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To Boldly Go

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  i.


  

Yuuri regrets every decision he’s ever made leading up to this point.

He’s currently sprinting through a thick jungle, dodging phaser blasts and trying not to think about how much of his bare skin is brushing against alien plants of unknown toxicity levels. The thick waxy leaves of the trees cling to him, suffocating, until Yuuri wrenches away from their grasp and almost directly into the path of a phaser blast. He’s sweaty and tired and he just wants to go back to the ship, where he’s supposed to be, supervising the crew and conducting science experiments. Not running for his life on an unexplored planet, pursued by a large group of heavily armed Galra.  

All in all, it’s shaping up to be a typical day at work.

“Sara!” Yuuri barks into his tricorder. “Can you beam me up if I get out of the jungle? I think they’re gaining on me.”

“Hold on,” Sara says, her voice crackling over the weak signal. “We’re picking up the rest of the landing party. Just wait a second, the Captain is coming to get you.”

Yuuri curses.

“What? No! He’s useless,” he gasps, throwing a quick look over his shoulder. “Tell him not to come! Tell him I’m dead!”

“Yuuri, really, now isn’t the time to–”

Yuuri yelps as a phaser blast whizzes past a little too close, causing him to drop his tricorder. It’s immediately swallowed up by the thick carpet of the jungle floor. Perfect.

He reaches into his holster and pulls out his phaser, making sure it’s set to stun. He swerves right suddenly, spotting a clearing in his peripheral vision. He’s close enough to where he dropped his tricorder that Sara should be able to beam him up.

The clearing turns out to be the edge of a cliff. It’s a vertical drop down from the jungle Yuuri has just clawed his way out of to a misty, jagged chasm. Yuuri looks around wildly and realizes too late that he has nowhere else to go. His enemies have just broken through the edge of the trees and there’s nothing to take cover behind.

Today is not Yuuri’s day.

Yuuri stops and thinks. He goes through his options, mind racing to try to come up with a scenario in which he doesn’t end up dead. If Sara hasn’t beamed him up by now it’s likely that she isn’t able to lock onto his signature, so that’s not an option. He can’t run, he’s exhausted and there’s nowhere to to. He briefly entertains the idea of fighting back but it’s six-to-one and Yuuri doesn’t like those odds. It looks like Yuuri is going to have to talk his way out.

“Wait!” Yuuri calls in mangled Galran, eternally grateful that Leo has taught him the basics of communication in most languages. “Stop!”

The fact that Yuuri has spoken in their native tongue seems to surprise the Galra enough that they don’t shoot him right away. Yuuri counts that as a win.

“You can speak our language?” one of them–- probably the leader––says.

“Um, yes?” Yuuri clears his throat and pushes his shoulders back, feigning confidence. “Yes. So, let’s talk before you try to shoot me again.”

“Ha! You are funny, Starfleet scum!” the Galra laughs, raising his weapon again. “Too bad.”

Suddenly, Yuuri hears the rumble of a familiar engine coming from behind him. He ducks just in time for Viktor’s jet to shoot out from the canyon and bowl over the Galra, nearly crashing into the treeline in the process.

“Yuuri!” Viktor shouts, jumping out of the pilot’s chair as soon as he’s landed. “It’s okay now, I’m here!”

He flashes Yuuri his signature Prince Charming smile. Yuuri would normally find it devastating, but right now he’s too busy lifting his phaser to shoot out the two Galra that weren’t knocked out by Viktor’s jet. They hit the ground before they can even think about raising their weapons in Viktor’s direction.

“Watch your back,” Yuuri grumbles, striding forward towards Viktor. “Useless.”

“Hey! I just saved you! Don’t I get a thank you? Yuuri? What are you–” Viktor stammers as Yuuri marches right up to him and takes his face into his hands, gently rolling his head back and forth.

“Uh– Yuuri?”

“I’m making sure you didn’t fracture your neck in the crash,” Yuuri says, sliding his hands down Viktor’s shoulders, pressing lightly to test for any sprains, fingers skimming lightly along his clavicle. “We’ll have Seung-gil give you a full check-up once we get back but I don’t want you crashing our ship because you’re too much of an idiot to realize that you’re injured.”

“R-Right! Of course!” Viktor laughs, high pitched. Yuuri ignores how the slight flush of Viktor’s skin brings out his adorable freckles. He’s also slightly out of breath. Yuuri chalks it up to adrenaline from the crash.

“I think you’re okay,” Yuuri announces, taking a step back.

“Are you sure? Maybe you should check again, my back kind of hurts. Also, my face is kind of sore! And I think there’s something wrong with my hand and we don’t have anything to use as a splint so maybe you should hold it for me?”

Yuuri turns away, tuning out whatever it is Viktor is saying. He’ll probably be embarrassed about straight up groping his captain later, but for now they need to secure the Galra so they can be transported back to the Federation for trial. Mining for resources on a planet in a protected system is against the Federation’s laws for the preservation of the greater universe’s biodiversity. They’ll pay a heavy price. It’s probably a good thing that the Enterprise just happened to stumble upon them, even if Yuuri is annoyed that he didn’t get to finish taking plant samples.

“Vitya,” Yuuri calls over his shoulder as he drags one of the Galra bodies towards Viktor’s jet. “do you have any handcuffs?”

“What?”

Yuuri sighs, impatient.

“Oh, for the Galra. Yes! Hold on,” Viktor says, scrambling back up into the pilot's seat to procure six sets of Starfleet’s official metal limb restraints. Why Starfleet feels the need to stamp their logo on everything, down to the handcuffs , is beyond Yuuri. He takes them and together he and Viktor make quick work of restraining the Galra and hauling them into Viktor’s jet.

Yuuri crashes while Viktor readies the jet for takeoff. He slumps into the co-pilot seat, suddenly exhausted. He might have felt confident in the heat of the moment but now that the immediate danger has passed, Yuuri can feel all his doubt and anxieties seeping back in,a creeping moss clouding his head. Viktor, somehow, seems to sense this.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asks, hands stilling on the control panel.

Yuuri nods. “Just tired.”

Viktor looks at him for a long moment before he turns back to the controls, hands flying over them with a renewed speed.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be back home in no time,” he says reassuringly, lips quirking up. “You were amazing out there, Yuuri. And your aim! You never fail to surprise me, my cute little science officer.”

Yuuri blushes.

“I’m first officer for a reason,” he mumbles, rolling his eyes despite the blush spreading across his cheeks. “I know how to fight. You know I know how to fight.”

“I know,” Viktor says fondly. “And I know that you don’t like to.”

“I don’t,” Yuuri confirms, and then admits: “But it’s not so bad when I have you as back up.”

