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Nightmares and Broken Promises

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PROLOGUE

The skeleton was remarkably well preserved; even if he was a soldier, there were some lessons he just couldn't forget. But the way it was posed, hand in the air and mouth agape in silent screams as it protected its child... he didn't like it, not one fucking bit.

"Does it ever bother you? That you could've spent your life looking in a microscope instead of a sniper scope?" She was never going to let the subject drop. That was Sam, and there was no arguing with her.

"If they were so smart, how come they're so dead?" he grumbled instead as he studied the skeleton.

She shrugged. "We don't know. Maybe they just went with time."

Sometimes Sam forgot that he'd been raised by scientists too. He wasn't a fucking idiot. "You don't shield a baby from time."


"It may even be reversible..." Sam wasn't about to give in. She would argue her point of view until you either agreed, or proved she was wrong.

"It's irreversible." Something nagged at him. Sarge... there was something about him that was starting to set John on edge.

"You don't know that..."

"Doctor Carmack's condition is irreversible ..." This time even John wanted to argue with Sarge. Yes, soldier he may be, and he definitely preferred shoot first and ask questions later when a mutated monster was running after him, but they had Carmack subdued. They could save lives here... but the crack of a pistol quickly squashed that train of thought even as his sister exclaimed.

"No!"

"...because Carmack's condition is that... he's dead."

This wasn't going to end well.


He'd known something was off with Sarge. God-fucking-damnit, he'd known! He'd sensed it! And now the Kid was lying on the floor, bleeding out through a hole in his throat, because he hadn't fucking done something about it. It was his duty as XO, and yet he'd let himself be blinded by his own faith in and loyalty to Mahonin. How could Sarge betray the Kid this way...

"It was his first mission!" John yelled. He knew he was being insubordinate, but this was fucking ridiculous. To kill one of his own men because he wanted to save lives... that was not something Asher Mahonin would do. Not the Asher he knew.

Mahonin was right in his face when he responded, and John could see the traces of insanity in his friend's eyes.

"And it's not gonna be my last."

Shit.


He was dying. He didn't need an advanced degree to know that. Stupid fucking nanowalls. And Sam... Sam was being as stubborn as ever. Why didn't she just take the fucking grenade?

"John, stay with me, please."

There was no way he could make her that kind of promise now, but she was already fiddling with something, drawing a vial out of a small pouch at her side.

What's that?" he had a sneaking suspicion that he already knew. He could only hope he was wrong, and that she wasn't that fucking stupid.

"It's C-24. It's from Carmack's lab."

Oh hell no. "No."

"It could save you."

"No way, forget it." It was getting harder to speak now, but he wasn't going to let her do this. The risk was just too great.

"You're bleeding to death." She was begging him.

"No way Sam. I've done some bad things." Killed a lot of people, fought a lot of wars, did things that would make his twin sister sick to her stomach if she only knew.

"I know you," She insisted. He would've laughed if he could.

"You don't know me. You don't know..." what I've done. What I'm capable off.

"You're my brother." Her voice was calmer than before, serious as she looked into his eyes. "I know you."

"Wait." There was no talking her out of this. So... he had to prepare her. "Wait," He said again. "If I should turn into one of those demons..." he handed her his gun. "One through the heart, one through the head." He made sure she understood the importance of what he was saying, even though it felt like every part of him was on fire. "Don't you hesitate. Okay?"

"I won't need to." She always had too much fucking faith in him. "I know you. You're my brother."

The world went black.


He looked like Sarge, but the creature in front of him was not his best friend. Mahonin was dead. This thing... was a monster.

"Are you gonna shoot me?"

"Yea, I was thinking about it." His voice didn't betray any of the pain he felt at what he knew he needed to do, or the worry he felt for Sam.

"What you got left?"

Fuck, it felt so normal... just another day on the job, bantering back and forth. He could almost imagine Duke coming up with some smart-arsed remark just about now. He shrugged.

"Half a clip. You?"

The monster smirked, hefting the big fucking gun it was holding a little higher.

"I've got... one round ."

They fought, but he'd been the one to emerge victorious. He was the one, no longer fully human, who held a lame Sam as they made their way out of the hellhole, leaving everything – and nothing – behind.

Semper Fi, motherfucker.


They're arrested the moment they make it out. It takes the company less than a day to decide on their fate. He doesn't see Sam again for a long time. He doesn't see much of anything aside from four white walls, or experience anything but blinding pain, for a long time. He's pretty sure he dies a few times too, but he never stays dead...

It takes Sam five years to break him out of the UAC holding facility.

It takes ten years for them to realize that he's not just immortal and invulnerable, but that he's not aging either.

It takes twenty years to dispose of all the UAC research... and all the researchers. Sam's too busy with the official launch of UESPA to notice. Just like Sam... her first encounter with an alien civilization didn't frighten her away from the prospect of dealing with more of them. No, she needs to be one of the founders of an agency dealing specifically with aliens. Fucking Vulcans, and fucking Zephram Cochrane.

It takes Sam a year after that to figure out what he's done, and three more before she finally forgives him. Really forgives him.

It takes her another ten years to work up the courage to tell him that he needs to leave. She's sixty eight, and people think he's her son. He's not surprised when she tells him; he'd been waiting for it. She was doing it for his sake, and he needed to leave for hers. UAC might be gone, but there were others like them. If anyone found out just what was coursing through his blood...

He is surprised, however, when she reveals just what she'd prepared for him. Documents, money... everything he needed to start a new life.

She dies thirteen years later, at the age of eighty one. He watches from the shadows as they bury her... her family. His family, although none of them would ever know him. She's surrounded by them, by colleagues and admirers. They even erect a statue in her honour. They keep it, even after UESPA becomes Starfleet, but replace it with a statue of Zephram a few years later. He hates the bastard even more now. (He'd never admit it, but he was a little more than happy when the glory stealing fucker disappeared.)

He spends the next century and a half living different lives, never more than twenty five years at a time. The first few lives he leaves the military behind, opting for science and medicine instead. He's fucking good at it, and they know it. He struggles to live with the limelight the first couple of times, before he learns how to tone down the 'genius'. He does join the Starfleet Marine Corps once. The memories hurt too much, though, and the first time that a mission takes them out to space it makes him sick to his stomach. It's not hard to figure out that he doesn't want to be a soldier anymore, even if he's fucking good at that, too.

So he sticks to medicine. Different states, sometimes even different continents or planets. The space travel never gets easier, though, and he avoids transporters like the plague. He keeps it simple, makes sure there's never a way to track him, a way to link any of his personas together. It also means that he often manipulates things so that other doctors and scientists get the credit for his breakthroughs, but it doesn't bother him that much. He thinks that, maybe, Sam would be proud of him.

"Does it ever bother you? You could've spent your life looking in a microscope instead of a sniper scope?"

It never had before.

He finally grows a large enough pair to try a relationship. It fails – epically – and ends with his ex-wife threatening his life if he didn't fuck the hell off. There's still his daughter, but until she's eighteen he can't even look in her direction. He deserved that, marrying a cold-hearted bitch like Jo. So he does the one thing he promised himself he'd never do again. He enlists in Starfleet, as a doctor and not a soldier, and heads back out to space.

Fucking space, fucking aliens. He's irritated enough that he rants at some random kid.

It takes a year for that goddamned kid to worm his way under his skin. Two years later, and it's the first time in almost two hundred years that he can say, honestly say, that he has a best friend again – and it's Jim fucking Kirk, the biggest trouble magnet this side of the galaxy. He even starts to respect the little shit, but he only realizes how much when the kid asks him to be the Chief Medical Officer on board the Enterprise, and he feels honoured. He knows he's grown attached himself when he almost digs out the last of the C-24 to save Jim's life after the whole fiasco with Khan.

It's the first time he thinks about leaving, about starting a new life back on earth. He was getting too close... and close was bad. Close meant secrets becoming exposed. Close meant people looking where they shouldn't. Close meant being blinded by his own emotions and almost turning his friend and captain into a mutated monstrosity.

But then the cocky sonovabitch wakes up and he's just so relieved, he promises he'll follow him to hell and back. So it's back out into space for a five year mission, and everyone is so excited he can practically taste it on the air.

He doesn't forget how close he came to breaking, though. He also doesn't forget his promise.

If only he'd known how prophetic that promise would be.

 

Chapter Text

He doesn't gasp when he wakes up. He stopped doing that a long, long time ago. The cold sweat remains, though, as does the very brief shaking in his hands. They itch for something, an old and familiar companion, safely locked away. He's not a soldier anymore; he's a doctor now, damnit, and twenty first century weapons don't belong in the hands of a twenty third century doctor.

The air in the room remains almost completely silent, disturbed only very briefly by the soft rustle of material as he turns to look at the small clock beside his bed. The glowing blue numbers confirm what he already suspected; he would be the only one from Alpha shift awake for at least another four hours. Possibly with the exception of the captain. He didn't need to be a doctor to know the kid had nightmares too.

Nightmares. That's what had him awake so early. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy didn't have them that often anymore, but when he did, it never bode well for the future. They became almost like premonitions – because, really, it wasn't like he was a freak enough already – and every fucking damn time he dreamt of that place, something bad happened. The last time had been right before his captain killed himself trying to save the Enterprise. The time before that, they lost nearly the entire fleet to a psychopathic Romulan. Before that, his ex-wife had handed him divorce papers and told him that if he ever came within a hundred feet of his daughter, she would have him killed. She couldn't know that her threat was pointless, but he'd left anyway.

And now... now he was dreaming again. Having those nightmares. Those ever present memories, no matter how suppressed, of that...place. This time, Bones did groan.

Olduvai.

It stole his parents, took his team, his sister's legs... and his mortality. But no matter how many years passed – two hundred and fifteen years, by his count – and no matter how deeply he buried it in the recesses of his mind, he could never forget. He couldn't forget, not even if he tried; not about Duke, about Destroyer, Mac, Goat, Portman, The Kid, Sarge... Sam. How they'd fought, side by side, and how they'd died. How he lost his family in one fell swoop. And even if he'd still had Sam for years afterwards, they couldn't really be brother and sister anymore. He'd had to hide from her family. Their family.

He couldn't forget about whom he'd been, once.

John Grimm, RRTS Special Ops 'Reaper'.

