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Trust Issues (Resolved)

Chapter Text

The amount of times Pavel's run into drugged food and drink is, frankly, ridiculous.

The first was Chaz, in Brazil, when Pavel was thirteen. The less said about that, the better.

Then there was that thing in the Andorian villa. But most of the other Enterprise crewmembers who were down there also got drugged. Worse than Pavel, in fact. And nobody died except the Andorians Pavel and Hikaru killed in self-defense, so it wasn't so bad.

There was one other instance, though, even though it didn't happen to Pavel himself.

--

About a week after the Battle of Vulcan and Nero's ship, some of the cadets-turned-officers at the Academy had a thank-God-we're-still-alive party. Maybe it was a bit insensitive, considering how many people had died. But there was a lot of tension that needed to be released. Alcohol and sex at a crazy social gathering was a great way to relieve that.

Pavel had no idea why he was here. He was in jeans and a t-shirt, in one of the RA's dorms, with half of the officers of the Enterprise crew, and no friends. He'd only had two at the Academy, and neither were here. Well, now he was down to one, because Spock...yeah. Spock. Pike was the other, and he was A) an admiral and wouldn't be caught dead in this type of scene, and B) still recovering. Other than that, Pavel had nobody. He wasn't even legal drinking age, not that it mattered. He stood against the wall with a bottle of water, pounding music washing over him as people danced in the dorm and hallways, laughing too loud and drinking too much.

It was better than Pavel's cold and empty dorm, but not by much. He was two minutes away from leaving when something happened.

The green-skinned Orion had caught his eye--caught everyone's eye--earlier in the evening, when she showed up in a crop-top and skinny jeans and heels. She finished off a bottle of beer and smiled at the man next to her. He went to get her another.

When he cracked open the new bottle, he dropped a pill in the liquid.

Pavel was halfway across the room before he knew what he was doing. The man handed the Orion the drink. She raised it to her lips...

Pavel smacked it out of her hands. The bottle shattered when it hit the floor, foaming beer spraying over the Orion's toes.

"What the hell?" she snapped.

"He put something in your drink," Pavel said, loudly enough that the people closest to their corner of the room heard.

The Orion blinked, then looked at the man with fire in her green eyes. "Really?"

The man snorted, but he was nervously fidgeting. "He's just a kid. He doesn't know what he's talking about."

"He pulled it from his right jacket pocket," Pavel said. His hand curled around the butterfly blade in his own pocket. "There's probably more, if ve check."

The Orion smirked. A dark-skinned woman with a long ponytail came up next to her, glaring at the man. It took Pavel a minute to recognize her out of uniform: Lieutenant Uhura. "Empty your pockets, Ensign."

The man rolled his eyes as he reached into his pockets.

Then he turned and sprinted.

He didn't even make it out of the room. One of the guys tackled him, pinning him to the floor. Uhura called security. The Orion asked for a broom to clean up the bottle. Pavel quietly slipped out of the room.

(Later, he met the Orion again on the Enterprise. It was Gaila. In between outrageous flirting over poker cards, she pulled him aside and thanked him for looking out for her. That made him blush harder and be more confused than any of her innuendos.)

--

He couldn't eat the soup McCoy prepped for him. It made no sense for the doctor to drug him, especially since he'd already administered hypos, shooting drugs directly into Pavel's neck. But Pavel still found himself tossing the soup and making a new bowl himself, calling himself a coward the whole time.

--

Now

--

The starbase wasn't Georgia by any stretch of the imagination. But it at least offered the illusion of solid ground. And it had a farm of peach trees. And a good chunk of the McCoy clan. Close enough.

Standing next to Leonard on the light-speed rail taking them to the other side of the starbase, Pavel fidgeted. "Vhy am I here again?"

"Because no one says no to Mama McCoy," Leonard said. "Trust me on that."

"But vhy does she ewen vant me here? I vas just doing my job!"

Leonard didn't even bother to respond to that one. Technically fighting off a bunch of terrorists who tried to blow up the ship was, indeed, a Starfleet officer's job, but it wasn't exactly in the job description for a navigator or engineer. Especially since Pavel did it with nothing but a bowie knife.

Pavel had saved Joanna's life, and had indirectly saved Leonard's at least half a dozen times. As far as the McCoys were concerned, he was a member of the family. Even if their matriarch was only meeting him today.

The McCoys were renting a small house on the edge of the space-grown peach farm. It was a short walk from the rail stop. Joanna ran out of the house as soon as they came into view. "Daddy!"

The weight of the universe lifted from Leonard's shoulders when he hugged his baby girl. "Happy birthday, sweetheart."

"Da-ad, that's not 'till next month!"

"Oh, so I guess I shouldn't give you your present then?"

"I never said that!"

