Title: Every nerve that hurts
Author: Alena Fryin
Summary: Gauis Baltar never had an imaginary friend as a child, but he has one now. He thinks this may be cosmic retribution for missing out on that delightful little slice of boyhood
Disclaimer: I own naught.
Notes: Takes place directly before the start of "33". Title taken from a line in Bjork's "Joga"
Every nerve that hurts
Gauis Balter never had an imaginary friend as a child, never laid out sandwiches for a person who wasn't there or demanded that his mother purchase an extra seat at the theater for his invisible companion, who would no doubt amuse him in the less entertaining moments of the film.
Gauis Baltar never had an imaginary friend as a child, but he has one now. He thinks this may be cosmic retribution for missing out on that delightful little slice of boyhood.
He misses waking up and seeing splashes of light leaping off the leaves of a tree. His seat isn't next a window, and even if it was Baltar wouldn't look out it. Every panel shows exactly the same thing lurking outside the hull of the Colonial One, and the black maw of space is not a view he has any desire to loose himself in. He misses the mundane blue of the sky and being able to walk down the street to get a cup of coffee that doesn't taste like it's been moldering in the pot for the last three weeks.
Gauis isn't asking for the delicacies he dined on in the aftermath of award ceremonies, the ones captured in photographs of him shaking hands with President Adar, the grin on his face encased in a bubble of accuracy only a digital image can capture. All he wants is bread that doesn't have the taste and consistency of a cardboard box, ambrosia that doesn't resemble motor oil. It's hard to get properly drunk when you can barely force yourself to swig the alcohol down, after all. Hard to get properly drunk when you can't get so much as five minutes peace, he amends. Baltar was able to have privacy when humanity numbered in the billions, but with less than half a million remaining, solitude is something afforded not even to the President herself. Least of all the President herself, really.
He had come from a city that seemed to pride itself on sensibility and political correctness, meaning his own rationality as a young man had been praised rather than questioned. Perhaps the sterilized nature of thought in Caprica was why he invited controversy. He wanted his views to incite a reaction, not a simple nod of agreement, a sad shake of the head to indicate what a fracked up place the Colonies were becoming. Had become. He's slowing getting used to the past tense of all things pertaining to the solar system they left behind, but it's difficult not to think of his less than modest residence on the lake as home. Difficult because he can still visit it.
He finds himself considering the first law of thermodynamics, for the key factors in his life, the ones that either point to exactly how much mental damage he is suffering from, all attest to its accuracy. If his house is still intact in the back of his brain, if Number Six had in some way survived the blast that had turned everything he owned into ash and timbers, the principle was indeed true. Matter remains in spite of any damage done to it, even if the damage appears to be hopelessly substantial.
Six is with him at this very moment, resting on the arm of his seat on Colonial One. The bones of her wrist, bird like in their fragility, move under a webbing of taught skin as pale as crystal.
When she moves, arms and legs perform work in faultless precision and every word is spiced with laughter, ginger and saffron, sprinkled with an intense shower of cinnamon. That makes no sense, but he hasn't been able to close his eyes and rest properly for seventy five hours and counting. Nothing makes sense.
He tilts his head in the opposite direction to look not at the phantom blonde but a group of President's Roslin's aids shifting through a mass of paperwork. One catches his eye, a young woman of less than thirty with brown eyes of surprising depth. There is a line of stray hair that has come undone from her pony tail marking her left temple Baltar finds oddly appealing. If Six is perfection, he will embrace humanity in all its deficiencies. He wants to feel sweat riding the spinal column of some ordinary woman's back, wants to grasp hair that falls around a face in tangles, not seamless waves of gold.
"Really Gauis, I thought you liked girls with a least a little bit of class," Six says.
"You may have succeeded in turning me off class for the rest of my life," Baltar says. He turns to give her a scathing look she is ultimately unreceptive to. "Anyway, I should broaden my horizons. With only fifty two thousand people still alive--"
"Less than fifty two thousand," Six says, her voice slashing through his dissertation with the ease of a knife gliding between two ribs. "Or have you not checked the President's whiteboard recently?"
"I have not, and thank you so kindly for reminding me that we're coming closer and closer to extinction with each passing day," Baltar says.
