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Big Damn Heroes

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"According to Starfleet's records they're a cautious people," Rand informs them, looking at her tricorder. "Um, technologically advanced, possible telepaths but that's never been established…there's a note here about how one diplomat thought they were quiet and another thought they were telepaths, so. You know, diplomats."

Kirk gives her a look.

"Right! So, um, Starfleet just wants an in-and-out. They prize youth and intelligence, so obviously you have to take Chekov with you, um, you, Captain, Lieutenant Uhura, Hinkley, Groaning and Sirbichio as security personnel."

Pavel perks up- usually he doesn't get to go down to a planet they haven't thoroughly scoped out yet. The listed people are all young, and smart, with an even ratio of males to females.

They head to the transporter room and Hikaru takes his hand.

"Yeah, right," McCoy snaps. "Like I'm letting them go down without me. Get outta my way," he tells Spock, who lifts an eyebrow.

Pavel looks at Hikaru and they share a moment of death! Death is coming! panic. Not that they think Spock will actually kill McCoy, or vice versa, it's just that it always feels that way.

Kirk rolls his eyes and says, "Fine, yeah, c'mon, Bones."

And then the seven of them are on a planet with bluish-green grass waving gently in the wind, dotted with orange and blue flowers. The buildings are rounded and gleaming silver- built into the landscape instead of changing it. It's…really very beautiful.

"Captain Kirk," the Br'x delegation's head says in a voice that sounds oddly disjointed and rusty. "I am Eikbar, leader of the Br'x. We are glad to have you."

"We're glad to be here. Let me introduce my crew. This is Lieutenant Uhura, Ensign Chekov, Officers Groaning, Sirbichio and Hinkley, and this is Doctor McCoy."

"Welcome to Br'x," Eikbar says. "These are my counselors, and you will have to forgive the crowd: we do not often receive outsiders."

The Br'x people around them are wearing silvery-blue cloaks and dresses- their skin, while blue-tinged, is smooth and soft. Pavel knows this to be the mark of an advanced civilization; even the kings of planets stuck in what would be the equivalent to Earth's dark ages and earlier have rough, callused hands. But the Br'x are smooth-handed and skinned, squinting against their three suns' light as though unused to it. He can't imagine living in a place like this and not spending time outside: he grew up in Siberia. If he'd played outside he would have frozen stiff in about six minutes.

The captain is letting Uhura talk, which either means he's not paying attention, or it means that things are going well. A brief glance around suggests it's the latter: the officers all look relatively relaxed as they track the Br'x people, and Dr. McCoy is only scowling a little.

Eikbar is nodding, and Uhura gestures Pavel forward a little.

"Chekov is twenty one," she says. "He is our helmsman, and among Starfleet considered highly intelligent."

Eikbar's smile is slippery, and he's not quite good enough an actor not to look hungry at that. Kirk's arm hits Chekov's lightly, and Pavel relaxes. They can look, and if him being smart helps than he's all for it- but he doesn't feel threatened.

It makes a nice change, actually.

2. Stardate: three years earlier
He was the baby of the ship.

He knew it, they knew it, and the fact that he wasn't even eighteen when they first set off made them all really overprotective of him.

He didn't usually go down on missions with the captain (because those are inevitably always hiked up to RED ALERT by virtue of the captain going); they saved him ice cream; sometimes people glanced at him uncertainly and asked if he was even old enough to drink.

He gives them looks, and he can't drink Scotty under the table yet but give him time. Genetics are on his side.

Dr. McCoy he wasn't sure about, though. That man was a highly functioning alcoholic, or else just really good at pretending he was.

The crew tweaked the communication programs to recognize Russian, and then Kirk decided it was a really good idea, so once they were far away enough from Starfleet's monitoring systems he let Scotty and Uhura work on making the systems recognize all of their individual identification codes in their native languages. It was like double protection, which wasn't regulation at all but kind of amazing, and fun to hear, because McCoy's drawl got deeper and Uhura spoke Swahili and there were the strangely atonal sounds of Vulcan that he just loved to hear. And it wasn't regulation, but it was smart and considerate and the kind of thing family did for each other, and they were (are) a family. They were the kind of family that he didn't think any of them really ever had- dysfunctional and tight-knit and annoyingly in each other's business.