Viktor turns his face away as he pulls the spacecraft up and out of the atmosphere but Yuuri can see the pleased smile spreading across his face.

Viktor gets them back to the Enterprise in no time, the jet cutting across the distance so smoothly that Yuuri almost falls asleep. Viktor fills him in the entire way, informing him that Leo has already contacted Starfleet and that the rest of the landing party was beamed up safely, thanks to Sara.  

Mila and Yurio greet them as soon as they set the jet down in one of the Enterprise’s hangars. They’re accompanied by a small group of security officers, ready to transport the Galra to the Enterprise’s few holding cells.

“Mila!” Viktor sings, gesturing towards the still incapacitated Galra. “I brought you prisoners!”

Mila laughs at Viktor’s theatrics, her red hair almost as bright as her red security uniform under the bright lights of the hangar. She gestures for her crew to gather the prisoners up for detainment.

“Thanks, I was starting to feel useless. It’s been an entire week since you’ve provoked anyone enough for us to need our holding cells,” she says dryly, punching Viktor in the arm.

“I didn’t provoke them this time!”

“Katsudon!” Yurio barks suddenly, glaring. “You didn’t die. Good job.”

“Thank… you?” Yuuri smiles, certain that this will be the closest thing to a compliment that little Yurio will ever bestow upon him. “Make sure that the Galra are comfortable, okay? Just because they tried to kill me doesn’t mean they aren’t living beings.”

“Why are you so –?!” Yurio stops and rolls his eyes. “Nevermind. Yeah, I’ll make sure they’re okay, it’s my job, you know.”

Yurio turns on his heel and follows the rest of the security officers, bossing them around like he isn’t the youngest and lowest ranked among them. To his credit, the rest of the officers actually follow his orders. Yuuri thinks that they need to promote him.

“Wow,” Mila whistles. “You know, he doesn’t even follow my orders, and I’m Chief of Security. Anyway, if that’s all you should get down to the medbay before Seung-gil throws another fit. Chris is taking us back to the Anastasia starbase and Guang Hong is already working on an incident report. I’ll make sure to send Leo down to start translating the Galra’s statements and rights as soon as they’re conscious again.”

“Thank you,” Yuuri smiles softly. “And–?’

“The samples? Phichit and Georgi are taking care of whatever’s left from the landing party. Everything’s okay, Commander, just go get your medical evaluation and get some rest.”

“Alright,” Yuuri sighs, satisfied to see his ship running so smoothly despite all the chaos that today has brought. He tugs Viktor along towards the medbay, the captain chattering nonstop as they make their way through the halls. Yuuri is impossibly fond.

He loves his job, his crew, his ship, and, most of all, his captain.

 

 

 

 

Thinking back on it, Yuuri doesn’t know why he’s surprised that his life ended up like this.

 

 


ii.


 

Yuuri will never forget the first day he met Viktor Nikiforov because it’s also the first day he almost died doing something stupid. This seems to be a common trend with the two of them.

Yuuri was a freshman at the Academy, bright eyed and eager to prove himself worthy of his cadet uniform. He was a thousand miles away from home, in a new country, and surrounded by so many different cultures it made his head spin. He just met Phichit Chulanont, another freshman, but a full three years younger than him, the youngest person to ever be admitted into Starfleet’s science officer program. They had only known each other for a few weeks, but already they were talking about rooming together next semester. All of Yuuri’s classes were exciting and the library was gigantic. The campus was beautiful, perched at the edge of the San Francisco bay, a sprawling mass of concrete and steel nestled comfortably amongst the lush redwoods and dark waves.  He loved it here.

Halfway through his second semester he finds out about the Grand Prix Flight Test.

“It’s an obstacle course, basically,” his physics professor explains, leading the class through the hallways and out of the physics building. They walk out to the airfield where their professor herds them into a raised observation building.

“It’s designed to test pilots mostly. Us science officers use it to observe the effect of the forces on different types of space crafts.”

Yuuri watches with wide eyes from behind three feet of bulletproof glass as two fighter jets whizz past. They do some complicated maneuvers, dodging what looks to be paintballs being fired from cannons placed around the field. Yuuri cranes his neck to watch as the two planes suddenly pull upwards, spiraling higher and higher until one of them eventually pulls away. The other one continues to climb until Yuuri can barely see it, hovering somewhere miles above their heads.

It seems to stop for a moment, suspended in midair until it comes crashing back towards the Earth.

Yuuri watches in fascination and horror as the craft continues to fall. His classmates murmur anxiously, but their professor shushes them.

“Don’t worry,” she says, waving a hand. “Nikiforov knows what he’s doing.”

Just before the jet hits the ground it pulls up, shooting off to the left instead of shattering into a million, fiery pieces. It lands as Yuuri’s classmates cheer, relieved to not have witnessed an excruciating death. Yuuri’s professor begins to lecture on what they just saw.

She’s just beginning to get into the way that friction from the air affected the flight when the door to the observation room opens.

“Ah, Viktor! Perfect timing!”

Yuuri turns just in time to see perfection personified slip in through the door. The man– Viktor?– smiles at Yuuri’s professor. He’s tall with broad shoulders that fill out his flight suit nicely and high, delicate cheekbones. He steps further into the room, tossing his silver hair out of his eyes. Yuuri swears that they sparkle.

It’s like a bad movie. Yuuri is so disappointed in himself for falling for it.

“Professor Kiyoko! How’s your wife?”

“She’s well, surprising considering the heartattack you gave her during hover tests last week.”

“Ah,” the pilot says, bringing a hand up to rub the back of his neck. “That was an accident, I swear.”

“Mhmm,” she tsks, shaking her head fondly. “Class, this is Viktor Nikiforov. He’s currently in his third year training to become a pilot.”

“Hello, class!”

“We just watched you finish that last test. A little sticky on the uptake this time, weren’t you?”

“Yes, but I made it through, didn’t I?” Viktor says smirking. Yuuri thinks he’s going to pass out.

Professor Kiyoko whistles, turning back to the class. “Viktor currently holds the Starfleet Academy record for highest score on the Grand Prix Flight Test.”

“Well,” Viktor says with a shrug. “What can I say? I’m a good pilot.”

“You could be better,” Yuuri says before he can stop himself. He’s immediately mortified.

The entire class, Professor Kiyoko, and Viktor “Perfect” Nikiforov all turn to look at him. Yuuri wishes the ground would swallow him up.

“I just– I mean!” Yuuri scrambles. “I don’t mean that you’re a bad pilot! Y-You’re amazing! That was really cool! I just meant- uh.”

“You have some suggestions, Katsuki?” Professor Kiyoko questions, smiling encouragingly. She turns back to Viktor. “Yuuri is one of the brightest students I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching.”

