"Just a Hunch"

Genre: Humor, Character Study
Rating: PG
Time Frame: Post ST-XI
Characters: Hikaru Sulu, James T. Kirk, ensemble cast

Summary: He had a feeling that other pilots in the fleet didn't have to go through anything remotely like this . . .

Notes: A Sulu fic for a pilot-obsessée who shall go unnamed . . . Tory. You sparked this with all of your squees every time John Cho even breathed anywhere near the camera. . . . Thanks for being such a fangirl – it's not so much fun going into squee fits alone. lol!

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words . . .


.

"Just a Hunch"
by Mira-Jade

.

Hikaru Sulu had had the dubious honor of being the pilot of the Enterprise for three months, one week and almost three days. In that time he had been shot at (without the confines of the ship), stabbed with his own katana (a mere glancing wound - but still, there were principles at stake here.), kidnapped by an alien race wearing fedoras (Kirk. Scotty. And a bet. No more needed to be said.), out-haggled by a Jarvarian trader (while hardly two feet tall, she could drive a bargain like nobody's business), and insulted in a language that even had Uhura blinking (or three . . . if he was keeping track. Which he wasn't).

While knowing that he would be exposed to certain situations – it was part of the reason that he had joined Starfleet, after all – he didn't quite have this in mind when he enlisted. Of course, the small fact that he was serving under one James T. Kirk may have added to the number of . . . interesting situations that he was undergoing.

After all, he had a hunch that other pilots in the fleet were not subjected to this. Other pilots may actually – here was a thought – stay on board and pilot the ship.

. . . it was just a hunch, anyway.

And while intense action had done its part to bring the majority of the crew together in a way that years of service may have failed to do, there were still bumps to workout. Personalities to discover. Quirks to learn and adjust to . . . and there were always a multitude of quirks to accustom ones self to do when serving under a Captain like Kirk.

In the end, even after growing used to Kirk's particular eccentricities, he was certain that he'd give his position up for no other ship in the fleet. He wasn't quite sure if that disturbed him more than the actual posting itself . . .

. . . maybe, in the end, he was the khast-hana that the Jarvarian vendor had compared him to, after all.

.

.

Before serving on the Enterprise, the majority of his knowledge of Kirk had been from rumors passed around the whole of the cadet population - the female portion of the population, to be exact. For the most part, he had thought the rumors to be exaggerated, like so many were. While the Captain was a bit of a flirt from his own observations, he hadn't yet done anything to warrant the Casanova legends that had circulated the campus.

And that was all before Kandriss Prime.

The planet was a well known vacation spot, one that catered to the members of Starfleet due to the repair outpost that orbited one of the far moons of the planet. When the Enterprise pulled in for routine maintenance, it was without a question that the officers signed up for shoreleaves in groups of twelve to twenty.

The Captain could be seen haggling the good Doctor a good two days in advance – following him around with his hands behind his back, and his eyes glinting mischievously. His reasoning ranged everywhere from: "C'mon, Bones, it'll be just like old times!" to "You know, you can't refuse a direct order from a commanding officer . . ." McCoy's numerous, "Dammit Jim! I'm a doctor, not a wingman!" did nothing to detour the younger man's persistence - As was the usual between the two. Theirs was a routine that was nothing if not well honed over the years.

It made for an amusing scene on the bridge, to be sure. For him, he rarely indulged in such planets besides the round of drinks with Scotty and Chekov. Past that, he was more opt to spend his free time in the simulators, or catching up with Mizuki through long-range transmissions.

When McCoy came down with the Yikiean shingles the next day (furthering his paranoia of alien diseases and space born viruses), Kirk was convinced that his CMO had purposely dosed himself to avoid an evening spent on Kandriss. (Conveniently forgetting that they had just returned from aiding the Yikiean system.)

The Captain was in search of a new wingman.

He had a whole of two minutes to be worried as he ran the possible candidates through his mind. Scotty had already stated that he had his hands full with the warp repairs that they were docked for . . . Spock was no good. Past the obvious reasons, the Commander and the Communication's Lieutenant made it a custom of hitting the arts in every planet they came across . . . Pavel was too young for the 'establishments' that Kirk was likely to hit. Which meant . . .

. . . oh, Kisma.

"So . . . Sulu," the Captain's voice was too casual. Too calculated.

He was immediately on guard.

. . . to no use.

Three hours later had him planetside on Kandriss in an establishment with too many lights, and too many bodies swaying to music that was too pounding to be tasteful and too loud for one to be able to really notice.

