Things settle into a routine and Hikaru starts to forget that Pavel is an interloper in his life.
Pavel works on his English with Nyota while Hikaru spends quality time with Jim.
Which normally means smoking up, and maybe making out.
They’ll often pick Pavel up when his tutoring is done, still laughing and loose limbed, and Jim will drop them back at the Sulu place for dinner.
Pavel tells the folks about his day – nicely free of Hikaru and Jim antics – and then follows Hikaru to his room, where they study.
Hikaru’s grades are improving, which he supposes means that his mom’s diabolical plan is working. Which kinda bugs him, but then he thinks collegeand dorm roomand can deal.
On Friday nights, Jim insists they hang out at his place, which is normally parent-free. This is Hikaru’s new favorite night of the week because now that Pavel is with him, his parents don’t mind that he’s out. It helps that he says they’re with “friends” and has instructed Pavel to do the same.
What’s more, Pavel actually seems to enjoy himself, too. Likely because he and Bones get along surprisingly well.
Science is their bond. It’s all they talk about.
Well, really all they argue about.
But at least it entertains them.
Leaving Jim and Hikaru free to play video games with no one complaining, or wanting a turn.
It’s a routine, but it works.
Things change for Hikaru one Friday night that should be like any other.
Only this Friday night is marred by one simple word.
Jim pauses Halo to get them more beer. “Think our boyfriends want more, too, or are they still wrapped up in that string theory argument?”
“Who talks about string theo – wait. Did you just say what I think you said?”
“Huh?” Jim is halfway to the fridge and clearly thinking only of the beer.
Hikaru is sitting stock still on the couch and thinking only of the word.
“Did you just call Pavel my boyfriend?”
“Huh, yeah.” Jim shrugs. “Oops.”
Hikaru sits there starting at the frozen screen until Jim returns with their refills.
“What do you mean oops?”
Jim takes a long pull on his beer. “Oh, wasn’t thinking.”
“Wasn’t – what the hell, Jim?!”
“Okay, okay.” Jim raises his hands (with beer) in the ‘don’t shoot’ gesture. “I forget sometimes that you guys aren’t dating. He’s always around and you guys are...you just seem kinda coupley.”
“Kinda coupley?” Hikaru has been reduced to the role of parrot. “I don’t – how can – do you – is there – ?”
Hikaru might have continued to start sentences all night if Pavel hadn’t entered the video game sanctuary and interrupted him.
“Leonard is kicking us out. He wants ‘alone time’ with Jim.” Pavel actually uses the air quotes.
“Nice.” Jim smirks.
Hikaru rolls his eyes.
And breathes a quiet sigh of relief.
Except it’s not so much relief when he’s alone in the car with Pavel on the drive home. It’s more Hikaru’s brain attempting to wrestle with the mere idea that he and Pavel act like a couple, leaving no spare brain space for conversation.
Which works out because Pavel is describing his argument with McCoy.
In excruciating scientific detail.
Not that Hikaru is listening.
The orderly workings of his mind have run amuck. It’s like the hamster left its wheel spinning so it can scamper around causing havoc.
One of the only coherent thoughts he manages is, ‘What will people think?’
It’s not a thought he’s proud of. But he thinks it nonetheless.
Pavelis a big nerd. Younger, with dorky clothes that look like his mom picked them out. Plus, he doesn’t try to hide his love of school or enthusiasm for learning.
Honestly, he’s kind of embarrassing to be around. Hikaru just tries not to think about that most of the time.
Of course, he really should only care about what his friends think, and Jim likes Pavel. In fact, he’s not even horrified by the idea of them as a couple.
Hell, even McCoy likes Pavel. As demonstrated by the fact that he’ll actually say more than two words to the guy.
So two of the few people who Hikaru actually respects like Pavel, that’s gotta mean something.
And…what is wrong with him? Why is he having this particular thought process? He’s gone completely insane. Right off the deep end. He’s one step away from the cuckoo’s nest. He’s boy interrupted.
Hikaru inhales sharply. Pavel pauses his diatribe about the underappreciated value of string theory. He exhales. Pavel continues.
Hikaru steers his brain back to what he knows.
Because he’s the kind of guy who knows what he wants.
And heknows he’s not into Pavel.
It’s all that kissing with Jim. It’s sparked his interest in guys. Problem is Pavel’s the guy he sees most frequently, so of course his thoughts are gonna go there.
Sure, Pavel has those curls and that smile that always brightens Hikaru’s day. And yeah, he’s the smartest person Hikaru’s ever met. But he feels so young. Too young.
