- "The music at a wedding procession always reminds me of the music of soldiers going into battle." -
"So… that was Carol Marcus," Chris said thoughtfully when all their guests had left the house that evening. Leonard and he had moved to the comfortable couch in the living room. From upstairs came the hushed sounds of running water and of Joanna singing in the shower.
Leonard took a sip of Bourbon before putting down his glass on the low wooden table and leaning back. Chris felt his warm body, heavy, familiar, and comforting. "You had met her before, hadn't you?" he asked.
Leonard nodded. "When Jim was still dating her. Twice, I think. I never really warmed up to her, though. She's… bossy. Reminds me too much of Jocelyn, I suppose."
Chris chuckled. "You know, I'm starting to see a pattern here. Both you and Jim went from a difficult wife or girlfriend to a man after a nasty separation. Interesting, isn't it?"
"Maybe so, but Jim went from a bossy girlfriend to a bossy boyfriend – bondmate, whatever -, while I learned my lesson and went with the easier option the second time."
"Oh, so I'm easy to handle? I'm not sure that's a compliment," Chris teased.
Leonard shrugged. "It's what you make of it."
"Mhm," Chris replied, raising a hand to stroke through Leonard's dark hair.
"What do you think of her?" Leonard asked.
"Carol? She's… cautious."
"That's a very nice way of putting it. I hope she'll loosen up a bit. I don't expect her to become best friends with Jim – I know very few former couples who are on friendly terms, in fact, I think Spock and Nyota are the only one – but I'd hate to see her make life difficult for him. And then there's David… children are always the ones who suffer most from their parents' separation."
Chris caught the trace of regret in his voice and drew an arm around him. "Joanna would never blame you for anything. I think she's as happy as any child her age could be."
"Maybe, but that's not the point."
"I've been meaning to talk to Jim again. He's still confused and doesn't quite know how to handle the situation, and that's understandable. But I think he'll do everything in his power to make his relationship with David and Carol work. Maybe that means making a few concessions, but I think today went well… it was a promising beginning. Carol isn't a bad person, she's just suspicious and afraid to get hurt… again." He paused a moment, before asking: "Do you know what happened to her family?"
Leonard shook his head. "Not precisely. I heard that her parents were settlers in a colony. When Carol was fifteen, she and her older brother were sent to a boarding school on Earth. Carol finished high school and got a scientific scholarship. According to Jim, the colony was hit by an earthquake, and Carol's parents were among the victims. Her brother had been visiting them, and he, too, died."
Chris nodded slowly. "Figures. She is trying to push everyone away as fast as she can, for fear of losing somebody again, and at the same time she longs for people she can trust and confide in… friends, family, anything. You almost got her with that daughter-in-law comment."
"I guess those psychology classes they made me take at the Academy finally come in handy," Leonard replied. "I have a feeling that knowing how to push Carol's buttons will be quite useful in the future. Even though I´d really rather not adopt her. I don't know, but for some reason, I vastly prefer Delia."
"You'd have to fight Sarek for her," Chris said with a smile. "He seems rather taken with her."
"And that surprises you? She's his only grandchild. Don't tell me you're not absolutely smitten with David already."
Chris laughed. "Well… he is adorable."
Leonard shifted his weight and yawned. "All babies are. I suppose even Spock was adorable as a child."
"Tiny pointy ears and all…? Oh, I'm sure. We should ask Sarek for baby pictures."
"Spock would probably murder you, if you did… Jim would have the time of his life, though."
"Speaking of Jim and Spock… there'll be fireworks once the admiralty learns of their bonding."
"I suppose simply not telling those stuffy bureaucrats about it is not an option?"
"Are you calling me a stuffy bureaucrat?" Chris asked in mock outrage, before adding in a more serious tone of voice: "Can you see Jim keeping a secret of this magnitude from his crew?"
Leonard sighed. "No. Spock maybe, but Jim…? No, I guess not. Still… I don't see why Starfleet should get to mess with that relationship. Sure, it's a breach of regulations. So what? Jim's been in love with Spock for the past two years, possibly even longer, and no harm has come off it. It won't change that much, now that he's aware of it."
"Probably not, but trying to get the admiralty to believe that is another matter."
"I have the utmost faith in you," Leonard said after a moment's reflection.
Chris sighed. "Great. That makes one of us."
"I swear, this is going to be the wedding from hell," Jim groaned, looking up from a stack of invitation cards.
"It's not a wedding," Chris corrected him gently. "We are simply having a party in your honor and Spock's. You know, a family thing."
Jim snorted. "Yeah, right. Who do you think you're kidding?"
"My fellow admirals," Chris replied earnestly. "Jim, I told you I'd try to find a way to help you, but you've got to admit that it goes against both regulations and common sense. Your average Starfleet bureaucrat is going to balk at the thought of having two people as deeply involved as you are commanding the flagship. I'm trying to convince people that it's not necessarily a bad thing, and there are some that don't need convincing – Rebecca, for example. But for most of them it's a huge leap of faith."
"They are hopelessly old-fashioned."
Chris shook his head. "It's not about being old-fashioned. In fact, it all comes down to a very simple question: If you had to choose between the ship's safety and Spock's, what would you do? If you had to endanger Enterprise in order to save him, would you do it? Would you risk the lives of your crew for Spock's?"
Jim looked at him with a stunned, almost hurt expression on his face. "Chris…" He paused and it was a long moment before he regained his composure. "That was three questions," he said in a wry attempt at humor.
"You know what I mean. And I am dead serious, Jim. Starfleet will ask you those questions, and it will ask Spock some very similar things. And do you know your reply?"
"There could never be any question about that."
"Oh? Because I wouldn't trust myself if Leonard's life was in danger. I would give a lot, including my own life, in order to save him. But more importantly, I would probably give other people's lives, too. I hope that assumption will never be put to the test, but there's more than one reason why I retired from active duty, and my health wasn't the main focus."
"You wanted to be with Bones, I understand that, but Spock and I…"
"No, Jim," Chris replied firmly, "it was a lot more than that. When I fell in love with Leonard, I knew that I was emotionally compromised, to use that lovely Vulcan term. I knew, so I made sure we would never be in a position where my feelings for him could interfere with my actions as a Starfleet officer. I was scrupulously careful, and look how well it served me. That whole business about my quitting my post and going to Romulus, only to abort the mission when I was already halfway there…? Highly unprofessional. Luckily, it didn't have any adverse effects, neither on other people nor on diplomatic relations between the Federation and the Empire, but that doesn't excuse my lack of objectivity."
"You can hardly take all the blame for that. I had a hand in it, too. And I think you're being too harsh on yourself. Even as Starfleet officers, we're still entitled to a little humanity, aren't we?"
"Of course we are, but you do realize what I'm trying to tell you, don't you?"
Jim smiled. "You're doing it again."
"Well, I believe that's part of my job, Jim," Chris replied.
"So, what do you propose we do about it?"
"My emotional entanglement with Spock. I can't disentangle it, but I can't give up Enterprise either."
"In that case, we have to come up with a few very convincing arguments, and quite probably, a couple of lies."
"I'm shocked. Are you suggesting that we lie to the Admiralty?" Jim grinned.
"Parts of it, anyway. The fact that none of them knows how a Vulcan bond really works should work in your favor… if Sarek is willing to go along with our story."
"As far as Sarek is concerned, the bond is a very private matter, so he would certainly not discuss it in public. I'm starting to like him, you know."
"Good. Sarek is a valuable ally, if nothing else. Besides, Spock highly respects his father."
"They're constantly fighting," Jim protested, only to amend: "Well, as much as Vulcans ever do."
"Many fathers and sons do, and particularly when they are as strong-willed as Sarek and Spock."
"Don't you mean 'stubborn'?" Jim asked with a faint smile.
"I was trying to be nice."
"Ah." They were quiet for a moment; Jim still leafing through the invitation cards, while Chris was staring outside, his gaze travelling across the lawn. Joanna was busy explaining one of her grand schemes to Delia and Elva, who still seemed a bit dubious, excitedly gesticulating with both arms.
"At least somebody is having fun," Jim said. "Jo should be a wedding planner or a Starfleet captain. She's doing a tremendous job ordering people around and devising elaborate plans." He paused, studying the group of girls for a moment. "She and Delia are getting along well, aren't they?"
"They are equally impressed with each other," Chris replied. "No matter which one you talk to at the moment, it's all 'Did you know that Delia has…?' and 'Joanna said that…'."
"But that's good, isn't it? Delia could use a friend her age." He wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that Delia had unconsciously begun to form a bond with Jo. Taori, after performing some additional tests, had determined her as the intended bondmate, but assured Sarek that breaking the tentative link would cause no harm to either of the girls. She seemed intrigued by the entire matter. Apparently, the rare opportunity to study two Vulcan crosses and their telepathic abilities had sparked her scientific interest, and on Sarek's invitation, she stayed longer than originally intended. Which reminded him…
"We should invite Taori."
"The Vulcan healer?" Chris asked.
Jim nodded. "She's not a relative of Spock, but I think Sarek would appreciate the gesture."
"It's your party, Jim," Chris replied, shrugging.
"Held at your house," Jim pointed out.
"Which is large enough to host quite a few people. By the way, have you seen Nyota? Joanna insists that she agreed to help her with the decorations and was rather put out when she didn't show up today."
"I think she's with Sarek… they're spending an awful lot of time together, lately, if it wasn't Sarek of all people, I'd say they are plotting something. But as it is, Nyota is probably just brushing up on her Vulcan. And they've always liked each other. I believe Sarek was more disappointed than Nyota herself when she and Spock broke up." He shrugged.
