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wheat, corn, peaches, and whales

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One of the things Jim Kirk has learned about Leonard McCoy is that, once you get past the prickly, stand-offish exterior, he’s actually a funny son of a bitch. The first time McCoy buys him a gift, it’s thoughtful and sincere, even sweet, and it gives Jim hope that he’s breaking through the man’s walls. A year later, when McCoy’s gift-giving season rolls around again, the two of them have already become fast friends and the gift he presents to Jim is… different.

“Aw, come on, Bones,” Jim says as McCoy hands him the package, wrapped in bright, obnoxiously cheerful paper folded with surgical precision. “You know I don’t celebrate Christmas.”

McCoy scoffs and shoves the little bundle against Jim’s chest when he doesn’t reach for it—which wrinkles the wrapping paper, Jim might add, because whatever’s in the package is soft and flexible, and it’s pure instinct that has him setting it gently down on the table in front of him and trying to smooth the paper back out.

“Just take the damn present, Jim,” McCoy says, gruff, and keeps walking. He barely even slowed down for the whole exchange, in fact, but Jim looks back up in time to catch the profile of McCoy’s cheek lifting, and he knows the man well enough that he can picture the crooked grin to go with that movement. Jim rolls his eyes but finishes carefully resmoothing the paper wrapping, and then carries the package back to his dorm room to open it there, because he’ll put up with a lot just to know that he’s responsible for McCoy smiling like that. Even a Christmas present.

As it turns out, it’s a good thing Jim didn’t open it right there in the quad where he’d been studying, because as soon as he’s peeled back the paper he has to immediately stop everything and put the shirt on. It’s made of soft, stretchy cotton. It clings to his chest and shoulders like a second skin, and doesn’t quite cover the bottom of his ribcage. It’s printed with a pattern like a wheat field, the stalks rippling in the breeze with every breath he takes. For a solid minute, Jim can’t tear his eyes away from the mirror.

“Bones, you magnificent bastard,” he whispers, and shucks the rest of his cadet reds to change into a pair of low-slung, worn-out work jeans instead. He takes a series of selfies and sends them all immediately to McCoy.

The response doesn’t come until a couple hours later when McCoy gets out of class: You’re supposed to wait until the 25th, you absolute child.

I know the rules and choose not to follow them, Jim texts back, and then: Where did you even get this? I love it. It’s amazing.

That’s for me to know, McCoy replies, and Jim doesn’t need to see him to know exactly the smug glint in his eye when he says it. A few minutes later he gets another text: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, dumbass.

***

Two and a half months later, as is becoming tradition, Jim drops off a basket full of hamantaschen, bourbon, and peaches at McCoy’s dorm. They’re not Georgia peaches because those aren’t in season yet, and he knows McCoy will just leave them out in the common room for the other residents to munch on. That’s fine: the real Georgia peach is wrapped in brown paper, tied with plain twine, and tucked carefully into the basket behind the whiskey bottle.

Not twenty minutes later Jim’s comm unit beeps with an incoming message. Fuck you, Jim reads. Given that the message is accompanied by a selfie of McCoy wearing not only the vintage Atlanta, Georgia crop top Jim had tracked down, with a pair of juicy peaches overlaid across a simplified skyline of the city, but also a pair of faded denim daisy dukes that leave very little to the imagination, he figures McCoy doesn’t mean it.

Love you too, Bones, he replies. Chag sameach.

***

The next year brings more of the same: Jim’s Christmas present from McCoy is another tight little number, this time printed with a field of corn, and McCoy’s Purim gift from Jim reads Being a Starfleet doctor is easy; it’s like riding a bike except the bike is on fire, you’re on fire, everything is on fire and you’re in hell.

Year three of their new tradition sees Jim in a soy crop at Christmas. And then Jim does something stupid. Not that this comes as a surprise, because Jim is well known, even to himself, for doing stupid shit. Odds are usually even on whether his stupid shit will turn out surprisingly well or end in disaster, but Jim likes to think the risks he takes are calculated.

