Author Note: Drabble #115, requested by Lana Mush. Sorry this has taken so long =]

Warnings: General Angst, non-cannon character death.

Chapter 6: TOKEN. It's such an insignificant item that Chekov risked his life for, but it means so much to the Russian that Bones doesn't have the heart to be mad.


Token

It seemed as though the whole world was on fire in a mere instant. Sudden and glaring , the shades of red and yellow illuminating everything, invading all in sight, taking over from the usual tones of chemical white and grey. For a few dazzling moments Leonard McCoy was blinded by the overheard alarms and flashing warning lights, smoke stinging his eyes and choking his throat. Spots of light danced in his vision as he was confronted by the alien landscape of his own ship. The heat distracted his skin, made him want to shy away, his automatic human signals going haywire, telling him to get out of there and not to look back. It was as though he was back all those years ago, when the Enterprise had first started her impromptu voyage , heading straight into a trap and nearly being blown into pieces by an angered Romulan. The feeling of helplessness he had felt then, of not knowing what to do, not feeling in control, was the same then as it was now; but that was the risk of taking this job. The Enterprise's mission was to seek out new life and new civilisations, and that included all the dangers that came with it. Bones may not have been Space's biggest fan, but the feeling of helping people, of making a difference, made up for any of the negative imaginings he had about working aboard a starship.

Of course, he had had worse experiences than the Narada, although not many, and in the close to four years they'd been in space he must have lived through so many assaults on the ship- where photon blasts rocked the hull and made everyone feel space sick as well as quietly terrified- but the Narada marked his first experience of the sheer panic that sudden conflict with a hostile force always seemed to be. Although he would never have considered himself naïve ( his age proved that point devoid, and with a steady job as a doctor and a failed marriage under his belt before he even went into space, he thought he could count himself a little bit more world-wise than he had been in his younger years), in terms of his job aboard this ship, he'd had to grow up fast. Dr. Puri's death on deck seven had thrust him into medical command without any choice, and he had to understand very fast that he needed to keep his head on, because he would be the one everyone look to for guidance. He recalled little of those first few moments after entering Vulcan space apart from barking orders, the red of blood and the shouts from those injured.

And then the world rocked again, nearly knocking him off balance and he shook himself out of his daydreams. Judging by the way the ship had shuddered and baulked to the right, he suspected strongly that they had been hit again- shots from the gunship of some angry aliens who really didn't seem to like a Federation ship in their sector. Angry and possessed of a good aim, it seemed. McCoy just hoped Jim could get them to reach an agreement that didn't involve the Enterprise being completely destroyed . Otherwise surviving might be a bit of problem. He'd rather live if he was honest.

The ship jolted again- was that god-damned pilot deliberately trying to get every one of the photon torpedoes to hit them?- and McCoy stumbled as he moved quickly down Deck Four. The most damage appeared to be on this deck, and he saw the smoke first as he made his way into the area, before he saw the destruction in front of him.

Collapsed segments of ship, red-alert silenced now but still bathing the deck in a crimson light that whirred and blinked distractingly. Several of the quarters along the corridor were smoking through the gaps in the door, suggesting at a fire inside, and one empty room to his left obviously had an affected cable in the door or something, as it dragged itself opened , revealing a burning interior before closing again. And Bones damned the fact that in a ship made of metal, the fire still found things to feed on.

He could deal with this, he told himself. He was a doctor.

Up ahead he sighted a crewman trapped under what looked like one of pieces of wall that had been blown off, falling to the floor and pinning down the man. Someone was trying to help pull the wall segment off the terrified crewman, who was wriggling with the upper half of his body, panicking the longer he was trapped, but the weight was obviously too heavy for just one pair of hands.

