You're growing your hair out again as patches of it turn gray -- a striking silvery color, not the dull gray of cheap newsletters and old photos -- evermore aging you by inches. If it embarrasses you, you've never let on. I think you're grateful to have lived long enough for those little grooves in your forehead ("worry lines", we're supposed to call them, but it twists my stomach to think you could trace every one of them back to an actual worry, some specific event, or just a vague state of panic and pleading that spiraled out of the first event; these are your battle scars, your face lined with faint shadows of concern and guilt and pensive sadness even when you're perfectly happy). Somehow you cherish those lines, and the crack of your joints in the morning, and the silvery highlights in your hair that you're no longer cutting so short in fear that our future child's hands might be entangled in it.
Before daylight I'm awake and threading my fingers through the lazy edges of your hair, and you breathe heavy in your sleep and don't move. (You were never a heavy sleeper before, unless you'd been drinking. You were a light sleeper on the baseship; the slightest touch then could make you jerk upright.) I feel there's something I should be doing. The sense of protocol still haunts me, years after I could claim any kind of mission. Gather water. Check on the crops, and see that no one's touched the fallow lands -- people are desperate or stupid no matter how much we tell them to keep away from there. Charity dictates that I should use this time to our advantage, but still, a few minutes won't change anything.
This indulgence is not a sin. I sometimes think God, inexplicably, left us alive only for this.
I do sleep. You asked me this once on New Caprica, like I was suddenly an alien, like you hadn't -- albeit on rare, special occasions -- slept next to me before. "Do you really sleep?" you asked in that curious, embittered voice. "Or do you just go off and busy yourself while I do it?" You seemed jealous of my time, which was rich of you then, when being present and awake was such a burden to you. ("Do you drink?" you asked me another day. You'd seen me drink, but it's true you were more helpless against it than I was. I remember when a tickle of delight on the edge of my brain, my toes, would make you a giddy, stumbling wreck. We were drinking the first night we slept, genuinely slept together.)
"I don't sleep as much as you," I answered honestly. "I could go without sleeping if I had to."
"It's not good for your mind," you said, and I smiled. I nearly said that I wasn't like you, but then... we'd be too different to even share a room, and voicing that could make that entire dream of a planet fall apart in my hands.
"We work differently," I offered.
"I know," you said. "Oh, I know that. You came after us for five days straight once." You creased your eyebrows and glanced at the window, beams of light from the raiders flying overhead. "I mean," you said quieter, "I don't mean you personally." It was the kind of generosity in those months that made me want to cry.
I said, "Sometimes I just lie on your arm. Does it bother you?"
"I'm not going anywhere," you said miserably. "Does it matter?" I remember there was a long stretch of that night when you jolted awake every thirty minutes, regardless of what I was doing, and I mistook it as something intentional, like you were trying to catch me in the act of being awake without you. (Five days straight once, I realized later. This may have had nothing to do with me, directly.) I tried to put you at ease by dreaming, by pretending to dream, eventually by reading a book on the other side of the room just so you wouldn't find me staring at you if you opened your eyes again. The opposite happened finally: I'd lost myself in some agonizing pages of A Poet's Dream when I glanced over and saw you staring, like you were searching for a word to call me back to bed.
Like you were thinking of a name to call me.
"The first time I saw you..." you said dreamily, "It's embarrassing, really. You're so pretty." We were on your balcony on Caprica, moonlight dancing over the water, and you kissed my bare shoulders. The simplicity of this, your stripped-down lack of eloquence, made me almost laugh. It wasn't planned. You nuzzled against me, and I felt the vibrations of your own laughter bubbling inside you. I've always made you nervous, you told me. It wasn't often in your post-virginal life you were intimidated by women. Contrary to my research, that's not a feeling you like -- outside the confines of some specific bedroom activities -- and if you would ever love me, it would be in spite of this, not because. "In fairness," you added, "it may be because you've broken into my house."
"Only once," I lied. "And it was very-" (I kissed the side of your head) "very" (kiss) "important news." I went for your lips after that word, and you met me open-mouthed and dedicated. "Gaius," I breathed as usual, and you only moaned in response.
("Gina," I thought you called me once, in the dark of the night a lifetime later, as if your tired eyes caught wildly on something in my face, and it was just moments out of your mouth before you stuttered it into another name, already prepared to deny that you'd said it at all.)
