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It's Only Love

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In universe torn by strife and famine, many customs and laws conflicted with the practises of the day. With so much loss of life, adoption was common place, and the bonds created by such means were considered as strong as those through blood lines. However, emphasis was still that of genetic relations, and as such many estates were bound to out of date rules when it came to inheritance. It is on one such world that this story unfolded around a family lacking the necessary biological offspring to ensure the security for all. Not that the head of this house had intended it to have worked out that way, however life decided a different fate.

However, none of the unfairness inherit in the laws of old were on the mind of Sarek, head of the Longbourn estate family, at the moment. All he was thinking about, and not for the first time or even close to the first time, was how he and his wife had managed to adopt three male humans, all with distinct accents. The human part he understood, it was a result of his wife Amanda wanting a few of her own kind in a family of Vulcans. Not that she would admit to any such bias when selecting from those in need of a new home. No, it was the accents that he was once again pondering as he tried to follow the excited conversation. He didn't remember any check box regarding that particular trait on any form, but he suspected there was one and that his wife had checked it. Three such children were too much of a coincidence. Not that they were children anymore. And not that the accents bothered Sarek, except at times like this where the youngest was so excited that he didn't have a clue what the boy was saying. Tenting his fingers in front of himself, Sarek focused closer to the words being uttered, in hopes of being able to decipher them.

Amanda smiled patiently at her husband. She recognized the pose he had currently taken at the head of the table and stifled a little giggle. Not that he was alone in being confused; their two elder sons also appeared to be having a difficult time following what was being said as well. Taking pity on the three men, she interrupted young Chekov and stated, "Pavel and I heard in town today that Netherfield is to be occupied this summer. By an eligible party of fine fortune if the rumours are to be believed."

Pavel Chekov, the youngest of the adopted brood, nodded excitedly in agreement before adding, "T'Mir saw her when she was speaking to the agent for the estate. Said she was a great beauty. Imagine." The boy took on a dreamy expression as he contemplated what exactly had been meant by beautiful.

The eldest son Montgomery Scott, better known to all as Scotty, leaned forward at this point, his attention caught by the idea of a lovely young woman moving into the neighbourhood. "Fresh blood, always good."

That comment earned him a snort from his left as the middle son; Leonard McCoy rolled his eyes in disbelief. "Fresh blood? What are you a vampire?"

"Maybe," Scotty smirked, giving Leonard a wink before turning attention back to Pavel. "Did T'Mir elaborate on this beauty?"

Pavel pondered the question, trying to remember exactly what had been said.

"She mostly talked of her hair to be honest. Well that and her fortune, because like any matchmaking mother, she seemed more concerned about that."

His own scorn at the importance of financial matters showed in Pavel's tone as he finished.

"Ah, to be so young that finance plays no role in decisions," Sarek mused, tilting his head toward the snickering elder two instead of the son who inadvertently expressed the sentiment. "You two might want to remember that as most of this estate is entailed and you consider solidifying your own futures."

Before either could speak up to defend themselves, Amanda addressed her husband. "About that dear, you need to pay a visit when the new tenants get settled in."

Sarek raised his eyebrows in surprise. "I will?" He had a great dislike for the meet and greet that society deemed a necessity and avoided it when ever possible.

"Of course you will," Amanda replied with a smile. "As you just said, these two need to secure their futures, and what better way than a great beauty of good fortune?"

Sarek groaned at his wife's answer. He had definitely walked into that one. Another of those confounding rules of politeness where it was only truly acceptable for any of his sons to be acknowledged by the members of other households once the head of their house had met them. This was despite the fact that two of them were above age. He wasn't sure when that tradition started but he doubted that there was any sound logic behind it. This didn't stop him from responding in a negative manner.

"Well, I say send them on over and let them meet her themselves. Or just pick from those they already know, either way, I'm not going out and befriending every new arrival."

Amanda's smile morphed into a frown as her husband spoke. She glared at him across the table. "You know very well they can do no such."

"A stupid fact if there ever was one," scoffed Scotty who had little time for the social niceties. It was one of the reasons he was happier tinkering with equipment than attending balls and parties. "I think we should be able to march up and introduce ourselves if we want. Though might as well leave that one home."

He nodded toward Leonard at the last part.

"Ya," Pavel agreed with the bob of his head. "After all, it's a pretty girl." He dragged the last word out in a sing song voice.

"And you think she'd be interested in a kid like you?" Leonard teased, knowing that Pavel was sensitive about the age difference between him and his older brothers.

"Well, I doubt she would be," Scotty proclaimed, leaning back in his chair with a smirk of satisfaction. "Leaving the field wide open for me."

"You and every other bachelor in the county," Leonard countered. "And that's assuming she isn't into girls the way you two are."

"There dear, our son has a good point. You need to find out her preferences," Sarek commented, waving his hand toward Leonard as he spoke. "It's only logical to know these things before I waste my time. If it turns out she likes boys, I will go and introduce myself. But I make no promise that she won't decide she likes me best."

"And I won't guarantee that I won't let her have you," Amanda retorted, folding her arms over her chest to show her disapproval of her husband's jest, if he was indeed joking.

Leonard was in the sitting room with his adopted parents, his nose stuck inevitably in one medical PADD or another, when Scotty and Pavel burst into the room. The two had gone into town to buy parts for an engineering project they were working on together, but as they entered no purchases were to be seen. Pavel was eagerly speaking in between gasps for breath as he had raced back from Meryton. Scotty, who had not wanted to be let behind, was quite out of breath as well and collapsed against the door as he closed it. He didn't look as excited as his younger sibling, but that wasn't much of a surprise as the only words caught from Pavel's rapid speech was that of ball and party. The seated family members turned toward him however to interpret the relayed information, though the problem at the moment had as much to do with Pavel's speed as accent, a near impossible combination to understand.

With a shrug, Scotty moved from the supporting door to the nearest seat before complying with the pleading looks. "Well, we never made it to the shops. On the way there we ran into Christine who we made the mistake of stopping to talk to. Or Pavel did as I tried to keep going but you know how he likes to gossip."

Three heads nodded in agreement and waited for more of the story. When Scotty didn't immediately restart, Leonard impatiently snapped at his older brother. "Well what did Chris have to say?"

Taking a much needed deep breath, Scotty smirked and continued. "Well, it seems that T'Mir has decided to host a ball. It's a little party to welcome the new resident of Netherfield, so of course it will be a nice little opportunity to meet the lovely lady the county has been yammering on about the last few weeks. I didn't think it warranted running home to tell everyone but I got little say and a lot of dragging along."

"A party," Amanda murmured. She tapped her finger on her chin and pursed her lips in thought. "A party. Not that it will do us much good even if she is there since your father has been very uncooperative in that area."

Leonard leaned over and poked his father with the edge of his PADD. "Now would be a good time."

Sarek shot a stern look at the young man before addressing his wife. "I may have gone over yesterday and introduced myself to the young lady in question."

Amanda face glowed as she broke into a bright smile. "So there is a purpose to our attending then?"

"Yes," Sarek concurred with a slight nod. "One would think though, that the opportunity to socialize with old friends would be reason enough."

Amanda shook her head as she gave a little laugh. "That is all fine and well, but think of how embarrassing it would be if we couldn't greet the guest of honour directly because you were being your stubborn self."

"Me? Stubborn?" Sarek challenged.

Leonard jumped in before an actual battle broke out between the two over something so trivial. It never ceased to amaze him how the two could be so united on major things and squabble over every little one. "I am sure it will be fun and you will be able to chat all you want to the stars of the show, so let's not go there okay? And speaking of not going... I think I will skip the whole thing."

"Oh you will be going," both Amanda and Sarek informed him, almost in unison.

Leonard rolled his eyes on their demonstration of like-mindedness. "Why should I? As it's already been pointed out, more than once I might add since we found out about the new occupants at Netherfield, she is a woman and I don't swing that way. And before you bring up neighbours again, you aren't marrying me off to any of them. And I can't emphasize this part enough: I don't dance." Satisfied he had hit all the major points, Leonard gave a curt nod as if to say 'So there'.

"You dance beautifully," Amanda said dismissively.

"Plus, she will be bringing a party of friends of her own that are staying at Netherfield," Pavel informed his older brother. "You never know, the man of your dreams might just be among them."

"I somehow doubt it," Leonard snorted.

A festive air hung over the room as the crowd twittered on about the pending arrival of Meryton's newest resident. The stories of how many guests she would be bringing with her had varied and grown as the evening had approached. Enthusiasm ran high, as it had been a while since anyone new had moved to their small town, and one with such high social stature, she was superior to everyone in the room. In honour of this fact, the top finery had been brought out to place the town's best foot forward. As the guest of honour arrived with her small entourage, several sets of judgemental eyes took in the decorations and spread set out before them.

Nyota Uhura had the attention of the entire room as she entered to greet the hosts, T'Mir and her husband Velik. It seemed as though she glided not walked across the floor, her hair hanging long down her back, shimmering as it swayed with her movement. She extended her hand in greeting, a bright smile spreading across her face as she thanked with the Vulcans for their kind invite before turning to introduce them to her companions. The number in the party was much lower than the grapevine had provided, with one woman and three men accompanying her.

As the crowds settled back into themselves, the chatter started about who it was that accompanied her. This was the topic on Christine Chapel, one of the wards of the hosts, had on her mind as she approached her good friends Leonard and Scotty.

"Hello there little lady," Scotty looked up from his glass of whiskey. He had been contemplating whether or not he had it in him to converse with the vision of loveliness he just seen enter the room when he had spied Christine approaching. He had to admit, it was the first time he understood the idea of having one's breath taken away by the mere presence of another individual.

Christine smiled and offered a quick kiss on Scotty's cheek before leaning against the back of the chair Leonard was seated in. Leonard himself had not acknowledged her arrival; rather he was still following the Meryton's newest fascinations with his eyes. She giggled a little before asking, "So what do you think of the little group from Netherfield?"

That got Leonard's attention and he turned in his chair to look at the leggy blonde standing behind him. With a nod toward his older brother, he replied "Oh one of us was very impressed. I think he got a little flushed when she glanced over this way."

"Hey," Scotty sputtered, his eyes narrowing in on the younger man. "I did no such thing. And I'm not the one following the group around the room."

"I'm sitting here not following anyone," Leonard teased, winking at Christine.

"With your eyes," Scotty glowered, the 'smartass' comment left unsaid but implied in both his tone and look. Leonard simply chuckled and shook his head.

"Are you curious about the lot or you just so bored that you'll follow anyone?" Christine had to ask because with Leonard you never really knew. He had a decided lack of inquisitiveness when it came to society in general.

"Just trying to decide if there is a couple among the group or if they are all singles," Leonard admitted as he turned once again toward the crowd seeking out the small group to continue his observation.

"The blondes are together," Christine informed the two men.

"Ah, so all brunettes are available?" Scotty asked. "That makes it easier to keep it straight."

"And another of those brunets has a fortune that dwarves that of Ms. Uhura," another voice entered the conversation as Amanda approached from a group closer to the new arrivals.

"Bet that little piece of news got all the mothers in the room excited," Leonard joked. "They must be lining up the girls to parade before him as we speak."

"From what I've heard," Christine mused, scrunching her nose a little. "They'd be better off lining up the boys. Pity, he's quite fine looking."

"Ah... one of those," Scotty offered with a slight nod.

Leonard swung around in his chair again, this time to frown at his brother. "And what's that suppose to mean?"

Scotty grinned as recalled a comment from the other day. "That maybe Pavel was right... you know about the dream man."

Amanda gave Scotty a light slap on his arm. "Behave yourself young man."

Christine, noting her father heading in the group's direction, gave a little shush to keep everyone from being caught gossiping. She stood up straight, a polite smile plastered on her face as she greeted her adopted father Velik, who escorted the leading lady in the night's show over to her little cluster of friends.

"Christine, Ms. Uhura expressed an interest in meeting you and your friends," Velik replied with a slight tilt to his head. He turned to Nyota and started introductions, gesturing to each as he spoke their name. "My daughter, Christine. Amanda the wife of Sarek, he is not in attendance tonight but I believe you have met." Nyota nodded in the affirmative. "And two of Amanda's sons Montgomery and Leonard."

Amanda smiled at the young lady and waved a small group dancing, "My youngest son Pavel is also in attendance."

Nyota smiled, watching the couples dance for a moment before observing, "He is quite energetic."

The comment was rewarded with a snort from Leonard who muttered, "That's one way to put it."

Nyota turned to look at the man sitting to her left, assessing him as best she could. "Leonard, right?" she asked and then continued when he nodded his ascension. "Do you dance, Leonard?"

He shot the woman a strained smile. "Not if I can avoid it."

Tilting her head to take in Scotty, she posed a similar question to him, "How about you Montgomery, do you dance?"

"Scotty," Scotty corrected her quietly.

"Scotty it is," she agreed with a small smile.

"Oh he'd love to dance," Leonard informed her boldly, letting his accent slip in a little heavier. "He's a little shy though so he might not admit it. However, he was saying how you had a way of moving that suggested you would handle yourself well on the dance floor."

Nyota looked at Scotty full on at that point. Reaching her hand out to him, she suggested, "Why don't we find out if you were right?"

Scotty took hold of her hand and handing his drink over to Christine and followed Nyota to the dance floor. "Why don't we indeed."

Christine laid the glass on the small table behind the little group before turning to Leonard and demanding, "Come dance with me."

"Did you not hear what I just said," Leonard snapped but didn't resist as she grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet.

"Yes, but you have to go out and admire your handy work," Christine explained patiently. "Plus, I want to dance."

"What handy work? And if there was handy work to be admired, it could be done from the sidelines," Leonard complained.

It was Christine's turn to give a snort of disbelief. "I've met your brother. He's a sweetie but there is no way he made any such comment."

"Dear," Amanda joined in. "Go dance with your friend. It won't kill you."

"You don't know that for sure," Leonard called over his shoulder to his mother as he allowed himself to be dragged onto the dance floor.

Leonard eventually made his way back to the chair he had been occupying in the corner of the ballroom. He had intended only to observe at the party, but once Christine had dragged him out on the floor it became necessary to stand up with a few more ladies in attendance, especially since there was a deficit of males with which the ladies could dance. What kept Leonard off the floor at most balls wasn't that he couldn't dance; more it was simply that he refused to ask and most new better to approach. Once someone did manage to get him up dancing it often lead to his being pounced on to be a partner by others. It was all about getting past initial reluctance on his part. He even had to dance with Nyota Uhura, as it would impolite not to do so and Leonard tended to behave as a gentleman to any ladies who weren't Christine. She had the distinction of being the equivalent of a sister in his eyes and tended to be treated as such.

As he took in the room once again from his cosy little corner, it occurred to Leonard that though Nyota had been dancing quite a bit, including several turns with Scotty, none of the remaining members of her group had taken to the floor. Not even the alleged couple whose names he had learnt were Janice and Kevin. Probably considered a little country soiree like this beneath them, as they all seemed to have quite the haughty air about them, particularly her Vulcan companion. He had brushed aside several attempts to set him up with a dance partner in a very abrupt manner. The initial charm brought on by fact that he was an individual of a greater fortune seemed to have worn off with each dismissal. While Leonard could sympathize with the desire to stay off the dance floor, it just shouldn't be done in polite society, especially when there was a shortage of dancers.

Leonard shifted uncomfortably in the chair as he heard voices of two people standing just out of his sight.

"You should do a little dancing Spock," Nyota stated to her friend. "You might just surprise yourself and have some fun. And before you say anything about Vulcans not having fun because there is emotion involved, I will remind you that this whole event is being hosted by Vulcans."

"Indeed it is. Very respectable Vulcans," Spock conceded. "However, I would argue that there is little value in my dancing as it is not an activity I enjoy at the best of times. Since this gathering is no where near the best of times, it would be even less fun for me."

"Oh please," Nyota scoffed dismissing his arguments. "There is a shortage of males present so women are limited in the opportunities to dance."

"A woman could dance with another woman," Spock pointed out. "This society does not frown on such behaviour."

"True," Nyota was the one to concede the point this time. "But not all people are comfortable doing so."

"It is also disconcerting to dance when one is a touch telepath. I have not brought gloves so I am likely to read passing thoughts as I partake in an activity," Spock continued in his reasons for choosing not to dance. "Then there is the risk of my attentions being misread, I do not wish to attract the attention of any woman at all, let alone any woman present here."

That confirmed what Christine had said earlier, Leonard thought to himself.

"I am suggesting you dance with a few of the ladies, Spock. Not propose marriage." Nyota sighed. "Anyway, it wouldn't hurt to dance a few faster dances, touch telepath or not."

"I have found that females, particularly human females, have the ability to read quite a bit in to very little," Spock stated, paused for a moment to consider what he had said before adding. "Though in fairness, human males also possess this ability."

Leonard stifled a snort on that comment as he didn't want them to realize that they were being overheard. Though given they were at a party they should be more than aware of just that possibility.

Nyota sighed. It annoyed her to no end that none of her friends were partaking in the events, though Kevin and Janice were at least indulging in the food and beverages, especially the wine that seemed to flow almost endlessly.

"Well, you could at least mingle a little more. There are a few interesting souls out there. And maybe, just maybe, you might meet someone who meets those ridiculously high standards of yours."

"My standards are not that high," Spock defended himself. "You just fail to understand them. Nor do you really try as you are determined to see everyone as acceptable without consideration of social standing."

"I do not see everyone as acceptable," Nyota scoffed. "I do understand that there are undesirables in the world. I just choose to start with them innocent until proven otherwise, whereas you see everyone guilty till proven innocent."

"It is a wonder you still have a fortune given your trusting attitude," Spock murmured, his voice as close to exasperated as it would ever get.

"Hey, once again, not asking you to actually commit to anyone, just suggesting you get to know a few people. It won't kill you," Nyota scolded with a shake of her head.

"You don't know that," Spock pointed out.

"Oh please," Nyota groaned. "I've met several very interesting people tonight."

"I did notice that you were paying particular attention to a man, dancing with him several times," Spock observed. "You should be careful about the message you are sending to him and his family paying that level of a compliment."

"Ah, Scotty," Nyota said with a smile. "He is quite entertaining, though not quite a smooth with the words as his brother would have me believe. I do think he was the one who thought up the compliment paid to me when we were introduced. Not that it matters, because Scotty has a charm all of his own."

"Compliment?" Spock asked.

"Yes, compliment. You have heard of them right?" Nyota teased. "Anyway, I think it might have more to do with that southern accent than the words. Though the words were nice."

"Southern accent? I thought the man had a Scottish accent," Spock's puzzlement showed in his voice.

"Scotty didn't deliver the compliment. He was merely credited with the words," Nyota explained. "His brother actually said the words. Scotty is a little shy and wouldn't be likely to say much let alone a full on compliment."

"Both brothers have accents, but different ones," Spock confirmed.

"Actually all three brothers have different accents. Quite interesting when families adopt is it not?" Nyota laughed.

"And the accent of the third brother?" Spock couldn't resist asking.

"I believe much like Scotty you have heard the youngest brother speak." Nyota informed him. "You want to guess."

"That young Russian boy you mean?" Spock asked her to confirm.

"That would be the one." Nyota nodded affirmatively as she spoke.

"Fascinating. Such a wide variety in one family." Spock mused. "I wonder how that came to be. One would expect children to learn the accent of their caretakers, yet all three have very different ones."

"Guess they were older when they were taken in," Nyota said with a shrug. "I didn't exactly ask."

"Your mind was on other things," Spock joked. Of course, anyone not familiar with his tone, like a certain eavesdropper, would not know this. "You do appear to be quite taken with the Scotsman aptly named Scotty. We don't know though if they are of sufficient standing to warrant such attention from you."

"Don't be such a stuffed shirt. It is a nickname you know. I know you loath those things," Nyota informed her friend.

"I had assumed as much," Spock replied dryly. "At least I can understand how the name evolved, unlike many nicknames I have encountered."

This time Leonard couldn't help but laugh as he thought of a nickname a friend of his had given him. He highly doubted that Nyota's friend would appreciate the origin of it. Not that that little fact would make him in any way unique since most people didn't get the nickname. But then most people, including his own family, didn't know him as well as Jim Kirk. Leonard was missing his partner in crime, but the man was still in London. The party would be more fun if he was here. Though it might cut into any success Scotty was having with Nyota, something that was putting a little confidence in his brother, something Scotty could really use in the area of romance. Jim knew how to charm the ladies and would have probably been able to dominate the newest lady in the county the way he seemed to dominate the attention of the rest.

Of course, his laughter caught the attention of the two chatting just to his side. Both looked at him, wondering what it was exactly he was laughing at. They probably would have realized that it was their conversation he was eavesdropping on if Pavel hadn't picked that moment to stumble over to his brother, clasp his shoulder, and proclaim this night the best night ever. Instead, they assumed based on that display that it was likely some antic that the young man had pulled before reaching his brother that was the cause. They did however decide to move from where they were standing, as they both felt a little disconcerting to be talking so openly regarding a family with two of its members so close by.

