Please be aware that anything scientific (geographical, astronomical, technological, anatomical, etc) is purely made up for the sake of this story. Minimal research was conducted to make it seem realistic, but I apologize to anyone with knowledge/familiarity to these subjects because they are mostly inaccurate here. This is just an excuse to write some Kirk & Khan interactions.
This is a UA fic (Universe Alterations; changes have been made to certain events that have occurred throughout the movie to fit the story of the fanfiction. Set during events of STID) which takes place not long after Khan surrenders to Kirk's crew.
Also, I am fairly new to the Star Trek fandom and my knowledge of Khan is limited only to Benedict Cumberbatch's representation of the character. Should anything be OOC or contain incorrect character features (this includes Kirk and any other characters), I am deeply sorry. Enjoy!
It didn't exactly matter what some people thought, because though infamously known outside of Starfleet as a mischievous troublemaker prone to getting himself knotted up in a girl's panties, Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise was nothing short of a genius.
Despite the couple of ill rumors floating around here and there to hurt his reputation Jim continued to uphold his status as famous Captain that helped abolish Nero and his cronies for good. Perhaps it had something to do with his knack for getting into trouble, or maybe he just had an unfortunate aura that attracted space terrorists; Jim found himself regretting his famous position a little bit since everyone was expecting him to be the hero once again and save the world from peril.
Anyone with a healthy set of eyes and a telly wouldn't miss the obvious threat of a certain Starfleet agent gone rogue, instantly catching London's eye and being placed under immediate candidate for extermination. To everyone's knowledge on earth, the man John Harrison was dead, found and killed by the crew of Captain Kirk. The news reported of the discovery of Harrison on a deserted planet and his instant obliteration as dozens of torpedoes were unleashed onto his location. According to the press, that had been the end of it. The Kelvin Memorial Archive was undergoing reconstruction, and all was well.
However, if one was currently aboard the Enterprise, they would know that things were not. In fact, they were as far from 'well' as one could possibly get. Everyone was fully aware that Harrison was not actually dead, and that as of now he was probably breathing the same air as the rest of the crew members on the ship. Harrison, or rather, Khan, was spared on Jim Kirk's orders, claiming that he be taken prisoner and returned to Earth to face trial for his actions. In all sense, it was the morally right thing to do. After all, blindly blowing up a person, no matter how dangerous they were, was not something that would necessarily be looked upon as noble and wise.
Unfortunately for Jim, Khan turned out to be more than just a man wielding a gun.
After everything that occurred, Jim had thought that he understood this enigmatic superhuman and how he worked. He believed he knew everything there was to know about his strengths. Unfortunately, something he did not bother to look into was Khan's weaknesses, if he had any. Anyone could take one look at Khan and think that this guy had none, as did Jim. And as a result of his unthought-of carelessness, to his great disbelief, it had been just that small part of the prisoner's mistake (if you could call it that) that had led them both to their doom. It was so silly, a hilarious notion yet the more you think about it, it was truly frightening to some degree. Every time Jim found himself wallowing in self-pity and bitter anger, he had to constantly remind himself that it was Khan's fault if anything else, and it definitely wasn't Jim's. No one could've seen it coming. Not even Khan.
A horrible, ear-splitting screech resonated throughout the thick, almost tangible atmosphere. Startled by this abrupt call, a flurry of winged creatures took flight into the air, casting a dark shadow across the foliage for a split second before scattering off in different directions across the sky. Along with this sudden series of movements returned the consciousness of Jim Kirk, his eyes snapping open only to squeeze them back shut with a cry of pain as he woke up with a face full of mud.