Chekov, from his place behind McCoy, having been drafted into helping in anyway he could (not that he had needed to be asked; after serving four years aboard, most of the crew just seemed to instinctively know what to do without asking, each having their own positions and adding strength to another when it looked as though it was struggling) , moved immediately around Bones and over to aid the officer endeavouring to lift the wreckage, the frightened crewman's face reddening with heat and exertion to match his hair shade, his grip on the scratching edges of the wall piece from where it had been torn asunder from its position loosening with the sweaty hold he had. The Russian spoke authoritatively but kindly to the man- who McCoy thought was Ensign Carter, if he remembered rightly from his medical rounds, all flaming red hair and with a stutter when he got nervous. The doctor could hear him trying to get some words out, and could practically see the dashes slicing up portions of his speech, repeating sections of words and groups of consonants in a way that would grate on Bones's frazzled nerves if he had to listen to it for long. But it appeared as though thankfully Chekov was doing fine calming Carter down, holding his own fears in check as he instructed what they were going to do to get the section off the other man's legs.

"You hurt?" Crouching down beside the trapped man- Bones said 'man' in a general way; traditional humans didn't usually have three eyes and small tusk-like mandibles. The doctor ran his scanner over what part of the body was protruding from out of the sandwich of the wall and the floor, skimming readings to deduce what he needed, the whirring of his machinery calming him. He could do this bit, was confident he could do this. It was just the rest of his surroundings that was subject to change.

"J-just stuck. " the crewman replied in a shaky tone, looking pale and sweaty. He had stopped struggling, and McCoy was sure if there was any serious injury, his scanner would have picked up on it, even if the man didn't admit to it. He gave a short staccato bark of laughter "Hot isn't it?" He seemed to be verging near hysteria.

It was only the legs that were trapped, so Bones could rule out any internal bleeding from the torso area, and it didn't seem as though he'd hit his head. McCoy had to agree with him as he stowed his scanner back in its holster, it was hot on this deck. Temperature control had been messed up by the shots, and engineering probably had more on their plate to deal with than just faulty heating. Bones was out of touch with the bridge for the moment, so he couldn't tell whether any of the primary functions had been affected; life support, warp drive, etc. He hated not knowing.

"Those quarters empty?" he asked the red head- Carter-, the strictness of his voice making the crewman jump.

"Y-y-yess sir. No-one's in t-t-them." The kid looked more terrified by the fact the doctor had spoken to him than anything else that was going on around him. Bones should have cut him a bit more slack; the lad had only been on-board a few weeks, fresh faced from the Academy and wet behind the ears. He'd probably only witnessed this sort of situation in simulation, or in tales he'd heard as a new cadet from the maturer students. Bones bet he hadn't realised space could be this dangerous until now.

"OK, Daniel," McCoy heard Chekov's voice slow and clear, his face bathed in an eerie red light but displaying a comforting expression, which seemed to do the job of coaxing Carter out of his panic. "We're gonna pick this thing up off Josephs ok? You pull up from that side, I'll do this side, right? On the count of three. One...two...three"

Their hands grasped the end of the wall nearer Carter, straining against the weight . It didn't seem as though it would budge for a frightful second, then slowly it pivoted up under the combined pressure both were putting on it, raising the end enough off the ground for McCoy to be able to pull the crewman- Josephs- out from under it by his arms. Another blast pounded the ship violently, and the two lost their hold as they stumbled on their feet, trying to gain equilibrium, the slab of wall slamming down hard where Josephs would have been seconds ago,with a thud and a small cloud of dust.

There was an explosion to the right where one of the blasts must have detonated against the side of this deck, and Carter swore- a word miraculously stutter-free. Pulling Josephs to his feet with firm hands and giving the freed man another quick once-over with his scanner, Bones derived that there didn't seem any real damage, nothing broken that his scanner could detect- but that it was worth getting the man's right foot checked out in the medbay, just in case he'd sprained anything. He seemed to be leaning predominantly on the other leg as he stood, the right foot raised gingerly so as not in contact with the ground.

