Okay, it's been FOREVER since I updated this. I am sooo sorry for that. My counseling is helping me, but it's slow. I've more off days than good right now. (hint: updates will be sporadic)
Warning! Warning! - abuse is talked about in this chapter. Nothing too awful, but I wanted to let you know before you read.
The clearing in front of their beach house appears as Will and Jean-Luc materialize from the Enterprise's transporter onto the green grass. Warm salt air pushes against them; waves can be heard crashing against rocks somewhere out of sight. Will hikes the strap of his travel bag up higher on his shoulder and glances down at the boy beside him. Jean-Luc is stiff, but relaxing the more he looks around, especially once he sees the nature reserve across the road.
The dark blue creatures running around the hills are a close cross between horses and a spinosaurus dinosaur. They're huge, some almost as tall as the trees they nibble from. The locals swear they can be rode, even with their quilled backs.
Jean-Luc is eyeing them with a rising smile.
He chose this spot because he knew how much Jean-Luc likes the outdoors and riding. He's hoping they might get a chance to rent two of the Chenuxs tomorrow.
"Powerful, aren't they?" he remarks as they both continue to stare at the alien beasts.
Jean-Luc nods absentmindedly. "Indeed, they are, Number One."
Will shifts his weight to his other leg, letting Jean-Luc study the Chenuxs. It'd probably be best to let the kid relax a bit more. After all, Will did have a somewhat ulterior motive to bringing them out into the country – rather than the city, as most of the crew has done. He chews on his bottom lip, remembering the wise words that came from, ironically, a made-up character.
Will's not even close to letting go of his anger when he storms into the police station. Greg what's-his-name said to give them an hour, but the growing volcano in Will's chest won't allow it. How dare Jean-Luc just run off like that. Will almost had the computer shut down the program, he was so worried. Only the barest minimum of restraint held him back – and the knowledge that safety features wouldn't allow any real harm to come to Jean-Luc.
But no more.
He knows Jean-Luc is here, and they're having this out.
A wide-eyed dark-skinned woman backs away from him and rushes around a corner.
Will bets a month's rations she's headed in Jean-Luc's direction.
Only to almost run into a grey-hair man who's turning the same corner. They both stare at each other for a second. Then, the man pulls himself up.
He'd looked up the most important characters of this hologame, just to give himself a slight edge.
Greg tilts his head to the side. "You're still angry."
"Wouldn't you be?" Will glances over Greg's shoulder into the hallway. "Is he down there?"
"Yeah." Greg grabs Will's arm and tugs him in the opposite direction. "Come on. We need to talk."
Will tries to yank his arm out of the older man's grip, but the detective is surprisingly strong. Will settles for glaring at him. "Stop protecting him, Greg. He can't keep getting away with this."
"And I agree, but you shouldn't be seeing him this angry. Walk with me." Greg pulls him along. "There's some things you need to know."
That ominous warning is the only reason Will stops fighting the man's tugs and goes along with him. "Talk. What's going on?"
"Not here." Greg doesn't say anything else until he ushers them into a room with a couch and shuts the door. He nods to the couch. "Sit."
Will does, but on the edge, not quite ready concede defeat yet. "All right, we're here. Why are you so adamant I not see Je-Sherlock right now?"
Greg studies him a moment, and then sighs. "Cause the kid's scared."
Will just bets he is. Probably knows the spanking he's got coming to him. "He just doesn't want to face the consequences of his actions. Don't let him fool you –"
"I've known Sherlock for over five years," Greg interrupts.
Will hides his snort. This man hasn't known Jean-Luc more than an hour.
"Kid's brilliant, arrogant, and childish," Greg continues. He sighs again and sits next to Will. "You know what the thing about genius' is though?"
Will raises an eyebrow.
"They're secretly really sensitive and insecure." Greg clasps his hands together. "Sherlock likes to put on a front that he doesn't care, that he's above us mere humans, but really? He actually cares too much about what we think about him. To the point where he can make himself sick, like he did today."
Will starts. "Je-Sherlock was sick?"
Greg nods, eyes hard as steel. "Balled his eyes out twice, and then threw up all over my shoes."
Will takes that into consideration.
Is Jean-Luc really that scared of a spanking now?
That he'd make himself sick?
Surely, he knows Will won't ever do anything to hurt him. Okay, yes, a spanking hurts, but then it's over with, done – and the pain lasts for maybe a few minutes at best.
