Jim came online after the massacre on Tarsus, while he was out in the woods trying desperately to keep his kids alive. They were his tribe, and he was their Sentinel, and it was his job to protect them to his dying breath. There was nothing he wouldn't do, no line he wouldn't cross, no cost too great if it meant keeping his tribe alive and safe. He would do anything. Anything.
It was hell.
Because of course Tarsus wasn't shitty enough beforehand, no, now he had to go through it all with all his sense jackknifed up to ten and with no clue how to even begin controlling them.
The pain was... He doesn't think there are words for it. Not in Standard, at least. Maybe not in any language. But there were a lot of times when he thought the sheer force of the pain would kill him. When he thought no human could possibly feel this intensely and survive it.
But he does survive it, and Starfleet comes, and the colony burns to the ground and you can see the smoke for miles. He was out foraging when the ships arrived, separated from his kids. It takes three redshirts to restrain him, and they strap him down to a biobed and someone stabs him with a hypo.
The first thing he does when he wakes up is ask about his kids, demand to see them.
He is the only child who was rescued by the USS Grissom and they're very sorry, Mr. Kirk, but they can't disclose any more information that that.
He goes into a feral state and none of their tranquilizers work, the nurses and doctors are screaming, Jim is working his wrists bloody against the restraints, and they want to know if he is a Sentinel and he snarls that of course he's a Sentinel, he could not more clearly be a Sentinel--
--And that's when they stab him with the special, unspeakably powerful tranquilizer designed to knock out feral Sentinels.
Spock came online during his kahs-wan, when I-Chaya died. He crawled to his feet, covered in sand, and went over to his pet to give him one last comfort, to ease his pain as he passed.
And he suddenly realized that he could feel that pain already, without a touch, without a meld.
Spock had always been a horribly curious child, so he tested further. He pushed gently into I-Chaya's mind, projecting soothing comfort, and he felt... he felt his pet's gratefulness in return. He felt I-Chaya's affection for him, his lack of regret.
The great sehlat told him without words that it had been worth it.
Spock had never been so awed in his life.
Spock discovers almost immediately after that that he is being followed by his spirit animal.
More precisely, it is weaving around his legs as if attempting to trip him.
He is somewhat dismayed that his spirit animal is a Terran creature. It is a felis silvestris catus, a black American shorthair.
It is a black cat. An incessantly curious black cat that is constantly getting into trouble because of it. It is stubborn and refuses to learn the error of its ways. In addition, it enjoys sunning itself and being petted far more than it has any right to. It can be quite dramatic and insistent when it desires for Spock to pet it.
It sometimes curls up in Amanda's lap and sleeps there, purring the whole while. Amanda is, of course, completely unaware of the ethereal spirit creature napping on her.
Spock scolds it for this one time-- even he is not sure why-- and it just blinks at him. It never meows. Spock does not know much about spirit creatures. It is entirely possible that they are capable of speech, but he will never know.
He does not believe the cat is an accurate representation of his katra.
He regrettably names her Reldai. She certainly acts like it, at least.
Empathy is different from telepathy and it's not meant to be shielded from, it's unhealthy for Spock to try to block out that part of him. He is a Guide. He is not meant to be alone in his own head. Guides need to feel the emotions of those around them the way that Vulcans need bonds to their loved ones.
But Spock can't shield his telepathy and un-shield his empathy.
He is only a touch telepath, though, his abilities in that regard pitiful and hardly worth noting in comparison to his empathy. And technically, it is not strictly necessary that he maintain shields at all times. He takes to only shielding when in physical contact with others, which is extremely rare due to Vulcan culture.
It is fortunate that he discovered his abilities when he did. A premarital bonding typically immediately follows one's kahs-wan, but it was cancelled in Spock's case. Attempting to force a bond between him and anyone who is not his Sentinel would force his Sentinel to come online violently, almost surely resulting in a comatose state and possibly even death.
Sometimes, when he thinks about what almost happened, what he almost did to his own Sentinel, a cold chill seeps down his spine, slow and insidious. He could have killed them. His blind following of a tradition he did not even like could have caused him to kill his own Sentinel.