Yep, Hikaru is definitely not interested.
Lying in bed that night, Hikaru determines the cause of his brief bout of insanity: he’s horny. And he wants to do something about it.
Something that’s not just him, his hand and some porn.
It’s time for a little gay experimentation.
Gay experimentation is easier said than done when you’re still seventeen and in high school.
Things may be getting better out there, but approaching some dude in the hall about a blow job or some jerk off action? Still dangerous. And Hikaru wants safe sex.
He checks out a few websites. Learns about glory holes and cruising, and is man enough to admit he’s not man enough for either. He doesn’t know what poppers or fleshlights are, but he’s happy to remain in the dark for a while longer.
It all sounds like jumping off the deep end and Hikaru’s more a wade-in-the-shallow-end type of guy. He wants to take his time, get used to the water before taking the plunge.
Like what he’s been doing with Jim. He wants the Jim thing only without the Jim. Or beyond the Jim. He wants to branch out.
Naturally, it’s Jim who provides the opportunity for gay experimentation.
He is Jim, after all.
Jim’s mom is out of town, so he’s throwing a big teen party cliché. And he’s inviting lots of hot guys who like kissing other guys. In fact, he won’t shut up about it, but for once, Hikaru’s not complaining because that’s what he needs in his life: hot guys to kiss.
Naturally, he has to bring Pavel to the party.
Jim did invite him, and he’s the reason Hikaru can go. Pavel’s company means that his parents don’t ask all the questions about the party that he doesn’t want Pavel to answer. (Especially since Jim has been way too detailed in explaining the party to Pavel. “Just preparing him for a true modern American party experience,” Jim claims.)
But with Pavel by his side, all Hikaru has to say is: “We’re heading out to a party with some friends from school. See you guys later.”
And all his dad says is: “Have fun, boys. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Which would limit them to his dad’s retired-from-engineering activities of discount shopping, gardening, crosswords, television watching, and occasional rants on the sad state of the world.
Well, it would limit them if Hikaru had any intention of actually following his dad’s instructions.
And “all” his mom says is: “Remember to drive carefully, Hikaru. Don’t eat too much junk food. Are you sure you don’t want me to make you boys something to eat before you go?” She stops just long enough for a breath; she’s a bit like Pavel when she’s worried. “Don’t stay out too late. Do you have cash with you for emergencies? Do you – what Yuji? No, I am not nagging. Just ensuring they have everything. Well, you have fun and be safe, boys.”
So then all Hikaru has to do is drag Pavel out the door as he wishes them both a good evening and thanks his mom for her concern. (Because it’s better to make with the escaping when Pavel starts with the talking. Especially when said talking is in the context of a party.)
Hikaru’s shoulders don’t release the tension he hadn’t realized he was holding until they’re driving away from the house. He blasts the radio, not caring what station he’s on.
“Oh! I love this song.” Pavel bounces. “It is my very favorite.”
“Wait, you love Forever.” Hikaru boggles.
Pavel nods. “So catchy and romantic.”
“By the infamous Chris Brown?” The laughter is starting to just bubble out of him.
“Yes? But why you say infamous?”
Hikaru gasps for breath too focused on the ridiculous to answer questions. “So your favorite song in the whole wide world is the dancing down the aisle Youtube song?” He cracks up.
Pavel looks confused for a minute and then starts laughing too.
Chris Brown sings, It's like I've waited my whole life for this one night.
Hikaru and Pavel keep on laughing.
For these few minutes Hikaru forgets all the ways his life sucks and feels kinda like he is high off the ground.
They walk up to Jim’s front door still grinning and bumping into each other.
Hikaru almost suggests they skip the party and just drive around the whole night, but then he remembers his mission and opens the door.
The party is a party.
Loud music, loud talk.
And, yes, hot guys.
He doesn’t need to it rain men, because he’s wading in them.
First order of business: ditch Pavel and not feel like Asshole #1 doing it.
He succeeds two minutes later when they find McCoy alone in the kitchen giving the side eye to everyone who walks by, sipping his usual Scotch. He’s one of those guys who can pull off the mature drink without seeming like a pretentious douche.
Hikaru feels no guilt sidling out of the kitchen, not that they notice; they’re totally absorbed in a debate about the likelihood of life on other planets.
Second order of business: gain liquid courage.
He takes a stupidly big gulp of beer, probably impressing no one. Now, Hikaru can move onto step three.
