Title: The Night of the Guardian
Fandom: Wild Wild West and Star Trek: The Original Series
Pairing: Jim/Artie, Kirk/McCoy
Feedback: justblackchaps at yahoo dot com
Summary: Kirk and McCoy are summoned by the Guardian to repair the timeline. Jim and Artie race to catch Dr. Loveless. The past and future collide.
Disclaimer: All this belongs to CBS or Paramount.
"Plot a course and go to Warp Six, Mr. Chekov, and you have the bridge, Mr. Sulu." Kirk tapped his fingers quickly on the armrest before rising.
"Aye, sir." Sulu stood and slipped into the big chair. He smiled.
Captain Kirk just nodded. He was too worried to grin. McCoy was going to yell, and Spock was going to get very quiet, which could be worse than yelling. Kirk headed for the turbolift and sickbay. It didn't matter. They had to be briefed. Spock was off-duty, and McCoy was just ending his shift.
"Sickbay," Kirk said. He tried not to pace in the turbolift while it took him to that deck. He went down the hallway and almost bumped into McCoy coming out of sickbay. "Bones!"
"Watch where you're going," said McCoy. He smiled and slung an arm around Kirk. "Think you were the captain of this boat."
"Ship, she's a ship," Kirk growled. This display of affection from McCoy would end quite abruptly and might not pick up again for some time. He sighed. "Let's go find Spock. I only want to run through this briefing once."
"The hair on the back of my neck just stood at attention." McCoy turned them towards the turbolift. He was grinning.
"Well, that's something," Kirk said. McCoy was a terrible officer, but a great doctor.
Spock was in his quarters, and Kirk wished he could strip off his shirt. It was hot in here.
McCoy complained about it. "Heat exhaustion is in my future, isn't it?" McCoy wiped his brow and slumped his shoulders.
"You must grow weary of your own humor, Doctor." Spock tugged his blue tunic down.
Kirk watched the body language of his two officers closely. Spock was feeling fine, and Bones was worried.
"Gentlemen, let's take this to the galley."
Spock and Bones both turned to him in all seriousness. Now they were both worried. Kirk said nothing more until they were sitting in the galley and each of them had the beverage of their choice.
"The Guardian of Forever wants us there as soon as possible. We're already on our way," Kirk said. Spock raised an eyebrow. McCoy groaned. "There's a problem."
"Has it informed us as to the nature of the problem?"
Kirk shook his head and sipped his coffee. One down and one to go. He waited.
"Damn it, Jim. I'm a doctor, not a time traveler."
There it was - right on schedule. Kirk nearly burst out laughing. "Funny, Bones, but you have been requested specifically, and I'm to go along as well."
Spock's eyebrow went up another notch, and Kirk waited for the muted explosion. "This course of action hardly seems advisable."
"The Federation is committed to the Guardian, and if it wants us - it gets us. Spock, you'll be in command here." Kirk paused to emphasize. "We have our orders."
"I resent taking orders from a block of granite." McCoy said the words surly and softly.
"Bones, you resent orders, period," said Kirk. He smiled and drank his coffee. McCoy glared at him and left the table. Spock made a steeple with his hands, letting his silence speak for him. "I know, Spock, but my hands are tied."
Kirk was in his quarters that night going over ship-wide reports when the door opened and shut. He smiled at McCoy. It was time to discuss all this.
"You look tired, Jim."
"Long day." Kirk stretched, and put the report down. McCoy stepped behind him and began to rub his shoulders. "Thanks."
"I'm still angry."
"So, what's new?" Kirk rolled his shoulders and sighed. McCoy had great hands. "There's nothing I can do about it."
"There's always something." McCoy quit rubbing.
"Not this time." Kirk stood up and turned around. "I'll be with you."
"One good thing." McCoy edged closer, and Kirk traced a finger along the doctor's jaw. "You're sure?"
"Yes. It said us, so we're going." Kirk traced McCoy's lips and licked his own. "You are staying here tonight?"
McCoy sighed and turned away. Kirk took advantage of the situation and wrapped his arms around McCoy, leaning him back slightly and caressing him fully. McCoy let out a soft groan. Kirk kissed the nape of McCoy's neck. They'd face this situation together.
"Yes, damn it."
"I love you too, Bones."
The Guardian waited and watched. There was time.
Kirk and McCoy stood in front of the Guardian. McCoy was perhaps a little closer to Kirk than was necessary, but this place gave him the shakes. Kirk's tricorder hummed. Spock had insisted they record and let him analyze the data.
"Behold." They watched as two men fought for their lives with fists and guns. McCoy was swept up in the drama, and from Kirk's rapid breath, he seemed to be also. One man lost and the other held him, bled, and wept. McCoy felt a shiver climb his spine. The man's agony was horrible, but what did it mean to them?
"The one named McCoy, and all of his blood, will not continue if this timeline holds true." The Guardian spoke and held the image.
"Now wait just a damn minute!" McCoy shouted at the unfeeling rock. This was bad, really bad. Kirk looked like he'd been struck.
"Time has been altered. He, who was not to die, has died."
Kirk rubbed his forehead, and McCoy studied the frozen scene in horror. The brown-haired man's body was riddled with bullets, blood everywhere. He was more than dead. Grief was stamped on the face of the black-haired man, a terrible grief that McCoy felt in his guts.
"I have to save him? One of those bullets is in his heart and another looked like it tore through his liver. There's nothing there to work with," McCoy said. Despair started to creep over him. Someone had screwed up the time line, and now he was going to pay the price.
"Maybe not, Bones. Listen, if we can get there ahead of time, we can stop it." Kirk turned off the tricorder and began to pace. "It's our only chance."
"You mean my only chance," McCoy said. His thoughts flew to Joanna. How could this be? "Guardian, who has done this?"
"Someone who should not be there."
"Well, that was helpful." McCoy wanted to tear his hair out and curse a blue streak. "Jim, I'll go. You stay here."
"Sure, Bones. You'll be fine in the Old West."
McCoy blushed. He couldn't ride or shoot. He was a doctor, and nothing less. "I'll need a medikit."
"Guardian, we will return with the proper equipment."
"There is time."
Kirk flipped open his communicator. "Spock, two to beam up."
The sparkles danced, and they were on the Enterprise. For once, McCoy was grateful for the transporter, anything to be away from that planet. Unfortunately, he was going to return and jump through, again. He shivered.
Kirk grabbed him by the forearm. "Leonard, it's going to be okay. We can do this."
"I don't want to," McCoy said, and he didn't. Once through that stone was enough for any man's life. But, Joanna couldn't be lost. He took a deep breath.
Kirk began dragging him through the ship to Sickbay. "Have you ever researched your family tree? Do you have any idea the consequences to the Federation if your branch dies out back in what I think was the 1800's?"
McCoy stopped in the hallway and turned to Kirk. "What are you talking about?"
"Your family is full of scientists and doctors that made timely contributions to humanity. You can't let everyone down."
"He looked like a gunslinger, not a doctor." McCoy was becoming desperately afraid that he was going to do this. He had to, damn it.
"And Joanna?" Kirk pushed McCoy against the wall and got in his face. "I'm not losing you. Now go pack your medikit and dress like a country doctor. That's all you are, right?"
McCoy swallowed hard. He was going to do this. There was no alternative, not for him or his daughter. "Jim, I . . ."
"Don't argue. Move," Kirk barked. "I'm going to talk with Spock, and I'll meet you back at the transporter."
McCoy watched him stride off to the turbolift. He wanted to hide in his quarters and hope this would all blow over, but that wasn't going to happen. Damn it. In a daze, he went to sickbay and packed a medikit into an old-fashioned doctor's bag that he had from another half-brained mission. It should pass, as long as no one looked inside. That man's body had been wrecked. Nurse Chapel helped him gather all the instruments and drugs he might need, and a few he hoped he didn't. There was only so much he could do once the bullets were in the man.
"Dr. McCoy, are you alright?"
"No, Nurse. Keep an eye on things while I'm gone."
"We'll be fine. Annual checkups aren't for three months." Nurse Chapel smiled, and McCoy grinned at her.
"I need clothes. Captain Kirk won't wait forever."
On the heels of those words, Chekov came in the door with his usual enthusiastic attitude. Kirk was taking no chances that McCoy would back out or be unprepared. Chekov helped McCoy find what he needed from ship's stores. The clothes were bulky, and there were far too many layers. McCoy dressed as quickly as possible in sickbay, making sure to double-check his medikit. He couldn't afford a mistake.
"You look wery handsome, Doktor," Chekov said.
McCoy grunted, fiddled with the vest, and glared at the young man. "When's your next prostate exam?"
That's all it took, and Chekov was gone from sickbay. Nurse Chapel laughed, and McCoy rolled his eyes.
"Doctor McCoy, report to the transporter room." Spock's voice rolled through the ship loud and clear, and McCoy groaned. Time to go. He gave Nurse Chapel a kiss on the cheek and went to the transporter. Spock was at the controls. Kirk was already on the pad, waiting. McCoy felt his jaw drop open. Kirk's three piece light brown suit was handsome, and leather saddlebags hung from his shoulder. He even had a six-shooter, tied down on his thigh. The white hat was the piece de resistance.
"Doctor McCoy, I'm counting on you to keep the captain out of trouble," Spock said.
"Have you lost your Vulcan mind? Look at him. He's going to find more trouble than all of us could handle." McCoy threw up his hands. His feet didn't want to move.
"Bones, you have everything?" Kirk gestured him over.
McCoy shook his head but said, "Yes, for all the good it'll do." "Let's go. I haven't ridden a horse since our last shore leave," Kirk said.
McCoy glared at Kirk's enthusiasm and stepped up on the pad. He reappeared down on the planet near the Guardian. Kirk was right there, and it was a small comfort. "Do you really need a gun?"
"We have to stop them, remember? I can't very well take a phaser rifle," Kirk said patiently.
"Damn it, Jim. Don't kill anyone on my behalf. I won't stand for it."
"Yes, you will." Kirk put a hand on the Guardian. "Show us McCoy's ancestor."
McCoy allowed himself the comfort of touching Kirk on the forearm. The brown-haired man and the black-haired man appeared within the stone. They were arguing until it became much more. McCoy and Kirk watched for longer than either of them enjoyed. "Sex can be rough, but is that consensual?"
Kirk winced. "Both of them are too stubborn for their own good."
"That scene would be considered grounds for trial in our century." McCoy squeezed Kirk's arm. "Let's solve the problem by having them arrested."
"It's almost time to jump."
The Guardian was rolling the pictures by, the fog thickened, and McCoy felt tendrils of panic slipping into his brain.
"Now," the Guardian intoned.
Kirk jumped, and McCoy followed him, a mere breath behind.
********* 1870 - Between Wizard and Murderous Spring
The telegraph started to rattle, but Jim never looked up from his plate. Artemus glanced at Jim and the telegraph and sighed. His breakfast was always the one that got cold. He tossed down his napkin and went to the desk. The rapping continued long enough to ensure his eggs would be stone cold. He wrote the message down and sent back a confirmation. The message was not good news, but lately that was no big surprise.