“Oh?”  Viktor purrs, stalking closer. “Any tips, Yuuri ?”

“Um,” Yuuri squeaks. Viktor crowds into his personal space.

“I’m listening.”

“W-Well,” Yuuri starts, and then he looks away and focuses on the physics, the science behind flying and not on Perfect Viktor Nikiforov and his perfect blue eyes. He systematically lays out every part of the test that Viktor could have improved on, offering suggestions on how to work with physics instead of against it. By the time he’s done with his mini speech Professor Kiyoko is beaming proudly and Viktor looks gobsmacked.

“Wow,” he breathes out. “You’re something else, aren’t you, Yuuri Katsuki?”

“I-It’s just physics,” Yuuri mumbles, shuffling his feet. “And I’m j-just Yuuri.”

“Okay, Just Yuuri,” Viktor says, smiling. “Why don’t you show me how it works?”

“What?”

“Show me. Ride shotgun, tell me how to work– what did you just say? With? Show me how to work with physics.”

Yuuri gapes.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“Why not?” Viktor pouts. Yuuri is such a goner.

“P-Professor?”

“I think it’s a great idea,” she says. Yuuri feels betrayed.

“But, the added weight?”

“Factor that in, I know you can do it.”

Yuuri sighs. He looks up at Viktor. His sky blue eyes and upturned lips are like the sun.

“Yeah, okay. Where do I suit up?”

Twenty minutes later Yuuri is wearing an uncomfortably tight flight suit and a radio headset. He curls himself into the passenger seat of Viktor’s jet, apparently named Makkachin. He watches wearily as Viktor flips a bunch of switches and turns some knobs, reading off numbers into his own headset to double check with flight control. Yuuri struggles not to panic.

“Okay, Yuuri!” Viktor says. “We’re good to go! Ready?”

Yuuri takes a deep breath. He thinks about the science behind it, not about the mass of metal and highly flammable jet fuel he’s sitting on.

“Ready.”

The first half goes smoothly. They cut through the air like a shark, sleek and powerful, the hum of the engines low in the background. Yuuri and Viktor go back and forth, clicking effortlessly. They fill the comm with a constant stream of pull up a bit and should I ease up on acceleration and tilt left about 45 degrees . Yuuri doesn’t think before he speaks, doesn’t second guess himself. It’s perfect.

It’s perfect right up until they get to the drop.

“Keep going,” Yuuri says, watching the speed gauge as they climb higher and higher up into the stratosphere.

“Are you sure? I’ve never gone so far, the fall–”

“Just a little further, I’ll tell you when to pull up when we drop. Just a little more and– there it is. Let go.”

Viktor lets go. They fall.

Yuuri watches the ground rush up towards them. He sees Viktor glance at him nervously from the corner of his eye.

“Yuuri, I have to pull up soon.”

“Not yet,” Yuuri says, eyes flickering back and forth from the Earth to the dashboard.

“Yuuri–”

“Almost!”

“We’re gonna crash!”

“No,” Yuuri says firmly, shaking his head. “We’ll make it.”

“We won’t–”

“Trust me, Viktor!”

Yuuri sees Viktor grip the control wheel with white knuckles, but he doesn’t pull up yet.

“When you bring us up, bounce the thrusters once,” Yuuri says as he scans the dashboard gauges one more time.

“Now!”

They barely scrape by, landing a little roughly, but in one piece. Yuuri sighs, relieved that he hadn’t messed up and killed them both. He laughs, shakily and turns towards Viktor.

Viktor just stares at him.

Flight control informs them that they beat Viktor’s previous record by a whopping fifty points. One of the voices complains that there’s no way that anyone can top that now. Yuuri tries not to take it as a challenge. They barely survived this last run, now’s not the time to be getting competitive. Viktor hasn’t said anything yet.

“Um, Viktor? Are you okay?”

Yuuri is starting to worry. Has he offended Viktor somehow? Maybe he shouldn’t have flown with him.

“Viktor?”

Viktor smiles then, slow and shaky.  

Yuuri Katsuki,” Viktor breathes out. “Please, please, be my co-pilot.”

Yuuri flushes. He removes his headset and unbuckles his seatbelt, fidgeting. “I’m not a pilot.”

“We’ll get you licensed. I can pull some strings to get you into the program, just– please,” Viktor looks at him, eyes wide and face flushed, slightly out of breath. “Please.”

“Viktor, I can’t just–”

“You felt it, right? It was like– like a connection. That was amazing, Yuuri, you’re amazing. We make a great team.”

“Yeah, I felt it,” Yuuri concedes, a smile blooming across his face. “We do make a pretty good team, don’t we?”

Viktor continues to stare at him with what can only be described as childlike wonder. Yuuri notices that his hands are shaking.

“Uh, shouldn’t we get out now? So they can do some maintenance on Makkachin?”

“What?” Viktor snaps out of his daze. “Oh! Yes, let’s– I need to return you to Professor Kiyoko.”

While he changes back into his cadet uniform Yuuri feels Viktor’s eyes on him. He tries not to feel self conscious, tries not to think about Viktor begging Yuuri to switch programs after one flight together. He fails miserably.

“That was the single stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Professor Kiyoko tells them as soon as they make it back to the observation room. “How did you do it?”

“It’s just physics,” Viktor says with a grin. He nudges Yuuri lightly. “You’ve got a real genius here, Professor.”

Yuuri ducks his head. Now that the adrenaline has worn off he’s starting to feel unbalanced.

“That was incredible,” Professor Kiyoko says. “Katsuki, I’m assigning you to shadow Viktor for the rest of the year. You can use him as your final project.”

“W-What?” Yuuri’s head snaps up.

“Yuuri! This is great! You’re my new partner in crime!”

Yuuri shadows Viktor for two years. It’s the best two years of Yuuri’s life. They beat their own record twice, technically three times, but that first time doesn’t count officially because Yuuri wasn’t registered as a flight assistant at the time. Viktor never manages to convince Yuuri to switch programs, but that hardly matters when he bases his physics projects on Viktor every semester. Viktor never gets a co-pilot, though that hardly matters when it’s clear that Viktor has his sights set on position’s higher than just piloting spacecrafts.  

In his senior year, Viktor jokes about purposefully failing all his classes so he can stay behind with Yuuri. Yuuri rolls his eyes.

“I’ll wait for you,” Viktor promises on his graduation day, clutching Yuuri close to his chest. His new uniform is a vibrant yellow, fitting for someone who shines as brightly as Viktor does.

“Vitya, don’t,” Yuuri smile is a little wobbly. “You’re going to be great. You don’t need to wait for anyone, least of all me.”

