Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or any of its characters. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.

Prologue: Sequence

When it came to emergency post-cryogenic blood transfusions, Khan had left no precedents.

Weeks after the attacks, the Enterprise's highest officers would learn about Khan's own experimentation with his blood. His manipulation of a grieving Starfleet officer in order to save his daughter had been Khan's only prior footstep in rogue eugenics. The encounter had both tested Khan's blood's power and begun his attack on the Federation, beginning with the explosion at the London Archives and culminating in the leveling of Alcatraz and part of downtown San Francisco.

In order to strike a bargain, Khan had provided the officer with the necessary motivation - I can save her - and means to revive his daughter. All it had taken was a hushed conversation to earn obedience, a quiet exchange on an open courtyard where any Starfleet or medical official could have intervened.

No one had. Khan had known that no one would; he'd timed the shifts just so, selecting the most unobtrusive candidate possible. No one would have missed the man caught in the explosion any more than they had missed the forty one other Starfleet officers killed in the attack.

Khan's tracks had been easy to cover because there hadn't been any to be found. His blood had synthesized with the girl's and produced a nearly undetectable signature. Three days later, the girl had regained consciousness. The baffled physicians entrusted to her care had informed the mother that she would make a full recovery.

The mother had stared at them with the blank, listless, grieving eyes of a widow, tears of joy and anguish coursing down her cheeks. No one had known precisely how to handle the miraculous recovery on top of the horrific incident at the London Archives. Less had they known how to explain what had happened to her daughter.

Until Khan's involvement had become clear, his untraceable tracks discovered at last.

Nevertheless, it was hardly a precedent for what occurred on the Enterprise under Dr. Leonard McCoy's instruction shortly after Khan had been taken into custody.

The girl had had a beating heart, pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout her veins at the time of the injection. The serum had been meant to strengthen a life that had already been there.

At the time of injection, James Tiberius Kirk was dead.

. o .

Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott stirred slowly in his seat, mouth twisting into a grimace as a crippling headache made itself apparent. Damn near bashed my head in, he thought, sluggishly reaching around to unpin his arms from the chair, the buckles retracting back into the panels. He couldn't remember his assailant's face, but it would come; once the world stopped rocking and his head stopped spinning, he'd remember. Squinting at the too bright lighting overhead (funny; he'd thought it was dark, but maybe that had been a figment of his imagination, contrived to explain the shock that had come from too many problems at once), he stood uneasily as pressure continued to mount steadily behind his eyes.

No, he couldn't seem to recall who had been responsible for the unprovoked attack (and Starfleet would be hearing about this, you bet your arse) but everything around him was slowly coming into focus, the soft, familiar hum of the warp core engine almost soothing in the silence.

Odd, he thought, staring at the readouts diagramming the successful transfer of fuel from the warp core reactor to the main engine. He could have sworn that it hadn't been working the last time that he'd seen it.

There'd been something about misalign -

Fuck.

As though some universal puzzle piece had finally settled into place, a heavy, asthmatic wheeze interrupted his reverie. His heart sank, refusing to accept the harsh breathing that told him everything that he needed to know.

Son of a bitch, he thought, already typing in codes frantically, needing to know if there was something that he could do, some sequence that he could plug in to resolve it. There was no such thing as a no-win scenario when his engineering skills surpassed the better part of Starfleet's best and brightest. Scotty was called upon when other engineers failed, a reliable source of information that never faltered, even in the face of insurmountable odds.

But these were -

He typed as fast as he dared, needing to know if there was a chance that Kirk could be saved.

Kirk's breathing was labored behind him, wracking as he coughed. Scotty didn't look at him because hang on a sec, Cap, just hang on and I'll get you out of this, you bet your arse -

His fingers froze when the warp core reactor chamber readouts finally appeared on screen, fully functional.

The readings were absolute, the machine unmoved by his plight.

At the very bottom of the screen, in soft, innocuous green colors, the machine reported R98.1.

Radiation ninety eight percent.

Ninety eight percent.

Five minutes to decontamination, if they were lucky. Ten if the warp core's insulation was one of the older models. Looking at the licensing, Scotty's fingertips trembled.

No.

Then, as realization descended over him like a thick, oppressive cloud: I can't save you, Cap.

Scotty stared at the screen for several long, painful seconds, keenly aware of the ship's gentle life underneath him and Kirk's excruciating death at his side. It would be so easy to walk away from him and wait five minutes, to avoid the pain of being a witness. I can't save you, Cap.

Kirk had been dead the second that he stepped inside the chamber. Now, without a ship to save, he was dying.

Scotty lifted his comm to his mouth and spoke mechanically, requesting Spock's presence in the bay because he needed Spock. Kirk needed Spock.

When he ended the transmission, the silence was tense, broken only by Kirk's erratic breathing and, distantly, Spock's clipped, hasty footsteps.

