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touch, taste, feel.

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I. Before

Roslin smoothes her hands on her skirt. Gods, she is sick of skirt suits. What she wouldn’t give for a pair of pants, a shirt that didn’t button or have a matching jacket. For the thousandth time, she wishes she had packed more when she left Caprica.

Still, she is the president, and she has nothing but respect for the office, even if it’s no longer president of the Colonies, but of a ragtag fleet of less than 50,000 humans that were somehow her family. Or at least, her responsibility.

The marines at the door barely notice her. Or acknowledge her; at least, she guesses they notice almost everything.

“I’d like to see the prisoner, please.” She looks the one on the right in the eye. He doesn’t blink. The one on the left moves to open the door. “And I’d like to be left alone, please.”

“I don’t think that is a good idea, sir.”

Roslin smiles at him. “I’ll knock when I’m through.” She walks through the door with an authority she doesn’t really feel. Truth be told, the Cylons make her a bit nervous. They frak with you for fun (watch your language, Laura) and this one hates her a little. Maybe a lot. Maybe the marines have a point. Lt. Agathon did say she was acting borderline suicidal. Which would be a problem. Adama had definitely convinced her that Sharon was a military asset. And perhaps, later, a political one as well.

Sharon is lying on her bed, her blanket folded and pulled close to her chest. She looks small, defeated. Adama’s secret weapon.

“Hello, Sharon.” Roslin uses her name purposefully. She looks around for a chair, but the only one is across the cell. She decides to stand, shifting her weight.

There is no response. Roslin moves closer. “I just came to see how you were doing. Everyone’s worried about you.”

Sharon snorts derisively. “Sure they are. Worried I’ll turn on them now that you’ve killed my baby.”

Roslin stares at the wall. She was so willing to kill the baby, Hera, Isis, whatever they called it, blood of her blood.

“You named her Hera. The great mother.” She tries to say something.

“She was the beginning.”

Roslin pauses. If she hadn’t been dying, there would have been no Hera to name, no Hera to begin with. This would all be what ifs and hypotheses.

Sharon sounds like she’s choking, her flat belly rising and falling in an irregular rhythm. “You murdered her. You killed my baby.”

“You heard Doc Cottle. Her lungs weren’t strong enough. It wasn’t anyone’s doing, Sharon, she just wasn’t made for this world. Maybe being a hybrid made her – ”

Sharon is up in an instant; before Roslin knows what is happening, she is thrown against the wall, her wrists pinned above her head. She thinks about the Marines. She wonders if they could hear her scream. She whispers.

“How did you think this would work? The crew of Galactica shot you. Only Adama’s basic grace keeps you alive. You and Helo would happily raise your hybrid child in this crappy little cell?”

Sharon’s eyes are dark. “My baby saved your life. I have saved your life – countless times. Doesn’t that mean anything?”

“You’re still alive, aren’t you?”

Sharon’s right hand is hard against Roslin’s wrists. Roslin can’t focus on anything except her wrists, the sharp pain from the cold metal, Sharon’s warm tight hand. Roslin’s feet slip, and she gasps. Sharon’s left hand catches her hip and Roslin doesn’t fall.

She breathes deeply, and something in the room shifts. Sharon’s close to her, very close. Roslin closes her eyes.

“Have you forgotten what it’s like to feel? To be in love?” Sharon traces Roslin’s arm with her free hand. Roslin trembles. “Helo and I love each other. Hera was a product of our love.” It sounds like a Cylon line, but Roslin doesn’t say anything. She wills the inner politician to stop, to shut up. She wonders how far she’ll let this go.

Sharon’s hand moves up to Roslin’s neck. “You’ve never had a child. Carried it in your body. Felt it grow within you.” And now her hand is on Roslin’s belly, un-tucking her proper button-down shirt, sliding cool fingers on her skin. “When’s the last time you were kissed?”

And Roslin can’t talk, can’t respond. So Sharon kisses her, and Roslin gasps into her mouth. She expects something metallic, harsh, but Sharon is sweet and soft. She is new.

“How can you feel?” Roslin manages. “You’re a machine.”

