Pavel has been watching the doctor ever since he ran onto the bridge chasing Kirk with a hypospray. He looks strong and manly, with a jaw Pavel would love to bite. It’s probably bad that he finds himself glancing at the man once every thirty seconds, but no one’s caught him yet, so he’s not about to stop.
Kirk called the man Bones, but Pavel isn’t sure that is his name. It seems like an odd name for a man whose voice drips with Southern charm. Pavel spent a semester studying at a college in Alabama as an exchange student when he was fifteen. He lost his virginity to a man with an accent as soft and delicious as the doctor’s, and the memories the doctor’s voice brings up makes him want to make new memories with the doctor himself.
Then they are dropping out of warp and into a battle and Pavel doesn’t have time to think about sex. He’s too busy saving lives and piloting the ship as far away from the black hole as he can. Then he figures out how to hide the ship from Nero.
It’s silly to expect the doctor to be proud of him. He knows this. But when he presents his plan to Captain Kirk in front of the doctor, he thinks that maybe the doctor will think it is a good idea.
When the doctor asks how old he is, Pavel thinks that perhaps he is stunned by Pavel’s intelligence. He exclaims that he is seventeen with more than a little pride. It’s not every teenager that can plot flight plans and do astrophysics calculations after all.
The doctor’s sarcastic response of “Oh, oh good, he’s seventeen” hurts more than it should. Pavel doesn’t even know his name, but the doctor’s utter disregard for him breaks Pavel’s heart just a little bit.
For the rest of the flight, he doesn’t talk to the doctor. After they fly away from the second black hole, he discovers he has a big cut on his thigh. He bandages it up with his ripped pants and pulls a new pair on over top of the wound. He won’t go to sickbay. His leg hurts less than his heart.
Pavel learns the doctor’s last name when Captain Kirk orders him to sickbay. “It’s regulations, kid. Doctor McCoy has to check everyone out before we can take off.”
At the time, Pavel wonders who this McCoy is. Then he walks into sickbay and sees the attractive doctor from before taking care of an ensign. A nurse ushers him to a biobed and has him lay down while she runs some scans.
The doctor wanders over a moment later. He doesn’t speak to Pavel. Instead, he talks to the nurse about the scans she’s run and he reads something on his PADD. It’s nearly ten minutes before he turns to Pavel. “Wow, kid. Your file’s insane. 160 IQ, huh?”
Pavel thinks the doctor sounds a little impressed, and he can’t help smiling. Maybe there is a chance the doctor will notice him after all. “Yes, sir.”
The doctor nods and prods his PADD again. “Ah, I’m seeing markers for genetic engineering in your DNA. Guess it’s not quite natural intelligence then.”
Pavel’s heart cracks a little more. He can almost hear it shattering in his chest. His parents used genetic engineering to keep Pavel from being miscarried like their first five pregnancies. If they hadn’t gone for genetic engineering, it could have taken them years longer to have a baby. They might never have had one, in the end.
And they didn’t ask the scientist to make him smarter. It was the man’s decision to use Pavel in an unauthorized experiment that made him into a whiz kid. He usually doesn’t mind because it makes him feel a little special. Now it makes him feel like dirt.
The doctor sets the PADD aside and shoos Pavel off the bed with a wave. “Your scans are fine. You can go now.”
The nurse walks him to the door. “Don’t worry about Doctor McCoy,” she says. “He just doesn’t think bedside manner is very important.”
Pavel tries to smile, but he doubts it works. “Is okay. I know it is just the doctor’s way.” And it is, because the doctor acts sarcastic around everyone, even the captain. It doesn’t make Pavel feel any better though.
Pavel’s smile feels a little more natural when he returns to the bridge and realizes that McCoy is the doctor’s last name. It fits him better than Bones, but it still isn’t quite right. McCoy seems like an old fashioned man, and he’s the type who would have an old fashioned name. Pavel wonders what his first name is.
Pavel is starting to feel a bit more like a part of the crew. The some men from the alpha shift play a game of poker once a week, and Pavel’s been invited since the beginning. They share their cigarettes and alcohol with Pavel even though he’s underaged, and they seem proud of him whenever he manages to win a hand, which isn’t very often. The captain says it is because he does not have a poker face. Pavel likes to think he just gets bad cards.
The ritual has been going on for nearly three months when the captain decides to invite Doctor McCoy to join them. Pavel is excited. He’ll finally have a chance to show the doctor that he is a grown up.