Jim rolled over on his back, groaning as muscles protested from a harsh landing. He felt as if he'd jumped off a ten storey building onto a field of coarse rocks. His uniform was sticking uncomfortably to his skin and small movements caused the mud under him to make sickening squelching noises. He took deep breaths to assess any internal damage, and thankfully his lungs and ribs were still intact, if not bruised a little. Jim finally opened his eyes and heaved himself into a sitting position. He was in the middle of what closely resembled a tropical forest, yet everything seemed different and out of place. The trees were massive and of varying thickness, and every inch of ground was covered in strangely soft, mossy undergrowth. Upon closer inspection, Jim saw that the leaves looked a lot like flat bells, and had a yellowish hue to them. Other strange vegetation surrounded him, and eerie hissing noises echoed throughout the forest.
He was in some sort of swamp, Jim realized, and while the canopy overhead was shielding him from a substantial amount of light, the air was warm, wet, and suffocating, with a musky smell of decomposing wood hanging over him. Jim ran his fingers along his scalp for any injuries, and tested out his limbs to make sure they were still fully functional. His entire front was soaked from lying face down in the soil, and the communicator in his pocket was trashed. Jim dragged himself up to his feet and looked around hopelessly, trying and failing to deduce his current location.
While not being an expert on nature and its habitats, it was easy enough to notice that this wasn't Earth. Jim knew that the Enterprise hadn't been moving the last time he was on it, due to some mishap in the warp core. Perhaps they weren't too far from Kronos, but that would be unlikely because all this water and life was very different from the rocky, barren characteristics of the planets that resided within the Klingon's vicinity. Jim fumbled around with his useless communicator, attempting to turn it back on and catch a signal somehow.
It was ridiculous; he should have known better than to run into things blindly. But it was purely out of impulse to jump after the prisoner attempting to escape, and he had got caught up in this mess. He would have succeeded in the recapture, too, if their little brawl hadn't resulted in one of their elbows smashing into the activation button. It was too late when Jim tried to move out of its range; he had already begun to dematerialize. There was no point in trying to figure out how Khan managed to get his portable transporter aboard; right now his first priority was to find a way off this planet.
Despite being preoccupied with this, Jim's senses were heightened considerably due to slight paranoia. So that was why when he heard something, he immediately stopped all motion and breathing. Something, very suddenly and faintly, had sounded from far ahead. Jim flinched and backed away, eyes searching wildly through the dense woods. It was a muffled crashing, as if a tree had been knocked to the ground. There it was again, and again, and now Jim was sure that whatever it was, it was heading straight for him judging by the gradually clarifying noise. The bushes began to tremble and quake, and Jim was reminded of the time when he was chased by a gigantic creature on the icy world he had landed on when Spock first kicked him off the Enterprise. His heart skipped a beat, and he scrambled backwards, only to slip in the tangle of vines and land on his bottom with a splash.
Out of the thick weave of branches burst a single, pale figure clad in black, stopping dead in from of Jim. They stared at each other for a split second in total silence, then—
"Shit!" Jim squawked, his heart threatening to burst out of his chest. "You almost gave—I thought—big—" The smoldering glare he was currently receiving didn't do much to help ease the blood pounding in his ears. "Could you possibly run any louder?"
"What did you do to the transporter?" was the first thing Khan uttered, marching up to Kirk in a storm of fury. "Tell me!"
"What? I didn't do anything!"
"Lies!" snarled Khan, grabbing Jim's shirt and hauling him up to eye level. "It was set to Kronos. I never altered the destination ever since my initial arrival prior to yours. How did you manage to change the course without my knowing?"
"I didn't touch your transporter thing!" Jim yelled back, his eyes blown wide with surprise and a bit of fear as Khan's enraged face glowered from only mere inches away, as if it were about to explode. "I didn't even know you could still access it in the first place, I swear!"
"Don't take me for a fool, Kirk!" barked Khan, spraying Jim's face with spit. "Your foolish tricks have gotten both yourself and I into greater complications."
"Look, just calm down, now!" Jim tried to pry off the pale fingers that dug into his uniform in a death grip. Khan shoved him away, disgusted. "I swear I didn't do anything to your transporter. I don't even know where we are. I assumed you would know."
