Accustomed to the dark*
The light was gone.
Hardly anybody would have guessed the almighty 'Apollo', the solar god, bearer of light, was apprehensive of the darkness. Scratch that – was full-scale panicked to be left in the dark. Ever since early childhood, more so after the father left for real, he'd conjure creative ways to leave the bedside lamp on for the night. To the point of stubbornly battling sleep up to when his mother would deem it necessary to come in and turn the light off, for the sole purpose of ensuring his misery, he harbored no doubts then.
Shivering for several excruciating minutes, swathed in the haunting, obscure dimness wouldn't be that intolerable, in and of itself, as long as he managed to stay alert enough to switch it back on, as soon as the sounds of movement in Carolanne's room, or the clank of ambrosia flask downstairs subsided. The worst part was to actually give in to sleep only to wake up amidst the suffocating blackness, gasping strenuously through the keen, rapidly closing in shadows.
The habit to keep the rack light on lingered all the way through his military career, as the shadows, lunging after him, grew darker, hungrier. Loss, hurt, hatred, betrayal, anger, loneliness, despair, inadequacy, self-loathing… Zack, his father, his mother, Kara, Gianne, the end of the world, Admiral Cain, New Caprica… It wasn't until recurrent instances of starting up in the dark into Dee's soothing touch would wear the lurking shades incessantly thinner around him. It wasn't until months of her luminous proximity brought him accustomed to getting through the night without as much as a stir, sans the bedside light on.
Sleep reverted back to the exhausting pattern of fighting off shadows of inhibition, rage and disdain, once she left over the trial. Up till there was, apparently, no point, any longer. The decades old childish trick could hardly be to avail that time around. His shadows were there to stay at all hours, her morbid choice took care of that much. The light was gone.
"Mind if I turn the lights on?"
His father followed him back into the office, after the gloomiest and least animated press-conference in the history of thirteen obliterated Colonies. He could but shrug in compliance – wouldn't make much difference, anyway. The light was gone.
The memory surfaced, unbidden, of a conversation they had with Dee once, on Pegasus. He couldn't recall why they would even bring the subject up, in the early months of their marriage, but she told him of an old Saggitaron mourning ritual. If the woman of the house passed away, the widower would extinguish the fireplace, to indicate Hestia, goddess of the hearth, abandoned his home. He smirked dismissively at the idea, back then. He ruefully admitted to dismissing many a thing, comprising the serene, fulfilling synchrony, their life together offered. The quarters on Colonial One hadn't very well ever been their home, but he preferred to abstain from pondering too deeply why keeping the lights off, unless absolutely necessary, would appear the most obvious thing for him to do, as of lately. The light was gone.
"You've been awfully quiet, son."
Concern was prominent in his father's inflection, alongside slowly brewing frustration. Never the one for non-verbal communication, the elder Adama needed a crisp and straightforward report on how he was faring, to take adequate measures, if necessary.
Incidentally, he was aware the Admiral didn't refer just to the recent media briefing. He never stood up to speak at her funeral, the day before, either. Not precisely due to too many eager eyes anticipating his ultimate stand on that particular scaffold, to confirm pre-issued contempt, as well as to indulge into heartfelt gloating or sympathy, depending on whose assessment he received. More because, in all honesty, he was unable to summon any words that would bring the eulogy even remotely close to not ringing false or superfluous, given the scale of what happened, how he felt, what she meant. What was there to say, after all? The light was gone.
Colonial One smelled of blood and fear – stale copper and stifling musk – terrified screams of his fellow delegates still echoing in the hallways, weaving the processed air into suffocating mist. He considered staying overnight on Galactica too, once Laura Roslin left for his father's quarters, but thought better of it. Groundwork for reforming a new Quorum had to be started asap, for the fleet was barely holding up together as it was. There were impending issues, abandoned over the hideous chaos of mutiny and demanding immediate attention. President Roslin excluding, he was the only government there was left. Besides, to leave now would nearly tantamount to desertion. He was spared the Quorum's fate, but not the duty. Letting the brewing riot slip under the radar had upped the ante on that one by a hundredfold for him. Making sure their hapless tribe made it through shredded flotsam of compassion and sorrow, eventually, was where he belonged.
He silently thanked whatever deity there was still listening for his quarters having been left intact. It would appear the mutineers didn't bother with marauding right away, so certain the outcome seemed to them. The last time he set foot there, what felt like a lifetime ago, Zarek all but tricked him into rushing out to Galactica. He'd never know whether it was meant actually to try and spare his life, to make sure the massacre of the Quorum went smoothly, to secure him as a hostage for further bargaining or for the perverted fun of Apollo being slaughtered by his once fellow brothers and sisters in arms.
Stacks of paperwork were left untouched on the coffee table, next to a framed picture of her. He moved it there, favoring the nearby couch for the workplace-cum-rack as of lately. When fleet-wide reports got too confusing, he'd read them aloud to her, like he so often would back on Pegasus. Ever the communications officer she'd never miss the slightest catch or data incongruity. He couldn't afford to dwell too hard on her being unable to supply audible expertise anymore. Whenever nights got too long, his eyes itching from overexertion, he'd cradle the picture close and rest in the dark. Sleep was a rare acquaintance of his, those past weeks after Earth, so he just settled for waiting patiently for the next morning to commence, welcoming the hushed shadows.
Meeting her gaze would be the hardest that day, so much was sure. He let her down. Too soon after the innermost pledged vows to never again. Ever. He let the darkness seep too close, fester to deep, corrupt too irrevocably the very people she deemed his charge to endow with hope. What was killing him most was utter uncertainty anything could've transpired differently, were she alive. Would she have ever considered forgiving him, or his father, Gaeta's shattered soul and sanity then? He had no way of knowing, but he'd learnt something through those gruesome days – she trusted him to keep humanity going. If Gaeta's and Zarek's spiteful delusions and twisted ambitions were the only viable price of that, so be it. He was willing to risk trusting her to understand.
There was a couple of candles stashed in her personal stuff, he remembered from pouring over the now infinitely precious tidbits, the other day. His grandpa's lighter came just handy. He wouldn't pray. Didn't feel compelled to. Just sat there in silence, stare shifting leisurely from the flickering glimmer to her eyes in the framed snapshot, illuminated by the faint glow, the burning candle was only partially instrumental to. For the world of him, he couldn't let the light go again.