Sharon releases Roslin’s wrists in order to use both hands. “I can hear,” she says, tongue along Roslin’s ear. “I can smell,” she says, “and see,” she says, hands on Roslin’s breast. “Taste,” she says, “touch,” she says, nose near Roslin’s ear. “I can feel,” she says, and Roslin is motionless. She is afraid to breathe. Sharon moves to lift Roslin’s skirt, and something inside her snaps.

She stands up straight and grabs Sharon’s arms. “Stop.” She takes a deep breath. “Stop it. Right now. I am the President of the Colonies, and you,” she lets go of Sharon, “You’re just a machine.”

She turns to leave the cell. Sharon grabs her arm. “God is love, Laura.” Roslin bangs on the door. “God is love.”

The marines open the hatch and Sharon lets go. Roslin walks through, careful to look composed. She brushes a hand over her lips. They frak with your mind, she thinks.

She wonders.

One Year Later

II. After

The tent flap opens. One of the tall blonde Cylons walks in, model number six, she’s learned, arms folded around a wool blanket. Laura sits up, startled, in bed. She clutches the sheet ineffectively to her chest – she is fully covered. It’s so cold on New Caprica, she sleeps in her sweater.

“Hello, Laura.” Laura doesn’t question how the Cylon knows who she is. She’s stopped questioning a lot about the Cylons – no, she questions all the time, but she’s learned to push the thoughts away. She’s learned things will be revealed to her. And she’s not the president anymore. It is not her responsibility.

(She talks things over with Captain Thrace and Chief Tyrol, and sometimes Colonel Tigh. Baltar sits on Colonial One on the hill and they try to plot. She wonders about the Adamas. She prays.)

The Cylon sits on the edge of the bed. “I brought you another blanket. I know you get cold.”

Laura stares at her. She is strikingly beautiful. “Thank you. It does get rather chilly.”

“They call me Caprica.” Laura is startled again for a moment. She’s heard of this Cylon. Everyone has heard of this Cylon. This is the Cylon with control, the only one with a name. The name of her former home. The Cylons revered this particular model who was the lynchpin in the destruction of humanity. (Captain Thrace had plans to take her out first, then build on the chaos.)

She saw this Cylon with Baltar, the day of the attacks, on the promenade at River Walk. She knows they are collaborating again. She does not envy Baltar, but she hates him.

As if reading her thoughts, the Cylon, (Caprica, Laura corrects herself), remarks, “He’s not exactly a leader, is he?”

Laura gets the sense Caprica has grown older during the occupation, if that is something Cylons can do. It can’t be easy, leading a whole population of . . . machines. At least, not in the midst of an occupation. Laura has learned to trust that Caprica wants to avoid bloodshed, but she is one Cylon among thousands. There have already been “incidents”. The number on her white board, no longer as accurate as with Billy, the one remnant of her presidency, shows dwindling numbers.

For a moment, she feels sorry for Baltar. “It can’t be easy.”

“But you think you would do a better job.”

“We wouldn’t be here if I had my way.”

“Ah yes, you humans with your elections.” Caprica laughs softly. “The tendency toward self-destruction in the human race really is outstanding.”

Laura rushes to defend her race, but she’s short on hope these days. She shrugs instead. She is tired.

“Pardon my rudeness, but why are you here?”

Caprica sits at the end of the bed, narrowly missing Laura’s feet. “You still have power.”

This is not what Laura wants to talk about. They’re too close.

“The man you love has all the power.”

Caprica takes the bait. “He’s changed. He doesn’t care about – well, anything.”

Laura snorts. “He cares about himself.”

“He doesn’t care about me.” And this quiet admission almost breaks Laura’s heart, and she wonders who she’s become.

She reaches out and grasps the Cylon’s hand. It is surprisingly warm, life-like. “I want to thank you for not wiping the human race off the face of the universe.”

Caprica smiles and lays a hand on Laura’s face. “The pleasure is all mine.” Her blue eyes cloud over for a moment, and Laura wonders if she’s receiving some transmission or information, but it’s over in an instant and Laura is left with a deep blue stare. She stares back, uncertain.

And then, for the second time in her life, she’s being kissed by a Cylon, and she’s still surprised at the warmth and realness of the touch, the taste of lips, the feeling in her belly.

