This is my submission for Happy Trekmas on LiveJournal. My recipient is chiralove. It's based on her prompt: Spock and Jim are teaching at the Academy between missions and are completely ignoring their mutual attraction. Jim, in a pigtail-pulling sort of way, is coaching cadets on how to hack Spock's Kobayashi Maru test.
And Happy Trekmas to us all!
"Four months, sir?" the Captain asked the face of the Admiral on the Bridge viewscreen. He could feel the surprise of the command crew as they also studied the man on the screen, the one who decided their fate for the foreseeable future.
"Yes, Captain. It's standard procedure. As the Enterprise is scheduled for repairs, refits, and upgrades," Admiral Komack said, his near impatience coming through. "I would have thought you and your crew would look forward to time on Earth."
"Of course we are, sir," Jim said reluctantly. "We had understood it would be closer to three weeks."
"The timeline has been revised. You will be provided accommodations at Starfleet. We will discuss temporary assignments individually when you arrive," Komack informed them.
"Assignments, sir? We won't have shoreleave after all?" Jim asked, wondering why Pike wasn't the one telling them this. He'd understand. He'd actually been in space. Unlike Komack whose brain was in space though the rest of him had never gone.
"You will be afforded your leave. As you continue to be in the employ of Starfleet, we are not inclined to allow our best resources to simply wander away for the duration."
"I see, sir," Jim said, trying very hard to retain his temper that was threatening to fly into the viewscreen, to smash Komack's smug face. "Anything further sir?" Yeah, he'd just dismissed the Admiral but better dismiss him than be brought up on charges of insubordination.
"Not at this time, Captain. We will have your assignments for when you arrive. Komack out." With that, his insufferable face disappeared.
Jim took a very deep breath and counted to ten in his head. When that didn't help, he counted to twenty. He knew the crew was holding their collective breaths, waiting to see how he would react. Calm. Professional. Like a captain, Pike's voice inside his head directed.
"Well," Jim said, standing up slowly. He pulled down his gold shirt before catching the eye of anyone on the Bridge. "This is unexpected."
"It is their prerogative to assign us alternate work, sir," Spock said in his cool voice. Jim looked over at him, detecting some dissatisfaction with the Admiral in the crease barely visible between his eyes.
"I know," Jim said. He was proud of himself for not snapping at his First Officer. This wasn't Spock's fault and if he wasn't pouting about it, well, Jim couldn't be surprised. "I guess we were operating under an erroneous assumption. That the time on Earth would be leave."
"Isn't that what they told us, sir?" Sulu asked from his station. "I could have sworn Pike said we'd have the time off."
"Uhura?" Jim asked, certain she would know. Spock was more likely to have the information but Jim didn't feel any particular need to have his First Officer correct him, again. Better to ask the beautiful Lieutenant, the one who very recently had stopped looking at him like she'd like to run him through. Twice.
"Admiral Pike said that we would be given leave, sir. He didn't indicate the amount of time," she said, shaking her head, her eyes sparking with anger.
"All right. Well. As Komack said, we are in the employ of Starfleet. We'll do as we're told," Jim said.
"Perhaps the change in plans is due to the recent circumstance, sir," Spock suggested from where he still sat at his station.
"That's probably it," Jim agreed. Because agreeing with Spock was much easier. And the truth of the matter was that Spock was almost always right. Well. Always right. That didn't mean that Jim needed to engage in a futile discussion with him on the Bridge.
Their working relationship was just as it should for a Captain and First Officer. Their personal relationship, however, left something to be desired. Like one. Or an understanding. Or even less animosity. At least Spock respected his position even if he didn't entirely respect the man in it. "Chekov. Plot a course to Earth. Sulu, warp factor one. I am going to get some paperwork done. If you need me, you know where to find me. Spock. You have the bridge." His orders were met with a chorus of 'yes sirs' because he really did have the best crew in Starfleet. He would guess that they had followed his orders before he issued them, they were that awesome.
He left the Bridge for his quarters, knowing there was a pile of paperwork that needed to be dispatched. The encounter they had had with the Klingons ten days ago was the reason for both the overdue reports and the length on time they would be on Earth. Only Scotty's magic had stopped a warp core breech. And Sulu's fierce calm in the face of certain destruction had defeated the Klingons rather than the other way around. Some of the never-ending paperwork would include requests for commendations for the entire crew, requests he felt sure would be granted.
