Here’s the thing about James T. Kirk.
He knows how to take what he wants. Whether it’s booze or sex or attention, Jim knows how to saunter in, all loose-limbed sensuality and engaging grin, charming an infuriating in equal measure.
But how to hold onto the things he wants to keep?
Everything Jim wanted for keeps has been taken from him since the moment he was born in a shuttle while his father died, and there are some things Jim never dares to try and take, for fear of how much it will hurt to see them slip through his fingers.
So, you know, that’s an emphatic no to the second question.
Jim tries never to let on to anyone else, because hey, he’s Jim fucking Kirk. He’s got to have some standards, right?
- - - - -
- - - - -
Jim calls Old Spock kind of a lot. Considering that the dude once told him “I have been, and always will be, your friend,” it doesn’t seem unreasonable, and Old Spock always seems glad to see him and willing to listen, so why not?
It’s nice, dealing with someone who knows Jim for who he is (despite the differences in the timeline, there’s an essential Jimness that Jim possesses no matter what, apparently) and who Jim has warm, camaraderie-ish feelings for, even if they’re technically the result of a mind-meld Jim didn’t actually consent to.
(Whatever. Jim likes Old Spock. Old Spock likes Jim. It works, fuck how they got here.)
One of the things they sometimes do is play chess over the comm., a chessboard set down in front of each of them, and when one of them moves their own chess piece the other moves the equivalent piece on their own board, so that the two boards constantly mirror each other.
Old Spock knows all of Jim’s tricks and Jim doesn’t know any of his, so, you know, it’s a learning experience.
Contrary to the preconceptions everyone holds about him – and yes, of course Jim knows, everyone is so obvious about it, jeez – Jim does, in fact, enjoy learning experiences, as long as they’re interesting and don’t involve either abject humiliation or torture (sadly, learning experiences aboard the Enterprise tend to involve more of those than he would like).
During their chess sessions, Jim inevitably ends up comparing Old Spock to Young Spock, though, because Old Spock is patient, kind, and carries this general air of serenity, where Young Spock is wound up, full of repressed issues ( Jim isn’t sure exactly what these are, but he can tell repressed issues when he sees them) and frankly, kind of an asshole.
Also, he has a major hate-on for Jim, where his older counterpart is all quiet unVulcan affection, which is kind of really depressing for a whole bunch of reasons Jim prefers not to examine too closely.
“Other you totally hates me,” he tells Old Spock, during one of their chess games.
He isn’t sure why he tells him this, except that he feels vaguely that maybe Old Spock can shed some light on why Jim’s Spock sometimes conveys the impression that he wishes Jim would go die in a fire.
Not that Jim cares, or anything. This is just professional captainy concern for the efficiency of his bridge crew. Honest.
One of Old Spock’s eyebrows rises in an inquisitive manner. The familiarity of it makes Jim smile a little.
“Also, did you know that your younger self is dating Uhura? She’s really hot.”
Old Spock looks surprised.
Jim moves a pawn, and wonders if the surprise will put the old man off his game. Probably not.
Old Spock surveys Jim from the screen. His expression is thoughtful.
“Does that bother you?”
Jim starts at the unexpected question, and tries to hide his alarmed expression.
“What? No, why?” he says, too fast and too defensively.
Old Spock stares at him knowingly.
“I just want to know why he hates me, that’s all,” Jim says. It comes out more petulant that he means it to.
“Give him time, Jim,” Old Spock advises.
If anyone’s going to understand Spock, it’s himself, he figures.
Jim wonders if Old Spock can teach him how to communicate entire sentences with his eyebrows. It seems like an appropriate captainy skill. Besides, he’d love to see Spock’s face the day he raises an eyebrow at Jim only to have Jim raise an eloquent eyebrow back. That would be awesome.
The chess game continues on.
- - - - -
- - - - -
Jim has almost lost count of how many times he’s caught Spock and Uhura making out in the turbolifts.
(Okay, fine, it’s only been three times. But still.)
It always makes Jim hurt, in some ephemeral way he can’t define at all.
“As your captain,” Jim says, the fourth time the turbolift doors open to reveal Uhura holding Spock’s face in her hands and Spock looking almost sentimental for a Vulcan, “I should remind you that according to Starfleet regulations–”
Uhura is kind of stabbing Jim with her eyes.
“Regulations which you seem content to ignore in other situations, Captain,” Spock interrupts.
