The stage is dark and still, and Leonard McCoy feels like he's floating in space, seated in a somewhat comfortable chair with both armrests blessedly to himself. The music plays overhead, filling the theatre space quite easily, and the doctor finds himself relaxing even though he's a little detached from everything around him.
A spotlight carefully lights the stage, and the two dancers crouched together, their limbs tangled with one another in a tight bundle of flesh. Leonard's mind is separating the shapes - this is an arm, that is a shoulder, the curve of a hip, the shadow below a jaw line - and he tries to understand the purpose of starting in such a position. He doesn't know much about the performance; only that it's called 'Intervention' and that his daughter is one of the starring dancers.
There is a quiet pause in the music and the dancers unfurl, the man arching up into the spotlight with an elegant flourish of one arm. The woman - Joanna, Leonard thinks - rolls once on the stage floor and remains prone. The man, whose long limbs and supple form offers clean body lines and sharp shadows across his skin, arcs backwards even further and stills, before turning to face the audience.
Leonard forgets for a moment that he is not alone in the dark, and that this dance is not being performed for him alone. His eyes slide down from the dancer's face, to where his torso seemingly vanishes into the shadows around him. With one swift motion, the man bends over the female dancer - Joanna, Leonard has to remind himself, Joanna - and lifts her from the stage, effortlessly. She curls around his middle and he releases his hold, but she does not fall. The dancer makes a single, careful pirouette, before setting her to the floor again.
The performance continues, beautiful and soft, and though Leonard has no patience for modern dance, he has infinite reserves of attention for his daughter. This attention quietly extends to include her blond partner for the night, and he finds himself thinking back to whether she's mentioned him before or not. He understands that there exists certain chemistry between dancers and other dancers, and dancers with the dance, but for the first time Leonard thinks he might be able to comprehend the chemistry between dancers, dance and the audience.
Something prickly lodges at the back of his throat when Leonard watches the dancer tenderly pull Joanna's hands away from her face. She rolls her shoulder away from him, but tilts her head in something recognizable as longing. A moment passes between them during a lull in the music, and Leonard almost chokes on an unnamed emotion that's rising within him. His beautiful baby girl (twenty-two, his mind supplies) is lifted effortlessly into the air with one hand, and then set neatly back on the floor.
When the music stops and Joanna and the dancer are still at center stage, Leonard is too overwhelmed to stand, and the audience becomes visible around him. The sudden thunder of applause presses heavily on him, and though he knows it's rude, he flees the theatre for a quiet spot away from everything. He almost forgets to look at the stage for one last glimpse of his smiling, darling girl, lit by house lights and her own success.
Leonard wanders through doors and corridors until he regains a sort of calm in a secluded corner somewhere, his forehead pressed to the rough brick of the theatre wall. He'd read of Joanna's blooming career over the years, and through the occasional letter he received from her. He'd always held, perhaps in fatherly pride, the knowledge that she was brilliant on the stage - brilliant as a dancer, as he was brilliant as a doctor. He'd never seen her perform, never had the chance to, with work and travel, and too many long nights, and now he was deeply regretting it. It was another thing on his list of regrets in relation to Joanna.
"Daddy?" He hears, and Leonard turns to see his daughter peering at him from a doorway down the hall. She's mostly changed out of her dance wear, which makes him wonder just how long he has been standing in the hallway. He wishes he had flowers or something - anything to give her aside from a too-emotional smile and shaky Hey, Jo. Her delighted laugh at being right makes his heart ache, but she's in his arms in the next second, and the feeling fades away.
"I can't believe you came," she whispers, holding him tight as if afraid he would vanish should she let go. "I thought you were in the Amazon or something..."
"Sahara," he murmurs, but it doesn't matter. He doesn't remember where he was the last time he spoke with her.
"Oh," another voice says quietly, "I'm sorry."
Joanna pulls away from her father, and Leonard can see the dancer from the performance, leaning in the doorway of his daughter's dressing room. It occurs to him that the dressing room might be shared. She smiles widely at the young man, before introducing him. "Daddy, this is Pavel Chekov - he's a dancer with the Moscow Ballet!"
They shake hands, and Leonard notes that the young man's firm body also comes with a firm handshake and steady gaze. "Long way from home, aren't you, kid?"
Pavel shrugs and even that small motion seems practiced and elegant on his long frame. His accent is heavy, but he seems to have a good grasp of English. "I am teaching," he explains, "The company needed choreographers, I wanted to see America." He smiles.
Leonard starts to feel the warmth that filled him during the performance and has to look away. "Right," he says, and starts figuring out how to steal his daughter away for a few hours. "Joanna, do you-"
"Take me to dinner, daddy," she interrupts. A dimple inherited from her mother appears in her left cheek. "Are you hungry?"
He's not, but that's not going to stop him. "Yeah, all right," he can feel Pavel's eyes on them, and Leonard reluctantly extends the invitation to him. "You coming?"
A small secretive smile curls at the side of his mouth, "No, I will eat here. Thank you." There's something in the way he watches the both of them that makes Leonard wonder what he's thinking. Pavel looks steadily at him for another beat before turning to Joanna. "I'll see you later," he says, his fingers brushing lightly at her elbow.
"Okay," Joanna replies, but her attention is on her rarely-seen father. Pavel nods to Leonard and then disappears into the dressing room. "Let's go!" She says eagerly, sliding her arm through Leonard's. "There's this place down the street I think you'll like."
He doesn't ask why she thinks so, and instead raises an eyebrow at her leotard visible under a loose jacket and shorts. "Don't you want to change?"
"I can do that later," she says, pulling him down the hall. What she means is she doesn't want to waste their time together. "It's nice outside, anyway, right?"
"Right," Leonard repeats, and takes her hand in his. The smile she gives him is stunning.
Joanna is correct, and Leonard does like the restaurant. It's quiet and clean with quick, homemade food, and waitresses who give the right amount of attention and manage not to ask questions when you've taken a bite of something to eat. The menu reminds Leonard of family meals he hasn't eaten in years, and while he knows that it's a comfort to Joanna, he tries not to let it bother him.