The next day found the Longbourn family discussing the night before at great length, though Leonard could had done without the play-by-play. Having been forced to go was bad enough; he didn't feel like reliving it as well. Of course the reason the ball had come up was a good one in Leonard's eyes. Christine had dragged her newly returned brother over for a visit, resulting in Pavel and Scotty needing to get the young man caught up on all that he had missed. Leonard on the other hand was just relieved that Jim had finally made his way back to Meryton. He had started to think he was going to go crazy without his friend around.

"So Chris said you actually got up and danced Bones," Jim stated for about the third time since arriving.

"Good God man, it's not that hard to believe is it?" Leonard asked in an exasperated voice. "I do know how you know. In fact, I am a more popular partner than you, Mr. Steps on Everyone's Toes."

"I do not," Jim denied vehemently. "You do something once and you never live it down."

"You did it more than once," Christine teased. "And I had the foot injuries to prove it."

"Stepping on your sister's toes doesn't count," Jim scoffed.

"Scotty danced several times with the guest of honour," Pavel informed Jim. He was quite proud that his oldest brother had made such a strong impression on the lady of good fortune. "And she was great a beauty, moved with such grace. She and Scotty looked quite fine on the dance floor."

"Hey, he was just lucky I wasn't back in time to make it to the ball," Jim smirked, giving Pavel a quick wink. "Otherwise he would have had real competition."

"She also danced with Leonard," Christine informed her brother. "In fact she asked him first but he so graciously pointed her toward Scotty. He can be sweet like that."

"Sweet? I don't think so," Jim scoffed. "More like he didn't want to have to dance. Somehow I am sure it's your fault he wasn't able to avoid it all together."

"It is true that Christine was the one to get Leonard up on the dance floor," Amanda confirmed. "That is usually the case though isn't it? It's a pity there wasn't more of a balance between men and women. Some frown upon boys dancing together if any ladies are still seated. Leonard might have had more fun dancing if he could get one of the boys up with him instead."

"Not really," Leonard admitted with a shake of his head. "Dancing is simply not that much fun."

"I don't get how you can be so good at something you dislike so much," Scotty muttered. "I love to dance but am too awkward and uncomfortable on the floor because I have little to no sense of rhythm. Seems unfair somehow. It's the need to actually talk to people that makes me avoid balls and such."

"You mean talk to people about something other than engineering," Amanda corrected her eldest son. "You have no problem talking to people about that, male or female."

Scotty shrugged sheepishly. He knew damn well if the person was wiling and capable to talk engineering with him he wouldn't care who they were, all nervousness would leave him, and he'd be able to chat away. It was the reason he tended to spend most of his time with his youngest brother. Pavel was the only person around who could keep up with him in most conversations. He had done quite a bit of dancing last night but not a lot of chatting. Most of the females around here had little to no interest in any of his favourite topics.

"Well you must have found something of interest to talk to Ms. Uhura about," Amanda commented. "You two seemed to be talking while up on the dance floor."

"Naw, I just followed advice I've been given before and listened to what the lady wants to talk about," Scotty confessed. "She is a lady of languages, it was quite interesting."

"At least it wasn't that simpering garbage that many of the others want to discuss," Leonard sneered with a roll of his eyes. "If I had one more talk about the latest fashion I was not going to be responsible for the damage inflected."

"Yes, you would," Jim joked. "You'd patch any injuries right up. Get to play doctor. That by the way, for most kiddies, means something very different than for you Bones. You actually want to do doctoring."

"Yes, we all know what you want to do," Leonard shot back. "Some of us are looking for actual connections, not fleeting ones."

Jim laughed and waved a finger at Leonard as he chided, "No changing the subject, old man; you have to tell me more about what you were up to last night."

"Dancing," Pavel sighed. "Lots and lots of dancing."

"That was you, moron," Leonard griped. "I was mostly observing and thankfully only occasionally trapped on the floor when it was completely unavoidable. I didn't have the right amount of detachment to weasel my way out of it. Or maybe I should say the right amount of fortune."

"Whose fortune got them out of dancing?" Jim quizzed the group.

"Oh, Ms Uhura's friends. Not one of them got up and danced last night. At least I don't remember any of them doing it," Christine supplied. "Not even the couple."

"How many accompanied her?" Jim asked.

"You mean how many ladies, I doubt you care about any of the guys," Scotty chimed back into the conversation. It was an unusual occurrence for him to be the primary source of information and he was enjoying it. "There weren't any single ladies with her, just an old friend of Nyota's who is one half of that couple Chris was referring to. There were three male companions, one of course being the husband of the old friend, and the other two being of no competition for you given their inclinations."

"Were they a couple as well?" Jim asked. It was a possibility under the circumstances Scotty just shared.

"No," Scotty responded with a shake of his head. "Sulu was a ward of Spock's father, so they are family."

Jim snickered and slapped Leonard on the back. "You had two opportunities walking around last night and you wasted all your time charming the local ladies, all of whom are wise to you and your ways."

"What do you mean wise to my ways," Leonard grimaced. He was feeling a little defensive as he always did after any of these events. Jim usually gave him a difficult time over meeting others people's demands instead of spending time on his own. "I was being nice and giving them an opportunity to enjoy themselves. Goes completely against the grain but once your sister got me up there, it was hard to avoid. And they weren't exactly opportunities to do much more than dance with the locals." He made little air quotes as he muttered the word opportunities.

"Why not?" Jim asked as he narrowed his eyes on his friend's face.

Leonard pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed before admitting what he overheard. "Because I would be lacking in the proper social standing to be worthy of their attentions. Or at least that was what that Spock guy stated. I assume the same would apply for his brother."

Various reactions of "What?" or "Excuses mes" were heard in the room on that comment.

"Okay, I'll bite," Jim as usual was the first to recover from the unexpected information. "How do you know that?"

"Simple, I may have inadvertently overheard a conversation between him and well, Nyota," Leonard explained sheepishly, ducking his head from the look of disapproval from his mother. "It's not like I deliberately listened in. They were speaking close to where I was sitting. I didn't have to strain to hear them. In fact it was difficult not to overhear."

Scotty leaned back in the chair he was sitting in, suddenly feeling a little depressed. The same logic would have to be applied to him so that he too would be below that of Nyota's. Not that he had any real expectations from a single night of socializing, but it was fun to think maybe he could have had a shot. That little piece of information removed a remote possibility. He was a little surprised that Leonard hadn't shared it with him before now, but then his brother, though blunt and often grumpy, didn't necessarily go out of his way to rain on another's parade. He would only probably bring it up if he thought Scotty was getting in over his head or as he did now, because Jim was annoying him about not pursuing anyone. The younger man could not understand why Leonard didn't seem to ever act on any possible social connections. Jim had no trouble bouncing back when hurt so he didn't grasp that his friend was one of those "once bitten, twice shy" personalities that kept everyone at a distance. Scotty however could understand Leonard's philosophy and he hadn't been burnt to the extent his younger brother had been.

Leonard noticed the change in mood of his older brother and smiling to himself, added, "Now Nyota didn't seem to find our status nearly as objectionable but then she may have been quite enamoured with a certain someone." Leaning over so Scotty could see his face; he shot his brother a smile and a wink.

"It is very improper of them to discuss the matter somewhere where you could overhear. Not that it would be proper to be saying such things anywhere, but it is just poor manners to do so at a party where anyone could hear," Amanda scolded. She was insulted on behalf of herself and her children. She did understand that with the family fortune and estate entailed away from them there were those who would view them as socially inferior, she just didn't like anyone speaking of such matters where her boys might hear it. She was warmed however that Nyota had expressed an interest in Scotty and had ignored such social trivialities. It boded well for making a match in that quarter for one of her boys. Now if only there was something she could do for the other two. It was discouraging to hear how the young Vulcan had thought because she seldom got an opportunity to play matchmaker for her middle son, and she had hoped she would get the opportunity at this time. She would not make the mistake of pressuring him into going against his predilection again.

The consensus of the town of Meryton and the county of Hertfordshire was that Nyota Uhura was a charming young lady who had a less than desirable taste in friends. Her entourage had held themselves back in a very noticeable way at the ball. This had left a sour taste for the locals. However, there was no arguing of their importance so there was no speaking of cutting her friends. It would be both rude to the welcome young lady to ignore the rest. It was this sentiment that got the entire entourage invited to a smaller gathering, once again hosted by the more prestigious Vulcan couple of T'Mir and Velik.

The quiet evening in wasn't quite as quiet as planned once Pavel decided it would be more fun if they included a little dancing. He was skating on the edge of scandalous behaviour.

Jim and Leonard were standing in one corner watching the impromptu dance session. Leonard was a little concerned that Pavel would make a bit of a spectacle of himself and embarrass the remaining family members in attendance, but there was little that could be done about it now as Velik had approved of the activity.

"I noticed that the lovely Nyota is paying attention once again to big brother Scotty," Jim observed with a laugh.

"She is showing good taste since she seems to have decided you aren't worth the bother," Leonard scoffed.

"I imagine she's a little confused, after all who can resist me?" Jim joked, waving his arm with a dramatic flare. "I am after all, irresistible."

That caused a bark of laughter out of Leonard's mouth. The sound brought the eyes of several people to seek the two out; it was not often that the citizens of Meryton witnessed Leonard's laughter. Once he pulled himself back into a semblance of order, most eyes left to find a more entertaining view. However one set stayed focused on the man, that set of eyes did not go unnoticed by his companion who felt the need to point out to the older man that he was being watched.

"You seem to have caught the attention of one of her companions," Jim observed with a tilt of his head. "This is the third time I've noticed that Mr. Spock has focused his attention on you since they have arrived tonight."

"I can't think why he'd be doing that," Leonard sneered. "I 'm sure I am beneath his attention. He basically said so the other night. You sure he isn't looking at you?"

"Positive. Though I am irresistible," Jim couldn't resist stating again before informing his friend, "His eyes are definitely following your actions not mine. Including watching you when you first came over to speak to me,"

"You are paying an awful lot of attention to him," Leonard retorted. "Are you sure there isn't some interest on your part?"

"Only in that he is paying a particular attention to you. I feel it is my duty as your friend to make you aware of such things since you have to be one of the most oblivious people I know," Jim smirked. "You'd probably miss it if he hit you over the head with the proverbial sledge hammer."

"As long as he doesn't hit me with an actual one which he might be inclined to do for all I know," Leonard shot back, turning slightly to take in a better look at the Vulcan who was staring at him.

"Hey, he is showing good taste after the poor judgement of ruling you beneath him socially," Jim said with a nod. "Maybe he isn't as bad as some are inclined to brand him."

"Or maybe he is looking for a flaw to interject himself between Scotty and Nyota and some one told him I was the weak link," Leonard snapped.

"In that case he'd be better off watching Pavel tonight," Jim noted. "That boy seems hell bent to make a fool of himself with the dancing. Bit fixated on the whole thing as of late."

"It's boring around here, he needs something to occupy his time," Leonard defended his younger brother, though he was concerned of the wildness in the movements on the dance floor. "I suppose I should go and remind him that he is to be civilized in his dance, it's a party not some native ritual."

On that note Leonard set out across the room to have a word with his younger brother about showing a little decorum. As he past Velik he noticed that the man had been making small talk with his observer and on passing the two Velik called to him. "Here, here Leonard why aren't you enjoying a little dancing like your little brother?"

"I had no intention of dancing tonight," Leonard explained.

"Oh, of course you do," Velik argued. "I am sure Mr. Spock here would be happy to dance a little jig with you, wouldn't you sir? You two have that in common you know."

Spock raised an eyebrow at the comment while Leonard rolled his eyes. He never quite got the leap in logic that two guys who like other guys would automatically like each other. No one made the same leap with individuals of the opposite sex. Then again, the townsfolk always had matchmaking tendencies surface when any unattached individuals were afoot and they didn't get as many opportunities with him as they did with his brothers, given his inclination.

"I would be honoured to provide such a service to Mr. McCoy," Spock stated in a polite, even tone.

"I assure you that would not be necessary," Leonard stated firmly, catching the suggestive movement of the eyebrows from Jim who overheard Spock's comment. "I did not move over this way to secure myself a dance partner. I merely wanted to have a word with my younger brother in hope of having him recall the actual dance movements he learnt as a child and not whatever it is he is currently performing." With a curt nod of his head, Leonard walked away from the two before he found himself inadvertently dancing with the man. In his rush to extract himself from the situation he did not notice another of the Netherfield group approach Spock and comment on the situation. A short conversation had Spock paying compliment to Leonard, one that may have escaped his ears but not that of Jim, who stored the information away to be shared at a later date.

Chapter Text

A few days after T'Mir and Velik's little gathering, a letter arrived from Netherfield for Scotty. It was an invitation from Kevin to Scotty to join him for dinner. It was not that surprising as Kevin shared an interest in engineering and had struck up a friendship of sorts as a result. Also not surprising was the fact that the invitation did not come directly from Nyota; such a level of attention would imply a much more formal level of relationship, and it was much too early in their acquaintance to be showing such forwardness. It was another of the awkward social rules left over from a more formal time in history.

Amanda was quite thrilled; as she was sure her eldest son was being invited as much for the potential match with Nyota as was for the budding friendship between Scotty and Kevin. She was disappointed to learn, as was Scotty, that Nyota was in fact not to be present at the meal and immediately started to think of ways to keep her son there long enough to see Nyota. This, she thought to herself, would be much easier if she had a daughter. She could manipulate the preconceptions of the delicate nature of females to get an extended stay given the rainy season. However a man could be easily expected to be able to travel in all but the most unfriendly of weather, and as far as she knew there were no hurricanes or snow storms expected in the near future.

As luck would have it, if one could consider a turn in health of the unsavoury kind good, Scotty did indeed end up with an extended stay. He had been nursing a slight headache when he had left for the engagement and it turned into full fledged ailment during his visit. The accompanying fever had the occupants reluctant to send the man on his way, instead insisting that he stay the night. The next morning found the man still too ill to travel, which had his parents and brothers had concerned. Leonard, who had studied much about medicine though his current position in society left him little room to have a career, decided to go and check on his brother's health for himself. Dr. Puri was probably the finest doctor in Herefordshire county, so wasn't that he didn't have faith in him. It was just that Leonard would feel much better if he could see Scotty for himself.

It was on that note that Leonard set out for Netherfield on a sunny morning a day or two after poor Scotty fell ill. As it was nice day, he decided to walk rather than make use of the family transport. It gave him a chance to relax and prepare for the less than friendly atmosphere he expected on arriving at the manor. It wasn't that the inhabitants had been unfriendly in the last few encounters, more that they weren't overly friendly. He decided it was a matter of not knowing how to react to many of the folks of Meryton, as the town was somewhat unique in its take on societal norms. Also there was a higher than average number of constructed families in the county which could be confusing to outsiders. The number was in part due to the actions of his own parents, who encouraged many to follow in their footsteps of providing homes to the children left alone by famine or war.

For instance, when Jim originally came to stay with T'Mir and Velik it was a temporary measure due to famine on his own planet. Unfortunately his parents did not survive through to the recovery and he ended up staying with his foster parents, who eventually adopted him. Like many older children, he kept his last name in honour of his parents. Though Jim often claimed it was because he liked having a last name he could pronounce.

These thoughts occupied Leonard's mind during his hike. He wondered if these backgrounds were what threw the Netherfield occupants off about the area. Given that Sulu was a ward of Spock's family made it likely that it was the social standing of many in the town and lack of fortune for him and his siblings, not the adoption, that made many of the folks around here beneath their consideration. This was only slightly more tolerable than if it had been that of a lack of a biological connection, as at least they were forsaking imbecilic laws of old, the same that allowed the family estate to be entailed away from Scotty. The whole mess was a bit of a sticky point for Leonard, and he hated those whole felt it was a valid way of managing inheritance.

He was so lost in his thoughts that Leonard did not notice how close he was to Netherfield until he nearly walked right into one of the current residents. It goes without saying that the one he nearly collided with had to be the one he most didn't want to see. Looking up at the last minute, he caught himself a step or two from running right into the very annoying Vulcan known as Spock.

"Mr. McCoy?" Spock offered a greeting in the form of a question. And did so with one eyebrow raised. Sating only his name, the Vulcan managed to clearly communicate his query regarding Leonard's unexpected appearance and wanting to know the reason behind it.

"Mr. Spock," Leonard responded formally with a slight nod as a greeting. "I hope no one minds, but I really wanted a chance to check in on my brother Scotty."

"Your brother? Yes, I can understand," Spock replied though his voice didn't sound as confident in his understanding as his words seem to indicate. Nor did the follow up question he asked. "Didn't Dr. Puri stop by and give your family the information regarding his ailment and recovery?"

"Of course, he did," Leonard snapped, his upbringing the only thing that kept the "you moron" tag he wanted to add off his reply. "I merely wished to check on him myself. Wouldn't you want to do the same if it was a member of your family? You know what? Don't answer that, I'm not sure I want to know."

Spock drew himself straighter on that comment, though prior to that moment Leonard would have sworn that the Vulcan couldn't stand any stiffer or straighter than he had been. "You are of course welcome to visit with your brother. I am merely surprised that you did not send a note or come by a more formal mode of transportation to make the visit."

"In the country we tend to be a little more informal," Leonard explained, dismissing the implication that he was being rude, not that he cared what Spock thought one way or another. "And it is a beautiful day, so a refreshing walk seemed appropriate."

"I cannot argue that the day is of a fine one for a walk as I am partaking of one myself," Spock conceded. "It is however a long walk from Longbourn to Netherfield, it is not exactly a morning constitutional you have undertaken."

"I can assure you that I consider seeing my brother well worth the effort put forth getting here," Leonard stated drolly. "To impose a little beyond my unexpected arrival, would it be too much to ask for you to show me where exactly Scotty is? I could wander aimlessly around the house 'til I stumble upon him but I am not sure how that would be to the liking of the others staying here."

With a nod, a turn, and a wave of his hand indicating to Leonard that he should follow, Spock communicated his agreement to the request. Once the two had entered the large house, Spock once again addressed the visitor. "I do apologize for not offering to take you to your brother directly on your arrival."

Leonard waved the apology off. "Not to worry, I am sure you aren't used to people just popping up out of nowhere." He did manage to make that sound like a failing on Spock's part not to be ready to respond to such surprises.

"I assure you that your brother has been receiving the finest care while staying here. His comfort has been seen to as best as we can give that by the very nature of his illness," Spock said as he escorted Leonard to a larger guest room on the second floor of the house.

The room he found Scotty in was quite luxurious in its appearance with a large bed and a lovely view of the gardens of Netherfield. Scotty himself was not enjoying it at that moment, as he was sleeping in a restless manner. Leonard approached his brother quietly, not wanting to wake him, taking in his pale yet flushed appearance. He could tell the older man was running a temperature without even touching his skin as his cheeks were quite red and bright against the whiter than usual skin of the remainder of his face.

"Please, take a seat and keep your brother company," Spock suggested before turning to leave the room. As he exited he added quietly, giving Leonard the knowledge that there was concern for his brother to be found at the manor. "I will let Nyota know that you have come to visit. She will be relieved to know that Scotty has someone to keep him company."

When Leonard had come to Netherfield he had only intended to check up on his brother, a short visit to ensure that Scotty was being well cared for. He was aware that neglect was unlikely given the concern the individuals of the household had regarding proper decorum and behaviour, but he still needed to see for himself. However, he now found himself seated at the table in Netherfield's smaller dining room for the evening meal. The larger dining room was reserved for much more formal gatherings or guests of higher ranking. He also found himself taking up temporary residence in the guest room next to Scotty's after Nyota insisted he stay for a few days while his older brother recovered.

It was the first time Leonard found himself having to face all of the residents of Netherfield at one time. It was more than a little unnerving as he felt he was meeting with various degrees of displeasure at his presence. He hoped that the dinner would be a silent one, as he wasn't sure if he was up to making small talk with any of them. As far as he knew he had little to nothing in common with any of them, making even the friendlier face of Nyota's not very comforting.
However, it would appear that some of the group could not handle the silence and felt the need to make small talk, if only as part of some perceived social obligation.

"So you walked all the way here?" Janice asked in a tone that communicated her own disbelief that any civilized person would walk such a distance. Of course, it was possible that she didn't consider Leonard among the civilized, but he elected not to inquire as to whether or not she felt that way.

"Indeed he did," Spock responded for him. "I nearly collided with him as I turned the corner of the house as I departed on a walk of my own."

"Well I think it's sweet," Nyota said with a slight smile. "Coming all this way to check up on his brother. Such concern for a family member."

"Seems reckless to me," Janice countered. "To exert oneself like that. It is likely that he has been exposed to the same illness that his brother, so it is possible that such an exhausting undertaking would put him at risk of developing the same ailment."

"I can assure you there was no such risk," Leonard scoffed. "A walk is good for a person's constitution, and it wasn't all that great a distance. No longer than walking from Longbourn to Meryton itself which I undertake several times a week."

"Why do you walk to town so frequently?" Nyota asked some what impolitely as her curiosity got the better of her. A slight blush brushed across her cheeks as she realized what she had done.

"My friends Jim and Christine live in Meryton itself," Leonard answered with a smile, letting her know he was not offended by the social faux pas. "I do like to drop by and spend time with them whenever possible."

