Sharon surveyed her body, taking inventory of the image reflected in the mirror, of the physical changes she'd gone through – the abdomen which no longer bore the marks of pregnancy or the scars of a surgical childbirth, the breasts that had never been full with milk, the shoulder covered with smooth, golden skin that had never been scarred by a bullet or its aftermath.
The mirror reflected her image with pristine clarity; it hid nothing, and yet the image it reflected was flawed.
Sharon brushed the tips of her fingers over the smooth skin of her shoulder and wondered what Karl thought, felt when he touched her now. He'd used to trace gentle patterns across the scars he'd given her, made of them something to cherish; now those scars were gone, erased as though they'd never been.
She still felt the pain of that shot, a shot that had caused her more physical and emotional hurt than the one that had literally taken her through the heart just a few weeks ago. Karl's face when he'd shot her in the streets of Delphi… His eyes had been desperate, filled with fear and a hatred that she'd thought was directed at her, but that he'd later told her had been directed only at himself.
A splash of blue and green and violet lying on the bed drew her gaze from the body that no longer felt like hers to the dress Maggie had loaned her for the evening. She and Karl were joining Kara and Sam in a couple of hours to celebrate Karl's return to active flight status and Sharon wanted to wear something feminine, for a change. She wanted to feel the swish of soft fabric against her calves as she walked, the butterfly touch when she dragged Karl onto the dance floor.
Smiling, she returned to her reflection. At least my eyes still look the same, she thought. Resurrection of the body couldn't erase what was in her mind and heart and soul.
She turned her back on the mirror and took the couple of steps necessary to reach the bureau for a bra and underwear. Her still-wet hair swung cool against her neck and shoulders as she dropped the dress over her head and let it fall into place under its own weight.
Hera was still in Galactica's daycare, where she had been since Karl had dropped her off on his way to the CIC for a half-shift. Sharon had checked on her between afternoon shuttle runs from Galactica to Colonial One; three runs, each one just as monotonous as the one that preceded it.
She was at the closet, looking through Karl's civilian clothes to lay something out for him, when the hatch opened. "Hey, babe," she called. No one but Karl had the code.
There was no response and Sharon leaned out beyond the edge of the closet door; the look on his face brought her rapidly past it as she hurried over to him, her heart in her throat.
"Karl, what's wrong?"
He didn't reply, didn't appear to hear her, but then he looked at her, seeming surprised that she was there. His eyes were wide, his face pale, and when she took one ice-cold hand in hers, she discovered that he was shaking. His voice was just above a whisper when he finally spoke.
Not knowing what had happened, only that it was bad, Sharon led him to their bed. She pulled him down beside her, lifted a hand to brush her fingers along his cheek, but then let it drop to her lap in the face of the desolation in his eyes.
"Who's gone, Karl?" She'd never seen him like this. Sharon was frightened. Had something happened to Hera?
Karl swallowed hard, closed his eyes as if to shut out pain, and after several seconds that stretched into infinity, said, "Kara." Nothing else, just her name.
Sharon couldn't make sense of it, couldn't reconcile the few words he'd said with the way he looked, acted. "Kara's gone where, Karl?" A sense of dread built inside her.
"She's dead, Sharon. Kara's dead." And still his voice was quiet, almost lifeless. The words still made no sense – there wasn't another human in existence that was as alive as Kara Thrace – but she suddenly realized that Karl shook with the effort to keep from howling in grief and rage. This must have been what he'd looked like to Adama, to the marines who'd come for him after he'd shot her, after he'd killed her body so that she could bring their daughter back.
His words finally sank in, hit her in the gut with all the force of a nuclear warhead.
Sharon stood, suddenly needing to move. Karl remained on their bed, still and pale as a creature carved from marble.
Her momentum carried her back to the closet. For an instant, Sharon wanted to burrow into the clothes that hung there and hide away. Dead. Dead? How can she be dead? Her vision blurred and she blinked to clear it.
