A/N: Just in time for Christmas, I have finally reached the end of this mega-monster! To everyone who stuck with it, favorite, etc., thanks so very much! I hope it satisfies at least some of you. Don't worry, this isn't the complete end of the trail, but the rest of what I have in my head is focused mainly on Sarek and Scarlett, and I think merits its own story, though Bones and Spock will be in there too (along with the babies, of course).
Also, there is no possible way I could make a continuous story about the growing up of these two mini-people, but if there are specific life events, milestones, etc. that people want to see Bones and Spock have to deal with, I will consider all requests and possibly do some one-shots or limited-chapter-shots.
As always, thanks so much to my lovely Beta, Fantasy Sci5 for reading over this and catching the stuff I miss. It's been quite a ride.
P.S. I will need a new Beta for the continuation with Sarek & Scarlett, anyone interested send me a PM and we'll talk.
Leonard double checked the roster of students. They were transporting three hundred thirty two additional souls to Earth on this flying tin can, and he and his staff were responsible for them. For three weeks they'd had to make sure that not only the crew remained alive and whole, but three hundred thirty two ankle biters with the maturity level of Jim Kirk. That was fifty extra checkups a day on top of the routine of Sickbay. He had Vianne on board to help out, but Stonn had been assigned to the Yorktown, as they were down a doctor. That was probably for the best.
He stifled a yawn that threatened to crack his jaw. As if he didn't have enough on his plate with all the kids, he was getting very little rest. Moving into the renovated family quarters brought with it the return of his nightmares. Thankfully, they weren't frequent, or long lasting, as they were immediately after the attack, but he'd woken up fighting at least three times a week. Spock at least had the good sense to be out of the room when it happened, but he could feel the Vulcan's agitation that he wouldn't let him help. Joanna, thankfully, was oblivious to Leonard's sleeping problems, as she and her Betazoid friend camped out in the nursery. He wasn't so sure T'Xana was so lucky, as he didn't know how developed her telepathy was.
"Doctor, that's the last of the student checkups," Vianne interrupted his musings.
They were due to reach Earth in less than two days. Then at least these kids would be out of his hair. He was ready to be off this flying deathtrap. He was staring to look forward to being on firm ground, on a planet he knew well.
"Could I see the babies, if it's not too much trouble?"
The request was made timidly. Leonard had to guess that his reputation for biting off the heads (not quite literally) of those who got too close had spread to their guests. He still had no patience for idiots who wanted t o gawk, which included a good two-thirds of the crew.
"Come on. They're through that door."
He pointed her in the right direction before he stopped in his office to drop off the PADD. He was done for the day, and ready to get out of Sickbay as soon as he finished holding the twins. He was almost getting used to having that connection with them in his head.
T'Sel was waiting for them when he entered, hovering almost protectively over the incubator. Leonard choked back a laugh at the distrustful non-glare the Vulcan woman gave Vianne. For her part, the perky nurse simply smiled and stared through the incubator at the infants inside.
"They're beautiful, Dr. McCoy."
"You can call me Leonard, you know. And thank you."
With a nod to T'Sel he opened the incubator and lifted out David, passing him to Vianne carefully.
"This is David, and this is Amanda," he introduced them as he pulled Amanda into his arms, checking that her purple hat was on securely. She'd developed the tendency to push at it when she stretched, and her little balled up fists did a pretty good job of knocking it askew. It was entertaining to watch Vianne coo over David's pointy ears and slanted eyebrows. He picked up only brief concern at being held by a stranger before it was gone, and David settled down.
"When do you get to take them home?"
"They'll be released when we reach Earth."
That particular question had been a sore point between him and T'Sel for the past week. They were ready to be released any time, and the Vulcan woman had continually pushed for him to take them from Sickbay. He'd just as consistently refused to do so. Bringing them home (or what passed for it on this flying psych ward) would only disrupt what was already a hectic week. There were already four people staying in the quarters; adding two infants to the mix could pretty much guarantee that no one got any sleep.