Bones groaned again as he tossed the blankets aside. No fucking way was he going to be able to go back to sleep. No, he was fully aware of just how on edge he's going to be for the foreseeable future, waiting for the proverbial anvil to drop. It was inevitable. Some idiot on this damn ship – his money was on Jim 'Beam-me-right-into-fucking-trouble' Kirk – was going to end up in some fucked up situation, and he's going to have to find a way to bail them out. It was a good thing Jim was so creative coming up with solutions to his tricky situations, because it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to come up with creative solutions without giving anything away.

Good thing he'd been cultivating the grumpy doctor with miracle hands image, who could accomplish just about anything even if his bedside manner often left something to be desired in the eyes of his patients. At least this way he could vent some of his frustration without acting too much out of his normal behavioural patterns, and it kept people from looking too closely.

Fucking Olduvai, and fucking premonistic nightmares.

He ran a hand over his eyes as he sat on the edge of the bed, the other still flexing by his side. Not even two hundred years could ever make him shake the soldier that he was, or the comfort of cold steel in his hand. His team had often cracked jokes about how much time he devoted to his job... It was why he still had his rifle, even after all these years. Just knowing that it was there was comforting.

Although he didn't need that much sleep – thank you so very much, C-24 – he still hated having his short sleep cycle interrupted. Especially by nightmares of a life two hundred fucking years in the past.

"I am too old for this." He grumbled to the empty room, before pushing away from the bed and heading for the shower.

Might as well start preparing for whatever disaster was going to fuck up his day.


He didn't particularly feel any better when he entered the Med-bay, even after spending nearly an hour in an honest to god water shower. The surprised "Doctor McCoy?" from the nurse on duty didn't help his mood much, even though he knew it wasn't the nurse's fault.

"Gale, make sure that we're stocked up on everything – and I mean everything. Think of every damn disease you can come up with, any problem, emergency scenario – I don't care – and make sure we have something that can fix it in the stores." The nurse was looking at him worriedly, like he'd lost his mind, but Bones couldn't give a rat's arse. Something was going to go wrong, and he was called a miracle worker because he was always prepared. He wasn't about to do something stupid, like not preparing, when his early warning system was in full fucking effect.

"Then look up the planet we're heading towards, and make sure that we have something that could counter anything – no matter how harmless – on it," he continued, unperturbed. Uninhabited planets and first encounters had an uncanny ability to push Jim Kirk right to the edge of death just about every fucking time. If anyone was going to kill that risk-taking moron, it was going to be him.

The nurse frowned slightly. "Is there a problem doctor?"

"Not yet." He said under his breath, ignoring the look the nurse gave him. Must have heard. Damnit. Bones shook his head. "No, we don't, but I would rather be prepared than be caught with my pants down. If I know Jim Kirk, the captain is going to end up in some kind of life threatening trouble on that planet." That, at least, got a few indulgent looks from his staff. It pissed him off, but it was better than being looked at like he was losing his mind.

"Now, last time I checked, I was the chief medical officer aboard the Enterprise, Nurse Gale," he practically growled. "Check everything."

That would get the rumour mill going.

Fuck, and double fuck.

He headed straight for his office, ignoring the looks the staff gave one another, before they went to work. At least they trusted him enough to do as he said. There were no emergencies for them to take care off at the moment anyway. Just a couple of run of the mill illnesses that were nearly over and done with. They didn't need him to supervise the patients. Then again, he wasn't really supposed to be down here for another two hours, but at least they knew he kept odd hours. Thank fuck for small damned favours.

Bones sank into the chair behind his desk, and almost immediately regretted it. He felt restless, hands itching and muscle rippling in anticipation, and coming down here to hide himself in his office was probably a bad idea. The gym would have been empty this early...

No. That was a risk he couldn't take. Not in his current state of mind. It would be too easy to lose control, and if someone saw what he could do... John Grimm was a fighter and a killer, but Leonard McCoy often – and loudly – made it clear how much he detested violence of any kind, and how he was neither fighter nor soldier. No. That was just asking for trouble.

So here he was, actively restraining himself from digging out the pretty much useless bottle of Romulan Ale when the day hadn't even properly begun yet. Instead his fingers reached for his PADD, but instead of opening his medical files and reports, he opened a single small file. It was a picture of a picture – the original was safely locked away with his rifle and other... sentimental memorabilia. It showed clear signs of aging, with slight fraying around the edges, but the picture was still clear. A beautiful woman smiled up at him, the wheelchair or the slight wrinkles around her eyes doing nothing to dull that beauty. It had been one of the good days... and Sam had laughed and tried to playfully discourage him from taking the photo.

He missed her, but he could still hear her voice. She would be telling him to calm down, to keep his head clear or he would be absolutely useless when the time came. She could kick his ass verbally like no one else could. "Damnit, I hate it when you're right, Sam," he said, voice uncharacteristically soft, the trademark bite in is voice almost completely gone. With a deep breath, Bones tried to calm himself down until he could feel at least some of the tension leaving him. Some, but not all.

Fucking nightmares.

He closed the photo, and began to rifle through the various reports and bits of paperwork he'd been neglecting. Might as well try to do something useful. Sitting here with his finger up his ass wasn't going to help him figure out just what the fuck was going to go wrong next. He'd prepared as much as he could, his staff was preparing for fuck knows what else could go wrong.

When the shit hit the fan... he'd know soon enough.

Chapter Text

Jim whistled happily as he made his way to the bridge. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to spoil his good mood today. Not waking up early, not the shower not working, and certainly not another report from Nurse Chapel about Bones chasing a crying ensign out of the med-bay. The good doctor had apparently been in the foulest of moods for the past few days, and was acting just a little paranoid. More paranoid than usual, to be accurate. It seemed the good doctor was stocking up on everything from cough medicine to a cure for Andorian shingles.

Chapel had brought it up with him, but as far as Jim was concerned Bones just needed a couple of days off – which was why he was in such a good mood to begin with. The preliminary approval for shore leave had been waiting for him in his inbox this morning; only one of the admirals still needed to give the go-ahead, and Jim was pretty damn sure that the admiralty wouldn't deny his crew a bit of off-time.

The thought caused a brief pang of pain. It had been almost two years since Pike's death, and curse him, but Jim missed the admiral. Even if the man had, more often than he cared to mention, been a pain in his arse, he was also the closest thing Jim had had to a father, and he still felt the loss. But Pike had also inspired him to be better than he'd ever thought he could be, and he wasn't planning on disappointing the man, dead or not.

He intended to send out the memo this afternoon; they were going to enter orbit around the planet Amrana, a new addition to the Federation, at 17H00 hours that evening. They needed to finalize the documentation and get the signatures of the Amranian leaders, but once that was done the crew could finally get a little well deserved and long overdue R&R over the next few days.

"Good morning, Mr. Spock," Jim greeted his first officer cheerily, giving him a clap on the shoulder as he passed the Vulcan on the way to the captain's chair. Spock nodded indulgently, something Jim considered a win. He and Spock were definitely turning into one helluva command team, and he could catch glimpses of the future he'd seen in the mind of Spock the elder more and more often. He would even go so far as to call them friends.

"Captain. You are cheerful this morning."

Jim laughed. "Oh, you have no idea, Spock. By this time tomorrow I intend to be relaxing on one of the beautiful Amranian beaches."

"I see. Shore leave was approved, then?"

That seemed to catch the attention of the bridge crew.

"We could definitely use the break," Uhura said, intentionally raising her voice just enough to be heard, but he could see a few of the others nodding along. Not too surprising, considering most of the Alpha shift hadn't been planet side in almost four months.

"It's approved enough," he said with a shrug.

"I do not follow, Captain. Approved enough?"

Naturally his logical Vulcan commander would ask for clarification – but this time Jim wasn't going to give him the details. The last thing he needed was for Spock to decide that they needed to wait for final approvals before making any decisions. The crew was on their last nerves, and it was his duty as captain to make sure that they were taken care off. He was simply doing his duty.

"It means, Mr. Spock, that we are going to get a long overdue break-" The beeping of the comm interrupted him.

"Captain, could you please come down to Medical." There was a loud crash, and he could hear Bones swearing in the background. He looked at Spock as if to say 'See what I mean?', before a new voice came over the comm.

"Damnit, keep your arse out of my med-bay, Jim. You spend enough time in here as it is."

"Everything alright down there, Bones?" Jim asked, keeping his voice light, and he could see the understanding dawn in the Vulcan's eyes. If Bones, who tended to have excellent self control despite his gruffness, was starting to break, then it was a clear sign that the crew needed a break.

"It would be fine if these damn idiots on the new junior engineering staff would stop getting themselves injured in absolutely moronic ways! I'm a doctor, Jim, not a damn babysitter! Tell that Scottish chief engineer of yours that if I end up with one more scorched idiot in my medical bay, I'm going give him mandatory physicals every week until he's ninety years old!"

Jim flinched slightly as the comm fell silent. "-and tempers are flying high around here," he finally finished. If things went on like this, his CMO might just have a nervous breakdown. Now there was a thought that seemed really, really strange.

"I think everyone is in need of a break."

"You can say that again," he heard Sulu mutter, even as Spock said "Especially the good doctor?"

Jim smirked slightly as he nodded, hoping that his worry wasn't quite as visible as it felt.

"Especially Bones."


After the comm call to Jim, Bones found himself in a particularly bad mood, which was saying something, all things Considered. He locked himself away in his office. It was preservation, and for the good of the staff; he was not fucking hiding! If his staff called on the captain directly while he was in there with them, he must really have lost it.

Damnit! It wasn't his fault that the new recruits were completely inept!

It'd been three days, and three almost sleepless nights of nightmares. They were getting worse. Clearer. He could hear the screams of his team, smell their blood on the air, feel it on his hands. And today... today he was feeling more on edge than ever. They were scheduled to arrive at Amrana today, and damned if he didn't feel his anxiety levels climb the closer they got to the planet – even more so because he knew Jim was trying to get shore leave approved. They'd be spending more time on the planet, meaning there was more time for Jim 'I'm-not-afraid-of-death' Kirk to get himself into a life threatening situation.

He also knew he had to get himself under control, and fast. There was absolutely no doubt in his mind that Jim would insist on him accompanying the Captain and First Officer on their diplomatic errand. No matter that he wasn't part of the chain of command, or particularly interested in being part of it. But Jim generally preferred to have him along and, right now, not even a direct command would keep him away from his captain's side. Not until whatever unknown emergency was over and done with.