Her breaths grew short and rapid, harsh. She whirled away from the closet, took a step toward Karl, a statue on their bed, but then abruptly turned, ran for the still-open hatch, ran through it, bare feet slapping against the rough deck. She ran, soft fabric tickling at the skin of her legs, not caring where she went, who she ran past or over, concentrating only on the physical act, air sucked into lungs and the pumping of muscles.
She didn't stop running until she rounded a corner, arriving at the one place aboard the old battlestar that she'd never thought she'd return to of her own volition – her old cell in the brig. The cell that now housed one of her sisters, a prisoner as Sharon herself had been for so long.
The marine corporal guarding Six stood when Sharon entered and stopped just inside the main hatch. He quickly took in the dress she wore, her wet hair, her bare feet.
"Sir?" He seemed to recognize her but then she thought, Of course he recognizes me. How many Cylons are there aboard Galactica? Sharon straightened, brought herself back under some semblance of control.
"I need to talk to your prisoner."
"I'm sorry, sir, but I have orders—"
She cut him off. "You can lock the door behind me," she told him, stepping carefully toward the cell – Caprica's now, not hers. "I have to speak to her."
Something in her voice or her face must have told him whatever he needed to know. Sharon couldn't fathom why, but he didn't protest further, merely led her over to the cell door, unlocked it, stepped aside for her to enter.
Caprica gracefully unfolded long legs and stood, warily facing both Sharon and the marine. She said nothing. The marine pulled the door shut behind Sharon and she heard the clang of the lock as he secured it behind her.
She'd been here before, locked in the cell with Caprica Six, but that had been different; Sharon had been following orders, verbally probing her fellow Cylon while others had watched and listened, trying to determine if she followed an agenda other than that which she'd presented to the humans.
"Why are you here?" Caprica asked, still wary, but with hints of both curiosity and confusion in her voice. Her glance flickered past Sharon as she checked on the position of the guard before settling on Sharon's face. Caprica frowned.
"I…" Sharon dropped her eyes to the deck. "I don't know. I don't know why I'm here." Her voice broke on the last word. She suddenly felt more vulnerable than at any other time in her life. Even when she'd told Karl that she was pregnant, arguably the last thing he would have ever wanted to hear, she hadn't felt this naked or alone; she'd known that he wouldn't shut her out entirely, but with Six…
She met the other Cylon's gaze and before Caprica could mask it, Sharon saw her own vulnerability reflected in those icy eyes, the loneliness that she knew Caprica experienced, that Sharon had experienced when she'd taken herself off the grid. And she recognized that that was why she was here.
Caprica sank back down onto the thin mattress, the scratchy Fleet-issue blanket, and watched Sharon. Images of Kara Thrace ghosted through Sharon's mind, of card games and CAPs and Kara's raucous laughter. The unshed tears burned.
As if in a dream, Sharon dropped slowly to the deck at Caprica's feet. She turned and leaned her shoulders against the metal frame of the bed, wrapped her arms around her drawn-up knees and stared at a spot between her feet.
"They're so… fragile," Sharon began. The word seemed so wrong, when she used it in conjunction with Kara Thrace, Karl Agathon, William Adama, and yet… "When they die, they die." She felt Caprica shift behind her and she continued on, her voice a whisper, but she knew Caprica heard every word. "You and I both know what it is to love them, to give up everything for them." Sharon wondered if what she said was being recorded, realized that she didn't care.
A sharp intake of breath above her, then, "Not Hera…"
Sharon shook her head. "Not Hera." She wouldn't tell her who; it didn't matter who, not to Caprica, not so long as it wasn't Sharon's little girl. "She's dead and it hurts, but—" Her voice, a strained whisper, didn't sound like hers. "But what if was him. Oh, God, what if it had been him." The tears finally fell, and Sharon let them. She rested her cheek on the bare skin of her arm.
