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10 November 2009 @ 01:33 pm
The Thread of Ariadne, Ch. 2  
Chapter Two






Thea woke, becoming quickly aware of the gasping breaths and shaking of the bed. She turned to find Sam, flat on his back, all tangled in the sheet in the middle of another nightmare.

She gripped his shoulder and shook him once. "Sam, wake up. It's a dream."

He jerked and drew in harsh pants as if he'd been suffocating. He stared blankly up at the ceiling, trembling. "It's okay," she whispered, caressing the side of his face. "Sam. You're here, you're safe."

He turned toward her and clutched at her, as if looking for solid ground. He shut his eyes, but not before she had seen the raw fear still there. Her touch was gentle, running her fingers through his damp hair and down his back, as she murmured to him. Eventually it worked, and she soothed him back to sleep.

But her anger kept her awake. Her brothers and sisters had done this: Ones, Fives, and Threes had taken this strong man and broken him, and she was never going to forgive them for it. But even her anger at them was a pale shadow of her feelings for him. The others saw only the prophet, but she knew him. She loved him, all of him, from the way he felt under her hands to the way he rolled his eyes when someone was being stupid. And because she loved him, she was afraid of these persistent nightmares that tore at his sleep. She was afraid the plan for him to take chamalla would go terribly wrong.

She lay sleepless beside him, projecting her usual serene forest, but it didn't help.

Fear fluttered in her stomach at the thought of his death or worse. Chamalla was potent, and she had read stories of oracles who fell into their visions and never came out.

But she had to let him follow his path; that was the worst part. She loved him but she couldn't protect him. The best she could do, it seemed, was try to keep him together and pray that God would spare him from further suffering.

She listened to his quiet breathing and kissed his cheek and shoulder, feeling an upwelling of love for him, an almost physical wave rising in her heart and the pit of her stomach and spreading through her body like a beam of light, shining through her whole body and making tears spring to her eyes at the sudden outpouring of emotion.

It faded after a moment, but didn't quite go away, and she stared at Sam's unconscious face. "What have you done to me?" she whispered in wonder.

Her fingers rested on the cord of the dog tags he wouldn't remove, and for the first time, she didn't feel jealous or want to take them off. Beyond that new acceptance, she felt as if she'd just... grown.

Something had changed in her. She had taken another step on her own journey. Wherever Sam was leading her, it felt... wonderful.


* * *

Sam took a pinch of the powder and put it on his tongue. The acrid bitterness made his face twist up and he coughed. "Gods, that stuff tastes worse than I remember." Water did little to chase the aftertaste away.

Thea watched him carefully, a little curious but mostly in concern. When nothing happened and he reached for more, she pulled the bag out of his reach. "No. That's enough. Whether you get a vision or not, no more."

He sat back in the chair, put his palms flat on the table, and waited. After a few minutes of silence, he smiled awkwardly at her. "Nothing. This was a waste of time."

Pushing back his chair, he stood up.

And his surroundings shifted.

He was outside on the surface of a planet. The sky was a deep blue with fluffy white clouds, and he stood in a wide, damp meadow, with green hills on the horizon all around. The sun was warm on his back and head as he stood there, and he could hear the sound of wings flapping above him.

He glanced up to see a white bird flying high in the sky and turned to follow its path. When his gaze came back down, he saw Kara. She was wearing a C-Bucs warm-up jacket over her BDUs, and it gave him a pang of nostalgia for when they'd been on Caprica. "Kara!" He grinned at her and took two steps closer, intending to grab her in his arms and kiss her until neither of them could breathe.

She looked annoyed and stayed where she was. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Startled by the cool reception, he stopped. "I -- Kara? I'm looking for the path to Earth."

She folded her arms and gave him Kara's disgruntled glare. "I gave you all you need."

At which point he realized she wasn't 'his' Kara at all, but that vision he'd seen before in the cell.

He snorted. "The lion? You gave me the lion? What the frak does that mean? There are a million things in the database it could refer to. Or none of them at all. How can I know which one is right? I need more."

