A/N: Hmm. Okay. So this is the first story I've written about Chekov and Sulu (and by far, it's the longest story I've got on here, excluding ones with chapters, but I simply couldn't shorten any of it). And...yeah. Hah. I really don't have a whole lot to say about it. I kind of like it-ish, but that's really up to you all to decide :) Let me know what you think and I'll possibly write more Chulu goodness in the future. I certainly enjoyed it.


Disclaimer: Star Trek doesn't belong to me, et cetera, yuck.


"Mr. Chekov? Mr. Chekov, are you all right?"

Pavel Andreievich Chekov looked up to see the eyes of Jim Kirk staring down at him, one eyebrow arched in confusion. "You've been staring at the viewscreen for the past five minutes," the captain said. "What's wrong?"

Chekov blinked as he looked back at his captain. It had been a slow, boring day on the Enterprise, and the Ensign couldn't stand it. Without having something to occupy his brain, he'd allowed his mind to travel to darkened places, weakening him emotionally. His eyes, lacking any sparkle whatsoever, flickered towards the pilot that sat across from him, looking at Chekov with intrigue. The boy's eyes quickly found Jim's again, instantly regretting allowing them to stray in the first place.

"N-nozing, Keptin, m-my mistake," he stuttered in reply, knowing that Jim could see right through his lie. The navigator turned his chair and faced away from him, the blush creeping to his face. "I will get started on ze p-plot course, sir."

The captain watched in remorse as he watched the Ensign's fingers fumble on the screen. Jim strongly disliked having his closest crewmembers be incapable of working, and since Chekov was the youngest on the ship, he felt as if it were his duty to care for him. With a sigh, he felt the only action necessary was to relieve the navigator of duty, despite that Chekov was one of the best helmsmen on the ship.

"Mr. Chekov, I believe you should take the rest of the day off," he said, going back to his chair. "That's an order."

The boy sighed, forcing himself to look back at Jim. "B-but Keptin, I am perfectly capable of—"

Jim interrupted him. "No. You need rest," he said. "Mr. Sulu, would you please ensure that our navigator gets to his quarters?" he inquired, his gaze shifting to the pilot.

Sulu, having listened intently to the conversation, but with an aching heart, looked in sorrow at his fellow helmsman. "Of course, Captain," he complied, almost at a loss for words himself. His dark eyes looked at Chekov's downtrodden figure, the sight nearly unbearable. He stood up, placing a hand on the navigator's shoulder and speaking to him reassuringly.

"It's okay," he murmured. "I'll help you."

Chekov sat up in bed in a cold sweat, having dreamt of the day's earlier events. His breathing was erratic, heart pounding recklessly, and he found himself completely dizzy from having awoken so quickly. Hugging his knees to his chest, he buried his face in the blanket, attempting to force his pulse to a lower rate. There were so many things that troubled him, so many questions, so much that affected him on a daily basis. The issues that plagued his brain rendered him incapable of doing his job correctly on the ship, forcing him into an emotional stalemate, feeling nothing.

And he hated himself for it.

He had no answer for why the day's occurrences had cropped up during his sleep, causing him to toss and turn until he was jolted awake by pure fear. And of all things, his subconscious imagined the pilot of the Enterprise? He wouldn't dream of Sulu, he hadn't dreamt of Sulu, and yet, despite his efforts to sway his mind otherwise, he knew he had. It was undeniable.

Groaning to himself, he looked at the clock, and realized that there was a little over an hour until the next day began. Chekov had been both apprehensive and excited for the following day, but at the moment, he was simply miserable. Ignoring the throbbing pain in his head from his nightmare, he hoped that a small walk through the ship would clear his brain and allow him to sleep, maybe for a few hours, maybe forever, but enough to relieve the internal and external pain he felt so frequently. Over the years, Chekov had become a master of disguise ever since he'd joined Starfleet, hiding all emotions to the point where even Spock himself couldn't compete with him.

The boy stood up, running a hand through his curls, damp with sweat. He sighed, which came out as more of a shudder, and swung his legs over the bed and into his black boots, feeling too lazy to throw on a sweater over his uniform, which he'd fallen asleep in earlier. Struggling to stand up, Chekov made his way over to the door, departing his quarters and into the darkness of the ship, fighting the images that came to his mind.

"Look, Chekov, you need anything, just let me know, okay?" Sulu's voice was soft as he escorted the navigator back to his room, punching in the override code since Chekov appeared far too exhausted to do it himself. He cocked his head and looked at the boy with concern filling his eyes, hardly daring to leave the struggling navigator alone.

