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11 November 2009 @ 11:19 pm
The Thread of Ariadne, Ch. 12  
Chapter Twelve

He woke up with his head pounding like he had a hangover, and that frakking noise in his head. Frak. He put the pillow over his head, but that didn't help.

Thea woke when he left the bed and overturned a chair in his effort to grab the pills. "Sam? It's still there?"

"I think falling in the datafont did something to my brain," he told her, swallowing two dry. "This isn't -- this can't be right. It hurts, and there's no direction, not like there was before."

"Let's go to different ends of the ship and see what you sense. First, we'll get some breakfast --"

His stomach lurched at the thought of food. "No. I'm not hungry."

"Sam, you didn't eat at all yesterday. You need to eat something," she protested.

"I'll just throw it up." He drank a little water hoping it would settle his stomach long enough to digest the pills. Thinking was such a damn struggle it took him a moment to remember the baby. "But you should eat."

"Wait for me," she told him, slipping into her clothes quickly. "Don't go out there alone. I'll be right back."

He wanted to be amused that she was afraid he'd get lost on his own -- it wasn't as if everyone else wouldn't know who he was -- but amusement was too much work. "Okay." While she was gone, he showered and let the water pound his head in a counterpoint to the loud buzzing. It didn't go away, but it finally eased as the pain pills numbed his headache.

Thea found him still in the shower. "Sam, come on." She hauled him out, over his protests that he could do it himself. "Get dressed and let's see if you can feel a change."

She tucked her hand around his arm as they walked, out to the end of the Raider docking arms and to the back of the jump drive. Nothing about the sound changed -- it remained, in his ears, in his head, without shifting direction. Worse, everywhere they went, people asked him how he was and if he knew the way back. The fifth time it happened, he tensed and had to bite his tongue to resist something sharp, and Thea shot him a look, realizing he was about to lose his temper.

"Let's go back. You have to eat something."

"You're pushy," he grumbled, and she smiled.

"I'm a Six."

In the dining room, he forced himself to eat a few crackers and not bite off Sharon's head when she asked him if he knew the way. When D'Anna came in, he had no similar restraint.

"Have you figured out our path?" D'Anna asked, and her voice was like nails on his skin.

"Sister, now is not--" Thea started in low warning, but Sam spoke right over her.

His voice was frozen. "No. Why, are you gonna torture me some more? Because right now, I don't think it would feel any different. I warned you all I'd lose the frakking path if we went around, and I did. And now I have this buzz in my head giving me a migraine. So y'know, you can all go frak yourselves. I'll tell you when I know something!"

D'Anna stiffened, and he turned away. He was past caring about Cylons getting offended, when they were the reason there was something wrong in his head.

He bent his neck down and put his thumbs to his temples, pressing hard as if he could squeeze the noise out.

* * *

The baseship was trying to retrace its path, but nothing changed. Days passed, every minute feeling like he was getting dragged through hell. The noise stayed in his ears, constantly buzzing and humming down to his bones. He retreated to his bedroom to avoid the stares and the questions. He couldn't think, and the only things that seemed to help were the yellow pills that kept the headache at bay. And even though he knew they weren't fixing anything and were, in fact, creating a new problem, nothing else helped at all.

He stirred from the bed, attracting Thea's attention from the table where she was eating lunch.

"Sam? Do you sense something new?" Thea asked, but not with any hope of a positive answer. She frowned at him as he walked closer and grabbed the pill container off the table.

"No. Still the same," he shrugged. He popped the lid one-handed and shook two into his palm, hating the way his hands trembled. Worse, there were only six pills left and he didn't know if there were any more on the ship.

Her hand closed around his. "No. I think you've lost the path because you keep taking these things."

He jerked free and threw her off, temper cracking. "There is no path!" he shouted. "Don't you get it? It's not outside -- it's inside me. It's not a projection, it's not the frakking voice of God... it's not real. It doesn't lead anywhere."

Thea folded her arms and watched him, disapproving, but she didn't say anything or try to stop him.

He swallowed the pills and chased them with three gulps of ambrosia. Distantly he knew mixing the two was a bad idea, but sitting there with that noise drilling into his head was worse.

