Genre: Angst, Friendship
Time Frame: Post STXI
Characters: Kirk, McCoy; Sarek, Spock Prime; Uhura, Spock
Summary: It's colder than usual for June. The marble of the memorial for those fallen was even colder still.
Notes: I sat down to write humor, the muse decided she wanted to sort through issues. I have no control over her. No. Control. Anway, I do hope that you enjoy her . . . unique view on things.
Disclaimer: Nothing's mine.
It's colder than usual for the month of June.
The wind has a chill twang to it from where it ruffled through the grass and through the trees. The smell of salt from the ocean was strong, almost tangible from where the water had been burned away during the events of the last week prior.
And it was silent.
So, so silent.
The senior dorms are empty by almost seventy percent. There is not one student who has not lost someone – a roommate, a friend, a lover. There are heavy eyes the whole campus wide - an odd combination of triumph and grief fighting for supremacy.
For Jim Kirk, the adrenaline has taken time to fade. And the reality of the situation is stark and heavy around him now.
Part of him feels pride – it had been his actions that saved his crew, and it had been his crew's actions that saved the Earth. Part of him feels accomplishment – for he is the youngest captain in Starfleet history, and he will keep his commission even though it was field granted. Part of him feels peace – he has grown so much in just a weeks time, and he feels centered, grounded even, where before he had felt quick and out of control.
And yet, in that moment, all he can feel is grief as he stops, and stares.
Before him is a marble wall. It was a monument, set in a small courtyard in the academy's gardens, overlooking the great sight of the Golden Gate bridge, and the towering spires of San Fransisco in the distance. Acting as both a tribute to the late planet of Vulcan, and the cadets who died in the defense of her, the marble rose solemnly strong and tall.
It was cold to the touch.
. . . And it was not nearly enough.
Names glittered in blue from where they flickered and hovered in solemn rows. Marching solider straight, they paraded before his eyes in a silent testament to lives lost and battles won.
He shivered a little as he sat down on a bench a few feet away. His eyes traced over the names, remembering a lab partner here, a girl he shortly dated there, all alongside a teacher or two. It was eerie. Surreal even.
Mostly, though, it was just painful.
He sat there for who knew how long, his eyes tracing over the names and replaying the memories that had accompanied each and every one. It was salt in a raw wound, but it was also the bittersweet burn of weaving two torn seams together once more.
After some time, there was the sound of a tersely annoyed voice calling to him. "Hey! I've been looking for you everywhere."
Kirk raised an eyebrow at the sight of his roommate- no, Chief Medical Officer (man, how that title was going to take some getting used to. Almost as much as the title of 'Captain.') walking down the graveled path towards him, wearing an annoyed expression on his seemingly permanently scowling face.
"A note would have been nice if you can't manage the simple task of keeping your communicator on, you know." Bones waved a stack of PADDs with a pointed expression. "Do you realize all of the crap I've been forced to sort through to get this bucket of bolts travel ready again? And all of it needs your okay. Because, of course, they can't just leave the doctoring to the doctors, they have to cover it up and down in red tape, and - . . ."
His voice tapered off when he realized that his friend was not listening to him. Frowning quizzically, McCoy turned to glance at whatever had captured Jim's attention.
"Ah," was his only reaction.
. . . he had known of the monument's existence, of course, but he had not been there at it's unveiling ceremony. Didn't much see the need after actually living through it . . .
With a sigh, McCoy flopped down on the bench next to his friend. The PADDs forgotten.
Jim darted a glance over at Bones, but didn't comment for a long moment. He frowned, trying to process what he wanted to say. He was never one to really feel nostalgic or mire over in the pain of a traumatic event. He was usually one to let those events fuel him, keeping things locked up inside until the excess energy spilled over in high adrenaline situations.
Unlike personal loss, this was something different. A grief shared and a sorrow divided by everyone around him.
"It's kinda weird, isn't it?" Kirk finally commented.
McCoy shrugged. "I guess."
