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Story Notes:

A bit of fluff based on the new movie.

“Ah ha,” Kirk said, pleased, “here we are.”

Spock looked at the entrance to the bar doubtfully.

“Come on,” Kirk said in a low voice, leaning toward him a little without looking at him. He jerked his head in a 'this way' gesture. “This'll take your mind off things.”

“I am quite satisfied to have my mind occupied,” Spock replied, following him reluctantly.

“Well, then,” Kirk said as he slid onto one of the bar stools, “think of it like this.” He gave Spock a mischievous look. “You're my first officer now, it's part of your job to keep me out of trouble.”

Spock raised an eyebrow, leaning rather gingerly against the bar.

“If that is the case, I have serious doubts about my ability to perform my duties,” Spock replied, his voice laced with the dry hint of humor that occasionally colored his voice. It had taken a while for Kirk to pick up on it. A lot longer than it took to talk Spock into coming down to a bar with him. It had taken a literal meeting of minds, in fact. Well, better late than never...

He flashed Spock a pleased, knowing smile. “You've got a talent for understatement, Spock.”

Spock straightened, looking surprised. “My apologies, sir,” he said.

Kirk stared at him, and realized he was serious. He choked back a laugh.

“Spock, that's not-”

The bartender cleared his throat loudly. They both turned to look at him.

“Something you want?” he prompted, as if annoyed he had to ask.

“Oh, yes,” Kirk said, rubbing his hands together briefly. “I'll have a Budweiser classic and...you have cognac?”

“Brandy,” the bartender spat. “Saurian.”

“Fine, on the rocks,” Kirk turned a little in his seat, “and for my friend here?” He gave Spock an encouraging look.

“I will not be imbibing this evening, thank you,” Spock said, with a slight nod to the bartender.

“Come on,” Kirk urged, disappointed. “You can't just sit there all night, have a drink with me.”

Spock stared at him for a moment, then relented, his expression softening slightly.

“Perhaps...” he turned to the bartender, who was looking impatient. “Do you have any Vulcan tea? Red, or spiced?”

The bartender sniffed.

“I've got it, but it'll cost you.”

Spock raised an eyebrow.

“For tea?” Kirk asked, mystified.

The bartender gave him a look as if he and Spock were both idiots.

“Look,” he said brusquely. “Vulcan isn't exactly going to be sending anyone any more of it, you get my meaning?”

Hell. Kirk eyes shot over to Spock, just in time to watch the knife slide home. Spock blinked rapidly several times, and Kirk had a sudden urge to hit the bartender.

“Of course,” Spock said faintly, looking rather like he'd been slapped. “Of course, I should have realized.”

It seemed like Kirk had seen that expression on his face quite a bit, since they'd first met. Both times they'd first met. He turned quickly to the bartender.

“We'll take it,” he said roughly.

The bartender eyed him doubtfully. “You're going to buy it?”

“Captain-” Spock began.

“Yes,” Kirk interrupted, eying the bartender in an unfriendly fashion. “I am. Get him the damn tea.”

The bartender obliged, backing down.

After a moment of silence, Spock leaned close.

“Jim, that was not necessary,” Spock said quietly, glancing briefly at the bartender's retreating back, as if he might overhear them.

Kirk gave him a lopsided smile.

“That depends on your definition of necessary,” he said with a flicker of affection. Spock frowned slightly, but did not look displeased. More like he'd just been proven wrong about something, but found he didn't mind so much.

“Thank you,” Kirk said as their drinks were set down. The bartender mentioned a sum, and Kirk managed not to flinch. He would not be drinking much tonight, after all. Spock wasn't looking at him, though he was cupping his tea as though it were something quite valuable. He followed Spock's eyes toward the game tables along the wall.

“Do you play?” Kirk asked, gesturing at a chess booth.

“I am currently rated over 2000,” Spock said, sounding distracted.

“Come on,” Kirk said, giving his arm a pat before scooping up his drinks. He stood up from his seat.

