AN/ Based on Drabble #53. Re-drafted since the original publication in '09, so minor changes have taken place. Thanks to Umino Akiko who helpfully pointed out a geographical mistake I made.
Pairing: Established Sulu/Chekov, allusions to Kirk/Spock
"Lieutenant Sulu to sickbay. Lieutenant Sulu to sickbay"
The voice of Nurse Chapel that is being conveyed over the tannoy displays no emotion in the mechanical requesting of his presence. There is little to suggest that it is anything to be concerned about, no tremor in the nurse's voice that betrays some unspoken fear underlying her words. Nothing is out of place, except Sulu knows, as does everyone on this ship, that a call to sickbay is never a good sign. You don't just get called down to deck seven for nothing: whether it's a medical examination that's been "forgotten", or if something more sinister has happened that needs to be told in private. And as soon as Sulu hears that request, he knows instinctively that this signals bad, if not very bad, news. There is no luck in the world that could allow it not to be.
His heart freezes its beating in his chest, a hard clenching sensation grabbing him viciously, and he can't quite think clearly because of the blinding fog of panic sweeping his brain, dashing any semblance of calm and control.
And he knows, just knows instinctively, with a feeling unable to be put across in words yet which is ingrained in every nerve ending that screams out to his numb brain, that something is wrong.
It's the first word that blossoms into his head, clearer and stronger than any other, a word predicating of other vehement feelings, sensations of blistering loyalty and affection that push forcefully through the fear that has its grip upon him: and it's that word that prompts him, bullies him into action.
Less then ten seconds since the message tolled out its forewarning, Sulu pushes himself up and away from his console, passing the nearby Ensign Darvill the helm in a barked command, is all but sprinting away from his post, the curious eyes of the confused Ensign, the concerned glance of Uhura whose expression blends perfectly her own human compassion and burgeoning worry, noting the fear on Sulu's face and unconsciously allowing herself to be affected as well. He stumbles into the circular space of the turbo lift, breathing out "Deck seven" into the receptive grid as his hand plants itself on the solid wall to steady himself upright. His other hand which hangs uselessly by his side is visible shaking.
Sulu doesn't think the ride to deck seven has ever felt so slow, seconds grinding past, heavily leaden with the pressure placed upon them, and the journey – as short as it is in reality – allows his mind too much time to jump into warp drive with the limited information he can piece together for himself and his automatically pessimistic reaction. There is only one reason why they would want him there; not due to there being something wrong with him (he hasn't left the ship in weeks, couldn't have picked up anything that slipped through quarantine, has no outstanding medical tests to have results reported back ), but there being something wrong with Chekov.
Chekov went down on an away mission, Sulu was there to see him off. They'd made plans for later on tonight, but god, what if he's got hurt?...
Don't you dare think that, he tells himself without even attempting to act on his own advice, and he's swearing at himself with every florid curse he knows, swearing at his own cowardly thrumming heart and the snails pace of the lift, the fear mounting as the doors ping open, the sound far to cheery to feel real at the moment, and he's off as soon as the doors have barely swung open to admit him exit. Flicking through a million different scenarios in his head – all of them bad, each one making the whirr of apocalyptic images in his head spin faster, each incorporating every nightmare, every bad dream, every latent fear he never made public to anyone else drenched in fire and blood – as he sprints down the corridors of the Enterprise; he's never been as fast a runner as Chekov, that was always the Russian's playful boast, but he wishes now he was, that the other officers on this deck wouldn't be so slow to move out of his way.
Getting closer to the sickbay entrance he can hear shouting up ahead, the loud Georgia accent of Bones throwing out clipped, rushed orders to the mob of blue-shirted officers that Sulu can sight up ahead, wheeling something into the medical centre that is blocked from his immediate vision.
"Chapel, patch him up with an IV. He's lost a shit-load of blood. Kichida, Quinn, prep a biofunction monitor. His blood-pressure's dropping, just get him inside the ICU… Now, godammit!"
Sulu follows the macabre procession, not thinking about the words he just heard, not thinking about anything but Chekov right at this moment, and he skids to a halt on the shiny floor on the intensive care unit, his feet nearly slipping but all care melting away from such trivial matters, the last remnants of blood draining away from his face to leave it pale and cold.
It takes him a moment for his eyes to register what he's witnessing, but when it does it's a forceful blow to his chest, the sucker punch knocking all wind, all breath from his lungs.