And it wasn't the question of favoring his human daughter over his hybrid children, as T'Sel had not so subtly accused. It was a question of the welfare of almost nine hundred people that he was ultimately responsible for. The absolute last thing this ship needed when it carried an extra three hundred people was to be short a doctor. As soon as they reached Earth, he could take his leave and take care of the infants. That was his plan, and the blasted Vulcan woman wasn't going to change his mind. They could be much better cared for in Sickbay where he could check on them than with an already overloaded crew of baby-sitters.
"Good evening Leonard."
He looked towards the doorway, and then slightly down, to see Neale standing just inside, watching the twins.
"Neale. You want to hold one?"
He really should have offered before now; after all, the tiny doctor was the reason his children were still alive.
"Oh, no thank you, Leonard. Babies and I don't mix. You have a comm. in your office. It sounded urgent."
"Do you know who it is?"
He was off the blasted clock. If it was something medical, he was passing it off to M'Benga.
"I believe she said she's your ex-wife."
Oh hell. What could the woman want now? What could be so damn important that it couldn't wait the two days until they reached Earth?
"Here T'Sel," he handed Amanda over to the Vulcan, since Neale didn't want to take her. The baby didn't need to be in the room when he had another argument with the shrew. Amanda vocalized her disagreement with the change, and he quelled the urge to have Neale go tell Jocelyn to kiss his ass and stay with his daughter. It would only piss her off more, and make their argument even worse. Plus, if he ignored her she'd just call back non-stop, or even try to go over his head to bitch about whatever bug crawled up her butt. No, better to get it over with now.
"I'll be right back, sweetie," he told the infant as he dropped a kiss on her forehead, "Daddy has to go yell at a bratty woman."
He activated the privacy barrier as he entered his office. No one needed to hear what was sure to be a very vocal confrontation. Taking a deep breath to steel himself for the call, he sank into his chair and turned on the comm. screen.
"How dare you?!"
Oh yeah, this was going to go so well.
"And what did I do this time?"
Funny how she was still managing to blame him for her problems when they'd been divorced for years.
"How could you not tell me that Joanna was sick? I had to hear three weeks later that she almost died!"
Okay, so this was a legitimate (sort of) complaint.
"We didn't know until after the fact that the school hadn't notified the parents. I was sure you knew, Jocelyn."
Good lord, did she really think that he would purposely not tell her about Joanna being so sick? He watched as she seemed to deflate before his very eyes on the screen.
"I know, Leonard. I just—three weeks! Anything could have happened to my baby! And then Martin found out that the Enterprise had been there that whole time, and I thought you were just—how bad was it really, Leonard? Tell me the truth. Please."
He almost asked who the hell this person was and what they'd done with the real Jocelyn. He couldn't remember the last time he heard the word "please" come from her lips. But she looked like she'd been through hell, and he could easily understand her fear for Joanna. Maybe he could take it easy on her this time. After all, she wasn't being a complete harpy at the moment.
"A teacher died, and almost all of the students were affected, but we didn't lose any of them. Joanna was pretty bad off, but she was actually one of the lighter cases and she she's perfectly fine now, just a little underweight.
"Good. I'm glad it was you there, Leonard. They definitely sent the best doctor to help."
He blinked in surprise. Did she actually just pay him a compliment? Maybe they could finally figure out how to do this whole "divorced" thing.
"So, we'll come out to San Francisco to meet the shuttle and pick Joanna up in two days."
"Actually, why don't we meet you in a week? I want to take her home to see her McCoy relatives for a few days."
"It's past time she got to see her cousins again."
He wouldn't take "No" for an answer. He knew it had been well over a year since the last time Joanna had been to visit Ellen, or any of his family. And as long as she was on Earth for the summer, there was no reason to let Jocelyn and Martin keep her away.
"Martin wants to take a trip, just the three of us, and I—"
"You can take one later. But I'm going home to visit while I have leave, and I'm taking Joanna with me Jocelyn."
"You're right," the woman sighed, "she hasn't gotten to see her cousins enough."