It was a few hours – during which he was not disturbed at all – later that the door to his office finally slid open. He didn't need to look towards the door to see who it was. He'd been expecting the kid to come check up on him, and he'd heard the captain's distinctive heartbeat from the moment he'd entered sickbay.

"Finally come to check up on me, Jim?" He felt rather proud of himself for keeping his voice even.

"Do you need checking up on, Bones?" To his credit, the kid made it sound like just another question, even if Bones knew there was more to it than that.

He looked at Jim, glaring slightly, but the young man seemed completely unphased as he stepped into the office, allowing the door to slide closed behind him even as he dropped into the chair opposite Bones.

"Do I look like I need you to check up on me, kid?"

"You tell me." Even though the damn kid was smiling, he could see the worry and the tenseness in his friend. God fucking damnit.

"Oh, stop acting like an infant, Jim. I'm fine."

"Never said you weren't, Bones," and damn if the little shit didn't manage to make it sound like the doctor was the one behaving like a child. "Although you have been acting just a little more... grumpy than usual."

"Hmph." Like he didn't know that, but he couldn't just come out and say 'Jim, I'm an immortal superhuman with enhanced senses and some sort of freaky fucking premonistic ability, and I believe you're about to get yourself killed, again.' That would just go over fantastically.

"You here for a reason, Jim?" The sooner they dropped the whole topic of his recent unstable temper, the better.

His best friend was silent as he studied him for a few seconds, before the kid finally nodded. For his part, Jim didn't believe a damn word his CMO was saying. Something was wrong with Bones, and he fully intended to use the next few days of leave to find out what it was.

"Just came down to tell you that I expect you to be ready when we go down to meet the Amranian Leaders. You'll be coming down with the rest of us."

Naturally, like he expected to do anything else. It didn't stop him from giving a slightly sarcastic "As usual, then," response. Just because he'd already planned on going down to the planet with the diplomatic party, it didn't mean he was going to let Jim know that.

"Hmm." The kid hummed, and Bones fixed him with a look. Clearly the captain had more to say.

"I also expect you to take the next few days off for shore leave, starting tomorrow," Jim added nonchalantly, his expression remaining completely neutral as Bones glared at him angrily.

"Damnit, Jim, I don't need shore leave," he groused. "I'm perfectly fine. If I need a break, I'll take one." There was no way, no way, he was going to wander off and end up somewhere where he couldn't help the captain when he'd need too. He was going to stay right here, in the medical bay, waiting for the emergency call. Besides, he was as allergic to leave now as he'd been two hundred years ago.

"That wasn't a request, Bones."

The doctor couldn't help the double take at the serious tone of his friend's voice. That wasn't much like Jim...

"The crew is talking. Grumpy you may be, but you've never made the crew cry, Bones. I'm sorry, but this is an order. You are going down there, and you are taking a break," he paused for a moment, but Bones said nothing. He knew the little bastard had a point, and when it came to Jim Kirk, you had to pick your battles. "Unless you tell me what's wrong with you."

Yea, like that's ever going to fucking happen.

Some things were better left unsaid, even between friends. Especially between friends. It wasn't that he didn't trust Jim, but... but he also knew that the kid took his duties very seriously. If it ever came down to choosing between revealing the secret or protecting the crew, Bones knew that the decision would tear Jim apart. He wouldn't do that to his best friend.

"Fine." Bones just managed to stop himself from growling the word out, even as Jim slid forward in his seat a little in anticipation. He clearly expected Bones to finally reveal what had him so on edge.

Well, sorry to fucking disappoint you, kid.

"I'll take the damn leave, but don't expect me to be happy about it."

That wasn't the response Jim was expecting, and Bones knew it. The kid leaned back, more than a little disappointed, but he nodded in satisfaction regardless. He wanted his doctor to take leave, and that mission was now accomplished. The rest could wait.

"That's all I wanted, Bones. You need a break, and it's not just my job as your best friend but also as your captain to make sure you get one."

And thrice damned be the kid for being right again. Sometimes he was just too much like Sam. When he didn't say anything else, Jim sighed and stood up.

"I'll see you in two hours, Bones. Don't be late."

Then the kid was gone... and Bones felt like a complete and utter bastard. The kid was just trying to look out for him. He didn't need a damn mother hen on his case, but he could understand where his friend was coming from. Sam had been the same way.

Damn, damn, damn!

He was going to have to make it up to Jim. He wasn't sure how exactly, but he'd find away... as soon as this whole mess was over with.

Four days of shore leave. What the fuck was he supposed to do with that?


Four hours later Bones was ready to kill something.

"Doctor McCoy, is something wrong?"

"What?" He didn't bother looking over at Spock, his eyes fixed on his captain as the kid laughed along with the Amranians, not bothering to check what he was eating. At this rate it would only be a matter of time before the idiot ate something he was allergic too.

The Amranian ambassador was also standing a little too fucking close to his captain. It wasn't that he didn't trust people, it was just that... well, yes. He didn't trust anyone right now. Especially not some bastard who was in a prime position to stab Jim with no one the wiser.

"Doctor, you have been staring at the captain for the past 36.2 minutes, and I am not taking into account your proximity earlier. You are also showing signs of extreme stress. Are you feeling ill?"

"Oh for the love of," Bones turned to look at Spock, "I'm fine, you bloody hobgoblin." Spock gave one of his patent pending eyebrow quirks, and Bones sighed.

"Alright, Spock, since you like logic so much, try this one on for size. Taking into account the amount of times the captain has ended up either close to death or in sickbay during away missions – including diplomatic missions – what are the odds of something not happening to him tonight?"

The Vulcan was silent for a moment, before his eyes widened slightly and fixed on his captain with an intent stare. "Point taken, doctor."

He smirked slightly and looked back at Jim. Looked like he and Spock could agree on things every now and then. And if they both ended up watching the captain, ready for something to go wrong, all the better. No matter how he felt about Vulcans in general, he liked to think he had a certain understanding with this particular Vulcan – and he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Spock would do anything to protect the captain. He'd noticed that much after the first officer had nearly beaten the enhanced Kahn to a pulp.

Nice to know that someone would be able to look after the captain when the time came for him to leave. And speaking of the captain...

Bones frowned as Kirk laughed and walked over to them, the Amranian ambassador still glued to his side. "Bones!" he called cheerily. "Did you know that the Amranian's have this waterfall that they claim to have healing properties? Don't you think that's something we should check out?"

The ambassador smiled. "It is considered a holy place for my people, and many pilgrims frequent it. I would be happy to escort you."

He was not going to put a fist through the ambassador's face. He also wasn't going to allow the captain to get anywhere near potentially hazardous material. It might heal Amranian's, but with Kirk's luck, the damn water would turn him into a puddle of unressurectable goo.

"I don't think that's a particularly good idea, captain."

"Oh, come on Bones. It's a waterfall. What could go wrong?"

He just had to say it. He had to fucking say it. There was no way in hell he was going to let Jim go out there now. When Jim tempted fate, fate tended to respond in a big fucking way. No, absolutely not happening.

"I am afraid I must concur with the doctor, Captain."

They both swiveled to look at Spock, Jim looking almost betrayed while McCoy had to keep himself from bursting into laughter. He never thought he'd see the day. Shit, he should've tried the logical approach on Spock years ago!

"Aren't you even a little curious, Bones? Spock? You wouldn't turn down a chance to study something so unique, would you?"

"While I am intrigued by the prospect of a healing spring, Captain, I am afraid that new information has recently come to my attention. I believe it would be better if one of my experienced science officers inspect the waterfall first. It is not only logical, but standard procedure."

Score another point for team McCoy and Spock. Will miracles never cease?

By this point, Jim was looking between his CMO and his First Officer like he couldn't believe what was happening. Bones had some difficulty believing it himself, but he wasn't about to say anything.

"I can't believe that the two of you are finally agreeing on something, and that it's to team up against me! You do realize that I'm still the Captain, right?"

Neither of them said anything else, but Bones couldn't miss the slight flash of hurt in his friend's eyes if he tried.

"Fine. If you two want to miss this, go right ahead." He turned to the ambassador. "I'll be happy to accompany you tomorrow. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's been a rather long night." And without a further word, Jim turned and walked away from them, no doubt to retire for the evening.

"I apologize, I did not mean to create tension amongst you," the ambassador said, looking after Jim - much to Bones' annoyance. "I only wished to share something that is a part of our culture."

Bones barely stopped himself from harrumphing. The ambassador was about as apologetic as a mutant with its teeth stuck in your neck. Spock seemed to realize that he was in no mood to talk to the bastard.

"No need to apologize, ambassador. It is we who should apologize for this unprofessional altercation."

The Amranian waved it off. "Quite alright. I hope I caused no lasting disagreement between you. Gentlemen." It gave a nod which Spock returned, before wandering off. Bones watched him go, glaring daggers into the alien's back.

Jim was not going tomorrow. Not even if Bones and Spock went with him. With their luck, the waterfall would be in some secluded area in one of the deep forests of this planet – if they even made it that far before some previously unknown foliage tried to eat Jim – and when something happened to the accident prone idiot they would be too far away to get medical attention. In short, if he had to inject Jim with a disease to keep him in one place, he wasn't above doing exactly that.

It took him two hundred years to finally trust someone enough to actually call them a friend again. He was not going to lose Jim just because he failed to look out for the kid.

"I think I'm going to turn in as well, Spock. I need to come up with a way to keep Jim from killing himself."

"That is illogical, doctor. I do not believe that the captain is suicidal. Merely... prone to unfortunate accidents, I believe is the correct phrase."

Finally, Bones did laugh, despite his irritation. "Yea, Hobgoblin, that sounds about right." He stood up and stretched, popping a few bones. "I'll see you in the morning."

Spock remained seated for a moment longer, wondering just how he'd ended up working so closely with two of the most confusingly emotional people in the galaxy.

"It is a puzzle indeed."

Perhaps he needed some rest as well. If the doctor was right, the captain would be getting himself into trouble within the next 10.3 hours, according to the odds. Best he be well rested and his mind clear, should trouble arise.

With that, a thoughtful Spock left as well.