Behind the plate glass that cuts away the surgical beds from the main ICU is Bones, yelling commands in all directions to the scattered grouping of doctors and nurses, appearing the very antithesis of someone in control of the situation, even though that's not the case. There is panic in his face, held in check by professionalism, grabbing a piece of medical equipment that is offered to him by the nearest nurse; the biofunction monitor in the background sounding out the heart rate of the patient vindictively too slow.
It's then that he sees Chekov, his Chekov, lying with pale white skin decorated with the dark scarlet blood on the table, quiet and unmoving despite being surrounded by so much commotion.
The world slows, crawls into unrealism, the blurry quality of motion by the doctors around a frozen Chekov reaching a dream-like state. The irregular rhythm that counts out heartbeats is given precedence, thumping a cruel beat in Sulu's ears. All he can think of at first, strange as it is, is that Chekov's going to be so irritated when he sees the state of his uniform; the clothing that he keeps clean so proudly stained with red. He always was slightly too anal about the way he presented himself, worried about what people would think, trying to be the best he could. Sulu would let himself into the Russian's quarters before they went on duty, find him in front of the mirror smoothing down the crumple lines on his gold top with a frown on his face. You think it looks ok, 'Karu?, he'd ask, giving the material one more concerned tug down, and Sulu would always laugh as he walked up behind him, encircle his hands around his waist and spoil the unlined effect, bend his head down to kiss the exposed skin of his neck. You look perfect as always, Pasha.
The uniform is ruined now, beyond saving; a slit punched through the material near the side facing Sulu, just below the heart, blood pooling outward... and there's just so much blood... scarlet taking ground from the gold in a one sided contest... oh god, so much blood, and it all belongs to Chekov.
He senses a hand at his shoulder, drawing him back to where he is, away from the torrential primal fear, and he whirls round in a half-panic to come face to face with Kirk: the Captain's eyes dark and sombre, weight leaning heavy on his young face – Sulu never thinks about how Jim's roughly the same age as him, never thinks how hard it must be to be responsible for so many people. He is trying to put across a gesture of sympathy, of being there for his lieutenant, but a glimpse in his eyes shows how shocked he is regarding this whole situation; like he, just like Sulu, can barely believe that Chekov is here, is in this situation, as though there is no way this should have been allowed to happen under his command.
"What happened?" Sulu's voice is barely above a whisper, still in shock, still unable to comprehend the present with his mind unwilling to process what his eyes are ordering him to understand.
Pavel kissed him goodbye before he alighted the transporter pad, smiling as he did so. Waving goodbye, laughing at a bad joke Sulu was making, so how can he be here now, how can he look so quiet when his last motions were so filled with life? How can this be fair?
"It was an ambush" Sulu's eyes are transfixed on the scene unfolding in front of him behind the protective screen, and even as Kirk speaks, the Captain is half lost as well, equally as focused on his navigator on the bio-bed. He gives an almost unnoticeable sigh, and Sulu tears his gaze away, needing to know, needing to hear what happened. Kirk was down there, leading the away team. Sulu wonders with a murky half-formed thought nearly blocked out by concern for Chekov where the other two members of the team were who went down; Spock and Lieutenant Barker from geological survey. "There was no warning. We couldn't have known. There was a... a rebel group, didn't want the proceedings to go ahead for the planet's application to join the Federation. Probably supposed if they attacked us, there would be no chance it would be accepted. Chekov…Chekov saw them first, shouted out a warning to the rest of us, so..." He released a breath shakily "...so as soon as they got chance they stabbed him first. His warning gave us the chance to stun them. Spock's still down there with Barker, sorting out charges with the relevant authority"
"Is he going to be ok?" Sulu asks, but he doesn't really want to hear the answer, doesn't know why he enquired when the only response he wants to hear is the one he might not get. He's trying so hard to hold onto his fragile thoughts that Chekov's will be fine. Of course he'll be fine, Chekov promised he'd be back for them to go out to dinner tonight; the first night in weeks they haven't been too busy, what with being on shift and Sulu helping out his spare hours in the botanical labs with a shipment of new and uncatalogued clippings. It was going to be special, and the younger man hadn't been lying when he'd assured Sulu that he'd be back in time to make their appointment in ten-forward, and the movie they were going to watch back at his quarters (their quarters).
He's trying so hard to convince himself even while the walls around his heart are being smashed to pieces.
"I don't know" Kirk replies frankly, and Sulu closes his eyes for a moment, quelling the panic, attempting to erase the picture of Chekov looking so pallid and deathly, wanting to hide from it, but at the same time unable to turn away as he compels his eyelids to open again.