"Come," he called when his door chime rang. He'd been chipping away on the reports for a couple of hours and was ready for a breather. He was a little surprised when he looked up to see Spock entering his quarters. His First Officer stood at parade rest in front of his desk, waiting. "What can I do for you, Mr. Spock?" the Captain asked, looking up at him.
"I was unaware that you wore corrective lenses, sir," Spock said, surprising Jim. Surely that isn't why he was here.
"Oh," Jim said, pushing his glasses on top of his head. "I usually wear contacts. But my eyes are dry and itchy. So," he said, waving vaguely at the top of his head.
"I see, sir," Spock said, still looking down at him.
"Was there something you needed?" Jim prompted.
"I came to report that shift has changed, sir. Nothing of note occurred in the time after you left the Bridge."
"Thank you," Jim acknowledged, still looking up at Spock. "Is there anything further?" he asked into the silence.
"It is time for dinner, sir. Would you care to accompany me to Officers' mess?"
Jim took a moment to repeat those words in his head. What? What was that? Surely Jim couldn't have heard correctly.
"Sir?" Spock said when Jim took too long to respond.
"Sorry," Jim said. "Thanks for the invite. I think I'll take a pass this time."
"If you are certain, sir," Spock said. He seemed a little hesitant to Jim but he had long since given up trying to understand anything Spock did or said. There was probably a very logical reason for all of his actions but it made Jim's head hurt to try and figure out what those were.
"I am. If I stay here and continue to concentrate on this pile of paperwork, I have a chance of finally catching up."
"Indeed," Spock said, one eyebrow slightly elevated. "That you were confined to sickbay for four days could not have been beneficial to your work."
"Not at all," Jim agreed. "Bones doesn't take kindly to me not listening when he says I have to rest."
"As I have noticed, sir," Spock agreed. "May I bring you nourishment from the mess?"
Jim laughed at that, a pleasant change of pace frankly. He was more likely to want to yell at Spock than laugh at something he said. "Sure. If you can sneak me out a hamburger and French fries, that'd be great."
"Of course, sir," Spock acknowledged. "I will return in 45 minutes, if that is acceptable."
"Perfectably acceptable," Jim said, pulling his glasses back down to rest on his nose. "See you then."
"Of course, sir," Spock repeated, glancing at the Captain one last time before leaving his quarters. He left behind him an air that was uniquely Spock, a faint desert smell mixed with the incense he used to focus his meditation.
"Hey," Jim said into his intercom when Bones had answered.
"What are you doing?" Bones responded.
"Paperwork," Jim said, hearing Bones' answering moan. "Spock stopped by."
"What did the green-bloodied hobgoblin want?" Bones asked.
"He invited me to dinner," Jim said, laughing at the stunned silence from the other end.
"No way. You sure?"
"Yep. I didn't imagine it. He's going to bring me dinner when he finishes eating."
"Well," Bones said.
"I know. Right?" Jim said with a laugh.
"Yeah. I'm sure he's bringing you steamed vegetables and skim milk, right?"
"Of course," Jim agreed. "I'm sending in the report on the Klingon engagement. Did you send the reports to Medical already?"
"Yeah," Bones agreed. "Here's the confirmation code."
A moment later it showed up on Jim's computer, ready to be attached. "Good. Thanks."
"No charge. You need me for anything else?"
"Not right now. You have a date?" Jim asked.
"Maybe. Like I'd tell you," Bones said, Jim still laughing as they disconnected.
Jim got two more of the reports submitted before Spock returned with the plate covered with a cheeseburger and fries, the smell tantalizing and making Jim's mouth water. "Thank you."
Spock nodded, still standing before Jim's desk.
"Was there something else?" Jim asked, looking up at him.
"Would you like to engage in a game of chess, sir?"
Jim blinked up at him, sure he'd heard wrong. "Chess?"
"I heard that you are skilled at the game."
"Yeah," Jim agreed, glancing at his computer. "I haven't played in a some time."
"Are you interested in playing, sir?"