"What's going on, Artie?"
"Dr. Loveless has been spotted. We're to proceed directly to Cedar Rapids, Iowa."
"We've chased him all over the country." Jim's plate was empty. "This time - let's catch him."
"Easier said than done." Artemus returned to his cold plate and picked at the food. "I wonder what's in Iowa."
"Not much besides the Mississippi. I'll go up front and tell Silas." Jim left the table and Artemus watched him leave. Jim really should wear a shirt to the table, but Artemus was so glad he didn't. Artemus began to clear the dishes. Jim wouldn't stop until Dr. Loveless was behind bars - again. Would Voltaire be there? Artemus' nose hurt at the thought. The man packed a wallop.
The train lurched, and its bell began to ring. They headed for the main line. Artemus automatically secured everything breakable. He sighed. Jim was obsessed with finding the little man, and Artemus was along for the ride. This was probably going to get worse before it got better. Jim returned with a lazy grin on his face, and Artemus went to the galley to wash the dishes. He was surprised when Jim followed him.
"We'll be there tomorrow," Jim said.
Artemus said nothing. This merry-go-round was making him dizzy. Dr. Loveless was always one step ahead. He had the advantage, and they were playing catch up.
"You're remarkably quiet." Jim dried the dish Artemus handed him. "Remarkably."
"You don't want to hear what I think." Artemus didn't look at Jim.
"You're probably right, but tell me anyway."
"No. I don't want to fight."
Jim's big hand pulled Artemus' face around by the chin, and their eyes met. Artemus dropped his eyes to Jim's lips.
"Yes, I do," Jim said. The words held a trace of command.
"I think you're obsessed, and it's going to get you killed."
Jim flinched like he'd been struck, and guilt poured over Artemus. He should have kept his big mouth shut. Too late for that now. He shuffled his feet, wanting to drop to his knees and apologize for having an opinion.
"He's not going to win," Jim snarled.
"Neither are you," Artemus said so softly that Jim leaned in closer. "And I'm going to lose everything."
"No, Artemus. This time you're wrong." Jim wrapped his hand around Artemus' neck and pulled him down to rest against Jim's chest. "Dead wrong."
Artemus relaxed into Jim and felt chills run down his spine. Jim nuzzled him and chased them away, but he was still cold. They were headed for disaster, no doubt, if only Jim could see it.
Jim kissed him, and Artemus was reluctant to yield more than his mouth. More would seem like he was condoning this madness, and nothing was further from the truth. Jim bit him on the lips and teased his tongue inside. He wanted it all his way, every day. Artemus groaned softly. He was crumbling like an old stone wall. Jim pressed his advantage and his cock into Artemus.
"Don't worry, Artie." Jim squeezed Artemus' neck and ass. "You'll look out for me, right?"
"Of course, but Dr. Loveless is-"
"Going back to prison where he belongs."
"Damn it! Let me finish a sentence!" Artemus pushed Jim back, or tried to, but it was impossible. "Dr. Loveless is a horse of a different color, and given a chance he'll kill you."
"You should have more faith in me." Jim tugged Artemus in for another kiss.
Artemus tried to think in the midst of a mind-bending, heart-pounding, toe-curling, Jim West kind of kiss. "Just be careful and wait for me."
Jim didn't answer, and Artemus' heart went through the floor. Dr. Loveless would have an extra advantage until Jim let Artemus work up to his full potential.
"Don't leave me in the kitchen, Jim."
"How about cuffed to the bed?"
Artemus groaned and tried to get away. Jim followed and pinned him against the wall in the hallway. Hands clasped, groins pushed, and Artemus was lost in the fiery passion of his partner. Jim pressed and pushed. Artemus folded down to his knees. Jim rubbed his bulge against Artemus' mouth. Artemus reached up, and Jim captured him by the wrists, pushing them back against the wall. It didn't hurt, but it aggravated him. Jim was too pushy. He suddenly pulled him up and maneuvered him to the bed. Artemus gasped in shock when his clothes were ripped off. Aggressive didn't begin to describe Jim today.
"No cuffs, okay?" Artemus tried to sound firm.
Jim put Artemus on the bed. It didn't take much convincing. Jim stood over him and unbuttoned himself. He pulled on Artemus, positioning him right where he wanted him. While Artemus was busy with that, Jim stroked him roughly.
"Easy, Jim. I need that to piss."
"Don't talk, Artie." Jim used Artemus' hair to pull him back and deeper.
Artemus gave up fighting. Jim was going to manhandle him and make him love it - love every minute of it. Damn it. He sucked until Jim pushed him off and finished undressing. Artemus lay on his stomach, watched, and said nothing, not even sighing. He hated gags as much as Jim loved them. Jim tossed his pants over a chair and stepped away from the bed. Artemus almost let slip a groan of anticipation.
"Close your eyes and don't open them until I give you permission."
Jim's back was turned, and Artemus shut his eyes, waiting. The wait stretched out and Artemus wanted to peek, but resisted. The cold kiss of iron on his wrist made him groan with dismay, and Jim swatted him. Jim manacled Artemus' arms to the bedpost, but Jim wasn't quite finished.
"No Jim, not a gag. You know I hay, huh-" Artemus' words became obscure, and he shut up. What was it that made Jim love gags so much?
"If you could follow orders, we wouldn't have these problems," Jim said. "Do you need a blindfold?"
Artemus shook his head and kept his eyes screwed shut. Jim was making a point. It was damn irritating. The next minutes were torture for Artemus, while Jim enjoyed teasing him. Any other time, Artemus would have been yelling, but not today. He stayed totally silent. Jim would love to punish him all day and into the night.
"I'm going to put you right where I want you, and then don't move." Another command to be obeyed.
Artemus nodded, and Jim positioned him on spread knees, bent elbows, with his head down. He ached to be fucked, but Jim was taking his own sweet time about it. He fondled, stroked, kissed, licked, bit, and didn't fuck Artemus like he wanted. He would've begged, but since he couldn't, he began to quiver with desire. Jim just had to get on with it.
"You want to beg. Don't you?"
Artemus almost nodded and then remembered he wasn't supposed to move. Jim was testing him. Damn! Artemus stayed still.
"You're learning, Artie." Jim pressed a slick finger inside him. "Do you want me to fuck you?"
Artemus pushed down the incoherent cry that wanted out and remained motionless against the desire coursing through him. Jim was in command. It was his decision, and Artemus would do what he was told, even if it was difficult. This was a lesson he could have done without.
"I think we understand each other now." Jim added a second finger. "You may nod once."
A rapid nod was Artemus' answer. Jim removed his hand and inserted his cock. Every muscle Artemus owned tensed, and he wanted nothing more than to arch and cry out, but he made no move. Jim waited to see if Artemus would need to be punished before fucking him. It was a near thing.
"Don't spend until I say you can, Artemus." Jim's voice was husky. "Don't."
Artemus almost orgasmed right then. Jim was fucking him hard, and it felt damn good. Don't move. Don't come. Did Jim think Artemus was made of stone? Artemus' temperature went up and up. He was on fire, and all he thought about was ice. Jim grunted and gasped. Artemus tried not to listen.
Jim took hold of Artemus' cock and growled, "Now, Artemus. Come now."
All the ice melted, and Artemus' heat blasted into the big hand at the same time Jim orgasmed deep inside him. Fire, he was on fire, but he never moved. He'd stay here and burn to ashes. Jim was in command.
"Roll with me," Jim said.
Artemus went limp, and Jim rolled them to the side. The shackles clinked, and Jim kissed the back of Artemus' neck. Jim's cock was still inside. Was he up to another go? Could Artemus stand the heat? He didn't dare open his eyes, and when the gag was gone, he said nothing. His heart began to slow down, and his breath came easier.
Jim was holding him. "Thank you, Artemus."
Artemus about jumped. Thanks for what? "You know I'd follow you into hell."
"Complaining the whole way," Jim said.
"Well, a man has to express himself." Artemus smiled and pushed his ass onto the cock. Jim gasped and pressed back a little deeper. It was a while before either man spoke again.
*********** Cedar Rapids, Iowa ***********
The disorientation of the Guardian's particular mode of transport was familiar to both of them. Kirk recovered first and clasped McCoy's forearm, steadying him. McCoy blinked away the fog, and they were in an alley.
"Yes, thanks." McCoy took a deep breath, and Kirk released him.
"Let's go find out where we are," Kirk said.
"And they are."
The Wanderer pulled into a siding outside Cedar Rapids on a bright sunny day right after lunch. It was a railroad town, and the yard was busy with freight and passengers. Jim saddled the horses and waited for his partner to make his appearance. Artemus was coming along, whether he liked it or not. Nothing was more important than catching Dr. Loveless. Nothing.
"I thought I was going to have to come after you," Jim said.
"No, no, I'm ready. I was polishing my gun."
Jim dropped the ramp and led his horse down. Artemus wasn't far behind. When they were both firmly in the saddle, Jim smiled at him and trotted the stallion towards town. The gelding, with Artemus on board, wanted to follow along even if his partner didn't. Jim was through coddling and cajoling Artemus. It was time to catch Dr. Loveless.
Kirk and McCoy were at the saloon finishing up their lunch. They were staying in the hotel across the street and had been looking for McCoy's ancestor for two days. Where was he? The sheriff hadn't been helpful, just suspicious. McCoy was forced to admit that these people had good whiskey, if nothing else. Kirk nudged and nodded at the door.
"Yeah, let's go," said McCoy.
McCoy followed Kirk out the door and stopped on the step, looking up and down the street. Kirk had two pictures of the men they were looking for in his saddlebags, but it was the dark-haired one that McCoy thought he would recognize. That grief-stricken face haunted him.
"Where to next?"
"Bones, I don't know. This is a train town maybe we should spend a little more time at the train station."
"Sounds likely," McCoy said, and he felt all the blood rush to his boots. He staggered back against the wall of the saloon.
Kirk was near him immediately. "Bones?"
McCoy couldn't find any words. The brown-haired man swung down from his black horse right in front of them. The other man was directly behind. Kirk followed McCoy's eyes and grew very still. They watched as the men pushed through the saloon doors and vanished. McCoy let out a whoosh of air.
"Eureka," Kirk said.
"And hallelujah," McCoy said. **********
"Did you see that fella out there, Jim?"
"He looked like he'd seen a ghost." Artemus picked up his whiskey and moved to a table. "Kinda spooky."
"The other man with the saddlebags was the dangerous one." Jim sat down in the chair opposite of Artemus. "He has that look about him."
"Takes one to know one. The pale guy was carrying a doctor's bag."
"Here they come," Jim said. "Dr. Loveless could have sent them, so play along."
