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Souls Lost at Sea

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Some people are born with tornados in their lives,

but constellations in their eyes.

Other people are born with stars at their feet,

but their souls are lost at sea.

Perspectives, Nikita Gill

 

 


 

 

His ship thrums differently.

It’s not unpleasant, but he can tell that this is not his Enterprise, even though his quarters look exactly the same. He’s tried to find perceptible differences, in the way his furniture is now arranged and in the replacements of his old belongings, but to no avail. These quarters are identical to his old ones, down to the smallest of details. But he knows.

Two weeks have passed since the launch of the USS Enterprise-A, and Jim feels like a stranger on board his own ship. It’s not really unjustified and he believes he’ll get accustomed to the new ship soon enough. After all, he’s spent the last six months stranded on a Starbase in deep space, away from his chair, his console and the stars.

But that isn’t the only thing that’s making him uneasy. A quarter of his crew has been replaced in the aftermath of the Yorktown incident and he hasn’t had the time to acquaint himself with the new members yet. Not that he’d actually get to know them as well as he would want, since there are ninety-six of them. But he’s always liked to personally know the people he works with. Of course, he handpicked them himself from the ‘Fleet’s best when the time came to put his crew back together, but nothing compares to the old-fashioned handshake and the cheerful ‘how do you do?’.

It doesn’t help that he feels overwhelmed by guilt, since most of his new crew members are on board right now because he couldn’t protect and save the previous ones. He also wasn’t surprised when some spots had to be filled because of transfer requests. Life on the ‘Fleet’s flagship is not for the faint of heart. If wearing a redshirt doesn’t get you, surely trauma will.

But it’s good to see the stars again. What he felt when he sat in the chair again and the Enterprise-A took off at warp speed for the very first time, the elation and the relief, cannot possibly be compared to the moroseness he felt when he stepped foot onto Yorktown six months ago, before Krall took down his ship. He’s ashamed now, as he remembers how he saw tedious routine in the only thing that’s ever generated sparks in his heart.

He’s started the remainder of the five-year mission with newfound energy and passion, and he’s thankful for the time he’s spent on Yorktown, as the Enterprise-A was being built. Starfleet offered temporary positions to his crew, apart from well-deserved extended shore leave time, integrating them on the Starbase until the ship was ready. Jim chose to teach a course on the command track at the Academy as a guest lecturer, and he’s found the time spent in the company of brilliant, young minds most refreshing. He was reminded what it means to be young, imaginative and reckless. It was like a breath of fresh air.

So what if his road is sometimes paved with uneventful diplomatic missions and he spends some days just crossing black, starless void? He wants to get back out there. And somehow, those people who looked up to him and wanted to be like him have inspired him to make the most out of the time left in his mission.

Because he knows what to expect when the Enterprise-A will dock at Starbase 1, in less than two years’ time. The flag officers of the ‘Fleet and the Federation will offer their acclaims and congratulations. They’ll be showered with attention from the press, coming from all corners of the Alpha Quadrant. All members of his crew will receive promotions and future work offers from Starfleet. Including himself. He’ll become a flag officer. A commodore, or an admiral. He couldn’t care less which of the two.

Everyone knows flag officers don’t get to command a starship. They’ll take her away from him in two years and he won’t even get used to her properly. There were still nooks and curves of the original Enterprise he didn’t get to know, and while the Enterprise-A is supposed to be its identical counterpart, Jim knows it’s a completely different ship, a strange silver lady he won’t get the chance to cherish for long.

And what is Jim Kirk without his ship? He’s no one, he’s just a golden boy who wanted to touch the stars, a boy with his feet stuck in the dirt of a planet he’s never really considered a home.

But he knows his ship will be left in capable hands. Mr. Spock is long overdue for a well-deserved promotion himself and perhaps he’ll do a better job than Jim in the command chair. Or he’ll show an unexpected speck of Vulcan loyalty Jim knows he has hidden in that apparent soulless chest of his, and he’ll refuse to command a ship that once belonged to his own Captain, retiring from command as well to join Jim in the unfulfilling prison that is Federation bureaucracy.

He can’t imagine Spock in a command team with someone who isn’t him. They’re Starfleet’s best, Spock has admitted so himself. No one else should have the right to have Spock, as their Captain or XO, no one else besides him. It would be an insult to both of them.