"Ah, yes, I remember meeting Christine Chapel at that little ball in town," Janice informed the table at large. "A delightful young lady. I don't really remember anyone name Jim though."

"You met him at that small party at Velik's house," Sulu reminded her. "An interesting fellow."

"Oh yes, him," Janice recalled, her voice suggesting that she had not been as impressed by that meeting as she had been with his sister. "It seems that someone mentioned he considers himself a bit a of a ladies man. In fact, it was suggested that maybe Kevin might want to keep an eye on me like I would ever behave in such an officious manner."

So it wasn't so much Jim himself that caused her displeasure. If Leonard was so inclined, he'd reassure her that Jim would no more approach her than she would be to accept any offer put forward, but since he would be meaning it more as an insult to her than a compliment to Jim, he held his tongue. There was also of course the fact that he didn't want to open up the conversation about the only time Jim allegedly went after an already attached female. He wasn't sure what gossip those ever annoying busybodies had shared with the group, and he didn't want to be discussing his personal past with anyone at his own family's dining table, never mind this one.

"While I do remember someone implying he had a bit of a scandalous past, I'm sure he isn't the type to go seducing married women and still be accepted in the polite society around here," Nyota comforted her friend.

"The party was at his parents' house," Kevin pointed out.

"It is possible that they wouldn't let him around company or could even disown him for such outrageous behaviour," Sulu added, taking Nyota's line of reasoning that it was likely that the gossips were exaggerating his past misdeeds.

Leonard didn't like his best friend's name being bantered around by people who didn't know him and had no idea what kind of person he was. "If he did make a pass at your wife," Leonard directed his comment at Kevin, since he and his wife were the ones inclined to promote the more negative image of the man. "He wouldn't be forcing her to participate; he definitely isn't in to that behaviour. So it would either be a compliment on your choice of wife, seeing her as attractive enough to step outside of social boundaries. Or doing you a favour, exposing her two-facedness at her willingness to step outside of her vows."

"A valid argument," Spock offered in support. "Though I doubt he would be acting in such a manner with the attention of being helpful or flattering to Kevin."

"Actually, with Jim, you never know why he does anything," Leonard admitted. "However, as he isn't in the habit of making passes at attached women, there is no real point to discussing the manner."

"I believe his misbehaviour was more hinted to than explicitly stated," Kevin recalled. "It was suggested if we wanted to know more, you were the one to talk to, so I guess if you say he isn't of the habit, we should take it that he wouldn't do any such thing even though it is contradictory."

Leonard shot a glare at the man, thinking to himself that was the most condescending acquiescence he had ever heard, and he was raised by a Vulcan, a species who had condescension down pat. Nyota shifted uncomfortably in her chair, casting an apologetic glance at her guest for attack against an individual he considered a friend.

"I find gossip usually proves to be a very unreliable source of information," Spock stated haughtily, as though finding such an activity unbefitting a person of his social position. "It is likely that a small incident has been blown out of proportion, if indeed there is any truth in the story you were told at all. As the man is not here to defend himself or answer your charges, I suggest we turn our discussions to more palatable topics for all here."

On that note, Spock declared the topic off limits, his tone indicating he would brook no more discussion. The glances shared around the table indicated that Spock would be heeded to on the matter. Not surprising, the remainder of the meal passed in silence which suited Leonard well, as he would just as soon not have to try and be civil.

As the illness lingered on, Netherfield was further invaded by various inhabitants of Meryton as Amanda descended to check up on her son. She was accompanied by her only son still at home and Christine who had stopped by Longbourn just before Amanda decided to visit. Amanda declared that Christine would make a good addition to the party as her presence almost always brought a smile to Scotty's face. If she was also motivated by the act because she could be useful keeping her middle son busy and therefore unlikely to interfere actions to extend Scotty's stay, Amanda wasn't about to admit to it. Leonard was not the type to appreciate her efforts to play match maker for her eldest son and very lovely Nyota Uhura, at least not where his older brother's health and well being was concerned.

As the group flocked through the door, the tension levels rose. It was easy to tell that the residents of Netherfield were not comfortable with so many visitors. Leonard had overheard Kevin saying to Sulu something about the whole town invading over one sick individual, and shouldn't there be a limit on such matters? They were friendly enough to Christine, and if she had been the only one to drop by, the visit would have been better received. However, as all were aware of Amanda's less that subtle designs regarding her eldest son and Nyota, her presence was frowned upon. And Pavel was once again in one of his hyper moods that could be a little hard on anyone's nerves. It was a shame, as a calm Pavel would probably be approved of by the group as he had a level of intelligence that would be in high esteem. However, getting to see the real Chekov beneath all that energy was a difficult task as of late. Leonard was hoping his younger brother would grow out of it quickly, but it doesn't appear to be happening fast enough to ensure the approval of this judgemental clique.

Nyota gave them a brief tour of the house prior to seeing Scotty, giving him a chance to put himself presentable before receiving visitors. The only one who had really been in with him all morning had been Leonard who in Scotty's mind, really didn't count as a visitor at all. He knew his brother was there handle his care and recovery. Also, he didn't want his mother worrying, so he hoped to look better than he felt. This is why he made Leonard sit him up in a chair, rather than leave him lying in bed. It didn't fool Amanda though, who could easily see the strain of the visit on her oldest son. She was after all a mother first and forth most. It was in an honest reaction to her son's health that she requested that they impose on Nyota's generous nature a little longer and allow him to stay.

"I am sorry to have to ask such a thing of you after you have been taking such good care of him," Amanda stated softly, as she did feel a little guilty imposing on people who were still virtually strangers to her. "But I do believe he is still too ill to be moving around enough for us to get him back home to his own bed. Only a few more days, I hope." She glanced over at Leonard for some support on the manner.

He and Christine were discussing the situation amongst themselves, and it was her not him that confirmed what Amanda was saying. "Unfortunately, he is still running a high fever and it probably would be best if he not take on the short trip home."

Nyota nodded at both ladies and reassured Amanda, "Do not worry ma'am. He is welcome to stay for as long as he needs. Your son has been handling most of the care so I can't claim any real imposition at all."

"Yes," Amanda stated drolly with a wry look at her middle son. "He does have a thing for tending the ill, that boy. I think in another life he may have been a doctor."

Leonard muttered something about being one in this life if the stupid society didn't have such stupid rules. That got a raised eyebrow from Spock, one that caused Leonard to shoot a raised eyebrow back. Christine almost giggled out loud at the wordless conversation between the two men. It was missed by Amanda whose attention was focused on her youngest son who had started chatting with Nyota. Otherwise she might have started another match making plot.

"It's an amazing house you have here," Pavel said with a smile and a little bounce in his step that had the people who knew him well wondering what he was up to.

"Thank you," Nyota answered graciously.

"I couldn't help but notice that there was a large room that could be used as a ball room," Pavel continued. This time it was Leonard and Christine who shared a glance which ended with a roll of his eyes in disbelief at his younger brother's forwardness.

"And you were wondering if she had given any thought to hosting one," Sulu smirked at the young man who was being less than subtle about suggesting a party. But then he was of the age where parties and dances held a great deal of pleasure, not that Sulu himself was all that much older, just a little more burnt out on the idea of the party life.

Pavel gave a sheepish smile in response. "It could be fun," he replied with a shrug.

"That it could," Nyota laughed, a friendly smile gracing her face. "And I should return the favour that the town has shown in welcoming us into your fold. Though of course, we should give your brother a chance to recover, it would be rude to have it before he could attend."

Pavel gave a quick nod and agreed. "Oh, it wouldn't be the same without Scotty there. He's always up for a round or two on the floor. Unlike some." He shot a quick glance at his other brother who he instinctively knew was disapproving of his tactics. Pavel figured that Leonard was fitting in quite well with the stick-in-the-muds that were Nyota's friends, though he might have to rethink his opinion of Sulu who kindly carried his idea forward instead of mocking it. His brother on the other hand was probably mocking the whole thing in his head and probably barely restraining himself doing so out loud.

Later that evening, once the remainder of the family had departed, Leonard found himself in the sitting room with Nyota and her entourage. It was strange that he was still there after the evening meal, but Scotty had been quite tired out by the visit. Pavel in particular had spent quite some time chatting with his older brother having missed having someone to talk science with at home. Not that Sarek wasn't very science oriented; he was. It was just that Pavel wasn't comfortable chatting with his father about such topics without Scotty or Leonard around. He was intimidated by the vast knowledge of his father combined with his stern manner. However a sleeping Scotty made it difficult for Leonard to excuse himself at the end of the meal. He normally claimed he needed to keep his brother company but that wasn't going to work this time. Instead he found himself having to sit with people he'd just as soon avoid or be rude enough to bring censure not only on himself, but his brother as well. Scotty better remember what he put himself through for his benefit.

"Am I to understand Mr McCoy that you have knowledge regarding medicine, or did your mother simply mean that you like to think you are knowledgeable?" Spock had to ask the question that had been bothering him since the afternoon visit.

Leonard narrowed his gaze on Spock, trying to decipher whether or not he was trying insult him. "I have actually studied medicine if that's what you mean. My father, that would be my biological father, not my adopted father, was a doctor."

"Oh, I didn't realize you moved up in society upon adoption," Janice mocked. Those who worked, even in more respectable professions, were considered lower than the gentility that those in the room claimed to belong.

"I didn't," Leonard snapped. "My father didn't really care for conventions that prevented him from practicing medicine simply because he was a member of higher society. It's a stupid convention, if you ask me, everyone should be able to contribute in any way they feel fit."

"I'm surprised you haven't defied convention yourself then," Janice fired back. She was feeling unsettled after the visit and he was the easiest target.

"I chose not to out of respect for those who gave me a home after my parents passed away," Leonard explained, not caring for her attitude on the manner. "It would reflect badly on them. Whether I continue to live by such a stupid convention once they pass away, is another matter altogether."

"It is not a logical practice," Spock inserted his opinion. "Preventing someone from pursuing a certain type of career based on the class that one is raised in. Some do believe that it would be allowing those with an advantage to take employment from those of lower classes in need of the income, but it should be based on those capable of doing the work, nothing more."

"Illogical or not, it is difficult to get social standards to change," Sulu added. "It takes people willing to stand up and challenge conventions if we want the world to be different. More power to you should you do it."

"Your assuming of course that he would be a capable doctor," Janice scoffed. Leonard looked at the woman sitting stiffly across from him, wondering what it was exactly that made her hostile toward him. He couldn't remember making any comments that were offensive in manner but she definitely had taken a dislike to him.

"He has done a wonderful job taking care of his brother," Nyota said in Leonard's defence. "And Dr. Puri was very comfortable discussing Scotty's ailment with him during his last visit."

"How exactly did your parents die?" Janice asked in a very forward manner that was not reflective of the extent of the acquaintance she or anyone in the room had.

Nyota let out a shocked gasp at the rudeness of the question, while Spock, acting in a much more proper manner managed to reprimand his friend while offering an apology to their guest. "Please do not feel obligated to answer such a question."

Leonard's glanced around the room at the other occupants, he gaze sharpening as he took in the woman posing the rude query. "My mother died from complications of a usually non-fatal disease. She probably would have survived except she had the misfortune to contract it at a time of famine where we were living and like most others was also suffering from malnutrition. My father succumbed to the very ailment he had gone to help treat in a poorer part of the galaxy. It is unfortunately a risk when one is willing to go among the most sick. I believe it was an honourable way to die."

"I think it's silly to put yourself at such risk," Kevin stated. "Not that I don't think the people aren't worth saving, just to do it knowing damn well that you may not come out of it alive and leaving family behind. I fail to see the honour in that kind of behaviour, not when he had a choice."

"While I do agree that it is honourable to die in the service of healing others," Spock stated with a nod toward Leonard. "My friend does have a valid point regarding a family man taking such a risk."

Leonard snorted his disbelief. "Well, if we lived in an ideal universe, maybe then you could have a point. But when a cause is desperate for assistance, it doesn't get to be choosy in whom it accepts help from, nor is everyone able to sit idly by while such a need goes unaddressed. There is always a risk in any endeavour; I assure you that my father had every reasonable expectation to be returning to his family. Most of the medical volunteers did just that, he was unfortunately, one of the unlucky few that did not."

If you don't mind me asking, which of your parents did you lose first," Sulu enquired politely. "Mine died in an attack upon the town we lived in, so I was orphaned immediately."

Leonard gave a small smile to a fellow adoptee and answered quietly, "My mother. I have no memory of her at all, unfortunately. My father I remember a little. But he worked intensively with a very charitable organization which often sent him places where it simply was impossible to take his family, so I stayed with families of others medical personnel who also got left behind on such assignments. It may sound like he was neglectful, but I assure you he was an attentive father, he simply had important work to do, and it necessitated being away for long periods, something I have always understood."

The residents took stock of the man sitting in front of them and wondered if he had ever had a true childhood the way that they did. Even Sulu, who shared a commonality that tended to cut such aspects of life short, had lived a some what carefree life before the political struggles of his world had rendered him parentless.

Once his fever broke, it didn't take long for Scotty to mend, enabling him and Leonard to leave Netherfield and return home. It still wasn't soon enough for Leonard who couldn't bring himself to leave his brother, yet at the same time was getting increasingly uncomfortable staying. It wasn't that he felt particularly unwelcome as Nyota and to a lesser extent Spock and Sulu were actually being nice. Even Janice and Kevin weren't always being hostile, though it seemed sometimes they were determined to pick him a part. He wasn't exactly sure what it was about him that brought that out, but it never got too bad. It was just he didn't like this feeling of imposing on their hospitality. Scotty started to agree with his younger brother once he was able to move around his room without becoming completely exhausted by the action. Once their departure was decided Nyota insisted that they make use one of her transports to return home rather than inconveniencing their family.

"I think you're just trying to make sure we're gone," Scotty said with a wink.

"Don't be silly," Nyota retorted with a playful slap on the shoulder. "It's just silly for you to wait around for your family's transport when we have one you can use. After all, you've been stuck here for a while now so I'm sure you are really looking forward to getting home."

"Well I do have a few things I would like a chance to check on," Scotty speculated. "But I must apologize for the inconvenience of my unexpected stay over and thank you for putting up with me for the last several days."

"And me," Leonard chimed in with a small smile.

"You did all the work," Nyota said pointedly to Leonard before adding. "We weren't inconvenienced at all. If it weren't an extra person at the dining table, we might not have known you guys were even here."

"I think our presence was a little bit more noticeable than that," Leonard scoffed. "Though it is nice of you to say otherwise."

With a quick good-bye, Nyota left the two and returned inside. As soon as Nyota was out of ear shot, Scotty turned to his brother and stated, "I'd bet everything I have, which is admittedly not all that much, but still everything I have that you can't wait to see the back of this place."

Leonard went to step into the transport, slapping his brother on the shoulder, he confirmed that very sentiment. "You don't know the half of it."

Scotty climbed in behind him and took a seat across from his brother, so he could look at him from a comfortable angle as they spoke. "So how bad was it? And thanks for suffering through it; it was great having you there."

"You know I wouldn't leave you on your own, not in that condition anyway," Leonard smirked. "It wasn't so bad except I got the distinct feeling that your friend Kevin and his wife really don't like me. I have no idea why as I was actually quite polite and not just on my own standard but most people's."

"Strange," Scotty mused, rubbing his chin with his hand. "Usually it's your charming personality that turns people off, but if you weren't being all that you can be I can't see why they wouldn't like you."

"Jesus Scotty, I'm not that bad," Leonard laughed with a shake of his head. "I'd have no friends if I was and I do have one or two. Speaking of which, they didn't like Jim either."

"Was Jim there?" Scotty was puzzled by the comment.

"No he wasn't there," Leonard explained with a roll of his eyes. "Like he'd stop by and not bother you. He just came up in conversation which lead to an attack on his character."

"Attack? What could Jim have done to warrant that?" Scotty asked. "Everyone usually loves him."

"Someone, I don't know who, suggested that Kevin keep an eye on his wife," was Leonard's sardonic reply.

"Ah, you do something once and never live it down," Scotty muttered and then catching his brother's glare, waved his hand dismissively stating, "Aye, I know, he didn't do it but that's how the story goes."

Leonard gave a little snort. "Doesn't mean you have to ever admit to that twist though does it?"

"I try not to bring it up at all," Scotty reminded him. "The whole incident tends to bring up painful memories for someone important to me, so I prefer not to remind him."

Chapter Text

Shortly after the return to Longbourn, Sarek made an announcement. Actually announcement might be too strong a word, rather he titillated the group by dropping hints regarding a missive he had received and finally gotten around to answering. For a Vulcan he got a great deal of pleasure out of teasing his wife. Any time he managed to drag at least one of the boys along for a ride was simply a bonus to the man. This time he teased them with the idea that they were expecting an honoured guest. This hint had Amanda scrambling with the belief that Nyota was coming for dinner, and she excitedly starting ordering the servants around, trying to organize a meal fit for such an event.

"No, no it's not her," Sarek soothed his wife who was working herself into a bit of a tizzy.

"Then who?" Amanda was puzzled to who else would qualify for the description he had given. "I can't think of anyone of our acquaintance you could be referring to, unless you mean one of her insufferable friends. At least from a social standing."

"It is not them either," Sarek dismissed the entire Netherfield party. "In fact it is someone I have never met but who has the position of great importance in our lives."

Everyone looked at the man with varying degrees of puzzlement. No one had a clue to who it was the head of their household was referring; so much to his disappointment not one would hazard even a guess. After a few moments of silence Sarek finally filled in more detail of who it was they were expecting. "I am disappointed that you haven't pieced the clues together. It is the one who will upon my death be in the position to remove all of you from this home."

"Oh him," Amanda scoffed. "Honestly, how he would have the nerve to come visit people he will leave homeless is beyond me."

"In his correspondence he states he hopes to make peace with this branch of the family and offer compensation for the inconvenience he will be causing us, though he doesn't say exactly how he will be doing that," Sarek informed the family.

"Hm, maybe he means to make an offer of marriage to one of our boys," Amanda speculated, eyeing Leonard of course, as he was obviously the candidate of choice given the gender of the heir of Longbourn. Plus, Scotty was on the path to catching Nyota's hand in marriage and Pavel was too young to be considering settling down. Amanda was willing to put up with the man taking her home away from her if he would help get another one of her boys settled. "So when can we expect him?"

"This afternoon," was Sarek's distracted reply as he went back to studying the letter.

"This afternoon," Amanda demanded incredulously. "A little warning would have been nice, husband."

"You are getting a little warning wife," Sarek retorted.

Amanda stood up and threw her napkin down on the breakfast table. "I do not know why I put up with you," she sputtered before storming out of the room to arrange accommodations for their guest.

All three sons glared at their father to show their disapproval of his treatment of their mother.

"Oh please," Sarek stated with a wave of his hand. "It would be illogical to leave such preparations until the last minute. I've already had the servants prepare a room. I am just having a little fun."

"Your idea of fun is very disturbing," Scotty informed his father.

"And very un-Vulcan like," Pavel added, a surprising move as he rarely criticized their father.

"I've been informed that it is the result of living in a house of humans." Sarek mulled over the theory. "It was a case of adapt or die. Since death is not an acceptable outcome, I adapted."

Leonard rolled his eyes at his father. "Two families in, and I still don't know what it's like to be related to sane person," he muttered.

"Aye," agreed Scotty looking down at the table and shaking his head.

That afternoon found the family standing out side their front door watching the heir of Longbourn pull up. Each was vey admittedly curious about their visitor though for very different reasons. Each was also experiencing trepidation over the arrival. It was in that air of nervousness that Sybok arrived at his future home and found himself being greeted by a welcoming party who couldn't quite decide if it really wanted to welcome the man or not. One thing was for sure, it didn't take any of them long to realize that the Vulcan was nothing like what they had expected.

As he stepped down from the transport, Sarek stepped forward and introduced himself to his Vulcan cousin. Sarek then brought over him over to meet the family in the formal manner expected. As Sybok was introduced to each of the boys, he did a very thorough scan of the individual, taking in each appearance in great detail. Pavel would later comment that he felt like he was on display at a meat market. Leonard and Scotty had to bite their tongues to keep from retorting rudely at the greetings offered by Sybok. To say he had a manner of speaking that was a little over the top would be an understatement.

Upon entering the house, Amanda showed Sybok the way to the main sitting room while dispensing of his luggage to the servants on hand. Settling him in one of the larger chairs in the room, she set about getting him some refreshment before making more formal enquiry about both his journey and his nature of visit to Longbourn.

"The trip ma'am was tiring I do have to admit," Sybok said with a dramatic sigh. "It is too much to ask to have comfortable public transportation, I guess. But the wasted expenditure of hiring out a more private mode of transit would have been beyond the pale. T'Pau, my benefactor, had kindly allowed me use of one of her private vehicles for a portion of the journey here but it would have been too much of an inconvenience to her and her daughter to spare one for the whole trip. But at least I only had to put up with the shared mode for the last leg of the trip to Meryton. There, one of your neighbours kindly offered me a ride upon hearing that I was coming here. It was quite generous to do such a thing for a stranger. It is comforting to know that the estate is in such a fine county."

