Chess games became a regular affair for them both as they settled into their mission in the following weeks, which began to leak into months. Time passed quickly on the Enterprise so that three months into their mission, it felt, to Jim at least, like it had only been last week that they'd departed from Earth's space dock.
They were in the middle of one of their weekly-turned-nightly chess games when Jim said just that. "I mean seriously, I can't believe it's been three months."
"Nor can I, Cap-Jim," Spock was really making the effort to leave out the formalities in the interest of friendship and Jim was proud. "However to me, it seems as though it has been significantly longer. This discrepancy may be due to the fact that you have spent a considerable amount of time unconscious in sickbay while I have not."
Jim did not recognize Spock's tone of voice, as he hardly ever heard this one being used, and every time he did, he was generally too drugged up in sickbay to really dwell on it. It wasn't reproachful, exactly, but Jim could detect a harshness in the deep tones as well as something like... concern?
"Spock, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you worried about me all those times I was stuck in sickbay," he teased quietly.
"You obviously do not ‘know better' then," Spock murmured, almost too quiet for Jim to hear.
Jim was taken aback. "Spock, you actually were worried?" he asked, almost refusing to believe it.
"You are my captain and my friend," Spock said softly. "As First Officer, it is my duty to concern myself with the health of my captain; as your friend, I was concerned as well."
Jim felt mortifying wetness in the corners of his eyes at the words that could only display why the Vulcan had come to mean so much to him. He showed Jim the utmost respect and went about his duties with a strong sense of... devotion, of course, but what really got Jim was the way he looked at him, as though he were conveying unconditional acceptance through those delightful chocolaty eyes. Jim couldn't understand it; during the incident with Nero, it seemed like Spock couldn't stand Jim, and yet now he looked at him with compassion, affection and even some level of devotion in his eyes. He found himself wondering, not for the first time, what had brought about this change.
"Spock I... I don't know what to say," Jim said truthfully. "I worry like crazy about you too, you know, that's how I get into half these crazy ass situations."
"I am aware of that, Jim," Spock said in a hard voice, his eyes looking pained. "Regardless of how many times I have asked you not to do anything to save me that would risk your own life. You are the most important person on this ship, a First Officer is easily replaceable, a Captain however, given the current condition of Starfleet, is much more difficult to replace. And you... You are irreplaceable," he finished in almost a whisper and Jim had to lean forward over the table to hear.
"Spock," Jim said sharply. "Don't talk like that. If either of us is irreplaceable it's you. You're completely unique. There are all sorts of hicks like me they could train up and give a ship to. There is only one Spock, and there will only ever be one Spock. Well, actually, never mind," Jim had to mentally kick himself; he'd almost given away the existence of the other Spock.
"There are two," Spock said quietly, as though he knew exactly what Jim had been about to say. "You have just illustrated my point. There are two Spocks, but there will only ever be one James Kirk."
"Spock I..." Jim paused and what Spock had said really clicked in his brain. "Wait, what? You know about him? And the universe didn't implode or anything? He's a big liar, and here I am kicking myself every time I almost mention him! The asshole!"
Spock smiled at him, just a quirk of his lips, but Jim took it as the big grin it really was. "I certainly hope that I never become the being you are so intent on calling an ‘asshole'," he said with amusement.
Jim laughed. "I don't see you lying about impending doom of the universes to me, so I doubt it." He laughed for a minute more before becoming serious. "But seriously, he lied to me! I thought Vulcans couldn't lie."
"If I recall correctly, he corrected my assumption, which was remarkably similar to your own, and stated that he merely implied that fact," Spock told him.
"Of course you recall correctly, you've got perfect memory," Jim rolled his eyes.
Spock felt the tips of his ears go green; he did not fully understand why it was only compliments from Jim that caused this sort of physiological reaction. He supposed it was merely because he somehow knew Jim was being perfectly sincere. "Indeed."
Jim smiled, admiring the way he could always make those gorgeous ears turn emerald green. He found himself wondering if he could make some other part of Spock's anatomy green too. Jim quickly backed off that though; it was a dangerous place to be, especially while Spock was in the room. The next thing he said, he only said to distract himself from the distinctly inappropriate way his thoughts were headed.
"I still can't believe he's you, different version or not," Jim said. "Somehow I don't see you ever lying, or implying anything to me like that. I don't know what it is. As much as I trusted him on Delta Vega, I know that sounds stupid I mean, we'd only just met, but somehow I did. Anyways, I trust you so much more than the other you."
Spock raised an eyebrow. Jim was babbling and it was unlike him. Spock watched him more closely. He got the distinct impression that Jim was uncomfortable. Perhaps he felt that such a statement would make Spock uncomfortable? He decided to rectify that. "I find that I trust you implicitly as well."
Jim's cheeks went red. "Well, that's good to hear," he mumbled, embarrassed by the intense feeling that was brought on by that admission. He didn't understand why Spock's opinion of him meant so much to him, well, actually he was lying to himself there. He knew exactly why Spock's opinion meant so much to him; it was because the Vulcan himself meant so much to Jim. Jim didn't love him; no, James Kirk did not do the big L word, everything just went wrong with love. But he did... what was that word Vulcans used all the time? Oh yeah, Jim cherished Spock. A lot. But he didn't love him; Jim didn't think he was capable love.
Besides, Jim thought bitterly to himself, moving a knight without really thinking about it. Even if you could love him, he's got Uhura. There's nothing you can do about that. He tried very hard not to feel irritated by the way that his First Officer and Chief Communications officer spent so many lunches together, probably talking about how much they loved each other and how many kids they were going to have. Jim sighed audibly; yes, he was lucky he didn't know how to love anyone, or else he'd be pretty unhappy indeed.
