Exaggeration and Blank Verse
Battlestar Galactica
Horatio Hornblower
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series

The Cylons didn’t take prisoners. Everybody knew that. They blew you out of the sky without hesitation, they didn’t take out your guns with surgical precision and then herd you back to the basestar.

Except that was exactly what they were doing.

Lee's breath was loud and ragged inside his helmet. Raiders above him, below him, left and right and behind, everywhere but straight ahead. More appeared as they got closer to the basestar, forming a tunnel to guide him straight into a docking bay. Docking, he thought, a chill running up his spine. Somebody wants to meet me.

No hands-on approach here; the basestar all but cradled his Viper with loving hands and settled it down to the wet, glistening surface. He’d expected gleaming metal and flashing lights, something clearly artificial. Instead, this was…semiorganic. Like them.

The safest thing would probably be to stay in the Viper and wait for a chance to make a getaway, but he had a feeling they hadn't gone through all the trouble of separating him from his wing and bringing him here just to let him sit. They wanted something, and maybe he could gain some semblance of an upper hand if he didn't make them come get it.

He left his helmet on the floor of the Viper. The air inside the basestar was warm and humid, not chilly like he expected...if he'd expected anything. Nobody ever exactly planned on visiting a Cylon basestar, after all. It wasn't covered in basic.

"Hello, Captain." He spun around to face the speaker, and felt his jaw drop open despite himself. He'd known, of course- frak, he'd helped put her out the airlock himself, her and the other one Helo and Starbuck brought back from Caprica, but seeing that familiar face again and knowing there was something alien and evil behind its eyes...

"I'm so glad you're here," the thing went on, and he forced himself not to think of it as Boomer, or Sharon, or Valerii, or anything. Don't put a name to it. Names give it power. "We all are...and glad that you didn't do anything foolish to make us kill you. We really have been looking forward to having you here."

"You've been expecting me?" he asked, stepping cautiously toward her, scanning the open space around them. The hulking shapes of Centurions were visible about a hundred meters out, but in terms of striking distance, he and the human-form Cylon were very much alone.

"Of course," she said, smiling gently and stepping toward him. He stood his ground, even as every muscle screamed at him to run, and stared into her eyes as she moved closer. "Nothing happens that isn't a part of God’s plan."

Her fist lashed out faster than he had any hope of countering, and connected with the side of his head harder than should have been possible. He hit the moist floor of the basestar as the world went dark.
He woke up somewhere else- when he opened his eyes, the Viper was nowhere to be seen. This was a smaller space, the walls visible enough that he could see they were wet. Coated in some kind of mucous, maybe. He was in the belly of the beast, after all.

It was still warm, but his skin felt clammy, even slimy; his flight suit was gone. He was wearing the double tank top and loose pants that were standard under-suit uniform, and he was tied to a chair.

He took a moment to process that last bit of information. He was sitting in a heavy, solid chair that seemed rooted to the floor and was faintly cool to the touch. A band of something ran across his chest, holding him still. Thinner bands ran around each forearm, pinning them to the arms of the chair. So much for finding an advantage from taking the initiative.

"I thought you were never going to wake up," he heard the Cylon say from behind him. He twisted his head around as far as he could, and she stepped up to where he could see her. She was smiling as brightly as a child who'd just been given the toy she desperately wanted, and passing a very large knife from hand to hand.

"Sharon," he said, without thinking, his brain suddenly filling up with images of running drills back at officer's training, and hours of mindless card games in the barracks, and random conversations when they bumped into each other at one stupid Fleet function or another, and even though that Sharon had been a Cylon all along, that had all still happened, and she couldn't be looking at him that way, she just couldn't...

It was true that everyone in the Fleet was trained in enduring capture. But it was also true that no one, including their instructors, expected them to ever actually use the training. The Cylons didn't take prisoners, and what were the chances that the Fleet would ever be called in to put down a rebellion on one of the Colonies? Why would any of the Colonies ever rebel?

So all you had to do to pass capture was show up. You didn't even have to stay awake. And Lee didn't believe in sleeping through classes, but he was always so frakking tired after being up all night with all of his other coursework...

He really didn't remember a damn thing from the class anymore. Which meant that it wasn't very long after the Cylon started cutting on him that he started screaming.
His left hand was splayed open, shaped around the end of the chair's arm, and she had just snapped his wrist so he'd stop moving his fingers. She was smiling down at the unresponsive slab of flesh- Gods, if only it had lost feeling along with mobility- tilting her head back and forth like an artist considering her next brush stroke.

Not a paintbrush in her hand, though, but the knife, and he let out a ragged shriek as she dragged the point of it straight up the back of his hand, from knuckle to distorted wrist, and then bisected the slash with another one. She peeled each quarter of skin back, carefully and methodically, until the bones of his hand were exposed, and then leaned in close to study them. He could feel her breath- did she even need to breathe? She was- on the raw and open nerves. She was still smiling, and not even sweating, as calm as she'd been when he stepped out of the Viper.

“Why are you doing this?” he gasped, fighting to keep the sob out of his voice and the tears from his eyes. She glanced up, and stepped around in front of him to see his face more clearly. He stared into her eyes, identical to his friend Sharon's but with nothing behind them. “Is it about trying to be human? Are you trying to learn about pain?”

“Oh, sweetie,” she whispered, cradling his face in her hands, smiling at him gently, sweetly, and it was so wrong it made him dizzy. He blinked harder to hold the tears back, because there was love shining in her eyes, there was kindness, and he desperately wanted to crumble into her arms and let her hold him while he cried. Why was it suddenly so hard to remember that she was the one who had done this to him?

“We’ve lived among you for years, completely undetected,” she went on, tracing her fingers absently over his temples. “How could we do that if we didn’t understand pain? We know all about pain.” Her hands tensed against his face, tightening and digging into his skin, and her thumbs slid up to rest her nails against the soft skin below his eyes. “This is about fun.”

She slashed outward, casually, sharply, and he screamed as hot liquid ran down his face, too racked by the pain to know if it was blood or tears.
“Lords of Kobol,” he whispered helplessly, his cut and swollen lips tripping clumsily against each other. “Oh, Gods, where are you…”

“You’re named after one of your gods, aren’t you, Captain?” He lifted his head to stare at her, seated nearby, her legs crossed and her hands folded neatly over one knee. “Apollo, god of healing.” She smiled, studying the blood under her fingernails. “Where is he now, Captain? Where are any of your gods?” She rose to her feet and walked across the room to stand next to him, running her hand gently through his hair. “God is here, you know. I can feel Him all around me, always. If you would only try, Captain, you could also sense Him…and He would ease your pain…”

“Is that what this is about?” he asked, turning his face away from her gentle, stroking hand. “Do you want me to renounce the Lords of Kobol and accept your God?” He swallowed and winced. “If I do, will you stop?”

“No one can force anyone to see God’s love, Captain,” she said, ruffling his hair again, the way his mother had when he was young, and oh, Gods of a weak and pitiful race, he wanted his mother right now. “I’m simply asking you to open your mind.”

They were quiet for a moment; him struggling to keep his breathing steady and his face defiant, her ceaselessly toying with his hair. “Your gods have abandoned you, Captain,” she said finally, slipping her other hand under his chin and tilting his head up. “Do you believe that your people will come for you?”

“Yes,” he said immediately. They would. Galactica would never leave him behind.

She tilted her head to the side, smiling faintly. “You’re so certain?”

“They’ll come for me,” he said, trying to jerk his head out of her grip. She didn’t even seem to notice his effort. “We don’t leave anyone behind.”

“That’s a lie,” she murmured, rubbing her thumb across his jawline, pressing down just a little too hard. “You’ve left thousands behind. But you think your father won’t leave you behind...and you may be right, I suppose. It’s a curious thing, your human devotion to family. And a slender thread on which to hang all of your hopes.”

“They won’t leave me here,” he repeated, keeping his voice as firm as he could, but his mind was jumping back to the years of tension and silence between him and his father, and the long hours of searching for Kara when she’d crashed on that planet with the Raider. William Adama had answered instantly and honestly when Lee had asked if the fleet would’ve stayed so long if he’d been the lost one, but the fact that he’d felt compelled to ask at all…

Her smile widened and her hand tightened even more. “Doubt,” she whispered, leaning in close enough that he could feel her breath on his skin again. She stared into his eyes from an inch away. “I can see the doubt in you, Captain. If you would let God into your heart, if you would embrace His love, there would be no more doubt. Nothing more to be afraid of. Only peace, and the knowledge that He is with you…”

He stared back into her eyes, hypnotized, unable to move away, and he felt himself trembling. She let go of him and stepped back, glancing at the Centurions waiting nearby.