"I am but if I work on the rest of these reports, I think I can finish them tonight."
"Very well, sir," Spock said with a nod. "I will bid you good night."
"Good night, Spock. Thanks again."
Spock nodded and left, Jim wondering what that was all about. Spock had never before asked if he wanted to play chess. Or offered to bring him dinner. Especially when Jim specifically asked for a hamburger. Maybe it wasn't really Spock. Maybe it was an impostor who had taken over his body.
Well. Jim wasn't going to figure it out so turned his focus to his dinner which he devoured before returning to the never-ending reports. Who knew Starfleet Captain really translated to Piles of Never Ending Reports?
When they had been on Earth for ten days, the Command crew obediently appeared at Starfleet headquarters to receive their temporary assignments. None of them were especially happy about it nor would they complain.
Before their meeting with the Admiral, they gathered for lunch, exchanging stories about how they had spent their shore leave, most of them deciding they had been to their homes just long enough. Jim had gone to Iowa to visit his mother and brother, a visit that had been its usual mix of bitter and sweet. Uhura had gone to visit her parents, a fun adventure but one she was not sad to see end. McCoy had persuaded his devil-spawn ex-wife to allow him to spend five of the days with Joanna, a joy until the end, when it came to ripping his heart out. Chekov and Sulu had managed to visit both their families, greeted with loving, open arms by both sets of parents. Scotty probably spent the time in a drunken stupor but none of them were going to ask. Happy ignorance was much more comforting.
Spock had managed to visit New Vulcan briefly. And that was long enough. They didn't ask any questions because they didn't think they could stand hearing the answers. He did report that Sarek was doing well and Ambassador Spock was looking forward to seeing them when they had the chance to visit.
"Do you know anything about our assignments?" Sulu asked Jim after finishing his last Tekka Maki and putting his chopsticks down on his plate.
"Not yet. They are being very closed-mouthed about it," Jim said.
"What did Pike say?" Bones asked.
"He's out on assignment. He won't be back for another week."
"But you're still at his house?" Sulu asked, stealing some of Chekov's fries.
"Yeah. He requested that I stay with him," Jim confirmed.
"Only way to keep you out of trouble," Bones said, making the others laugh.
"Better than the dorms," Jim said with a dramatic shiver.
"We're in apartments, not the dorms," Sulu assured him.
"Student apartments," Jim pointed out. "Sucks to be you."
"It'll suck to be you if you don't shut the hell up," Bones warned, Jim laughing at him.
"You think I have it easy? Once Chris gets back, he'll be asking me questions all hours of the day and night. I'd rather be in a dorm."
"That is so not true," Uhura said with a great deal of sass. "Why Pike even likes you is beyond me."
"The son he never had?" Jim suggested with a shrug.
"He'd disown you if you were his," Uhura informed him.
"He likes us all," Chekov said, not as forcefully as he might have several months ago. He finally decided he really did belong on the flagship of the Federation and that no one was going to make him leave. Jim had had a hand in getting him to feel more settled, Sulu also making a huge difference in that.
"Yes he does," Uhura agreed, a warm hand on Pavel's arm. "Even Jim. For reasons we cannot imagine."
"Because he's awesome?" Chekov said, the others laughing.
"Jim paid you to say that, didn't he?" Scotty asked.
"Da. Hush-up money he called it," Pavel said, his blue eyes sparkling in mischief.
"Indeed," Spock said. "This is not surprising."
"And so not true," Jim said in mock indignation. "Pavel knows quality when he sees it."
"Da," Chekov agreed with a nod.
"Well," Jim said, standing up. "We better get across the street so we aren't late."
The others agreed, automatically standing to follow him out. The hostess wished them a pleasant day as they left, all of them responding, except Spock naturally.
They went straight up to Komack's office, his yeoman escorting them into his oversized office which matched his outsized ego. Jim was glad that Admiral Barnett was also there. At least he'd been in command of a starship before being prompted to telling other Captains what to do.
"Right on time," Barnett said with an approving nod.
"Thanks to Commander Spock, no doubt," Komack said.
Jim shook his head when Spock looked as though he was going to correct the Admiral. Not worth their effort so Spock held his tongue.