It was great, except for when it wasn't, and it wasn't more and more, especially when the older crew members headed off chieftain's daughters who smiled at Pavel in sweet invitation- or sons, Pavel'd never really had time to figure out what his sexuality was beyond "Yes, please!" And he was never going to figure the whole sexuality thing out because…well, living on a ship of 400 people made it next to impossible to fumble into sex without feeling like he was under a microscope.

Everyone knew that Hikaru and Uhura had a relationship- very brief, and Spock and Kirk were totally married and had been since before Kirk was even at Starfleet at all. Pavel thought Nurse Chapel and Doctor McCoy were together, and Scotty had Mira right now and Uhura was with some geologist- so maybe it was just him who was uncomfortable living out…that kind of a thing under such close scrutiny.

Maybe he was the only one, but he had never…not ever. He didn't know how and he was too embarrassed to have to ask and paranoid about searching because what if Starfleet monitored shit like that?

He was eighteen and his sexual frustration was reaching epic heights, and he was going to have a serious problem very soon if he didn't get laid.

It goes wrong faster than anyone can really sense; Uhura doesn't stiffen at a word choice the way she sometimes does, McCoy doesn't shift his grip on his tricorder like he's about to bash someone's brain in, none of the security officers lift their jaws.

It's just Kirk, who reaches over for no reason Pavel can discern and wraps his hand tightly around Pavel's forearm, locking his elbow. Pavel is about to ask him what he's doing, but then it becomes clear.

The Br'x civilians around them shrug off coats to reveal body armor, thin and silver, and Eikbar says something in that strangely rough and disjointed voice but Pavel can't hear because there are hands- so so many of those soft, never-seen-a-day-of-work hands on him, wrenching and dragging him away from Uhura who makes a belated grab for him, and there's no one but the Br'x and Kirk.

Because there is definitely Kirk, his jaw set and his eyes flashing fucking murder, refusing to let go, his fingers digging bruises into Pavel's arm and threatening to wrench it from its socket, and Pavel watches him because looking anywhere else might scare him too much to even think. Starfleet is so full of shit when they do their "evaluations"- next planet they're going down with a full complement of guards and at least three Vulcans, just to make sure that they're covered. He's sure that the landing party is fighting back, but Pavel's whole world has centered on the hands on him and the murder in Kirk's eyes.

The Br'x clearly decide separating them will be too hard and take them both, wrenching them off their feet and the whole abduction is strangely silent, except for the snarling sound Kirk makes, pissed beyond the ability to form sentences, apparently, and Pavel has a moment of wanting to tell the Br'x to stop; that Kirk will blow up the whole planet; that it's not worth it.

But they've dragged them away and he can hear the sound of the Enterprise beaming up the rest of the landing party- advanced society, must be scrambling his and Kirk's location- and when he turns to look he gets hit in the face with something very hard. There's a ringing in his ears that grows louder every time they hit him before he finally passes out.

Their first shore leave was to a planet with a reputation for partying and with the tagline "What happens on Alpha Vega stays on Alpha Vega" (which made Kirk and McCoy snort laughter, so it must have been an American thing), and Pavel had to go buy civilian clothing, which was embarrassing.

He bought jeans and a t-shirt because those seemed safe, and then picked up a brown leather jacket because once he saw Kirk wearing one and he might have been wanting one ever since he was fifteen.



He was eighteen and a half, and so he went to the first club he saw, determined not to leave until he'd at least kissed someone. He drank enough to be pleasantly buzzed, because vodka was a great confidence-booster and he needed some.

"That's not strong?" a girl asked him. She was wearing this black…well, it wasn't a dress, more like a thing that shouted HERE ARE MY BREASTS, SQUEEZE THEM and also IF I SPREAD MY LEGS SLIGHTLY YOU COULD FUCK ME RIGHT HERE, THIS SKIRT IS SO SHORT.

"Not where I'm from," he replied, trying not to stare but really- they were just right there. She grinned at him, looking him up and down lazily and hopping onto the stool next to him. Her tongue slid over her bottom lip- her pierced tongue.

He once heard Scotty and Hikaru reminiscing about girlfriends with pierced tongues (and oh god, could he be any more lame?).

"Yeah?" she laughed. "And where are you from, baby?"

