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the start of something not quite special

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"Your tie matches my dress." 

Honestly, it takes Leonard a moment to realize she's talking to him. But she's looking straight at him, dark eyes flicking between his tie and his face with a mischievous little grin on her lips, so he figures he should probably answer. 

"I guess it does." Close enough, anyway, in the dim school gymnasium lit only by whirling, multi-coloured lights pulsing in time with the music. He thinks her dress might be a little more green, but they're very similar. 

"We should dance," she says, teasing, and reaches for his hand. 

Leonard lets her take it, lets her pull him out onto the dance floor where most of their classmates are already swaying together. He puts his hand on her waist, she puts her hand on his shoulder, and they move together with small, shuffling steps. 

"Your daddy works at the hospital, ain't that right?" she asks. 

"Yes, miss," Leonard answers, and she laughs, white teeth flashing bright. 

"Jocelyn," she says. "Jocelyn Durnell. And you're Leonard McCoy. My sister Lydia's got classes with you." She grins wider and leans in close, close enough that her cloud of curly hair brushes his cheek while she whispers in his ear, delighted, "She's got a crush on you, you know." 

Leonard did not know that, until now. He misses a step, feels his cheeks flush hot and red. 

"Oh!" Jocelyn gasps, because she's far too close not to have noticed his stumble. "Do you like her too?" 

"Ah," Leonard hedges, turning his head to where he can see Lydia on the other side of the gymnasium, dancing with a group of her friends. She's pretty, that's sure enough, but it's not like he's ever taken the time to notice. He likes her because they work well together on group projects, she's a good researcher and a better formal writer than Leonard and she's always been friendly to him. But that's not the kind of liking that Jocelyn's asking about, and he knows it. 

"Haven't really thought about it, I guess," he answers after a moment, and then, so she doesn't ask what he thinks now that he has thought about it: "So how come I'm dancin' with you then, and not her?" 

The mischief is back in her expression, if it really ever left. "'Cause I'm the one who asked! Anyway, a little sister's gotta make some trouble now and then. You got a little sister, Leonard?" 

He does have a little sister--Jennifer, just twelve years old and too young yet to go stealing anyone's date, but she gets into as much trouble as any of her brothers ever did. Leonard's family is one thing he's never had trouble talking about, so he tells Jocelyn about little Jenny, who wants to join Starfleet as a xenophilologist when she grows up. 

Jocelyn listens well, and asks questions, so by the time they've danced to two songs Leonard's told her he's going to be a doctor like his Daddy, and his older brother Harrison's already gone off to college to study engineering, and she must know his other brother Richie--he's in Jocelyn's year, and popular with girls, but Ma despairs of his grades--and then there's the baby of the family, Calvin, who worships the ground Harrison walks on and misses him something fierce. 

Then the slow dancing is over and Jocelyn whirls herself away to the circle opening up on the floor, where the best dancers are taking turns to show off. But she keeps looking back over at Leonard and smiling, and Leonard thinks... well, that wasn't so bad. 

It's not that Leonard dislikes dancing, but he's always felt uncomfortable with the slow sort of partner dance that leaves him with another person's body pressed up against his. He prefers 20th-century dances like the Lindy Hop and the Boot Scootin' Boogie for their energetic steps and choreography and the distance between himself and his partners. But school dances and church socials don't have that kind of dancing, so when he's not at home dancing with his Daddy and Ma and all the kids, he'd rather keep to himself in the shadowy corners with the other boys too awkward to ask a girl to dance. 

But dancing with Jocelyn had been... well, it started just as uncomfortable as it ever is, but by the end there he'd been as relaxed as if he was spinning Jenny around the living room. He's gotta bring her home to meet his Ma--she'll never believe a girl got him dancing otherwise. 

And Jocelyn does get him dancing again, for another hour after the competition goes to a boy in Leonard's grade and the rest of the dancers move to fill in the emptied circle. It's nothing special--there's no feeling of magic or joy when they move in tempo together, like Harrison describes when he dances with his boyfriend, no connection sparked like Ma likes to tell it happened when she first danced with Daddy. But it's easy, comfortable, the way Jocelyn gets him to talk and laugh while they dance, and Leonard thinks maybe that's special enough. 