Kara's dead, but it could so easily have been Karl, if not today then tomorrow or the day after or…
A tentative hand touched Sharon's shoulder. When she didn't move away, didn't protest, Caprica's touch became more sure as she gently stroked Sharon's hair. Nothing more. Just a light, soothing touch. Neither of them spoke and after a time, Caprica's hand stilled, came to rest on Sharon's shoulder, a silent offer of comfort.
Sharon paused at the end of the corridor. The air in this part of the ship felt different, somehow thicker, accompanied by an underlying scent of incense. The lights seemed less bright as though to give a greater presence to the lit candles along the path; that candlelight flickered and danced, combining with the artificial lights to give the passageway a life of its own. The hundreds of photographs tacked to every available vertical surface seemed to move, shifting and changing, the effect unsettling.
She unzipped her flight suit and pulled the collar away from her skin. Slipping her hand into an inside pocket, Sharon took hold of the photo she had carried for the last few days, never quite able to find the right time to come here and add it to the others that lined and defined the hall of remembrance. Or, to be honest, not willing to take the time, as though avoiding this self-appointed task would somehow make what had happened less real.
Two years ago, death was little more than an idea with which she was familiar, but that had nothing directly to do with her. Cylons could experience a physical death, but they never really died. There was discomfort, even pain, but as she'd told Kara, death was just another learning experience.
That was before Hera.
Even now, Sharon didn't have a clear memory of the day they'd told her – lied to her – that Hera was dead. She remembered the words, the way Cottle wouldn't meet her eyes, and she remembered the pain and grief clear in Karl's voice when he'd touched her shoulder and tried to calm her. For days after that, everything was hazy, couched in a red fog of rage and hatred and a pain unlike anything she'd ever experienced.
Losing Kara was nothing like that, but there was a hole in her life, just the same.
With a deep breath, held and then released, she stepped into the corridor. The steady hum of air scrubbers faded into the background the further she went, as though to give the dead that surrounded her a measure of peace. It was only her imagination, but still, she shivered.
She walked among those who had died in the initial attack on the Colonies, along with those daughters and sons who had died since. A flat surface on which were arranged a dozen white candles was draped in cloth that shimmered copper and bronze in the warm light. One picture tacked to the bulkhead caught Sharon's attention and held it – a young boy, missing one of his front teeth, laughing as a wriggling puppy washed his face with its tongue. She frowned, reached out to touch the slick paper with one finger. Like Starbuck, this child was gone, never to return.
Sharon studied the photograph she held in her hands. Kara Thrace and Sharon Valerii grinned up at her, each with an arm slung around the other's shoulders. A crowded market square and a huge bronze fountain depicting Bacchus pouring wine for the masses made up the background of the shot. Boomer's hand was lifted to swipe at the strands of hair that had blown into her eyes.
Karl had found the photograph, hidden among his things, and had told her the story behind it. She hadn't reminded him that she remembered that day as well as he did, from Boomer's memories, because she'd wanted to hear about it from his perspective. It had been Colonial Day four years before, the last before everything had changed. Boomer had only recently been assigned to Galactica and had gone planetside with Starbuck and Helo to the grand celebration. It had been one hell of a party and had ended with a bang, at least for Boomer -- that night was the first time she and the Chief had made love.
Sharon had kept the picture. From the first, she'd intended to bring it here. Kara was dead, but, in a way, so was Boomer. They had been the best of friends on that day, more than four years ago; it was right that both friends should have a home in this place of the dead.
While she studied the other photographs on the wall, looking for an appropriate place for Starbuck and Boomer, she realized that she was no longer alone. At the far end of the passage stood a man in fatigues, his stance very much like hers as he stared at a photograph that he held in both hands.
Apollo hadn't noticed her yet, wrapped up as he was in his own memories, and Sharon slipped the picture back into a pocket before quietly leaving. She wanted neither to intrude on Apollo's grief nor to engage in awkward conversation with him. That and the sudden need to hold her daughter, to kiss her husband. She'd just hang on to the picture for a while longer.