1. A Different Direction
Sharon knows they're taking her to another cell, a place where they can cage her and study her and demand answers. Maybe they'll torture her.
The guards shove her, bound and shackled like a dangerous animal, and the crowd yells at her. Some throw things.
She wants to be afraid, but all she feels is a sick twisting in her gut and the heat of unshed tears pricking her eyes. I don't understand any of this, she wants to shout and cry, I'm one of you.
Except she knows she's not. She knows she's a Cylon; she saw copies of herself, and not just one, like a twin, but so many it was horrifying. And then she came back and did the unthinkable, watching it happen while trapped in her own mind, and wanting to yell at herself: No, don't do it!
The forward movement stops, as the crowd starts to press in. The guard commander takes only a second to decide. "This is too many. Port corridor. Double time!"
They turn down the next cross-corridor, and Sharon catches a glimpse of Cally in the crowd they're leaving behind. Her face seems too pale and she's glaring at Sharon with such force Sharon is briefly glad to be going another way.
They're ahead of the crowd on this side of the ship, and they hurry, sweeping past before many of the people in the corridor realize what's going on. Then they reach the brig, and it all seems far away as Sharon gets shoved between the hissing onlookers and through the hatch into the relative quiet of the brig.
Through another hatch, she sees the cell. There's some sort of composite unbreakable wall instead of bars all across the front. A hysterical laugh bubbles up - do they believe she can slither between steel bars to escape?
"Get in there, toaster!"
She stumbles inside, her hands still manacled, and the door slams shut. The cell is bare, with only a small toilet in the corner. There's no cot, no blanket, and it all still smells of the chemicals from the hasty construction.
Turning, she glimpses Galen as the guards push him out. His form is blurry through the glass, or maybe it's the tears in her eyes, as she realizes this is her life now.
2. A Different Destination
Sam heads for the flight deck to go back to the Salpica. He can't get Kara's story out of his head -- it makes him furious and want to be sick. How could a mother do that to her own child? She'd told him her father had left and her mother was controlling, but he'd known there had to be more and worse. But he hadn't imagined her mother had broken her fingers.
On the flight deck he's early for the shuttle, so he goes to talk to Galen. Chatting with Galen turns into getting Brasko to demonstrate how to pull the dioxide scrubbers from the Raptor. Everything on the Salpica is old, and he's made it his business to try to learn how to fix stuff.
He's on his back underneath the Raptor, his hands full of the filthy filter assembly, and he calls, "Brasko, you have the new filter? I'll put it in."
She scoots in next to him and hands him the new filter, and he takes it from her absently before realizing she's not wearing deckhand coveralls. He turns his head.
Kara grins back. "Hey."
His fingers tighten on the metal housing of the filter and he knows he's staring, shocked to see her when she'd earlier refused his offer to take a break. "Uh, hey. I thought you were going on duty?"
"I was," she says, smile faltering, and her eyes flick away, full of the nightmares and memories this morning. But the smile returns and she nudges him with her shoulder. "I took a day of leave, because I thought you had a better offer. But I don't think this is it."
"I wasn't going to the Zephyr on my own. No point. You want to go?" he asks.
"Yeah, let's do it," she says. "It'll be fun to get away for a day." She curls a hand around his arm and slides her fingers up to his shoulder. "You and me, on our own… no stupid rack to hit our heads on."
He turns toward her, and although he does it on purpose just to make her laugh, it still hurts when he hits his head on the underside of the Raptor. "Ow. Yes, that sounds like heaven."
She snickers, "Very graceful." But she's amused and the shadows that were there in her face earlier are gone. "C'mon," she urges, tugging at him. She leans in and her breath is warm on his lips and she murmurs, "Let's get the frak out of here."
He has no intention of disagreeing when her mouth is on his and her hands are slipping under his shirt.
The Zephyr isn't heaven, but it's as close as he can expect. They frak and they drink and they even talk, and when Kara's leave is up, he hopes he's not fooling himself that they're getting back closer to how things had been on New Caprica. At least the day off has done her good and she seems less brittle and exhausted. That's all he really hoped for with this trip anyway.
