[identity profile] oddmonster.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] scotty_chekov
Title: The Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle of Love
Author: [livejournal.com profile] oddmonster
Genre/Rating: pre-slash, PG
Wordcount: 3600
Notes/Warnings: None that I can think of, but holler if I missed something!
Summary: When Chekov can't sleep, he finds himself listening to the beautiful sounds of Engineering. And Commander Scott's stubborn and terrible views about Heisenburg compensators.

Pavel Andreivich Chekov, all teasing to the contrary, has never slept with a nightlight. He has never been afraid of the dark.

That’s not exactly true; when he was very young he had felt... an apprehension about the darkness surrounding his bed, and so had asked his papa about the likelihood of possible dangers.

“Nyet, Pavel, not here,” his father said. “There is nothing to worry about. Let me show you something. Close your eyes.”

And Pavel did, because he was a good boy.

“Tell me what you see,” his father instructed.

“Nothing. It is all dark.”

“And are you afraid, Pavel?”

“Nyet, Papa. You are right here. But it is not like that when I am sleeping.”

“How can you tell where I am in the dark, Pavel?”

Pavel shrugged his small shoulders. “You smell like the herring we had for supper and smoke from the fire, and oil. It is wery strong, Papa.”

His father laughed. “What else?’

“I ken hear you too. I ken hear you zitting close by.”

“And you are not afraid.”

“No Papa, I am not.” Pavel opened his eyes, then quickly shut them again.

Pavel’s father rose and tucked his son securely into bed, digging the quilt in all around him. “And you have your hot water bottle?”

“Yes, Papa.”

The elder Chekov leaned over and kissed Pavel on the forehead. “Don’t be afraid of the darkness simply because the light is absent. Trust your senses, Pasha. Trust your brain.”

“Yes, Papa. Goodnight, Papa.”

Pavel’s father patted his small and bundled son affectionately as he rose. “Goodnight, Pavel.”

And as he fell asleep, Pavel listened to the sounds of his family in the living room of their small apartment: the even, rhythmic click of his grandmother’s knitting needles set against the squeak of her rocking chair; the heavier click of chess pieces on a board, his father and grandfather resuming their nightly match; the turning of pages as his mother quietly read her book. The apartment settled around them all with soothing creaks, and even the wind outside his window made Pavel’s apprehension about the darkness fade.

Now he is on the Enterprise, the noises of the ship are one of Pavel’s favorite things about being in space. Space is mostly darkness. He has heard some of the other crew members say they find it creepy and have trouble sleeping. Now when Pavel has trouble sleeping it has nothing to do with the darkness. There is simply so much to think about sometimes! When this happens, Pavel gets up and walks around the ship, listening.

In the long, curved corridors he can hear the hum of the ship and feel it under his feet, and when he puts his palm up to the wall. He does not hear other crew members in their quarters -- the Enterprise’s doors are very solid -- but he would not like to hear them anyway. But he loves listening to the ship.

He especially loves listening to the ship down in Engineering.

It is possibly the only time he abuses his position as an ensign. He would not be able to explain what he was doing there should anyone ask why the ship’s navigator is standing motionless and smiling on the catwalks surrounding the warp cores three hours into Gamma shift. But in Engineering, Pavel can close his eyes and hear everything.

The warp cores are the source of the ship’s main hum, the sound he hears everywhere. Here they’re just much much louder. The water pipes sound like whooshing, under pressure, with the occasional slosh and splash. The water cleaner sounds like the old washing machine in the basement of Pavel’s family’s building back in St. Petersburg. It spins and gurgles, and fills and drains. Somewhere close by, a sensor whistles high-low at intervals.

Without opening his eyes, Pavel can sense the lights of the dilithium crystals, snapping and crackling in their tubes. Part of why he comes to Engineering is simply to answer the question of whether he can actually hear the dilithium crystals or whether he just thinks he hears them.

Trust your senses, Pasha. Trust your brain.

