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05 October 2010 @ 10:20 pm
Under a Shadowed Sky, Chapter Two  
Under a Shadowed Sky

Back to the beginning

Chapter Two

Everyone was getting ready to go back, when Helo and Athena came up to where Dee was standing with Lee. Dee thought they wanted to be in the first group up, to get back to Hera. But Leoben was following them and he looked frustrated.

"Apollo! Dee!" Helo called. "Night's falling and Kara and Anders are still out there. We need to go find them."

"She has a wireless," Leoben reminded him. "If she required help, she would let someone know."

"If she could," Helo snapped. "They've been gone hours. It's cold out and they don't have any supplies."

"They're not that far. They could walk back," Leoben said. "If they wanted to. Obviously they don't, so you need to respect that wish."

Helo glared at him. "I think after what you did, not respecting her wishes at all, you should shut up."

Leoben's expression tightened in irritation, as if he wanted to protest or defend his model, but he dropped it to respond, "Then I would think, as her friend, you would want to heed her wishes more, not less. And the last thing I think she would want is for some well-meaning friends to blunder into a difficult moment of reconciliation with her husband. Let them be."

"They're going to freeze out here," Helo protested.

Leoben shook his head, almost pityingly. "Despite the miracle of Hera, you still have no understanding of any of this, do you? Kara Thrace and Sam Anders are so much more than human, Karl Agathon. They should not even exist and yet they do -- and you are concerned that cold will kill them? You need to open your eyes to the greater pattern around you."

Sharon snorted. "More than human? When have Cylons been more than humans?"

"Kara is not a Cylon, as you would know, sister, if you were not so determined to ignore your true self," he retorted, then he faced Lee again. "Don't rescue people who don't wish to be rescued. They need to find their way to each other again; they are stronger together than apart. Do not take that from them. Or from the rest of us."

Then, warning delivered, he turned and walked away.

"You can't listen to him," Helo protested.

Lee looked after Leoben, frowning. "I thought he was all creepy obsessed with her. And now he wants to make sure she and Anders get back together. Odd."

"The Twos have always been strange," Sharon muttered.

"That doesn't make him wrong," Lee said. "I mean, I'm the last person I ever thought would be saying this, but Kara was right. We're living in strange times. Frak, I've known Tigh most of my life and he turns out to be not only a Cylon, he's sprouted frakking wings. I can't pretend there's anything rational and explainable about that. There's not. So I kind of think he's right," he nodded his chin in Leoben's direction. "And we should... get out of the way of whatever's going on. But at the same time, I certainly don't want to abandon two of our people on the planet, in case they get in trouble...."

Dee took a breath and suggested, "Why don't we leave them a Raptor with some supplies? If they make their way back to camp, they'll have gear, and I can set its wireless to relay even the weakest signal up to Galactica if they need help."

Lee seized on it gratefully. "That's a great idea. We'll do that. I'll go tell the admiral the plan, and you get one of the Raptors set up."

He walked away, and Dee met the Agathons' gazes, and gave a little shrug. "It'll be okay, Helo."

For a moment, she wondered if he was going to accuse her of trying to keep Lee away from Starbuck, but then realized it was her own conscience when he shook his head and muttered, "They could call in and say they're okay."

Sharon took his hand and smiled a little. "Hon, I think it's a good sign nobody's called in or come back; that means no one's hurt. And they're probably busy. You know how they get."

Dee wanted to roll her eyes. Everybody knew that. Dee remembered from New Caprica when things had been good for everyone, and those two had been scarcely able to keep their hands off each other. But then she thought about what that meant today, and blurted, "But he's got wings!"

Sharon laughed. "You think that would stop Kara, if she decided she didn't care?"

"Well, no," Dee had to agree with that. There wasn't much that stopped Kara when she made up her mind about anything. "I’m going to set the wireless to relay to the ship."

The Agathons followed to check the survival gear on board, making sure there were blankets, a medical kit and some food.

All that was finished quickly, and soon everyone was on their way back up to the ships for the night.

* * *

When they arrived at Galactica, they found the rumors had already spread, and the deck was crowded. President Roslin and the admiral shared a look, and then at Tigh, who shrugged. "Let's get this over with. Not like I can hide 'em."

"All right," she said. "Let me go first."

The Raptor hatch opened and the crowd fell momentarily quiet, before bursting out into frantic questions. Dee could hear them and shut her eyes. No one wanted to believe Earth was an irradiated wasteland, and Roslin was going to have to confirm that.

The Admiral stood at her side and Roslin lifted her chin, squaring her shoulders. Then when no one quieted, she held up both hands to try to get some silence, but didn't until the admiral called, "Attention on deck!"

That, at least, go the crew to shut up, and they quieted the civvies who'd gathered, until finally Roslin could speak.

"Let me confirm the terrible rumor first: Earth is not the refuge we had hoped," she declared. "We came here much too late. The Thirteenth Tribe settled here, and they built many cities and appeared to have lived ordinary lives like ours. But they were apparently too much like us, and some years ago, this planet suffered a nuclear war. We found no person alive, and their buildings are ruined and destroyed. The planet itself is still heavily contaminated, and ... " her voice choked for a moment, and she took a moment to continue, "and uninhabitable. We cannot live here."

A shocked and horrified noise spread through the people gathered there -- whispers and gasps and exclamations of anger and pain.

Roslin let it pass back into silence. "I know this is difficult news to hear. It was even worse to see."

"Where do we go now?" someone called out.

"We'll be staying here a little while to learn as much as we can about the people who lived and died here, and then we will leave, to search for a new home," Roslin answered.

"Search?" Narcho challenged. "With no course? No heading? Are we going to aimlessly wander through space?"

