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Heaven is Bloodless, Part Six



Masterpost

The village is not far, a bustling settlement with dozens of longhouses. There are numerous racks where fish dry in the sun; their main source of food, apparently.

They walk in small groups, the Rebbe David with Pamouic, Nantaquas and Taux with Pavel, Hikaru, and Scotty, followed by Ruth and Aaron. Selash walks alone, watching Bones curiously, while children cluster around the healer eagerly, asking him dozens of questions at once in a mix of D’Angeline and their own tongue. Bones laughs as he talks to them, answering all of their eager queries patiently. He’s very good with them, Jim sees, relaxed and gentle in a way he seldom is with adults.

“Where are you traveling to?” Miramanee asks Jim curiously.

“We came to find you, actually,” Jim answers. “We’re—curious, you might say. I study languages,” he adds, making it sound as if that were their purpose.

“The ghosts have many tongues,” Miramanee nods.

“Ghosts?”

She makes a face. “It is what we call your kind,” she says. “You are so pale—like the dead. Not him, though,” she says, nodding at Bones. “He looks like a human being.”

“Gee, thanks,” Jim says, as Bones snorts with laughter, having overheard.

Miramanee chuckles at that. “Sorry,” she says with a smile that’s apologetic and impish at once. “But you do look different than we do.”

“Yeah, well.” Jim shrugs, smiling pleasantly. “People from different places all look different, but we’re the same inside. Men and women from Chin are very different from D’Angelines, just like we’re different from you.”

“Is Chin a long way away?” she asks curiously.

“Oh yes,” Jim says. “It’s as far away from Terre d’Ange as Terra Nova is from Alba.”

Miramanee makes a thoughtful noise. “I think I understand,” she says slowly. She looks rueful then. “I am the priestess of our folk. It is forbidden for me to leave our home, even did I wish to do so.” There’s something in her tone beyond simple regret, but Jim can’t quite identify it, not yet.

“If you like, the next time we visit I’ll bring some pictures to show you. In books,” he explains.

“Like the Yeshuites have?” Her tone is trepidation mixed with something like hope. She looks directly in his eyes and he is startled, but then she looks away. “Rebbe David sought to teach me the ghost magic, and I have some skill at it, but—I crave more.”

“I’ve heard that the Yeshuites have been trying to convert your people,” he says carefully, somehow discomfited by her searching gaze.

“They tell us our gods are false. Do you believe this thing?” Her voice is surprisingly calm, but he can feel heat beneath her words.

“No,” Jim says immediately. “I believe we all have our gods, and we all do honor to them in our own way.”

“Hmm.” This mollifies her. “Mayhap you are a person after all, ghost Jim Kirk.”

He chuckles. “That works for me.”

That night there is a feast. The villagers crowd around them with interest, patting at their clothes and faces. Both Bones and he learn to just sit still and smile pleasantly when this happens—people stroking their short hair, or fingering their tunics. Bones’s freckles seem to hold particular fascination for them.

“I feel like a doll,” Bones murmurs quietly as an older woman runs her finger along the line of his nose.

“They are very touchy-feely,” Jim agrees, beaming at a little girl who peers at him, her nose close to his own. She giggles, tugging his ears gently before scampering off. “But they’re not afraid of us. I chalk that up to a win.”

At last Goro stands up, and the villagers lapse into silence. Miramanee whispers a quiet translation of her father’s words for their benefit.

“My people! Today there has been a miracle, and life has been restored where once it was lost. We welcome these bringers of joy, Leonard McCoy and Jim Kirk. Treat them as your brothers and sons, as will I!”

With that an older woman approaches them, placing garlands woven of flowers on their heads.

“Nice hat,” Jim says to Bones, who squints his eyes at Jim briefly in mock-annoyance.

“Come, my father wishes to speak with you in private,” Miramanee says to Bones. She takes him by the arm, and they disappear into her father’s longhouse.

Jim remains where he is, and a boy brings him a bowl filled with food: a mixture of stewed fish and grain, and pieces of fruit. “Thank you,” Jim says in his fledgling Algonquin, and the boy gives him a gap-toothed smile.

“Welcome,” he says, and runs off.

Jim peers around: no one seems to be using any sort of utensils, so he uses his fingers to eat. The food is simple and good, and he eats it slowly, trying not to be impatient as he waits for Bones to return.

