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Things to Do on Galactica When You're Dead

For silveraspen
From lostinapapercup

Title: Things to Do on Galactica When You're Dead
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Rating: R
Author's Notes: This was originally intended to be a little lighter, but once the right inspiration hit, it had a mind of its own. It was a pleasure to work off of this prompt. Spoilers through the end of the series. (Heart-shaped confetti to in_the_blue for the beta.)

Denial.

Felix was warned about phantom pain, a phenomenon he'd already been familiar with. What he hasn't felt prepared for in any way is the itching. It's almost impossible for anything to engross him to the point where he can ignore it.

Thoughts otherwise on the limp body of the man Tom assaulted below, he reaches into the cuff of his prosthetic leg and earns the temporary flood of relief that only scratching can give. A wrench to the head for a man doing his job: despite Tom's reminders that this is a coup and of what they can expect as they see it through, even despite the fact that Deck Chief Laird wouldn't have been on their side, it still seems wrong.

He tries to think of it a different way. After how long they've run from the Cylons, how much they've endured, it can't be acceptable to side with them now. What Tom did bought them the time to carry out the rest of their plan. If he hadn't picked up the wrench, this could have ended before it even had a chance.

Hours later, faced with the bloodied bodies of the Quorum, he finds he can't muster any appreciation for what Tom has done. More death stains their hands now -- eleven more completely unnecessary deaths -- and he no longer senses justice on their side. For a full five minutes he's so astounded, so dismayed, that he's able to forget the itching of his leg.

(There's nothing right about this.)

He wanted to bring about a change that would mean an end to any alliances with the Cylons and hold both humans and Cylons responsible for their actions.

(He didn't want this.)

There's no comfort in Tom's words this time. All illusion that Zarek is the man he'd hoped fades away like a half-remembered dream after an early morning alarm, but he has to believe they can still do what they set out to do.

All the way back to Galactica he tells himself to believe it.

*

Anger.

Starbuck stares at Sam's flight jacket, at the Viper patch on the arm, finding it hard to believe he's already gone through his training and become a pilot. Her fingers catch the tag around his neck, rub over the "S. Anders" engraved into the metal, and for a moment doubt creeps into the space between heartbeats.

She hasn't slept since she got back and she feels it, but what sleep she could get wouldn't be restful.

Instead she waits, ushered from place to place, stared at and whispered about; instead, she's questioned.

The old man looks at her harder than he did back when she confessed that she should've failed Zak, harder than he did when she and the XO rained on everybody's parades after getting off New Caprica. Her story isn't holding up and she can't explain it any better than she already has, and her voice simmers with a barely controlled frustration.

He doesn't believe her.

Neither does the President, who's willing to ask a pilot to risk everything on a mission that's nothing but a leap of faith but refuses to believe the same pilot isn't a Cylon and can point the fleet toward Earth.

Tell us again, she's told, and her jaw clenches. She doesn't know how many times she can repeat the same godsdamned details. If they didn't make sense to anyone the first time around they won't magically make sense the fourth time. And how dumb would it be for any Cylon programming to kick in now, after all she's been through and all the Raiders she's shot down and all the Leobens she's killed? She's here and she's alive and she's not hurting anyone. Maybe her story needs some blanks filled in, but she is not a frakking Cylon and she didn't dream Earth.

What hurts worse than the repeated questions and hard gazes and general disbelief is seeing her own picture on the memorial wall, right where she told Lee she wanted it. It only feels like hours ago.

It's been half a day since she landed her Viper in Galactica's bay: here she is in the flesh, and she can't believe no one's taken her picture down yet. Not Lee, the only one who knew where she wanted it in the first place. Not even her own husband, who's welcomed her with open arms and fewer questions than anyone.

She slumps on a bench across the corridor from the photograph, positioned with Kat on its wing, and dares anyone who passes to tell her that she's any less alive or human than she's ever been.

*

Bargaining.

When Sam finally wakes up, feeling almost as though he's jolted himself out of a nice dream, he's amazed at what he recalls. He doesn't remember much after getting shot other than the warm wetness of blood and Kara's long hair falling on him, her arms around him, everything blurred by a searing pain. He doesn’t remember being brought to Cottle, but he remembers Earth.

He remembers writing music and playing a much simpler version of Pyramid and creating life with the help of his friends. He remembers a guitar in his hands, remembers Ellen and Saul happier, remembers Galen and Tory as a couple.

Here are the answers they've been looking for, all thanks to the bullet lodged in his brain. What were the odds?

