Things appear to be back to normal.
Or the new normal. The one with Pavel.
Pavel still spends way too much time encroaching on Hikaru’s space. Hikaru still spends way too much time trying to lie to his parents without Pavel, the truth fairy, realizing or ruining it. Jim still spends way too much time kicking Hikaru’s ass at Call of Duty.
And McCoy still glares at Hikaru like 95% of the time.
The new normal is chugging along like a well-oiled something that needs oil.
Hikaru finds himself slipping back into the groove of things. Until Pavel brings it all to a screeching halt.
It’s a Saturday night and McCoy’s been tossing back the Scotch like it’s water in between rants on the state of humanity. Hikaru and Jim were just about to settle into a night of beer and video games.
But instead of engaging McCoy in a spirited debate, as per usual, Pavel plunks himself down between Jim and Hikaru on the couch.
They both turn and look at him. For a minute he just sits there, very upright and proper looking.
And then, the bombshell.
“I would like to try this drugs you two enjoy. The pot of marijuana?”
Hikaru tries to respond but nothing comes out. He feels his mouth open and close. He may actually be speechless.
Jim Kirk, however, is never speechless. “Sure, kid. I’m guessing this is your first time?”
“Yes.” Pavel nods, unnecessarily. “In my recent Skype conversation with my parents, they encouraged me to try the experimentation. When I am with the people I trust.”
“I can’t– You… really– Wait, Skype chat?!” Hikaru feels like his brain is moving in slow motion. “When – did my parents…? Oh my god, they will kill me.”
“I do not understand wh–”
Pavel is interrupted by McCoy, who, unsurprisingly, looks displeased. “That one,” he nods at Hikaru, “wants make sure you didn’t chat with your parents when his could overhear you. Did you?”
“Oh no, I would nev –” Pavel is still shaking his head emphatically when McCoy cuts him off again.
“Good. Now why would you be as damned a fool as these morons? You have lots of brain cells, don’t go squandering them, kid.”
Pavel looks thoughtful. “I have read that high alcohol consumption is also not good for the brain cells.”
“Fine.” McCoy shakes his head. “Fools.”
He drains his drink and leaves the room. Presumably to get a refill.
“So,” Pavel beams, “when do we do the pot marijuana?”
It should be strange to be high with Pavel. Uptight, well-mannered, earnest Pavel.
But it’s not. Because he’s not.
Pavel’s so much more relaxed.
Especially when he’s laughing. Which he’s doing right now.
Laughing and laughing.
At what, Hikaru can’t remember. He’s laughing too.
Everything seems terribly funny. Especially watching Pavel laugh so hard tears stream down his cheeks.
Hikaru’s laughter halts when Pavel grabs his arm and looks him in the eye. “Hikaru, promise me…”
“Yes?” he prompts. Pavel’s head is drooping.
“Promise… me… that… you…”
But Pavel’s asleep. His head on Hikaru’s shoulder. His breath already gone heavy and even.
Ah, the first time. Hikaru smiles and looks up to comment about it to Jim. But Jim’s gone. He doesn’t remember Jim leaving but is sure he’s off with McCoy.
Hikaru closes his eyes.
There’s buzzing. It’s weird. Like he’s on a washer or something.
But it’s coming from his pocket.
Oh, his phone, he realizes, emerging from sleep.
Amazingly, he’s able to answer it. “Hello?” he manages.
“Hikaru!” It’s his mom. Suddenly feeling much more awake, he nudges Pavel. “Where are you? Are you alright? We are very worried.”
“Huh? But it’s only...” Hikaru sees the time. “Oh! Oh! Sorry. We both fell asleep.”
“You did?” His mom’s tone changes from slightly hysterical – considering he’s only one minute past curfew now – to merely concerned. “Are you boys feeling alright?”
“Oh yeah.” Hikaru yawns. “Just tired. We’ll leave now. Home in ten.”
Once his mom is satisfied it’s safe for them to drive home, he looks down and discovers his nudging has not woken Pavel. He’s still a warm pressure on Hikaru’s arm.
Oddly, he’s reluctant to move Pavel, but he’s already given his mom enough of a heart attack for one night.
Pavel blinks up at him, looking a bit dazed. Until what Hikaru says sinks in and then he’s all business, rushing to get them home. All apologies already.
