This is the "birthday one-shot" that I'd discussed as a sidebar of sorts to "Both Ways At Once." It's a fleshed-out version of the scene that gets a bit of a mention in Chapters 6 & 7. One bit of this story in particular was inspired by the lovely and generally awesome Savage Daz, who shares my opinion about the whole "writing out the Russian accent" thing; hope you find it amusing, my dear!

Pavel Chekov was now, officially, eighteen.

Granted, it didn't feel all that different than seventeen had – but then again, that had just been yesterday. He didn't look any different, either, he determined as he watched his reflection finish brushing its teeth – but, yeah. It was just one day, after all.

He wasn't really sure what eighteen was supposed to look like or feel like, come to think of it...

One thing was for sure, though – the captain would damn well have to stop calling him "Ensign Jail-Bait," because he was legal. Legal to vote, to buy porn (which Captain Kirk had been assuring him was a huge deal), to drink (not that he hadn't been doing that already, anyway) – and legal for, well... anything else he could think of.

"You almost done in there, Pavel?" The voice belonged to his suite-mate, Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu – who was, basically, that "anything else" that Pavel found himself thinking of... well, truth be told, most of the time, now. Pavel and Hikaru had been close friends since their days at the Academy – so it had made sense for them to request adjoining quarters when they were both permanently assigned to the Enterprise.

Hikaru probably had no idea that recently, Pavel had been developing the beginnings of a crush on the handsome helmsman who was also his dearest friend. But any of the increasingly frequent little fantasies he'd found himself building around Hikaru would have been strictly illegal in reality – because Pavel was only seventeen.

Well, no more. He wondered if Hikaru would remember that it was his birthday.

Pavel paused to spit his toothpaste into the sink. "Yeah, Hikaru, just a minute."

"Damn, Chekov – old age making you move slower?"

Yes – he remembered, all right. Pavel's reflection grinned like an idiot back at him.

Alpha Shift on board the Enterprise went uneventfully – and Pavel found himself just a bit depressed that what was a huge day for him seemed to be sort of a non-event for his crew mates. Now, sure – Captain Kirk wished him a happy birthday (and was astonished to learn that Pavel had yet to take advantage of his legal status to purchase any "you-know-what"), while Lieutenant Uhura came over and gave him a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek along with birthday greetings in flawless Russian.

Of course, they were all a good bit older than he was, so Pavel really couldn't expect them to make a big fuss over his eighteenth birthday – could he?

If anyone noticed that he was uncharacteristically quiet at his spot at the helm that day, no one mentioned it.

On their way off the bridge, Hikaru threw a companionable arm across Pavel's shoulders. "You didn't think I was going to let this day go by completely unobserved, did you, Pav?"

"Well, Hikaru... I didn't know, really. I mean, you don't have to..."

"Oh, for God's sake, Pavel. Back to our quarters – I've got a surprise for you."

Well, all right. Now things were looking up – at least a little.

Hikaru entered the code for his own door, and they both went in. Pavel's eyes were immediately drawn to a rather large, rectangular package in the middle of the floor, wrapped in festive paper with a big bow.

Hikaru indicated the package with a sweeping motion of his arm. "For you, Pavel – happy birthday, my friend. Hope you find plenty of opportunities to enjoy what I got you."

Pavel knew he was probably smiling like some sort of fool about now – but didn't much care. "Oh, 'Karu – thanks so much for remembering, and getting me a gift. I know I'll love it, whatever it is."

"I sure hope so – but you won't know unless you open it." Pavel reached down to pick up the box, but Hikaru grabbed his shoulder to stop him. "Wouldn't do that if I were you – you might hurt yourself. Just unwrap it down there. Believe me, you don't want to pick it up."

Curious now, Pavel pushed at the package with one foot – and Hikaru was right; whatever was in there weighed a TON. Intriguing...

So he knelt down next to the big box, and gently tore away the wrapping.

