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i.

Being the youngest officer to graduate from Starfleet in fifty years means that most of Pavel's free time in the Academy was spent, well, studying. It wasn't hard - he has a knack for science and engineering and it's all just so interesting - but it was time-consuming, and he may have occasionally gotten a little homesick.

It's not really that different on the Enterprise, at first; people still look at him and see his age first. He knows that he'll prove himself to them if he hasn't already, but right now he can still hear people whispering things like "cute" and "adorable" and, worst of all, "kid" when they think he can't hear, and he's getting sick of it.

So he doesn't really expect anyone to join him in the mess hall, especially when he has his PADD pulled out and is looking over the latest edition of his favorite relativistic-physics journal, when someone sets another tray down next to his.

"Mind if I join you?"

Pavel looks up and sees Sulu standing above him. "Ah," says Pavel. "Yes, of course, Lieutenant."

Sulu pulls up a chair and sits next to him. "Call me Hikaru," he says.

Pavel nods uncertainly. "Then you must call me Pavel."

Hikaru frowns. "Can I ask you a question?" Pavel nods again, and Hikaru's mouth twitches in a suppressed smile. "I, uh, heard you a couple weeks ago, when you were trying to put in your authorization code, but when you introduced yourself - "

"Practice," says Pavel instantly, trying not to sound grumpy.

Hikaru outright laughs now. "Right." He stirs the noodles in front of him restlessly. "So why'd you join Starfleet?" he asks eventually.

Pavel shrugs. "Why not?"

Hikaru considers this, then nods. "I guess that's as good a reason as any," he admits.

"And you?"

"I've been on ships as long as I can remember," Hikaru says. "I grew up in San Francisco, right on the water, and then got my pilot's license as soon as I could." He shrugs. "I don't know, there's just something about being out there - out here, I guess - miles or lightyears away from solid ground..."

"Is a bit terrifying," Pavel says quietly. "But in a good way. Like the first time you move away from home."

Hikaru nods thoughtfully, then looks at Pavel. "Are you homesick?" he asks in an undertone.

"No," says Pavel immediately, then sees the look on Hikaru's face. "Yes," he amends. "A bit. Ever since I left. But it has been a long time now since I have been to Russia, and I still talk to my parents."

"No siblings?" asks Hikaru.

Pavel shakes his head. "No, but cousins. Lots of cousins."

"I can't imagine life without my siblings," says Hikaru. Pavel looks at him, and he adds, "I have six. Five brothers and a sister. Haruhi - that's my sister - she joined Starfleet, too, but she hasn't graduated yet. I'm the first person from my family to really leave San Francisco."

Pavel looks down at his own plate, then back at Hikaru. "Are you homesick?"

Hikaru smiles, sadly. "Yeah. I guess. Even at the Academy they could come visit whenever they wanted, and then Haruhi was there too, so of course everyone else was visiting all the time, and - and I guess this is really my first time away from home."

"It will get easier," says Pavel, at a loss as to what else to say. Hikaru just nods, quietly, and Pavel decides this is probably the right time for a dramatic change of subject. "The Captain has said that you fence?"

Hikaru looks up. "What?"

Pavel is suddenly struck by uncertainty. "Fencing? With the swords? Is that the right word?"

"Oh!" Hikaru brightens. "Yeah, fencing. I just - " He breaks off and frowns again. "He just - mentioned it?"

"I have heard him tell the story four times now," Pavel admits. "I think he likes telling it."

Hikaru looks down, abashed, and Pavel can't quite tell but he thinks he might be blushing. "Seriously?"

"He makes sound effects," Pavel adds. "Little booms, and schwings for the sword." He demonstrates, and Hikaru laughs infectiously, making Pavel grin. He doesn't mention the emphatic gestures - he might not be able to keep his composure. "I don't suppose you could...teach me?" he asks hopefully.

"How to fence?" asks Hikaru.

Pavel nods. "I have no combat training, but I am a fast learner!"

"None at all? How'd you get through the Academy without combat training?"

Pavel blushes this time. "I am only seventeen," he mumbles. "My mother would not sign the waiver for the combat training classes." When he dares to look at Hikaru again, Hikaru is trying really, really hard not to laugh, and Pavel wants to punch him in the face a little bit for it; on the other hand, he is trying not to, which is more than a lot of people on this ship do.

"Sorry," Hikaru says, still smiling. He coughs a little to get a hold of himself, then nods. "Yeah, fencing. I can teach you."

ii.