"Jim?" he clicked his comm badge, needing to know what was happening. It looked like there was a lull in firing after the last one, but Bones's internal cynic supposed that they were probably just reloading another volley to blast them out of the sky. They appeared mean enough; ugly things with bodies baring a striking resemblance to a humanoid creature made of melting plasticine, their arms and legs long and contorted, faces long and pointed at the bottom with their skin the texture of smooth black plastic. Bones was pretty sure that if you were close enough, the sheen of their skin/flesh/whatever would act like some sort of mirror. "Jim, how're things going?"

The reply came back crackly and broken up, but with effort Bones could understand what was being said "We've managed to get them to stop shooting at us," It was Jim speaking, yet his voice was strange due to the poor level of transmission; growling in snippets of sound that had to be pieced together for a translation into Standard. "They seem to like Spock more than me, so he's talking to them. I think we've done it though"

"How bad's the damage?"

"Other decks have been hit but its just minor stuff. Deck four's the worst hit; the deck you're on. I'm reading..." there was a short pause as Kirk checked the equipment "...four life signs on the deck? We've gotten everybody out of there and relocated them to where they're needed."

"All accounted for ," Bones put the captain's quiet worry at ease; that someone was missing that they hadn't found yet.

"I'm on my way now to give you a hand."

"'Should be ok, Jim" Bones assured him "I'm just taking Josephs to the medbay with Carter and Chekov" He glanced round at the small group of people he had assembled; Josephs leaning heavily on McCoy, Carter looking lost with soot dusting his skin. And then he realised what he was missing.

"Shit..." he expelled the word, not directing his comment at Jim but just to himself. He flicked his gaze around again, just to be sure. He then travelled his gaze past the two men with him, searching the littered corridor before him, the light distracting and disguising anything he might be looking for. "Better get down here anyway ,Jim. Might be a small problem"

Turning off his comm, McCoy rounded onto Carter "Where's Chekov?" Seeing the crewman's sudden confusion, the shocked panicked eyes of a man that didn't stand up well to interrogation, the doctor continued, his voice getting louder " Chekov? He was just with you. Where is he?"

The man, terrified at being practically shouted at by the doctor, threw his arm out with little grace, pointing a finger in the general direction of one of the rooms along the fire damaged corridor. McCoy guessed , following the line of sight originating from the tip of Carter's shaking finger, that he meant the quarters he was highlighting. An inconspicuous door, number 14 D on this level.

Chekov's own quarters.

Bones cursed.

"You." He whirled back to Carter, and the man practically died of fright "Take Josephs to the med bay. Tell Chapel... are you listening, tell Chapel to give his right foot a look" Carter nodded, looking pleased to have some orders about what he should be doing, and moved to the other side of Josephs- the other crewman wrapping an arm around his shoulder and transferring his weight to Carter's side.

"Get yourself off this deck" Bones said sharply to the two men, and they manoeuvred themselves quickly back along the corridor, avoiding debris on the floor. Seeming to be following Chekov's example, Carter was talking to Jospehs in a low encouraging voice as they moved, his stutter lessening the more confidence he gained. Bones took the time to consider that the kid would be a good officer in time, but it wasn't the sort of thing he really had on his mind at the moment. He turned and half walked, half ran to toward the room further down the corridor, the room Carter had pointed out. Stupid, stupid, stupid kid, his mind growled.

"Pavel!" He shouted "Pavel!"

Bones cursed again, his language getting more prolific the more he thought about the fact he'd probably have to enter that damn room himself to drag that bloody kid out by the collar of his uniform. The rest of him wondered why Chekov had gone back in the first place. This deck was dangerous, and the Russian had been present when Kirk gave specific instructions to the doctor about getting everyone off deck four, checking all personnel were relocated and accounted for before sealing off the deck so the fires could be contained until engineering managed to fix the system that controlled fire-safety, put out of action due to the photon blast aimed the secondary hull defence grid. Chekov had been there, so why was he disregarding his own safety to return to his rooms?