Leonard chuckled and kissed her forehead. "Go say hi to Pavel."

Joanna brightened and rushed to greet "Checkers." It didn't matter what Jim said, Leonard was positive his baby girl was harboring a crush. But since Pavel had been dating Sulu for several months now, Leonard wasn't too worried.

Leonard's mother Eleanor was inside, where it smelled heavenly. Fried chicken, potato salad, mac 'n cheese, mashed potatoes with gravy, and what looked like peach cobbler in the oven. She was setting up the table when Leonard came in. "Hey, Mama."

Eleanor beamed, wrapping her wiry arms around her boy. "I haven't seen you in ages. How've you been?"

"Well, nothing's exploded in at least five months, so I'm doing pretty good."

Eleanor snorted. Joanna led Pavel into the house, chatting all the while about Georgia and the horses on their farm and school. When Pavel managed to get a word in, he turned to Eleanor. "Ewening, ma'am."

"Don't you ma'am me," Eleanor scolded, and hugged a very surprised Pavel. Leonard tried not to chuckle. Pavel gave him a dark glare that told him he had not succeeded.

Eleanor was one of the few people in the universe shorter than Pavel, and had to look up when she pulled back. She put her hands on his cheeks and smiled. "It is so good to finally meet you, Pavel."

"Oh, uh...vell, thank you for inwiting me," Pavel managed.

Leonard had already warned Eleanor ahead of time about Pavel's awkwardness, especially in the face of gratitude. She seemed more amused than anything else. "Well, everyone have a seat before the food gets cold. And save room for dessert."

Leonard was all but drooling when they sat down. They said grace before digging in.

It was during grace that Leonard realized: Pavel didn't eat food that wasn't prepared by himself. Not until he knew for sure it wasn't tampered with. He cursed himself. He should've told Eleanor ahead of time.

Oh, well. He'd just have to be the first to dig in. Once he, Joanna and Eleanor showed that it was safe, Pavel would follow suit. He had before.

Except that's not what happened. As soon as the formalities were done, Pavel grabbed a chicken leg and took a massive bite. He was the first one. He groaned, a standard reaction to McCoy home cooking, and turned to Leonard. "Can ve take her vith us?"

It took Leonard a second to get his voice working again. "Don't you think I would've done that already if I could get away with it?"

Pavel took another bite. "You've sawed the captain's life a few times. You can call in a fawor."

"Oh, he owes me more than one favor," Leonard grumbled, heaping food onto his plate. "But since I did save his life, why should I see it go down the drain when he gets busted for smuggling civilians?"

"No fair," Pavel grumbled.

--

Several hours later, after Joanna had opened her early birthday presents, Pavel was getting ready to leave. Leonard was staying in the rented house with his family while Pavel headed back to the room he was sharing with Sulu. Leonard managed to pry him away from the ladies for a quick word.

"Not to be ungrateful," Leonard said, "but I thought you had a problem with food that you didn't make yourself."

Pavel's face scrunched in confusion. When realization hit, he shrugged, and looked down at his feet. "They're your family. And you vere here, too. It just...didn't occur to me, I guess."

If Leonard were Jim, he would've broken out into a happy dance. But he was way too mature for that. Instead he smiled and clapped Pavel on the shoulder. "Be sure to take some leftovers when you go."

"But then I'll hawe to share vith Hikaru!"

"I thought you loved him?"

"Not that much!"

Leonard laughed.

Chapter Text

Almost everyone who hasn't been in a domestic violence situation learns that you tell someone--the cops, an adult, someone--if a person hits you. Even if it's someone you love, you get out of there and you tell someone. People who are raised in that kind of environment, though, are not taught that. Quite the opposite, in fact.

--

Pavel was eight when he finally got the guts to tell Uncle Viktor that his father Andrei was beating him on a near daily basis.

He'd already told Uncle Vadim. But Vadim couldn't do anything. He'd told Pavel: "If you ever need somewhere safe to sleep, my door is always open. But I can't get rid of your father. He has too much sway in the village."

But Uncle Viktor, Andrei's brother-in-law, he was a police officer. One of the three law enforcers in the entire village that was too small to have a name. Police officers helped people, didn't they? They threw the bad guys in jail and kept the good ones safe.

Andrei had dragged Pavel to a Blue Festival, a village-wide celebration of the police. Pavel snuck away from Andrei, easy to do with his tiny size, and went to find Viktor.

He was in full uniform, a soldier in blue. He had a beer in one hand and was talking with some of the other citizens. He gave Pavel a tight smile. "Hey, little man. What are you doing over here?"

Pavel looked down at his little feet. "Can I talk to you, Uncle Viktor?"

The adults looked at Viktor in confusion. Viktor shrugged, chugged his beer, and pulled Pavel to the edge of the festival, behind one of the small buildings. "What's going on?"