"Z-zank you, Meester Sulu," the Ensign choked out, his eyes glued to the floor. "But I will be all right."

Sulu still wouldn't believe him, but he had no choice; he had to get back to the bridge and resume his duty until later that evening. He sighed, looking at the younger boy with worry. Chest tightening, he fought to produce words of solace, but all he could choke out was, "Okay."

And with that, he patted the boy on the arm lightly, sending a shiver down Chekov's spine, and left the boy to his rampaging thoughts.

Chekov held his breath and fought back sadness as he trudged his way to the kitchens, remembering all the advice that Scotty had given him over time. Despite shaking uncontrollably, he was still a whiz, and he'd easily been able to crack the code on the hidden whiskey cabinet, taking out a large bottle of alcohol and a glass. He bit his lip as he poured a small bit into the bottom of the glass, the smell already reaching his nose. Placing the large bottle back on the shelf, he swirled the whiskey in the glass, watching it splash up the sides and drip back down. Sighing, Chekov raised the glass to his lips and squeezed his eyes shut as he downed it quickly.

Coughing and spluttering at the burn of the alcohol, the glass slipped from his hands, but as he dove to catch it, his body slammed into the cabinet with a loud thud. Chekov swore under his breath in Russian as he collapsed to the floor, watching in horror as a metal box atop the cabinet fell with an audible clang. It had almost certainly woken the entire ship, but as the boy sat for several moments, breathing softly and fearfully, he heard no noise that would suggest anyone had left their bed to inspect the noise. His eyes watered with tears, but he refused to let them fall, fighting the weakness that plagued him.

Chekov stood up, placing the glass on a countertop and extracting another one, heading over to an icebox in the corner. Jim had made sure that when he needed it, there would be milk for Chekov, and the Russian exhaled slowly as he opened it to reveal a few jugs of the white liquid. It had been several months since he needed its solace, but he had never before desired it as much as he did now. Trembling slightly, he leaned down to pick up one of the heavy jugs and poured it into the clean glass. He drank from it, slowly this time, until it was about half empty, and wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve. The cooler drink felt much better in his system than the alcohol had, and for a few moments, he was content, forgetting everything that hurt him.

"Hello? Who is there?"

Chekov froze at the voice, snapping out of his calm trance with the glass of milk still clutched in his hand. His eyes darted to the door, seeing no one at first. The breath came slowly from his lungs as he backed away, his body pressing against the rear wall as a shadow emerged from the corridor and into the kitchens. The Ensign felt as if he were to faint when he saw the figure enter the room he was secluded in.

"Mr. Chekov?"

The boy watched in both horror and relief as the thin frame of Hikaru Sulu came through the doorway. His appearance was rumpled, as though he had just sprung out of bed. A jacket was thrown over his black Starfleet pajamas, and he had circles under his eyes, yet he looked at the Chekov with utmost concern. His gaze traveled from the open whiskey cabinet, to the glass of milk, and the metal box on the floor, putting the puzzle pieces together within seconds. Sulu tilted his head to the side, returning his eyes to Chekov's protective body against the wall, his heart straining at the sight. "Are you all right?"

The navigator made no verbal reply except for a soft "da," averting his gaze and slumping further against the wall.

Sulu wasn't convinced in the slightest. "You are shivering," he remarked quietly, crossing over to the younger Ensign. He took off the jacket that he was wearing and wrapped it around Chekov's shoulders, which were indeed trembling. The boy forced a small smile of gratitude, but he still would not look the pilot in the eyes, for fear that he would collapse to the ground in hysterics. The milk in the glass he held in his shaking hands splashed over the top slightly, dripping to the kitchen floor. Sulu noticed this, immediately feeling a pang of remorse in his chest.

"Come on," he said softly, placing an arm on Chekov's back lightly in an attempt to restrain his shivering and comfort him. "Let's get you warm, and then we can talk about what's bothering you, okay?"

The Ensign nodded slightly, his voice choked as he replied. "Okay."

Sulu's arm was still around the boy as he led him out of the kitchen, turning off the lights and escorting Chekov down the dimly lit corridor. He propped up the young Russian, trying his very best to push him onward; Chekov was taking small, shuffling steps. Half of his body wanted nothing other than to run from Sulu's grasp, far away, and never look back, but the other half desperately needed the comfort that the pilot provided. It was something he had not experienced in a long time, since he had lived with his family on Earth, and he craved the solace more than anything. Chekov's head throbbed painfully with these thoughts as the pair trudged on, steps in sync, eventually arriving at Chekov's quarters for the second time that day. The older man still supported the younger, not daring for one instant to let him go.

