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you will see what it is to be overcome

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Jim’s mother is a Wimpole, although she likes to pretend that she’s not. The Wimpoles, your classic North American wizarding family colonialist fuckholes, have a house creed-- videbitis quid sit vincar . It’s more of a threat than a motto.

~

Bonds are funny things. Jim’s cast a few Unbreakable Vows in his time--Tom had said, we’re going to die , Jim had said, shut up dicksuck, we’re going to live, okay, I said it and it’s true , and Tom had said, prove it, asshole --and they’re not difficult to operate but you spend the whole time feeling like you’re in jail. Jim’s also a really, really terrible Legilimens so he’s been in some memory-sharing trances that were more like being repeatedly poked in the brain by one of Bones’ hyposprays. Right before Sam’s wedding, when all of the Kirks were very drunk and Ma was the worst because she’d doubled most of her shots but didn’t have the muscle mass to absorb all of it, she’d said, if something happens when your hands are tied, if you--you know, hear something--it’s normal . Sam had said, what , because he’d been downing shots with the look of a man who’d never expected his mother to RSVP as attending, and Ma had said, it happened with me and George, so don’t worry about it if it happens . That one hadn’t been difficult to figure out; half an hour with Sam’s library during the reception had solved that. “Spontaneous marriage bonds with moderate side-effects occur in 12% of co-wizard marriages,” what the fuck. It was one of the Mackenzie monographs, and you could never be sure with that fucker what his vagaries of speech were hiding; moderate side-effects could mean anything from nose warts to turning into a grandfather clock with the moon phases. Yet another reason to never get married.

The bond with Spock, though, is something entirely else.

~

“Fascinating,” Old Spock says when Jim forks over his wand. Jim would give anything for a jar to put a little fire into, it’s fucking cold , but he’d dug through the rations in his shuttle of exile and everything was in little insulated foil packets, perfect for packing light and making sure nothing glass would break in case of impact, shitty for any kind of magic whatsoever. This is why wizards aren’t supposed to go into space.

“Yeah,” Jim says, stuffing his hands into his armpits. “Applewood, thirty-five centimeters, thunderbird tail feather.”

“I am unfamiliar with these materials,” Old Spock says, holding Jim’s wand between his hands, gently feeling the slim lines of it with his fingertips. Jim would suggest giving it the old swish and flick but his wand’s always been temperamental; it’s just as likely to send sparks up Old Spock’s nose as it is to lay there like a dead thing.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Jim tells him, conveniently ignoring two years’ worth of lessons on wandlore in favor of nonchalantly thumbing at his nose. Statute of Secrecy laws have reduced standing off of Earth but Jim still feels itchy between his shoulder blades. “Applewood’s got no psionic penetrance whatsoever, it should feel pretty normal.”

“Indeed,” Old Spock says gravely, “and yet I find myself capable of reading a small measure of emotion from your--wand, as you say.” He frowns at it. “A great deal of anger, for one.”

“Yeah,” Jim says, “well, I was shunted off of the Enterprise after nearly being strangled.” The itching is getting stronger; without really thinking about it, Jim reaches out and swipes for his wand. “Can I?” he says, and then, “Thanks,” when he’s yanked it back. He pretends for a second to be very occupied in sheathing it in his thigh holster. “So, what, the other me wasn’t a wizard?”

“No, Jim,” Old Spock says. It’s convenient that Jim isn’t looking at him; Old Spock sounds wrecked, faintly. Undoubtedly he’s still feeling the shock of his planet, the mourning that Jim had felt dagger through his skull like a Klingon battle-axe. Was the meld as stressful for Old Spock as it had been for Jim? It hadn’t been as invasive as a first-time Legilimency lesson but it hadn’t exactly been a walk in the park either. “I do not believe that there were any wizards in the universe from which I have come.”

Jim thinks about explaining about the Statute of Secrecy, how draining it is to be a wizard in space when the predominant wizarding education is still Terran-focused, how trying to cast a spell on a replicator makes it spit out nothing but string cheese, how his father died splinched into a thousand pieces because of the magnetic field interference, how it would be impossible to know if there were any wizards in Spock’s universe because what kind of idiot would’ve tried to explain magic to a Vulcan --

“Wow,” Jim says, instead. He’s still-- itching . “Weird.”

~

Jim may not have noticed when the bond formed in the first place, but he notices when it dies. Stardate 2263.02 and Jim is coming out of sickbay because he’s been bitten on the cheek by a Teenaxian. “You’re gonna lose your zygomatic arch to Fibonian bone-rot one of these days,” Bones had bitten out, slapping a butterfly bandage onto Jim’s face. “Then what’re you going to use to charm people?”

“My great personality,” Jim had suggested, fluttering his eyelashes at Bones, who’d grunted. In a sudden lurch, Jim had felt his brain tell him something was wrong with his chest; it’d hurt in both places simultaneously. “Ouch,” he’d said, and then, “no, not you, it’s fine.”

By the time he’s been discharged fifteen minutes later it’s become a real headache, pushing at his brow bone from inside his skull. It doesn’t feel like something’s getting in so much as something having been pulled away; the pain you get when you pull the knife out of your chest and realize there’s a hole where there shouldn’t be one. Jim is very familiar with this feeling.

“Captain,” Spock says, appearing out of midair or from around the corner, “may I have a word?”

“Walk with me, Commander,” Jim says. He tries shaking his head to see if that fixes anything, but it just makes it worse. Great! Maybe it is Fibonian bone-rot, starting with his skull. There’s something Jim almost can’t recognize crawling up his spine, leaving behind a cold, trembling feeling. “What’s on your mind?”

“I have received fourteen queries from science officers regarding the budget,” Spock begins. He keeps pace with Jim by taking two steps for every three of Jim’s; normally this rhythm is faintly soothing but right now everything is starting to hurt. It’s kind of like an allergy attack but Jim’s throat hasn’t started closing up yet. Is everything really turning yellow or is it just Jim? “As we assessed the applications for extraneous funding five days ago, I confess to being unsure as to what has prevented the applications from being approved or rejected as had been discussed.”

Jim blinks, looks up at Spock, who is staring down at him with his usual bitchy what’s the hold up face, and then he looks at Spock’s uniform shirt, which is green now.

“The applications were routed to Rand for processing,” Jim tells Spock. His voice sounds distorted to his own ears, but Spock’s expression doesn’t change. “I’d check with her, okay?” Jim reaches out before he can stop himself, clamping a hand down on Spock’s shoulder. “I’d never leave my science officers hanging,” he tells him as seriously as he can manage despite his brain trying to leak out of his ears. The cold feeling in his spine has finally coalesced into despair and Jim suddenly knows what’s happening--he’s having a panic attack.