Spock turned in his chair without rising from it. “You play?” he asked, as if it was one of the more unlikely things he had ever heard of.

Kirk tossed him a smile.

“Me? No. Terrible at it,” he said lightly, selecting a table. He set his drinks down, hearing Spock come up behind him. Without missing a beat, Kirk started punching in preferences. Spock looked over his shoulder curiously. Kirk paused, glancing at him as if measuring him.

“So,” he said with a gleam in his eye, “standard time limit, five minutes to finish a game?”

Spock raised his eyebrows high, glancing from Kirk to the chessboard.

“I am unaccustomed to playing in that manner.”

Kirk pursed his lips and gave him a considering nod.

“Okay, no problem, I don't want to overwhelm you,” Kirk began thoughtfully. He pretended to ignore the sharp look Spock gave him. “No Blitz. Make it twenty minutes a game.” He flashed Spock a devious look. “Fifteen minute handicap for the novice.”

Spock looked briefly as if he had something caught in his throat. The flash of outrage was quickly stifled, but Kirk still caught it.

Kirk held out two kings in his hand. After giving him a hard, considering look, Spock chose black.

“You're sure?” Kirk asked lightly. Spock gave him a very cold, very Vulcan stare, and said nothing.

“Computer, start time,” Kirk said, and moved. There was a faint chime as soon as he lifted his hand from the piece, and the clock projected onto the table in front of him froze. Across from him, the clock in front of Spock began running. It would progress that way, each clock counting out twenty minutes, until a player won, or one of the clocks ran out of time. If they were still playing then, the last player with time still on his board was the winner. Twenty minutes was reasonable. Five minutes was...quite a ride.

Spock considered a long moment before making his move. However, when his hand lifted away, Kirk countered almost immediately. Spock frowned faintly. They went on like that for several more moves, Spock taking deliberate care, and Kirk responding instantly, almost without thought.

Finally, his curiosity got the best of him, and Spock looked up across the board.

“You do not wish to take more time to consider your strategy?” he asked.

Kirk smiled innocently.

“I'm fine,” he replied, then lowered his voice conspiratorially. “But don't worry, if you need more time to think, I can wait for you.” He looked away, idly picked at a fingernail. “We can even put more time on the board, if you need it.”

Spock straightened in his chair. “That,” he said icily, “will not be necessary.”

He moved his piece. Kirk responded immediately. Spock blinked at him, set his jaw, and made his next move nearly as fast.

Kirk sipped his drink. Now it was just a waiting game. It only took seven minutes.

“Your game is lacking in coherent strategy,” Spock commented, and Kirk wondered idly if that was some kind of carefully constructed Vulcan insult. He lifted his glass toward Spock in a silent toast, as if he agreed wholeheartedly.

Yep, no coherent strategy here.

Spock frowned slightly, went to place his bishop on the second level, and froze. In his haste, he had let the bishop slip out of his fingers, leaving it in an improbable and entirely unhelpful place on the board.

Kirk grinned like a shark. He sat up straight, his body language changing instantly. The game was over in six moves.

Afterward, Spock stared at the board, looking vaguely stunned.

“I do not understand,” he said, shaking his head. He glanced up. “Did you intend-”

“You want a rematch?” Kirk cut in. Spock looked from him to the board.

“Yes,” he said honestly.

“White?” Kirk offered, in the same manner one might offer...say...a handicap. “Or maybe a game with more time?”

Spock tilted his head and narrowed his eyes slightly.

“I believe you are trying to provoke me,” he said suspiciously.

“Provoke you? No. Man,” Kirk said with exaggerated thoughtfulness, “I wish I'd thought of that, though. That-” he pointed at him across the board, “that is a really devious idea.”

Across the board, Spock gave him a look like a hunter taking careful aim at his target.

“Indeed,” he said, “I propose something else. As there are many different variations available on this board,” Spock reached over and touched the control pad, scanning quickly. “Perhaps something more challenging to capture your interest.”