He can’t believe he almost left the Enterprise and suggested Spock as her captain. It could’ve easily been the greatest mistake of his life. He’s glad Spock doesn’t know anything about that dark hour of his.

Or maybe they’ll let him be a captain and they won’t take his ship away. And maybe Spock will refuse captaincy as well, since he’s never shown interest in it. And they’ll continue to be the best command team in the ‘Fleet, they’ll get to keep most, if not all, of their bridge crew and they’ll get another lengthy mission in deep space…

He’s allowed to dream.

He smiles, even though his ship—no, theirs, his and Spock’s—thrums differently.

Speaking of his pointy-eared First Officer, they’ve fallen out of touch during their time on Yorktown. While he’s been busy motivating the next generation and steering cadets towards command, Spock’s been working at the research facilities, conducting some complicated experiments and simulations on unique patterns in gravitational fields. Spock had tried explaining to him in detail what his work exactly focuses on, but Jim couldn’t really follow him for long.

He’s happy that his XO spent his time doing something he enjoys, though. Spock kept repeating the word ‘fascinating’, and if Jim has learned something about him in those four years they’ve know each other, is that when Spock says ‘fascinating’, it means he’s totally excited and captivated by whatever’s caught his attention.

During the first few days of their onshore assignments, they had managed to synchronize their schedules somehow and they often had lunch or dinner together, like they used to on the Enterprise, but soon enough, their meetings had started to be few and far between. They’d meet once a week, or twice if they were lucky, to catch up on the ship’s progress, and their meetings would often be cut short by one (or on one occasion, both) of their communicators beeping, calling them back to their duties.

It was weird, seeing Spock so rarely out of a sudden, when for three years they used to spend not only the daily eight-hour Alpha shift and sometimes portions of the Beta and Gamma shifts when neither of them could sleep, but also most of their off-duty time together. Spock once said, entertaining Jim when he teasingly asked if Spock keeps track of their time together, that they spend about 81.72 percent of their awake time together. Jim laughed and joked that they should also share living quarters, so they’d bring that percentage closer to one hundred. ‘That would be illogical, Captain,’ Spock deadpanned and Jim laughed again.

He eventually learned to live with the void Spock left in his onshore life, and when he wasn’t at the Academy, he pestered Bones at the Medicenter. The Georgian doctor pretended he didn’t care much for Jim’s presence in his infirmaries, but Jim’s sure that Bones felt as lonely as he did on Yorktown.

When Bones was unavailable, Jim beamed on board of his new ship, to assist Scotty with testing or installing, or whatever needed to be done in order to get the Enterprise-A in space as soon as possible.

Scotty is completely in love with the new ship and he worked like a madman at its construction. Jim is willing to bet his Captain’s stripes that without Scotty, they’d still be at the spacedock, waiting for another six months for the ship to be ready for her maiden voyage.

He silently thanks his Chief Engineer for the umpteenth time for getting them all off Yorktown in record time. While the Starbase is a technological wonder, and an amazing location for shore leave, he’s sure that he’s not the only one on board who’s incredibly happy to be back in space.

He stands up from his terminal, having just sent the last completed report of the day to HQ. It’s been an uneventful day, but since they’re navigating through an uncharted cluster of stars, his vigilance was needed on the bridge for the entirety of his shift. His shoulders are tense and he tries to release some of the knots himself, twisting his body to reach them and wincing in pain.

This is one of the things he hates about being Captain. He used to dump the paperwork on Spock sometimes, since he’s definitely more efficient and doesn’t seem bothered by it. Hell, he didn’t even have to ask sometimes, Spock would offer to take the workload himself and Jim would thank him over and over for giving him the opportunity to get some sleep.

But now, since they’ve drifted apart in the past months, he feels kind of awkward around him, even though he’s glad to have Spock back. Asking Spock directly to help him with the reports or even insinuating he’d appreciate some help seems weird at this stage.

He’s been trying to get back in touch with Spock, of course he has. He misses their chess matches, the enjoyable conversations, their meals and coffee breaks in the officers’ mess hall, and their sparring sessions in the gym. They’ve had none of those since their voyage has been resumed, and Jim can’t blame himself for it. Spock has declined multiple of both his subtle and or not so subtle invitations, and Jim has reached the conclusion that he’s the only one who wants to rekindle their friendship.

