Author's Note: Minecraft Guardiansaiyan: "Hopefully when Khan sleeps he has good dreams..."
It's funny you should say that...
This chapter is for Kerttu, an unusually loyal fan from my sister country of Estonia (hello from Finland), and for Librasmile, who was willing to geek out with me and discuss the psychology of new universe vs. old universe characters. Thanks.
Also, I made a mistake- I went back and rewatched the scene on the bridge of the Vengeance, and it is actually Scotty that shoots Khan. But upon Kirk's order, so the text is staying the same.
Noonien Singh barely slept that night, or the following nights. When he did sleep, it was a roller coaster, out-of-order experience of past reality and fabrication. The sensation in his palms of the back of the neck of each of his people, so dependent on him, as he guided them to lay back in the cryotubes, knowing that they may never wake again. Marcus, lifting his people up from those tubes and smashing their brains on the floor. The sickening smell of broken bones and burning flesh on battlefields long overgrown. The tight squeezing sensation in his chest as he hoped and hoped and dumped a virus into the Hong Kong water mains and wished there was a god worth praying to. The sickening lurch of the Botany Bay as it launched, the more sickening lurch of apprehension when he lay himself in a cryotube, alone, responsible, closing his eyes for too long. Marcus's brains oozing between his fingers. Watching Lieutenant Uhura march out to talk to the Klingons on Qo'nos, knowing somehow in his metaphorical loins that she might as well be his granddaughter. Letting James Kirk punch him, with the tickle of amusement in his chest at the audacity of this tiny little bug thinking he could possibly be broken by a human fist. Spock looking very pleased for a Vulcan, as the torpedoes detonated. The shaking, burning rage of the crashing ship echoing the shaking, burning rage of his own destroyed soul. The tearing feeling in his very center when his own people turned on him in Paris, in Dubai, in Hong Kong. A poisoned knife sinking into his body between the ribs in his back, held there by a man, a boy- the offspring of the first generation of the Children of Chrysalis. Being shot on the bridge of the Vengeance.
He awoke holding his side, still feeling the knife in his back and the phaser that echoed it perfectly on the other side of him.
"Mr. Singh?" a voice prompted from outside the glass.
"I'm well," he responded, voice hoarse from the past few nights. "Just a nightmare."
It had become a routine between he and Dr. McCoy. It would have seemed shameful and invasive for anyone to see such weakness, but that the witness was a doctor and a professional. The doctor had only offered drugs once and after being refused did not offer again. Instead, patiently, he appeared every time Noonien's vitals jumped.
"Your blood pressure gets so high that sometimes I'm sure you're going to have a stroke," Bones admitted. "Tea? Cocoa?"
"Coffee," he requested.
"Because that's just what your blood pressure needs." Bones snarked, but punched it into the replicator anyway, and ordered one for himself. "Caffeine."
"My favorite drug," Noonien said warmly, taking the cup from the unit inside the cell. He inhaled the familiar smell.
"Do you want to talk about them?" he offered carefully.
Noonien said nothing, sipping his coffee instead. After a long silence, he admitted, "I can still feel where I was stabbed and where I was shot. Not the ones from the battlefield, but the others. Where Scott shot me, it was right in line with where Liu Qibao's son stabbed me in the back. It could almost be an exit wound." He sipped his coffee again, hand shaking slightly.
McCoy said nothing.
"It hurts to know I could be so stupid," he continued his confession. "Twice. Four times. Every time."
"You would have killed us if it meant saving your people," Bones defended gently. "Can you expect any less from us?"
"You and my family weren't supposed to be mutually exclusive goals after you understood what happened. I thought, once I explained what Marcus had done, you'd help me retrieve them. Then-" he stopped short.
McCoy tipped his head to the side. "Then, what? Then we could all be friends? Then we would join you while you cleansed the universe of the unworthy?"
"We never killed people based on the arbitrary criteria common to human genocides," he parried impatiently. "We sterilized people whose genetics were unfit to continue and encouraged those who wanted to embrace evolution. We never forced anyone to reproduce, we never cloned anyone, we never murdered children. Better than anyone else in our time, really. At that time, religiously fundamentalist nations were enacting their rape fantasies in legal terms by forbidding women the right to make their own decisions and even the most developed of nations didn't see anything amiss about underaged non-combatants becoming 'collateral damage' in the petty disputes between governments. Tell me, would you rather live in my world, or Hitler's world? Mine, or the Golden Dawn's Greece? Dario Kordic's Bosnia? Or Fred Phelp's America?"
He let that hang in the air for a bit before he continued. "We fought to destroy the arbitrary concepts of race, religion, and borders. To make one humanity- a better humanity- according to the scientific and ethical knowledge of the time. You would judge us for that?"
McCoy sipped his coffee and considered. "No, but I would prevent you from doing it again."