So he told her about Siberia, possibly babbling but he wasn't… there were no equations for this kind of thing, okay? He is entirely at a loss.

"So it was cold," she summed up, and she had this…look on her face, the one that Kirk got when he was contemplating the Neutral Zone; reckless and dangerous and a little bit fun.

"Very," he agreed.

"Mm," she murmured, leaning in and draping an arm over his shoulder, sucking his earlobe into her mouth. "Well. Maybe I could warm you up."

He was about to say that he was actually really very hot right now when his brain caught up with him and said in Kirk's voice: She's picking you up. "I would like that," he managed.


She took him up to her room, and she pressed him to sit on her bed, and then pushed him all the way down, unbuttoning the fly of his jeans and Pavel tried to think of Spock's angry posture when he and Kirk were fighting that time (pick your favorite) because he was hard, really hard, about to come kind of hard.

She grinned, and ran her hands up from his knees to his thighs. "Easy, tiger," she said, and then swallowed him down.

He swore, and he might have slipped into Russian but who cared, because she was like… not like he expected, it was better, even sloppy with spit running behind his balls, it was better because it was real.

She grinned after he came, crawling up him (and how, he wanted to know, was it possible for that dress/thing to still be on her? "How was it?" she asked.

"It- good! Very good," he rasped, and when she kissed him it tasted kind of weird and then he realized why and that was hotter than he thought it would be.

"You're cute," she informed him, stretching out beside him and tucking him back into his pants. "C'mon. I want to go dancing, let's go."

She took him to another club, a little seedier, and he lost her in the crowd- thought maybe he saw Kirk, briefly, but that was unlikely, because inevitably Kirk and Spock were doing unspeakable things in a very not-this-place place.

"Everybody's looking at you," a guy said, cutting in smoothly in front of Pavel. He held his hip proprietarily, smiling like Pavel's already agreed to have sex with him, and Pavel almost didn't want to because this guy was so entitled, but he was…beautiful. "Thinking what a piece."


Pavel…wasn't really sure what he was supposed to say to that, and the guy leaned in, nipping at his neck. "Come home with me."

There were whole speeches about safe sex and stranger danger leaping to the forefront of Pavel's mind right then, but he was eighteen and tired of this shit, so he tilted his head up and grinned and said, "Yeah. Okay."

The guy fucked him, fingers seeking and twisting and stretching in a way that hurt- it didn't feel good, but Pavel was going to see this through, and then the guy- what the hell was his name, even?- stroked his fingers inside and Pavel was arching off the bed, breathing fast and starting to get hard. When he rolled on a condom, Pavel's calves on his shoulders, he maintained eye contact as he slid in, and even when Pavel was falling apart the other man was just watching him with hooded, lazily amused eyes. After he cleaned Pavel (who was boneless, completely boneless) off and stretched beside him and said, wryly, "Virgin, huh?"

"I- " he was beet red, is what he was- terrified he'd done something wrong, even though the guy had come.

"Blown anyone?"

"No…I- "

"Good. I don't have to correct any shitty habits."

There was crap take out to eat, and then Pavel was kneeling between his legs with the guy's hand at the back of his skull with no real idea how he got there.

And it tasted… weird, and the whole concept was weird, but the hands around his face and on the back of his head were firm and guiding and it was like getting an equation right when the body under his mouth tensed and the guy shoved him off, cupping his cock and striping his hand and the hem of his shirt. "Probably not up to swallowing yet," he explained, and he was just… wry, no other word for it, and Pavel could see staying here and just…

He followed this guy home and blew him and let him fuck him without even knowing his name, and Pavel knows, as he watched the sun rise on the guy's skin, why he seemed…familiar, somehow. Not visually- aesthetically he didn't remind Pavel of anyone, but he acted like Kirk; entitled, smug. Like Kirk if he didn't have limits or boundaries or Spock. It was like a cautionary tale: there was something in Kirk that stopped him from being this, but- but if he was… if he was, he wouldn't just skate around the Neutral Zone; they'd probably have already taken over the Romulan Star Empire.

"Stop thinking," the guy said without opening his eyes, and Pavel let himself be distracted for another seventeen hours.