"You're wrong," she told him. "I know it, and so do you. This is trying to tell you something. Your destiny is to lead us to Earth."

"Destiny," he sneered. "I am so frakking sick of destiny. Doesn't it make you angry to know your life is just as much a plaything of the gods as mine?" He nodded down toward her stomach, which was now showing a distinct roundness. "We're all just puppets, dancing to someone else's tune and --"

He never saw her hand until after she'd slapped him across the face, snapping his head to the side and making his cheek throb with heat. "Ow. Frak."

While he was still recovering, she grabbed the pill bottle. "No more pills," she announced coolly. "I don't like who you've become."

"No. I need them." He grabbed for them, but she turned so he missed. His feet tangled on each other and he stumbled, having to catch himself on the bed. The walls of the room blurred and spun, and he clutched the blanket in his fists, closing his eyes. And through it all - the sound was in his ears. "Oh gods. Oh gods." His voice came out like a desperate prayer. "Don't take them, please. It's the only thing that makes this bearable..."

Her hand was gentle on his shoulder and the back of his neck. "I believe in you," she murmured, and he didn't understand how she could speak so softly, yet he could still hear her. She wrapped her arms around his chest, her head against his and her body firmly against his back. "Not some vague idea of who I want you to be, or who I think God sent you to be; I believe in you, and I'm here to love you and support you. But I can only follow where you lead. Only you can find the path."

"There's no path," he whispered. "It's all the same. And it doesn't stop, it never frakking stops...."

She kissed the back of his neck and he turned, in a sudden fever to find his peace in her. His mouth found hers and he yanked at her clothes. He managed hers, but his got stuck around his feet in his eagerness, and he fell to the bed, pulling her with him. She let out a laugh and rolled until she was on him, bare skin against his from his chest to his knees. When she wriggled against him so lithely, the heat went through him. The desire for her nearly drowned out the sound.

"Oh, gods, just give me this," he prayed against her lips, as her hands teased him everywhere, until he growled and rolled them again. She let out a breathless chuckle and her fingers seized his hips and tried to pull him into her.

While he crouched above her, the numbness washed through him from the drugs, and his hands seemed abruptly far away from the rest of his body. He tried to finish, wanting that moment of sweet silence, but something he'd done a thousand times became too complex to manage, and then altogether impossible.

"Sam?" Thea frowned up at him when he stopped.

It all seemed very funny suddenly, and he collapsed next to her, laughs escaping despite trying to stop. "I'm sorry," he gasped out. "Can't be a prophet, can't be an oracle, can't even frak properly--"

"It's all right," she soothed and put her head on his shoulder, pulling the blanket up over them. "Try to rest, Sam."

The muted song dragged him down into dreams of a little girl, pale blonde like her mother, staring at him in mute accusation. When he tried to touch her, she crumbled into ash.

* * *

He woke with tears on his cheeks at the jarring sound and the renewed stabbing pain in his head. Tossing and turning, looking for relief, even Thea's gentle touch seemed to burn his skin, forcing him from the bed.

"Sam?" She pushed herself up to watch him in hopeful confusion. "Do you feel something?"

"I... I don't know, I have to move." Pausing to put his clothes on made his jaw ache with the effort of not gasping when he moved his head, but movement seemed to help, except he was dizzy when he stood up and stumbled on nothing.

She followed, hurrying after him, as he made his way through the corridors. He didn't know where he was going at first, moving because it felt better than staying still.

Leoben met them, and the instant he caught sight of Sam's face, he frowned deeply. "You look unwell."

"I feel worse, I promise," Sam muttered. Nauseous, dizzy, exhausted, in pain - he just had to get away. He pushed past Leoben to keep going.

He only realized where he was going when he walked into the control center and stopped there, barely seeing the expectant and wary faces of the Cylons that turned to face him.

The edges of his vision frayed and turned dark, and when he took another step, it all changed.

And all he could think was finally.

Cold metal walls and harsh light turned into a much larger space. Bright golden lights shone in his face but not bright enough to hide rows of padded seats. More seats formed balconies in the audience of some sort of theater. He was standing at the edge of the stage, as if he'd just come up the steps from the audience.