Spock has been his first officer for a few months now. They’ve had some adventures, because it seems the Enterprise just attracts trouble. (Nothing to do with her captain, Jim’s sure. He doesn’t go looking for crazy situations to suck his crew into, contrary to popular rumour.) On one notable occasion, Spock had talked Jim into re-enacting the old 20th century film Free Willy on an alien planet where they’d discovered half a dozen enormous, sentient marine creatures kept in captivity against their will. Spock wouldn’t describe it that way, of course, but Jim had been hard pressed not to make any references to the film in his Captain’s log recording the incident.

So when Jim comes across the Save the whales shirt while searching for the perfect Purim gift for McCoy this year, he orders it. He cuts it down to crop top length himself when it arrives, wraps it up and packs it in a basket with mounds of hamantaschen, a bottle of chocolate liqueur, and as many replicated plomeeks as he can make fit. McCoy’s basket contains the usual bourbon and a mountain of replicated peaches, for which Jim fully expects his friend will cuss him out.

He leaves the baskets outside their quarters before the start of alpha watch. Spock arrives on the bridge only minutes after Jim does; he pauses beside the Captain’s chair for a moment on his way to his usual station, hands clasped behind his back, and murmurs, “Chag purim sameach, Captain.”

That’s a surprise, but Jim doesn’t have time to interrogate Spock over how he knows the Hebrew greeting for a Jewish holiday that most of his goyische peers don’t even recognize exists. It’s an eventful day and none of the alpha bridge crew come off watch until halfway through beta; by the time Jim is shedding his uniform in his quarters that evening, he’s all but forgotten about it.

He certainly doesn’t expect anything more to come of his gift basket. Certainly he doesn’t expect Spock to actually wear the top; the only time he’s seen his first officer in anything less than his complete duty or dress uniform is when Spock’s in sickbay for treatment of an injury.

But apparently, at some point in the next twenty-four hours, Spock and McCoy put their heads together and scheme. The text that comes from McCoy is no surprise: Get dressed, loser, we’re going crop-topping.

The surprise comes when Jim shows up to McCoy’s quarters wearing the original wheat field crop top and a pair of snug jeans, and Spock answers the door. Spock, who is barefoot, in a pair of standard issue black uniform slacks and the soft yellow Save the whales top Jim had given him as a joke. There’s a slight green tinge across the bridge of his nose, and Jim’s eyes flick to the nearly-empty tumbler in Spock’s hand.

“Well, don’t just stand there, Jim, come in and close the door!” McCoy says from somewhere past Spock, and Jim gives a guilty start because he realizes he’s been staring, because his eyes had travelled from the tumbler in Spock’s hand to his bared midriff to the lean lines of his forearms and back to his exposed waist and belly and okay, staring is maybe not the right word for it. He’s just been checking out his first officer. His first officer who has a girlfriend, Jim, keep your eyes to yourself, he thinks, and tears his gaze away.

McCoy has poured him a glass of bourbon. Jim doesn’t take it; instead he sprawls across McCoy’s couch and faceplants into his best friend’s lap. “You are an evil, evil man, Bones,” he says, which is a sentiment quickly counteracted by the way he tilts his head into the fingers that come down to card through his hair.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” McCoy retorts, and shuffles sideways on the couch so that Spock can take the seat beside him now that Jim is taking up most of the real estate. The hell of it is that despite the sardonic tilt to McCoy’s mouth, Jim can believe that he really doesn’t see the problem; McCoy’s always been pretty well impervious to the curse of recognizing when his friends are hot enough to grace the pages of a Sexy Starfleet calendar, so Jim will be left alone in his suffering tonight.

“Captain,” Spock says, and Jim squints up at him from where his head is pillowed in McCoy’s lap. Spock has refilled his own tumbler, and is holding out the one that McCoy had poured when Jim got here. “It is a day late, but I believe we may still fulfill the mitzvah to drink excessively.”

Jim blinks. Sits up and takes the tumbler from Spock's hand, and glares at him accusingly. “What the hell, man. Are you—are you space Jewish?”

Spock merely raises an eyebrow in answer, then raises his glass. McCoy raises his as well, and belatedly Jim joins them, and they drink.

And from then on, all three of them exchange stupid crop tops during the holidays, so Jim would say that this particular stupid idea turned out pretty well.