A/N: I'm using Space Seed, The Wrath of Khan, and STID for my canon info. I have taken the term "Augment" from Enterprise. I'm not using the different books written that deal with Khan's background in my canon.
Insolence and Wine
Khan quickly learned to recognize the sound of her footfall on the other side of the door. Surprises could not be helped, but he was never surprised by the same thing twice.
He sat back in his chair, turned to face the door, and waited.
No matter how many times he did it, Marla would always go still and wide-eyed for a half-second when the door opened and she saw he had obviously been expecting her. It gave him a little thrill each and every time to see it. He was willing to play and pretend when tactics and reason demanded it. There was something amusing in allowing an opponent to underestimate him. However, his natural inclination was to show no weakness, to appear even more powerful than he was. That was a behavior drilled into him young, by necessity and survival, being raised amongst several hundred other Augments. Children could be cruel. Especially his brothers and sisters. They taught him to enjoy feeling powerful. It meant he was able to defend himself and those under his protection.
Though, sometimes, to protect his people, he had to appear weak.
"How do you do that?" she asked early on. "They said the room was sound-proof."
"It is," he had replied without answering.
With Marla, he enjoyed showing hints of what he was truly capable of when free. Fear was never the point. Only power.
"Good morning," she said today, entering with a small box, made of the same synthetic material they used with his dish ware. Khan had experimented early on and learned that the entire thing would eventually dissolve if exposed to water. Or blood. "I brought you something."
"I see that." He stood up to take the box from her hands, allowing their fingers to brush over each other. She took a slight, in-drawn breath before turning away to find her chair.
"Look for yourself."
"I want you to tell me."
She slowly turned around and looked at him for a moment. He watched her try her best to hold his eyes, but she soon glanced away. "It's a danish," she said finally, almost begrudgingly, grabbing the back of her chair. She carried and dropped it down with a clatter on the cement floor, farther from his own chair than she usually liked.
"You brought me a danish." Khan huffed through his nose once in a laugh. "Very few people get the opportunity to sit down with an Alexander or a Napoleon. But you do." He held up the box and examined it from all angles theatrically. "And you bring him a danish."
She set her PADD down on the table. "Look, if you don't want it-"
"That is not what I said," he corrected her, almost sharply before softening his tone again. "I remark on it because it is unexpected. Delightful. Almost whimsical, don't you think? A legendary man, an everyday pastry. You amuse me. And I like to be amused."
Khan took his time setting the box on the table, tapped it once on top, laughing again. He sat and reached for her hand. After a slight hesitation, she gave it. He wrapped his fingers around her palm and pressed the back of her hand to the center of his chest.
"Thank you, Marla," he intoned seriously, then smirked. "For the danish."
She laughed, pulling her hand back. "I remembered you mentioning that they have only been feeding you military rations and water. I've been bringing things for the guards: danishes, scones, crepes, these little round things people call Andorian doughnuts. I checked with security and they agreed to let me bring you this. As long as I used one of their boxes and brought them some too. And I might have had to kiss Charlie." Marla put an elbow on the table and used a hand to block her face from where they both knew the security camera was. She made a slight disgusted expression.
He smiled. "If I had known that was what it took, I might have kissed Charlie."
"Oh, I would have liked to see that," she replied.
"It would cost you more than a danish. Perhaps, Denmark." He frowned. "They allow you to bribe security? That is unwise."
Marla shrugged. "What could I do? I'm just a historian."
"And Theodora of Byzantium was a prostitute."
She shook her head and picked up her PADD. "I sincerely don't know if that was a compliment or an insult."
He laughed. "A compliment, of course. She was an exquisite empress."
"Anyway. Admiral Marcus runs a very tight ship. Security is fool-proof. It's no harm." There was something about her tone. It caused him to pause, for only a bare second longer than usual (always very aware of the camera in the center of the room). She took pains to appear busy with her PADD and as if only absently continuing their conversation. But Khan knew she never became complacent in his presence or distracted when they spoke.
He swerved the topic away from security, but remained vigilant for any further suspicious behavior.
"I had a sister named Theodora Alva Marrero," Khan said and Marla's head whipped up, eyes intent. That always amused and pleased him. The fact that he could drop the smallest tidbit of information about himself and she'd scoop it up with greedy metaphorical fingers.
"Theodora of Russia?"
"Just the one. I wonder." He tapped his fingers on the edge of the table. Marla put the PADD back down and leaned toward him, as if pulled by magnetism between their bones. Khan smiled and decided to tell her something true. "I wonder if you know how she came to rule all of Russia."
"I was taught that she rose to power when her predecessor, Cirocco, became distracted by war with the Northern Allies."
"Yes, Cirocco was always a bully, paranoid, war-mongering. He was particularly fond of Stalin's idea of purging within his own ranks. It kept them in line when he was home but it also undermined his own position when he wasn't. He relied too much on fear." Khan swatted at the air as if the very idea was an annoying buzz in his ear. "Fear turns men into dogs. A fearful dog will bite the hand that feeds it." He sighed. "Cirocco never understood this. Theodora and I became concerned. You see, he was not fit to rule."
