Dedication III: The Search for Bones
Chapter 2 - Friendly Advice

Jim was on edge for the next couple of days. He'd found no record of any ghost or spirit appearing and feeling solid to more than one person at the same time in all his research. He had no explanation for his older girls, and he couldn't help the younger children either. He couldn't help himself. That brief moment, held tight in Bones' arms, had been like heaven itself. Now, robbed of him again, he felt the loss like a deep cut straight through his center. Even though he'd half convinced himself that he had indeed imagined the entire event on Wednesday, he still found himself peeking around corners and looking into empty rooms, just to check for Bones, no matter how illogical it was.

As Wednesday drew near again, he could tell that the children were feeling the same sense of anticipation he was. They tiptoed around the house, jumping at the slightest sound. The day was bright and beautiful, but not a single one of them wanted to go outside. Jim kept an eye on them for most of the day, but as the afternoon wore on, and nothing happened, he got the itch to do some more research. Surely there was something that could explain it.

He went to his office to get to work. He'd passed through a few articles about Andorian afterlife beliefs when his ten-minute alarm went off. He'd set it the day Bones left for Theta IV to remind him to get the kids together for Bones' call, and he hadn't had the heart to turn it off. He sighed, and kept reading.

He was deeply involved in a multi-person ghost sighting in Ireland when he thought he caught movement in the room. He looked up sharply, and gasped. "Bones!"

Leonard was seated in the chair opposite Jim, casual and smiling. This time, Jim noticed that he was wearing his Starfleet uniform. "Studying up?"

"I... yeah, I... Bones, how can you be here?"

Leonard frowned slightly, and looked around. "Shouldn't I be here? I live here. I live here, Jim." His voice was urgent, and he looked nervous.

"I know," Jim said quickly, wanting to reassure him. "You're right, you're right. I just... didn't expect to see you."

Bones looked around nervously again. "Where are the children? They're not here. Are the children all right?"

"They're fine," Jim said calmly. "They're in the living room. Should I-"

Bones let out a heavy sigh of relief. "Thank God. I don't want him to hurt the children."

Jim leaned forward, eyes narrowed. "Who, Bones," he asked softly. "Who do you think might hurt the children?"

Bones opened his mouth to speak, but couldn't seem to say anything. Suddenly, the worry was gone from his face, and he smiled brightly. "Where are the kids? It's time for an afternoon snack."

He stood up, but Jim got up quickly and took hold of his arm. "Wait!"

Bones turned to him, and a look of intense anguish passed over his face. "Please don't keep me from my children, Jim. Please, I... I n-need..."

Jim released him, shocked by the pain in Bones' face. "It's okay, Bones. I'll never keep you from them, okay? I give you my word."

Leonard smiled at him, kissed his cheek and left the room. Jim followed him, and Bones called the kids. They came running, and there was ice cream and happiness and hugs all over again. Then, at 3:15 Pacific Time (Jim checked the chronometer), Leonard declared that he needed to "check something", and left the room before anyone could stop him. When they burst out into the living room after him, he was gone.

This time, there was not the outpouring of grief and confusion that Jim had to deal with the first time. The children were disappointed, and they looked at him sadly for a moment. Then, suddenly, Daniel announced, "I can't wait for next Wednesday to come!"

Jim locked his office door and sat down. He transferred the call to his desk monitor, and smiled wanly at his closest friend. "Hi Spock," he said.

"Good evening, Admiral," Spock replied. "How are you?"

"I'm... not so good, my friend."

Spock frowned in his own, subtle way. "You look well, Jim, considering your circumstances. However, since you have chosen to contact me rather than your grief counselor, I must assume that something unusual has taken place."

"Very unusual," he said. "Spock. I... I've seen Bones three times since the funeral." Spock's eyes widened. "I know. I know, but... the kids have seen him, too. They've hugged him, and been picked up by him and..." He frowned, trying to bite back the frantic tone he could hear edging into his voice. "I'm not sure what to do, Spock. I need your help."

Spock nodded gravely. "I am at your disposal, sir."

"Spock, please. It's Jim."

"As you wish, Jim."

Jim couldn't help but laugh, despite the gravity of the situation. "I'd like you to look into the attack on the Osler. Just... get as much information as you can. All I can get at is the official records - unidentified ship, no terms offered."

"I will use all the resources at my disposal," he replied.

"Thank you, Spock." Jim sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I... I'm having a... difficult time. The kids are ecstatic, but I can tell Jo and T'Paola are almost as frightened as they are happy. And I'm just... what if it's me? He... I mean, he acts like nothing's happened! What if... what if I'm losing my mind like before, and just imagining that the kids have seen him?"