Her Raptor back to Galactica arrives and he walks her out to the deck.
"Hey, you want to come back with me?" she offers all-too-casually.
"To Galactica?" he asks.
"No, dummy, Colonial One," she rolls her eyes. "Of course, Galactica. You could move ships, unless you really like that dump you're living on."
He tries not to show his surprise at the back-handed invitation to stay. That hasn't happened since… well, since he assumed he would stay right after New Caprica. "What would I do there? Can't keep your rack warm all the time."
"Sure you can," she retorts, but then frowns. "I don't know, we'll figure it out. It seems stupid to send you back to the Salpica when you're on Galactica so often anyway."
"Oh yeah?" he can't help a grin at that obvious excuse, and he circles her waist loosely with his hands. "That your only reason? Avoiding inconvenience?"
She tilts her head back to look at him, saucy smile on her lips. "Well, there might be some frakking…"
"That's a better reason," he teases. "But I don't know if I want to move ships for 'might be.'"
Sometimes he feels like a fisherman with Kara. He's got her on the hook, but he's got to give her plenty of line and reel her in so delicately she doesn't know that's what he's doing. Sometimes the line snaps and she swims away; but other times, it works.
She tucks her hands in his back pockets and pulls him tighter against her hips. "I misspoke. I meant, there will be frakking. Lots of frakking."
Racetrack shouts from the hatch. "Let's go, lovebirds! Make out on your own time!"
He jumps and chuckles, shouting back, "All right, all right, give us a second!" He pulls free of Kara's hands and gives her a wistful half-smile. "Look, I want to, but maybe it's too soon? Let's take it slow."
"I don't do slow," she retorts.
"I noticed. But I don't want this -- us -- to get all frakked up again by pushing too hard." He unspools the line a little more, making sure she has plenty.
She pokes the dogtag hanging at his chest. "It won't. Not this time."
Racetrack yells, "Starbuck! Let's move it!"
Racetrack's impatience spurs Kara to take action. Her hand falls down his chest to grab his belt and she tugs him toward the Raptor. "Let's go, pyramid boy. I'm tired of this living apart crap."
Grinning, he lets her pull him to the Raptor. She thinks she's reeling him in, but he's got her, too.
They're caught on each other's lines, and that makes it tangled and sometimes messy, but he doesn't want to be anywhere else.
3. A Different Decision
Felix looks up at the sound of movement. Guards enter first and take up posts on either side of the hatch, and then the Admiral enters.
He sits down across the table, and Felix tries to stare him down. It's all too easy to remember the last time they were across a table from each other, when Felix had been high on his own self-righteousness.
He's not anymore. Now, he's about to die, a failure. He looks down at the fake wood of the tabletop, unable to meet Adama's eyes after all. Neither of them speaks.
"I understand it was the alliance with the Cylons that sparked this," Adama says at last. "What I want to know is -- did you truly believe I didn't consider the consequences, lieutenant? That it didn't make me very uneasy?"
"They murdered billions of people!" Felix flares and his cuffs rattle against the table with helpless anger.
Adama's eyes narrow at him through his glasses, and for a moment the silence hangs there, slowly pressing down on Felix. "And yet," the Admiral says, "you seemed to accept Athena. Was that a lie?"
"No," Felix has to admit. And he knows where Adama's going with that before he says it.
"Why is one helpful Cylon acceptable and fifty aren't?" Adama asks, but he doesn't want Felix to answer. "And why is it acceptable to kill humans?"
"I didn't! I didn't mean -- " Felix protests, but then stops. There's no point. He knows about the Quorum, and as much as he wants to say he didn't do it, he knows it's his responsibility.
Adama waits a moment, seeming thoughtful. Felix watches as the admiral folds his hands together before he speaks again. "Remember shortly after New Caprica, the secret tribunal that nearly took your life?"
Felix jerks back in shock. "You know about that?"
"Colonel Tigh told me. Zarek was the one who nearly got you killed, Mister Gaeta. He set up that tribunal. He wasn't in jail because he disagreed with Adar, even though that's what he liked to tell people; he was a terrorist, who killed innocent people to pursue a political point. As he did again and again when given his freedom, including the murder of the Quorum. And that's why he's going to die."