Jim pouts at him.
“Well, yeah, but I’m involved in those other situations,” he points out reasonably.
Uhura and Spock leave the turbolift.
The doors shut in Jim’s face.
Jim tries to not feel crushed.
He mostly fails.
- - - - -
- - - - -
“I am not actually this pathetic,” Jim tells himself aloud, after Uhura walks past close enough for Jim to discover that her perfume smells like cold, crisp apples.
“Don’t delude yourself, Jim,” Bones says on general principle. He doesn’t actually know what Jim is talking about, Jim knows; Jim would be subject to an exasperated monologue, otherwise.
“I’m grateful every day to have such supportive friends, Bones,” Jim informs him.
Bones sighs long-sufferingly. Jim met Bones’ mother once, and she sighed at Bones in exactly the same way, which would have been hilarious except for the horrifying implication that Bones has some kind of mother-hen complex towards him.
One day Jim will be drunk or delirious or high and accidentally blurt out this observation, and no one in the world will be able to save him from Bones’ curmudgeonly Southern wrath.
“Jim,” says Bones.
Jim devotes himself to eating his lunch.
“What?” Jim asks, playing clueless.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“You know, I get that question a lot.”
“Jim.” Bones’ tone is almost conversational. “You’ve been moping around likea half-dead blowfly. What’s going on?”
“Jim, do I need to schedule a counselling session?” Bones threatens.
Jim blanches. Sulu was forced to attend a counselling session once.
“Never again,” he told Jim, wild-eyed and desperate, and went off to get drunk with Scotty, because if it meant forgetting the last forty-five minutes it was worth the risk of going blind from Scotty’s homemade moonshine.
Sulu had taken up knitting shortly afterwards. No one dared ask if there was a correlation.
“You suck,” Jim complains. “Fine. I might have – I sort of have a thing for someone, okay?”
“A ‘thing,’” Bones repeats dryly.
“Yeah. So can you let me sit around and nurse my unrequited feelings in peace?”
“As long as there’s no bad poetry or depressing music involved,” Bones replies.
“Have I told you lately how much I hate you?”
“No, but I feel it here in my heart,” responds Bones equably.
Jim wonders why all his friends have to be smartasses.
Then it occurs to him that none of them acted much like a smartass when he first met them, and the common factor for all of them is their acquaintance with Jim.
Jim plots a graph in his head, the y axis labelled ‘Exposure to Jim Kirk’ and the x axis labelled ‘Frequency of Smartassery’ and, yeah, that’s a steep curve.
“I’m just going to eat, now,” says Jim.
It turns out there’s something in his meal that Jim’s allergic to and Jim inflates like a puffer fish and Bones has to jab him with half a dozen hypos just so he can breathe, because this is Jim’s life.
FML, he thinks sadly.
Even the sight of Spock hovering in a stiffly-concerned Vulcany way doesn’t make him feel better.
Alright, it does. But only a little.
“I trust that the captain will survive,” Spock tells Bones, because a Vulcan never asks a question when they can make a dry and vaguely sardonic statement (or maybe that’s just Spock, Jim doesn’t know).
“This time,” Bones avers. “Where’s the damn cook that made this? Did the morons in the kitchens even look at Jim’s allergy list?”
“It is a long list,” says Spock. Jim can’t tell if that’s a vague defence of the culinary staff, or just a general observation. “I will ensure that there is not a repeat of this incident.”
The way he says it is downright ominous. Jim feels sorry for the kitchen staff.
“Yeah, I’m sick of having to save Jim’s sorry ass every time he eats something,” Bones grumbles. “I swear, Jim, between this and your damn fool recklessness one of these days I’m just going to give in to the inevitable.”
Spock eyeballs Bones.
“I must ask for your continued diligence in the discharge of your duties in regard to the captain,” he says gravely. “His death would be inconvenient.”
Yeah, Jim can just feel the love.
“Assholes,” Jim tries to say, but his tongue refuses to cooperate.
He spends the next three hours in sickbay, which just figures.
- - - - -
- - - - -
Jim sometimes wonders about the phenomenal powers of Uhura’s brain, because no one should be able to speak fluently in that many languages.
People who have seen Jim’s Academy scores (and don’t assume he cheated) say that he’s a genius because of the things he can do with an equation if he bothers, but as far as Jim is concerned, he’s got nothing on Uhura.