Khan continued to regard him with a suspicious scowl. "Why did you try to escape?" he asked gruffly.
"When I landed, I was alone. The transporter beams one down to a designated location specifically programmed to one significant area; it does not leave people astray. I could only predict you had taken off before me."
"Well maybe it broke—"
"Of course it was a malfunction, Kirk!" Khan bellowed.
"Then maybe it was fucked up enough to spew its transport subjects everywhere!" Jim spluttered back. "I didn't—" He took a deep breath to calm himself, and looked at the other in his eyes. "I never tried to run away. The last thing I remember is trying to stop you from beaming off, and I got caught in it. When I woke up, I was lying right here and I haven't moved since."
Khan thinned his lips. His scrutinizing eyes flickered over Jim's body, taking in the mud and dirt that was caking his face and clothes. Finally, after what seemed like forever, he seemed to relent, albeit grudgingly. "You will pay for what you have done," he told the Captain in a dangerous tone.
"Funny, that's what I've been telling you this entire time," Jim muttered under his breath. "You will answer to your crimes, Harrison. Don't think that this changes anything. But right now we need to get out of here. Grab your transporter and let's beam back up to the ship."
"My name is not Harrison," Khan spat. "And that's not possible."
"What do you mean?" There was a pregnant pause. "Why not?"
Khan whipped around abruptly to walk away, and Jim had to scramble to keep up. "My landing was harsh. A violent contact with the surface, I collided with the transporter and it shattered upon impact. There are no means of fixing it unless I have the proper tools which I do not have access to."
"Wait." Jim panted with effort to match the long, seemingly effortless strides over the tangled undergrowth. "So you're saying—the transporter is gone? As in, destroyed? You crushed it under your own weight—"
"It is hardly surprising, Kirk, as I was free-falling with nothing to slow my descent," Khan retorted dryly. "I assume it managed to beam you safely to the ground while it malfunctioned halfway through my own transportation, resulting in my rematerialization occurring two hundred feet above its original destination."
"And thank God for that," Jim mumbled. "Er, if our places were switched I would have died," he added hastily when Khan glanced at him pointedly. "I meant that it's good that you're superhuman and all."
He got no response and for that Jim was glad. He realized how quickly he was beginning to tire; it was hard enough stumbling over roots and wet vegetation, and sweat was already forming in droplets on his face. Khan didn't have so much as a scratch on him, save for his dark uniform which looked a little battered. It was difficult to breathe under the simmering heat while simultaneously dodging trees, and so he blindly followed the sound of footsteps ahead of him while he tried not to trip over his own feet.
Thankfully, they didn't have to go very far. They had passed numerous, small clearings and at the next one they had arrived to a complete stop. Catching his breath, Jim saw that the ground was carved into a mini crater-like scar that had obviously resulted from Khan's crash-landing. Half-buried in the muddy dip were the remains of what used to be a portable transporter, now smashed and broken beyond recognition and scraps of bent metal were scattered around its vicinity.
"Great," Jim said breathlessly. He approached the mangled device and crouched down, trying to wrench it free from the ground. It emerged from the soaked dirt with a sickening schluck. A couple of sparks burst from its core, and a tiny trickle of smoke billowed out. "It's gone. There's no way we can fix that."
"Yes, I am aware," Khan said sourly.
Jim sighed and sat down in the mud, not caring about his already soiled clothes anymore. "Is there anything else?" he asked wearily. "What about a radio? Or a flare, even?"
"I was not carrying anything other than this." Khan pulled out a small metal contraption from his pocket that looked suspiciously like a pocket knife. "My options are limited. As for a flare, it would be useless to use one at the current time of daylight, nor will a spaceship be able to pick up such an insignificant amount of heat from a vast expanse of space."
"Right, well." Jim felt lightheaded from panting so much. He wiped his face as best he could with a sleeve, smearing the yellow fabric with even more mud. "Have any idea where we are?"