At last the three merge from the chief’s house. Strangely, both Miramanee and Bones look—well, gobsmacked. There’s no other word for it, really: it’s a mixture of shock, bewilderment, politeness, and hesitance. Goro beams at them both, placing one hand on each of their shoulders, and then strides off.

Miramanee looks up at Bones, biting her lip, then running off with her hands over her face.

“Oh, that can’t be good,” Jim says to himself as Bones returns. His consort sits down heavily next to him. “What just happened?”

“I think I just got married, Jim.” Bones looks shell-shocked. “To Miramanee.”

~

Jim keeps waiting for his consort’s words to make sense. Even when they were in one of the temporary dwellings, a tent-like construction of wooden timbers and hide that seemed to be the equivalent of a guest house for visitors, he thinks it will just come together in his head somehow.

It doesn’t seem to happen, though.

“Explain this to me one more time, Bones,” he says, scrubbing his hands over his face.

Bones opens his mouth to answer, but doesn’t get a chance to, because that’s when Miramanee enters. She looks calmer now, though her eyes are still red from crying.

“Are you okay?” Bones immediately asks the priestess. His voice is carefully soft, the tone he uses when visiting nervous children, or reassuring their parents.

Miramanee holds her chin up proudly. “I am the priestess of my tribe. I do what I must for my people,” she says.

“Okay, yeah, that’s great,” Jim says impatiently. “Now could you tell us what exactly that means?”

Bones sighs. “Normally this is where I’d call him an idiot,” he says to Miramanee with something like apology, “but all things considered, I’m kinda with him on this one.”

Miramanee looks back and forth between the two men hesitantly. Then she sits down in front of them, her legs crossed in the Algonquin fashion. Looking at Bones, she says, “My father believes you to be a miracle-worker—one of the gods’ chosen, even.” She pauses. “He wishes me to bear your child that your power might benefit our tribe.”

“Look, Miramanee, I can’t marry you,” Bones says quickly. “You see, I’m already married to someone else, and—“

Miramanee waves her hand in dismissal. “We are not joined in this fashion,” she says. “We are hardly joined at all. My father wishes the child of your seed, that is all.”

Bones’s mouth hangs agape for a moment, before he finally closes it with a short snap. “Oh,” he says intelligently.

“Well, that’s not so bad, then,” Jim says with more optimism than he feels. “What?” he says when the other two glare at him.

“D’Angeline arrows shoot ever straight then, do they?” Miramanee asks tartly.

“Well, as it happens,” Jim starts, but Bones interrupts him.

“Look,” he says, “you’re a very nice young woman, and while I’m sure that many men would be honored to—be of service—in this way, I would rather not. Thanks anyway.” He gets up hastily and leaves.

Jim and Miramanee stare at one another in his absence. “So,” Jim says after a long moment, “is this a—common—custom of your people?”

The priestess rolls her eyes at him. “In the old days, yes, it was. My people are quite different from yours—here, the women choose their husbands. Our lines are traced through the mother, rather than the father. I protest my lack of choice, rather than the man,” she explains.

At that, Bones stumbles back into the dwelling. An older woman sticks her head in and glares fiercely at the three of them, then withdraws.

“Welcome back, Bones,” Jim says dryly. “Who was your friend?”

“My grandmother,” Miramanee answers.

“Ah,” Bones says, looking more off-kilter than ever. “She’s—er—charming.”

The priestess shoots him an annoyed look but says nothing. She just stares at the ground, and looks like she’s about to cry again.

Jim and Bones exchange a sympathetic look. “Look,” Bones says, placing a hand on her shoulder, “we don’t actually have to do anything, okay? We can say that we did—Jim will vouch for us,” he adds helpfully.

Miramanee looks bemused at the notion. “Such things are often done in your land?”

“Sometimes,” Jim answers. “The, er, with three people, or two watching, not so much the people pretending to have sex instead of actually having sex. As far as I know anyway,” he concludes thoughtfully.

Bones rolls his eyes at Jim’s roundabout answer. “Yes,” he says shortly, “such things are done where we come from. Is that better now, darlin’?” His thumbs rub at the tear tracks on her face, and Miramanee gives him a tremulous smile.