He turned the opposite direction and saw five glowing figures onstage, standing before white drapes. They were all wearing white robes with hoods that hid their faces. He approached with slow steps, and extended his hands to push the hood back from the first one he came to.

It was his own face.

Sam flinched and staggered back, hands to his head as the sound burrowed a burning trail into his brain.

Leoben caught him and managed to ease them both to the floor. "Sam. What did you see?"

Sam grit his teeth, "Me. I saw me. I don't know, I don't understand. I'm losing what's real..."

He put his hands over his ears, but that did nothing to block the sound.

Leoben put both hands on his arms and urged them down. "I think it's time, Sam."

He flinched. "For what?"

"To go see the Hybrid. She may bring you clarity."

He shook his head, terrified that with one look at him, she'd know. She'd tell the others. He'd avoided her all this time, afraid of what she knew, or what she might say. The Raiders knew, so the Hybrid had to know. She'd been keeping it from the datastream, but she had to know.

As much as he wanted to know the truth, there was another part that was utterly terrified of what he might find out.

"She knows things," Leoben insisted and Sam let out a short, desperate laugh. That was the problem. "Maybe she can help you understand what afflicts you. We can't help you, but maybe she can."

"Please," Thea knelt in front of him and her hands seized his. "Sam, please, just try."

He gave in with a gasp. "All right. All right. I don't care anymore."

They helped him to his feet

At first he thought it was part of the sound in his head, the strange wordless drone, but as they went down the corridor he realized it was distinct. Someone was speaking.

Then they were inside the Hybrid's chamber. It was empty except for the pool where she lay and another Two who knelt beside her. He glanced up, nodded at them, and frowned in concern at Sam.

When he got close enough to see her, Sam stared. He'd expected something more... machine like. Not a woman in a pool, hooked to the ship.

She didn't appear to notice him as he knelt down beside her. "I-- " he started and had to clear his throat. "I'm here," he whispered.

She stared upward blankly, as she continued to speak about the engines and atmosphere and soup and neutrons dancing ...

The other Leoben cautioned, "Don't touch her."

He listened to her voice, and there was something hypnotic about it that let the buzz in his ears quiet down - not gone, but low and bearable.

"Replacement coils reforming in section 273, eighty-two percent complete. Fleet communication restored by request. Instructions received. Destination achieved, awaiting new heading."

"Who gave you the jump coordinates to come here?" Thea asked the Hybrid.

"First priority command override of input destination."

"Override?" Thea repeated, sounding puzzled. "Who can override the consensus?"

"I think Sam did," Leoben said. "He didn't want to go, and she picked up his refusal when he fell into the datafont. She changed our jump coordinates to the ones he gave her."

"I didn't!" he protested. "I didn't give her any coordinates. I don't even know where we are!"

The Hybrid murmured, staring upward blankly, "Coordinate number 13453.03. New coordinates selected from given parameters. The flock migrates along the same path with ten percent variation. The seven shall become two when one steps forth of the five. End of line. New line. And the moths go to the light atmospheric pressure reduced .003% compensating the door will open and close in the space between."

If he hadn't had a headache already, this would've given him one. "Can you help?" he asked, a little more loudly. "Can you help me understand?" He leaned forward, looking down into her face. "Can you even see me? Do you know I'm here?"

She continued to murmur, "The five lights of the apocalypse rising scenes revealed only to those who enter the temple only to the chosen one the chosen one the chosen one. End of line. Until next time the eye the eye look into the eye to know thyself."

His stomach clenched up, realizing she was responding to him. "Am I the chosen one?" he asked. "Chosen for what? And what's the eye? Whose eye?"

Shocking him, her arm shot up out of the water and her fingers seized his wrist. And suddenly her eyes were fixed on his, wide and liquid but alert, looking right at him. Her voice was strong and certain. "Do not follow her, Samuel Theseus Anders. For you the opera house shall open to bring the light to your children."

