hikaru jerks his thumb in the direction of a wagon nearby. The driver has a long pipe stuck in his mouth, eying them with interest.

“Well done, Mister Sulu,” Jim says, and means it. They load up their bags—one each, plus Bones’s medicines—is all they have in the world, and in the worn clothing from the long months at sea they likely appear an unwashed, ragamuffin bunch. For better or for worse, the wagonman doesn’t care.

It turns out their address is a townhouse in the Alban quarter of the City. It’s nothing compared to the fine residences Jim has known in the City of Elua or on trips to La Serenissima with Pike, but it is among the best the thriving new city has to offer. It consists of two stories in the Alban fashion, with two bedrooms, servant’s quarters, a study and receiving room, a dining room, a kitchen; a small staff with a serving man, a groom, and a woman who acts as maid and cook. She rules them all with a set of massive keys and a gaze of iron.

“My lords,” she greets them when they arrive. “My name is Janice Rand.”

Jim gives her his most charming smile. “Excellent,” he starts to say, but she cuts him off.
“Mister Kyle will take your things upstairs and see that they are put away,” she says, and a man appears to do just that, disappearing just as quickly. “Dinner will be served at half past six—roast duck will be served with corn and potatoes.” She gestures for them to follow her and they do.

“I’ve also asked Mister Kyle to procure a pair of suitable horses for you since I was informed you’d be traveling; they are a pair of bays named George and Gracie. The stables are in the back, of course. I’m going to the market later—are you planning on doing any entertaining this week?” she continues, all seemingly in one breath.

“Er, not that we know of,” Jim says.

“Yet,” Bones snorts in an undertone. Jim shoots him what’s meant to be a glare, but Bones’s hazel glance is eloquent in his amusement, and he feels himself relax.

Rand doesn’t blink, just nods sharply. “Let me know what days and how many, and if there is a preferred menu. I will see it done,” she says.

“Er, beggin’ yer pardon, ma’am,” Scotty raises his cap to her politely, “but what aboot the rest of us?”

Rand blinks as if seeing the other three for the first time. She turns to Jim in confirmation. “Are they staying with us? I was told to only expect two—”

“Who told you that?” Jim asks, more sharply than he meant to, and Rand flinches. “Don’t worry, I’m just—curious.”

It is indeed curious; if she had been expecting them this long, that meant that Komack—or someone—had given her directions as long ago as when the last ships sailed, sometime in November mayhap. The King had spent a long time organizing this little jaunt, and no mistake.

Rand purses her lips, eyes flickering to the other men anxiously. Jim gives her his best calming smile. “Don’t worry, whatever you tell us can be shared with them as well.” He takes in the three of them, who have been journeyed so long and have taken care of him so well, and casts a significant look at Bones at the end. “We are family, after all.”

Rand’s eyes widen, but she nods and bows her head in acquiescence. “As you will, my lord. I had the message from John Gill. He had the orders from the King’s own hand, and showed me his seal.”

“John Gill the historian?” Jim blinks at that. “What’s he doing all the way out here?”

“I’ve read his books,” Hikaru says in astonishment. “Is he even still alive? He must be ancient!”

“He’s not so old as all that,” Jim says. “I met him a time or two—before. He was a friend of Pike’s,” he explains to Bones.

Bones nods, asking no more questions. “That’s fascinating, Jim,” he says flatly, “but as your healer, I’d like to proscribe a bath and a full meal for each and every one of us before we get started on another mystery.”

Jim chuckles. “Fair enough, Bones,” he concedes. He doesn’t miss the sigh of relief—however brief it is—from the others. “Mistress Rand, if you could be as so kind as to find room for our friends, and then we’d do well to follow doctor’s orders.”

Rand blinks rapidly once more, then bows her head again. “Yes, my lord. Come,” she says to the others, and they follow.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” Bones says. The reference is just out of Jim’s reach; as it is, exhaustion hovers abruptly just at the edge of his senses. The healer’s expression softens. “C’mon, you.” They walk together in the direction of their quarters.

