Eventually, they discover it's all McCoy's fault. “What!” he protests. “He came to me with his hand sliced open from that damn pig-sticker of his, and I told him to find a hobby with fewer monomolecular edges! It's sound medical advice!”
Jim steals the whiskey McCoy thinks he has hidden behind the condenser coils in retaliation. It doesn't really come close to making things even.
Lots of bridge shifts are boring, and that's fine. Space is defined by the fact that stuff isn't there, and 'being places where nothing is' is sort of boring by definition. Jim tries to mix it up, sometimes, running drills, doing system maintenance routines, occasionally requiring the bridge staff to respond to hypothetical scenarios. But Uhura says that, “An alternate universe where I am wearing a navel piercing on the bridge is not a tactical scenario, it is sexual harassment, and I know where you sleep,” so he tries to save these up for when he is really fucking bored, jesus, are there any Klingons attacking us yet, please?
So it's okay if people sometimes bring other work to the bridge. Spock usually multi-tasks, he has his science-y stuff coming to his bridge console, and works on that; Uhura reads Linguistics journals, and Bajoran epics on her terminal; and he's pretty sure Checkov is writing fan-fiction, although he claims it's, “A personal yournal. And letters to family.”
So at first it's no big thing when Sulu brings his needlework to the bridge. It's maybe funny for about five minutes, because seriously, boring, and you have to take your amusement where you find it, and Sulu's kind of incredibly ripped, and, like, some kind of ninja, so he doesn't expect to find him making tablecloths, or whatever.
“Are you crocheting?” he asks, just to be a dick.
“Knitting, sir,” says Sulu.
“Is that allowed?” asks Rand, uncertainly. “On the bridge, I mean?”
“You're allowed to do your bead thing,” says Sulu, without looking up from his thread squiggle.
“The subha are part of my expression of my religious principles!” she protests.
“Well, maybe socks are my religion,” says Sulu, stubbornly. Rand looks outraged, and a little like someone who schedules bridge shifts, so Sulu intelligently adds, “Or, uh, maybe not.”
But the religious belief thing starts to seem kind of like it might be unfortunately true, after a while. Sulu seems to go everywhere with this sort of spikey tribble attached to him: a blob of yarn with needle-antennae sticking out. Anytime he's sitting for more than half a moment, he whips it out and starts clicking away, reminding Jim really unfortunately of his attempts to master Tholian at the academy (for a totally awesome prank which Uhura would have had to admit was brilliant. If it had worked).
“Mr Sulu, is this briefing boring you?” he asks, jesus christ, apparently he is turning into Spock, nobody told him the mind-meld would do this.
“No, Captain,” says Sulu, without even looking up, “'multiple warring kin-groups, further divided by gender-expression,' please go on.”
Jim grinds his teeth a little and does.
It's weird, and a little bothersome, but Kirk makes himself acknowledge it's not actually any more distracting than Uhura's habit of being insanely fucking hot on the bridge, and then, like, crossing her legs, in a totally unfair way, and he tries to let it go. But that's before it becomes obvious how totally fucking nuts this whole thing has made Sulu.
Sulu starts being really keen on the daily diplomatic sit-reps, which, okay, good thing someone is listening to those, Jim guesses, he mostly just tunes them out unless the word “Romulan” or “Klingon” comes up, or unless Uhura says “Compulsory nudity. That was just to get your attention, this part is important, Captain.” (Jim loves her a little. A lot. Which is probably not old-Spock leaking in his head, because he thinks old-Spock doesn't swing that way.)
Anyway, Sulu starts being really keen on the daily sit-reps, fidgeting in his chair and even putting down his knitting until they're over, until finally, half-way through a really boring one he stands up on bridge and shouts, “Yes!” and does a fist-pump, which unfairly, looks kind of heroic even though he's doing it for no reason at all.
Everyone stares at Sulu, because, seriously, and after a few moments of a sort of dorky dance, he realizes this, and sits down. “Um. Sorry. I'm really pleased to hear that the Lentau have joined the Federation.”
Jim has no idea who the fuck the Lentau are. He looks blankly at Uhura, and even she looks blank for a moment, before consulting her terminal. Ha! She doesn't pay attention to it all either. “The Lentau are, um, a race confined almost entirely to their star system, Eridani III, and they are uh, known for. Um. Being gliding reptiles?” she offers, just as baffled as Jim.
Sulu looks outraged. “They're rumoured to know a seventeenth method of turning a heel, previously unknown in Federation space! This is going to totally revolutionize sock theory!” He swings his chair in a circle in dorky glee. Everyone continues to stare at Sulu. Sulu picks up his knitting and starts clicking happily.
And the other thing is apparently Sulu can't do it quietly. It's not just the damn clicking (he bets Sulu is insulting someone's mother in Tholian) but he also mutters to himself, just under the threshold of hearing. Jim hates it when there's something being said that he can't hear. It's like watching a beautiful woman masturbate; he should be part of that.
One time, while they're all waiting tensely for the admiralty to respond to Kirk's request for clarification of orders (“So, when you say 'all necessary action', does that mean I can start a war? 'Cuz I will, but I kinda feel you might have something to say on the subject.”), Sulu suddenly says “Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!”
Kirk jumps, and then as Sulu does not immediately push them into warp, or page Scotty for more engine power, or leap up and repel boarders, but rather brings his knitting up about six centimetres away from his eyes, Kirk feels his left eyebrow climb, exactly in time with Spock's oh my god, this is seriously fucked up.
