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FIC - Chess Four (STXI) RD - Jitka Jaylor — LiveJournal
Incorrigible Imp
FIC - Chess Four (STXI) RD
Chess Four
Star Trek XI
pre-slash nu!K/S
slash p!K/S

This is the rough draft of the first arc. There are two more arcs in progress. They will all eventually become a huge piece of crazy. I'll need a beta.

What started all this? Friend saw Chess Four board at game store and thought: nu!K/S vs p!K/S

6500 words later:

He’s done so much as a starship captain, that it only makes sense that his retirement is quiet, peaceful – completely predictable and stress-free. Perfect. Idyllic. Right.

Problem is: He gets bored. Just every so often. He wakes up with the old, familiar need to be moving, talking, taking life with both hands and throwing himself right into all of the promises of adventure and perils unknown. He needs to know what’s beyond, meet who’s out there.

His wife, pretty and soft and gentle, always talks him down on his wild days. Sends him out to cut fire wood or stalk deer (even if he never kills them – too much killing), smiles that sunshine bright smile that makes his chest hurt, wrenches his heart so that he can never tell her no.

There is something about smiles. Something from his younger days that he can’t quite recall but feels in his bones, in his breath. He misses that elusive memory even more than the freedom to undulge his wanderlust.

That’s another life, her sweet voice whispers in his ear. And it is. Was. A lifetime ago he remembers being a hero, but he also remembers the pain inherent in being something so very impossible. The emptiness only filled with dedication to a cause, a ship, an ideal – always alone no matter how much he gives back.

Improbable. Memories of a time separate from this, feelings so distant from these. Take away all of the trappings of heroism (ship, ideals, crew), and the hero is naught but an empty shell of a man, forever searching for the meaning of his existence. And he knows, deep inside where not even his beloved wife can reach, that he was a hero. Captain, friend, beloved of the Federation he upholds.

So he takes his axe, kisses his wife, and lets his feet fall where they will on the too-familiar land, explored dozens of times where nothing is new, nothing is challenging. He knows he’s forgotten many things. It happens when humans age, but he pokes at the empty stretches of his mind, curious and lonely at the dearth of faces, of smiles that he cannot pull forward, will never see again. Even though he had forgotten, he knows they are gone. Never again will he see them in action, joy shining out of friendly faces, and he digs for those glimpses – desperate to preserve those treasures in his own thoughts, to keep his loved ones alive in the only way left to him.

She cradles him as he cries – lost and alone. He doesn’t want her comfort, her smile. Not when he’s missing so many others. There’s nothing for him in this wide, pristine place. A farm unmarred by struggle, untouched by anger or bitterness or any sorrow save his.

It is too pure, too innocent for him. She whispers soft reassurance in the hours he lies awake, cannot sleep, a lingering fear that he will forget that he’s forgotten when he wakes again. He gathers her close and buries his heartaches in the emptiness of her words. He knows she doesn’t understand, can’t understand. He will not be the one to taint this place or this being. Yet he cannot stay. Cannot live the well-constructed lie (doesn’t want to in his wild, expansive soul).

He is James T. Kirk, and he will protect this haven. It’s what he does.


Jim kind of hates the Starfleet Admiralty. Just a bit.

Of course, he’s fairly sure this latest foray into diplomatic assignments is entirely his own fault. Pike still laughs every time he sees the color orange. Not that the Andorian Incident is entirely Jim’s fault. It’s just that Starfleet didn’t seem pleased at the manner of recruitment. He thinks he’s doubled the Andorian cadet ratio for this new Academy class, so he’s not going to feel guilty.

Making him haul around a small bevy of ambassadors is a bit annoying, so Jim’s guessing it’s supposed to be punishment detail, for all that he’s ended up spending a good portion of the last few days enjoying the company of one Vulcan Elder in particular – even when his own First silently reprimands him for the association. Jim’s come to the conclusion that his Spock will never be quite as open emotionally as the Old Guy he’s currently loosing to at chess. Which is fine. He can still beat his Commander three out of five times.

“Captain.” Thus spoke the Spock, Jim thinks, lifting his hand from the rook. He’s going to have to move the knight anyway – let the Ambassador try to figure out his rook.

