A follow-up on characters from 'Settlement'--you'll need to read it first for this story to make sense. (This story is less tragic; it might even be borderline sappy in a few places.)
She didn't know what she wanted. It was frustrating. Laine had accepted that she and Mark would always share a tie because of their son. Now it was edging into uncharted territory, her simple gesture of reconciliation evolving into more than she'd expected.
Would her teenaged self have thought it horrifying--old people thinking about sex? Back then she would have thought anyone over forty was too old. In her twenties she'd expected to spend the rest of her life with Thomas; sex was available and reassuringly familiar. Thinking back she could remember when she was sixteen and she and her boyfriend were cautiously groping each other in the bedroom at a friend's party. Twenty-five years later, in spite of stretch marks and the occasional gray hair (just because she didn't have frequent access to a mirror didn't mean they weren't there) the same hormones were making her feel giddy and uncertain.
The problem was that unlike when she was sixteen, there was no speculation needed; she was definitely missing out on all the fun.
Damar asked, "So what's stopping you?" They were outside, sitting in the shade and cutting thin slices of meat that they would dry later.
Laine looked at her. "My great-grandmother was forty-five when she had her last baby."
"Really?" Damar sounded shocked and fascinated.
"Yeah. She lived on Sagittaron and she was devout. We went to visit her when I was eight--me and my mom. By that age she was barely taller than me, but she terrified me anyway. And the ship we traveled on didn't have an FTL drive, so it took our whole vacation for the visit."
Damar smiled at Laine's annoyed expression. "How many kids did she have?"
"Fourteen. Only twelve pregnancies, though. She had twins twice. I remember wondering how my great-grandfather could have possibly had sex with her twelve times." She laughed at her own childish ignorance. "He passed away before I was born, though, so I didn't get to ask him."
"It's not likely that you'd get pregnant again, you know."
Laine snorted. "It wasn't likely that I'd get pregnant the last time, either." She watched Nathan trying to make his baby sister smile by making funny faces. "I just--I can't go through that again. Not after Jonah." Her vision shimmered for a moment; she blinked back the tears and began slicing meat again.
They continued working, birds chirping noisily over their heads in anticipation of food scraps. A bit later Damar said, "I never thought I'd say this, but I miss condoms." Her woeful tone in combination with the sentence itself made Laine laugh.
Returning to their original subject, Damar added, "You can always count days. I mean, that's what women had to do for who knows how long, right?"
"I know." She shrugged. "It's not just that. Though don't get me wrong, pregnancy is part of what scares me."
"So what else is there?"
Trying to put everything in words made her want to fidget. She stumbled through an explanation of her worries about sexually transmitted diseases and the difficulty in talking to a cylon about sexual fidelity and avoiding reproduction. Knowing that the cylons had been so interested in having babies at one point made it more complicated. Had they abandoned that in the same way they'd abandoned their plan to exterminate the humans?
She managed to avoid saying anything about the deeper feelings that she couldn't yet verbalize.
Damar didn't miss the unspoken part. "It sounds like you're making excuses. You're not betraying Thomas, you know. And this isn't a grand confession of love. It's practical and why not take some comfort where you can?"
Laine took a deep breath and let it out. "You're right."
"Are you afraid he'll say no or afraid he'll say yes?"
"Okay, enough with the insights! And--both!" Laine glared at Damar, exasperated, until they both laughed. Nathan started giggling with them as well, even though he wasn't old enough to understand what the conversation had been about.
If Mark were just a man and their society operated as before, she would have already had sex with him again. This wasn't an impulsive act like last time, though. The rules had changed and they were all trying to figure out the new ones.
* * *
Sometime after she moved her bedroll near his again, Laine had started waking up spooned right behind Mark. Not every morning--just often enough to make her question her waking avoidance. Apparently her sleeping self felt less conflicted. Feeling uncertain, she started getting up right away; it was a bit earlier than usual but not so early that anyone would find it odd.
This time it was the middle of the night. She was curled up close to him; he must have turned toward her at some point. His breathing was quiet--maybe he was awake, she wasn't sure. When she started to edge away from him, he stopped her by putting his hand on her shoulder. Sliding his fingers along her arm, he drew a line down to her elbow and back up. It was both sensual and comforting--the heat and weight of his hand against her skin. She stretched her hand toward him and traced the line of his neck to his jaw, then put her hand over his and fell asleep again.
* * *
She was watching the kids--Nathan was helping her sort fruit (to the best of his helping abilities, at any rate) and Iris was strapped to her back in a sling.
Mark walked over to her, a calm smile on his face. "I'm going to get some water. I'll be back soon." Since the disappearance of a young girl in one of the other colonies everyone was making efforts to say where they were going if they went alone.