The Captain pauses, hesitates before speaking again. Bones is still shouting to the doctors and nurses and Sulu watches as they uses a hand-held laser to cut Chekov's shirt off his body, to be able to gain access to the wound site. "He was asking for you, you know"
Sulu whips his head round, fixing the captain with a curious questioning glance " Why?"
Kirk gives a forced laugh "He said something about you not watching the film till he got back" Another pause, pregnant with thought, mulled over until at last Kirk decided to voice what Chekov had wanted passed on.
"He said that..." an awkward cough, as though Kirk didn't feel it was his place to speak of such personal matters in public "that he loved you."
Sulu smiles, faint and barely visible apart from a quirking of his lips, but a rush of affection clouds the blinding fear for a moment, reminds him of the Pavel he knows best; never one to keep his affection hidden for long, displaying it in little ways that Sulu took for granted; morning kisses, smiles meant only for Sulu on the bridge when no-one else was looking, holding the lieutenant's hand when the corridor was empty as they walked to ten-forward. With all the obvious signs, Sulu wonders how they managed to keep it a secret so long.
"I wasn't aware... I didn't realise that the two of you..." Kirk doesn't continue, but Sulu gets what he means.
"We're together if that's what you mean"
Kirk gives a nod, piecing together what he's long suspected with the final section of the jigsaw slotted to create the obvious end conclusion. "There were some more things along those lines he wanted me to tell you if... he somehow…he didn't make it." Kirk glances out to look through the glass at the members of his crew "But he will"
"How can you believe that?" Tears are threatening to spill from his eyes, despite an internal insistence that he is not going to cry in front of Kirk, is not going to be seen to be breaking down in front of his commanding officer – even when this is Jim; Jim who plays poker with them when they gather in one of the empty shuttle-bays, Jim who has been forever teasing Chekov that he needs to find a girlfriend, making the ensign go pink without realising that it was because he was already sitting right next to his boyfriend – but it's so hard for him not to, as he sees Chekov (Chekov, his Chekov, his partner, the man he loves and planned on spending forever with because that's how much the young man means to him, and even though he told him he loved him every day, now it feels like he never said it enough for it to count) on an operating table appearing for all the world like he's going to slip away any minute and never come back.
"Because I have to" Kirk's reply is blunt and to the point. "And because Chekov promised me he wasn't going anywhere, said he had to make a dinner appointment..."
Kirk's words are cut off violently, and the rest is lost at that moment swamped by the sudden whine of a heart rate on the biofunction monitor, the continuous sound wailing out, a klaxon slicing with a too-deep cut through Sulu's heart like the swipe of a Klingon Bat'leth sword, first wounding him, then plunging into his chest, punching all the way through as Sulu realises exactly what that sound means.
It means that Chekov is gone.
"No" The word falls from his mouth, synchronised with a wayward tear he is no longer able to contain, trailing from the corner of his eyes down his cheeks. No. He can't leave. Chekov can't leave him. "No, Chekov, please" He moves suddenly, tries to run around the other side of the glass partition, through into the space where the Russian is, needing to be closer, needing to shake Chekov awake – he'll be fine, he's just unconscious, Sulu'll wake him up – but Kirk is faster than he gives him credit for, gripping his arms behind his back, holding him firmly but steady.
"Chekov!" Sulu shouts it louder, needing Chekov to just hear him, and he watches helplessly as Bones expertly sweeps up the defibrillator; two hand-sized pebble devices; oddly small for the power they contain, rubbing them quickly together to charge them up, jolting the Russian with two hundred volts of energy, Chekov's chest arching back an involuntary imitation of life, the doctor muttering and swearing at the Russian as he works.
"Come on kid" He rubs the pads of the defibrillator again to recharge, not taking his eyes off his patient – not seeing the anguished face of Sulu outside held back by a Captain trying to hide his own internal fears for the sake of his men – and McCoy shocks Chekov's battered chest again, willing his his heart to start, for the kid to gasp back into life like he should do. The motionless Chekov on his surgical bed is alien to him; too pale, too still for the Chekov he knows – excitable and smiling, still looking too young to be in space even after a year of the doctor knowing him.
