Disclaimer: not mine Genre: er... angst, horror, nightmare?
Pairing: ...if you can call it that. Kara/Anders, a bit of Athena/Helo.
words: 2,000+ Spoilers: set mid-season three ish. So, everything up through Rapture? I guess?
Rating: R. Violence, imagery, etc.
Notes: I blame Lizardbethj.

Close Your Eyes and Bleed by ALC Punk!

It's a dream.

Sam knows that, but it doesn't help.

It's the same dream, every night. Kind of like clockwork in one way. Or that alarm clock that used to go off randomly until Barolay swiped it to annoy Rally with. Every time he closes his eyes without enough alcohol to drag him under, it's there.

The smell hits him first. Eyes closed, mind trying to wake, the stench climbs into his nostrils and starts setting up camp.

First time he saw a farm after Kara Thrace'd been around, he discovered that the smell was part and parcel of the damned places. A combination of unwashed bodies, bodily fluids and bleach with an underlying tone of burnt plastic and metal that caught at the back of your throat. Sam figured it was something about the way the Cylons smelled that added that last bit. Some bit of machine that creeps into the atmosphere as though it belongs there.

The smell seeped into the pores, and Sam had mandated showers after every farm, knowing that sleeping with it clinging to your lungs would be like reliving being there.

In his dream, Sam fights not to remember that the smell also meant hospital. And hospital meant morgue.

But the morgue is later, after the smell.

After smell comes sound--the dense kind of quiet that skitters along the nerves, telling Sam something is wrong. Too quiet. Like being in the woods and knowing that the centurions were about to over-run your position, simply because the birds had stopped singing.

Then footsteps--clicking, high heels stalking down the corridor with a confidence that's obvious.

It's always a model Six, blonde and perfect, her black uniform fitting her and making her seem to appear from nowhere as sight cuts in.

Grey walls, dust on the floors, and the Six's footprints.

He follows her, because he has to--because her hair shines, and she's the only one he ever sees. Never an Eight or a Three. In his dream, he doesn't remember that Eights are Sharon, because Sharon is a friend. And dreams don't have room for Cylons who are friends.

The Six never notices him--perhaps she's too intent on where she's going. Perhaps she simply doesn't think he's a threat.

He follows her up and down grey-walled corridors until she comes to a black door. After opening it, she always turns and walks back the way she came, vanishing, along with the sound of her shoes, before she makes it to the corridor.

Sam doesn't know why she does that, either.

It's just a door. It's just a door, lacquered black, with a steel-grey handle on it. Just a door with hinges that make it open out into the corridor. Just a door that's unlocked.

The smell gets thicker, now. Thicker and more tangible. Like he could gather it in his hands and use it to bomb Cylon ships. The stench of humanity, one of the Leoben models said to him once. It permeated everything, and that was why they'd had to die.

Leoben had died with Sam's knife in his chest, and Barolay's bullets in his head.

Gunshots still ringing in his ears, he can't hear the machines until he actually steps into the room. Sam wants desperately to turn, but he can't. If he could walk back out that door, he could change history (or the future). But all he can do is take another step, his boots not making a sound.

The ventilators slide up and down, breathing like humans (or the humans are breathing like machines), echoed by the soft sounds of somnolent bodies shifting. Unconscious movements triggered from impulses that not even sedation can quite quench. Attached to the ventilators are machines, and fitted into the machines are women. Human women, being used as incubators or egg-donors. Whatever the Cylons need of their reproductive systems.

Sam knows, because he's seen them, that there are men strapped into similar machines. But his mind refuses to even contemplate that.

Or perhaps he wouldn't feel guilty being the one locked into never-ending torment.

He knows before he looks what he'll see. And he doesn't want to see, because while some of this dream is false and a nightmare, in the first instance, it's the truth.

Sue-Shaun lies in the first contraption, eyes closed and body feebly trying to resist what they're doing to her. He wants to pull her free from the obscenity of the tubes and wires, but he can't. They tried to free the women and disconnecting them from the machines killed them. Leaving them alive wasn't an option, either.

And the Cylons say humans are cruel.

His fingers stroke over Sue-Shaun's face, ignoring the electrodes and monitors attached to her skin. "I'm sorry," he says.

Sam never got to say that to her. Kara told him once that she died with a smile on her face, at peace. But Sam can't help the accusation that echoes in Sue-Shaun's eyes when she opens them. It's his own guilt that reflects, his own helplessness that makes him turn away.

His own shame that he's glad he wasn't the one who had to kill her.

This is a dream, he reminds himself.

But it's not over yet.

Sue-Shaun is still there, at his back as he moves inevitably to the next bay of the machine.