He shows up to the room nearly half an hour early. It’s embarrassing, but Pavel settles into his normal seat and works on some transwarp theory on his PADD. Scotty is the next to show up, about ten minutes before the game is supposed to start, and he brings cigars and scotch with him. Pavel prefers cigarettes and vodka, but he’ll take what he can get, so he grabs a cigar and lights up before he pours himself three fingers of the scotch.
Everyone else wanders into the room as the time gets closer. There are a few other ensigns, though none as young as Pavel. Sulu grabs a seat next to Pavel. The last people to arrive are the captain and the doctor.
Pavel knows his eyes are glued to McCoy as he works his way around the room, greeting everyone by name. His stomach flutters a bit at the thought that the doctor will soon say his name in that soft, rumbling voice.
Then McCoy looks at him and growls. “Dammit, Jim! Who let the kid have a cigar?” The doctor stomps over and yanks the cigar out of Pavel’s mouth. Pavel doesn’t know what to think when McCoy asks “This your drink too?” so he just nods. Then McCoy puts out the cigar in his scotch. “I better not catch you smoking and drinking again before your next birthday. It’s bad enough the rest of these fools feel the need to poison themselves; you’re too young to get into a self-destructive habit.”
Pavel tries to tell himself that McCoy did it because he was worried about Pavel. He smiles slightly and nods his head. “Yes, Doctor,” he says, but what he really wants is to scream. He isn’t a child. No one else in the room gives a damn if Pavel is self-destructive. What right did McCoy have to order Pavel around? He wasn’t Pavel’s friend or relative or lover.
And yet Pavel wants to please him, so he doesn’t take another drink or a cigarette when Sulu offers them. McCoy barely spares him a second glance the rest of the evening. Surprisingly, Pavel plays his best ever that evening. It isn’t enough to pull him out of his funk.
When he walks out of the room that night, he has a pile of credits in his pocket. The Captain pats him on the shoulder as he passes. “You did great tonight. I think you finally found your poker face.”
Kirk grins. “Your face seemed to get stuck on heartbroken and never came out of it. I’ve never seen a guy so sad when faced with a royal flush before.”
Pavel nods and says his goodnights. McCoy is deep in conversation with Scotty and barely waves when Pavel addresses him.
That night, in the dark of his room, Pavel’s poker face finally breaks and he cries himself to sleep.
Pavel doesn’t bother to imagine having a relationship with McCoy anymore. He knows what the doctor thinks of him. He is a child and no matter how many times Pavel saves the ship, figures out something someone else can’t or does something that most people consider jaw-droppingly amazing, McCoy will never think of Pavel as anything more than a kid.
So Pavel tries to forget about the doctor. He spends his time learning to fence with Sulu and building a transwarp engine with Scotty and discussing the features of interesting space anomalies with Spock. He seduces a few ensigns into his bed. He is completely, utterly, irrevocably himself, and it makes him feel much better.
Then he is assigned to an away mission with McCoy.
Everything goes wrong from the moment they set foot on the uninhabited planet. The other two crew members are injured by a plant. They are beamed up and an element in the plant knocks the transporter out. A shuttle is readied on the ship to bring down replacements, but an ion storm in the atmosphere makes spacecraft flight dangerous and foolhardy.
Pavel and McCoy are stuck together on the planet, overnight, alone.
Pavel does all that he can to act like himself. He gathers the required samples and takes extra readings of the plant that wounded Lieutenant Bosco and Ensign Geridimo. When his assigned duties are completed, he helps McCoy set up the camp and then crawls into his sleeping bag with his PADD because the bag is far more comfortable than sitting on a stump like McCoy is doing. Sulu has been teaching Pavel about botany and gave him some interesting files about plants typically found on M-class planets. He is determined to learn more about plants if it’s the last thing he does because it’s a lot better than spending the evening staring at Dr. McCoy.
McCoy ignores Pavel in favor of a PADD for two hours. Then he’s suddenly looming over Pavel’s sleeping bag and startling him out of thoughts about deciduous trees. “Hey, Chekov, do you know anything about chemistry?”
Pavel nods. “I spent two years thinking I would be a research officer. Then I realized I like navigation much, much better.”
McCoy hands him the PADD. “Great. Can you look over this formula and see what I’m missing? That plant apparently poisoned Bosco and Geridimo. I’m trying to work out an anti-venon, but there’s some factor I’m missing because all the things they’ve tried on the ship have failed. I think it’s probably some stupid mistake, but another pair of eyes will pick it out faster than I will.”