"Not aimless," she corrected. "It's possible when we investigate the planet, we might find proof that some of them left and went elsewhere. Maybe they left us a clue. Or perhaps the gods will take pity on us."

"The gods! The gods are a fake! The gods lied, and brought us here for nothing!" someone yelled.

Roslin winced, but then she turned her head back toward the Raptor's entrance and beckoned. "Not for nothing. Colonel Tigh."

Tigh inhaled a deep breath, muttered "Frak", and strode out to join Roslin and Adama on the wing of the Raptor. Then without a word, he opened his charcoal-colored wings out to their fullest span.

People gasped.

"The Cylons call them the Final Five, their cousins who were hidden from them," Roslin said loudly, over the noise, holding onto the Admiral's shoulder to keep herself steady. "They changed on the planet's surface, in some way that we can't understand. All four of them have wings, and one of them was able to fly. It was a moment of extraordinary hope -- a message to not give into despair, that even in a place of darkness, there is still the promise of change. We will find a new home; we will find our own Earth."

A few people clapped, but mostly everyone seemed stunned into silence. Roslin leaned closer to the admiral and murmured, "Get me out of here."

The admiral began escorting her out, and Tigh followed after, as the marines formed up, unsure what they were doing, until Tigh glared at them and they helped push through the crowd. Everyone burst into more questions and demands at all three of them, but eventually, they were gone.

Not all the crowd went with them though -- they seemed to be waiting for the other ships to unload. Lee glanced at Helo. "You're ranking officer on the deck. You should disperse the crowd."

"You're on the Quorum," Helo retorted.

Dee rolled her eyes. "Would one of you disperse the crowd so poor Galen and Tory can get off their ship without being mobbed?"

"They're going to have to learn to deal with it eventually," Sharon pointed out.

"Let's make it later," Helo said and got up. In the hatch way, he called out, "If you're not on duty here, go! This isn't a place to be lingering, people. Move out."

Hotdog was in front and turned ordering, "You heard the captain. Clear the deck. Crew needs to work."

Motivated into doing something, Fleet members started to move the civvies off the deck. Some went reluctantly, knowing there was more to see, but eventually, most of them were encouraged out. The last Raptor door depressurized, in front of a much smaller crowd of mostly deck hands and some pilots.

Skulls was the first off, and everyone on the floor ignored him, waiting for the Cylons. Finally, the Chief appeared in the hatch. He'd found one of the regulation tanks and made it fit by tearing open the back. Tory was wearing Caprica Six's black halter top, Dee saw, which fit her nicely and left room for the wings in the back. Caprica emerged behind them, her jacket zipped up to her chin.

"Chief!" Figursky exclaimed. "My gods, it's true."

"Can we see?" Brasko asked eagerly.

Galen and Tory exchanged a look and then, in tandem, spread their wings, like giant ravens alighting on the deck.

Silence fell for a moment, as everyone stared.

The murmured responses varied from the positive: "That's so beautiful..." To the neutrally curious: "So bizarre." "The gods are playing a cruel joke on us." To the hostile: "Cylon freaks."

Dee shot a look in that direction, but couldn't tell who'd said it. More than one person pointedly turned their backs.

She glanced to the side and saw Lee frowning. He caught her glance with his own and though he didn't speak, she could see they shared the same uneasiness.

With the Fleet pinning their hopes on Earth, it might not be very good for those very visible symbols of that hope's end.

* * *

Dee came back from her date with Lee, feeling remarkably calm and even happy, though that seemed like an odd thing when she realized how distinctly unhappy so much of the ship was. But one drink had turned into dinner, and talking for the first time in months.

He walked her to the hatch to crew quarters, and it was briefly awkward that he had to stop there now, but then she smiled. "You walking me home?" she teased.

He smiled back. "Feels like that." Then he hesitated. "Too early to kiss you goodnight?"

"I don't think we have to pretend to be strangers," she said and pulled him close for a light kiss. "Good night, Lee. See you tomorrow."

"Sleep well." He was waiting there, still smiling when she glanced outside, closing the hatch.

And she was humming as she went to her locker. She looked at the jacks on the shelf as she started undressing. I'm sorry, she told that long-dead child, but I thank you for bringing me this moment of happiness.

She heard Felix coming down the way, and wasn't surprised that he didn't share her feeling. "You're in a good mood," he observed, sourly, limping to his locker. "Cottle give you something?"

"No. Lee and I went on a date. It was fun."

"Fun?" he challenged. "Earth is frakking lie, and you went on a date with Apollo and it's 'fun'? He broke your heart, Dee, and he's a frakking toaster-lover and apologist, besides. How can you even look at him?"

She shut her eyes, trying to put away that feeling where she could take it out and feel it again later, then she turned to face her friend. "We're trying again."

"Because Starbuck decided she liked to frak her pet toaster better, after all? Come on, Dee, you're better than taking what she doesn't want anymore."

She stiffened. "I'm going to pretend you didn't say that."

"Why? It's true, isn't it? You told me as much."

"What's between me and Lee, or isn't, has nothing to do with Kara. And is none of your business besides." She narrowed her eyes at him. "I know things are rough for you, I understand that. And while I don't know exactly what happened on the Demetrius, it doesn't take a genius to figure out you blame Kara and everyone else who came back with her, including the rebel Cylons. But you've got to let it go."

"If you really understood, you would never say that," he answered.

Her expression softened and she held out a hand, but he dodged her touch. "Felix, you're still my friend. I care about you. I know Louis cares about you, too. This anger is going to eat you alive. We're all pawns of forces greater than ourselves -- Kara and Anders and Helo and all of them, even more so than us. It's not their fault.”