"I'm so glad you came," she says again. The dessert they're sharing is a peach cobbler with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, just like when he was young, and she was even younger. "You should have let me know you were coming," she continues, "I could have gotten you better seats."
"I was fine where I was," Leonard said. He hadn't known if he was going to make the performance, with the time difference, the planes, and customs, and having to rely on someone else driving. He considers for a moment whether or not to tell her why he's back from the-Amazon-the-Sahara-the-places-far-away. He doesn't want to get her hopes up. "You were beautiful," he murmurs, playing with the ice cream. "You both were."
Joanna folds a hand over his and gives him a loving look that he's barely able to meet. "Thank you, daddy," she whispers. She's happy, but looks like she's going to cry.
He drops his fork on the plate and grips her hand tightly. An apology is wedged in his throat, but he doesn't say it - they agreed long ago not to apologise anymore. "How's your mother?" He asks, to prove the subject isn't taboo (even though he feels like it should be).
"Good," she says immediately, but blessedly doesn't expand on why. "Mom's good." She sets her fork down, too. The ice cream is left to melt into the rest of the pie.
"I'm glad," Leonard says, mildly surprised to find that he is. He attempts a subject change, "So who's this Pavel kid?"
"Oh," she breathes, her eyes lighting up, "He's brilliant, and he dances like it takes absolutely no effort at all! I don't know why he'd leave the Moscow Ballet to come here, but if he'd rather dance and choreograph for an American company - our American company, I'm totally not going to complain."
"Do I have to have a talk with him?" Leonard asks, before deciding that he will anyway - boys are boys, no matter what they tell their female friends.
Joanna looks confused for a moment, before realizing what he was acutally asking. "Oh! No, daddy - Pavel wouldn't do anything." She squeezed his hand reassuringly. "We're just friends."
"Uh huh," Leonard says, unconvinced. With the looks the kid's got - soft blond curls, glittering blue eyes, perfect posture and lean physique (not to mention sinuous extensions, but that might be something only Leonard is preoccupied with) - either he is being pursued by interested parties, or he is the one doing the pursuing. "We'll have a friendly chat, then," he decides.
"Oh daddy," Joanna sighs fondly and finishes off the rest of the pie.
Leonard walks her to her apartment door with the cab waiting on the street, even though he's perfectly certain she has her keys with her and she'll be able to get in without a problem. He doesn't want to leave her, despite keeping her out late, and he doesn't care if he seems a little pathetic when he gives her a big hug at the door.
"G'night Jo," he says into her hair. "See you tomorrow?"
She looks at him in surprise. "You don't have a plane to catch?"
Not again, not ever, he wants to say. "I'm staying at that hotel across the bridge."
Her eyes widen, "You can come to the theatre for the matinee! I'm dancing again tomorrow."
Leonard nods slowly, "All right...when does it start?"
"Just after lunch - I'll get someone to pick you up, all right?" She smiles, and he realizes that she remembers he hates taxis and public transportation. Leonard stares at her with a funny little smile, and she takes the opportunity to kiss him on the cheek. "See you tomorrow!" The door of her apartment closes softly behind her.
Leonard's cell phone rings, for the first time in days, and it makes him jump. He fumbles in his pocket for the slim piece of technology and flicks it open with his thumb without checking the name. "McCoy, here," he says, moving away from Joanna's door and back down the hall to the stairwell. He spares the elevator a look of distain as he passes it.
"Where are you?" The voice is too familiar and Leonard sighs. "The ambassador is having some sort of emergency - I'll pick you up."
"I'm home, Jim," Leonard says.
"I'm standing outside your apartment. Why didn't you ring me up? I had to get the landlady to let me in."
"I left Egypt a few days ago, Jim. I'm home. The goddamn US of A."
"Were you even listening when I told you I was leaving?"
"I thought you were joking," Jim Kirk says. "When will you be back?"
Leonard pinches the bridge of his nose, rushing down the two flights of stairs. "I left," he says slowly, "my resignation letter. It's on your desk."
"You know I only go into my office when you force me to do paperwork." Kirk sounds amused by the notion he'd freely go in there otherwise. "Besides, Ambassador Spock has had us back and forth from his place for the last week." There is a pause and Leonard can hear a buzzing in the background that he knows is from the broken light outside his old apartment door. "Wait, why are you leaving when your patient is clearly in need of medical attention? What the hell is going on, Bones?"
"Physically," Leonard explains, getting into the taxi, "the Ambassador is fine, Jim." He takes a moment to tell the driver where to go and turns his attention back to the call. "The problem's in his brain, with his emotional suppression and godamn social issues. I'm a doctor, not a psychiatrist! How the hell he got to be an ambassador is beyond me."
"You can't just leave me without a doctor on hand," Kirk argues, quite reasonably. "Come back until we find someone else, if you're so bent on leaving."
It would be fair to go back, like Kirk suggests, but Leonard knows that if he does, he won't have the strength to leave again. Kirk will put off finding a doctor; he won't submit the resignation papers to the UN, he won't meet with new medical staff for interviews. He'll find excuses to keep him from going home. "I've already left, Jim," he says.
"I need a doctor," the other man insists, "Damnit, Bones - I need you here."
"I'll contact the UN Medical Services office when they open tomorrow," Leonard says. "And you'd better send over that godamn paperwork tonight, Jim, or I swear to god I'll get you a new CMO who'll castrate you for looking at her the wrong way."
"And if I look at her the right way?" He can hear the wicked grin in the other man's voice.
"You know how to talk the ambassador through a panic attack," Leonard says calmly, "Which I'm sure is what this is." Without further preamble, he snaps his phone closed, hanging up on him.
"Are we still going to the hotel, sir?" Leonard can see the taxi driver look back at him through the rearview mirror. "That call sounded serious."
"I'm the doctor here, and I didn't ask for a godamn second opinion."
The rest of the ride is completely silent.
