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Worlds Apart

Chapter Text

“What the hell have you done?”

I- I didn’t mean to…

“I’ll take some tissue-“

“No, you take that monster out my sight!”

He attacked me!

He attacked you?! Who’s bleeding on the floor?!”

But he- he tried to hurt me!

“Enough! Go pack up your things. I want you out my house!”

“Uncle, he wasn’t trying to-“

“OUT OF MY HOUSE, NOW!”

This is not YOUR house!

“What did you say?”

“James, shut up. Come on, let’s go…”

He was going to hurt me!

“We’ll talk outside.”

I was just defending myself! You said that I can do that!

“And you can. The uncle is just scared right now. Let him calm down.”

Scared? Of me?

“He- he’s just worried about his friend.”

But I did nothing wrong… I don’t want him to be afraid of me…

“I know… I know but, trust me, sometimes is better that way.”

 

.-.-.-.-. Ten years later .-.-.-.-.-.

 

“Captain.”

Christopher Pike looked away from the nightlights outside the door of the pub and grabbed two drinks from the counter with a nod at the bartender, heading to one of the few tables that haven’t been flipped during the fight. Avoiding the mess on the floor that few waiters were cleaning, he moved a chair closer and sat on it, putting down the glasses. “It’s incredibly easy to find you. You should do something about that.” He said, pushing one drink in front of his young guest.

“I could try to magically disappear from the existence.” James Kirk said, few tissues still into his nose to stop the bleeding.

“Not funny.”

“It’s never funny with you.”

“Sorry if I stopped a stupid fight instead of joining it.”

That would’ve been fun.”

“Jim…”

“I didn’t ask for your help,” he interrupted, removing the tissues from his nose. He saw the older man staring at him with that calm, patient expression he saw so many times already. Sending a glare to the Starfleet pin on his dark, perfect suit, he quickly looked away, down at his own shirt where the only decoration were bloodstains.

“You never do. Looks like ignoring my calls is a new hobby of yours.”

“It is, when you call to ask the same questions over and over.”

“I just wanted to know you were alright...”

“I am alright. It was nice to see you. You can go now.”

“and give you something.”

“Another drink?” Jim said with irony, watching him take a paper from the inside of the suit and open it in front of him. It took him two seconds to understand what that was. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Not at all.” Pike pulled the document back when he tried to grab it, “Can you listen to what I have to say first?”

“Saying no will stop you from talking?”

“You don’t belong here, Jim. This is not your place.”

“You mean you prefer to see me dead in the big city rather than in this hole?”

“I mean that I know about that test you made months ago.”

Jim hated himself for such a stupid mistake. “That was just a joke-“

“The results weren’t. I wasn’t surprised, but few people wondered why a young man that scored so high, wasn’t already in the Academy, on his way to become Captain.”

“Why don’t you tell them?” Jim said angrily.

Pike sighed. “I wish I could,” he said, and the other looked nervously away. “I wish lots of things were different, but something is changing. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered to come to find you.”

“And you really think that joining Starfleet will change my life?”

“It could. Despite everything.” Pike placed down the paper again. “It won’t be easy, but I would prefer to see you trying, instead of staying here.”

“You must be really desperate if you’re ready to see me dead just to have a decent cadet in that school of yours…”

“I want to see you where you deserve to be, Jim. And if things will start to change, I want you to be part of it. I’ll try to help you more than I can. You have my word.”

Jim breathed out. “Nothing changed in almost twenty years. You really expect me to risk my life for something that might never happen?”

“I do. Because I know that you want to make the difference.”

“You don’t know shit-“

“You want things to change, just like me, and that’s what I’m offering you. A point to start.”

Jim considered his words. “Why me? I’m sure you know a lot of people that would gladly accept a suicide mission like this one.”

“We both know you’re not like the others.”

“If you start with all that crap about my father-“

“This isn’t about him. It’s about you. He did good, and I’m certain you can do better.”

They stared at each other for a moment, then Jim asked, “How much time we’re talking about?”

“Four years, at least.”

“Jesus…”

“You survived so far.”

“Yes, because I lived in this hole so far. How did you expect me to-“

“I trust your ability to adapt to any situation.”

“Sure… and what if I don’t adapt? What if something goes wrong?”

“In that case, we’ll go down together. I’ll take my part of responsibilities,” Pike said, voice serious as his face. “I’m aware of what I’m asking you, but when I say that you can do it, I mean it. If you think I’m wrong, then just forget this meeting.”

The blonde took a deep breath, thinking about all the terrible things that could’ve happened accepting the offer. “Four years?”

“Four years.”

Jim emptied the glass in one gulp. “Make it three,” he said, putting it down on the table with a dull tud.

 

The morning after, Jim moved down the motorcycle and threw the keys at the first person he met before climbing the metal stairs to reach the shuttle. Once inside, he nodded at the other future cadets and quickly sat down, far enough from the group. Taking a deep breath, he stared down at his own hands: not shaking. Good.

“- and now sit down or I’ll make you.”

“Fine!”

Jim jumped a bit when someone dropped harshly on the seat next to him: a man that looked on his thirty- even if the beard made him look older… or maybe it was the nervous, grumpy face that suddenly turned towards him.

“I may throw up on you.” The man warned him.

Jim blinked, then huffed out a nervous, weak laugh. “Scared to fly?”

“You know there are at least thirty ways we could die in here? And no one will come to save us.”

“Sorry to remind you this, but Starfleet operates through space.”

“Sadly, I’m aware.” He murmured grabbing a flask to take a sip, but then looked better at the blonde, calming down, offering it. “Leonard McCoy.”

“Jim Kirk.” He grabbed it after a second of hesitation. After taking a sip of whatever strong liquid was inside the flask, Jim noticed a badge attached to the man’s bag, down between his feet. “Sawbones…? You’re a doctor?”

Leonard followed his gaze and shrugged. “That’s what you get wasting years studying to save people’s lives: unwanted nicknames.”

“I was actually thinking to use it.”

“Only if you tell me yours.”

Jim thought that there would be plenty of nicknames to confess, but it was better not to. “The most used was Hey,” he said and grinned at his confused expression, “I worked in a bar time to time.”

Leonard stared at him, a light smiled appearing on his lips. “I’m sure we’ll get along just fine, then.”

 

During the flight, Jim had the chance to talk more with Leonard, but when he asked why he was on that shuttle, he almost regretted it because Leonard’s expression darkened, but then explained that he had just divorced from his wife, and added that his daughter had to stay with the mother.

Jim didn’t press on it, so he asked about his work, his studies. When Leonard finally asked about him, they were landing.

Jim stared in delight at the busy city of San Francisco, and then nervously at the gigantic complex of buildings that was Starfleet's Headquarter. Once inside the campus area, he saw students wearing a red suit he was already going to hate. It was hard to believe he made it there alive, without any trouble… Then, a slap on his back woke him up.

“You better hurry searching for your room, or you’ll get the worst one,” Leonard said.

“Room?”

“Yeah, in the dorms,” he said heading to the little buildings on the right side of the large campus.

We have to share room with other people? Jim wanted to ask, but that would sound stupid- and kind of embarrassing. He would like to ask Pike, but the man was nowhere to be found. Maybe he wasn’t even there… maybe not even in the city, so he was alone there, in the only place he shouldn’t have been… were his hands shaking? No, they’re not. It’s alright. Calm down, damn it…

“You ok?” Leonard asked, frowning, standing few steps away.

“Uh? Yeah… yeah, I’m just- I need to see someone first.”

The doctor nodded slowly saying, “Don’t get lost,” before walking away.

After separating, Jim spent hours searching for Pike, but no was able to tell him where he was. In the end, a secretary finally came to meet him and politely said that Captain Pike would be there the morning after, so it would be better for him to go back to the dorm unit.

Jim obeyed because there was nothing else he could do and the tension of the day was making him feel exhausted. It was night outside and he was jumpy all the way back to the dorm. I just need to rest. I’ll get used to this in few days, was what he kept repeating to himself until he finally entered the building: there were few people walking around, a low chatting coming from the rooms with the door still open.

Walking upstairs, finding all the rooms full of people, Jim slowly started to hate the whole situation. Once on the top floor, he sighed and stopped to look out the window, wondering what he was doing there… That was the right place for him? Bullshit.

Turning around, he took another deep breath: he accepted to leave his past behind, forcing down fear and worry just to be on that shuttle that morning… He would have go back to that miserable life only if the worst happened. And the chances were still pretty high.

Straightening his back, he headed to the stairs to start another round in search for a place, now ready to knock at every single door until he would’ve found a bed and-

“You’re late.”

Jim stopped in the middle of the corridor, on the third floor, and turned around.

Leonard was standing in the doorstep of a room, a cup into his hand, wearing casual clothes. “Told you that searching for a room was top priority.”

The other sighed. “I noticed. Well, I just need a bed.”

“And also your stuff?”

“My stuff…? My stuff!” Jim smiled when he moved aside, showing the bags. Jim ran inside, relieved to be at least able to change his clothes. “Why they took them in here?”

“Because I asked them,” Leonard said, noticing his confused look. “Well, it was here or left them outside the dorm.” He shrugged.

“Thanks. I’ll move them out soon as I find a room.”

“You can stay here if you want. The other bed is free.”

Jim tried to say something, but then just grinned. “Did you keep the place for me?”

“You have no idea what kind of people came to ask for that bed. I soon realized you were the best candidate as a roommate,” he commented, watching the other looking away in silence. “I mean if you don't have other plans. You can still leave the bags here for now. Not a problem.”

“My plan was to sleep outside on a bench, so… which bed is mine?”

Leonard smiled a bit, pointing the cup at the bed in the right corner. “I got the window. Sorry.”

Jim turned around and sat on his bed, feeling at least a bit relieved. The large window on the wall facing the Academy wasn’t long enough to reach also his bed, but the light wouldn’t have been a problem. “Fine by me. Thank you, Bones.”

“Welcome home. I’ll go get something downstairs, at the bar. I’m starving…” he said leaving the cup on one of the two little desks.

Home… Jim thought, then blinked, “There’s a bar downstairs?”

“Of course there’s a bar. How are we supposed to survive for years in here without drinking?” Leonard snorted from the corridor.

Jim smiled and jumped down the bed to follow him.

.-.-.-.

In the little city-hole Jim lived since then, he never really bothered to know how the life in the Starfleet Academy was. Now that he was into it, he wished Pike had warned him about the madness a new student needed to be ready for: where to go and when; learning all the corridors, trying not to miss any lessons… Lessons about things that Jim already knew, or could easily understand, but still need to attend to.
In the first week was full of theory, books over books to get and study, not a simulation room or whatever remotely close to practice time.

Six days of pure chaos and the only thing able to keep him from going insane was Leonard and his irony. The man helped him a lot adjusting, but it was clear that his classes weren’t less stressful: he looked already so exhausted, but, as he said once, “It just takes a while to get into the rhythm. You’re gonna make it.”

Sunday morning, Jim woke up relaxed for the first time since he arrived at the Academy: no alarms making him fear for his life; no Bones throwing things at him yelling that is was late. And also, still no sign of Pike. Taking a deep breath, he stared at the ceiling for a while, wondering where the Admiral was, if he forgot about him alone in that hell, and what would’ve happened next week… Looking down at the rest of the room, he found Leonard sleeping on his bed still fully dressed.

Jim sighed, wondering when the Doctor had come back. “Bones, you should change…” he called weakly, slowly standing up and moving to the other bed, but the man looked so peacefully asleep that he just breathed out and let him rest, sending a look at the clock: eight AM. Definitely better let him rest, Jim confirmed to himself, going to dress.

Grabbing cellphone and keys, Jim left the room as quietly as possible. It was a nice, sunny day of end September and the air wasn’t too cold yet. Most of the students were probably sleeping just like Leonard, so Jim enjoyed the walk in the calm campus, ready to explore the area a bit more. Then, he got a message that made him sigh, “About time.”

He didn’t go too far, reaching the plaza in front of the gigantic building that was Starfleet HQ: still a bit nervous about it, Jim tried to ignore it, keeping his eyes focused on the river shining under the sun in front of him, and Pike waiting for him, leaning against the handrail. “I thought you were gone forever,” Jim said once he was close enough.

Pike turned around and smiled a bit, handing him a paper-cup of coffee. “I’m sorry. It has been a crazy week.”

“You tell me,” Jim commented, sitting on the bench close by, taking a long sip.

“I’m glad you made it alive. Everything’s alright?”

“Surprisingly, yes. For now. You could’ve warned me about having a roommate, though.”

“I thought that was obvious. Who’s with you?”

“Leonard. McCoy.”

Pike nodded slowly, “I remember him…”

“Yeah?”

"He’s one of the best new doctors we got.”

“Well, I’m stuck with the best.”

“I’m sure he’s going to be good for you,” Pike grinned, sitting next to him. “What about the rest? Everything’s under control?”

“It is. Honestly, I thought it would’ve been harder.”

“Don’t be too cocky. Remember where you are.”

“Kind of impossible to forget,” he snorted gesturing at the Starfleet HQ with the coffee.

“I’m serious. I had to attend few operations in the past days- still have to… That’s why I wasn’t here your first day.”

Jim looked more seriously at him, “Operations of what kind?”

“It’s a big city, Jim. Federation’s and Starfleet’s city, that’s how lots of people see it. We’re used to be attacked... but they’re learning to organize themselves. We’ll keep trying to keep this situation outside the Academy. It’s still not clear what they’re planning, so-”

“So be careful and don’t attract any attention?”

“Exactly.”

“Why should I? I don’t want trouble.”

“That’s good to hear,” he smiled, ironically impressed. “Outside of the city, everything was easier but here… Here we deal with them differently. We had accidents in the past, even here in the Academy. People got hurt.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“I think you never saw it. And, sadly, it happens more often than you might think.”

Jim swallowed and looked down at the coffee cup in his hands. “You want to be sure I’ll stay on the right side?”

“I never doubt that. I just want you to understand that this is not some sort of perfect heaven, so keep your eyes open. And try not to jump into any fights.”

Jim snorted, “Fights? I didn’t even have time to drink.”

“Good,” Pike said, patting in back before standing up.

“They have people inside too?” Jim asked, “That’s why you wanted me here?”

“Jim, you’re not working for me. But, if you find some of them and don’t think they are a threat to us, you can leave them to study in peace, and try to do the same.”

“So you know they are here as well…”

“I’m not that stupid. As I told you, some people want things to change. It can’t happen in one day, so we have to keep working on it,” Pike said and the other smiled a bit. “Take care for now, and don’t get into trouble. I’ll keep in touch.” He said, heading to the HQ.

I feel like an undercover spy, Jim thought looking at the river, wondering how many people like him he already met without even knowing.

 

After few weeks, Jim was perfectly integrated into the Academy’s life. Well, about the lessons at least. Say that he also had made some friends was still exaggerated, but most of the cadets were friendly, especially once they realized James Kirk was a genius about strategy and command. Luckily or not, no one seemed to connect him to another Kirk in the Starfleet’s history.

Anyway, he was finally feeling good. Not completely relaxed, but his hands weren’t shaking at all anymore, and even if he could occasionally feel that something, it was easy to keep under control. Sometimes, he wondered how long he would be able to, and he forced himself to stay positive. Talking about positivism…

“Shit-“

Jim moved out of the bathroom wearing just his trousers, finding Leonard’s cup rolling on the floor, next to the coffee splattered in an elegant curve. “Well done,” he commented draining his hair and the other just sighed, a hand over his shoulder. “You ok?”

“Yeah… yeah, let me clean this mess.”

It would be so easy for Jim to take care of it... so easy he almost acted by instinct. “It’s just coffee,” he said instead, keeping the towel over his hair.

“It was my coffee.” Leonard snorted coming back with few tissues.

Jim moved to help with some other paper tissues, but once he was kneeling on the floor, most of the job was already done. Then their hands bump against each other, and Jim didn’t miss how the other flinched slightly at the touch. Studying him, he frowned, “What is it?”

“Huh?”

“You’re so angry about the coffee?”

“I’m not. I’m just- nervous.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

“No, it’s not,” Leonard said standing up. “Maybe it’s the weather… I don’t know.” He said looking out the window where a storm was ready to start.

“You’re a sunshine and rainbow kind of person?” Jim chuckled grabbing a shirt.

“Sun? What’s that?” the doctor said ironically. After the sunny days they got arriving in the Academy, a storm after another started hitting the city without mercy.

“It’s always so rainy here?”

“Expect snow in a month.”

“I like snow,” Jim grinned, wearing his jacket. “Alright, I’m off for a while. You need another coffee?”

“No, I'll make another one myself, thank you.” The other snarled.

“I thought you would be too devastated by the loss.” He said with sarcastic worry.

“Jim,” Leonard called, and the other stopped in the doorway, turning around. “Just… be careful.”

The blonde frowned, confused, “Yes, mom,” he said leaving.

Once outside, Jim zipped up the jacket and moved to the gates, but something else caught his attention… or better someone. “Uhura, was it?”

A beautiful girl with long, dark hair looked away from the board she was checking and sighed patiently. “No?”

“Really, we met in few classes and I didn’t even get a hello? After abandoning me in that pub, I think I deserve at least that.”

“You looked in good company last time I saw you.”

“That’s what I get from protecting a lady from the bad guys…” Jim said with a sad face, hands into his pockets.

“From what I recall, you were the one in need of protection.”

“That’s mean.”

They both grinned at each other, and then Uhura crossed her arms. “So Admiral Pike convinced you to join us…”

“Let’s say it’s something I wanted to try.”

“Doesn’t look like it was a mistake,” she said protecting herself from the cold wind. “I saw the results of the last test. You were in first place.” She added before his proud grin could get any larger.

“Are you spying on me?”

“The results are here, Captain,” she said, pointing at the board.

“Oh. Right… Hey, I like how you call me Captain… wait- come on, I’m just kidding.” He laughed when she sighed and walked away. “Can I still hope for more than a hello next time?”

“You can,” she said, showing him a light smile before disappearing inside one of the dorms.

Jim kept waving a hand at her, feeling like something good was finally happening in his life… but of course, it wasn’t going to last: he frowned when a shiver ran along his back and looked aside, on the path leading to the back of the dorms, and walked in that direction.

There was a large field behind the buildings, where the students could relax or study- when the sun would've ever decide to show up again, and the river was not too far on the left side. He saw someone leaning on the handrail- and suddenly he knew what had caught his attention.

Jim looked around, the field was desert, and slowly approached the man, not sure of what to do… what if he could feel the same? What if he-

The man turned around, a young man, probably in the first year just like him, and his expression was tense, hands shaking a bit.

“Hey. Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” Jim said slowly moving his hands up, to show he meant to harm. He knew that was the first thing to do… no idea about what comes next. “I- I saw you here alone… Everything’s ok?”

After a moment, the other nodded, his short brown hair a mess around his head.

“You sure? I can call someone-“

“No! Please, don’t- no.” He said worried, suddenly stepped forward.

Perfect things to say, James, just perfect, Jim cursed at himself. “Ok. Sure, no problem. I- I’ll leave you be, then. Take cover if it starts raining, alright?”

The young man nodded slowly, seeming to calm down just slightly. “T-thanks.”

“No problem. I’m Jim, by the way. If you-“ and there he made the mistake to look down at the guy’s hands: it looked like there was something shining inside one of them. When he looked up, the guy hugged himself to hide them, looking more terrified than before.

“I wasn’t doing anything!” the guy said, stepping back, “I swear, I was just- they said it would’ve helped me get better!”

“O-ok, it’s ok. You did nothing wrong-”

“I thought I could make it… I thought- I thought I could make it.” He kept repeating, looking ready to cry.

Jim could feel the tension in the air now, and that was a bad sign. “You can, alright? I’m sure you can do it. I know, it takes time-“

What do you know?!” the guy screamed in an ancient language, raising a hand against him: Jim didn’t have time to react and an invisible hand was suddenly around his neck, squeezing harder and harder. “No one here knows what it feels like to be like me… No one!

“I- do,” Jim tried to say. He was just scratching his own neck, the invisible force keeping him above the ground, slowly leaving him without air.

“You-!” the man hesitated for a moment, then frowned. “You’re like me…?” he asked, noticing Jim’s eyes shining gold. “But- I didn’t feel your magic until now… how? How can you hide your magic?”

“-don’t know…”

“How!?”

Jim just shook his head, feeling dizzy.

“Starfleet- the Federation don’t want us here… we’ll never live in peace! They… they just want all of us dead,” he continued, crying.

Kicking in the air, Jim could see something shining on the palm of the man’s hand, before a shot echoed somewhere and he saw him pushed backward- then Jim was flying away and suddenly it was all dark.

Chapter Text

“Let him take care of it for now. I need to talk with you, anyway.”

“But he can’t just-”

“It’ll be fine.”

Jim opened his eyes hearing voices and then a door closing, feeling so weak, all he could do was laying down. Looking aside, he spotted Leonard searching for something inside a closet. “Bon-“ he tried to call but started coughing as his throat burned like hell.

Leonard turned around and quickly moved next to his bed. “How are you feeling?”

“’Shit,” was all Jim managed to say coughing again.

“Don’t try to speak for now. Let me take something…”

Still feeling dizzy, Jim didn’t protest, closing his eyes again, trying to breathe without choking himself. When a hand brushed against his neck, he instantly woke up in alarm- tightly grasping Leonard’s wrist.

“I just want to clean your wounds,” Leonard explained calmly, waiting.

Jim tried to relax, slowly letting him go, also to hide how much his hand was shaking.

“The cuts aren’t too deep, but it might sting a bit,” Leonard said moving a chair closer to the bed, sitting down before starting to poke his neck with some alcohol, making him flinch. “Who did this to you?”

“I did. Couldn’t breathe.”

He didn’t comment, focusing on the work. “Only you could end up fighting against a sorcerer at the start of the year.”

Jim just stared at him, thinking how weird it was to hear that word coming out Leonard’s lips… so cold and heartless, it almost hurt- even if he wasn’t talking about him.

Leonard noticed Jim’s hands trembling, so he stopped. “It hurts so much?”

The blonde almost laughed at the irony, “No… just-” he coughed a bit. “I’m shaking,” he said with a tense, little smile. His whole body was trembling now, so better just admit it.

“Yeah, I can see that. They fished you out the river, you’re still soaked. I already ask someone to bring some of your clothes. You want to take off your shirt?”

“Perv…” Jim grinned. It wasn’t just because of the wet clothes. That cold feeling was something else…

“Do I have to remind you that I’m a doctor?”

“Still a perv…” Am I scared?

“I’m allowed to strip you right now on the spot if the situation requires to,” Leonard barked nervously, making him laugh between the shivers, but it didn’t sound genuine. “Come on, I’ll help you.”

“I’m not that cold.”

“I’m not gonna wait to see you turning blue, Jim.”

“I wont. I’m fine, really,” he insisted, grabbing his arms when he started to lift his shirt. Did they know? Did that guy told everybody that I’m like him?

“You’re soaked in river’s water.”

“It’ll dry off.” My eyes… my eyes are gold right now?

“Yeah, after giving you bronchitis.”

“I said I’m fine!” Jim yelled suddenly sitting up, a tight grasp on his arms to keep him away. He knows. He’s going to call the others and they will- they will…

The doctor kept staring at him for a moment, then breathed out and free himself, standing from the chair. “Alright. I’ll tell the nurse you’re awake, so she will take care of you.” That said, he left the room.

Jim tried to say something only when the door closed shut, blocking any attempt. He looked down at his shaking hands and closed them into fists, hating everything. Leonard was just trying to help- he was a doctor, for God’s sake, he- he wasn't going to come back with an army ready to kill him, right?

The door opened again and Pike entered the room, closing it behind him. “Remember what I told you about a certain kind of people you might have the chance to meet in the Academy?”

“That guy wasn’t peacefully studying.” Jim snarled. “He was losing control. I just-“

“Jim,” Pike sat on the same chair Leonard used before, “Calm down and tell me what happened.”

He took a deep breath and started again. “I felt his magic. When I found him, he was struggling to keep his powers under control. I told him that he just needed to focus, but then I saw his hands- there was something shining on his hand… Then he panicked and attacked me. I couldn’t breathe, and then-“ he stopped, looking at him, “What happened to him?”

“The guards shot him on the shoulder, but they said that when they got him, something was killing him. It looked like something was absorbing his energy.”

“Absorbing his energy? How?”

“We don’t know, but he didn’t make it. There was nothing we could do.” He sighed, watching him look down. “He had a symbol on his hand. That’s probably what you saw shining, and also what killed him if we're right.”

“What kind of symbol?”

“The kind not allowed to be used.”

Jim breathed out, trying to remember. “He said that someone told him it should have helped him control his powers. Maybe he was talking about that symbol?”

Someone who?”

“No idea.”

Pike sighed, shaking his head, “If someone is helping sorcerers hiding their powers, we’re going to have an intense year ahead of us…”

“They shouldn’t force their magic down…” Jim said, and the Admiral looked sadly at him. “I mean it’s not safe. I know being here it’s their choice, but going against their own magic it’s dangerous for everyone. And painful for the one using it.”

“Painful?”

“Yeah. It’s like- like trying to contain all the ocean in a glass. Powers like ours can’t be just shut down… and whoever is trying to help people with magic here knows it.”

Pike leaned a bit closer, “It’s the same for you?”

“No. I’ve never had problems keeping my magic down. Well, only when I was little.”

“Really?”

“I don’t know why,” Jim shrugged. “I mean, it feels weird sometimes, if I don’t use it for too long, but it never affected me like it did with that poor guy.”

Pike's phone chirped then, and he looked down at it. “I have to go… What happened in the Academy is already big news,” he said standing up. “Be careful. If you see someone else with strange, shining symbols-“

“I’ll stay away from them and warn you.” Jim nodded, they asked before he could open the door, “Someone knows about me? He- that guy saw me… He knew.”

Pike looked patiently at him. “He didn’t have the chance to speak to anyone. You’re safe.”

Jim watched him leaving and took a deep breath to calm his nerves. Looking down at his hands, they were still shaking a bit… and he was starting to feel actually cold.

“Hello?” Uhura knocked twice before slowly opening the door. “Oh. Hi. Sorry, I- I was searching for Leonard.”

“I got more than a hello this time.” He smiled at the patient glare she sent him. “Leonard left a moment ago… So you know each other?”

“We do. And he called me saying that it was an emergency, that I needed to bring few clothes in the infirmary…” she sighed, keeping them in her arms.

Jim felt even worse. “I think those were for me.”

Uhura studied him for a moment, then blinked in surprise. “You’re the one that fought against the sorcerer?”

“I haven’t fought anyone. He just- throw me into the river.”

“You could’ve got hurt,” she said, placing the clothes on the bed.

“Just some scratches.” He smiled, moving a bit his neck.

“I’m not joking. Those people are dangerous.” She said and the other just nodded. “I’ll let you rest. Take care, alright?”

“I'll try,” he smiled a bit. Once she left, he grabbed the shirt, frowning. “And these aren’t my clothes…”

 

Jim left the little headquarter’s infirmary wearing a gray hoodie that smelled of pine, with a college's logo on the back, and black sweatpants, feeling weird going around with someone else’s clothes on- and that were also a bit too long and tight for him, but he needed to change. Just like a certain doctor told him to do.
He asked for Leonard, but the few nurse there told him that he had already left.

He hoped that the doctor would have accepted his apologies. He was doing his job, Jim knew that, but… I can’t even remember the last time someone was actually worried about me, he sighed to himself.

Once back in their room, he found it empty.

Jim changed into his own jeans, leaving the sweatpants on the bed. Looking for a shirt, someone knocked on the door.

“Hey, Jim. McCoy isn’t here?” Damon asked standing in the doorway, few notepads in hand. He was a medical student as well.

“Hey. No, he’s not.”

“I forgot to gave him these notes. He needs it for the exam tomorrow. Can I leave them here?”

“Sure. You guys have another exam tomorrow?”

“I’ve stopped counting them,” Damon sighed with a tired smile. “I heard about that freak they found here today, but I doubt the exam will be deleted because of that. Well, gotta go. See you around.”

Jim just nodded. He then looked at the notepads and grabbed them, leaving again.

 

The hospital wasn’t too far from the Academy, but enough to take good fifteen minutes to arrive there. It was afternoon, but the sky was so dark to look almost evening, and the storm finally started when Jim was in front of the Hospital.

He ran inside, shaking the rain from his hair and wondering why it was so hard to stay dry that day. Checking that the notepads were safe, he started roaming floor after floor until he stopped to ask about his friend.

Jim reached the sixth floor and looked left and right until he spotted Leonard sitting alone in a little lobby, on a couch next to few vending machines. “It’s like hide and seek, in here.”

Leonard’s head turned before his eyes raised from the book he was reading and he blinked, mouth partly open in surprise.

“Damon left these for the exam you have tomorrow. I thought you might need it.” Jim said standing next to him, handing the notes, but the other just kept staring. “Sorry if they got a little wet, it’s raining outside,” he added, but still got nothing in response. “I- I can make a copy of it if you want…?”

Leonard’s mouth clicked shut. “You’re wearing my clothes?”

It took Jim few seconds to elaborate. “Oh... am I? Uhura brought them to me after you left, in the infirmary,” he said looking down at the hoodie he was still wearing, well aware of the red creeping on his face. “I didn’t know… I can change here, if you want. I’m sure there’s some old stuff I can-“

“Jim- you’re not going to strip here in the middle of the day,” Leonard said, grabbing his arms before he could lift the hoodie. Looking up, he saw him grinning.

“I was kidding,” Jim said and laughed when the other sighed tiredly, letting him go. “Sorry, I didn’t know these were yours. Uhura just left them…”

“She probably thought that they were for me,” Leonard said, looking briefly at him. “It’s ok. I was just surprised- and worried: I like that hoodie.”

“I’ll change soon as I go back.”

“Alright. Thanks for the notes.”

“No problem.” Jim nodded, watching him turning the pages- and then looking up at him again, waiting. “I also wanted to apologize. About before. I didn’t mean to kick you out the room like that.”

“No need. I... I should've thought about how you were feeling.”

“Bones, I overreacted. You were just doing your job.”

“Yeah, but I’m- I’m not very good at approaching patients.” He admitted.

“I don’t think that's the problem,” Jim said sitting next to him that looked up with a doubtful expression. “Come on, you’re grumpy to everyone, not just your patients.”

“Oh. Well, thanks,” Leonard snorted, stretching his legs, the shadow of a smile hidden by his beard.

“You’re welcome. Hey, what about a coffee?”

“Always time for that,” Leonard said watching him getting two drinks at one of the coffee machines before sitting down again. Staring at him, he murmured, “Did the nurse checked your neck?”

“Ah- yeah. How does it look? I haven’t seen myself yet…”

“Looks like someone tried to strangle you.”

“Really?” he murmured, passing a hand over it. It was weird watching Leonard studying him so carefully… His eyes fixed on his neck.

“It’ll be gone in few days,” the doctor said in the end, looking back at the notes, asking, “So you and Admiral Pike know each other?”

“Yeah. He’s an old friend of my father.”

He looked back at him. “Your father? He was in Starfleet?”

“Kind of,” Jim murmured. He was expecting more questions about it, but they just kept staring at each other in silence- and just when Jim realized Leonard’s eyes were a mix of green and blue, the doctor blinked and looked away, taking a sip of coffee. Just then, a thunder made them both look out the window. “You think we’ll ever see the sun again?”

The Doctor snorted. “This is just the beginning, kid.”

.-.-.

After the accident with the young sorcerer, five people were arrested in the Academy, accused of using magic or supporting it. Two of them were students that luckily came back to continue the semester without further charges almost a week later. Bones said he knew one of them, Shana, but when he tried to talk to her, the girl said just few words before almost running away.

“Maybe you’re just not her type,” Jim commented while walking back to the dorms, but the doctor looked worried and said that she used to be a very happy, chatty person since they met at the beginning of the year, and with everyone, not just him, while now she wanted to stay alone, looking so tense.

“You don’t think Starfleet forced her to talk, right?” Jim wasn’t sure he wanted an answer to that question, but asked anyway.

“We’re not such monsters, Jim. Starfleet don’t do things like that, unless they know there’s something solid to investigate about.”

You mean they shouldn’t, Jim thought, staring at the river in front of them.

Pike warned him, but Jim was slowly realizing how magic was such a bigger deal there. In his old little town, he wasn’t the only one using magic, and surely someone knew it, but no one ever came to hunt them down. The city was different: there was a gun pointed at every person even just somehow connected to magic.

“I haven’t joined Starfleet to help grow another war.” Leonard murmured when they stopped in the plaza in front of the HQ, leaning on the handrail.

Jim looked away from the streets and followed his gaze: the white pillar standing in the middle of a forest on the other side of the river was clearly visible: the memento to honor the victims of the last battle to extinguish magic from the city. Everything started almost twenty years before, when a sorcerer killed a high member of the Federation, and also Admiral of Starfleet, that was against letting people use magic without any restriction. The murdered was the spark needed to start the war and, in the end, the law that probably would have never been approved in the first place, didn’t even needed to be voted anymore: magic became instantly illegal.

Jim was only five years old when everything happened, too little to remember about the war raging few states away. By the time the Federation reclaimed the city, magic was banned in the whole state, and in few months, half of the States decided to follow the example.

“I just don’t understand why people still want to use magic. We don’t need that to live,” Leonard hissed turning his back at the river.

“Maybe it’s just part of life for those people.”

“Well, they should move on. It’s illegal for a reason: it’s dangerous, we’re not made to use it. We can’t.”

“You think?”

“You saw what happened to that guy last week. God’s knows what he was trying to do.”

He was trying to move on , Jim wanted to yell. Pike said to keep the information about that strange mark for himself until they would’ve known what was really happening.

Leonard turned to him and sighed, “Don’t tell me you’re a sympathizer of those people?”

“I just think that with or without magic, people died and keep dying anyway.”

The doctor studied him, then breathed out. “That’s true, but magic made it too easy. People that can kill you with a snap of their fingers… I can’t even imagine what else they could do.”

They could save lives just as fast, Jim thought. The accident of the last week made all the Academy nervous, the security around the campus increased for days, and investigations still going… The situation was slowly calming down, but people were worried about how easily magic could move so deep into the city.

Pike said that attacks against Starfleet and the Federation were nothing new, that they were constantly keeping an eye on the groups of rebels they knew were still around. The thing really worrying him was that someone was using scared magic users pretending to help them blending into the society, giving them powers they couldn’t control instead.

“You think all the people with magic are evil?” Jim asked carefully looking at him, but the other kept his eyes on the city, a hard expression on his face. Well, that hurts...

“I’ve never seen anyone using magic for good,” Leonard said after a while, voice low and cold.

“Really?” Jim couldn’t hide a disbelieving tone.

“Why, you did?”

I could show you the good side of magic right here, right now, Jim cried to himself. “No, but I doubt magic can be only evil.”

“Let me guess, it depends on the people that use it?”

“You don’t think that’s true?”

“I think most of the people are evil, deep down. Give them some voodoo tricks, and that’s the result,” he said gesturing at the pillar on the other side of the river. “No one should be allowed to have that kind of power.” He hissed walking away.

"Bones-" Jim watched him turn around. He just wanted to ask You really think we’re all evil? You think I would hurt someone as well? “I was just-“

“Look, I know that’s a cold way to see it, maybe I’m wrong, maybe not. You can think whatever you want about magic, I won’t call you out for that. I just don’t want to see anyone else get injured because of them.” That said, his pacer chirped. “They need me at the hospital. See you for dinner?”

Jim nodded but didn’t managed to smile back before he turned around, heading to the hospital. All his mind could think while watching his friend leaving was Please, don’t hate me too.

 

That late afternoon, after the class was over, Jim was still thinking about the discussion he and Leonard had, and how little did he know about the war that took place right where he was now, so he decided to visit the library and learn more about the past. He was expecting to search through multiple books, but just entering the large room he found what he was looking for: there was a hologram in the farthest corner showing the Pillar of Memory in scale, big enough as a person, with different pictures slowly rotating around it- pictures of the battle against magic.

Jim read some of the note, and the more he knew about what happened, the more he could say how lucky he has been living in relative peace, all considered... Despite who he was.

“It makes you think, huh?” someone said behind him, “After what happened the other week.”

“Yeah...” Jim smiled a bit at his latest friend: Hikaru Sulu was a nice guy, serious most of the time, but easy to talk with once you knew him. “I think I never really realized.”

“The war didn’t reach your town?” Sulu asked and the other shook his head. “Well, you’re lucky. Here and all around the city the fights continued for almost a years after the war ended.”

“Starfleet was involved too?”

“Part of it,” Sulu nodded. “Lots of people that joined Starfleet in that time just wanted a way to join the fight. That’s what my father did.”

“Really?”

“To protect his family," Sulu nodded. "That’s what my mother told me. He didn’t come back.”

Those words hit Jim like a punch in the stomach. “Sorry.”

“I would’ve probably done the same. It’s just-” Sulu sighed, shrugging, “Magic is still here. Sometimes wonder if the war really solved anything.”

“There’s nothing worse than let someone sacrifice for nothing.” Jim murmured and looked away when he stared at him.

Sulu was going to ask something, but his phone rang. “I got to go… see you tomorrow in class?”

“Yeah.”

“And, Jim, maybe they didn’t save the world, but they did keep their families safe, after all,” he added, poking his arm with a book.

Jim smiled back and watched him leave. After one last look at the hologram, he left the library as well, heading to the dorm.

Leonard didn’t come back in the evening, and Jim fell asleep staring at his empty bed, wondering if he was still studying alone, drinking another coffee from that vending machine.

 

It was a banging on the door that woke him up, and then a loud chatting from outside reached his ears as well. Still half-asleep, he moved to open and the guy standing in front of him seemed relieved.

“Hey. You and McCoy are alright?” he asked, barefoot, probably wearing the clothes he used to sleep.

“Uh- yeah… He’s-“ Jim briefly looked back inside, but Leonard’s bed was still intact. “I think he has a swift at the hospital. Why you’re asking?”

“You haven’t heard? People are getting sick since yesterday. Half of my class got to the hospital already. McCoy told you anything?”

“No, I- I haven’t heard him… I’ll try to call him.”

“Alright. I’m going there myself. My roommate is sick too.” He said, walking back to his room.

Still confused, Jim then noticed people walking quickly from a room to another, worried faces everywhere. Turning around, he checked the clock first, 7 AM, and then grabbed his phone but Leonard didn’t answer. “Damn it…” he murmured quickly getting dressed.

Leaving his red jacket open, once outside the cold wind helped him woke up completely and the situation in the campus wasn’t better: people were helping others to leave, apparently too weak to move. “Come on, Bones, answer the phone…”

“Jim!”

He looked back and found Gaila running toward him, Uhura’s friend, her red, long hair all messy. “Hey. Are you alright? People are getting sick-“

“I know! Leonard’s here?”

“No, I think he stayed at the hospital. Why? You’re feeling sick too?”

She shook her head, eyes worried and scared. “Not me, it’s Nyota.”

They both ran to the girls' room fast as they could, and Jim found Uhura sitting on the bed, wearing the academy suit. She looked tired and pale, and frowned when looking up at them, “What he’s doing here?”

“I was worried!” Gaila said.

“It’s probably just flu...”

“I told you already, half of the campus is sick. This is not just flu.”

“How you’re feeling?” Jim kneel in front on Uhura, trying to remember what Leonard taught him about first emergencies rules.

She sighed, “Weak… my- my eyes burn a little.”

He pressed a hand over her forehead, “You’re burning up. Why you didn’t call someone?”

“Nyota asking for help?” Gaila snorted, shaking her head, “She was going to attend class in this state. I can’t contact the hospital, that’s why I was searching for Leonard, but she-”

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Uhura said standing up, promptly falling against him, unconscious.

“Yeah, I can see that. Come on, we need to take her to the hospital.” Jim said, smoothly taking her into his arms and moving to the door, while Gaila grabbed a random jacket and wore it over her shirt.

The hospital was busy with people like Jim never saw it before. He hoped Leonard was on the same floor where he found it the last time, but once in the little living room, he found it empty. “Alright… Stay here with her. I’ll search for Leonard,” he said letting Uhura lay on the couch as gently as he could.

“Ok… Jim,” Gaila just touched his arm to stop him for a second, “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” he sighed running away, trying to locate his friend through the millions of doctors and nurses running here and there, until a hand grasped his shoulder.

Leonard instantly checked him up and down. “Don’t tell me you’re sick too?” he asked, checking his pulse, then his eyes.

“No- no, I’m fine,” Jim moved his hands away in exasperation. “It’s not me. Uhura is sick. I brought her here- I didn’t know what else to do.”

Leonard’s eyes flashed for a second. “Where is she?” he asked and the other led the way.

Once there, Jim stayed in the doorway with Gaila while Leonard checked on their friend, both nervously staring at the doctor’s back until he finally stood and moved closer to them.

“It’s the same thing. Half of the campus got something in the timespan of a night,” he explained. “They started arriving here tonight, everyone feeling weak, with fever and burning eyes.”

“You know what it is?” Gaila asked.

Leonard shook his head. “We have no idea. We’re trying anything that could help them, but nothing seems to work.”

“Are you-“ Jim moved closer, lowering his voice, “Are you telling me there’s an unknown virus spreading into the Academy?” he asked, and the serious glare of the doctor made him look away, passing both hands over his face.

“We know it doesn’t spread within the air,” Leonard said instead, “nor with physical contact. We’re making more tests but no one knows how it got inside the campus, and we need to know that soon as possible.”

Jim stared at him. “You mean…?”

The doctor nodded. “We lost the first two that got here tonight.”

“But there must be something...” Gaila said.

“We’re still searching,” Leonard said and she sighed worriedly, moving back to Nyota. He turned to Jim that just stared back. “You two stay here. It’s probably safer. I go see if there’s a free room for her.”

“And then what? We’ll stay here watching her getting worse?”

“If you have a better idea, call me.” He shot back angrily before leaving.

Jim sighed and looked at the two girls, Gaila gently pulling Nyota’s hair away from her face. He watched her for ten seconds before running away.

In the chaos spreading in the Academy, he finally managed to reach Pike’s office, finding the man in an intense discussion with other Admirals. “Sir.”

“Not now!” Pike yelled, then recognized him. “Jim, what you’re doing here?”

“I just came back from the hospital. It's a mess there-“

“It’s a mess everywhere. News from Doctor McCoy?” he asked nodding at the other Admirals before approaching him on the doorstep.

“Not yet. They’re still working on a cure.”

Pike nodded nervously. “We have already closed the gates, we can’t risk for the disease to reach the whole city… You’re alright?”

“Yeah, but a friend got it.”

“I understand. We can only hope they-“

“I can help.”

Pike stared intently at him, moving both out the office. “You can?”

“I can try. Better than just wait, doing nothing.”

“You think magic is involved?” he asked lowering his voice.

“I don’t know. I can check. With your permission.”

The Admiral thought for a moment. “Granted, if you promise me to not turn this situation to the worst.” He grabbed his shoulder. “Don’t do anything if you’re not sure what is going on. Are we clear?”

Jim nodded and ran away. First, he reached Nyota’s room and checked the place, hoping to find some clues, anything that could show how she got hit by the virus but found nothing. He then called Gaila while leaving the room. “Gaila, I need you to do something for me.”

“If you’re going to ask me to leave Nyota-“

“No, I need the address of the first two victims of the virus. Think you find it?”

“I… yeah. Give me a sec,” she said before hanging up. Jim was walking back and forth down in the campus until his phone rang again and she gave him the addresses. “Leonard said they have already sent people there, but found nothing.”

“Well, maybe they miss something.” That said, Jim put the phone away and ran straight to the other side of campus to reach the dorm where the victims lived. He found tapes blocking the access to both of the doors but just passed underneath them to enter: the first room was a mess, but nothing looked like the ground zero of an infection; the second was on the floor above, but relatively in order.

Jim looked around, checked under the bed and the desk, but just found an empty bottle on the bedside table. With nothing useful in hand, he took a deep breath and stared out the window, random raindrops hitting the glass. “Alright…” he murmured to himself and locked the door before moving to the center of the room, closing his eyes and focusing his magic on the surroundings, then on the entire campus, hoping to find something, any kind of clue- but, once again, found nothing. His eyes opened, gold shining in the semi-darkness of the room until it faded, turning back to bright blue. “Damn it...”

His phone rang again and he looked down at the message- and ran back to the hospital.

Once there, he found Nyota in another room, laying in bed, oxygen given to her through a mask.

Gaila moved closer to him, eyes watery. “She’s getting worst. The fever hasn’t dropped at all…”

Jim stared at Uhura for a moment, then asked, “Can you leave me with her for a moment?” and Gaila nodded sadly and left, closing the door behind her.

Jim stood next to Nyota and placed a hand over her arm, closing his eyes. When he opened them, they were shining gold again: he saw black streak flowing away through Nyota’s arm into his own, feeling his blood starting to burn into the veins. Groaning in pain, Jim grabbed his own arm until the spell was finished and he fell back on the floor, breathing hard. Checking his arms, he could see his veins shaded of black: passing the virus to himself wasn’t probably the best idea, but he couldn’t just watch Nyota dying.

Slowly standing up, hoping that the magic worked, he had to grasp the bed not to fall again. I should be immune…

Gaila came back then. “Jim? Are you-“

“Uhura, she- she did something different before start feeling sick?” he interrupted, standing straight to look at her.

“I- I don’t know…”

“It’s important, think! Anything that she did or say sounded weird?” he asked again. He may have saved Uhura, but the entire Academy was still in danger.

Gaila blinked, trying to remember something, anything… “She- she came back with dinner yesterday, but I ate the same things and I’m fine…”

“Are you sure she didn’t eat something else? Or- or drink something?”

“No… I drank a beer, but she didn't. She usually fills a bottle outside, at the drinking fountain, when she have late classes-“ Gaila stopped, gasping, “She said the water tasted funny.” They both stared at each other and then said together, “The water?”

“That would explain how so many people got sick so fast,” Jim continued. “Ok, I need to talk with Pike. Don’t drink anything!” he yelled running away. After few steps, his vision got blurry for a moment and he grasped the wall before two hands blocked him by his shoulders.

“What’s wrong?” Leonard asked, “Oh God, don’t tell me-”

“It’s the water. It might be.” Jim said moving away from him. “I need to warn Pike.?”

“Wait- Jim, you’re sick!”

“I’m fine! Don’t-“ he turned to leave but stopped to slap a glass away from the hands of a guy that jumped, scared. “Don’t drink the water!” Jim yelled at him before running away, the poor guy looking in confusion between him and Leonard.

Pike answered to his call almost instantly. “Jim, are you-“

“The water could be the problem. Where’s the central?”

“It’s on the other side of the river, but, Jim, I already sent a squad there and they found nothing.”

Jim stopped, starting to feel dizzy. “But- but it has to be…”

“They called me few moments ago to-”

“Tell them to search better. It’s- the cause of the virus is not human.”

After a moment, Pike asked, “Magic?”

“I got it, so yeah, pretty sure.”

“What? You’re infected?”

“Tell your squad to search better. There has to be something there.”

“Jim, are you sick?”

“I couldn’t let her die... I can heal myself, I just- I need to take it slow for a sec.”

“Jim, go to the hospital. Try to-“

“Tell them to search again!”

“I will. Please, don’t do anything stupid and rest.”

“No promises,” he huffed a laugh, closing the call, his eyes starting to burn. Just then, he noticed few pipes on the side of the hospital, disappearing into the ground. A doubt formed into his mind and he moved to search for the entrance to the hospital’s basement, finding a metal door on the back of the building that was already open- or, to be more precise, the lock was completely melted.

Taking a deep breath, Jim moved into the humid room illuminated only by few bulbs hanging from the ceiling. He walked through the thin corridors until he started to feel magic again. Reaching the main panel, he found a strange, shiny medallion attached to the principal pipe dispensing water into the Academy area. “Starfleet was the target, not the city... just us,” Jim murmured grabbing it and pulling it away: his eyes shined gold staring at the object into his hand that suddenly started to vibrate before destroying itself in a flash of light that sent him crashing on the floor.

The virus circulating into his blood became suddenly terribly painful and he screamed until his magic started to finally heal his body, leaving him out of the breath on the cold floor, trying to not pass out.

After a while, someone crouched next to him. “Are you alright?”

Jim flinched, hoping his magic wasn’t visible anymore, and slowly looked up at a man with the sharpest short haircut he had ever seen- and were those pointy ears? “…’the hell are you?”

The man blinked, face and voice blank. “I should be the one making questions,” he said, but Jim just kept staring, even more confused, so he sighed and added, “I’m Spock, Commander of Starfleet.”

Chapter Text

Helped by Spock, Jim left the basement, finding Pike and few members of Starfleet in front of the hospital. Meeting with them, Spock explained what they discovered, that the cause of the recent, dramatic events was an enchanted medallion hidden beneath the hospital, apparently contaminating the water in the area.

“So it was an attack against us,” Pike commented thoughtfully. “What about the medallion?”

“Destroyed. I presume it was meant to do so in case someone found it,” Spock said, nodding at Kirk, “The cadet is lucky to be still alive.”

Pike watched Jim awkwardly clutching on the Vulcan that was helping him stand. “James Kirk is known to be very lucky, Mister Spock.” He smiled a bit at his young friend that just kept looking down, so he grabbed his shoulder, “And I’m glad that you are.”

“Jim!” Leonard appeared at the entrance of the hospital, quickly reaching them.

“Hey, Bones…” Jim smiled a bit, somehow relieved, slowly leaving Spock just to crash against the other.

“He might need a checkup, Doctor,” Spock said, “Getting in contact with strong magic like that could've left consequences.”

“Thanks for scaring him even more,” Leonard snorted, keeping Jim’s arm around his neck. “What kind of magic are we talking about?”

“We don’t know yet, that’s why-“

“He would already be dead if that was the intent of whoever left the medallion there,” Pike said, moving closer to Jim, “You’re going to be alright?” he asked staring intently at him.

Jim knew what he meant and nodded. “Yeah... Don’t worry.” He said with a tired smile.

Pike patted his back, looking at the doctor. “Keep an eye on him and the other victims of the virus, Doctor. With the medallion destroyed, hopefully this curse will vanish as well.”

Leonard nodded and walked back into the hospital with Jim. “Really, I don’t know what to do with you…”

“You know, lots of people told me that...”

“We’re talking about magic! You could’ve died!”

“But I didn’t.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to risk your life like this every time… There are not free rooms here, let’s go upstairs.”

“Take me to Uhura,” Jim said. “A couch will be fine.”

Leonard sighed but obeyed, knowing how long it would’ve taken to find a room. Once there, he carefully let him sit on the couch in front of the bed where their friend was still sleeping. “Alright, I’m gonna take a sample of your blood and then-“

“Later.”

“Jim, there’s no later for this. Do you understand-“

“I’m better than a lot of people here. Go check the other victims... if the curse has been broken,” he interrupted. “I’ll stay here. Not going anywhere.”

“You better.” Leonard said, his expression softening a bit while placing a hand over his forehead, checking for fever, but there was none. “I’ll be back in a minute. If I don’t see you getting better, you’ll let me do my job. Are we clear?”

Jim nodded, watching him leaving the room. He then looked at Uhura before closing his eyes, feeling his magic helping him healing. Slowly the pain lessened, and he fell asleep.

 

Waking up, his eyes rested on Uhura again, still asleep, but the oxygen mask on her face was gone. He then looked aside, realizing he was leaning against Leonard sitting next to him, and Gaila on the chair close by, both also asleep, the doctor with his arms crossed.

Jim took a deep breath before slowly straightening his back, feeling better now that the virus wasn’t in his body anymore. He stood up trying not to wake his friend, moving next to the bed. Uhura opened her eyes just then, looking up at him. “Hello,” he whispered, relieved.

“You deserve more than a hello…” she murmured returning the smile.

“I do?”

“Leonard and Gaila told me what happened while I was asleep… What you did.”

“Ah, well... It was nothing.”

“You saved us,” Uhura said, turning a hand so he could grab it. “Thank you for taking me here… and for not leaving Gaila alone. She would’ve gone crazy.”

“She handled the situation pretty well.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. She’s a good friend,” Jim nodded, sending a quick glare at the other girl.

“Just as you and Leonard.”

Jim felt her squeezing his hand, knowing she has been probably more scared that she would have ever admitted. “I’m glad you’re feeling better. Just in the time for the next exam.”

Uhura smiled, then her eyes softened looking behind him. “Talking about people dealing well with chaos…”

Jim turned around, blinking in surprise at the man standing on the doorstep. “Spock? What you’re doing here?”

“I could ask you the same thing.” He stated.

“He’s a friend,” Uhura said, trying to sit up with Jim’s help.

“I see,” Spock nodded. Once they both turned to look at him again, he continued, “I would like to have a word with Uhura, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure…?” Jim said, hesitantly looking back at her that nodded, so he moved away, sitting back on the couch hard enough to startle Leonard awake. “What’s this about?” Jim whispered studying the two.

Trying to connect to the reality, Leonard looked around for a second before noticing Spock and Uhura were holding hands. “What, you’re blind or something?”

“Don’t tell me they…?”

“We should leave.”

“You knew?”

“Come on…” he said dragging him away.

“And you didn’t tell me?” Jim kept asking, earning a grin from Uhura before giving the couple their privacy. “Why we should leave? Gaila is still in there.”

“She wasn’t flirting with Nyota.”

“I wasn’t either.”

“Good for you. Sit down.” Leonard snorted pushing him down on a chair, moving to a coffee machine.

“I can’t believe those two are together…”

“Why not?”

“That guy is so… uptight.”

Leonard sat down next to him with a groan and a coffee. “I guess she likes that.”

Jim hummed something, still skeptical.

“Who are you to judge, anyway?”

“I’m not judging. I’m surprised.”

“Right...” Leonard said, noticing his nervous glare. “How you’re feeling, anyway?”

“I'm fine. What about the other? The spell is gone?”

“Seems like it,” he nodded. “Suddenly fever started decreasing in all the people infected. They all seem to get better. Even the samples of water we collected are perfectly normal now.”

“Everything’s fine, see?”

“However, you risked a lot going down there alone and messing with magic.”

“But I saved all these people and I’m still alive, so it’s still a win,” Jim said, watching him staring in silence before looking down at the coffee.

“Kirk.”

They both looked up, Spock suddenly appearing in front of them.

“I would like to thank you for helping Uhura. I had duties to accomplish during the emergency, so I appreciate the help you and Doctor McCoy provided her.” He said nodding at the other as well.

“Just doing my job.” Leonard said.

“Hey, no problem. She’s a friend. We’re glad she’s getting better.” Jim nodded.

“So am I...” The Vulcan said staring intently at him until the blonde started to feel uncomfortable. Then, the Vulcan bowed his head in goodbye and walked away.

They both watched him disappearing down the corridor until Leonard commented with a blank, “Hella uptight.”

“I told you!”

.-.-.-.-.

Despite everything that happened since the first day of the Academy’s year, at the beginning of the last week of November, the exams were finally over, and the Christmas’s holidays officially started.

Jim was thinking about it while sipping coffee in the little living room of the hospital, waiting for Leonard to join him. Never thought I would have seen so much magic inside Starfleet in a few months, he thought watching out the window. A book suddenly slammed on the little table almost made him splash the coffee everywhere.

“I hate this job,” Leonard growled sitting down with a murderous look on his face.

“You almost gave me a heart attack!”

“You better not, I’m not in the mood to save your ass right now.”

“Let me guess: Sophia again?” Jim grinned at him.

“I just- why it keeps happening that if I’m wrong about something, she’s always there ready to point out my mistake and solve it?”

Jim blinked, unsure. “Isn’t that, you know, a good thing?” he tried, getting a cold glare in response. “I mean that you’re human and you can make mistake…”

“I’ve never made mistakes like these. And it’s always during cases we’re both into. It’s like I can’t think straight if she’s around.” He snarled, then saw the other staring, unimpressed, “What? You think maybe I’m sick or something? Some of that virus might be still around…”

“Everyone recovered from the contamination and you know it,” Jim said, still feeling lucky about having found and destroyed that medallion. He never tried to break a curse bare hand before, but in the end, it worked.

“Maybe it’s just her attitude. She have this terrible ability to distract me...”

“Bones, listen…”

“And don’t say it’s my fault, alright? I haven’t done any favors to anyone here.”

“Do you realize you just listed few of the symptoms of a disease called falling in love with someone?”

Leonard flashed him with a horrified look. “What? In love?”

“Yes. With Sophia.”

“With Soph- are you drunk?”

“Bones, you’ve talked about this girl for weeks. It’s clear that you’re interested in her.”

“I don’t think you understand the definition of hate.”

“Or maybe you don’t understand the definition of love.” Jim snorted, realizing too late what he just said, as the doctor looked away in silence. “Sorry. Sorry, that was stupid to say…”

“It’s ok. Maybe you’re right.”

“I’m not. Look, what I mean is that if you’re interested in her, there’s nothing wrong with that.” Jim said carefully, and he looked up.

“What’s your point, exactly?”

“Well, you know…” he said poking him with an elbow, but the other kept staring, so he sighed, resigned. "And you’re both doctors. I’m sure you already have a lot to talk about. Who knows, maybe she’s not just a crazy woman that enjoy humiliating you for- OUCH!” Jim yelped when he kicked him under the table.

“Sorry guys, I’m interrupting something?” Sophia herself asked from the doorway, her long, blond hair collected in a braid long enough to fall over her chest. She wasn’t very tall; looking probably younger than her actual age.

Jim saw her a few times already in the last weeks, a beautiful woman for sure, but never had the chance to know her personally, aside from Leonard’s rants about how smart and bossy she could be.

“Not at all. You need something?” Leonard said.

“I want your opinion about a case if you don’t mind?” she said with a little smile.

“Ah- sure. No problem.” He nodded standing, patting Jim’s shoulder, “See you later?”

“We have guests for dinner. Don’t be late.” Jim nodded watching them leaving, wondering how his friend could be so blind.

 

“Are you saying he hasn’t invited her out yet?” Uhura asked leaving the dinner’s boxes on Leonard’s desk.

“Maybe he will, now that I pointed out the situation,” Jim said investigating the food. They had planned to eat together that evening, in the boy’s room.

“Well, a coffee together won’t kill him,” she said, then asked, “You think they could make a good couple?”

Jim felt the strange impulse to say no. “I don’t know… I don’t know much about her.”

“Me either. I just know that she arrived here last spring.”

He nodded slowly, studying her for a moment before smiling, surprised. “You don’t like her?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“But you don’t like her.”

“I don’t know her. Maybe she’s sweeter than she looks. Just like Leonard.”

“Maybe,” Jim huffed a little laugh, sitting on his friend’s bed, watching Uhura placing out the rest of the dinner: she recovered well from the virus- faster than the others, thanks to Jim. If something good came out of that mess, was that it consolidated their friendship.

“I’m going to call Gaila. She can’t be late every time…” Uhura sighed grabbing her phone.

“Your boyfriend won’t join us?”

“No… he’s still busy testing that simulation.”

“He’s planning to make it harder than it should be, isn’t it?”

“Even more than that,” Uhura said walking out the room.

Jim also had the chance to talk few times with Spock lately, discovering that he has been recently promoted as Starfleet Commander, after being a perfect student and a valid connection with his planet, Vulcan. If that wasn’t enough, at the moment he was working on the Academy’s simulations to make the lives of the future students a pure hell in order to find the right people for the future space missions- in which the Vulcan was already in, of course. In short, Spock was quite the genius there, and his cold, stoic attitude wasn’t helping Jim finding him friendly at all, even if Uhura said all the Vulcans were like that. They just don’t show their emotions.

Partly because of him, for the first time Jim admitted to himself he wanted to be part of that space missions as well. Day by day, he more often found himself staring at the sky, dreaming of flying there with his own ship… as a Captain. Maybe it really was his destiny… If he would have survived those three years, of course.

He looked at the door when Uhura came back with a strange expression on her face. “She still has to get dressed, doesn't she?”

“No, Gaila is coming. I tried to call Leonard too, but he hung up the phone on me. He’s probably stuck at the hospital.”

“At the hospital with someone, you mean?”

She smiled patiently, putting the phone away. “I’ll try to call him later.”

“Hey, if he doesn’t come back, there’s more food for us,” Jim said, trying to cheer her up.

Gaila arrived ten minutes later and after other ten and no calls from Leonard, they started to eat. The dinner was good, and they spent the time talking about the exams and their plans for the Christmas’s vacation. It was midnight when the dorm started to be very quiet and the stress from the months of intense studying started to kick in for all the three of them.

“We should do this again,” Gaila said when the girls were about to leave, standing in the doorway of the dorm, talking to Jim behind her, “Maybe just the two of us.” She added.

“Uh… sure.” Jim said with an uncertain smile, and she kissed his cheek before walking outside. Jim smirked at himself and turned around, finding Uhura descending the stairs with a worried expression. “What?”

She looked at him and sighed, dropping her shoulders. “I call Leonard again, but… I think it wasn’t a good time.”

“Oh, he’s not very cute when in a bad mood. What did he say?”

Uhura thought for a second, then said, “A few days ago he asked me to help him with the Christmas’s present for his daughter. I wanted to tell him we can go look for it tomorrow, but he answered saying that it wasn’t that important and that he would’ve found something by himself.”

“Wow. Rudest than usual. I’ll talk to him when he comes back.”

“No, it’s ok. I’m sure it was just a bad time. He was very worried about what to buy for her when we first talked… He cares about his daughter more than anything,” she said. “Tell him to call me if he needs my help, ok?”

“Yeah… don’t worry, I’ll make sure he apologize to you. He was probably just mad about Sophia again.”

Uhura smiled a bit and nodded. “Goodnight, Jim.”

He watched the girls leaving, then walked back to his room and grabbed his phone to write a message to their friend: Uhura said to call her if you still want her help for the gift. You owe her an apology. And because we’re good persons, we left some food for you, it’s on your desk.

Jim didn’t want to sound like a disappointed mother, but it was so weird… He never saw Leonard being rude to Uhura before, not in person nor via phone. Checking the message twice, he then sent it and hoped for the best.

 

No answer came from Leonard the morning after, nor for the rest of the day. Jim noticed that his bed was still intact so in the late evening he decided to drop by at the hospital once again.

He never acted like this, Jim thought, wondering what could’ve happened. Maybe an emergency? Another virus? Or his friend simply lost his mind because of the stress?

Something close to an explanation arrived when Jim reached the familiar floor where they usually met, noticing Sophia writing at the desk… Leonard arrived after a moment and they talking to each other for a moment before she smiled and kissed him.

Jim was so surprised he almost tripped against an empty bed placed against the wall. Holding on it, he saw Sophia leaving, while Leonard stood there, watching her with a little smile on his face. Jim moved closer, following his gaze, then looked at him. “Bones, what the hell?” he snarled.

“Hey. Why you’re here?” He said, not even surprised to see him.

“Why? You disappeared from yesterday. I thought something happened. I mean, something clearly happened…” Jim said, gesturing at Sophia.

Leonard sighed, still a little smile on his lips. Looking back at him, still waiting for an explanation, he added, “What can I say? You were right. She’s my type. We talked a lot lately… She’s just amazing.”

Jim felt like he missed something. “I thought you hated her.”

“What? No, I- I just needed to know her better.”

“Define know her better,” he snorted, getting a cold glare. “Sorry, but I'm kind of confused. Yesterday you couldn’t stand her and now you ignore all of us because of her?”

“Never heard about love at first sight?”

“I do, but you always said you don't believe it.”

Leonard took a deep breath, “I was wrong. I like Sophia. I’m in love with her, so whatever you think, I don’t care.”

Jim was so taken aback- and also hurt- he watched him walk away without knowing what to say for a moment. “Bones- come on, I- I’m just surprised.” He managed to say while walking behind him. “I didn’t know you were able to fall in love so quickly, with all that grumpiness of yours…” he continued, trying to be ironic, but clearly that didn’t work because the doctor stopped and grabbed him by the collar of his jacket, pushing him against the wall.

“But I did, so what? You have a problem with that?” Leonard hissed angrily, while few people turned to look at them.

“N- no. I was just worried… me and Uhura both, we-“

“You think I care about what you think? I’m fine. I’m happy with Sophia, so do me a favor and tell Nyota to stay away. And the same goes for you.” That said, Leonard harshly let him go and walked away.

Jim stayed with his back against the wall, watching the other disappearing down the corridor, a surprised and worried expression on his face, because he just saw gold shining into Leonard’s eyes: that was magic.

 

What the hell is going on? Jim kept asking himself, staying hidden in the lobby in front of the elevators, eyes glued on the hospital’s corridor, waiting to see Leonard pass by to leave… because he should’ve left at some point.

Maybe I’m wrong... I must be wrong. I just imagined things, he thought, If Leonard has magic, I would know… I would know. Jim was sure about that, but… What if Leonard was good at keeping magic under control as much as he was? What if he was scared, so he learned to hide it too?

“This is crazy…” Jim murmured to himself, wondering if he really missed something so important. He refused to warn Pike, he needed to be sure about this, but- if he was right, what he was going to do next? Just go and ask Leonard if he was a sorcerer?

Jim shook his head. Something’s not right, he thought before crouching behind the coffee machine when he saw his friend coming his way, using the elevator. Once the metal door closed, Jim moved out his hiding spot and checked the floor where he stopped: the first floor.

Running down the stairs, he followed him outside and then behind the hospital, watching him walking through the camp, apparently in a specific direction that was not the dorm. Keeping his distance, Jim followed him trying to hide in the darkness of the night, until he disappeared inside a little lecture hall. Jim carefully approaching the building, worried despite everything: if Leonard really has magic, clearly he suddenly wanted to use it for some reason… and Jim knew by now that that reason rarely was a good one.

The little lobby at the entrance was silent as the rest of the place, a weak light coming out the main room, the door left ajar.

Jim peeked inside and the last thing he was expecting to see was a guard sprawled on the floor, apparently unconscious, and Sophia hugging Leonard. What the….?

“I’m so happy you’re here,” Sophia said moving back enough to look up at the man. “You’re doing such a good job. I knew I could count on you.”

“Always,” Leonard said.

Jim couldn’t see his friend’s face, but Sophia was smiling, caressing his face with a hand, until her grin became cold, as she was watching a poor little thing.

“Now let me check few things, then we can go,” she continued and when her eyes flashed gold, Leonard’s head dropped down, as if he instantly fell asleep.

Suddenly Jim realized what was happening, and he never felt so angry as at that moment.

“Once we’re done here, we'll finally leave this place,” Sophia said looking into a bag placed on the large table behind her. “I wasn’t planning to have company, but since you’re so nice, I think-“

“Can I join too?”

She quickly turned around, watching Jim moving next to the doctor. “What-? What are you doing here?”

“Bones?” Jim grabbed his arm, but the other didn’t move, eyes closed, sleeping on his feet. He then looked at her, “What have you done to him?”

“I- I don’t know. I found him like this. I was going to-“

“You used magic on him.” Jim interrupted, “I saw you.”

“N- no. No, I didn’t, we were just-“

“Tell me the truth.”

“The guard attacked us, he-“

“I said, tell me the truth.” Jim repeated, and his eyes flashed gold.

Sophia frowned, surprised. “You… you have magic?”

“You put a spell on him, don’t you? And you attacked the guard as well?”

She swallowed and looked at the man laying on the floor. “He’s just asleep. They both are.”

“Then wake them up.”

“I can’t.”

“You did the spell, you can remove it.”

“I’m not taking orders from you,” Sophia said grabbing something from the bag and pronouncing few words in the ancient language.

Jim stepped in front of his friend and his magic acted by instinct as always: with a flash of gold of his eyes, a barrier protected them from the sudden energy that attacked them.

Sophia was keeping a shining sphere into her hand, a shocked expression on her face.

“I won’t ask you nicely again,” Jim said while the barrier disappeared. “Remove the spell and then-“

“And then you can hand me to Starfleet? No way. Leonard, take care of him!”

“Leave him out of this!” Jim yelled back but a hand grabbed his neck from behind and then he was thrown away, rolling between the chairs. With a groan, he tried to stand, watching Leonard approaching, his eyes still closed. “Damn it, Bones…”

“I’m really surprised how well you’re hiding in the Academy,” Sophia said watching them, staying few steps behind the doctor. “Not even your friend knows about you, isn’t it?”

“He have nothing to do with this. Just let him go!”

“Sorry. You should have mind your own business. I can’t lose my chance,” she said looking at the sphere in her hand. “I can’t disappoint him.”

“Bones, wake up!” Jim said stepping back from Leonard that kept getting closer. “Magic doesn’t exist to be used like this!” he then said at the witch.

“Oh, right. We should all stay hidden and live in dark holes, away from the rest of the world, right?”

“If we use it to hurt and control people, how can we be trusted?” Jim shot back.

Sophia’s eyes betrayed pure anger at those words. “You want their trust so bad?” she asked, raising the sphere in her hand, “Then let’s show Leonard what you really are and see if he will still trust you.”

Jim tripped on a chair and fell back, noticing the sphere shining again. Leonard stopped and slowly start to open his eyes on the floor- and suddenly Jim was afraid: he was fighting a witch, his magic was on full alert, his eyes were still gold… and Leonard was right there in front of him, he would’ve seen- he would’ve discovered the truth- and he was going to hate him like everybody else.

Leonard blinked again, and when he started to look up, Jim’s magic took the decision for him and the doctor suddenly fell asleep again, this time crashing down, with Jim ready to catch him.

Sophia sighed, shaking her head. “And so you did the exact, same thing. It’s so easy to control them, isn’t it?” she said before her sphere exploded into pieces, making her yell in fear, jumping back.

“You think I wanted to do this?” Jim said, furious. Hating himself for using his magic on Leonard, he tried to let him lay on the floor as gently as he could before approaching the witch.

“The choice was yours,” Sophia said grabbing her wounded hand with the other. “If you care so much, you should be honest with him.”

“You’re talking about honesty? You used a spell to make him fall in love with you!”

“Who knows? Maybe he was really falling for me.”

The moment Jim saw that hateful grin on her face, a quick glance at the guard still laying few steps behind her was enough for his magic to free the gun from his belt and made it fly right in front of the woman's face. “You better start say the truth. Now.”

Sophia stepped back, staring at the gun, then at him, “I can’t.”

“You think I’m joking?” Jim said moving closer to her, the gun levitating between them.

“I’m going to die anyway, so what’s the point? At least I won’t betray my people.”

“They sent you here? Why?” he asked, but she just shook her head. “Why you needed Leonard?!”

“It looked like an easy target to play with,” she sneered and yelped, protecting her head in fear when a shot echoed in the room, until she realized being still alive: the gun fired in front of her feet.

Jim never felt so angry in so, so long… but if there was something more behind her actions, he needed to control his magic. “I don’t want to betray my people either,” he said, “but you put my friend’s life in danger, and that’s something I wouldn’t forgive anyone for, witch or not.”

Sophia lowered her arms, and her eyes betrayed uncertainty- and sadness.

“You were trying to attack Starfleet?” Jim asked and she shook her head. “Then why risk so much just for- for nothing?”

“I was ordered to get information.”

“Ordered? Someone forced you?”

Sophia shook her head. “He asked me to help. I couldn’t say no.”

Jim took a deep breath. “He? Who asked you for those information?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“If he’s forcing you to do this-“

“He didn’t. I accepted.”

“You’re risking your life-!”

“Because he saved me,” she shot back, voice cold and fierce. “He saved so many of us, and just asked us to answer to his call in return, when the time would come.”

Jim frowned. “It’s the same person that’s using those marks to control magic?” he asked and saw her looking away. “He’s not helping! People died because of those marks, he-“

“I won’t betray him.” She interrupted, stepping closer to the gun aiming at her head. “And you better kill me now, because I won’t surrender to Starfleet without fighting.”

Jim knew he was so close to the truth, but Sophia wasn’t going to tell anything else. He could already sense the magic rising again in the room… and Leonard was still there. After a tense moment, the gun lowered a bit. “You owe me your life as well, now,” he said angrily. "I swear, if I see you around here again, I’ll finish the job. And tell your friend that if he needs something from Starfleet, he should come and get it himself.”

Sophia blinked, surprised, but eventually swallowed and nodded, moving aside before running away from the room.

Once she was gone, the gun dropped on the floor. Jim breathed out both, tension and frustration, his eyes slowly turning back to blue. He then ran back to check on Leonard, kneeling next to him, feeling guilty like never before. “Bones, I’m so sorry,” he murmured sadly. “I didn’t know what else to do…” he added placing a hand over Leonard’s hair, watching him sleeping peacefully, hoping he would still feel the same once awake.

.-.-.

Pike wasn’t that worried when, the morning after, the secretary told him that James Kirk was waiting for him in his office, because he warned her to let him come in every time he needed to talk with him, but a better look at the young man sitting in the room was enough to know that something happened.

Once the door was closed, Jim started to explain everything, about Sophia and how she used Leonard to get some kind of information; about their fight in the conference room and that he let her go.

Pike sat down and listened without interrupting until he stopped, his guilty look glued down on the desk between them. “Jim…”

“I know I shouldn’t have let her go,” he started again, “I should’ve stop her somehow, but she said she was going to fight back and I didn’t know what she was going to do. And Leonard was there, I couldn’t risk getting him hurt.”

“Jim, I’m not angry at you,” Pike said calmly.

“But what if she comes back with more people? What if she got the information she wanted before I found her?”

“We’ll fight them, as always. Jim, you saved two lives tonight, all by yourself. I’m actually surprised you didn’t started a war- and we both know you could have.”

“But she was the connection we needed to find the creator of those marks…”

“We’ll find another lead. We are searching for it since the first accident. You did the right thing keeping the Academy out of danger.”

“I should’ve noticed sooner.”

“Well, the thousands of soldiers we spread in all the Academy area could say the same.” The Admiral commented, standing and moving next to him, noticing his expression was still ashamed. “You think McCoy or someone else saw you using magic?”

Jim shook his head, “No. I don’t think so.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

After a moment, he looked even more guilty. “I’ve used my magic on him.”

Pike looked surprised just for a second. “How?”

“To keep him asleep. When Sophia broke the spell on him, he was waking up, right in front of me, and he- he would have seen me. My magic. So I- I used it to let him sleep. I know it’s wrong, and that I shouldn’t have done it, but I… I panicked.” He almost flinched when Pike put a hand over his shoulder, smiling sadly. “He hates magic. I can’t- I don’t want him to hate me too.”

“You didn’t try to hurt him, right?”

“No... What? No, of course not, I just-“

“Then, as I already said, you did the right thing. Discovering the truth in such a moment could’ve been dangerous for him, and also for you.”

“But I have no right to use magic on people like that.”

“Not even if it’s necessary to save someone? Because that’s what you did. You saved him.”

Jim sadly shook his head, “I betrayed him. I’m betraying him every day, since we first met…”

“You think he wouldn’t accept you knowing who you really are?” Pike asked, but the other didn’t answer. “Jim, I can’t force you not to tell him the truth, it’s your decision, but I think you could do more good waiting for the right moment to show your true self.”

“And when that’s going to happen?” he asked, looking up at him. “For how long I have to keep lying to my friends?”

“I don’t know yet,” he said, “but preventing attacks like the one of tonight will help grow back trust in magic.”

“How, if no one knows what I’m doing? So far everyone just saw the evil and not the good side of magic!”

“Magic cost us a war that killed hundreds of people, on both sides. A fear so deep can’t be defeated so easily, Jim. It’ll take time, but they’ll see the good on magic too.”

“Then what am I supposed to do? Why I’m here if I can’t change anything?” Jim shot back.

“We’ll figured it out a way to change this situation, I promised you,” Pike said. “But I also promised you the opportunity to change your life, and you’re already doing that, despite your fear to do so. People will do the same about magic, but they’ll need time.”

Jim took a deep breath but kept his eyes down, saying nothing.

 

Later that morning, Jim and Pike left the HQ to go join a meeting where few agents wanted to know from Jim what happened that night. Not surprisingly, Spock was attending as well.

Jim discovered from him that they managed to keep the incident strictly private in order to not alarm the students once again; the guard that Sophia attacked was uninjured, but couldn’t remember anything about what happened after being hit during his routine check in the auditorium. When his turn came, Jim cut short saying that he was searching for his friend and saw him entering there, finding Sophia using magic on him; she attacked them both before disappearing.

Spock didn’t move his glare from him all the time.

When he asked about Leonard, they said that he was still at the hospital; they already interrogated him, but the doctor seemed not able to remember anything from the previous day until the moment he woke up in a hospital bed.

After the meeting, Jim tried to go see his friend, he really tried, but meeting Nyota along the way, he stopped and talk to her, explaining what happened and that Leonard was safe now.

It felt so wrong talking about him like nothing happened, that Jim felt the need to go hide in his room, hoping to sleep until the end of the world.

 

The end didn’t come, but the morning after Jim woke up at the sound of water running and, opening his eyes, saw the door of Leonard’s bathroom open, the light inside on, while outside the dawn was covered by dark clouds, leaving the rest of the room in a semidarkness. “Hey?” he called, unsure.

“Hey. Sorry, I wake you up.” Leonard himself answered.

Jim’s heart skipped a beat, fear and worry suddenly overwhelming him. “I- I thought you would've stayed at the hospital.” He said sitting up, unsure of what to do.

“They gave me few days off.”

“Really?”

“Let’s say I asked for them.”

Really?” This time Jim was honestly surprised, standing up in sweatpants and an old t-shirt.

“Yeah. I just needed some time away from there.”

Jim took a deep breath, standing few feet away from the bathroom’s doorway. He knew his friend was on the right, just on the other side of the wall. “H-how you're feeling? I couldn’t come to see you yesterday…”

“Better that way. Quoting the nurses, I was ready to kill anyone getting close to my bed.”

“Well, you- you lost a whole day. It’s understandable.”

“I didn’t. I just didn’t wanted Spock to interrogate me any further.”

Jim’s heart skipped another beat. “Wait, you mean…?”

“I lied to a Starfleet Commander, yes.” He said, more water running in the sink. “I just wanted to be left alone.”

“So you… You remember what happened?”

“You mean if I remember that a witch used magic to make me fall in love with her? Not completely, but I know that’s what happened.”

Jim heard a controlled, cold rage in his voice. “Well, she’s gone now...”

“Not dead, though.”

Jim felt those words hitting him like a knife in the chest. He sat on his friend’s bed, staring at the floor in silence, the light from the bathroom creating a line on his right.

“She should’ve paid for what she did,” Leonard continued, “sadly, magic is still one step ahead of us. Magically teleporting people away and all that shit…”

“Yeah… but I doubt we’ll see her again.” I hope so. I don’t know what I’m going to do if she…

“Jim…”

He jumped when the voice was suddenly closer. Turning, he found the man in the doorway, already dressed, with a towel in hand… and something made him completely forget about his worry for a moment. “You cut your beard?” Jim smiled, staring at him like he never saw the man’s face before.

Leonard sighed, “Yes, I’m a man. I usually shave.”

“You never shaved until now.”

“I didn’t know witches like beard until now.”

Jim’s smile lessened a bit at that, but tried to keep up the morale. “You look better without it.”

“Yeah?”

“And younger.”

“Thanks, grandma,” Leonard snorted, throwing the towel somewhere in the bathroom. “Look, I… I don’t remember clearly what happened after last time we saw each other, but I think I have to apologize to you… You came looking for me when- when I wasn't kind of myself, did you?”

“Yeah, but don’t worry. I’m used to your grumpiness,” he trying to be ironic, but his smile didn’t even feel right.

“I’m serious. You knew something was wrong.”

“Actually, Nyota noticed first. She said it was weird for you not caring about your daughter’s birthday.”

“She knows me well,” he sighed. “I can’t remember how Sophia controlled me, or why, but… I think I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t do anything. And I remember that felt horrible- and infuriating.”

Jim’s heart hurt at that, but he forced himself to nod. “I’m glad you’re yourself again.”

“And I’m glad you’re not injured this time. It’s so hard to remember to call for help before facing magic?”

“In my defense, I didn't know magic was involved this time.” Jim smiled ironically.

Leonard took a deep breath, his shoulders dropping a bit. “Anyway, thanks for keeping an eye on me.”

Jim just nodded, watching the other moving back inside the bathroom. He has been called monster few times in the past, but he never felt like one until that moment.

Chapter Text

“Bones, come on, wake up!”

“Huh…?”

“You have to see this. You were right, after all.”

“I usually am…” Leonard turned under the blanket and watched Jim, already dressed up, moving in the dark room to open the window. “What time is it?”

“Snowtime!”

Before the doctor could understand the words, the curtain was suddenly open and pure white light invaded the room as if the sun itself was crashing down on Earth, making him roll the other way with a pained groan.

“I thought we would’ve got only rain for Christmas,” Jim said breathing the cold air, watching the campus covered in white, the blue sky crossed by just a few clouds. “You think it will snow again? Bones?”

“Close that thing, dammit!” he yelled through the pillow.

“That’s what you get for waking me up one hour earlier every morning.” Jim grinned, taking some snow from outside the window and throwing it at him right on the head, watching the doctor slowly turning to him with a murderous glare.

Just then, someone knocked at the door. “Guys, you’re awake?” Uhura asked, hearing just muffled sounds in return, so she slowly entered, sighing patiently watching the doctor trying to strangle the other outside the window. “If you kids are done… Jim, Captain Pike told me to give you this.”

“What is it?” he asked with the few oxygens in his lungs, trying to see behind the doctor.

“A letter,” she said moving closer and handed it to him. “So I presume you two are going to stay here for Christmas?”

“Probably,” Leonard said smashing more snow into his friend’s face before moving to the bathroom.

“He means yes,” Jim grinning, coughing and trying to clean his face. “What about you? You’re leaving?”

Uhura nodded. “In few hours. My family is trying to reunite all the family this year.”

“Sounds… fun.”

“Sounds like a nightmare.” She sighed, both laughing. “You’re going to stay here with Leonard?”

“Yeah, if he doesn’t kill me first.”

Uhura nodded. “Well, I’m going to the airport in a bit, so… Merry Christmas,” she said and moved to kiss him on the cheek, “See you guys next year.”

“Don’t drink too much,” Leonard said appearing on the bathroom’s doorway.

“That’s my line.” Nyota laughed kissing his cheek as well, then smiled at them one last time before leaving.

Leonard then turned to his roommate. “Are you really going to stay here?” he asked moving back to the sink.

“How could I leave you all alone? It’s Christmas, everyone needs some love…” Jim said while opening the letter.

“I think I’m done with love for a while…” Leonard snorted drying his face, “but we could find you someone…” he said walking back into the room, finding Jim sitting on his bed, reading the message with a dark expression. “Bad news?”

Jim’s mouth was a tight line; he then looked briefly at him, “Uhm, kind of. It’s a letter from my brother.”

“You have a brother?” Leonard said, surprised.

“I do… I told you about it.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“You probably weren’t listening.”

“Of course… So, what did he say?” Leonard asked, watching that dark expression appearing again. “Family reunion for you as well?”

Jim tried to say something, but then just sighed, dropping his shoulders.

“Hey, it’s ok. It’s family. You should go.” He said, but the other just kept staring down at the letter in his hands. “You don’t want to?”

Jim didn’t answer, then nodded even so slightly, putting the letter inside his jacket. “Yeah, I- probably I should go. Sorry. I wasn’t expecting this. We rarely see each other at all.”

“Well, it’s Christmas. Everyone needs some love, right?” he said sarcastically, but Jim didn’t seem to hear it. That expression was the typical expression of someone that doesn’t want to do something but can’t avoid it… And he didn’t like to see it on his friend’s face. “Jim, you ok?” he asked stepping closer, but the other stood at the same time.

“Yeah. Sure, I just- I need to organize the trip... See if I can still find a flight. See you later.” He said, leaving the room.

Leonard followed him with a worried glare, wondering what his friend wasn’t telling him.

 

Hi James. I came back home a few weeks ago. I didn’t know that you left and moved to San Francisco, to join Starfleet, of all the things. I don’t want to talk about it like this, and I know it might be somehow unexpected, so you think you can try to come back to Riverside before Christmas? Just for a few days. I’ll stay here until the end of the year.
George

Jim read the letter once again while sitting in the plaza in front of the Starfleet HQ, enjoying the cold wind that felt like a shield from the rest of the world.

Last time he saw his brother, it was around five years before… and it didn’t end well. He tried to act normally, to show he was a man now, but looking at George, all Jim could think about was how his big brother abandoned him, leaving him alone in the hell that was living with Frank.

“You have your magic to protect you, Jim. You know the rules. Frank won’t bother you. Just… ignore him.” That was George solution at the time: he couldn’t stand their uncle anymore, so he left, sure that his little brother would’ve been able to stand for himself. He had no idea that it took Jim years to control his emotions- his magic, in order not to hurt Frank in a flash of anger and frustration, and how many nights he spent outside, in their little treehouse, hoping for his powers to calm down and for his brother to come back.

Jim stayed there because it was their mother’s wish, to keep it as their home while she was away. After her death, Jim packed up his things and moved out. Not too far, but enough not to hear Frank’s voice anymore. Somehow, still feeling that hell-hole of a place as home.

Jim stopped hoping for George to come back to Riverside, but he knew what reason might have finally convinced him: his little brother, a sorcerer, suddenly deciding to join Starfleet.

Jim didn’t bother to warn anyone when he left, so maybe George talked with Pike. The Captain knew them both, after all. Who knows if he tried to bring George into Starfleet as well…

Putting the letter away, he stared at the river partly frozen. I don’t want to go, Jim thought, but, in the end, we stood and headed to Pike’s office.

The Captain met him in the cafeteria, trying to get him warm with some hot tea.

“Tea? Really?” Jim sighed, taking it anyway.

“I think you’re spending too much time with doctor McCoy and his coffee addiction,” he said, sitting in front of him. They both smiled a bit, but he saw the young man wasn’t really feeling it. “It’s about your brother?”

Jim nodded slowly. “You told him about me?”

“Yes. Actually, I was surprised that he kept my number,” he said. “I shouldn’t have told him?”

Jim sighed, shaking his head. “It’s fine… He asked me to go back home, so we can talk. ‘Guess he heard his little brother joined Starfleet and want to be sure I won’t kill anyone.”

“He shouldn’t be worried about that. I’m not.” Pike said, but the other just kept quiet. “Look, I know you miss him, but if-“

“I stopped missing him years ago.”

Pike sighed. “If you don’t want to go, no one can force you. He could come here.”

Jim looked curiously at him, “Did you asked him to join the ‘Fleet too?”

The Captain huffed a laugh. “He refused to have anything to do with it. I managed to call him few times, but I never met him personally since- since the Kelvin’s accident. Maybe I should have.”

“Don’t. Just don’t,” Jim said tiredly, shaking his head. “We weren’t your problem. I wasn’t your problem.”

“Oh, you’re still a pain in the ass,” he snorted, a patience smile on his lips, “but I’m glad I didn’t give up on you.”

Jim forced himself not to think about how his life could’ve been if Pike and his parents would’ve been more close... if he would’ve come to see the two Kirk brothers more often, because it was a thought that would’ve made him hate the man. “I’ll leave tomorrow, early morning,” he said.

“Are you sure about this?”

“Yeah… Maybe it’ll be just a goodbye- or maybe he will try to make me leave the Academy, I don’t know… What I know is that I don’t give a shit about what he thinks.” He looked up at him, “This is my life, now. I’m not gonna give up on the ‘Fleet yet.”

Pike smiled a bit. “That’s what I hoped to hear."

 

That evening, when Jim came back to the dorm, the room was empty. With a sigh, he fetched the documents he needed and placed everything together with the flight ticket for tomorrow before starting to collect few clothes and other stuff into a bag. Once everything was set and ready, he sat on his bed, staring at Leonard’s for a second before grabbing his phone.

“Do you have a sixth sense about coffee breaks or something?” The doctor answered after three rings.

“I do?”

“I just sat down with my coffee. Do I have to wait for you?”

Jim suddenly wanted to cry. “Uh… no, sorry, not today. You’re staying there for the night?”

“Yeah. Last night, then I’m done with this place until next year.”

“’Guess I’ll say Merry Christmas now, then.”

“Uh? Why? Oh, you’re- you’re leaving already?”

“Yeah, in- about six hours.” He said checking the clock on the desk.

“Well, that was fast.”

“There are no other flights until next week, so…” Jim let the sentence die there, but the other didn’t say anything. “Sorry if I have to leave you alone for Christmas.”

“What am I, five? I’m more worried about you.”

“Are you saying I am five?” he snorted.

“Sometimes.” The other commented, then said more seriously, “You’re gonna be alright with your family reunion?”

Jim looked down, resisting the urge to scream that he didn’t want to go.

“Jim?”

“Sorry, I’m here. Yeah, I’ll be fine,” he said. “I never left home for so long, it’s just weird going back now. To meet my brother, of all the reasons that could bring me back there.”

“You… You two don't get along?”

“I really don’t know,” Jim said after a moment, voice low. None of them talked for a while, but he could hear noises and voices from the hospital’s corridors. He took a deep breath, “I’m ruining the Christmas mood, now. I'll try to come back soon as a can.”

“Jim, if you… I mean…”

“What?”

Leonard’s sigh echoed through the phone. “Bring me back a souvenir.”

“Alright,” Jim huffed. “Take care while I’m gone. See you soon.” That said, he closed the call, staring at the phone for a long moment before putting him away, trying to get few hours of sleep before facing the real nightmare waiting for him.

 

At five in the morning, Jim was sitting in the airport’s hall, waiting for his flight’s call, the bag down between his feet, staring at the floor. A thunder rumbled outside and he turned to watch outside the window: from the news, looked like the storm was going to follow him to Iowa. He suddenly thought about the last winter he spent with George: there was so much tension in the house, all the time… but he also remembered the moments spent together running through the field covered in snow, away from Frank, free, even just for a while…

Someone sat right behind him, taking Jim back to reality. “No need to break the seat, man.” He murmured, nervously trying to pull himself together.

“I thought you might need to wake up before missing the flight.”

Jim frowned and quickly turned around, an arm over the back of the seats between the two of them, eyes growing big in pure surprise. “Bones, what are you doing here?”

“Selling drugs. What do you think? I have a flight to take.” He snorted placing a bag next to him.

“A flight? What flight?”

“I don’t know… let me check.”

“You- you don’t know?”

“I just got the tickets. It should be fine… I hope.” He said fetching them from inside the jacket.

Jim was still too surprised to speak, then it hit him. “You’re going home too?”

“Uhm.”

“Is that a yes or…?” He said, leaning forward to see over Leonard’s shoulders, the tickets he was keeping in his hand. “Bones.”

“What?”

“You know that’s the wrong ticket, right?”

“No, it’s not.”

“Bones.”

What?

“Your ticket says Iowa City.”

“I know that. I can read.”

“And you know Iowa isn’t Georgia?”

“Yes. I’m aware.”

Jim blinked, confused, not sure if the man was slightly blushing or not. “And you also know that’s the same flight I’m going to get?”

Oh my God, I’m coming with you. It’s so hard to understand?” he cried, putting the documents back inside his jacket.

“You-“ Millions and millions of thought started to spin in Jim’s mind. “You can’t.”

“Oh really?”

“I mean, you- you don’t have to. Why you should come with me?”

“I’ve never been in Iowa before.”

“Bones.”

“I’m gonna punch you if you don’t stop that.”

“Why would you want to spend Christmas in Iowa?”

“Why not? It’s a place like another. It might surprise me.”

Jim felt like his brain needed a reboot. “But why?”

“Maybe because you’re going there?” He snarled in exasperation, actually blushing a bit, realizing what he just said. “I mean, I could use some indications when I get there. Look, I won’t stay in your way. Just show me a decent place where I can sleep and I’ll leave you alone.” The other added, crossing his arms.

Jim sighed, a little smile appearing on his lips. “I appreciate you want to come with me, but Joanna is gonna miss her dad for Christmas.”

“I wouldn’t make it in time even if I want to,” Leonard said, voice lower and slightly sad. “They moved to New York for Christmas and the flight got delayed. I thought it was worth to use it to go somewhere else.”

