Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Rating: R for references to sex and violence.
Word count: 3850
Notes: This one...oh, really, there's no good excuse. It began because I wanted my Anders to meet bantha_fodder's Dee, and that morphed into me seeing if I could write angsty bitter Anders/Dee. And...I did. And that somehow nudged me in the right place and a whole lot of other things fell out, so I decided to incorporate it into a larger project and write a whole fic examining infidelity. It was fun, for a masochistic interpretation of the word 'fun'. I got to play with a whole lot of characters I wouldn't normally, even if I depressed the hell out of myself by doing so. This is more experimental structure-wise than most of my stuff and so may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I hope it provides some entertainment to someone :)
Again: I've only seen up to 2x13, so this is pure enthusiastic speculation as to events following that episode. I don't know what it is with me and Anders-aboard-Galactica fics, but, er, I managed to keep his POV down to a small fraction of the whole this time.
Thanks go to peri_peteia for checking my Kat and telling me that the premise did not suck, liminalliz for making encouraging noises and suggestions, and schiarire for reading it over even though she's not in the fandom.
(And yes. The title is mostly facetious, but somehow I love it anyway.)
(the ways in which we fall)
For someone whose first proper flight ended in him dashing off to engage the enemy against orders, Brendan Constanza has turned out to be a good little soldier boy.
But he sometimes he smiles like a snake and lets his fingers splay out on the rec room table, and sometimes he'll toss her a tiny sweet morsel of something he's bribed off the cooks, and always he has her back. She knows how much that means.
So she looks him in the eye and lets the side of her mouth tilt up in a smirk, despite the fact that she's wishing that she'd been the one who had enough balls to take Starbuck's wing that day. It's not quite enough to make her hate him.
When he swallows and makes as though to step backwards, muttering something about regulations, she just rolls her eyes and sticks her hand down his pants.
She likes the sounds she makes when his fingers, those long elegant fingers, twist up inside her.
She doesn't like the approval, the indulgence, in the way people are smiling at her.
Starbuck's palm slides across Apollo's wrist when they think nobody is looking.
She watches them and thinks: anything you can do, I can do better.
Felix Gaeta has a tattoo that looks like a tiger and tastes like the copper fear that sits on the back of her tongue when she's flying. He smokes afterwards and would flick ash onto the pillow except there is no pillow. The grey specks fall down onto his feet instead, and then an icy draught from the aircon vent blows them over and the ash gets caught between her skin and her tanks as she pulls her clothes back on.
She's surprised by how easily he admits to thinking about someone else, when she asks him. It's a good thing he doesn't return the favour, because she's not sure that there's a good way to say that the only person she thinks about during sex is herself.
Maybe she should start drinking.
She hates the taste of alcohol.
We should talk about –
About what? Our relationship?
She laughs in his face.
When she corners Apollo in the officer's quarters and slips her hand up under his tanks, she relishes the cold blue surprise in his eyes in the instant before he grasps her wrist, pushes her away.
She knows he doesn't tell anyone because the next time she sees Dee the smile is bright and genuine, and the next time she sees Starbuck she survives the conversation without getting her head knocked off.
She supposes she owes him for that.
He won't break up with her. She won't be the one to back down.
She won't tell him that she's terrified.
But she'll let him hold her, sometimes, let him whisper into her hair, and she'll turn the word sorry into a prayer.
Better, harder, faster, stronger, and there's another knot in her back and she's more tired than ever but she's warm water, baby, slick and sugared, and if she slows down now she'll dissolve herself away.
He never stops seeing differences, even though it's the similarities that make it so interesting. And so damned complicated. They are images that have been bent and reflected around corners and through lenses and expanded and shifted and sent straight to the clenched muscles in his chest, hardly bothering to pass through the retina. They are painted in entirely different media.
He hasn't been back to the house in his head for a while.
Last time he was there, she'd redecorated.
There's something almost shy in her eyes that he likes, really likes, but later on he has to catch himself and remember that she doesn't know every inch of him and hasn't experimented with this position and that interesting way of using her tongue and she's probably never worn a red satin dress with nothing underneath.
He grits his teeth and slows down.
She sends him hard sullen looks and he laughs in her face, telling her it makes her look juvenile. She holds his hand as they discuss the best way to infiltrate the security of the hydroponics facilities. She slips herself into all the tiny, precious circles of personal space he can find. She lets him kiss her and doesn't pull back. She winds her fingers in her hair and says nasty things and she leans forward and she lets the straps of her dress fall and she lets her lips brush the space under her ear and she
He watches Roslin from across the desk. She seems infused, vibrant, and ridiculously intense for someone who is discussing repair rosters and food preservation. The air is busy with their usual mixture of distance and armed respect.