Third order of business: find a hot guy and make out with him.
“Him,” says a voice in Hikaru’s ear. The voice is Jim’s, as if it would be anyone else. “Hot, hung and horny.”
“Uh.” Okay, maybe Hikaru needs to return to the second order of business, he’s not sure he’s ready for Wingman Jim just yet. Or all three of those H’s.
“Dude, stop thinking, just do.” Jim gives him a shove in the direction of Three H. Hikaru’s not going to argue about the first one, the guy looks like a fucking porn star. And the way he leans? There could be some weakness in Hikaru’s knees. Who knew he went for the skater boy look?
Besides, apparently, his feet. They’ve brought him over, and his mouth – thank you second order of business – takes care of the introductions.
Kent – of course his name is Kent – seems to be everything Jim promised. Especially the way he’s making eye contact and stepping into Hikaru’s personal space.
There’s still some space between them, enough that Hikaru can see that Kent’s eyebrows are red like his hair and that he has a light dusting of freckles. Without thinking he reaches up and touches the hair that hangs over Kent’s left eye. That’s all it takes for Kent to close the distance and press their lips together.
It’s not until Hikaru is gasping for breath that he realizes his brain shut off for a few minutes.
He tucks Kent’s hair behind his ear and pulls him in for another kiss.
He wonders if this is how it is with boys. Do you really just start a hot make out session after only exchanging your names? Hikaru’s not sure if he should object or if it’s the hottest fucking thing.
When Kent’s hand squeezes Hikaru’s ass, he realizes this could be more than making out. A part of him, which sounds annoyingly like his mom, demands to know if he’s ready for that. Didn’t he just want the kissing?
Who is this boy anyway?
Why does it feel like he has a magic tongue?
And more than two hands?
And, holy fuck, that isn’t Kent’s hand! That’s Pavel standing behind Kent, peering at Hikaru and sort of shaking his shoulder.
“Fuck.” Hikaru backs up, starts to tuck his shirt in, remembers he hasn’t tucked anything in since he was 12 and his mom still dressed him, and lets his hands hang stupidly at his side. “Um, Pavel, what, um, what?”
Apparently sentences are beyond him.
Kent raises an eyebrow. “Jealous ex? Been there, man.” He shakes his head and wanders off like they were just discussing the Giants’ chance at the World Series and not having a hot make out session in Jim’s backyard.
Hikaru stares after him as his brain returns to regular scheduled programming. Pavel’s just standing there looking at him, all big eyes. Hikaru can’t figure out what the fuck he wants. “Pavel, fuck.” He runs a hand through his hair. “What the hell, why’d you interrupt?”
“I thought…” Pavel blinks, his cheeks turn red. “You and he… that was okay? But you do not know him. I didn’t…”
He looks lost.
Normally Hikaru would feel sorry for the kid, but he’s feeling cock blocked.
“Fuck, Pavel, I don’t know what you and your friends do back in Russia,” Hikaru can see the rage but he can’t stop it, “but you don’t go around doing that here!”
Pavel blinks at him again. Hikaru can almost see the Russian-English dictionary pages flipping in Pavel’s brain, but doesn’t care about that. In fact, why should he care at all? He didn’t ask for this kid to come and fuck up his life.
“What the hell do you expect from me? Why the fuck do you follow me around like a pathetic little shadow? I’m not your boyfriend. Hell, we wouldn’t even be friends if I wasn’t forced to live in the same house as you. God!”
Pavel’s face is bright red, and when Hikaru’s brain replays what he said, it sounds awful. He is, in fact, Asshole #1. The biggest asshole who just reamed out some poor kid who’s only ever been nice to him and is far, far away from home.
Pavel takes in a breath and seems to grow taller, his face still red. “I am sorry you do not like my company.” He speaks slowly and deliberately as if to ensure he gets every word perfect. “I was laboring under false impression. I will bother you no longer.”
He turns and disappears into the crowd.
Hikaru watches him go.
The rest of the party passes in a blur.
There’s more beer. The couch and lamenting to Jim. (Manly lamenting, he’s sure.) And more beer. It’s safe to say that beer is a theme of the night.
He’s not sure. It is a blur after all.
In the morning, he learns that McCoy drove Pavel home the night before.
He learns this when a water bottle drops on his stomach and jolts him awake.
Well, technically he learns this after the abrupt wake up while McCoy hones his awful bedside manner with a scowl, a shake of a head and gruff, “Took the boy home last night.”