"It is... difficult to pinpoint our exact location," Khan admitted after a pause. He eyed Jim's haggard state, and continued. "According to my estimations, this planet orbits a star that is approximately four times the size and mass of Earth's sun. While it is not entirely life-threatening, extended periods of exposure to its rays could potentially cause radiation poisoning. However, this planet seems to have a thicker ozone layer, which aids the prevention of a substantial amount of ultraviolet rays from reaching the life below. Take a look around, Kirk. Life is thriving.
"Unfortunately for you, other atmospheric gases are present amongst the ozone gas in varying densities in varying altitudes. Oxygen is among them, but there are copious quantities of nitrogen present as well which is why you tire so quickly. You managed to keep up with me here, Kirk, because we are surrounded by plants that create oxygen. You will not last long if you venture far from these woods."
"Wonderful." Jim shot the standing man a withering look to mask the despair that seized his heart. "Absolutely fucking wonderful. I am trapped in a forest on a planet in the middle of potentially unmarked space territory with a three hundred year old frozen man that doesn't need air to live and will watch as my body slowly shuts down from its lack of oxygen and then will abandon my corpse, merrily on his way to destroy the rest of the universe in cold vengeance." Jim grabbed a handful of mud and threw it as hard as he could. It landed on a tree trunk three feet away with a splat. "Nope, this can't be happening. I'm a fucking Captain. No. This is not okay. I need to get back to my ship. Now."
"You are overreacting," Khan drawled. "Even if you were to escape the confinements of this forest, you would still be able to survive for at least twenty four hours with water. That is plenty of time to get back to the woods. And if it is of any assurance, I do not plan on destroying anything else until I am positive I can get back to the Enterprise. I have no ill intentions for this planet whatsoever."
"Yep, that's really comforting," Jim said sarcastically. He knew he was pushing it too far and it was dangerous to mess with this man, but right now he could care less. "No worries, you're not going to harm this world, only a ship with my crew on it and my home planet holding billions of intelligent life forms. Boy, I can't wait to get you back aboard!"
"Let me remind you that without me you will have absolutely no chance of escaping this place," Khan enunciated firmly, his cold eyes glittering. "Ignore me and your bones will be buried forever on this planet while your friends scavenge the galaxy in a hopeless attempt to discover your decaying remains."
"What am I supposed to do then?" Jim snapped back. "I can't just sit here trying to breathe while you run around doing God knows what!"
Khan's eyebrow twitched. "Are you currently in possession of a communicator used by the crew of the Enterprise?" he asked.
"Yeah, but it's broken." Jim pulled the device out of his pocket and studied it. There was a crack running down the top, and it was soaked with water and soil. He gave it to Khan, who snatched it up before bringing it up to his eyes. "It won't work anymore."
"Fortunately it doesn't seem to have suffered a great deal of damage." Khan turned the device in his fingers this way and that, carefully raking his gaze over every crack and crevice. "It may be possible for me to fix this. First it must dry out, and then I shall take it apart and assess its internal condition."
"Yeah, okay. Whatever." Jim didn't really trust Khan, nor did he believe him either. He wasn't exactly worried though, because there was only so much you could do with a broken communicator. If Khan was going to kill him, he'd do it quickly with the pocket knife.
Speaking of which...
"Give me the knife," Jim said suddenly, holding out his hand. Pausing in the middle of turning around, Khan looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "I said give me the knife," Jim repeated. "I don't feel safe with you carrying it."
Khan looked almost amused. "And what make you think I trust you in the possession of such sharp instruments, Captain?" he inquired, the corner of his mouth uplifting just a hair.
Jim wasn't deterred. "Because I won't be able to do anything with it other than slitting my own throat. I'm not going to attack you." He looked at the other man with a firm look. "But I need you to promise me the same."
"Promises are a child's play, Mister Kirk," Khan replied, but he did reach into his pockets and place the knife into Jim's open palm. "I will not promise you anything. However, I assure you that I will refrain from acts of hostility towards you and your crew until our return back to the Enterprise is confirmed."