Kirk can see his eyes on the flashing names, and can imagine pretty well where his thoughts were.
"They didn't teach this in any class," Kirk went on to mumble, treading the invisible line before the universally male avoided talk of 'emotions.' "The part after a battle."
McCoy made a face, sensing that this was about to be one of those times where he would be using his degree in a way opposite of initially intended. Hey, bedside manner had never been his forte.
"I reckon that that's because everyone deals with grief in their own way. It's not something that you can really teach, anyway," McCoy said with a small smile.
Jim sighed. "We stopped that list from being longer, you know?"
McCoy nodded. He knew. He even still felt a bit overwhelmed by it when he thought about it too hard.
"You know . . . I was different in another life," Kirk mumbled. "Another time."
McCoy blinked, wondering where this was coming from. Kirk had told him about the elder Ambassador, but he hadn't realized that he had gained any knowledge of his . . . well, his other self.
Jim didn't even talk like this after drinking.
So, McCoy took a guarded breath, and prompted, "How different could you have been? Captain in two instead of three years? Oh, I know – you stuck with just one gal?"
Kirk rolled his eyes, before saying, completely tonelessly. "My dad lived. Inspired me to join Starfleet. Was there when I graduated. Was there when I finally gained my Captaincy. We . . . we did so many things. So many wonderful, amazing things." His eyes were glazed over slightly, images parading in his mind – images both imagined and gleaned from his time linked to the older Spock's mind.
"And I can't help but think . . . . that he would have been able to handle all of this better. He would have saved more than I managed to. How am I ever going to . . ."
McCoy's eyes widened, just a little. While Jim was burdened with many things, self-doubt had never been one of them. Looking at his friend with adjusted eyes, he at once acknowledged how much Jim had grown in these last few days . . . and how much growing he still needed to do.
So, with a small growl, McCoy said, "That's crazy talk, and you know it, kid." There. Got that out. "Look, I'm only going to say this once, so don't let it go to your head . . . or else I'll take every single word back. You did a damned amazing job back there. You are the reason that so many more aren't on this memorial – and I'd like to see anyone, even another you, do any better. Now, take a deep breath, and start speaking with a bit of sense before I'm tempted to set the Vulcan on you."
Kirk, after a moment or two of wide eyed surprise, snorted. "You know, that's a new low - even for you."
McCoy shrugged. "I like to keep my options open. Now . . . are you okay?"
Kirk took a deep breath, and leveled one more glance at the silent monument. "Yeah . . . I will be."
McCoy nodded, and let loose a deep sigh before raising a hand to pat his friend's shoulder. Dealing with Jim after a fight had become somewhat of a routine – a route practice that he went through every few days. But this was different – a different kind of determination was in his eyes, a different sort of older set rested to his shoulders.
"We'll do better next time," Jim vowed in a low voice. His eyes flashed, steely and ready, and McCoy smiled.
Jim caught his friend's smile out of the corner of his eyes, and the flicker of doubt inside of him began to wane and dissipate. Again he filled with that familiar confidence, and that felt right – better than right.
His eyes turned skyward, tracing past the clouds to where he knew his ship was waiting for him. A smile cracked his face. "You better bet on it."
It is unusually cool outside.
It is the only thought that circled in his mind upon setting out into the San Fransisco sun. While not the most relevant of observations . . . it is the one that weighed the most heavily on his mind. From the welcome warmth of Vulcan, to the crisp coolness of space, to Earth's empty summer warmth . . . it was a lot to adjust too. Odd, how it had never bothered him before. Part of Sarek knew, the part opened by a human wife, that it was not necessarily the loss of warmth that bothered him, but all that the loss represented.
The summer air tasted like ash in his mouth. It is not a logical comparison, but it is one that feels right alongside the curious churn of grief and disbelief brewing far below the carefully serene countenance he had cultivated over a lifetime.
Meditating had been unsuccessful. The three candles of the kolinahr – all replicated, of course, had almost burned out at this point, and yet all the time he had spent before them had been insufficient to bind the deep well of feeling that had collected in him as of late.