"Hikaru. No way. No WAY!" Pavel leaped up and, without thinking, exuberantly threw his arms around Hikaru's neck. Only a moment later did it occur to him that his actions might not seem totally appropriate – but by then, Hikaru's arms were around him as well, hugging him right back.


After another moment, they let go of one another and each took a self-conscious step backward.

"So... umm... you like it, yeah?"

"Hikaru, you are ridiculous. A case – a whole case – of Jewel of Russia? My God, 'Karu – that's the best Russian wodka out there."

Sulu stopped him with a raised eyebrow. " Wodka, Pavel? What would Uhura say? Come on, now – vah, vah, vodka."

He got a look of utmost disgust in return, as Pavel spoke with exaggerated precision. "Fine, Hikaru. Thank you for the vah, vah, vodka. Now you should go vah, vah, vuck yourself."

Pavel seemed inordinately satisfied by Hikaru's whoop of laughter – and even more pleased at the prospect of an entire case of... whatever the hell you wanted to call it... which was now at his disposal.

"But seriously, Hikaru – this is amazing, but I don't even want to think of what you must have paid for it – I feel terrible!"

"Terrible? Well, shit, Pav – that's hardly the idea."

"Well, then, how's this for an idea? Let's you and I celebrate the day by splitting a bottle."

"Oh, I get it... now that you're old enough to drink legally, you want to prove that you can kick my ass. We already know you can drink me under the table, Pavel – so where's the fun in that?"

Oh, there could be a lot of fun in that, Pavel mused.

Stop it, Chekov. Stop it right now...

"Come on, Hikaru – for my birthday...?" Pavel heard the wheedling tone in his own voice – but he also knew that Hikaru was rarely able to resist that tone, for whatever reason.

Sure enough, Hikaru sighed resignedly. "Okay – for your birthday, Pavel. Tell you what – bring a bottle with you and we'll take it to the Officers' Lounge after dinner. But I'm absolutely not taking you on before I've eaten – that's just suicide."

Feeling triumphant – and absolutely wicked – Pavel grabbed a bottle of Jewel of Russia and followed his friend out of their quarters and into the mess hall.

After a quick dinner – with surprisingly few members of Alpha Shift crew there to share it with them, really – Pavel grabbed the heavy, clear glass bottle and held it up to the light.

"Here it is, Hikaru – prepare to meet your match." Laughing wickedly, he pulled out his friend's chair and gestured toward the Officer's Lounge.

"Don't know what you're trying to prove, Pavel – unless you think it's particularly amusing to celebrate your birthday by getting me drunk off my ass, 'cause that's pretty much what's going to happen."

"Hikaru – I'm disappointed in you!" Pavel shook his head in mock distress as they approached the entrance to the lounge. "You're giving up before you've even –"

"SURPRISE!" A huge shout from the crowd gathered in the festively-decorated room stopped Pavel in his tracks, as Scotty waited just inside the door to dump an entire bucket of confetti over his head. Dazed – but absolutely thrilled – Pavel shook his head to try to dislodge some of the confetti from his curls, grinning delightedly at the large group of people in the room. So here was where Alpha Shift had been hanging out while they were at dinner...

Scotty clapped him heartily on the back. "Now ye're eighteen, laddie – you and I can start tippin' some of my Scotch legally, now, can't we?"

"You can do all kinds of stuff legally now, can't you, Ensign?" Captain Kirk grinned, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Guess I can't call you 'Jail-Bait' anymore, can I?"

Pavel could feel himself blushing bright red, but forced himself to laugh. "That's right, Keptin – I'm legal now! And Scotty – we'll for sure do the Scotch, but not tonight. Tonight," he held up the vodka bottle, "is the Great Vah-Vah-Vodka Challenge between me and Hikaru."

"Oh, great. Competitive alcohol poisoning – just what the ship's Chief Medical Officer lives for," groused Dr. McCoy. "But, since you'll be doing it anyway – anybody want to place some bets on who's going to win?"

