En passant is a special capture, made immediately after a player moves a pawn two squares forward from its starting position, when an opposing pawn could have captured it if it had moved only one square forward. In this situation, the opposing pawn may capture the pawn as if taking it "as it passes" through the first square. The en passant capture must be done on the very next turn, or the right to do so is lost.
Jim whistled a vague, jaunty tune as he signed off on a final request, handed it to Rand, and hopped out of his chair. Another bridge shift finished, he strolled to the turbolift with nods to Sulu and Chekov, pondering the question of dinner and what might follow. He was probably overdue for some reading, and Chekov had lent him some Dostoevsky that he felt kind of honour-bound to finish, dry though it was.
He whirled on his heel to face Spock, cutting off his stupid little song. "Mr. Spock."
He waited for Spock to log off from his console and join him in front of the turbolift. Spock didn't speak until they'd gone inside and Jim had jabbed the button for the mess deck.
"Jim, may I enquire as to what your plans might be this evening?"
He shrugged by way of answering, half just to see that eyebrow climb.
"I see," Spock said after a moment, giving him a pointed look as he grinned back. "The purpose of my enquiry is to discern whether you would be amenable to an evening of chess."
He stuffed his hands in his pockets, musing on the idea, but immediately remembered something. "Isn't this your regular date night with Uhura?"
Spock looked away as the lift opened for them, and they were several steps down the corridor before he responded. "Not any longer; the lieutenant and I terminated our romantic relationship last week."
Jim could do nothing but blink for a moment as he absorbed that. "Well," he started. "I have to say I admire your professionalism." They'd been acting as friendly as ever toward each other on the bridge. He never would have guessed. Maybe there was less touching; he couldn't really say.
Spock raised his eyebrow again. "We chose to end it for many reasons, none of them dislike."
Jim gave him a considering look. He didn't seem to be suffering. "Yeah," he said, bringing the subject back around. "Why not. Chess in my quarters. Wanna grab some dinner first?"
Spock inclined his head. "That sounds agreeable."
Bones and Scotty joined them in the mess hall and Jim was sated with hot food and laughter when they made their way back to his quarters. Spock followed him in when he unlocked the door and went directly to the chess board as Jim detoured first to the head and then the replicator; even if it wasn't their regular chess night, they had a routine for these and no one was about to change it.
"Dr. McCoy said something at dinner which I found puzzling," Spock said as they settled in; it was his turn for white and he moved even as he spoke.
"Must be Wednesday," Jim said blandly, moving a pawn nearly at random.
Spock blinked. "By the seven-day Earth calendar, Jim, it is Monday."
"Just an expression, Spock. What puzzled you?" he asked, watching Spock take his pawn en passant.
"He was admonishing you for your alleged recent theft of his 'emergency bourbon'. To my knowledge, he consumes that particular beverage with regularity. While I concede that we find ourselves in a state of emergency quite frequently, this reference--" He cut himself off when Jim held up a hand, biting back laughter as he clued into what Spock was talking about.
"You're not wrong," Jim said, squinting at the board and then impulsively putting a bishop in play right away. It paid to follow his impulses when he played against Spock. "Bones does drink a lot of bourbon—purely for medicinal reasons, I understand—and it falls under different classifications. There's the everyday stuff, usually the cheapest he's got, and then the weekend and holiday bourbon, and finally the emergency stash. The emergency bourbon is unique in that it has the highest alcohol content and typically the best finish."
Spock was silent as he finished setting up his pawn chain. "I confess that the habits of functioning alcoholics are a mystery to me," he said finally.
"A couple more years serving on this ship ought to fix that."
"Indeed; it seems to be a predictable effect of long service in space on humans."
"Or a warning sign that Starfleet needs to be a lot pickier about who they let in," Jim said.
The conversation faded into quiet play for several minutes before picking up again, following its usual, circuitous route. They talked about how the day had gone, the previous week's away mission, the away mission coming up in two days, the ensign who was in traction in Sickbay after their recent run-in with Klingons, how Rand had been nagging Jim to mend his own uniform shirts, Russian literature, and Scotty's new pet tribble. They didn't talk about Uhura; Jim wondered if he should try to broach the subject (Spock likely never would) but decided selfishly that he was enjoying his evening too much to ruin it with anyone's relationship drama.
He'd never admit it to Spock, but even now that he was actually trying to win their chess games, these evenings were ridiculously relaxing.
Since Spock had confronted Jim about the quality of his chess-playing, the atmosphere of their games had taken a remarkable turn. Truthfully, Spock was quite challenged by Jim as an attentive opponent and lately was forced to concede easily as many games as he won (and those victories were sometimes by a harrowing margin). He had not really known what he was expecting even as he'd admonished Jim to make an effort, but he had to admit that the level of competition he was now being given was surprising.
He enjoyed it thoroughly and to a nearly shameful degree.
All the same, Jim's strategy—and calling it that might be overextending the term—sometimes made Spock's fingers itch to choke him again. Just slightly. He considered the board and the current threat being laid against his knight, silently cursing the human brain and its capacity for completely illogical leaps of brilliance. One day, he was going to unlock the mystery of Jim's seemingly haphazard playing (a thin veneer of irrationality over layers and layers of cunning and contingency plans, from what Spock could see; much like his approach to captaincy) and then the tables would be turned.
He contented himself with this thought as he sacrificed the knight, with an eye to material recovery in the near future. Jim's eyes glinted in a worrying way and he quickly made another staggering move. Spock was unlikely to win this game.
Jim may have been making unadvertised progress with telepathy, because he looked up almost immediately after Spock had this thought and said, "You know, if your self-esteem is taking a hit, I guess I could throw a game sometime."
Spock felt a faint twitch near his eye. "Your generosity is overwhelming, Jim, but I believe my self-esteem will remain intact without the assistance."
He got an easy smile in return, one that turned up slightly at the edges to share in the humour. "If that's what you want, buddy."
The conversation (which contented Spock where he might ordinarily find this game agitating) meandered, mostly staying on subjects which Dr. McCoy would refer to as 'shop talk' but with occasional tangents into more personal topics. Jim was currently reading an epic by a classical Earth author, one with whom Spock was passingly acquainted. He was unsurprised to hear that the book had come from Ensign Chekov, given the boy's zealous nationalism and enthusiasm to share his country's achievements with others. At least this particular author had, in fact, come from Russia, unlike tea, warp theory and the internal combustion engine—a small selection of claims Spock had overheard being made only in the past week.
He had been expecting Jim to bring up Nyota in some way, but he seemed uninterested in pursuing the subject any further than his enquiries before dinner had gotten him. Spock wondered why this might be, but was thankful to put the whole circumstance aside for the evening. He found, in fact, that his melancholy of the past few days was nearly forgotten; there was something to be said for the company of friends in the face of loneliness.
In another twenty moves, Spock found himself conceding the game, but the fleetingly pleased look on Jim's face negated any discontent he might have felt about the loss. It was late, so they cleaned up the board as the conversation tapered off, and Jim saw Spock off at the door.
"Regular chess night later this week?" Jim asked as he stepped into the corridor.
"Certainly, Jim. I look forward to it."
Jim grinned. "'Night, Spock."
"I will see you in the morning," Spock said with a nod, and set off for his cabin.