"Maybe you could come with me," he added. His look was both playful and serious, creating a suggestion that she didn't know how to answer yet.
"I promised I'd look after Nathan and Iris."
"Another time maybe."
She nodded her head without speaking, then watched him walk downhill.
* * *
They were hiking to the other colonies nearby--Ray, his sister Olivia, and Mark. Two humans, one cylon. It was a bartering trip; they were carrying things their group had made, including some of her pottery, and Olivia had a list of items they were hoping to obtain in return. Laine had given them tips to share on making pottery, written on scraps in tiny letters to save paper and ink.
She woke up when Mark got up. Apparently she'd been curled up behind him again; when he pulled away the motion roused her. Whispering, she told him, "Be careful," her voice gravelly from sleep.
He stooped down and kissed her on the forehead. "I will," he told her, then he stood up again and picked up a big sack of supplies and headed outside.
* * *
"So do you miss him?"
"Yes," Laine replied glumly.
"Are you going to talk to him when he comes back?"
She sighed. "Yes."
Laine thought about asking Damar why some people in couples were so pushy about wanting the same thing for others. She knew that Damar had good intentions, though. Feeling prickly about this came from her own mixed feelings.
It surprised her how much she did miss him. She didn't love him--at least, not in the way she'd defined love before. Appreciating the company, attraction--she actually liked him, in spite of or because of his strangeness. Maybe she didn't have to define and label everything about them.
This life was limited in scope to fewer choices than she'd ever anticipated. Everything came down to survival first. It would be nice to have some company while trying to stay alive.
* * *
They were gone for five days. When they came back Olivia had some newly-identified herbs to use for seasoning to share with them. She also had a small but constant smile that made Laine wonder if the other woman had met someone in one of the other two settlements. It only occurred to Laine for a moment that maybe Olivia had feelings for Mark--then she remembered that Olivia had never shown any interest in him. Plus Ray would probably have been appalled, in spite of his budding acceptance of the cylon.
Now Laine was assigning everyone to couples. It was socially contagious.
Three days later she and Mark took some of the younger children to a nearby stand of woods to gather fallen twigs and branches for fuel. Because of the girl who had disappeared they were being extra-careful when looking after their youngest.
The kids were dragging and sorting the bits of branches into piles of various sizes. Overhead the blue sky was half-visible through the leaves; this small wooded area wasn't the closest to their settlement but they'd already gone through and scavenged what they could there.
Laine watched Mark patiently teach the older kids how to tie a knot of leather cord around the piles and then make a loop to make it easier to carry. He caught her looking at him; she smiled before going back to work.
They finally had the conversation. Laine had made a mental list of what to include and told herself that if she knew what she wanted she was old enough and smart enough to talk about it. It didn't make all the awkwardness disappear but it gave her the impetus to move forward.
"I've been thinking about us," she said. He looked at her intently. "I've been wanting to be with you again--" she didn't feel like she could be more explicit with the children around them. This wasn't a conversation she wanted repeated to their parents. "You know?" She hoped the inquiry was clear.
He nodded his head, paying attention to what she was saying but also making sure that the children were still within view.
"Are you interested in the same thing?"
"Yes," he said and began moving closer to her.
"Great!" She smiled, relieved by a positive start. "But it can't be like last time."
"There are guidelines I was thinking about." A little boy drew her attention for a moment. "David, stop chasing your sister and get to work!" She gave David a quick glare.
Mark looked at her, amused.
"Well." She felt more flustered having been interrupted. "Okay, first. I wouldn't like to have more children. It can be hard on a woman my age, in these conditions. And... it's just not what I want."
She paused for a moment to see his reaction. He didn't look upset or angry. "That means that we can't be intimate just whenever we want. I'll have to count the days to avoid conception."
Now David's sister came up to them with a small scratch. They gave it the appropriate inspection and attention for her to feel satisfied and she went back to join her brother.
Laine dropped more branches into the piles, then moved on to the next topic. "Also, we would have to be exclusive. No sleeping with other people because that's how diseases spread and since there's no medicine here--" she gestured with her arm, indicating the world around them. The speech reminded her of being in science classes in school on Picon City, she thought wryly.
He interrupted her for the first time. "I haven't been with anyone else in this body," he informed her.
"Oh." That was unexpected. She felt ridiculous for being oddly pleased by this. He must have noticed something in her expression because he looked down with a small grin on his face.
She finished by telling him, "I know it's a lot to ask. You can give me an answer tomorrow. That way you can think about what you want."
He nodded his head without saying anything. They finished tying cords around the last of the bundles, then Mark grouped the children together, giving each one a stack to haul back.