"We don't need to be at this party," you said on the balcony, rounding your hand persuasively down my back. "We could celebrate my achievements in the field right here, as a matter of fact. I have some very interesting schematics-"
I took your hand and gently pushed it away, cupped my own hands around your face. It was too important, the showy networking that could ensure your position on the project, cement their confidence in you. "You've already called a driver," I reminded you. "You need to be around these people."
"But I hate them all," you confessed dramatically. You were apathetic to them at best.
I smiled slowly. "But they love you." I saw you almost begin to retort, but you quickly shut your mouth and I could only imagine -- imagine so many times -- what you nearly told me then. We would be back here later. You nodded reasonably, maybe thinking of all the magnificent influence you might exert as I led you to the front door. Maybe thinking of all the mildly flattering torture you were about to endure, for something you'd almost called love.
"I'm sorry, I've been an ass," you said carefully. It was the fourth month of the occupation.
"Now it's a good thing we were sitting down for that," said a One, and I said nothing. (You walked into it honestly, and I was exhausted defending you from yourself.) But you kept your eyes on me like the others weren't there. You were looking more sincere than I was used to, like you wanted something. Like you wanted forgiveness, almost.
Twenty minutes earlier you'd asked me what the gunshot felt like -- as much the fault of my assumptions as yours, I thought this was your compassion talking and not your narrow suicidal ideation -- so I told you the truth, that I felt nothing. The brain can't create memories, can't hold onto pain when it dies that way. You were sitting at your desk pensively, far away from me (you sometimes decided you didn't want to touch me on that dream of a planet, you kicked me in the leg in your sleep once). "Downloading was worse," I started to tell you, because it was, it was piercing and suffocating and the feeling of being surrounded and alone. "The pain was-"
You snapped, "Well, I won't be downloading, will I? What the frak does that mean to me?"
"Really?" I blurted.
To your credit, there was a flicker of guilt on your face before you repressed it away. "I'm very tired," you said from your desk, irritated.
There's a reason that no one hurt you during the exodus of that planet -- and I don't mean your own people, but of course that might've happened, too. (In the chaos of the invasion, you wouldn't have had a trial. They would've found you surrender-ready in some corner of your office, given you a quick execution or worse. I'd prepared myself for this ending once or twice, lingering in the distance even as I loved you.) No, love, when Simon asked you where the cavalry was coming from, as if you knew, as if you'd been in contact with them all along, I watched your eyes and knew it was pointless. You weren't afraid enough to be lying. There was mostly confusion, indignation, and of course you were nervous -- but no more than usual, you've been nervous from the day we met. It wasn't the full-blown, sputtering panic of someone who's hiding something. "He couldn't know anything," I said, phrasing it in a way that sounded logical and not blindly defensive. "Why would anyone tell him?"
On the baseship it was different. You were terrified. You were coming apart in front of my eyes. This was not a betrayal because you were my enemy.
"Six," I remember you saying in a voice that was calm but hoarse from -- there is no way to get around this, no euphemism to comfort and absolve myself -- from screaming. It was the first time you'd called me Six, and my mind was already reeling from the "I love you." You were testing how the generic name sounded, in case I wanted you to call me that. Some of the others did; D'Anna still called me "Caprica", and you would eventually test that, too. Your hands balled into fists when I went to hold them, more instinct than rejection, your nails digging into your own palms. I kissed them -- fists and palms and white knuckles and those two fingertips with light burn marks on them. I had given some guidelines about scarring: D'Anna was not supposed to damage your hands. I'd felt monstrous dividing you into parts, the ones I loved and the ones I could lose. I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
"I'm here," I said, and then, "Go to sleep, Gaius." I brushed the creases in your forehead until they disappeared (worry lines), and you obeyed.
"You've exquisite fingers," you told me once.
The interior minister's wife couldn't take her eyes off either of us. She was flirting, you explained to me later, in that brazen, facetious, middle-aged way. We could make quite a scene, dressed up and draped over each other. If it was detrimental to my mission to draw attention in any way, that was offset by how much you loved attention.
