Kirk was standing there, wondering what the fuck he should do, when he heard the doors open. He watched as Bones came rushing in, phaser in hand, powered up and ready to shoot.
"Jim, what's wrong?" he said, looking over at Khan to make sure the tiger was still in his cage. "Is everything alright? I heard yelling."
"Goddamn it, Bones!" Kirk replied gruffly, adrenaline still coursing strong. "Everything's fine."
Bones lowered his weapon and looked at his Captain with bewilderment. Well that was slightly uncalled for. He then glanced back over at Khan.
"What did you do to him?" he demanded, his voice low and threatening.
Khan kept his features perfectly still and guarded. He didn't feel the need to offer a response, so he just stood there gazing at Kirk, who seemed to be trying his best to compose himself.
Kirk let out a small groan. "God, I'm sorry Bones, I didn't mean to yell, it's just… I was… well, I really think I need to fight him." Kirk pointed over in Khan's direction.
"WHAT!?" Khan and Bones, both, proclaimed at the same time.
Jim bent down at the waist and put his hands on his knees. Lifting his head up, he made eye contact with Bones and said, "Man, I know it sounds crazy. But I need to fight Khan."
Khan's curiosity had never before been as peaked as it was now. What exactly was Kirk playing at?
"Are you out of your potato pickin' mind?!" Bones asked him, in disbelief. "Have you sustained some kind of irreparable brain damage that I'm not aware of?"
Kirk stood up and walked closer to Bones.
"No, listen," he said, trying to sound calm, and hopefully sane. "I feel… different, Bones. Stronger, somehow. You see, I was thinking… me and him… we've fought before, right? Well, I really feel like I can take him, now. Since I've come back… you know, from the dead."
It had been the first thing to pop into Kirk's mind, and being the reckless and impulsive human that he was, he had decided to grab hold and run with it. Repercussions and consequences be damned!
Khan remained passive and betrayed no emotion, yet inside he was growling with overwhelming approval for whatever plan Kirk was busy concocting for them. He would surely cooperate with anything the Captain had in mind… albeit to save himself, of course. No matter what kind of strange emotions he was experiencing regarding Kirk, he still had no intentions of going back to sleep again.
"You feel stronger?" Bones repeated, in total disbelief. "And you're going to fight a madman, fully designed and created to have more strength than a human could ever hope to have, so that you can test and see if death was good to you?" Yep, Jim was certifiably insane, no doubt about it.
"Well, yeah," Kirk said, confidently. "I've already talked it over with him. He assured me that he would be able to gauge if I've improved or not."
The doctor whipped his head around to look at Khan, who hadn't moved an inch.
"You assured him?" he asked, incredulously, the tone of his voice gradually rising in pitch.
Khan simply nodded.
Turning his head back around to Kirk and throwing his hands up in the air, Bones stated with dripping sarcasm, "Yeah, because we all know how trustworthy he is."
Khan spoke up. "Doctor, may I remind you of how illogical it would be for me to give the Captain back his life, only to turn around and take it away from him again."
What, was this guy taking pages from Spock? Oh god, please, not another one.
"I don't give a damn how illogical it is!" Dr. McCoy shouted at Khan. "For all I know, you could be some pervert who gets off on murdering people, then bringing them back to life just so you can kill them again."
Well, Khan couldn't disagree entirely with that statement… although murdering the Captain wasn't exactly what he had in mind.
Kirk's eyes grew wide, for his thoughts were along the same line as Khan's.
"I understand your hesitation, Dr. McCoy," Khan said, attempting to add a touch of humility to his voice. "But please, try to understand my position. I am but one man; I have no crew; And I have every reason to suspect that you intend to put me back into cryostasis, or possibly even execute me. Taking all my options into account, I would rather cooperate with you… and remain conscious… than give you yet another reason to do away with me. Also, if you would allow me, I am certain I could be of some assistance to this ship and her crew. My knowledge of engineering and starship mechanics is immense."
Kirk chimed in, "See, Bones, besides helping me, he could be extremely useful to the ship. You know how much we need help with repairs."