“Wow,” Jim says when they are reach the master bedroom. The whole house is immaculate, and a decanter of brandy and a plate of biscuits sit on a small table for them. “I don’t know whether I’m terrified or if I want to take her back home with us.”

“I think she might give Pavel and Scotty heart attacks,” Bones says honestly, pouring each of them a glass, “and there may be a battle to the death with Keenser. I take it back,” he adds, “I might be willing to pay to see that, actually.” He pauses, sipping the brandy. “It’s good stuff. I don’t know who would win.”

“Win the brandy or the battle?” Bones makes a face at him. “You’re terrifying, Bones,” Jim says affectionately, saluting him with his own glass. “I love you.”

~

Rand is fiercely disapproving when Jim brings his maps and books to the dinner table that night.

“Is this going to be a habit, sir?” she wants to know. Hikaru, Pavel, and Scotty blink in surprise, by now used to his habits. In fact, it’s a rare night when Jim doesn’t bring some project of his to dinner with him.

“Most likely,” Leonard answers mildly. “It’s no use arguing with him, believe me.”

Jim grins unapologetically. “When we have a formal dinner, I promise you can go to town with a dozen spoons at each place setting, but when it’s just us, I like things simple.” Without shame, he props his feet up on the table, holding a book open on his lap. “So what are we having for dinner again?”

Rand stares, then disappears back into the kitchen.

“If she’s adding poison to the food, will you be able to save us in time?” Jim asks Leonard. He’s joking—somewhat.

Leonard, having lived most of his life in Balm House and thus shared quarters with a dozen people at a time, has the sense to keep his mouth shut.

Jim eyes him uncertainly. “Am I in trouble?” The other men glance away and say nothing. “Uh oh.”
More stomping, and Rand reappears. She very carefully sets a massive crockery bowl on the table, then glares at Jim. “Sir,” she says, eyes blazing, “do what you like with me. Do what you like with the place settings. But in the name of all that’s holy, do not insult the cooking.”

Jim meets her fiery gaze, and there’s a long silence. Then he shuts his book and places his feet back on the table. “I quite like you, Mistress Rand,” he says, putting a napkin in his lap.

Rand nods in acknowledgement. “Likewise, sir,” she says shortly, and disappears back into the kitchen.

“Right,” Leonard says mildly, “can we eat now, or shall I fetch a ruling stick so we can have a final verdict on the pissing contest?”

“No stick necessary,” Jim says. “Eat up.”

The food is good, Leonard has to admit—and he also entertains himself with a mental vision of a true battle between Rand and Keenser. He’s honestly not sure who would win, either. Afterwards, they nurse small glasses of cordial and make a plan of who they need to see first.

“If Komack is serious about that Ambassador business,” Leonard says at last, “we’ll need to tread carefully—otherwise the Aragonians and the Albans will both cry us foul, and Elua only knows about the Natives.”

Jim is immersed in the Rebbe’s text, studying it carefully. “Maybe we should see our friend the Rebbe sooner rather than later,” he says, not even looking up. “If he’s already been among them, and knows their tongue well enough to translate his Holy Book into it”—and he raps the covers gently—“he may help gain us an audience with their chiefs.”

“And they’ll all have their own local politics to contend with too,” Leonard says darkly. Jim does look up then, raising one eyebrow quizzically. “Hey, I might not be a damned peer or some plaything of the court, but I do know a thing or two about people, Jim!”

“If the situation is as touchy as all that,” Hikaru says, “should we be prepared for—” He doesn’t finish his sentence, because they all know Jim’s history.

Pavel looks at his friend in bewilderment, then swallows heavily as he understands as well. He looks away, muttering something in Muscovite.

“Hopefully it’ll not come to that, gentlemen,” Jim says, giving them all one of his small, confident smiles. The air of tension in the room dissipates immediately. “And on that note, I think we’ve all had enough excitement for one day. Go get some rest, all of you.”

“Aye, sir,” Scotty says with raucous approval, Hikaru and Pavel agreeing more sedately as they all file out. That just leaves the pair of them at the now empty table.