“And there’s no other place better than Iowa?”

Leonard looked out the big windows, the planes waiting under the rain. “Not at the moment.”

Jim took a deep breath and turned to sit better on his seat. “Alright then.” He said, and the other hummed in agreement, his presence able to make disappear all the dark thoughts that were hunting Jim until a moment before.

 

Around four hours later, Jim was watching the light of a new day out the plane’s window, flying above gray clouds that were turning to pink, hiding the rest of the planet from them. He wondered how it would be flying in deep space, with nothing under the feet, just stars and-

The plane jumped and Leonard forced down a groan, thingly grasping the armrest- or Jim’s hand, to be precise. “W-we’re almost there, right?” he asked.

“Just a matter of time. Try not to break my hand before we land, ok?”

Leonard frowned at him, then noticed how hard he was squeezing his arm and let go. “Sorry.”

“You think you’re going to win your fear of flying in three years?”

“I’m here, am I? Give me a break.” He snorted, but another jump made him shut his eyes and grasp his friend’s arm again.

Jim sighed, well aware that that was indeed a progress. He remembered Leonard’s fear of flying just when the plane started to move and the poor doctor suddenly became all tense, almost petrified. “I really appreciate the effort.”

“Shut up…”

Jim smiled, then looked down, at Leonard’s hand squeezing his arm, and he felt the need to grab it and say that everything was going to be ok… Sadly, just looking out the window, remembering why they were flying to Iowa, was enough to make him change his mind.

Once they landed, there was snow giving them a cold welcome to Iowa City. They got their bags and left the airport. “So, I’ve found a map of the city…” Jim said reaching his friend outside, a pen in his hand, “and marked few places for you. There isn’t much to see with this storm, but you could- what?”

Leonard was staring blankly at him. “A map?”

“Huh… yeah, I- I don’t live here. I’m in Riverside, but-“

“And there’s no place where I can sleep in Riverside?”

“I guess so... but I doubt you’ll find something interesting there.”

“I'll decide that for myself. Unless you want me to stay as far away from you as possible?”

“It’s not that. Riverside isn’t that big, so I thought you might want to stay here. I don’t even know how long this reunion will be...”

“Then let’s go and you can drop me at the first hotel we can find. It’s pointless for me to stay here.”

“It was pointless for you coming to Iowa in the first place.”

“We’ll see about that.” The doctor hissed coldly, entering in a taxi.

“W-what you mean?” Jim frowned, following him inside.

“I just want to keep an eye on you.” Leonard patted the snow away from his jacket, closing the door. “As your doctor.”

Jim stared at him in surprised once again. “Bones, if you’re doing all this because of what happened with Sophia…”

“You think I haven’t noticed how happy you were to come here?” he said turning to him that looked away. “It’s your family, I get it, I told you I won’t bother you, but if you’ll need a drink with someone, I’ll be around.” What Leonard wanted to say, was that he had a bad feeling about letting Jim go alone, but he kept that thought for himself.

On his part, Jim couldn’t believe Leonard was doing all this for him. It almost seemed like a cruel joke, but looking up, the doctor’s glare was dead serious- and a bit worried. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Now, can we go? I need coffee.”

“Where are we going?” the driver asked, turning a bit.

Jim swallowed and said, “Riverside,” as calm as he could.

It took them around thirty minutes to reach the address, leaving the core of the little town behind them, stopping in front of a dusty road leading to a house not too far, surrounded by few trees and white, large fields.

Leonard was going to hop off the car, but a hand stopped him by his arm and he looked back at his friend.

“Wait here. I just need to see if George is there.”

“And if I don’t see you coming back in five minutes I have to call the cops?” Leonard snorted, earning the faint of a smile from him.

“If he’s there or not, I’ll come back to tell you. Just- stay here.” The last thing Jim wanted was to take Leonard close to Frank. That was not going to happen, not until he was alive.

“You sure?” He asked, clearly noticing his tension.

“Yeah. I’ll be right back.” That said, Jim moved out the taxi and stared at the view for a moment before taking a deep breath and heading down the road, under the snow that was falling slower now, unaware that his friend was fighting the urge to follow him.

Last time Jim walked that street, he was leaving that house for good. He could remember Frank yelling something, the ground trembling under his feet, his magic urging to be released… Now he was coming back with a new purpose in life, with hope… And yet, his hands were shaking.

Once in front of the house, he stopped to look at it, finding it pretty much the same, maybe the walls more ruined, the tree on the left was gone- and the treehouse he and George build with it.

Jim’s heart ached at that view, but he tried to focus on the house, if he could hear something, or see someone, but he knew the house was empty at the moment… Or Frank would’ve been already on the doorstep with a gun.

He took just another step forward, but then stopped, unable to move any further. There was no need to, after all, if the house was empty. He needed to find George… hoping he didn’t leave the town already. I don’t even know how to contact him…

“James?”

He turned around, an old woman standing few steps away with an umbrella protecting her from the snow. Jim knew her, but couldn’t remember the name. “Kara…?”

“Lara. Lara Ghan.”

“Lara. Right… the red house.” He nodded with a little smile.

She did the same, gesturing on her left, “It’s still there. I saw the taxi and your friend told me you were back because of George.”

“I won’t stay long. Do you know where my brother is?”

Her smile lessened, her eyes slowly becoming worried. “I- I thought you were here for him…?”

“I am, but I- we haven’t talked to each other for a while, and I don’t have his number...”

Lara frowned at that. “You don’t know what happened?”

Jim didn’t like that tone. “What you mean?”

Leonard was leaning against the taxi, staring at his own breath forming floating clouds in front of his face, when he noticed his friend running back. “Well, that was fast. It’s a good thing or bad thing?”

“Get inside, we have to go.”

“Ok, but… where?” he quickly moved inside with him.

“To the hospital. Faster than you can,” Jim said to the driver and that was enough as an answer.

 

“Jim…” Leonard called his name for the third time while running the stairs of the hospital’s entrance.

He wasn’t listening, walking straight towards the first nurse he spotted in the little hall. “I’m looking for George Kirk. They told me he was hospitalized two days ago.”

She studied him for a second. “Are you a relative?”

“I am! I’m his damn brother!” he yelled.

“Jim,” Leonard stepped in, gently and firmly pushing him a bit back.

“I just want to know if he's alive!”

“Geroge Kirk’s conditions are stable at the moment,” the nurse quickly said, checking the computer.

“What happened to him?” Jim insisted, freeing himself from his friend’s grasp.

“It seems he had a fight with someone. He didn’t say with who. No charge was dispatched.”

“How he is now?”

“As I said, his conditions stabilized. Doctor Jenkins is following him. I’ll call him right now so he will explain everything.” She nodded, moving to grab the phone.

Leonard watched as the blonde breathed out and moved away. He wasn’t new to this kind of reactions, and all he could do was being there and try to not let him get in trouble.

After the call ended, the nurse looked back at them, “Mister Kirk,” she called and he turned around. “Doctor Jenkins will be here as soon as possible. Your brother is on the second floor, but right now visitors aren’t allowed. We’ll tell him that you’re here immediately.”

“He’s awake?”

“Yes, but he still needs to rest.”

Jim nodded and she allowed a light smile before walking away. He then moved back and sat down on one of the plastic seats, head down into his hands. His damn hands that couldn’t stop shaking.

Leonard sat next to him, and none of them said anything for the next thirty minutes.

 

When the doctor finally arrived, Leonard was just returning from the toilet and preferred to give them some privacy. He rarely saw Jim so serious and angry… And apparently, he wasn’t the only one worried, because the nurse they talked with before was also watching the two with a sad expression.

She turned to him and smiled apologetically. “Sorry for the wait. The Doctor was busy today…”

Leonard nodded in understanding. “How bad is the situation for Jim’s- for George Kirk?” he asked and she looked unsure. “It’s ok. I’m their family doctor. Well, Jim’s doctor.” he added, feeling weird for saying it, and even she looked a bit surprised. “Doctor Leonard McCoy, member of Starfleet,” he added, moving a hand forward. Well, almost.

“Starfleet?” she said grabbing it. “There’s something official about your presence here, or…?”

“No, just Jim’s family. He should’ve met his brother today. He didn’t know about this.”

She nodded again and moved to the desk, handing him a document when he moved closer. “With all due respect, I still shouldn’t show you this, doctor.”

“I know, and I really appreciate your cooperation,” he smiled a bit at her, but reading the documents the smile faded away: few bent ribs, a concussion and a fractured ankle were the worst things he saw, then few bruised on the back and on a shoulder. “And he refused to said who did this? This is clear aggression.”

“Mr. Kirk said it has been just a bar fight. We tried to make him change his mind, to charge the aggressor, but he still refuses.” She sighed, looking at the two still talking down the corridor.

Leonard kept reading until he looked up and saw Doctor Jenkins leaving Jim alone. “Thank you for this.” He said returning the document that she took with a polite smile. Approaching Jim, he found the man looking down, a sad and nervous expression on his face.

Jim breathed out and looked up at him. “The Doctor said he’s fine. Just his ankle might need some time to heal.”

Leonard nodded, relieved to hear him talk. “I’m sure he will recover quickly. I’m just surprised he didn’t charged the aggressor…”

“I have to go see him,” Jim said. “You… you’ll be fine alone for a while?”

“Sure. I’ll wait here.” That said, he saw him nodding and walking away. “I really need a coffee...” Leonard sighed to himself, praying to find a coffee machine somewhere.

Proceeding up the stairs and down the corridor of the second floor, Jim almost felt like what was happening wasn’t real: coming back home with Leonard, finding his brother in the hospital, his hands still shaking… I shouldn’t have come back.

The door opened and George Kirk looked away from the nurse that was helping him sit down on the bed, his eye growing wide watching his little brother on the doorstep.

Jim thought he haven’t changed that much to look so surprised- George sure didn’t: his dark-blond hair were maybe a bit longer, his face hard as always, but now covered with patches, and a bandage around his head, wearing some comfortable and old-looking clothes… Not exactly his style.

“You really made it,” George said with a weak smile.

When none of them said anything else, the nurse finished to check his bandage and smiled politely before leaving.

Jim kept staring down at George’s bandaged foot until the door clicked closed.

“Sorry about this…” his brother said, gesturing at the room. “I honestly thought you wouldn’t have come. I know it must have been unexpected-“

“You came back here and the first thing you do is fighting with someone?” Jim asked coldly.

George sighed, “You should know how it feels. Coming back here, seeing this place again…”

“Yes, I know, and I haven't fought with anyone yet.”

The other looked patiently at him, and nodded with a shrug. “What can I say? We are different, after all…” he sighed, realizing too late the words he just used, his brother’s face getting even colder. “Sorry, I didn’t mean-“

“Why you wanted to see me?” Jim interrupted, “You know I would’ve left this place sooner or later.”

“Yeah, but I thought you would’ve warned me about it.”

“How? And why, anyway?” Jim asked, sincerely confused. “Since when you care about what I do?”

“Jim-“

“Oh, let me guess. Since I joined Starfleet? You wanted to be sure I wasn’t trying to make a mess there? That I haven’t turned into a demon or something?”

“Can you stop putting words in my mouth? I didn’t say anything like that. I was- I’m just surprised.”

Jim crossed his arms. “Ok. And?”

“And I would’ve liked to know.”

“Why?”

“For God’s sake, Jim. You’re my brother. I wanted to be sure that you were ok.”

He snorted a cold laugh. “I think you’re kind of late for that.”

George held his glare. “Why you think I’m here? Why you think I tried to contact you after so long?”

“I have absolutely no idea.”

“Jim, I’m just- I’m trying to not do the same mistake again. Joining Starfleet is probably the last thing I would have expected from you, but I was worried about you, not about what you could’ve done there. I trust you that much. I always did.”

“Then what the hell do you want from me?!” Jim yelled. He was so angry, so sad, but also so relieved that his brother was still on his side. “You’re surprised that I make it even without you, in a place like this? That being abandoned by my brother didn’t affect me? Well, here you have it. I’m fine, I’ve left Riverside and I won’t come back here ever again. Now you can go back to your life.”

“Jim, please-“

“What else do you want, really?” Jim could feel tears forming in his eyes. “You’re the one that left. Twice, counting your coming back here for a day, when- five years ago? You didn’t need me then, and you sure don’t need me now, so what were you expecting? A hug? That I would’ve pity you in a hospital bed?”

George’s eyes were watery as well. “I just wanted to see you before getting a call from Pike knowing that you left the planet.” He looked away, brushing a hand under the bridge of his nose. “Apparently, space it’s still a family’s business for us. And it terrifies me.”

Jim’s heart dropped to his feet at that, because he never realized… He was so busy hating him, he completely ignored that, knowing Jim joined Starfleet, George would’ve been worried to lose him the same way they lost their father. His brother wasn’t worried that he would be capable to destroy the whole Academy with his powers… he trusted his little brother’s magic since the beginning. That’s why he left. That’s why he thought Jim would’ve been fine even without him.

“I know I had no rights to make you come back here, but I thought it would’ve been worst coming to see you, all of sudden. I didn’t planned that stupid fight…” George said, looking sadly at himself. “Pike told me that you were in the Academy, that you were studying to join the future space missions and I- Jim, we haven’t talked for years… If you were going to leave Earth-”

“So I needed to join Starfleet to see you again? Wow.”

“I know, I’m sorry…” he sighed, looking at him. “Jim, I’m so sorry…”

“Oh my God... You’re kidding me,” he murmured turning to leave.

“What else you want me to do? I can’t go back in time. If I could-“

“You would the exact same thing, so don’t even try it,” Jim said angrily, ready to turn and punch him in the face just for that. Instead, he looked at the table next to the door, where few documents were placed… and one name caught his attention. He took it and read it. “This is why you came back?”

“I wanted to talk with you about that as well,” George nodded sadly. “And with him. I tried, but he-“ He stopped when the window’s glass cracked.

“He did this to you, isn’t it?” Jim hissed.

“Jim-“

“You already meet him. You were there yesterday and he-“

“Listen to me, it’s nothing. I’m ok. You know Frank isn’t-“

The door slammed open, scaring Leonard that was staring out the window not too far from it, then he noticed his friend running away. “What the-?”

“JIM, WAIT!”

Leonard looked inside the room, finding George down on his knees, a hand over his pained chest. “What happened?” he asked quickly moving to help him.

“I need to stop him…”

“You can barely move.”

“If he’s going to do something-!”

“I’ll go after Jim. I’m his doctor,” Leonard said, and the other just looked confused. “I mean, I’m a friend. I’m- just tell me where he’s going!”

 

The screams, the pain, the anger... He could recall everything exactly like when he was a kid. Nothing new. Or maybe there was something different- one thing: Jim wasn’t thinking about how hard his own life has been in that house… He wasn’t angry for what he has to deal with in there, nor worried about what could’ve happened to him now. When he arrived in front of his old house and entered, and saw Frank descending the stairs with a recent patch on his face, all he could think about was that that man dared to hurt his brother just like he always did in the past. As if nothing has changed.

They stared at each other, waiting to see who was going to move first, and for once, Jim started: he screamed all his anger against the man that ruined their lives, all the frustration, all the hate for the man that never meant family to them- that never meant anything for them.

Everything came out as a storm finally free to rage outside the lines… Then, Frank started to scream back, both rising their voices to win over the other and Jim was so damn ready for it: his voice just grown and grown, refusing to let him win again. Things were different now, he was different, and so, so fucking done with Frank …

“Starfleet knows of the monster they’re keeping in? Or you’re just waiting for the right moment to kill them all? Isn’t that your plan, Jimmy?” Frank said with a cruel grin and that was it. Jim punched him first, square in the face, and then… Then he knew what it was coming next, but he wasn’t going to run away. Not this time.

 

Leonard had to ask for direction twice before finally recognizing the road to Kirk’s house. George told him that to find Jim, he needed to search for their uncle Frank and that the man could’ve been in the bar close to the hospital; if not, he was probably back to their house. He didn’t find any of them at the bar, so he was thinking of a way to reach the house when he noticed a nurse waving at him from the street in front of the hospital, and she gave him George’s car keys. “He said you’d need it,” she added, pointing at the black Impala parked aside the hospital.

Once at destination, Leonard left George’s car in front of the road leading to the house. The doctor hopped down and shivered, the bad feeling he had since he saw Jim reading that letter still there to poke at his worried heart. Protecting himself into the jacket, Leonard started walking fast under the snow, and his fears were confirmed when he saw someone limping in the middle of the fields surrounding the house, apparently heading to nowhere. He squinted his eyes to see better. “Jim?”

 

Jim left the house feeling numb. He knew he was hurt: his lower lip was broken, and there was blood on his shirt; the bump pulsing on the side of his head would’ve led to a bad headache and he couldn’t move the left leg correctly- that kick probably hurt a lot, but he wasn’t feeling any pain… He couldn’t feel anything.

No more screams, just him walking through the field, the snow brushing against his knees, the lower half of his jeans soaked by then… but he kept walking. He knew he was drifting away, but it felt so good, and peaceful.

“Jim!”

More screams? Was Frank following him? Weren’t they done yet?

“Jim- where are you going?”

Bones? Jim frowned, looking sideways without stopping… Slowly, he started to realize what happened. Looking down at his hands, they were shaking more than ever, emitting a weak light that meant his magic was going out of control. It didn’t happen like this since- since forever.

“Would you stop? I can barely walk in this damn snow…” Leonard snorted following, protecting his eyes with an arm. “Are you ok?” He asked, “Why are you limping?”

“’Fine. Please, just-“ Jim put a hand over his mouth to at least control the trembling in his voice. “Just leave me alone.”

“In the middle of a snowstorm? Are you crazy? Hey-!”

I don’t want to hurt him. I don’t want to hurt anyone, Jim kept repeating to himself, walking faster than he could through the snow. He just wanted to go away from everything and everyone, and- and… I don’t want to be scared of what I am anymore.

“Jim-“

“Go back to San Francisco.”

“I will... once you calm down, we’ll go back and-“

“I’m telling you, please, just leave me alone,” Jim growled. He could feel his eyes vibrating with gold. Shit… shit!

“Whatever happened we’re gonna fix it, alright? I’m sure we-“ Leonard lose his balance when the snow grew in power, almost falling aside. “Goddamn it… Jim, come on!”

“Just leave me alone… please...” he kept murmuring, blindly walking away. I can’t control it. I can’t stop it… I’m going to hurt him- I’m going to

Watch out!” Leonard yelled, finally grabbing him from behind and pushing both of them backward, falling together in the snow.

“LET GO!” Jim yelled trashing out like crazy.

“Jim, calm down!”

“Why you can’t just leave me alone?!”

“Because you're running towards a damn cliff, that’s why!”

Blinking at the snow falling against his face, Jim remembered about that cliff… the same cliff he throw his father’s car from. “Bones, let me go…” he started to move again, his eyes still shining gold, but Leonard’s arms stood around his chest, immobile.

“You calm down, and I will.”

“I was calm- I am, just let me go!”

“No. Sorry.”

Anger kicked in, and Jim moved his elbow backward against him, hearing a weak ouch, or maybe he just imagined it, still trashing to get free, but at the same time so damn scared that his magic would've hurt him.

“I don’t want to- to see you jumping down a cliff yet. Can you just- JIM, listen to me!” Leonard didn’t wanted to yell, but it seemed to work because the other stopped fighting for a moment. Breathing hard, keeping him into his arm a bit more tightly, Leonard talked into his ear as calm and reassuring as he could, “Whatever happened, we will fix it. There’s nothing to be afraid of, alright?”

Grabbing Leonard’s arm, Jim tried to focus on his words, feeling tears creeping into his eyes- and he forced them away, shutting his eyes for a moment before, trying to control his magic again before angrily rolling aside, taking the other with him, finally getting free and staying on top of him. “You don’t know anything!”

“That's because you never told me anything!” Leonard shot back trying to break free, but Jim was grasping and keeping his arms on the ground. He never thought his friend would be strong enough to pin him down so easily.

“What you wanted me to say? That I would erase my past if I could? That I’m still messed up because of it?!“ Jim’s anger faltered when he saw the bleeding cut above Leonard’s right eye… so he didn’t imagine it. “And nothing has changed… It was stupid to even hope for it.”

Leonard noticed his watery blue eyes. “It isn’t stupid…”

“And you shouldn’t be here. I told you not to come, I told you to stay away-!”

“Well, I’m glad I didn’t listen to you. I would’ve never forgiven myself for letting you go through all this alone.”

Jim looked taken aback- truly confused. “Why?”

“Jim, do you realize I would be still under Sofia’s spell if it wasn’t for you? That I could’ve been taken anywhere, doing whatever she wanted me to, against my will? You really thought that after everything you've done for me, I would stand behind and watching you destroy yourself without doing anything?”

Jim stared down at him in silence, his grasp slowly lessening. “I didn’t wanted you to see any of this… to see me like this…”

“I’ve seen worst,” Leonard snorted, watching him smile a bit before tears started to roll down his face.

“It was one mistake. Only one time that I wasn't able to-“ Jim let out a shattered breath, shaking his head. “It still makes me wonder if it’s worth to try so hard… because if it’ll happen again, I’ll lose even more this time, and that’s- Bones, that’s driving me insane.”

Leonard wasn’t new to that kind of feelings, and it broke his heart watching his friend stuck in the same fear. “Well, look at the bright side: now you know what you’re going to get giving up, and what if you don’t,” he said tilting his head behind himself. “Don’t you think the risk is worth it?”

Jim followed his gaze, at the old house that he never felt as home, where he never felt safe, nor happy… and realized that he was ready to hide who he really was forever, just to not go back there. He took a deep breath and looked down at his friend again, feeling terribly gulty. “I’m sor-“

“Shut up,” Leonard cut him up, dragging him down into a hug.

Jim felt like a stupid kid crying against his chest, but for once, he didn’t care. For once, he just wanted to stay exactly where he was, under the snow, in the cold wind, feeling safer into Leonard’s arms than in any other place he has been so far.

Chapter Text

In the afternoon, George Kirk was standing in front of the window, staring at the snow quietly falling down until someone knocked at his door and he found Jim’s friend looking tiredly at him, a little cut still red of blood above an eye.

“Jim’s fine,” Leonard said, “He got some fever- because of the stress more than anything else. He’s sleeping now.”

“Thank God…” George breathed out in relief, dropping his shoulders and closing his eyes for a moment.

“You were right. I found him outside your old house.” Leonard added, standing on the other side of the bed.

“There was someone with him?”

Leonard shook his head. “No. He said Frank was alive, so I didn’t bother to go check,” he said and, as George just kept staring, added more seriously, “I believed him. And he needed my help.”

“I’m not blaming you for not caring about that shit of a man…" George said sitting down with a little groan, a hand against his pained ribs. "Even if they fought, I’m sure Frank is fine.”

“Jim wasn’t.”

George kept his eyes down. “He never listen to me... We should have gone there together. I tried to tell him…”

“I think you’re missing the point, here,” Leonard said more seriously. “He went there because of you. Because your uncle beat you hard enough to send you to the hospital, and he almost did the same to your brother. So can you explain to me why the hell you’re not charging him yet?”

“Because I want to leave Frank and this whole place behind us… so that we could finally forget about Riverside. That’s why I came back. That’s why I asked Jim to come here one last time.”

Leonard knew he probably should’ve mind his own business, but the memory of Jim’s anger and sadness was enough to throw to hell any kind of behavior. “Well, clearly none of you left behind anything. Especially Jim, since he was the one that stayed here, living with a madman. And yes, I heard you two talking before. If you want some privacy, next time go scream at each other somewhere else.”

“You don’t know what we’ve been through, Doctor,” George said as coldly as he was.

“I can well imagine it, since Jim is clearly still traumatized from both, the abuse and your abandon. How could you even think that making him come back here was a good idea?”

“You think I was happy about it? When I was told that he had joined Starfleet, I wanted to go see him, but- I couldn’t just appear there like nothing happened. I tried talking to Frank alone so that Jim didn’t had to meet him, and this happened! He hasn’t changed one bit.” He said angrily, gesturing at the room before dropping the face into both hands.

Leonard took a deep breath to compose himself. “What happened between Jim and Frank? Why he feels so guilty towards him?” he asked after a while, and the other lowered both arms on his legs. “When I found him, he said he made a mistake that is still hunting him.”

George slowly shook his head. “It happened when he was a kid. Few years before I left.”

“And what he did so terrible that he can’t deal with it yet?”

“If he didn’t tell you about it, I shouldn’t either.”

“I’m caring about the whole Kirk family right now, so you better start talking.” Leonard hissed, and when the other didn’t, he added, “He was just a kid. It’s not like he killed someone.”

“He almost did,” George said, voice low as his glare. “I kept telling him that it has been just an accident, but he knew… Jim knows what could’ve happened that day.”

Leonard was so surprised he found himself speechless.

 

Jim woke up at a nurse checking his pressure.

She looked up and smiled apologetically in the dim light of the room. “Just a routine check, Mister Kirk.”

“No one ever called me like that…” he murmured and she looked curiously at him. “Nevermind… thank you.”

“Your doctor has just taken a break and asked us to keep checking on you. The fever dropped, but you’ll have to take it slow for a while.”

“Fever?”

“Yes. Doctor McCoy brought you here yesterday afternoon, both of you soaked in the snow. He said you had a fight, just like your brother…” she tried to stop him, but he sat up and groaned at the pain from his stomach and leg. “There’s no severe damage, but you should rest, especially your leg. What about your head? Does it hurt?”

Jim carefully patted the bump that has grown through his hair. “No… just something for the headache, please?”

She nodded and handed him a glass of water and a pill that he quickly drank down. “Doctor Jenkins asked who did this to you, but doctor McCoy said he doesn’t know, that he found you like this. You would like to tell us something more about it?”

Jim couldn’t wait to send Frank to jail, to finally make him pay… but, in the end, it was better to think twice about that mess. “It was just a bar fight.”

She sighed patiently. “Both brothers got beaten up and none of you want to say who's responsible for it. Doctor Jenkins won’t be happy about this.”

“Well, he’s not my doctor.” Jim smiled a bit, feeling pain also from his broken lip. “Where’s Bones? I mean, Doctor McCoy?”

“He’s sleeping in the next room. He checked on you all night. We had to force him to rest. He could barely stand.” She explained. “Your brother also keep asking about you. He’s awake if you want to go see him.”

Jim nodded, watching her leave. Looking down at his own hands, they were still shaking a bit, but the magic has calmed down. He has been so close to losing control… and Leonard was right there with him: did he saw something? His eyes were still shining gold when they- well, when they yelled at each other in the middle of that field? Maybe, or maybe not, but Leonard didn’t run away… he refused to abandon him, despite everything.

Jim studied the bruise on the side of his bare chest for a moment before noticing his shirt, recently washed and left on a chair. Standing up, he instantly sent a hand on the pained leg. Frank rarely beat him like that, but his strength wasn’t a surprise. What probably surprised both of them, was that, at the end of the fight, no one was dead.

Taking a deep breath, he wore the shirt before limping to his brother’s room, down the corridor.

George was drying his face in the bathroom when he heard knocking and turned around.

They looked at each other for a moment, then Jim just said, “Don't worry, Frank’s still alive.” He sure wasn’t expecting a hug as a response to that.

“God, I thought I’d lost you this time,” George murmured. “Why you didn’t wait for me? Why you always have to-“ he continued, pushing back a little, just enough to see the sad, exhausted expression on his little brother’s face- so he just hugged him again.

“I punched him and then we start fighting…” Jim explained, unable to return the hug, but grinning while his brother slowly letting him go. “I never felt so good punching someone in the face.”

“We’re in two, then.” The other said, and both laughed softly.

Jim noticed the documents on the bed, the ones he has read before running away, and finally asked, “That’s why you came back? You want to give him the house?”

“I want to sell him the house,” George said. “I think we both forgot about it, but half of it is still ours.”

Jim did actually forgot about that detail. “But-“

“It was mom’s idea, of course. The contract is still valid, and since we didn’t care about it until now, Frank just kept quiet.” The other said, grabbing the documents. “I wanted to talk with you first, but you saw these and just ran off,” he said watching him staring at the pages. “Maybe we could try to get the house back now, charging him about everything he did to us and…”

“Is that what you want?”

They looked at each other until George shrugged. “I just want to forget about this place and Frank. I promised to myself to never step in that house ever again, but I can do it for you. If you want it back, I’ll help you.”

Jim shook his head. “I don’t care about that place anymore. I would’ve burned it down yesterday if it wasn’t for mom. That’s the last place where we lived together…”

“I know, that’s why if you want to-“

“No,” he interrupted. “It’s not our home since she died… It’s Frank’s now. Do whatever you want with it. I don’t care.”

George stared at him for a long moment before nodding. “Ok.” He said, both breathing in relief as if a heavy burden lifted from their shoulders. “So you… You’re going back to Starfleet?”

“My flight is this evening. With- With Leonard...” Jim slowly shook his head. “He came after me. I don’t know if he saw something. I tried to control myself, but I don’t know if I did it.”

“No one came after you so far, so I guess you’re good.”

“Did he said something when we came back here?”

“Oh, he said a lot of things. As if I wasn’t feeling guilty enough,” George said with irony. “He was really worried... And he asked about what happened between us. And about Frank.”

Jim nodded worriedly, knowing that it was just a matter of time. “What did you say to him?”

“He deserved to know the truth, so that’s what I gave him.”

“You- You told him that I have-?”

“I told him that you almost killed Frank’s friend.”

Jim felt panic growing inside his chest once again. “Why? Why you told him? Why you-!”

“You want to know what he said in response to that?” George interrupted him, and Jim hesitated because he wasn’t ready to lose Leonard too. “He asked me what that man did to you, because he knows you would have never hurt someone without a reason. So I told him that you were just defending yourself, that it wasn’t your fault, and that I never blamed you for what happened that day. No one should.”

Jim was still too worried to hope.

“The second thing he asked me was where I was at the time, and why I wasn’t there to help you.” George huffed a little laugh. “He’s a doctor, and he hasn't cared one bit about what happened to that man- or to Frank.”

“He feels in debt with me, he doesn’t-“ Jim sighed, shaking his head. “If he’d been hurt because of Frank- or because of me-“

“Jim, you don’t risk your life to repay a debt with someone,” George insisted, smiling patiently. “You found a good friend. I’m glad he came here with you… He haven’t done the same mistake I did.” He could tell they were both fighting back the tears by then, but there were more things that needed to be said. “Jim, I can’t change the decisions I took in the past, and- maybe you won’t believe me, but I know those were terrible decisions and I’m sorry I was such a coward to leave my little brother alone in that house… But I’m also proud that you did it, and about what you’ve become- even deciding to join Starfleet. It’s a big risk, but Pike said he trusts you to become a Captain even greater than our dad, so… If that’s what you want, I’m sure you’re gonna make it.”

Jim sniffed and nodded, trying to contain himself. “Anything else?”

George took a deep breath and shook his head. “Just tell me if you’re going to leave the planet, alright?” he said, fighting back the tears, watching his brother nodding again before turning to leave.

Jim grabbed so hard the door’s handle that it would’ve cracked with just a little more pressure. He turned around again to hug him. “I’m not gonna die up there.” He said, feeling him return the hug even stronger than before.

“That’s good to know,” George huffed a laugh, the weight on his heart lifting just slightly, for the first time after years.

 

The two brothers talked a bit more before Jim left to go check on Leonard, with George’s words still floating into his mind: “I understand why you haven’t told Doctor McCoy about your magic. I just told him that you- well, that you were kind of a problematic kid in the past and living with Frank didn’t help.”.

A part of Jim felt relieved that his secret was safe, but a little part of him wished his brother had told him everything. Or that he noticed something the day before, while they fought in the snowstorm… and what if he did?

Jim took a deep breath before opening the door of the room where the nurse told him Leonard was sleeping: he frowned finding the bed empty, but looking around spotted the man laying on the couch, on one side, facing the room. Moving closer, Jim watched him sleeping with an arm bent under his head as a pillow, and the cut he was responsible for still visible above his right eye, all the area around still shaded of red. You just brushed it off, didn’t you?, Jim sighed, moving to the bathroom, passing one of the towel under the water.

Once back in the room, he crouched in front of him so that they were on the same eye level, staring at the man that risked so much to help him. Jim gently grabbed his shoulder to wake him, and a wave of pain hit him, not too strong, and it lasted maybe three seconds, but it was enough to leave him in a state of discomfort and confusion- then he understood: that was Leonard’s pain. Staring at his own hand still placed on his shoulder, he realized he was so worried about how his friend was, his magic actually let him feel what he was feeling.

Leonard moved a bit and opened his eyes, blinking sleepily at him. “Why you’re up already?” he murmured.

“Because it’s ten in the morning,” Jim said, trying not to think about what just happened.

“Ten…?” the other groaned trying to stand, but the other keep him down.

“Bones, relax. You don’t have to go to work.”

Leonard seemed slowly elaborating the words. “Right… but if they need the room-“

“I’ve already asked, and they don’t. It’s still snowing outside, there’s no emergency and you should’ve slept in that bed.”

“Habit,” he said closing his eyes again, moving up just enough that his head could drop on the couch’s armrest.

“It’s a habit also not taking care of yourself when you get hurt?”

“I’m not hurt,“ he said but flinched when the other pressed the wet angle of the towel over the cut. “There’s no need to-”

“I’m sorry about this. All this,” Jim said, refusing to meet his eyes, carefully and gently brushing the blood away, aware that he was looking at him, “For dragging you into this mess.”

“It was my decision to come here, so don’t start it.”

“I tried to keep you away from this place for a reason. I wasn’t joking.” Jim said more seriously, finally looking at him.

“The only joke was you pretending to be fine and think I would’ve believed it.”

They stared stubbornly at each other until Jim continued cleaning around the cut. “I just wanted to spare you the freak show.”

“You really think I’ll change my mind about you knowing about your past?”

“I wouldn’t blame you for it.”

“Of for God’s sake…” Leonard tried to stand again, and again the other keep him down. “Give me that, I can-“

“Let me do it.”

“I can take of myself.”

I know” Jim shot back, raising his voice despite he didn’t want to, pushing his arm down on the couch with his free hand. “I know. Just- let me do it.” He added more calmly.

Leonard stared intently at him. “Since when you’re so strong? Or I just didn’t notice?”

Taken aback by the sudden change of subject, Jim blinked in confusion before looking down and let him go. “I was part of the bar fights club, remember?” He commented with a low voice, looking even guiltier than before.

Leonard kept staring until Jim finished his task and he finally sat up, placing a hand against his head because of sudden movement.

“You want me to call the nurse?”

“It’s just headache.”

“I’m gonna call her.”

“Can you just-“ Leonard grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him down on the couch. “Stop for a second, alright? Just- stay here. Don’t move, don’t speak. Shut up, breathe and listen.”

Jim gave up any objection and just sat next to him in silence, waiting for whatever was going to happen. Would be anger, screams or, scarier than anything, a final goodbye.

“I knew from the beginning something was wrong about this trip, that’s why I followed you. And I’m glad I did; I’m glad you let me, and I’m glad things didn’t turn for the worse. Because we all know that they could have.”

“It wasn’t your probl-“

And,” the doctor growled angrily, shutting him up, “I’m especially glad that you weren’t alone in this mess. Maybe you see it coming, but still… ” He breathed out, brushing a hand over his eyes before looking at him. “Knowing what happened to you and your brother in the past won’t change anything for me, but what happened now will sure change both of you for the better, and that’s what really matters.”

Jim just wanted to disappear, hiding somewhere and cry. Staring at the floor, he tried to say something, “About what I did… when I was a kid...”

“I already know,” Leonard said, “but if there’s more, I’ll listen.”

Jim dared to look at him. “You sure?”

“I am, and my offer won’t expire anytime soon, so…” He said, frowning when the other placed a hand over his forehead. “What are you doing?”

“Checking you don’t have fever…” Jim said and grinned when the doctor slapped his hand away.

“I was trying to be nice and you think I’m out of my mind. Thanks for that.”

“Just to be sure,” Jim smiled apologetically, finishing cleaning his wound before putting a plaster on it, just to stare at him in the eyes until he remembered how to use his voice. “I’m sorry for what happened, I really am… but thank you for being here.” He said, and the little smile slowly appearing on his friend’s face made his heart skip a beat.

“You’re welcome,” Leonard said pressing gently over the patch to secure it, then studied him for a moment. “Can I ask you something?”

“As if I could refuse.”

“You can. Is… It’s about your father.” Leonard saw him looking surprised, but said nothing, waiting for him to continue. “George told me about him too.”

“Then what else you want to know?”

“Why you didn’t say anything? Your father saved most of the Kelvin’s crew… He is-” he stopped when the blonde looked down again.

“People never asked me about him, so I just didn’t tell,” Jim said. “I’ve joined Starfleet because I wanted to, not to follow his steps. I want to do better than him.”

“I think you already did,” Leonard said with a low, serious voice that made the other look up at him. The doctor coughed, patting his back, “And you’re still a newbie. So, high changes you’re gonna make it.”

Jim smiled a bit, then Leonard’s phone rang just when he was going to say something. “It’s a message for the tonight’s flight. Two hours delay… great.” He sighed.

“I… I was thinking to stay here for Christmas,” Jim said, watching him turn around, surprised. “I mean- somewhere here, in Riverside. George can’t leave yet, he'll need to change his flight, so I might change mine as well.”

“Oh. Well. Yeah… sure, you should. That’s good to hear. Great, actually. I mean, that you two found each other again. I guess I'll...” Leonard nodded, looking around, “I don’t even know where my bag is anymore.”

“You think you can change your flight’s date of few days?”

“It’s going to be Christmas in few days, Jim.”

“I know, that’s why I'm asking. You could stay here too.”

Leonard looked uncertain. “You sure? I don’t want to ruin the reunion with you brother…”

“I’m sure,” Jim nodded patiently. “I would like you to stay with me. I mean, with us. For Christmas.”

The doctor thought about it and then nodded. “Alright… I didn’t get you any present, though.”

Jim huffed a laugh. “Well, me either.” He said, thinking that having Leonard there, sitting next to him, was already a gift itself.

 

Despite everything that happened, and what Riverside meant for the Kirk family, the two brothers agreed to spend one last Christmas in town, together for the first time after years.

George needed to stay in the hospital, so Jim and Leonard tried to find a place close enough to celebrate, but then the nurses told them that as long they would keep it quiet, they could’ve stayed there at the hospital, saying that Doctor Jenkins himself agreed to offer them a room. Jim doubt that, but apparently the people there were growing a weakness for the story of the two brothers finally reunited. Or they were just worried for them to join some another fight.

Leonard wasn’t convinced either, so he spoke with Jenkins and offered his help to repay their kindness. Jenkins said it wasn’t necessary, but once knowing he and Jim were both students at the Starfleet Academy, he politely changed his mind.

“Just for your information, you’re making me work during my days off,” Leonard snorted at Jim without looking up from the folders he was reading in the Christmas’s Eve morning, not used to see so few patients in one hospital.

“Add that to the list of debts I have with you,” Jim commented, not missing the little grin on his face.

That evening, Jim insisted to organize a little Christmas’s dinner for the Riverside Hospital’s staff, and no one had the heart to stop him. Dragging Leonard with him, they walked under the silent, weak snow to reach the closest grocery shop.

Leonard was already keeping an eye on him, to see if Jim's leg was healing fine, so he easily noticed how tense the blonde was during their little journey, looking around way too often, probably worried to meet his uncle again- it was a little town, after all, but none of them said anything about it.

That night turned out to be the best Christmas Jim had in a long time- or one he actually would have cared to remember. Just a dinner in the little Riverside hospital’s hall, but to him was just perfect.

 

Three days later, Jim was outside George’s room, waiting for a nurse to finish checking him up. Once she left, he entered, finding him on his feet, wearing large sweatpants and a black a shirt that Jim was sure he saw already in the past. “Everything’s ok?”

“Yeah. It’ll take some time for the ribs to heal, but I think I can take a ride back home.”

“Don’t you think would be better for you to wait here for the flight?” Jim asked.

“Dean can be here in two days. He wants his car back. My flight would be next year, so… Sooner we leave this place, the better.” George said.

“You know, at some point, I really thought you had left the States and moved somewhere in Europe by now,” Jim said sitting on the bed, checking the documents left there.

“I would have told you if I did. Anyway, I knew there were still unfinished businesses to take care of here.” The other said, turning to look at him, “What?”

Jim was staring intently at the documents, but then just shrugged. “It looks weird reading George Kirk.”

“It’s still my name. You just never used it.”

“Because I thought you hated it.”

“Not that much anymore,” George commented and smiled a bit when their eyes met.

Jim nodded and put the documents down. “You shouldn’t go back to Frank alone.” He said after a moment.

“I won’t. I've called a friend of mine, a lawyer. He’ll take care of the rest now. But if I’ll have to talk to Frank, I will. Everything to end this story once and for all.”

“I could stay few other days…”

“No. I don’t want you to see Frank again.”

“Come on…”

“Jim, I mean it,” George said, and his voice was serious- and partly worried. “I know you can control yourself, but I also know how hard it must have been. There’s no need for you to take other risks. Now it’s my turn. I just want you to go back to the Academy and- and study and do your best.”

Jim blinked. “You’re really terrible with father-ish speeches, are you?” he commented and both laughed.

“Probably, but I’m serious. If that’s the road you want to follow, I’m sure you can do it. Just… be careful.”

Jim nodded. “Thanks for keeping the secret with Leonard.”

“You’re going to tell him?”

“I don’t know… I don’t know how he could react.”

“He cares a lot about you…”

“He thinks that I have an anger management problem. And he hates magic.” Jim stated.

“I know it won’t be easy to accept, but… I think you both trust each other enough to be honest about this.”

“I’ll think about it...” Jim’s phone rang and he checked it. “Taxi’s here. I… I have to go.”

They nodded at each other until George smiled a bit and hugged him. “Mom would be proud of you.” He whispered into his ear.

“I hope so,” Jim said, those words strangely warming his heart. Taking a deep breath, he patted his back, “Be careful, alright Sam?” he murmured, feeling him nodding and squeeze his little brother a bit more. Suddenly, Jim surprised himself thinking that he didn’t wanted to leave.

 

Leonard was sitting in the backseat of the taxi, the door still open, when he saw his friend coming out of the hospital waving at the nurses that followed him to the exit. “How they’re gonna deal with this heartbreaking goodbye, I wonder?” he commented with a sarcastic smile, shaking his head.

“Very funny.” Jim snorted putting the bag in the trunk.

"So... we're ready to go? We still have some time if you want to talk more with George…”

“Bones, brothers don’t work like that,” Jim sighed, moving around to hop in the car.

“You’re probably right.” He nodded and the taxi finally drove away from Riverside.

Once at the airport, Leonard started checking for information about their flight, leaving documents and tickets to Jim that casually read them- frowning. “Uh… Bones? Why our flights are different?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you. They couldn’t put us on the same plane when I changed the day.” He said fixing the bag on his shoulder, watching him suddenly look as heartbroken as the Riverside Hospital’s nurses. “I’ll be in San Francisco two hours after you. I’ll find my way back home, don’t worry.”

“But-“ Jim was interrupted by the voice announcing his flight. “But you hate flying.”

“Yes, I know, no need to remind me about that. Go.”

Jim kept staring at him- at the plaster on his forehead, and he almost decided to stay. “Alright… See you at the airport?”

“With this snow? Will be a miracle if the flight doesn’t get delayed. See you at the dorm.” He said waving a hand.

Jim forced out a little smile and walked away. Flying away from Riverside, knowing that Leonard was still there, made him feel guiltier than ever.

 

Four hours later, Jim was back in San Francisco, and after two more hours, he was still sitting in the main hall of the airport. He didn’t even consider leaving: he needed to be sure Leonard had come back too.

I should thank him somehow, Jim thought, as he did for hours already. After everything he has done for me… I hit him, damn it. And I didn’t even gave him a present for Christmas, he kept arguing with himself while stretching his legs out. “Maybe a dinner…” he considered the idea for a moment, just to drop the face into his hands with another groan of despair, “What the hell is wrong with me?”
He suddenly sat straight again when Leonard’s plane was finally announced landing. He stared at the gate still closed, nervously waiting. It’s just food. Everyone likes food, so a dinner would be ok. Maybe sushi? Sushi at the dorm. That should be fine. Neutral zone…wait, what neutral zone?

Then something else distracted him. Not a voice this time: it was…

Someone’s using magic? Jim turned around, looking through the horde of people coming and going in the airport, wondering who could be the source of it. He knew there were more people with magic there, but he actually never felt anyone since-

A yell startled him and, looking back at the gate that was now open, he saw a girl happily hugging two friends, literally jumping on them. Jim huffed out a tense laugh and stood, still looking around until more people started to cross the gate and he focused on searching for the man he was waiting for.

Leonard appeared after a while, visibly tired, but relieved to be on the ground, and unable to hid a surprised little smile when their eyes met, shaking his head.

Jim smiled back and made few steps forward, losing him in the crowd for a moment. When he spotted him again, the Doctor was looking behind himself, the bag dropped on the floor as he was keeping a hand against his side. “Bones?” Jim called, but when the other looked back at him, his face was pale- still surprised, but now in a different way: he was scared. “Bones?” he tried again when they were few steps away from each other, and when he saw him starting to lose his balance, Jim instantly started pushing people away, catching him into his arms before he could crash on the floor. “Hey- what’s wrong?”

“Sophia…” Leonard said looking so incredulous, but then grasping his jacket stronger than he could, saying, “Don’t go after her.”

“Sophia?” Jim’s anger was ready to explode, but then he noticed why the other was keeping a hand on his side: there was blood on his shirt. “Oh God- Bones, you’re-“

“Promise me-”

“You’re bleeding!”

“Don’t go after her! Jim, don’t- don’t go-“ Leonard kept repeating until he slowly gone limp into his arms, unconscious.

“Hey- Bones!” Jim tried to keep him up, but eventually kneel down with him, feeling completely lost. “Bones!”

Chapter Text

Everything happened so fast- too fast: a moment Jim was at the airport, waiting for his friend, and then they saw each other, Leonard smiling that tired, resigned smile he used so often, and then, in a second he was bleeding on the floor.

“Sir?”

Jim blinked and looked at the nurse, wondering about how many nurses he saw lately.

“You’re here for Leonard McCoy?” she asked.

“Yes. He’s-”

“He’s in intensive care at the moment.” She explained, watching his shirt stained with blood. “You need any assistance?”

Jim followed her gaze and shook his head. “No… No, I’m fine. Where did they take him? Which floor?”

“Third floor, but no one can see him now. There is a room right here, maybe you could let me check that you’re fine? Since magic was involved in the attack-”

“I’m fine. Thanks, but I’m fine.” He said again, walking away. If magic is involved, maybe I can help him.

“Kirk,” Spock called for him, standing in front the elevator.

“What are you doing here?” Jim asked, freezing on the spot. “Pike is here too?”

“Not that I’m aware of. I was warned about the airport accident, and-“

“You saw Leonard?”

Spock studied him for a moment, and then said with a blank voice, “Not yet.”

“Ok… I have to-“ Jim moved to enter the elevator, but Spock’s arm raised to block the way.

“You were with him when he was attacked?”

“I was, yes. He- he took the flight right after me,” he said, watching him frowning. “We split up to come back home. I was waiting for him.” He added, but the other stood still. “Spock, I have to-“

“You saw what happened?”

“No. Kind of. I saw him exit the gate, then I lost him for a second and he- and this happened.”

“Someone attacked him,” Spock stated.

“I don’t know the details. I don’t know exactly what happened.”

“But you were there.”

Yes, and I couldn’t do anything!” Jim screamed angrily, making few people turn around. He tried to calm down, knowing that getting angry wasn’t going to help. Especially getting angry at Spock.

The Vulcan kept staring blankly at him. “No one can see Doctor McCoy at the moment. I’ll check the situation before referring to Captain Pike.”

“But- wait!” Jim watched him entering the elevator enough to be inside but not let him in. “Let me see him. Just for a second.”

“As I said-“

“I heard you. I’m asking you to make an exception.”

Spock’s eyes became wary. “I don’t see why I should allow you to see him.”

“Because-!” Jim wished you could just throw him out the elevator. “Because I need to know he’s alright. Last time I saw him was two hours ago and he was bleeding to death.”

“I’ll let Captain Pike know of any changes of the situation, so you can ask him. I can’t allow anyone to get near Doctor McCoy at the moment.”

“Spock, please-“

“I suggest you to change your clothes and give Captain Pike a report about what you saw. More detailed than you can.”

“I told you what I saw. Please, just let me-“ Jim insisted, but the elevators' door closed in front of him and all he could do was angrily smash both fits against it before leaving the hospital.

 

Walking back to the Academy didn’t help him calm down: all he could think about was Leonard’s scared face after someone stabbed him… After Sophia stabbed him.

I should’ve killed her. This is all my fault. Jim bumped into a few people before realizing there was something going on in the campus: lots of students were chatting and looking at the agents and soldiers spreading all over the place.

“Kirk,” one of his instructor called. “Pike was looking for you. He’s inside.” He said, gesturing the palace behind himself.

Jim nodded and headed in that direction. He found the Captain talking to a group of agents in the hall, but waved at him to come closer when their eyes met.

“Damn it, Jim. I thought you and McCoy would’ve stayed out the city to-“

“It was Sophia.”

Pike blinked and moved them both away from the crowd. “Sophia Warrant? The doctor that-“

“The witch that attacked us months ago, yes.” Jim cut short. “You have to tell me where she is.”

“We would have arrested her already if I knew.”

“This is Starfleet- the damn Federation, and you’re telling me you can’t find a witch if you want to?”

“It’s not that easy-“

“Isn’t it?” he said with a cold grin.

“Jim, we didn’t know about her and who knows how many other sorcerers in our own Academy,” he shot back, his voice serious but also patience. “I know that you’re angry, but doubting about me won’t help anyone.”

“You said you were following a lead.”

“We are. We’ll try to-“

“Then let me help.”

“Jim-”

“Letting her go it was my responsibility. Now she’s back and Leonard is dying because of me!”

“You couldn’t know that she would’ve attacked again.”

“I knew there was a chance, and I let her go anyway!” he insisted, his eyes shining gold. Pike looked surprised for a second before gently turned him to face the wall. Jim leaning a shoulder against it, staring down. “He got hurt because of me and I couldn’t do anything. Then Spock refused to let me see him. Maybe I can help him, but I’m not allowed to.”

“Don’t blame Spock. He’s just doing his job.” Pike sighed, keeping a hand over his shoulder. “You think you can actually do something for McCoy?”

Jim shrugged nervously, “Probably… We were in the middle of the airport, then in the ambulance... I couldn’t just use magic to check on him. I should have.”

“If you’re not sure, you would’ve risked being spotted for nothing.”

“It wouldn’t have been for nothing if it could have saved Leonard’s life,” Jim growled staring at him, before taking a deep breath, his eyes slowly turning back to blue.

Pike let him go. “What happened in Riverside?” he asked, but the other said nothing. “Jim, whatever happened, you’re clearly still trying to cope with it and you can’t help anyone in this conditions. I’ll go to the hospital and keep you updated, alright?”

“Just give me something to work on,” Jim insisted. “I can’t just wait here. If something happens to him-“

“I’ll try to get him transferred to our hospital here, in the Academy, ok?” Pike said. “I’m sure they’ll take care of him for now.”

“If it’s magic, there’s nothing they can do for him.”

“They will try. McCoy is not the first one attacked by magic.”

“But-“

“Stay here. That’s an order.”

They stared at each other for a moment, then Jim shook his head. “If Leonard doesn’t get better, you’ll need more than Spock to stop me from seeing him.” He said before walking away.

Heading to the dorm, Jim knew deep down that Pike was right: his hands were shaking, he was so angry and tense he couldn't calm down, so he kept his eyes down, scared that they could turn gold again.

“Jim,” Gaila called somewhere behind him. “Jim, can we talk for a moment?”

“Not now,” he cut short without even looking at her. Fearing that he wouldn't be able to reach his room in time, Jim moved into the alley next to the dorm, grasping his hair with both hands, cursing at his own magic. “Calm down… just calm down,” he kept repeating to himself, but then his whole body shivered and he fell down on his knees, hands shining over the grass. “Damn it,” he cried in anger and frustration… and then, suddenly the magic started to calm down. Confused, Jim looked up, finding Gaila kneeling in front him.

“It’s ok, don’t worry,” she said grabbing his hands.

Jim knew there were lots of things he should’ve been worried about, but he got distracted by the strange symbol shining beneath them, on the ground. Looking back at Gaila, her eyes were closed, so he put the question aside for now and did the same, trying to get back some control over himself. After a while, breathing out in relief, Jim watched the symbol disappearing and Gaila’s eyes opening… her usual gray eyes. “Gaila, you… you have magic?”

She smiled a bit and shook her head. “No. But I can use other’s,” she said. “How are you feeling? Did it worked?”

Jim nodded, too tired and surprised to say anything else.

 

They moved inside the dorm, and once in Jim’s room, they both breathed out in relief, looking at each other, laughing a bit.

“I have so many questions right now, I don't know where to start,” he said.

“That’s my line,” she smiled. “Even if I suspected you had magic for a while.”

“Really? Since when?”

“Since the accident in the auditorium.”

“I thought Pike kept that secret…”

“I woke up that night because I felt a strong magic being used. Then, I kind of felt it every time I was close to you,” she said and he looked down, ashamed. “I mean, not since the first time we met. it wasn't so evident before.”

“You can feel it better now because I’m a mess,” Jim commented, sitting on his bed.

“That’s why I wanted to talk to you. I felt that your magic was- getting out of control?”

“It would have if it wasn’t for you.”

“I’m glad I could help,” Gaila said, looking sadly at the poor man, sitting next to him. “All the campus is talking about Starfleet members attacked at the airport. It was you, right?”

“Leonard was the one attacked. Sophia was there and I couldn’t do anything to stop her.”

“But- where is he? Is he ok?”

“I don’t know. She probably used magic on him again… We took him to the hospital and I haven’t seen him since then. I tried to, so that I could check if I can help him somehow, but I can’t and-“ Jim shivered and saw his hands shining slightly again, “and now this keeps happening.” He growled closing them into fists, flinching when she placed a hand over them.

“It’s because you’re so worried, you can't control your emotions, nor your magic. They're connected to each other.” Gaila said.

Jim sighed. “It’s my fault... I let her escape. If he dies…”

“Leonard is stronger than you think, but even if he'll need help, you won't be able to do anything like this.”

Jim stared at their hands, feeling his magic slowly calming down again. “How do you do this?”

“I’ve studied magic for years. My… my father is a sorcerer.” She explained, slowly letting him go. “I know few symbols and some other tricks, but I need someone’s magic to actually use them.”

“So you’re absorbing my magic?”

“Since you’re overcharged right now, you’re lucky I can do that,” she said with a little, ironic smile, "But I can’t keep it for long, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I'm worried about you. I don’t want you to feel like this,” Jim commented.

Gaila smiled a bit, then asked, “How bad was Leonard?”

“I wish I knew. I can’t get close to him as long as they keep him there. Pike will try to move him back in the Academy's hospital, but I doubt they’ll do that anytime soon.”

“Why Sophia is so obsessed with Leonard?” Gaila wondered, “He doesn’t have magic…”

“I stopped her before, and now she wants her revenge… Or someone ordered her to do it.” Jim realized it too late. “It must be him again.”

“Him?”

“Remember the guy that attacked me at the beginning of the year?” he said turning to her, “He had a mark on his hand that someone gave him to help him control his magic, but it ended up killing him instead... And I'm pretty sure Sophia is working for the same person. If she told him about me, I bet he told her to finish the job.”

“In that case, why not try to kill you directly?” Gaila asked.

"Thanks for that."

"Sorry, but- it doesn't look suspicious to you? Since you're the one with magic, not Leonard..."

Jim shrugged. "I told her to stay away from him... She knew I would have got angrier if Leonard was involved again," he murmured, noticing a little, curious smile on her face that made him look away. "Anyway, finding the man she’s working for is the only thing I can do right now.” He said standing up.

“I don't know if that’s a good idea. You know nothing about these people…”

“I’ll fight them if I have to,” Jim said. “I let her go once. I won’t do the same mistake again.”

“Jim.”

He stopped in the doorway, looking back at her.

Gaila sighed, looking a bit ashamed. “If you really want to do this... Maybe I can help you.”

 

Jim didn’t ask anything during their ride to the other side of the city. Once out the taxi, they headed to a little park, and Gaila seemed to look nervous. “You ok?” he finally asked.

“Yeah… But I don’t like what I feel.” She said.

“We’re close? You can feel their magic already?”

“You can’t?”

“Usually, yes, but right now I feel nothing.” Jim could tell she was worried, so he gently let her sit on a bench, under a sky getting darker while thunders were growling in the distance. Most of the snow already disappeared there, in the city. “You can stay here. Just tell me where they are.”

“You shouldn’t go alone…”

“Gaila, I don’t want you to get involved as well,” Jim said, but she just looked down. He sighed, sitting next to her. “Pike knows about you?”

“Not officially, but I think he suspects something.”

“He seems to have a sixth sense for magic too,” he said with a little smile.

“He knows you’re a sorcerer, right?”

“My mother told him, I think,” Jim said, “When she was still working for Starfleet. I guess she thought I could use a friend in there, in the future.”

“He’s not like the others. Captain Pike really want for magic users to be able to live like everybody else…” Gaila nodded. “That’s why I don’t know if taking you here was the right thing to do. If he doesn’t want you to join this manhunt…”

“I doubt he's following the right leads, anyway. Maybe they’re close, but I don’t have time to guess. Sooner I can help Leonard, the better.”

Galia studied him for a moment. “He knows that you have magic as well?”

“No… Not yet. But I don’t want to lose the chance to tell him.”

They stared at each other until Gaila sighed and looked to the left. “That library. That’s where they told me to go if I’d need help,” she said turning to him, “I don't know if the people you’re looking for are in there, but they might help you more than I can.”

"Gaila, you probably saved my life before. And I would've never found this place alone,” he said gently squeezing her arm. “Wait here, ok?”

She grabbed his arm before he could walk away. “If you’re in trouble, give me a sign- anything I can see or feel, ok? So I’ll call for help.”

Jim smiled a tense little smile and nodded, quickly leaving the park to cross the street, standing in front of the big, abandoned library, wondering how these people could hide so well. Who refused to leave the city, must have learned how to live so close to the Federation, Jim answered himself walking up the stairs. Once in front of the high wooden door, he tried to push it open but it didn’t budge.

Moving around the building, he finally spotted a window he could use to enter, but it appeared stuck. After few attempts, Jim looked around before placing a hand against the window and unlocking it with a quick flash of gold from his eyes- also, something burned his palm for a second. Taking a step back, he checked his hand that didn’t seem to be injured, despite the brief pain. There was a spell to let only magic users enter in here? Jim wondered. Taking a deep breath, he finally entered the building.

The room wasn’t too big, with few empty shelves and a table flipped on the marble floor; there were no lights, the other two windows blocked with wooden planks, and all he could hear were weak noises coming from outside.

Jim looked around one last time before heading to the door: he stepped in the big entrance hall, right behind the main staircase leading upstairs; an old, large chandelier hanging from the ceiling, immobile. The furniture of the whole place were in wood, a so old style that Jim started to feel like he traveled in the past. He stared at the main door before turning to the stairs, freezing, suddenly finding three persons there, two men and a woman with a patch covering her left eye.

“I’m not sure you’re in the right place,” The older-looking man said, wearing a long dark jacket said; long blonde hair resting over his chest.

“Are you lost?” the other one said, wearing very light clothes considering the cold weather.

“I- I don’t think so,” Jim said. He was so nervous, all his resolution and will to fight suddenly vanished.

The woman smiled and left, disappearing on the second floor.

“That’s a wise answer,” the first man said.

“Or a lie,” the other one added.

“I’m looking for a person,” Jim said, taking a step forward. “And I was told I could find her here- or talk with someone able to help me.”

“Interesting…”

“Bullshit.”

“Sylar,” the older one schooled him that nervously looked down. “Maybe you're in the right place, afterall,” he continued looking back to Jim, descending, stopping at the end of the staircase, “but we need a proof of your sincerity.”

“What kind of proof?” Jim asked and the man gestured in front of himself, inviting him to get closer. Jim carefully obeyed, standing few steps away from them.

The man didn’t looked offended. “Light up the place for us? Just a bit.” He said pointing at the chandelier.

Jim found himself unable to do what he asked. Was a simple request, nothing extreme, but…

“If you were honest about your request, you have nothing to fear.” The man calmly said.

It’s for Leonard’s sake, Jim thought and looked up at the chandelier: with a brief flash of gold of his eyes, few of the light bulbs lightened up the hall, creating shadows all over the walls. He then looked back at the man that was smiling a bit now and offering a hand.

“I’m Shawn.” He introduced himself.

“Jim.” He said returning the gesture, quickly letting go.

“Now that we know we can trust each other… What brings you here, Jim?” he asked.

“As I said, I’m looking for a person. A woman. Sophia Warrant.” Jim said and noticed both of them changing expression for a second. “She attacked a friend-“

“I’m sorry. There is no one with that name here.” Shawn said.

“But you both know that name,” he insisted.

“We always hear lots of names here.”

Jim wasn't going to give up so easily. “Oh really? Who’s lying now?”

Sylar stepped forward, but Shawn raised a hand to stop him. “I’m sorry, but the person you’re looking for is not here. If you have nothing else to ask-“

“She tried to kill me, and now she attacked a friend of mine,” Jim continued. “He’s dying because of her- and because I’ve made the mistake to let her go.”

Sylar frowned and looked at Shawn that just kept his eyes on the blonde and asked, “If she actually has attacked you-“

“It was months ago. She said someone ordered her to get into Starfleet's Academy to get information. Are you behind all this?”

“You met her in the Academy?”

Sylar’s eyes shined red and growling few strange words, he raised a hand, sending Jim to crashing back against the entrance's door.

“Stop it,” Shawn said, grabbing his arm.

“He’s one of them!”

“We don’t know if-“ Shawn was saying, but then stopped and raised a hand yelling words in the ancient language, creating a barrier that protected both of them from the chandelier that crashed down a second later.

Jim was already standing up, eyes shining gold. “If you need a fight to start talking, I'm totally up for it,” he murmured, aware that controlling his magic was way harder than before... But he wasn't going to give up now that he was so close to the answers he wanted.

The shield disappeared, but Shawn didn't let his friend's arm go, staring at the young man approaching again, walking over the pieces of crystal and metal of the destroyed chandelier.

“So? You don't want to fight anymore?” Jim yelled, stepping back when what looked like a gray cloud of smoke appeared in front of him, slowly assuming a human form- until the woman with the patch over her eye was standing between them.

She silently shook her head and raised a hand in front of him, moving the index left and right in no before turning around.

Confused, Jim watched her long black hair moving so strangely- as if they were actually smoke. She reached her friends and all the pieces of the chandelier started to collect themselves behind her until it literally flew up and back on its place with two bulbs left to illuminate the hall.

She pushed down Shawn a bit to talk into his ear before he disappeared like smoke in the wind again.

The man sighed and let the other go, looking at Jim. “We don’t have to fight. Come with us.”

Jim’s eyes slowly turned back to blue and he took a deep breath before following them upstairs. The state of the second floor wasn’t any better, but Jim found only Shawn waiting for him at the top of the stairs.

“This way.” He said with a cold expression, gesturing for him to precede him.

Jim stepped forward, realizing there was another spell there- it felt like walking through a thin veil, finding a completely different place on the other side: the second floor was suddenly busy with people, women, men and some kids sitting around in the large corridors illuminated by few flying shining globes. As he arrived there, everyone turned to look at him.

“You better control yourself, now,” Shawn said leading the way down the corridor on the right.

Jim said nothing, casually looking at the place and at the people around him, feeling magic everywhere.

Shawn stopped in front of a large door, looking back at him. “Remember what I just told you. You might be like us, but you’re not one of us.”

“Never said I came here to become one of you.”

“Good. We don’t appreciate traitors.” Shawn said with a cold, little grin before opening the door for him.

Jim wished those words didn't hurt, but somehow, they did. Entering the room, he found few people inside, some close to the fireplace crackling on the left, and three standing next to a large table on the other side of the room, right in front of him. Something made his magic react instantly and his eyes turned gold without he even realized. What the…?

“Don't worry, it happens every time with new people,” one of the three, the tallest, said, with a low, raspy voice. “They usually get used to it after a while.”

Jim watched the man turning around, kind of hypnotized by the strange tattoos he could see on the man’s face and hairless head, noticing also his pointy ears. When their eyes met, he tried to focus, but his magic was so strange- and powerful. He never felt anything like that before.

The man nodded at the others and most of the people left the room, then he made few steps closer. “So, what’s your name?”

“I- I’m Jim.”

“I mean your true name.”

“That’s my name…” he said, taken aback.

“We have an innocent one, here…” the man smiled patiently at Shawn that walked past him, leaning against the table, crossing his arms.

If Jim needed to focus, being fooled around was a good way to get back on the right track. “Look, if you think that I come all the way here to make you laugh-”

“Of course not. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude,” the man said bowing his head a bit in apology. “I’m just surprised you don’t know your true name yet. All the powerful sorcerers have one.”

“Well, Jim is enough for me.” he snorted.

The other smiled again. “I’m Nero. I heard you have an interesting story for me, Jim.”

“I’m looking for a person. A woman called Sophia Warrant,” he said, but Nero’s face didn’t betray any reaction.

“And you think she’s here?”

“If she’s not, someone sure knows where she is.” He said, looking briefly at Shawn.

“Why do you came here, of all the places?” Nero asked, crossing his arms over the old, dark shirt. “There are multiple groups like ours in the city. Why not ask to them?”

Jim tried to hold his gaze. “I don’t know any of those.”

“That’s strange. Someone sure would have find you. Sorcerers and witches that decided to stay and live here are used to help their people.”

"Look, if you already know that I’m a member of Starfleet, can't we get to the point?” he said, suddenly feeling magic spreading from everywhere, “You can help me or you want to kill me?”

“Everyone, calm down,” Nero said at the people starting to group up at the entrance of the room, before looking back at him. “I know few of us still try to join Starfleet… They still hope for a peace that is just an illusion...”

“It’s their choice. I’m not here to-“

“But for a sorcerer like you, actually joining them and came here despite being a traitor…” Nero continued, “That’s something new.”

“Why I’m a traitor? How?” Jim finally burst out. “I’m here because one of our people tried to kill me once, and now she attacked a friend of mine that did nothing against us.”

“I might warn you that there aren't many people in Starfleet that we would consider innocent.”

"Well, he is. He did nothing wrong," Jim shot back. “Sophia's the one that came into the Academy because someone ordered her to, and used him to get what she wanted. I stopped her and told her to leave, to never come back, but she did, and now he’s dying because I trusted our people.”

Nero listened carefully and then nodded slowly. “Yes, she told me what happened.”

“So she’s here?”

“She should be, since she works for me.”

It took Jim a second to understand, too surprised to actually react. “It’s you? You’re the one that sent her into the Academy?” he asked, anger making him move forward, “You’re the one killing people with those marks!”

Shawn and few others around the room raised their arms against him in an instant, pronouncing few words that forced him down on his knees. Nero stared blankly at him, “In my defense, the marks weren't made to hurt anyone. I’ve created the marks to help our people, but they’re too scared to allow them to work as they should.”

Jim had to push his hands on the floor to not lay completely down, feeling as if a car was slowly falling over himself. “You’re not- helping them!”

“You think the people in here didn’t had the same problem before?” Nero asked walking closer. “The mark might require some sort of sacrifice sometimes, but accepting it, they managed to control their magic like they never did before. They’re free to be what they are.” He continued smiling at the others in the room.

Jim followed his gaze, tried to, noticing that most of them had a mark visible on their hands, or arms, or on the neck… and they were using their magic just fine.

“It’s something you’re begging for, isn’t it?” Nero said walking around him. “Your magic is pure chaos, and so strong. You’re right to be scared of it.”

“I’m- not.”

“You’re trying so hard… since when?” Nero crouched in front of him, gently placing a hand over his head, closing his eyes.

Jim tried to move away but barely managed to flinch.

"Oh, Jim... You've never been free?" Nero sighed, looking sadly at him. “How… Why are you forcing such a torture on yourself?”

“Shut up.”

“Your magic is suffocating, and you along with it.”

“It’s none of your business-“

“You’re a bomb ready to explode, James Kirk.”

Jim screamed in anger, trying to use magic to break free: few of the people around them flew back against the walls, on the floor, but others kept the spell working. Out of breath, angry, sad and scared, Jim just dropped his head, feeling like an animal trapped in a cage.

Nero didn’t move, still down in front of him. “This is what the Federation did to us. This is why my marks can’t save everybody. I could use one on you now, and you would probably die in few seconds only because you’re so scared of what you are.” He said. “I warned all the people that asked for my mark, James, I never lied to them. They were sure they could endure it, that everything would’ve got better just like that, but the mark doesn't work like a miracle: it’s supposed to help them, but they have to do their part and accept their true nature. Sadly, someone can’t. Just like you.” He looked at the others that slowly lowered their arms, interrupting the spell.

Jim almost crashed on the floor, suddenly free from the invisible weight- but his heart now felt heavier than ever. “You can… keep talking all you want,” he said, breathing hard. “I’m here… to save my friend. Tell Sophia… to stop whatever she did to him.” He saw him sighing and standing to leave. “She betrayed me! Your people have a debt with me!”

Nero stopped behind him, thinking, then asked, “Why you joined Starfleet? Why fight for someone that will kill you the moment they’ll know you have magic?”

“Weren’t you doing the same right now?” Jim said, slowly standing up.

“I was barely giving you a demonstration of my thoughts about your situation. Was I wrong?”

“What I do with my life it doesn’t concern you or anyone else.”

“Just help me understand, then.”

I have to save Leonard, Jim repeated to himself, forcing himself to play along. “For the same reason others joined them. Peace isn’t an illusion for everyone.”

“And still, you’re hiding, pretending to be someone else.”

“And why you think I have to? The entire State saw only the worst side of magic during the war, and you’re doing nothing to change that. We have to hide because of people like you.”

“I think making them feel the same fear they forced on us is somehow poetic.”

“Ok, get your revenge. Everyone kills everyone, and then what? An endless war? Is that what you want?”

“What you want, then? Join Starfleet, become Captain and live happily ever after? Please, don’t tell me you’re so naïve…”

“It’s not being naïve, it’s trying to find an actual solution to this mess!”

“And your solution is staying quiet and let them win?” Nero laughed. “They’ll turn their backs on you once they’ll discover the truth. Nothing will change.”

“You don’t know that.” Jim insisted, ignoring the others that laughed or shaken their heads. "If you don't let us try, how can we-"

“You know how many people I've heard say the exact same things in the last years? You want to know how many of them are still succeeded?”

“If you've sent people like Sophia to ruin everything, I doubt some of them even had the chance to.”

Nero calmly raised a hand to his people that were chatting angrily, ready to attack. “You would be surprised about how easily they failed on their purpose all by themselves, believing in the peace. The Federation hasn't won yet. The war is still on.”

“No one won the war, and it’ll never stop as long as people like you will keep showing them that magic users are just dangerous psychopaths.”

“Maybe we want them to keep that in mind as well.” Nero grinned coldly.

Jim wanted to scream how wrong he was, and how easily the situation could've been different if one of the sides could just stop for a second and think. “Fine. whatever. Enjoy your war. I’m not here to change your mind. I’m here for Sophia.”

“And what you want from her exactly?”

“She has to tell me what she did to my friend.”

“And then what?” Nero asked, staring intently at him, “You want to kill her?”

Yes. Jim was so ready to answer that question, but suddenly, he wasn’t so sure about it. “She has to pay. Starfleet will decided her fate.” Jim said, and all the people in the room and outside, in the doorway, murmured even louder their discontent and objections.

“You are asking me to hand her over to the enemy?” Nero smiled patiently. “Sorry, but I can’t do that.”

“If my friend dies because of her-!” Jim yelled, but then the other raised a hand to stop him.

Nero stared at him in silence, thinking. “You’re right about one thing: Sophia shouldn’t have attacked you again, that wasn’t my order, but I think she did it to be forgiven for her failure at the Academy…” he said. “This is my offer: I’ll tell her to fix whatever she did to your friend, and I will also let you go home unharmed… but you'll have to do something for me.”

“I won't take any order from you.” Jim quickly said.

“It’s not an order. I just want you to allow me to help you." Nero explained calmly. "See it as a bonus for the trouble Sophia caused, and a gesture of trust from your people.”

“You’re not my people.”

“So Starfleet’s are?” Nero asked, but got no answer. “But you're right, this is not the time to discuss other matters. So, you accept my conditions?”

Jim didn’t trust the man one bit, but time was flying and Leonard was still risking his life. “If you’re trying to trick me-“

“Trick someone with powers like yours would require a very elaborate plan…” Nero grinned, studying him. “No tricks. Just a gesture of peace between us.”

Like I have a choice... “Fine. Now call her.”

“She haven’t come back yet, but don’t worry…” he said heading to the exit to talk with few of his group.

Jim watched three of them nodding and leaving. “I thought we had a deal.”

“We do. Your friend will be fine shortly, you have my word.” Nero said looking back at him, smiling again. “Don’t make that face, James Kirk. It might surprise you, but we are trustworthy people.”

“Sorry if that’s hard for me to believe.”

“We’ll fix that too,” Nero commented, grabbing a long black jacket that he wore before gesturing out the room. “Now, mind to follow me?”

“Where?”

“Upstairs. The view is beautiful from the roof.”

Reluctantly, Jim followed him in the corridor and up through other staircases. Counting the floors, they stopped at the fifth: there was no one else with them, under a sky covered of sinister clouds, a new storm ready to hit; the cold wind was moving the few old receivers and metal wires placed around the roof.

“Storms fits this city so well, don’t you think?” Nero asked staring at the view.

Jim stopped few feet behind him. “If with storm you mean war, no, I don’t think so.”

Nero laughed softly, “Ah, they’re more used to it than you may think…” he said turning to look at him. “You’re smart, and you have powers only few of us can even dream to possess. I’m sincerely curious about how did you become like this?”

“You mean how I’ve managed to grow up as a normal human being instead of praising war and destruction?”

“You’re far from being a normal human being, James, but what I mean is… How do you manage to control your magic so well to hide it, but you can’t control it to use it?”

“I don’t want to use it.”

“Because you’re afraid to.”

The more Nero said that, the more Jim had to force himself not to think that he was right about it. “Still, it’s my choice.”

“It’s a choice dictated from fear. Even I know that can’t be good.”

Last thing Jim wanted was to talk about the mess his life has been since the beginning with Nero, but he had the feeling that lying would only force him to stay there longer. “It’s easier to control if I just hide it.”

“You know that's not true.”

“Every time I tried to use it, someone got hurt.”

“That’s just because you’re scared to let it go.”

“I can’t let it go!” Jim growled and almost as his magic was an entity on its own, his eyes flashed gold and his hands started shaking in response to his words. “Damn it...”

Nero sighed. “This is why I can’t agree with people joining Starfleet: they might be good for normal people, but for us? We are forced to block ourselves, to hide our nature, suffocating it until you become so eager to breathe freely, every little chance can turn you into an amazingly powerful storm.”

Is he right? Is just… fear? I’m asking too much from myself? Jim could stop the thoughts, looking at his own shaking hands, flinching when Nero’s grabbed both his wrists.

“I want to show you how your life could be. What magic really is.” Nero said and his eyes started to change: the iris turned completely black, with a gold pupil the middle.

It was the exact opposite of what Jim was used to see- and those eyes scared him. Then, he felt his magic starting to flow out of his control and he tried to break free.

“Don’t be scared,” Nero insisted, not letting him go.

“I can’t control it!”

“Use your magic on me.”

“What? No… it’ll kill you!”

Nero laughed and shook his head. “We’ll see about that. Come on. Do it.”

Jim wanted to run away, to never see those eyes ever again… And then he could feel his magic- he could almost hear it begging to be released, or it was just the desire he never had the courage to confess, not even to himself. With a cry of frustration, he gave up and let go for the first time, after so damn long: the magic literally exploded free all around them and then…

Nero smiled, grasping his wrists stronger to keep him standing when the blonde almost collapsed. “How does it feel?”

Jim could hardly breath- hardly think, figures try to speak: he never felt so light, so free, as if he had kept a weight over himself all his life and now it was finally lifted. His eyes were burning a bit, but not enough to hurt; his shoulders dropped in relief and his hands… his hands weren’t shaking anymore.

“How does it feel to be free, James?”

Again, Jim didn’t answer- there was no need to. They both knew.

“This is how you should feel all the time. This is something only we can teach you. The freedom you are feeling now? Starfleet will never allow you to have it.”

Jim kept his eyes on Nero’s hands, on the light all around them. He never felt his magic so distant, and yet so close. His magic was all he had, after all, it never abandoned him, so why not trust it and just- embrace it?

Not here. Not thanks to him.

Jim wasn’t sure what or who sent that thought into his mind, but that slowly remind him where he was- and why he was there. He slowly tried to break free, a big part of him praying for that freedom to never end.

“Your magic is strong enough to fight them all, and you still want to keep it in chains?” Nero asked.

“I don’t- I don’t want to fight them,” Jim finally said. “This is… I can get this without fighting anyone.”

“You know that’s impossible.”

“I’ll make it possible!”

“Show me, then,” Nero said, his voice as cold as ice, letting him go.

Jim wasn’t ready to break the connection so suddenly, and he realized only then how strong his own magic was: it crashed back on him as a mountain, forcing him down on his knees with an agonizing scream. The fear, the tension, his hands shaking- everything was back, hurting even more than before because he knew he didn’t wanted that. He wanted to be free… like he deserved to be.

“This is what the Federation wants for all of us. Segregation, pain and suffering,” Nero continued, standing in front of him, “Once they'll know about you, the only thing they'll do will be to destroy you. Your precious friend will probably ask you to kill yourself, seeing the monster that you really are. We don’t belong with them!

Just thinking about Leonard saying something like that made Jim shut his eyes, his magic completely out of control, like a wild animal that tasted freedom just for a moment and now was fighting not to go back inside its cage.

“I hope you’ll understand the truth before is too late, James Kirk,” Nero said. “Losing a power like yours would be a pity.” That said, he walked away.

Jim wanted to scream for him to stay, to help him, but he couldn't. Everything was hurting now, the whole world seemed getting darker and lights flashed against his closed eyes. Laying on the floor, hiding his head in both hands, he screamed all his pain. He never fought his own magic like that- he had no idea it was even possible, or that his magic was really that strong… A bomb ready to explode, just like Nero said. I’m going to destroy everything? I’ll hurt everyone... and Leonard... He'll never forgive me for this…

“Jim…”

He had no idea how much time has passed before he managed to hear a voice.

“Jim, it’s ok… Please, help me.”

I can’t help anyone

“I can’t do it without you. Please…”

Still laying on one side, Jim fearfully opened his eyes and looked up enough to find Gaila laying next to him under the rain, visibly tired and pale, a hand stretched to rest on his shoulder.

“We can control it. Together... ok?” she said smiling a bit, slowly getting closer to drag him against her chest.

Shaking, Jim shut his eyes and tried to focus, focusing on Gaila presence, until the magic finally, slowly started to calm down- almost sadly.

It took them a while, but in the end, the world started to lose its light, leaving the place to the cold night. Jim took a trembling deep breath, noticing the line of a symbol shining beneath them.

Gaila sighed, caressing his hair, “It’s ok. You can do it…” she said, before going limp against him.

Jim blinked fast, still scared and confused, but quickly tried to sit up to keep her into his arms. “Gaila? Gaila are you hurt?” he asked trying to check on her.

She shook her head. “No, just… Let me rest for a moment.”

Jim stared worriedly at her, then looked around and his heart almost stopped: few buildings and parks were smoking in the distance, all over the city; there were sirens echoing everywhere and people screaming. The weak light of a new day creeping on the horizon.

“Storm… lasted all night,” Gaila murmured. “I felt you, but- then the thunders started…”

I did this. Jim thought looking at the disaster he caused. “I’m sorry…” he said weakly, but she just shook her head, bumping her forehead against his chest. "I'm sorry," he whispered again, scared of using his own voice.

.-.

When Sophia arrived in the apartment outside the city that morning, everyone inside looked coldly at her, someone sadly, but most of them just turned away and left once she entered the living room where Nero was staring out the window. The storm has finally calmed down.

The door closed, leaving the two of them alone in the room. “This storm was pretty scary, isn’t it?” Nero asked, “I heard it also damaged the city.”

Sophia stopped in the center of the room, pulling down the hood, letting her blond, wet hair fall off. “Thunders hit few buildings. People got hurt.”

“I’m sure they are...” Nero commented before turning to her. “You want to give me a report about your last mission?”

She swallowed down the tension before speaking. “I managed to infiltrate in the hospital and erase my spell on Kirk’s friend.”

“Did you also healed his wound as I asked?”

“Partly. People started came in. He has been transferred back to the Academy’s hospital. I thought to come here to refer to you.”

“And I thought my orders were clear.”

“They were. The man will survive,” she said, but he just kept staring. “You have my word, he will. But if you want me to go back into the Academy, I will.”

Nero considered it. “I hope you’re telling the truth.”

“I am,” Sophia said urgently. “I would never lie to you, I-“

“You already did, deciding to get your revenge instead of following my orders.”

She looked down, ashamed. “I’m sorry. I just- After what happened, I thought that making Kirk and his friend pay for it was what you wanted as well.”

“You’re the only responsible for your failure, Sophia,” Nero said, walking around the room. “I asked you to obtain information, not to put a spell and kidnap someone. I thought you were already happy here, with us.”

She said nothing, keeping her eyes down.

“I’ve forgiven you once because I understand how hard it must have been to see that the Federation isn’t suffering like we do. It wasn't an easy mission, but I trusted you...”

“How could I know that a sorcerer was hiding in the Academy? Protecting and working for them?” she said in her defense. “I got close to him more than once, and I never felt anything from him. If I did-“

“What if you did?” He asked standing in front of her.

“I would’ve tried to talk to him. To take him on our side-“ she stopped when he laughed softly.

“You think you would've been able to convince James Kirk to join us?”

“I could’ve try to-“

“You know why you didn’t felt his magic?” Nero interrupted, “Because he’s one of those that kept their magic hidden since they were a child. Something so useful to learn, but also so painful, and so sad when it's the only way they accept to coexist with their magic. He's well aware of this, and still, he wants to stay with Starfleet.”

“But- I thought…”

“That I convinced him to work for us? No, dear, it will take some time to change his mind, and bring his magic on our side. The same magic that destroyed part of the city tonight, and that you weren’t able to feel. That is James Kirk’s magic.”

Sophia blinked in surprised, looking out the window, and then back at him. “I- I had no idea-”

“Everything got very difficult now, just because you couldn't follow my orders. You almost ruined everything,” he continued.

“Nero, I swear, I didn’t know-“

“I’ve been waiting years for this moment, to finally meet him, and someone so insignificant like you almost ruined the work of my whole life... But I’ll forgive one last time,” he said placing both hands around her head. “I forgive you.” He repeated calmly, watching a timid smile appear on her face. Then, with a quick movement, he broke Sophia’s neck and let her body fall on the floor.

A moment later, someone knocked at the door and Shawn appeared, looking down at her with a cold expression.

Nero studied him. “As I thought, twins can feel each other’s magic pretty well, isn’t it?” He said, but got no answer. “Take your time to say goodbye to your sister.” He finished, patting his shoulder before leaving, closing the door.

Shawn took a deep breath, placing a hand over his heart, grasping hard on the fabric, a single tear rolling down his face, still feeling as if a part of his magic has been ripped apart.

Chapter Text

Gaila tried to stay awake during their long walk back to the Academy, but he she was so tired, her eyes kept opening and closing, staring at different places every time, but one thing never changed: Jim was always walking forward, keeping her on his back.
Few times she also saw police’s cars running down the street, or heard voices and sirens when she could rely only on her ears.

“I’ll take you to the hospital, ok?” Jim said, at some point.

She opened her eyes again and found themselves close to the Academy’s entrance. “No… no hospital.”

“Gaila, you need to-“

“I’m not hurt,” she insisted weakly, closing her eyes. “I just need to rest…” she hoped he heard that- and apparently he did, because after a while she found herself laying on a bed. Jim’s bed.

“Are you sure you’re ok?” he asked.

She nodded and tried to stay awake a bit longer, to check that he was alright too… but they both knew he was far from being fine.

Jim was kneeling next to the bed, on the floor, staring at her with a heartbreaking expression, eyes so watery it was incredible he wasn’t crying yet.

Gaila felt ready to cry in his place. “Jim…”

“I’m not a doctor. I don’t know if you’re- If my magic did something to you-“

“It didn’t.”

“You saw what happened to the city!”

She slowly moved a hand over his shoulder. “It wasn’t just your magic. It was… it’s hard to explain, but I know. I know that what happened isn’t your fault.”

“Oh, it is.” He smiled coldly, nervously looking out the window when a weak thunder rumbled outside. The Academy seemed unharmed from the storm but everyone knew that magic was clearly involved. In the chaos that followed, no one even bother to question why he was crossing the campus with a girl almost unconscious on his back.

Gaila knew she was going to fall asleep soon. “Any news about Leonard?”

“They took him back to the Academy's hospital…”

“Then you should go see him.”

“What?” He suddenly looked terrified. “I can’t. I shouldn’t be here either. If something happens again-“

“You’re in control now. You can do it,” Gaila insisted. “And you need to see him. We’ll talk when you come back, alright?”

Jim said nothing, nor moved, watching her falling asleep, taking her hand when it slipped down from his shoulder, keeping it into despite he was still shaking slightly.

 

Spock was standing in front of Leonard McCoy’s room not exactly because he wanted to, but because it was Captain Pike’s order: if the attack at the airport wasn’t that suspicious, a magical storm happening the same night sure was. The events might be connected, and the Captain was worried that the Doctor could still be a target, so they took him to the Academy’s Hospital as soon as the storm calmed down enough to let them, hoping to keep him safer.

The Vulcan kept staring at the man laying in bed through the glass in the wall. Nyota said she would’ve joined him that morning, so he was waiting for her to arrive when something else caught his attention and he looked down the corridor, spotting a soaked and pale James Kirk walking towards him.

They stared at each other for a moment until Jim found the courage to speak. “How’s Leonard?”

Spock looked him up and down but didn’t comment on his conditions. “He seems to start recovering from the infection.”

“Infection? What infection?”

“It was unknown to us. Probably caused by magic. He’s healing pretty fast.”

Jim breathed out in relief. “So... can I see him?”

“We still don’t know if this virus is-“

“I don’t care,” Jim interrupted. “Spock, please…”

“I can’t risk a pandemic because of you.”

“I need to see him.”

Spock studied him and then noticed Nyota getting out the elevator and slowing her pace when she looked at them, standing few steps behind Jim. He focused on the other again, “Why you need to see Doctor McCoy?”

“For the same reason you needed to see Uhura when she was dying.” Jim answered, holding his gaze.

Uhura blinked in surprise, smiling patiently at her boyfriend when he sent his glare at her again. She sighed, nodding.

Spock didn’t betray any reaction, but moved aside to let him pass. “He is not sedated anymore, but he's still asleep.”

Jim vaguely heard him, walking straight into the room.

Uhura moved next to the Vulcan. “So you know something about feelings, after all…”

“You know that is unpractical in my case.”

“Are you sure?”

Spock blinked thoughtfully, silently watching her closing the door.

Jim stood in front of the bed, watching his friend sleeping under the covers, his head slowly tilted on the right: Leonard looked pale, but not as bad as Jim was imagining. He knew the wound was on his side, so he couldn’t see it, but… Hopefully, the worst has passed already. “You’re supposed to be the doctor, not the patient, you know? You shouldn’t be here…” he murmured moving next to the bed, his voice slowly breaking. “It shouldn’t be you.” He said crouching down, taking a deep breath. He almost grabbed his arm, but stopped the moment he saw his hand still shaking.

Swallowing down anger and sadness, Jim didn't had the courage to touch him. “You were right about Sophia. If I-“ a thunder from outside made him flinch and turn around to the window. Sighing nervously, he looked back at his friend, a sad grin was on his lips. “What a shitty time to fall in love…” He murmured, then tried to continue, “Sorry that it’s you, Bones. You don’t deserve this. No one does.”

Uhura was looking out the window, alone in the corridor, when she heard the door opening, and saw Jim walking away. She almost called for him, but then stopped.

Jim walked straight out of the hospital and through the campus. There was only one thing he could do now, to stop this madness before it was too late. Nothing would’ve happened if I wasn’t here. What was I thinking? Join Starfleet and…

“Join Starfleet, become Captain and live happily ever after? Please, don’t tell me you’re so naïve…” Nero’s words echoed into his mind, breaking what was left of his strength.

Jim quickly brushed the tears away, heading to the Academy’s exit. I was so sure nothing would’ve happened- that the war was over… so stupid. Federation or magic, there’s no in between. I’m just keeping myself safe leaving others to deal with whatever happens.

“You’re a bomb ready to explode, James Kirk.”

I didn’t know! I was born with these powers, I’ve never asked for it! Jim looked down when another thunder shook the sky, not even sure if it was because of him or not anymore. He just wanted to get away from everything, so he did, and walked out the gates, leaving the Academy behind.

.-.-.

Gaila woke up with a light headache, slowly trying to connect with reality. Blinking, she looked around Jim’s room, a light-gray colored sky out the window, sign that the dawn wasn’t too far. She sat up, noticing Jim sitting on the floor hugging his legs, back against the bed. “You’re here…” she sighed in relief, but he didn’t move.

“Jim?” she called, leaving the bed to sit next to him, apparently asleep, but still shaking occasionally. Gaila wondered from how many nightmares he has woke up already. “Jim.” She gently poked at his arm and that alone startled him awake.

Jim quickly scanned the room before turning to her. “Hey… How you’re feeling?”

“I’m fine. What about you?”

“Same. I guess.”

Gaila didn’t fell for it not even for a second. “You managed to sleep a bit?”

“Yeah… yeah, for a few hours.” He said, but she just kept staring worriedly at him. “I still feel a bit on the edge, but it’s getting better. I think. You're the one able to check about that.” He smiled a bit- well, tried to.

“Your magic feels like always, now,” she said. “Sorry that I couldn’t stay awake.”

“You needed to rest. You- you’ve done more than enough for me.”

She nodded, then said after a while, “I’m glad you’re still here. For a moment, I thought you had left. For good.” Jim didn’t comment, keeping his eyes on the floor, so she continued, “You saw Leonard?”

“Yeah. He’s recovering.”

“That’s good... So it was worth meeting those people.” Gaila sighed in relief, but again, he didn’t comment. “Jim, about what happened tonight…”

“Yesterday.” He corrected her, “You’ve slept for almost a day.”

“Really? And you stayed here all the time?”

“I couldn’t just leave you alone. Not after what happened.”

“That storm wasn’t your fault…”

“My magic caused it. That’s what happens when I don’t keep it under control.”

“Jim, your magic never felt so violent- or dangerous. Suddenly it was like-”

“Suddenly my magic was free. That’s what you saw. That was me.” He cut short, standing and moving around the room just because he needed to.

She kept sitting on the floor. “In that case, don’t you think I should feel it now as well? Probably everyone around here should.”

“Good for me I haven’t destroyed the whole Academy, then.”

“I’m just saying that what I felt that night was- it felt too strong… as if impossible to control.”

“I know. Why do you think I’m so scared right now? That was my magic.”

“But you’re controlling it now, and it feels like always. Something was happening on that roof, that night,” Gaila said, standing up. “Something that made your magic react like that.”

Jim just shook his head, looking down, leaning against the desk. “I was reacting to freedom. I’ve always hidden my magic… I’m used forcing it back down quickly.”

“Always? Since when?” she asked, moving closer.

“Since forever. And it was for the better. I let it go for a moment and you saw what happened. The whole city saw it.”

