AN: Starbuck introspection during Sometimes a Great Notion. One-shot. No plot outside of the episode's storyline; just my musings. Standard disclaimers apply.
She watched him run from her until he was out of sight. And still she watched, hoping against hope that he might come back, might explain to her what she was seeing. Might stay with her so that she didn't have to be alone.
As they had walked together, through the brambles and weeds of this dead world, he had tried to dissuade her. "Maybe it's better off, not knowing."
She had let out a bitter laugh. "You're always telling me to face the truth and not run from it. Why the sudden change of heart?"
Silence for a moment. When he spoke, his voice was solemn, just a whisper. "I've got a feeling. You might not like what you find."
What was that foreign note in his voice? And then she recognized it: fear. A quick response, then, that spoke of denial. "Who? Me? Or you?"
He had stayed with her until the end (like watching a car crash, she thought – can't look away). But when they had found it (her body), and she told him of the hybrid's words, he had backed away, so quickly that he'd almost fallen; and then he was running from her, and she was alone.
Long ago, she'd learned to compartmentalize pain. She had learned not to cry when her mother hit her with hand or belt. She had learned, even, to crave the pain, through it sought redemption for sins committed. Like her mother, she came to believe that suffering was good for the soul: what had made young Kara Thrace cry was not the physical pain but the certainty that she had disappointed.
In time, she taught herself not to feel that, either.
("Here's your dilemma," she had told Leoben during their first meeting. "Turn off the pain, you feel better. But that makes you a machine, not a person. See, human beings can't turn off their pain. Human beings have to suffer and cry and scream and endure because they have no choice." Lies, lies. All lies. She wished she felt pain, wanted to feel the pain she inflicted on him. If life is a testament to pain, but there is no pain, can there be life?)
And so, as she methodically went about building the pyre, pulling the body (her body) from the Viper, positioning it atop the driftwood (sweat burned her eyes), she felt nothing: only the profound emptiness which had her whole life been just a step behind her, threatening to consume her, which she had kept at bay (just barely) by telling herself that she was loved.
As night fell, the fire licked at the body on the pyre, consumed it as she was being consumed, burned it as she was being burned. The sweat that dripped into her eyes now was no longer from exertion but from the yellow heat on her cheeks. How does one leave the past behind?
When she came awake from a dreamless sleep (the sleep of the dead), she was curled up next to the dying fire. It had been hours that she'd been out here – how many? six? seven? more? – but still no one came. The first traces of the dawn met the last of the bonfire in a holy fire as she pushed herself (legs stiff and sore) to her feet and stumbled away from the ashes, holding the artifacts of the wreckage tightly in her hand (sharp edges bit into tender flesh; she didn't feel that, either). In a small whisper: "I don't know what to do."
The journey back to the landing site took time. She arrived as the sun fully crested the horizon; daylight had brought the first few Raptors back to the surface. The faces that she passed turned suspicious, angry eyes at her. Her gaze remained fixed straight ahead. Finally arrived at her destination. "When are you taking this Raptor back up?"
Racetrack narrowed her eyes at her. "Where have you been?"
She closed her eyes and took two deep breaths. "Do you think you could manage a stop by Colonial One on the way back?"
The Raptor pilot let out a snort. "Right. You're the boss, right? Whatever Starbuck says."
On the way back up she thought of Zak; tried to remember the girl she'd been when she had been with him. Careless laughter, loving caresses. Drunken reverie, sensual heat. Was it that girl's body that she had just put to rest? (Just like Zak's had been put to rest so long ago, another lifetime ago, in another fiery crash.)
When had that girl died?
As she arrived at Colonial One, she staked everything on one last hope. She found him in the president's office; saw him standing beside a window, looking into empty space. "Lee."
The voice that responded sounded as dead as she felt. "Oh. I hear you lost the signal, that you couldn't find the source."
It was what she had told Racetrack before they left the surface, what the pilot had radioed ahead to the Fleet. Word travels fast, especially lies. "Yeah. Um." A pause. In a rush: "I need to talk. I've got to tell someone." And then she looked at him, really looked at him. "You look like hell. What's going on?"
His eyes cut downward. He didn't move toward her. "Oh." A quick nod. "Dee."
As if that single word could explain. She swallowed; spoke carefully. "What about Dee?"
He stared at her, unseeing, willing her, she thought, to know without his saying the words. But there had never been a time between them when words weren't necessary; they had never been able to read each other. And even their words, too often, were lost in translation. He blinked. Offered, in monotone response: "She shot herself."
This, too, on my shoulders. But she didn't say it. What she said, soft, insufficient: "My gods. I don't... I don't understand."
"No, neither do I. I've tried to come up with a neat answer. But the truth is I'll never know. Because it's too frakking late."
Too late, too late. Too late for so much.
He turned, then, walked back to that whiteboard, back to the number inscribed upon it.
She took a deep breath; swallowed. When she spoke, it was to herself: "I have a soul."
She coughed. "I have to go."
She sat in a secluded corner of Colonial One's hangar for some time.
Zak had loved her. So had the Cylon. From the moment he'd met her, it was as though he'd seen through her. Though she hated to admit it, he had given her hope, hope that she might be more than the cancer she knew she was, hope that she might have a destiny, that she might save the world. Again, wishful thinking. The person he had seen was not the person she was. His flight the night before had told her that. Both of them: loved what they thought she was.
And there were others. The Old Man: loved the girl his son was to have married. Sam: loved the girl with the smart mouth, who kept him laughing. Lee: loved the girl with the killer instincts, who kept him trying.
But she was none of those things: no more. That person was gone, as surely as the broken body (her body) in the Viper was gone.
And this new person, this empty person: this person was alone.