"Lights fifty percent," Sulu ordered as he assisted the shaking Ensign, helping him to sit down on the foot of the bed carefully. He removed his contact, though rather regrettably. Gripping the thick blanket in his hands, he pulled it up around Chekov's unsteady body, both of them instantly feeling a small rush of relief. Perhaps it was the lighting, or perhaps it was Sulu's vision playing tricks on him, but either way, he observed a sunken look upon the boy's face that he had never seen before. He would rarely ever admit it, but it frightened him deeply.

His eyes traveled over Chekov's averted face, from the darkened eyes, to the reddened nose, to the lower lip that he was biting furiously. Sulu gripped a nearby chair and dragged it over to the edge of the bed, sitting upon it and tilting his head inquiringly towards the boy's gaze.

"Now," he said calmly, "would you like to tell me what is wrong?"

Chekov made no verbal reply, but instead shook his head and brought the glass to his lips, attempting to drink from it without spilling yet again. As he felt his heart rise to his throat, he forced it back down again with the cool liquid, making every attempt not to vomit right there. He was hardly more successful in drinking this time than he had been before, and he sighed quietly.

Sulu was still watching the boy intently, wondering what could possibly be going through his mind. The pale skin on his innocent face showed nothing but despair and sadness, breaking the pilot's heart the longer he stared. His approach to helping Chekov would have to be gentle and delicate, but he refused to give up and let the boy suffer. "Is it someone on the ship?" he questioned lightly. "Did they do something to you?"

His voice was reassuring, but no avail. Chekov shook his head once more, his body tilted away from Sulu. Chekov's refusal to answer only frustrated the pilot, but he forced his patience to persevere. At this moment, he would do almost anything to help him, and thought as deeply as he could. He leaned forward slightly, trying to see into Chekov's eyes. There was very little there; the darkness clouded the sparkling light that had once existed. Never before had he seen the navigator in such a way, and it pained him to a great extent. He would simply have to remember that Chekov was several years his junior, and still just a child…

Suddenly, it clicked in Sulu's mind and he quirked an eyebrow in question. "Just a child…" he murmured, hoping the Ensign wouldn't hear. Raising his voice slightly, he said, "Tomorrow's your birthday, isn't it?"

Chekov's head shot up, his eyes shimmering. The glass slipped from his hands, shattering to pieces and spilling milk all over the floor. His gaze was fixated on Sulu, fingers clenching around the space where the glass had been merely seconds before. His strength was failing, becoming more emotionally weakened by the minute. He could not, and would not, let anyone see his turmoil, his pain, but he could no longer stop himself from breaking completely.


The pilot nodded once, beginning to understand. Chekov's forced answer and terrified appearance was slowly beginning to make sense. He rose from his chair swiftly and walked to a dresser in the corner, pulling out the second drawer and retrieving a towel. In an attempt to ease the atmosphere, he smiled slightly and said, "You know what they say…Don't cry over spilled milk." His joke did not produce any positive reaction from the boy as hoped, but he tried to clean up the liquid anyway.

Guilt quickly washed over the Russian boy as he snapped back into reality, and he instantly sprang up to help, swiping the tear from his eye. "I'm wery sorry," he choked, bending down to pick up the broken glass.

"Careful," Sulu said quickly. "Don't—"

He was cut off a moment later by a sharp cry of pain from the Ensign. Chekov immediately dropped the red-tinted glass pieces from his hand as the blood streamed from his palms. His eyes shot toward Sulu apologetically before standing up, turning his back on the pilot as he isolated himself in a corner of the room where he would not have to look at him, sniffling back tears. Chekov was utterly terrified that Sulu would be furious, filled with regret, wishing only to send the boy out of his quarters in loathing. As the younger Starfleet member pondered this, he tore off his gold shirt, standing clad in all black as he wrapped his uniform around his hands to avoid soiling the floor further.

However, while he was pondering this, he had no inclination that Sulu's heart was beating recklessly in its cavity, never once taking his eyes off Chekov.

"—cut yourself," he finished slowly. He sighed as he watched the boy drown in pathetic misery, and Sulu abandoned cleaning altogether, striding over to Chekov. The injured navigator had resumed trembling as his shirt slowly became stained with blood. He could feel nothing; thinking and breathing had escaped him, and the will to live had all but disappeared. The physical and emotional pain that plagued him like a disease caused the self-hatred to bubble heatedly. He despised himself, everything he had become, and he felt the hope inside quickly vanquish.