Artemus nodded and smiled falsely. Jim was focused on Dr. Loveless, and with any luck he was long gone. The two men approached, and Artemus was immediately skeptical. They looked uncomfortable, like their clothes were too tight, or not tight enough.
"May we join you?" asked the blond-haired one. The pale fellow nodded and smiled thinly.
Jim pushed his hat back and smiled. "Sure, but you're buying."
Artemus laughed a little too loud. They sat down, and he watched the doctor swallow nervously.
The blond was confident, but worried. "My name is Jim Kirk, and this is my friend Doctor Leonard McCoy."
Jim nodded, and Artemus smiled. "James West and Artemus Gordon, how can we help you fellas?"
Artemus glanced back and forth. Two Jim's, this could be trouble. McCoy was clutching his doctor's bag, and Artemus felt a little sorry for him. His Jim was dragging him into something too.
"Don't worry." Artemus reached out and touched the doctor's hand lightly. "We can help."
McCoy's blue eyes slammed into his brown ones. A jolt passed through their hands. Christ! Who was this man?
"We're here to help you," Kirk said.
Artemus caught the glance Jim shot him. He didn't believe a word of it. McCoy was honest, but Kirk was the unpredictable one.
"Who sent you?" asked Jim. "Dr. Loveless?"
"No," Kirk said. "A friend told us you were in a tight spot and needed some assistance."
Jim sighed, and Artemus focused on McCoy. "You're a doctor?"
"Yes, a surgeon. We do want to help."
Those blue eyes pleaded with Artemus to believe him, and he did. They'd never convince Jim though.
"You haven't seen Dr. Loveless?"
"Is he a surgeon too?" asked McCoy.
Kirk said nothing, and Artemus could sense they were confused. Jim gave them a look and left the table to talk to the bartender. Artemus looked at Kirk. He was handsome, fit, and, like Jim said, dangerous.
"If he's a doctor, what are you?"
"A naval captain," Kirk said. His hazel eyes flashed.
Artemus almost groaned. This Jim was also opinionated and stubborn. "Where's your boat?"
"It's a ship, Artie." Jim laid his hand on Artemus' shoulder. "I'm headed over to the sheriff. I'll catch up later."
Artemus nodded, and Kirk stood up. "I'll go along, if you don't mind."
Jim grimaced, but nodded, and the two left together, leaving McCoy and Artemus to fend for themselves. Artemus poured the doctor another whiskey, and they clicked glasses.
They laughed and drank it down. Artemus smiled at McCoy. There was something about him that made a man want to smile.
"What do you two do for a living?"
"A little of this, and a little of that," Artemus said. "We travel mostly."
McCoy poured them another round. "That's an evasive answer if I ever heard one."
"Yes." Artemus didn't elaborate. "Why were you so pale out there? You looked like you'd seen a ghost."
McCoy looked away, and Artemus knew a lie was coming. Would it be a good one?
"We were sent to find you, and I wasn't sure you'd show up. Suddenly, there you were, I was shocked, that's all."
Artemus considered. That was the best lie he'd ever heard or that was the truth.
McCoy drank his whiskey and leaned in conspiratorially. "Does your Jim make you want to pull your hair and scream?"
Artemus burst out laughing. "I'm surprised I'm not bald."
"Me too." McCoy sighed and touched Artemus on the hand. "Don't worry. We'll fix this."
Artemus stared at the hand touching him. Something was pouring out of it and racing up his arm. McCoy knew trouble was coming. How? What the hell was going on here? Artemus didn't remove his hand. Somehow, the touch was comforting.
"You are a doctor?"
"The best on the planet," McCoy said.
"Good." Artemus believed that quiet confidence. Planet? Didn't he mean the United States? "We may need you."
The Jims chose that moment to return to the saloon. Artemus blushed, and McCoy removed his hand.
"Artie, Loveless has been spotted out at the old Indian mounds down by the river. I'm heading there." Jim looked from McCoy back to Artemus. "You talk to every merchant in town. Find out what Loveless is buying, and who's with him. I want to know if Voltaire is here."
"Yes, James," Artemus said. "Meet you back at the Wanderer?"
"Or I'll send a message," Jim said. "Nice to meet you, Doctor McCoy."
"And you, Jim West." McCoy stood up and shook Jim's hand.
"I'm going with you," Kirk said. "I need a horse."
Jim turned and faced him. Artemus watched the sparks fly and held his breath. What would Jim say? "Can you ride?"
"Of course," Kirk said. "Bones, stay with Gordon."
"Aye, Captain," McCoy said.
Artemus glanced at him quickly. He flushed a little, and Artemus knew he regretted the automatic response. So they served together. There were more questions here that needed to be answered. He'd have time to ask McCoy while Kirk was gone.
"Well, come on then. Kirk, you can ride Artemus' horse, but I'm not slowing down for you."
"I would never expect that, West."
They strutted out together. Artemus sighed and put his head in his hands. This situation would be funny, if Dr. Loveless wasn't in the mix. McCoy laughed softly.
"We are in so much trouble."
"You have no idea, Doctor. None at all." Artemus finished his whiskey and stood up. He had a job to do. Would McCoy follow Kirk's orders?
"Is it okay if I come along?"
"Yes," Artemus said. "If someone starts shooting, take cover, okay?"
McCoy grimaced and said, "I hate Westerns."
"Never mind. Let's go." McCoy stood and followed Artemus out of the saloon.
"I was serious," Artemus said. McCoy better listen or he'd find himself dead. Somebody was always shooting at them. "Why does he call you Bones?"
"Short for sawbones," McCoy said.
"Ugh, I thought so."
"You don't like surgeons?"
"Doctor, in the war a surgeon was somebody who cut off your leg or arm, or both." Artemus headed for the general store. He'd try there first. "Nothing personal."
"I see your point." McCoy frowned. "Perhaps physician would be a better word."
"What ship do you two serve on?" Artemus hoped McCoy would answer from habit.
"The Enterprise." McCoy stopped in the street. "Damn it. Don't do that to me."
Artemus smiled and kept walking. Too easy. The doctor was so honest it was almost painful. "You and Kirk been together long?"
McCoy didn't answer, and Artemus glanced back at him.
"You and West been together long?"
The doctor was honest, but he wasn't a fool. Artemus answered, "Yes."
Artemus laughed and went in the general store with McCoy at his right shoulder.
McCoy's feet were beginning to ache by the time Gordon pronounced himself satisfied with the results of the search. The sun was beginning to go down, and McCoy was impressed with the man called Artemus Gordon. He was intelligent, kind, discerning, and could speak several languages. One shop owner had been Chinese, another Hispanic, and this hadn't slowed Artemus down at all. He also tracked down the children that were roaming the streets. One little boy spoke only German, and Artemus had spent extra time with him, slipping him a coin. What was this man doing in this century? Surely, he was born in the wrong time and place, and he didn't belong on his knees in front of Jim West.
"Tell me about this Dr. Loveless." McCoy was curious. What were these two men doing? And why? "And who's Voltaire?"
Gordon paused. "Let's go to the Wanderer. This'll take a while."
McCoy nodded, but was confused. What? Were they speaking the same language? Gordon went to the stable and hired a carriage. McCoy watched and listened. He had so many questions, but he didn't want to seem a fool. Gordon got in and waited for McCoy. He piled in a little awkwardly, but was glad to be off his feet. The carriage took off and McCoy wanted to know where, but he'd find out. It wasn't long before the carriage pulled up in front of a small train. Gordon paid the man and went up the back steps of the last car.
"Let's get a brandy."
McCoy went up slowly. A train? He went in and stopped. Did his mouth fall open? "Well, I'll be damned. This is almost . . ."
"Civilized?" Gordon was pouring drinks.
McCoy took his gratefully. "Yes, if you must know." He sank down on the sofa and tucked his doctor's bag by his leg.
"You ever put that thing down?"
McCoy met Gordon's eyes. He was far too perceptive. "No."
"Nothing I'm going to show you," McCoy said. "You live here with West?"
McCoy surveyed the room. It was full of brilliant reds and greens. Gordon suddenly looked slightly uncomfortable, and McCoy knew why. They were lovers, even though McCoy wasn't sure that was the right term. What Jim West gave out wasn't love. Was it a sexual taboo in this time period? McCoy wasn't certain and would tread very lightly. "You must be wealthy."
Gordon went and sat at the desk. He pulled out a map and began searching for something. "No, we have a rich uncle."
"So, you're related to him. West is a younger cousin, on your mother's side?"
Gordon's head snapped up. "You could say that."
McCoy smiled and nodded, understanding perfectly. He and Jim Kirk had been lovers for years, but they also made love to others. Did Gordon and West? McCoy looked at him closely. He was handsome, a little older than West, but not much. His grief-stricken face popped up in McCoy's mind's eye. Gordon loved West, and not like a brother. McCoy wanted to pace, but instead he watched Gordon. If they failed, this man would crumble and break, not a pretty thought. McCoy stood up impulsively and went to Gordon, standing over him at the desk. He looked up quizzically.
McCoy touched Gordon's face. "I know."
Gordon stood up too fast and the chair tipped over. Neither man noticed. He put his hand over McCoy's. "Do you? Can you?"
"Yes, and you need more in your life." The words made Gordon wince, and he edged closer. McCoy let him. "He's not everything."
"Damn little you know." Gordon was close.
McCoy reached up and pulled Gordon's earlobe gently. "I have a Jim that sucks the life out of a room too. Trust me. Find a path between that you can walk."
Gordon leaned in the last inch, and McCoy kissed him; a gentle kiss, with very little passion, more to comfort and heal, not seduce. Gordon was more than West was allowing him to be, much more.
"It won't be easy." Gordon rested his head on McCoy's shoulder.
McCoy laughed and held him close. "I know, but it will be worth the self-respect you'll gain. He'll love you more, as well."
"He doesn't love me," said Gordon bitterly. "I'm convenient and easy."
"That's self-pity talking, and I don't have time for it." McCoy ran a hand through Gordon's black hair. "A man like Jim West doesn't settle for convenience. He wants it all."
"Boy, is that the truth." Gordon lifted his head and kissed McCoy. It was another simple kiss, undemanding. "I'll try."
"Don't try. Do it." McCoy tightened his grip. This was important, but he didn't know why. "You're intelligent. Don't let it go to waste."
"Now you're just flattering me." Gordon smiled. "You must really want to fuck."
McCoy winced - a crude word for crude times. "You're more than you've allowed yourself to be."
Gordon ran his hands down McCoy and pulled him tight. "Enough." Another kiss.
And the door opened. Gordon turned towards it, and McCoy went back to his sofa. West was home, and he did not look happy. Kirk came on in, dropped his saddlebags, and sat down near McCoy. He handed Kirk the brandy and smiled when he drank it down. The other Jim put his hands on his hips and glared at Gordon. McCoy was suddenly uncomfortable. These two had things to work out.
"Let's step outside. I need a breath of fresh air." McCoy grabbed his bag and Kirk's arm, dragging them both out.