He furrows his eyebrows and bites on his bottom lip, weighing his options for the night. The chronometer on his wall indicates that the ship’s time is 2031. It’s too early for him to go to bed, he’s already paid Bones a visit in the Sickbay and the doctor regrettably was busy with some physical examinations, he’s already eaten and he’s officially off-duty. He groans and lets himself fall back-first on the bed with a thud, shrugging off his boots.

He’s already reached out to Spock once today, on the bridge. Asking him, ‘Spock, would you care to join me for dinner in the mess hall after the shift ends?’ just earned Kirk a noncommittal ‘my apologies, Captain, but my presence is required in the science labs immediately afterwards’. It made Jim think that his friend is avoiding him, since it’s the fifth time this week that Spock’s played the ‘my presence is required elsewhere’ card.

He stares at the ceiling, listening to the hum of the refitted warp core that’s propelling them through parsecs of uncharted space.

Why would Spock avoid him? Nothing has changed between them, apart from the fact that they’ve grown apart, something that Jim considers to be quite easy to fix, anyway. They just need to spend time together, like they used to before. If only Spock would show interest in that, too.

Damn it, he’s doing this.

He reaches out for his PADD that’s lying on the bedside table. Phrasing the message in his head, he taps his fingers on the cold, smooth surface for the better part of a minute. When he finally opens the device, he pulls up a draft of another message he wrote last night, a message he never intended to send to his XO. 

Spock, I miss you. Please stop avoiding me?

He erases it, cringing at how needy the message sounds. He snorts, thinking what it would’ve been like if he accidentally pressed ‘send’ instead of erasing the message. He shakes his head.

He leaves only the ‘Spock,’ in the draft. The I-beam pointer blinks too quickly, taunting him. He breathes in sharply, deleting the name too.

Commander, are you available for

No, it doesn’t sound like something he would send. He presses the tip of the stylus hard on the display, erasing the poorly-phrased beginning.

Spock. Chess. Tonight. Please.

He groans and holds the stylus on the digital backspace key until the words disappear, then he brings the thin instrument to his face, tapping it against his lips until inspiration strikes him.

Spock, would you like to meet for a game of chess this evening? –JTK

Satisfied with the text, he presses send and jumps off the bed when he receives confirmation that his message has been delivered. He leaves the PADD on the bed, knowing that he’ll hear it chime if—no, when—Spock answers.

He enters the bathroom he shares with his XO, wondering if Spock is on the other side of the door which opens to his quarters. Carding his fingers through his hair and watching his reflection in the Starfleet-issue mirror, he decides to take a sonic shower while he waits for Spock’s reply.

He misses the old-fashioned water-and-soap showers he used to take on Earth as a kid, but he’s got to admit that the sonic shower is much more convenient. He’s out in less than three minutes, and’s glad he doesn’t have to dry himself because the first thing he does when he exits the bathroom is to check his PADD. The towel he wrapped around his waist almost falls in his hurry to grab the device when he sees the screen blinking, letting him know he has an unread message.

I am amenable to the suggestion. Is a meeting at 2100 in my personal quarters acceptable? I shall provide refreshments. –CMDR Spock

Jim doesn’t pump his fist in the air. But he does check the time. 2043, the chronometer shows. Smiling, he writes a quick reply, assuring Spock he’d be there. Ha! That was simple. Maybe Spock has really been busy all along. It was stupid of him to think his friend would avoid him.

He spends the next five minutes trying to decide what to wear. He’s never truly paid attention to what he wears when he and Spock hang out and he doesn’t know why he cares so much now. He hesitates, eyeing a pair of civilian jeans and a bunch of variously colored plain t-shirts, buried deep inside his wardrobe under his spare uniform pieces, before putting today’s uniform he’d just discarded back on. Better play his cards close to his chest. Wearing civilian clothing during their first strictly social encounter since they’ve been back seems a little too… casual. Spock will have his uniform on too anyway, he bets. He’s rarely seen the Vulcan wear anything else on board.

Until the chronometer shows 2059, he sits at his terminal and goes through his unread communications with disinterest, sorting the messages. He feels jittery when the time comes to turn off the screen and to exit his quarters.