“Is there something you'd like to share with the class?” Kirk asks.
“I almost dropped a stitch!” says Sulu, as if this is a red alert notice. He pokes his yarn-blob some more. “Don't worry, though,” he adds, “I caught it.” As if anyone is worried about anything other than the fact their helmsman is mentally unstable.
Obviously this cannot be allowed to continue. Jim's the one whose mind is being eaten by a elderly Vulcan who may or may not technically exist, there is no way there is allowed to be anyone crazier than him on his bridge.
Jim spends a half hour drafting a notice about pointy objects which are and are not allowed on the bridge (because if Uhura wants to bring a knife in her boot that would be oh my god the hottest thing ever, totally allowed) before forwarding it to Rand to make it sound all captain-y and shit.
She shows up at the door to his quarters. “You can't do this!”
Rand never shows up at his door, even though he explicitly invited her to, the first time they met. (“If you'd like to stop by my quarters, later, I have a private collection of artwork you might be interested in.” No one ever wants to see his Kansas wildlife prints. He has no idea why.)
“What,” he says.
“This is targeting Sulu,” she protests. “You can't do that.”
Kirk had really not expected Rand to be Sulu's biggest supporter in this. He narrows his eyes at her suspiciously. “He's gotten to you, somehow,” he deduces.
Rand blushes. “He made me a shawl.” Jim gapes at her. “It's made out of Delimmian silk!”
Fucking traitor. Jim starts paying more attention, and not in any way spying on his navigator, jesus Uhura. Checkov is wearing some extremely fucking suspicious slippers when he comes to Rec Seven, the mysteriously cold rec room.
(“If I knew about your still, Scotty, which I don't, I would acknowledge that the heat needs to come from somewhere, but Jesus, can't you steal it from Botany or something?” “But they'll cut off my hops!” (Apparently not Scottish slang for balls. This captain thing is super educational.))
Uhura shows up to take Spock on a date wearing a floating kind of drape-y thing around her neck, which Jim isn't sure, but thinks might be knit. He squints at it, trying to see if he recognizes any of its—loopy things.
“My face is up here, Captain.”
Uhura is a totally boss linguist, because she can say "Captain" and mean anything. In this case she means “Jerk-wad.”
Scotty's been wearing a scarf around for a week before Jim notices it, because, well. Scotty. He's only ever actually in uniform if one of his engineers wrestles him into it for an inspection. He catches Jim staring at it. “Aye, it's a bonnie wee rauchan, innit?”
Jim tries to make that form words in Standard. It just doesn't. “What?”
“Well, it gets mort cauld about the manifolds, an' I've had a kyte-ful o' it on Delta Vega, ye ken.”
Maybe turning into a Vulcan produces auditory hallucinations? But that was definitely knitting around Scotty's neck. So there's....that.
And then, of all people, Spock shows up to play chess wearing these funky sleeve things, that are totally knit.
Kirk points at him, j'accuse style. “Those are totally knit!” he accuses.
Spock does the eyebrow.
“You got those from Sulu!”
Spock manages to convey without any motion that if his eyebrow were not already deployed, he would be deploying it now.
“Brain-eater!” Kirk finally accuses.
Spock looks Vulcan-ly alarmed at that. “Are you...feeling yourself, Captain?”
And Kirk really must not be, because if he weren't being turned into a Vulcan right now, he'd be pointing out to Spock that he just asked Kirk if he were 'feeling himself,' an activity Spock probably undertakes on a quarterly basis, following diagrams in a text-book.
“I am turning into an elderly Vulcan, so no,” says Kirk, “but more importantly, you are wearing knit sleeve-y things from Sulu.”
“The environmentals on Federation vessels are attuned for the comfort of the majority of Federation member species, but are on the lower range of temperatures considered tolerable by-- Captain please explain your statement regarding your metamorphosis.”
Jim loses that chess game so bad. So very bad.
Jim's on the point of lying in wait for Sulu with blow-gun, and stealing his knitting needles, when Sulu sidles in next to him in the mess.
“I made something,” says Sulu.
“Of course you did,” says Jim, glumly, Bones has somehow got the synthesizers to add more fiber to everything Jim requests, and even though he can't taste it, it really ruins his cake-for-breakfast diet to know it's secretly nutritious.
Sulu sounds shy. “It's for you,” he says, and slides a bundle across. It's knitting, of course, but Jim's natural horror at this is stupidly outweighed by his curiosity, and man's primordial instinct to unwrap presents. Sulu's folded it into a little packet, and tied it with a ribbon, so unless Jim undoes the bow, he won't know what it is. He hates not knowing what it is.
“You shouldn't have,” Jim says, but he's already unwrapping it, stupid curious fingers. On unfolding it, the knitting project proves to be a pair of black socks, with silver Captain's bars at the cuffs. Jim tries to keep up his defenses, but they're so disarming. Socks! For him! Captain-socks! They're so captain-y!
“They're the only ones in this quadrant made with the Lentausian heel. I made them using a blend of Venusian--” Kirk tunes Sulu out, because he's talking wacky knitting nonsense, and pets his socks. They're really soft. He toes one shoe off, under the table, and reaches down to peel off his sock, then tries one on. It's a sock, but, you know. Sulu made it. He wiggles his toes, and then leans back to look at his foot. It looks like a Captain's foot, with the rank insignia.
Jim claps Sulu on the shoulder. “Good work, Mr. Sulu. Carry on.”