Sulu probably never would have spoken to Chekov if their stations hadn't been right next to one another. It wasn't that he didn't like Chekov, far from it, but the fact of the matter was that he was a seventeen-year-old, excitable Russian genius. And Sulu was an even-tempered San Francisco native who liked flying really fast, and reading adventure novels, and didn't have much of a head for complex mathematical equations. Well, not beyond what he needed to know about spatial trajectories, anyway.
But the fact of the matter was that their stations were right next to one another. Serving on a long-range exploration ship was a lot of extended periods of quiet spaceflight, usually punctuated with brief moments of intense terror and exhilaration.
The boring bits were generally the hardest to deal with, in all honesty. Sulu'd had training to deal with panic situations and firefights and having the adrenaline pumping so hard he might rocket out of his seat. But when you were sitting on the bridge in the middle of the 'evening', monitoring ship's systems that were working perfectly and keeping one eye on course as warp space zoomed across the viewscreen, the inactivity got a little itchy. And the only other person within reasonable talking-distance was the eager whiz-kid at tactical.
So, one such evening, he'd just leaned over and struck up a conversation.
"Hey, Chekoff," he'd said quietly. Not that anyone would call them out on it – the captain was over at the science station, trying to get his first officer to do something other than look stern and emotionless, and most of the other bridge crew were chatting a little bit here or there. It wasn't as if there was much else to do just then.
Nervous, round eyes flitted in his direction. "It is Chekov," the ensign corrected.
"Right. Sorry," Sulu replied. There was a pause, as he tried to think of something to say. His inspiration in starting this conversation hadn't stretched much beyond 'I'm bored' and then 'I know, I'll talk to this guy'. "So, what do you do in your free time?" Generally a good place to look for common ground.
"Free time?" Chekov asked. He was a jittery sort of person. Not really in a nervous way, but more like he had energy and didn't know quite what to do with it, so it just sort of fluttered around him.
"Yes. Free time," Sulu replied, a little amused at the idea that the concept would elude anyone. "Do you have any hobbies?" At Chekov's hesitation, he volunteered: "I read a lot, and I fence. I'm also interested in botany." He decided to leave out the gymnastics, ancient weapons studies, and his obsession with old swashbuckling films. It was usually a good idea to ease new people into the complex labyrinth of his leisure activities.
The seventeen-year-old seemed to pause for a moment, and then shrugged. "I like physics," he offered tentatively.
Sulu couldn't resist chuckling a little. "I'm pretty sure that counts as part of your job," he pointed out, not unkindly.
Chekov looked embarrassed, nevertheless. "I enjoy my job," he said, almost defensively. "I am good at it. I do not believe I need many other activities for my time."
Backing off, Sulu raised one of his hands a little, wondering how he'd struck a nerve. "Alright, fair enough," he agreed. "Your job's your hobby. You must be reeeally happy right now, then." Hey, at least he was talking to someone, which more or less beat sitting in utter silence and watching repetitive readouts.
"…No," Chekov admitted after a moment. "There is not much to be done, and I cannot leave my post."
"Same here," Sulu agreed.
They might have been talking, but the conversation was going a whole lot of nowhere very fast. He was on the verge of concluding that he had not, in fact, found the solution to his drawn-out period of boredom when Chekov glanced at him, just a bit uncertainly, and then spoke up again.
"What kind of books?" he asked.
Sulu glanced back. Then he thought about his answer. "Fiction and history, mostly," he confessed. "I'm especially fond of Dumas, Cervantes, Jules Verne…" his list trailed off at the blank look on Chekov's face. "You know. The Three Musketeers? Twenty-Thousand Leagues…? Classics?"
Chekov frowned a little. "They cannot be too classical," he said. "I have not heard of any of them."
At first his only response to this was mild incredulity. But then he forced himself to remember that even on the same planet, there was a lot of different culture, and he couldn't say he'd read much Russian literature. So he shrugged and chuckled a little bit again. "Maybe I could loan you something," he suggested. Who knew? It could take, and then they'd have something to talk about.