"Right. Thanks," Jim muttered. "Just fix the damn communicator."
"I am working on it."
"Also, I don't want you leaving my sight," Jim added quickly. Khan's frown deepened. "I don't want any of your excuses. You're sticking with me."
"Mister Kirk." Jim was fixed under a steely gaze. "Despite your disadvantage you still insist your claim of power over me. However, we are not currently aboard the Enterprise. Though my position as your prisoner still upholds, there is nothing that is physically restraining me. Therefore I will utilize my freedom as I choose."
"How do I know you're not just going to run away?" growled Jim angrily.
A ghost of a smile appeared on Khan's lips, and it was very unsettling. "I guess you'll just have to... trust me, Captain."
Jim was not impressed. He heaved himself up to his feet, wobbling a little. Approaching the stiff figure, he pronounced very clearly, "I am not going to play any games with you. Now, you will stay where I can see you, or I will pin you down and cut off every single one of your limbs and plant them into the ground."
Khan eyed him distastefully, but seemed to realize that Jim was serious, however empty the threat actually was. "Very well, Captain."
"Good." Jim still didn't feel safe, and he felt as if Khan was going to pounce on him any minute. "I want you to stay in a five foot radius away from me," he ordered, noting the man's long arms, "but don't go any farther than three meters from where I stand. Understood?"
"I shall do as you wish." There were obvious discomforts for both of them at this new restriction, but it was the only thing Jim could think of at the moment. He was rapidly running out of ideas of what to do next. Without any means of communication, he was lost. He had absolutely nothing. No sense of direction, location, no food or water, no supplies, no knowledge of this planet, and the only thing he did have was a murderous superhuman that he had been yelling at on a spaceship a couple hours ago. Or had it been longer than that? He lost track of time as well.
Jim began to walk. He was careful not to overexert himself, and made sure he stepped over every root and vine. Behind him, he could hear another pair of footsteps following.
"Where are you going?" Khan's voice reached him from exactly five feet away.
"Finding water," Jim replied, pushing away a low hanging branch away from his face. "Once I got that I'm going to find a place where I can rest. Food afterwards. If you haven't fixed the communicator by then, I'm going to keep going and I will build my own spaceship."
"Water is everywhere, Mister Kirk, look under your feet." When Jim wrinkled his nose, he added, "Unless you wish to continue until you can go no further and collapse from dehydration. Not entirely the cleanest, but judging by your looks it seems you have already discarded any regards for sanitation."
"There a difference between rolling in mud and drinking it," Jim said, annoyed. "There's got to be a stream somewhere."
"I doubt you will find a suitable running source in time at this pace, and even if you do, you will not know if it is safe to consume. The water we stand on is not toxic, the healthy plants being the evidence."
"Listen, will you just shut up and let me—"
"No, Kirk, you listen to me." Jim cursed and reluctantly turned around to face Khan's stony face. "You and I both want to get off this planet. Do you believe I am simply giving you this advice out of the kindness of my heart? I didn't think so. Bear it in your mind that your crew will not allow me back on the Enterprise alone. To ensure my return as well I must keep you alive as much as you try to convince yourself that I think otherwise."
"I don't care what your reason is," Jim retorted. "You're the kind of guy that will not hesitate to kill if something doesn't go your way. I am not taking the risk."
"Then you should've killed me back then," Khan countered back.
"Like I said, we all make mistakes."
"Spare me from your self-pities," Khan scoffed. "I will not have you drinking mercury laced fluids."
"Oh please," Jim snarled, whipping around to continue to trudge through the woods, a little faster this time. "Someone will see and think that you're worried about me!"
"I am concerned that your reckless tendencies will disrupt my path."