- - -
The polite knock on the door goes largely ignored the first time, because Leonard is too busy yelling at someone on the phone to properly register the sound. The knock becomes louder and the doctor finally answers, pressing his phone to his neck to growl at the person in the hall.
"What in god's name do you-" He stops himself, recognizing who it is. "Chekov. What are you doing here?"
The Russian dancer shoots a concerned look at the phone in Leonard's hand, but answers, "Joanna says you do not like taxis. Or, at least, being taxied by people you do not know." He looks casual in jeans and a t-shirt, with his hands in his pockets.
"So she sent you?" He raises an eyebrow, "All I know about you is your name and that you used to dance for the Moscow Ballet." A small voice shouts from the phone and Leonard is distracted again. "I have to finish this." He turns and walks further into the room without seeming to care if Pavel stays or goes.
If Pavel is at all offended by his attitude, he doesn't show it. He closes the door behind him, and then proceeds to examine a painting on the wall. He also pretends not to listen to the conversation that Leonard is having.
"Jim, Chapel will be good for you. ...I know she's not me, if she were me, she'd be handing you her papers and going home. .... No, I'm not- It's not about that. ... I know that, I'm not an idiot. Look, I don't recommend complete strangers, and it's too goddamn late because she's flying your way. ...yes. This afternoon." He sighs, bracing one arm against the window. "I've worked with her before, Jim. I'm saying she's good because she's good. ... How the fuck should I know that, you moron? Look, I've got to go. I'll talk to you when you call to bitch about how she's not taking any of your crap." He closes the phone sharply and shoves it into his jeans pocket.
After Leonard has taken a moment to calm down, he turns away from the window and faces Pavel - who is still politely looking at the painting. His arms are linked loosely behind his back and, as if he can feel Leonard looking at him, he casually reaches up and lazily scratches at a spot between his shoulder blades.
Leonard is more drawn to that one small action than he'd like to think about, so he tugs the curtains closed over the window, and grabs his coat off the back of a chair. "Come on," he mutters and goes out into the hall. "You're not dancing today?"
Pavel shoots a questioning glance at Leonard when they head in the opposite direction of the elevator, to the door leading to the stairs. Leonard doesn't acknowledge the look. "I am guest dancer, not official part of company. I am dancer for Bolshoi Ballet!" He frowns and makes a noise in the back of his throat before saying, "Ah, MoscowBallet."
Leonard raises an eyebrow at him, which Pavel correctly takes as a hint to explain the correction. "It's...American slang. They say 'Moscow Ballet' but they mean 'Bolshoi Ballet'." His mouth twists into a resigned smile. "Is strange thing."
"Patients say 'oh, my heel hurts' and that's fine and dandy, because they've been walking all day and their shoes don't fit right, so yes, their heel should hurt. But sometimes people need to be saying, 'oh, my heel burns,' because there's a difference between a burning sensation and a general ache, and that can be the difference between nerve entrapment and just needing to get some new goddamn shoes."
Leonard starts down the stairwell with Pavel trailing behind him. He doesn't know what sent him off on that particular rant, especially as he can't think of anyone having come to him with foot problems lately, but he stands by the idea in hopes that it somehow made sense. His phone call with Jim has got him feeling irritable, but it's not really an unusual state for him to be in, anyway.
"I do not think it is same," Pavel admits quietly. His voice echoes slightly in the small space and the words seem to slide together. "Is like..." He hums for a moment. "Ah! How is your hip, sir?"
"My hip?" Leonard looks back at him, sceptical of where this question was going to lead. "Does it look like I'm limping? My hip's fine."
"Yes!" Pavel says, almost excitedly, and skips a few stairs so they're walking side-by-side. "You say 'hip' and I say 'hip', but you know proper medical name for it, yes?"
"Of course I do," he says, getting a little irritated, "I'm a doctor, not a first-year biology student." Leonard presses closer to the railing of the narrow stairwell, instead of bumping shoulders with Pavel at every step.
Pavel touches Leonard lightly on the arm, "Yes, hip is slang, then. Is same as Moscow-Bolshoi."
With a burst of speed, Leonard exits the stairwell ahead of Pavel. "Whatever, kid. I'm too old for 'slang'."
"I do not think you're old. And I am not a kid."
"Well, we sure as hell aren't the same age, kid." Leonard somehow manages not to sneer. "When you're the age of my daughter, that makes you young and me old."
"Joanna is younger than me," Pavel protests. "Next year I will be thirty."
"Hold the door," Leonard proclaims sarcastically, "Old men coming through!" Pavel scowls at him and he ignores it. "I can't believe you're debating your youth with me, kid." He brushes past the front counter without acknowledging the receptionist, who is trying to get his attention about something. He heads for the exit to the street.
"Do not. Call me that." Pavel is in front of him quickly, his serious expression succeeding in stopping Leonard in mid-step, if only because his eyes are so very, very blue. "I have a name." He leans against the door that Leonard is trying to open, and has somehow wedged his leg against the inside of Leonard's calf. "I am not 'kid'."
"Well, I'm not 'sir' either, Pavel Chekov, but you don't hear me whining about it." He hates being called 'sir', but was willing to let it go at the time.
Pavel seems placated by the use of his real name, but he doesn't move away from the door. If anything, Leonard swears, he's moved closer to him. "What should I call you?" He asks, with a slight tilt of his head. He's shorter than Leonard is, but the height difference would probably be lost if the doctor slouched a bit. Leonard closes his eyes briefly, instead of looking into Pavel's face.
"What the hell do I care?" He grumbles, and lets go of the handle. He pulls away from him and exits through a different door. "Call me whatever you want." A nagging voice in his mind whispers Bones, Bones, Bones. For a few moments, he'd forgotten about that name.
Leonard has a few seconds to breathe, on the sidewalk by the lot, before Pavel follows after him again. He knows he should probably be nicer to the dancer, especially since he is a friend of his daughter's, but 'nice' was never a facet of his natural personality. He doesn't even entertain the idea of apologizing.
Pavel doesn't revisit the conversation they were having inside the hotel. "This one here," he says and leads Leonard to a little blue Nissan parked to the side. When he climbs into the back passenger seat, he isn't quite surprised to see someone already in the driver's spot, waiting for them both. Somehow he didn't see Pavel as being the car's owner.
"I thought you were doing the picking up," Leonard says to Pavel. The younger man shrugs, and buckles his seatbelt.
The driver half-turns and offers a smile. "I am Hikaru Sulu, Pavel's roommate. Pleased to meet you, sir."
Pavel's head dips and Leonard just knows he's smothering a laugh about the use of 'sir'. "McCoy," he decides, just to make things easier. He can feel a headache starting to form in his left temple. "Going to the ballet, Sulu?"
"That's what Pavel tells me," Sulu says, pulling smoothly out of the parking lane. "I'm afraid I'm just the wheelman. I won't be staying for the performance."
Leonard looks at Pavel through the mirror on the right passenger side. The Russian is concentrating on a map he's pulled from a pocket on the door. "Construction on Webster, still – I saw the newscast earlier. Go to Elmer and Park. Skip 9th, also. Lunch time is busy, there." He punches the directions into a small GPS on the dash, then smiles widely at Sulu, who shoots him a side-long glance and similar grin.
They chatter about directions and side streets for what Leonard feels is an inane amount of time. Eventually he presses his forehead against the car window and resolves to get a rental sometime soon.
The matinee isn't as spellbinding as the performance the night before, and though Leonard is as taken with his daughter's dancing, he doesn't enjoy the male dancer that's replaced Pavel for the afternoon. The skills are there, he thinks, but there's no emotional connection, no breath-stealing chemistry pinning him to the seat from half a theatre away.
Pavel sits beside him in the darkness with his arms wrapped loosely around his middle, leaving the shared armrest for Leonard. He placidly watches the performance with him, but Leonard thinks that, every so often, he can see Pavel shift his shoulders or neck in a response to a movement on stage. He even catches sight of his mouth twitching in a little frown when the male dancer lifting Joanna has to use two hands instead of one.
There is an intermission that Leonard doesn't remember from the night before and he stares at Pavel unabashedly until the Russian dancer finally looks at him. Leonard speaks before he does, "You really want to be up there, don't you?"
Pavel looks away. "This is not Bolshoi. Here I do not always dance."
Leonard thinks he knows what the kid's saying. He used to tell Jim 'this isn't home - my daughter's back in Georgia.' Jim would always manage an injured look, and Leonard would always pop open another bottle of whatever the nightly liquor was. Leonard regards Pavel quietly before sighing and shaking his head. "What're you doing here? You don't want to choreograph, do you?"
"I am good at it."
"Well, I'm good at doing a tracheotomy, but you don't see me working an ER." The expression on Pavel's face is one of confusion. Leonard half-sighs, "It's to help someone breathe."
"Oh," Pavel says. He stretches his arms out, considering, before explaining. "Original Bolshoi Theatre closed for restoration. I did not know it long, but I won't see it again for four years, and even then it will be different. New theatre is…nice. Many tourists, but still beautiful."
"Not the same is it?" Leonard bites back the almost automatic 'kid'.
"Nyet," Pavel confirms. "Almost twenty years I've been dancing. Is strange not to all the time, but it does not hurt."
Twenty years dancing. That's almost enough to seal away the word 'kid' forever. He thinks of twenty years of medicine. He thinks of his less-than-twenty-years without Joanna. "Why are you here?" Leonard asks again. Even if the theatres aren't the same, Pavel would still be dancing there more than in America.
Pavel looks at him and asks, as if it's related, "Joanna thinks you will be leaving - this is true?"
Leonard easily recognizes the guilty pang that hits him sharply in his chest. "I hope not," he says. He just needs to hear back from a few people before he can tell her, before he can say for certain that he's not going anywhere...
The house lights dim again and the curtain starts to part, but Leonard thinks he hears Pavel whisper, "I hope not, also."
Joanna barely has time to hug her father and to breathlessly ask him what he thought and how he was doing (and 'Did daddy treat you nicely, Pavel?') before rushing off to a quick meal with the cast before the evening performance. She hugs them both tightly, and shares an apologetic smile with Pavel, but promises to meet up with them immediately after the show.
Pavel shakes his head as they watch her vanish down the hall to her dressing room. "She forgets the parties for final curtain." He sounds wistful, and is absently stretching out his shoulder for the third time in the past ten minutes.
"Are you experiencing pain?" Leonard asks, and suddenly grips the shoulder in question. Pavel gives him a startled glance, but doesn't wince or flinch.
"No, I'm fine," he says.
Leonard frowns at him, wondering if he's lying. He carefully raises Pavel's arm by the wrist, his other hand just below the shoulder blade. "Then why do you keep stretching it?"
"Restless, I suppose." He shrugs his free shoulder. Leonard lets go of him, not seeing or feeling anything out of place and takes a step out of Pavel's personal space.
He's only known the younger man for a few days, but there's new tension in his expression that Leonard doesn't know the cause of. However, there's clearly something wrong, and if he was going to be in Leonard's company for much longer, not knowing the problem was seriously going to bother him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Leonard sees Pavel flex his foot and then rotate the ankle. The look on the dancer's face is distant, as if he were thinking about something beyond the two of them standing in the hall. Leonard suddenly understands. Pavel is absently doing stretches even though he isn't supposed to dance tonight and likely because he wants to dance tonight.
Pavel's eyes focus after a moment, and he lets out a slow breath. "I think I will go hom-"
"There are practice rooms around here?" Leonard questions and interrupts him.
Pavel blinks, and then nods. "Da, down that way."
Leonard knows that if he were wearing the expression that Pavel was, he'd be going home to a large bottle of bourbon and scratchy recordings of old songs. While the arguments of 'I'm turning thirty' and 'twenty years of dance' are still fresh in his mind, Leonard still thinks that this talented, polite dancer is much too young to know those sorts of nights. He doesn't quite know what he's trying to say, but what comes out of his mouth is, "Show me the dancing you do back home."
Pavel's eyes are dark, and guarded against him. "Is same as what I dance here." He's flexing the fingers of his hands, slowly turning his wrists.
"Yeah?" Leonard says sceptically. The sudden urge to see him dance again is strong; he was cheated out of it during the performance today. "Let's see it, Pavel. You got something better to do?"
When Pavel's mouth twists thoughtfully and he swallows obviously, Leonard knows he's won. "Hm."
"Do you play piano?" Pavel asks quietly, in the dim light of the empty studio. Leonard had pulled the curtains shut and turned on the piano light while the dancer went to change. Pavel returns in a sleeveless shirt and sweats cut off under the knee, with his feet bare.
"I only know one song," Leonard says. He learned it ages ago to impress a woman who eventually left him.
"When I ask," Pavel says, going to take a position at the barre, "Play it slowly."
Leonard wants to tell him that the song is already slow, which is why he learned it in the first place, but he's too busy watching Pavel stretch and go through the ballet positions with his hand on the bar. Leonard doesn't know the name for them, doesn't know the meanings, and doesn't even really know what muscles they're stretching, exactly, (though he can make an educated guess), but he finds that he doesn't really care.
Leonard's eyes follow the raise of one leg, the arch of his back, the tilt of his chin; Pavel's body has become fluid and boneless, with muscle control and restraint that Leonard can only helplessly admire. Pavel's shoulders are back, flat with his chest and torso, even when the younger man dips into a plie.
Even with his mouth pressed into the back of his hand, Leonard can't help but murmur, "God, your posture."
Pavel looks at him deliberately after his next plie and smiles. "You may play, now."
Leonard does, even though the last time he touched a piano was one very drunken night with James T. Kirk. Jim tried to teach him how to play something called 'Nothing Else Matters' and Leonard persistently played the one song he knew instead - Moonlight Sonata. Jim fell asleep almost immediately.
Leonard plays slowly, too sober and alert to play it without thinking of his ex-wife, and of Joanna, and of days long buried in his memory. A flash of movement in front of him reminds him of the present, and he looks up from the keys to see Pavel standing on one leg, his other extended behind him with his arms raised.
It's only when they make eye contact that Pavel moves, spinning smoothly in a slow circle without dropping his arms or leg, and twisting his body until his leg is extended in front of him instead. His lazy smile makes Leonard think it's a basic move, which is probably why it looks so flawless.
The dancer sweeps his arms in towards his chest, and then out again, leading into a pirouette and a lovely stance with his body arcing back. Leonard eventually stops keeping track of this moving into that, and his own hands over the piano keys, until all there is in the room is the distant sound of music, and the hazy glow from the lamp throwing shadows across Pavel's turning body.
This is the connection he felt sitting in the audience – the passion of a dancer who knows nothing else. It is emotion and movement, and physical control – all things that Leonard has come to admire and appreciate through his years as a doctor. There is attraction, plain and simple, to the dance, to the dancer, and perhaps even to the man leaping into the air at the center of the room. Leonard can't tell, or perhaps avoids the thought.
He doesn't notice when Pavel starts into the steps of 'Intervention' - the piece he performed on stage with Joanna. Leonard can almost see him supporting his daughter in the open palm he raises, and remembers how gently he set her down again.
It comes as a surprise, however, when Pavel turns to him, and reaches over the piano. Leonard doesn't remember when he stopped playing the piano, or when he pressed the back of his hand to his mouth, but Pavel pulls his hands away from his face, and smiles down at him. Instead of pulling away from Pavel, like he knows he's supposed to if he's following the choreography, Leonard just watches him. He just waits, looking silently at him. If he's showing anything in his expression, Leonard can't tell from Pavel's even gaze at him.
"I miss Russia, yes," Pavel admits quietly, his accent thicker than Leonard has heard it over the past few days, "Mostly the people, their voices, and the cold." His hands are still on Leonard's, warm and steady.
"You miss the cold," Leonard repeats. His voice is rough, and he feels lightheaded. A distant part of his mind suggests he get a drink of water and go lie down somewhere. A more immediate impulse tells that part of his mind to go suck a lemon.
Pavel leans into the space between them despite the piano top wedging into his stomach. "Cold is familiar, understandable. Is hot here – you cannot chase the heat away." He softly adds, "People are different here. Is harder to know them. "
"You'll get used to it," Leonard mumbles, meaning the heat and the people and the language – all of it.
Pavel nods like he already knows he will. He leans forward a little more until he is able to press his lips against Leonard's cheek. "Da. I know." He sounds a little breathless, likely from supporting his weight on his stomach. His mouth moves across Leonard's skin to kiss the corner of his mouth. "I just want..."
Leonard turns his face slightly and breathes out, while his fingers tighten around Pavel's. "I'm not travelling anymore," he warns, "And I don't do short term anything."
"This is fine," Pavel murmurs. He moves around the piano and Leonard turns with him, until Pavel can stand between the older man's parted knees.
"You could still go back to your Bolshoi Ballet, and its nice new theatre."
Pavel kneels between Leonard's legs and pulls him forward carefully, by the back of the neck. "I was hoping you'd notice I'm not attracted to 'nice'."
Leonard gives in to what he feels must be inevitable and leans forward to kiss Pavel properly. He can't remember the last time he was able to do that with anybody. The soft pressure is more pleasant than he remembers. "And here I just thought that Jo warned you about me."
Pavel grins into his mouth, laughing once, "Da, she did."
- - -
Pavel uses their similar height to his advantage and presses Leonard against the hallway window. The wide ledge hits the back of Leonard's knees and he grabs hold of Pavel's arms. The room with the piano is a little ways down the hall, and while they're technically heading towards the theatre for the show's final performance, Pavel can't seem to resist pulling Leonard into every dark corner and unoccupied surface.
"Pavel," Leonard growls warningly.
