Dedication III: The Search for Bones
Chapter 17 - Rest and Recovery

"You asked to see me, Admiral?"

Jim stood up and smiled up at the young Rigelian. "Yes, Lieutenant," he said. "I have an assignment for you. The Enterprise crew members and I will be meeting with another ship in a few minutes. I'd like you to take command of the Keshia."

He smiled, his bright blue eyes shining. "Me, sir?"

"Yes, Mr. Farris. Take this ship to the nearest Starbase, and coordinate with the officials there to get these people back home, and get the prisoners contained. I've made my report and strongly suggest that they be isolated from one another to prevent collaboration, but I'd like you to reiterate it to the officials for me."

"Yes, sir."

"Starfleet should be able to provide services for the Orion's captives as well. Can you handle that responsibility?"

"Yes, Admiral," he said immediately.

"Good man," Jim said. "I'll be leaving a communication for Starfleet recommending commendations for everyone here, but I'll be mentioning the help you've given me in particular, Ken."

His smile widened, and his face darkened to a deep, beet-red. "Thank you very much, Admiral Kirk."

Jim stood and gestured toward the command chair. "She's all yours. As soon as we've beamed to the other ship, go ahead and take her out."

"Aye, sir."

Farris took his place at the command chair, and in only a few minutes, they arrived at the coordinates. A small Vulcan science vessel appeared soon after. "We've been hailed, Admiral," Uhura said. "Text only - it's a greeting and their transporter coordinates."

"That's our cue," Jim said. "Mr. Farris, good luck."

"Good luck to you, sir," he said, standing and shaking Jim's hand vigorously. "I... there'll be no record of that vessel left in the system once you're gone, sir."

"I appreciate that, Ken," he said.

Farris nodded. "It's been... amazing meeting you, Admiral."

Jim smiled and shook his hand. "It's been my honor, Ken," he said. Then he turned to the rest of his crew. "Gentlemen, and lady," he said. "Let's go."

Jim led the way to the transporter room where Keenser and Scotty were already waiting. "Coordinates are already keyed in, sir," Scotty said.

"Thank you, Scotty," he said, taking his place on the transporter pad. Len stood next to him, and the others took their places quickly. Jim looked at the young ensign they'd rescued from Khan's camp and nodded. "Energize."

The transporter beam took them, and when they materialized, they were in a small transporter bay aboard the Vulcan vessel. Jim, Len, Spock and Uhura stepped down quickly, so that the Engineer could bring the others aboard. When Keenser, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov arrived, Jim turned to give his full attention to the party that greeted them in the transporter room. There were three Vulcans in the room - a young woman at the transporter controls, and an older man and woman, both of whom wore instructor's uniforms from the Vulcan Science Academy.

The older woman stepped forward and bowed her head slightly. "Welcome to the T'Plana-Hath," she said. "I am Captain T'Lan, in command of this vessel. This is my first officer, Selkan, and my engineer, T'Pel. We are honored by your presence."

"Thank you, Captain," Jim said. "We're honored and grateful to be here. You're familiar with my companions?"

"Yes, Admiral Kirk, no introduction is necessary. Please follow me - I will show you to your quarters."

They were given a brief tour of the small, utilitarian vessel and shown to their assigned quarters. There was a study area, which passed for a rec room aboard a Vulcan science vessel, accommodations for up to fifty officers and scientists, and several labs with the most cutting edge equipment available. T'Lan asked them to call if they needed anything, and left them to their own devices.

Tired though they all were, the companions were unwilling to go to their quarters at first. They spent time in a private room in the study area, where they talked quietly and treated themselves to various Vulcan teas. They stayed away from discussions about their many violations of Starfleet Regulations, and talked about the things they hadn't had a chance to discuss yet. There were updates on all the children, discussion of their most recent missions, the latest news on everyone's siblings, cousins and parents.

Even with such safe topics, there were moments of pain - any discussion of the Enterprise could almost bring tears to Jim's eyes, and he could tell it was the same with Scotty. When Chekov talked about plans he'd made for visiting a few of Reliant's crewmembers at the next shoreleave, the mood darkened for a few minutes, until someone made the attempt to lighten things up again. Eventually, they left the study area and went back to their quarters for the night.

Once they were alone in the guest quarters, Jim went immediately to the bed and beckoned to Leonard. Bones folded himself into Jim's arms, trembling with what was certainly not cold. Their Vulcan hosts had made sure their rooms were at an acceptable Terran temperature, but it was as warm as a summer day, and the air was drier than Jim was used to.