"Sit," Komack said, indicating the chairs around the huge conference table. The crew sorted themselves out, sitting in the same order they always did at senior staff meetings. Jim sat to the right of Komack rather than occupying the seat at the head of the table, but everyone else was in their precise position, Spock to Jim's left, Bones across the table, Uhura next to him, Scotty next to Spock, Sulu beside him and Chekov across the way. "As luck would have it, the fall semester at the Academy is just getting ready to start."
Jim groaned silently to himself. He just knew what was coming. Oh dear God. He didn't want to spend any more time at Starfleet Academy even if he was going to be at the big desk. With Komack's next words, his dread was confirmed.
"Your experience will be invaluable to the cadets currently in training," Komack said. "And as we are still struggling to fill all of the instructor positions, you each will be assigned a teaching position for the semester."
A heavy silence greeted these words. Jim hated the idea. Uhura looked resigned to it. Sulu looked uncertain and Pavel looked terrified. Scotty looked utterly indifferent. Bones looked suspiciously pleased. That couldn't be right.
"When does the semester officially commence, sir?" Spock finally asked. Jim thought he looked mildly interested, more so than the others.
"A week from today. As they will be in the subjects in which you are all experts, a week should be more than enough time for you to prepare for your classes," Komack said, looking vaguely smug and self-righteous, the very expression that made Jim the most willing to punch out his lights. He suspected Barnett realized that when he spoke up.
"You will be assigned a mentor for your classes," Barnett said reasonably. "Not that we think you need subject-matter help. But they will help formulate your lesson plans. Provide you with outlines, tests, so forth."
"With all due respect, sirs," Scotty said into the silence that had descended over them. "I would prefer to oversee the repairs to my…to the Enterprise."
"Understood, Mr. Scott. However, we do not have an instructor for our advance seminar on warp core maintenance. Your efforts will ensure that other starships will have adequately trained engineers," Barnett said. "And the seminar is only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. That will give you four days to oversee the repairs."
"Aye sir," Scotty said somewhat reluctantly, glancing at Jim who gave him one nod.
"And our assignments, sir?" Uhura asked. That she was glaring at Komack did not go unnoticed by her friends. The Admiral, predictably, failed to recognize the fierceness of her gaze.
"You will be conducting the advanced seminar on xenolinguistics with an emphasis on Klingon dialectics and commands, Lieutenant," Komack told her.
"Yes sir," she confirmed, lifting an eyebrow when she glanced at Jim. Resignation.
"Dr. McCoy, you will be assigned to the Starfleet Infirmary. We need another qualified doctor and your time is best spent keeping the cadets healthy," Komack said.
"Yes sir," Bones agreed, utterly indifferent to his assignment. If they wanted him to spend the next four months providing hangover hypos and testing for STDs, well, whatever. At least he wouldn't be putting Jim back together on a weekly basis.
"Lt. Sulu, you will be assigned to pilot training as well as teaching advanced fencing. You will have one pilot class and two fencing classes. Will this pose a problem?" Komack asked.
"Not at all, sir. Providing they are not at the same time," Sulu said, making his friends chuckle.
"They aren't," Komack said with a frown. "Ensign Chekov, you are assigned to teach the advanced stellar cartography seminar. There will be 14 students in the class."
"Da. Yes sir," Chekov said, his eyes wide.
"Commander Spock, is there a class you are particularly interested in teaching?" Komack asked, surprising the others. Not that Spock didn't deserve the special privilege. But that Komack recognized it was a shock.
"I have no preference, sir. I will accept the assignment you deem most appropriate," Spock said evenly. Jim thought he was subtly angry, not that he would ever admit it or act out on it. But it was still there, deep in the background.
Komack nodded at Spock's words, not surprised. "Then you will teach advanced micro-programming and coding?"
"Certainly, sir," Spock agreed with a curt nod.
"Captain," Komack said, finally focusing on Jim. "We need you to teach advanced tactical analysis to the command track."
"Of course sir," Jim agreed. "How many cadets will be in the class?"
"Classes," Komack corrected. "There will be 20 in each. You'll have 3 classes."
"I see, sir," Jim said, very nearly sighing. Great – 60 students. Well. His crew was made up of over 400. If he could handle them, surely he could handle 60 students.