He gets frustrated when a word that shouldn't trips him up. The feelings -- the meanings -- are there, but clumsy on his tongue; they don't always come out the way he wants. Meaning to call Kara his wife, he calls her his "love." She smiles crookedly in response, folds her fingers around his, and tells him that next time will be his turn to rescue her ass again, makes him promise he won't go around getting shot like this again any time soon.

He promises. He promises a second time, half-joking, when he asks her to put off the surgery to remove the bullet.

Another hour, another half hour. Another ten frakking minutes. What if the bullet is the only thing holding his memories together? What if he comes to and doesn't remember who he was? Or doesn't remember who he is? Or doesn't remember anything: not life on Earth or life on Caprica or even life on New Caprica? What if he doesn't even remember Kara?

She's his wife, and Galen and Tory and Ellen and Saul are like once dear friends he hasn't seen in far too long but he owes them. He has information and needs to share it. Not just out of old friendship and sentiment; they deserve to know who they are.

Kara can understand that.

When he's wheeled into surgery despite his protests, he reaches for her. Her eyes are liquid and her smile, typical bravery shadowed by uncharacteristic apology, disappears behind a surgical mask. It's the last thing he knows before anesthesia takes him.

*

Depression.

Blinking sleep out of her eyes, Sharon looks stiffly around her cell without bothering to straighten herself up. She's already discovered that it takes her fourteen paces to walk its width, seven to walk its length.

She's never been in a cell before and always thought they were even smaller. Starbuck is the one who'd know, and she has the sudden urge to ask her how it holds up in comparison to other cells.

But she's glad Starbuck wasn't here to see any of this. She's glad Helo didn't make it off Caprica to see this happen. She's glad Chief wasn't in the room to witness the shooting. She wishes fewer people had been.

The third bar from the right wall has a sharp little nub on its surface. Since she discovered it her fingers keep returning to it whenever they’re idle.

She scrapes a fingertip on it, unintentionally drawing a pinprick of blood that she studies more relentlessly than she ever studied a flight manual or school textbook. The part of her that's tired of screaming and tired of wondering why her is nearly impressed by it. She can't tell herself she's not a Cylon; the best alternative is that she's snapped, but she's not sure whose definition of "best" that would fit. Maybe Commander Adama's.

(Maybe Chief's.)

Maybe it should be hers. She could expect more leniency if she'd gone crazy from stress and grief than she can as a Cylon, as a traitor.

But she's still Boomer. She still bleeds. She's as human as she was before; she's been human enough to fool herself. She's the one who met Starbuck for the first time in the head and hurried to give her the room to continue puking her guts out in privacy. She's the same pilot who gets nervous about every frakking landing. She's still a good soldier horrified by what she did to her own commander.

She’s still a woman crushed by losing what she had with Galen.

When he's prodded into the cell with her, his face stony and his eyes evasive, she cries and doesn't know which of them it's for.

*

Acceptance.

Laura was in the last batch of people to leave Galactica. She rode to the planet's surface in a Raptor piloted by a subdued Kara Thrace, who'd claimed she wanted one more flight, and surrounded by the Agathon family, little Hera safe in her mother's arms, and Lee.

Gallant, Lee is the one who helps her out of her seat and off the Raptor, strolling slowly with her as though it's his job while his father says goodbye to the ship he's called home for so long. It makes her smile, a little amused even though she's less steady on her feet than she's ever been.

Not even on New Caprica did she have the pleasure of seeing so much vivid green. The planet must have tens of thousands of perfect spots for cabins. Fleetingly she wishes she could explore the possibilities herself, but she doesn't linger on the thought.

When you've been chased across a few years and space itself by such dire threats as Cylons and cancer you come to recognize your odds of survival. She's bested those odds several times over, and that's simply as close to winning as she can get.

A blanket is spread out on the grass for her to sit on and a breeze lilts through the air. She watches the leaves on trees dance, watches as Hera takes her parents' hands and walks through the field, watches Kara busying herself with unloading supplies and Lee moving from group to group with handshakes and smiles and hands clapped on backs. Despite her rasping breath, she feels positively feline as she basks in the sun’s warm rays, as though drifting in and out of consciousness with breaks only for stretching and shifting position might be a perfectly nice plan for the afternoon.

Bill doesn't keep her waiting too long. He dips to kiss her temple as they sit together, and as he finishes reading Searider Falcon to her, she realizes she's smiling again.

This is how she wants to go. With green grass beneath her and a gentle breeze wafting by and the sun shining down. With the book finished and Bill relaxed beside her and nothing to run from; with everything feeling so bright and vital.