Does this sound feasible, Doctor?
Her hand rests lightly, approvingly, on the President's shoulder; a slim white token, draped over the fabric of Roslin's new suit. Her fingers ripple and tap in a way that looks suggestive and is no doubt intended to be so.
Still wondering, Gaius?
He fixes a smile on his face and says yes to both of them.
She is all thin lines. The wire of her glasses, the boundary of fabric and skin. The way she smiles when she forgets that he is looking; sharp enough to cut.
He's told them both he loves them.
What he hasn't told either of them is that most of all he loves the giggling, casual girl who tickled him when he was having a brain scan. Who all but convinced him he was going mad. Who sat backwards on a chair in a comfortable tracksuit and whose hair wasn't quite perfect and whose smile still appears in his mind sometimes, superimposed over the reality.
Whatever the frak reality is these days.
All I want is peace.
Is that a racial characteristic?
Sorry. I'm sorry.
(But you're not, are you? Your double standards are intriguing.
Please. Go away.)
He visits the house, for old times' sake.
She stands there and yells at him and throws things at the windows until they shatter into ugly dust.
Later he closes his eyes and could swear that there are too many voices murmuring in his ears, too many fingertips dancing across his torso. It should be heavenly and instead he wants to shudder.
She stands in front of a mirror and she looks back.
Maybe he is and maybe he isn't.
The past is what she sees every time Saul's eyes stray sideways to the whiskey bottle.
She knows how to make herself cry attractively; she can scrunch up her face without hiding the full lines of her mouth, and she can unwind her curls just so, and she can throw herself into his arms with not quite enough force to crush the new silk of her blouse.
What she misses most is traveling. People used to praise how well she coped with being married to a military man, and she would nod and shrug and play it up, but she enjoyed the new places. New faces.
She wheedles overnight trips to the larger cruisers whenever she can, but for the most part: here they are, stuck in this frakking metal cave, always running but never running anywhere in particular.
What she will never, ever do is to let anyone see her when she actually cries. She hides from mirrors, from herself. She stands in the shower and hiccups, leaning against the tiles, hating the ugly raw sobs that come from her throat and the pink splotches on her cheeks and the way her nose runs.
The water runs cold. She splashes it onto her face and stands there, breathing through the spray.
The present is what she lives in.
The future is still Tom Zarek.
She believes in him when he bows over her hand and offers her a drink, with the same cool smile that doesn't reach his eyes. She believes in him when he throws his collar of office onto a couch, rubbing at his forehead with two fingers. She believes – ah – in him most of all when her hands are buried in his thick hair and his lips find the pulse of her neck.
When she runs out of face powder she makes a point of mentioning it, offhand, adding a rueful little laugh.
And when she gets back to Galactica and starts unpacking her overnight bag, she's not at all surprised to find two cases of the finest Elaine Ivory Pressed lying sleekly on top of her folded clothes.
Actually, for a ruthless politician, Zarek is very polite in bed. She smiles prettily and goes along with it until one day she turns her head to see his knuckles clenched white-pink around the bunched sheets, and she realises that he's been almost as wary of her as she has been of him.
That makes her feel a lot better.
So she pushes upwards and rolls them over, straddling him, leaning down to tell him exactly what she wants with words that are precise and honeyed. He watches her without expression, and then his eyes darken into something that sends a dart of maybe fear, maybe lust, maybe both, through her stomach.
She is in the habit of getting exactly what she wants.
She watches him shuffling through papers and reports with a look on his face like everything he sees are pieces in a giant game that she'll never understand.
When he lifts his head he smiles, but he's looking at her in exactly the same way.
She manages to smile back.
He is forgetting what she looks like unlatticed by wire. There are thin lines of her skin he has not seen for months. Not that it's an excuse.
Not that it's the whole excuse.
Everyone who can goes to Cloud Nine for their short, precious days off. Nobody stays long. They all have the sea of guilt in their stomach, churning and pushing until their feet are planted back on the Galactica deck.
But they go.
But they come back.
But they go.
He drinks and tries to feel relaxed; when that doesn't work, he tries to feel numb. It's noisy in the bar but somehow he can drown the noise out better than he can the normal laughter and chatter aboard the Galactica. The gossip. The jokes about dates with one's right hand that stopped being funny a hell of a long time ago.
When she slides onto the stool next to him and looks at him with (slanted) brown eyes and pushes her (black) hair over her shoulder, he wonders if he's being punished for something.