Jim went and stayed with some kind of cousin once, when he was a kid and Frank was afraid he was going to murder Jim if he didn’t get him out of the house. The cousin was a xenolinguist, and Jim was fascinated, but he could barely manage to remember a few lines in a couple of different languages.
So, Uhura’s ability to speak like, eleventy languages? Jim is pretty damn impressed.
They’re in the middle of some kind of negotiation – Jim has no idea what for, the subtleties of their interactions with the Tall Cat People are totally lost on him – and Uhura is speaking and gesturing animatedly, and Jim can’t help smiling fondly as he listens to the way she shapes her words, emotion ringing in each syllable.
He suddenly feels like he’s being watched, and looks around to see Spock regarding him contemplatively.
“What?” Jim asks, and fuck it all, he can feel his face heating up.
Spock doesn’t say anything, just continues to observe Jim, like he’d like to understand what makes him tick.
Jim turns sharply away, because – because he’s sincerely wanted to understand how Spock works for a while, and the look Spock’s giving him is close enough to Jim’s own genuine interest and far enough from Spock’s usual passive hostility that Jim can’t take it.
He goes to stand next to Sulu who looks as confused by proceedings with the Tall Cat People as Jim does, and pretends he doesn’t feel the dark eyes still burning a thoughtful hole in Jim’s back.
- - - - -
- - - - -
“Was I a complete fool in your timeline, too?” Jim asks Old Spock, during their next chess game.
He isn’t completely sure whether this is a genuine question or just a way of venting his feelings about his situation.
Old Spock raises an eyebrow at him, knowing better than to ask what’s going on in Jim’s head right now.
Old Spock might actually be the most understanding and non-fucked up person Jim knows, and he’s a time-travelling elderly Vulcan whose planet was destroyed by a ‘particularly troubled Romulan,’ happens to be living concurrently with an alternate version of his younger self, and regularly plays chess with an alternate version of the dude who was his best friend.
Jim would just like to emphasise that Old Spock should be way more troubled by shit than he is, considering. Also, he hopes that his Spock turns out even half as awesome.
“I do not believe you wish me to answer that question truthfully,” says Old Spock.
“Yeah, probably not,” Jim admits.
He doesn’t say that dealing with Old Spock makes him think of another James T. Kirk, one he knows only from glimpses of memory from Old Spock’s head, and he would like a chance of becoming that James T. Kirk.
He thinks Old Spock understands anyway.
“Okay, so this is probably inappropriate, but how do you raise one eyebrow like that?” Jim asks, changing the subject. “Because it’s awesome.”
Old Spock raises said eyebrow, looking amused as ever at Jim’s random trains of thought, and Jim thinks that okay, maybe he does have that chance, even without the younger, grumpier Spock Jim so badly wants to know.
- - - - -
- - - - -
The next time Spock comes by to deliver some reports, the chess set is still on Jim’s desk. Jim himself is tired and up to his ears in paperwork, and doesn’t actually pay that much attention when Spock puts his reports on the end of Jim’s desk.
Spock doesn’t leave, though, and Jim looks up to see him regarding the chess set curiously.
Jim leans back in his chair and grins.
Spock looks at him quickly, and it’s only because Jim is used to Old Spock (whose expressions are a lot more open than Jim’s Spock, yeah, but still) that Jim can tell that Spock is kind of uncertain.
“I do,” Spock replies, no trace of that uncertainty in his tone.
Jim allows a smile to shift into what he knows is a disarming grin. Whether it works on Vulcans he doesn’t know. Guess he’ll find out.
“Cool. I mean, that’s fabulous, you want to play a game sometime? Because it would be nice to play someone who isn’t on the other side of a screen,” Jim adds hopefully.
Spock gives him a considering stare.
“I believe that would be agreeable.”
“Great!” Jim declares and God, he’s beaming like a moron, but Spock is actually agreeing to play with him. Instead of, you know, giving him the cold shoulder, and it’s ridiculous how happy this makes Jim feel right now. “How about tomorrow?”
“That should be fine.”
“Awesome!” John smiles brilliantly. “Okay then. Right. Um.”
Spock gives him a bemused look, and takes his leave.
- - - - -
- - - - -
Jim is still foolishly happy the next morning at breakfast.
Bones notices, of course, and immediately walks over.
“Are you on something?” the doctor asks suspiciously.
