...and of all the Lords of Kobol, Apollo was the most fair.
He's used to eyes that scrape him to the bone, taking his flesh for pleasure without sparing a thought for soul. He's used
to whispers and rumors and propositions. He's used to envy and admiration, lust and hate.
He is not used to the way her eyes rest on him, disdaining the surface, slipping beneath it, looking for his thoughts. He
is not used to someone wanting his thoughts. The military, certainly, never did-- the first lesson was not to think, but
to obey. In officer's training they reversed that, of course, and told you that you must think, but only in the lines
and spaces they gave you. Prepatterned thought. He could never entirely hold himself to that, but no one ever noticed.
Except for her.
He can feel her watching him think, her gaze like an itch under his skin. In the brig, when he couldn't think but only feel,
her searching eyes had crawled down into him and called his thoughts back again. And now they're on the run, and every thought
must be one step ahead of his former comrades on Galactica. She's counting on him, on his thoughts. She's watching them,
and they cannot fail her.
He thinks of how the others saw nothing but a surface, and realizes that that was protection, and that her eyes cut beneath
it. She sees him. He'd often thought he wanted that.
But it's unsettling, being watched by someone who sees inside. Especially when she herself remains opaque, neither a window
nor a mirror.
But Apollo was a fickle god, his favor always fleet and changing.
He is always a pace behind, a breath away. If she turns her head quickly enough, her hair might brush his cheek.
He is young; he has too many loyalties; she has seen his temper blaze and consume and fade. There are riddles within riddles
behind that face he might have borrowed from a statue.
She believes his every word implicitly. She shouldn't trust him for a minute. He's already a traitor twice over; he's proven
again and again that his loyalty lies within his own heart before anything else. If her goals, or the tactics she must use
to meet them, should no longer match his, she must know that he will be gone in a moment. He will sever his tie to her with
the same grim, sorrowful resolve that marked his brow as they flew away from Galactica.
And yet there he is. A pace behind. A breath away.
No, no, that cannot be-- he is the light-bringer, the constant Lord of healing, he cannot be so fickle as you say.
He knows that she isn't stupid, or naive, and that most likely she's more aware than he is of the political maneuvers swirling
around them. Still, he can't help but worry as he watches her tie her fate so closely to Tom Zarek and his friends. She
has the Quorum behind her, of course, but Zarek has his fingers on all of their strings. He can see it. He wants to warn
her, although of course she already knows.
But he thinks that maybe he knows a little more than her about how a single promise, made in full awareness and good faith,
can weigh you down into a binding web. He swore one oath, when he put on the uniform-- to defend the Articles. He hadn't
realized, then, how many assumed and implied obligations came with that oath. To the military hierarchy, to his commanders,
to his comrades, to the institutions and traditions of the Fleet; he hadn't noticed any of those presumed bonds until he had
to choose to betray them.
He wants to warn her about how easy it is to trap yourself, and how much it hurts to break away.
But of course, she must already know.
What you said before, the Lord of healing-- tell me about that. Is it his touch? His hands?
She coughs, her features twisting, the taste of the chamalla still bitter on her tongue. He watches with concern, that single
pace away, the vial still in his hand. He safeguards her precious supply, keeping the tiny case of vials far more neat and
regimented than Dr. Cottle ever would have bothered to. He watches her breathe as the drug settles into her bloodstream.
The way he looks at her, she imagines he's monitoring the pulse that flutters under her skin.
The chamalla spreads through her body, soothing, a blood borne cloud of warmth and light. She sighs and settles her head
back against the pillow. He doesn't smile, but nods to himself the way she imagines he might have when one of his Viper pilots
performed precisely as expected. No more, no less, deserving neither praise nor censure. He puts the vial away in the case,
closes it up, turns to leave. He means to give her her privacy, time alone with her visions and her thoughts and the great
burdens of being the President of a band of runaway thieves.
"Lee," she says softly, and he looks at her, eyes widening a bit at the use of his name. Usually she calls him Captain.
Captain Apollo. The title and the nickname stiffen his spine and put an extra wall between them, the wall of his duty that
the words call to mind. "Will you pray with me?"
He blinks, a smile crossing his face and fading, his tongue darting out to wet his lips and vanishing again. "Ah-- I'm not
much of a praying man, Madam President."
"Please," she says, holding out her hands to him. "Just tonight. It would mean a great deal to me."
He blinks again, and manages another flickering, uncertain smile. He rests his palms on top of hers and closes his eyes,
waiting for her to speak the words.
His touch is warm, against skin that already rehearses for the grave. His hands are dry, and solid, and...essential. Elemental.
He opens his eyes again and looks at her, confused by her silence. She swallows, clears her throat, searches for the words.
"Lords of Kobol..."
