Dedication III: The Search for Bones
Jim and Spock followed the mental map that Kol had given them, and soon came to the doorway of the darkened room. Jim was surprised that there was no lock on the door, but then again, Khan had complete control of the complex - there was no reason for him to concern himself with locked doors when he was "master" of the whole planet. They stepped inside, and Jim shut the door behind them despite the dark. As in the vision, Jim was certain that Bones was in the room with them, though he couldn't see or hear anything yet. "Lights," he said.
The lights came on, revealing a barren room - plain and completely unadorned. It was almost a shock to the senses, compared to the opulence of the rest of Khan's palace. The only object in the room was a cage, made with the thick black bars that Jim had received impressions of in the Listener's vision. The cage was set in the center of the room. It had a solid floor, and metal clasps on either side that could be attached to antigrav units if desired. There was a door built into the bars in front, with a control panel attached. The control panel worried Jim, but he couldn't focus on the concern for more than a moment. He'd made all his observations of the room and the cage itself in less than a second, and now could only focus on one thing - the occupant of the cage. Bones.
Leonard was on his knees, with his head down on the floor, and his rail-thin arms and hands flat to the floor as well. He wore the same rough gray clothes Jim had seen him wearing in his vision, but they were now in an even worse state - dirty, tattered, and barely held together on his trembling frame.
Jim approached the cage slowly, almost as if he were afraid that both the cage and Leonard would vanish if he moved too quickly. Paradoxically, he felt a sense of urgency - convinced, in the back of his mind, that he only had fifteen minutes before Leonard definitely disappeared. As he neared the cage, Leonard's shaking grew more violent, and Jim could hear a small, quiet whimper when he reached the cage door. I have turned him into a dog, fit only to obey. Jim felt a lump developing in his throat, and he fell to his knees at the door of the cage. "Bones."
Leonard gasped, and looked up at Jim, a brilliant smile lighting his bruised face. "Jim?"
Jim nodded, grinning like a fool. "Hi sweetheart."
"Hi sugar!" he said brightly, but he didn't have the same strong, boisterous tone he'd had every time he greeted Jim before. His voice sounded hoarse and weak, and a split second later, his smile was replaced with a look of absolute horror. He covered his mouth with both hands, and his eyes darted from Jim's face up to Spock, who now stood beside Jim, then past them toward the door. He edged toward the back of the cage, breathing hard and starting to whimper again.
"It's okay, it's okay, baby," Jim said. "You're safe now."
Leonard shook his head vigorously, whimpering still. "N-no, you have to... escape," he said in a barely audible whisper. "Please, Jim, you have to l-le-" He seemed to choke on the word, and tears filled his eyes. "L-leave before... M-master, he... he wants to... h-hurt you. He'll-"
Jim scowled, his rage against Khan flaring up again. "He's not your master, Bones," he said grimly. Len cringed and shook his head, looking nervously around the room again. "Khan's dead," Jim said. Len gasped and Jim nodded. "He's dead, Bones. I killed him. You're safe now."
Leonard smiled again, almost with the same brilliance he'd shown before. Suddenly, he laughed - a weakened version of his usual, hearty laugh, but no less joyous. "Thank God," he said hoarsely. "I..." He glanced around furtively again, but only for a second. "I thought maybe I was dreaming again," he said. "But... when I see you in the dreams, I'm never here. Here, I... I'm not allowed to speak without permission." Jim frowned at that, but didn't say anything. "When I realized... I thought he brought you here to..." Leonard stopped, and his sudden joy disappeared. He shrank in on himself, and his body started to shake again. His chest heaved with shaking breaths, and his eyes filled with tears. "Are... are the children all right, Jim?" he asked, his voice thick and tremulous with tears.
"Yes, Bones," Jim answered softly. "They're perfectly fine. Whatever he told you he would do, it will never happen. I stopped him." He looked up at Spock and smiled. "We stopped him." Jim reached through the bars and beckoned to Bones. "Come on, sweetheart," he said, struggling to keep his voice steady. "Let me touch you." Leonard came forward immediately, still shaking hard, and grasped Jim's hands tightly. Jim bit back the urge to cry when he felt how truly frail Leonard's hands were in his.
Bones seemed upset, too. He frowned, looking down at the many slashes on Jim's arms. "You're hurt," he said. "I... I donít have my..."
"It's okay," Jim said. "I donít feel it, and I'll get it all taken care of when we get back to the ship."
