Title: Throwing Down the Gauntlet
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: Property of Roddenberry, Paramount, JJ Abrams, etc. Alas.
Summary: Spock tracked his commanding officer to the observation deck, two evenings after the Enterprise's departure from spacedock. 1400 words, Spock POV, gen.
Spoilers: Star Trek XI (2009)
Notes: Inspired by Journey to Drabble challenge #46 - Kirk, Spock, Provocation. At this point, I should probably warn you that all of my Reboot-verse stories have taken place in a continuous universe; however, except for the Pike-POV "Press" stories, they can all be read as standalones.
Spock tracked his commanding officer to the observation deck, two evenings after the Enterprise's departure from spacedock. He had not yet had an opportunity to speak with Captain Kirk regarding his decision to remain in Starfleet; their brief conversation upon his arrival, and their interactions since, had been sufficiently public to make detailed discussion seem... inappropriate.
Spock was well aware that he had put Kirk 'on the spot' with his last-minute arrival, and wished to clarify that he had not intended to cause any complications either with his initial resignation or his precipitous return. The fact that Kirk had not previously filled the first officer's post suggested that the Captain had been hoping for just such an eventuality; nevertheless, it had been discourteous of Spock to presume as much after formerly declaring his intentions otherwise.
Given that he did now intend to remain aboard for the duration, there were certain other subjects that should perhaps be broached, as well. Statements had been made in the earliest hours of their acquaintance that, in retrospect, might be termed... intemperate, and ill-advised.
The doors to the forward observation deck swished open as Spock approached; the sound was muted, and the lights inside dimmed in accordance with the ship's standard diurnal cycle. Only one figure stood within: the man he sought, still in uniform, leaning against the waist-high ledge of one of the large, transparent viewports.
Kirk did not turn at his entrance; the low light shadowed the human's profile and rendered his expression solemn in a way Spock had seldom seen from him during the short period of their acquaintance. Always, in the midst of either action or conversation, Kirk's features had retained a certain intensity; but now, when he thought himself alone, he seemed inexplicably distant and subdued. It was unexpectedly disquieting to Spock to see him thus.
"Captain?" he prompted, stepping further into the room. The door swished shut again behind him.
"Hm?" Kirk turned from the viewport, then attempted a smile, an abortive gesture that drew up only one corner of his mouth. "Spock, hey. Call me Jim, we're off duty, remember?"
"Jim," Spock repeated, tilting his head in acknowledgement. "I had wished to apologize to you concerning my delay in announcing my intention to rejoin the crew--"
Kirk waved a dismissive hand in his direction. "It's all right. I had a feeling you'd show up eventually."
Spock approached him, closing to a distance of approximately one-half meter; Kirk seemed to find the length of an extended arm, or preferably less, the most comfortable proximity when holding an individual conversation. Spock found that curious; for many humans, that would be an uncomfortable imposition, particularly when speaking to someone perceived as 'alien'.
"On what did you base this feeling?" he asked, bemused.
Kirk smiled again, a more genuine curvature of his lips than the previous one, and turned his eyes back out toward the stars. No, not toward the stars; this close, Spock could now see that Kirk's gaze was directed down toward the hull instead, at the large, black letters spelling 'NCC-1701' across the shining white surface. "Oh, I guess you could say I had inside knowledge," Kirk replied.
"My alternate spoke with you of this?" Spock asked, surprised. He had been under the impression that the only meeting between the two had taken place during Kirk's brief exile on T'Kuht-- the planet the humans referred to as Delta Vega-- before his return to the ship with Chief Engineer Scott.
"No, not specifically," Kirk said, turning back to him with a shrug. He did not seem surprised at Spock's revelation, despite what Spock's elder self had implied. "But he seemed pretty insistent that you and I were going to end up working as a team. I figured he'd find some way of contacting you about it, even if you weren't supposed to meet up with him face to face."
"He was not entirely truthful with you about the dangers of such an encounter," Spock felt compelled to admit.
Kirk chuckled, though there was little humor in the sound. "Figures. Something else he said-- I told him he was cheating, messing around with the timeline and all, and he said he'd learned it from an old friend. Should have realized he'd know all about creative license, too."
"You do not appear to be pleased by this information," Spock said, perplexed and slightly nonplused by the other man's reaction. "Did you not wish me to return to the ship?"
"What?" Kirk's eyebrows flew up; he seemed gratifyingly surprised by Spock's question. "No, that's not it at all." He reached up to rub a hand over his face, then gestured toward the viewport, eyes drawn out into the darkness again. "I'm just a little distracted tonight, I apologize."
Spock could see nothing in the condition of the visible hull that could provoke such a preoccupation; but then, the workings of human minds, particularly Kirk's, were often a mystery to him. "I assure you, the Enterprise is in excellent condition," he offered. "I have read the engineers' reports, and examined the repairs myself."
"No, that's not it, either," Kirk said, then sighed. "Don't mind me. I'm just-- brooding. Contrary to popular opinion, I do know exactly what I've got myself into. And all the rest of you with me."
Spock thought again of Admiral Pike's carefully oblique advice, offered some weeks before 'should you choose to remain with Starfleet', regarding certain political realities and the preventive maintenance of starship Captains who had not had the benefit of reaching that rank through the usually accepted channels. Had Kirk been the recipient of an equivalent address?
"You are worried," he clarified.
"Understatement," Kirk muttered, quietly enough that a human would not have heard it. Then he shook his head. "When we were still at the Academy, I'd head for the bars with Bones when I was in this kind of mood, but that's not exactly an option anymore. What else is there to do aboard ship, do you know? I didn't exactly have time to look for recreation on our last trip."
"There are many forms of entertainment available," Spock informed him. "However, it would perhaps be more expedient to ask the computer for a list of current resources and leisure activities offered; I do not partake of them myself."
"Really?" That seemed to pique Kirk's interest. "Then what do you do for fun?" He paused a moment, then seemed to rethink his statement; his eyebrows went up, and he blurted, "Uh. I mean--"
Spock was not entirely unaware of Standard innuendo. He raised an eyebrow in return at the captain's loss of composure, increasingly intrigued at the realization that his original purpose in seeking Kirk out seemed to have been unnecessary after all; the human seemed to have no idea that there might be cause for any sort of grudge, or other lack of trust, between them. That, in fact, Kirk seemed to wish to be on Spock's 'good side', despite his often aggressive public manner; that in Kirk's opinion, there was no 'hatchet' requiring burial between them. Fascinating.
"The concept of 'fun' as understood by humans is not one which Vulcans share," he replied, carefully choosing his words as he reassessed the optimal outcome of their conversation. "However, I do find certain leisure activities to have relaxing and efficiency-enhancing qualities. Among them..." He paused as Kirk's eyes widened slightly, then continued, suppressing the twitch that threatened at the corners of his mouth, "...three-dimensional chess. However, there are few opponents in Starfleet, and none on this ship, who offer a significant test of my abilities."
"None?" Kirk turned his full focus upon Spock at last; the intensity that had been missing from his behavior upon Spock's arrival returned as he took up the 'bait' Spock had offered. "I wouldn't be so quick to say that if I were you; you haven't played against me yet."
"Perhaps you are unaware," Spock prodded further, "that the Three-Dimensional Chess Organization has granted me the title of Grandmaster."
Kirk's grin sharpened; the sense of engagement/determination that radiated from him was tangible even without skin-to-skin contact. "Is that a challenge, Spock?" he replied.
Spock inclined his head in agreement. "Do you care to accept?"
The outcome of that question had never been in doubt.
The games that soon followed, however, were-- to Spock's appreciative astonishment-- another prospect entirely.