“Yes,” she says slowly, “I think that is better. For now, at least. But,” she adds just as Jim feels like he can start to breathe easily again, “what about those waiting outside?”

“Those waiting outside?” Bones echoes.

Jim stares, then sticks his head outside to look. Sure enough, there are about a dozen Algonquin seated outside—presumably to be witnesses of a sort to the consummation. They look at him stonily: not with disapproval so much as confusion, he thinks. “Hi,” he says, smiling brightly, and then swiftly returns.

“Congratulations, Bones, we have an audience,” he says. Bones looks horrified, and pops his head out to look as well. His face is flushed with anger and embarrassment when he looks at them again.

“This is ridiculous,” he growls. “Suppose I actually did want to—to participate? That crowd out there would kill the mood quick enough!”

Miramanee frowns. “I thought you said such things were not unusual in your land?” she says.

“They’re not unusual,” Jim answers. “Well, much. But everyone’s different. Not everyone likes an audience.”

The priestess shakes her head. “Shall we not just get it over with?” she asks miserably.

“No!” both men exclaim at once.

She stares at them, then laughs bitterly. “Am I so abhorrent to you ghost men, then?”

“Look, where we’re from—people having sex against their will is considered the highest heresy,” Jim says.

“And it’s pretty clear that you’re here because your father wants you to be, and not because you want to be,” Bones says. “That’s what we call coercion—and not much better than outright rape, as far as we’re concerned.”

“So what are we going to do?” Miramanee asks.

Jim exhales, and swallows the urge to laugh hysterically. He’s been in many strange positions in his life, but an imaginary threesome is probably the oddest. “We’re going to put on a show,” he says.

Some time later, Jim leaves the tent to find the equivalent of a public latrine. Several members of the original audience are still out there. He makes a show of exhaling and fanning himself, as if he had just completed a strenuous workout.

“Yeah, that was something,” he says, and goes to do his business.

When he returns, the area outside their tent is empty. Smiling to himself, he steps back in.

Bones and Miramanee lie on their sides, facing one another.

“Did it work?” she whispers.

“I think so,” he says. He lies down next to Bones, spooning his body against his
consort’s. “Nothing to do but wait and see.”

No one says anything in the morning, as it turns out. There are lots of smiling, knowing looks, and some of the younger women giggle when they see Miramanee, or sigh wistfully when they see Bones, but that’s it.

~

That might have been the end of it, but for two things. The first is the arrival of Samuel Kirok into the Algonquin camp.

Midmorning, a low murmur can be heard from the edge of the village, rolling like waves until it reaches their party. Jim had been chatting with the Rebbe, who, while disapproving of Goro’s insistence that the priestess join their tent, found their method of dodging his demand a great jest.

“Ha!” he had said, slapping Jim’s back hard enough to sting. “I am grateful you are on the side of angels, my boy, for I despair to think what should happen were it otherwise!”

“I trust that discretion will remain the better part of valor?” Miramanee asked coolly, but she relaxed when the Rebbe nodded and pressed his palm to her forehead in benediction.

“Always, my child,” he promised, and she started to give him a smile—and froze, eyes wide and unseeing. Jim was abruptly reminded of a deer in the forest when a hunter is near: Miramanee’s every muscle was paused but ready to leap away in a mad dash.

Peace, little sister. Peace. The voice from yesterday: Jim had forgotten until this moment.

“Bones?” he asks, hoping against hope maybe his consort had heard it as well, but the healer is looking away where increasing crowds of people are heading.

“What’s happening?” Bones wants to know, and for better or for worse Taux arrives at their tent.

“Sister, Sam Kirok has returned!” he tells Miramanee breathlessly. “He has brought friends with him!”

Jim feels frozen himself for a split-second at Sam’s name, but he abruptly thaws when Miramanee says, “Forgive me, I must go,” and takes off at a dead run. Jim and Bones exchange a wordless look and take off after her.

“Don’t mind me,” Rebbe David says, “I’ll just be right here.”

Jim would feel horribly guilty about that if he didn’t want to know what his brother was doing here, or why Miramanee looks like she wants to run away as much as she wants to run towards Sam.

They find Kirok with two of his sailors, Gary Mitchell and Lee Kelso, and the Algonquin woman and children they had seen only days previous. Pavel, Hikaru, and Scotty are already there, greeting the men from the Enterprize amiably. When they arrive, however, Sam looks up, and it’s clear he has eyes for none but the priestess.