“What, no,” Jim says. Apparently he looks too happy, if Bones is asking him dumb questions like that one. “I’m just happy. Can’t I just be happy?”
Bones, bless his cynical heart, narrows his eyes at Jim.
Jim tries to look innocent and clueless.
Sure, the innocent part never ever works, but the clueless part sometimes does and anyway, even if it doesn’t, Jim is obligated to try on principle.
“You’ve spent the last three months pining, like a lovestruck damsel,” Bones says brutally, “and now you’re smiling like someone force-fed you happy pills.”
“Spock agreed to play chess with me.”
Bones blinks. It takes a moment to sink in.
“Don’t tell me you and that green-blooded hobgoblin–”
“Chess,” Jim enunciates clearly, with emphasis.
Bones points an accusing finger.
“You do not get this happy over chess, Jim!”
“How do you know? Maybe I do. Maybe chess is my secret fetish, Bones,” Jim points out, because messing with his friends is always fun.
“Dammit, Jim! Jesus, I though you were mooning over Uhura, not Spock!”
“I,” Jim says gravely, "am a very loving person.”
It takes Bones like two seconds to parse that, and then he groans.
Jim thinks about reminding him that this is the 23rd century and polyamory is a perfectly acceptable life choice these days, but Bones has taken to carrying hypos with him everywhere lately and Jim really doesn’t want to be stabbed with one this early in the morning.
So instead Jim sips at his coffee and waits for Bones to get over his little crisis.
Bones finishes his tantrum and glares at Jim, like Jim has a love life purely to torment him.
“Tell me nothing,” Bones says threateningly. “I don’t want to know shit about your messed-up love triangle with Spock and Uhura. You hear me?”
“You know, technically it’s not a love triangle, because we’re not fighting over–”
“Gotcha,” Jim sighs, grinning. “Nothing, I get it.”
“Good,” Bones decides.
He does give Jim a supportive pat on the shoulder, though, because much as Bones likes to pretend he’s a heartless bastard he’s really just a giant grouchy marshmallow.
With hypos. Can’t forget those.
- - - - -
- - - - -
The chess game goes pretty well, Jim thinks.
Jim probably shouldn’t be so surprised that Spock plays differently from Old Spock –after all, there’s not just a lifetime between them, but a timeline, and Jim has no way of telling how different both Spocks’ lives have been. Jim can’t have been the only one affected by the effects of Nero’s actions in this timeline, even if they’re pretty dramatic in his case.
Jim is surprised, though. Where Old Spock is far more relaxed, even in his calculation, this Spock is all intense focus, a fierce effort of concentration.
Jim can’t help wondering why Young Spock is so wound up all the time when Old Spock so clearly isn’t, and wonders if something happened to one that didn’t happen to the other, or if it’s just an age and experience thing. Who knows, maybe Old Spock had a stick up his butt at this age, too.
Jim kind of doubts it. The old man is too mischievous sometimes for Jim to picture it easily.
Despite the differences between the two Spocks, though, they’re still enough alike that Jim’s months of playing against Old Spock give him an advantage, and he ends up winning.
Spock looks simultaneously surprised, and intrigued.
“This activity has not been unpleasant,” he informs Jim. “Perhaps we could repeat it on another occasion.”
Which is how Jim winds up playing chess on a regular basis with both Spocks.
It feels like the beginning of something.
- - - - -
- - - - -
Once a week, all the members of the bridge crew are expected to turn up in Rec Room 1 and bond.
Jim made this a rule early on, on the grounds that they’re all young and relatively inexperienced and get into way too much shit, and they need to be able to rely on each other. So, mandatory bonding sessions.
Most of the time they end up watching holos.
Sulu sits and knits as he watches and Scotty eats his way through a pile of sandwiches and gives a running commentary on whatever they’re watching until someone makes him shut up (usually by threatening the sandwiches), and Chekov sits looking wide-eyed and interested in whatever is on because apparently seventeen year old geniuses don’t have time for anything but studying when they’re at the Academy, and Chekov is woefully unfamiliar with pretty much everything they watch.
Jim usually stretches out in his seat, slouching across it to achieve coverage of maximum area, and divides his attention between watching the holo and secretly watching Uhura and Spock.