"We have arranged for your mentors to meet with you individually," Komack continued. "They should be here. Richard?"
Barnett nodded, going to the office door to invite the four senior instructors to enter. The command crew was paired up with their mentors, instructors they had had the academy. Scotty was thrilled to be working with Commander Ey'aran, especially since he was not a huge fan of Admiral Archer either. Nyota gladly accepted Dr. Donald Mier-Cruz as her mentor, coincidentally one of her favorite instructors during her time at the Academy. Sulu was paired with Dr. Sharon Lucid, and Chekov with Dr. Alexei Gagarin.
"Commander Spock, we doubt you will need assistance. If you do, you have only to ask," Admiral Komack assured him when the others had left, chatting excitedly with their professors.
"Of course, sir," Spock responded.
"I'll be watching out for you," Admiral Barnett said to Jim with a wink. "Until Chris gets back."
"Very good, sir," Jim agreed.
"You will report to the infirmary tomorrow, 0800," Komack told McCoy.
"Yes sir," McCoy agreed with a nod.
"Anything further?" Komack asked with an air of dismissal. Assuring him they had no further need of him, they left, Barnett showing Spock to his temporary office which was three doors down from the one assigned to Jim. McCoy left, telling Jim he would meet up with him for dinner.
"I know it's not ideal," Richard said to Jim when they were in Jim's temporary office.
"It's fine, really. It would be even better if we weren't all verging on exhaustion," Jim said, sitting in the chair in front of the aged wooden desk.
"A year and a half is a long time to be in space," Richard agreed. "This break will be good for you. Teaching will be a new challenge but at least you're assured you won't be killed doing it."
"There is that," Jim laughed. "Do you know where Chris is?"
"Yeah. He's fine. He'll be back Saturday, I promise. He'll be able to tell you some of it when he gets home."
"Okay," Jim sighed. "Do you have lesson plans already designed?"
"I do. They are on your computer. I know 60 students seems like a lot. But it won't be too much to handle."
"I guess not. I have over 400 crew. I can surely take care of 60 students," Jim said.
"Exactly. And Yeoman Rand requested to be your TA. We agreed."
"That will help. She can be strange but she's the most organized person I've ever met. She keeps me out of trouble all the time."
"So I guess you don't want me to promote her," Richard laughed.
"You can right before we leave," Jim said with a smile. "Do I get to choose my next Yeoman?"
"Of course. I'll arrange the interviews when you are getting ready to go back out there."
"Thanks," Jim said with a nod. "Did you get my request for commendations?"
"Got it. Approved it. We'll present them at Convocation on September 5. The day before classes start. Since y'all are here."
"Thanks," Jim repeated.
"Things between you and Spock any smoother?" Richard asked kindly.
Jim sighed at that. "He's a consummate professional."
"Of course he is, Jim. That's not what I'm asking."
"I know," Jim admitted. "We don't have to be best friends, right?"
"It would help," Richard said. "He hasn't attacked you recently, has he?"
"God no," Jim laughed. "That was strictly a one-time only thing. And it was my fault. Well, you know."
"I do know. I also know he respects you. You don't doubt that, do you?"
"No. But. Well."
"I know. He seems more settled. More comfortable around you at least."
"He is that," Jim agreed. "We get close to the line of friendship but can't seem to quite cross it."
"You might never cross into friends. Respect will suffice if that's all there is," Richard reminded him.
"I know," Jim said in resignation. He couldn't envision a time when he and Spock were more than cordial to one another. Spock Prime was wrong and that made him inordinately sad. "Well. I can't really change how he feels, can I?"
"Regrettably you cannot," Richard agreed. "Do you want to review your lesson plans?"
"I guess I should," Jim said, rounding the desk to sit behind it as Richard drug a chair over to sit next to him. Jim opened the folder entitled JTK - Advanced Tactical Analysis, finding it in order and with enough detail to make his preparation simpler. That many of the tactical maneuvers were his invention, born of necessity, meant his pre-planning would need to be minimal at best.
"You good with this?" Richard asked after 45 minutes.
"Yeah," Jim said with a nod. "I appreciate it."