"You okay?" Jim asked softly.

"Mmmhmm," he murmured, nodding, but he was still trembling, and he clutched Jim tighter.

"Liar," Jim whispered, but he tried to keep his voice playful.

Len froze for a moment, then Jim could feel his chest moving. He looked down, mildly relieved to see that his husband was laughing, not crying. A few moments later, Leonard sighed, and his grip on Jim's waist tightened again. "They're going to lock you away from me when this is over, aren't they?"

Jim sighed, and stroked Len's back. "Probably," he said. "I stole a shuttlecraft from Starfleet Academy. Defied a direct order from Admiral Barnett. Traveled to a quarantined planet. Twice. Destroyed my... the Enterprise." He sighed again. "Maybe if I throw myself on the mercy of the council, they'll put me in prison on Earth."

Leonard looked up, and there was a smile on his face, despite the tears gleaming in his eyes. "I'll be nearby wherever they send you," he said. "Me 'n the kids'll be right with you."

Jim smiled, and leaned forward to give Len a tender kiss. "I know you will, Bones. I know."

Just as he had been the first time he'd seen him, Jim was stunned almost to awe by the sight of the ancient Vulcan. Even now, some twenty years after he'd been sucked into a different reality and effectively lost everyone and everything he'd ever known while gaining the ghosts of people he'd long since lost, Spock still managed to maintain a strength of presence and bearing that amazed Jim. But it wasn't just his age, or his obvious strength. It was the humanity of him. The easy way the corner of his lip curved up to smile when he saw Jim. The almost casual way he spoke, like a relaxed version of Jim's own Spock, while still somehow managing to look as regal and austere as any other Vulcan Elder when he wanted to.

At the moment, apparently, he didn't want to appear austere at all. He was looking at Jim and his companions with the utmost warmth in his eyes. His gaze settled on Bones, and he smiled slightly. "It's a pleasure to see you, Doctor," he said.

Len smiled back. "It's a pleasure to be here, sir."

Spock's eyes practically sparkled. "Welcome, all of you. Please follow me." He led them away from the landing area, and into the nearby building. Naturally, their landing wasn't recorded and their names weren't listed as visitors to Vulcan. The office workers watched them as they passed through, faces welcoming but otherwise quite "Vulcan".

Spock led them to a ground transport, and a young Vulcan drove them to a rural area not on the outskirts of Keshtan-uzh - "Rebirth", the new major city that had taken the place of Shi'Khar. They were taken to a large house, situated on a large plot of land with several smaller buildings near it. They piled out, and Ambassador Spock took them inside the main house.

"Welcome to my home," he said. "I invite you to remain here as long as you like. My attendants will see to your needs, and your presence will not be made known to Starfleet officials by anyone in this household. My home is yours."

They thanked him profusely, and were soon ushered away (in a very stately, Vulcan manner) to various rooms where they could clean up and rest. Despite the fact that water was almost as scarce on the colony as it had been on Vulcan, Spock had left instructions for them to all be allowed actual baths in bathtubs with actual water involved, and if Jim had had the guts, he would have kissed the old man for the privilege. The months of living without Bones, followed by the trials of this impromptu mission seemed to have settled on him in a heavy, grimy film - both emotional and physical. Despite his extreme relief at being welcomed into a safe haven, he'd felt embarrassed entering the clean and quiet order of Spock's house while feeling like he wasn't fit to spend the night in his uncle's barn.

Stepping down into the Elder's hot, steaming bath, scented with the traditional fresh-smelling Vulcan herbs, felt like stepping directly into paradise. Len stepped in right after him - Spock's attendant had quietly acquiesced to their request to remain together - and Jim could tell the effect was the same, if not even more powerful for Leonard after his lengthy captivity. They sat opposite one another, legs touching in the large tub, and Jim leaned back and allowed his eyes to drift closed as he breathed in the healing herbs.

After a while, when the water had gone from nearly scalding to tepid, he felt Leonard shift in the tub, and moments later, he felt Leonard's hand on his chest. He opened his eyes to see Len pouring some soap onto one of the sand-colored cloths. Jim smiled, and Len began to rub the cloth on his chest in lazy circles. Jim took hold of Len's hand, stopping him. "I'm supposed to take care of you," he said softly.

"You are," Bones said. "Jim, you risked everything to bring me back from hell itself. I don't think you could define taking care of someone any better than that. But I'm supposed to take care of you, too, aren't I?"

