Wow, so this chapter was literally supposed to be posted like 2 weeks ago, but then I got to school and I got pelted with homework on the first day and the days after! The consequences of taking all academic courses. x_x Every day I come home and as soon as I arrive at my house I sit at my desk and do homework until like 10pm, with little 5 min breaks in between for food. Try adding scholarship applications to all that. So I haven't been able to sit in front of my laptop let alone open up Word and write/edit. Can you believe despite all the studying, I still manage to almost fail 3 of my maths quizzes? It's either I'm really stupid, or the teacher really sucks. Or perhaps both. T_T

Anyways, enough of me ranting about my personal life. Though it's written rather hastily, here is the chapter you've all been so kindly waiting for. Enjoy!


Lights flashed before his eyes, the sound of screams and dying cries filling the room. Glass flew in every direction, and he could make out a flurry of movements as people attempted to flee for safety. Jim watched as the hovercraft jerked uncontrollably and began its uneven descent, black smoke rising out of its rear. Through the foggy glass, Jim saw a man sitting in the cockpit. His features were set in impassive stiffness, as the beginnings of a typical dematerialization began to glow around his body. For a split second, their eyes met, and there he was trapped by two orbs of icy glaciers, a pair of frigid, merciless crystals that sent chills running down his spine.

The hovercraft suddenly burst into a dozen tiny pieces, the explosion illuminating the black sky with brilliant streaks of orange and yellow fireworks.

With a startled gasp, Jim jerked awake. The horrible screams faded away into the gentle sigh of the leaves that shaded him quite serenely over his head. A choked sigh escaped his blood-crusted lips. It had been a dream. He definitely had not wanted to relive that moment again, and was grateful that he did not see Pike's body like in his other nightmares. He frowned a little when he remembered the last bit; the hovercraft hadn't really exploded, had it? Oh god; his head suddenly burst into a huge blossom of pain (again) and his hand automatically went shooting up to hold it.

"Do not touch the wound." Jim's gaze darted over to his side where he lay, and spotted Khan sitting calmly on a fallen, splintered log. The captain froze when his sight rested on the man's face. Those eyes... Images of his dreams flashed back and he grunted, trying to shake off the memory, instead focusing on feeling his heartbeat reverberate inside his skull.

"Refrain yourself from sudden movements, Kirk," Khan said when blinding agony burst in his temple once more after he'd twisted his neck too quickly. "You managed to hit your head rather hard."

"What—" Jim squeezed his eyes shut and then blinked, sucking in air noisily as his head continued to pound. "What happened—?" He wouldn't have been surprised if he turned out to have lost more than half of his brain cells at the end of all this.

"Collision with a tree," Khan explained steadily. "A minor concussion and several abrasions in different places. No fractures or any other injuries requiring immediate professional medical supervision. Consider yourself lucky," he added dryly.

That was right; the full weight of what happened hit Jim like a tidal wave and he let out a shuddering breath, the world suddenly spinning before him. Memories were still a bit hazy, but he could definitely remember the fear which felt as fresh as ever. With much difficulty, Jim tried to maneuver around into a sitting position. After several attempts, he managed to prop himself up against a tree, breathing heavily. How many times had he suffered these damned headaches now?

None of them spoke for several minutes, Jim trying to make coherent thoughts through the constant throbbing of his head injury while Khan watched him like a hawk carved out of stone. It was only when the captain could almost feel the burning gaze searing a hole right through his already tattered uniform—it was torn in small rips, and droplets of blood littered the fabric thanks to those cursed vines—that he decided he could take the silence no longer.

"How long was I out for?" Jim asked wearily, carefully watching the man's face for any signs of deception.

The reply was instantaneous. "One hour and twenty seven minutes."

"What was that?" He gestured behind him, in the general direction of where he thought they might have come from. "Back there, the trees... they were exploding, or something..." Images seemed fuzzy and undefined when he tried to recall them, but he definitely remembered the sinister creaks and moans. Speaking of which, Jim could no longer hear them. It was as if the entire event hadn't occurred at all.

Only, it had. Jim turned his head around to observe his surroundings, and saw bits and pieces of wood scattered throughout the undergrowth, and around where he lay.

"I—" Khan had only hesitated for a fraction of a nanosecond, but Jim still caught it. "The reason behind the destruction is unclear."

"Well I don't know about you, but I have a feeling that it was trying to get me," Jim muttered darkly. His temple gave a twinge when he gingerly pressed his fingers to the wound. To his surprise, though, it had stopped bleeding and was already closed halfway up. "Hey, I didn't know I could heal this fast," he said mostly to himself, chuckling. "Bones would think he'd lose his job if I told him."

"That was a last minute act on my part," Khan retorted. "Once I reached a minimum safe distance, the destruction ceased almost immediately. However, I let you ingest some of my blood which would ensure a faster recovery. Not as effective as direct injection, of course, but still better than nothing."

"You—you gave me your blood?" Jim spluttered, jaw gaping with disbelief.

"It was a simple precaution," Khan shot back, almost defensively.

"But... why?" Jim's headache faded into the background as he tried to digest this new information. "In fact, why did you save me?" Suddenly, his mind was sent back to the point in chaos where Jim felt something collide against him, and realized with a funny jolt that it had been Khan who had pushed him away, out of danger of the falling debris. Khan who had disappeared without warning when Jim had been away, who Jim had thought he'd been betrayed by like he'd always expected.

"Are you suggesting that I should have let you bleed to death?" Khan asked crossly, frowning.

"You, actually..." Now that he was fully conscious and (somewhat) functional again, Jim was suddenly aware of many things other than the obvious fact that he'd just got his ass saved by a homicidal criminal. One of them included how Khan was sitting exactly five feet away from where Jim was. Also, he realized that the left sleeve of the man's black uniform was torn, gone up to the middle of his forearm, the loose strings hanging limply around the ruined cloth. When he searched for the missing sleeve, Jim discovered the piece of fabric bandaged expertly around his own arm, knotted tightly but not uncomfortably to staunch the bleeding of whatever wound had been there. His jaw dropped even further.

"A rather impressive impersonation of a trout, Kirk. Tell me, are you experiencing any alarming levels of dizziness, nausea, or fatigue?" Khan's tone, unlike his words, were not condescending.

"Er—" Jim continued to gawp, the words having fled from his mouth. The ability to think seemed to have escaped him for good.

"Eloquent as always." Khan's lips twitched with something akin to irritation. "Very well, Captain. I will assume you are well enough to tend to your own self." He made to get up.

"No! Wait." Jim quickly shot out his hand as if to stop him, then abruptly pulled it back when he realized what he had done. Khan was now looking at him expectantly. Great. What had he wanted to say in the first place? "Er, what were you doing?" Amazing, Jim. He kicked himself internally. Amazing impression of a dunce.

