Have you been over to visit TheSouthernScribe to read "A Gift For You?" If not, you ought to pop over and do that, ASAP.

This little (OK, not so little) one-shot is a slightly edited version of Chapter 7 of that particular work -- my contribution to a multi-author collaboration with holiday-themed stories. The other stories are really amazing -- some sweet, some touching, some kinda kinky, and some downright hilarious -- and you should definitely read them!

I couldn't resist posting this one on my own site, just because I have so few stories yet -- and to cheer myself up a bit because I've been feeling like crap for just ages. Waaah.

BTW, for those of you who are currently reading "Both Ways at Once," and/or "Eighteen" and were curious -- this is NOT part of that 'verse AT ALL. This is just random Pavel & Hikaru in lurrrve. And holly-jolliness. :-)

It is, however, me sort of writing smut. I'm told it's not very smutty... :-)

"But... that doesn't make any sense – does it?" Hikaru Sulu's handsome face was a study in indignant confusion.

"Well, as much as I am hating to admit it, I think... maybe it sort of does," replied Pavel Chekov, his own face displaying frustration – and perhaps a bit of guilt as well.

"We've made it here to Risa for our first shore leave in – well, who even knows how long anymore – and since it's coming up on Christmas on Earth, shore leave is being limited to crew members who traditionally celebrate the holiday? Face it, Pav, that is just not fucking fair."

Chekov sighed, and couldn't bring himself to meet Hikaru's eyes. "I know what you mean, 'Karu – but you know that with the ship so undermanned just now, the Keptin is having to make the choice somehow about who will go and who will stay to take care of the Enterprise." He awkwardly clapped his friend on the shoulder. "I know it is not seeming fair – and I wish we could go on leave together – but..."

"...But you and your family have always celebrated Christmas, and I never have. Yeah. I get it." Hikaru swallowed painfully. "I guess I just..."

I guess I just hoped that maybe we could celebrate this Christmas together, he thought – but steadfastly refused to say. This would be their first Christmas since they'd realized that they were so much more than just best friends – but if their new relationship meant so little to Pavel that he was willing to go on shore leave and spend Christmas without him, well... maybe things weren't quite what Hikaru had thought they were.

Damn it all, anyway. Damn the outbreak of Rigellian hives that had laid up most of the ship's non-human crew members for the past week – and double-damn the Klingons for having attacked the Truman so that a good third of their remaining crew had to go aboard their sister ship and help with emergency repairs and maintenance. The Enterprise was running now with what could at best be called a skeleton crew – and they were all exhausted.

It just so happened that only those few who could actually prove that their religious beliefs included celebrating the Christmas holidays were going to be allowed to have any kind of a break whatsoever. And if Hikaru had expected Pavel to protest that ruling, or to refuse to abide by it – well, he was setting himself up for disappointment. Because Pavel had reacted to the ruling by packing a bag – and pretty damn quickly, at that.

Not. Fucking. Fair. What's more, it hurt – but at the same time, he felt like a selfish asshole to expect Pavel to give up a badly-needed break just because they couldn't share it.

Pavel's eyes were hopeful as he waited for Hikaru to finish his sentence; when it became clear that he wasn't going to, he stepped tentatively into the silence.

"'Karu... is not so bad. We can be having our Christmas... together... later. After all, is just a day on the calendar – you and I can celebrate it anytime we want to." The look on Hikaru's face warned him that he wasn't buying that line of reasoning – not even a little bit.

"Sure, Pav. Whatever you say." Sulu replied too calmly, and turned – too smoothly – to walk out of the adjoining quarters they shared.

"Have a great time – I'll see you in a few days. Meanwhile, it looks as though I have a 16-hour shift ahead of me – so if you'll excuse me..."

Pavel's voice behind him held a hint of panic. "But... but... 'Karu! Wait!" Since they'd begun their relationship, they'd never separated for more than a few hours without at least stealing a brief kiss – would Hikaru let him go for shore leave for four whole days without so much as a hug goodbye?

Hikaru stopped in the doorway, turned. Leveled a stare at Pavel that he barely recognized as belonging to the man who had been his lover for the past three months.

His voice was cold, sarcastic – not like Hikaru's voice at all. "Sorry, Pav – I forgot." But he did not return for a hug, a kiss, or anything else of the sort.

He started walking again, before tossing over his shoulder,

"Merry Christmas."

Pavel waited quietly for a long moment to see if Hikaru would reconsider, would turn around and come back to say some kind of proper good-bye – but no. He listened to the sound of footsteps growing fainter in the corridor. Too bad -- though he'd hardly expected a different reaction. Poor Hikaru was disappointed, angry -- all those things.

With a sigh, Pavel returned to his packing – with the beginnings of a truly wicked little grin that he was really rather glad no one else could see.

He had work to do...

Fourteen hours into his sixteen-hour shift, Sulu heard Captain Kirk's voice behind him – with a tone that he'd heard all too often in the past few days, and had learned to really, really hate.

"Sulu, I'm really sorry – honestly I am – but it doesn't look like we'll be getting relief for you for another six hours. I wish I could get us all the hell off this bridge, but… I know you understand."

Understand? What, is he nuts?

"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Shut up, Sulu, he thought – shut the fuck up, Sulu – it's just a matter of time before you say something you're going to regret, and you know it…

"Granted, of course, Lieutenant."

"Well, Captain, I'm just wondering – if we're docked here at Starbase, and pretty much not going anywhere… then, why do we need a full crew component on the bridge? All respect, Captain, it doesn't make sense."

The captain muttered something unintelligible under his breath – Sulu struggled in vain to understand him.

Because the captain couldn't possibly have said, "I told him you'd ask me that" – though that's what it had sounded like…

"Pardon, sir?"

"Ummm…. Yes, Lieutenant. It doesn't make sense. But it's… new Starfleet regulations, that we have to have a full crew on the bridge at all times in case of a… a potential security breach." With that, he quickly left the bridge – and how come Kirk gets to leave the bridge? That doesn't seem fair…

Hikaru decided that either his own brain had shut down due to tedium and exhaustion, or the captain had gone over the edge a little bit with all the unforeseen complications of the past few weeks.

Maybe both… hard to say, honestly.

Twenty-three hours into his sixteen-hour shift, Sulu was considering mutiny as a possible career option. Now it was well and truly Christmas Eve – and if he closed his eyes for a moment against the drag of exhaustion, it was all too easy for him to envision what Pavel would be doing down on Risa during his shore leave.

And to miss him, dammit...

Of course, Risa was hardly Hikaru's idea of the ideal spot to spend Christmas – as far as he knew, it had been specifically designed, in its function as a "leisure planet," to be all oceans, beaches, reef and surf. That was great, if you were into that – and Hikaru absolutely was, under the right circumstances.

But for Hikaru, the whole mystique of the Christmas season – further mystified for him because his own family's ancestral tradition was Buddhist, not Christian, and because his father the surgeon and his mother the botanist had steadfastly refused to celebrate any kind of religious holiday at all, just on general scientific principle – was all about the snow. The winter, the sleigh rides, the cocoa – and the snow.

Not that he'd ever actually seen any of those things in his life – well, except the cocoa, of course. Growing up in San Francisco had meant that he'd seen accumulating snow… exactly never. Not once – and he'd never been anywhere in his travels where he could have seen it, either. Which was ironic, considering that one of his favorite places to travel, ever since they'd become best friends at Starfleet Academy, was to visit Chekov's family in Russia. Though they were routinely up to their eyeballs in snowdrifts during the winter – and frequently the spring as well, Hikaru had only ever managed to visit them in the summer – when it most certainly wasn't hot, but when it was decidedly green and not white outdoors.

For now, at least, Hikaru's fantasy Christmas – complete with snow angels, crackling fire in a big stone fireplace, and hot cocoa with marshmallows – would remain just that. A fantasy.

And he'd be spending Christmas without snow, without Pavel…

and without so much as a fucking bathroom break, if things keep up like this.

If Hikaru was willing to admit it – and why not, at this point? – his Christmas gift for Pavel had probably been secretly inspired by his whole pointless dream of Christmas in the snow with his favorite Russian.

During their last visit to Chekov's family, Hikaru had been sure to spend a LOT of time with Pavel's grandmother, who was a fiend for knitting, and who always made lots of beautiful hats, scarves, mittens, and many other useful items for her family. With a minimum of badgering, he'd persuaded her to teach him how to knit – and she'd helped Hikaru find some particularly wonderful yarn to sneak back onto the ship with him for Pavel's Christmas surprise.

Carefully wrapped in festive paper, tucked into the back of a drawer where Pavel wouldn't be looking for it on one of his routine holiday-induced snooping missions, was the scarf that Hikaru had painstakingly knitted for him out of soft yarn in a gorgeous shade of blue that Hikaru had found specifically because it matched Pavel's eyes.

I am, he thought, the most pathetic fucking sap ever.

And if somebody doesn't hurry up and get me off this damnable bridge, I'm going to fall over and start drooling on the console…

"Captain?" The ensign who was replacing Uhura at the communications console – Sulu honestly had no clue who it was – called over from her station.

"Yes… Ensign?" Ha. Captain doesn't know her name either, Hikaru deduced.

"Captain, we're getting an unusual transmission from the planet – it has a Starfleet communication signature, but right now I can't get a fix on the exact source."

"Nature of the transmission, Ensign?"

"Unknown, sir – just a moment and I'll put it onto speaker so that you can hear it for yourself…"

The sound of static spit across the bridge, resolving itself into the sound of a human voice.

"... to Enterprise. Enterprise, do you read? Enterprise!"

Though it was hard to tell through the static, that voice sounded familiar.

"Enterprise here. Affirmative – we read." The unnamed ensign's voice was loud and clear.

"Repeat your message, please."

"Chekov to Enterprise."

Sulu immediately sat up straighter; any thought of his previous exhaustion – much less any lingering frustration with Pavel – brushed away by a sharp spike of panic. Chekov? What the hell is Pavel doing calling up on the main channel – and what's wrong? He doesn't sound like himself.

"Chekov to Enterprise. Unanticipated situation on-planet – experiencing…"

"Enterprise to Chekov – come in, Ensign Chekov."

Nothing. Kirk strode quickly to the Communications console.

"Chekov? Kirk here – come in, Chekov!"

More static. Then, "Keptin! " Pavel's voice sounded distant, strained. "Keptin, I'm…"

And then the static, and nothing.

Enough of this, Sulu thought. He jumped up from the helm, and went to stand beside Kirk.