"My point exactly. The Universe is a very cold place," Six murmurs, her lips coming in brief, infuriating contact with the lobe of his ear. Her breath it hot like a star, and it scorches his skin, leaving a single line of blistered flesh in its wake. Or so he assumes. The radiance of a real star might burn the soul right out of him if Six is correct in her assumptions about God and the eternal. "It can be very lonely."
"I'm surrounded by people every minute of every hour of every day," says Gauis sourly. "I can hardly imagine being lonely. And when I have a moment to myself, I'm not actually by myself because you're there."
"Then God has given you a gift. All these people have lost someone special, someone who will never return to them." The Cylon sweeps her hand across the air in an act becoming of an actress, an official about to launch into a fervent speech. "You lost me, and I came back. You're right, Gauis--you'll never really be alone." There is something saccharine about the glow flaring in her eyes, and Baltar can't quite decide whether this adoration is endearing or outright disturbing.
Both, he supposes.
The doctor buries his fists in the crooks of his arms, hoping that the heat generated by he stationary form will warm them. Six burns like a supernova, and he is frozen solid. His dream girl or bucket of bolts or whatever she is was being morosely poetic when she referred to the state of the cosmos in regards to temperature, but she was right on a more tangible level. Why did Colonial One have air conditioning of all things? And better yet, why was it turned on?
Six offers no verbal sympathy for his plight, but her hand skates through his hair several times in soothing repetition. It's greasy, not slick with styling gel as he preferred it on Caprice but actually dirty. Four days without a proper shower, four days of trying to briskly wash the grim off his person using the sink in the bathroom. He'd been in closets bigger than the tiny, sterile looking restroom aboard the ship, and generally closets aren't equipped with so many tacky chrome fixtures, either.
Looking in the mirror is something he dreads on these hygienically driven visits to the men's room. The heavy, puffed flesh under his eyes is more purple than black, and the bruise like marks only serve to emphasize the distressing pallor of his face. By the time their little jaunt through space is over, the remaining members of the human race would look like ghosts, pallid, gaunt creatures whose tired gazes will doubt divulge shared tragedies that now bind them more than their identity as Colonial citizens to whoever they meet on Earth. What the hell did being a Colonial even mean these days? They had no Twelve Colonies to be citizens of, and Baltar hates symbolism.
Baltar can hear rise and fall of the President's voice somewhere to the rear of his seat as she maps out policy, as she plots their future through inane and oddly normal decrees. She cannot change the maddening pattern of the Cylon attacks, can do nothing but engage in the mundane work a politician must perform for the sake of the state. The doctor feels Six shift her weight as she swivels her head towards Roslin. A look of mild interest passes over her features as she watches the President examine the newest report her assistant--Billy, Bobby, something like that--has handed her. Even in the sickly yellow fluorescents lighting the cabin, the Cylon is still stunning.
"She's much more competent than I would have imagined," Six muses as she observes Roslin. "You might actually have a chance of surviving." The invisible woman grins, exposing far too many teeth. It's as though her speculation regarding humanity's ability to carry on for longer than the next cycle is a lie spoken for his benefit alone, one she hardly bothers to conceal the fundamentally untrue nature of.
"She has taken charge moderately well," Baltar murmurs. "Perhaps you're right. Perhaps we'll find Earth, merge with the Thirteenth Colony, and live happily ever after."
"Or perhaps you'll die in the next wave of attacks," replies the blonde, and this time her grin is truly malevolent. Of course he didn't invent a pleasant invisible companion to while away the endless stream of hours with as they hurdle in the direction of God knows what. Oh no. Gauis Baltar had used his superior intellect to create a sarcastic religious fanatic who comes to torment him in the guise of a super model.
"Let me guess. It's up to God?" he says.
Six shrugs, the motion so slight it barely raises her shoulders. She seems in no mood to engage in a theological debate with him, nor he with her. They are both fatigued, both wound as tightly as silver coils.
Except that she isn't, can't be tired. Hallucinations don't need sleep, Baltar reminds himself.
The Cylon once more places her hand on top of his head, but instead of performing some mildly affectionate gesture such as smoothing his hair back from his brow, she forces it down onto the armrest. The leather is plush, cleaner than the coat plastered to his body with four days worth of sweat, and he sucks down the smell of it greedily.
"There's still seventeen minutes left until the end of the cycle," Six says. "Sleep while you can."
He hears the mutter of the blood working through her veins when her hand crushes his.
And here he thought he had no imagination.