They all stared at the man as he rambled on. They were mainly used to Sarek and Velik, both of whom had much more economical use of words. It left them all kind of speechless which Sybok took as a sign to continue on.

"As I said in my letter, I am hoping to stay for a few weeks and gain a better knowledge of my relatives, if that is acceptable to you ma'am," Sybok said as he shot a friendly smile in Amanda's direction.

"Oh, do please call me Amanda," she offered, in return giving him a small smile of her own. "Ma'am makes me feel too old."

"Old? Why Amanda you don't look old enough to be any of these boys' mother, more like their sister and a young one at that," Sybok said, laying on the flattery thickly. "And they are a fine looking group, I must say."

"Well Scotty here has recently caught the eye of a young lady new to the Meryton area," Amanda informed him, letting him know that if he was considering making amends through marriage he would need to consider one of the other two.

"Well, that is always good to hear," Sybok said with a nod, turning to look the three over gain before settling his eyes on Leonard. Amanda smiled a little brighter as she noticed this, after all he was the one most suited to make a match with another man. "I do hope that congratulations will be necessary soon."

"I'm afraid my mother has gotten a little ahead of the game," Scotty denied with a slight shake of his head. "Though we are friends."

"I am sure you are being modest," Sybok simpered. "A lucky lady if you ask me."

"Not that I would disagree if there was indeed an understanding," Leonard interjected. "But you are speaking with a great deal of confidence on the fine character of someone you just met and have barely spoken to."

"Ah cousin, sometimes a man can tell from first sight the nature and quality of a person," Sybok explained with a leer while Leonard wondered if it was too late to run away from home and join the army. He was a little older than the average recruit but this could call for desperate measures. Especially given the optimistic smile on his mother's face as Sybok continued to show an interest in him. Both Pavel and Scotty were relieved and feeling a great deal of sympathy for their brother. Sybok could have been related through Amanda given his less than subtle approach to how he intended to make amends.

A few days after Sybok's arrival the residents of Longbourn received an invitation to a ball at Netherfield. The invitation included Sybok, much to surprise of the family. They were not aware that anyone at the manor even knew of Sybok's visit. Pavel was quite excited at the prospect of another ball; he had had a busy season this season. He was also relieved that he managed to duck out of having to commit to any dancing with his cousin, who was bound and determined to make a romantic connection with one of them. He pitied poor Leonard as he seemed to be the one that Sybok had settled on and could not avoid agreeing to a dance or two with the man.

Leonard was in agreement with his younger brother though he didn't know it, feeling quite sorry for himself after being backed into a corner in front of his parents. It was a losing proposition no matter what he did, especially as his mother was championing Sybok's cause. He found himself in the position of having to dance at least once, maybe twice with Sybok. This ruined his plan to avoid dancing altogether at the party. At least he might be able to avoid any further dances with his cousin once he got through the ones he agreed to earlier today.

The conversation itself had been awkward to say the least. Sybok could not give a speech it seems without mentioning his benefactor, once if the listener was lucky and Leonard had not been lucky so far. He had to stifle the urge to openingly mock the Vulcan every time he mentioned the name T'Pau. This lead to his conversations being the most stilted of those of the residents of Longbourn. An impressive feat, as Amanda appeared to be the only one able to carry on any semblance of a conversation with Sybok. He still cringed as he recalled the dance requests.

A maid had delivered an envelope to his mother as she sat in the drawing room with the family. "Oh," Amanda exclaimed excitedly. "A note came from Netherfield. I do wonder what it could be about."

"You could try opening and reading it, " Sarek replied sardonically, not bothering to actually look up from the PADD he was reading.

Amanda shot her husband a droll look before responding. "Part of the fun of receiving an unexpected correspondence is speculating a little about what it might contain, dear."

"Part of the fun for you maybe, I prefer to simply open it," Sarek shot back. "Now, the composing the reply, that can be entertaining depending on who the missive is directed to."

Amanda simply smiled as she tore open the old fashioned paper note they had received. Inside was a very elegant invitation for a formal dinner and ball to be held at Netherfield that upcoming weekend. She smiled as she noted the names on the invite included not only the family but their guest Sybok. It was very kind of Nyota Uhura to include their visitor even though she had yet to be introduced to the people at Netherfield. Amanda had suggested to Scotty that he bring Sybok there to meet the neighbours. He refused, maintaining that they had taken such good care of him by allowing both him and Leonard to stay there during his illness that they deserved some kindness in return. That her sons were unimpressed by their visitor was no secret to anyone except perhaps the visitor himself, but that didn't rule out her boys showing Sybok every courtesy or dim her hopes of a match in one quarter. It was that very thought that crossed her mind as she announced the content of the envelope that had arrived.

"Oh do look Pavel, Nyota is going ahead with that ball you suggested when we were visiting Scotty during his illness," Amanda demurred. "She is so considerate of this family. Why, she even included Sybok. I do hope there won't be any issue with you attending such an event?"

The last part was directed at Sybok himself, who was seated across from her in the drawing room. It occurred to her, that give his position in the church such frivolity may be beneath him, which would put a crimp in her matchmaking plans for him and her middle son.

"Oh," was all Sybok got out before she continued.

"I would think that an event hosted by such respectable people would not be too worldly for you. It would be a fine evening of great import and surely even a man of God such as yourself would be able to attend."

"I generally do avoid parties of a more secular nature, but in this case I am sure, given the nature of the company, that would not be the case. That I was included in the invitation brings with it a family obligation I am more to happy to meet. After all, I would not wish to offend your neighbours. Also, though there will be dancing, I am sure a level of decorum will be maintained that would not only allow me to attend, but to participate. My benefactress T'Pau does like to stress the importance of family and being sure to act in a manner in keeping with honouring those connections."

"Oh my, yes," Amanda readily agreed. "They are of the finest society so there would be no question of impropriety. I am sure that T'Pau would agree that."

"Then I am sure I could attend, though I think I'll be safe and keep any more trivial amusements such as dancing to that of family, to ensure only the most proper of actions." Sybok decided, his eyes turning upon his cousin Leonard who was studying a PADD much in the same manner as his father and steadfastly ignoring the conversation around him. He did however feel the heated gaze of his cousin fall upon him which he found bothersome.

Amanda also caught the look that Sybok was giving her middle child. She smiled and stated in a mostly agreeably manner but with a hint of underlying steeliness in her tone that was directed at her sons, "I am sure the boys would be more than happy to provide such service to you to assure your enjoyment of the evening."

Both Scotty and Pavel's faces took on looks of panic that were comical. Leonard gripped the PADD in his hand much more firmly than necessary while he tried to bury his nose in the screen, much the way one would have an old paper-based book. He never before longed for the old ways as much as he did right at that moment. PADDs, while they might be great for the preservation trees, did not give the reader nearly as much coverage to hide behind as the books and journals of by-gone days.

"Of course, I expect our hostess would like to secure the first two dances of the evening with Scotty, she is partial to him you know," And how could Sybok not know as Amanda managed to work that into their conversations almost as often as Sybok mentioned T'Pau. "But I am sure that either Pavel or Leonard would be more than willing to stand up for the first dance or two with you." No one in the room missed the emphasis put on the name of the son she felt should actually volunteer his time. That didn't stop the same son from ignoring his mother's hint or the even more panicked look that his younger brother had sent him. He chose instead to burrow even further into his seat with the hopes that he would some how manage to disappear either in its fabric or become small enough that the PADD would actually start to provide sufficient cover. Given his size and the nature of the chair he was currently seated in, neither was likely to happen, but still he could hope.

"Mother," Pavel whined when Leonard continued to ignore the hint. "You do know I am not all that comfortable dancing with other men, no disrespect to you Sybok, and that awkwardness generally manifests itself into poor dancing, which I am sure could lead to embarrassment that my cousin could do without experiencing." It would seem that their youngest son had no problem insulting himself in order to avoid having to spend any more time than absolutely necessary for propriety's sake with his obnoxious cousin. He also had no qualms about sacrificing his older brother to the same fate he was intending to avoid. He was young, such selfishness should be allowed, he thought.

"That is true," Amanda stated with a slight nod. "It is Leonard that tends to be the most skilled on the dance floor and able to cope with a greater variety of partners without accidentally creating a scene which could take on any air of impropriety."

"Well then, cousin," Sybok stood and moved in front of Leonard, his hands folded in a manner to suggest he was pleading with the person he was addressing. "If I may implore you to agree to dance the first two dances of the evening with me, I would be most gratified."

There was no avoiding the man at this point, not without a reprimand from one or both of his parents. His father shot him a sympathetic look but could do no more for him, as there were standards which one's conduct must adhere to in society. With a sigh, Leonard looked up at his cousin and after scrambling his brain for an excuse not to accept such a ridiculous request, conceded defeat and accepted. "It would be a pleasure," he lied, "To accept your offer to participate in the first two dances of the evening with you." He then shot the much relieved Pavel a deadly glare upon hearing the younger man sigh at his acceptance. Pavel was not phased at all by the look, having in his mind escaped a much worse fate than anything Leonard might inflict.

"It will be interesting to see how the evening plays out given how most the residents of Netherfield appear to abhor dancing," Amanda sniped, recalling the lack of participation at the earlier event.

"I don't know," Scotty smirked, more comfortable about drawing attention to himself now that Sybok had caught his prey. Not that he wished his cousin on his brother, just that Leonard was better able to handle the situation than either him or Pavel. "I heard that Spock had asked when Pavel started up a round at Velik's."

"More like he knew how to be civil when put on the spot by someone of a lesser acquaintance, couldn't back out the way one could if it were good friends involved," Leonard scoffed. "And what sneaky little gossip told you that any way?"

"Jim," Scotty replied with a grin. "He found it quite funny."

"Spock?" Sybok asked from his chair, he had sat back down on smiles and simpers after getting the answer he had desired regarding the dance. He then added with a nod, "T'Pau has a nephew by that name, a proper young man of good fortune. I wonder if he is the same Spock."

"Sounds like him," Sarek said. "Ms. Uhura's friend is a Vulcan of great fortune from the north."

"Fascinating," Sybok observed. "He is engaged to T'Pau's daughter T'Pring. An engagement that was formed when they were still children and they are of course waiting for a proper occasion to make it official so I mention this in confidence."

"Oh don't worry, who would we tell?" Amanda said in a comforting tone. Leonard knew better and he caught the minute shake of the head his father gave as well at Amanda's words. Between his mother and Pavel, everyone in the county would know by this time tomorrow. Not that it would stop any attempts people might make to match their daughters or sons if the other rumours were to be believed, to the man. A great fortune could buy a lot of forgiveness for rudeness, at least when it came to people with children to marry off.

The evening of the party at Netherfield quickly came upon the residents of Meryton and the county of Herefordshire, many of whom were very excited to be attending even if they weren't overly impressed with the nature of most of the residents. They were more than willing to overlook any flaws of individuals willing to both feed and entertain them. It was amazing how much such offerings were able to overcome the judgements pronounced from the earlier acquaintance. And if there should be a little matchmaking once again attempted at the affair, it would be not all that unsurprising. After all, it would take a lot to have many families attempt to pass up a chance to link themselves to such wealth, a level that exceeded everyone else in residence of the county.

There were definitely a few however that felt that the night had arrived much too soon. Among those was Leonard McCoy, who had little time for dancing and socializing with the masses. His idea of fun was to hang out with his family and, if possible, a few close friends. His definition of family did not include his visiting cousin to whom he was coerced into accepting dances with, an activity he didn't really enjoy at the best of times. And he was sure that being on the dance floor with Sybok would not in any way constitute the best of times. But short of contracting a fatal disease, there was no realistic way to get out of attending. It wouldn't be all bad, Leonard surmised. He wouldn't mind seeing Nyota, she was good company, and he did enjoy watching her and Scotty together. He was grateful that Scotty didn't gush too badly over the woman as he worried about his brother showing too much of his affection and ending up hurt in a public manner given the expectations of their mother. Leonard had experienced first hand the public humiliation of a romance, of sorts, gone sour and wouldn't wish it one anyone, including Sybok.

Despite his concerns and his pessimistic nature, Leonard did hope that Nyota returned the same level of affection that he knew his brother harboured for her. It was this hope that made observing the two entertaining, and what he did see filled him with some confidence that the regard was indeed returned. He had to admit that he was enjoying the dinner portion of the evening as both he and Scotty were seated among the hosts; he assumed because Nyota wished to have Scotty nearby to chat with but didn't want to leave him without friendly support. He was sure she was more than aware of Scotty's shier nature when outside of his comfort zone. Leonard would make the best choice in family to keep around the older man, because he was already acquainted with the rest of her entourage. Also, unlike Pavel, he was likely to help keep the topic of conversation on more mundane topics and away from whatever engineering developments had last caught Scotty's attention. He suspected that was also why she sat Kevin some distance away from Scotty. Close enough that they could chat but far enough that they wouldn't wander off into their own little world. Or at least not without inconveniencing everyone sitting between the two. Though Leonard was amused that Spock had to redirect the conversation a few times despite Nyota's best efforts.

It was when the meal portion of the evening was edging toward its end that Leonard began to get agitated, noticeable to those seated at the same table as he was. Only one had commented on the matter though. The same individual that have been attentive to Leonard through out the meal itself, though it had gone unnoticed by the man.

"Are you unwell?" Spock enquired, taking in the restless nature of the man seated next to him.

"What?" Leonard stumbled, stopping himself from the nervous fidgeting he had started when dessert had been placed in front of him. He was quite vexed with himself for allowing his nervousness to be shown in an embarrassing manner. He as a grown man, not some small boy with no self control. He looked at the man who had asked the question suspiciously, wondering at the motive behind the query. "No, I am fine. Wishing a little that there wasn't a ball to attend after the meal is given a chance to settle."

"You do not enjoy dancing?" Spock guessed, following up his initial query and surprising Leonard even more. Prior experience suggested that the Vulcan was not inclined to making small talk at events. Leonard wondered briefly if Nyota had instructed her friend to be more social, because he highly doubted that Spock had suddenly developed any interest in him or in amusements such as dancing.

"It isn't my favourite past time, I'll admit," Leonard replied with a shrug. "I do understand that others, like my brother Pavel greatly enjoy it so I suppose it's good that they get to have a little. I just wish I was old enough to be able to beg off and hang out and philosophize with my father and his friends."

"You did not strike me as the philosophical type," Spock confessed, "Though I do recall observing you dance on occasion. You were very proficient on the dance floor, so I am surprised to learn you do not care for the activity."

Leonard blinked. What that a complement from the man? He didn't think he would be surprised by the Vulcan, having written him off as a snobbish sort that saw the people of Meryton beneath his consideration. However that was definitely a kind remark about his dancing skills. "One doesn't necessarily have to truly like something to be good at it."

"While I do concede that developing an ability does not require you to like that ability, generally when an individual reaches a level of talent that you have shown the few times you have taken to the dance floor, there is usually a fondness for that activity." Spock elaborated, staring intently at the man as he spoke.

"Ah, well," Leonard paused, trying to find the words to express himself amid the confusion such a focused attention was causing. "I guess I liked it well enough when I was younger. That was when I acquired the skill. It lost its charm over the years."

"That is unfortunate," Spock replied though it was unclear to Leonard why the Vulcan would think that.

Of course the dancing portion of the evening did come, no matter how hard Leonard wished it might not. He wondered if he could fake an injury that could get him out of his obligation to Sybok. Leonard was certain there was no way his cousin would cooperate and actually forget that he had asked. It would however be both rude and inconsiderate to his hosts, some of whom would be genuinely concerned about his health. Not to mention the stress it would put on his family, who would insist on returning home with him should he be "injured". Pavel would never forgive him for missing out on that dancing, because such are the tragic concerns of the young. Scotty would forgive him for missing an opportunity to spend time with the lovely Nyota, but that would make things worse for Leonard than if he held a grudge. Given that he was trying to weasel out of his mother's machinations, he gave no real thought to upsetting her. She should just give up as there was no way he was being backed into anything with that man, no matter how much he loved his adopted parents. There were limits.

As he contemplated the idea a little further, trying to see if there was a plausible way to pull it off, Leonard failed to notice that he was joined at the table until he heard a voicing ringing in his ear. "Forget, you'd never be able to pull off what ever it is you're planning with any credibility. You are lacking in the ability to dupe even a toddler and you know it."

Leonard turned and smiled at Jim who had sat down in the seat vacated by Spock moments earlier. "Hey, I didn't see you during the meal."

"That's because you were too busy with the occupants of your own table to notice what was going on around you." Jim's smirk suggested he had worked out something relating to Leonard that Leonard himself did not. It was a look that tended to grace Jim's face a little too often for Leonard's comfort. A situation made worse by the fact that Jim had the uncanny ability to actually have worked out what ever it is correctly and there by be justified in giving it.

Deciding to ignore what ever it was Jim was suggesting, Leonard chose instead to address his friend's poor excuse for a greeting. "And what makes you think I am planning any thing?"

"Well, unlike you, I spent my dinner conversing with your youngest brother," Jim explained.

"As explanations go, that one really sucks," Leonard told his friend.

"Yes, except he shared the thrill of escaping having to stand up with your cousin Sybok," Jim added. "And that you were not as fortunate as to escape the same fate."

"Why were you sitting with Pavel anyway?" Leonard asked as he was sure when he sat down his brother had been with his parents and cousin, not Jim.

"Ah, Christine made an offer to sacrifice herself," Jim said with a laugh, "And took Pavel's place at your family's table so he didn't have to converse with your cousin. I am afraid that such an activity was beyond his tolerance and would bring ruin to an otherwise festive evening for him."
Leonard's eyebrow shot up on that explanation. "Do I want to even know how all that came about?"

"It's probably better that you don't," Jim conceded with a shrug of his shoulders. "It may incite you to lecture your brother and then Christine's sacrifice will be for naught since Pavel's evening will once again be ruined."

Leonard turned toward the door to the ballroom where the younger attendees were gathering, and answered with a shrug, "Fair enough. It won't solve my immediate problem any way. It will just make getting through it even more difficult."

Jim slapped him on the back as he stood up and informed his friend with delight, "I am off to dance with someone I actually want to get up on the floor with. Try and have fun yourself while not looking like you are being lead to the slaughter. Enjoy the dance if not the company."

The advice that Jim had provided before he left the table, while good, was not all that applicable to the situation. Leonard found that out once he was on the ballroom floor with Sybok. Whether or not he chose to accept the compliment that Spock had made to his ability to dance earlier in the evening, one thing was quickly becoming abundantly clear, he could out dance Sybok. Hell, Pavel in his most awkward stages could dance circles around the man and Leonard found he had little time to think or anything else as he spent his time trying to keep Sybok from careening into either Leonard or the other couples on the floor. There were a few incidences where that plot to get out of the commitment to dance almost came to fruition through an actual injury. He caught a few amused glances from both Scotty and Jim as he progressed painfully around the dance floor with his cousin. His mother even managed to look a little sympatric despite the whole thing being her idea. Or maybe it was because the whole thing was her idea. Unfortunately, Sybok's inability to navigate the dance floor wasn't likely to stop her from planning the wedding that he was most definitely not going to actually participate in.

Both dances, as it was tradition to have the dances in sets of two, were equally stressing. Leonard was about ready to smack the shit faced grin off Jim as his friend approached him after the first set. "Don't even start," was the only warning he gave that his temper might not be as under control as he would have liked.

Jim burst out laughing at that point, earning a few frowns from those in ear shot. "I'm sorry, but that was too funny. Talk about two people on the opposite ends of the scale when it comes to dancing."

Leonard's eyebrow once again shot up at the comment. His eyebrow usually got a bit of a work out around Jim as a general rule, but this was the second time in the same evening that suggested that Leonard was quite skilled as a dancer. Did a memo go out advising people to compliment his foot work? "What is with all the comments on my dancing suddenly? I wish I could argue about Sybok's skill, but my feet and shins tell me otherwise. In fact I am willing to entertain the notion of the bottom of that scale is well above his abilities. Me however, more the middle maybe. Definitely not at the top as you suggested with opposite ends."

"You modesty has credibility only because I know you are stupid enough to have no idea how well you dance. Plus, I know how your confidence in anything social got so undermined," Jim retorted clamping his hand on Leonard's shoulder to keep him from escaping as he posed the question that had popped into his head as friend had spoke. He wanted what he suspected happened confirmed. "And who else has been complimenting you one your moves?"

"What makes you think that anyone has been complimenting me on anything?" Leonard asked as he tried to squirm out of his friend's grip.

"You, you idiot," Jim shot back, holding firm as he knew the man would simply walk away without answering if he let go. "You just said it. Might try working that filter a little better if you don't want people knowing things."

"As it's probably the only way to get you to let go," Leonard stalled as he scanned the crowd for an excuse that would require Jim to let him leave before he confessed the truth. He knew Jim would try and twist the little tidbit of information if he were to get a hold of it. Seeing nothing, he tried another tactic, "If you must know, my mother was being very flattering when she was setting me up to dance with Sybok tonight."

"Oh no," Jim scoffed. "That wasn't what you were referring to at all."

