"Sulu to Enterprise!"

The blizzard had grown so fierce that Sulu couldn't even hear his own voice over the howling of the wind. He tried again, trying to shelter his communicator against his jaw, which wasn't that easy to do with his arms full. "Enterprise, Sulu here, do you read me!"

There was a momentary break in the gale, where Sulu heard, very faintly: "... reading you, Lieutenant, repeat, we are reading you, can you hear us?"

"Uh, not really," Sulu replied. "I've found him, though, right on schedule."

There was a response that he couldn't hear.


"... his status," said a new voice, blessedly booming in Sulu's ear. McCoy. "What's the ensign's status, man?"

Sulu was crouched down, one knee in a snowbank, wearing only his standard uniform in the bitter cold. He glanced down to where a blue-lipped Chekov, wrapped in Sulu's own parka, shivered in his arms.

"Cold," Sulu replied in a shout. "But all in one piece. How about getting us out of here?"

"...working on it, lad ...mospheric interference ... cannae transport through ... varying pressures ... try intraplanetary ..."

"Okay, what, no, get McCoy back on."

Abruptly there was a new voice, clear and loud.

"Sulu." Not McCoy, but the next best thing - Kirk.

"Here, sir."

"Scotty can't beam you guys up through the storm."

"Should have guessed."

"Spock thinks it should be over in twelve hours or so. Can you shelter for the night?"

"Uh." Sulu squinted through the complete whiteout of a continent-wide snowstorm. "Any suggestions where?"

"We're picking up an artificial construct about two hundred kilometers south of you. Steel mostly, walls a few meters thick. No life forms."

"Two hundred kilometers?" asked Sulu, managing to sputter through violently chattering teeth.

"Scotty says he can move you guys there - it's in a limited range or something. Stay where you are and give us a couple of minutes, okay?"

"Roger," said Sulu, relieved. He shut his communicator and slid it in place on his belt.

"Come on, we're getting out of here," he announced as he got to his feet, carrying Chekov with him.

"Mnh, Hikaru, I am so tired," Chekov mumbled into Sulu's chest. His eyes were closed.

"I know." Sulu tugged the panthermic lined hood of the parka more snugly over Chekov's head. "Almost there, I promise, and then we can rest."

"I want to go to sleep."

"I know, kid. God knows you deserve it. Just a few minutes, we're almost there."

Sulu shivered as he waited, cradling Chekov closer when the wind rose to a gale again.

Unexpectedly, Chekov shifted in his arms.

"Whoa, sorry," Sulu said, heaving Chekov back into place.

But Chekov pushed against him. He seemed to be trying to escape Sulu's grip.

"Pavel, what are you doing?"

"I want to lie down."

"In the snow?"

"Yes, is very soft."

"Is also very cold."

"I am not cold," Chekov replied, slurring his words. He had a little smile on his face. "Russians invented cold." He was still trying to slide out of Sulu's arms.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Come on, stop that."

"Just a nap, Hikaru."

"In a minute, Pavel, come on," said Sulu, feeling tired and frozen to the marrow and more than a little exasperated. Though the two of them had become close friends in the four months they'd been on the Enterprise together, and Sulu had gotten used to, even fond of, Chekov's perennial antics, this was clearly neither the time or the place for them.

Luckily in Sulu's next blink the snow around them shimmered once, briskly, and the sky seemed to curl back before his eyes like a white curtain to reveal dark metal walls and a cement floor.

Scotty had done it. They were... inside, somewhere.

Sulu, still holding Chekov, listened to the wind howl outside. He could just barely see his breath in the near-darkness. At last he let loose one last, all-over-body shiver.

"Fuck," he declared. "Fuck, that was cold. Whew. Okay."

Sulu knelt down and laid Chekov on the floor, which was completely freezing, but it would just be for a few minutes. Chekov was still all but buried in his parka, anyway, which was about three times bigger on him than it was on Sulu. Briskly, Sulu took a lumoflare from his belt and rapped it twice against the cement. In seconds, a warm red-tinged sphere of light filled the room, and Sulu set the flare down next to him.