"He's not coming back Doctor…" The nurse next to him murmurs softly, a new lad, just picked up at the last star base, who doesn't really know Pavel Chekov – doesn't know that he makes the graveyard shift a little less boring with his far-fetched tales about mother Russia, doesn't know how when the engineering crew are working on something big without a break, he coerces the replicators into making specialised sandwiches that he brings down to them on his break, doesn't know something that McCoy has long figured out, that Pavel Chekov is the only man who can make Sulu's eyes light up like they do, the wonderful spark of someone being totally in love. Of course, he couldn't be expected to know, but McCoy cuts him off anyway, growling back in a voice that bodes no argument;
"Come on, Pavel, please" Sulu whispers hoarsely, tears falling from his eyes now in droves, like personified entities diving from a burning vessel because they know that once Chekov dies, the entire world is lost. Spinning out of orbit, out of control, nothing left but withered hopes for a future no longer possible because every direction he could have taken included Pavel in the equation. He starts making promises in his head in exchange for the ensign opening his eyes, coming back to him. I'll never complain about you snoring if you come back. I wont bother you when you're trying to read in bed, I wont make fun of your accent, I'll tell you how much I love you every day, I promise...
"He'll be alright" Kirk tells him, with no evidence to back it up but his own fervent hope, and Sulu can hardly hear the words he speaks over the sound of his own frantic heartbeat in his ears "He'll be alright. He has to be alright. "
"Please, Chekov" Sulu murmurs like he's praying, repeating the same mantra over and over, begging, pleading. ...I wont ever get mad at you, not for anything, not even when you tidy my stuff away and put it where I can't find it, not even when it's been a long day. I'll watch the movies you like and not complain when it's your turn to choose and you always choose the scary ones, and I wont say anything when you sing loudly in the shower when I'm trying to concentrate...
Bones turns the voltage up to two hundred and seventy five, counting the three seconds it takes to charge under his breath before trying again, then up to three hundred volts, continuing to mutter. But the ensign doesn't move, despite McCoy's frantic efforts, despite Sulu's prayers and promises, nothing except for the arching of his back at every shock he receives.
...I'll always remember the odd little anniversaries you have in your head, like the first day we met, or the first time we kissed, I'll bring you flowers from the botany department and not bore you with the details of what they are and where they grow, I'll tell you every day how beautiful you look because every day it'll be true...
"Doctor..." he can hear the nurse start to speak again, try and convince the CMO of the fruitlessness of continuing to try and raise a dead man. "He's gone… really, he's not coming back …" Sulu hates him for saying those words, for giving up when it's not too late, when there's still a chance. There's always a chance, Chekov has to come back, has to open his eyes and smile in his goofy way like there's nothing in the world that could put him down at that moment. He has to come back, has to, because Sulu can't live without Chekov's jokes, bad as they are, or the way his blue eyes light up with a lightening bright glow when Sulu kisses him slowly, like he's precious in every way, liable to break if he forces it too hard, or the way he mutters in Russian under his breath when he gets stressed. He has to come back because Sulu loves him, and it's never been as clear to the helmsman as it is now with the threat of losing that. The knowledge would be blinding, staggering enough to send him dropping to his knees if he didn't already know it in his heart. Sulu loves him so much, loves everything about him, all his idiosyncrasies, all the little things that makes him completely and utterly unique.
Chekov has to come back. Promised he would. Pasha wouldn't lie to him.
"Godammit, he will!" Bones almost shouts, half at the nurses and half at Chekov, continuing resuscitation manually now, compressing the chest down with the heels of his rough hands, counting out loud in defiant disregard of those who've already given up, getting to thirty before tilting the ensign's head back and administering two deep breathes into his mouth, before carrying on with his chest compressions "Come on, Chekov." he talks to the motionless kid as he works, "Come on. You can't die. I won't let you, you hear?"
"Please, Pasha" Sulu is begging now "I love you"
I'll do anything if you just wake up, please, just open your eyes, come back to me, don't leave me here alone.
McCoy is thumping Chekov's chest faster now, and his logical brain is telling him it's too late, that he's gone, isn't going to be coming back; but since when did logic ever matter? He's fixed everything, the damage inside is all patched up, he isn't letting the body give up that easily. The kid's eighteen, he's got so much more life to live, so much more to see... " Come on kid, Sulu'll kill me if you don't make it. You wouldn't do that to me, huh?" A fake joking attitude fails to hide his desperation "Godammit kid, come on!" He hits his hand down hard.
And suddenly, Pavel Andreievich Chekov jolts back to life with a cry of pain, and a sharp intake of breath, coughing as air begins to circulate, gulping in oxygen like he's been drowning. Bones doesn't think his smile of relief has ever been as big as it is now.