He is fairly sure he can hear them. All that power, it stands to reason, must make some noise.

One night while Pavel is cheerfully alone and listening in the middle of Engineering, someone taps him on the shoulder. He whirls, eyes flying open.

It is Commander Scott, the brilliant and slightly incomprehensible engineer who makes Pavel feel so peculiar whenever they are in close proximity. This close, Pavel realizes how short the commander is. Still, Pavel is respectful. “Commander, sir! I was not expecting anyone, sir!”

“Och, me neither lad, but it’s this place, you know? It’s got such a soothing quality to it. Makes you feel like you’re not alone out there in the darkness. Least it does for me.” Commander Scott puts his hands in the middle of his back and stretches. Vertebrae crack loudly. “Aye, that’s better.”

This close, Commander Scott smells like alcohol and food-slot cheese and jam and... something unexpected and compelling that compounds the peculiar feelings Chekov has been having whenever the other man is in the room. Pavel leans closer and takes a delicate sniff.

The commander frowns. “Did you just sniff me?”

“What? No, sir! Ebbzolutely not. I would not-- zat would be--” Pavel feels himself blushing as his accent helpfully strangles all the words at his command.

Commander Scott raises one of his arms and gives his pit a snort, then shrugs. “Well, I wouldn’t blame you. Sometimes I forget how long I’ve been down here, forget when other people might’ve packed it in. Still, as long as Keenser doesn’t complain... I do like it here though, you know? Especially when it’s this quiet. Gives a man a chance to enjoy the ambiance. Not everyday you get to serve aboard a Galaxy-class starship.” Commander Scott holds up a finger. “You hear that?”

Pavel is still hearing lots of things, regardless of how close Commander Scott is standing. “To which thing, in particular, are you referring, sir?” At the engineer’s questioning look, Pavel starts explaining everything he hears.

Commander Scott listens in silence, then says, “I could use a man like you.”

Pavel’s blush returns full force, although he cannot for the life of him think why. “Excuse me, sir? I sink I am not understanding you.”

“Well, that hearing of yours. All the listening you do. See, I think one of the Heisenberg compensators is running too hot, but I canna find hide nor hair of it in the transporter logs. But still, when you spend as much time down here as I do--”

“I respectfully disagree, Commander,” Pavel says urgently. “I sink you will find that the particular Heisenberg compensator in question is running more slowly than usual, contributing to excess energy consumption by the transporter module as a whole.”

Commander Scott grins. “That’s a lovely theory, lad, but I assure you that it’s going like clappers! If it had slowed, you’d see a spike in dilithium consumption, but I’ve checked the numbers and it’s all there. All you’d expect of it at least.”

Pavel shakes his head, temper flaring. “A Heisenburg compensator, when it is running correct, sounds like--” He makes a high-pitched ih-ih-ih-ih-ih noise. “But you listen right now, you hear one zat sounds like ihhhhhhhh. Ihhhhhh. Ihhhh.” He draws the syllables out so that this silly man with the ridiculous accent will understand.

“Bollocks. C’mon, lad. I’ll show you.” Montgomery Scott turns and strides down the catwalk, turning left at the first junction and, as Pavel hurries to catch up, right at the second.

The compensator in question is unimpressive. It looks like a hair-dryer with a tumor. Nonetheless, the two of them both insist they are right about its condition. Hours pass.

(”Ihhhhhhh”, Pavel gesticulates angrily. “Ihhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Admit it! You can too hear zis!”

The head of engineering makes a noise like a scalded cat. “He’s hot as a Spanish pepper, lad! Open your ears!”

Pavel swears eloquently and at great length in Russian. Terrible, stubborn Scottish man and his terrible, stubborn Scottish ears!)

At long last, the muted overhead lights turn from green to white: Gamma shift has ended. They have spent nearly six hours fighting about a sick hair-dryer.