Len nodded, touching Jim's arms gingerly, as if he thought Jim might be the one to disappear any moment. "You're really here," he whispered, looking up at Jim with shining eyes.
"Yup," he said with a smile. "And do you know how we got here?" Leonard shook his head, not bothering to wipe away the tears that were streaming down his cheeks. "You brought us here." Len's eyes widened, and Jim nodded. "You said you dreamed about me. Was it about once a week?" Len nodded slowly, and Jim smiled. "Every week, I saw you - me and the kids, and Spock - everyone. Wherever I was, you came to me - every Wednesday at our regular time, believe it or not."
A smile lit Leonard's face again. "When... when I dreamed I had ice cream with the kids, and... when I was on the ... shuttle, and the bridge... I... was I..."
"You were really with us," Jim said. I have crushed his spirit. "You were very brave, too," Jim said, smiling. "I know you were afraid Khan would find out, but you told me how to help you anyway, and that's why we're here now."
As Jim spoke, Leonard's eyes had been growing wider and wider, until they seemed almost too big for his thin, drawn face. At Jim's last words, he smiled, and his hands tightened on Jim's arms. "I th-think I would have gone crazy without those dreams," he whispered. "They d-didn't start until after we went to Veris III, and I thought... maybe it was... I don't know. It's strange to think of them helping me after what they d-did to us, but... I felt like they were trying to help me somehow - trying to keep me from giving up completely."
"You might be right about that," Jim said. "We saw the Second King - the one who came out when you were there with Khan, and he did want to help you get away from here. They still think of you as their child, and they've extended it to me and Spock, too. They knew Khan wanted to break you, so maybe the dreams were their way of helping you through it. And somehow, they got you to me, and it was really you. Spock told me it wasn't an illusion."
Len smiled again, and let out a sigh of relief. He looked up at Spock, who was now studying the control panel. "Hi, Spock. How are you?"
"Greetings, Doctor," Spock said, looking down at Leonard and giving him a small smile. "I am gratified that we have located you successfully."
"So am I," Leonard said. "I supposed you don't feel all those gashes and bruises on your body, either, do you?"
"I am peripherally aware of them," Spock said. "However, as you well know, Vulcans are able to minimize the effect of pain on productivity, due to our superior capacity for mental control."
There was still the hint of a smile playing on Spock's lips, and Leonard smiled and shook his head. "Bullshit."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Bovine fecal matter has no bearing on this situation," he said haughtily, turning his attention back to the control panel.
Leonard laughed, and Jim could have hugged Spock for joking with Leonard just then. He patted Len's arm, then reluctantly let him go and stood up. He glanced at the control panel, but was startled by a sharp cry from Bones. He looked down, and saw Len staring at him with a broad smile. "You're standing! Without... how..."
Jim smiled. "It was a gift from the Second King - he healed me to help me rescue you."
Leonard beamed. "Oh, I hope it's permanent," he said.
"Me, too, but it'll be okay if it isn't. It got me to you, and that's all that matters to me." Jim smiled at the glowing look on Bones' face, then turned back to Spock. "What about it? Can you crack it?"
Spock frowned. "These controls are considerably more complex than those aboard the Orion vessel," he explained. "I should be able to decode it, but it will take time."
Leonard stood up slowly, looking nervously around the room again. "Am I allowed to..." He frowned and shook his head slightly. "That isn't right," he whispered, almost to himself.
"What's wrong, honey?" Jim asked.
Leonard smiled hesitantly at him and reached a trembling hand through the bars. He felt for the control panel, then shut his eyes and slowly keyed in a long, complex sequence of codes on the pad. When he'd finished, the bolt on the cage shifted and the door opened. Len slipped his hand back through the bars with another nervous glance between Spock and Jim. He stepped back to the center of the cage and stood with his hands behind his back and stared at the floor.
"Bones," Jim said softly. "You... you knew the release code?"
He nodded, still staring at the floor. "Master... K-Khan made me learn the codes for lock and release," he answered. "H-he said... he wanted me to stay in the cage because I didn't dare to disobey him - not because I couldn't get out."
Jim gritted his teeth to stifle a sob, then reached out and gently guided Len out of the cage. He pulled Bones close and folded him into his arms. Rather than return the embrace, Leonard curled in, clutching Jim's shirt tightly in both hands, as Jim had seen his children do after waking from a particularly awful nightmare. Jim felt his composure start to crumble. Bones felt just as small and frail in his arms as little Daniel did the first time Jim had managed to coax him out of his room and hold him in his arms. The tears Jim had managed to hold at bay finally won out, and he pressed Bones to him, holding as tightly as he dared, and cried.
