So why did he feel such glorious, sinful delight in the solitude he found every morning here?
Pavel Chekov didnt care.
The liquid streaming over every divine millimeter of his skin was intoxicating. He drove through the tepid water harder, his powerful arm muscles slicing its surface cleanly. It was a long while before he gave into reason and made a final, neat turn, pushing toward the end of the pool nearest the locker room.
He surfaced and took a life-affirming gulp of the chemical-laden air permeating the room. Grasping the rough edge, he still bobbed there, nursing every moment he could in the water before he reached for the pile of fabric.
His hand swept over the wet, cool tile. Hesitating, a slight frown traced over his brow. He pulled himself higher and pressed his chest against the side of the pool. He reached further than he knew he should have to.
He opened his eyes.
Despite the dimness of the room, he could clearly see dark fabric of his suit interwoven in the womans fingers. He raised his soulful eyes to meet her blue ones.
"Youre more resourceful than I expected," he admitted.
"Youd be surprised what kind of information one can find floating around a starship," she replied gently.
"Surprised," Chekov commented, "and a little bit alarmed even."
Martha Landon seemed to be everywhere lately, but he certainly didnt expect her to show up at one of his morning swims. He knew that shed been pursuing him; now he had to admit that, finally, her ingenuity intrigued him.
Squatting at the edge of the pool, she was wearing a standard Starfleet issue swimsuit. It was a one-piece tank, and he didnt fail to notice where it hugged the obvious swells of her form. He had already cast a studious eye on her firm, athletic legs, though theyd never been just inches from his nose before.
She wrapped her arms around them. "Oh, Ive gone too far," she observed, subdued. "Ive scared you off."
He smirked. "Ive chosen a career in space. This is a good indication that I find a little risk interesting, dont you think?"
"It seemed to be fairly common knowledge that you swim every morning at four," she admitted. "Although I didnt expect dropping in on you to be such an...enlightening experience." She smiled as she folded the fabric in her hands.
"Ive never run into anyone else at this hour," he remarked. A wicked glint pierced his dark eyes. "I hope you werent disappointed."
"Well, I knew you had a hairy chest. And about this," she added, pushing a finger gently into his rock-hard bicep. He had a small frame so his clothes usually served as a disguise for how toned his body actually was.
"Now I am alarmed," he declared. "Have you holocams I should know about?"
"We talk," she shrugged easily, the smile still playing on her face. "Women talk. But Id never heard mention of...well, your other attributes."
She leaned forward. "Just what size shoe do you wear?" she asked intently.
Even without the lights on, the brilliant shine in his dark eyes was evident. "Why?" he asked drolly. "You plan to buy me a pair?"
Her eyelids fluttered sheepishly and he laughed, endeared by the reaction. "Ive found that urban legends are generally just myths," he divulged conspiratorially. "I wear a standard ten and a half."
"Oh," she remarked coolly, setting her shoulders and sense of dignity at the same time. "Well, you know its not the equipment; its your skill in using it."
A brilliant grin lit up his face. "Im an excellent dancer," he proclaimed, his accent thick. "Took lessons."
She didnt reply. The fact that he hadnt turned on the lights did nothing to disguise the color that flashed into her cheeks, however.
He eyed her, gripping the edge of the pool and planting the soles of his feet against the submerged wall. "Id ask you to join me, but you appear entirely overdressed."
With that, he pushed his legs against the wall and thrust back into the center of the pool.
Sulu entered Chekovs cabin through their shared bathroom as the navigator was pulling on a clean uniform shirt.
"Youre running late today," he commented. "Did you actually oversleep?" It was a rude tease. The Russians biological clock was not only flawless, but also seemed to set quite a bit earlier than every other Humans. "Are you having a bad day?"
"Im having a good day...a very good day," the younger man grinned happily, shaking his hair back into place.
"Its oh-five-thirty. Even for you, there hasnt been enough of a day to call it a good one," Sulu scowled. "Where have you been?"
The helmsman stepped back into the bathroom to check his own hair. "By what?"
"That girl whos been chasing me." Chekovs grin broadened with wild glee. "I let her catch me."
Sulus head popped out of the bathroom to peer at his helm partner. "In the pool?"
The older mans dark eyes regarded him a moment. A sudden, wild smile burst over his face and he laughed delightedly. Chekov joined in the utter, thorough laughter, but knew he was enjoying it more.
"You took a chance of being caught," Sulu remarked as he came back in the cabin.
"Its too early for the Alpha shift, too late for the Beta shift, and Gamma shift is on duty. No ones ever showed up while I was swimming."
Chekov hesitated, shooting a glance at his friend. "Good point. Maybe it wasnt such a good idea."
The helmsman made a non-committal gesture. "So which of your current pursuing harem are we talking about?"
Color flushed through the younger mans face and neck. Dark eyes sparkling wickedly, Sulu smirked at the reaction he had so easily caused. With his gregarious personality, good looks, keen mind, fine sense of humor, overpowering charm and gentlemens manners, Chekov always had waiting a set of interested companions. Although this fact appeared to genuinely baffle the navigator, his best friend would have been negligent to ever let the interest he generated to go to his head.
"The stalker?" Sulu questioned, heading back into the bathroom.
"Shes no stalker." Chekov followed him with determination in his step. "She shows initiative," he said defensively.
"Oh, I know that tone," the helmsman chuckled. "Dont tell me youre in love already. Pavel Andreievich, you fall in love as easily as most people sneeze."
Chekov shoved his arms haughtily across his chest. "I dont intend to take advice on romance from a man whose language doesnt even have a word for kiss."
Sulu stood, smirking as he replaced his mouth cleanser. He glanced at his friend. "Lets not start our debate of cultures already today. Martha, eh?" he continued, shaking his head. "Whyd you have to pick her? Jeez, youll look like Barbie and Ken together," the helmsman muttered as he disappeared into his own cabin.
Chekov followed him after a moment, but found the bedroom area empty. "Sulu?" he entreated. "Hikaru?"
Moving toward the living area, he hesitated long enough to make the bed and dispose of the remnants of a midnight meal. "Hikaru?"
The helmsman was sitting at the desk, cup of coffee in hand, BellComm monitor bright.
"Barbie and Ken?"
Sulu smiled at the mans predictability and indicated the computer screen. "Popular American dolls introduced in the twentieth century." Standing, he relinquished his seat to his friend and deposited a glass of tea in front of him. "What took you so long?" he teased knowingly.
"I cant be a servant to you forever," Chekov muttered as he studied the screen.
"Hell, yes, you can," the helmsman chuckled. "Ill request you on all my commands."
"Will be difficult when I have my own command." The navigator drank the tea for a minute. "You call me doll?" he finally asked, turning to scrutinize Sulu. "This is term of endearment?"
The older man laughed out loud. "No, Americans dont throw around endearments as easily as you Russians."
Chekov scowled. "Makes you unfriendly, I think."
Leaning back against the room divider, Sulus grin broadened.
"What are you grinning at?"
"I was just thinking what your mothers reaction would be to your use of broken English. Ive seen her reaction to your accent. Pavel, shes a teacher; she taught you the language. Shed beat you senseless," the helmsman laughed out loud.
"She would do no such thing!" Chekov protested indignantly, jerking to his feet.
Sulu kept grinning and dropped his cup on a nearby shelf. "No, but shed do worse. Hell, I know your father is a hot-head, but your temper doesnt come from your father, Pavel. It comes from her," he divulged, "and Im going to tell on you."
The navigator snatched the cup off the shelf and deposited it into the nearest receptacle with irritation. He ignored the open threat. "So if youre not calling me a doll, why do you say Barbie and Ken?"
"What about Barbie and Ken?" Uhura asked brightly as she strolled into the cabin from the corridor.
"Sulu says Martha and I look like Barbie and Ken," Chekov attested.
"Martha Landon?" She laughed gently. "Yes, Id say you do. Young, fresh-faced, clean-cut, charmingBarbie and Ken are the epitome of the perfect couple next door, Pavel. The two of you would look like a perfect shorter version of the dolls. Theyre still quite popular, you know." Her eyes widened. "Do you mean youre dating Martha now?" she asked with a start.
Chekov blinked. After a moment, he straightened his uniform tunic. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I just lost a bet," Uhura declared with ill humor. "I was rooting for Sara this round."
"Lieutenant Nighthawk? The science tech?" he asked after a moment.
"Yes," she replied defensively. "Shes nice, attractive, has a strong culture like you, and," the communications officer added knowingly with a sparkle in her eyes. "She has a great set of legs."
The navigator hesitated, scrutinizing her. "Penda, Sara does not transfer from this ship, I think?"
"Than I date her next," he pronounced.
Uhura glared at him and whatever somber pretense he had evaporated, a wicked smile bursting over his face. She stepped forward and soundly slapped him upside the head. "Pavel Andreivich, youre impossible!"
"Da," Chekov agreed happily. "This is why you love me so." He shifted after a moment, the smile fading. "Penda, you bet on me? With who?"
She laughed lightheartedly, tousling his thick brown hair with affection. "With everyone, sweetheart.
"Dont fret so," Uhura chided when he fell into a pout. "Just have Sulu split the pot with youafter all, he won. Now, are we going to breakfast or not?"
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