"I was 'doing' a number of things, Captain," Khan replied disapprovingly. "Be more specific."

Jim desperately raked through his brain, trying to bring forth a coherent thought. Everything he had previously wanted to ask had vanished from his mind, leaving only a hollow emptiness. Think. He had gone out to find food, and when he came back... He frowned. There was nothing there. But if it wasn't because Khan had decided to run away, then why...?

Good, there was that question. "Why were you gone when I returned to the clearing?"

"Ah." The standing figure paused for a moment. "That was... unplanned."

Got you. Jim crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah?"

"Indeed."

"Jesus, you're almost as bad as Spock," Jim muttered, exasperated. "That was the cue for you to, oh I don't know, explain?"

Khan shot him a sour glare, lips thinning down to almost nothing. Jim glowered back as best as he could until the man eventually seemed to relent.

"After your departure, I noticed something amiss. There was a disturbance in the atmosphere. I was unable to determine the exact cause of this. I relocated myself to a different area for safety measures." With this, he seemed to dismiss the entire subject altogether.

Jim was not about to let him do that. "What? What was it?" he pressed. "What kind of disturbance?"

"It is not something neither you nor I should express concern over," Khan began, but Jim cut him off.

"Cut the bullshit. We both know you wouldn't just go and hide from something if you knew it wouldn't be a threat, unless you had something else up your sleeve." Jim pointed a finger at the man, who eyed it distastefully. "Tell me right now what you saw, that is an order."

"If you must know," Khan drawled, "I somehow managed to pick up a scent that closely resembled exhaust fumes which seemingly materialized out of nowhere—however this is irrelevant because it can be completely natural for certain chemical secretions of the vegetation around us to react in such a way that—"

"No, no, stop," Jim interrupted again, staring as if he'd just noticed Khan for the first time. "You're saying that it was exhaust, as in shuttlecraft exhaust? A ship?"

"You heard me, Kirk, but consider the facts and how ridiculous the n—"

"You mean there was a ship?" Jim ogled at him, his heart threatening to burst out of his chest. "There was a starship and you ran away? Why—why the hell didn't you call for help!?" His voice rang out particularly loudly in the almost unnatural silence the jungle was currently providing them with. If they had missed their one chance of being rescued, oh god, oh god... Jim wasn't sure what he'll want to do first: throw himself into a blazing fire or strangle the living breath out of Khan.

"If it was a ship, then I would have seen or heard it," Khan argued adamantly. "There was nothing of the sort. Only a mere disturbance."

"Well then it must've been cloaked!" Jim cried furiously. "Of course you wouldn't have seen it!"

"Mister Kirk, your desperation is overriding all logic you are capable of. If it were an enemy, then running was the right thing to do. If it truly were a ship that planned to rescue us, why would they cloak themselves, instead of doing everything they can to seize our attention?" Without waiting for an answer, Khan went on, squaring his shoulders and looking down at the captain darkly. "Furthermore, there is no valid evidence that it had been one in the first place. A trick of the mind, perhaps."

Jim couldn't help but spit out a loud guffaw that was completely devoid of humor. "You? A trick of the mind?"

"I fail to understand your point," Khan began but Jim interrupted him again with another staccato burst of laughter.

"No, I think you understand my point more than anything else. And, I also think you understand the fact that what you just said was the most ridiculous, dumbest thing I've ever heard you say." Still overwhelmed with shock and disbelief, Jim screwed up his face, throwing his hands up. "Just what sort of disturbance was it so that it turned you into spewing out the crappiest excuses I didn't even think you were capable of?"

"Make what you will out of it; I will not assuage your nonsensical fantasies by exaggerating the truth," growled Khan, his eyes flashing. "I am not here to provide you with the comforts of home, Kirk, but if you so wish for it, do use your imagination to fulfill whatever your desultory mind desperately craves!"

"Wait a minute," Jim exploded, heat rising to his face as his blood pressure skyrocketed. He abruptly sat up straighter to lean accusingly towards the man. "You watch what you're saying, Harrison, I'm a god damn Captain—"

"Furthermore, I will not tolerate you abusing your superior position that holds absolutely no value in our current situation so do not try to indulge yourself with Captain privileges like you normally would, Captain. They are of no use here, like you."

"Y—you little—" Jim, who was gaping with pure rage, could not believe his ears. "Son of a—"

"Shall I present my face to you, Mister Kirk?" Khan sneered. "That way, you'd have a better chance of hitting me at all."

Jim saw murderous red; he made a frantic move to leap to his feet, and would've howled back a furious reply, but Khan had barely finished speaking when his blasted temple erupted into a massive supernova of agony that ripped its way through his very bones. Jim cried out in shock and flipped over just in time as a roll of nausea left him retching, and he vomited violently onto the tree roots. A series of coughs wracked his body as his futile attempts to keep the contents of his stomach down were rendered useless. His arms were shaking so badly he wouldn't be able to hold himself up for long; grunting, he tried to push himself away. It was of no use, he was going to fall face-first in a puddle of his own sick and—

Something caught his shoulders just as his limbs collapsed under his quavering weight and rolled him over so that he was on all fours, the ground free of any forcibly expulsed fluids. He tried to turn his head, but one hand jerked his face back so he was facing forwards again. Panting, Jim furiously tried to stop trembling, but the rough handling of his skull jostled his brain and painful stars burst into his vision. He retched again, throat searing and lungs burning.

All previous arguments and insults that made Jim's blood boil were instantly emulsified in a pool of his own self-loathing. An abrupt tidal wave of pure misery washed over Jim and he moaned pathetically, not caring who heard because he was sick and hurt and by Gods it hurt, damn it.

Just then, the same hand that manhandled his head was patting his back with surprisingly gentle slaps, and the ministrations gradually helped settle his churning belly. To his immense gratitude, this round of torturous sickness seemed to diminish much more quickly than before. Jim spat a few times and sloppily wiped his mouth on a handful of moss he ripped out, crumbling onto his side as he leaned heavily on whatever he could reach. Was it because he'd ingested Khan's blood? His dulled senses from the vomiting seemed to regenerate much faster with more clarity, and Jim found that he could breathe with much more ease than he'd expected, even with Khan squatting just mere inches away.

Lifting his eyes up to the man, he saw that the previous anger had also dissipated from the steely gaze with no trace, leaving a calculating but neutral demeanor which seemed to be Khan's default mode. In Jim's dazed state, it was strangely soothing. The pounding of his head receded once more. The captain tried to remember what he had been about to say before this. He was left with nothing.

"You seem to be rather close," Jim croaked out hoarsely, at a loss for other words. The thick silence as they stared at each other was becoming somewhat tense.

