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trek: team

Star Trek XI fic: Losing My Favorite Game (pt. 1/2)

Title: Losing My Favorite Game
Characters/Pairings: Kirk/Uhura, Kirk/Spock (this one seems heavier on K/S). References to Kirk/OC and, very briefly, Kirk/Gaila.
Rating: M (Dammit, Jim...)
Summary: Paradoxes, occupational hazards, failure to communicate, and Jim Kirk. Companion piece to "Vulcans Don't Play Basketball" (It can probably be read as a stand-alone, but you might get a bit confused).
Acknowledgments: I don't own the playground. Cut lyrics: "Low" by Coldplay.
Warnings/Contains (for the whole fic): Pon farr, and not really the fun kind.

Her name was Lisa and she let me make love to her approximately nine or ten times over the course of my first semester at Starfleet. It was a twenty-minute shuttle ride from one campus to the other where she was working on her master's in art history, an easy hop from stuffy mathematicians who can't mix the simplest drinks to save their asses to a not necessarily more desirable pseudo-bohemia. Everybody's obsessed with the twentieth century in too big a circumference warring with all the neon pink that is always L.A., and then Starfleet. That's basically what I saw of California: the Academy, the big cities, and a handful of too-quiet bars on the campus that swooned in these Iowa-like colors around Lisa's apartment building.

I wonder how I wound up there so many times when I got weekend leave, but she was a nice girl. Woman. Her room was unusually cluttered with all kinds of bulky, boxy old contraptions. I didn't know what the hell they were until she’d slide some hand-sized plastic thing into some other dusty mess and it would be a visual or audio recording of something or other, and she rarely touched them anyway, they were just antiques.

Lisa made fun of me all the time and consistently reminded me that she didn’t usually hang out with guys like me; I'd agree, “No, you don’t,” and then I'd kiss her like she was hands-down the most beautiful woman I had ever known, and there were days when the room smelled just a certain way that I almost believed she was. I don't have much of anything to say about her. I mention her because she is, as circumstance would have it, one of the few people who has ever really taught me anything.

There was this early morning I was trying to distract her from working on her dissertation while an astronaut in an orange jumpsuit was crawling through a barren spaceship on her PADD screen, and I guess I actually asked her what she was writing about. Let's have Lisa shyly explain:

"Lev Kuleshov was a big deal in Soviet filmmaking. He did this thing where he shot all this footage of a pretty famous Russian actor just sitting there with no expression on his face at all, and then he edited it spliced with these different images. I think it was a plate of food, and then a girl holding a doll, and a woman in a coffin. And then he played it to these audiences who professed that the actor was reacting to the images and his face wasn’t the same in every shot. They were even impressed with the hunger, grief, etcetera, that he was able to portray... So ‘the Kuleshov effect’ generally refers to how the editing process manipulates reactions to the film."

I remember saying that those audiences must have been really stupid. "I mean, come on." She got annoyed, so I articulated a little better, something like, "People's willingness to project the emotions they want to feel onto other things has probably changed a lot."

"That's basically my thesis," she said with a smile. "How cynicism has constrained or also possibly improved art over the centuries."

I laughed and got out, "Well." And then she pushed me onto my back and we fucked while the sun came up, her body illuminated in stripes by the blinds, interchangeably pale and bronze. I would forget this detail, but I remembered it again later on. I was reminded.

When I met Spock, he looked to me more like background than person, passionless, more circuits than sense. Because of his barely moving eyes and mouth and that stern posture, I thought of that Russian actor; I remembered Lisa. Oh, I was still a cynic.

There are two things I can think of that I am truly ashamed of. The first thing:

After Vulcan went, I kept looking at Spock, not in sympathy, just waiting to see if he'd crack. There was something smacked-on when he beamed back, sure, but then he was on the bridge doing everything by the book. I was looking at him and there was nothing, nothing, more nothing. His planet had just gotten crushed out of existence like something murky shrinking down a drain, slurp slurp, millions dead and gone, and I didn't see it on him anywhere.

I didn't think I liked him very much. But hey, I'd been wrong before.

