Summary: Now I lay me down to sleeping head, my love, human on my faithless arm, Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came…
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica (new series: 2003)
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Spoilers up through Exodus II (season 3, ep 4)
Notes: Written for remixredux09 (the 7th incarnation). Unsuccessful in my beta-begging, so any errors are mind. One line stolen from William Shakespeare, one line from W.H. Auden, song lyrics by Ira Gershwin & DuBose Haywood, various lines from the anonymous originators of several nursery rhymes. Title, Author and URL of original story: “Pop Goes the Weasel” by anotherjuxtaposition (LJ name: furies) found at http://www.sparkgirls.com/tulips/popweasel.html. Originally here.
Pins and needles will not stay, will not stay, will not stay.
Kara hums strange tunes when she thinks Leoben isn’t listening, when she thinks she’s alone in the apartment he’s found for her on New Caprica. A little research and he identifies them as nursery rhymes: little nonsense songs that all human children learn;
And she is desperate. She paces through the apartment, humming, her hands jumping from surface to surface—tapping the tabletop, tracing a window sill. She doesn’t like to be confined, is uncomfortable indoors. He suspects her mother’s military discipline frequently consisted of locking the wayward young Kara in the nearest closet. Leoben figures it’s a testament to how much she loves flying that she tolerates the shared bunkrooms on a battlestar or the tiny plastic bubble that is a Viper cockpit. Humans are so odd in that way, so determined to love what harms them, to embrace, repeatedly, what is dangerous and unhealthy.
Kara calls out for Sam in her sleep sometimes; she mumbles about the Adamas—Leoben’s not sure which one. Sam in her sleep and songs she learned from her mother when she wakes. Leoben shakes his head, amazed. Hardly any self-preservation at all, humans: it’s incredible that they’ve lasted as long as they have.
Wood and clay will wash away, wash away, wash away.
Leoben tries to be patient—he is a patient man—but the truth is that dying hurts, even for a Cylon. There is no way to dissociate from the pain: his is an integrated system and, anyway, the downloading process alone is much like being electrocuted. (He knows the comparison is valid because Kara’s tried electrocuting him. Twice.)
The time with the scissors is not so bad; he bleeds into unconsciousness quickly, so there’s only the nerve-boiling jolt of downloading to contend with. The third time, though, when she batters his skull in with the pipe she’s unscrewed from beneath the kitchen sink? She was clumsy and hysterical and he’s not so far gone that he cannot feel it when she lights his hair on fire. Notably unpleasant: he hopes next time she'll at least make sure he’s really dead before she starts disposing of the body.
“Honey,” he calls, fastening the door’s three locks behind him. “I’m home!”
Kara is sitting on the couch, her feet curled beneath her, staring out the window and humming to herself. He tangles his fingers in her hair and twists her head back to kiss her on the forehead.
“How was your day?” She smiles up at him, dreamy and dazed.
“Oh, the usual. Yours?”
Her brow furrows. “I don’t remember.” She doesn’t sound terribly concerned.
“I’m going to take a shower and then I’ll make us something for dinner…any requests?” He cooks for her because otherwise she wouldn’t remember to eat. Personally, he’s the type to fast until he sees something truly delicious.
“Hmm? No, not really.” She stretches, pressing the curve of her skull into his hand like a cat, sinuous and lazy about her pleasure. “Whatever you want is fine.” If she's going to try something (and Leoben suspects that she is) he can only hope it happens before he goes through the trouble of cooking. Last time, she’d killed him before the potatoes were done and nearly burnt the house down before he returned to take them off the burner. He worries that she’ll hurt herself when he’s not around to protect her.
In the shower, he lets the water cascade down, steaming hot so it fogs up the mirror over the sink, the mirror that Kara has broken several times already. She has scars like starbursts on her right knuckles from breaking the glass. Thin white scars striping her left wrist: he likes to trace those with his tongue, to remind himself that humans do not download, that they carry with them all their scars and consequences, branded into their fabric. Odd, that she's taken such singular dislike to her own reflection: she is so lovely.
He watches a cloud of soap-foam circle the drain and wonders if she’ll come into this shower later, after she’s killed him (again) to wash off the blood and tissue, the ash and gore. (She used to do that, at the beginning; these days he often finds her sitting and waiting for him, bloodstained like…he can’t remember the name…one of those rhymes she hums—Lizzie Borden. Bloodstained like Lizzie Borden.)
Leoben enjoys thinking of Kara in water, even though she imagines her natural element is air and he knows it to be fire. The first time they ever met, formally—“are you Lieutenant Starbuck?”—they talked about water. He remembers the water torture fondly, the way other men, human men, probably think about early dates with their wives, when the lady in question was unknown and unattainable, before the mystery vanished and the sex became routine. Taking his musings on streams and currents for the basis of her...well, let's call them persuasive tactics—now, that was clever. Insidious, creative, imaginative in the way that humans can be at their very best. It is right that he found her at the water well on New Caprica, right and holy, not coincidental at all: God has great plans for you, Kara Thrace.
He can’t hear the bathroom door open over the sound of the pounding water, but the steam wafts a bit and he shivers as a breath of cold air sneaks across his bare shoulders. The shower curtain flutters and he sees her standing with the kitchen toaster under one arm. Electrocution, then. Leoben is only a little disappointed at the repetition; he’s rather please that she chose the toaster over, say, the blender. Still his clever, witty girl.
She doesn’t try to hide and he doesn’t try to escape: it’s been a long day, and they’re both too tired to bother. All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again. Each knows what the other is planning; they know all the steps to this dance. Just like an old married couple.
Silver and gold will be stolen away, stolen away, stolen away.