The room door was unlocked, yet as Bones came up to it with the knowledge solidly in his mind that it would open before him with the usual 'swoosh', the motion of the door did not live up to his expectations. It jutted apart by a crack, the system operating at a lower parameter- whether due to damage or an engineering fault the doctor could not tell at this time- sliding opening slowly and inelegantly, sticking and grinding as it tried to perform its function regardless . It halted partway through its usual trajectory, whirring before seemingly giving up, and McCoy had to pull and push at the doors in order to give them the incentive to widen enough to let him through, wedging his body through the two sides and forcing them with his back and arms to at least allow a distance that he could at least squeeze past. That done, he moved into the room, immediately wishing he'd stayed out in the construction site of the corridor.

Smoke, in a higher quantity than there had been outside , assailed his nostrils with a fuggy atmosphere, and he was forced to cover his mouth and nose with the sleeve of his uniform, eyes streaming. There was fire in here as well, as there was in quite a few of the quarters that he had seen through half-closed doors, but the real danger here was the smoke; thick and vicious and choking .

"Pavel?" he shouted again, trying not to baulk at the smoke that he breathed in. He failed in that respect, and hacked out a cough and wiped his eyes free from moisture before casting his gaze around again.

He travelled further into the room by a few quick steps, wanting to be out of here with Pavel as soon as possible, sighting the fire that had begun to envelope from the room next door, greedily eating as much as it could before they got the fire prevention systems back in and the sprinklers on. But for now the fire was a natural enemy, burning contently with all the oxygen the still-functioning life support provided. And there was still no sign of the Russian.

And then there he was. Lying on the floor by the bed, a pale figurine of a man, with his brown hair marred by the black hand of could have been asleep for a second, so still he appeared, but then Bones remembered that that shit didn't happen in real life, didn't exist in the real world like it would in a harmless bloodless children's story. Life happened, people got hurt. This wasn't the perfect capturing of a still photograph, with the danger of the background blurred into insignificance with Pavel as the focus. No, now Bones could see that Chekov was ok, the photo moving weakly, but still moving. His legs curled up, foetal, his frame shaking with dilapidating coughs, racking and rasping like he was trying to gag, asphyxiating on vicious smoke, fighting for possession of his body with a malevolent spirit of charcoal darkness.

"Pavel" There was relief in Bones's repetition of the lieutenants name, but he wouldn't admit to it. He was a doctor now, not a friend. He had to keep his head when all he really wanted to do was shake Pavel and worry over him. He had to think about the here-and-now, when the shaking man near him was so trapped it seemed in the then-and-there, lashes fluttering disjointedly as he breathed in poison , body rejecting it with deep tactless notes – yet his eyes were blank and soulless, staring unseeing with a blue insistence to some image that the doctor could not be privy to.

Bones rushed to his side, dropping down to one knee to quickly check his pulse, thanking any god that he was still breathing. A weak lifeline, but still there. But the most distressing thing he observed this close was that the lieutenant before him wasn't fighting. Wasn't forcing his drained energy into trying to escape, wasn't even pushing his useless limbs into giving any protection over his mouth. His eyes were watery with tears from the smoke, and the image was so sad and feeble that Bones was even more determined to do something about it, to keep this man living and fighting and breathing because Pavel Chekov looked so accepting of his own mortality. The officer who along with the rest of them didn't know the meaning of failure, fought against its form and definition with every stoic act, every brave move. The doctor had seen him fight tooth and claw for the protection of his friends, his ship; wild and unyielding and loyal with his refusal to give in, the man who was now making barely considering that he should take the same interest in his own preservation.

And that made Bones all the more resolute that he'd have to do the damn job himself. Care about a fellow officer – his friend over these years – when the man wouldn't or couldn't.

Jesus Pavel, why'd you have to be so reckless? , he thought internally, but there was no malice in his thoughts, his actions on autopilot. Check respiration, run over with scanner. These two tasks were quickly achieved due to practice and natural skill. His priority now was to get the kid out; away from the fire and the smoke and the apathy that covered the man in a cold cloak of immobility and blankness of thought.

