Note: Takes place directly after the events of the season 4 premiere, "He That Believeth in Me." Spoilers all around. My thanks to Rocky for persuading me to write this and then betaing this baby.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Really. No profit or infringement intended.
Kara is furious in her movements. Anger asserts itself in her every muscle. From his vantage point just to the right, Anders studies the tight line of her jaw, the narrowness of her eyes. This determination both fascinates and frightens him. He watches as she zips the duffle close and refrains from pointing out all the necessities she's missed. She's got three pairs of pants, but no shirts, for instance. She packed her toothbrush, but forgot the toothpaste. She's eager enough to get off Galactica that she doesn't care if her teeth fall out. Funny the inconsequential things that suddenly matter when the woman he loves is about to walk out the door.
"I have to go," Kara says, brushing past him with such intensity he nearly loses his balance. He grabs her elbow. Her eyes flash challenge at him.
"Let me go," she says.
"They're not turning the fleet around. We're going the wrong way."
"So you've been saying." And not just in words, he knows. It hasn't been long since he caught up to Kara outside Roslin's quarters and pulled the gun out of her limp hand. "What did you do?" he asked her, his hands clutching her shoulders. "What the *frak* did you do?"
Kara shook her head. "She wouldn't listen."
"What did you *do*?" Anders asked. And that was when he stepped into Roslin's quarters and saw the President, still in bed, her eyes closed, and a nice red welt forming on her forehead. He checked the President's pulse, put his hand near her nose to ascertain she was still breathing, and then pulled Kara back into the corridor. "Cottle--" he began, but Kara had other ideas and before long, he was following her back to their bunk, and then watching her stuff clothes into a bag.
"I have to go," Kara says now, jerking away from him.
"You can't go alone."
"What choice do I have?"
He inhales sharply. "I'll go with you."
Kara laughs and it reminds him that her opinion of him varies on a sine curve; they must be at the bottom of the amplitude now. "You?"
"They won't miss me," Anders says. "This has always been your ship, your crew. I've just been part of the package. They won't miss me." He doesn't tell her he has his own reasons for wanting to flee. It's hard these days seeing Tigh, Chief Tyrol, and Tory. There are times when he wants to touch Tory's cheek, feel her hair against his skin; these are gestures, simple ones, that remind him of what being human feels like. But when he sees Tigh, Tyrol, he can't even imagine that comfort. Away from them, he thinks he might forget he's a Cylon.
Kara's eyeing him. Contemplating. He wonders what part of the sine curve they're journeying along now. The crazy part is, he still loves her with every bit of his Cylon self, even though he's not sure she's ever loved him back in that same way.
"Frak," she says finally. "Frak."
He takes that as a "yes" and follows her out. He doesn't have time to pack a bag, but he doesn't care; he knows they won't be back.
"Did you miss me?"
Kara's in control of the Raptor. She doesn't seem to want to make eye contact with him. He's consoled himself by memorizing the curves of her shoulder, the elegant tilt of her neck. He still can't believe Galactica let them go. He knows it's because they don't trust Kara, as happy and surprised as they were to have her back, and they haven't placed much value on him yet; he's a nugget, he knows his place. And he suspects Tigh had something to do in persuading Adama and Roslin to let them go. I know how you feel, Old Man, he thinks with a bitter smile.
"Sam?" Kara's voice is sharp, jolting. "Did you miss me?"
"Yeah," he says, a little too quickly.
"How much?" Kara's using her foreplay voice, the one with that dangerously seductive edge, the one that always promises so much, even when they are so emotionally disconnected from one other. Right now, Kara might be sitting just a few feet away from him, but she might as well be still lost in that nebula. The distance between them is immeasurable and after all this time, he doesn't know if he can bridge it, if even he should try.
"Missing someone isn't something you can quantify," Anders says.
She laughs. "You've changed. You're avoiding the question. Just like Lee. Playing it safe."
