Star Trek Fic: Weapon of Choice (Sulu, gen)

Title: Weapon of Choice
Author: igrockspock
Character: Sulu
Rating: PG
Summary: When Sulu is ten years old, he finds a sword in the attic. It's love at first sight.
Notes: for secretsolitaire, who asked a long time ago for a story about Sulu's first love. Thanks to thistlerose for the beta.
Word Count: 1877

Sulu found his first sword in the attic when he was ten.

(Potential girlfriends always interrupt the story here to say, "Wait a second, first sword?" It's an awesome segue into showing them his current weapon of choice. His collapsible katana, of course, not the other thing.)

The sword came out of the scabbard with a long, slow hiss and gleamed in the dust-flecked light of the single, dirty window. His wrist shook with the weight of it and he stumbled backward, unable to balance with half a meter of metal in his hand. He wishes he could say he was a natural. That it had been like all those martial arts movies where music played in the background while the hero magically fulfilled his destiny. But for him, it had been awkward, clumsy, and probably a little dangerous. Yet, something about it had felt right in his hand.

He ran down the stairs brandishing the sword in front of him, his left hand wrapped around his wrist for support. He probably should have tripped and fallen over, but he managed to move surprisingly fast. His sister jumped out of the way just in time.

His mother dropped a plate of cookies when she saw him. To be fair, he probably looked a little wild eyed. And he did have a really massive sword. It was too bad about the chocolate chip cookies though.

(This is where the girls laugh, and he moves a little closer.)

"I want to learn how to use this," he said. Or maybe it was "I want to learn how to kill people with this." It was possible he had not yet grasped the higher moral principles of martial arts.

"Absolutely not," his mother replied.

She approached him from the side, rather more cautiously than normal, and seized his wrist with one hand and the pommel of the sword with the other. He did not let go. His mother looked at him. He never could figure out how to describe that look, what squint of the eyes or furrow of the brow made it so fearsome. But he was afraid of it, even with a sword in his hand. One by one, he unfurled his fingers until the shining metal blade dangled lifelessly from his mother's hands. He could see right away that she did not know how to hold it. He didn't know how to hold it either, not the right way, but somehow his way was better than hers. He was pretty sure that when he touched the sword, it could feel how much he loved it. It probably missed him already.

His mother sized him up, looking severe.

"Sulu Hikaru, we do not use weapons in this household. Certainly not in the kitchen. Wait for me in your room."

Even as he left the kitchen, he could not keep his eyes off the sword. Sensing this, his mother added, "I'll put this away somewhere safe."

In retrospect, he couldn't really blame her. If he were a parent, he wouldn't want a ten-year-old kid to have a sword.

(The girls always look a little skeptical here, and he is forced to confess that if he were a parent, he'd probably give his kid a sword on her first first birthday. He always backs away from that topic as quickly as possible though, because no good can come of discussing kids on a first date. Luckily, the rest of his story is a pretty good distraction.)

His mom made good on her promise to hide the sword, but if she thought out of sight was out of mind, he proved her wrong by upending all the drawers in her bureau looking for it. He got grounded for a month after that, which did not stop him from ransacking the closet at the first available opportunity. As punishment, his parents seized his music player, refused to allow him to ride his bike, and forbade him from wandering the neighborhood with his friends after school. This was a tactical error on their part as it only gave him more time to meditate on the sword.

"Listen, Hikaru," his father said, bending down so his face was level with his son's. This was also a tactical error; Hikaru hated being reminded that he was a child, and he most particularly hated being reminded that he was a short child. Predictably, his father was undaunted by the power of his ten-year-old son's glare.

"That sword belonged to your grandfather. He was a drunk and an idiot, and he always wandered around the house muttering that it would be better to kill everyone and let the gods sort it out. I'm grateful he was always far too drunk to make good on that threat."

At this, Hikaru narrowed his eyes and scowled harder. Clearly, his father had fabricated the story to keep him from the sword, and Hikaru did not bother to conceal his disdain for this tactic. His father's voice grew harder.

"Hikaru, I've told you a thousand times that a sword is not a weapon for civilized people. If you decide to be a cop like me, you'll learn to use a phaser one day, but that's the only weapon you'll need in this century."

His father brightened at the possibility of his oldest son following in his footsteps, and Hikaru brightened a bit too, even though he didn't want to. His father's enthusiasm was always contagious, and he would be proud if he grew up to be even a bit like his dad.

"I've signed you up for some lessons at a dojo. No swords involved, but it can't hurt to learn to defend yourself. Does that sound like a reasonable compromise?"

Hikaru smiled, and his father smiled back. He had no intention of forgetting the sword, but he figured karate lessons were one step closer to learning to use it.

(Only one girl had ever interrupted to ask if the story about his grandfather was true. It had been, but by the time he'd realized that, it was too late to ask his father what kind of childhood he'd had.)

At the dojo, Hikaru worked hard and kept quiet about the sword. By then, he had figured out that adults found it suspicious and off-putting when he mentioned it too early. Karate was more tedious than he had expected; mastering forms was somewhat less than glamorous, and the endless drills were less enjoyable than the music montages in martial arts vids had suggested. But he persevered by hanging onto that first memory of the sword gleaming in the sunlight as he held it in his wobbling hand.