“I will,” he says firmly, arms tightening around Yuuri. “Give me– How many years do you have left? You’re going for a double specialization, right? Give me five years. I’ll be a Captain. I’ll get us a ship, I promise.”

“Slow down there, Ensign,” Yuuri chuckles wetly. “You’re getting ahead of yourself, you just graduated.”

Viktor shakes his head, determined. “I’ll do it. I’ll become a Captain and then I’ll wait for you to graduate. You’re gonna be my First Officer, Yuuri, just you wait.”

Yuuri pulls back, eyes a little damp but grinning so widely he thinks his face might split. “Okay, Captain. I’ll look forward to it.”

“Just you wait,” Viktor says again, pulling Yuuri back into the hug. “We’re gonna rule the galaxy together.”

Six years later, Yuuri starts his first day as the First Officer to Viktor Nikiforov, Captain of the USS Enterprise.

 

 


 iii.


 

Navigation alerts them to the discovery of a new planet, not far from where they’re currently docked in a floating trading city. Viktor insists that they check it out.

“It’s an exploration mission!” he yells gleefully. “We haven’t had a proper landing mission in ages.”

They assemble all the necessary officers for the landing team: mainly Yuuri and whoever he wants to bring along. It’s a struggle not to pick his entire department, but he eventually decides on a small core team of biologists, chemists, and Chris. Viktor also forces his way onto the mission.

“This is a science mission, Viktor,” Yuuri explains patiently. “For scientists .”

“You’re bringing Chris,” Viktor points out.

“Yes, but that’s because we need someone to fly the shuttle there and back. Also, Chris doesn’t complain as much as you do.”

“I resent that.”

Yuuri ends up packing way too much gear, like always. It never hurts to be safe. The planet is very Earth like, with a high percentage of water and climate zones similar to the ones on Earth. It revolves around a binary star system, meaning they have two sunsets everyday. Yuuri is particularly interested in how the extra sun affects plant life. Phichit calls him a nerd.

“Well, it’s kind of my job to be a nerd. It’s your job to be a nerd, too,” Yuuri says. “Also, start packing. You’re coming with us.”

They land just after the second sun rises, putting a full 18 hour day ahead of them. Viktor outlines rendezvous times and goes over Starfleet regulations one last time. No one but Yuuri pays attention to that part. After checking in and calibrating their tricorders the group disbands, everyone going off to fulfill their particular goal.

Yuuri is observing some interestingly spotted ferns when he hears the voice. It cuts through his thoughts like a knife, clear and low. It takes him a second to register that it’s speaking to him in Japanese, and not Standard. Yuuri follows the voice, entranced.

Clever boy,” it says, leading him to the mouth of a cave. “ Such a clever boy.”

Yes! Yuuri thinks, picking his way across the piles of bones littering the cave floor. I am a clever boy!

He stops then and thinks what the hell ? He shakes his head to clear it of the fog. Okay, whatever this thing is, it’s messing with his mind. He wonders if maybe it’s pheromones from the plants. He wants to go back out to check.

“Clever boy, come closer.”

Yuuri looks up to see a giant, scaly beast slithering towards him. It looks a lot like a snake, but it’s scales are iridescent, shifting in the low light. Yuuri wonders about their chemical composition. His gaze flickers to the thing’s… head? If you could call it that. It’s more of a lump of flesh with teeth. Yuuri notes that it doesn’t have eyes.    

Clever boy, ” the voice whispers directly into Yuuri’s head. “ You don’t want to die here, millions of light years from your home, do you? What would your sister say? Your mother? You don’t belong on that ship, do you, clever boy? Stay here, with me. Stay and we can–”

“Oh, shut up,” Yuuri says, raising his phaser and shooting the snake thing.

He stares at the stunned body, debating whether or not to run and call for backup. He decides to alert Phichit to his location and starts setting up shop to analyze whatever the hell this thing is.

“I mean, really?” Yuuri mutters, pulling out a syringe. “That was hardly a compelling argument.”

It seemed to have some kind of telepathic ability. Yuuri should probably be careful, it is alive after all. But then he thinks, this thing just tried to get him to abandon his ship, probably so it could eat him or something, so really, who’s in the wrong here? He takes some samples and explores its lair for a bit before he goes, making sure to highlight it as a danger zone as he leaves, just in case someone else from their landing party accidentally stumbles upon it after it wakes up.

By the time he meets up with the rest of the landing party it’s almost first sunset. As he approaches the group he notices that everyone seems to be frazzled, punching things rapidly into their tricorders.

“Hey,” he says, coming up behind Viktor. “What’s going on? Is something wrong?”

Viktor whips his head around to stare at Yuuri, relief palpable on his face. “Yuuri!”

“... Yes?”

“Where have you been? We’ve been looking everywhere!”

Yuuri frowns. “I’m not late to the rendezvous time, though? And I pinned my location earlier, so–”

“That was hours ago!”

“Sorry, but again: I’m here on time. I don’t see what the problem is.”

“Viktor was just being Team Mom again,” Chris says, slinging an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders. “He got everyone all worked up. He was worried that you wandered off and got eaten by a giant snake or something.”

“Oh,” Yuuri says. “Well, I almost did get eaten by a giant snake. But I’m okay.”

What?”

“Yeah, I was exploring some caves and– Viktor!” Yuuri yelps as Viktor crowds against him, hands roving his body frantically. “What are you doing?!”

“I’m checking for injuries, you idiot!” Viktor says, tilting Yuuri’s head back and forth in his hands. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

“I’m fine, it didn’t even touch me! I stunned it and got some samples before I left, I’m not hurt– Ow! Stop it!”

Viktor pokes Yuuri’s side. “I am never letting you out of my sight again. We’re all using the buddy system from now on.”

“Viktor, I am a trained and certified Starfleet officer. I don’t need you babysitting me.”

“It’s not babysitting,” Viktor says, turning his head to address the rest of the landing party. “Partner up, we’re using the buddy system.”

“Dibs on Yuuri,” Phichit says, shoving his way in between Yuuri and Viktor. Chris pouts off to the side.

“You can’t have him, he’s my partner,” Viktor frowns. “I need to protect him from giant snakes.”

“Okay, first of all, I don’t need protecting from anything. I took care of myself. Secondly, this is a waste of resources and time, we’re all trained officers not pre-schoolers. It would be much more efficient if everyone went off and fulfilled their individual parts of the mission, you know, like we’ve been doing for the better part of the year?”

“Yeah, you heard Yuuri,” Chris smirks. “Let’s split up, gang.”

“I hate you all and your vintage Earth TV show references,” Seung-gil mutters.

“You’re right, Yuuri,” Viktor turns so he’s fully facing the rest of the landing team. “The rest of you will go on doing… whatever it is that we assigned you to do. Yuuri and I will use the buddy system.”