Next he took out a black square, about the size of a PADD, made of what looked like patterned plastic. Sulu backed up a few paces and snapped the square crisply, like cracking a whip. There was an odd rushing sound as the rectangle seemed to absorb the air around it, until it had unfolded and fluffed up into a tidy black one-piece sleeping bag, mummy-style, complete with insulated bedroll and a small gold Starfleet insignia at the bottom.

After pulling it open, Sulu took Chekov and tucked him inside, parka, boots and all.

"Now," Sulu told him. "You are to stay in there until you are thoroughly toasty. Understood?"

Chekov mumbled something into the pillow.

"Good," said Sulu. He stood up and dusted his hands, still shivering a little as he took a look around.

Before he started to assemble the miniature self-warming brazier he'd brought along, which he was beginning to suspect would be woefully inadequate in this place, Sulu glanced down again to see how Chekov was doing. It looked like wasn't shivering anymore, at least.

"Do you feel any warmer?" Sulu asked him.


"Are you still cold?"

Chekov shifted a little in the sleeping bag and said something that was either "no" or "nyet," both of which were fine by Sulu.

As he knelt to start work on the brazier, Sulu couldn't help but chuckle softly. He had a feeling the Klingons were wondering just what had hit them when they decided to take Ensign Chekov, Pavel Andreievich, captive.

The away team had beamed down at 0800. Chekov had been reporting missing at 0950. At 1130 the Enterprise had received a transmission from the Klingon prison at the planet's southernmost continent: a cheerfully beaming Chekov, who had hacked into the communications system, reprogrammed the entire security network, and, as he told them, planned to "wacate ze premisees" shortly. At 1300 hours almost to the minute, a distress call reached the Enterprise from a beacon - made, Sulu supposed, of tinfoil and table scraps that Chekov had casually cobbled together - in a small cliff recess not three kilometers away from the prison grounds.

If it hadn't been for the untimely blizzard, thought Sulu, he and Chekov probably would have been home for lunch.

There was a rustling of fabric behind him. Sulu looked over and was surprised to see Chekov still awake, and odder yet, struggling to pull his black undershirt over his head. The parka and his torn yellow uniform jersey were already on the floor next to him.

"Uh, what are you doing, Pavel?" asked Sulu.

"Hot," Chekov mumbled.

"You're hot?" Sulu furrowed his brow, unsure if Chekov was making a joke. They'd been beamed here all of four or five minutes ago, at the most. "What do you mean?"

"Too hot," he whimpered again, acting as if he hadn't even heard Sulu. "Please... I am, a fever, too hot."

Sulu felt the beginnings of alarm. Could Chekov have caught something? A flu or something, or an alien illness, in the prison? Or in the snow? So quickly? But he'd only been outside for ten or fifteen minutes, at the max. Because the beacon had only begun to emit...

Words echoed in Sulu's mind, quiet and cold as a dry whisper.

I want to lie down,

In the snow?,

want to sleep.

"Pavel," he said after a minute. "Pavel, how long were you outside?"

Chekov didn't answer.

Fear had begun to pool, slow and dark, in Sulu's stomach.

"Pavel," he said, loud this time. "Tell me how long you were outside."

Sulu waited for, he wanted, another impatient grunt, or even a muttering in Russian, like when Chekov was really drunk or half-asleep.

There was nothing.

Sulu dropped to the ground at once. Fumbling, he reached across to grab the lumoflare. Once he could see, he undid both the sleeping bag's zippers with one hand and threw the cover back.

Chekov lay completely motionless, face turned into the pillow, eyes still open - just to slits, staring blankly at nothing. His skin was white. Not white like skin could be when someone was shocked or sick; white like Sulu'd never seen, white like paper or the snow outside.

For five or six seconds, Sulu was completely unable to move. Then Starfleet took over.

Hypothermia, treatment of. First confirm condition by checking vital signs.

Sulu set the flare on the floor and pulled himself forward. Fingers of the right hand on the jugular, left palm lightly on the chest. Yes, skin there very cold, keep calm, one step at a time. Pulse difficult to find, but - there. Slow, faint. Breathing the same. Heartbeat fast, a little erratic.