Pavel swallowed, then blurted, "Papa's hitting me and Uncle Wadim says that's against the rules so can you lock him up please?"

Viktor blinked. "Vadim?"

"No! Papa!"

"Ah." Viktor sighed. "Well, sometimes parents need to punish little boys when they do naughty things."

"But sometimes I don't do anything naughty and he hits me anyvay. That's not fair!"

"No, it's not." Viktor hesitated. "I'll try to get Andrei to lighten up a little, all right? In the meantime, try to be a good boy. Then he won't hit you. Can you do that?"

Pavel nodded, the tension easing out of his body. He could be a good boy.

He played with some of the other kids at the festival, until it was time to go. It wasn't until he was ten that everyone realized just how smart he was and threw him into advanced classes, and all the other children avoided him as if genius was a horrible, contagious disease. That year, though, he had friends.

Andrei was drunk when he told Pavel it was time to go home. Pavel swallowed, but did as he was told. He was being a good boy. He'd go home, brush his teeth, do his chores and go to bed.

But when they got home, Andrei punched him in the face. His fist was almost as large as Pavel's head, and knocked him flat on the floor. "You don't tell anyone what happens in my house!" he roared. He undid his buckle and pulled off his pants. "This is no one's business but ours. And if you weren't such a rotten piece of shit, you wouldn't be punished like this anyway!"

Pavel didn't have to go to the hospital for the amount of times he got hit with the belt that night, but it was a near thing. He avoided Uncle Viktor as much as he could after that. And he never told anyone else about Andrei's harsh parenting techniques. Even if they cared, they couldn't do anything but make it worse.

--

Alien welcoming parties could be either really good or really bad. This one, to Jim's relief, started out really good.

The Mik'klik were a newly-discovered, space-age species living just outside the fringes of the known universe of last year. Since meeting the Federation, they quickly brokered an agreement, allowing both parties to trade, build starbases, and explore each other's territories. Therefore, 90% of Jim's job had already been done for him when the Enterprise entered Mik'klik space territory to seal the deal.

Treaties had been signed, hands had been shook, and now delicious food was being eaten. The entire planet was covered in thick jungle, and everything tasted fresh and green. Bones was hanging off of Jim's shoulder like a dead goose, checking to make sure nothing would kill him. Spock had gravitated to the species' top scientists and was talking about God knows what. Uhura was being her badass linguistic self and was already near-fluent in the native language. Sulu and Scotty were still on the ship, and Chekov...

Huh. He was just here a minute ago. Where...?

Ah. He was talking to the Minister's wife. Their Minister was like the Prime Minister plus the Pope plus Commander-and-Chief on a planet-wide level, and answered only to the Emperor. Jim couldn't hear what they were saying, but it looked mildly serious. They weren't flirting or anything, but whatever they were talking about, it wasn't sunshine and roses. Neither of them seemed in trouble, though, so Jim let it slide.

The Minister, a male named Qor-rik, came up to Jim and grinned with his pointy teeth. "I've heard the Enterprise has some impressive war stories to tell, Captain. Would you indulge me in some of your exploits?"

And because Jim loved to talk about his BAMF crew, he obliged.

He was just finishing up the story of how Spock and Bones managed to get their heads out of their asses long enough to stop arguing and create a chemical that counter-acted against the Klingon's biological gas weapon when Chekov came up to him. "Captain?"

Jim paused. Chekov bowed to a miffed Qor-rik. "Please excuse the interruption, but some urgent ship's business has come up and I need to speak vith the captain immediately."

Instantly on alert, Jim left a baffled Bones and followed Chekov to the fringes of the ballroom. "What's going on, ensign?"

"Just a minute, Captain. Ve need to get somevhere more secure."

Jim shut his mouth. The ballroom was perfectly secure, but even though he'd just barely turned twenty-one, the kid knew what he was doing. Especially when it came to safety and security.

They ended up going to a guest bedroom. Jim paused when he saw Qor-rik's wife, pacing up and down the floor and nervously biting one her fingernails, one of the seven on her hand.

Chekov closed the door behind them. "Riora? This is Captain Kirk."

Riora gave him a half-hearted smile and stopped pacing, but didn't say anything. She turned to Chekov, looking as uncertain was Jim was confused.

"Ve can trust him," Chekov said gently.

Riora took a deep breath and turned to Jim. "My husband is going to kill me. I need to get off the planet and find sanctuary."

Jim stared at her. "What makes you say that?"

"He's told me himself, many times. And he always follows through on his threats."

Jim's gut sank. He looked between Chekov and Riora. "Why would he want to kill you?"

Riora crossed her arms over her stomach. "A man's legacy is buoyed by the amount of sons he has. Qor-rik's obsessed with having as many sons as possible, but it turns out I'm barren."

"Artificial insemination?"

"That's a taboo in our culture. Especially for a man of such religious importance as the Minister. It's not natural." She bit her lip, drawing blood with her pointy teeth. "Please, Captain. If I stay on this planet, I'm dead."

Jim rubbed his mouth, the gears in his head turning so fast there was probably smoke coming out of his ears. "I will get you off this planet," he promised, "but it's going to be tough. If the Federation officially gives you shelter--"

"I have evidence of Qor-rik's crimes," Riora said. She took a PADD from the shelf and gave it to Jim. "I found out last month. He's been doing a truly stunning amount of espionage during his time in office. And there's evidence that he killed his predecessor to get to where he is now."

Jim's eyebrows rose as he scrolled through the list of emails and bank accounts. He gave the PADD back to Riora. "Okay, that just made this a lot easier, politically. Do you have someone on this planet you can give this information to?"

Riora nodded. "But the process will take too long, which is why I need to leave now. I just need shelter for a few months. No more than a year."

"There's more than enough ewidence to initiate the sanctuary protocols," Chekov added.

"We have evidence of Qor-rik's crimes against his people, but not against his wife," Jim corrected. He quickly added, "I do believe you, but I'm worried that my superiors won't."

Riora gave him a long, steady look. She set the PADD down and pulled up her blouse.

Mik'kliks had seven fingers on each hand, and instead of nails they had claws. Many, like Riora, filed them down so they were round and unthreatening. Qor-rik, on the other hand, kept his long and sharp. Jim had even made a joke about it, saying the man's bare hands looked more deadly than a phaser. He'd had a good laugh at that.

There were seven parallel lines across Riora's stomach. They'd scarred over at least a year ago. Over them was a tapestry of fresh bruises. Jim wouldn't be surprised if there was a busted rib or two underneath.

"Is that enough evidence?" Riora asked.

Jim nodded, feeling sick. "More than enough. Chekov, escort Lady Riora to the ship, and get her to medical. Make sure they document her injuries."

Riora swallowed, lowering her blouse. "I don't mean to be more of a burden, but Ensign Chekov's told me much about your Doctor McCoy...I'm sure all of your doctors are well-trained and professional, but is there any chance he could be the one who treats me?"

Jim nodded, even managed a smile. "He's my favorite, too. I'll send him up with you guys." Already a cover story was forming in his head. "Chekov, if anyone asks, there was an accident in Engineering. The ship will be fine, but it caused a medical emergency that requires Bones's immediate attention. Riora, if memory serves, you have a religious role...?"

She sagged with relief. "As the Minister's wife, it's my duty to oversee the dead and dying. I insist on coming aboard to pray for your fallen crewmembers. Their souls could get lost in these unknown parts of the universe."

"Perfect. Get going. I'll send up Bones and keep Qor-rik busy."

--

The lie went over very smoothly. It involved lying to Bones, but Jim didn't feel too guilty about that. It's not like he could tell him the truth right in front of Qor-rik. Bones would get over it.

"Do you need to be aboard your ship with your men?" Qor-rik asked, genuinely concerned as Bones beamed up with a muffled curse.

Jim shook his head. "My officers are already on it. I'd just get in the way."

"Well, perhaps my wife could assist. She sends the souls of the dead off to the next world."

"She already volunteered, actually, as soon as she heard. Chekov escorted her, and I have a security detail on her. Just a precaution."

Qor-rik smiled and raised his drink. "To your fallen soldiers."

Jim clinked glasses and smiled over the bile in his throat.

--

Two days, one arrest, and a warp-speed exit later, everyone was back on the Enterprise. Normally finding permanent or semi-permanent shelter for an individual seeking sanctuary would take weeks. Spock had put in a good word with his relatives, and New Vulcan had accepted her within forty-eight hours. They were trying to re-build their library, and interviewing an educated member of a brand-new species seemed like a logical way to start.

Jim went onto a small observation deck after his shift. He needed time to decompress and just watch the stars and not think for an hour.

Instead he stumbled upon Chekov and Riora. She was hugging him so tight it was a wonder he didn't break, and crying.

Not wanting to intrude, Jim started to sneak out. She saw him before he could make his escape and wiped her face. "Captain! I wanted to thank you."

Jim smiled and accepted her hug. Assholes like Qor-rik tainted his missions from time to time, but people like Riora reminded him why he kept doing it. "Part of the job, ma'am."

"Your job saved my life." Riora pulled back and wiped away her fresh tear-tracks. "Spock says there aren't any jungles on this planet, but he says deserts are even hotter during the day."

"You're definitely going to want to pack some sunscreen," Jim agreed.

She hugged him one more time. "Thank you."

When she left the room, Chekov said, very quietly, "Thank you, captain."

For a second, Jim was confused. He really was just doing his job: an officer had alerted him to a critical situation and Jim had followed through. So why would Chekov...

It hit him like a brick: no one had helped Chekov out of his situation with Andrei. Those who were told only made things worse.

"How did you know?" he asked.

Chekov shrugged. "The vay they looked at each other. Some of the other people there gossiped and said their marriage vas wery sour. She's good at hiding her fear, but...I don't know. I guess it vas just instinct."

Jim clapped him on the shoulder. "From one bull-headed genius to another, don't ever underestimate the power of instinct."

Chapter Text

Let's just not talk about Chaz, shall we?

--

His first month at the Academy, Pavel landed in medical.

It was his own fault, really. He needed to fight in the pits to pay for textbooks, and maybe stock up an emergency savings account. Usually he won, despite being only thirteen. Tonight, he lost, and got a few broken ribs, a broken cheekbone, and a black eye as a result. He made a note to get himself a med kit and boost it with everything he'd need so he wouldn't land here again. Once was fine, but any more than this and that would mean answering some very uncomfortable questions. Or worse, getting expelled.

"So, how did this happen again?" asked the doctor, a grumpy Southerner named McCoy. He was getting the dermal regenerator ready.

"Bar fight," Pavel said. It was only a half-lie.

McCoy raised an eyebrow. "You're too young to be at a bar."

"I vasn't drinking. Check my blood. I vas just..." He shook his head. "Anyvay, a fight broke out, and I got caught. Managed to get a few hits in myself, though."

"I'm sure you did," McCoy drawled.

Pavel bit his tongue at the indignity, the fact that McCoy clearly did not believe that he'd managed to get a single hit in. Sure, Pavel had lost the fight, but he'd made damn sure his opponent had worked for it. The man had even helped Pavel to his feet after winning and patted him on the back for being a good sport.

The hours his bones spend mending were numb and blurry, thanks to some fantastic painkillers. In the early hours of the morning, Pavel was almost ready to go. But as he put his shirt back on, soft weeping caught his attention.

It was the patient the next room over, a young man maybe in his twenties. He had bruises on his wrists, and was trying to cover his tears while a female doctor consoled him.

"Thought I'd try it," he managed to get out, running his fingers over one of the bruises on his wrists. "Why not spice up the bedroom, you know? And she promised, she swore she would stop if I said my safeword. But then I said it, and she didn't stop, and..."

Pavel scampered out of medical. He may be young, but he knew exactly what that man was talking about. He'd heard about people who liked being tied up while their partners played with them, and he thought that was the stupidest thing ever.

It wasn't the sex part, though he thought that was pretty gross (he couldn't decide if it was because of his brush with Chaz, or the fact that he was still a thirteen-year-old kid whose voice wasn't even cracking yet). It was the vulnerability part, the idea of completely prostrating yourself for someone.

That was just begging to be stabbed in the back.

--
Now
--

Hikaru rolled his shoulders as he walked from the gym to his room. He had no idea why, but he'd been antsy all day, barely staying still in his chair throughout Alpha shift. Not even swinging his sword for the last couple of hours had gotten all of the adrenaline out of his system. Which sucked, because if he wanted a full eight hours of sleep he'd have to go to bed soon.

When the door hissed open, Hikaru was greeted by the sight of his boyfriend on the bed.

Pavel wasn't doing anything normally categorized as sexy. He was in his pajamas, scrunched up with his knees almost touching his chest, tapping on a PADD with a stylus. It was still enough to make Hikaru want to grind into him until he begged.

Hikaru set his duffel bag down and slid next to Pavel on the bed, putting an arm around him and nuzzling his curly hair. "Hi."

Pavel hummed in response, but didn't look up from his PADD.

Hikaru kissed his temple, then the tip of his ear, then his jaw, working his way down to Pavel's neck while his other hand slipped under his shirt--

There was a stylus against his nose.

"Not tonight," Pavel said, pushing the stylus against Hikaru's face.

Groaning, Hikaru stopped and pulled back just enough so Pavel could see him pout. "Please?"

"Nyet. Ve can cuddle, but nothing distracting."

Hikaru sighed and slumped against the bed frame. While Pavel rarely instigated sex, he was usually very receptive to Hikaru's advances. Perks of the both of them being men in their twenties. But every now and then, for whatever reason, he said no. Hikaru wasn't sure if it was just an inexplicable "not in the mood," or because he'd had a recent flashback/nightmare to rougher times, or something else entirely.

Back in the Academy, Hikaru had a friend who dated a rape survivor. Most of the time, the relationship had functioned as normal. But sometimes, she would inexplicably say "no," even when literally all other signs pointed to her wanting sex. Hikaru later found out that she had been testing her partner, making sure he would stop even if there were no reason, so that when there was a reason, she knew for a fact that he would back off.

He didn't think Pavel was still stuck in that mindset, or rather, he hoped not. But it didn't really matter. He said no. Hikaru's raging hard-on could suck it.

"I'll take a shower," he said, climbing out of bed. "You're more than welcome to join me."

Pavel smiled. "I already vashed."

While most of the showers used sonics, Hikaru decided to use hot water this time. It made jerking off a lot more pleasant.

After he was clean, he popped a sleeping aid, brushed his teeth, and changed into pajamas. Pavel hadn't moved from his spot. Hikaru slipped under the covers and wrapped an arm around Pavel's waist. The younger man still didn't remove his eyes from his PADD, but with his free hand he ran his fingers through Hikaru's hair.

--

Hikaru wasn't there to see the incident for himself, which is probably for the best, because he's pretty sure he would've skewered the other man. As it happened, Pavel beat him to the punch.

How he loved that man.

They had docked on a space station for refueling and a tune-up, and while news aboard a spaceship traveled fast, that didn't mean that everybody in the galaxy knew that Pavel Chekov was taken. Even so, the first "no" should have been enough of an indication.

After getting the call, Hikaru ran down to medical. When he saw Pavel, completely unhurt and incredibly annoyed, flipping one of his kunai knives around his fingers to scare off the medical team, he sagged in relief. "Pavel!"

The navigator perked up, then sheathed the knife so he wouldn't accidentally stab Hikaru when he hugged him. It occurred to Hikaru that he probably should have asked first before glomping onto him, but Pavel was hugging him back just as tightly.

He pulled back. "Are you okay? What happened?"

Pavel shrugged. "I'm fine. Just got into a fight."

Hikaru squeezed his shoulders. "McCoy said..."

Pavel sighed and went into the story.

Earlier today he'd befriended another scientist, a man named John who worked on the station. At first it had appeared to be the start of another working relationship, one that might have lasted a while if they'd decided to stay in touch. Pavel hadn't even minded the small touches John would give him: an arm around the shoulder, a pat on the back, a ruffle of the hair, all things that tactile people like their very own James Kirk did.

And then John had kissed him.

Pavel had jerked back and explained that, while flattered, he wasn't interested, and in fact already had a boyfriend. John had suggested that he could help Pavel "forget about him for a while," an offer that Pavel had turned down. When John had tried a third time, grabbing Pavel's arm as he tried to leave, that had been when the knives had come out. And landed in John's arm.

"I didn't mean for him to think I was interested," Pavel blurted. He'd become more and more worked up while explaining what had happened, and this made Hikaru blink. "I thought he vas just being friendly! You'd know I'd newer cheat on you, and if I'd known he vanted that I newer vould hawe...

"Hey, hey." Hikaru pulled him in for a hug. "It's all right. I know you wouldn't cheat. It never even crossed my mind."

Pavel relaxed against him, tucking his head under Hikaru's chin. The pilot tried not to think about all the progress this asshole John had undone. Pavel did not make friends easy. The fact that he had trusted so much to be tentatively open to a possible friend had been a minor miracle. Now, the next time someone approached him, Pavel was going to assume the worst and refuse to open himself up.

That was how Kirk found them: with Pavel coming down from panic and Hikaru silently stewing, both of them hugging.

"Uh, I got a call that someone attacked Chekov?" he said when they pulled apart.

"He's cuffed to a biobed," Pavel said. He flushed. "I had to stab him a little."

Kirk grimaced. "Ah, shit. Why don't you go to your room, take the next couple of days off. I'll handle it."

"You're sure?"

"I've got it. Go."

Hikaru gave their captain a grateful smile as he steered Pavel out of medical. He kept the arm around Pavel's shoulders light, easy for him to escape while still letting him know that he was there.

They made it to their guest room without incident. Hikaru hadn't been in here yet, but going by the luggage stashed in the corner, Pavel had.

"Want something to drink?" Hikaru asked.

Pavel paused. "Um, actually..." He turned in Hikaru's arm and kissed him.

Startled at first, Hikaru fell into the kiss, letting Pavel plunder his mouth and pull him close until there was no space between them. Hikaru finally managed to pry their lips apart. "Are you sure? You were just attacked."

Pavel snorted. "He grabbed my arm and I stabbed him. You could argue that I attacked him."

"I'm not arguing. Just making sure."

Pavel smiled. "I'm sure." He kissed him again, and this time Hikaru had no complaints. Not when they were peeling off each other's clothes, or when Hikaru pushed them onto the bed. He started to roll them over, since Pavel was almost always in control, when Pavel gripped him hard and kept him in place. "Stay like this?" he asked, licking his lips. "Please?"

Hikaru froze. "Are you sure?"

Pavel rolled his eyes and tilted his hips so that Hikaru could feel for himself that, yes, he really was very sure. "How many times are you going to ask that?"

Hikaru hummed and kissed Pavel's cheek. "Would you rather I asked if you were positive?"

"Hikaru..."

Kissed his jaw. "Or certain?" The other cheek. "Beyond a reason of a doubt?"

Pavel dropped his head back with a groan. "You are being wery mean. And a tease. And a--ah!"

He arched up when Hikaru bit at his exposed throat. He sucked on it until it was dark and purple, and big enough that not even the high-collared uniform could completely hide it. "Mine," he growled.

Pavel shuddered. "Yours." He pulled Hikaru closer. "Prove it."

Hikaru didn't have to ask if Pavel was sure after that.

Chapter Text

--

One month after Nero

--

Pavel practiced his combat skills in private, but the regular work-outs were done in the gym. Every crew member had to exercise. Otherwise, all the time in space would take a toll on their bodies. Pavel figured that an hour at the track would work for today.

When he got to the gym, he froze, hand immediately going to the butterfly knife hidden in his pocket.

Commander Spock was there. Lifting weights in the hundreds of pounds.

Those days in the Academy when Pavel would catch up to him in the hall, or in the mess, or at the tale end of class to run a theory by him, or ask about a paper, or even to rag about the bad food in the cafeteria...they felt like a lifetime ago.

Looking at Spock now, Pavel didn't know how he had ever felt safe around him. The man could bench-press two hundred pounds without a sweat, was well-versed in martial arts, and clearly had no issue using violence--despite all the logic against it--when pushed far enough. But what Pavel really found terrifying was that the Vulcan didn't have any physical tells. He hid everything behind his cool mask and pointy eyebrows. With Andrei, Pavel had known at a glance whatever mood his father was in, could calculate the odds that he would snap into violence and the velocity in which that would happen.

With Spock? Nothing. Pavel had no idea if he was actually that calm on the inside right now or if he was picturing a hundred different ways to kill someone.

"Ensign Chekov," Spock greeted, hardly looking up from his weights.

"Commander Spock," he replied, speed-walking to the track in the next room.

"We haven't had a conversation in over thirty-seven Terran days," he said, finally setting them down. "Did you want to...talk?"

Pavel forced a smile. "Maybe later. Sir."

--

Now

--

If Spock were fully human, he would sigh. Or curse. Cursing seemed like an acceptable response to this situation. Jim would have been proud.

"I do not understand," he admitted to the high priest of Noqor. Another recently-discovered species that the Enterprise had encountered with the hope of adding to the Federation, they had been a century into their space age. Their ships had discovered one of the Federation's scouts and the rest, as Jim would say, was history.

Things had been going quite well. The Noqorians still had to decide whether or not they wanted to join the Federation, deliberate amongst themselves and probably talk to more officers. They had had a banquet to welcome the "alien guests," an event that the captain had been unable to attend due to illness. He had been extremely displeased, even when Spock had agreed to go in his place. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, Spock was incredibly grateful that Jim was safe and sound aboard the Enterprise, if somewhat miserable.

The priest smiled. The aliens were short, their height average barely more than a meter. They had four arms, serpentine bottoms, and crystalline skin that required diamond or something harder to break.

Right now, Spock and Ensign Chekov were the only Federation officers on their planet. The priest had asked for a word with Spock and an officer of his choice to stay behind and discuss a few "minor matters." Spock had agreed, though he had security on stand-by on the Enterprise. He had chosen Chekov to stay with him for a variety of reasons: his quick intellect, his fighting capabilities, and the fact that he was still young and new to everything, and so needed the experience.

Spock should have chosen someone else. Chekov had asked Spock to help him edit his first scientific paper just last week. Now he might be dead by the end of the day.

"It is tradition," the priest said. "In order to ensure a safe journey, a sacrifice must be made."

"Sacrifice," Spock echoed.

"Like the little pig," Chekov said. He was perfectly calm, far too used to staring death in the face.

"Elaborate," Spock ordered him.

"It's a tradition in some parts of Russia to destroy something of value to ensure that nothing else goes wrong on a trip," he explained. "In older times, it would be something like the family's prized pig. These days it's usually something like your favorite outfit or your communicator."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Do you indulge in these traditions, Ensign?"

"Nyet. It's just superstition."

The priest stiffened. "It is not superstition. We have statistical proof that these sacrifices work."

"Self-fulfilled prophecy," Spock and Chekov said at the same time. Spock almost--almost--smiled, before he continued, "You believe that something will go wrong if you don't make a sacrifice, so if the sacrifice isn't made you are far more likely to make a mistake due to distraction or your subconscious. We have no such qualms or traditions in the Federation."

The priest shook his head. "I cannot let you go without making this sacrifice."

"You are asking me to kill my navigator," Spock said, a barely contained shout.

"For the greater good. It's a noble cause. If he truly is dedicated to your Federation, he won't hesitate."

"Your demands put your own nomination into the Federation at risk," Spock warned. "We do not allow fanatics in our ranks."

"And we do not ally ourselves with heathens," the priest snapped. "If you do not adhere to our traditions, we will have no choice but to kill you both to appease the gods."

Spock looked around the room. There were half a dozen acolytes and nuns, plus more on call, he was certain. He could call for his own security, which would naturally lead to a firefight. Assuming he could get to his communicator, anyway.

He was going to risk it--he was not murdering anyone, especially not Pavel--when the ensign cleared his throat. "Commander? A vord?"

They went to a corner of the room. Still within hearing of the Noqorians, only with the illusion of privacy.

Chekov's face was grave, and Spock knew exactly what he was going to say before he said it: "Commander, I think ve should do this."

"Absolutely not," Spock said. "If we do not return to the Enterprise soon, they will send security down to investigate. We can leave then, without injury."

"That von't work. They need an answer now. If you don't do this, ve both die, and I can't let that happen to you, sir."

Spock's mind was racing, going through a hundred scenarios at once. None of them were optimal.

"Commander."

He reluctantly met Chekov's gaze. In a shocking move of familiarity--shocking because it came from Chekov, and because it was from Chekov to him--Chekov put a hand on his shoulder. "It'll be all right."

His hand was right over the vein Spock would target for a nerve pinch.

...that could work.

Spock nodded, and Chekov withdrew his hand.

"Priest," Spock called. "I have two conditions."

"So long as they adhere to our traditions, I'm sure they can be met," the priest said.

"I will choose the method of death," Spock said. "Poison." They didn't know human physiology. He could easily trick them...

The priest shook his head. "The end must be met with a blade."

"I have it," Chekov said, flipping out one of his many knives. The Vulcan dagger. Of course.

Spock's heart sank. This was going to be even worse than he thought. He took the knife.

"Your other condition?" the priest asked.

"We take his body back with us."

The priest beamed. "Of course. The bodies of sacrifices are always taken by the ship to prove to the gods your dedication."

Perfect.

The temple was set for the sacrifice, the floor of the alter covered in sand to absorb blood.

The priest turned to Chekov. "If you wish to pray to the gods, now is the time."

Chekov snorted. "I learned long ago to never rely on gods."

The priest looked uncomfortable at that, but didn't argue.

Chekov stood in the middle of the sand, at parade rest. Spock approached, the knife heavy in his hands.

"I'm sorry," he said, putting a hand on Chekov's shoulder.

Chekov took a deep, shaky breath. "Just do it, sir."

Before he could talk himself out of it, Spock stabbed him in the abdomen. Chekov's eyes bulged as he stumbled. Spock pinched, and the boy crumpled. Spock barely caught him before he hit the ground.

The priest nodded. "Well done, commander. You're free to go."

Spock glared at him, then lifted Chekov over his shoulder.

"We can assist with transporting the body--"

"No." He didn't bother with an explanation as he called for beam-up.

--

"You didn't hit anything important," McCoy said, coming out of Chekov's room in the medbay.

Spock had known, of course, that the wound wasn't fatal. But hearing the confirmation made the tension in his shoulders dissipate. He'd spent fifteen minutes scrubbing Chekov's blood from his hands and the knife, then changing his clothes.

"I've stitched him up," McCoy continued. "He should be awake, soon."

Spock nodded, then handed McCoy the knife. "Give this to him, and notify me as soon as he's able to receive visitors."

"Sure." The doctor smacked Spock on the shoulder. "Don't beat yourself up. You saved the kid's life."

Spock knew that. But he still felt guilty about having to hurt him to do it.

Six hours later, Spock got that notification from McCoy. Since he was not on shift, he went to the medbay immediately.

Chekov was not only awake, he was sitting up in the biobed eating chocolate pudding. He beamed at Spock. "Commander! Are you all right?"

"I'm not the one who was stabbed," he pointed out.

"Not vhat I meant, sir," Chekov said gently.

Spock's eyes wandered to the dagger, sitting on the table by the biobed. "It was, unfortunately, necessary. Had there been a more painless way..."

"You vould hawe done that," Chekov said. "I know, sir. I trust you."

Those words knocked the breath right out of Spock's lungs.

A comfortable silence settled over them as Chekov dove back into his pudding. Spock took a seat next to him. "Ensign."

"Mmr?" His mouth was full. He swallowed and tried again: "Sir?"

"I had a question about the paper you wrote..."