She actually sounded sorry about that, and Leonard had to wonder if maybe it wasn't as much her fault as he'd assumed. Maybe it was the prick she was married to, the one who wanted to adopt HIS daughter. If that turned out to be the case, he wanted five minutes alone with the guy, because he was so done with this trying-to-keep-Joanna-away thing. There was no way in hell he was going to let anyone, mother or stepfather, keep Joanna from seeing her new brother and sister as often as she possibly could. It would already be hard enough for her to see them when they went back into space.
"Jocelyn, I'm going to tell you something you won't believe, but as God is my witness, if you tell my mother before I get there to tell her myself, Martin will never find your body."
Leonard was nervous. Spock could feel his mate's anxiety acutely, even though the bond was blocked. It rolled off the human in waves as the shuttle landed at the Georgia shipyard. The half-Vulcan couldn't tell whether it was the anxiety Leonard always felt when flying, or anxiety over their current course, but it was clear that the elder McCoy was as nervous as the young one was excited. Spock carefully avoided the human's gaze, allowing Leonard time to collect himself while the other passengers began to depart, concentrating instead on releasing the infant carriers from their restraints.
They had received a number of curious stares the moment the shuttle from the Enterprise landed in San Francisco. Fortunately they were shuttled directly to the Academy rather than a public spaceport, or they would have been subject to even more scrutiny. No doubt they were a most unexpected sight, the famous Doctor McCoy and Commander Spock transporting two infants and a human girl on a shuttle. More than once Leonard had snapped at someone trying to get too close. Their reception at the embassy was a Vulcan version of the same.
"I do not believe we can wait any longer, Leonard."
The shuttle was now empty, except for their party, and he could see the captain waiting for them, hiding his impatience. Leonard looked startled to see that they were the only ones left.
"Oh. Uh-yeah, let's go."
Spock gathered all of the baggage as Leonard released Joanna, taking her hand before they each took a carrier. He allowed Leonard to lead the way outside, as he was unfamiliar with this port. It was not overly crowded, as it would be in just a few weeks when the Academy ended its spring semester and students returned home, so they were able to move about easily, even as encumbered as they were. Their stop at the cargo shuttle was mercifully brief, and after only a few minutes they were on their way from the restricted area of the port to the public transit areas. Civilians cleared the way to avoid being hit by the hover cart floating behind them (Spock had not anticipated needing so much just for the children when they packed, but Leonard's laughter had caused him to reconsider. The humans was already a parent, after all, and therefore far more experienced in these matters)
"Oh, thank God."
Spock could not see anything for which Leonard might thank his deity so fervently. People were making their way around them as they stood outside the entrance. The line of taxis did not seem cause for such enthusiasm, even if the vehicles would get them to their destination.
"Leonard! Hey, McCoy, over here!"
It was only when Leonard began leading them in that direction that Spock even noticed the human woman yelling at them. When they came to a stop in front of a ground truck and smaller ground car, which the female was leaning against, Spock noticed a certain similarity between the woman and his mate.
Joanna broke free of her father's grasp and launched herself at the woman. Ah. This was Leonard's sister. Curious. Form the little information that Leonard provided, namely that it was his sister's teenaged sons he blamed for Joanna's rather colorful vocabulary, Spock had expected the sister to be older than his mate. Instead, she appeared to be closer to his own age.
"Hey there, Jo-Bear!"
Leonard's sister squatted down to catch Joanna in a hug.
"And who's this?" she asked as she stood, taking in the Vulcan and the unmistakable infant carriers in the grip of the two men.
"Hannah, this is Spock. And I don't have the inclination to explain this more than once, so wait 'til we get to the house, but this is David, and Amanda. Our children."
She blinked repeatedly, and gave Leonard a look that suggested he had much explaining to do. It was to her credit, though, that she simply gave Spock a look that implied murder in his future if she didn't like the explanation before informing her brother that the gas tank was full.
"Corbett! Get your butt out of my truck, now!"
An adolescent human, who Spock conjectured was Hannah's son, climbed out of the large vehicle.
"Where do you get off letting him drive my truck?!"
"Like I was gonna let him drive my car!"
"Hey! I'm a really good driver, Uncle Leonard!"
"You're seventeen, kid! I don't care how good a driver you are; you're not driving my truck!"
"It's just sitting in the garage; someone has to drive it!"
