Captain James Tiberius Kirk was in his cabin, beating his head against the partition between the work area and the sleep area.
He’d grown weary of beating his head against the desktop.
GAHHHHHH! He was so damned stupid!
He wondered yet again why starship commanders weren’t issued brains and common sense along with the uniform.
He collapsed in his desk chair and winced as another wave of blushing poured red from his neck to his scalp.
# # #
It had been four months since the “skirmish” on the Romulan Neutral Zone. Kirk hated that word, skirmish. Forty-five people had died, and the official Starfleet analysis made it sound like a schoolyard argument over a kickball.
After they’d been patched together and resupplied at Starbase 28, the crewmembers of the Enterprise had been on a mission of tedium. Great portions of the quadrant bordering the Neutral Zone were unmapped, and the value of mapping had proved itself when Kirk had used the newly acquired information to outwit the Romulan ships.
Kirk made sure Sulu’s permanent record was positively dripping with accolades over the masterful piloting he did of the Enterprise through that asteroid belt. Scotty’s idea of canceling the inertial dampening system to give the engines more power produced the maneuvering agility that Sulu needed to outrun the Romulans. Two enemy ships were totaled in that strategy. The third one spun out of control into a newly-mapped gravity well.
The cost to lives and property inside the Enterprise was horribly high. Everyone and everything had been tossed around the ship like snowflakes in a snow globe. Kirk’s collarbone still ached, because of the delay in having the fracture regenerated. He was haunted by the memories of the blood and the moans of the wounded lining the corridors outside Sickbay.
The adrenaline crash following the battle hit the crew hard. Even now, months later, there was still a restlessness that pervaded the atmosphere aboard ship. The routine—well, okay, boring—chore of mapping hadn’t settled that edgy energy running just beneath the surface.
Kids who were the class clowns in school eventually grow up. And they still carry the clown mentality even in the adult workplace. The unexpected “gotcha” gives a necessary silliness to everyday life.
Or so Kirk thought.
Of course, he had been one of the class clowns…
As the blush faded, Kirk sighed.
The 3D chess matches were challenging. Spock had memorized every classic move, and the first dozen or so games Kirk had been completely annihilated. Then it finally clicked in his head that he didn’t stand a chance with a chess master, so he needn’t obsess with logic and skill.
Crazy and reckless worked.
Interspersing logic and skill with crazy and reckless was the BOMB.
Crewmembers started appearing at some of the matches, and Kirk heard the murmuring of odds and bets.
In the long run, they were pretty evenly matched. Sometimes Kirk totally kicked ass, and other times, Spock mopped the floor with him.
Conversation was quite casual, yet somehow they exchanged pieces of themselves, and over time, each man grew comfortable in the company of the other. This familiarity stayed with them even on duty, and they learned a sort of shorthand way of talking on the bridge.
Kirk became acclimated to the “spark” connection between the two of them, and his brain didn’t itch any more.
Spock enjoyed having a friend for the very first time in his life.
# # #
So what made Kirk do what he did?
Well, remember, a class clown may grow up, but there’s still a clown inside.
And there’s no denying, Mister Spock was born to be the Straight Man.
The growing audience at each chess match was simply just too much for a clown to pass up.
# # #
Kirk ran the last couple of steps in the rec room, and then bounced off his toes and launched himself. With a half-twist of his body, he landed smoothly on the table in front of Spock and stretched full length. Chess board and pieces fell with a clatter, and everyone turned to look.
Kirk propped his head up on his arm, and posed just like those naked lady paintings you see behind the bar in Wild West saloons.
Since Spock was facing the wall, Kirk had control over the whole audience. He batted his eyelashes twice.
Spock simply picked up his cup of tea, and took a sip. He was the epitome of nonchalant.
Kirk purred, “Talk trashy to me, Mister Vulcan.”
The rec room exploded. People were collapsing on each other, gasping, roaring, wiping away tears of laughter. If they were looking at the table, they just saw Spock stand and leave the room.
Kirk was the only one who saw Spock do a perfect spit-take, even with tea pouring from his nose.
Stunned, Kirk returned to his quarters, where he rolled on his bed, kicked his feet in glee, and laughed until he was exhausted.
Then it sunk in what a perfect idiot he’d been, and that to a Vulcan, propriety is everything. The blushing, the self-recriminations, and the head-banging followed.
Somehow, the evening passed, and Alpha shift began on the bridge. The mood seemed lighter, even though nobody dared to say a single word. And people noticed that there wasn’t any conversation between the Captain and the First Officer.
When the shift ended, Kirk and Spock both got on the turbolift. Kirk turned to Spock and said, “This Thursday for chess, Mr Spock?”
Spock looked at him and briefly tipped his head. “Affirmative, Captain.”