He bristles at the comparison to Lee. "I told you I missed you," Anders says a little snappishly.
"Words." She dismisses him with a casual wave of her hand. "Six hours. Two months." She shrugs. "What does time matter?"
"Everything," he says. Two months ago, he wasn't a Cylon.
"I found Earth. I can't frakkin' believe the President's reaction when I told her. I found *Earth*. Isn't that what she's wanted from the very beginning when the Cylons attacked us?"
"Galactica let us go," Anders says in his most conciliatory tone. "Maybe you were able to convince the President and she believes you now."
"Ha! They don't trust me. I saw it in the way the Admiral looked at me," Kara says. The undercurrent of sadness in her voice tugs at him, but he makes no move. Kara has never been one to be comforted and he doesn't think he could handle the rejection. "Maybe they decided they would rather have me off Galactica because they don't trust I will act in their best interests. It's clear they don't think of me as one of them anymore even if I have found what they've all been looking for." She scoffs bitterly.
"Maybe they don't trust *you*, but what about me? Last I checked, they trusted me." Anders doesn't pause to reflect on the irony of the statement. "Or is it guilt by association?"
"Or maybe they think of you as expendable."
"Expendable," he says. "I didn't think we thought *anyone*, except maybe Baltar, was expendable these days."
"'Expendable' in the sense that it's no big loss if you don't come back." She laughs, a little nervously. "You know I love you, don't you?"
"Words," he says.
She laughs again, but he still thinks the joke's on him.
"Was there someone else?" Kara's leaning over him, her blond hair framing her face. He's noticed her hair has grown longer since her 'disappearance'. He wonders how she hasn't noticed.
"I thought you were dead," he says. He shifts away from her. He hates sleeping on the narrow bench in the back of the Raptor. He's only just now getting used to the sounds, the bumps, the jolts, the vibration from the FTL drive. Kara's not a smooth pilot. She likes to take swift angles, steep curves. He wonders if she's trying to get them both killed.
"Surprise!" She stands up, stretching her arms over her head in a smooth, elegant motion. The veins in her arms are prominent, blue, and then the tattoo on her upper arm, a replica of his own. He wonders if she plans to get some rest.
"I can take over," he says. "When did you sleep last?"
He wants to ask about stims, but then decides not to. He remembers Kara's reaction when she caught Kat using stims, but there's a part of him that wonders as he watches her pace the small Raptor, her hands clenching and unclenching, her eyes bright.
"Was there someone else?" she asks again, slowly, deliberately.
Anders doesn't look away. "When you 'disappeared', I stood on your Viper and if there was ever a moment you'd come back to me, it was then. You never wanted me anywhere near your bird, never wanted me to touch it. It was you, all you, and I wasn't allowed to be part of it." He inhales sharply, glances down at his hands. His palms are rough, calloused. It's been a hard couple of years. Just once, he wants a moment to be easy, but Gods know, this isn't going to be one of them. "When I stood on your ship, and you didn't appear, I knew you were gone." He clears his throat. "We hung your picture with the others. It was hard seeing it there, but it made it seem real that you were really gone and I had to figure out what life without you was like." He presses his lips into a straight line. "I didn't like it."
"I've never been unfaithful to you," she says.
He contemplates this, knows she's lying, but decides forgiveness and indirect answers as a method of self-preservation are the best options. "I'm sorry," he says.
"Frak," she says. "Frak, frak, frak." She runs her hands through her hair, grabbing at her skull.
"I said I was sorry."
"I was gone six hours. Six. Hours."
"It was two months for me." Anders sits up. He gets Kara's hurt, knows she's upset that life continued on without her on Galactica, but he's also annoyed she won't cut him some slack. After all, he thought she was *dead*.
"Was she someone I know?" Kara's voice is dangerously calm.
He remains quiet, deciding it's the best course of action. The airlock is not too far from where he's standing.