"Kid, don't think I won't throw you over my knee!"
Joanna was watching the entire scene with avid interest, while Spock grew uneasy at the emotion volleying back and for the between the McCoy's. He was not the only one. His link with Amanda bloomed in his mind as she grew more disturbed.
"Leonard, you must calm yourself. You're worrying Amanda."
Leonard tamped down on the angry retort ready to spring to his lips, and made the effort to calm down. He yanked the keys from his nephew's hand and opened the tail gate so they could begin loading the back.
"See to the children, Leonard. I can do this."
He wished to be helpful, in addition to having the unpleasant introduction Leonard anticipated over with. Thus far his first meeting with the McCoy's was doing nothing to reassure that this time spent with Leonard's family wouldn't be as bad as the human feared.
"Corbett, get off your ass and help the man out," he heard Hannah order her offspring as he began the task of removing luggage from the hover cart. He was joined moments later by the young man that he believed humans would describe as lanky.
"So you're Vulcan, huh?"
"Half. My mother was human."
Spock said nothing, as he did not understand the use of the word. The boy seemed to need no encouragement to continue talking, and carried on a one-sided conversation until the loading was complete. He dispatched the human to return the hover cart, wondering how Leonard could be related to someone who spoke so much. He closed the gate to see that Leonard already had the children situated in the back seat, with Joanna looking fairly cramped in the middle.
"We ready to go?"
He blinked at the realization that Leonard was directing the question to him, and not Hannah.
"Everything has been loaded, Leonard."
"We'll see you at the house, Hannah."
'Oh, I wouldn't miss this for the world. You know she's gonna shit a brick, Len."
"Yeah, I kind of figured that out already."
The drive from the spaceport to the McCoy farm lasted precisely sixty-four minutes. It looked exactly as Spock saw in Leonard's memories. The wooden boards looked to have been freshly painted, and all of the shutters stood open to allow a stray breeze to flow through the windows. Spock had to wonder that they did not have central air conditioning. He would not have thought that there was a home in the warmer climates that did not have it.
"Mom must have cleaned again."
He was puzzled by the comment from Leonard, who nodded at the windows when he saw Spock's confusion.
"She's airing the house out. She either cleaned or repainted, and I'm guessing she cleaned."
Hearing movement in the back seat, Spock saw Joanna struggling to free herself from her confinement between the infants without waking them.
"Just climb out, Jo. I'm sure they'll wake up once we get them out."
Freed from having to be careful, Joanna clambered out of the truck, practically hitting the ground running. Spock watched as an older woman stepped out onto the porch and stooped to catch the girl in a hug. He could see where the son resembled the mother; Leonard looked a great deal like Ellen McCoy. His sister Hannah looked almost exactly like her. There was no mistaking these humans relation to each other.
As Spock unfastened his seat belt, he noticed that Leonard sat frozen. He seemed locked in a staring contest with the woman hugging his daughter. Spock found that he hoped his own children would receive such a welcome from Ellen McCoy in the future.
"I don't believe waiting will assist us in any way, Ashayam."
He ignored the human's soft curse as they exited the truck and removed the infant carriers. He looked up to see Ellen McCoy's eyes fixed on them as they removed the children from the truck and made their way up to the house. He noted absently that the young man, Corbett, dashed into the house ahead of everyone after receiving some instruction from his mother, but his focus was Ellen McCoy. Should this meeting go badly, they would need another plan.
"Shame on you Leonard for not telling me you were coming, or that you were bringing a friend!"
"You did not alert her to our coming, Leonard?"
"I sent you a message two days ago, Ma. Don't act like I gave you no warning."
"You told me that YOU were coming, Leonard, and that Joanna was coming for a few days. You said nothing about a friend, or babies."
Her stare was now firmly set on the children who had indeed woken up as Leonard predicted. She was openly curious about them. Was she seeing the resemblance between Leonard and Amanda, or the resemblance between Spock and David? The Vulcan had no indication of what was going through the woman's mind.
"Let's go in the house, Ma. Spock, maybe you should wait out here with the kids."
"Are you certain you wish to face her alone?"