31 hours later he stumbled out of Rhys's (his name was Rhys, Pavel knew this now) apartment and squinted at the sun. He paid a hotel clerk and took a shower in the room he got, and then had to go buy new clothes because his were gross.

No one had hailed him, so he picked another club at random, because sex was kind of amazing and not having to answer to anyone, or feel like he was being watched, was even better.

He wakes up in a white box. Kirk is still holding him; his wrist, now. It's not a box, but a room: windowless and doorless, probably 10x10x10, which makes the ceiling uncomfortably high.

"Captain?" he says once he masters his raging headache.

No, that's a lie, and he yanks his hand out of Kirk's grasp to throw up in a corner. Once the room stops spinning he'll be fine.

"Just lay down," the captain says hoarsely, "until the ceiling stops moving."

"This could be a sign of a concussion," Pavel begins, and the captain's hand flops on his wrist.

"No talking."

Eventually the ceiling stops spinning, and he sits up and pulls up his sleeve to examine his bruises.

"Let the bruises be a surprise," Kirk advises, and so Pavel lets go of his sleeve. There might be some reasoning to that.

He was grinding with a bigger man and his girlfriend when Hikaru came into the club on Alpha Vega. He took one look at the goings on, like he could see that Pavel had fucked that girl who was…snorting something off the bar just a few minutes ago, and he grabbed Pavel's hand and hauled him out of the club and into the dark street.

"What are you doing?" Pavel demanded angrily as the cool night air hit him and the music became a dull throbbing, like an old bruise.

Hikaru looked at him blankly, and Pavel repeated in English, still uncomfortably hard in his stupidly tight pants.

"Are you stupid?" Hikaru demanded, shaking him. "You went to a club without any of us, on a strange planet! And apparently had sex! It's been four days! Are you high?"

"Just sex!" Pavel argued, shaking him off.

"How is that supposed to be better?" Hikaru demanded, because crazy was catching, apparently, and he'd gotten the McCoy strain of it. "Oh my god. It's like- it's like you've been infected by Kirk. Except he's not like that anymore! How can you be a slut? You're…Chekov!"

So Pavel hit him, because he was allowed to do this and he wasn't a fucking child, and he liked Hikaru but fuck him. Fuck them all.

Hikaru stared at him from the ground, and then brought a hand to his bloody lip, bringing it away to stare at it incredulously. "Okay. Well. That was…unexpected."

"Enterprise," Pavel said tensely into his comm. "One to beam up."

He didn't say anything to Ted, the on-duty tech, just stormed to his quarters and set his privacy code.

He loved his job- loves Starfleet and this ship and the crazy crew. What they were doing was important, and he just fucking hated that he was the one who wasn't supposed to ever indulge his demons.

You could have stayed with Rhys, a part of his brain reminded him.

But it rang hollow: he couldn't have.

Even if he wanted to.

Their food materializes: two plates of a strange blue-gray substance that is vaguely sweet, but mostly bland. Kirk, who has a split lip and a black eye and coarse marks around his neck, gives some melodramatic speech about how the young must survive with a wave of his hand. Which means Pavel is supposed to eat his share, which Pavel refuses to do. For three days.

It rots because Kirk won't touch it.

Or it would rot, but something like a sonic shower happens ever five hours, taking away everything that isn't them. It's very disgruntling.

On the fourth day (Pavel is keeping careful track with his watch, because if he loses track of days he's going to scream), they reach a compromise: Pavel eats one and a half portions and Kirk, who never eats, eats the other bits idly.

On the fifth day, five of the natives come in. It takes one of them to wrench Pavel into the corner (and maybe he should take Hikaru up on his offers of learning how to do any kind of fighting, because this is embarrassing), but it takes five of them to subdue the captain, who spars with Spock for fun. And there it is, that flash of something that makes them hold him even when he's sagging in their arms, pressing in too close and their hands almost too intimate.

They're never like that with Pavel; and if Pavel was who they wanted originally he's not anymore, because it's Kirk they inject with a neon orange liquid.

Kirk arches and screams, veins standing out in his neck and his face going red, his teeth too-white in contrast. But he doesn't talk (though they don't say anything, so what is this?), and they leave, disgusted.

Pavel stays in the corner, watching Kirk curl up in the one opposite of him, panting and blinking tears out of his eyes, shaking.