"…Thank you," Chekov replied, a little uncertainly. "But I do not have much interest in fiction."
Sulu drummed his fingers lightly against the console. He glanced around, feeling that sort of awkwardness that comes in trying to have a conversation from two different places, and then noticed that the captain and commanding officer were leaning. As if to form a conversational huddle – which was essentially what they were doing, speaking in low tones and looking, for all the world, utterly oblivious to the rest of the bridge.
Chekov followed the line of his vision.
"What do you think they are talking about?" the ensign asked him quietly.
Sulu shrugged. He didn't have much of an understanding of Commander Spock, but he definitely admired the captain. The man was like a character straight out of one of his books. "The mission?" he suggested in the same lowered tones.
After a minute, Chekov shook his head, and then quietly smiled a somewhat mischievous smile. "I do not think so," he said. "What is there to talk about? Nothing new has happened since we received our orders. Lieutenant Uhura would have intercepted it." Carefully, he moved a little closer in his seat, slanting his body so that he bridged the gap between them better. It looked like a very uncomfortable position to Sulu, but if the ensign was bothered by it, he gave no indication. "I think the Keptan has an interest in Commander Spock."
Sulu blinked, and his hand slipped. He was immediately glad that he'd remembered to lock the controls when they went into warp. "In him?" he asked, turning a little to look back at them. Well, sure, they looked kind of… close… but they were just talking. Like himself and Chekov. "I don't think so," he argued. "The captain's been going after Uhura. He told me so."
Chekov shrugged, but it was in an 'I know what I know' kind of way. "He has not paid any attention to the lieutenant since we left spaceport," the ensign pointed out. "But he is always going over to talk to Commander Spock."
"Of course he is," Sulu replied, shaking his head a little. "He's second in command."
"That is true," Chekov agreed, but there wasn't the slightest hint that he was actually conceding a point. "I suppose it could only be command issues. But then why do they stand so close together?"
Sulu gave him a patient look. "Why are you leaning so close to me?" he pointed out. "They probably just don't want their conversation overheard."
"Ah!" Chekov exclaimed, and to his utter surprise, tapped the side of his nose. Sulu blinked. That was a gesture he'd only ever seen his grandmother make, so it was decidedly surreal to watch a teenage boy do it. "But what could they be talking about that they do not want anyone else to hear? I am thinking it is the beginnings of a torrid love affair."
He couldn't help but gape a little. Boy, he had not expected that sort of thing to come out of the wonder-kid's mouth.
On the other hand, he thought he'd found Chekov's hobby now. Wild speculation.
"No way," he insisted. "They could be talking about anything."
"Anything," Chekov agreed, waggling his eyebrows. Sulu was so taken aback that he had to fight off genuine laughter. It would have been too loud for the bridge, and he didn't want everyone looking over.
"I don't think Commander Spock would have that kind of conversation." Ordinarily he'd defend the captain, too, but… well… he'd actually spoken to Kirk a few times now. An argument wasn't really valid when it was a blatant lie.
"It is always the quiet ones," Chekov insisted.
No kidding, Sulu thought. But he would admit, this was a lot more interesting than just sitting there. So he played the 'anti' side of their gossipy debate for a while, as Chekov listed off past speculative incidents, and he quietly refuted them. Eventually the conversation drifted onto other colourful topics, such as the new Yeoman's obvious appreciation for the captain, and whether or not the head of the maintenance staff had a thing for the chief medical officer. The rumours branched out further, spreading into speculation that Starfleet had assigned a spy aboard the ship to keep an eye on the captain, and then Chekov seemed to decide that it would be terribly dramatic if the spy turned out to be Commander Spock.
"Think about it," he insisted. "The commander came back even though he was embarrassed by the keptan. Maybe Starfleet made him come back, and now the keptan has fallen in love with him. It will be wery sad when he is betrayed."