She can't remember the last time her heart felt this full. When he turns and asks if she'd like a closer view of the wildlife, there isn't a single thing she'd enjoy more.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
in_the_blue
Sep. 14th, 2010 01:11 am (UTC)
I know as your beta I already got to read this, but all my comments still stand: this is criminally beautiful. Each snippet is so in-character that it hurts, because these are all hurtful small segments of larger stories, and each snippet is such a great look inside the thoughts of these characters. I'm a sucker for them all but particularly for the way you chose to end it, on Laura's note. Every time I read this I feel like I got dipped in BSG all over again, and the individual pieces of this story linger. They stick with me and I find myself thinking about them at odd random moments.

All of that bears repeating here. This story is masterfully done.
lostinapapercup
Sep. 14th, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)
Every time I read this I feel like I got dipped in BSG all over again, and the individual pieces of this story linger. They stick with me and I find myself thinking about them at odd random moments.

That's such a compliment. I'm so glad you like it and that it has that effect for you. And thank you so much for being my beta!
silveraspen
Sep. 14th, 2010 02:38 am (UTC)
I've discovered that it's hard, so very hard, to type through tears, but I have to try because every time I reread this fic I still cry over it, and I've lost count of how many times I've read it now.

It's beautiful. It's perfect. Pitch perfect, all the details and every nuance, so real that it slips between the pieces and scenes that unfolded on screen and rests among them with ease. I can see them all, it all fits, and I just -- yeah.

And the way you used the five stages of grief to frame it, the way there's joy and belief mixed in with the sorrow as well, it's so amazingly BSG that I can't even begin to articulate it.

Thank you, thank you, so, so VERY much. If I become more coherent I'll come back and write more!
lostinapapercup
Sep. 14th, 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I kept worrying that it was too sorrowful and that the prompt was too subtle throughout, so I'm just beyond thrilled that you like it. I wish I could save each of these characters from their canon deaths (perhaps, in a few cases, by going behind-the-scenes), but I have to say there was something cathartic about going through it all and ending with Laura's acceptance.

I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
batyatoon
Sep. 15th, 2010 12:09 am (UTC)
I love this so much. So, so much. I can't even.

You captured each character so perfectly. And using the stages of grief as a framing -- it could have been just five separate (but gorgeous) character notes, but that ties it together into a brilliant whole.

Bravo.
lostinapapercup
Sep. 15th, 2010 04:18 am (UTC)
*beams!* I'm so happy you like it.

I was especially intimidated by trying to write Gaeta for the first time, so I'm kind of overjoyed that you think each piece works well. Thank you so much for the compliments.
batyatoon
Sep. 15th, 2010 04:23 am (UTC)
I should tell you that Gaeta is kind of a favorite of mine. And I definitely feel you did him justice.

(Just. Denial. Ouch. *whimpers* That's him all right.)
lostinapapercup
Sep. 15th, 2010 04:31 am (UTC)
With good reason! He's a great character, poor Gaeta.

You've certainly made my day. Thank you!
deborah_judge
Apr. 17th, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
Here from the remix because I wanted to read the original first - and this is gorgeous. So much disillusionment, and characters have nothing to hold on to but themselves. I found the Gaeta one strangely hopeful, that at least he has some integrity left at this point. And I love Kara's "anyone who says I'm not me is getting their ass kicked." I like Sam thinking about the others of the final five as old friends and acting out of loyalty to them, that makes more sense than anything we were shown of his motivations. And sigh, Boomer. And sigh, Laura. Great fic!
lostinapapercup
Apr. 17th, 2012 09:37 pm (UTC)
Ah, this was such a nice surprise in my inbox! This story was one of my first BSG fics over 100 words, and I had a lot of fun in the process of picking out characters for each section and writing some of them for the first time.

I'm so happy you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading and taking the time to leave a comment!
rirenec
Apr. 19th, 2012 06:48 am (UTC)
Gosh, I've just read this before work and now am late :/ I wanted to read it before the remix--and well--wanted to read more of your work in gen. This is fantastic. I love the little scenes and their insights to each of them. Okay, will come back with more, but lovely. Just lovely.
lostinapapercup
Apr. 19th, 2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
I didn't actually expect anyone to wander over and read this, so I'm beyond thrilled that you did and enjoyed it. Thank you so much!
lanalucy
Jun. 29th, 2014 04:22 am (UTC)
I love Anger and Bargaining.

Wonderful.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )