So after being MIA for ages I randomly return with a long fic. I started this ages ago and stalled out, and when I reread it recently I really loved it so actually finished it.
Title: Out for the Season (Or, How Kissing Jim Kirk Made Hikaru Gay – For Someone Else)
Fandom: Star Trek XI/XII
Pairing(s): Chekov/Sulu with some Kirk/Sulu and Kirk/McCoy
Word count: ~22,600
Disclaimer: Sadly not mine, in any way.
Summary: High School AU. Hikaru’s parents think getting him a foreign exchange student will be a great idea. Hikaru thinks otherwise.
Warning: Jim Kirk is a sneaky scene stealer.
Notes: Undying thanks to savoytruffle for her invaluable beta and brilliant title… especially since Chekov/Sulu isn’t really her thing.
This fic is complete and posted in 5 chapters.
This is the year when Hikaru fucks up his knee playing basketball.
When he starts blowing off classes.
When he meets Jim Kirk.
This is the year when he smokes pot and makes out with boys – because of Jim. Of course.
When his parents worry about him.
When his teachers sigh at him as if to say, “You can do better,” because an A- minus is so disappointing.
This is the year Hikaru falls in love.
“Want to make out?”
Jim’s head is tipped back as he exhales toward the open sun roof. He asks Hikaru in the same easy way he’d asked if Hikaru wanted a joint a few minutes ago.
“Yeah, sure,” Hikaru replies, repeating his own easy acquiesce. And then the terror hits. “Wait! McCoy. Won’t he, like, kick my ass?”
“Pfft.” Jim waves his hand while passing Hikaru the joint, as if the very idea that his Pre-Med boyfriend is fucking scary is ridiculous. “We’ve got an open thing.”
“Ahh,” Hikaru says, like he’s cool and knows about these things.
“You worry too much,” Jim breathes into his mouth.
The kiss is slow and smoky.
It doesn’t make Hikaru want to jump Jim, but it does make him want to do it more.
Hikaru’s seen the videos in health class warning him about ‘gateway drugs.’
They covered pot, but they forgot to mention Jim Kirk. He’s way more dangerous.
Hikaru’s parents don’t need to be warned about the dangers of Jim, they already know.
They’ve been warning Hikaru about him for months now.
And why he’s tip-toeing to his room right now.
It would help if their house was bigger and his mom didn’t have hawk-like ears. Seriously, the woman always knows when he’s up to something. It’s like she has special mom radar.
It’s a scary thought.
Almost as scary as his mom whispering, “Is that you Hikaru?” Hikaru nearly jumps out of his skin. It’s a silly question. As if Mariko is back from college and he’s not the only one who’d be sneaking by her room. “Home so late.”
“Sorry mom,” he whispers back, from the doorway (no way is he going near her still reeking of pot). “Have a good night.”
“You too, dear. Don’t forget to brush your teeth.”
He wants to hit his head against the wall. As if at seventeen he still needs reminding. But what can he say besides, “Yes, mom.”
When he crashes on his bed he’s tempted to just pass out and ignore her reminder. But she’d know, of course she’d know.
She probably knows he’s kissing boys – well, just Jim Kirk – and smoking pot.
The thought kills any chance of jerking off, so he drags himself through the mom-approved nightly routine before calling it a night.
He drags himself to school, too.
His knee is hurting.
It’s like every step is reminding him that he dislocated his kneecap. That he dislocated his life.
Of course it had to happen in a pickup basketball game in the middle of football season. Not that he’s big into football. It just kills time before the basketball and baseball seasons.
But it’s something.
Jim keeps telling him he doesn’t need it. Can use the time to find himself or some such shit that Jim spews now and then.
Hikaru’s skeptical. Seventeen seems too young for a ‘journey of self-discovery’. But all Jim really seems to means by self-discovery is smoking pot and hanging out, and that’s been okay.
First week back and he’s wishing school was still out for summer.
Dinner is weird.
The food is fine, but his parents aren’t.
They’re smiling at Hikaru the way they do when they’re trying to be pleasant with his dad’s older irresponsible brother.
“Okay,” Hikaru puts down his water, “why are you guys being weird?”
“Weird?” His mother laughs, her very fake laugh. “Yuji, isn’t that funny that Hikaru thinks we’re being weird?”
“Jane,” his dad rubs his forehead, “you are being weird, as he says. We might as well just tell him.”
“What? Tell me what?” Hikaru’s hears his voice getting higher. His mind plays worst case scenarios: they’re getting a divorce, or worse, they know he smokes pot.
“We’re worried about you, dear.” Mom pats his hand.
“Uh huh.” This sounds less like some new awful revelation and more like the same old, same old. His shoulders untense most of the way.
“We know how you miss Mariko.”
“Uh.” Not so much.
“And how this injury has hit you hard.” His mom stands and crosses to the buffet. “And how hard it is to be a teenager, although when we were teenagers it was a very –”
“Jane!” his dad huffs. “Stop beating around the bush, just tell the kid.”
“Tell me what?”
“Nothing to be alarmed about.” She places a pamphlet in front of him.
There’s a picture of two guys shaking hands and smiling. Oh god, they’re going to de-gay him. How do they know? Hikaru doesn’t even know for sure yet. Although he’s pretty sure. Like 88% sure.
“We are getting an exchange student!” his mom continues. “A lovely-sounding boy who is very focused on his studies and school.”
Okay, why does this feel weirder than if they were just planning to de-gay him?
“So... you’re getting me an exchange student?” Hikaru feels like he’s speaking in slow motion. “What the fu-uh, I mean, crap, what does that even mean?”
“Well there’s this genius boy in Russia who needs to impr –”
“Your mother’s worried about you, son,” his dad interrupts again, unsurprisingly. “You need a good influence, someone who cares about their future.” He levels a stern gaze at Hikaru. “This kid sounds like he fits the bill.”
“Uh.” Hikaru still has nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.
His mom is never at a loss for words. “He arrives tomorrow. We’ll greet him at the airport,” she says in the ‘everything is settled tone’ she has. And it does sound like everything is settled. “He’ll be staying in your sister’s old room for the school year.”
“You guys did this without talking to – wait, did you say for the school year?” His voice is rising again. “This isn’t just a few weeks?”
“For the year,” his dad says. “You mom and I have thought about this and have weighed the pros and cons, and the pros won. He’ll be a good influence and we’ll be amply compensated for his stay here.”
“Yuji,” his mom admonishes, “this is not about the money, this is about a cultural exchange and Hikaru having someone to spend good clean fun with, in between studying.”
“Gee, thanks mom.”
“You’re welcome, honey.” She kisses him on the forehead and that is that.
He needs to work on his sarcasm.
And on getting the parents to see him as someone who gets input.
Plus, what the fuck is he going to do with some foreign exchange nerd?
This is going to cramp Hikaru’s already limited style.
Which is exactly what his mom wants, he has no doubt. She is diabolical. Although, if there’s anything to actually motivate him to work hard on his grades, it’s getting into a college far far away from here.
In a futile gesture of rebellion, he gets out his porn and jerks off before bed.
Gotta get pleasure while he still can.
After his morning shower, Hikaru peeks into Mariko’s old room. Her trophies and awards are still there. As are her stuffed animals and class pictures.
Clearly his mom doesn’t want this kid getting too comfortable.
Or she just isn’t ready to let go of the Mariko shrine yet.
The only difference he can spot is that there’s a plain green comforter instead of the Hello Kitty one. At least she made one concession.
Hopefully she changed the matching sheets.
It’s almost enough to make Hikaru feel bad for the exchange student, whose name he realizes he doesn’t even know. He comes halfway across the world and gets to live in the shrine to the successful older sibling.
Probably not what the guy is envisioning.
She appears beside him with a scary speed – another special mom skill no doubt. “Shouldn’t you be dressed by now? We leave for the airport in ten minutes.”
“Where is the exchange student supposed to put his stuff?” He waves his hand. “All Mariko’s crap is still in here. Not exactly welcoming, is it?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” She folds her arms. “The closet is empty and the desk is clear. How many things can one boy have? Besides, where would you have me put your sisters’ things?”