Artemus poured Jim a brandy. Jim ignored it. "What did you find out, Jim?"
"That you want to fuck that man," Jim growled. "Or are you two finished already?"
"If I do, that's my own business." Artemus met the glaring, green eyes. He wasn't going to back down. Jim rode roughshod over him a bit too often, and how McCoy knew it, Artemus couldn't guess.
Jim took the brandy. "Fine. We'll deal with that later. I found nothing but a cold camp out there, but Loveless is here. I can feel it."
"He's bought supplies in town, but nothing out of the ordinary. Voltaire is not here, thank God." Artemus paused and tilted his head towards the door. "Their ship is the Enterprise, and they've been together for years."
"I'm sure of it," Artemus said. "He is a doctor."
"Kirk can ride, and he's accustomed to command, not taking orders." Jim sat on a sofa. "Why are they here?"
"To help, if we're to believe them, and I do." Artemus glanced out the door. They wouldn't be much longer. "Perhaps someone in naval intelligence sent them our way: a gift, of sorts."
Jim didn't answer, and Artemus went back to the desk, setting the chair upright. It wasn't long before McCoy and Kirk came back inside. Artemus regretted not overhearing that conversation. Was Kirk jealous? He didn't look it. Jim certainly did, and that was something Artemus hadn't expected, ever.
"I'm going to put the horses away. Artie, brief our guests thoroughly on Dr. Loveless." Jim went out the back door.
Artemus nodded and felt a small spurt of surprise. Jim had decided to use them to his advantage. Kirk and McCoy sat on the sofa and looked at Artemus expectantly. He smiled and went to pour another round of drinks. The subject of Dr. Loveless was a thirsty one.
Jim pulled down the ramp much harder than necessary. He felt like he was unraveling. Dr. Loveless was close. The mounds were the key to this. Old Indian burial grounds, nothing special, so why was Loveless hanging around there? What was his plan? The black went in first, followed by Artemus' gelding. Jim began stripping off tack and quietly cursing. The image of Artemus kissing McCoy slammed into him. They'd been kissing, gently and tenderly, like old lovers. Damn, Jim didn't need this now. He was within a hair's breath of catching Loveless, and Artemus was taking up with a stranger.
Jim peeled off his jacket and continued taking clothes off until he was bare to the waist. That was better. He covered the saddles and picked up a brush, beginning to go over their sweaty hides. Hides and hooves took a while and then he fed them, checked their water, and tossed hay. Finished, he sat on a bale of hay and scratched his belly. Why did he feel this way?
The sun was completely down, and Jim went to light a lantern. Another minute and he'd be ready to face his partner. Before that minute passed, the door opened, and Jim looked up to see McCoy. Damn it. What did he want? To gloat?
"West, I want to talk to you."
Jim leaned against the stall partition and crossed his arms. "Go ahead."
McCoy paused, and Jim looked him up and down. He was a nice-looking man with blue eyes, but he carried himself like he was uncomfortable in his skin, or maybe it was the clothes. Jim finished his appraisal and went back to the blue eyes.
McCoy watched West give him the once over. So this was his grandpa? He could have believed it if West was Jim Kirk's gramps - several generations removed. McCoy almost laughed, but choked it back.
"Not really. I wanted to make sure you weren't angry at Artemus." It wasn't the whole truth. He also wanted a chance to talk to his ancestor. What kind of man was this?
"So it's okay if I fuck Kirk?"
McCoy winced and stepped slightly back. West was angry, and anger could make a man careless. McCoy needed him to stay alive, for Joanna. West moved in close, and McCoy felt the door against his shoulders. He should never have come out here. Big mistake and West was going to take advantage of it.
West's hand came to rest on the door near McCoy's head, and he leaned. "Maybe I'll just have what Artemus is having."
The arrogance of the man was astounding. McCoy stood frozen, unable to speak. This was outrageous. Why was he trying to save this idiot? West kissed McCoy hard, with no gentleness, more like a command for sex. McCoy had seen it before, and he hadn't liked it then; experiencing it was appalling. He wrenched his face away. "If this is what you give Artemus, no wonder he's willing to jump into bed with me."
West's face went dark with anger, and McCoy wanted to step even farther back, but the door was in the way. "Artemus never complains."
"He's too much of a man to complain about the abuse you hand out." McCoy snapped out each word. West was nothing but a gun-slinging fool. "He's entitled to love."
"Love? Love's for women and children." West laughed crudely and bit McCoy's neck -not too hard, but hard enough to hurt.
"And very strong men." McCoy was practically shaking with disgust. He wanted to shove West away. This was his grandfather, for God's sake! "Weak ones need not apply."
West pulled back, and McCoy saw shock for a brief moment before a stony mask slammed back down. "We're through here."
"We certainly are. Don't be surprised when you turn around and Artemus is gone." McCoy leveled a parting shot at dear old Granddad. All this was moot if they couldn't fix the time slip, but West didn't need to know that. "He deserves better than you."
McCoy slipped out the door and headed for the security of Jim Kirk. He could only try to fix the time slip, not Jim West.
Artemus was relieved when McCoy returned to the parlor car. Kirk didn't seem upset about the kiss, but there was no reason to swim in dangerous waters. McCoy looked agitated, and Artemus could only hope Jim hadn't been acting the brute. Kirk was looking over the billiards table, and Artemus handed him a cue.
"Do you play?"
"No, is it hard?"
"Yes, but that makes it fun."
Kirk nodded and rolled a ball down to Artemus. McCoy's eyes flashed to his doctor's bag, and he laid a hand on Kirk's arm. Artemus was intensely curious. What was going on?
"Captain, I need to speak to you for a minute." McCoy's hand was shaking slightly.
Damn, Jim had roughed him up. "I'll go check on Jim," Artemus said.
McCoy's face went stiffer, and Artemus wanted to curse. He strode down the hallway, pushed through the door, and confronted Jim. He was perched on a bale of hay, apparently lost in thought.
"What did you do to him?"
Jim looked up. "Nothing you didn't do."
"He's not like us." Artemus paused. "You -"
"Me? How about you?" Jim bounced to his feet. "We have to catch that little maniac, and instead you're falling into bed with some stranger."
Artemus narrowed his eyes. Jim was going too far. "You wouldn't give a damn, and don't tell me you would."
Jim matched his stare for a brief moment and dropped his eyes away. Artemus took a deep breath. Did Jim care? At all? "You're mine," Jim growled.
"No, I'm not. We're partners or we're nothing at all," Artemus said. "You decide, but leave McCoy alone!"
Artemus slammed the door behind him. He took another deep breath and went to the parlor car. It was blessedly empty. Kirk and McCoy had fled the scene - lucky bastards. Artemus' stomach complained at him, and he went to fix a quick dinner. There was nothing they could do about Loveless until the morning.
McCoy walked the short distance down to the railroad station and found a bench to sit on. His thoughts were still in the stable. They could save West once, but he was such a fool, they'd be back in a week. He grimaced. Joanna was depending on them, whether she knew it or not. Kirk stood nearby and kept an eye on the Wanderer.
"Nice train," Kirk said. "Not as good as the Enterprise, but excellent for the time."
McCoy laughed and pulled Kirk down on the bench next to him. "This is an impossible task."
"No, it's not. The Cahokia Indian Mounds are the key."
"How do you know about these mounds?"
"Bones, I'm from Iowa, remember?" Kirk laughed. "Someone's skipping back and forth, using the mounds as a portal, and creating time ripples the tricorder could pick up."
"Their Dr. Loveless."
"Logical." Kirk raised one eyebrow, and McCoy laughed. "We have to catch the right one, push him through, and destroy the time portal."
"I'm still having a hard time with the fact he's a dwarf. I've never been able to examine someone with that condition."
"Artemus said that Loveless' size should be discounted. He's extremely dangerous."
"You make it sound simple." McCoy sighed and tugged his vest down. "My grandpa, Jim West, is an idiot."
"Did he hurt you?" Kirk took McCoy's hand and held it lightly. "I can kill him."
They both laughed together. That would defeat the purpose of coming here. "No, but I can't believe that monkey is hanging in my family tree."
"He's focused, driven, stubborn, intelligent, and -"
"And he's got the tightest ass in the universe." McCoy stared at his boots.
"That too." Kirk shrugged. "Gordon can handle him."
"You think so? Gordon seems overwhelmed."
"They're well-matched." Kirk straightened his holster. "Gordon allows it, but he won't much longer."
"I hope so," said McCoy. "Gordon shouldn't waste his life."
"He won't. I have a feeling about that one. If he were on my ship, I'd push him hard. He has incredible potential."
McCoy nodded. Sometimes a captain's viewpoint was the right one, and this captain was an astute judge of character. "Are we staying on this bench all night or going back to the hotel?"
"I hate to take my eyes off them. What if they ride off, and we miss it?"
"I feel the same. Let's wrangle an invitation. We'll bunk on the sofa."
Kirk grinned. "You're starting to talk like a cowboy. It's sort of sexy."
McCoy smiled and stood up, stretching his back. Kirk led the way back to the train and knocked on the door.
Artemus answered the door and furrowed his brow. "I thought you'd gone back to your hotel?"
"Well," Kirk said. McCoy smiled at Kirk's boyish grin. "We would, but we don't have the money to pay the bill."
Artemus laughed and swung the door wider. "Come on in. I'm cooking dinner."
McCoy handed Jim the doctor's bag. "This, I gotta see."
Artemus and McCoy went to the galley together, and Kirk picked up the cue again.
Jim slid into another white shirt before going to the parlor car. He could hear McCoy and Artemus in the kitchen, cooking and laughing. They were too damn cozy. Where was Kirk? Jim went around the corner, and Kirk was there, trying to play billiards. He looked up and gave Jim a hard look. Jim nodded. He got the message. Hands off McCoy, or Kirk would take steps. Jim wasn't scared, but he already had one major enemy in town. It was foolish to make another.
"You don't play billiards?"
"Is it that obvious?"
"Yes." Jim smiled and picked up a cue. "Here, let me give you a few pointers."
"By all means, then we can play chess."
"Chess? That's more up Artemus' alley than mine, but we could spar."
Kirk leaned over the table and whacked the ball. "Judo?"
"Or boxing, your pleasure."
Kirk smiled and said, "It would be, but we better not. McCoy would worry."
"And you always do what he wants." Jim threw out a challenge. Was Kirk a lover or a fighter?
"When it's easiest, yes. There's no reason to make waves." Kirk balanced the cue in his hands and spun it like a weapon.
Jim stepped back slightly and watched the cue spin. Impressive. That could hurt a man. "Spoken like a naval captain."
"Jim, quit showing off," McCoy said from the doorway of the galley.
Jim turned to McCoy, and Kirk did also, flipping the cue under his arm.
"Captain, quit showing off." Both men stared. "Never mind, do what you want." McCoy ducked back inside.
Jim and Kirk laughed. "You're a captain?"
"In the Army. Artemus is also."
"But you outrank him."