The, “Not that you care,” is unspoken but there.
Hikaru can’t even get in a sheepish, “Thanks,” before McCoy delivers his parting shot, “Try not to throw up on the carpet,” and stalks off
It’s a great start to the day.
The first thing Hikaru notices when he gets home is that everything is normal. Nothing seems amiss.
In fact, he has an eerie feeling like he’s stepped back in time and into a Leave It Beaver episode.
The one where the family clips coupons to save money for some big family togetherness project. It might be less creepy if Pavel weren’t the only one white enough to have been on the show.
When everyone looks up from the Sunday paper they’ve gathered round, Hikaru knows he’s the Edie Haskell.
They all greet him with a smile.
Which is odd.
It could be overly bright, but Hikaru’s not sure if he’s just imagining things.
“I hope you had a good time sleeping over,” his mom says like he’s ten and still wearing Transformer pajamas. “Too bad Pavel’s headache made him miss it.”
“Uh, yeah, right, too bad.” It’s all he can manage.
“It is all better now.” Pavel beams almost unnaturally. “All I needed was a good sleep’s night.”
“A good night’s sleep,” his mom murmurs.
Hikaru tries to leave them to their impromptu English lesson, but his dad stops him with a hand on his arm.
Uh oh, he’s so busted… for so many things.
“I hope you need more printer paper.” His dad holds up a coupon, that money saving gleam in his eye. “Because this deal is too good to pass up.”
Hikaru doesn’t need more. He’s pretty sure he has a lifetime supply. Twenty lifetimes, even. But he says, “Yes,” anyway. Just to be nice.
Then he escapes.
It takes Hikaru three days – which is two too many – to realize that Pavel is avoiding him.
It might be that his knee is killing him. (Sleeping on a couch is not physiotherapy approved).
It might be that he spent the last two days after school playing Call of Duty with Jim. (Not physiotherapy or mom approved.)
It might be that he’s walked around in a haze uncertain what the hell is going on. (Not really anyone approved.)
Or it could just be that he’s inflicted with that “teenage self-absorption” he saw them talking about on Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz or some show with a fake doctor whose advice people actually take.
Who knows, maybe the fake doctors are right.
All Hikaru knows is that when he realizes Pavel is avoiding him, it bums him out.
Which is surprising, since that was all he’d wished for the first few weeks after Pavel arrived.
And it’s not even like Hikaru enjoys spending time with the overeager nerd or anything. He’d probably be making Hikaru study for that AP Calculus test tomorrow.
Shit, the test.
Where is his brain?
Despite that it’s probably back at the party, Hikaru sighs and turns his attention to studying. Since at least equations make sense, most of the time.
Hikaru’s always been an avoidance kind of guy.
When Mariko stole his favourite toy – the awesome and shiny Optimus Prime – he just shrugged and played with the Decepticons instead.
When Jim Kirk was fighting some kid in the playground, Hikaru was retreating to the library.
When his teammates tried to provoke him with suggestions that he was better suited to a lab than baseball diamond, he just gritted his teeth and hit homers to prove them wrong.
So he thinks he’s got the whole avoidance thing mastered. Sure, he hardly ever sees Pavel except for awkward polite exchanges over breakfast and dinner, but that’s okay. As long as Hikaru keeps the avoidance up, things will work themselves out.
Except that Nyota was never the avoidance type. She’s always been all about facing things head on.
And right now Nyota’s head is right in front of Hikaru’s locker. And it’s frowning. Also, her arms are crossed, which is never a good sign.
“Nyota.”He takes one last stab at avoidance. “Doing well?”
She ignores his attempt and pushes on with her agenda. “Why are you being such a, well…” Nyota tends to think swearing is beneath her, “a jackass to Pavel?”
“A jackass?” Clearly she’s decided Hikaru’s behavior warrants a rare exception. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Just doing my own thing here.”
“Your own thing?” Nyota’s frown deepens. “What exactly do you meant by that?”
“Whatever.” Hikaru is really not enjoying a replay of Freshman year. “We’re not friends. I don’t have to explain anything to you.”
“I may not be your friend.” Nyota’s expression is impossible to read. “But I thought Pavel was. So deal with it.”
She stalks off.
Hikaru ponders hitting his head against his locker door, but the bell rings.
He shoves the conversation aside and heads to class.
It’s harder for him to keep the avoidance up when Jim broaches the subject.
He always knew he should hate the guy.
And now he has a reason.