“We do not put away accomplishments in this house.”
“Okay, okay.” Hikaru raises his hands. He knows when he’s lost. “Getting dressed now.”
He retreats to his room.
The airport waiting area is crowded. There’s a screaming kid, making himself heard over the endless announcements. A guy stands with flowers and balloons, looking like he’s at the end of a romantic comedy.
Hikaru shuffles from foot to foot, wishing the flight would clear Customs already.
His mom has a sign with Pavel Chekov written on it, which she’s holding up anxiously peering at every guy who walks by, young and old.
At least he knows the guy’s name now.
Hikaru rolls his eyes and wishes for coffee. But there’s no point even suggesting he make a coffee run. Mom will nix the idea, just in case Pavel arrives in the two minutes Hikaru is gone, and they will have missed those precious few minutes of meeting time.
He’s in the middle of stifling a yawn when he spots Pavel.
Hikaru’s not sure exactly how, but he just knows it’s Pavel.
There’s something about the curls and the skinny gangly gait that has Hikaru pulling on his mom’s sleeve just as Pavel spots the sign and heads directly for them.
The kid is obviously still growing into himself. He looks like he’ll trip over his legs and arms at any second. He also seems at least a year younger than Hikaru. And dresses like the biggest dork ever with now-wrinkled pleated pants, a polo shirt and huge running shoes.
But he has a bright smile that has Hikaru smiling back before he can really think about it.
His mom is all business and hustling them to the pick-up area. Dad has been circling to save parking costs, of course.
It turns out that mom may be right about Pavel not bringing much. There’s just one suitcase and his laptop bag. The suitcase is heavy though, and he helps Pavel heave it in the trunk.
He lets mom helm the conversation during the ride and closes his eyes.
Hikaru is surprised when they pull up in front of the school. He figures Pavel needs to sleep – it was a twenty plus hour trip with two stopovers. If Hikaru’s tired then Pavel must be.
But no, he’s bouncing out of the car like he’s actually excited about school.
Which makes some sense since that’s the reason for him being here but, still, dorky.
Oh god, now Hikaru’s going to be seen and associated with the dorky and eager foreign exchange student. His social life is over.
He can hear it flat-lining now.
It’s restarted briefly when his mom waves him off to class and accompanies Pavel to the counsellor’s office. Apparently Mr. Spock is behind all of this. Hikaru’s sure he could list a zillion logical reasons why Hikaru should be pleased about this experience.
But he doesn’t care how cute (he shudders) Jim thinks Mr. Spock and all of his logic are, Hikaru thinks Mr. Spock is a moron.
“You’re a moron.” Since he can’t insult Mr. Spock he settles for Jim instead. “I’ve told you that before, right?”
“Whoa, man.” Jim pushes off the locker he was leaning on. “It’s way too early for hostility. And what’d I do anyway?”
Hikaru sighs and pushes a hand through his hair. “Nothing. It’s my parents, Mr. Spock, and some Russian kid who are ruining my life.”
“Mr. Spock.” Jim visibly lights up. “Did I tell you about the time when – ”
“When he said you’re not living up to your potential?” Hikaru finishes for him. “Yeah, maybe once or twice.”
“I have potential.”
Hikaru rolls his eyes. “Anyway, they signed me up to host a fucking foreign exchange student. A kid. Some genius or something.”
“Oh man, that is awesome.” Jim laughs. “It’ll totally cramp your style.”
“I know!” He’s pleased that Jim thinks he has style.
“Oh no.” Jim stops. “He’s not going to be hanging out with us, is he? He’s not going to cramp my style, is he?”
“Oh yes, let’s worry about you.” Hikaru slides into a seat beside Jim. “Besides, it’s not like I want to hang out – wait, this is your fault!”
“What?” Jim does an impressive imitation of Scarlett O’Hara, faux gasp and all. “Little old me?”
“My parents want a better influence in my life because they’re worried about what a bad influence you are.”
“They should be.” Jim waggles his eyebrows.
Sulu rolls his eyes and slinks down in the hopes it’ll help him evade answering questions about proper grammatical structures for essays.
Great, his weakest subject and it’s the one the new genius in his house will be no help with.
He’s seeing no upside here.
Things are still looking down when he walks into Calculus and Pavel is sitting beside his usual seat and waving.
He jumps up when Hikaru approaches. “Teacher said this is your seat.” He points to it with an oddly Vanna White gesture. “We sit together, yes?”
He’s smiling, all bright and eager and Hikaru knows he can’t say ‘no’ without feeling like the biggest douche.
“Yeah, sure.” He dumps his books and slinks down in the seat. “So, uh, all set up and everything?”
Pavel’s brow furrows.
“Ready for school? With a schedule and all?”
“Oh! Schedule? Yes! Here.” Pavel passes it to him with a flourish.
“Huh.” The schedule is basically Hikaru’s schedule. The only class they don’t have together is English since Pavel’s in a special one. They even have freakin’ Phys Ed together. Great, just great.
“Many classes together, yes?”
It’s going to be a long year.
All day he can’t look over his shoulder without Pavel being there. He even followed Hikaru into the restroom, which freaked Hikaru out.
He wonders if this is how Mariko felt like when he was a kid: a living, breathing shadow trailing behind.
Hikaru can feel Pavel hovering just to his right while he digs in his locker for his shoulder bag.
“Hikaru, so what’s the plan?” Jim appears on his left side. “Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll?”
“I thought you were the man with the plans.” He shoves his gym shoes under some books. “And I’m the fool who goes along with them.”
“You are the fool, that’s true.” When Hikaru stands up, Jim is extending his hand to Pavel. “You must be the new guy. Jim Kirk.”
Did Jim just wink? Of course he did, why is this even a surprise?
Pavel’s too busy enthusiastically shaking Jim’s hand to notice. “Very pleased to meet. I am Pavel Andreveich Chekov. You are Hikaru’s boyfriend, yes?”
Hikaru barely restrains himself from hitting his head against the locker door. “No, no, no.”
Jim barks with laughter.
“A world of nos.” Hikaru can’t stop the denial.
Pavel’s brow is furrowed its yet deepest today. “He is not friend?”
“Ohhhhhhh.” Hikaru again ponders introducing his head to the locker door. Jim just laughs harder. “Yes, friends. Not dating, though.”
“He broke my heart,” Jim says with impressive seriousness, considering he was doubled over with laughter a few seconds ago. “Says I’m out of his league even though I’ve told him a million times that I’m happy to settle.”
“Yeah,” Hikaru scoffs. “You’re the one who’s too good for me.”
Pavel’s head moves back and forth between the two of them, like he’s watching a tennis match.
“Sorry.” Hikaru figures Pavel has no idea what they’re talking about. “Jim is my friend. He’s an idiot, but he’s my friend.”
“Okay.” Pavel nods. “We do drugs and roll now?”
Hikaru barely restrains a groan. Jim, however, reminds Hikaru why he can’t help loving the guy because he laughs and slings an arm around Pavel. “Think I might like having you around, Chekov.”
At dinner that night, Hikaru does not like having Pavel around.
Apparently Pavel believes in telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help him god.
Which means that his mom asking, “How was your day boys?” is a very dangerous question.
It starts off in good territory: “Very well! Teachers are nice and subjects interesting. Hikaru and I are in many classes together. We see much of each other.”
Hikaru shovels rice into his mouth.
It starts to go bad: “I also meet his friend Jim Kirk.”
Hikaru just manages not to spit out his water.
“Oh reaaally? How nice.” Mom leans forward.
And then things get ugly: “Yes! He is very friendly. He took us in his car and showed me how fast it can go! Did you know that it goes 120 miles, um...” He looks at Hikaru. “What is the word?”
Hikaru finishes choking on his salmon and manages. “Oh, you just mean that Jim showed you on the odometer the car’s maximum speed.” He wipes his mouth with his napkin. “Jim always drives well within the speed limit.”
His parents look sceptical. Pavel looks perplexed.
“But didn’t he say that he likes to see how fast the – ?”
“Okay!” Hikaru says, standing up. “Thanks for the great dinner, mom. Sorry to eat and run but I promised Pavel I’d set him up on the wireless network and he told me he’s super tired and will be crashing right after that. Let’s go, Pavel.”