Felix lifts his chin and inhales a shaky breath. "I'm prepared to face the consequences of my actions, Admiral."
"I'm sure you are. I'm just not sure I am," Adama murmurs, looking at Felix with his familiar craggy features, sadness in his eyes. "All these years together, and you couldn't trust me."
Felix blinks, his throat suddenly tight. "You - you abandoned us," he whispers. "None of us mattered anymore, just Roslin. Just the Cylons. You didn't care about the rest of us."
"I didn't, I--" Adama starts to object and then reconsiders. "Did it really seem that way?" Felix nods miserably, and Adama watches him, letting out a sigh. "I did let too much slip out of my hands," he admits.
Felix rubs at his leg. His missing foot is tingling again. At least death will let him rest finally.
"All right," Adama says at last with the air of someone who's made a decision. "You go to the Astral Queen."
Felix's gaze snaps up again, incredulous. "What? To the ship? But I thought--"
"I was going to order you executed," Adama says levelly. "I don't trust you in my CIC anymore, and I won't have you on my ship, but... we may need you in the future. You will be sentenced to the Astral Queen with the rest of the mutineers." He pushes back his chair, rises to his feet and leans forward, with both hands on the table. "Admiral Cain would have had you executed - hell, she'd have done it herself. It's the military choice to make. It may even be the right choice. But I remember the bright, eager officer you were, and I'm tired of wasting lives. So don't waste it, Mister Gaeta."
He walks with a measured stride toward the hatch, and Felix watches him go. He rubs his thigh as the pain seethes up his leg, and he wonders bleakly if this clemency is truly mercy or the opposite.
4. A Different Angle
When the hatch opens, Kara's eyes sweep the interior, searching for Sam. He's there, face bloodied, but he moves all right. She shoves aside her relief and makes sure that Helo and the others are there, too. "C'mon, people, move!" she orders.
"About frakking time," Sam greets her as he moves past. "Did you stop for lunch on your way?"
"Hey, you're lucky I came at all," she retorts and moves back to the corridor. She keeps watch on her side, while Lee watches the opposite, as the others come out, noting with a flash of concern that Sharon's supporting Helo, who seems to be dizzy. When Sam bends down to pick up a gun off a fallen guard, he winces.
But then another group of people come around the corner. They're a mixed group of military and civilians, but all armed. The moment they recognize Cylons they open fire, and Kara's too busy shooting to push them back to wonder at minor injuries. Sam joins her to lay down cover fire.
It's a sound she hears with an odd clarity after another blast of gunfire -- a bullet hits the metal bulkhead behind her with a bang. She feels Sam jerk next to her. "Sam?"
"Frak," he swears sharply. "I'm okay." He lines up on one of a pair of attackers, while she drops the other one, giving them a moment's clearance. "Let's get the frak out of here."
"Move!" Lee snaps and starts herding them all down the aft corridor.
Sam takes a step to follow and halts. "Oh frakking gods," he gasps suddenly and his right hand goes to his stomach.
"Sam." She turns to see him gritting his teeth, face taut with pain. The sidearm slips from his fingers and falls back to the deck with a clang that makes her jump. It must be bad if he can't hold onto the weapon. He sways and she grabs his shoulder. "Whoa there. Let me see." She shoves his sweatshirt out of the way. "Damn it, Sam, where'd you learn to duck?" He's got matching wounds, front and back; the bullet punched right through, and she's worried what it hit since the exit wound's low and bleeding more heavily than the front. She clamps a hand over it tight, making him flinch. "You got hit."
"You got more brilliance to share?" he mutters. His face is already pale, making his eyes look too blue.
"Shut the hell up," she orders roughly and grabs him as he sags, pulling his arm over her shoulders.
Lee and Tigh hurry close and the others gather in, concerned. "Let's get to sickbay," Lee says.
"I'll take him," Tigh offers.
But Kara rejects that without needing to think about it. "I've got him," Kara declares. "You go get the Admiral and the ship."
"You go," Sam says and tries to pull away. "I'm fine on my own."