"They're all here, sir, and I have it on good authority that they will be spending the next several days on the planet."

"Of course they will." Came the response from the shadows. "Has anyone noticed we're here?"

A shake of the head. "We've managed to keep your tracks hidden, sir, as usual. We've covered all the bases."

"Good." There was a sigh as the outline of a man leaned backwards. "This isn't how I imagined breaking the news, but what must be done must be done. Our family took a vow, and I've failed to keep this under control. I'm not about to let it get any further out of hand."

The second voice, clearly female, softened slightly. "Dad, it'll be alright."

The male shook his head. "We should have put an end to this years ago."

"We thought we did."

"That's no excuse. Now it's beyond anything we can do." He sighed again, a resigned sound, before speaking firmly. "Make sure that Captain Kirk, Commander Spock and Doctor McCoy are all here tomorrow morning, first thing. I don't care how you do it; I just want to get this over with."

The woman straightened up and nodded. "Yes sir. I'll take care of it." She left the room, leaving the man alone with only his thoughts. Thoughts of duty, of mistakes, of how things had gotten so out of hand...

Thoughts about Doctor Leonard McCoy...

...and John 'Reaper' Grimm.

Chapter Text

The beeping communicator next to his bed didn't so much wake him as draw him out of a fitful sleep. Eyes still closed, Bones rummaged around on the table beside his bed until he found what he was looking for, flipping it open.

"What?"

"G'morning to you too, Bones."

Bones sat straight up, immediately awake. If he hadn't been up yet, there was absolutely no reason for Jim to be awake either – and considering that the room was still dark, he was willing to bet that it was far too early for anyone to be awake yet. Therefore, in his personal and professional opinion, something was wrong. And, even if he ignored all of the aforementioned details, there was also Jim's tone to consider. He'd heard it a few times before. It was typical Kirk speak for 'I'm in trouble and I'm not exactly sure how I got into it.'

God-fucking-damnit, he knew it! Leave it to Jim fucking Kirk to find trouble on a planet that had been reported to be about as dangerous as a babyrattle.

"What's wrong?" He was already scrambling out of bed and towards his clothes. Fuck, he should have slept in the damn uniform. Might not have been good for appearances, but at least he would have been ready immediately. Had it been too much to hope that the captain would wait for a reasonable hour before getting himself into a damned situation?

"Oh, the usual," came the response. "Just woke up to a strange beautiful woman in my room. I have to admit, though, they don't usually threaten to castrate me if I don't call my best friends to meet us. Not that I don't mind a foursome, but generally I'd like to get to know a person before they hold a weapon to my head, Bones."

He'd been heading for the door before Jim had even reached the part of him being threatened, and he bristled at the word.

"Where are you?" His voice was low, dangerous. Leonard McCoy did not take kindly to people threatening his friends. John Grimm, even less so.

"Alcove, off the west side of the main rotunda." He could hear Jim keeping his voice even, while trying to calm him at the same time. Stupid kid, always trying to look out for others first, even when that worry was seriously misplaced. "Bring Spock with you."

The line went dead.

He cursed loudly when he realised he only had his phaser with him, but he set it to the highest non-lethal setting and took off running. If there was just one person, the threat would be minimal, but that didn't mean he was going to take any chances. He didn't feel particularly inclined to stop for the Vulcan first either, but he didn't know what the situation was and as much as he hated to admit it, Spock could come in useful with that nerve pinching hoodoo of his.

When he reached the correct corridor, though, he was somewhat surprised to see Spock already waiting for him. The moment the Vulcan laid eyes on him he joined the doctor, running by his side.

"Spock?" Not that he wasn't glad that they wouldn't have to waste time waking the Vulcan up, but he was a bit surprised that the first officer had been out an about. Not to mention that it had looked like he'd been specifically waiting for the doctor.

"After the revelations of last night, I took steps to ensure the captain's safety." A short pause. "I decided to monitor the captain's communicator and position. As a precaution, of course." It was stated so... matter-of-factly, in typical Spock fashion. As if it made perfect logical sense.

He would have smiled if the situation was different. Instead, he simply acknowledged the commander with a nod as they both continued running towards their once again in trouble Captain and friend. No one ever said being Jim Kirk's friend was going to be easy, but sometimes he couldn't help but wonder at his own sanity.


"If you wanted to use me as leverage to get something, you shouldn't have allowed me to contact my officers." Jim said, handing the communicator over to the woman.

"If I wanted anything from Starfleet using you as leverage, I would have killed them first, trust me." She slipped the communicator onto her belt, but didn't lower her weapon.

"Little difficult to trust you when you're threatening my crew and pointing a weapon at me." He'd tried to take the phaser from her before, but she'd soundly knocked him on his arse. He could already feel the slight bruising on his cheek. Having a bruised face and a bruised ego wasn't anything new, but he wasn't quite used to getting punched by a woman.

Everything had been going so well, too. They would have had started their leave today, finally getting some deserved R&R. He'd even been having some lovely dreams to accompany the thought. Dreams that he was drawn out of by a woman, this woman, calling his name and pointing his own damn phaser at him. He'd gotten up and dressed as she told him too, before failing spectacularly at disarming her.

Bones was never going to let him hear the end of it… if he lived to tell him about it.

"I'm sorry about the circumstances," she continued, scanning the rotunda but now Jim knew better than to think that she was distracted. "I'd hoped to meet you as a friend, but unfortunately events have been set in motion, and I didn't have time to explain. We're on a tight schedule, and I wasn't in the mood to debate the validity of my claims in a committee." She seemed to be listening for something even as she spoke. "There's an emergency that requires very… specific skills, and I'm under strict orders to get you, Doctor McCoy and Commander Spock to a location where everything will be clarified."

She seemed surprisingly sincere, but also completely serious. Not to mention the bruise Jim still had to remind him that she was dangerous. Blonde hair, blue eyes, body to kill and the strength to back it up. Under different circumstances, she would so have been his type. Now, however, he wasn't feeling particularly inclined to get to know her better. Yet, despite her forceful seriousness, there was an undercurrent tone in her voice. Almost… anxious. Something wasn't adding up.

Without warning, she turned the phaser around in her hands and held it out to him.

Jim knew he probably looked like a moron, blinking at it rather stupidly, but offering up her weapon made no sense whatsoever. It certainly wasn't a strategically wise move; not even using it as a tactical ploy to gain his trust would work, considering the fact that she'd been threatening him with it only moments before.

"Take it."

He glanced up at her. "Why? I'm not sure what you're planning, but if you think I'm going simply walk into whatever trap you have prepared-"

"If I wanted you dead, captain, I would have killed you in your sleep," she interrupted him with an indignant huff. "In fact, I could have killed you many times before now. I'm not here to kill anyone. I just needed to get you all together as quickly as possible, and it's common knowledge that your officers would follow you into hell and back without hesitation. It was the fastest way to get you all into one place, no questions asked."

"Yes. It's called trust. This isn't how you go about getting mine."

She was still holding the gun out to him. "All I want is five minutes." Her eyes met his, and unless she was a superb actress, Jim could almost swear he saw a slight desperation in her serious expression.

"Five minutes?"

She nodded, still holding out the weapon.

"For what?" He couldn't believe he was indulging her.

"Five minutes in exchange for the fate of the galaxy."

He studied her face, trying to see if he could spot any sign that she was simply being overdramatic, but her eyes remained fixed on his, dead serious.

Damnit. He had to do something about his weakness for beautiful women who looked like they were in trouble. It was going to get him killed one of these days.

With a sigh, Jim took the phaser.


He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting. In a worst case scenario, Jim would already have been dead. If things took a more normal – normal being a relative term – route, a cockily smirking Jim would probably be held at the end of a phaser, looking smug at their arrival. He'd not expected this, however…

Jim was not alone, but he was also not being held captive, not that McCoy could see. His phaser was in his hand, and he was waving them over while the woman with him was looking around as if she were expecting someone else to arrive.

"What took you so long?" he said, and Bones almost let loose a string of curses. "Never mind, just get over here." He moved back into the shadows of the alcove, and Bones followed along with Spock. He did not, however, put away his phaser.

If this was some fucking ploy by the kid to get him and Spock to go to that thrice damned waterfall, he was going to give Jim the reaming of his life.

"What the hell is going on here, Jim? And who is this?" Bones nodded at the woman who was still half hidden in the shadows.

The captain waved away the guns, before turning to look at the stranger in their midst. "Not quite clear on that part yet, actually."

The woman gave a long suffering sigh and stepped forward, giving Bones his first good look at her. There was something… incredibly familiar about her. The light hair, the greyish-blue eyes… no. It was just his imagination playing tricks on him. It had to be.

"You can call me Talia." She said, looking between the three of them – although Bones was willing to bet good money on the fact that she'd looked at him just a little longer than the others – before fixing her eyes back on Jim. "And this," she waved her arm at them, "is exactly the kind of time wasting committee I was trying to prevent. We need to go. Now."

He glared at the woman. "The hell we will. You threatened a Starfleet captain, and now you expect us to just go with you?"

"Bones."

He fixed his eyes on the kid. "You can't be seriously considering this, Jim?" Surely the kid couldn't be that goddamned stupid? He looked at Spock. "Back me up here, Spock. There is no way you're going along with this, right?"

The Vulcan was quiet for a moment, looking between the woman and Jim, before speaking. "Captain, I feel I must protest. This does not seem a wise course of action."

Bones threw his hands up in the air. "Thank you. At least someone here is talking sense."

Jim looked just about ready to put up an argument when all three of the men were surprised by Talia. "Oh, don't mind me. It's only the fate of the fucking world at stake, take your time."

There it was again. Her tone was shockingly familiar… but that didn't change the fact that she'd threatened Jim. No matter who she reminded him off, right now she was still a threat.

"Listen, ma'am-" he'd barely started speaking when Jim cut him off.

"Come on, Bones. I'll have both of you there to protect me if needed. Let's just hear what she has to say."

"Have you lost your goddamned mind?" he practically hissed at Jim. "Sometimes I don't know what goes on in that head of yours, Captain-"

"For the love of god, you're acting like a bunch of children."

That made twice in the space of five minutes that the woman managed to interrupt them and shut them all up. Under different circumstances he might just have managed to respect her. Right now, though, he just wanted to beat some sense into Jim. Of all the idiotic things…

"Can we please put a stop to the dick measuring contest?"