Yuuri groans. He resigns himself to explaining basic scientific concepts to Viktor for the rest of the expedition.

“This isn’t fair!” Phichit complains. “I’m the next ranked science officer, I should be paired with Yuuri!”

“You live with him. You see him all the time,” Viktor says, pouting like a child. “Learn to share.”

“He’s my bestfriend!”

“He’s my First Officer!”

“I hate you both,” Yuuri says. He grabs Viktor by the arm, tugging him in the direction he’d just come from. “C’mon, we have three hours before the next rendezvous and I want to see if this planet has any dogs.”

“Okay, team! Meet back here in three hours, you know the drill,” Viktor yells over his shoulder as he bounds along next to Yuuri. Yuuri hides his fond smile by turning his head, watching the first sun dip below the horizon line.

 

 


 iv.


 

Sometimes Yuuri misses Earth so much it hurts to breathe because he knows he’s not breathing in Earth air. Sometimes he looks around at the ship he loves, his home , and he hates the sleek metal and chrome so much it scares him. He longs for the rich scent of soil, the lush green of an Earth forest. Yuuri misses the sea the most, the crashing waves a perfect metronome. Yuuri had been homesick back at the Academy, but never like this. San Francisco was only an ocean away from Japan, after all. Now there’s trillions of miles in between him and the Hasetsu cherry blossoms. It’s a bruise that gets prodded often.

No one else on board really understands this homesickness, except Phichit. They’re the only two of the crew that had been born on Earth. It was like this when they were in school, too: the two of them curled up close together, as if clutching someone else from Earth would soothe the ache of being so far away from their roots.

They populate their rooms with knick-knacks and photographs until the walls and halls connecting their rooms are crowded with them. As the First Officer, Yuuri should theoretically have his living quarters but then he and Phichit would have to split their things between them and, realistically, Phichit would spend most of his free time in Yuuri’s room anyways. After rooming together at the Academy for so long it’s hard to break old habits.

“Mari sent another postcard!” Yuuri calls on mail day, waving his hands excitedly. Phichit lifts his head from where he was slumped over on the couch.

“Great!” he beams. “Put up on the wall.”

Yuuri crosses the room to the wall they have dedicated to pictures and postcards from home. Every time they get physical mail at least one of their siblings has sent them something. Phichit’s younger sister is an aspiring photographer, taking after Phichit, so her photos take up the majority of the wall. Yuuri has a small corner where he tacks up the postcards Mari sends him on the rare occasion that she leaves Hasetsu.

“Another one from Tokyo?”

“Yeah, look! This one has the tower on it.”

“Neat!”

Their rooms on the Enterprise is almost identical to their apartment back in San Francisco. Seung-gil tells Yuuri that it’s unhealthy to cling to the past and all this hoarding is probably a sign of a deep psychological issue. Yuuri kindly tells him to mind his own business and let him have his pretty pictures.

Yuuri loves how they’ve turned their small corner on the ship into a wild mix of their two homes. Phichit understands him completely. Other people? Not so much.

The ship is docked inside a large trading port, a big city made of floating metal and straddling the stratosphere of a dark, stormy planet. They have a couple hours while they wait for the ship to refuel to stock up on supplies. Naturally, Viktor turns it into a shopping trip.

“Amazing!” he cries, herding their small group through an open air market. It's bright up here, despite the roiling mass bellow. Yuuri takes in the vivid colors and sounds, basking in the cacophony. He likes it here, he decides.

Viktor loops an arm around Yuuri’s, pulling him towards a vendor selling a strange looking tentacle thing roasted on a stick.

“Are you guys hungry? Let's eat! I'll pay!”

“Thanks, dad,” Yurio says, rolling his eyes.

“Hey! I'm just trying to look out for my crew,” Viktor pouts.

“Yeah, stop calling him dad,” Yuuri teases. “He's obviously more of a grandpa. Look at his hair.”

Viktor looks at him, betrayed while their crew laughs in the background. Yuuri pats him on the head.

“Go ahead and eat,” he says, extracting himself from Viktor's side. “I’ll catch up later. I want to look around.”

Yuuri wanders off, swept up in the electric atmosphere of the market. He bounces from stall to stall while the others eat. He's just turning away from a booth selling six fingered gloves when he spots it.

It's perfect.

A small, hairy looking vendor is hunched over in one of the smaller stalls, at the center is a masterpiece: an Earth world map painted on dark, cherry wood. Yuuri moves forward as if in a trance. The map is intricate and mostly accurate, from what he can see. The glossy paint shines brightly in a nice contrast to the wood behind it. Yuuri thinks that it would look perfect on his and Phichit's photo wall. He knows especially that Phichit would love it, being the cartographer and certified Map Nerd that he is.

He has to have it.

(Here are some things about Yuuri:

  1. As one of the highest ranking science officers in Starfleet, he has a fairly large bank account. It's enough to buy a planet, even after he sends the majority of his paycheck back home.
  2. He has no impulse control.)

“Hello!” Yuuri greets enthusiastically. The vendor nearly falls off their stool. “How much for the map?”

“The- The Earth map?”

“Yes! It's gorgeous! Is that real Earth wood or synthetic?”

“I-It’s real, sir. Real cherry wood from Japan.”

“From Japan?” Yuuri gasps. He bounces on his heels excitedly. “From Japan!”

“Yes,” the vendor inches back as Yuuri crowds in closer, inspecting the detailing on the map. Yuuri can hardly believe his luck, the map was drawn with modern country borders.

“I’ll take it,” Yuuri says, sliding his card out from his wallet. “How much?”

“1,500 Federation Credits, sir.”

Yuuri gapes.

“Um. What.”

“Well, You see it's a real Earth artifact made by an Earth human. That is rare this far away from the Terran system.”

“Well, yes, but that price isn't reasonable. Give it to me for half.”

The vendor gapes at him. Their previous timid demeanor falls away. Yuuri steels himself for a fight.

By the time the rest of the crew find him, he's managed to haggle the price down to a much nicer number. It's still a disgustingly large amount of money, but it's not like Yuuri is spending his credits like this all the time. He needs that map.

His crewmates stare in horror as Yuuri forks over the entire sum in cash, after ransacking a nearby ATM.

“Yuuri,” Viktor says, sounding strangled. “I don’t understand.”

Yuuri clutches the map close to his chest. It’s heavy.

“Yuuri… babe,” Chris looks at him like he’s grown a third head. “I’ve seen you use socks as mittens to save money. You just spent, like, enough credits to buy a small moon. Why?”

“Yeah, Katsudon, what the hell? It’s just a chunk of wood.”