“Yes, Commander?” He leans back from the table, expectations of busywork to keep him away from the Elder prompting a smirk.

“Starfleet has transmitted some readings I believe you want to see.”

Jim blinks, vaguely surprised by the odd tension he’s fairly certain his Spock doesn’t usually let slip. A quick apology to his chess partner and Jim’s on his way to the bridge.

“What’s so special about some readings from Starfleet?” he asks, striding straight from the lift to the science station. The gamma shift bridge crew all look uneasy, and Jim’s certain they called Spock up first just to avoid having to call Jim, but he let’s that slide when he leans over Spock’s chair to see an image he had hoped to never see again.

“Orders?” Jim tries not to snap. His hand clenches at the back of Spock’s chair. His First Officer is ramrod straight, too tense to even pretend that he’s not disturbed.

“We are to investigate with all due caution, Captain.” Jim claps his hand to Spock’s shoulder – perhaps too hard, but Spock doesn’t comment, might not have noticed for all of his stoic continuation of work.

“Well, then,” Jim murmurs, “let us proceed with caution.”

Spock pauses long enough for Jim to grin, then one eyebrow lifts with that tiny head tilt, and Jim spins around to beam at the wary bridge crew. The navigator turns, and Jim knows the co-ordinates aren’t going to make any sense to a crew member who wasn’t at Vulcan, but the news is going to hit the ship’s gossip net long before he lets Chekov make the mission announcement.

“Warp three, Ensign,” he says. “You’ve got your destination.” Then, because he just knows Spock will stay and study the new data until the start of Alpha Shift – hours away – he claps his hands; several people eye him sideways, but he has Spock’s attention. “The Commander and I will be in quarters.”

Jim stares Spock down for a long moment, not willing to make it a verbal order, yet ensuring that Spock has no doubts about Jim’s seriousness. Spock takes a few moments before closing down his station and standing. Jim matches his pace to the lift, pleased to have won this round. He doesn’t bother telling the bridge who’s in charge because, really, there are days he swears they know this stuff better than he does.

“Lieutenant,” Spock says. “You have the conn.”

Jim rolls his eyes (after the door shuts) and asks, “Do they really need to be told the same thing every time we leave the bridge?” He leans back. “I was only there long enough to change course.”

“Maintaining a clear chain of command ensures confidence and reliability should an emergency arise,” Spock says. He turns his body just enough to give Jim the now-familiar look that means something along the lines of I know the Academy trained you, but I’m not sure why they released you on the universe. Jim has never quite decided if he loves or hates that look. Most days he’ll take it gladly because he enjoys any reaction he can get from Spock. Jim’s smiling as they step out into the officer’s living corridor.

“I’ll just have confidence they’ve been trained as reliably as us.” Jim pats Spock on the shoulder and ducks into his room, leaving Spock to his vaguely frustrated eyebrow quirk.

In the muffled isolation of his quarters, Jim lets his tension reign with a grunt. He hates his room. There’s just enough space to live, not enough to move fast or hard or far enough to burn the restless energy now building in his arms and legs. Jim’s always looked a problem in the eyes and done something about it. Now he’s a Starfleet Captain and restricted to rules and regulations of conduct. There are days he doesn’t notice – usually when they’re streaking through the empty spaces between populated star systems. His palm smacks the side of a cabinet.

“Another time-space lightening storm?” he growls. It can’t be from Ambassador Spock’s reality. Jim remembers going through; he knows there’s nothing left in the decimated star fields Elder Spock came from. He’s seen it, and those Romulans will haunt his dreams for years to come despite it being another person’s memories, a Vulcan’s feeling of failure. Jim has enough failure to root out that deep-seated emotion – no matter how much the old man tried to shield him from it in that mind meld. He’s fairly certain his First Mate carries that inadequacy around as well. He knows better than to ask.

And here they are: Changing course with a shipload of important people – Uhura’s going to be soothing ruffled feathers in numerous languages for the entirety of Alpha shift – and heading right into the maelstrom that killed his father, Spock’s mother, and Jim can’t imagine – can’t let himself hope – that there’s anything benign about more dimensional time-travelers.