Sulu just rolled his eyes, but found himself amused nonetheless. It was a little surprising that Chekov was disinclined towards fiction – he seemed to write his own pretty well. "Now you're just getting ridiculous," he said.
Chekov snickered. "I will bet you," he offered.
Intrigued, Sulu glanced at the captain and commander again – still all huddled – and then back to his station neighbor. "Oh? What?" he asked.
The ensign seemed to consider this for a moment, moving away a little and tapping his chin lightly in an exaggerated gesture of thought. "Recreational room privileges?" he suggested. A slow smile of anticipation spread across Sulu's face – he loved rec room privileges, they gave him more of an opportunity to work on his hobbies.
"You're on," he agreed, and then they set the parameters of their wager. If Commander Spock had not either been revealed as a spy or as Kirk's lover by the end of the month, Sulu won. Otherwise, it was Chekov.
So began a beautiful friendship.
The end of the month came, and Sulu happily claimed his privileges from a grumbling Chekov, who was mollified only by the fact that they were taking shore leave on Earth soon, and so the helmsman wouldn't even be able to use his questionably gotten gains until they returned.
"They are just taking a long time," Chekov insisted, packing the bag for his trip. Sulu had thrown together his own travel pack an hour ago, and with time to kill, had tracked down the young Russian. Currently he was half-sprawled in one of the room's chairs, a digital copy of Robin Hood in one hand as he listened with one ear to his friend's protests. For a military super genius, Chekov was pretty messy, and it was taking him a while to track down all of his stuff.
"I'm telling you, they just aren't like that," Sulu replied evenly, his eyes turning over the familiar text of one of his favourite tales.
"And I am telling you that I have eyes in my head, and I know how to use them," Chekov rebutted, and then dropped to the floor to peer under his bed. "Are you seeing my civilian shoes anywhere?" he asked.
Sulu didn't look up from his reading. "No."
There was a heavy sigh. "You are the worst of friends."
That was a common pattern between the two of them, to lament what lousy friends they made. After all, they had about zero similar interests, dramatically different world-views, and didn't run in any of the same social circles outside of the bridge.
Sulu just grinned, and after his paragraph had finished, looked up and swept a cursory glance around the small ensign's quarters. Then he blinked.
"How did you get them up there?" he asked, pointing at the rim of a life-support vent, where a pair of dark footwear rested in blatant disregard for the natural order of things. Shoes, generally, belonged close to the ground, not high above their owner's head.
Chekov followed the direction of his finger, and then made a happy exclamation in Russian. "I forgot I put them on that!"
"That was intentional?" Sulu asked. "I thought they did it themselves to escape the mess." Not that he was by any means a neat-freak for his own part, but Chekov brought disorganization to new heights.
His comment just earned him an amused snicker. "At least I do not have moss growing in my quarters."
"That would probably be a more valid point if the 'moss' wasn't actually Rigellian spore-flowers," he replied without missing a beat.
"It is moss. And it stinks," Chekov insisted. "That is why you are always coming in here. You would like me to think it is because you are seeking my company, but no, it is your stinky moss driving you away."
"You're the only person I've met who doesn't like the smell," Sulu countered, scrolling down to the next section full of valiant thievery.
"That is because I am the only person you know with good taste," he got back, as his friend dropped his shoes unceremoniously next to his bag and then began rummaging around for something else. In response, Sulu paused in his reading again, and then cast a meaningful look at the full array of possessions and clothing scattered around the room. If Chekov's personal effects had a colour then it was brown. And not a very flattering brown, either.
"If you say so," he concluded with amusement, shaking his head. He was looking forward to this shore leave. It would be his first chance to actually visit with his family since they'd set out, and even though he found their assignment incredibly exciting, he did miss home now and again. "Don't forget to send me pictures of Russia," he reminded.
Chekov shot him a glance. "I do not know why you want them," he replied. "It is not so hard to find such images without my taking them."
Sulu just shrugged. In truth, he couldn't really think of a better reason to keep up contact with his young friend, and he was a little worried that if they didn't, they'd run out of the steady streams of conversation they'd been able to carry since he'd first leaned over to him from the helm a month ago. It would be awkward to start over again.
After a moment, Chekov shook his head at him. "I will not forget."
It really was good to see his family again, and be back in the familiar surroundings of San Francisco. But after a while Sulu found he missed the business of Starfleet duties, too, and so a couple of days into his vacation he took to heading to the academy and headquarters, working on a few botany projects and borrowing use of the pilot simulators, and visiting some old friends from the fencing club. It was a while before he got his first message from Chekov, but when he did, it had the promised pictures, and several lines of gossip about some girl Sulu thought might be a variety of cousin. He sometimes had troubles keeping track of the litany of names which flew out of his friend's mouth – it seemed like he had half the crew and all of his hometown memorized.
At first the only thing he had to reply with was a vague kind of 'oh?', because he really didn't know much about Chekov's extended family and couldn't think of anything else to say. But then pay-dirt struck when, as he found himself poking around several plants in the botany lab and chatting with one of the technicians, he looked out of the window in time to see Commander Spock walk by.
Of course, he supposed it would make sense for the commander to spend his shore leave in San Francisco, all things considered. But he hadn't noticed him before (still, it was a big academy) and couldn't help but say 'oh, Commander Spock', even though the half-Vulcan wouldn't have heard him. The technician he was with followed his gaze, and then blinked.
"He actually came?" she said, sounding surprised. At Sulu's questioning glance, she then explained that the research department had been requesting his attention for several ongoing projects involving the new Vulcan colony, but that Spock hadn't really replied.
Which raised the interesting question of where he'd been for the first half of his vacation. But then Sulu remembered – human mother. So he just assumed that his commanding officer had been visiting relatives.
The rumour mill was still persistent without the presence of Chekov's imagination, however, and soon enough a few more interesting facts reached his ears. Like apparently Commander Spock hadn't shown up alone – he'd brought Captain Kirk along with him. Which was a little interesting, to say the least. The gossipers ran wild with this, and Sulu found he had plenty of rampant speculation to keep Chekov appraised of, writing him every evening to make certain his friend stayed in the loop. Some people thought that they were working on some kind of secret project together. Others, that there'd been a problem with the ship's repairs, and the command team was in a scramble. Romantic speculation abounded, too, and Sulu heard of everything from accidental telepathic bonds to some kind of tentative love that was being forged over the course of vacationing together.
Not that he believed any of it. He was going with his own theory, which was that the captain had decided to resolve some of his lingering differences with his first officer by getting to know him.
Chekov was voting for the accidental telepathic bond.
Things only heated up rumour-wise as their leave time came to a close, too, and Sulu found himself hearing stories of crazy ex-girlfriends and Spock proposing in one of the academy courtyards. Soon word was getting around that the captain and his first officer had eloped – which was frankly ridiculous. Even if Captain Kirk was inclined towards his first officer, Sulu somehow doubted he was the marrying type. And, if it wasn't for Uhura, he'd be pretty sure that Spock was asexual.
Nevertheless, in the evening he relayed the information to Russia, and awaited the giddy response of his shipmate. Who, of course, was all over the 'elopement' idea like fudge on a sundae. Soon enough it was the only reasonable explanation of events, and Sulu was a madman for thinking otherwise. On the whole it was just good fun, although he drew the line at Chekov's suggestion that Vulcans went into some kind of crazy mating season and that the captain had volunteered himself to be his first officer's love-slave for the initial portion of their trip.
He was looking forward to seeing his friend again so he could properly convey how insane he was in person.
Sulu was doing his absolute level best to pretend that three things had not happened.
The first was that Chekov had not leaned over and smacked his arm to get his attention.