The room he had been given – standard lodging within Starfleet command, had not been suitable to meditation either. No matter how much he adjusted the environmental controls, the room still had a chill to it, and the sunlight that streamed in from the windows was too pale, too washed out of any warmth, unlike the thick red light of his now gone home.
His discomfort is illogical, and yet, he is loathed to fix it.
After a while, he doesn't even try, and instead he took to walking the grounds in-between meetings with the other Elders.
It did little to clear his mind, but it did bring a peace, however fleeting, to the rest of his body.
Amanda had loved these gardens.
It is a thought that only intensifies the chill, but he gives no outward sign as to his discomfort. His steps do not falter, and his expression does not change. He is a logical being, and he will act as such.
He thinks this, and yet his hands clench from where he had clasped them behind his back.
Sarek is frustrated with himself.
His wanderings took him to the monument for those who had fallen in the battle past. While he had been there for the unveiling, he did not then allow himself to take notice of any detail. The whole ceremony had been a haze to him, the speeches and the platitudes fading to a dull buzz in his ears.
Now he is here alone, and he regards the beautiful combination of sweeping marble and sharp blue lighting with something a lot like regret.
It was not enough to stand for all they had lost.
Almost curious, he reached out to touch the stone, his sensitive fingertips brushing over the tracks where many before him had touched. Their grief lingered on the stone, he could feel it hum in his skin, in the hollow places in his body, and in the tightly controlled corridors of his mind.
A deep breath, unnoticeable to an outside eye, and he stepped back.
He backed up to the one of the benches that lined the area, and sat down. Sitting ram rod straight, he fought the urge to lift his hand to cradle his head, so severe was the pounding behind his temples.
He was stronger than this.
Deciding that stepping away from his meditation had been a mistake, Sarek still could not bring himself to return. He held such a sudden disdain for the room – absent of the little things that had been his wife's touches: the constant stream of flowers, and the candles loitering in every corner, the scent of jasmine in the air and the sound of laughter all around. Laughter . . . how could he not have cherished that before?
A moment passed as he carefully corralled his overwhelming grief underneath the thick bands of logic and reason that made up his great mind. Breathing deeply, he tried once again to accomplish what he had not been able to the last days past.
The pain did not recede completely, but no longer did it burn.
It was simply an empty chill.
She had finally corrupted him, Sarek acknowledged, to himself at least, as he let more fond thoughts of his wife permeate his mind. She had corrupted him completely.
And . . . strangely . . . he was okay with that.
Feeling a peace settle about his mind that he had long been lacking, he was cut from his ruminations by the sound of a heavy step against the graveled ground.
Sitting up that much straighter, Sarek turned a carefully blank gaze to his right, and was surprised to see an elderly Vulcan approaching. Thinking he had known the whole of the surviving Elders, Sarek gracefully got to his feet to make his inquires.
"Peace, and long life," Sarek greeted, his right hand splayed in the traditional salute of his people.
The other Vulcan – whom Sarek estimated to be about seventy years his senior, looked at him after a moment. His hand rose, almost in reflex as he returned the greeting.
"I must give my apologies for intruding on a private moment," the elder Vulcan said in a surprisingly familiar voice. "I will return at a later time, if that is more suitable to you."
Sarek inclined his head. "I assure you, that will not be necessary."
The other nodded, and turned back to observing the monument. In his hands was a bouquet of freshly cut lilies, a fiery mix of cream and crimson and orange. Part of his mind commented that it was a surprisingly sentimental gesture, but the more occupied part of his mind could not comment past noticing that those had been his wife's favorite.
Still observing him out of the corner of his eye, the elder Vulcan knelt on the ground and gently laid the bouquet down with almost reverent hands. Muttering something too soft for Sarek to hear, he then turned slightly, and got to his feet once more.
The movements were startlingly familiar, and yet, Sarek could not put his finger on where he had seen them before.
Finally, he inquired, "Forgive me for inquiring, but have we met?"