"Oh really," Leonard shot back getting irritated with his friend on not accepting his answer. He actually had included his mother in the list of the people he was thinking about when the comment slipped out, she just wasn't the only person nor does it seem the person that Jim had in mind. "Then tell me oh knowledgeable one, who was I referring to then?"

Jim laughed, this time it was at a more appropriate level for the company being kept. "I think it was one of your dinner companions. You got a little flustered while chatting with him and it usually takes an unexpected compliment to get that particular reaction out of you."

"I don't know whether or not I should be disturbed by the level of scrutiny you have to giving me over dinner in order catch any such reaction. Not that I am acknowledging that such a reaction occurred," Leonard qualified. "But if one had, how is it you caught it?"

"Hey, I guy can only listen to inane chatter for so long before getting bored and seeking entertainment elsewhere. And you are an entertaining watch on occasion. This being one of those times, you got to be my distraction," Jim stated nonchalantly. He did drop his hand from Leonard's shoulder finally since as far as he was concerned he got the confirmation he was seeking. Sometimes one had to read between the lines with his friend because though Leonard was often blunt in his speech, he could be quite evasive on personal matters.

Leonard wasn't surprised to be freed despite the fact that he officially admitted to nothing. Jim had made his decision, unfortunately the correct one, regarding who it was that came to mind when Leonard bemoaned the sudden increase on complements given in conjunction with his dancing. They were all full of shit as far a Leonard was concerned, but there was no point denying it was happening.

"So got any other dances lined up for the evening?" Jim asked to change the direction of the conversation and avoiding any silly denials his friend might want to offer.

"Why, are you offering?" Leonard smirked, knowing full well that his friend didn't dance with other men.

"No," Jim answered honestly before adding with a suggestive look. "Maybe I should get to check out all that skill up close and personal."

"You wish," Leonard snapped back. "I wouldn't risk my poor feet on the floor with you as I probably wouldn't be able to walk after we were done."

"Hey now," Jim waved his hands in surrender as defending his abilities. "I am no Sybok. I am able to get up and dance without embarrassing myself or my partner."

"You'd want to lead as well, making for a disaster not seen since..." Leonard paused to consider a good similarity.

"Since you and your cousin a few minutes ago?" Jim offered in a teasing tone. "I know not much passage in time but really, it was quite the disaster."

As the two men continued to chat amiably, though a few outside observers might argue that point, they were approached by a third party whose interruption caused Leonard to start while triggering an even bigger grin than normal on Jim's face. "Please excuse me," Spock said as he broke into the conversation between the two friends. Giving a polite nod to Jim, Spock turned to address Leonard directly. "I was hoping to secure the set after this one with you, if it would not be a problem."

"He'd love to," Jim jumped in and answered for his friend. He didn't want to give Leonard a chance to bite his nose off to spite his face, something the man was a little to apt to do, and cause a scene that he would normally berate his siblings for. Especially as it would be a result of Leonard being in a bit of a mood after his turn with his cousin and not due to a lack of interest in dancing with the man before him.

Spock of course didn't accept Jim's answer as fact; that would not be appropriate even if it would give him the answer he desired. He waited while Leonard shot his friend a look that he couldn't decipher. Leonard then sighed, knowing there was no actual reason he could give to decline since it was a ball and dancing was what one did at such things. "A dance set would be fine, thank you." He answered formally before Spock headed off again with a little bow.

Once the Vulcan was out of ear shot, Leonard turned on his friend and snapped, "Why did you do that? Couldn't you be a real help and come up with an idea for why I couldn't instead of offering me up like it was something I was dying to do."

"Ah, but you two are so cute together," Jim teased. "Plus, knowing you, you'd just snap in a way that could get your family, including your brother, off the list of the social acceptable for these people. You'd be kicking yourself forever if you did that, and what fun would there be for me in that scenario? Well, after the novelty of watching you berate yourself wore off. No, better to accept and then force you to follow suit."

"Dammit. I hate you," Leonard swore.

"No, you don't," Jim teased as he tossed a casual arm around his friend's shoulder. "You actually love me, admit it."

"Did you forget to check your ego at the door?" Leonard moaned. "Someone might suffocate if you've brought inside."

Not that Leonard would ever admit it out loud, or on the remote chance he did, never to anyone who would be willing to tell Jim, but he was looking forward to dancing with Spock. If for no other reason than he would be able to redeem himself a little in the eyes of people at the ball. He may not consider himself the most skilled of dancers, but he did think well enough of his abilities that he could do without the embarrassment. The sentiment of the crowd, unknown to him, was more along the lines that what was an awkward dance would have probably ruined the first set completely if Sybok had had a partner of less skill. However, no one was necessarily motivated to share this sentiment as Leonard was known to be scathing when he felt a person was being less than sincere. That combined with his tendency to assume that compliments of any type other than those regarding his medical knowledge were acts of insincerity by others kept most mouths shut.

The current dance set came to a conclusion soon enough and Leonard found himself standing across from Spock on the dance floor with looks of curiosity from most and a knowing smirk on one. He didn't exactly know what was percolating in Jim's brain, but he was pretty sure it was something he would not like nor approve of. What he did miss was the knowing looks from Spock's friends on the sidelines, who were not the least bit surprised that Spock had sought out the other man for a dance.

Not that he had been worried, but Spock turned out to be a much better dance partner than Sybok had been. Also, unlike a lot of guys he had tried dancing with, was more than content to let Leonard lead, a fact that Leonard ended up sharing with his partner when his mouth again decided to blurt out something he never meant to express.

"Of course, as I expressed earlier, you are quite a capable dancer, it would only be logical to allow you to lead," was Spock's response.

Leonard raised his eyebrow slightly at that. "If you insist on giving me a level of skill I don't actually possess."

"I do no such thing," Spock replied as the two continued around the floor. "I am only stating a fact that anyone in this room would confirm. Or if they do not, one would need to inspect their motive for lying. The most common among humans, I do believe, would be jealousy of that skill."

"Oh I don't think humans have cornered the market on jealousy," Leonard commented with a slight roll of the eyes. "I was raised by a Vulcan, in a community with other Vulcans, I am aware that you have those same emotions, even if you do insist on controlling them. And we won't discuss the reaction of a Vulcan should someone be poaching on what's theirs, especially if we are talking about their mate, at least not in polite society."

This time it was Spock's turn to raise an eyebrow, and he did so at the use of "poaching". "I do not believe I've ever witnessed any 'poaching' as you put it; therefore I would be unable to comment on this reaction you are alluding to." His tone carried an offended tinge to it.

Leonard chuckled. "Don't go playing that word game with me either. I know damn well you know what I mean by 'poaching.' So don't go pretending you don't because you don't think it is a word to be used in this context."

Spock's eyebrow raised itself a little higher. "I assure you I am not playing any game, however, if you insist that this 'poaching' has lead to a jealous reaction in Vulcans you know, then I cannot argue that it didn't happen, I can only say that I have not witness such behaviour."

"You must have lived a very sheltered life then," Leonard conceded.

"I think that many have lived a sheltered life in comparison to you," Spock concurred as he recalled a little of what the other man had shared about himself and what implied by his attitude while telling it. The conversation died off a little after that as Leonard considered what he might have inadvertently revealed and Spock not wishing to disturb those thoughts as he knew, even on such a brief acquaintance, that the man he was dancing with was a very private man.

Once he finished his dance with the Vulcan, Leonard managed to avoid Jim and the looming discussion of that very activity. Honestly, he could be worse than a teenage girl, wanting to consider every aspect of a simple act. He did so by letting Christine force him up on the dance floor. Leonard had resigned himself to the necessity of dancing with Jim's sister along with several other women, once he had danced with two men. It turned out the conversation was delayed more by his time on the floor than Jim's. He blamed noticing this little fact on all the damn compliments he had been getting as of late going to his head.

"Hey," Jim said breathlessly as he had just finished a rather fast pace turn on the dance floor. "I was thinking I was really going to have to dance with you just to get a chance to talk." Leonard merely harrumphed in response, so Jim continued. "Are you going to voluntarily tell me what you two were discussing so intently on while you were dancing or am I going to have to drag it out of you?"

Leonard deliberately played obtuse and replied, "Chris and I, mostly we talked about Sybok. She is curious about the man, though I can't think why. He isn't much more than what you see. He tends to say everything and anything, quite on purpose I might add, unlike some of us."

"Yeah, some people blurt it out by accident, others choose to bore us to death with the mundane details," Jim agreed with a nod. "But as we both know I wasn't referring to my sister, I say you try answering correctly this time by skipping all your other dance partners and going straight to the one I actually mean. I'd like an answer before the year is out."

"Given that we are only including my dance partners for the night, there is no way that it would take me until next year to address your nosiness," Leonard retorted with a roll of his eyes.

"I may be exaggerating slightly, but you are delaying answering all together," Jim shot back.

"We didn't discuss anything of consequence. Just boring ole social acceptable topics," Leonard complied with his friends wishes and gave an answer.

"Some how I doubt that, Bones," Jim retorted; a smirk seemed to be permanently plaster on his face. "But I'll let it slide since you at least admitted you talked. I was half expecting you to claim the dances were undertaken in complete silence."

"There would no point in doing that, would there?" Leonard snorted. "After all, you were close enough to us that I am sure you could see our mouths moving."

"True," Jim laughed. "But when has that ever stopped you?"

Leonard shook his head at his friend's claim. "Hey I learnt from the best," he replied, giving Jim a pointed look to ensure he knew who Leonard was labelling "the best" when it came to denial.

Changing the topic before it started getting deep in to Jim's own history, he asked, "So did you notice that you are the only one that he danced with this evening? Because I got to tell you everyone else definitely has."

"Nyota probably ordered all of them to dance as they are the ones hosting," Leonard speculated with a shrug. "No need to go reading too much into it. We now have an acquaintance of a sort, given I stayed here while Scotty was sick. I was probably just the most convenient choice to meet that obligation. He would take such a request from her with a great degree of seriousness. "

"And the fact that he tends to be watching you when ever you are on the floor and some times when you are off ," Jim queried.

Leonard shot his friend a look of complete disbelief. "Dammit Jim, you need to get a life of your own because there is no way you should be paying that much attention to what is allegedly happening between me and Spock. Not that the whole thing isn't your imagination in overdrive, but still. And how would you have the time to notice anyway, you've been dancing almost as much as I have. And what ever you do, don't going saying such things around my mother or you'll be experiencing Pavel's wrath."

"Pavel's?" Jim had to admit that Leonard had lost him, and the seeming permanent smirk was replaced by a look of puzzlement.

"Yes, Pavel," Leonard repeated, savouring the fact that he had thrown his friend for a loop. "After all, if you get her thinking she could match a son up with a person of great fortune, who do you think she'll start throwing in the path of Sybok?"

"Ah, Pavel," Jim muttered as the image of Amanda literally throwing Pavel at the visiting Vulcan danced across his mind. It was the only way she'd be able to get the young man near his would be suitor. Not that he expected Amanda was going to have any luck getting Leonard to do what she wanted when push came to shove, so she might want to start getting Pavel to look that way now and save herself the aggravation later. "I guess that would be unforgivable."

"Not to mention Christine's sacrifice will be for naught," Leonard fired Jim's own words back at him.

As the night started to wind down, Leonard found himself sitting at one of the tables in the dining area chatting with Scotty, Jim and Christine. If not for the setting it would be the formula for one of his favourite ways to spend the evening. As it was he attempted to block out the world around him and focus on those whose company he truly enjoyed. Unfortunately, the world would not cooperate, and he soon found himself watching as Pavel and a few other younger attendees made a spectacle of themselves by leaving the ballroom and prancing around the dining room instead. They behaved in a teasing manner that bespoke of actions not suitable for either the level of neither acquaintance that they shared nor the polite company they were keeping. Leonard and Scotty shared a quick glance before each tried to think of a way to bring the situation to a close with no more of a scene than Pavel had already created when their father took the matter out of their hands, unfortunately by adding to the attention being garnered, not reducing it.

"Pavel, sit down boy and behave yourself," Sarek snapped from a table where he was sitting with Velik and several other men of the town discussing politics. The shout captured the attention of those who had up to that point not noticed the younger people's behaviour. It was hard not to notice when a Vulcan raises his voice.

The situation caused concern to Leonard as he saw the disapproving glances of the Netherfield party and hushed whispers. He could just imagine the scorn being directed at his younger brother, as he knew first hand the level they could reach when discussing something they did not approve of. The fact that Sarek addressing Pavel in such a manner brought the incident to a close could be seen to imply Pavel was the ring leader in the misbehaviour, and those scornful looks seemed to suggest that was exactly what they were thinking.

Of course, the matter couldn't end there. Leonard realized he could over hear his mother gossiping with a few of the other ladies. Whether they were not aware of how their voices were carrying across the room or they simply didn't care he wasn't sure, but if he could here them then so could the Netherfield table as they were actually closer. It wouldn't have bothered him too much, but the topic had turned to that of one of his mother's favourites, match making or pending nuptials depending on how you interpreted her words.

"And of course," he could hear his mother stating in a matter-of-fact tone. "I believe it is only a matter of appropriate length of acquaintance before an agreement is entered into with our lovely hostess and Scotty. They seem so well matched, do they not?" Leonard could see the other women at the table nodding in agreement as his mother continued. "And of course, Sybok has been playing particular attention to Leonard since he has arrived, so there is no doubt on where his hopes lie. It would be nice to get that ugliness behind him and see Leonard settled as well."

Leonard managed to hold in the bark of laughter, though he did give his little shake of denial. He'd rather go back in time and marry that little would-be cheater than spend any time with his annoying cousin. At least she could carry on a conversation without inspiring you to want to strangle her. Well except that one time. Still, a better fate than Sybok. Not that his mother was going to let go of the idea, but Leonard had hoped that his attitude and lack of attention would discourage any action on Sybok's part. Now he had grave doubts that it was working. His cousin was either very dense or very oblivious or possibly both, and his mother was sounding much too confident.

Looking around the room, to find any distraction from the overly loud gossip, he caught Sybok approaching Spock. Oh that aught to go over real well. Sybok with his simpering and condescension reflecting in his mannerisms speaking to Spock, who actually had the social superiority and intolerance of those who give off airs without the status to truly back it up. Leonard turned away again but couldn't help but watch the wreck from the corner of his eye, chuckling softly as Spock gave the other man a stiff bow and then walked away with out giving Sybok a chance to converse. The younger man did not appear overly impressed by the fact that Sybok was honoured by the patronage of Spock's Aunt T'Pau. Still, it was another score against the family in the eyes of Nyota's friends. He felt a set of eyes on him, looking back at his friends, he saw Jim smirking at him, he knew exactly who he had been watching and decided to read God knows what in to it.

Chapter Text

The high experienced at Longbourn after the ball at Netherfield was short lived. A few days after the event, Scotty received a note from Kevin. He had been expecting the younger man to join him for lunch the next day so he was surprised to receive a communiqué. The look of disappointment on his face let those present know that the news was not of the joyful kind. His mother pressed him about the contents of the brief letter.

"Ah," he delayed a moment to collect his thoughts before answering the question posed by Amanda. "It is an apology; he had to cancel our little get together."

"Why?" Pavel asked when his brother offered no further information.

"He's says that there is business in the city that requires Nyota's immediate attention. He doesn't say what exactly, of course. Nyota said it would only take a few weeks but Kevin states that they are all going with her as he doesn't expect them to return."

"Not return? The sounds outrageous," Amanda scoffed. "What kind of business could take so long that they have no plans to return?"

"I am merely repeating what the letter says, Mother," Scotty replied with a shrug. "He doesn't tell me what the business is so I can't comment on whether or not it is of a nature to prevent their return."

"I'm sure Kevin is simply being overly cautious," Leonard offered as comfort, as he could tell that his brother was upset by the news. "I'm sure Nyota will be back, whether it's with her current company or not might remain to be seen." He was a little worried however, given he knew that same company had not approved of the behaviour of the family at the ball; he had seen it written over their faces at the time. He should have faked that injury after all or let Sybok do him in on the dance floor. That way they would have been out of there before the overindulgences of some had reflected badly on others. There was nothing he could do about it now.

"Well," Amanda started, sitting up a little straighter to show her disapproval of the contents of the missive. "That is bad news. But hopefully Leonard is correct, and it's just Kevin overstating the matter. You'll see; Nyota will be back and seeking your company in no time."

"Aye," Scotty agreed though his tone was subdued.

"Well, buck up," Pavel chipped in with a slap to Scotty's back. "That synchronic meter we were waiting for has finally arrived, so let's head into town to pick it up. We'll have our own working transporter in no time. "

That was the way to go with Scotty, distract him with an engineering project. Hopefully it would tide him over until somehow Kevin was proven wrong in his predictions and Nyota was back in Heresfordshire. Or at least everyone hoped that Kevin was wrong because it was clear that Scotty had emotionally invested in his friendship with hopes for something more.

Of course the vacating of Netherfield was not the only event of notice that took place shortly after the ball. The other milestone however, was one Leonard would just as soon forget completely if it were possible. That unfortunately was not going to happen. Leonard pinched the bridge of his nose and leaned into the wall, placing his forehead on the cool surface, hoping to stave off the oncoming headache caused by listening to his mother's rather loud reaction to what had gone down. Further in the background he could hear Scotty trying to placate Sybok, who was much more exasperating than normal. Leonard placed the blame for the incident squarely on his mother's shoulders. Why she thought he would even give a remote consideration to his cousin was beyond him.

They had been seated at the breakfast table, where Pavel and Leonard were attempting to cajole Scotty out of his sombre mood with an action plan for the day while the rest of the family including their guest, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. There weren't any signs of trouble on the horizon until after Sarek had excused himself to his study. At that point Amanda decided to seize upon the opportunity to give Sybok and Leonard some "alone time." She stood up and insisted that she needed both Pavel's and Scotty assistance with a matter of great importance. In Scotty's defence, he did have to be practically dragged out of the room, not wanting to leave his brother with their cousin. Not surprisingly, Sybok started to speak as soon as the door closed behind the deserters. In hind sight, the fact that he hadn't been chattering on before then should have clued Leonard into the fact that something was amiss, but he has been too wrapped up in Scotty's mood to have noticed.

"Dear cousin," Sybok started, rubbing his hand together in an outwardly nervous manner. "There is a matter of some importance that I need to discuss with you. Do not concern yourself for I am sure it is of a happy nature for both of us."

Leonard arched his eyebrow and glared at the man in what he hoped was a discouraging manner. "I some how doubt it," he scoffed in hopes of offering further evidence as to why Sybok should not continue. Unfortunately, the man turned out to be as obtuse in this matter as he was over almost everything else.

"If you would allow me to speak," Sybok continued. "As a man in my position I do find myself in need of a spouse of a respectable background, not only as a man of the church but as a man honoured by the patronage of T'Pau."

Leonard rolled his eyes at his cousin's words, not sure whether to be impressed or scared that Sybok had some how worked the woman into his proposal. "I can understand that but--"

Sybok cut him off with a wave of his hand. "I realize of course that we have not known each other very long, but I believe that it doesn't take long for a connection to form between two individuals, one that could allow each to see that they could enter into a marriage and be quite satisfied with such an arrangement."

Or know that such an arrangement would be an abject misery, Leonard though to himself.

"During my time here I have become quite fond of the family in general; you all were very welcoming to a man who will in essence render you homeless at some point in the future. That speaks highly of all your characters," Sybok stated with a nod, more to himself than Leonard, as he gained confidence in what he was saying. Reaching his hand across the table, he took Leonard's in his. While Leonard stared at their now joined hands Sybok informed him, "But I have become most fond of you I find. And I was hoping that you would consent to become my husband."

The finally uttered proposal caused Leonard to jerk his head, tearing his eyes away from the unsettling view of their hands. He knew what had been coming but still hearing the words had been a shock, one that showed on his face. "Excuse me?" was all he could manage to squeak out.

"Your mother did warn me that you were of the type to down play any attractions in your head; she alluded to a past incident that had hurt you badly though I assure you she did not betray any confidences," Sybok informed him with a pat on the back of the hand he was holding. The movement finally prompted Leonard to pull his hand out of his cousin's grasp. Allowing the hand holding to continue was definitely a sign of encouragement he did not want to give.

"I'm sure she didn't," Leonard snapped. "However, I can also assure you that I am in no way down playing any attraction, at least not on my part. I highly doubt on yours since you don't even really know me."

"We have our whole lives to get to know each other," Sybok offered as comfort, but the very idea of spending his life with the man across the table from him filled Leonard with dread. "And you are an agreeable young man and very easy on the eye."

Leonard snorted at the description of "agreeable". Looking his cousin in the eye, he retorted, "No one, I do mean no one, calls me agreeable. Not ever. And I assure you that once you hear my answer you won't ever use that phrase again either. Because cousin, there is no way I'm going to consent to marry you. We have no bond, no connection, nothing and we are never gonna."

Sybok attempted to soothe his agitated companion. "Ah, a little resistance is to be expected given the shortness of our association and allowing for the potential frightening aspects of your matrimony duties. In particular the wedding night."

Leonard blinked rapidly at the man. He highly doubted his cousin ever considered male companionship prior to setting out on this quest to 'right the injustice'. He suspected the whole idea of marrying one of them got put into his head by the much touted T'Pau. Never before had Leonard been so predisposed to actually hating someone as he suspected he would despise this T'Pau should he ever meet her. If anyone was nervous about the wedding night it was Sybok. Not that there was going to be one, at least for the two of them. Sybok's next words appeared to prove Leonard right.

"It's not like we must start that part right away. We can take the time to become more accustomed to each other before entering that stage," were the reassuring words Sybok chose to offer to address the problem he perceived to be at the root of the refusal.

Standing up and pushing his chair back, Leonard was getting offended at being treated like he was some unknowing blushing virgin. Well, the virgin part might be right, depending on your definition but still, he was a grown man. He glared down at his cousin and snapped, "There will be no wedding night for us. And if I do ever wed, I am sure as hell not going to be afraid of the physical intimacy that goes with it."

On that note Leonard chose to storm out of the room, nearly removing the door from its hinges in his anger. The whole situation was preposterous, and if his exit was a little dramatic, then it went well with the rest of the actions that morning. Unfortunately, his exit did not mean the end of the marriage talk which was why he found himself in the sitting room with all his family, except Pavel who had sense enough to escape.

"For goodness sake, he makes it sound as though he would prefer death to marrying Sybok," Amanda declared, throwing her hands up in the air. Giving Sarek a hard look, she pleaded, "You talk some sense into him. Tell him to stop being so dramatic and start thinking reasonably about the proposal."

As Amanda plopped down in a chair next to her headstrong son, the comments coming from Sybok indicated that there probably wasn't a proposal to consider anymore. At least one of them had bought a clue was all Leonard could think.

Sarek folded his hands in front of himself and considered both his wife and son before speaking, "I can understand how Leonard could conclude that death is more desirable. He and Sybok have nothing in common and he would very quickly become unhappy in such an arrangement. Our son needs a companion he can talk to; he isn't like his brothers who could hide themselves away for hours at a time on a project."

Amanda leaned forward in her chair, commanded her husband's attention. "I am aware of our son's need for companionship. In some ways it is much more important to secure a spouse for him than Scotty or Pavel. The need goes well beyond financial security."

"Excuse me?" growled Leonard in objection, feeling like he was some sort of weak link in the family chain. He didn't get far as both parents gave him a look that had him snapping his mouth shut.

"Dearest, marrying Sybok would not help fulfil this need," Sarek explained in an even tone. He shifted his focus from his wife to his son. "In fact it would be counterproductive to meeting Leonard's requirements. If he had been foolish enough to accept the offer, and I assure he would only have done so to please you, I would have been forced to disallow such a union. Something that is within my rights as the head of this house hold."

One antiquated rule of society that Leonard was more than happy was still around, at least at that moment.

The pronouncement itself had brought a complete silence over the room. If Sybok had been affronted by his cousin's refusal, it was nothing to the offence he felt at Sarek's words. It was a rule that was seldom invoked unless the party involved was a true scoundrel.

Chapter Text

It was suffice to say that once Sybok's advances were rejected, it wasn't exactly possible for him to stay on at Longbourn. Fortunately such awkwardness was handled when Christine politely offered to allow him to finish out his stay in Meryton at her parents' home. The shock felt when a few days later it was learnt that not only did Sybok propose to Christine but that she accepted, was so great that not even Scotty or Jim could work up a good joke about the Vulcan's recovery time. Neither Jim nor Leonard approved of the match, feeling Christine deserved much better. But both understood the necessity of the choice. Christine was in the same position as Leonard when it came to financial considerations but with the added complication of living in a society where a poor female's options were even less than a poor male's. Jim had the limited luxury of small income from his natural parents, one that could afford him some freedom but not one that could support more than him. Otherwise, he would be insisting on Christine accepting her share. Her parents on the other hand were quite pleased by the successful match. And if one were to only look at it from a more materialistic perspective, it was a very good one on Christine's part.

It was due to the latter development that a few months later Leonard consigned to a transport in the company of not only Jim, but his adopted parents T'Mir and Velik as well, on his way to visit the one person he had hoped not see again. That wasn't really true; Sybok wasn't the only person he never wanted to lay eyes on again. He in fact had a list, one that kept growing. He was looking forward to seeing Christine again, having missed her company. It was a pity she didn't live closer to Meryton to allow more frequent visits. But then again one day she would be closer since Sybok would inherit Longbourn. Such morbid and depressing thoughts were for another day, as Leonard joined in with the others on admiring the lands of Rosing Park as well as being in awe of the sheer size of the estate. There was nothing comparable anywhere in Herefordshire.

As they drew close to the parsonage, both Sybok and Christine could be seen standing outside waiting for them to arrive. Christine had an exceptionally bright smile on her face as she awaited the arrival of her family. She never went so long without seeing her parents before, as neither she nor her parents were prone to taking long trips. Her excitement showed even more as her parents exited the transport, she gave each of them a big, if quick; hugging was something she had avoided since adulthood as she understood the discomfort it could cause in touch telepaths. Her enthusiasm for her guests held through to her greeting of the two younger men as well. Jim literally picked her up off the ground as gave her a little swing, he was so glad to see her. Leonard settled for a very long hug and quick peck on the cheek.

Not surprisingly, Sybok's welcomes were much more subdued. He had not had much time to get to know his in-laws before departing Meryton, leaving the cousin who refused him the strongest acquaintance exiting the transport. His greetings were gracious, and he only managed to work T'Pau in once. Jim gritted his teeth when Sybok referred to him as brother, but otherwise it was not an awkward event. The shallowness in which Sybok had handled seeking a spouse at Longbourn did help in preventing any serious grudges.

Some resentment did surface during a tour or the small house. As Jim had whispered in Leonard's ear, showing a surprising amount of discretion on his part, that Sybok appeared hell bent on bringing to Leonard's attention every little thing he missed out on by turning him down. That was not the only point that the Vulcan tried to get across during the tour, one that Leonard had to comment on once Sybok had parted ways, assisting Christine's parents to the room they would occupy for the duration of the visit.

"So did the illustrious T'Pau have an input on the decorating of every single room, or did it just seem that way given the number of times her name popped up in conversation?" Leonard asked sardonically.

Jim was standing there with a bemused look on his face. He had managed to avoid Sybok during his short stay in his home and had thought Leonard and Pavel, both of whom had told him of Sybok's habit, were exaggerating when discussing how often his patroness' name tended to come up. He was seriously rethinking that idea now.

"Oh, T'Pau is generous with her time and her opinion with us at the parsonage and also with here tenants," Christine informed the two men in an even tone. "I don't believe Sybok actually managed to fully cover the degree of assistance she has offered since my arrival here."

"Charming," was Leonard's response, a smirk forming across his face. It was a good thing that Christine was a lot more tolerant than him, otherwise T'Pau would have been told what she could do with her suggestions or where to shove them long before now.

"That was not the word I was going for," Jim joked leading to two smacks, one on each arm and two warnings to behave himself.

A few days into the visit Leonard found himself very abruptly pulled out of his chair, the PADD he had been reading flew across the room as he was dragged to the window of the parlour he was lounging in. He was startled by the action; as far as he knew Jim was still out on his walk with Christine. Leonard had made a point of not joining the siblings to allow them some private time to catch up. As a friend he is not privy to everything, at least not with Christine. Who knew with Jim?

"Dammit, Jim what's so important that you have to dislocate my shoulder," Leonard grimaced as he peeked out the window to see a small transport outside.

"I didn't think you'd want to miss a chance to check out the esteemed T'Pau up close without her knowing," Jim retorted peering out the window as well. "And don't be a big baby; I so did not dislocate anything."

Leonard caught sight of a pale young woman at the entrance of the small carrier and grunted. "Well, she's too young to be T'Pau."

Jim, noticing the direction his friend was looking, jabbed in the side and then gestured toward his sister once he had his attention. "T'Pau is chatting with Chris, or lecturing. It's hard to tell from here. The girl is her daughter."

Leonard turned away from the older woman with a sharp face to take a better look at the younger one. He couldn't see much more than her head and shoulders, but he could tell there was frailness about her. "That is an interesting match for him," he murmured quietly.

"An interesting match for whom?" Jim asked. Because of proximity there was no way he'd have missed the comment.

Leonard gave his head a little shake to clear his thoughts. "Well if Sybok is to be believed, that young woman is Spock's fiancée."

Jim scrutinized the young lady he had all but ignored earlier due to his concentration on the much mentioned T'Pau. Taking in what little her could see of the girl, he commented in a bland tone, "She looks a little pasty for my taste, and I gotta say is nothing like I'd expect someone Spock was engaged to look like."

Leonard gave his friend a piercing look laden with warning that simply caused Jim to wiggle his eyebrows suggestively and leer, leading Leonard to snap, "You are not going to start that shit up again are you?"

"Hey, you're the one who brought him up, not me. I'm just following your lead." Jim defended himself, holding his hands up in a conciliatory manner. Leonard was about to delivery a cutting retort when the door to the room swung open and the two jumped away from the window in hopes of not being caught spying. It turned out to be a useless endeavour on their parts.

"Honestly, peeking through the windows like two little boys," Christine scolded, her arms folded across her chest in displeasure.

Giving his sister a sheepish look, Jim justified their actions with a little shrug, "We had heard so many wonderful things about T'Pau we couldn't help but grab a quick look at such a great lady."

"And her very lovely daughter," added Leonard with a small wave at the window.

Christine rolled her eyes in disbelief and sighed as her arms fell back to her sides. Sybok on the other hand took their words quite seriously as stated, "It is understandable that you would want to catch a glimpse of such fine ladies. More over, you will be able to get an even better look at both this evening at Rosings."

Jim and Leonard shared a puzzled glance before Jim stated, "I thought dinner at Rosings wasn't 'til early next week."

"It isn't," Christine confirmed. "The short stop here was to let us know in person rather than by servant, about the change of plans. It is only polite given the short notice involved." The last part conveyed Christine's disapproval of the move.

Sybok missed the censure of his benefactor and simply continued the explanation his wife had started. "I do believe that is your presence that brought about the change, dear cousin."

At those words Leonard scrunched his eyebrows in consternation. What the hell was that suppose to mean? Before he got a chance to ask though, Christine reached over and grabbed her husband by the arm and chided, "Now Sybok, don't go making poor cousin Leonard anymore nervous about Rosings then I am sure he already is." She then escorted the Vulcan out of the room, shooting a sly smile at both men.

Once he was sure they were out of earshot, Leonard turned to Jim and asked in a clearly confused tone, "What the hell was that all about?"

"I don't know," Jim replied with another shrug of his shoulders before a devilish grin crossed his face. "Maybe she wants to check out her daughter's competition."

Leonard slapped his forehead. He had walked into that one. As he moved to leave the room, he growled, "Will you just drop it or shut the hell up."

The evening was warm as the parsonage group set out on a brisk walk to Rosings Park. Not much was said by anyone other than Sybok, who felt the need to prepare his visitors for the resplendence of the manor they were to spend their evening in. Upon entering the building each of the visitors was willing to concede a certain grandness to the place, but none were as impressed by Rosings as Sybok himself sounded. The fun, or torture depending on your point of view, began when the little band of mostly Merytons arrived in the main parlour to greet their hostess. Jim gave a happy little bounce as a full out victory dance would be too ill-bred for the current company while Christine had to strangle a giggle attempting to escape. Leonard simply hung his head with a little shake, pinching the bridge of his nose and muttering about hating his life. He was quite enough that the only ones who heard him were the people from the parsonage. Sybok had no idea what was going on, but he was sure not to mention what his cousin said to anyone. If the residents of Rosings found the guests' entrance a little odd, and surely they did, they opted not to comment on the behaviour.

Clearing his throat, Sybok began with a slight bow to his head, "T'Pau, our most gracious hostess, on behalf of my guests I would like to thank you for honouring us with this dinner."

Jim leaned over and made a kissing noise in Leonard's ear that earned him a swift sideways kick in the ankle and stern look from his sister, but the noise had escaped everyone else's attention.

"Allow me to present my wife's distinguished parents, Velik and T'Mir," Sybok gestured to his in-laws who gave a dignified bow to the lady. "Also, accompanying us tonight is her brother James Kirk and my cousin, Leonard McCoy, who also happens to be a close friend of both my lovely wife and her brother. It was through him that I met Christine."

Sybok gave his most saccharine smile as Jim once again leaned in to make a comment to Leonard regarding the lack of adjectives describing the two of them. This one passed without punishment.

"Everyone, this is Lady T'Pau and her enchanting daughter, T'Pring," Sybok simpered as he turned toward the young lady being introduced. "My dear cousin was commenting on her comeliness earlier today after catching a glimpse of her, did you not?"

"I did indeed," Leonard admitted with a nod. As usual when complementing a lady directly, his accent became a little more pronounced. "And lovely as she was then, it did not do her justice." T'Pring flushed the faintest of greens.

Jim once again whispered in his friend's ear, "Suck up," earning him another swift kick from Leonard. No one else heard as Sybok had continued talking as well, having to admit that he did not know one of the gentlemen sitting on settee or at least that's what Leonard thought he was going on about. It was hard to keep up when you had some sort of pest buzzing around your ear.

Standing up, T'Pau apologized, having forgotten that Sybok had not met everyone when she allowed him to handle the introductions. "This is Admiral Pike; he is a close member of the family. He is here on a short visit with my nephew Spock. I am to understand that all of you are acquainted with him."

"Yes, ma'am," Christine replied before Sybok got a chance. "He and some friends had stayed a while at a manor near Meryton and attended several social functions."

At the same time Jim chimed in with one more comment for Leonard's ears only, "Now we've gotten to the why we are here early." A harder kick than the first two hit his ankle, drawing a yelp of pain from the young man and making him the focal point of the room. Looking flustered Jim apologized, "Sorry hit my foot on some furniture trying to get a better look at the seascape you have there." He pointed at a picture he just noticed on the wall.

Putting aside his scepticism of the explanation given there wasn't any piece of furniture close enough for the man to knock up against; Admiral Pike none the less rescued him from the embarrassing moment. "Well, it is a pleasure to meet you all. I have heard very good things about Meryton. Ms. Uhura, Spock's friend, was quite charmed by your town."

"That's only fair," Jim grinned, finally showing a little of his charismatic side now that he decided to stop teasing his friend. "As Meryton was quite charmed by her."

T'Pau clapped her hands to gain everyone's attention and announced, "Now that introductions are over and provided that Mr. Kirk can avoid further run-ins with the furniture, please follow me to the dining area. T'Pring is in poor health this evening so it is best we start the meal immediately."

With murmurs of well wishes and assurances that she was merely tired not ill, the group headed toward the dining hall. As they were exiting, Admiral Pike grabbed Leonard by the arm to hold him back and commented quietly, "If you keep kicking your friend like that he may not be able to make the trek back to the parsonage."

Leonard made a sound that was crossbreed between a snort and a laugh before retorting, "There are three Vulcans in our party, I'm sure at least one would be able to provide assistance."

The conversation during the meal was of the prosaic kind, unless you counted the few moments of confusion when it was discovered that one of Jim's allergens was an ingredient in the salad. However as he had not actually eaten any before it was found, it was not as exciting as it might have been. Leonard had spent most of the meal engaging in conversation with Admiral Pike who sat across from him, or T'Pring who sat to his right. Jim smartly chose to sit across from T'Pring thereby decreasing the risk of getting kicked, as there was a chance Leonard might hurt one of the other guests instead. Taking advantage of the position, Jim kept trying to get him to speak to Spock, who was seated on Leonard's left, through various facial expressions. Leonard steadfastly ignored the signals though he suspected that the contortions were making the others nervous, thinking that Jim may have consumed some of the salad after all and was on the verge of a seizure. There wasn't much that Leonard could do to stop him. Well, he could have spoken to Spock more, but he wasn't going to do so just to keep Jim from looking like an idiot.

The next day Leonard found himself in a prolonged, mostly one-sided conversation with one of the servants from Rosings Park. His role appeared to mainly consist of nodding his head now and then and little else. Those observing the call, Jim, Christine and their parents, had no idea what it was about nor why it was taking so long, but they were pretty certain he had been speaking to someone else at the start. Not that it really mattered as it was definitely one of the servants now.

Switching of the com, Leonard gave his impromptu audience an unimpressed look that spoke volumes about his opinion on their eavesdropping before sighing, "Well, you better go make yourself look presentable Jim, the two of us are invited to a luncheon at Rosings."

"It took all that time just to get an invite?" Christine asked in disbelief.

"They wanted to be sure they didn't kill one of the guests with what they were serving," Leonard explained as he headed toward the stairs to get a little more cleaned up himself. When he got to the bottom step, he turned, snapped his fingers, and pointed at Jim stating, "From now on we stick with you doing the flattering and flirting while I do the mocking to prevent these follow up invites."

"Really?" Jim's eyebrows rose questioningly at the comment. "And which action gets us off the welcome list, Bones?"

"Both," Christine inserted as she gave her brother a friendly little shove. "It is actually possible for one of you to be invited and not the other. You're not actually joined at the hip. And you tend to convince parents, whether you mean to or not, that you'll have their daughters eloping. The mocking, I believe is self-explanatory, since someone isn't the least bit subtle about it."

"The invitation was given on remarkably short notice," T'Mir observed. "It is exceedingly presumptuous on the part of Rosings Park."

"Not really," Leonard conceded with a shrug. "Your son announced last night that neither of us had plans for the day and would be hanging out at the parsonage."

Jim's face took on a guilty look. Leonard's wording could be interpreted as Jim having fished for another invite to the manor when they all knew his real motive was to inform and encourage someone to stop by as he had taken up the matchmaking mantle in Amanda's absence. "So who did request our presence?"

"T'Pring," Leonard informed his friend.

"Well we don't want to keep a lady waiting," Jim smirked as pushed past Leonard to go up to their room. "You realize you've gone and made the alleged intendeds rivals."

With a roll of his eyes and a shake of his head at the comment, Leonard followed his friend upstairs.

A short jaunt later had the two men at Rosings Park being lead to a small sitting room. The luncheon was to be a much more informal affair than last evening's meal and according to their escort, the lady of the manor would not be in attendance as she had gone to a nearby town for the afternoon. Upon entering the room, both took stock of who was present and offered polite greetings and thanks for being invited to the T'Pring and the Admiral.

Taking a seat, Jim remarked, in reference to Admiral Pike who was lounging on a small loveseat across from him, "We seem to have earned ourselves a chaperone."

"It would be inappropriate, for a lady to sit with two young men without adult supervision," the Admiral stated drolly.

Leonard's eyebrow shot up on that comment. "With all due respect, I am an adult," and then with a nod in Jim's direction he added, "Him I can't speak for."

Ignoring the little dig, Jim turned to T'Pring and with eyes dancing in amusement and asked a question that may have in fact proven Leonard's point, "So are you planning on running away and eloping with our Leonard?"

Pike made a choking sound while Leonard glared at the back of his friend's head. If looks could kill it was highly likely that that head would have exploded then and there. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, looks couldn't actually do any harm.

T'Pring simply tilted her head slightly giving Jim an intense once-over before calmly replying, "It is not on my schedule for today."

Jim smiled brightly at the Vulcan; he was really starting to like her. Turning back to Leonard he teased, "Not on today's schedule, so not quite on par with me."

Leonard rolled his eyes and explained in a frustrated tone, "No one said you actually got the daughters to elope, just that you had the parents thinking that they might." He then added to the room in general with a wave of his hands, "A strange conversation we had earlier. His way of getting me back, I guess."

Jim laughed at his friend. "Well when you've been friends as long as we have, conversations can get a little odd. Though many who know us would probably say we've always been a little different starting from day one when I dubbed him with a nickname most are still trying to figure out."

"What is the special name you assigned him?" T'Pring entreated. She didn't quite get the need humans had to give out nicknames to one another, but she did wonder about one that would confuse even them.

It was at this juncture that the missing party, the one Jim had been hoping would be present so he continue his little campaign to wear his friend down, entered the room. Sitting down in a chair near Leonard, it was Spock, not Jim, who satisfied her curiosity. "For reasons I was unable to discern, Mr. Kirk insists on calling him by the most unusual name of Bones."

Both T'Pring and the Admiral looked as confused as most upon hearing the name for the first time. Jim smirked, "Unusual maybe, but he does love it."

"No I don't," Leonard interrupted.

"Yes, you do," Jim informed him.

Leonard just rolled his eyes and agreed, "Fine! Yes I do."

"It's a pity you aren't in the military," the non sequiter came from Pike with a grin at the various looks of bewilderment he received. Nodding at Leonard he added, "We could make a drinking game out the number of times you roll your eyes at something some one says. We like drinking games."

The looks of bemusement turned to ones of amusement, and it took everything he had for Leonard not to roll his eyes once again. The follow up comment did not help his situation with him momentarily squeezing his eyes shut to prevent his favourite reaction. Not that he minded a little mocking. One had to be able to take it if one dishes it out after all. But Leonard had already had enough focus on him already.