The second was that the smack had not resounded through the bridge, due to an unfortunate combination of air pockets and ill-timed silence in their surroundings.
The third was that everyone was not now looking at both of them with varying expressions of 'busted' showing on their faces.
He kept his eyes fixed to his console as he heard the slow steps of the captain's footfalls, listening as Kirk moved towards Chekov's station. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his friend give a little jump as a shadow fell over his shoulder.
"Something you want to share with the class, Mr. Chekov?" the captain asked.
"N-no, Keptan, I only needed… to… I fell over?"
Sulu resisted the urge to hang his head. Most of the time Chekov was quite capable of forming witty retorts and rebuttals. Well, when it was just the two of them talking, anyway.
"Wobbly seat?" he heard the captain suggest leadingly.
Don't say it, don't say it, don't say it…
"Oh, yes, sir, wery wobbly."
Chekov had a lot of skills. Guile wasn't one of them. He listened as the ensign's chair was given a purposeful shake, and of course, stayed as stable as ever.
"A word of advice, Mr. Chekov," the captain said, his voice taking on something of a stage-whisper. "Never take the answer somebody else suggests. It's usually a trick."
Of course, after that, Sulu had to try and hold back a few chuckles. He liked Captain Kirk, and he liked that his idea of bridge discipline involved fewer tense dressing-downs and more friendly teasing. Which, he was sure, would be a lot easier on Chekov in the long run. Probably a lot easier on himself, too, although he wasn't the one leaning over to gossip every time the captain so much as breathed in his first officer's general direction.
When their shift was up he noticed that Chekov still seemed pretty embarrassed about the whole thing.
"What were you even trying to get my attention for?" he asked, figuring that would distract him.
It worked. "OH! The Keptan, you should have seen it, he smiled at Mr. Spock and it was definitely not innocent."
"Uh-huh," Sulu replied skeptically. "Is this like when you said they were 'rubbing fingers' earlier?"
"Yes! And I did not make that up. Why would I make up something so bizarre?" Chekov insisted. Privately, Sulu thought that the vast majority of what Chekov made up was bizarre. The captain and his first officer touching their fingers together was, say, considerably less weird than the idea that anyone who wore ops red on an away mission had a seventy-percent chance of dying. Besides which, the last time Sulu had checked touching someone else's fingertips didn't constitute an erotic act.
"You're way off with this whole thing," he maintained. And then Chekov got that glint in his eye, and folded his arms.
"I will wager against you on it again," the ensign offered.
Sulu smiled. "Why not?" he said. "I could use some more rec room privileges. What did you have in mind?"
"Think you can handle it?" Captain Kirk asked him.
Sulu swallowed, and felt his resolution harden. His captain had chosen him for a special mission, and he knew why. Kirk had seen him fight before. He was trusting him to be able to be his back-up, and that wasn't a responsibility he was going to turn down or take lightly.
"You've got it, Captain," he assured him.
It earned him a solid clap on the back. "Thanks, Sulu," Kirk said, looking just slightly relieved.
They made their way to one of the cargo holds, then, and Sulu found himself drifting a little behind the captain and first officer. Not by a large margin, but he noticed that as soon as the space between them was open, they moved a little closer to one another, and walked side by side. When his mind started reading interesting things into that, he concluded that he was spending far too much time with Chekov. His imagination had been utterly corrupted.
He hadn't really seen much of the Irri before they went into the temporary housing space for them. They were decidedly… odd. Not in a bad way, but still, in a way. There was something a little eerie about them, how they stood so still and blinked and moved a little slowly.
"Captain Kirk!" one of the big ones greeted, and Sulu spotted Dr. McCoy.
"About time, Jim," the doctor said. Then he glanced towards Sulu and moved to stand beside him. "Lieutenant," he was acknowledged quietly.