During the previous three years on the Enterprise, he’d developed a habit of knocking at Spock’s bathroom door whenever they wanted to spend time together. Shortly after Jim began doing it, Spock followed his example and it wordlessly became a frequent thing they did. Not even announcing themselves beforehand through a comm, or a PADD message, but simply knocking and opening their doors to each other. Sometimes, they even let those doors open if they had arranged to meet before. It was simpler, more intimate and it represented a trait of their friendship.

Now, entering Spock’s new quarters through the bathroom door seems like an intrusion on his privacy, a gesture that would be unwelcome.

The door to his quarters closes automatically behind him with a quiet whoosh, and he steps into the deserted hallway. Spock’s quarters are just a few meters away from his and it takes him just a few seconds to close the distance between him and his door.

He hesitates before pressing the comm button on the wall, announcing his presence to the Vulcan. Bringing his hands behind his back, he straightens up, adopting his typical captain’s posture and chewing on his bottom lip as he waits for Spock to open the door.

“Spock! Great to see you!” he can’t help exclaiming once the door swooshes open and he’s met with the sight of the Vulcan’s slender body clad, as he expected, in the science blues.

“Good evening, Captain. You have last seen me 4.73 hours ago when the Alpha shift concluded, and therefore I fail to understand why seeing me again so shortly after an eight-hour shift would elicit such enthusiasm on your part,” Spock says, voice betraying a hint of amusement only Jim would be able to pick up.

Jim gives him a toothy grin, seeking to meet his friend’s chocolate-colored eyes. “Seeing you brightens my evening nonetheless, Mr. Spock. And for the hundredth time, it’s Jim. We’re off-duty.”

He bounces on the balls of his feet, trying to remember the last time he had to remind Spock to address him by his first name when they aren’t on duty. Somewhere around the end of the first six months of their mission, when they first started to play chess regularly, would be his best guess. His grin dims visibly.

“Very well, Jim,” Spock gives in, inclining his head in his direction without making his perfect bangs fall out of place, through God knows what kind of Vulcan miracle. He moves aside, wordlessly telling Jim to come inside with an elegant gesture of his wrist.

The high temperature of Spock’s quarters almost makes him wish he’d chose one of plain, short-sleeved t-shirts. He’d forgotten how his XO prefers to keep his room’s temperature above average, due to his Vulcan biology. He himself used to often turn it up for Spock whenever they played chess in his quarters, thinking of how white his fingers and ears turned when he spent too much time on the air-conditioned bridge, instead of keeping their healthy green tint.

Nobody else seemed to notice it and during the first weeks of their mission, he tempered with the bridge’s environmental control system when no one was looking, raising the temperature by a few degrees for the sake of his First Officer. His bridge crew didn’t seem to notice, and even though Spock never said anything about it to him, Jim knows he appreciated it.

He makes a mental note to do so again the first thing tomorrow morning, swearing under his breath for not remembering to do it before.

Jim remembers, however, the Starfleet standard-issue coffee table in the center of the room. They’ve played countless chess games on it. He smiles fondly, seeing that Spock has made an effort to play host. He’s familiar with the set-up: two cushions on the either sides of the low table, a replicated dish of fruit on it, along with two glasses of iced Vulcan tea and an already arranged chess board. Something inside Jim’s chest tugs pleasantly. Maybe things will get back to normal sooner than he thought.

“However, you will have to excuse me at some point this evening. I am only available for 74.2 minutes, until one of my experiments finishes processing in the laboratory. When it is done, it will require my immediate attention,” Spock says as he closes the door.

This isn’t the first time this happens. Lots of Spock’s experiments have processed during their chess games. Jim nods understandingly. “That's not a problem. I believe we’ve got more than enough time for a game.”

“Indeed,” Spock replies with simplicity.

They both lower themselves on the cushions in front of opposite sides of the table, folding their legs. Spock rigidly places his legs under him, knees touching and back straight, while Jim assumes a casual, cross-legged position. Without further ado, Spock begins the game, since he’s chosen the side with the white pieces.

“So, what’s your experiment about?” Jim asks, eager to make conversation while he mirrors Spock’s first move with one of his own pawns.