"You don't seem to rather mind," Khan replied back, and Jim frowned. Was that the man's attempt at humor? Well, it must not have been, because Khan did not smile and Jim did not laugh. He took another moment or two to gather himself, and then the captain shuffled into a better sitting position, inhaling deeply. He cleared his throat.

"I don't want that happening again." The slight tremor in his voice only added to his humiliation.

"Nor do I. You have been calling for an unnecessarily high maintenance ever since we arrived, Mister Kirk."

"It's not my fault my body is messing itself up. I don't think I've ever had this many health problems in my life."

"Noted. Though there are many environmental drawbacks, I predict that there are a number of psychological factors that are contributing as well. However, it seems my enhanced cells are improving your recovery rate at a much more satisfactory pace."

"Yes, speaking of which, don't pretend you've stopped your 'I'm-better-than-everyone-else-and-Kirk-can't-do-s hit-about-it' attitude. So you were calling me useless a couple of minutes ago."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'm going to ignore everything you've said in the past five minutes—" Khan's face instantaneously dropped back into a bitter scowl, "—and continue from the part where you've just finished telling me about the disturbance. So keep going, tell me why you ran away." Deep down, he knew he'd already lost the argument. It did nothing however, to ease the silent resentment that was already beginning to bubble under the forced lid again.

"You are truly the very epitome of obstinacy, Kirk. What have I done to plant such an obsession for questioning my morals of safety?"

"You wouldn't fall for something as simple as a 'trick of the mind'," Jim muttered indignantly. He was absentmindedly aware of the bitter taste of bile that stubbornly remained in the back of his throat. Water...

"I see you have placed a remarkably formidable amount of faith in the accuracy of my abilities," Khan said, and one could detect a distinct air of sarcasm in his voice. "However, let me remind you that I am still human."

"You?" Jim snorted. "No."

"Oh, but I am."

"Alright then, Mister Not-so-flawless, why do you think they would go through such measures to hide?" Jim asked venomously. "Do you think it could be from this planet?"

"I cannot be certain, but my estimations lead me to believe that there are no intelligent life forms here as of now. Surely in the presence of a technologically advanced species this forest would have been manipulated to better suit one's needs."

"Then I can't think of anything else other than us," Jim said. "But that doesn't make sense, because why would they try to hide if they were trying to rescue us?"

"Though more likely, it is still improbable. As of now there are no known Starfleet space crafts that have successfully mastered this level of advanced cloaking."

"Then what was—"

"I told you, Kirk. A trick of the mind."

Jim sighed harshly, but gave up on the matter. He didn't actually believe Khan, but as of now there really was no other evidence besides the man's words and quite frankly Jim was still hesitant to believe it. Was he trying to mess with him somehow? But even Khan himself seemed unsure, and when someone like him is uncertain, then there was either something very wrong, or it really had been nothing after all.

Though in all honesty, Jim was determined not to let it go completely. First of all, if Khan really thought that it had been a trick of the mind, why would he tell Jim? Surely it wasn't out of compassion. The man would never admit to his flaws to anyone, so that only left out a couple of options. Was he tricking him, trying to befuddle his mind, to disorient him? Or... Jim's brain considered the small chance that maybe Khan was actually worried about something, and decided to confide in the captain on the matter. Well, that was preposterous. He really must've hit his head pretty hard.

"Alright then," Jim said, rubbing his hands over his eyes haggardly. "If you're just going to sit there forever, you might as well keep fixing that communicator." He made a note to himself to never get into an argument with this man again, especially after mere minutes of waking up from a concussion and puking his guts out. "And when you're done, we're getting the hell out of this place."

"If you escape the confinements of the forest, then there is no guaranteed safety," Khan said warningly.

"Yes, I know that I might suffocate if I freak out too much," Jim snapped, "but is there any guaranteed safety in here? I don't know if you've noticed, but back then I almost got killed by a tree. If that isn't what you'd classify as dangerous, then you've got some serious priority issues—"

"The previous incident is unexplainable, but these trees will provide more seclusion and we will be veiled from any undesirable views than anywhere else," Khan cut in. "Besides, you will only increase your risk of exposing yourself to harmful radiation."

"You know," Jim said, squinting at Khan in a mock-thoughtful expression. "I always thought you as this raging, psychotic criminal. But I see now that I was wrong. You're actually a pretty nice guy."

"You mistake my warnings as kindness, but I ensure you that—"

"A real, cozy guy with a big, warm heart—"

"Kirk—"

"—always looking out for his friends—"

"Mister K—"

"—making sure they don't die of radiation poisoning or giant homicidal trees—"

Fingers abruptly curled into Jim's uniform and yanked him up, startling him. The vice-like grip dug painfully into his skin, and Jim found himself staring cross-eyed at the bright, livid face, their noses almost touching. He blinked, pressing back as much as he could to regain some personal space.

"Or what, Captain," Khan hissed, "would you rather have me kill you here and now?"

He guessed that even augmented people with genetic enhancements had limits to keeping their cool. "If you're expecting me to thank you, then I wouldn't get your hopes too high," Jim stated flatly.

"Your assumption that I care for simple sentimentalities insults me," Khan spat, the lines on his face hardening.

"Yeah, and I'm sure you put all those people in the fucking torpedoes because you felt like it, so stop complaining—"

"While I do not complain like you, my continued efforts to drag you out of danger are becoming somewhat repetitive so I feel like I have earned the right to do so while you, Kirk, have done nothing."

"Enlighten me," Jim breathed challengingly.

"Must I?" Khan's reptilian eyes were ablaze with crazed delight. "Is there any point? You have demonstrated to me plenty of times that words have no effect on you. You don't take them seriously, do you, Captain? You don't listen to anyone, not your superiors, not even your friends...

"When you arrived at Kronos saving my life was never part of the initial plan, was it? Oh, it wasn't," Khan said, grinning. "You were sent to kill me, Mister Kirk. You have a conscience, yes, but it is buried under your hidden nature to rebel. Ahh, yes, I see. Always the brave soldier, a hero of Starfleet, the mighty Captain. Can't live without the risk, can you? After all, humans are a wild species, unable to be tamed. You think you're so courageous, that you're so above everyone else, using dumb luck to justify your playing God...

"Everything I said to you on this planet since the beginning, you never really listened. You never listen to anyone but yourself, Kirk. This is your fatal flaw."

Jim clenched his teeth and stared defiantly, repeating to himself he is just trying to manipulate you, don't listen to him. But deep down something cracked at those words. He vaguely found himself back in Pike's office, where the Admiral had said something extremely similar, but had spoken with disappointment and anger, not out of hateful contempt and mockery. No matter how he looked at it, in one way or another, Khan was right. A lot had happened in a short amount of time, and while Jim hadn't intended to laze about, he had never really put any of his passing thoughts into action, only doing what he thought was necessary.

What had he become? Were it any other situation, would he have done the same thing? Would he have sat quietly through the chaos in despair, doing nothing to change the fact? When Spock was in the volcano? No. He had gone back for his first officer, even if it had meant violating the Prime Directive. He had done everything he could. When facing the threats of Nero? First of all, that was a completely different situation. What would he call this, then? A crisis? Obviously. Dangerous? Yes. Was his life on the line? Jim wasn't even sure of what that meant anymore.

All this time Jim had been certain he was walking along the fine boundaries of life and death just by merely being around the presence of Khan. While he initially panicked at the notion of being stranded in the middle of space, in the end he'd focused more on what he could see right in front of him. Short term reliefs over long term gratitude. It must be the primal survival instincts because Jim had never felt so lost and confused with himself. Ever since joining Starfleet, he'd taken basic needs for granted. After all, there were so many other things he needed to worry about. But now, here, in such a foreign setting reduced back to the barbaric stages of early human life, Jim wasn't even sure if he was doing the right thing anymore. Worst of all, he was beginning to question his own doubt for this war criminal he had held as his own prisoner in his ship.

"You are not the man you were when you had decided to beat me back on Kronos, Mister Kirk. What will you do now? How will you prove that you are still the same man with the same conscience, instead of pathetically whimpering on the ground like a coward?"

This man, John Harrison, or Khan, had done many things, and was capable of so much more. Surely had they remained aboard the Enterprise both of them would make certain of where the other's position lay. However, this was not the Enterprise. What did that make them? Jim could no longer call himself a real Captain here, so was Khan no longer a criminal? Two men as equals, both stranded helplessly with no rank to keep them apart?

No, Jim thought grimly. Ranks aside, actions are not erasable. The things that Khan did still happened and there was no way around that. They were terrible, and unforgivable.

Meanwhile, Khan was regarding Jim as if he were something horrific he'd discovered on the bottom of his boot. A disgusted sneer tore across his face. "I can hear you thinking, Kirk," he spat. With a shove, the hands digging into the yellow uniform disappeared as the dark figure stood and backed away, abandoning all former hostilities. "Forget everything. I shall do what you have done before and say: let us ignore this petty quarrel; pretend this never happened and continue what is really important, yes?"

Jim gripped the tree trunks for support as he slowly drew himself up into a stand as well. His mind was still whirling with unforeseen ease, his headache ceasing to exist altogether. Was that because of Khan's blood too?

The man had committed an atrocious crime, and his actions were gruesome. But then what about all the stuff he did that didn't fall into those categories?

Khan who had stopped him from drowning, pulled him out of a panic attack, never rose to Jim's provocations and jabs (well, most of the time), obeyed most of Jim's orders, and went out of his way to save Jim's life in a moment of pure danger, hell, even making sure Jim didn't face plant into his own sick. The five foot rule had not died yet either. What did all that mean?

"Look... I..." Jim didn't know what he had planned to say, and the words stiffened in his throat when the unnerving stare landed on him. The familiar wave of helplessness overtook his mind. "I don't know why you're doing all this, all of these—" he gestured weakly, "—good things when I clearly saw you doing exactly the opposite—"

"I fail to recognize any of my actions as such," Khan stated coldly, "as I simply do not do things because it's 'good'. I do them because I feel they are necessary, and if you are referring to the event where I helped you avoid a potential disaster ending in your death, it was only logical given the many reasons I have informed you of before."

Oh yes. The 'I-need-to-keep-you-alive-to-get-back-and-possibly -hijack-your-ship' excuse. Jim knew that the man was fully capable of doing so and probably would once they got back. For some strange, odd reason, the idea didn't fill him with the extensive levels of rage and panic as he'd expected it to. Jim made an internal note to go straight to Bones after the rescue to get his mental state analyzed.

"What do you mean, logical? Oh; you mean you, rescuing my ass when anyone would expect you to do otherwise?"

To the captain's wonder, Khan let out a colossal sigh that was exquisitely interlaced with exasperation. "Mister Kirk," he gritted out, "if you are still going on about—"

"Relax." Jim cracked a bitter half-smile. "I was kidding."

"I was not aware that this was a joke," Khan returned with no mirth.

"Yeah. Great." Jim gently prodded at his temple to check its healing process, which was well under its way. He huffed and stretched carefully, making sure he didn't open any more wounds. "You wanted to move on, right? Let's move on, then." He turned and began to walk, using the closely woven trees to stabilize his pace.

"Giving up already? Why are you being so unexpectedly compliant?" Khan inquired suspiciously. He'd quickly followed the captain but Jim couldn't see him because he was still keeping his designated distance from behind. "I was fully prepared to receive another verbal onslaught of your irrational thoughts."

"Hey, unless you want to keep arguing, I suggest you stop talking. In fact, I think we should both stop talking," Jim snapped. He then waited for the response, which did not come. Huh. So that's how it was. "Now, I just threw up all of my food I managed to keep down, so I am going to get some more. Would you like to accompany me?"

"Mister Kirk, stop."

Jim stopped.

There was a rustle, and Khan walked around so that he was standing in front of the captain. "I demand an explanation."

"Oh, so you're ordering me around now?"

"Answer me, Kirk."

"What do you want from me?" Jim nearly shouted, but it more closely resembled a choked exclamation of abject resignation. "I don't know what you're expecting from me right now, but you probably won't get it. You're right, I haven't done anything good so far and I've been fucking useless. I don't really know why but it just—happened, okay? You probably don't understand but I'm just a human being, not all this heroic legend bullshit that people have been talking about and I've been trying, and failing miserably, to live up to. I'm tired of everyone expecting me to do something better than what I've done before that only happened not because I'm just that good, but because it was pure, stupid luck!

"And maybe you think I have some grandiose plan concocted up my sleeve ready to use at any given moment, but I don't. I have no idea what I'm doing. I am so confused, and everything you do is confusing me, it doesn't make sense! You—you're supposed to be... evil, power-mad, and murderous or something, I don't know. If you were then at least I'd know what to do and expect. But now nothing is turning up the way I expected it to and my mind is going crazy because of it. I just— who even are you?" As his diatribe drew to an abrupt halt, a twinge of humiliation and shame trickled into his veins for just having spilled his deep, innermost feelings to very bane of his current existence, yet he also felt unexpectedly relieved, as if something heavy had just been lifted off his chest.

Instead of the belittlement and mockery he braced himself for, he was only given a slight tilt of the head and an almost thoughtful blink. "Thing are not as simplistic as you might wish they are, Captain," Khan said smoothly. "This isn't a child's game. Not everything is set in black and white."

"Well you know, most of the orders I get from above are simple like that. Black and white. I sometimes don't follow them because I think that people's lives are so much more than just a simple work pawn. And knowing you, you might not understand where I'm coming from." This was not the complete truth, because in all honesty, Jim did not know this enigmatic man as he would have liked. And despite saying all this, Jim slowly began to feel his initial sense of suspicion and malice towards Khan hopelessly slipping away, no matter how hard he tried to grasp onto it. He was tired; so tired of accusing him, tired of bringing himself to keep a reminder that this was the wrong sort of company that he should keep. He already had more than enough to worry about, and yet here he was still going through a petty internal crisis whether or not it was safe to even look at the man.

"Is it because I 'saved' you?" asked Khan with a small cock of his brow, addressing the unspoken question that was as clear as daylight to anyone. "The notion of being dependant on a war criminal too much for you to handle, Mister Kirk?"

"I—" Jim paused, then pressed on before his courage failed altogether. "I'm not sorry that my life was saved," he said finally. "And I am... grateful for that. But really, it's not like you."

"Oh, but Captain." The pale lips curled up into a pleasant but equally chilling smile that did not reach the eyes. "You don't know me at all."

"And just because you can talk, doesn't mean you truly know who I am, either," Jim returned frigidly.

"Oh, I assure you, Captain, that I fully expect to discover new things about you on the constant side for the time being. It seems to be the pattern; after all, you are always full of surprises."

"I don't think I—" Suddenly in that exact moment, Jim was cut off as a tremendous force equating to a hundred photon grenades detonating at once sent both him and Khan propelling backwards at alarming speeds into the air, along with splintering trees and a storm of mud.

"Arrgh!" The captain landed hard with a splash on a swampy bed of moss, his ears and eyes flooding with water. He then proceeded to roll several feet onto stiff, dry ground, his limbs tangling awkwardly. "Jesus Christ..." Jim groaned and jerkily extracted himself from where he'd stopped in a thicket of fluffy shrubs, the world spinning fervently before his eyes. Before he had the time to properly collect himself, an elephantine wood crumbled, leaned, and collapsed only mere inches away from where he lay. The impact of the massive debris shook the ground violently like a faulty shuttle, jostling the captain as he frantically scrambled to get up.

This time, the severity of the situation was escalating much more vigorously, as if something was hurriedly trying to finish things off. The trees were splintering apart one after another like an irregular set of dominoes, some being torn right out of the ground by its roots by an unknown force. In a blink of an eye the serene jungle was being blown apart by an invisible attacker, with Jim caught in the middle of it. Determined not to make the same mistake again, he didn't allow himself the time to wonder what the hell was going on. The minute he regained balance on his two feet, he bolted.

He ducked as more flying masses of lethal projectiles soared this way and that, slipping and sliding in the overturned swamp. More than once he very nearly got flattened by monstrous branches that lunged for his life, and the very planet's crust seemed to rumble and quake. For the umpteenth time Jim skidded and veered off course just in time as deadly splinters the size of lamp posts rained down like an angry hurricane.

He wouldn't be able to last for long like this, Jim realized desperately, and adrenaline pumped through his veins though his muscles were screaming in protest. He couldn't let this go on, whatever it was. It was unfair, and illogical.

"Khan!" Jim yelled over the deafening roar of the chaos around him. A good number of trees around him were completely demolished by now, and the immense canopy that had shielded them so snugly before was no longer there, leaving him to feel notably exposed and distressed. "Khan!"

It was a wonder the ground hadn't begun to split apart yet; at this rate, it was almost impossible to maintain his balance. A piercing pain suddenly registered in Jim's brain and he looked down to discover a small, serrated fragment of shattered rock protruding out of his calf. He swore loudly, though it was drowned in the sea of ear-piercing crashes. He quickly yanked it out, barely recognizing the sharp throb as it tore at his raw muscle. Though there were such little trees left around him that could seriously do harm, he had to move on. He couldn't stay here directly under the sun, unprotected from the stuff that could be out there—

A muffled shouting made Jim's head rear back sharply. His ears howling and chest threatening to burst, he pushed himself at a sprinting pace again towards the sound. "Khan!" Jim roared again. "Where are you?"

"Here, Kirk!" The voice was definitely much closer than before. Jim picked his way rapidly through the wreckage, where there were more trees but less undergrowth and the ground was unevenly caked with mounds of dirt. Rounding a pile of crumbling roots and twigs, Jim finally discovered the man. He was hunched over awkwardly, favoring his left leg, and his fringe was raggedly falling out of place into his visage. To Jim's alarm, Khan was adorned with extensive lacerations that were fresh, bruising, and bleeding. A nasty gash distinctly visible on his scalp was positively gushing, blood running in small rivulets down his face and off his chin. His eyes were bright with pain and his lips were white as he clamped them together with unnatural force.

"I—" Jim stuttered, arms flailing to steady himself as the ground shivered again. "Are y—"

"We must find immediate cover before this place blows itself to pieces," Khan snarled, almost falling over from the impact of another nearby tree meeting its demise. "I found a natural crevice under a hill of rocks when I was blown away and we will use that for the time being. Now, Captain, if you wish to survive!"

The two men tore themselves away and Jim let Khan lead the path, the blood coursing through his veins. Now that he was the one following, Jim allowed himself a little time to look around and study the sky. Not a single obstruction to veil the vast blue, the excruciatingly bright sunlight scorching down upon the surface.

"Are you alright?" Jim yelled at Khan, who never paused to hesitate in his lightning pace despite his injuries.

"Are you?" came the short reply, and Jim, despite their situation, barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. And right then, the very moment in which he had cast his eyes slightly upwards, was the moment where Jim would later thank every God he knew for his ability to maintain his exasperation in such hazardous conditions.

It was only there for a split heartbeat, but it was enough for Jim to do a double take. A vaguely transparent outline of something was hurling across the air, in breakneck speed towards their location. He had no time to warn Khan, however, because literally half a second later the very tree in which they were headed towards more or less exploded with such ferocity that Jim was blown off his feet once more. He somersaulted backwards once, twice, and flopped down with a big 'oomph', his spine giving a nasty twinge. Jim could feel a large tear running through his uniform in his right side, and one of his lower trouser legs had been shredded from being snagged in something along the way. Without giving himself the time to even be shocked, Jim snapped up to his feet and half-scuttled, half-crawled towards the dark figure that was currently picking himself up from the shaking ground.

"Did you see that!?" Jim bellowed in Khan's face, having reached the man and yanking at the black uniform to help straighten him up. "Did you fucking see that!?"

"We are close to the rocks!" Khan shouted back, wrenching himself away from the captain's grip and staggering all over the place. "It's just ahead there, where that hill is—"

"There was something there!" Jim shrieked, spit flying from his mouth. "Something invisible, but I saw it! I saw it! A sh—"

"Kirk, watch out!" The captain was interrupted when the wind was punched right out of his gut as Khan shoved him out of the way with one clean sweep of his foot. However, the momentum caused the man to slip in the mud and tumble to the ground, which by then it was already too late.

Jim watched with abject horror as a giant, branching section of the collapsing tree in front of them severed itself from the rest and crashed right where he'd been previously standing, atop the man's outstretched leg. Even over the thunderous commotion he still heard the sickening, telltale 'snap' of bone being shattered.

Khan opened his mouth and let out the most frighteningly dreadful, agonized scream Jim had ever heard in his entire life. It pierced its way through his system, shaking his very core, and Jim landed flat on his bottom when his knees decided to give out. His breath came in short, heaving gasps, petrified at what had happened before his eyes.

Khan was still howling in pain, his face twisted and screwed into a mask of pure anguish. Jim could see from his angle that the man's hands were already caked with blood from gripping at his injury. Just as Khan managed to tear his mangled leg from under the debris by digging through the mud, Jim saw the next disaster approaching. He screamed a frantic "No!" but it was of no use.

Dozens of thick, wooden shards, broken off like long stakes, were descending from the sky. The captain quickly dived away from its general destination, ignoring the sharp stabs of pain that erupted in his shoulders as the smaller ones embedded themselves into his flesh. He looked up, and time seemed to freeze as he watched the scene unfold ahead as if in slow motion.

Having finally freed himself from the devastation, Khan was heaving himself up using the fallen log as leverage, head cast down and oblivious to the catastrophe above him. One of the lethal fragments whizzed down and pierced clean through Khan's back and out his stomach with a nauseating 'schluck'. A small grunt tumbled from the man's lips, followed by a stream a dark, crimson liquid that dripped steadily in thick droplets, contrasting sharply against his pallid demeanor. He stumbled forward a few steps, until he came to an abrupt halt and collapsed like a lifeless doll, disappearing behind the fallen log.

Jim was not even aware that the entire destruction was beginning to cease. He did not notice how the last couple of trees teetered before standing still, how the ground no longer shook like a leaf in the wind. The silence that immediately followed was even louder than anything he'd ever heard up till now. His heart was racing and blood roaring throughout his body, as he rigidly pushed his weight forward so that he was on all fours. His legs did not function, no matter how much he willed them to work. The strain placed on his shoulders would definitely break the splinters nesting under his skin, but he didn't care. It was quiet, too quiet for Jim's liking. Slowly and cautiously, as if afraid he would awaken some horrific beast, Jim began to crawl towards the fallen log. Once he reached it, he pretended not to notice the puddle of red splattering among the dark soil, smeared on the shredded tree bark.

He eventually rounded the slight corner, and Jim choked on his own saliva.

Lying precariously in a motionless manner was Khan, his limbs sprawled in irregular positions and an elongated wooden shard was protruding grotesquely out of his abdomen, as if he'd been speared by a Nibiran back on Nibiru that Jim had had a close encounter with the tribe on. It seemed like such a long time ago. He stared in utter trepidation, taking in the battered and defeated figure of a man who once held himself so high.

And that blood—oh, all of that precious, dangerous yet life-saving blood—was steadily gushing out in steady streams, drenching the black hair and staining the white face a deep crimson that reeked of iron. He purposely avoided landing his sight on Khan's right leg, because even from the corners of his eyes he could tell by the deranged angle it lay in that it had been quite mercilessly pulverized.

Jim swallowed the lump rising from his throat and watched the limp figure, silently praying that Khan would twitch, move, or show any sort of hint that he was conscious again and alive. But there was nothing. Not even a slightest twinge of a muscle or blink of an eye, and Jim was too afraid to reach out and check for a pulse. He was beginning to feel the familiar signs of another panic attack, his chest constricting painfully. No, he thought frantically. He couldn't lose it again, not now. He'd never be able to pull himself together like this, not without Khan...

"G—" His throat felt like it was laced with barbed wire; words had difficulty surfacing from the bottom. "Fuck—" When the stronger side failed, there wasn't much the rest of the remaining could do.

"...Khan." His voice sounding far too small, Jim warily extended out a hand and placed it on a limp shoulder. The simple touch should have been enough to rouse the man. "You—" he swallowed thickly, tongue laying stiff and hot, "—you okay?"

The silence and the beating of his own heart answered him. No haughty response of 'are you?', no frigid glare. Jim exhaled shakily.

Suddenly, he felt so alone. Reduced back to a small child, huddled under his bed away from the scary monsters that threatened to tear his life apart.

Whatever was left in him, it was up to Jim to decide on the next course of action. Suddenly the notion of making his own decisions seemed very foreign and strange. Had he really been that dependent on Khan to do most of the thinking all this time?

Apparently the shelter was not too far away. Looking around, he saw that the 'hill' that Khan had mentioned was actually small, rising ledge in the ground that consisted of dry stone. It was about one hundred meters away from their current position, a distance that should've been a piece of cake yet Jim felt like it was light years away. Another glance at Khan's mangled body sent a surge of energy in him, however, and so he stifled all thoughts of despair and rose shakily to his feet.

After Jim had yanked out most of the bigger splinters and shards he'd accumulated on his own body, his uniform was spotted with blood and the wounds stung where the fabric rubbed irritatingly over raw skin. Moving Khan was a bigger complication than anything else. The man seemed to have already ceased bleeding in copious volumes, but he'd still lost quite a large amount of blood. There was also the tiny concern of that thing sticking out of his stomach, Jim thought, wincing at the idea of having to pull it out. He couldn't begin to imagine the pain of having that jostled around. He would've liked to lift him off the ground completely, but when he tried, quickly discovered that Khan was nothing but dead weight and Jim could barely carry him for more than three steps.

"Shit," Jim swore, and decided to just go with the old fashioned arm-around-shoulder. With a massive heave he hauled the lifeless figure up, and stumbled forward. A low, guttural moan escaped Khan's mouth as his leg scraped the ground. Jim had to reach around and under the wooden stake to get a full grip around Khan's waist, and just like that he began the tedious journey towards the rocks.

When they finally reached their destination, Jim was ready to collapse and die. His face and half of his tattered uniform was dripping with sweat, and he carelessly wiped them away. He saw that there indeed was a fairly large crevice in the rocks which, on the inside, would be rather cramped for two people but better than nothing nonetheless. It wasn't exactly a cave, more of a gap in between two broad layers of stone. Jim shuffled inside first, then tucked his arms under Khan's armpits and dragged him inside. Before he was able to properly lean him against the dirt though, his hand, lubricated with sweat and blood, slipped and Khan landed right on the wooden splinter, pushing it in even deeper. The man emitted a startled cry and his body convulsed in a spasm of pain, while Jim cursed loudly at the same time.

