"What the hell, man?" Jim asked, hand frozen over the chess board, just short of moving his rook, as he looked at Spock incredulously through the dim light of his quarters. "What kind of a question is that?"
"You told me I could ask you anything, did you not?" Spock returned calmly, the picture of innocence... which didn't fool Jim for a minute. True he and Spock hadn't known each other that long, they were barely six months into their mission, but he knew enough to know that everything Spock did had a purpose.
The sneaky bastard was fishing, but for what Jim couldn't say. Was Spock trying to prove a point of some kind?
"I did, yes," Jim confirmed, relaxing only minutely as he eyed Spock suspiciously. "However, when I said you could ask me anything it was meant to get conversation rolling, you know, engender a sense of brotherhood, all of that. Asking me how many people I've slept with is a little… intrusive. It's not something someone normally asks a friend, unless your name is Leonard McCoy in which case the question would be followed a long list of STDs and the chances of contracting them. Bones wouldn't know the phrase 'too personal' if it came up and bit him on the… come to think of it, I seem to surround myself with you lot of 'no topic regarding Jim's personal life too sacred'. Why is that, I wonder?"
Spock didn't need to answer, his raised eyebrow said, 'I am unimpressed by your attempt to change topics, kindly refer to my original question. Thank you.' clearly enough.
For a minute Jim shrunk back into his seat, visions of his mother, her facial expression very similar to the one Spock was sporting now, dancing through his head. But then he remembered that he was Captain James T. Kirk, and no one - not blood thirsty Klingons, not exasperating Admirals, not diplomats with delusions of grandeur and attitude to spare - had the power to make him answer any question he didn't want to.
And if his inner child mentally added a 'so there' to that, no one had to be the wiser.
The thing was… Jim sort of idolized Spock a little bit. The guy was so smart, so unique, so fundamentally a good egg, that Jim couldn't help but be a little in awe. Spock always had the answers, and nothing, save his mother dying and his planet exploding (and even the most stringent of Vulcan logic-loving circles could admit that those had been extenuating circumstances) ever fazed him. The ship could be malfunctioning, a killer virus spreading rapidly amongst the crew, and slave traders could be attacking… and all of which had actually happened… twice, and Spock wouldn't blink an eye.
Jim wanted to be Spock when he grew up. Well, he wanted to be in Spock when little Jimmy grew up (or vice versa, truth be told he was pretty equal opportunity when it came to getting into Spock's pants), but you know, sematics.
The point was Spock is a pretty awesome guy.
So to have Spock ask a question that had the potential to paint Jim in a negative light... It wasn't as if Jim's list was actually that long (although it might be considered such by Vulcan standards), but it still stung that Spock would ask a question that had the potential to hinder his chances.
Spock's opinion, well, it kind of mattered. Jim could count on one hand the people in his life whose opinion actually mattered to him. Hell, if Jim were being honest with himself, which he tried to be in all occasions unless something really, really, really needed to be repressed (like that one time, before the academy, where… Jim wouldn't know, because it was repressed) somewhere in the past six months, actually, more like somewhere in the first few days, of knowing Spock, the Vulcan had wormed his way up to the top of that short list.
It was all very skeevy on Spock's part, getting under Jim's skin like that. It still baffled him. How had his walls been infiltrated? Why did Spock have this kind of power?
But, well, he did. Which meant that intrusive questions into romantic inclinations on Jim's part sucked. What did his past matter, really? Wasn't the now more important?
And right now Jim wasn't sleeping with anybody. Hadn't since he had become Captain. And truthfully that had little to do with his position, though that certainly did factor in, and a lot to do with this silly hang-up he had for his First Officer.
Mostly, though, his sex life was just nobody's damn business. Not even Spock's.
Straightening himself in his seat and more determined than ever to flatten Spock at chess, his entire dignity now riding on it, damnit, he once more moved to slide his rook, pointedly staring at the board and not at Spock as he answered, nonchalantly, "Don't know, I never kept track. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not actually out to seduce the universe, no matter what your ex-girlfriend says. Just because I hit on her that one time, doesn't mean I do that to every attractive person I meet. If I meet somebody and we have a natural rapport between us, then sure, it's fun and mutually beneficial, but it's not like I keep tabs or anything. To be honest, Spock, I'm extremely curious why you're asking me this. Why do you want to know?"