"You're safe now, baby," Jim said at last, the words coming out in a choking whisper. "You're safe now." He felt Bones nod, and a moment later, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Jim opened his eyes to see Spock standing beside them, one hand on his shoulder, and his other hand on Leonard's head. It reminded Jim strongly of when he'd carried Bones away from Veris III after his miraculous resurrection. The memory of that bright afternoon in front of the nine pillars brought back the other purpose of this mission. He rubbed Leonard's back, and pulled away slightly. "Do you think you'll be okay to walk, Bones?" he asked. "We'll have to get outside before we can use the transporter."
"Yes, I can walk," he answered.
"Okay, sweetheart," he said softly. "But tell me if you start to feel tired, okay?"
Leonard nodded, and they moved out of the room and headed back the way they'd come. Jim decided against trying to find the nearest entrance - he didn't want to risk getting lost when he wasn't sure if their communicators or tricorders would work beneath the dampening field. Despite his frail appearance, Leonard had no trouble keeping up with them, and Jim felt safe increasing their pace. Soon, though, Bones began to hesitate - he seemed to draw in on himself slightly, and he edged closer to Jim. Jim slowed his pace to match Leonard's, but when they reached the large living area where his battle with Khan had taken place, Leonard seemed to grow even more agitated. He clutched Jim's arm, and his trembling started again.
"It's alright," Jim said to him. "No one will hurt you, Bones."
"Okay," he whispered, still clinging tightly to Jim.
Jim glanced at Spock. "Could you go in first," he asked. "Check to be sure..." He didn't finish his sentence - didn't want to worry Bones further by letting him know Khan hadn't actually been dead when they'd left him.
Still, Spock seemed to understand. He nodded, and entered the room by himself. A few short moments later, he returned. "There is no danger," he said.
"Thank you, Spock," he said. He led Bones into the room, and Bones' eyes darted to the group of men Spock had defeated, still lying unconscious on the floor. He edged closer to Jim and turned his eyes away, then gasped when he saw Khan's body, lying completely still on the other side of the room. Len clutched Jim's arm, his grip almost painfully tight, but he stepped slowly toward the body. "We don't have to go over there," Jim said.
Leonard shook his head. "I... I have to," he whispered.
Jim nodded. He understood. He also felt an almost compelling need to be sure - to see for himself that the man who had caused him and his family so much pain was truly dead. He put one arm protectively around Leonard's shoulders, let Leonard clutch his other hand as tightly as he wanted, and together they walked slowly to where the body lay.
The closer they got, the more violently Leonard's body shook, and the faster his breathing became, until Jim was afraid he might pass out. He stayed conscious, though, and before long they stood above the body. Khan lay in almost the same position Jim had left him - half supported by the chaise lounge - but the labored breathing had since stopped. His head now lolled back against the seat, and his eyes stared vacantly at the ceiling. Leonard's grip on Jim's hand had been tight enough to leave Len's knuckles white, but now his hands relaxed, and his trembling began to decrease.
Len edged forward until he was right above the body. He stared down at him for several moments, finally shaking his head. "Waste," he whispered. "Three chances to live, and he wasted each one." He frowned and surprised Jim by bending over Khan's body. Jim thought Leonard might be about to close Khan's eyes, but instead, he reached behind Khan's head, and tugged at a chain that hung around the dead man's neck. He pulled it up, and over Khan's head, then let the head drop back.
"What is it?" Jim asked.
Leonard turned away from the body and held up the chain. Jim immediately recognized the pinky ring that David had left to him, and he saw the engagement ring, and his wedding ring as well. It infuriated Jim to think that the man had been wearing these as some kind of trophy all this time. Len slipped his wedding ring on his finger, but he'd lost so much weight that the ring was hopelessly large. Len's lip trembled, and his hand began to shake.
"Sweetheart," Jim said softly.
Len clenched his fists, and took a deep breath. He put the chain around his own neck, not even bothering to clean away the blood that had trailed onto it. He walked back to Jim, wrapped his arms around Jim and squeezed him tight. "He didn't win, Jim," he whispered. "I... I won't let him win, I promise."
"I know," Jim said, tightening his hold. "I know you won't. But don't pressure yourself, Bones. Take your time, okay?"