“Captain?” Spock says. It might be a few seconds later; Jim’s been too focused on his breathing to pay attention and now he realizes that he’s still holding Spock’s shoulder, his fingers digging in like claws. For fuck’s sake, Jim.

“Right,” Jim says, letting go of Spock’s shoulder in a slow, creaking way. It feels like he has to break his fingers to get them off. “I’m back to my quarters. See you for alpha?”

“If you would prefer to postpone this evening’s chess match for another time, that is acceptable,” Spock says.

Right. Chess. Fuck .

“I’ll let you know,” Jim says, and then he wheels around semi-drunkenly, identifies the hallway that will get him back to his quarters, and adds, “Bye!”

~

The panic attack is, you know. Whatever. Jim gets out the other end of it, wonders for a few minutes if panic attacks are now going to be a thing--anaphylactic shock but in the brain--and then decides to shelve the issue for the time being. If it happens again, it’ll be a problem for Future Jim.

Despite being able to breathe and see the color blue clearly, Jim’s head feels like it’s still being clawed open from the inside. He lays down on his bunk and stares at the ceiling for anywhere between fifteen minutes to an hour; time feels like it’s spooling out, syrupy. While it’s true that he might as well have stayed under medical supervision in the sickbay if all he’s going to do with his freedom is stare at the ceiling of his quarters, at least he doesn’t have to deal with Bones buzzing angrily in the background.

After either fifteen or sixty minutes, it occurs to Jim that he hasn’t talked to Old Spock in days, possibly weeks. This thought cleaves straight through all of the gooey, slow pain pounding through Jim’s head--Old Spock! Brilliant! It gives him the energy to sit up, drag his PADD over with his fingertips, and set up the connection.

It doesn’t connect the first time, but Jim’s anyway not sure which parts of reality are functioning properly, including his own hands. He tries again, clicking through his contacts, making sure that it’s Old Spock, checking the connectivity status of his PADD: roger, all systems go.

The third time, T’Pau answers. This is so literally outside of Jim’s currently comprehension that he doesn’t say anything; he stares at her for a little while, beadily. She’s wearing dark green dress robes and Jim is a little worried that they’re supposed to be blue.

“Greetings,” T’Pau finally says. She has the cold, whispery voice of someone who has lived a long time. Half of Jim’s teachers at school had sounded like this. It hadn’t exactly filled Jim with a lot of enthusiasm for living a long life when everyone he knew past a buck fifty sounded like they were tired, angry skeletons.

“Hey,” Jim finally says. “You visiting the old guy?”

“He has passed,” T’Pau says. “I grieve with thee. As the surviving bondmate, your presence is required on New Vulcan without delay. Should you delay, there will be consequences.”

Jim’s brain is still stuck on school. “What,” he says, “like detention?”

“Death is not uncommon,” T’Pau says.

Death honestly sounds not the worst at the moment. Death sounds like it will probably stop Jim’s headache and also sort out whatever the fuck is happening with his ability to see colors. Jim could just hex himself into unconsciousness, which has the benefit of not being permanent, but he doesn’t want to do magic in front of T’Pau. Instead, Jim reaches down and touches his wand in its thigh holster. He presses against it, feeling the warm weight of the wood, and counts: one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand .

He feels a little bit better by twenty one-thousands. He’s pretty sure by now that T’Pau’s robes are naturally olive-colored. “Bondmate, eh?” he says, finally.

“It was not unprecedented,” T’Pau says. “Proceed to New Vulcan immediately, Captain Kirk.” She closes off the connection without any further statements. Perhaps it would be illogical of her to wish Jim a long life, what with his brain being in the middle of melting out of his ears and all.

Jim, a master of self-sabotage, turns to the black hole that feels like it’s spinning in the middle of his head, and thinks: Spock is dead .

It turns out that panic attacks are a problem for Future Jim, and Future Jim happens to be about an hour older than Past Jim.

~

Jim may be a terrible Legilimens but he’s not a complete fuck-up; by the time they make it to New Vulcan, he’s figured out that something is not in his mind that used to be there and he’s done some Occlumency to patch up the hole where it used to live: It being a bond, or Old Spock himself, or whatever the fuck else is going to turn out to be responsible for Jim’s brief foray into brain-melting.

It would fucking figure that Jim and Old Spock had spontaneously bonded on that frozen lump of rock. It would be exactly in keeping with the rest of Jim’s life narrative. He spends the five minutes it takes for Scotty to set up the transporter trying to remember what he’d read in that Mackenzie monograph in Sam’s library. Was it enough to accidentally marry them, letting Old Spock hold his wand after the meld? That seems like some hinky fucking shit.

“Captain?” Spock says. Jim’s hearing feels like it comes back with an audible squelch. It’s clear that Spock has said this a number of times; he looks a little irritated.

“Sorry, what was that?” Jim says. He gives in to the urge to shake his head, like he’s clearing water out of his ears.

“Are you prepared to transport to the surface, Captain?” Spock says, a thread of irritation running through his words.

“Yeah, send us down. Scotty, you have the conn.”

Scotty says, “Aye, Captain. My condolences, sir.”

“Thanks, Scotty,” Jim says.

If asked, Jim would have speculated that T’Pau is too old—and cranky—to meet them in person. It’s early autumn on New Vulcan but you wouldn’t know it from the heat and anyway he has an appointment with her in thirty minutes. But it’s a good thing no one had asked, because Jim would have been wrong. She’s waiting, flanked by Ambassador Sarek on her left and a thin, spindly-looking Vulcan woman on her right. She’s wearing white robes today. It softens Jim, unexpectedly; it reminds him of funerals from his childhood, everyone in white robes, circling the gravesite and shooting sparks from their wand tips. They’d done it on the tenth anniversary of Jim’s father’s death, even though he’d been long gone by then and there wasn’t anything in the ground under his headstone.

Jim shifts his weight to his left foot, letting his hand come down to rest against the top of his thigh holster. He wishes he could get away with a wrist holster, with the warmth of his wand right at his fingertips, but he loses his shirt too often for that to be practical.

“Greetings,” T’Pau says.

“Greetings,” Jim says. He realizes now that the whole greeting party are in white robes. It’s preemptively exhausting him.