At least Pavel understands Hikaru’s ‘let’s get out of here now’ head gesture and also stands to thank his parents and apologize profusely.
Hikaru literally drags him from the room and up the stairs.
Once his bedroom door is firmly closed, Hikaru releases Pavel and sinks down on his bed. He gestures for Pavel to do the same.
“What did...? Why...?” Pavel touches Hikaru’s sleeves. “I do not understand.”
Hikaru runs a hand through his hair. “Sorry, man, didn’t mean to confuse you. It’s just I don’t tell my parents everything I do. Especially the things that they won’t approve of. Like Jim speeding or smoking, that kind of thing. You know what I mean?”
“I do not know what you mean.” Pavel tilts his head. “Honesty is best policy, yes?”
“Do you tell your parents everything you do?”
“Of course!” Pavel looks horrified that he wouldn’t.
“Seriously, but what if you skip school?”
“Like don’t go to class.”
“I always go to class.”
“Okay, what about if you get a bad grade?”
“I receive top marks. Only one time I got less than top mark and that was in painting and drawing?” Pavel swirls his hand in the air.
“Yes, Art, and I told parents and they spoke to teacher and mark was changed.”
Okay, so the guy’s a total overachiever school-wise. “But what about stuff you do with friends?”
“Friends?” Pavel actually scratches his head. “We study or go to cinema.”
“Okay, but I bet you don’t tell them about, you know, masturbation.”
The instant the words are out of his mouth, Hikaru regrets it. He can hear Pavel at breakfast: Thank you for the eggs, Mrs. Sulu. And yes, I did have a nice chat with Hikaru last night. We talked about lying, skipping school and masturbation.
“Master... masterbathe? What does this mean?”
Whew, dodged a bullet this time. “Forget it, in fact, forget everything we just talked about. How about you get your laptop and we’ll get that wireless hooked up for you?”
“Oh, yes. Okay.”
Pavel leaves looking lost which makes Hikaru feel like the biggest jerk. Great, now he has to worry about what No-Filter Pavel will say to his folks and not hurting the kid’s feelings.
When Pavel doesn’t return in a few minutes, Hikaru checks Pavel’s room. He’s fast asleep face down on the bed. Clothes and shoes still on.
At least this confirms the kid is actually human.
Hikaru takes off Pavel’s shoes and throws a blanket on him. Writes down the password and sticks it on top of the laptop bag.
He definitely doesn’t notice how soft Pavel’s skin looks.
Or how his cheeks are flushed with just a hint of red.
Or how sweet he looks when he’s asleep.
Nope, definitely not noticing.
He closes the door firmly behind him.
Hikaru doesn’t sleep well and is grumpy the next day.
The grumpiness is not helped by Pavel shadowing his every move.
He practically has to peel Pavel off him and shove him into his English class so Hikaru can have his one Pavel-free period. He’s just about to take a breath of freedom when some of his asshole former teammates wander by, snickering. Hikaru’s glad that he never liked these guys even when they liked him.
“Saying goodbye to your boyfriend, Sulu?” Sam calls.
Hikaru knows that Sam always resented Hikaru’s basketball skills and wanted his starter position, but the dig still stings.
“Now, now, you all know he’s my boyfriend.” It’s Jim. He slings an arm around Hikaru’s shoulder, his other hand holding a coffee cup, sunglasses perched on his head. “Hands off, boys.”
It’s times like these that Hikaru wants to kiss Jim but they are in a high school hallway. Instead he says, “You have impeccable timing. You know that, right?”
“I know I do, pookie monkey.”
Hikaru does a double take – he’s read about them but never done one before. “Did – did you...?” He takes a breath and swallows a hysterical giggle. “Did you just call me pookie monkey? Pookie monkey?”
“You like it?” Jim flashes him a grin. “Bones hates endearments, so thought I’d try some choice ones out on you.”
“That one just came to me,” Jim continues like Hikaru gave a coherent response. “Based on your reaction, I think it’ll be perfect for Bones.”
“What... are you insane? He’ll despise it.”