"You would," Noonien laughed sadly. "Even as your engineer and your captain did, trying to prevent me from killing a man who so sorely deserved it. I come from a time of wolves, doctor. You come from a time of lambs. What would have happened, I wonder, if I had not been here to destroy Admiral Marcus? Would a peaceful league of peoples been strong enough to survive a war with these new wolves, the Klingons?"
"Who gave Marcus the fangs to think he could start one, if not you?" McCoy countered.
Noonien turned his head as if physically slapped.
"While we're being unfair, I mean. Since we obviously would never have overcome racism and religious intolerance in our own time, let's discuss what happened as if there had been no god-damned choice." Bones dropped his empty cup in the bin. "Marcus never finds you. Marcus never gets your brain, your experience, or your arrogance to help him start a war. Marcus never starts a war, because we haven't had one in centuries and have no idea how that kind of thing even works. Everything proceeds as normal and nobody has to die."
Noonien stared at the floor.
"Don't tell me I out-argued you!" he laughed with a kind of bitterness. "Unbelievable."
"While we're playing at hypotheticals," he exhaled, straightening his posture, "Imagine a world in which my people are never born and your people toil along in overpopulation, war, famine, and all the general squalor of mean existence. We never have to suffer. You just peter out, choking on your own shit, and leave behind a burned-down earth for your new civilizations to discover." He stood, returned to the cot in the back of his cell, eased himself onto it, but did not lie down. "If only it had been so."
Bones sighed. "This isn't working." He set a port ring on the glass and drew it wide, tearing a hole into the barrier between them. He stepped through and deactivated it from the other side, glass resealing.
"What are you doing?" Noonien demanded, sitting up again. His voice gave away that he wasn't his usual unassailable self.
"You need to experience what was done to you or it's going to kill you," he informed him. "I hoped I could just piss you off and you'd work through it on your own, but there's really no way to make you angry without making you too angry, is there?"
He growled a warning. "You're in a cage with an animal, Doctor."
"You would've killed me by now, if you were going to," he dismissed, steeled himself, and walked over to the cot. He stood out of arm's reach, knowing that it wouldn't buy him a single nanosecond to react if something went wrong.
There was really only one thing that could go wrong, anyway.
"You're still mostly human. Horrific things happened to you, and when horrific things happen, people break down. Maybe not immediately, maybe not all at once, but it happens. There are psychological repercussions to- What are you laughing at?"
Noonien was laughing in a way that started and abruptly stopped, just to start again. He shook his head. "There is no way to know."
"There is no way to know what the psychological repercussions would be," he reasoned even as his chest seemed to tighten and his heart pounded anew. "Nothing like this has ever happened to anyone in the history of ever." He paused, then looked up at the doctor with a broken kind of amusement. "You should write a paper. Probably earn you a research position somewhere. I can go back to being a lab rat-" he stopped suddenly. The air simply ran out of him. He tried to take a breath, but his lungs wouldn't expand. He wrapped his arms around his chest and doubled over.
"That's it," Bones told him gently. He sat down and put a hand on his back. "You're going to be okay."
Noonien made a noise that could have been a gasp or a scoff. He dug his fingers into his ribs and grit his teeth.
"This is a panic attack," the doctor explained. "You've probably never had one. Try to breathe slowly. It will pass. I'm right here and I've got an eye on your vitals, so you're safe. You're completely safe here."
It was a long moment before he managed to draw in a breath. When he released it, a stream of words came out with it. "They trapped me in the dark. Cut me open and took me apart and put things in me and took them out again. It shouldn't be so bad, it's only a body. It's only a body and they trapped me in it. Helpless, I was... I was helpless and weak. It was always darker when they wanted to take more from me."
Bones moved his hand up and down the madman's back. "They can't do it anymore."
"They can," he whispered. "They can and they always are. Too weak to get them back. Too weak to fight, to move, too weak to defend my family. They chained me in this body and made me watch."
"We won't let that happen again. Ever."
"It's all for nothing," he managed. "All the work, all the planning, nothing. So you could go to the stars and back stab and hate. I wanted better for you, but it was all for nothing." By an immense force of will, he controlled his breathing and sat up a little, his usual rigid posture gone. "It's impossible. It's all impossible. There's nothing to be done. I should be dead. Help me," he turned to look up at the doctor, open and desperate and pitifully defenseless. "Help me die. I know you can."
Bones smiled sadly. "You know, it might come to that. They just might execute you. And if that's your sentence, I'll be by your side then. But I won't help you kill yourself."
He exhaled raggedly and folded over, eyes closing again.
The door of the room whisked open and Nyota entered in a graceful hurry. She stopped short when she saw the doctor in the cell. "Uh-"
Bones patted Noonien on the back gently. "It's been a long sort of day. What's the news?"
Nyota smiled uncertainly. "We found something."