Title: In Memoriam
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: Property of Roddenberry, Paramount, JJ Abrams, etc. Alas.
Summary: The human mind simply wasn't built to fully grasp such an immensity of loss, to retain that much grief and still function properly. Pike; 1000 words.
Spoilers: Star Trek XI (2009)
Notes: Part of my gapfiller series, immediately following "Acquired Care". Sticking my toe back into this fandom.
"Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee."
Sickbay went very quiet the evening of the memorial service. A few patients, like Pike, McCoy wasn't about to allow out from under his not-so-tender care long enough to attend, not even in support chairs; they watched the event on the screens instead, respectfully silent and intent on every word. Everyone else who wasn't on duty or otherwise unable to leave their posts had made their way to Rec Room One- no matter what condition they or their stations were in- to gain some measure of closure on the week's disastrous events.
Not that anything really could put such unfathomable horrors to rest, but the human mind simply wasn't built to fully grasp such an immensity of loss, to retain that much grief and still function properly. Pike knew that from prior experience. So, he suspected, might a few of his too-young staff, but for all too many of the others it was their first experience with such crippling devastation. Starfleet officers- particularly those selected and trained for command- tended to be more psychologically resilient than the norm for their species; even so, the events of the last week would have threatened even the most serene Vulcan's equilibrium. As they'd all already witnessed.
Pike had wondered, when Kirk had told him that Spock would be leading the portion of the service dedicated to the loss of Vulcan rather than one of the planet's surviving elders, whether the young science officer was the most logical choice. Perhaps, in a service held anywhere other than Enterprise, he would have been right; but actually seeing the commander at the podium, hearing the faintest of hitches in his voice as he read a selection from the teachings of Surak, Pike felt a deep surge of profound emotion: some unnamable vastness of sympathy bridging their two races in more than just the dual heritage and uniform of the man speaking, but also as siblings in loss- as people fundamentally no different from one another than any two beings who might have been born under the same sun, whatever their variety of form and philosophy.
When he glanced instinctively away from Spock's drawn, pale face to take in the expressions of the rest of the assembled crew visible at the edges of the screen, he found them equally rapt. After the widely-reported scene on the bridge, they all knew how just much emotion hid under that still surface, and it was uniting them in brotherhood with him as it might not have with any other Vulcan.
Truly, the spear in the Other's heart is the spear in your Own; You are He, he mused. Whatever anti-Vulcanoid backlash might be resurging in the rest of the Federation in response to the rogue Romulan attacks, Pike knew it would never find root among his people, and for a moment felt so proud of them he could hardly breathe.
Kirk stepped up to the podium when Spock had finished, back stiff and straight in his lieutenant's dress uniform, and the tenor of the room tightened still further. The young Acting First Officer paused for a moment before speaking, meeting gazes with several people in the crowd; even on the small screen Pike could see the stiff line of his jaw and the hollow emptiness in his gaze. Pike hadn't prodded too deeply into the barely mentioned 'emotional transference' aspect of Kirk's encounter with the time-travelling Vulcan- the last thing the ship needed at that moment was another command officer officially compromised and removed from duty- but he could see the depth of it in him in the aftermath of Spock's eulogy, in the long seconds it took him to clear his throat and blink his way back to some semblance of composure.
There was hardly a dry eye in evidence as Kirk began his address; he undoubtedly knew the traditional words by heart from the official Starfleet memorials he'd seen and taken part in over the years as the son of the famously martyred George Kirk, but he pared it down to the barest bones possible before moving on to the official roster of the dead. The list of those lost aboard Enterprise was thankfully brief, though top-heavy with all too many senior staff; to these, Kirk added brief references for each of the other ships lost, for the benefit of the few survivors Enterprise had managed to recover and the visitors sitting in from the escort ships who had come to accompany them back to Earth.
It would have been impossible to read every single name; it would have taken Kirk hours, and the general Starfleet memorial to be held back on Earth would be a more appropriate venue for that. But he didn't minimize their loss, either. Each name, whether individual or ship, added its own measure of heartache to the palpable blanket of grief settling over everyone listening.
Pike waited until the end of it, then shut the screen off; he didn't need to hear the closing quotes from Kirk's lips to hear them echoing in his own mind. If he hadn't been flat on his back, he'd have been the one standing at that podium, just as he'd been in the past on all too many occasions. One life lost, or thousands; each one of those memorials and funerals had left its mark on him.
It would leave its mark on Kirk, too. Hopefully, ceremonies of marriage, diplomatic achievement, and other rituals of celebration would outnumber such grimmer duties; but a life in Starfleet service was fundamentally a life of sacrifice. Kirk was no stranger to that weight of responsibility- he'd lived in its shadow his entire life- but it was a different matter when the losses occurred under one's own command. This might be the worst tragedy Kirk was likely to face; but it wouldn't be the last, and each carried its own burdens.
Pike's back twinged, and he closed his eyes, drifting back to sleep amid time-blurred memories of Talos and Rigel 7.