“No, guys, you don’t understand,” Yuuri flips the map around to show them. “It’s Earth! And it’s made from Earth wood from Japan, look!”

Yuuri points excitedly at the small island. “This is where I was born!”

Chris leans in so close that his nose almost brushes the glossy, painted surface. “Wow, you never told me your home was on an island!”

Yuuri nods excitedly.

“I know you guys didn’t study Earth geography while we were in school but do you at least know where San Francisco is?”

“It’s somewhere here, isn’t it?” Chris guesses, gesturing vaguely towards Europe.

“We spent six years there,” Yuuri says, shaking his head. “It’s here. And this is Thailand! Where Phichit is from!”

“I still don’t understand what’s so cool about a map. Can’t you just look up one?” Viktor asks.

“But this one is so pretty! And it’s from Earth, it’s like–” Yuuri cuts himself off, a little embarrassed that he’s so excited about something that his friends think is only worth a passing glance. “Phichit would understand.”

“He ran off, a little while ago. He said something about seeing some–”

“Yuuri!” Phichit screeches. He’s weaving through the crowd towards them, his hands clutching two tall cups of–

“Is that milk tea?!”

Phichit nods when he finally pushes his way to them. He hands Yuuri one of the cups, full of pastel purple liquid with dark brown dots sitting at the bottom.

“How?!”

“One of the vendors was selling them! I got you the taro flavored one.”

Yuuri takes a sip. He lets out an indecent moan.

“I’m still confused,” Viktor says, face slightly flushed and eyes darting back and forth between Yuuri and Phichit. “What’s milk tea?”

“An Earth delicacy,” Phichit informs him.

“It’s tea, but… with milk. Try it,” Yuuri says, holding the straw out to Viktor. He takes an experimental sip, face brightening when it hits his tongue.

“Oh!” Viktor smiles. “It’s… chewy!”

“That’s the boba. Here, Chris, Yurio, Leo, all of you! Try it!”

They pass the cup around. Yuuri bounces with excitement.

“Okay, it’s good, but I still don’t get it. You can make this on the ship.”

“Yeah, Katsudon. It’s just tea.”

Yuuri deflates slightly. He turns to Phichit, his platonic soulmate, who seems to be on the same wavelength.

“It’s okay, they don’t understand. Also, holy shit that’s the coolest map I’ve ever seen, is that real wood?”

Yuuri laughs. He doesn’t know how he’d ever survive without Phichit.

When they get back on the ship Yuuri wastes no time in hanging up the map. He pulls out a roll of extra strength tape that he stole from Sara down in engineering. Even in a multi-billion credit spaceship duct tape seems to be the answer to everything.

While Yuuri struggles with the tape Phichit uploads his photos from his camera onto his computer.

“Anything good?” Yuuri asks over his shoulder. He tacks on the last piece of tape and gently presses the map to the wall. Perfect.  

“Hmm… maybe,” Phichit responds. “Can you come look at this?”

“Sure, what’s up?” Yuuri comes up behind Phichit and drapes himself over the back of his chair. “Is it a picture of a dog?”

“You and dogs,” Phichit shakes his head fondly. “No, it’s not a dog. I think… I think I might have found something? I was playing around with my new lens, the one that Starfleet sent in. It’s got like a crazy amount of zoom! I love it more than I love life, Yuuri.”

Phichit continues to babble on about the specs of his new lens and how it works with his high resolution camera and how clear everything looks. Yuuri smiles and pulls up a chair next to Phichit so he can lean his head against the younger man’s shoulder and listen as his voice gets higher as he gets more and more excited. After a while Phichit cuts himself off.

“I had to fiddle with the aperture to get it to– wait, I had something to show you!” he taps at his computer screen and pulls up a picture. “Sorry, I got distracted. Here, look!”

Yuuri peers curiously at the photo. It’s a gorgeous shot of space with the stormy planet and the trading city in the foreground. The stars twinkle brightly in the distance and the space around them is tinged pink and purple with the ionized gases of nebulas. The interstellar clouds look fluffy and soft, a bright contrast to the raging storm on the planet below and the hard metallic lines of the trading city.  Phichit must have held himself very still because Yuuri didn’t see him carrying a tripod earlier and the photo captured so many stars that it’s impossible for him to not have used a long exposure time. It is, like all of Phichit’s shots, absolutely beautiful.

Wow ,” Yuuri breathes and he falls in love with the mystic beauty of outer space all over again.

“Thank you,” Phichit preens. “But that’s not what I wanted to show you, look!”

He fiddles around and zooms in to a dark patch of space between nebulas.

“This is the famous Chaos patch, named after the ancient Earth Greek cosmological myth about the deity representing the void before the birth of the universe,” Phichit tells him.

“It’s also called the Womb of Darkness. Edgy, huh?” Phichit turns his head, smiling Yuuri’s favorite lopsided grin. Yuuri will never stop being amazed and how much stuff is crammed in Phichit’s head. As the lead cartographer on board it’s his job to know all the nearby systems and their names but Yuuri has no idea how Phichit manages to remember every single sliver of information he’s ever come across. Yuuri struggles to remember his own birthday most of the time.

“So, it’s supposed to be this patch of… nothingness?” Yuuri asks. “No star systems, no… anything?”

“Nothing but the cold, dark vacuum of space!” Phichit says cheerfully. “For tons and tons of light years! It’s a massive piece of void!”

“Okay, so? What were you going to show me?”

“Well, because it’s full of nothing no one usually bothers to look at it,” Phichit says, expanding the image further. “ I wasn’t even trying to look at it but I was trying to edit this to maybe sell it as a print when I saw this!

Yuuri lifts his head from Phichit’s shoulder and squints at the screen.

“It’s… a white dot?”

“It’s three by five pixels of light, Yuuri!” Phichit squeals, bouncing excitedly. “There’s no light in nothingness! Which means there’s something there! At first I thought maybe it was a mistake or some glare from the windows but I checked the rest of my photos from multiple angles and it’s still there!”

“Phichit, that’s amazing! If there’s light there’s probably a star system, maybe even some planets, maybe even some life,” Yuuri grins, caught up in his friend’s excited energy.

“I know! We have to send it to Starfleet immediately so they can send out an exploration team.”

“An exploration team?” Yuuri frowns. “Why don’t we just go?”

Phichit whips his head towards Yuuri.

“Us? We can’t go. We have a mission.”

“Our mission is to discover new things,” Yuuri points out. “This is a new thing.”

“But we can’t go,” Phichit frowns. “It’s… It’s….”

“It’s what? Too far? We have the best ship in the universe with warp drive capabilities and some of the best ion thrusters out there.”