His jaw was still clenched and he took a moment to say anything, and when he did, it wasn't in answer to her comment. "I heard Anders actually flew. Did he?"

She couldn't help a smile. "He did. Right overhead. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Those four are some other kind of Cylon. Baltar said they might not even be Cylons at all, they're so different."

"Baltar," Felix muttered in disgust and sat down on his rack to remove his brace, rubbing at his leg. She couldn't see Felix's face but had the feeling she hadn't helped anything.

She took a breath and added, "Like the president said, we might find out the Thirteenth Tribe escaped the devastation and went somewhere else. Or the gods might give us a sign to a new home. After what I saw, Felix, I can't believe this is all there is."

"It is, Dee. All that's left of humanity is sitting on these ships. There's no Earth, there's no salvation," Felix murmured, staring at his stump. "Only Cylons guiding us to extinction."

"No," she disagreed softly. "That's not true. You'll see."

She wished she could share her newfound hope with Felix, and bit her lip in helpless frustration as she watched him struggle into his rack. Maybe once he saw for himself, he'd understand better.

* * *

Kara stirred at dawn, the unfamiliar bright sunlight filtering into her eyes. She was cozy warm, curled up with Sam spooned tightly behind her with his heavy arm over her waist and his breath on her hair. Her nose tickled and she reached up to rub it, to find the edge of a feather against her face.

The reminder woke her up back to alertness.

Feathers. Wings.

Her corpse.

It all tumbled through her head, reminding her of yesterday's overwhelming strangeness, and she scrambled out from under Sam's arm and the shelter of his wing into the cold air. He muttered, stirring, but fell back asleep.

Barefoot, she moved to the burnt-out remains of the fire and folded her arms. There was little left beyond the soot-covered metal bits of the flightsuit and what might be charred bone among the pieces of charcoal. She tried not to look too closely as she took deliberate breaths to calm her suddenly racing heart.

"Why did you do this to me?" she whispered to the gods. "Why did she call me the harbinger of death? What does it mean?" But there was no answer.

She kicked a piece of wood that had fallen away from the main pile and turned to get the hell away from this place. She grabbed her clothes from where they'd fallen and dressed. She'd go back to camp where things were normal. Sam could go back to the other Cylons, where he should be, and she would go back to her duty, and they could forget any of this had happened.

But when she put her hands through her jacket sleeves and looked for her boots, her eyes fell on Sam, still sleeping on the foil blanket. The dawn's light fell on the wings softly, making them shimmer. She remembered what they looked like at full span, how shocking but beautiful, and she remembered the broken uncertainty in his eyes, as he had turned to go, believing she was rejecting him.

If she gave it to him now, by leaving, it would end them. Unlike before, if she pushed this time, the bubble of their relationship would break. They were both too uncertain, too fragile. Always before, Sam had understood it wasn't him; this time, he would know it was. And she didn't think he'd push back either. There had to be some limit to how many times he would beat his head against a brick wall. He'd give up on her.

Maybe that would be a good thing; if she was the harbinger of death, maybe keeping him away from her was a smart idea.

But wasn't she tired of running away? She'd run from Lee on a morning much like this, and while it had led to a year of having Sam every day, and she couldn't regret that, she did regret how she'd screwed all of them up afterward.

This time, running away might screw up more than three lives. If Sam was right about their 'destinies' being unfinished, the whole damn Fleet might be depending on these two broken people to keep their crazy under control.

"Damn it." She let out a sigh, realizing she'd talked herself into staying. She sat on a corner of the blanket, tucked her hands around her drawn up knees, and looked at the ashes and dead coals that remained of the fire.

Sam woke soon after, trying to roll onto his back and groaning.

"Good morning, sleepyhead," she greeted cheerfully.

He opened his eyes blearily. "'morning. Gods, do I feel kinda horrible..." he muttered. He stretched, as if he was painfully stiff.

Kara watched, enjoying the show. One thing that was nice about the new wings, was the new body that went with it. Sam had been in shape before, but he'd gotten more muscular in the upper body and leaner everywhere else. Watching him move made her want to lick him all over those newly defined muscles.

He found the tip of one wing next to him and grimaced with a sour twist of his mouth. "Damn, I was hoping that was a bad dream." He sat up and shook his shoulders, making the wings fall behind him, trailing on the ground. Then he shook them again as if dissatisfied, got to his feet, and spread them out in a big stretch. Her lips twitched with amusement -- his eyes were closed, and his expression seemed positively orgasmic. The rest of him seemed to agree.

After drawing in a deep breath and opening his eyes again, he caught her look and folded up the wings quickly, as if he was embarrassed. "Uh. Everything's kind of cramped and stiff."

Kara's eyes deliberately raked down the front of his body, and she grinned. "I can tell. You wanna do something about that?"

He looked down and kind of smirked. It was too bad that he was used to locker rooms, too, and nakedness wasn't embarrassing to him. He lifted his eyes back to hers and noted with disappointment, "You got dressed."

"It was cold." She got up and approached, putting a little more sway in her walk. "But easily remedied for my favorite Cylon birdman. Bird Cylon. Whatever." She shucked her jacket on the way.

"Favorite birdman?" He snickered and held out his hands for hers. "I'm glad to hear I rank higher than Saul and Galen."

"Oh, it's no contest," she agreed and lifted her face for his mouth. Her hands slid all over his skin, as he tugged at her clothes impatiently. He finally got a hand down her underwear and she let out a satisfied sound, as his fingers caressed her until she was shivering with a need for more.

"Down," he murmured, "let me do this right."