The other man turned to face him, and something almost like a smile lingered at his lips. His dark eyes glinted with fresh sorrow . . . and Sarek wondered for a moment if the elder suffered from Bendii syndrome, so pronounced were his emotions for one of their race.
"Yes," the other replied after a moment. "We have met . . . many times," he whispered, the barest twinge in his lips widening almost imperceptibly.
. . . it was a gesture Sarek had seen many a time from a wife who endeavored to be as serene as her husband, but failed when her humor was too great.
Fighting the urge to shake his head at his foolishness, Sarek asked again. "Your name, elder?"
Considering for a moment, the man lifted his right hand in an obvious question. Sarek took a moment to consider, but inclined his head anyway. A moment later there was the feel of a weathered hand against the pressure points on his face, and in a moment that seemed like an eternity after that, there was a flood of memories . . . too extraordinary to be believed without this tangible and undeniable form of communication.
When the memories of another time were pulled away – a time where his Amanda grew to gray hair and old age with grace – there was a literal pang in the deep spaces of his mind.
His breathing was quicker – the only sign that he was effected.
"My apologies," Spock – his son from another time, muttered, regret shining clearly in his eyes – his mother's human eyes.
"There is none needed," Sarek said after a moment, taking the time to school himself once more.
"A grief shared, is a sorrow divided," the other mumbled, an old poet's words falling from his lips.
Sarek closed his eyes, and darted a glance down at the lilies lying at the base of the monument, resting amongst the mementos from a hundred other people, to the man at his side. Feeling the control over his grief falter, he was suddenly grateful for someone to share it with.
Later there would be time for plans – New Vulcan was a world that would require much, and her people would be hurt for longer than they would admit to. But for now there were just two men united over their grief for one extraordinarily fascinating human woman.
It is not the gleam of the marble, catching on the morning's light, that first draws her eye.
No . . .
It is the tokens that were left behind by others.
There is a wreath here, a bouquet of flowers there – eulogies for friends, siblings, classmates,
lovers . . . roommates.
She is drawn up short at first. While she had known of the monument's existence, she had yet to take that extra step, and seek it out. She had seen the graveyard over Vulcan, had flown through the rubble of the ships that had been her classmate's first and only assignment. She needed no more than that. She had seen Vulcan as it was torn to shreds, had listened to the mournful chatter of it's survivors on the comm lines as the Enterprise limped back to Earth . . . She saw it every night on his face when the dreaming became too much.
It is the only way he'll ever speak of it to her.
The frustration of that dissipated as she saw the remnants of other's grief. She reached out a hand to finger the petals of a drooping lily. While the unusually cool summer made for better conditions, the flowers were already dying. The heady scent of the dying blooms rose on the crisp breeze, swirling in her nose and fogging the salt scented air around her.
She finds tears blinking in her eyes as she scans over the names – recognizing a partner here, a classmate there, a friend, an acquaintance . . . A boy she used to tutor, a girl she used to share one half of her room with . . .
She found Gaila's name without looking for it. Her fingers passed through the floating blue name to the cool marble beneath, thinking that it was not enough to accurately express the warmth her friend had exuded like a second skin. While not nearly cut of the same cloth, the two had become close during their three years rooming together. Nyota never thought that she would mourn her this much.
. . . She had never even considered mourning her in the first place. The possibility never crossed her mind. And yet it loomed before her now, stark and as real as her fantasies of floating between the stars turned into tried and true realities.
Unwittingly, her dark eyes searched out an empty space next . . . at least, what would have been filled, had the fates weaved together in a slightly different way.
Her fingers came to rest between:
U.S.S. Farragut: Cm. J. Uaranin
U.S.S. Excalibur: Lt. M. Uhyai
Her name should have been there.
Right there, where her skin were brushing, and her pulse echoed in her fingertips from where she pressed too hard.
She took in a deep breath, trying to center herself past the emotion that was rising in her after being still and brushed over for too long. Her eyes closed; long and slow. The burn of tears was warm past the bite in the air.