Kirk was in his element as he made eyes with an unfortunately pretty Camarin waitress. Next to him at the bar, Sulu swirled his liquid in his still full glass as he contemplated whether or not his ears would be working the next day.

"So. Who can I hook you up with, Mr. Sulu? That girl straight across from the bartender looks pretty. She's smiling at you, too. Unless, you're looking for something not so human . . ."

Sulu blinked up at the girl in question. Huh, she was smiling at him . . . he never would have noticed. He then shook his head as the Captain's second remark sunk in. "I'm in a relationship, Captain. 'Hooking me up' will not be necessary." His voice was only a tad bit relieved.

Kirk was fully interested. "Good for you!" he exclaimed, patting his helmsman on the back. "Who's the luck lady? Lemme guess - Engineering? Communications? Nurse, maybe?" He smiled a little wistfully at that, and Sulu recalled the looks that had been passing between him and Nurse Chapel with a smirk.

"Mizuki is not on this ship, sir," he said, a flicker of feeling entering his voice at the confession.

Kirk looked sympathetic. "That's unfortunate," he said.

"We handle it as best as we can, Captain."

Kirk scowled. "'Sir', 'Captain'," he mocked. "C'mon, even Spock calls me 'Jim' off duty. I'm sure you can too."

Sulu smiled. "Jim," he acquiesced.

Jim nodded, pleased. "So, how's the long distance working out for you? There's still five years in the mission to go, too." He clucked his tongue in an impressed manner. "That's a long time."

"She is stationed to a further outpost, it would have been long distance no matter how things worked out. It's just for five years . . . after that, we both intend to take posts closer to earth."

"Settle down," Kirk muttered, the dislike for the notion clearly on his tongue. He washed it away with another shot of whatever the bartender was keeping him well stocked on.

"A true horror," Sulu drawled, and Kirk laughed openly at that.

As his laughter died away, Jim took another look at the waitress from earlier, and his smile widened. Somewhere deep down, Sulu reflected that this would be what most would call 'bonding'.

The evening turned out to pass somewhat pleasurably, and then there was a commotion at the door. Kirk had stopped from where he was in full flirting mode with the waitress, and scowled when he noticed a handful of Camarin's at the door.

Kirk was on his feet the next moment. "Excuse me, miss," he said to the waitress. "It is a true pity to leave your lovely presence, but that is unfortunately our cue."

Sulu frowned as Kirk started pushing him towards the door. "Captain?" he raised a brow at the other man's pushy manners.

Kirk scowled as he looked over his shoulder. "You really didn't get out of the simulators much at the Academy, did you?"

Another brow was raised. "I am really not sure what you are getting at."

"You're just as bad as Spock," Kirk muttered before nodding his head sharply to the ruckus at the door. A few of the group were glaring rather angrily at Kirk, and one particularly brawny male was extracting a explanation from the hurriedly speaking waitress back at their vacated spot at the bar.

Ah.

Apparently, the Camarin girl was . . . spoken for, romantically speaking.

"There's an exit over to the left," he spoke up helpfully.

"Hence the shoving."

In the end, he was completely sure how they ended up hiding in a garbage container for close to one standard hour. He was even less sure of what it was that was staining his boots, and even less sure how they had talked their way out of violence with the rather rowdy group of Camarins that they had angered.

Let it never be said that Kirk wasn't excellent at cleaning up after the messes he made.

Still, his boots were past the point of no return. The Captain owed him for that, at least.

.

.

Before serving on the Enterprise, he had learned fencing in accordance with a family tradition.

His uncle was skilled with the katana, and his early memories were watching him fence with his father in their family's dojo. The katas were smooth and eloquent, looking as if they belonged to dance rather than destruction. The clank of the metal was soothing, as beautiful in his ears as the purr of his family's hover-craft.

As soon as he was old enough, he was given a katana of his own, and was taught the ancient steps. The rituals that came with it – the meditation, and the spirit of mind as well of that as body was truly soothing, countering the constant humming that had ran under his veins at that age. The art had calmed his restless spirit, and had turned eyes always looking towards the stars to the ground that was solid and promising beneath him now.

He had never seen his art – his pastime – being useful amongst the stars, to be honest. He was a pilot after all, and it was his job to actually stay on board and pilot the ship. But, after the first two Romulans that had fallen to him over Vulcan, his skills were called on again and again for use . . .

He never should have volunteered when Pike had asked, all those months ago. Then Kirk would never have known . . .