"I'm gonna complain?" she teased and stretched out on their blanket, so he could use that expert touch to send her shuddering into climax. But she didn't want to rest afterward, she wanted more. "C'mon, baby," she coaxed. He didn't need much persuading, pushing between her opened legs, deep and true, hard enough to make her gasp.

He held out until she was panting and quivering with the heat he raised inside her, and she noticed absently that even the wings were held out a little ways and then frozen in place, but vibrating with tension.

Then conscious thought dissolved as the sweet nothing rocked through her. She called his name, fingers tightening to claws on his shoulders.

Then with a final snap of his hips, he followed her, with a somewhat dazed look in his eyes. He bent down to kiss her in gratitude, trying to catch his breath. She loosened her grip on his shoulders to pull him down on top of her, breathing him in.

She shut her eyes and murmured, "I almost was gonna leave. I was gonna run away."

He took a moment to answer, and his hand never paused in its idle caress of her side down to her hip and back up. "What changed your mind?"

"Because ... it would break us," she answered. "And I don't want that. I know I'm a terrible wife to you -- "

"Kara--" he lifted his head as if he was going to object.

She opened her eyes and insisted, "It's true. I know it. I've been selfish and mean, and I've hurt you."

He set a finger across her lips, and his eyes were serious and a little concerned. "Kara, losing you was the greatest hurt you've ever done to me. The rest of it? Doesn't matter. If I'd wanted out, I could have left."

Which was true, but not all the truth, she knew that. She had hurt him and he had been angry, but he'd waited for her to come around with a patience she couldn't understand. "You scare me sometimes," she whispered. "Any normal person would've given up long ago."

He smiled. "First, I don't give up easily, and not on you. I know it takes you awhile to figure things out. And second, "normal"?" He shifted more upright and spread the wings out, so they stretched over his head.

It startled her into a laugh. "Okay, okay."

He relaxed back down again and stroked her cheek with his hand. "We're not normal, Kara. I never was, it turns out, and I don't think you were either. But we're still us."

She closed her eyes, feeling his fingers move down her throat to her shoulder. His touch always helped her feel real, especially after she'd come back, but even way back on Caprica that first time, the feel of his skin against hers had made her feel more centered, more like herself. "I feel like me."

"You feel like you, to me, too," he agreed, and his finger traced her tattoo. "Together til the end," he said, but it tilted up into a question, and proved he was not quite as sure as he wanted to be.

She looked into his eyes and promised, "And after." Then she curled her hand around the back of his neck and pulled him down to kiss.

The sun seemed brighter and warmer this morning. Lying on the hard ground, and Sam like a heavy blanket on top, was familiar and made her smile.

"What?" he asked.

"Reminds me of New Caprica," she said. "When we went exploring, and got sand down our pants and the water was barely above freezing..."

"Mm, that was fun," he agreed. "Had you all to myself..." He nuzzled at her neck playfully, tickling her with his unshaven chin, but then a strange noise made them both freeze. Their eyes met, and she realized from the chagrined look on his face, what it had been. She burst into laughter, as he sat up.

"Someone would like breakfast," she teased.

"Starving," he agreed with a wry look and patted his stomach. "One ration bar isn't enough after flying, I don't think."

"Or sex," she reminded him. "Twice."

"That, too. Though it was a good exchange," he teased and leaned down to kiss her some more. "You must be getting hungry, too. They're going to send a search party for us pretty soon. Leoben can only hold them off so long."

She made a face, but had to agree. He found his undershorts and then wrapped the blanket around himself after shaking it out, and she put her clothes back on again. While she was putting on her boots, she watched as he looked out to the water and started combing his fingers through the feathers.

Even after she had the boots tied, she stayed on the rock, watching. He seemed to be doing it instinctively, arranging them back into smooth perfection again after being ruffled by sleep and sex. But then, even though he tried to bring the wing forward far enough, he simply couldn't reach the part at the middle of his back.

"And that's how we know you're not a bird," she told him, making him start with surprise as though he'd forgotten she was there. "You can't groom them alone. Can I help?"

He twitched his shoulders. "It itches," he complained, and turned to let her see his back. "I can feel one of them's wrong, but I can't reach it."

It still made her stomach roil with the strangeness, seeing how the wings came out of his skin, bone covered with skin and feathers, and the hard tendons that moved them underneath. Even the bones of his back were different, as if his shoulder-blades had become some other structure.

But the feathers were soft to the touch, and she discovered tiny downy ones in the hollow between, along his spine. She could see Sam relax as she petted the feathers. "Feels good?" she murmured. He made a wordless murmur of agreement. She leaned very close to whisper in his ear, her hands making long strokes along the bones where she'd learned they were most sensitive, "One of these days we'll have to find out if I can make you come, touching these..."

He shuddered and she smirked. Then he tried to retort, but his voice was hoarse so it lost some its snappy comeback quality, "I love it when you make dirty promises, because I know if you say you'll do something, you'll do it, right?"

"That's right." One last lingering caress and her lips on the back of his neck, and she pulled away. "Feel better?"

He snapped the wings back in and turned to grin at her. "I do. Thank you."

"I didn't sign on to be a bird groomer when I agreed to marry you," she teased.

But he took it far too seriously. His grin faded, and he looked down. "No, you didn't. I'm sorry-- I shouldn't --"

"Sam," she snapped, hands on her hips. "Quit it. Do you think I'd do it if I didn't want to?" she challenged. "Okay? I wanted to - I was kidding. You were a lot better figuring out when I'm trying to be funny, before," she grumped at him.

"Yeah, well, that was before," he muttered. "I sprouted frakking wings yesterday; it's all a little too new to find it funny yet."

