AN/ No idea where this came from. Absolutely none. I apologise in advance if it's bad.
Summary: Chekov's been telling Sulu he loves him for a long time. Sulu's just never read the signs until now. Chekov/Sulu
There is a handsome man sitting next to you and the smile on his face is saying he loves you.
He is seventeen and naïve, still a child in many ways. He laughs like there is nothing out there that can hurt him, like it doesn't matter about all the bad in the universe, so long as there is good to go with it. And you don't think it's his age, it just seems to be a part of him; like his bony elbows and the way he laughs, sometimes holding what he's found funny inside because he doesn't have the words yet to describe why it's making him grin, the rest of the time sharing it with anyone around, as though he's passing the humour round, letting everyone in on it. A character flaw that only adds to his personality. A trait of his very own that you hope will not fade amongst cynicism that could come so easily. You do not want him to stop being him.
He is the man who's only just stopped being a boy, the boy on the bridge with his golden uniform, fiddling with the cuffs of his sleeves, swinging his feet, sometimes catching you and apologising with a quick smile, you always staying It's fine and always meaning it, his hands tracing everywhere as he explains some latest theory to you – and you never understand, but you read the language of his hands like it's trying to tell you something more.
His name is Pavel, and you love the way he introduces himself, in that proud way where he includes his middle name as well as the first, straightening himself up as he says it. You met at the Academy and when he first told you his name you were still wondering how a fourteen year old got into Starfleet. You found out soon enough, the first lecture you had with him. There's a reason why he's the youngest officer aboard the flagship of the Federation. People treat him like a child sometimes, but that's ok, you tell him when the flecks of light in his eyes dim (and you want to take him to one side, grab his shoulders and shake him, ask him why he would even think about doubting himself when you know he's more capable than any of them) Just ignore them, Pav, you say, people are just stupid sometimes. You want to say more; Don't listen to them, because that means they've won, and don't you doubt yourself, because I trust you, trust you with my life, with my soul, with my heart, and the words are slick and oily and burning honest in your head but you never say them.
He smiles at the words you do say though, so it's worth the pain in keeping what you don't say hidden away.
You've been helm officers together since you left space dock (and forgot about the inertial dampeners; he laughed at you about that one, and you found yourself laughing too despite the embarrassment), been room-mates at the Academy even longer. You know that his hair always looks like that, whether he takes a ferocious comb to it or not, and that there is a certain way he glances at you sometimes that makes your heart beat funny.
You don't tell him that.
He finds glory in the little things on the spectrum of importance. More heavy pressing matters surround you in your thoughts, and he takes the time and focuses out of the limelight, to the things that he only he appreciates – look 'Karu, look at that, isn't it amazing?, he says, and you always follow his gaze, travel to the fantastical places hidden behind reality readily when with a guiding finger he marks out the way the clouds have bunched to create shapes, a kingdom, a fairytale, and you nod and admit to yourself you would never have paid a second thought to small wonders as he does, and would have been poorer because of it.
Sometimes before all this, you stopped, thought the world was no longer mysterious, believed with a youthful presumption that you had seen everything there was to see. But he is a mystery, and you find yourself wanting to see more, wanting to know more.
He believes the universe is painted in starlight, invading, shining through into the black places he knows exist but doesn't want to think about. He playfully believes in conspiracy theories that he used to elaborate and spin into tales that he told you in the dark when you both couldn't sleep, believes in the superiority of Mother Russian above all else with a tongue in cheek smile that shows he's not really serious – Karu, don't you know that the periodic table was inwented in Russia? – and the funny thing about that one was that he was being serious.
And most of all, above all things, above material wealth and position and status, above the forces of gods and natural and moral evil, above everything he believes in true love. The once in a lifetime kind. Chartered through with no navigation, sailing through a natural blindness on instinct alone.
He told you this one night in a drunken slur after the results of your first astrophysics module were posted, when you went out and celebrated with him and a couple of other cadets. They all bought him drinks, thinking it would be funny to see the kid get drunk. It turned out that by the time his words started stringing themselves together and merriness sparked in blue happy eyes, most were asleep or too far gone to notice. The ones still awake were handing out synthehol shots and kisses in corners smeared with shadow.
They had forgotten about you, but you had him all to yourself, so you didn't mind.
The two of you talked that night, words rolling over each other, tumbling and aching and reminiscing through the limited histories you can lay claim to. He told you about Eve, a girl he had a crush on at the Moscow Star Academy, with red hair and freckles, who collected seashells, fossils and dried flowers, and of Ivan, the first boy he kissed when he was fifteen (you remembered him from Starfleet Academy, training in the security detail, choppy blonde hair that was darkening to brown at the roots, three years older than he was, and felt jealous of him being the first to take that kiss even though you have no right to be). It's the first inkling you ever got that he was interested in anything other than the opposite gender, and the knowledge pleased you somewhat. You smothered the smile it created in another gulp of your Cardassian Sunrise.
And in return you indulged him in tales of all the romance you had had in your short twenty two years; the little childish loves when you were a teenager which amounted to holding hands and kissing at the back row of the cinema, to the more serious relationships at the Academy; Maria, who liked playing Bach and Tchaikovsky loudly when she studied, Franz, who dated you for three weeks before you found him making out with a freshman cadet behind the botany labs, and Michael, who you thought was the one for a year and a half until he broke it off, saying it wasn't working.
He listened sombrely as you recounted these stories, staring into the distance but really at him, before softly, he touched your hand in a sympathetic gesture (your heart skipped, boom boom, like cannon fire, but you said nothing, made no move) and declared that more drinks were needed.
When he laughed loud and inebriated later on in the night when you told him a bad joke, one of the many you had memorised (A Vulcan, a Andorian and a Klingon walked into a bar...), you caught sight of dimples on either cheek.
You can believe in true love too when he does that.
He is smiling to himself now, his gaze glancing away from you as he reads out the co-ordinates of your destination to the Captain, and you ask yourself why you don't make your affections known to him. You've thought about it long enough, the words stuck at the back of your throat, waiting for a prime moment that never comes, is never the right time.
You think over it for a moment before you realise there is no reason at all. But that's what you do, keep secrets, pretend he's just your friend when you want so much more, a habit formed with the sediment of years, and you may call yourself a coward, but it's self preservation, it makes more sense to wait than to open up yourself to the danger of loving too much and too hard.
You think, I'm in love and I'm still waiting, and waiting is overrated, so why not take the chance, take what feels mine, what he's offering me with his eyes. Hide away the ghosts of your doubt, your fears and lock them away in a room with no key.
You don't – won't or can't but it doesn't matter which – and swallow words like glass back down, wish you could be braver, bolder, stronger to bear the weight of words that you keep unsaid.
One day, you tell yourself, and you glance over at him and smile back.
There is a handsome man lying near to you and the feel of his hand in yours is telling you he loves you.
The screaming of the red alert klaxon has died away, a crooning wail of something mourning, or maybe you just can't hear it any more, but a lingering glow bathes the shards of glass that smashed, the tiny crystals imprisoning the firelight. They splintered as they cascaded to the ground when the ship, your ship, your home, impacted against a foreign hull of an enemy cruiser, span off into dark black silent space. An emergency signal is chirping out in the faint hope that anyone can hear you, anyone cares enough to rescue you. Last you heard over the crackling tannoy, life support was down to fifty percent power. Inside your head, you think you hear a countdown, but it is only your own pessimism.
The halogen spots of light in the ceiling that are still working are like stars trapped in the murky reflection that you think comes from blood that is pooling on solid ground, dripping slowly through the metal grating, and you don't know who it belongs to, and you wish you did to stop the fear mounting in your chest. Blood or oil, maybe, but they're both similar, both keep things running, whether the ship or a human being, and either way sounds like a disaster playing out, and no-one gave you the script to tell you how this ends.
Then the light changes, alters, and the stars drown before they flicker out.
Pavel smiles faintly at you, his face right up close, and there is crimson smearing the white of his teeth, a rebellious line having made a languid progression down the side of his mouth. His smile reveals dimples, like they always have done, and you want to tell him he's beautiful but can't find the words. You mouth his name, an action with no accompanying words. He is near enough to hear it if you whisper, but what comes out could be an admission of failure or it could be a sonnet of affection because you can't translate the sound so he would understand.
There is something heavy crushing the lower half of your body and you suspect it's your console that flipped over in the crash. Your thoughts reconstruct, shy away from the shadows. Stay in the here and now. Don't think about the what could be's. Fears that don't quite cross out even when you scribble over them with brighter comforting thoughts. Don't you dare.
'Karu, he's saying, his voice soft, sculpting your name into a question. You are near enough to him to see blown black pupils, close enough to kiss him if this was the right time. He sounds frightened, and his hand grasps yours with weakening strength. You want to pull him up against you, make a space next to you and wrap an arm around over his shoulder, invent stories so you aren't so scared, press a kiss to his hair like he's a child frightened of the monsters under his bed. You wish you could move to achieve all this.
I'm here, you reply, and you wonder if you're going to die here, pinned to the ground with your hand in the gentle hold of his. It's tentative, the feeble grasp of a child, grabbing hold of hands bigger than their own, but then suddenly it's not; it's the hold of a eighteen year old adult who clings to you with an equal strength. Hands slotting together, fingers in the spaces of fingers like it's your first date, plucking up the courage to close the gap, but the touch itself like you are veterans to this game of love and death, as though you've always been doing this, natural, perfect. You hold his hand close and pretend it could be a touch that was yours to take.
With his other hand, he reaches out and wipes away a stray drop that has started to crawl down your cheek. There is a crown of red light streaking through his hair, and his hand lingers on your face for a long time. There is something sticky with his touch, and there is the smell of copper. You realise it's blood, and it must be his, and when you lock eyes with him, he smiles again, like it's a perfectly logical idea that this might be one of the last chances he'll get to touch you. His hand does not move away, and you crush his fingers tightly in yours just to reassure yourself with his responding mimic.
This can't be it, the only chance you'll ever get, this can't be all there is; because now, thinking on it, there is just him, has always been just him and the things you should have said, truths exposed bare in the unnatural light. You and him, you've got a future to forge, to spin with fabricated webs of what you could do, what you will be, and whatever happens it will be with him, always him. Fear was irrelevant, doubts were irrelevant. There was just this sensation that he induces, the skip in the pounding of your old mortal heart that should have told you everything you needed to know.
Your eyelids drop, heavy. Your bones are tired, and the pounding of blood in your ears is a lullaby, a siren call to sleep. Give me another chance, you aim the question at nobody, anyone, another chance to do this right, when you open your eyes again and you are in another place, with him, another time , when your heart is less frightened and the both of you are sure.
There is no such thing as second chances, but this time there is, because these moments, the ones you haven't lived yet, with him, where you want to learn how his lips are against yours, want to know whether he kisses with his eyes closed, they are yours, should be. Because you want this, want him, know this in an epiphany formed in a landscape of sparks and metal grating.
A voice is shouting out for the both of you. It sounds like Kirk, words distorted in the smoke. You hope you aren't imagining this, and fight off weariness deliberately. You'll be helpless unconscious, and you want to keep your eyes on the navigator next to you because you're frightened he'll disappear.
Don't leave me, Pavel murmurs, his hand holding tighter. And you promise him you wont, meaning every word.
There is a handsome man kissing your lips and the words he says are telling you he loves you.
You never thought it would come to this, every algorithm of how you would eventually tell him not ending at this conclusion, every imagining of admitting your half longing, half shameful secrets that until now have lain protected, nestled in the safety of your closed palms from the outside world to be revealed only to him, not being at all like this. You thought about how this might have panned out, but you never captured the tiny miracles of his moment; how the lips on yours have softened, follow every kiss with another smaller touch, like a test, like he's checking, like he's signing the burning brand of his lips with another soothing touch to mark it completely as his own. He nearly died yesterday, and there is still the smell of ozone and drifting smoke that entwines in the strands of his hair from the fire. When you kiss the side of his mouth, the taste of soot and blood hangs still. You kiss him harder, and that helps you forget what could have been.
He asks whether this is alright, whether you want this, and you say Yes, in a breathless heady voice, and repeat it, a mantra, a blessing, a promise as his silhouette shifts and his lips crack into a perfect smile.
His hands touch against your hips, the fabric of your trouser legs feeling increasingly immaterial as the seconds elongate and prolong every sensation, rising in a crescendo and his lips kiss deeper, would bruise if they weren't so gentle, and this should feel intrusive, should feel too fast, you should talk about this and whether it's right. You want to mention the protective bandages that hide newly formed baby pink skin, want to remind him like the voice of reason, want to say, Pavel, McCoy said you shouldn't overexert yourself, and at the choice phrase in your head a nervous giggle reverberates in your head. But you can't muster any complaints when Pavel's doing that with his hands, and efficiently ridding you of most of your clothes. Peeling away any defence, laid bare and blue eyes that see everything of yours with appraising eyes. He makes you feel beautiful, and it's addictive.
Think about this, you tell yourself, coherent thoughts draining away like sand in an hourglass, washed away by indifference to stopping and desperation in wanting to continue.
Think about this and how it could ruin you, think about how it could gut out your heart when he decides he wants someone new, someone better, someone not you, think about the mistakes you've made when you though you were right and you were so so wrong, think about how he smiles like he's so strong but you could break him with just one denial.
Think about how feelings are fragile and prone to lying, but you can't regret it, can't think about the future and how one day this glorious mistake in falling in love could cut your hands with glass bitter words, or one action could rip him away from you forever and leave you only with silence. So you think about him, about this, how he's been telling you he loves you for a long long time and you just never realised, think about now, how he hums at the back of his throat when you run your fingers up the delineated lines of his ribs, how it is natural, is right, is like you have awoken from years asleep, a forever without the electricity sparking your bones.
This is what it comes back to, what it always has returned to, you and him, and the stars outside, and the tangled knot of skin your bodies create, and the way he touches his lips with yours and the admission you search out there with your own.
He loves you, tells you with a whisper of words that shine in a purple dark, and you reach out with a yearning heart and dare to believe him.