He rests his arms on the cool glass to the opposite sides of Leonard's face, and leans their faces close together. "I always wanted to have sex here," he says coyly.
"We're going to miss curtain," Leonard informs him. He shoves his body forward, driving their hips and chest together for a brief moment, before forcing Pavel to stumble backwards. Pavel looks inexplicitly pleased at the development, even though Leonard ignores the heated look and starts off down the hallway again. He mutters, "Public sex is unsanitary," as if for future reference.
Pavel follows after him, breathing a soundless laugh. He waits until they pass into the next hall before sliding his hands into the back pockets of Leonard's jeans. "Also in my dressing room," he says against the side of Leonard's neck. His hands give a small squeeze. "After performance, when adrenaline is still rushing."
Leonard doesn't say anything, but his hand brushes lightly against the wall as if steady himself. This encourages Pavel, who pulls his hands from the pockets and skips ahead of Leonard. He turns to face him when they reach the stairwell and blocks the open doorway. Leonard stops in front of him, one eyebrow raised.
"You share a dressing room with my daughter," Leonard says frankly. "That fantasy is also moot."
"Moot," Pavel repeats. He smiles. "I would just like to watch you fuck me in the mirror."
There is a silence in the hall as Leonard listens to the words echo lightly in the narrow confines of the stairs. He clears his throat, takes a deep breath, and looks away. Almost thoughtfully, he runs a thumb under his lower lip. "I'm not used to this," he says, his voice gravelly and low. He seems almost shy in the low light of the hall. "I don't…" He glances at Pavel and shakes his head, leaving the thought incomplete.
"Hm," Pavel says. He reaches out and runs his knuckles across Leonard's cheek. His gaze is softer, and he examines Leonard differently than he had been a few moments before. Leonard doesn't shift uncomfortably under his gaze, and only gives him an even expression that reads, 'this is all there is, kid'. His hands flick out in a 'well?' gesture.
Pavel tugs at his wrist and then starts up the stairs, ignoring the landing for the main floor. "The balcony should be empty tonight. We can watch from there."
They climb upwards in relative silence, until Leonard mutters, "If you start off on how you want to do it in the balcony, I'm going back down."
The serious glance that Pavel gives him seems genuine enough, but Leonard still has his suspicions. "Not during performance," Pavel says solemnly, holding open the door to the balcony, "Is very rude."
Leonard heads directly for an empty chair and decides not push his luck and dignify that with an answer.
They part ways after the performance is finished, because Pavel is one of the dancers, and though he tries to hide it, Leonard can tell he's excited for the after party. He also grows tired of Pavel's insistence that he doesn't need to go, and literally pushes Pavel in the direction of where the cast and crew will be gathering.
He changes his mind after a moment, and spins Pavel around by the shoulder. The dancer's eyes widen and Leonard's mouth twitches into a quick smile. Firmly taking hold of Pavel's chin, he kisses him, flicking his tongue over the warm swell of Pavel's lower lip. Pavel makes a noise, something between a pleased sigh and surprised laugh, and kisses him back, eagerly. It's Leonard who breaks away when a soft gasp is echoes in the hall.
Joanna stares at them both, her hands over her mouth. Leonard feels his stomach drop, and his brain makes a leap back, to when Joanna walked in on him and Jocelyn talking about divorce for the first time. She looks the same as she did back then, staring at them like she didn't think such a thing would happen.
"Jo, I…" He swears silently to himself, because he still doesn't know what to say to her. She looks between them both and then faces Pavel. Leonard doesn't attempt to shove down the pain that rises when she turns from him.
"We’ll be having a friendly chat later," she says finally, and then winks at her father. Leonard doesn't know whether to laugh, or to cry. He bites the inside of his cheek when she steps on her tip toes in front of him, to kiss his cheek. "Call you tomorrow, Daddy?" He should have known better. Pavel was her friend. She was years upon years older than she had been during the divorce.
"Yeah," Leonard says, and hugs her on impulse. She laughs and hugs him right back. "Don't drink too much tonight. Have water when you get home. Eat something."
"Yes, Daddy," she says, with mock exasperation. She gives him a little wave as she walks away.
Just as Pavel is going to follow after her, Leonard snags his sleeve and pulls him to the side. "Promise me you won't tell her details of anything," he says lowly, knowing that Joanna will ask him. He hasn't forgotten the time that he had thought Jim was talking on the phone to Uhura (a foreign translator they both know) about the intricacies of Leonard's life, before realizing that it was actually his daughter. "Keep it simple. Confide in…that Sulu kid, or something. Not my Jo."
"You do not wish to discuss things with Joanna?" Pavel's expression was all innocence. Leonard was not in the mood for it.
"Not these things." He snaps, even though he's sure that Pavel is toying with him. "Would you want to talk about sex and relationships with your mother?"
"This is not common in America?" Pavel says with surprise. Leonard stares at him and considers throwing something at his face. He doesn't have anything on hand, unfortunately, and he briefly considers punching him instead. Pavel stares back for a heartbeat and then the corners of his mouth curves up slightly. "Kidding. Thinking of saying such things to my mama makes me feel tipsy."
Pavel waves a hand, and starts walking down the hall after Joanna. "Like going to fall over."
"Dizzy. Tipsy is when you're drinking." Leonard considers giving him a drinking reminder, too.
Pavel shrugs lazily, "Is same."
Leonard almost continues arguing, but then he remembers that he's a doctor, not a language professor. His mouth snaps shut, and he pivots on the heel of one boot, leaving in the opposite direction of the dancers. Pavel's soft laughter echoes behind him.
Leonard catches a taxi back to the hotel, only somewhat pleased to recognize the driver, if only because it means there's already an understanding to leave Leonard alone. The trip is silent, as is the exchange of money at the hotel, and Leonard is contemplating the bottle of whiskey in his suitcase when he crosses through the lobby.
"Mr. McCoy!" The receptionist steps out from behind the desk to catch his attention. "An envelope was left for you this morning."