He was wiping ichor from the metal back in one of the training rooms that was adjacent to the ship's gym. Whatever they had fought on that planet they had just vacated – he would not call it a dragon, no matter what Kirk had taken to call it – was big, and nasty, and mean, and completely imperceptible to phaser blasts, no matter what the setting.

. . . he still had whatever the creature had instead of blood in his hair, even three sonic showers later. The smell was not pleasant. At all. Kirk, predictably, had not gotten one drop of the oily substance on him.

Of course.

Kirk had given him the next shift upon returning from Gamor VI off, whether out of pity or self-preservation, he knew not. Apparently, it was pity. For not even fifteen minutes later Kirk was at the entrance to the training room, a smile on his face, and his arms crossed over his chest in a lazily indulgent manner.

"Is there something I can do for you Cap -Jim?" he shifted mid title.

Kirk shook his head. "Not really."

Sulu turned back to the sword in his hands.

"I just wanted to apologize for . . ." Jim waved a hand vaguely.

He raised a brow, waiting.

" . . . the dragon thingy."

"Ankorian," Sulu provided.

"Oh, that's what Spock was calling it . . ." Kirk muttered more to himself that to anyone else. "Well, I'm sorry about the mess. You were pretty useful, though. We couldn't have done it without you."

He shrugged. "It's part of the job."

"True," Kirk gave as he plopped down on one of the low benches at the side of the chamber. He was looking at the weapon in his hands with a curious gaze. "That's a nifty sword-y thing."

"Katana," Sulu supplied.

"Even niftier," Kirk gave with a smile.

A moment of silence passed as Sulu finished polishing it, and refolded it. He handed it to the Captain. "Want to try?"

Kirk did not need to be persuaded. He took the proffered weapon, and jumped to his feet.

True to his character, he whipped the katana about with grand, exaggerated moves. He cut recklessly through the air with all the skill of a child. Sulu chuckled softly upon watching him.

"What?" Kirk questioned at the laugh.

"Have you ever used one of those before?"

Kirk shrugged. "It's simple – you hold the handle, and slash with the pointy end."

He snorted again. "Something like that."

Kirk frowned, pointing the tip down towards the floor, studying his reflection in the shining metal. "So, maybe you could show me how to handle it better."

Ah. So that was why he had came.

"I go through the katas every morning before my shift. You are welcome to join me at any time."

Kirk was quick to accept. The man was a skilled combatant, and that skill was growing. Between the fencing, and the Suus Mahna routines that he did with Spock, the Captain's wildly unfocused bar brawl techniques were turning into something poised and polished.

He was actually finding it hard to beat him at a point a few months later.

That didn't mean he lost, though.

Kirk was smiling up at him from the ground. When he got up again, his eyes were oddly focused. "C'mon, D'Artagnan, best out of eleven." There was a challenge to his tone.

A small smile touched his lips at the nickname as he paused for a moment, resting the tip of his blade against the metallic floor. His eyes were critically judging Kirk's pose, noticing that the Captain was already leaning to the right, his restless energy releasing itself in a thousand little clues to the insightful eye.

He fought to keep his face straight – calm, centered, poised. His hands still trembled against the hilt of the katana, the only sign of the adrenaline's affect on him. His control was nearly perfect.

Kirk feinted left, Sulu struck right.

.

.

Before the Enterprise he had been, for the most part, the definition of a loner. An only child, and a quiet presence amongst the other children his age, he had really only kept one or two close friends at a time. Upon reaching the Academy he had had little in common with his roommate (a boisterous man with a fascination for life who had died along with the rest of the Farragut's crew above Vulcan), and had spent his time there as a quiet foil to the other man's brevity. Past that, the most of his time was spent with Mizuki, or in the simulators.

That changed upon reaching the senior crew. Combat did much to forge close ties as did the long hours of nothingness that they would often spend at warp. With five years looming ahead of them, it was expected and logical that each member be comfortable with the group.

With a Captain like Kirk, you didn't have much other choice.

Oddly enough, in a way to pass the long warp hours, the Captain took to playing chess. Yes . . . Kirk, and chess. In the same sentence. One could even throw Spock onto the edge of that sentence, and it would be true.

It was a . . . fascinating thing to watch, to steal the first officer's phrase.

And one day, after Kirk had been beaten more than the average times in a row (surprisingly, it was not the Vulcan who always came out on top), he had looked round his snickering command circle, and selected a victim.

. . . upon retrospect, Sulu knew that he shouldn't have laughed. No matter what face Kirk made, or what curse he muttered under his breath.