"I think it's definitely better if you stay out here for now."
It was somewhat alarming to see Corbett return to the porch, his arms full of firearms. It would seem that Leonard's sister also feared their mother's reaction, and that Ellen McCoy had quite the arsenal. Perhaps it would be only prudent to remain outside with the children while Leonard and his mother spoke.
"Where the hell did Corbett take my rifle? That Vulcan bastard's a dead man!"
Spock could not hear Leonard's response as well as he heard Ellen's declaration, but he held David closer to his chest. Leonard had not been incorrect about his mother's reaction to the news. Spock had no doubt that she truly intended to take his life for his attack on her son.
"It's cool, dude. I cleared out all her guns, even the one she didn't think anybody knew about. Mom and Len'll keep her from doing anything."
The young man looked back to the front door, which vibrated with the volume of Ellen's shriek.
"I didn't think anyone could piss her off that badly. What'd you do?"
Spock explained the situation as briefly as possible. Discretion was valued, but this could not be kept secret from Leonard's family as it easily could from his, and the truth was better than a rumor. The boy's eyes widened.
He looked with even greater interest to the children Spock and Joanna held in their arms.
"I just thought maybe you Science geeks did some freaky genetic experiments on your ship."
"Unfortunately, it is not so simple."
They were interrupted by more yelling from the house.
"If you think I'm letting that bastard anywhere near this house you've lost your mind! I'm gonna kill that son of a bitch!"
"You're not gonna do a damn thing! You think I want to handle two part-Vulcan children on my own?!"
Ah. Now Leonard's volume matched his mother's. He must have truly lost his temper. He was beginning to disturb the children.
"You are frightening the children, Ashayam."
"Keep your voice down, Ma. You're scaring my kids."
Leonard glanced out the window to see Spock and Joanna still holding the babies. Did he even want to know what the Vulcan and Corbett were talking about? At least Hannah and his mother had the sense to lower their voices. It didn't hurt that they also seemed to feel guilty about scaring the twins.
"You can't expect me to sit by and do nothing about this, Leonard."
"That's exactly what I expect you to do, ma, because that's what I have to do. They can't throw the man in jail for what someone else caused. And I can't take care of two babies on my own."
"But Len, you don't want him."
"And he knows that. He hasn't tried anything, and he isn't going to try anything. But I don't have a choice but to try to live with this."
"This isn't right."
"And you won't hear me disagree with that. Now calm down and no trying to kill him or I'm taking those babies and leaving without you seeing them."
"You wouldn't dare!"
He meant it. No way was he having the hobgoblin's death on his conscience. Nor did he want to have to visit his mother in prison. And if Ellen McCoy didn't get her head around the fact that she couldn't seek retribution, they would just take the babies up to Canada and Spock's grandparents sooner than they'd planned.
"Oh shit," Corbett muttered quietly, and Spock looked over at him, concerned.
"It's gone quiet in there," the teen offered in explanation.
"And this is not a positive development?"
"Not so much."
The door opened and Ellen McCoy stalked out. Corbett took one look at her face and quickly took the baby from Spock and ushered Joanna into the house before the man could protest. Spock braced himself for her anger, vowing he would not react to her very justifiable rage. He would do his part to keep the peace while they were here.
"If you hurt him, or try to force him into ANYTHING he doesn't want, there won't be a corner of the universe where you can hide from me," she threatened without looking at him.
"It was never my intention to force anything on him, Mrs. McCoy."
"So he says. And I'm inclined to believe him when he said you were drugged without your knowledge, making you almost as big a victim in this fiasco. That's why I haven't killed you yet."
She turned and faced him, and the expression she wore made him believe that she very likely could carry out her threat.
"But I'm not talking about then. I'm talking about now. Your Vulcan culture might say you're married, but Leonard doesn't like men. And unless or until he changes his mind about that, I don't give a rat's ass about your race's cultural practices. You try to force him, coerce him, whatever into ANYTHING he doesn't choose to do voluntarily, and those babies of his will be down one parent. Are we clear?"
"Good. Enjoy your first visit to Georgia, Mr. Spock. Dinner will be ready in an hour."
She left him standing on the porch as she made her way to the barn.
"And every single one of my guns had better be right where you found it when I get back Corbett!" She yelled, hurting Spock's sensitive hearing. When no more threats or commands seemed to be forthcoming, and Ellen disappeared into the barn, Spock decided it was time to seek out his mate and children.
The week flew by once everyone calmed down. Leonard was relieved that after her initial outburst, his mother actually treated the Vulcan almost civilly. And she and Hannah positively doted on Amanda and David. They would have twice as much stuff to take back to the ship as they brought.
"Jo Jo, is your stuff packed?"
"It's ready, daddy."
Jocelyn was ready to pick her up any minute, and then they had to get back to the shipyard themselves for the flight up to Canada. If they could pry the babies away from his mother and sister, that was.
'She's here Len," Hannah called from the living room. Sighing, Leonard grabbed Joanna's suitcase and carried it downstairs. Joanna trailed sullenly behind him. He knew she didn't want to go back to her mother, but until his five year term was up he couldn't think about having her with him.
Nobody said anything as Jocelyn dashed up the stairs and pulled Joanna into a tight hug.
"Oh baby, I'm so glad you're alright! I was so worried when I heard the news!"
Leonard found his ex-wife staring at him, which was only interrupted by the sound of Martin stepping out of the car. That man was stopped at the porch steps by the angry glares on the faces of everyone waiting for him at the top. He cleared his throat uncomfortably.
"Why don't you give me the suitcase, and I'll put it in the trunk."
It was Corbett who picked up the suitcase and threw it at the man down the stairs.
"Let's get out of here, Joss. It's a long drive to Orlando."
"A word before you leave, Martin."
"Len, that may not be such a good idea," Jocelyn protested, but he ignored her and escorted the man back to the car. Everyone strained to hear what they were saying, but they were speaking too softly to be heard from the porch.
"Dude, can you hear what they're saying?"
Corbett had sidled up beside Spock, and was watching the two men. The Vulcan could indeed hear what was being said, in addition to feeling Leonard's emotions, but was unsure whether he should share the information. He was reasonably sure Leonard wished to keep this private. His mate would not want Jocelyn to hear his threats to her husband, should he continue his attempt to separate Joanna from her family. Strangely enough, he found that he shared the sentiment.
Leonard returned only a few minutes later to say goodbye to Joanna, who clung to her father's neck.
"I will see you again the first chance I get, baby girl, I promise. And I'll comm. you as soon as you get back from your trip so you can see the babies again."
It was the best he could promise her. Well, that and the promise that Martin would not try his bullshit anymore. He reluctantly pried her hands loose and handed her over to her mother. Everyone waved goodbye as the car drove away, and then it was time to get the truck loaded and head back to the shipyard.
Less than four hours later Leonard found himself getting off yet another shuttle, in another country. He had to let Spock lead the way this time; he had no clue where he was. They were met at the cargo shuttle by an elderly couple that could only be Spock's grandparents.
The woman pulled the Vulcan into an embrace, which surprised Leonard. Even more surprising was that the Vulcan returned it.
"And you must be Leonard," she reached for him as soon as she let Spock go, "It's so nice to finally meet you in person. And to finally see the little ones and not just holo pics!"
"Brian Grayson, and this is my wife, Marianne," Spock's grandfather finally offered an introduction along with a handshake.
"Leonard McCoy," he offered as he accepted the hand, "but I guess you already knew that."
"Sarek's been keeping us updated. I hope you don't mind. But none of the rest of the family knows the particulars, only that you two are married and have children."
"Now don't you boys worry about a thing," Marianne interrupted as she scooped up both baby carriers and gave directions on loading the hover cart, "We'll be back at the house in no time at all , and you can spent tonight settling in. None of the cousins are coming until tomorrow."
It felt like a week had passed by the time Leonard finally got David settled into the crib for the night. Amanda was already asleep, and he thought he might pass out himself. He was dreading tomorrow. He would go crazy if he really was inundated with all of Spock's extended family. He eyed the king sized bed distrustfully as he quickly changed into his sleep pants and shirt. He wanted to be asleep before Spock came up for the night, and quickly slipped under the blankets, telling himself the bed was plenty big enough that the Vulcan wouldn't have to touch him.