Spock's brow creased slightly. "Do the children refer to the events when Leonard is not present?"

"All the time," Jim replied.

Spock shook his head. "Jim. From what I know about your children, only T'Paola has ever been inclined toward imaginative behavior as concerns deceased parents, and even she ceased to behave in this way some years ago. I think it highly unlikely that you are in a constant state of hallucination - especially since that would mean that our current conversation is imagined, and I assure you, we are speaking at this moment. An outside source could verify the conversation - for example, Joanna could review the phone records at a later time."

Jim nodded. "Good point, Spock," he said, feeling himself begin to come back down from the edge of panic.

"However, Jim," Spock continued. "I do not believe that you need even go to such lengths to validate these events. It is my suggestion that you set aside concerns about possible mental instability. I believe, instead, that you may need to consider the possibility that you are experiencing a space-time anomaly."

Jim frowned slightly. "You mean... like I'm seeing a past version of Bones? But-"

"No, Jim. I mean, you may be seeing the doctor from a great distance."

Jim froze - his body and mind simply stilled and he stared at Spock. "You... you mean Bones may still be alive."

Spock let the barely audible statement stand for a moment. "It is theoretically possible," he said quietly. "I do not doubt that such an event could potentially cause confusion in the traveler - particularly if he does not understand what is happening. But I would suggest that you ask him questions about his whereabouts."

"I'll try that," Jim said. He could feel his hopes soaring, and he struggled to squelch them. It wouldn't do for him to assume Bones was alive only to be disappointed again. But if he was alive, it meant he might be in trouble. The thought brought a pang of fear to his gut, and he struggled to smother that as well. "Spock. Do... do you think you could maybe give me a call at three our time next Wednesday? Just... I just need someone..."

"Certainly, Jim. I would very much like the opportunity to speak with Leonard again."

Jim smiled. "Thank you, Spock. Thank you so much. Say hello to everyone for me."

Spock's mouth quirked up in amusement. "As time consuming as that has the potential to be, I will do so, Jim."

Jim laughed, and disconnected the call. He went to bed feeling lighter than he had in a long time.

"Waiting for a call?"

Jim looked up and smiled at his husband. The jarring sense of shock and wrong was gone now, and he was able to face Bones without even a hint of fear. Leonard was in his uniform again, this time with his Starfleet lab coat on. The children were "staked out" in different rooms, but Jim had noticed a pattern. Bones always showed up wherever Jim was first. He went looking for the children after.

"I actually am," Jim answered. "Someone is going to be patched through in a few seconds."

"Someone I know?"

"Yup!" The connection opened, and Jim smiled at Spock. "Hey, Spock, there's someone I want you to see."

He looked up, and beckoned to Bones. The doctor came around the desk and smiled at the monitor. "Hey, you! Long time no see!"

Spock stared at Bones, mouth agape, eyes wide. Jim couldn't keep the relieved sigh from his lips. Thank God, I'm not insane. Even though he knew that it was just as possible that he might be imagining everything still, the idea of a space-time anomaly seemed more probable. He'd gone crazy before, and this didn't feel like those days at all. "It... is a pleasure to see you, Doctor," Spock said, regaining his composure, despite the fact that his face had gone pale.

Leonard laughed jovially. "Listen to that, still calling me Doctor on social calls. Does he still call you Admiral?" he asked.

"Sometimes," Jim said.

Bones chuckled and shook his head. "You'll have to excuse me, Spock," he said. He turned to Jim. "Where are the kids? It's time for an afternoon snack."

Jim smiled slightly, though he was chilled by Leonard's ritualistic behavior. "They're in the living room, honey," Jim said. "Hey, Bones?"

"Yes?" he said, already walking toward the door.

"Where are you?" he asked casually. "Can you tell me your coordinates?"

Bones' smile faltered, and he looked around him. "I I" He smiled again. "I'm with my family, Jim. I'm where I belong."

Jim kept the smile on his face, but his heart sank. "Okay, honey. Go be with the kids. You don't have much time."

Bones laughed. "What do you mean? I've got all the time in the world."

Despite the words, he hurried out of the office and greeted the children. "Aren't you going to join him?" Spock asked.

Jim looked down at the screen. His first instinct was to say that Bones would be back next week, but there was no guarantee of that. "Can I call you back?"

"Of course, Jim. I I believe I will do some more research regarding the disappearance of the Osler. "

"I'm on it, too, Spock. Thank you for calling today, I appreciate it."

"Of course, Admiral."

Jim smiled, closed the connection, and went to join his family.

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