Because Jim waited till Hikaru’s defences were down. After he’d smoked some pot, and after they were lying on the roof of Jim’s car.
Jim’s a bastard that way.
He proves it with his oh-so-casual, “So, haven’t seen Pavel around of late. Kinda miss the kid.”
Hikaru tries his best to deflect. “Mmm.”
Jim isn’t put off by a little deflection. “Yeah, seems like you miss him too.”
“What?” Hikaru ignores the weird feeling in stomach and goes for self-righteous. “What?! Miss our obnoxiously truthful hanger-on?”
“It’s just,” Jim inhales, exhales, passes to Hikaru, “you seem, kinda, I don’t know, down.”
“Down?” Hikaru narrows his eyes. “And just why do you think that, Mr. Kirk?”
“I’ll tell you, Mr. Sulu.” Jim pokes him in the side. “Your usual sunny disposition,” Hikaru snorts, “is even less sunny than usual.”
Hikaru can’t help being a little amused. “Yeah, and?”
“You’re dragging yourself around like a kid whose puppy was just run over.”
Since he’s enjoying the last of the pot, Hikaru doesn’t have the energy to make some crack about the aptness of comparing Pavel to a puppy.
They lie there for a bit.
Hikaru’s not sure how long.
The pot is done. The car’s radio is playing one of those interchangeable partying-themed songs. Hikaru is happy to be away from that world and, well, the rest of the world really.
His mind is drifting, he’s watching a satellite pass overhead when Jim interrupts his lack of thoughts. “Dude, you know I love you, right? But, what the fuck? Just apologize to the kid so things can go back to normal.”
“Normal.” Hikaru’s feeling kinda incredulous. “What exactly do you mean by normal?”
“You know,” Jim appears to be watching the same satellite, “when Pavel was hanging out with us. You were a lot of happier.”
Happier. Hikaru’s not sure Jim knows what he’s talking about. He is the king of bullshit.
“Admit it,” Jim says, after a couple of minutes of silence. “You miss him.”
And that’s when Hikaru remembers why he hates and loves Jim. Because the bastard knows exactly when to throw the low blow. When it’ll be most effective.
Dammit, how did he know?
Hikaru didn’t even know he missed Pavel.
It’s always around 9 p.m. on Sundays when Hikaru realizes he hates the day. He always has way too much homework to do and not enough time to do it in.
Which is why he’s downstairs in the kitchen making a sandwich two hours after dinner. Considering that the mayo to meat ratio is insane, there’s no doubt about it: he’s comfort eating. He’s pondering mixing up some chocolate milk when Pavel beelines for the fridge, oblivious to Hikaru’s presence a few feet away.
Hikaru clears his throat.
Pavel continues rooting around the fridge.
“Um, Pavel, hi.” Always suave, always suave.
The fact that Pavel stands up and turns around with very deliberate movement drives it home to Hikaru. Pavel really wasn’t oblivious earlier.
Pavel nods without speaking.
It’s almost as if he’s greeting Hikaru back in ancient Japan. A place Hikaru’s never been interested in time traveling to.
Just say it, the voice in Hikaru’s head that sounds suspiciously like his mom, says.
“Want a sandwich?” are the words that actually come out of his mouth. The suaveness continues.
Pavel’s eyes narrow.
Shit, this isn’t going well. He needed a plan. Why doesn’t he have a plan? He blames Jim and his love of planless living. This is what happens when you go around winging it.
You end up standing in an overly bright kitchen trying to talk to a guy who’s making it clear that he doesn’t want to talk to you. At all.
“As a peace offering, you know?”
Pavel’s brow knits together. “A piece of what?”
The king of suave is in the house. “Peace as in world peace. You know?”
Pavel’s silence suggests that he does not, in fact, know.
“But between us. It’s like an olive branch. Like an apology.” He so mutters the last part.
Amazingly, Pavel hears and understands. “You are making an attempt to apologize? To me?”
The look of sadness and hope on Pavel’s face is like a quick punch to the gut.
“Yeah, I, um, you know, feel bad.” He refamiliarizes himself with the geometric patterns of the kitchen tiles. “For the stuff, that I said.”
“You are very bad at apology,” Pavel says, with a hint of triumph mingled with his amusement.
Hikaru risks looking up. “Yeah, I know. I suck. At that and for the other stuff.”
Pavel nods. “Okay, I will take under advisement.”
Pavel sits down and looks up at Hikaru. “I would like my sandwich now.”
Hikaru makes a second sandwich. They eat together in silence.
It’s not half bad.