And this is the part I can't stand: I thought at one point that day, At least it happened to somebody like the Vulcans. I scanned Spock’s face here and there, only saw devoid precision, total control, and yes, I thought to myself that it could have been worse. At least it happened to him. I thought this.

I believe pretty firmly in a principle of "What you think isn't what you do," but I have a hard time living by it. I have before kept things stuffed dryly into pockets of my mind, abused my own desires to the point that I did not recognize them and maybe somehow didn't have them anymore. Or at least I unconsciously hoped so, but it doesn't work that way.

Rationalizing the second thing goes like—and I could probably never say this out loud—My heart broke in some way when he broke hers, when she broke his. I really had to believe in what it was for some reason, and maybe seeing it bomb with somebody like Uhura just confirmed some nagging impossibility in my mind, all the while opening up a couple very uneasy possibilities, and I just felt a little knocked around like I was dreading something the day their relationship was over. Maybe this is why I have no memory of how I somehow ended up taking her home in the middle of trying at all costs to completely avoid her after I heard the news, knowing like an obnoxious tapping in the back of my mind, it had nothing to do with me, but my place in the equation was inescapable: I am going to get hurt.

I managed not to really see her for most of the day up until she caught my eye sort of on accident, standing between one table and the entrance to the rec room; I remember the way she looked and how it seemed like I had no choice but to do something really stupid, and how she almost seemed to know that. We both needed something to grab onto, and the thing that makes it the worst is that it could have gone so much more innocently without either of us trying to prove anything. I wanted her to stop looking like that and she was taking me by the arm like she'd lost her way out after I mumbled something nice, and I just wonder what I could've said to make her lose the idea that she had any reason to resent me, because then we were alone and everything went wrong.

She could've gotten me by the gut no matter how she managed to slip the word "jealous" into the conversation, because yes, hell, I understand that. But she was unaware, I'll assume, that an even more powerful word would have been "vicarious."

Either way, she was practically daring me to prove to her whether I'd lost or won something that day. By the time it was done I think we both knew it was an uneasy combination of both. What you think and what you do is not the same thing. What we did might have been even worse.

What I did got me staring in irritation at a chess board in the middle of a boring week while my relatively new relationship with my first officer was being held at arm's length by my "tendency for contemplation" that made Spock decide to leave me alone most times we tried to spend some time together. We were at "that" stage in friendship, and anyone would know the one I'm talking about, relationship with half-Vulcan or none. Parameters were not established, and if they were ever going to be, one of us had to make the first move. I had no doubt the day that I met him that this was eventually going to be me.

As if I even need to explain that I have any pride. Let's move on to the part where Spock said, "Check" and I said, "I slept with Uhura."

I expected, after a moment, "That is far too intimate a matter," "There is no need," You're just my captain I'm just your first officer she's just a woman I was previously involved with. I was impressed by the jumpy illogic of his response, evenly measured as it was:


"Three nights ago?"

That eyebrow, you could fill an ocean with the meanings of it, and I was scrambling through seaweed. Then I got the rational treatment.

"I appreciate your willingness to divulge this information, if I understand its significance as it might be perceived by the average...human, but I am not capable of..."

My brows went up slowly. "Jealousy?"

"I suppose that is what I mean."

"No. I can't really see you wasting your time on that," I agreed. "That doesn't make what I did okay."

"I am unfamiliar with any code of your morals that would make what you did unethical."

"It's not ethics, Spock. You know, there are certain things it's okay to do to some people but you just don't do when it's..." I leaned back, irritated, watching him squint curiously across the board. "When it's your friend. And let's not even get into Uhura..."

"If you and Uhura wish to pursue a relationship together, I would not consider it badly advised."

To my credit, I only laughed at that a little. "We both know that's bullshit."

Spock kind of flinched in confusion.

"Bull. Shit."

"I am being truthful—"

"I'm talking about the part where you aren't thinking about how it probably really happened. Do you...have an inkling how badly she's hurt right now?" In irritated dismissal, I waved my hand out. "You know what, nevermind. I get it."