I'm so sorry, Scotty told Kirk silently before he met Spock's eyes and told him the same.

Spock didn't listen to him - couldn't listen to him - and Scotty felt the lump in his throat thicken because he couldn't listen to Kirk, he needed to do something, anything, a manual override, a system reboot -

It wouldn't work, and he knew it. He was a technological wonder, but he was no god.

And so Montgomery Scott, chief engineer aboard the Enterprise, turned aside and quietly let his captain die.

. o .

Kirk's skin was still abnormally hot to the touch when the medical officers arrived on the scene less than a minute after Spock's departure. They carried his limp form out of the chamber with the delicacy and solemnity befitting a king.

Except Kirk didn't look like a king, Uhura thought, as she watched one of them - clad in a heavy white suit designed to protect from any residual radiation - lift him. He looked like a broken toy, wound up too many times and then smashed against a wall, broken and dead.

They laid him on a biobed almost tenderly, their grief masked by their professionalism as one felt for a pulse, another holding a sensor to his chest.

After a moment, they recorded the time of death and led the biobed away. Uhura followed them to the medical bay, wondering what twisted, sickening ploy of the universe had led them to this.

Spock Prime hadn't mentioned Kirk's premature death in any of his reports. He had spoken carefully, refusing to let any details - however innocuous - slip past him.

Once, Uhura recalled Spock Prime and he - their Spock, young and vibrant and theirs - discussing ship mechanics and Kirk's name cropping up, once by their Spock's suggestion, once by Spock Prime's.

Spock Prime had smiled as he had said it, and Uhura had known that Kirk had lived a long life in his time. She had seen it in Spock Prime's eyes, a certain glow that had bespoken a friendship that had lasted for eons.

It had been comforting, then, and even if she had known and shared the hostility between Kirk and Spock at times, she had still looked at them on the bridge and thought, I'm glad that they met each other.

They had needed each other, although it had taken Uhura almost as long as Spock to realize it. Both were single-minded, Kirk reckless, Spock precise, but their hot-cold temperaments meshed oddly well together. Spock had needed Kirk's provocation to cure him of the delusion that he was immune to his own feelings (even Uhura had not been able to elicit more than one quiet, brief moment of tenderness, of need in him before he was Commander Spock once more, unwilling to accept his own emotional responses). He'd needed time to grieve, and Kirk had forced him to. Kirk hadn't backed down even when it had almost come at the cost of his own life.

In return Spock was Kirk's solidarity. He was the one that Kirk relied upon, an unwavering soldier, a calm commander, a level-headed officer that balanced out Kirk's extraordinary compulsions. Spock was the one Kirk needed when things started to go downhill, but he was also the first that he wanted to dismiss when a situation turned deadly, the first that he would rather tie to the bridge than endanger.

Uhura knew without asking that they would step into the crossfire for each other, that they would protect each other at all costs. Kirk might not have the same intensive combat training as Spock, nor the same intellectual capacity nor emotional restraint, but he was powerful and capable in his own regard, and he could watch his back when Spock needed him.

The sheer overwhelming devastation on Spock's face as he rose from his seat beside the chamber door staggered her. Because he'd promised to protect Kirk, he'd promised to save him, and he had failed.

Her ears were ringing too loudly for her to hear him, but she saw Spock's eyes and knew without asking that he would kill Khan.

Part of her wanted to go with him. The greater part of her knew that he would never permit her to, so she let him go, and she stayed with Kirk (and Scotty, tearful and red-eyed and anguished, but so peripheral that it didn't matter if there had been a thousand looking eyes; nothing could have pulled her gaze from Kirk).

It was her promise to Spock, in that moment: I'll look after Kirk. I'll watch him.

He didn't need watching anymore.

But when the medical team whisked him away, there was nothing that she could do but follow.

. o .

Bones had hoped that he would never be confronted with a body bag while on board the Enterprise. It was purely wishful thinking as the Narada attacks quickly spoiled the delusion.

Being part of Starfleet was dangerous. Good officers, cadets, and crewmen died on a daily basis. It was his hope not to avoid death entirely, but to avoid its more gruesome remnants, the cold hard reality that they had once lived but would live no hadn't been prepared for it - no medical officer ever was, until the first body bag was presented to him, its unliving contents a stark reminder that death was an inherent, inescapable part of life.

Just like gravity: what exists, must cease to exist. What lives, must die.

When they wheeled him in and unwrapped the top half of the body bag, slowly, venerably, Bones couldn't look at him. He couldn't look but he did, and all he could see was a bright, warm smile, a vexed frown, a quirked eyebrow, a child-like grin, open and trusting and happy. He was always so damn happy to be on board the Enterprise, so damn excited to be a part of Starfleet. He had complained about unfair teachers and slow learners like the rest of them, but he had still loved it, had loved being the center of attention even if it just meant that he had his ass handed to him, had loved being a part of something great. Something special. He'd always wanted his own ship, always wanted to be captain, to be in control, to do great things, and once he had it - well, Bones knew that nothing could pull him away from that. He'd live and die in space, aboard his ship, among his crew, and that was the simple, undeniable truth.

