Spock stared at the chess board, surprised to find that the captain had just checkmated him. It wasn’t altogether unheard, of course. The first time they had played, so long ago now, Kirk had beaten him. His methods were unconventional and hard to decipher enough to analyze a pattern. Sometimes it seemed he came out the winner by sheer force of will. Since then, however, more times than not, Spock won.
And he had expected to win this time as well.
His captain seemed…odd. Well, more so than usual. And certainly distracted. But perhaps it was Spock who had found himself distracted.
Kirk glanced at him, a question in his eyes.
“I wish to know the nature of your inquiry.”
“Oh.” Kirk shrugged. “Nothing, really. Just, um, guess I wanted to be sure you were all right. That was a difficult mission. Sarpeidon was…”
“A planet doomed to destruction. Yes. And Zarabeth doomed with it.”
“Right. But if you had feelings for her…well. I’m sorry. I guess, I’m thinking myself of my own…” Kirk shook his head. “Not shortcomings exactly.”
“When the Rigellian Fever hit the ship and Rayna…never mind. Our situations were dissimilar. Except I thought I felt love for her and…”
“You did not?” Spock asked.
Kirk shook his head, smiling faintly. “In just a few short hours? I was not myself. The situation the crew found itself in. And certain stirrings within me that came from a different source. It doesn’t matter. I acted foolishly and should have concentrated on the mission and not hormones.”
“And really, Mr. Spock. I don’t mean any of that to sound like a reprimand for you. I guess this whole thing just has me thinking of my own actions. Maybe that’s why I keep thinking of you and Zarabeth.”
“Captain, though I did feel love for Zarabeth while on Sarpeidon, it did not last. It was the circumstances in which I found myself in, the atmosphere. The changes I went through in that time period. Once I came back aboard the Enterprise, that love, those feelings, were gone.”
“So.” Kirk nodded. “You don’t wish you had stayed behind with her?”
“I do not. My place is here.” Spock did not add ‘with you’. But he thought it.
“And…what if…was there a possibility of a child?” The Captain wouldn’t look at him. Spock wasn’t quite sure why.
“There is very little likelihood of that. All indications are that I am sterile and even were I not, any child created with Zarabeth is long deceased.”
Kirk’s gaze met his then but what was behind those hazel eyes, Spock could not tell.
“Another game, Mr. Spock?”
Since he had no real desire to quit the captain’s company and return to the loneliness to be found in his own quarters, Spock replied, “Yes, that would be agreeable.”