"All right, all right, but it is kinda funny," she sighed, then her lips twitched upward, unable to resist it. "The puppy dog face is killing me."

He turned his face toward her, giving her the most pitiful expression she could imagine -- she laughed. "Oh, now you're trying too hard."

He lifted his face and smiled, then his expression got serious again. "Look, I know you wouldn't do it if you didn't want to. But I don't get why you'd want to."

She frowned at him and held out her hand to brush the edge of his wings. "Why wouldn't I?" she murmured. "They're part of you. I'd be lying if I didn't say they're bizarre, because this whole situation is frakking unreal, but... it also feels right, in some way. I mean, you and I are obviously in this -- whatever the hell 'this' is -- up to our necks. We even have the tattoos," she brushed his right arm, along the inked wing. He twitched, looking down at it, and his brow creased as if he hadn't thought about the tattoo in relation to his new wings before. Then she smiled a little wryly. "Besides, coming back from the dead still trumps wings in the weird shit department, sorry."

He chuckled and put an arm over her shoulder. "You think so? Seems to me coming back from the dead is pretty common." She stiffened in protest, and then realized how idiotic it was to argue over that, like it was some gods-damned competition for who had the most frakked-up life. He pulled her near and kissed her hair. They stayed like that another moment, until she heard another noisy complaint next to her. Sam put a hand to his stomach, as if chiding it for being so loud, and shook his head ruefully. "We better go find the rest of the crew."

She felt reluctant. Her connection to Sam felt strong right now, and she didn't want to screw it up by involving other people. But it was time; he needed food, and she could use some, too, even if she wasn't quite as eager to eat survival rations as he was.

"I kinda like it here," she murmured. "But yeah."

They started back toward the landing area, through the low scrubby trees. The dawn light cast a pinkish glow over everything and it was quiet, except the sound of the breeze in the grass and their own movement. Sam's hand slipped over hers and she laced her fingers with his, not looking at him. She could see out of the corner of her eye that he wasn't looking at her either.

She smiled to herself. Funny -- it had been only a short time ago she'd been staring at Sam in horrified disbelief at the news that he was a Cylon. Now that news seemed like the least of the mysteries surrounding her.

She still got a little fluttery, angry feeling in her stomach trying to put together 'Sam' with 'Cylon', but the wings changed things a lot, because he was clearly some other kind.

But more importantly, he was still her Sam, and he believed she was still Kara.

* * *

They returned to the landing site, finding it deserted except for a single Raptor. She'd heard some of them leave last night, but hadn't expected them all to leave. "They left us all on our own. I don't know whether to be glad or pissed about that." She opened the hatch, finding a survival kit prominently in the middle of the floor. Inside, she found more rations and pitched two packages to Sam, who was standing at the opening. "Here, catch."

He snagged both out of the air easily and tore into one. She grabbed another and settled down to eat it and inspect the rest of the box. There were medical supplies, water, and more blankets. She threw Sam one of the water packets as well, and watched as he drained it in only a few gulps.

Only when he lowered the empty container and caught her eye, did he look chagrined. "Did you want some? Sorry."

She waved it away. "I have my own. But you should come in, it's warmer out of the breeze."

"I'm good," he said, which was unconvincing when the wings were open to block the wind from his body.

For a moment she thought he might be hesitant to come near her, but realized it was something else, when he glanced back over his shoulder as if he heard something.

"Sam? What is it?" she asked when he did it a second time.

"What? Oh, I -- I left my flightsuit at the base of the bridge. I should go get it. Even if I'm not wearing it again."

She flashed a grin, imaging in the sight. It was already funny enough, watching him stuff himself into the cockpit. They'd have to cut the Viper apart to get him out if he shoved the wings in there, too. "Yeah. I don't think those wings will fit in a cockpit."

"No," he agreed, a little sadly. "I don't think so. But at least I could wear the bottom half again. I think I'll go get it."

He turned and started away, without another word.

She called after him, "Okay. I'll... stay here where it's warm. Moron." Then she heaved a sigh and decided to do something useful while he was wandering around. She sat in the pilot's chair and flicked on the wireless. "Galactica, Starbuck. Do you read?"

The answer was prompt, in Hoshi's voice. "Starbuck, Galactica. Sitrep?"

"Condition green, Galactica," she reported. "Myself and Longshot. Requesting further instructions."

After a moment, Hoshi told her, "Hold position, Starbuck. Landing party is inbound to the surface in twenty."

"Wilco, Galactica. Starbuck out."

She flicked off the wireless. While she waited for Sam to come back, she grabbed another blanket out of the supply box and tried to cut out a poncho of sorts for Sam to wear. The results demonstrated her utter lack of clothing design skill, since it was ugly as hell, but hopefully it would keep him warm. He hadn't come back by the time she finished, and so she decided to go find him.

He was nowhere in sight. "Sam!" she called, but didn't hear any answer. "Sam!"

She headed for the bridge, since he'd said he was going that way. But when she was about halfway, motion above caught her eye.

He was standing on the bridge deck, a pale grey ghost against the grey sky. He had the wings spread wide, as if feeling the wind, and he seemed to be waiting for something.

Then he jumped.

Her heart seemed to rise into her throat as he fell. The wings came down, beating furiously, but to no apparent effect, and she wanted to yell at him that he needed more thrust, or change his angle of attack, or something, or gravity was going to slam him into the water.

He was going to die, right there, right in front of her eyes. She was going to lose him on the same morning she'd realized how much she wanted him to stay.

Intending to scream, her voice emerged as a choked whisper of denial: "No."

