Ficlet: Dolce Et Decorum Est (Olsen's mother, PG)

Title: Dolce Et Decorum Est
Author: igrockspock
Character: Olsen's mother. (Olsen being the red shirt who died on the drill on Vulcan)
Rating: PG
Summary: She hears about his death from a letter hand-delivered by a boy who looks sixteen.
Notes: for halfamoon

She hadn't even known he'd gone into space. She'd known he was going of course, had been counting down the days till his graduation with a mixture of apprehension and pride. There had been trips already -- five training cruises, three battlefield simulations, and one miserable research trip before he'd changed his concentration from stellar cartography to engineering. But he shared these stories only after he'd come back to Earth safe and sound; they frightened her too badly after her husband had passed. Really, it wasn't surprising that he hadn't messaged her before he left for Vulcan; her boy was always considerate of her feelings after all.

It's silly of her to be mad. Only, she had felt so stupid, so utterly stupid, when the fresh-faced young boy had arrived on her doorstep, bearing a white envelope and wearing a full-dress uniform like the one her son had forgotten in his closet at the end of his last vacation here. She'd insisted that he bring it. As much as Starfleet terrified her, she couldn't wait till graduation to get a holovid of him wearing those gold-trimmed cadet reds.

Knowing all that, she was doubly stupid to think that boy at her door was her son, but she had thought it anyway. Her boy had come home to surprise her, all dressed up to indulge the whims of his silly, over-protective mother. Of course, it had only taken a split second after she opened the door to know it wasn't him. Then she had thought it was a prank of some sort. It was just the kind of thing he would do, send a friend in fancy dress to announce his visit as if he were some great head of state.

But then the boy -- and really, he was a boy, barely looked a day over sixteen -- had handed her the envelope, and she hadn't quite known what to make of it. It was a moment she'd seen a hundred times in holovids, the mother taking the envelope with trembling hands, eyes filling with tears before she'd even read the message. It had seemed accurate enough; she'd imagined herself in those women's places, and she'd imagined she'd do the same. But instead, somehow, she hadn't known. She'd taken the envelope with a barely concealed roll of her eyes, puzzled in equal measure by the old fashioned paper and the trepidation on the messenger's face.

"You've made a mistake," she'd said to the boy after she'd read the message, and she thrust the envelope back into his still-open hands. "There's more than one Henry Olsen in Starfleet, it's a common enough name, and my boy hasn't been out to space just yet."

Battle of Vulcan. Perished in a rescue mission. The whole business was ridiculous, and she hadn't the energy for it. She'd nearly turned to go back into the house when she remembered that Henry'd never messaged her before his expeditions. He didn't want her worrying after him so soon after his father had died. At the time, she'd been grateful for the kindness. Now she hates him for it. Her boy had been off dying somewhere, some place where she couldn't touch or hold or comfort him, and he'd denied her that last maternal comfort of being with him in her thoughts.

She doesn't say anything to the boy at the door, just holds out expectant hands, and he tucks the envelope and a folded Federation flag into them.

"Usually, they save 'em for the funeral. The flags, I mean. But as there's so many who died..."

His tone is apologetic; his voice implores her not for forgiveness but for permission to leave.

"Thank you," she says, her two backward steps into the house a kind of dismissal. She wonders dimly how many of these messages he'd delivered that day, whether she ought to have invited him in for tea. That's what she would've liked another mother to do for her boy.

She sits the flag and the letter on the kitchen table, careful but not reverent. Her hands pause over them for a minute, as if they're fragile and they might fall. Then she goes to check her messages. How silly of her to think he wouldn't have messaged before he left. Vulcan was a long way off, and a rescue mission was different from the routine training simulations he'd done at the Academy. Of course he would have sent one last email or voice mail -- one last something -- before he'd gone off to space and vanished forever. She just hadn't gotten it in time, that was all. So many cadets sending messages to their families at home, the comm grids would have been jammed. Now they'd be all the more sluggish with thousands of Starfleet parents and children trying to reach one another. She'll just have to be patient and wait her turn.

Starfleet had given her a star to hang in her window, and as she presses each point to the panes of glass -- got to get it straight, she tells herself, he always liked his things neat -- she imagines that last message, piecing it together out of half-remembered lines from old comms she'd been too practical to save.

"Off to Vulcan, Mam," he'd say. "No need to worry now, but it is a bit further than I've gone before. Just thought I'd just send you a wave to let you know I'm going. I'm on the Enterprise, Mam, best ship of the fleet. Dad'd be so proud. See you when spring break rolls around."

She's forgiven him already for the missing "I love you." He hadn't known it would be his last words; he would've wanted it to be nice and routine, the better not to worry her. Always thought of her feelings, her boy. He'd never have left her without one last message, never mind that he'd never called her before he went out in space before. All she's got to do is wait for her inbox to chime.
Oh DAMN this is touching :( And so believable. Wonderful and heartbreaking.
Heartbreaking. This:

Starfleet had given her a star to hang in her window, and as she presses each point to the panes of glass -- got to get it straight, she tells herself, he always liked his things neat -- she imagines that last message, piecing it together out of bits of old comms she'd been too practical to save.

was particularly hard to read, but so easy to identify with. Exquisite writing and world-building.

(P.S. I always -- irrationally -- loved Olsen. He was such an idiot. Of course his mother adored him more than anything.)

Absolutely heartbreaking. I want to give her a hug, it was so painful. Olsen suddenly became very real, and not just another red shirt.
Oh break my heart!

I want to cry for her, over a stupid plot device in the movie!

Thank you! It's always made me sad how quickly he died, not because I have any particular attachment to the character, but because he's a person too.
I think maybe I heard her inbox chime. Or perhaps the quiet crack of my heart breaking.
You've done an amazing thing here: took a throwaway character and made him real by showing the hole his death left in someone who loved him.

That's amazing. And kind. And beautiful.

Thank you.
Thank you! His death always did kind of hit me hard, precisely because it was such a throw-away.
...well, I still don't have much sympathy for Olsen but wow, your portrayal of his mother and her reaction to his death left me sniffling a little. Maybe.

Thank you for sharing. :-)
i didn't know I needed to read this fic until you posted it, beautiful, stat and heartbreaking. You don't waste a word here, and manage to fit in some characteriusation between both that just feels right
This is utterly crushing. I love all the tiny details, like the way she puts the letter and flag on the table -- careful not reverent.

Lovely and heartbreaking.
This was amazing: I think you managed to get the characterization of a character never even mentioned perfect, just because of the way her son acts.