“Jim, your magic is not your enemy,” she said after a moment. “It makes you what you are. It’s part of you, you can’t just- keep it down and pretend it’s not there.”

“And what alternative do I have?” he shot back, angrier than he intended. “If nothing’s going to change, what’s the point of me staying here?”

She sighed, feeling his sadness even without any magic trick. “I think you’re the best thing that could’ve happened to us,” she said and smiled a bit when he looked skeptically at her. “To both, Starfleet and people that use magic. You being here is already a big change itself. I’m sure Nero knows that too.”

Jim hated hearing that name again. “You saw him?”

“I met him when he and his friends were leaving the library,” she nodded. “I was trying to come to help you, and he- I think he felt my presence, so it was pointless to hide. He didn’t hurt me, and said that their door will be always open for me, and for you.” She sighed, shaking her head. “That guy gives me the creeps.”

But he’s not completely wrong, Jim couldn’t stop the thought.

“Look, I don’t know what he said to you, but- don’t trust him too much, ok? Something strange was happening that night and it wasn’t just your magic. Nero’s presence alone feels- weird.”

Jim could still remember those black eyes with shining gold in the middle... Maybe he actually did something to his magic? But Jim didn’t feel anything- aside from his own magic going wild, that is. “I was so scared to let go,” he murmured, shivering at the memory, “But once I did it, it felt so good, for the first time...” He noticed her staring, so added quickly, “I knew that it was dangerous, but- ow, OW!“ He yelped when she pulled one of his ears.

“Not you or your magic are dangerous, don’t you get it? You just need to find your balance and stop being scared of yourself,” Gaila schooled him. “Magic reflects how you're feeling, so of course you’ll explode as soon as you'll have the slightest chance to let it go.” She added, letting him go.

Jim felt a stab in his heart at those words. “Nero said almost the same thing…”

“And still, he abandoned you on that roof to suffer,” she said without missing a beat, crossing her arms. “I’m starting to think that he’s using the situation on his own favor. Even if I don’t know how or why... He doesn’t feel right.”

Not here. Not thanks to him.

Jim remembered about that voice- the warning that distracted him on that roof. “You tried to talk with me while I was up there? I mean, through my mind or something?”

Gaila huffed a laugh. “I wish I could. My powers are limited to a few tricks.”

“Still, you saved me.” He smiled a bit.

She smiled back. “We’ll fix this, and I’ll help you. It’s just about control. It might be hard at first, but it’s something you’ll need to learn about, eventually.”

Eventually?” he snorted.

“Sooner the better. And sure better without Nero’s help.” She said looking briefly outside. “I know few people that could help you… I’ll go back to my dorm and make few calls- and also say to Uhura that I’m alive.” Gaila said moving to the door, turning to look at him again. “I want to find you here when I came back, got it?”

Jim nodded. “Hey Gaila…” he stood, moving closer, “Thank you for all you’ve done.”

She smiled and kissed his cheek. “See you later.”

Jim watched her disappear down the stairs and closed the door, bumping his forehead against it. The day before, he was so ready to leave the Academy… Then he thought about Gaila and how she fought her own fears to help him; how Sam trusted him to do the right thing; how Pike never doubted about him… And how Leonard risked his life for him despite all the lies- and how Jim inevitably fell in love with him. Another secret to add to the list.

Something chirped in the room, and Jim realized his phone was on Leonard’s desk. Grabbing it, he found forty calls and a dozen messages from Uhura or other friends. The last two were from Pike: “Jim, where are you?” has been sent the night of the storm, while the one just arrived said: “Spock told me you were at the hospital yesterday. McCoy is awake, and he’s constantly asking about you.”

Jim wished he could feel happy about that, but he just dropped the phone on the desk and sat on the floor again, trying to ignore the world outside the room.

 

He didn’t leave the room for the rest of the day, refusing to check the news to see more of the destruction he has caused. He kept falling asleep, waking up from another nightmare that left him more tired than before, and then just repeat the process.

The second day after the storm, Jim woke up on Leonard’s bed without even knowing how did he get there. Confused, and a bit embarrassed, he stood from it and straightened the covers before stepping away from it.

He found more calls from Pike on the phone, actually surprised that the man didn’t come there in person. There were many things Jim should’ve told him, but he knew that exposing himself and Gaila to Nero bounded them both to him: they knew about each other, so they could easily destroy each other. Nero surely knew that… He probably made up his entire plan counting on Jim’s silence.

Despite everything, Jim’s stomach made clear that he needed food. Sighing, he waited another hour before walking down the bar in defeat. As expected, few people asked him if he was ok, and he blankly nodded, asking about Gaila instead, but no one saw her around the campus.

In the bar, the television was still showing areas of the city that got hit by thunders, reporting about a few people injured, but, fortunately, no deaths.

Jim looked away from the screen and walked back to his room. Closed the door, his eyes rested on the phone, thinking about Pike’s message… and Leonard asking about him.

“Don’t go after her!” That was the last thing the doctor has told him. Leonard already knew something bad would’ve happened…

Of course, Jim ignored him and looked for Sophia anyway. He was ready to kill her- but in the end, he couldn't even do that. Leaving the phone on the desk, he moved to the wardrobe, grabbing and throwing a bag on the bed. I can’t stay. Not like this, Jim said to himself, ready to put some clothes inside the bag, but unable to start to. When he thought that he should have go look for Gaila first, the door smashed open, making him jump and turn around- suddenly speechless.

Leonard was standing in the doorway, still a bit pale, and not even wearing a jacket over the t-shirt and trousers he was wearing, both too light for the cold weather; his right shoulder and part of the arm has been bandaged- and he looked furious.

Jim blinked and tried to say something. “W- what are you doing here?”

“Since you’re ignoring everyone, I had to come here myself.” He growled closing the door with another bang.

“You can leave the hospital already?”

“Didn’t Pike told you that I wanted to see you?”

“He- yeah, he sent me a message,” Jim said, not used to see him so angry.

“Then why you didn’t come?”

Good question. “I’ve come to see you the other day, but you were asleep. I thought-“

“You thought that it would be easier lying to Spock and Pike rather than to me?”

“Lying…?”

“About Sophia!” Leonard yelled. “I told you not to follow that crazy bitch- I hated myself for telling you about her that day in the airport, that’s why I told not to go after her but of course you didn’t listen to me!”

Jim really hoped he wouldn’t have remembered about that. “I didn’t-“

“Don’t lie to me!”

“I’m not lying! I- I wasn’t allowed to see you.”

“You disappeared for two days! You think I’m that stupid?”

“If you’d let me explain-“

“I’ll listen when you’ll start telling the truth!”

“If I’d found Sophia, don’t you think she would be under arrest by now?”

“That’s exactly what I’m worried sick about!” Leonard shot back, “You both were gone and then you came back alone!”

Just then, Jim realized that Leonard was so angry and worried because he thought Jim had killed her. And I was so close to do it…

“Tell me what happened. What have you done?” The doctor insisted, a hand over his wounded side. “How am I still alive?”

“You should be happy about that.”

“Well, I’m not! I was left for dead until two days ago!” Leonard yelled again, hating the cold, blank voice his friend was using. “And now you can’t even look at me and I want to know why.”

“Bones…”

“Tell me what have you done!”

“Nothing! I couldn’t do anything!” Jim screamed back, angry as much as he friend, but for completely different reasons. “I didn’t find Sophia, so no, I didn’t kill her to save your life, even if I was more than ready to do it! I tried! I was-“ I was so desperate that I met someone that showed me how dangerous I am and how wrong is living a life like this for people like me! Jim somehow managed not to say that aloud. Forcing himself to hold his gaze, he continued, “You were dying and I couldn’t do anything, so don’t ask me how you’re still alive because I don’t know!” That was true, at least. In the end, he did nothing. He didn’t even saw Sophia that night. His only choice was to trust Nero and hope for the best… and, oh, if that thought alone wasn’t enough to make his hands shake again.

Leonard kept staring at him. “Then why you’re leaving?”

Jim looked briefly down at the bag and dropped his shoulders in defeat. “I’m not.”

“I told you, don’t lie to me.”

“Bones, you’re alive- we both are, why you can just be happy about it?!”

“Because the last time I saw you like this, you were going to have a mental breakdown and I don’t want to see that again!”

“Too little too late,” Jim commented coldly, and yes, he just said that aloud. Damn it...

“What you mean?” Leonard sounded more worried now, moving closer, but stopping again watching the other stepping away to keep some distance between them.

“Can’t we just drop this one? Nothing happened. I’m fine, we all are, so…” Jim hated himself for that step back- and for flinching when another thunder echoed above the Academy. He’d never been scared of thunders his whole life and now...

“Where were you during the storm?” Leonard asked.

So struck by the question, Jim completely failed to come up with any kind of excuse. Petrified, he just looked away.

“You were out there, were you? You were searching for Sophia’s friends?” Leonard insisted, and the silence that followed was enough as an answer. “Oh my God... Jim, are you out of your goddamn mind?!”

“I told you, nothing happened. I’m fine.”

“Like hell you are! What did they do to you? Did you warn Pike?” He insisted, letting out a little, pained groan grasping his side.

“I’m done talking with you. You should be in the hospital.” Jim said moving to the door, but Leonard slammed a hand on it to close it again and kept it there.

“If they did something to you-“

“No one did anything to me.” Jim said, staring at the door handle he was grabbing hard enough for his knuckles to turn white.

“Then tell me what happened.” Leonard has been so angry until then, but his voice was low now, almost sad. “Please.”

What happened? My magic destroyed part of the city, and someone told me that there was nothing wrong with that- that that is simply my magic, and it deserves to be free… but I refused to do that. I basically refusing myself, and now I don't know which is the right thing to do anymore. That was what Jim should've said, but he didn't.
He could almost brush his left shoulder against Leonard's chest… And really, all he wanted to do right now, was to hide against him again. “Nothing happened,” he said in the end, but his voice lowered more and more, trying to hide the tears he was fighting to hold back. “I just wanted to save you, and I couldn’t.”

Leonard stared at him with watery eyes himself. He slowly put a hand on his shoulder, moving a bit closer despite another light flinch. “Jim-“

The door suddenly opened, making both of then jump back, as Nyota appeared in the doorway. “Guys, I need your help!"

Not now!” Leonard growled at her.

“Gaila has been arrested!” She yelled back, and Jim felt his heart drop to his feet.

 

Spock was waiting in the hall of the Starfleet HQ when he noticed Uhura running in with Jim and Leonard, and he couldn’t avoid looking a little perplexed. “I thought I said you would be allowed to talk to her alone,” he said to his girlfriend.

“I know, but I had to call them.” She said.

“Where’s Gaila? She’s still here?” Jim asked.

“Of course. She needed to be interrogated and answer to the accusations against her,” the Vulcan nodded, frowning at Leonard, “Doctor McCoy, you shouldn’t be-?”

“Don’t even try it, Spock,” he cut short.

“What accusations?” Jim asked.

Spock looked at Uhura for a moment then said, “She’s been accused of using magic inside the Academy and help a sorcerer.”

“What?” the three of them said at the same time.

“We can’t prove her involvement in the storm that hit the city, clearly caused by magic, but we thought she might have helped the responsible.” He continued, face stone cold while Jim was ready to start screaming.

“Gaila would never do such a thing,” Uhura said, “And she doesn’t have magic. Spock, you know her-”

“People have secrets. It’s their nature.”

“How can you say she have magic?” Jim asked, “If there’s no proof-“

“There’s a video of a few days ago. The security cameras of the campus showed her using magic with someone, close to your dorm,” Spock said looking at Jim and Leonard. “It was impossible to identify the other person, but Gaila is clearly visible, and also some kind of magic happening around them.”

She was helping me, Jim thought, growing more and more desperate. “The video shows her actually practicing magic?”

“They’re still analyzing the records. For now, all we can do is keep her in custody until a decision will be taken.”

“What kind of decision?” Leonard asked.

“As any other person accused of using magic, the protocols requires confining her until the official process will start.”

“But she doesn’t have magic!” Uhura insisted.

“They could’ve used her. It wouldn’t be the first time,” Leonard scoffed.

“I just answered your question. Further investigations will be needed.” Spock stated.

“Can we see her?” Jim asked.

“Only one person. I can give you five minutes with her.” Spock said turning at Nyota that nodded and looked briefly at the other two before following him upstairs.

“This is crazy…” Leonard murmured, letting out another little groan, pressing a hand on his side.

“You have to go back to the hospital,” Jim said, glancing at his wound. “I’ll stay here. You can-“

“Gaila is risking the jail and you want me to leave?”

“You think bleeding to death on the floor will help her?” Jim said angrily. They stared at each other for a moment, then he tried to calm down, because Leonard sure wasn’t even trying to.

“You know we’re not done, right?”

“For now, we are. I’ll go talk with Pike. You go back to the hospital and keep that wound closed.” Jim said before heading upstairs without looking back. Down a corridor, he saw Spock standing in front of a door with five agents wearing the Federation’s suit- probably the room where they were keeping Gaila. He sighed and walked to the elevator.

Pike was nowhere to be found yet, so Jim waited for a while in his office. Fifteen minutes later he was ready to leave, but found two agents in front of the door, blocking the way. “Something’s wrong, gents?”

“James Kirk?” one of them asked.

“I should pin my name on the jacket…” he sighed, but they didn’t laugh. “Yes, that’s me. I was waiting for Captain Pike-“

“We were ordered to keep you in custody.”

“What? Why?”

“We need to make you a few questions,” Spock himself said, approaching with Pike himself, “about your possible involvement with the lasts events that occurred.”

Jim swallowed and stepped back to let them enter. Pike placed a hand over his shoulder and quickly whispered: "She said Don't do anything stupid," before moving to stand next to the Vulcan. Damn it, Gaila, Jim sighed and when the door closed, he suddenly started counting in how many ways he could’ve escaped the room.

Spock looked at Pike that nodded, gesturing for him to talk. “For how long you knew Gaila?” the Vulcan asked.

“I met her few weeks after I got into the Academy.”

“How you would describe your relationship with her?”

Jim looked between them before answering, “We… we’re friends.”

Spock’s face didn’t betray any emotion. “You knew she has magic?”

“She doesn’t,” Jim said a bit too fast. “I refuse to believe she’s a witch. Uhura lives with her. She would have noticed something.”

“They’re good at hiding in plain sight.”

“If you say so…” Jim commented, looking away.

Spock changed subject. “You were taken to the hospital with Doctor McCoy the day of the incident at the airport. You asked me about his conditions when we met, then you came back to the Academy and talked with Captain Pike. What happened after that moment?”

“Don’t do anything stupid.” Gaila knew he would’ve been involved in the investigation…

“I walked around the campus… Then I stayed in my room before leaving for a while,” Jim never felt so bad for lying.

“That’s when you met Gaila?”

Jim could only hope he knew her friend enough to know what she probably said about the past days. “We casually met. Then the storm started… We waited for the thunders to stop before heading back to the Academy. She wasn’t feeling good, so I let her stay in my room.” He saw them staring in silence. “Nothing happened if that’s what you want to know. She needed to rest. She left yesterday, before lunch.”

Spock kept his intense stare on him, so was Pike the one to talk. “Pretty much the same thing Gaila told us, isn’t it Mr. Spock?”

“So it seems,” Spock commented, still staring at him until he looked at the other. “I’ll leave the rest to you, Captain.”

Pike nodded and they watched the Vulcan leaving the office. Once the door closed, they both breathed out in relief. “Jim, what the hell is going on?”

“Gaila doesn’t have magic.”

“The records say otherwise.”

“It was me in that video.” Jim said, “She can use other people’s magic, but it's temporary. Gaila was using mine to- to help me control myself.”

Pike frowned, “I thought you said you never had problems like that…”

“Not until now.” He said, and the Captain took a long breath. “Look, I was angry. Leonard was dying, I couldn’t help him and you just told me to sit and wait. Sorry, but that’s not my style.”

“And almost losing it in the middle of the campus, forcing Gaila to expose herself is more your style?”

“You think I did it on purpose?” he asked, incredulously.

“No, but I asked you what happened in Riverside and you-“

“That have nothing to do with this.”

“Well, I’m asking anyway.”

“No, you’re asking me to be a fucking robot and pretend my magic doesn’t exist!” Jim shot back, not even caring if people outside the room could hear.

Pike looked taken aback for a moment. “I never asked you to-“

“You asked me to come here and survive like I was used doing all my life, but I wasn’t living with a gun constantly pointed at my head before. Even with Frank there was a break here and there, but not here. Here is- this is way worse.” Jim realized too late what he just said, and how deep Nero’s words had hit.

Pike stared at him, looking almost guilty. “Jim, I-“

“I’m going to leave the Academy once Gaila will be free, so don’t worry. And yes, it’s my final decision,” he said preventing him from interrupt. “I appreciate the chance you gave me, but I can’t stay if I’m dangerous to others. I came here to change people’s mind about magic, and so far I’ve done only the opposite.”

“You know that’s not true. You helped people to-“

“It’s my decision.” He repeated and the Captain said nothing else, watching him leave the room.

Descending the stairs, Jim felt drained: what he just said exhausted him almost as much as forcing his magic down. Once back on the first floor, he looked down the corridor, finding just Uhura in front of the room where Gaila was supposed to be. He quickly reached her.

Uhura seemed a bit relieved when she saw him. “Any news from Pike?”

“Not for now. Gaila is still here?”

“Yes… It’s terrible to see her like this,” she said shaking her head. “Spock said that video is enough for the Federation to move her to another facility for further investigations. They think she’s involved in the storm of the other night…” Uhura sighed, “Magic or not, I’ll never believe she would do such a thing.”

Jim swallowed down the guilt. “Can I see her? Just for a moment.”

Uhura looked around them and then nodded, opening the door, “Be quick.”

Gaila was sitting on a chair on the right side of the room, hands handcuffed in front of her, already smiling a bit when he entered. “I knew you would've pass by...”

Jim closed the door and in two steps they were hugging. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I dragged you into this…”

“You didn’t. I should've thought about the cameras,” she sighed.

“If they won’t let you go, I’ll tell everything to Pike and-“

“He didn’t give you my message?”

“Trying to keep you out of jail it's not a stupid thing.”

“It’s stupid if you'll get in trouble in my place.”

“Gaila, you did nothing wrong!”

“Neither did you.”

Jim just stared at her, feeling even worse.

“I can take few interrogations. I don’t break that easily- and I actually don’t have magic, so they won’t get anything out of me anyway,” she shrugged. “What I care right now, is you keeping an eye on the city,” she said, lowering her voice, “because we both know there’s someone really dangerous out there, for all of us. I can’t do much about that, but you can.”

“Letting you being arrested will just prove him right.”

“He’s not. Whatever he said, please don’t trust him. Something is very wrong about Nero. Don’t let him deceive you.” She grabbed his hands. “I still believe you came into this Academy for a reason.”

“Yeah, to get all the people I met in trouble.” He snorted.

“If it’s for a good cause, I don’t mind.”

Jim sighed. “How can you trust me so much?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” she asked back, then both heard knocking at the door.

“That’s Uhura…”

“You should go.” She nodded, grinning saying, “I fear our secret training will have to wait…”

“Gaila, that’s the last thing I’m thinking about right now.”

“Just remember to trust yourself, don’t be scared of what you are.”

Jim nodded and slowly let her go, leaving the room. Once outside, he found Uhura and Leonard down the corridor. “Didn’t I told you to go back to the hospital?”

“Yeah, you did.” He nodded, not really caring.

“Did she say something?” Uhura asked, both following him.

“That she’s fine. That she can deal with their interrogation… as if they’ll stop to that.” Jim said, mind racing to elaborate the next move.

“She’s a cadet, they won’t torture her because they think they saw something on a video,” Leonard said.

“Are you sure about that?” he asked exiting the building.

“Come on, it’s Starfleet, not some kind of torture club-“

“You said they did it before,” Jim shot back suddenly stopping and turning around, the other two almost tripping on him, “or it’s fair only when it’s done on people that actually use magic?”

“I never said it was fair-”

“But in that case, you wouldn’t mind, right?”

“I said it happened. I never said I approve such methods.” Leonard insisted, “But if that’s the only way to stop magic-“

Jim just turned around and walked away. He couldn’t hear that, not now.

“Then you tell me how we should handle who use magic!” Leonard yelled behind him in exasperation, following again. “Not all of them are bad people, fine, but some are. How we should stop them?”

I don’t know! But let Gaila get the same treatment sure isn’t a solution!” Jim screamed turning around again. “You- you are all so scared about magic to see it even where there’s none! The Federation keep killing innocents and magic users keep thinking they’re not safe, that they need to fight back. And everyone knows it! That's how fucked up this place is!” That said- or more like screamed, Jim angrily proceeded through the campus.

Leonard and Uhura stared in surprised at him before looking at each other, and she just shrugged in pure confusion, following him once again.

“Maybe they’ll take her away, but no one said they’ll torture her,” Uhura said. “They stopped doing it since years, Jim…”

“That’s what they say.” He cut short.

"You're saying that we shouldn't trust Starfleet anymore?" she sighed.

"You said there are always bad and good people. You think isn't the same inside Starfleet or the Federation?"

“Then the only solutions is to take Gaila away from here,” Leonard said.

“Yeah, right,” Jim snorted.

“I mean it. We should take her away before they emit her sentence.”

Uhura stopped, looking back at him, and Jim did the same, turning to look at the doctor few steps behind.

“They’ll probably decide what to do today. We could…” Leonard cleared his throat, lowering his voice, “We should take her away before that.”

Uhura looked at him as if the doctor was going insane. “Are you really saying what I think?”

“You’re saying to help her escape?” Jim asked.

“Yes,” Leonard nodded. “I’ll regret this idea in few hours, but yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”

Jim found himself speechless once again… Still, he was already thinking about how to make that crazy plan work.

“Since when you’re a bad guy?” Uhura asked almost in awe.

“Since I met him, I guess,” Leonard snorted sending a quick glare at the other before sitting on a bench close by, groaning while keeping a hand pressed on his wounded side.

“You’re right… We have to take her away.” Jim commented, not really listening to them, "It's not impossible."

Uhura nodded slowly, then said, “We only have tonight to make up a plan.” And they both grinned at her. “What? She’s my friend and she did nothing wrong.”

“You think Spock would help us?” Jim asked.

“Spock? Really?” Leonard sighed.

“I don’t know…” Uhura said thoughtfully. “I’ll talk with him. Maybe he’ll know about Gaila’s sentence before the rest of us, at least.”

Jim nodded and watched her walk back to Starfleet HQ. He then looked down at the doctor.

Leonard looked up at him a second later. “What?”

“I’m just surprised.”

“That I don’t want to see a friend getting arrested for no reason?”

“More about you not believing Starfleet saying she has magic.”

“Are you serious? Do I look like a good, obedient soldier to you?”

“Isn’t that required to stay here?”

Leonard looked ready to explode, but then just breathed everything out. “Don't get me wrong, I still think magic is wrong and dangerous, but…” he shook his head. “When I say there is literally nothing we can do to stop magic users, I mean it. One of them can kill thousands of us. We need an army to do the same. Nothing that the Federation tried to fight them worked long enough to actually put us on the same level. The only solution twenty years ago has been a bomb that killed half of both sides.”

“Why you all think about keep fighting in the first place? Why not- talk with their boss or something? They must have one too.” God, I hope Nero isn’t the one in charge….

“I know both Starfleet and Federation tried that in the past, but it never ended well.” Leonard said looking down.

The more Jim stayed there, the more he felt like he was collecting pieces of a story he never knew about… and that desperately needed a solution. “Come on, I’ll take you back to the hospital,” he said grabbing Leonard’s arm and passing it it over his shoulders to help him stand and walk.

“I think we have something else to think about right now…”

“I already am.”

“Are you?”

“First of the class here. I can think about an escape plan while taking care of my doctor.” Did I just said my doctor? “We might need you too later, so- you better not bleed to death now.” He added quickly.

Leonard just sighed, leaning a bit more against him. “Yes, Captain.”

“Did you- just called me Captain?”

“It was a compliment. You want me to take it back?”

“No… no, it’s ok. I- I’ll take it.” Jim murmured, hoping the doctor didn’t notice how those words, almost brushed into his ear, had sent a shiver down his spine, and straight to his groin.

Chapter Text

It was late evening when Spock descended from the third floor, where Gaila has been moved, and slowed down the stairs when he saw Nyota sitting in the hall: she was staring at the coffee cup in her hands, looking so worried…

Spock composed himself and once in front of her she looked up and he was ready to talk, but those eyes always made him feel so small- as if all his beliefs were being silently tested.

“They took a decision?” Uhura asked, standing up.

“Admiral Marcus talked with both, Gaila and the Commission designed from the Federation-“

“For six hours,” she sighed. "She hasn’t confessed, didn’t she?”

He shook his head. “She keeps proclaiming herself innocent, declaring that she doesn’t remember anything about the moment caught on the records.”

“So that she was under a spell is possible.”

“What we saw was her helping someone using magic and they apparently left the Academy together. Not even you know where she was at that time.”

“That doesn’t mean that she teamed up with a sorcerer.” Uhura insisted, but then just looked away from his blank expression.

“That’s why they decided to move her into another facility. The commission will try to understand if she has useful information, maybe hidden because of a spell. That could actually prove her innocence.”

“And how they’ll get these informations?” She asked. “Jim is going crazy thinking that they might hurt her just to make her speak.”

“That would be against the protocols.”

“And you’re sure they care about protocols?” she sighed when he frowned. “Spock, we’re worried about her. Can you promise me nothing bad will happen to her once outside the Academy?”

Spock surprised both of them not answering as fast as he thought he would have.

 

Jim was looking at the sky turning darker when he heard a nervous Ouch- damn it! that made him turn to the bathroom’s door. “Try not to kill yourself in there, would you Bones?”

“I always say hospitals need bigger bathrooms. I feel like a giant in a dwarf's house every damn time...”

“What?”

Nothing.” Leonard growled and opened the door, straightening his shirt and trousers.

“Why you’re getting dress already? They might need to check your wound again.”

“I can check on it myself.”

“You can also sew yourself up?” Jim asked and a nervous glare moved against him. “Hey, you’re the one that keeps breaking the stitches.”

“And I wonder who I have to thank for that.” Leonard snorted, slowly sitting on the bed again, laying down to lessen the pressure on the wound.

“The same person that dragged you back here.”

“You didn’t drag me.”

“You fainted for twenty minutes.”

“I would remember if that happened.”

“How, if I may ask?”

“Who’s the doctor between us, again?”

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell...” Jim sighed sitting on the chair next to the bed, right under the window. They stared at each other for a moment, then he asked, “You're still sure you want to do this?”

“It was my idea.”

“And you’re in time to back out.”

“Not my style,” Leonard dropped his head over the pillow, staring in front of him. “What about you?”

“My plan will be flawless.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“You come up with another amazing idea?”

“Sadly, no.”

“Then we’ll go with plan A,” Jim shrugged at his hard look. “I won’t let them take Gaila away.”

"Good to know trusting magic is easier than trust Starfleet now...”

“It’s not about magic. An innocent's life is at the stake. Isn’t that what should bother us?”

Leonard studied him. “You really think magic can be used for good?”

“I do.”

“You saw someone using it for something that wasn’t hurting people or destroying things?”

Jim thought for a moment, then nodded.

"Really?" Leonard blinked, surprised. “When?”

“It happened a night, when I was a kid- still living in Riverside,” he said looking at the open door before moving to sit on the bed, next to him, lowering his voice. “It was summer, I think. You know the canyon close to my house?”

“The one you were trying to jump off from before Christmas?”

“That one,” Jim nodded with a little grin. “There was a tree there at the time... Sam and I were used to climbing it. One day I was there alone… The tree was close to the edge, and, well, suddenly the ground started to crumble down, and me and the tree along with it. I remember that's when I realized how high the cliff was. I saw the river at the bottom, and then the tree falling down, but I didn’t. A moment I was flying, the moment later I was on the ground again, safe and sound, and a sorcerer was two steps from me.”

Leonard was looking at him as he was narrating some kind of epic tale. “Are you sure he was…?”

“Well, his hands were shining… and I was flying,” Jim shrugged. “I don’t know where did he come from, but- I said thanks and he smiled and left.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.” Jim nodded. “I was too shocked to do or say something else.”

“You should’ve called for help.”

Jim’s shoulders dropped. “Bones, he saved my life...”

“What if he-“ Leonard tried to sit up and groaned, grabbing his pained side again.

“See? That’s what I meant before. If I’d told you I had a gun, you would’ve asked me why I didn’t shot him on the spot.”

Leonard didn’t look at him, keeping a dark glare down on the bed. He took a deep breath and asked, “How did it felt?”

“Uh?”

“When he used magic on you,” the doctor explained. “How did you feel?”

“Uhm... well…” Surprised by the question, Jim thought for a moment. That story was true, but he might have changed the fact that no sorcerer saved him that day… The tree really fell down the cliff, but he survived because he used his own magic by instinct: that has been the day Jim realized he could use magic. “It felt… calm. Strong, but- not scary.” He said in the end, trying to remember how magic felt the first time... Nothing like the last time, during the storm.

Leonard kept staring at him for a long moment until he slowly looked back down.

“If you think there are bad and good people, why it can’t be the same for people with magic?”

The doctor turned to him, looking ready to say something, but then changed his mind. “I guess you’ve been lucky a good person was passing by, then.”

Jim sighed. “What if they’re right about Gaila?” he asked, “What if she really has magic? You won't help her?”

“I like to think that I will.”

That hurt a little, but a message on his phone distracted Jim. Reading it, he sighed and looked back at the other that was staring, and shook his head.

Leonard took a deep breath. “Well, I really hope your plan is flawless as you say.”

“It will be if you follow the rules,” he said standing up. “Look, if you want to call yourself out-“

“I don’t. I’ll be there.” He said and saw him standing and heading to the door. “And if she has magic... Maybe I’ll be lucky as well, and Gaila will help me change my mind.”

Jim smiled a bit and nodded before leaving the room, wishing he could be that one person for Leonard.

 

Two hours later, Jim was in his room, wearing dark clothes and pacing back and forth, his heart already racing. When someone knocked at his door, he suddenly feared it could be Pike.

Nyota looked as nervous as he was. “Is everything set?” she asked entering the room.

“Yeah, we… we’re ready.” He nodded, closing the door. “How much time we have?”

“Pike is taking time. He wants to keep Gaila here at least until tomorrow, but the commission is pressing to mover her tonight.” She shook her head. “Jim, this is not a joke. You’re risking a lot..."

“You’re telling we should give up?”

“No, but I want you to think seriously about this. It’s for Gaila, I would come with you if you’d let me-“

“Not a chance.”

“but if you’re going in there alone, you need to know Starfleet see this as an attack and they'll fight back.”

It was just a matter of time from the beginning, Jim almost laughed. “All I have to do is not being recognized. That's not too hard, so don’t worry.”

“There’s no way I can’t worry right now.”

Jim sighed. “You helped us a lot. Now leave it to me.”

“What about Leonard?”

“He's ready,” he nodded. “We talked about this all afternoon... It’s not impossible. If we make it, Starfleet will have few flaws to fix tomorrow.”

“There’s nothing to grin about!”

“Well… I’m kind of excited.”

“Excited or scared?”

“Let’s say fifty-fifty.” He laughed nervously, putting a hat on his head.

“You don’t have something better to hide your face?” she groaned.

“I have to cross the campus to get there. I think a mask would raise more attention than a hat.”

She sighed, but nodded. “They moved Gaila in a room at the fourth floor. I’ve blocked the backdoor before leaving. And left a bathroom's window open. West wing, on second floor, but there’s a tree close by. You should be able to reach it.”

“Nicely done. I definitely want you in my future crew.”

Uhura smiled a bit. “I’ll try to keep Spock out of the building as long as I can, but he’s already wary about the whole situation, so...”

“Am I allowed to punch him if I have to?”

“If you get that far against him, you’ll deserve it.” She said without a trace of irony. “I mean it. Be careful, Jim.”

He nodded again and watched her leave the room. Looking out the window, he stared at the Starfleet building. He didn’t wanted to attack them- he wasn’t attacking anyone. It was just about saving a friend from an unjustified punishment… Especially when Jim was the real criminal. That was something he couldn’t simply ignore.

Later, Nyota sent him another message, saying that Gaila would've been transferred the day after, in the early morning.

At midnight, Jim left the dorm and stealthily moved to the building, trying to stay in the dark, avoiding the cameras he studied that day. There was no one around, and just a few lights on inside the structure.

He reached the back but found the door closed. He considered using magic to unlock it, but also tried to remember where he was, and that his magic could easily become unstable. Way too easily, sadly.

It took him a moment to spot the open window and the tree. Climbing as silently as he could, he froze for a moment when a light turned on in a room in front of him. Hanging from a branch, he waited until the light turned off again. Letting out a breath of relief, he kept climbing until the window was at his reach, actually a little below: carefully sliding down on it, he then jumped inside the bathroom- the men’s bathroom. “Uhura, you naughty girl,” he giggled to himself moving to the door.

A guard was walking down the corridor, looking here and there before descending downstairs; the hall was the area most illuminated, while some of the other floors were in complete darkness.

Jim noticed few cameras in the corners of the ceiling and it took him longer than he thought to stay out of their sight, finally reaching the staircase and moving up to the third floor. Once there, he was going to proceed upstairs, but few voiced above made him move back and hide in the first room he found open- that turned out to be the office of another Captain.

“Sorry the intrusion, Captain... W. Shatner,” Jim murmured reading the name on a medal attached to the wall. He then noticed a holo-screen panel blinking on the large table: it reported the name Enterprise. Frowning, Jim pushed the button and the model in scale of a spaceship appeared in front of him, shining in the semi-dark room.

Jim admired the spaceship enough to want to read more about it: it was a new spaceship, designed for future space exploration’s mission…

Someone knocked at the door. “Captain? May I come in?” asked a man.

Jim almost had a heart attack, suddenly turning to the door before looking around in pure panic. “Ah... just a moment.” He answered changing his voice a bit. What can I do? Think, THINK! Jim ran on the other side of the desk and turned the light on, noticing a picture of W. Shatner: a blonde, muscled man with blue eyes and a charming smile on his face. Jim was surprised the man looked kind of like him, wondering how he never met him before... He then tried to focus on the present problems and saw a yellow jacket on the chair close by, a Captain jacket, and quickly wore it, dropping the hat on the desk. “Ok… just concentrate. Find the balance,” he told himself, hoping his magic would work. It was risky, but he had no other choice.

“Sir?” the soldier asked from outside.

“Yes. Come in.” was the answer that finally arrived.

The soldier found Captain Shatner standing next to the holo-screen, apparently studying it. “Sorry for the intrusion Captain, I thought no one was in here.”

“It’s ok. Something’s wrong?” he asked looking at him.

“Just a routine check, sir. Admiral Marcus doubled the security because of the witch in our custody.”

“Of course. I’ll leave in a while. If there’s anything else…?”

“No, sir. I’ll leave you to your studies.” The soldier said with a nod before leaving.

Once the door closed, Jim breathed out in relief, turning and staring at his own reflection on the glassy-desk, showing Captain Shatner in flesh and bones instead of himself. “At least it worked,” he said poking his own face, wondering if he would look like that in ten years.

Not wanting to put the Captain in any trouble, he took off the jacket and reversed the spell to go back to normal, patting all over his body to check he was himself again, then sent one last glare at the Enterprise while wearing the hat, before leaving the office, heading to the stairs.

Reaching the fourth floor, Jim saw two soldiers of the Federation in front of the room where Gaila was kept, and two cameras at the end of the corridor, far enough to stay safe. Crouching behind the corner, Jim looked around again before focusing on the door past them: with a flash of gold of his eyes, he made it tremble- hopefully enough for the two to hear it.

Luckily, the soldiers turned to look at it and carefully moved to check the noise. They looked between them before opening the door and moving inside.

Was then that Jim quickly walked ahead, keeping the hat down on his face, and closed the door, blocking it with another quick spell. He then ran to the other room and unlocked it in the same way- just when the soldier started banging at the door, yelling for help. Now or never, Jim thought, entering the room.

Gaila welcomed him with an angry: “What are you doing here? Are you crazy?”

“We need to go.”

“You need to! I’m not going anywhere.”

“They’re going to move you somewhere else!”

“I told you I can deal with that! If I escape they’ll think I’m guilty!”

“They don’t care if you’re guilty or not! They just want you to admit you are an enemy!”

“Starfleet wouldn’t-“

“This is Federation's plan, not Starfleet. You know what they’re capable of.”

She stared nervously at him but said nothing- then she stepped back, looking behind him.

“Hands up,” Spock said standing on the doorway, gun aimed at the man in front of him. “And turn around. Slowly.”

Jim looked aside, then at Gaila that was staring worryingly at him. “You won't get anything from her.” He said changing his voice a bit. “She’s coming with me.”

“The Federation has other plans,” Spock said making a step forward.

“I bet they do,” Jim murmured, “but she might be still useful to me.” That said, he looked at the lamp above them and used magic to grow the light's intensity stronger enough to blind the other two until the bulb exploded.

Spock looked away for a moment, enough to be hit by a strong wave of energy that sent him against the wall outside in the corridor, crashing on the floor, unconscious.

Gaila lowered her arms, noticing the whole building was in the dark now, only the emergency lights still on; alarms ringing everywhere. She then saw Jim was checking on Spock. “Jim…”

“He’s ok.” He said, “Come on. We have to go.”

“If he recognized you-“

“He didn’t. Come on!” He yelled and then both of them looked back, at the room next to Gaila’s: someone was calling for help… using magic.

“I heard him since they brought me here.” Gaila said.

“Who is he?”

“I don’t know, but… I think he’s young.”

“How much young?”

She sighed. “Very young.”

Jim considered it for a second before moving to the door and making the handle literally explode. Moving inside, his heart hurt when he saw a little kid sitting in the farthest corner, a bruise above his light-blue eyes, red of tears, partly hidden from his messy dark-blonde hair.

“Oh my God…” Gaila murmured from the doorway. “Is he ok?”

Jim swallowed more anger and crouched in front of the kid. “You called for help?” he asked and the kid just stared at him with scared eyes. “I have to save my friend. We don’t have much time. You want to come with us?” he asked again and the kid slowly nodded. Jim smiled a bit and offered a hand that he grabbed and they both stood. “Now we really have to go,” he told Gaila, “Keep an eye on him, I’ll check the way.”

“Jim-“ she grabbed the kid’s hands, following him. “This is Starfleet HQ. The Federation is few kilometers away. How you think we’re going to escape?”

“We reach the second floor and use a window to leave the building first,” he said while running down the corridor. “Then we have to reach an exit behind the hospital.”

“The whole Starfleet will be behind us!”

“Not if we’re fast.” They reached the second floor and ran inside the bathroom. Looking out the window, he saw people running down there too. “Damn it…”

Gaila sighed, “Jim, take the kid with you and just go, please.”

“That's a terrible plan.” He said jumping down next to her again.

“You don’t have to fight them because of me.” She insisted. “Maybe this scene will convince them that someone really used me to escape.”

“What if it doesn’t?”

“I’ll be fine anyway.”

“How you know? They even beat a kid to-“ Jim blinked, looking at the said kid that was in the doorway, looking outside. “Hey, get away from there!” he yelled running to him, but once there, bullets flew too close for comfort. He grabbed him by his shoulders and pushed both back inside, falling on the floor.

Gaila ran to close the door, grabbing Jim’s leg to use his magic and melt the handle. “Are you hurt?” she asked looking at them.

“No… but we really need to go,” Jim said sitting up. He then noticed the kid grabbing his arm and Gaila’s hand, and in a blink of an eye, they all vanished from the bathroom, reappearing outside, crashing on the grass. Jim get up with a groan, the other two close to him. “What the hell…?” he murmured looking around, realizing they were not too far from the hospital, close to the river. He then saw the kid smiling a bit at him. “You can teleport?” Jim asked and he nodded slowly, looking even weaker.

Gaila helped him stand, then gasped, “Jim…”

He followed her gaze and saw blood on the kid’s side. “They must have hit him before…” he murmured checking the wound: it wasn’t severe, but it was bleeding fast. He grabbed the kid’s hand and put it over it, “Keep it here, harder than you can. We’ll get you a doctor, ok?”

“Don’t tell Leonard is involved in this too?” she asked.

“This was his idea. Me and Uhura just added the details.” He said grabbing the kid to put him on his back, quickly heading towards the hospital.

“You’re all crazy…” she sighed following.

“You won’t say that if we’ll get you out of here.”

“I’m not sure that’s for the better.”

Jim stopped for a moment, in the darkness under a tree, turning to her. “You want to stay here and found out how the Federation deal with people like us?”

“I appreciate what you guys are doing for me. Really, I do,” she said, “I just don’t want to make everything worse. Especially for you.”

“I can fight them. I don’t want you to do the same.”

Gaila grabbed his arm when he turned again to proceed. “I thought you didn’t wanted to fight.”

“I’d be more than happy to switch place with you, but if you think that I would let them torture me-“

“And then what? You’ll escape and start recruiting people to encourage another war?” she asked, cold as ice.

Jim swallowed, ignoring more alarms ringing in the campus, trying to keep the kid steady against his back. “If you’re worried that I’ll join Nero and his madness-“

“I'm worried because you’re starting to talk like him.” She sighed when he just looked away. “Why you think I told you not to do anything stupid? Helping me escape, ignoring Starfleet’s rules, attacking Spock... It was for helping me, I know, I’ll never thank you enough for this, but if you’re starting to think that Nero is right about the whole situation, then I’m going back into that cell myself.”

Jim wasn’t even surprised anymore about how she could easily read his mind. He thought he was doing this for good reasons, saving Gaila and then… and then what? Nero’s words just made him grow impatient for the moment he would’ve finally shown the world what magic really was and change people’s mind.

“The only thing he’s right about is the lack of control I have on my own magic,” he said in the end. “I don’t think he’s right- I’m not doing this because he would approve it. I’m doing this because saving you is the right thing to do. Maybe they won’t torture you, maybe they’ll send you back here in a few days, but I don’t want to risk it. After what I saw happening here, I can’t trust them that much. If you can, if you really think that I’m wrong, let me take the kid to the hospital and then I’ll call myself in.”

“Jim, I never asked you to-“

“I know, but I should've been arrested in the first place, not you. So, it’s that or you’ll let me help you escape.”

Gaila turned to the campus for a moment before sighing, “I’ll never know the results of my test…” she said with a little, sad smile.

“You’ll be able to come back here, I promise. I’m forming a crew, and I want you to be part of it as well.” He smiled and patted his shoulders, both starting running again.

“A crew? How many people you have so far?”

“Uh… three, including myself.”

“And we’re going to fly a spaceship with a crew of four people?”

“Five, if the kid wants to join.” Jim grinned at the kid that was clutching around his neck even harder.

“Well, in that case, count me in…” Gaila sighed, looking at the hospital next to them. “Where’s Leonard?”

“He should be already there… This way.” Jim lead the way in a darker zone behind the building until they reached the limit of the campus: there was a little gate in the middle of the wall, and a bag on the ground next to it. “That’s for you. Uhura left it today.”

Gaila checked the bag and smiled affectionately, finding clothes and more useful stuff. “I wish I could’ve said goodbye to her.”

“I’m sure you’ll see her sooner than you think.” Jim gently let the kid sit against the wall, checking his wound, then looked around. “Leonard should’ve been here already... There you are.” Jim sighed in relief when he saw him running towards them.

“Sorry. Stealth action is not my thing,” Leonard commented throwing few clothes at him. He then looked at Gaila, a bit embarrassed. “Are you alright?” He said and she jumped at his neck.

“Thank you. For everything.” She said.

“Uh- it’s ok. We just want to know you’re safe… apparently here it’s getting harder to make that happen,” Leonard smiled a bit at her, then blinked looking behind them. “Jim, why there’s a kid there?”

“He’s hurt. Can you help him?” he said finishing to button his jeans. The black clothes needed to disappear, especially the jacket now stained of the kid’s blood. “I’ll take care of these,” Gaila nodded handing the bag so that he could put them inside.

“Hurt?” Leonard was next to the kid in a second, “Who is he? Where did you found him?”

“He-“

“They shot him?!”

“Yes, that’s why-“

“I think we don’t have much time,” Gaila said pointing at the lights flashing in all the campus.

“Alright… come on. We broke the gate already, I doubt anyone noticed it...” Jim moved to open it, but it didn’t budge. “Shit.”

“They fixed that but ignore the fact that there are no cameras in this area?” Leonard snorted checking the kid’s wound. “Damn it... I need something to stop cover it, at least.”

“Use this for now. I’ll help him once we’re outside.” Gaila said handing him Jim’s black shirt.

Jim was ready to open the gate with magic, but Leonard was right next to him, and he would’ve sure noticed.

“Can you break it somehow?” the doctor asked looking up at him for a second.

“Not sure… We- we can help him cross the wall.”

“It’s two meters, Jim.”

“I know, but that’s all we can do!” he shot back, looking apologetically at Gaila than nodded. “Come on, I’ll help you, then we'll-“ he turned to do that, but suddenly Leonard jumped up and took few steps back, looking terrified. “What?” he followed his gaze and almost felt terrified himself: the kid’s eyes were shining gold- weakly, but enough to understand it was magic.

“He has magic.” Leonard said, taking another step back.

“He won’t hurt you.” Gaila said moving between them, “He’s just scared...”

“That’s why he was there… He was under arrest, why you let him out?” Leonard yelled at the other.

“Why? He’s just a kid!” Jim shot back in disbelief.

“And he can use magic!”

“He’s not using it now! He just- he’s probably more scared than you!”

“You don’t know what this kid could do!”

“He just got shot!”

Leonard looked back at the kid, ar his shining eyes and shook his head, “I can’t help him.”

“Are you serious? You’re a doctor and you can’t help a kid that got shot just because he has magic?” Jim hoped it was just a nightmare. He saw Leonard looking uncertain for a moment, but it was probably just his imagination because the doctor looked away and didn’t move. And that hurt.

“It’s ok. I’ll take care of him,” Gaila said gently taking the shirt from Leonard’s hand and moving to press it on the kid’s side.

Jim just kept staring at Leonard that, even not looking back at him, was surely aware of his gaze. He didn’t wanted to think that he was hating the doctor at the moment, but damn if that felt like the final stab in the back he wasn’t ready for. His mind recalled Nero’s speech once again, as always happened when he was trying his best to believe that a peace was somehow still possible, and then something would punch his hopes back down in the darkness… then he heard people yelling behind them, much closer.

“We have to go,” Gaila said trying to help the kid stand up.

Jim just nodded, but then the kid grabbed his hand and smiled a bit him, nodding slightly. Even without words, Jim thought that was a way to thank him… Then another flash of light blinded him and he flew backward. With a groan of pain, he pushed up on his elbows and saw that Gaila and the kid were gone. Sighing in relief, he turned around and saw Leonard trying to sit up as well. They locked eyes for a moment, then soldiers stormed all over the place, yelling and pointing guns at them and Jim looked away, resigned to keep doing the same mistake: always hoping for the most impossible things.

.-.-.

Gaila opened her eyes and blinked in surprise, looking around the large park she didn't know, but the city’s buildings were visible on the left. She then looked down at the kid. “You did it again…?” she asked and he smiled a bit before going limp against her that kept him into her arms. “Ok... We need to take care of this,” she said pressing the shirt on his wound- then looked behind herself.

“We heard someone was in need of help,” Shawn said crouching down close to them, checking on the kid. “He won’t last long…” he looked at her, “We would like to help you both. Contrary to your people.”

My people risked their lives to help me tonight, so don’t even try it.” She hissed.

“Well, you can wait here for them. Or you can come with me. Our offer is still valid.” He said.

Gaila stared at him, then looked down at the kid and nodded, letting Shawn taking him. She stood up, sparing one last glare at the buildings far away, before taking a deep breath and turning the other way, reaching Shawn and Sylar that were waiting for her.

Chapter Text

Jim knew he should’ve felt scared, or at least worried while being taken back into Starfleet's building and harshly dropped in an interrogation room, left alone. He couldn’t hear anything from outside, the lightbulb above his head the only distraction the little place could provide- and that made him think of the one that he made explode with magic… To knock Spock out.

They did it, in the end: Gaila escaped and, hopefully, she was safe by now- along with that mysterious kid.

“I can’t help him.”

Jim shut his eyes and dropped the head over his arms, on the table, trying to find comfort in that little darkness, but his mind was already recalling what happened moments before: the kid had been shot, and Leonard refused to help him because he has magic.

Jim hoped it would be just a temporary reaction, that Leonard would have ignored his hate towards magic- it was to help a kid that was right in front of him, and he was a doctor, for God’s sake…

I thought too much of him, Jim told to himself, I should’ve seen it coming. I knew he hated magic. He told me so many times…

“You don’t know what this kid can do!”

He would say the same thing about me. He would let me die if I… Jim took a deep breath. He saw Leonard getting angry lots of times, but he never looked so scared- so terrified to actually refuse to help someone.

The door suddenly opened and an agent stood in front of him, on the other side of the table, staring in silence for a moment.

Jim raised his head and stared back, ready to be arrested, or killed on the spot. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Leonard confessed everything.

“James Tiberius Kirk, correct?” she asked and he nodded. “Answer the question, cadet.”

He took another deep breath. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Let me be clear: I don’t have time to lose, so you’ll answer my questions without make me repeat myself. What you and Doctor McCoy were doing out there tonight?”

Jim was ready to admit everything: that he was a sorcerer; that Gaila was innocent; that he planned everything to help her escape; that he was responsible for the storm that destroyed the city… And still, he couldn't avoid hoping that everything that happened hasn't been for nothing. “I come to see him at the hospital late tonight. We then heard the alarms and saw someone dragging a girl and a kid away through the campus. We decided to go see what was happening.” That was what he and Leonard had planned to say in case they got caught. Aside the presence of the kid.

“And what was happening?”

“We saw the girl was our friend, Gaila. I don’t know who the kid and the man were. We tried to help her-“

“Help her?”

“It was pretty clear she wasn’t following him by her choice.”

“And it was clear because…?”

“Because she was screaming Please, help me.” Jim wished he had the strength to sound sarcastic, but all he could do was hold her cold gaze with an even colder one.

She let a moment pass. “Then what happened?”

“The man used magic and they disappeared.”

“Did he say anything?”

“No.”

“What about the kid?”

“I think he was hurt-”

“Did he say anything to the man, or to Gaila?” she interrupted.

“No. He didn't say a word.” At least that bit was true.

She kept staring at him for a long moment. “I really hope for yours and Doctor McCoy’s good that this is the truth.”

“If you’re saying that we should’ve killed all three of them on the spot, sorry, but students aren't allowed to go around armed. Academy’s rules.” He shot back.

“You think this is a joke?”

“I think my friend got kidnapped and you’re here wasting time with me instead of helping her. Oh, wait. You all think she’s a witch, so whatever, right?”

“Oh, we have a magic supporter here…” she murmured, unimpressed.

“There’s still no evidence that Gaila can use magic.”

“Yet. That’s why she was in custody and not in jail.”

“That doesn’t mean-“

“We might need to talk to you again later. Stay here and don’t cause any more troubles.” She cut short and left the room, leaving him alone with his anger.

More people came in after a while, asking pretty much the same things for hours and hours, so he kept answering the same thing every time, wondering how long it would take for someone to crash into the room saying that he was just liar and just put an end to his misery.

Every time he was left alone, Jim could only hope that his anger wouldn’t start another storm.

 

It was later afternoon when they finally released him and there was almost no one around the campus because, as the last agent he saw told him, a meeting was taking place and all the cadets had to attend, but he was ordered to go back to his dorm and wait for further instructions. “This whole situation is far over,” the man also admitted tiredly before letting him go.

Not my problem anymore. Jim was sure of that while walking away from the building: it was time for him to go back to his room and prepare to leave the Academy. The thought of searching for Leonard didn’t even crossed his mind, because, really, what he could say to him? You would let a kid die just because he can use magic? What kind of shitty doctor are you? What kind of person you tried to convince me you were?

He couldn’t deal with that at the moment- probably never, so he just kept walking until he found himself in front of Uhura and Gaila’s room. A moment before knocking, the door opened and Uhura immediately studied him up and down, bracing herself. He sighed and nodded, “She made it.”

Uhura’s shoulders dropped in relief, letting him in. “I was so worried. With all the chaos I saw tonight… I thought a war was about to start.”

“Almost.” He said sending a glare to Gaila’s bed. Part of the desk- part of the room actually, was empty.

“They took most of her things after she was arrested,” Uhura said once the door was closed, “and came back today, at dawn, taking more of her stuff and asking me questions.”

“Questions?”

“Yeah, where I was tonight. If I heard something from you or Leonard… or Gaila herself,” she shook her head in disbelief. “I told them I stayed here all night, and I think they believe me. I saw the gate was locked when I left the bag for Gaila, after you left, but it was late and I couldn’t warn you… I thought you would’ve figured something out.”

Jim nodded. “So you’re not under investigation?”

“No. Spock confirmed I was with him and that he left me here after midnight...” She looked nervous, “I heard he has been attacked by a sorcerer inside the building… You saw what happened? They told me he’s fine, but…”

He nodded again. He needed to be careful with all the lies he was telling. “I saw Spock being attacked and- and the sorcerer disappearing right after helping Gaila and a kid escape their rooms. I checked that Spock was alright and then told the others that we had to leave.”

She nodded slowly, then frowned, "You think the sorcerer knew Gaila too?”

“I don't think so, but he sure made my mission easier... I've told the agents that Leonard and I saw him disappear with them, behind the hospital.” He said sitting down on the bed.

“You saw his face?”

“No. It was too dark.”

“I wonder who that kid was… Why that sorcerer risked so much to help him escape and then just left alone?” She murmured.

“No idea. But he’s the one that actually saved Gaila,” Jim said, meeting her gaze. “He had magic... He used it to make both of them disappear once we were at the gate, just before the whole army arrived. Even if he was hurt, he-”

“I can’t help him.”

“Jim?” Uhura saw his eyes filling with tears before he dropped the face into his hands. She moved to sit next to him, an arm around his back. “We needed to let Gaila escape. I’m sure she’s fine. It’s over now.”

“It’ll never be over…” he cried refusing to look at her. After a while, he told her what happened before Gaila and the kid escaped, hoping to lessen the pain in his heart.

 

When the room was silent again, Uhura was still next to him, confused. “I… I can’t believe Leonard refused to help the kid.”

Jim looked skeptically at her. “Really?”

“I mean, I can understand why he did it, the rules about magic users are clear, but… It was just a kid. And he was hurt.” She took a deep breath. “I know Leonard is afraid of magic, but I never saw him refusing to help anyone. Even if it was something stupid like a paper cut.” She tried to smile a little but failed.

“I knew he shouldn’t have come,” Jim said staring down at his hands. “I should’ve expected that.”

“Being scared of magic doesn’t suddenly make him a monster, Jim.”

“What if it was Gaila? What if she would’ve shown she has magic?”

“He knows Gaila. That kid… I think he caught him off guard.”

“Leonard hates magic, Uhura. I just didn’t know how much. Now I know, and I know I should have told him to stay at the hospital.”

“You think it’s so simple?” she asked more seriously. “Accepting magic like it’s not something that could kill us any moment?”

“That kid wasn’t a killer.”

“Yes, I see you’re sure about that, but for someone it could be more difficult to think that way.”

“So you think that refusing to help a kid that got shot was the right thing to do?”

“What I’m saying is that just because you’re not scared of magic, that doesn’t mean it won’t scare other people.” She insisted. “Maybe I would react the same way Leonard did. I hope I won’t, if something like that will happen to me, but I can’t know that for sure.”

Jim didn’t say anything because she has at least one point: of course he had his reasons to not be scared by magic and know that that kid wasn’t a danger for them, but Leonard? He just saw magic right in front of his nose, all of sudden, and magic was first of all evil.

“I understand why you’re angry, but I doubt he’s happy about what happened. Leonard always takes his job so seriously...” she said looking down.

I was just wrong. Simple as that, Jim thought coldly. I was so blindly falling for him, I ignored the fact that it could never work between us, because I’m exactly what he hates the most.

 

Jim decided to stay there for the rest of day, not caring one bit of what the Federation’s agents would have to say. He and Uhura ate something for dinner and, even if she said he should’ve go to see Leonard, a no was enough to drop the discussion.

Later, Nyota was talking with other cadets in the corridor when she suddenly saw people running back to their room, or even fleeing the floor. Frowning, she then noticed someone coming upstairs.

Jim was washing his face in the bathroom when he heard the door opening. “Hey, sorry, I’m using your…” moving in the doorway, he was surprised to find Captain Pike in person staring at him with cold eyes, “towel.” He finished, dropping it on the sink.

Uhura peeked inside and sent him a look that meant, Sorry, I can’t help you this time. “I’ll let you two talk.” She said closing the door.

Jim took a deep breath and moved to the center of the room, waiting.

“I thought you were ordered to stay in your room,” Pike said.

“I’m not trying to escape.”

“Aren’t you?”

Jim looked away. He really wasn’t in the mood for another speech.

Now was Pike’s turn to take a deep breath, to calm himself. “I told you to keep your head down many times. I asked you to not complicate things…”

“Saving innocent people is a complicate thing now?”

“When you go against the rules and risk other people safety, yes, it is.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“A Commander of Starfleet was attacked tonight,” Pike said, “Does that ring any bell to you?”

Jim knew he couldn’t lie to him, especially not about anything magic-related, but being called out for attacking Spock hurt him more than he expected. “Spock is fine.”

“A sorcerer has been spotted in our Headquarter tonight. Magic has been used two floors from my office!” Pike boomed.

“I guess that sorcerer had good reasons to-“

Good reasons?!” the Captain interrupted, “Try to save someone that didn’t even needed to be saved in the first place is a good reason to hurt people and almost start a battle in the middle of the Academy?”

“Yes, if there isn’t any other choice.”

“There’s always another choice!”

“For example? Trust the mighty Federation?”

“You’re part of this, now! Why are you here if you can’t trust us? Or me, apparently.”

“I'm part of this?” Jim huffed a cold laugh. “Yeah, I saw how much of a difference I’m going to make under your rules. Follow the orders and have faith. What an amazing plan.”

“And you think what happened tonight was so much better? How do you think people will react to this? How you think the Federation will react?”

“I told you Gaila was innocent.”

“We needed to prove that! We were going to, if a sorcerer wouldn’t have attacked us in the middle of the night!” Pike was so furious, it was incredible how he was managing to keep the discussion up without addressing directly to Jim as the responsible for that mess. They were in a busy dormitory, after all.

And sadly, the more Jim listened to him, the more he knew he was not wrong... He still believed that helping Gaila was the right thing to do, but at what costs? Another warning call, another proof that magic was bad- and a woman and a kid on the run. “I couldn’t wait, ok? Who knows how long it would have taken to-“

“And that was your biggest concern?” Pike interrupted, “That she should have stayed away from the Academy for few months?”

“I needed her! She- she was going to help me.” He said lowering his voice.

Pike probably knew what he meant, but didn't ask more about that. “You think she’s going to come back sooner now? You might never see her again. Is that better?”

“Why there was a kid in there?” Jim asked. “He was covered in bruises when I found him.”

“And taking him along was, of course, the best idea.”

“He was calling for help. What was I supposed to do?”

“Think twice about what you were doing, for once.”

“You keep saying that the Federation is good and then I find a kid beaten up and locked in a room. Maybe I’ve made a mess out of this, but Starfleet is not that innocent either.”

They stared at each other for a long moment. “I don’t know who that kid is,” Pike said. “I was busy caring about Gaila’s situation…”

“Of course.”

“Have you considered just for a second that maybe that kid was there for a reason? That maybe he was actually dangerous?”

“Oh my God, not you too…” Jim groaned, sitting down on the bed.

“You think I haven’t seen kids killing people in the past?”

Jim looked up at him, and the Captain’s face was stone cold. “I felt his magic. He wasn’t evil. He helped us… he helped Gaila escape.” He said, but the other just breathed out, shaking his head. “I know it was dangerous taking that kid along, but it was a risk I was ready to take.”

“It’s not just about accepting the risks, Jim. Having people following you into your crazy plans it makes you responsible for them. Whatever decision you take, you all will have to face the consequences.”

“No one helped me. It was just me that-“

“You really think I don’t know you and your little crew are behind all this?” Pike interrupted more calmly. “You think Spock doesn’t know? I had to force him to take care of the situation out there instead of coming to interrogate you and McCoy for days.”

The other almost laughed. “Leonard will be fine. He did nothing. The kid was hurt, your men shot him before leaving the building, and he refused to help him when he saw he had magic. He’s a goddamn doctor and he would’ve watched him die rather than have anything to do with-“

“And why you think he acted like that?”

“Because he hates magic! Because it’s against the damn rules to help people if they use magic.”

“You know Leonard since the first day you two arrived here. You saw how he works and you really think he would-“

“I do. I was there. You want me to describe to you the exact moment he saw the kid has magic and suddenly refused to move a finger to help him?”

“And there can’t be any other explanation for his reaction, right? Just because magic is normal to you, you automatically assume that no one should be scared of it, no matter what?”

That makes Jim think about the discussion he had with Uhura before. Pike’s voice was angry again, though… as if there was something more. “What are you trying to say?” he asked carefully.

“Something that clearly Leonard didn’t want you to know...” Pike took a deep breath sitting on the other bed, in front of him. “He has been attacked by a sorcerer years ago. He lost his parents because of magic.”

Jim never thought words would be able to make him feel like his heart was suddenly breaking into pieces. “… What?” was all he managed to whisper.

“While he was recovering in the hospital these past days, a nurse told me about strange scars she saw on him," Pike continued, "He wasn’t happy to talk about it, but I had to ask. I don’t know the details of the attack, but he told me it was about a year after the war ended. He was just a kid." He sighed. "Suddenly all the discussion we had in the past made sense.”

“W- what discussions?”

“He came to see me few months before the start of the semester, saying that he wasn’t expecting to be accepted in the Academy, and asking if he could call himself out. I asked him why- I knew he was an excellent doctor, and he said that he was worried he wouldn’t be able to do his job in a city where magic was still so active. I told him Starfleet’s cadets don’t operate on the field, but that we are prepared to face magic here better than in any other place. In the end, I convinced him to give it a try.” He looked up at him, “This is why I told you to be careful. It’s not just about you. Everyone fights different battles… You should know that better than anyone.”

Leonard is fighting his demons since the moment he stepped into this city. All by himself- just like me. “He never told me anything about this…” Jim murmured.

“Probably for the same reason you didn’t wanted to tell him about Riverside.”

Jim stared at him, then looked away and stood. “I- I have to talk to him.”

“You better hurry,” Pike said and he frowned. “He came to see me today, filling his resignation from the Academy.”

“What?!”

“He said that he was right. That he can’t do his job so close to magic.”

Jim just shook his head and then said, “Don’t accept his resignation yet. I’ll talk to him- I’ll convince him to stay.”

“I would like to keep him here, but maybe you’re not the right person to-“ Pike tried to say, but the other was already gone.

I should’ve known there was a reason… I should’ve fucking known, Jim kept blaming himself until he reached the dorm and slammed the door open. “Bones! We need to- talk…” he slowly stopped when, turning the lights on, he found Leonard’s half of the room empty. “Damn it.” He took his phone and started calling him while descending the stairs, but the doctor didn’t pick up. “Come on, answer the damn phone…”

“Hey- Jim,” Sulu almost bumped into him, “What happened? I saw-”

“Sorry, not now, I’m searching for Leonard.”

“That’s what I mean. I saw him outside the gates, with a few bags. He looks ready to leave.”

“Thanks!”

“But- you’re welcome…?” Sulu murmured, confused.

Once out the Academy, Jim finally saw the man not too far, down the street busy with the evening traffic, two big bags at his feet, wearing the old, dark jacket he wore the first time they met. “Bones! Hey!” he yelled while a taxi was parking in front of him.

Leonard turned around but just looked away again, grabbing the bags.

“Bones… Bones, wait…” Jim panted, finally reaching him.

“What now? You have something else to blame me for before I leave?”

“No… Just- wait, ok?” Jim slammed the taxi’s truck closed and punched it, yelling “We’re good, you can go!” at the driver.

“What? No, we’re not-“ Leonard tried to say, but the taxi drove away, so he turned a murderous glare at the blonde. “I needed that taxi.”

“Why you’re leaving?”

“Seriously? You need to make fun of me now?”

“I’m not, but- you don’t have to leave because of what happened.”

“Yeah, right.” He said hailing another taxi that slowly parked next to them.

“Can you listen to me for a moment?” Jim said stepping in front of the car’s door he was trying to open.

“I thought you were done talking to me. Move.”

“Oh, come on… He doesn’t need a taxi!” Jim yelled again at the second driver that yelled something back before driving away.

“I need a taxi!” Leonard shot back.

“No, you don’t! You don’t have to leave!”

“I think that’s up to me to decide!”

“If you-“ Jim didn’t even turn to the third taxi that stopped behind him and just yelled an angry, “MOVE ALONG!”

Leonard watched the car quickly drive back into the road and took a deep breath before looking at him again. “Are you going to do this all night?”

“We have to talk. I need to talk to you.”

“And I have no choice but to listen?”

“Yes. I mean- no, but…” Jim had no idea where to start. “I didn’t know you were leaving. I thought-“

“You thought that seeing what a shit of a person I am, I would just move on with my life as if what happened the other night meant nothing, right?”

“Bones…”

“You think I’m that stupid? That I haven’t seen the look on your face when-“ Leonard stopped and shook his head. “Think whatever you want, but don’t come here pretending we’re good now, just because I’m leaving.”

“I’m not pretending.”

“Of course not, you just want to show what an amazing person you are. Well, I’m not, I always knew that and now you know it too, so go be the hero for someone else.”

“That’s not true! I’ve never said-“

“There was no need to say anything. And there’s no need to talk about it now. I’m leaving, I’ve already filled in the request so let me take a goddamn taxi and I’ll be out of your way.”

“I told Pike to wait,” Jim said. “He told me you were leaving… I told him not to approve your request yet.”

Leonard looked back at him. “You what?

“I’m sorry, but-”

“You have no right to take any fucking decision for me!” Leonard yelled angrily, turning around and walking away.

“Bones, please! Can you-” Jim saw he had left both his bags there, so he grabbed one in each hand and followed him faster than he could. “Wait… where are you going now?” he cried trying to reach him.

“To tell Pike to ignore what you said.”

Jim noticed Leonard was heading straight to the Starfleet HQ. “I just asked him some time!”

“You just need to fuck off.”

“Look, it was a mistake judging you like that. I’m sorry, I- I was trying to save those two and- I wasn’t thinking about anything else.”

“I’m sure that skill will help you a lot in the future.”

Jim shook his head and quickly moved in front of him, finally making him stop. “I know I overreacted, ok? I know it was a dangerous situation… I should’ve expected for something like that to happen.“

Clearly.” He hissed trying to walk past him.

“No- I'm not talking about what you did,” Jim quickly clarified, staying in front of him. “I mean I should’ve expected the kid has magic. There was probably a reason if- if they arrested a kid…”

“A sorcerer came into the Academy and attacked Spock to save him. I think he was arrested for a damn good reason.” Leonard said, "Still, magic or not, now you will always see me as the monster that refused to help a dying kid.”

“I’ve never said-“

“Yeah, the way you looked at me was more than enough.” Leonard pushed him away and proceeded through the square illuminated by the dim lights of the night.

Jim knew there was only one way to stop him. “Pike told me you also have good reasons to hate magic.” He said. Taking a deep breath, he slowly turned around: Leonard has stopped.

“What did he told you?” he asked without turning around.

“Not much… Just what happened. To your family.”

In a second, Leonard was holding him by the collar of his shirt, angrier than ever. “Why? Why the hell did he tell you that?!”

“Because you were leaving and it was my fault!”

“That doesn’t give him the permission to share my life with you!”

“Then why you haven’t done it yourself?” Jim shot back, grasping the bags in the hands hard enough to hurt, unable to let them go: he needed to feel grounded to something. “You know everything about my past, you saw the worst of me and you still don’t trust me enough to tell me the reason why you hate magic so much? Why you’re so scared of it?”

“Telling you or not was my decision, not Pike’s!”

“Well, he told me! Sue him if you want!”

Leonard looked ready to punch him, but then he just harshly let him go, turning to the river.

Jim didn’t say anything, staring at him, waiting- hoping he would have said something, instead of just walk away.

“So that’s what you needed?” Leonard said after a while. “A sad story is enough to forgive everything?”

“There was nothing to forgive in the first place,” Jim said, taking a step closer. “I keep saying that people always approach magic with hate, but I did the same thing with you. Since I came here, all I’ve seen is blind hate and anger, and when you refused to help that kid, I…”

“You thought I was just like the others. That I would’ve even killed him if I could.” He said without looking at him.

“Bones...“

“And you’re not wrong. If I had a gun, I probably would have.”

“We both know you wouldn’t.”

“Oh, so now I’m allowed to hate magic?” he asked looking back at him, angry, but he couldn’t hide two watery eyes.

“You can, but I think you don’t hate that kid. You were scared of him.” Jim said, “That’s what I didn’t realize at the time. And that’s why I don’t want you to leave. I know you don’t want to either.”

“You don’t know anything.”

“I know you feel guilty for what happened. I know you wanted to help him- you were going to, before seeing he has magic.”

“And you really think that should make me feel better?” Leonard yelled. “I’m a doctor, I’m supposed to help people- all of them! But if I see magic I just- I can’t do anything. I just want to run as far as I can! It’s always been like this, since that day…” his voice lowered, looking down.

Jim wished you could just hold him like he held him that day in the snow, in Riverside. Suddenly, he started to understand what Pike meat, saying that people can’t change in a day: they need time, especially to overcome a fear so deeply instilled in their hearts. “That doesn’t make you a monster, nor a bad doctor. You were just scared... I know how terrible that can make you feel, and still, you came here, knowing that there's still in the city. You knew you might had to face it, one day.”

“Yeah, and I did a hell of job…”

“You did. You didn’t run away.”

“When I saw your face, I almost did,” Leonard said staring at him, slowly shaking his head. “The way you looked at me in that moment… It was like a nightmare becoming real. The moment I was waiting for suddenly happened and I fucked everything up- and in front you, of all people.”

Jim felt ready to cry too. “Bones, I’m the last thing you should worry about. I had no idea about what happened to you-“

“My past shouldn’t interfere with my job, but it does, that’s why I can’t stay. I can’t wait until something like that will happen again.” He said and then breathed out, turning to the building again.

“Then we’ll try to prepare you for the next time!” Jim said running in front of him again. “That’s also why you accepted to come here, right? You want to learn to face magic. You want to fight your fear and I’ll help you.”

“Jim…”

“And don’t you dare say it’s useless because you did the same for me. I would be dead in that canyon- or worse, if it wasn’t for you.”

“That had nothing to do with magic.”

“Well, we’ll find a way to fix it anyway. We will, I promise.”

Leonard stared at him for a moment, then his shoulders relaxed just so slightly.

“I still want you in my crew, that’s never going to change,” Jim insisted, not knowing what else to say anymore. “And I need you here. You can’t leave me alone in this place. We both know I won’t last a week-“ and suddenly, words were not that important anymore: Leonard just took his face into his hands and dragged him closer to kiss him. Jim didn’t even have the time to close his eyes, but oh, he felt it…

When they parted, Leonard gently bumped their foreheads, his eyes open just enough to look down at his lips. “You were right, you know? When you said it was a shitty time to fall in love...”

It took Jim a moment to realize what just happened was real- and what Leonard just said. Then, all he could do was blushing. “Y- you were awake…?” he murmured and the other slowly nodded, kissing him again, more fiercely now, enough to make Jim’s heart skip a beat, and finally close his eyes. He completely forgot he had hands he could use as well, too busy holding two stupid bags.

Leonard moved a bit back again, staring at each other until he smiled slightly. “Not to ruin the moment... but you have to drag me to the hospital again.”

“Huh… wait, what?”

“I broke the stitches…” he murmured, hugging, or half-fainting against him that finally dropped the bags to hold him, nervously yelling something that the doctor didn’t catch, but that made him smile anyway.

Chapter Text

Leonard woke up the morning after in a hospital’s bed once again, too tired to complain about it. It took him a moment to recall what happened before falling asleep, but when he did, he suddenly sat up, wearing the same clothes of the night before, groaning and placing a hand on the wounded side. There was no one in the room, but soft voices and sounds could be heard from the corridor outside. Taking a deep breath, his shoulders dropped while looking down- then the door opened.

Jim was keeping a cup of coffee in each hand, opening the door with his elbow. Looking at the bed, he froze for a moment. “Did I wake you?” he asked, and the doctor shook his head only after a moment. “Good. I thought you were missing your beloved coffee.” He said slightly shaking the two cups.

Leonard followed all his movement as he placed one on the bedtable next to him.

“For once it didn't take me hours to get these, so enjoy it,” Jim said moving a chair closer to the bed before sitting, removing the lid from his cup, and the other just kept staring. “What?”

“Did I kiss you yesterday?”

Jim was taking a sip of coffee and he almost choked himself with it. “Excuse me?”

“I just… I did it, right?”

They kept staring at each other until Jim realized he was serious. “Yes, you did. And usually people don’t forget about kissing someone the morning after. Well, unless they’re drunk… hey, were you drunk?” he asked, suddenly suspicious.

“Of course I wasn’t drunk.” Leonard snorted, but then breathed out in relief. “Sorry, I- I wasn’t sure if it really happened. For a moment I thought everything has been just my imagination.”

“And what if it was?”

Leonard looked at him that was grinning, raising his eyebrows. “I don’t know if I would be brave enough to do it again," he answered, laughing a bit.

“I'm sure you would,” Jim said removing the lid from the other cup before handed it to him that took it with a curious frown. “People always told me you’re braver than you look. I'm starting to think they’re right.”

“Are you going to give me this kind of sweet talks from now on?” he huffed taking a sip.

“Only when you need them,” Jim said, enjoying making him blush.

"Shut up and pass me that folder, would you?" Leonard snorted, pointing at the documents on the table at the feet of the bed.

"You're still recovering..." Jim singsonged, but a cold glare from the doctor was enough to make him sigh and obey.

Leonard started reading and then blinked, confused. “It says January first...?”

“Today, yeah,” Jim nodded and huffed at his surprised face. “I know... I think many people forgot to celebrate the New Year last night.”

The doctor sighed, closing the folder. “We already wasted a Christmas at the hospital, and now this…”

“Isn't that bad,” Jim said and he looked back at him, not really convinced. “Really. I doubt any of us would've been in the mood to celebrate anyway.”

Leonard let a moment pass, then just sighed and said, “You probably have lots of questions for me.”

“I do, but you don’t have to answer.”

“What Pike told you…”

“He told me about your past just to help me understand,” he interrupted. “I know he shouldn’t have, that it was personal, but it was also the only way to stop you from leaving. And stop me from having the wrong idea about you.”

“You know what I think about magic. I told you about it as soon as we met.”

“I know. I think I never realized how serious you were until the other night.” Jim said, and Leonard just looked down again. “You had a good reason to act that way. I- I can’t hate magic because it’s- I saw it can be used for good… But I guess you’re right: maybe I’ve been just lucky.”

“Maybe I need to be lucky that one time too,” Leonard said, a little, ironic smile appearing on his lips. He then studied him for a moment before asking, “I never saw you scared of magic, not once. That guy that attacked you at the start of the year, the virus, and then going looking for Sophia by yourself…”

Jim felt the first pang of pain because of the truth he had to keep hiding from him. “Well, it wasn’t magic that made my past a living hell, it was just a man.” He said, lowering his voice. “I guess we saw the worst of both sides.” He added with a sad smile that quickly faded.

Leonard stared thoughtfully at him, then sighed, “Well, at least you’re not scared of the entire human race.”

Jim laughed more genuinely, “That would be a problem. Thank God there’s only one Frank on this planet.”

“I wish I could feel the same about people that use magic…” The other commented and then shook his head. “I don’t want to repeat what happened the other night. Magic or not, it can’t happen again.” He said and noticed a grin on his face. “I’m serious. The war ended long ago… Enough people died already.”

Jim could just smile fondly at him, because if Leonard could change his mind even one bit about magic, maybe, just maybe, he could still dare to hope.

“So… I can count on you about this?” The doctor asked, “Because, you know… I’m saying all these things but I feel like I’ll run away the moment I see magic again.”

“I’ll be right behind you to stop you.” Jim nodded solemnly. “I mean, I can’t risk you running straight into a canyon as well.”

Leonard laughed more sincerely at that. “I know I basically forced you to tell me about Riverside and your family…”

“No, you didn’t,” Jim sighed.

“Jim, I followed you there even if you clearly didn’t want me to.”

“And we both know that doing it you probably saved more than one life.” Jim insisted, “But it’s true that I didn’t wanted you to know about my past at first, so… Whenever you’ll feel ready to talk about yours, it’ll be fine.” Jim said standing up, throwing the empty cup in the trashcan before sitting on his bed, in front of him. “And if you don’t want to tell me anything at all, that’ll be fine too.”

“I want to tell you,” Leonard said. “I don’t want lies between us.”

Jim felt a second painful stab into his heart at that, because Leonard was serious about this, and Jim… Jim was a sorcerer in love with a man traumatized by magic and all he could do in order not to lose him was lying. “Ok. I'm just saying that I know what it feels like, so… no pressure.”

Leonard breathed out and nodded, as if just making that clear reassured him, then he murmured, “Can I kiss you again?”

Jim sure didn’t see that coming and huffed a laugh. “As if I can say no,” he said leaning forward and yes, kissing Leonard could definitely become a new welcomed habit. When someone coughed from the entrance, they both jumped and Jim stood so fast he hit the chair and almost fell.

Pike was staring at him with an ice-cold glare. “Jim, I need to speak with you for a moment.” He said, then moved his glare on the other man. “I take it you have reconsidered your resignation, Doctor?”

“Uh- yes, I did. I’m sorry for- for the trouble.”

Pike nodded and then sent another murderous glare at the blonde. “Don’t make me wait.” He said before leaving the room.

After a moment, they both breathed out and Jim started chuckling. “What’s so funny? I thought he was going to kill both of us,” Leonard said, smiling himself.

“I wonder if we broke some laws here...”

“I’ve never heard anything about no kissing inside the hospital.”

“Pike sure looked ready to wrote that rule down himself,” Jim laughed again.

“He could. And what are you going to do then?”

Jim looked down at him and grinned at his challenging smile. “What I always do with rules that I don't like,” he said leaning down to kiss him again.

 

Five minutes later, he left Leonard’s room and found Pike waiting for him just outside the hospital.

The Captain was staring at the campus ahead, arms crossed. “I heard you saying you were going to convince him to stay… I guess I should’ve asked how you were going to do that," he said without turning around when the other stopped next to him.

Jim tried not to blush- but failed. “That was unexpected for me too, honestly.”

“Really?”

“You were right, maybe he's still unsure about staying, but If he's still here, it's because he wants to. I promised him I'll help him not being scared of magic anymore.”

“So you told him the truth?”

Jim looked down. “Not yet. I will. I just… I want to help him first.”

“Don’t play with him making promises you’re not sure you can keep.”

“I’m not playing with him,” he shot back, offended, “but I can’t just suddenly tell him everything either.”

Pike took a deep breath and looked back at the campus. “What are you going to do, then?”

“First, we need to talk. Privately.”

“I thought you were done talking with Starfleet’s members.” He said blankly.

“I thought that too…” Jim sighed, then tilted his head at the building nearest the hospital. “Can you get us to that roof?” he asked and smiled a bit when the other frowned.

 

The wind was stronger on the roof, but the view was breathtaking: that was one of the highest building of the city, after the Starfleet’s headquarters and the Federation’s base right behind them, few kilometers away.

“So? Are you planning to kill me or something?” Pike asked, trying to protect himself with the jacket.

“Not yet,” snorted the other, still checking around.

“Relax, there are no cameras here.”

Jim nodded, moving closer to the edge, scanning the city. He then took a deep breath and looked at the man that was moving behind him. “First of all, I know I should trust at least you in here, so… I’m sorry I didn't. And yes, I know I should trust the Federation too,” he added before the other could interrupt, “I’ll try to. Doubting everything and everyone won’t take us anywhere.”

Pike studied him and nodded very slightly. “I’m glad to hear it, but I still don’t understand why you turned against us. What happened to Gaila was unfortunate, and I know you felt responsible for her, but she wanted to cover for you- she did, and I was already setting up her defense. She wouldn’t have been alone.”

“I know…”

“Then what happened? Why you were so ready to start a war by yourself, all of sudden?”

“Because Leonard was dying.” Jim shrugged, feeling miserable admitting it. “That’s pretty much the main reason.”

“You weren’t even with him during that time.”

“No, but after you so gently told me to just wait for him to die…“

“I’ve never-“

“After I leave you, I was angry. I mean, I already was, but then it got worse,” he continued, “Gaila helped me control myself, and then I told her I was going to find Sophia to convince her to break any spell she was using on Leonard... and then she said she knew people that maybe could help me find her.”

“You-“ Pike looked ready to explode, but then just breathed out, trying to contain himself. “How did Galia knew these people?”

“I don’t know, she didn’t tell me. Probably some of them knew what Gaila is able to do... Magic users seem to bond pretty easily between them,” Jim said, thinking about what Nero told him about it. “They’re always ready to help each other.”

Pike took a deep breath. “Alright. And then what? You were not so stupid to actually go meet them-“

“I did.”

“Damn it, Jim…”

“I had to.”

“Do you have any idea how bad your plan could’ve ended if they discovered you’re part of Starfleet?!”

“They already knew.” Jim looked down, the memory of that night still vivid into his mind.

Pike just stared at him for a moment. “How?”

“I don’t know. They just did.”

The Captain slowly shook his head, reminding himself that getting angry now was useless. “And then what happened?”

“I talked with few of them before meeting their leader. The same person Sophia is working for, and that is creating those marks for people like me.”

“You actually find the responsible?”

“More like he let me found him…”

“Why you’re telling me all this only now?” Pike yelled, “You could’ve told us! We could’ve arrested him-“

“Arrested him?” Jim almost laughed, “I’m lucky to be still alive and you think any of you could-“ he stopped for a moment, anger flaring into his chest at the memory of how easily Nero defeated him. “I wasn’t there as a member of Starfleet, and he knew that. It wasn’t even about Sophia anymore… He was the only one that could save Leonard, and he did. He kept his promise.”

“You exposed yourself to a terrible risk…”

“I know, but Leonard’s alive.”

Pike thought for a moment, then asked, “And what did you promise to this man? I doubt he accepted to help you without asking for anything in return.”

That was the hardest part- the scarier part Jim wasn’t sure he was ready to tell, but he needed to prove that he was still on the right side. “He showed me how people like me should live. How wrong it is to keep my magic hidden… Once I let it go, I understood what he meant, but then…” he could see Pike knew the worst had yet to come, and he wished he could just stop there. “Then my magic started to change... I wasn’t able to keep it down. I tried, I wanted to, but I couldn’t, and he refused to help me, saying that Starfleet isn’t the place for me, that we have to fight for our freedom and all that stuff... and then he just left and I didn’t know how to control my magic anymore.”

It took Pike few seconds to understand. “You caused the storm that night…?”

“I didn’t wanted to,” Jim said way too quickly. “I swear, I tried to stop it, but- but I couldn’t do it alone…”

“Gaila helped you? That’s what you meant saying that you needed her?”

Jim nodded sadly. “ It took her hours to stop me... Only then I realized what happened to the city.” Slowly, he started crying all the tears he fought so hard to contain until then. “I never felt my magic like something dangerous before, I- I felt like the monster Frank always told me I was... and then Gaila got arrested because of me and I had to help her. I know attacking Spock was wrong… And then I saw Leonard refusing to help that kid and that made everything worse. I didn’t know what was going on anymore. I started feeling like all I was doing was wrong- that I shouldn’t have come here in the first place…”

Pike sighed and moved forward, gently pulling him closer, feeling him instantly grasping his back, crying even more.

 

It took Jim an embarrassing amount of time to pull himself together, but Pike didn’t complain: the Captain let him sit down on one of the big metal tubes, part of the air system of the building, and just waited in silence for him to collect his thoughts.

When Jim dared to look up, he was staring at the city with a pensive glare. “I think I’ve never cried so much like in the last month…” he murmured looking down again.

“You got through a lot in the last month,” Pike commented calmly, “And maybe it wasn’t what you wanted. Or deserved.”

“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t wanted to.”

“And it’s still what you want?”

Jim looked up at him and was surprised to find a vague expression of guilt on his face. “Of course it is.”

“This isn’t the kind of things you were expecting to happen here…”

“I wasn’t expecting a lot of things last summer,” Jim huffed sarcastically. “Seven months ago I was sure my brother abandoned me for good- that he hated me, and that I would’ve never gone back to Riverside, figures have some good memories about it. And I definitely wasn’t expecting to find myself here.”

“I sure wasn’t expecting to see you in a relationship with a doctor,” Pike commented.

Jim smiled a bit more, looking down. “Me either, but here I am. Thanks to you.”

“Don’t remind me…” Pike breathed out, sitting next to him.

Jim was worried to ask, but he had to: “If you want me to leave, I'll understand.”

For a tense moment, Pike didn’t say anything, then looked at him and asked, “It was really you that night?”

He nodded. “I think I’ve never realized how powerful my magic is… Or how hard I was forcing it down.”

“You were keeping hidden a power that strong- even now. How?”

“Like always: it’s something I just do.”

“I remember you telling me you had no problem controlling it. Why that night was different?”

“Maybe because I was already angry and- and scared when I got there. Gaila said that he did something…”

He? You mean their leader?” Pike asked, and the blonde just nodded. “You can’t tell me his name?”

Jim honestly didn’t wanted to, feeling too scared that there would have been more terrible consequences, but it was too late to back out. “He called himself Nero.”

“Never heard of him…” the Captain murmured. “What did he do to you?”

“Nothing. I just felt my magic, but stronger- and free. When I talked with Gaila about it, she said that something wasn’t right, and it wasn’t just my magic that night.”

“So maybe this Nero is the true responsible for that storm.”

Jim shook his head, “It was my magic. I’m sure of that.”

“Yes, but maybe he used you… or force you to use it like that.”

“I’m pretty sure I would’ve noticed if he did.” He shot back patiently.

Pike just nodded, passing both hands over his face before looking back at him. “Why you waited so long to tell me all this?”

“It wasn’t that important at the time.”

“Oh really?”

“Gaila got arrested right after we came back from meeting Nero, and I was already going to leave the Academy, so…”

“So that’s why you told me you were going to leave…” Pike commented.

“I will if you want me to,” Jim said. “I’m better now, but I can’t promise you nothing bad will happen again. Even if I try my best…”

“Jim, I don’t want you to leave. I offered you this chance in the first place.”

“And it was risky, we both knew.”

“We all live along any kind of risks, here,” Pike said, gesturing at the city. “We can only try to be ready to face them, and I think we could use your help.”

“My help? I almost destroyed the city-“

“Don’t be so full of yourself, kid. You barely scratched it, and probably it wasn’t even entirely your fault.”

Jim stared at him in surprise. “I really thought you were going to kick me out…”

“I would lose McCoy too doing that, and I told you we need good doctors,” Pike said, making him smile. “We need all the help we can get, now more than ever… We have to find Nero and-“

“Better not. Not for now.”

“What? Why?”

“Why you think I asked you to talk up here? I have exposed Gaila and myself going to meet him. And he knows I’m into Starfleet.”

“You think he’ll keep your secret as long as you do the same?”

“He just wanted to give me a lesson... show me how strong he is," Jim nodded. "He knows I won’t sent Starfleet after him, not after he saved Leonard.”

“But we have to. If he’s the responsible for those marks-“

“Sad thing, they actually work. For the most of us, at least,” Jim interrupted. “Nero said that he created the marks to help people scared of their own powers, to allow them to control themselves, but it's not that easy. I saw other people with those marks when I meet him, and they were just fine, probably controlling their magic better than I do.”

“So what, he’s working some kind of natural selection? Only the strongest will survive?” Pike said and the tense look on Jim’s face made him realize what could be the plan behind something so terrible. “He’s recruiting them? To fight us?”

“For him, the war never ended,” Jim nodded. “He wants us to be free to live and use magic like we should. I don’t know exactly what’s his plan, or how much time we have, but I’m pretty sure that destroy the Federation is his final goal.”

“Oh, God…” Pike’s shoulders dropped, closing his eyes for a moment. “Jim, if what you’re telling me it’s true…”

“High changes it is, but attacking him now would be useless. Telling about him to the Federation will start a witch hunt- and I mean literally: the panic will spread in the whole city and the war will start on its own, without Nero doing anything. And maybe that’s what he’s hoping for.”

“If we really don’t have much time-”

“I think we still have enough to be prepared for when he will do his move.”

“What you mean?”

“I mean that he's not stupid. He wants for his plan to work, he won't risk it until he'll be sure of that.” Jim said and saw Pike’s face hardening. “I won’t lie to you, some of the things he said aren’t wrong… but all he wants is revenge, and create a world where magic rules everything.”

“And you don’t want the same thing?” Pike asked, a slight irony well hidden in his serious tone.

“No. I want- I think we need to find a balance… to coexist.” Jim smiled a bit, because that was what Gaila told him days before. “That’s why I’m here with you, and not with Nero. I do trust you, but you have to trust me too if we really want to do something before it’s too late.”

Pike straightened his back and nodded. “Something’s on your mind?”

“Well…”

“Something I won’t like. Alright... Tell me anyway.”

Jim smiled apologetically. “I know the Federation let Starfleet talk with few sorcerers leaders in the past, to find a peaceful solution. I need you to give me all the info about those people. Anything that could help me find them or other sorcerers that you know might still be open to help us.”

“Please, don’t tell me you want to try talk with them…”

“I’m the best choice you have at the moment.”

“Aside from the dangers you would risk, most of those people are probably dead by now, or they left the city years ago.”

“But Starfleet still have the data, right?”

“Are you listening to me?"

"You give me those files, I'll take care of the rest."

Pike took a deep, nervous breath. "Even if I accept to help you, it won’t be an official operation. If you got caught, or if those people decide to expose you…”

“That could happen any moment now,” Jim said. “Nero could do that, or his friends… or Leonard will, the moment I’ll tell him the truth. I don’t care about being exposed, but if I’ll have to leave, at least give something that could help me try to stop Nero.”

Pike stared at those blue eyes flaming with determination for a long moment. “You’re serious about this.”

“I am.”

Another moment passed, then Pike nodded once. “I’ll see what I can find, but you have to promise me you’ll keep your head down for a while. We have two fugitives to take care of, and both you and Leonard are still suspected of being part of that absurd jailbreak. Especially you.”

“Shouldn’t they be looking for a mysterious and unknown sorcerer?”

“They are, and don’t think that what you did won’t have consequences. I heard they’re ready to install more devices against magic around here.”

“Great… well, I’m used hiding my magic, anyway.” Jim commented.

Pike studied him. “It is so painful for you?”

Taken aback, Jim just looked away. “I can handle it. Nero just messed up my mind for a bit, but I’m fine now. What happened last night- letting Gaila escape, attacking Spock… it won’t happen again. You have my word.”

“I hope so,” Pike nodded again. “You should go rest now. We’ll keep in touch.” He saw him smiling a bit before standing to leave, “And about McCoy…” he added, “Go easy on him. Each day you don’t tell him the truth, it’ll make it worse for when you’ll have to.”

Jim nodded. “I know. That’s why I want for this plan to work. Before we stop Nero, the better for my relationship,” he said with a little grin before leaving.

Pike watched him disappear into the building, then he stood as well and took a deep breath staring at the city. He then turned around to face the person that just joined him on the roof and sighed, “You heard everything, did you?”

 

Walking back to the hospital, Jim was feeling strangely good for the first time after months. He felt lighter as if he let go a heavy burden that was constantly pushing him down. Maybe it was because he knew what to do now; what he wanted and he was ready to fight for it.