He’s Jim T. Kirk, and he will protect this crew. It’s all he has.


The crash isn’t anything spectacular. Not for him. But the damage is far enough outside his knowledge he can’t do anything – of course, the entire ship is beyond his technological experience. Doesn’t mean he failed at coaxing some impressive speed out of the warp engines. Not even decades outside the time stream can stop him. Just a little vacation. Like crash landing on a pre-warp planet’s just a minor set-back.

Two days. Two days to find any kind of civilization- and without a phaser, he’s not going to approach them openly – and the collection of huts does not look to have anything that might help him repair his ship. He falls asleep on a ledge of the cliff overlooking the haggard homes.

Screams wake him. Shouting and crying drift up to his perch, and Kirk resists the urge to roll out of his cover and help the mothers cowering with children, provide cover fire for the men fighting back. He’s gotten cautious in his old age, though, and watches with a grinding, heavy pressure crushing his chest as people fall. The invaders trundle away barely an hour later, trucks laden with food and men cheering as they fire on random structures.

Kirk stretches carefully, joints aching from inaction and muscles popping with tension. Then he carefully climbs down into the rising smoke. The settlement has fallen quiet by the time he reaches it – small humanoids with blue skin are already searching out the dead in the debris. He’s seen the same stoic determination to bull through unending hardship. It’s been a long time, and he does what he’s always done.
Making sure his translator is set, Kirk asks the wary man holding a make-shift sword, “What can I do to help?”


Jim’s never been to the small, orange planet, but he manages to get the basic information our of Spock’s near-dissertation length pre-mission review. In the past year, he’s learned the key words Spock favors – makes a cursory scan so much easier. Uhura seems to have figured Jim out because her reports vary in word choice as often as she can get away with it. Officer hi-jinks aside, Jim feels uneasy in orbit around Kren.

This is a pre-warp world, just barely, and the Federation has kept an eye on their development for nearly thirty years. The agrarian populace could be highly beneficial to the colonies scattered around this sector, but the Admiralty cautions that the current political system remains in a state of civil unrest non-conducive to introduction of the intergalactic … sometimes Jim’s sure the Vulcans use big words to make everybody else smile and nod. Sulu and Chekov’s scans have found an intermittent energy trails.

“Is small vessel,” Chekov says, spinning to his secondary readings. “Trail appears from co-ordinates of storm.”

“It was damaged,” Sulu says. “There are recent crash scars on the surface. Here.” The main view screen isolates and enlarges a swath of rocky ground. A wide trench, dirt raw and dark, gouges through a field and into a small hill.

“Do we have any visuals on the ship?” Jim asks, almost sure it’s been buried.

“Affirmative, Captain,” Spock says. His hands move before Jim even turns for more information. There’s some disorienting zooming that Spock sends the sensors through, then there’s the reflected edge of a small, white ship – a very familiar small, white ship. Spock meets Jim’s eyes for a long moment.

“Get the Vulcan Ambassador up here,” Jim says. Uhura gives Jim a confused, narrow-eyed look as she follows orders. Spock lifts his eyebrow. They both turn to the view screen. Jim mutters, “We could use his help.”


Rules, rules, rules. Kirk knows every Federation code – up to a certain star date – and there are over three dozen he’s broken – another two score he’s dancing around the edge of semantic interpretation. Building an underground resistance among the farmers feels right – he asks enough questions and listens to as many people as possible. There’s a gross disparity of resource allocation – the big, rich estates have monopolized technology, doling out bits and bobs of education to families trapped in the system.

It doesn’t hurt that there’s already the beginnings of a revolution. Some days Kirk marvels that so many people accept his assistance – about forty percent more than try to kill him on sight. Never stops him from trying to help, but that trust amazes him just enough to be glad that he’s working for their benefit – in his reality. Those evil realities keep making him question his own motives even so many years later.

Kirk won’t encourage weapons. These men and women don’t have the training or experience to stay alive, so he’s creating guerilla raiding parties to steal food and medicine and technology. Tentative forays have already returned two vehicles – one Kirk plans to reverse engineer with three smart little kids who’ve already shown mechanical aptitude – and enough food to supply the tiny community for the season. Runners are traveling to other local farmers to get them prepared and hidden. Kirk admits the communication system in place is as efficient as anyone could ask with the added benefit of being unexpected and undetectable to the technology-dependant businesses they’re up against – letting them discover and use their own developments almost lets Kirk believe he’s not impacting their planetary evolution. Almost.