Hikaru feels zen all the way home.
A couple of weeks later, Hikaru is lying in bed on a Sunday. Just chilling. It’s sunny outside but instead of calling him out, it makes staying in bed more appealing.
He can hear his mom downstairs talking to his father and, based on the bacon smell, making breakfast.
In the room next door he can hear Pavel moving around. He can only hear him because he’s bumping into furniture. Poor guy, it’s a small room with a lot of crap in it.
He closes his eyes and ponders drifting back to sleep.
There’s a knock on the door. Because it’s a quiet one, he knows it’s Pavel.
“Yeah, come in.” He doesn’t move. He is one with the bed.
“Oh good, you are up. It smells like brea –” Pavel stops speaking, but his mouth stays open. He’s staring down at Hikaru. His cheeks turn bright red. “Oh, you are not – I mean, you are – I…”
And with that, Pavel flees.
Hikaru sits up and looks down at himself. Trying to puzzle it out.
Then it sinks in. He’s not wearing a shirt. He’s always too hot to sleep with one on.
Was that what freaked out Pavel?
The thing is, the more time goes by, the more he starts to think it could be.
Hikaru’s not sure what it is, but knows it’s something.
It’s like when Jim told him that Jowett was gay and everything clicked into place. All that anti-gay posturing and weird comments in the locker room made sense.
Same thing now. This crazy, silly idea about Pavel keeps seeming more sane and more plausible, especially because it explains Pavel’s previously inexplicable actions.
Why he always sits so close to Hikaru, brushing shoulders, but no one else.
Why Hikaru’s seen him talking non-stop to Nyota in almost flawless English, but he seems to always stumble around Hikaru (although he still manages to talk a lot, this – whatever it is – hasn’t stopped the endless stream of words).
Why he’ll ask Hikaru for help with Physics, which, come to think of it, is Pavel’s best subject. He’s always acing his tests.
Why he’d insisted that Hikaru take him to the reference library downtown despite Hikaru’s mom’s offer; his reason, “Hikaru will know the best research books,” seems pretty ridiculous now.
Why he’d fallen asleep on Hikaru’s shoulder. And wait, that wasn’t the first time. He’d done that on a family movie night. Hikaru just assumed it was the utter boredom of Titanic (Hikaru’s not a fan of epic love stories).
And, of course, why he’d interrupted that kiss with what’s-his-name.
Okay, so maybe Pavel has a thing for him.
Probably just some crush.
But if it’s not. Well, Hikaru doesn’t know what do with that.
He goes about the next day in a daze.
Mumbles responses to his mom. Something about the upcoming Winter dance.
Slouches in his seat and avoids eye contact with teachers.
Nods and says “Yeah” a lot with Jim. If Jim notices, he lets it go. He knows Hikaru can get like this.
But when he tries the same technique with Pavel, it doesn’t work.
“But – I don’t –” There he goes with that stumbling again. “What is wrong, Hikaru? You seem…confused. No, I know! Spaced out – you are spaced out. Are you okay?”
He looks into Pavel’s wide eyes and sincere expression, and feels like a creep. Some lecherous guy eyeing an innocent kid. Okay, okay, so he’s really only one year older but still.
He should not even be considering it. This whole ridiculous thing needs to be gone from his head.
Erased. Deleted. Removed.
“Sorry.” He aims a sheepish grin at Pavel. “Just tired. Didn’t sleep too well. The knee, you know.”
A week later, Hikaru realizes he made a big mistake.
He didn’t listen to his mother.
Man, she would love it if she knew he was thinking this. Mom: 1, Hikaru: 0.
Why, oh why was his head in the clouds when she asked him to take Pavel with him to the Winter Formal? So that Pavel could “experience an American dance”?
First of all, the way his mom keeps phrasing it sounds like she wants them to go as a couple which is freaky and weird – and in no way compelling.
Second, Hikaru doesn’t do school dances. Hasn’t since Freshman year. By definition, they suck.
Third, well, Hikaru doesn’t have a third, but he wishes he did. There should be an infinity of reasons not to go to the stupid dance. The theme is “Winter Wonderland,” for fuck’s sake. Hasn’t that been done and done to death?