Nero could keep hating the world and wish for another war as long as he wanted. Jim wasn’t going to let that happen. His friends and family were part of that world- Leonard was part of it, and he was going to fight Nero bare hands to protect him.

Leonard suffered more than enough already, Jim thought, standing in front of his room, Now it’s up to me to help him believe in magic. “Hey, Bones-“ opening the door, he blinked, finding the bed empty. Even the two bags were gone.

“Can I help you?” a nurse asked from the corridor.

“Ah- yeah. Leonard McCoy was here, was he?”

“Doctor McCoy? He left a while ago.”

“Really?”

“He signed the permission and left. His conditions were good,” she added, noticing his still confused look, “I’m sure he’ll recover perfectly, if he stops breaking the stitches.”

With a smile and a thank you, Jim was outside the hospital once again, wondering if the doctor headed back to their dorm. He won’t leave the Academy… right? Jim couldn’t stop thinking. Pike probably destroyed the documents of his retirement already... Still, Leonard’s situation wasn’t easy… He accepted to be helped, but…

Jim shut his thoughts and started running towards the dormitory.

 

Jumping two stairs at the time, he finally found himself in the familiar corridor of the dorm. Slamming the door of their room open, he heard something crashing on the floor in Leonard’s bathroom- followed by a familiar, annoyed voice.

“Damn it-!” Leonard yelled moving to the bathroom’s doorway, “Why the hell did you smash the door like that?”

“You ok?”

“I was, until you scared the shit out of me!”

“Sorry…” Jim closed the door- more gently this time, and looked better around: the two bags were there, on Leonard’s bed, open, waiting to be emptied again. He smiled a bit, but then stopped, noticing the angry glare on his roommate's face. “When I got back to the hospital they told me you already left…”

“Of course I did. I was tired of that room. I can rest here,” Leonard said, then looked better at him, frowning, “Did you thought I left the Academy?”

“No! Well, yes. I don’t know why. I just… I’m still on the edge, I guess.” Jim took a deep breath, passing a hand over his eyes. “What did I make you break this time? Need a hand?” he asked moving to look inside the bathroom.

“It’s just a glass…” Leonard murmured gesturing at the piece sprawled on the floor, in front of the sink.

“Alright… get out, I’ll clean that up,” Jim said turning to go get what he needed, but Leonard stopped him by his arm.

“Jim, you ok?”

“Yes. Yeah, I’m just…” he breathed out, smiling faintly, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to collapse.”

“You wha- woah!” Leonard caught him just in time, feeling him going limp into his arms. “Jim? Hey, you’re still with me?”

“Kind of…” he said almost chuckling, head resting over his arm.

“There’s nothing to laugh about!”

“Mh-mh…” he murmured, eyes closed. A second later, he was sitting somewhere cold, then fingers lifted his face a bit and he slowly moved away. He just wanted to sleep.

“Don’t be such a kid. Open your eyes.”

Jim tiredly obeyed, lolling his head back against the bathroom wall, finding Leonard in front of his face.

Leonard kept checking on him as serious as he always was when Doctor McCoy was required. Only when he placed a hand over his forehead, he noticed the blonde was blushing, eyes glued down somewhere next to him. “How much have you slept these days? Have you eaten something?”

“I did… I think.”

“You think.”

“I was too worried…”

“Huh?”

“I was scared to lose you… and then Gaila…” Jim murmured, before taking a long breath and dragged him down into a hug, grasping on his back- and he felt Leonard flinching and instantly trying to move away for a second, or maybe it was just his imagination.

Leonard sighed, a hand against the wall in front of him for balance, while slowly moving the other around him. “Alright, but you need to rest now, or you’re really going to faint. When you wake up, we’ll eat something.”

“Sushi for our first date?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Jim smiled and let him go just enough to put both his hands on the sides of Leonard’s face- probably squeezing a bit too hard. “Will you eat me with sushi?”

Leonard blushed as much as him but tried to keep it cool. “You mean if I’ll eat sushi with you?”

“That’s what I just said.”

"Right..." Leonard sighed patiently, trying to free himself but Jim murmured something else and moved him down again for a kiss.

“Will you?” he then asked again.

“Yes, ok, whatever you want,” he snorted and got rewarded with another kiss. “Jim… seriously, you have to lay down on a bed.”

“You’re gonna make me company?”

“Are you one of those that turn naughty when they’re drunk or something?” Leonard said helping him stand from the toilet seat, moving him to his bed.

“I don’t know… maybe?” Jim said falling on his back, never been so happy to have a bed beneath him.

“I’ll keep that in mind. Now sleep.”

“You’re not going to leave, right?”

“No, but I have all my stuff to put back in place. You can watch me if you don’t believe me.”

“Yeah… I like to watch…”

Leonard just groaned. “Stay here and rest,” he said standing up.

Jim kept his eyes half-open for a while, watching him cleaning the bathroom from the broken glass before moving in front of the bags, starting taking books and clothes out of them.

As if feeling his gaze, Leonard turned to him and sighed, “Jim, I mean it. Try to get some sleep. I’m not going anywhere.”

He just stared at his back, feeling another pang of sadness into his heart. I have to tell him… “Bones…” he murmured and saw him looking back again before his eyes closed. “I’m sorry.”

Leonard frowned, “For what?”

Jim fell asleep without even realizing.

Chapter Text

The rest of January passed without more incidents, but also very quickly: Leonard finally had the chance to heal completely, but after he started working at the hospital again, he was called for another interrogation- just as a formality, they said.

Jim was called to answer more questions as well. He kept recalling the events that took place the night that Gaila escaped, trying to find any flaws, especially those that could have out Leonard in trouble but found none. In the end, their plan worked out pretty much as they were hoping… So he kept repeating the same story again and again until the Federation’s agents and Starfleet were finally satisfied.

Who sure was not satisfied was Spock. They met only twice after the jailbreak and every time Jim was expecting to see the Vulcan approaching him with a gun.

“He suspects about you… And about me,” Uhura told him once. “He doesn’t have any proof, but he’s not stupid. I don’t like lying to him… But I know Gaila would’ve done the same for me.”

Jim could perfectly understand her feelings. It was twenty days since he and Leonard become a couple, and he still couldn’t find the courage to tell him he was a sorcerer. He kept counting the days, and each one was only renewing the pain. Even more because Leonard- well, Leonard looked happy.

“I never saw him smiling so much,” Uhura told him that afternoon before leaving the class, with a knowing grin on her face. “I wonder what you have done to him…”

That was another stab in Jim’s heart because he wished they had actually done something… They were comfortable into each other space, very comfortable, but if Leonard had his reasons to take their relationship so carefully, Jim had other motives to not complain about it.

Jim loved him deeply, more each day, but he was still lying about something that was important to both of them. And he knew- Jim was sure that getting more intimate while lying to him would’ve crashed Leonard’s heart even more.

It’s the least I can do, but… Jim took a long breath, head down on the classroom's table.

“You alright?” Sulu asked him, wearing his jacket, ready to leave as the rest of the students.

“I’ll need so many cold showers…”

“What?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Jim tried to smile, stretching his back. “Just tired… It’s been an intense month.”

“I bet it was,” he nodded, “Coming back here just to know the Academy had been attacked again wasn’t what I was expecting. There’s a lot of police still around.”

“I heard they’re still interrogating people…”

“They are. I hope the situation will calm down before the exams stars.” He nodded, then asked, “You were here when it happened, right? Both you and Leonard?”

“Ah- yeah. Yeah, we were. You better keep your distance, we might still be classified as criminals.” He said with an ironic and tired grin.

“I’ll take risk…” he snorted, and then sighed, “In the end, I’m glad about how things turned out.”

“What you mean?”

“Well, Gaila escaped. Whoever helped her, I’m glad they did. She didn’t deserved all that crap…” he noticed him staring in surprise. “I mean, I would be surprised if she’s actually a witch, but- I have known her for a while. She’s a good person- and she worked hard to join the Academy. Magic or not, she wanted to be part of Starfleet, that wasn’t a lie.”

“I thought you were against magic…?”

“It’s illegal, I understand that, but Gaila was a student like us until that video came out. For all we know, she was just trying to help someone-” he stopped watching the other looking at him as if he was going to hug him, “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Nothing. I mean- I thought that after what happened to your family because of magic…”

Sulu nodded slowly. “It was a different time… My father fought for what he believed in. Hopefully, we’ll find a way so we don’t have to fight the same war over and over again. Gaila sure could’ve helped about that…”

Jim grabbed him by a shoulder. “Sulu, you’re gonna be part of the crew. That’s settle.”

“What crew?”

“My future crew. I’m recruiting.”

“Do I have a word on the matter?”

“Sure. You can say yes.”

“I doubt that’s how recruiting works…”

 

Later that day, Jim couldn’t stop wondering how his spaceship would have been called. Based on his results, Sulu would be a brilliant future pilot. This crew he was forming needed to become real.

“Bones, I have good news!” he said entering their dorm room.

“That’s a surprise,” the doctor commented sitting at his desk, piles of books all around him.

“I’ve found a pilot for our ship.”

Leonard frowned, turning to look at him. “You found who for our what?”

“Our spaceship. Sulu will be our pilot. I told you I’m recruiting people.”

“I thought you were joking.”

“I’m not.”

He thought for a second, then just nodded and looked back down at the book.

“Come on, show me some excitement?” he sighed, leaning over his back.

“I’ll show pure terror when we’ll be out space… You’re heavy, you know?”

“Why so cold?” he murmured, laying above him even more.

“Because I have a test in three days and I barely opened a book this month.”

“You’re a genius, no big deal-“ Jim let out a little gasp when Leonard moved aside, making him fall forward, and he found himself laying half on the desk, half on him. “Nice move, there. Where did you learn it?” he said turning around to sit better on his lap.

“Spending lots of time at the desk, you need to adapt.”

“Can’t agree more.” Jim grinned, letting himself being kissed. His heartbeat started to race when their lips touched- and, as always, the desire to move both of them to the bed was hard to ignore, because, damn, Leonard was hot and he probably had no idea, so it was Jim’s duty to show him, to tell him, to make him understand how important he was…

Leonard opened his eyes when the other gently moved back a little.

“You really like to tease me, don’t you?” Jim smiled, breathless. Noticing the frustration on Leonard’s face just made it worse- and harder to resist. “Sorry. I’m just kidding.”

“I’m not,” he commented taking a deep breath, carefully letting him lean his back against the desk. “I want this. I want you.”

Jim was well aware he was blushing furiously now. “I know… I mean, it’s the same for me.” He could tell Leonard was considering what to do next, if it was the right moment to talk or not, but he didn't and, deep down, Jim thought it was better that way.

A blinking light distracted him and, looking on the right, he saw it was Leonard’s phone. “You got a message.” He said and Leonard sighed tiredly. “Can I?”

He shrugged. “Sure. Want to become my secretary now?”

“It would be fun. Lots of gossips,” Jim giggled taking the phone. “Why you keep it silent? You have like ten calls and messages here.”

“Told you I was trying to study. Some of them are important?”

“You tell me… Well, there’s a message from Uhura.”

“Read it for me?”

“Oh, so you like to have a secretary after all…” Jim commented with a sly grin that the other just ignored. “It say ‘Happy Birthday’.” Looking away from the phone, they stared at each other for a moment. “Today it’s your birthday?”

Leonard opened his mouth, closed it and then snorted a laugh, barely surprised. “I forgot.”

“Are you kidding me?!” Jim yelled sitting up on his lap again so fast he pressed on something that made the other groan in pain and embarrassment. “It’s your birthday and I have to know about it from Uhura?”

“I’m serious, I forgot… I was busy with- with the books and all that stuff…”

“Bones, there’s nothing to laugh about! I’m deeply offended!”

“You can try again next year.”

Jim gasped dramatically and then looked down at the phone again. “It’s seven PM. We have all night to celebrate. Come on, suit up!” he said jumping down from him.

“I’m really not in the mood to celebrate...”

“It’s our first birthday together, you can’t waste it on those books.”

“These books will allow me to become part of your crew, you know?”

“That place is already yours so get up and get dressed. No time to waste! You’re gonna get drunk, eat cake- and get drunk again, or- I don’t know, we’ll find something. A plan… we need to plan every hour!”

Leonard sighed, watching him running to prepare, and couldn’t do anything but smile and obey his Captain’s orders.

 

If Leonard thought that Jim wasn’t serious about planning their evening, he soon realized how wrong he was. The moment he stepped out the bathroom, ready to go, Jim dragged him away and out the Academy for a walk around the city, then a quick dinner in the first pub they found before Jim throw both of them into a cinema to watch a movie. Once out, they wandered around until they find a grocery shop still open and got some slices of cake in there. After that, they finally slowed down along the riverside. “I’m getting too old for this…” Leonard groaned crashing down on a bench.

“Shut up, we aren’t done yet,” Jim said reaching him a moment later.

“I swear, I’ll get up from here only to go home.”

Jim laughed and checked the hour. “It’s almost time.”

Leonard saw him handing him a beer bottle. He smiled a bit and grabbed it, as they hit them as cheers, both taking a long gulp, breathing out in relief.

Then Jim looked at the hour and sighed. “And your birthday is officially over.”

“Mission accomplished, Captain.”

“Come on, don’t tell me you actually didn’t wanted to celebrate?” he asked and the other just looked down at the bottle. “Not even a little?”

“I can make an exception for you,” Leonard said with a little grin.

Jim’s smile faded slowly. “Sorry… I just thought you would’ve liked to-”

“I do. I am glad you insisted. I’m just not used to it anymore.” Leonard said and saw him nodding, looking at the river. He sighed and added, “It has been around three years ago... Last time I actually celebrated. Before the divorce.”

“Bones…”

“It’s ok, really. It was nice to spend some time together… Out of the Academy, after what happened.”

Jim smiled a bit, scooting closer. “Thinking about it, your daughter is still a mystery to me…” he said and then other frowned. “You didn’t even told me her name.”

“I didn’t?” Leonard looked genuinely surprised. “Joanna. Her name’s Joanna. She’s four.”

“She’s already a little Bones?”

“Oh God, don’t call her like that…” he groaned, both laughing. “She’s a little tornado… And not as serious as me or her mother, luckily.”

“You’re not that serious. You’re just a doctor.”

“Wow. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Jim said bumping a shoulder against his. “You can still see her, right? Even after the divorce?”

“I can. Her mother just kind of made it difficult.”

“How?”

“They moved to her birthplace, close to New York.”

“That sucks.”

“It does, but I know she had good reasons to move. It wasn’t because of me. She usually let Joanna-” Leonard’s phone rang and he took it, smiling a bit watching the screen. “Give me sec,” he said standing and moving few steps away.

Jim watched him moving back and forth, voice too low to hear. Taking a deep breath, he looked at the black sky above that rumbled slightly. “Enough with storms…” Jim snorted and then shivered, turning around: he felt magic. There were few people walking on the other side of the street, everything seemed fine… but he remembered too well what happened last time he felt magic and couldn’t find the source of it.

He suddenly stood and turned to Leonard, bumping against the man himself that just ended his call and come back, both grabbing each other to keep their balance.

“Hey… What?” Leonard asked.

What if Sophia is still around? What if she’s looking at us right now? “Nothing. I just…” Jim looked behind them, but everything looked normal.

Leonard followed his gaze, “Don’t tell me you’re still hungry?”

Jim frowned, but then noticed the bar still open in the same direction he was looking. “No… no, I’m not, but I think we should go back. Looks like it’s going to rain soon… Who called you in the middle of the night, anyway?” As long as I’m with him, we should be fine.

“My ex-wife.”

“Speaking of the devil, huh?”

“Indeed. She told me she got home late from work and the babysitter forgot to make Joanna call me for my birthday. She’ll call tomorrow.”

“That’s very nice of her.”

Leonard nodded. “That’s what I was going to tell you. She always makes Joanna call me for my birthday. That’s kind of how I remember about it,” he snorted a soft laugh.

Jim was relieved seeing him in a better mood- and kind of jealous. Another thunder echoed closer and he shivered again. “Alright. I don’t need to get a cold, so off we go.”

“That should be my line.”

“I’m learning, see?” he forced out a little smile before quickly heading back to the Academy.

 

Trying to keep it cool during their walk back home resulted harder than Jim thought, and sadly the storm seemed to just get worse. Despite running through the campus under the rain, Jim felt relieved that he could stop looking for enemies around every corner. Once in front of their door, he was glad Leonard didn’t saw the little jump he made when a lightning cracked somewhere outside.

“That was pretty close,” Leonard commented grabbing the keys.

“Yeah…”

“Change your clothes, or you’re gonna sleep in a drenched bed tonight.”

“I know, I know...” Jim murmured closing the door. Clinking to turn on the light, a thunder made the room’s window tremble and the lightning made the lightbulb explode at the same time. “Shit-!”

“I think that one fried the system…” Leonard sighed stepping out of his bathroom, noticing him immobile there. “Did you get shocked?” He asked, but got no answer. “Jim?”

“I‘m fine,” he said, realizing it was useless shake his head in that darkness. Holding his own hand he could feel it shaking. It didn’t happen in so long…

Another flash illuminated the room for a second and Jim shut his eyes. One flash after another, it was becoming hard to breathe.

“What’s wrong?” Leonard asked moving closer but felt him jump back when he brushed a hand against him. “Jim, if you’re hurt-“

“I’m not. I’m fine, really,” Jim knew the storm had nothing to do with his magic, this time it wasn’t his fault, but he felt magic before- and then the thunders, and the creepy feeling of someone staring at them, waiting for the right moment to attack them. I don’t want to see Nero again… I don’t want him to mess me up again…

“Jim, you’re hyperventilating...”

He missed the other half of that sentence but didn’t move, too scared to do so. Flinching again when two hands grabbed him, he let himself be moved around until he was sitting down on the bed.

“It’s ok. Take deep breaths, alright? Slowly.”

Jim nodded slightly and leaned his head down into his hands, trying to do what Leonard was saying. He could almost feel the cold wind he felt on the roof of the old library; Nero’s hand grasping his wrists and-

“Hey… Look at me for a sec?”

Once again, Leonard’s voice called him back to reality and he slowly obeyed, finding him in front of him, down on his knee on the floor with a worried expression visible even in that darkness.

“Can you tell me what you see?” He asked.

Jim gulped down more air and frowned a little. “You…?”

Leonard smiled a bit, “That’s right. What else?”

Unsure, Jim looked around. “Our room…” Not that damn roof. No wind, no Nero here.

“Our room.” He confirmed. “It’s a mess, but it isn’t that scary, is it?”

Jim didn’t answer, but the horrible feelings started to lessen.

“Breathe slowly. Can you do it for me?”

Jim tried until he could breathe more normally. After a while, he felt even worse realizing what a scene he has made. “I’m sorry…”

“Don’t apologize.”

“I don’t know why I freaked out so much…”

“You had any panic attack before?”

“A what?”

“A panic attack. That’s what you were having right now.”

Jim failed to find the words for a moment. “No… It never happened before. Nothing like this.” He said looking down at the floor.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, ok? I’m just worried. Something scared you enough to trigger it.”

“I’m not-“ Jim jumped when another lightning cracked outside and he tried to get up, but Leonard to gently let him sit down again.

“I think going around alone isn’t the best idea at the moment,” Leonard told him, sitting next to him. “Think you can resist in here with me a bit longer?”

Jim took a deep breath and nodded, hiding his shaky hands under his legs. This storm can’t last forever…

They sit in the dark in silence, hearing the rain outside and the thunders getting weaker, moving far away. Leonard studied him for a while, then said, “You want to talk about it?”

“About what?”

“About the night when that magic storm happened.”

Jim said nothing, a shiver of fear running all over his body at the idea that Leonard knew he was the responsible for that accident.

“I know I’m the last person that should tell you this, but, really, if you need to talk about it- or about anything else, I’m here to listen. You don’t have to be a coward like me.”

Jim felt his heart aching. “You’re not a coward.”

“Occasionally, I am,” Leonard sighed. “Keep breathing slowly. I’ll get you some water.”

Jim thought that maybe he just had to tell him everything… But how what happened that night could be a good point to start? Breathing out, he sat better on the bed, back against the wall and eyes closed until he felt Leonard sitting next to him again.

“You want me to leave for a while?” The doctor asked.

“No. You can stay. If you want.” Jim said, watching him sighing patiently, and feeling him lean against his shoulder was kind of reassuring. Jim accepted the glass of water and took a sip. “I don’t know where to start.” He sheepishly admitted in the end.

“Why don’t you tell me what happened after I pass out in the airport?”

“You don’t remember anything from there?”

“The last thing I saw was you after Sophia stabbed me. Then the first thing I heard when I started waking up was your voice. Your adorable confession of love.”

“Shut up…”

“I tried to wake up, but when I did, you were already gone and the storm has passed. Then Pike came to visit and he told me what was going on.” Leonard said, pausing for a moment before trying to guide him into the conversation. “Did you really tried to find Sophia and her gang?”

Again, Jim didn’t speak. He didn’t wanted to lie, but he was still so scared to tell the truth...

“If they did something to you…”

He shook his head, holding both legs against himself. “I found them, and we talked,” the words suddenly felt so heavy to speak out. “I met their leader, if you want to call him like that… He told me Sophia was part of his group, but he didn’t let me see her. I ask him to save your life and- and we made a deal.”

Leonard was immobile against his shoulder. “What kind of deal?”

“He knew I was in Starfleet, so he… He kind of wanted to show off his powers, I guess,” Jim said with a quick, cold grin. “He promised to break Sophia’s spell if I would have accepted to see- to learn how magic works. That’s all he asked me, and I accepted.”

The doctor slowly shook his head in disbelief. “You’re crazy…”

“He kept his promise.”

“He could’ve killed you.”

“But he didn’t. He just tried to scare me with that magic storm.”

“He tried, huh?”

Jim huffed a low laugh. “He did scare me a bit, ok, but that’s all. I wasn’t hurt. I’m not. I just- have some issue with thunders now, but that’s fine.”

“How is that fine?”

“It is. This is just-“ another lightning flashed into the room for a second, making him stop half-sentence. “This is just a stupid reaction. It’ll pass.” He finished, trying to sound more sarcastic than nervous.

“You told Pike about all this?”

“Yeah. He already knows.” Jim said. Turning: being so close, he could see how tense he was. “If you were expecting me to just watch you die-”

“I expect you not to jump into the lion’s den without a second thought.”

“Hey, I did it for love.”

“I love you too, and that makes it even harder to accept.”

Jim gaped for a moment, taken aback.

Leonard sighed and took his hand, tangling their fingers together. “I can’t follow a Captain that just jump into the fire at the first problem. You have a brain, so use it.” That said, he nervously breathed out and stared back at the loving expression on Jim’s face. “But anyway, thanks for saving my life.”

“I did nothing…”

“You did everything. A sorcerer didn’t casually pass by in front of my room to save me. You searched for him. As stupid and irresponsible as it can be, at least it worked. Just don’t do it again.”

Jim sighed, leaning more against him that kept him under his arm. Once again, he didn’t tell him the truth, but, hopefully, that was a first step in the right direction.

.-.-.

The storm moved away from the city during the night, with relief of everyone, but it kept raining for few days. Then, the news finally arrived, along with a weak sun appearing through dark clouds.

In the afternoon, Jim was in the gym, training with other cadets. Not that he really needed to get better at punching things, but it was a better way to release the tension.
A whistle made him blink and dodge a punch just in time.

“Welcome back,” Sulu said, both out of breath.

Jim snorted and dodged another punch, then another and successfully blocked his arm, making him fly in the air before crashing him down on the carpet. “Miss me?” He grinned keeping him stuck in his grasp.

“Your husband sure do.”

Jim frowned and looked up, spotting Leonard leaning against the wall next to the entrance, weakly waving a hand.

Just then Sulu rolled aside, dragging him along until their positions were inverted. “You distract easily, Captain.”

Jim laughed and let his arms fall down in defeat. “Good to know you still respect me.” He breathed out and the other patted his arm before standing up, helping him do the same.

Leonard slowly approached when they parted, nodding at Sulu before he left. “Was that my fault?”

“I told you, you’re too charming.”

“I’ll wear a mask next time.”

“The rest of your body will still distract me,” Jim commented, enjoying making him blush a bit. “So, not I’m complaining, but are you doing around here?”

“Pike stopped by the dorm looking for you. He said he has a meeting later, so you should go see him in his office as soon as you can.”

“You’re a doctor, not his secretary.”

“That’s what I told him,” Leonard nodded, “but it’s an excuse to see you, so I don’t mind.”

Jim smiled, surprised. “And I thought I was the romantic one…”

“Shut up and go take a shower. See you later.”

“I will… Thanks, doc!” Jim said… Watching him leave, his smile slowly faded. After the night of his panic attack, Jim hoped Leonard would have open a bit about his past, but that didn’t happen. More time passed, the more Jim wondered if, in the end, he really deserved Leonard’s trust at all.

 

Moments later, Pike was sitting at his desk signing documents when the door opened and he saw Jim entering the office. Once the door was closed, he stared critically at his training clothes.

“Don’t look at me like that. You wanted to see me. I thought it was important,” Jim snorted standing on the other side of the desk.

“It is, but you had time to change.”

“You got something for me?” he cut short, and the other just sighed. Jim was surprised, “Have you found the sorcerers to-“

“We aren’t talking about it,” Pike interrupted him, “and if someone finds these documents in your possession, we both are going to have hard times. I’m not kidding.”

Jim nodded slowly.

“These people killed members of Starfleet that just wanted to help reach an accord of peace. Just like you,” Pike said, voice serious as his glare, taking a page from the pile on the desk. “I’m sure you now know what dark magic can do, and these three subjects-”

“You found only three?” Jim murmured, but a cold look made him stop there. “Sorry.”

“These three people were high ranked members of the resistance during the war. They fought; they killed people and refused any alliance after the war ended.”

“And the Federation did nothing against them?”

“As long as they won’t give us a reason to hunt them down again.”

Jim blinked, confused. “Hold on… Are you telling me that the Federation actually allowed three sorcerers to stay in the city even knowing how strong they are? They were ready to send Gaila to jail in a second, but if it’s about others-“

“These others are the reason why the city is still standing,” Pike said gravely. “You really think that a bomb would’ve been enough to stop them once and for all?”

“So magic is bad, but there are exceptions.”

“Jim…”

“I’m not even surprised anymore.”

“The exceptions were three sorcerers out of sixty-two that died.” Pike insisted. “The Federation decimated the resistance to get themselves a chance. Who survived didn’t surrender to us, they did it to save what was left of their people. We know they would have kept their heads down as long as the Federation would have left them alone.”

They stared at each other for a moment, then Jim said, “Why I feel like you shouldn’t tell me all this…?”

“Because I shouldn’t,” Pike sighed and handed him the document, “But I do trust you. I just want you to understand that we haven’t done any favor to these people. They hate this city, but they hate us more. That’s the only reason why they stayed.”

Jim breathed out and took it. “So you think they’re just waiting for the right moment? Or that they’ll join Nero?”

“From what you told me about him, the last thing we need is for these sorcerers to join him…” Pike said, visibly worried. “What I know, is that if they will decide to rise against us once again, it’ll be for a good reason… And I really hope Nero won’t provide that to them.”

Jim shook his head. “How the Federation can live like this? In an infinite calm before the storm?”

“See the pillar on the other side of the river?” Pike tilted his head out the window, “That reminds all of us that the alternative is way worse.”

Jim stared outside for a moment, then checked the info before looking up at him. “You think they’ll listen to me?”

“I hope so,” Pike said. “If they won’t, they will probably try to kill you… And despite what you think, you might have to fight back.”

.-.

The data weren’t very detailed, reporting the names of the sorcerer and two witches Jim needed to find, the last location they have been seen and few places in the city known as old magic-users hang out.

The more Jim thought about what Pike told him, the more it was hard to believe it. He would’ve expected an army hunting these people down, but apparently, that wasn’t the case. Maybe that’s what Nero meant saying that the war never ended: the Resistance showed to be wiser accepting the defeat for the sake of everyone- Federation included.

They’re still scared of us, Jim thought reading the document one last time. After a while, he put it away, inside the jacket’s pocket and turned off the light, walking out the bathroom. He looked at Leonard, sleeping in his bed, before silently leaving the room and heading to the Academy’s gates. It was two AM, two days after Pike gave him the info, and he was ready to find the first member of the Resistance: Benjamin Krane.

Sadly, it wasn’t going to be an easy task: even if he could feel magic somewhere, no one looked aware of his presence, or ready to approach him. Jim tried his best, even keeping his magic not completely hidden… Result: risking to be spotted himself, no one spared a look or a word in his direction.

The night after, Jim decided to change plan: according to Pike’s data, Benjamin and his group used the sewers Est of the city as a hideout in the past, and maybe it still was.

Talking to Pike that morning, warning him that he was going to check in there that night, the Captain didn’t look happy but nodded gravely saying, “We checked the sewers for months, but they were already gone… Still, be careful.”

Need to start somewhere. Even the smallest clue would be enough, Jim told himself while leaving the lights of the city behind. He knew there were low chances to find Krane, but maybe someone else was still hanging around there. If the whole place hasn’t collapsed already, he sighed, reaching the area around the sewers, protected just by an old metal fence.

Walking around it, Jim found a spot he could use as an entrance; he walked few meters before entering the little structure- three walls and a roof- that was keeping the entrance to the sewers in the dark, around a meter below the level of the street. After descending the little metal stairs, Jim jumped down on the smooth concrete and stared at the tunnel in front of him, looking like a scary, silent mouth just partly covered by few wood planks not even attached to the rusty gate.

Jim swallowed down the tension: there were no sounds coming from inside the tunnel, nor magic to feel, and the light coming from the streetlamps could barely reach him down there. “Hello?” he called standing in front of the entrance. Not that he was expecting an answer, but it was pitch black in there, so any noise would’ve been enough to at least know that he wasn’t alone.

“Man, you’re a mess…”

Jim turned around, finding a man staring at him from the above: he looked on his fifty, short gray hair as messy as his clothes covered by a long, dark-red jacket. “What?” Jim asked, unable to see his face.

“No one told you that your magic’s a fucking mess before?”

There’s still someone that doesn’t know that? Jim almost said. “I don’t-“

“Not that you’re trying to do anything about it since you arrived in the city.” The man continued sitting on the edge, thumping the back on his feet against the wall.

Jim swallowed nervously. He couldn’t feel magic coming from the man... Nothing at all. “How did you-?”

“How do I know? Let’s put it this way: I’m a radar for magic and you’re that one point on my screen that keeps beeping in every, single, fucking round.” He said, leaning forward. “And that storm? What an amazing way to scream Hey! Come to kill me!

“Look-“

“That was actually tempting, you know?”

“I don’t want any trouble, alright? I’m just looking for a person.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes. I just need to check if he’s here, then I’ll be out of your way.”

“And what if a say no?”

Jim didn’t look away. “It’s important.”

“That’s what they say every time…” he snorted disappearing in a cloud of smoke.

Jim blinked and looked around, finding him wandering a few steps away. He could now see that he was wearing round glasses on his nose, and that he was very tall.

“For freedom, for justice, for peace…” He sneered creating an orb of light that left his hand to start floating around them, illuminating the area with a weak, cold gray light. “That’s what Starfleet is still blabbing about after so long?”

Jim realized only then what was happening. “You’re Benjamin Krane?” he asked and the other just shrugged. “I’m here to talk with him. If you’re just wasting my time-“ he didn’t even see him moving, but a second later a punch in the stomach left him out of breath, dropping on his knee.

“Maybe they haven’t warned you, Kirk, but I don’t like to talk,” Benjamin said, crouching in front of him. “I mean, I used to like some chat in the past. Now I don’t. I don’t want to talk anymore, especially not with members of the Federation.”

“I’m not here- because someone asked me to,” Jim managed to say.

“So what, you’re their bravest puppy?”

“I’m here- because they can’t distinguish the real danger anymore,” Jim insisted looking at him. “It’s not about us or them. Something worse it’s planning to take over the city.”

“You mean Nero?” he asked, chin cupped into a hand.

Jim felt taken aback for a moment. “You know him?”

“I talked with him months ago. Bit out of his mind… God complex kind of guy, but at least he offered me a drink before talking.”

This is bad. “Whatever he said-“

“He said that the city will burn like it should have twenty years ago. That we’ll win and finally be free…”

“He just wants to-“

“You want to know what I answer to him?” Benjamin asked and when the blond kept silent, he punched him in the face, “And this goes as my answer for you as well. You want to know the rest?”

“I’m not sure I do…” Jim groaned rolling into his back.

“Oh, I insist.” The other growled stepping closer, but an invisible force pushed him back, almost making him fall backward. “Come on, Nero entertained me for a while. I’m sure you can do the same.” He grinned.

Jim spit blood on the ground and stood, passing the side of a hand under his broken lip, eyes shining gold. “I’m not here to fight,” he said and the other just groaned tiredly, crossing his harms. “If you know about Nero and you have refused to help him-“

“You think that I would prefer to help the Federation? You really are something…”

“It’s not about the Federation anymore!” Jim insisted. “It’s about saving everyone from what Nero is trying to do. You know about that storm, that I was there, so you must know that he was there too. He-”

“It’s easier to think you’re not the only responsible, isn’t it?” Benjamin commented. “Your magic was clear as the sun. Everyone felt it.”

Jim tried so hard to believe what Gaila told him, that something else happened that night… But hearing one of the strongest sorcerers in the city say that it was all his doing… “I didn’t wanted to hurt anyone.”

“Says the one with uncontrollable magic. And I mean it in a good way. I’m not judging, here.”

“I’m serious.”

“Me too.” Benjamin cut short. After a moment of staring at each other, he continued, “You really think anyone will give a fuck about what you want? About what you’re trying to do?”

“Nero wants to start another war, so yes, they should.”

“If you didn’t notice, you’re already on the wrong side.”

“Maybe, but that doesn’t change that Nero is the enemy we all should worry about at the moment.”

“Think whatever you want. You wasted your time looking for me.”

“I’m just-“

“Whatever you’re going to say, I don’t care. I don’t want to know if they brainwashed you and this is just another trap…”

“If you could just listen-“ Jim stepped forward, but with a quick glare, Benjamin sent the floating orb against him that disappeared as it hit his chest, as a silent explosion, sending Jim crashing against the wall.

“I suggest you to keep hiding and pretend to be right about this whole situation… Just like Pike and his friends have done until now.” Benjamin said. “I swear, if I see you around here again, you’ll cut your head off and send it back to Starfleet as a present.” That said, he disappeared once again, leaving a pained and sad Jim alone in the dark.

.-.

It was five in the morning when Pike heard knocking at his apartment’s door. Already awake for a while, he frowned and stood to go check who it was. Being honest, he wasn’t that much surprised to find James Kirk in front of him, messy and hurt as after one of those fights he liked to start in the past.

Jim shrugged tiredly. “In my defense, it could’ve gone much worse.”

Chapter Text

It took the last few hours of the night to explain what happened during the meeting with Benjamin Krane, while the Captain took everything needed to take care of Jim’s wounds.
Once they were done talking, it was past seven in the morning.

“I warned you that it wouldn’t been easy get along with these people,” Pike murmured passing a hand over his eyes, sitting next to him on the couch.

“Need to start somewhere,” Jim said with a tired smile, keeping the ice bag against his cheek.

“Nothing will start if you get killed.”

“I don’t think Krane was actually going to kill me…”

“You always think that,” Pike groaned standing and walking into the kitchen behind them.

“I’m serious. He was angry- and refused to help me, but it was more like he needed to punch something. Possibly something Starfleet related.” He said, but got no answer. Turning around he saw the Captain thoughtfully pouring coffee into two cups. “You two know each other?”

“What you mean?”

“He told me to keep hiding and pretend we’re right like you do,” Jim said and saw he froze for a second, staring down at the coffee.

“I don't know him, but I remember him,” Pike said after a moment. “These people you’re looking for, all of them were part of the group of the Resistance me and my team met during the so-called accords of peace we tried to form after the bomb hit the city.”

“You met all of them?” Jim asked, surprised, and the other nodded. “I thought there would be more branches of the Resistance back then…?”

“There were six big factions inside the city,” Pike said sitting back next to him.

“And the only three survivors were in the one you had to meet?” Jim asked, accepting the cup. “You’re going to tell me it’s just a crazy coincidence or there’s more?”

“Maybe both. Few Starfleet’s teams took part in that operation, as support for the military. I was in the one sent to their hideout in the sewers. The orders were to suppress and arrest the members of the Resistance, but in the end, it turned into a bloody massacre.” Pike said, keeping his eyes down. “I realized too late that that was the reason why we were there from the beginning, but once I did, I refused to follow the orders.”

“You wha-“

“Most of our soldiers were already dead when I managed to contact people outside the sewers,” Pike said, blocking his amaze. “And when I did, the first thing I heard was my superior, a friend, telling me that the Federation lied to us, just before he died…” he shook his head. “Lots of us didn’t make it that day, and if I’m here now, is just pure luck.”

Jim breathed out. “So you convinced Krane and the others to stop fighting?”

“Their group had been decimated, but they were still winning, Jim. I had to take a kid as a hostage to make them listen to me,” Pike said shaking his head, a veil of shame on his face. “And even doing that, Krane almost killed both of us. His friends stopped him, and I explained what was going on- what was happening outside, in the other hideouts… I begged them to stop that massacre... I was sure I was going to die, but I had to try.”

“And they actually listened to you?”

“Aside Krane, I saw his friends didn’t wanted to fight anymore. On our side, there were just me and other two members of Starfleet still alive... I told Krane that killing us would have solved nothing, while letting us go would have been seen as a sign of peace- or defeat, like he said.”

“I can’t believe you actually convinced him...”

“I didn’t, but he saw that his people were losing their will to fight... So I asked for a truce- For a chance to talk with my superiors and stop that madness, and if I’d failed, he was free to continue fighting.”

“And the Federation accepted your idea?”

“They listened, but three high ranked members of the Resistance were still alive, I was talking for them as well, so my reasons weren’t enough to convince the whole council to stop attacking them. Luckily, the members of Starfleet attending come in my support. Pressing on the fact that the Federation lied to us, they accept the truce, even if officially Krane and the others surrender to us.” He took a deep breath. “They kept an eye on those three, but any action against them now would cost another battle, and the Federation doesn’t want to take the responsibility for something like that. Not yet.”

Jim was speechless for a long moment, then scoffed. “You basically stopped the war and they didn’t even give you a medal?”

“No one deserves a medal for what happened that day.”

“You took the right decision at the right time. I haven’t seen that happening a lot lately.”

“I sure haven’t seen it happening when you're around…”

“Very funny.” He snorted, taking a sip.

“Not until tonight,” Pike added. “What you’re doing now, trying to talk with these people… That’s something you should be proud of. I am.”

“Oh, so now you approve me getting punched in the face?”

Pike smiled a bit. “What I mean is that you're trying to make the right choices, and that's something always worth to do. One day, you could realize how bad things could’ve turned if you didn’t.”

Jim sighed and then heard his cellphone beeping. Checking it, he let out another sigh: it was a message from Leonard: “You left early this morning. Want me to wait for you for breakfast?”. Looking up for a moment, he saw Pike staring. “It’s- it's Leonard…” he explained, typing his answer: Need to meet Pike, then I’ll go back to the gym. See you for lunch?.

“Have you told him about what you’re doing?”

“No. No, he would go crazy and yell at me not to do it.” Jim said reading the second message from the doctor: “Sounds good. Don’t make me wait this time.”

“Don’t you think it could be an excuse to tell him about you as well?”

“Having to look for crazy sorcerers ready to kill me would help him cope better with the fact that I’m one of them?”

“Well, you’re not crazy yet.”

Jim snorted, staring at the phone into his hand. “I have two other people to look for. If at least one of them won’t try to kill me, then I’ll tell him about our plan and Nero. And about me.” He said looking at him, “If I have to tell him, I need to show him something worth his trust.”

“And what if no one will accept to help us?” Pike asked, “You’re never going to tell him?”

Jim looked down, feeling more and more frustrated. “He’ll get angry…”

“You choose to lie to him, Jim. The least you can do is confess the truth, despite how he could react.”

“What if he’s going to hate me and magic even more?” he murmured sadly. “He suffered so much because of magic already… And now I’ll cause him more pain.”

“It’s not the same thing, and I’m sure he’ll be able to tell the difference.”

Jim thought about what Leonard said days before, how he wanted to stop being scared of magic, how he wanted to try. It has been a relief hearing that at the time, but now Jim was worried all that hope would have disappeared in an instant, and he would have been the only one to blame for it.

 

Leonard yawned entering the dorm when it was just past noon, sparing few words at the people he met walking upstairs. Once in the corridor, he saw the door of their room open and smiled entering, noticing two sandwiches and beers on his desk. “Wow, this is a surprise.”

“Hey… What is?” Jim’s voice welcomed him from the bathroom.

“You actually brought food.”

“I always bring back food to our base.”

“Usually just snacks and potato chips.”

“You never complained about it before.”

“I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,” Leonard commented with a grin, closing the door. “I thought we would-“ Standing in front of Jim’s bathroom, he stopped noticing bandages and alcohol on the sink before even looking at him- at his broken lip. “What happened?”

Jim threw something in the trashcan and sighed. “Training. Sulu isn’t the only one able to kick my ass, sadly.”

“Training? You look like you had a bar fight or something.”

“What? No, we just get a bit too much into it… It was my fault as well.” Jim said, but he knew the doctor would have been hard to fool. “Really. It’s not as bad as it looks.”

Leonard stepped closer and checked his face, brushing his fingers around his lips, then moved even closer, grabbing his shoulders.

“You enjoy being my doctor, don't you?” Jim murmured with a sly grin on his face as their bodies touched- and then gasped in pain when a hand pressed on his back.

“Training, uh?” Leonard sneered coldly.

“It’s called training for a reason. You get hurt sometimes,” he groaned. “How did you know my back hurts, anyway?”

“I do enjoy being a doctor. Yours? Not that much.”

“I fear you’ll have to prepare yourself if you’re going to follow me out space,” Jim said kissing him with that little grin still on his lips, that grown wider when the other gave up and kiss him back, moving both hands on his hips.

“You want me to check you up?” Leonard asked when they parted.

“Is that an invite?”

“Medically speaking, yes.”

Jim huffed a laugh and shook his head. “I’m fine. Let’s eat and then I’ll crash on the bed before you have to tell me to.”

Leonard nodded slowly and left the bathroom.

Jim took a deep breath sparing a quick glare at his reflection in the mirror before following him.

.-.-.

One month passed since the encounter with Benjamin Krane.

Jim never thought he would think that, but despite the few exams to accomplish, the studies, and Spock still staring intently at him every time they met, he enjoyed those months more than he did in the last five years.

Leonard seemed more relaxed too, and that alone was something to cherish. Their relationship was going well, considering what still lied beneath.

Jim kept his promise and didn’t pressed about his past, but damn if he wanted to tell him about himself. Lying was becoming unbearable… One night they were sitting on the dormitory’s roof, staring at the city’s lights, and Jim suddenly wanted to say everything and just accept the consequences- but then he saw Leonard staring at the sky with a calm, light smile on his lips, looking happier than Jim ever saw him... And how he could ruin everything for the man once again?

It’s just a matter of time, a little voice inside his mind kept reminding him, and he couldn’t do anything but agree with that cold, scary thought.

Luckily, or not, the Academy’s life kept both of them busy, especially preparing for the simulations tests scheduled in a few months. The moments they could actually be together weren’t much, and apparently, none of them had the heart to ruin them with other problems.
Jim was sure Leonard knew it was a matter of time for himself as well, that at some point he would have had to explain what happened to his family in the past, if he really wanted to face his own fears.

To keep his mind even busier, Jim kept searching for the second member of the Resistance, a witch called Morgan Ishikawa. There were more info about her because her family has been very famous in the fashion industry: they moved from Kyoto before Morgan was born, and no one in her family could use magic aside her. The info also reported that her parents died during the war, and that’s when she decided to join the Resistance.

In the last month, Jim searched more information about her family, where they used to live, but found just an abandoned fancy house and a dusty, gigantic warehouse that once was the core of the Ishikawa’s brand, now long gone.

“A penny for your thoughts?”

Jim blinked and looked away from the hospital, finding Leonard sitting on the bench in front of him eating the last piece of sandwich. He still had to finish the one in his hand. “Sorry. How many times you called me?”

“A few. I'm getting used to your spacing out.”

“It doesn’t happen that often.” Jim murmured, but the look he received as an answer was enough to make him sigh in defeat. “Maybe I do, but it’s nothing. Just Starfleet stuff.”

“We don’t have exams for at least three weeks, and you usually don’t need to study that much anyway…”

“Are you saying that I’m a genius?”

“It’s Pike involved?” Leonard asked, but the other just looked down. “Alright. Nevermind.”

Jim knew nothing was alright. He jumped down the fence he was sitting on and sat next to him. “It’s a mission Pike gave me but isn’t official. It’s just between me and him.”

Leonard frowned. “Since when he can ask cadets to work for him privately?”

“I accepted to do it, he didn’t forced me to.”

“Is about magic?” he asked again and then, more worried, “It’s about Gaila?”

“No, it’s not about her,” Jim shook his head, “It’s more like- gathering information. Really, nothing too dangerous.”

“The Federation have people trained for that. Why Pike asked you?”

“Because he knows I’m his best choice. You know, how I’m able to bravely fight magic…”

“You just said it wasn’t dangerous and now it’s about fighting magic?”

“Not literally... I’m just- I’m trying to tell you what I can, ok? There's nothing to worry about.”

Leonard stared at him for another moment before breathing out, his shoulders dropping a bit. “Why you can't tell me about it? I could help. I want to help.”

“I know, but the situation is- It requires careful investigations and... be ready for every possible outcome.”

“You don’t even know what you’re doing, do you?”

“I do, I just- I wanted to tell you, ok? I know you want to help, but jumping straight against magic won't make it easy for you.”

“Basically, you’re saying that you can do it because you’re a better soldier than me.”

“Well, you remind me you're a better doctor than me all the time,” Jim commented, smiling a bit at the murderous on Leonard's face. “Hey, I'm not saying you're wrong. The point is we both know that magic can't be underestimated, but I don’t want you to change your mind about giving magic a chance either.”

Leonard slowly looked down, then his pacer chirped and he checked it. “I have to go... See you later at the dorm?” he sighed, putting it away.

“Hey, I’m serious,” Jim said stopping him by his arm before he could stand. “I know you can do it, but magic is not a joke.”

“Yeah, we both know that, and still you’re the one risking your life every time.” He said with a blank voice, and the other let him go, a guilty expression on his face. Leonard took a deep breath, “Look, I know you’re a better fighter than me, and I know you’re not scared of magic like I am…”

“That’s-“

“But as your doctor- and as a person that cares about you, not being able to help you is- is frustrating.”

Jim smiled a bit. “You’re already helping me. I probably wouldn’t even stay here if it wasn’t for you.”

“This is the place for you, so shut up,” he snorted giving him a quick kiss before standing, “And whatever you do, be careful.”

Jim nodded watching him heading back to the hospital. He really hoped that the meeting with the second member of the Resistance would have been better than the first one.

 

Three more days passed before Jim started searching again. Wandering around the city, he finally felt magic while walking next to a park. Once inside, he tried to pinpoint the source of it, and only after a while he noticed that he didn’t met anyone in there yet, despite it was just afternoon: no people jogging, no kids playing, no one.

Reaching the open area around a little lake, he finally saw a group of people talking there… They were the source of magic. Jim sighed in relief, but stayed hidden behind the trees. He didn’t know what, but something was off.

I should just go talk to them, he thought, If they know something about Morgan…

A hand suddenly dragged him back when he made a step forward, finding himself pinned against the tree, a woman keeping a knife against his neck.

“Who the hell are you?” she hissed with a deep voice, waves of black hair brushing over her shoulders and around her face, partly covering her eyes shining of magic, the gold even brighter in contrast with her dark skin. “Are you one of them?” she added sparing a quick glare at the group far away.

“I- No- no, I was just-“ Jim tried to say until she started checking his neck and arms with her free hand, the knife still against his neck. “Hey, what the-“

“I’ll ask you one last time: are you one of them?”

“I’m not.”

“But you have magic.”

“Well, you too. Are you one of them?”

She moved the knife closer, then looked behind him and dropped her shoulder. “Damn it,” she hissed walking past him.

Jim checked his neck was still intact while watching the woman running towards the lake: the group of people was gone. He sighed and followed her.

She kept looking around until she heard his footsteps. “Happy now? Your plan worked.”

“Excuse me?”

“You were there just to distract me, weren’t you? Where did they go?” she asked nervously, turning to him.

“I told you, I’m not one of them. I just needed to talk with them-”

“Why?”

Jim shrugged. “No offence, but I don’t even know you.”

“And still you were ready to go talk to those people.”

“They didn’t threaten me with a knife. Yet.” He snorted, then breathed out. “I’m James Kirk, by the way.”

She looked ready to say something but then changed her mind. “I’m Kara.”

He nodded. “Nice to meet you, Kara.”

“We’ll see about that,” she murmured studying him. “Were you searching them for help?”

“More or less…”

“They can’t help anyone.” Kara said, looking around one last time. “Whatever they told you, that mark is not the solution to your problems.”

“Wait- did you just said that mark?”

“Isn’t that the reason why you were looking for them? To join Nero’s gang?”

“No… no, I thought they could help me find a person. A witch.”

Kara frowned, putting the knife away. “Someone you know joined them?”

“I don't really know her, but…”

“What’s her name? I’m trying to stop people from join Nero since months. Maybe I met her.”

“Morgan Ishikawa. She was in the Resistance.”

Kara studied him for a moment. “Who told you about her?”

“Other sorcerers around the city. Do you know her?”

She nodded slowly, a cold glare on her face. “I do.”

“That’s great!” Jim said, realizing he probably sounded too happy because she frowned again. “I mean, I looked for her for days… You think you could help me meet her?”

“What do you want from her?”

“I wanted to warn her about Nero, but I guess she already knows about him and his marks…”

Kara nodded. “People are desperate. They see him as their savior…” she sighed, “He’s incredibly good at playing with people's minds.”

Tell me about it, Jim thought. “If you know Morgan, help me meet her,” he insisted. “I’ve met Nero as well, and the situation might be more complicated than she thinks.”

“Why should I trust you? I don’t even know you.”

“I’m not asking you to trust me, just to let me talk with Morgan. You can keep a knife at my throat all the time if you want.”

Kara thought for a moment, and then nodded.

 

Left the park behind, they walked around the area for a while, until they stopped in front of an old-fashioned hotel: the walls were painted dark red, and in the whole four-floors of the building, only half of the windows were illuminated.

Kara lead the way, waiting from him at the entrance. “Never saw a hotel before?” she asked, keeping the door open.

“I’m just surprised… I was expecting a place more- hidden.”

“We just have to hide what we are. Respect the rules and no one will care about you.” She said walking inside.

Jim followed, studying the elegant, quiet place. The concierge was an old man that stared at him in silence until she talked to him.

“She’s upstairs?” Kara asked and the man nodded. She then turned to Jim, “Come on.”

He followed her until they reached the last floor. There were vases of flowers in every corner, mostly purple roses, as on the design of the velvet carpet they were walking on.

Kara stopped in front a door and knocked twice. “Morgan, we have a guest.”

“James Kirk, I presume…” After a moment, a soft voice came from inside the room. “Let him in.”

Jim wanted to ask how did she know, but Kara was already opening the door so he took a few steps inside before he spotted Morgan Ishikawa sitting on the couch in front of a large window facing the city: she was wearing a kimono decorated with an elaborate blue, orange and silver design- some kind of abstract flowers; her black hair long enough to reach her hips, so in contrast with her skin that looked white and smooth as porcelain. It was like staring at a beautiful painting.

“Don’t look so surprised,” Morgan said to him, “Your reputation precedes you.” Even her voice sounded smooth like velvet.

“You already know him?” Kara asked standing next to her.

“Is always good to know when one of us decide to join Starfleet.”

Kara’s eyes widened and she turned a murderous glare at him, “You son of a-“

“It’s alright,” Morgan said grabbing her hand before she could move away. “We don’t have to worry about him. You just want to talk, isn’t it, mister Kirk?”

“I- I do. And Jim is fine.” He nodded.

Kara looked down at her with a sorry expression. “If you’d told me-”

“No need to apology. Let me speak with him for a while.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am.” Morgan smiled at her, and Jim had no doubts that smile could have melted even the iciest of the hearts.

Kara sighed and nodded, keeping her hand while leaning down to kiss her.

Jim’s surprise died shortly when she turned and walked towards him.

“If you do anything stupid, I’ll do worse than just cut your throat.” Kara hissed at him, bumping into his shoulder before leaving the room.

“She’s very sweet when you know her better,” Morgan said with a little smile, standing and walking to the table were a bottle and few glasses were, the long kimono silently sliding on the marble floor of the suit. "And she definitely doesn't like secrets."

“I didn’t mean to hide that I'm in Starfleet,” he said moving closer. She was taller than she looked. She also looked very young, despite her and the other members he was looking for were reported to be around the same age as Pike. “In all honesty, I was expecting you to know already...”

She turned around, handing him a drink. “I guess I’ll have to believe you.”

Jim took it and watched her walking behind the couch, staring at the city out the window.

“I know you have already talked with Benjamin,” she said. “I’m surprised you’re still in one piece.”

Of course they are still in contact with each other, Jim thought, staying two steps away. “I’m surprised too.”

“You shouldn’t be, with a power like yours.”

“I’m definitely not as strong as he is.”

Morgan frowned curiously. “You have no idea of what you are capable of, don't you?”

“I know my limits.”

“How, if you never tested your true potential?”

Jim realized the discussion was turning too similar to the one he had with Nero, and he didn’t like it. “Maybe I don’t want to know.”

“You should.” She said, her voice more serious. “How are you expecting to fight Nero if you can’t even control your own magic?”

“That’s why I’m looking for people to help me.”

“Isn’t it a bit too pretentious on your part to come asking us to fight your battle?”

“If you know what Nero is trying to do, you also know that this isn't just my battle.”

“From what I know, Nero wants to give us back our freedom.”

“It’s not just about freedom. I’ve met him too… He blames the Federation for the people died during the war, but now he’s trying to do the same thing.”

“As if they wouldn’t deserve to suffer as much as we did.” She commented coldly, taking a sip.

Jim knew these people had all the rights to hate the Federation, but if letting Nero win was the alternative… He simply couldn’t let that happen. “Maybe they do, but you really think that washing away blood with more blood is going to make anything better?”

“I wonder if the Federation asked themselves the same thing before dropping a bomb on us.”

“Why, you think Nero would spare a thought about it?”

“He have no reason to. All he wants is justice.”

“His idea of justice is to submit everyone and kill whoever won't accept it,” Jim said. “And even if his plan will work, how long you think it’ll take before the Federation will fight back and start another war?”

Morgan huffed a laugh. “Why you think we’re still here? We are waiting, Kirk. Silently grieving the people we lost…”

Jim saw deep sadness on her face before she looked out the window again. “Letting Nero win, everyone will have people to grieve. Do you want that? You all really stayed in this city just waiting for another war?”

“What do you want, then?”

“What you should want as well: to prove the Federation that they’re wrong about us. But I guess you all prefer seeing people being scared of us.” Jim put the glass down on the table. “If that’s what you think, I’ll see you and Nero on the battlefield.” That said, he headed to the door.

“That is not what I think, nor what I want,” Morgan said without turning around. “But it’s the only way lots of us think we can live.”

Jim looked back at her. “I’m showing you an alternative right now. We can still get our freedom back without another massacre, but if we don't stop Nero, we all are going the pay the consequences of his action.”

She finished her drink and slowly turned around. “We don’t care about consequences anymore. We would rather die fighting rather than surrender again.”

“Nero is planning to destroy everything, that he wins or not. I think we all should care about that.” Jim shot back, then tried to calm down. “I’m not asking you to surrender. I’m asking you to fight with us.”

“With you? With the Federation? You really thing they would consider us as allies? They wouldn’t even know we’re risking our own lives for them-”

“They will know,” Jim interrupted her, “I’ll make sure of that.”

Morgan took a long breath, then asked, “How can you trust them so much?”

Jim thought about Leonard, and Gaila, and Uhura... about the crew we wanted to form. “At first, I didn’t, but someone proved me they're worth a try.”

Morgan stared at him in silence for a long moment. “I’ll think about your offer. That's my answer for now.” She said in the end.

Jim nodded and turned to leave.

“Was it Christopher Pike who told you about us?” she asked when he opened the door, turning around once again.

“He did. I asked him about sorcerers that could help me… I didn’t know he met all of you during the war.”

Morgan smiled a bit. “Brave of him thinking of us…”

“You listened to him as well.”

“We did, and you know how it ended.”

“He said he didn’t wanted to betray you and I believe him. Starfleet doesn’t work like that.”

"Still, no one knows about you in your precious Academy," she said, and he looked down in silence. She breathed out, “They’re part of the Federation. I wasn’t even that surprised when they started to kill us.”

“Well, Pike was, and he hasn’t forgiven himself for what happened.” Jim could only imagine the horror she saw that day, in the sewers. “Give us one last chance. That’s all I ask.”

Morgan just stared at him, then asked, “So you’re looking for Annabelle as well?”

“She’s the last one on my list.” He nodded.

“She used to live in an old mansion close to the Green Lake, north of the city. We met almost every day until she disappeared around six months ago.”

Jim frowned, “Maybe she left the city?”

“She would never leave without telling me, or Benjamin,” Morgan said shaking her head. “I tried to find her... She’s stronger than us, and still I can’t feel her magic anywhere.”

“Sometimes people just don’t want to be found.”

“It’s possible,” she said with a sad voice. “Annabelle is the kindest person I have ever met, not even the war changed her heart. I’m very worried that something might have happened to her, so, please, if you find her, tell her that we’re worried about her.”

“If she doesn’t want to see you, what makes you think she’s going to meet me?”

“You convinced Benjamin to talk with you. Maybe you’ll be able to do the same with her.”

“Or she will kill me like he almost did.”

Morgan smiled lightly and shook her head. “She won’t.”

Jim nodded one last time before leaving the room, closing the door behind him. Taking a deep breath, he then noticed Kara waiting at the top of the staircase. “I’m sorry aout before. I didn’t mean to-“

“I hope it was worth it. Did you change her mind about Nero?”

“I hope so… I know he can be very convincing.”

“He’s good at brainwashing people, that’s for sure,” Kara snorted. “He likes to poke at people’s weaknesses. Those stupid marks he gives to everyone are the proof.”

Jim felt reassured knowing that at least someone in there clearly didn’t trust Nero. “Morgan still believes him, though.”

“It’s easier to believe his words, but that doesn’t make him right about everything.”

“Good to know we agree on something,” he said with a little grin.

Kara studied him. “I’ll talk with Morgan. I don’t know what are you up to, but I would prefer to leave this city rather than see her on Nero’s side.” She said heading to the suite, without giving him the chance to answer.

“Thanks,” was all he managed to say watching her disappear inside the room. Taking another deep breath, Jim left the hotel feeling that, for once, his plan was starting to work.

 

Back to the Academy, Jim wondered if he had to inform Pike about the good news but then thought that it could wait the next morning. Morgan didn’t punch him in the face, but she didn’t actually accept to help them either.

I should tell Leonard about it, he thought walking up the stairs of the dorm. Maybe it’ll go better with Annabelle… Should I just wait a bit longer? It’s the last one, after all…

Still deep in his thoughts, he opened the door and found Leonard sitting at his desk. “Hey. Don’t tell me you’re still studying?”

“For a while, I did.” He nodded turning around.

Jim could instantly tell something was wrong: he was staring coldly at him, no irony in his voice. “You ok?” he asked closing the door.

Leonard looked away and then took a document from the desk, handing it to him.

Jim took it and his heart dropped: it was the info Pike gave him, the data about Benjamin, Morgan, and Annabelle.

“I found it on your bathroom’s floor,” Leonard’s voice was as cold as his eyes. “I don’t usually investigate in other people’s bathrooms, but I thought it was something important.”

“Bones-“

“Why do you have information about ex-members of the Resistance?”

What if one of them killed his family? Jim felt an ice shiver running all over his spine at the thought… And Leonard was staring at him now, waiting for an answer he was terrified to give.

Chapter Text

Jim couldn’t remember anyone able to leave him out of words like Leonard McCoy when he was angry. Being honest, he wasn’t that angry yet- he looked indeed ready to explode, but still waiting for a good reason to.

“If you’re going to tell me this is another secret mission…”

“No, is- it’s the same one. Pike gave me these files.”

“This is what he asked you? To find these people?”

Jim nodded. “And talk with them.”

“Why the hell he would ask for something like that? Why ask you to go after these sorcerers?”

“Ok, listen, I’ll explain everything, but you have to do two things for me first,” Jim said, putting the document away, taking another chair to sit in front of him that after a moment of hesitation took a deep breath and just waited for him to continue. “First thing: do you know any of these sorcerers? Did they… Have you met one them in the past?”

Leonard frowned at first, then his look became even colder. “If you mean-"

"I'm not asking you to explain anything, but I- I need you to answer. Please."

The other kept staring angrily at him. "I don't know any of them."

Jim’s relief didn’t last long, there was still a lot to say. “Ok… Second thing: I’ll tell you what is going on, but you have to promise me you won’t freak out.”

“Are you serious?”

“Bones, this is-”

“You keep hiding things from me, and now you have also the courage to ask me how am I supposed to react?”

I'm the worst person ever, was all Jim could think. “Ok… ok, you’re right.” Taking a deep breath, he nodded and tried to start explaining. “Remember when I told you that I met Sophia’s boss the night of the storm?” Leonard nodded, so he continued, “He… His name’s Nero. He showed me his magic, but he also told me things I couldn’t fully understand back then. He talked about giving freedom to his people, and about a world where magic isn’t illegal anymore. Talking with Pike, we realized that he might be planning to attack the city- or the Federation, somehow, in the near future.”

“Lots of sorcerers attacked them already. They still do.”

“Nero is nothing like the rest of them. If we’re right, he’s planning something bigger than a random attack.”

Leonard kept studying him. “What makes you think that?”

“That night I saw strange marks he is using on people with magic. He told me it’s to make them stronger, and I- we think he might be using it to recruit people that will fight for him.”

The doctor took a deep breath. “And what this has to do with the sorcerers you’re after?”

“I asked Pike about them- About people that might accept to help us fight Nero.” He knew what was coming, so when Leonard shook his head and stood, starting pacing into the room, he let him. “They’re not just random sorcerers. Starfleet and Federation already tried talking with them in the past, to make an accord of peace.”

“Oh really? Because I don’t think it worked out very well.”

“It didn’t because the Federation killed all the rest of them,” Jim insisted. “Pike was there- these three are alive because he refused to fulfill that order. He was the only one who actually cared about making an accord.”

“Those three were high ranked sorcerers. The Federation would’ve never-“ Leonard stopped there, slowly catching up.

“They did accept an accord, in the end,” Jim nodded. “The sorcerers accepted to stop fighting on one condition: to be allowed to stay here, in the city, and the Federation let them, changing the official report about it. It was the only way to stop the battle- and keep everyone safe…”

Leonard just stared at him before sitting on his bed, head dropped into his hands.

Jim let him elaborate on everything. He should have told him about all this sooner. It would have been a starting point to tell him all the rest… Now he felt like he lost the right opportunity once again.

“And Pike told you all this?” Leonard asked after a moment.

“At first, no. He just told me about these sorcerers and gave me the files, but after I talked with the first one, I realized that he knew Pike, so when I got back-“

“You already find one?”

“Two. I’ve met Morgan Ishikawa today-”

“Today?” Leonard repeated in disbelief.

“We just talked. Nothing happened.”

“She’s a sorceress! You know how dangerous they are!”

“I’m telling you, we just talked. Not all of them are eager to punch me in the face. She might actually accept to help us.”

Leonard frowned, then asked, “Who punched you in the face?”

Jim felt like he was digging his own grave. “The first sorcerer I’ve met, around a month ago, Benjamin Krane. He wasn’t exactly happy to meet me.”

“You mean- that day when you said someone kicked your ass during the training…?” he asked, and Jim just nodded, looking down. “I knew you were lying,” he murmured shaking his head.

“Bones, I wanted to tell you,” Jim urged to say something, anything, leaning forward. “I just wanted to find at least one ally before telling you about this.”

“Oh, so now you lied for my own good?”

“How can I prove you that magic isn’t evil if I can’t find even one that use it for good?”

“You think that’s our priority now? Find a good sorcerer to prove me wrong?”

“Among other things-“

“And one of those things is staying alive? Because that should be your fucking priority!” He yelled, and all Jim managed to do was staring at him feeling guiltier than ever. “You really don’t get it, do you? Facing sorcerers like it's not a big deal, looking for them without a team- without weapons. How can you just go straight at them as if they're normal people like us?”

Jim knew what he was going to say was terribly wrong at the moment, but those last words hurt him more than he expected. “I thought you wanted to stop thinking about sorcerers as not normal.”

Leonard’s face hardened instantly. “You know what? Go for it. Find all the sorcerers you want and get yourself killed. And don’t bother telling me anything else. I don’t want to hear these bullshit anymore.” He stood and grabbed his jacket.

“I’m not trying to get killed-“ Jim stood as well, but the door slammed shut as the doctor stormed out the room.

 

After a while, Jim was still staring out the window, fighting between the urge to go look after Leonard or wait for him to come back. He had to come back eventually…

A message on his phone helped him taking a decision. It was from Uhura: “I saw Leonard wandering in the campus and he almost ate me alive when I tried to talk with him. What have you done this time?” Jim sighed and shook his head, heading to the door.

He knew where to find him: Leonard was sitting on the bench aside the hospital, the one where they usually spent lunch together. Taking a deep breath, Jim stopped few steps away. The other didn’t moved, keeping his eyes on the river. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted to stay alone- or if you were waiting for me to come here and throw me into the river.”

Leonard’s face didn’t betray anything, eyes fixed in front of him.

“Because I’m ok with both,” Jim added, trying to be ironic, but his smile faded quickly. “I mean, I can swim, so it’s not a problem if you-“

“Did you ever lost someone because of magic?”

Jim was taken aback for a second. “No.”

Leonard took a deep breath before looking at him. “How would you feel knowing that who killed someone you love will never be found? That he'll never pay for what he did?” His eyes were watery but Jim didn’t dare to look away. “How would you feel knowing that someone fucked up your life so bad, all you can do is praying every single day that the same thing won’t happen again?”

Now Jim’s eyes were watery as well, for too many reasons.

“That’s why I refused to have anything to do with magic until now. Because every time I feel it, every time I see it, it’s a reminder that my family died for nothing, and I don't even know who I have to be angry with. All I can do is hate magic, even if it isn't fair- and that’s also why I came here. To try getting my life back- what's left of it, at least. Then I met you, and that’s the best thing that happened to me since years, but if I have to watch you risking your life like this all the time-”

“Bones, I’m not-“

“Yes, you are. I’m just saying that I- I can’t do this. I don’t want to go through all that again. I can’t.”

Jim sat next to him the second he heard his voice breaking. “You won’t. I know it’s hard to believe, but I know what I’m doing. I wouldn’t risk my life if there wasn’t a chance to make it.”

“And you think that’s enough to-“

“To make you able to feel safe and not scared anymore? Yes, that’s enough.” Jim saw him shake his head and look away, so he grabbed his arm just to not lose contact again. He stared at his profile for a moment, then made his decision. “If you think it’s too dangerous, then come with me. Help me find the last one on the list.”

Leonard looked back at him. “Are you seriously asking me to-“

“I am, and God knows how much I am scared already,” Jim huffed a nervous laugh, but the other just keep staring. “I know I’m asking you a lot, but I’m doing this for you as well. For everyone, actually, so you should be part of it for all of them. Nero has to be stopped, I'm not joking. You have no idea of what he is capable of…”

“Ok.”

“I mean it, he’s-“ Jim stopped mid-sentence. “You don’t want to think about it for a sec?”

“You will have more chances with a doctor around, anyway.”

“Bones, I’m serious. What I’m asking you is…”

“Risky. Yeah, I know, and I think you don’t tell yourself that enough.” He said, and then asked, “Why you care so much? Why helping people with magic is so important to you?”

Jim looked down because he didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know if they were ready for this- if Leonard was ready for the truth. “Because I want people like you and Gaila to feel safe the same way.”

Leonard frowned. “Are you telling me she’s actually a witch?”

“No, but she can use other people’s magic. That’s what she doing in that video. She was helping a sorcerer using his own magic.”

“How you know?”

“She told me.”

Leonard shook his head and looked down again.

“Banning- or hating every single form of magic won’t solve anything, you said that yourself. Magic have as many shapes as we do... People like Gaila, that just want to live normally, will keep feeling in danger even if they did nothing wrong, and in the end, they might decide to follow the wrong leader,” Jim said, but he didn’t look up. “This whole situation it’s becoming a stupid, never-ending circle of fear and death, and someone has to break it.”

“And of course that person has to be you?”

Jim was partly relieved to see the hint of a sad smile on his face. “I came here to change something... Something more than just my life. Isn’t the same for you?”

Leonard took a deep breath but kept his eyes down. “It’s harder than I thought.”

“That’s why we’ll help each other.” He said scooting closer. “I should’ve told you everything when I accepted the mission...”

“You should have.” The doctor nodded, leaning his back on the bench, finally looking at him. “There’s anything else you need to tell me?”

“...I think that’s all.”

“I hope so.” Leonard sighed, taking his hand and staring at them tangled together, missing the sad expression on Jim’s face.

 

Back in their room, Jim spent the rest of the night explaining to Leonard more information about Pike's plan, Nero, and details about the sorcerers he had already met.

The doctor listened in silence, sitting on his bed. He wasn't happy hearing about Krane and asked if he had used magic against him.

Jim admitted that he did, but without actually trying to kill him. “He was just angry with Starfleet and the Federation in general,” he added and the other just keep quiet. Talking about Morgan was easier, but also very important: Leonard’s experiences with witches hadn’t been good so far, so Jim started reassuring him that the meeting with her had been civil and strangely polite.

It was two in the morning when Jim stopped talking. Sitting on the chair, he stared at the other that was still on the bed, reading Pike’s files once again.

After a while, Leonard dropped the document. “So, this witch- Annabelle… She should be living around the Green Lake?”

“That’s what Morgan said.”

“And you think we can believe her?”

“I think so, yeah. Doesn’t look like she really trusts Nero.”

“You’re asking veterans of the war to fight again to help their enemies…” Leonard said leaning his back against the wall, staring tiredly at him.

“I would call it a provisory alliance to stop a common enemy.”

“And you think this Nero guy is so crazy he would kill his own people if they won’t fight with him?”

“I do.”

They stared at each other for a moment, then Leonard shrugged. “Well, I guess we'll have to prepare for a walk in the woods to reach Green Lake... And before you ask me again, yes, I’m coming with you. I want to help.”

“You were so angry at me for risking my life, but it’s fine if we both do it?”

“Precisely.”

Jim sighed and smiled a bit, sitting next to him. “It means a lot that you still want to help me...”

“Considering you didn’t wanted to tell me anything about all this, I'm surprised as well.” He said sounding more sad than angry.

“I just didn’t wanted you to give up about magic.”

“Lame excuse…”

“It’s not an excuse,” Jim groaned sliding more against him until they were laying down on the bed, on top of each other. Jim could hear Leonard’s heart beating, and feel his chest slowly rising and falling against his cheek. “Do you hate me?”

“Just as usual.”

Jim slowly pushed up on his elbows, watching him staring at the ceiling. “Are you scared?”

Leonard closed his eyes for a moment before looking at him. “Aren’t you?”

Jim nodded and moved a bit further to kiss him before dropping the head over his chest again. They fell asleep into each other arms.

.-.-.

A few days later, Leonard was walking through the campus when he got a message on his phone. Reading it, he sighed, relieved, and quickly headed to the dorm.

Jim was waiting for him in their room, staring out the window with millions of thoughts in his mind. The day before, he told with Pike that Leonard knew about their plan and, aside from the angry screams of the Captain at the news, they found themselves agreeing on one thing: Leonard had to be involved as less as possible. The doctor complained about it of course, but, in the end, he accepted their conditions- and let Jim go alone to check the area around the Green Lake before going there together.

Distracted by the door opening, Jim turned around, smiling a bit. “See? Still in one piece.”

Leonard studied him for a moment, to be sure he wasn't lying. “Considering your need for dangerous solo-missions, that’s nice for a change.” He commented, closing the door. “So, have you found anything? Anyone?”

“I saw the mansion where Annabelle probably used live, but it seems to be abandoned from some time,” Jim said, “I didn’t check inside,” he added.

“I appreciate it.”

“Hey, I’m trying, ok?”

“I know, that’s why I said that I appreciate it.”

Jim just sighed patiently. “It looks safe enough, so we could go check it out tomorrow.”

“Oh, so you need me now?” he snorted leaving his bag on the desk.

“You know I do. We just have to be careful.”

“I thought you didn’t even know that word."

“If you’re coming along, I’ll have to control my need for solo-missions.”

The doctor didn’t looked impressed by the sarcasm. “What if we actually find Annabelle?”

“I’ll talk to her and if she’s friendly, I’ll let you say hi to her.”

“And if she’s not friendly?”

“You’ll stay away and call for backups,” Jim said calmly and grinned at him sulking. “I’m in charge of this unofficial operation, Bones. You’re gonna be ok with that?”

“You’re not even Captain yet and I already hate you being in command,” he hissed walking away, making him laugh.

 

The day after, they left the Academy early morning. The lake was around thirty minutes out the city and Jim happily accepted Pike’s car for their journey. Once they parked on the side of the road, they continued on foot, cutting through the forest surrounding Green Lake.

“Are you sure we’re not going to get lost in these woods?” Leonard asked wearing his shoulder bag.

“We won’t. I grow up in the wildlands, remember?” Jim said leading the way.

“Iowa isn’t the Amazon Forest.”

“Well, I had to learn how to survive just the same.”

Leonard sighed, both walking in silence next to each other until he realized the road wasn't clear anymore. “These trails are still used?”

“Not much, I think. I’ve followed a few and they all seem to guide to the lake.”

“You're actually an expert, huh? I don’t even know where are we going...”

“Don’t worry, we’re still on the right track. Look closely and you’ll see it.” Jim said with a little smile, slowing down just enough to put him at the lead.

Leonard didn't notice it, so focused on checking the woods. After a more careful inspection, he actually started to notice the path.

“And if you see a blond woman around her forty with green eyes, tell me. That should be Annabelle.” Jim added.

“I wonder why she decided to live here…”

“You mean why not living in the city ruled by the Federation?”

“I mean, her friends are still there, aren’t they? Allow all of them to stay wasn’t part of the deal?”

“I guess she had her reason to stay away. Morgan told me she and Annabelle used to meet often, before she disappeared, around six months ago.”

“And she couldn’t find her friend with some magic trick?”

“She tried, but it didn’t work.”

The doctor shrugged. “Maybe Annabelle just left to make a new life away from here.”

“Maybe,” Jim echoed, staring at the ground, almost tripping on him when he suddenly stopped.

“That’s the house?” Leonard asked staring in front of them in pure amaze: he was expecting a little house in the woods, not an old-style, fancy, two-floors mansion surrounded by grass and wild flowers that had grown everywhere, even climbing the two pillars in front of the entrance. The lake was just few meters away, on the back of the house.

“Pretty nice place, isn’t it?”

“Sorcerers try their best to hide in the city and this woman lived in this- King Arthur's castle for years?” he asked in disbelief.

Jim laughed a bit. “Best hideout is in plain sight, remember? Come on, let’s take a look around,” he said and both started walking towards the old mansion. Nothing was different since the last time Jim had been there: he couldn’t feel magic, nor any other presence.

Once in front of the lake, Leonard turned around and looked up at the ivy covering the back of the house almost completely. He then looked down, noticing the resemblance of a garden’s lines. “Whoever lived- or lives here, clearly doesn’t care about the place anymore...”

“We should check inside.” Jim said, “You ready?”

“Unarmed and terrified. I guess I’m good.” The doctor commented. Looking away from the lake, Leonard suddenly find someone crouched next to the old garden, and gasped, stopping and falling backward trying to step away: it was a woman with blond wavy hair so long they were sprawled on the grass; she was wearing a black jacket too big for her over a dark-green shirt half unbuttoned, and an old, dirty pair of jeans and ruined boots.

“Bones?” Jim ran back and froze for a second, noticing the woman.

Leonard quickly stood. “It- it’s her?”

Jim raised a hand at him, a warning to stay there, while he carefully approached the woman. “Annabelle?”

She turned to him hearing the name, her green eyes shining with hope. “Did you find her?” she asked, her voice as delicate as she looked.

The boys looked at each other for a second. “You… You’re not Annabelle?” Jim asked again, slowly kneeling next to her.

“I can’t find her…” she said, looking back at the flowers with a sad expression. “I need her back.”

Leonard kept his distance while slowly moving behind Jim. “It’s definitely her,” he whispered.

Jim knew there was a picture of Annabelle on the files Pike gave him, and the woman in front of them was surely her. “Then why she talks like this?” Jim asked, but got no answer, so he turned around, finding Leonard staring nervously at the woman. He gently poked his leg, making him flinch. “You ok? You want to leave?”

“No. No, I’m- I’m good.” He breathed out.

Jim nodded and looked back at her. “Can you tell me your name?” he asked, but she didn’t speak. “Isn’t Annabelle your name?”

“I like that name,” she murmured with a sad smile, leaving him even more perplexed.

“It- It looks like a dissociative disorder of some kind.” Leonard said, and when Jim looked at him again, he took a deep breath before lowering his voice even more, “It’s usually caused by traumatic events... As a way to cope with it.”

Jim stared at him with a serious glare before turning to her again. “Annabelle-“

“I miss her so much…”

Jim sighed. “We... We haven't introduced ourselves yet. I’m Jim, and this is Leonard. You want to tell us how we should call you?” he asked, but, once again, got no response. “Can we call you Anna?”

She suddenly smiled, a smile so fond and genuine both of them blinked in surprise. “He used to call me Anna... He’s here too?”

He…?” Jim was having a hard time trying to follow her line of thoughts.

“He’ll be here soon,” Leonard said, swallowing when she looked at him.

“Really?” she asked, looking so hopeful.

“Yes, but he- he also wants to know that you’re alright,” Leonard continued, crouching next to Jim that was staring at him as surprised as she was.

She blinked, her smile lessening. “I lost Annabelle…”

“We can help you find her?”

“No. No… it’s too dangerous.” She said, placing a hand behind her neck.

“Why?” Jim asked, “Someone hurt you- I mean- her?”

Annabelle kept her eyes on the grass, then silently started to cry.

“Anna, what’s wrong?” he asked again, as gently as he could. “We're here to help you. We-”

“It burns…” she murmured, “All the time, every day… It doesn't heal.”

“Are you hurt?” Jim asked, but she just kept crying.

Leonard was already staring at the hand she was keeping on the back of her neck. “I don’t think she’s bleeding, but it could be an old injury that got infected…” he murmured. “Check her neck, if you can. I think that’s where she’s hurt,” he added opening his bag to retrieve what he needed.

Jim nodded and slowly moved closer to her. “Alright… Anna, we are not gonna hurt you, I promise. We just want to be sure you’re not hurt.”

She sniffed, staring down. “He always said to be careful…”

Jim sighed out, gently moving the hair away from her neck- and something burned his hand, like a quick shock.

“What?” Leonard was in full doctor-mode and didn’t miss that.

“Nothing… I think,” Jim checked his hand for a second before moving the rest of her long hair away, and suddenly his blood turned cold when he realized what they were hiding: it was Nero’s mark- but it wasn’t clear and defined like the ones he saw on other people… This one was still red and painful just to watch, unprecise and with little scars around it, as if someone carved it into her skin with a knife while she was moving- as a torture.

“You shouldn’t have…” Annabelle said with a sad voice.

Jim swallowed at those words. He then turned to Leonard, now white as a sheet. “Bones.” He called, but the doctor looked petrified. He grabbed his arm and he flinched back to attention. “Go back to the car.”

“What?”

“Something’s wrong here, and you’re not ok.”

“I am, I just-“

“Go back to the car and wait for me. If you see or hear anything weird, or if I’m not there in ten minutes, call Pike.”

“Jim-“

“That’s an order.” Jim insisted, serious as he rarely was. “This isn’t a wound you can heal. I’ll try to talk with her a bit more, then we'll leave this place, with or without her.”

Leonard wanted to argue more but then changed his mind. “You better don’t make me come back here to get you.” He said, and when the other nodded, he stood, heading back to the forest.

Jim waited until he disappeared into the woods and then looked back at her. “Annabelle-“

“I don’t know where she is…”

“You know a man called Nero? He put this mark on you?”

She stared at him, more tears rolling down her face. “I didn’t wanted it… It hurt me so much…”

Jim felt ready to cry with her, hating Nero more than ever. “Listen, we need to leave this place. Morgan is worried about you-”

“Morgan…?” she frowned, then shook her head, standing up, “No… no, I can’t leave!”

“You’ll be safer with her. She’s still looking for you-”

“I can’t go away. Not without Annabelle.”

“Anna, that’s you. You’re Annabelle.”

“I’m not-” she grasped the back of her neck again. “I’m not! I lost her!”

“You don’t. You-“

“She’s gone! They took her away from me, but she tried to escape and then- and then…” She turned to the lake and suddenly walked towards to the water, but Jim stopped her by her arm.

“Anna, please, listen,” He insisted, using his magic just enough to show the gold into his eyes.

She looked back at him and her eyes grown wide for a moment. “You’re like her…”

“I am. So, please-“

“Help me find her,” she grasped his jacket, “Please, help me find her!”

“I will, I promise, but I have to take you somewhere safe first. You can’t stay here. When I touched that mark-“

“I can’t leave without her!”

He was going to insist, but then a shiver ran down his spine and a second later he felt magic coming from every direction.

"They're still looking for her..." Anna kept crying. “If they find her, I-“

“They won’t. I’ll keep you safe, but we have to go, now!”

“You won’t keep her safe leaving her here!” Annabelle yelled pushing him away, looking so desperate. “You have to help me find her before they do! Help me find Annabelle!”

Jim was going to yell back something else, getting more worried and nervous because something was coming and they were in the open, and Leonard was too close... But then he stopped, staring at the woman that was begging him to find her even if she was right in front of him, unless… “You didn’t wanted the mark… You fought Nero…”

“It wasn’t enough, that’s why she’s gone… She needed to hide.” Annabelle murmured sadly.

Jim still couldn't feel magic coming from her- but he finally understood why. “That’s how you survived…” he said, a smiled slowly appearing on his face, “With Annabelle you mean your magic... You hide it somewhere, and now you can’t find it- you can’t feel it anymore!”

She just blinked but grasped on his jacket even more.

“Wait… Did you say they're looking for her? You mean-” Jim’s relief didn’t last long: he turned around and moved in front of her when a dozen of sorcerers and witches came out of the woods, slowly approaching them.

Leading the group, there were two people Jim already knew: Shawn and Saylar. “Well, we should’ve expected this,” the first one said.

Jim sent a quick look at the woods, praying that Leonard obeyed and was already waiting at their car.

“You really needed to go bothering people around the city, didn’t you?” Shawn continued while the others stopped, forming a circle around the two.

“Since when you care so much about what I do?” Jim asked.

“Since you’re doing your best to ruin our plans.”

“And if your plans involve hurting our people, you bet your sorry ass I'll keep doing just that.”

“Annabelle has been an unfortunate event,” Shawn said, his voice blank. “She wanted our help, then she changed her mind halfway in the process. This is the result of her reckless.”

Reckless? She didn’t wanted the mark, you should’ve stopped!” Jim screamed.

“That was impossible. We could’ve helped her later, but she decided to cast a stupid spell on herself. After that, there was nothing we could do for her.”

“Then why you’re here now?” Jim asked, “Why the mark on her neck still works?”

“I doubt it does. Nero changed it, in case she lied to us, or if someone would’ve tried to interfere.”

Jim was ready to punch him in the face, but Annabelle grabbed his arm and shook her head murmuring, “We need to find her.”

“And we'll be more than happy to help.” Shawn stepped in.

“We’re fine by ourselves, thanks,” Jim snorted, noticing more of them getting closer.

Shawn sighed. “Kirk, I think you still don’t understand your position in this situation…”

“My position is to help Annabelle, not to betray her like you did,” Jim said. “You were present when it happened? You stood there watching Nero torturing one of your sisters without doing anything?”

Something flashed in Shawn’s eyes and he raised a hand against him.

Jim noticed he didn’t say a word this time, and that there was another mark on the palm of Shawn’s hand, before being pushed backward, rolling close to the water. Trying to get up, he saw the sand moving by itself, forming a rope around his neck that started squeezing tighter and tighter.

Annabelle was next to him a moment later, trying to help get free, scratching her fingers and nails on the sand that was already as hard as concrete. “No… no, no…”

“Annabelle, you should come with us,” Shawn said, approaching her.

“No! She’s gone, I told you!” she yelled at him.

“Yes, and you know where she is.”

“I don’t! I can’t do it without Jim!”

We can help you!” Sylar shout back, getting closer as well.

Annabelle slowly looked at him. “She remembers how you helped her...” She said, her voice suddenly colder.

Sylar swallowed and stopped, while Shawn reached her. “We have lost enough time because of your lies,” he said and grabbed Annabelle by her arm, forcing her to stand.

“NO! No, you promised! You promised to leave me alone!” she cried trying to break free.

“Let her go! HEY!” Jim yelled, but all he could do was kicking the air, trying to get free from the sand-collar that was chocking him. He couldn’t focus on his magic with so few oxygen in his lungs, and he didn’t wanted- he couldn’t risk exploding again. He could hear Annabelle screaming while being dragged away… Then, he felt the ground shaking.

All the sorcerers and witches looked around, confused. Shawn stopped as well, noticing the worried expression on Sylar’s face. Suddenly, someone grabbed the arm he was using to keep Annabelle, so he turned around.

Benjamin Krane was staring down at him with golden eyes. “Let her go.”

Shawn’s face paled a little, but he didn’t look away. “What are you-“

Benjamin broke his arm a second later, letting him fall down screaming in pain while Annabelle, finally free, simply stood there, staring at the powerful sorcerer that just arrived. Benjamin took a deep breath, briefly looking at Jim before talking to her with an incredible calm voice, “Give me a second, ok, Anna?”

She moved to get closer, but both she and Jim disappeared from the lakeside.

“Well,” Benjamin said turning to the others, putting his glasses in the inside pocket of his jacket, “Where were we?”

Jim didn’t know what happened, but suddenly he could breathe again. Coughing and rolling on his side, he saw the lake in front of him. Looking around, he found Annabelle standing with her feet in the water, staring away in front of her. “Anna… are you ok?” He asked standing next to her and, following her gaze, he noticed flashes of magic appearing on the other side of the lake- where the mansion was, and a battle was taking place. "Wait... was it Krane that saved us?"

She didn’t answer but turned and grabbed his jacket again. “We need to find her! Help me find Annabelle!” she yelled again, making him jump to attention.

“Ok! Ok, huh… How can we do that? My magic can help?” He asked, and she nodded. “Alright... So, you said you can’t leave this place, so your magic should be still around here.”

“I- I don’t know.”

“Let’s try anyway,” he said offering a hand that she grabbed. Closing his eyes, trying to focus: the battle raging so close was hard to ignore, but it felt as if Annabelle was actually guiding him somehow… or maybe it was her magic calling for them. After a while, he opened his eyes, gold shining brightly. He looked at her and both smiled. “It’s here. In the lake.”

“Can we get her back?” she asked.

“We will, the only problem is how... Maybe we could-” he tried to say, but Annabelle dragged both more into the water. “We could just dive in, of course… Anna, you know what you’re doing, right? Right?” Jim asked, just having the time to take a deep breath before they both disappeared beneath the water surface.

 

“Come on, little fuckers! None of you playing so tough now, huh?!” Benjamin roared casting spell after spell, branches covered of spikes magically growing from the ground all around him, making the enemies step back, or scream in pain while trying to run away.

Saylar reached the two that were helping Shawn getting some distance from the fight. “You want me to-”

“No. He’s going to kill all of us,” Shawn hissed keeping his broken arm against the chest. “We just have to resist a little longer.”

“You really think Nero will come?”

“He can’t lose Annabelle… He need her.” He growled, then looked at the woods for a second, “Tell Yda to secure the area before the Federation comes here.”

“Maybe we should-“

Do it.”

Saylar nodded and ran away into the forest.

Shawn turned to the battle once again, then something else caught his attention and he looked at the lake. “It’s too late, anyway… damn it.”

Benjamin growled another spell and more sorcerers field away, hitting against the mansion’s wall, then an enemy’s spell blocked his feet into the ground, the grass growing all around his legs. “How cute,” he murmured, an evil smile on his face, but, before getting free and keep fighting, he stopped and looked back at the lake, finding Jim on the riverside, down on his knees, soaked and coughing to get more air to breathe. Frowning, he turned around and smiled- a sincere smile.

Annabelle was standing right next to him, squeezing water away from her hair. She then looked at him, “Took you long enough to find me.”

“You're too good at hiding.”

“I learned from the best.” She said with a little grin.

Benjamin huffed, then, with a snap of his fingers, he both freed himself from the grass and created a wave of hot wind that dried Annabelle’s clothes and hair in few seconds. “You kept my jacket.”

“You want it back?” She smiled, gently fixing down her hair.

“No. It looks better on you.” He commented. “You got your magic back?”

Annabelle didn't answer and raised a hand to stop a witch that was aiming a gun at them. “That’s a low blow, dear,” she told her before the weapon exploded, making the woman yell and fall back. “Can we kick these idiots out my property first?” Annabelle asked looking at him.

He studied her for another moment, then nodded, “My pleasure.”

Chapter Text

Jim was feeling like everything was getting out of control: he found Annabelle, but she wasn’t exactly herself anymore because he had lost her magic; then Nero’s friends showed up to take her away, and a moment later Benjamin Krane appeared to save them, so they took the chance to find Annabelle’s magic that Jim discovered was hidden into the lake. Dragged by Annabelle into the water, he felt a power becoming stronger while approaching the depths of the lake… Then something else happened and he lost Annabelle’s hand, just to find himself crashing on the shore again a second later, watching her and Krane fighting Shawn’s men.

Coughing and soaked, Jim kneel on the sand, his heart beating fast realizing how strong Annabelle really was: despite she just got her magic back, she has absolute control over it, using it to raise walls from the ground to stop the enemies, or to protect herself and Benjamin from their attacks, while he attacked back… All of this without missing a beat, moving in perfect synchrony.

“Pike’s gonna kill me…” Jim murmured to himself, rolling away just in time to avoid another wave of flames that hit way too close. Bones... I need to find him...

A witch appeared in front of him when he was standing, and yelled a spell against him.

Jim suddenly froze, almost falling back down, using his magic to stop the trees that she had thrown against him, making all of them explode violently, leaving both of them surprised. Another sorcerer approached from behind, and his spell raised a high wall of water from the lake, ready to crash on them.

Before Jim could react, Annabelle reappeared in front of him raising both hands, screaming another spell, turning the water into ice that she used to create a wall all around themselves. She breathed out and dropped her arms, turning to him. “You ok?” she asked while Benjamin approached them.

“Y-yeah… thanks,” he nodded, too overwhelmed to say anything else. Suddenly, they both looked away in the same direction, and he knew what was going to happen. He could see the sorcerers through the ice slowly moving back.

“Nero’s coming,” Benjamin said, his voice low, but still angry from the fight.

“You have to leave.” Annabelle said to Jim.

“I-“

“You’re right about Nero. He’s dangerous, and he needs to be stopped before-“ she gasped in pain and crashed on the ground.

“What's wrong?” Benjamin said crouching next to her, noticing a shining, strange medallion around her neck. “Why are you keeping your magic in there?”