Six days later, Uhura sits down next to him in the mess, leans in close, and says, "So I hear that Lieutenant Lopez has the hots for you. I just want you to know that sometimes she can come on a little strong, and if you need someone to tell her to back off, just tell me."

Pavel stares at her. "...what?"

"Gloria Lopez," Uhura clarifies. "In Stellar Cartography. I overheard her saying she wanted to ask you out, but in the Academy she had a reputation for being persistent, and I just want you to know that she can't make you do anything you don't want to, and if you want me to tell her you're not interested, I can do that."

Pavel keeps staring. "...thank you?"

Uhura smiles brilliantly at him, reaches over and ruffles his hair, then stands up again and goes to join Spock at another table.

Hikaru immediately takes her place. "What the hell was that about?" he asks, with the gleam in his eye that always appears when they start gossiping. Well, not gossiping. Trading relevant information.

"I believe she just offered to scare off Lieutenant Lopez if I am not interested in her advances," says Pavel, still blinking.

Hikaru looks over at Uhura, then back at Pavel, then starts laughing. "You mean she offered to sit outside on the porch polishing a plasma rifle when Lopez comes to pick you up for your first date?"

"Da," says Pavel, and Hikaru laughs harder.

"That is fucking priceless," he says.

"She said Gloria has the hots for me," says Pavel, slightly in awe. "Do you think - "

Hikaru is already shaking his head, even as his chuckles finally wind down. "No, man. She'll walk all over you."

"I can take care of myself!" protests Pavel.

"Yeah, but you shouldn't have to," says Hikaru easily. "That's what we're here for."

On one hand, Pavel is grateful - it is nice to know that the rest of the crew has his back. On the other hand, being protected is not the same as being respected, and what he wants is the latter.

"Well, maybe I want to take care of the rest of you, too," Pavel mutters, but Hikaru doesn't hear.

iii.

The Captain himself comes to visit him in sickbay once he's cleared for visitors; Pavel is almost asleep when he appears at the foot of his bed, looking angry.

"I am issuing you a direct order to never do anything that stupid ever again," the Captain tells him sternly. "Don't think I won't have you court-martialed."

"I did not know stupidity was a court-martial-able offense," says Pavel. In his defense, he is on many painkillers for the gash in his leg.

"It is on my goddamned ship," says the Captain heatedly, and Pavel realizes that he is actually, genuinely angry - Pavel has never seen him like this before, eyes narrowed and jaw set, but it turns out to be incredibly intimidating. "When the giant dinosaurs attack, you leave the fighting to the people with advanced combat training, you understand?"

Pavel nods, eyes wide, as Doctor McCoy comes to stand next to the Captain.

"Ease off, Jim, the kid's terrified," he mutters, and Pavel feels a brief flare of anger - kid again - before he sees the Captain's eyes soften.

He runs a hand through his hair and sighs, before turning back to Pavel. "I haven't lost anyone on this crew yet," he tells him, "and I want to keep it that way for as long as possible. And you know what else? When it does happen, it's damn well not going to be you, you understand?" He points to his eyes, then at Pavel's, and reiterates, "I will court-martial you," before he leaves.

"Ignore him," says McCoy, sounding incredibly put-upon. "He's just antsy. Like a momma bear when one of her cubs is injured."

And again with the youth. Pavel would roll his eyes, but McCoy is walking along the side of the bed, closer to Pavel, looking grave.

"Now, Ensign," he says quietly. "When we were fixing you up, I noticed a whole lot of bruises, most of them recent and all on your chest and arms, where nobody can see them." He leans in closer, lowering his voice even more. "If someone's been hurting you, you know you can tell someone. Even if they say they care about you, 'no' means 'no' - "

"Are you shitting me?" demands Pavel, and when McCoy stares at him, he realizes that he said it in Russian. Damn pain medications. "No," he tells McCoy firmly. "Nobody is hurting me. Nobody is doing anything to me. I am taking fencing lessons with Lieutenant Sulu and I am very bad at it - that is all. Can I go back to my quarters now, please?"

He knows that somehow this will get back to Hikaru, who will then laugh. Probably a lot. Damn him.

At least Gloria sent him flowers.

iv.