He would be enumerating his very good reasons to his mom right now, if Pavel didn’t look like he was over the moon about going to the dance with Hikaru. (Hikaru has no idea where he dredged that expression up from, but it fits Pavel.)
Which is how he ends up in a suit on a Friday night.
Hikaru exits his room, loosening his tie and wishing he could smoke up before. Take the edge off.
Speaking of edge, Pavel seems to be on it.
He’s standing outside his room and rocking back and forth. With a suit on, Pavel looks older, less like a kid. The effect only slightly ruined by the look of sheer excitement on his face. But Hikaru finds himself smiling despite himself. Sometimes Pavel’s enthusiasm is just infectious.
“I was born ready.” Pavel’s unable to pull it off without laughter creeping in at the end. Which makes Hikaru like him more.
He puts an arm around Pavel’s shoulder. “You’ve gotta stop letting Jim teach you slang.”
“But why?” Pavel’s voice is right near his ear. “It was correct usage, yes?”
“If you were Jim. But you’re too – well, you shouldn’t use Jimisms, just be yourself.”
“Okay.” Pavel nods seriously. “I am ready, Hikaru.”
Apparently “Winter Wonderland” means white and silver streamers with some paper cut-out snowflakes interspersed. Hikaru isn’t so much struck with wonder as tapped lightly by disappointment.
He remembers all the dances on those teen TV shows Mariko used to watch while IMing with her friends. The ones that caused shrieks.
He doubts he’ll be hearing shrieks tonight.
A gaggle of girls walk by stuffed into shiny dresses wearing makeup that makes them look 20 years older (and not in a good way).
Strike that. He prays for no shrieks tonight.
Two notes into some top 40 song, maybe Katy Perry, a loud shriek erupts from the aforementioned girls.
So much for prayer. Good thing he’s an atheist.
He and Pavel exchange glances.
It’s awkward. Kinda like when he went to the Junior High Formal with Melissa Lee. There’s the standing, the silence, the sideways glances.
Basically he’s regressed to the eighth grade.
Oh well, might as well embrace it. “Want some punch?”
“Oh yes!” Pavel seems genuinely excited about it. “Think it’ll be spiked? With alcohol?”
“You never know. Keep hope alive.”
The theme of awkwardness continues.
So does the punch drinking.
It’s odd to feel this way. Unsure. Uncertain of what to do.
Uncertain of what he wants to do.
What to do is settled for him when Forever starts playing and Pavel grabs his hand and drags him (not exactly resisting) onto the dance floor. Once there, he drops Hikaru’s hand.
Hikaru tries not to notice the lack of warmth.
That’s easy thanks to Pavel’s dancing. Arms and legs are everywhere. Nothing is moving in time to the beat.
Hikaru can’t help laughing. He has this crazy elated feeling. He suspects it’s joy.
Pavel smiles and leans forward. “The best song, yes?”
A few hours later Hikaru is starting to suspect the punch is spiked. He’s still feeling giddy and light-headed.
He and Pavel are sitting on chairs in a quieter part of the gym, their legs touching.
“… rite of passage for the American teenager which has been mythologized to such an extent that no gymnasium decorated with crepe paper will ever compete.” Pavel has been passionately ruminating on this topic for the last ten minutes.
Hikaru is entertained.
It’s funny, when Pavel debates with McCoy, Hikaru prefers to play video games with Jim, but now right now he can’t think of anywhere else he’d rather be.
“So,” Hikaru takes advantage of Pavel taking a breath, “are you saying you’re disappointed by all this?” He waves his hand around to indicate the scattered couples on the dance floor, the groups of people huddled together on the sidelines, and the sad-looking punch table.
“Disappointed?” Pavel considers the question. “Perhaps that is the word. I had hoped for a slow dance.” His voice drops, Hikaru leans closer. “Maybe a kiss.”
“So, uh,” Hikaru doesn’t move despite that he’s so close to Pavel he can feel his breath on his face, “you have anyone in mind?”
Pavel looks Hikaru right in the eye.
Hikaru forgets to breathe. He runs over in his mind what’s happened, makes sure he’s understanding it correctly. If Jim were here, he’d be rolling his eyes.
But Hikaru needs a moment, wants to be sure of himself, too.
What he wants.