“What you mean in there?” Jim asked, noticing the new, strange necklace. “What’s that medallion?”

Annabelle kept staring at Benjamin. Taking his hand, she placed it behind her neck, and his eyes widened, shining gold. “I can’t take it back.” She murmured sadly.

Jim frowned. “Why not? It’s your magic, you should-“

“What Shawn said before, about me refusing the mark when it was too late, that was true. And what I did trying to stop them… It messed everything’s up. It messed me up.” She turned her watery eyes to Benjamin. “I’m sorry…”

“I'm gonna kill him in the most painful way-” he hissed standing up, his eyes glowing angrily, but she held his hand.

“You know you can’t.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“I’ll see you dead if you don’t listen to me!” she shot back, standing as well. “Nero wants Jim too. Staying here, he’ll get all three of us.”

“He has to try touching me or you again! He’ll be dead before he-” Benjamin roared.

“This is not just about us anymore! We can’t beat him!”

“You know what he’s planning?” Jim asked standing next to them.

She looked and him and shook her head. “Not completely, but whatever it is, he needs you as well.”

“He already tried to convince me to work for him, and that’s not going to happen-“ he stopped when she put her hands around his head.

“Whatever he do- whatever he says, don’t trust him. Don’t listen to him. Promise me.”

“I- I won’t. I told you, he-“

Promise me, Jim,” she insisted.

He blinked, confused, but nodded. “I promise.”

Helicopters started echoing from the afar and Benjamin sighed, “Have you called for backups?”

“Next time tell me if you're going to show up during a fight,” Jim snorted- then gunshots and screaming made him turn to the woods. Bones…

“Hey- wait!” Benjamin stopped him by his arm.

“That’s my friend! I left him alone-“

“He can handle it-“

“He doesn’t have magic!” Jim yelled and his eyes flashed gold, burning Benjamin’s hand to get free. They stared at each other for a second, then Jim said, “I- I’m sorry. Sorry, but I have to go.”

“You’ll have to pick a side sooner or later, you know that?” Benjamin commented massaging his pained hand.

“Go. We’ll take care of this.” Annabelle said, grabbing Jim's hand, “And thank you for helping me. I wish I could return the favor.” She added with a little smile before making him disappear.

Benjamin kept staring at her. “Anna…”

She looked at him and breathed out, thin streaks of lights slowly appearing all over her skin. “It doesn’t look good, does it?”

“Let me help you.”

“You know what would happen if you do.” She said moving closer, taking his hand again. “You have to go as well.”

“Forget it.”

“Ben...“

“How can you ask me to leave? I just found you!”

Annabelle brushed a tear away from his face and left the hand on his cheek. “It’s not your fault.” She murmured and he looked down, shaking his head. “Help Jim, alright? Help him stop this madness. Maybe even the Federation will realize how wrong they were about us after all this.”

“And what if they don’t?”

“What if they do?” she asked back and smiled at him before he leaned down to kiss her. When they parted, she was still smiling. “Now go. Let me show Nero how a real witch gets her revenge,” Annabelle said and they hugged one last time.

 

Jim found himself reappearing on the road, looking around until he spotted Pike’s car few meters behind him but once there, he found it empty. “Bones!” he called turning to every side, but there was no sign of the doctor. “Bones, where are you?” he called again, following the trail they used that morning. It was risky going back, but if he was still in the woods- maybe lost, if not worse…

“Bones!” Jim kept screaming until he suddenly stopped: Frank was standing in the middle of the path, few steps away. “What the-?”

“Found you, freak,” Frank smiled before starting to walk fast towards him.

“Y- you can’t be here…” Jim murmured stepping back until the man was close enough to hit him- then he used magic to protect himself, and Frank disappeared like smoke in the wind. Startled by the unpleasant event, Jim slowly realized something was off in the woods.

“I wonder who that man was?”

Jim quickly turned around, finding the girl he saw at Nero’s base, the one with a patch over an eye. “You… You’re the responsible for this?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Whatever spell you’re using on the forest, break it, now!”

She huffed, bored. “Your friend reaction was definitely more interesting.” That said, she disappeared.

“Wait- Damn it!” Jim furiously grabbed his phone, proceeding down the trail. He needed to warn Pike about what was happening, but he wasn’t really expecting him to answer: the terrifying peak of magic in the Green Lake area sure hasn’t passed unnoticed. He was going to write him a message, but just then he heard low cries through the trees.

Putting the phone away, Jim left the path, making his way into the high grass until he found Leonard crouched against a rock, a hand grasping the space between shoulder and neck. “Bones, thank God. Are you-“ he froze when the man suddenly stood, pointing a gun at him. “Woah, hey- it’s me!”

Leonard's eyes make him look like a madman-and scared, but also so angry his whole arm was shaking while the other hand grasped the fabric of his jacket even more tightly… His eyes were watery and red of tears.

“Bones, what happen-“

“Stay away!”

Jim wanted to ask where did he get that gun, but his main worry now was if he saw him using magic during the fights, before. “Bones-“

“I said stay away!” he roared.

“Ok, I will, but tell me what’s wrong!” He asked back. It was a terrible place and time to discuss, but if Leonard really discovered his secret…

“You knew they were here?” the doctor asked.

“They? Who-?”

“My family! I heard them screaming- I saw Joanna running away, but they got caught!”

Those were information Jim was totally not expecting to hear. “Your daughter?”

“And my wife! Why them? Why they took them here?”

“They’re not. Whatever you saw, it was caused by a spell. I saw strange things as well-“

“They said they’re going to do to them the same thing that happened to me!” Leonard was panicking more and more everytime he had to talk. “I can’t let that happen… Something like that…”

“It wasn’t real. None of what you have seen is,“ Jim stepped forward, but the other raised the gun again, making him stop. “Bones, listen to me, ok? Your family is not here. A witch casted a spell on the forest. It is showing you things that are not real.”

“I saw them!”

“Think about for a second! Why they should take your family here?”

“Because of me! I forced my goddamn curse of them!”

Jim frowned, “What curse? Bones, you’re not cursed.”

“I am! That’s why she took Joanna away from me… I didn’t wanted to stay with you for the same reason, but they got them anyway and you’ll be the next!” the moment he stepped back, ready to run away, Jim was on him, grabbing and moving his armed hand up and the gun fired at the sky.

Jim ignored the deafening sound that hurt his ears, too busy pinning him against the rock- and it was harder than expected since Leonard was actually fighting him to get free. “It wasn’t real! Listen to me! Joanna is safe with her mother!”

“How you know?!”

“Because I saw the witch responsible for this! She’s tricking us with these illusions!”

“My family was here- I talked to them!”

“They were not real!”

And how do you know?!

Because that’s what sorcerers do! They lie!” Jim felt his heart hurt the moment those words came out his mouth. Even more because those words get through the doctor, that slowly stopped fighting. “They are using magic on us, and I’m sorry it happened to you again. I’m sorry.”

Still breathing fast, Leonard kept stared at him in silence.

“There’s just you and me here, and right now this place is not safe. We have to go. You understand what I'm saying?”

“They’re not here…?” Leonard’s voice was a whisper.

“No.”

“It’s- it was because of magic…? A spell?”

"Yes," Jim nodded, lowering Leonard’s arm until it was resting between them, the gun now aiming at the ground. “We have to leave so you’ll get better, alright?”

“What if you’re wrong? What if they-“

Jim kept him still, as gently as possible, when he tried to move away again. “If I’m wrong, you’re allowed to shoot me again.” He smiled a bit- forced himself to.

Leonard blinked, and looked down at the gun as if he didn’t even realized he was holding it until then. “Oh God…” he murmured letting it fall on the grass, “I almost shot you…?”

“Don't worry. I feel like it won’t be the last time.”

“But I tried to-” he looked even more scared than before. “What if I did? What if you-“

“Hey, listen, it’s ok,” Jim let him go, taking his head into his hands. “I know it wasn’t you. I still love you, I always will, but now we have to go.”

Leonard looked aside, to the woods, then took a scattered breath in and looked down, nodding slightly.

“Alright… come on. The car isn’t too far,” Jim said slowly letting him go, expecting him to run away. Luckily, he didn’t- but Leonard suddenly shut his eyes and grasped his shoulder again, in pain. “Are you hurt?” Jim asked, worried that he might have pushed him too hard against that rock, but the doctor shook his head, unable to stop another cry of pain. “Bones talk to me, what’s wrong?”

“We- we have to leave…”

“I know, but-“ Jim’s blood froze into his vein hearing Leonard screaming and crying as if someone was torturing him, and watching him fall on his knees. Jim did the same, holding him by the shoulders, frantically looking around but there was no one there- nor any magic he could feel. Looking back at the doctor, still crying into his arms, he forced himself to speak, “Hold on, let me check you up, alright?” he said trying to move Leonard’s jacket away.

“NO!” Leonard yelled, making him stop instantly. “Please, just… get me away from here…” he cried, his voice sounding so desperate.

“If you’re hurt-“ Jim tried to say, but Leonard kept shaking his head until he passed out. “Bones? Bones!” Jim checked his pulse: way too fast, but it was there. He carefully placed a hand under Leonard’s jacket, patting over his shirt, and sighed in relief when, taking it back, he didn’t find blood on it. Moving Leonard’s arm over his shoulders, Jim pulled both up, heading back to the street.

A strong explosion made the whole area tremble, and then the sky darkened.

Trying not to fall, Jim looked behind, in the direction of the lake: Nero was there.

Just get to the car… We just need to get to the car, Jim repeated himself squeezing Leonard’s wrist. He kept hearing explosions and screams from afar and feeling an incredibly strong magic. All he could do was praying Nero and his friends were busy enough not to bother about them. The girl with a patch on her eye could’ve been still around, but if she was, she didn’t approach them.

Jim sighed in relief when he finally spotted the street through the trees. Once next to the car, he carefully let Leonard sit down next to it and jumped in to turn the engine- that, of course, didn’t work. “Come on, come on…” Jim murmured, but that didn’t help. “Damn it!” he yelled, and at the same time, he felt something from the lake- something that made him shiver and exit the car, watching the clouds moving in circle above the whole area. Something was going to happen… Something that it wouldn’t leave them time to escape.

Jim swallowed and kneel next to Leonard, watching him so tense even in his sleep, tear’s streaks still visible on his cheeks. His own eyes got watery and he moved closer, holding him tightly, closing his eyes as well, sure that that was the end, and all he could do was praying for forgiveness.

You gave up easily, a young, masculine voice said.

Jim opened his eyes just to see a kid crouching on the other side of Leonard. The same kid they helped to escape from the Academy.

The kid smiled a bit and his eyes shined gold while all around them a strong light turned everything so white, it looked like the whole world disappeared into it.

.-.-.-.

“You should wake up. He needs you.”

“Jim?”

Jim’s eyes opened at the sound of the voice and flinched a bit finding a person next to him: his heart grown with relief finding Gaila smiling timidly at him.

“Nice to see you again,” she said, her red hair collected in a low braid; a short jacket over the Academy’s shirt. The kid was there as well, standing in front of them.

Jim was going to say something, but different words came out on their own: “Bones- Where’s Leonard?”

“Behind you.” The kid told him, once again without speaking a word, just pointing a finger.

Turning, Jim realized he was sitting against Pike’s car; the door next to him open, and Leonard was inside.

He quickly stood and checked on him: the doctor was still lost in a restless sleep, laying on the back seats of the car, mumbling fragments of words impossible to understand.

“Psychically, he’s fine,” Gaila said standing as well. “But I don’t know if-“ she stopped when Jim caught her in a tight embrace.

“Thank you for helping us. I was so worried you didn’t make it.”

She smiled and patted his back. “You should thank Pavel for both those things, not me.”

“Pavel?” Jim frowned, letting her go and she nodded at the kid. “You really saved us from the woods? And the car?” He asked him, surprised.

Gaila laughed a bit at Pavel that nodded like it was the most obvious thing. “He’s stronger than he looks.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed,” Jim sighed and moved closer to him, offering a hand. “Thank you for saving us.”

Pavel smiled and accepted it, then looked at her with a more serious glare.

Jim didn’t miss it. “What is it?”

“He’s worried about Leonard,” Gaila said. “We don’t know what happened to him, he’s not injured… Pavel wanted to use magic to check on him, but I told him to wait until you were awake before trying anything.”

Jim nodded. “Thank you for that. I-“ he looked back at Pavel, feeling bad for what he was going to say. “I know you want to help him, but he- he’s still working on trusting magic…”

“But you could help him” Pavel frowned at him, confused.

Jim sighed, “He doesn't know I have magic. And I promised to never use it on him if I can avoid it.”

Pavel looked still uncertain, but then looked at Gaila that gave him a little smile saying, “We’ll take care of him without magic. You need to rest, anyway, isn’t ?” and he nodded once walking away, to a bench close by where a backpack was placed.

Jim sighed, looking at her. “I’m sorry. He helped me and Leonard…”

“Just as you did for us,” Gaila said. “Pavel remembers about Leonard. He understands his feelings towards magic. He just wanted to help you like you did for him.”

“I know, and I appreciate it. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.” Jim said turning to the car, caressing Leonard’s head. “I don’t know what happened to him either… There was a spell on the woods that gave us hallucinations, so I tried to convince him whatever he saw wasn’t real, but then he started screaming- I don’t know why.” He shivered at the memory of those screams- and remembering how useless he had been in helping the person he loved the most.

“Maybe it’s just a reaction to that spell,” Gaila said, not sure of her own words. “I only checked he wasn’t bleeding, despite he already told me he wasn’t.”

“You talked to him? He woke up before?”

“Not quite... He opened his eyes for a moment, asking about you and to go call Pike, that he was in his office.” She shrugged, “I doubt he even recognized me. He fainted before I could tell him anything.”

Jim turned to the doctor again. “I need to take him back home as soon as I can…” he murmured, then tried to pull himself together and stood, looking around, “Where are we, anyway? And where have you been until now? I should’ve asked you first…”

Gaila shook her head, “It’s ok. We’re still outside the city. On the other side of the river. And there’s something you should see before leaving.” She said leading the way. “Pavel will keep an eye on Leonard. You can trust him.”

“I do.” He nodded, sending one last look at the car before following her. They didn’t move too far, just enough to reach a little clearing facing the river, and Jim quickly understood what she meant: it was almost night, and he could perfectly distinguish police’s lights and helicopters flying above the Green Lake area kilometers away, smoke rising from the woods that were hiding whatever happened there.

“I’ve never seen an explosion like that,” Gaila murmured, “It was magic. Even I felt it. Something bad happened there... Something very bad.”

Jim suddenly thought of Annabelle and Krane. “Nero was there..." he murmured and she looked at him. "I was looking for a witch that used to live near the lake. I found her, and helped recover from whatever Nero did to her, but then his people showed up, and I- I left her fighting alone… I don't know what happened to her.”

“Jim…”

“I was there, I wanted to help them and Leonard, but I couldn’t do anything. I just managed to screw everything up for everyone.”

“You tried. I know you did.”

“And it wasn’t enough!” he yelled, but his anger faded quickly looking at her sad face. “I keep trying, but it’s never enough…” he murmured shaking his head.

“Not enough? Jim, you save me- you saved Pavel too, and you helped Leonard so many times-“

“Yeah, and now he’s lying in that car because- I don’t even know why! I don’t know what happened to him, and I can’t use magic because he hates it. I can’t do anything and I’m so done being so damn useless.”

Gaila sighed. “You haven’t told him the truth yet?”

“How can I? Every time I want to, something terrible happens. It’s like the more I want to tell him, the more people need to show him how evil magic can be. As if he doesn’t know that, already.”

“Jim, have you ever thought that maybe you’re the example of good magic he needs?” she asked and he just looked down. “You know you could be the one changing his mind. Why you keep holding back?”

“Why? That’s why,” Jim said pointing at the explosion, “How am I supposed to change his mind about something like that?”

“Well, lying to him sure won’t do,” Gaila snorted.

“Do I look like the perfect example of good magic to you?”

“We both know you are. And still you don’t trust your own magic- and I don’t understand why.”

“If it scares me, how can I show it to anyone?” Jim shot back. “I wanted to tell Leonard about it, but after what happened today, what’s the point?”

What’s the point?” Gaila echoed in disbelief. “So what, you’ll keep lying to him forever? Because if that’s the idea, I swear I’m gonna tell him the truth myself right now!” she yelled. For a moment, they stared at each other in silence until Jim looked away. Gaila sighed and moved closer. “Jim, if you want his trust, he have to trust him as well. I think you owe him that much.”

Jim took a deep breath. “You ever did something like this before? Confessing something you’re scared about?”

“No, but I have to do it now,” she said. “There’s something I have to tell you, and you won’t like it, but I’ll tell you anyway because I don’t want to lie to you.”

“I’m not sure I want to know what it is…” Jim commented sadly.

She took a deep and said, “When me and Pavel left the Academy, Nero’s men helped us.”

“What??”

“They helped Pavel heal, and we stayed with them for a while.”

“You what?!” he roared, stepping back.

“It was temporarily!”

“After you told me not to trust him-!”

“I know, but we had to! Pavel was hurt, and Starfleet was looking for me. They kept us both safe.”

“Of all people, you really had no other choice but join Nero?”

“At the time, no. Then, I decided to stay to know him better-”

“Are you kidding me?!”

“To understand what he’s planning, you idiot!” she yelled, tired of being interrupted. “It didn’t last long, but I managed to hear something here and there. Whatever he’s planning, is something big. And against the Federation.”

“You-“ Jim couldn’t hide his surprise. “Were you working undercover?”

She grinned and shrugged. “It come in handy having someone in the enemy’s lines.”

“W-well, yeah, but- Gaila, he could have killed you. You and Pavel both.”

“Oh, he wanted to, that’s why I’m here,” she nodded. “We escaped a few weeks ago, but we needed to stay hidden for a while.”

“He tried to kill you?”

“Nero isn’t stupid. He never really trusted me. I knew my time with them would’ve been limited, so I’ve used it as I could…”

“Damn it, Gaila…”

“It was that, or leaving San Francisco.”

“Or you could’ve just tried to contact me,” Jim said, colder than he intended. “Why you think all this mess happened? I was already looking for clues- and allies. The witch living at Green Lake was a member of the Resistance. Pike told me to look for a few of them after you left. We know that Nero is using his mark to recruit people.”

Gaila nodded and sighed. “Well, yeah, but it’s not just about recruiting them.”

“What you mean?”

“I mean that his plan is more elaborate than that, and he cares too much to even talk about it with his people.”

“You think they don’t know he wants to start another war? Because he’s not very subtle about that.”

“That’s why I believe there must be more. He keeps telling everyone the same story, but…” Gaila thought for a moment, then shook her head sadly, “I should’ve got more information while I was there, but Nero was becoming too curious about my ability to use other people’s magic. One night we talked about it... I swear, he stared at me all the time, as if he was deciding to kill me on the spot or not.” She breathed out when Jim placed a hand on her shoulder. “I really thought he was going to, but Pavel was there… He seems to have a strange effect on Nero.”

“The kid? Really?”

“I don’t know if I’d make it out alive without him. He said I can use his magic if I need it… I told him he doesn’t have to be my private magic-battery, but he said it’s ok.” She smiled a bit.

“I’m glad you both made it, but I think we'll meet Nero again, sooner or later.”

“That’s what Nero said about you,” Gaila commented. “He said that he’s keeping a spot for you. That soon you will understand.”

“Understand what?”

“I don’t know, but then something weirder happened. When Pavel and I escaped, it was after I saw Nero talking to one of his group... This girl asked him if it was time to kill me, and he- he said that it wasn’t necessary anymore because I was irrelevant to the story… That he would get the ending he wanted anyway.”

Jim frowned even more. “Sounds like a maniac, if you ask me.”

“Sounds like he’s sure to win,” she said, “As if there’s something only he knows.”

“Ok, but, like what? What could be worse than starting a war?”

“I don’t know... And that keeps him one step ahead of us.”

They stared at each other for a moment, then she looked aside, where Pavel was waving at them. “I think Leonard’s waking up again.”

Jim turned around and ran back to the car where Leonard was crying and mumbling into his restless sleep. “Bones? Bones, it’s alright, you’re safe now,” he told him crouching closer, but the other just flinched at his touch. Jim sighed, looking at the other two, “I need to take him back to the dorm. He’s- I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but he needs to rest in his bed, for started.”

“Of course.” She nodded, looking worryingly at their friend, then blinked and looked at Pavel for a moment, then back at Jim, “Pavel said he can send you both back to the Academy, if you want…” she huffed a little laugh, “And that that wouldn’t be exactly using magic on Leonard, so it’s fine.”

Jim smiled patiently at Pavel. “Gaila said you need to rest…”

“He wants to do it. Just, no car this time. We’ll take care of it later.” She nodded at the kid before looking back at the other. “I don’t think dragging Leonard around the Academy is the best idea at the moment, anyway.”

“Alright… thanks. Just promised me you two will stay low for now. Wait… do you know a witch called Morgan Ishikawa?”

Gaila shook her head but heard Pavel’s answer was different. “I don’t, but he knows her… No idea how.”

“Then you should go meet her,” Jim said to the kid. “She’s not exactly an ally yet, but she was in the Resistance too. If Nero really did something to her friends, Morgan’s is the safest place for you two. I’ll try to meet you there once Leonard will be fine.”

They both nodded and Pavel placed one hand on Jim’s shoulder and the other on Leonard’s, closing his eyes.

“Be careful,” Jim said to Gaila before the world disappeared again. A few seconds later, he was standing in the middle of their dorm’s room, Leonard laying on the floor. “Ok... Now I’ll take care of you…” he said pulling him up and carefully letting him lay on his bed. “I’m not a doctor, but-“ placing a hand over his forehead, Jim swallowed down the tension, “but you clearly have fever, and I… I can deal with that, at least.”

The next hour was all about trying not to panic: Jim never really cared about someone sick, but he knew the basics from all the time he had to take care of himself, and from the memories he had of Sam taking care of his little brother. He put a wet, cold cloth on Leonard’s forehead, keeping him safe under the blanket; he made him drink some water before adding two aspirins in it and, somehow, he managed not to drown him.

It was 10 pm, and all he could do was sitting next to Leonard’s bed, watching him still groaning in pain in a tormented sleep, fighting the urge to call the hospital. He had the feeling the doctor would have got even worse if he did.

“Bones, I don’t know what else to do to help you…” Jim murmured sadly, staring at him, “There’s a reason why I’m the Captain and you- you’re my doctor.” He slowly passed a hand through Leonard’s hair- and he didn’t flinch this time. “If I don’t see you getting better tomorrow, I’ll take you to the hospital, ok? I know you hate it, but I- I can’t help you…” I’m not enough.

Jim took a deep breath and dropped his face into both hands, praying the morning would’ve made the last day disappear.

Chapter Text

Sadly, that night became the longest Jim had since he helped Gaila escape.

Leonard kept rolling in his bed for hours, mumbling, lost in who knows what terrible nightmares. Jim tried to wake him up a few times- when he sounded ready to start screaming, but even if the doctor opened his eyes, a second later they were close again, trapping him back into a feverish sleep. Fever that didn’t dropped until it was three in the morning: only then, Leonard’s conditions finally started to get slightly better, his sleep finally becoming calmer.

After that, Jim didn’t even realize falling asleep- or moving into Leonard's bed. When he opened his eyes again, he was just laying there next to him, with no will, nor strength to move. Sighing, he stared at Leonard's profile keeping his arms crossed between them, not wanting to disturb him in any way. Sleeping together probably wasn’t the best idea, but it was the closest he could get.

Looking up at the window, Jim saw it was still dark outside, but he could hear soft sounds from the campus and muffled voices outside, in the corridor. He wondered how long it would have taken to see Pike kicking the door down, screaming and asking for an explanation about the magic semi-war happened at Green Lake.

I hope Annabelle and Krane are alright… Jim thought, nudging his face against Leonard’s shoulder. Despite his concerns, that was the place he needed to be at the moment.

Leonard moved a bit just then and flinched hard before opening his eyes again.

Jim looked at him, waiting, before deciding what to do.

The doctor blinked and looked around, his whole body relaxing against the mattress after a moment- then he turned to the man next to him.

“Hey… How’re feeling?” Jim murmured, staying up on one elbow.

Leonard swallowed, and then frowned. “The lake-“ he said, trying to get up.

“No, no- hey, we’re back to the Academy. We’re safe.” Jim said placing a hand over his chest to stop him, not fast enough, and the other sat up before he did.

“But it’s- we were- ugh…” Leonard groaned, grasping the space between neck and shoulder once again.

“It still hurts?” Jim asked.

“W-what about the witch? What about Annabelle?"

“We’ll talk about that later, now you just need to rest.” He barely brushed a hand over his shoulder, but the other slapped it away instantly, the sound echoing in the room. Jim was so surprised he didn’t even manage to hide how that slap felt like a stab in the heart.

Leonard noticed it too, despite the fever, and he looked terribly guilty. Slowly, he took Jim’s hand in his own. “Sorry… I didn’t mean to. I- I’m sorry.”

Jim breathed out, “It’s ok. I know you're in pain… I shouldn’t have.”

“I’m used to it.” Leonard’s voice was lower and colder now, staring at the blanket covering his legs. “I thought I was. It hurts most of the time… I’m so tired of this…”

Jim was going to say something, but Leonard suddenly turned to kiss him, pushing him back down on the bed, and nothing but those lips occupied his mind for a while. They both needed it… After the hell of a day they had, that was all Jim would have asked for. He tried to hug him, but Leonard grabbed both his wrists and pinned them down on the bed while getting more space between Jim’s legs.

When they parted, it was just for Leonard to start kissing his neck. Jim let out a deep sigh, inebriated by the good sensations. Shivering when he pulled his shirt up with a hand, Jim jumped when Leonard’s forehead touched his chest: it was burning hot- and not because of what they were doing. “Bones, can we- can we call a timeout?”

“No.” He simply answered, sucking the skin over his stomach while unbuttoning his jeans.

“Ah- I- I mean it. I don’t think this is-“ another shiver made him forgot what he trying to say, watching Leonard pulling down his trousers before dragging him even closer- and Jim realized Leonard was as hard as he was.

“You don’t thinks this is what?” Leonard murmured moving the sheets away along with Jim’s clothes.

“…Huh?...”

“Exactly.” He purred, kissing him again.

Jim was too tired to resist- too excited. They waited for this for so long...
When Leonard moved away to kiss his shoulder, Jim noticed he was still fully dressed, so he tried to pull up his shirt as well, but Leonard held his arms down again- and that was what slowly made him come back down to earth. “Bones…”

“No timeout.”

Jim huffed a little laugh, despite everything. A gasp escaped his lips when Leonard’s hands moved to remove his pants too, and alarms started ringing. He was going to do something now, or let something else happen. “No timeout, but listen to me for a sec?” he said and Leonard’s tired groan vibrated against his chest, almost making him come just by that.

“I’m listening.” The doctor said, still kissing and sucking all over his body.

“T-the scars on your back… Who did it?” Jim had many talents, but ruining the mood has never been one of them… Until now. Leonard completely froze- hard to tell if he was breathing, at least. “I know you don’t want to talk about it-“

“Then why you ask?” Leonard moved back a little, still holding him there. “Did you- You saw them?”

“No.”

“I told you not to look at it! I asked you to-“

“I didn’t see anything. You told me to take you away from Green Lake and that’s what I did.”

“Then why are you asking me about it now?”

Because at least one of us should be honest before doing this, was what Jim wanted to say. “Because if we’re going to do this, I need to know why I can’t even touch you.” He said, and Leonard just stared down at him. “I mean, if you’re into these kind of things, we can arrange something for the next time, but now… This is our- you know… moment.” Jim knew his face was deep red. The words first time were just too much for him to articulate.

“My mother. She-“ Leonard stopped as if that sentence has slipped out by accident, but a second later he realized it was too late to take it back. “She did it.”

Jim opened his mouth, too surprised to say anything.

“She didn’t mean to. She- she was under a spell… It forced her to beat me, and then…” Leonard breathed out, each word feeling as heavy as a house. “She used a broken a glass- on my back. Writing some magic shit. And then- then, whoever did it, killed her and left me to die there. Still don’t know how I've survived.”

Jim could feel the entire room suddenly colder than ever. Just imagining what Leonard was saying… His mother; he being left there, bleeding to death, knowing that his family just got murdered…

“The scars never healed. They hurt every time evil magic is close enough to me. I can feel it… They hurt like my mom- like someone is cutting them open again.” He said and let him go, sitting between his legs. “I’ve never talked about this to anyone. I thought people would’ve tried to use me- or study me and these damn scars. The last thing I wanted was to become a rat-lab. If I can’t hide them, I keep saying these are just the scars of a survivor... I hate it. It's- I’m disgusting.”

You’re not.” Jim instantly said.

“Really? I am a radar for murder! Every time these scars hurt, I know someone is probably dying, and I can’t do anything about it! Just like the first time…” Leonard’s eyes were full of tears that finally started to fall, and he hid his face into both hands.

Jim was around him in a second, holding him as tight as he could, feeling him shaking and crying like he never did before in front of him. You have all the rights to hate magic… and me, he thought, silently crying with him, keeping both arms around his neck, careful not to touch his back- almost scared to do so, because magic caused Leonard so much pain… The same magic Jim has.

.-.

The morning after, Jim woke up alone. He slowly sat up and looked around: it was day outside, 8 AM; he could hear the water running in Leonard’s bathroom... And I’m still half naked, he noticed looking down at himself. Then, he saw his clothes carefully placed at the bed’s end. That particular made him smile a bit: Bones was himself again.

Wearing only his jeans, he stood in front of the bathroom’s door that was ajar, not sure of what to do or say. After the last night, and the last day, what was the right thing to do? Avoid talking about the lake, and witches, and- and magic, scars, and also family… Basically no talking. We can eat. Food is always the right answer.

“Jim?” Leonard called from inside the room.

“Pancakes?” Jim said, facepalming himself a second later.

“…What?”

“I mean, how are you? Feeling better? Fever’s gone?”

“Yeah…”

“Good. That’s good…” Jim sighed, looking around, “Want some coffee? I can go downstairs and-“

“No... no coffee.”

“No coffee…? Bones, are you sure you’re ok?”

“Look, I- would you just come inside a moment?”

Jim blinked, surprised- but then it started to make sense: Leonard always changed in the bathroom, always locked the door when showering… Everything to let no one see the scars on his body. “I can wait that you’re done if you want.”

“It’s gonna take a while… I can’t move right now.”

Jim stepped inside in a second, finding him immersed in the bathtub, facing the other side.

“Relax, I’m not drowning.” Leonard sighed, turning his head a bit.

“You could’ve pointed that out, first,” Jim murmured moving closer. Leonard’s body was only half hidden by light foam- and it was hard to ignore the other half. His back was pressed against the tub- hidden.

Leonard looked up at him, his hair just a bit wet. “Are you blushing?”

“No. It’s- it’s hot in here.” He said, clearing his throat while sitting on the edge of the tub.

“It was kind of hot on the other room as well, tonight...”

Jim wished he was being ironic, but that wasn’t the case: Leonard was staring at the water, blushing as well, ashamed.

“And I don’t mean it as a good thing.” The doctor quickly added, catching him staring.

“Well, it was pretty good, if you ask me…” Jim couldn’t resist.

“Of course it was, but it wasn’t how- how it was supposed to be. And I’m glad one of us realized that before- before it was too late.”

“Bones, it was nothing that horrible…”

“It was. I don’t- something like that never happened to me before. I’m-“

“You couldn’t wait to show me how much you love me.”

Leonard sighed, feeling even worse. “I’m serious. It was shameful jumping on you like that. You mean more than that to me. You deserve more than that for our- you know…“

Moment?”

“That.”

Jim wished he should show him how much those words meant for him. “Bones, I’m not angry at you.” He said sitting on the floor so that they were at the same eye-level.

“You should be.”

“Why? Because you were sick and in pain?”

“Because I almost shot you. And because I shouldn’t have dropped my problems on you.”

“You said you were going to tell me about it, eventually.”

“That was before I realized you really wanted to stick with me.”

Jim opened his mouth in surprise, smiling a second later, “Are you serious?”

“You think I was hiding this shit for fun?” Leonard snorted, sitting more straight, “It’s fucked up- I am, and telling you about it… Admitting what of a freak I am…”

“You really thought I would have turned against you? Because of something you couldn’t even stop from happening?” Wrong words, Jim thought a second later, watching him look down again, a dark expression on his face. “Bones, what happened to you it’s- is terrible. I’m sorry you had to go through something like that, but you were strong enough to survive. Those scars…” Jim sighed when he looked back at him because Leonard’s expression was heartbreaking. “I can see why you think it’s a curse, I know it keeps reminding you about your family, but the pain also reminds you that you’re alive. And if it becomes too much, I’m here for you. I’m not- I don’t know if that’s enough, but never, ever feel like you have to hide from me.”

Leonard’s eyes were watery again, but he just nodded, raising a hand from the water, moving it through Jim’s hair to get closer, staring into his eyes, “You mean the world to me, you know that, right?”

“Yeah, but it’s always nice to hear it,” Jim smiled leaving a tender kiss on his lips.

When they parted, staying so close, Leonard sighed and murmured, “You... You want to give it another try?”

Jim swallowed. “In the bathtub? Really?”

“I think it’s worth our moment…”

Jim just wanted to say yes and jump into the warm water to show him how much important he was for him as well- but that old, cold voice inside his head stopped him once again.

“Unless you have something else in mind,” Leonard added, smiling lovingly at him. “Whatever you want.”

Jim’s heart become suddenly heavier. “No- no, this is- this would be perfect... You’re perfect, but I…” I have to tell him. I have to, I have no more excuses to keep lying. “T- there’s something I need to tell you first, so... What about you get dressed, we have breakfast and then- then we…”

“Ok. It’s alright,” Leonard said, frowning a bit, caressing his head. “I know it’s a lot to take in… Take all the time you need,” he said, but the other just nodded. “Jim…?”

A strong banging at their door made both jump.

Jim breathed out and gave him a little smile before standing and leaving the bathroom, closing one door and opening the other one.

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED AT GREEN LAKE?” Pike roared storming inside the room, “It’s a damn war zone there and you and McCoy disappeared!”

“We’re fine. I tried to call you, but I guess the Federation was already keeping you busy.”

“They sent in everyone! Half of the army is still there, trying to contain the number of victims of a spell that gave hallucinations!” he yelled slamming the door shut.

“The spell’s still working?”

Pike looked ready to explode. “YES, IS STILL WORKING!”

“We got it too, but we left the area before the explosion.”

“You were under the spell?” Pike asked, and the other nodded. “What about McCoy?”

“I’m fine,” the doctor himself answered standing in the bathroom’s doorway, wearing some of the clothes he used to keep in there- another detail that finally made sense for Jim.

Pike studied him. “Not sure about that…”

Jim sighed, sending an intense glare at the Captain that let the doctor alone, waiting for him to continue. “Gaila helped us escape. We’re alive thanks to her and her friend.”

“The kid? They’re still together?” Pike asked and took a deep breath when he nodded again. Sending a brief look at the doctor, he then said, “I need to talk to you. I’ll wait downstairs,” leaving the room the without another word.

Leonard followed him with his eyes and then snorted. “I really don’t look that good, huh?”

Jim sighed. “You’re just a bit pale. You need to rest.”

“I’ve rested enough.”

“Bones, that wasn't a suggestingion. I’m telling you to lay down on that bed and rest.”

“Since when I take orders from you?”

“Oh, so you can be bossy with me, but I can’t?”

“…Fine.” Leonard murmured nervously, sitting on the bed, a light blush on his cheeks.

“Not that I didn’t like it…” Jim commented moving in front of him, and Leonard promptly dragged him into his arms. “Let me go talk to Pike, ok? I’ll be back in a moment.”

“Why you can’t talk here?”

“I’ll send him your complaints.”

Leonard breathed out and bumped his face against his stomach. “Did Gaila and that kid really saved us?”

“They did. He brought us away before- whatever happened there.”

He moved back to look up at him, “You still don’t know what happened?”

“Not exactly. I’m sure Pike will tell me more.” He said and Leonard nodded, slowly letting him go. It was clear that the last events hit deeply on the doctor, and the last thing Jim wanted to do was leaving him alone. “I’ll be right back.” He said kissing his hair before grabbing a random hoodie from a chair, wearing it while leaving the room.

The Captain was outside, far from the dorm’s entrance. He took a deep breath when Jim finally arrived. “Sorry if I interrupted something, back there.”

“You didn’t. Leonard has been sick all night because of that spell… I tried to take care of him.”

“It affected you as well?”

“Just for a moment.”

“I know lots of our men got through the same thing,” Pike sighed worryingly. “Can you tell me what happened?”

“We got there and we found Annabelle, but she had lost her magic.”

The Captain frowned, “How’s that even possible?”

“I don’t know how exactly, but she has been forced to accept one of those marks, and that did something to her magic. I helped her get it back before Nero’s friend showed up, at least, but- everything went to hell from there.”

“How did they found you?”

“I think it happened when I touched her mark... It kind of warned them. Luckily, Krane came to help us. I left them fighting there… I needed to take Leonard away. Then Nero arrived and I don’t know what happened. The kid, Pavel, saved us just in time before the explosion… It was an explosion, right?”

Pike nodded. “It destroyed the whole area. Green Lake’s gone.”

Jim took a deep breath. “Any survivors?”

“They’re still doing research, but the center of the explosion it’s impossible to reach because of that spell.”

“You want me to…?”

“No. No, we’ll deal with it. You should stay with McCoy. He looks like he got through hell.”

“He did...” Jim said, trying not to think about it. “Gaila also told me Nero is planning something no one knows about... Something worse than a war.” He said, lowering his voice.

“Well, that’s encouraging…” Pike sighed, and then frowned, “How did she know?”

“Nero’s men helped her and Pavel after they escaped. She stayed with them as long as she could, undercover.”

“She- my God…” Pike groaned passing a hand over his face.

“I know, but it was her idea. She’s still part of the ‘Fleet.” Jim said with a little smile.

Pike thought for a moment, then shook his head. “This makes the situation even worse. What is that Nero really wants? What he’s trying to accomplish if a revenge isn’t enough?”

“I don’t know, but I’m planning to meet up with them and Morgan as soon as Leonard gets better. Maybe together we’ll manage to understand something more.”

“Alright. Thank them for me.” Pike said and the other nodded, turning to leave. “And, Jim… Thanks to you as well. I’m glad you and McCoy are safe.”

Jim smiled a bit and nodded again, walking back in the dorm. Entering the room with a cup of coffee in hand, he noticed Leonard sitting at the desk, watching the news on his laptop. Closing the door, he moved closer, realizing why Pike was so worried: Green Lake doesn’t exist anymore; half of the woods were gone, along with the whole lake. The explosion has left just a giant, black, circular mark on the area once green and full of life.

“We were there just hours ago…” Leonard commented, breathing out. He then looked at him, “Can you tell me what happened after I left you with Annabelle or is confidential?”

“Nero’s men arrived, looking for her," Jim said, handing him the coffee. "Then Benjamin Krane appeared and he helped her get back to normal, and me to escape. I left and started searching for you before the real battle started.”

Leonard was looking at the screen, but then just closed the laptop. “That’s why my scars were hurting so much…”

“Does it really works only with evil magic?” He asked, sitting on the bed close by.

“I had plenty of time to test it,” the doctor nodded. “There were way more evil sorcerers around in the past... But it also happened that I saw people using magic and the scars didn’t react. After a while, I realized they did hurt only when bad things happened.” He stopped, looking embarrassed, "It's so weird talking about it with you..."

"If you don't want to-"

"I do. I- I trust you," he said, "Just, whatever you want to know, ask me now because I could get nervous again and change my mind later."

Jim smiled a bit at him. “Tonight you said you’re used to it… You mean you’re in pain all the time?”

“Not like this... Most of the times it’s more like- like something you need to scratch away. It’s annoying, but it’s constant, so it doesn’t bother me that much anymore.” Leonard said and noticed his sad face. “Don’t look at me like that. It’s for the better, really, but since I arrived here… You know, with that sorcerer that attacked you, and then the virus, Sophia- and that damn storm…”

Jim’s heart skipped a beat. “What storm?”

“That magic storm that hit while I was at the hospital. It woke me up… They sedated me because no one knew why I was in pain. I didn’t tell them anything, but then Pike come making questions…”

The storm hurt him? Jim’s mind has stopped on that thought, remembering about that terrible night. My magic hurt him? I’m- my magic is evil…?

“-you ok? Jim?”

He blinked at looked up at him. “Sorry, I- I spaced out for a sec. What were you saying?”

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Yes. Yes, I’m… I’m fine, but I- I have to leave for a while again, if that’s ok for you?” he said standing up.

“Leave? Where to?”

“I have to meet Gaila. I told her to go to Morgan’s hotel- I think we can consider her an ally by now. We- we still need to talk.”

“About what?”

“About Nero. Gaila stayed in his group for a while, trying to get information. I’ll pass them to Pike and-“

“Why can’t you just tell me what’s wrong?” Leonard interrupted him.

“Nothing. Nothing, really, but there’s a lot to do and after what happened, I think Nero will make his move sooner than we thought.”

Leonard kept staring at him. “Jim, if what I told you scared you-”

“It doesn’t. I swear, it’s not you that scares me.”

The doctor frowned, “Then what?”

“I didn’t mean-“

“You’re a terrible liar.”

Jim wanted to tell him the truth, he was ready to, but knowing that his magic caused Leonard the same pain he felt in his past- that scared him more than the storm itself. “What I feel for you isn’t a lie. It has never been a lie. Not even for a second.”

Leonard blinked, taken aback.

Jim wasn’t sure what he was saying anymore, he was slowly panicking more and more. “I never thanked you enough for what you did for me, and I should have. I should tell you that I love you more often, because- now I don’t know if you’re going to believe me.”

“I- I do, of course I do. Why are you talking like this?”

“Because I do love you, and I need you to know that that’s real.”

Leonard stared at him, then his eyes became a bit more serious, “And what isn’t?”

Jim knew there was no turning back now- and suddenly something boomed outside, making the whole dorm tremble. Trying to keep his balance, he grabbed Leonard’s hands when he stood as well.

“Now what?” the doctor groaned nervously and groaned, grasping his shoulder in pain. “Magic… figures.”

Jim moved to the window, “It’s not from Green Lake, we would see it…”

“The roof,” Leonard said and he nodded, both leaving the room and running upstairs. Once there, they looked around: the Federation’s HQ looked fine as well, just as the Academy…

Jim looked to the other side, at the center of the city. “Shit…”

“What?” Leonard followed his gaze, noticing smoke rising from the streets. “You know what’s there?”

“Morgan’s hotel…”

The doctor stopped him by his arm before he could run away. “You’re not going there, are you?”

“Of course I am, she could be in danger!”

“And if there are more sorcerers fighting what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know- I’ll think about it once I’m there.” He said but the other didn’t let go.

“Jim, are you listening to yourself?!”

“She saved our lives!”

“Pike is probably going to set up a team. We can join them-”

You are not going anywhere.”

“Well, then neither are you!” Leonard yelled back.

Jim took a deep breath, grabbing his arm as well. “Bones-”

“Oh, please, spare me the crap-“

“I told Gaila to go there. I told her she would’ve been safe.” He insisted, “I need to check she’s ok, and it’s not in my nature to wait and hope for the best.”

Leonard’s hold tightened, but he knew there was no way to change Jim’s mind. “If you find her, you both take your ass back here, am I clear? Don’t try anything stupid.”

“Do I ever?” Jim grinned, running away when the other let him go.

Leonard watched him leaving, then turned to the smoke rising in the distance and took a deep breath before leaving the roof.

 

Jim kept running as fast as he could towards the place of the explosion, following the smoke, ignoring all the people and cars going in the opposite direction. He could feel magic, but not as strong as the day before at the lake. Maybe the explosion wasn’t caused by magic… Hopefully.

When he was close to the park where he met Kara the first time, he saw a building not too far has been damaged: the first and second floor were destroyed.

“Jim!”

He turned around and saw Gaila running down the street. “You’re ok? We heard the explosion, I thought-“

“Nero’s men tried to attack the hotel.” She said, “There are people injured inside. Kara and the others are trying to keep them in the park, but I doubt they’ll surrender so easily.”

“Attacking the city in the middle of the day? Half of the Federation is... They’re still busy at Green Lake, damn it! Where’s Morgan?” he asked running to the hotel.

“I don’t know. She wasn’t here when we arrived.” She said following.

Kirk!” Kara roared walking out the hotel. “What the hell have you done?! What happened to Annabelle?!”

“I don’t know. Where’s Morgan?”

“She ran away looking for her right after Green Lake was destroyed!”

Jim sighed in despair. “Last time I saw her, Annabelle was fighting Nero’s men with Krane... Then Nero arrived. I don’t know what happened after.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what is going to happen now: if Morgan gets angry, Nero will be our last problem!”

“What is that?” Gaila asked, looking at the sky.

They followed her gaze and noticed strange, shining streaks flashing weakly above the city. “What kind of spell is that?” Jim asked.

“A bad one.” Pavel said, suddenly standing next Gaila.

Jim looked at him, “You know what is it?” he asked, but the kid kept staring at the sky with a worried frown, shaking his head in no.

“They’re going to attack us again if we don't block them...” Kara said, her eyes shining gold while staring at the chaos around them. “We need to keep them away from the hotel. We can’t fight them here- HEY!” she yelled, going to talk with few members of her group.

Gaila stared worriedly at them, then her eyes met Jim’s. “Nero is making his move…”

“He was keeping Annabelle at Green Lake as a bait,” Jim said angrily, shaking his head, “And we all fell for it.”

“We couldn’t know...” she said, then looked at Pavel. “He said Starfleet is coming.”

Jim looked down the street, hearing sirens in the distance. “We need to keep them away from here."

“They could help us.”

“You think they’ll distinguish bad sorcerers from good ones? We’re all their enemies right now.”

“We are not”, Pavel commented, offended, and they both huffed a laugh.

“He’s right. If Pike is there, we might be able to convince them to cooperate.” Gaila said, watching him staring in a tense silence. “Jim, if we can’t fight Nero alone, we need to do it together. None of us can hold back anymore.”

“We’ll keep them busy in the park. The three of you better stay here.” Kara said, ready to leave with a team of twenty between sorcerers and witches.

“Then we’ll try to talk with Starfleet,” Gaila said, and she looked back at her as if she was insane. “Jim and I are still part of it, and we need all the help we can get. Or you think you can fight Nero by yourself?”

“This isn’t the time for hoping for miracles, miss. And this have nothing to do with Starfleet-“

“It’s our city too!” Gaila insisted. “I'm just asking you not to kill them right away. Let us try.”

Kara stared at her, then at Jim and back at her. “I’m warning you, if they start shooting at us, we’ll shoot back.” That said, she ran away.

Jim swallowed, looking at her. “You really want to do this?”

She sighed patiently. “If you need to think about it a bit longer, just be my shield and tell them not to kill me. We need to talk with Pike before the situations get worse.”

Jim nodded and all three ran down the street. His mind was focused on what to say once facing the others… What if Pike wasn’t there? He alone would have been able to convince them to listen to Gaila?

“Well, they’re coming,” Gaila said, watching Starfleet’s and police’s cars approaching at full speed. “Ready?” she asked looking at Pavel than nodded.

When they slowed down, waiting for them, there was another explosion behind them and Jim held both of them, crouching together behind a car, taking cover from the cloud of dust and debriefs flying everywhere while the ground kept shaking. “Kara and her friends are already having fun…” he said coughing.

“Maybe too much-!” Gaila and Pavel fell against him when the pavement cracked and started rising.

Jim looked over the car and blinked in surprise when he saw the trees moving. “The trees are- fighting…?”

“That’s not the problem right now!”

“The trees are alive, that's not a prob-?!”

“Look!” Gaila said, grabbing his shirt and pointing at the cars, “The street is going to collapse, we need to stop them!”

Pavel stood up and grabbed a broken branch, thrusting it into the broken pavement: using his magic, the little piece of wood grown anew and more branches moved through the cracks too keep the street together.

“Where did he come from, again?” Jim said, both of them staring at the kid in amaze.

“No idea…” she commented, then Pavel turned to her. Gaila listen for a moment and then nodded, “It’s ok. Do it.”

“What? What is he doing?” Jim asked, looking between them, but Pavel has already turned around to focus on his magic.

“He can’t keep the spell working for long, the area is too big, so he’ll block the streets. It’s too dangerous for people to come here.”

Jim nodded. “I’m sure they’ll find need another way to reach us, anyway...” he said, helping her to stand. “We can still-“ suddenly, all three of them shivered and turned around.

“Nero…” Gaila murmured, and saw him running back towards the park. “Jim, wait!” she yelled following, Pavel right behind.

Kara was trying to stand, watching the fights going inside the park when she turned to the entrance and saw them. “What are you doing here? I told you to stay away!”

Pavel looked behind her and raised a hand, creating a shield that protected them from a flying wall that crumbled into pieces right after the hit.

“Damn it…” Kara said, helped by Gaila to stand again.

“Nero’s coming,” Jim said.

“That’s why you have to leave!” she insisted.

“Everyone should! He’s going to kill all of you!” Jim shout back.

“Watch out!” Gaila yelled and raised her arms to stop a series of lighting that started flashing around them while Pavel used his magic to bend a tree that protected them from fire attacks coming from the other side.

Kara and Jim stayed between them, “Why you can’t use your magic?” she asked him, brushing blood away from her face, but the cut on her temple looked deep.

“It’s too dangerous.”

“Why, this doesn’t look dangerous to you?” she said ready to go back fighting.

Jim noticed someone standing on the gazebo down the cliff… the girl with the patch on her eye. “No, wait!” he said, stopping Kara by her arm.

“You can be scared as you want, but I’m not!”

“That girl- she’s the one that used the spell on the woods!”

“So what? I’ll deal with her in a second!”

“Come on, you will hurt Yda’s feelings.” Shawn said, casually standing behind them.

“You, son of a-” Kara was ready to jump on him, but Gaila and Jim stopped her.

“Sorry, we don’t have time to play with you anymore.” That said, Shawn created a shining sphere into his hand and throw it against them.

Jim stepped to cover the others, but the bright light forced him to cover his face with both arms. Daring to look up, he could see a red aura all around them… and someone covered in flames in front of them. He could see a woman shape into the fire.

Shawn had jumped back, smiling tiredly at the newly arrived. “Greetings, Morgan.”

Morgan?” Jim and Gaila echoed.

Morgan Ishikawa was almost impossible to recognize: her whole body, her long hair- even the shape of the short dress she was wearing, were all made of fire. “You shouldn’t have come here.” She said, her voice slightly altered. “And Nero should have had leave Annabelle alone.”

“She made her choice,” Yda said, appearing next to Shawn.

Morgan eyes were two red-bright spots on her face and they flashed even more at those words. “Just like you made yours. Now, it’s your time to face the consequences of your actions.”

Jim saw the flames grown stronger and higher, until all he could see was fire everywhere, even if not feeling the heat of it: Kara dragged them all away, and Jim could only see chaos spreading like a virus… It was the beginning of the war- just like Nero has planned.

Chapter Text

Nero was standing on the roof of the old library, staring at the clouds moving in circle in the sky turning darker by the second; the wind was growing stronger, screams were echoing from the center of the city- and the sorcerer could do anything but smile. Looking down at the park where the battle has finally started, he took a deep breath, smelling smoke and magic in the air. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this moment, James,” he murmured to himself. “The time has finally come… Time for me to fulfill my promise.”

.-.-.-.

“Come on, move!” Kara kept yelling while dragging Gaila and Pavel by their arm, running away from the center of the park.

“We can’t leave Morgan fighting alone!” Jim said, right behind them.

“Why, you want to help her? You can’t even use your magic!”

“I can try to-“

Kara pushed the other two into the street and smashed Jim against the metal fence, “Trying was enough until this war started! Now I have to check how many of us are still alive and see if I can help my wife get some control back, before she sets the whole damn city on fire!”

Gaila stepped in, “We have to-“

“And I can’t waste my time with you,” she continued turning to her, “so you will leave this place and tell your friend in Starfleet to stay away. They are the last thing Morgan needs to see right now. Am I clear?” She asked, but none of them said anything. “Am I clear?

“Yes, you are. Come on,” Jim cut short, walking away.

Gaila kept staring at her for another moment before following him, Pavel quickly doing the same. Once they reached Jim, she sighed nervously, “I don’t like this…”

“You heard the boss,” he said without turning around.

“Yes, but I still don’t like it. They need help. If Nero shows up-“

“Morgan can handle him.”

“You think?” Gaila asked, but the other didn’t answer, so she suddenly stopped, Pavel tripping against her. “Morgan can’t stop him and you know that.”

Jim finally turned around. “We don’t know that. Maybe she actually can. Maybe Annabelle and Krane managed to weaken him enough for her to finish the job-“

“And you really believe that?”

“I have to, or it would mean that they’re both dead already!” Jim screamed angrily, and she just stared at him in silence. “What you want me to do? I can’t fight him- I can’t fight at all, none of us can. We’re not even soldiers!”

“That doesn’t mean we can fight.”

“How? Just tell me how.”

“That’s what we need to find out! If no one can stop Nero-“

Pavel pushed her away when a building next to them got hit by magic and fragments of the walls fell down, destroying the cars parked below, or abandoned during the chaos.

Jim ran back to help her standing, both coughing in the dust. “You ok?”

“Yes… where’s Pavel?” she asked looking back, finding the kid on the ground, slowly getting up while moving away from the cars. She reached him, checking him up and down, “You’re bleeding…”

He shook his head, but there were scratches on the side of his face, few on his forehead were deep.

Jim looked around and took a shirt from inside one of the cars, snatching a long piece that Gaila used as a bandage around the kid’s head. “We need to take him away,” Jim said, but Pavel shook his head again, pointing up. Following his gaze, they noticed people still inside the half-destroyed building, few of them trying to free others stuck on the highest floors.

“Pavel, we need to take care of you now,” Gaila insisted.

“You try to reach the others. Find Pike,” Jim said, looking at her. “I’ll go check in there.”

“Pike won’t listen to me-“

“He will. He knows what you’ve done for us.”

“Jim-“

I sure can’t fight, but I can try to help those people, at least,” he said. “That’s what Starfleet do, right? Helping people. Outer space, as on Earth.”

Gaila sighed in defeat. “Just be careful. Hold on until backups arrives, ok?”

He nodded watching the two walking away. Pavel is just a kid, and he’s already stronger and braver than me, Jim thought while entering the building. I can’t use magic, I can’t protect anyone… What am I doing here in the first place?

“Hey! Please, help me!” A man called for him from the top of the stairs of the fourth floor, a thick dark beard covering half of his face and few scratches over his blue shirt. “My daughter needs help- I can’t reach her!”

“Ok, calm down. We'll help her. She’s hurt?” Jim said following him inside the apartment, walking through the kitchen.

“I don’t know. We were leaving, then there was an explosion while she was still in her room,” he said pointing at the giant library and part of the ceiling blocking the access to the living room.

“Ok… What’s her name?”

“Ellie. I tried to call her but she’s not answering…”

Jim nodded, trying to look in the other room, but all he could see were a tv crashed on the floor, as half of the furniture. Looking around, Jim moved to the little balcony out the kitchen: he could see the battle raging in the park, fire spreading everywhere. Another explosion made the whole building tremble and he almost fell over the banister, but the man held him by his arm and pulled him back to safety. “T- Thanks. Ok, sir, now I need you to-“

“Joel. I- I’m Joel.”

“Jim,” he nodded. “Ok, Joel, I’ll go help your daughter, but you need to go-"

"I can help you!"

"It’s not safe here.”

“I’m not leaving her!”

“I’ll take her out of here, I promise, but there are more people that might need help, including yourself. I can’t help anyone if the building collapse!”

The man didn’t wanted to leave, but he realized Jim wasn’t going to move if he stayed. “Ok… ok. Please, help her.”

“I will. Now, go.”

After another moment, Joel nodded and left.

Jim breathed out and carefully climbed on top of the railing, keeping both hands on the wall until he finally found the courage to jump: it wasn’t a very long jump, and he somehow managed to stand on the opposite barrier- before another earthquake hit, forcing him to quickly jump down. Allowing himself few seconds to breathe, he then opened the high windows and entered the living room. Chairs, books and paintings were scattered everywhere on the floor… There were three others doors visible from there: one was open, and there was Ellie, a fourteen looking girl laying on her back under a wardrobe, cursing at it while trying to get free.

“Hey… Hold on. I’m here to help.” Jim said running to her that suddenly turned to him. “Your dad is waiting downstairs. We’ll meet him in a second, alright?”

“Is he ok? Was he hurt?”

“He’s fine, but the building isn’t stable, so I told him to leave.” Jim grabbed the wardrobe and started pulling up, but it was heavier than it looked. “Son of a- cow.”

"A cow? Really?" Ellie huffed, grinning, “I've come up with better insults than that in the last ten minutes.”

Jim sighed, looking around for a second. “Do you have anything broken down there?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so- but it hurts.”

“Ok… that’s good. That nothing’s broken, I mean. You know, I have a friend that-“ Jim started pulling again, “would have been more than- happy to be here right now. He’s a doctor- way better than me…” and let go once again, breathing hard.

“And why he’s not here with you?”

Jim’s heart hurt at that. “I wish he was. He always knows what to do…” Taking a deep breath, he tried once again, but the wardrobe barely moved, even with the girl trying to help, pushing from underneath. The building trembled again, and a crack appeared on the ceiling.

Jim looked up at it, then thought for a moment before looking back at her, “Ellie, can I ask you something?”

“Well, it's not like I can say no and leave…”

“There’s one way to get you out of here, but it might be dangerous. You have to promise me you’ll stay very still and- don’t be scared?”

She frowned but nodded. “Ok.”

Jim grabbed the wardrobe again and closed his eyes, thinking about all the people that told him to make a choice so far. The war has started anyway, and there was no turning back. If he could help someone, it was time to make the difference, as he always wanted.

Ellie felt the wardrobe rising and she quickly started moving away from it, her legs finally free. When she started to stand, the building bend on the side of the street, making her lose her balance- and she would have rolled away if Jim hadn’t grabbed her by the arm.

“I got you…” he said holding on the doorway with the other hand, laying on the floor, trying to help her climb on him.

They were almost face to face when she looked at him and gasped, noticing his eyes shining gold: Ellie suddenly flinched back and fell down, sliding on the floor, through the living room, straight to the balcony.

“Ellie- Ellie hold on something!” Jim yelled but in few seconds she disappeared out the window with a scream. Jim stood still for a moment, frozen in disbelief and fear. When he realized that what just happened wasn’t a nightmare he could wake up from, he stood and reached the balcony as quickly as he could, holding on anything that could help him slow the fall. She’s dead… she’s dead because of me… Oh, God, no…no no…

Four floors below, in the street, Spock looked up, keeping a terrified Ellie into his arms- the poor girl was keeping a deadly grasp around his neck, but he didn’t seem bothered about it. Joel reached them a moment later.

Still too scared to move, or even feel relieved, Jim just stared at them, waiting for his heart to stop pounding into his chest- for his eyes to convince him that Ellie wasn’t dead… Ellie was safe.

She hugged his dad and then looked up at him and smiled a bit, waving a hand.

Jim managed a slight nod… That smile helping him start breathing again.

Spock sent the two civilians away and looked up again. “Kirk, I would like to know what are you doing here?”

“What?”

“I would like to know-“

“Sorry, I can’t hear you!” Jim yelled and grinned a bit when the Vulcan sent a murderous look at him. “Hold on. I’ll be there in a sec...” he said taking a deep breath and carefully making his way back to the first floor. “Good catch, by the way,” he said once in front of him.

Spock has moved few meters away from the building that looked ready to collapse on the street at any moment. “Do I have to tell you that the situation is difficult enough without wasting time and resources in-“

“In saving people? Isn’t that our job?”

“Usually, yes. However, in case of emergency, we have different protocols.”

“I think only you can define a war an emergency so casually…”

Spock blinked. “And I think finding the more correct definition for the present situation isn’t our first priority.”

Jim grinned. “You know, I might need someone like you in my crew…”

The other frowned before a tree on fire flied above them and crashed against the buildings, making them move away.

“Where are the others?” Jim asked, “I need to talk with Pike-“

“I’ve already sent Gaila to meet him,” Spock said taking his stunner in hand, ready to use it.

“You did?”

“She explained the situation to me, and I found her request reasonable enough to-“

“I thought you would’ve followed the protocols and arrested her.”

“That was my first intention,” he confirmed, staring intently at him, “but, considering the very unpredictable circumstances we are into at the moment, I thought it would have been wiser to accept her help.”

Unpredictable circumstances.” Jim echoed, unimpressed.

“That’s what I said.”

“It’s so hard to call it for what it is, a goddamn war?!”

“The result it would be same. Still, innocents are in danger and they might need to be evacuated before the Federation will decide to-”

“They’re not going to attack, right?”

“Of course they will.”

“Well, you need to tell them to wait. Half of the sorcerers here are trying to save us from- from the other half. The evil half!”

“It might be new to you, but any form of magic is forbidden.”

“Yeah, go tell that to the trees walking around.”

Spock turned to the park, frowning even more. “That’s… unusual. And against the law, nonetheless.” He commented and Jim just groaned tiredly passing both hands over his face.

More screams made them turn around and split in opposite directions before a car flew against them.

Jim ran on the right, jumping over more debris while hearing the crash of the vehicle on the ground, exactly where they were talking a moment before. Standing up, he helped few people do the same, telling them to run away before looking back. “Spock?” he called climbing on top of another car and he noticed the Vulcan on the other side of the street, someone kicking him further inside the park. More explosion forced Jim to stop and stay back. He then turned to the collapsing building and ran inside.

Once back in Joel’s apartment, he moved to the balcony: he could see Spock trying to stand- and only then Jim realized who his enemy was.

Shawn kicked him one last time before stopping. “The Vulcan finally arrived,” he said; part of his jacket and a leg were burned; his eyes shining gold, as the mark on the side on his hand and one on his neck. “I was waiting for you.”

“I don’t think I know you?” Spock said, kneeling on the grass, looking puzzled at the other.

“Of course you don’t.” Shawn smiled maniacally before kicking him in the face. “But don’t worry, I’m not offended. What’s important is that I know you, and that we finally met. That’s all that matters…” he murmured, lost in thoughts for a second. “Once I’m done with you, I’ll be finally able to-“ something hit him in the back and he growled in pain and anger, stepping aside.

Uhura kept the gun on him while running to help Spock, “You ok?”

“Why are you here?” he groaned, passing a hand over his bleeding lip.

“We’re a team, remember?” she smiled a bit before focusing on the sorcerer.

Shawn’s cries of pain slowly turned into laughs as he snatched the anti-magic bullets from his side, throwing them away. “You should have aimed to the head. With a real gun.” He commented raising both hands, creating a shining sphere that grown as big as a basketball. “But I guess I should thank you for making my job easier.”

Uhura and Spock tried to shoot him again, but the guns flew away from their hands, exploding in the air.

“Time to say goodbye again, Spock,” Shawn laughed, ready to throw the sphere at them, but before he could complete the movement, Jim appeared out of nowhere in front of him, grabbing both his arms and pushing them up, keeping the sphere above them. “Oh… this is a surprise.”

“That’s enough,” Jim hissed, instantly feeling the pressure of the enemy’s magic. He held his arms even tighter, eyes turning gold.

“Enough? This is just a warm-up, Kirk,” Shawn laughed at his face.

“If Nero is going insane, doesn’t mean we all have to pay for it!”

“Maybe that’s what all of you deserve.”

Jim felt the sphere getting heavier by the second, and he didn’t know for how long he could resist- or what was going to happen if that magic was used. “Don’t- do this… Take me to Nero- let me talk to him!”

“You should’ve done that before. Now it’s too late!” Shawn kept pushing down, “It’s a matter of choices, and you made the wrong one long time ago!”

Jim shut his eyes and with a scream let out his magic, so strong that Shawn growled something before disappearing. When the light lessened, Jim opened his eyes, breathing fast, and blinked in surprise: the sphere was now between his own hands. Confused, he stared at it for a moment before slowly lowering his arms, but the sphere kept floating in front of him. Relieved, he took a deep breath before turning to the others- and Leonard was there.

The doctor was helping Uhura to stand, but he wasn’t looking at her: his eyes were stuck on Jim, his body suddenly going rigid. His mouth still partly open with the intention to call for him.

Jim has frozen on the spot as well, surprised, scared- no, not scared: terrified. He couldn’t run away, and no lies could hide what he just did. He knew this was going to happen- but not like this.

“What’s wrong with your eyes?” Leonard asked.

Jim’s mouth closed. You know...

“Jim.”

You know what’s wrong with my eyes…

Answer me!

Jim’s lips stayed shut.

“You-you're under a spell?"

I have to say something, Jim told himself, but all he managed to do was shaking his head.

"If that guy did something to you-”

"Bones-"

“It’s always a spell!” Leonard screamed, but when Jim just stared at him with watery eyes, he didn’t know what else to say- or how to react. He just kept staring at him, at those golden eyes- missing the blue he was so used to.

“Bones, please-“ Jim stepped towards him, but he instantly moved back.

“Jim, the sphere!” Uhura warned him.

He turned around and saw it growing brighter again. Jim realized too late what was going to happen: quickly rising his hands around it, he blocked the energy that was fighting to be released- and Leonard started screaming at the same time. Jim's magic faltered when he almost stopped, and the energy started to escape, burning the ground around him before he had no choice but to block it again- and the screams continued.

"Leonard?!" Uhura crouched next to him, but the man just fell on his side, crying in pain.

Spock looked down at him, then at Jim. “KIRK, STOP IT!”

“I can’t! You need to leave!” Jim yelled over the energy in front of him, unable to turn around. “PLEASE! Take him away!” he cried, Leonard’s screams hurting more than anything else. I’m sorry… I’m sorry…

Spock stared at him for another second before he and Uhura helped Leonard to stand, and then the ground trembled again. They saw Jim pushing the sphere down, along with the whole park that started sinking, trapping them down there.

Jim shut his eyes against the bright light, Leonard’s screams still ringing into his ears- screams of an agonizing pain that he caused. I lost everything. I lost him… I can’t control this… I can’t…

All those thoughts exploded into a scream of anger and despair, and the sphere unleashed all his powers like a dying star… And then, suddenly, there was nothing but silence.

Jim could hear only his own breathing. Opening his eyes, he could almost feel the magic shining into them… Then he looked around, and it was all black: the park was gone, everything burnt to ashes. “Bones-“ Turning around, there was no trace of his friends, only destruction. No… oh no…

“Oh, James…”

Jim looked away, finding Nero standing few steps away. “You…”

“I am very sorry.”

YOU DID THIS!” Jim screamed, raising a hand against him, but his magic seemed to have no effect: the other waved it away with a calm gesture of a hand.

“I wish I could say this was my doing,” Nero said, staring at him with a sad expression. “Or Shawn’s, but his magic will never be so strong. That sphere… I fear it amplified your powers, somehow. Your lack of self-control sure didn’t help.”

Jim’s hands were shaking worse than ever. “You’re trying to tell me this- this explosion is my fault?!”

“I wasn’t fast enough to help you, or your friends. I’m deeply sorry.”

“They’re not-!” Jim stopped, looking back where Spock, Uhura, and Leonard should’ve been. Deep down, he knew that it would’ve been impossible for them to escape an explosion like that... He trapped them there with him...

“In your defense, no one could have imagined something like this to happen.” Nero said, slowly walking closer.

“I killed them…?” Jim murmured, the realization slowly creeping on him. “I killed all of them…” Gaila, Pavel, Morgan… Pike too?

“I tried to warn you. To help you,” Nero said, staring down at him, “but the more I tried, the more you refused to listen.”

Leonard’s dead…? Jim looked down at his shaking hands, and he could feel his magic growing again- and he wouldn’t be able to stop it this time. He’s dead… Leonard is…

Nero grabbed his shoulder. “We can make them come back. All of them.”

Jim blinked and looked up at him.

“Allow me to help you, and we’ll find a way to fix this.” Nero continued.

Fix this? How can I fix this?! THEY’RE DEAD!” Jim yelled pushing him away.

“Magic can solve everything, James. And your magic it’s the strongest of all. You have no idea of the power that’s in your hands.”

“I know it’s dangerous! I know that- that it kills people…” Jim turned to the spot where he saw Leonard for the last time.

“So what, you’re planning to go back to Starfleet and confess?” Nero asked, unimpressed.

Only the idea of walking back into the Academy made Jim feel sick. He let out another scream, angry and desperate, falling on his knees, grasping the burned ground while tears rolled down his face, and another earthquake started.

Nero slowly crouched next to him. “There is nothing we can’t fix. Why do you think I wanted you to join me? There’s still so much you have to learn about magic... Let me show you your true potential. Then, you’ll be free to do whatever you want with it. Anything you want.”

Jim thought about Annabelle, and Gaila, all the people that warned him not to trust Nero… And they were all dead now.

“You gave Starfleet a chance. We, your own people, don’t deserve one?” Nero asked.

Jim let the last tear fall, then looked at him and nodded once. They disappeared together a second later.

.-.

“Open your eyes, James. We’re here.”

Jim wished you could keep them closed. Instead, he obeyed, watching the city on the other side of the river, busy facing the war that just started. It wasn’t a bad dream...

“I know it must be hard for you,” Nero said, moving next to him, following his gaze. “This city is used to this, but some people are not… Some of them have no idea of what living during a war means.”

“A new war that you've started.” Jim murmured. All the pain he was feeling still wasn’t enough to make him forget who the person next to him was.

“For a good reason.”

“Nothing can justify something like this. Nothing was worth the life of- the lives of so many people.”

“I know you care about your friends. As I said before, I wish I was fast enough to stop you from killing them,” Nero said, his voice and face blank. “Magic is something we still can’t fully understand, nor control, without knowing what we are playing with.”

Playing? You think this is a game?” Jim growled turning to him.

“Of course not, but it was for you.”

“I’ve never-!”

“You kept moving from a side to another since the very beginning, ignoring what you are, pretending your magic doesn’t exist. You forced it away from you just to live a lie because it was easier, but kept saying to the rest of us that using magic isn't a crime. That doesn't sound like a twisted game to you?”

Jim hated each one of those words. “I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. I wanted to find a way for us to live the life we wanted.”

“And how long it would have taken you? Or you really thought that the rest of us would have patiently sat down and wait for you to save us all?” Nero’s voice raised a bit, strong and serious.

“Why, you think you saved them? How many people died today because of your attack against Morgan?”

Nero smiled a bit, shaking his head. “It wasn’t because of her. I wasn’t interested in any of your new friends.”

“But you were looking for them. Krane and Annabelle-”

“I never cared about them, nor their famous Resistance.”

“They why?? Why attack them? Why forcing Annabelle to accept your mark?!”

Nero sighed. “The reason for all I've done until now is a promise I made to someone, and I can’t let anyone and anything get in my way.” That said, he walked towards the base of the pillar- the memento of the war that took place twenty years before.

Confused, Jim followed until they were both in front of the white, smooth marble. Looking up, he could clearly see the top of the column shining against the dark sky.

“Everything I did, all the time I’ve spent in this city that I hate so much, was just to fulfill that promise…” Nero said placing a hand on the marble and part of it disappeared, revealing a blue, shining crystal hidden inside.

Jim’s eyes flashed gold and he stepped back. Why this energy feels… familiar?

“A promise I made to you.” Nero added.

Jim looked away from the stone, turning to him. “To me? We never met before… I had no idea of who you were-“

“No, but I knew who you were since the moment you arrived here. I felt your magic, and I knew the time had finally come.”

“W-what are you talking about? We never met before!”

“You can’t remember, but I do. I fought to keep my memories. The things I’ve done, the people I have sacrificed…” Nero took a deep breath, looking briefly at the crystal. “It was all to come back in this place one day, with you, and show you how strong you are, and how this story should really end.”

Jim frowned, slowly shaking his head. “I- I lost my memories? When? How?”

“It was another time… A time too far away from us now,” Nero said, staring intently at him. “That’s why I’ve created this stone, so that you would be able to remember everything. And understand my reasons.”

Jim didn’t know what to believe anymore: he never met Nero before… Still, if his story was true, he wouldn’t have been able to remember it.

“I’ve kept your memories safe better than I could. Now, it’s up to you to take them back or not.” Nero said, standing next to the pillar.

Jim swallowed, staring at him. “Why you didn’t tell me about this the first time we met? Why setting up all that scene?”

“Because I knew you were not going to believe me,” he said. “Maybe you still don’t, but now you know that Starfleet will never be able to help you. A power like yours won’t be accepted until you’ll learn how to control it and to do that, you need me.”

“I can’t control my magic and you want to give me more of it?”

“It will complete you. Getting back your memories, you will remember how you control it as well, as you did in the past.”

A part of Jim just wanted to punch the man in the face, but the other part was crying and begging to take that power and save Leonard. I have to bring him back.

“You will bring all your friends back. There is nothing you won’t be able to do once your magic will be complete again.” Nero said, as reading his mind.

Jim let out a shattered breath and stepped forward, staring at the shining blue crystal for a long moment. He couldn’t accept that Leonard’s screams would have been the last memory of him.

I have to bring him back, Jim told himself again and grabbed the crystal with a hand.

Nero took a step back while magic started to flow all around them, and smiled. “There’s no turning back now…”

.-.-.-.

Away from the center of the city, in the abandoned warehouses' area, where the old entrance to the sewers was, magic started to flash above the ruined barracks, and then something flew out of a bright flash of lights, falling down through the ceiling, crashing on the concrete below.

Kara groaned and slowly sat up, looking around. “Morgan-” she gasped, quickly reaching her wife laying few steps away, the flames all over her body now gone, and keep her into her arms.

Morgan looked tiredly at her but smiled a bit.

“Hey sweetie…” Kara sighed in relief, caressing her hair. “What I told you about taking me away from a battle?” She said with an ironic grin.

Morgan sighed. “I had to,” she said in japanese.

“Why? What happened? I was with the others…”

“They’re dead…” Morgan murmured, “I had to save you. I’m sorry.”

Kara shook her head and hugged her tightly.

“Someone… Someone’s coming.” Morgan said and they both stood, looking around until they turned to the entrance to the sewers, and two other people appeared.

“Jim!” Gaila stepped forward, but stopped finding the two women, instead. “Hey… you’re safe.”

“How the hell did you find us?” Kara asked, helping Morgan sit down again.

“I- I just followed Pavel,” Gaila said turning to the kid that was looking around, searching for something- or someone. “He said he could sense strong magic… I thought it was Jim. Where is he?”

“I don’t know…” Kara said, looking at Morgan that just kept his eyes down. “I thought he was with you?”

“We split after leaving you," Gaila nodded, "He was helping people stuck in a building…”

Pavel blinked and, once again, pulled her away just in time: more people suddenly appeared, almost crashing on them.

Benjamin Krane groaned on the floor, letting Spock, Uhura, and Leonard do the same. “Shit- that hurt…” the sorcerer murmured grasping his side.

“Nyota!” Gaila smiled, running to help her.

“Are we expecting more Starfleet guests?” Kara snorted, getting a nervous glare from Benjamin. “I would like to know, ok?”

Spock was the first to get on his feet, looking at all of them.

“We don’t mean any harm, Vulcan,” Morgan told him, slowly trying to stand.

“I will decide that for myself.” He commented with a cold glare.

“I just saved your fucking life. Give us a break, would you?” Benjamin snarled, and all of them turned to Leonard when he started crying again, laying on his side on the concrete. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Leonard, it’s ok, we’re safe,” Uhura said, kneeling next to him, but his cries didn’t stop.

“Is he hurt?” Gaila asked, moving closer- then everyone, except for Spock and Uhura, turned and their eyes shined gold. Leonard let out another scream, so strong Pavel looked ready to cry as well, kneeling behind him.

“What the hell was that?” Benjamin asked, turning to Morgan that just looked back at him.

“It's… It was like- like an ancient magic...?” Kara said.

“An ancient magic?” Spock echoed, frowning.

"I never felt something like that before," Benjamin said, "And that's not good."

“It's Jim.”

Gaila turned to Pavel that was staring sadly at her.

Leonard kept crying between them, his heart hurting as much as the scars carved into his back.

Chapter Text

“Why he’s still screaming?”

“I don’t know, he-”

“-can’t do that!”

“-you kidding me?! If he’s dying-”

Leonard could barely catch the voices around himself; the pain too strong to make him able to focus, nor speak.

“Pavel says he’s alright. I don’t know what-“

“Even if he hates magic, we can’t just leave him like this.”

“He- wait, what?”

“What did he say? And why you can’t speak, anyway?”

Leonard felt a hand on his back and flinched away from it. When two other hands blocked him by the shoulders, he cried and started to trash even more. They’ll see it… They’ll see it…!

“Damn it- hold him.”

Leonard kept his eyes shut, wishing only to go away from those hands- from everything, just to find a place where magic doesn't exist… Where James Kirk doens't exist. He and his golden eye… So scary- and yet, so sad…

“Use this.”

“What is it?”

“Ben, that’s-“

“He’s going to give everyone a headache if he keeps going like this. At least give it a try.”

Something moved around Leonard’s neck and he was sure someone was going to hang him. He cried and kicked until the pain slowly started to lessen, but he was sure, he knew it was going to hit him again, worse than ever.

All those hands leave him alone in his agony, except one that kept slowly stroking his head.

Leonard’s screams reduced to a low cry before he passed out.

 

When he did, Gaila, Uhura and Pavel kept staring down at him for a moment until they finally breathed out in relief.

Benjamin did the same, studying the man laying on the concrete. “See? It works.”

“What is that?” Spock asked referring to the necklace the sorcerer gave them, now around Leonard’s neck. “What have you done to him?”

“Nothing. That’s just a protection.” He explained, ignoring how Morgan was staring at him.

“It’s magic,” Spock stated.

“Yeah, no shit...”

“It’s not a spell,” Gaila explained before Benjamin could continue. “The necklace is- it works like a shield. He’s not using magic on Leonard.”

“I would like to, though,” Benjamin added. “If he doesn’t have magic, why he was screaming like that?”

“You can ask him once he wake up,” Morgan said when no one answered, “And if he will accept to tell you.”

Spock stared at his friends and, when Uhura looked up at him, said, “We should go back to Starfleet. It’s not safe here.”

“It’s not safe out there either,” Kara said. “All the sorcerers of the city are probably trying to understand if this is the start of the revolution they were waiting for or not.”

“It’s our duty to tell them that it’s not.” He shot back.

“I said probably because half of them are already fighting right now, but if you want to drag your friends through a battlefield, go for it.”

Morgan sighed. “Kara…”

“You know it’s the truth,” she said sending a quick glare at her. “They can’t fight Nero's army, but he still thinks that the Federation has the solution to everything.”

“And what’s wrong thinking that way?” Uhura asked. “Whoever the enemy is, we all were fighting back there, just as you.”

“Yeah, and you all would be dead by now if it wasn’t for Benjamin.” Kara snarled angrily.

“I can assure you, we are well aware of the situation,” Spock said, and then, turning to Benjamin, “I appreciate your help, but we are not allies.”

“The thought never crossed my mind…” He commented tiredly.

“He saved you, and we were fighting to protect this damn city as well if you didn’t notice.” Kara insisted. “We didn’t have to, we could have let everyone die, instead we fought to protect your sorry ass and you still-“

“We know we’re not allies,” Morgan said, interrupting her, “What Kara is trying to say, and what I think Jim wanted all of us to understand since the beginning, is that Nero is the real enemy at the moment, and he is too strong even for us. I fear none of you would be able to stop him alone.”

Spock stared at her for a long moment. “You are suggesting to fight him together, but that’s something the Federation would never-”

“As if they haven't accepted deals with us in the past,” Benjamin said coldly.

“Spock,” Galia called for his attention. “You know this is what I wanted to talk about with Pike- even he is aware of the situation. You all saw what happened at Green Lake. The Federation alone won’t have a chance against Nero.”

Spock looked at her and then at Uhura that just sighed, both unsure of what to do.

“You all are free to leave if that’s what you want, but please, consider our offer,” Morgan said. “If Nero is going to use the magic we felt before… I can’t even imagine what he’s going to do with it.”

Spock kept thinking for a moment, then said, “We’ll wait until Doctor McCoy wakes up. He might have more information for us. About Kirk as well.”

Benjamin sighed, and then broke the moment of silence, “We can take him inside the sewers. It’s still a better hideout than staying out here. For now, at least.”

Spock nodded and helped the girls picking the doctor up, all of them moving inside.

 

The sewers resulted being more comfortable than they looked from outside: there were few rooms with a mattress inside, not even that old; a little kitchen was in another room, completely functional, as for lightbulbs weakly illuminating the other quarters. They took Leonard in one of the largest room that looked like an old conference room.

“You look surprised, Vulcan,” Kara said.

“I thought the Federation had demolished this whole place years ago.” He commented looking around.

“They did. This is one of the few we managed to fix,” Benjamin explained helping them lay Leonard down on the bed. “Lots of us need a place where to feel safe.”

“And allowing you to have this area is part of the deal you mentioned before?”

“We’re still here, aren’t we?”

Spock didn’t comment, turning to Uhura instead, that was checking on Leonard, “How is he?”

“I think he just needs to rest. He doesn’t have fever, and any visible injury…” she said.

“You can’t see it, but clearly there’s something wrong with him,” Kara said, watching Morgan and Gaila talking few steps away.

“How you know?” the Vulcan asked.

“From the way the kid is guarding him like a hawk, that’s pretty obvious,” she snorted, looking at Pavel that was standing next to the doctor, sending a serious glare at her.

“You don’t need to see wounds if magic is the cause,” Benjamin added. “That would explain also why the necklace worked.”

“We should check better on him,” Spock said, but Pavel moved to block the way, staring at each other.

“Jim said it’s something Leonard doesn’t want to share with everyone,” Gaila said, moving next to Uhura. “If he’s alright, I say to let him rest and wait… He suffered enough, already.” She continued, looking at Spock that, in the end, nodded.

“He didn’t know that Jim can use magic, didn't he?” Uhura asked, and she shook her head.

“I believe Jim was trying to save us, in the park,” Spock said, almost just to himself. “When I told him to stop, he said he couldn’t, and to take Doctor McCoy away...”

“Why he should have caused that explosion? He didn’t wanted to fight from the very beginning.” Kara said.

“So he might be actually dead,” Spock stated, as a matter of fact, frowning at the resigned looks he got from Uhura and Gaila.

Benjamin sighed and shook his head. “I’ll go check outside. Other sorcerers might join us here, so I would take off those Starfleet jackets if I was you.” He said to them before walking away.

Gaila waited for Kara and Morgan to leave as well before looking at her friends. “I think there’s a lot we need to talk about…”

 

After a while, Morgan walked out the sewers, looking up at the dark sky visible through the cracked warehouse’s ceiling, noticing the light streaks shining against the black.

“I’ve sent few people checking the area around here... As useless as it can be,” Benjamin said, sitting on the floor few steps away, back against the wall. “I think Nero really thought of everything…”

“I would be surprised if he didn't,” she said sitting next to him, hands politely tangled together on her lap.

Benjamin stared in silence at the red flowers embroidered on her black dress for a moment. “We should’ve expected all this.” He murmured.

“How? How many times Nero claimed he was going to fight the Federation and win? With or without us.”

“That’s what I’m saying. We never took him seriously. Annabelle told us to keep an eye on him the moment he arrived here- she knew that he was a bomb ready to explode and none of us believed her.”

Morgan sadly looked down, unable to reply.

“And I’m not blaming you. I know she- she was different after the war ended. She started taking her distance from both of us, but I never thought she would-“

“Ben, you couldn’t control every decision she wanted to make.”

“But I should’ve told her to stop- that she didn’t need Nero’s help, but mine!” he yelled, anger helping him fight the urge to cry. “She needed me, and I wasn’t there. She tried to tell me, but I didn't understand. She kept thinking she was the problem, for years, and I just let her… And when I found the courage to face her, she was dying. She is dead, and the city will follow her soon…” His voice lowered to a whisper before he hid the face into his hands, silently crying.

Morgan let her own tears fall while gently holding him, head against his shoulders, feeling the loss of Annabelle hurting more than watching their lives burned down from the war for the second time.

.-.

Leonard woke up slowly from a dreamless sleep, staring at an unknown ceiling. There was something to remember, but he felt it would've been better just stay there without thinking at all. Looking at his right, he saw few candles placed on a little table... Staring at the fire, two golden eyes suddenly flashed into his memory.

Startled, he sat up, studying the semi-dark room he was in. Quickly standing from the bed, he held on a chair to keep his balance, hitting the table close to it and a glass crashed on the floor.

Pavel was the first person running into the room: the kid looked worried rushing inside, but stopped the second he saw the doctor was on his feet.

Leonard, once again, found himself stuck between being scared and being angry at the kid he thought he would have never met again. “Where the hell am I?” He growled, deciding anger would have given him the strength to talk.

Pavel looked around for a second before straightening his back, patting his neck with a hand, shaking his head in no.

He can’t talk, a voice in Leonard's mind told him, but he was too angry to listen to it. “Did you brought me here? Did you kidnapped me?”

The poor kid looked so shocked… He quickly shook his head again.

Then why I’m here?” he yelled.

A moment later, Gaila and Uhura arrived, both looking at the kid and then at the other. “Thank God, you’re awake...” Uhura sighed.

“What happened? Why we’re here?!”

“Leonard-“

“We were at the park… I saw you fighting with Spock! I saw-“ he stopped there, too angry to even finish that sentence. I saw Jim using magic.

Gaila said something to Pavel that nodded once before leaving. She then turned to the doctor, “Well, nice to see you too.”

“Spare me the crap, Gaila. This is really not the time,” he shot back.

“If you know what happened, then there’s no need to snap at Pavel like that.”

"I have a list of reason to snap at you as well if you want!"

“Guys, please…” Uhura sighed.

“Look, I know you’re still shocked, but-“

“You don’t know shit, so do me a favor and shut your mouth.”

Gaila didn’t manage to hide how much that words hurt, but recovered quickly. “Wow. After everything we’ve been through-“

Uhura stepped him, gently grabbing her arm saying, “Give us a moment, ok?” and Gaila sighed before leaving the room. Once the door closed, she turned to the doctor, both silently staring at each other for a moment.

“Tell me what I saw wasn’t real,” Leonard said. “Tell me he’s not- tell me Jim wasn’t using magic.” He needed to hear that. Sadly, all she could do was shake her head.

Leonard kept staring at her before looking away, throwing the chair on the other side of the room, more glasses and bottles crashing on the floor, before grasping his hair with both hands.

Uhura didn’t moved, nor said anything, watching his shoulders angrily rising and falling.

“You knew?” he asked after a while, without turning around.

“No.”

“But Gaila knew… Of course she knew.” He said shaking his head, a cold smile on his lips. “God, I should’ve known… I should’ve known it was all a lie.”

“Leonard…”

“Who else knew?”

She sighed. “Pavel knew. And Morgan and the others- the other sorcerers Jim talked to.”

Suddenly, Leonard felt too overwhelmed by all the details slowly fitting in the right places: Jim being pro-magic; so determined to help Gaila and the kid… His plan to convince those sorcerers to help them against Nero- and all he tried to do to make him trust magic. “I was so blind… So stupid.”

“You were not. He just-“

“He kept lying all this time, plotting who knows what right under my nose…”

“I’m sure there’s a good reason if he didn't tell us the truth,” she said taking few steps forward.

“Yeah: because he didn’t wanted to.” Leonard huffed a laugh so cold, and so resigned.

“Maybe... But we both know how people would have reacted knowing he has magic...”

“So you’re defending him, now?”

“I’m not defending anyone. He should have told you at least, but- Leonard, please-“ She stopped him by his arm, but he got free and the anger on his face was enough as a warning to not try that again. “You have all the rights to be angry, but I still think Jim would’ve told us if he could.”

“No, he wouldn't, because that’s what sorcerers do: they lie!” He screamed and suddenly realized that was exactly what Jim told him in the past. He smiled that cold smile again, but his eyes were watery. “He even told me that… He was- it was just a fucking game for him.”

“That’s not true.”

“Truth is that I’ve spent half of a year with a person that for all I know it doesn’t even exist!” He snapped again, “His past, his family- his feelings for me, how much of all that was real? Hell, how do I know what I felt for him was even real? Sorcerers put spells on me all the time, I wouldn’t be that surprised if he has done the same, because, why not, right? Why not have some fun with-“

Uhura’s slap was the only thing able to interrupt him. “Jim would never do anything like that. That’s why I’m telling you to think before assuming the worst!” she yelled back, her voice cracking a little at the end. “And because that’s what I’m trying to do as well… Because I don’t want to believe that the Jim we know isn’t real.”

“He wasn’t real.” He said, voice cold and flat.

“We don’t know that.”

“Oh that’s for sure: we don’t know anything about James Kirk. Always if that’s his real name.”

“I know it’s easier to hate him, but think about it for a second,” Uhura insisted. “Magic is still banned. Most of the people hate it, or they are scared of it- and Jim decided to join Starfleet, of all places. He tried to be friend with people that would have run away from him knowing the truth. Myself included,” she said, fighting back the tears. “Why he would even want to waste his time making friends? Or fall in love with someone?”

Leonard didn’t wanted to let his anger go. He needed it. He wanted to be angry because he knew what was coming next, and he wasn’t ready for that. “I guess he was just bored.”

“You really think so?”

“I don’t want to, but that’s all I can think about right now, ok? And it’s driving me insane! I deserved to know!” he yelled, the first tear falling down. “I told him everything- he knew magic ruined my life, and he just kept making fun of me… He just kept lying…” Leonard’s voice slowly lowered and he fell on his knees, crying into Uhura’s arms that were there for him a moment later.

 

They stayed together until Leonard calmed down. Sitting on the bed again, Uhura updated him about what happened after they left the park.

“Krane saved us and brought us here, in the sewers. The others were already here when we arrived, and you were still in pain…” she said, but got no response. “They said this place is still a good hideout, so we took you inside… You were not injured, so...”

“I’m connected to magic.” He interrupted, not looking at her. “There are old scars on my back that hurts when evil magic’s around.”

“Scars…?” She said, surprised, then blinked, “That’s why when Jim used magic…?”

“His magic is as evil as the rest of them,” he cut short, “Maybe worse.”

“But you- you never felt anything from him before?”

“It hurt few times… Sometimes he was there, sometimes he wasn’t. I guess he was careful not to burn his cover.”

Uhura knew there was nothing more she could say on Jim’s defense… She was hurt as well by his lies, but she couldn’t hate him completely- not yet.

“Where is he now?” Leonard asked. “He’s dead, he joined Nero, or what?”

“Stop talking like that.”

“Define like that.”

“As if you don’t care about him.”

“I stopped caring when I realized I don’t know him at all.”

Uhura was going to say something, but then the door opened.

Spock looked at the broken bottles and glasses on the floor before turning to them. “Doctor. I’m glad to see you awake.”

“Wish I could say the same…” he commented.

“I believe it’s time for us to talk-“

“No, Spock, it’s not the time.” Uhura interrupted, flashing him with a nervous glare.

The Vulcan closed his mouth and looked back at the Doctor. “Maybe later would be more acceptable?”

“I don’t know anything Spock,” Leonard said tiredly. “I didn’t know Jim was- I never thought Jim has magic. He never told me, and I had no reason to ask. I don’t know what he’s planning, I have no idea where he is and I’m not interested in knowing any of that.”

Spock nodded once, then frowned. “You really didn’t know?”

Leonard was ready to strangle him. “No. I did not.”

“I can’t deny that I’m surprised…”

“Alright, you called for it-“ the other hissed, ready to fight.

“Please, we don’t have time for this,” Uhura said, standing between the two.

“I did not mean to offend you, Doctor,” Spock said, “I probably had more chances to pay attention to Kirk’s behavior and abilities.”

