Summary: Jim is annoyed, McCoy's advice sucks, and Spock's been shut out. Sometimes the simplest solution is the right one.
Word Count: 3,000.
Jim Kirk was annoyed.
It was kind of obvious. Jim wasn't oblivious to his own emotions, and even if he had been, the fact that everyone under the rank of commander that he passed more or less ran away from him was a bit of a hint.
But who gave a shit? Jim Kirk was annoyed, and damnit, the whole ship should know about it.
Maybe not why.
If he'd been annoyed at the brass, or McCoy, or the sheer baffling incompetence of the new Head of Maintenance, or the latest grating letter from his mother, or the latest poorly-thought-out attempt by the Klingons to upset their recently-repaired thrusters, then it would have been okay. Those were reasonable, normal things to be annoyed about.
This was not.
The facts were quite simple: after three and a half years together, Jim wanted to talk Spock into marrying him. But talking a Vulcan into doing anything required knocking his desert-proof socks off with logic, and any attempt Jim had made at constructing arguments for why they should get married turned out to be arguments why they shouldn't.
And then there was the whole, "I love you, let's get hitched" part.
Frankly, he couldn't - just could not - come up with anything to say without either sounding like he didn't really give a shit, or like a complete motherfucking girl. With hormonal issues. And a twisted world view.
Spock would nerve-pinch him and have him in quarantine in under thirty seconds. And then realise he was serious, and run a mile. Because Jim Kirk did not do girly, weird-as-fuck harlequin romance proposals.
And yet his brain wasn't able to offer any alternative.
It had been almost a month now. He'd bought a simple, plain ring at their last refuelling stop, and had informed Admiral Pike of his intentions as per regulations, and received written approval (string-pulling, gotta love it) without Spock getting to hear of it...
And the goddamn proposal was the sticking point.
He couldn't just blurt it out - "Hey, Spock, marry me." - because Spock would immediately dig in his logical heels and demand to know why Jim wanted to change their situation. He couldn't kirk it up - "Hey, Spock, let's run away to Risa and get married in a tacky chapel and have the best sex of our lives that wouldn't require an Orion." - because Spock would either think he was joking, or get offended (and Jim wouldn't blame him). He couldn't come out with some long, romantic speech because he would be overwhelmed by the urge to emasculate himself with a spoon and then shoot himself with his own phaser.
And he couldn't not propose because...because...well.
Jim knew, by now, about Vulcan bonding. He knew what would happen when they got Vulcan-married - and he knew that if they didn't, Spock would die. And yeah, there was no way that Jim wouldn't go through with it (week-long sex, yes please and thank you very much, Vulcan version of nature) but...
But it seemed...weird.
Like they would get married because they had to, not because they wanted to, and that felt...weird.
They had to get Human-married first, Jim had decided, and he was pretty sure Spock would say yes if he just worked out a way to actually ask, so...
So why the fuck was proposing so damn hard?
So yes. Jim Kirk was officially annoyed.
"What can I do for you, Jim?" the doctor asked genially. It had been a good day: no idiots to shout at, no playing 'match the ensign to the lower leg' after dodgy away missions, and no transporters of any kind whatsoever. Dr. Leonard McCoy loved star-mapping.
"I need to talk."
An eyebrow crept up. "About?"
"Not-medical-stuff," Jim said, and was immediately waved towards the office. "And you might need some of that alcohol that I know nothing about."
"Oh God," Bones said, obediently digging out a bottle and a couple of glasses. "Alright. What's the goblin done now?"
"Nothing," Jim said. "And no, that's not the problem. Problem's me."
"Alright, what have you done?"
"Nothing - and that is the problem."
"Stop talking in riddles," McCoy said flatly. "Just spit it out."
"I want to propose to Spock."
McCoy paused, deliberately knocked back his drink and poured another, and said: "And?"
"Because every time I try and think of what to say, I either come off like I don't give a fuck, or like some goddamn thirteen-year-old girl, and he'd run a mile."
"If you ever come out with anything that makes you sound like more of a princess then you already are, I think I'd run a mile too."
"So what do you need me for?"
"Advice," Jim grimaced. "How did you propose to Jocelyn?"
"I took her to her favourite restaurant, got down on one knee, opened a ring box and said, 'Will you marry me?'" McCoy shrugged. "And then she shrieked loud enough to trigger someone's three-year-old into a tantrum."
"But that seems so...awkward."
"It is awkward."
"There's no non-awkward way of doing this, is there?"
"Apart from not doing it at all?" McCoy suggested. "You keep sayin' you'll have to get bonded eventually - and by the way, anytime you feel like fillin' me on that beside a few vague hints, go right ahead - so why all this fuss about getting married the normal way?"
Jim shrugged. "I just..."
He paused long enough for McCoy to poke the glass of totally-not-alcohol in his direction.