“Hello, Little Mischief,” Sam says with an insouciance that reminds Jim, uncomfortably, of himself. “Miss me?”

Miramanee doesn’t answer; instead, all of her attention is on the Algonquin woman. “Nakoma, are you well? What happened?”

The woman’s response is a flood of Algonquin so rapid that Jim can only pick out phrases—“the Cayuga came” and “the Aragonians blame all the People” and “the fever spreads.”

“How much of that did you catch, Jim?” Bones wants to know.

“Not near enough.” Jim can feel eyes on him, and looks up to see Sam’s curious gaze. “Out of the pan and into the fire, hey, Bones?”

Bones grunts darkly but follows him as he approaches Sam. Miramanee is focused on Nakoma and her children, hastening them away.

Jim pauses. “Second thought. Bones, go help Miramanee. I’ll talk to Sam.” Bones looks like he thinks he should argue but doesn’t want to; Jim gives him a grin. “She needs it more than I do. Go be a healer, Bones.” That makes him subside, and he follows the priestess willingly. Jim allows himself a deep breath before he faces Sam.

“Fancy seein’ you here, Kirk,” Sam says. There’s an unpleasant tenor to his voice that makes both his sailors and Jim’s men pause. The Algonquin are largely focused on the returning Nakoma and only a silent, watchful Pamouic is paying them any mind. “You do get around, don’t ye?”

“I’m the ambassador of Terre d’Ange,” Jim says with an easiness he doesn’t feel. “You’re quite the traveler yourself, Kirok.”

Sam gives him something like a true smile. “I’m an explorer, Duke. That kinda requires traveling, amongst other things.”

“Of course,” Jim nods. “I hadn’t realized you were so—fluent in Algonquin.”

“There’s lots of things you don’t know about me,” Sam says, and Jim realizes it’s true. The twenty years they had been apart had marked them both deeply—and in very different ways. For all that he had tried to observe—tried to talk—to Sam, they were far from the brothers they had once been.

Gary Mitchell coughs, and Sam turns to him with a gaze like fire. “Uh, Captain, do you have any—orders?” The sailor sounds abashed, but his eyes flick to the other white men nearby, as well as those last Algonquin watching them all curiously.

Sam pauses, then exhales. “We’ll stay here at least the night. I have to go make honor to Chief Goro. If you think the pair of you can stay out of trouble, you’re welcome to a bit o’ leave. Pamouic?” He turns to the man, who gives him a shake of the head and the faintest quirk of the lips.

“Ghosts,” he says, filling the word with all the world-weariness he no doubt feels.

~

The second thing that happens is that they find Leila Kalomi, the Alban botanist.

Pamouic takes Sam Kirok to see Goro, so Jim returns to Miramanee’s tent in search of Bones. He instead finds his consort in the longhouse of Selash, the tribe’s own healer, and with them is Selash’s new wife—Leila herself.

“I tried explaining to them what Escabarres had told us, Jim,” Bones says after he makes the round of introductions. “It makes less sense than ever.”

“It’s probably wishful thinking,” Leila says ruefully. She is unusually beautiful for an Alban woman: tall, with long golden hair and a complexion like peaches and cream. “My academic pursuits make me an unusual creature for a woman. My affection for the people here make me an outright fool, according to some.” Her glance to Selash is warm.

Selash squeezes her elbow in affectionate comfort, then faces Jim. “More concerned am I that the ghost men—that the colonists—think we are immune to the fevers,” he says. His speech is very careful; it’s obvious he struggles with the Alban tongue, but except for an odd turn of phrase or confusion of syntax, he is a clear and confident speaker. “We suffer as much as they.”

“If they knew—” Jim starts, then stops. How could they not know? Even with travel along the river making settlements days apart, the distances are not so long as all that, not for people determined to make peace.

“Something stinks to high heaven around here,” Bones says with his typical frankness. “Leila and I have been talkin’ herbs and remedies. There’s nothin’ these folk have that hasn’t already been shared, that I didn’t see in shops at New Londinium. But—”

“But people there are scared. Yeah, Bones, I’m following you.” Jim scratches his neck in distraction. “Nothing here adds up. Not a bit of it.”