Jim sighs. “This is a thorny mess, Bones,” he mutters, shutting his eyes. “Too many sides, too many players.”

“Hmm.” Leonard thinks a moment. “In healing, we always say, treat the disease and not the symptom.”

Jim opens one eye, his blue gaze intense as ever. “But you diagnose the disease through the symptoms, Bones. How am I supposed to do that?”

“Observation and hypothesis,” Leonard says, with more confidence than he feels. After all, his quip had made sense a moment ago—now he was less sure.

“Indeed.” Jim shuts his eye again, then rubs the both of them tiredly. “Bones, do you feel up for practicing daggers tomorrow?”

Leonard doesn’t even blink. “Will I be the ward or the companion?” is all he wants to know.

“We’ll take turns,” Jim says. “I have a feeling we’ll both need some practice before this is all done.”

~

They rise with the sun, though Jim at least had spent the night waking up intermittently, still feeling the slow rocking of a phantom ship under his pillow. For all that, when the sun is up, so are they.

When they arrive in the dining room, the others are there too, Rand dishing out food from a series of heavy dishes arranged on a sideboard. There’s eggs, sausages, biscuits, porridge, and fruit to go with steaming cups of coffee and tall glasses of juice.

Scotty looks like he is in Heaven and that Rand is, if not Adonai in one incarnation or another, at least one of His angels. Rand herself is either unaware of his regard or is doing a fine job of hiding it.

“This is quite a spread, Mistress Rand,” Jim says in genuine admiration as he takes his place at the head of the table, Bones beside him. “He’s not a morning person,” he adds by way of explanation.

“Let me have some of that coffee and I’ll do my damnedest,” Bones says, and Rand turns to pour him a mug with a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

“Gentlemen,” Jim adds in greeting to the others.

“Sir,” they answer in business-like unison. Scotty doesn’t look up from his plate, but instead continues to shovel eggs and sausage in as if afraid he won’t be able to eat again for a long time. And after weeks at sea, with little beyond hard tack and biscuit, it’s no wonder, he supposes.

Pavel, on the other hand, looks more bright-eyed than ever. “I vanted to ask permission to
explore zhe city today, my Duke,” he says, “unless you have ozher plans in mind?”

Jim eyeballs him, then Hikaru as he takes his own first sip of coffee. “Would you mind accompanying him, Mister Sulu?” he asks lightly. “I’d prefer no one to wander off alone until we have the lay of the land, as it were.”

Hikaru nods, pushing away his empty plate. “Aye, sir. Ready when you are,” he says, turning to Pavel with an easy grin.

“Go ahead,” Jim says when Pavel looks at him with that eager, puppy-like glance again. They are halfway to the door before he even has time to add, “Be back before dinner!” He turns to Bones, saying only half-jokingly, “Good God, Bones, it’s like being a parent!”

Bones snorts. “You’re the goddamn paterfamilias, what d’you expect? Thank you, darlin’,” he says as Rand slips him a plate of food. “He’ll have porridge and fruit.”
Jim sighs as Rand shoots him a questioning look. “Physician’s orders,” he says. “Goddamn paterfamilias indeed.”

Scotty excuses himself shortly thereafter; as Jim’s own man he’ll spend the day putting away their baggage and seeing to the household, and like as not driving Rand mad before his little crush evaporates. He and Bones finish their meal, change into some of their older clothes, and head to the courtyard for their sparring session.

Kyle brings their arms—the traditional paired daggers and vembraces—as Bones draws the sparring circle in the dirt beyond their house.

“Thank you, Mister Kyle,” Jim says as he ties the guards onto his arms

“Not at all, sir,” the man says, then pauses. “Could I—do you mind if I watch?” he asks after a moment. “I’ve never even seen Cassiline arms before!” His eyes are round and avid as Bones takes out his own pair of twin daggers, flipping them in his wrists to warm up.

“They’re not actually Cassiline,” Jim corrects him gently, “just mannered in their style. And yes, you are welcome to stay, if you like.” Kyle nods and retreats to the edge of the courtyard, sitting on a bench to watch.