That goes on for four days, and the captain just…won't talk, even when Pavel realizes that it's a telepathic kind of drug- the reason their captors are so quiet is that they're telepaths- that diplomat was right, and they so should have brought Spock- , and they're trying to raze the captain's mind, but somehow he's not letting them.

Pavel comes over into Kirk's corner on the tenth day of captivity and the fifth day of the dosings of orange mental hell, wrapping his arms around Kirk and his back, shushing him quietly in Russian because what difference will it make to Kirk? He's just… trying to make sure that Kirk has something to listen to. Auditory stimulation to distract from the noise that has to be crushing his mind. Pavel's terrified, sure, but…he's come out the other end of it, somehow. The terror is manageable, as long as Kirk is…here.

And Pavel has to make sure he's here until help arrives.

"Open up, Chekov," Kirk called. "I have a hypo for the hangover and another for the VDs."

He opened the door tiredly. His hard-on had subsided, and now he just felt stupid and young, but Kirk just handed him the hypos and said, "Didn't think you needed the Bones lecture. Though it is a good one- take it from someone who's heard it a million times." He grinned wryly- and maybe…maybe Pavel went for Rhys because he had a thing for the captain?- , and then turns.

"Wait," Pavel sighed. "I just- "

"Got claustrophobic on the ship and was seduced by the lure of anonymity."


"It wasn't a bad plan."

"Hikaru- "

"Yeah, Sulu took it hard." Kirk gave him an indescribable look, then grinned. "Sleep easy, Chekov. Beta tomorrow."

He sat uncomfortably next to Hikaru the next day on Beta shift, but the captain was blithely ignoring all the tension and contemplating just going into the Neutral Zone in a lazy tone of voice while Spock lifted his eyebrow.

Six hours into the shift the captain had a whole course plotted, and Spock was starting to go stiff.

The thing was, even only half-listening Pavel knew Kirk's plan had at least a 70% chance of being successful.

"Do you think it's foreplay?" Hikaru asked, leaning over under the pretext of checking a reading.

There was a moment where it could go weird- where Pavel could frown or flinch away or just not respond, but he grinned slightly and pretended to look at the warp drive readout and said,

"They are weird. Is possible."

"I don't even want to think about it."

They all headed to the mess after the shift ended to eat, and Hikaru sat beside him, which wasn't unusual. What was unusual was the way his thigh pressed against Pavel's while he argued with Scotty and the captain.

Over the next month there were more of these instances: extended contact, seemingly thoughtless kindness…

"They're so cute," the captain said when he thinks they're out of earshot. "Hey, why didn't we have a honeymoon period?" he demanded. "Where was the courting?"

"We were too busy experiencing differences of opinion," Spock replied dryly.

Hikaru flushed faintly at that. "Look," he said as they entered the turbolift, "they're just fucking around, because Kirk is a dick. A huge limp dick."

And this was another moment. He could nod, agree, and steer the conversation to the fact that Winona Kirk was due to join the crew at the next stop.

Or he could hit the stop, lean in, and see what Hikaru would do.

So, his stomach was doing backflips, and this was such a stupid, stupid idea, and he was breathing a little quickly and-

Hikaru leaned in and presses their lips together, and it was chaste, with Hikaru's hand coming up to cradle Pavel's jaw.

"Oh god," McCoy said when the turbolift door opens. "It's this ship. It's fucking infected with Happy Couple Syndrome."

"That's not even a real- " Hikaru began, and McCoy's eyes narrowed and Pavel shoved Hikaru out and down the hall out of sheer self-preservation. He wanted to have sex again, maybe with Hikaru, and he was not into necrophilia.

"So, this…" Hikaru said slowly as they walked down the hall.

"We'll see?" Pavel suggested.

"Slow," Hikaru agreed, and then kissed him again, slow and sweet, and Pavel held his hips and…

It might be nice. Slow- it might, yes. Be nice.

When he wakes up he's by himself in the corner, and he begins to panic before he looks and realizes what he's seeing.

Math like a song, perfectly etched into the white of the walls, and just across from him Kirk is scratching it in with his tags- old school, but McCoy insists because they act like a medical alert for anyone who can't scan Kirk. Who knew their captain was allergic to so much?