The crowd of people was really starting to grate on Leonard's already fraying nerves. Two weeks of having nothing to keep him busy had left him with a lot of free time; time that by default he had to spend with Spock. It was bad enough that he couldn't bury himself in his Sickbay, but here he was surrounded by all of Spock's relatives, who were doing their best to suck him into their illusion of a normal, happy couple. He didn't want the details of that week broadcast any more than Spock did, but if one more well-meaning cousin congratulated him on his beautiful children with his extraordinary husband, he was going insane and taking everyone down with him in a blaze of fiery retribution. Yeah, he really needed to get out of this crowd.
"Len, why don't you come with me? We need to get more drinks from the cellar."
He hadn't even noticed Marianne come up behind him. He scanned the group for his children.
"The twins are fine. Amber and Kari spirited them away a few minutes ago. No doubt they're being passed around their cousins under careful adult supervision."
Sure enough, he spotted a gaggle of teenage girls cooing over David and Amanda, along with a number of their parents. He had to concede that Marianne was right, and followed her back into the house.
"You're not used to large crowds, are you?" She asked him as he led the way to the drink cellar.
"Oh, I'm used to them. I grew up with a large extended family myself, and I'm on a ship with hundreds of people. I've just never liked them."
"You know, when Sarek told us that you decided to name your daughter Amanda, I nearly broke down in tears. She would have loved to be a grandmother, even under the circumstances. And I'm certain she would have liked you."
"I would have liked to have been able to meet her. Spock always speaks very highly of her."
"Spock's a good man, Len. Both his parents saw to that."
Leonard nearly dropped the bottles Marianne had placed in his arms as he realized why she'd asked him to help her.
"What do you want from me, Marianne?"
Was she going to be the next one to tell him that continued resistance was futile? He'd heard enough variations on that theme to last him a lifetime from the Vulcan Embassy.
"I just want to give you a piece of advice, from someone who had similar choices to make."
"What do you mean?"
She stopped collecting bottles and looked at him.
"Spock doesn't even know what I'm about to tell you Leonard, but I want you to hear me out. I got pregnant with my Amanda during high school. Brian and I had been dating for maybe two months when we got drunk at a party. Six weeks later, I realize that I was pregnant. I wanted to get rid of it, but I was still a minor, and my parents wouldn't give permission for the procedure. They were staunch Catholics, you see, and abortion was an even bigger sin than sex outside of marriage.
The next thing I knew, I was married to Brian, because my parents threatened to disown me if I didn't, and I quote, "make things right" and there was no way I could do this on my own. I was so furious at everything I was losing: my chance to go to college; to get out of Canada; to have any type of future that I actually wanted; to have the husband I wanted, because I certainly hadn't given serious thought to a life with Brian Grayson, and it took years for me to realize that my choices had put me in that position.
Now, I know that nothing of the attack was your doing Leonard. Don't for one second think that that's what I'm saying. But when you go back to the Enterprise you'll have to face the same choice I did: what to do with the hand we're dealt. I made the wrong choice, and spent a long time making myself and everyone else suffer for it. I would hate to have to see you do the same"
She grabbed a few more bottles from the shelf before heading for the stairs.
"You can't do anything about what happened, Leonard. But you CAN choose what you'll make of your future."
She left him to follow at his own pace, and he made his way up the stairs slowly, deep in thought over what she'd said. He realized that it was the first time someone giving advice actually had any idea what he was thinking and feeling. The two situations weren't exactly the same, of course; but they were close enough that she could empathize with his position. Marianne Grayson might well be the first person in months, aside from Scarlett, to offer something other than platitudes: a choice. He couldn't do anything about the events that resulted in his current situation, but he could choose how to handle it going forward. That was entirely up to him: Not Spock, not Starfleet, and not the Vulcan High Council. Just him.
"Damn it!" he muttered to himself as the stepped out onto the porch to rejoin the party, "I'm going to have to comm. Scarlett and admit she was right. She'll never let me live that down!"