"Captain, I don't know what the hell is going on down there, but Pavel needs help."

"That's possible, Lieutenant – though he didn't send up a distress call as such. Ensign, try again to get through to Chekov."

"Captain." The whole mutiny idea was sounding more and more appealing – did Kirk honestly not get it? "Can we really take that chance? Who knows what situation Pavel's in the middle of down there?"

Kirk wouldn't meet his eyes, and Sulu panicked again. What doesn't he want me to know? Is he going to leave Pavel down there – possibly in danger – because of his idiotic crew staffing ratio problems?

Well, Hikaru wouldn't have it. If the tables were turned and that were him down there, he knew Pavel wouldn't have it, either. They had each others' backs.

"Captain. Request permission to beam down to Risa and investigate Chekov's situation. Say what you want, Captain – he's not going to send up random transmissions on the main channel unless there's something weird going on."

Kirk paused, considering. "Dammit, Sulu – I don't feel right sending you down there alone to investigate a potentially dangerous situation… but I can't spare anybody else to go with you." He paused again, then nodded.

"Go. Ensign –" he turned to the confused girl at the console "—do we still have Chekov's coordinates?"

"Affirmative, sir. He seems to be inside a structure in the …"

"Don't need the details just now, Ensign. Provide the coordinates to the transporter bay. Sulu, get on down there. Let me know what's going on when you arrive. And…"

"Yes sir?"

"Good luck."

Hikaru barely heard him as he tore off toward the turbolift. There was no time to lose.

The place into which he transported, phaser drawn, was unidentifiable – there was complete darkness. As the ensign at communications had said, it seemed to be inside a structure – but where was…

"Chekov? Pavel? Are you in here?" Hikaru's voice was barely above a whisper – if Pavel was in here, he might not be alone, and there was no point drawing unnecessary attention to his own arrival.

"Hikaru – I knew you'd come." Movement in the darkness, then he could feel Pavel's arms wrapped around him.

"What happened? Are you OK? Are you being held here by someone?"

Then… Pavel laughed. Laughed!

"Put down the phaser, 'Karu." Pavel's arms tightened around him, and he nestled his head against Hikaru's shoulder. "I want to be held here by someone…"

Hikaru Sulu did not normally consider himself to be a stupid man. Now, he'd never place himself in the ranks of the ridiculously gifted like Pavel, but he was still smarter than most people.

But this situation had him completely baffled.

"Pavel. What the hell is going on? Has somebody done something to you? Is everything all right?" Pavel's embrace was certainly welcome, but his soft laughter was infuriating – and a little unnerving, as well. "Dammit – tell me what's going on!"

"Oh, 'Karu. I'm so sorry I scared you – I didn't mean to. But it was the only way I could think of to get you down here."

"To get me…Pavel." His blood ran cold. "What have you done?" More importantly, what would Kirk do, once he found out this was an elaborate ruse on Pavel's part?

Oh, shit. The surge of relief he had felt on finding Pavel safe and in one piece was quickly evaporating, as the horrifying array of possible consequences flew through Hikaru's brain.

He felt – the darkness made seeing impossible – Pavel moving away from him. Then he heard the odd sound of a match scratching, and at last he could see Pavel's face now by the flame of a single candle, The sight of that soft, tentative smile, those gorgeous eyes glowing in the golden light, made Hikaru's heart turn over.

No matter how much trouble they were going to be in, and no matter how much Pavel confused him – there was no denying that Hikaru had managed to land the most beautiful man in the galaxy.

"The Keptin knows, Hikaru. He is – how you say – in on it with me." Pavel pleaded with his eyes – and with the look Hikaru had christened his "puppy dog" face. "Don't be mad at me, please – it is your Christmas surprise from me. We have the next four days together, 'Karu – just us."

Pavel's eyes got even bigger in the ensuing silence. "Hikaru? You're not angry with me, are you? Because I didn't –"

Not for the first time, Hikaru determined that the best way to make Pavel stop talking was to give him something better to do with his mouth. Pulling him close again, he took Pavel's soft lips in a devastatingly tender kiss that went on and on, chuckling softly, knowingly, against Pavel's mouth as he felt Pavel's knees buckle just a little. Hikaru never got tired of being able to do that…

After the initial rush of contact had passed, Hikaru realized that whatever Pavel was wearing certainly wasn't standard Starfleet issue. His hands, moving up Pavel's back, were tangled in a soft, slippery material.

Intrigued, Hikaru broke away from the kiss – loving Pavel's tiny sound of indignant disappointment – and took a better look at the man in his arms by the light of the nearby candle.

Then his knees damn near buckled, as well. Pavel was wearing nothing but a brief, silky robe, the black fabric softly lustrous in the dim light. He'd never seen that robe before – and the unexpectedness of finding Pavel dressed in such a way was exhilarating, and unbelievably arousing as well.

The robe was starting to fall open, leaving little to Hikaru's imagination – and making it very clear indeed that Pavel was, um… glad to see him.

His breath caught just a little, and his voice was a bit hoarse when he tried to quip, "So, Pav – are you my Christmas present? 'Cause if you are, I'm loving the wrapping…" He dragged him closer again, devouring Pavel's mouth and relishing the insistent hardness that pressed against his hip as he felt the familiar tightening in his own groin in response.

