Dedication III: The Search for Bones
Jim spent the next four days fluctuating between grief and hope. The day after the children had been taken from him, Jim had made an appointment with the Social Worker's psychiatric department. He had no idea how the results would turn out, because he certainly hadn't told the truth about Bones. He was pretty certain that admitting he believed Leonard to be alive and to be visiting them on a weekly basis, without any real evidence of the space-time anomaly Spock had suggested, would have been grounds to lose the kids for good. But if they found out he'd lied, he might lose them anyway.
Jim called Lenora's and spoke to his children at least twice a day, and he had his first supervised visit on Saturday, during which he managed to pretend that the presence of the social worker didn't make him want to cry and punch in walls at the same time. And when he was at home, he did cry, often - especially when it was time to tuck the children in, or when "game time" started, or at any time when he began to think too hard about the fact that he might never be allowed to have full custody of his children again.
The next Wednesday, to the children's dismay, they weren't allowed to come back home for a visit. The agency had scheduled another session for all three of the kids Wednesday afternoon, and Joanna had agreed to go with them, after making Jim promise to explain to Leonard why they weren't there. Jim promised, but he was almost certain that Leonard wouldn't even show up. He'd half convinced himself that Leonard was there only for the children's sake, even though he started his visits by finding Jim. Somehow, he'd know they weren't there, and he wouldn't come.
The thought depressed him, but he sat down in the living room when his Wednesday alarm sounded, and waited. Nearly ten minutes later, Jim sighed and glanced at the clock. 1459 and 58 seconds. Jim sighed again, rubbing his eyes, and wondering what the hell he would do with himself this afternoon. When he opened his eyes, he gasped and smiled at his husband, who now sat reclining in his easy-chair, wearing the casual jeans and t-shirt he usually wore when he took the kids to the park.
Leonard's bright smile faded a little when he looked at Jim. "What's wrong, sugar?" he asked. "Why the long face?"
Jim tried to keep his smile bright, but it wasn't working - it almost never worked with Bones. Leonard could always see straight through any pretense, and it seemed like the same was true even though Bones had been dead, or... whatever he was - for months. "I... I have some bad news, sweetheart," Jim answered. Bones frowned. "See, the... the social workers think it isn't safe for the kids to live with me right now. They found out about you, and..."
Leonard shook his head. "What are you talking about, Jim? They're my kids, why should knowing about me mean anything?"
Jim sighed and tried again. "Bones, nobody knows about... they all think-"
"Jim, where are the children?" Bones asked. "It's time for their afternoon snack."
Jim struggled not to cry. "I know, Bones, that's... that's what I'm trying to tell you, baby. The social workers-"
Bones stood up suddenly, looking nervous. "Where are the children? They aren't here. Are the children all right?"
"Where are they, Jim? Please, you... you said you'd never keep them from me."
Jim was shocked - Leonard never seemed to remember past conversations when he came to visit them before. "Bones, I didn't do it," he said slowly. "I-"
Bones' face became a mask of pure terror, and he ran from Jim, racing through the house at unnatural speed. Jim struggled after him, but even if he'd had full use of his leg, he couldn't have hoped to keep up. Leonard checked each room of the house, calling the children's names, growing more and more frantic when he couldn't find them. After a while, Jim gave up trying to follow and stood panting in the middle of the living room, hoping Bones would come back to him before his fifteen minutes were gone.
Finally, Leonard seemed to have completed his search. "Jim!" he called frantically, his voice edged with panic. "JIM, JIM!"
"I'm here, Bones!"
There were fast footsteps, and then Leonard burst into the living room. Jim hissed and recoiled, shocked by Leonard's appearance. His face was badly bruised - he had a black eye, his cheek and chin were bruised and raw - shades of red and purple. Older bruises and cuts could be seen as well – signs of prolonged abuse. His jeans and t-shirt had been replaced with a tunic and pants of rough gray material, dirty and tattered, and barely clinging to his frail, too-thin form. "Jim, please!"