"Pavel…" Sulu whispered, changing to a more comfortable, first-name basis. He wanted, needed the Russian to understand his perspective, that he was undoubtedly the one that cared the most on the entire ship. He held the greatest optimism, the most desire for Chekov to be happy, and he refused to give in. Outstretching his hand, he attempted to reach out to the Ensign in more than one manner. "Talk to me. Please. I want to help…"

The moment that Sulu's hand landed lightly on Chekov's shoulder, the navigator whipped around, his eyes glassy and fierce. "Why?" he growled, but Sulu could hear his voice tapering. "So you can treat me like everyone else? Pavel Andreievich Chekov, ze sewenteen-year-old little baby of ze Enterprise? I may be young, Meester Sulu," he fired, his fingers painfully gripping around his shirt, "but I am not stupid. I gawe up my entire life to be on zis wessel, sacrificed my childhood to study. And for what? For zis?"

He shook his head, more firmly this time around. It was the closest Chekov had ever gotten to screaming at someone, and Sulu was utterly bewildered. The Russian was finally releasing what he had bottled up for so long; his anger towards his treatment on the ship, the overwhelming kindness that Sulu was giving him, and the lost joy he had once felt were completely overwhelming. There had been no time in his life where he had opened up to someone so greatly, and although he felt slight regret, he simply could not stop the emotions that were pouring from the shattered emotional dam inside him.

"I cannot take it anymore, Meester Sulu," Chekov said, his voice down to a whisper. "I…I cannot…"

His sorrowful eyes connected with the darker, sympathetic ones of the pilot, and at last he released his emotions, the tears streaming from his eyes mercilessly. It is over, he thought. All his hard work to keep himself contained was abandoned in a single moment, and he resorted to being the child he knew he was.

Chekov shuddered as he sobbed, automatically leaning forward and placing his head on Sulu's shoulder. Without hesitating for a single moment, Sulu pulled him closer, wrapping his strong fencing arms around the boy's back and moving his hand in circles to calm Chekov down. The navigator detested everything he'd become, so weak and so fragile. And yet, as he stood in his own quarters, contained in Sulu's embrace, he understood it all. He'd given up absolutely everything, a normal childhood, to gain intelligence with dreams of being in Starfleet, to make something of his life. But then again, if he had never worked as hard as he did, he never would have been accepted at such a young age, never been recruited for the U.S.S. Enterprise, never been acquainted with Hikaru Sulu, the only person on the entire ship to care as much for him as his own family did…and possibly more.

"Shh…" Sulu whispered reassuringly, still gently massaging Chekov's back. He murmured a few phrases that weren't in English, a low, humming sound emitting from his vocal chords. Though Chekov couldn't tell whether the words were meant for him or not, they were soft and kind, calming his nerves ever so slightly. The pilot carefully pulled the navigator away from him, his hands still remaining on either of his shoulders. "Let's get you cleaned up, okay?"

Chekov responded with a sniffle and a nod, allowing Sulu to escort him to the bathroom adjoining his quarters, helping the younger boy to sit on the edge of the bathtub. Sulu produced another clean towel, running it under warm water in the sink. Carefully, he took the towel in one hand and used the other to hold the back of Chekov's neck lightly, keeping it in place as he moved the warm towel across the navigator's forehead and cheeks, clearing it of salty sweat and tears. Even Sulu's light touch had reduced Chekov's trembling almost completely, and he did not flinch when Sulu tenderly moved across his closed eyelids and nose with the towel.

Sulu painfully watched the Ensign's face as he cared to it, the emotional collapse clearly distinguishable. His chest tightened as he observed the lack of color in Chekov's cheeks, the darkened circles under his closed eyes from lack of sleep, and the redness of his nose from crying. The pilot sighed, biting his lip in thought as he ran the towel under the water again, squeezing out excess liquid. He was on the verge of a breakdown himself at the sight of his closest friend in such a state, but he forced himself to remain strong, for Chekov's sake.

"Let me see your hands," he said, a direct order but a soothing one nonetheless. When Chekov hesitated, Sulu smiled slightly, despite Chekov's eyes still being shut. "Pavel?"

The Ensign's lip trembled as he opened his eyes and slowly unwrapped his hands from his stained uniform. The cuts weren't deep, but they still stung, with blood still oozing out slightly. Sulu took the towel again, cupping Chekov's left hand in his own and cautiously wiped the blood off his pale skin. Chekov's eyes squinted in agony, a hiss emitting from his throat, and Sulu immediately murmured an apology, subconsciously squeezing Chekov's wrist lightly. The navigator let out a long, low breath as Sulu repeated the actions on his other hand, removing all traces of the sticky blood. He placed the towel and uniform in the sink, making a mental note to wash them later, and reached in a cabinet for a set of bandages, taking Chekov's hands in his own once again.