He’s so good at not thinking about it, but it’s hard to avoid when the question is basically staring him straight in the face.
It’s actually Pavel’s lack of hesitation, his continued eye contact and closeness that gives him his answer. Hikaru leans forward, closing the gap and presses their lips together.
He swears he hears a small sigh from Pavel. Or maybe it was him.
He cups Pavel’s face and deepens the kiss. Pavel’s hand grips his jacket lapel, he can feel the tug. It’s strange to be noticing all these things when he also feels like nothing else exists except for Pavel’s lips.
It’s better than kissing Jim.
Better than smoking up and kissing Jim.
Better than jerking off in his room.
And it’s probably not even the best kiss he’s had. Pavel’s lips are dry, his movements jerky. But that doesn’t matter. Hikaru just doesn’t want it to stop.
This is everything.
They break away maybe a minute later – feels like an hour. Hikaru skin is flushed, like he’s had way too much to drink.
His mouth swollen and sensitive.
He looks at Pavel. Looks at the floor. Looks at the streamers. Looks at the DJ. Looks at Pavel.
“So…” he tries. No one ever accused him of having the articulateness.
“Yes?” Pavel answers. As if Hikaru is actually about to share something of substance.
What to say, what to say.
His mind is a blank.
But that turns out to be okay because his body knows what to do. He kisses Pavel again.
And since Pavel seems to approve, he doesn’t stop.
He breaks away when shrieks from the dance floor –Gaga, he thinks – remind him of exactly where he is.
He is way too turned on to be sitting in the corner of a high school gym and he does not want to be gay bashed at the Winter Formal.
“Maybe we should, um, you know, go?” Hikaru unnecessarily nods toward the door.
“Yes, I think – yes.” Pavel also nods unnecessarily. He starts to stand up, turns bright red and sits down again. “Maybe we wait?”
“Good thinking.” Hikaru’s in the same predicament.
Suddenly it seems too ridiculous. He’s been making out with a boy at a school dance in way too close a proximity to guys who would beat the shit out of them up just for suggesting they like guys. Forget making out then not being able to stand up.
Of course the problem is, they areup.
Hikaru starts to laugh.
Pavel looks confused. “What is funny, Hikaru?”
Hikuaru can’t stop now that he’s started, so he places his hand on Pavel’s shoulder. With the other he gestures at their crotches then at the rest of the dancers.
The confusion continues until Pavel seems to comprehend Hikaru’s meaning. Which, to be fair, isn’t very clear and probably not that funny.
He just shakes his head and says with a smile, “You are funny guy, Hikaru.”
The laughter helps and Hikaru is ready to leave, he stands up and offers a hand to Pavel. “Ready?”
Pavel takes his hand. “Ready, Hikaru.”
They hold hands all the way through the gym and outside to the car.
No one gives them a second glance.
Hikaru sends up thanks to the Gay Gods, who are clearly looking down them.
Maybe he does believe in something, after all.
When he releases Pavel’s hand, it’s only to press him against the car and kiss him again.
He can’t seem to get enough of kissing Pavel.
Fortunately, the feeling appears to be mutual.
He also can’t get enough of the way Pavel is grinding against him. Or the way he’s gripping Hikaru’s hair with one hand while the other rests loosely on the small of his back.
When he presses harder against Pavel, Pavel gasps and bites Hikaru’s lip.
He’s not sure how he doesn’t come right then and there.
Laughter echoes from back by the entrance and Hikaru reluctantly pulls away.
“I guess we should,” he nods in the direction of the laughter, “go home.”
“Yeah.” Pavel adjusts his suit but misses his shirt, it’s untucked. He looks deliciously debauched.
Hikaru’s better judgement forces him to make do with a chaste kiss and then to drag himself to the driver’s side.
He really hates his better judgement sometimes.
He ignores it after that in favor of driving home one-handed so he can interlace his other fingers with Pavel’s.
It’s a good night.
He sleeps like the dead.
Getting ready for bed all he could think about was that Pavel was on the other side of the wall and sleeping in such close proximity seemed impossible. So he’s surprised when the ringing of his cell wakes him up and he sees its almost noon.
It’s Jim. Who is disgustingly cheerful.
And suspiciously interested in the events of last night.
“You talked to Pavel, didn’t you?”
