I own nothing – I'm just taking these characters out to play.

This will get slashy in later chapters – if that bothers you, please don't read.

It's my first time; be nice.

"Hikaru, come on!" Pavel Chekov was almost hopping from one foot to the other with impatience. "You look wonderful, you look perfect – now come!"

The target of his impatience, Hikaru Sulu, shook his head in mock exasperation with his best friend. "We still have two hours before the ceremony, and you know as well as I do that I'm packed and ready to go as soon as that's over. But—" He returned his gaze briefly to the mirror in front of him, scowling faintly as he brushed imaginary lint from his impeccable Starfleet dress uniform – "I do want to look my best. After all, we will be up in front of everyone – and, well… it's been a long time since I've seen my parents, and I want to… I don't know." To Chekov's surprise, Sulu sounded uneasy, and possibly even unhappy.

Pavel considered for a moment, then spoke to Sulu's reflection, rather than to his back. "You want to, how you say, make a good impression… on your parents?" Sulu shrugged silently, then nodded. Chekov felt something suddenly squeeze in his chest at the distress on his friend's face. He didn't understand it, but he knew he had to try to reassure him. "Hikaru – imagine how proud are your parents to have you for a son! They know – they must know – you're the best pilot in the galaxy! And now, a special ceremony for your citation, your promotion...!"

"Those would be our citations and promotions, Lieutenant Chekov," Sulu interrupted with a wry smile, " – or are you forgetting that I wasn't the only one who was considered responsible for rescuing that damnable Deltan outpost?"

It had gone enormously against the grain for both of them to be considered "heroes" for their rescue of a small Deltan colony on a remote part of the planet Deneva from a sentient – and surprisingly violent – infestation of carnivorous plants. However, the rather breathtakingly brave – and highly creative – nature of their actions, as well as the discovery that a long-lost branch of the Deltan ruling clan had been among those rescued, had brought both Sulu and Chekov to the attention of Starfleet command.

After some consideration, it was determined that both men should receive a field promotion (to which their captain's "unofficial" response had been, "About damn time, you stupid bastards!") A more formal recognition would wait until the Enterprise next came into dock near Earth for maintenance and systems upgrades.

Chekov chuckled briefly now at Sulu's annoyed tone. "Da, Lieutenant Commander Sulu – I do seem to remember that you and I are being in this mess together."

They had both howled in protest against what they felt to be frivolous and unearned promotions – until the day that Captain Kirk had sat them down with a surprisingly long documentation of each man's contributions to the mission of the Enterprise.

"You don't think you deserve these promotions now?" Kirk had snapped at them. "Well, I don't, either."

At their looks of surprise and confusion, the captain had continued, "I thought you each damn well deserved them six months – hell, a year ago. I've been in Starfleet's faces for at least that long, but the idiot bureaucrats kept pushing me aside. So, hell – if it took you two swinging into action like the Two Musketeers and rescuing those Deltans to get Starfleet off their fat asses – well, it's not right and it's not fair that it took so long, or that they didn't already recognize ALL the awesome shit you two do all the time, but it works out in the end. You deserve what you're getting, so…"

Jim Kirk had paused to punctuate his words by reaching out with both hands and none-too-gently thumping his officers on the sides of their heads "…just shut up and get your medals and take the damn promotions – and LIKE it. That's an order."

At that point, Sulu and Chekov could only laugh.

For now, however, Starfleet command – fat asses and all – awaited their arrival to celebrate their "valor and resourcefulness in the face of grave personal danger," and to make a huge fuss over them at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. After the ceremony and the requisite (and deadly dull) reception with well-wishing families and friends, the two friends would say good-bye to Sulu's parents, and return to Russia with Chekov's family to spend the eight-day planet-bound leave with some of Pavel's relatives.

For months now, Pavel had been looking forward to introducing his family to his best friend, as well as being able to prove to Hikaru that nearly everything worth discussing was, indeed, "inwented in Russia."

As they slung their traveling bags over their shoulders and prepared to disembark, Chekov discreetly watched Sulu out of the corner of his eye. While they walked at their usual, rather jarring speed through the corridors, Sulu lacked some of his normal feline grace, holding himself stiffly, almost as if preparing to defend himself. Surely, thought Pavel, his brilliant and brave friend Hikaru could not be rattled by the thought of the rows of commodores and admirals who awaited them at the Academy – but rattled Hikaru certainly was.

Chekov could not begin to imagine what could be causing this, but vowed to find out – and to keep a close eye on his friend for the next week while they were together.