At that, both Uhura and Leonard looked puzzled at him. “You knew?” they asked at the same time.

“Of course.”

“Since when?” she asked in disbelief.

“Since the first time Kirk and I met: during the outbreak inside the Academy,” Spock said, as it was the most obvious thing. “He used his magic to destroy the amulet that was spreading the virus, and I happened to be present.”

“He-“ Leonard started, but then just groaned and sat down again, face dropped into both hands.

“If you knew, why you didn’t tell us? Why you didn’t tell me?” Uhura asked.

“Because Captain Pike asked me not to.”

“Pike knows about him?” Leonard asked, looking up again.

“Certainly, since he’s the one that convinced Kirk to join Starfleet.”

“He knew Jim was a sorcerer and he insisted to have him in the Academy anyway?” Uhura asked.

“Captain Pike truly believed that Kirk could have been a useful connection with the Resistance still present in the city. They both shared a very unusual and surprisingly strong desire for the conflicts to end peacefully.”

“Oh, so that wasn’t a lie?” Leonard commented.

“Not that I’m aware of. Captain Pike was firmly convinced the war could've been avoided. He told me Kirk’s goal was the same and asked me some time before arresting him.”

“And you accepted?” Uhura asked, surprised.

Spock looked down for a second, as if ashamed. “It wasn’t my intention. Not after the storm.”

“The storm?” Leonard echoed, “You don’t mean the magic storm that happened after Christmas, right?”

“Yes, I do.”

“And what that have to do with Jim?”

“He caused it with his magic. Even I felt it and tried to help him, but it was too late, and his magic too powerful. Gaila told us before that Jim wasn’t fully responsible for it, but I do not have any proof that-“ he stopped when the other stood and walked away. Looking at Uhura, she just shook her head with a sad expression on her face.

I felt that storm… That night has been agonizing. And he said it was all Nero’s fault, Leonard thought, pacing left to right and vice versa.

“In his defense, the theory that he didn't intentionally caused the storm it's still a possibility,” Spock added. “Gaila also told us that he was there to meet other sorcerers that could save your life. I presume something happened that made we are not aware of.”

Leonard felt another stab in the back. “He said he didn’t do anything,” he murmured, remembering how angry and hurt and guilty Jim looked when they met after the storm. “He told me he couldn’t do anything to save me... That someone else caused that storm…”

“I think-“

“Shut up, Spock. Just- shut up. I don’t want to listen.” He stopped him, sitting at the table on the other side of the room.

The other two stared at him, then Uhura poked his side with an elbow, inviting him to insist. Spock wasn't very convinced but slowly walked closer to the man. “Doctor, I-“

“You understand my language, right, Spock?”

“I do.”

“Then shut your goddamn mouth and leave me alone.”

Spock kept studying him for a second before sitting in front of him. “I was going to get Kirk arrested after that night,” he continued, “but Captain Pike had the chance to talk with him first. I overheard their discussion and realized Kirk still wanted to make their idea of peace come true. I saw how guilty he was feeling about what happened, and it was the first time for me, hearing- feeling a sorcerer being so mortified about his own powers. It is not something most of them would feel about themselves.”

Leonard didn’t say anything, keeping his eyes down.

“Once Kirk left, I discussed with Pike and I accepted to give him another chance.” Spock finished. “I fear we’ll never know if it was worth it.”

“What you mean?”

“I mean that since Kirk is nowhere to be found, he might be dead in the explosion happened in the park.”

Once again, Leonard didn’t comment.

Spock calmly stood again. “The sorcerers told us we’re safe in here for now, but the war is raging outside, and soon we will need to go back to the Academy. They’ll need all of us to face the new enemy.” That said, he moved to share few words with Uhura.

How many things Jim haven’t told me? Leonard couldn’t stop wondering. How many times he let me pass for an idiot? For how long he was planning to play with me?

“Hey, we got news,” Benjamin said, not missing how Leonard flinched as he walked in the room, looking ready to run away. “It seems that Nero blocked us in some kind of dome.”

“A dome?” Spock echoed.

The sorcerer nodded. “You saw those lights in the sky, right? That's a barrier around an area of- around ten kilometers.” He moved in front of a map of the city hanging on the wall. “Based on our information... it’s all around- here.” He said drawing a circle on it, well visible on the dust covering the glass of the frame.

Uhura moved closer. “He’s keeping both Starfleet and the Federation’s HQ isolated from the rest of the city.”

“He is clearly planning to attack one or the other. If not both.” Spock said, studying the map for a moment before turning to the sorcerer. “We have to go back and-“

“And you should come with us,” she said.

Benjamin was nodding, then blinked in confusion, realizing she was talking to him. “Uh- miss, I don’t think bringing any sorcerer inside Starfleet would be a good idea right now.”

“As if it didn’t happen before,” Leonard commented leaving the room.

Benjamin watched him walking away, then asked the other, “He didn't take Kirk's reveal very well, huh?”

Uhura sighed and shook her head. “Still, I think we could use the battle as an advantage. Pike will listen to us- and to you. We need to fight together if we want to defeat Nero, or the only solution will be another bomb.”

Benjamin thought for a moment, then looked at Spock. “You’re the boss. You have nothing to say about this?”

“Without more information or instructions, what I think at the moment is irrelevant,” he said. “Nonetheless, Uhura have a good point. If what you say about Nero it’s true, we’ll need a new strategy to win this battle before it’s too late.”

“Don't worry, we’ll stay with you and Morgan until we’ll meet Captain Pike.” She nodded.

“That’s very sweet of you, but I think we can defend ourselves,” Benjamin said with a little grin that made her blush. “I’m sure Morgan is gonna love the idea to visit the Federation straight through the front door.”

 

Meanwhile, Leonard was still looking for the exit from the sewers, trying to ignore the fact that half of the people he met along the way were witches and sorcerers. He couldn’t feel anything, but he knew- he saw few of them with their golden eyes looking in his direction, and it was hard for him not to scream and run away faster than he could, hating the fact that everything that was magic, was now a reminder of Jim’s lies.

You must have laughed so hard of me and my fear of magic... You kept watching me breaking into pieces and you were responsible for it...

He luckily found the exit before having a breakdown and took a deep breath once outside, trying to calm down, but he was angry- so damn angry.

When the cry of a little girl reached his ears, he turned to the left and saw someone crouched in front of the crying kid. Leonard saw red and marched towards him ready to unleash his fury- but then suddenly stopped: standing two steps away, he saw Pavel turning to him, and realized he was bandaging the arm of the little girl… A little girl with brown, long hair and eyes shining gold.

They stared at each other until Pavel turned to finish the work and then gently patted the girl's shoulder. She sniffed and nodded before standing and leaving. Then, he stood as well and smile timidly at the doctor.

“I know you feel guilty for what happened. I know you wanted to help him- you were going to, before seeing he has magic!”

Jim’s words- his voice, even just in a memory, made Leonard want to cry again. “Don’t smile at me. Just don’t, ok? Never.” He growled and moved away. “I was just fine hating you and all of your kind. I was perfectly fine with that, until that idiot started to change my mind. I never asked for it- I never asked for him. I told him to leave, to give up on me... But he- he kept lying...” Leonard sat on the cold concrete, a hand covering his eyes, fighting back the tears, but hearing the war raging all around wasn’t helping. Everything was going into pieces: the city, his life, his heart…

Lowering his arm, he flinched a bit finding the kid standing in front of him. “What? You want your revenge? Go head. You would do me a favor.” He said, but Pavel just kept staring before leaving.

Leonard almost laughed, looking down. “Right. Why should you do me any favor?” he said, and then heard someone approaching again: looking up he saw Pavel coming back with a bottle of water that, after a moment of hesitation, he placed next to him- and there was also a piece of paper saying: It’s not poisoned.

After that, Pavel took a step back and smiled hopefully.

Leonard kept his eyes on the message, and all his will to hate that kid slowly faded. His eyes turned watery again, so he closed them, waiting for the crisis to pass. He took a deep breath before looking at the kid again. “You know that’s exactly what a killer would say, right?”

Pavel’s smiled was gone in a second, furiously shaking his head.

The doctor just sighed. “You already know that I don’t trust your people, so don’t bother.”

Pavel seemed to think about something, then he grabbed the bottle and took a sip before putting it back down, sitting behind it, waiting.

Leonard couldn’t hide his surprise. “You’re not going to give up, aren’t you?” he asked, and the other shook his head again, the shadow of a smile back on his face. “Sorcerers are always so stubborn?”

Another nod.

“And liars?”

Pavel stared at him for a second, then took the piece of paper and wrote on the other side of it with a pen he took from the pocket of his large jacket, showing him his answer: Aren’t we all?

“Touché…” he snorted, then grabbed the bottle, “I have nothing to lose, anyway.” He said taking a long sip. Feeling slightly better, he took a deep breath and looked at the other. “You really can’t talk?”

Pavel shook his head in no.

Leonard thought for a moment. “How do you use magic, then?” he asked and frowned at the smile appearing on the kid’s face. “What are you smiling about…?”

Pavel looked eager to say, or do something, but then sighed in frustration. Looking around, he then wrote on his own hand and show it to him: Can I show you?

“No. No, I-“ Leonard’s answer came out the second he read those words, and he saw the kid’s smile fading as he lowered his hand, nodding. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to see magic again, Leonard kept repeating that inside his mind, but, honestly, there was a war around them. He would have seen magic everywhere... It was just a matter of time.

Jim used magic right in front of me- hell, maybe he used it around me millions of time before today, and I just don't know. Leonard hated that thought, but it also gave him the courage to say, “Ok, fine, but nothing too shiny, alright? No loud noises, nor- unicorns flying around.”

Pavel frowned at that, tilting his head a bit, but then just nodded, looking impatient to proceed. He scooted a bit back and kept his eyes on the floor, words appearing on it as his hand moved from left to right: Nice to meet you, Doctor McCoy..

Leonard stared at the sentence in amaze: the letters were clearly visible as they just had been carved on the concrete- disappearing after few seconds. Looking up, he noticed Pavel's eyes slowly changing from gold to dark-blue, nervously waiting for a reaction. “This- This is how you usually talk?”

He shook his head and another sentence appeared. I can send my thoughts through people’s minds.

Leonard didn’t like that. At all. “And they let you?”

Pavel seemed taken aback for a moment, then sadly looked down. His hand didn’t moved for a while, then another phrase appeared: I never asked.

Leonard realized too late what a piece of garbage he could be: a kid just told him to be unable to speak, but at least he could use magic to not isolate himself from the rest of the world, not hurting anyone, and all he managed to ask was if he asked people’s permission to do so. “I- I understand. I guess it’s easier… I mean, you can’t go around writing on paper or on the walls all the time. It’s- it was a stupid question.”

Pavel kept staring down thoughtfully, then wrote something else: Gaila and Jim are the first persons I talked to like that.

“The first ones? How- how old are you?”

14.

“You mean you actually wrote on paper and walls to talk with other people until now?” he asked, and Pavel nodded. “Why? If you knew how, why not do it before?”

I’ve lived alone most of my life.

“What about your family? Any friend?”

Pavel slowly shook his head, staring at the words fading on the floor. Looking up, he blinked in surprise. Why are you crying? he wrote, without even watching.

Leonard quickly passed a hand over his face, swallowing down more sadness. “Because I wasn’t able to help you the first time we met… And I think I’ll never forgive myself for that.” I was so blind... So blind about everything.

Pavel shook his head, a little smile appearing while creating another answer. It's alright. Jim told me you don't trust magic. When the other didn’t comment, he added, He cares a lot about you.

Leonard snorted, “All he cared was that I believed his lies.” Then, he noticed another sentence appearing on the ground: He was scared.

Looking up, the kid was staring at him dead serious. “Scared of what? That I was going to hate him? To get him arrested? Maybe at the beginning would have been harder to accept, but after everything we’ve been through- after I told him about my past, why he-“ Leonard stopped there, trying to contain more anger and tears. “All of that wasn’t enough to deserve the truth.”

“He wanted to tell you,” Gaila said, slowly approaching. “You have no idea how much he wanted to tell you.”

Leonard turned to her, feeling guilty for how he treated her before, but not enough to apologize. “Then why he didn’t? After so long, why he kept lying?”

“And if he did, what were you going to do? You would’ve accepted him open arms?” Gaila asked back. “Jim kept saying that he wanted to prove you that magic is good, and I told him that he was the proof of that already- I told him that so many times, but he never believed it. He was sure that you were going to hate magic even more because of him.”

“I should be used to him assuming everything by himself, but this is a new level...”

“Well, doesn’t look like he was wrong.”

“What do you know about us to talk?” Leonard stood up again, clenching fists. “Who the hell you think you are to-“

“I’m the only one Jim could talk about all this, that’s who I am!” She yelled. “You think it was easy for him? He wasn’t hiding just from you, but from everyone, for months, before Nero started messing with him. He fought, he got hurt, and tried to keep you safe. Maybe I know nothing about your relationship, but I know it meant everything to him, so don’t you dare say that he lied about that, because if we got to this point, it’s only because he was scared to lose you!”

Pavel stood as well, looking worryingly between the two before moving closer to her when she brushed a tear away from her cheek.

Leonard stared at them before shaking his head a bit saying, “It was a risk he should've got the courage to take. If he uses evil magic, he would have lost me anyway.”

“He’s not evil.”

“He is. I can feel it.”

Gaila frowned at that. “How?”

“Because of the scars on my back. They were done using magic.” Leonard didn’t even care to tell people about it anymore.

“That’s why…?”

“Yes, that’s why. The eviler the magic is, the more they hurt.”

“But-“ she murmured, looking at Pavel that seemed as confused as her.

“I don’t know why they don’t hurt now. They should, since there’s magic basically everywhere…” Leonard continued nervously.

“That’s because of Benjamin’s necklace.” She said, pointing at his chest.

Leonard frowned and then checked under his shirt, taking the pendant into his hand. “What is this?” he asked and saw the green gem in the center of it shining. “It’s magic-?”

“WAIT!” Both Gaila and Pavel stepped forward, blocking his arms when he tried to take it off. “You have to keep it.”

“I don’t want anything with magic in it!”

“It’s blocking the magic away from you, that’s why you don’t feel anything!” she insisted.

“I’ve had enough of these spells-“

It’s gonna hurt you if you take it off!

Leonard stopped, looking at the kid: he heard his voice, but he knew he didn’t say a word. “Did you just-“

“He’s sorry,” Gaila said before he could finish. “He says he didn’t mean to. Leonard, please…”

“Let me go.”

Pavel obeyed, but she kept holding his arm. “If you take it off-“

Let go.” Leonard growled, and she did, taking a step back. He kept staring at the necklace for a moment before removing it and let it fall on the ground. It took him few seconds before shutting his eyes in pain, falling on his knee.

“I told you, you need it,” Gaila said, crouching next to him.

“No- I don’t.”

“That necklace just blocks the magic around you, you idiot! It wasn’t using any spell on you!”

“I lived without it until now. I can- I'll handle it.” He said slowly standing up again, feeling each scar burning. It wasn’t as painful as when Jim used his magic, but still more than he was used to. “I just- want to go home.”

“The others are planning to leave soon. Spock and Benjamin will-“

“No. I’m leaving now.”

“Alone? Are you crazy? The city ’s a battlefield right now!”

“I don’t care.”

“Well, I do!” Gaila insisted moving to stop him. “We survived this far, I won’t watch you try to kill yourself just because you’re angry.”

Leonard took a shattered breath. “Try to stop me, then.”

“You-“ Gaila was ready to continue, but then turned to Pavel. “Are you sure?” she asked, and the kid nodded. Sighing, she looked to the doctor again, “He said he can send you back to the dorm if you want. He did it already in the past, it won’t hurt you.”

“When he-?”

“How you think you and Jim got back home from Green Lake?”

Leonard didn’t have the strength to get angrier. Looking at him, he asked, “Why you keep helping me?”

Pavel shrugged, and Gaila huffed a little laugh at the answer only she could hear. “Because he’s not scared of you.” She repeated.

Leonard sighed, watching the kid smiling patiently. “Ok...” He nodded and saw him handing him the necklace again. “No. You can- you can keep it.”

“Please, take the necklace with you.” She insisted. “You’re in pain already. We don’t even know what is going to happen.”

“I don’t want it. I just- want to leave. I don’t want to know- if Jim’s alive or not. I don’t want to know anything else.” He said, and he saw- he knew she wanted to argue more, but, luckily, this time she didn’t.

“What if he’s alive?” She asked instead. “What should I tell him?”

“Tell him- that he’ll need to find another doctor for his crew.”

Pavel nodded once at him, gently placing a hand on his arm and his eyes turned gold, the doctor disappearing a second later. He then looked down at the necklace, the gem shining stronger than ever.

.-.

Blinking a couple of time, Leonard realized he was back to the dorm, in his room. Grasping his shoulder, he moved to the window watching the chaos spreading in the campus, where people were running everywhere, groups of Starfleet’s and Federation’s agents trying to follow their orders and preparing to resist the battle. The war.
Looking up, flashes of gold were now more visible against the dark sky.

He sighed and turned to his wardrobe, throwing a bag on the bed and starting to collect a few clothes. I should have left that time. I should have ignored him. I should have never come here… I should have never fallen in love with him.

“I mean that since Kirk is nowhere to be found, he might be dead in the explosion..."

Leonard’s arms slowly stopped remembering Spock's words, tears falling down on the clothes, as he dropped on his knees again, crying against the mattress all the tears of pain, and sadness and anger he couldn’t stop since he lost Jim.

The building started trembling then, and he barely looked up before the scars started hurting again and he screamed and cried, falling on his side on the floor, grasping both his shoulders, hoping for everything to end there and now, because he couldn’t find one, single reason to keep fighting anymore.

Chapter Text

Uhura was watching Spock talking with Benjamin, Morgan and Kara when she heard someone entering the room, finding Gaila and Pavel, both with a dark expression on their face. “Is everything alright?” She asked, sending a look behind them, “Where’s Leonard?”

“He left.” Gaila sighed, “We tried to make him stay but he didn’t listen, so Pavel send him back to the Academy.”

“But- using magic?”

Gaila nodded and shrugged, “Better than let him walk all the way there.”

"We were going to leave. We could-“

“He doesn’t want to have anything to do with our plans.” She shook her head. “Nor know what happened to Jim.”

“Pretending he doesn’t care won’t make him feel better…” Uhura commented sadly.

“The doctor left?” Benjamin asked while Pavel handed him the necklace. “He’ll be ok without this?”

“No. He was in pain again the moment he took it off,” Gaila said.

“Not very smart to be a doctor…” Benjamin said wearing the necklace. “Did he told you what’s the cause at least?”

The girls shared a look, then Uhura said, “It’s because of an old wound. Leonard said the scars on his back reacts to evil magic, hurting him.”

“I’ve never heard of a wound caused by magic having such a reaction after so long…” Gaila murmured.

“It would make sense if it was a curse, but in that case, we would have been able to feel it.” Benjamin nodded.

“He said he’s used to it, but it didn’t look like he was...” She added.

“We’ll check on him once Morgan and Benjamin will be with Pike,” Uhura said, guilt already showing on her face. “We might not have another chance… This meeting has to happen, as soon as possible.”

Gaila wanted to say something, but then just nodded. Uhura was right… They couldn't waste more time. Not with Nero always one step ahead.

Ben studied them for a moment, then caught Pavel by the shoulders when he started to fall. “Hey- you ok?”

“Pavel?” Gaila moved closer to him, and then all the sorcerers felt it: the same energy they felt before, now stronger, making their eyes shine gold.

Spock looked at them one by one. “What is going on?”

“What the hell was that?” Benjamin asked, helping Pavel sat on a chair before turning to Morgan that looked confused as the rest of them.

Gaila heard Pavel’s voice and saw him nodding, so she sighed and said, “It’s Jim.”

“Kirk?” Kara asked.

“Pavel wasn’t sure, but now…” she looked back at the kid than lowered his gaze. “Now he is. It’s Jim’s magic.”

“So he’s alive?” Uhura asked, partly relieved.

“If he is, what happened to his magic?” Benjamin asked, “Because I’m pretty sure he wasn’t so strong before.”

“He was always keeping his magic under control, but- it is possible that he was hiding such a power?” Morgan asked, almost to herself.

“I don’t know… He was at Green Lake, but he refused to fight to go save his friend.” Benjamin commented harshly.

"His name is Leonard, and he is very important to Jim" Pavel said, staring at him with a cold glare.

“I get it, but-“ Benjamin snorted, then stopped. “Wait, you mean they’re…?”

Gaila and Uhura sighed, nodding patiently.

“Oh. Ok. Now everything makes more sense…” He murmured, crossing his arms.

“If Kirk’s alive, why he’s not looking for us?” Spock asked moving closer. “He should know we’re all here.”

“Something is not right…” Morgan said, then took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

“She’s looking for him,” Kara explained to Uhura and Spock. “Not like he’s really trying to hide or anything...“

Morgan frowned and opened her eyes. “I think… I think he’s heading to the Academy.”

“Maybe he’s looking for Leonard,” Gaila said. “We just sent him back there.”

“It looks more like an attack,” Spock said, and the others turned to him.

“Why he should want to attack Starfleet? Come on.” Benjamin said. “I think she's right. He’s probably just looking for the doc- for Leonard.”

“So we should hope he’ll calm down once he found him? Because it doesn’t look like he’s going to.” Kara commented.

Morgan was still staring at Spock. “It is unusual for Jim to act like this… Even during a war.”

“We got news from the city,” a man called from the doorway. “Nero’s men were spotted heading to the Federation headquarter.”

“What?” Uhura and Gaila said.

“Attacking on two front…” Spock said thoughtfully. “This is clearly part of Nero’s strategy.”

“You don’t say?” Kara growled walking out of the room to talk with the others members of the Resistance.

Benjamin thought for a moment, then turned to Morgan. “We should split up. You go to the Federation, and I’ll go check the Academy.”

“You think it’s really necessary?” she asked back, worried.

“I don’t know… None of us knows what happened to Jim or what Nero is going to do. What I know, is that when someone let their magic go crazy like he’s doing now, it’s never a good sign.”

Morgan saw the hurt on his face at the memory of Annabelle, and couldn’t do anything but nod.

“I’ll come with you to the Academy,” Spock said, turning to Uhura, "while it would wise for you to go with Hishikawa."

“What? No, we shouldn’t split up!” She instantly replied.

“We don’t know for sure where Captain Pike is at the moment. Splitting up will save us some time,” he explained. “And the safety of the Academy is still my responsibility.”

She sighed, studying him. “You don’t trust Jim?”

“I have trusted him more than any other sorcerers I have met in my life. If it was the wrong decision, it’s my duty to take care of it.”

“We don’t know anything yet,” Gaila said. “Maybe he’s hurt, or that explosion messed up his magic. Maybe he just needs help.”

“I hope that is the case,” Spock said.

Benjamin then turned to Pavel and Gaila: “You two go with Morgan. If Nero is heading to the Federation, they’ll need all the help they can get.” And they nodded in silence.

 

After giving new orders to all their groups, Kara joined the others outside the sewers, ready to depart.

“Ben, please, be careful.” Morgan was saying with a worried expression.

“I always am,” he smiled a bit. “And if Nero shows up, let me know, alright? Just in case your bodyguard won’t be enough.” He said sending a sarcastic glare at Kara that smiled back saying, “In that case, don’t expect me to leave her to run save your ass.”

Uhura and Spock were few steps away. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” she asked.

“Statistically, we will have more chances to-“

“I don’t care about statistics, Spock.” She sighed, grabbing his hand. “I already know that being separated will make me worry until we’ll meet again.”

He kept staring and then nodded once. “That- is a fact I’m trying to keep out my calculations.”

“Why?”

“It might become distracting.”

Uhura smiled tenderly. “Then don’t give me a reason to worry.” She said, feeling him squeezing her hand.

“Well, we’re ready,” Kara said, and Uhura nodded, smiling again at Spock before joining the others.

“Don’t have too much fun,” Benjamin said before they all disappeared in a large flame that faded without leaving any trace or warmth in the air. The sorcerer took a deep breath and turned to the Vulcan. “Ever teleported anywhere with magic, Mr. Spock?”

“No. Being taken away from the park against my will was the first time testing magic on myself.”

“You know I did it to save you and your friends, right?”

“I’m aware.”

“Good…” Benjamin sighed buttoning his long jacket and putting his glasses back on. “So, you think something might be wrong with Kirk as well? That’s why you sent your girl away?”

“I’m sure we will be able to stop him if the time comes.”

Benjamin snorted a cold laugh. “I wish a brave Vulcan would be enough to solve all our problems...” He murmured grabbing his shoulder, and both of them disappeared as well.

A moment later, they were not far from the Academy’s entrance, chaos all around them, with people running everywhere, not even checking who they bumped into. “They’re taking cover inside Starfleet?” Benjamin asked tilting his head at it.

“It’s the protocol in case of emergency…”

The sorcerer was surprised to see a vague worry on his face. “If it can make you feel better, it’s not as bad as it was twenty years ago. Yet.”

“How this information should help in any way?” Spock commented.

“Well, some people like to focus on the good side of things. I doubt is your case, but…” he shrugged at his intense staring. “Ok, nevermind. Let’s go inside and see if Pike is here.”

Spock nodded. “I would suggest you to not use magic inside Starfleet,” he said before proceeding.

“Should I remind you of the actual situation, Mr. Spock?”

“The actual situation, Mr. Krane, it's a direct consequence of using magic so carelessly.”

Benjamin groaned, following. “And how am I supposed to defend myself if they start shooting at me?”

“Not many people have memories of you as one of the leaders of the Resistance, so there’s a low chance anyone will try to attack you without a reason.”

“I have your word on that?” Benjamin snorted, then stopped just in front of the gates and turned around. "I... I'll stay here," he said, looking back at Spock that has stopped as well. “You go look for Pike.”

“Is it Kirk again?”

Benjamin took a deep breath, briefly looking outside the Academy again. Just then, the whole area started trembling. “Not gonna lie, I don’t like his new attitude...” he said when the earthquake ended.

“He’s responsible for this?”

“Yes, and his magic hasn’t reduced one bit since the first time we felt it in the sewers.”

“That’s unusual?”

Benjamin sighed patiently. “It might surprise you, but magic is not infinite. Even the strongest sorcerer need to stop at some point. What Jim is doing it shouldn’t be possible.”

Spock looked past him, at the city, millions of thoughts and theories crossing his mind.

“So it’s better for me to stay here,” Benjamin added. “Maybe Gaila is right and he just needs help to calm down.”

“You will be able to stop him if he’s going to attack us?”

“Are you considering him as an enemy already?”

“I have cadets and civilians’ safety to consider as well. We don’t have the resources to stand a battle here.” Spock shot back, more serious than usual. “Nor the people able to.”

Benjamin dropped his shoulders a bit. “Then find Pike and tell your people to be ready to evacuate the Academy.”

Spock nodded once before running away. He knew magic was a big deal on Earth, even before accepting to leave Vulcan and join Starfleet. He wasn’t scared about it. He took it as a challenge that he faced better than he could to honor his people- and his father. Still, despite how much he wanted to prove himself worthy of such trust, he had to admit that a war wasn’t expected to happen. Not so soon.

He wanted to focus on the situation but couldn’t stop himself from sending a tense look at the Federation HQ in the distance. Spock took a breath and started asking for Pike, but no one seemed to know where the Captain was. He decided to go to the Starfleet main building, but then he turned around, staring at the dormitory where you knew Kirk and McCoy’s room was.

Meanwhile, at the entrance, Benjamin was studying the area while helping more people getting inside. It was weird being there, in the enemy territory, without anyone trying to kill him...

“You knew this was going to happen, don’t you, Anna?” He murmured to himself, hiding the necklace under his shirt. He then frowned when Jim’s magic suddenly disappeared. “’The hell…?” Taking a step forward, it took him a second to realize what was happening: he teleported few meters away, in front of a little group of cadets that were helping a couple of families, and raised both arms to create a shield to protect all of them from the lightning that started hitting the ground.

Gritting his teeth, Benjamin kept the little dome up around all of them, cadets and civilians falling on the ground, scared or hugging each other. The sorcerer murmured few words in the ancient language, hands shaking under the force of Jim’s magic. He saw cracks appearing on the shield, but managed to keep it up until even a lens of his glasses cracked- and then, the lighting stopped. He let the spell disappear, almost falling backward.

“You ok?” one of the cadets asked, helping him sit up.

“He’s a sorcerer!” another one said watching his golden eyes, and moved to grab the gun, but one of the civilians stopped his arm saying, “He just saved us!”

“Go inside the Academy- and keep everyone away from the entrance. They’re going to evacuate everyone somewhere else.” Benjamin said, slowly standing up.

“And why we should take orders from you?” the other cadet asked.

“Take it as Spock’s orders. Go ask him if you don’t believe me, but now leave.”

The cadets exchanged few unsure looks between them before obeying, taking the civilians with them.

Benjamin looked down at his own shaking hands, How the hell did he become so strong so fast?

“Did it hurt?”

Looking up, he found Jim standing few steps away: he wasn’t different physically, but Benjamin could clearly feel his magic now, and it was even stronger than Anna’s. “What the hell Jim? What are you trying to do?” he asked, noticing his eyes were still gold- they didn’t change back to normal.

“What are you trying to do?” Jim asked back. “The great sorcerer Krane protecting the same people that would shot him in the head… Old habits dies hard.” He continued studying him with a strange interest. Almost curiosity.

“It shouldn't surprise you that much,” Benjamin commented, confused by that look. “Why attacking Starfleet?”

Jim snorted a laugh. “Why attacking Starfleet… That’s something I’d never expected to hear from you.” He said stepping forward, and the other moved to stand right in front of him.

“I don’t know what happened to you, but you’re not going anywhere without telling me what’s going on,” Benjamin said.

“Look, I’m not here for you…”

“Then for who? For the doctor?” he asked and saw him frowning. “He’s fine. All your friends are.”

He nodded slowly, “My friends… sure. Good to know.”

“Yes, and Nero is going to attack the Federation. That’s where we all should be right now.”

“Oh, we should,” Jim nodded, a slight smile on his lips. “But I'm sure Nero will handle it. Maybe you should go, and help your new friends. ”

That was all Benjamin needed to hear to confirm his doubts. “What the hell Nero has done to you?”

“To me? Nothing. Actually, he just gave me something back.” Jim said looking at his hands, flexing the fingers. “Getting used to it it’s taking more time than I thought...”

“Jim, whatever he did to you, you need to get over it. We’re in war, and we need all the help we can get to-”

“Help?” He frowned again, then nodded in understanding. “Oh, right… I’m on the good side this time. Well, I was.”

“Jim-“

“As I said, I’m not here for you. I don’t want to fight, really,” he continued. “So, don’t push your luck.”

Benjamin breathed out and shook his head, standing still and preparing himself for what was coming next.

Jim sighed. “Well, can’t say I wasn’t hoping for this.”

Benjamin had the time to see an evil grin appearing on his face before finding himself flying backward, smashing against the half-closed gates that bent at the hit. Spitting blood on the floor, he looked up again, resigned. “Alright…” his eyes turned to gold as well as he placed a hand on the ground and a wall started growing around the whole Starfleet area.

Jim looked up at it, then snorted a laugh: with a snap of his fingers, part of the concrete in front of him cracked and then crumbled into pieces. “That was lame…” he commented before a punch hit him square in the face and sent him down, the ground around him splitting just like the wall did.

“Don’t be so full of yourself, kid,” Benjamin said stepping through the breach. Watching him trying to stand, he raised a hand to create a shining, rounded sigil on top of Jim, blocking him down. “I don’t want to fight you either. Whatever Nero did to you, we’ll fix it.”

“You’re like them now? We are the poor souls to save, aren’t we?” Jim said pushing up on his elbows, eyeing him from under the magical drawings forming the sigil.

“You’re the one that dragged us into this! You wanted us to fight with you- and with them!” Benjamin yelled gesturing at Starfleet behind himself.

“And you listened to those bullshits?” Jim snorted a laugh. “Man, you all were pretty desperate to fall for it.” He added and destroyed the sigil with a kick: it shattered into pieces like a mirror, the fragments disappearing in few seconds. He then used his magic against the other than was forced to jump back to avoid the attack.

“People died because they believed you! Our people!” Benjamin growled, “Some sacrificed themselves to get us here- to get you here and stop Nero, so if think that I’ll let you shit on that-“

“Sacrifice?” Jim hissed standing up and grabbing him by the neck in a second. “Don’t you even dare talk to me about sacrifice.” That said, he threw him against the wall, part of it turning into chains that quickly trapped the sorcerer.

Benjamin grasped the cement around his neck, feeling another chain forming around his chest, both squeezing tightly enough to hurt. He tried to use his magic, but nothing happened: he had no control over his own creation.

“You have no idea of what I have sacrificed since the beginning,” Jim said standing in front of him. “And, you know what? You’re right. There is something that needs to be fixed, and I’m here to do just that. So, I’ll ask you one last time: are you going to keep wasting my time?”

The other snorted a laugh with the air he could still use. “You bet I will.”

 

“Watch out!”

Gaila had the time to hear Kara’s warning before something exploded not too far. Lowering both arms through the smoke and dust, she found Pavel and Uhura still standing next to herself, while Morgan was in front of them, and Kara was few steps away, using magic to push someone away before turning and saying, “We teleported in the middle of the fight."

"They’re closer than we thought.” Morgan said, patting the dust away from her dress, “And if they all have the mark, it’ll take too long to stop them,” she added turning to Uhura, “We should go look for Pike before they reach the building.”

“R-right…” Uhura nodded, still a bit shocked by leaving the sewers and reappearing in the courtyard of the Federation HQ in few seconds.

“I’ll stay here.” Kara said, “Our men are still fighting, and the others are heading here. They might need help.”

Morgan shook her head, “No. I don’t want you to stay out here. Not in front of the Federation.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time, dear,” she smiled ironically.

“What is that?” Gaila asked looking behind them, at the plaza, where a purple mist was silently moving forward.

“I bet it’s Yda again,” Kara snorted.

Morgan raised a hand and moved a finger to form a circle in front of her that shined gently while becoming larger; the witch then lifted it up until it disappeared above them, in the sky, creating an invisible shield protecting them and the whole Federation area from the mist. “I’m getting tired of her.” She murmured nervously, eyes shining red.

“And I’m tired of him…” Gaila said, watching Shawn appearing from the mist, stepping into the clear area with a dozen of sorcerers and witches, while behind them the battle kept going. “You can’t block them out too?”

Morgan shook her head. “It would take too much energy, and I fear I’ll need it later.” She said, coldly.

"If they’re here, Nero can’t be too far...” Kara nodded. “Come on, I’ll stay with the others, you go find Pike.”

“But if he comes-“

“I’ll kick his ass for you as well, don’t worry.” Kara grinned before looking at Pavel, and smiled gently at him saying, “No kid, I’ll be fine. Protect the ladies for me, would you?” and he nodded hesitantly, before following the others. A moment later, she smiled, partly relieved to see more allies appearing around her, and all of them prepared for the fight.

“Morgan is leaving…” Yda murmured watching the group splitting up.

“Think you can slow her down?” Shawn asked and she grinned, disappearing. “Let’s start, then.”

Kara quickly realized where the witch was heading. “You all stay here. Don’t let them get close to the Federation!” She ordered the rest of the group, running in the opposite direction.

Morgan and the others were few meters from the building when she stopped and turned around, flames raising from her hand, burning whatever new poisonous spell the younger witch tried to use against them. “Last warning, Yda.”

“That’s my line,” she smiled disappearing into smoke once again.

Pavel studied the field for a second before using his magic on the left, and Yda was suddenly visible as if a strong wind blew her cover away- and she flashed him with a hateful glare, just before new flames burned part of her jacket.

“You’re becoming predictable.” Morgan grinned, half of her long black hair changing to the colors of the flames.

Gaila stopped once in front of the stairs, urging Uhura to proceed to the entrance, “Go find Pike. Tell him what is happening.”

“We all should go! Morgan have to-“

“Yda is too close. She’ll get inside the building if we don’t stop her. You saw how dangerous she is.”

Uhura wanted to argue, despite knowing she was right. “Ok… Be careful.” She said, watching her running back into the battle. Uhura then noticed the soldiers guarding the building were staring at the girls with confused and tense glares, and ran to them, lowering their rifles when two tried to aim at Morgan. “They’re on our side!”

“They are all using magic!”

“Yes, that’s why you’re still alive!” She insisted. “I’m here to talk with Captain Pike about it. He needs to talk with them- he knows they’re not enemies!”

“Captain Pike?” He echoed, frowning.

“Yes. I took them here following his orders. Is he here?”

The soldier studied her for a moment, then said. “Upstairs. He’s attending an emergency meeting.”

She sighed in relief and let go of their weapons. “Thanks.”

“I don’t know what you’re planning, but if we see any sorcerer approaching the building, we’re ordered to shoot. No exceptions.”

Uhura nodded and then got an idea. “Ok. Just one more thing: give me your jacket. And a gun.”

Yda reappeared few meters away, patting her burned jacket, staring at the flames moving all over the ground as smoothly and quickly as water.

“So, what is your plan now?” Morgan asked her, moving closer. “Borrow more time for Nero? He’s finally going to show himself or he’ll keep watching his people dying from afar?”

“As if you would be enough to scare him.” Yda snorted, disappearing and trying to attack her from above, but Morgan easily predicted her move and grabbed her by an arm and throw her away from the building.

“But I’m more than enough to scare you.” Morgan hissed, her voice altered again as flames started appearing all over her body.

Yda ignored the pain from the burned arm and snorted. “You really overestimate yourself.”

“Same goes for you,” Gaila said grabbing her by the neck from behind: there was a flash of light and the witch screamed in pain before pushing her away, ready to attack back, but Pavel appeared and then disappeared taking his friend away.

Yda stepped away, unsteady, part of her body turning into smoke but just for a second. “You…” she growled angrily, pressing a hand on the back of her neck.

“You think Nero is the only one able to create a mark?” Gaila snorted, reappearing few meters away with Pavel. “All you need is learn the symbols and choose what to do with them.”

“You- you can’t! You don’t have magic!”

She grinned. “I don’t, but there’s more than enough of it around at the moment.”

Yda sent furious looks at everyone before screaming, “You think you can block my magic!? It won’t last for long and then-“ someone tapped on her shoulder and, turning around, she went down with a punch.

“It lasted long enough,” Kara said shaking her hand a bit, a little grin on the face while Yda looked up at her with eyes filled with rage.

“Kara, watch out!” Gaila yelled, but a sword hit the witch’s side, making her stumble.

Morgan’s eyes flashed red spotting the responsible for the attack: Shawn was smiling from the plaza, recovering after throwing the sword. In an instant, Morgan was surrounded by flames and flew in his direction at full speed, while Yda ran away.

When Pavel and Gaila reached Kara, the sword was already vanishing in the air, leaving her wounded and on her knees. “That was- reckless of me,” she said with a pained smiled, “but so worth it.”

“We need to stop the bleeding,” Gaila said, checking the wound.

“I’ll be fine…” she said, then noticed the Federation’s coat she was wearing, “Took your time for a dress change?”

“Uhura’s idea. The army won’t shoot at us as long as we stay together, and away from the building. Pike’s inside, she’s gonna talk with him.”

“That’s a good new…” Kara stood, keeping a hand over the wound, watching Morgan spreading fire all over the battlefield. “What an idiot woman...”

“You shouldn’t-“ Gaila almost gasped in pain when Pavel grabbed her arm incredibly tightly. “Ow- Pavel what’s wrong?” she asked and heard his terrified answer. “He what?

“What is he saying?” Kara asked.

Gaila kept staring at him before nodding. “Go. We’ll be fine.” She said, but he didn’t move. “Don’t worry about me. GO.”

Pavel stared worriedly and let her arm go before disappearing.

“What happened? Where did he go?”

“He said Benjamin needs help.” Gaila cut short.

Kara sighed and turned to the battlefield. “Morgan, take you ass back here right now!” She yelled, and a moment later, her wife reappeared in front of them- in the form of a human torch. “What the hell are you doing?!”

He attacked you!” Morgan yelled back at her in japanese, her demonic voice making her sound even scarier- as if a human covered in flames wasn’t enough.

“Then patch me up before setting the city on fire and let me bleed to death!”

Morgan growled something else before dragging her closer, putting a hand under her shirt and burning the wound just enough to stop the bleeding.

“OW! Not gentle at all.” Kara yelped.

Don’t give me another excuse to hurt you.” Morgan said, her voice now sounding more sorry than angry. Then she turned to Gaila, “Where’s the kid?”

“Benjamin needed help. He’ll come back as soon as he can.”

“Is that a nice way to say Jim’s actually gone insane?” Kara asked.

“I don’t know, but we can’t leave right now.”

“I should go help them…” Morgan said.

“You should, but you see what we have here,” Kara said gesturing at the plaza behind them. “There’s too many of them, and if Nero is really going to show up, I doubt we’ll be able to stop him without you.”

Morgan stared at the girls and then nodded slowly, turning to the plaza. “Never thought we would have died protecting the Federation.”

“I love your enthusiasm.” Kara sighed moving next to her, looking at Gaila that nervously get in line as well. “You should follow Pavel. This isn’t exactly a safe place for you.”

“No place is safe right now. And I’m your only connection to the Federation: Uhura will keep me updated,” Gaila said tapping the communicator into her ear before grabbing a gun from behind her back. Nyota sure knew how to prepare someone for a fight.

“Our friend here is a tough one,” Kara commented in awe, poking at Morgan with an elbow.

“Sometimes,” Gaila smiled a bit before taking a deep breath. “Just- don’t get angry if I steal some magic from you.”

“Be my guest,” Kara huffed a laugh.

“Just be careful not burn yourself,” Morgan added with a devilish smile before flying back into the fight.

Gaila prepared to do the same, but couldn’t avoid sending a worried glare at the Academy visible far away. Benjamin is dying, that was what Pavel said, before leaving her with that serious: Don’t let the others follow me.

 

Thunders and lighting multiplied in the sky over the Starfleet Academy, where people were still running, looking for a place where to take cover.

“Stubborn as usual, aren’t you?” Jim said staring at Benjamin struggling while being held against the wall. “I know Morgan is also around, and I don’t have the time to care about both of you…”

Benjamin kept trying to get free, frowning when Jim placed a hand over his chest- then the pain started, as if he was trying to grasp his heart out his living body bare hand. “Jim-“

“It was nice to meet you again. I mean it.”

“Whatever Nero did, wake the fuck up!”

Jim smiled coldly. “I’m very much awake.” He said, as his fingers started to thrust into the flesh, making the sorcerer scream in pain. Only then, Jim noticed the necklace, finding himself staring at the green gem for a second… A second of hesitation, enough for Pavel to fall from the sky as fast as a rocket, forcing the other to jump back.

Once landed, Pavel stared at the blonde through the dust, unsure. He saw Jim taking few steps back and staring back at him for a moment.

“He’s not- he’s not himself…” Benjamin groaned, blood visible on his shirt, around the five holes Jim’s fingers had left on his chest.

Pavel tried to free him, but not even he could break Jim’s magic. He looked up at Benjamin, “I’ll keep him busy.”

“What? No, don’t you dar-“ Benjamin tried to say, but Pavel grabbed his leg and teleported him somewhere else. Taking a deep breath, he then turned to face the other sorcerer. “Why are you doing this?”

Jim tilted his head a bit. “You can’t talk…”

Pavel studied him, even more confused. “You know I can’t.”

“Of course… Well, thanks for sending him away. You saved me some time.”

“For what? What are you going to do?”

“Seriously, what’s wrong with this place?” Jim sighed tiredly. “Since when sorcerers want to protect Starfleet so bad?”

“Since you asked us to. So, what’s wrong with you?”

Jim grinned ironically, shaking his head. “It always amazes me how people think you’re the problem when you take a decision they don’t like… And it makes me angry, at the same time.”

Pavel saw magic shining around his hands, and realized two things: James Kirk was ready to kill him to reach his goal- and his goal was the Academy.

 

Benjamin fell on the ground with a yelp of pain, rolling on his side while keeping a hand over his chest- then desperate cries reached his ears. Looking up, he found Spock kneeling next to Leonard- the poor doctor once again drowning in his own agony.

“What are you doing here?” Spock asked.

“What are you doing here? I thought you were looking for Pike.”

“I was informed he’s attending a meeting at the Federation HQ,” Spock said, looking down at the doctor. “I was trying to help him, but my abilities don’t seem to have any effect.”

“Do you have magic?” Benjamin asked while slowly standing up.

“I don’t, but-“

“Then move.” He cut short taking off the necklace and kneeling next to the doctor, putting it around his neck again: the cries slowly faded. “Hey… HEY.” Benjamin growled holding him by the collar of the shirt, waiting for him to open his eyes. “If you even think to take this necklace off one more time, I’ll cut your head off with it. Understood?” and then just let him go, standing up.

Spock helped the doctor sit on the bed before moving close to the sorcerer. “I heard fighting outside. What happened?”

“Jim is gone insane, that’s what happened. I don’t know what Nero did to him, but he’s not himself anymore. His magic is way stronger than mine and Morgan together- and he doesn't seem to have good intentions. Pavel is buying us some time, but-“

Out of breath and still in pain, Leonard looked up at them. “Jim’s alive?” he asked, and another earthquake hit, both of them trying to keep their balance.

“If he continues like this, I’m gonna wish he wasn’t.” Benjamin said, then he saw something outside, “Damn it, Pavel... He can’t keep that up forever...” he said running away and Spock followed him.

“Jim is gone insane… He's not himself anymore...”

Leonard kept repeating those words in his mind, angry with himself for feeling relieved, despite everything. Looking out the window, he noticed the sky was shaded of gold.

Once out the dormitory, Spock as well saw the gold-ish aura above and around the whole Academy.

“That’s Pavel’s magic. He’s using a barrier to protect the Academy,” Benjamin said running towards the gates, finding the kid on the ground few meters away from the exit. “Hey… Pavel, you ok?”

Pavel nodded, but he looked shocked while wiping the tears away from his scratched cheeks, keeping a hand over his injured shoulder. His eyes shining gold when he looked up at the other, “I- I don’t know how long I can keep the shield up.”

Benjamin sighed and checked his shoulder, "It's alright..." he said before turning to the gates: Jim was standing just on the other side of the barrier, leaning against it with an arm. "What has he done to you?" he asked looking back at the kid that just shook his head again.

“Sorry about that, but I warned you, I tend to overdo a bit,” Jim said with a little grin.

Spock reached them and blocked a soldier and his men that were heading towards the sorcerers. “They’re not enemies.” He told them.

“Sir, they’re using magic right in front of us-”

“I am aware, but their magic is the only thing protecting us from-“ he looked briefly at Jim and then continued, “We need to keep James Kirk outside the Academy. He is not in control of himself right now, probably because of a spell.”

The soldiers looked between them in confusion, then the first one tried again, “Sir-“

“Keep a line of defense at the Hospital. If the worst happens, we will have to abandon the Academy, so be prepared.” Spock ordered and the soldier nodded once, leaving with his squad. Taking a deep breath, he then reached the others.

“That was very kind of you, but you should tell them to start the evacuation already. Pavel can’t keep the barrier up forever,” Benjamin said, “I can help him for a while, but-“

“But I'm getting stronger.” Jim singsonged, looking almost bored.

Spock frowned, “What does that mean?”

“That, Mr. Spock, means that my powers still need some time to get fully functional,” Jim said. “This is not even my final form.” He said with emphasis, chuckling softly right after.

Spock stared at him for a moment before taking a step closer. “Why are you doing this?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“Simply because attacking Starfleet is the opposite of what you were preaching from the very beginning.”

Jim grinned at him. “Are you sure about that?”

Spock knew those words were made to deceive him, but- was it possible? Was it possible that everyone, himself included, fell for Jim’s lies? That what he said to believe in was all a scene he had to keep up until now?

“Bullshits.”

Benjamin turned around and found Leonard standing behind them. “Doc, you shouldn’t-”

“You really think you can come back here and pretend that nothing of the past months was real?” Leonard continued, staring at Jim with furious eyes while marching past Spock that tried, and failed, to stop him. “After all you’ve said- after all you did, the first thing you come up with now is destroying the Academy? What the fuck is wrong with you?” He couldn’t stand watching those golden eyes… He almost stepped out the barrier just to punch him in the face, but- something was different…

Jim studied him for a moment, almost curiously. “You’re shaking pretty bad. Are you scared?”

“The only thing I’m scared about is what I’m gonna do to you if you don’t drop this stupid act!” he roared. “Enough with the lies! What do you want from us? What the hell do you want from me?!”

Jim stared intently at him, then sighed patiently. “You’re right. You all are going to die anyway… I’m here to destroy the Academy and kill everyone inside. I was going to let Ben go, but the kid might be a problem in the future, so… Better safe than sorry.”

Leonard just stared in silence. Jim was right there in front of him- it was him, there was no mistake, but what he was saying… The words coming out his mouth were just…

“About what I want from you… I doubt there’s anything you have to offer.” Jim added. “I have no idea why I’m talking to a doctor, but, why not, I guess?”

All the others frowned at that, staring at the two in pure confusion.

Leonard blinked a couple of times, not sure if what he heard wasn’t just his imagination. “What?”

“I mean, if you wanted to prove yourself brave, you sure did it.”

“You don’t recognize him?” Benjamin asked, standing up.

Jim looked at him, then back at Leonard and shrugged tiredly, “Sorry, man. Accept an advice, tho, and leave this place before this shield falls down.”

Leonard swallowed down the need to scream. “If you think this is funny-“

“It kind of is,” Jim said ironically and huffed a laugh watching him turning around and leaving. “Hey… come on, don’t tell me I hurt your feelings? I said I’m sorry!” he laughed before looking at Spock, “Friend of yours?”

Spock stared coldly at him but kept quiet, busy trying to understand.

Benjamin saw Leonard heading back to the dorm, and then turned to the sorcerer, shaking his head in disbelief, “Jim, what the hell happened to you?”

Jim smiled at Pavel that was staring at him. “Why don’t you ask the kid? I might have given him a little clue…”

“A clue?" Benjamin echoed looking at Pavel that kept his eyes down. “What does that mean? What do you know?”

“I showed him.” Jim continued, smiling at the kid with that cruel smile. “He got so scared, poor thing.”

Benjamin looked angrily at him before gently grabbing Pavel’ shoulder. “It happened while I was gone? What has he done to you?”

Pavel then took a deep breath. “He showed me his memories… but they were different.”

“Different? Different how?”

“It wasn't Jim's life... Not the life of the Jim I know," Pavel said staring at the sorcerer outside the barrier. "It was- just darkness. I saw Nero winning the war, and everyone was dead... Jim was his ally.”

Benjamin frowned in confusion. “But- those can't be real memories...”

“Oh, they are,” Jim said. “You want to see them too?”

Benjamin stood, ready to fight him again, but Pavel grabbed his arm and said something that made the other stop and blink in surprise and then confusion. “That’s- that’s impossible. If he really-“

“What is he saying?” Spock asked, stepping closer.

Benjamin took a deep breath, while Pavel held his gaze, meaning that he was serious. “Pavel thinks this is not our Jim. His magic is different, and now those memories he saw… Memories about a war that never happened here.”

Spock frowned as well, trying to put together all his own thoughts. “You mean... This Jim might have arrived from a different time?” he asked looking at Pavel that nodded before they all turned to the blonde.

“Time travel is such a funny thing…” Jim said, still smiling. “But, don’t worry. I’ll make sure the future he saw will become real for everyone.”

Chapter Text

“This is ridiculous,” Benjamin said. “We really should believe that that Jim down there is not our Jim but a version of him from the future?”

Spock looked at Pavel sitting on the bench where the two moved him, taking some distance from the Academy’s gates. “With magic being involved, isn't that a possibility to consider?” he then asked.

“NO! Not even Nero would be able to do something like that! Creating a connection with the future and dragging someone away from it and into the past… That kind of magic doesn’t pass unnoticed, ok? Someone would have known about this- about him!” Benjamin yelled gesturing at Jim that waved a hand from outside the barrier.

“Unless Nero has found another way to use the spell," Pavel said staring thoughtfully at the blonde.

“Right. Because we don’t have enough problems already..."

“What you mean saying that that kind of magic doesn’t pass unnoticed?” Spock asked.

Benjamin tried to calm down. “I mean that using magic to interfere with time requires a level of magic too high for the most of us to be able to use it, and strong enough for other sorcerers to feel it.”

“Still, we all know by now that Nero is stronger than a normal sorcerer...”

“Yes. Thanks for the reminder.”

“So it is reasonable to assume he could have used his powers to-“

“It’s not just about powers,” Benjamin interrupted. “Very few sorcerers actually tried to use magic to travel through time because there’s always a price to pay. Some lost their own magic, while the rest of them became so obsessed with those spells, they accepted to sacrifice even more just to try again.”

“What kind of sacrifices?”

“People, Spock. Blood is the stronger catalyst for that kind of magic.”

Spock frowned. “Are you saying that sacrifice a life would grant any sorcerer to travel in time?”

“I don’t know, I never tried.” He commented sarcastically. “Still, as horrible as it sounds, that’s the easiest way. Not the most infallible, but the only one worth the risk.”

“If Nero really did it, that would mean that there are two Jim in this world now,” Pavel said, “but you know we would notice that...”

“Well, in theory, at least..." Benjamin sighed, then added thoughtfully, "But if we don't, maybe Nero just switched their place... What if he sent away our Jim and actually dragged here the evil one?”

Pavel considered it, but then shook his head. “Nero can’t be that strong…”

“I hope so, but...”

“What did he say?” Spock asked.

“He- Pavel says that if Nero’s spell worked, we should have two Jim around… Can’t you- just let him talk into your mind as well, ok? I doesn’t hurt, and I’m too busy trying to understand what the hell is going on to repeat everything twice.” Benjamin said pacing back and forth.

Spock stared at Pavel that seemed to be waiting for his permission. “Please, do.”

Pavel smiled a bit. “It’s harder get through your mind, Mr. Spock.”

The Vulcan nodded in understanding. “Fascinating…”

“And you know what isn’t fascinating? Having people from the future trying to destroy the present!” Benjamin yelled before turning to Pavel, “How can we stop him? How can we stop any of this if Nero already knows what is going to happen?”

Pavel looked at Jim, “Maybe we can still help him…”

“How? We don't even know what happened to him. Maybe we can’t feel him simply because he’s dead. Or because Nero sent him who knows where and in what time.” Benjamin said, and saw Pavel looking down. “What?”

“I don’t think he’s dead.”

“And what makes you so sure?” The sorcerer sighed. “You saw his memories. He didn’t even recognize Leonard.”

“I felt our Jim before. That’s why I think he’s not dead.”

Benjamin blinked in surprise. “You- when? How?”

“It lasted just for few seconds, but I know Jim’s magic, and that was him, in there.” Pavel said looking at the entrance, “His magic is different now.”

Spock looked between him and Jim. “If they are the same person…”

Benjamin kept staring at Pavel, slowly catching up. “You think Nero brought the evil Jim from the future to take his place literally?”

“That would explain why Nero was so obsessed with him…” Spock murmured, “He needed him to make his plan work.”

“Ok, but- that doesn’t explain how he managed to keep two Jim in one body.”

Spock raised his eyebrows. “With a spell?”

Benjamin fought the urge to strangle him. “It’s not that easy!”

“We need to separate one Jim from the other again. That’s the only way to know if I’m right,” Pavel said. “If our Jim is still in there, I could try to connect to his magic and- make him come back, somehow.”

“And what about the other Jim? What will happen to him?” Spock asked.

Pavel sighed, shaking his head. “I don’t know… But I believe that bringing our Jim back in control of himself is the first priority.”

“Worst that can happen, their powers will collide and destroy the world,” Benjamin shrugged.

“I beg your pardon?” Spock flashed him with a sharp glare.

“But if we do nothing, that’ll happen anyway, eventually, so…” he continued smiling patiently at the Vulcan before patting Pavel’s shoulder, “How can we do it? How can we make our Jim come back?”

“It happened only once, before,” Pavel said, looking worryingly at him, “When he was talking with Leonard.”

Benjamin sighed. “Of course… That’s why you're so sure about this, huh?”

“I think there is a logic in it, considering the strong bond between them… So strong to resist through Jim’s magic.” Spock commented, then realized both of them were staring at him in surprise- then, Pavel shut his eyes and grasped hard on the bench while the light of the dome above them faltered for a second.

“Ok, it’s the only plan we have so we’ll take it. You stay with Pavel. I’ll go talk to the doctor and bring him here.” Benjamin said to the Vulcan.

“Are you sure you can do it?” Pavel asked, visibly tired.

“Don't worry, I’ll handle it,” he said with a sad smile. “Be careful with that shield, alright?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Pavel, I’m serious. Even assuming our Jim is still in there, he tried to kill me, and almost killed you as well.” He said, and the other nodded sadly. “Don’t overdo it. At this point, we can’t lose anyone else.”

Spock watched him heading to the dormitory, then turned to Pavel. “I don’t have magic, but allow me to help you as much as I can.” He said, and the kid smiled a bit.

Benjamin entered the building finding the corridors empty. “Doctor!” he called running upstairs, “Leonard, are you here?” he kept calling until he almost crashed against the man himself that was descending the stairs, bags in both hands and fully dressed, ready to leave. “Doc, we- where are you going?”

“Evacuating. That’s the orders.” Leonard said pushing him aside to proceed.

“What? No, wait! You can’t leave- We need your help!” he said following.

“If there’s anyone injured, take them to the hospital. I’m not on duty right now.”

“Doc, listen-“

“No. No doctor. I’m nothing but a random civilian doing his part at the moment, and that means getting as far away as possible from the battlefield and hide somewhere.”

“I’m serious! Pavel can’t keep that shield up forever. We need you to-” Benjamin insisted, almost tripping on him when he suddenly stopped and turned around.

“Seriously? A powerful sorcerer like him needs my help?” Leonard commented coldly.

“Well, he- it's not about Pavel, exactly. It’s- it’s Jim that-“ Benjamin saw him snorting a bitter laugh before turning to leave again. “Leonard, please… Maybe you’re the only one that can still help him!”

“A straitjacket. That’s what he needs.” The other said grabbing the handle of the entrance’s door, but, opening it, he found himself stepping back into his room. Turning around, he found the sorcerer looking apologetically at him. “No. My answer is no. I had enough of this.”

“If you could listen for a sec-“

Leonard stormed out the room, but once again just stepped back inside of it. “Stop using magic!” He yelled angrily at the sorcerer that was still standing on the same spot.

“Just let me explain, first.”

“And what if I don’t want to listen? Are you going to keep me in here until I lose my goddamn mind?!”

“I won’t, but since I can’t run away like you're doing, you could at least listen what I have to say!”

Leonard dropped the bags and punched him square in face, sending him against Jim’s wardrobe with a broken lip. “I have no reason to listen to you or any other freaks that wants to control my life. I’m done with it! If you want me to stay, go on and use magic again. I’d prefer going insane rather than stay here another second.” He grabbed the bags again but then, turning around, found the sorcerer standing in front of the door.

Benjamin brushed a hand over his bleeding lip and nodded. “You’re right… No magic anymore. But I still need you to listen.”

“And I need you to back off.”

“Sorry, can’t do…” Benjamin said, staring at each other for few seconds before adding, “We’re similar, you know?” and a punch in the stomach made him bend forward, out of breath.

“Move.”

“You know that- is the wrong decision.”

“But it’s my decision.”

“Yeah, and you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” The sorcerer murmured trying to stand, but another punch sent him down on his knee.

Breathing hard, Leonard stared at him with pure hate. “Why aren’t you fighting back?”

“I thought you said no magic…”

“You were in the army- you fought a war, and you can't stop someone like me?”

Benjamin shook his head while slowly standing up again. “I think- you’re just heartbroken… That’s why I won’t fight you.”

Leonard felt those words hit too deep and he angrily pushed him away, opening the door to leave once and for all.

“Don’t leave him now that he needs you,“ Benjamin continued. “Please.”

Leonard stood on the doorway, staring at the empty corridor outside the room: most of the doors were open, with everything inside the rooms left behind. That’s what he wanted to do as well, leaving all behind… Wishing it could be that easy. “He told me to leave,” was all he managed to say in the end.

“You know that wasn’t Jim talking.”

“Weird, because he looks and sounds exactly like him.”

Benjamin sighed. “It’s- It’s more complicated than that.”

“It really isn’t,” Leonard said looking sideways at him. “I should’ve left the first time I tried to...”

“And why you didn’t?”

Leonard could remember every second of that moment… Every second of the first kiss he and Jim shared. “Because I was blind. Because I cared about someone that never existed.”

“Don’t say that.”

Leonard turned hearing that voice, so low and in pain, finding the sorcerer staring back at him with angry eyes.

“I know Jim lied to you, and that you’re hurt, and confused from what is happening now, but can you really just leave, accepting the fact that the person you love wasn’t real?”

Leonard wanted to scream that no, he couldn’t accept that, but that would have meant that there was still hope for something, and he wasn’t sure to want that anymore.

“He made a mistake, yes, but I still believe Jim was trying to do the best for everyone.” Benjamin continued.

“So the best for me was lying at my face about something that destroyed my life, and pretend to be someone else?”

“He wasn’t lying to you for fun, don’t you get it? He was- he wanted to be with you, but he knew magic couldn’t have made that possible. The choice was between losing you or- or losing himself.”

The realization hit Leonard like a bullet to the heart. “Are you saying that he turned insane because of me?”

“He’s not insane…”

“He doesn’t even want to remember me!” the doctor yelled. “He’s wearing my clothes and he-“ Leonard stopped there, shaking his head and kicking the door that slammed shut.

Benjamin looked confused. “Sorry, he- he wears your clothes?”

“Yes, because he was so busy thinking about this war, about saving people, that he didn’t even realize that stupid hoodie he wore was mine. Again. It’s kind of funny, though: the first time he wore it I realized I was in love with him, and now he- now it’s all over.” Leonard said, the cold grin on his face slowly fading into sadness.

Benjamin felt bad for him. “Look, I know it’s hard-“

“Oh, I’m sure you do…” the doctor sneered at him.

“What, you think people like me can't suffer? You really think that having magic can make that much of a difference?”

“I saw that magic can give you all you want, so don’t even try it.”

“Maybe, but there’s always a price to pay- and sometimes is not even enough,” Benjamin interrupted. “You have no idea of all the things magic can’t do- the people we couldn’t save…” his shoulders slowly dropped. “The only difference about having magic is that we feel even worse when we fail.”

“So I should be thankful of being a powerless human being?”

“All I’m asking you is to stop thinking just about yourself for a minute and look at what is going on around you-“

"Sure, now I'm the selfish bastard just because-!“

“and realize that the person you love needs you right now, not magic.” He finished holding his gaze.

Despite that, Leonard still didn’t wanted to admit that maybe, just maybe, the sorcerer was right. “Jim told me I better leave. If he remembers me or not- if he’s lying again or not, at least he’s right about that. This isn’t the place for me.”

“I don’t care if you’re going to leave Starfleet. All I’m asking you is don’t leave him. Not yet.” Benjamin insisted. “Because, I can assure you, even just one person can make all the difference of the world… You are a doctor. You should know that better than anyone.”

Leonard breathed out, overwhelmed by the need sit down into a corner and cry. “Jim doesn’t need a me… All I did for him so far was forcing him to lie, apparently. And we both had enough of that."

Benjamin stared at him, then down at the necklace around his neck- at the green gem shining slightly. “I thought the same thing once, and I lost a person very important to me.” He said, meeting his eyes again. “She- Annabelle got through something similar to what is happening to Jim now. They both always put their lives on the line, getting hurt again and again, and no one was brave enough to help them- and that's how they fall for Nero’s words.”

Leonard blinked in surprise. “Annabelle…? The witch that lived at Green Lake?”

“You know her?”

“Yes… Well, we- Jim needed to talk to her, but she wasn’t- she couldn’t…” He said and saw him taking another deep breath, closing his eyes for a second. “She- she didn’t survive the explosion?”

She was the explosion.” Benjamin said with a sad smile on his face. “Annabelle was one of the strongest witch I have ever known… Always extremely cautious with her powers, always been, but never scared, not once. Lots of us survived the war thanks to her. She resisted until the end… Then, the weight of the battle started to show on her…” he slowly looked away. “I was sure she would have been able to recover without me- I didn’t know what to do for her, so I kept helping the others… And basically thrown her into Nero’s arms.”

Leonard swallowed. “It’s his fault if she…?”

“It’s my fault too. When she came back to me, she was barely holding up, and started telling me about Nero and that she wanted to accept his help- his mark, because she was losing control of her magic. I told her not to do it, I kept telling her she didn’t need him, to not trust him, but again I did nothing, and she was- so desperate…” Benjamin looked down, quickly blinking the tears away. “I couldn’t recognize her anymore and saw her trusting Nero as a betrayal, so I left. I told her to do whatever she wanted, but not to drag me into it- and that's what she did. And now she’s dead.”

They stared at each other for a moment, but Leonard found nothing to say.

“She realized her mistake when it was too late. She had to hide from Nero, and she couldn’t come back to me either. I tried to forget her- I thought she had left the city… Instead, she was still here, alone, suffering the loss of her magic, and herself. I got the chance to meet her one last time only because Jim was stubborn enough about defeating Nero, even if I was the first one that refused to help him… I failed Anna until the very end.” He took a long, deep breath, pointing at his chest, “Now, that necklace is all I have left of her.”

Leonard blinked in surprise, looking down at the gem for a moment. “Then why you gave it to me?”

“Because I think it’s not a coincidence if the last sparkle of Anna’s magic can help you, of all people.” He said smiling a bit.

Leonard stared back at him, then asked, “Whatever Nero did to Annabelle, you think he did the same thing to Jim?”

“I don’t know, but whatever it is, it wasn’t something Jim wanted. He was ready to give up; he was desperate and he was looking for help… The perfect timing for Nero to strike.”

“He gave up because of me…” Leonard slowly said. “At the park... He was fighting, but when he saw I was there, he couldn’t control himself anymore... And his magic hurt me.”

Benjamin sighed, “You need to understand that when I saw that Jim's magic is incredibly strong, I mean it. None of us know how he managed to hide it during most of his life… I can’t blame him for reaching a breaking point, but I blame Nero for taking advantage of it. I can’t let him destroy someone the same way he destroyed Annabelle- but I’m not the one that can save him.”

“And you think I can? He doesn’t even know who I am-”

“Then make him remember.” Benjamin insisted, watching him look away. “And I’m not asking you to forgive him. You can hate him all you want, but do it when he’ll be himself again.”

He laughed coldly. “As if I know which Jim is real anymore…”

“The real Jim is the one that refused to fight with me and Annabelle to come to save you,” Benjamin said. “The real Jim, your Jim, is the one that stayed by your side- by Starfleet's side, despite yours and their hate against magic. He had no reason to stay quiet all this time. He did it because he wanted to stay here, with you.”

Leonard’s eyes slowly became watery because he really wanted to believe that. “You’re saying that we can have him back?”

“Maybe.”

Maybe is not enough.”

Maybe means there’s a chance, and, trust me, you’re lucky to have that,” Benjamin said. “Don’t give up like I did. Not when there's a chance to help him.”

The other looked at the room, at Jim’s bed- and then at the bags he prepared before, ready to leave. “He has a lot to explain to me…” he said looking back at the sorcerer. “So, what’s the plan?”

 

“Are you all gone mad or something?” Leonard yelled at Benjamin, Pavel, and Spock. “No, really I- I’m genuinely worried it’s another virus. First Jim, now all of you.”

Spock stepped in. “I understand it might sound an incredible explanation-“

Incredible?” Leonard echoed in disbelief. “You’re telling me that Jim is gone, replaced with his evil clone from the goddamn future! That’s insane, not incredible!”

“We’re not sure he has actually been replaced yet…” Benjamin commented.

“Of course not. You just think Jim’s body is a shaker now, with two versions of himself inside!”

“And that’s the good new…” the sorcerer murmured brushing a hand over his eyes.

“Well, God help me if there’s a bad new too!” The doctor snapped.

“The bad news would be that I’m wrong,” Pavel told him, “and that the Jim we know doesn’t exist anymore… or he do, but- I don’t know where he is.”

The whole area trembled again, making all of them look around and then at the kid that let out a little, pained gasp. Leonard stared at him, at his golden eyes, well aware that Pavel’s shield was the reason they were still alive… Because he knew that Jim, the evil Jim, was still there at the gates, waiting for their defenses to crumble. “Let’s say you’re right… How Nero managed to put another Jim in his body? How- How is it possible for the two to coexist?” he asked, receiving intense glares from everyone. “What?”

“I wasn’t expecting an actual question from you…” Benjamin commented with a grin.

“Why? Have I said something wrong?”

“No- Not really. That’s what we can’t understand yet.” The sorcerer said looking at the kid. “We know Jim’s magic is strong, so, yeah, double that magic and keep it under someone control shouldn’t be that easy.”

“Well, except for himself,” Leonard said.

“From all we know, the- the evil Jim could actually be stronger…”, Pavel slowly said. “He might be the same person, but their magic feels different. That’s how I know our Jim might be still there.”

“You can feel his magic?”

Pavel nodded at the doctor. “I sensed it when he was talking to you.”

Leonard couldn’t hide his surprise, blushing a bit meeting Benjamin’s little smile. “T- that doesn’t mean I can help him.”

“I can, but I’ll need you as well.” Pavel told him.

“I’m just a human being, remember?”

“And that’s all we need right now,” Benjamin nodded. “We need you to talk with him. If Pavel finds our Jim again, he can connect with him, with his magic, and- hopefully, he’ll be able to make him come back.”

“That’s it? I just have to talk to him?” Leonard asked, frowning, and the two sorcerers nodded.

“Maybe telling him about your relationship could improve the chances of success.” Spock thoughtfully said.

Leonard pondered those words, then shook his head. “No. Last time we saw each other it wasn’t exactly a good memory… And I’m not gonna lie about it and pretend we’re fine. I don’t- I doubt that would help.”

“What you're going to tell him It’s your choice.” Benjamin agreed seriously. “The real problem is, I have to keep the shield up while Pavel and Spock concentrate on Jim… That means that if something happens, you will be on your own.”

On my own, facing an evil Jim eager to murder the whole Academy. Great. Leonard told himself before turning to Spock, “You can help him? You have magic too?”

“No, but I might support the connection with Jim’s mind if the time comes.” The Vulcan explained.

They all stared at each other for a moment, until Benjamin shrugged, "Some kind of plan is better than no plan at all."

Leonard breathed out and nodded. “Ok… be ready, then.” He murmured moving few steps away. He kept his eyes on the dormitory, wondering when magic would have leave him alone. He was scared just thinking about how much the scars on my back were hurting right now...

Benjamin placed a hand on his shoulder, making him jump. “Are you sure you can do it?”

“Y- yeah... I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”

“You're still in time to leave and never look back.”

“Don’t tempt me…”

“I won’t be able to help you later, but I can help you with the first step…” Benjamin smiled patiently, then looked at the gates.

Leonard kept his eyes down, taking a deep breath before slowly turning around: Jim was standing outside the barrier, looking at the city as without a worry in the world. “Even if Pavel felt Jim's magic before, I saw no difference while we spoke…”

“I don’t know if you’ll see any difference at all, but Pavel will. And if something goes wrong-“

“Worse than this? I’m starting to think death would be a blessing, by now.”

“Get Jim back first, so we all can kick his ass for the mess he made.” Benjamin patted is back before moving away.

“Or for the mess I have made…” Leonard murmured heading to the entrance.

Jim was leaning his back against the magic wall, then he blinked and turned around. “Oh, it’s the doctor again…”

Leonard could hardly stand that sarcastic, indifferent attitude. He saw a sparkle of it when Jim had to go back home to meet his brother, and that has been more than enough.

“You look so serious…”

“And you look bored.” Leonard finally said, earning a cold smile.

“It happens when people ruin your plans. I’m not the patience type,” Jim went quiet and studied him before smiling a bit. “You like my eyes a lot, huh?”

Leonard blinked, quickly trying to focus. Those damn amber eyes. “I just- I don’t think that’s the right color.”

“Maybe the one you remember was the wrong one.”

I hate this...

Jim’s eyes flashed with interest. “You’re giving me that look again...”

Leonard swallowed down the hurt. “What look?”

“The one that makes me think you’re going to start crying soon,” Jim said crossing his arms. “Let me guess… We were best friends or something?”

“We’re not friends.” Leonard cut short.

“That explains why I have no idea who you are. I think that you know me, though- well, the other me, at least...”

“Maybe. And maybe enough to not believe Nero dragged another Jim here from the future.”

“It sounds a bit crazy, isn’t it?”

“So you’re just pretending to be bad?”

“Sorry, but I’m not that good as an actor.”

“Then why are you doing all this?”

“You weren’t so concerned about my plans before…”

“It’s my friends that you’re planning to kill, you know that?”

Jim nodded gravely, then shrugged. “Sorry about that.”

Leonard's hands closed in tight fists. “Why?”

“You don’t even believe I’m from the future, why should I-”

“Because it’s our future you’re messing with.”

“About time, I would add. Nero was right saying that I wasted so many opportunities in the past… To make things right.”

“And you call this right? Starting a war and killing innocent people?”

“Oh, but the future will be much better, trust me.”

Trust you?” Leonard almost laughed- a cold, heartless laugh directed to his Jim, and something flashed in those golden eyes…

Behind the doctor, Pavel blinked, surprised. “Got him.”

“I mean me, not the other one,” Jim said. “I know it might be hard to understand, but that Jim’s long gone, so-“

“So I should be happy about it?” Leonard interrupted. “After what he did… I guess I’ll be the one left to blame for everything.”

The sorcerer frowned, blinking a couple of times.

“But those were his problems, right? Don’t think about it.”

Jim stared at him, then hissed in pain and turned aside, a hand against his head.

Leonard took a step forward, briefly looking at his friends, before focusing on the blonde again- and step back when he slowly started laughing.

“Oh, that wasn’t very nice of you…” Jim said, standing again. “Your friends are so desperate to have him back, are they?”

Leonard let out a little sigh. “And you just confirmed us our Jim is still here.”

“What’s left of him, you mean,” He snorted. “He was gone the moment I got in charge.”

“Doesn’t look like it.”

“Just give it time. Once all my memories will fit in, there won’t be anything left of the other me.”

I lost him? It’s already too late?

“You’re not really going to cry, are you?” Jim commented tiredly watching him look away. “Were you my- I mean, his doctor? I’m sure you’ll find other patients…”

Leonard looked back at Benjamin, trying his best to keep the barrier up, even if he had already lost the one person he wanted to protect the most… How he could find that same strength? How he could hold on knowing that Jim was lost forever…?

“Don’t listen to him! Jim is not giving up.” Pavel words echoed into his mind as a sudden, powerful bell. “If his memories are still there, it means that he’s not gone yet. Hold on those memories. Help Jim hold on his memories!”

Leonard tried to clear his thought- literally- and slowly turned to Jim that was still smiling. “Why you don’t want to keep those memories?” he asked and realized that was the right path because Jim’s smile lessened. “They’re still your memories. They could help you understand what was going on here- in our time.”

“I’m from the future, remember? I already know what happened.”

“Maybe... But you look scared.” Leonard said, using his own words, getting the cold glare that he was expecting.

“I’m tired of wasting my time,” Jim said placing both hands on the barrier.

Leonard saw black streaks running all over it, then everything started shaking, almost making him fall.

“Damn it-“ Benjamin fell on his knee and put his hands on the ground, looking at the other two. “Pavel, we don’t have much time left!”

“I know…” he said, keeping his focus on Jim’s magic, with no intention to lose it again.

“If you- if you know those memories,” Leonard insisted, standing up and right in front of him, “If they’re the same, why you don’t want to see them?”

“I’ll tell you one last time, doc: leave.” Jim growled, eyes shining gold.

“What if I don’t? You’re going to kill me? And tell me, are you going to use magic or bare hands like a real man?”

“Do you have suicidal tendencies or something?”

“Check those memories, maybe you’ll find out!”

Jim looked taken aback by his insolence- and by the fact that that man, a simple doctor with no magic, wasn’t scared of him.

“Or you can’t look at them…?” Leonard murmured, surprised by the thought. “Nero told you not to?”

“Shut up.”

“It’s his fault if you-?”

“I SAID SHUT UP!” Jim screamed while the dome cracked even more- and then he sent a furious glare at Pavel, “And you… Get out of my head!”

Not the kid, nor Spock had time to stop the connection and they both cried in pain, falling on the ground as if Jim physically pushed them away.

“Pavel!” Benjamin called, but if the kid was at least able to move, Spock was still laying and crying on his side.

Leonard looked at them then back at Jim. “You said you already saw what is going to happen, so what are you so scared about?”

“I’m not-“

“Why Nero wants you to forget?!”

“Because there’s nothing worth to remember!” Jim screamed back.

“Leonard, we have to leave!” Benjamin yelled at him, unable to keep up the barrier anymore.

The doctor looked at them one last time, “Then go! Take the others away!”

“We all have to-!”

I said GO!

Benjamin stared at him, unsure, then nodded and moved closer to Pavel and Spock and all three of them disappeared.

“Something’s really wrong with you…” Jim commented.

Leonard took a deep breath and looked back at him. “Yeah, I know.”

“And you also know that this shield will stay up for few seconds still before disappearing and allow me to tear you into pieces.”

“Go for it.” He simply said, making him frown again. “There was only one reason I stayed… If that’s gone- then I give up. I’m tired, Jim… I’m tired of holding on.” He murmured, looking down.

Jim stared at him, then his eyes got angrier and he used all his powers to destroy what was left of the dome that exploded in a flash of light, illuminating the whole Academy.

Leonard just stood there, shutting his eyes, waiting for the end while all that energy invested him as a strong storm. When everything went quiet, he slowly realized to be still alive, and carefully looked up, opening his eyes: Jim was standing right in front him, eyes shining gold more than ever- but he looked both furious, sad and confused. And Leonard knew that expression. He saw that face so many times…

“Why I can’t kill you?” Jim asked, angry with himself. “Why my magic doesn’t work on you?”

“Your magic works just fine,” Leonard said, swallowing down the fear, because, even being still alive, he could feel Jim’s magic hovering all around them like an ocean ready to overflow. “You just- you don’t want to hurt me…” He knew it was a bad idea, but he needed to feel Jim- to feel him physically, still there: he slowly moved a hand to his face, but before they could touch, Jim slapped the hand away, taking few steps back.

“I was ready to kill you- all of you! I- I should have-!”

“You don’t have to!”

“I-“ Jim looked around, so lost, and took another step back when he moved closer.

“Jim, please, don’t let those memories disappear,” Leonard said with watery eyes. “I know you’re scared and confused, but you can’t forget what we- what you get through. It- it can’t be for nothing.”

“I told you, I already know what happened!”

“Then remember it one last time!” Leonard yelled back. “Any of those memories Nero wants you to forget so bad. Pick just one of them before killing me.” He knew it was a long shot, but maybe… Maybe

Jim stared at him for a long moment, then breathed out and closed his eyes.

Leonard watched him frowning and then put both hands around his head while falling on his knees. “Jim!” he ran to help, unsure about touching him or not. When the blonde looked up at him, Leonard almost started crying- because one of his eyes was blue. That blue he loved so much.

“She’s still alive…?” Jim murmured.

Before Leonard could say something, the ground trembled again and a strong explosion occurred. As he turned around, Leonard saw smoke rising in the distance- from the Federation area. Looking back at Jim, he saw his eyes were back to gold. “Jim...“

The sorcerer looked away from the explosion as well, staring at him for a second before disappearing.

Chapter Text

Uhura was standing in front of the closed door of the meeting room, not daring look away from it not even for a second. She told Pike everything she knew- everything she and the others knew so far, but, from what she heard in the corridors, the Federation still wasn’t going to change their mind about magic.

When the door finally opened, few Admirals run straight away, barking orders here and there- then, Uhura saw Pike already moving towards her. “Captain-“

“Uhura, I told you, you shouldn’t stay here...”

“I have to intention to leave Gaila and the others. There’s nowhere to go anyway, now that we’re separated from the rest of the city,” she said. “What about the meeting? They’re going to help the sorcerers?”

Pike took a deep breath. “They listened to me, but refused to ally with them.”

“But-“

“The Federation didn’t answer to the attack yet only because they’re bringing together all the men still able to fight. Army, police- and any Starfleet member available.”

Uhura couldn’t believe it. “We aren’t supposed to fight to help our friends, but we can if it’s to protect the Federation?”

“At their eyes, there’s no friend on the battlefield. And, sadly, not even I can change that.”

“Half of the sorcerers out there are fighting for us- Gaila is there too, and they’re waiting for help, not to be attacked from both sides!”

“I know, that’s why I’ll try to slow down the operation,” Pike lowered his voice, moving both aside to have some privacy, “while you’ll warn Gaila and the others that they have to leave.”

“If they leave, the building will be attacked- probably destroyed.”

“And we’ll fight to not let that happen,” Pike said. “We dealt with magic in the past. Nero is not just a sorcerers’ responsibility.”

“I know, but- why refuse Morgan’s help if it might prevent the situation to get worse?”

“Because the Federation can’t trust magic, even if it could save many innocent people,” Pike said, anger slowly leaving the place to sad acceptance. “I wanted for this alliance to work more than anyone else… Jim was supposed to be here with me now, and-“ he stopped and shook his head, “From what you told me, he’s nowhere to be found... I wouldn’t blame him if he decided to join Nero...”

“I’ll never believe Jim betrayed us.” She instantly said.

Pike sighed, nodding once. “You’re right… Still, there’s nothing I can do at the moment, aside from trying to save Morgan and her people.”

“She won’t leave. None of them will… It’s their war too.”

“I know, but I want you to warn them that the Federation won’t return their kindness,” Pike said, and there was cold, controlled anger in his eyes. “If there are victims on the field, they need to be evacuated, understood? I’ll try to give you more time than I can.”

Uhura nodded once and watched him leave. Taking a deep breath, she looked out the window, hoping that Spock was alright.

 

The war was raging in front of the Federation headquarter, sorcerers against sorcerers; magic shining and flashing in the dark sky; trees and cars were on fire, as all the buildings around the large plaza while Nero’s army was moving to surround the whole area.

Gaila shoot a witch in the shoulder, turning around in time to raise a hand and create a shield that pushed other two away before disappearing. Breathing fast, she looked at the battlefield for a moment, magic so thick in the air to make her feel dizzy. Shaking the head to clear her vision, Gaila gasped realizing another witch was attacking her: she jumped back and fell, losing the gun, raising both hands to create another shield to protect herself.

“Why are you fighting? You don’t even have magic!” the witch sneered at her, getting closer while pushing fire all over the shield.

My thought, exactly, Gaila cursed at herself, hands shaking under the pressure, squeezed between the shield and the concrete that was starting to hurt her back.

The witch looked up and stopped smiling, disappearing when a large wave of fire moved in her direction, forcing her to leave.

Gaila’s shield shattered into pieces and vanished once again, leaving her breathless on the floor.

“Hey, you ok?” Kara asked arriving a moment later.

“Yeah… Never been better,” she commented, accepting her hand to stand- almost falling again.

“You can’t keep fighting like this.”

“I can, it’s just-“

“I mean that you can’t keep using our magic for so long,” Kara insisted, letting her go once sure she stable on her feet. “Morgan’s powers alone should’ve already knocked you out.”

Gaila sighed, and before being able to answer, she heard Uhura’s voice into her ear. “Nyota, hey. What happened? Did you-“

Kara retrieved her gun and watched her frowning, keeping a hand over the communicator. “She talked with Pike?”

“Are you kidding me?!” Gaila yelled instead. “They’re dying here- for them, how-“ she stopped again, listening in silence, angry eyes fixed on the floor. “Ok… No, I- I know you and Pike tried your best. Yes… yeah, I’ll tell them. Thank you.”

Kara sighed. “They’re not gonna help us, isn’t it?”

“It’s so stupid…” Gaila said taking the communicator off to throw it away, but then just kept it into her hand. “They see what is going on here- that we’re fighting to protect them too, and still they can’t trust us.”

“Not that I was expecting anything else…”

“And that’s the problem! We haven’t got through all this to let things stay the same! Jim alone, he- He sacrificed everything for nothing…” she murmured looking away.

A moment later, Morgan reached them, flames dancing all over her body. “There’s movement back there. What is going on?” she asked gesturing at the Federation building.

“The Federation won’t help us,” Kara simply said.

“What a surprise…” the witch growled.

“Uhura said Pike will try to borrow us some time to leave before finding ourselves in the crossfire,” Gaila said. “They won’t bother to distinguish good sorcerers from bad ones.”

“If we leave, no one will stop Nero,” Morgan said.

“They can’t be that stupid to think they can defeat him by themselves…” Kara nodded.

Gaila shrugged, shaking her head in defeat.

“I imagine they’re preparing to use another bomb,” Morgan commented, her eyes so cold, even shining through the flames.

“What? No, it’s- it would destroy half of the city.” Gaila asked, unsure.

“I hope it will be their last resort, but they might definitely do it.” She said, staring at the building. “I doubt they’ll waste the chance to kill Nero if he’s going to join the battle.”

Gaila shook her head and took a deep breath, putting the communicator back into her ear. “Then what can we do?”

“Kara…” Morgan called before turning to her. “Find the others and start taking away who can’t fight. I’ll try to cover you.”

“We’re leaving?” she asked, surprised.

“I don’t want anyone else to die because of these two stupid factions,” Morgan growled. “If they want to fight, let them fight.”

“You know the Federation won’t last,” Gaila said. “Nero gave all his people those marks just so they can-“

That’s not my problem.” Morgan screamed, flames growing higher for a moment before she calmed down. “Forgive me. I know it’s cruel, but this is my people. We all were just trying to help the same men that now are ready to walk over our dead bodies without even looking.”

Kara looked sadly at them both but said nothing.

“I’ll stay here, but the others have to leave. That’s all I can do.” Morgan said, sending a glare at Kara before flying away once again.

“Gaila…”

“It’s ok. She’s right after all…” She said, shaking her head. “You all did already so much for us. Maybe too much… Maybe the Federation needs to lose this war to realize their mistakes.”

“If Nero wins, we all are gonna lose...” Kara said giving the gun back. “For now, all we can do is try to save more people that we can. You should find Uhura and leave the area as well.”

Gaila nodded putting the weapon behind her back, watching her leaving to regroup with her people. She then turned around, brushing a tear away while heading to the Federation building. It has been all for nothing. Everything we’ve been through- everything Jim hoped for… “Uhura… Nyota, do you hear me?” she called in the communicator, just before the ground raised under her feet, slowly at first, then it suddenly cracked and Gaila fell aside, hitting her head hard enough to lose the communicator.

Kara looked up while the others were moving the injured away, and her shoulders dropped. “Damn it…”

From inside the Federation building, Pike and the other soldier watched as a gray sphere was floating in the sky above the battlefields: it was as big as a car, but getting bigger while surrounded by black lighting that started hitting the ground.

“Sir, I lost contact with-“ Nyota was saying entering the room but stopped next to him and the rest of the soldiers, staring outside. “What is that?”

Pike took a deep breath. “I fear that is Nero finally deciding to attack.”

Morgan landed on top of a car, staring angrily at the sphere. “You damn coward…”

“Morgan!”

She would have heard Kara’s voice everywhere, and instantly turned around, watching her gesturing at the building: the lightings were getting closer to it and, just then, one hit the walls before few others cracked the ground, creating wide explosions.

Gaila heard one of the blasts way too close and covered her head with both arms, feeling debris falling around. Luckily, only few little pieces reached her. Looking up, she saw part of the building has been destroyed, and the sphere was still slowly approaching. Standing up, she turned to the entrance, but something pushed her aside, and she found herself rolling on the floor once again.

“Don’t tell me you’re scared now?” Yda taunted while approaching her.

Gaila sat up, noticing that the body of the young witch was still unstable because of the mark she put on her neck. “You shouldn’t use your magic…”

“You really think your stupid mark can stop me?!”

“Whatever you say. I don’t have time for you.” Gaila shot back standing to leave, but Yda appeared in front of her and pushed her meters away, against the building's walls.

“You’re lucky, because I have time for you,” Yda said moving closer, still disappearing and reappearing while her eyes turned gold, but not for long.

“Yda, please-“ Gaila used the wall to stand again, but when the witch didn’t stop, she grabbed the gun and aimed at her.

Yda laughed. “You’re so funny...”

“I say you’re not in the conditions to avoid a bullet. Wanna bet?” the other asked coldly.

Shawn killed another sorcerer before noticing Yda held at gunpoint. Furious, he made appear another sword.

The two girls stared at each other for a few seconds, then Gaila saw Shawn behind the girl, running towards them ready to throw a sword. “WAIT! She can’t-!”

Yda heard his friend telling her to move, there was a special connection between them all, and she tried to obey, but her magic didn’t respond fast enough: she barely moved an inch, and a second later the sword hit her. Lowering her gaze, she saw the blade stained of blood coming out her stomach.

Shawn stopped for a moment, incredulous, before start running again.

Gaila lowered the gun, watching the witch falling on her knees while keeping both hands around the blade, coughing blood.

“Yda… Yda!” Shawn was quickly next to her, holding her by the shoulders, staring incredulously at the wound. “What happened? Why you didn’t move?!”

“C- can’t.” She managed to say between coughs.

Confused, he then noticed the unknown mark on her neck. When he turned to Gaila, his eyes were bright gold. “What have you done to her?”

Gaila wanted to say something, but whatever she would have said, it would be unheard. “I-“

Shawn screamed a spell and slammed a hand on the ground that started exploding in a line aiming at the girl.

Gaila stepped back but had time only to use her arms as a shield, hearing the concrete cracking, ready to be hit- and then, nothing arrived. She slowly dared to look up, and blinked in surprise: Jim was standing in front of her, stopping the attack without even raising a finger: the pieces of pavement were floating in front of them, the explosions already stopped, and then they simply fell down.

Jim kept staring coldly at the other sorcerer for a moment before turning to her.

Gaila breathed out in relief. “Jim… you’re alright? I thought-“ she found herself even more surprised when he stepped closer to cup her face into his hands to kiss her.

When they parted, Jim was smiling, his eyes shining gold and watery. “You’re really here…”

“Uh- y-yeah, I… Jim, are you ok?” she asked blushing, feeling confused more than anything else, and then he hugged her. “I- I was worried about you as well, but…” she continued but stopped when, placing a hand on his back, she started to feel his magic.

Jim felt her gently moving away, staring at him with a slight frown on her face.

Gaila tilted her head a bit. “You’re not…?”

“What are you waiting for? Kill her!” Shawn yelled at him, keeping Yda into his arms. “You’re supposed to fight for us!”

Jim slowly turned to him, looking at Yda for a moment. “And Nero was supposed to tell me the truth.”

“What are you talking about? The attack just started, we need you to-“

“Your sister should have been dying into your arms… I remember it.” Jim said moving closer. “Where’s Sophia?”

“SHE’S ALREADY DEAD!” Shawn screamed. “Now do what you have been called for if you don’t want more people to die because of you!”

“Nero told me it was already too late!”

“It will be too late if you’re going to betray us again!”

They stared angrily at each other before Jim swallowed and looked up at the sphere. Taking a deep breath, he raised a hand at it.

“Wait!” Gaila said grabbing his arm with both hands. “What are you doing? Jim, what happened to you?”

“Gaila, please…”

“Tell me!”

“I’m doing this for you as well. Just, let me-”

“Whatever Nero asked you to do, don’t. You know you can’t trust him!”

“He offered me another chance!” Jim yelled back, looking sadly at her. “A chance to redeem myself… to save you. All of you.”

Gaila refused to let go. “We’re still fighting- we still have a chance! You don’t need to listen to him!”

“It won’t work! I tried everything- we tried everything and we lost. I don’t what to see that happening again.” Jim tried to free himself, but she didn’t let him.