"You have enough."

"No, I don't. You're making it into a riddle, but why? You know I'm a ball player, I'm not going to solve riddles. Just tell me."

She snapped at him, "Samuel Theseus Anders, what is the first tenet of faith? 'This is not all that we are'. And you are so much more than 'a ball player.'"

He rolled his eyes. "Okay, okay, I'm a pyramid playing Cylon, but that doesn't make me omniscient. I still don't understand what the lion means."

"Would you think?" she demanded and let out a huff of breath.

"Could you help?" he returned, just as annoyed and frustrated. "Why all the cryptic bullshit?"

She stiffened and her eyes grew cold. "I shouldn't be here at all," she said, in a low voice. "I shouldn't help you. But if you're going to be ungrateful... "

"No, I'm sorry, I'm grateful for your help," he said hastily. "Really, I am. But why can't you tell me the answer?"

Her gaze traveled across the meadow, and when he looked, he realized there were blocks of masonry and broken columns underneath the vegetation. "I can't give you your destiny, Sam. If I tell you what to do, it's not your choice anymore."

He heaved a sigh. "So I can't have another hint about where to go?"

She hesitated, considering for a long moment, then she grinned with a touch of Kara's reckless spirit. "Aw, how am I supposed to resist those eyes? Fine. This," she waved a hand all around at their surroundings, "is your clue."

"Is this Earth?" he asked, though that didn't quite feel right. He'd known Earth when it appeared in his visions before.

"Kobol," she answered. "As it is today. They say... the Lords of Kobol created humans here, in their image."

"Scripture?" he asked incredulously. "You're quoting me the Sacred Scrolls?"

"Pythia had some things correct," she said and started walking through the green. Sam had no choice but to follow her. He realized after a moment they were headed toward a ruin with a few standing columns, surrounded by green-covered humps.

She stopped between the columns and turned back to face him. The sunlight was bright behind her, haloing her body, and she stretched out her hands to either side, fingers brushing the columns.

"All this has happened before..." she said.

By rote, he finished it, "And all this will happen again." He climbed up on the stone to stand before her.

She shook her head. "It doesn't have to, Sam. It started here in ages past, but the circle can stop. Turn around."

Reluctant to turn from her, he did. His lips parted in wonder at the sight -- the broad, tree-lined boulevard, the grand stone buildings, the vast water sculpture at the far end of the street, the people strolling along.... It was beautiful.

Then during one blink it changed - the color and beauty of life turned into the gray of war. There was only one bare, ragged tree left, the boulevard was cratered and the grand buildings were ruined. There were bodies crumpled in the road and half-hidden in the rubble.

He stared in horror. This was Caprica all over again -- war and death and destruction.

His eyes caught a distant movement along the shattered street. There was someone alive, after all. Sam watched as a lone man darted from fallen columns to partial walls, holding a weapon and looking around for enemies with a desperate wariness that Sam remembered feeling from Caprica.

Kara wrapped her arms around his waist and snuggled up behind him, peering over his shoulder to watch also. She whispered in his ear, "Do you want to end it?"

When he tried to turn to look at her and ask what she was talking about, Kobol vanished.


He blinked again. He was sitting at the table on the baseship again, with Thea watching him intently.

His heart was pounding and his mouth was bone dry. He tried to talk, and could only manage, gasping, "Kobol."

The vision flashed through him again - Kobol, Kara, the ruin - and he shook his head trying to get the images out.

She squeezed his hands. "Breathe," she coaxed him. "Take a moment and breathe, Sam."

She let go with one hand and gently smoothed his hair, as he closed his eyes and took deep breaths to calm down. He grabbed the cup and gulped water, but it didn't help the cottony feeling of his mouth.

"You saw Kobol?" she prompted after he was more himself again.

"As it was. A long time ago."

Kobol. Kara, the real Kara, had told him they'd found the Tomb of Athena from clues in Pythia. That was where she'd put the Arrow that unlocked the star map of Earth.