"We have to get bonded one day. It's not...we won't do it because we want to - not like that, I do want to, but it's a case of have to, and..." Jim shrugged. "I dunno. I feel like that's...weird. We should get married because we want to get married."
"Okay," McCoy said evenly. "So get married."
"But I can't think of what to say."
McCoy shrugged. "I can't really help you with that, Jim. You'll get there. You'll just get to the point where it's harder not to ask than it is to ask, and then you'll blurt out any old thing, and it'll work."
"Will it, though?"
"Jim, you could throw the ring at his head in the middle of a ship-wide evacuation and he'd still say yes."
"You sure about that?"
McCoy grimaced. "The man can't even say no to your atrocious ideas for shore leave. Throwing a ring at his head and telling him he's getting married in the morning can't be any worse than your bright idea of skiing on Molika II."
He had a point there.
The fact was, although he tried, McCoy just wasn't much use in personal advice. He hadn't exactly made a stellar job of his own life, and if Jim could say he had issues, then McCoy's were bigger. McCoy could advise on anything remotely medical - and, really, on a hell of a lot of tactical and diplomatic stuff as well, even though he bitched and moaned about it, but his personal advice was rarely given and at least half the time, best ignored. Especially when it involved Spock.
Jim was a little torn, truth be told. McCoy did enjoy giving him false advice to rile Spock up, simply because they had some weird hate-love-something-in-the-middle thing going on between them, and Jim wasn't sure whether he knew Spock well enough to know if he would just say yes as McCoy predicted. (Plus, chucking a ring at someone's head in the middle of a crisis was hardly professional.) So he didn't say anything at all for another couple of weeks, just tugging and worrying at the problem in his own head, and if Spock started giving him funny looks, then it didn't really matter.
Although maybe that was to do with the whole no-touching thing.
Three and a half years and that whole privacy thing? Kind of shot to hell. Jim had a thing for telepathic orgasms (who wouldn't?) and he'd given permission for Spock to wander in and out of his head whenever the hell he felt like it, provided they were off duty. And he did - Jim had woken up more than once with the distinct sensation of someone else's sensory input swimming through his mind. He didn't care, on the whole. If Spock wanted to play in his head, go for it. Not like he didn't know everything anyway. And the whole I-can-give-you-an-orgasm-without-touchin
Except, now, he didn't know everything. The fact was that Jim was psi-null, so Spock could wander in and just glimpse that nagging, irritable thought, and bang. All over. Jim didn't know much about proposing, but he knew it was meant to be a surprise or there was no point in asking at all, and the only way to keep it a surprise was to keep Spock out of his brain.
That probably explained the funny looks. And the sudden lack of Vulcan in his quarters.
...And the avoidance.
The third week after his useless chat with McCoy was spent doing damage control - and it took a whole damn week too. Vulcans could sulk - yeah, yeah, not-sulk, whatever the fuck - and if Jim knew anything from three and a half years, it was that persistence, grovelling, and chocolate were the key. He knew Spock saw right through his excuse of being stressed and having a top secret order to worry about (like that had ever stopped him sharing it with Spock before) but he somehow managed to avoid the fallout.
"I'm just stressed," he said. "I swear, I'm just stressed. It's nothing to do with you - us."
It was only half the truth, and he knew Spock saw through it, but until he got his words sorted, there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.
Unless you asked McCoy, of course.
"Either ask him, or forget about it," the doctor said next time they ran into each other - once again in Sickbay, and over the rather revolting corpse of a something that had tried attacking one of the security ensigns. "You're withdrawing to think about it, and he's got a bug up his ass the size of a stag beetle."
"Ew, thanks for that."
"You're welcome," he drawled. "Sort it, Jim. I'm not giving out phobia cures for the science staff. You hear that he actually raised his voice at Lieutenant Kramer the other day?"
Jim winced. He'd been on the receiving end of a raised voice once. It made your balls try to crawl up inside your body and hide.
"We're not exactly buddies, but I know what he's thinking."
"Yeah?" Jim felt his own eyebrows rising. He couldn't do just one, much as he tried. It just made him look vaguely like he was having a stroke.
"He thinks you're getting cold feet about it."
"How can I get cold feet when we're not..."
"You know what I mean," McCoy scoffed. "You're not discussing a problem with him, you're not letting him into your head - yeah, he told me that much, don't look so surprised - and you've just spent the last week trying to convince him it's nothing to do with him. Which we all know is bullshit. It's obviously about him, and I'm willing to bet you a month of leave that he thinks you're about to break up with him."
Jim blinked. "I'm...what?"
McCoy shrugged. "Common enough conclusion to come to."
"Joss thought I was cheating on her, buying things behind her back and making secret plans," McCoy drawled. "My brother's then-girlfriend got right up to trying to break it off first and save some face when he was about to propose. So I'm warning you, Jim. Do it soon or drop the idea, because draggin' it out is only going to hurt the both of you."
"Would kind of help if I knew what to fuckin' say."
