Pike can see it coming before it happens. Jim, wearing that smug smile as always (but with that light in his eyes he only gets around his young navigator), is approaching Chekov. He grasps the younger man’s shoulders firmly, crying out as he does so. Chekov jumps and nearly drops the PADD he’s holding, but he smiles and laughs when he sees who it is. Pike smiles to himself. To be young and foolish again.
“Captain, you scared me!”
“You scared me!”
“Sorry,” George said from the doorway. “Do you mind if I come in?”
Pike shakes the memory and focuses on the scene playing out in the other end of the hallway.
Kirk releases Chekov only to sling an arm around the ensign’s shoulders a moment later. “So, are you excited to get off this rock? Not that I don’t appreciate its beauty; Pike wouldn’t stay on a planet that wasn’t great. But I’m excited to get back in the captain’s chair.”
Pike remembers a time when getting into the captain’s chair excited him, too, but that was before his reflexes started to slow and the exhaustion set in. He likes to tell himself that his short stay aboard the Narada is entirely to blame, but he’s not quite sure he believes it. Sometimes he still craves the leather beneath him, the controls at his fingertips, the feeling of purpose and importance. But all that is over now. Now, he sits in a different kind of chair.
Chekov nods. “I am excited, but I am also scared.”
“I’m so excited and scared,” George said, sitting beside his friend on the bed. He breathed deeply a couple of times before continuing. “I wanted you to be the first one to hear about it. Winona and I are going to have a baby.”
The words hit Chris like an icicle through his chest. “Congrats,” he said, managing a smile he hoped looked more cheerful than it felt.
George buried his face in his hands. “No, you don’t understand. Her parents will kill me if we have a baby outside of wedlock—which is ridiculous, considering we’re both adult Starfleet officers who are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves. I guess they’re just old-fashioned.” He forced himself to laugh. “Anyway, that’s the way it is.” He turned to his friend. “I don’t want to lose her, Chris.”
“Scared? Why scared?”
“Well, I always get nervous before a mission. While I was training at the Academy, I never thought about things like dying on missions. Instead, I focused on learning what to do in an emergency, and always assumed that if something did happen, I would remain calm and remember what I learned, like I did in simulations. Almost getting sucked into a black hole changed that. But the fear is good, I think. It makes me think quicker, act quicker.”
“Well, that’s good…I guess. I don’t want you to be scared.”
“Don’t worry. It is nothing I cannot handle.”
George Kirk had never thought of dying on a starship, either—at least, not until the last twenty minutes or so of his life. Oh, sure, he had acknowledged the possibility (no Starfleet officer denied it), but the thought that it would actually happen to him never occurred to him. Were you scared, Pike wonders for the millionth time, or did you simply do what you were trained to do?
Chekov laughs at Jim’s unbelieving tone. “Captain, really. I will be fine.”
George saw the look on his friend’s face and tried to smile. “Hey,” he said, in his most comforting tone. “I’ll be fine. I’m just stressed, is all.”
“What are you going to do?”
George looked Chris dead in the eyes. “The only thing I can do. I’m going to ask her to marry me.”
“You better be,” Kirk replies. “I don’t want one of the best officers on my ship buckling under pressure.” He gives Chekov’s shoulder a squeeze and releases the other man. “I’ll see you tonight at dinner.”
Chekov watches Jim walk away with a little more longing than an officer should have for his captain. The situation would be ridiculous if it weren’t so damn familiar.
But there was a time when his hair hadn’t grayed, and the crows had yet to leave their tracks beneath his eyes, a time when he could walk, and he had that same glint of enthusiasm Ensign Chekov now has, and in that time, Pike had known what it was to love.
So he wheels himself over to the ensign, and offers a polite greeting.
“Pike!” Chekov exclaimed with pleasant surprise. “How are you?”
Pike smiles weakly. “Well. Ensign, there’s something I need to discuss with you.”
He may have missed his own last train, but damn if he’s going to let Chekov miss his.
Chekov waits for Pike to start speaking. “You love him, don’t you?”
“You love him; I know you do.”
“Love who, sir?”
“I…sir, he is a senior officer. Nothing can happen. Even considering allowing something to happen between us would be unpro—”
Pike holds up a hand to silence him. “I know. Just hear me out.” He sighs and allows his head to clear before he continues. “I was once in love. Like you. And, like you, I was a young ensign in love with a senior officer. I never made a move—probably for the same reasons you haven’t yet. Well, he went on to marry, and father two children…one of them being the man you now love.”
“You were in love with Jim’s father?” Disbelief turns to sympathy as he remembers that Jim’s father is dead. “Oh, sir. I am so sorry.”
“Thank you. It’s alright. But here’s the punch line: we could have been something. I knew he loved me, too, but I never did anything about it. You and Jim could be something, too, if you do something about it. The kid is crazy about you; I’ve never seen him like this with anyone else. All you’d have to do is ask, and he’d be yours.”
“Fuck regulations and fuck what everyone else thinks. Just do what feels right to you.”
Chekov blushes a little at hearing such language from such a respectable man, but the advice hits home. He nods and turns away. “Yes. You’re right. I do need to tell him.”
“So go. Do it. Now, before it’s too late.”
“Yes, sir.” Chekov turns off his PADD and runs off in the direction Kirk had left.
Kirk and Chekov are slap-happy at dinner, talking louder than usual and laughing and touching each other more than usual, drawing more than a couple of stares. Only Pike suspects the cause of their euphoria.
Pike hunts Chekov down after dinner. “So, did you tell him?”
A grin spreads across the boy’s face. “Yes. And he loves me, too.” He laughs a little. “I have never been so happy.”
Pike smiles, too. “I told you.”
Kirk appears at the other end of the hallway. “There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you! Oh, hey, Pike,” he adds. “Come on, Pavel! We’re getting ready to leave!”
“Coming!” He turns back to the man in the wheelchair. “Thank you, sir.”
“Anytime. Oh, and Chekov? I’m not an officer anymore. You can call me Chris.”
“Yes, Chris. Goodbye.”
Pike laughs. “Go, already!”
“Alright!” Chekov diligently runs to his new lover, and the two round the corner with their arms around each others’ waists.
As he watches them walk off, he can’t help seeing himself and George. He smiles and wonders how George would react to Chris playing matchmaker with his boy. He decides George would be happy his son found love, regardless of how it happened.