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through miles of clouded hell

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Jan. 2nd, 2013 | 11:47 pm

title: through miles of clouded hell
universe: AOS
pairing: Kirk/Sulu
author: reogulus
rating: G-13
genre: pre-slash, with flashbacks to academy era
wordcount: 2020
disclaimer: Not mine, not real, not used for profit
summary: Kirk is an idiot. Sulu doesn't talk about it until he has to.
notes: Happy birthday to introductory, who is a jolly good fellow that I love very much.



“You are just a soldier, aren’t you?”

Sulu would have nodded if it didn’t hurt so badly to even lift his chin. Then everything sank into darkness and he thought he heard Kirk’s voice. But the light had already gone out in his battered head, like the buzz of a transmitter call that ended mid-sentence.


*


He woke up to the sting of a hypospray, which was ridiculous because nobody stood close enough to touch his carotid artery and hyposprays don’t even have needles.

The blueshirt running the dermal regenerator asked him to name the founding planets of the Federation. Sulu was halfway through the list when he passed out again.


*


In his dreams he floated above his wounded body and saw Kirk breaking into the chamber, disarming his torturer and neutralizing the explosive Sulu was meant to deactivate. Finally, Kirk cut through his bonds and dragged him towards the door. But as soon as he slipped back into his body and felt Kirk’s grip around his waist, the pain came back in full force like the wind whipping in his face as he plunged through the atmosphere of a planet long lost, the same limbs tangled with the same rescuer.

Consciousness slowly returned and he waited for it to fade into something else. The twilight zone came and passed; then nothing. His vital signs beeped steadily in the overhead monitor as he recited the founding planets in their entirety, without a blink.

*

Uhura and Chekov came to see him after alpha shift, with a bright bouquet of flowers that Scotty produced from a re-wired replicator. McCoy dropped by to complain about the space it occupied in the already crowded sickbay, but allowed him to keep the bouquet anyway. Then the doctor disappeared behind a locked door for which he used his CMO override to open. Spock came in hours after they left and slipped into the same room, looking significantly more grave and exhausted than usual.

Sulu wasn’t briefed about this, and he knew better than to ask.

*

He is a soldier—a highly-experienced helmsman, a formidable combat specialist, a valuable commodity in the shape of a Starfleet-groomed duty-fulfiller. At times of war and crisis he is expendable, though the colour of his shirt doesn’t make it so obvious.

He thought he was going to die in that torture chamber and it really didn’t scare him all that much. The only regret he had was not being able to successfully complete the mission assigned. Then his sensed Kirk’s presence nearby and he was suddenly afraid, screaming into the silent abyss on the other end of the transmitter, even as the call was disconnected.

(You’re not a soldier. You can’t afford the luxury of stopping at nothing to keep something safe.)

*

They released him back to duty a week later. Somebody was always sitting in the chair meant for the captain. Sulu did what he was supposed to do; he requested to visit Kirk and upon denial of permission, carried on.

*

He was there when Kirk took the bridge officer’s test, before Starfleet command officially awarded him captaincy.

It didn’t feel like a simulation when the group of actors involved had gotten to know each other all too well on a real bridge. Rumour had it that Kirk was planning another elaborate hack so the artificial crisis could be avoided without the sacrifice of any lives.

There were no hacks. Not when the solution was so plain to see.

*

“Why did you let him save me?” He asked Spock on the turbolift two days later, after he was given permission to speak freely.

The Vulcan gave him a long, hard look. “Did you expect him to make the same decision he did in a simulated scenario for his bridge officer’s test?”

“Yes,” answered Sulu as he met Spock’s gaze. “A captain must put the ship’s well-being before—”

“You are the ship, Lieutenant—as are the rest of us. He performed his duty under the prescribed situation, as did you.”

He wanted to say something else but he could find no words. The light on the control board dimmed as the turbolift came to a halt.

“You may visit the captain tomorrow if you wish,” said Spock before leaving the lift. “I will ask Lieutenant Kyle to cover your shift.”

*

“Mr. Sulu,” Kirk said, after a long pause. The entire Academy held its breath.

He eyed the glaring red warning of AUTO-PILOT FAILING on the screen in front of him one last time when Kirk ordered him to steer the ship into the Neutral Zone as a diversion after the rest of the crew had been evacuated through shuttlecrafts.

Nine minutes later, Sulu was pronounced dead. Afterwards Keenser took everyone to Kirk’s favourite bar, where Kirk laughed, danced, and demanded his friends to each buy him a shot while brushing off apologies from everyone who recognized the unfortunate parallel of the cost of his survival between now and twenty-five years ago, simulated or not.

As the designated driver he delivered Kirk to his bed, took off his boots, made sure he was lying on his side and put the garbage bin beside his bed. It was the least he could do for the poor bastard.

“Sorry about that,” Kirk slurred just as he left his bedside, struggling to keep his eyes open.

“It’s all right,” said Sulu as he squeezed Kirk’s shoulder gently. “Get some rest.”

*

McCoy said nothing when Sulu showed up to sickbay the next afternoon, just opened the door to the critical care unit for him and left to tend to his other patients. He took a deep breath before walking in, and thanked whatever deity humanity still worshipped when he saw that Kirk was sound asleep.

He pulled up a chair beside the bed and browsed through the materials loaded in the bedside reader, the pages bookmarked and the pages unread. He looked at Kirk’s pale, unmoving body and the realization of his failure swelled into an enormous lump in his chest. He would stop being angry at himself eventually, he knew, but not while Spock recorded all the captain’s logs.

He held Kirk’s right hand in his, and waited until the temperatures of their palms became the same.