Stage two hypothermia, characteristics of. Shivering becomes more violent. Increase in blood pressure, increased danger of cardiac arrest. Immediate treatment required.

Wait, shivering, he hadn't been shivering before. Sulu double-checked. No: not shivering. Not moving at all.

Stage three hypothermia, characteristics of. Cessation of involuntary self-warming processes. Unassisted return to homoeostasis no longer possible. Swift decline to shutdown of major organ functions and clinical death.

Sulu had already stripped Chekov naked before he'd finished the thought. His body seemed to be working without the need of his brain, like when he and Chekov were at the helm and their hands flew over the console. Now he stood abruptly, and without a second's hesitation began pulling off his own clothes in a swift, unbroken sequence. Belt jersey undershirt pants shorts, fast-boot-release socks, and then he was next to Chekov, pulling him skin-to-skin against the length of his body and closing the sleeping bag around them both, sealing them in completely except for a small gap above their heads.

He began rubbing his hands over Chekov, everywhere, all over, back and shoulders and arms and hands, pulling his legs up to rub over his thighs and calves. Steady warming and circulation of the blood in the extremities is the most essential part of - Sulu adjusted Chekov so his chest and abdomen were flush against his own - maintaining function of the victim's vital organs.

"Pavel," he spoke to the darkness. "Move. Move something. Your arms."

Chekov was silent.

"Pavel. Listen to me. Hey." Sulu took Chekov's face in his hands. "Pavel. Move."

Sulu moved down to take him by the arms. Chekov's head just dropped back, weakly.

"Pavel," he repeated, more urgently. "Pavel. Chekov. Ensign!"

There was the tiniest twitch.

"Ensign!" Sulu barked into Chekov's ear. He felt a faint flutter of lips against his shoulder.

"Move. Ensign, you have to move." He lifted Chekov's head up. "Listen to me, Ensign."

Chekov made a little sound of distress.

"That's right." Sulu started rubbing his arms again. "Come on, Ensign, move."

"Nn. Hot."

"No, it isn't, your body's fooling you, it's not hot, it's cold. Now move something, Pavel."

Chekov didn't answer. He'd gone quiet again.

"Ensign," Sulu said desperately, and then "Ensign!," and then his voice broke, because he couldn't even feel Chekov's tiny breaths against his ear anymore.

Sulu squeezed his eyes shut against the tears. "Come on, Pavel, come on," he said fiercely, mindlessly, cupping Chekov's cheeks in his palms and whispering it all over his face, as if the warmth of his breath might do something everything else hadn't. "Come on, Pavel, come on, baby, come on." Against his eyes, against his mouth. "Please come on, please please Pavel, please."

Chekov's lips moved against his.

"That's right, come on." Whispering it still, panting and breathing warm against Pavel's cheek, his temple. "Come on, baby, come on, baby, please."

A tiny tilt of Chekov's head, until his mouth brushed against Sulu's again.

"Yeah, that's right, like that." Again, his lips, just a little pressure, just at the corners of his mouth, so Chekov kept having to shift to find him. "Like that, come on." Now against his neck, and Chekov was whispering something. Now taking Chekov's hands and kissing his fingers and Chekov was dragging his lips across Sulu's brow, trying to find him again.

"That's right, that's right," and Sulu started kissing him all over his face, open-mouthed, warm. Chekov gave a small gasp, that became a slight arch, that became a little tremor. "Just like that," and another tremor, and now Chekov was trembling a little, breathing harder against Sulu's face.

When it hit, it hit all at once.

Chekov let out one guttural cry as he began to shudder violently, bucking in Sulu's arms. He curled into himself completely, pressing himself against Sulu's body, chattering grunts into his shoulder over and over. Sulu just held on, whispering, "that's right, that's right," into Chekov's hair, again and again.