"Bones," Jim breathed. "Wha-"
"He wants to hurt you, Jim," Leonard whispered intently. "Don't let him hurt you, Jim, please. Don't let him hurt the children! Don't... please, Jim, please. Please... h-help me."
"I will, Bones, I... I'm trying, just-"
Bones gripped his arms, squeezing tightly. "Find me, Jim, please!" Jim gasped. "Touch the pillars! Cross through the gateway!"
Jim's eyes widened and a chill sweep through him. The impossibly perfect pillars around the Verisian dais flashed through his mind, unbidden. The dark doorway leading to the mysterious throne room of the Nine Kings and Queens followed. Jim shuddered, growing nauseous at the vivid images - memories of his own, forced up by... something, some outside force, with impossible clarity. He tried to pull away, but Bones tightened his grip, clutching Jim so hard he winced.
"Help me, Jim. Find me."
Before Jim could respond, Leonard vanished. Jim staggered forward, no longer supported by Leonard's tight grip on his arms. Jim choked out a sob, stunned by the disappearance - Leonard had always left the room before vanishing from the house before. He was shaken, too, by the way Bones' appearance had changed - it was different from the times Jim had seen Bones when he'd lost his sanity, but it was still jarring and frightening. Then the images of Veris III, and the direct imperatives Leonard had given him. Whenever Leonard had seemed worried in the past, he'd only spoken in vague statements - his only truly direct statement being "he wants to hurt you - he wants to hurt the children". But this time, he'd been clear about the fact that he was in danger. Find me. Help me.
Jim forced himself to stand upright, and moved as quickly as he could to his office. He switched on his console, located a number that he shouldn't be calling, and dialed.
"Whaaaaat?!" The Glaarn's shocked voice could probably be heard throughout the bar. "Veris III allowed is not!"
Jim glared. "Keep your voice down!" he hissed. "You think I don't know that?"
"Permits impossible!" the man cried, shaking his head.
"I know that, dammit!" Jim whispered tersely. "How can you get a permit to do a damned illegal thing?! Would I be talking to you, if I could get a fucking permit?"
The Glaarn huffed, scowling at Jim beneath his bushy brows. "Kirk Admiral, hero of Federation you are, but imprisoned are you trying to make me?" Jim frowned, trying to wrap his brain around the Glaarn's unique interpretation of Standard syntax. "Veris III is planet forbidden!"
His voice had boomed again, and Jim glanced nervously at the other people in the bar. They were starting to take notice. "Be quiet," Jim snapped. "We'll definitely end up in trouble if you keep broadcasting everything like you are! I need you to-"
"Excuse me, sir."
Jim jumped and turned to see a young, dark-skinned man standing beside them. The Glaarn got up and rushed away from the table, and Jim glared after him. "Dammit!"
"Sorry, Admiral, but I couldn't help overhearing your friend there."
"Why am I not surprised," Jim said tightly. The man sat down, and Jim glared at him. "Who are you?" he snapped.
"Federation Security, sir," he said, showing Jim his badge. Jim scowled and stared down at his half-finished rum and coke. "I don't think you should be discussing that topic in public, sir," he said.
Jim sighed and nodded. "I know, Mr. Hanson," he said, having memorized the badge information already. "Caused a stir, didn't we?"
The young man nodded, and gave him a conciliatory smile. "Admiral Kirk, may I get someone to drive you home?"
Jim took the hint - he had no intention of letting a security force take him anywhere. He stood up quickly, tossed his drink back, and shook his head. "No, thank you," he said, gripping his cane tightly. "I've got a transport lined up."
Hanson stood up, too - his mouth was smiling, but his eyes were wary and sharp. "Are you sure, sir? I can-"
"Quite sure," Jim said. He glanced at his a nearby chronometer. "My ride'll be here in less than five minutes, actually. Sorry about the disturbance. It won't happen again."
Without waiting for a response, Jim quickly left the bar, heading out into the brisk night. He wanted to find that Glaarn, take him by his gigantic ears, and swing him from the rafters, but he swallowed back his anger and thought about his options. He strolled to the road and called for a cab. There were plenty in the bustling part of the city, and one was dispatched in under ten minutes. Jim glanced back, and as he'd suspected, the security officer was at the door of the bar, watching. He smiled and waved casually, before getting into the cab.