“All Nero did so far only caused more deaths!” Gaila insisted. “I don’t know what you saw, but whatever it was, it didn’t happen here yet. We’re trying to change it- you tried so hard to change it, Jim!”

“And it didn’t work!”

“You don’t know that!” she yelled back, “You arrived from the future, right? That’s what Nero was planning…” she continued, and grasped his arm even tighter when he tried to move away again. “And I’m dead in that future, am I?”

Jim’s eyes betrayed so much pain he looked ready to start crying. “I’ll change that.”

“You don’t need to. You thought I was already dead, but I’m not! You were sure your future already happened, but Nero just lied to you- again.” She said, pleading him with her eyes. “It’s not too late, don’t you see? Something changed already! Nero just doesn’t want you to know!”

Jim kept staring at her, confused and angry, but his arm lowered a bit.

“And you think your life is so special to change the future?” Shawn sneered at her. “The war won’t stop, and the story will just repeat itself.”

Gaila saw Jim staring at him, so she tried to get back his attention. “Jim, please. We come this far…” she said, eyes watery when he turned to her. “You’re the one that told everyone not to give up and keep fighting... We’re all here because of you.”

“Yeah. I’ve sent you all to die…”

“You sent us to fight, but we’re here because we wanted to. Morgan, and Kara- even me and Nyota. Even Pike is-“

Jim flinched at that. “Pike…?” he echoed. “He’s- he’s here?”

“Inside the building, with Nyota.” She nodded and never saw anyone breathing out so much relief. Then, his arm dropped completely and she dared to hope.

“That’s a shame…”

All of them turned at that voice: Nero was standing few feet away behind Shawn, tiredly shaking his head.

Jim’s face switched from relief to pure anger in a second. “You… You lied to me.” He growled moving forward.

“I told you there was no time, yes.” Nero nodded. “And what you think is going to happen after this adorable meeting of yours? You wasted your opportunity.”

“You told me that they were all dead- that it was too late!” Jim yelled.

“Yes, and now they’re all doomed because of you!” Nero screamed back. “I brought you here to change your fate, and theirs, and you’ve preferred holding into a brief moment of hope when I offered you the future you always wanted!”

“This isn’t- this is not just hope! They’re all alive, we have time to-“

“You think there’s always time, don't you?” Nero’s eyes turned black, with that dot of gold in the middle. “That’s the mistake you keep doing, but don’t worry, I thought about that too.”

With a scream of anger, Morgan threw herself against the sorcerer to kill him, and the attack raised flames and wind that forced everyone to look away to protect themselves.

Jim kept Gaila into his arms until the wind stopped. Looking back, he saw the two still standing into the flames, Nero holding the witch by her neck.

“Nice try.” Nero hissed at her that tried to attack him, but the flames slowly started turning black and a second later Morgan screamed in pain.

Kara turned around from the fight, eyes going wide when she saw what was happening.

Gaila tried to go help her, but Jim stopped her, shaking his head.

“Don’t tell me it burns?” Nero laughed, squeezing her neck even harder- until he saw a circle of magic appearing under his feet, and just sighed as the attack didn’t do anything. “Kid, you’re overestimating yourself.” He said looking at Pavel standing few meters away, visibly tired.

Benjamin appeared from the circle after few seconds, right behind Nero, putting an arm around his neck to block him. “Same goes for you. Now, let her go.”

Nero laughed and the black flames started moving against the other.

Benjamin didn’t wanted to let go, but the moment the flames touched his arm, he barely held back a scream as well.

When Nero was ready to kill both of them, he noticed something and quickly disappeared before Jim could hit him, letting both Morgan and Benjamin fall on the ground.

Pavel let the spell disappear and tried to reach them but then turned around, to the building, where soldiers were starting to flow out, running in their direction ready to fight. Taking a deep breath, he used all the magic he still had to rise another barrier to stop them from joining the battle.

Jim quickly moved to protect the two from Nero’s last hit with a shield that appeared without using any spell.

Nero kept playing with the last black flames into his hands before they slowly vanished. “I knew that you would have given up on everything because of this hope, James…” He said, looking at Shawn and Yda. “A shame, really.” He finished before disappearing again.

Jim kept staring at the spot where he vanished before looking down, eyes shut for a moment- then the cries behind him made him turn around.

“Morgan! Morgan!” Kara ran to her, kneeling and watching the black flames moving all over her body.

“Don’t touch her,” Jim said, voice flat while moving closer.

“What happened? What has he done to her?” she asked.

Jim didn’t answer. He studied the flames for a second, then grabbed Morgan’s arm and closed his eyes, barely flinching at the pain.

Gaila moved next to Benjamin that was sitting down holding his burned arm: the wound was black as well, and slowly spreading along the whole arm. When he saw Jim turning and offering a hand, he sighed and let him grab his arm, holding back another gasp of pain.

Jim’s eyes shined stronger than usual and once the silent spell was done, he took a deep breath and let them go.

Kara saw the flames slowly turning back to normal before disappearing completely, and Morgan opening her eyes again. “You, stupid- witch.” She said fighting back the tears, hugging her.

Benjamin looked at his arm, completely healed, then at Jim.

“The kid needs help,” Jim said standing up.

Benjamin frowned, then looked at Pavel that was barely holding on. “Damn it-! Pavel!” he jumped on his feet, running to help him.

Shawn was still keeping Yda into his arm, too scared to make the sword disappear. “I’m sorry…” he kept murmuring to the girl that faintly smiled at him, trying to hold his hand as long as she could. When he saw someone standing in front of him, he wasn’t surprised to find Jim staring down at them. “I knew that trust you was a mistake… I always knew-“

Jim moved a hand over Yda’s body that screamed when the sword finally disappeared.

“You-!” Shawn was ready to jump on him but she squeezing his arm to stop him, and he realized that her wound was slowly healing.

Once she was safe, Jim drop on his knees in front of them, keeping his sad eyes on the floor. “Yes, you told me that before… Sorry to disappoint you again.”

Shawn kept staring coldly at him. “If you knew, then why? Why giving up now that we were so close to change the future you ran away from?”

“Because I saw nothing of that future here… Not yet.” Jim said. “I saw a war starting and ending leaving nothing behind. The war is here too, but the people I love as well.” He looked at the others, “The war I joined was- it was just a kill or be killed, but this- this is nothing like that. There’s still hope, and will to fight for something, or someone…”

Morgan smiled at Kara before slowly sitting up, looking at Jim.

“Here, people fight to protect a different future. One I never saw.” He finished looking sadly at Shawn. “And Nero convinced me- he convinced all of us that that future was out of our reach.”

Shawn studied him for a moment, sadness creeping into his voice. “You think he lied about that too?”

Jim took a deep breath. “I think there must be a reason if he doesn’t want us to try.” He said standing up, helping Yda do the same.

Benjamin was coming back, keeping Pavel on his back. “You ok?” he asked Morgan that was standing.

She nodded. “Considering my magic almost got corrupted, yes, I’m fine… What about Pavel?”

“He’s just tired. Evil Jim here tested his powers bit too much today.”

Evil Jim? Really?” Gaila snorted checking on the kid.

“Well, he has been pretty evil until ten minutes ago,” Benjamin commented staring warily at him that was moving closer.

“It's true. I- I am sorry.” Jim said. “I was- I’m still confused. I really thought Nero could have...” he sighed, shaking his head. “It was all a mistake.”

“What about our Jim?” Kara asked, “Where is he?”

“He’s still inside this body- in this heart, somehow, but... I don’t know if they’re just memories.” He answered, getting cold and sad looks from them.

“So you’re saying we lost him for good when you took his place?” Benjamin asked, “There’s no way to get him back?” but Jim just shook his head again.

“How did Nero managed to bring you here?” Morgan asked. “Travel in time and dragging a person along with him… He should’ve been dead in the processes.”

“Not if you take only the soul…” Gaila murmured, getting perplexed looks in return. “That would explain why there aren’t two Jim around. Is that what Nero did?” she asked to Jim than just shrugged.

“Probably. I can’t remember what spell he used, but, yeah, this isn’t- this is not exactly the body I remember to have…”

“And you also remember our future being so terrible that even Nero wants to change it?” Benjamin asked.

Jim briefly looked at Gaila before staring down. “It was pretty bad. That’s why I can’t blame him for trying.”

More explosions started from the plaza, making all of them turn around.

“We need to stop them,” Shawn said, with Yda standing next to him. “It’s time for us to retreat.”

“Nero won’t forgive you if you do,” Kara said.

“And I won’t forgive him for letting Yda die. And for killing my sister.” He shot back. “He will have to answer our questions first, if he still wants us to fight for him.”

“We all should retreat if we don’t want to fight the Federation,” Benjamin said tilting his head at the soldier on the other side of the barrier he created. “The situation will get worse if we keep them trapped there.”

Gaila was caressing Pavel head, then looked around, asking, “Spock wasn’t with you?”

“I left him with Uhura. He- he’s not able to fight right now.” He said looking at Jim.

“It’s my fault. I should-“ He suddenly stopped, turning around, in direction of the Academy.

“What is it…? Do you feel it?” Kara asked.

“It’s a spell…?” Morgan nodded, feeling the same strange, strong magic.

“It’s Nero,” Jim said.

“He’s at the Academy”, Pavel managed to say.

“So his plan B is to attack Starfleet?” Benjamin asked.

“But the sphere is still here…” Gaila said, looking up at the object that was now moving again against the building- hitting the barrier that started cracking like glass. “Uh, guys… That might be a problem.”

“That spell isn't strong enough to stop it… Ben, follow me.” Morgan called and he nodded, leaving Pavel to Gaila before running behind her, closer to the building to keep the barrier up- then, everyone froze hearing screams from the plaza.

Kara saw that most of the sorcerers and witches stopped fighting, fear and confusion on their faces while their whole bodies started shining. “What is happening to them?”

Jim was as surprised as the rest of them, then he heard Yda gasping and, turning around, saw that the same thing was happening to Shawn.

He was staring at his own hands, then looked up at them while his eyes turned black. “It can’t be...” He murmured before bending over in pain, and the other sorcerers did the same while the sphere floating in the sky grow bigger.

“Protect the building!” Jim yelled at Morgan and Benjamin before running to Shawn, trying to help, but he couldn’t even touch him without being hurt.

“Come on, we need to stop it,” Morgan said raising her hands.

“We can’t just watch them die!”

“Whatever Nero is doing, it’s to use that sphere and you know we have to stop it!” she yelled back. “We can’t do anything for them now.”

Benjamin spared another look at the battlefield, then shook his head and turned to the Federation building, together fortifying the barrier all around it.

Jim tried to help the sorcerer again and again, but nothing seemed to work.

“It’s the mark…” Shawn told him, voice furious and in pain.

“What mark?” Jim asked.

“The mark Nero gave us… To all of us.” Yda said putting a hand over her shoulder, “I have it too… Why it’s not having the same effect on me?”

“Maybe it’s because of the mark I’ve put on you before...” Gaila said, then moved to Shawn, but Jim stopped her, “Maybe I can-“

“Nero’s magic won’t let you get closer. Not even I can.” Jim said, then looked at Yda, “What marks are you talking about?”

She showed her shoulder, where Nero’s mark was. “He gave them to all his people, and who couldn’t control their magic… It’s supposed to help us.”

Jim studied it for a moment, frowning. “I never saw this mark before…”

“You’re from the future- You should know about it!” Shawn yelled.

“Nothing like this ever happened in my future,” Jim said thoughtfully, then placed a hand over Yda’s mark.

She yelped, jumping back, realizing the mark was now just a scar. “No… no! Why you removed it? I need it to control my magic!” she yelled, angry and scared.

“These marks aren’t made to help you, they’re- Nero is just using them to control you. To control everyone…” He said watching all the people suffering in the plaza.

“He’s- using us?” Shawn murmured. “But- he can’t… He can’t use our magic as he wants!”

“He’s not. What you feel- the strength he gave you to fight until now it's Nero’s magic.” Jim said. “I think he’s using you as a catalyst.”

“A catalyst for what?” Gaila asked.

“For the spell he’s creating in the Academy,” Pavel said, weakly leaning against her. “All the magic is moving there.”

“Hey! There are people with the mark inside the building too!” Benjamin yelled, watching the soldiers taking distance from the ones that kept their magic a secret until that moment.

“How many people accepted that stupid mark?” Kara murmured, watching people affected by it everywhere.

Jim looked around feeling lost more than ever, until a hand grabbed his arm, making him almost jump away.

“There’s a way to stop it?” Gaila asked him. “To stop Nero? Maybe we can-“

“I’m the only one able to fight him.” he sighed

“But we can help. There’s still people free from the mark. Together we could-“

Jim shook his head and grabbed her hand, smiling a bit. “Knowing that you’re still alive helped me more than you think. If things get bad, promise me you'll leave this place.”

“You wish. I’m not going anywhere.” She snorted and he laughed softly. Gaila slowly started to understand that kiss they shared before. “The future you were in... It must be very different from now…”

“Yeah… Yeah, it is.” he said looking at her with a strange melancholy.

It took Gaila a moment to realize something. “Wait- if you were at the Academy, where’s Le-“

Another earthquake hit just then, making them stumble on their feet. Jim held her by the hand and then said, “I have to go. Please, be careful.”

“You too,” she nodded and he gave her one last smile before disappearing. She then looked at Shawn and all the people suffering from the mark- and saw Pavel sat on the floor. “Hey… hey, you ok?” she asked crouching next to him that slowly nodded. She sighed, keeping an arm over his shoulders.

“Nero never cared about us…” Yda whispered looking at the battlefield with watery eyes that then she moved on Shawn. “We've always been just mere sacrifices for his plan...”

 

Jim reappeared in front of the Academy a few seconds later, noticing symbols slightly shining on the ground, part of a gigantic spell covering all the Starfleet area. Taking a deep breath, he stepped into it, instantly feeling cold, dark and powerful magic slowing him down. He proceeded in the campus, finding Nero standing in the middle of it.

He turned around and smiled at him. “A welcome back would sound off in your case, isn’t it?”

“What the hell are you trying to do?” Jim asked moving forward. “What are those marks you’ve put on your people?”

“Oh, you saw them?”

“They’re killing them. You are.”

“As I said, I had to be ready, just in case you would have changed your mind.”

“I trusted you with my life! You brought me here promising me to change the future, and then convinced me that it was too late, that everyone was already dead!” he yelled. “Why? Why you lied?”

“Because hope makes people weak! Look at yourself: we were so close to winning the war, and a girl was enough to make you turn back to the pathetic sorcerer I met the first time.”

“She was my wife!” Jim screamed. “You know she died fighting your war, and you were ready to let her die again! To let everyone die, including your own people- and for what? To destroy a building?”

“That was just the first step.”

“The first step of a war that will last four years!” Jim insisted. “I joined you because I wanted to change the future, not being part of a plan to make it worse!”

“And we were so close to get all we wanted, James. You decided to give up, I understand, but I won’t.” Nero said, and with a snap of his fingers, Jim cried out and fell on his knees. “The future I want will become real, and you’ll help me to obtain it.” He said moving towards him. “Making you part of it was just an act of kindness from me, and you had the courage to refuse it…”

Jim couldn’t use magic, nor had enough strength to stand. Looking down at the symbols shining on the floor, he frowned, looking up at the other. “W-what are you trying to do?”

“I hoped I didn’t have to do this again.” Nero raised a hand, an aura of black magic surrounding it. “But we’re getting used to it, aren’t we?”

Few memories flashed in Jim’s mind for a second, then something hit Nero on the head, making him stumble away, and Jim found himself free from his magic, but still drained from all the energy. He could sense his magic blocked by Nero’s spell, and the feeling was agonizing.

“Jim… Jim, you ok?”

Looking up, he frowned. “You... What- are you doing here?”

Leonard sighed. “Just passing by… What do you think? I’m trying to save your ungrateful ass!”

Jim blinked to be sure he wasn’t imagining things. “No, you… It’s dangerous, you shouldn’t be here!”

“That wasn’t very nice…” Nero murmured, massaging his head with a hand while turning to the doctor, “Bullets against magic? Someone is new, here.”

Leonard swallowed down the fear, ready to stand and shoot again- then a hand grasped his arm hard enough to hurt.

“Doc, leave. I- I’m serious.” Jim insisted.

“I’m not leaving you alone with him ever again.”

Jim was more confused than ever, “What?”

“Please, be my guest, doctor.” Nero said. “I’m sure this meeting is going to be very interesting.”

Chapter Text

Uhura was running down the stairs faster than she could, millions of terrible thoughts crossing her mind, until she reached the second floor: there was a little group of people in front of an office, police officers and civilians, and she moved all of them away to enter the room, finding Spock laying on a sofa, visibly in pain, with his eyes closed. “Spock… Spock, can you hear me?” she sat next to him, caressing his face, realizing what Benjamin told her wasn’t an exaggeration.

“He’s not hurt, but his mind it’s drifting out of his control and he can’t wake up,” the sorcerer said when he suddenly appeared in front of her few minutes before, “Pavel can’t help him, but Jim should be able to, so stay with him until we’ll manage to bring him here. Spock’s downstairs, second floor. Talk to him, help him not get more lost than he already is… I’m sorry.” and then he was gone again.

Uhura fought back the tears watching the Vulcan stuck in his own mind, imagining what a pain has to be for him.

“He- he’s not injured,” a young girl with brown hair said, slowly taking a step closer. “I checked him up."

“I know... I’ll stay with him, now,” Uhura nodded, turning to her, realizing she was a civilian. “You should stay with the others…”

“He and his friend saved my life. I’m just returning the favor,” she smiled a bit. “I’m Ellie.”

“Nyota.” She presented herself. “How did he saved you?”

“My house got destroyed in the attack. A guy named Jim helped me escape, and- well, let’s say your friend, here, was outside and sent me and my dad here.” Ellie said, gesturing at Spock. “He didn’t even told us his name…”

Uhura smiled a bit. “His name is Spock.”

Ellie nodded. “He’s in Starfleet, right?”

“He is. He and Jim both.”

“But I saw Jim using magic...”

“I know, but that doesn’t mean he’s not one of us.”

Ellie was frowning, but then smiled back at her and simply said, “Cool.” A moment later, both turned around earing a scream out the room.

“Stay here.” Uhura said.

“No way. I can help!” Ellie followed her in the corridor, where both of them froze watching a scared woman standing against a wall on the other side of the floor, while her whole body was shining, her eyes gold of magic. “Or maybe I can’t,” she finished, jumping when a hand grabbed her shoulder.

“What is happening to her?” Joel asked.

“I don’t know…” Uhura said, unsure.

“I’m not doing this!” The woman cried, watching everyone with watery eyes. “I- I'm sorry, I don’t know what is going on!”

Ellie noticed a soldier moving forward rising a rifle, and she stepped in front of him, grabbing it with both hands to keep it down. “Don’t shot her!”

“Kid, you better stay back.”

“She doesn’t want to hurt anyone!” Ellie insisted, and when she lost the hold on the weapon, Joel stepped in front of her, saying, “She’s right. Look at her: she’s scared as much as us.”

“She’s a witch. The orders are to-“

“We don’t know what is happening,” Uhura said, moving between them. “She was fine until a moment ago.”

“She was helping your friends until a moment ago.” Ellie added, staring stubbornly at the soldier.

No one moved for a while, then the woman screamed in pain, falling on her knees. Ellie moved to help, but Joel stopped her, shaking his head.

“But she needs help!”

“I don’t think we can do anything for her…” Uhura sadly said, a thick aura of magic visible around the woman- then, more screams echoed from the other floors, making all of them look around.

“What the hell is going on?” Joel murmured.

Uhura took a deep breath, shaking her head. “Something even the sorcerers are scared of.”

*

Jim could barely stand on one knee, a hand grasping the floor while trying to understand how Nero’s spell managed to block his magic. A hand came to support him, and he angrily pushed it away, looking up at the doctor, “Why are you still here?!”

“Because I’m stupid, that’s why,” Leonard said, trying to help him again, but the blonde was too weak to move. “And because we both have to leave this place.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Jim growled, moving away.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Nero said, standing few meters away, hovering a hand over the gigantic spell he created: few of the symbols shining on the ground moved, as new appeared.

“Good. Then let him go,” Jim said, “You don’t need him. He’s- he’s nothing like us.”

Leonard would have lied saying that those words didn’t hurt a little. “I not leaving yo-“

“YES, YOU WILL,” Jim growled, turning angry, yellow eyes against him.

“I’m sure impressed from how he’s still standing here, with us,” Nero said changing the last symbol before looking up at them. “You should be dead by now, doctor.”

“What?” They both asked.

“So, tell me, what’s your secret?” Nero continued, moving around the two like a wolf preparing to attack.

Leonard swallowed. “I- I don’t-“

“He’s just lucky.” Jim said moving in front of him. “He’s not important. Just let him go.”

Nero moved his black eyes on Jim, studying him. “You keep saying that, yet you seem worried about him.”

“I have no idea who he is, but I don’t want to see more people dying because of me- because of magic.”

“You have no idea who he is…” Nero nodded. “It’s the same for me, so you won’t mind if I quickly wipe him away like the rest of these irrelevant lives around us,” he said raising a hand.

“Please-” Jim insisted, but was forced to use magic to protect both of them from the attack: he barely make it, crying in pain and falling on his knees again, with Leonard quickly moving to his side.

“You still have some energy left,” Nero commented, looking even more interested.

Leonard had no idea of what to do- or how to stop a sorcerer, especially one as strong as Nero. He stared at Jim suffering so much, and even if it wasn’t his Jim anymore, there was something… Somehow, they were still protecting each other. “Come on,” he said putting Jim’s arm over his shoulders and both stood once again.

“You’re persisted, I’ll give you that,” Nero said with a cold smile.

“You’ve played with him more than enough.” Leonard shot back.

“And, tell me, what is your plan, exactly? Just walk away, praying that I’ll let you two go?”

The doctor tiredly breathed out. “If you want me to leave him here, you’ll have to kill me.” That said he turned around, dragging the other with him.

Jim was shaking his head, grasping his shirt. “What- the hell is wrong with you?! He’s going to kill you if you-”

“I know. I know he will.”

Jim stared at him, this doctor looking so scared, and yet stubborn enough to give his back at someone like Nero. “Stop it… This is- that’s enough.” He tried to get free, but a second later, they were both flying and landing in different directions. Slowly pushing up on his elbows, he saw Leonard has been pushed back, laying on the ground in front of Nero.

“I have to admit that I’m surprised,” Nero said standing next to the doctor that froze the second he realized where he was, “And I shouldn’t be. For me, this war already happened… I saw the start and the end of it, and I can assure you, Jim’s the last one to deserve such a loyal pet like you.”

“If I want to help him- if I want to die for him, that’s up to me.” Leonard declared. He knew it was just a matter of time, and if that really was the end, he sure was going to tell this sorcerer what an asshole he was.

“Oh, I know he would let you sacrifice yourself without thinking twice.” Nero nodded.

“You don’t know shit about him.”

“Are you sure?” Nero grinned coldly at him that swallowed in silence. “I’ve had almost two lives to know him. I was there when he tried to protect people like you and failed. I know what can destroy his soul, and what he has destroyed, hoping to feel better, to solve this war… The more he tried, the worse the situation got. It was so sad to watch, it became ridiculous.”

“Shut up,” Jim growled trying to stand.

“He will save them- everyone, from you,” Leonard said.

“Blaming me might make you feel better, but the truth is different,” Nero patiently said, looking at Jim, “And way harder to accept, isn’t it, James? Tell me, now that you have found your friends again, are you going to tell them why there’s no hope in their future?”

“I’ve come here to change that!” Jim yelled, his face betraying sadness and guilt. “You told me it was possible! You told me there was hope!”

“I did, but now you destroyed all my efforts, and the story will repeat itself!” Nero screamed back, the circle below them shining more. Taking advantage of that moment of distraction, Leonard tried to shot him again, but the sorcerer blocked him without even touching him and laughed.

Leonard didn’t have time trying getting free, suddenly finding himself turned on his stomach, forehead hitting hard against the pavement, the gun falling away.

“You want to help him so desperately? Even if his death might be the only option to save this world?” Nero asked the doctor. “Would you do it, James? For your friends?” he then asked the other, smiling like a maniac.

Leonard pushed himself up just enough to keep his head above the ground and, turning to Jim, his heart dropped at the dark expression on his face. “No-! Don’t even think about it!”

“You know there won’t be another chance,” Nero kept pushing him. “You know what is going to happen.”

“Jim-“

“All the suffering, all the pain… Do you really want to go through all that again?”

JIM.” Leonard roared and he flinched, looking down at him. “Please- don’t listen to him.” He managed to say before magic crushed him against the pavement even more, making it hard to breathe.

“It’s incredible how much you care about him since he’s the reason why this war started.” Nero murmured before looking up at Jim, “You haven’t told him?” He asked and laughed softly. “You haven’t told anyone, isn’t it?”

“Shut your goddamn mouth for a second,” Leonard snarled- then a hand grabbed his right arm and painfully kept it behind his back, forcing him to stay on his left side. Facing Jim again, he saw him looking down after a second, a guilty expression on his face. Leonard frowned, “No... No, he didn't-“

“Oh, he did.” Nero continued talking into his ear. “He tried so hard to make peace with his demons and help others do the same, but, in all honesty, how can you expect for a sorcerer unable to control his power to join Starfleet and solve anything? Too much pressure, too many secrets… And once you reach the limit, there’s no turning back.”

Leonard almost forgot where he was: Jim kept his eyes down, the expression on his face was so sad- so devastated. “E- even if he lied-“

“Despite all that, he refused my help until it was too late, and people died. That girl first… What was her name- Uhura? Then the Vulcan that started hunting him down, forcing him to hide even more. Do you remember the explosion, James?” he asked, but Jim said nothing, his hands closed in tight fists. “And then the battle… Your precious Gaila getting killed because you were too scared to do your part… Then it was Pike’s turn, right?”

“Shut up.” Jim hissed.

“That poor man, trying so hard to help you, to convince the Federation that you were not a monster…”

“He didn’t-“

“Ironic how he died by your hand.” Nero laughed as Jim put both hands around his head, screaming in pain and anger while the ground started shaking again. “Yes! Do you remember now? This is exactly what happened: when you had lost everything- when you had nothing left, you finally decided to listen to me!” he screamed as well, standing and approaching him while Leonard rolled on his stomach, magic blocking him down again. “You begged me to help you and that’s what I did! I was the only one there for you. The only one nothing but amazed by what you were able to do!”

“Amazed by watching me killing people?!”

“I was the one that helped you controlling the magic you were so scared of!”

Then why you didn’t stop me before it was too late?!” Jim screamed back.

“Because you could accept how powerful your magic was! Why you think I wanted to go back in time? It took so long to met because you keep hiding all your life, but when it happened, everything changed- we both feel it, even if you were still not ready to embrace what you are! You’re scared of being free!”

Jim stared angrily at him, a hand still grasping his hair. “If being free means to become like you, I rather die in a cage.”

They stared at each other for a moment before Nero shook his head. “I really hoped this time it would be different. I have waited years to meet you again, just to realize that my plan- our plan, was risking to fail again. I know your magic still makes you somehow unpredictable… That’s why I've spent the last years preparing a backup plan. Just in case.”

Jim frowned, watching him creating another symbol in the circle- one that made Jim remember something else. “This- I saw this spell already…”

“Your memories are finally coming back, I see.” Nero smiled as another sign appeared and the whole circle started spinning even so slightly. “Anyway, now it’s too late to…” he slowly stopped talking, a sincere confusion appearing on his face for the first time after many, many years, and he turned around.

Jim saw him carefully approaching the doctor. “No… wait!” He tried to move, just to fall down again.

Nero stopped next to the man, studying him, then hovered a hand over his body and symbols started to shine on Leonard’s back, visible even through the clothes: a circle of symbols forming a spell. Nero’s smile slowly widened. “Seems like we found out your secret, doctor…”

Leonard tried to move, but the magic kept him stuck in place. Shivering, he looked up at the sorcerer standing next to him. “’the hell you talking about?”

“This perfect spell you have on your back…” Nero said crouching, staring at it with a slight grin on his face. “I never expected it to last for so long. Or for you to survive.”

Leonard suddenly froze, staring at Nero’s feet while those words lingered in the air.

“It was meant to be a compliment, doctor. Your mother did an amazing job. I’m impressed.” The sorcerer said and laughed as Leonard started screaming in anger, desperately struggling to move.

“Leave him alone!” Jim yelled again, dragging himself closer, watching Leonard trashing and screaming like crazy. “W- what have you done to him?”

“Nothing that I haven’t done already- when was it? Twenty years ago?” Nero said sending a pitiful look at the doctor that just fought even more. “The first war against magic was at its end, and all we got was that useless truce… so I thought, why don’t try again? I just needed a little help...”

You killed my family!” Leonard screamed.

“Yeah, and you should be dead as well,” Nero nodded thoughtfully. “I never heard about anyone surviving this spell…”

Jim raised on his knees, noticing only then the symbols shining on Leonard’s back- and he slowly understood. “You’ve used him- and his family, to travel in time?” he asked, horrified.

“I did, but time spells rarely go as planned, and I found myself in the future, instead of the past,” Nero said taking few steps in Jim’s direction. “Once there, I almost accepted the defeat… Then, I saw how important you were in the future; how, even losing the first war, you were going to make us win and get our revenge, and that knowledge had to be mine. Convincing myself of the future to join my plan wasn't easy, but… In the end, we managed a deal.” He said with an evil smile.

“No one would survive traveling in time twice… Not taking someone with you,” Jim said. “How did you…?”

“It doesn’t matter. What actually matters, is that I can fix this- all this, every problem you have caused.”

Jim’s heart skipped a beat, looking at the symbols shining beneath them. “This is- You’re trying to go back in time again?” he asked, but the other just kept smiling at him. “You can’t! Magic can’t be used like this! You're risking to break this reality!”

“I’m not breaking it. I’m fixing it.”

“Magic doesn’t exist to change history as you want!”

“Says the one that accepted to join my plan without second thoughts.”

“I wasn’t- I just wanted to save the people that died because of me!”

“And who says that your friends weren’t supposed to die?! Who says that this war isn’t supposed to happen?” Nero shot back. “It’s just about accepting our fate, James. I don’t, and I’ll never accept to see magic defeated.” That said, Nero moved back to Leonard. “So, now you have two choices: you can help me destroy the Federation as you promised, or we’re all going back and have another round. And this time, I'll make sure everything will go as planned.”

Jim helplessly watched Leonard still trashing on the floor, trying to get free. “You can’t do it…”

“My powers might not be enough, but with this spell, here…” he said looking down at Leonard, “Using this, I'm sure it will work, like it should have the first time.”

“Magic always asks for a price, and you know this kind of magic is no exception.” Jim said.

“And I’m ready to pay that price with the lives of all the people that have faith in me.” He said gesturing all around himself.

“That’s not faith, you lied to them! You- you marked them as animals to sacrifice!”

“I told them that a better future was possible. There’s no lie in that.” Nero grinned, “Now, make your choice.”

Jim held his gaze, then briefly looked at Leonard. His shoulders dropped, looking down. “I'll do it.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll help you, so just- just stop. Enough of this-“

NO!” Leonard yelled turning to him. “I’d rather die than being used by him again!”

“Oh, don’t tempt me.” Nero laughed.

“You have to stop him!” Leonard continued, never taking his eyes off of Jim. “No one deserves to start this all over again! It has to stop!”

“I can’t-“

“YOU HAVE TO!” Leonard screamed, despite how scared he was. “Jim, please, don't let him win… Don’t let this happen again.”

“James…” Nero’s voice was a warning, and his eyes flashed of anger watching him taking a deep breath, the decision clear in his eyes. "I really hoped you would have taken the right decision for once.”

Jim took another step forward before the spell pushed him down again. “You- can’t do this!”

“Too bad is not up to you to decide.” Nero looked down at Leonard, noticing the necklace he was wearing. “So that’s what is protecting you…”

Leonard barely turned to him, watching the pendant levitate slightly from the ground before a flash of light make him look away. He was expecting to be dead, but, instead, he found the green gem still intact- shining a bit stronger.

“Someone like you shouldn’t have such a powerful object.” Nero angrily murmured, hovering a hand above him again. “It protects you from magic, but I’ve created this spell, and I know other ways to make it work.”

Leonard should have expected what happened next, but it has been so long since that terrible day, he forgot how much painful that moment has been: suddenly, it felt like that horrible piece of glass was carving into his flash again, burning it as well, this time, and he started screaming without even realizing.

Jim could see Nero using his magic on Leonard’s back, trying to reactivate the spell, the smell of burning clothes and flesh making him feel sick. “No- no, stop it!”

“It’s too late now,” Nero laughed, watching the symbols shining while rewriting them, opening those old wounds. “You condemned the world, James. I gave you a choice!” he yelled, as the circle below them shined in response.

Jim watched Leonard screaming and crying all his agony, all the pain and fear, and wished he could take his place.

Leonard’s mouth clicked shut. “Are you wearing my clothes?”

Jim closed his eyes at the new memory. “Not now…”

“And there was no other place better than Iowa?”
Leonard looked out the big windows, at the planes waiting under the rain. “Not at the moment.”

Dropping his head into both hands, Jim tried to keep those memories away, but Leonard’s screams were so strong- so painful to hear… He needed to focus on his own memories- memories of the terrible future he lived in, losing all the people he loved and… And just then, he finally managed to get them all back. He blinked, shocked, before looking up.

Half of the circle was completed on Leonard’s back, bloodstains visible on his clothes; the lines of the spell Nero was cutting as if using an invisible laser. The sorcerer kept ignoring the man’s screams, until the ground cracked under his feet, making him stop. Turning, he saw Jim staring at him with angry eyes.

“You killed me,” Jim murmured. “That’s how you managed to come back here… You just took my magic with you- to use it, as everybody else’s.”

Nero sighed, lowering his arm and moving away from Leonard, and his screams slowly reduced to a pained cry. “So you remember it.”

“How could you…?” Jim hissed, the ground shaking even more.

“It wasn’t personal. I killed my future self as well.” Nero laughed at his shocked expression. “I needed to go back, but I needed to keep your magic intact, so I doubled mine. It worked amazingly well, don’t you think?”

“You’re insane…”

“And you’re just a memory. Not even for long, sadly…”

“What you mean?”

“I doubt you’ll be able to coexist with your good twin. I’m surprised it lasted until now…” Nero patiently said. “Why you think I wanted you to help me so much? Erasing your other self was the only way for you to survive.” He took a deep breath, shaking his head. “Try to keep that in mind for the next time.”

Breathlessly and in pain, Leonard saw him approaching again. “No… no, please-“ he cried, still trying to move away, but Nero just laughed softly.

“Whatever happened, we will fix it. There’s nothing to be afraid of, alright?”

Jim shut his eyes at yet another memory. “Don’t hurt him…” he murmured without realizing he actually did. Unsure, he watched the doctor trying to escape his terrible fate- once he started screaming again under Nero’s torture, Jim screamed all his anger even stronger.

Nero turned but failed to avoid the blade that grown from the ground and stabbed him in the chest, dragging him meters away.

Use magic was still terribly hard, but Jim took the opportunity to move closer to the doctor: he was finally free to move, but barely managed to flinch back at his touch, crying in pain. “I- I’m sorry,” Jim said, horrified by what Nero did to the man- what he could’ve prevented from happening. He almost started crying as well, feeling an unknown worry and affection for the doctor. I don’t even know you… I thought I didn’t know you…

“So it’s really him…” Nero said pushing himself off the blade, the large slash on his chest already healing itself. “The anomaly I was looking for is a weak, useless mortal.”

Jim looked up at him, just to be thrown away and blocked on the ground.

“I could tell something was wrong since our first meeting… It was different from the one happened in the future,” Nero continued, slowly approaching them again. “I actually thought the responsible was that girl, Gaila, but she wasn’t so important to change our future... Instead, the one guilty of ruining my plan is a mere, insignificant human that should’ve been dead twenty years ago,” He stood in front of Leonard, smiling maniacally before proceeding to the sorcerer.

Jim was too weak to fight and just stared at the other standing in front of him.

“You know how anomalies works, James? They ruin everything with just their existence…”

“The only anomaly I see here- it’s you.” He commented.

Nero saw one of his eyes turning blue, and he shook his head in anger. “No. I’ll get rid of it… of you all!” he yelled starting creating another spell on Jim’s chest and he screamed in pain as it burned his flesh. “I will have the future I want! No matter how-“ he stopped and turned around: Leonard was barely standing on his feet, staring at him with the gun in hand. Nero almost laughed, “You can try shooting me all you want-”

“He will.” Leonard said, but there was another voice blending with he’s- a female voice. “And I’ll help him.”

Nero frowned, then saw his eyes shining green. “You…!” he instantly sent an attack against the man, but his magic did nothing.

Annabelle slowly appeared next to the doctor, unclear, as a reflection in the water, except for her eyes, shining as strong as always. She took a step forward, staring at the sorcerer with a cold expression. “What have you done, Nero? What monster have you become?”

“One not scared to do what’s right!” he growled attacking her, but again, his magic hit the invisible force protecting the two. “I tried to convince you- all of you to join me!”

“We should’ve joined this madness?”

“You call it madness, I call it justice.”

“I don’t see any justice here. Just a man that believed an illusion.”

“I believed the future I saw! The future we all deserve!”

“You just saw an alternative.” She insisted. “You forgot how easily everyone’s fate can change? Even just one life can make all the difference,” she said, looking at Leonard that was staring at them, but his face was blank. “What James said it’s true: he’s not the anomaly in this world. You have become one the moment you decided to come back.”

Nero shook his head in disbelief. “No… No, I had to come back! I needed to make it happened here… He- he can’t be responsible for changing my destiny!”

“Your destiny changed the moment you decided to use that spell.” Her voice was cold ad ice, slowly growing angry. “And you were lucky enough to reach another reality- the one you wanted to most. All you had to do was accept it.”

Nero screamed in anger and attacked again, but she quickly disappeared, becoming a veil of mist that covered the whole space of the spell still shining on the ground. “I know what I saw! You think a simple human can stop me from gaining that future? Or that you can?!” he yelled looking everywhere for her. “I could easily destroy the world with these powers if I wanted to! And I will, if you-“ he stopped when the mist suddenly moved around him: Nero screamed again, trying to get free- and then, the mist vanished completely. He checked himself, then looked up at Annabelle reappearing next to Leonard.

“You can’t stop me...” he laughed, and then he saw black streaks appearing over her arms, and he realized what really happened.

“You have corrupted your magic so deeply, not even I can fix it,” She said staring at herself before sending a sad glare on him. “The future stopped being important to you a long time ago, Nero. This is what you can’t stop seeking… Power.”

He scoffed a laugh. “You thought that stealing my magic you would be able to use it against me? You won’t last that long.”

“You have infected all those people with this horrible magic…” She took a deep breath, trying to fight it back. “People you tried to convince they would have been nothing without it. In the end, I fear you are the only one scared to be nothing without magic.”

Nero’s smile lessened when he saw Leonard being conscious again, and it took him a second to move those shining green eyes against him- eyes that were instantly filled with rage. “He can't kill me! No one is-!”

Leonard raised the gun and shoot all the bullets left while moving closer, freeing a fury- a anger so deep that he never really managed to get rid of: the first bullet hit Nero’s head, and the other six didn't miss the rest of the target. The trigger kept clicking empty against the dead body of the sorcerer laying on the ground, a pond of blood slowly forming beneath him.

When the doctor came back to his senses, he took few steps back, breathing fast, staring at the man he just killed. The gun fell down and he dropped on his knees, hiding his face and tears into his hands.

Annabelle looked sadly at him, slowly kneeling closer to embrace him, and Leonard somehow felt her touch, crying even more. “It’s alright. It’s over now... Thanks to you.” She said, with her eyes closed. When he calmed down a bit, she slowly moved away, smiling caringly. “I’ll try to hold Nero's magic as long as I can, but we need Jim’s help. He’s the only one able to control it.”

Leonard took a shattered breath in, nodding. “I- I’ll try," he said, and Annabelle kept smiling at him before disappearing- almost making him fall forward, losing the feeling of that embrace.

Slowly, trying to ignore the pain coming from his back, he finally reached Jim, still laying on the floor, falling next to him, watching the burns on his chest- too similar to the ones on his back. “Jim,” he called, watching him staring at the sky with a blank expression. “Jim, please…” he murmured before another earthquake made him fall on his side, gasping in pain. “I- I’m here… it’s gonna be alright…” he murmured moving closer to push him up, keeping him against his chest.

“Nothing is gonna be alright, doc…” Jim murmured. “It’s all my fault. I believed him and now-”

“Now Nero’s dead, so it doesn’t matter.” Leonard finished for him, and the other looked up at him, stunned. “Well, s-someone has to do it,” He knew there wasn’t much time before the pain and the shock caused by the wounds would have raised to the point he wouldn’t be able to talk- or think anymore.

“You…?”

“I did. You owe me a beer.”

“Then why- why the spell isn’t stopping?”

“You’re the sorcerer, you tell me…” Leonard sighed, looking around. “Annabelle just said it’s too late, but- but that you can stop it.”

“Annabelle…? She's-”

“We’ll have time to talk later. N-now we should try to stop this- whatever it is.”

“I can’t… I can’t use my magic.”

“You did it before. I saw it.”

“To save you,” Jim said, frowning at him. “I know I should remember about you, but…”

Leonard was slowly giving up to the tears he has held back for too, damn long. “I- I know. It’s fine.”

Jim looked sadly at him. “Why I can’t remember about you?”

“Maybe because Nero was right. I should have died when he used me as a time machine.” He took a deep, shattered breath when Jim’s hand moved to his face. He missed that touch- he needed it so much...

“Bones-” Jim started, and both of them looked surprised at each other. “Bones…?” he repeated, confused.

Leonard could almost see the memories coming back to him- that blank and sad expression, slowly turning into sincere surprise and amaze: Jim blinked, and then blushed- in the middle of a war, with both of them risking to die and take the whole world with them, James Kirk blushed.

“You-“ Jim swallowed, and tried again, “You said we weren't friends…”

Leonard scoffed, nodding tiredly. “Yeah, well… We stopped being friends a few months ago- since that wasn’t enough anymore.”

Jim kept staring at him while more memories gently flowed in his mind, one after the other, following that strange nickname he never heard before: he remembered so many moments he never lived, but they felt more real than anything else. “I never told you the truth... You hate magic,” Jim murmured, “I knew you were going to hate me as well…”

“It’s true. I hate you more in the last few hours than I’ll probably ever will in my whole life." Leonard took a deep breath, staring at those heartbreaking eyes. "And a lot happened today, but the one thing that made me come back here to grab my stuff and leave, it was you and your lies. I wanted to leave you- I was going to, because it was the only way for me to hurt you… You couldn’t even remember me anymore- so there was no point on making you remember us.”

Jim swallowed down the tears. “Why you didn’t leave?”

“Because… I realized I wasn’t angry at you having magic. I was so damn pissed just because you didn't tell me. I thought I would have hated magic forever, and you somehow changed that. You- you could be a demon from hell for all I care, and I would still be here… Hoping for you to remember me like an idiot.” He groaned while trying to sit better, and he saw one of Jim’s eye was blue, and he was crying. “But, what I never doubted about, is your strength. Magic or not, if Annabelle says you can stop this spell, I believe you can.”

Jim kept silent, letting him grab his hand. Then, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

Leonard saw a yellow aura growing around Jim, and the spell beneath them seemed to respond to it- and so did the one carved on his back.

Jim froze hearing him gasp in pain.

“Keep going,” Leonard breathed out, trying to stay still. “Nero hasn’t finished it.”

“Annabelle’s magic can't protect you from this magic…”

“I- I noticed. It’s alright.”

“No, it’s not,” Jim said, slowly pushing himself up, kneeling in front of him. “I don’t even know what is going to happen if I stop the spell… It could kill you, or both of us.”

“Ok... Any good news?”

Jim kept staring worriedly at him. “We might survive, but- I can’t assure you that the Jim you know will be back. I don't- I'm not in control of those memories anymore...”

Leonard sighed. “There’s nothing as my Jim… There’s just you. You’re still the Jim we all know. You just- hang out with the wrong people for too long.” He smiled a bit before making a face at the pain coming from his back. “We'll think about that later. Now we need to fix this mess… Whatever it takes.”

Jim took a deep breath and nodded, standing up and moving few feet away. Then, he looked aside and found Annabelle, her skin almost completely covered of black streaks. “You tried to warn me so many times...”

“We both made mistakes, but we have the chance to correct them.” She said, showing him a little smile. “Once I free Nero’s magic, you need to keep it here. There are too many people connected to it. We can’t let it reach any of them.”

“And then what am I going to do with it?”

Annabelle’s smile lessened. “I can’t stop it alone.”

Jim breathed out and nodded, both eyes shining gold again. He moved his hands above the circle and focused on the spell.

Leonard was still sitting there, watching the ghost of Annabelle vanishing, and instantly the whole area darkened as if Nero’s powers were absorbing the light. He cried out again and slowly fell on his side: he could hear Jim’s screaming, but there was only anger in that scream- pure rage. He could barely distinguish his blonde hair in the darkness until the magic grew so heavy, he was forced to close his eyes. Guess it really was a curse, in the end, Leonard thought while crying even more until he gave up and surrender to the pain.

Annabelle reappeared after a moment, most of the black streaks on her face already gone. “Jim, don’t let the power consume you.”

“I- know…” Jim said, his eyes now black. “I can’t- hold it any longer!”

She nodded and closed her eyes, as her body started to shine.

Jim squinted his eyes at the light until he had to close them and let out another scream when he finally felt his magic free again, and finally able to destroy Nero’s.

 

From the Federation headquarter, Gaila and Pavel were close to Yda and Shawn when he and the other sorcerers with the mark screamed, and then they all saw the light growing in the distance- in direction of the Academy.

“Is that bad or good?” Benjamin asked at Morgan, both still trying to hold the barrier up.

“I don’t know...” She said, then, they both froze and turned around.

Annabelle was behind them, and nodded once, smiling, before she slowly turned into a shining mist that flew at full speed against the sphere Nero created: the collision created an explosion that forced everyone to look away as the world turned suddenly white, while the ground trembled again.

When the light reduced, Benjamin found himself on the floor, protecting Morgan into his arms. “Hey… You ok?”

She nodded, slowly sitting up, “Anna was-” they both looked up, speechless: there was a crystal pillar supporting the sphere in the sky now, surrounding part of it, as to protect it. The sphere itself wasn’t gray anymore, but almost transparent, keeping a strong magic inside of it that they both could feel.

Benjamin breathed out. “She did it…” he said smiling a bit, turning to the rest of the plaza, where all the sorcerers and witches with the mark were slowly waking up, alive. “Jim did it. He- he stopped Nero.”

Gaila and Pavel were standing up as well, watching Yda running to Shawn’s side, hugging each other. “It’s over…?” Gaila asked, turning to the Academy where the light was still shining.

 

“Ugh…” Jim woke up on the ground, slowly raising a hand over his pained chest. Looking up, he blinked in surprise, finding the sky- the real, cloudy sky of San Francisco. He tried to stand, almost falling back down, watching all the debriefs caused by the battle floating around because of the magic still so strong in the air. He then stared at his own hands for a second before scanning the area- noticing Leonard’s body laying few meters away.

“Bones…!” He ran as quickly as possible, falling next to him, staring helplessly at the wounds on his back- and terrified to touch him. “Bones- hey, wake up! We did it! It worked!” he kept saying, but the doctor didn’t move. Jim frantically looked him up and down until give up and grabbed him by the shoulders, turning him around, but his eyes were closed- and he was so pale. “Bones, come on! Wake up! We did it, it’s- it’s over! We- we did it…” Jim slowly stopped, waiting, hoping- but the doctor didn’t wake up. “BONES!

Leonard suddenly jumped, awake and scared, until their eyes met. “Damn, you scared me...”

“Are you- Do you have any idea how many times I called you?!”

“Sorry, the- the magical explosion made me deaf for a second…”

I thought you were dead!

Yeah, welcome to the club!” Leonard yelled back, then blinked and quickly sat up, ignoring the pain, squeezing Jim’s face into his hands, staring at his eyes: both were blue. “You’re… you? It’s really you?”

Jim breathed out and nodded, a guilty expression appearing on his face when the doctor started crying. “Bones, I-“

“It’s ok…”

“I lied to you, and I just-”

“Jim…”

“I didn't wanted any of this to happen! I swear, I-"

“Jim, I’m sorry,” Leonard interrupted again, and the blonde was so taken aback that found nothing to say. “For everything you’ve been through... I’m so sorry…” he just repeated before dragging him into a hug, feeling Jim instantly do the same, clinging both arms around his neck, and they just sat there, crying, surrounded by magic.

Chapter Text

Once the barrier around half of the town disappeared, Gaila and Pavel teleported back to the Academy, watching the destruction caused by the fight that took place there: the streets were cracked as much as the walls around the campus; cars were flipped upside down and few trees were laying on the ground.

“At least the Academy’s still standing,” Gaila commented staring at the buildings, then she saw Pavel stopping for a moment before running past the gates. “What’s wrong?” she asked, following.

“Leonard’s calling for help!”

“I don’t hear anything…” Gaila murmured before noticing something… Something that made her stop right at the entrance, as Pavel turned to her, frowning, looking up. “I can’t get through,” she said knocking on the invisible barrier that shined slightly at the touch.

A moment later, Benjamin appeared behind her. “What's going? And who put up this barrier?”

“I don’t know… Shouldn’t you be with Morgan?”

“She told me to check the situation here. It was more like an order, actually.”

“It’s Jim… He’s keeping people out.” Pavel said studying the translucent surface.

“Only people like me… Without magic.” Gaila sighed before turning to Benjamin. “Jim and Leonard are still inside, and Pavel said they need help. Come on, go, both of you.”

The sorcerer looked unsure until he stepped past the barrier without problems. He looked apologetically at Gaila, “You be careful out here. The rest of the cavalry is going to come back too, now that Nero’s dead.”

“I’ll be fine.” She said, watching him running away. Pavel waited for her to nod before following the other. Gaila took a deep breath and turned to the city, running to help the people that got hurt in the battle.

Once in the middle of the campus, the two sorcerers found complete silence, while debriefs caused by the explosion were floating mid-air. “How the hell Jim managed to hide a power like this for so long?” Benjamin commented, amazed.

Pavel said nothing, scanning the area until another weak pray for help reached his mind and he turned around, spotting someone laying on the floor. Running closer, he suddenly stopped, his lips slightly open in shock: Leonard was laying on his side, half of a spell visible on his back as if someone drew it through his clothes with a knife: blood was spreading beneath him.

“Oh God…” Benjamin murmured running past him, kneeling next to the doctor- realizing he was holding an unconscious Jim into his arms. “Doc? Leonard, can you hear me?”

Leonard’s eyes opened just a bit; his voice barely audible, “Jim…”

“He’s fine… He’s just unconscious.” Benjamin looked up at Pavel that seemed ready to start crying. “Pavel, you should go back to Gaila.” He said, but the kid blinked the tears away and stubbornly shook his head, moving closer.

“Help Jim- he needs…”

“Leonard, Jim is fine. You’re the one injured.” Benjamin told him again, loud and clear.

Pavel moved a hand close to his back, to heal the wounds, but the moment he started using magic, Leonard cried in pain, scaring him so much that he instantly stopped and stepped back.

“Shi- Alright, no magic. Enough with magic…” Benjamin said holding Leonard by the shoulder, watching the poor doctor trembling and sobbing. “It’s not your fault, Pavel. I think it’s because of the spell… We can’t heal him with magic.”

“B- but we have to help him.” Pavel said, staying a step away.

“The hospital is still standing, so I’ll take him there for now.” Benjamin said, moving in front of at the doctor, “Leonard, I’ll take you to the hospital now, alright?”

“W-what about Jim?” he breathed out, still keeping him tightly into his arms.

“Pavel will stay with him. He-“

“Where are you taking him?”

“Nowhere, but we have to-“

“D-don’t leave him alone.” Leonard interrupted, looking so sad and scared. “I don’t- I can’t leave him again…"

“Listen to me: you’re not leaving him, and he won't be alone,” Benjamin said, keeping a strong hold on his shoulder. “Pavel will stay with Jim while you get patched up. You're bleeding and we can’t heal your wounds with magic, so we need to get you to the hospital. Do you understand?”

Leonard blinked slowly and then his head just dropped back down on the ground, tired and defeated, eyes closed.

“I’ll take it as a yes. I need to teleport us to the hospital right now.”

“But if magic hurts him-“

“We don’t have time to walk there. He lost too much blood already,” he murmured nervously, and Pavel took a deep breath before carefully helping moving Jim away from Leonard’s arms. “Jim should be alright, but keep an eye on him. If he wakes up, tell him Leonard is with me.”

Pavel nodded, kneeling next to Jim as Benjamin grabbed Leonard’s arm and move it around his neck, making both stand up before disappearing. He then looked down at Jim, still unconscious, noticing his whole body was shining slightly.

 

A few seconds later, a nurse jumped hearing a scream of pain from one of the offices. Quickly moving through the chaos spreading in the hospital since the war started, she opened the door and gasped, finding a man helping another one lay on his side on the couch, both looking terrible. “What on Earth-“ she started, stepping back when the first one turned his golden eyes at her.

“Doctor McCoy needs help. He’s hurt,” Benjamin said, keeping a strong hold on the man so that his back wouldn’t touching the couch.

“You-!” she was ready to scream, but then stopped, “Wait- McCoy? Leonard McCoy?” she asked moving closer to check on him. “Dear God…”

“He’s been like this for a while now.”

She suddenly looked up at him with a murderous glare. “If you’re responsible for this-“

“If I wanted him dead, I wouldn’t have bothered to bring him here,” Benjamin said, but her face stayed stone cold. “Look, I’m- I’m a sorcerer, yes, but he’s a friend, and I can’t help him with magic. He- we both need your help.”

She studied him, then looked down at Leonard, still crying in pain but apparently unconscious. “Ok… Ok, I- I’ll help.”

Benjamin nodded once, watching her carefully checking the wounds without touching, then he heard loud noises from outside the room. “How’s the situation here?”

“It’s chaos. The earthquakes, and then the explosions... Civilians, officers, all the people that were in the Academy took cover in here.”

“I guess no one can help us with Leonard?”

She let out a bitter, low laugh, “Good luck with that.” After checking Leonard’s pulse, she stood straight and nodded to herself, “I’ll take here all we need. Try to move him on the desk, but be careful. I’ll be back shortly.” She said, quickly leaving the room, closing the door behind her.

Once she was gone, Benjamin took a deep breath, hoping she wasn’t going to come back with an army. Looking at the doctor, he tried to ignore his cries as he helped him stand up and lay on his right side on the desk, putting one pillow under his head and one against his chest to give him some support and balance. “You’ll be fine, doc... Everything’s gonna be alright.” Benjamin murmured, not sure if he was just trying to convince himself.

 

When the nurse came back, Benjamin was relieved to see that she kept her promise, pushing a little cart into the room, transporting everything they needed to take care of Leonard. “No one even bothered asking me anything…” she sighed, preparing for the operation. “Ok… we’ll need to cut the shirt first, hoping the fabric didn’t attach too much to the skin. Then we have to clean the wounds and try to-“

“Can you give him something for the pain?” Benjamin asked.

“Look, if there’s one thing the whole hospital knows, is that doctor McCoy hates being hospitalized, figures being sedated without consent.” She said carefully starting to remove Leonard’s jacket that came off relatively easy.

“I’ll take responsibility.”

“Is not just about that. He-”

“He has been tortured, don’t you see? And what we’re going to do now, it won’t be any more pleasant. If we can spare him this, at least, do it.” He said helping her, "Let him rest until we're done."

She threw the jacket on the couch, staring hesitantly at the doctor before nodding and turning to prepare a syringe.

Meanwhile, Benjamin grabbed the scissors to start cutting Leonard’s shirt, but once close to the collar, his hand stopped. He knew the doctor never wanted to reveal the scars on his back, Gaila and Uhura made it clear. It was to save his life, but still…

Taking a deep breath, he tried again, but after cutting an inch of the fabric, the doctor flinched and suddenly woke up, gasping in pain at the movement.

“No- let me go-“

“Leonard, it’s alright, it’s-“

“Let me go!”

“Leonard, it’s me. Look at me.” Benjamin said, keeping a strong hold on the man’s shoulder because the last thing he needed was to fall on the floor and hurt himself even more. “Me and Pavel came to help you, remember?” he continued, and the doctor seemed to calm down a bit.

“J- Jim? Where’s…?”

“Pavel is taking care of him. I took you to the hospital because you’re injured. On your back.” Benjamin wasn’t even sure the doctor was listening, but he was staring at him as if he was too scared to look away. “We have to take care of your wounds, alright? You need to rest-“

“D-don’t-” he suddenly grabbed his arm, even so weakly. “I don’t want to sleep… Not again…” Leonard’s cries became a whisper before he lost consciousness again.

Benjamin gently let his head drop down on the pillow. Looking aside, he saw the nurse breathing out as well, staring at him with the syringe in hand. “I…”

“It’s a light dose. It’ll give us just a few hours,” she said, “The less he moves, the quicker we’ll get it done.”

The sorcerer briefly looked back at the doctor and then nodded. “I’ll close the door. This is not something he would like to show to anyone.” He said. Once the key clicked twice, he turned around, watching the nurse caressing Leonard’s shoulder before turning to him, waiting. He nodded and she did the injection.

After that, Benjamin prepared for the operation, forcing himself to leave the guilt for later.

_*_

That night, Benjamin Krane realized that he never took care of a person without magic since- he couldn’t even remember the last time he did it.

Standing in the messy office, he kept his eyes on Leonard, still asleep, laying on his right side on the desk where he got operated: cutting the shirt in half had been the easy part, but soon they realized that the fabric around the wounds had partly melted under Nero’s magic, attaching to the skin. It took all their courage to take most of it away, slowly and extremely carefully, trying to do as less damage as possible. After that, it was vital to avoid any kind of infection and keep the wounds clean. The doctor flinched a few times, but never woke up.

It was the dawn when the nurse squeezed a cloth into the bowl now full of red water. She checked the bandages around Leonard’s torso once again, before looking at the sorcerer. “Hopefully, we managed to avoid the wounds the get infected…” she murmured, sounding very tired.

Benjamin just nodded, standing up to refill the bowl with clean water.

When he came back from the little bathroom of the office, she noticed his hands were shaking a bit, and gently helped him putting down the bowl. “Why don’t you rest for a moment?” She asked.

“I can help-“

“I’ll need to go back out there in a while, so take a break until you will have to take my place.”

He slowly nodded and sat on a chair on the other side of the desk, in front of the doctor, head down into his hands.

She watched him for a moment, but said nothing, focusing on the wounds now hidden from the bandages: the bleeding has reduced, but still didn’t stop completely. “He’s going to be fine?” she asked timidly, and he looked up, “Because of these wounds… I mean, they have been made with magic, right?”

“He should be alright since the responsible for it is dead.”

She nodded and dried her hands, checking the needle into Leonard’s right arm and then the IV that was keeping him hydrated. Then, she sat down on the chair next to him, taking a deep breath and moving a hand forward. “I’m Cherryl, by the way.”

Benjamin smiled a bit, returning the gesture. “Benjamin. Thank you for your help, Cherryl.”

“Thanks to you for saving Doctor McCoy,” she said and he just looked down again. “The burns healed faster than usual, so I think we have a few hours before had to clean the wounds again…”

“Shouldn’t he be awake already?”

“He should, but I guess he needed to rest, after all,” she said, giving Leonard a sad look. “I’ll bring more bandages later. If he wakes up, try to keep him calm and still. There’s another syringe ready, if he starts struggling too much.”

Benjamin nodded, knowing very well that he wasn’t going to use it. He was ready to throw himself on the doctor to keep him still, rather than that.

“I told the nurses on this floor about Doctor McCoy, so they won’t bother you unless you call them for help.”

“You told them about me?”

Cherryl smiled a bit. “I just said that there is a friend with him.”

Benjamin smiled as well until she left, closing the door. He then looked back at Leonard, his left arm resting on the pillow placed under his chest, the hand hanging down, while the IV wire from his right arm was almost touching the floor. The necklace was still around his neck but the green gem wasn’t shining anymore.

Benjamin took a deep breath before standing up again, slowly moving behind him to check the bandages. He never thought Nero would have been able to do something like that: carving a spell on someone twice, especially on a person without magic, completely defenseless…

Looking up, his eyes widened in surprise: Annabelle was sitting on the chair he just left, sadly staring at the doctor before she moved her green eyes on him and a weak smile appeared. “Hey, Ben.” She said, her voice low but very clear.

Benjamin kept staring at her until he blinked- and she was still there. “Are you-?” he tried to ask, but then saw her gray dress- her whole body disappearing for a moment, as a reflection on the water surface.

“It’s just my magic that allows me to stay here,” she said shaking her head. “Me and Jim- the other Jim, we both are keeping Nero’s magic under control, in the sphere he created.”

“So that’s what- wait, Jim? You mean Jim from the future is still around?”

“I’m not sure… I think he’s just the memory of himself. Nero killed him to bring only his magic here. To create a future not destined to happen.”

He sighed, shaking his head in disbelief, “But with all that power, he could have.”

She smiled patiently. “No. He would have never been able to. Not as long Leonard is alive.”

Benjamin frowned, looking at the doctor for a moment. “I thought he might be involved somehow but… How can he be so important?”

“You don’t need magic to make the difference. He proved it to all of us surviving twenty years ago when Nero used him to travel in time. He died for a few seconds, enough to show Nero an alternate reality that he decided to recreate here, but here Leonard survived, and that detail changed everything.”

Benjamin scoffed, amazed. “And Nero never found out about him?”

“I’m sure he knew something wasn’t right, but it’s not that easy to find one mistake in a whole reality,” she grinned, that proud little grin Benjamin loved so much. “Nero never realized what was keeping Jim on the right path… Who kept saving him without even knowing.” She continued looking caringly at the doctor.

“Well, at least he did what I couldn’t…”

Annabelle looked at him with that same expression. “Don’t say that.”

“It’s the truth. Morgan tried to stop me, but I didn't listen. Maybe if I stayed-“

“If you did, maybe you wouldn’t have helped Leonard understand how much Jim needed him,” she said. “Or maybe I would have died for some other reason… You know I never believed that the future is already written... It’s just- impossible to calculate all the possibilities, and that’s why you don’t have to feel guilty for what happened to me.”

“But I’m the one that abandoned you.”

“And I’m the one that didn’t ask for help, even when I should have. I should have trusted you.”

They stared at each other for a moment, Benjamin’s eyes were watery of tears.

Annabelle tried to smile again. “What really matters is that Nero won’t hurt anyone anymore. We’ll find a way to-“ she shut her eyes and took a deep breath.

“What's wrong?”

“I can’t leave the sphere for too long,” she said, standing up and hovering a hand above Leonard’s body: the gem in the necklace started shining again, even so slightly. “I’ll help him fight the pain as much as I can, but… Ben, I’m not sure anyone can heal these wounds.”

“Then what can we do?”

“For now, keep helping him. He and Jim both. I’ll try to find a solution,” she said before disappearing, leaving the sorcerer alone once again.

*

Leonard woke up slowly- too slowly for his standards. He could hear muffled noises somewhere, but his eyes just refused to open. It took all his strength to move his left arm just a bit, on something soft, but even that little attempt sent flashes of pain all over his back, making him groan. After a moment, he finally opened his eyes on a room he didn’t know. Looking down, he realized he was laying on his side, on a desk, hugging a pillow, and there was a needle into his right arm. Shivering, he tried to remove it, not even caring of the door opening.

“No- no no no, you need this,” Benjamin said, quickly stopping his hand, making him jump even if he tried to be as gentle as possible. “It’s me- still me. Krane, remember? I took you to the hospital.”

“Hospital…? W-where’s Jim?”

“Pavel is taking care of him. We’re all still here, in the Academy.”

“He was- he needed help, why he’s not here? Why I’m not with him?”

“Because he wasn’t injured, but you are.” Benjamin let him go, sitting on the chair in front of him. “Do you remember what happened?”

Leonard swallowed down the tension and looked down at himself- at the bandages around his torso, and yes, he could remember everything crystal clear. “How-“ he stopped, then tried again, still not meeting his eyes, “How many people saw it? The- the wounds on my back.”

Surprised, Benjamin realized it was shame what was appearing on the doctor’s face. “That isn’t-“

“How many?”

“Just me and a nurse. I couldn’t take care of it alone.”

Leonard kept quiet for a moment, then said, “You used magic before… When you found us.”

“Pavel did. He saw the wounds and tried to help you, but it didn’t work.” He sighed, “Don’t hate him. I was going to do the same, but he’s been faster than me…”

The doctor said nothing, barely keeping his head above the pillow, still with that heartbreaking expression on his face.

“I talked with him a while ago. He took Jim back to your room, in the dorm. He’s fine, but he needs to rest, and recover from using all his magic to stop Nero.” He said and saw him shivering at that name. “Nero’s dead. He won’t hurt anyone else.”

“I know. I shot him,” Leonard said, his voice low and flat, “After Annabelle stole all the magic from him.”

Benjamin opened his mouth to say something but, once again, was taken aback by the news.

“Where’s the body?” Leonard asked, barely lifting his eyes to his chest.

“We found no body, but Pavel said there’s a shadow on the ground, close to where we found you, as if someone has been burned there.” He said and saw tears forming into his eyes. “Leonard, you did the right thing. No one deserved to die more than him.”

“I know it was right. But- if it wasn’t for Annabelle, he would- He was going to…” Leonard shut his eyes, as he covered them with a hand.

Benjamin swallowed down his own tears, for both, Annabelle’s and Leonard’s cruel fate. “But he didn’t. You stopped him- you and Jim both, and Annabelle couldn’t have been more proud being able to help end this madness.”

Leonard just kept sobbing, trying, and failing, to stop, unable to confess how terrifying it has been being tortured like that again- feeling weak and vulnerable just like the first time.

 

The second time Leonard woke up, still laying on his side on the desk, he felt calmer, and his mind a bit clearer. The needle was gone from his arm, but he was too scared to move and cause more pain to his back again, so he just stared at the window on the other side of the room: the sky looked gray, but the light seemed normal… He could barely remember watching the dome above the city finally disappearing while keeping Jim into his arms.

He breathed out, hoping to see him soon… When the door open, he almost thought Jim was reading his mind and ran in the room to answer his call.

Benjamin reappeared with a box in his hand and smiled a bit. “Feeling better?”

“Not really…” he said and the sorcerer’s optimism slowly faded from his face. “I’m still half naked.” He clarified.

Benjamin huffed a laugh. “Of course you are. We had to keep your wounds clean all night.”

The doctor moved the head a bit to look better at him. “We?”

“Me and Cherryl, the nurse.”

Leonard nodded, staring at the box for a second, then asked, “How’s Jim?”

“He’s fine. Still sleeping, but Pavel is keeping him updated through mind connection, as he calls it.”

“Isn’t it dangerous?”

“Not really. Pavel got no answer from him so far, but he is sure Jim is listening. The magic around here is calming down as well…” he saw him frowning. “Well, there was some stuff floating in the air… Now everything’s fine. Aside from the barrier that doesn’t allow people without magic to enter the Academy.”

“What?”

“Nothing to worry about. People simply can’t get through. And no one can leave.”

Leonard stared blankly at him. “Anything else I need to know? A meteor is going to strike in five minutes?”

“No, that’s all,” Benjamin said, grinning. “We think is Jim’s magic just protecting himself. Once he’ll be awake, I’m sure the barrier will disappear.”

Leonard took a deep breath, making a face at the slight pain from his back- not remotely strong as the last time. “Why- why it doesn’t hurt like before?”

“Your wounds? Anna said she’ll try to help you dealing with those as long as she can,” Benjamin said. “That, and also lots of painkillers we gave you.”

“How…? She’s alive?”

Benjamin shook his head. “She’s using all her magic to help us until we’ll find a way to destroy the sphere Nero created.”

“What sphere?”

“Huh, the one that was going to destroy the Federation headquarter. Morgan and I were trying to stop it until Jim and Anna blocked it. It’s still there, though, so… It’s a problem to solve.”

“One of many...” Leonard sighed, then moved his eyes on the box. “What’s in there?”

“More painkillers and bandages for you. I don’t know if it’s Anna’s doing, but the burns are mostly gone already. The wounds keep bleeding, though, so we have to...” He could see him avoiding his gaze again, so he sighed and dropped the box on his legs. “Leonard…”

“I need to keep changing the bandages, yes, I know, but you don't have to-”

“If someone has to feel ashamed about all this, that’s me.” He continued, and the doctor frowned at him. “It’s my people that did this to you. Nero was one of us. We let him spread his madness without caring of the consequences. Maybe if we…“ Benjamin left that sentence unfinished, trying to keep Anna's words in mind. “You can be sad, or angry, and hate magic all you want, but leave the shame to us, because we should have stopped Nero years ago… Everything that happened it’s on us.”

Leonard took a deep breath. “You make up for it. Better late than never.” He murmured with a weak smile that made the sorcerer relax just a bit, “But if you want my forgiveness, there is something you could do for me…”

“Of course. What?” He nodded.

“Help me stand up, first…”

“You shouldn’t-“

“And then take me to see Jim.”

Benjamin sighed patiently, “There’s no way to change your mind, isn’t it?” he asked, and the doctor smiled again, shaking his head. “Alright… But take it easy.” He left the box on the chair and carefully grabbed his arms, slowly helping him sit straight on the desk- and quickly held him in place when the doctor was going to fall back.

“I’m fine,” Leonard said, grasping the edge of the desk to stay still. His head felt heavier than a car, and his body too weak to balance it. “Give me a minute… Then we can go.”

“Let me check your back first, at least,” Benjamin said moving behind him, but Leonard stopped him by his arm incredibly fast.

“It- is it bad?” He asked, avoiding his eyes. He couldn’t stop himself from asking… From worrying.

Benjamin wasn’t sure of what to say. “It needs to heal. A lot of time, maybe, but I’m sure it'll get better.” He wanted to believe Annabelle was wrong saying that nothing could heal those wounds- Leonard needed to believe that.

Leonard slowly let him go, turning to stare at the floor. He couldn’t stop shivering even at the slightest air moving against the skin on his back that wasn’t covered by bandages.

“There’s a shirt for you in the bathroom. Just hold on a bit longer.” Benjamin said while methodically searching for blood stains- but it seemed the bandages were holding on well.

“I’m not shivering because I’m cold.”

“I know. That’s why I told you.”

Leonard took a deep breath and kept quiet. He hasn’t felt so exposed, so little, since the last time he let someone check those scars up-close. He couldn’t even remember how old he was back then.

“The bandages look fine, but the bleeding hasn’t stopped yet, so be careful how you move,” Benjamin said after a moment, heading to the bathroom.

Leonard passed a hand on the bandages crossing over his chest, then grabbed the shirt the other handed him, a dark expression on his face. “It looks that bad, huh?”

“What?” Benjamin blinked, focusing on him again. “No, it's- it’s not because of how they look...”

“Then what?”

“You think this is something sorcerers do often? Using people to make spells?” Benjamin sighed, his voice cold, and maybe a bit more irritated than he wanted, but Leonard held his gaze. “I saw the first war, and the horrible things that happened back then, but none of us dared to do anything like this.”

Leonard said nothing for a moment, giving both some time to think. Then, he said, “Well, at least you’re handling all this way better than me.”

“I’m trying to.” Benjamin snorted.

“We all do…” Leonard commented, then checked the dark-blue shirt, frowning in disappointment, “What am I, a lawyer?”

“With those wounds, you need to wear something easy to put on and off, and the color will help me check if you’re bleeding without scaring anyone. Come on, suit up,” He said, helping him wearing it, trying to avoid moving his arms too much.

“You’ve become my private assistant or something?” Leonard asked, carefully moving down from the desk, holding on him before being able to stand by himself.

“Let’s say all the sorcerers are in debt with you, and I’m the only one available at the moment.”

Leonard froze for a second, looking at him suddenly alarmed. “Wait, what about the Federation? You shouldn’t waste your time here- you shouldn’t be here in the first place.”

“Morgan asked me to keep an eye on the Academy, while she takes care of the Federation. She’s the more diplomatic between us. I’m sure she’ll handle it.” He said, checking him up and down once he finished buttoning half of the shirt. “You sure you want to go? Because we can’t teleport there.”

“Why not?”

“Because you don’t react well to magic at the moment. Physically speaking.”

"Didn't you said that Annabelle used her magic on me before?"

"Yeah, but looks like she's the exception, as usual."

"You could try and see what happens."

"Well, I am the sorcerer here, and I can assure you, I'm not going to take that risk."

Leonard sighed and nodded. “We walk, then.”

 

Leaving the office, Leonard blinked in surprise, finding patients everywhere: sitting down the corridors, even on the floor; some of them were waiting for medications, while others were just trying to recover from what happened. Nurses and doctors were running all over the place.

Benjamin left him next to a vending machine so that no one would have bumped into him, while he ran talking to a nurse.

Leonard couldn’t remember her name, but he knew her face. She smiled in his direction, and he nodded a thanks before the sorcerer walked back to him. “Her name wasn’t- Sharon?”

“Cherryl.” Benjamin corrected him. “She helped us a lot...” he added waving at her one last time, then breathed out, gesturing down the corridor. “After you.”

“You're worried someone is going to stab me in the back for no reason?” Leonard tiredly asked, slowly heading to the stairs.

“Maybe.” The sorcerer snorted walking behind him.

Leonard wanted to argue, but just sighed and kept walking. There were many people on each floor, most of them staying on the sides of the corridors so that walking wasn’t too much of a problem. Once on the first floor, he stopped on the last step, taking a deep breath.

“You good?” Benjamin asked, standing right behind him.

“Yeah…” He said holding on the banister. Looking around, Leonard noticed a man and ad woman sitting on the floor, keeping a little, sobbing boy sitting on their laps, his golden eyes shining on his dusty, scared face. Leonard frowned and looked more carefully at the rest of the people. “They’re-“ he turned to Benjamin that quickly focused back on him, “Half of these people are sorcerers?”

“You just noticed?”

Leonard couldn’t hide his surprise as he looked back at the nurses and doctors helping everyone, sorcerers, and people without magic, both sitting together in the same place, without screaming or trying to kill each other.

“Everyone have people they care about. That’s something we all have in common.” Benjamin said looking at the multiple groups of families scattered around. “You rested enough? I want to get to the dorm before lunch.”

“Are you really thinking about food right now?”

“I’m starving. Don’t tell me that you’re not?”

Leonard felt his stomach growling at the thought of a simple sandwich. “Just a bit…” he murmured, blushing a bit while proceeding.

“Once outside, let’s stick together, alright?” Benjamin said moving next to him.

“Look, I know I’m hurt, but I still remember where the dorm is.”

“I’m not worried that you get lost. I’m worried that you’ll trip on someone.”

“What you mean trip on someone…?” Leonard frowned, but once the sorcerer opened the door for him, he understood: the whole campus was busy with people sitting or standing everywhere- and almost, if not all of them had magic, using it to heal others or themselves; others were just there, immobile, with their golden eyes low on the ground.

“Remember when I told you about the barrier Jim is keeping around the Academy? The one only people with magic can cross? Well, news spread fast.” Benjamin explained.

Leonard breathed out, amazed despite everything. “Jim did it to keep them safe?”

“I’m not sure that turning the Academy into a shelter for sorcerers was his intention, but for now it’s helping.”

“Is that- that’s Admiral Marcus…?” Leonard said noticing him sitting away from the rest of the crowd with a dark expression on his face- and his eyes were shining gold, just like for other people wearing Starfleet’s, or the Federation’s, or even the army’s uniform. “So many sorcerers were working in the Federation already…”

“Those are the ones I’m more worried about,” Benjamin said, walking next to him while carefully making their way to the dorm.

“W-what? Why?”

“Because they didn’t wanted people to know their secret. They refused magic to be part of their life, but now…” he sighed. “Nero’s mark forced them out of the closet and they have to figure out what to do.”

Leonard could see what he meant: all the people that decided to live hiding their magic had one thing in common, and that was an expression of fear and shame on their faces. He felt the same thing just because of those scars on his back... He couldn’t even imagine what they were feeling, rejecting- maybe even hating so much something that is part of themselves since birth. “Was it the same for Jim?” He asked, feeling guilty.

The sorcerer took a deep breath, shaking his head. “Jim is scared of his magic because he knows it's incredibly strong, but I don’t think he ever hated it. What he wanted- what most of these people need, is just feeling accepted for what they are, so they can start to accept themselves.”

Leonard felt the guilt pressing even more on his shoulders. “He got through hell until now, alone, and all I did was keep reminding him how magic was dangerous and wrong…”

“You make up for it. That’s what matters now.”

“If it wasn’t for you-“

“Please. You could’ve just punched me in the face and left. But even if you did, I’m pretty sure you would have come back at some point, to punch Jim in the face too.” Benjamin said, earning a little smile from him. “Come on, Jim and Pavel are waiting.”

Walking through the campus resulted in being harder than they thought, but, eventually, they finally arrived in front of the dorm. “Pavel said he was waiting for us outside…” Benjamin said looking around.

“You can go look for him out here while I check upstairs,” Leonard said, getting an intense glare in return. “It’s just two floors. No one will try to kill me.” He sighed patiently.

“Alright, but be careful. Don’t let anyone give you a slap on the back.”

Leonard just nodded, slowly walking inside the building.

Benjamin kept an eye on him until he was out of sight. “Pavel, are you here?” he called checking in the cafeteria but found no one. Walking back outside, he spotted him far away, close to the gates. “Hey Pavel!” he called and the other turned around, disappearing and reappeared in front of him, almost crashing against each other.

“You're alone?” he asked, looking around him.

“No, Leonard is upstairs, to see Jim.” He said and the kid quickly paled. “Why? What happened?”

“No one can stay too close to Jim because of his magic! Leonard will get hurt!” he said running away.

“How? What happened? I thought his magic was under control!”

“I don’t know, but since this morning not even I can stay close to him for too long!”

Benjamin kept following him, terrified to hear more cries and screams. He reached the room a moment after Pavel did, and he prepared himself for the worse because the kid was looking inside with wide eyes: the room was quiet, the curtain covering half of the window to shield Leonard’s bed from the light, and that was were Jim was sleeping, with the doctor sitting next to him.

Leonard let out a deep breath, then looked away from the blonde, turning and frowning at the two sorcerers and their weird faces. “Now what?”

Pavel breathed out in relief, while Benjamin almost laughed. “You don’t see it?”

“I don’t see what?”

“The room is filled with Jim’s magic.” He explained, looking at the almost invisible golden mist floating in the air, both his and Pavel’s eyes turning to the same color, as in response.

“And that’s a bad thing?” Leonard asked.

“Well, let’s say it makes us dizzy… Pavel thought his magic could have hurt you.”

Leonard turned back to Jim, smiling a bit. “He would never,” he murmured, gently grabbing his hand, and Jim slightly tilted his head in his direction. “It’s alright, Jim. I’m here.”

After a moment, both Pavel and Benjamin frowned, looking around. “What was that?”

“The magic is reducing…” Pavel said, moving to the window.

Leonard followed his gaze and blinked in surprise. “That’s the barrier you were talking about?” he asked, watching the almost invisible wall that seemed to be slowly evaporating into a shining smoke.

“It’s disappearing...” Benjamin said, turning to the bed, grinning. “You know, I think Jim was just making sure that someone couldn’t leave the Academy.”

Leonard blushed a bit, looking away, then he felt Jim moving again, but did not wake up. “It’s ok for him being still asleep?”

Benjamin turned to Pavel, and then back at him. “Yeah, Pavel says he’s fine. He’s just resting.”

Leonard turned to him as well, but he quickly adverted his glare. “Pavel,” he called, and the kid carefully looked up, “Thank you for taking care of Jim. And for hearing me calling for help.” Leonard said, and a timid smile slowly grew on Pavel’s face.

Benjamin breathed out in relief as well, then he noticed people running away from the entrance area. “Shit…” he hissed running out the room and down the stairs, nervously staring at the gates.

“They’re still there.” Pavel said stopping next to him. “Gaila tried talk to them, but…”

“Maybe we should use another barrier, just in case…”

“In case of what?” Leonard asked, reaching them.

The two sorcerers shared a look, then Benjamin explained, “Remember the men the Federation sent to Green Lake? They’ve come back now that Nero’s barrier is gone, and they have been waiting for this one to disappear as well since tonight.”

“Maybe they’re just securing the area… You told them Nero’s already dead, right?”

“Yes, but they weren’t happy to know that the Academy is full of sorcerers. That barrier is the only thing stopping them from marching in here and arrest everyone. If not worse.”

“Didn’t you say that Morgan would have handled the Federation?”

“Sorry if I was expecting something good to happen for once.” he snorted.

Leonard sighed, thinking. “I’ll try talk with them. Maybe-“

“They won’t listen. Let me try. You should stay with Jim and-“

“Jim don’t need me holding his hand while he sleeps.” Leonard shot back. “He’s always been on the front line to protect me- to protect all of us. Now it’s my turn.”

Benjamin wasn’t convinced at all, but he couldn’t say that the doctor was wrong either. “Alright... Let’s do it your way.”

Leonard nodded and turned to Pavel, “I know I shouldn’t ask you, but can you do me another favor?” he asked, and the kid nodded vigorously. “If things get bad here, take Jim somewhere safe.”

Pavel looked clearly confused, and worried, about that possibility, but then he simply nodded again.

“Thanks.” Leonard forced out a little smile before turning and marching to the gates.

“You think you can change their mind before the barrier disappear?” Benjamin asked quickly walking next to him.

“I can try.”

“I know you don’t need to hear this, but there’s a lot of scared sorcerers behind us and, you know…”

“What?”

“I mean that most of them might have some problem keeping their magic under control, especially if they're scared.”

Leonard sighed. “So what we have to do is just keep the situation stable on both sides.”

“Well, as long as the barrier is up-“

“No, I mean it,” Leonard stopped, rising a hand to stop him as well. “What happened here surely alarmed the whole State by now, and we have been lucky enough to stop Nero before he could spread his war worldwide. The most important thing now is not giving anyone the chance to start fighting again.”

“We look like ready to fight to you? The army out there just wants to-“

“Then we’ll stop them, but peacefully.” Leonard insisted. “If the barrier falls, can you put another one around the Academy?”

“Yes, but keeping them out won’t change their mind.”

“No, but it’ll give us some time. If Morgan is doing the same thing outside, I’m sure new orders from the Federation will be dispatched soon enough.”

Benjamin took a deep breath and nodded. “Very diplomatic.”

“I’m just thinking what Jim would do…” he said moving to the gates. “He’s out, and that Vulcan is nowhere to be found, now that we need him.”

“Huh, yes, about him…”

“Leonard!”

The doctor saw a familiar face smiling and waving from the other side of the barrier. “Uhura! Thank God you’re safe.” He smiled once in front of her. “You ok? Where’s Spock?”

Uhura sent a look at Benjamin that just shrugged. “He- he's fine, but needs to rest. We have other things to worry about now,” she said looking behind her.

Leonard followed her gaze, amazed by the amount of people camping outside the Academy, sitting on the street, trying to help who was injured, and, few meters after them, there were the first lines of soldiers, waiting.

“Me and Gaila tried to talk with the General in command, but he keeps saying that the orders are to arrest all the sorcerers that invaded the Academy- and he wasn't very subtle about what is going to happen to the ones that try to resist,” Uhura said, her voice low and worried.

“Most of those people are already injured. They just needed a place to recover.”

“We told them that too, but they just don't listen.” She said shaking her head.

Leonard sighed again, looking at the people outside the barrier. “All these people should leave before the situation get worse...”

“They won't. Most of them are relatives of the sorcerers inside the Academy.” She explained, “They brought them here to keep them safe from the Federation.”

Leonard shared a look with Benjamin that just shrugged saying, “Told you the news spread fast.”

Gaila reached them a moment later, smiling at the doctor. “Do you know how much we were worried about you?”

“Sorry.” He tried to smile as well. “Good to know we have you two we can count on.” He added, making both of them smile tiredly.

“Someone has to do it. Morgan is still at the Federation HQ, and since Benjamin is taking care of the inside of the Academy…” Gaila said gesturing at the sorcerer that bowed his head a bit to thank her.

“Wait, you can’t get through the barrier?” Leonard asked her, “I thought you…”

“I don’t have magic, I just steal it from others.” Gaila smiled bitterly. A second later, they all noticed few streaks shining weakly on the barrier and, looking up, they watching it continue disappearing from the top. “Well, Jim’s timing is still on point…” she sighed.

“Is he alright?” Uhura asked.

“Yeah, but he can't help at the moment. We’ll deal with them.” Leonard said looking at the group of soldiers approaching, following the General. “Benjamin will put another barrier up if things get bad, but you two should go.” He added.

“You wish.” Gaila and Uhura said together.

“If you let me try talk with them-” Benjamin insisted.

“No, you’re our plan B, so stay back and shut your mouth.” Leonard snapped at him that just stared nervously at him before crossing his arms in silence.

“Here they come,” Uhura murmured watching the soldiers forcing people to move out of the way while the rest of them and their vehicles slowly moved forward.

Gaila turned around, staring at the man in the black and gold suit. “General Green. I thought we had a deal.”

“That wasn’t a deal, but an act of courtesy.” He answered, his voice deep and firm. The General looked intimidating enough, tall, with black hair and beard, his eyes just as dark, and he looked tired enough to ignore everything and everyone to fulfill his mission. He then looked at the two men on the other side of the barrier. “And who are you supposed to be?”

“Doctor Leonard McCoy.”

“McCoy… I heard about you, before.”

“Probably from Captain Pike. He’s the one that-“

“Can you give me a report about the situation in the Academy, Doctor McCoy?” he cut short.

Leonard straightened his back as much as the pain allowed him to. “Everything’s under control in here. That’s my report.”

Green’s eyes flashed just for a second. “Define under control.”

“There’s still a lot of people that need help, so we’re trying to-”

“You mean the sorcerers that occupied the Academy?”

“Some of these people aren’t sorcerers. They all have come here just looking for help.” Benjamin said, sounding much colder and serious that Leonard was expecting.

Green stared at him. “And you are?”

“Benjamin Krane.” He answered without hesitation.

“Krane? The sorcerer leader of the Resistance?”

“Sir-“ Leonard tried to say.

“Are you keeping them as hostages?” he continued, without even looking at the Doctor.

Benjamin almost laughed, “And then we are the crazy ones…”

“If you’re responsible for keeping us out, I warn you-“

“No, I warn you-“

Shut up, both of you.” Leonard roared, actually getting a moment of silence. “General, no one is here against their will. They just needed a safe place where to stay during and after the war.”

“So it’s just a coincidence that this barrier is keeping people without magic out?”

“It’s- it wasn’t intentional. Nero was here, he was- he wanted to destroy us. This barrier was meant to stop him- to protect people from him and his magic.”

All the people in the street slowly moved closer, listening, while the rest of the soldiers kept them away from the discussion. Only Uhura and Gaila were standing in front of the barrier, with the rest of the army staying few meters behind the General that kept studying the doctor and then asked, “Nero was here?”

Leonard swallowed and nodded. “We managed to defeat him.”

“And there are proofs of this, or you’re just trying to protect someone?”

“Are you serious?” Benjamin’s eyes turned gold. “You have no idea of what-“

“The proof is that we’re all still alive,” Leonard said, stopping the sorcerer rising an arm. “If that’s not enough, you can have my confession. I’m the one that killed him.”

Both, Gaila and Uhura turned to look at him with wide eyes, but the General kept his composure, “You just said we risked to be destroyed by this sorcerer, and now you’re telling me that you managed to stop him all by yourself?”

“I said we defeated him. Other sorcerers helped me. Some of them even sacrificed themselves for us.”

“Can we know their names, then, so we can properly thank them?” the General sneered.

Leonard wanted to punch that grin away from his face, proudly screaming that James Kirk saved his sorry ass as well- but after everything Jim did to keep his secret, he couldn’t take that decision for him. “I’m sure they’ll come to meet you, when and if they want to.”

Green scoffed, unimpressed, looking up at the barrier: there were maybe five meters still up. “I can’t wait to finally meet the famous James Kirk,” he said, watching as all of them paled a bit. “I’m sure he’ll be able to explain to me why lots of people reported seeing him attacking the Academy and helping Nero to destroy it.”

“He wasn’t-“

“Think twice about what you’re going to say, Doctor,” the General warned him, “Because once this barrier will be gone, you’ll have to face the consequences.”

Leonard took a deep breath, sharing a look with the two girls that looked as unsure as he was. “Nero was just using him. He wasn’t responsible for his action-“

“Of course he wasn’t…” The General smiled patiently.

“and he stopped him, as soon as he was himself again. If people were watching, they saw him almost getting killed by Nero as well.” Leonard continued. “He was the only one that took Nero’s threats seriously, since the beginning. He knew he was planning something-”

“I don’t recall any warning about it.”

“No, because if he tried warning someone, you all would have locked him in a cell and throw the key.” Leonard insisted more angrily. “No one would have believed him, not even me, but he helped us anyway.”

Green tiredly breathed out, sending a look at his men and they all grabbed their weapons, getting ready. “I’m sure it’ll be an interesting story to hear from him personally.”

“You wish,” Leonard growled, staring coldly at him. “If you don’t want to hear it from me, you don’t need to bother him either.”

Green stepped forward, only the barrier standing between them. “Maybe you are not aware of your position, Doctor."

“I’m more than aware,” he interrupted. “All the people you see in here have gone through hell in the last hours, me and Jim included, and the last thing we need is an army rushing in just to scare everyone more than they already are.”

“The orders are-“

“I don’t give a shit about the orders.” Leonard shot back, his hands shaking a bit because he could feel the effect of the painkillers slowly fading, realizing how much the wounds on his back were hurting. “If you want to start another war so badly, you’re in the wrong place, because we won’t let you.”

Green silently held his gaze for a moment, then said, “I hope you are aware of the consequences of your decision.”

“I am.”

“Good.” That said, he gestured at the rest of his men that started to move in formation, ready to enter the Academy, now that the barrier was just two meters high.

Benjamin was ready to create the new one. “Just give me the signal,” he murmured, but Leonard said nothing, keeping his eyes on the General, while Gaila and Uhura shared a look and stood still- but then all four of them watched in surprised as a man and a woman, hand in hand, moved next to the girls.

“The Doctor is right,” the man said. “Our daughters are in there, and they aren't in danger.”

“We talked to them before. The sorcerers are helping people.” The woman added.

“My wife is in there too.” Another man said, making his way through the soldiers. “She has magic, but she never used it until today. She couldn't control it because of Nero's mark!”

The General looked taken aback, but still didn’t step back. “You all know the law. Anyone in possession of magic has to-“

“They lived in peace! They didn’t hurt anyone!” more people started yelling, moving in front of the barrier or facing the rifles that the soldiers pointed at them to keep the crowd away, “They did nothing wrong! They don’t deserve to die! They just need help!”

Leonard couldn’t tell who was more surprised, if them, or the General and his soldiers, as more and more people moved around the army, yelling about their sons, daughters, and friends that were in the Academy just because too scared of what was going to happen.

The General stared angrily at Leonard, ready to scream something- then he saw other people, member of Starfleet as well, moving in line behind the doctor, most of them hurt and covered in dust, but stepping in to make their choice clear. “You all will be accused of treason. Is that what you want? Ruin Starfleet history because of few sorcerers?”

“They’re not just few sorcerers. They are family to someone, and they need help." Sulu said, limping next to Leonard that smiled at him, relieved, "As far as I know, Starfleet always encourages new friendships between different cultures.” He added smiling at the General that seemed ready to explode in rage.

When the barrier disappeared completely, and he looked ready to order to shoot at everyone, another voice arrived from behind the cadets: “Enough with this nonsense.”

They all looked back, and the General blinked, surprised. “Admiral Marcus.”

