His brother Christopher brought his child to him, from the nursery in the medical center where he worked as an orderly and where she had spent her entire short life. “This is Kacey,” said the Two, putting the blond toddler into Leoben's waiting arms. “Love her as God does.”
And Leoben did, from the moment he laid eyes on his daughter, so like Kara, from the moment she twined her small arms around his neck, he loved her with his whole soul, with an astonished and humble gratitude to the Heavenly Father, for this small manifestation of grace.
“Kacey,” said Christopher gently, “this is your father.”
The little girl, no more than eighteen months, said nothing, only sucked her index finger and clutched her doll, looking from one identical face to the other with bemused interest.
“Can she speak?”
“A few words, yes. She's a quiet little thing.”
Kacey put her head down on Leoben's shoulder, snuggling her head against his neck, and his breath froze in his chest. “Thank you, brother,” he murmured, smoothing the child's soft curls. Overcome, he kissed her forehead, never noticing how Christopher turned away from the sight.
He brought her to the home he had made, that soon he would bring Kara into, and watched her run around and explore her new surroundings. The apartment was gray, dim with the rain outside; Kacey looked to Leoben like a tiny candle, flickering back and forth.
Feeding her proved to be a little difficult; cleaning and bathing her moreso, and in spite of all the studying he'd done on human children, he was at a loss to know what to do when she cried. But she trusted him as a daughter should trust her father, clinging to his two fingers with her whole hand and looking up at him with his own eyes.
Leoben had made a little bedroom next to his own, with a door to the outside, and filled it with such toys as he could scavenge from the discards in the refugee camps, but that first night he brought her home, he put her in his own bed, singing hymns until she fell asleep and then lying beside her all night, watching her breathe. He had wanted this child, this thing formed of his soul and Kara's. He had prayed for her, and God had given her to him. Her favorite toys were a string of wooden blocks, pots and pans that she dragged from the kitchen cabinets, the crude rag doll she had brought from the medical center.
He arranged with one of his sister Sixes to care for the child during the day, once Kara came to live with them. It would take time for Kara to come to accept him and their child, to love them, but she would. She would accept the truth of God's love and the plan He had for her, and she would accept that truth made manifest in their little child, their Kacey. He had seen it, and more importantly, he knew it, as surely as he knew that she would grind herself against his body as she killed him and eventually steal his daughter from him.
Kacey's accident came as a surprise. Even if he had foreseen it, he knew his heart still would have leapt into his throat when Kara started screaming his name, and he had come running to see his little girl lying so still at the bottom of the cement stairs.
Christopher found them at the medical center, in the waiting room, while Kacey was in surgery. Kara wouldn't look at him; she was too busy praying. Leoben moved a few paces to the side, but he had no words for his brother. Outwardly, he looked merely pensive. Inside, he was praying to God as hard as Kara was praying to her idols. He stared at Kara's bowed head and pale hair and saw Kacey flitting back and forth through the living room; he barely felt Christopher's hand on his shoulder.
Kacey's little rag doll was in the pocket of his jacket. His fingers curled around it, just as his stomach curled around the knot of tension that had formed, and wondered vaguely how it had gotten there.
He sat down next to Kara and put his arm around her shoulders; she tensed, and he waited for her to throw him off. Then she saw the doll in his hand, and slumped against him instead. In spite of himself, his visions and his inexplicable fears, Leoben wondered if it was for comfort, or just a reflex.
He wondered the same thing when she grasped his hand tightly, when Kacey opened her eyes two days later and looked up at them, her blue eyes dark and tired.
When they brought her home, Kara wouldn't let her go. “I'm not letting her near those stairs again,” she said, quiet and firm and with a determined, almost feral attitude that Leoben thought suited her quite well. He dragged the child's bed downstairs, then watched from the upper landing while Kara sat and talked with her, about how adults sometimes did stupid things.
When he was certain Kacey was asleep, he came downstairs, taking each step slowly. Kara rose from the bed and made a beeline straight for him. Leoben tensed, not sure if she was about to kiss him or stab him again, but she did neither; she gripped the sides of his shirt in her fists and buried her face in his chest. She wasn't crying... but there was a roughness to her breathing that was different from the mingled fear, hate and lust that Leoben was so used to hearing. “You're a bastard,” she muttered, only flinching slightly when his arms came up to enfold her in a light, tentative hug. “But you gave me a daughter.
“I owe you something for that.”
He wondered if that was why she didn't stab him with her usual brutal precision, a day or two later, before fleeing with her husband and Kacey and leaving him bleeding and cold at the foot of the stairs, clinging to the taste of her lips and the brutal glow of prophecy coming to pass.
There was no time on the Demetrius, to ask Kara about their daughter and if she was well and happy and how tall she had gotten, how many new words she had learned to say, if she remembered him. No time until they were on the basestar, listening to the repetitive, hypnotic near-nonsense of the Hybrid for hours on end. Leoben had spent days listening to her before, but right now, for a few moments, he couldn't pay attention.
Kara stepped away from the tank, rubbing her temples fitfully. Leoben followed her, needing some quiet words. “Is Kacey okay?”
Her look of sudden hatred startled him. “She's fine,” she replied, the muscles in her neck tight. “She's with her mother.”
“...Kara, we've been over this. You're Kacey's mother--”
“No, I'm not, you frakking toaster,” she hissed, not wanting Natalie or any of the others to overhear them. “No, I'm not. Because Kacey's not our daughter. Not yours, not mine. You kidnapped her from her mother and used her to--”
“No. No, I never did that. I didn't take her.”
“Frak you.” Kara's hands were clenched into fists at her sides; she wanted to kill him, he could see. “Her mother found her as soon as I was back on the Galactica. Kacey knew her. Called her 'Mama.' She never called me that.”
She had never called Leoben anything, either. Never 'Dada' or 'Papa' or whatever small human children called their paternal units. It had never occurred to him before; it hadn't been important. She was his daughter, that was all that mattered...
“The doctor even did tests, just to make sure. Fully human. None of my DNA and sure as hell none of yours.” Kara stared at him, and then a sickened smile tugged at her lips. “You didn't know.”
“I never took her, Kara. She was given to me.” Leoben closed his eyes, remembering his first sight of Kacey and how strange his brother the orderly had looked when handing the child over. “Everything I told you was true. I fertilized your egg--”
“You jacked off into a test tube.”
“And it was implanted in a surrogate mother. I watched the procedure; I visited her while the child grew, felt it move in her body.” He was too lost in his memories, in trying to unravel the currents of the stream that had brought them to this place, and did not see the look of revulsion on Kara's face. He wouldn't have understood it anyway.
“Did you even know her name?” she sneered. “The surrogate? The incubator?”
“Her name was Melissa.”
That little detail seemed to shake Kara. “Were you there when the child was born?”
“No.” Leoben looked at her then. He felt the tears behind his eyes but couldn't process what they meant. “I was away. But I was told that the birth mother—Melissa... had died in labor.” He swallowed. “I... suppose our child must have died with her. But I'd seen us, together, with a child—“
“So someone just went and stole a little girl so you and me could play house.” Kara looked nauseous; he couldn't blame her. “You never even thought to question what happened?” Of course he hadn't; he'd wanted it too much. And one did not question gifts of grace. “Looks like you got frakked over almost as badly as I did.”
He could still feel the memory of Kacey's soft, pale hair against his face, but it seemed now to be slipping away. “Looks like.”
Kara turned and walked quickly back to the Hybrid's side. Her fingers just barely brushed the back of Leoben's hand as she passed.