"Well, who wouldn't want their son to marry Nyota? If the two of you weren't so totally unsuited to each other, I wouldn't mind it either. While we're at it… are you inviting Carol?"
"Do I have a choice?" Jim asked wryly.
"Will you hate me if I say 'no'?"
"Well, then it's settled. I guess I'll just have to invite Peace, too, so she can keep Carol out of my hair."
"I have a feeling Carol doesn't particularly like Peace."
"What a shame. Carol doesn't particularly like anybody."
"Be fair, Jim. I'll keep Carol away from you, if you want to, but you could at least try to be civil."
"Alright, alright. I'll play nice. Happy?"
Joanna's first party proved a tremendous success, and the over-excited little organizer basked in everybody's compliments… until Jim scooped her up, threw her across his shoulder and proclaimed that he would force her to dance with her older brother, which led to protesting squeals from Joanna and a round of giggles from the other girls. In the end, Jim danced not only with Jo, but also with all three of Laurel's daughters, Laurie Reed, Delia, Peace and Nyota. In fact, the only person he didn't dance with was Spock, who wore such a horrified expression at the mere suggestion of it that Jim decided to have mercy on him.
He also refrained from dancing with Carol, because really, he wanted to survive this evening with all his limbs still attached. Still, you had to give it to Carol that she was surprisingly civil and apart from one or two sly comments didn't bother him at all. She even hesitatingly raised her glass to him and Spock. Jim supposed that if she kept it up, they could probably learn to live with each other.
David, on the other hand, was delightful and had soon gathered a large circle of cooing admirers around him.
"You'll have to watch out," Leonard jokingly told Carol, "before the night's out, somebody is likely going to try and steal him." At first, Carol looked somewhat alarmed at that idea, but then realizing that he was joking, she tentatively smiled.
Meanwhile, Chris felt a small hand tugging him away from the crowd. "What is it, Delia?" He asked surprised.
The girl wore an expression that undulated between worry and guilt. "I… think I need to tell you something."
"I'm listening, " Chris replied. "Is it a secret?" He couldn't imagine that it was anything serious, but decided to humor her.
"Sort of. Did Jim tell you, that when Taori checked him and Spock, she also tested me?"
"No. Is everything alright?"
"Not… quite. Taori said that I couldn't control my telepathic abilities yet."
"Ah, so you did inherit them from your father."
Delia nodded. "She said that I'll be a strong telepath one day, but that I need a lot of training. Sarek will see to that… but, you know, I can't control them yet, and when I still didn't know I had them, something happened…"
She looked as if she had committed some sort of nefarious crime, and Chris was almost tempted to smile, but forced himself to keep a straight face.
"Taori says, I formed a bond."
Okay, so maybe not a crime, but this was more serious than he'd thought. "With whom?", he asked, in a sharper tone than he'd intended.
Delia looked down at the grass. "Joanna," she murmured. "But I swear I didn't mean to! It… it just happened… I mean, I like her, and she's nice and all, but I really didn't want to… you know…"
Oh. Well, wouldn't Leonard be thrilled to hear that…! Chris decided in a flash that while he loved his husband, this was one of the things he had probably better try to keep from him. For now, he had to console Delia, who felt bad about something that wasn't really her fault.
"I'm sure you didn't mean to," he comforted her. "Does Joanna know…?"
Delia looked up. "No, of course not. It would be… no, I can't tell her."
Chris was silently relieved. "Was Taori able to do anything about it?"
Delia nodded. "She blocked the bond. She said it would do no harm… but she also said that I had to tell Joanna's parents. I couldn't tell Leonard…"
… wise choice, Chris silently congratulated her.
"… so I told you."
"It's okay, Delia." He put an arm around her. "It seems that no harm was done, and it wasn't your fault, so you don't need to feel bad about it."
Delia's face brightened a little. "So you aren't angry with me?"
"But you know that… when Joanna and I are older… probably…" She blushed and broke off.
Chris was torn between amusement and annoyance. Yet another thing he'd have to deal with… on top of Jim, Spock and the admiralty and Carol and David…
"Let's not worry about that right now, shall we? We'll let it rest at least another four or five years… please."
Delia looked up at him and smiled hesitatingly. "Okay." It sounded relieved.
Yep, it's over… finally. Took me long enough and I decided to end the story at this point, in order to leave some things up to your imagination. I'm already in the process of writing a prequel to "Distant Closeness" called "Bittersweet Remedy". It will cover the events right after the Narada incident and focus mainly on Leonard and Chris. I will also embark on a revision of "Distant Closeness" and "Family Matters", I need to make a few minor changes and correct some mistakes. If there's anything bugging you about those two stories or if you've caught any mistakes, now would be a good time to tell me ;)
I also need to give thanks, hugs and kisses to all my faithful reviewers. I love you all to pieces! Please keep reading and reviewing my stories, it makes me so happy to read what you think about them!