“The ship’s artificial gravity generators,” Spock replies promptly, bringing out one of his knights from behind the line of pawns. “If my calculations are correct and the experiment is successful, I believe that I will be able to augment the resistance of the ship’s gravity plates and increase the stability of the main and auxiliary artificial gravity generators by 13.7 percent, while also lowering the risk of the systems failing in various crisis scenarios by approximately 8.1 percent.”

Jim whistles, genuinely impressed, while moving one piece on the board himself. He knows Spock’s calculations are correct already. They are never wrong.  “How did you even come up with that?” he asks out of curiosity, but also hoping to keep Spock talking. Maybe they’ll avoid the awkward silence he fears so much.

“The research facilities on Starbase Yorktown offered countless possibilities in the range of the projects I was invited to involve myself in. I only expressed interest in the ones which would ultimately benefit the ship in the future, should my expertise be expanded. My attention was directed towards a set of simulations based on the Starbase’s gravity, which have inspired me to verify the Enterprise-A’s systems for a subroutine that would allow me to conduct a simulation similar to those I have witnessed on Yorktown. With the much-appreciated help of Mr. Scott, the subroutine was located and when the experiment finishes processing, it will allow the addition of the calculated enhancements.”

“Color me impressed, Spock! Do let me know if your experiment is successful,” Jim says, shooting him his trademark smile. He’s missed the Vulcan’s smooth voice.

He takes a sip of tea, finding relief in the coolness of the liquid. He has begun to sweat and he hopes Spock won’t notice.

“I shall endeavor to do so,” Spock assures him, on a milder tone of his voice than usual.

Silence settles between them and Jim doesn’t find it awkward at all, to his surprise. They make no other attempt at conversation, choosing to focus their attention on the tri-dimensional board. Time passes pleasantly. Spock is winning and Jim is making it easier for him than it should be. He’s out of shape and he’s losing gracelessly, but he feels no frustration. He’s just happy to have his best friend back.

He makes a rather bold move on the board and rests his chin against his fist, placing his elbow on the table and looking at Spock to see his reaction. He sees none. Spock doesn’t even remove his eyes from the board to lock eyes with him, so Jim continues to observe him freely. There is a slight crease between his beautifully angled brows, one that Jim has seen before when Spock is in deep concentration. He bites his lips to stop himself from smiling. His eyes follow the tight line of Spock’s lips, the sharp, green-tinted cheekbones, the elegant curves of his pointed ears.

It’s hardly the first time he notices Spock’s exotic beauty. While Jim is mostly attracted to females, his exploits have involved a male or two. Fine, maybe more than one or two, but that doesn’t matter. He’s not ashamed to admit to himself that he’s attracted to Spock. He’s ogled him shamelessly, from the first time he saw the Vulcan at the Academy. He’s always been attracted to Spock, from every point of view possible. Socially, mentally, physically, and most curiously, romantically, too.

It’s just that… oh, well. For the entirety of the time Jim has known Spock, the Vulcan hasn’t really been single. He’s always been with Uhura. Four years and counting, in spite of the fact that they’ve had major fights that made them break up twice. So, Jim has never even thought about the possibility. He wants, he yearns, even, but he knows it’s not going to happen.

There was nothing left for him to do but suppress his attraction, never act on it, and hope it will pass. But his heart has never stopped thumping when he’s around Spock. And it’s not some crazy reaction his body has because of Spock’s undeniable sexiness. It’s more than that.

He loves Spock. He loves everything about him: his intelligence, his physical traits, his speech pattern, his passion for science, even his almost-absent sense of humor. He’s in love with his best friend, truly and irrevocably. It’s as simple as that.

Sure, he’s suffered in the beginning, seeing Spock with Uhura together and having the Vulcan treat him like scum when they didn’t know each other well. Hell, it hurt more than anything he’s ever felt, knowing he’ll never get a shot at showing Spock how much Jim would love and cherish him if the Vulcan gave him a chance. Because A, Spock’s heterosexual, B, he’d never see Jim that way and C, he’s with Uhura anyway. However, he’s learned to live with it and he has admirably done so for the past four years.

He’s never let it interfere with his captaincy. Those feelings for Spock were tightly bound, locked away in a completely separate drawer in Jim’s head. No, in an entire wall of cabinets. A drawer could never contain all his feelings. There were many times when he wished he could open that door and let them all out, but he slapped himself on the wrist every time he thought of it, reminding himself that it’d ruin everything he’s worked so hard for. Including his ship and his friendship with Spock.