“But perhaps you’re not ready yet,” she said, as one of them approached and produced a syringe from a compartment in its torso. She held the needle up to the dim light and studied it for a moment. “If your people are coming, Captain, they’ll have to cut all the way through the basestar’s defenses to get to you. We’ll have plenty of time to prepare you to see God.”

She slid the needle into his arm, and within seconds he felt his heart begin to race. Faster and faster, his body shaking with too much adrenaline for it to handle in its shock and pain. His heart ached in his chest, and he felt like his veins were filling up with fire, the flames filling him from inside and burning him out until everything went dark.
"Wake up, Lee," murmured a gentle voice, and he slowly forced his eyes open. They hurt. Everything hurt.

"Poor thing," the voice went on, and he carefully turned his head to look at its source. “Poor baby.” A blonde woman in a filmy white dress knelt beside him, as beautiful as a goddess, looking at him with warm, concerned eyes. "You're alive," she whispered, tugging a handkerchief from her dress and reaching over to wipe blood from his face. "Aren't you?"

"I think so," he said, coughing and flinching against the pain it caused. Broken ribs, almost certainly. Maybe worse, he thought as he saw the fresh flecks of blood spattered across the floor in front of his chair. But I'm alive. And his bonds were gone, he realized; if he could convince his body to move, and if this wasn’t all a trap, he could get away.

"She hurt you," the woman said, gently dabbing at his face. He didn't bother to respond to the understatement. "That bitch."

"You're one of them," he said, his tongue thick and clumsy in his swollen mouth. "You're an evil thing."

"Poor child," she said, her hand falling to her side as he turned his face away from it. "Poor little Lee, putting everything in black and white."

"Don't," he said, closing his eyes and ordering his limbs to obey him, to move, to help him get out of here. "Don't try to confuse me."

"Humanity is good, and the Cylons are evil," she said thoughtfully, settling back on her heels. "Your mother was good, and your father was evil...are there ever any shades of gray for you, Lee?"

"How do you know anything about that? About me?" He finally forced his mangled left arm to move and groaned helplessly at the resulting flare of pain.

"We know more than you imagine, darling," she said, with an angelic smile. "And you talked in your sleep."

"Who are you?" he asked, dragging his feet under himself and gathering the will to stand.

She tipped her head to the side, letting her blonde curls fall coquettishly over her face. "You could call me Kara."

"No," he said distinctly, gritting his teeth and forcing himself to his feet. The world went white with pain, and he clung to the chair, bent double and gasping, until it passed. "I really couldn't."

"Or Laura," she said, tipping her head the other way. "I can be whoever you want me to be."

He took a deep breath and stood upright, holding himself tense and rigid until the dizzy agony of motion faded. "Take me back to my ship."

She laughed gently, a musical sound, showing perfect gleaming white teeth. "Is that really what you want to do, Lee?"

"Do I want to go home? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I do." He cradled his ruined arm against his chest.

"Home?" She rose to her feet and took a few steps toward him, puzzlement creasing her perfect brow. "Is Galactica home?"

"It's what I've got," he said harshly, taking two halting steps toward the door. "Where's my ship?"

"Think about it, Lee," she murmured, and he shivered as her hands came to rest lightly on his shoulders. She leaned in close to speak directly into his ear. "Will they even take you back?"

He stood frozen, unable to respond to that, or even process it.

"You've been here for nearly two days," she whispered, her breath sliding across his skin. "How long was the Olympic Carrier gone, and you all were afraid it had been compromised?" She moved in so close, her lips actually brushed his ear. "Infected." She stepped back and then around to face him, clasping her hands primly behind her back. "Will they take you back...or will they send a wing of Vipers to shoot you down?"

He stared at her, his mind still numb and empty, his blood roaring in his ears.

"You'll carry doubt back with you, Lee," she said, smiling at him with limitless compassion. "Are you sure that's what you want? To infect your people with doubt?"

"I won't."

"Oh, darling..." She reached out to touch his cheek. "You won't be able to help it."

"I have no doubt," he said hoarsely, hardly able to hear himself over the roar of confusion and pain in his head. "I know who I am, and what you are. I know what I believe."

"You don't know anything," she said, her smile shifting to something vicious. "You silly child. You and your kind will never learn, and that is why you cannot live."

She turned on her heel and walked briskly out of the room, and he staggered along in her wake, clutching his bloody arm across his chest and sucking jagged, half-sobbing breaths between his teeth.