Thea shook her head in puzzlement. "The Thirteenth Tribe left from Kobol - we know that. What does that have to do with a lion? How does that help us?"

He held up a hand to quiet her for a moment, thinking. His first foster mother after the disaster had made him go to religious school and study the Scrolls, appalled by how little he'd known. He'd memorized a lot of it, through sheer rote repetition, and now that he was himself being guided by visions, it seemed a whole lot less stupid than it had. So he stared at the top of the table, trying to think back to what Pythia had said about the Thirteenth Tribe's exodus from Kobol.

The words came back immediately, and he wanted to kick himself. No wonder "Kara" had been annoyed with him. It was right there.

He said aloud, quoting, "'And the caravan of the heavens was watched over by a great lion with a mighty blinking eye, red and blue'."

She frowned in confusion. "That sounds like the Scrolls?"

"Book of Pythia. I should've remembered. It's gotta be some kind of star or something visible from Kobol. Look for something that might appear to blink, maybe a double star system or a pulsar." When she gave him a curious look at the astronomical knowledge he'd just betrayed, he gave a sheepish grin. "I didn't learn only double corner pass plays at university."

"I'm never falling for the dumb jock act again," Thea warned playfully, and padded barefoot across the room to the wall. She put a hand into the datastream and stood there for a moment, searching.

Then a portion of the red stream turned black and an image formed of a bright colored nebula with black dust forming a shape in the middle. "This nebula has no name in the Colonial database," she told him, "but it has two pulsars, one redder and hotter than the other. Is it me, or does it look a bit like a lion's head?"

He saw it before he heard her words: the black dust against the colors of the nebula looked just like a mane spread out around a lion's head. He glanced to the left and saw his lion gazing at the image.

He nodded. "Go there."

"You're sure?" she asked.

He pursed his lips and admitted with a shrug, "No. But one vision about a lion and another reminding me of Pythia, it makes sense." His gaze swung back to the image and he murmured, "I have the feeling I've seen it before." Maybe in a dream or vision, or maybe in his astronomy textbook, but there was an echo of familiarity about it, that seemed to suggest it was the right way.

"All right, I'll tell the others. You rest, Sam. I'll be back soon."

He didn't get up from the table, though, even after she'd gone. He was tired, his head pounded like he was hungover, and all he felt like doing was sit there and sip at the water, to try to get that taste - like he'd licked a dead rat - out of his mouth.

He felt a heavy weight settle against his feet and leaned down to comb his fingers through the lion's coarse mane. Then it occurred to him he was petting an imaginary lion like a house cat, and he straightened with a sigh. He still felt its head on his shoes though, and he didn't want to move and disturb it.

'You are out of your frakking mind, Anders. You can't disturb something that doesn't exist,' he told himself, but with a sort of weary amusement he left his feet where they were.

The sound of footsteps in the entrance made his heart leap with sudden anxiety, pounding in his chest, and he clutched at the edge of the table to keep himself still. Frak, he needed to stop panicking. It was useless, since there was nothing he could do if it all went to hell again, but worse, it sapped his energy when he didn't have any to spare yet.

For an instant, he thought Thea was back already, but it was Caprica, hovering on the threshold as if uncertain of her welcome. "Come in," he invited, beckoning her in.

She smiled and with measured steps in her high heels, joined him, sitting in Thea's chair.

"Thea tells me you know where to go," she said, glancing at the bag of chamalla on the table.

"I think so," he said and shrugged. "It's my best guess, anyway."

She nodded. "We have a baseship only three days away. They've been dispatched to scout for us - we'll reach there a day or so later."

"Good news, thanks."

She paused and he had the distinct impression that wasn't what she had come here to say. "Caprica? Something wrong?"

Folding her hands together, she met his eyes. "That's what I wanted to ask you about. If you would give me a new name, as you did with Thea."

He blinked in surprise. "Why? I thought 'Caprica' was a name you chose?"

She shook her head. "No. The others gave it to me. Do you know why?"