He sees red hair in lank coils, full of oil and dirt and sweat, first. Don't look, don't look, don't--

Jean Barolay turns to face him, and her eyes are full of anger. She's pissed, of course--Sam thinks Jean has always been angry, in a way--she can't shoot her captors, she can't get free, she can't shoot Sam. The freak in her belly barely enters her thought processes, although Sam wonders if that's just wishful thinking on her part.

If he could speak in his dream, he would say something--not that he could say anything worthwhile, of course. But he would try. He would promise that he'd destroy the Cylons, he'd tell her things would be ok (a lie), he'd joke about her new boyfriend...

None of it would help, in the end.

And Barolay doesn't have to say anything for him to hear her rage and hatred.

The sound of a sucked-in breath, someone gasping against the tubing down their throat, someone fighting the artificial breaths they're forced to take, draws Sam's attention to the last person.

It isn't the last in reality, because in reality, there were hundreds of women at the farms. Hundreds that he killed simply because there was no other way. And the weight of that only follows him here, where he can't tell them it was the only way. Where he can't defend himself, and say Hillard killed some of them. A specious argument, for killing thousands of women and hundreds of men to salve his conscience.

Sam doesn't want to look.

He broke a promise, and if he looks, he'll see that reflected in her eyes.

He'll see other things, too.

--Your fault--, her eyes say. Your fault I'm here and not dead. Your fault I'm here and not alive to help plan the resistance.

Sam can't look away, although he wants to.

There's something wrong in the way she's displayed--because that's the word for it, really. She's not strapped in and held down by the machines so much as displayed. She's a trophy, a prize possession for a deranged Cylon.

And in reality, she doesn't exist anymore. Not according to the Cylons he talks to. According to them, they have no record of Captain Kara Thrace, and they're not certain why he keeps asking them for his wife.

Sam knows better than to move towards her, but the dream always dictates his actions, so he does. He moves and he leans down and he tries to say something and fails.

In reality, Sam knows that he couldn't have done anything. That being so sick he fell out of bed when Leoben arrived to take his wife meant that he was useless. In reality, Sam knows that Kara did everything in her own power to keep from being taken. That she was in their tent, bending over him in concern when Leoben grabbed her from behind. Sam knows she kicked out and broke the cot-leg that needed mending again anyway.

Leoben was simply too strong.

But in the here and now of his dream, all he can feel is guilt.

And all he can do is lean over.

He knows what's coming next, because it's always what happens.

Kara's hands aren't strapped down, her arms are free to move. They go up, bringing a waft of the stench of the hospital with them. And her fingers are a little too feeble at first, but when he doesn't resist, they tighten on his neck, squeezing slowly.

Too slowly.

"Your. Fault." She says, voice raspy and bubbly, as though she's using the last of her strength to do this.

He'd made a promise, and he'd broken it. On Caprica, he'd sworn that if it ever came down to it, he would see her dead rather than taken to a farm again.

And he can't go back in time and change that. He can't shoot her while collapsed on the floor, because the gun in their tent is across the room on a shelf.

Sam can only relive Leoben casually tossing her limp body over his shoulder and walking out.

Her grip on his throat is still not tight enough. He can break free if he wants to.

Under his fingers, the skin of her neck is damp with sweat.

By now, he's given up trying to wake from the dream.

The nightmare doesn't stop until Kara's heart stops beating. He feels her pulse slow as his hands tighten around her neck. It's an inefficient way to kill her, but it's all he has.

Her last breath rasps away, and then she's gone.

With her fingers still curled around his neck, he kisses her forehead. There's no point in standing, yet. No point in moving away. Quite close by, he can now hear the tread and clomp of booted feet and centurions.

They'll be coming for him, soon.

One of the farm raids he'd led had been to a farm which had already been closed down. They'd spent almost an hour, searching the place for supplies they could use rather than let the mission go totally to waste. Sam had taken the lower levels, knowing the morgue would be down there.

With the power off, the refrigeration and freezer units had stopped keeping the bodies from decomposing. Stepping through the doors down there was a bit like walking into a slaughterhouse.

The stench was sickly-sweet and viscous.

Sam tries not to remember the stacks of bodies he'd seen. The women just piled like so much garbage, their bodies naked and sliced open in dozens ov places. The Cylons had simply wanted to 'understand' how their biology worked.

"We'll need to conduct a full autopsy."

The words are stark and uncompromising, and now the bodies from the morgue have Kara's face.

He always wakes, then. As though his mind doesn't want to contemplate his own final punishment.

Sam knows, when he's awake, that this is not how it happened. That Barolay is very much alive. That Kara is not only alive, but kicking.

But waking alone, his breath catching on a sob, he also knows this is why he can't just walk away.