"I assure you that I have an 'inkling'," he remarked, maybe with a note of bitterness. He seemed to try to consider his next move, but couldn't help sitting back and looking at me. "If you could please clarify the reason for your irritation, Captain, if I have offended you—"

"If you are just gonna sit there like you don't give a damn about this—Your lack of disappointment? It's offensive."

"That seems hardly a rational standpoint. My approval," he said slowly, "of you and Uhura both, provides more reason to be dismissive of this situation than it does for me to find it repugnant."

"No," I said bluntly. "That's not how it works."

"Would you care to enlighten me then, on how it does 'work'?"

He was doing his best condescending jerkoff; I rolled my eyes.

"Recent events hardly recommend me as capable of following human standards as far as personal relations are concerned." With a not very gentle but quieter edge, he warned, "Perhaps you should adjust your expectations."

"Right, well." I stood up.

"...Where are you going?"

"I am getting my expectation-adjusting ass back to work."

"You left gamma shift less than an hour ago."

"Did I?"

"Jim—" he said, before the door slid shut behind me.

Just my first name, empty and inquisitive, made it hard to stay angry, if I was even mad in the first place. After all, how angry can you really be at somebody who you think should be angry at you?

I came back in an hour with an idea.

I should probably finish explaining about Lisa.

I've tried many times to remember which one of us stopped calling the other. All I know is that it was the summer before Nero when I spotted a guy when I was at a bar with Bones, took a minute to recognize him as a friend of Lisa's I'd met a couple times. I drifted over to say hi. I asked what she was up to lately.

He looked at me strangely, and then he informed me that she was dead.

So after that I was managing to slip the topic of something called volsciasis into the conversation once I'd stolen down the shot Bones just ordered and got called an asshole, yadda yadda yadda. I managed not to explain why I was curious about it as he explained: Very rare condition, in most cases fatal unless somebody has the mountains of cash that can get the medicine that Qo'noS hoards very well because of the prevalence of a similar disease in some areas. Long, slow death, with symptoms generally showing up pretty early.

The gist, if it's not obvious, is that Lisa very likely knew that she was dying the entire time that she knew me, and she never said a thing. It wasn't my business.

And some time later I was in a cave being force-fed compassion in the form of something like a fist through my brain, sputtering and shivering and "So you do feel"; I got back on board and then I was looking hard, provoking and kicking that pain out of a man I suddenly knew with a bright instinct was supposed to be close enough to change me but would hardly look at me then longer than it took to dismiss me. When I got it out, there was a good reason for it, but I think I also just wanted to see him feel what I'd just felt, what had just been slammed into me by that mind meld.

I was trying to bring mathematics into the mess, make equations equal out until these things would just speak up for themselves. Not like the days I spent in the lecture hall thinking about Lisa's pale human complexion, the way her eyes moved at my words and down my body and squinted when I said something funny, and I was combing every sliver of her I could even remember looking for the sense in it. I remembered her face alive and smiling; I was looking for the woman in the coffin, and she was nowhere to be found.

When I'm linked with Spock, meaning dances from him, curlicues that murmer through me, down my spine, in my chest and my stomach and my heart. An echo pulse of cryptic somethings, sometimes nothings, sometimes both at once. It's a code to crack, but there's a key to the madness, a predictability. I thought I could maybe get the hang of it.

The first time, after I'd just sat crouched tightly on the floor of his room recounting in the surface of my thoughts everything that had happened with Uhura, as well as all the toils of unmentionable emotion attached to it, I thought I felt a flare of something in him responding to what I felt. I thought I did. It was so odd and I had no idea what it meant and even then, I was hooked. When the vivid connection was pulled out of me, it was sort of an accident, I think, that just a loose thread was still there. I mumbled, "Wait...I think we're..."

He apologetically reached up his hand to sever the last of it. And I grabbed his wrist to stop him.

"How come your brain feels so different from his?" I asked in a hushed way when we were walking to the bridge one afternoon. "You know, with the older you it was a lot more vivid, when we..."