Hikaru glared at the doctor. "Doc, not even I would bet on me – why would anybody else?" Looking over at Pavel, he gestured toward a nearby table. "So, do you want to begin humiliating me now, or would you rather wait?"

"Oh, now's as good a time as any, 'Karu!" Pavel smiled angelically at him. "Unless you want some cake first...?"

The first few shots went down fairly uneventfully – and Hikaru was glad that he'd gone ahead and spent the extra credits on the really good stuff. Then they took a bit of a break – because Pavel really did want some cake, and it was a very pretty one, at that – with icing starbursts and eighteen sparkler candles. He enjoyed having everyone sing "Happy Birthday to You" while he blew out the candles.

"Did you make a wish?" Lieutenant Uhura's voice was close to his ear, and he turned to see her smiling nearby.

Pavel smiled back. "Da, I did. But I won't tell what it is, or it won't come true."

"That's right – you've got all the Western customs all figured out, don't you?" She kissed him again on the cheek, before making meaningful eye contact with Commander Spock, who stood a short distance away. "We – I – have to go, now, Pavel... but I hope you have a great rest of your birthday."

"Thanks, Lieutenant Uhura – I appreciate it." He watched as she walked slowly over to Spock, and, well... pretty much smoldered at him until he reached over to take her arm and leave the party with her.

"Uhura is definitely hot, eh?" Hikaru had just walked up to join him.

"I suppose... if you like that kind of thing." Pavel was beginning to come to the conclusion that he didn't, particularly – though he hadn't really thought about the words that were coming out of his mouth until he saw the look of baffled speculation flit across Hikaru's face. Fortunately for him, Hikaru seemed willing to let Pavel's statement go without further discussion – because at this point, Pavel didn't think it would be a particularly good idea to say, "Yeah, Uhura's hot - but not nearly as hot as you."

He wasn't at all sure how that would go over…

The second round of shots was still – well, mostly uneventful. With each successive drink, Hikaru could definitely start to feel, if not actually drunk, then at least very pleasantly buzzed. He thought Pavel might be – hmm... maybe just a little louder than usual – but that could be his imagination, too.

Hikaru was suddenly struck with an idea of the amazing brilliance usually only achieved by the significantly inebriated. He put on his very best pseudo-Russian accent. "Hey, Pavel... zees is some wery good wodka, don't you zeenk?"

At first, Pavel seemed a little startled – and not quite sure if Hikaru was making fun of him. Something in his friend's expression told him that was not the case – so he was more than ready to join in Hikaru's fun.

Raising his eyebrow in his best Vulcan fashion, Pavel said solemnly, "Ensign Chekov, I find your substitution of the letter 'V' with the letter 'W' to be most illogical. All of my linguistic research indicates that this is not consistent with the rules of spoken Russian. Lieutenant Uhura, I might add, concurs with my conclusion." (God knew he'd heard that speech a few times – surely well enough to quote it with spot-on accuracy.)

And Hikaru was certainly appropriately amused – and willing to argue his own point in the same (frankly hilarious, Pavel thought) version of a Russian accent. "Spoken like a true Wulcan, Commander. However, logic has nozzing to do with zees. Moreower..." his attempt to maintain a serious tone was starting to be severely undermined by an impending giggle "... your woman, Lieutenant Uhura? She is a wixen. A wicious wixen, I tell you! And instead of ze two of you spending your time talking about my accent, you should take her to wisit Wenus."

Now the giggles really started – and it didn't help matters at all that Pavel was laughing even harder than Hikaru was. Hikaru, however, forged bravely on.

"You should take her, Commander, to Wenus. And force her to..." more giggles – "...listen to Wiwaldi..."

Hikaru was really cracking himself up here – and Pavel was just about ready to squeeze him, he was so damn cute...

" listen to Wiwaldi... until she becomes wiolent."

