|Second Star to The Right
Author: Handful of Silence PM
Pavel Chekov knows that one day he’ll be in space, exploring among the stars. It’s just getting there that seems the hard part. Pre-movieRated: Fiction K+ - English - Family - P. Chekov - Words: 2,598 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 2 - Published: 09-12-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5370731
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Second Star to The Right
For us, there is only the trying.
The rest is not our business (T. S. Elliot)
Summary: Pavel Chekov knows that one day he'll be in space, exploring among the stars. It's just getting there that seems the hard part.
Disclaimer: Don't own Chekov or Star Trek. Just the way life goes.
AN: I don't know quite what this was meant to be story-wise. I wanted a small story about just Chekov (I had to slip Sulu in there somewhere, though :-)), and a friend of mine requested a story describing Chekov's life pre-movie, so it just sort of morphed into this. :-) As always, reviews and constructive criticism would be appreciated.
Pavel Chekov's strongest childhood memory is lying on his back in the middle of a field, watching the stars. He's probably only about seven years old, and already people have noticed he's a little bit brighter then the kids his age. Mathematical problems are easy for him, the answers simply there when he thinks about them and his teacher doesn't know quite what to do except give him books from the upper classes and have him work through those. Everything seems slow, unmoving, holding Chekov back from being who he is. People don't understand him, and react accordingly, treating him like he's different. It doesn't help that he has a small speech impediment, and that makes him even more prey to classroom taunts and jibes. It's not everyone, despite popular belief Chekov does actually have friends, but they aren't the sort of people he can talk to. Which is why he's out in a field, staring up at the sky above. Pavel loves looking at the stars, bright white orbits crowding the black of the sky. He thinks of the millions of other worlds out there and he doesn't feel as lonely. Doesn't feel as left out because with his seven-year old reasoning, he's knows there must be someone else out there who feels exactly the same as him.
It's at that moment Chekov decides, in the middle of a Russian field that he wants to go into space. He wants to explore those stars, wants to look out onto the black expanse of space and almost touch it. He's heard about Starfleet- what kid hasn't-and he knows that even though he's young now, he wont be forever and if he works hard, he'll get there someday.
From then on he has a goal, something to strive for. His mother laughs and ruffles his hair when he tells her what he wants to do, describing all the stars and the planets he's learnt about. His father thinks it's a childish phase that'll pass, but is happy enough to indulge in his son's excitement. As time goes on though, and Chekov becomes older and more determined, it becomes obvious that he's really serious about this, and by the time he's ten, it's become almost a running joke among Pavel's many aunts, uncles and distant relations. Little Pasha wants to go into space. His father isn't happy, wants his only son to do something worthwhile instead of gallivanting around space. Chekov's mother tells him gently to hush, and he drops the subject because he knows it'll please her.
On one night, everything changes. Chekov can't remember much of that night, how the fire started or how long it took his parents to sense the pungent stench of smoke filling the house. He only remembers waking up; with smoke beginning to curl its vicious fingers underneath his bedroom door. Even in the state of drowsy awakening, he knows what's happening, and he tries to get out of the house, where he knows his parents will be. But there's too much smoke in his lungs, breathing it in like oxygen, fire seeming to surround him like a starving wolf pack, and Chekov can't get out. The rest of his memories of that night are hazy, but he remembers that his mother is suddenly there, lifting him up and holding him close in her arms, when she should be outside, safe. Flames lick at her clothes and Pavel is terrified, but she holds him close and tells him everything is going to be ok, hushing his fearful cries with a gentle look. And everything is fine, until a wooden beam from the roof crashes down, trapping her beneath it when she pushes Chekov out of harms way, and by the time the fire crew get the unconscious ten year old out and go back in to search for his mother, she's already inhaled too much smoke.
Everything's different after that. Chekov has no one to share his love of the stars with, and his father soon quashes all notions of space-travel, and tells him to grow up and become something worthwhile. It doesn't help that Chekov's only remaining parent blames him for his mother's death and as he gets older, they gradually grow further and further apart, because Chekov looks so like his mother that it hurts his father to look at him. His father isn't a bad man, isn't cruel or violent, just cold, full of pain and anger. He's going through his own grief, and Chekov mourns his father as well as his mother, because it feels like he lost them both on that day.
Chekov starts to become restless, and begins to start running to ease the feeling that's building up inside him. Running soon becomes more of an anchor to normality then an exercise, a place where Chekov can think and won't be judged. He is himself and no one else. His father doesn't say anything when twelve-year-old Chekov starts leaving the house early before school so he can run there instead of taking the bus, and leaving after a quiet tea to go out running again. Maybe he understands on some level that this is Chekov's way of coping, but he probably doesn't say anything because he's glad to have his son out of the house. Nonetheless Chekov spends less and less time at home, and whenever he's out on his evening run and it isn't raining, he always goes back to the field he used to watch stars in. And this just makes him even more determined, more restless, because he knows that it isn't here, in a small Russian village, where he wants to be for the rest of his life, it's up there, among the stars. But Chekov keeps his feelings inside, and doesn't say anything, because as much as his father is distant and angry, Chekov loves him, and so for his sake, bottles down thoughts of the stars. One day, he thinks, but not yet.