“This is Shikar, of our clan,” T’Pau says. The tall Vulcan woman to her right briefly lifts her hand. “She will facilitate the examination of the bond. Do you require any accommodations prior to this exam?”

“Where is he?” Jim asks. It’s so hot that Jim isn’t even sweating; there’s no humidity. He only feels a little light-headed, and that’s probably because of the low oxygen. He’s had a hypo for that.

“We will discuss these matters after the examination,” T’Pau says, waspish. She turns around and books it for the nearest building, Ambassador Sarek and Shikar following more sedately in her wake. When you’re only like a meter tall, you probably have to move that fast to get anywhere at a reasonable pace.

“What’s up with Shikar?” Jim asks Spock in an undertone as they follow.

“She is a healer,” Spock says. “If, as T’Pau suspects, you formed a bond, she will—ameliorate the loss.”

“And if she doesn’t, I die,” Jim says.

“Correct,” Spock says, and he sounds exactly like T’Pau, down to his waspish exhale.

“I don’t feel like I’m dying,” Jim says. “I’m not exactly unfamiliar with it, you know.”

“I am aware,” Spock says stiffly. “It is possible that T’Pau is mistaken. You may have been named as bondmate in the will as a sign of respect rather than accuracy.”

“Oh, yeah, you know Old Spock, really big on inaccuracies,” Jim says as they step into the building. It’s cooler inside and the walls are made of a sandy-colored stone. There are very few windows, which probably helps keep the temperature low. There are Vulcans bustling around, as much as Vulcans ever really bustle. T’Pau, Ambassador Sarek, and Shikar are standing out; white is not a common color for Vulcan clothing. This makes it easy to follow them down a snaking series of hallways to a small exam room and office. Here, Spock and his father take their leave.

“I will examine you,” Shikar announces a bare millisecond after Jim’s put his butt onto the edge of the exam table that’s been stuffed into an alcove. There’s a little shelf at eye-level on the far side of the alcove, on which is sitting an incense burner and a dozen metal boxes that are carefully labeled by hand. Jim recognizes a few of their names from Spock’s favorites, which he likes to burn when Jim has recently destroyed him at chess and Spock thinks he needs to improve his concentration.

“Uh, okay,” Jim says. “Quick thing.” He holds up an index finger.

“Please do not interrupt until I have finished summarizing the procedure,” Shikar says. “It is likely that your question will be answered by the information I will provide.”

Probably not, but Jim gestures for her to continue.

“I will initiate a shallow meld,” Shikar says. “I will not use gloves, as they inhibit touch telepathy. I will identify the broken bond, should it be present, and assess any current or future damage it has inflicted. As a psi-null species, 98.3% of humans do not recognize psionic trauma when it occurs. Once I have assessed the status of the bond, I will retreat from the meld and we will discuss my findings. Have I addressed your question?”

She hasn’t, but Jim is, honestly, a little curious about what Vulcan touch telepathy is going to do against an Occlumentic shield. That seems like a useful and interesting thing to know.

“Go ahead,” Jim says.

“Please lay down,” Shikar says. “You may experience loss of control of your limbs.”

Jim lays down on the exam table and closes his eyes. There isn’t incense burning but he can smell something lingering in the air. All of Spock’s special incense smells the same to Jim, like patchouli oil and black tea. They’re not scents that Jim associates with being particularly calm, but, then again, he’s not a Vulcan.

“My mind to your mind,” Shikar says. “My thoughts to your thoughts.” Her fingertips are hot against Jim’s face.

Shikar is much gentler than Old Spock; the meld she initiates feels like it cuts sharply through Jim’s mind straight to the back, where he’s used some shody Occlumency to protect himself from the black hole. Old Spock had come in like a fucking battering ram, shattering everything into a thousand pieces and then using his own gravitational pull to yank them back together. It’s impossible for Jim to know if that’s normal. Ma hadn’t been drunk enough at Sam’s wedding to tell them what a spontaneous marriage bond would feel like; something weird was about as deep into it as she would go.

Shikar withdraws as quickly as she had entered, leaving Jim’s mind like a splinter being yanked out. “I cannot find the bond,” she says.

Nice , Jim thinks. That’ll be useful one day.

“Yeah,” Jim says. “I thought so. Gimme a sec.” It takes a little bit of stumbling around to get the Occlumency reversed. Jim tries sort of wedging some mental fingertips under the wall and yanking but that doesn’t work. Brute force does fuck all, since he anyway isn’t sure what the hell brute force even is; Jim is a true embarrassment to his eleventh grade Legilimency teacher. In the end, he gets it by just focusing on the wall and thinking about what he’s keeping behind it: Old Spock, the feeling of seeing his face appear on the screen of Jim’s PADD, the sound of his voice as he said, Hello, Jim , the flashes of human-like emotion in his eyes when he had listened to Jim complain about Young Spock. The grief that lies at the center of the black hole, making Jim’s head hurt but also his chest, deeply.

“Let’s do this again,” Jim says. He can hear the weakness in his voice. It figures that Jim’s about to make the greatest step he’s ever taken towards emotional intimacy and nobody involved is going to realize the momentousness of the occasion.

Shikar makes a light hissing noise--Jim’s keeping his eyes closed; he doesn’t want to be disoriented by whatever fucked up shit his eyes are going to throw at him--and then puts her fingertips back on his face. “My mind to your mind,” she says. She sounds annoyed but at least she isn’t protesting; Spock would’ve thrown a shit fit by now about the stupidity of repeating this experiment without changing the parameters. “My thoughts to your thoughts.”

~

T’Pau takes it surprisingly well. “You are one of the 1.78% of humans who are psionically receptive,” she says.

“Yeah,” Jim says. “Uh, I guess.”

“Your mind was structured to receive telepathic communication prior to its interactions with your bondmate,” Shikar says. “I have never examined a human with so orderly a mind.”

Jim barks out a quick ha before he can help himself.

“You have been educated,” Shikar says, ignoring this. “But by no telepathic species I have encountered before. It is an entirely novel technique. I will interview you, and then I will report my findings to the Vulcan Science Academy.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna have to stop you there,” Jim says. “If I give you that interview, my ass is gonna be grass as soon as I land on Earth again. Not that I don’t love reminding MACUSA that I don’t give a fuck, but I’ve got enough shit on my plate as it is. My techniques are, uh, let’s say proprietary technology.”

“I am unfamiliar with this organization,” T’Pau says.