"I'm not believing this," Bones said, shaking his head. "I'm not… I can't… please, don't tell me that you're actually considering this, Jim!"
Bones looked to be about as close to having a mental breakdown as Kirk had ever seen him. And there had been some mighty close calls in the past.
Jim was greatly impressed with Khan's offer to be of assistance to them, in exchange for his right to remain thawed. It really surprised him to see the man actually humbling himself before Bones in such a way. Whether or not Khan was being sincere, was yet to be seen, but so far, he seemed genuine enough. Oh, how badly Kirk wanted to believe him.
"He does have a point, though, Bones," Kirk told him, mentally willing his friend to calm down. "He really doesn't have many options available to him right now."
The doctor lowered his voice and scoffed. "Who needs options when revenge is on the menu?"
Kirk looked over at Khan and thought about it for a second. Damn. Maybe Bones had a point, too. Was Khan just playing him so that he could eventually enact his revenge upon them all? Kirk had already foolishly given away the truth about his crew being alive. Shit, shit, shit. Now he was beginning to doubt Khan, himself.
"Doctor…" Khan said, with as much conviction as he could gather. "Captain… I fear you humans have misunderstood me and my kind since we were first created by you."
"Ha!" Bones laughed out loud with indignation. "And how have we possibly misunderstood you, huh?"
Jim said nothing. He simply locked eyes with Khan and listened intently, eager to hear what the man had to say.
"If you gentlemen could please, suspend your judgment of me for the moment, I will tell you how. But first I must warn you, it will not cast a pleasant light on your species."
Khan paused, giving them room to protest his words. When neither man spoke up, he continued on.
"Yes, we were created to be better than you, this is true. But it was so we could help rule and watch over you, with a fair and peaceful hand."
Bones let out a sarcastic remark and Kirk shushed him while motioning for Khan to keep going.
Khan had to fight back a smile.
"You see, back in my time, the humans on planet Earth were not exactly the most highly evolved species in the galaxy. Emotionally, they were extremely rash and volatile; often prone to the worst kinds of violence. Completely driven by ego and personal gain, they only desired to help themselves, with no consideration for their species, or planet, as a whole. What little intelligent minds they did have living amongst them, were either destroyed out of fear, or were forced into working for whoever was currently ruling by intimidation. I would imagine the scientists who created us, somehow managed to escape the fate of their predecessors, and realized that something drastic had to be done in order to alter the path of destruction, which they were all headed down. So they created us, and placed us into positions of power; to help bring peace and intellectual discipline throughout the world. And times were good for many years. Unfortunately, whatever that darkness is, which lives inside of humans and drives them to destroy one another, eventually reared itself again in the form of a massive war; which left many of my people dead. My crew and I were the only ones who were able to escape."
Khan hesitated for a moment, and sighed.
"You created us to help you. And then, out of fear, you attacked and destroyed us. Please, understand this… I am not a killer by nature. I do not blindly terminate beings solely for the pleasure of it. This makes no logical sense to me. If I have killed, it is because I have been given no other alternative. Granted, I am capable of killing with great ease and efficiency. But is it not natural to become defensive when the survival of your family, and your own self, is on the line? And before you accuse me of desiring revenge… was it not the same desire in you, which compelled you to seek me out on Kronos?"
This last question was directed at the Captain.
"Will you punish me for instincts which you also find within your own selves?"
Silence flooded the room.
"Damn," Kirk whispered.
Bones was miraculously speechless.
"My own internal fires of revenge have been effectively diminished over the past few weeks," Khan told them, while searching Kirk's eyes for any hint of understanding. "I know I have no right to ask it of you, but if you give me a chance, I assure you… I will assist you in any way that I possibly can."
Okay, seriously, what could Kirk say to that? His head was spinning; his heart was threatening to beat out of his chest; and he was quite sure that his feet were floating ten inches off the ground. Khan had definitely presented a decent case for himself. Hopefully Bones would agree.
"Jim," Bones finally said. "Can I speak to you outside?"
Kirk nodded and followed the doctor out of the brig, turning around for a final glace at Khan before walking out.
Khan just stood their patiently. Everything he had spoken was true. It was now up to Kirk and Dr. McCoy to decide whether or not they would believe him. And truthfully, the only person he was concerned about believing him was the Captain.
Kirk cleared his throat and looked at Bones. "Sooo… yeah. How about that, huh?"
"Listen, Jim," Bones said, with all seriousness. "You are the Captain. If you want to believe him, that's fine. I'll follow your lead, as usual. But it's on you, okay? He says he wants to help us, well… are you going to be the one to babysit him? Are you going to make sure he doesn't unleash his wrath upon all of us? I can tell that you want to trust him. God only knows why. But remember, this also goes deeper than you or me."
Kirk nodded in understanding.
"Starfleet is going to want us to hand him over. How's he gonna react to that, huh? I doubt he'll be as compliant. Nor do I think Starfleet will give a shit about what you have to say about him. They're kind of known for doing whatever the hell they want, and if you protest, I'm sure they'll have no problem throwing your ass in jail for associating with a criminal."
"Who all onboard knows he's here?" Kirk asked. "Does Starfleet know he's alive?"
"I don't know, Jim, but if I had to guess, I'd say as sure as hell they know. Have you forgotten about the Vulcan?"
"Dammit," Kirk cursed. He needed to find Spock, asap. A plan was quickly forming in his head, but having Starfleet involved would pose as an annoying, and challenging, obstacle.
He looked at his friend with gratefulness in his eyes. Bones really was good to him.
"Thank you," he told Bones, patting him on the shoulder. "I promise, you won't regret it."
Actually, they all might end up regretting this, but saying it out loud made Kirk feel a little better, anyways.
Bones just shook his head. "Don't get me wrong, I still think you're as looney as a flobberwossit ingesting sasnip."
"Just let me know if you need my help. And don't go getting yourself killed again. There's only so much a man can handle. You're not the only one recovering, here, you know."
Kirk saw the exhaustion on Bone's face and felt a tinge of guilt. "I know, man, I know."
"A guy gets tired of saving your ass all the time."
Kirk looked down and softly smiled.
"Alright," Bones announced. "I've got some appointments I need to get back to. Good luck convincing Spock of why you shouldn't be thrown in the cell along with Khan."
Bones paused and gave him a knowing look. "But who knows… maybe that's exactly what you're hoping will happen?"
With that, the doctor turned around and walked away, leaving a stunned Kirk behind to wonder just what the hell he had meant by that.
Before taking off to find Spock, Kirk walked back into the brig to check on Khan. He wanted to fill him in on what he was planning on doing… plus, he may or may not have wanted to get one last glimpse of the man before he left.
Khan hadn't moved an inch. He was patiently waiting for the Captain to return. And when the doors opened and Kirk walked back into the room, he was surprised to see that the doctor was no longer with him. Good. He would rather talk to Kirk alone. Pushing down the irritating fluttering that had settled itself within his stomach, Khan collected himself and waited for the Captain to speak.
Kirk went to say something, but the damned words got caught in his throat… so all he could do was stand there and smile at Khan like a silly little adolescent girl. How the fuck had he ever become a Captain, again?
Khan was overwhelmingly amused.
"So, what's the verdict, Captain?" Khan asked, when he realized Kirk wasn't going to speak up.
Kirk stared at him for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, and sighed dramatically. "I'm sorry, Khan. But… it didn't work."
Khan raised his eyebrows, questioningly.
"Did you actually think we would fall for such a lame story, I mean, c'mon." Kirk gave him a half-cocked smirk.
"I suppose I underestimated you, then," Khan said, his eyes shining.
The truth was, Kirk could relate quite well to Khan's assessment of the human race. And even though the Earth was a lot more peaceful now than it had been back in Khan's time, Kirk still observed a certain blundering youthfulness to his species, which he had always taken issue with. Not that he could judge them too harshly, seeing as how he could also observe similar weaknesses in himself. But Khan had totally hit the nail on the head, for the most part.