Still, looking down at him, Bones swallowed and felt the grief twisting in his gut, gnawing at him, because fuck, Jim.

You weren't supposed to get yourself killed. You weren't supposed to die on my watch.

He reached out to touch him and turned away instead, head reeling, muscles spasming, hands trembling as he reached out for the table, grasping it for support. Breathe, he told himself, but it was too much, too soon, too sudden, too finite to accept. He couldn't breathe and he couldn't move, frozen in place as something twitched, then rustled, then purred.

He looked up at the tribble as it shuddered once and compressed inwards, relaxing after a moment and wriggling.

For one long moment, it didn't compute, it didn't register at all in Bones' mind what it meant.

Then he was barking orders into his comm, barking orders at anyone in a ten foot radius, because we can still save him, Goddammit, get me a cryo tube.

. o .

Spock no longer cared about rationality as he ran.

All that mattered was the fresh air in his lungs, the cool cement beneath his feet, and the urgent need to capture, to kill.

Khan was quick, but Spock was determined, single-minded and unrelenting, following him across narrow streets and onto unstable platforms. When the hovercraft lifted his sole thought was No before he leaped, catching the edges and hauling himself partially on board before Khan met him.

His training had not prepared him for Khan's strength or dexterity. Khan evaded blows and delivered them in the same movement, dancing across the platform but leaving no doubts as to his intentions as he forced Spock to the edge, grabbing his skull and crushing, crushing, crushing -

Spock melded minds with him without a thought, unleashing a tide of emotion and pain so strong that it forced Khan off long enough for him to regain his footing.

His head ached terribly but still he fought, unaware of the ache as anything more than a distant pain.

I can deal with it later, he decided as he dealt blow after blow to Khan's head, missing his mark twice and landing a third only to be thrown as Khan leaped to another craft.

His reflexes were three steps ahead of his mind as he ran to the edge of his platform and jumped.

His arm caught in one of the hooks, a grunt of pain dying in his throat as Khan approached, dark and ominous, impatient. He had no reason to keep Spock alive any longer than he needed to, and Spock knew it, as he secured a hold on him once more, already beginning his mind-numbing squeeze.

Spock held on as tightly as he could, prying at his arms even as Khan pressed them indubitably forward.

Kirk, he thought, and suddenly it was a chant, a mantra, as he gritted his teeth and snarled, Kirk, Kirk, Kirk, Kirk.

Nyota appeared and for one dazed moment Spock wondered if he had somehow summoned her accidentally, his own logic betraying him as he realized that Kirk was dead and nothing could bring him back, but maybe something could bring him aid, at least, to finish what needed to be done. Khan was already rising, ready to finish both of them, Spock had no doubt, but Nyota fired stunners at him, six in rapid succession, a seventh and eighth crippling him.

Spock was there before she could sheath her weapon, ripping a metal panel off the hovercraft and slamming it into Khan's face. Stunned, he thought, but not dead.

He was grabbing Khan's arm and - mindless, animal - twisting it, breaking it as Khan snarled, a savage, inhuman cry escaping him when Spock released it. He didn't give him a chance to recover, punchpunchpunchpunch, every shred of training poured into the mechanical, mindless motion, needing to incapacitate, to stop, to maim, to kill.

"Spock," Nyota was saying, distant and unimportant as Khan continued to sneer up at him and Spock saw a flash of Kirk's face, his heavy breathing as he doubled over, trying to inflict some damage, any on that cold, unyielding facade. He slammed his fist against him, over and over and over, Nyota's voice high and then -

"He can save Kirk!"

Spock's hand - stilled, briefly, as he looked at her, then, visibly composing himself because he was Spock, Commander Spock of the U.S.S. Enterprise, one of the last remaining Vulcans in existence. He was more than this, no matter how fiercely the desire for vengeance burned him. With a tiny nod, barely an incline of his head, he lifted the metal panel that he had used before and slammed it down in a thunderous undercut.

Khan was unconscious before the buzzing in Spock's own head had ceased. As Spock lowered the panel, lifting his comm shakily to his mouth, "Spock to Enterprise, come inEnterprise," he couldn't help but feel the rush of adrenaline fading from his veins, making him sag with defeat as he realized that none of it left him feeling satisfied and avenged. He felt helpless, useless, and wrung, responding listlessly to the Enterprise's confirmation that they would beam the three of them aboard.

It will work, he told himself.

Based on what facts?

To that, he had no ready answer.


Author's Notes: Hey, all. truffles here.

Thanks for your support, your enthusiasm, and your interest. As always, it is tremendously appreciated.

~truffles