Jim grinned and released Leonard's hand. "I guess so." He let Bones smooth the cloth over him in soothing circles, watching him for a few minutes before allowing his eyes to drift shut. When Bones had massaged Jim's chest, his back, and every limb quite thoroughly, Jim forced himself to open his eyes again. He took the cloth away from Leonard, added more soap, and proceeded to return the favor. Jim did his best not to worry about how thin Leonard was, even after the healing of the Verisians. He shoved his worries aside and just enjoyed the feeling of Len's skin under his hands. When he'd massaged Len thoroughly, Jim washed Len's hair in the cool water, then washed his own.

When they'd finished in the bathroom, they put on the simple, comfortable Vulcan clothes that one of the attendants had left for them. Jim peered out the door, and the young woman who'd led them to their room bowed her head slightly. "Elder Spock has asked to see you and Doctor McCoy when you are ready, Admiral Kirk."

"Sure," Jim said. "We'll come now." He beckoned for Bones to come out, and the two of them followed Spock's attendant to a small study.

Ambassador Spock sat in a comfortable, Earth-style armchair, in front of a low table that already had tea settings for three. "Come in, gentlemen," he said, beckoning them to sit with him. They sat at the table, and Spock poured tea for them.

"Thank you, sir," Len said. "I mean... thank you for all of this."

"Yes, we can't thank you enough," Jim said.

"I'm pleased I was able to help you," Spock replied. "And I believe it goes without saying, but I am extremely pleased to see you alive again, Leonard."

"I'm pleased to be alive," he said with a smile.

Spock nodded, and smiled back. "Undoubtedly. I apologize that we could not receive you properly, as the heroes you are. But the Federation Council has issued a directive that knowledge of your whereabouts is to be reported immediately, so I deemed it more prudent to receive you in this clandestine fashion."

Jim nodded. "That's understandable, of course. But I'm concerned about you, Spock," Jim said. "Won't you get into trouble for harboring us here?"

Spock raised his eyebrow. "Trouble, Jim? I am an Ambassador, an Elder, and a member of the Vulcan High Council."

Jim smiled. "Of course."

"Of course what?" Leonard asked.

Jim patted Len's hand, and tried to hide his concern that Leonard hadn't remembered as quickly as he should. "Basically, Bones, Ambassador Spock has diplomatic immunity nine ways from Sunday." Bones grinned. "He'd probably have to kill someone to even get so much as a reprimand."

"I believe it bears mentioning," Spock said, "that none of the other Vulcans who have seen you will report your presence here, regardless of what may happen to them. You and your crew are responsible for saving the lives of everyone who managed to escape during the evacuation, and you saved our cultural heritage as well. No Vulcan would ever betray you."

"That's very gratifying to hear," Jim said.

"In the vision," Spock said, "I was shown much of what Khan did to Leonard, and I was told that Khan is no longer a threat, but further details were not shown to me. If you are willing to discuss the subject, I would very much like to know what happened - how did you learn Leonard was alive, and how did you find him? How were you able to defeat Khan?"

"Of course," Jim said, with a glance at Leonard. Len seemed a little nervous, but he nodded slightly, and Jim told Spock the story from beginning to end. Many of the details were new to Leonard - several things he'd "dreamed" about were foggy to him, and the rest of the crew had refrained from talking about certain things, since they still felt he was emotionally fragile. Even now, to spare Bones, Jim left out the details of exactly how Khan had demoralized and tortured him. The Second King had already shown Spock possibly more than he'd even shown Jim. But he did tell Spock everything about Len's visits to the house, the trouble with the social worker, and his temporary loss of custody - a part of the story that Len hadn't heard yet. He was upset by the news, but Jim reassured him that everything would be fine as soon as Leonard was presented to the authorities alive and well.

Spock listened without interruption, nodding now and then, but his face impassive for the most part. He was surprised by the "visions" of Bones appearing at the house and in the shuttlecraft, and he, too, was disturbed by the news that Jim had lost custody of their children. But he reacted most strongly when Jim talked about the destruction of the Enterprise. His eyes widened, and he actually gave them his condolences, before returning to his silent concentration.

When Jim finished, Spock took a deep breath and nodded slowly. "Thank you for sharing this with me," he said. "It is... fascinating how some events in this timeline mirror events in my own time."

"What happened with Khan in your time?" Jim asked. "Are you allowed... well, do you mind talking about it?"

Spock sat back in his seat and steepled his hands, as Jim had seen the younger Spock do many times. "Discussing details of futuristic technology has always been out of the question of course, in accordance with the Temporal Prime Directive."