Needing some of the machines and materials to fix his hidden spaceship to find Spock is still weighing on the side of whatever it takes. It’s odd to realize his personal limits are so flexible when it comes to his First – not that the whole sacrificing the Enterprise for Spock wasn’t even more shockingly obvious; it’s just that he doesn’t usually have to think about exactly how far he’ll go to keep Spock because Spock has always been there.

Like not realizing how much you need your big toe to walk until it’s gone and you’re wobbling around unbalanced. You could figure out how to walk again, but it would take time and never really be the same. So Kirk, being Kirk, decided a long time ago to never be without Spock, never wants to learn a new way of existing in the universe with a phantom ache where Spock is supposed to be.

Two more weeks and maybe he can be back on his search. If the Trubelli are secure. Now that he’s started a revolution, he won’t leave them to be slaughtered – no matter how off-balance he feels.


Jim stares at the ship for a long time, memories flickering across his mind. Ambassador Spock agrees – this is a replica of the Jellyfish. Jim hopes Spock doesn’t find any red matter inside.

“Captain,” Spock says. Jim shakes his head and turns to Spock. “I am not recognized as this vessel’s pilot.” There’s some curious note in Spock’s voice that makes Jim wary, just a bit more suspicious of this whole thing.

“It is the same ship, right?” he asks.

“Negative, Captain,” Spock turns an assessing eye to the ship. “It is a prototype match. The Vulcan Science Academy routinely builds two of every prototype for comparative research should one fail catastrophically.”

“So it’s the same ship?” Jim asks. He can’t help but feel a giddy enjoyment every time he provokes that eyebrow raise.

“A twin, perhaps,” Spock relents after a pause – long enough to let Jim know that Spock’s humoring him. He grins.

“Could you find out who the pilot is?” Jim asks. He takes a quick glance around the area, noting where every red-shirted crewman is. He’s lost a couple to strange worlds and isn’t all that comfortable risking their lives – no matter how necessary and unavoidable it is.

“You are, Captain.”

Jim’s head snaps around so fast he might consider going into Bones’ territory voluntarily. He makes sure his jaw isn’t dropping in shock before spitting out the first thought in his head.

“Bullshit.” And crap if that wasn’t the same exact look Ambassador Spock gave him the last time he said that in the middle of a growing clusterfuck. “Same time, same universe?” He has to know. Memories of that sudden, shocking mind-meld are mostly vague now, but the fond sorrow that transferred over – the long denied desire for Jim – he felt that, feels it, and there’s a strange pressure on his chest that maybe, just maybe, that incredible, perfect future version of himself – glorious and amazing in the recesses of Spock’s mind – is here, now, the missing piece of a person Jim’s come to respect.

“A visual inspection supports the conclusion that this is indeed the twin ship of the Jellyfish.” Spock clasps his wrist behind his back. “No other temporal distortion would yield such a degree of matching features.”

“Please tell me there’s no red matter,” Jim groans. That would just make his day.

“Negative, Captain.”

Jim doesn’t gust out a sigh of relief. He doesn’t, but it’s a close thing.

“Well,” he rubs his hands down the sides of his thighs. “We should go find me.”


Kirk gently cups his hands around the dark red fern. He wants to give it to Bones. This amazing little plant. Bones isn’t here. None of his crew are. They haven’t been for a long time, yet he continuously finds himself wanting to share discoveries, adventures. Right now, though, he gently teases out delicate roots and lifts the plant from the bloody rubble of a fallen city.

Revolution. One can never predict where it will come from or when it will fire the blood or what face it will wear. Or some such poetic nonsense. The mad-dog collectors of the businesses squeezing the farmers have taken umbrage to finding empty homes and harvested fields. No people to terrorize is apparently boring for sociopaths, so they turn their frustrated attentions on the city itself.

