Disclaimer: None of this is mine.
Notes: This fic basically revolves around Eastern Orthodox iconography. You can view a good example of the icon of the dormition on my LJ (link is in my profile).
Pavel is running. He doesn't know where he's running, except that he has to get away from the transporter, and he's not going back to the bridge. The image of the captain reaching out his hand to empty space is burning against the backs of his eyelids.
He passes quite a few people in the corridors, and some of them call out to him, but he doesn't see any of them, and their voices don't make any sense. He doesn't stop running.
He doesn't remember stopping, either, but some time later he does become aware that things are silent again, and that he's not moving anymore. He's back in his own quarters, kneeling (or maybe collapsed would be more accurate) in front of the small icon shrine, his hands working furiously in the sign of the cross, even though he's terrified that it doesn't mean anything.
His eyes catch on the central of the three icons, the one his mother gave him before he left.
"Pasha," she'd said, her voice a quiet rasp against the background din of the transport bay, "I want you to take this. I want—" She broke off, choked by her emotion, her hands fluttering over his face as though memorizing every detail. He remembered the look on her face the day he'd informed her that he wanted to join Starfleet, and all the horrific tales his Uncle Dmitri had told him. "There's nothing out there but death," he'd said, but Pavel hadn't believed him, and he didn't now.
But his mother was studying his face with a quiet desperation, and for the first time he felt uncertain. He was only fifteen, after all.
"Promise me, Pasha," his mother breathed, pressing the icon into his open palm and closing his fingers around its edges. "Promise me. I want her to go with you."
And he had promised, because it was all he could do.
He stares at the icon. It's the Dormition of the Mother of God, and it was always the one his mother felt closest to. He's never understood why.
The Mother of God lies still and serene at the center of the image. Her eyes are closed, and he imagines that her face is peaceful. The mourners who surround her don't seem to be overcome with grief, either. They are solid and stoic. He thinks of the Vulcans standing there on the transporter pads, with their blank faces, staring at the blank place where the sixth should have been. He thinks, I had her. I had her, but I lost her.
He stares at the Christ in the center of the icon, holding the soul of his Mother and gazing out of the window that is the icon and into Pavel's eyes. His mother used to say that this was the most beautiful part of the icon, because Christ holds his Mother like a child, with the same tenderness with which she once held him.
But Pavel can't see that. He used to worry, as a child, because he has never been able to see that, not unless he tried very hard to convince himself that it was there. Now he can't see it at all, no matter how hard he tries.
He thinks that Christ looks stern, and a little sad, and very still. There is an austerity to the face that's always made him uncomfortable around this icon, even though his mother loves it. It asks questions that he doesn't know how to answer.
When he was younger, he used to look at this icon and wonder if Christ even felt the weight of his Mother's soul in his arms. His face is nearly impassive, with just hints of sorrow around the edges, and when Pavel was young he used to think it was the saddest thing he had ever seen.
The Christ in the icon is looking at his Mother. Not the spirit in his arms, but the body, unmoving and sightless.
Pavel thinks of the commander—no, the captain—with his perfectly blank, utterly shattered face and his hand reaching out into nothingness. He looks back at the icon and sees Christ, his eyes staring down at his Mother's body and his arms wrapped tightly around a ghost.
It's only then that the shaking starts.
It comes over him in a wave, all but striking him to the ground. In the space beside him he hears his mother's words: Weeping is a very great gift, Pasha. But somehow they don't seem to mean the same thing they once did.
"I'm sorry," he says again and again. "I'm sorry I couldn't save you." And for the first time in many years he finds himself making the prayers to the Mother of God. He might be surprised that he remembers them, except that he doesn't. Not really. They're coming from a place that's deeper and older in him than anything he remembers. He's saying them without even knowing what they mean.
But there's still the captain's hand reaching out to touch the void, and the empty transporter pad that lives just behind his eyelids, and he knows that she won't hear.
Pavel Chekov stays awake all through his off-shift, making his prayers to a dead woman who will never answer.