"Hi, Doctor," he said back. A little ways away from them the commander was regarding the Irri with his usual unreadable gaze. Or at least, that was what he thought he was doing. But he did a double-take when he noticed that the first officer wasn't wearing his 'all-occasions' look of neutral indifference. Instead he was actually glaring at the big Irri which Captain Kirk was walking up to now. For a second Sulu thought he was glaring at Kirk, instead, and wondered if they'd all just imagined this newly perceived camaraderie between the two men, but no, he looked carefully and realized it really was the Irri getting that dark look.
That particular alien must have done something pretty bad to make their unflappable first officer so unhappy with him.
Sulu's mind couldn't help but recall the rumour Chekov had told him this morning, that the Irri leader in sickbay had made a pass at the captain…
Yes. He was definitely spending too much time with Chekov.
"Roon!" he heard the captain say cheerfully, and then to his surprise, the man walked right up to the very tall alien and… hugged him. The situation became increasingly surreal as he watched his commanding officer then make a clear and rather creepily-worded pass at the big alien. Sulu was confused – he'd thought the plan was going to be to provoke the Irri.
The Irri who was standing there, getting hugged, and looking at Spock with an expression which clearly said 'please don't kill me'. Before he then promptly shot the captain down. In flames.
Sulu was beginning to feel like he'd accidentally walked into a trashy romance story on the way to his adventure tale.
But then he squared his shoulders – the Irri had odd customs, so he couldn't exactly say he understood what was going on, but he knew what part he'd have to play in it now. The captain looked a little annoyed with the state of affairs as the commander walked up to him and promptly grabbed hold of his shoulders, turning them so they were facing one another. Sulu glanced over at Dr. McCoy when he sidled a little closer and slipped him a hypospray.
"Careful," the doctor advised in a low whisper.
"Captain," he heard Spock say. "I am betraying you out of an impulse of rage inspired by your attempts to submit to Chlaloon'ch'Pahalgren-roon's dominance." Then he reached over and grabbed Kirk's face. "I am now using the Vulcan Death Grip."
Sulu looked around a little uncomfortably, at first. That was the driest declaration of treachery he'd ever heard. But then he reminded himself that he was supposed to play the outraged friend, and knocked himself into gear, starting forward as if to stop Spock as he 'killed' Kirk.
"No!" he shouted, and on the spur of the moment decided he would try and channel Errol Flynn. With the hypospray in his sleeve, he planted his legs apart, clenched one hand into a fist, and leveled an angry, accusatory finger at Commander Spock. He wished he had his sword. The captain had slumped to the ground. "How dare you betray him! I'll have your head for this, you vile Vulcan!" he declared.
"Your strength will be insufficient for such a task," Spock informed him.
"Engarde!" Despite the lack of actual swords, Sulu didn't really know a better comment to initiate combat with. He rushed the commander and, as per instructions, started hammering on him a little. Spock made a few deliberate grabs towards his shoulder, which he dutifully avoided, and then after a minute, the first officer awkwardly keeled over. Which was a good thing, because Sulu's fists were starting to hurt.
He leaned down, wrapping one hand around Spock's neck as if to throttle him, and then as subtly as he could injected him with the hypospray.
It was bad luck that the 'whoosh' of injection happened to time itself right when Spock wasn't attempting to pretend to gasp for air. The first officer went limp anyways, of course, but when Sulu looked up, he knew he'd been caught out. He thought he heard Dr. McCoy swear somewhere off to his left as a strong hand closed around his wrist. He tried to drop the hypospray, but it made a clatter when it hit the deck anyway.
"You have cheated! You used weapons! Poison!" the big Irri accused, and Sulu briefly considered that this certainly qualified as a bizarre way to die. "I challenge you!"
He let out an internal breath of relief as he realized that this meant he wasn't about to face immediate execution. There were quite a few security personnel around, but there were a lot more Irri. "I accept your challenge," he agreed, and then braced himself as he was thrown to the floor. The captain hadn't been kidding when he'd said these people were tough. The wind was completely knocked out of him, and he got up to his feet as quickly as he could – only be sent promptly back down again by a blow against the back of his shoulders.