He looks desperate and edgy, like the math's being pulled from him, but it's…perfect. Flawless. Pavel's relationship with math isn't like that- it's joyful. He does it because he can, because he's good at it, because it makes him happy and he doesn't know how to do any differently…but Kirk does it because he has to- because he doesn't seem to have a choice.

Their captors come in, look around, and inject him again- the dose is higher, and Kirk snarls at them.

They leave him, and he's shaking like he's ready to shake apart, and Pavel curls up beside him again and Kirk leans his head against Pavel's shoulder.

"102,941,459," he says.

It's the first time he's spoken in thirteen days.

"What?" Pavel asks.

"Prime or not?"

"I- " Pavel hesitates, thinking. "Not prime."

Kirk grins tiredly, and Pavel knows he is because of the way it shifts against his shoulder. "Your turn."


"Prime," Kirk rasps. "Be a little more challenging."

Pavel looks at the top of his head incredulously, because what?.


"Right. I'm thinking," Pavel says.

He was born when his mother died.

Well, no- well, yes, but- He was born because his mother died. She blew herself up- freak accident in the lab, and they'd pulled him from her body.

He grew up in the lab in Siberia, raised by his father and mother- not biological, but Katya was married to his father, Viktor, and Katya was sleeping with his mother, Anya, who was obviously sleeping with Viktor as well, and so by extension Katya was Pavel's mother.

Pavel never learned to be normal, because he never was, and no one ever forced him to be. In the labs no one was, and he grew up with advanced theoretical theorems and a kind of iffy relationship with bathing, which was rectified as soon as he got to Starfleet.

The only problems, he realized, were that his English was hopelessly accented from having learned it from people with heavy accents, and that he took all their jokes about how Russia invented everything seriously.

There were no historians in the lab- he just assumed that his motherland was the reason all the rest of them had come down from the trees (so to speak).

Let's just say when he got to Starfleet Academy? He had a really bad semester where he almost failed history. All of it

The relationship with Hikaru was kind of like that. It was like in four days he picked up all kinds of bad habits: expectations of zero consequences except maybe a VD, and when he got embarrassed with Hikaru, or they fought about something stupid it…resonated. It was different, and scarier somehow than almost anonymous sex.

It had to get fixed, and there were a lot of moments where he had to pretend that he had no shame and apologize for being a jerk even though he didn't want to.

And it was worth it, because Hikaru's smiles were wide open like all of space, and he was patient until he realized Pavel was teasing him, and then he'd snap and roll them, devouring Pavel, all slick skin and curious fingers and a hungry mouth.

They spiral into more complicated numbers for hours, shifting slightly so Pavel can lean against the wall and drape Kirk over him, kind of. There are some explosions that rock the building and flicker the light that's present, but doesn't seem to have a source. Kirk doesn't even notice.

Pavel sincerely hopes that those are the sounds of the rescue team, because they've covered the entire cell in math and Kirk is becoming… withdrawn. Incapable of even snarling at their captors, and Pavel's had to drag him closer, because Kirk can't move his own limbs, and the shaking has reached the point where it's rattling Pavel's teeth.

Scotty is the first one in, because he's the best hacker they have, and where there was solid wall there's a panel that goes gaseous and lets him in. He stares at them, curled together on the floor, and then says to Pavel, "Spock's comin'."

Which is just enough time for Pavel to panic and wonder what they look like.

Then Kirk is turning his face towards Spock, hand reaching blindly out, and Pavel stares at it as it trembles, because Spock has barely even come into the room, and hasn't said anything yet.

"They gave him- these- telepathic," Pavel stammers, because he'd thought he'd seen Spock angry before but this is… this is incandescent Vulcan rage, here. It's in the line of his shoulders and the way his lips press together, in the way his whole body stills as he looks at Kirk for a long second before crouching beside them with that weirdly effortless grace he has.

He puts his hand on Kirk's face, and Kirk's hand curls around Spock's neck, desperately seeking.

"Don't move him," Spock tells Pavel, who nods because Spock's still furious, and Pavel will do anything not to get caught in the crossfire of that.

Hikaru climbs in, blood smeared on his arm- not his, Pavel realizes after a moment of panic. He's looking at Spock, and then he looks at Pavel and shares a "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE" look, which actually makes him feel better as Hikaru visually checks him for damage.

Kirk exhales, and Spock shifts and lifts him like he weighs nothing.

"Can you stand?" Hikaru asks Pavel, and there's something familiar about the set of his jaw- it's the way he looked when they fired on the Narada. A reminder that Hikaru, who everyone thinks is a little bit off and funny and irreverent is actually a dangerous bastard, and Pavel has never been so glad to see him.

"I- oh, I think so," Pavel says, and then flinches. "My legs are asleep."

Hikaru looks at him, and then sighs and picks him up with a grunt. "You owe me so hard for this."

Scotty bursts out laughing and tries desperately to hide it as both Spock and Hikaru cradle Kirk and Pavel respectively against their chests.

Uhura blinks at them all when they materialize in the transporter room. McCoy barks, "Put him down- I've got to give him antibiotics- what the hell?! CHAPEL!"

"Oh my God- how can he be having a bad reaction to- no, okay, here."

There are hypos being exchanged and Hikaru glances over and then looks at him and says, "You don't want to even know."

"What are they doing?" he asks as Hikaru takes his hand and strokes his thumb along it.

"He's having a really awful reaction to the drugs and Spock's pretty much completely mind-melded to him and…yep, now Spock is doubling over in pain."

"Oh, that's just great. This entire solar system is going to be blown out of existence- Scotty will kill them all," he mutters as the sedative takes hold.

"I don't know what you're saying," Hikaru informs him, and then kisses the hand he's holding. It's nice- quietly there, and present, even if Chekov's sliding away, Hikaru's like an anchor.

He doesn't remember much of the Narada incident.

That's a lie.

He does.

He remembers losing Spock's mother, and the awful still way Spock stood, like the sheer intensity of his disbelief could bring her to the Enterprise.

He remembers the way Hikaru's jaw had shifted when Pavel had said,

"Narada in position."

"Right. Mr. Scott- "

"Aye. We're ready."

"Standby phasers at full force," Sulu said, and then they'd been firing, knowing that Kirk and Spock and Pike were still there, not knowing if-

He remembers the carnage of both Starfleet's best cadets and of the Vulcans and the Romulans on board the Narada.

He grieves for their entire leave.

He knows this makes him unusual- at least among the bridge crew, because… Scotty's arms-deep in the Enterprise and Uhura runs around after the captain and McCoy and the captain are recruiting and…

Sometimes Pavel thinks that they must have experienced it differently. He has screaming nightmares about it.

They're the worst when he's sedated.

When he wakes up Kirk is sitting beside his bed.

"Did I sleep too late?" he asks, because Kirk shouldn't be awake before him- Kirk was far worse off than he was.

"Yeah, I didn't catch a word of that. I didn't take Russian," the captain says. "But I'm guessing by the guilty look you're worried about oversleeping. Don't."

He frowns, concentrates and says, in English this time, "Then…?"

"I wanted to- thank you. I know I wasn't great company down there and you- "

"They drugged you," Pavel interrupts.

"You were freaked. A lot. I don't speak Russian but you were- and you didn't act it. Next time I end up drugged and telepathic and can't have Spock? You're my man, Chekov."

"I'm…so thrilled, Captain," Pavel manages, mind stuck on the "next time" like it's a certainty. Like the captain knows it's going to happen again.

Kirk grins wryly, like he knows what Pavel's thinking- and shit, maybe he does. "Anyway, Sulu's made another mark on that map of his, so. Also, he had to take over because Scotty was a little…overenthusiastic. He's got gamma off, so he'll be off when you're cleared, and I want to see you on the bridge tomorrow."

"Yes, sir," Pavel agrees

Doctor McCoy checks a read out, frowning in concentration. Pavel looks at him, frowning, and says, "Why did- "

"Let Jim up? Yeah, you try keeping him in bed. Most of it Spock could clear up, then it was just detox. He should be sleeping, but he won't, so. I'm letting Spock wear him down." He says it with a certain amount of glee, but Pavel's onto McCoy. He's gruff and angry because he cares so much he has to be.

McCoy is an asshole because he'd fall apart if he wasn't. Pavel gets that.

The captain falls asleep on Gamma shift 48 hours after he walked out of med bay, and Uhura gets up and touches Spock's shoulder before paging McCoy.