“Humans love secret societies,” Jim says. “We like feeling special.” He’s feeling shitty again, without his Occlumentic work-around, and slightly nauseous. The back of his skull feels cold. “Are we done discussing your findings now? Can we talk about how to make me feel less--you know. Like I’m dying?”

“As a psionic-receptive individual, you are a candidate for a new bond,” Shikar says. “It is the only course that we recommend to heal those that are broken, for individuals for whom meditation is infeasible. Had you been psi-null, there would have been little recourse but meditation.”

“Give me a number on meditation,” Jim says. He reaches up gingerly to see if he’s suddenly gone bald at the back of his head and that’s why it’s cold. His hair feels strangely detached, as though he’s touching the pelt of an animal he’s never encountered before.

“Of the 1,893 reported cases of humans attempting Vulcan meditative healing trances, two have succeeded,” Shikar says. “Both were suspected to have distant Betazoid ancestry.”

Jim says, “Yikes.”

“You will recommend a second bond,” T’Pau says to Shikar, who hums in the back of her throat.

“Okay, sure, yikes , but I’m not hating that number,” Jim says quickly. He risks peeling open one of his eyes, squinting out of it like he’s expecting to be blinded. T’Pau’s tiny frame is blurrily visible at a distance, placed in an armchair across from Shikar’s desk. “Point one one percent, not the worst odds I’ve ever faced.”

“The proposed candidate is ideal,” T’Pau says. “Additionally, a non-Vulcan bondmate with a severed bond dies within days. You risk much, for the sake of stupidity.”

“I like to think of it as my most charming feature,” Jim says. The longer his eye is open, the better he can see her. She’s scowling at him, her face a circle of wrinkles. “And, I mean, I’ve lived this long. It took us four days to get here.”

“Do not mistake stubbornness as an indication of skill,” T’Pau tells him. “You have survived this long out of, I suspect, willfulness. However, the frailty of the human mind will overcome this obstacle soon enough.”

“You have such a way with words,” Jim says.

“Locate Commander Spock,” T’Pau instructs Shikar. “His presence is required.”

It takes Jim a little while to grasp the meaningfulness of this sentence. In his defense, he’s in the process of having his frail human mind overtaken by trauma. It’s not until Shikar returns with Spock, who is thin-lipped and a little green around the cheekbones, that Jim finally understands why there’s an ideal candidate for a second bond.

“T’Pau, you sneaky old--” Jim begins, and Spock, hastily, says, “May I have a moment to speak alone with the captain?”

T’Pau haughtily draws her robes around herself and stalks out of the room at a speedy hobble, Shikar following behind her like an irritated wraith. “Do not delay,” T’Pau says to Spock as she slams out of the door.

“Is that the motto of your house?” Jim asks Spock.

“No,” Spock says.

“Because T’Pau’s said that to me, like, a thousand times since we got here,” Jim says.

“Perhaps,” Spock replies, his lips pressed together so tightly that the words escape in a kind of whistling hiss, “she suspects you are not as concerned about your health as you should be.”

That seems like a strong barometer of how this conversation is going to go. “I don’t want to talk about Khan,” Jim says quickly.

“I had no intention of discussing that individual,” Spock hisses.

“And I have no intention of dying,” Jim says. “So, you know, as long as we stay on track we should be fine.”

“You do not want the bond replaced?” Spock says.

“Let’s not get into that,” Jim replies. Sure, things had worked out fine the first time around, but Jim hadn’t even realized he and Old Spock were bonding. Jim hadn’t ended up keeping any secrets from Old Spock, but he has a laundry list a kilometer long of shit he doesn’t want Young Spock anywhere near.

Spock slowly reaches behind his back and links his hands; this is a familiar stance to Jim. Spock is about to bring down unholy hell on Jim’s head and he’s going to be at his coolest, most logical while he does it. Jim preemptively closes his eyes and lays his head back down on the exam table. Sure, it will suck to have this conversation while he’s supine, but the alternative is fainting halfway through and that feels like it would be worse.

“Shikar indicated that she and T’Pau explained to you the futility of meditation to heal the severed bond of a human,” Spock says. He must have relaxed his lips now; he’s hissing less. “Your stubbornness in adhering to this suggests that you prefer death to a replacement bond. This is not uncommon.”

“I don’t prefer death ,” Jim sputters. “Jesus, Spock, I’m just pretty sure I’m not gonna keel over. Sure, I feel like shit, but I’m doing pretty okay otherwise.”

“Following the destruction of Vulcan, a number of individuals with severed bonds chose not to establish new ones,” Spock continues. “Many were lost. You are not alone in your distaste. I had previously noted your preference.” His words are getting a little clipped at the end. Jim usually relies on Spock’s face to tell what is hidden behind what he’s saying--Spock’s eyebrows and lips are very expressive, if you know where to look--but even with his eyes closed he can hear something become ragged and begin to fall apart in Spock’s cool, precise diction.

“It’s not distaste,” Jim says. “I find plomeek distasteful , saying it like that makes it seem like I’m a five-year-old having a tantrum.”

“Are you not?” Spock replies instantly.

“C’mon, Spock, cool it with the guilt trip. I anyway grew up with the expert on those, and you have nothing on Sam.”

“Jim,” Spock says. He suddenly sounds very gentle. It’s so disconcerting that Jim jerks a little bit, muscles tensing where they had been lax. Had he--fallen asleep? “I would like to speak to you with your eyes open,” Spock says.

Jim cracks open one eye, and then the other. Spock’s tall, straight figure resolves itself as being only half a meter or so away, hands still clasped behind his back, elbows tucked into his sides. This angle has cast his face into shadow. “What’s up, Spock,” he says. He sounds a little croaky. That would be concerning, but Jim can’t really focus on it.

“I acknowledge your preference,” Spock says quietly, “but I must act in contradiction to it. I find your death distasteful to me.”

“Now who’s the five-year-old?” Jim slurrs.

“My mind to your mind,” Spock says. His fingers burn against Jim’s face; the callous on the tip of his thumb catches against a scar on Jim’s cheek. “My thoughts to your thoughts.”

~

“I am curious about the education of a wizard,” Old Spock says.

“It’s not that exciting,” Jim tells him. He has his personal-use PADD propped up on his desk, connected to Old Spock, as he goes through the massive amount of paperwork Rand has told him to sign by the end of gamma shift, the or else left implied but understood. “I went to a day school, Ma was pretty sure I’d get kicked out of one of the boarding schools.”