"Aha!" Jim skidded to a halt, breathing heavily, in the middle of his walk. There, he stood before a small mound of soil sloping upwards, where a steady trickle of clear water was running in small rivulets down into the swampy moss beds. "What was that you said?" With a smug look, he turned back to Khan.
The latter did not smile.
Jim sighed harshly, throwing his hands up in the air. "Fuck! Alright, fine! If you're so worried about it being poisoned, why don't you give it a try?"
Khan's brow twitched, as it seemed to do when he was curious, or irritated. "I beg your pardon?"
"You taste the water," Jim said slowly, as if explaining procedures to a trainee. "And you decide whether it's safe or not. And if it isn't, well—it doesn't really matter, does it? You're not going to die from it."
It made perfect sense. Even Khan must have thought so. Jim silently congratulated himself. Finally, he thought wearily. An upside to being stranded on a tropical planet with a homicidal superman.
"I will test the water," Khan ground out, "and inform you of its toxicity levels."
"Five feet," Jim warned as the man stepped forward. He backed away as Khan approached the tiny stream. Stooping stiffly, a pale hand stretched forward until the clear liquid began pouring into the cupped palm. Jim watched intently as Khan brought his full hand almost delicately to his lips. Not knowing exactly what he was expecting, the Captain stared as Khan's throat bobbed, indicating that he had swallowed, and both of them seemed to wait for a reaction.
Nothing happened. No keeling over in agony, no melting down from the insides. Jim raised his eyebrows.
"It appears... unpolluted," he stated finally, a strange glint flickering in his eyes.
"What a relief," Jim said sarcastically, before tumbling down and thrusting his open mouth against the stream, allowing the cool liquid to rush past his chapped lips and parched throat. He gulped the water greedily, pausing only to intake gasps of air. Amazing. He had obviously forgotten how wonderful it was to drink. He was thirsty, so thirsty. Suddenly he found that rescue could wait, if only he could just keep drinking—
"Stop!" Jim ignored whoever was speaking, as long as he kept up this beautiful sensation of swallowing water. He needed more and so he pushed his face into the stream for better access— "Kirk, you will drown yourself!" And suddenly, Jim found himself forcibly being wrenched away from his beloved stream, which made a feral shout escape from his throat, a noise that surprised even him, and very abruptly his vision was full of Khan's face. "James T. Kirk, look at me. You are not in your right mind—"
Jim yelled a string of expletives and before he even knew it, he had swung his fist out and it collided hard with a pale jaw. It hadn't caused injury of course, but it was enough for Khan to slightly loosen his grip on his uniform for Jim to wrench free. The only thing that was going through his mind was blind, uncontrolled rage and a sense of loss; he wanted to get back to the stream, to drink, anything to have that feeling of water running down his throat back, so he tried to crawl. Pain exploded in his head as something very firm hit the side of his temple with a nasty crack. Dazed, Jim crumpled and fell into the slushy swamp.
Thick, brown water rushed into his nose and mouth and Jim coughed and choked furiously when they reached his lungs. He was vaguely aware of something (or someone) slapping his back with tremendous force—he felt as if his spine would snap in half—and the repeated actions caused him to retch. Jim's stomach lurched, and he violently expulsed the water he had managed to intake in the last minute or so. A couple of more heaves and he managed to vomit the last remaining drop of whatever he had left in his stomach, which left him wheezing for breath.
Khan's face once more swam into view into his hazy line of sight. "Can you breathe?" he demanded, his eyes blazing.
Jim doubled over as another series of coughs wracked his body. "My nose and chest's stingin', m'back hurts like hell, but oth'wise m'fine!" he rasped out.
Khan let out a feral growl as he straightened up. "That was foolish of you," he gritted out. "You were cutting off your airway."
"I was trying to drink—" Jim began indignantly but Khan cut him off impatiently.
"You were trying to drown yourself," he said with more emphasis. "Tell me, Kirk, do you recall any other thoughts in your mind other than the single recurring thought of 'I must drink'?"