Pavel pulled his mouth away now – his face flushed and his breathing ragged. "And you, Lieutenant Sulu, are wearing entirely too much for what I have in mind for you." He smiled wickedly, invitingly. "You don't know what you have coming, my friend."

"Oh, yeah? Well, I hope I know who I'll have coming…" Hikaru waggled his eyebrows and leered suggestively, laughing.

Pavel responded by cuffing him halfheartedly along the side of his head. "Shut up, funny man, and take your clothes off before I do it for you."

Pavel obviously had something in mind – and though Hikaru didn't know exactly what it was, he had a feeling he was going to like it.

"Get the clothes off, Sulu – and follow me." He lit another candle, and took it with him through a door that Hikaru hadn't seen previously.

Well, now – if that's the bedroom, we're definitely taking a step in the right direction…

Probably not, though – he could hear the sound of running water now. Also a fine idea – anything that involved water and himself naked with Pavel was going to be pretty wonderful. With that thought spurring him on, Hikaru quickly stripped, leaving his uniform in an uncharacteristically jumbled pile on the floor before following Pavel into the adjoining room…

…where possibly the most gorgeous, most outrageously enormous hot tub he'd ever seen was filling with steaming water. His body – the one that had just been on duty for the past 23 hours – almost groaned in approval.

Pavel approached him, holding out a robe identical to his own for him to slip on as well, with a smile on his face that just radiated happiness and affection. It was what Hikaru referred to in his own mind as Pavel's "I love you face" – and oh, he treasured that look.

Although they were wholeheartedly devoted to one another – and really, after all, they both already knew, didn't they? – neither of them had ever found the opportunity (or the nerve?) to say the actual words. Therefore, each of them found themselves surreptitiously watching the other for the looks, the gestures, the unspoken messages that reassured them that they were loved.

"You have got to be so tired after all that time on the bridge, da, 'Karu?" Pavel's voice was soft and warm, and flowed over Hikaru's still-ragged nerves like honey. "So tonight, you will just relax and I will make it all better. And I will not take no for an answer."

Hikaru laughed softly. "You weren't going to get no for an answer, Pav – God, it all sounds amazing." He closed his eyes and let his head drop back on a sigh of complete contentment as Pavel's hands came up to massage the horrible tightness out of his neck and shoulders.

"Come on, Hikaru – I've been filling this tub for hours, and now it's waiting for us. In we go."

Pavel let his robe slip off his shoulders, and Hikaru gasped as Pavel's lithe, gorgeous body was revealed, with the guttering shadows of the candlelight only accentuating the ridges of muscle and sinew. Nobody could imagine how surprisingly beautiful Pavel was without his clothes – and Hikaru was secretly, fiercely glad that he was the only one who knew.

Hikaru reached forward to grab Pavel, pull him close again, inhaling with a soft hiss at the unbelievably hot skin-to-skin contact. Mine, he thought with a possessive little growl, allowing his hands to skim the corded muscles of Pavel's back. All mine.

"Mmmm…Yes. All yours, Hikaru."

Well. Maybe that hadn't been a silent thought, after all. And of course it didn't matter, really. Especially since not only was Pavel all his, but he seemed pretty intent on getting them both into that delicious-looking hot tub – a worthy goal if ever Hikaru had known one.

Some time later – twenty minutes? An hour? A week and a half? -- Hikaru was convinced that he was so relaxed that he might never even be able to move again, much less actually get himself into a standing position to leave the hot tub. He'd never known that something as mundane as allowing someone else to shampoo your hair could be so… wonderful. And he'd had no idea that Pavel was absolute magic with a bar of soap. The tension, tedium, and frustration of the past day had simply vanished, leaving Hikaru flushed with sleepy warmth and nearly overwhelmed by the feeling of exhausted well-being that surged through him.

The fact that a naked, wet Pavel was draped across him as he relaxed against the side of the tub had nothing whatsoever to do with how good he felt. Of course not…

Then Pavel shifted, and those delicious lips were pressed softly against Hikaru's ear. "Come on, sleepyhead," he whispered. "We have to get you out of the tub before you get all pruny and wrinkled. And besides," his voice was warm with promise. "I am not done with you yet."

Hikaru found himself utterly unable to resist, and went along with the gentle hands that pulled him slowly to a standing position and then out of the tub. Before he had a chance to get chilly, Pavel was there with a huge fluffy towel, drying him off thoroughly before finding the discarded robe and helping Hikaru into it.

With no real knowledge of how he got there – exhaustion really was starting to take its toll – Hikaru found himself in the bedroom with Pavel. And what a bedroom it was; the bed itself was mammoth, with an intricately carved headboard and white linen sheets that seemed to glow with the light of the fire in the enormous stone fireplace on the other side of the room.

Somewhere in his mind came the sleepy, half-formed thought that he really had no idea where they were on Risa, or what kind of a place they were in. Pavel really had pulled one over on him. And…

"…It's almost Christmas now, Pav."

"Almost Christmas, Hikaru – but not quite. You will have to wait to open presents in the morning. For now, though –" he gave Hikaru a gentle shove so that he fell, sprawling backwards across the bed "–get comfortable. Think you can manage that?"

Comfortable? This bed was like heaven – especially after the not-one-inch-to-spare bunks provided by Starfleet. He could pretty easily envision spending their entire leave right here, doing all kinds of wonderful things to Pavel. Presents, indeed – who needed presents?