Pavel looks over the information carefully. At last, he realizes that Dr. McCoy changed the 2H in one part of the chemical formula to an H2. He corrects it, explains what he did, and hands the PADD back to McCoy.
“Thanks!” McCoy wanders away then, already taking on the comm to someone on the ship. A few minutes later he’s back, hovering over Pavel. “That was the problem. You’re a lifesaver.”
Pavel beams then realizes how childish he must look curled up in his sleeping bag when there are still hours till nightfall. “I… um, is there anything else I can do?” He struggles to get out of his sleeping bag.
“Nah, I’ve got it under control. Everything’s fine on the Enterprise, so I’m just going to wander around and check out the native plant life.” McCoy waves as he walks off. “You can take a nap if you want, kid.”
Pavel stops fighting his sleeping bag. McCoy thinks he is a kid. He just helped save two people’s lives, and McCoy still thinks he is a child. Pavel needs to remember this. He needs to stop feeling like a loser every time McCoy treats him like a child because it’s just what McCoy thinks. Pavel knows he’s more than a kid. He can fence and has studied most of the scientific fields and can speak two languages and is the youngest navigator in Starfleet ever. Pavel needs to remember that he is more than his age.
And he needs to stop loving a man who will never love him back.
Pavel is excited and rightly so. His eighteenth birthday is in five days. In five days he will be legal. He’ll be able to drink and smoke and have sex with anyone he wants. Not that he hasn’t done all of those things already. It’s just that now he’ll be allowed to do them, and that feels really special.
He knows that Captain Kirk is planning a surprise party for him. The captain likes surprising people, but it’s basically impossible for him to hide anything. The vague whispers that stopped as soon as Pavel got close enough to hear made it obvious that Kirk was talking about him. All it took was a little badgering of Sulu to find out what was going on.
When he rounds the corner to sickbay, on his way to get his annual check-up and updated inoculations, he’s surprised to see McCoy and Kirk fighting in the hall. He ducks back down the hall and peeks around the corner to watch them.
“Come on, Bones. You’ve got to come to the party. You know he wants you there.” Kirk leans towards McCoy.
McCoy isn’t happy. He crosses his arms and glares at the captain. “It’s his eighteenth birthday party. I’m thirty-two. It’s not going to happen.”
“Leonard McCoy, you are not playing the age card on me. It’s not like it’s going to be some kiddy party with a piñata and pin the tail on the donkey. Come and make him happy.”
Leonard. It’s the perfect first name for Dr. McCoy. Pavel whispers it under his breath. Leonard. He thinks of the nicknames he could give Leonard. Leo. Leon. Len. Pavel likes them all.
“Dammit, Jim… I, I can’t. It’d be like going to one of my daughter’s friends parties.”
Kirk snorts. “Your daughter’s ten. There is a world of a difference between ten and eighteen. You were engaged at eighteen!”
Leonard threw his hands up in the air. “Exactly. I was married when he was probably still in diapers! For god’s sake, I’m physically old enough to be his father.”
“You were, like, ten when he was born, Bones.”
“Fourteen. And I hit puberty at twelve, so I was perfectly capable of it.”
Kirk shakes his head. “I just… never mind. Please come. Everyone else is going to be there. You’ll make him happy.”
“I can’t, Jim.” Leonard turns to the sickbay door. “I just can’t.”
He walks into sickbay, leaving Kirk outside staring at the door. Pavel knows he should go around the corner now and get his physical done, but he can’t. Leonard thinks of him as practically a baby. Nothing Pavel can do will change his mind.
Pavel leans against the wall and closes his eyes. He doesn’t have a chance. He never had a chance. He fell in love with the doctor the first moment he saw him, and he’ll never be able to do anything about it.
Kirk rounds the corner a moment later. “Oh, hey, Chekov. What are you doing?”
Pavel puts on the best smile he can. “It is time for my annual check-up.”
“Ugh.” Kirk wrinkles his nose. “Sorry about that. Bones is in a foul mood. You’re in for a real treat.”
Pavel shrugs. “It is okay. Dr. McCoy does not like me even on good days.”
Kirk frowns. “You don’t actually believe that do you? Bones really does like you, he’s just good at hiding it.”
“If you say so, Keptin.” Pavel doesn’t want to talk about it. “I need to go.”
“Alright. Don’t let Bones harass you too much, okay?” Kirk squeezes his shoulder and then continues on.
