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"Possibly I am more fucked up than you are," says Jim. "Possibly."

"How did you reach that conclusion?" Spock moves his not-knight two levels up and and then to the left, taking Jim's not-bishop.

"Well, shit," says Jim. He'd needed that bishop. "Because, see, I actually pulled out of that port when they started, you know, shooting at us."

"It was an unusually conservative course of action," Spock observes. "For you."

"For me. Yeah. That's the thing." Jim moves his not-pawn three steps and up one level. Spock narrows his eyes; heh, let him figure out what that pawn will do, sixteen turns from now. Even without a bishop. "But I've got a crew now, so I figure, maybe I oughta watch out for them, maybe I should pull out when things get nasty, 'cause I don't want any of my people getting hurt."

"A wise outlook."

"Yep. Enlightened, that's me. But then, you had to go back in. Alone. Against my orders."

"I believe you already disciplined me for that."

Discipline. Jim forcibly ejects images of handcuffs and gags from his mind, because a) they didn't happen, and b) something. Something related at least peripherally to Jim's sanity, because, damn, the thought of those handcuffs -

Spock's eyes gleam.

"Wha - no fair, you totally incepted that idea into my brain - "

"Your statement is illogical and your premise delusional, bordering on paranoid. Check."

"Oh, no, you don't." Jim nudges his not-rook to intercept. "And paranoid? Nah, I don't think so. Inception, buddy. You know it when you're doing it."

"Your references to ancient 'pop culture' do not, in fact, make your argument more convincing."

"Hey, you liked that movie."

"It was an intriguing exploration of the enduring irrationality of the Human mind."

"An irrationality you're now better equipped to exploit."

"Your paranoia is, as I said," Spock surveys the second-level board, "a matter of some concern. Perhaps Dr. McCoy ought to run a Psychological Evaluation during your next check-up."

"He'll just hypospray me with whatever cocktail of drugs he has handy."

"Dr. McCoy is a thorough and admirable scientist, who recognizes the importance of a wide data sample in order to reach viable conclusions."

"Are you - are you saying you want me to be Bones's guinea pig?"

"Unless genetic engineering is involved, I do not foresee you developing porcine characteristics. Check."

"Screw you. Oh, look, there goes your queen. Beep, beep."

"To what purpose do you supply sound effects?"

"Wile E. Coyote, man. No, wait, I haven't shown you that one, yet. You'll love it."

"Is it also a surreal exploration of the Human psyche?"

"You betcha. Anyway, back to the topic we were talking about before you, like, tried to engage in the world's most underhanded kink negotiation - "

"I did no such thing."

"You lie. You lie, liar. Pants on fire."

"Vulcans do not lie. Humans, however, do. Frequently. As is evidenced by the fact that my trousers are not, in reality, ablaze."

"That's kind of a pity. I wouldn't mind it if they disintegrated into ash. Left you bare-legged and - "


"Fuck." Jim jerks his not-king back a step and down a level. "You play dirty, Spock. Very, very dirty. Filthy, even."

"My personal hygiene is irrelevant to this game. Which I appear to be winning."

"Only because you're cheating."

"Vulcans do not cheat."

"Keep saying that. One day, I might even believe you. Not."

Spock raises an eyebrow. "Jim. You are being, as the Humans say, 'absurd.'"

"So, Vulcans don't lie? Fine, I get that. I mean, obviously you weren't lying about the kink negotiation, because that's not what you were doing, was it? What you were doing was trying to distract me - "

"You are easily distracted."

"Conclusion: You cheated."





Spock hisses, in an uncharacteristic display of emotion, and Jim shivers, recalling that very hiss, hot as a lick of flame, against his shoulder last night. Easily distracted? Yeah, maybe.

But Spock is definitely cheating.

Even though he's busy pulling himself back together and being all faux-appreciative, and shit. "That was a logical move," Spock murmurs, "well-reasoned and planned for in a timely fashion."