“Yes. I’m still alive.” He said slowly moving through them to stand in front of the General. “I can confirm what Doctor McCoy said. We owe him and James Kirk the end of this war. No one would have been able to stop Nero. Not without magic.”

“Admiral, we were ordered to-“

“You are ordered to escort me back to the headquarter. The Academy is proclaimed neutral zone until further advice.”

Green had to swallow his anger, but his voice was shaking a bit when he asked, “What about the sorcerers? They might regroup to attack-“

“They won’t.” Leonard, Benjamin, Gaila and Uhura said together, tiredly and nervously.

“See? We’re in good hands.” Marcus smiled a bit. The General nodded so slightly it was hard to notice before he turned around and ordered his men to retreat. Only then, the first few people let out a nervous laughs, followed by few hugs, as some of them ran inside to reunite their families.

Admiral Marcus then looked at the cadets, “Can you all try to keep the Academy intact until I’ll be back?” and they all nodded, straightening their backs.

“You might need a pair of sunglasses, if you’re going to attend a meeting, Admiral,” Benjamin said between some cough, as they all saw Marcus’ eyes turning gold for a moment.

He looked away, taking a deep breath that seemed to calm his magic down. He then grinned at him, “It’s always a pleasure, Krane.”

Benjamin tilted his head in salute, watching him leaving with the General and the rest of the army.

“That was way too close...” Gaila breathed out, as Uhura did the same, holding on her shoulder.

“I’m getting too old for this…” Leonard murmured, feeling his legs shaking a bit.

Uhura turned to him and finally moving closer to hug him, but Benjamin instantly jumped forward from behind him to grab her arms, keeping them wide on the sides of the doctor.

No hugs.” The sorcerers hissed with a scary expression.

“I got some wounds on my back,” Leonard explained to her, moving him away, “but I can hug you.” He said lightly squeezing her into his arms.

“Oh, I didn’t know… Are you ok?”

“I will be,” he nodded, then noticed Gaila slowly moving closer and dragged her into a hug as well. “Thank you. For everything.” He murmured into her ear.

“Oh, it was nothing…” she grinned, instinctively trying to do the same, but Benjamin materialized behind the doctor to stop her as well. “No hugs, right. Sorry.” She laughed a bit, feeling Leonard chuckling softly as he tiredly dropped his head on her shoulder.

Chapter Text

Jim moved the head a bit, brushing his cheek against a fluffy pillow while he opened his eyes, staring at the stripes of light reflecting on the ceiling. It took him a moment to turn on the left, slowly recognizing the room- and the man sitting at the desk next to the bed: Leonard was facing him, sitting in a way that the back of the chair was against his left side.

The doctor was staring down into the cup he was keeping into his hands, a blank expression on his face, completely lost in his thoughts.

“Where’s my sandwich?” Jim slowly asked, voice a bit raspy.

Leonard blinked and looked up at him, as a slight smile grew on his face. “What sandwich?” he asked, puzzled.

“I heard you asking if I wanted a sandwich.”

“Huh… That was yesterday,” Leonard explained, “You didn’t answer, so I ate yours too.”

“Oh...”

“I can go get you one now, if you’re hungry?” he asked and the other just nodded slightly. “Alright. Give me a minute.” Leonard stood up but flinched doing so, placing the cup and then a hand on the desk. He sighed, trying to stand straight, founding Jim out of the bed, holding him by the shoulder with a worried expression on his face.

“You ok?” he asked, his hold strong, but not enough to hurt.

“I’m fine, and you need to eat-”

“Bones, I don’t care about that stupid sandwich,” Jim cried, moving both arms around his neck to pull him closer. “It took me a moment to remember. I’m such an idiot…”

Leonard sighed, moving an arm around his back. “I have to admit, I was kind of surprised…”

Surprised?” Jim moved back just a bit, placing both hands on his shoulders. “After what happened, the first thing I say to you is where’s my sandwich. You should punch me in the face.”

“Well, I’m still considering it…”

“On a serious note, are you-?” Jim tried to ask, but they both flinched hearing a door slamming somewhere out the room, as people yell echoed through the walls.

“The Academy is kind of busy lately.” Bones snorted.

“What…?” Jim frowned and then turned to the window.

Leonard grinned watching him jump on the bed to look better outside.

“Those are sorcerers?!” Jim asked pressing his nose against the window: there were groups of people on the whole campus, and he could see their eyes shining gold- few of them were even using little spells. In front of everyone- in the Starfleet Academy. “They shouldn’t- wait, their magic is hurting you?” he asked turning back.

“Not really. Listen…”

“Bones, there are sorcerers using magic in the Academy! What happened while I was out? How long I was out??” he kept asking jumping down the bed.

“JIM.” Leonard put both hands on his shoulders to avoid losing him into an ocean of questions. “You were asleep for just three days. Everything’s fine. Kind of.”

Kind of? They’re using magic! What about the Federation? What if-“

“They won’t-“

“What about you? Nero was-“

Leonard pressed a hand over his mouth to shut him up. “We’ll talk about everything, but later. There’s one thing I have to ask you, first. It’s important.” He said and Jim’s shoulders dropped a bit as he nodded.

 

When Spock opened his eyes, he was startled by the unknown hand covering them, and also by the fact of not knowing what was going on, or where he was. When he was finally able to see again, he realized that that was James Kirk’s hand: he was sitting next to him on a bed, his eyes shining gold.

Jim swallowed nervously under his cold gaze. “Spock? You ok? How’re you feeling?”

He stared at him for another moment, and then said, “I assume you are not under Nero’s influence anymore?”

Jim breathed out in relief. “I’m not. I just woke up, and the others told me that you were-“

“Stuck in my own mind because of your spell?”

“Yeah…Sorry about that. About everything,” Jim murmured guiltily. “I couldn’t control myself, but I remember what I’ve done. I am sorry for hurting you, and the others.”

“I don’t have information regarding the most recent events… Is the battle over?” he asked and the other nodded. “Nero has been defeated?”

Killed, more precisely.”

“By who? The Federation knows that he…?” Spock trailed off looking at the room they were in, “Is this Nyota’s room?”

“Yes. They brought here after the battle.” Jim nodded and stood up to open the door: Uhura and Leonard were waiting just outside. “He’s awake. And he’s fine.” He told them with a little smile.

Uhura breathed out and quickly stepped inside, hesitating just a moment, watching the Vulcan sitting up, blinking at them with his usual blank expression.

“Nyota. I’m glad you’re safe-” Spock said trying to stand, falling back down when she jumped on him.

“And he also acts as if nothing happened…” Leonard sighed, shaking his head.

“That’s probably what saved him from going insane…” Jim commented smiling relived at the two hugging in the room, before looking down at his own hands.

“You ok?” Leonard asked.

“Huh, yeah… I told you I could do it.”

“But your hands are shaking…”

“They always do when I use magic,” Jim murmured, looking away as if he didn’t mean to say that aloud, trying to hide them.

“Are you sure you’re gonna be ok?” Leonard asked again.

“I’m fine…” Looking at the doctor again, he saw him avoiding his eyes. “What?”

“Uh?”

“Seems like- like you can’t look at me,” Jim said, not as an accusation- more like stating a fact he was very worried about. “I told you it would be better for you not to come and watch me doing this.” He nervously said, gesturing inside the room.

“You mean saving Spock’s life?” Leonard sighed patiently, “It’s not because of that, but- you just woke up. Maybe Benjamin was right, and you should have waited before-”

“Did it hurt you? My magic?” Jim said, suddenly alarmed.

“No. Jim…” Leonard tried to say something but managed to meet his eyes only for a second before looking down again. “I think… I think we should talk.” He said, voice low and serious.

It’s over, Jim thought and his heart dropped, and he felt his hands shaking even more. He could feel his magic rising quickly- and he realized he wasn’t able to control it anymore: he passed out before he could yell at Leonard to run.

 

“-up? Can you hear me?”

Jim opened his eyes, jumping up a second later, looking around: he was back in his dormitory’s room.

“I was considering give you some morphine as well, you know?” Benjamin sighed, standing next to the bed.

“What?” he asked breathing fast, scanning the area. “Wh- where’s Bones?”

“I asked him to go grab some water, so you both can try to calm down a bit.”

“What you mean? Is he alright? What about- Uhura and Spock were there too…”

“They’re all fine, but Leonard was worried sick about you,” the sorcerer explained. “I warned them that making you use magic so soon wasn’t a wise decision…”

“Why? What happened?” Jim could feel his magic still on the edge.

“Luckily, nothing. You just passed out after waking up Spock. I know his conditions were getting worse, but you have to be careful too.”

Careful? My magic is going crazy and I can’t control it anymore!” he snapped angrily, and suddenly, the windows’ glass cracked

“Jim-“ before he could finish, the light bulb on the ceiling exploded, and the blonde just shut his eyes and dropped the head, hiding it under his arms. “Jim, you can control it. It’s your magic-” Benjamin continued, forced to jump back when one of the windows exploded as well, and pieces of glass fell all over the desk and the floor.

The door slammed open a moment later. “What the- what the hell have you done?!”

Jim flinched hearing Leonard saying the same words he heard from Frank too many times, followed by the sound of a punch hitting someone. He tried to hide even more into himself. I almost killed him- all of them. It’s all my fault…

“Jim.”

“I didn’t mean to… I didn’t mean to,” Only then, Jim realized he was repeating those words over and over.

“I know. It’s ok. It’s not your fault. Jim, it’s alright…”

He noticed that voice sounded so sad- and so worried… He shut his mouth, carefully daring to look up: first he saw Benjamin on the floor, massaging his cheek where a bruise was already forming; then, lifting his gaze just a bit, he found Leonard kneeling next to him on the bed, almost head against head.

“It’s alright, see?” Leonard repeated, keeping both hands resting gently on his arms. “You can control it.”

Jim just stared at him. “You should leave…”

“Never.”

“It’s all my fault… I should have never-”

“Hey,” Leonard squeezed his arm a bit more, making him flinch again. “No one is going to leave anyone. We’re in this together, am I clear?” he said, voice firm, trying to hide how worried he actually was. “No one leaves.”

Jim just kept staring at him before closing his eyes, hiding his face again, trying to control his own magic. Despite how much scared he was, he couldn’t risk hurting Leonard.

 

For a long moment, the whole world seemed to disappear. Even when Jim started to feel a bit calmer, he was too scared to open his eyes. Lying on something soft, he noticed his head was slowly moving up and down, following the breathing of someone.

Before he could stop, his eyes opened, staring down at half of his body hiding under the blankets, while someone else was lying on top of it, right next to him. He could also feel an arm passing under his neck and the hand resting against his shoulder.

“’Morning.” Leonard murmured, sounding very tired- or very sleepy.

Jim took a deep breath and shut his eyes again.

“Stop doing that.” Leonard said, his voice sounding harsher than usual, so he added more calmly, “Anyone told you that keeping your emotions down isn’t healthy?”

“Even if those emotions can kill?”

“So melodramatic…” Leonard snorted.

Jim felt that word hurt more than he was expecting. “You think I’m joking?” He nervously moved his arm away and left the bed, standing in their silent, dark room. Turning around, he found Leonard sitting on the bed, staring back at him.

“I don’t know. You tell me.” The doctor shrugged.

“I told you to leave!”

“And I told that I wouldn’t.”

“Bones, I could kill you!” Jim yelled, angry and scared. “I thought that defeating Nero- I hoped that it was all his fault, but I was like this even before knowing him…”

“Time to face the problem, then.”

I can’t!” Jim shot back, and his magic pushed the other back down on the bed when he tried to stand. They were both surprised at first, but then only Jim looked horrified and quickly stepped back.

“Jim-“

Stay. There.” he hissed, turning the other way.

Leonard obeyed, staring at those shoulders rising and falling way too fast. “Pavel and Benjamin are already keeping the dorm isolated,” he said after a while. “This is like a safe room-”

“You mean a panic room.”

“Call it as you want. It’s meant to help you, so…”

“So what, I should just let my magic explode with you in here?”

“Exactly.”

“What?” Jim quickly turned around. “Are you crazy?”

“I’m here just to prove you that you can use your magic without hurting anyone.”

The blonde looked even more horrified than before, “You’re not a test subject!”

“Look, staying here with you was my decision-”

“And your decision sucks! Get out before I-“

“Before you kill me?” Leonard interrupted, standing up again. “Before you use your magic to hurt me? We both know you would never do that.”

“I just did! Don’t you understand-“

“Pushing me like that was you trying to kill me?” The doctor snorted, crossing his arms. “Damn, you’ve been scared for so long about something so weak?”

I’m not weak!” Jim yelled back, and the room started trembling. “My magic is not weak… I wish it was…” his voice slowly lowered while he sat on the other bed, fighting the need to start crying. He tried to stand and move away when Leonard knelt in front of him, grabbing his hands, but the doctor didn’t let go.

“You want to know why I can’t leave?” Leonard asked him, “One, because I trust you and that magic of yours- that same magic you’re trying so hard to hate just because it scares you, and I can tell you for personal experience that doing that doesn’t help.” He gently squeezed his hand. “And two, I’m here because I love you… And I think I never got the chance to really prove it to you.”

“You don’t have to prove anything.”

“I have to. If it’s you, I have to.”

Jim’s eyes were shining gold, but also of tears. “You sure? Because I thought we were going to break up.”

Leonard opened and closed his mouth, taken aback. “That was probably the most romantic thing I have ever said to someone and you-“ he saw him looking down again, and he sighed in disbelief, “Where the hell did you get that idea?”

“Before… When you said we needed to talk…”

“Y-yeah, about the hell that happened in the last few days, not about- oh my God…” Leonard cried dropping his head against Jim’s knees, holding his hands even tighter.

“I mean, you don’t have to stay just because I’m a shitty sorcerer that can’t even-“

Leonard groaned and stood to shut him up with an intense, long kiss that continued while he sat next to him. When they parted, even so slightly, they were both blushing, out of breath. “We good?” the doctor asked, staring at his lips.

“We good…” Jim murmured, swallowing down the need to continue.

Leonard grinned, and then took a deep breath, looking at him straight in the eyes. “Look, about me trying not to look at you… It’s just- a bit weird.”

“Weird?”

“I’ll get used to it, I promise.”

“Used to what?”

Leonard sighed, ashamed, but eventually confessed, “Your eyes…”

Jim looked clueless for another moment, then he gasped and jumped off the bed, running to the bathroom: looking into the mirror, he realized that his eyes were shining gold, even stronger than usual. “Since when-“ he asked turning to him, quickly hiding his eyes with both hands, “Why no one told me?!”

“Aren’t they supposed to be always like that?” Leonard asked, trying not to laugh.

“No! I mean, yes, when I use magic, but they should turn back to normal after a while!”

“Is that so…?”

“Yes! I swear!”

“Well, from what I know, they’ve been like this since you stopped Nero.”

Not able to see, Jim noticed a slight change of tone in his voice. “I’m sorry. I- I didn’t know…” he said, jumping a bit when two hands grabbed his wrists and lowered his arms.

Leonard stood there in silence; a calm smile on his face. He studied those golden eyes for a long, tense moment, then he breathed out and nodded, saying, “They’re fine, but… I guess I have a thing for blue eyes.”

Jim smiled timidly for the first time since they met, and his love for the man felt stronger than ever while they kissed again.

Leonard was nudging at his cheek when he noticed Jim’s hands were shining slightly- and the blonde instantly tried to move away again. “What’s wrong?”

“Me… Just me,” Jim murmured, sad and frustrated, but the other didn’t let him go.

“Jim. Tell me what’s the real problem.”

“I can’t- I don’t know how to control my magic anymore. I did it for my whole life, but now- now I feel like I could explode at any moment.”

“Ok… What if you simply let it go?”

“What?! No- no, I told you, it could be too dangerous-“

“It’ll be more dangerous forcing it down again- especially for yourself. You have used it freely to stop Nero, right? I can’t even imagine how liberating it must have been... And that’s fine,” he added as the other looked away, ashamed. “Jim, please, you don’t have to keep doing that to yourself.”

“But I should. I should be able to control myself.”

“You will, one step at the time.”

Jim took another deep breath, thinking, then nodded slowly. “You- you don’t have to stay…“

“You really want me to leave that bad?”

“No! No, but I’ve never- I never used magic in front of you…”

“Well, there was that time, in the park… And did I mention that I was there when you stopped a spell that was going to destroy the world?”

“Y-yeah, but now… This is different.”

“I know,” Leonard said and tangled their hands together, “That’s exactly why I don’t want to leave.”

Jim smiled a bit and then breathed out. “Ok…”

 

“Should I kick down the door?” Benjamin asked while staring at the closed door of Jim and Leonard’s room, arms crossed and a worried expression on his face.

“Please, don’t.” Pavel patiently answer, standing next to him.

“It’s taking too long… And Leonard will need his medicines and change the bandages in half hour.”

“Let’s wait a bit longer. I’m sure he-” Pavel tried to say until they suddenly started hearing laughing from inside the room. The sorcerers shared a look before rushing inside, staring with wide eyes at the view in front of them: the room was filled with little creatures, shaped like a ball of fur, squeaking and slowly moving around; some were brown, while others were orange or yellow.

Jim and Leonard were sitting on the floor, in front of each other, and both of them with multiple of those little things into their arms, or even on their heads and shoulders- and they were both laughing as if without a worry in the world.

Benjamin looked at the whole room, mouth open in disbelief. “Can someone explain-“

“Tribbles!” Pavel yelled into their minds, a large smile on his face while he ran inside to pet the adorable creatures.

“Can someone explain to me why there’s a tribbles invasion in here?!” Benjamin yelled.

“Ask the sorcerer.” Leonard said pointing at Jim that just laughed more saying, “I- I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry. I needed to use my magic-”

“And of all things, you thought about using to bring a horde of tribbles here??” the sorcerer kept yelling.

“Bones said to think about something nice and cute, and- this happened.”

“Hey, don’t turn the blame on me.” Leonard snorted while petting the little aliens trembling on his lap.

“Are you fu- PAVEL, stop playing with those and help me lock down the dorm before they start invading the whole Academy!” Benjamin stormed out the room while continuing to scream, “I was away for just two hours- TWO DAMN HOURS!” as Pavel followed him taking few tribbles with him.

“Being locked in places is becoming a habit by now,” Leonard commented, looking around: the tribbles were already occupying the floor, both the beds and the desk, while few were also appearing in the bathrooms.

“I can’t complain about the company,” Jim grinned.

Leonard huffed a laugh. “How are you feeling, anyway?”

“Huh… better. A bit. The tribbles are helping.”

“That’s good.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Me? I’m fine. Why?”

“You know, when I… I mean, using magic here, in front of you…”

“You sure did, and you filled our room with tribbles.” He nodded with a little smile but saw him still looking down. “Jim-“

“I just don’t want you being scared of me.”

Now it was Leonard looking confused, “That’s what bothers you so much?”

“It worries me since the first time we met.” Jim said staring at the tribbles resting in his arms. “And after everything that happened…”

Leonard studied him for a long moment. “I’ve been scared of you only once until now,” he admitted, and the other quickly looked up with a worried expression. “You know when- when I was going to leave Starfleet and you came to stop me, and then I kissed you? I thought you were going to push me away.”

Jim’s shoulders dropped so much, all the tribbles fell from them. “Are you serious?” he asked, incredulously.

“Well, you just discovered what a shitty person I was, at the time… And I wasn’t sure if you- I didn’t know if you really liked me or not, so, yeah… I was kind of scared.” He cleared his throat, embarrassed, and then surprised when, looking up again, found him with eyes shining of tears. “Come on, I wasn’t that scared!”

“I should’ve told you sooner. About everything,” Jim said lowering his gaze again, “I wanted to, but when you told me about your past, I decided to wait- and then I kept waiting and waiting until the war started and you saw me using magic… I thought that would have been my last memory of you.”

“What you mean? You knew I survived that explosion-“

“Nero told me that I killed all of you. That’s why I…” Jim stopped there, shaking his head at the memory: he had never felt so desperate, so lost, like in that terrible moment.

“Jim…” Leonard breathed out sadly, moving through the tribbles to sit against his shoulder. “Why did you believed him? Why you didn’t come looking for me?”

“Because I was too scared and- and when Nero told me there was only one way to bring all of you back, I just believed him. I was so stupid…”

“So stupid you started a war because of my presumed death,” Leonard sighed, closing his eyes.

“Of course I-” Jim started, but then saw him slowly leaning against him, resting his head on his shoulder.

“Next time you think I’m dead, or that I’m angry at you for whatever reason, ask me first, alright?”

“Bones, you ok?”

“I love you… I really do, so… Don’t make anything stupid…” he kept mumbling, aware that he was going to faint, but couldn’t bring himself to stay awake long enough to say his wounds were hurting again.

 

Later that day, Gaila arrived at the Academy’s hospital, checking through all the corridors until she stopped a nurse that told her where to go. On the second floor, he finally spotted Jim sitting on the floor under a window, back against the wall, staring at the closed door in front of him.

Before she could say anything, he turned around and smiled a bit, standing up and greeting her with a weak “Hey…”

“Hey. Pavel told me Leonard wasn’t feeling good.”

“Yeah, he… I think his wounds opened again. He came to help me even if he needed to rest…”

“No one would have changed his mind about that. I’m sure he’ll be fine,” she said. They stared at each other for a second before hugging at the same time. “It’s good to see you back to normal,” she sighed, patting his back.

“It’s good to see you’re alright.”

“I’m trying my best,” Gaila smiled, rubbing his back. After a while, he still didn’t let go. “Are you alright, Jim?”

“Huh? Oh,” he blinked and quickly moved away. “Yeah. Sorry. I still feel a bit- off.”

“Sharing body and mind with yourself from the future sure is something,” she commented and saw him looking away, uncomfortable. “Sorry. I’m sorry. I’m not the most delicate person, am I?”

“It’s ok. I just haven’t talked about that to anyone yet… Everything is a bit- confusing.”

“Confusing?” she echoed, a bit worried.

“I mean, I remember what I did while I wasn’t in control, but I also remember how I- how the other me was feeling... I know what happened, but sometimes none of that feel real.”

Gaila nodded slowly. “Wait. You two shared those feelings… Did you saw his memories too? About the future?”

“No, but I was- he was so angry… So sad,” Jim sighed, “And he really trusted Nero… I think we were even friends, in that future. Maybe that’s why he was so obsessed with me.”

“He did it just to steal your magic. You know that, right?”

Jim smiled sadly. “Yeah, I felt that too… The betrayal.”

“Look, don’t worry too much about it. I think it’s better that you don’t have the memories of another reality in your head.” Gaila said, as gentle as she could. “I can’t even imagine what it could feel like to lose all the people you love…”

Jim nodded slowly, and suddenly he froze, blushing.

“You ok?” she asked, confused.

“Yeah, but- I just realized… We- did we kiss before? During the battle?”

Gaila nodded solemnly. “I think we were married in that future, actually.”

“Marr-“ Jim took a deep breath, trying to stay calm. “We should go talk about this outside.”

“What? Why?”

“Because Krane he’s gonna kill me if he sees more tribbles around here.”

 

Inside the hospital room, Leonard opened his eyes while Benjamin was closing the door. “Hey… What happened?”

“You were tired, and your wounds were bleeding, that’s what happened,” the sorcerer snorted, staring intently at him. “I told you, you shouldn’t-“

“Jim needed my help. I couldn’t just leave him in that state,” he said slowly sitting up, groaning at the pain from his back. “Where is he?”

“He left a while ago with Gaila. He said he was feeling weird again, but,” he added before he could jump down and ran after him, “She’s staying with him for now, so there’s no need to worry.”

“Are you sure?”

“Do you see any tribbles in here?” Benjamin asked gesturing around the room. “He just needs to learn how to control himself now that he can’t suppress his magic anymore. And he can’t rely on you all the time.”

“Yes, he can.”

“He can, but it doesn’t mean that that’s what he needs.” He shot back, ignoring his cold glare. “He knows that you’re not scared of him- he needed to know that, and I get it, but he needs to try not being scared of himself as well.”

Leonard looked down and stayed quiet, poking at the new bandages around his chest.

Benjamin took a deep breath and sat on the other bed, facing him. “Also, I needed to talk with you alone,” he started, and the doctor looked up. “I talked with Anna before…”

“She can’t help me?” Leonard asked and the other shook his head in no. “Well, I’m not that surprised…”

“You should tell Jim.”

“No. Not yet.”

“You’re risking your life, you know that?”

“I’m the one that Nero have used as a notebook, so yes, I know.” He snapped angrily, and none of them said anything for a moment. “You want me to tell Jim that these wounds don’t heal and that they hurt more and more each day? That I can now feel every cut because the medicines don’t do shit anymore? He just started controlling his magic- barely, and now I should tell him-“ he stopped and took a deep breath as another flash of pain hit. It wasn’t a constant pain, but every wave was way more painful than ever before.

Benjamin shook his head and handed him two pills and a little bottle of water. “And for how long you think you can keep it secret?”

“As long as we don’t find a solution,” Leonard said swallowing both pills in one gulp.

“There might be one…” Benjamin said after a while, staring sadly at him, “but you’re not gonna like it.”

Chapter Text

Two more days passed, and voices of a possible cease-fire started spreading in town, along with stories about a group of sorcerers stationary at the Federation HQ, working exactly for that purpose under Morgan’s leadership.

“No sign of Pike yet?”

“No… Uhura saw him yesterday, though. He’s fine and happy to know that we’re alive, but for now he needs to stay with Morgan and the others to check the situation- as an intermediary between them and the Federation.”

“Spock is not enough for that?”

“No, for once Spock is not enough.” Jim laughed a bit pushing a box full of debriefs out the room with a foot. He took a deep breath, sparing a quick look at the people doing the same in the corridor, trying to put in order the dormitory after the damage caused by the battle- few of them were using magic to fix few cracks in the walls. “It’s so weird…” he started but, turning around, found Leonard still staring out the window. “Having sorcerers practicing magic in here, I mean. I’m too worried to cause another tribbles invasion to try anything…” he continued, but the doctor didn’t turn around. “Bones?”

Leonard flinched a bit and turned around only when a hand poked gently on his arm. “What?”

“You’re spacing out a lot lately... You ok?”

“Yeah… Sorry. I’m just tired. What were you saying?”

Jim sighed. “Look, I know you need your time and space, and I’m trying my best to respect that, but, just to let you know, it’s not something I’m good at.”

Leonard smiled- a smile almost hard to see. “You’re doing good so far.”

“It’s just- if there’s something you want to tell me or ask- anything, just do it. I don’t want you to think too much about it all by yourself. I’m an open book for you.”

“And I appreciate it, but-“

Anything.” Jim insisted more seriously. “Even if you just want to me to shut up, or leave- or put sunglasses on, because I can’t tell when my eyes change color, except for the face you make… Not that is a problem. It’s normal. It’s ok, really,” he quickly added when the other looked down again. “I’m blabbing, I know, but… I’m worried about you. And those wounds that haven't healed yet...”

“That’s-“

“Please, don’t say that it’s fine, because we both know that’s a lie.” Jim gently interrupted him.

“Benjamin is working on it. I’m sure he and Annabelle will find a way to fix this.”

Jim sighed, staring sadly at him. “Does it hurts?”

“A bit.” He answered after a moment and, before the other could say something, added, “They think it’s because Nero’s magic is still around... In that sphere.”

“Maybe it’s time to get rid of it, then.”

“Maybe.” Leonard just echoed. “Speaking of which, I should go back to the hospital to change the bandages… You need something?”

Jim dropped his shoulders and shook his head. “Just that you come back here as soon as you can.”

The other smiled that weak smile again and leaned closer to kiss him before leaving.

 

It was lunchtime when Jim came out of the shower. Passing a hand over the foggy mirror, he stared at his own eyes shining gold, looking away only when someone knocked on the door. “Just a sec,” he said, aware that it couldn't be Leonard: none of them ever bothered to knock. Quickly getting dressed, he opened the door with his hair still partly wet, finding Gaila and Pavel waiting with few bags in hand. “Hey. Everything’s alright?”

“Are you going to ask that every time we met?” she sighed stepping inside.

“Probably for the next few months, yeah,” Jim giggles, ruffling Pavel’s hair as he entered, watching them leaving the supplies on the desk. “You took the wife thing more seriously than I thought.”

“Very funny,” she sneered. “The others are busy, so we thought we could eat together. Where’s Leonard?”

“At the hospital. He should be back soon.”

“Those wounds aren't healing yet?”

“He keep saying that it’s all under control… I’m starting to think that he’s just trying to not make me worry.”

“Maybe he needs some time…”

“That’s what I thought, but he’s weird lately, and I don’t know if it’s because of me or- or because of all this mess.” He said sitting on the chair.

Gaila and Pavel shared a worried look, and then she said, “What happened hasn’t been easy for anyone- especially for you and Leonard. Give it time. I’m sure he’s trying his best.”

“I know he is, but I don’t want him to try too hard. If there’s something wrong, I don’t want him to think too much about it before telling me.”

“Didn’t you used to do the same thing?”

“Yes, and we all know how that ended. That’s why I don’t want him to do the same.”

“I think he is just scared.” Pavel commented.

“Of me?” Jim asked, worried. “He said something?”

Pavel shook his head in no. “What Nero did to him has hurt him deeply. He’s trying to get over it, but…"

“But what?”

“Well, we know it's not that easy. He can’t even sleep without those pills..." Gaila said.

“Pills? What pills?” Jim asked, confused.

“To help him to sleep,” She nodded, slowly regretting talking about it, "Because of the nightmares… You didn’t know?”

“That’s why he sleeps at the hospital?” he asked in disbelief, “And he told you but not me...”

“He didn’t exactly tell us.” She explained, “We visited him few times, while you were unconscious, and saw him in a terrible state. It was Benjamin that told us what was going on.”

“While I was unconscious?” he repeated. “Wait- since when he’s having these nightmares?”

“Huh...“ The two shared a look again, and then Gaila looked apologetically at him saying, “I think since the war ended.”

“He-“ Jim started raging, but disappeared from the room a second later, finding himself falling against a bench, outside. Looking around, he realized being right in front of the hospital and didn't waste time, walking straight inside the building. He couldn’t fully control himself yet, so it was even easier to notice how his magic was based on the instinct: he just thought about running to find Leonard, and he teleported there instantly- without even caring if someone was watching.

I thought there wouldn’t be any more secrets, he kept saying to himself, Why? Why tell me that everything’s fine if-

Jim suddenly stopped, as a horrible feeling almost made him feel dizzy, and he teleported somewhere else again: still in the hospital, but a different corridor.

“-and don't move. I'll try to-” Benjamin came out a room, almost crashing against him. “Jim? What are you-?“

“Where’s Leonard?” he interrupted, and just then he heard low cries coming from inside the room. Pushing the sorcerer away, he found Leonard sitting on one of the beds, holding a shirt over his shoulders with trembling hands, trying to cover his naked back, “Bones!”

Shaking, Leonard barely looked up when he felt two warm hands touching his skin; his shoulders moving up and down following his fast and irregular breathing.

“Bones, what happened?” Jim asked, but the doctor just shook his head before weakly bumping it against his arm. Jim caressed his hair, trying to ignore the bloodstains visible through the fabric of the shirt, before looking at the sorcerer with a murderous glare. “Care to explain what the hell is going on here?!”

“I was trying to help him.” Benjamin sighed, closing the door.

“Help him getting worse? He’s bleeding!”

“I tried healing those wounds. Even if we both knew it wasn’t going to work.”

“Then why you did it??”

“I asked him,” Leonard managed to say, trying to slow down his breathing. “D- don’t be angry at him.”

“I’m angry at both of you for hiding things from me! Gaila just told me that you need to be drugged to be able to sleep and now this!”

“T-that’s not-“

“You almost get yourself killed!” Jim kept screaming angrily, noticing the room was shaking a bit. Taking a deep breath, he kept staring at Leonard that was holding tightly onto his arm with trembling hands. He forced himself to calm down and closed his eyes, trying to focus.

Benjamin realized he was going to use magic on the doctor and stepped forward to stop him, but then blinked in surprise as Leonard’s sobs slowly reduced.

Jim let out a long breath before opening his eyes again, relieved to see Leonard has calmed down. He then turned to the sorcerer again, “How exactly were you trying to help him?” he hissed.

“The exact same way you did,” he said, staring at him with an intense glare.

“Oh yeah? Because it didn’t look like he was getting any better!”

“I guess your magic is actually different from ours. I don’t-“ Benjamin started, but then stopped and looked at the doctor, “We have to tell him.”

“Tell me what?”

“We still have time,” Leonard murmured.

“No, we don’t. You heard what Annabelle said.”

“Tell me what!?” Jim asked again, angrier.

“That those wounds can’t heal!” Benjamin snapped. “We tried everything, but they kept bleeding, and the more we wait, the worse they get.”

Jim frowned, looking down at the other, “But you said- you both said we could fix it.”

“We tried,” Benjamin repeated, “Me, Annabelle- even Morgan, we all tried to find a way to help him, but we can’t, because, as you can see, we can’t use magic on him.”

“I just did-!” Jim started but, feeling the doctor squeezing his arm even tighter, he looked down at him, confused. “Bones, why you didn’t ask me to help you?”

“Because even if your magic doesn’t hurt him, it would be a temporary solution,” Benjamin said.

“At least it’s a start. We could-“

“We’ll find another way,” Leonard interrupted.

“We don’t have time, and you know it,” Benjamin insisted. “If you want to bleed to death, fine, but Jim has the right to know that there’s another option.”

“What other option?” Jim said, looking between them but no one answered. “Guys, you better start talking right now or I swear-”

“Anna said that his wounds don’t heal because Nero’s magic is not completely gone,” Benjamin explained, “And even if we manage to destroy it, we don’t know if Leonard will actually get better.”

Jim nodded slowly, “Then we could at least try to lock it somewhere else... Keep it as far away from him as we can so it won’t reach him and-”

“You think that would be easy? It took the magic of two of the most powerful sorcerers to block it in that sphere. And I doubt that simply moving it away it will be enough, anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Because those on Leonard’s back aren’t just wounds: it’s a spell. Half of it, to be precise, and Anna thinks that’s the real reason why it doesn’t heal.”

“But it’s not working. Nero hasn’t finished it.” Jim said, unsure.

Benjamin sighed. “Jim, you need to understand that Nero was using all his magic to activate a very powerful and dangerous spell, and he didn’t stop because he wanted to: he died during the processes. That’s why it’s still reacting to what’s left of him.”

Jim swallowed down the tension, trying to think. “Then how can we stop it for good?”

Benjamin sent a quick look at the doctor, but he kept his eyes down. “The only way is completing it. Changing the spell just enough so that it won’t work as Nero wanted… Hopefully, that should break the connection.”

“Did you just say completing it?” Jim echoed, confused, but Benjamin’s face was stone cold. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Jim, we tried everything-“

“You’re telling me that someone should finish this- torture him again in order to-“ Jim suddenly stopped, looking at Leonard before harshly moving away from him. “And you want me to do it.”

Leonard almost fell without his support, and just kept his eyes down.

“None of us wanted to ask you this, but there’s no other way,” Benjamin said. “If your magic is the only one that doesn’t hurt him, maybe there’s a chance-“

A chance?” Jim screamed at him, and the door suddenly cracked in the middle.

“If you could just listen for a moment-“

Jim just ignored him, staring at Leonard sitting there in silence, bleeding, with a heartbreaking expression on his face. When cracks started appearing on the walls, Jim shut his eyes, and when he opened them again, he and Leonard were back into their room at the dormitory.

Leonard was trying to stand from the floor but fall back down, still feeling dizzy from the unexpected teleport.

“Krane is lying, right?” Jim asked, fighting the urge to go help him, watching him slowly wearing the bloodied shirt, despite the pain the movement caused. “There must be another way.”

“We tried…”

Then we’ll keep trying!” Jim roared, but the other just kept looking down in silence. “You- you don’t even care?”

"I do, but…”

“Oh my God…” Jim almost laughed, a furious and bitter laugh.

“What else do you want me to do?” Leonard insisted. “Why you think I’ve waited so long before telling you about this? I prayed every single day that someone could fix this- fix me, just like that!” He tried to stand again and finally managed to, but, as soon as he moved closer, Jim stepped back.

“You can’t ask me to do this,” Jim said, his eyes shining gold. “I would do anything- I would die for you, but this- You shouldn’t even consider asking me something like this!”

“I never wanted to.”

“Then how can you agree with it?!”

I don’t!” Leonard yelled back at him, “But I’m trying to tell you that I don’t know what else to do, because there’s nothing I can do!”

“So just let me torture you like Nero did, because that’s totally fine!” Jim knew he crossed the line there: Leonard said nothing, but his eyes quickly filled with tears. “Do you have any idea how I feel knowing that I could have stopped Nero and I didn’t? You were right there in front of me, and all I did was watching you getting tortured. That memory will keep hunting me for the rest of my life, and now you want me to finish the job?”

Leonard kept staring at him, but couldn’t find anything to say.

Jim’s eyes were watery as well, but he swallowed down the tears and shook his head. “No,” he said, his voice cracking a bit, “I can’t.”

Leonard took another step forward, but the sorcerer disappeared again, leaving him alone, standing in the middle of their room that never felt so cold and empty like in that moment.

 

Jim spent the rest of the day on the roof the main building of the Academy, the same one where he talked with Pike months before. He felt the urge to leave and never come back, but, despite how angry he was, he couldn’t abandon Leonard again, but he couldn’t face him either- not after the discussion they had.

The more he kept thinking about Leonard’s heartbroken expression, angrier he would get. Not at the man himself, he knew that Leonard wasn’t really the one to blame, but about being unable to help him. As the doctor said, there was no other option but to finish what Nero started…

“No… no, please-“

Jim shivered at the memory of Leonard crying and begging Nero to stop. He started shaking and quickly put his head into his hands once again, trying to calm down while low thunders echoed in the night sky.

“…yeah, I got this.”

Jim wasn’t sure if he imagined that voice until he jumped when a hand grabbed his shoulder. Turning around, he found Shawn standing behind him.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you, but she said this might help you,” he said putting something around his neck.

“What-“ Jim barely tried to stop him before realizing it was Annabelle’s necklace.

“The others were getting worried because of the mess you’re making up here, so I thought to check and give you that,” he said gesturing at the necklace. “Feeling better?” he asked, and the other nodded slowly. “Looks like you scared all your friends away. Even Krane refused to come with me.”

“Wise decision.” Jim murmured moving the green pendant through his fingers. “Wait, this was- Leonard should have this."

“He’s fine without it. We already checked.”

“You checked how?”

“He’s in pain anyway, wearing that necklace or not,” he said, noticing his nervous glare at those words. “Relax, he’s not dying… Ask Annabelle if you don’t believe me.”

Jim frowned, then saw the gem shining slightly and someone slowly appearing next to the sorcerer: Annabelle’s features became clearer until it was as if she was right there with them, still alive. “It worked… Good.” She sighed in relief.

“I’ll leave you two to talk. Try not to destroy anything else, alright, Kirk?” Shawn said limping away.

Jim watched him close the door to the roof, and kept staring at it for a while.

“You were probably expecting someone else…” Annabelle started, her voice was low and calm as usual. “I asked Leonard to come with us, but-”

“Why you wanted to give me this?” Jim coldly interrupted, addressing at the necklace that he let fall against his chest. “Leonard needs it more than I do.”

“I’m afraid I can’t help Leonard as much as before,” she said. “Keeping Nero’s and your magic inside the sphere it takes a lot of my energy.”

“My magic? You mean-“

“The magic Nero brought here from the future,” she nodded. “Sorry, I keep saying it's yours even if it’s not.”

“And that’s why you can’t help Leonard anymore?”

She nodded sadly. “I think no one is able to help him at this point…”

“Good for us we can always torture him and complete that spell,” he said with cold sarcasm.

Annabelle took a deep breath, “Jim, the spell on his back can’t be simply erased. I wish it could be that easy,” she said, floating closer. “We’re extremely lucky Nero hasn’t finished it.”

“And I’m so extremely lucky having to do it in his place.”

“That’s not what I mean. It needs to be completed, in order to save Leonard's life.” She said. “You know how strong Nero’s magic is. Leonard won’t survive if we don’t do something.”

“Then ask Krane or Morgan to torture him, because I won’t.” Jim snapped, standing and moving away.

“They can’t do it.”

“I'm sure together they can be as strong as me, so-"

“No one is strong as much as you are, Jim. You still don't understand?” She asked, looking at him sincerely surprised. “You’re stronger than any other sorcerer that ever walked on Earth.”

“What a coincidence that Nero was the only one as strong as me, then,” he nervously said. “We were exactly the same, isn't it? That's why my magic doesn't hurt Leonard.”

“He was nothing like you.” She said, sounding angrier than she looked. “He sacrificed and stole magic from other people to get all that power. You were born with it.”

“Then I wish I wasn’t if it leads me to this!” he yelled turning around, watching her staring sadly at him. “Leonard has no other choice, while I have to decide if I should risk killing the person I love to save him, or be a coward and watch him die. Only because I wasn't able to stop Nero..."

“You are not responsible for what happened to Leonard.”

“Of course I am! I was there! I could have-”

“How many sorcerers you think would have survived in your place? To what Nero did to you?” She asked, her voice raising enough to shut him up. “Their mind wouldn't have lasted even a second, and they would have probably been killed by their own magic. I know that it's hard to accept, and sad, but none of us can stop every sorcerer from using magic the wrong way. And you don't have to blame yourself for their mistakes.”

Not if Leonard is involved… I can’t accept to lose him. Jim looked away, letting out an angry and frustrated scream that turned into a series of thunders in the night sky that made the floor tremble.

Annabelle gave him some time, watching him sitting on the floor while the thunders stopped. Only then she slowly sat next to him in silence.

Jim kept his eyes down as the rage slowly turned into sadness. “We can still try destroying Nero’s magic. Maybe that way…”

“The spell might stop working, but it could kill Leonard as well.” Annabelle softly explained. “It’s a broken spell, Jim… And a very dangerous one. It’s hard to predict what could happen.”

“I can’t do it… Not to him.” Jim sobbed. “Nero ruined his life, and now he’s gonna think of me the same way...”

“What Nero did to him has nothing to do with this,” she insisted. “He just needed a sacrifice. You want to save his life. Jim,” she called gently, and he looked up, “Leonard trusts you more than anyone, or he would never ask you to do this. He loves you, and I doubt anything will ever change that.”

Jim just wanted to cry even more. “How can he trust me? I can barely control my magic…”

“You don’t have to control it, just let it guide you.” She smiled a bit, hopefully. Just then, she closed her eyes for a moment. “Sorry, I can’t stay any longer... Jim, we all know you can do it. You have nothing to be afraid of.” Annabelle smiled once again while vanishing as smoke in the wind.

Jim wanted to believe her, but, in the end, he sat there the whole night, fighting against his own fears.

 

It wasn’t even the dawn yet when he finally left the roof, reappearing in the campus, not far from the dormitory.

Jim stared at it for a while before starting pacing back and forth, trying to find the courage to enter and face Leonard. “I can’t do it… I can’t. We need to find another way. There must be-“

“Jim,” Gaila called him, leaving the dormitory just at that moment. “Are you ok? Leonard was worried sick-“

“He- he’s alright? He’s inside?”

“Yeah, I stayed with him until now... None of us was able to sleep,” she said, noticing how tense he was. “He told me about the spell…” She slowly added, and he looked away. “Jim-“

“I won’t do it.” He blurted out. “We’ll find another way.”

“At least go talk to him-“

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I know what he’s going to say. I- I can’t do it.”

Gaila kept quiet for a moment, then nodded. “Benjamin thought so. That’s why he decided to try.”

Jim’s head turned around so quickly it almost hurt. “He what?”

“They knew you weren’t going to risk hurting Leonard, so he accepted to let Benjamin try complete the spell. Maybe his magic will be strong enough...”

Jim’s eyes were so wide and gold he looked ready to explode. “Son of a-“ he started before suddenly disappearing.

Gaila blinked and then turned to look at the dormitory, grinning.

Jim reappeared inside the building, confused just for a second before locating the door of his room. He slammed it open yelling a furious “BONES!”, and heard something shattering in the bathroom, followed by a nervous “Shit!“

“Bones, wait! Don’t do it!” he yelled rushing in, just to abruptly stop in the doorway, finding Leonard trying to control his breathing while holding tightly on the sink, head down, and the remaines of the glass disseminated on the floor. He was shirtless, aside for the bandages around his torso- and he was alone.

Leonard took a deep breath before looking at him, a bit pale, screaming, “Will you ever stop doing that?! You scared me!”

“Where is he?”

“Where is WHO??”

“Krane! Gaila told me he was here! That he was going to- that you let him...”

Leonard just kept staring, as the blonde scanned the whole bathroom. “Jim, have you hit your head or something?”

“The spell! Krane can’t do it!”

Leonard blinked and then took a deep breath, studying him, slowly letting go from the sink. “Why not?”

“Because he can’t! He- his magic won't work to complete that spell.”

“I’m going to die anyway if we don’t try.”

Jim opened and then closed his mouth, slowly panicking: Leonard was serious- and worst of all, he was right. “No… No, he can’t do it.”

“We don’t know for sure.”

“I won’t let him risk your life for nothing!”

“And who are you to decide what if better for me?”

“The only one that can save you!” He screamed again, and they both stayed silent for a moment. Jim’s anger slowly faded, leaving him just more desperate.

Leonard sighed, “Listen-“

“Even if I don’t want to finish that spell, you can’t just let him try! What does that even mean?!”

“Benjamin wasn’t-“

“If you really think that I’ll let him lay even one finger on you-”

“He won’t.”

“Good!” Jim froze for a second, taken aback. "What?"

“Benjamin never asked me to complete the spell. We know it won’t work,” Leonard said, voice low and tired. “Gaila probably told you that just to make us talk.”

Jim’s shoulders dropped. “You lied to me?”

“More like making fun of you.”

“You- Bones, this is everything BUT funny!”

“What part of I’m going to die anyway you don’t understand?” Leonard shot back angrily, raising his voice more and more while speaking, “I know this isn’t funny, but if I don’t joke about it, I’m gonna start screaming and I won’t be able to stop anymore!”

Jim could see, and hear, how resigned he was, and that made him feel even worse.

“I know how hard it must be for you, but you really think that I don’t know what I’m asking you to do?” Leonard continued, sounding more sad than angry, “Because if that’s the case, you’re wrong. I know what it means for you. And what could mean for us.”

“I-“

“If you can’t do it, fine, I get it, I’m not mad at you, but you’ll have to respect my decision too. Whatever is gonna be.”

Jim frowned. “You’re not actually going to ask Krane-“

“No…” Leonard took a deep breath before being able to continue, “No, but maybe there’s another option. Spock called before… He and Pike are trying to help Morgan with the negotiations, and they offered the Federation their help, taking that damn sphere away from here. From the planet.”

“You mean- to destroy it? But Annabelle said-“

“No, they’ll just take it somewhere else. Morgan said there’s a civilization on a dying planet not too far from here, and that they have been searching for a source of power to save them for decades. She thinks that all that magic locked in the sphere might help them. That would make everyone happy.”

Jim tried to assimilate the news faster than he could. “Ok… And doing that you’ll be alright? The wounds will start healing taking Nero’s magic away from you?”

“We don’t know. That’s why I’ll go too.” He said. “Kara is already preparing a crew for the mission. I’ll go with them, and once there-“

“You’re leaving the planet?” Jim blurted out in disbelief.

“Both Morgan and Benjamin thinks that taking the sphere away will aggravate my condition, so I have to. They won’t be able to bring it back here once they left, so...”

“So you’re leaving the planet. Wow...”

Leonard flinched slightly as another wave of pain came from his back, trying to hide it with a shrug. “You wanted another option. Now we have one.”

“I wanted you to get better, not pack your bags and leave planet Earth!”

“Doing that, I might actually get better.”

“You know I won't be able to come with you-”

“Yes. And I think that’s for the best.”

Those words hit Jim like a knife in the heart.

“Jim, I’m not trying to break up with you,” Leonard quickly added, “but after everything that happened, maybe- maybe we need to stay away for a while. And I’m not saying this because you don’t want to complete the spell. It’s your decision, and I told you I respect that.”

“Well, I don’t respect yours,” Jim said angrily. “This is the stupidest decision you could come up with!”

“You want me to stay here and die?”

“Of course not!”

“Then what do you want me to do?”

“I don’t want you to leave the planet because of me!”

“I told you, I’m not leaving because of you.”

“Yes, you are!”

“I’m leaving because I need to! I’m doing it for myself!” Leonard shot back. “Nero already ruined half of my life… Now I should let these wounds do the same for the other half and share this curse with you? You want to see me dying and start blaming yourself that bad?”

“Oh, so now you’re doing it for my sake…”

“I’m doing it for both of us. Because I know how hard it must be for you. And I- I don’t want you to hate me because of this.”

They just stared at each other for a long moment. Then, Jim wore his coldest expression and nodded. “Fine. It’s your decision.”

Leonard tried to say something, but the other was already gone- not using magic this time, but smashing the door shut behind him strong enough to make the windows tremble. Taking a shattered breath in, Leonard looked down, shutting his eyes at the pain coming from the wounds. I know it's the worst decision, he said to himself, feeling weak on his feet, but it’s the only one I have…

Sniffing, he stared at the pieces of glass on the floor and carefully left the bathroom, bumping right into Jim suddenly reappearing in the room.

“You know that I’ve kept hiding and pushing my magic down all my life- I still feel the need to,” Jim started before he could speak, his voice still cold and serious. “I tried not to hurt anyone with it, and I’ve never, never thought to use it on you, or against you. It’s a promise that I made to myself since the first time we met.”

“Jim-“

“I want to hear it from you,” he interrupted him again. “If you want me to do this- if you really trust me that much, I want to hear it. I need to hear it.”

Leonard sighed, staring at him with a little, sad smile. “Sorcerer or not, there’s no one I would trust more than you. Whatever happens.”

Jim always wanted to hear those words, but, in that moment, he hated them. He took a deep breath and, after a moment, nodded, forcing himself not to cry. “Ok.”

Chapter Text

It was late afternoon when Benjamin left the hospital with a bag full of bandages and other medications- everything Leonard asked him to bring to the dormitory. "Just in case", the doctor said with a weak smile that he didn’t found the strength to imitate.

Benjamin knew that Jim wouldn’t have allowed him to leave the planet... He would have accepted to complete the spell, eventually, but now that he was actually going to, Ben was starting to feel anxious. Not because he didn't trust Jim, but…

“You care about Leonard.”

Benjamin suddenly froze, finding a barely visible Annabelle smiling next to him. “No, I don’t.”

“You were always good with kids.” She giggled softly.

“He’s not a kid- I don’t like kids.” He snorted, trying to hide a slight blush, “But I can’t deny that he went through a lot because of magic.”

“It’s ok to care about him. About all of them… I always loved your caring side.”

He took a deep breath, looking at the dormitory few meters away before turning to her again, “You’re gonna help Jim with this?”

She shook his head, “I can’t. I already told him that I’m at my limit. Once Nero’s spell will be gone, I don't know if I'll be able to see you again.”

“So this is a goodbye?” he murmured and she looked down. “It’s alright. At least we got one this time.”

“I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be. You helped us more than you should have. More than I deserved, for sure.”

Annabelle moved closer, her almost invisible hand trying to caress his arm. “You were more than I deserved. I wouldn’t have survived the war without you.” She smiled one last time before slowly disappearing.

Benjamin took a deep breath, blinking away the tears. Turning around, he found Pavel and Uhura staring at him, both with watery eyes. “There’s no privacy in this Academy, isn’t it?” he sighed.

“I- I’m sorry, we were just…” she started, but then just moved forward to hug him, and Pavel followed her doing the same, smashing his head against the sorcerer’s chest hard enough to make him cough.

“Ow- ok... No one asked for a hug, but ok…” Benjamin commented looking down at the two that seemed to have no intention to let go. “It’s alright…” he murmured, closing his eyes while sending his last message to Annabelle.

The moment ended when the ground trembled again, and they all turned to the dormitory. “Are you sure Jim and Leonard will be fine?” Uhura asked, worried.

“He just needs to chill,” Benjamin snorted, turning to Pavel, “Are you ready with the first barrier?” he asked, and the kid nodded. “Try to keep it up as long as you can. Less people get close to dorm, the better.”

Uhura watched him heading to the building while they stayed there. After a moment, Pavel raised his hands to create a barrier around the dormitory, similar to the one Jim used days before.

She saw him taking a deep breath, trying to focus. “There’s something I can do to help?”

“No, but we can.” A male voice answered from behind.

They both turned around, finding Shawn and Yda approaching.

“I don’t need help.” Pavel said more coldly.

“You look like you do, though.” Yda murmured standing next to him, staring with her usual serious expression, but there was something different in her voice. “Let us help.”

Pavel studied both of them for a moment, and, in the end, nodded.

“I wonder how many of us would be necessary to stop Jim’s magic…” Shawn commented while moving next to him, noticing the cold glare Uhura and Pavel sent against him. “If we’ll need to stop him, of course,” he added as he and Yda raised their hands at the barrier that shined a bit more.

Meanwhile, Benjamin was few feet away from the dormitory’s doors when he saw Gaila leaving. “Hey. Was it Jim just now?”

“The earthquake? Yeah… He left a moment ago. To calm down.” She nodded patiently. “I know he doesn’t want Leonard to leave the planet, but are we sure that completing that spell is for the best?”

“Leaving it like that, it will kill Leonard in less than a year, and from what we know, destroying Nero’s magic could kill him instantly, so…”

“That’s just a theory.”

“You wanna take the risk and go for a walk out space? Let us know if he dies or not?”

Gaila looked down, slowly shaking her head. “Of course not, but if something happens to them now that Nero is finally gone…”

“I know, but they both know what they’re doing.”

She sighed, “I hope so, because Jim still looks ready to change his mind at any second.”

“He won’t. Here,” he said handing the box. “Can you bring this to Leonard while I put the second barrier up? And tell him we’re all out here ready to help.” He added, watching her nodding and walking inside the building.

When he started rising his hands, Jim reappeared next to him, quickly hiding a guilty expression with layers of coldness. “You got everything?” he asked.

“Yeah. I just asked Gaila to bring it upstairs.”

Jim nodded, nervously looking at Pavel and the others standing few meters away, on the other side of the first barrier.

“I guess someone really wants to redeem himself,” Benjamin commented, noticing Shawn and Yda.

“They shouldn’t be here. It’s not safe.”

“Jim…”

“We don’t know what could happen.” He insisted, turning to him, but Benjamin just stared in silence. “What if I make a mistake and activate something worse than time travel? What if I kill him? What if I kill everyone?”

“Have you always been so positive?” Benjamin grinned, but the other just looked away. “Look, I’m not gonna tell you that it’ll be easy, because we all know that it’s not, but if there’s someone that can do it, it’s you.” Still silence. “And if change your mind, there’s always the other option.”

“Leonard is not going to leave Earth because of me,” Jim cut short. “This is his home. His place is here, with me. With us.”

Benjamin smiled more sincerely. “Then pull yourself together and save him.”

They stared at each other until Gaila came back. “You alright?” she asked, and Jim nodded. She shared a look with Benjamin before smiling one last time at Jim, squeezing his arm, and walking away to reunite with Uhura and the others.

“Alright...” Benjamin breathed out, looking at Jim, “Whenever you ready.”

“Are you sure you can-“

“No one will get over our barriers.” Benjamin nodded. “The dorm is already empty and we’ll keep the area around here clear all the time you need. Morgan and Spock are taking care of the Federation and I’ll take care of you, so don’t rush it. Take your time. Both of you.”

Jim took a deep breath and slowly walked inside the dorm, closing the door behind him. He kept his back against it, eyes closed, trying to clear his mind- until he moved away and saw the barrier Benjamin has just created out the windows. He sighed and started walking upstairs.

Thinking that the first time he stepped in the dorm, he has been close to giving up completely on Starfleet was now a terrifying thought. I wouldn’t have been here to help any of them... Nero would have fulfilled his plan, and Leonard would have died without me even knowing who he was... And a future without him would have led me to become a monster…

Jim saw the door of their room was ajar and forced all those thoughts away. It took him another deep breath to enter, finding it empty and quiet; the weak sunlight making its way through the clouds painting everything in the room in dark-orange. He didn’t call for anyone- he knew that would mean to start this madness…

“Hey…” Leonard peeked from the bathroom wearing only a pair of gym trousers, and the bandages around his torso- and a worried expression on his face. “You ok?”

Jim’s nod was barely noticeable. “You ready?”

“Yeah…”

Another nod. “Where?”

“Huh- here? In the bathroom? I don’t want to- to make a mess in the room.”

Bleed. You don’t want to bleed to death in the middle of the room. Jim swallowed down the words and nodded once again. “Ok. Come on.”

“Jim...” Leonard tried to grab his arm, but the sorcerer moved away without even looking at him and stood in front of the bathtub. “Jim, please…”

“Can we just start or-?”

“Stop it.”

“Too soon for that, don’t you think?” Jim shot back and hated himself for the sarcasm because, as much as Leonard tried to hide it, he looked as if someone just stabbed him in the back. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it.”

“You sure? Because it looks like you were just waiting for the right opportunity to throw that out.”

“I wasn’t.”

“Then, please, stop acting like you don’t care.”

Jim almost laughed. “You think that I don’t care?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one pretending to not even know me.”

“Yes, because that’s the only way I can do this,” Jim snapped, his voices sounding even stronger echoing in the little bathroom. “You thought I would have come here like, oh, I can’t wait to torture my boyfriend to death? I didn’t wanted to do this- I still don’t, but I have to, and if pretending we don’t know each other can help me not going insane, then-” As he said that, the mirror in the bathroom cracked, making the other flinch back. “Damn it!” Jim roared crouching in front of the tub, leaning on it with both arms, head down.

Leonard sighed, slowly moving closer, sitting next to him on the floor, with his shoulder against the tub, facing him.

“You know I can’t control my magic… That mirror could have been your back,” Jim said without looking up, “And you still want to do this.”

“I do. I know you won’t hurt me.” The other said more calmly.

Jim looked at him as if he was going insane. “Are you blind? I just-“

“I know how dangerous your magic can be, I just- I can’t imagine you using it to hurt me.” He insisted, but the sorcerer just dropped his head again. “Look, I saw your evil twin before. You had no idea of who I was- you said you were going to kill me, and you didn’t. I was right in front of you when the barrier disappeared, remember? And I’m here now for the same reason.”

“Because you’re an idiot?” Jim murmured keeping his head down between his arms.

“Maybe,” Leonard snorted, “but also because I realized that not even magic can keep me away from you. And coming from me, that’s shocking.”

Jim slowly looked up again, and he was himself again: no cold glares, and his voice sounded so sad when he said, “I don’t want this to break us.”

“It won’t. This is nothing like what Nero did. I’m asking you to do it.”

“That doesn’t mean-“

“To save my life,” Leonard added. “Is this or I have to leave. I don’t want you to suffer because of me either. This is my curse, after all.”

Jim stared at him, sad and defeated, and just nodded. “Bones, if I do hurt you..."

“Even if you do, I want you to continue until the spell is done.”

“What?? No, that’s-“

“If you stop halfway, I think none of us will be able to do it again,” Leonard said. “You have to promise me that you won’t stop until it’s done- or if I’m actually going to die, that is.”

“Bones…” he cried again.

“I know I’m asking you a lot, but, please, trust me on this,” he said squeezing his arm. “Even if it hurts, even if I scream at you to stop, I need you to ignore me and complete the spell.”

Jim groaned and bumped his forehead on the edge of the bathtub. “Anything else? You want me to chop your arms off too?”

“No, if it isn’t necessary.”

Jim sighed, staring sadly at him. “How come that you’re not scared?”

“I am. I’m terrified that I might hate you after this,” Leonard said and the other looked at him as if his heart just crashed in a million of pieces, "But I believe I love you too much to ever be able to hate you, so, please, whatever happens, keep that in mind. Remember me here, right now, telling you this, ok?” That said, he kissed him on the head while standing up and moving inside the tub.

Jim just stared at him, at this man so brave, and so deeply in love with him to trust him completely on something so dangerous, and so private. This man that was ready to relive his worst nightmare for the third time, and still find the time to worry about not bleeding on the floor.

Leonard’s hands were shaking a bit while he started unfolding the bandages, but he stopped when Jim stood as well, staring at each other for a moment.

“Let me…” Jim said addressing the bandages, staying outside the tub.

“You sure?”

“I have to see it anyway… Let me help.”

Leonard took a deep breath and slowly turned around as the other cared of taking off the bandages. “You- you haven't seen it yet, right?”

“No.”

“You never thought of asking me?”

“It wasn't something easy to bring up during our conversations...”

Leonard looked down at the bandages loosening against his chest. “I thought you saw it last time we talked in here… I actually wanted to show you, that day.”

Jim stopped for a second, trying to remember. “I thought you were naked in the tub for other reasons.”

The doctor huffed a laugh. “Well, two reasons.”

Jim sighed while gently removing another round of bandages. “I wanted to tell you about me that day too. You know, since you wanted to... Since we were going to…”

“That’s why you rejected my offer?” he asked, his head tilting slightly.

Jim’s hands stopped again, blushing. “Sorry if I thought that being honest with you was more important...” He murmured, moving a bit back when the other turned around to face him- and his heart skipped a beat when he saw Leonard smiling before kissing him.

“I think no one ever cared for me like you do,” Leonard murmured leaning a bit against him.

“Too much?”

He thought for a second, then grinned, shaking his head in no. “I can get used to it.”

“You better, because after today it’ll get worse.” Jim breathed out. “Come on, let me- let me finish take this off. Is bleeding again…”

“Yeah… From what I know, it shouldn’t look that bad, though.” He said turning again, staring at the wall.

“You haven’t checked yet?”

“No. Benjamin was the one that took care of it until now. I think it might look bad, but he kept saying that it just needs to heal…” Leonard shivered as the last part of the bandages fell down, brushing against his sides, leaving his back completely exposed. There was silence for a moment, so he turned around again, finding Jim staring with wide, watery eyes, mouth partly open in shock. “I knew he was lying... Jim?” he asked grabbing his arm, worried to see him faint on the spot.

“You said it doesn’t hurt…”

“It doesn't... Not as much as when Nero did it.”

“That’s-!” Jim started screaming, but then stopped himself, covering his mouth with a hand, fighting back the tears.

“Hey…” He took his hand and the other seemed to focus again.

“I let him do this to you...” Jim’s voice was a broken whisper.

“I told you, it’s not your fault,” Leonard gently said, dragging him closer, feeling him sobbing on his shoulder. Taking a deep breath and closing his eyes, he tried to ignore the pain coming from both, his heart and his back. They stayed like that for a while, the bathtub the only thing diving them. When Jim’s shoulders stopped shaking, Leonard dared to talk again, “You still want to do this?”

“I never wanted to.”

“I mean if it’s too much…”

Jim slowly moved back, shaking his head, unable to look at him. “I have to try… You can't keep it like this. You don’t deserve this.” He said and, when Leonard didn’t say anything, he dared to look up: the doctor smiled calmly at him and nodded once before turning around.

Jim quickly looked down again, staring at his legs for a long moment before being brave enough to look at those wounds again. He never saw Leonard’s scars before, and now he wondered how was that possible since the circular spell was big enough to cover almost his whole back: the half of it made twenty years before was still clear- maybe too much visible to be twenty years old, while the rest of it… Nero has followed the same lines to reuse the spell, opening half of those wounds anew. The only difference was that the new cuts looked smooth and precise, while the oldest scars were more irregular.

He said that his mother has used a piece of broken glass, Jim couldn’t stop the thought, feeling even worse imagining that poor woman trying to kill his own son against her will. Did she tried to stop? To tell him something? Or she just…

“She cried too…” Leonard murmured, staring down at the faucet. “My mother, I mean. I remember she was crying so hard until I- I passed out.”

Jim blinked, surprised about how he managed to follow his line of thought. “Did she say something to you before…?”

Leonard’s head slowly moved the other way. “I remember her yelling at someone- at Nero, I guess, before she started hurting me. Maybe she tried to tell me something, but we were both crying and screaming, I… I honestly can't tell.” He took a deep, shattered breath in.

“So she knew what she was doing...?” he said, surprised, and the other nodded.

“That’s what hurt the most in the past years.”

Jim breathed out, blinking more tears away. “Sorry... This is not the time for-“

“It’s ok,” Leonard said, turning a bit in his direction. “I never talked about this with anyone... Never really wanted to. With you, it’s easier.”

“Is it?”

“Jim, a few months ago I would have killed rather than show someone these scars. No joke.” Leonard smiled sadly at himself. “You make everything easier. Even something like this.”

Jim wished he could just hug him and never let him go. When a drop of blood started sliding from the wounds, down Leonard’s hip, Jim moved by instinct, using the bandages still into his hand to brush it away, making the other jump and groan a little. “Sorry! Sorry, the- there was blood.”

Leonard laughed nervously. “You don’t have to worry about my clothes getting dirty.”

“I don’t want blood on them.”

“I’m used to it,” He snorted, and then felt the need to add, “I’m a doctor, remember?”

“I know. I just…” Jim closed his eyes again, feeling his hands shaking. “I don’t know what to do, now...”

“That could be a problem…”

“Really? That’s all you have to say?”

“There’s anything I can do to help?”

“No. Just… Just give me a moment.”

“All the time you need.”

I’m here to torture him and he is the one encouraging me. Jim took a deep breath and-

“Jim?” Leonard called, making him jump too.

What?” he growled, trying to be patient.

“I just thought… We should go for our second date after this. A real date.”

Jim’s anger disappeared in a second, as he looked up at him, puzzled. “Second date?”

“We only got one so far.”

“…Right.”

“I liked it, though.”

“It was just a walk… A poor way to celebrate a birthday, since someone forgot to warn me.”

“We’ll make up for it next time,” Leonard laughed softly. “Wait… I think yours will come first. It’s gonna be at the end of the month, isn’t it?”

Jim frowned, then blinked, surprised. “… Yeah.”

“You forgot about it, didn’t you?”

“…No…”

“Sure. See? It happens.”

“Bones, I’m trying to focus here, so I won’t kill you with my magic. I can barely remember my name at the moment.”

“Sorry… You’re right. I’ll keep quiet.”

Jim took a deep breath to calm down. When he felt ready to try, he noticed Leonard’s hands were shaking too. He stared at them before looking up again, able to see his ears as the doctor slightly moved his head down, leaving his neck exposed. Jim moved a bit closer and put his lips on it, closing his eyes.

Leonard turned his head but said nothing.

“Bones, if I- if I lose control...” he murmured against his skin.

“You won’t.”

Jim breathed against him, eyes half open and shining gold. “I might not be able to stop, even if I want to.”

“I don’t want you to. Not until it’s done.” Leonard said. Nothing happened for a long moment until he started feeling the whole room getting colder, while Jim’s forehead pressed over his shoulder felt so hot, it made him shiver. Slowly, he started feeling the wounds burning a bit and he shut his eyes, ready for the pain. He could still remember how much Nero’s magic hurt him just days before, and if Jim was actually even stronger than him…

Leonard flinched again and let out a weak, confused gasp. “Jim-” he murmured before another groan escaped from his lips.

Jim kept his eyes shut, picturing the spell into his mind until the missing half started to form, shining gold: he could vaguely hear Leonard’s cries, feeling him shaking, and when he tried to move away, Jim grabbed both his arms to keep him still, pulling them slightly backward, making Leonard’s hands brush against his hips, their bodies pressed together. Can’t stop, Jim kept repeating to himself while watching the spell forming into his mind, line after line.

The more he focused, the more he forgot where he was, when, or what he was doing: it was as if the spell was begging him to complete it- almost welcoming his magic. A strange feeling of relief invading him.

“Jim- please-“

His magic faltered for a moment, but not even Leonard’s voice could call him back. Jim had to finish it… He was so tired to hold back…

The room was strangely hot now, and more cries and pleases echoed between the walls, sounding as if coming from so far, far away.

Jim squeezed Leonard’s arms even tighter while the room started trembling as the spell was almost completed: when it happened, the whole design flashed into his mind as an explosion of light and he flinched while his vision turned white... After that, his magic started to retreat, leaving him dizzy, almost overwhelmed by the feeling of a terrible burden lifting from his shoulder.

Breathing hard, Jim slowly opened his eyes, able to see their golden light against Leonard’s skin. He then saw the spell was shining as well, but slowly stopped, allowing him to see the result: the wounds were completely gone as the whole spell, now completed, has turned into a light-gray tattoo.

He stared at it for a moment longer before touching it: the skin was smooth as if those scars never existed.

“Ugh…”

Jim blinked, realizing Leonard was shaking like crazy against him. Slowly, he let him go, watching him leaning against the wall before collapsing on his knees. “Oh no… No, no, hey- Bones?” Jim quickly stepped inside the tub, kneeling next to him. “Bones? Please, talk to me?” he kept calling, unsure about touching him: the poor man was breathing so fast, shaking and sobbing, keeping his head down, hidden between his arms resting on the faucet.

“I’m sorry, I- I couldn’t stop. I had to finish it… Damn it- I told you it was going to hurt!” Jim yelled, angry with himself. “It’s- does it hurt that bad?”

Leonard just shook his head in no, trying to slow down his breathing.

“I swear if you’re lying to me again-!” Jim started, but Leonard interrupted him, suddenly turning and dragged him into a passionate kiss. Jim was pushed down, his back hitting against the tub, finding himself stuck beneath him. Oh God what I have done to him?? He started to panic: he only saw Leonard acting like this once, and the man wasn’t exactly himself that time. “Bones- wait-“ he tried to say, but Leonard’s kisses were so intoxicating…

Jim felt himself sliding more and more down the tub until all they could see opening their eyes was each other in the dim light coming from the window. It has always been so dark in here…?

Breathing hard himself, he tried to speak again when the kiss stopped for a moment, “Bones- you ok?” and saw him nodding, but also crying. “Bones…” He finally managed to pull himself up, sitting so close to each other, they almost hit their heads, but none of them moved away. “If it hurts, just tell me. Maybe I can-“

Leonard took a deep breath, shaking his head again, breathing hard between the words, “It doesn’t. Since when you started… Your magic never hurt me.”

“But I heard you asking me to stop…”

“That- that wasn’t because you were hurting me…” Leonard said, blushing as he looked down at himself.

Jim followed his gaze, blinking in surprise. “That’s…?”

“Yes.”

“Did you…?”

“Twice.”

Jim’s face turned red as well as he looked up at him. “And you’re sure it wasn’t because of the pain?”

“I’m sure.”

“Because I wasn’t trying to-“

“Jim, I never felt so good since years,” Leonard admitted, “And this… It took you hours to finish, so…”

“Hours? For me, it’s like it took a few minutes…” Jim said, briefly looking at the clock on the wall before noticing him crying so profusely, he quickly moved even closer. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah... It doesn’t hurt,” Leonard said again, brushing the tears away, “The wounds… The scars, they don’t hurt anymore.”

Jim smiled in relief. “Yeah- they’re not there anymore. Don’t ask me how I did it, but…”

“What do you mean they’re not there?”

For a moment, Jim got worried about how quickly Leonard switched from that smile to a dead serious face, but he slowly realized that the man wasn’t angry: he was scared. Scared that he heard that wrong. “They’re gone. There are no scars anymore.” He confirmed smiling at him.

“Nothing at all?”

“Nothing at all.”

Leonard breathed out in disbelief while a smile grew on his face again, and his shoulders dropped. He had the time to see tears forming in Jim’s eyes too before the sorcerer hugged him and Leonard started crying even more, realizing only then how much he missed being embraced like that- and how good it was feeling Jim’s arms all around himself.

.-.-.-.

Jim woke up at the sunlight hitting the walls of the room: he slowly opened his eyes, staring at the reflections for a while, enjoying the calm and the temporary blankness of his own mind. Breathing out, he felt more relaxed than he ever felt before simply laying there, naked, under the warmth of the bed’s sheets…

The memories of the last day slowly started to flow back and he slowly rolled on himself, finding Leonard’s naked body few inches from his nose: the man was still asleep, laying on his side, facing the room; his breathing slow and even.

Smiling, Jim took the chance to silently studied him: Leonard’s messy hair pressed against the pillow; the sheets placed to cover him from his hip, leaving his upper body- his back, exposed like he never used to do.

Staring at the gray tattoo he created the night before, Jim couldn’t stop another little sigh of relief knowing that his magic not only didn’t hurt Leonard but completely erased those terrible scars and everything they meant…

Jim moved a bit closer, noticing new signs on Leonard’s perfect body... Marks he left there during the long, intense night they shared. He blushed at the memory of his own hands holding those hips, but kept smiling lovingly… I still think I don’t deserve him, Jim thought, kissing Leonard’s neck- and the man started moving a bit.

“Good morning.” He murmured against his skin.

“’morning…”

Jim smiled and raised a hand to caress his back- but the doctor quickly turned around before he could do that, staring back at him with wide eyes. “What?” Jim asked, half laughing, his hand still suspended between them.

Leonard studied him for a moment, moving a hand between neck and shoulder, as he used to do so many times, asking, “Is it… It’s really gone?”

“Yes, it’s really gone.”

“…You sure?”

Jim sighed patiently, “You know how many times you asked me tonight?”

“No… I was distracted.”

“Well, same- but you asked me a lot, and the answer is still the same.”

Leonard nodded, still thinking. “Because if there’s still something visible…”

“Ugh…” Jim groaned, dropping his face into the pillow.

“I'm just worried that you had to see it all night... I know it wouldn’t be pleasant.”

“You want to know what wasn’t pleasant last night?”

“My scars suddenly reappearing?”

Nothing,” Jim sneered ruffling his hair with both hands. “The moment was perfect; the bathroom was surprisingly worthy as you said, and you… Leonard, you are perfect.” He finished, slowly moving his hand through his hair.

The other looked down, breathing out. “Sorry. It’s gonna take a while to get used to it…”

“And I’ll be here all the time to remind you how hot you are shirtless.” Jim nodded, watching him grab his hands and move forward to kiss him, slowly finding himself laying on his back. “And this was because…?” he grinned when they parted.

“Because I haven’t said thank you yet,” Leonard said, tangling their fingers together.

“After tonight, you really don’t need to..."

“I’m serious.” He calmly interrupted. “I surrender to this curse many years ago... There wasn’t a life without it before knowing you. You’ve changed everything- and you give me back my freedom. So, thank you.”

Jim should’ve known by now, but hearing Leonard talk so open-heart, so honest, it still could leave him speechless. Maybe it was because he knew he never used to speak his thoughts lightly that those words almost made him cry.

Leonard smiled at him and moved down to kiss him again. Then, he studied him and grinned. “They’re blue again,” he said brushing a tear away from his eyes.

“J- just like you want them.” Jim laughed nervously, trying to compose himself.

“I want you. All of you.” He said kissing his chest.

“Ah… Hey... Not that I wouldn’t go for it all morning as well, but...“

“Good to know.” He commented, laying on top of him, waiting.

“There’s something you need to know... About your back…” Jim said and saw his expression drop instantly. “The scars are gone! I swear they’re gone! There’s no scars, nor wounds, but…”

“Jim, if you don’t want to see me have a panic attack, please get to the point.”

He breathed out, trying to find the right words. “There’s- still something... It’s nothing terrible!” he added when the man literally flew out the bed and into the bathroom. “Bones! I swear, it wasn’t intentional…”

“My mirror's still broken.” He growled heading to Jim’s bathroom.

“It’s not that bad… When did you get dressed, anyway?” He asked, watching him cross the room with his boxers on. The reaction arrived a few seconds later.

OH MY GOD!

Jim sighed. “Bones, I’m-“

“YOU PUT A GIANT TATTOO ON MY BACK!”

“Well, technically it was already there…”

“I’M A CRIMINAL NOW!”

Jim tried to say something, but when the other stomped out the bathroom, he was amazed to see him trying hard not to laugh. “Well, I- I like bad guys…?” he said hesitantly and, after a moment, both of them started laughing.

“I can’t believe it…” Leonard said moving into the bathroom once again before coming out shaking his head, a hand over his heart. “You scared the hell out of me.”

“You thought I lied to you?”

“No, but… When you said that there was still something, I thought of so many terrible things...” He took a deep breath sitting on the bed again.

Jim moved closer, studying the design. “I wasn’t thinking about a tattoo. I just- trusted my magic. I think that if this happened, it was the only way to make the spell disappear.”

“I’m not complaining. I’m just surprised,” he laughed a bit, shivering feeling his hand moving on his back. “Still, it feels weird.”

“What is?”

“Someone touching my back.”

“You have nothing to hide now.”

“Yeah…” Leonard smiled to himself. “It means something? The draw you make?”

“I… I’m not sure…” Jim said studying it, his eyes shining gold for a moment. “Emrys.”

“What?”

“I think it says Emrys… Here.”

Leonard felt him poking slightly below his left shoulders. “You know what that means?”

Jim stared at the strange symbols before shaking his head, his eyes turning blue again. “I'm not sure... It might be connected to my magic,” he said and sighed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to remove a curse just to give you another…”

“Are you kidding?” Leonard said turning to look better at him. “Nothing coming from you would be a curse. Not even a giant, tribal tattoo.” He said, and Jim smiled, gladly accepting another kiss. “Emrys…”

Jim’s eyes flashed gold for a second again. “Huh?”

Leonard laughed a bit. “I was just thinking that it sounds like a cool name.”

 

Later that morning, after spending almost two hours in the showers together, Jim was wearing a pair of jeans when Leonard came back from the corridor, already dressed and with his phone in hand. “They’re all alright?”

“Yeah, but Benjamin said he’s gonna make you pay for leaving him waiting out there with that barrier.” He said with a little grin.

“Come on, he knew everything was fine…”

“Yes, but since he was worried we were going to die and took everyone with us…”

“That’s rude.”

“He said that, not me.” Leonard shrugged, but both laughed softly.

“I’ll go talk to him in a minute. He might help me understand why and how I turned a spell into a tattoo.”

“I told you, it’s not a problem.”

Jim stood and studied him, grinning. “You like it, don’t you?”

“I did not say that,” He snorted, but the other just keep grinning. “I’m just saying that removing it is not a priority right now. I'd prefer keeping a badass tattoo rather than those scars.”

Jim smiled more and stepped closer to kiss him. “Whatever you decide it’s fine for me.”

Leonard squeezed his shoulder before letting him go back in the bathroom. “The mirror is still broken.”

“Ah- no, it’s ok, I fixed it.”

“How?”

“Uh… well…”

“Magic. Right. I’ll never get used to it…” Leonard sighed hearing him giggle. Moving to watch out the window, he notices a group of people coming from the entrance, and his face switched from calm to murderous in a second. “Jim, do we have a bat around here?”

A bat? Like- a baseball bat?” he asked, confused.

“Yeah. We have one?”

“I don’t think so, but… Wait a sec,” Jim came back with a bat painted of blue, and with a quote on it saying Trust me, I’m a doctor. He was all smiles and sarcasm while the other just stared blankly at it. “Shut up, it’s funny!”

Leonard nodded, face stone cold. “It’ll do. Thanks.” He said taking it and walking away.

“What you need a bat for, anyway?" Jim’s smile slowly turned confused, growing more worried watching him leaving without an answer. "Because that’s- that’s real, you know? Bones, why you asked me for a weapon? Bones?” he quickly grabbed a shirt and followed him out the room.

“I warned him to stay away…”

“Bones!”

“I’m not gonna listen to his bullshit again.” He kept growling descending the stairs.

“What are you talking about it?”

“You should stay upstairs.”

“I'm not letting you commit a homicide!”

“If he comes in here, he's asking for it.”

“Bones, what you’re saying makes no sense-” They were close to the entrance’s door when Leonard stopped, making him trip against him before turning around.

“I’m serious. Go back upstairs.”

“Tell me what’s going on, first.”

Someone knocked hard on the door, making both of them turn.

“The army came here while you were asleep,” Leonard told him. “They wanted to arrest all the sorcerers and take them away- including you. I told them to fuck off, but they wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Admiral Marcus. He stood up for us and allowed them to stay here until the Federation decides what to do… Why are you smiling, this isn’t a joke!”

Jim couldn’t stop staring at him with a surprised smile on his face. “You were trying to protect me?”

“Of course I was! What kind of person you think I am!?”

More knocking at the door, followed by more voices rising outside.

“Look, just let me talk with them, alright?” Jim said moving forward, but the other stepped in to stop him.

“No. You fight magic. Leave this to me.”

“There’s no one to fight. Come on, I’m sure they just-“

“If they think I’m gonna stay back and watch them taking you away-“

“We are here under the order of the Federation.” Came a voice from outside. “We need to talk with James Kirk. We know he’s here.”

Jim sighed and tried to go for the handle, but Leonard grabbed him by the front of his shirt, blocking him against the door.

“You can stay, but you’re not doing or saying anything until I’m sure it’s safe. I’m clear?” Leonard said, voice low and serious.

The sighed, putting both hands on his arm, not even trying to get free. “Yes, sir.”

Leonard stared at him for another second before opening only half of the doors, keeping Jim against the other side. “General.” He greeted.

General Green stared coldly at him, then down at the bat in his hand before looking up again. “May I ask what are your intentions with that, Doctor McCoy?”

“I don’t know yet.”

Jim sighed, shaking his head with a little grin on his face.

The General, on the contrary, wasn’t pleased, at all. “You have any idea how to remove this barrier, Doctor, so we can talk inside?”

Leonard noticed only then the almost invisible wall starting right in front of his nose. Briefly looking at Jim, he saw him shaking his head, unsure. “I don’t,” he said, watching the three soldiers behind the General- very few for an attack- and also the refugees of the Academy watching from afar: Pavel was there too, and he nodded at him, smiling a bit. Smart kid. “I think we can talk even like this. What do you want from Kirk?”

“It’s a matter we have to discuss with him.”

“Oh, really?”

Green looked ready to bring out his gun, but more voices came from behind them, and he turned around. “Sir…”

“It’s ok, General. I know Doctor McCoy cares a lot about his friend,” Pike said moving through the crowd until he was in front of the door, smiling relieved at him. “I can assure you, we’re here just to talk with him. And be sure he’s alright.” He added lowering his voice a bit.

Leonard’s shoulders relaxed and he took a step back, letting Jim free to move.

“Captain. You look terrible,” Jim said stepping between them, smiling caringly at the man that nodded tiredly.

“I wonder how’s responsible for it.” Pike snorted, clearing his throat before continue, “As the General said, we’re here to bring an official message to you, from the council of the Federation. I’m delivering their thanks to you for protecting the city and defeating Nero.”

“What?” Both Jim and Leonard blurted out incredulously.

“It took us days to understand what was really happening, and the risks we were running because no one believed the threat was real. No one but you. As you know the accords are still in discussion, but there’s one thing all the sorcerers we talked to told us from the very beginning: that we’re all alive thanks to James Kirk. And it is now my duty to make sure the Federation won’t forget about it.”

Jim’s mouth was partly open, but he found nothing to say. He saw Gaila and Benjamin reaching Pavel, and the older sorcerer nodded at him with a smile. He then turned to Leonard and smiled. “I wouldn’t have been able to stop Nero without doctor McCoy," he said, dragging him to his side. "We worked together to stop him. It wasn’t just magic…” Jim said, watching the doctor blushing a bit. “People without magic fought with us. And they’re stronger than anyone else.” He added, watching Gaila smiling at him.

Pike nodded. “We would like to hear your side of the story as well, once you’ll feel like it. For now, we’re here just to thank you- all of you, for your help,” he said turning to the crowd that has formed behind them. “I know lots of you are still helping people here and outside the Academy as well, so know that your kindness won’t pass unnoticed. For now, I can confirm you all can consider yourself safe here. Stay as long as you need.”

“You bet we will,” Benjamin commented with a grin, making all the nervous crowd relax a bit, laughing.

Pike did the same, then turned to the blonde, watching the barrier vanishing and it took Jim a second before stepping out to hug the man. “Well done, kid.” He said patting his back and the other just hugged him tighter. When they parted, both with watery eyes, he quickly recompose himself. “I’ll wait for you both at the headquarter. Hopefully, a first draft of the accords will be ready by then.”

They both nodded watching him leaving with the General and the other soldiers.

Jim took a deep breath and turned to Leonard, still there with the bat against his shoulder. “You know, you’re pretty hot as a bad guy…”

“Thank you. Wanna take a closer look at my bat?” Leonard said languidly moving his eyebrows up and down, and Jim laughed at that for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

Epilogue

It was early morning when the security guards of the Academy's shuttle port allowed a woman to enter, unable to look away as she calmly walked past the gates: her long black hair, and the large flowery dress moving in time with the sounds of her heels while heading to the shuttles ready to depart.

Morgan Ishikawa stopped for a moment, collecting her hair and letting them fall against her chest. She played with it for a bit until she turned and found who she was looking for. “Here you are.”

Benjamin Krane was already watching her with a little smile on his face, sitting on one of the benches. “Sorry, I tend to pass unnoticed. I should start dressing like you.”

“Blue and flowers aren’t for you, darling,” she said approaching and spreading the large, long skirt of the dress. “Burgundy would suits you better.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” He nodded while she sat next to him. “I thought you were too busy with the Federation to come here, today.”

“I am, and I will be for a few years,” she sighed, “but I couldn’t let you leave without a proper goodbye.”

“That’s very sweet, but you’re gonna miss the celebrations.”

“There isn’t much to celebrate, yet.”

“Really? Nero’s dead; we’re all alive and the Federation is finally letting us walk around without being arrested.”

“Well...”

“I think we should party no-stop for a whole month, Morgan.” He added and saw her grinning.

“Then why you’re leaving?” she asked. “You cared about this- about everything that is happening out there now. You can postpone the flight for tomorrow.”

“You know I can't.”

“Kara will wait for you. She knows you want to be present when they'll use the sphere."

“Yes, but we don’t know how much time's left. Anna told me she might be not able to talk to us again, but if there’s even a little chance, I can’t waste it.” He sighed, "And I already am since I couldn't go when they left five days ago."

Morgan nodded sadly. “You heard anything from her before they took the sphere away?”

“No. I tried to call her for weeks- even when they moved it inside the ship…” he took a deep breath. “At this point, whatever has to happen, I just want it to happen quickly and get over with it.”

“You’re going to do what Anna asked if our plan doesn’t work?”

“We’re going to destroy the sphere if it can’t help save those people.” He nodded, leaning against the back of the seat. “It was her last wish... We can’t risk keeping Nero’s magic around. I don’t want it to be close to any living creature.”

Morgan took his hand and he squeezed it tightly.

“It has to be done. We all know that.” He added looking down.

“It’s the right thing to do…” she nodded, “My only hope is to see you coming back.”

“Of course I’ll come back,” he said looking at her, puzzled. “Where else should I go?”

“I thought you wanted to stay on that planet, with the sphere. To keep watching on it… Or that you would have just disappeared without telling anyone. I would understand, but...”

Benjamin couldn’t fully hide his surprise. “Morgan-“

“I’m just worried I won’t be able to keep up with the Federation alone. And the next months will be crucial for us… With the accords, and the election for our council, I-“

“Morgan, I will come back. I’m not leaving you alone in this mess.” He said turning to face her. “That the sphere is going to work or not, it doesn’t really matter. I’ll make sure things go as planned, and then I’ll come back. I won’t leave anyone behind anymore.”

She breathed out, relieved. “Thank you.”

“Shut up…” he snorted as they hugged. “Just hang on for a while, alright? And feel free to call me anytime you need.”

When they parted, she was smiling. “Are you sure you’re going to be ok?”

Benjamin took a deep breath and smiled a bit. “I'll try my best.”

Morgan squeezed his hands again before hearing a beep from her phone. “That’s my call of duty…”

“My shuttle is ready too...” he said noticing the pilot waving at him. “Did you come here by yourself or the Federation give you a fancy car already?”

“They tried, but I told them I move faster by myself.”

“Isn’t it too soon for that?”

She scoffed. “What are they going to do? Arrest me?”

Benjamin laughed and kissed her cheek before standing up to leave.

“Ben, one last thing?” she called, and he turned around, “Tell my wife that I miss her.”

He nodded and watcher her disappearing in a shiny, blue cloud. Taking a deep breath, he then headed to the shuttle, ready to climb inside when voices started echoing from the entrance.

“You see him?”

“No- yes, there he is! Hey, Krane!”

“Ben, wait!”

Frowning, he moved aside to look past the shuttle, surprised to see two cadets of the Academy in their red suits running towards him. “What the hell are you two doing here?”

“Morgan told us…” Jim said, trying to regain some air.

“It would’ve been such a bother to warn us you were leaving, huh?” Leonard snorted.

“It’s your special day. I didn’t wanted to ruin it.”

“Really?” they both shot back nervously.

“Guys, I’ll come back in a few weeks. This isn't a goodbye.” He said and they stared suspiciously at him. "Why no one believes me?” he sighed.

“You should stay for the conference,” Jim said. “We're free to attend- sorcerers can finally show themselves, and they're going to make it official. You should come too.”

“Thanks, but I pass. I won’t take any of this seriously until I’ll see the new laws on paper. And I’m not saying that I don’t trust the Federation, but, you know… I have my reasons.”

“Well, I hope you’ll change your mind soon. Pike said he’s looking for sorcerers to teach in the Academy.” Leonard said.

“Me? A teacher?”

“You’re pretty good with kids,” Jim said, and they both nodded vigorously.

“Yeah… You two are a good example for sure.” Benjamin commented.

“And not just us,” Leonard said tilting his head behind them.

Following his glare, Benjamin blinked in surprise when he saw Gaila, Uhura, Spock and Pavel waving from outside the gates, all of them wearing the red suit- except Pavel that was wearing only the jacket, and one way too big for him. “Don’t tell me he wants to join you crazy people, now?”

“The StarFreaks sounds cool as a crew's name, isn’t it?” Jim asked Leonard that nodded his approval.

Benjamin shook his head, smiling and slowly waving a hand at the others before looking at two. “Are we done? Because I’m pretty sure Pike is looking for all of you by now.”

“That can wait. This can’t.” Leonard said handing him something: Annabelle’s necklace.

Benjamin had to take another deep breath while it fell into his hand.

“We wanted you to keep it. It’s yours, after all.” Leonard explained. “I don't think I'll be able to thank you and Annabelle enough for everything you’ve done for us.” He added, and Jim nodded, smiling.

The older sorcerer sniffed, blinking the tears away. “I haven’t done much… But I’m happy someone else managed to help you,” He said turning to Jim, “I'm sure Annabelle would say that she's proud of you, James Kirk. We all are.”

Jim smiled at him, but it was Leonard that murmured a tired, "Oh my God..." before trapping Benjamin into a hug, making the others laugh.

“Please… Too many hugs for today.” Benjamin groaned, patting his back.

“Sir, we’re ready to go.” The pilot of the shuttle said from the entrance, looking curiously at the cadets hugging the man.

“Finally. Guys? Guys, I have to go,” he chuckled and they stepped back. "Don't screw things us while I'm gone, alright?" he said walking aboard. The door closed and the shuttle slowly started to move.

Watching out the little window, he saw the two cadets still there, waving at him, both smiling- both of them finally free. "I think I understand why you liked happy endings so much..." he said looking down at the necklace and smiled a bit before wearing it, keeping a hand on it, feeling it against the heart.

"And he's gone..." Jim breathed out.

"You think he's really going to come back?"

"I do." He nodded and kept smiling as he saw him staring.

"Then we'll keep the place ready for his return," Leonard said, turning to the gates. "Are you ready for the stage?"

"As long as I don't have to speak in front of a whole city, I'm more than ready."

"Come on, you're a brave, strong sorcerer..."

"Ugh..."

"And I'll be with you the whole time."

The sorcerer sighed dreamily. "I would be lost without you, Doctor McCoy."

"Probably." He grinned fixing his jacket and turning to him, standing tall, waiting. "After you, Captain."

Jim smiled more and grabbed his hand, heading together to the exit, where the rest of their crew was waiting for them.

 

End.