“We’re just practicin’,” Bones says gruffly, bronze skin darkening slightly as he continues to stretch his arms and legs out in preparation. Jim admires the simple grace of his movements: his consort is a beautiful man, a healer in soul and training, but his ability with arms is remarkable too—especially since he’s only learned to use them since meeting Jim.

Out of the corner of his eyes, Jim can see Kyle’s eyes grow rounder still. The man is Alban in origin, judging from his accent; he may well have never seen a true D’Angeline before, and Bones is D’Angeline to his core. Their folk have the ichor of angels in their veins, even if only by generations upon generations gone; for all that they all have what poets have called a “fearful symmetry” in feature, and Bones had been born to Camellia House, though they had had him fostered in Balm for not meeting their canon of physical perfection. They had traded away a boy with a mind like quicksilver who would become one of the finest healers of his generation for a pair of moles on his brow.

Jim, though he dearly loves his adopted land, has to laugh.

Bones notices his regard and flashes him a grin of amusement. “What are you lookin’ at?”

“You.”

Bones rolls his eyes, but his skin darkens further in a flush of pleasure. “Ready, darlin’?”

“When you are.” Jim salutes him with blades crossed, head bowed and feet spread in the traditional stance.

They bow to one another, and then the bout begins.

Jim remembers the first time they fought together, when Bones visited Pike’s estate on an
assignation: They had bonded over their childhood hero, Joscelin Verreuil, and Jim had admitted it was reading about him in the Ysandrine Cycle that inspired him to learn Cassiline arms. They had used wooden training daggers then. Now Bones uses the silver-handled set Jim had presented to him when they pledged themselves to one another, over a year ago.

Their daggers flash in the sun, the gleaming metal bright and sharp. Neither of them pause or hesitate; like dance, sparring is an art form of motion made pure, and Bones is eloquent in his movements here as he is nowhere else, save perhaps when he practices his gift. Each lift and thrust, every dodge and bend as they enact first the telling of the hours and then the other forms of the Cassiline craft is poised and graceful. Knowing each other as well as they do, trusting one another’s bodies as they do their own, they are able to fight like they are making love: secure in each motion, confident in every gesture.

They pause, wordless, acknowledging each other with small smiles of pleasure, before the fight begins again—faster this time, holding back less.

Bones is not a violent man by nature, but he is passionate in all that he does, Jim knows. This trait, like so many others, is one that Jim loves about him. Like his sometimes brutal honesty, his movements are sharp and quick, always hitting his goal. As they strike and dodge, whirl and kick, Jim thanks Adonai for having created such a man as his consort and Elua for letting him share his heart.

At last they break. Neither of them are winded, but they both sport a fine sheen of sweat. Jim becomes aware of some whistling and applause, and turns: the men Kyle and Scotty are both watching nearby, as is Rand. He and Bones exchange a surprised glance of amusement, and then as one they turn and bow to their audience.

~

After their bout, they retire to their rooms for a bath. Leonard misses their comfortable country estate, then, with its magnificent bathing chamber and its Tiberian faucets of hot and cold running water. Their townhouse here has a small room equipped with a porcelain tub, its clawed feet balancing on hardwood floors. Leonard knows that in the new colony, they are lucky to even have such an amenity, but considering it’s only built to hold one comfortably, he decides that the Albans are damn fools who don’t know what they are missing.

At least until Jim surveys it as well, looking over his shoulder at him with a sly smile. “Share, Bones?” he suggests, and they do.

At length, and perhaps rather more than necessary. If Mistress Rand or Mister Kyle are scandalized by the length D’Angelines take to bathe, or how they somehow manage to get rather more water on the floor than can be explained by most hygienic activities, they at least have the grace to say nothing.

Afterwards they clothe themselves once more in attire suitable for the business of diplomacy, collect their letters of introduction, and return to the courtyard where Mister Kyle waits with the pair of horses that Rand had acquired.