(Sorry about that.)

*

When Sulu took his own bridge officer’s test, he left a junior tactical officer to her death on Deck 4 to activate the only phaser torpedo left in the weapons bank while the rest of the crew boarded the shuttlecrafts. After the test ended, he stepped out of his seat, feeling numb all over. As per Academy tradition, he was greeted by a thunderous applause and taken to the nearest bar as soon as he left the examination building.

Unfortunately, consuming four different kinds of alcohol from four different systems didn’t alleviate his exhaustion one bit. He was about to call it a night when the bartender passed him a Cardassian Sunrise with compliments from “the young Orion lady”. He might have just downed it if he didn’t instantly recognize her as his “dead” tactical officer.

Sulu tried to smile at her when she sashayed towards him. And he would have kept it up, too, until she leaned closer and their knees are almost touching.

“What’s the matter, Sulu?” Kirk barged in just as he was about to ask her to leave him alone. “This mighty fine young lady buys you a drink, and you’re just there, sitting pretty?”

His smile might have looked a tad too relieved. “Captain.”

“Lieutenant,” Kirk nodded at him before drinking the Cardassian Sunrise in one gulp, and turned to the girl. “I must apologize on my helmsman’s behalf—”

“Save it,” the Orion girl’s smile turned into a scowl immediately upon the sight of Kirk’s face. She walked away without a word to either man.

“It seems like you have pissed off the entire Orion female population at the Academy, sir.”

“That was douchebag of me,” Kirk acknowledged, “but an acceptable loss for passing the Maru.”

A part of him wanted to shout at Kirk, will you say the same about when I died for you to pass the bridge officer’s test? But more parts of him just wanted to go home.

“That’s why you’re the captain” was the reply he went with. And then he hopped off the bar stool, striding towards the door before Kirk could persuade him to stay.

*

He didn’t visit Kirk again until McCoy informed the bridge crew that the captain would be fit for discharge soon. When Kirk nodded at him with a smile there was a brief twinge of loss in his heart, like a common word becoming foreign when he’d stared at it for too long.

He borrowed Kirk from a group of laughing ensigns in mess hall, on the captain’s first day back on duty. They were in the hallway and there are cameras but he was determined to abuse his power as the chief of security, just this once.

“Hey,” Kirk looked puzzled, but was smiling nonetheless.

Sulu opened the control panel hidden in the wall, and disabled the security camera recording for ten minutes. Then, he took a deep breath and turned to Kirk. “Promise me you won’t do this again.”

Kirk’s smile vanished. “Do what? Saving you?”

“How about risking your life? Be the hero until the day you can’t, until the day the suffering of one causes the suffering of all?” The lump of anger in his chest was rising again, but it was towards Kirk this time, not himself. “You’re the captain, Kirk. Not just my captain; everyone’s captain.”

“Look—I’m not sorry I did it, okay? You’re right, I’m the captain, and somehow my life is more valuable than yours because Starfleet said so. Somehow, participating in all those stupid simulation is supposed to make me feel justified in sacrificing you for the so-called greater good.” Kirk paused, looking him straight in the eye, somehow seeming frustrated and calm at the same time. “Do you know how ridiculous that is, when we’re out here in space? Look at the stars and tell me they are ours. They aren’t. All we have is each other, and this godforsaken ship, and I will be damned if I ever let go of any of it.”

He eventually broke free from Kirk’s gaze. “Permission to speak freely, sir.”

“And here I thought we have gone way past that point,” Kirk said dryly. “What is it?”

“We have each other, Captain. So why do you live like you are alone? You stood a much better chance of saving me back there if you didn’t go in on your own.”

“I guess I’m just used to it.” Kirk said after a long pause, avoiding Sulu’s eyes.

Sulu nodded. “You should probably change that.”

“I’ll try my best.”

“Good.” Sulu patted his shoulder, somewhat awkwardly. “I’ll help you, too.”

Kirk squeezed his hand quickly, and turned around to go back to mess. For a moment, he almost looked grateful, which reminded Sulu—

“Captain,” he called out to Kirk. “Thank you.”

Kirk turned back with a tiny smile. “No problem.”


*


The next day, Spock sent a detailed report of Kirk’s decision to save his helmsman from certain death to Starfleet Command, and as a result, Kirk had a private meeting with Admiral Pike in his quarters, from which he emerged with a very long face. For a while, they were almost under the peaceful illusion of routine patrol duties until the upcoming shore leave.

Almost.

“Sulu, if you have the tactical advantage, get the Enterprise out of here immediately—“

Kirk’s voice was broadcasted in the bridge, broken and scrambled but Sulu already knew every word.

“Good luck,” he replied, and turned to Chekov after transmission ended. “Heard what he said, kid?”

“Aye, sir,” the navigator nodded. “Good luck to you too.”

Sulu smiled. “Take the con,” he said before sprinting off to the transporter room.

(The first step of helping anyone is to be at their side, isn’t it?)

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Comments {4}

Laura

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from: greenteaduck
date: Jan. 5th, 2013 04:28 pm (UTC)
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Uwaaaa~! I really loved this! I loved being in Sulu's headspace and this is terrific! :D

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never taken a shortcut before?

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from: reogulus
date: Jan. 7th, 2013 05:46 am (UTC)
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Thank you so much :D Sulu was a lot of fun to write!

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devilishdestiny

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from: devilishdestiny
date: Jan. 8th, 2013 03:29 am (UTC)
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good fic. :)

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never taken a shortcut before?

(no subject)

from: reogulus
date: Jan. 14th, 2013 03:47 am (UTC)
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thanks!

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