"Vivid?" He stopped and turned, interested enough to not tersely ignore the topic of our "recreational" treatment of it that he seemed to find unmentionable, even when he allowed it to persist without insistent protest. He was surprised by my question, just realizing something. "It was likely not the first time he'd melded with you, then. He may have been practiced at projecting his thoughts in a way you would understand."

"So we could get better at this?"

As an ensign passed us in the hallway, Spock's eyes shifted over at me and back. "...Theoretically. But I'm sure if you consulted the other Jim Kirk's logs, as you have been doing more often than you should, you would find accounts of purely logical reasons to initiate mind melds, as opposed to this..." He trailed off, cause even he didn't know what the hell to call it.

This gets hard to explain, what exactly it was. It was different all the time. I would have a hard time explaining something so we'd meld and stay linked for a couple weeks until it just faded out. Sometimes it just naturally happened when we were alone after a hard day, no verbal explanation or excuse attached. It wasn't as strong as what he'd once had with this girl on Vulcan, I would have tried to tell somebody like Bones that it was just for fun if he'd ever figured out enough to ask, but it would have been a lie.

Obviously I have a couple reasons to value my privacy, but the thing is: When one of us was doing most of the feeling, most of the heavy lifting, it gave me a lot of the power. I would not deny that it gave me an interesting pleasure to constantly contaminate his mental space with my irrational spurts, even with his ability to control how much it affected him. I would even sometimes feel that, a terse pressure resisting against the link when I thought up something a little too potent, particularly if I did it as a form of mental conversation. I would smirk and feel it anyway; we'd spar back and forth.

And I loved it, being able to sense him when we weren't in the same room, as faint as it was. I wondered now and again what I "looked" like, what I felt like in that sense. Was he more sensitive, did he detect my moods changing depending on what room I was in, when I stepped into the shower, when I got an undesirable message, when I spotted something I wanted.

I would be lying—through my teeth and through my bones—if I denied ever finding anything sort of erotic about all that.

Maybe I don't know what it was. Otherwise I might have tried to explain it to Nyota sooner, as if it wasn't hard enough with things being kind of closer and far apart with us at the same time after what happened. Up until that strangeness on Iota II that made it kind of work itself out, I figured she'd never find out, and I wasn't sure why that seemed kind of wrong.

I remember earlier in the morning before that mission, when I saw her in the gym, thinking how saddening it had kind of become. I did the lazy pseudo-flirting in the way we'd managed to act in every way like nothing had changed around everybody else ever since she put her clothes back on and left my cabin a year before that, and how I had started to wish with an intensity that sort of surprised me that nothing actually had, not really knowing how different things really had to be or were supposed to be.

I don't know how many people would believe that I honestly never thought about any tangible possibility of winding up in bed with her, ever, before that one night. I never really did, but it would be a harsh oversimplification to say that it was about the chase, the nonstop joke with her that had started when we met. I just adored her and never stopped. And there are few things I despise more than seeing her kind of lose it a little, but we just kept getting pushed in that direction. I hated it. I wished we could go back.

As Bones and I walked off to the lockers that morning, he was scowling. After hitting the underused showers off of the gymnasium to avoid having to go back to our cabins before duty, I finally gave him this look instead of outright asking, 'Man, what is it?'

He just sighed, dismissive, “Nevermind.” I accepted this and continued putting my jersey on until he couldn't help it. He asked, “How long have you been sleeping with Uhura?”

I was still a little tangled in the shirt, my hair probably all messed up, and I was laughing, coughing, scoffing all at once. “What.”

“Oh, please, Jim. There’s a way people act, you know, there’s a ‘before’ and an ‘after,’ and I feel like I must have completely missed it when the ‘before’ was over.”

I attempted to express with a look my cynicism of that attitude. “You think there has to be a reason she talks to me a little more? Other than becoming a respectable part of my crew?”

“No, no...It was different when it became professional, yeah, but don’t tell me it’s not different all over again.”

Once my shirt was all the way on, I let my hands fall to my thighs, shrugging, just granting the man his evaluation. “Yeah. Whatever. I don’t know.”

