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Personal Effects

He knows he's not supposed to be in here.

He can only get in at all because of the shared bathroom between their quarters. Sulu's door has been sealed from the hallway outside, but whoever did the sealing has forgotten that there is another way in, or perhaps assumed Chekov poses no threat to the helmsman's empty room. It is true that the ensign does not intend to disturb anything; rather, he theorizes that he will be the one disturbed. But the room looks surprisingly normal, a few things strewn on the floor, the covers a little bit rumpled, the holodesk left on as if Sulu had to leave in a hurry. Not as if, Chekov reminds himself. He did. It had been an unexpected mission, the kind the dedicated lieutenant was always ready to take, and he probably had not had time to return to his room.

Blinking once or twice, the ensign focuses on the holodesk, wondering if he should turn it off, or if it would be wrong to change anything. One side of him, the side that responds to "whiz kid," wants to put everything back in its right place, but the other side, the one who is just "Pavel," wants to preserve this room exactly as it is, exactly how Sulu left it, dirty clothes and all. It is, after all, his room, and for a foolish moment, Chekov finds himself thinking that Sulu might be irritated if he comes back to find that his helmspartner has been nosing around in his things. Then the ensign shakes his head, muttering "durak, durak" – "stupid, stupid" – beneath his breath, and wishing those were the only foolish thoughts he has ever had about Sulu.

The desk chair stands away from the desk like it is waiting for someone to fill it. Chekov walks the breadth of the narrow room in two steps, then sits down, casting a glance down at the holodesk and pretending he has no real interest in it. But he has no one to fool, alone in this empty room, and is only a moment before his resolve breaks and he touches the screen. Since no one has used it these last few days, its surface lamp is low to conserve energy, but it flares to life with the touch of his fingertip, casting new shadows on the bedsheets and on the plant on the shelf. Chekov remembers that Sulu once told him its name, but he only remembers Sulu's voice, quiet and warm, not what he was saying; that hadn't seemed important at the time.

The desk hums faintly beneath his fingertips as his eyes scan across the screen, at the various folders and loose applications still running. He isn't looking for anything in particular, but he knows he hasn't much time before he must admit why he's here, before reality crushes him. Beneath his right ring finger is a standard folder marked "Personal Log." He presses down on it, and jumps slightly when the desk flashes a white dialogue box at him and informs him in a clear tenor, fingerprint confirmation required. Chekov exits the sequence, unsurprised; his own desk's security settings are even higher, perhaps because he has more secrets to keep.

Chekov sits back in the desk and looks around the room one more (last?) time. In a few weeks, this room will be emptied of everything that once made it Sulu's. The bedclothes will be stripped, the drawers in the walls emptied, the plant dumped from the airlock like it never meant anything to anyone. Some subordinate tech officer will wipe the desk's memory and space will consume whatever remains of Hikaru Sulu, one-time helmsman of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Then, for a time, he will live on in the memories of his fellow officers, his ghostly presence lingering on the bridge, until time erodes his face from their minds and he is gone from them, too, just a name in the captain's log from long ago, ____, killed on duty.

Then he will be with Chekov, who will not, cannot, forget.

He will not forget the way the pilot used to sit, relaxed yet alert at his controls, or the way he used to look, the flat gleam in his eye as his steady hand pushed the ship to warp. He will not forget the way he used to walk, hands loose at his sides, or the way he used to talk, the soft, rich lull of his voice that sometimes made Chekov forget that his speech was comprised of words, not just wonderful sounds. He will not forget the way the pilot used to stand in the face of terrible danger, steel-eyed, like nothing could ever move him. He will not forget his secretive, elusive smile, or the weight of Sulu's hand on his shoulder, or the heat of his breath on the back of his neck as he moved behind the ensign to check his coordinates. He will not forget the kindness that welcomed him to the bridge as a child, not will he ever stop longing for the courage to have approached his helmspartner as a man.

Chekov stands and pushes the chair in. The holodesk has dropped back to half-light, and he knows he should go. This is not his place anymore; it never really was, and now it never will be. He steps through into the light of the connecting room, and casts one glance back. Then he shuts the door and seals it.

The room will be emptied and the desk will forget. Chekov will not.