"Excuse me?" He was back to glaring at the woman, but she went on completely unfazed, staring right back at him.

"Yes, I threatened your captain. No, it probably wasn't the wisest way to get your attention, but it was the fastest one and, right now, we're wasting valuable fucking time arguing about this. Hold me at goddamned gunpoint if you have to, doctor, but I need you three to come with me, right now. There's someone who will explain everything to you – and I can honestly say that it's someone you all trust – but if we don't go now, it's not going to make much of a fucking difference."

They stared at her, but it was Jim who seemed to gather himself first, looking between the doctor and his first officer.

"She's right, and I'm going with her. If you're so set on protecting me, then come along."

Bones bit back a growl at Jim. At this point he was pretty damn certain that the kid was so set on this just to get back at them for the night before. Jim probably knew this a bad idea, but because he and Spock had stood against him at the party, he was making a point of being an obstinate asshole. But the captain, it seemed, had already made up his mind and before either he or Spock could do anything else, he was following the woman out of the alcove and towards the rotunda exit.

"Damnit!" he cursed loudly.

"I concur," Spock said, staring behind their mutual friend and pain in the arse. "I suppose it would be in our best interest to follow the captain."

Bones huffed. "It would have been in our best interest never to befriend him in the first place," he muttered darkly.

"Indeed."

They looked at each other in a moment of understanding, before both men rushed after their captain, who was already exiting the building in the company of this 'Talia'. He groaned.

This was a fantastic start to the day.


Talia considered it a small miracle that she'd managed to get all three men to follow her without having to reveal more information. She really, really hadn't wanted to get into details herself. Better to leave that to her father; he knew how to handle these three. She'd also seen how John had been looking at her… either he wasn't as good as the stories she'd grown up with, or he hadn't wanted to say anything, but she was pretty damn sure he'd noticed the resemblance she had to a certain someone.

All things considered, she was willing to bet on the latter.

God… being face to face with Reaper was definitely as nerve wracking as her dad had made it out to be. Even if the captain and the commander hadn't seemed to notice, she'd seen the tenseness in the man. If she'd still been holding that phaser when he'd arrived, Talia was pretty damn sure she would have found herself knocked on her arse toot suite. She was also sure her dad would have something to say about just how she got the three of them out here so quickly.

That thought caused her to smirk to herself slightly. Hey, orders were orders and he'd told her to do whatever she needed to do. So, maybe she decided to play on the Reaper's protective instincts a little. It worked, didn't it? Yea, fine, it could have gone wrong but, like just about every person in her family, she didn't back away from a challenge.

"Care to share a few details now?"

Well, colour her surprised. It took Kirk a whole two minutes before he actually started asking questions. She'd expected him to crack the moment they started walking.

"Yes, do share."

And there was the infamous McCoy sarcasm. A glance to the side showed that both the good doctor and the commander had caught up with them. They were moving quickly, but thankfully there didn't seem to be any people to avoid – which was exactly why she'd gone after them this early. They didn't know about any eyes on Amrana, and they'd chosen this specific planet to speak to the three men because it was so new to the Federation. Still, if history had taught them one thing, it was that you could never be too safe and prepared.

"Sorry, I don't do group therapy, Doc." She couldn't help the slight jab at the man, although Talia could swear she almost hear him growl at her response. "I told you that someone is waiting to brief you on all the details," she quickly continued. Maybe antagonizing someone with the nickname Reaper wasn't the best idea… her dad had often told her that her mouth was going to get her into trouble one day. She'd prefer it be with someone who couldn't punch a hole through her chest.

"It's not that I don't want to tell you, I just don't think I'm the best person to do so." She looked at the men trailing after her, fixing her gaze on the doctor for just a second longer than the others. "I also don't think that this is the best time and place either."

"You said five minutes."

God. Her dad was right; Jim Kirk could sound just like a pouting child who was refused its favourite toy. "Your arguing took five minutes, so I'm claiming overtime," Talia responded without missing a beat.

"You're not winning yourself any points."

It was John who spoke this time, although Talia was pretty sure it was only to stop the Vulcan commander from making the comment that was so clearly on the tip of his tongue. If the stories her dad told her where anything to go by, the Vulcan had probably intended to correct her on the 'exact' amount of time the arguing had taken.

"I'm not trying to win points, doc," Talia shrugged, leading them around another corner. They'd be there in less than a minute, thankfully. The sooner she could hand the three headstrong bastards over to her father, the better. "I'm simply making a point. Besides, it's not much further now," she turned her head just enough to give him a smirk, "and I'll even make you a big cup of real coffee. Maybe that will cure your case of the grumps."

And she was back to Reaper Baiting. Oh, who cared. Self-preservation was for the weak, and making cracks at the man made it easier for her to deal with the fact that he was the fucking Reaper and that she'd been told stories about him since the goddamned day of her birth! Everyone had their coping mechanisms, and this was hers, damnit!

Kirk seemed to find it funny, though, and Talia was relieved that his huffed laughter made him the target of John's glaring instead of her. Unfortunately that gave Spock the opening he seemed to be waiting for.

"You seem very confident that events will come out in your favour. I must voice a certain skepticism. You did, after all, commit a crime."

Talia stopped dead in her tracks and turned to look at Spock. He didn't seem much bothered by her action; perhaps he expected her to be offended. Thing was, she wasn't offended, but she did know how to recognize an opportunity and use it to her favour.

"Tell you what, Mister Spock. If, once this is over with, you believe that I still need to be arrested, I'll let you handcuff me yourself." Without a further word, Talia turned around and continued on her way.

And if the comment had both Kirk and Grimm looking like they were holding back their laughter for just a second, Talia was satisfied that she'd achieved her goal. Score another point for dad – the fastest way to the hearts of the Enterprise Three was to make them laugh at each other.

She wanted to sigh audibly in relief when the door to the apartment they were using finally came into view. It was out of the way, private; a prime spot for a meeting that needed to be kept a secret. Quickly entering her keycode, the door slid open and Talia entered.

"Well? Come on in."

It didn't surprise her in the slightest that the doc made to be the first person into the room, but Kirk deftly beat him to it. John Grimm, mother hen. Oh, the jokes the others would make if they knew.

She led them into a small but comfortable sitting room and waved at the seats.

"Take a seat, boys. I'll just be a minute – have to go get your host and get you off my back!" She gave them a cocky parting wink, before heading down the short hallway and slipping into the office.

"Talia, I thought I head you coming in. Does that mean they're here?"

She smiled and nodded. "Yes sir. First thing, as requested."

"And should I even ask how you managed to do so?"

Her smile turned slightly sheepish. "I may or may not have woken Kirk up by pointing his phaser at him, and have him call the others."

Her father laughed. "Oh, that would do it alright. I should give you a dressing down for taking such a risk around John, but since you're here in one piece, and they're here, we'll leave it be for now."

He stood up and walked around the desk, giving her a brief kiss on the forehead. "Time to go break the big news."

Talia gave him a brief hug before smiling reassuringly. "Goodluck."

She pretended not to hear his deep breath and near whispered, "I'm going to need it."


The trip put McCoy on edge.

Aside from the growing feeling of familiarity he felt in regards to this girl, which was worrying in its own right, there were the things she said. How she said them. The way she 'handled' them. It was almost as if she knew them, knew what to say to get them to react in certain ways. She knew how to get Kirk to follow her, how to make them feel comfortable around her. She made him want to fucking laugh, for god sake. Considering just how they'd come to meet her, Bones didn't like it one bit.

She was handling this just a bit too well. He suspected that she knew it, too. The way she so effectively sidestepped them and even anything they might have come up with… something about Talia was very, very off.

All in all, Bones was convinced that, whatever explanation was waiting for them, he wasn't going to like it one fucking bit.

The location for the meeting was well chosen too, he'd give them that. Smack in the middle of a residential area, filled with civilians. If they started a fight here, it would reflect very badly on Starfleet, putting the innocent of a new ally at risk.

Everything he'd heard and seen so far spoke of a very well informed person or persons who knew how to formulate a strong strategy. They were clearly at a disadvantage – strange planet, unknown situation, unknown amount of people and variables. It was a soldier's nightmare. Unfortunately he was not supposed to be a soldier right now. He was just plain old Doctor McCoy, at the mercy of the decisions his moron of a best friend was making.

If this went wrong, he was going to give Jim the mother fucker of all 'I told you so's'.

"Well, that went rather well," Jim said as he settled himself into one of the chairs in the room.

"I can not say the same, Captain."

Oh, for the love of god. If those two were going to get into one of their arguments, he might just lose it.

"Come on Spock! It could have gone worse."

Spock had another response ready for Jim, but Bones tuned them both out in favour for trying to pick up any sounds in the area. He could just hear voices further into the home, but he couldn't quite make out what they were saying. They seemed to be keeping their voices low on purpose. Another strike against their mystery host… who he could now hear making his or her way down the hall towards them.

"Would both of you shut up?"

They both turned to look at him, but whatever Jim was going to say died on his lips as he looked straight past him towards the door where their mystery host had just arrived.

"Tactful as always, Doctor McCoy."

He was turning around even as Jim finally found his voice.

"No way. No fucking way."

That didn't bode well… and he could see why.

In the doorway stood none other than a not-so-dead ex-admiral Christopher Pike.

Chapter Text

"No way. No fucking way."

To anyone who knew Jim Kirk, the inflection of pain – firmly disguised as disbelief and anger – was audible enough to be worrying. And, as it happened, he was at that very moment surrounded by people who knew him well; a good friend and commander, his best friend, and the man he had, for many years, considered a father. He may have wanted to live up to the legend that was George Kirk, but the only approval he'd ever actively sought had been that of Christopher Pike; at first only a figure of authority on the periphery of his life, before becoming the only man he respected enough to accept the offer of 'a way out', skilfully disguised as a dare and a challenge. A man that had died in his arms, and had left a brand new wound on a heart that already had many scars to bear.

It was understandable, then, that Jim was upset.

"Who – What the fuck are you?"

Perhaps a bit more than just upset.

Jim!”

He could hear Bones behind him, trying to catch his attention – trying to calm him down, really – but Jim didn't want to hear it. Not now. His hands clenched into tight fists, but the nails that painfully dug into his palms couldn't even begin to compare to the stabbing pain in his chest.