Spock usually sits and views the holo intently, like he’s attending a lecture or something, paying strict attention to everything that’s going on, occasionally requesting clarification when something mystifies him. Uhura and Jim are always happy to explain, although Jim has to admit that some of his explanations probably just confuse the poor guy even further.
Uhura, it turns out, is unexpectedly a fan of the same kind of holos as Jim – holos of old late 20th/early 21st century films. Jim knows that they’re odd and old-fashioned and the effects are kind of ridiculous, but he likes them anyway. There’s an attitude to most of them that he just likes, okay?
Jim and Uhura’s taste in holos means that they end up arguing with Bones, because Bones is convinced that anything over about thirty years old sucks, basically.
It’s a surprising opinion for a guy who’s all old-fashioned Southern principles, but hell, no one said Bones had to be consistent.
So, Uhura and Jim often unite in defence of stuff like Star Wars and Terminator (that one made Spock look all kinds of disturbed, beneath the Vulcany mask, and he made remarks about the human psyche that pretty much everyone ignored) and Firefly, which both of them agree is one of the best old TV shows ever. It turns out Uhura has all six seasons, which just proves that she’s as awesome as Jim always believed.
He tells her so.
Uhura laughs, her face opening up and her eyes turning bright, and for the millionth time Jim feels his heart clench in his chest and his mouth turn dry. He swallows.
Both Spock and Bones are watching him intently, Spock inscrutably, Bones with a shrewd stare.
“Thank you, sir,” Uhura grins.
“Jim,” Jim corrects. He’s lost count of how many times he’s told her this. It’s like Uhura is allergic to first names. Jim only knows hers because he’s captain and it’s in her file.
Jim totally doesn’t expect it when Uhura rolls her eyes and says “fine,” with a smile.
He blinks at her in surprise.
Chekov giggles. No, seriously, like a thirteen year old girl. Next to him Sulu snorts and looks at the navigator in amusement as Chekov covers his mouth with his hand and looks abashed.
Uhura just smiles some more, bright and lovely, and God, he’s pathetic, Jim thinks sadly.
“Yes, really,” Uhura assures him.
Then there’s a completely awesome scene that they absolutely all must watch, so everyone shuts up and plays attention.
Jim goes to sneak a look at Spock, except that Spock turns out to be looking at him, which is kind of awkward.
Jim hurriedly glances away, feeling a flush creep up his neck no matter how he tries to tell himself there’s no reason to blush, dammit, can’t a guy glance at his first officer without blushing like a teenage girl?
Apparently the answer is no.
Out of the corner of his eye Jim sees that Spock is looking thoughtful again.
It would be easier if I just stabbed myself in the foot already, God, Jim thinks mournfully.
He tries to ignore Spock’s stare.
Mostly, he succeeds.
He can’t help feeling worried about it, though.
- - - - -
- - - - -
Jim is in his quarters when there is a knock on the door.
“Come in!” he calls.
The last thing he expects is for Uhura and then Spock to walk in, the door closing behind them.
They both look oddly determined, and maybe a little amused.
“Uh, hi,” says Jim looking between them. “What can I do for you?”
They exchange glances.
“Permission to speak freely, Captain,” Spock offers.
“Sure,” Jim agrees, totally lost about what this is all about, but pretty curious.
The moment he agrees, Spock is suddenly in Jim’s space. For one wild minute Jim is totally confused, wondering if maybe he’s going to be hit or choked again or something and wondering what the hell for this time.
Spock kisses him.
Jim is too shocked and stunned and bewildered and various other synonyms to do more than gape.
After a few seconds Spock moves back slightly, just enough for Uhura to move in and kiss Jim as well. Then she steps back, like Spock, to give Jim a little space.
They’re both laughing at him on the inside, Jim is pretty sure.
“Uh, wow,” Jim says, still feeling stunned. “Um.”
Yeah, definitely laughing at him.
“I wasn’t even completely sure you even liked me,” Jim admits honestly, too off-balance not to.
Uhura rolls her eyes, while Spock just wears his patient My Captain Is Dim expression that Jim sees depressingly often.
It suddenly and blindingly occurs to him that it’s a fond expression.
Okay, maybe the My Captain Is Dim face isn’t that wrong.
“Come here,” Uhura says, laughing and shaking her head, Spock’s eyes bright.
Jim lets himself be pulled into a three-way hug that turns into a three-way make-out session that promises to turn into something else again in the near future.
And for the first time in ages (possibly ever), he feels content.