alostcorner: peacock feathers (Default)
[personal profile] alostcorner
Title: ready for those flashing lights
Fandom: Star Trek XI
Characters/Pairing(s): Chekov/Sulu
Word Count: ~2800
Rating: PG-13
Summary: for this adorable prompt on the kink meme, in which Chekov and Sulu becoming the subjects of the post-Narada equivalent of the photograph War's End Kiss.

Definitely check out [livejournal.com profile] galileo7's lovely art fill if you haven't already.

... My title is shamelessly stolen from Paparazzi by Lady Gaga.



For a long time, there is nothing but Sulu’s hands and the thrusters, the impulse controls, the docking sensors. Then there are sounds coming at him that are not the normal beeps and boops of the helm console, and they crash against his eardrums for a few seconds before he realises that he is hearing applause, that at least fifty people have crowded onto the bridge. There is Earth on the viewscreen, perfectly whole, just the way they left it.

And then, as relief bubbles up from his abdomen to his throat, as joy races through his muscles and compels him to stand up and applaud with the rest of them— then there is Chekov: brilliant, adorable, living Chekov who can confirm this whole crazy story when Sulu tells his mother tonight. And there are Chekov’s shoulders, waiting to be embraced; there is the small of Chekov’s back, waiting to be touched; and there is Chekov’s left hand, already at the nape of Sulu’s neck. Sulu feels the need to press his open mouth to Chekov’s, to share a gasp and a sigh, to taste Chekov’s teeth and tongue. He gives in without hesitation and nearly makes Chekov fall over backwards.

And then there is distance between them again. Sulu is blushing hard and drawing shaky breaths. Chekov is laughing, one hand on the conn to keep him from falling over. Sulu wants to step forward and touch him again, but his feet are suddenly heavier than they’ve ever been and all he can do is maintain eye contact with Chekov and listen to his own pulse pounding in his ears.

*

He forgets to turn his PADD on and check the newsfeeds, so it’s his mother who tells him about the photo, right in the middle of breakfast, the morning after he gets back.

“This is you, isn’t it, Hikaru?” she asks, turning her PADD upside down so he can see the picture properly.

“I guess—yeah, that’s me,” he says around a mouthful of pancake, “but I don’t remember anyone having a camera, really, and I uh— wow.”

It’s a surprisingly good shot, even though it must have been taken in less than a second. Their faces are mostly obscured, and their bodies are framed nicely by the edges of the viewscreen. Earth can be seen over Sulu’s shoulder as a sphere the size of a beach ball. The headline reads Enterprise Makes It Home, and there is no caption under the photo.

His mother taps the screen with her index finger. “Who’s that boy?”

Sulu takes a sip of his orange juice to clear his suddenly sticky throat. “Ensign Pavel Chekov.”

She smiles in recognition. “Oh, the one from the Russian Conservatory. With the perfect score in Stellar Cartography.”

He remembers that just a month ago, he was complaining that someone had beaten his record score of 99%. He remembers it, but he can’t completely believe it. None of this feels real at all.

“Looks like you’re getting along better now,” his mother says, shooting him a knowing little smile.

“He saved my life, Mom,” Sulu mumbles, ducking his head and looking embarrassed, but really, it’s just for her sake.

*

A week passes before they hold the first press conference, and in amongst the standard questions and comments that they’re all expecting, someone from The Chronicle calls the photo up on his screen and asks Chekov and Sulu to comment.

They’re all connecting from different places within the Academy, but Chekov decided that he and Sulu should call in from the same room, to show helm solidarity or something like that. So Sulu can he can see that he’s exhausted, close to toppling right over, and that he’s been gripping the edge of his seat the whole time. But when he speaks, his voice is clear and his words sound pre-meditated.

“Although Mr Sulu and I were not acquainted before we were assigned to the Enterprise, we had just shared a very emotional experience. By the end of it, we might as well have been old friends. Perhaps I should mention, since it is not universal, that in Russia, it is very common for friends to kiss on the mouth.” Then Chekov pauses and smiles encouragingly at Sulu, although his knuckles are still white against the edge of his seat.

“What you don’t see in that picture is how crowded the bridge was. I’m kind of surprised anyone would choose focus on the two of us. I mean, there are other images that I’ve seen that seem much more powerful. We’re just two young guys who happened to be at the helm right when someone had their camera out.”

Sulu is relieved to see that the attention is quickly turned back to Kirk. He still feels uncomfortable every time he sees the picture. Sometimes he doesn’t think it even looks like him, and yet when he tries, he can put himself back into that moment easily.

After the conference ends, Sulu turns down Uhura’s offer to get drinks, and instead he walks Chekov to the Academy’s transporter depot. Chekov’s been beaming in from Saint Petersburg every day for debriefings and interviews and memorials, and Sulu guesses he’s only been catching a few hours of sleep a night. He doesn’t even need to be physically in San Francisco if he’d rather stay with his family, and Sulu reminds him of this, but Chekov shakes his head and says he’s worried he might just go back to the Conservatory if he doesn’t make himself beam in every day.

Sulu scoffs. “You’re a hero. Starfleet isn’t going to let you get away that easily.”

“That is just the thing,” Chekov says. His hands have curled into white-knuckled fists again. “At seventeen, I have served as a bridge officer on Starfleet’s flagship and helped to prevent the destruction of my home planet. I cannot help asking myself, what now? Maybe I should just finish my degree and—and I do not even know what else. And now there is this photo of me and you all over the newsfeeds, and it just doesn’t feel real at all.”

He tightens his mouth after this speech, and he frowns as if he’s trying to figure out why he just said it. Then he parts his lips the tiniest bit and exhales in a strong, steady stream, deflating like a balloon after a birthday party.

Sulu slaps his palm against Chekov’s shoulder and squeezes. He’s never been overly comfortable with casual touching, so the gesture feels a bit forced and his arm a bit stiff, but Chekov relaxes under the weight of his hand and smiles a little.

“It’s pretty surreal for me too,” Sulu says. “All of this.” The whole crew has been prescribed twice-weekly therapy sessions, but Sulu still has a hard time articulating further.

“Thank you,” Chekov says, “and I’m sorry, I am just— emotional. Of course you are right, I will not go back to the Conservatory.” He pats Sulu’s elbow, and it’s not until then that Sulu realises every one of his muscles and bones is urging him to wrap his arms around Chekov again, like it’s his natural posture.

“You could stay at my place tonight,” Sulu offers, his shoulders already threatening to hunch towards Chekov. “Save you the jet lag. It’s, what, 0700 in Saint Petersburg?”

“Thank you, but no,” Chekov says. “I’ll just be going.” He doesn’t move though, and so Sulu pulls him in for a hug because really, it can’t hurt, and the kid looks like he needs it.

One, two, three— a full, deep breath— and then Sulu’s grip loosens. As he pulls his upper body back and lets his arms fall to his sides, Chekov moves swiftly and leaves a kiss on Sulu’s closed mouth.

“Like in Russia,” Sulu says immediately, and maybe too loudly. There are three other people waiting in the depot including the half-awake transporter attendant, and they’ve all been watching Chekov and Sulu this whole time. They haven’t left the campus proper, so it’s not their cadet reds that are making them conspicuous.

Chekov seems to have only noticed the others now, and he gives a tight little smile and nods. “Just like in Russia,” he agrees.

*

Three minutes into their first mission after the Narada, before they’re even out of the Sol system, Kirk makes a joke about them “christening the helm”. Sulu groans and is spared the effort of having to come up with a witty comeback by Spock, who immediately begins to quote relevant sections of Starfleet’s sexual harassment policy.

Sulu looks across the helm at the same moment Chekov does, and they roll their eyes at each other, quirking their mouths up into twin half-smiles.

But then Chekov looks back at the viewscreen and Sulu’s gaze lingers for a few more seconds before he remembers that he has a ship to fly.

A week later, during beta shift in rec room three, when Sulu is more than a little drunk, he has no ship to fly and therefore not much to keep him from staring at an equally-drunk Chekov. Somehow, in the middle of a conversation about dilithium mines, his tongue winds up in Chekov’s mouth, and the make-out session only ends when Uhura taps Sulu on the shoulder and politely suggests that they go somewhere a little more private.

They don’t follow her advice, but Sulu does move himself to the other side of the room after a few unsuccessful attempts at starting up slurred but friendly conversation.

Meanwhile, someone’s already caught the moment on camera. Sulu finds the photo the next morning, attached to an email from Kirk that he can barely bring himself to read.

He deletes the message without responding to it.

*

Chekov breaks the awkward silence first, inviting himself by text message over to Sulu’s quarters for an early dinner. He replicates the food himself, which is how Sulu ends up sitting at his desk with a bowl of red-purple borscht, holding back the urge to tell Chekov that he’s always hated beets.

“My roommate thinks you are my boyfriend,” Chekov says when his bowl is half-empty and lying abandoned by his elbow.

“So I guess he saw the…” Sulu trails off. He’s holding a spoon with its bowl full of broth and beetroot near his face, and he figures this would be a good time to put the borscht in his mouth.

It’s not as bad as he’d thought it would be, but he’s still not quite enjoying it.

Chekov nods once. “Yes.” His shoulders move smoothly enough in a dismissive shrug, but Sulu notices that he’s holding his back as straight and rigid as he does on the bridge during a red alert.

Sulu takes a sip of water and at long last says, “I wouldn’t mind if he was right,” even though he hasn’t dated anyone since freshman year and he barely knows anything about Chekov beyond the facts that he is Russian and seventeen (oh shit, he thinks, because he’d forgotten; Chekov has a way of making him forget) and apparently really easy to kiss—

Chekov’s already in his lap, nibbling plaintively on his lower lip. His breath smells like beets, but Sulu can work around that.

*

Making first contact with a civilisation is one of the better reasons to be chosen for an away mission. It’s as exciting as a diplomatic mission gets, and more often than not, there are new plants to be entered into the Federation’s database, or new technologies to discover. And sometimes, Sulu even gets to use his katana.

That is, of course, when he’s chosen to be part of the away team.

Scotty has command now and Sulu has the ever-stimulating job of sitting at his station and keeping an eye out for an asteroid or a Klingon warship. Neither has dared approach the Enterprise during any of the thirty-six hours that Sulu has logged on the bridge since they entered orbit around the planet currently known to the Federation as Upilson II. One of the diplomatic matters to be ironed out is a name for the planet chosen by the native inhabitants, who in the planet’s most common language call themselves the Gh’bbthians.

His communicator buzzes at his hip. Well, at least Chekov is down there and willing to surreptitiously text him between talks. He flips back the cover on his communicator, expecting more complaints about the climate or something riddled with unusual euphemisms that won’t be picked up on an official channel. Instead he gets:

You will not believe this—they have already heard of us!

From everything Sulu’s read, it’s quite common for societies without warp drive capabilities to theorise about the existence of extraterrestrial life. But Chekov wouldn’t text for something as simple as a few unsupported theories or supposed UFO sightings.

What do you mean? he types back.

Over the past century, they have somehow received images from several Federation planets. They were not expecting us, but they know who we are.

Sulu frowns down at the communicator. It was bound to happen eventually, he guesses.

Awesome! Have they heard of me? ;)

A few minutes go by without a response from Chekov, and Sulu goes back to asteroid-and/or-Klingon duty. Eventually the minutes add up to a half hour, and he looks over his shoulder at Scotty, who is engrossed in something on the screen of his PADD.

“Did you know the Gh’bbthians have been receiving images from across the Federation? Since long before we made contact?”

Whatever it is Scotty was looking at, Sulu has clearly provided a more interesting distraction.

“Are you serious? Well, I guess it’s not all that surprising.” Scotty shifts in the captain’s chair, probably trying to get comfortable. “Wish I’d been given the chance to get down there and take a look at the technology. Our sensors didn’t pick up any forms of subspace communications.”

“I’m sure we’ll get a full report,” Sulu offers. “I mean, Spock and Chekov are down there. They’re probably taking notes for us.”

Scotty gives him a despairing look, and Sulu’s comm buzzes.

I had to stop texting because they recognised me from that picture. They have a life-size print in their Museum of Alien Art.

Sulu stifles a sudden surprised cough. Which picture?

The first one, thank God. They thought we were engaged in battle. I think I disappointed them when I told them the truth, but their anthropologists are intrigued at least.

“News from down below?” Scotty asks.

Sulu feels his cheeks heat up as he tells the story. Scotty just laughs and says, “Small galaxy, isn’t it?”

Chekov returns after three more Standard days, bringing back a potted plant from the royal botanical garden. Sulu sets about finding a place for it in the arboretum and spends two of his free hours adjusting the climate controls. Chekov watches over his shoulder.

When he’s done, Chekov pulls out a small rectangular package, wrapped in a material that feels, when Sulu begins peeling it back, like it’s semisolid.

Inside, there’s a framed copy of the now-famous photograph. The colours have been adjusted from the original, and although it isn’t a holoprint, the image has a strange sort of blurry depth to it. Oddly enough, this is the first time Sulu feels like the man in the photo really looks like him.

“I found it in the museum gift shop,” Chekov explains. “And I thought it was about time you owned a copy of it.”

“What about you?”

Chekov bites his lower lip. He digs his PADD out of his pocket and shows Sulu the default screen.

“It has been my background for a while now.”

“Well, thanks,” Sulu says, grinning. He presses a kiss against the corner of Chekov’s mouth, and when he pulls back, he realises that the two officers standing by the rows of Talaxian tomato plants haven’t so much as glanced in their direction the whole time they’ve been here.

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