To the captain's immense relief, he noticed Khan's eyelids had at least cracked open. The eyes that were bright, glassy, and unseeing twitched around until they rested bemusedly on Jim. His mouth opened and failed to speak, only managing a bare minimum of shallow gasping. Jim broke the gaze and carefully pushed him over so he was lying on his side. He had to get that... thing out, now. But oh, he was no doctor. How Jim wished for Bones to be here with him. He tried to think of what McCoy would say in a situation like this, tried to think like a doctor, and when he drew a blank, Jim discovered that he'd never loathed himself so much like this ever since he had woken up on this planet.

But he had to do something. Pulling out the fragment fully was atrocious; it was, after all, the only thing that was keeping Khan from bleeding out more, the stopper on a bottle of shaken cider. He didn't have the proper equipment, whatever that would be. But at least he could break the splinter and that would make more room and give a slight freedom to move around.

Jim steeled himself and reached for the bloody abomination. When he wrapped his fingers around the jagged shaft, Khan gave no move to acknowledge it. His eyelids, however, remained unlatched though the eyes stared dully at nothing in particular. Counting under his breath to three, Jim clenched his muscles and yanked his arm back as hard as he could manage. The stake broke in two with a satisfying 'crack!', and Khan let out a sharp wail as the remaining portion embedded deep into his flesh dug even more fiercely through his insides. Jim glowered feebly at the twenty four inch rod in his fist with repulsion. He chucked it away through the large crack out of the cave. Now, there wasn't anything sticking out of the man's back and so he quickly maneuvered the limp figure into a more comfortable position on his back. Khan simply stared up at Jim, blinking in a sluggish manner.

"Wha'?" Jim wheezed haggardly. "Have somethin' t'say?"

Khan opened his mouth, but only a rushed breath escaped his lips. The action caused his chest to deflate and a fresh stream of blood spurted once from the abdominal wound.

"Stop' i'," Jim rasped, placing a hand near the man's stomach and flinching away when Khan protested with an incoherent grunt. "Stop; don' move, makin' i' worse..."

By now the blood was welling up freely again, the small bit of new skin Khan's regenerative cells had molded around the offending obtrusion instantly tearing. Jim gripped the edge of the black uniform and peeled it halfway up, to fully reveal the true horrors of the injury. With each pump of Khan's heart, more red spilled out of the corners of the cylindrical laceration, the harsh contrast of white and crimson making his head spin.

"No," Jim mumbled absentmindedly, collapsing back against the rough wall, limbs like water from sheer exhaustion. "Y'can't... n't like this..."

Khan blinked again, and parted his lips once more. His neck convulsed, gaze stubbornly fixed on the other. "...jlrg—" A strained gurgle ripped from deep within his throat. "Jihg... glrph... Jiphm—"

The captain slumped tiredly and buried his face in his arms. He was too weary to do anything more, and it seemed the little energy boost he'd gotten back then was only temporary and left him even more drained. He didn't think about how his own body was littered with bruises and bleeding gashes, how the wound in his calf was buried in the dirt, soiling it with germs, how the other man, caked with blood almost head to toe, lying before him so desperate to retrieve his vocal chords, pushing every bit of his remaining strength not for Kirk, but to say the name 'Jim'...

Jim felt himself almost physically plummeting into a blissful void of sheer numbness and oblivion, and the last thing he saw was blood and a mess of tangled, black hair.

Khan let his eyes slip closed.


~*o*~


"Sir, we are being hailed by a Starfleet craft." Upon entering the bridge after a restless round of pacing in his quarters, Spock veered immediately towards the chair and seated himself.

"On screen, please." The screen flickered and the pixels cleared to show a sharp man dressed in clean, pristine uniform.

"Greetings, Mister Spock," the man said.

"Admiral Marcus," Spock returned respectfully, nodding his head once. He made sure to hide his alarm at this sudden call behind a mask of practiced indifference. "How may I be of assistance?"

"Well I was about to ask you the same thing," Marcus said, raising an eyebrow. "Is everything alright there? I sense you have a couple of difficult situations at hand."

Spock regarded the Admiral for a moment with an unwavering gaze, as if contemplating something. He then opened his mouth and replied, "There has been an unforeseen technical malfunction with our warp core. Therefore, I am fully aware of the purpose of your visit and will patiently await your arrival."

"What do you mean, Mister Spock?" Marcus asked.

"Surely the reason behind your unofficial departure from Starfleet headquarters was to assist with our internal repairs," Spock said calmly. "If not, then I must raise the impending inquiry of why a Starfleet Admiral would find it necessary to personally assemble himself at a less than practical location for a mere briefing session."

Marcus did not answer. There was a pause as each man regarded one another with a calculating gaze. Finally, there was a deep exhale. "Where is Mister Kirk, Spock?" he asked at last.

The half-Vulcan barely frowned, pressed his lips together slightly, before answering. "Due to some transporting errors, the Captain is regrettably absent and currently not aboard the Enterprise." A beat. "As Acting Captain I take full responsibility over the predicament and am currently utilizing all methods possible to identify Captain Kirk's location for an immediate rescue."

"Really? Why did that happen, I wonder?"

"A full investigation is under way, and once it is complete I will provide you with a full report with the details of the incident."

Marcus's eyes bore into Spock's, an unspoken emotion flitting across the aging face for a split second. "Surely it doesn't have anything to do with you disobeying your orders I gave you?"

Spock did not blink. "I fail to comprehend your—"

"Oh no, I think you do." Marcus crossed his arms. "You didn't kill John Harrison; you brought him aboard with you, did you not? Isn't he responsible for your Captain's regrettable absence?"

"Sir..." Spock began, hesitating for a single second, "While I recognize our failure to fulfill your orders, I can present a full explanation as to—"

"Ah, forget it." The Admiral rubbed his forehead tiredly, waving away the excuse. "I understand why you would do that, Spock. Always one to follow the better rules, even if it meant breaking the ones given to you." He chuckled. "It was noble of you to spare Harrison. However, you also need to realize he is a very dangerous man, and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. I assume he is with Kirk at the moment, yes?"

Spock nodded slowly. "Affirmative."

"I want you to find them both as fast as you can," Marcus ordered. "Once you have them, contact me. I will first escort the prisoner back to Earth for his trial, and then I'll send a repair team to help you with your core."

