Spock moved his remaining bishop into place, preparing the board for the final kill sweep. The lone white king was looking very lonely, with only a smattering of pawns and the queen piece left to hold court around him.
Jim broke the concentrated silence of the room with a gasp, putting a hand to his neck.
"Are you all right, Captain?" Spock said, bishop still dangling between his deft fingers.
"It's nothing," Jim said. He tugged his gold shirt down as he leaned back in the chair, stretching his back and shoulders. "Just, I dunno... My back is killing me. Must have pulled something yesterday."
He leaned forward, dropping the chair back to its resting position and meeting Spock's eyes with a startled expression.
"Don't tell Bones. I'm fine. I'm totally fine. No injuries here."
Spock returned his attention to the chessboard, and placed the bishop on its new block. "Your avoidance of medical attention is most illogical, Captain."
"No seriously, I'm fi-" Jim looked at the board. "Hey... What kind of a pushover do you take me for?"
Spock looked down, contemplating the board. He thought he had made sure of- ah.
Jim switched his king with the remaining castle, a piece he had neglected to use for the entire match so far.
"Captain. Need I point out that castle switching is only considered to be a marginally legal move by certain schools of chess play, and is typically announced as such at the beginning of a match-"
"S'a matter? Don't think you can manage it?" Jim smirked at him. "No-win scenarios... or did you forget? I don't like 'em."
Spock frowned. "It was not a no-win scenario until you failed to sense my strategy and therefore-"
"Just play the game." He took a sip of his drink, and winced again.
"Fuck. I'm sorry. I must have a pinched nerve or something..." He rubbed his hand across his neck again, and between his shoulder blades. His eyes closed, a pained expression spreading across his face.
Spock ignored the chess board, rising to his feet. He went to Jim's side and placed his hands on both the other man's shoulders. Jim flinched at the unexpected touch, and froze.
"Spock?" he said. "Uh, what are you... doing?"
The Vulcan took a step back, removing his hands. He cursed inwardly. Perhaps he had overstepped his bounds. But the captain was constantly touching him unexpectedly - and without invitation, he might add. He had, perhaps wrongly, assumed the contact would be welcome.
"My apologies, Jim. I thought-" He paused, uncertainty overwhelming him suddenly. Well, he'd come this far. "I thought I might be of some help."
Jim turned in his chair to look at his first officer, and Spock felt himself relax a little. At least the captain was smiling, even if it was a sort of confused, bemused smile.
"Oh, you did?" He said, amusement in his voice. "Don't tell me you've been a certified massage therapist all this time, and you never offered your services before now."
Spock felt a rush of blood in his cheeks and hated himself for blushing, but he couldn't help it. The way Kirk was looking at him was the way he usually looked at cute blondes in bars. He'd been looking at Spock that way fairly often lately, and Spock still wasn't sure if it was due to the captain's insatiable need to flirt with any and everyone, or because of a genuine interest. And he'd certainly not had the courage to ask. But whichever the case, the way Jim said "offered your services," was a having a detrimental effect on Spock's ability to maintain his usual calm.
"Well," he said, "All young Vulcans are trained in basic anatomical musculature, and... I took a special interest."
Jim turned back in his chair and laughed, shaking his head. "Well, lucky me."
He finished his drink in one gulp, and stood up.
"Well, you don't have to ask me twice." Jim said. "Should I lie down?"
Spock felt another flush in his cheeks; he really needed to reign that in... so he turned away toward the lounge and the couch there.
"Yes," he said. "That would be best."
So Jim went to the couch and lay down, planting his face in a throw pillow. Spock knelt next to him, placing his hands gently across the other man's back. He began at the shoulders, slowly working his way down to mid back. Using the pads of his thumbs, he dug into the muscles of the right shoulder, then the left, finally pinching both between his hands and tugging upwards to stretch the muscle.
Jim let out a low, deep moan, and Spock all but leapt away, pulling his hands away as if they'd been burned.
Jim turned his face to one side, laughing. "You all right, Spock?"
"I- yes." Spock managed to get out. "I thought perhaps I'd hurt you."
Jim laughed again, shaking his head. "No, man. Wow, you are good at this. Please don't stop."
And this time it was surely unmistakable. The captain was all but waggling his eyebrows in flirtation. Spock gulped, and broke the suddenly very uncomfortable eye contact.
Jim chuckled and planted his face back in the pillow.
Spock warily resumed his position near the couch, placing his hands across Jim's back and digging into the shoulder blades once more.
"Captain," he said quietly.
"This would be more effective if you were to remove your shirt." He paused. "If- if you-"
Before he could finish his sentence Jim had rolled onto one side, sat up, and slid both the gold and black undershirt over his head, tossing them unceremoniously behind the couch. He gave Spock a mischievous look and flopped back onto his belly without a word.