She smiled. "Are you saying that you helped her plan a coup when the Northern Allies started the war?"
"Marla. Sweet Marla." He reached out and chucked her under the chin with a finger. "I am saying we started the war."
"How? The Northern Allies were one of the few areas never held by an Augment. Why would they fire a nuclear missile at St. Petersburg for you?"
"They always claimed it was a computer malfunction," he said, leading her to the correct conclusion, as one might a child.
She gasped. "You hacked their national defense grid? Then used it to destroy St. Petersburg, so that Cirocco would declare war on the Northern Allies and when he was distracted, Theodora executed a coup and had him hanged."
"Theodora made a much better neighbor."
"You left St. Petersburg a radioactive crater." Marla almost seemed aghast, pale-faced and hush-voiced. "Millions of people died! And thousands more died before she negotiated a cease-fire with the North."
Khan slammed his fist down onto the tabletop. She jumped and sat back. "Cirocco was killing millions of his own people and would have killed millions more! He was never satisfied. He scratched at our borders, killing a thousand of my soldiers here, two thousand there. It was only a matter of time before he would have bled his own people dry and then come for mine. Do you know how many people relied on me to protect them? Not counting those abroad, who never realized how often I interceded on their behalf. Merely the population within my own borders. Over three billion. I sacrificed three million of Cirocco's people to protect three billion of mine. I did what was right."
He let the room become loud with silence, to chastise her. She pressed a hand over her mouth and leaned on the table, looking away. He waited for the moment when her shoulders slumped and her body began to relax.
"I protect those I care about," Khan whispered. "Don't you?"
Marla opened her mouth to answer, but her PADD began to beep. Her hand darted out to grab it. He swiped it up before she could. On the screen, the word "TEST" blinked in synch with the alarm.
"Test? What test?" he demanded. She tried to take it from his hands, but he barely had to exert any force at all and she was powerless to take it from him.
"Sorry," she said. "It's just a mistake. That was supposed to go off tonight. To remind me to finish grading tests for a class I'm teaching. Please, just let me turn it off."
He turned off the alarm himself, glanced at the background image on her screen of herself smiling and hugging a young boy, then handed it back to her. She checked it herself, before folding it in her arms against her chest.
"Who is the boy?" he asked.
The door behind her opened and four guards in full battle gear dashed in with phasers drawn.
"Against the wall!" one of them yelled. "Against the wall!"
Marla held up her hands and rushed to do as she was told. Khan stayed where he was and the guards hesitated. He had been informed that their phasers would always be set to kill, as they did not have a stun setting strong enough for him yet. But he was not doing anything that would justify killing him. None of them were eager to explain to Admiral Marcus why they executed John Harrison, his military mastermind, for staying seated in a chair. Even fewer were stupid enough to try physically moving him themselves.
"Don't move!" the same officer decided to yell instead.
Khan laughed under his breath.
"Secure," she tentatively called and another guard entered with a tricorder instead of a phaser. He ran it over Marla first, from foot to top of her head. Shook his own head then picked up the PADD she had dropped when they entered the room. He held the tricorder against it for half a minute, then set it back down. Shook his head. He grabbed the box Marla had brought with the danish and scanned that as well. Shook his head. He turned and scanned Khan from a greater distance than he had when scanning Marla. He backed away out of reach before turning to his captain and reporting, "Clear."
"Surprise inspection?" Khan asked. "Or are you having a problem?"
He could see the officer's eyes narrow from behind her tinted face guard. "Surprise inspection," she said. "Pull out." The rest of her team retreated. "You have fifteen more minutes," she told Marla and exited, closing the door behind her.
Marla took in a long breath, then released it. She walked across the room, sat down, and picked up her PADD.
"I'm sorry." She shook her head. "Where were we?"
He wasn't fooled.
"They've never had surprise inspections before."
"When we first met, you said they never let you have guests before. Things change."
"Yes." He smirked. "But you are just a historian. Not really someone to," he looked directly at her PADD then back into her eyes, "sound the alarm."
Khan could see it in her face. The tilt of her head, the purposeful innocent widening of her eyes, and how she chewed on the inside of her lip. She knew he was referencing the suspect timing of her alarm coinciding with security's perhaps-not-such-a-surprise visit.
"I don't know. Maybe I could," she answered in more than one way. "After all, I don't know what they're looking for."
"Oh, of course not." He sat back in his chair and laughed to himself. Surprises could not be avoided and he was never surprised twice, but sometimes a surprise could be exactly what he needed. Khan was not sure yet what this meant. It did not seem to be Marcus' style, sending in a woman who appeared benign then appeared covert while security pretended to have no idea. That required too much style, too much subtlety. Admiral Marcus was involved with Section 31 because he rose to such a rank that it granted him access through right of power and position, instead of talent for secrecy. His style was torture and war, not espionage and maneuvering. He was more like Cirocco than Khan. No, this seemed like it might actually be Marla, not Marcus. What a lovely surprise.
"Now," she cleared her throat, "where were we?"
Khan smiled. "Theodora."