He almost questions why he wasn't told that morning before he remembers a particular argument about age, and the need to escape outside. He nods and goes to the counter, where the receptionist gives him a small yellow envelope with his name stamped on the front. The return address indicates it's from a property leasing company in the city.
"Thanks," Leonard says absently, and tears the envelope open. Inside are a letter that he barely reads and a set of keys. He grips the latter tightly in his hand, smiling to himself, before going back outside. "Fuck," he says, and realizes that he still hasn't gotten a rental – which is just as well, as the keys and letter mean his stay is now permanent.
Leonard pulls his cell phone from his pocket to scroll through the contacts for the taxi number. In the middle of the list, a new number scrolls into view, labelled 'Pavel (or Hikaru)'.
He frowns, and tries to remember Pavel having his phone. After a moment, he decides it doesn't matter, and calls that number instead of the taxi company. A voice lower than Pavel's, and clearly not tinged with a Russian accent, answers after the second ring.
"Sulu, it's McCoy."
"…Oh! Pavel's- uh…" He hesitates on naming their relationship and it makes Leonard wonder what they've talked about. "I mean, Joanna's fa-"
Again, Leonard makes it easy for him. "Yeah," he says, confirming anything the other man would like to believe or say. "Listen, are you busy? I need a favour."
Sulu shuts the car door and leans against it, shoving hands into the pockets of his jeans as he squints at Leonard. "Not that it's a big deal or anything, but is this going to become a regular thing?" He doesn't indulge in pointless chatter in the car, and would rather drive with the windows down instead of using the A/C – both of which help get him on Leonard's good side.
"No," Leonard says shortly. "Didn't get a car today. I got sidetracked."
Sulu nods like he knows, "Pavel can do that." At Leonard's look, he explains, "I just mean in general. He sort of commands attention without meaning to." Leonard grunts, not quite agreeing or disagreeing with the observation, and Sulu eyes the dark building they're parked in front of. "Do you want me to come in?"
Leonard wants to do this alone. "No. It'll take a second. I'll be right back." He jingles the keys lightly in one hand and starts up the front walk. "Don't go anywhere!"
"Yeah, yeah," Sulu says, and lights up a cigarette. Leonard wants to lecture him on cancer and second-hand smoke, but the kid's his ride, so he just shuts up and walks away.
The building is a single-level structure, with blinds across every window and a small parking lot around back. Leonard unlocks the double doors and slips inside. Immediately, there is a front desk, and a wide room with a small coat closet to the side. There are two halls, both leading to a row of doors, and Leonard peeks into each one and starts imagining where everything is going to go.
He picks a room in the back as his office, even though it's small and cramped, and was likely used for storage by the previous owner. Two of the small rooms will be made into private patient rooms, and as Leonard stares thoughtfully at the wall separating another set of small rooms, he wonders if they can be knocked out and converted into a lab. He pauses in the front lobby again – his future waiting room – on the way out, and feels a sense of satisfaction wash through him.
This is my clinic, Leonard thinks. He locks up and leaves, and has Sulu drop him off at the hotel again.
"There you go," Sulu says, once they're parked outside the front doors.
Leonard gives him a nod and gets out of the car. Then, feeling like he should properly thank him, since Sulu didn't question or complain about the random forty-minute excursion, Leonard turns and leans through the open car window.
"Hey," he says. Sulu looks up at him, away from the radio that he's playing with. "Do you have a doctor?"
"Uh, no," Sulu says slowly. He gives Leonard a look that asks him not to regret admitting it. "I've only been here for half a year, and I don't really—"
"Well, you do now," Leonard informs him. "I'll call for your medical history when my office is set up."
Sulu blinks, but doesn't offer anything more than, "…Thank you?"
"Mhm," Leonard says, and gives him a sharp nod. He goes into the hotel and, as far as he's concerned, they're even.
Leonard spends a good hour at CarFleet Vehicles arguing with a young salesman in a red shirt about what he wants. Redshirt, whose name Leonard didn't care enough to learn, insists on telling him the things that Leonard apparently needs, and ultimately, Leonard leaves the lot without keys to anything at all. He's on the phone with the taxi dispatcher before he sees a small dealership down the block that could easily be described as 'seedy' or 'leery'.
The dealership sign simply says 'Enterprise', but a small handmade sign in the office window reads 'naff off, CarFleet!' It's the sketchiest establishment Leonard's seen in a long time, but considering the events of the last hour, he's inclined to agree with the sign.
He hangs up on the dispatcher and walks over to the lot, wandering through the neat row of older cars. He's not into cars like Jim is, but Leonard gets the feeling that his friend would be all over the vehicles, babbling about bumpers and frames, with his face pressed to the glass to check the interior. For a moment, Leonard has the urge to talk to Jim, who has never declined his call.
Then he remembers how much Jim annoys and generally pisses him off and that if he did call him, Leonard would have to spend a frustrating amount of time trying to describe the cars to him; the make, the model, what the bumper looked like, what kind of rims, and so on.
Leonard makes his way down the row in newly appreciated isolation.
A car dealer doesn't approach Leonard, which makes him wonder if the lot is even open. He can hear the dull beat of music and he follows it around the back of the building, where he finds a three-door garage. He knocks at the small side door, determines that he's not going to be heard, and then goes in.
A man with short orange hair turns to look at him when he enters, but Leonard is looking at the amber-coloured Cadillac station wagon that is parked behind him. It's clearly an older car, either already in good shape, or in good shape as a result of repairs by the man standing before him.
The man grins and flicks off the stereo, also looking at the Cadillac. "Quite the lady, her. Haven't had the heart to put her out front, yet." His Scottish accent comes as a mild surprise to the doctor.
"You own this dealership?" Leonard asked, looking at him. The man made a face, as if offended by the term.
"Pride and joy, this place," he says simply, "Don't get the big business with the new 'dealership' down the lane, but there are drivers who know what they want, and aren't going to let a wee lad in a starched collar tell him different." Leonard smiles despite himself, and Scotty continues on, riffling through a key ring hanging on his belt. "Besides, there's nothing I can't fix that's got wheels on it," he shoots another grin Leonard's way.