"Oh, I think you underestimate me more than you think you do," Kirk said, confidently… then he paused to think about what he'd just said. Hmm, it had made sense in his head. Being around Khan had a way of making him rethink everything that came out of his mouth. Why the fuck was that?
Khan chuckled, in that deep, rumbling bass tone which never ceased to send shivers up and down Kirk's spine.
The Captain looked paralyzed.
"How is Dr. McCoy?" Khan asked, once he saw that Kirk had gone silent again.
"Oh yeah, Bones is fine," Kirk said. "Though, I'm sure I've managed to shave off a few years of his life."
Khan chuckled, again.
Kirk shook his head and willed himself to snap out of the thick, hazy cloud that had unexpectedly engulfed him the minute he had come back into the room.
"Anyway," Kirk cleared his throat. "So I have some urgent matters to attend to, this afternoon, but I wanted to let you know that I'm working on a plan to get you out of there."
"Why, Captain," Khan said, pausing… "I'm touched."
"Ugh, please don't say 'touched'… I know you're doing that on purpose," Kirk scolded.
Khan had the audacity to look innocent.
"I'm going to do my best," Kirk said, picking his thoughts back up. "I have to go find out if Starfleet knows you're alive. It will be so much easier if you're off their radar, but hey… if worse comes to worse, I'll just fucking let you out myself, and make like you've escaped or something. I'm sure you're more than capable of taking care of yourself."
Khan stared at Kirk in all seriousness. "You would do that for me?"
Kirk, feeling a bit self-conscious under his gaze, shrugged and let out a nervous laugh.
"Well, yeah… I mean, you kind of made some excellent points, and I can surprisingly relate to you in a lot of ways… and I swear, if you are lying to me, Khan… I'll… I'll…"
"I'm not lying to you, Kirk," Khan said, with all sincerity. "Actually, I must offer you my deepest gratitude. Never before have I had the pleasure of dealing with a man quite like yourself. You have shown me much kindness… even though we both know I deserve anything but. You were under no obligation to tell me about my people, and yet you still did… regardless of whether or not it benefited you to do so. Even now, you inform me of your intentions to help me get out of here."
Khan sighed, and looked down. "Yes, I really have underestimated you, it seems."
He looked back up into Kirk's wide blue eyes. "You are the most honorable, courageous… remarkable human being I have ever met, and you have my fullest respect, Captain James Tiberius Kirk."
Kirk swallowed hard, then let go of the breath that he had apparently been holding that whole entire time.
Khan was more than happy to be back in the position of the one making Kirk speechless, instead of the other way around.
Kirk scratched his head and gave another nervous laugh. Yep, Khan had won that round. Kirk laughed to himself. Jeez. He didn't think it was possible for him to want the man any more than he already did, but there ya go.
"Well, you did kind of save my life once or… three times," Kirk finally said, a faint smile playing on his lips.
Khan smirked. "True. In all reality, I believe it is you who owes me, then."
Oh, how Kirk's brain just needed to shut up. Nope… nope… nuh uh. He was not going there right now.
"Well, I've got to go find Spock, and see who all he's told about you," Kirk informed him, hesitant to actually leave. "Don't have too much fun without me."
"Impossible," Khan said, giving Kirk a deliciously devious smile.
"We're still fighting at some point," Kirk reminded him, as he turned around and walked towards the doors.
"Oh, I am counting on it," came Khan's smooth reply.
Leaving Khan was the last thing Kirk wanted to do. Just being in the other man's presence, made him feel more alive than… (Well, he certainly had an extensive list of things to choose from, didn't he?) And incredibly, Khan trumped them all! Kirk desperately needed some alone time with the man! It was an insanely uncomfortable feeling, getting so turned on without the opportunity for release. Unfortunately, there was a lot of shit he had to take care of first, before that could happen. At least Bones was on board. Now, how in the hell was he going to get Spock to go along with his plan? He hoped to god that it would all work out effortlessly in the end. Because he did care about Khan in a way, and he wanted to see him freed. And also because… well... honestly, his balls were just aching so damn bad!