The worst of it, where Sulu was afraid Chekov might choke on his own tongue from the seizure-like intensity, was over soon, in fifteen minutes or so. But it took a long, long time for him to stop shivering, his shaking slowing only in tiny increments. Sulu kept rubbing him, especially his hands and feet, and checking his pulse and breathing, and trying hard not to cry. He kept adjusting the opening to the sleeping bag, too, not sure if Chekov might get too warm too quickly and end up shocking his system - or something like that. Strangely, everything he'd remembered so clearly from Starfleet first aid a few hours ago seemed to have left him.

He still had two fingers on Chekov's wrist, counting the seconds, when he realized the last tremor had been some time ago.

Slowly he unzipped the bag - just from around his head, not Chekov's - and slid his head up.

At once he flinched from the cold. The room was still frigid, or maybe it just seemed that way, after the enveloping warmth of the sleeping bag, and it was so dark that Sulu couldn't even see his breaths. Day had turned to night on the moonless planet, and Sulu had thrown his clothes over his communicator and phaser, so that even their usual phantom LED glow was blanketed in blackness.

Sulu breathed the chill air, staring at nothing. He couldn't remember having been in true, complete darkness before. But it was strange. He felt almost like the heat from him and Chekov, the heat he could feel so clearly radiating into his skin and out into the dark, was a kind of light itself.

He could almost see it: the two of them a core, generating a slow steady spiral of warmth that lit them up in the night like embers. In this pitch-black room, on this dead planet in the middle of infinite absolute zero, the small space where his and Chekov's hearts beat together suddenly seemed like the most impossible miracle, the most fragile phenomenon.

Sulu realized he was crying.

He was surprised. Not that he was crying: he'd been expecting that. (Shock, he told himself distantly, almost like he was diagnosing someone else.) But he'd never cried like this before. The tears just seemed to run out of him, no sobbing or gasping involved, just two warm tracks of water down his temple, down his face, salty in his mouth, one after the other. Again and again, and again. He breathed slowly and tried to let it happen, rubbing his face every so often when his cheeks got too wet and numb with cold.

When it was over, Sulu covered his eyes, just to feel the pressure against his lids, and let out a deep, shaky breath. Yes. Clearly, Chekov would never be allowed to do this again. Chekov, who was alive, sleeping and warm. Chekov who was breathing deep and slow against Sulu's chest.

Sulu drew his head back under the sleeping bag. He couldn't see Chekov, of course, but warmth radiated from him in waves that clearly shaped his body, his skin. Sulu closed his eyes against it, feeling it, and listened to Chekov's breathing.

In a minute he would get up, get dressed, give Chekov water, report to the Enterprise. He would do all this. He was so tired he felt he had been wrung completely dry, but he would do all this, in a minute, and Sulu couldn't even move his head before sleep took him under.

He awoke answering a question.

At least, the answer was formed on his lips. Sulu never actually said anything. Partly because he'd forgotten the question; partly because he didn't remember understanding the question in the first place. Partly because someone was kissing him.

It was warm, and someone was kissing him, he thought. He wasn't sure because the pressure against his lips was so soft and hot it could have almost been Sulu's own mouth, just sense-memory of silent murmurs in his sleep. But then he heard the question whispered again, against his mouth.

Sulu opened his eyes to see utter blackness. But he felt no alarm, no concern. Wherever he was, it was so warm, so still and thrumming, that it must have been exactly where he was supposed to be. And moving against him, weight and touch, the scent of him. Of course, Pavel.

Then Sulu remembered where he was.

Chekov didn't seem to notice when Sulu went completely still under him. He stayed where he was, poured into Sulu's arms, his hands against Sulu's chest, kissing him all over in slow, dreamy, unhurried presses. He whispered something into Sulu's neck, at the pulse, and Sulu's lips parted involuntarily.

He was saying something in Russian; Sulu couldn't understand it. Chekov was asleep, dreaming. He had to be.

"Da, Hikaru?" murmured Chekov into his ear.

Sulu inhaled through a wide-open mouth.

He had to stop this, it was his responsibility to stop this. Chekov was awake and confused and, warm everywhere, warm and calm, his skin exactly as hot as Sulu's and nothing at all between them. Sulu had to stop this, but somehow he thought, somehow he felt sure, that if he said anything, did anything, made a move or any noise, Chekov would suddenly wake from this impossibly suspended second and break everywhere, into a thousand freezing pieces Sulu could never put together again.

So he stayed completely quiet as Chekov whispered against him, up to his mouth, talking into him and then lapping at him, so relaxed, easily alive. Sulu didn't move when Chekov started rocking his hips into him, easy and sweet, not gasping or whimpering when their cocks dragged against each other, just sighing into Sulu's chest.

It was just something happening. It was just something taking Sulu over, and all he had to do was let it happen. It was just like before. It was exactly like before, only now Chekov was the one touching him everywhere, Chekov was the one talking to him, Chekov was the one arching into him over and over again in a rhythm like a slow-motion shudder.

Sulu tried to quiet his fast inhales when his cock slipped between Chekov's thighs, the friction too much. But Chekov just whispered something soft into his hair and rocked deeper, until Sulu started to come, his cries forced into whispery breaths, the fabric underneath him gripped tight between his fingers in his desperation to keep still.

Chekov kept steady throughout - that same steady roll of his hips, the same open-mouthed kisses into Sulu's skin, the same underwater slowness - even when he came, pulsing onto Sulu's chest with five slow throbs, five quiet gasps.

Afterward Sulu stayed frozen in place.

He listened open-eyed in the darkness to Chekov's tiny murmurs of contentment, the last hot, sleepy kisses he pressed into Sulu's skin, before he settled down with a sigh and his breathing slowed to a steady swell and fall of his chest against Sulu's. Soon he was fast asleep.

Still Sulu didn't dare to move, not for a long time. The entire room seemed to share his shock - the air was so still it seemed to be holding its breath in disbelief at what had just happened. But no, there was Chekov, still sleeping on top of him, rising and falling with each of Sulu's breaths, and Sulu could still feel the sticky wetness between their bodies, warm from their skin.

Soon Sulu became aware he could make out faint shapes in the darkness.

He shifted his head infinitesimally to glance over his shoulder. A thin line of blue-white light shone from the crack beneath the steel warehouse doors - the first rays of an alien dawn. The storm was over.

That realization finally broke whatever spell Sulu had been under. He didn't want to leave Chekov - never wanted to leave him again - but the idea of him blinking awake to this, or worse, the Enterprise beaming the two of them up like this, was too horrible to even consider. He could try to wrap his head around the impossibility of what had just happened at another time. Right now there were more important things to think about.

With infinite care he extracted himself from underneath Chekov's body and out of the sleeping bag, one limb at a time. Chekov didn't even stir. The shaft of light from under the door was bright enough that Sulu could just barely see him now: his body was completely relaxed in sleep, his open mouth a dark gap against the pillow. Sulu had to resist the urge to smooth back Chekov's hair with one fingertip, just where it curled a little around his ear.

Instead he took his undershirt from where it lay on the floor and cleaned the come from his stomach. Then, with his eyes carefully averted, he reached into the sleeping bag to clean it from Chekov's. He pulled Chekov's black briefs up his legs with equal care, wincing when he had to lift his hips a bit, but Chekov was fast asleep, snoring softly now.

Sulu got dressed with hands that shook from more than cold. He knew he should be trying to process what had happened both that morning and the previous night - trying to absorb the full implications of it - but his overtaxed mind had finally had enough and was blessedly blank. The next thing he remembered was Scotty's voice breaking through the static of his communicator, asking him if they were ready for beam-up.

Even though all his vitals had checked out perfectly, Dr. McCoy had still prescribed three full days of strict bed rest, and Chekov was bored already.

He was dutifully following doctor's orders to keep warm, bundled up in his bunk under four blankets and sipping blandly at the hot herb tea that Nurse Chapel kept showing up to refill every few hours. Scotty had generously uploaded his entire three-thousand-plus collection of video games for him earlier in the day, and one of them was paused on his console datapad, but Chekov had barely glanced at it before setting it down.

He closed his eyes and thought about Hikaru again instead.