Pavel takes a deep breath and then heads for sickbay. He can’t avoid his check-up forever, and at least if he gets it out of the way then he might not have to see Leonard up close for a few weeks. He steps in the door and catches sight of Leonard right away. Pavel thinks that maybe he should still be calling the doctor McCoy, but it doesn’t feel right. Leonard has this grumpy, scratchy feel that matches the doctor. McCoy is too impersonal.
Leonard waves him over to a biobed. “Time for your check-up.”
“Yes, sir.” Pavel hops up on the bed and waits for instructions. Leonard goes through the normal scans, then has Pavel sit up so he can check things that the computer can’t read, like his reflexes and mental health. When he asks how Pavel has been feeling emotionally, Pavel knows it’s just a standard question, but he still wants to scream at him that he is miserable and anxious and that his heart feels like it’s going to fall out of his chest, hit the floor, and break into a thousand bloody pieces. Instead, he just tells Leonard that he’s been fine and that he’s excited about his birthday.
Leonard sighs. “Yeah, I heard about the party.”
“It was supposed to be a surprise, Doctor,” Pavel chides.
Leonard just raises an eyebrow. “And yet you knew about it.”
Pavel laughs. He can’t help it. As much as Leonard makes his heart hurt, he also makes it flutter and dance. He really does love this gruff man who has saved so many people’s lives but still has a horrible bedside manner.
“Anyway, I won’t be able to make it to the party, so I’ll wish you a happy birthday now. Happy birthday, kid.”
Pavel forces himself not to cross his arms. “I will no longer be a kid on my birthday.”
Leonard shrugs and grabs his hypospray. “You’ll always be a kid to me.”
The medicine he injects is supposed to be an inoculation, but it feels like an overdose of anesthesia that has stopped Pavel’s heart.
Silence hovers in the sickbay as Leonard taps something out on his PADD.
Pavel wraps his arms around himself to hold his broken heart in his chest. “Your first name is Leonard, right, Doctor?”
Leonard looks up in surprise. “Yeah. Why?”
“Why does no one call you by that name?” Pavel wants to use it, but Leonard is his superior. It would be inappropriate, unless Leonard asked him to do it.
“I don’t know. My friends use it.” Leonard walks away then, putting away the supplies he used on Pavel.
Pavel has never called him Leonard. Leonard has never asked him to do so. Leonard does not consider Pavel a friend.
“May I go?” Pavel asks, but he’s already off the biobed and halfway to the door when Leonard dismisses him. Pavel makes it down the corridor and into the turbo lift before he collapses. He is lucky that it is Uhura who finds him in there sobbing. She doesn’t ask questions, but she helps him to his room and tucks him into his bed. She leaves a wet washcloth on his nightstand and turns out the light as she leaves. Pavel is grateful and he will do something to thank her tomorrow, but right now he just wants to cry until he runs out of tears.
Pavel is drunk. He is very drunk, but he is allowed to be. McCoy can’t take away his drink now, no sir.
Pavel remembers the poker game and wants to hit something. He heads in Kirk’s direction. Kirk is a smoker, and Pavel wants tobacco. “Keptin, may I have a cigarette?”
Kirk hands one over along with a lighter and then goes back to seducing an ensign. Pavel lights up. He slips the lighter back into Kirk’s pocket then moves away. The party is going full-swing around him. He has seen nearly every person on the ship who isn’t working, and some that are. He hasn’t seen the person he most wants to see though.
Leonard told him he wouldn’t come. Pavel had kept hoping anyway. Fat lot of good that had done him.
Pavel puffs hard on the cigarette, whittling it down to nothing. He thanks the people who walk by and wish him happy birthday, but he doesn’t really talk to anyone. He only wants to talk to one person, and fuck, he’s going to do it.
Pavel shoves the last bit of his cigarette into an ashtray and leaves the mess hall. He knows exactly where Leonard’s room is, and he heads for it. When he gets to the door, he leans on the door chime so it will ring over and over.
When Leonard opens the door, his hair is mussed and he’s only wearing pajama pants. Pavel wants to shove him up against the wall and blow him. Leonard yawns and then glares at him. “What the hell are you doing here, kid?”
Pavel moves closer. He wants to touch, but he holds himself back. “I am not a kid.”
“Shit.” Leonard grimaces. “You reek of smoke and alcohol.”
Pavel takes another step forward and the door closes behind him. When he takes a deep breath, his chest touches Leonard’s. “You can not yell at me anymore. I am allowed to smoke and I am allowed to drink and I am allowed to fuck whoever I want.” Pavel takes a chance and wraps his arms around Leonard’s neck. “And I want to fuck you.”