"Slightly. I'm the senior officer."
"Too many captains on this train," Kirk said. "Our command structure isn't clear."
"This is my ship, Captain Kirk." Jim took his shot and didn't miss. "Don't doubt it. And McCoy?"
"Chief Medical Officer." Kirk sipped his brandy. "The only person on board who can relieve me of duty."
"Bet he loves that." Jim smiled and scored again.
"Yes," Kirk said.
Jim waited, but Kirk was finished. One word said it all. "The Enterprise is a good ship?"
Kirk tried to line up a shot. "She's a good one. We're on detached duty."
Jim heard only truth. Kirk was exactly what he said he was, unless he was a better liar than Artemus, and that wasn't possible. Laughter rolled out of the galley, and Jim tried to control his emotions. For some odd reason, it wasn't easy.
"Don't worry, West," said Kirk.
Jim frowned. Was it that apparent? "Artemus is furious with me." He cursed softly. "Damn." That had slipped out.
"With reason," Kirk said. "If you can't treat him well, I'll take him with me when I leave. He's too important to waste."
"No!" Jim banged the cue against the table. He flushed and wanted to punch Kirk in the mouth. "We're partners."
"That's nice to know, Jim." Artemus was standing right inside the parlor, and he smiled at Kirk. "I get seasick anyway. But, it's nice to have career choices."
"One time offer." Kirk shrugged and racked the cue.
"Artemus, get back in here," McCoy said. "One of these pots looks ready to explode!"
Jim tried to smile, failed miserably, and Artemus went back in the galley. He laid his cue on the table and went to pour himself and Kirk a whiskey. Brandy wasn't strong enough. He went to the desk, sat down, and grabbed hold of his emotions. Artemus wouldn't leave with Kirk, and there was time to fix this.
Dinner was remarkably peaceful, and Artemus was relieved. The potential for violence at the table was high, but everybody was too hungry.
"You're a good cook, Artemus," Kirk said. "I assume Bones had very little to do with it."
"Thanks," McCoy said.
"You're a doctor, not a chef," Kirk said.
McCoy almost choked and began to laugh. Artemus looked from McCoy to Kirk. Obviously, a long standing joke. They had an easy intimacy between them that Artemus envied.
"Artemus is something of a scientist," Jim said. "Some of his creations have been less than successful."
Artemus wanted to poke him with his fork. "You eat everything I put out on the table."
"Man's gotta eat," Jim said with a smile.
"Not any more you don't," Artemus said with a bigger smile.
"Didn't your mother teach you never to insult the cook?" Kirk shook his head.
"No, I guess I was absent without leave that day," Jim said.
"I'm glad people never complain about my work," McCoy said.
"Dead men don't." Artemus chuckled.
"Nobody but every crew member under my command," Kirk said at the same time.
They grinned at each other.
"That's more than enough," Jim said. "I'm sure Dr. McCoy is a competent doctor, but with a name like Bones. . ."
McCoy laughed. "Everybody gets a turn teasing the poor doctor. Let's just hope Dr. Loveless doesn't shoot any of us and one of you complainers ends up as my patient."
The silence at the table was complete. Nobody said a word. Artemus was impressed with McCoy's ability to get in the last word. Kirk finished his plate at the same time Jim did.
"Let's have a cigar, Kirk." Jim rose from the table. "Thank you for dinner, Artie."
"I smell a retreat." Kirk followed Jim out the back door to smoke a cigar.
Artemus looked at McCoy and shrugged. "You going to join them?"
"No. I know what smoking does to a person's lungs."
"Tell me," Artemus said.
McCoy enjoyed the evening with Artemus. West was acting respectful and that would have to do. Kirk and West came in off the back step together. Neither of them had a bloody nose, and McCoy was relieved. Kirk wouldn't allow anyone to push around one of his crew, and McCoy was sure West knew it by now.
"West, can we stay here tonight?"
West looked to Artemus, who nodded. McCoy smiled at the surprised look on Artemus' face. He wasn't usually consulted. It was a small change in West's attitude. Maybe there was some hope here.
"We have a guest room. It's small, but -"
"Beggars can't be choosers," McCoy said.
"Tomorrow?" Kirk asked.
"We'll find Loveless, one way or the other." West turned back to Kirk. "Can you shoot that, or just wear it?"
"I can hit the broadside of a barn," Kirk said. He pushed the hair off his forehead.
"No guns," McCoy said. "I heal. I don't hurt."
Artemus put a hand on McCoy's shoulder. "I'll show you to your room. They can compare guns."
McCoy followed Artemus to a small room right next to the facilities. Artemus lit the lanterns, and McCoy dropped his bag on a wooden chair. He sat on the bed and sighed. It had been a long day.
"You okay?" Artemus sat down next to him.
"Yes." McCoy leaned in slightly. Artemus was comforting, like a warm blanket on a cold night. "Artemus, tomorrow may be awful. Watch West, and stay low."
"You sound like you know what's going to happen." Artemus put an arm around McCoy's shoulders and rubbed.
"Not really, but I have a bad feeling about this Dr. Loveless. If we're not careful, he'll kill one of us."
"I'll take extra explosives." Artemus squeezed. "Jim and I have faced him before."
"Not really, but we keep trying, and I'll keep an eye on my Jim. You keep an eye on yours."
"Good idea," McCoy said. They had to succeed. There was no failure option here. If West lived, what would his future hold? "Are you going to stay with him?"
"He's my partner. We'll work it out." Artemus glanced down. "You wear a pinky ring?"
McCoy blinked. Talk about changing the subject. "Yes, it's a family heirloom, passed down from the days of the . . ." His voice trailed off. The War Between the States wasn't that long ago, not here, and not now.
"That's funny. My father always wore one too." Artemus paused. "It's gone now and so is he."
McCoy felt a chill dance up his spine. Artemus stood up, and McCoy stared at him: those brown eyes like fudge, a scientist, an inventor, and a gifted linguist. He was a Renaissance man. If Jim West died, so did Artemus Gordon, and this timeline would blink out, along with McCoy and all his relatives. Joanna. So much to lose here.
"Leonard, are you okay?"
McCoy was brought back by the use of his first name. He shook his head, but said, "Of course, I'm just worried."
"I'm going to turn in. We'll talk more tomorrow."
McCoy stood up. "First, I want two things from you and West."
Artemus raised his eyebrows, and McCoy smiled, reaching for his medikit.
Artemus took his shirt off for McCoy and tried desperately to get a look in the bag with no luck.
McCoy palmed out something and said, "Turn around."
Artemus did, a little slowly. "You're not going to cut something off, are you?"
"I should after those insults at dinner, but no. Hold still. I'll be done in one moment."
Artemus heard a whirring sound and after a moment felt a pressure on his shoulder. He tried to look.
"Don't turn around," McCoy said.
Artemus didn't turn and this time felt a small prickle along his spine. What the hell?
"Go get West. It's his turn."
Artemus whipped around, but saw nothing. McCoy was fast. Artemus shrugged back into his shirt, but didn't button it. "I'll get him. He's not as cooperative a patient as I am."
"Why am I not surprised?"
Jim was out in the hallway, leaning against the wall and looking uncomfortable. Artemus frowned at him. "James, Dr. McCoy would like you to step inside his office. Take off your shirt."
Jim hesitated, and Artemus stepped close enough to work on the buttons. "Why?"
"I don't know. Humor him. He's a doctor - the best on the planet." Artemus pulled the shirt off Jim's back and shoved him into the guest room.
"Out, Artemus," McCoy said.
Artemus saluted, left Jim to McCoy's tender mercies, and went to find Kirk. He also looked a little guilty and was stowing something in his saddlebags. Artemus itched to do a little snooping. It would be impolite, but they were hiding something and he wanted to know what.
"I'm to bed," Artemus said. "Jim will lock up. Don't touch anything after he does. Stay in your room."
"Will I get blown up or something?"
"Something." Artemus nodded. "Tell McCoy."
"Yes, sir," Kirk said.
"Funny, Jim." Oops, wrong Jim. Artemus rubbed his forehead. This was confusing at times. "Come on. I'll show you where we stashed your doctor."
Jim was coming out of the guest room with a quizzical look on his face. Artemus showed Kirk the lavatory and the room he'd share with McCoy.
"I'll lock us in for the night," Jim said.
Kirk nodded. "I'll tell McCoy."
"You two can have the lavatory first." Artemus gestured toward the room. "Jim and I can wait."
"Thank you, Gordon," Kirk said. "One time offer."
"Come on, Jim," said McCoy from the doorway. "Leave the poor man alone."
Kirk smiled and went to join McCoy. Artemus went to the room on the other side of the lavatory that he and Jim shared. Originally, bunk beds had hung from the walls, but after Jim had banged his head a couple of times, they had purchased one big bed. Jim took enough hits to the head without adding obstacles to his life. Artemus sat on the loveseat in the corner and waited for his Jim. He didn't have time to fidget. Jim appeared in the doorway almost instantly. That was a fast lock down.
"Am I welcome in here tonight?"
"We don't have a doghouse, Jim." Artemus leaned over and pulled off his boots. "So, you're welcome."
Jim shut the door and tossed his shirt at the loveseat. "What the hell was that all about?"
"I have no idea, but it didn't hurt." Artemus' shirt joined Jim's. "You ready for tomorrow?"
"More than ready," said Jim. "We're gonna get him this time."
"If we're lucky. McCoy reminded me to keep my head down tomorrow. That's good advice for you too."
"I'll be careful." Jim sat down next to Artemus. There was barely enough room. He pulled off his boots. "You sure this is where you want to be tonight?"
Artemus shrugged. "We get the lavatory after them."
"Artie, I never should have kissed McCoy." Jim put his head on Artemus' shoulder. "Kirk wants to kill me for touching him."
Artemus kissed Jim's forehead. That was as close to an apology as he'd be getting from Jim. It was enough. "You were too rough. And if Kirk wants you dead, you better start running."
"Will you come along?"
"Yeah, but wouldn't it be easier to apologize?" Artemus shifted slightly and tucked Jim's head under his chin. "You're not all that bad."
Jim kissed Artemus' shoulder. "I was angry. We have to trust them, a little. We could use some help tomorrow."
"Yes." Artemus relaxed. "Should I go to sea with McCoy and Kirk?"
Jim bit Artemus, not hard, but hard enough to make him flinch. Artemus smiled at Jim and pinched his nipple.
"Don't tease about that," Jim said. "Kirk would be a hard man to kill."
"You think you could?" Artemus stroked a hand through Jim's hair. Jim did care. It was a relief.
"He'd probably kill me, but I'd take him with me." Jim cracked his knuckles. "Let's not find out."
"Excellent idea. Check the peephole and see if they're done."
Jim went to the wall. He slid aside a small painting and put his eye to the miniscule hole. Neither man spoke until Jim had replaced the painting and returned to the loveseat.
"No, and it may be a minute," Jim said. "We might as well piss off the ramp."