After he'd blearily blinked awake in sickbay to see Kirk and McCoy staring down at him with relief and mild irritation, respectively, Chekov had to learn from them what happened - how his transmission device had suffered atmospheric delay, how he had actually spent forty-five minutes in subarctic temperatures before the Enterprise finally picked up his distress signal, and how Sulu had rescued him just in time. Chekov himself remembered none of this - the last thing he recalled was squeezing himself though a tiny underground window of the Klingon penitentiary, his signaling device tucked carefully beneath his arm - but sometime during his hypothermia-induced unconsciousness, he'd had a dream about Sulu.

He wasn't new to them. Chekov had started dreaming about Sulu the first week of their mission, and they'd certainly been getting more frequent - and more intense - the closer he and Sulu became, but he'd never had one like this before. He could almost feel the hot slide of skin against skin, the slow unfurling pleasure, and the sense of Sulu everywhere, everything dark and quiet and warm with the scent of him.

Chekov was glad showers were on the doctor's list of acceptable activities, because that was the first place he'd gone upon release from sickbay. He'd barely had time to switch on the hot water before he took his throbbing cock in hand, biting his lip and closing his eyes and coming in seconds with a gasp that was almost more of surprise than of pleasure. Afterward he stayed where he was, half-slumped, half-braced against the tile, letting the hot water run down his back as he lingered over every detail of the dream he could remember.

He'd taken two more showers since then, and was considering a third. He let his hand slide into the waistband of his pants as he thought about the hot shape of Sulu's cock against his, the feel of hard muscles shifting under his hands.

The door chimed.

"Oh!" Chekov jerked his hand out from under the blankets. He blinked at the door for a second. "Oh. I mean, enter."

Sulu stepped in, looking cautious.

"Hikaru!" said Chekov happily, sitting up in bed. He couldn't contain his grin, or the blush he could feel creeping up his face.

"Hey, Pavel." Sulu rubbed the back of his neck. "Am I interrupting you or anything?"

"Not at all! Please, come in, come in, have a seat!"

Sulu wheeled the desk chair over.

"I heard you saved my life in a very dramatic fashion," Chekov said with a grin as he sat down.

"Oh." Sulu glanced down and played self-consciously with one of his sleeves. He was blushing a little, too, mostly in the tips of his ears; Chekov almost couldn't bear how cute he was. "No way, not at all. It was just... yeah. Not at all."

"Such a modest hero," said Chekov teasingly.

Sulu laughed in embarassment and made a dismissive gesture. "Yeah, right. How are you feeling?" His eyes flicked up to Chekov's, then back down.

"I am very bored," sighed Chekov, stretching dramatically. "Dr. McCoy seems to think I am still partially frozen. Maybe he is worried parts of me will break off if I go back to work."

Chekov looked over for the usual reaction to dumb jokes such as these, but Sulu wasn't even smiling. He was still fiddling with his sleeve, worrying a corner of his mouth.

"Hikaru," said Chekov, more softly this time.

Sulu glanced up.

"Truly, I am fine."

"Well," said Sulu. He smiled briefly. "Good."

The silence lingered.

After a minute, Chekov poked his legs out from under the blankets.

"These are my feet pajamas," he said conversationally.

Sulu finally let out a laugh.

"That they are," he said, regarding them with an impressed nod.

Chekov fiddled with the corner of the bedspread, his mind racing as he tried to come up with something else that would make Sulu smile, keep him from leaving. But before he could think of anything, Sulu let out a deep breath.



Sulu ran his hands down his face before folding them at his mouth.

"I have to tell you something," he said quietly.

Chekov's heart started to race.

"What's the matter?" he said.

"On the planet," said Sulu. He ran a hand through his hair, looking anguished. "When you were recovering. There weren't two sleeping bags, like I told Kirk. There was only one. I... to get you warm again..."

Chekov could only stare at him.

Sulu screwed his eyes shut. "We were in one sleeping bag," he said. "Together. And we didn't... there had to be skin-to-skin contact..."

A slow pressure of dread began to build against Chekov's chest.

"So. We were. Naked, and, you were really out of it and, you kind of woke up, I think, but I didn't want to disturb you. It was the middle of the night, and you were... saying something to me -"

"That was a dream," Chekov said suddenly, without thinking. As soon as the words left his lips, he suddenly realized their meaning, what he'd just admitted.