"But how can a black hole exist without an event horizon?" Pavel demands. "The cosmic censorship hypothesis - "

"Not if you accept quantum loop theory, which all the data right now is pointing to," Scotty says loudly. "Now what you've got is a non-Schwarzchild black hole, one with spin and maybe charge, that flattens out into a loop - "

"Nyet, no, I do not believe it." Pavel pours himself some more vodka, and turns to Hikaru, who has been following the conversation with a look of intense, albeit drunken, interest. "What do you think?"

"I think," proclaims Hikaru carefully, "that 'naked singularity' is the funniest damn thing I've heard in my life."

Pavel turns back to Scotty. "See? Is laughable."

"No, you know what's really funny?" says Scotty. "Prepubescent black holes." Pavel and Hikaru stare at him for a moment, and he explains, "They have no hair."

Hikaru groans in disgust, and Pavel knocks back another shot of vodka. He is not drunk enough to deal with puns this bad.

"Mind you, if we're talking about sex," says Scotty, and Pavel pours himself another shot in preparation, "I've heard things about Orions that would make your toes curl."

"I do not think most of them are true," says Pavel glumly. "I have met Lieutenant Gaila. She pinched my cheeks and called me adorable."

"I'd like to have her pinch my cheeks any day," says Scotty happily.

"The ones on my face," Pavel clarifies, and Hikaru snorts whiskey out his nose, which really looks very painful. As Pavel hands him a napkin, he adds, "Would rather have had her offer to show me the ways of love."

Scotty frowns at him. "You are a virgin, aren't you?"

Pavel points a shaky finger at him. "That! That right there is what I have to put up with all the time!" He turns to Hikaru, whose eyes are still watering. "Everyone assumes that because I am young I am inexperienced. That anyone can hug me or tell me uncomfortably personal things or ruffle my hair and is all right because I am tiny. Well, I am not that tiny!"

"Yeah, but are you a virgin?" asks Scotty.

Pavel starts to blush. "Is not the point."

"Hey, aren't you still seeing Lieutenant Lopez?" says Hikaru. "I bet she'd totally - "

"I am not eighteen yet," says Pavel glumly. "She wants to wait. Says it is creepy now."

"Well, what the hell are you dating her for, then?" demands Scotty.

"Because she is nice and funny and smart," says Pavel heatedly. "And very pretty."

"Oh, a relationship," says Scotty as understanding dawns. "Well, you could've just said so."

Pavel stands abruptly, and the rec room sways. "I am going to sleep." He looks at Scotty, who is waggling his eyebrows, and then at Hikaru, who is clearly trying not to snicker into his drink. "Goodnight."

He even manages to get to his quarters without falling over. Much.

v.

"Ensign Chekov, if I may have a word?"

Pavel looks back even as he leaves the bridge, and sees Commander Spock following him.

"Uh," says Pavel. "Da. Yes."

Spock steps into the turbolift with him, and presses the button to close the doors. Then he turns to Pavel, blank-faced as ever. "I have been informed that you are pursuing a relationship with Lieutenant Gloria Lopez."

Pavel can feel his face pale. "Is - I did not think it would be a problem - "

"As long as it does not interfere with your work, it is not," Spock tells him. "However, you are now at an age where you are capable of informed consent. It is important to remember when engaging in sexual intercourse that a lack of proper protection can result in sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies that may not necessarily be desired. It is better to prevent than to - "

"Are you giving me the talk?" Pavel demands, trying to keep his voice below a shriek.

Spock raises an eyebrow. "The talk?"

"I am perfectly aware of how to - " Pavel splutters into incoherency for a moment as his face begins to turn new and interesting shades of red, before he gets the sentence back on track - "use protection! And I have already been told this!"

Spock's other eyebrow goes up, too. "Might I ask who has given you this talk?"

"The Captain," says Pavel angrily, "and Doctor McCoy, and Hikaru, and Lieutenant Uhura threatened to break Gloria's legs if she breaks my heart."

Spock's eyebrows knit together now - Pavel spares a quick thought to admire the versatility of Spock's eyebrow movements. "I was given to believe that you were in need of being informed of these facts," he says.

"By who?"

Spock's eyes narrow. "Captain Kirk," he says coldly. "I believe I will be having words with him."

"Maybe he wanted to embarrass you?" suggests Pavel, slightly more relaxed now that he isn't being given the talk. Again.

"Vulcans have no shame," says Spock, completely straight-faced.

"Right," says Pavel. The turbolift conveniently arrives at its appointed deck, and Spock stalks out of it.

Pavel amuses himself by imagining the painful death that most likely awaits Captain Kirk.