~

The noon meal is shared communally once more. Bowls of crab stew and pieces of flat, sweet cornbread served on leaves are shared out. Bones sits with Leila and Selash, continuing their in depth discussion of herbs and other plants that Jim can’t quite keep up with, so he ends up sitting with the Rebbe and Pamouic, Nantaquas, and Taux, listening to the Yeshuite lessons with half an ear. Johann and Ruth have relaxed, the woman even going so far to laugh at some jest Taux has made.

Further down, he sees Miramanee sitting with Sam, her father, and another Algonquin man he doesn’t recognize. The man’s dark headpiece of feathers and beads is worn in a different fashion than those of the others they have seen thus far. A sign of a different tribal allegiance, perhaps? Miramanee looks increasingly unhappy, a furrow between her brows, and she stands abruptly, with words he cannot hear, and to his surprise, walks up to Jim herself.

“Walk with me, Ambassador Kirk,” Miramanee says shortly. He can feel tension radiating from her palpably. “We must have words.”

“Be careful, little sister,” Pamouic says with a resignation that Jim knows only too well.

“I am Okee’s Own before I am Pamouic’s sister or Goro’s daughter.” Miramanee’s words are sharp and Pamouic flinches, but says nothing.

“We are all equals before God, my child,” the Rebbe says gently.

Miramanee frowns. “You say my God and your God are same, Good Father, but increasingly I doubt it. Are you coming?” she asks Jim.

He gets to his feet. “Where are we going?”

“The forest.” She’s walking quickly, and he lengthens his strides to match her. He feels eyes on them, and with his peripheral vision he can see Sam, frowning at them both. She takes an elaborate path through the woods, and he shifts so that most of his concentration is on keeping up with her. The deeper they go, the more palpably she calms, until they find themselves in a small clearing, yellow dandelions dotting the green like butter.

“What’s the matter, Miramanee?” Jim says carefully. Her breathing has slowed, and she is gazing at him now with an unnerving intensity. She opens her mouth to speak, then closes it again, looking towards the treeline. “What is it?”

“You can come out, Leonard McCoy,” Miramanee calls out, to his surprise. “I can see you.”
Bones emerges from the undergrowth, looking annoyed. “How?” he demands, “I know I was quiet, and Jim didn’t see me, I can tell!”

Miramanee’s lips curve. “I am a creature of the forest, healer. It is my second home. Can you hear them?” she asks Jim.

“Hear what?” he asks, but he can hear—something. It’s like laughter, dozens of little voices lifted together, swelling like the river waves against the shore or a rippling breeze over grass.

You do, you hear us, we know it! It’s definitely laughter now, old and young at once. Little brother, oh little brother, laugh with us!

He can feel the rush of sudden amusement inside himself, but doesn’t quite trust it—can’t bring himself to do. “What—who are they?”

“We call them the Jogah. Anyone can hear them if they listen, but I am Okee’s own—to me, they are as clear as you.” Miramanee is quiet a moment. “You heard them before, yes?”

Jim nods silently, listening. It reminds him of the beating of wings he had heard—before.

“What are the—Jogah?” Bones asks curiously. His brow is furrowed, his gaze flicking back and forth between the priestess and his consort. His eyes are very wide, and Jim has no doubt that he hears them as well.

“They are—spirits, I suppose you would call them,” Miramanee says slowly, her words thoughtful. “They live around us, influencing those in their spheres. The Gahonga are the spirits of rocks and streams, and the Gandayah look over the earth.” She drops her voice to barely above a whisper, and both men come close to listen. “The Odhows protect us from the evil ones.” She shivers. “They are here now.”

“Who’s here?” Jim asks, just as quietly. “The—Odhows?”

She nods, and she looks around them. The sun feels cooler than it had been moments before. Miramanee tilts her head as if listening. “They brought you here,” she says at last. “They meant for you to be here, in this place. Now. For us.”

Bones snorts, the sound loud in the very still air. Both Miramanee and Jim jerk slightly in response. “That’s ridiculous! We came by ourselves, on a ship!”

The priestess glares at the man. “When I first met you, I thought you had to be a creature of the gods, to have brought that boy back from the other world with your breath. You may think naught of it, healer, but mark my words, you are here at the will of the gods, whether you like it or no!”