"Bones!" he heard a shout from behind him, an alien voice in a landscape of grey and crackling cinnabar flames , turning to see Jim pushing through the gap in the door, making his way over to the doctor, hand over his mouth. He had his "captain-voice" on; the serious one, that Bones had once joked to Jim made him sound like those serious instructors he'd defied at the academy, full of their own importance in the world. It had been a joke of course, not meant, and nobody was laughing now. Because when Jim changed from Jim to Kirk, Bones knew he was in safe hands. And he'd never admit it to the kid (his damn ego didn't need inflating any more) but that was sometimes the reassurance he needed. The knowledge that he wasn't on his own in this. "What happened?"

He was probing for answers, and Bones wanted to reply. Wanted to tell Jim/Kirk about how Pavel was just lying there choking like a swimmer going further away from the shore, reckless but damn well knowing what he was doing. He wanted to tell Jim/Kirk – the captain/the friend who would care regardless of which persona he was because Chekov was one of his crew, one of his own, and Kirk protected him and his – about the blank look and the sad eyes and how his eyes reacting to the smoke by watering looked like tears, but he couldn't explain it. Knew that if he spoke it, words wouldn't be able to put across what he was seeing. So Bones shook his head, "Let's get everyone out of the deck first, yeah?" he replied instead, and Jim nodded.

"Carter and Josephs have made their way to the med bay, the rest of the crew are all accounted for and off this deck"

"Good" Bones gave a succinct reply, and with effort, hoisted Chekov up over his shoulder, his body complaining that it wasn't as young as it used to be. He had done this sort of thing when he was a boy, passing out fireman's lifts to his younger brother, who squealed and giggled and hollered 'Put me down!' until Bones (Lenny then) took pity. When he had been older, he had done it to Joanna and she had screamed and laughed just the same as his brothers, with that half fear of being dropped and half happiness and exhilaration if Bones added the extra move of spinning round that was the realm of children. Pavel, being neither a brother or a child of his, followed neither expectation, just lolled, small shakes trailing down his torso in a wave of coughing that Bones could feel through his back. Luckily though, the Russian was light, and the weight was not much of a burden. With Jim's help, the two of them managed to push the gap in the door opened further to allow the doctor and his charge passage, wasting no time on congratulations once they had cleared the small obstacle.

"Turbo lift working?" Bones asked, adjusting Chekov's position over his shoulder.

"Spock said there was no damage to the lift shaft. It's not been hit by anything" Jim replied, and Bones took that as captain speak for 'Yes'. He nodded briskly as a reply, and the two of them swiftly made their way to the lift, Kirk stabbing the button with his finger.

The smoke seemed to be getting worse , and the short wait for the lift was interrupted by the coughing and spluttering from Bones and Kirk, Chekov having fallen too quiet for Bones's liking. When the lift finally arrived, and opened its doors with the same smooth unruffled elegance it always did (Bones was beginning to see why Jim and Scotty got so protective over the ship; it was a real lady, and Bones treated it as such – although only when no-one else was around.) the two practically fell into it, the doors shutting out the fumes behind them.

"Med bay" Jim barked, and it was lucky that the computer was automated, Bones thought, just in case it might have taken offence to his tone. You had to treat a lady politely, but there was a time and a place for such things.

Jim flipped his comm "Spock? Status?"

"Our attackers have been persuaded to desist in their efforts." The reply came back clearer than before "Engineering is beginning work now to make sure that we are able to safely achieve warp . There was no direct damage to the warp nacelles, but some of the grills on the right side of the magnatomic flux construction..."

"Thank you Spock" There was a smile in Kirk's voice, as there always was whenever Spock went into "over-detailed hobgoblin" mode. "Myself, Bones and Chekov are on our way to the med-bay now to get checked out by our good doctor" He gave a small grin to Bones "So long as he doesn't inject me with too many hypos I should be back on the bridge soon. Can you remain on the conn till then?"

"Yes, Captain. Spock out"

Jim closed the communicator and turned to the doctor as Bones was placing Chekov down to the floor, kneeling by him to check his pulse and scan him again.