“What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Innocence does not suit Jim. “I just want to hear all the details of my best friend’s night.”
“Come on.” Jim actually whines it.
“No.” It’s nice to know that tormenting Jim never gets old.
“But, Hikaru,” he draws out the last two syllables, “you’re blossoming into a man, and I want to hear about it!”
“Blossoming?” Hikaru pulls the phone back to stare at it askance. “Really?”
“Okay, fine.” He can almost see Jim waving a hand dismissively. “At least swing by my place this afternoon. I have the new Call of Duty.”
“Fine. Be there in a few.” He hangs up before Jim can say anything else.
Pavel’s already in the kitchen with Hikaru’s parents when Hikaru makes his way downstairs.
From what he catches, Pavel is weaving a PG tale of a delightful Winter Wonderland. Hikaru doesn’t recognize the details but is impressed that I-cannot-tell-a-lie Pavel is spinning the best bullshit he’s heard since Mariko convinced their parents that a weekend in Vegas with her friends was spent conducting mathematic experiments.
“Well, that sounds like a lovely evening for you boys,” his mom says, beaming, clearly pleased that bringing an exchange student into Hikaru’s life has been a success.
“Mmm,” Hikaru says around a conveniently large bite of pancake.
His father remains hidden behind the newspaper, teen dance recaps clearly not his idea of scintillating conversation.
“Coffee?” His mom offers a cup to a grateful Hikaru. “What plans do you boys have today?”
“I have study session with Nyota today.” Pavel shoots a look at Hikaru as if to say, I am not avoiding you. As if Hikaru would doubt the validity of Pavel studying.
“Er, same, but with Jim.” Hikaru takes another large bite of pancake.
“Lovely!” his mom says, using her word of the day. She’s so happy about the successful dance that she doesn’t seem to notice the mention of Jim.
Hikaru escapes before she realizes his plan is likely not a study session.
His defences are high when he reaches Jim’s place.
He imagines himself as impenetrable.
Like Fort Knox. Or Alcatraz. Or Helm’s Deep.
Hikaru senses that his analogies are getting away from him. Maybe he should go back to the first one.
He’s like a vault. A vault that Jim Kirk will never crack.
Problem is, he always underestimates Jim. Actually, come to think of it, he’s not alone in that. But back to him and his foolishness.
He forgets that Jim knows his weaknesses and how to exploit them. Within half an hour of his arrival, Jim has plied him with all three.
First, the safe, mostly talk-free video game play.
Second, the oh-so-casual offer of a beer.
Third, the oh-so-very-casual offer of pot.
Hikaru’s kryptonite. Fucking Jim Kirk.
That bastard is the reason Hikaru’s spilling his guts right now. “It’s not like I had a plan or anything. I’m not like some seduction mastermind. I more just, you know, kissed him.”
Jim rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I know. Details, Hikaru, details.”
“So you know how you and I have made out?”
“Uh huh.” Jim makes a get-on-with-it gesture.
Once Hikaru starts telling Jim just how awesome it was to kiss Pavel, he can’t stop. Next thing he knows he’s trying to put into words the weird feeling he gets in his stomach when Pavel’s around. After his words finally find an end, he and Jim sit there nursing their beers. Hikaru’s vaguely aware that the game is paused.
Jim drains his beer, then heads to the kitchen and returns with two more. He clinks his new one with Hikaru. “Cheers, man.”
Just before Hikaru pulls into the driveway, he sees the light on in Pavel’s room. He gets a funny feeling in stomach, less the OMG-kissing-Pavel-is-way-hotter-than-I-e
Why, oh why did he not hit up his most experienced friend for advice?
How stupid could he be?
Jim was there, probably pleasantly buzzed and relaxed, perfectly positioned to share. It would have been the ideal, non-embarrassing time for advice.
He drives by the house.
He can’t go home. He doesn’t know what the hell his next step should be.
He nixes both of those. He’s already circling around on Clueless Guy Way. No need to go barrelling down Romantic Cliché Road. He is in serious need of GPS.
He knows what he has to do. But doesn’t want to do it.
Reluctantly, he hits speed dial #3 (his parents claim #1 and Jim #2) and waits for it to ring.
“Oh. My. God.” It’s actually at a reasonable decibel, despite the dramatics. “What is wrong that you’re actually calling me?”