“Which area of study most interested you?” Old Spock coaxes. He’s making himself tea on the other end of the call, his gnarled, wrinkled hands moving carefully over a stoneware set. Jim can almost smell the incense that must be burning. It’s the end of the day on Vulcan; Old Spock is preparing to meditate before sleeping.

“I don’t know,” Jim hedges. He approves next month’s shift rotations, then clicks over to the medical budget. “Transfiguration, I guess? Charms, maybe. I liked everything. Divination was shit but the teacher was hot.”

“I see,” Old Spock says, the corner of his mouth twitching.

“I learned a lot,” Jim says, exaggerating a leer. “I make a mean cup of tea, you know.”

“No,” Old Spock says. He sounds delighted. “I did not.”

“It’s a requirement,” Jim says. “For reading the leaves. Which is, by the way, total bullshit, no matter how nice Mr. Ferreira’s ass was.”

Old Spock keeps badgering until Jim puts down the medical budget and teaches him some rudimentary tea leaf-reading. Jim can barely remember what half of these symbols mean so he fudges what he’s not sure about, telling Old Spock that a lirpa probably means a sudden and gruesome death--that’s anyway what most of them boil down to: an unpleasant death, probably in the near future. “I spent a lot of tenth grade being told by the tea that I was in mortal peril,” Jim cheerfully tells Old Spock. “I got pneumonia that year, so I guess that kind of counts.”

“What a fascinating discipline,” Old Spock says. He has a familiar gleam in his eye.

“Don’t you even start,” Jim says.

“I suspect he would be interested,” Old Spock says. He’s wily enough to even try for an innocent tone of voice, which is rich.

“Yeah, okay,” Jim says. “That’s, what, before or after he rats me out to Bones for being insane?”

“Jim,” Old Spock says. “We are old friends, of a sort. We do not need to dissemble. It is not being thought insane that you fear.”

Jim’s tired of making pointed eye contact now. He looks back down at his PADD, which has gone to sleep, and taps the screen to wake it up. “Really,” he says. He lets the medical budget draw his attention back, lets his voice go absent-minded.

“Jim,” Old Spock says, softer now. “It was one of the great pleasures of my long life, to receive your confidences. I would not deny my younger self the opportunity.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jim mumbles. “Listen, I have to get this to Rand by the end of gamma. We’ll talk later, okay?”

~

Jim says, “I was actually dying, wasn’t I?” It comes out in an embarrassing little frog croak, like somebody took advantage of his sleep to Transfigure his vocal cords. The sound of his voice startles Spock, who is sitting on the armchair that T’Pau had vacated when she’d left Shikar’s office. Jim has no way of knowing how much time has passed, but he suspects a while. He feels stiff.

“Jim,” Spock says, coming to his feet. He has the grim look on his face of a twelve-year-old facing a detention for causing trouble in Charms.

“Was my brain actually melting out of my ears, or was it just feeling like that because I was having an aneurysm?” Jim asks him.

“Neither,” Spock replies. He stays by T’Pau’s chair and folds his arms behind his back. “However, you were--” here he pauses delicately “--at risk of great harm.”

“Great! Must be Tuesday,” Jim says. He sits up with a groan and then turns to shuffle his legs to the ground. Spock is suddenly about twelve centimeters away, still holding his elbows and looking guilty but also like he wants to bodily prevent Jim from clearing the exam table. “I’m good now?” Jim asks.

It takes Spock a long time to speak. “Yes,” he finally says, not quite firmly.

What’s wrong with him , Jim thinks, and there, faintly, in the back of his mind, where once there had been a great black hole with its own horrifying gravity, is a conspicuous twitch.

“We must discuss matters,” Spock says. He must be the owner of this twitch. It feels just as guilty as whatever is happening to the corners of Spock’s mouth. “However, it would be preferable to postpone such a discussion until we are able to do so privately.”

Now that Jim isn’t drowning in his own grief and confusion, there’s room for a little bit of old-fashioned panic--not the pathological kind, just the kind that you get when things you’ve tried to keep secret for half of your life start to wriggle their way to the surface. How the fuck is Jim going to tell him about magic? Forget magic, how the fuck is Jim going to explain the extremely horrifying number of times he’s had a sexual fantasy instigated by the way that Spock puts his thumb and forefinger on either side of the top of a chess piece he’s about to move?

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck , Jim thinks, and this time the brain twitch is accompanied by a little bodily twitch, like somebody has zapped Spock in the side with an electric charge. The guilt is becoming almost suffocating.

“Look,” Jim says, “You’ve got to cut it out with the guilt thing, Spock. I was dying, you fixed it, we’ll--you know. Figure it out. Okay?” Jim caps off this stirring little speech by reaching out and clasping Spock on the shoulder.

The elbow below this shoulder shifts minutely and then it stills. “We will discuss this later,” Spock says. It’s not an agreement for water to go under the bridge, and Jim knows it. “There are other matters at present. T’Pau awaits your presence at the dwelling.”

Even with the insulation of this new bond, Jim feels unsteady when he thinks of Old Spock. The Kirks have never been great at grief. Ma, for one, had lost her fucking mind for ten whole years. Sam had patiently waited sixteen years and then fucked right off, slingshotting himself off-world like he was being shot out of an ion cannon. Jim had--well, become Jim. Unhealthy coping strategies, that should be the motto of the House of Kirk, which is not fancy or old or pure-blooded enough to have a real motto.

“Talk to me about how Vulcans do this,” Jim says. He slides off of the exam table and then quickly adjusts his thigh holster, trying to do it surreptitiously as he fixes the rest of his rumpled uniform. There’s no way to know if that flies under Spock’s radar, but it’ll do for now.

“He has been cremated,” Spock says. “There will be legal matters to which you will attend.”

“No funeral?” Jim asks.

“No,” Spock says. Whatever he is thinking, it’s gone from his face. But inside of Jim’s head, there’s something roiling, viscous and hot, like the inexorable press of lava from an erupting volcano.

Stupidly--Jim blames recently nearly dying--Jim pauses just as they’re at the door and asks, “Are you okay?”

“No,” Spock says shortly, and he hustles Jim out into the hallway.

~

About halfway through T’Pau’s lecture on clan responsibilities, Jim realizes that there’s no way he’s going to remember half of this shit. Every time he tries to focus on what she’s saying--first it’s something about white being a sign of respect and remembrance--thus the robes--and then it’s something about fucking intergenerational inheritance of property--it’s like he’s trying to grab a fistful of water. He keeps thinking of other shit, instead: the way his wand feels in his hand; that time half of his fifth grade Dark Arts class had nearly died because Jim’s worst fear (at that age, at least) was the dark corner of the universe where George Sr had kicked it; the peculiar, nose-itching smell of powdered eye of newt. Random shit, all jostled up in Jim’s brain, and he can’t concentrate through any of it.

