The next day had gone quite well, all things considering. Jim managed to negotiate with the Narukian cannibals well enough;in fact he was ready to call it one of the best negotiations he's ever had. Of course that was before the mandatory banquet. Chief Nuffu and his panel of elders insisted that the only way to exchange trust is to exchange flesh. He ordered Kirk to offer him one of his men as a sacrifice, in turn calling forth a young Narukian boy. According to Uhura's shaky translation, the two offerings must be cooked together and shared between the representatives of both parties as a gesture of good faith. Kirk, of course, immediately declined. As politely as possible, with both hands raised in placation; only drawing his phaser when one of Nuffu's guards made a reach for ensign Jones; a smallish lad from England who gave Kirk the most profoundly heartbreaking look, like he honestly believed Jim would give him up for the good of the Federation.
"Beam us up! Now!" Jim yelled through the comm. The chief, insulted by Jim's sudden lack of cooperation, gestured to his guards.
"Vee can't sir, something's interfering vith the signal."
"Damn it!" Jim stunned the nearest giant with 5 shots to the chest, and even than the behemoth stumbled around for a good minute before dropping, facedown in front of the chief. Nuffu screamed out something in Narukian and gestured violently at Jim and his crew.
"Kaptin vee still can't get a clear signal to beam you up, but vee can send someone down."
"No!" Jim yelled while ordering his ensigns to shoot stunners at the approaching guards.
"Spock iz inzisting sir."
"Why did I make you acting Captain Spock?"
"The question is illogical, as I am your first officer I automatically take command in your absence."
"That was rhetorical!" Jim screamed, signaling to the crew that they should start running. "You are not to send Khan, you hear me? Spock!"
"If you don't mind me saying Captain, I believe you're facing a far more pressing problem at the moment, than your inexplicable inability to work along side me"
Jim looked to his left and of course Khan was already there, running beside him.
"Spock!" Jim yelled and spun around to shoot a string of stunner blasts to slow the giants down, "I'm going to kill you when I get back."
"I very much doubt the probability of your success, Jim."
Kirk swore and shouted so the ensigns would hear him.
"Khan take the ensigns to a good transmission point and get Scotty to beam them up, I'll hold them back as long as I can."
Khan turned mid-motion and shot once, precisely into the giants neck, petrifying him instantly. Jim stumbled, now running backwards, and almost fell in shock.
"No captain, since I am far more likely to knock out twice as many Narukians, and use far less ammunition, I think it would be wiser to send you ahead with the ensigns while I hold them back."
Jim growled at the barely veiled insult.
"I can shoot just fine now that I know where I should be shooting. You couldn't have told us earlier?" Jim yelled while spinning around along side Khan and shooting down five giants with only seven blasts, so as to prove his point. Khan smirked and stunned another eight not missing a shot.
"Go Captain. Like I said, I will cover your escape."
Jim took a second to study the other man out of the corner of his eye. He was immaculate as ever, even with a disheveled fringe falling precariously into his eyes. Khan stood confidently, with one foot ahead of the other, arms straight and shooting with no sign of recoil in his steady grip. He was a natural in the field. Jim found himself somehow feeling safer, just watching the brunettes' confidence.
"Keptin vee have successfully beamed up all the ensigns."
Jim spun around and not surprisingly found that while arguing with Khan, his team managed to give all his crew time to escape unharmed. The two of them were also almost on teleportation space.
"Chekov, we're about five meters away, get ready to beam us up in ten seconds."
"Come on," and without thinking, Jim grabbed the sleeve of Khan's jersey and pulled the brunette into a run, making it just in time for Chekov to beam them up.
"What the hell Jim?" was the first thing that broke through Kirk's mind when they beamed aboard. He looked up and met Bone's rather ominous glare.
"What nothing happened Bones, we're all alive aren't we?"
"Tell it to ensign Jones, he threw up as soon as they beamed him aboard; pissed himself and than promptly passed out."
"Well…" started Kirk, awkwardly scratching the back of his neck with one hand, "maybe he shouldn't be on field duty. I'll arrange to have him transferred to admin tomorrow morning."
"Don't give me that shit, you didn't have to drag his piss-soaked ass to sick bay."
Jim smirked but said nothing, what he wouldn't give to have had been here to see that.
"Captain I am happy to see you are unharmed." Spock approached and promptly dropped his gaze, a look of grave disapproval coming across his face. Jim looked down and immediately dropped Khan's still captured Jersey sleeve. Khan for his part remained completely unfazed, smirking at Spock challengingly who in turn fixed the superhuman with a vulcan equal of a narrow-eyed glare.
"So am I Spock. Now I'm going to have a shower and try not to drown in there, then pass-out for a couple of hours. I'll see you 1900 hours for chess, yeah?"
"Affirmative captain," Spock replied, never taking his eyes off Khan.