Like a damn knife through the heart.

"No, Bones, don't 'Jim' me. See, this is a what and not a who, because if this was a who it would mean that I'm actually seeing Chris Pike standing in front of us." He laughed, an angry and bitter sound. "And I know that's not possible, because Christopher Pike died in my arms."

He should be happy that Pike was alive, he knew that. In a way, he was happy. Relieved, even, that he hadn’t lost yet another parental figure in his life. But it was clouded, dulled out by the deep feeling of betrayal. He'd trusted Chris, looked up to him, and yet the man had allowed him to live with this... this fucking regret, this indescribably sense of failure for over a goddamn year!

His composure was going down the proverbial drain, he knew that too, but he couldn't care less. Not right now.

"It seems he did not."

Spock... damn him. As much as Jim had come to respect, and even like his first officer, it had only been his almost singular focus on Chris that had stopped him from snapping back at the Vulcan. Bones, thankfully, seemed to have it covered. The hissed "Not helping, Spock." offered some comfort. Not much, but at least Jim knew he had someone on his side here. And he needed that right now.

He really, really needed it.

By now his chest was feeling like his heart was literally trying to break out and make a run for it. It shouldn't be affecting him this way but... but Pike's death haunted him. No matter the brave face he'd donned for everyone else – his crew, the admiralty, the damn people who was starting to see him as more than just George Kirk's kid – losing Pike had been... hard.

Alcohol had helped. Bones had kept him away from the bars, kept him hidden when he needed to deal with the worst of it, supported him when he'd needed it. It hadn't made things easier, but at least he'd managed to scrape himself together enough to stand up and deliver that god awful speech almost a year later. Managed to keep presenting the air of a young but capable officer who wasn’t losing his shit in private, and who was perfectly capable of captaining a ship. To walk onto the bridge with a smile and bittersweet excitement, wishing that Pike could have been there as they set off to make history.

"Chris Pike, the real Christopher Pike, wouldn't have let me think that he'd died," Jim took a step forward as he finally spoke again.

There was no denying that he wanted to hit the man. He wanted to throw a fucking tantrum, to yell and scream and cry and curse. Jim half expected Bones or Spock to stop him, but their hands never came. And Pike... damn him, was just standing there, staring. Not saying a single, fucking word... and that, more than anything, drove the knife deeper.

"The real Christopher Pike is fully fucking aware how I feel about him. And so, if this – if you..." and suddenly Jim was standing right in front of Pike, voice breaking and jabbing a finger into the man's chest even as the words seemed to get stuck in his throat, "…if you are real, then it means that the man I considered a father deliberately let me think that he was dead."

A hand fisted in Pike's shirt, the bastard still not saying or doing anything, and Jim forced the rest of the words out in a broken growl.

"That I couldn't..." Jim took a deep breath, knowing what he was about to admit. What had been haunting him since Pike had supposedly breathed his last breath.

Jim finally met the still silent, stoic Chris Pike's eyes. "That I'd failed you."

The room was completely silent. No one seemed to want to break the tension in the air, built up from Jim's angry tirade... until Pike did.

"Jim."

One word, simple and straight forward. Just the name... but in that one word was everything that Pike couldn't express in words, and everything Jim needed to hear to finally break. With a heart wrenching sob, Jim finally gave up any pretence of composure, falling into the waiting arms of his mentor and the only father he'd ever known.

"I've missed you too, son."


Spock was still staring at his old captain in disbelief, and wasn't quite fast enough to comment on Jim's furious question – something that Bones was inherently grateful for. His own attempts to get Jim's attention didn't exactly work out that well. He'd tried to pull Jim back, saying his name, but it wasn't quite the reprimand he'd intended it to be. Hell, he was too fucking caught up at staring at the very much alive admiral Pike himself. There was no way that this man should be alive, and yet there he stood.

Stood, mind you, without a cane.

His earlier sense of dread hit him again with the force of a giant brick wall. Thinking about it, he knew that it wasn't impossible. Had Chris not died and continued the therapy that Bones had assigned him, he would have been back on his feet within eight months. Ten at a stretch. Some continued physical therapy, and this was the very Chris Pike he would have expected to see. But...

But he'd seen the reports on the deceased Pike. The damage to his body. Even if he'd survived that attack, Chris should have been down for the count for several months at least, before starting the healing process over again. At the very least, Pike needed to show some fucking signs of pain, of discomfort, and difficulty in his movements.

There was nothing.

The living didn't just heal...

...and the dead didn't just rise up and walk again. Not unless a price was paid, and if anyone had used Khan's blood, he would have known about it. Which left Bones with a very heavy stone in his stomach, and a question he had to have an answer too.

Who, and yes, what, was Christopher Pike?

Despite his own internal musings, Jim had continued on his rant. Bones could hear the hysteria creeping in under the very obvious anger, and when Spock dropped his careless comment, he wanted to take a heavy object to the Vulcan's head. Clearly the fucking hobgoblin's brain was malfunctioning. Of all the asinine things to say...

"Not helping, Spock," he ground out, glaring at the idiotic Vulcan. Spock just blinked at him curiously; obviously the walking computer couldn't wrap his logical head around the fact that emotional humans didn't deal with shocks by stating the fucking obvious. He didn't have a chance to continue his rant, however; both his attention and those of the Vulcan were very quickly drawn back to their captain and friend, who had begun advancing on Pike.

Bones cursed mentally. He knew he should probably step up as well, maybe go so far as to restrain Jim before the emotional idiot did something he'd regret... but he couldn't find it in himself to do it. Truth be told, he was just as pissed off at Pike.

He'd been the one to deal with Jim when the captain had finally allowed himself to deal with the pain of losing his mentor, and the one to provide him with the support to get back on his feet. He'd picked up the pieces, made sure that Jim didn't end up getting himself kicked out of the academy or worse. Because of this fucking stunt, Bones had seen his best friend at his worst.

For that, he wanted Pike to suffer. Call it protective instinct, but the respect he'd held for the man took a gigantic fucking dip.

Aside from everything else that had happened so far on this accursed morning, finding Pike standing there alive and well and not saying a goddamn word was not doing Bones' temper any good. The mystery around his survival didn't help either. But, for the moment, this was something Jim needed to deal with, and he wasn't about to get in the way of that.

If that meant getting some of his own revenge via Jim’s tirade, he could live with that.

At least Spock kept his fucking trap shut as well, keeping his eyes focused on the captain. If anything, Bones was sure he'd have to intercept Spock rather than Jim – a very pissed off and hurting young man who was still advancing on Pike.

Jim cursed loudly, and Bones flinched. Jim rarely cursed these days, taking his duty and appearance as the Captain of the Enterprise extremely seriously. Being the youngest captain in the history of Starfleet, and more so, of the flagship… he knew just how much Jim wanted it, and how much he wanted to live up to it.

Bones had shifted carefully through the room so that he managed to grab Spock by the arm as the Vulcan tried to approach the other two men. He looked back at the doctor, but McCoy only gave him a subtle shake of the head. This wasn't something they could sort out. Not this time.

Their friend and captain seemed to find his resolve again, practically growling out the rest in a manner that was eerily similar to the way Bones tended rant himself. Jim struggled with the words, and he could see the damage this was doing to his friend... but as much as he hated to admit it – and as much as he wanted to tear Pike's throat out – Jim needed this. Jim needed Pike right now, not a friend who would go ballistic on his behalf. He needed to let out that pain, needed the catharsis.

Sometimes he really regretted becoming a doctor. Things were much simpler with a gun.

Instead he watched from beside Spock as Jim finally made his confession.

"That I'd failed you."

And there it was. The very crux of the matter, the thing that made Jim, Jim. It may have been Marcus' fault, or Khan's fault, but Jim rarely saw it that way. What he saw was a man, a man that he cared about, that had died because he'd not been good enough. Self-critical, self–sacrificing idiot.

And then Pike was finally talking, even if it was only one word, and Jim was sobbing his heart out in the man's arms – finally getting the closure and the comfort he needed. Pissed off as he was at Pike, Bones couldn't begrudge him that.

For a brief moment, his eyes met Pike's, and he knew his anger and suspicion was barely disguised. What surprised him was the complete understanding in the man's eyes even as he soothed Jim.

"I'm sorry, Jim. I couldn't tell you, no matter how much I wanted too." He waved them into the couches even as he spoke. Spock hesitated only a moment before seating himself. Bones wasn't so quick to accept the offer.

He didn't want to sit. Not while he could feel anticipation crawling under his skin. It made him... fuck, it made him feel antsy. Like something was going to happen, and he wasn't going to like it one fucking bit. He wasn't liking things already, but now he was more on edge than he'd been the whole week and it took a conscious effort to bite back an irritated growl before he finally took a seat himself. It was surprising that they couldn't hear his teeth grinding together.

"Damn it, Chris." Jim finally pulled away, hurriedly wiping at his eyes. He never was one for open displays of emotion, not like this. Happiness, sure. Cockiness, sass, the occasional anger. But not once in the five years that he'd known Jim had the kid completely broken down like this. It was a testament to just how much the wound caused by the admiral's death had festered where he'd suppressed it. And now, Jim was pulling himself back together in record time. He was still a captain.

Bones wanted to smack the infantile moron upside the head... but he understood.

"You know I want an explanation, right?" He could hear the underlying anger, still present. No doubt it would be a while before the kid completely forgave Pike.

He wouldn't be forgiving the man quite so soon himself.

Pike nodded and smiled as he gave Jim's shoulder a squeeze, before waving him to a chair as well.

"That's why you're here Jim." He looked between them. "That's why you're all here."

Bones didn't take his eyes off the man as he joined them in his own seat. The elder looking man's hesitation to say anything more didn't help the itch under his skin.

Pike took a deep breath, folding his hands together on his knees.

"You'll have to forgive me; this isn't a story I've told before, and it's a little difficult to decide where to begin."

That was the last straw for John. John, not Bones, not McCoy – because something of this reeked of his past, and John was here, crawling under his skin, breaking through the cover of Leonard, preparing to deal with what he was expecting to hear.

And John had a lot less patience than McCoy did.

"How about you start with how you're still alive, Pike. That's something I would really like to know."