"What was Pavel doing in his quarters?" he asked, confused, and there was a need for an answer now. He was Jim again, and Jim was Chekov's friend; teasing and antagonising him with the good natured banter between close friends. You couldn't be on a starship for as long as they had been without making firm friends of each other. So why now did Chekov appear so alone, what had made him go back into his quarters filled with smoke and nothingness when the rest of them were getting the hell off that deck? "He was helping you wasn't he?"

Bones paused, thinking fleetingly about the posture of defeat, the lack of fight in his movement, the smoke-induced tears, and knowing he could not possibly explain something like that to Jim. Not because he wouldn't understand, but because it wasn't something that could be voiced. Instead, he leant over, taking something gently out of the clasp of the Russian's fingers; a thin chain of metal hoops , which was threaded through a ring. Golden plain band, unassuming and inoffensive.

He didn't need to explain then, to see the sudden sad understanding dawning on the Captain's face. They both got the message.


"How could you be such an idiot?" Bones raged, and he saw Chekov glance down at the floor from where he was sitting on the medbay seat-cum-table where check-ups were usually performed, pink violently blushing his cheeks, standing out further against the pale of his skin. There was an awkwardness in his tense posture, trying to block out the world with his paper-like skin; paper-like and paper thick, covering what he didn't want seen ,but the shadow of his thoughts still observed through the opaqueness. Quiet and vulnerable, trapped under the bright light of the doctors gaze.

The kid had every damn right to be embarrassed, Bones's harsher side muttered , an errant thought but filled with substance, even if he did know exactly why Chekov had gone back in. Just because he understood didn't mean that he had to like it. He was a doctor, therefore his first instinct was to see people safe and out of harms reach. Cure their ills, reset what was broken, that sort of thing. He didn't particularly appreciate it when he had to go into an obviously dangerous area because someone decided to try their luck. You never played your hand with death, Bones had learned over many years, for he had a natural inclination for winning. And now that the Russian was awake and suitable recovered from near fatal smoke inhalation, Bones was ready to give one of his own personal doctors notes "You nearly died, Pavel. Was that what you wanted?"

"No" Chekov replied quietly, his voice still hoarse. There was still soot flecked across his uniform, and the small scratch on his forehead where he had knocked his head when he had fallen , made it appear as though he had been through some sort of battle; barely injured and victorious. But those were not the connotations that Bones saw. Bones saw the broken defenceless look of someone who wasn't winning, who didn't appear injured but had more wounds out of sight.

The doctor still didn't let up. He recognised that his own personal worries for the kid were bleeding into the argument now, but Chekov was his friend as well as a colleague; still the little brother of the alpha shift group even at twenty one. And he didn't want to lose him because of recklessness. He saw enough death as a doctor; close friends and colleagues he had seen walking the decks the day before, smiling and joking with friends, alive. You had to possess a certain level of thick skin, draw the line between fighting for someone's life and knowing when there was nothing you could do, but in that respect Bones found difficulty. He remembered every death with clarity; from the petty red-shirted officers who had only joined them at the last space dock, to the loss of those closer to his heart, signing the death certificate of people he had served with and talked with and laughed with . And he had no desire to experience any more of those moments than he needed to. Death was cheap and life was precious, especially aboard a starship. And a life could be over in a snapshot.

"Then don't be so damn callous with your own life" Bones snapped back, before he saw the look of regret in Chekov's eyes and reigned in his anger. It wasn't necessary, and his internal concern did not warrant any misplaced anger. Chekov wouldn't have deliberately gone out to get himself in danger. He just hadn't thought of what he was doing the spur of the moment, a flaw of most men. He'd followed the current with no pre-existant knowledge of the water being too deep for him to manage.

"I'm sorry Chekov" he said quietly, and the Russian nodded slightly , taking in the apology but continuing to stare at the floor , eyes unseeing. He might have been thinking about how he nearly lost his life today, Bones considered, or he might have even been thinking of another person that he had lost recently; a friend, and partner, the kind only found once in a lifetime. Found and lost in the space of four years. "Just... Just promise me you'll try not to do that again." Bones didn't want to lose anybody else.