The businesses do not take kindly to this. A head-on battle among the high-tech and the brawn quickly engulfs the large city, innocent families tumbling out of their safe world of comfortable blindness. Kirk is proud that the people he chose to work with don’t even pause to discuss the new events. They all – man, woman, child – go about modifying duties they’ve been preparing. They slip in under smoke and gunfire and pull out dazed, confused, injured – offer the recently unaware succor in this hour of need.

Then they calmly take out key players, efficient and merciful in a way no one ever showed them to be, not even Kirk, except that they know what they do not want to be. Of course, he likes to think he’s able to judge people, divine their true nature, but he’s been wrong before. It’s just: It’s kind of amazing to be in the torn up garden of some trumped up governor and be picking up an undisturbed specimen of a medicinal plant Bones frequently complains only grows in a far off sector of Cardassian space – something about radiation levels and electromagnetic distortions that Kirk’s never really cared about as long as it doesn’t kill his people.

A veritable treasure trove.

He wonders if the Federation even knows.


Jim’s not as surprised as he could be – probably should be – seeing the aftermath of some serious urban warfare. This is going to turn into a First Contact situation. Again. Pike’s going to laugh. Again. The Enterprise isn’t actually rated for First Contacts yet – Uhura, Spock, and Jim are the only people in the command chain with any training, and the first two only took enough courses to support their primary tracks of xenolinguistics and sciences. So the fact that the Enterprise has stumbled into more First Contacts than the entire fleet in the past year? Amuses Pike. Which is always better than pissing the man off. Jim did that. Once.

Of course, he could argue that his alternate from a future reality had made the first contact. Pike’s likely to find that even more entertaining, though, so Jim writes it off as his own version of a no-win – like Bones and his hypos of stealthy doom – and leads the away team into the ruins of a small city. People are cleaning up, so Jim hopes the worst is over and everything’s mostly settled.

They round a corner, and Jim sees him. Broad shoulders, confident posture, and even though the man’s back is to them, he can tell there’s a cocky little smirk on his face.

“Apparently, the disdain for uniform shirts is consistent across dimensions,” Spock says. And yeah, the future him turning around is without a shirt. He stills when he catches sight of them, his face falling neutral in shock for a long enough moment for Jim to think Woohoo, I don’t loose my looks! It’s totally inappropriate and kinda weird. Then Old Him grins the most stunning smile Jim’s ever seen (he’s never been so self-absorbed as to watch his own expressions in a mirror, so he can only guess that he can look quite so joyous ‘cause he’s certain he’s never felt that good).


Jim has a second to think Holy crap, they’re in love before he’s stepping in front of Spock and grinning a tooth-baring smile of his own. Old Him quirks an eyebrow (he so has to learn to do that himself), and Jim knows his smile is defensive and territorial and not anywhere in the vicinity of amused.

“Ambassador Spock is waiting aboard the Enterprise,” Jim says. His eyes dart around the war-torn, non-Federation planet. “After we have a bit of a briefing.” Old Him is staring him down, lips quirked with a set that seems to scream I know something you don’t know, but this is Jim’s time, Jim’s assignment, Jim’s Enterprise, and Jim’s green-blooded Vulcan First Officer.

He will not loose to some interloper whose time is done and gone.


Kirk stares at Ambassador Spock until everyone else has left the room (his younger self still radiating uneasy wariness). Spock’s different, older – finally advanced to an age Kirk never expected to see. Yet, it’s still Spock: the contained gleam in his eye, the up-twitch of his lip. Yeah, Kirk remembers those.

“T’hy’la,” Spock murmurs, holding up two fingers. Kirk crosses the room and lays his fingers against Spock’s with no encouragement. The gentle wash of a familiar mind brushes the shores of his thoughts, and Kirk feels the stretch of long, empty years filled with daring missions and impossible tasks driven by the memory of brave, daring, fearless. He does not apologize, knows the many times they lost each other. He accepts the emotions Spock has held for so many years, acknowledges that there can be no promises, and simply says:

“I am here.”


“What do we do with him?” Jim asks. Spock has already confiscated two stress balls that Jim tossed at walls in his presence so he keeps this one in his hands, squeezing it back and forth like it’s going to release this strange tension riding under his skin.