He didn't need to look at Jim or Spock to know they were looking at him as if he'd grown a second head, even if that very question had been on their minds as well. They could fucking deal with it. He wanted the truth, and he wanted it now. This... this fucking uncertainty was going to drive him insane, and the sooner he knew just what the hell was going on, the sooner he could find a way to deal with it. The sooner he could get this goddamned need to hold his old rifle to abate.

Chris didn't look surprised in the slightest at the rather disrespectful outburst, nodding instead. That was no comfort.

"That's a story that starts a long time ago, doctor McCoy." Yea, that didn't help his flaring suspicions one bit. The only reason he wasn't making any wild accusations was because Pike didn't smell like he was infected. There was no scent of C-24... not that he could pick up. It might have been over two centuries, but it wasn't the kind of stink one forgot, not when it was as ingrained in his senses as the nightmares were in his mind.

Maybe he was being overly suspicious. Paranoid, even. But in two hundred years, his sense that something fucked up was about to happen had never failed him. And in two hundred years, he’d never seen anything else that could save a dead man – Jim excluded. That was another fucking mess all on its own. At least there was some hope that this had nothing to do with that accursed chromosome.

Yea, that was him. John Grimm slash Leonard McCoy, eternal fucking optimist.

There was only one way to get to the truth.

"Since we've been told we're on a tight schedule, Pike, maybe you'd better start telling it."

This time Jim did manage to hiss out an admonishing, "Bones!" but he couldn’t be bothered. Pike wasn’t an admiral anymore; in fact, right now the bastard was technically complicit in the abduction of a Starfleet officer – not to mention the biggest jackass in the known universe for dumping this fucking shit on Jim. And that wasn’t even counting the fact that, right now, Bones trusted the fucker about as far as his nose could reach. He didn’t deserve any fucking respect, end of story. The ex-admiral, to his miniscule credit, just nodded again.

"You're right, doctor, we are on a tight schedule. And as difficult as it is to tell this story, it is important that I do. As Talia has no doubt told you, we stand on the brink of a disaster that could result in countless deaths."

"What's going on, Chris?"

Leave it to the damn kid to be more worried about the lying sonovabitch than just what kind of 'story' resulted in him faking his own damn death.

“Before I tell you anything else, gentlemen,” Pike began again, fixing each of them with a look that was far more familiar and authoritative, “you need to understand that you can never, never, share what you learn with anyone outside this room.”

“What-“ Jim began to protest, but Pike cut him off. Bones didn’t bother to interject.

“I mean it, Jim. No one else can be privy to the information I’m about to disclose. It will not only put your lives at risk, but anyone you share this information with as well. As much as I want to tell you the truth, I will not put any further lives at risk.”

“If I may interject, sir-“ Spock found himself interrupted as well.

“Just Chris, Spock. I’m not an officer anymore.”

Spock simply nodded acceptance of this fact before continuing. “As I was saying, Chris, why would you have us brought here if you could not be certain that we would accept these terms?”

Damn good point, and double fucking damn if that thought didn’t make him feel like he needed to scrub out his brain.

“Because, Spock, the problem has reached the point where I, and those with me, can no longer contain it on our own. To be honest, I would rather not have involved you at all. However, circumstances being what they are… the only viable solution would have affected you, Jim, indirectly, regardless of my approach to it. It would have impacted you negatively. As such…”

“You contacted all three of us.” Jim finished, and Pike nodded.

“If you don’t want to be involved, you’ll need to decide now. Before I give you any details. If, however, you decide not to hear me out, I’ll trust that you not reveal that I’m still alive and we will go to our backup plan. It’s not the ideal solution, but nothing about this situation can be considered ideal.”

No fucking shit. This was sounding worse by the second, but he already knew that Jim would never deny Pike help if he needed it. Which meant that he was going to find himself involved in whatever this fucking situation was as well. This was not his week.

“I know I’m asking for a big leap of faith here, Jim, and I know I don’t exactly deserve your trust right now… but I also know when I’m in over my head, and when to ask for help. I’m asking.” He looked at all of them again, although Bones would swear that Pike’s eyes hovered over him just a bit longer than it did over the others. Just like that damn woman’s did. They knew something, and when people knew things about him… it never bode well.

“I want to help.”

“Damnit, kid, you can at least pretend to think about this!” He couldn’t help but blurt out. The whole damn thing reeked of a disaster waiting to happen, and Jim fucking Kirk was preparing to jump in with both goddamn legs just because someone asked him too!

“Bones, I won’t ask you to stay if you don’t want too, but I’m not going to let you talk me out of this, not this time. If something is threatening humanity, or any other civilization, and we can do something about it, it’s our job to do it. We all took that vow, Bones. Even you.”

Oh, if Jim only knew… but the kid was right, and whether he wanted to admit it or not, he’d taken that vow too, just like every other cadet. His agreement, it seemed, went without saying and when they looked at Spock, the Vulcan did no more than nod his acquiescence. They both trusted Pike too much, in his opinion, but he knew when he was outnumbered. And whatever they were about to get themselves into, he wasn’t about to let Jim walk into a life-threatening situation without being right by his side.

“Alright, Chris. You have our agreement. Now, what’s this emergency?”

Pike studied Jim for only a moment, manipulative ass, before nodding his acceptance and leaning back in the chair.

“For the past several generations, my family has protected this secret. We’ve sacrificed life and limb to protect it for over two hundred years, passing the responsibility down from parent to child. What I’m about to tell you has never been shared outside our family; I ask you to simply listen, and not interrupt.”

John did his best to hide the fact that his entire body wanted to freeze up. Two hundred years. That was starting to hit a bit too close to home… Thankfully Jim and Spock seemed to be drawn in already, paying him no mind.

“You are all familiar with the Eugenics wars of the nineteen nineties by now, considering the events of two years ago, but that is where our story begins. After the eugenics wars, and instead of discontinuing all genetic research around the improvement of human soldiers, some of the larger corporations continued their work in secret. One of these corporations was known as UAC, the Union Aerospace Corporation. For a long time it seemed that they would make no further progress, until a surprise discovery in twenty twenty-six opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities for them.”

Whatever doubt he’d had in his mind was gone. The timeframe, the reference to UAC… John was as stiff as a fucking rod. He’d known this was going to come back to bite him in the arse one day. The question now was, just how much did Pike know? And, more importantly… where did he stand on the issue? As much as he didn’t want to hurt Jim, he wasn’t going to let anyone open this can of worms again, not if he could help it.

Even if it meant killing Christopher Pike.

“What happened next you will find in no history book, and in no records. My family has painstakingly removed all traces of these events from human history – via electronic methods as well as more… violent methods, necessary as they were.”

“You killed the people involved and rewrote history?”

He’d expected Spock to be the one to ask the question, not Jim, and certainly not with such an accusatory tone. And if this was what he suspected – by now, he was pretty fucking sure his past was about to come out in a big way – he was part of that erasure of the past. What Pike was talking about was on a much larger scale, but he’d played his own part in it.

But how was Pike involved in this whole damned mess? That was the question he pondered, nails digging into his skin, as Pike continued to speak.

“History is often written by the victors. In this case, it was rewritten by survivors. It was vital that the information be removed. Everything was erased and destroyed – everything we could reach. But that was, unfortunately, not all of it. Now, as official records have it, the first manned missions to Mars was during twenty thirty-two, six years after World War three began, and the first outpost was only established in twenty sixty-nine. The first colony was established much, much later. And that was exactly what we wanted the world to think. The truth, I’m afraid, is much different.”

The man sighed, looking much older than he was. “In twenty twenty-six, just before the war broke out, UAC discovered advanced technology in what was then known as the Nevada desert. The technology turned out to be a teleportation device, named the ARK – the forefather to our transporters, if you will. This device allowed people to be transported to Mars. The first Martian base was not established in the twenty second century, but in twenty twenty-seven. It was little more than a basic outpost, rigged to accommodate several archaeologists and their families. They named it Olduvai.”

And there it was. Two centuries of running, and there. It. Was.

Fuck fucking Olduvai.

Right now, that waterfall was starting to look like it would have been a fantastic idea. At least that wasn’t something he had nightmares about. But Olduvai… it had haunted his childhood, his adult life and his immortal life. And now it was being shoved right back in his face.

“It turned out to be… unstable,” Understatement, “and it was closed for a time before it was reopened. At this point, the war was in full swing, and the UAC was desperately looking for a solution. They still believed that genetics were the answer, just not the engineering of new human beings. On Mars they were certain that they’d finally found their answer.”

Some answer that had turned out to be. He wanted to put an end to the conversation, put an end to this entire fucking mess right now, but until he had his answers… it was like being fucking chained, and Reaper hated feeling like a captive.

“Once they reopened the archaeological dig site, they discovered the remnants of an ancient civilization. Humanoid remains. These remains, unlike those of humans, contained twenty four chromosomes as opposed to twenty three.”

Spock couldn’t help the soft “Fascinating,” that escaped him, and John could just barely suppress the urge to punch his green face in.

“They thought so.” Pike’s voice seemed surprisingly annoyed as he said it. “They isolated the extra pair of chromosomes, and turned it into a serum. They were convinced that it would be the key in creating super soldiers. The king of enhancement drugs, if you want to call it that. In secret, they began human trials, testing the serum on a convict condemned to execution.”

“Did it work?”

“Too well, and not well at all.”

Jim frowned, but John was only too relieved that the others were too focused on Pike to notice that he hadn’t asked any further questions. He was a medical man, supposed to take an interest in these things. But on this particular topic, he had little more to say than ‘Fuck them, and fuck Olduvai.’

“There were… unexpected side effects. The serum sought out genetic markers in those that were infected with it. Markers indicating violent and psychotic behaviour, that was the working theory of the surviving scientist. If it found those markers, it mutated the infected, turning them into violent, cannibalistic monstrosities. Most were reduced to their most basic primal instincts – hunt, feed and infect.”

“And those without the required markers?” Spock ventured.