The doors to Engineering’s main bay shush open, admitting Ensigns L’hontk and Lew, a new transfer from the USS Majestic. Yeoman Patterson arrives just a few steps behind, adjusting her uniform pants around her long, bi-partite tail. From where Pavel and Scotty are standing (Commander Scott has been Scotty since the two of them took apart the compensator’s three outer condensation chambers a few hours ago) they look like brightly costumed mice.

The head of Engineering exhales loudly and sags against the railing of the catwalk. “Uncle.”

“I do not believe we are related, sir.”

“S’an expression, lad. A figure of speech. Which in this case means I’m too tired to continue trying to explain to you how wrong you are.”

Pavel starts to object but Scotty holds up a hand. “Enough! Enough. I think we both know this can’t be solved tonight-- uh, today. Och--”

“Da, this shift. Is Delta.”

“Right. So, I don’t know about you, but I’m about to drop where I stand. So here’s what I propose. You’re not on until... Beta?”

“Da. But--”

“But this: whatever our wee over-compensating friend’s doing, he can keep right on doing it until next Gamma. So if you’re that keen to be shown up on your knowledge of quantum sensors, I’m just as happy to do the showing. At next Gamma.”

Pavel is bristling with anger. Still, he makes a neat, polite bow. “As you wish, sir. I will see you in twelwe hours.”

“In which now?”

Twelwe hours,” Pavel enunciates. “Two shifts, sir. At next Gamma.”

“Aye, right. That’s what I thought ye said. So uh, off you go.”

And go he does. Without further ado, Pavel leaves Engineering and stalks back down the corridors to his stateroom.

Infuriating, stubborn man! Heisenberg compensator was inwented in Russia! ‘Show him up on his knowledge of quantum sensors--’

“Quantum sensors also likely Russian inwention!” Pavel tells his stateroom angrily.

It is unimpressed.

He crawls into bed more as a matter of form than anything else. He is not remotely tired. If anything he is nearly shaking with adrenaline from the encounter. Eyes closed, Pavel goes back over the interaction. Terrible stubborn Scottish man. Terrible grasp of de-coupling plasma physics. Terrible heavy accent. And warm brown eyes. And calloused, warm hands.

At one point during the argument, they’d both laid their hands on the compensator, trying to judge hot or cold, the data log staunchly mute on the topic, and Scotty had taken Pavel’s hand and moved it to where his own hand had been just a moment before. He’d held Pavel’s hand in place on the compensator with both of his own hands, talking about this imaginary heat he was sure Pavel would feel at any moment.

Pavel opens his eyes in the darkness. And just for a few moments, he is scared.

Because when Scotty took his hand, when Scotty held it against the compensator, Pavel had felt a great and terrible tide rush through him, a feeling he had no name for but which he knew was inescapable.

He had never felt such a thing before.

The profound depth of it, the force. One of the worst things about studying physics was the understanding you got of just how implacable the universe could be. Energy would have its way unless confronted and altered by a force of equal energy. It was inescapable. And Pavel had never felt an energy like what he’d felt when Scotty’d taken his hand. He wondered what force existed that could counter that sensation.

He lies there, alternately pondering and cursing for the rest of Delta shift.

Pavel curls in tight on himself, anxious for the sheets to warm. He makes himself relax, until he hears the ship’s own thrum again, low and soft and gentle. Somewhere close by a generator is cycling through, rising and falling in cycles as Pavel’s breathing slows and his eyes grow heavy.

Outside in the corridor, footsteps, hurried. Pavel tucks his knees tighter into his chest. The footsteps diminish and no alarms sound, and Pavel falls asleep with his hands pressed together against his chest.


Twelve hours later the two of them reconvene in Engineering.