Artemus laughed and laughed. Jim had gotten an eyeful. "Give me details - all of them."
"Uh, no. I'm trying to forget it as we speak."
"Kirk's bigger than you, isn't he?"
"Shut up, Artie."
Artemus laughed and went to lie on the bed, near the wall. Jim joined him there and kissed him gently. This was new and nice. Artemus could get used to this.
McCoy was bone tired after cleaning up in the facilities. Jim Kirk had wanted to reassert his territorial rights, or that's how it seemed, because they had made love or had rowdy sex, depending on how you looked at it. What was Artemus doing with West? McCoy made the decision not to ponder that question too long.
"Jim, how are we going to work this tomorrow?"
Kirk stretched and pulled McCoy close. "We need to be where the bullets came from that killed West. That's where at least one Dr. Loveless will be." Kirk rolled over on top of McCoy and dragged his saddlebags over. "Study these pictures Spock sent along. We need to be in the right place at the right time."
"Oof, get off." McCoy studied them until he was familiar with all the angles. "Are you taking Dr. Loveless back to the mounds?"
"Yes, after you hit him with the hypospray. Knock him out for about twelve hours. That'll give me enough time. You have the more difficult job. You have to keep West here. Don't let him follow me."
"If you have to, otherwise just stall. I'll catch up with you after I destroy the time portal Loveless is using."
"Artemus has explosives."
"So do I," Kirk said.
McCoy smiled and got up to check his medikit one more time. Everything was there, and he hoped it would be enough. He blew out the lamps and went to Kirk. He was tired.
Jim kissed his way down Artemus' chest and helped him slide his trousers off. Artemus returned the favor for Jim. Naked, they lay together and Jim reviewed the day's events. He did need to apologize to McCoy. Jim's behavior had been inexcusable, even boorish. Artemus wouldn't leave, would he? Jim wasn't so sure anymore. Perhaps McCoy was right, and Jim took Artemus for granted. Maybe.
"Yeah," Artemus said.
Jim thought Artemus sounded a little sleepy. "Wake up, partner. I want to ask you something."
"I'm awake." Artemus yawned and focused his sleepy eyes on Jim.
"Tell me you know how valuable you are to me," Jim said.
"What? Oh, okay, yeah sure."
Jim laughed softly. That was reassuring. Artemus was falling asleep. The picture of Kirk and McCoy in the tub reappeared in front of his eyes. They had been having fun, and Kirk had been on top, but it had been different, not as violent, as what Jim did to Artemus. Was Jim abusive? He wasn't sure. McCoy thought so. Artemus would have to tell him, except that he was asleep and snoring. Jim pulled away and went to blow out the lanterns. It could wait until after Loveless, but then he wanted some answers.
Kirk woke up before anyone else. He was still on ship time, or worried beyond belief - one or the other. The only way to save the man he loved was to save a man he wanted to punch in the face. West was far too arrogant for his own good, and Kirk wanted to take him down a peg or two. He got out of bed quietly so as not to wake up McCoy. He had looked very tired last night. The room was still dark. Kirk pulled on his short clothes, trousers, and boots. He stepped out into the hallway, remembering Artemus' warning. He lit the hallway lantern and slid down the floor, sitting cross-legged. This situation would be easier if Spock was here. He was an asset in any battle, and McCoy was great at the cleanup. The three of them together were stronger than any other two.
"What are you doing, Kirk?"
Kirk had heard West approach. "Waiting."
"I'm going out to the horses. Want to join me?"
Kirk rose to his feet and nodded. "McCoy is tired."
"So is Artemus."
Kirk said nothing more until he was brushing the gelding. "You're an arrogant son-of-a-bitch. You realize that, of course."
"Yeah, but I wear it well." West was on the other side of his black stallion, leaning over picking his hooves. "You're not exactly Mister Humble."
Kirk laughed. "You're right, but I try very hard not to use it against those I care about."
West didn't answer, and Kirk finished the gelding. "Oats?"
"In the bin against the wall." West pointed.
Kirk found them and served a portion out to the gelding. West's black whinnied a complaint. "Nice horse you got there."
"He's a handful," West said.
"So are you."
West fed the black and said, "Sparring?"
West dropped the ramp and pointed. Kirk looked out into the dawn and could see West was pointing at the railroad station platform. It was deserted. Kirk nodded and smiled. West and Kirk went together to the platform.
Artemus was tired, but when Jim left the bed it seemed awfully empty. He stretched and pulled on some clothes. Coffee was a priority. The galley was a little dark, so he lit a lamp, yawned, and started breakfast. When things were progressing, he stepped out into the parlor and glanced out the window.
Artemus went out the back step at a run.
McCoy smelled coffee and was determined to find it. He was tired, but the sooner this day got started, the sooner it would end. He fumbled on clothes and stopped in the facilities. Coming out into the hallway, McCoy heard Artemus curse. McCoy picked up the pace a little. He followed Artemus out the back door and began to curse.
"Damn it, Jim. What were you thinking?"
McCoy went back to get his medikit. He was going to need it.
Artemus brought Jim in first and went back for Kirk. He unceremoniously tossed each one on the floor before going to rescue the food. What a couple of fools. At least there was a doctor on board. He saved breakfast. There was no reason to rush back to the parlor because he could hear McCoy cursing at Jim, and Jim. Artemus laughed and looked around the corner. "Need anything?"
"No, they're fine - stupid - but fine."
McCoy and Artemus laughed together and laughed harder when the groaning began. Artemus went to put out the food, and McCoy went along. "Coffee?"
"Here's a cup," Artemus said.
"I love you, Artemus." McCoy grinned. His bright blue eyes flashed.
Artemus liked this man, more than a little. "I know, Bones."
McCoy took his coffee out to the groaning men, and Artemus fixed himself a cup. Jim was on the sofa holding his head, and Kirk was next to him, leaning back.
"What happened, Jim?"
Both men stared at Artemus for a second, and Kirk answered, "We were sparring."
Jim shook his head and nudged Kirk on the shoulder. "That was a hell of chop."
"Where did you learn that kick?" Kirk smiled at Jim.
Artemus groaned and went to McCoy. "You realize they're best friends now."
"It makes you want to cry, doesn't it?"
McCoy ate a big breakfast. He'd need it. The horses had been saddled when there was a small knock on the door. Artemus answered it, and McCoy could see the German boy from yesterday. They spoke for a brief moment, and Artemus pressed another coin into his little hand.
"Jim! Loveless is in town. Now!"
West came into the parlor car like he'd been fired out of a photon torpedo bay.
"Down by the stables."
McCoy grabbed his kit. This was why they were here. Kirk was right behind West, and everyone was strapping on a gun. McCoy made sure his hypospray was ready. Artemus opened a cabinet, grabbed a rifle, and tossed another one to West. Kirk slung on his saddlebags.
"You two take the gelding. Artemus is with me," West said.
Kirk nodded, and McCoy followed him out the door to the horse. He dragged McCoy onto the back of the saddle, and they were off.
"We need to get there first. Loveless doesn't know us," said Kirk.
McCoy didn't answer. He hung on tight. The stables were suddenly there, and Kirk helped him slide off before tying up the gelding.
"Over there I think," said Kirk. "It was the second barrage of bullets that cut him down. They were doing fine up until then."
McCoy nodded. "Let's get in position."
Artemus ran back to his lab and grabbed up all his incendiary devices, shoving them in his pockets. McCoy had known, somehow. Spooky.
"I'm coming." Artemus hurried back to Jim, who grabbed his arm and kissed him.
"Keep your head down," Jim said.
"I will and you too, okay?"
Artemus couldn't decide which was stranger. McCoy or Jim waiting for him, kissing him, and telling him to be careful. This was already a crazy day, and they still hadn't met up with Dr. Loveless. Jim was in the saddle, holding out his hand, and Artemus jumped up behind. They trotted off. No reason to rush into a trap.
"There he is," Kirk said, pointing down the street.
"And look at all the men he's got with him," McCoy said. "I should have brought two medikits."
"Yes, but where's the other Dr. Loveless?"
McCoy dug out the picture, quickly. "See? Down that alley is where they'll catch West and Gordon from behind."
"You're right. Let's take up a position there. They won't get by us."
"You really think they can handle all these men?"
"West could handle twice that many," Kirk said. "Come on, the alley."
McCoy shook his head and followed his captain.
"Ah, Mr. West and Mr. Gordon, it's so nice to see you again," Dr. Loveless said with his customary smirk.
Artemus smiled and nodded. Dr. Loveless looked dapper today in a suit coat and perfectly folded cravat. He was standing in front of a mob. The good townsfolk were wisely fleeing the scene. Artemus and Jim exchanged a look. This wasn't going to be easy. Where were Kirk and McCoy? Their help had vanished.
"I wish I could say the same." Jim dismounted after Artemus slid off the back.
"Budget cutbacks? Down to one horse? What a shame."
Artemus surveyed the empty street, looking for any bit of cover. There was a big Conestoga wagon, barrels, and storefronts; it wasn't nearly enough.
Jim cracked his knuckles and laid his hand on his six-shooter. "You're under arrest, Loveless."
"Yes, but all these men here disagree with that, so you really need to speak to them." Dr. Loveless grinned and gestured. "I'm looking forward to the results of the conversation."
Artemus looked the men over- bunch of scum - but they could all fight. "Loveless, this isn't your style. Direct confrontation? It never works, you know that."
"Yes, but this time I have a small surprise in store for you. I'm going love it. It's unfortunate that you won't."
Jim glanced at Artemus, and he shrugged. If that was the way Loveless wanted it, then that was the way they'd play it.
"Why don't you let me take you to jail? Then I'll speak to your friends," Jim said. "Amusing, Mr. West, but no. I'll be watching. Have fun, boys." Dr. Loveless flipped a hand at his men, and they all moved in front of him.
"I hate crowds, James."
"Yeah, let's clear the street," Jim said.
Kirk and McCoy watched from the alley. West and Gordon were holding their own, so far. Kirk heard a small noise behind him, and he drew his gun. Dr. Loveless appeared, but he was an older, more crippled version. He had five men with him, and they were dragging a large piece of artillery. Kirk believed it was called a Gatling gun.
"What the hell is that?"
"Trouble." Kirk put his saddlebags down carefully and slightly behind a barrel. He'd need them later, but now he had his hands full.
"Step aside. We have business," Dr. Loveless said. His cane twirled, and he leaned against it.
Kirk leveled his gun at the little man. "I don't think so."
The men stopped pulling the weapon and came around to bracket Dr. Loveless. McCoy slid to the side, put his back to the alley wall, and got ready with his hypospray.
"Stand away. I won't hesitate to kill you." Dr. Loveless was arrogant.
"That's fine, but you're not killing West or Gordon - not today." Kirk didn't budge. McCoy knew his captain wouldn't, not for any reason.
"Yes, I am. Now move!"