She says his name like something in between a caress and the drawling pull of leather across skin. Karl. He frowns and kisses her to swallow the sound. He shudders under her hands.
Like the resemblance, it's just enough.
The next time he can hear the forced notes in his voice so he keeps their conversation short. Behind the wire her smile flickers uncertainly.
He rests his forehead on the glass, closes his eyes and tells her he loves her, over and over until the guilt subsides.
Starbuck's boots are resting on his thigh and she's telling a story about something that happened somewhere, sometime. Flight school. One of the few pranks she never managed to wheedle him or Apollo into helping her with.
When she pauses for breath and a gulp of her drink, eyebrows cocked in anticipation of a response, he comes far too close to telling her everything.
He laughs, instead, and tells her she's an idiot.
He curls up on his rack and punches the underside of the one above, methodical, slow, concentrating on the burn of his knuckles and missing Caprica so much it hurts. He wants the sky back. He wants the high tangled grass and the deserted streets and her fingers curled around a sidearm and her hand on his cheek in the morning and his name on her lips, cutting through the whistle of enemy fire.
She has never called him Karl.
Punished for something?
Punished for everything.
He always knew there'd be a price.
When he walks on the grass, amongst the thin crowd, he can't hear whispers following him like a dirty vapour trail.
When he orders food, the servers do not eye him sidelong and give him the smallest portions.
When she looks at him there is no accusation or despair in her eyes, not quite the right shape. There is no bitterness in her laugh, not quite the right pitch.
Everything seems just out of focus.
Her smile breaks wide like a wave.
He picks up the phone.
She's stripping wires when Tom Zarek's voice comes over the talk wireless, the tiny portable set that she listens to when she's doing mindless work. It's enough of a shock that her hand slips and the dull cutting edge digs into her cuticle, bringing up a bead of blood.
It's been a long time, such a long time. And yet.
When she puts her thumb to her mouth, unthinking, she remembers what the taste of blood is like.
It's good to be small.
It makes hiding easier.
It's just her luck that he finds her after she's stopped vomiting but before she's stopped shaking. She's not weak. She's not stupid. She knows that even attempted rape can make someone feel irrationally dirty; she'd just thought that the knowledge would protect her from it. But Zarek's frakking voice, and suddenly she is pale and falling to pieces and remembering the way that man looked at her. The way it felt to have him gripping the back of her neck. The liquid fear that she fought down and channeled into the desperate clenching of her teeth in the cartilage of his ear. His blood in her mouth.
She's been covered in engine oil from head to toe and felt cleaner than this.
Are you –
I'm fine, Chief, just fine.
Scrubbing at her eyes as though they're a grease patch on the deck. She hardly notices his hand holding her shoulder, his voice murmuring in a gentle monotone, but she lets herself be pulled against the warmth of his chest. When he takes her hand she gasps and clutches his fingers tighter, tighter, as though she spends her days tangling things together instead of pulling them apart.
She wonders if everyone else has the same problem; if everyone else remembers too much. Sometimes she wakes up with panic in her throat thinking that they've only got fourteen minutes left out of thirty-three and she's forgotten to check Starbuck's undercarriage. It takes her hours to fall asleep, afterwards. She stares into the darkness and tries to recall the names of bones and cellular functions. Building the periodic table in her head as carefully as she'd put together a dismantled comm set, box after box and number after number until she can sleep again.
Oh, she's certainly not stupid.
She kisses him first, and tries to not even think the word love.
Somehow it leaks through, though. Just at the edges.
Dee meets her every eighth day, when their free shifts coincide. They pick up mugs of whatever is hot and available and lean against the wall opposite Memory Lane, doing their bit to keep the past alive.
She tries to ask about Apollo. Dee stares into her cup and smiles tightly.
Her fingers slide over the pictures, smoothing down curled edges, picking up dust, and she tries to pretend that she can remember the sound of Max's voice; that his face is not blurred and slipping further from her inner vision with every passing day.
Technically, of course, they're not betraying anything but memories.
But then: it is in the nature of their job to live and breathe technicalities.
She puts the star wrench into his hand before his mouth can open to voice the request. He does not quite smile, but he nods. His glance is steady and through it she feels filtered, as though all of her impurities have been left behind somewhere.
The very first thing is the way her hand can't quite fit all the way around a glass of Tyrol's booze.
The second is the way Kara is laughing, her face buried in Apollo's shoulder.
He wishes she wouldn't talk so frakking much.