But then, the wings caught the air, and he skimmed the water, nearly touching it. He rose higher out into the bay where the early morning light shimmered golden on his graceful flight. It was gorgeous, and for that moment, while she watched, she felt both a piercing longing to join him and a seething jealousy that he had this perfect flight, when she didn't.

He made a slow turn and headed back. He saw her from far away and angled in her direction, slowing until Kara was sure he would stall.

She stared, breath stopping again as he abruptly pulled up and backwinged to land on top of the crumbling wall in front of her, about two meters up.

He was grinning with triumph. "Did you see? Did you see?" he demanded, with excitement that made him look like a little boy. "It's so awesome, Kara. It was even better that time, and I --"

Then the wall collapsed out from under him and he fell with a cry and a crash of broken masonry.

"Sam!" She rushed forward. He was on his side, concrete fragments around and on top of him. "Gods, are you okay?" she demanded then said sharply as he stirred, "No, wait, don't move. Let me move some of this off you." There was one chunk as big as a medical kit on top of his wing and she knelt down to pick it up and pitch it aside. She moved a couple more out of the way. "There, I think you're clear now."

"Frak. I... I think I'm okay." He sat up gingerly and coughed. "Gods, what the hell happened?"

"The wall broke." She leaned in, looking more closely at the scrapes and cuts to make sure none were deep. The worst one seemed to be a cut on his forehead at his hairline, dripping blood down the side of his face. "Gods, Sam, you barely cleared the water. I thought you were going to hit. What the frak were you thinking?" she demanded furiously.

He thought about it for a long silent moment, and answered wistfully, "Showing you how wonderful it is."

She let out a breath and shook her head at him, thumbing away the blood at his temple. "You are just like me, you idiot. Throwing yourself off the frakking bridge, like some gods-damned baby pigeon."

He grinned back at her, unrepentant. "But it was great."

"Except for the part with the falling," she reminded him, and he winced.

He climbed to his feet and extended his wings slowly, and she held her breath, praying nothing was broken. He didn't appear to have any pain, only feathers askew and covered with dust and sand. He started to comb his fingers through them again to get them to lay properly.

She heaved a sigh. "Can't blame you, I guess. You should've seen the stupid shit I did at the academy, when I was learning to fly."

"'Did'?" he repeated mocking.

"Difference is, rook, I know what I'm doing," she corrected, trying to be stern, but that was impossible when he was rearranging his damn feathers. "You, on the other hand, keep trying to get yourself killed."

"I am not," he protested, shooting her an affronted glance.

She rolled her eyes and started to help him by petting the back ones into place again. "You gonna shed these all over the shower?" she demanded when a little one came off on her fingers. Then she thought about what she was saying -- flying was all very well, but Galactica wasn't going to stay here. They'd have to think about the practicalities of how Sam was going to live on the ship: showers, clothing, sleeping... "I think we need to put in for married quarters. There's no way you're gonna fit in my rack."

His motion stilled, and he looked at his hands for a moment, as if shocked by her spontaneous words. They hadn't had official married quarters since New Caprica. Even on the Demetrius, the cabin had never been 'theirs', something she was suddenly acutely aware of, as his gaze flickered.

"I ... don't know," he answered finally, not looking at her. "The ship's crowded. There might not be space. And since I can't be a pilot any more, there's no reason for the admiral to let me stay on the ship at all."

She had done this, she knew, watching him try so desperately to make it sound like it didn't matter. Like he couldn't risk hoping for something that wasn't going to come true.

But it would, she was determined. She answered, "Of course he's going to let you stay. He'd let you stay without me, because there's no way he's letting you leave Galactica's protection," she reminded him. "Unless you want to go to the baseship, it's safest on the Big G. You know that. But that doesn't matter, because you're my husband, and I think it's about time we get what we would've gotten after New Caprica, if I hadn't been so frakked up. There will be space," she vowed softly, grabbing his shoulder so he had to look at her, and staring into his eyes so he would see she meant every single word. "If I have to carve it out of the frakking hull, I will find a space for us. I made a promise and I'm not letting go, Mister Samuel T. Anders. Not this time."

His eyes were so blue in this light, but wary, as if he couldn't trust her words anymore. But then, why should he, when she'd thrown it in his face so many times that those vows she'd once made to him were worth so little?

She wrapped her other hand lightly around the wing bone, trying to explain why things were going to be different this time. "You fell, Sam. You fell, and if you'd hit the water, you'd be dead. I can't ... I can't let you slip through my fingers because I wasn't paying attention, or I was too frakking scared of what it means. The stakes are too high; for you, for me, for everybody. I don't know what you are, I don't know what I am-- but that makes us the same. I see that now. You're still Sam. And that's the part that matters."

He didn't answer for a moment. He bit his lip, and he pulled her into his arms and held her tight against him. Then he inhaled an unsteady breath. "I ... I would like to share a cabin again," he whispered, resting his cheek on her hair. "But have you thought about this, Kara? It could be... hard."

"Living with you is not that hard," she scoffed. "Except I might be late for duty a lot since I'll be too busy jumping you all the time." Her fingers skimmed the muscles of his flanks and the ridges of heavy tendons beneath the skin, where the wings attached, caressing downward.

He smiled briefly but shook his head. "No, that's not what I mean. People are going to blame me for this place not being what they were promised."

"Don't be ridiculous. It's not your fault -- it's certainly no more your fault than it is mine. It was my frakking Viper that led us here," she reminded him. "And anyone who wants a piece of you is gonna have to come through me first, that much I promise. Nobody touches a hair on your head or a -- a feather on your wings--" She stopped and blinked. "And I can't believe those words are coming out of my mouth."

He chuckled. "Yeah, tell me about it." He kissed her, and this time she could feel he was more relaxed beneath her touch, as if he was letting himself believe her now.