Spock paused in his scrolling, giving him a pointed look. Kirk leaned over and raised his eyebrow.

“Reflex chess. Fifteen seconds per move timed game. Fifteen seconds per move?” Kirk asked, startled. He took a swing of his beer, eyes moving quickly over the rules.

“If the captain requires twenty, I would be more than happy to adjust the programming,” Spock said with a gleam in his eye.

Kirk coughed on his drink.

“Oh, that...” Kirk cleared his throat roughly. “That'll be fine, Spock. Fifteen, ah-” Kirk glanced at the board, looking faintly worried, “fifteen seconds a move.”

Spock sat back and sipped at his tea, looking quite innocently satisfied.

Kirk sighed, rethinking his long term strategy a bit. He glanced over the bar as he did, and flashed a thoughtless, charming smile at a curvaceous girl with blue hair. She flushed prettily, and her date scowled. Kirk glanced over at Spock, weighing his options.

“You have first move, sir,” Spock reminded him. Kirk would swear to his dying day he was smiling a little when he said it.

“Thanks,” Kirk said dryly, sitting up straight and setting out his first pawn. Spock responded fast. He couldn't not respond fast, but Spock pushed it, placing his piece down almost as soon as Kirk let go of his.

Kirk blinked, and waited. He looked down at the clock on the table. When he was down to about two seconds left, he moved. Spock was watching him with a faintly confused look on his face. He responded again, almost immediately.

Kirk waited again, drawing out his time to the limit.

“Are you having difficulties with your strategy?” Spock asked innocently as he moved. Kirk was silent for thirteen seconds.

He moved. “Not really,” he said then, as though discussing the weather. He looked over the board with a critical eye. “Everything seems to be going according to plan.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. He glanced over the board as if double-checking for a trap he'd missed.

“Time,” Kirk prompted. Spock moved quickly, giving him something of a incredulous look. He hadn't got down anywhere close to where Kirk had already pushed it. Kirk smiled. “Wouldn't want you to forget,” he explained easily.

“There is little danger of that,” Spock said, almost looking amused. He put his elbows on the table and folded his hands in front of his face. “You are attempting to cheat,” he said calmly. “By distracting me-”

“You really love to throw that word around,” Kirk interrupted with a half-smile. Kirk moved, having neared the end of his time.

Spock responded immediately, taking one of Kirk's bishops. He opened his mouth, probably to do some very logical gloating and then stopped, glancing to the side and looking startled.

Kirk looked up just in time to get the front of his shirt grabbed.


“Are you looking at something you like, asshole?” The large bald man who'd been sitting with the pretty blue-haired girl gave him a shake. He looked drunk, and pissed, and craving a fight. Kirk had been there before, and sympathized.

“Listen pal, I'm not looking at anything.”

One of the guy's friends came up and stood in a threatening manner over Spock. Kirk frowned.

“No,” the bald guy said sharply, jerking him to get his attention again, “you're looking at me now.”

His friend gave Spock a shove. Spock caught himself on the table.

“Hey, leave him alone,” Kirk snapped, shoving himself to his feet, his temper flaring. “You got a problem with me, you mess with me.” He shoved roughly at the man gripping his uniform, managing to tear himself free.

Spock straightened with dignity, and looked over at Kirk.

“Time, Captain.”

Kirk gaped at him, then looked down at the board, which was down to under two seconds. He snatched a piece, and slapped it down. Then turned to the bald guy who was standing there with his fists clenched, looking surprised at being ignored in favor of table play.

“I changed my mind,” Kirk said easily. “You guys can hit him.”

“You first,” the bald guy said with a grin, and took a swing at him. Kirk stepped to one side, and the guy walked right into an uppercut. Kirk followed through with a left hook, and the guy stumbled back a step.

Spock had quite neatly shoved the other man's face into the wall. He also followed through, with a pinch to the neck that caused the man to drop like he'd been axed.

“You've got to teach me that, one of these days,” Kirk said, admiringly.

