The first time Kirk fails the Kobiyashi Maru, Sulu is waiting for him afterwards. "You need someone to take you down," is what Sulu says as an explanation.
Kirk laughs shakily. “The damn test already did that," he says. Everyone knows that no one ever beats the Kobiyashi Maru, but Kirk had been quite adamant that there was a first time for /anything/; implicit, that in this case he would be the one to finally do it.
"That's not what I meant," Sulu says quietly, and Kirk nods and breathes in and drops to his knees without being asked.
It's a little like flying, this thing they have: Sulu taking control, guiding, responsive to the needs of his craft as well as his own needs. He is, all things considered, a good pilot, even when distracted.
The second time Kirk fails the test, Sulu doesn't even need to say anything; Kirk's at his quarters silent and waiting.
There is no third time, because for one thing, Kirk doesn't fail (Sulu doesn't know anything until the hearing, where they call it cheating but all the cadets are impressed or jealous or both) and for another, everything goes to hell in a handbasket shortly thereafter.
The whole Vulcan crisis is one hell of an adrenaline rush, one Kirk's obviously still riding when the Enterprise goes out on her not-quite-maiden voyage. (If there are any murmurs in Starfleet about how young the crew is -- half the officers on the bridge had been cadets five days before -- it's something they have to get used to.)
And in Sulu's case, half the adrenaline he feels is fear. It's not like Sulu didn't know the risks that came with Starfleet, but falling to his death -- well, almost to his death, and he's still got bruises from the impact against the transporter pad -- was not on his list of possible ways to die.
It wouldn't be so bad if it had been just the once, but he keeps falling every time he dreams. Sometimes the damn drilling platform, sometimes (impossibly) the hull of the Enterprise, sometimes just a space jump; and sometimes he's falling on his own and sometimes Kirk catches him and sometimes Kirk just stands by and laughs.
It makes him want to not sleep.
Sulu doesn't really expect anything to continue between them. It was one thing when they were both cadets; might have been the same during the crisis, if there had been any time at all for things like that. It's something entirely different when Kirk's his real superior officer. And for a bit, nothing happens.
Which means that one day, a couple weeks in, when he gets off-shift and goes to his quarters only to find Kirk leaning against the wall waiting for him, he doesn't quite know what to make of it. "Captain?"
Kirk just shakes his head and gestures inside. It isn't until the doors close behind them, sealing the two of them off from the rest of the ship, that he speaks. "I'm not here as your Captain." He adds, almost hesitantly, "I wasn't sure if you wanted to keep--"
Sulu surges forward, shutting him up with strong arms on his biceps and a stronger kiss, because, God, they both need this, after what they've been through. And because under all of Kirk's bravado, there's just that little bit of uncertainty, that bit that needs someone (needs Sulu) and is terrified, childlike, of being rejected.
Not many people see it. Sulu's never sure how much of it is Kirk letting him in and how much is just instinct, but it doesn't really matter. It's there. And Kirk's here, now, waiting.
Fuck, Sulu thinks wildly, I didn't prepare-- I didn't /expect/--
Kirk fidgets, but stills immediately at Sulu's instinctive exasperated sigh. "Get undressed," Sulu says, because while uniforms are nice in their own way, he doesn't reminders of rank to get in the way. "Go to the bed and wait."
"For how long?"
For as long as I want, Sulu thinks; but he knows what Kirk needs to hear, and that's not it. "Not long. I'll be in soon."
A quick shower's enough to clear his head. It's also, apparently, enough to let Kirk not only strip completely bare but to have started touching himself, eyes closed and touch loose. Sulu's tempted to just watch, but that's not how this works. He crosses the room, bare feet just about silent on carpet, and grabs Kirk's wrist. "I didn't say you could do that," he says.
Kirk goes quite still, although it's quite evident that a part of him clearly likes Sulu's touch. His eyes get wide when he plays innocent. "You didn't say I couldn't," he banters with a grin.
Which is true, but entirely beside the point. Sulu doesn't smile back. "Hey." His thumb brushes the inside of Kirk's wrist. "Drop the act."
"It's not an act," Kirk says, but he schools his face into something a bit more serious.
"Either we do this, or we don't. I want to," Sulu says before Kirk can ask anything, and oh he does, "but not if you aren't willing to follow the rules."
Kirk nods. Sulu releases his wrist, and steps back, appraising him. "Up on your knees," he says, "while I figure out what to do with you."
"You could f--" Kirk starts to suggest, grinning, but he shuts up when Sulu holds up his hand.
"No talking," he orders. "You can say no if you want to, you can stop this at any time, but you don't make suggestions, you don't tell me what to do, and you don't talk back. Understood?"
Kirk opens his mouth, closes it, and just nods.
Sulu touches his cheek, and Kirk's eyes flutter closed and he leans forward into the touch.
"Good," Sulu murmurs, "good."
It isn't a daily thing between them. There's not enough time in their schedule (and they do need to sleep sometimes, never enough), and their shifts don't always overlap in the right ways, and so it ends up only being a couple of times a month. Sometimes it's Kirk that needs it, sometimes Sulu, sometimes both.
It's been a boring week, busy as always but not very exciting, so Sulu doesn't expect Kirk yet. But he's there when Sulu gets in, fidgeting with restless energy.
"You're earlier than I expected," Sulu says, and he's not quite sure whether he means early in the evening or early in the week, but it doesn't matter. Either way, he's grateful for Kirk's presence.
Kirk apologises, but it's his innocent I-didn't-do-it sort of not-apology. Sulu, of course, doesn't buy it, and Kirk tries again with the proper attitude.
Sulu orders him into position -- on his knees, forehead against the bed -- because part of the ritual now is for Sulu to take a shower first. Ritual and pleasantry, and it also gives Kirk time to anticipate.
Kirk drops, as instructed. He looks exhausted and tense as hell, and Sulu breaks routine to linger for a moment, his hand on Kirk's neck. Aloud, he murmurs reassurances, but the ones he gives with his touch are so much stronger. I'm here. I'll be here. All is well. Trust me.
And Kirk does (something that takes Sulu's breath away if he thinks about it too hard). He's waiting in the exact same position, and Sulu smiles.
He gives more orders -- always orders, even though they're really requests, because Kirk could say no, but Kirk's never said no and Sulu has been careful to keep in mind just how far he can push without anything breaking -- clothes off, kneel in the center of the bed, let me touch you (unspoken, but Sulu curls close and Kirk doesn't pull away), jerk off.
He knows it's not Kirk's favorite thing to do, not when he's got someone watching. But the man is so damn pretty, and it's kind of awesome to push Kirk against the elastic resistance of his comfort zone, and awe-inspiring that Kirk lets him push.
He pilots Kirk with touch and voice until Kirk's jerking with release, and then it's time to let Kirk in. Sulu's still controlling the flying (harder faster deeper yes oh yes) but he's also the one doing the flying, and he never once feels like he's falling.
"Nicely done," Sulu says, and he wants to say thank you, but he doesn't. Instead, he just lets Kirk stay.
That night is not the first time that Sulu dreams of falling but it's the first time he wakes to the security of limbs draped across him, of someone holding him, and it takes less time for the rush of adrenaline to fade back into sleep.