"I take it as a yes," Kara says. She paces heavily, her boots echoing on the floor. "If you died, I wouldn't have done that to you, Sam, I wouldn't have done that."
"I find that hard to believe because I know differently," he says with some bitterness, rubbing his leg where it occasionally still hurts from his fall off the Viper. "If I'd known you were coming back," he said softly, "if only I'd known you were still alive, if only I'd known you were still out there." He shakes his head. "I don't even know where to start, Kara. It's been hell without you and I wish I knew it was going to get better. I didn't do it because I didn't love you anymore, I did it because I needed to feel close to someone and I needed that connection. I'm telling you I'm sorry but I don't know what I'm really apologizing for."
She bites her lip. "Earth is close," she says and it's just like her to change the subject when it gets too close for comfort. "We're going the right way now." She smiles brightly, maybe even fearfully.
"And then?" Anders feels a flash of foreboding. Maybe he should have stayed on Galactica. Maybe he shouldn't have been so foolhardy as to volunteer to come with her. But then he remembers what it felt like to be without her, and he knows, no matter how events and circumstances play out, that he made the right decision.
Kara smiles enigmatically. "Then it won't matter what you did or didn't do when I was gone."
"You missed Baltar's trial," Anders says. He stands behind her, thinks about rubbing her shoulders, but decides against it. He also knows he should take a seat, buckle in, because of the way she jerks the Raptor around. But he's tired of sitting. It's been just over six hours since they left Galactica, jumping from wormhole to wormhole based on nothing more than Kara's intuition. He wonders how much longer it'll take to reach Earth. He wonders what they'll find there and every now and then, he does dare to wonder (silently, of course) whether they're even going the right way.
"That must have been a circus. I'm sorry I missed it," Kara says. "What was the verdict?"
The Raptor makes a sharp drop. "Not guilty? He must have had one hell of a lawyer."
"Lee Adama, for one."
The Raptor plunges again. Sam braces himself against the wall.
"Frak." Kara shakes her head. "You're frakking me."
"Not Lee, I don't believe it." She twists in her seat to look at him. "Did you watch the proceedings?"
He wonders if there's something else she's asking, but he decides not to listen too closely for shades of gray.
"I attended once or twice," Anders says. "I had other things going on."
"Was it *her*?" Kara's lip curls up dangerously. He takes a step back.
"No," he says, even though he can still remember the faint scent of Tory's perfume. "Training, of course. Flight training."
"Right. You're a pilot now," she says it with a sneer. He gets the feeling she doesn't think he's good enough, but he's newly minted and can only get better. He doesn't even what to mention he started flying because it was the one way he could feel close to her after she disappeared. Frak that, Anders thinks, even though he does want Kara's approval; clearly they won't be bonding over pilot training and a mutual love of flying.
"Yes," he says quietly.
"You had your first battle and you survived. I guess that counts for something."
"Head to head with a Cylon raider," Kara says. Her voice gains in intensity, in pitch. He takes another step backwards and then decides to return to his seat. Earth can't come too fast for him. "How did that feel, Sam?"
"Intense, scary," he says. "Like nothing I've ever experienced."
"I love it," she says. "The bird and I, we're one and the same, and when I see those things, when I pull the trigger, and watch them explode in that brilliance of red blood, it's better than anything else. Even sex." She glances over her shoulder at him. "I've stopped counting how many Cylons I've killed." A pause. "Did you get any shots off?"
He shakes his head. "No. I--" how to explain that moment when the Raider scanned him and then abruptly pulled away?
"They disengaged before I got a chance."
"So you're still a virgin," Kara says with feline satisfaction.
"Only if you don't count Caprica," Anders says. Sometimes at night, he wakes thinking he's in the forests of Caprica, the Cylons closing in on him, the dim sun through a haze of yellow clouds glinting off their silver armor. The sound of gunfire punctuates his memory at inopportune times. These memories take on a new meaning now. He wonders what side he's meant to fight on.