"You would need Mr. Kirk to join as well," Spock noted. "There is a 73.54 percent increase in the likelihood of an eye roll should Mr. McCoy be in his company."

Pike laughed at the Vulcan's precise calculations. "I'm sure there is an entertaining story behind the name 'Bones'."

"Not really," Jim replied with a shrug. The big grin on his face had nothing to do with the amusement of the nickname he assigned and everything do to with the level of observation indicated by Spock's comments. Smirking at his best friend, he sought agreement. "More of you had to be there to get it kind of tale, right Bones?"

With a little shake of his head, Leonard gave up and rolled his eyes at the strangeness of this entire afternoon. He wasn't used to being the centre of attention, especially when Jim was also there.

Jim out and out laughed at the motion. "One of these days your eyes are going to roll right out of your head," he swore.

"And according to Mr. Spock's calculations you are likely to be there to witness it, since you're probably the cause," Leonard retorted.

"I should let the kitchen know we are ready to be served as I did lure you here with the promise of food," T'Pring declared as she stood and smoothed out her skirt. As she walked to the com unit she passed a piano, gesturing toward the instrument she enquired, "Do either of you play?"

Two sets of eyebrows went up as each man contemplated on how to answer that question. Unnoticed by them Spock's eyes were drawn to Leonard's hands, taking in the long slender fingers he found himself blurting out, "You have the hands of a concert pianist Mr. McCoy, does that translate into a talent for playing?"

Almost all eyes focused on the Vulcan as Pike and T'Pring gave nods of agreement and Jim's eyebrows shot even higher. Leonard put his hands out in front of him, his face scrunched up in concentration as he took in the backs of his own hands, flipping them palm up and then backs again as he stared at them like he had never seen them before. Finally with a little shrug Leonard drawled—as his accent tended to surface when talking about himself, "That may be, but they are attached to a body without a shred of musical talent."

"He is not being modest," Jim assured the room. "The only thing worse then his playing is the atrocity we would call singing, if the act bore any resemblance to the actual act of singing."

Leonard eyed his friend as Jim gave an over the top though unfortunately accurate description of his abilities. Rubbing his chin he noted, "Jim on the other hand has a passable talent with both."

The blasé description caused Jim to give a little snort as Pike jokingly asked, "Not going to fill any concert halls then?"

"Only if it's for a lynch mob," Leonard offered in an annoyed tone, his arms folded defensively across his chest. He might be a little touchy about his utter lack of musical ability and getting in a few extra shots. Of course he should know better when dealing with Jim. Which is why he shouldn't have been surprised when Jim clamped a hand down on his shoulder smirked and gave just as good back.

"You know I think I've been a little rude," Jim mused with a dangerous smile on his face. "I never asked Spock about his plans the way I did T'Pring."

Leonard growled a warning through clenched teeth, "Don't you dare start that foolishness again."

Jim laughed. "But I want to know if it's on his schedule Bones."

The comments drew a further snicker from Pike who waved off a confused look from Spock to indicate that the Vulcan wouldn't actually want to know what the two were arguing about. He was enjoying the bickering between the two men, the push and pull to see how far each would go and who would give in first that he suspected in the end it would have no lasting negative effect on the friendship. It was like a game to them.

It was Leonard who admitted defeat when he rose from his chair, clasped Jim's arm, and pulled him up to escort his friend to the piano or dragged depending on who you asked. Once there he muttered, "Normally you are jumping at a chance to show of for a lady, so why change now? And pick something suitable for the company."

Taking a seat on the bench Jim retorted, "Normally I get a more flattering description than passable." He did select a simple little number to entertain their hostess as Leonard was right about his enjoying playing and not just for the ladies.

T'Pring sashayed over to Leonard who was now leaning against the piano. She had a hint of a flirtatious manner about her as she spoke. "As you are related to Sybok, I assume you have been told about my so called engagement to my cousin."

Leonard merely blinked at her, unsure of the sudden change in tone and the unexpected topic. Jim however had no trouble contributing despite being occupied by playing the piano. "We've heard something of that nature. Well, I heard it from Bones, and he heard it from Sybok."

Now standing next to Leonard, she reached over and brushed his shoulder as though removing a little lint. Of course with touch being a matter of significance for Vulcans, there was no missing the coquettish nature of the action. "That such a marriage will not happen is one of the things Spock and I agree on."

The narrowing of Spock's eyes bore hostility for T'Pring, something that did not go unnoticed by Pike who coughed and muttered, "But not the only thing. For cousins of opposite sex they have remarkably similar tastes."

Jim stumbled over the music as he fought to hold back the laugh bubbling up. Looking flustered he joked, "Well I guess that's why Bones went with passable."

Chapter Text

A few mornings later Leonard was traipsing through the woods in search of some solitude, not a commodity in great supply at the parsonage or Rosings Park where he found himself more often than not. Who knew that Vulcans could be such busybodies, though it would be more accurate to say Vulcan since it was mostly T'Pring being nosy. She had appeared to be such a reserved woman when they first met. Turned out that was only when her mother was around. Maybe it was more she didn't get the chance when T'Pau was around as that woman loved to dominate the conversation. He was so lost in thought concerning the strangeness of the last few days that he didn't notice the raised tree root and promptly tripped over it. An act that was immediately followed by a long litany of curses.

"Although Mr. Sulu is a proponent of speaking to plants, I do not believe he would approve of either the language or the tone in this case," a sardonic tone indicated from behind Leonard. As he turned around he took in the sight of the less nosy Vulcan who had an eyebrow arched in disapproval. Spock continued to speak. "I should note however that he would probably be impressed by the act that you were able to continue for so long without repeating yourself. I was not aware so many terms existed."

Brushing himself off and rolling his eyes at the backhanded compliment, Leonard snorted and then remembered, "That's right, he is into botany. I now know more than I ever wanted about the planting and maintenance of a chameleon rose. Mind you, it is hard to interrupt someone when they get so worked up over something."

"I do recall that conversation," Spock said turning to walk down the path as Leonard started on his way again. "Hikaru quite enjoyed having someone listen to him. Most have learnt how to avoid such conversations."

"Nothing wrong with learning new things," Leonard stated with a slight smile. "Plus he did let me blather on about medicine for a while so turn about was only fair. Can't go expecting people to listen to you if you aren't willing to hear their stuff as well. Something I need to remind my brothers of from time to time."

"Speaking of your brothers, would you mind if I asked you a personal question?" Spock requested quietly.

"You mean there is something left that wasn't covered by T'Pring?" Leonard joked, a full smile now on his face. "Go ahead. If I don't want to answer, I won't."

"Nor is Mr. Kirk here to do so for you," Spock rejoined with a slight flush on his cheeks as he recalled T'Pring's boldness and Jim's helpfulness in satiating her curiously. "I was wondering which of you was the first adopted. I assume based on age it was either you or Mr. Scott."

"I was. Amanda actually knew my parents," Leonard replied with a little bob of his head. He generally referred to his adopted parents by the more formal mother and father, but when discussing two sets, it was better to use names of at least one of them, and Spock did know who Sarek and Amanda were. "Her and my dad were friends growing up, so it was actually in his will that she oversee everything. I don't think he envisioned her actually raising me as a result."

"Was he not aware of the lack of family to take you in?" Spock queried a puzzled look on his face.

Leonard paused without warning, causing Spock to be a few steps ahead when he came to a full stop. When he turned around to view his companion, Leonard had his head tilted to one side, looking about to make a serious decision. A few moments later he resumed walking, took a deep breath and stated, "Not that I tell people this ever and I can't believe I'm telling you, but there wasn't a lack of family just a lack of interest in the welfare of the offspring of disowned children. And if you think my little rant at the root was impressive you should've heard Amanda when she got that attitude from them."

"Both?" Spock's surprise showed in his tone. Eyeing the man walking beside him for signs of distress at the topic, he continued, "I have a difficulty believing that a woman as well spoken as your mother would use vulgar language at all, let alone excessively. Though given the circumstances I suppose it could've happened."

Leonard chuckled at the Vulcan's concession regarding his mother's behaviour. "Oh, she's a pistol, my mother."

Spock's eyes opened wide as his eyebrows raised to his hairline. "She does not resemble any sort of weaponry to my knowledge."

The literal interpretation of what he had just said had Leonard laughing so hard he had to stop. Spock paused along side of him, taking in the laughing form with interest. Once Leonard had his reaction under control he simply smirked and stated, "That's because you've never had her mad at you. Do that and you'll suddenly see every resemblance to weapons. Deadly ones."

"I shall take your word for it," Spock offered in a matter-of-fact tone, his hands folded neatly behind his back. "I do not wish to anger anyone, let alone your mother."

Leonard folded his arms over his chest and stared at the Vulcan standing across the path from him. Cocking his head to one side, he observed, "You know about both my sets of parents and I know nothing about your one pair. That doesn't seem fair, now does it?"

Spock it appears was inclined to agree as he replied, "My parents were not unlike our adopted ones. My father - a Vulcan. My mother - a human."

Leonard looked him up and down and interrupted with, "So you're what they would have got should've Sarek and Amanda managed to have one of their own."

Ignoring the comment Spock continued, "My parents were attentive during my childhood and gave the same to Hikaru when they took him in. A similar situation to you as he was a child of friends, though not childhood friends, and he actually lacked family to even ask to consider taking over his care."

"So not too much like me," Leonard interjected in an acerbic tone.

"I was sixteen when they died," Spock informed his companion, once again choosing to ignore the commentary being offered. "Admiral Pike took over managing our affairs until I was of age, at which point I took over not only my own estate's concerns but those of Hikaru's fortune as well."

"And now you are here reciting your life back to me in nutshell form," Leonard concluded for him. "Lacking in a few highlights, but sharing."

"I'm afraid my parents' life together was not as interesting as your natural ones," Spock conceded with the slightest of shrugs. "They did not run off to a life that was unacceptable to their parents so they were not disowned."

"Yep, David and Eleanor, a tragic romance," Leonard opined with a sigh. "Or so says Christine. I'm not so sure about the romance part, even though they probably were two crazy kids in love."

Spock stepped closer to Leonard, well into his personal space, and he fought the urge to take a step back as he sensed he would just be followed any way. He could feel the breath across his cheek as Spock spoke, the Vulcan looking him in the eye, probably able to see ever fleck of colour that composed the hazel. "Would you have shared this information with T'Pring had she asked?"

He couldn't have found that out by staying where he was? What about that question required him to stand so damn close? He liked it better when he simply did not care for the Vulcan at all. Before Jim had chipped away at his reasoning and got him rethinking and re-evaluating everything. It's not like he didn't notice the man was attractive, if you go for the formal and unemotional type, which it turns out he just might. He took a deep breath, pinched the bridge of his nose and cursed Jim in his head.

"Given that I didn't supply most of the information about me in the first place," Leonard finally answered after a few moments of consideration. "I'd have to say no. And even Jim would know better than to share the little fact about close living relatives. Those in the know are on an exclusive list. Hell, I got a brother who doesn't know it."

"I consider myself honoured then," Spock replied.

Hoping that with that question settled he would get his personal space back, Leonard was definitely caught off guard by what happened next as Spock grabbed him behind the neck and pulled his face closer to allow a slow brush across the lips. The slight gasp that escaped from the surprise was pounced upon as the following was much more intense with the exploration of not just the lips but the mouth. It turned out that this was one Vulcan who was very knowledgeable on the human form of kissing, and Leonard placed his hands lightly at Spock's waist to steady himself. How long this may have gone on in the natural course of things would remain unknown however as they were soon interrupted by the sound of a throat clearing. The two jumped and parted each brightly flushing in a tone appropriate for the colour of their blood.

"I hate to break up such an entertaining scene," Jim informed them wryly, "But this is a fairly well travelled path and I don't think either of you would be overly comfortable being seen in such a hot clutch, not if that reaction just now was anything to go by."

Giving a little cough of embarrassment, Spock stepped further back from the two men. "It is indeed so. And I should be getting back to Rosings."

On that note, Spock gave a curt nod good-bye and retreated at a quick pace. As Leonard watched the Vulcan go, Jim turned to his friend and shot him a toothy grin. He would never hear the end of this, and it was all Jim's fault really.

"Bite me," was Leonard's retort to Jim's unspoken ribbing.

"I would," Jim shot back, "But the last time I did you wouldn't speak to me for a week."

Maybe sneaking out of the parsonage in the early morning wasn't one of Leonard's more brilliant moves. In fact it was down right cowardly, but there was only so much gloating a man can take before his mind starts to turn to violence and not of the relatively innocent ankle kicking kind. Jim passed that line shortly after the evening meal and was lucky he survived the night. When Jim got up and found Leonard gone, he should be grateful. However, knowing Jim, he would more likely be irritated by Leonard's disappearance. Jim did seem to have trouble identifying when he crossed the line with Leonard when they were outside the social arena. It didn't make a lot of sense given how good Jim was at walking the same line at social events, but then he was a study in contradictions. Not to mention frequently lacking any sense of self-preservation that would keep him on the correct side.

Leonard halted when he detected a person not far in front of him on the path, a different one from yesterday. He could not quite make out who it was from this distance; there was an air of familiarity around the figure. He was certain it wasn't Spock as he didn't take his morning stroll this early. If he did then Leonard wouldn't need to be sneaking out of houses at the break of dawn. As the form moved closer he decided it was likely another guest of Rosings; the Admiral which would make sense as military men tended to be early risers. This was confirmed a few moments later when the person spoke.

"Hello there," offered the surprised voice of Pike, who gave a short wave in greeting as well. "I didn't expect to encounter anyone from the parsonage this early in the morning."

Leonard grimaced at the cheery sounding voice. It was much too early for anyone to be in that good of a mood. "Self-preservation," he confessed giving a nod to say hello. "It was escape or face the possibility of a murder charge."

Pike chuckled as he stopped close enough in front of him to be able to see his face in the morning mist. Folding his arms in front of him, Pike queried, "Mr. Kirk or Sybok?"

Leonard raised his eyebrows as he shifted uncomfortably. Being questioned by a military man gave him the feeling of a more formal questioning despite the friendly atmosphere. Plus he really hadn't expected those choices. Sybok was irritating but Leonard figured he was just raised that way, whereas Jim should really know better but sometimes behaved as though he didn't.

"Jim," he replied with a shrug.

"I don't need to ask why," Pike informed him. "Yesterday, Sybok filled T'Pau in on some interesting behaviour he had witnessed. It was interesting for many reasons."

"Of course he saw it and did just that," Leonard muttered, more to himself than to the Admiral. "That would explain why he wasn't overly confused by Jim's crowing. What a gossip."

"Sybok would never keep a secret from T'Pau you know," Pike asserted.

"Really?" Leonard smirked, betting he had one up on the man there. "Because I am under the distinct impression that he never mentioned proposing to me."

He got a surprised bark of laughter out of the military man on that little tidbit. A satisfying moment even if it meant revealing something he'd prefer to forget. It would probably bring on more questions than he was willing to answer, but Leonard doubted many people got the chance to throw the observant man for a loop.

"I am trying to picture that," Pike laughed, slapping his hand against his leg in amusement. "Where would he even get such an idea?"

"The original idea probably came from T'Pau," Leonard murmured as he contemplated the origin of the disaster for the first time. "It's something she'd suggest, don't you think? For Sybok to marry one of the cousins who will lose a home."

"It does sound like her. She likes to dip her oar in to others' affairs," Pike agreed before asking in a bemused tone, "So how did you get the honour?"

"Now that was my mother's doing," Leonard admitted with a shake of his head. "And before you ask, she doesn't have anything against me. I was just the best choice, because what ever else you might say about Sybok, he is definitely male. And once she gets an idea in her head she can get a little too focused and miss all the reasons that idea is not good."

"I have to admit that little fact took me a while to work out," Pike conceded with a little embarrassment. "I was disconcerted by what appeared to be Mr. Kirk's attempts to pair you up with T'Pring. Then I realized that wasn't his plan at all, though he had no problem exploiting her interest."

"Jim's plans are not something I am always privy to, to be honest, whether they involve me in any way or not," Leonard explained with a little shrug. "And if he thought there was any real affection as opposed to curiosity, he wouldn't be exploiting anything."

"And yesterday he obtained his goal, which is why you are hiding from him," Pike smirked as Leonard cheeks flushed. "I know a few people who aren't going to be very happy to hear about that development."

Leonard sighed. "It was one lousy kiss. Okay maybe two. Nothing for anyone to get worked up over. And who other than T'Pau, and therefore Sybok, cares? And don't say T'Pring."

"Actually T'Pring was a little put out, but you're right, she probably won't be overly concerned in the long run," Pike retorted. "I was thinking a couple of other people, people I do believe you met. And after they so nicely helped him out with Nyota's little issue, in getting her away from the situation. They were trying to earn some goodwill in aid of their own agenda for Spock. One of their families needs infusion of funds to rebuild the stores and Spock's just the Vulcan to provide it."

Leonard held his hand up and gave a little wave to stop Pike. He hadn't heard much of anything the older man said after he had mentioned Nyota. "What issue with her?" he demanded.

"Some inappropriate connection Nyota was making," Pike replied dismissively. "Wasn't really listening to tell the truth. I was more interested in what Sulu was saying. Very rare to hear of Spock's attention being so fixated. Then we do our annual visit to Rosings, and it turns out that very person is here. It was fun watching Spock come up with a 'logical' reason to push a planned dinner invitation to an earlier date. It would seem he couldn't wait to see you."

Leonard however would not be deterred from his quest and had no interest in either what Sulu had to say about him or who was going to be upset by recent interactions between him and Spock. Though if pushed ob the subject, he'd guess Janice and Kevin as everyone else was accounted for among known mutual acquaintances. Leonard did not register the confirmation of Sybok's assertion, that it was Spock's doing that the meal had been moved. His eyes narrowed as he felt his anger bubbling. He couldn't see how this 'issue' related to anyone other than Scotty unless it happened before Netherfield.

Leonard had to ask, he had to know more. "So you don't know who the other party was?"

Pike gave a little shake of the head. "Don't recall hearing. You'd probably be able to work it out though, as it is someone in the Meryton area. Hikaru did say it was a wonder that Spock noticed since he was rather distracted."

Leonard's heart sank at the answer the Admiral provided. Despite his suspicions he had really hoped that it hadn't anything to do with Scotty. Dammit, he had let his guard down, let the guy in and what happened? Same thing as when he had taken a gamble and agreed to the arranged marriage – betrayal. Only this time the act was a cold, calculated one, not the drunken actions of a woman who was trying and failing to live up to her family's expectations. And it hurt a hell of a lot more because he allowed himself to be lulled in to believing it was possible to have a future with Spock, something he had come to want. But how could that happen if a member of his own family was that unacceptable that Spock felt he needed to remove Nyota from Scotty's influence.

"Are you okay?" Pike asked as he took in the distracted, unhappy expression on his companion's face.

Giving himself a little shake, Leonard tried to mask his feelings as best he could. "I'm fine," he stated with a little shrug. "Just a little unnerving to think of someone I know being so unacceptable."

"Ah, it's just Spock being overprotective of Nyota," Pike offered in the way of comfort. "I'm sure the people of Meryton are of quite good standing."

As it was spring there were actual ducks at the duck pond. The water fowls were happily swimming or waddling and ignoring the man who was sitting on the little bench, as he wasn't providing any food. It was possible that he wasn't even aware there were ducks or a pond for that matter as he was very lost in thought. He was trying to work through what he considered conflicting information because as much as he'd hate to admit it Jim was right about Spock's interest. However, if the Vulcan was snooty enough to consider his brother an inappropriate match, he had to wonder what logic would make it all right to actually act on it as he had. So far everything he came up with was not helping his mood and tended to result the Vulcan having a very low opinion of Leonard. The Stupid Vulcan; first he managed to break Scotty's heart, which was unforgivable. Then he had the audacity to approach him for who knows what kind of relationship, though most likely one of an improper nature. Leonard absently rubbed his chest as though such thoughts had manifested themselves in to actual physical pain.

He didn't notice when someone else came up the winding path to the pond. Nor did he react when the same individual sat down on the bench next to him. This would explain why Leonard gave a jump when a few minutes later someone spoke to him.

"I was asked to let you know that if you were to return to the parsonage, Mr. Kirk promises to be on his best behaviour," Spock informed Leonard in a quiet voice. "He did not say what it is he thinks he did to have you leave."

"Huh?" Leonard, who continued to stare at the pond, looked completely bewildered by the comment. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"I understand that you left for a walk early this morning and it is now 3:17, so you've been gone for hours. I cannot provide a precise number as they were unsure of the exact time you left," Spock revealed. He too was looking straight ahead instead of the person next to him. "Your friends are concerned, given the length of time you've been gone."

Leonard blinked as he absorbed what he was hearing. He really hadn't noticed the passage of time. Was it really that late?

"I should be going then," Leonard said distractedly. As he started to stand up Spock reached out and grabbed him by the arm to keep him seated on the bench.

"You are evidently upset," Spock observed with concern. "Perhaps it would be best if you spoke to someone regarding what it is that is bothering you."