(When he talks to women, he fast forwards through the rest. "I might have, um, run away to Japan with my lawn mowing money," he says, and the sheepishness is real, because running away from his parents was not a cool thing to do. He'd spent a lot of nights sleeping in cold shuttle stations, trying to hide from the police, and the school wouldn't take on a lying 13-year-old anyway. But it's as much of the story as he cares to tell on a first date.)

The rest of the story goes like this. For nearly four years, he stopped thinking about the sword. He had never seen his mother look at him the way she did when the police brought him home from Japan, like she was terrified instead of angry. His little sisters had cried for him every night he was gone, and so had she. Hearing that convinced him that the sword was making him into a person he didn't want to be. Instead, he did what his instructor told him to. He practiced his forms night and day, and chose the hardest for his tests. His teacher praised him for this publicly, which embarrassed him because it wasn't a conscious choice; by then, challenging himself had become natural and reflexive.

While the boys around him grew awkward with puberty, he grew more confident. At a time when most people's bodies became alien, he exulted in his command of every muscle and sinew. And yeah, maybe he also exulted a little in the attentions of the opposite sex, but who could blame him? He was a fifteen-year-old boy, not a wise and ancient master.

But he did not let his appetite for attention carry him away as it once had. He demonstrated kicks in the corridors and taught self-defense after school, but when he saw a bully stealing lunch money from the younger, weaker kids, he merely restrained him until the appropriate authorities arrived.

Instantly, he was surrounded by a ring of excited faces cheering him on, "Come on, Hikaru, kick his ass!" To tell the truth, watching their expressions fade from glee to disappointment tested his self-restraint, but hurting someone was unnecessary -- even if it felt justified. After that, his instructor gave him the iaito, the unsharpened sword. Hikaru sensed the test and did not complain when he was informed that it was for use in practicing forms only, and he would never strike an opponent with it.

When the first lesson was done, he stood in front of a window with the iaito in his hands, willing himself to feel the same magic he had felt when he first held his grandfather's sword. It wasn't there. He shrugged his shoulders and fought down a wave of disappointment. He shouldn't have been surprised really; he was just a kid when he found the sword, and it couldn't have been any more special than the baseball cards or holovids he had loved when he was young.

That night, he lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep. The memory of the sword had been a part of him, and to find that it was nothing more than a ten-year-old's fantasy left him feeling hollow and achy inside. He rolled out of bed, careful to put his feet down quietly so he would not awaken his parents one floor below. One by one, he practiced the forms of the iaito, pausing to check each one in the mirror. He could not say why he was doing it; the whole point of the fake sword was to get to the real one, but his father was right, a sword had no place in the world. But his feet did not stop moving until the sky was tinged pink and gold.

The muscles in his legs ached as he shuffled toward the bathroom to brush his teeth and get ready for school. He would have a hard time staying awake in class today, but there was something satisfying about his bleary eyes and stiff muscles. Maybe there was no magic to the sword, just as there had been no magic when he began studying karate; it was all hard work, with no goal but to better himself. All the years he had studied karate, and he had only used it once. Yet, he did not doubt that it was valuable. It had made him who he was. The sword would too. It would become a part of him, and he would find a place for it in his world.
Oh, this is wonderful. It's so much more layered than it first appears. I like how you use the framing device of Sulu telling this story to potential girlfriends, because it helps give a more mature (and humorous) context for it; I also like the implicit parallels between the early days of a relationship and the first, immature love of that sword, as compared to the hard work and effort Sulu learns to value. I love both versions of Sulu here, both his stubborn, determined younger self and his more disciplined older one.

he is forced to confess that if he were a parent, he'd probably give his kid a sword on her first first birthday

I love that you use the female pronoun here. :-)

EEEE! This is awesome! Baby Sulu is so cute, and determined, and I know kids like that. Then there's the sword, and his parents, and running away to Japan, and the girlfriends ... there's so much really cool stuff here.
Oooh, very lovely story and lovely format, too. It is fascinating to see him grow into the person he's in the film and of course, the glimpses of other stories are intriguing! Thank you so much for sharing! :D
Lovely fic, and I second the comment above about the female pronoun, it's a small thing, and the sort of detail one should expect from an author of your calibre, but it still made me smile in pleased surprise.

I love the format of the story, the way we don't just get the narrative, but the hint at the other stories connecting with it, life is never a neat beginning-middle-end, after all.

I would love it if the fic were longer. I think I was expecting Sulu to hold the sword again, or possibly tie it into his unfolding sword he has in the movie, so I was half looking for a link to part two XD. Do you have any plans to extend it?
I forgot to leave a comment letting you know how much I adore Sulu when you write him. I really enjoyed how you interspersed the story with the comments about the different girls. Favorite line: "It's an awesome segue into showing them his current weapon of choice. His collapsible katana, of course, not the other thing."
Your usual elegance, beauty and grace, balanced with sly bits of humor.
that was very elegant, very mature and beautiful. at the heart of it, baby sulu and his gleeful love of the sword remains my favorite part.
<3 i love the explanation for the love of fencing and sword wielding badassery