He thought back to what she'd said in the parking garage on Caprica and guessed, "It has something to do with Baltar?"

"Yes." She looked down. "I seduced Gaius," she explained to her hands. "I grew to love him, but my mission was to retrieve the codes for the Colonial Fleet defense system. He gave them to me, believing I was a corporate spy. Without me, the attacks would never have been as devastating. The war might have been much longer, more like the first Cylon War, and many more humans would probably have lived."

At first he could only stare at her, trying to understand. Her shoulders hunched, and what he could see of her face was pained but determined, as if she had to confess all of this.

She went on, "So they called me Caprica Six, like I was the only Six on the whole planet. I was a hero of the Cylon. It gave me status, one among many, and let me and Sharon lead the pull-out from the Colonies. But it's not right I should be named in celebration of something so horrible." Her fingers twisted together and she finally looked up, imploring, "I need another name."

He couldn't process this. The Colonies... the attacks... Had happened because of her and Baltar. "I -- I don't know what to say..."

"Please. You're the one who helped me truly understand how wrong we were; it should come from you."

It felt physical, trying to put his mind back in order and figure out what to do about this, when he didn't even know what he felt about it yet. "I ... " he hesitated to make sure of his words. "Do you want a new name so you can forget what happened?"

"No!" she protested, but her gaze flickered aside and her fingers twisted together some more. She added, softly, "Yes. I want to forget. I want to be someone else. Someone who didn't help that happen."

That helped him decide what he thought. He shook his head. "It doesn't work that way. You can resurrect your bodies but your soul's the same. And I think your soul has learned something." He reached across the table and laid a hand over hers, squeezing briefly. "Look, I don't have an answer for you. I can't grant you absolution. I'm not a Lord of Kobol, I'm not your god. I just... I don't think it's right to try to sweep it under the rug and pretend it wasn't you. An awful lot of people died."

"I know! And I'm sorry!" she protested.

"Then keep that name as a reminder not to let it happen again. Make it a name that means something good."

"I don't know," she said doubtfully. "I thought that's what I was doing with New Caprica, and I made everything worse."

"You can't force people to forgive you, or love you," Sam told her. "Take small steps. But don't be too hard on yourself. You saved me," he reminded her. "That's a start."

She smiled, looking more at ease. "I had to, didn't I? You're our oracle." Her fingers settled on his arm and stroked down toward his hand. He shivered, realizing the touch felt exactly the same as when Thea did it. He was glad he could feel they were different individuals, despite their identical looks and touch, because otherwise things might get awkward.

Then thankfully, she pulled away before he had to do anything about it and gave him a small smile. "My sister is very lucky."

"So am I," he answered. "I thank the gods - god - for her every day."

"Yet you still wear your dog tags," she murmured, her gaze dropping down to where they were hanging, "and Kara Thrace's name above your heart."

Feeling both defensive and guilty, he reached up with a hand to clasp the pair of tags in his fingers. He answered, glancing away, "I didn't ask for any of this." He thought of months in a bright white box alone, without hope of rescue and his only solace being dreams of Kara. His lower leg ached, and he knew most of the pain was only in his head, but that didn't help him not to feel it. He'd felt too much of himself slip away to give up the last tangible connection to his past. "I didn't want to be an oracle, or have my fate tied to the Cylons. But the gods said otherwise, so I'm here. But I still hope when this is all over, Kara and I can find our way back to each other."

Caprica listened, frowning and looking sad. "And if you don't? You might find she's changed too much, or not at all, while you've gone on without her. Or maybe you'll find your love wasn't strong enough to last through the separation..."

He knew she was speaking of herself and Baltar, not really him, but she had a point. "Maybe so," he admitted. "Maybe she'll never understand why I have to be here. Maybe she'll hate me. Maybe I've already lost her and I don't know it. But that's what hope is. The game's not over 'til the final buzzer sounds -- and that's true for life, too."

Then an amusing thought hit him and he smiled at her. "And if you're a Cylon, you even get to play in overtime."