Frowning, Jim went back to the point of time where he had been lapping hungrily at the stream, and was unnerved to discover that Khan was right. It must have shown on his face, because the man narrowed his eyes. "Thought as much," he spat. "This is no ordinary stream, Kirk. It holds a certain chemical property that renders one incapable of controlling their actions. I also suspect the presence of a neutron star within this system. Water manipulated by such stars tend to interact strangely especially with human physiology due to the gravitational waves.
"Either way, they cannot stop once they start; it could be fatal as you so kindly demonstrated. Had I not stopped you, Kirk, you would have died."
Jim stared, open-mouthed, horrified at this revelation. "You—you knew all this." His voice came out as barely above a hoarse whisper. It had barely been an hour of wakefulness in this cursed forest and Khan had already tried to kill him once. "Y-you said—you let me—"
"I incorrectly assumed that you would be wiser in your consummation," Khan snapped. "Also, my attempts to restrict you from this water would go unheeded, as you would only insist on drinking it anyway, accusing me of falsities."
"You could have at least warned me—"
"I myself was not aware of its potential, until after you had begun drinking. Believe me when I say that I had not intentionally attempted to guide you to your death."
"This is why I have trust issues," Jim muttered, fuming. He glared up at the standing figure, only noticing now that he himself was soaked to the core while the other man was as dry as the desert. He felt a sudden flash of resentment. "Alright then, let's say that this water is... addictive."
"Tasteless, odorless, no noticeable evidence of the chemical you mentioned. That's some sneaky stuff." He gripped a nearby tree and its coat of vines to haul himself up. There was no point in arguing further. At least, he was alive.
"What are you implying?"
"Look, maybe it's not just this stream. What if it's all the water around us? Like you said before, the plants are thriving. Everything is so green it looks almost fake. And there's so much moss on the ground, and just as much water. But look at it closely; when I first woke up, I was lying real close to them and they were also green, but yellow as well. What if this weird chemical affects plants as well? They would just keep sucking up but it can't really die. Now why would the moss be yellow in so much wetness? Maybe because it absorbs too much water, because it was forced to, like how I suddenly craved to keep drinking."
Khan licked his lips, but didn't respond.
"I am not risking it again, but I bet this—" Jim stomped his foot, tossing the murky swamp gunk around. "—is the exact same water that we drank."
"So what are you planning to do now, Captain?" Khan sneered. "All this profound knowledge you've just obtained will not get you anywhere."
"Is that another way of telling me that you will get rid of me now?" Jim shot back. "Now that I'm useless to you, you'll just kill me and move on?"
"If you continue to tempt me, Kirk—"
"No, I am trying to get you to tell the truth," Jim said venomously. "You're not the type of person to just go and save people, no matter how legitimate the reason might be. You were made to kill."
Khan's jaw tightened, and if possible, he straightened his back even more. "Think what you will," he stated impassively. "You may choose to do what you wish here. However I will remind you one last time that your chances of survival will decrease significantly in my absence. Make your choice."
Jim let out a long-suffering sigh. He was physically and mentally drained already, and playing mind games with Khan was definitely not helping. He achingly longed to be back in his bed, in his own quarters within the Enterprise. Screw captains and professionalism; he wanted to go home.
Dusk fell fast upon them and Jim was more than ready to turn in, shut his eyes and forget the world around him. Only, he knew that he couldn't. In fact, he wasn't sure if he'd be able to get any sleep at all. At some point, he and Khan managed to stumble across a small ditch in the soil; it had been created quite recently—recent as in still at least decades old—and half of the gnarled, twisted roots of an ancient tree were sticking over the edge in a natural, makeshift shelter of some sort. It was the best they could do for the day, and while Khan looked like he could go on for days on end, Jim was well past his limit. In the semi-darkness the captain collapsed against the rapidly sloping soil under the root canopy, gripping his chest as each breath sent stabbing pains through his lungs and ribs. He tried to swallow, only to groan as his throat walls scraped against each other like sandpaper. He watched warily as Khan stood before him, and held up a finger when he tried to move closer.