Hikaru shakes his head. “Sometimes I don’t get you guys.”
“You will, my young Padawan. Wait till you find love.” Jim slouches into his seat and manages to look perfectly effortlessly casual. “Speaking of, how’s life with the twink going?”
“Twink?” Hikaru laughs. “It’s like I have my very own earnest and truthful-to-a-fault shadow.”
Jim looks like he’s about to ask for more details, but class starts.
Hikaru tries to look like he’s paying attention while figuring out how to stop ‘says whatever’s in his head’ Jim from oversharing with ‘tattletale’ Pavel. It’s like the perfect storm of truthfulness that’ll result in Hikaru being grounded for life.
Pavel finds Hikaru within minutes of their separate classes being over.
“Hikaru! Jim!” Pavel shouts down the hall. “Wait! I am coming!”
He adds ‘personal embarrassment force’ to list of his grievances with Pavel.
It’s only now that he’s stopped and is looking back that Hikaru realizes that Nyota is with Pavel. Great, now his day is complete.
“Hikaru!” Pavel is flushed and beaming. Hikaru’d find it cute if he wasn’t wishing Pavel far, far away. “I have tutor. She is very nice and will help with my speaking. Her name is – ”
“Nyota.” Hikaru nods. Doesn’t bother smiling.
“Hikaru,” she returns. Also with no smile.
Things are frosty.
“Nyotaaaa,” Jim says. “Looking good.”
Nyota’s answering glare is arctic cold. She doesn’t bother to address him.
Pavel, apparently acclimatized to the cold from all his years in Russia, perseveres: “I meet so many nice people here. You all like each other, yes?”
“Eh, right.” Hikaru struggles to plaster a smile on his face. “Don’t we have Calculus now?”
Pavel straightens up. “Oh, yes, class!” Like he’s excited. Come to think of it, he probably is.
“And I bid you all adieu.” Jim bows and tips an imaginary hat. “See you all later, especially you, pookie monkey.”
“See you after school, Pavel,” Nyota says only to him. She also graces him with a smile.
Hikaru and Jim get the cold shoulder, but that’s nothing new.
Pavel walks quietly beside Hikaru until they’re just outside the classroom. “Pookie monkey?”
Hikaru sighs. “Don’t ask.”
Jim isn’t around at lunch, which leaves just Pavel and Hikaru.
On the bright side, Nyota isn’t around, either, but it’s starting to feel like she is, the way that Pavel is talking nonstop about her.
“...impressive! She speaks many languages. Four she knows and two more she is learning.” He inhales a brief breath and keeps going. “And do you know what else she told me?”
Hikaru really doesn’t, and he really doesn’t want to. “Mmhm?”
“English is the hardest to learn! Nyota says I am doing very well,” says the guy who pronounces his “v”s like “w”s.
Hikaru snorts milk out of his nose. “Sorry,” he says when he realizes some of it lands in Pavel’s fries. “That’s good. I can say, without a doubt, that you speak way better English than I do Russian.”
Pavel tilts his head and seems to consider him for a bit before laughing. “You are funny, Hikaru.”
Hikaru ends up laughing himself, even though he’s not exactly sure what Pavel’s finding so funny.
Doesn’t matter, he’s chalking this up to a win.
There’s nothing like Phys Ed to make Hikaru feel as far from a winner as possible. He tries to speed walk, knee brace snugly in place, while everyone else runs.
Well, not everyone. Jim doesn’t.
Not that he ever does.
He can run, Hikaru’s seen him. He’s pretty fast too. But Jim never will when it counts for marks. He’s contrary that way.
Jim insists that he’s keeping “poor crippled Hikaru company” (his exact phrasing), but Hikaru doesn’t buy it. He knows it’s all part of the Jim Kirk mystique.
So Jim and Hikaru walk while everyone else runs.
Pavel’s laps ahead of everyone. His long limbs make him look like he’s gliding across the floor, like he’s just started and isn’t twenty laps in.
“Man, he’s like a Gazelle,” Jim says.
“Yeah, I had no idea he could run like that.” Hikaru can’t help being impressed by Pavel’s unflagging pace and determined expression.