But it was too late.

Slowly Sulu raised his head to stare at Chekov. His mouth was open.

"You." He swallowed. "You - remember it?"

Chekov worked his mouth a little, trying to reply. But he couldn't say a single thing, not with Sulu looking at him like that. Not after he'd given himself away.

"I," he said in a whisper, his eyes burning. There was a shudder in his breath, the beginning of tears. "I thought..."

Sulu just looked at him, the shock on his face turning to realization.

"Ah, bohze moy," said Chekov, his voice cracking on the words, and he brought his hands up to cover his face.

"Pavel," he heard Sulu begin, but Chekov just shook his head, swallowing down a sob.

"No, please," he said, his voice muffled. He couldn't take Sulu's pity, exposed like this, or even his kindness - his gentle understanding, the reassurances he would give. All for poor little lovesick Ensign Chekov, who was so pathetically desperate for Sulu's touch that he rutted all over him the first chance he got, convincing himself it was just a wet dream, a fantasy come true.

"Hey," he heard Sulu say softly. "It's okay, I -"

"Please!" Chekov let out a sob against his palms. He couldn't bear it - he could just see it, how Sulu was probably wincing with concern as he tried to comfort the weak weepy mess in front of him: poor kid. "Please, Hikaru, please just go, please just go."

In the silence that followed Chekov cried as silently as he could, breathing slowly, tasting salt as tears ran into his mouth. He could feel Sulu's eyes on him, as strong and wilting as light focused through a magnifying glass.

Finally he heard the chair shift as Sulu stood up.

"Computer," Chekov heard him say. "Decrease window transparency to zero percent."

Chekov blinked against his hands.

For a second he was certain he'd misheard Sulu - but then the computer beeped confimation.

"All lights," said Sulu, and the room instantly went black behind Chekov's fingers.

Slowly, aware of every shaky breath he was taking, Chekov lowered his hands.

He had never been in such total darkness. The windows that usually let through starlight were completely opaque now, the emergency lights disabled, even the tiny green and red status buttons on the wall consoles shut off. Chekov blinked and breathed and stared into the black room, fearful and unsure, wondering what Sulu was doing. But somehow he felt safer like this, too - protected. Cocooned. No one could see his hot tear-streaked face now, not even himself.

He felt the mattress shift as a weight settled next to him.

"Pavel," Sulu said softly.

Chekov didn't reply. He just kept breathing, his eyes wide open and his hands resting against his throat.

"Please don't be scared, or - or upset." Sulu's voice was so small like this, murmuring through the dark. "We can forget about it, if that's what you want, but. Pavel. I don't want to forget about it."

Chekov felt the slightest sense of warmth against his cheek and let out a quiet gasp. He knew what it was: Sulu's hand, reaching for him, for the last thing he'd seen before the lights went out. His fingers were just a breath away from Chekov's skin, radiating a soft heat that traced their shape in the darkness.

"I'm scared, too," Sulu whispered. "But I want to remember it. On the surface, when I found you, and you were almost... Pavel, when I thought... when you..."

His voice broke then with a hitch, and Chekov didn't think, didn't even hesitate. He breathed into the black room and brought his hand up to Sulu's, to gently hold it against his cheek.

They didn't need to talk after that. Sulu let out a soft, shuddering sigh as Chekov turned into his touch, eyelashes brushing Sulu's skin; and of course it was impossible, but it seemed to Chekov that the room wasn't dark anymore like this, with his eyes closed, with the weight of Sulu's body cautiously drawing closer. They could see so clearly this way. They could see all the way into each other, so that Sulu didn't even need to ask before he took Chekov into the warmth of his arms, and Chekov didn't even blush when he turned his face into the soft heat of Sulu's chest.

Later they would whisper to each other, quiet questions and quiet confessions, long into the night. There would be hesitation and uncertainty, maybe; a chill in the air for the first few moments after the dark disappeared. But right now this was all they needed to feel, and everything they needed to see - the sound of each other's breath, the heat of each other's skin.