"My children?" he asked, glancing to Thea who put a hand across her stomach. "What do you mean? Do not follow who?" He shook his head impatiently, pushing aside the cryptic words. They had meaning, he knew they meant something, but they didn't answer his question. "What about the sound? What is it? Can you make it stop?"

She smiled at him, full of love and pity, and she lifted her other hand to trace a wet path down his cheek. "Home. It calls you home, Samuel Theseus Anders. Listen to the song."

She pulled on him, yanking his arm down, so his hand plunged into the icy cold liquid of her pool.

He let out a cry, but his voice seemed to dwindle and recede as that frakking sound filled his ears, covering everything, growing louder, vibrating in his bones. It strengthened, painful now, like a discordant worm in his brain, digging between his ears.

He stared into the Hybrid's eyes and tears came to his eyes at the agony.

Her other hand was still on his face, stroking softly And somehow, despite the unbearable noise in his head, he still heard her whisper: "Surrender, Samuel. Follow the song. You have lost the path. Surrender to the song. It pulls you to the temple to be reborn."

It wasn't a song, it wasn't - it was a sound no one else could hear. A hallucination - creeping insanity, mind cracking under the stress...

And Gods it hurt... a spike right between his eyes, burning...

Then it stopped. The pain stopped, and everything grew silent.

As he was suddenly somewhere else.

The theater. He was on the stage again, facing the five white robed figures standing in the light. Four wore hoods, hiding their faces, but the fifth's hood was back, on his shoulders. He was Sam.

Sam couldn't look away from this other version of himself. But the Other Him didn't react to his presence, just continued to look straight ahead as if he didn't see Sam standing there. His eyes were open but Sam had to stare to see if he was blinking - he did, but otherwise was utterly still.

His expression seemed to be -- not blank, but as if he was listening to something far away.

His contemplation was broken by the unexpected touch of someone taking his hand. He turned and to his left he saw a young woman, wearing a blue summer dress with bare feet. Her hair was long and dark, loose and straight, but the eyes were the Hybrid's.

"What is this place?" he asked her. "I keep seeing it, but I don't know where it is. Or what it is."

"You see the Opera House of Kobol," she answered. "A performance of a story no one believes because it's true. It is the source of your power and the cause of your fate."

"Thank you for clearing that up," he muttered. Even in his own head, nobody would ever give him a real answer to anything. But whether this was a projection or a dream or something else entirely, he knew it was important. "So who's that?" he pointed to the Sam Anders in White.


"But I'm here."

"You are here. You are on the baseship. You are in the temple. And you are there," she lifted her free hand to gesture to the other Sam, then she turned, tugging him with her, to face what would be offstage in a real theater. But here, there were curtains blocking the way, except for a large wooden door set into a wall. "When the many become one, you can open the door. If you choose."

He swallowed. "What's on the other side?"

She didn't answer until he looked down at her. She smiled, beautiful but terrible, the smile of an angel or a god. "The end."

He jolted awake, opening his eyes to find himself on the floor of the docking bay. His head burst into a fierce throb and his body ached, as if he'd been beaten, and he shut his eyes again, wondering what the frak had happened.

Recent memory intruded, and awareness of the sound hit him again. But it was buried under the crooning from the Raiders. It wasn't quite peace and quiet, but it was better than it had been for days.

He was right in front of the sensor and intake grill of his Raider, as if within its embrace. And it was not the only Raider there either -- without moving, he could feel others in the strength of the soothing chorus in his mind.

"Sam?" Thea's voice whispered. He opened his eyes again and moved his head to see her. She knelt at his side and took his hand.

"What happened?" he asked her, surprised how hoarse his voice was. "Gods, do I feel like hell..."

Her eyes were wide and fixed to his face, fearful and worried, as her thumb stroked the back of his hand. "When the Hybrid pulled your hand into the pool you started screaming," she said, and her voice and hand both trembled. "You were bleeding from the nose. I thought you were having a stroke. The Twos and I tried to pull you away, but she wouldn't let go until you passed out. I remembered what you'd said about the Raiders and I... I hoped it would help. I didn't know what else to do," she admitted with a helpless shrug.