Bones nodded, but whispered again. "He won't win."
Jim held him close for a few more moments, then broke the embrace and led Bones away from the room. Spock had collected their weapons of choice - the two pokers - and he passed one to Jim as they left the room and entered the main hall. They moved carefully, but didn't meet any more of Khan's men inside the palace.
Outside, the battle had died down, and it was clear that the Federation "army" had won. A group of Khan's people were huddled together just outside the guard wall, the Caitians standing over them, growling and hissing at the slightest move from the prisoners. The Starfleet officers were busy binding the hands and feet of the men and women who were left. When they noticed Jim and his small party coming through the main gate, several officers smiled and waved at them. Chekov, Sulu and Scotty rushed over to them, smiling broadly.
"It's good to see you, Doctor," Scotty said, patting Leonard gently on the arm. The other two smiled and expressed their joy, too, though Jim could see that they were alarmed by his appearance. They took care to be gentle with Len - speaking softly and touching him carefully. His voice still sounded weak, and he stuck very close to Jim, but he smiled back and told the others how happy he was to see them again, too.
Bones seemed nervous about the remnants of Khan's army. A few of them glanced at him, contempt in their eyes, but Jim glared fiercely. "Khan's dead," he announced. "I killed him." He stared at them, practically daring them to say a single word. Not one of them took him up on the challenge. Instead, a cheer rose up from the former slaves, and they thanked and congratulated Jim and Spock. Many of them gathered around Leonard to give him their support as well - even those who had been part of the Reliant's crew, and hadn't known him personally before their captivity. They treated him as carefully as the Enterprise crewmembers had, speaking softly and taking care not to try to draw him away from Jim. Once they'd greeted and congratulated him on being freed, the officers went back to their work.
"Is..." Leonard's low, hesitant voice was almost lost as the crew went back to organizing the prisoners.
Lieutenant Farris heard him and came back to Leonard's side. "Yes, Doctor McCoy?" he asked.
"Is Anne... Doctor Day... is she ali- is... is she okay?"
Farris smiled. "Yes, sir, she's fine. She asked about you, too. She's already been beamed back to the ship."
Bones let out a relieved sigh, and Jim patted him on the arm. "That's exactly where we need to get you, Bones. Scotty?"
"You can handle the rest of this, right? I want to get Bones up to the ship, and we need some medical attention ourselves."
"Aye, don't you worry about a thing, Admiral," Scotty said with a smile. "I'll have these baddies wrapped up in a pretty little package in no time."
"Perfect, thanks Scotty." Jim opened his communicator, glancing beside him to make sure Spock was standing nearby. "Kirk to Enter..." He cringed slightly. "Kirk to transporter room. Three to beam up."
It wasn't until they were safely aboard the Keshia that Jim began to feel his wounds. He tried not to show it, but he could tell Bones knew he wasn't feeling well. Len was already nervous because they weren't aboard the Enterprise, or even another Federation ship, and now that Jim was showing signs of wear, Bones seemed to get even more upset. As they walked to the tiny medical bay of the Orion ship, Bones seemed to grow more and more anxious. He kept his eyes on Jim almost the entire time, staying close and keeping a hand hooked into Jim's waistband.
When they reached the medical bay, Spock and Jim were each led to an available biobed. One of the nurses attempted to lead Bones to a separate bed, but Len resisted. "No!" he cried, clutching Jim's tattered shirt.
"Doctor McCoy, we have to examine-"
"NO!" he shouted, suddenly panic-stricken. He turned to Jim, eyes so wide Jim could see the whites all around his pupils. "Please, Jim, please please don't let them take me away! Don't make me go, please, I-"
"It's okay, it's okay, honey," Jim said soothingly, stroking Leonard's arms. "I won't let anyone separate us." He couldn't help glaring at the startled young nurse, even though it really wasn't his fault. "Once they finish with me, Iím sure they can work on Doctor McCoy right here."
"Yes, sir," the young man said, looking sympathetically at Bones. "I'll send someone over to help you right away."
The nurse left them alone, and Leonard knelt down on the floor, clutching Jim's leg tightly and leaning against him. Jim felt mildly uncomfortable with the way Leonard had positioned himself, but he didn't want to upset him further by calling his attention to it. He rested his hand on Leonard's head and waited for someone to come and treat him.