"The what?" Len asked, and Jim looked questioningly at Spock as well.

"It is... or it will be a secondary clause of the Prime Directive that covers the preservation of temporal integrity by forbidding the introduction of future technology or knowledge that may jeopardize or seek to re-shape the future."

Jim couldn't help but smile. "So, it's... cheating," he said.

A smile lit Spock's face, and he nodded. "Fortunately, the technology that you learned about through necessity during the crisis has been destroyed. But that isn't the only reason I have refrained from telling you many details about the alternate timeline, Jim. I want you to be able to live your life outside the shadow of the James T. Kirk I knew. But since you have already defeated Khan, I see no reason to keep the information from you."

Jim sat back in his chair, and listened as Spock told them about finding Khan in space, just as they had. He spoke about the mutiny, eerily similar, but not resulting in a crippling injury for the other James T. Kirk. He told them about Khan's re-emergence, his theft of the Reliant, and of the Genesis device.

He spoke of his own death, and his resurrection on Vulcan - a topic that had Jim gaping in absolute shock, and Bones asking question after question, much to Spock's apparent amusement. Without really answering any of Bones' questions, Spock talked about returning to full consciousness no longer sharing his own Leonard's body, and being re-educated on his ancestral land. When he'd spoken about making the decision to join Jim in the Klingon vessel even though he wasn't quite fully himself again, he seemed to have completed his tale.

"But what happened after you went back to Earth?" Jim asked.

"Yeah," Bones said. "Did they court martial Jim?"

"What about the others? Were they charged because of me... I mean, him?"

Spock shook his head. "I'm sorry, Jim. Leonard. But now, you are on Vulcan to rest and recover. Those events took place after our time of rest and recovery on Vulcan."

"So you can't tell," Jim said.

Spock shook his head, and Leonard scowled. "You're keeping us in suspense? You green blooded..." He stopped himself, suddenly embarrassed, but Spock only smiled affectionately at him.

"With your permission, Leonard, I will request for a Healer to speak with you tomorrow."

Len glanced nervously at Jim, and said, "Will Jim be able to stay with me?"

"Yes, if you wish it."

"Okay. Y-yes, I... I think it would be a good idea."

"Very well," Spock replied. "Now. I am certain you both must be exhausted after your journey." Jim nodded, and Spock stood and saw them to the door of the study. "Good night, my friends."

"Good night, Spock. Thank you again."

The next morning, Bones had his first talk with the Healer. Elder Spock had already told the Healer what Leonard had been through, precluding the need for Bones to discuss the ordeal aloud himself. The process of spiritual and mental healing as aided by Vulcan Healers was explained, and with some convincing on Jim's part, Len allowed the Healer to begin a program of shallow mental contact that was the first step in the process.

Sarek visited them on their second day at Spock's home. He gave Jim and Leonard his congratulations on Leonard's recovery, and spoke for some time with Spock and Nyota in private. After that, he and the elder Spock settled in for what appeared to be a routine sharing of tea over a game of chess, leaving the others to their own devices.

The six friends relaxed in one of Ambassador Spock's libraries, and talked. "Are you going to stay here," Jim asked Spock. "Or are you going to Sarek's?"

"My father believes it will be best for us to remain here for now. Ambassador Spock is correct - no Vulcan will betray our presence, but it will be most desirable if as few Vulcans as possible are aware of our presence. This way, fewer people will be in the position of having to practice deceit."

"Hm. I understand that, I suppose."

"But what about the kids?" Len asked. "Do they know you're here?"

"Not yet," Nyota replied. She sighed. "It's hard, but I think it's best for now."

"What about you, Doctor?" Keenser asked. "Have you sent a message to Earth yet?"

Leonard shook his head. "Can't yet. Starfleet will trace it for sure, and even if we encrypt it like Spock did with his message, they'll be able to get hold of it if we send it to a residence."

"Aye, I see what you mean," Scotty said. "With the technology they'll have available in San Francisco, it wouldn't take long for them to trace it back to us. Still, it's a shame to have to keep the kids, and your mother in the dark."

Bones nodded. "It's hard, like Ny said. But I... I'm not exactly in great shape right now. I'd like to fill out a little before I see them." He chuckled. "Don't want to scare them looking like I do - a walking skeleton." They chuckled with him, but Jim gave his arm a squeeze, and Ny gave him a peck on the cheek.

"Whenever they see you, they'll be ecstatic no matter what you look like," she said.

"Besides, you'll be right as rain soon enough," Jim said. "Soon enough."

Chapter 16

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