Hikaru Sulu forced himself to meet the steely gaze of the Captain James Tiberius Kirk, though he currently wished he were anywhere but here, being stared down by a man who was already legend.
It was his own fault, of course.
He should have just applied through the computer like every other lieutenant that wanted the same job he was after. He wasn't sure, now, why he had ever thought it might be a good idea to hand his application to Captain Kirk in person.
Aside from the fact that there was no way Kirk had time to look at every application and still manage to run his ship, and Sulu personally didn't think his own credentials were much to attract notice.
So when he had learned that Kirk would be here, today, he had in a flash of inspiration decided to hand his application to the man himself, hoping somehow it might impress the Captain.
He had not counted on the Captain to be in the middle of an argument with an older medical officer who addressed him in a manner bordering on insubordination.
Nor had he anticipated the stern Vulcan that the Captain had handed his application off to almost immediately.
Dr. McCoy, Sulu identified the Captain's Companions, and Mr. Spock. Kirk himself studied Sulu intently, and he found himself resisting the urge to squirm uncomfortably under the Captain's intense scrutiny.
"Well?" Kirk asked as the Vulcan handed the application back to him.
Spock seemed to consider. "His credentials are acceptable according to Starfleet's standards." He finally said. Sulu felt his heart sink. Acceptable. Merely acceptable.
Kirk took a moment to study the application himself. Sulu could see the frown form as the Captain realized that Sulu had had to retake one of his classes at the Academy.
Sure enough, he commented on it. "You had to retake a navigation class?" He asked, and Sulu fought back a grimace. Such a stain would make most Captains hesitant to let him at the helm of their ships. Not that failing the class the first time had anything to do with his ability in the area.
It hadn't been his fault, really.
But Starfleet wasn't about making excuses. That had been drilled into their heads over and over. So Sulu merely met Kirk's iron gaze and nodded. "Yes, sir."
Kirk waited for a moment, then said. "You barely passed it the second time?."
Again, Sulu nodded. "Yes, sir." That hadn't really been his fault either.
Kirk crossed his arms over his chest. "Why?"
This confused Sulu. "Sir?"
"Why did you fail the first time?" Kirk clarified. "Why did you barely pass the second? You did well in everything else." He was waiting for an answer, Sulu realized.
He wasn't going to get one that easily. "Does it matter, sir?" Sulu challenged.
Kirk took a step closer to the man, perhaps trying to intimidate him. For once, Sulu was thankful for the time he had spent rooming with a man who had personal space issues. Sulu wasn't exactly comfortable here, but he certainly wasn't intimidated.
Kirk was still waiting for an answer, and Sulu realized he needed to tell the man something. He cleared his throat. "I missed the final the first time around." He didn't offer to explain further. "The second time my roommate was experiencing some personal problems. It interfered with my schoolwork a little more than I had originally planned."
Kirk was not impressed. "So your roomate's personal life was more important to you than your career in Starfleet?" He demanded. "What was it, a break up? Did he party too much?
Sulu resisted the urge to hit the man in front of him; instead he stepped back and let his eyes wander to the datapad on the table.
He remembered the breakup with Irinia, and it had not been pretty. But the idea that it would have jeopardized either Sulu's schooling or that of his roommate was laughable. Equally absurd was the idea of him partying too much on a school night.
Sulu reminded himself that the Captain was only guessing, and that those two guesses were common issues at the Academy for lower level cadets.
He took a deep breath and turned to stare defiantly into Kirk's eyes. "I missed the final because my roommate collapsed in our dorm and I had to call for a doctor. I was the closest thing he had to family in San Francisco at the time, and he was just lucid enough when the doctors arrived that he would freak out whenever I tried to leave him."
Kirk frowned. "So your roommate was more important to you than your commitment to Starfleet?" He demanded again, harshly. Sulu didn't back down.
"We were friends. He was sick, confused, and frightened. I wasn't going to leave him alone."
"But he wouldn't have been alone." Kirk insisted. "There were medical personnel there, you said. They would have taken care of him."
Sulu shrugged. "He seemed more frightened of them than anything else, Captain." He admitted.
"So you took the class over." Kirk pressed. "And nearly failed again."
"My roommate was still recovering. He was trying to keep up with his own work at the same time. He would have been expelled if they had decided he couldn't handle it."
Kirk's face was unreadable now. "It's not the end of the world if someone doesn't make it in Starfleet." He commented.
Sulu felt himself redden as he retorted. "For him it was. He'd been dreaming of the stars all his life. Starfleet was where he belonged. Sir." He added, a bit late.
"And what about you?" Kirk replied. "You didn't feel the same way? Would it have been okay for you if you had been expelled? They don't allow you to fail a class twice."
Again Sulu shrugged, fighting back his rising anger. Why should he have to justify himself to this man? Kirk didn't know him, couldn't possibly understand what was involved. "I didn't fail the class twice." He told the Captain evenly. "I passed all my classes, he passed all his. Some barely, but we passed them all the same, and that's what was asked of us." Forgetting himself, he glared at Kirk. "If you think that it's a fault for a person to help someone else out if they can, even if it inconveniences them a little, then you're not the kind of Captain I want to serve under, and not the Captain I thought you were." He didn't even bother adding the 'sir' this time. He was already in it too far.
Trying to preserve what was left of his dignity, Sulu forced himself to stand up straight. "Anyway, I'm sorry to have wasted your time, Captain. Good day." He turned and headed for the door, just a little bit disappointed in how this had turned out.
Kirk's voice, hard and cold, stopped him in his tracks. "Hold it, Mister." Sulu froze, and turned to face the Captain. Kirk approached and stood before him, steely eyes flashing. His gaze softened, and he turned to nod toward the two members of his crew who had been silently watching the exchange. "I don't believe you've met everyone here." He said easily. "This is First Officer Spock and Doctor Leonard McCoy. "
Sulu nodded to both, trying to hide his confusion. Suddenly Kirk was acting as if he were merely an acquaintance, and as if it would be the height of rudeness not to introduce his companions. "Pleased to meet you both, sirs." He said, remembering his manners.
Kirk chuckled and turned to Doctor McCoy. "Well, what do you think, Bones?" He asked. The doctor scoffed in reply.
"I think you're wasting time asking me when your mind's already made up, Jim." McCoy snapped. "I think you should just tell him and get it over with so we can do what it is we came here to do."
Far from being angry, Kirk seemed not to notice his Doctor's insubordinate reply as he turned to his First Officer. "Spock? Anything to add?"
Spock raised an eyebrow, "For once, I must agree with the Doctor. It seems illogical to ask for further opinions when you have already decided what you are going to do."
Kirk shrugged and turned back to Sulu. "I suppose that settles it, then." He said cheerfully. "You're hired."
Sulu simply stared.
McCoy laughed. "Take it easy, son." He reassured Sulu. "The Captain just wanted to see what you were made of. Apparently you're made of the right stuff. Congratulations."
"Thanks." Sulu heard himself say. He could hardly believe it.
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