Bones was too damn old for all-nighters and 20 page term papers, but there he was knee deep in research and cans of Red Bull wishing that he never had to take the couple extra chemistry classes to “round him out” as the head of research at San Francisco General Hospital had explained.
“We know you’re a brilliant physician McCoy, and your instincts and surgical skills are beyond compare, but we’ve got some bigwigs that’d like to see you keep up with the latest information beyond the required refresher courses.” Bones had rolled his eyes when Pike, the head of research, had taken him to the side to suggest courses. He had expected to breeze through the classes with little effort, but they were kicking his ass and it really wasn’t helping that all the other students were 23-25.
“Indefatigable brats.” He grumbled before slumping down in his seat for his 8 a.m. class.
Pavel Chekov loved chemistry. He didn’t enjoy it quite as much as theoretical physics or calculus, but there was certain appeal. The papers were easy to write, as he thought molecules lent themselves well to prose. The prose would have been more lyrical in Russian, of course, but English would do.
He was the youngest in the class, a 21-year-old second year grad student. It was Organic Chemistry 405, full of grad students and the rugged-looking returning student. He was normally left alone, sitting quietly through lectures and doing his lab work quickly, efficiently, and alone. He received good grades and was quite pleased the arrangement.
One day, after one of the harder tests (even Chekov found himself second-guessing some of the questions), the returning student approached him. Chekov paused and gave the man a polite smile. “Can I help you?”
Bones shouldn’t have been nervous asking the kid for help. Sure the Russian whiz kid was smart as hell, but he wasn’t stupid himself, and asking to study together wasn’t a damn marriage proposal, but he couldn’t help it as he approached the curly-haired young man.
McCoy pulled up a chair. “Yeah, you can. It’s McCoy, Leonard McCoy.”
“Chekov, Pavel Andreievich, sir.”
“Come on, don’t sir me. I couldn’t help but notice that you’re always alone in class and in the library. Got me thinking that we could get together to study and work on our homework together. Now don’t think I’m just doing this to get a copying buddy. I aim to do my half of the work, but you’re a smart kid so I figured it’d make it easier on the both of us.”
Chekov smiled. “I could use a friend, I suppose. You’re welcome to come with the library with me. Tell me what you need help with, and I can tutor you!”
McCoy agreed and they walked out into the brisk November breeze. Chekov tried to fill the silence. The man had a very solid, intense sort of presence. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but Chekov didn’t want to seem unfriendly. He’d offered friendship already. “So, returning student? Why chemistry classes? I heard you were already a doctor. If you don’t mind my asking of course. If you do, tell me to shut up, it doesn’t bother me. And if I say something grammatically wrong, you can correct me. I want to be good at English, if I’m going to live in America.”
McCoy smiled. The boy’s obvious youth and earnestness reminded him of Jim Kirk, his best friend from college who had gone on to become one of the Air Force’s top pilots.
“You’re just fine, kid. I don’t mind a little chatter every now and then. I am a doctor, but I’m coming back for a few classes to keep on top of things. It’s a fast-paced field, and I guess they’re afraid an old fart like me’s gonna lose touch.”
Chekov liked the older man’s self-deprecating humor and wry grin. He suppressed a little laugh. “I don’t think you’re losing touch, Dr. McCoy. If anyone’s out of touch, it’s me. I mean, in a way I have as little in common with the class as you. I’m 21, and they look at me like I’m 12.”
“Don’t let them give you any grief. I would’ve killed to finish school as early as you.”
Bones opened the library’s large front doors for Chekov and let the younger man lead him to a small table in the far back corner of the library.
“Let’s get started, shall we.”
They were in the library for 4 hours until Bones had to leave for work. He came out understanding infinitely more than he had, and felt a closer kinship to the kid who’d been just another face in the crowd not four and a half hours before.
The kid was smart, humble, and definitely not too difficult to look at. Bones shut down that line of thinking. He could not let a stupid crush mess up one of the best study partners he could have hoped for.
Chekov walked back to his apartment after seeing off McCoy at the library. That was the most fun he’d had studying in years. The man was very intelligent, and Chekov respected his experience. The young Russian had never really considered the medical professions, but the older doctor was inspiring. He made Chekov feel important, special. It was pleasant.
He slipped into his room, humming a Russian folk dance and trying not to bother Sulu, his roommate. Sulu had the hearing of a cat, and called from the living room, “Hey, whiz kid, what’s got you in such a mood? I can hear your humming from here.”
Chekov ducked his head, embarrassed. “Chemistry is a miracle, Hikaru. That’s all you need to know.”
“Miracle my ass. How’d the test go?”
Chekov began to detail his uncertainty over question 11, but Sulu laughed. “Shut up, Pasha, you did fine. I, however, probably failed my communications oral presentation. I hate required classes.”
They chatted a little while more until turning in. Before he fell asleep, Chekov thought of the doctor and couldn’t suppress a smile into the dark.
Bones looked forward to class every day purely for a chance to talk to Chekov. They’d studied every day that week and had made further plans to study over the weekend while watching a basketball game. He hadn’t enjoyed anyone’s presence like that in a long time.
“Chekov, are we still good for after class today?”
Chekov nodded and moved his backpack out of the seat next to him. Bones smiled at the gesture and sat down. Chekov didn’t really have to save the seat, there were plenty of seats available away from them, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.
That day, after the library, McCoy invited Chekov out for coffee. Chekov accepted readily, cheerfully continuing the explanation of the mathematical concepts he was studying. McCoy always listened attentively to him, even when the subject didn’t particularly concern him. McCoy told him about the hospital and offered advice, in case Chekov genuinely did want to be a doctor. He even dropped the Russian off at his apartment. Chekov teased him about the state of his old station wagon. “You could do better, Leo. You’re a doctor, you could have something lovely.”