Thea came back before his metaphor got too tortured, but it made Caprica chuckle and change the subject to pyramid, and that was all he wanted.


* * *

Sam followed Sheryl in the maze of the identical corridors, to get back to his quarters. He was pretty sure he'd memorized the way, but someone usually escorted him anyway, so he wouldn't get lost. She was one of the Eights he'd taught pyramid, and she'd turned into something of a triad shark. She liked hearing about Sharon Agathon, and Sam had the impression Athena was something of a hero to some of the Eights.

After an afternoon of combating Doral and D'Anna, whose presence and voices made him queasy, his temper had started to slip and tiredness dragged at his muscles. He'd decided to skip dinner, in favor of bed.

The lion padded along at his side silently, no matter how Sam wished it away.

He said good night to Sheryl and went into the bathroom to get ready.

Brushing his teeth, he watched the water run in the basin and realized he'd stood in front of this mirror for two weeks, letting his gaze slip over his face or focus too narrowly when he shaved, too afraid of what he would see. He put the toothbrush away and faced the mirror squarely.

He felt so alien in his own skin; it seemed he should look different. He didn't, of course, but he didn't look quite like Samuel T. Anders of the C-Bucs anymore either. His hair was shaggy, untrimmed since Leoben had cut it after his rescue. He hadn't worn his hair this long since he'd had to tie it back to play for the Wildcats. Worse, in the brighter light he could see silver strands at his temples, glimmering as pale reminders of stress.

Then he realized he was still avoiding seeing. He forced his eyes forward again. His face was definitely thinner -- he looked hollow-cheeked and worn, especially around the eyes.

"Frak." It wasn't a surprise, exactly, since he felt that worn inside, too, but it was still annoying and depressing. He'd spent nearly a year on Caprica with insufficient food, running constantly, irradiated... and ended up looking better than he had after three months in Cavil's cell.

It hadn't stopped when he'd woken up here either. He had plenty of food, but little appetite for it. His reactions were all still frakked up, and his frequent nightmares were filled with white rooms, Cavil, Doral, and Centurions, tangled with his old buried-alive nightmare, so he woke terrified he was suffocating.

Thea did her best to help, and he knew he'd be even worse without her. But he felt impatient and annoyed at himself for being slow to get over it. He looked at his reflection intently. "Get a grip on yourself, Anders," he muttered. "Most people don't even know where they are. You know where you're going. You know what you're here for. Consider yourself frakking lucky and get your head in the game."

With a final sigh, he went out to the bedroom to find Thea already had come back. Her shoes were by the table, and she'd changed into a sapphire silky halter top and shorts for sleep. While there was no denying that all the Sixes were sexy and knew how to use it, there was something about the way she was sitting or the lighting that made her look too bony and harsh. His hands ached to hold the curve of Kara's hips and her fuller breasts, remembering the feel of her naked and damp with sweat...

But then Thea smiled, and she was beautiful again. He shook the wistful thought out of his head, as she beckoned him close. "You look tired."

"Yeah." He let out a sigh. "Doral thinks this is a trap. He believes I want revenge for what they did to me, no matter what I say. And D'Anna wants me to be sure, but it's not like this is an exact science. It's not my choice to be all cryptic - it's all I've got. I'd like to have the answer and know, like I used to. I don't enjoy riddles all the frakking time." Then he realized he was ranting at her, when it wasn't her fault either, and expelled a deep breath.

He kicked his shoes off to one side, pulled off his shirt and pants, laid them over the chair, and went to the bed to sit next to her. "So anyway, yes, I'm tired from arguing with them."

"Then, you'll be glad to know, I have wonderful news," Thea told him, grinning as though she was bursting with light.

He raised his eyebrows at her. He'd been in the command center, and he hadn't heard a whisper of good news, much less 'wonderful' news. Something must have happened while he was brooding in the bathroom. "Oh? Really? Did the scout ship make it to the nebula?"