When she forced herself back from him, she scrounged on the ground for the blanket thing she'd made. "Here, try this."

He eyed it dubiously, but put his head through the hole she indicated, and put it on. She waited for him to laugh, as he pulled it around the right way for the other slit to go in the back, but then he nodded and smiled at her. "Better, thanks."

"It's ugly, I know," she said, "but at least it might keep you from freezing your ass off. We'll have to figure out a better way to deal with your clothes. But now, since you obviously can't be allowed on your own or you fall off things, we'll go find your jocksmock together. We're supposed to get company soon."

He made a face of disappointment at that, but led the way through the ruins toward the bridge.

When he found the suit, she didn't like the way his gaze wandered upward to the bridge pillar looming above them, and she smacked his shoulder. "No, not again."

"No," he agreed with a sigh. "I'm too tired." He put on the bottom half of the flightsuit and cinched his belt, making Kara aware again of how much thinner he'd become. It occurred to her to wonder how fragile his bones had become to allow him to fly, and she felt a little sick remembering the wall crumbling out from under him.

"I know it's fun, Sam, and I know you still have those 'play through the pain' instincts from pyramid, but take it slow," she urged. "If you get injured you might not fly again, and I can tell you'd miss it already."

She'd never expected that Sam would become a pilot in the first place. She'd never even considered it, until she'd seen him on the deck in this flightsuit. But this was the first time she'd seen him have the same joy in flying that she felt, and she didn't want that to end too soon.

"Yeah, I would." He turned his face toward the sky - at first, she thought he was remembering his flights, and then she heard the low whine of the landing party coming back. Four Raptors and two Heavy Raiders soon came into view and their peace was broken by the roar of the engines.

"Come on," he said, when they'd both watched the ships land to the south. "Let's go see what's going on."

* * *

Dee had been prepared to give the admiral any number of reasons why she should go back down to the planet. The true reason was wanting to see Sam fly again, but she thought she should have better reasons than that. But it turned out to be unnecessary, as he sent her to coordinate the research effort with Lee.

But she nodded sharply and was grateful for the order.

On the surface, the air was brisk, but it was less cloudy than the day before and a little warmer.

To her disappointment, she saw that Sam was walking, not flying. But she was glad to see he was walking beside Kara, and they were laughing about something as they approached.

"Tell me you have food!" Kara called when she was still several steps away. "This overgrown sparrow here has eaten every single ration in the case you left for us."

"Sparrow?" he mock glared at her. "I thought being called a frakking pigeon was bad, now I get 'sparrow'?"

"More like a duck," Dee blurted unthinking, then found herself the focus of both Kara and Sam's gaze -- Sam looked more amused than Kara, who looked suspicious, as if Dee was mocking him. "We had these ducks back home - they were grey and white. And when they flew, they looked like your wings."

"Guess I'd rather be a duck than a sparrow," Sam said, and ignored Kara when she muttered something that sounded like 'pigeon' at him.

"What was it like?" Dee asked him. "It looked like fun."

"It is. Like all the good parts of flying a Viper, but feeling the wind and -- and I don't know," he shrugged. "I'm going to miss it when we have to leave."

"Yeah, so why'd you guys come back?" Kara asked them. "We can't live here."

"To figure out what happened," Lee answered. "Maybe find out if some of them survived and went somewhere. They had to have spaceflight to get here, so it's the president's hope that some of them escaped and founded a new settlement."

Sam's smile turned brittle. "Yeah, more breadcrumbs across the galaxy. Wonderful."

Lee shifted at Dee's side in clear discomfort. "Well, at least we can find out what happened. Unless you know?"

Sam shrugged. "It got nuked. It seemed to be a surprise. That's all I know."

"You sound like you don't want to know?" Lee asked.

Sam's gaze lifted to scan the ruins. "No," he murmured. "I saw Caprica burn. I don't want to remember another one. I don't want to look around this place and be able to see it as it was, filled with people I knew. The ruins are bad enough."

He walked away, trailing a hand across a fallen wall. Kara watched him for a little ways and then turned back. "This place sucks," she stated. "I think we should get the frak out of here and back on the road."

"But road to where?" Dee asked. "We don't have a road. That's what we're here to look for. Do you have some idea? Or feeling, or something? Like you did before?"

Kara snorted. "Yeah, and that turned out so well last time. But no, whatever it was before, it's gone."

"Then we have to do it the hard way," Lee shrugged. "Cylons are here. We're going to start digging."

He started away, but Kara held Dee back with a quiet word of her name. "What's it like on the Bucket and in the fleet, after the news?"

"People are shocked, disappointed...." She saw Kara glance toward Sam and realized that wasn't the part Kara wanted to know. "Some people were amazed by the wings. Others thought they were freaks. The reaction seemed pretty mixed. I think most people are still in shock."

Kara nodded. "Thanks."

* * *

Relieved by Dee's report, Kara went looking for Sam. He'd gone out of sight, and though she wouldn't have thought giant wings would be easy to hide, it still took her a moment to find him.

He was on the beach, and he was holding something in his hand, standing very still, lost in thought as she clomped across the hard sand toward him. He realized she was there and said without looking away from the thing in his hand. "This was mine. I was playing it right before the bombs fell."

She frowned, not able to figure out what he was holding.

"I know it was that song," he continued in a low murmur, more to himself than to her. "Why do I know that, but not know how I got to the Colonies? Why do I remember going to school, having parents, when I know it has to be a lie? Cylons don't have parents. Why is this thing all I remember from here? Why did nothing else survive, but this did?"