"Starfleet Academy," he said to the driver.
"Sure, Admiral," the man said.
Jim looked up at the driver – a man in his early sixties, with warm, smiling eyes that looked at him through the rear-view mirror. Jim smiled back. "Am I that easy to recognize?" he asked.
The man laughed. "I'll never forget your face, sir," he said. "My son was a scientist on the U.S.S. Curie back in sixty-one."
Jim's smile broadened, and he glanced at the driver's name. John S. Hawkins. "Ensign Aaron Hawkins?" he asked hesitantly.
The cab driver gasped, then burst into a huge grin. "Good Lord, Admiral Kirk, you remember him?"
"We'd have died without him," Jim said, recalling the desperate situation on Tau Alpha IV. "How's he doing?"
"He's a Lieutenant Commander now, but he wouldn't be alive if it weren't for you personally carrying him away from that explosion, Admiral." The older man chuckled and shook his head. "Remembers my son's name," he said in awe. "Well I'll be!"
Jim and the driver chatted for the rest of the trip, and when Mr. Hawkins stopped in front of Sector C of the Academy campus, he refused to give Jim the payment transmitter. "It's on me, Admiral Kirk. Having a chance to talk to you was payment enough."
Jim smiled. He was about to insist, but thought better of it. If he didn't pay, there would be no record of his ride in the cab's system. "Thank you so much, sir," he said. He stepped out of the car and shook the driver's hand firmly. "It was a pleasure meeting you. Tell Aaron I said hello, and congratulations on his promotion."
Hawkins laughed jovially, and nodded. "That I will, sir, that I will. Thank you, Admiral! Have a good evening."
Jim nodded and waved as the driver pulled off. He made his way through the campus on foot, cursing the slow pace he was forced to take, but unwilling to register for one of the small vehicles that instructors and senior classmen were allowed to use. He'd have to leave his ID print on file, and he wanted to keep his movements as low-key as possible. The few late-night wanderers nodded pleasantly at him, seeing nothing unusual in an Admiral walking through campus alone in the night – especially an instructor.
At last, Jim arrived at Shuttle Bay 3. Here, there was a bit more activity, but it was still subdued compared to the hustle of people that usually populated the shuttle bays. Jim walked with all the confidence of someone who had every business being in the shuttle area. He chose one of the newer models - capable of warp drive, and likely kept fully equipped and ready for immediate use. Without the slightest hesitation, he entered the shuttlecraft Armstrong, sat in the pilot's seat and checked the craft's systems. The replicators were well-stocked, and all systems were fully charged and ready.
Jim strapped himself in, engaged the engines and lifted off carefully. A few crewmen looked at the shuttle curiously, but no one attempted to stop him until he got closer to the bay doors. He caught sight of the commander on duty frowning up at the craft. The young woman checked a console, and a moment later, Jim's communication console lit up. "Pilot of Armstrong shuttle. You are not scheduled for transport. Please provide clearance authorization codes."
Jim ignored the communication, and navigated toward the open bay doors. "Pilot of Armstrong shuttle," the woman said tersely. "Land your craft immediately, and identify yourself!" He began powering the impulse engines up, and the woman's voice grew even sharper. "Land immediately!"
A claxon sounded, and the shuttle bay darkened for a moment, before yellow lights began flashing. He heard someone order bay doors to be closed. Jim narrowed his eyes, making quick calculations. As the doors began to close, Jim lifted higher above the floor of the shuttle bay, then powered toward the doors, rotating the shuttle ninety degrees, so that he could make himself as "narrow" as possible. As he passed the duty commander, he looked over at her upturned face. He recognized her – a teacher from one of the other tactics classes that he'd been asked to speak to.
He opened his comm channel. "Sorry, Commander Wells," he said. "I'll bring her back in one piece if at all possible." She just gaped at him, apparently too stunned to respond. Jim smiled and saluted to her, then sped sideways through the closing doors.