"Hikaru? Vhere's 'Karu?" Chekov's blue eyes are wide and understandably scared for someone who has just been clinically dead. Sulu pulls away from Kirk's suddenly lax grip, and moves quickly around the partition to his side, almost pushing over some of the attending nurses.
"I'm here, Pavel" The alleviation that's sweeping over Sulu is almost tangible as his mind struggles to remember how to breathe again from how he's been holding his breath. "I'm here" Bones is standing back for a moment, his usually cynical eyes softening as he sees the love and burning relief in the lieutenant's eyes – he knew he was right about those two – and he ushers the rest of the nurses out with a wave of the hand, wanting to to give them as much privacy as he can.
Sulu swallows, the words dry in the desert of his mouth. He's beginning to crash from the adrenaline rush "I thought I lost you"
"Don't be silly" Chekov smiles, his voice faint but audible, and to Sulu that smile is like the sun suddenly coming out from behind the storm clouds, all his fear and fright fading away into a nothingness now Chekov is here to tell him everything is ok. "ya tebya lyublyu. I wouldn't leave you. "
"I love you too, Pavel" Sulu smiles back as Chekov closes his eyes, drained from his ordeal. He doesn't mention how he almost did leave him, how close he was to never coming back. Those fears are best spoken about another time, when the emotions aren't as fresh, when Sulu is really convinced that this is all over for the moment.
"Give him some space," Bones' gruff voice interrupts the peaceful moment, but it's an act disguising the gentle look on his face. "Let me clean that wound up and get some dressing on it. You don't want me to go fixing him without finishing off the job, do you?" He motions a seat outside of the ICU "Can you wait a couple of minutes? I'll bring your boyfriend back to you quick enough, don't worry"
Sulu nods and acquiesces to the doctor's request, sitting himself down on the seat over on the other side of the room, but not removing his gaze from Chekov, watching as Bones cleans the remaining blood away, closing the wound superficially with a dermal generator, giving the skin a head start to healing up the best old-fashioned way.
The doctor doesn't take long, and soon he's administered Chekov with a sedative to let him rest uninterrupted for a while. Being stabbed and dying, McCoy informs Kirk dryly as he's placing Chekov into a bio-bed, can take a lot out of people, and Chekov will probably be off duty for a couple of days. The thought pleases Sulu; not wanting Chekov to overexert himself. Internally he still needs a while to heal, regardless of how much he'll protest when he wakes up that he's the picture of perfect health.
"He'll be OK though?" Kirk asks, standing upright next to the doctor, critically gazing over his navigator, wanting to be reassured that Pavel Chekov is definitely out of the danger zone.
"Yeah. Kid's strong, he'll manage. I can guess that later on, we'll just be having issues when he wakes up and finds himself bored and off-duty. Kid likes his job too much"
Kirk nods, then turns around to the helmsman seated quietly in a chair next to the bed. "You look exhausted, Sulu" Kirk points out, with a look of affection for his officer "Why don't you go have a lie down? Nothing's happening on the bridge, I'm sure Darvill will manage sufficiently at the helm in your absence"
"I'd rather say here Captain" Sulu says quietly, and he means it. His place is right here, by Chekov's side, making sure he stays ok, and he knows his mind won't be at ease if he is anywhere else other than in the sickbay. He is content to stay until Chekov wakes up, no matter how long it takes. Kirk looks like he's about to say something, then pauses, understanding that if it was him in Sulu's position and Spock in that bed, he would want the same thing. Until today, he never realised that the relationship between his chief navigator and helmsman was that deep.
It's nice that life still has some surprises for him.
"Make sure he gets at least some sleep," Kirk smiles at the doctor, unspokenly conveying gratefulness for what he did today in a pat on the back, not needing to say much aloud "And thanks Bones." He doesn't need to spell out obviously what he is grateful for.
Bones nods, self-consciously, then flicking a glance at Sulu – the helmsman doesn't know how to put across how grateful he is to the doctor, but the doctor seems to read his intent at some level – ushers Jim out of the main ward, the door to sickbay sliding open with rush of air and then closing back shut behind him.
And Sulu smiles to himself, just sitting there amidst the near unnoticeable beeping of machines, glancing down at Chekov's sleeping form, sweeping a curl of hair off his face softly, promising himself that he'll do everything in his power to never let that happen again. His hand touches against Chekov's lying parallel next to him against the sheets, holds it up in his own, allowing himself some selfish contact to reassure himself.
Chekov kept his promise after all. Though they might have to leave the dinner and movie till another time.
Sulu can wait.