He held it up by one end and she thought she recognized the long, flat thing. "Is that a part of a guitar?"

"I've never had a lesson that I remember," he murmured, "but I know how to play it." He lifted his face to hers, with something desperate shining there. "I need to find a guitar in the fleet. I don't care what I have to trade to get it, I need to find one. I think -- " he licked his lips, "I know it sounds crazy, but I think if I play it, I can remember."

"Hey, trust me, I know crazy, and you're not," she teased. But then, seeing he still seemed anxious, she nodded. "All right, we'll look for one. There might be one on Galactica, though I don't think I've seen one since New Caprica. There's that piano in Joe's. Would that help?"

He shook his head. "No. I don't think so. It has to be this." He tucked the fragment into his flightsuit pocket and zipped it up.

"I thought you didn't want to remember."

He cast his gaze out to the ruins on the opposite shore and sighed. "I don't, not this part. But if there's more stuck in my head, I have to know the truth. At least when I thought I was a sleeper Cylon like Boomer, this made more sense. I hated it, but at least it made sense. But right now I feel like I'm in a fog, and I don't understand anything."

"You and me both, baby," she murmured.

He folded her hand around hers and squeezed. "I know. At least we're in this together, and maybe we can figure out some way out of it."

"If there's a way out."

"Oh, there must be some way --" He stopped abruptly, but she didn't think to ask what was wrong. His faith in a purpose to everything hit her again and she shook her head, suddenly angered that he was giving the gods all this faith they didn't deserve in the slightest.

"Don't you get tired of it?" she demanded, pulling free and twisting around to confront him. "I mean, gods, Sam, frakking wings? How is that not ridiculous and even cruel? And I find a copy of my corpse? Why us? Why do we get the gods-damned frakking destiny and all that shit, when we never asked for any of it?"

He paused. "I hope that's a rhetorical question. The gods don't have to ask us for permission to frak around in our lives. It's kind of... reassuring, actually."

She stared at him as if he'd suddenly grown another head or was talking in a language she didn't understand. "What? 'Reassuring'? Why?"

He glanced toward the sun and the play of the light on the water. "Makes me feel more human. If the gods are messing with me, then it seems to imply I have a soul."

His doubt of that very fundamental fact hit her somewhere deep, and she snapped, "Of course you have a soul, don't be stupid."

His head swung back to look at her, his eyes sparking with a sudden anger of his own. "Cylon, remember? Humans don't believe Cylons have souls. Because they're -- we're -- 'just machines'," he finished, bitterly.

"Only morons believe that," she retorted.

"Says the woman who said she'd put a bullet in my head if she found out I was a Cylon."

The reminder of her reckless words stung. She hadn't believed it was possible; she'd only been mocking his easy acceptance of the possibility of her being one. She groaned and rolled her eyes. "Frakking hell, Sam, are you not over that yet? It was a joke. Because I didn't do it, when I found out, right? No, instead I listened to you, and I found the signal, and I raced all the way across the ship to save your ass. I didn't mean it when I said it, and I certainly don't mean it now that it turned out to be true. And while I can't deny it freaked me out and I wondered if you'd been lying to me the whole time, I know better." She'd known better the minute she thought about it at all, because she'd seen the exact moment he had started to lie to her about it -- when she'd said those hasty words.

She inhaled a breath and finished truthfully, "It doesn't seem that important anymore. You are who you were before."

"Am I?" he countered. There was a haunted look to his eyes that, in hindsight, she remembered seeing on Demetrius. "I don't know if that's true. I don't know who I was. I don't know who the Anders who played guitar was. I don't even know if that was me. Maybe it's someone else's fragment of memory I got through some frakked up download. I don't know. And I can't-- I can't live like this, Kara. I thought I could, but I have to find out what's real."

She opened her mouth to protest that she was real, and then shut it again. She wasn't, was she? Kara Thrace, daughter of Dreilide and Socrata, was dead. Whatever she was, she wasn't the real Kara.

Wrapped in his own confusion as he was, he still noticed the look on her face and grabbed her shoulders in a tight grip. "I didn't mean you. You're real. And I'm real. But my memories aren't. I remember things that can't be true. There's a real history I need to find."

She glanced at the pocket keeping the guitar piece. Sam hadn't known how to play guitar before, and now he did. Somehow that was more unsettling than growing wings. "But what if you remember?" she whispered. "What does that do to my Sam? "

He framed her face in both hands, in that way he had of making sure he could look in her eyes. "I will always love you, Kara," he reassured her. "That's the most real thing in my whole life; that's the thing I hold onto when everything else is frakked up and strange. Even when you were gone, and everything I knew got turned upside down, that's what I tried to remember."

She put her hands around his waist and held him tight, as their lips clung together, fierce in their need.

Onward to Chapter Three
entertaining in a disturbing way: Kara Sam WHAT IS THISlyssie on October 12th, 2010 02:39 am (UTC)
Oh, Dee. <3

And Kara and Sam doubting so much. Silly silly kids. SIGH. =D THEY ARE SO EPIC
korekorenap on October 15th, 2010 05:22 am (UTC)
Still loving the attention to life with wings. Sam and Kara shine in this. Thank you so much for sharing your imagination with the rest of us.
kag523 on February 24th, 2011 04:56 am (UTC)
I love that you haven't glossed over the reactions of the crew. It is also interesting that Dee gets such hope from seeing Sam. I actually love that. Gives me a real sense of where you are going with the fic. *happy sigh*

Again - love the whole writing here. :>)
lizardbeth: Anders- featherslizardbeth_j on February 24th, 2011 07:17 am (UTC)
It's always hard for me not to blurt out things to come, so I'll just say I'm glad you like it so far!