Author's Note: Oh. My. God. SO, was this an out-of-the-blue update or what? Yeah, I know. I apologize, sincerely. And normally, I would promise an update really soon but honestly, I will try to update this story as soon as possible for me and my crazy, banaynays schedule. So, please be patient. This new chapter is largely brought to you by the steady few who still submitted reviews this late in the game. As always, thank you so much for all my reader and followers and favoriters! Extra love goes out to all my reviewers who take that extra time to give me that feedback, all the love and support really keeps me going in writing. Thanks so much and I hope y'all enjoy this new chapter(:
Chapter 8: In A Time of Need
"Captain, this course of action is ill-advised."
Jim didn't stop walking – if he did, he might lose his nerve.
"Come on, Jim. Don't make me agree with the hobgoblin."
If he could just keep moving and make it to the shuttles then maybe they'd just drop it. Or maybe he could sneak on a full shuttle and leave them to catch a ride separately. One could only hope.
"We are hardly aware of his true inentions, and Star Fleet regulation states –,"
"Screw regs! He just admitted to bringing an armed explosive to HQ and now you're letting him aboard the ship."
"Additionally, it is highly unlikely the crew will adjust well to this news."
"And Scotty! Scotty is going have a fucking field day, Jim. Uhura is probably just going to up and quit. Or better yet, commit an act of treason and take over. Now that I think about it, she would make a great space pirate with those legs."
"Doctor McCoy, you are aware of my presence?"
Jim whirled on his heel, facing his CMO and FO squarely. He was trying his best to look sternly annoyed and not just petulant; it seemed to have little effect. Both men stared blankly at their Captain and then expectantly, waiting for some sort of explanation or justification.
Well, tough nuts.
"Khan's coming aboard the Enterprise, my Enterprise." Jim raised an eyebrow in a silent challenge. "As your Captain, this is my call to make. And as your friend, I would hope that you guys could show a little faith in my judgment."
Leonard and Spock exchanged loaded glances, apparently sending some psychic message because the two faced Jim simultaneously, both with faces drawn and expressions tight. Neither one immediately said a word, leaving an uncomfortable silence which both parties were hesitant to fill.
Jim exhaled audibly, "Look. Sometimes you serve with someone you don't like, that's life. I know you guys don't trust him, but give him a chance. Weren't you guys ever told as children not to judge a book by its cover?"
"I was instructed from a young age to use my senses to gather information in order to develop logical conclusions," Spock said flatly.
McCoy nodded sagely, "Yeah, my gut is telling me this ain't right, Jim. We don't know this guy and we're letting him in like a neighbor looking for flour."
The Captain groaned to himself, turning his back on both of his friends as he went to board the next available shuttle. Surprisingly, neither followed Jim, allowing him to go it alone to the Enterprise.
It wasn't like Jim didn't understand their concerns – he did, perhaps even better than the two. The board had made it glaringly apparent what would be on the line should this little act of faith go awry. And it wasn't as if Khan was coming aboard a completely free man. The sheer amount of restrictions they slapped on him were essentially his new shackles, though now in writing rather than metal.
However, Jim didn't entirely disagree with Star Fleet's provisions. They were simple things, like how Khan was not to be a part of any landing party, or have any access to phaser or life support systems. Weekly reports were also required from both Khan himself and Jim on his work, interactions with crew members, and the general welfare of their mission.
Oddly enough, when Jim had left the meeting, although they had ruled in his favor, he felt as though somehow it really was in theirs. The council now had an inside man on Jim's ship who would report sans prejudice. If there was anything Jim was hiding, perhaps Khan's reports would uncover it.
Suddenly, Jim was questioning his decision.
. . . . .
Scotty tried not to stare. Tried really, really hard not to openly gape, because frankly he wasn't sure what would happen if he made eye contact for too long.
Jim had politely sent out a message to all Enterprise crew members about their newest addition, debriefing everybody that no, this Khan was not that Khan, and yes, he would be walking freely around the ship, so please be polite. What, had they turned into a cruise liner?
Now, the entire engineering team had to put up with a completely uncomfortable presence of a man, who not too long ago, was trying to kill them. Granted, different guy, but also granted, eerily with the same face (and that is to even say that anyone believed that bull-hockey of 'alternate universe').
So maybe the Chief Engineer had come across an older version of Spock – that didn't necessarily mean that this Khan was not in fact actually that Khan.
Regardless – Khan, for whatever reason, was immediately in engineering, hovering strangely around an entirely useless piece of equipment they only occasionally tampered with when hyper-drive systems were acting wonky. None of the crew members dared to speak with him, or even approach him for that matter which left basically an entire wing of the engineering deck empty.
Leaving Scotty alone.
"This warp stabilizer is being under-used," Khan finally said, his voice echoing off the walls of the hull.
Scotty pointedly turned his attention back to his data PADD, pretending to be absolutely absorbed in the system's maintenance scan, and simply hummed in response. Somewhere behind him, the super solider shuffled about, tampering with god knows what.
Khan continued, as if he were speaking to himself, "With a careful recalibration, I could enhance our warp efficiency by point-zero-seven percent."
The words that came out Scotty's mouth surprised him probably more than it did Khan. But then, what else was he supposed to do? Allow that madman to entertain some false idea of tinkering with his ship when she was already in top-notch shape?