"You would show wisdom to stay down," the big Irri advised him. "I will have mercy. Captain Kirk was good." His voice took on a sorrowful note at this.
Given that Sulu was supposed to throw this fight anyway, he decided that this seemed like a more or less good idea. He kept low to the deck, and watched as the doctor moved over to his fallen commanding officers and solemnly pronounced their convincingly still forms dead.
Then it was a huge flurry of activity. The Irri began blinking at the big one who'd 'beaten' him in their fight. Several security officers moved to grab up the first officer and the captain. Sulu took his opening, sprung up to his feet, and followed them to the cargo hold exit as he heard the Irri begin to give instructions on letting his people have free reign of the ship so they could turn around to go back for the Klingon vessels they'd left behind.
Of course, his orders were utterly ignored by the Starfleet officers, who beat a hasty retreat from the cargo hold and then locked the Irri inside.
Sulu leaned against the corridor, adrenaline pumping despite the fact that he hadn't actually moved around all that much. Kirk and Spock were being held by two security officers each, propped up with their heads lolling in unconsciousness, and the rest of the red-dressed team were glancing at the hold's doors, as if preparing in the event that they should somehow defy their locks and open of their own accord.
Dr. McCoy swiftly produced his medical bag and injected something into Spock's neck. Then he started scanning the captain.
"We'll need to wake him up in sickbay," the gruff southern man noted. Slowly, Spock's head twitched, and he started to come-to.
Immediately the first officer looked over at the captain, and seemed to be assessing him. Sulu watched in silence as Spock then reached over and, very gently, pressed one finger to Kirk's temple. A moment passed. After it had, the touch was retracted, and Spock seemed satisfied.
He told himself that it was probably just the first officer using his touch-telepathy to make sure the captain was alright. His duty as a member of the crew, really. That he was just reading too much into it because he'd spent the last month or so listening to Chekov talk about hidden love affairs and elopements and all kinds of things, and he really needed to get his friend another hobby so that this stuff stopped melting his brain.
"He's alright, Spock," Dr. McCoy assured the half-Vulcan, in tones which were a lot nicer than the ones he normally used when addressing him. A tight, small nod was his only reply, and Sulu realized that the first officer was still a little woozy.
"…I'd better get back to my post," Sulu said, and then he regretted drawing attention to himself, because the doctor insisted on bringing him along to sickbay to give him a check-over before he could.
So he found himself sitting on one of the medical beds, the blinking light of a tricorder tracing a path along his somewhat bruised torso, and watching the first officer hover over the captain a few feet away. It was, he decided, still his over-active imagination putting in things that weren't really there. The captain and Spock were like – like ice cubes and elephants. They didn't even belong in the same category with one another.
He almost missed it when the first officer's hand lowered to the side of Kirk's bed. The angle wasn't easy to see it by. A moment later, it was if it had never happened, and Spock made Dr. McCoy clear him for duty and headed back up to the bridge while Sulu was still getting scanned.
He couldn't help but glance towards the doctor. The man was good friends with the captain, and his curiosity was starting to eat him alive now. "Are they…?"
"Don't. Ask," McCoy advised.
Which, really, was an answer in and of itself.
A few minutes later Sulu made his way back to his post, a small strip of rec room credits tucked into the palm of one hand. As he took his seat he promptly handed them over towards Chekov, who looked at him uncomprehendingly before his eyes widened in realization.
"You win," Sulu confirmed.
There was a long pause.
"So… Mr. Spock has almost accidentally killed the keptan in a fit of jealous rage after the keptan attempted to two-time him with a beautiful alien, and only Dr. McCoy's swift interwention has saved both of them because they are possessing a psychic bond and are needing each other to be breathing now?" Chekov asked, blinking.
"…Close enough," Sulu replied blandly, never one to get hung up on technicalities when it came to the spirit of a thing.
Still. He couldn't believe he'd lost that one.