When Jim finally chanced looking up, meeting Spock's gaze, he found Spock eyeing him in that Spock way… that look that felt as if it could swallow him whole, as if Spock were somehow looking into his soul and analyzing what he found there, piece by piece, cell by cell.
Jim had to prevent himself from shuddering, just a little, in trepidation of what Spock may find there, and that Spock may find Jim wanting.
"I wish to ascertain your view of romantic relationships," Spock answered after a beat, as if that explained everything.
Which yeah, that penetrating stare and vague answer toned completely without emotional inflection probably did work on a lesser individual. Spock undoubtedly deterred many a person, sentient place (yes, such places did exist) or thing with that trick… but as a master hedger himself, and the self-appointed mayor of Hedgerville, no one hedged Jim. And no one placated him. Not even overly intelligent Vulcans named Spock.
Especially not overly intelligent Vulcans named Spock.
"Uh huh, sure you do. You taught at the Academy how long? Not to mention the years you were a cadet yourself. You had plenty of time to study human romantic relations. What is it about my relationships, in particular, that interests you so?"
If Jim didn't know better, and he did, he could have sworn that the edges of Spock's lips curved a little, as if he were trying to hide a grin, as if Jim had walked right into some kind of trap… But why on Earth would Spock try to trap him? What did Spock hope to gain by this seemingly pointless, and wildly uncomfortable conversation?
"We are friends, are we not?" Spock asked plainly.
Jim tried to find something in his tone, something in Spock's face that would give this whole conversation a deeper meaning. Finding nothing, he answered honestly, "You know we are."
And if he wanted to be more than friends, well, Spock didn't have to know that… yet. Ha! Did he say Mayor of Hedgerville? He was the fucking Emperor!
"Logically the answer to your question would then be that in my continuing study of human interaction, yours is a perspective that would garner the most meaning to me."
And if Jim melted a little, at that, well, it couldn't have been helped. Spock knew just how to get him.
"Alright fine, the answer is not as much as you might think. Like I said, I haven't exactly kept track. But I know what the rumors say. Hell, I know what Uhura thinks, and trust me when I say I am discernable. Uhura just caught me on a bad day, which was the culmination of a bad few years - years I am now trying to leave behind me. My life's been kind of… crazy."
And lord but repression was a hell of a wonderful thing.
"But contrary to popular belief I'm not against relationships. In fact, I think finding an equal partner in life would be kind of… nice."
Spock nodded, eyeing Jim as he toyed with the one piece he had yet to move during the course of the conversation.
"So then, based on your answer, I am to infer that you are aware of the rumors at the Academy regarding your person?"
Jim grimaced. He could only imagine what Spock had heard, but yes, he had a pretty good idea.
He wanted to add more, but really, what would be the point? People thought what they thought. He'd learned a long time ago that perception had little to do with reality. And as Jim's friend, it was up to Spock to build his own conclusions.
"Am I also to infer that you are, perhaps, ashamed by such gossip? That your views on relationships are actually a lot more linear than the rumor mill might suggest?"
Wait, what? Jim hadn't been ashamed of anything in his life.
"Okay, first off, regrets are pointless. You do things, you learn, you, hopefully, grow as a person, end of story. Secondly, I could give a flying fuck what people think, unless, of course, it affects my position as Captain, then hell yeah, it's on! Thirdly, you of all people, Mr. Spock, should know better than to put any stock in rumors. I'll show you my views on relationships…"
Jim's diatribe, which would have been a thing of beauty as he was only just getting started, was cut short by the triumphant gleam that flashed through Spock's eyes.
"Very well, Jim, I accept. Please show me your views on relationships, personally."
It took Jim a minute to wrap his head around what Spock had done, there, and when he did, he threw his head back and laughed, utterly and completely delighted, his joy scarcely containable.
"You mean… this whole conversa-… this was a set-up!…you want to… with me?"
Spock smiled, benevolently, absolutely not smug from his head to his toes... At least he'd look that way to anyone who wasn't Jim, who had special insight, from one sneaky bastard to the next.
"You, Mr. Spock, are good. You could have just asked, you know, I would have said yes."
The gleam in Spock's eyes said, quite clearly, 'now where is the fun in that?' And Jim knew, without a doubt, that he'd finally found the best person for him.