At some point, T’Pau catches on. Jim suspects that she keeps going for longer than that, maybe just to torture them, and then eventually she says, abruptly, “Other matters will need attending at a later time. Do you require inspection from a healer?”

She’s asking Spock. “No,” he says. “The bond has been established with no complications.”

“I take my leave,” she announces, and she leaves them there in Old Spock’s house. Jim doesn’t even know where his ashes are. Do Vulcans keep cremated remains? It’s probably not logical to keep dead family members around in ceramic vases.

Thinking about ceramic vases reminds Jim of art class back at school, learning the spellwork to make a proper wizarding portrait on a shitty watercolor picture of some birds. Jim had never been particularly gifted at the making art part of art class, but the spellwork had been intricate, interesting, and therefore easy. He wonders if Ma still has all of his terrible childhood artwork. Jim had been obsessed with birds. There had always been little fat robins nesting on the fridge, when Ma was planetside long enough to solicit some custom work.

“Is this you?” Jim asks.

“I do not understand your inquiry,” Spock replies.

Jim waggles his fingers at his head. “Word association,” he says. “I didn’t even know I remembered that much about school, and here we are, remembering how to ensorcell a portrait--I did that for my senior project, once .”

“Ensorcell is an interesting yet imprecise verb,” Spock says.

“Oh, trust me,” Jim says, “it’s very precise.” Now that he’s thinking about it, he concentrates on the memory like it’s Occlumency practice, letting it flesh itself out and become strong enough to be a barrier against other memories he wants to hide. Senior year, Jim’s knuckles had always been a little tight--too much Skele-Gro, the school nurse had said, like thinking about stunting his growth was going to keep Jim from getting into fights--and it hadn’t helped his precision with a paintbrush. He’d done the portrait of his girlfriend at the time, because he had a vague sense that it would probably be romantic, but he’d never gotten the color of her hair or her nose just right. It hadn’t looked like her at all until he’d begun the spellwork, diagraming out the levels like the teacher had suggested: movement, sound, hearing, sight, knitted together in such a way that they recreated the essence of the person in the portrait. The nose had never been right but it had laughed like Carol, flicked its hair over its shoulder like her, winked at him when the teacher wasn’t looking.

“You getting all this?” Jim asks.

“Yes,” Spock says. Spock has a true gift for eye contact, which is unsettling under most conditions. It’s like he’s crawling even deeper into Jim’s brain through his eyeballs. It should be uncomfortable, but it’s not. What a fucking messed-up situation.

“You gonna take all this magic shit lying down?” Jim asks.

“I have no reason to suspect that you are lying,” Spock replies. “It anyway is not possible with the bond. There is only truth between bondmates.”

Aw, shit , Jim thinks.

Spock continues, “The initial bond can be overwhelming. I must meditate on many things that I have seen today. Only then will I know how best to proceed.”

There is a truly ominous inflection on the middle sentence of this little speech. Somewhere behind the Occlumentic shield of his senior portrait project, Jim stuffs into hiding half a dozen little memories that he can easily reach, trying to do it fast. He should break eye contact, that’s how you disrupt a Legilimens, but Vulcans are touch telepaths and Spock is rather deliberately not touching Jim. They’re standing a few meters apart, Old Spock’s familiarly hideous low-slung couch between them. Jim might be protecting the vulnerable parts of himself, or he could be drawing attention to them like a ten-year-old sticking a sign on their bedroom door saying KEEP OUT!

“Your mind,” Spock says abruptly. Even though Jim’s basic self-respect demands that he break eye contact, he can’t. Spock has the gorgeous eyes of some kind of prey creature: large, brown, long-lashed, faintly dewy like he’s always on the verge of sighing. It’s unbelievable that those eyes have been put on somebody who is such a pain in the ass. Talk about false fucking advertising. “Although it is orderly, I find it difficult to navigate. If you have thoughts you do not wish to share, I suspect you will be able to keep them hidden.” After a brief, awkward pause, he elaborates, “I have sensed some distress on your part. Does this alleviate your concern?”

Jim can’t help a brief bark of laughter that escapes. “Sure,” he says. Even though he would have sworn a second ago that that was a lie, he can feel his shoulders loosen. Some of the tightness in his temples goes away. “You know what? Yeah. Consider some concerns alleviated.”

“I am pleased to hear this,” Spock says. The corners of his eyes soften. Jim is so fucking fucked. They should’ve let him die this morning.

“Thanks, Spock,” he says. “For, y’know.”

“Gratitude is unnecessary,” Spock says, of course. “I would prefer not to be thanked for an action undertaken without your consent.”

“Thanks for saving my life, Spock,” Jim says. “Don’t ruin our touching moment by pretending you’re not an autocratic asshole.”

“I did not express regret,” Spock says, clearly becoming a little annoyed now. “I expressed discomfort with expressions of--”

“Spock,” Jim says, loudly, and Spock purses his lips and, thankfully, stops talking. “Can we please be respectful of my culture and customs for, like, twenty goddamn seconds.”

After three or four long seconds, Spock says, pissily, “You are welcome, Jim,” and then he escapes to Old Spock’s meditation chamber. Jim collapses onto the hideous couch, which turns out to be pretty comfortable, and he entertains the thought of replicating something to eat for the five whole seconds that it takes him to arrange his limbs in a vaguely ergonomic configuration. He doesn’t get the chance; he falls asleep almost instantly.

~

For about thirteen seconds, Jim thinks about realigning the warp core with magic, at a safe distance. He’s pretty sure a few precise wingardium leviosas would do the trick and no one would be dead of radiation poisoning at the end of it--hurrah, success all around.

But the fact is, Muggle engineering does not mix well with magic and Jim’s desire to not die will not force the two of them play nicely together. It’s just as likely the warp core will explode, or turn into a flock of crows, or become sentient and decide it doesn’t want to be a warp core anymore. All of those things have happened to Jim.

He casts a quick protego as he’s clambering into the reactor chamber--he can hear Ma in the back of his head, who gives a fuck if you know it’ll work or not, cast the fucking protection charm, dipshit --but he knows within a few seconds that it’s not going to do much. The radioactivity is like a wall of heat, pressing down on him like he’s the one trying to throw himself into a volcano. It feels hot enough to peel his eyelids off. It’s almost like Jim can feel it piercing through plasma and nuclear membranes into the heart of his cells, mutating base pairs by the dozen.