The five men rushed Kirk, and he fired, missing. They began to grapple, and McCoy watched the gun spin away. Five on one. That hardly seemed fair - to them. McCoy crept closer and closer to Loveless.
"Who are you? Not that I care in the least."
"Nobody," McCoy said. "I've never met a dwarf."
"I've never met two such fools. Why die for Mr. West and Mr. Gordon?"
McCoy lunged, the hypospray hit the little man's hand, and he dropped into the dirt. Checking Dr. Loveless' pulse, McCoy picked him up and moved him away from the fighting. Kirk had three down, two to go. McCoy stepped in quickly, and one fell unconscious as Kirk chopped down the remaining man.
"Thanks, Bones." Kirk was breathing hard, but appeared uninjured.
"No problem. Now, get him where he belongs, and I'll handle West and Gordon."
"Yes sir." Kirk grabbed his saddlebags, picked up Loveless, and ran for the gelding.
McCoy hyposprayed every man in the alley, just to be sure they stayed down and then cautiously looked out to the street. West and Gordon were right where McCoy had known they would be, and they were doing fine. He glanced back at the weapon and wiped his brow, too close.
Artemus began lobbing grenades from their position behind a big wagon. McCoy stayed near the alley. If the other Dr. Loveless came for the Gatling gun, McCoy would be ready. He saw Artemus take a bullet to the shoulder and cursed vividly. West was fighting three men, and McCoy began to think maybe a little help was in order. He looked up and down the street before running across it to West.
"McCoy, get down!"
"I will." McCoy tapped two men on the shoulder, didn't watch them fall, and ducked down to Artemus. He was still firing, but he was losing far too much blood to stay conscious much longer.
"Get down, Bones!"
McCoy hit him with the hypospray. That would keep him quiet until he could have proper care. Artemus slumped over.
McCoy looked up at West. He was panicking. His panic turned to rage, and McCoy watched with astonishment as West single-handedly took on the rest of the gang. There was no stopping him. McCoy kept an eye on the alley and managed to take out two more men. West was weaving when the battle was finished. McCoy glanced up to see Dr. Loveless watching from a balcony above the hotel.
"Very entertaining, Mr. West. I bid you adieu, until we met again." Dr. Loveless' parting words floated down from the balcony.
"Damn it!" West fired up at the balcony, but the little man was gone. "Take care of Artemus. I'm going after him."
"I will, and there's some kind of cannon in the alley."
"Alley, big gun." McCoy pointed and turned his attention to Artemus, who had lost enough blood for one day. He could heal this quickly once the bullet was out. Should he? "Artemus, what should I do?" McCoy mumbled the question softly. He knew there'd be no answer.
"I thought you were a doctor."
McCoy jumped. Artemus should be out, but obviously he was resistant to the drug in the hypospray. Joanna was too. It was uncommon. "I am. Lie down."
"No. Jim will need help." Artemus began to struggle up, and McCoy was tempted to hit him again with the hypospray. Instead, he helped him. "Which way?"
"I don't know. I was concentrating on you," McCoy said.
"You're no help at all." Artemus took out a handkerchief and pressed it on the bullet wound. McCoy took it and tied it correctly, not too tight.
"I'm going to check these other fellows. There might be someone I can save," McCoy said. Artemus could wait. He was tough.
McCoy went from man to man. Some of them were merely unconscious, four were dead from gunshots, and more than a few had minor wounds that he bandaged or healed, depending on the severity. When everyone was accounted for, McCoy looked about for West or Artemus. They weren't in sight, and McCoy went to find the black horse. He was around the corner, waiting patiently, and McCoy was worried. What if West took off for the mounds on this black beast? He'd catch Kirk, and nothing good could come of it. McCoy tossed the reins up and slapped him on the butt. The horse gave a neigh and went towards the Wanderer. No sooner was this done than West came barreling out of the hotel. McCoy rushed to meet him.
"He's looking for you. I couldn't keep him down," McCoy said.
"Loveless is gone, probably headed for the mounds. I'm going after him." West gave three piercing whistles, and his horse galloped to him.
Damn. That didn't work. McCoy grabbed West's shoulder. West crumpled into McCoy's arms. The horse was waiting, but McCoy ignored him and lugged West off the street and into the shade of a sidewalk. He put his hypospray away and checked his bag. There was enough left to take care of Artemus. McCoy pulled Jim's head into his lap and waited. Artemus would turn up before long. It was the sheriff who showed up first, with his deputy. The townsfolk began to come out of hiding, and several of the thugs were regaining consciousness. The sheriff began herding them off to jail, and the undertaker started in on his job. Where was Artemus? McCoy hoped he wasn't passed out somewhere. Jim would most likely be out another couple of hours.
McCoy waved to Artemus, and he rushed up, all the blood draining from his face. "Jim?" The word was harsh.
"He's fine, Artemus, unconscious, but fine."
Artemus sank down next to Jim. "Thank God, I thought -"
"I know, but this time he's going to be fine," McCoy said.
"You two are in a dangerous line of work. Have you considered retiring?"
"Every day of my life," Artemus said.
"How's your shoulder?"
"I'll make it." Artemus sighed. "Dr. Loveless is gone, again."
"Someday you'll catch him," McCoy said. "It's only a matter of time."
"Where's Kirk? He's okay?"
"He had a little business to take care of," McCoy said. "I'm not an expert, but shouldn't you have someone take care of that gun in the alley?"
"I'll go take a look. Stay here with Jim."
McCoy nodded, acknowledging the command, and held West. He wasn't all that bad a guy, and McCoy was glad he was alive, for Artemus' sake. McCoy was going home; being a country doctor involved too many bullets.
Artemus had thought McCoy must be mistaken, but there sat a Gatling gun. Swallowing hard, he went to look it over. Five unconscious men were sprawled in the dirt, and now he knew what Kirk and McCoy had been doing during the gunfight, saving two asses that he was very fond of. Artemus looked back down the alley and shook a little more. That gun would have torn them in half. Dr. Loveless had mentioned a small surprise, and this was it. He went to get the sheriff. This had to be secured immediately.
The sheriff was as shocked as Artemus, and he organized a gang of men to take the gun away without delay. Artemus' shoulder was beginning to throb, and he headed back to Jim. It was time to go home.
McCoy put Jim on the horse, and Artemus got up behind. "You sure?"
"Yes, I'll walk. I'll meet you there. Don't hurt your shoulder any worse."
Artemus nodded and reined the horse around, heading for the train. McCoy followed on foot. The black stallion went slowly, and Artemus didn't rush him, dropping Jim on his head wouldn't be good. By the time they reached the train, McCoy had fallen behind, and Artemus dismounted very quickly. Jim slumped over the stallion's neck, and Artemus pulled him off with his good arm. He maneuvered them over to the step and sat with Jim. McCoy would get here.
McCoy found them together on the back step. Jim was still out, and Artemus wasn't far behind. Artemus insisted weakly that McCoy take Jim inside first, and he did, laying him on the sofa. He went back for Artemus and took him to his bed over his protests. McCoy helped him undress and bullied him to lie down. "Do it. West will kill me if something happens to you, like you die from blood loss."
"You're scared of Jim?"
"Damn straight, now lie down." McCoy sat near Artemus' shoulder. "Close your eyes and turn away. This is going to hurt."
"No, it further dehydrates the body, and with your blood loss -"
"Shut up, Bones. I'm sorry I asked."
McCoy smiled and got out the tool he'd need to pull that bullet out. Artemus shut his eyes, and McCoy used the hypospray, but this time a slightly different blend. It would work. There was more blood, but the bullet came out cleanly.
"McCoy, is Artemus going to live?"
McCoy stood up quickly, hid his instruments, and went to West. He was leaning against the doorjamb, and McCoy helped him to the loveseat. "Yes, but let me work."
"Thanks," West whispered.
McCoy returned to Artemus, stopped the bleeding, closed the wound, but left most of the healing for his body to take of naturally. The shoulder wasn't broken, and that was a relief. A big dose of antibiotics and a good-sized bandage finished the job. He glanced at West, but he was out again. McCoy went to him and ran his diagnostic over him. Slight concussion, broken bone in his hand, cracked ribs, and bruised kidneys made up the bulk of a litany of injuries. How was this man still walking around? McCoy lifted West's eyelid to make sure he was out, glanced back at Artemus, and healed everything, otherwise West would piss blood for a week. Artemus would need some help. He didn't need to be taking care of West. Finished, McCoy rummaged through his medikit and loaded the hypospray again. While he was here, he might as well inoculate them against every disease known to man. It could only help.
Kirk would be gone for who knew how long, so McCoy moved West to the bed with Artemus and collapsed in the loveseat. They'd live, but how much longer? What kind of job did they have? McCoy gave himself a moment and then went to the facilities to get a wet towel. Artemus was a bloody mess. McCoy cleaned up Artemus and found a blanket to toss over him. Checking him one more time with the diagnostic, McCoy was pleased. Artemus would recover with no problems.
McCoy went to hunt up a glass of whiskey and returned to the loveseat. He nursed his drink and watched his patients sleep. It was dark before Kirk found his way back to the train. McCoy ran a diagnostic over him just to be sure he was fine.
"Time to go home, Bones." Kirk smiled and put a gentle, reassuring hand on him.
"Mission accomplished?" McCoy leaned into it slightly.
"Yes, and he won't be back." Kirk took the whiskey offered and sat on the sofa. His hand tugged McCoy down next to him. "I need to look after the horses. West and Gordon?"
"Will heal. Go on." McCoy kissed Kirk. They sat together until the whiskey was gone. "Good job, Captain."
"Thanks, Bones. Be ready to leave your patients."
McCoy nodded, and Kirk went to the horses.
Artemus woke up slowly. He peeled open his eyes and glanced around. Jim was curled up next to him asleep, and McCoy was in the loveseat, watching.
"How do you feel, Artemus?"
"Like a troop of cavalry ran over me." Artemus pushed the blanket down, sat up, and McCoy came over to help him. "My shoulder -"
"Will be fine. West isn't injured, only tired."
"It feels better than it should." Artemus examined the bandage. "You are the best doctor on the planet."
"Would I lie? You need to take it easy for a week or more, but it will heal nicely. Change the bandage every three days and go easy on the whiskey. Drink water." McCoy pushed Artemus' fingers away from the bandage.
"Water? Okay, but, you're leaving?" Artemus had known they would, but so soon?
"Yes, and remember everything I said." McCoy's blue eyes were intense.
"I will." A promise that he'd keep.
"Oh, and one more thing." McCoy paused and worked the pinky ring off. "Pass this ring down through the generations, always the first born son."
"Your ring? Sons? I never planned to have children." Artemus took the ring and stared at it.
"Do it anyway. Don't waste your hereditary gifts." McCoy patted Artemus' hand and dropped a quick kiss on his forehead. "Promise?"
"Well, okay, but what about Jim?"
"You'll work it out," said McCoy, and he was gone. Artemus shut his mouth and looked at Jim. Children? This was something to think about.