Her hair is the colour of cold foul coffee and not quite curled, and it slides through his hand like the stream of air just after he misses a fast catch in a pyramid game. Same silken rush. Same fleeting punchgut sense of loss.
Her eyes are dark and huge and soft and her body is slim and her skin is nothing like his.
He explores the differences with his hands, clings desperately to the new curves and even harder to the spaces, the hollows. Skimming fingers and the taste of bile and cheap alcohol flooding the back of his throat.
In the morning his head throbs with parched tight pain and there's a rhythm to it: dah-dah. Dah-dah.
Grey stains on his grey sheets.
So what was the Pegasus CAP doing while –
Nice job ripping a track in the deck with that –
Think you're riding a bit heavy on the –
Lords of frakking Kobol, if he has to listen to another word from the lips of another frakking pilot, he just might scream.
Blasphemy is easier and easier.
The third thing is that it's the end of the world.
There's something like freedom in the way her mouth never touches his face; in the way he comes, hard and shaking and not really enjoying himself and gritting his teeth to hold everything in.
Other people's names are sketched into the story they are writing. Tattooed into their lips. Somehow, blatantly audible in the silences – oh, they have the normal gasps, the normal moans, each one delivered like a dutifully memorised line. Like a fee. But other than that: no sound escapes either of them. They have to hear
the things they aren't crying out.
But they're the same, they're the same, so who gives a frak anyway.
When she's holding Apollo's hand, smiling up into his face, he marvels at how natural it all looks.
Like she wasn't gasping with her legs around his waist fifteen hours ago.
Like she doesn't know that Apollo would die for the woman ten yards to their left.
Like they're the pretty, politely oblivious accessories that every fashionable pilot needs these days.
Once is a twice is a three times is –
but he is a sportsman and he knows better than to let three come into it again.
Her palms are pale.
Everywhere else, on every other goosebumped inch of her, he knows that it is impossible to see the veins.
It's apt because he meets her eyes across a mug of cold coffee and they are like this; like that; like they are running on nothing but their own savage burnt-out misery; like they are bloodless and bone dry.
She touches the damp end of the stogie with her tongue and thinks about the fact that she's never been stupid enough to get addicted to anything. Never taken stims since that nightmare period just after the attack. Never needed that one last drink; no, of course not. And the cigars are an indulgence and – in many ways – a signature thing, just another piece of the image. She can do without. She had a whole childhood of doing without and so the military suits her fine, just fine.
Spacetime is circular, Baltar says.
All of this has happened before, Leoben says.
His hands grasp her upper arms, pulling her closer until she can't focus on his face. Doesn't matter. She knows what's there, can call it up behind her eyelids and trace it with her fingertips, the naked need and the loathing that's sometimes for her and always, always for himself.
As she opens her mouth and lets the kiss accelerate she suddenly feels like hitting him until his face is red white blue yellow. Frakking patriotic. The colours could swell and bloom and blur away the hate.
She's only doing it because he's in love with her.
Nobody else would put up with this shit. But she can throw everything in his face again and again and pretend like she's nothing but an emotional frak-up, like her motivation is really that simple, and he'll hate it but he'll swallow it all down like pills.
Do I have to smack you in the mouth?
When he stands behind the podium the distance between them is a stupid mawing thing, expanding like the universe itself, so she closes it. She slides down in her seat and taps a pen against her lips and when his eyes fall on her she smirks. Shows her tongue.
He swallows; frowns; keeps speaking with only the smallest inflection of tone.
Nobody else notices.
pulls roughly until everything goes tight and hot and shivers are writhing in the pit of her stomach and she can't stop kissing him can't stop biting his lips between her own and by now she knows every freckle every fluctuation in the lines of him off by heart and they move together like the world didn't end but it's ending here and now and up and down and right and left oh gods oh gods his legs knocking something sideways and a clash as it hits the floor and tension in her neck and she digs her nails into his shoulders and
She believes in the cycle of time.
So she keeps pushing him away, kicking him down, turning herself into a wall of spikes and harsh dismissal. Struggling like all hell to stop him from playing the part that his brother did.
Easier: no admissions.
People say she lives dangerously, but she's playing this as safe as she frakking can.
Do I have to smack you in the mouth?
Yeah. Sometimes he does.
If she lets him talk he'll tell her the reasons why this is a bad idea. She knows them all already. But if the words are allowed to coalesce in his mouth and ears he might taste the trainwreck, hear the hypocrisy; he might change his mind, and she's not sure she could give this up.
She tells him she loves him, silently, with her lips pressed to places that he cannot see.