Heads were turning in their direction throughout the room as the two of them became pretty thoroughly hysterical at their own joke – though neither Hikaru nor Pavel noticed the reactions of anyone else around them. They became increasingly silly – one laughing at the other's laughter, and egging each other on again and again – only stopping once their stomachs hurt them too badly to continue.

Once they'd calmed down a little bit, Pavel noticed that the music playing in the background was particularly catchy.

"Come on, 'Karu – let's go dance!"

"Dance? Hold on, partner – I did NOT sign up for dancing tonight!" Hikaru looked, somewhat panic-stricken, out onto the dance floor, where most of the crew was dancing to something lively with some serious percussion going on.

"Aw, Hikaru – come on... for me?" Damn that little Russian – he's doing the wheedling thing again – and he knew good and goddamn well that Hikaru could never resist that. Little bastard.

So Hikaru and Pavel joined a group of engineers who were flailing somewhat aimlessly to the beat, but having a good time all the same. And when it came to that – it turned out that after a sufficient quantity of Russian vodka, Hikaru Sulu could flail aimlessly along with the best of them.

Well, hell – no harm in admitting it's kind of fun. And after all, it is the little shit's birthday...

By the third round of shots, Hikaru was definitely starting to see the world in soft-focus, and was beginning to feel the ship start to spin in ways that he, as its pilot, knew it wouldn't really be able to do. He found himself sitting in silence, chin propped up in his hand, just watching Pavel.

Damn, does the kid know how beautiful he is? Then the kid smiled at him – a gorgeous, heart-wrenching, breathtaking smile that just stopped Hikaru's brain entirely.

He heard himself speaking, without the aforementioned brain having in any way authorized the words. "So, Pavel – wanna go dance again?"

Pavel's eyebrows went way, way up. "Umm... sure, 'Karu." He looked out onto the dance floor, where couples were holding one another close and swaying to something soft and slow. Surely Hikaru would change his mind once looked over there himself and realized...

...But no. Swaying rather alarmingly himself as he got out of his chair, Hikaru reached out to take Pavel's hand, leading him onto the dance floor.

Yeah, I know it's because he's drunk, but oh, my God. Hikaru was warm and wonderful in Pavel's embrace, holding him so close in those strong arms, and it was... amazing.

The music ended much too soon, with the next song being entirely too fast again. Pavel felt like shouting in frustration.

Shit – it's my birthday, people! Can't I catch a fucking break, here?

Instead, he smiled up at Hikaru, who had now let go of him – though he was still standing encouragingly near. God, did he always smell this good?

"I'm still standing, and I'm not under any tables," Hikaru said, slurring his words just a little. "Do we go for another round, now?"

Though that would absolutely be in the spirit of the contest as he'd originally set it up, Pavel thought it wouldn't be the best idea – not considering what he hoped to be doing instead. Besides, he was definitely starting to feel the effects of the vodka himself – now, he was nowhere near as loopy as Hikaru, but he didn't want to get any drunker at this point, that was for sure.

"No, Hikaru – it's... kind of loud in here. Let's go for a walk." Taking Hikaru gently by the elbow, he guided him out of the lounge and toward the turbolift.

Pavel vaguely heard McCoy's voice shouting into the crowd as they left. "Anybody for a different bet?"

Observation Deck Three had quickly become Pavel and Hikaru's favorite place on the Enterprise just to get away from things in general; for reasons that they never quite understood, people really didn't frequent that deck. Pavel surmised that it was because the other observation decks were much more comfortably furnished – though the lack of posh seating or plush carpeting never bothered him or Hikaru at all. They were more than glad to trade a little luxury for a little solitude.

So it probably made sense that they'd ended up here without either of them having mentioned it at all.

It also seemed that, without either of them mentioning it, they'd walked there with Hikaru's arm around Pavel's shoulders, and Pavel's arm around Hikaru's waist.

They'd never – not ever – walked that way before... but it just fits. It feels like it's just how we should walk. With a small, secret smile at that particular insight, Pavel looked up at his friend.

"Hey, 'Karu?"