"Watch it," he croaked, pointing accusingly at the figure clad in black. "Five. Feet."
He couldn't see Khan's face because of the roots that sheltered him, but Jim saw the long legs slide back a step obediently. There was just enough room under the wooden canopy for two people, but that would require for them to be sitting mere centimeters apart, and it would be the last thing Jim would do, quite possibly literally. Instead, Khan sat cross-legged at his current location, and their eyes finally met. "I shall now try to determine whether this communicator carries any value or not," he announced calmly. A hand was outstretched. "The knife, Captain."
Jim let out a humorless snort. "Yeah right," he said flatly. "There's almost no light. I can barely see you, let alone a tiny device and it's even smaller innards."
"While I am no night dweller, my superior genetics allow me to see better in the dark. Of course," the shadowy figure added after a pause, "it can always wait until daylight if you insist. But surely you wouldn't object to a faster rescue?"
"While I want to get my ass beamed out of here as soon as possible," Jim began dryly, "I don't want to take unnecessary risks. I don't doubt your highly superior, ultra-sensitive night vision, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Do it in the morning."
The only visible part of Khan were his eyes, which glinted eerily back at Jim. He could almost feel the mocking smirk coming from the man. "Very well, Captain," Khan replied smoothly. "Now if you really wish to be of any help tomorrow—you seemed rather concerned today that you weren't—then I suggest you find some rest. I will ensure that you do not suffocate from oxygen deprivation during sleep."
"You are definitely crazy," Jim stated, disbelief evident in his tone. "There is no way I am closing my eyes for even a second while you're sitting there watching me like the maniac you are."
"I thought there had been a 'five feet' rule established."
"You and rules don't go well together."
"Captain, I reassure you that in the unlikely event should I decide to terminate your life I'd do it when you have gained full consciousness."
"Wow," Jim gasped, faking awe. "You're such a comfort. I can now sleep in peace, thanks!"
"I am not in the jesting mood, Kirk." Khan sounded quiet and threatening. It was deeply disturbing.
"Can you turn around?" Jim said loudly, scowling into the darkness to mask his anxiety. "And move back a good couple of yards while you're at it. Even better, tie yourself up to one of the trees over there and stay that way."
There was silence on the other end and Jim wondered if Khan had left somehow, and so he was left to fidget nervously in the pitch dark, waiting for some sort of noise.
Thankfully there came a small series of shuffling and scraping noises, and the captain let out a breath he didn't know he was holding.
"I am facing the other way, Kirk," Khan informed him, a hint of annoyance lacing his words. "That is quite enough for today, no?"
Jim didn't answer. They were only here for a few hours, and yet it felt like ages. To anyone else, the silence that settled upon them could be called peaceful. However it was quite possibly the exact opposite of serene.
He had promised himself that he would never fall asleep, digging his fingernails into his arm every time he felt his eyelids droop. Sometimes he even caught himself dozing off for a few seconds, only to jerk back awake and make sure he didn't have any stab wounds. Thankfully, he had none. He really wished he could see something; he didn't like being blind and it was hard to relax when he knew Khan was out there. Had he left at one point? Was he prowling about somewhere, or even trying to fix the communicator as he said he would? Or was he still at that exact location seven feet away where Jim had left him? He wasn't going to get up and feel around to check.
Jim knew that there was a reason behind everything Khan did. There was always a price. He just hoped he wouldn't have to pay it with his own life.
Despite his valiant efforts, Jim eventually slipped into a fitful slumber about a half hour later.
Relatively fast-paced, I think, but oh well. Better than dragging it out for too long, I suppose. As I read this over, I feel like there are a few things that are missing/needs changing. But I'm not sure how yet, so hopefully this version is bearable. :P
Like? Love? Hate? Please tell me what you think; your reviews will be greatly appreciated! :)