It got better with time, though. He tried moving on, but it didn’t work out for him. He’s slept with dozens of people, both human and alien, experimenting with his sexuality in every possible way, but never getting emotionally attached to anyone. That’s not unusual for him though, since there wasn’t a ‘before Spock’ and he’s pretty sure there won’t be an ‘after Spock’ either.

He doesn’t even remember when he realized what he feels for Spock. It’s kind of always been there. One day, as they were on some petty mission like the one they had before they dealt with Khan, he raised his head from his console, looked at the Science station and met Spock’s eyes in the briefest of locks. It was enough. ‘I’m in love with that gorgeous being over there,’ his mind had supplied. And he wasn’t even surprised by that life-changing thought.

Life went on. He’s not pining like a fool for Spock, at least not in the desperate way he used to. He knows better. His friendship with Spock is one of the most precious things in his life, maybe even the most, and he’s never considered jeopardizing it by doing something stupid. He’ll keep quiet, maybe for the rest of his life if he has to.

Because this isn’t some petty, passing crush. Spock’s it for him. He loves Spock.

And Spock can never know. No one can ever know. Not even Bones, or Scotty, or Sulu, or Chekov or God forbid, Uhura. Spock will never love him back that way, he’s come to terms with it. There’s no point in telling anyone, no matter what miraculous piece of advice they’d think they could give him. He just hopes to continue being Spock’s friend. It’s enough. Or so he pretends.

So instead of listening to that voice inside his head telling him to ask Spock if he’s been avoiding him, he keeps quiet. It’s taken them both enough time to get back here and he’s not about to ruin everything by asking, ‘hey Spock, would you be a doll and tell me why you’ve been acting so strange lately, even though I’m pretty sure you’ll go in full-Vulcan mode and you’ll definitely avoid me then if you weren’t before?’

Their game is coming to an end. It’s only a few moves until Spock will put him in check, then maybe five or six more until he wins. Jim knows something is wrong. Spock may have agreed to this game, but he’s clearly distant. Well, more distant than usual, if possible. He’s pretty sure that ‘distant Vulcan’ is a pleonasm. Spock has warmed up to him in the past years, but tonight, his First Officer won’t even make eye contact with him.

He swallows, hard. Here goes nothing.

“Hey, Spock? Thanks for having me tonight. I mean, with the new ship, the experiments and you and Uhura being back together, I can see you’ve been busy—”

“You have no reason to express gratitude. However, I believe you were aware that Lieutenant Uhura and I terminated our relationship 9.48 months ago,” Spock interrupts him and finally meets his eyes.

Jim has never cared for all that mushy crap in flick-chicks or cheap romance novels when the two protagonists make eye contact and it feels like the world stops, sparks flying and everything. But if he were to compare this moment to that nonsense, he’d be the only one who’s love-struck, because Spock’s eyes are nothing but analytical and void of emotion. As usual. But damn it, they’re beautiful. Way to distract himself from the information that Spock has just dumped on him.

“Oh,” is all Jim can say, blinking slowly. His reaction is short-lived though, once he remembers something. He frowns. “But I saw you guys together in the mess hall today. And yesterday. The whole week, actually.”

“We decided to part ways amicably. Nyota has remained my friend,” the Vulcan explains calmly, almost too quickly.

Jim can’t do anything but accept the topic change. He bites.

“But after the Yorktown incident, it seemed like you got back together. Everyone thought so. Why didn’t you tell me you guys broke up for good?”

“I have, in fact, informed you, 9.48 months ago. I have had no intention of resuming our relationship since, and neither has she. The Yorktown incident simply made us both realize there is no point in ending our friendship as well, so we have decided to continue to engage socially.”

Meaning, Spock has time for his ex, who’s suddenly his newest best friend, but he doesn’t have time for Jim, the guy who’s allegedly his best friend for the better part of the last four years. Stings a bit.

He remembers Spock telling him about his break-up. He had noticed Spock looking stiffer than his usual self one evening, while quietly enjoying each other’s presence without exactly doing anything remarkable. Jim himself had already started to feel glum and to lose his sense of purpose at the time, detesting the routine and the dreary duties that come with the chair. Spock didn’t know about that and he didn’t notice, probably buried neck-deep in his own troubles. It’s not as if Jim was being obvious, anyway.