You were so charming, even tipsy and flustered -- not drunk really, until the limo home. You knew to pace yourself. "Who is this stunning creature?" the woman said with an arch in her smile, and I offered my hand and rescued you -- I gave her a name. To your credit, you didn't twitch, didn't let on you were hearing it for the first time. In fact, you were so calm and unresponsive I felt a pang of grief in my chest, just for one irrational moment, that you didn't care. I wondered if it had slipped right through your ears and out of your mind. The truth is that in two years, I heard that name reflected back to me less than a dozen times outside my briefings with other Cylons and the red-haired pregnant woman I shared a salon table with, who'd called it exotic. "Sehr-sha" is how it sounded the occasional time you said it while we were dating, your pronunciation slightly off. (Your father said it, then forgot it, the same way. Did you know that?)
But it no longer mattered when we crashed through your door, when you were tracing kisses along my spine, oblivious to the pulsing heat under the surface, and we were dissolving in laughter, we were terrorizing your poor fish with the noise and disruption at such a late hour. You recounted bits of your speech, the one I'd offered to help you with, but which you were endlessly satisfied that you needed no help with, after all. Before you could be too pleased with yourself, though, you were clumsily fumbling with my clothes again, convinced somehow that you could untangle a zipper one-handed because you couldn't bear to move the other hand from between my legs.
"Can't even get your dress off," you murmured. You tugged at the knot on the base of my neck as if to emphasize it. You always seemed to enjoy those unnecessarily complicated outfits -- they appealed to your pride, like you were completing a puzzle, some cruel but rewarding test of patience and concentration. But that night you were frustrated and dying for a shortcut.
"So there are some things you need my help with," I teased. We kissed each other's palms, spontaneous and delirious. You were past the skilled and brilliant act, past trying to impress me; we were closer. You fell asleep in my arms the minute we hit the bed.
You would die on a Thursday at 6:12 am. It was summer, the days were longer on Caprica -- the sun was just barely out when the attack began. We'd been punctual. When you were dead I would forget you,
Our afternoon was exhausting because you'd promised to help with the new schoolhouse, and by "help" you don't mean organize or supervise, you don't mean make one feeble attempt to raise a plank of wood, drop it so it lands nearly on someone's toes, and then be told to go elsewhere. You carried planks until your back and legs were sore, until just placing your hands in the river to wash the dirt away made you gasp in unexpected relief, relief so shocking it almost felt like pain. And remarkably, no matter how much you grumbled and whined that this was the last time you'd volunteer to help anyone, it won't be.
You are a better man now.
That evening we made love with more relief than energy, with a passive kind of sensuality, and I locked my heel over your back, pressing into your spine, while you kissed and kissed me, ungraceful and wanting. "Angel, forgive me," you murmured with a beaming smile under the lines of sorrow in your forehead. "I'm going to make a fool of myself." We still rubbed against each other in artless, shameless need, sating each other to sleep.
When I woke, your hand was resting on my chest, our fingers twined, and you were staring at something invisible and far away, but also you were here, and when I whispered your name -- for no reason but to say it, to confirm and validate its sound the way I always had -- you subtly snapped to attention, like your soul had wandered off only briefly and now come back into your body. You kissed my cheek, warm and reverent. I found myself wondering if that kiss was my name now. We found creatures, humans on this planet with limited words, and I wonder if that's not more honest.
"Sara," you said then, thoughtfully. "No. Sehr-sha. Where did you even get that from? Was that ever anyone's name?"
"You had it right," I said. "It doesn't matter." (But it does matter, love. Your memories mattered to me more than sunlight in that moment, and it was never even my name.) Intrusively I thought of your fish on Caprica, and how we are both going to die on this planet, too. The crops or the winter or your slowly changing hair, this is impermanent. I may outlive you again and I know that's a bearable pain (I lost you once before, and I lost Liam and somehow continued to breathe) but I can't think about this. We work the same way now, in dread and denial.
You buried your head into the crook of my neck like you wanted us to disappear into each other, and we may as well have. Love can be close to sadness. I've known that for a long time.
"What time is it?" you asked me in a low voice, as the sun started pouring through the cracks in our roof. "We ought to get up," you mumbled, but you didn't move.
"We can stay a few more minutes," I said, and you were brushing your fingertips through my hair, and this was less of a sin than a miracle.