"With all due respect, Admiral, even if we discover the Captain's new location it will be difficult for the Enterprise to reach said destination. If we receive the repair team now—"

"They used a portable transwarp device, am I right?" Marcus asked, smiling sympathetically. "Because ship transporters have records, you'd know in an instant where they went. Those transwarp devices can't get you very far. Definitely won't reach any place where you'll need to warp to get to. Well, Mister Spock, I wish you luck." With that, the transmission ended abruptly.

Spock leapt to his feet in an instant. He turned around only to face Nyota Uhura, who was frozen in place from having listened to the conversation. "Are you aware of my suspicions?" he asked her quietly.

Uhura nodded. "Seems a bit weird, doesn't it?"

"Indeed. The Admiral has shown quite extensive knowledge about these devices, and Khan's fate as well. If he know this, then is it not strange that he spoke as if unaware of the man's capability to adjust the device's transporting distance limits? Surely after recognizing some of our greatest complications, that would not have been difficult to solve." Spock headed towards the turbolift, and Uhura followed closely behind. The doors swished shut after them.

"And why would he come here?" Uhura added softly after a beat of silence. "And even so, why isn't he at some place where we can see him? He's stopped close enough to send a strong transmission but far enough so our ship can't scan his immediate location."

The lift came to a smooth halt and Spock stepped out. "Lieutenant, please attempt to contact Mister Scott back on Earth and figure out how Khan was able to extend the device's transwarp limits." With those words, he made his way through the hallways towards the cafeteria.

The moment he walked through the doors he spotted the man he was looking for. Spock strode up to one of the back tables where McCoy was shoveling food into his mouth while furiously tapping away at his PADD.

"Go away, Spock," McCoy snapped around a mouthful of turkey once he approached, not bothering to look up. "I just got out of duty five minutes ago. This is my first break in thirteen hours and I'm not going to have you ruin it."

"Doctor, I carry urgent information that requires your full attention," Spock informed him.

"Well leave it urgently," McCoy grumbled, but set the PADD down to glare up at the half-Vulcan with resentment.

"Approximately one minute and fourteen seconds ago we were hailed by none other than Admiral Marcus himself," Spock said. "He has inquired about our ship's incapability to resume warp speed as of current time, and assures that he will send a repair team towards our location."

"...That's it, then?" barked McCoy. "Look, I'm a Doctor, damn it; what was the point of telling me that for? Go talk to that... that kid down in engineering. Poor soul must be shitting his pants by now."

"He was also familiar with Captain Kirk's and Khan's disappearance off the Enterprise, along with the fact that they were transported off this ship via transwarp device."

McCoy, who was still trying to cram his entire dinner into his mouth, suddenly spewed mashed potatoes across the table like an erupting volcano. Most of it landed on Spock, who just calmly wiped his face free of any debris while the doctor choked violently.

"What—" Meal long forgotten, McCoy scrambled to his feet and stared demandingly at the unmoving figure. "What the hell did you just say?"

"Admiral Marcus possessed a broad range of knowledge concerning our current—"

"Marcus?"

"Affirmative, and he requested our search for the Captain and Khan be—"

"Whoa, wait a minute, he knows about Khan?"

"Doctor, are your hearing capabilities compromised?"

"Damn it, man, if you told the Admiral that we saved Khan—"

"I did nothing of the sort. I myself have difficulties perceiving the methods Admiral Marcus utilized to arrive to such conclusions—correctly, I might add—and there are still many new complications that have risen from this news. I calculated that the first logical course of action was to inform you immediately."

With that, the two of them left the cafeteria to head towards the medbay. On the way, Spock recounted his and Marcus's conversation in full detail, leaving nothing out. By the time they arrived, McCoy looked like he'd just aged ten years.

"And thus, I have requested Lieutenant Uhura to establish contact with Mister Scott to assist with analyzing the methods Khan used to alter this device," Spock concluded once they stepped into the currently empty bay.

"Damn it, man, are you a science officer or not?" hissed McCoy furiously. "Can't you come up with something instead of pushing the job around to other people?"

"I too have visualized multiple theories as to how long distance travel via transwarp devices is made possible, Doctor," Spock replied. "However, I wish to confirm said theories by consulting the very individual who has devised these transporters."

"Fine, whatever. But this just doesn't add up. How does Marcus know we had Khan? How did he already know that he and Jim were missing? Why is he only coming to us now? And if he knew that much about the transporters and their distance limits, then he obviously should've known that someone like Khan could've easily hacked into it to suit his needs."

"No individual on this ship is familiar with the way Khan acts or works," Spock said, "and that applies to the Admiral as well. It is questionable that he should be aware of Khan's full potential in the first place."

McCoy groaned loudly. "Damn it, Spock! Can't you see what I'm trying to imply? Why can't he send that repair team over now? And why isn't he more concerned? Our Captain and a god damn space terrorist are stuck on some lone planet halfway across the galaxy together. It's not that hard. Look, what I'm saying is," and though they were alone, he still lowered his voice to barely above a whisper, "what if he doesn't want us to warp for some reason?"

"You are suggesting that the Admiral lied and that he is possibly aware of Captain Kirk's location, and might have intentionally suspended us here," Spock said sharply. "That is most illogical."

"Illogical, but not unlikely," McCoy muttered darkly. "Everything that you've told me about what he said doesn't make sense. He wouldn't just let something as disobeying his direct orders go as easily as that. Everything, I tell you, everything about what he did and said is weird. And don't pretend I'm the only one thinking this! You're thinking it, too, I can see it!"

"Though I've harbored my doubts, it would not be wise to jump to any conclusions before authenticating more proof. That is why I've come to you, Doctor. I request that you join the investigation with Lieutenant Uhura to first analyze our main problems at hand. I shall look into the matters concerning Admiral Marcus."

"Wait, you're telling me do these things I have no idea how to—"

"You and Carol Marcus managed to successfully activate and dismember one of the torpedoes," Spock reminded him, eyebrow raised. "Your flawless teamwork and ability to collaborate with others should provide no problems with this task, either."

"That was an accident," McCoy spat, glowering. "...Oh, alright, fine, I'll do it! Bloody hobgoblins..." The Doctor left the medbay with those words, still grumbling to himself. When the door was shut behind him, Spock allowed his impeccable posture to sag just a little, and seated himself on one of the biobeds. He felt the waves of worry and anxiety coursing through his veins and didn't even care when he realized at that moment, he was feeling very, very scared.


So not much of a cliffhanger this time because the date in which the next chapter will be posted is unclear. I was originally going to leave it at Jim and Khan, but then thought that it would be better if I showed you the last scene as well, for a couple of reasons. Anyways, thanks again for reading!

Like? Love? Hate? Please tell me what you think; your reviews will be greatly appreciated! :)