After only a short wait, a small Human woman with dark brown hair and a pleasant face approached their bed. She smiled brightly when she saw them, and Len stood up, his own smile as glowing as hers. "Leonard!" the woman exclaimed. "Oh, thank God they got you out, I almost didn't believe the nurse!" She squeezed him in a tight hug, so petite she looked like a child beside Len, despite how thin he'd gotten. "Thank God, thank God you're alive, I thought that bastard might kill you as soon as the fighting started just for spite."
Leonard patted her back and shook his head. "No, no, it's alright," he said. "I'm okay. I'm just glad to see you. When he found out I was protective of you, he pretty much stopped threatening everyone else, and I was afraid one day I'd slip and he would really kill you." He let her go and knelt beside Jim again. "Have you met my husband? This is Jim Kirk. Honey, this is Dr. Anne Day."
Doctor Day straightened, her face turning a deep shade of red. "Admiral Kirk, I'm so sorry! I just ignored you, and... I... that wasn't very professional, sir, and..."
"Doctor, please don't mention it," Jim said. He waved a hand dismissively, then winced at the reminder of all the defensive wounds he'd taken during the fight. He forced a smile. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you," he said. "Bones told me a lot about you before... well, before the attack."
The doctor smiled at him, and began scanning his injuries. "All good things, I hope," she said pleasantly. She prepared a hypo and said, "This is a pain relief compound," before quickly dosing him. "Non-drowsy," she added. "I'll just sterilize and seal these wounds, and you should be good to go."
While Day went about her business, she kept up some pleasant bed-side talk, and Leonard watched her intently from his position on the floor. After sterilizing his wounds, she ran a quick scan, and fround at the read-outs. She glanced up at Jim, then briefly at Bones before re-checking the scanner. "I'm not sure when the last time was you were examined, Admiral," she said. "But... well, sir, your readings indicate no metal alloys in your body at all - there's just the normal level of metal materials usually found in Human blood."
Jim's eyes widened. "Wha... you mean, no implants?"
"No, sir," she said. "A few people have mentioned your recovery, but I never expected anything like this. The bone structure in your leg is completely normal. Which is... completely... impossible."
Jim gaped at her, then looked down at Bones. He looked shocked, and asked to see the readings himself. "My God, Jim... maybe this means..."
"Maybe," Jim said breathlessly. "But... I don't think we should get our hopes up just yet. We still have to go back there and return the people Khan kidnapped." He turned back to Day. "Doctor, I'd appreciate it if you keep a lid on this for now," he said. "Classify the scan records, and... well, we'll see what happens when we get back."
"Yes, Admiral, I'll seal them until you tell me otherwise." She smiled. "My lips are sealed, too, of course." She made another check of Jim's injuries and nodded, satisfied. "You're all set, sir." She looked down at Leonard and patted the biobed. "Your turn, Len," she said brightly.
Bones looked nervously up at Jim, and Jim nodded. "I'm not going anywhere," he said, standing up.
Bones smiled and lay obediently on the biobed to let Day scan him. She treated the many bruises and cuts he'd sustained, and diagnosed him with acute malnutrition. "I know you know how to counteract this, but I'll make a suggestion for a supplement program anyway."
"That'll be perfect, Anne," he said. "Thank you."
"Of course. And Leonard." He looked at her, no doubt noting her serious tone. "This goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. I strongly suggest talking to a counselor when you can. We're making the suggestion to everyone, but you... you were isolated from the rest of us for so long, and... the things he put you through..." She glanced at Jim and stopped speaking.
"I'll talk to someone," Len said, patting her hand. "Soon as I'm able."
"Alright, Leonard." She put a hand on his shoulder and helped him sit up. "The both of you are cleared. Leonard, I'd rather you rested in one of the rooms they have set up, but I understand if you want to stay with Admiral Kirk." Len nodded, and Doctor Day looked at Jim. "Sir, you could really use some rest as well."
Jim nodded. "As soon as I've got the ship on course I give you my word, Bones and I will get some sleep."
She smiled. "Thank you, sir."
Jim got up and made his way directly to the bridge, with Bones walking beside him. The moment they arrived on the bridge, Uhura vacated the Captain's chair. She smiled broadly at Leonard, but dutifully gave her report immediately. "Mr. Scott reports all prisoners are contained in the lowest cargo hold, Admiral," she said. "The Verisian villagers have been beamed aboard and kept in relative isolation to minimize exposure. We've also received responses from each of our buyers regarding the 'recall'. We should have people coming through for their refunds shortly."