Spock licked his lips, his mouth suddenly feeling very dry. He leaned over Jim, placing his hands cautiously onto the bare skin of his back, and began massaging the neck and shoulders again.
After only a few seconds of this, Jim hummed contentedly into the pillow and turned his head toward the back of the couch. "Mmm, Spock, this is awesome."
"Is it helping?" Spock said uncertainly.
"Are you kidding?" Jim exhaled loudly. "This is fantastic. How did you get so good at this?"
"I-" Spock hesitated. "Actually, I have only ever practiced on a dummy before now."
Jim turned his head, looking over his shoulder as best he could from that angle. "What? No way."
Spock's eyebrows went up at the unexpected praise. "It is true."
"Well, damn. Feels great."
Spock gave one final flexation to the shoulders, and ran his hands lightly over the flesh there. Jim didn't even try to control himself this time and sighed audibly at the gentle touch. "God, Spock..."
"Captain." He said, trying to maintain decorum. "Your shoulders are in great need of adjustment."
Jim laughed breathlessly into the back of the couch. "Yeah, pickin' up on that."
"If you can turn onto your back, there is a maneuver I can try."
Jim put his hands underneath him and flipped himself over. He looked up at Spock with an amused glimmer in his eye.
"A maneuver? You don't say?" He giggled, covering his face with his hands. Now it was Jim's turn to blush, and Spock marveled at the pinkish glow the threatened to overwhelm his cheeks.
Spock chose to ignore that juvenile comment and took hold of Jim's right arm. "If you will extend this arm outwards," and as Jim did so, Spock ran one hand along the arm while reaching into the area just above the armpit with his other hand.
"This may feel slightly uncomfortable at first," Spock said softly, "but it should not hurt. It will relax the tendons in your shoulders from this side as well as the back. Please tell me if you experience any pain."
Jim was looking up at him, and he wasn't laughing now. He nodded, giving Spock permission.
Spock drove his fingers firmly into the soft flesh, and gripped the tendon underneath. Jim gasped at the tightening sensation, but didn't say anything. With his outstretched hand, Spock pressed Jim's arm upwards toward his head, increasing the stretch. Jim took a deep steadying breath, and closed his eyes.
"All right, Jim?" Spock whispered.
"Yeah." He gasped again. "Augh, this feels weird."
"Your shoulders will feel better afterwards."
"Yeah, I just- kinda feels like my arms are being slowly ripped off. But... in a good way, I guess."
Spock could not resist the curl of a smile at the corners of his mouth. Well, that was a colorful way of describing it.
He continued with the other side, flipping Jim around to face the other direction in doing so, and finally lay his hands across the front side of his captain's shoulders in the same soothing motion he had applied to the back.
Jim sighed contentedly, eyes closed. "Spock," he breathed, and the way he said his name made Spock blush all over again. There was so much unsaid in that tone, unless Spock was imagining all of what seemed to be subtleties of flirtation. He couldn't honestly be sure, though at times it seemed unmistakable. With the captain's predisposition for almost constant teasing however, he could never be certain of what was really going on in the human's mind.
"Spock," Jim said again, more emphatically this time. Spock glanced up, meeting his eyes, and frowned. He was just looking at him, a contented smile on his face.
"Yes, Jim?" he managed to say, finding it difficult to speak suddenly.
"Thank you. That was..." He closed his eyes again, grinning. "That was the most fun I've ever had with my pants on."
Spock really needed to stop blushing, it was quickly becoming a frequent problem. He glanced away, staring at a very interesting spot on the floor.
"Spock," Jim said a third time.
"Yes, Jim. What is it?" He tried not to sound overcome, and he had the distinct feeling that the words come out sounding annoyed. But if they did, Jim didn't seem to notice or much less mind.
"Can we do this again?"
Spock was startled. "Again?" he said uncertainly.
"Sure. I mean. I get that I'm kinda getting more benefit out of if than you are..." Jim shrugged one freshly relaxed shoulder.
No, no you absolutely are not... Spock thought, embarrassed at his own self-interested impulse to touch the captain over and over again.
"Captain, I would certainly not be opposed to repeating the practice." He said, averting his gaze again. He just really couldn't look Jim in the eye while admitting he wanted to touch him, even if Jim didn't know the underlying reason.
"Excellent," Jim said. Raising himself up onto his elbows, he leaned in toward Spock's ear, and the Vulcan flinched in surprise. But he didn't move away.
"And you just let me know if I can ever do anything to return the favor," Jim whispered. "I'm shit at giving massages..." he paused, then chuckled into Spock's ear, the light breath tickling the delicate skin there. "But I'm sure we can think of something."
And Surak help him, Spock was blushing worse than ever before.