A/N: For the record, we were in love with Star Trek long before the new movie, but the characters according to the movie are just so cute we had to use them. Of course I don't own Star Trek. If I did, there'd be a lot less hot girls and a lot more elevator episodes.

"Does everyone know about this grain but me?"

"Not everyone, keptan, it's a Russian invention." Kirk and Checkov, the Trouble With Tribbles

I.

They were on shore leave on the Mars colony when it happened.

Sulu and Checkov had beamed down for the day. Enterprise would be docked at Jupiter Station for 6 days to catch up on repairs and the Captain had permitted them shore leave. Most of the crew were planning on going to Earth, and the pair were on their way home, too.

"My muver vill love jou, Hikaru!" Checkov proclaimed, wrapping an arm around Sulu as they made their way into a crowded bar on Mars. They were planning to use the transporters located all over the Mars colony to get them to Earth, and, anyway, after nearly 7 months in space they deserved a break from the rules.

They sat at a small table, as the bar was filled with burly men, no doubt returning from mining Trillium, which was bountiful in the Mars soil. Scattered throughout were aliens, most of which were species Sulu was proud to realize he recognized. Three Andorians sat with a Xindi Insectoid at the bar and Sulu smiled wryly…three Andorians and a Xindi walk into a bar…

When Checkov ordered alcohol, Sulu didn't bother trying to stop him. Though the teen wasn't quite eighteen, most of the crew on the Enterprise had chosen to look the other way when it came to that particular law, especially when informed by a defiant Checkov that there wasn't an enforced drinking age in Russia, anyway.

Sulu nursed a slightly warm beer in his hands, "I'll be glad to see Russia. You talk about it often enough, I want to see what the big deal is," he hurried on before Checkov could explain, in great detail, exactly what the big deal was, "but I'm more excited to get home to Japan. You'll like it there, Pavel. It's much warmer than the tundra, and my dad's not a bad cook."

Checkov wrinkled his nose, something Sulu always found laughingly adorable, for it made him look younger than ever. "Vill dere be fish?" he complained. Checkov always spoke his opinion, loudly, on ever topic, and had long ago informed Sulu that he didn't like eating fish because they tasted 'too fishy.'

When Sulu pointed out that wasn't a real reason, Checkov stubbornly ignored him.

Standing up, Sulu realized he needed at least one more beer if they were going to puddle-jump down to Russia, where Checkov would insist on giving him a tour of everything. "I'll be back in a moment, Pavel. Don't move."

"Jou still think I'm a child, ja?" Checkov muttered darkly, but his smile showed that there was no real fury behind the words, and Sulu left the table smiling.

The men at the bar did turn out to be miners, and, when they spotted Sulu's uniform, also proved to be quite up-to-date with the Enterprise. Sulu stood with a captive audience for a full five minutes, recounting the Nero/Vulcan/Earth incident. When his beer finally arrived, he waved of the men's questions and said his goodbyes…

Only to turn to the table and sigh. Pavel, where have you gone now? No doubt, the teen had been distracted by something outside, by a particularly alien species in the bar, by a shiny gadget. Sometimes, Checkov acted like a child with a very short attention span, but his only problem was his inability to see the dark side of a person. He was too trusting…

With that thought, Sulu surveyed the bar again, and promptly ran out of it when he realized that the three Andorians and the Xindi were missing as well.

It wasn't difficult to find the scuffle, though Sulu couldn't even use that word. Jumping was a better word, as Checkov was outnumbered and outsized. "Yo!" Sulu yelled, running, taking in everything as he moved.

Checkov was stuck beneath the Xindi, the alien's long, sharp arm piercing his shoulder, pinning him as effectively as a butterfly in a collection. The Andorians had ripped Checkov's uniform to shreds and were methodically bruising and bloodying every bit of the boy they could.

At Sulu's cry, however, the group looked up. "Another pink skin," One Andorian hissed, giving Checkov a particularly painful kick.

Going against all his instinct, Sulu didn't kill the being. Instead, he said, his voice quiet, deadly, "This pink skin has friends in high places." Sulu pulled out his communicator, grateful that the Captain had made sure a skeleton crew was assigned to the Enterprise at all times.

"So the great explorer has to call for backup. Pathetic." The Xindi twisted his spiked arm in Checkov's shoulder, making the teen cry out in pain. The sound pierced Sulu's heart, but he remained impassive. Instead, he carefully typed a message in the communicator. 2 TO BEAM UP. HAVE MEDICAL ON HOLD. STANDBY.

Having sent the call he needed to, Sulu reached down his other side, coming up with a phaser. "Calling ahead is just a formality. Injuring a member of Starfleet is a serious offense. Up to a year in prison, nowadays." Before the beings could move, Sulu took careful aim and fired. Four shots, four thuds as four aliens hit the ground, stunned.