Hikaru started a little bit – as though he were somehow surprised to discover that Pavel was actually there. "Yeah, Pav?"

"The party – it was awesome." He smiled again – and rested his head briefly against Hikaru's shoulder. "Thanks for planning it, and for getting everybody there."

"Hey, you're wel... wait a minute." Hikaru was obviously drunk enough that his processing time was seriously slowed down. "How do you know it was me?"

Pavel turned slightly so that he was facing Hikaru, and placed his hands on 'Karu's shoulders before continuing. "Seriously? Come on. Who else would go to all that trouble for me?"

He noticed with a little bit of a thrill that when he'd moved his hands to Hikaru's shoulders, Hikaru had moved his hands to rest lightly on Pavel's hips. "Pav, you know there are all kinds of people on the Enterprise who love you and want to celebrate with..."

Oh, fuck. I didn't just say love, did I?

Oh, fuck. He didn't just say love, did he?

Neither one of them was willing to look at the other just then; that moment was going to get glossed over, and fast.

"But you're the only one who knew I'd want red... velvet – see? I damn well said it. Red fucking velvet. Red velvet cake. You know that's what I like. And sparklers. So I know it's you."

"Well, okay. So you're welcome. I hope you had a good time."

"You know I did. But, 'Karu?" Pavel looked shyly up, a question in his eyes as well as his voice.

"What, Pavel?"

"Ummm... I have to tell you a bad secret. You might be mad at me."

"Oh, come on, Pav – we know each other's secrets. I'm not gonna get mad at you." Hikaru was, however, seriously intrigued by whatever this "bad secret" might be.

Moreover, he was feeling an increasingly strong urge to grab Pavel by the hips and pull him closer; that had felt ridiculously good on the dance floor, and it was absolutely a sensation he was eager to experience again.

"Hikaru..." Pavel now really did look somewhat distressed. "Hikaru, I came up with the idea of our drinking contest on purpose."

His current state of inebriation made Hikaru look even more baffled than he might have otherwise - and even through his nervousness, Pavel found the expression to be completely adorable. There was a crease forming between 'Karu's eyebrows - and he wanted more than anything for just that one moment to lean forward and kiss it away.

"On purpose, Pav? How come?"

"Well..." Here was the moment of truth - when his best friend would find out he was some sort of sneaky, eyebrow-kissing pervert. "I thought maybe if I got you drunk enough, you might be okay with, with..." Pavel stopped, miserably staring at the floor and blushing bright red.

Hikaru Sulu was certainly drunk, but he was never stupid. With a rush of realization, Pavel's meaning became clear to him, and he moved one hand to gently tip Pavel's chin upward so that he could see his face.

"You thought maybe I'd be okay with..."

Without another word, Hikaru leaned down and took Pavel's mouth in a devastatingly thorough kiss. The hand that had been under his chin reached up to tangle in golden curls, while his other hand – possibly of its own volition – jerked Pavel's hips against his own, so that each of them became immediately aware of exactly how... okay… each of them were with the current situation.

Pavel froze for an instant in sheer disbelief – but as soon as his brain caught up with reality, he threw himself into the kiss with characteristic enthusiasm. The feeling of Hikaru – oh, God – just absolutely devouring his mouth was almost more than he could wrap his brain around.

He vaguely realized that he'd been turned and backed into the cool Plexiglas of the viewport window, and that besides the obvious mouth-to-mouth contact, he and Hikaru were pretty well glued together from hip to shoulder – and pushing, pulling, grabbing one another for all they were worth to try to get somehow even closer. He wasn't sure how his hands had gotten under Hikaru's shirt, but the feeling of silky, hot skin over the tight, lean muscle of Hikaru's back...

Pavel didn't have words for it – not even in his thoughts. Not even in Russian.

And he sure as hell didn't have any words for it when, out of nowhere, Hikaru simply... stopped.

Pavel just stood there and blinked at him, dazed with lust and utterly uncomprehending.

