A/N: Written for Whumptober Day 8 - Stab Wound. I didn't mean to make them a couple in this but it maybe came out kinda shippy? Idk I guess it's up to you to decide if this is pre-relationship or just Chekov flirting with everything that moves
Red. There was so much red.
Jaylah dragged Pavel into the shelter of a cave. His head lolled against her shoulder. With her arms wrapped around his chest, Jaylah could feel his heart beating quickly, too quickly. Hers did the same, racing wildly, fueled by adrenaline and terror. Their attackers had leapt from nowhere as they explored the mountainside, stabbing Pavel before they even realized what was happening, and she had taken out the first attackers after he collapsed. Then more started to come, and they had been on the run ever since.
All the while, Pavel bled.
Color was rare on Snohdenna. It was a planet of silver rock and white snow, and the animals' most colorful bits were their eyes, usually coming in shades of blue or brown or yellow. Red was the color of the richest people, of the rarest berries, of the prettiest sunrises. When Jaylah was young, she had never once considered the possibility that red could be bad.
Until she met her human friends. They bled red. To them, red meant pain, anger, danger. It was used as a warning, a signal to stop. As she lived with them for longer and longer, watched more of them fall or die covered in dark red blood, she had learned to associate red with those same grim meanings. Never more so than now, with the color oozing from Pavel's stomach, staining his gold shirt, his pale hands, his grey communicator.
"We can hide here," she told him, knowing full well she had stopped simply because he could not risk further traveling.
His only response was a weak grunt of assent.
She dragged him around a bend before laying him down, a flimsy extra step of protection. There was a red trail outside, she knew, one that she and Pavel had done their best to stem, but he lacked the strength and she lacked the time to do it perfectly. It was sporadic enough to stall their pursuers, but eventually, they would be found.
In her six years of knowing him, Jaylah had never really associated Pavel with red. He got a bit scraped up on some missions, but he always seemed to escape severe injury. The senior crewmembers always protected him, shielding him with their own lives if necessary, still seeing the boy he had been when they first met him when danger arose. But they had not been there today. And now Jaylah feared that, every time she thought of Pavel, she would see only red.
She laid him out as gently as she could, cradling his head, supporting his back. Letting go of him felt like a death sentence, her body suddenly cold where he had leaned against her, and the disconnect from the assurance of his beating heart made hers leap into her throat. She pushed down the fear to be strong for him, taking hold of his hands, all of his strength focused on pressing them over his wound. "I need to look."
He nodded, eyes fixed resolutely on the cave roof. "I know."
She took a deep breath, steadying her own trembling hands, and carefully lifted his.
Red spurted from the jagged tear in his flesh. She swallowed down vomit and worked quickly, tearing off her sleeves to wad them up and press them over the wound. A hoarse scream tore from him, his body trying to writhe against her, away from the pain her touch caused, but he was so weak she hardly noticed.
Her uniform was red. So was Montgomery Scotty's, and Nyota Uhura's. They didn't mean danger. They meant fixing and communicating. She was proud of her uniform, of all it symbolized: Her escape from Altamid, her newfound family, her life that she had built. Wearing it, she felt a part of something, something full of love and life, and it made her feel invincible in a way she never had on Altamid, alone and hiding and scared.
Tearing it up, watching Pavel's blood stain it dark, she felt that old terror rising, threatening to drown her.
"You will be ok," she blurted, talking to herself as much as to Pavel.
He sucked in a breath and forced himself to still, tearing his eyes from the ceiling to look at her. "I know," he said again, and somehow, his voice was strong.
It was a foolish question. He was an optimist, a ray of sunshine on even the darkest days. His laughter was infectious, his embarrassment amusing. Whether he was cracking the joke or being the butt of the joke, he brought joy wherever he went, and being the butt never kept him down for long. He brimmed with hope even when the situation offered nothing but despair.
He smiled, and though his face was ashen, his smile shone. "Because you are wiz me. I don't want to die in front of you, so I won't."
Just as always, he made her laugh. This one was a tiny one, more exasperated than amused, but still a laugh, and she clung to that slice of happiness. "Are you flirting?"
His laugh turned into a grimace, and he spasmed in pain beneath her. "It… distracts me."
She tensed to hold her hands in place, wishing she could hold his hand instead, comfort him, not add to his pain. "Keep going, then."
His head had fallen to the side, and something caught his eye. With great effort, he stretched his arm out to the base of the cave wall, plucking at something with clumsy fingers, and he held it out to her. "For… for you, my lady."
Pinched between his fingers was a tiny, delicate flower.
It was red.
A firefight erupted outside. They both flinched, Pavel's hand falling as Jaylah ducked instinctively to cover him. His breath came in rapid gasps, and she froze, torn between applying pressure and grabbing her phaser.
Relief swamped over her, ponytail flying as she whipped around to look for their rescuers. "In here!"
James T. ran around the bend, Bones McCoy hot on his heels. Medkit in hand, he fell to his knees beside Pavel, yanking it open and signaling for Jaylah to move on the count of three. She rocked back onto her heels and he slapped a pressure bandage down, nodding to James T., who flipped open his communicator. "Beam us up, Scotty, and get a medical team to the transporter room."
As the beams of white light began to wrap around them, taking them to safety, Jaylah noticed Pavel's flower had been dropped in the commotion.
She snatched it up, relieved when they reached the transporter room and it was nestled securely in her palm.
Bones McCoy wasted no time rushing Pavel to medbay, leaving Jaylah standing on the pad. James T. moved to her side, wrapping a supportive arm around her shoulders. "He'll be fine – you did a good job, Jaylah." He nodded to the flower in her hand. "That's pretty."
She looked down at it, its round petals undamaged and beautiful against her blood-stained skin. Two shades of red, one dark and dangerous, one bright and precious. She smiled, brushing her thumb along one soft petal. "It is," she murmured, "isn't it?"
The next day, sitting at Pavel's bedside, she had it tucked behind her ear, a splash of vivid color against her snow white hair. He woke up, alive and safe, his hand held in hers, and grinned at the sight. "I told you flirting would sawe my life."
Jaylah rolled her eyes. "You did not."
But you did remind me that red is beautiful.