Checkov screamed in pain as the Xindi claw, which had been embedded in his shoulder, jerked with the motion of the alien it was attached to. Halfway through, his scream turned into a shriek consisting of one word, "Hikaru!"

"Pavel!" Sulu knelt next to Checkov, not knowing which of the many wounds to attend to first. He pressed one thumb to the communicator and a hand against Checkov's chest. Within moments they were aboard the Enterprise.

Without the alien claw, the gaping hole in the teen's shoulder bled so much and so quickly that Sulu was drenched in blood before Bones and his team could pry him away from Checkov.

"No!" Checkov screamed, but his weak struggles were pathetically useless. "Hikaru!"

"He'll be right behind you, kid." Bones' face was twisted into a grimace of distaste. He, like everyone on the ship, had fallen in love with the intelligent Wunderkund. "Hold still." With one slightly shaking hand, the doctor injected a needle full of hypospray, and Checkov went limp.

Sulu was clamoring off the transporter pad, his eyes raking Checkov's body. "He'll be okay?"

"What happened, kid, and don't leave anything out." McCoy had already told one of his interns to get Jim down here, stat, because, damnit, something like this just always had to happen. He knew that the young captain had been looking forward to a day of rest before leaving the Enterprise in Spock's hands for some much-needed shore leave.

Well, Bones thought ruefully, we all expected it to be a little quieter around here.

Even as he was thinking this, and questioning the helmsmen, he was racing down the hallway, pushing the gurney in front of him and thankful to whatever experienced man had put the med bay and transporter on the same deck.

Kirk was already sitting on one of the surgery tables, looking thoroughly disgruntled. "What did you have to wake me up, for, Bones? You know I --- damn." He'd just caught sight of Checkov's beaten body, his freely bleeding and torn shoulder, and stood up immediately, letting the kids who were currently playing as McCoy's interns prep the teen.

"What happened?" Suddenly, Kirk wasn't so tired, and he wasn't the least bit surprised when Sulu followed Bones into the room, looking angrier than the captain had ever seen him.

Not recognizing Kirk's question, Sulu rushed forward and grasped Checkov's hand in his, oblivious to the fact that the Russian was out cold. The compassion and worry in his face almost made Kirk stop his questioning. Almost. But he needed an answer. "Lieutenant, I asked you a question."

Sulu stared up at him, seeming to be willing himself to get more in control. After a few deep breaths, he straightened up and looked Kirk in the eye, though he glanced at his friend on the table every few seconds. "Checkov and I were in a bar on Mars, just getting a few drinks before going home. I went up to get another round and when I turned around he was gone." Sulu looked pained, recalling the moment of blind panic he'd felt when he saw his best friend pinned under the Xindi.

"I found him behind the bar. Three Andorians and a Xindi didn't like his uniform, apparently." He gestured to the tatters hanging loose around Checkov's pale body, all that was left of the uniform the teen was so proud of. "The Xindi had impaled him with his…claw…" Sulu took a deep breath, trying to dispel the anger he felt, remembering the quiet, peaceful boy being beaten by beings much larger than he.

Kirk had remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout, but as the end of the story seemed to be approaching he couldn't keep his emotions bottled any longer. He wasn't built for that. "Why the hell did they have to pick on Checkov?"

Sulu shrugged, staring at his friend. "Is he going to be okay, doctor?"

McCoy waved him off, "He'll be fine. Just needs some patching up." He glanced at the shoulder, which had a new bandage over it that was already stained red with blood. Looking up at Sulu, he asked, "Did you at least take out those bastards?"

Sulu smiled slightly at this very un-doctor-like sentiment. "I stunned them," he said, pretending he didn't want to do worse.

Sighing, Kirk ran a hand through his wiry hair. "I wish I could tell you that we'll make sure those guys pay, Lieutenant, but I can't."

"I understand, captain."

What he didn't understand were the low moans he heard when he woke up in the med bay later that night. Checkov was hooked up to three different machines, but looking much better after bandaged and water had gotten rid of most of the blood.

"Pavel?" Sulu asked the semi-darkness, already reaching out a hand to grasp the one curling in agony in the sheets. "Pavel, you're okay. You're on the Enterprise."

Checkov's left eye had swollen shut, and the other was reduced to a slit, which he opened part way to look at his friend, "Hikaru." He sighed, relieved, before his back arched in pain.

In a moment, Sulu was on his feet, trying to think of a way to help Checkov through his pain as the teen's moans grew steadily louder.

When McCoy rushed into the room, following the frantic beeping of the heart monitor that had been going crazy, he was surprised to find his patient's heart rate within normal range, if a little elevated.

However, somehow he wasn't surprised to see Sulu and Checkov, curled together on the small bed, the Russian fast asleep in Sulu's arms.

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