She shook her head, looking thrilled about something else. She took his hand in hers and laid their joined hands on her stomach. "You and me…" she smiled broadly, but looked close to tears as well. "I'm pregnant."

The word went through him like a bullet.

"What? Preg--? Pregnant?" he blurted in blank shock and for an instant, thought wildly that the word must mean something different to Cylons. "You mean, you're actually -- you're going to have a baby? But -- but that's impossible. I thought Cylons couldn't-- Cylons can't --" He stopped before he managed to stammer out everything. Pregnant. The whole reason for the farms and Sharon's mission with Helo had been because Cylons were infertile with other Cylons. So either that basic assumption was wrong, or…

Or he wasn't a Cylon after all.

Gods, every time he thought he knew what he was, something threw him all in confusion again.

"Is it so terrible?" she asked in a small voice, and when he looked at her face, her expression had fallen into disappointment and hurt.

"No, no," he rushed to reassure her, pulling her into a hug. She clung to him for a moment, face against his neck, and he felt awful that he had hurt her. "I'm sorry; it's not terrible, not at all. I'm just - I'm shocked that it could happen at all. Are you sure?"

"I know," she answered. "I can feel it." Her smile returned, tender and joyful as she looked into his eyes. "It's a miracle, Sam. The second of God's new generation. To replace the one who was lost."

"Hera's not lost," he corrected absently, mind still slowed by the knowledge that Thea was pregnant. "A miracle," he repeated, taking a deep breath and trying to settle the sheer terror tightening his chest. He framed Thea's face in his hands and kissed her, trying to share his amazement with her. They fell back into the bed, kissing, but after a moment, parted, content to hold each other in wondering silence. He rubbed his cheek on her hair, staring at the ceiling and trying to make sense of it all.

Did this mean he loved her? Sharon and Helo had thought love was the way to get Human and Cylon to have children. Did he love Thea? Gods, how was he supposed to know? He'd been in a box for three months, and she was there to help him, keep him something close to sane.

But could he love her and love Kara, too? He hadn't seen Kara in months. He didn't even know if she was alive. But Thea was real and she was there - and she was going to have his baby.

Gods. Baby. He held Thea as she fell asleep, and as he gently rubbed a hand down her arm and back, he wondered at the irony. More than ten years of pro ball and casual frakking, he'd had only two claims of paternity against him, and both had turned out false. Yet the instant he had unprotected sex with a Cylon, thinking they couldn't possibly be fertile together -- miracle baby. It'd be funny if it weren't so terrifying.

The reality of it slowly sank in as he lay beside her, sleepless. His hand slipped over her waist to cradle her stomach. A baby. An actual baby was growing in there. A new life. A new Cylon life.

He felt ill and anxious at the thought. Cylon. Thea was a Cylon, and if he really was, too, then the baby wasn't a hybrid, but a full-blooded Cylon. How was that even possible? Was it truly a miracle, as Thea believed?

But hybrid or Cylon, the baby was something to live for when the gods were pushing him around. Another tie to the Cylons. A reward for his suffering, perhaps. Something to test him with later. But even that thought didn't make his stomach grow leaden with dread as much as the thought that the miracle might be in exchange for Kara.

Because she was never going to forgive him for this. She might understand all the rest -- but loving a Cylon enough to get her pregnant would have to be a betrayal to her.

Kara.

Unsurprisingly, in his dreams, Kara walked away from him, into a bright blinding light. He tried to follow her, but Thea held his hand and kept him at her side. When he pulled free and ran after Kara, he couldn't find her anywhere.




On to Chapter Three: Are You Alive?
 
 
 
Merry F: capricaivanolix on November 27th, 2009 12:10 am (UTC)
*wibbles* Oh, you are so cruel! First the lovely scene with Caprica (I love how you distinguish between Sixes and yet keep them so Six-ish), and SHERYL, whom I *love*...and then the love triangle gets angstier. I want to hug Thea and let her and Sam have gorgeous hybrid babies and find Earth, but Sam's right, Kara's likely to have her heart broken. Which is not fair

*can't stop reading*