James T. Kirk loved challenges. It was one of the first things Sulu noticed about the guy that became his captain. With that in mind, it shouldn't have been much of a surprise when Kirk summoned him to the bridge of the Enterprise with his request.
"Here's my sword, sir." Sulu offered Kirk his katana, hilt first.
Kirk expanded the blade and swung it around to get a feel for it. Sulu briefly wondered if Kirk was imagining their battle against the Romulans high above Vulcan. The blade retracted and he handed it back to Sulu.
"I know you're a good fighter, Sulu. I saw it back on Vulcan. You saved my ass out there."
"You saved mine, too. Nobody else would have jumped off the drilling platform to save me."
"Don't deny it. You're pretty handy with that sword."
He shifted on his feet wondering what Kirk was getting at. "Sir?"
"I want you to teach me how to fence. Who knows when such a skill will be needed in the future. What do you say, Sulu?" He smirked.
Sulu gaped before giving Kirk a thoughtful once over before smiling. "I say you should probably find another trainer and learn the basics first. In about a year, come find me and then we'll talk. I'll refine your technique into something battle worthy."
There was a glint in Kirk's eyes. "I love a good challenge. The last time someone gave me a deadline, I got the job done in half the time. That person was Pike."
"What job did Pike give you?"
"Becoming Captain of my own ship."
Sulu let out a laugh after a short pause and he rubbed his face with his palm. "Then I'll see you in six months, sir. Think you'll be able to take me?"
"You know me, Sulu. I don't believe in no-win scenarios."
Sulu offered Kirk his practice sword, the beat up one he used when he was a kid learning his craft from his teachers in San Francisco, which Kirk accepted. He held it with a firm grip and grinned.
"I feel like I'm following in your footsteps."
"Try not to hurt yourself, sir. McCoy wouldn't appreciate seeing you due to an accidental self-inflicted wound." Sulu watched as Kirk swung the sword around and he took a step back, just in case.
"Are you planning to keep an eye on me while I train?"
"Maybe I should. I have a feeling Pike did while you were at the academy."
Kirk laughed loud and bright. "He probably did. All right then, Sulu. I'll try not to disappoint you."
There wasn't another fencing trainer that wasn't Sulu on the Enterprise, but somehow Sulu suspected that Kirk would manage. After all, he managed to find Scotty on a remote planet and beamed aboard a moving starship while it was in warp.
A week later, Sulu found Kirk in one of the empty training rooms with a holovid playing an image of a man going over the basic steps of fencing. He leaned against the wall as he watched Kirk take gentle steps and attempt to hold his sword properly. The holovid lunged forward and when Kirk tried to do the same, he almost fell.
Sulu laughed. He couldn't help it.
Kirk turned around and gave Sulu a sheepish grin. "I'm a work in progress, what can I say?"
"As long as you don't hurt yourself."
"Sometimes there is pain. I am no stranger to that." Kirk pointed the end of his sword at Sulu. "Don't worry. Six months from now, you and I will be dueling each other."
"I can't wait."
He had McCoy keep him updated every time Kirk ended up in sick bay because of his training. It didn't happened as often as Sulu expected, but it happened enough times that McCoy was ready to ban fencing from the Enterprise.
Kirk walked onto the bridge with such a swagger that Sulu immediately raised his eyebrow at it.
Kirk sat down in his captain's chair and gave Sulu a wink. "Is everyone ready to head out on our mission?"
Spock merely gave Kirk a look. "We are ready to leave. Captain, I did not suspect you would be so pleased to visit this planet."
"Oh, I am. I hear they're excellent swordsmen and I could use a few pointers." He let out a laugh. "Get it, pointers, Sulu?"
Spock arched his eyebrow while Sulu turned around and pressed some buttons on the console. Sulu wasn't going to give Kirk the satisfaction of seeing him smile. The Enterprise flew through space towards their destination under Sulu's fingers.
Four months. It had been four months since Kirk proclaimed he would learn how to fence and Sulu was surprised at how time flew. The times he had checked in on Kirk during his training only made Sulu confident that Kirk would reach his goal in six months.
Kirk wiped the sweat from his forehead and greeted Sulu. "Are you checking me out?"
"There is nothing wrong with seeing what my competition is up to."
Kirk laughed before pulling Sulu further into the room. "That sounds fair. You're going to be amazed by my skills. Want to practice with me?"
"That would be cheating. You haven't reached six months in your training yet."
"You call it cheating, I call it assessment." Kirk placed his sword down on the rack before returning to Sulu. "I was thinking of arranging some of our time by the Klingon border. Could you imagine the trouble we could get into?"
"I don't think getting into trouble with Klingons is my idea of a good time. Nor would Spock or McCoy."
"Yeah, you're probably right. They never let me have any fun." Kirk slung his arm around Sulu's shoulders. "Let's go to the mess hall and get something to eat. I've worked up an appetite."
Before they made it anywhere near the mess hall though, the alarms went off and they rushed to the bridge.
Sulu slid into the pilot seat while Spock quickly debriefed Kirk over the situation. The Enterprise had received a distress hail from a nearby planet and they were heading into potential conflict.
Uhura swiveled in her chair to face the rest of the bridge, one hand against the comm in her ear. "We won't be able to fly down into their atmosphere due to heavy fire. If we are going to provide any protection, we will need to beam people down to the surface."
"That sounds like a plan." Kirk stood up and nodded to Spock. "Spock, you have the bridge. Sulu, come with me. We're going down there. Chekov, Uhura, provide cover for us as much as possible."
Sulu wasn't surprised about Kirk's decision. He stood up and followed Kirk out the door. They stopped off to pick up their weapons before heading to the transporter room.
When they were transported to the surface of the planet, Sulu took in the sight of smoke and fire as the inhibitants' cities burned. He extended his katana before glancing at Kirk.
"What's the plan, sir?"
"Follow me. As soon as you see the bad guys, start attacking. Oh, and Sulu?"
"Try not to get killed. I'd hate to lose you before we even have our duel." Kirk winked at him before running ahead.
Sulu didn't know what to call the creatures attacking, but he didn't hesitate to attack it when one of them was about to kill a child. Kirk was right beside him with a katana in one hand and a phaser in another.
They cut their way to the planet's defenses with only superficial wounds. At least Sulu hoped Kirk only had superficial wounds. He could wield a sword decently in practice, but this was a battle. Sulu helped Kirk to a nearby chair.
"Are you all right, sir?"
"I'm fine." He wiped the blood from his cheek, smearing it more on his skin. "Come on, let's see what we can do from here."
It took several hours before crisis was averted and they were back on the Enterprise. Sulu handed Kirk a steaming cup of coffee as they recuperated in sick bay.
"Not even six months and you're handling your sword like a pro. Not bad, sir."
Kirk smirked. "That's what all the ladies and gents say."
Sulu let out a chuckle as he sat down next to him. "Uh huh. Tell you what, once we heal up, I'll become your tutor. There's still plenty for you to learn."
"Can we duel? I have a bet with Scotty that I can beat you."
"Then I hope you're prepared to lose, sir." Sulu raised his own coffee cup to his lips and drank.
There was never a dull moment around Kirk.