However, Scotty had now addressed him, breaking his own rule of silence. Now he'd have to actually engage the man or run the risk of being a complete and total prick.
Scotty supressed a sigh as he turned around to face the newest addition to the crew, and said, "I have already optimized the Enterprise's warp capabilities with an already very delicate equation. You couldn't squeeze a margin that large even out of our fuel capacitors."
The Chief Engineer did not miss the mild astonishment that rippled over Khan's features, his gray eyes widening fractionally before smoothing over once more to a pleasantly calm mask. Unexpectedly, a knife of guilt stabbed Scotty right in the gut.
"May I…," Khan trailed off, seemingly uncertain of himself. He took a tentative step toward the machine, "Might I try my own algorithm?"
Maybe it was the look in his eyes or the awkward shuffling and hand wringing. Or maybe it was because Scotty actually did somewhere have a shred of sympathy for the fellow, aboard a ship with strangers who all feared or hated him for having an appearance he couldn't control with no way to prove he actually was a good guy. Maybe Khan was playing them all, or maybe he was actually who he said he was.
Either way, Scotty found himself nodding dumbly.
Khan's ministrations seemed to last only for the barest of moments, his elegant fingers dancing smoothly over the console's interface before stepping back. The machine whirred to life and filled the air with an almost imperceptible hum.
Scotty turned his attention down to his beeping tablet in utter amazement – there they were, the extra 0.07% that Khan had promised in efficacy.
"I…," the head engineer trailed off, unable to find the words. Mouth still hanging open limply, Scotty stared back at Khan who in turn was watching him with the same expression he had concealed earlier.
Only now did Scotty recognize it for what it truly was.
. . . . .
"Eighteen hours and you've already got my engineer singing your praise."
Khan jerked violently in his chair, whipping around to see none other than the Captain himself standing in the doorway of his quarters. Jim Kirk had been kind enough to designate a single room cabin off in one of the more remote halls to him. The walls were a sterile white, the sheets regulation blue, and without any personal effects to decorate the room it was painfully bare. But it bested the cramped prison cell Starfleet had been content to cage him in. Surely beat his prior captivity under –
"Captain Kirk-," Khan moved hastily to get out of his chair for a salute but Jim merely waved him off.
"Stand down, soldier," those blue eyes twinkled with their usual mirth, "Consider this a personal visit – off the record."
The super soldier hesitated, halfway between sitting and standing, until at last he gestured for Jim to take the other seat opposite him at the small, empty table, and seated himself fully once more. Tension gathered in Khan's shoulders as he strained to sit up straight, keep his chin level and his eyes forward in a look of concentrated respect.
Jim flopped down in the chair lazily, casually, effortlessly. Immediately at home, at once comfortable and at ease. Such a stark contrast to the James T. Kirk which Khan had grown so accustomed to.
"I hadn't the chance before to express my utmost gratitude to you, Captain-," Khan started but once again was cut off at Jim's nonchalant gesture.
"I didn't come here for a thank-you, either."
Khan's brows drew together, "Then, if I may be so bold, why are you here, Captain?"
Kirk barked out a laugh, and his whole face lit up with renewed amusement. The transformation was intoxicating – Jim's golden skin seemed to glow as a beaming smile split his face, too-blue eyes crinkling at the corners, the tiniest wrinkle forming on the bridge of his nose. A desire, hot and fierce, to make Jim Kirk laugh flared inside Khan's chest briefly with such intensity, a spark of want.
"First of all, it's Jim," Kirk grinned crookedly," and second, I just dropped in to see how you were adjusting. Apparently very well, if our improved systems are any indication. Scotty just won't shut up about you."
Khan masked his abashment under a calm demeanor, "It was a menial margin, by no means worthy of such adoration, and I assure you, I affect no false modesty, Capt – Jim."
The correction was abrupt, Khan obviously catching himself, though Jim smiled none the less, a softer expression than before. He merely replied, "In any case, thank you."
"That's not –,"
"Take the damn thanks," Kirk lifted a silent eyebrow in challenge.
Khan relented, "You're welcome."
The quiet that descended upon the two men walked the razor's edge of awkward and peaceful. Khan watched Jim flick his gaze between either of his eyes, face drawn suddenly tight into an expression of thoughtfulness, of contemplation.
"Tell me about the other Jim Kirk," the Captain said at last, his voice hoarse with solemnity. There was a definite pause, tension clinging to every particle of air as neither man moved, hardly even dared to breathe lest they disturb the precarious atmosphere.
At last, Khan smiled thinly, a weak counterfeit to Jim's, surely.
"Is it not enough that the two of you are as different as night and day? You two are as dissimilar as two men can be, just as I am sure that all things this world's Khan Noonien Singh embodies, I do not."
Jim sighed. So Khan wasn't ready to talk about it, maybe he never would be. To open that pandora's box of all the horrors inflicted upon him under his time of capture may not be the best decision. Yet Jim still wondered.
So Jim decided to try another route.
"Do you like chess?"
If the question caught Khan off-guard, he was positively adept at concealing it. He inclined his head in puzzlement, and at the action, his body seemed to uncoil fractionally.
"Indeed, I enjoy the game."
Jim smiled widely yet again, back at a very unsuspecting Khan.