They made their way back to the vast cavern where his Viper sat, looking very small and isolated, splashed with organic muck where Centurions had walked past it. The blonde woman stopped and turned to face him.

"There's your ship, Captain," she said. "You won't be hindered in your exit. Go back to your fleet, to your people. May your father welcome you back with open arms." She smiled and moved closer to him, reaching out to touch his face. He was too tired to pull away. "May your faith be strong and shield you from doubt." She kissed him, bruising his already damaged lips. "May God be with you," she whispered against his skin, and then she turned and walked away.

He stared after her for a moment, tasting the blood that trickled into his mouth from the cracks in his lips. Then he fumbled for his collar and helmet and dragged himself up into the cockpit. His flight suit was long gone, but the canopy was intact, so he ought to make it back alive as long as nobody shot at him. Probably. His brain was fogged with pain and exhaustion to the point that he could only hold on to one idea at a time.

And for now, that idea had to be that it was going to be a bitch of a job to fly back to Galactica one-handed.
His landing was bad; worse than bad. The Chief was going to be furious, he thought distantly, listening to the tortured scream of metal on metal as the undercarriage of the Viper dragged across the flight deck, sending up showers of sparks in all directions. The part of his mind that flew on sense memory and not conscious thought at all was aware that the half-wing of fighters who had escorted him in were dodging back from those sparks, frakking their own landings because of him. Best he could do one-handed.

The pain almost wasn't even remarkable anymore, just a part of him, like skin. He fumbled with the controls until the canopy opened and propelled himself over the edge of the cockpit with the last burst of energy in his body. He hit the deck heavily, landing on his knees, and looked up at his welcoming reception.

A squad of marines in full gear, guns trained on his head, muzzles unwavering.

"Captain Apollo," someone said, a strident voice he should recognize but couldn't quite. "Cross your ankles and put your hands behind your head."

He wanted to, oh Gods all he had ever wanted was to follow orders and be good, but he couldn't move his arm any more.

"For the love of the Gods, Colonel, look at him," someone else shouted, and that was another voice he should know. If he had the energy to lift his head, he could see them, and maybe their faces would hold their names. But he's so tired, and he's wearing pain like skin, and he just wants them to either shoot or go away and let him fall to the deck in sleep. "He couldn't hurt anything right now. He needs to be in the Life Station-"

"But we don't know what they-"

"We know enough," and that voice was heavy and grim, as full of pain as Lee's mind and heart, and he knew it was his father. "Get him to the doctors. Now."

Hands descended on his body, hands wrapped in thick leather, and the marines were lifting him off the deck, propping him on his feet. Half of them still had their guns on him, and that detached part of his mind that was built in officer's training was impressed by their dedication to their duty. Commendations all around, as soon as he could speak again.

He was on his feet, and their hands were propelling him forward in an awkward, stumbling forced march. He could see the assembled faces, now, staring at him. He could see the shadows in their eyes- Kara and Helo, Crashdown and Chief Tyrol, Colonel Tigh and Lieutenant Gaeta, all looking at him with horror and sorrow and not a little bit of fear. It made his blood run like ice in his veins. Doubt.

He was vaguely aware that his father was a pace behind him, with the marines, ready to catch him if he fell. Half of him wanted to turn and meet the Commander's eyes, to see if the shadow was there as well. The other half was too scared and numb to care.

At the Life Station, they ran more needles into his veins, and this time the slide into the dark was peaceful.
He woke up more than a few times in the first few days, but after the first time he usually pretended to remain asleep. If he was awake, people felt obligated to talk to him, and he had to look at them. He had to see the shadows over their faces.

When he made his report to the Colonel, he told them about the women, about the chair, about the knives. He didn't tell them about faith and doubt and contagion. He doesn't have the words for it. Or maybe it just doesn't have words; maybe words are a human thing, and this is a Cylon concept, slippery and wet and only semiorganic.

His hand was stitched and bandaged, his wrist bolted in place and immobilized in plaster. His arm would never be quite the same. It didn't matter; he'd proven a Viper could be flown one-handed. Even Kara had never been crazy enough to give that a try.

Kara's eyes were the worst, because their shadows were deeper. She'd had her own doubts before he'd brought his back to Galactica, but he'd made everything worse. For everyone.

When he closed his eyes and let himself settle into the heavy silence of the drug-haze, he felt like he should be apologizing to someone. But he wasn't sure to whom to address the words- to his father, to his people, to his Gods, or to the blonde-haired Cylon woman who waited for him in his dreams.

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