Pavel, fresh off of Beta shift, bounces on the balls of his feet. The shift itself was uneventful, a series of pre-scheduled systems checks to ensure the ship was still on its way to the Selmun nebula at the edge of the Sa’adani Alliance. Each check revealed that yes, the Enterprise was still on course, which came as no surprise to Pavel, who had plotted said course and knew his figures were all correct. Thus for the vast majority of the shift his brain was free to re-acquaint itself with the known and potential failure points of Heisenburg compensators. The information he found reassured him; he is right, and Scotty is wrong. Ihhhhhhhhh.

Scotty is equally cheerful and well-rested, despite being about to pull what amounts to his second 16-hour shift in two days. The two of them argue companionably down the catwalks toward the compensator array, left at the first junction, then right at the second.

Twenty minutes after that there is a Heisenburg compensator in pieces all over the catwalk and Pavel Andreivich Chekov, looking down at a quantum sensor which is barely able to muster a sad little ihhhhh?, is exulting in being right once again.

“You see, Scotty? Is under-compensating, not over. Is too cold.”

“Aye, laddy, I guess you’re right. I dunno, though. I could’ve sworn I heard one over-heating. Didn’t you?” He addresses this last to Keenser, perched high above the fray in the maze of scaffolding. Keenser replies with what might be a shrug, dark eyes un-blinking. To be fair, the heat up here on the catwalks is phenomenal and Pavel is sweating freely. He’s sure he smells almost as bad as Scotty did the last time they met. He wishes he could take off his long-sleeved uniform shirt, but that would not be proper, so instead he swelters with mustered dignity.

“Nyet,” Pavel says again, unwilling to let the victory go. “See?” He reaches out and, taking Scotty’s hand, holds it between his own briefly, before pressing it against the housing of the malfunctioning compensator. “Too cold.”

“Too...yes well, lad, thank you for the demonstration. Er, never let it be said that Montgomery Scott doesn’t know when he’s been proved wrong--”

And then something explodes behind him. A blinding flash of too-bright light and heat on his back and shoulders, and then... nothing.


A reassuring, steady digital chirp, nearby.

The smell of... alcohol swabs and the medicinal tang of hypos. Closer by, food-slot cheese and jam.

“Stay still, laddy. Just stay still.”

Pavel tries to open his eyes but sees only the continuing confusion of red stars behind his eyelids. Scotty squeezes his hand. “Sleep, wee Pavel. Go on. Rest.”

And with no other options presenting themselves, he does.


This time when Pavel opens his eyes, the muted lights of Sick Bay swim into view. He blinks a few times, just to make sure.

“You’re awake! That’s grand! Welcome back, Ensign Chekov!”

Pavel turns his head with some difficulty. He’s not sure why he’s in Sick Bay, nor why he’s now back to being Ensign Chekov instead of wee Pavel. “What has happened?” he asks. Possibly he asks it in Russian. The back of his head feels like someone pressed it up against a radiator, stinging and burning and making it hard to think clearly.

“Erm, well yes, as a matter of fact, there was a slight issue with the compensator.”

“Da, it was too cold, running too slow.” Pavel reaches a hand up to check his hair, relieved to find nothing that feels like a bald patch. Less relieved that it means his entire scalp hurts. Not to mention his back and shoulders.

“No, not that compensator. The other one. The one that, erm, exploded.”

“Is joke?” Pavel asks after a few seconds. “Like the funny kind, but different, yes?”

“No joke, lad. And not the funny kind at all. While we were dealing with your little under-achieving friend, one of its friends finally finished over-heating and...” Scotty puffs air out of his cheeks. “Pow.”

Pavel pushes himself up to a sitting position with a little difficulty. “Wait! I am confused! There were two compensators running wrong? In opposite directions?” Only when Scotty sits there frowning and silent does Pavel realize that that was definitely in Russian. He repeats himself in English.

“Well yes. One compensator that was going--” Scotty clears his throat. “Ihhhhhhh, but another one, farther down the line was also going ih-ih-ih-ih. We tracked down one but unfortunately the other got away! And then promptly exploded. Look, shouldn’t you be lying down still?”