Greg holds up a hand.
"What do you know about Sherlock brother, Robert?" Greg asks.
"Robert?" Will starts, and he just keeps his eyes from widening. Greg shouldn't know anything about Robert. Just what happened while Jean-Luc was out? Will clenches his hands into fists.
He knew it.
He knew something was going on these last few days. Jean-Luc's been tenser then a Vulcan around emotions. He knew Robert had done something. He knew it. Will takes a deep breath and counts backwards from fifteen.
"What did Robert do? What did he say?"
Greg studies him. "Good. I was hoping you knew that much."
"What did he say?" Will grinds out.
"Evidently, he's been trying to convince Sherlock he's nothing but a burden to us, that he's somehow stupid, and that he has to come home. It's got Sherlock worked into a right panic." Greg's eyes narrow. "You keep Sherlock away from this Robert, John. Far away."
"Greg, he's his brother, I can't just –"
"He's also somehow convinced the poor boy that no one will want him if he isn't a genius. And what's more…John, Sherlock's terrified of going back to his brother," Greg just about hisses. "He's showing all the classic signs of emotional abuse. I'm not sure about physical, but it wouldn't surprise me."
"Ab…abuse?" Will's insides turn to ice.
Abuse is a serious charge to accuse anyone of, let alone a family member. There aren't any records to indicate this in Jean-Luc's childhood. Just what happened in the Picard household all those years ago? How has no one seen it until now? And how is Will going to keep Jean-Luc from it now?
Robert has all the cards. One wrong move, and Will loses Jean-Luc.
But to just who he loses him to is the question. What did Jean-Luc tell Greg, that he's not told anyone else?
Will's nails dug into his palm. "What did Sherlock tell you?"
"Not much, which is typical of this sort of thing. He blurted out having escaped his household. That he'd been planning it for years. That he couldn't go back because Robert would do something to him."
"He wouldn't say. Kid's probably too afraid to do admit more right now." Greg runs a hand through his hair. "Let me ask you this, John. Does Sherlock ever talk about family to you? Ever?"
"…no…other than he begged me to keep him on the shi – in the apartment. I thought it was just because he wanted more freedom to do what he wanted. He's been trying to come up with defense strategies for the country – which, yes, I know is weird, but he's determined."
"Does he ever play?"
Will thinks. "Rarely. He's been going out more with a few friends his own age, but he doesn't stay out long. He usually comes back after an hour or two and works some more."
"That's not uncommon," Greg says. "He probably feels the need to make sure you know he's useful and not just a bothersome kid."
Will makes a mental note to contact Deanna right after this. This isn't something he can deal with on his own – he might kill Robert – and she'll need to be updated on Jean-Luc's mental state.
"Is that why he lashed out like this? Why he ran off?" Will asks, his chest tightening.
Greg shrugs. "I think. He's probably trying to put distance between you two – get you angry – so it won't hurt as much when you make him leave."
"I've never given any indication of wanting him gone." At least, Will's pretty sure about that. "He has to know I wouldn't do that."
Especially, not after a revelation like this!
"You get told enough times that you're nothing – even if you're a genius – and you'll start to believe it. Even if it's only one person who tells you it." Greg leans his elbows against his knees. "You need to talk to Sherlock. Not today, it's too fresh, but soon. Kid needs to know you're staying in his corner, no matter what."
Figures it would take a fictional character to open Will's eyes to the obvious. He never was good with children, not like Deanna, Geordi, or Guinan. Oh, he can handle them just fine for short stints, but determining their mental state, long term stays? Not so much. And he needs to make sure what Greg suspected is actually true. Such a serious charge can't be left hanging.
Deanna was insistent on this point.
Will paces the length of Deanna's room and then back again. "It makes no sense. There wasn't any indication of this on file. Nothing. You'd think something as serious as this would have been recorded somewhere."
"Not necessarily." Deanna leans back in her chair. "Many victims become good at covering up for their abusers. They're told no one will believe them and are put in situations that are manipulated to show just such an outcome. It's a type of conditioning, so when things get worse, the victims don't think they stand a chance if they tell anyone."
"But…" Will rubs his eyes. "What do we do now, Deanna?"
"You need to ask Jean-Luc, seeing what he says. It might be this character mistook his words."