"Don't even try to pretend you're not a sore loser, Spock. Want me to rub it in your face?"

"What, precisely," Spock asks innocently, "would you be rubbing into my face?"

Jim seizes. And drops his not-pawn, which skitters under his chair until Jim has to lunge down to retrieve it, face burning. "Okay, I walked right into that one. My fault. Can't blame you."

"I am blameless," Spock agrees. There isn't even a twitch at the corner of his mouth. His beautiful, perfect mouth. Bastard.

"Sure. You're practically a saint. I'm just the paranoid sicko with thoughts of ball-gags in his head. And, y'know, thoughts of racing to a dashing rescue even if it means abandoning the rest of the crew."

Spock... pauses, his hand hovering halfway to the board. "That was the topic you wished to discuss."

"Yeah. The reason I might be even more fucked up than you are? Is that."

"You did not abandon ship to rescue me."

"No, I only held the whole planet hostage until they gave you back. But that's beside the point. I wanted to go down there. I - I nearly did."

Spock studies him, and replaces the piece he'd been about to move. "You are not an irresponsible captain."

"Oh, now you say it. If the crew hadn't had to, like, physically restrain me and in Bones's case, sedate me, I wouldn't have waited long enough for that damn Head Priest to get back to me with the terms of how they'd return you to us. Of course, the fact that you deliberately got yourself captured means you got us some great intel, but for a while there - I didn't care. I didn't care about anything at all. Not the Federation, not the ship, not myself."


"Pretty fucked up, huh?"

But Spock's quiet, like he is when he's in one of his meditative trances, except that his eyes are open, alert and fixed unerringly on Jim's. It's exactly like being pinned under the weight of a warm, dark-furred panther, both paralyzing and drugging, but then, Spock looks away. Picks up his game-piece. And resumes playing. "It was logical."

"Lo - how was that logical?"

"It is logical to wish to protect one's mate."

Jim... just sort of sits there. And breathes. And feels the world rock around him, once, like a boat pushed off-shore. "Oh," Jim says dizzily. His voice may or may not be cracking. "So, does that mean you're as fucked up as I am?"


Jim's attention snaps back to the game. "Oh, hell, no! You cheated! Again!"

"I did no such thing," Spock repeats. "And may I add that one can hardly be a mate without having a mate, in return."

"Now that's logic, right there."

Spock inclines his head.

Jim resists the urge to bang his own head against the wall. The wall that is Spock. Clearly. "Didn't it ever occur to you to propose the romantic way?"

"All matters of import deserve to be considered with the utmost logic."

"Right. The logic of wild monkey sex? Because I'm down with that logic."

"The physical act of mating is merely the final seal on an agreement written far prior to the act itself."

Jim blinks. "How prior?" He's always wanted to know when Spock started, well, digging him. And not just literally.

But suddenly, Spock isn't meeting his eyes, like the combadge on Jim's lapel is the most fascinating bit of technology in the Alpha quadrant. "Very prior."

"That's inexact, for you. No timeframe rounded off to three decimal digits? No month-day-second count? Check, by the way."

Yeah, now Spock's looking at him. His gaze burns, like a goddamn phaser-blast. Straight through the heart.

Jim's pulse stutters.

"I see what you mean by cheating."

"Ha. Do you? Too fucking bad."

"Nevertheless," Spock gets his queen back in play after a crazy chess-fu strike that leaves the entirety of Jim's front line - pawns and all - decimated. "Logic always triumphs."

"My king isn't dead."

"Yet." There's a smirk in Spock's voice. How can there even be a smirk in a person's voice?

It makes Jim want to bone him like a lunatic, but still. "You - sometimes, I just wanna tip you upside down. And, and shake you. Like maybe if I shake you hard enough, your heart will fall out."

"That sounds unhealthy." Spock is not-smiling, which means that he is, and yeah, Jim's going to kiss him. As soon as he wins this game.



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