He just wished that his body would stop throwing him such contradictory signals. His brain was pretty close to shutting down entirely – Hikaru could feel himself being dragged into sleep – but his cock was not going along with that program. Not one bit. He groaned in sheer frustration with himself and this whole situation.

Pavel heard that groan, and moved to drape himself across Hikaru yet again. "What's the matter, babe? You all right?"

Automatically, Hikaru felt his arms coming up to surround Pavel and pull him in closer to himself, burying his nose in sweet-smelling, damp golden curls. "Yeah. Fine. Amazing. But, Pav – parts of me can't stay awake, and parts of me –" he moved his hips against Pavel for emphasis – "don't wanna go to sleep."

He wasn't sure what to make of the sweet smile Pavel gave him in response. "Tell you what, 'Karu," he murmured, his voice a rough purr of sensuality. "You let me take care of you tonight – I think I can fix it." His deft, graceful hands began a delightful exploration of Hikaru's body that was managing to relax him even more and to absolutely set him on fire – all at the same time. "You just lie back, let me make you feel good – and maybe I will have my wicked way with you… da?"

Hikaru's answering laugh was low and a little unsteady – his entire body seemed to approve wholeheartedly of that scenario. "Absolutely da, Pav. I'm all yours – whatever you want."

He heard Pavel's sharply indrawn breath, and the slight shudder as he released it. Obviously, he'd said what Pavel wanted to hear. Hikaru stretched luxuriously, and surrendered himself totally to the soft words, the strong hands, the hot mouth that moved together to make his pulse thunder in his own ears and drive him ever closer to the edge of his own control.

Nothing, nothing made sense anymore – and it didn't need to, as the boundaries between dream and reality stretched and blurred. The one anchor was Pavel – Hikaru knew that Pavel was there, and that he could let go and let Pavel take control as he let his mind shut down and allowed his body to just feel, experiencing sensations that threatened to overwhelm him completely. Somewhere on the edge of his consciousness, Hikaru registered that whatever Pavel's "wicked way" with him was, it sure wasn't going to take long…

Pavel – Pavel was working with the single-minded intensity that was uniquely his own to make him feel things he'd never imagined… his body was so impossibly hard and ohmygodsodamnhot, and then…

… It was all too much; Hikaru's world exploded around him in a blaze of heat and light, with Pavel's name ripped from his throat in a hoarse moan The sound of Pavel's broken cry close to his ear told him that wherever he'd gone, Pavel had come with him, and he smiled to himself as he felt Pavel collapse across him, a warm leg tangled between his own and the curly blond head resting on his chest.

Hikaru felt himself flooded with a wave of contentment and pure happiness.

Oh, my Pavel; I just love you so much, he thought.

Then Pavel froze completely – his head snapping up to look at him searchingly – and Hikaru realized that he'd done it again, and spoken his thoughts aloud.

Which was really not a problem, all things considered – because he meant it – meant it with all his heart, and he couldn't have kept those words out of his mind at that very moment if his life had depended on it.

After all this time of obsessively waiting for it to be just perfect, it turned out to be so simple, and absolutely the most natural thing in the world just to let it slip like this.

Having finally said the words did, however, mean that Hikaru was going to have to drag himself at least a little bit more toward consciousness – because if nothing else, he wanted to see Pavel's face when he said it again, which in turn meant that he was going to have to open his eyes. He blinked – brought Pavel's stunned face into focus – and smiled up at him with all the love in his heart.

"I love you, Pavel. Probably always have. Definitely always will." Damn, that felt good to say – and the look on Pavel's face was something that he'd never forget, no matter how exhausted and otherwise out of it he was. Pavel's smile –his beautiful blue eyes shining in the firelight – those were memories to store up.

"I love you too, Hikaru. For so long that I don't know when I started – but I know I'll never stop." Pavel's voice caught slightly; his eyes were suspiciously shiny, and Hikaru felt his own eyes stinging as he pulled Pavel back down into a fierce embrace. If they were going to cry, then, dammit, they could do it together – just like everything else.

"Hikaru! Enough sleeping. It's Christmas morning!"

He was being bounced to within an inch of his life by a ridiculously wide-awake and enthusiastic Russian – and responded by burying his head under the pillow.

Which was then unceremoniously yanked from his hands, and used to beat him. I need to remind myself to kill him later, Hikaru thought.

"No presents for you if you don't wake up!"

Wow – this was all really happening. It really was Christmas morning – and by the daylight now filtering in through the curtains at the windows, Hikaru could see that the room they were in was part of what looked to be a truly sumptuous suite. Pavel had obviously gone to a lot of expense and trouble – which was pretty much the most wonderful thing ever.

Strike that – Pavel was pretty much the most wonderful thing ever.

"Come on, Hikaru – get up, get dressed. Opening Christmas presents naked is not cool." He stopped, tilted his head in mock consideration. "And here I thought I'd want you doing everything naked. What's the matter with me?"

Hikaru laughed, noting absently that Pavel had managed at some point during the night to put on some pajama pants, and had achieved at least a bit of decency. "All well and good, Pavel – but it's not as though I packed a bag before I came charging down here to rescue you from God knows what."

