A/N: Wrote this is a burst of inspiration at 3 AM, then woke to find that a) some of the thoughts were incomplete and b) the story changed tenses halfway through. So I revised slightly, fixing the grammar and expanding a bit- hopefully not too much- on Khan's speech. Hope you enjoy.

"There is one thing I do not understand." Spock's voice was perfectly level and uninflected, but his eyes were still burning like two coals from the heart of a forge. His body was whipcord-taut, every muscle screaming his desire to launch across the medbay and finish what he began in the city below. From where Doctor McCoy stood it looked like only Uhura- not touching him, exactly, but standing much closer than regulations allow with her body angled in against his- wa holding him back from doing just that.

Sitting on the exam table, McCoy's patient scoffed as the doctor finished tying off his arm. "I think we've established by now, Mister Spock, that there are many things you do not understand." Wrists and ankles in magnetic shackles, with no fewer than six phasers trained on him, Khan Noonien Singh still dominated the room. "Which of them are you referring to?"

Spock's brows darkened slightly, but he refused to rise further to the bait. "Once you had killed Admiral Marcus and had your followers beamed aboard Vengeance, your goals were accomplished. Your destruction of the Enterprise at that point in time seems entirely gratuitous, yet the historical record indicates that you placed great emphasis on the importance of calculated violence and cruelty. Previously you had resorted to extreme violence only when you believed your followers had been murdered, yet Captain Kirk had not wronged you in such a way. This is an apparent logical contradiction."

Khan gave a wintery smile as the needle slid into his arm, the attached tube filling with dark veinous blood. "Quite an ironic one, given that by then you had already betrayed me, Vulcan."

"Which you did not know at the time you locked phasers on the Enterprise."

Khan was silent for a long moment, his face barely twitching as the vial filled, ice-water eyes staring into Spock's "My actions were perfectly calculated."

"Indeed." Somehow that single word was more of a challenge than a slap to the face would have been. McCoy could barely look away from the two men long enough to keep an eye on the sample tube. Finally Khan spoke.

"It was because he made the leap." Nobody in the med bay had to ask who "he" was. An empty chair. An absent friend.

"I do not understand. Captain Kirk's physical prowess-"

"Is entirely irrelevant! Mister Spock, for all your learning you persist in showing that you understand less of power and command than a ten year old boy." There was real exasperation in Khan's voice now, and as he capped off the tube and moved to the medbay's analyzer McCoy allowed himself a tight smile. Pointy-eared sonofabitch could even get under a genetic superman's skin. "Understand something. The mass of humanity is a pathetic mewling herd of mediocrity, lazy, fearful, their monkey brains fairly beating at their skulls to follow the first strong leader that comes their way."

"Boy, I bet you're a hit at parties." Bones let his smile grow at Khan's annoyed glance. After a moment the other man snarled,

"Quiet doctor, the adults are talking." Those space-cold eyes swung back to Spock. "As I said, most humans are beneath notice. We were created to be different from them, apart from them, so we could rule them and shape them into a race fitted for what Nature intended them to be. But every now and again they become..." For the first time Khan hesitated, as though he had to force out the next words. "They become something more. I have known only a few of such humans in my long life, men and women with consciences strong enough to drive them, courage enough to sustain them, and conviction strong enough to drive them to attempt the impossible. They shape destinies and write their legends on the stars themselves, and they inspire others to dare the same things. They allow the masses to dream of becoming more than they are, rather than bowing to their rightful superiors. They are- heroes."

Khan shook his head slowly. "A handful of them lead the rest of humanity out of the mud long enough to defeat and exile my people. And so when I met another, a man who could blow himself out an airlock armed with nothing but his monkey reflexes and a perverse loyalty to his inferiors, well, such a man was simply too dangerous to be allowed to live. I didn't want to kill James Kirk because he frightened or angered me. I wanted to kill him because he made me respect him."

"And now you will save his life." Spock's voice was still uninflected, but Khan flinched. The Vulcan turned to go. "Doctor, please notify me when you have made progress regarding the Captain's-"

"Mister Spock." Khan's voice, slightly hoarse, stopped him in his tracks. Without turning around, Spock answered.


"If my actions were so...contradictory how did you know to arm those torpedoes?" Bones heard the question buried there. How did you beat me? Spock turned, his voice taking on an ironic edge. If he didn't know better McCoy would swear the little hobgoblin was smirking.

"I followed a hunch. A procedure taught to me by your hero and my friend. Who I predict will lead us all to things you cannot conceive of, while you miss yet more lifetimes confined to your cryo tube." Spock drew himself up, raises his arm, and gave a careful IDIC salute. "Live long, Khan Noonien Singh. But you shall not prosper."

He turned and left, Uhura on his heels. Before he turned back to the analyzer, Bones looked over at Khan. He wasn't there. In his place was a narrow-faced, thin man in a ridiculous black uniform, who for the first time looked like he'd actually lost.