“Chill, Mariko.” He rolls his eyes. Drums his fingers on the steering wheel. He’s passing the house again.
“Pfft! I’m not chilling. Is that how high schoolers talk now? Really? It’s so two decades ago. Anyway, why are you calling? I’m on the edge of my seat here.”
He rolls his eyes again - it’s like a sister reflex or something - but he talks. “Okay, so I just need your quick feedback on something that’s in </i>no</i> way important.”
“Yeah, yeah. Spill!”
“Let’s say – hypothetically.”
“Riiight, hypothetical. Gotcha.”
“Hypothetically, you’re hitting it off with someone. You’ve made out once. What would you do next?”
“Oh-em-gee! Who? Did you and Nyota patch things up?”
“Ugh!” Hikaru shudders. “Don’t even suggest that!”
“Or have you and Jim finally admitted your undying love for each other and gone all Yaoi on me?”
Hikaru can’t help a snort. “Hypothetical.”
“Fine.” She sighs. “Do you like this mystery person?”
Hikuru nods, then realizes that was stupid. “Yeah.”
“Okay, so I’ve found, totally hypothetically, that people like you being direct. Just say you like her… or is it him?
Hikaru is pointedly silent.
Mariko continues. “Then let things go from there. ‘Play it by ear,’ as grandma always said.”
Her advice actually sounds, well, sound. When did she go from destroying his toys and beating him up to actually being a good older sister?
“That’s, um …” He’s at a loss for words, it’s not like he can tell her that was helpful. “Thanks. That didn’t suck.”
She laughs. “I know. I rock. Try not to lay it on too thick. Anyway, I’m out, it’s Jamie’s birthday and we’re off to paint the town red.” She pauses. “I’m thinking literally.”
“Uh huh. Have fun,” he gets out before she’s ended the call.
He’s circled back to the house again.
This time he pulls in.
With Mariko’s advice fresh in his mind, he heads directly to Pavel’s room.
He closes the door behind him.
Pavel’s sitting at Mariko’s old desk, his laptop surrounded by textbooks and sheets of paper with scribbled notes on them. His hair is mussed, probably from running his hands through it, and there’s a rumpled air about him.
He’s the picture of a genius.
Not that Hikaru ever even hung an Einstein poster, let alone jerked off to one. But here he is, looking at Pavel and finding him totally hot.
Now that he’s actually in the room, following the advice is a lot harder than it had seemed in the car. He sits down on the bed to kill time.
He picks up the stuffed bunny – Flopsy, he thinks – that lives on the low bookshelf at the end of the bed and turns it over in his hand, wondering why his mom didn’t remove it. Maybe it reminds her too much of Mariko. It had been her favorite.
Pavel clears his throat.
Hikaru remembers where is he and why he’s here. He puts Flopsy down.
“So, Pavel.” His brain is being unhelpful. “How’s the work?” He gestures to the desk.
“Very well!” Pavel seems to brighten at a safe topic. “I have made excellent progress on my paper about Electromagnetic Induction and Faraday’s Law.”
“Ahh, right, that’s good.” Mariko’s advice is echoing in his head and he just wants to shut it up.
So he decides to employ a radical interpretation of the text.
Instead of telling Pavel he likes him, he kisses him.
He’s leaning down, his hands mussing Pavel’s hair more, and feeling pretty happy with his communication skills. Who’s the genius now?
He’s feeling even happier when Pavel gives a soft moan and stands up, which makes deepening the kiss a hell of a lot easier.
They break away when they hear someone coming upstairs. It’s slow careful steps, so probably his dad. He won’t interrupt but his proximity is enough to break the mood.
Hikaru sits down on the bed again.
Pavel is back on his desk chair.
“So, yeah…” Hikaru smiles at his articulateness. “I just came to say that.”
“Say what?” Pavel’s clearly confused.
“That, I, you know.” He attempts a gesture. It’s also inarticulate. “Well, kissing you is nice.”
Pavel nods, comprehension dawning. “Yes, I like the kissing.” He smiles. “And I like you too.”
Before he can stop it, the biggest, dorkiest grin spreads across Hikaru’s face.
He takes a moment. Takes it in.
Doesn’t even begin to cover it.