Pavel knows he’s drunk and on a nicotine rush and that he’s probably going to hate himself in the morning when he remembers how badly Leonard is going to break his heart. But right now, all he wants is to taste Leonard. He leans in quickly, tilting his head to the side and kissing Leonard hard. He bites Leonard’s bottom lip then sucks on it.
He waits for Leonard to push him away. Instead, Leonard deepens the kiss, pushing his tongue into Pavel’s mouth. If Pavel dies tomorrow, he thinks he will remember this as the best moment in his life.
Leonard pulls back a few minutes later, but he still doesn’t push Pavel away. Instead, he leans forward and rests his head on Pavel’s shoulder. “I’m too old for you. You oughta find some young man who wants you, someone without a crust the size of Georgia ‘round his heart. I’m no good for you.”
“I do not want anyone else. I want you.”
Leonard talks into Pavel’s shoulder. “You’re so young. You don’t know what you want.”
“I left my home country at fourteen to travel abroad and study. At fifteen I joined Starfleet and at seventeen I was made the youngest navigator in the entire history of Starfleet. I knew what I wanted, I did what I wanted, and I never, ever regretted it.” He never has, and he never will. Just like he will never forget the taste of Leonard and he will never regret kissing him.
Leonard looks at him then and holds his gaze. “I’ve wanted you since I first saw you on that damn bridge, sitting there and looking like some parent had snuck you on board for bring-your-kid-to-work day.”
Pavel’s heart flutters. He tells it not to get too excited. Who knows where Leonard is going with this? He could be trying to let Pavel down.
“You have no idea how many times I told myself I wasn’t allowed to touch you, that you were innocent.”
Pavel smirks at that. “I have not been an innocent since I turned fifteen.”
Leonard’s eyes widen and he gulps. His Adam’s apple bobs in his throat. “I… God. That shouldn’t be turning me on.”
Pavel leans in and kisses him again. He trails kisses down Leonard’s throat and along his jaw. He tugs at Leonard’s earlobe with his teeth, and Leonard moans hard. “I can blow you,” Pavel whispers in his ear. “Or you can fuck me.”
Leonard whimpers and slams him up against the door, but he holds Pavel at arm’s length. “You’re drunk. I’m not going to do this while you are drunk. Go sober up. If you still want this in the morning—heck, if you still remember this in the morning—come back and talk to me.”
That is fair. It’s also so Leonard that it makes Pavel want to drop to his knees and pull down Leonard’s pants before the man can blink. Leonard wouldn’t appreciate it though, so Pavel pulls him in for one more kiss and then lets him go. “I will be back,” he promises.
Leonard opens the door and shoves him outside. “Believe me, I’ll be waiting.”
Pavel wanders back to his room. His heart is thumping and he knows he’s grinning like a crazy person. He falls into bed, but he doesn’t fall asleep for hours. His head is too full of Leonard for that. And when he does sleep, he dreams of southern gentlemen with husky voices and hyposprays.
When Pavel wakes up the next morning, it takes him a moment to remember what’s happened. Then he peels himself out of bed, ignores the throbbing pain in his head, and races to Leonard’s room.
Leonard opens the door on the first chime. He’s wearing different clothes, something Pavel didn’t bother with, and his hair is brushed. The differences in his appearance sober Pavel and he hesitates.
Leonard just sighs. “It’s okay, kid. All of us do stupid things when we’re drunk.” He turns and the door starts to slide shut, but Pavel shoves his hand into the door frame. It triggers the safety mechanism and the door opens back up.
“I love you, Leonard.” It abrupt and too much, but it’s the truth and Pavel refuses to take it back.
Leonard spins around and pulls him into a kiss. He mutters against Pavel’s mouth. “Love you, too. Tried not to, but kid, Chekov, Pavel, you just get under my skin. Wanna kiss you. Wanna fuck you. Wanna make love to you. Never gonna let you go.”
Pavel laughs. “Promises, promises.”
Leonard growls and yanks him into the room. He pulls off Pavel’s shirt and throws it to the side. His shirt follows. Then they are pressed together, bare chest to bare chest. Pavel can feel Leonard’s heart beating counterpoint to his own. His own heart beat is strong and steady. In the future, it might falter again. Leonard might break it completely. But right now it’s whole and happy, so Pavel buries himself in the moment and lets his heart finally share all of the love that is inside of it.