"Great, it will give us time to discuss why you should listen to your captain when he's off ship and running for his life from hungry cannibals."
Spock finally broke the staring contest to fix Jim with a blank look.
"I did what I thought was necessary…" he paused and shot Khan another suspicious glance, "at the time."
Jim waved dismissively.
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever."
Jim woke to familiar buzzing, shooting a quick look at the bedside clock he groaned. 'One and half hours is not enough' he thinks, dragging himself lethargically to the door. Pressing the button, he was prepared to tell Spock off for waking him half an hour early; instead Khan smoothly barged into his room as soon as there was enough room for him to slip through the entrance. Jim accepted fate with a string of muttered curses and locked the door.
"What are you doing here Khan?"
"I thought I should visit you after today's events and ask after your wellbeing. It would assist our…"
"Relationship building," Jim finished for him. With a heavy sigh he crossed the room and pressed a hidden notch on the wall to reveal his liquor cabinet. Grabbing a bottle of forty year old scotch and a couple of tumblers he made his way groggily to the chess table where Khan once more occupied Spock's chair. He sank into it with such easy grace that for a moment Jim couldn't help but think that he owned it; like it was made for him all along.
"Well since I'm unlikely to convince you to leave I might as well offer you a drink. And a thanks, I suppose, for coming down and helping us out today."
Khan took the two fingers of scotch with a nod of approval.
"Not at all Captain. I felt it's the least I could do."
There was something strange about the way Khan said this, but Jim was still too befuddled with sleep to give it much thought.
"Cheers," Jim muttered half-heartedly, reaching out to click his glass against Khan's. The brunette smirked and lifted his glass slightly in agreement.
Sinking into their respective seats, the two men studied each other curiously between sips.
"I propose we initiate a reciprocal line of questioning, and take turns learning more about each other."
"I suppose," Jim shrugged, feigning disinterest. Truth be told he was dying to know more about the man. Obviously he couldn't ask things related to his past as a tyrant, but perhaps he could learn more about the universe from Khan's previous explorations. "Though we're kinda short on time at the moment since Spock is due for our game of chess in a about ten minutes."
"That's fine, as a sign of good faith why don't you start tonight Jim."
"Captain," Jim corrected
"How about a compromise, Kirk."
"Fine," Jim consented and thought quickly on the best thing to ask the other man. "I've got one. How would you like to join my field team? Ensign Jones is clearly more of an office type, and I need a minimum of ten ensigns per a team."
Khan looked somewhat taken aback, undoubtedly expecting Jim to mercilessly start prying into his past. His azure eyes stared blankly at the blonde, thumb tracing lazy circles on the glass.
"If you are certain…"
"Might I ask what caused this sudden change of heart? Not to cause offense but if I am not mistaken. Judging from your opinion of me, it was only last night that you appeared to trust me about as far as you could throw me. I am unconvinced Captain, that you whole-heartedly want me on your field team."
"Don't make this into a big deal Khan. You obviously knew what you were doing out there today, and that's more than I can say for most of the alternative replacements. So do you want the post or not?"
"I do," Khan nodded and set his empty tumbler on the table, "it would be good to have an opportunity to occasionally go off ship."
Jim couldn't agree more. The buzzer interrupted any further conversation, and Jim quickly made his way to the door. It was still chillingly awkward to sit and make small talk with a man, who all too recently, tried to kill them all. Spock inclined his head in greeting.
"Jim, may I come in?"
"Yes of course. Though I should warn you…"
"He already has company," interrupted an arrogant, British lilt.
"I see. Good evening Khan;" though from Spock's expression he looked anything but a well-wisher.
Jim chose to cut in-between their glaring, fearing somewhat left out from the imminent showdown.
"I…" he tried to think of something to say to diffuse the situation.
"I believe I should take my leave captain"
"I believe that was the expected course of action," Spock agreed.
"Spock!" Jim couldn't help but exclaim, more scandalized at his FO's uncharacteristic rudeness, than any hurt feelings on Khan's account. The aforementioned man rose gracefully from his seat and strode past Jim, leaning in like the night before and whispering in his ear.
"I'll see you later Kirk."
Then he stepped around him and without so much as a break in stride, groped his arse. Jim was stupefied and by the time he came around to accept that what occurred wasn't just some grotesque slip of imagination, Khan was long gone and Spock had cleared the table of their glasses and was adjusting the few chess pieces that got dislodged.
Jim shot a scared glance at his FO. Did he notice?
"Are we commencing the game?"
"Yes, it's what we do right?" Jim made an attempt to laugh, but only ended up sounding like he was choking on air "You start, I need a glass of water."
Spock nodded and began to gently rotate the board so the white pieces faced him. Jim somehow managed to reach his bedroom. He grabbed a glass and the pitcher of water he kept on the bedside table and poured himself a tall glass. Taking a few deep swallows, Jim set the glass down and let his face sag into his hands. 'What the fuck is going on here?'