Bones draws back, astonished but silent: off kilter. Jim recognizes that look all too well: though a Servant of Naamah, Bones was also very much a creature of Earth, with little patience in things that were—beyond. Nonetheless, from the moment they had come together two years ago, they had both felt an odd connection between them, a shared recognition that as Naamah’s Grace settled around them, they were meant to be together. The rational part of Jim’s mind thought of it as intense attraction, plain and simple, but another part of him—the part of him that was Pike’s student as well as an adept of Naamah—knew it meant somewhat more.

The gods use their chosen hard. Pike’s words are from his memory: as loud as if his foster-father had been speaking nearby. Jim stiffens, feeling ice and warmth along his spine at once.

For the first time, he had an inkling of what this meant for them, here and now. They had come for Komack and for Sam, but to find Mattheu here, and Gill and Escabarres as well, and Miramanee—

“Chosen,” Jim murmurs to himself.

“What’s that, Jim?” The healer’s eyes on him are dark and curious.

“Nothing,” Jim says. He forces his expression into one of light cheerfulness, and though he fools neither his consort nor Miramanee, they seem unwilling to fight him. “Why did you bring me here, anyway?” he asks the priestess.

To his surprise, she flushes darkly, but she looks unapologetic. “I changed my mind.”

Jim glances at Bones, and as one they realize what she really means.

“Oh,” says Jim.

“No,” says Bones.

Miramanee is darker than ever, but holds her ground. “You said such things are not so unusual in your land.”

“We also said that we wouldn’t sleep with someone who was coerced.” Bones looks sour, and then surprisingly, his expression softens. “Whatever the Chief said—”

“I ask for myself, not for Goro!” Miramanee’s eyes flash, and where once there had been laughter tickling at Jim’s skull, there is now the beating of wings. And abruptly, she is near tears. “And because—because—”

Without thinking, Jim leans in, taking her in his arms. “Shh,” he says. “Shh.” She clings to him, and he’s very aware of the heat of her body below her dress, of full breasts against his chest, the warm scent of her hair. He pulls back, looking at her closely. Her eyes are closed, and there are tear tracks on her face, and he can feel Naamah’s Grace settling around them all, as comforting as a blanket. “Bones?”

The healer nods, reaching forward, taking the pair of them into his arms. He was raised and trained in Balm House, the House of Healing. Above all, he knows that sex is not just about pleasure or children, but also affection and comfort and cleansing. Something the woman in their arms desperately needs.

The Jogah murmur their approval, audible beneath the beating of wings.

“Miramanee,” Jim mutters against her neck, asking one last time. “Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Yes,” she murmurs, voice unsteady. “And—”

A child, a child, the Jogah supply, to replace that which was lost.

Jim meets Bones’s eyes over Miramanee’s shoulder; her arms clasp around him, almost guiltily.

Neither of them will ask about the loss. It’s enough that they are wanted—needed, right now.

“Blessed Eisheth, we give you honor,” Bones murmurs in prayer as Jim’s lips descend to Miramanee’s.

The woman trembles in his arms, but not from fear: No, she’s hungry for this. The familiar upswell of pride and desire mix in him, releasing warmth into his belly and cock. He is still Naamah’s Own, and her Grace flutters around the three of them. Jim runs teasing fingers along Miramanee’s arms, making her shiver; Bones’s lips trace the curve of her neck. She sighs, looking up at him, her eyes dark and heavy-lidded.

“Miramanee,” he murmurs, making a caress of her name with low tones. In Terre d’Ange, all the arts of love are treated with a study not unlike science or music or language. (He had teased Nyota once for her talented tongue; Spock had been less amused than she.) He kisses her again, taking his time as he sucks on her bottom lip, flicks her tongue with his. Her exhalation of surprised pleasure is like some small, unexpected victory as he presses her back into Bones’s arms.

His consort is tugging at her leather dress, pulling it up to expose her legs and then her thighs. Her skin is smooth, a darker echo of Bones’s own bronze, and the hair at the juncture of her thighs is a silky black. She is damp already, and Jim and Bones each press a hand against her mound, eliciting a soft whimper.

“Play with her, Bones,” Jim orders, and the healer shifts slightly so that he can slip his fingers between her thighs, toying with her pearl of Naamah. He himself bends his head to suckle at her nipples, already hard points against the material of her dress. He bites one lightly just as Bones does some thing to make Miramanee cry out and buck her hips upwards. “Do you like that?”