If he hadn't already been trembling she might have bought it, but he's going to pass out long before he gets to sickbay unless he has help. So she ignores the offer. "I've got him. Lee, get your father."
Tigh's look at Sam is worried, but after a glance at Caprica, he goes, ushering the others ahead of him. In a moment she and Sam are alone.
"C'mon," she pulls him toward sickbay. "Let's go find Cottle."
He leans heavily on her, but he moves. "You should've let Tigh do it," he says through gritted teeth. "Know you can't deal with the Cylon thing."
"Shut up," she orders him again. "I'm dealing just fine." And she is - she didn't even think of it until he mentioned it. As soon as his feet stumble on nothing and his breathing gets ragged, the fact dwindles back to irrelevance.
She smells blood and a glance shows that it's dampening the sweatshirt, sticking to him, and she can feel it wet against the arm she has around his back.
But he doesn't shut up, forcing out the words, as they make their halting way aft. "Sorry," he says. "You should know - I'm sorry -"
She doesn't want to hear apologies that sound suspiciously like last words. "Sam, shut the hell up and save your strength."
"Don't think - gonna matter- " he admits breathlessly, and the words hit like a slap in the face. He thinks he's dying.
"You're going to be fine," she insists, catching him with both arms as he slumps into her, and she tries to bodily shove him in the right direction. "One foot, then another, do it."
He tries and gets one more step. "Oh gods, Kara. Hurts. So dizzy."
His knees fold, dragging her down with him so they end up on the deck, with his long legs sprawled out and he's half on top of her. "Damn it!" She wriggles free, letting him down on his back, so he's looking up and panting with shallow breaths. "Sam!" She grabs his sweatshirt in both hands to pull his head and chest off the ground. He lets out a choked moan of protest. "Don't you frakking dare leave me."
His lips twist in a faint smile. "You did it first."
"Stop trying to be funny. You won't come back. So don't you die on me."
"Glad - you care."
She's going to snap a retort back, but his eyelids flutter, and she shakes him. "Hey. Don't do this, stay with me." But he lets out a sigh and his eyes slip shut, as his head drops to the side.
"Frak," she mutters and her left hand cups his cheek. His skin is cool to the touch and the front of his grey hoodie is maroon with the spreading bloodstain. She's got to get him to Cottle before he bleeds out.
Stupid frakkin' toaster. There's no resurrection any more, even if it worked for the Five in the first place.
She wraps both arms around his chest, painfully aware that there's no pressure on the wounds and they're leaving a trail of blood as she drags him. She's still got her weapon, thank the gods, when mutineers run around the corner and want to take him away. She picks them off, until she's out of ammo. A guard brings Romo Lampkin, and she holds her empty gun on the guard, as if she can shoot him with just the power of her will. But Lampkin helps in spite of himself, and together they carry Sam to sickbay.
When Sam's on the gurney, she grabs his hand. His fingers are like ice and limp in hers. She can't find the pulse in his wrist, even though she can see his lips quivering with his shallow, rapid breaths. She leans close, puts her lips to his ear, and whispers, "Don't you let go, Sam, don't you dare let go."
But she knows he's almost gone. Lords of Kobol, hear my prayer…
"We'll do what we can, Starbuck." Cottle's reassurance is brisk and then they wheel Sam away into the depths of sickbay, leaving her standing there, watching.
Her hands, her clothes, are covered in his blood and she can feel it drying as she stands there. She should go help take down Gaeta and Zarek and the rest of the bastards who've done this, but her feet won't move.
Her mind keeps whispering dark thoughts: if he doesn't make it, if he bleeds out, if I lose him, if I was too late, if I was too slow, if he dies…
"Glad you care" he'd said, sounding as if he hadn't been sure, and she realizes she gave him no cause to believe it, not lately. He doesn't know how her heart had pounded with fear as she'd run across the ship to keep Lee from killing him before Earth. She'd been in time then, but what if she wasn't now?
The announcement on the all-hands by the Admiral fills her with momentary relief. It's over. The mutiny's over.
But Cottle's still in surgery and there's no word. Tyrol comes to check on Sam and she has to admit she doesn't know anything.