“What do you mean the other was going ih-ih-ih-- was overheating?” Pavel’s mind races, trying to move back over the lost hours to the explosion and what had come before. The long slow whine of the compensator dying away, the intermittent ping from the impulse drive, the descending, cyclical whine of the intermix chamber and--

He swears, long and fluently Russian.

“Lad!” Scotty takes his hand. “It’s fine! I mean it’s not fine. It did, in fact explode, but really it was a very small explosion when you think what could’ve happened.”

“Nyet! I mean da, explosion but... I was not right. Ze compensator, it was... and it exploded!” More swearing. “I will giwe my resignation in the morning. How could I have mizzed this!”

“Laddy,” Scotty says more softly, squeezing Pavel’s hand. “Maybe wait until the drugs wear off to do anything rash, hey? You weren’t wrong after all. It’s just... we were both right.”

This message is lost because Pavel is feeling a strange thing happen. Not apprehension, no, but something like it, something... something that only happens when he is wery near Scotty, like crouching over a malfunctioning compensator or now, here, lying in this bed with Scotty holding one of his hands in calloused, firm palms. Some machine nearby starts beeping.
“Are y’all right, lad? You’re looking a bit peaky, now I think of it. I should go, likely, go check to see whether the doc should be coming round for a wee visit.”

Pavel has forgotten how to speak both English and Russian. He simply stares into the worried face of the smartest, stubbornest man in the universe. “Nggg...”

Scotty’s eyebrows make a worried shape.

McCoy appears suddenly at the foot of the bed, and moves to check on Pavel with a businesslike abruptness. His eyebrows make a worried shape at the monitors next to Pavel’s bed, but a more angry shape than Scotty’s eyebrows. Pavel suddenly wonders if maybe he has been given drugs for the explosion.

McCoy pokes a button and a few seconds later more drugs rush through him. Pavel looks back at Scotty and hopes he’s not blushing or smiling or giggling.

“Dammit, man,” McCoy says, “he may be a growing boy still but he needs his rest. And for someone not to mention the word ‘explosions’. Or cause one close by. That might be helpful.”

Now Pavel is definitely giggling. Explosions happen when something that is maybe running slower meets something running too fast. They both explode! He should tell someone.

Scotty releases Pavel’s hand and lays it gently on the sheets. “Yes, now that you mention it, Doctor, there’s a thing erm, down in Engineering, that could use a wee look or two.”

Pavel giggles a bit more at Scotty’s accent. Is so pretty! He makes “engineering” sound like a cake. With frosting.

“Lad,” Scotty tries again.

McCoy clears his throat.

“Right so I’ll see you in a bit, maybe.”

McCoy clears his throat again and Pavel turns to look at him, concerned. Ze doctor iz sick!

Scotty takes his alcohol and food-slot cheese smell away. The room whirls in response, so Pavel thinks maybe to close his eyes. He hears McCoy harumph, then move away, leaving Pavel alone with the chirruping, pinging machines near his bedside. Was small explosion in the grand scheme of things. So he should sleep, maybe, because he should be on shift soon, over-compensating for the other navigators, the ship’s auto-navigation system. They will all have made an ihhhhhhhhh sound.

But in Pavel’s head, he hears Scotty making that noise, trying, with his stubborn accent, to reproduce it faithfully.

With the last of his consciousness, Pavel listens. Hears the ship breathing its high-pitched ozone-tinted breath and its low-slung hum, along with a slow and steady beep that comes at intervals. Pavel is too tired to open his eyes, so he just contents himself with enjoying the lingering aroma of food-slot cheese, and hears again the strange thick accent of the ship’s chief engineer imitating a Heisenburg compensator.

He is not doing it right, Pavel thinks. Is not ihhhh but more ihhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

And then the darkness pushes in around him and Pavel falls into a deep and comfortable sleep. A machine nearby pings at him at intervals, and he can still smell medicine and ozone, but underneath it all there's still the hum of the warp cores, solid and dependable.
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