Except it gets gradually worse, the thoughts and feelings surfacing even in his dreams. It's not until fourteen that he decides to finally do something about it. He wants this more then anything else, and he knows he can't stay here any longer, with his father and his guilt at his mothers' death. He sends off an application for the Starfleet Academy that he's managed to get off his careers teacher. He's still too young, but he's smart and knows that obstacles like age can be gotten over if he has the right qualities. He doesn't expect a response, considers it mostly false hope born out of childish dreams, so he's surprised when he receives a reply back, requesting he come to an interview at the Academy to discuss his application. It isn't a yes, but it makes Chekov's heart swell in hope. Although the interview is in San Francisco, a million miles away from the rural town he's grown up in, he knows this may be his last chance. If he doesn't leave now, he never will.
His father doesn't seem to understand when he shows him the letter, ripping it before Chekov's eyes and denying him any help in achieving this. It's time to grow up, he tells his only son, throwing what is left of the letter to the ground. Chekovs face is so pale with anger, his fists clenched up against his palms and he can't even look his father in the eye as he walks away and out of the room. Chekov goes upstairs, his mind made up with what he's going to do, and packs everything he's going to take with him to America; clothes, books, photographs. He keep his suitcase light so he can manage it, but takes everything he needs to bring, because even if the Academy doesn't accept him, he knows he wont be coming back. Chekov's got enough money to get to San Francisco by shuttle, but not enough to come back.
His father sees him standing with a small suitcase in his hand at the entrance of the kitchen. There is a flash of worry on his face, before it's gone again, and he realises that his son's made his mind up. He tells Chekov that if he leaves, he won't be coming back, and although the words are shouted, it seems more as though they come out in a whisper, as though he's finally feeling something for the son he's distanced himself from. Chekov nods sadly, because he's already made his choice and he knows no matter how much he loves his father, he can't stay. There is a whole new world waiting for him, and it's so close now he can almost touch it. He says goodbye quietly, before his father turns away, then steps out into the cold night, breathing out silvery plumes of air and looking up at the stars watching overhead, as if to say 'I'm coming'. He takes a final quick look at his house, and that's the last time he sees his home for a long while.
Going to San Francisco, a massive sprawling city is scary enough but when it's in a completely different country, one with it's own languages and rules; it becomes even more terrifying especially for a fourteen year old. Chekov thinks of turning back but he's got nowhere to go, so turns up at the interview with his hair unkempt from travel, his eyes tired and bleary from shuttle-lag, leaving his suitcase with the bemused women at reception. He chats to one of the administrators for a few minutes, and she seems quite shocked when he says he's available to take the entrance exam now.
The complex equations and mathematical figures calm his racing brain, and after another half an hour break- while they check his test he talks to another administrator- who obvious doesn't have as much faith in his abilities as the first, and who doesn't believe a fourteen year old kid who's second language is English could possibly have gotten 100% in the exam without cheating. Finally, he manages to convince him, and then is made to wait outside again while the three administrators discuss his fate. He sits outside on a too-hard chair, breathing hard and terrified that they might say no. He'll have nowhere, and he has no backup plan, no alternatives. This is it.
It takes an agonising forty minutes before the first administrator comes out with a soft smile on her face and tells him that he's accepted. It's one of the best days of Chekov's life and he hopes he's made his mother proud. The administrator doesn't seem bothered when he asks whether he could fit into any of the ongoing courses, taking in Chekov's suitcase and understanding perfectly why he asks.
Chekov catches up easily on the work he's missed, immersing himself in studying so he can finally achieve what he's been hoping so long for. The days go by in a pattern of studying, eating and sleeping, and everything about this wild new culture fascinates Chekov. But for some reason he stills feels a little bit different among his classmates, the baby of the group and it's always harder for him to prove himself to his teachers and peers. He makes friends relatively easily, and slowly improves his jilted English with the help of a friend in xenolinguistics called Uhura. Through her, he meets more people, and gradually he settles in properly. He's always going to be the baby, but he tries his damned hardest to prove that he's just as capable as the rest of them.
He still goes out running, just so he can see the stars, and when he tells his friends, they smile, but they don't see the beauty of them like Chekov does. They don't know what he had to give up to get here. The stars are something to be measured and explored, not to be observed simply for beauty.
Nonetheless Chekov is happier then he's been in a long long time, and he never regrets leaving. He works hard for three whole years, learning more then he ever could have if he'd stayed in Russia and he's so excited when he finally gets a chance at touching the stars when he gets assigned to the USS Enterprise. He sits in the shuttle on the way, a barely-contained grin pulling at the corners of his mouth, staring out at the closeness of the stars, how bright and luminous they seem against the pitch-black sky.
"Beautiful, aren't they?" a voice says next to him, and Chekov looks around to see another man staring out at the stars, the same look of wonder in his eyes that Chekov knows is displayed in his own. The man is a couple of years older, darker skin tone suggesting Asian descent, black hair short and brown eyes smiling.
"Da" Chekov replies, smiling at the other man. He has seen him around the Academy and he's sure the other man has been in some of his classes, but a name completely escapes him. He doesn't think he's ever actually talked to him before, but there isn't any reason not to start now.
"Hikaru Sulu." The man provides his name in response to the thoughtful look on Chekovs face. He sticks out his hand and Chekov finds himself replying as he shakes Sulu's hand.
"Chekov, Pavel Andreievich". The other mans hand is warm beneath his own and Sulu doesn't comment on his accent or his age. . The two smile at each other for a moment. Chekov looks out at the stars again, and can't help but let out a small gasp as the Enterprise comes into full view in the shuttle window, Sulu muttering "wow" next to him. A smile starts to form on Chekov's face because he's finally done it; finally achieved what he's spent so long trying to do. And as he fixes another look at the space ship, in orbit around the glowing blue and green of earth, he knows that it was absolutely worth it.