"Excellent work, Commander," Jim said with a smile, taking his seat at the command chair. "How many of our people were sold?"
"Twenty-three, sir," she replied.
Jim nodded. "Fine. Use the Orion records, and pay them back with the credits Captain Ikhal has stored. Have our people been brought up from the planet?"
"They're being brought up as we speak, sir." Jim nodded his thanks, and finally, Nyota apparently couldn't take it anymore. She gathered Bones up into a tight hug. "It's good to see you, Len," she said.
"Good to see you, sweetheart," he said, returning the embrace. "I missed you."
"Missed you, too." She smiled at him, but her eyes began to mist, and she turned away quickly and went back to her station.
"Let me know the moment all our people are confirmed beamed aboard," Jim said. "Once everyone's been cleared with Medical, we can bring our regular team back to relieve our temporary crew so they can get the rest they deserve," he said, smiling at the Osler crew members still on the bridge.
"Aye, sir," Uhura replied.
Jim glanced up at the sound of the turbolift doors opening, and smiled when he saw Spock step onto the bridge. His head and his arms had been bandaged, and Jim thought he could see the impression of more bandages around his chest through the uniform. They'd used a dermal regenerator on some of the bruises on his face to help speed healing, but the darkened areas were still clearly visible on his jaw and cheeks. There was even bruising on his neck from the two men's wild blows.
He nodded at Jim, and immediately turned to Uhura. She was already on her feet, staring at Spock with the same mingling of joy and pain that Jim assumed he must have shown when he first saw Bones. She put her arms around him, but didn't squeeze, even though he pressed her to him with his least wounded arm. After a few seconds, Spock pulled back. "There is work to do still, beloved," he said in Vulcan. She smiled and touched his face lightly before returning to her station.
Within a few hours, the remnants of the Reliant and Osler crews had been brought up from the planet's surface. Uhura handled the re-purchasing of the crew members that had been sold and "recalled", and soon, twenty-three shocked and grateful captives were welcomed aboard the repurposed ship. As soon as everyone was confirmed beamed aboard and secured, Jim ordered Chekov to plot a course to Veris III. "Full speed, Mr. Sulu," he said. "Whatever you can get out of this thing - get it."
"Aye aye, Admiral."
When the ship was underway, Jim toggled the button for intra-ship communication. "This is Admiral James Kirk. I want to thank everyone aboard for your service and your patience so far, and I know that everyone here is deserving of a real rest. We have one stop to make, and then we'll be taking all of you to a safe location and notifying Federation authorities of your situation. I will be making a personal recommendation for commendations to every member of Starfleet aboard this vessel. The rest of you will be taken to your home systems, or relocated within Federation space if you so desire. Thank you all. Kirk out."
Jim stood up and Leonard edged closer to him. "Mr. Spock. I promised the doctors that I'd get Bones to a bed soon. If you'd like to rest..."
"That will not be necessary, sir," he said.
Jim smiled, knowing that was how he'd respond. "Alright, Spock. Will you take the conn, and tell me the moment we get within scanning range of Veris III?"
"Of course, Admiral," he replied.
Jim nodded his thanks and glanced at Bones, though he didn't need to motion for him to follow. Leonard was only a few inches away from him, watching him keenly. Jim led him off the bridge, back down to the makeshift triage area. There was still a bustle of doctors and nurses tending to the latest captives who'd been beamed aboard. However, one of the nurses guided Jim and Leonard to a private room. It was around the same size as the junior officers' quarters aboard the Enterprise, with a computer console and a small bed designed to fit one person. "We think it was the captain's quarters," the nurse said.
"Is there... do you have room for all the other patients?"
"Yes, sir, we've made room. Doctor Day insisted that you should have this room to yourselves."
Jim smiled. "All right. Tell her I kept my word."
The nurse left, and Jim led Leonard to the bed. He moved the coverlet aside, sat down and leaned against the bulkhead, then beckoned for Bones to lie down. Leonard did so, leaning against Jim's chest, as Jim had leaned against Len's in the shuttlecraft. Jim pulled the covers over Leonard and kissed his forehead. Leonard's thin, frail arms squeezed him tightly, and Jim squeezed back, holding him close, still half afraid that he might vanish at any moment. Jim watched him, relaxing slightly when Leonard's breathing regulated and he seemed to be asleep. Only then did Jim allow himself to close his eyes.