It takes him a little while to realize Spock is crouched outside of the door. He is saying Jim’s name, over and over, with increasing sharpness.

“Hey, Spock,” Jim says. “How’s our ship doing?”

Rage briefly flashes across Spock’s face. “We are out of danger,” he replies. “The crew has been saved.”

Oh, good , Jim thinks. He reaches down to touch his wand in its thigh holster, and it occurs to him that he could Apparate, now, and probably no one in MACUSA would even have him ritually assassinated for it, since you’re allowed to expose Muggles to magic in life-or-death situations. But when he tries to remember the steps that lead to Apparition--standing, holding his wand, pivoting on his heel and thinking of his destination--it feels as though each step is an impossible distance. Jim doesn’t want to die like his father. He wants for there to be something left of him to be put into the ground, tethering his legacy to Earth. And anyway, Jim can’t remember the wrist movement.

“How do I do this?” he asks Spock, who says nothing. After a moment, Jim realizes that his question is probably too open-ended for a Vulcan. How does Jim do anything? With the bare minimum of logical thought , Jim imagines Spock saying. “This would be easier if I couldn’t feel anything. Bring a little Kolinahr to the proceedings.”

Spock is silent. His fists have clenched at his sides; he looks like he’s vibrating. “Spock,” Jim says, “I don’t want to die. How did you manage this and not freak out? I’m dying and it’s freaking me out.”

Spock has a look on his face like Jim is walking in ten minutes late to the weekly senior staff meeting. “I do not know what is appropriate to say,” he says. “Mr. Scott informs me that the door cannot be opened. The current parameters of this situation indicate that you will die and I cannot alter them.”

“Now you know what it felt like when I heard you were still in the fucking volcano, Spock,” Jim says.

“Yes,” Spock says. His voice cracks.

“This sucks,” Jim says, “but less than other ways that I could’ve gone. Splinched into a thousand fucking pieces, that would’ve fucking sucked.” He can see that Spock’s fingers, clenched at his sides, are drawing blood; there is dark green dripping onto the sleeve of his uniform. Jim uncurls his fingers and presses his palm flat against the door. For a second, over the thunderous sound of his blood boiling inside of his ears, Jim thinks he can hear Spock in his head. You are my dearest friend , Spock is saying. He sounds like Old Spock. Do not leave me . Spock has put one of his ragged palms on the other side of the glass. Maybe this is enough for touch telepathy.

Jim thinks, I wish I’d touched you for real . He hopes that it reaches through the glass, that Spock knows that Jim has regrets. Deathbed regrets seem like a uniquely human phenomenon; humans are a species prone to introspection, belligerence, and untimely deaths. Do Vulcans die with regrets? If you always make the logical decision, probably not.

“You’re my friend, too, Spock,” he says.

~

Jim wakes up with a start to Spock towering over him. For once, Jim has very little trouble interpreting Spock’s facial expression: he’s furious.

“My meditation was interrupted by your dreams,” he informs Jim, like Jim has any control over his own subconscious.

“Sorry?” Jim says, blearily and not totally sincerely.

“I did not understand at the time,” Spock says. “The verb ‘to splinch’ was unfamiliar to me and I assumed that your use of it was a sign of diminished prefrontal cortex activity.”

It takes Jim a few seconds to catch up; he doesn’t remember right away that he’d been dreaming about Khan, about the stupid fucking warp core reactor. “Shit, Spock,” he says. “I was drunk on radiation poisoning, just forget about it.”

“No,” Spock says. If anything, he looks even more angry. “Did you refrain from rescuing yourself due to hypocritical human standards of privacy?”

“What?” Jim says. “Oh, you mean the--Jesus, Spock, it’s called the Statute of Secrecy , okay--and no, I did not sacrifice myself on the altar of wizard-Muggle relations, you know me better than that! My brain was juice and I couldn’t remember how to Apparate. And! Like you have any stones to throw! You tried to kill yourself with a fucking volcano!”

“We have thoroughly discussed my actions on Nibiru,” Spock says. “Do not attempt to distract me with false equivalences.”

Jim swings himself to sit upright, because he can’t argue with Spock laying down anymore, and then he gets to his feet because Old Spock’s couch is so low-slung that it’s like Jim is arguing with Spock’s knees. It’s warm and dark in the house--the suns of New Vulcan must have set while Jim was napping--and Spock is warmer even than the ambient air, radiating heat like his fury is burning itself out of his pores.

“It’s not a false equivalence ,” Jim hisses.

“Should you find yourself in any other circumstances wherein a magical solution would prevent your death, I require that you utilize said solution,” Spock tells Jim. He’s nearly spitting with rage; he looks like he’s been electrified. Something is snapping in his eyes. It’s so unbelievably attractive that Jim would almost rather be splinched.

“I don’t have a fucking deathwish,” Jim says. “Anyway, who are you, my mother? I’m your captain, I outrank you, and I choose which solutions I utilize. You have a problem with my captaincy, you take it up with Starfleet.”

“Our minds have been linked,” Spock says. “Your death would emotionally disturb me.” At the same time that Spock says this--sounding like emotional disturbance is an irritant that would disrupt his otherwise well-organized schedule--there is a shard of something hot and pained that spikes into Jim’s brain from the back, spearing across his temples and into his tear ducts. He tears up before he even realizes what is happening; he’s not usually one for crying.

“Shit,” Jim says. There’s saline pouring of his eyes and he has no idea why. “Spock, what the fuck is happening.”

“I will not be baited,” Spock says in a low hiss. “I had thought you to prefer the company of my other self and respected your decision. However, since the establishment of the bond I have become aware that you do not exhibit such a preference. It is in fact the opposite. I am your preference.” It feels like there’s a hand pressing against the back of Jim’s neck. “I admit to a similar regard. I prefer you above all others. Were you to die, now, it would be very difficult to me to recover. Accordingly, I would prefer that you refrain from willful actions likely to result in death .”

There’s a lot happening right now. Jim is still crying--or Spock is crying, through Jim’s tear ducts--and he’s not sure if he’s hallucinating what Spock in saying.

“Spock,” Jim says. “I’m a hick from Iowa. You gotta spell shit out for people like me, we don’t get subtext.”