It had been one of those rare moments of straight-forward honesty, because Spock spilled the beans without Jim pressuring him like he usually has to when he wants to obtain personal information from him. It’s like pulling teeth, usually. He has to phrase his questions right in order to coax a proper reply out of Spock. That time, their conversation had flowed easier than usual.

‘Spock, has something happened?’ was the only question he had to ask.

‘Nyota and I are no longer involved romantically,’ came Spock’s calm, immediate reply.

As simple as that. ‘Would you like to talk about it?’ Jim asked, after a long period of silence. Spock’s reply was serene. ‘Negative.’

He never asked what the reason of their break-up was. Rumor had it around the ship that Spock couldn’t commit to her emotionally. That she wanted more from him and he couldn’t give her that. Apparently, according to lonely, gossipy female crewmembers, being in a relationship with a Vulcan who publicly denies having feelings might do things to a girl. He didn’t speculate or listen, and he didn’t start hoping.

And so, his senior Communications Officer and his First had started avoided each other when possible and he didn’t meddle, even though both of them clearly seemed unhappy. But then, Yorktown happened and everyone thought that Spock and Uhura were an item again. Who wouldn’t have thought that, when they spend so much time together and they have so much history?

He swallows, again. “I’m happy you guys got past it.” He doesn’t sound happy, but he hopes Spock won’t pick up on that.

Spock just nods once.

It’s not the way he would’ve wanted this conversation to go. If anything, it kind of makes it all worse.

He would have understood if they’d been back together, but the fact that Spock spends more time with Uhura in this context means that he’s not Spock’s preferred choice of friend.

Still, he’s beginning to win him back. It’s not like he’s jealous of Uhura, heck, they’re all friends and spend plenty of time together anyway on the bridge. It’s not a battle. But he does want more time alone with Spock. He wants things to be like they were before he got depressed, before Yorktown. This evening is a promising start.

“Checkmate,” Spock’s voice draws his attention back to the board.

Tilting his head back to see the board better, Jim sighs in defeat. “Huh. I should’ve seen that coming.” And he would’ve, if he had paid more attention to the game instead of focusing on Spock’s face and obsessing over his and Uhura’s relationship.

“My experiment will finish processing in 6.8 minutes, therefore I regretfully must put an end to our interaction. However, I am open to a rematch, should you request one,” Spock says, straightening his back and placing his hands on his knees. He looks Jim in the eye again.

“I’d love a rematch,” Jim quickly says, grinning. He would’ve asked for one himself, but he’s happy that Spock had the initiative. He stands up and stretches his legs, watching Spock do the same thing, only more graciously than he ever could. “Tomorrow evening, same time, my quarters?”

“It is acceptable,” Spock replies promptly.

“Thanks for having me, really. It felt good to, y’know, spend an evening like we used to.”

Spock’s eyebrows furrow ever so slightly. “I do not understand, Captain.”

Oh, not only did his poor attempt at hinting what he wants fail, but it also earned him a stinging ‘Captain’. He struggles to keep his smile on. “Never mind, Commander. Best of luck with your experiment.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Spock says, a hint of appreciation in his voice.

Spock presses the button to open the door for them both, allowing Jim to step out first. The door closes behind them. As Jim approaches his own door and presses his thumb on the fingerprint scanner, Spock stands still in the hallway, instead of making his way to the laboratory, head tilted as if he ponders on something.

“Jim?” he asks, stopping Jim from entering his quarters.

Jim turns his head back, trying not to let any feeling of hopefulness surface. “Yeah?”

“I shall see you in the mess hall tomorrow morning, before the Alpha shift.”

Jim smiles, somewhat confused by Spock’s strange statement. They always see each other in the mess hall in the morning, anyway. That had no need to be mentioned. Was that Spock’s attempt at asking him to have breakfast together? It felt somewhat like an invitation, in Spock terms. He does miss their meals together. Maybe Spock feels the same and caught on the hints he’s been dropping.

“Of course,” he says, putting on that smile he only reserves for the Vulcan. “G’night, Spock.” And he enters his quarters, beginning to feel true contentment for the first time in the last six months.