"You're welcome. I have a meeting I need to get to. Unless you need me to stay and put your rosters in alphabetical order."
Jim laughed at that, shaking his head. "Wow, Admiral. Thanks. But I have it under control."
"All right," Richard said with an unconvincing frown. "I'll see you tomorrow at 0900."
"Yes sir," Jim said, walking him to his door to see him out. After he had watched him disappear down the hallway, he decided to see how Spock was doing. He was so accustom to seeing Spock at his station, firm and steady, he found he missed his slightly disapproving presence. "Hey," he said as he knocked on the open door.
"Captain," Spock said, standing at his arrival.
"Sit," Jim said, waving him back in his chair. Jim sat in the visitor chair facing Spock. "How's it going?"
"I have my lesson plans completed, sir."
"We aren't on our ship, Spock. I don't think Starfleet will crumble around us if you don't call me sir."
"I see," Spock said, considering it. "Very well. Are you prepared for the first day of class?"
"Nearly. Admiral Barnett was a huge help. He had already made most of my lesson plans. And Yeoman Rand will be here tomorrow. She requested assignment as my TA."
"Convenient," Spock said with a nod.
"Lucky for me. I doubt I'll have enough for her to do. So if you need her help, just ask her."
"I will," Spock said. He waited as Jim took is communicator out, answering McCoy's request.
"I'm done here. You ready for dinner?" McCoy's asked.
"Yeah. I'll meet you at the restaurant," Jim said.
"You got it," McCoy agreed, disconnecting.
"Do you want to join us for dinner?" Jim asked Spock politely.
"Thank you no," Spock said to Jim's nods.
"All right. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Indeed," Spock confirmed, watching Jim leave his office.
They settled into the routine, as odd as it felt to them. Not that Spock would admit to anything as Human as feeling slightly out of sorts. They could see it in his face but he would not discuss it with any of them, not Jim and not Uhura. Eventually the others stopped asking. If he wanted to deal with it himself, they weren't going to ask again.
Jim found most of his students interested, engaged, and incredibly intelligent. Not that he wasn't. But their insatiable hunger for information was a little intimidating.
Because of their quest to master all the subjects possible, he wasn't especially surprised when he looked up from his computer to find three of his students standing in his doorway. Campbell, St. Peters, and Poloughshyad were at the top of their classes, acknowledged as three of the brightest students ever to attend the Academy. And considering Jim and Spock had been there, that was saying something.
"Captain," Elise Campbell said politely. She was a Human from right here in San Francisco. Her green eyes were wide and curious, her dark brown hair short and curling around her round face.
Roxbert St. Peter was from one of the Caribbean islands, which Jim should know but could never keep it straight, no matter how many times Roxbert told Jim. St. Marteen? St. Thomas? St Peter? No that couldn't be right. His complexion was dark brown and he had deep black, sparkling eyes. He shaved his head, graced with a skull that was okay bare, not lumpy or irregular like Jim always assumed his own would be.
Poloughshyad was a former Orion slave girl who had been purchased by Human traders and promptly freed. Her real name was lost in her memory and her current name was bestowed on her by the traders. She laughed every time she said it and most people called her Polly. Her skin was as green as Gaila's but her hair was black and straight. She was currently wearing it in one long braid down her back, her smile bright and genuine. Polly had talked to Gaila when they arrived on Earth and they had become friends. Gaila was working in the computer labs at Headquarters and spent as much time with Polly as she could.
"Yeah?" Jim said with a smile at the trio. They were rarely seen independently, and it was assumed that they were indeed attached at the hip.
"Well, sir," Elise said, glancing at the other two for additional courage. "We'd like to… well, sir."
"What she is trying to say, sir," Roxbert took up. "We have failed the Kobayashi Maru. Each of us. We do not like it."
"Nobody likes it, Rox," Jim said with a smile.
"No sir. Nobody, they do not. You, though. You did not accept the defeat," Roxbert said.
"I also took it three times," Jim reminded them.
"And the last time, sir. You beat it," Polly said in excitement. She was visibly vibrating with enthusiasm.
"I did. I was also brought up on charges for cheating," Jim reminded them.
"But you were not expelled, sir," Elise said. "I've checked the records. None of us can figure out how you did it."
