Jim used to look forward to shore leave, but this one had been a struggle. At the last minute he had tried to back out of going himself, but Bones went on about his mental health and needing to recharge and all that so Jim had gone.

He’d spent three days and night with a beautiful red-head who’d reminded him of Gaila from his academy days. She hadn’t been Orion or anything but she’d had the same care-free attitude. She’d been fun and a good sexual partner, so in the end, Jim guessed he had enjoyed his shore leave.

He ran into Bones as they both prepared to return to the ship.

“There you are,” Bones greeted him. “How’d it go?”

“Fine.”

“Just fine? I saw you with that girl. What was her name?”

“Rita,” Jim supplied. “She’s a commander from the Excelsior.”

Bones stepped up onto the transport pad next to Jim. “But just fine, huh?”

Jim nodded.

They reappeared on the Enterprise and Jim stepped off the transporter.

“Welcome aboard, Captain,” Scotty said from behind the controls.

“Status report?”

“Everything’s normal, sir. Mister Spock returned a few hours ago and is on the bridge.”

“Thank you, Mister Scott.”

Bones followed him out of the transporter room. “You know you’re due for—”

“Bones.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll put it off. Next month though.”

With a weary nod, Jim got into the turbolift and made his way to the officers’ deck. When he reached his quarters, he noticed Uhura by the door of her own and she looked like she had been crying. Quite the contrast of a few days before on Valentine’s Day. He wondered if he should ask her if she was okay or if he should mind his own business. He watched as she attempted to punch in her access code twice without success.

Jim mentally sighed and walked down the corridor. “Are you okay, Lieutenant?”

For several heartbeats she didn’t look at him, but then she did, her eyes shiny. “I’ll be all right, Captain.”

“If there’s anything I can do…” He let the sentence trail off and then turned to return to his own door.

“Captain.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m-I’m considering asking for a transfer.”

“What?” Jim frowned and walked back closer to her. “Why? Are you unhappy here?”

“No.” She shook her head. “At least I wasn’t.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest defensively and leaned against the wall. “I may as well tell you as I am sure it will be all over the ship in no time. Spock and I broke up on shore leave.”

Jim opened his mouth then shut it.

“For good this time,” she said softly, her voice cracking just a little. “We want different things. We each see a different future and they don’t go together.”

“I’m really sorry,” Jim told her. “But I’d hate to lose you. Can you give it some time? See how you feel after, I don’t know, a few weeks?”

“Maybe,” she replied. “I’ll think about it.”

“Okay. If you need some time off—”

“I don’t,” she said quickly. “Working helps keep my mind off things.”

He nodded. “Let me know if you do need anything.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jim returned to his quarters’ door and entered. He did feel bad for her. He knew how much she had always loved Spock. They’d been trying for years to make things work between them and it never quite did. He was kind of surprised they hadn’t broken up for good before. Bones had told him about their break up just before Altamid.  But in the end they had reconciled and things had seemed okay.

He’d feared…no. That was not right. Stop it, Jim. He’d thought that the little red box on Valentine’s Day was a symbol of greater commitment between them. Apparently not.

Jim removed his shore leave clothes and got into his shower, opting for a really hot water shower to help with his too stiff muscles.

When he got out he dressed in sweats and a soft gray t-shirt as he didn’t have to be on shift until the morning. He got some chicken tenderloins out of the replicator and then picked up his communicator.

“Kirk to Spock.”

“Spock here, Captain.”

“Listen, if you aren’t busy after your shift is through, you want a game of chess or something?” They’d play a few times. Not a lot. But a time or two. Jim wasn’t as good as he once was. He was a bit rusty. But he figured he was good enough to still give Spock a little bit of a run for his money.

Spock did not reply for so long that Jim was certain he was going to reject the invitation and it was on the tip of Jim’s tongue to rescind it before he got the chance.

“Very well,” Spock replied, finally, without a lot of enthusiasm.

“If you’d rather not—”

“I will be there in fifteen minutes,” Spock cut him off. “Spock out.”

He actually made it in fourteen minutes and after Spock secured himself tea, they sat down to play.

Jim wasn’t sure he should ask Spock about Uhura. Spock guarded his private life very carefully. And yet, it felt huge, and like something Jim should discuss with him.

Spock’s gaze rose from the chess set, and he quirked a brow. “You are staring.”

“Uhura said she might transfer,” Jim blurted out.

“Affirmative. She did mention the possibility to me as well.”

Jim licked his lips. “Um. How-how do you feel about that?”

“I hope, of course, that is not necessary,” Spock said.

“Are you, um, you know…” He trailed off again. These kinds of conversations were really not his forte. He grappled for a good term. “Emotionally compromised.”

At Spock’s closed off expression, Jim thought perhaps he had chosen badly. But Spock answered, nevertheless. “I am not.”

He wanted to ask for details, but details were not the kinds of things that Spock would be interested in sharing, Jim knew that much.

“I was somewhat surprised at her dalliance.”

Jim blinked as his heart beat fast in his chest. “Her-her what?”

Spock looked away, spots of color appearing on his cheeks. “I should not speak of this.”

“No. Wait. What? Spock, you can tell me. I won’t say anything.”

“While on shore leave, we had a verbal disagreement and separated for the night. In the morning I discovered Nyota in a compromising position with a female from the planet’s native species,” Spock said quietly. “They had spent the night together.”

Never in a million years had Jim expected to hear that she had-that they had…his mind couldn’t catch up.

“It was then that we mutually decided that our relationship would no longer work.” Spock shook his head. “Forgiveness was immediate. I knew that she had been upset about our discussion the night before. I did not blame her for seeking companionship given that discussion and its ramifications. But finding her with the native led to further discussion about our future and the implausibility of it given how far apart we had grown.”

“I-I see. I’m sorry, Spock.”

Spock inclined his head. “I appreciate the sentiment, Captain. But if you do not mind, I would rather not discuss it further at this point.”

“Of course.”

“I also ask for your discretion as I am certain Nyota would prefer the circumstances not come out to the crew.”

“I understand. And as I said, I won’t say a word.”

“Even to Doctor McCoy.”

Jim nodded. “I get it. And I won’t.”

Privately he wondered if there had been other indiscretions involved in their ongoing relationship but Jim knew he was already pushing his luck and anyway it was absolutely not his business.

He’d heard a rumor once, years ago, that they were not always exclusive, but Jim had ignored it as just silly ship’s gossip. Now, of course, he did wonder. Though such behavior seemed a bit out of character for Spock.

Besides, none of that mattered to his friendship to Spock.

“If you ever need to talk or anything,” Jim said instead, “I’m always here.”

“Appreciated, Captain.”

And that was that.

The conversation lagged then and ten minutes later, Spock declared, “Checkmate.”

Jim did not suggest a second game and Spock left to go to his own quarters. It was then he was beeped with an incoming message from his mother. He really didn’t want to talk to her because he always ended up having a headache afterward. But he sighed and hit accept.

“Hi Mom.”