McCoy grunted. "Just drop it. And then some day you'll stumble on a moment and that'll be it. You'll say something horrifically awkward, and he'll look at you like you're insane, and then you'll be engaged. Done."
"Doesn't get any easier from there," McCoy snickered.
"I hate you."
"Yeah, yeah. Word of advice, though, Jim. Don't do it after sex."
And so Jim tried to forget about it. He stashed the ring in his sock drawer, where even Vulcans feared to tread - or stick their hands, anyway - and fobbed off Pike's not-so-subtle prodding as to why their files hadn't changed yet, and pushed the thought away with sheer determination (helped admittedly by the sudden busy period that summer of raiding vessels in Federation territory). Just forget about it. They'd get married eventually; it didn't have to be right now, or this month, or even this year.
It still felt a little...creepy, that they might end up getting married in a life-saving situation, but it would be fine. Married was married. And it sure as shit didn't help Jim's annoyance, trying to get rid of this thought even though he still thought that he needed to do it. But captaincy was about ignoring your own cranky-bastard tendencies. He'd be fine.
They got back to normal. Ish. It hurt, the first time after that misunderstanding, when Spock's fingers brushed over his temple and he actually paused, waiting for explicit permission, and Jim felt like the world's biggest asshole for that hesitation. And sometimes he'd catch Spock looking at him with...something in his face, something that Jim didn't like, and he seemed a little too grateful for Jim's attention, but as the summer passed, it eased, and Jim forced the issue to the back of his mind, where even Spock wouldn't find it.
Every now and then, he'd genuinely forget.
And then he'd wake up with a hand on his chest, or find someone else's shower gel in his bathroom, or find yet another sugar-heavy drink deleted from his personal replicator, and his mind would stretch towards his sock drawer and the little black box inside, and the other half of his mind would - yet again - come up empty.
Maybe he'd have to make some bullshit flowery proposal after all.
And then - out of nowhere - McCoy's 'moment' presented itself. Or themselves.
Because there were, in fact, two.
The first presented itself, as though McCoy were some crazy southern witch-doctor psychic shaman guy, in the middle of a crisis. They'd been attacked, and there was a power blackout and intruders - that was so damn rare, Jim had had this flash of sheer pride for his crew simply remembering what to do if a ship got boarded - but there had been phasers and what seemed to be some kind of weird alien grenade, and biomonitors crying all over the communications console as the security were picked off in fours and fives, never mind one by one. And Jim couldn't remember how, but he'd found himself in the maze of Jeffries' tubes, Spock crunched in beside him, all silent and grim, hovering in wait above the engineering bay for a moment to drop unseen and restart their crippled engines, and just knowing, knowing, that this could kill them. The engines could explode, they might not start at all, they could be shot dead or bombed to pieces by these intruders...
He hadn't thought about it, simply twisted in the confined space to wrap a hand over the back of Spock's skull and drag him into a fierce kiss - all teeth and tongue and a bit of blood and a hell of a lot of desperation, nothing sweet at all - and rasped, "I fucking love you, okay?" into the space between them.
It was only later - much later, in the safe confines of a brightly-lit Sickbay, the ship humming peacefully around him, and watching McCoy shout and swear over the electrical burns on Spock's hands, and the sheer placid I-don't-give-a-shit expression on his First Officer's face - that Jim realised.
He'd never said that before.
And so the first moment led to the second, several weeks later and in a peaceful, dark sector of space with no intelligent life, just planets of plants and apparently interesting magma currents under the surface. That blurting of feeling that he'd never meant to utter led to the second moment, weeks later and hours into the night, wandering into the labs during gamma shift in his sweatpants and t-shirt, unable to sleep thanks to the inactivity and the boredom, and wrapping himself in the lonely lab around the sole person in it, curling over his back and squeezing tightly.
"You should be asleep."
"So should you," he returned, kissing the uniform blues beneath his cheek. "Screw your sensibilities. Nobody's here."
He waited, plastered up and cuddling, to hell with it, that was what he was doing, until that stiff back relaxed again, and hooked his chin over a sharp shoulder. It was a peaceful moment - he was being ignored, and there was no conversation, and whatever experiment was going on was probably boring enough to cure insomnia, and he wouldn't understand it even if he cared to understand, and it was them, just coexisting in the same space. It was dim, they were alone, the wisps of dust under the scanners didn't care, and he didn't have it with him, but why not?
Suddenly, McCoy's 'moment' was clear. This was it. If he was ever going to ask, it should be now, in his sweatpants and t-shirt in a lonely, quiet laboratory in the ass-end of the gamma shift, where nothing could hear him or break it up or interrupt. Right now - with Spock, in immaculate uniform and that not-scowl of concentration, and annoying perfection. There had been a thousand moments just like this one, but suddenly this one felt different somehow, as if the air knew what he wanted to ask.
So he asked.
"Will you marry me?"
Jim Kirk wasn't annoyed anymore.