The thought is abhorrent.
His particular skills require at least three hours of meditation every day. Spock has found that any less causes his empathy to flare to a wider radius and worse, makes it far more potent. He can feel others' emotions as strongly as if they were his own. With the overwhelming power of Vulcan emotions, it is debilitating. He tries shielding it, sometimes, but it causes an ache deep in his katra.
A Sentinel would prevent that. His Sentinel would prevent that. Somewhere out there is a mind perfectly suited to his own, his own personal safeguard, a sanctuary made perfect for him to nestle in. He could stay within his Sentinel's mind forever and it would be a protection to him. Things would not be half so overwhelming once they were bonded.
If they were bonded. There are two types of Guide/Sentinel bonds: one platonic and one romantic. Technically, only the platonic one is needed. Spock would be perfectly willing to content himself with that. However, there is the matter of pon farr. Spock cannot bond with another. If his Sentinel does not desire a romantic and sexual relationship with him, then he will die.
He meditates on this for long hours and reaches some conclusions. It would morally wrong to inform his Sentinel of this. It would coerce and manipulate them into a form of bond they do not want. When Spock's pon farr hits, either he will die in the plak tow or his Sentinel will die from Spock forming a marital bond with another. Logically, Spock should be the one to die. If death for one of them is unavoidable, then at least an additional rape isn't.
And that's exactly what it would be, too, if Spock were to put his Sentinel in a position where they felt they had no choice.
No. He will not inform his Sentinel of pon farr. If they desire him, then he will live, but if they do not, then he will die. Kaiidth.
It is illogical to worry about events that are mere possibilities. It is illogical to worry, period.
Clothes hurt, make Jim's skin feel like it's on fire. He unfortunately doesn't have the means to wear only pure cotton and silk, though, so he just suffers. All food tastes and smells so incredibly strongly that he can't stand it, can't tolerate spice at all, and has to live off the blandest foods he can find. Moderately bright rooms sometimes feel like he's staring into the sun. He can hear the heartbeat of every person in any room he goes in, can hear them all screaming in his ears.
He learns to live with the constant throbbing pounding in his head.
You'd think hangovers would be a form of ungodly torture, but in actuality, his senses are already dialed up as far as they can go, to the point where it literally cannot get any worse even if he tried. It's Jim's own personal, constant hell.
He's in a bar full to the brim with cadets and spots a fellow Sentinel in the crowd, and a beautiful one, at that. He promptly hits on her.
The Sentinel-- Uhura-- is very clearly either still latent or already bonded, because the noise and jostling of the crowd isn't getting to her at all. Or maybe she's just infinitely batter than him at managing her abilities.
Or maybe she isn't a Sentinel at all and Jim is hallucinating that songbird spirit animal constantly fluttering around her. Maybe he's doped on something.
He's gonna hit on her either way.
She seems to be laughing at his expense and Jim's not really sure what happens, but suddenly some guy punches him in the face, which, ow.
But hyper pain sensitivity or no, there is a reason that mundanes don't pick fights with Sentinels. And maybe if Jim hadn't been so mind-numbingly drunk at that moment, he could have shown them that reason.
As it was, he got his face bashed in.
Pike takes one look at him and grabs both his hands. He speaks softly about things that it doesn't matter if Jim listens to or not. He projects calm and understanding and safety everywhere, dosing the whole room in it.
It pulls Jim out of the brink of zoning, his sense of touch brought to the forefront of his mind by the fight, the ache of bruises everywhere demanding his attention. But Pike pushes it all away, brings him back to reality.
And Jim feels calm.
Pike is the first Guide to do a grounding with him outside of ones called in by the hospital in emergency situations. Sometimes Jim zones out, gets lost completely in one sense until nothing else matters. All Sentinels do it.
But most Sentinels have a Guide to prevent it, or at least family and friends who can call for someone before it gets to the point of inducing a catatonic state.
Jim has no clue how to even begin expressing his gratitude, but Pike is a Guide, he has to feel it, and Jim is grateful for that too.
Then Pike starts in on his recruitment speech and, well. Despite his words, there was never really any question in Jim's mind.