"Does it run?" Leonard asks, to the point. He joins the Scotsman in front of the car, trying to imagine himself driving it. It's surprisingly easy. He used to drive a Chevy just like it, back in what now seems like another lifetime.
"Wouldn't sell her to you if she didn't." The man slants a glance his direction, "And you do intend on giving her a nice home, aye?"
Leonard feels like he's trying to take out this man's daughter, and it's a ridiculous feeling. However, he still replies with a lazy, "Yessir." As an after thought, he sticks out his hand and says, "McCoy."
The man shakes his hand and says, "Scotty," in a tone that dares him to make a joke of it. Leonard doesn't bother, because it's a waste of time, and he hasn't bought the car quite yet. This makes Scotty nod with satisfaction. "She's unlocked if you want to meet her. I'll go grab the lady's papers."
Scotty leaves the garage, presumably heading to the office, and Leonard slides behind the wheel of the station wagon. He smoothes his palms over the leather stitching on the steering wheel, and for the first time in a long time, he feels like he's actually gaining some sort of control over his life.
Leonard drops in on Pavel the next afternoon, and feels appropriately pleased by the younger man's reaction to his new car and the easy way he sprawls in the front passenger seat. Pavel plays with the dials and radio, and they pick up Joanna for an early dinner. Hangovers, Leonard notes, are no where in sight, but Joanna chatters on about everything that happened the night before and asks questions about his night with a vague hope in her eyes.
Leonard explains about the practice, and only drives by his new clinic building, even though he wants to stop and show it off like he knows that Jim would. He is barely able to look at his daughter's face in the rear view mirror when he tells her the news, even though she looks happy. The ever-present guilt and the ache of lost time rolls through him, and it must be noticeable, because Pavel feels the need to wrap a reassuring hand over his clenched fist.
They pull into the lot of a waffle house, and Leonard parks near the back fence, ever paranoid about other drivers and their reckless habits. Joanna hugs him from behind once they've stopped, her arms pinning him across the shoulders.
"I'm so glad," she says quietly, and Leonard squeezes her arm, unable to hug her back. "I was so tired of saying good bye."
"Jo," Leonard says clumsily. "We never say 'good bye'." Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Pavel looking determinedly out the window, at the birds, or the fence, or something he's not really interested in looking at.
"I wasn't talking about words, Daddy," Joanna says. They look at each other in the mirror and Leonard swallows almost painfully.
"I guess," he says, unable to handle the moment any longer, "I just need to get a place to stay, now."
Joanna laughs at this, and leans around the chair to kiss him on the cheek. "Oh, just move in with Pavel. I'm sure Hikaru won't mind." She releases her hold on him and climbs out of the car. "I'll get a table!"
Pavel raises his hands when Leonard looks over at him. "There were no details."
Leonard's phone rings, and cuts off his reply to Pavel. He makes a face, looking at the caller ID for once, and then answers. "What?"
"Hey Bones! I hear you're getting hot and heavy with a Russian – she's a blonde, right? Is her name Svetlana?"
Leonard is a little more than mortified that in the small space of the car, Pavel can hear every word. "My god, man, will you shut up? Who have you been talking to?" He wishes that for once, he could have a normal conversation with Jim.
"I'll never reveal my sources," Jim says, with a smugness that makes Leonard grit his teeth, especially as the next thing Jim does is exactly that. "Though, I have to say, some McCoys answer your phone with actual greetings and inquires to my health and well being. I am, by the way, fine, but aching for your loving grumbles."
Pavel raises an eyebrow at this, and Leonard snarls into the phone, "You talked to my daughter? When?"
"Somewhere after dinner but before pie, if I recall. If you don't want your kid to helpfully answer your phone while you're in the little doctor's room, then you shouldn't leave it at the table. But back to the Russian, Bones – Joanna didn't say anything except 'blond Russian' and I know you don't like me bothering her for info, which is fine, because I'd rather bother you, so—"
Leonard makes a strangled noise and doesn't put up a fight when Pavel takes the phone from his hand.
"Zdrastvuytye," Pavel says smoothly into the phone. He rests a hand along the curve of Leonard's neck. Leonard doesn't know what he just said, but there's something in his expression that makes Leonard suspect he's up to something.
"What? Oh! Hey, is this-"
"Da," Pavel says, "And he would like you to know that Leonard's 'loving grumbles' are his, now."
Jim doesn't miss a beat. "Wow, possessive. Didn't know Bones was the type. Makes sense, I guess. Hey – are you really a ballerina?"
A muscle twitches in Pavel's cheek, "A 'danseur,' yes." The word sounds strange with his accent. "Is there anything else you wished to speak to Leonard about?"
"Yeah, but I guess he's not going to tell me if you're standing there just looking at him."
"We are not standing," Pavel says, causing Leonard to make another noise, "And I am not 'just' looking at him." He curls his fingers around Leonard's neck almost absently as he says this.
This time, Jim does pause. "…Right now? Really? That's kinda hot."
"Have a good day, Mr. Kirk." Pavel snaps the phone shut without waiting for a reply, and then smiles at Leonard.
"Now, what'd you go and do that for?" Leonard asks. He knows Jim will question him about it the next time he calls.
Pavel kisses him sweetly, and opens his car door to get out. "It will keep him warm at night."
Leonard finally pulls the keys from the ignition and gets out of the car as well. "That's all I need…what're you doing?"
Pavel looks up from Leonard's phone. "Putting my number in here, but I see you already have it?"
"Didn't you put it there?" Leonard asks.
Pavel shakes his head, "Forgot to."
Leonard thinks of how Jim came to know about his new relationship, and glances suspiciously at the waffle house. Pavel does the same thing, and, to Leonard's surprise, actually blushes.
"She knew?" Pavel murmurs.
"Hell if I know," Leonard says, before deciding he doesn't care. They walk through the restaurant doors together, and sit down to a dinner of entirely too many waffles.