He pointed a finger at me. “You haven’t denied it yet.”

“You know you’re not being much of a gentleman prying into this?”

“You’re the one in the position to be a gentleman, and I know you won’t be, so come on...Have you or haven’t you?”

Too many ticks went by before I started stuttering, “I—I’m not in the place to—”

“Oh—" Bones just gaped at me for a second. "Jesus, man, really?”

Confused by his practically crestfallen look, I asked, “Why does it matter?”

“You really need to ask?” he returned gruffly. “Nyota Uhura slept with you? It’s like finding out there’s no Santa Claus.”

“’s not like you think, it was just once. And a while ago.” That earned me a piercingly curious look. With a shrug I quietly admitted, “It was a year ago. It was...after Spock. You know, like right after.”

And Bones then fell into a different kind of disappointment. “Oh, Jim. Are you a complete son of a bitch?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. As far as we’re both concerned, it didn’t happen.” I looked up and before he could say anything else on the matter, added, “And I like it that way.”

He seemed to understand the roughness of the subject, just shook his head and lightly remarked, "Chasing her skirt all over campus for a couple years and you like it that way."

I gave a self-mocking shake of my head as I shoved a garment down the cleaning chute. "I can't resist a paradox."

Sometimes, though, I don't wish that things were like they used to be? Like what happened on Iota II, which was sort of round two of "Let's do this and never talk about it later," but in a kind of fun and wonderful and completely accidental way. It was kind of funny how we didn't even think about what we were doing: I just made this crack that broke off the frigidness of the topic after explaining to her about this whole unexplainable bond thing, and next thing I know she's okay with this little pantomime which, by the way, I meant completely, maybe too much. It started out as a joke and ended in something that would have made more sense in a dream, but I did not kiss her on that planet; Spock did.

I remember how the smell of her mingled with the sweet of the orchard, the noise of our breath singing in the silence as my hand roamed down her body and how that was the last thing before I stopped. And I was anxiously hooking the blindfold that was my favorite tie up off her eyes, and I couldn't tell, but I saw maybe a mist coming over them. I heard myself asking if she was okay, but it seemed like a weird thing to ask.

“Yes,” she replied, and I can’t ever get enough of these things, the way her voice is crisp and clear, soured up instead of a groggy fall-apart mess when she gets sad. I know I felt something real for her right then; it was on the tip of my tongue, a statement just reaching to exist, but I wouldn’t have known what it meant if I'd said it out loud. I was back in myself, not knowing what I was doing, but the whole sense of her was the same.

...Okay, so I kissed her too.

She'd asked me that day what it was I wanted, and it would seem after all that I am definitely one to covet things. Sometimes, yes, after months of curtsying through my personal associations I got restless, practically composed of desire itself and nothing else. But there were some days or some nights—the night after that little mission definitely being one of them—when I felt not so much filled with want as another way of wasting my energy.

I felt sometimes like I was full-up, brimming and busting open with so much simple and stupid love, and no one was taking it out of me; nobody wanted it, nobody knew.

...part two...

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(Deleted comment)
Haha, well, I'm glad you like my Kirk. Part 2 is mostly done already and should be up ASAP...Thanks for reading :D

Your Kirk voice is so awesome I could read a whole novel of it. OMG.

And the Kuleshov effect, niiiiice. Haha.

I could read a whole novel of it. Orly? Perhaps I should do this "Letters to Winona" idea for the next big bang? No. No, I should not. But I'm happy you said that because I honestly had no idea if the first-person narration even worked at all.

LOL, did you happen to figure out which film Lisa was watching?

Edited at 2010-02-01 03:25 am (UTC)

'felt sometimes like I was full-up, brimming and busting open with so much simple and stupid love, and no one was taking it out of me; nobody wanted it, nobody knew.'

oh Jim.
I just love how you add all these layers to his character while at the same time keeping him so himself that it's like I can hear the actor's voice when reading this.

also: 'Nyota Uhura slept with you? It’s like finding out there’s no Santa Claus'

Bones is such a snarky, funny guy. I adore him. :-)

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