"My Daddy's coming to pick me up at nine," he says, when the song they're dancing to comes to an end some ten minutes before he's meant to be leaving. "Come meet my Ma, I know she's gonna love you." 

Jocelyn hesitates before she replies, glances across the gym to where Lydia is still dancing with her friends. 

"It's just a few blocks," Leonard adds. "Lydia's been over, she can tell your Pa where it is, and my Daddy won't mind driving you home later." 

The look Jocelyn gives him makes Leonard feel like he's missing something, some other reassurance he should be making: a little frown, with one eyebrow raised, but then she shakes her head and smiles and crosses the dance floor to talk quietly with her sister for a few moments. Lydia looks over at him, where he's standing now with his hands in his pockets, waiting. Her mouth twists, the same frown that Jocelyn had made, but she nods, hugs her sister briefly, and then pushes her back in Leonard's direction. 

They detour to Jocelyn's locker for her coat and bag, so by the time they walk out the front doors Leonard's Daddy is waiting for them. He toots the truck's horn to get their attention, rolls down the window and leans across the passenger seat to get a better look at them both when they don't part ways. 

"Daddy, this is Jocelyn," Leonard says. "She asked me to dance, so I asked her to come home and meet Ma." 

His Daddy's eyebrows raise, but he's quick to offer Jocelyn a grin and a wink. 

"Well, I'm sure your Ma'll say it's about time. Now where's your manners, Lenny, open the door for the lady, won't you?" 

His Ma, of course, is just as delighted as he expected she'd be when Jocelyn climbs out of the truck and walks up the porch with her arm looped around Leonard's. 

"Leonard McCoy, you didn't tell me you had a date!" she gasps, and Leonard ducks his head. 

"Well it wasn't a date, Ma, we just started dancing," and the way her face lights up fills him with the warm glow of making his Ma proud. 

"Started dancing!" she proclaims. "Well praise the Lord, I never thought I'd see the day. Come into the parlour and have a glass of tea, Jocelyn, dear." 

Jenny peeks her head around the doorway while Ma goes to fetch the pitcher and glasses, her face scrubbed fresh and hair combed straight and feet bare under her nightshirt. "Ma's funny," she says, after scrutinizing Jocelyn for a few moments with her big dark eyes. "Leo dances with me all the time and she don't fuss about that." 

"That's different," Leonard says, because it is, but he doesn't have to try to explain why because Jocelyn's leaning forward, peering at Jenny with that same mischievous smile he's seen from her a dozen times tonight. She looks at Leonard and looks back to Jenny and she says, "Leonard didn't tell me you like dancing." 

Jenny's expression turns so absolutely wounded that Leonard could never dream of denying her anything, which is how the two of them come to be kicking up their feet in a spirited Charleston when Ma comes back with the tea. 

"Jennifer Anne, you wild creature, I told you it was time for bed! Really, Lenny, getting her all worked up like this. How she'll sleep tonight, and with school in the morning!" 

Neither Jenny nor Leonard is the least bit penitent, and neither, he thinks, is Jocelyn. He'd known his Ma would like her, of course, but how quickly she'd got little Jenny wrapped around her finger! He marvels at it a little, while Ma tells Jocelyn how happy she is that her Lenny's finally brought a girl home--"never shown the least interest, and our Harry with his boy Jody, I was beginning to despair to the Lord that I should ever have grandchildren"--and Leonard wants to protest that she can't expect he'll marry Jocelyn just because he brought her home from the dance, but something stops him. 

When his Daddy gets back from driving Jocelyn home at the end of the night, Leonard meets him in the driveway and they walk together under the stars, slow and quiet with the gravel crunching underfoot the only sound until Leonard asks, "The first night you met Ma, when you danced together, did you know then you were going to marry her?" 

And his Daddy stops and looks at him for a moment before he puts his strong hands on Leonard's shoulders and pulls him in for a hug. 

"I knew it," he says, and then, "I'm proud of you, Lenny," and Leonard knows his Daddy thinks he's in love but he doesn't mind that. Jocelyn fit with his family tonight, slid into place so easily and made them all love her. That's what he wants, if he's going to marry anyone: someone who fits in his family like they've always been there. 

He wraps himself up in his Daddy's arms, anchors holding him fast and secure to home and family. 

"Daddy," he says, "I think I'm going to marry that girl."