“Yuuri, it’s very far . It would take us months and what if–”

Phichit breaks off, uncharacteristically self conscious.

“What if what?” Yuuri prods gently.

“What if I’m wrong? I’d waste so much of our time and resources. What if there’s nothing there?”

“Phichit, you were so sure just a second ago. Why are you doubting yourself now?”

Phichit stops and takes in Yuuri’s words. Yuuri reaches over to take his hand reassuringly.

“You’re right,” he says eventually. When he looks up Yuuri spots a familiar glint of determination in his eyes. “Let’s go.”

They get the mission approved from Starfleet with relative ease. Yuuri thinks that Viktor must have pulled some strings with Admiral Yakov. He can’t scold him on blatantly using Yakov’s favoritism in their favor because Yuuri also took advantage of Madame Baranovskaya’s soft spot for him to get them new mapping equipment for Phichit.

It really does take them months but eventually the small speck of white becomes a faint glimmer in the distance becomes a full star system right in front of them, burning brilliant and alone, nestled in the vast patch of void. Phichit cries when he sees it.

It’s a singular star orbited by five small planets but it’s something. In the distance, they can see another faint glimmer, another yet to be explored collection of celestial bodies just waiting.

“Oh my god, Yuuri,” Phichit gasps, clutching Yuuri by the front of his uniform. “I discovered a star system!”

“I know!” Yuuri laughs, eyes crinkling at the corners. “What are you going to name it?”

“What?”

“You discovered it, you get to name it.”

Phichit breaths in deep, eyes shining. He looks out from the viewing port at the system he discovered, tucked into a previously ignored corner of existence. Yuuri watches his face as he looks off into the horizon at the second glimmer, the hint of more to come.

“I’m naming it the Chulanont system,” Phichit says. “For my family. For my country.”

Yuuri is so, so proud to call Phichit his best friend.

 

 


 v.


  

A few months after they explore the Chulanont system, they pick Minami up at a small Starfleet training facility on the edge of the quadrant. He pretty much immediately latches onto Yuuri.

They’ve been meaning to pick up more medical crew. Seung-gil has been very vocal about the lack of help around the medbay, so Viktor put in the request to Starfleet and very soon they were directed to a tiny moon in a tiny system where they picked up the tiniest medical officer in the whole galaxy.

“C-Commander Katsuki! My name is Kenjirou Minami!” Minami squeaks, shaking Yuuri’s hand vigorously. “I-It’s s-such an honor, sir!”

“Likewise,” Yuuri says smiling. “I’m glad you’ll be joining our crew.”

Minami looks like he’s going to faint. Yuuri is mildly concerned.

“Are you okay, Ensign?”

“Y-Yes, sir! It’s just that– I’m a really big fan!”

“A… fan?” Yuuri asks with a creeping sense of horror.

“Yes! I grew up on Earth and, well, you probably already know but you’re a really big deal back home! You’re really such a big inspiration. You’re the reason I joined Starfleet.”

Yuuri chokes. He’s … flattered but uncomfortable with such high praise. Minami looks up at him like he created the universe.

“You see, I’m … I’m natural-born, too,” Minami says. “Everyone told me I couldn’t join Starfleet. Until you did! And then you became one of the highest ranking science officers in the entire galaxy! I don’t know if you’ve been home recently but you’re the face of a movement, Commander Katsuki!”

“A movement?”

“For less natural-born discrimination! You don’t know?”

“I haven’t been home in a while,” Yuuri mumbles guiltily. He studies the small bundle of energy in front of him. Minami is very young, barely graduated. He’s smaller than the average person, like Yuuri, which gives away his birth circumstances. Minami had passed the interview process with flying colors, according to Viktor. His file was impressive, too. He’s so bright eyed and eager to discover that it makes Yuuri excited, swept up in his energy. Yuuri can almost see his younger self in Minami.

“Well,” Yuuri says, clearing his throat. “Welcome to the crew of the Enterprise.”

“Thank you so much, Commander!”

“Please,” Yuuri says as he smiles warmly. “Call me Yuuri. Everyone does.”

Minami flaps his hands in excitement. Yuuri resolves to do everything in his power to protect this small cinnamon roll.

From then on, Minami becomes Yuuri’s shadow. Seung-gil complains that Minami spends more time in the labs than he does in the med bay.

“I mean, he’s doing blood tests,” Yuuri says. “I don’t see why it’s a problem.”

“He’s supposed to be under my department, Yuuri,” Seung-gil grumbles. “Last I checked, the Chief Medical Officer was in charge of the subordinating medical officers.”

Yuuri hums in amusement. “We can request more staff.”

“And risk getting another one of your fanboys? I’d rather assist in a Gorn childbirth.”

Yuuri chuckles.

Minami can be a little obnoxious sometimes but Yuuri likes him anyway. There’s something about the kid, something bouncy and youthful and full of life in a way that Yuuri had never been at his age. At his age Yuuri was burying his nose in textbooks and praying that Starfleet would admit him, against all odds. Yuuri tells him this one day.

“I almost didn’t get in,” he admits, busy finishing up analyzing some chemical compounds. It’s just him and Minami in the lab this late, the younger officer refusing to let Yuuri carry out the last experiments alone. Out in the halls the lights have dimmed to simulate night time but inside the lab is brightly lit.

You?! ” Minami squeaks, scandalized. “They almost didn’t let you in?”

“I wasn’t always a Chief Science Officer, you know,” Yuuri says sheepishly. “I barely scraped by the application requirements. I think the only reason they didn’t flat out reject me was because Minako-sensei vouched for me.”

“But-But! You’re a legend! If they never admitted you, I never even would have applied!”

“You keep saying that,” Yuuri frowns, swirling the contents of a beaker lazily. “I-I don’t really understand why I’m the reason you joined.”

“How can you not know?” Minami demands before he remembers himself. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to yell, Commander.”

“I told you, no one really cares about ranks on this ship,” Yuuri reassures. “You can call my Yuuri.”

“Yuuri, surely you know that Starfleet has been using you as the face of the organization! You’re a hero! An idol!”

“Um. Well, they did take my picture for some promotional stuff, but I thought that would just be for some pamphlets in Japan? I know you said before that I’m … the face of a movement … but what does that even mean? How can I lead a movement if I’m not even on Earth?”

“Through example!” Minami looks at him, his big eyes shining under the lab’s too-bright lights. “No other naturally born person has held an office so high since the 21st century!”

“I mean, okay? Being naturally born really isn’t a big deal–”

“It is to me!” Minami almost shouts.

Yuuri stops, eyes widening. He sets down his beaker, aware that he’s hurt Minami on some level.