"Bring him down, Spock," McCoy says in a resigned, if not satisfied, voice.

Hikaru, Uhura, and Pavel come down to see him when the shift is over. Spock is supervising the running of the shift- none of them expect him to come down because that's not…not who they are.

"I'm gonna go to bed, you coming?" Hikaru asks after a while.

"No. I'm going to stay up," Pavel says, watching. "Just a bit longer."

"I'll see you when you get in, then." Hikaru squeezes his shoulder and goes into the turbolift with Uhura.

Eventually Pavel becomes aware of the fact there's someone else there- the stillness says it's Spock.

"He's better than I am," Pavel says quietly as they look in through the med bay doors- the captain quiet and pale and McCoy is sitting beside him with hypos at the ready. On the tablet Kirk is doing math- Pavel doesn't have to see the numbers to recognize the expression.

"It's different," Spock disagrees, and there's- Pavel's always been the best at what he does, he can do what other people can't do and he's been able to do it since…as long as he can remember. And he's not… it's just kind of strange, to not be the best.

But, looking at the way McCoy is supervising the captain's scribbling and then muttering something about their apartment being covered, Pavel doesn't want to be. And he doesn't think the captain does either, as he lets McCoy pull the tablet from his fingers and administer another hypo. Kirk doesn't even complain, just wearily accepts it like he's disappointed in his brain; in his body- like they've somehow failed him.

"What happened to the people of the planet?" Pavel asks.

"We've sent diplomatic teams," Spock says. "Vulcans, primarily."

"The… facility?"

"Razed. Mr. Scott exceeded his instructions, most of the city was lost."

The warm curl of vicious satisfaction is wrong, he knows- they were intruders on Br'x, beings with whom the Br'x couldn't communicate, and armed. And Starfleet sent them in blind.

Pavel's not sure who he's mad at, but he's pissed off.

"Goodnight, Commander," he says quietly.

"Hey," Hikaru says when he comes in. He looks at Pavel and then scoots over, and Pavel fits neatly in that space under Hikaru's arm.

"I don't want to talk about it," he says.


He just wants to be held, and go to sleep, and wake up tomorrow and do the job.

And have it be at least a month before this happens again. Because it will.

There is this problem that they have.

Kirk is a freak of nature, and on really, really boring trips (which this has turned out to be) he rigs up the viewing screen to watch Firefly and Serenity.

And, once they're all done sobbing over Wash- because what was THAT?!- Hikaru looks at Kirk and says, slowly,

"So…you do know that we're…not fighting an evil empire. And that…" he trails off, and Pavel watches as Kirk's grin goes roguish.

"I think I'd do well in suspenders. Kinda cunnin', doncha think?"

Pavel cracks up.

And then it disintegrates into: "Who are you?!"

Scotty is clearly Kaylee, Kirk is Mal, obviously, Uhura is Zoë, McCoy, they decide kind of reluctantly, is probably Simon.

Kirk insists Cupcake (they have got to learn his real name) is Jayne, and Hikaru is Wash.

Spock winds up being River, which he lifts an epic eyebrow to and Kirk can't stop laughing about.

"What about me?" Pavel asks.

"Inara," Uhura deadpans, just as Hikaru says:


He glares at them all, trying hard not to laugh, but the thing is- the thing is that it's been four years. Four years in the black of space going where no one has gone before, and they're still them, watching stupid old shows because their captain is a lunatic and betting on whether or not they're going to die and panicking because one or more people have gone missing, and having funerals because so many people die. It's been four years, and after this last year it will be another five, and maybe five after that- as long as they keep giving Jim Kirk the captaincy of the Enterprise Pavel will come back to it.

It should probably be…worrying. That they joke when there are rescues now because they've become used to the little rescues- it's the ones where Kirk goes missing and tortured that everyone goes dead silent and dangerous.

It's not normal, but they're none of them really normal. It's probably not normal that they've paired off neatly, either, but they've done that, too.

But he can't imagine getting off shift and turning to someone and trying to explain his day- not to be able to talk a problem through or shake uncontrollably because it was too close this time. There's a reason the bridge crew has paired off like it has- a reason McCoy and Chapel are together, a reason Uhura is with Scotty.

They're Big Damn Heroes, and no power in the 'verse can stop them.