"And you are asking me how I did it?" Jim asked them, studying them in turn.
"Not exactly, sir. We thought it would make a good project for your class. You know. No no-win scenarios," Polly said brightly.
"Well," Jim said, considering it. "I'm sure Commander Spock would tell you your time could be much better spent on a project that doesn't involve a form of cheating."
"Would you say, sir?" Roxbert asked him sincerely.
"No," Jim laughed. "But I don't believe I can officially tell you how to defeat it."
"Not officially," Elise said with a nod. "If we were to formulate a theory and ask if you thought it might succeed…."
"I would be willing to listen," Jim confirmed. "And if I thought your theory had merit, I might be in a position to confirm it."
"That is all that we can ask, sir," Rox agreed, the other two nodding in confirmation.
"Do you have a working model?" Jim asked.
"Not as of yet. We have some ideas. But we haven't worked out the details just yet," Elise said.
"All right," Jim said. "When you have something to show me, you know where to find me."
"We do," Polly said brightly.
"Thank you, sir," Rox said, turning and leaving with the girls, heads close together as they discussed their ideas.
Jim closed down his computer and told Rand he was leaving for the day. She barely acknowledged him, her head bent over the rosters she was trying to decipher. There was a code for tardy, a code for absent, a code for the grades, a code for…blood type? No, that couldn't be it.
"So," Jim said to Bones and Pike at dinner that night. Chris had made stir fry, the chicken and peanuts just the right amount of spicy but not so hot they couldn't eat it all. "The three musketeers paid me a visit."
"Are they planning to take over the Academy?" Chris asked with a laugh.
"They will eventually. But that's not why they came. They've decided to try and defeat the Kobayashi Maru."
"And you did the adult thing and told them to forget it, right?" Bones said.
"Not exactly," Jim said with a shrug.
"Jim," Pike said in undisguised warning. "That's a bad idea."
"I didn't say I'd help them," Jim protested.
"I'm guessing you also didn't tell him to forget it," Pike said.
"Not exactly. I think it's good training," Jim said.
"Or you just want to annoy Spock," McCoy said.
"That's so not true," Jim said. "He and I have learned to be…cordial. I don't have any reason to annoy him."
"Except that it's him. And you want more than cordial from him," Bones said knowingly.
Jim didn't bother to deny that, standing to gather the empty plates and getting the lemon-lime sorbet out of the freezer.
"Jim," Pike said. "If you want more from Spock than a professional relationship, don't use your students to get it."
"I'm not using anyone," Jim protested. "If anything, they are using me."
"Don't let them," Bones advised.
"Chris?" Jim asked, studying the Admiral.
"I can't tell you to tell them not to do it," Chris said. "But Leonard's right. You're doing it to annoy your First Officer."
"It is good training," Jim said.
"Are you trying to convince us or yourself?" Chris asked, scooping out more sorbet. He handed the mostly empty carton to Jim so he could finish it.
"You," Jim said, studying the carton with more intensity than it deserved.
Chris sighed, shaking his head. "If he threatens you, don't come to me for protection."
"I won't," Jim laughed, licking his spoon clean. "It won't come to that."
"I hope not. For your sake," Pike said.
Jim was in his office, studying the final project outlines from his students. Some were innovative, some interesting, some boring, some useless. It was his temporary job to know the difference and gently but firmly guide the later ones into turning their ideas into the former type. He looked up when Spock came to an abrupt stop before his desk, Vulcan storm clouds over his head. Spock was wearing black pants instead of his uniform, with a cozy sweater knit from thick black and grey variegated yarn.
"Hey," Jim said, looking up at him over the reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. He gave a start when Spock closed his office door with more force than strictly necessary. From anyone else it would have been a window rattling slam.
"Captain," Spock said with his very stern and disapproving almost-expression.
"Spock," Jim said in response. He could guess what was coming. The musketeers had taken the Kobayashi Maru that morning, each of them defeating it in a different way.
"Explain," Spock demanded.
"Specify," Jim countered.
"They did not succeed without assistance," Spock said, his teeth very nearly clinched in anger.
"How can you be sure?" Jim asked.
"I have seen them coming to your office on an almost daily basis. You cannot tell me that they came for coffee," Spock said, surprising Jim with his sarcasm.