"You're bothering me," Leonard snapped. "You are being nice and accepting here like you didn't see us as beneath your consideration, something that seemed to emanate from almost all of you at Netherfield. And don't even get me started on what ever the hell it was you were up to yesterday. Some warped way of discouraging T'Pring's interest, maybe? Because it turns out you actually do think we are not up to par. After all, you did go through a lot of effort to separate Nyota from an inappropriate match. And the only 'match' that might have happened would have been with my brother."

"I assure you any actions I have taken were done based upon my own interests and in no way related to T'Pring," Spock stated emphatically. "If she wishes to find a companion she shall have to pursue it elsewhere as you belong to me."

Unluckily for Spock, Leonard's thoughts on exactly what his intentions were had taken a turn toward the more unseemly side of society and therefore his profession of 'ownership' was taken in a much different way than intended.

"Look here Mr. Spock," Leonard growled as he poked the man in the chest with his free hand. "I don't know what indecent liaisons you've been concocting but there's no way I'd disrespect my family that way. Unlike some people, I believe my family to hold a great deal of regard in society."

Spock stared at the man sitting next to him, trying to assess the best approach to correcting the situation when Leonard was being irrational in his anger. Perhaps if the situation regarding Nyota and Scotty was set straight, it would assist in clarifying Spock's own hopes.

"While it is correct that I elected to intervene on Nyota's--" was all that Spock got out before Leonard cut him off.

"You do get that Scotty and I are brothers," Leonard demanded. "So either you have much lower standards or... You know what? It doesn't matter, because whatever it is will fail because if you think I'd tie myself in that way to someone who shows such little respect to a member of my family, then you are really barking up the wrong tree."

Spock started to say something and then hesitated. Leonard decided it was probably something about him not barking at any trees. After a few moments pause Spock finally commented on some of the words that had been fired at him.

"I did separate Nyota from your brother in order to discourage the match," Spock explained in a calm even voice. "My observations suggested that though Nyota had developed a deep fondness for Mr. Scott, the same could not be said about him. Though polite and genuinely interested as a friend, there appeared nothing beyond that."

"Excuse me?" Leonard sputtered, glaring at the Vulcan in disbelief. "You are joking right? You are making the call on how my brother feels. You? Well, you're wrong, oh so wrong. It's not disinterest, it's shyness. Ever heard of it? Or do you think everyone is, I don't know, like Jim, all suave and confident because they really aren't. You'd think as a Vulcan, the idea of being reserved would be one you heard of."

"It did occur to me," Spock replied stiffly. "I consulted others on their impressions as well."

"Yeah, because they are a reliable group," Leonard scoffed. He was feeling uncharitable to everyone on the Netherfield side of the equation. "They are likely to say whatever it is that you want them to say. And now you're getting mine on the matter, and I assure you that you got it completely wrong. And Nyota couldn't do better than Scotty, not if you're worried about actual emotions. The man is loyal, loving, and caring, if a little prone to go on about anything engineering. Not that I expect my opinion would count for much to you."

Leonard wrenched the arm that Spock had been holding from his grasp and stood up. He snapped, "And I really should be going. According to you I have people worried about me."

Spock stood as well. He stared intently at Leonard before stating, "Your opinion does hold a great weight, though in the case of your brother and Nyota, I was not in the position to ask."

Leonard hated to admit that the Vulcan had a valid point, it took some of the wind out of him. "It doesn't matter does it? The damage is done on all fronts, isn't it?"

As he turned to leave, Spock once again grabbed him by the arm. "Not everything needs to stay damaged," he said quietly.

Chapter Text

That there was no one waiting outside Longbourn when the transport arrived was not a surprise, as they had arrived well ahead of schedule. In fact Leonard had compiled a list of what to ask before ever boarding a transport again. Future endeavours would require an actual interview to ensure that the person would not, under any circumstances, allow one James Kirk at the controls. A requirement he intended to enforce whether or not Jim was actually travelling with him. Anyone who was willing to allow such a maniac to do so was clearly demented as well and therefore could not be trusted. It was the first time he had ever travelled alone with Jim over that long of a time and last, even if he had to drag Sybok or someone equally annoying along. And sadly as frightening as Jim in control had been, it still wasn't the worst part of the trip. No, the worst part was still ongoing. He should have known it was going to come up at some point, that Jim's silence on the topic wouldn't last, but for some reason it hadn't occurred to him that it would be on the trip home.

Walking in to the manor, Jim was still stating his position regarding the whole mess. "It's not like you didn't have anyone to talk over the minimal amount of information Admiral Pike shared before allowing yourself to jump to all sorts stupid conclusions. We were visiting Christine after all. I know you wouldn't have spoken to me about it as you probably thought I had a hidden agenda."

"You did have an agenda but sure the hell wasn't hidden," Leonard scoffed, trying to decide where the hell his family was hiding. "And my conclusions weren't stupid. Might not have actually been correct in the end, but they were possible."

"You are completely pessimistic when it comes to anything that involves you in any way, and come up with the most negative ideas when left to your own devices," Jim retorted as he followed his friend down the hall. He was staying at Longbourn as his parents had decided to stay longer with Christine, and though he hated admit it, he was very uncomfortable in a large house by himself. "It wouldn't possibility occur to you that maybe a person who hasn't known Scotty pretty much forever might mistake his shyness for disinterest. Because that would make too much sense and could be straightened out with a simple conversation. Nope, you go down some crazy path and have a melt down."

"Does it even matter?" Leonard growled as he grabbed the knob of the sitting room his mother favoured. As he opened the door he snapped, "It's over and done and can't be..."

Jim never actually got to find out what 'couldn't be' as Leonard stopped speaking and walking mid-sentence. He did however stroll right in to the other man's back at the unexpected move. Peeking around his friend's shoulder to see what caused Leonard's the abrupt end to his rant. A bright smile spread across his face at the cause.

"Well hello there, Ms. Uhura," Jim stated, full charm turned on. "What a surprise. We weren't sure if we would be graced by your beauty again."

Nyota stood up and offered her hand in greeting to Jim while nodding a hello to Leonard, who was still at the door; hand on the knob, looking very confused. She smirked as she addressed Jim's words, "I am guessing a pleasant surprise then?"

"Oh yes," Jim confirmed as he took her hand and offered a small kiss on the back, a move that snapped Leonard out of his bemused state long enough for him to roll his eyes. Turning toward the settee now behind him, Jim said, "It is good to see you too Mr. Sulu."

"Mr. Kirk," Sulu replied with a nod. He turned in his seat so he was facing Leonard, who appeared in no rush to let go of the doorknob. "What did you think of Rosings?"

The question, directed more to Leonard than Jim, surprised most of the others in the room as no one had mentioned where the men had been just, that they were away. Jim chuckled under his breath as it was easy for him to figure out how Sulu knew where they had been.

"Big," Leonard muttered distractedly. His family was perplexed by his mostly silent stance at the door. They weren't used to him being so still. Leonard's body may have motionless but his mind was racing as he wondered if this was what Spock meant by that departing remark. Leonard was happy to see Nyota back and not just on Scotty's behalf. However he had to he had to admit he was a little disappointed about who wasn't there and what that could mean for his own future.

"The lands were extensive," Jim stated, deciding to expand on Leonard's very brief answer. "So large in fact, we thought someone got lost at one point since he left at the break of dawn and was gone most of the day."

There may have been some left over resentment regarding a rather worrying day showing in Jim's reply. That wasn't what finally got Leonard back in the here and now. It was simply a reminder of the conversation that appeared to have an unexpected impact. A part of him wanted to taunt his friend; point out that maybe his approach to 'discussing' the issue was an effective one as it got results. A filter between his brain and mouth, one that worked when he wasn't in a sour mood, kept him from doing so. Well that and he didn't expect this result, something Jim would quickly point out. Instead he opted out of any further conversation at all.

"Wasn't lost," Leonard retorted. "Good to see you all but I really just meant to pop in and let everyone know I was home. It's good to see you back in Meryton. I hope you are staying for a while, but it's been a long trip and I need to go recover not socialize."

Taking in the tired look of her middle son, Amanda smiled and stated, "I think a rest would be a good idea. But I want to hear about getting lost later."

"I must say, I'd like to hear that myself," smirked Scotty. "And our guests are here in Meryton for a while, so I'm sure they'll love to hear about your little adventure as well."

As he left the room Leonard growled, "I wasn't lost. There is no adventure to share."

Jim moved to follow him out. "I should go too. A little freshening up sounds good. And Scotty, I'll fill in all the blanks."

Once outside the room, Jim slapped Leonard on the back. "You're going to have to keep Spock you know. He listens to you when you're being all bug eyed and ranty."

The only acknowledgement Leonard gave was in the form of an irritated glare and then without a word he headed to his room.

Life in Meryton fell into an interesting routine upon Leonard's return, one that had expanded to include the presence of those residing at Netherfield at a frequency that went well beyond the social norms. That the visits revolved around Nyota and Scotty came as no surprise, the two were clearly headed toward the much desired union that had been expected the first time around. What was unexpected was her companion, as she didn't push the rules of society completely aside. Where as before she would have been with Spock, who had not returned to Netherfield as part of her entourage or her friends Kevin or Janice, this time it was always Mr. Sulu. Though Kevin would sometimes come as well, Janice remained unseen until it was finally learnt that she was hesitant to visit Longbourn, as she was embarrassed by he own unfriendly behaviour during her earlier stay. She was by nature actually a pleasant individual who had allowed her own hopes for a family member get in the way of being herself. An effort was then put forward by the residents of Longbourn to include the young lady as well, as most were not inclined to hold grudges and those who might couldn't not be bothered expending the energy to do so.

It wasn't all that long a period before an understanding was reached between the two young lovers, though the engagement itself was yet to receive an official announcement. It was only after this development that Spock returned to Netherfield. It was as though he was deliberately staying away so as not to be seen as interfering with the couple. He did give every indication of approving of the match, making it likely true that his original objection had little to do with Scotty's social standing. Upon his return Spock did take up the habit of accompanying Nyota on her visits instead of Mr. Sulu, though at that point it could be argued she was no longer in need an escort, as she was visiting her future family. Spock however, was making a concerted effort to establish a good rapport with everyone at Longbourn, so no one was actually complaining.

Okay, Leonard might have been grumbling a little on the inside and being grumpy on the outside as Spock didn't appear to be paying any one member of his family particular attention, and dammit he really wanted it to be otherwise. Jim had developed a habit of muttering about "foundation building," which Leonard wouldn't have minded believing, but he honestly did not see anything other than a detached friendliness from the Vulcan. If pushed Leonard would admit to being oblivious at times, but that was generally due to the fact the he didn't expect such interest and therefore wasn't paying enough attention to see the indicators. That was not the case here; there simply wasn't the interest he had experienced at Rosings Park.

Oddly enough it was the residents of Rosings Park that introduced the hope that Leonard was wrong, that maybe e he simply wasn't looking deep enough. He had gotten quite good at reading Spock, but that didn't mean he couldn't miss what the Vulcan was willing to conceal. It was food for thought after the unexpected arrival of T'Pau with T'Pring in tow.

Leonard found himself being dragged downstairs by Pavel to come face to face with a confrontational T'Pau arguing with his mother in their entrance. She was refusing to sit comfortably in a parlour while insisting that she needed to speak to Leonard and only him. As he greeted the agitated Vulcan, his mother shot him a look that seemed to say that though she had no idea what he had done, he was to fix it immediately. Easier said than done since he had no idea what offence he may have committed to warrant a visit.

Eyeing Leonard's brother and mother suspiciously, T'Pau ordered in a tone that brooked no argument, "We will take our discussion outside."

Trailing behind the demanding woman, Leonard could hear the whispered speculations of his family. Once outside he could see the transport she arrived in and that T'Pring was sitting inside waiting for her mother. It was the standard fare for the daughter who was rarely allowed out when her mother was conducting business.

Bracing himself for a scolding he was sure he deserved he asked, "And to what do I owe such a great honour as an unannounced visit from the lady of Rosings?"

"It is good that you are showing proper decorum," T'Pau uttered as she strolled over to a small garden along side the manor. She did not wish to stay too close to the house while discussing private matters. "I will resolve to read it as a sign that you are going to be more congruous to my instructions than my impudent nephew."

So it has something to do with Spock, Leonard thought as he screwed his nose in consideration of her words. As they had come to a stop in the little garden, he tilted his head to take in the small but intimidating woman. Not that he would allow her to bully him, but she was kind of scary.

"I'm afraid I'll have to refrain from being congruous to anything 'til I know what it is," Leonard explained while wondered what it was about the Rosings Park area that had the Vulcans from there thinking he would be agreeable in the first place. He was sure anyone in Meryton would be more than happy to contradict that misguided impression.

"I have been giving the understanding that your elder brother has recently become engaged to Ms. Uhura," T'Pau informed him haughtily. "A successful match for him." The 'not so much for her' was left implied.

Not about Spock then, Leonard thought confusedly. "I'm not sure what concern that would be of yours ma'am," he commented as he tried to figure out what the hell the woman was getting at.
T'Pau gave a terse nod of her head in agreement before adding, "If she wishes to enter such an unfavourable arrangement, it is no concern of mine. I will however be derelict in my duties to my family if I allowed my nephew to do the same."

Leonard pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. They were once again back to Spock and still wasn't sure why T'Pau needed to speak to him in particular. Far as he knew, her nephew hadn't become entangled with anyone, and what did she expect him to do if the guy was? His question was answered surprisingly quickly, almost like he has asked it out loud.

"I expect you to be a sensible sort and terminate any appropriate agreement you have entered in to with him," T'Pau instructed in a firm voice.

Leonard gaped at the Vulcan like she had grown a second head. Pulling himself together he growled, "Look, I have no idea what you are talking about, and I'd know if I had entered any arrangement."

"Then I demand assurances that you would reject any offer he might make in the future," T'Pau advised him.

"Are you out of your Vulcan mind? Why would I do that?" Leonard snapped. With his eyebrow raised in disbelief, he started listing the reasons why he would do no such thing. "As you already pointed out, this would be a very advantageous match for me. I've actually grown fond of the guy, despite my best efforts, and I really don't like virtual strangers with no connection to me telling me what I can or cannot do."

Leonard glanced over at the transport, giving a quick bob of the head and small wave to say hello to T'Pring before turning to head back to the manor.

"Where do you think you're going?" T'Pau demanded with what sounded like a temperamental stomp of the foot. Leonard couldn't say for sure as his back had been turned to her at the time. Looking at her now, he had to wonder if she had ever had anyone outside her family stand up to her before.

"I was heading back to the reading you so rudely interrupted earlier," Leonard sneered. With a little wave of his hand between the two of them, he added, "This conversation is over."

The next day had every resident of Netherfield called at Longbourn. It was not a planned visit, Nyota was not even scheduled to stop by, but it wasn't unexpected. Not after the 'guests' from the day before. It was expected that anyone who had heard would probably stop by out of curiosity. The problem was that it turned out that Nyota and her guests knew no more about why T'Pau had travelled all the way to Meryton. In fact they had come in part, to find out more themselves, and to see if everyone was unscathed. T'Pau was a force to be reckoned with when in a good mood. So given how cross she had been when she arrived at Netherfield the night before, they were concerned.

Longbourn was not able to satisfy their curiosity as the only person who actually knew was being stubbornly silent on the matter. The glare he shot at anyone who had been brave enough to ask kept questioning to a minimum. Even Jim, who had stopped by the night before had no luck finding out what T'Pau had wanted. There was no point pushing for answers after that. It was best to let him stew until he was ready to talk, if he ever did. They were still waiting on a few incidents over the years.

"So she did not say anything to you?" Amanda asked to confirm after Nyota had shared the details on T'Pau and T'Pring's unexpected arrival.

"Only that your son," Janice paused to gesture toward Leonard, who was scrunched down in a chair ignoring the conversation, before continuing in a decidedly impressed tone, "Was very insolent. She is not used to people ignoring her, and I'm guessing he chose to do just that."

Leonard snorted at that shared observation. Muttering to himself, he stated, "If anyone was insolent it was her."

Amanda turned to take in her son. He was still in the poor mood T'Pau's visit had initiated, but maybe now he might be more willing to talk about what had happened. "And how, pray tell, was she the one being insolent?"

"She's not the boss of me, dammit it!" Leonard retorted. His arms folded defiantly over his chest. It wasn't a direct answer to his mother's question, but it did give insight to how the conversation probably went down.

"Oh dear," Scotty muttered, guessing someone tried to order Leonard around, rarely a successful endeavour. It usually just put the man into a bad mood, the kind that lasted a long time.

Pavel turned to their guests and explained, "It is never a good idea to order him, asking nicely works much better in that it will sometimes work. Not often, but sometimes. Ordering, never."

"I do not kowtow to anyone," Leonard snapped. "And I sure the hell won't listen to orders when it's something I wouldn't agree to even if it were worded as a request."

All eyes turned back to the man whom T'Pau had spoken to. Spock's eyebrow inched up his forehead as he considered the implications of his aunt having attempted to order the man around. A quick exchange of glances between him and Nyota likely had the two agreeing on the likelihood of what T'Pau had shown up and demanded of their friend, and it wasn't something they wished to bring up in front of his entire family.

Standing up, Nyota reflected, "When I'm in a sour mood, I always find a walk very helpful."

Leonard raised a sceptical eyebrow at her suggestion. One that Nyota showed she had interpreted correctly when she retorted, "Yes, I do experience sour moods from time to time."

Scotty stood up and began to encourage his brother to follow the advice. "Go on now, listen to the lass. It might help, and the worse case you got in a little exercise."

Leonard sighed but decided to give in as Scotty was likely to keep it up until he caved anyway, since he was acting in support of his lovely fiancé. The man had become such a sap since the engagement. While they had all set out from Longbourn together it didn't take long for them to break into three separate groups. The first and largest group consisted of Pavel, Sulu and the Rileys. Given that Pavel was the one setting the pace, it was likely they were in Meryton already. The other two groups could be broken down into two couples. Scotty and Nyota were chatting as they walked while Spock and Leonard followed silently several steps behind them. Far enough apart that they didn't appear to be walking together but close enough that they could easily adjust that if deemed necessary.

The strolled quietly for a while, Spock with his hands folded and tucked in behind his back while Leonard's swung a little more freely at his sides. The both were generally staring straight ahead, though Spock had been taking occasional glances at his companion, as if trying to decide the best approach to start a conversation. He was trying to find one where it wouldn't blow up in his face as they were apt to do.

"I should apologize on behalf of my aunt," Spock finally decided to start with.

Leonard snapped his head over to look at the Vulcan as he continued to walk. "And why is that?" He asked. "She was pretty clear about the fact she wasn't speaking on your behalf."

"If I have assessed the situation correctly," Spock replied carefully. "Then she was speaking to you despite my instructions. I had directed her to stay out of my personal concerns. That and there was no chance of my marrying T'Pring."

Leonard had to chuckle at that. He stopped and turned to look at his companion. With his head bent slightly, it amounted more to gazing at Spock's boots than at the Vulcan, but still an improvement over his earlier insistence of looking anywhere but at him.

"She called you impudent and me insolent," Leonard observed. "I wonder how we could interpret these findings."

"I believe my aunt may have found that for two very different individuals, we have too much in common," Spock mused.

That got a chuckle out of Leonard, who finally looked directly at the Vulcan, his eyes dancing with humour. "She thought we had an inappropriate arrangement. Why did she think that?"

Spock looked indignant as that information was revealed, and his tone reflected his appearance. "I wouldn't ask anyone to participate in an illicit romance."

Leonard stepped a little closer as he spoke, "I believe she considered even an engagement unseemly if it was between the two of us. She did not approve of Nyota's decision."

"Then the misunderstanding was my doing," Spock explained, his eyes locked on the other man. "It was my intention to ask before determining it was not the best moment."

"You mean with tearing you a new one over Scotty," Leonard smirked, now standing so close that that they could share a breath. This was a position they had been in before. "So tell me, when do you think would be a good moment?"

Though he had hoped to clear up what ever problems his aunt had introduced, Spock had not expected the conversation to go in this direction. It still didn't explain what popped out of his mouth after he swallowed nervously. "Your eyes are very green."

"Goes with the mood," Leonard chuckled. He bit down on his lower lip to keep from laughing out loud and breaking the moment. The action drew Spock's eyes away from his down to his mouth instead. "I've heard you've admired that trait about them."

"Yes," Spock replied distractedly, giving a little nod. As he moved forward to capture the mouth he was staring keenly at when Leonard pulled back a little and waved his finger under Spock's nose.

"Sorry, this place is much too public to engage in such an activity when we are not formally attached," Leonard scolded in a teasing tone. "We may have set a bad precedence at Rosings, but there is no need to carry it forward."

Spock's eyebrow twitched in amusement. "Well then we shall simply have to agree to marry and get that nuisance rule of society out of the way."

"I can live with that," Leonard agreed with a nod as he placed his arms around the Vulcan's neck. "But darling I have to say--"

Spock did not get to hear what his now fiancé was going to add, as placed his hands on the other man's hips and finally got that kiss. A consuming one that marked momentous occasion. And though it was argued on retelling that there never was an actual proposal, Leonard would still close the story with the fact it was better handled than Sybok's.