McCoy shrugged. “This old thing’s got more character. Now get out and go to bed, I’m gonna be late.”
Chekov grinned. “Night, Leo. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He had to bite back the unbidden I love you that rose to his lips. He blushed and clambered out.
Sulu was seated facing the door when Chekov came in. “Okay, kid, I’ve let you waltz around like some ridiculous lovey-dovey princess, and now I’ve had enough. Who is it? Who has captured your frozen Russian heart? And why do they drive such a scuzzy station wagon?”
Chekov’s blush deepened. “That wagon is not scuzzy, it has character. And…he’s a doctor. He’s in my chemistry class, and we’re just good friends.”
“A doctor? What are you doing, screwing around with older men?”
“We’re study partners, thank you. I help him with chemistry and he offers me real-world advice.”
Sulu grinned smugly. “Real-world advice, eh? Any good?”
“Shut up!” Chekov was red to the tip of his ears.
“Okay, okay, I’m just playing. Seriously, though, Pasha, I haven’t seen you this happy since theoretical engineering. It’s cute. I hope it works out between you two.”
Bones sometimes regretted agreeing to work graveyard shift while he was in school. There wasn’t an abundance of surgical work available on the night shift that equaled his talents, but he was mostly happy checking up on sleeping patients and handling any serious situations in the ER or emergency surgeries.
Unfortunately, the lull gave him plenty of time to worry about where he wanted to go with Chekov and how that would affect their hastily bloomed friendship.
Bones worried all night and all the way back to his home where he was tackled suddenly in his front yard. He jumped to his feet, fully prepared to defend himself or run before he realized who the offender was.
“Jim, you’re back!” Bones pulled Jim into a quick hug and got a good look at his old friend.
“You’re skinnier, and douchier. Looks like the air force did its job.” Bones smacked him on the back and dodged a hard shove before unlocking his door.
He poured the stale coffee from the night before out and had to settle for two cups of orange juice for them.
“Uhura tells me that you’ve been robbing the cradle at the university.” Jim’s smile was the most shit-eating grin that Bones had ever seen.
“We’re study partners and that’s it.”
“And that’s all you want it to be?” he questioned.
“I don’t know yet,” he admitted. Bones had never been a good liar, and Jim was exceptionally good at telling the difference between Bones’ lies and the truth so most of the time he didn’t bother.
Jim’s face became more animated with every second.
“Go for it, Bones. You need to get back in the saddle, but you might have to help your boyfriend into the saddle, or maybe get a pony. I’ve heard he’s a little guy.” Bones rolled his eyes and spilled his guts about Chekov.
“When is he going to ask you out?” Sulu asked before class one day, on a rare occasion where the roommates saw each other before midnight.
Chekov’s entire body shook with the force of his head shake. “I don’t know!” he wailed. “Does he even like me? I’m probably too young for him. He probably thinks of me like a son.” He pulled a face. “I’m so disgusted, Hikaru. I can’t go on.”
“Shut your face. Of course he likes you. You’ve gone to dinner with him three times in the last week alone, and your study sessions are obviously less and less about chemistry. You haven’t mentioned the actual class in over a month. How are your grades? How is—“
Chekov glowered. “My grades are better than yours. You’re not my dad!”
“Oh, I know. I leave that to the good doctor.”
The glare intensified. “Hikaru, what do I do?” The young Russian looked genuinely upset.
“It will work out, I know it. If you care this much about him, and you spend this much time with him, something is bound to happen. Kiss him or something. Oh, no, no! I’ve got it. Get some dreadful injury that requires surgery and make sure he’s your doctor! Foolproof.”
Chekov’s glower had softened, and he stuck his tongue out at Sulu. “I hate you. And if I die for love, at least you’ll know the whole story.”
“Thank you for inviting me to your home. It’s very nice.”
“You don’t have to say that every time you come over, Chek, but it’s my pleasure. The lunar eclipse seemed like as good a time as any to bring my porch swing out of the garage. Winter was too cold to even think about it.”
They both sat on the porch swing and soaked in the sounds of crickets and the breeze occasionally mustering up the strength to move the tinkling wind chimes. Bones had planned all day to ask Chekov out officially, but was beginning to lose courage as the moment grew closer.
“I’m glad-” Bones began to speak, but stopped short.
“What are you glad about?” Chekov was turned toward the darkness that engulfed everything beyond the soft glow of Bones’s porch light. He’s beautiful.
“I’m glad you’re here.” Bones finished and put his hand on the back of the Chekov’s neck, gently turning the young man’s face in his direction and leaning in to kiss him. Chekov leaned into the kiss and Bones could feel him smile just before they broke it off.
Chekov could feel himself glowing. “That was so much easier than faking a dangerous injury just to get your attention. And I’m glad I’m here too. Probably the most glad I’ve ever been. I’m gladder than I was when—“
“Chek. Shut up.”
Chekov cocked his head, surprised. McCoy never told him to be quiet. And then he found his lips against the doctor’s again, and he understood. He leaned into the kiss, feeling his heart beat a little quicker.
They both started as the screen door opened. An attractive blond man stuck his head out and drew back in surprise, murmuring apologies.
McCoy pulled away. “Dammit, Jim,” he muttered. “That’s my roommate, Jim. Who will probably be going out to hang out with Uhura, now,” he said, a little louder.
Jim, from inside, said loudly, “You know, Bones, I think I’m going to hit the town with Uhura tonight. See you…tomorrow then.”
Chekov grinned widely. “Mind if I crash here? I don’t want to go all the way back to campus, not when there’s this lovely house and perfect porch swing.”