“The kid has layers – who knew?”
“Considering how much he talks, I’m surprised he hadn’t told me himself. He’s like an auctioneer.”
“He really doesn’t have a filter. Speaking of, can you watch what you say around him? He tells my parents everything.”
Jim pouts. “Are you saying the wild and crazy days of our youth are over?”
“Ha! I’m just saying what Pavel doesn’t know can’t hurt me. And for god’s sake, don’t invite him to anything that isn’t parent approved.”
“And how do we do that?” Jim frowns. “He’s glued to your side. Plus, I feel bad leaving the kid out. He needs fun.”
“Yeah. I don’t know.” Hikaru shrugs. “Just try to censor yourself around him at least.”
“Censor myself?” Jim stops, gasps dramatically. “Jim Kirk cannot be censored!”
Hikaru rolls his eyes. “Keep moving, First Amendment.”
At dinner that night Hikaru is actually happy that Pavel is chattering on to his folks about Nyota.
That is, until his mom turns on him. “Oh Nyota, we haven’t seen her in a long time. Why do you not keep in touch, Hikaru? You know we like her. Such a nice young woman.”
Everyone stares at him. Okay, everyone is dad and Pavel, since mom is already looking. But it feels like a whole auditorium waiting for his response.
“We’re just, you know, both busy. Me with sports, her with language club and academics.”
“But now you have time to focus on your studies.” Mom’s gaze turns pointed. “Now is the time to look to your future. Think about the marks you need to get there and the people who will help you get there.”
“Yes, mom.” There’s just no point in arguing. And it’s not like Hikaru doesn’t want to go to college.
He just doesn’t see why he has to hang out with stuck-up Nyota to do that.
Hikaru wants to say that hanging out with Jim is the most stimulating thing he’s done in years.
But he isn’t in the right auditorium.
After dinner Pavel follows Hikaru up to his room. He places his knapsack on the floor and sits down on Hikaru’s bed, cross legged.
Hikaru is at a loss. He suspects Pavel wants something from him but he doesn’t know what.
“Hikaru, are you okay?” Pavel asks. He runs a hand back and forth over the corduroy on his pants.
“Okay? Yeah. Why?” Hikaru sits down at his desk and flips his laptop open.
“At dinner, you were – when Nyota was mentioned –you seemed bad. No, that is not the word. Unhappy, you seemed unhappy.”
He doesn’t know what to say so he opens his email. It’s mostly junk except for one from Mariko that just says Exchange student! Have mom and dad gone completely crazy?
Hikaru’s pretending to read about whether he’d like to enlarge his package and impress the ladies when Pavel asks, “Does Nyota make you unhappy?”
“Okay.” Hikaru sighs. “I guess I should tell you about Nyota and me.”
“Okay.” Pavel’s attention is fixed on him.
“Nyota.” Hikaru stands, then feels silly so sits down, this time beside Pavel on the bed. “Nyota was my best friend. Since kindergarten. I stole the train she was playing with. She marched over to me, grabbed it back, put her hands on her hips and told me we could share it.” He laughs. “And that was it. Best friends.”
“She spent a lot of time here when she was ten and her parents split up. And she returned the favor by being my only friend during the hell of junior high. But then came high school and everything changed. You know how it is.”
Pavel blinks at him. “No, I do not.”
“Er, so, it’s when I bulked out and stopped being the kid picked last for every team. I actually started getting good at sports.” He rubs his stupid knee. “Anyway, she hated that I became what she called a ‘dumb jock’ and I couldn’t stand her holier-than-thou attitude. So we drifted. No longer the bestest of friends. It happens.”
Pavel puts a hand on Hikaru’s shoulder. “I am sorry, Hikaru.”
They sit there for a few minutes.
Hikaru can hear the low murmur of the TV downstairs and the sound of his laptop switching to sleep mode.
“We should study now, yes?” Pavel pats his shoulder, then reaches down for his bag.
The studying goes well.
It’s actually not annoying to have Pavel around.
It helps that they’re working in silence. But it’s nice.
Lying in bed later, Hikaru realizes he actually feels better. Like he finally got something off his chest.