"Cap-Jim?" Spock's voice broke through Jim's thoughts. "Is everything alright?"
"Hmm?" Jim looked up and shook his head slightly to clear it. "Yeah, everything's fine. And don't you dare lecture me on how bad you think the word ‘fine' is," he added quickly when Spock opened his mouth to reply.
"I merely ask because you seem to have forgotten which colour you are playing this evening," Spock indicated the black knight he had just moved. "As you have just put my knight in the perfect position to put your king," Spock indicated the white one in front of Jim. "In check."
"Oh," Jim looked down and realized that he had indeed moved the wrong piece. "Sorry, I wasn't paying attention."
"I surmised as much," Spock put his knight back into the position it was before Jim had moved it. "Which is why I inquired into your well-being. It appears that you have unpleasant thoughts in your mind."
"Oh, Uh," Jim didn't know what say. He couldn't very well tell Spock that he was pissed off that he was spending time with his gorgeous girlfriend, could he? She had been there first. "No, no unpleasant thoughts. I think I might just be tired, that's all."
"Perhaps it would be prudent to continue this game another time then," Spock said and e made to get up.
"No," Jim said quickly. He didn't want Spock to leave yet. He was pretty sure that Spock would leave this cabin and eture over to Uhura's. She was probably waiting for him. Jim tried very hard to ignore the sort of vindictive pleasure he felt at keeping Spock to himself so often. He also tried to ignore the relief he felt that he never had to witness any intimate interactions between them. He'd only seen them kiss on the transporter pad, and even then Jim had experienced a strange sensation of jealousy and irritation. He didn't think he had the emotional strength to handle another public display like that. Not that he was in love with Spock or anything, but he didn't have to like the fact that he was dating someone else, did he?
"Jim, you are obviously fatigued and not paying close enough attention to the game to consider this a useful way to spend the evening," Spock said softly. "The logical thing would be for you to retire early and obtain a sufficient amount of sleep."
"The reason I don't get enough sleep is that I can't sleep," Jim complained, mostly to prolong the conversation and keep Spock there. "I don't see the point in lying in bed and staring at the ceiling for hours on end." Thinking about how I can't have you, but she can, he added mentally.
"Have you discussed this with Doctor McCoy?" Spock asked, concern lacing his voice. "Perhaps he can offer a sedative?"
"I've already tried the sedatives, and Bones thinks I'm an idiot," Jim rolled his eyes. "My brain just won't shut up long enough for me to get a decent night's sleep." That much was true; his brain seemed to think that the best time for thinking was at 0100 in the morning. Most times it was about Spock, but whenever they went on an away mission that ended horribly... the security or science officers became the center of his mind's focus that night. It was actually starting to get a little old.
"Nevertheless, I feel it is important that you at least make an attempt to rest," Spock said gently. He reached out and plucked Jim's hand from the chess piece it was pretty much fondling at this point, and, touching only his wrist lightly, set it down gently on the table. "We may continue this game tomorrow afternoon upon the completion of our shifts."
"I believe we have a date, Spock," Jim said, smiling sleepily. He bade goodnight to Spock and made his way to his bed, suddenly exhausted. He fell asleep begrudging the fact that it was not an actual date, just chess.
Jim woke up to the sound of his chronometer beeping, telling him it was time to get up to get ready for shift. He couldn't believe how well he'd slept that night, especially considering how miserable he had felt the evening before.
In fact, he was so well rested that he got ready at top speed, meaning he was ridiculously early for shift. Jim shrugged to himself. He knew that Spock showed up to the bridge early every morning, and as captain, it couldn't hurt to appear eager and on top of things every once in a while. So, he straightened his uniform tunic and exited his quarters at exactly the same time Spock was exiting his.
"Good morning, Captain," Spock greeted, his eyes glued to the PADD in his hand. "I trust you slept well last night?"
"Yeah, actually," Jim said, cheered by the fact that it appeared that Spock had slept in his own quarters last night, and Uhura was definitely not in Spock's cabin. "It was a pretty good night. How was yours?"
"Uneventful," Spock replied, the tips of his ears turning green. Upon waking, he realized that the majority of his slumber had been plagued by dreams, uncommon for a Vulcan, about his captain in less than appropriate situations.
Jim caught the blush and immediately misinterpreted it. "Oh, you must have gone to see Uhura, right?"
Spock looked up from his PADD at him, with confusion etched onto his face. "I did not, nor do I see why you would assume I would have. I have not seen Lieutenant Uhura outside of our bridge shifts together since lunch two point four days ago."
"Huh," was all Jim said as they stepped into the turbolift. Trouble in paradise? Jim asked himself. He stopped himself from feeling hopeful about that. It was wrong for to want his friend to break up with his girlfriend.
"You are early for your shift this morning," Spock remarked as the ‘lift ascended.
"Yeah, first good night's sleep in a long time, I had an abundance of energy getting ready this morning," Jim shrugged. "I figure the captain should put the effort into being early for shift at least once in a while."
Spock nodded and they rode the rest of the way in amicable silence. Jim noted how comfortable he always felt in Spock's presence, whether or not they were speaking and filed that away for contemplation the next time his thoughts stopped him from sleeping. It was nice to have proof that their supposedly ‘life-altering friendship' did have the grounds to happen. Even if he couldn't have more from Spock (not that I want more, Jim told himself firmly), he would certainly have that.
"Are you doing anything for lunch today?" Jim asked suddenly.
"I am not," Spock answered. "Would you care to join me in the mess upon that hour, Captain?"
Jim smiled. "Then I believe we have a lunch date as well, Mr. Spock."