It is said that machines are incapable of creativity, that they can only do what they are programmed to do, that only the human mind is nimble enough to come up with a spontaneous plan. So maybe it’s true that the seeds of Leoben’s plan go all the way back to their first days together on New Caprica, to the databases he searches when Kara started humming.
Children’s songs and nursery rhymes. Number One tells him about a phenomenon called the biological imperative—a carbon-based need to create and protect offspring—and Leoben himself has witnessed a strong tendency among humans to crave whatever it is they cannot have. Kara cannot have children. (“We could get you a functioning model, you know,” Six had smirked when the scans revealed this detail. “Humans are,” she tries out a newly assimilated phrase, “a dime-a-dozen. We could find you a better one, something that isn’t broken.” She’d refused to recant until he had her backed up against the nearest wall, the heel of his hand crushing her trachea. “Fine!” she’d rasped, pouting, “You don’t have to get so touchy about it!” As though her Baltar were such a prize. No, Kara is chosen. Baltar is merely useful.) Kara cannot have children; Leoben should give her one. She will protect it, he will protect her: all will be as it should be. He can see the pattern.
So, yes, perhaps he has been turning this plan over in his mind for some time, ready for the moment when he sees the child in the marketplace. It is dusk and her golden hair catches the setting sun so much like Kara’s that he stops to stare. It was this same time of day he’d found Kara by the well, so he knows it’s not a coincidence but a sign from God. The child’s mother is hurrying from stall to stall, trying to finish her shopping before the curfew, tugging the tired child behind. He overhears the little girl’s name and then it’s easy enough to lure her away with a shiny toy from a nearby shop. Humans, always so complicit in their own destruction! It’s all so simple that he laughs, and the child laughs back, pleased by his delight, so he sweeps her up and carries her off. She’s a well-cared-for child; he knows because she comes to him so quickly: she’s never learned mistrust. (He thinks a young Kara would not have come to him so eagerly.) Behind him, there is some commotion; the mother has turned around and realizes her child is missing. Humans! When will they learn to protect precious things behind bars and passwords, not let them wander at will in the marketplace?
He sings to the little girl so that she cannot hear her mother calling, invents a mishmash of all the rhymes and lullabies and poems that he learned why trying to find out what Kara hums. He probably sounds like the Hybrid, but no matter: the words mean nothing to him. “See-saw, Marjorie Daw, love is not love that alters when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,” he lets the lines run together. “And if that mockingbird won’t sing, daddy’s rich,” he sings to little Kacey, her golden hair tickling his lips, “And your mama’s good looking….”
Kara does not appreciate his gift as much as he thought she would, which is disappointing, considering all the time and trouble he’s gone to. Leoben tries to be patient, but she can be so ungrateful. Perhaps if he leaves them alone, this biological imperative will take effect? But when he sneaks back to open the door at the top of the stairs, he finds that Kara is locked in the bathroom and the little girl is bored, stretched out on her stomach and playing with the fringe of the rug.
Suddenly, a new idea occurs to him—brand new for this exact, unique situation, totally unthought-of ever before in history, and the flare of it is so much that Leoben has to wonder if human brains work like this all the time, and if so, how human beings can tolerate it.
The little girl picks up her head when she hears the door open.
“Kacey,” Leoben whispers, kneeling at the top of the stairs, “Ka-cey.” She glances up, takes a moment to localize the sound. “C’mere,” he whispers, patting the carpeted stair next to him, like he’s summoning a pet. “Come quietly—surprise for Mommy.”
Kacey is not particularly quiet, but her little shoes don’t make much sound anyway. She’s beyond the toddling stage, but still unsteady on the stairs: she put out her hands for balance, sometimes scrambling on all fours. Little animal, Leoben thinks, baby mammal. Leoben holds her hands in his so she is balanced on the edge of the top step. He swings her back and forth, pulling her toward him, letting her drop away, and she giggles, happy with the new game. He invents another song: “Now I lay me down to sleeping head, my love, human on my faithless arm, Jack fell down and broke his crown…and Jill...came tumbling…after.”
He lets her go suddenly and she falls almost too quickly to cry, tiny feet over golden head until that head cracks against the staircase landing. Leoben ducks out the door before Kara comes out to investigate, to rush to the rescue. From where he’s looking through the window, Leoben can’t tell if it’s the biological imperative at work or whether she is finally remembering her soldier’s instincts, but he’s pleased to see her behaving as she should, for once.
He watches the two blonde heads through the window, proud of them both for playing their parts so well. His little family: broken and golden and made in the image and likeness of God. Later, in the hospital, Kara takes his hand. It is said that love, like creativity, is the province of humans. Watching the two of them, Leoben feels almost human.
Suppose the man should fall asleep, fall asleep, fall asleep.
The last time Kara kills him truly is a surprise: Leoben thought their relationship had moved past that stage. At the very least, he assumed she would be unwilling to try anything in front of the child. Evidently, he was wrong.
Her knife falls to the floor. He hears it, and then hears her talking to someone—I’ll explain later. Through the black spots crowding his vision, he can see Kara hurry up the stairs to the door with the child on her hip. Running away, again. Kacey watches him over Kara’s shoulder, somber little face growing distant. A little child shall lead them, Leoben thinks, but he can't remember if that is true, or just something from one of Kara's songs.
Maybe Kara slams the door behind her, now that she can. That, he cannot hear, not over the blood rushing in his ears. A rushing sound like water, like the tide pulling out. He is both in the stream and watching from the shore. We are as islands in the water, but that is not all that we are. I'll explain later: it is a lesson Kara has never learned—you can command the ship, but not the ocean. Leoben will have to remind her of that, the next time they meet.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.