Kirk finished the horses. The black hadn't given him as much trouble as he'd expected. He slung on the saddlebags, they weren't as heavy, and went to find McCoy. It was time to leave. McCoy was coming down the hallway.
"We got everything?"
"Yes. We can go home," McCoy said with a satisfied nod.
"Good. Let's go. The Enterprise needs us." Kirk grasped McCoy by the forearm, and they went out.
"We'll head back to the alley we dropped into. The Guardian knows what it's doing."
McCoy nodded, and they walked in the dark night across the tracks to the railroad station. Kirk stared up at the glorious stars with no offending lights to dim their splendor. Somewhere up there was his future and it was time to be getting back. Mission accomplished and it had been no small thing. He kept his hold on McCoy. He wasn't going to lose him now. They went up the stairs, and fog filled Kirk's eyes. He was somewhere between time and space, before landing in the dirt of a small planet that had only one thing of value - The Guardian of Forever.
Kirk turned back, steadied McCoy, and looked at the scene the Guardian was showing. The Wanderer was leaving the station. West was on the back step, smoking a cigar. Gordon was opening the door to speak to him. "All is as it was," the Guardian boomed. Kirk smiled and let his relief show. McCoy was safe.
McCoy said in clear wonderment, "You finally met your match."
"Bones, I could have taken him down. I was being polite." Kirk restrained a small snort.
McCoy laughed, and the sparkles took them home. Spock was in the transporter room, again, or perhaps he'd never left.
"Status, Mr. Spock?"
"Condition normal, Captain. I infer by Dr. McCoy's presence that you were successful?"
"All is as it was, Spock," Kirk said. "I'm going to bed for a week; you have the bridge."
"I'm going to sickbay. I don't have the energy to argue with a pointy-eared computer." McCoy held out his hand, and Kirk gave him the saddlebags. "Will you join me, Mr. Spock?"
Kirk watched Spock's eyebrow go up. "Curiosity is a human emotion."
"Go with McCoy and then the bridge," Kirk said.
McCoy smiled at Kirk, and they all went to the turbolift together.
Artemus went back to sleep and didn't wake again until Jim kissed him. Their eyes met, and Jim sighed softly.
"Yeah, and you?"
"McCoy says I'll be fine, but no sex for six months," Artemus said. He made sure his face was sad.
"What?" Jim looked horrified.
Artemus laughed, and Jim joined in after a moment. "Just kidding. They're gone."
"Good. I don't have to worry about you fucking your doctor." Jim ran a hand through Artemus' hair.
"I don't know. We could use a good doctor on staff." Artemus struggled to sit up, and Jim gave him a hand. "Especially on those days we're going after Loveless."
"He got away again, damn it." Jim rubbed his face.
"Kirk and McCoy saved our asses." Artemus slid off the bed and headed for the lavatory. Jim was close behind. "That Gatling gun had our names written all over it."
"We owe whoever sent them a very large favor." Jim took his turn after Artemus. "For a doctor, he was pretty good in a fight."
"Serving with his Jim gives him plenty of practice." Artemus followed Jim to their tiny closet.
"Next time, let's scout the area a little better," Jim said. "How's the shoulder?"
"Pretty good." Artemus waited for Jim to finish undressing. "Will you get me a glass of water, please?"
"Don't you mean whiskey?" Jim didn't bother to redress. They were both tired.
"Nope. Water. Doctor's orders." Artemus smiled. Bones McCoy was one of the good guys. Artemus shucked off his boots and bloody trousers. The boots he'd keep, but the trousers were going in the trash. "I'll be in bed."
"Good. I'll meet you there."
Artemus' arm ached, but not bad enough to need opium. He was tempted to take off the bandage to see McCoy's handiwork. Oh well, it could wait three days. He sat down on the loveseat, waited for Jim, and looked down at the pinky ring. Normally, he wouldn't wear it, but he would pass it on. It looked amazingly similar to the one his father had worn. Was it possible that McCoy had bought it at a pawnshop? No, he'd said it was a family heirloom. Artemus frowned. He'd been kissing a cousin? He certainly hoped not! There had to be another explanation, but what it was eluded him. He pulled it off and looked inside for a maker's mark. The faint markings were illegible.
"Thanks." Artemus took his glass of water from Jim, took a big drink, and handed him the ring. "Something McCoy left for me."
"Why?" Jim turned it over and around. "Nice ring, though."
"I'm supposed to hand it down to my children." Jim's eyes widened, and Artemus smiled. "We're gonna need a wife, partner."
"Well, okay." Jim shrugged. "Just one?"
"Two seems excessive, don't you think?"
"Yes." Jim handed back the ring, and Artemus put it on, for now. "It'll involve kissing a lot of women."
"You're up to the task." Artemus laughed, and Jim kissed him. "Let's go to bed."
Jim took him by the hand, and they crawled into bed together. "You up to a little horsing around?"
"Will I get oats as a reward?"
"I'll think of something," Jim said. Artemus wiggled close and Jim stroked down the length of him. "Let me do all the work."
"I thought we were playing?" Artemus was surprised.
"That too." Jim kissed down Artemus, leaving a trail of burning skin.
"Wait, you haven't ever done - oh my God." Artemus shut his eyes and opened them again. This he wanted to see and feel. Jim was inexperienced, but he had a huge tongue and that made up for it. Artemus enjoyed every lick, and the sight of Jim doing it to him. Jim reached a hand up to Artemus' mouth and pressed a finger inside, stroking it in and out. Artemus groaned and just about orgasmed. Jim removed the wet finger and teased it up Artemus' ass.
"James!" Artemus raised his hips, and Jim sucked him while stroking him with that finger. "I'm going to come."
Jim took his mouth away and slid up Artemus so their cocks rubbed. Hot skin and slick skin mixed together. Artemus moaned around Jim's tongue and come spilled out between them. Jim ripped his mouth away, arched his back, and added his seed to Artemus' stomach.
Artemus reached up and pulled Jim's mouth back down. They gasped and groaned while kissing. Jim had been careful not to put any weight on Artemus' shoulder and he slid to the side away from it. Artemus closed his eyes, and Jim did nothing but breathe. What had gotten into Jim West tonight?
"Want me to get you some oats?" Jim laughed softly at his own joke.
"Um, Jim, am I blind?" Artemus felt so good. He wanted to lay here and enjoy it all night.
"Your eyes are shut."
"I was worried there for a minute. What did I do to deserve that?" It was a good question.
"Artemus, you deserve nothing but the best," Jim said. "And I intend to see you get it, and often."
"That's the best news I've had in years." Artemus wasn't going argue. McCoy, it seemed, had healed more than just a bullet wound. He was the best doctor on the planet.
McCoy and Spock went over all the data collected over the last four days. Spock tried to pretend he wasn't eager, but McCoy knew better. McCoy was tired, but he had to see the results. He stretched his aching back once, ignoring the brief look from Spock.
"Fascinating. Captain West was never your ancestor." Spock poured over the data again. He was intent.
The genetic sequencing had told the truth. McCoy had known it, but was still surprised. The Guardian had lied - well - maybe not. Would Artemus have died without his Jim? Possibly, even likely. McCoy sent a small prayer towards the Guardian, asking that Jim West realize how lucky he was. It could happen. West had changed towards the end.
"No, and I'm glad." McCoy glanced down at the ring on his hand. It was back where it belonged, and all was right with his universe. Joanna was safe. She was Artemus' ultimate legacy. "Things turned out the way they were supposed to." "You appear tired, Doctor."
"Yes." McCoy yawned. "I'm to my quarters. We'll go over this again with the captain when he gets up."
"I find it difficult to believe that he will sleep an entire week." Spock's eyebrow went up.
"Never mind, Spock. Tomorrow is soon enough." McCoy took the turbolift to the captain's quarters. He palmed open the door and Kirk looked up from his desk. "You're sleeping, remember?"
"I was going over a few reports and hoping you'd stop by." Kirk grinned his best.
"Oh, really?" McCoy knew why. He felt much the same.
Kirk stood up and came around the desk to McCoy. "Let me help you out of all these clothes."
"You're shameless." McCoy began stripping and working on Kirk's clothes. There were far too many layers. He'd never complain about his uniform again. They fell onto the bed together, and Kirk kissed him breathless. McCoy came up for air. "What's up with you?"
"I've been worried that you wanted to stay and become Artemus' personal physician." Kirk rubbed his body against McCoy's. "Tell me you didn't."
"Not a chance. I'm not a country doctor, and Grandpa has Jim West to keep him company." McCoy reached down and grasped Kirk firmly by the cock. "You did take your boots off?"
"What?" Kirk looked at his feet and laughed. "I can put them back on, if you want."
McCoy shook his head. "That was enough cowboys and Indians for a lifetime."
"We didn't even get to see an Indian." Kirk sighed. "It was disappointing. But West has two very fine horses. I envy him."
McCoy hadn't really noticed, and he stroked Kirk's hard cock several times. Kirk gripped him by the butt cheeks and groaned softly. McCoy kissed him. "Want to play rough?"
Kirk stared at him. "I'm not Jim West!"
McCoy laughed. "You're so much better." He replaced his hand with his mouth.
Kirk gripped him. "You better say that!"
McCoy quit after several minutes of listening to his Jim groan. "Grab the lube."
Kirk reached and tossed. "My turn next."
McCoy moved the length up Kirk and pushed his arms over his head. "We'll see."
Kirk's eyes bulged, but he didn't move his arms. He did gasp when McCoy gripped him by the thighs and thrust in quickly after a fast spurt of lube. McCoy took his time once he was deep inside. He was tired, but in no rush. Kirk moved and grunted, his thick cock oozing on his flat stomach. McCoy kept his pace, but stroked Kirk top to bottom. Kirk tried to grab.
"No!" McCoy snapped out the command. He knew Kirk would obey. It was in his blood.
Kirk stopped and put his arms back over his head. "I'm the senior officer." He licked his lips.
McCoy held still. "You're temporarily relieved of command. Now, behave." He moved harder now and faster; his hand kept the rhythm.
Kirk thrust up and cried out, "Yes sir!"
McCoy shoved down hard and collapsed his weight on Kirk. Kirk was more than strong enough to bear it. They kissed. McCoy orgasmed, pulsing and groaning. He wiggled and thrust as much as he could. Kirk never moved his arms. It was gratifying. Command could be enjoyable. McCoy smiled and kissed his captain again.
Kirk gave a last grunt and spilled between them. He wrapped his arms around McCoy. "When will you reinstate me?"
"Later." McCoy tenderly wiped some sweat from Kirk's forehead. "Much later."
"Are you sure you're not related to West?" Kirk grinned.
McCoy laughed and disengaged himself. "Positive, but you might be. Your genetic codes contain identical degrees of stubbornness and sheer cussedness."
Kirk glared at him. "Get over here. It's my turn."
McCoy cleaned them both up. "Not until you find some fancy chaps. Try ship's stores."