"You never forget your first time." Kara turns away from the controls and faces him, her palms curling into fists. He's fascinated by the quickness of her fingers, the smoothness and tension in the action. "To this day, nothing thrills me more than to take another one out."
"Do you really hate Cylons that much?" the question is out there before he can stop himself.
Kara stares. "Don't you?"
"Does it matter?"
"It's not a question, Sam, it's not a decision. It's very simple. They came after *us*. They broke the treaty. They annihilated us and they *still* want to wipe us off the face of the universe. They tortured *me*." She's breathless, nearly out of her chair in the excitement of her emotions. "Thinking isn't something you need to when it comes to the Cylon. Few things are as black and white as what I think of Cylons."
"Sometimes things aren't that simple," Anders says slowly. "What about Athena?"
"What about her?"
"She's a Cylon, a trustworthy Cylon, who's put her life on the line for Galactica countless times, even when Galactica wasn't willing to return the favor."
"You're a frakking idiot," Kara says. She shakes her head. "Is *she* a Cylon?"
"There's no one else," Anders says. "Only you."
Kara laughs and turns back to the controls. A moment later, Anders hears the FTL drive spinning again. The sound is harsh, metallic. He worries the Raptor won't survive the trip to Earth (if indeed they are going the right way) and by extension, neither will he or Kara. He wonders if this is what Kara wants after all. The old worry resurfaces: she lives life too close to the edge, and he wonders how long he can keep her from slipping and whether she'll drag him down with her. There was a time when Kara's penchant for taking risks appealed to him because her recklessness mirrored his own. Now he doesn't even know who he is or what he wants or needs, and the desire to live long enough to answer those questions has growing increasingly strong.
"Sam," Kara says sharply. "You didn't answer the question. Is *she* a Cylon?"
In that moment, Anders realizes he has much more pressing concerns than Kara's precipice hovering.
"How the hell would I know?" he says finally, even though he once promised Kara he wouldn't lie to her. He justifies the falsehood because he knows his marriage won't survive the truth.
Earth floats in the darkness of space, a green and blue marble, blurred by streaks of white. Kara puts her hands to her face. She turns to him, her eyes shining. Her face is flushed.
"I told you," she says. "I *told* you."
"I always believed you," Anders says, even though this is another lie.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"Yes." This is no lie. He can already picture himself on Earth. He imagines lush forests, endless yellow expanses of desert, white capped mountains, deep blue oceans, and all sorts of flora and fauna that had once only existed in imagination and religious texts.
"This is home," Kara says. "This has always been home. This is our destiny."
Anders shifts in his seat. In the past, this concept of destiny has always made him uncomfortable, but today he can accept it. It's as if a switch has been triggered and now he can understand everything clearly. There is a plan, there has always been a plan. "What now?" It's all he can do to remain calm. Anticipation ebbs and flows within him.
"We go back, we tell the President, the Admiral, everyone," she says. She points at him. "You're my witness. They have to believe me now. As you said, they trust *you*."
"And then what?"
"We lead the fleet here and we settle."
"And what if the Cylons come back?"
Kara narrows her eyes. "We'll be ready for them," she says. She curls her bottom three fingers against her palms, extends her index fingers and cocks up her thumbs. "This time, we won't let them get the upper hand." She laughs again and then grabs Anders by the shoulder. "Isn't it beautiful? So romantic, just you and me, out here, and no one else. We don't have to go back, we can keep it for ourselves." She leans in for the kiss. Her lips are fierce against his and the strength which she pushes him up against the wall surprises him. He struggles against her only for a moment. "It can be ours," she repeats.
Anders shakes his head. "No," he says in a voice that doesn't sound like his own, "that's not your destiny."
She steps back in shock. "What--" The DRADIS beeps. She rushes forward. "Frak! Incoming!"
Anders gazes upon Earth. It may have been Kara's destiny to find it, but it's his to lead the Cylons to their new home. He smiles.
~ the end
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