"Ah, yes – my knight in shining armor." He pressed an affectionate kiss into Hikaru's mussed-up dark hair. "You have so little faith, 'Karu." Pavel reached into a dresser drawer near the bed, and tossed Hikaru his favorite pair of flannel pants. "Everything you're going to need – I brought it. Took me ages to get all your shit together, too." He smiled at him, an odd light in his eyes.

"Come on, Lieutenant Sulu. We have Christmas surprises."

Hikaru rolled out of bed, pulling on his pajama pants, and followed Pavel into the next room.

Holy shit.

"Pav – a Christmas tree?"

For indeed, there it was – a real, honest-to-God Christmas tree, with tiny twinkling lights and decorations. There were packages underneath, and two mugs steaming on the table nearby.

"Cocoa? You – you made cocoa?" Somehow, after all the other things – little and big – that had happened between them in the past few hours, this was the one that pushed Hikaru over the edge. If he'd been with anybody but Pavel, he'd have been humiliated that this adorable, goofy gesture caused him to burst into tears. Pavel, however, just smiled his sweet smile – absolutely his "I love you face" – and pulled him close.

"You deserve a real Christmas, 'Karu – because you're the best present I could possibly have, and I always want to make you as happy as you make me."

Hikaru's voice was muffled with his face against Pavel's shoulder. "I love you, Pav."

"Love you too, 'Karu. And you can keep saying that as many times as you want." Pavel gently extricated himself from the embrace. "But… presents, da?"

Presents. Shit. "But, Pavel, I…"

Pavel glared impressively, and stopped him with a warning hand. "Hikaru. I am disappointed – wounded! – by your lack of faith in me. Did I not tell you I packed your stuff? Did you think for one moment I was going to leave my present on the ship?" He shook his head in feigned exasperation. "Seriously. What must you think of me?"

Hikaru plunked down onto a huge, overstuffed leather chair between the fireplace and the tree, then reached out to pick up one of the cups of cocoa.

"I think, Pavel Chekov, that you are horribly sneaky and underhanded – and absolutely perfect. I can't imagine how any of this could be more wonderful, seriously."

Pavel gave him a somewhat enigmatic look. "I think you should wait before you say that to me, Hikaru. Let's just say I'm not done yet – and that's all I'm going to tell you for now."

He reached under the tree, and tossed a package to Hikaru. "For the last time, Mr. Sulu – it's Christmas, and I want to open presents."

They started with the presents from home – which Pavel had very carefully (devious little bastard, Hikaru thought) intercepted and hidden away when they had arrived on board the Enterprise. Hikaru received books from his own parents, and several music audio recordings from Pavel's parents. Pavel, on the other hand, got a huge box of Ghirardelli chocolate from the Doctors Sulu ("they know my sweet tooth," he'd exclaimed delightedly), and computer gadgetry from Mama and Papa Chekov.

Pavel's grandmother had knitted them both gorgeous sweaters and matching hats – and it didn't escape Hikaru's notice that Pavel's were both made from the same blue yarn she'd sent with him for Pavel's scarf. Pavel had pulled the hat on over his unruly curls – and sure enough, Hikaru felt his heart turn over at how the color accentuated those beautiful blue eyes. The scarf was going to be perfect.

"One of these days, we'll get a chance to wear all this warm stuff – maybe we'll manage to visit your folks in Russia when it's actually snowy, eh?" Meanwhile, Hikaru was getting an idea of how he could put Pavel's Christmas gift to an… interesting, unanticipated use.

Finding the package that he'd wrapped for Pavel, Hikaru rose from his chair to scoop it up and then walked toward the doorway.

"Pavel… I think we'll open this one –" he gestured with his chin toward the bedroom "—in there."

Pavel was plainly confused, but seemed more than willing to go along with this change in plans. "If you say so, Hikaru," he agreed – looking more than a little intrigued as they made their way back to the bedroom.

"Now," Hikaru instructed, "you sit." Obligingly, Pavel sat down cross-legged in the middle of the big bed, and waited with a small, expectant smile.

"This one, Pavel, is for you to unwrap – especially from me. Merry Christmas." He handed the squishy package over, and watched with glowing eyes as Pavel hesitated for just the barest moment before tearing into the bright paper.

Pavel was clearly delighted. "You didn't – you made this, didn't you? Oh, my God, 'Karu – you knitted me a scarf! When in the world did you find the time to do that without me finding out? I can't believe it! And it's perfect – it's gorgeous! I love it!" He tossed it around his neck then, and leaned forward to throw his arms around Hikaru in an exuberant embrace. Hikaru decided on the spot that this particular fashion statement – Pavel, wearing nothing but pajama pants and a soft knitted scarf draped over his bare shoulders – was probably the hottest damn thing he'd ever seen.

Pavel was looking at him with sudden concern clouding his eyes. "But, 'Karu – I didn't bring anything in for you to unwrap. I'll just –" He was surprised into silence by Hikaru's strong hand closing around his wrist as he started to get up off the bed.

"No. Stay right here. And…" Hikaru reached forward to slip the scarf off from around Pavel's neck, "… I'll take that, thank you."

"But, what are you going to... oh."

Pavel went silent again as Hikaru took both of his wrists then and began, gently but very determinedly, to wrap the scarf securely around them. He gave Pavel a look that was simultaneously request and demand – and Hikaru knew right away from Pavel's suddenly flushed cheeks and quickened breathing that he was going to get his way.