Seconds pass with agonizing slowness, every one ticking past in half-time, winding her anxiety another notch.
"Surgery's good," Chief tries to comfort her. "If… he was gone, they'd come out and say."
"He's not dead!" she snarls. "He's fine. He's going to be fine." Her voice trembles only a little, and her hand goes up to her tag and the ring with it and tugs at it.
And time continues to crawl.
The hatch opens and Ishay emerges, looking briefly sour at the sight awaiting her. "He's in recovery, Starbuck. Doctor Cottle's waiting for you."
Tyrol's hand clasps her shoulder. "Told you so."
She's happy enough by the news she doesn't hit him for that, and hurries after Ishay.
Cottle's there, but she sees only Sam, lying flat on his back, as pale as the sheets. He's so utterly still that her heart lurches with fear that he's dead and she's too late. But then the beeps of the heart monitor and quiet breaths tell her he's alive, but she's not wiling to be totally relieved. Not when he's hooked up to more equipment than she thinks he should need, and he looks fragile, which isn't a word she's ever associated with Sam before. She glances at Cottle, who looks exhausted as he lights a cigarette.
"It was an unlucky hit," Cottle says, "I had to take out his kidney and his blood volume was so low he got away from me on the table twice. I've lost Cylons to that before - heart stops, they download, and no resuscitation works."
"So, you don't know if he's still in there?" she asks in a voice that wants to be strong, but emerges barely above a whisper. If he downloaded, there's nowhere to go anymore...
"No, no, he stirred a little earlier," Cottle reassures her. "He's still there."
He made it, she realizes with dizzying relief. He's damaged but he made it, and with the mutiny over, Sam will have time to recover. "Thank the gods. You can live with only one kidney, I know," she shrugs. "He'll be fine, right?"
"He should be, yes," Cottle says, and she should be reassured, but there's something in his words that puts a warning shiver down her back.
"More bleeding and infection are a possibility, with a wound like this," he tells her. "We'll keep a close eye on him. I've gotta do rounds."
"Can I -- can I stay?" she asks.
"Of course," he says, craggy face softening with kindness. "Then go change your clothes. The last thing he wants to wake up to is the smell of his own blood on you."
She nods, and Cottle and Ishay leave, pulling the curtain shut behind them.
Kara takes his near hand in hers, curving her fingers around his. "Hey," she whispers. "I'm here. Better late than never, right? I'm here, and you gotta wake up because I have something to tell you. Lots to tell you, actually." She wonders if the truth will make him run away like Leoben did, but she knows better; Sam doesn't run away, even when he probably should. "I see it now, I get it, I swear." Her thumb rubs the back of his hand gently and she lays her other hand over the middle of the tattoo on his arm, remembering what he'd tried to tell her on Demetrius. "You were right. And I'm sorry it took you bleeding all over me to understand that."
He doesn't wake until the next day, but she's there to watch as his eyelids flicker open. His gaze is bleary and drugged, but when she touches his cheek and he sees her, he smiles in recognition and his fingers tighten on hers.
"Hey baby," she murmurs. "Welcome back. Glad you stuck around."
The response takes a moment, pushing through the haze to emerge as a cracked whisper, "Not… going anywhere."
"Me neither," she promises and lifts his hand to her lips. His eyes close, as he sinks asleep again, but she stays.
5. A Different Miracle
Laura holds onto Bill's arm to reach the other end of sickbay, where Saul Tigh and Caprica are watching the ultrasound of their baby.
Laura is very glad she isn't Tigh, with the awkwardness of his wife's return from the dead and his child with Caprica Six, but he seems to handling it well enough, holding Caprica's hand while they both smile in joy at the picture Doctor Cottle is showing them.
Cottle notices her first. "Laura?"
Tigh shifts as if he intends to get up, but Bill forestalls him with a lifted hand.
"Madam President?" Caprica asks, her smile faltering into uncertainty.
"While we have you both here, and the doctor, too," Bill says, "we have a question." He glances at Laura and rests his other hand over hers in gentle encouragement.