"You think that's possible?" Will shakes his head. "This is Jean-Luc we're talking about. The man doesn't say anything without thinking it over four times."
"But he's not a man anymore, Will, he's a child. And if all the doctors' notes are right, each one of them is regressing to the age their bodies are. Soon, Jean-Luc might actually be thirteen."
Deanna's right, of course. They can't let things just stew as they are.
"Jean-Luc, we should probably settle in for tonight," Will says.
Jean-Luc blinks up at him, a frown darkening his face. "Why? It's still early in the afternoon."
"I know, but we need to talk."
Jean-Luc takes a small step back, eyes narrowing, but he nods. Will sighs as the boy marches off down the road towards their house. Great. This is going to go so well. He squares his shoulders and follows Jean-Luc into the yard.
No turning back now. This needs to be addressed, before things get any worse. It's bad enough Will let it go on for as long as he has.
Will crosses the threshold and takes in their temporary house.
It's open with only a few pieces of furniture. Which is fine. They won't be needing too much. He catches sight of Jean-Luc disappearing into an adjacent room.
Will sets his bag down at the door and goes after him.
He finds Jean-Luc sitting on the edge of a bed, hands fisted, white-knuckled. He sighs, runs a hand through his hair, and sits down next to the kid. "Greg told me what Robert said."
"It wasn't anything. I –"
"Jean-Luc, when a person – fictional or otherwise – tells me they suspect abuse, I can't ignore that."
"A-abuse?!" Jean-Luc turns whiter than rice. "Will, that's ridiculous! I'm not being abused. I –"
"You're going to tell me you're not afraid of Robert?"
"Don't lie to me, Jean-Luc." Will turns to face the boy better. "What did Robert say to you? It was bad enough it got you scared. You've been scared for days now, and I know you don't panic easily, so what did he say?"
"He said nothing that…that hasn't crossed my own mind in recent days." Jean-Luc twists the material of his pants.
"Which would be?"
Jean-Luc opens and closes his mouth a few times. "It would be inconvenient to have a child with you, when you go to Deep Space Nine. It could, potentially, be a war zone. Children have no place on there. I would only be in the way."
"So, you want to go back to Earth?"
"No! I mean," Jean-Luc breathes out his nose slowly. "I was hoping I might be able to barter my way onto a Vulcan science ship for a while. Perhaps one that is patrolling nearby."
"And this is Robert's idea?"
"…no. He wishes for me to come home."
"And you don't?"
"Jean-Luc, why don't you want to go home?" Will places a hand lightly on the boy's shoulder. Jean-Luc flinches. Will rubs circles in Jean-Luc's shoulder with his thumb. "Jean-Luc, talk to me. I can't help you, if you say nothing."
Jean-Luc looks away and stares at the wall opposite. "Robert…Robert has always disliked my choice to enter Starfleet. He thinks it should've stayed to aid in the family business."
"Yes. And, it is noble work my brother does, but I don't…I never wanted to follow that trade. The stars were for me, even at a young age."
"And Robert did not approve."
Jean-Luc lets out a wet laugh. "I should say not. He hated it."
"What would happen if you went back to Earth?"
"Robert would do everything in his power to make sure I never leave the farm again." Jean-Luc shudders. "He's hur – He would be very persuasive."
"Persuasive in a physical way?"
Jean-Luc gives him a glare. "I know that's abuse, Number One. You needn't try and trick me."
"Would he, though?" Will presses. This needs to be confirmed or denied.
For several minutes, Jean-Luc just stares out the window. The his head bows and he whispers, "yes."
"Then you're not going back to him."
Jean-Luc's head whips up, eyes wide. "But he's my legal guardian, Will! He can make me go back."
"Not if I send him a strongly worded letter about why that would be disastrous to his reputation."
"Will, you can't!" Jean-Luc practically begs. "He'll –"
"Do nothing, Jean-Luc. I won't let him." Will leans down to look him in the eye. "Tonight, I'll write him. We'll take it one step at a time."
Jean-Luc bites his lower lip, but nods.
"Do you trust me?" Will asks.
"Of course, Number One, I –"
Will holds up a hand to stop him. "Have I ever let you down, sir?"
"Then, trust me this time as well. You're not going back."
Do I like how this chapter came out? Not really. I feel like it's tripping over itself or something. But I wanted to give you all something. Let me know what you think? Please?