“In my limited experience,” Spock says, head tilting in that small, ironic way Jim’s starting to understand, “one does not do anything with James T. Kirk that he does not allow.” Jim has learned not to gape at Spock’s subtle digs. “I do predict, however, that whatever this Kirk does will be connected to Ambassador Spock.” Well, yeah, Jim figured that one out months ago thanks to that crazy mind-meld.

“Why do you say that, Commander?” he asks anyway. Is Spock picking up the cues between their older counterparts?

“As they are both in an unfamiliar time and stranded here by the changes between our dimensions, it is only logical they remain together.” Spock raises an eyebrow. “Are not shared experience and isolation often considered to be generators of human attachment for the purpose of survival through mutual dependence?”

Jim snorts. Mutual dependence, his shiny warp coils. Those two are probably naked already. Makes him wonder if he and Spock can ever make a go of it – though now that Uhura’s moved finally moved on from the break-up two months ago, Jim might be ready to brave her protective cover over Spock. Scary lady when she wants to be.

“So we let them figure out what to do?” It’s been working for Ambassador Spock, after all. Another thought hits him. He groans out, “Starfleet’s going to make up paperwork for this,” and throws his stress ball. Spock catches it before it hits the wall and quirks that eyebrow again.

“I will be monitoring the diplomatic team should you need me, Captain.”


People looking at him isn’t unusual. People looking at him with concealed or open hostility isn’t unusual. These people? These children he recognizes as old friends – in more than one way – offering only stiff, perfunctory politeness with a veneer of professionalism? Not at all usual.

Kirk feels unwelcome.

On the Enterprise.

The concept has never once occurred to any part of his mind. Not even when he made the decision to save Spock at the cost of his ship did he ever think he’d be unwelcome, outside – Not Home.

He sits with Ambassador Spock in the diplomatic mess. It’s the first time he’s eaten a meal here.

“The future is but the past already lived,” Spock says. Kirk feels an underlying discomfort and nods. They poke at their food in silence. He’s almost glad to be in this mess. At least the Ambassadors aren’t staring him down like he’s going to gnaw off their limbs.

“My brother’s still alive,” Kirk says.

“And young Jim never met your father,” Spock says. He lifts his tea and calmly brings Kirk down from the threatening hysteria.

“You’re here.”

Spock nods and takes a long sip of tea. “As are you, James.”

Kirk thinks Spock is struggling to separate him from the baby-faced captain hosting them. From what he understands, Spock’s been living with this strange duality for a year, and Kirk knows his bondmate’s mind, his katra, has been reaching for little Jimmy, demanding in its Vulcan way to be made whole after decades torn asunder. Kirk sets his hand, two fingers out, on the table.

“Think we could play some chess?” he asks, eating with one hand and not drawing attention to Spock’s fingers hooking over his.

“I do believe the captain could be persuaded.”

Kirk grins. “Chess Four, Mr. Spock?”

“Indeed.” Spock draws away and lifts his bowl of soup. Kirk ignores the curious glances at their hands and eats his salad.

Jim’s not quite sure how they’ve ended up in his room. He’s not even sure how they’ve talked him into this except that Ambassador Spock’s the one who fast-talked him in his deliberate, scarily misleading way. Apparently he can’t resist that warm little smile – though there’s something different about it now, and Jim can feel that difference – so here he is, sitting across from his Commander with the Old Guys on either side of them at the square table.

“We don’t get to play this chess variant often,” Kirk says. His hands are sliding four sets of pieces on the board, one in front of each player. Jim’s never seen this board before, though from the Ambassador’s thumb gently stroking the edge he suspects where it came from. The board has been enlarged, just enough to line up the two ranks of pieces with two rows in front of the regulation square.

“Standard play is by teams,” Ambassador Spock says, his eyes lifting to watch Kirk. “Two people across the board are paired like many four-player card games such as Eucharist.”

Jim looks at Commander Spock who raises a challenging eyebrow. They are so going to be crushed. Jim knows it. He’s played both Spocks, and the difference in ability is, oh, say, a hundred years. Kirk’s got to be relatively better than Jim, which means he and Spock are about to burn in flames of humiliation. Jim can’t decide to dive in or draw it out.

