Fandom: Star Trek
Prompts: “Take your hands off them.”
You would think after serving on the Federation’s flagship under two different captains—three if you count the brief time Commander Spock was captain—and going through a massive space battle, everything else would be the proverbial smooth sailing.
As it turns out, when there aren’t time-traveling Romulan ships trying their best to tear you apart, people start asking more questions about whether or not you are truly qualified to be on the Federation flagship. Especially when the majority of the crew were cadets, drafted because of the battle protocol.
Most of them got to stay.
Captain Kirk got to stay. The Federation couldn’t reward him enough, it seemed. He got the flagship, Pike’s blessing, and the support of most of Starfleet High Command.
Commander Spock got to stay. He and the Captain had formed a bond that seemed nigh unbreakable, all over the course of that one mission. With the support of Vulcan and the endorsement of his older counterpart, he stood at the Captain’s side.
Dr. McCoy got to stay. He had taken one look at the terrifying emptiness and dangers of space and decided that if people insisted on going into it, he was going to be there to protect them.
Nyota, Hikaru, and Mr. Scott got to stay too. They had proven their worth as a xenolinguist, a pilot, an engineer. If the flagship was to represent the best the Federation has to offer, they had earned their place on its crew.
Pavel got to stay.
Pavel is young. Pavel knows he is clever, very clever, but he is young. Some of his instructors at the Academy were fond of the term ‘untempered.’ He understands; he lacks experience, the benefit of just existing in the world for a long period of time. He…he knows what he can do.
He’s less sure of what he should do.
Perhaps this is because he is so young, but he likes being given instructions that he can follow. If you tell him to do something, he will do it to the best of his ability and eagerly wait for something else to do. It’s one of the reasons he enjoys projects with Mr. Scott so much. He understands how it works and what he needs to do.
And sure, he has his own ‘passion projects,’ much like Hikaru and his fencing or his plants, but that is for him. Not for work.
Most of the crew like him. Most of the crew, according to Nyota, took one look at him and decided that he was there to stay.
Not all of them.
Pavel has made it no secret that he admires the Captain. The Captain has been an incredible role model in terms of determination, understanding the value of fighting for what he believes in, and inspiring everyone else to do the same. And he will not lie and say he does not actively seek the Captain’s approval.
This…did not go over well with some of the other cadets that got to stay.
It’s been a bad day. Pavel wipes his face on his sleeve, his fingers shaking on the PADD as he sits at the edge of the steps leading down from the door into the pit of the observation lounge. He knows he shouldn’t be taking this so personally, it’s in the nature of every supervisor to demand a high standard of work and to correct work that is subpar.
It’s just…he worked really hard on this report. He poured his hours off duty into making sure everything made sense, that the structure of the report was conducive to the ideas it contained, that it was good enough. And yet, despite his best efforts, it wasn’t good enough.
Commander Spock had glanced over it and asked him to rework it. Nothing else, nothing he’d done right, just ‘rework this, Ensign. You have missed the correlation to the cultural impacts.’
Pavel frowns, scrubbing angrily at his nose as he stares at the PADD. How could he have missed that? Why did he miss that? Did he get so caught up in trying to prove his brilliance that he missed what the actual assignment was?
“Aww, look. It’s the little nerd.”
Pavel flinches, whirling around to see two older members of the science team standing there. He doesn’t remember their names right now, why can’t he remember their names?
One of them saunters forward, smiling cruelly at Pavel. “Is the little baby crying?”
“I am not crying,” Pavel blurts, and it’s true. There are no tears running down his face.
“He looks like he’s about to,” the other one says, “you should’ve seen him when Commander Spock told him he’s messed up. Like someone kicked a puppy in front of him.”
“Or stole his blankie.”
“Sleeping with comfort items is nothing to be ashamed of,” Pavel mumbles, “studies have shown it—“
“Oh, don’t try and pretend you’re so smart now,” the first one jeers, “we all saw right through that today, didn’t we?”
“I think this might be it,” the second one stage-whispers, “the thing that gets the Commander to tell the Captain to send this kid back to the Academy.”
“Kids will be kids.” The first one puts on a look of false sympathy. “Aww, are you gonna cry now?”
“We’re just trying to tell you the truth kiddo,” the second one simpers, “what you need to hear. You know you’re not old enough to be out here yet.”
“I don’t know. I don’t think he’s smart enough for that.”
I am! I am, I promise.
“He’s just a kid, you know how they are.”
The second one snorts. “What, trotting around after the Captain like some poor lost puppy?”
“Look at how hard he’s crying? Oh, I’m sorry, does this hurt? Being told the truth like this?”
Yes. It hurts. Stop.
Pavel sniffs, clutching his PADD tightly to his chest. The worst part is this shouldn’t be affecting him this much. He’s heard all of this before. But it hurts. It still hurts. He can’t run. They’re blocking off the other end of the observation deck. That’s where the door is. He can’t run up the stairs.
He glances up to see the doors must’ve opened earlier because there’s someone standing at the top of the stairs.
Please, let it be someone who can help.
A flash of gold.
Pavel’s eyes widen in horror.
The Captain stands at the top of the stairs, looking down on them. He’s so tall. He’s so tall. Pavel can’t blink the tears out of his eyes enough to see his face. He clutches the PADD tightly and takes a step back.
The other two haven’t noticed the Captain yet.
“Oh, look! Look, he’s scared!”
“Aww, does that scare you? Knowing that they’ll be so disappointed in you?”
“I don’t know if it’s possible to be more disappointed in him.”
The first one finally notices he’s not looking at them and frowns. “What are you staring at?”
They turn around.
“We, uh, we—we were just—“
The Captain doesn’t say anything. He starts walking down the stairs, slowly, one foot at a time, listening as the two officers stumble their way around excuses. They back up as he gets closer, almost bumping into Pavel in their haste to get away.
“Watch where you’re going.”
Pavel flinches, and he knows the other officers do as well. He ducks his head, pressing his chin against his chest, feeling them scuttle around behind him. The Captain isn’t the friendly person who makes him laugh when he’s nervous right now, no. He’s six feet of authority, unwavering and stern-faced at the others and it’s terrifying. He doesn’t want to look. Doesn’t want the Captain to see.
A pair of hands grab his shoulders roughly and he winces.
“Tell—tell him,” one of them hisses, “tell him we didn’t—“
“Take your hands off him.”
The hands retract like they’ve been burned. Pavel waits, cuddling the PADD like it’ll save him from this. He can hear the Captain getting closer. Can see the tips of his boots when he stops right in front of him.
Pavel doesn’t reply. The Captain takes another step closer.
“Look at me please,” he asks, voice softening the tiniest bit.
He can’t. He can’t.
“Just do it!”
“Hold. Your. Tongue.”
The Captain is angry. Doing things—or more accurately, not doing things—will make it worse.
Pavel bites his lip and raises his head, sure he’s red, covered in tears, and horrible. The Captain’s face is a stone mask and he looks Pavel over. Then his face softens a little.
“…go wait for me by my quarters, alright?”
Pavel nods, scrambles to obey. Keeps his head down, runs. Mumbles apologies and dodges people. Gets to the lift, throws himself inside, and prays that the corridor where the Captain’s quarters are is empty.
It is, but that makes it worse. Because now all Pavel can do is slide down the wall and huddle over his PADD, trying to distract himself from what’s about to happen with trying to fix the thing that got him here in the first place.
He doesn’t make it very far.
The turbo-lift doors open and he scrambles to his feet. The Captain walks toward him.
“…come in, please.”
He can’t take in any of the quarters. He’s still too shaky, too afraid to look up. The Captain points to a seat and he sits. Keeps his hands in his lap, with the PADD. Hears the Captain walk over to the replicator.
A moment later, a hot mug is offered to him. Pavel takes it, brings it to his mouth. Winces when it’s too hot against his trembling lips.
“Careful,” the Captain says, sitting down next to him, “don’t burn your mouth. I’m not gonna take it away from you.”
Pavel takes another sip. “…it’s good.”
What is happening? Why…why is he here? Is the Captain going to yell at him?
He startles a little, glancing over to see the Captain looking at him, concerned. “You okay?”
Pavel nods on instinct. The Captain raises an eyebrow. Pavel hangs his head and shakes it.
“…I’ve spoken to the officers,” the Captain says gently, “I’m sorry you had to listen to that. It was unacceptable.”
Pavel nods distantly. Perhaps the Captain doesn’t know why yet…
“They shouldn’t bother you anymore,” he continues, “I think I’ve scared them enough. I’ve been told I can be scary.”
“You can,” Pavel mumbles without thinking. Thankfully, the Captain laughs.
“Well, you don’t need to be scared of me.”
Pavel curls in over his PADD and his mug. He hears the soft thunk as the Captain sets down his own mug.
He shakes his head. “Sorry, Keptin.”
“Don’t be sorry,” the Captain says easily, “just tell me what’s wrong.”
“It is not important.”
A tissue box floats in his vision. He slumps and takes it.
“You’re crying,” the Captain prods gently, “you’re upset. You can tell me.”
Pavel just blows his nose. The Captain nods toward his PADD.
“Is that the report for Spock?”
Pavel can hear the moment the Captain realizes that was the wrong thing to say because the mug and PADD are swiftly removed from his hands and lap as he hunches over, trying to stifle his cries in the wadded up tissue.
“I’ll be better,” he manages, “I’ll fix it.”
“Easy, hey, shh,” the Captain coaxes, getting Pavel to loosen the death grip he’s got on the tissue box, “calm down. It’s okay.”
“Please don’t send me away.”
The Captain freezes.
A warm hand lands on each of Pavel’s shoulders. They turn him to face the Captain.
“Is that what you think I’m gonna do?”
Pavel nods miserably.
“You’re not going anywhere,” the Captain reassures, giving him a little shake, “I think half my crew would stage a mutiny.”
Pavel frowns. What?
“You’re a smart kid,” the Captain murmurs, “and one of the only people I trust to do the work that needs to be done. Did you make a mistake? Is that why this happened?”
At Pavel’s nod, he smiles. “We all make mistakes, kiddo. It’s okay. You’ll fix it. It’s not the end of the world, and we still want you here.”
“You…you’re not mad?”
“No, I’m furious.” The Captain hands him the tissue box back. “At whoever made you think you would be sent away if you were less than perfect.”
Pavel wipes his eyes. The Captain cocks his head to the side.
“I admire you, Mr. Chekov.”
“You.” He gestures to Pavel. “You’re young, everything is terrifying, and you’re still here. I admire that.”
“…thank you, Keptin.”
The Captain hands him his mug back. “Now, tell me about this report.”