"Shit, Pav. This is... I don't know what we're... Well... shit, Pav."

At that point, Pavel was ready to scream, throw things – or just fling himself back onto Hikaru and make him do that crazy, unbelievable thing with his tongue again. Digging deep for some vestige of self-control, he managed to avoid doing any of those things.

"Wh- what, 'Karu? Why'd you stop?"

"Not right, Pav. Not right for me to do this to you – not now."

"Holy shit, Hikaru! You want to let me be the judge of that?"

Hikaru's laugh sounded a bit wobbly – and Hikaru seemed that way himself; he reached out a hand to steady himself against the wall before continuing. "Don't think so. You're in no better shape than I am. Sure, I'm waaaaay drunker than you – but I'm not so drunk that I don't know this is a bad idea."

"Bad idea?" Pavel wasn't at all sure he liked where this was heading. Hikaru's other hand moved to the wall as well – he was starting to sway rather dangerously, as that last round of vah, vah, vodka seemed to be hitting him now, hard.

"You're my best friend. No matter what else, you're my best friend. You're also really hot, and I've come to the... the compre.. coheren.. conclusion that I really wanna pin you against a wall and... yeah."

Shit. That "and... yeah" sounded really hot. And it was pretty clear that Pavel wasn't going to be getting it.

"But I can have you for a best friend. Or I can make out with you. But I probably can't have it both ways at once, can I, Pav?"

Pavel had spent so much time fantasizing about a scene like the grope-fest he'd just experienced with Hikaru that he'd never really devoted any thought to that situation happening in reality – much less what kinds of consequences such an event might have. Hikaru was doing that for him – taking care of him in a way that was uniquely Hikaru.

Even drunk off his ass, he's still an analytical bastard...

"Pav – you're the absolute best, and I love you, man." He looked solemn, sincere, and very, very drunk. "I love you way too much to lose you as my best friend. Can't do it. You get that, right? Otherwise, I'd absolutely... yeah." Hikaru shook his head – and then promptly regretted it as he utterly lost his balance and would have fallen on the floor had Pavel not grabbed his arm.

"Dude, I think I need to go to bed. I might need to throw up. Don't really know."

"Well, then – let's see if we can get you back to our quarters without you puking on me, okay?"

As it turned out, they didn't, quite – or at least, not without Hikaru getting rather violently ill on himself and a rather spectacular swath of the corridor as well. Don't envy the maintenance crew on duty tonight, Pavel thought.

Once they were back in their quarters, Pavel had to work hard to get Hikaru – who by now was almost completely incoherent – out of his clothes and into something more suitable for sleeping. Hikaru mostly wanted to lie down – he didn't really much care where – and sleeping in clean clothes was emphatically not a priority for him.

Under other circumstances, stripping Hikaru would have been really hot – but for now, Pavel mostly felt affectionate amusement at the fight his friend was putting up in his quest to attain a horizontal position.

"Hold still, 'Karu – faster we get your pajamas on, faster you can go to sleep, okay?" Pavel was propping Hikaru up with his shoulder while struggling to get a t-shirt on over his head.

"Love you, man. You're the best. You know that, right?" Hikaru's voice – already muffled by the shirt that still covered his face – was the barest mumble.

"Love you too, 'Karu. Now, give me your arm, okay...?" Like trying to dress a damn rag doll – only a great big one that doesn't want to get dressed.

Twenty minutes later, Pavel had succeeded in getting a snoring Hikaru into his bed – with a trash can situated nearby in case he ended up getting suddenly sick again in the night.

With a quick, self-conscious grin, he texted McCoy:

Was there anybody who bet against me getting any? 'Cause they win.

Of course, Hikaru was right, though. As hot as that all-too-brief makeout session had been – and Pavel already knew he'd be fantasizing about that one for months to come – it was absolutely not worth the friendship that was meant more to him than he even knew how to express.

And he didn't see any way that he could have Hikaru both ways at once.

At least, not now...