"Wait," Jim said. "You watch them come to my office? And you know how often they've been here?"
"That is not the point, Captain. You were the only one to ever defeat the test. You have taken them under your proverbial wing and now they have defeated it. You cannot expect me to believe that it is a mere coincidence."
"Maybe it is," Jim said, wondering when he stood up. Not that it was of any particular importance. He just didn't remembering leaving his chair. "Maybe they are smart enough to figure it out on their own."
"I isolated the subroutines they used. They bear the mark of a superior intellect and a creative thinker. They are yours."
"As flattered as I am, Spock, I'm telling you that I didn't write them."
"But you advised them. You guided them through the process. I can see your digital fingerprints all over the programs."
"I'm not saying I did it," Jim said, removing his reading glasses that he had forgotten were there. "But if I did advise them, it was a good lesson for them to learn."
"Teaching them to cheat was in their best interest?" Spock asked in barely disguised anger.
"It isn't cheating, Spock. It's leveling the playing field. I would have thought that after all the time we've served together that you don't believe in no-win scenarios either."
"I do not, so long as you…" Spock stopped, clamping his mouth shut over the words he had not intended to say.
"So long as wait?" Jim prompted more gently. "Finish that sentence."
Spock stared at him with cold eyes, reluctance written in every tense line of his body.
"So long as I'm in command?" Jim guessed, seeing the truth in Spock's tiny step backward. "And I'm trying to teach the next crop of Captains the same thing."
"They are not you," Spock said very quietly.
Jim smiled at those words. "They aren't. And they won't have you to help them. But we still need to teach them that they can win if they approach the situation with the certainty that they will win."
"What do you wish to win?" Spock asked, his voice a little more than a whisper.
"Not what. Who," Jim said, slowing moving from behind his desk to stand close to Spock. Close enough to smell the very faint cedar that clung to Spock's sweater, the spice from the tea Spock preferred, the soap he used that was so reminiscent of desert and heat and exotic lands.
"Whom," Spock said, inching closer to Jim who laughed at his automatic correction. Jim's laugh brushed past Spock's lips and it was all he could do not to lick the sound from the air between them.
"You," Jim said. "You are all I want."
"I have everything else. Our ship. Our crew. I only need you to be complete."
"You have me," Spock whispered, leaning closer to brush his lips against Jim's. Not a kiss just yet. But it was the promise of one. A promise Jim knew they would both keep.
"So explain to me one more time how we went from barely friends to this," Jim said, his hand lazily tracing up and down Spock's side. They were snug in Spock's bed, their legs as entwined as their bodies had been until they had to come up for air. They were still recovering, the languid heaviness of sexual satisfaction lingering.
"You refused to admit you knew," Spock said, his voice rumbling under Jim's ear.
"Knew what?" Jim asked with a smile, his mouth curving against the warm skin of Spock's chest.
"Do not toy with me. I believe I have demonstrated that I can subdue you," Spock said, his fingers still carding through Jim's hair.
"Subdue me. That's what you call it?" Jim teased.
"I have desired you since the day you dared defy me before the Academic Review Board."
"You hated me," Jim corrected. "Not that you would ever admit to anything as Human as hate."
"I never hated you, Jim. I used your perception as a shield against the true strength of my desires."
"Hmm…" Jim sighed. "It'd have been a lot simpler if we had just confessed how we felt."
"I did consider it. I was uncertain of your reaction. I would not risk being transferred off your ship."
"Our ship," Jim said with a bright smile.
"Our ship," Spock agreed. "Explain how the musketeers defeated the test."
"Nope," Jim said, shaking his head. "We can have that fight when we're dressed. And back to being instructors. Right now I just want to remain your love slave."
"My love slave?" Spock asked, an undeniable tone of amusement in his voice.
"Totally. Yours to do as you command," Jim said, his words negated by the yawn he could not stop.
"I believe that for now we both need to sleep. You may return to being my love slave when we awaken."
"Deal," Jim agreed, his eyes closing, a smile lingering on his lips. "Love you."
"And I love you," Spock responded, revealing in the words that he finally had permission to say. And planned to repeated on every possible occasion.