But he wants to win. There’s undoubtedly a way to win. Spock’s going to be highly predictable to the other three, and Jim slides the side pawn out two spaces. Kirk grins and jumps the pawns entirely with the bishop nearest Jim. Spock starts a conservative defense by double advancing the pawn in front of his queen. Ambassador Spock matches.

The intricacies of monitoring two opponents and trying not to screw up his ally’s strategy pull Jim into the game. He knows Spock, has played him enough to expect the steady advancement and acceptable sacrifices he’s willing to make. Ambassador Spock isn’t as regimented. He’s learned to play the game out so many steps ahead that a completely random move is perfectly logical. Jim knows he’s learned this from Kirk, that Kirk’s surprised him one time too many, and Spock adapted.

It’s the absolutely brilliant mess to his left that’s got Jim twisted up in confusion. He can see the moves, can circle the table ten moves in advance, and still, there’s a sense of organized chaos growing out of that side of the board. Jim settles in to an aggressive attack, trying to spin that chaos into the traps Spock is slowly developing. He castles his king, and slips his pawns out of danger again and again.

He’s slipping, loosing too many pieces. Jim hates loosing pieces. His leg tenses every time he watches long fingers picking away his mobility. Spock glances up after Jim looses his first knight. Their eyes meet, and Jim takes a deep breath as Spock breaks his rhythm to capture the offending bishop.

That’s when Jim sees it. There’s a hole about to open up in Kirk’s ranks. It’s still three rounds away – at least twelve moves, ten of which aren’t his, but Jim can see it. If he can direct Spock to open it up. Jim hounds Ambassador Spock’s rook for two turns before Spock tilts his head, hand hovering for a long moment. There is nothing that will convince Jim to look at the board, to give away his intentions. Spock takes Ambassador Spock’s second knight, and Jim stares for long moments after the ambassador retreats his leading bishop.

Can he do it? Will Spock follow him? Jim slowly licks his lower lip, drawing it in and biting. His heart is pumping, his hands are threatening to shake. He reaches out and drives his queen into the fray. Kirk pauses for the first time. There’s a long moment where Jim’s sure he’s seen it, sure this is the beginning of their demise. But he doesn’t block, doesn’t attack. Kirk side-steps his rook to threaten one of Spock’s defending pawns.

Jim clenches his toes to keep from grinning. Spock contemplates the board for long moments, but Jim’s sure of him. He knows they’re playing the same strategy now, and he trusts Spock to take that leap of illogic. He’s going to have to because Ambassador Spock is the only one capable of stopping him right now.

Nearly three hours. Jim’s never quite sure how he can sit through marathon chess games like this, but he’s still, silent, as Spock advances one pawn one space. It’s a simple move, completely in character with everything Spock’s been doing tonight, and Jim feels energy racing up his arms, urging him to pump his fists in triumph. But victory’s not here yet, and Jim reels it in, leashes it in his chest like a hummingbird trapped in a jar, wings fluttering frantically and silenced to the outside world.

Ambassador Spock quirks an eyebrow. His head tilts. Jim tries not to swallow his tongue as he watches the tumble of action-reaction, move-counter, strike-retreat combinations shift through his mind. Jim’s watched this before, been defeated enough times to know to never underestimate the calm calculations. Ambassador Spock does not smile as he circles Jim’s queen to take Spock’s.

That’s okay. Jim knew it was coming. Spock nods and leans back. Jim wonders if he’s trying to get a full view of the board as Jim cuts his last knight right through Kirk’s mass. He settles it three spaces from the king and lets go with a deep breath. Check. Kirk’s move. Retreat the King.

Spock takes a pawn. Ambassador Spock purses his lips, a light glimmering in his eyes. Jim thinks he can see it now. His eyes drift up to Kirk, and Jim looks to his own Spock to avoid that communication. It’s too late. Jim’s got them wrapped up in the bit of chaos Kirk created. Spock blinks.

It’s a long moment before Kirk huffs a soft breath, and Ambassador Spock moves his queen. Jim doesn’t pause. His hand shifts his piece like lightening. Kirk responds as quickly, his King retreating yet again. The rounds move faster, sucked into the inevitable black hole. Kirk and the ambassador don’t have any last minute escapes.