"It helps," he answered and turned his hand over to grasp hers. "I still hear it, but they push it back. I ..." He looked away and had to clear his throat to speak.

"I'm going insane," he whispered, confessing to her what he wouldn't to anyone else. His heart seemed tight, and he couldn't get air in as fear closed his throat. "I am. I don't know if it was that neural amplifier thing, or the virus, or what. But this thing is tearing at my brain and I can't stop it."

"No, Sam, it's not true. The lion was a vision," she reminded him. "It led us to the beacon. You weren't crazy then, and you aren't crazy now. You just need to figure out what it's trying to tell you."

"The Hybrid told me I had to ... surrender to it," he murmured.

Her grip on his hand tightened, but her voice stayed level. "Then that's what you should do."

"I don't know how," he whispered. "It hurts." But those weren't the real reason he was suddenly terrified, and he could barely push the words out. "What if I don't come back? She warned me this would change me - I wasn't ready."

"Sam. Have faith," she urged him quietly, leaning close to kiss his forehead and touch his cheek with her hand. "I believe in you, and I believe in God. And I believe God has plans for you, and won't give you more than you can bear. But you're trying to shut out his voice, and that's not the way. You have to open yourself to it."

He chuckled hollowly. "You know what we call people who claim to hear the gods talking to them? Crazy."

She shook her head and laid a finger on his lips. "God. The creator. There's only one of those, and he's been speaking to you all along, granting you revelation, blessing us with our daughter... But now you need to take that final step and surrender yourself to God."

He turned over her words, remembering what he'd seen and what the Hybrid had told him inside his vision, and he felt cold and small and afraid.

Because she was right. He'd been pushing it away, a man trying to hold up a cracking dam with all the force of pent-up water behind it, and if he let go, it would fall on him. It might wash him clean, or it might drown him. But he could already feel himself breaking under the strain. Better to try this while it was his own will.

He licked his dry lips and inhaled a breath. "All right."

Pushing himself to his feet, he patted the Raider on the head and thanked it for its help.

Each step away from the Raiders made the noise louder, a high-pitched whine right into his head, buzzing and snapping like electric arcs, until he needed Thea's shoulder to walk.

* * *

He sat cross-legged on their bed and wondered how the hell he was supposed to do this, when the noise was a saw in his brain.

Surrender, the Hybrid's voice seemed to echo in his memory. Listen to the song.

He rested his hands on his knees, as Thea sat across from him, not quite touching him. She smiled encouragement. He inhaled a deep breath, and another until the ragged edge of his breathing smoothed out, and he closed his eyes. And he listened.

It hurt. Gods, it hurt.

It wasn't noise, it burned like fire. Not on his skin, but inside his head and body, scouring him down to the very core.

He heard his own voice, and Thea murmured, "You're still fighting. Let it pass through you, Sam."

Her fingers covered his hands, pulling apart his tight fists until they opened.

"Accept it," she whispered. "You are the chosen one, as she told you. It's yours, Sam. Embrace it."

He tried to imagine the pain and the noise passing between the molecules of his body, in all the empty spaces. The noise and the pain were so physically present, it was hard to allow it into himself. But he did. He was the conduit, and Sam Anders was in the way. Sam Anders was flesh and bone and entirely too weak; he had to be a ghost. Sam Anders couldn't be.

The moment he accepted that and let go, what had been random sound and pain, became music.

It had no obvious melody, no rhythm, but the only word he had for it was music. It was a song, sung between the stars, between atoms, life and death, all things within its embrace.

It was the voice of creation. It filled him until he was nothing, a mere shadow against the light, but he saw the path laid out ahead of him. It was a shining silver stream to follow through the darkness and storm of war and death to come.

* * *

Thea watched him, her heart in her mouth and feeling cold with terror. She knew it had to be done, and she believed what she told him, but it hurt to see his face so drawn and tight and hear the choked whimpers of unbearable pain in his throat. She held his hands loosely, praying this would work.

Then, between one breath and the next, it changed. His expression smoothed out and he inhaled a deep breath. His eyes snapped open, startlingly blue and focused on something beyond her.

"Sam?" she whispered, but he didn't hear her.