"This should prevent them from bleeding again," he mused, feeling a sharp pang in his chest when Chekov winced slightly. He felt miserable for causing the boy more pain than necessary, caring about him far too deeply to see him hurt. Very lightly, he taped the white bandages between Chekov's thumb and forefinger on both hands, wrapping it around securely. They would be healed within a day or so, but Sulu absolutely refused to see him injured once more on his lack of care. Never again would he allow himself to abandon Chekov in his time of need. He simply couldn't live with himself otherwise.

"Z-zank you," Chekov said softly, his voice regaining composure. He looked at his hands now, the wounds suppressed beneath Sulu's tender concern.

The pilot nodded. "Of course," he replied. In truth, he couldn't possibly think how Chekov would have been better off; if he'd gone down to sickbay, McCoy most likely would have been harsh from his disturbed sleep, giving Chekov a hypo and sending him off to bed. If Spock had found him, Chekov would have been at the mercy of a long, logical explanation for why he was trembling in the kitchens, alone. Even if Jim had discovered him, he wouldn't have received nearly as much careful treatment as Sulu provided. In a way, it had benefited both Sulu and Chekov that they were in each other's vicinity, and it had become almost…perfect.

Chekov had stood up, though he was still rather unstable. He looked at Sulu with wide, apologetic eyes, feeling awful for having burdened Sulu in this manner. "You didn't have to do zis for me," he said quietly. "But I appreciate it."

Sulu smiled fully now. "Of course I did," he repeated, and it was the truth. Reading the Ensign's mind, he added, "It's not a problem in the slightest."

The pilot gently clapped Chekov on the back, more in a comforting way than a joking one. He crossed the bathroom and back into the navigator's quarters, dragging the chair back to its position at the desk. As soon as he was about to pick up his jacket off Chekov's bed and head for the door, however, he heard a soft sound from behind him, freezing him in his tracks.

"You're…you're not going, are you?" Chekov whimpered slightly, emerging from the bathroom and standing in the doorway. His eyebrows were creased in sadness and guilt, simultaneously wanting the pilot to leave and remain.

Sulu sighed, straightening up as he looked at the boy from across the room. "Would you like me to stay?" He almost knew what the answer would be from the minute he released the question, and secretly hoped he was correct.

"Da," Chekov replied quietly, his lower lip shaking in fear that Sulu would refuse. "Please?"

Sulu nodded. "Yes. I'll stay."

Chekov breathed a sigh of relief. "Zank you," he said again, moving towards his bed. He sat on the edge, putting his head in his bandaged hands. Though his speech was somewhat muffled, the pilot could just barely distinguish Chekov's words. "I…I don't know what I would do wizout you, Meester Sulu…"

The pilot couldn't help but curl his lips upwards slightly. "Pavel…" he said, sitting himself down on the edge of the bed. "You are my friend, are you not?" The Ensign nodded, his head still in his hands, which Sulu took as a sign to continue, heart pounding recklessly in its cavity. "Then you know that I would do anything to help you."

Blinking curiously, the navigator removed his hands from his face, upturning his head to look at Sulu and almost gasping out loud. He hadn't realized how closely the pilot had sat down next to him, their faces less than a foot apart. And yet, it didn't bother him in the slightest, but rather, it comforted him, knowing that Sulu would remain if Chekov so desired. "Zen…you should know somezing."

Sulu cocked his head to the side, perplexed. "What is it?" he inquired, genuinely worried.

The boy inhaled carefully before speaking. "I turn eighteen in less zan an hour," he replied soberly. "And after zat, I can legally make my decision…zat I will leave Starfleet…and go home to Russia."

It was as though someone had taken a hammer and smashed Sulu's heart to pieces; he lost all awareness of his surroundings, feeling as though he were to pass out. Chekov…leaving Starfleet? It shouldn't happen, it couldn'thappen, but despite Sulu's wishes, he could see from the boy's face that he was entirely serious. Rendered completely incapable of speaking, he could do nothing but simply stare at the navigator, his mouth hanging open slightly in a silent gasp. As if the roles were reversed, he was now the one on the verge of tears, feeling the emotions bubbling inside him like water in a steaming kettle. Before he could find his voice, however, Chekov had accidentally taken his silence in the wrong manner.

"You do not care," he said angrily, gritting his teeth. "You…you want to see me go, don't you? Zat way I won't…burden you…anymore…" His voice trailed off at the end, feeling betrayed by Sulu, though his accusation was entirely false. In an instant, Sulu snapped out of his trance and looked Chekov in the eyes.

"I do care. You can't go. You just can't," he pleaded, his voice dropping down an octave, the words rushing together. "What will you do without Starfleet?"

Chekov shrugged. "Be wiz my family, I suppose," he said. "Find a job zat does not…pain me so."

Sulu arched an eyebrow that could compete with Spock's signature move. "Pain you so?" he questioned, his fingers gripping his own knees. Had he allowed an external force to slip by and hurt Chekov without his recognition? "What pains you?"

The boy shifted his position, facing away from Sulu ever so slightly. The words rushed through his head, unsure of what to say in response. He had no desire to say the truth, so he blatantly lied. "Nozing of your concern," he said almost coldly, averting his darkened eyes. His back was half turned in Sulu's direction, shielding himself from view. The pilot struggled for breath as he pleaded to the boy.

"Please, Pavel," he begged softly. "Tell me what's wrong. I care. You know this." Sulu's hand reached up and landed on the shoulder that was closest to him, feeling the firm muscles tense under his touch. He responded by gripping Chekov a little bit more strongly, praying that the Ensign would give him some insight.

Chekov's head shot in his direction, his eyes once again glistening with the onset of sorrow. "I-I cannot bear to be in…your wicinity any longer," he murmured, each syllable trembling as he released them. He shook his head gradually. "I must…go away from you."

Millions of thoughts swept through Sulu's mind, none of which made any sense in the slightest. Comprehending Chekov's statements was nearly impossible at the rate he was thinking, and he felt compressed, his chest aching. The hand upon Chekov's shoulder tightened even more, releasing an almost painful hiss from the boy, but neither of them acknowledged it much. Sulu had the inability to form words of his own, and instead resorted to repeating what Chekov had said. "You…can't be near me…anymore?" he said, struggling for phrases.

"Zat is correct," Chekov said firmly, his eyes fiery. On the outside, his strength was merely a cover, shielding his internal and massive amount of remorse. He decided that the best way to tell Sulu would be with the least amount of emotion possible, but it was proving to be more difficult with each passing second.

"Why?" Sulu asked bluntly, finally regaining the ability to speak for himself. "What have I done to force you away from me?"

Chekov didn't answer right away, his self-control wearing thin. He bit his lip once more in hesitation. Frustrated, Sulu shook Chekov's shoulder, almost crying in desperation. "For God's sake, Pavel, tell me what I have done to you!"

Sulu hardly ever cursed, but he was at his wit's end, his emotions tearing him apart bit by bit. He'd hurt Chekov in some way, he was sure of it, and he'd never forgive himself for doing so. Nearly shouting, he attempted to force Chekov to face him, but his efforts were useless.

"First you want me to stay, then you want to leave!" he nearly howled. "Will you just make up your mind?"

"It is not zat simple!"

Sulu's breath hitched in his throat at Chekov's screeching reply, his head snapping over his shoulder to look at the pilot. His cheeks were reddened, eyes narrowed, but at the frightened and intense fire in Sulu's eyes, his face softened.

"I am wery sorry," he responded, relaxing the upset expression in his face. "I am afraid that I cannot stand it when…we are not on equal grounds considering emotions."

"Equal grounds?" Sulu had resorted to repetition yet again, but he simply could not draw a conclusion. "Am I misunderstanding something?"

The boy blinked at him, fighting the urge to break for the umpteenth time. "Exactly," he murmured. "You just don't get it, do you? You don't understand what I zink…what I feel…what I want…"

Whether it was on purpose or accidental, Sulu couldn't be sure, though he leaned towards the former option as Chekov twisted his body yet again, brushing his knee against Sulu's and pressing their bodies closer, turning his head downwards. The tears streamed from his eyes once more, dripping from his cheek to his pants, leaving behind tiny droplets. And suddenly, without any question, it hit Sulu in an unmistakable realization.

"You fear that I do not feel the same as you," he responded quietly. The hand on Chekov's shoulder moved slowly to his smooth face, upturning it so their eyes connected. Both pairs were widened and glassy, similar emotions running through the two. From the moment that the spark ignited between them, Chekov threw away all his strength and lies, at last providing Sulu with the truth.

"M-Meester Sulu, I'm in—"

"Shh," Sulu silenced him by moving his hand up a little farther, his thumb pressed over Chekov's lips, his remaining fingers stroking Chekov's tearstained cheek. "Call me Hikaru."

"Hikaru." Chekov's voice was a whisper as he spoke, tasting the salty tears as they reached his mouth. Sulu's thumb carefully brushed them aside as he nodded slowly, keeping a gentle but strong hold on the boy in front of him. Slowly, yet carefully, Sulu adjusted his own body, maintaining the physical and emotional connection with the navigator. In one swift movement, he leaned forward, closed the lids over his dark eyes, and pressed his lips to Chekov's.

The Russian boy was taken aback, but did not resist. After all this time, even if he had wanted to resist, he couldn't possibly. His eyes fluttered closed as well as Sulu's hand pressed into his flesh deeper, keeping a firm but kind hold on Chekov's face. The navigator felt a breath release from his nose as Sulu's soft kiss prolonged, almost overwhelming him. It was so wonderful, so right, and Chekov found himself sighing in both content and longing when Sulu finally pulled away, his hand still lingering on Chekov's cheek.

"Pavel?" Sulu questioned, almost inaudibly, as he looked at the Ensign. His deepest fear was that he'd hurt Chekov in some way emotionally, that he'd never be forgiven, that any relationship they had, friends or otherwise, was ruined.

In truth, however, Chekov had never felt so free in his entire life.

Sulu's heart melted when the boy's angelic face broke into a slight smile, something he hadn't seen in a long time, and responded with a soft "da?" The pilots thumb stroked Chekov's cheek in adoration, removing any final traces of tears.

"Don't leave," Sulu begged, voice quivering. "Stay."

Chekov sighed again, though this time in an almost childlike mockery of Sulu. He detached himself from the pilot's touch and squirmed further up the bed, placing his head on the pillow and his hands behind his head. Closing his eyes once more, he said to Sulu, "What do you suppose we should do?"

The corners of Sulu's lips upturned in a smile, and he swung his body on the bed fully, crawling forward so that he was over Chekov. The boy did not open his eyes, but he knew that the pilot was kneeling above him, almost hearing the grin in his words. "Well," Sulu said quietly, "I think…that before you make a decision, you must fully understand my perspective."

And with that, before Chekov could protest, he bent down and kissed him again, running his hand through his soft curls. The Ensign smiled slightly, allowing Sulu to gain further entry into his mouth. It was soft and tender, everything they needed from each other, finding solitude in one simple thing. Chekov's hands had emerged from behind his head, entangling them in Sulu's dark hair and pulling him closer. The longer that Sulu kissed him, the more Chekov realized that his fear, pain, and agony was slipping away bit by bit, being replaced by something that he desperately yearned after, something he couldn't possibly live without.

Slowly, and passionately, Chekov granted Sulu access to the depths of his weary soul, responding with a gentle enthusiasm in an attempt to convey everything he had hidden. He whimpered when Sulu broke their contact to verbally order the lights off, and lay down next to Chekov, wrapping an arm around the boy's shoulders. Sulu couldn't see very well in the dark, but he knew that Chekov's bright orbs were staring up at him with utmost gratitude and yearning, his head resting on Sulu's chest.

"Sleep now," the pilot murmured, placing a light kiss on Chekov's forehead. The Ensign shook his head, however, and sat up slightly to look at Sulu through the darkness.

"Do you not see, Hikaru?" Chekov whispered. "I hawe no desire to sleep when I am wiz you. I just…I just want…" His voice trailed off, biting his lip again.

The blankets rustled in the dark as Sulu brought his arm up, finding Chekov's face in the darkness. "Do not fear anything, Pavel," he reassured. "I will be here. I am always going to be around to protect you, and I'm not going anywhere."

"Promise?" Chekov replied, his voice almost silent.

Skillfully, Sulu brought Chekov's head down to find his, kissing him once, very affectionately, in the dark. "I promise."

Satisfied, Chekov lowered himself back down on the bed, snuggling closer to Sulu, resting his head in the crook of his arm and placing a hand on his chest, feeling the steady thumping of Sulu's heart under his palm. The older boy wrapped his arms around the Ensign securely, nonverbally reminding him of his promise. No matter what they would struggle with in the future, they would do it together, and he'd keep that promise.

They lay there for a while, pilot and navigator, engulfed in silence apart from their steady breathing. There was nothing more that they could say, or even wanted to say, having no words to express the situation. Chekov had drifted off in Sulu's hold, never feeling safer. Sulu stayed awake, simply staring into empty darkness. His heart pulsed in his chest with contentment as he felt Chekov's steady inhalation and exhalation. This, he knew, was the start of something different, something much happier that they had both been too afraid to seek.