“Uh huh.” Miramanee’s laugh is a low ripple of delight. “Your turn.” Jim lets her push him back, admiring as she removes her garment and tosses it aside with a graceful gesture that would not have been out of place in Terre d’Ange. Naked, he can see the full swells of her breasts with the hardened tips of her small nipples, appreciate the softness of her belly and her wide hips.

She unlaces his tunic, sucking at his exposed flesh hungrily; she leaves a dappled trail of marks down his chest to the hem of his breeches. She fumbles with the ties there, then pulls out his cock and takes the head of it into her mouth, sucking eagerly. Her mouth is warm and wet and he closes his eyes, allows himself to enjoy the pleasure of her heat. He opens them again when she pulls away with a small sound of pleasure.

Bones has her in his arms, wide hands covering her breasts, his thighs pressed to her buttocks. Jim can easily imagine the healer’s own cock, hard and heavy against her, eager to slip inside of her. “You’re both so beautiful,” Jim murmurs with genuine appreciation, reminded of the old Hellenic tale of how men and women were once one creature, two heads and four arms and four legs.

“Now,” Miramanee mutters as Bones’s hand slips down to her mound once more, testing her readiness. “Please!”

“Alright, darlin’,” Bones says, catching Jim’s eye. “Alright.” The pair of them are already kneeling on the ground; it’s only a matter of shifting slightly and then he’s inside her, the pair of them moving together like doves in flight as Jim works himself in tandem. He intends to finish with them, but he’s still hard when she arches in delight, Bones coming with a heavy grunt.

Miramanee fixes him with an unexpectedly firm expression. “Wait for me,” she says, still breathing hard, and then she slips off of Bones and onto him. Her heat is all he could have dreamed of, so hot and sweet, and she is slick with her own pleasure and that of Bones as well—and that’s the thing that does it, the thought of Bones in her, too, that sparks his own release, and Miramanee bears full down on him at the same moment, and the sounds of their joy are one.

~

Afterwards, the three of them lie in the grass, sated. The air is cool on their bodies, and Miramanee shivers. Jim instinctively slides his body against hers, a warming presence. Bones strokes her hip gently, then brushes his fingers along Jim’s thigh. The two look beautiful curled up together, Jim has to admit: him all planes and angles, her with soft curves and long, graceful lines from toe to thigh. They remind him of a pair of lovers from a Tiberian poem:
Paolo and Francesca, buffeted about for eternity in the Yeshuites’ Hades for their adultery, cursed and not caring because they were together.

Only Yeshuites could manage to hate love, he thinks uncharitably, then wincing at himself, he murmurs an apology to Adonai.

“Thank you,” Miramanee says after a time.

“You’re welcome,” Jim says, but Bones makes a face that’s more than a bit comical, and he laughs. “What is it?”

“I guess—I’ve just—I’ve never been thanked for sex before,” Bones says at last, the tips of his ears pink.

“Gods, I’m remiss then,” and Jim leans forward to kiss him impulsively.

Miramanee laughs, a low pleased sound. “I envy the pair of you,” she says frankly. “You make it all seem—easy.”

“Nothin’s ever easy, darlin’,” Bones says to her, kissing her as well.

“Mmm.” Miramanee makes a thoughtful sound, and they are quiet again. Somehow, it feels like it’s just the three of them here now, Jogah and Naamah both gone: three mortals, naked and alone in the sunlight. “If the colonists make war on the Algonquin, what will you do?”

Jim and Bones exchange a look, astonished at the abrupt shift. “We hope that won’t happen,” Jim says carefully, “but if it does—” He licks his lips. “I’d work to make peace, if I can.”

Bones shakes his head, expression torn between affection and frustration. “Dammit, Jim, you’re one man! What do you think you can do?”

Jim feels that odd sensation again, like wings flapping against a rough wind, somewhere deep inside him. It’s a welcome source of strength. “There’s always something I can do, Bones.” He gives his consort a ghost of his familiar cocky grin. “Didn’t I ever tell you? I don’t believe in no-win scenarios.”

Bones rolls his eyes, looking more mutinous than ever. “Adonai and Elua have mercy,” he mutters.

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