Caprica doesn’t hesitate, clearly knows what she is doing. Sharon on Galactica told her that this model was built for seduction, and Laura doesn’t doubt it. Caprica knows exactly what she’s doing, leaning forward into the kiss, hands on Laura’s breasts. And then the sweater is on the hard, dirty floor and Laura doesn’t remember the last time she took it off other than to bathe. Caprica’s mouth is on her neck, tongue trailing downward, and Laura gasps.

She makes a move to remove Caprica’s jacket, but Caprica grabs her wrists and says, “Not this time.” Caprica smiles and kisses her again. She pulls the sheets and blankets away from Laura’s body, and easily removes her heavy clothing. The air is frigid and Laura’s bare skin prickles. Caprica’s hands and mouth are everywhere at once, and Laura wonders how she learned how to do this, how to touch this way, who wrote this program. (Sheisnotrealsheisnotrealsheisnotreal)

Caprica grins and keeps her eyes on Laura’s as she moves down Laura’s body. Laura tries to smile back, but she’s fighting to keep her breath regular. It’s a losing battle, she realizes, as soon as Caprica’s breath is on her clit, and Caprica’s fingers are tight on her thighs. “Just breathe,” Caprica says, and Laura could say no, could push her away, but why? What does she have to lose here, on New Caprica, where the sun never shines and the rain never washes anything away?

So she breathes in, feels Caprica’s tongue flick her clit, and then Laura’s seeing and feeling circles, circles behind her eyelids, circles on her skin, circles in the sky (everything comes full circle), and she’s breathing, breathing. She doesn’t remember the last time – it must have been with Richard, and that was an apocalypse and resurrection ago. A life ago. And this machine knows her, knows her somehow, and if she thinks too hard she’ll be afraid, so she just feels, runs her hands through Caprica’s pale hair, and gasps.

Laura’s on the edge, Caprica’s moving, her fingers working fast, then slow, then fast, and Caprica chooses that moment to whisper in Laura’s ear, “How many of you are there?”

Even in Laura’s haze, she knows Caprica is talking about the Resistance, some inner politician waking up from a deep sleep, warning her.

“I,” she tries to sound coherent, “don’t know what you’re talking about it.”

Caprica laughs, and Laura can’t decide if it’s harsh or not, just wants Caprica’s fingers to keep doing exactly what they’re doing. “You know exactly how many.” Three of Caprica’s fingers inside her, thumb against her clit, and Laura’s thinking she can’t even count properly. Protective instincts kick in and she pushes all the names and tent numbers out of her head, somewhere in the recesses of her mind where she won’t by accident misspeak and reveal something.

Laura does have power, perhaps more than Caprica is counting on, and Laura won’t break. She isn’t Baltar; she isn’t the person this machine fell in love with. She knows she’s being used, but as soon as Caprica says, “Frak this,” and goes down on her, she doesn’t care. If asked at this moment, she would let herself be used all day long, forget the Resistance, forget the hard fight. Laura is alive, feeling all the way to the tips of her fingers and toes, trembling and tingling with desire. She knows this is a machine, and she doesn’t care, because she is feeling, she is alive, so alive.

“Oh, gods, yes, yes,” and Laura arches her back into Caprica’s hand and mouth. For a minute there is nothing but intense darkness, stars behind her eyelids. And then she’s back, back on New Caprica, naked in the chilly mist, with a Cylon looking at her expectantly.

Caprica licks her fingers, all the while watching Laura carefully. “We can feel, Laura.” Somehow, Laura doesn’t doubt it. “And despite everything, I love him.”

She’ll be back, Laura has no doubt. The Cylon wants something, and Laura has a feeling she is not used to being opposed. But Laura has faced more than she could have ever imagined, and triumphed. Laura is not the president, but she’s leading the Resistance, and she still has her whiteboard.

“God is love, Laura.” Caprica stands and moves to the tent flap. “Remember, God is love.”

And then she is gone.

Laura looks at her warm clothes strewn around the room. She grabs her sheet, and the extra blanket the Cylon brought, and pulls them tight across her body. She lies down, and closes her eyes. She is cold, she is tired.

But she’s alive, and she feels, and she’s part of something. For the moment, it’s enough.

(Just barely.)