"I promise" Chekov replied, and his voice was still hardly able to be heard, even discounting of the soreness of his throat. Most of the smoke damage Bones had been able to rectify with a tissue regenerator. And yet still Chekov wasn't fully there. Caught up in the encompassing tendrils of his thoughts, the world a gossamer reality surrounding him. With a quiet sigh drawn in deep, from his pocket Bones fished out the necklace that he'd taken from Chekov. Unfolding the Russian's un-protesting hands, he placed the cold chain and its charge at the centre of his palm.

Chekov stared at it for a second, sensing the altered temperature before he saw what Bones had given him. He stiltedly moved his other hand over, tracing his fingers over the circumference of the ring in his palm. A modest argent band, nothing special, purchased from a jeweller's market stall while on shore leave on once of the planets in the Alpha Centauri system, but that did not detract from what it meant. The significance of it.

He gazed up at Bones, and there was an unspoken thanks in his eyes; a desperate gratefulness.

"Just make sure you keep it on you next time" Bones said, trying to inject some serious gruffness into his words but failing because he didn't have the heart to be angry any more. Not when he could see the expression on Chekov's face. He thought about doing the whole hand-on-shoulder thing. Decided it wasn't the right move and so held back. "So you don't have to nearly kill yourself to get it next time" Chekov inclined his head in a nod, and Bones took in the aged look in his youthful face with knowing eyes, the quietness of his demeanour that he wore now when reminded of things he'd rather not recall.

"How are you managing ?" Bones spoke with a gentle tone, not as a doctor, but as a friend, and Chekov looked up for a tentative moment, the raw emotion in his eyes bleeding through into his visage for a moment before he blocked it out again. Shutters slamming down, blank look back. Bones didn't need to elaborate on what he meant. They both knew, both had witnessed the last few months. Bones had seen Sulu's death less than six months after the helmsman had tied the knot, had been first on the scene as Pavel had cradled his husband's form in his arms, had seen the crumpled look on the navigator's face that echoed even now, the one thing Chekov had left of Sulu apart from memories balanced in the palm of his hand. The only other memento's intangible ones, a strained character to laughter, a consistent appearance of tiredness even if Pavel had by some miracle slept that night.

Some things Bones couldn't fix. And a broken heart was one of them.

And he hated himself for it.

"I'm...coping" Pavel managed a small smile that didn't reach his eyes, and Bones nodded. It was as close a good answer as he could have expected. If Chekov had said he was ok, the doctor wouldn't have believed him, would have known by the haunted look in his eyes that he was lying outright. He wasn't alright, couldn't be ok, and even if he was slowly healing, patching up his hurts with the help of his friends and colleagues, it would be a long time before McCoy saw Pavel smile a real honest-to-god manic grin like he used to.

"We're here for you, kid" he said quietly, pushed past any feelings of awkwardness – this was Pavel , this was his friend – and placing a strong hand on Pavel's shoulder. Trying to convey support, while at the same time lamenting the fact that he wasn't any good at things like this. Could try his best but that was all it would ever be. He pulled it away again, giving the navigator a small smile and moving to leave him with his thoughts. He made a mental note to comm Scotty or Uhura to make come down here, sure he was ok and suitably recovered. They were better at this sort of thing than he was. Uhura could offer a feminine touch, an unquestioning shoulder to lie on, and Scotty could provide the usual male version of the same thing, a glass of the good stuff from the engineers alcoholic stash and a quiet talk. Neither solutions, but helping nonetheless.

As Bones walked away, out of the medbay to go update Jim on the relocation of deck four inhabitants, he watched Chekov drop his eyes, close his hands around the necklace tightly enough to imprint it against his skin. Like he would lose it if he didn't hold on. The posture of a man who was defined by his sadness; absorbed by it, living in symbiosis with it.

He would heal one day, become the man that Bones remembered. The smiling navigator with a spring in his step and a glow in his eyes.

But he couldn't help hope that it would be some day soon that he would get to see Pavel Chekov smile again.