Scotty looks on, disapproving. “Beggin’ yer pardon for me sayin’ so, sir,” he says with a scowl, “but it’s a bloody disgrace to yer honor to nae have a carriage at the least!”
Jim mounts his horse easily—the one called George, Leonard thinks, and sits easily. “’Seek not the bubble reputation,’ Mister Scott. Bones?”

“I’m comin’.” Leonard frowns at the other horse, Gracie. She seems placid enough and stays in place as he places one hand on the saddle. He pauses a moment more in hesitation, and that’s enough for Kyle to pipe up too.

“D’you need a hand, sir?” the man asks politely.

“No, thanks,” he mutters, and placing one foot in a stirrup, vaults himself onto Gracie’s back. His mount snorts briefly, to his relief, but unfortunately, he is—backwards in the saddle.

Jim laughs. “Bones, if you’ve never ridden before, all you had to do was say so!”

“Shuddup, Jim.” Leonard dismounts and then quickly remounts again, getting on right this time at least.

“Okay, look.” And Jim, damn him, of course knows how to ride perfectly, though he’s never done so in the two years they’ve been together. He turns his horse around so they are face to face, letting the reins lie loose and nudging George lightly with his stirrups so the horse takes a few steps until they are parallel with one another. “Alban saddles, Alban horses. Hold the reins like so to go—” he demonstrates “—and to stop. Use your heels and the stirrups to show her which direction to go in. Got it?”

Kyle still looks discomfited. “Maybe I should accompany your lordship—” he starts.

“Got it,” Leonard says abruptly, holding himself like Jim and holding onto the reins. “Let’s go, then.”

Jim nods, giving him a small smile, and they are off.

New Londinium is a different city when you aren’t completely exhausted and wobbling back and forth after being cooped up in a ship for weeks, Leonard notices. He’s still far from comfortable on his horse, but to his own surprise he finds himself eager for the sights and sounds of a habitation that isn’t enclosed by wooden decks or miles of sea.

The smells, though, that he could live without.

The streets of the new colony are not paved; they are dirt beaten flat by the wear of traffic. When it rains, they will no doubt turn to thick mud and exacerbate the insects that flit through the air. There are gutters and alleys where waste—human and animal—has been tossed or shoved aside. Leonard makes a mental note to ask Rand whether she boils water before using it for cooking and cleaning, and if he finds she does not, he will instruct her to do so, immediately.

The structures throughout the city are largely wood, with some dwellings here and there built with red brick. They pass through the residential streets first before coming to a large square beset with a dozen stalls and shops, men and women alike hawking their wares: bread, meat, and fish; grain and spices; barrels, wheels, and iron-wrought tools. All the necessities of life lived on the edge of civilization.

Leonard McCoy has never considered himself a creature of luxury—far from it, in fact, even though he was once a Servant of Naamah—but there are some things a man needs, after all.

He tugs at Gracie’s reins, slowing her to a stop. “Is there an apothecary anywhere about?” he asks a woman with dusky skin burned by the sun.

She frowns at him. “Non lo so,” she answers with a frown. “You know Tiberian?”

,” Jim says immediately, and repeats the question in her language. Her face clears immediately and she responds. “Yes, three streets over, at the blue sign,” Jim translates, thanking her. “I thought you brought everything you needed with you, Bones?”

“Everything I had, yes,” Leonard says as they start on their way again. “But some things can only be gotten back home and—” He shrugs, frowning. “S’pose I run out? S’pose any of you get sick or injured? I need to be prepared for anything out here, Jim!”

Jim nods, jaw taut. He looks off into the distance as they continue to wind their way through the narrow streets, coming to another residential area—this one much, much finer than their own. “Yeah, you do, Bones,” he says softly. “I shouldn’t have brought you here. I’m sorry.”

A line of ice trickles along the line of Leonard’s spine. Forcing more confidence into his voice than he really feels, he says, “Like you had a choice. And believe me, you’ll need me to save your scrawny ass before all is said and done.” And with that uncanny sensation of wings in the pit of his stomach, he knows he has just said something very true indeed, and in the warm afternoon sun of early spring, he feels frozen to the core.

Next

Latest Month

November 2017
S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow