James T. Kirk was to say the least worried. Jim was familiar with the feeling though others may not think so because of his carefree manner. The subject of his worry currently was the Enterprises (and all of Starfleet's) youngest, Pavel Chekov. The kid was usually like a ray of sunshine, bright and full of energy but lately he was noticeably more melancholy, his light almost extinguished. He was so different than the eager to please kid he was used to instead walking around with a small pout and distant gaze, that if he hadn't known better would have made Jim think he was more adorable than usual but rather just made him nervous.
Chekov was no more than a child in many ways and the stress of being such an important officer and a child genius no doubt had something to do with what was bothering him. All that stress on just a boy made Jim shudder just thinking about it, reminding him of all of the responsibilities he shouldered at a tender age as well. It was something perhaps they alone shared and it made an unspoken kinship between them based on mutual understanding. Jim always could tell when one of the bridge crew was showing signs that something was up and for Chekov it was no different.
Jim cared deeply for his crew and when someone showed signals that something was wrong he always made sure to investigate and try to fix it, which was what he was doing now because anyone who knew Jim well would know that he wouldn't sit still during a situation that he thought he could solve. It was part of his charm and that stubbornness might have made McCoy want to pull his hair out on more than one occasion was one of the reasons that made him such a great captain.
The Enterprise had stopped by Starfleet Headquarters for some repairs after an incident with a hostile alien ship left the starboard hull in shambles a few days ago. It was then that Jim had started noticing something was wrong with the ships baby. Most of the Enterprise's crew had gone their separate ways, Sulu went to visit his family, Uhura, well Jim didn't really know where she was but he figured it was with Spock because he hadn't been able find either of them since they came down but he had a pretty good idea of what they're doing and Scotty was managing repairs leaving only Jim and Chekov with practically nothing to do.
Jim had just finished giving a long drawn out report about their latest mishap among the stars. He was roughly pushing his way through a crowd of Starfleet officers not in the best mood after dealing with a bunch of stuffy old Admirals interrogating him. His passage was halted when a fast paste blur of curly blonde hair and amazingly blue eyes slammed into him with a force that Jim would have though impossible for the kid to achieve knocking him off balance for a moment before he steadied himself and firmly gripped the boy by the shoulders to stop him from falling on his face.
"Whoa there kid, what's the rush? You okay?" Jim said with a chuckle at his young friends lack of coordination and look of embarrassment. Chekov blushed furiously and stammered out in his heavily accented voice a torrent of words
"Sorry captain, I'm so sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going and I didn't see you there. Jim sighed good-naturedly
"I'm fine. Don't worry about me " He reassured him.
"I must be going then captain. I'm so sorry for bothering you." He apologized again.
"Nah" Jim said with a shrug "It's no problem." The kid took off in a rush.
Jim then took a good look at Chekov, as his form slowly got smaller in the distance. He looked in a much better mood then he had been in for the last few days. The Russian had a bag slung across his shoulder and from the direction Chekov was headed he must be going off of Starfleet property and into the city. Jim glanced at the fading sun, it was getting dark and though Jim knew it was silly and that Chekov could handle himself just as well as any Starfleet officer he was afraid something would happen to him plus he was curious to know where he was heading that had him in such a good mood. So Jim decided to follow the path the ensign had taken and went off after him.
Jim debated whether he should catch up with Chekov and let him know about his presence but decided against it, he didn't want to invade on his privacy an more than he already was or have him insulted and think that Jim thought him incapable to care for himself. He decided against the idea and continued a few paces behind.
They made their way through busy city streets and alleyways, a twisting labyrinth of modern architecture, of colossal steel and metal buildings reaching towards the heavens like the outstretched fingers of a giant in prayer. They passed people and aliens of all sorts of shapes and sizes, male and female, young and old, going about their daily lives unaware that each breath they took was closer to their inevitable demise. It was a sobering thought and Jim shook himself out of the downward spiral he was headed towards because there was no logic to think that way, as Spock would admonish him.
A few blocks down from their starting point Jim saw Chekov enter an oddly plain short looking building compared to the rest of the skyscrapers surrounding it, only two or so floors in height.
He waited a second before going in himself and was surprised to say the least. Inside was an Ice-skating rink and Jim wished he brought a coat because damn it was cold in here he saw Chekov lace his skates that he took out of his bag and get on the ice.
Jim proceeded to go sit on the bleachers surrounding the rink and watch quietly. Chekov wasn't the only skater but he stood out in the crowd. His technique was flawless and he didn't wobble once. Jim saw him do leaps and spins that should have been impossible but were executed with precision and care. Chekov had a determined look of concentration as if he was in his own world like when he's doing math equations.
Suddenly there was a cry from within the rink and Jim saw a little girl alone in a corner crying hanging on to the ledge of the rink. Chekov quickly skated to the girl and knelt by her side. He soothed her and wiped away her tears. He saw him whisper to the girl and she gave a wet laugh. He took her hand and led her around the rink gently encouraging her until she could skate on her own. The girl giggled ecstatically and gave Chekov a fierce hug only coming to his waist. He looked surprised and a little wistful but then patted the girl's hair and smiled softly. Jim did notice the wistful look on his ensign's face and vowed to find out its source. The girl skated wobbly away, turning back to give Chekov a smile and a small wave.
Chekov waved back and then continued to skate getting back into his rhythm. Chekov skated long into the night until only he, Jim and the manager remained. Jim was utterly fascinated by Chekov's skating and lost track of time until the manager came, who obviously knew Chekov because he still wasn't kicked out came to ask him to leave.
"I'm with him" he said pointing to Chekov the man nodded "Ah" he said "Good boy, he is. He will lock up for me. You can stay with him. Nice that he has friend to watch him, he is very lonely, it is why I let him skate past closing. Good night sir" he said as he left. Jim felt saddened when he told him that.
Chekov continued to skate and didn't even notice Jim was there. He started to wobble though and Jim could tell exhaustion was catching up with him. Chekov started to wobble again and slid crashing into the wall. "Chekov!" Jim yelled when he saw the lump of human flesh that was Chekov. Jim ran over to him sliding on the ice "Chekov" he said again shaking his shoulder the lump stirred
"Captain what are you doing here" he asked looking at Jim. Jim shrugged his shoulders and replied
"I followed you. I was curious to see what you were up to now I know" Chekov chuckled and sat up
"That is very typical of you Captain" he said, "Now what is it that you were really curious about captain?" Jim was surprised at being caught
I wanted to know what was bothering you so much lately and frankly I'm not sure how ice-skating connects to it." Chekov looked at Jim and Jim could see loneliness swirling in their depths, he was ashamed at not noticing it before now.
"My mother taught me how to ice-skate when I was little. I didn't have many friends because I was so smart and wasn't very good at sports so my mother taught me to ice-skate because it is all equations and I was good at it. We had a pond by our house and it always was frozen over so we would skate on it. Soon when my sisters were born we taught them too and it became something of a family tradition.
So that's why Chekov was so good with the little girl. He wondered where Chekov's father was in the picture but didn't want to invade more into his privacy than he was already.
"You skate because you miss your family" he realized out loud. Chekov nodded and looked down sadly.
"Yes" he admitted, "whenever I feel lonely I skate" he looked into Jims eyes "I miss them very much" he said. Jim swallowed a lump in his throat and pulled Chekov into a hug. First Chekov was reluctant but then melted into him sniffling. Jim rubbed his back as Chekov quietly cried. Soon Chekov pulled away and wiped his face with the back of his hand looking away embarrassed.
"Hey there's nothing to be ashamed of" They sat there in companionable silence until Jim couldn't feel his backside anymore. He got up and walked across the rink. Chekov looked at him curiously.
"Where are you going" he asked surprise
Jim said, "I'll be right back" he quickly went to get his own pair of skates from the back and came back. When he stepped on the ice he fell unceremoniously onto his butt. Chekov took one look at him sprawled on the ice and burst into laughter holding his chest in uncontrollable gasps.
"Sorry captain" he said
"No problem kid" Jim told him. He had to admit it must be funny for him to see his captain like this. If only Spock could see him now he thought. He's give one of his disapproving glares.
Chekov got up from his sitting position and helped his captain to his feet. He wobbled a little under the weight but managed to get his captain up.
"Here captain, how about I teach you" Jim felt a little embarrassed that Chekov could tell he's never skated before and that he needed help, but when he saw the eager to please puppy dog eyes his ensign was giving him he couldn't resist their power and allowed the ensign to lead him slowly around the rink.
Jim quickly got the hang of it and soon they were skating side by side, Jim without Chekov's help and they raced around the rink whooping and laughing elatedly. Jim could see why Chekov enjoyed it so much, he felt a sense of freedom he didn't get to feel often with all his new responsibilities as a captain, so it felt good to let loose.
He was lost in his thoughts when all of a sudden he saw a blur in the corner of his eye. Chekov for the second time that day had crashed into Jim sending them both toppling to the floor in a heap. Jim started to chuckle and then couldn't control it anymore and burst into hysterical laughter. Chekov looked at him apologetic and puzzled. Jim saw his confused expression and said jokingly between fits of laughter
"Hey kid, you better not make a habit of knocking down me down, I am your Captain" and Chekov joined in his mirth rolling on the ice laughing.