There was the soft crunch of a light step on the gravel next to her, and she looked over to see a familiar face gazing at her cautiously. She could feel his question brushing in the deep places in her mind . . . the tentative connection between them having grown and blossomed in the last few days.
She smiled hesitantly at him, wiping at her eyes to show him that she was okay. That she was stronger than her grief when there were those around her that deserved theirs so much more . . .
His eyes narrowed, just slightly around the edges, and she wondered how much of her thoughts were now an open book to him.
It didn't matter, really, when he closed the few feet between them, and asked, "Nyota, are you well?"
The soft question, coupled with the weight of his concern in her mind, almost broke her. "Of course," she said on an exhale, her hands clenching in a valiant attempt to control her more human reaction to the display of grief around her.
A brow raised, just slightly, and a small part of her marveled over how adapt she had become at reading him in so short a time. He would not call her out on her lie though, even when he saw right through her.
His eyes found the bouquet of lilies that she had been fingering earlier, and she felt a stab of pain from him, glossed over so quickly that she would have never noticed it had she not felt in in her own mind.
"How are you holding up?" she turned his question back on him.
She expected him to lie, to cover up his grief as he had for every day since they had returned to
Earth. She did not expect him to calmly, and honestly state: "I am holding up as well as can be expected." His voice was still soft, clinical almost, but it thawed past the warmth of him in her mind. "I do believe . . . I do believe that time will be all I can require and hope for at this point. Perhaps, it is what we all need," he said, slightly pronouncing his syllables so that she would not be blind to the meaning in his voice.
She smiled over at him, a shaky smile that was full of thanks and all sorts of lifting things. With a deep breath, she knelt down next to the wealth of mementos left at the monument's base. Her eyes once again found Gaila's name, shining out against the cool stone. She sighed, and softly muttered, "I wasn't ready to loose them . . . people I knew. I knew . . . I knew what I was getting into when I joined Starfleet . . . I knew that it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows . . . and yet, it was so soon . . .We hadn't even technically been officers yet – graduation's in a few weeks, or would have been . . . I wasn't supposed to loose friends that soon."
Her eyes found his, worry shining in their depths. "Is that incredibly selfish of me? To lament what I have lost, where there are those who have lost so much more?"
"It is not selfish," Spock's soft voice reassured her. "It is . . ." his voice faltered, as if he were looking for the right word.
"Human," she supplied.
He shook his head. "Warranted," he gave instead.
She smiled, just slightly, at him. "Nice save, really."
He looked at her slightly quizzically, a brow raising at the corner. She fought the urge to tell him to put it away.
"What precisely was I saving?" he inquired.
She shook her head with a small smile. "Never mind."
He looked like he was about to ask again, but thought against it. Instead he said, "Anything you are feeling is neither irrelevant, nor . . . selfish. I find myself inclined to hear what you are feeling, whenever you so feel the need to express it."
She was grinning at him, rather stupidly, not giving a thought as she normally did to school her expressions around him.
"You're sweet, you know that?" she told him, her voice wavering a little on the edges.
She may have been making him uncomfortable with the thick emotion on her voice, circling through her mind and to his, but strangely, she was not worried.
. . . although telling Spock that he was cute while he wondered at her calling him things like 'sweet' may be pushing a line.
Only so much in one day, she knows.
Feeling lighter than she had in days, hope and serenity filling all the cracks in her grief once more, she leaned forward one more time, and passed the tips of her fingers over the marble again, feeling the crisp chill of it seep through her skin, settling somewhere in her bones.
There was a slight rustle against the gravel, and then, carefully, he knelt down beside her. There was silence, long and soothing, between them, before he gently moved to take her hand in his.
She stilled, and his fingers flexed once in hesitation before wrapping around hers more securely – comfortingly, almost. His skin was warm, chasing away the chill from the day. The heat from his body was a strong, tangible thing, filling her with hope and anchoring her past the emotions churning restlessly inside of her.
When she turned her gaze to him, her eyes were dry. Then, softly, she smiled.