Spock stepped to the chess board quickly, with a somewhat ludicrously intent look in his eye, given the situation. The game mattered. The fight was immaterial. He picked up a piece and paused, looking over Kirk's shoulder, his eyes widening.

Kirk whirled just in time to get popped in the face. He stumbled back, blocking the bald guy's second punch and trying to give him a knee to the stomach for his trouble. The guy dodged, and gave him a hard shove while he was off balance.

Kirk fell back onto the table, smashing the chess board to pieces. The bald guy moved in quick while he was dazed, but Spock darted in from the side and caught him with that neck pinch. With a twitch and a groan, the bald guy collapsed.

Wincing, Kirk pushed himself up off the table onto his feet, cracked plastic bits poking him here and there in the back. He wiped blood from under his nose and surveyed the massacre mournfully. Chess pieces had scattered everywhere.

Spock stepped up beside him. “It was my fault, sir. I should have warned you sooner,” he said, looking equally dismayed at the sight.

“You were going for your rook, to queens level 2,” Kirk said sadly, without any doubt.

Spock sighed. “Check in four,” he replied, disappointed.

Kirk glanced at him, giving him a challenging look.

“Pawn to rooks 4,” he countered.

Spock stared at him, startled. His eyes unfocused, as he placed the piece in his mind, then re-focused on the scattered remains of the board. Then, over at an unoccupied table. He turned to face Kirk with a gleam of real respect in his eye.

“I will attempt to transfer our game to another board,” he offered. Kirk grinned and Spock turned, swiping the table clear of broken pieces and pulling up the options menu.

Then Kirk glanced out at the rest of the bar, and touched Spock's shoulder.

“I don't think we'll be doing that, Spock,” Kirk said tightly. Spock glanced up in surprise, just as the bouncer grabbed his arm.

Kirk smiled a friendly, bloody smile up at the large gray individual herding them towards the door.

“Is there a problem?” he asked easily.

“You two,” he said. “Out.”

He did not quite throw them into the hall. Not quite. Kirk stumbled and Spock caught his arm.

“I fear that keeping you out of trouble seems to itself be a full time occupation,” he said, with some small hint of amusement.

Kirk gave him a smile that had charmed women of dozens of species. Some men, too. He thought, briefly, of that much older Spock. Of the look on his face when he first recognized Kirk. Like someone had just given him his wildest dream on his worst day. Not for the first time, Kirk felt a sudden swell of affection for the man standing in front of him. He put a hand on Spock's shoulder.

“Something tells me you'll get used to it,” he said gently. Spock gave him that look again, that 'I am pleased to be wrong' look. Kirk gave his arm a quick squeeze before letting him go.

“If you're up for it, I've got a board set up in my quarters,” Kirk offered. His tone turned mischievous. “There's less opportunity for trouble, if I can trust you to set up the pieces the way we left them.” He jerked his thumb toward the bar behind him.

Spock lifted an eyebrow.

“Illogical, captain, since we left the pieces on the floor,” he said swiftly. Then, “However, if I take your meaning to be that you are uncertain of your own ability to accurately recall the positions of your game, I will agree that seems to be quite a...handicap.” Spock gave him a look that was nearly triumphant, for a Vulcan.

“Spock,” Kirk said, stepping around him as if he needed to see him from another angle to believe his eyes. His voice was sly, almost flirtatious. “Are you threatening to cheat?” he asked delightedly.

“It would never occur to me, sir,” Spock said, and damned if he wasn't almost smiling again. Well, if nothing else had gone right, at least Kirk had succeeded in getting Spock to enjoy himself.

Kirk did not call him a liar, though some part of him was tempted to. He thought of the elder Spock, of the gentle amusement on his face, admitting readily to the same accusation. Kirk had promised. That Spock had known very well that Kirk's promises were good. That certainty had been carved amazingly clearly into his mind. So Kirk did not call him a liar.

“Of course not,” he said instead, and smiled.

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