Never breaking eye contact, Hikaru took the free ends of the scarf and tied them firmly to the middle of the huge headboard, guiding Pavel down onto his back as he did so.

Your turn, he thought, remembering last night's agonizing pleasure. Now it would be Pavel who would lie still, and allow him his "wicked way" with the beautiful, graceful body stretched out so irresistibly in front of him, arms extended over his head and tied to the headboard with his new Christmas scarf.

Smiling knowingly into Pavel's eyes, Hikaru slid his hands gently down the gloriously silky skin of Pavel's sides and hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his flannel pants – which were already betraying Pavel's… enthusiastic approval of the unexpected turn of events. He followed his hands with his lips – dragging hot, open-mouth kisses down the planes and valleys of Pavel's chest and stomach, and reveling in the unbelievably arousing, completely incoherent little sounds he drew from his lover – his love – as a result.

The last articulate words from either of them for some time came from Hikaru as he made quick work of tossing Pavel's pants to the floor:

"See? You did bring me something to unwrap, after all…"

There was no telling how much later it was when Hikaru found himself slowly coming awake again; the overpowering sensations were those of warmth and comfort, and the wonderful, familiar feeling of being pinned to the bed by Pavel's unconscious dead weight on top of him. Pav was still sound asleep — snoring lightly, and drooling a little onto Hikaru's shoulder – and it occurred to him for the first time that while he had been stuck doing a marathon shift on the bridge of the Enterprise, Pavel had to have been working very hard as well to get all the details of this elaborate surprise to fall into place.

A surge of affection and gratitude constricted his throat and stung behind his eyelids, and Hikaru gently tightened his arms around this wonderful, sentimental, brilliant idiot of a man to whom he'd so totally given his heart. Pavel snuggled closer still in his sleep, softly sighing his approval before relaxing totally again.

There couldn't possibly be a better way to spend Christmas than this, Hikaru mused, contentedly allowing himself to drift in and out of a light doze as he listened to Pavel's slow, even breathing.

It was a while longer before Pavel finally woke as well – but unlike Hikaru, Pavel didn't do "drifting" – he was either sound asleep or wide awake, with very little in between. Hikaru opened his eyes as Pavel rolled away from him, stretching luxuriously.

"Pav – I never asked you; how the heck did you get Kirk to agree to let me go along with you?"

Pavel smiled gleefully over at him, a wicked twinkle in his eyes. "Oh, Hikaru – you truly have no idea how sneaky I can be, do you?" He went on to explain how his idea had begun to develop when he found out that the Enterprise would be docking near Risa, and how he'd managed to convince the captain to go along with his convoluted plan.

The idea of shore leave being offered only to those who celebrated Christmas had, it turned out, been entirely Pavel's – and the ruse was carried out solely so that he could get off the ship with enough advance time to arrange the necessary surprises for Hikaru's benefit.

"So, you're saying…"

"'Karu – there's nobody left on the Enterprise right now. The ship's in dry dock at the Starbase – you know as well as I do that they don't need a crew. There were only maybe a dozen people on board with you anyway, and they all took off for their own shore leaves about five minutes after you were off the ship." Pavel looked just ridiculously pleased with himself. "They're all down here on the planet, somewhere." He leaned down to kiss Hikaru with heart-stopping tenderness. "Just not with us."

"Pavel Andreyevich Chekov, you are a frightening, devious man." Hikaru kissed him in return, equally tenderly. "I am – not for the first time – profoundly relieved that you are on my side."

Pavel found that exceptionally funny – and Hikaru found himself loving Pav's happy, carefree laugh.

"Well, 'Karu… we still have some unfinished business to take care of, don't we? I got my present from you, but -" that wonderful laugh again "— I got a little bit tied up, and didn't get a chance to give you your gift. So, you wait here while I got get you your present." He turned and pulled his pajama pants back on again before walking out of the room.

"Want me to bring you some more cocoa?"

"You bet, Pav – no such thing as too much cocoa."

A few minutes later, Pavel reappeared with the cocoa – and marshmallows, of course – along with an oddly-shaped package, rather awkwardly wrapped in festive paper and tied with a big, shiny red ribbon. He placed the cocoa on the night stand next to Hikaru balancing the package carefully as he climbed back onto the bed.

"Now, Hikaru – here is your present from me. And since you got help from home – or at least I'm assuming it was my grandmother who taught you to knit, da? – then it is all right that I got help from home as well." He held the package out, with the slightest uncertainty in his smile. "I hope you like it."

"Pav – I can tell you right now, sight unseen, that I love it, OK? If you got it for me, I love it. Now – let's see what it is…" Gently, Hikaru reached over to untie the ribbon, and remove the paper from –

"Viscum Album! Pavel… you didn't! How did you -- you got me mistletoe!" With that, Hikaru Sulu, Botany Geek, came to the fore, as he enthusiastically examined the shiny, dark green foliage and waxy white berries of the little potted plant in his hands.

"Seriously, this is… it's perfect. Perfect." Hikaru could feel the grin stretching across his face. "You had my mom help you with this, didn't you?"