"Can you play?" was the question put suddenly to him.

Sulu thought by saying 'no' that would save him. Instead Kirk's sharp smile just seemed to widen as he got to his feet, and patted his empty chair. "C'mon, Spock can teach you."

Spock raised a brow, but instructed the computer to start a new game.

. . . Sulu wasn't aware that it was possible for one to lose in just four moves.

Apparently it was.

Kirk was laughing now, grasping the back of Spock's chair for support. At his side Uhura cast him an annoyed glance. She tilted her head as if in thought, and Spock raised a brow at whatever mental communication she shared with him.

At Kirk's other side, McCoy was scowling. "Good God man, you can at least let him go a few moves before beating him!"

Spock raised a brow. "I was attempting to." The lack of arrogance in the statement made a smile crack onto Sulu's face.

He shook his head. "I don't mind. I'll learn faster this way."

"Good man," Kirk approved.

Sulu scowled just a little bit when Spock had him pinned in a good seven moves again. He observed the way the Commander's logic – what he could see of it, anyway – worked, and nodded. He could do this – the pieces didn't move completely unlike a group of ships in combat patterns. And those were puzzles he was adept at solving.

. . . or so he thought. Ten moves, that time. He was improving.

Kirk had an open smile on his face. "It's not as easy as it looks, isn't it?"

Sulu raised a brow. "I never thought that it would be." His voice was calm, level, refusing to rise to the Captain's bait . . . or sink to his level, however one would put it.

The next game lasted a whole ten minutes. Spock had a grudging nod at the end of the match, approval tugging at the corners of his lips. "You progress fast," he observed. "I do believe that it took the Captain twice as long as you to reach this level." So, he was not completely blind to Kirk's more subtle form of teasing.

Sulu grinned at the dark look that managed to slip onto Kirk's face.

After a few more matches, understanding finally struck Sulu rather hard, and before he knew it, his match with the Commander was stretching past a half an hour. He had hardly noticed it until Pavel had pointed it out. McCoy had snorted, and Uhura had elbowed Kirk when he glowered too fiercely at the game. Like a child, Kirk elbowed her back. "Careful there, Lieutenant. I know that there is a regulation somewhere about physical abuse and commanding officers."

"I'm sure that there is somewhere," she agreed on a tinkling laugh.

Kirk rolled his eyes before turning his full attention back to the game.

When the match came close to reaching the hour mark, the onlookers were fully shouting out ideas and observations. With a smile, Sulu reflected that the match had deteriorated into somewhat of a high class wrestling match. Amusement lit the tips of the commander's ears a pale shade of almost-green as he locked gazes with him across the board. Apparently, their thoughts ran in much the same direction.

When Spock finally had the winning move in sight, Kirk reached forward and moved the piece for his first officer. "Checkmate!" he explained triumphantly.

Spock raised a brow at Kirk's behavior. "Indeed," he commented dryly.

Sulu scowled a bit, but he felt a gentle pride inside at the knowledge that he had been able to last that long . . . Even Kirk was watching him with a begrudging respect.

After shaking his head at the Captain, with a mumbled 'illogical' under his breath, Spock gave up his seat to the next player, as did Sulu. When the Commander made his way to the turbolift, Uhura was right behind him. Briefly, hardly noticeable, she touched his hand once with a whispered 'thank-you'. Spock nodded once, slightly, before gesturing for her to go before him into the lift. The smile on her face was hard for anyone to miss.

The next day, when he went through his morning katas with Kirk, the Captain walked away bearing just a few more bruises than he would normally would. While childish, it went miles into improving his own mood.

When, about a month later, Sulu's skill with chess grew to let him beat the Captain more often than not, Kirk was far from smiling. But he didn't look completely displeased.

.

.

And he thinks, in the end, that this is what he signed up for past everything else.

They had pulled into the Steantorian system to interrupt a battle in progress. The void around the ship was filled with enemy fire and enemy ships and life and death playing out in the silence between the stars. A red alert was immediately issued, and the light humor that always lingered in the crew during trips through warp disappeared to reveal a well oiled team, working in quick accord with one another.

Underneath his hands, the controls to the ship shuddered. She was made for moments like this, and every dip and dive was an extension of his own control and precision. Adrenaline made his hands tremble, the hum from the ship underneath him made them steady once more.

This. This was what he signed up for when he entered Starfleet. These were the moments he lived for as a pilot.

And, he had a hunch that it wouldn't be precisely the same on any ship but this . . .

.

.

FIN

~MJ

.