Summary: Early in the five-year mission, Sulu discovers that Chekov's been indulging in a thoroughly bizarre hobby.
Categories: Original Series Characters: Chekov, Pavel, Sulu, Hikaru
Genre: Friendship, General, Humor
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes
Word count: 1990 Read: 1690
Published: 02 Mar 2009 Updated: 02 Mar 2009
Chapter 1 by eponymous_rose
Chekov hasn't known Sulu long, but he's already found the man to be annoyingly perceptive--and this time it's only taken him three space station flea markets and one shore leave's unscheduled visit to a particularly disreputable excuse for a shopping mall to figure it out.
Chekov's already bracing himself when he sees the grin on his friend's face, and he runs hastily through all the possible ways he can fend off what's coming: pretend to receive a communicator message, pretend to have left his communicator at some very great distance that would require a considerable amount of running, pretend that the Andorian passing behind them is an old friend from Moscow-
Sulu opens his mouth as though to speak, and, thus threatened, Chekov waves his hands in the air. "Aliens!" he blurts.
It takes a moment for him to realize the potential damage caused by his cunning diversion, and by then all activity in the bustling shop around them has stopped, and a variety of eyes, eyestalks, floating ocular devices, and diaphanous vision membranes have swiveled in his direction. Sulu's gaze is among them, and he raises an eyebrow that is positively Spockish.
"Aliens!" Chekov says again, and smiles winningly. "-are our very good friends, and we are most grateful to have this opportunity to purchase their finest wares."
One of the gawkers finally makes a giant, glittering frog's approximation of a disgusted snort, and, as though it's a signal, the crowd's attention begins to waver. Rolling his eyes, Sulu grabs Chekov by the elbow and propels him through the doors.
"Dare I even ask-"
Chekov plunges his hands into the scratchy, ill-fitting Federation-issue jacket, fingers the small packet in his right pocket, and glowers at the sidewalk. "It was a diversion," he says. "A cunning one."
"Oh," says Sulu, with an appropriately serious mien. "Oh, a cunning one." They walk side-by-side in silence for several long moments. Sulu clears his throat. "I understand that faking alien invasions can be quite diverting."
"Ha-ha," says Chekov.
"Pavel," Sulu says, casting him a sidelong glance, and, grudgingly, Chekov allows his scowl to waver, "I couldn't help noticing-"
Planting his feet, Chekov resolves to face his ignoble fate with as much dignity as he can muster; Sulu sidesteps quickly to avoid running into him, then grins, and continues: "Pavel, you've been purchasing a certain kind of merchandise wherever we go. I was just-"
With a sigh, Chekov withdraws the bundle from his pocket and unwraps the gaudy, glittering holo-image of Regula VII's dubious skyline. "I know," he says, miserably. "I buy cheap souvenirs."
Sulu's grin widens. "So this is a longtime habit? Are your quarters stuffed with- with-" He pauses, waves an eloquent hand, and finally settles for pointing to the sparkling monstrosity in Chekov's grasp. "-that?"
"Only a small number," Chekov says. "Tiny, even."
"Ah," says Sulu, and clears his throat. "Are we talking five or ten or-"
"Perhaps one shelf," says Chekov.
Chekov's already been at Sulu's side in plenty of deadly and dangerous situations - together, they've faced Klingons, a plethora of doomsday devices, and a physical from Dr. McCoy before his morning coffee - but Sulu currently looks more horrified than Chekov has ever seen him. "A whole shelf full of that?"
"Perhaps two," Chekov allows.
Sulu grabs him by the arm again, and though Chekov makes a valiant attempt at shrugging free, his friend still manages to navigate him into a quieter corner. "Am I going to need alcohol for the rest of this conversation?"
With a sigh, Chekov pockets the scintillating eyesore. "I know just the place."
Any hopes Chekov may have had of changing the subject are quashed when Sulu cheerfully admits that his bubbling yellow-orange beverage is by no means "a real drink", and certainly not on the same level as Chekov's beloved "wodka".
"You, my friend," Chekov mutters into his glass, "are too good-natured by half."
"Disarmingly amiable," Sulu amends, raising his own drink with a grin.
Groaning, Chekov leans back in his chair. "The worst of it is that now I think I'm starting to crave one of those myself."
Sulu raises his eyebrows, all innocence. "What, one of these? Oh, no, you'd better stick to your vodka. That's a real-"
Hastily, Chekov pulls the glittering atrocity out of his pocket and places it on the table with a little more force than he'd intended. One of the Great Towers, already oversimplified nearly beyond recognition by some miserable excuse for an artisan, takes a bizarre wobble and tilts at an improbable angle. "I think I would rather discuss this, after all."
"All right," says Sulu, and Chekov has the distinct impression he's just been out-maneuvered. "So what's the story? Is this a compulsion? Did some souvenir hawker kill your grandmother? Are you plotting some sort of fiendish-but-poetically-just revenge?"
"No, I-" says Chekov, and pauses. "Wait. What?" He waves a hand before Sulu can elaborate. "No, I just- well, I just collect them, that's all."
Chekov fiddles with the device's settings in an attempt to repair the damage, briefly considers taking it to Mr. Scott once they're back on board the Enterprise, then figures that maybe a cheap holo-image that could also detect a warp containment breach from six parsecs away wouldn't be a particularly useful addition to his collection. "Well," he says, "I just do."
"I know you, Pavel," says Sulu. "You're so focused that Mr. Spock could be dancing a tarantella and you'd never take your eyes off your console. You don't do anything without a reason."
"Of course I do," Chekov protests. Sulu stares at him expectantly. "I, ah, sometimes have jam instead of sour cream on my blini in the morning."
"You crazy rebel, you."
"All right," says Chekov. "All right. It's just something- something normal." He shrugs, glaring at the holo-image. "Something ordinary people do when they go on holidays."
Sulu shrugs. "Most people wouldn't think a five-year tour across some of the most remote and dangerous parts of the galaxy constitutes a holiday-"
"Exactly!" Chekov clears his throat, sets the souvenir down, and lowers his voice. "Exactly my point. So where's the harm in making it feel a bit like a vacation?"
But Sulu's watching him with annoying shrewdness, and Chekov has to drown the renewed urge to run through his escape plans in a gulp of vodka. "Oh," says Sulu, his voice unexpectedly quiet. "You're a bit homesick, aren't you?"
Chekov bristles. "Of course not! That's utterly ridiculous." He snatches up the damaged skyscape, bundles it clumsily back into its wrapping paper, and stuffs it into his pocket. "We should get back to the beam-down point-"
"If it feels like a holiday, just a temporary vacation, it means you're going straight home at the end of it, right?" Sulu leans forward. "Pavel, this is your first deep-space tour, isn't it?"
"You never know what might have happened while we were gone," Chekov continues, scrambling to his feet. "Klingons may have attacked! The captain may be desperate for our aid!"
Sulu holds up his communicator. "He'd probably have given us a call if he was that desperate. And what would Klingons be doing out here, anyway? Bargain hunting? Pavel-"
"It's stupid," Chekov says, fumbling for some credits to drop on the table. "Forget I brought it up."
"Well," says Sulu, grinning, "you didn't so much bring it up as fake an alien invasion in an attempt to get me to stop bringing it up, but I see your point."
With an incoherent growl, Chekov turns and stalks towards the door, only distantly aware of Sulu jogging along beside him. "Pavel, wait. I understand, and- and would you stop walking for a second? You're going to crash into somebody, and I'd rather not have to explain to Commander Spock why we caused a diplomatic incident on our way out of a tavern."
In spite of himself, Chekov smirks and slows his pace. "He'd probably be annoyed that we wasted so much time. It would've been much more efficient to cause the incident on our way in-"
"Yes," says Sulu. "Much more logical to get our enemies drunk enough to forget the whole thing."
Chekov chuckles, feeling the tension in his stance start to melt away.
"Look, Pavel, all I wanted to say was that I understand." Chekov looks over; Sulu's staring at the ground, though a smile is still quirking at the corner of his lips. "Do you have any idea how much I miss San Francisco, sometimes?"
Chekov snorts. "You? You're at home anywhere."
"Maybe so," Sulu says. "But that doesn't mean it's okay to forget where you're from. It's your heritage, something to be proud of." He glances up, finally grinning outright again. "Goodness knows you're proud of Russia."
"And so would you be, if you'd ever visited. Russia imprints itself on your soul, on your very essence-" He pauses, waves a hand dramatically, and nearly catches a passing alien of avian descent a square blow to the beak. "-indelibly."
"Yes," Sulu says, quickly, "yes, indelibly and all the rest. But it's okay to miss home, Pavel. We all do it sometimes - some of us are just better at hiding it than others."
Chekov casts him a sidelong glance. "You think so?"
"I know so." Sulu meets his gaze squarely. "Have you ever known me to be uncertain about, well, anything?"
"No," Chekov admits.
"Besides," says Sulu, "there's an upside to it. Think of it this way - I could either mope around thinking about all the things that will have changed over these past five years in San Francisco, all the new shops opening, old friends moving away, bizarre new bylaws, or I could picture having the same old home to return to, only with a whole bunch of new things to explore in my own backyard."
Chekov stops walking, remains silent for a long moment, then turns to face his friend. "You," he says, "are an extremely aggravating person, Hikaru." His glower suppresses Sulu's protest. "Here I am, trying to enjoy a perfectly respectable bad mood, complete with a perfectly respectable dirty secret-" He waves the bundled-up holo-image accusingly. "-and you have to come around and-"
Sulu beams. "Hey," he says. "What are friends for?"
Rolling his eyes, Chekov starts walking again, and Sulu falls easily into step beside him. "To quote the old Russian saying, 'With friends like these-'"
"I think I know the one," Sulu says, and slaps him on the back. "How about we pick up where we left off? There's no shortage of establishments around here that serve various and sundry intoxicating substances, and I'm sure everyone else can handle any Klingon bargain hunters that may or may not arrive in the meantime."
Chekov maintains his glare for nearly five seconds before breaking into a smile. "It would be a perfect opportunity to rectify certain gaps I have noticed in your knowledge of Russian history and culture."
But as they head towards a promising old building, Chekov clears his throat. "One moment." Turning to a giant purple lobster headed in the opposite direction, he says, "Sir," and places the bundle containing the holo-image into the creature's left pincer. "A gift, courtesy of Mother Russia."
When he rejoins Sulu, his friend only rolls his eyes. "Pavel," he says, "I get the significance of the gesture, but in some cultures, giving a damaged gift can be perceived as an insult."
"Ah," says Chekov, and pauses to glance over his shoulder. "Do you really think Mr. Spock will approve of a diplomatic incident so long as it's before we're in the tavern?"
"I'm sure we've got nothing to worry about," says Sulu. "On an entirely unrelated note, let's walk a little faster."
And though the roar of an outraged alien crustacean follows them into the tavern, Chekov can't help grinning.
All of a sudden, he feels a little closer to home.
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