She heard a step in the doorway and turned her head to see Leoben coming in, watching Sam. "It worked," he said.

"I don't know if it worked," she corrected. "I just know he pushed himself through whatever was blocking him." She moistened her lips and tried not to remember those sounds that seemed even worse than his screams when the Hybrid had held him. "This is no different than what Three did to him, not really."

Leoben didn't listen, not taking his eyes from Sam as he approached the bed. "He sees the stream, Thea. Look at him. He can see our destiny; he knows the path."

She swallowed. "I hope so. But... I'm afraid this is killing him," she whispered. "I don't want to have him save us, only to lose him before our child's even born." Her hand cradled her abdomen and the new life growing there, and the barely sensed flickers of the baby's dreams. "He deserves to know her. He deserves peace, and he gets only suffering. How is it that he suffers for us? We who tormented him. We who destroyed his people. It's not right."

She lifted her eyes to look into Sam's farseeing gaze and the slow, occasional blink that was the only sign that he was there at all.

"There is a reason," Leoben reassured her. "We'll learn it in the fullness of time. But his suffering is not for nothing, if he leads us to Earth and new lives."

"And his life?" she murmured and took one lax hand between her own. "What of that?"

Leoben didn't answer, until she swung her head to look at him. He stared at the floor and said sadly, "His destiny will eclipse ours, Thea, and he will leave us behind."

She didn't like the sound of that, and she didn't find it reassuring at all, but it wasn't a surprise. She'd chosen to stand in the eye of the storm. She'd known he wasn't going to be hers forever.

When Sam got to his feet - expression unchanging with blind eyes - she followed.

* * *

He was standing in a hallway, carpeted in a pattern of tiny circles, ornately decorated with a painted mural on the wall and chandeliers overhead. He knew this place; he'd been here before, but he couldn't remember where to go.

Either side seemed the same, so he picked a direction and started walking. The hall was endless - mirrors and sconces and paintings marching down the wall but the far end never seemed to get closer.

He heard running footsteps behind him, breaking the silence of this place and turned quickly to see a little girl with dark curly hair hurrying toward him.

He watched. frozen in astonishment, as she threw her arms around his legs, and hugged him tightly.

At first he thought he was having a vision of his daughter in the future, but he realized, kneeling down to look at her wide brown eyes, that he knew who she was. "Hera?" he asked.

She grinned and announced, with evident glee and pride, "Find you!"

"I guess you did."

She frowned at him and grabbed his hand, to pull him back the way he'd come.

"I have to go this way," he insisted, but she was exceptionally strong for a little ghost, pulling him the other way.

There were two other people standing in the hallway -- Baltar and Thea. No, not Thea, a different Six, dressed in red, and he doubted that was really Baltar either. Both looked at him and then down at Hera, who was holding his finger in her small fist.

"No, Hera," Six said sharply. "He has yet to repent his crime. He must stand alone."

Crime? What crime?

Hera didn't answer, but looked mulish and didn't let go of his finger.

"Who are you?" Sam demanded. "What the frak are you talking about?"

She smiled, a predatory expression that made him shiver. "Do not mistake me for my sister. I have no mercy for you, when you had none."

"Darling," Baltar said, curling a hand around her waist, "he may yet earn redemption."

She curled a lip in scorn, and then, when Sam was still trying to formulate a protest, she darted forward to pull Hera away and scoop her up. "She belongs to us. Not you."

"No!" Hera wailed and he ran after her. But somehow he was falling further and further behind, as they reached the towering main doors. The doors opened, letting out a familiar golden light, and the three went inside.

The doors shut behind them and he pulled on the handles. The doors didn't move. "Hera!" he shouted. "Hera!" He yanked harder and then set his shoulder to the doors, pushing. But they refused to open. He banged on them with his fists. "No! Let me in!"

He knew where he had to go now. He had to find a way back inside.

On to Chapter Thirteen: Ringing the Temple Bell

Merry F: michael truccoivanolix on November 27th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC)
You whump Sam like no one else whumps Sam...I don't know whether to applaud you for that or not, though. *bites nails*

(I will never read enough Opera House visions...)