“I-It’s a big deal,” he repeats, quieter. “I never thought– I wasn’t as fast or as strong as the other cadets. Or as smart. I had health problems that none of the doctors knew how to deal with. I thought I’d never leave Japan, let alone the planet.”

Yuuri stares at him, a lump in his throat.

“But then!” Minami continues. “You were admitted! And you weren’t as naturally gifted as the rest of your classmates either but you were– are!– just as good. Better. And then you were promoted to First Officer of a starship right after graduation! Starfleet capitalized on that right away. You said you hadn’t been back to Earth in a while? You’re everywhere, Yuuri. Naturally born people started applying to Starfleet in droves.

“So, it matters, okay? To me and to them.”

Yuuri gulps.

“I-I,” he starts, and then swallows again. “I’m sorry, Minami. I didn’t know–”

“Well, now you do,” Minami says, eyes blazing. “So don’t talk yourself down, okay? You deserve the recognition.”

And then he smiles up at Yuuri, so big and bright that Yuuri feels, momentarily, like he just watched a star being born.

 

 


 vi.


 

Yuuri has always been self conscious about the fact that he’s naturally born. Most people’s parents visit a geneticist to eliminate a predisposition to a disease or bad traits that they don’t want their kid to have. The human race is honing themselves down to be the brightest, fastest, healthiest they can be. His peers had always been the picture of health: loud and vibrant and so obviously planned. Yuuri, however, was a–

“Not a mistake. Not an accident,” his mother insists. “A surprise.”

Even Yuuri’s older sister, Mari, had been planned. It’s obvious, when you place them next to each other. Mari is taller, her skin clearer and eyes sharper looking. Yuuri tends to hunch over himself, trying to make himself seem as small as possible.

“He has a severe anxiety disorder,” the doctor reports. “Most people engineer it out but sometimes it’s inevitable, environmentally caused or otherwise. It’s not hard to treat, but we’re not sure how his… natural… immune system would react to the medication. It was designed to fix the brain chemistry of engineered individuals.”

The most they can give him is therapy. Yuuri doesn’t understand how talking to someone will help him feel less like he’s drowning but he goes for his parent’s sake. This turns out to be the best decision of his life.

His therapist’s name is Minako Okukawa but Yuuri calls her Minako-sensei. She’s a recently returned home Starfleet officer, specialized in medicine and particularly mental health. Yuuri thinks she’s the coolest person he’s ever met.

“Space does weird things to people’s brains,” she tells him. “We’re still trying to study it but… even engineered people have trouble coping.”

She tells him all about her time in Starfleet. Of course, Yuuri knew about the type of things that Starfleet did, but he didn’t know just how cool their missions were.

“One time,” Minako says. “We were on an exploration mission to this new planet. We were the first ones to touch the surface, ever. No intelligent life forms whatsoever. After a day or two, we realized that the plants were secreting some kind of hormone or pollen or something. It was making everyone horrendously sick. Luckily, I ran some tests and managed to neutralize the threat and get everyone back onto our ship in one piece.”

“Wow!”

“They named the planet after me,” Minako says with a laugh. “The Captain said it was because I’m just as irritating as all the pollen and twice as deadly.”

Minako teaches him how to fence. She teaches him how to be a strong swimmer, despite the fact that his lungs are generally smaller than most people’s. She teaches him ballet and balance and how to use his smaller frame to throw men twice his size over his shoulder. She teaches him how to recognize hundreds of different plant species. She teaches him how to shoot a phaser with deadly accuracy but to always keep it on stun unless he’s absolutely sure there’s no way out. By the time Yuuri is thirteen he’s been taught half the curriculum in a general Starfleet program. He wants more.

Yuuri isn’t delusional. He knows that the chances of him getting into the Academy is slim. He’s already at a disadvantage with his birth circumstances, but he’s also from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. There are kids who are groomed to be Starfleet officers, who grew up a stone’s throw away from the training facilities, perpetually open for practice.

That doesn’t stop Yuuri from trying.

He trains until he’s certain that he’s shaved ten years off of his lifespan. Not only physically, Yuuri also begs Minako to let him use her old textbooks.

“You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” she asks him one day, hovering by the door while he pours over a book about dark matter. “You really want this?”

“More than anything,” he says, jaw set with determination. “I know that it’s a longshot, but I think I can do it.”

“Let’s get you to manage your anxiety first, kid,” she smiles at him, soft for only a moment before she’s tugging him out of his chair. “C’mon let’s go get lunch and I’ll teach you some breathing exercises.”

It’s startling but one day Yuuri realizes that he’s… managing. He’s struggling, but now he has more good days than bad. It helps that he has something to focus on, something to draw his attention away from the gaping void in his head that seems to suck in light and love and anything else close enough to fall in.

Yuuri submits his application when he turns eighteen. He’d barely scraped together enough money for the application fee. He expects an email on his datapad, either accepting or rejecting him. Instead he gets the current head of the science department showing up at his door.

“Hello, is this the Katsuki residence?” the tall, severe woman says. “I’m Madame Baranovskaya, of the Starfleet General and Applied Sciences Department. May I speak to Yuuri Katsuki?”

Yuuri is intimidated by her sharp features and sharper Starfleet uniform. He’s not embarrassed of where he comes from, never, but he does feel significantly less refined, standing in his worn socks and old sweatpants. He immediately calls Minako over.

“Ah,” Madame Baranovskaya says as soon as she sees Minako. “I knew you’d be close by.”

Minako smiles genuinely. “Lilia. I see you’ve received Yuuri’s application?”

“It’s impressive,” she continues, as if Yuuri isn’t standing right next to him. “Your student has the best application in the pool right now. You always know how to spot greatness, don’t you Minako?”

Minako beams proudly.

“However, there are things that need to be discussed. Decisions to be made.”

Madame Baranovskaya turns to face Yuuri. Her official science officer insignia glints in the low light.

“I will not lie to you, boy. I respect you and Minako too much. It will be hard. You will be the only natural born student we’ve admitted in thirty years. Your fellow students will have an advantage over you, despite how well prepared you are. Minako cannot follow you, you will have to adapt to new teachers. The odds are stacked against you.”

Yuuri has been told this for years. He did not come so close only to back off now.

“I know,” he says, steel in his eyes. “No one expects me to be able to handle it. I’ll prove them wrong.”

Madame Baranovskaya’s eyes widen in surprise. She lets out a low whistle. “Minako, why did you not send him to me sooner?”

“I can’t have you stealing away all my best students, Lilia. I still haven’t forgiven you from taking Sara.”

Madame Baranovskaya hums in amusement.

“I see. If you’re sure that you can handle this,” she says, reaching into her pocket and producing a metal insignia identical to the one on her uniform.

“Welcome to Starfleet, Mr. Katsuki.”