She feels another cough rising in her chest and fights it down, speaking the ancient words of prayer, pressing up ever so
gently against his hands.
His hands, yes, and his entire being-- simply his aura can heal, merely being close to him.
The Quorum meets again and again, or if it isn't the Quorum, it's Zarek and his inner circle, the self-appointed commanders
of her rebellious fleet. Endless swirls of words rising up and raining down, buzzing and burning, blurring and fading into
nonsense. He can't keep up with it and he's in perfect health, untouched by visions, able to sleep at night. He hears her
pacing, on the other side of the wall, or else her coughing, her prayers, her muffled weeping wake him. She isn't as strong
as she ought to be, not for this. And yet it seems she is strong enough.
He stands as close to her as he dares, a pace and a breath away, never touching. He watches her, seeking the clues beneath
her mask of serenity, catching the times when she winces or pales or sharply draws breath, minute enough that no one else
sees. Those are his cues to raise his voice or jump to his feet, to shout and pace and sneer in their ignorant faces. He
draws all eyes to himself and gives her a space between moments, to collect herself again and find her center, and the moment
she speaks again, cool and commanding, he falls back into his place. And he waits for her to falter again.
He is the god of Oracles. Pythia was sworn to him, you know.
"You don't believe any of this, do you?" She casts the book aside, weary of its words and riddles, resenting him for being
weary of them from the start. Perhaps he thinks her foolish for believing.
He shrugs, eternally polite, eternally proper. He reaches over and picks up the book, which fell so that the spine and pages
bent, and closes it properly. He cradles it in his hands, respectfully but emptily. He respects it for being a book, not
for the words on its pages.
"I suppose I don't believe that anyone can predict the future," he says finally, placing the book on the table, "because I
believe we create our own future."
"Free will," she says, nodding. "But isn't free will a gift from the gods?"
"I suppose I think we create our own gods," he replies, smiling slightly, his eyes cool. She's used to that from him, the
way he maintains his proper distance. It awakens a rebellious child in her that ought to have long been asleep. It makes
her want to scratch and dig. To tease truths out of him.
"What does that mean, Captain?" she asks, feigning confusion as she would have when a student fumbled through an answer, forcing
them to repeat and reshape the words until they stumbled upon clarity of thought.
He shrugs, breaking into a grin, that lovely smile that surely played a part in earning his call sign, in whatever bizarre
ritual the military used for the naming. "Well, for example, when I was a kid I was sure that my father was a god."
"Mr. Zarek likes to say he is." She knows the words are a mistake as soon as they leave her lips. The distance in his eyes
multiplies a thousand times, the smile vanishes, walls slam into place.
"Mr. Zarek is an idiot." His voice is as hard and flat and cold as the deck beneath their feet. The contradictions in him
fascinate her. If she had world enough and time, she would never tire of teasing out all of them to be laid flat on the table
As it is, there is no world and they have no time. She reaches for the book again, finds her place, returns to parsing scripture.
He settles back into his chair and watches her. She knows that if she looked, his face would be bland and polite, his eyes
He doesn't believe any of it.
He is the god of truth as well. Light-bringer, truth-speaker, far-shooter, he of the healing hands, praise be to Lord
Her eyes scrape him to the bone, carving away his flesh to see his heart. "Do you believe my visions are real, Captain Apollo?"
His throat is dry, and hurts when he swallows. "I think that the people need to believe that, Madam President."
"And if I believe them myself?" she asks, in that cool, expressionless teacher's voice. "Is it because I need to,
instead of because they are true?"
He stands motionless, silent, unwilling to expose himself with words, but she raises an eyebrow and cuts away at him with
her gaze and he cannot help but speak.
"Yes," he says, his voice low and reluctant, but clear enough to stand unquestioned. "And there's no weakness in that, Madam
President. In...needing to believe."
"You don't," she replies, her voice still empty. "You think that you're above such needs?"
"No, Madam President." His answer is immediate. "I simply need to believe in other things."
She stands silent for a moment, staring at him, and it takes all of the years of service in his blood and bones to remain
still and unshaken. Suddenly, she laughs, her hair falling down over her face as she bows her head.
"This is why I could not manage without you, Captain," she says softly. "You, alone out of everyone else in this fleet...you
never lie to me."
"Of course not, Madam President." Why would she ever think that he might?
She looks up at him, and smiles, and he wonders how he could ever have thought she was opaque. There are fifty thousand faces
inside of her, a living portrait of all of humanity that remains. It all comes together in an instant, with the same bone-deep
click as a Viper's targeting system locking in: why she needs him there, why she looks into him in that unsettling way. She's
catching glimpses of the self she reshaped into President and prophet. He's a reminder of what was and what can be, her window
and mirror on her people. He smiles back at her in that moment of understanding, standing just a bit straighter. He looks
into her eyes and remembers why he is so proud to serve.