"I… was wondering," she has to inhale a deep breath to find enough air to finish her thought. "You know my cancer's returned. And I was wondering if it was possible - if you would permit - if the child's cells could be used as a cure, as Hera's was."
Tigh and Caprica's eyes meet, in matching uncertainty. "I - I don't know," Caprica says finally. "That seems risky."
Cottle reassures her, "It wouldn't hurt him. We could draw cells from the umbilical cord."
Caprica nods, still looking uneasy. "I - That's good. But, you know Liam isn't Hera. He's not a hybrid. He's a full Cylon. It might not work."
They all look to Cottle, who shrugs. "Only one way to find out." Then he reassures them, with a pointed glance at Laura. "I'll only do it with your permission, Caprica."
Caprica looks at Saul, who pats her hand. "It's up to you," he says. "It might help, though. Give a little bit of life back, if we can."
She nods and slowly her smile spreads. "All right. We'll try." She cradles her rounded stomach in both hands. "He's as much a miracle as Hera. I think -- I believe -- it'll work."
It doesn't take long for Doctor Cottle to withdraw some fetal cells from the umbilical cord and test them against Laura's cancer cells.
It's as if a lion is culling out the sick from the herd. The Cylon cells strike with precision, taking out the malformed and broken cells like a hit squad.
Laura sits back from the display, impressed. "So it does work," she says to Cottle.
"Oh, it works. It works even better than Hera's fetal cells. It's really astonishing."
"Side effects?" she asks.
He gives her a look that suggests she has the same brain capacity as a field mouse. "How would I know? This has never happened before. This," he points at the screen and the busy cells on it, "will kill your cancer. Beyond that, the only thing I can tell you is if there are any ill-effects, those cells are resistant to almost everything. Once they're there, there's no getting rid of them."
"I see." She hesitates, to give herself time to think about it. But then she realizes there's nothing to think about. "All right. I'll do it."
Cottle's surprised. "So quick? You don't need a little time to consider it?"
"I've been thinking about it," she answers. "And I don’t have time to waste, do I? Do it."
It takes a few days, but all too soon, she's settled in the bed, with Bill at her side while Cottle readies the injection.
"You're sure about this?" Bill asks, but not as if he's trying to change her mind.
"I'm sure," she says and smiles at him. "You know if this works, you could be stuck with me a long time."
He smiles back and takes her hand. "I can handle it."
She's not afraid at all when Cottle gives her the injection. Even if this fails, she's fighting for life and that's what matters.
This new world is lush and beautiful. Laura smells the air and it's fresh and full of the scent of growing things that she hasn't really smelled since spring on Caprica, before the attacks.
She doesn't feel young again, but she does feel invigorated. Her hair has started to grow back, and her strength has returned. She leaves the Raptor on Bill's arm because she wants to hold it, not because she needs it.
Her eyes turn toward farther up the hill. A group of former mutineers are there looking, too, and she hopes that Felix Gaeta and the others will finally find some peace, even if they can't find it anywhere near the Cylons.
But Laura doesn't have that problem, not when she owes her life to them. Standing on Bill's other side are the Tighs and not far from them, Caprica and Baltar. Caprica's hand covers her stomach and she's smiling softly, as if imagining her child being the first born on this new world.
Beyond her, Sharon Valerii stands with Chief Tyrol, looking out at the horizon. Laura suspects that each other's forgiveness is all they truly need.
To Laura's left, Sam holds Kara's shoulder and her hand covers his. He still seems pale in the golden sunlight, but he's smiling at Kara and at their surroundings as if he can't believe they've made it this far.
But they're here. They're all here. Not everyone made it, but more survived than Laura ever expected on that terrible day the Colonies fell. She still doesn't know if she's the Dying Leader and she doesn't know how much of this happened because of her, but none of that matters. It happened. There's hard work to come, but for now, she's alive, and her people are alive. This world will be their new home.
Bill leans close and wraps an arm around her back. "What are you thinking?"
She leans her head into his shoulder and remembers the last planet they found. It had been cold and gray with death and despair, but this world is green, and the sun is brilliant and warm. The sky is the perfect blue of hope.
Smiling in contentment, she murmurs, "There's so much life."