The pilot shuddered to think that the navigator would have left Starfleet because he was too far in love to remain. Despite Chekov being only a teenager, he understood far more than most people did, and because of that, Sulu had been able to reach out to him, help him with what he needed, and provide the sought-after happiness that Chekov had been denied for so long. Sulu couldn't imagine a greater bliss for either of them.

Roughly forty minutes later, though Sulu greatly disliked having to disturb Chekov's angelic and sleeping face, he placed a hand on the boy's shoulder and shook it lightly. "Pavel. Wake up."

"Hmm?" The boy mumbled a few phrases in Russian, none of which Sulu understood, but which he found entirely adorable nonetheless. Sulu smiled through the darkness.

"It's time. Midnight," he murmured, his lips grazing the crown of Chekov's head lightly. Still in a sleepy stupor, Chekov looked up, questioning Sulu's actions. The pilot let out a soft chuckle, and the navigator mirrored it when Sulu spoke again.

"Happy birthday, Pavel Andreievich Chekov."

Several hours later, Sulu awoke to find Chekov absent from his side. Yawning and stretching, he hadn't realized he'd fallen asleep. His clothes were rumpled from where Chekov had been resting, and he was almost sure that his hair was mussed as well. Looking at the clock, he realized that he still had another hour before his and Chekov's shifts started, and sat up, wondering where the Russian could possibly be.

As though his mind was being read, the door to the bathroom opened and Chekov stepped out, fully dressed in a clean uniform and rubbing his damp hair with a towel. He grinned, saying something that sounded like "pree-vyet, Hikaru," and sat down on the edge of the bed, amused by Sulu's lack of Russian knowledge.

"If that was a hello, then I will gladly return the favor. Good morning," Sulu said, smiling at the Ensign.

"It was indeed. You're smarter zan you zink," Chekov chortled, placing the towel on the bed and running a hand through his damp hair, sighing and clearing his face of emotion. "So. I am eighteen, da?"

Sulu nodded once, sitting up. "Feel any different?" he inquired, looking at Chekov's bright eyes.

"Not much," came the reply. "I still feel sewenteen."

The pilot did not say anything right away, but merely tilted his head to the side, reading over the boy's face. Chekov did not look as pallid as he had the previous night, nor did he look as tired. In fact, he even looked rather at ease, lacing his fingers with Sulu's as the pilot scooted closer to where Chekov was sitting. The older man could not help but replicate the smile, his tightened chest relaxing in relief.

"And yet," Sulu murmured, his thumb stroking Chekov's hand, "you can decide for yourself now." He bit his lip and looked up at Chekov, apprehensive of what the Ensign could possibly say.

Chekov smiled at him, a full smile, one that warmed Sulu's emotions and relaxed him slightly. "What do you zink?" he said, rather teasingly. "I zink zat I need more time to mull things over, da?"

Sulu froze momentarily. For a few seconds, his heart plummeted, a cold chill running down his spine, until Chekov grinned wider and chuckled to himself, leaning forward and wrapping his arms around the pilot's chest. He rested his head on Sulu's shoulder as the older man automatically embraced him, the faint smell of raspberry shampoo still lingering in Chekov's hair.

"Why would I leave," the navigator murmured, "if zere is still hope for me yet? For us?"

Sulu smiled slightly. "Us…" he repeated softly, caressing the boy's back gently. "I rather like the sound of that."

Chekov made a gentle humming sound in agreement, nuzzling further into the pilot. The embrace was warm and safe, their hearts beating in sync as they leaned against each other in comfort. Both of them regretted having to depart for their shift, and pulled away sadly. Sulu's bright eyes looked into the now sparkling ones of the navigator, relieved to have him by his side. Unwilling to release his hold on the boy for very long, Sulu twisted his fingers with Chekov's again, feeling his heart rush for the umpteenth time.

"I must ask you one more time," he said quietly, looking at him with hope. "Will you stay?"

The navigator simply laughed, something he hadn't done in ages, leaning forward and kissing Sulu lightly on the lips. He felt Sulu smile as he pressed back, both of them enjoying each other's company far too much to abandon it. The navigator grinned to himself as he pulled away, leaving one final kiss on Sulu's forehead before looking into his eyes again. With a chuckle, he imitated Sulu's words of the previous day and sent a roaring fire within the pilot's entire being.

"Hikaru," he whispered. "Yes. I will stay."