“That is a falsehood,” Spock says, and he kisses Jim. His hand goes to the back of Jim’s head, holding it in place, and suddenly everything that Jim has been feeling in his brain is being mirrored outside of his body and it’s like being Confounded. There are hands inside Jim’s mind and hands on his head and neck and shoulders, all touching him with electrifying fury and possessiveness, all saying mine , all saying do not leave me . Jim’s mostly stopped crying by the time he runs out of air, because Spock has larger lungs that are more efficient oxygen scavengers. When Jim can see clearly, he sees that the soft skin under Spock’s eyes is puffy and green, like he has also been crying.

“What the fuck, Spock,” Jim says.

“I understand that human relationships are preoccupied with boundaries,” Spock says, beginning to calm down. “After a long period of observation, I have concluded that you are particularly prone to such ‘boundary-setting.’ I believe I once heard Dr. McCoy refer to such a phenomenon as ‘fear of intimacy.’”

“If you keep spouting Bones’ psychological mumbo-jumbo I’m gonna hex your ass into the next star system,” Jim threatens.

“It has been conclusively shown that fear compromises logical decision-making in humans,” Spock continues as if Jim hasn’t even spoken. “That is not, as you say, ‘mumbo-jumbo,’ but a strongly supported scientific theory.”

Spock still has his hands on Jim’s face. It’s not like the meld; this feels different. Jim can tell that Spock is letting go of his anger, that his fury has been leached out of him. Something similar is happening to Jim; the righteous indignation has burned itself out. There are tender things being left exposed, like new growth after a forest fire.

“I do not fear any part of you, Jim,” Spock says. “Even that which I do not understand, I love.”

Fuck , Jim thinks. There it fucking is. Good fucking luck, asshole, you’re on this ride now and you’re not getting off.

“You think that now, but you haven’t met Ma,” Jim says.

~

Jim Transfigures his uniform into a set of white robes, more wizarding than Vulcan but close enough to not be an eyesore, and he bullies Spock into putting on the set of white robes that Ambassador Sarek had procured for him as counter-move forty-five in their multi-year battle for psychological dominance. There will be a ceremony for the clan, Spock says--not a funeral, because Vulcans don’t do funerals -- but Jim doesn’t want to do this with an audience. They go out into the desert together, in the thin light that precedes dawn on New Vulcan. The first of its two suns is just beginning to peek over the horizon.

“This should be over a grave,” Jim tells Spock. “But you guys don’t do ecologically irresponsible shit, I guess.”

“It is of no importance to the dead,” Spock says. “Ceremonies are conducted for the emotional well-being of the living.”

“If I wanted a treatise on grief I would’ve brought Bones,” Jim says, and Spock says nothing in reply, although he does fold his hands into the sleeves of his robes, affixing a haughty expression on his face.

They find a spot a kilometer or two out from the settlement that feels right to Jim. The air feels heavy, expectant, but not oppressive: just like Old Spock, waiting patiently for Jim to peel back the layers protecting his vulnerable insides. For a first marriage, Old Spock hadn’t been all that bad.

Jim pulls his wand out of the sleeve of his robes and lifts it to the sky. I hope you’re together again , he thinks, and he sends fireworks hurtling out of the tip of his wand. This is the first time that Spock has actually seen him do magic and Jim can feel his surprise and wonder, the astonishingly childlike glee that reverberates through the bond. The firework dragon that Jim has conjured spreads its wings and roars, sending sparks of orange and red flame silently out of its mouth as it circles above their heads.

“I had thought myself prepared,” Spock says when Jim turns back to look at him. “But it is magnificent.”

“Yeah,” Jim says, “I have a real talent for blowing shit up, what can I say.”

Spock narrows his eyes at Jim briefly, and then he flicks his eyes up again to watch the fading embers of the fireworks dragon. When he looks back at Jim, his eyebrows have settled into a more conniving expression.

“May I see it?” he asks.

“What?” Jim says, and then he sees that Spock is looking at his wand. “Oh. You sure about that?”

“Yes,” Spock says calmly, but still with those fucking eyebrows. “It is you who is unsure.”

“Okay, fuck you,” Jim says, slapping his wand onto Spock’s open palm. “Applewood, thirty-five centimeters, thunderbird core. You impressed yet?”

“Yes,” Spock says mildly, holding each end of the wand between his thumb and forefinger and staring intently down at it. “I am interested in this discipline you call wandlore . I would like to discuss it at a future date.”

Jim rolls his shoulders back, feeling a little itch at the base of his spine. “Sure thing, but I don’t know that much about it. I’ve got books back on Earth, though, if you want to read them.”

“Books?” Spock replies, looking up at Jim. “Ah, yes, a society opposed to technological innovation. Fascinating.” As he makes eye contact, Spock begins to run his fingers down the length of Jim’s wand. Spock has four times as many nerve endings in his fingers at Jim, and they’re connected to a peripheral nervous system that is routed completely differently from a human’s--and still, Jim can feel a phantom tingle in his hands, shooting up his arms to his spine. The itching is not unpleasant, but it feels sort of like his elbows are about to sneeze.

“How is the ritual completed, Jim?” Spock asks.

“Clasping hands,” Jim replies; his voice comes out raspy, low. There’s about thirty centimeters between his hand and Spock’s; it’s not even the length of his wand. As Jim looks into Spock’s eyes, the hairs on the back of his arms begin to rise. Jim thinks, This is supposed to be a handfasting, but it’s just the intent that matters .

Fascinating , Spock says. Nothing about the way he’s standing suggests impatience. He seems willing to wait forever for Jim to make up his mind, although of course Jim has already made his decision. It’s more akin to waiting for Jim to throw himself into the volcano.

“There are fireworks for this, too,” Jim says, and he puts his right hand out, flat, palm facing up. “Wizards are big on sparks. It’s usually the first thing you do, when you’re manifesting as a little kid.”

Spock does not say anything, not even as cursory expression of interest. He places his right hand on top of Jim’s, palm to palm. They don’t need a wizard presiding over the ceremony; the sparks come involuntarily from Jim, out of his fingertips, showering the back of Spock’s hand with tiny pinpricks of light. Spock’s fingers spasm and then they clench down in a tight hold on Jim’s wrist.

“Jim,” he breathes. His pupils are blown out.

“I know,” Jim says, and then they are kissing, Spock’s hot mouth slanted over Jim’s. He tastes herbal, salty. His fingertips are digging into the flesh of Jim’s wrist, harder and harder with each passing second, like he’s tethering himself against a rising wave. Against Jim’s back, the second of New Vulcan’s suns breaks over the horizon.

I love you , Jim thinks, and the wave hits and drags them under.