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"He's gay, Jim." McCoy sounded indignant.

"Mmm?" Kirk was turning his plate and poking at its contents with his spork from various angles.  "Bones, what is this stuff?"

"Soy and seaweed protein, mostly.  Do you really want to know the details?"

"No.  Doctor, I think you've been spending too much time with Spock."

McCoy huffed in mock offense.  "Me?"

"Of course I didn't want to know what it literally is, I wanted to know what it is supposed to resemble.  What I'm supposed to think it is."

"Oh."  They both regarded the food for a while. "Eggplant?" McCoy guessed.

"You think?"

"Not really."  McCoy drank some coffee. "Jim, were you listening to me at all?"

"About Getherin?"  Kirk looked at the purplish mass in the bowl of the spork and resolutely, like a true Starfleet hero, put it in his mouth.  He chewed, and his face relaxed;  the corners of his mouth turned up. "I was waiting," he said after he swallowed, "until you said something I didn't know."

"Well, excuse me for using up bandwidth," said McCoy.

"Well, but Bones," and now Kirk was digging into the food happily, "... mpf, excuse me ...," swallowing, "his preference is in his personnel file. He's a NeoKinsey 5B. And what does that have to do with anything?"

"He's getting married." McCoy said, but Kirk went on chewing, face blandly attentive.  "To a woman, Jim."

"He's a big boy.  I think he can tell the difference.  And he can make his own choice." Kirk drank milk--or imitation milk.  "Bones, what's really wrong?"  He thought he knew, but he wanted McCoy to tell him. 

"It's just strange."

"You're thinking that he should get married for the same reason--" you did, he didn't say, but McCoy heard it anyway and scowled, and Kirk went on hurriedly, "I did, or my mother did."

"I don't know why you got married, much less your mother."  Now McCoy was stiff.

Kirk sighed.  "You're a difficult person to talk to sometimes, you know that?  Being in love.  Most of us from Iowa, most of us from Georgia, most of us from our culture, Bones, we get married because we're in love.  That's the assumption.  But it's hardly the only reason people get married.  Now, given the way I define being in love, I'd assume that's not Getherin's reason, but it's not my business.  People ask me to marry them, they're of legal age and they've done the paperwork, I do it."

"Thanks for the diversity lesson."

"Will you lighten up?  You're acting like you were interested in him."

At that McCoy grinned, relaxing.  "Too tall," he said. "Anyway, you're the one who knew his NeoKinsey without looking."

"That was the roommate thing.  It's imprinted on my brain now.  I know his biorhythm grid too."

McCoy grimaced, and they both remembered how Getherin had gone through cabin mates when he first transferred to the Enterprise.

"And his fighting weight," Kirk added thoughtfully.

"Allergies," said McCoy.

"Yeah, those too."  Kirk ate some more purple stuff.  "Religion."

"Oh yeah."  McCoy upended his coffee cup as he drank the last dregs.  "Well, I'm sure you know the real reason this is bothering me."

Kirk looked at him with total attention this time.

"If only it wasn't Chris Chapel."  McCoy shook his head.  "She's had such a rough deal, Jim.  I hate to see her getting into another hopeless thing."

"She's a fine officer," Kirk said kindly.  "A good person."

"She's ... well ..." McCoy broke off.  He stared into the empty cup.

Kirk took the cup and put it on his tray with his now-empty dishes.   He knew how McCoy felt about Chapel, but the doctor had never managed to talk even to Kirk about it, and Kirk knew McCoy had never spoken to Chapel herself.

"I wonder what her reasons are," Kirk said thoughtfully.

"Well, I'm sure as hell not going to ask her."

That was exactly what Kirk thought McCoy should do, but he was beginning to realize, in his middle age, that he couldn't make people do what he thought was best for them all the time.  That was why he was in the officers' mess now, letting McCoy bend his ear, instead of in Science Lab 3 doing a little ear-manipulation himself.

Ear manipulation ... his mind drifted.

"... her to have a little happiness," McCoy was saying.  "She sure deserves it."

Kirk nodded, meaning it.  But he honestly believed Chapel was nobody's fool, and if she was marrying Getherin she must think it would ... well, feel better than mooning after Spock.  He grinned, thinking of mooning and Spock.  Suddenly he felt so full of joyful energy that he had to bounce up from his seat or else yell at the top of his lungs.

But he bent back over the table, hands on his tray. "Maybe," he said, doing his best, "Chapel just needs a better reason not to marry Getherin.  You think it over, Bones." Chapel wasn't the only one who deserved to be happy.

In fact, Kirk thought as he went down the corridor, he'd earned a little happiness himself.  Spock had to be done with that damn experiment in Lab 3 soon.  Next shift, he'd said.  That was soon. And then he'd get some sleep, after three solid days without so much as lying down, and then ...

... And now the captain of the Enterprise needed a cold shower.  A workout and a cold shower, and then he'd be tired enough to sleep himself.

Being married.  For love.  It beat all the alternatives as far as Kirk was concerned.

Chapter End Notes:

This was a response to a first-line challenge posted by T'Len to ASCEML in 2000:

> The first line had to be: "He's gay, Jim" from McCoy.
> He must not mean Spock with this. He can mean any canon or
> non-canon character you like, but in the end the whole story has
> to be K/S of course.

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