Sometimes games move with noise – friendly banter across the board that Jim usually revels in. This entire session has been in silence. Jim almost holds his breath as Kirk sets his finger on his King and rocks him before letting it fall.

Check mate.

Jim’s eyes dart to Spock’s, and there’s not a moment of hesitation before Spock pounces Ambassador Spock’s rook. Two more rounds and the second king tips. Jim stares at the fallen leader and then looks at Spock. Neither of them smile.

Jim’s not quite sure where his emotions are, but he’s definitely breathing just a bit fast. They just stare at each other for a long moment – disbelief that they’ve survived, Jim figures. It’s happened before – in the transporter room and the sick bay. They’ll meet at the end of some harrowing escapade and realize the enormity of what they’ve done.

They sat in a room for two hours, just the two of them, in complete silence, after they defeated Nero and escaped the black hole. Bones checked on them once. He seemed a bit unnerved but didn’t comment. Then or since.

Kirk stands. Jim blinks. Both Spocks stand as well. Jim
manages to convince his legs he’s ready to move again.

“Well played,” Kirk says. He grins. Jim nods, a haze slowly settling over his thoughts. Disbelief, release, something that tells him it’s safe to be quiet, it’s okay to unwind now. Spock nods as well before dismissing himself. Jim wonders if Spock retreats to analyze the games. This disappearance happens after every game, win or loose, and one day soon Jim’s going to force him to stay, ask exactly what he’s thinking. Kirk claps his hand to Jim’s shoulder before stepping back and drawing Ambassador Spock closer.

“We will play again,” Ambassador Spock says. He’s smiling that warm, friendly smile that Jim can’t detach from his needy little attention centers. Jim thought he’d lost that smile. Kirk is here. This Spock’s Kirk. Jim was ready to step aside and let them get on with whatever life they could create.

“Sometime soon,” Jim says. Mostly because he really likes being around Ambassador Spock, but now, now he really wants to play Kirk head-to-head. He’s got this niggling suspicion that something was off about the game tonight. He doesn’t know Kirk’s style at all, but everything he knows about the man – round-about memories totally count – says that this wasn’t normal.

A test maybe? A challenge? Jim won’t be able to figure it out without more data – much as that sounds like a Spock thing to think. They let themselves out, and Jim realizes they’ve left the board. He doesn’t move. Just stares at the black and white pieces scattered across the table.

It’s a game of patience, strategy, finesse. Chess Four is all about trust, and Jim thinks that maybe he can sit across the board from Spock a few more times. After he’s played Kirk a few times alone.


“Jim,” Spock says as the door to their quarters closes. Kirk turns with a grin. Spock quirks an eyebrow.

“That was fun, wasn’t it?” Kirk asks.

“Why did you set up such an elaborate loss?”

“Why, so they wouldn’t see it,” Kirk says. He starts to peel off his shirt. Spock wraps his hands around Kirk’s wrists.

“Was it necessary?” Spock asks. Kirk leans in and sets his forehead to Spock’s.

“That young man is more unlike me than I’d thought,” Kirk says. He lets his fingers twine with Spock’s. “He’s the most insecure captain I’ve ever seen.” A lifetime in Starfleet: Kirk knows so many captains. “Starfleet did him a disservice by kicking him from the Academy to a command chair. He’s still finding himself, his style. Suddenly having peers become subordinates threw him an unexpected curve.”

Spock leads them to the bed. “He has little support.”

Kirk nods and lets Spock lay them out on the bed. His clothes don’t need to be military perfect any more. “His command crew, the people who are supposed to help him: They’re just as unsettled and wary as he is. It’s not conducive to team building, and I think they’ve been struggling to understand each other this whole year.”

The lights dim, and Spock wraps his arms around Kirk. “And tonight’s win for him was?” Spock trails off.

“A moment of revelation.” Kirk slides his arm over Spock’s waist and settles his nose in the warm crook of his neck. “He couldn’t take my king without trusting Spock.”

Spock hums a bit of agreement.

“Sides, I think he has a crush on you,” Kirk mumbles as he drifts to sleep. “I’ll kick him if he doesn’t start working on his own Vulcan.”


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