“The serum would work as intended, creating a human being who was enhanced beyond imagining. Faster, stronger, a superior intelligence and nigh indestructible. Everything the corporation could have wished for, and then some. The infected, however, seemed to realize this on a basic level – they turned those who would mutate, and outright killed those who would not. UAC attempted to contain the situation, calling in a military force known as the RRTS – the Rapid Response Tactical Squad. Marines, of the highest calibre. Hard men, well trained; the kind you would be hard pressed to find now. That squad was known as the ‘Hellfighters’, an apt name, considering the events that followed. They consisted of Private Mark Dantalian, call sign The Kid, Private First Class Katsuhiko Kumanoske Takahashi, call sign Mac, Sargent Gannon Roark, call sign Destroyer, Sargent Gregory Schofield, call sign Duke, Corporal Eric Fantom, call sign Goat, Corporal Dean Portman, call sign Portman, Staff Sargent John Grimm, call sign Reaper, and Gunnery Sargent Asher Mahonin, call sign Sarge. They were the best of the best, the last line of defence.”

He couldn’t help it. With every name, his fists tightened, faces and deaths flashing before his eyes. Kid, killed by the very man who’d recruited him, bleeding out beneath John’s hands as he choked on his own blood. Mac’s headless body, lying discarded on the floor without the markers the infected sought. Destroyer, beaten to death and Duke, pulled through a grate like a shredder. Goat, dying twice – once under his care, the second time beating his own brains out. His own death… and reawakening as something both more and less than human. And, finally, Sarge… Sarge, whose death he’d not seen, but whom he’d killed nonetheless.

“Seriously?” He couldn’t quite blame Jim for the touch of humour in his voice. “Those were the names they chose? Like… the Grimm Reaper?”

He blames it on the fact that he’s so caught up in his own memories, but he just can’t stop himself from responding to those words… like he’s talking to Sam again.

“They were marines, Jim, not poets.”

“Indeed.”

It’s Pike who pulls him out of his memories just far enough to realise that he’s not on Olduvai, and that he’s not talking to Sam, but that he’s sitting in a livingroom discussing the worst hours of his life like they were discussion a historical paper. He doesn’t bother to look at Jim or at Spock, focusing instead on Pike.

He’s almost convinced, now, that Pike somehow knows who he is.

What he is.

He waits for the reveal… braces himself for it, a denial already on his lips… but it doesn’t come.

“It was a slaughter nonetheless.” Pike continues as if the interruption never occurred. It’s enough to recapture the attention of the other two men in the room, and for the first time, John actually feels a little thankful that Pike seems to be keeping all the attention away from him.

For now.

“There were eighty five permanent research staff based at the Mars facility, with over a hundred more on site on Earth. Within six hours, they were all dead. Families – men, women and children – all slaughtered.” He doesn’t mention the fact that Sarge lost his shit. John doesn’t know if Pike just isn’t aware of that part of the story, or if he deliberately doesn’t mention it. Either way, he’s thankful for it.

He’s even more thankful when Talia suddenly appears in the room with a tray containing several cups – and according to his nose, they’re filled with honest to god coffee. Real coffee. She smirks and makes a beeline for him.

“Sorry to interrupt, boys, but I promised a certain grumpy doc a cup of coffee. Let it not be said I don’t keep my word,” she says even as she holds out the cup for him to take. It’s easy enough to realize his cup has more than just coffee in it… and he raises a brow at her as he accepts it nonetheless. Talia gives him a conspiratorial wink, and turns to hand cups off to the others.

The first sip confirms what his nose already told him. She put fucking whiskey in his coffee. It’s not even daytime yet, and he’s drinking alcohol – and fuck if he isn’t so damn appreciative of it that he considers that he might just let her damned moronic ‘recruitment’ method from earlier go. It’s also enough to convince him that yes, both she and Pike knew who he was, and is, and that she’d guessed at how this retelling would affect him. He might not be able to get drunk, but the burn of the caffeinated alcohol is certainly helping him to get himself under better control. It steadies his nerves and the shaking that he hadn’t even been aware off comes to a stop.

Jim thanks her for the coffee with his usual charming smile, and even Spock accepts a drink from her.

“Thank you, Talia.” Pike intones as he accepts the second last cup, Talia snagging the last for herself.

“Hey, a promise is a promise.” She looks at him again, grinning broadly as she takes a sip from her cup and sits down next to Pike.

It’s silent for a few moments as everyone enjoys the warmth of their drinks, all of them reluctant to disturb it. In the end, it’s Jim that takes the leap.

“So how do you fit into all this?”

Pike sighs, and Talia rests a reassuring hand on his shoulder. It speaks of a close relationship, but one that John isn’t really interested in at the moment. He just wants to find out what this is all about.

“By the time the quarantine on Olduvai ended, only two people walked out of the facility alive,” Pike says finally. “They did everything in their power to ensure that all traces of Olduvai and C-24, the additional chromosome serum, was erased from all records. They thought they did enough. So did I, and my family. But, in the end, we forgot the most important thing.” He placed the cup to the side, and put his hand over Talia’s. She finished for him.

“We never destroyed the original facility on Mars, and the dig site.”

Well… fuck. Goddamn fucking hell. They’d never even thought about that… The Nevada sight he’d personally blown to smithereens. UAC had been harder to bring down, but he’d done it. The research, the scientists… he’d disposed of them all. But at that time, Mars hadn’t been within reach and, by the time it was, he was too busy trying to rebuild his life while Sam finally began to live hers. He’d assumed that the ST Grenade had done a good enough job.

As the age old adage went, when you assume, you make an ass of you and me.

“It was rediscovered, then?”

Pike nodded in Spock’s direction, and that single motion made John’s blood run cold.

“By Marcus. In his quest for war, he explored a lot of avenues, more than even we could have anticipated. Somehow… he discovered Olduvai. It was badly damaged, but there was enough left for them to stabilize the facility. We should have discovered it sooner, but after the attacks it took us months to root through all his corruption, all the projects he’d been running in secret. We’re still finding traces of his work, and we’ve been handling clean up from behind the scenes, things Starfleet doesn’t and can’t know about. But he’d kept Olduvai under lock and key. We only found out about it a few days ago.”

Right around the time they’d received this diplomatic mission. John was willing to bet his not inconsiderable life savings that Pike and his so called family had something to do with its assignment to the Enterprise. It seemed that Pike and his ‘family’ had a very long reach. John wasn’t sure if he was particularly happy about that. Then again, he wasn’t happy about anything right now, not when he was being told that his worst nightmare was coming back to life. He didn’t need to be a genius to figure out where this was going either. Pike was going to send them to that… that place. To hell.

DAMNIT!

“We know they’ve been experimenting with the twenty fourth chromosome. We also know they infected several people with it. We’d hoped to put a stop to it before it became even more of a problem. Unfortunately, as of twelve hours ago, the entire facility went offline.”

“So blow the damn thing to hell from space, damnit!” He just couldn’t keep quiet about it anymore. They couldn’t be thinking about sending people – his people – down there!

“I wish we could, doctor, but Mars is colonized now. Any starship firing on the planet would raise too much attention.” At least Pike had the fucking decency to sound remorseful. “The facility needs to be sabotaged from the inside, and we need to ensure that all the data and the entire dig is destroyed. No person, no matter how well trained, will survive down there.”

“Chris, I’m not following you.” Jim piped up again. “You need it destroyed from the inside, but you can’t send anyone in? Help me out here; I’m not seeing how we’re supposed to be helping you.”

“It comes down to the survivors I mentioned earlier.”

“The two who made it out alive?”

“Yes.” His voice is resigned.

John isn’t surprised that Spock is the first one to put two and two together.

“One or both of the survivors were infected with the serum.” It’s bluntly stated, and immediately confirmed with a nod from Pike.

“One of them was infected. The two survivors were twins; one marine, and one scientist. The marine was injured during the escape. To save him, his sister injected him with the serum and it took. He became enhanced far beyond anything they could have expected. So much so that they discovered he was not only indestructible, but that he did not age.”

“Fucking hell.”

“In a sense.”

“So the one that was infected, the marine. He is still alive.”

It didn’t slip John’s notice that Pike still hadn’t mentioned any names, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Clearly Pike knew that he, Leonard McCoy, was John Grimm. So why hadn’t he brought it up yet? Was he actually giving him a choice?

“That’s correct, Spock. Over the centuries, my family has kept track of that marine. I’m hoping that he would be willing to undertake this one last mission, and lie this demon that has haunted our family to final rest.”

He’s asking. Not commanding or demanding, but actually asking. It’s that simple fact, more than anything, that gives John pause. He knows it’s his responsibility. He doesn’t like it, in fact, he hates that Pike is involving Jim in this mess… but he also understands that he’s being given the option here. It’s not much of one, but considering how often those options are taken out of his hands… John hates to admit it, but he appreciates it. There was still something he needed to know, though…

“You want us to take him to Mars, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Pike pauses for a moment, “If he’s willing.”

Silence follows that statement. The idea that someone would refuse to undertake something that could affect the lives of billions – or more – is a very clear indication of the horrors that await. They don’t want to contemplate it, and John doesn’t blame them. It does, however, give him the chance ask his question.

“You keep mentioning your family, Pike. How do you, and they, fit into this?”

There’s a small smile that creeps onto the man’s face.

“The two survivors were called John and Samantha Grimm. As I said, my family has kept track of John Grimm. In some instances, we’ve even assisted him from the shadows, cleaning up stray trails.”

John almost chokes on his coffee. That was something he was going to have Pike clear up later. Cleaning up after him? Fuck, cocky little sonofabitch. He didn’t leave trails. Never been fucking caught before. Then again, if someone was watching his back… what a foreign fucking thought that was.

“My family has been involved in Starfleet from the very beginning. We’ve also been involved in many ventures throughout the years. While the main branch of the family always remained on Earth and in Starfleet, the cadet branches travelled the galaxy. Wherever the marine went, they followed.” His eyes flick over to John very briefly, but it tells him everything he needs to know.

He never knew… all his life, there had been people looking out for him. People watching over him. Even after he’d felt alone for so long… he’d never been truly alone. It was a shocking realization, both painful and oddly… comforting.

“Why?” Is all he asks.

“Because that was the responsibility that his sister passed down to us.”

His jaw drops. He can’t quite believe it.

“Wait a minute…” Jim begins, but it’s Pike who finishes.

“My family has been protecting the secrets of Olduvai, and watching over John Grimm, because this isn’t just a story to us. It’s our story, the beginning of our family, and it’s a duty that has defined us for over two hundred years.” This time he doesn’t hide it as he looks at John.

“We are the direct descendants of Samantha Grimm.”

There isn’t a chance for anyone else to say anything before John blurts out a single word.

Bullshit.”