Pavel nodded. "I was trying to think of some kind of plant that would be good for Christmas. First I thought holly would be good, or maybe a poinsettia – but then your mom reminded me of the whole idea behind the mistletoe." He raised a suggestive eyebrow. "I always did like your mom…"

Smiling at Pavel with his heart in his eyes, Hikaru reached down and broke off the tiniest end of one of the stems of mistletoe – then took the little sprig and nestled it into the unruly curls that threatened to spill across Pavel's forehead.

"There – that works. Now, according to tradition, since you're under the mistletoe, I pretty much have to keep kissing you, like, constantly." Leaning forward, he proceeded to do exactly that. "My mom is one hell of a smart woman."

"You get no argument from me, my friend. But…" Pavel pulled away and rolled off the bed.

"One more surprise. Just one. But first - " he reached for Hikaru's hand and tugged him off the bed as well, "—you have to get up, and get dressed, because we're going out. So… come."

For the first time that entire day, Hikaru felt a little hesitant. Yes, the day had all been perfect – and he knew that whatever Pavel had planned would be wonderful – but honestly, he was loving the illusion of his fantasy Christmas, and it would be shattered as soon as they went out onto the tropical beaches.

Pavel has gone to so much trouble to make this perfect. And you're going to love whatever he's got planned, Sulu – even if you don't.

"Okay, Pav – I'm guessing you've packed whatever I'll need, right?" He wasn't even sure he owned a swimsuit – but no doubt Pavel would have taken care of that, as well.

Frighteningly devious, this Pavel Chekov. No wonder Hikaru loved him so much.

The frighteningly devious Pavel Chekov had that tentative, uncertain look on his face again – the one that made Hikaru want to kiss him breathless – or, at the very least, to do whatever it took to reassure him.

"Pavel – I know whatever this new surprise is, it'll be fantastic. Do you have any idea – any at all – how happy you've made me? This is the best Christmas I've ever, ever had – and I can't imagine what would make it better. Seriously."

"I guess we'll see, 'Karu – but for now, get dressed." Surprisingly, Pavel tossed him a pair of his jeans and the new sweater Pav's grandmother had knitted – a dark brown as opposed to the soft blue of Pavel's.

"I have to admit something to you, Hikaru," Pavel smiled sheepishly. "I asked my grandmother to make you a sweater to match your eyes. I am a sentimental idiot, da?" His gaze raked appreciatively over Hikaru in the soft new sweater. "But I'm a smart sentimental idiot – because you look gorgeous."

Hikaru was experiencing the now-familiar feeling of being completely baffled – because a sweater and jeans were most certainly not going to cut it out on the beach. He didn't even know how to ask Pavel what was going on at this point.

"You know, you're going to hate to hear this, but you are adorable when you're confused." Pavel brushed a quick kiss onto the tip of his nose, and took his hand. "Come to the window, 'Karu – I need to show you something."

Pavel drew the curtains, and for the first time, Hikaru got a glimpse of where they were.

And – oh, my God. There was snow. Piles of it, drifts of it, snow as far as he could see – on the ground, falling from the sky, just… everywhere.

"Snow, Pav? Seriously? How the hell did you manage…"

Pavel laughed delightedly at the shock – and the sheer joy – on Hikaru's face. "For once it wasn't me who managed it, my love. This is the newest resort on Risa – and it's just for people like me and you, who want to be in the snow instead of on the beach. This chalet -" he gestured to the suite around them "—is part of a ski resort – and tomorrow, if you want to, I'll show you how to ski. But for now, we have something else to do. So, let's go get coats, da?"

Hikaru was speechless – this was all just far too much for him. So, wordlessly, he followed Pavel to a closet where he'd stowed their winter coats, and from there to the door that led outside.

The snow even smelled amazing – the clean, brilliant whiteness surrounding them was nearly overwhelming. It had never occurred to Hikaru that the snow would create a natural hush in their surroundings – but he loved the unusual quiet, all the same.

Then that quiet was broken by the sound – distant, but drawing nearer – of tinkling bells, and something that sounded suspiciously like the sound of horses' hooves.

"Pavel – it isn't… You didn't…"

"It is, and I did. You, my dearest love, are going on a sleigh ride."

"And we'll make snow angels?" Hikaru was grinning like a six-year-old; this was the most wonderful Christmas – hell, the most wonderful anything – ever.

"We will make snow angels." Pavel was grinning as well, reflecting Hikaru's joy back to him.

"And, Hikaru…" Pavel's eyes were gleaming wickedly.

Now Hikaru was just a little suspicious. He had not forgotten that Pavel was Frighteningly Devious.

"Ummm… yes, Pavel?"

"You didn't happen to notice where the mistletoe has gotten to, did you?"

It was, in fact, no longer in Pavel's hair – but in the excitement of the snow, the sleigh, the angels – the general wonderfulness of everything, Hikaru hadn't kept track of the little sprig he'd detached from the plant.

He followed Pavel's eyes, now – downward to where he now saw the mistletoe festively fastened…

…into the buckle of his own belt.

"Pavel… out here? In the snow – seriously? What are you going to…"

"Absolutely, out here. Hikaru, my love, I am going to take you out behind one of these big, fluffy drifts, and you are going to learn the meaning of a…"

"Don't tell me. A… snow job?"

Pavel's laugh was wicked – and absolutely wonderful.

And Hikaru was lost – he knew it.

And he couldn't possibly care less. He leaned in for a quick, hard kiss as the snow fell around them.

"Merry Christmas, Pav."