The children were tired as they walked back to their colony; Mark finally had to carry Nathan in his arms. As they arrived Mark handed Nathan back to Damar and they checked that all the others made it to their parents.
Mark turned and walked back toward her. He took her in his arms, meeting her lips with his. Sliding his fingers into her hair just above the nape of her neck, he pulled her closer to him. Her breasts were flattened against his chest and she could feel the warmth of his body against hers. She opened her mouth a bit; he slid his tongue in and touched the tip of hers before retreating and lightly sucking on her lower lip.
When they separated, both of them were breathing faster. "How soon?" Mark asked her.
"How soon?" she repeated. She was having trouble processing the question. "Oh. Two more days."
"Okay." He smiled slowly and went inside the main building. She watched him go in as Damar walked over to her.
"You talked to him, I take it."
"So..." Damar looked at her with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
"I told him to give me an answer tomorrow," Laine explained, blood still pulsing loudly inside her head.
"Looks like he gave you his answer now."
She felt some of her normal concentration returning. "Yeah. To me and everyone else." Kissing in the open meant that everyone would soon know about it.
Glancing at her with a grin, Damar said, "Well, if you want to do the whole monogamy thing, this helps."
* * *
The first time after their agreement was almost the last. They were lying down under the trees, the sky already half-dark. She didn't close her eyes now--this was what she had chosen and she wanted to recognize it. Overhead the leaves blurred and she heard herself say yes, her voice stretching out the final letter. She gasped for air and looked at his face. His lashes were fanned over his cheekbones, then he opened his eyes. They were wide and dark. She clutched his shoulders and slid her hands around to his back.
Quickly she let go--his back was hot, very hot. Behind him she saw a weak, reddish light. Still dazed, she muttered, "What was...?"
Breathing heavily he put his weight against her, leaning his head between her shoulder and neck. Distracted, she shoved him a bit and he turned them, him underneath and her on top.
Her head clearing, she asked him, "What was that light?"
"When I climax my spine gets warm and emits a red light," he answered, matter-of-fact.
"What?" she asked, incredulous.
He didn't say anything, just looked at her calmly.
"Do all the cylons do that?"
"The seven, yes."
"It's part of our design."
"So the five old cylons who designed your biological bodies planned that?"
He seemed curious at her stunned reaction.
"The five cylons--do they do that or not?"
"I don't know."
"Because it's not a very discreet characteristic." She rolled next to him. "It's so weird..." she said and her voice trailed off. Then she started to giggle. Unfortunately for Mark, she didn't stop for a very long time. It happened again the next few times they had sex.
* * *
Summer's full force arrived, making everyone red-brown from heat and sunburn. A few of the others wanted to try hiking to the gulf to fish; they planned to salt their catch to preserve it. They were making spears and nets in the evenings as well as rudimentary fishing poles.
Laine was annoyed that people assumed she should go just because Mark was going; she hadn't fished much. Then she realized that some of her resentment was still over what he was: a cylon. Some part of her never let go of that, of the cylons being the implacable, murderous other. It had only been five and a half years since the attacks; all their help on this planet couldn't erase the past.
Her own words to Mark earlier echoed in her mind--that nothing the cylons did could atone for what they'd done. Remembering was painful and divisive but it didn't mean she could forget.
If she'd been in this relationship earlier she might have been labeled a collaborator, she thought as a chill ran down her spine. Laine hadn't wanted to know what Mark was doing before and during the cylon holocaust, or on New Caprica. Even now she didn't ask him.
Sometimes peace is more important than being right. She'd said this to Mark after Jonah's death. For herself it was a process rather than a sudden transformation. The cylons regretted their choices of the past--Laine reminded herself of that and decided to go on the fishing trip and enjoy it. She'd always loved swimming in the ocean.
* * *
Summer eased into fall. As the air cooled she slept behind him, holding on to him with her arm over his. Apparently it didn't bother him; he often held her hand.
Sometimes she woke up with their limbs tangled together and thought how much she'd like more privacy for them. Then she realized that this would be even more intimate. Monogamy encouraged these more personal ties and affection. Worrying about this, she tried moving further away from him but then she couldn't fall asleep.
As the air continued to cool the colonists found themselves doing the same activities as last year--collect as much food as possible, reinforce their rudimentary buildings, hunt as much game as they could catch. Keep a carefully-watched fire night and day and hope that wildfires didn't start from there or get too close.
The plastic boxes that they used all the time started to wear out and break. They didn't have anything to replace them.
* * *
It was cool and gray, but not humid--a relief, because that would have made the air feel colder. No snow during this short winter and the season edged toward early spring. Laine couldn't wait to see wildflowers covering the nearby plains. They'd been plentiful last year, pinks, oranges and light blues like splashed paints across the grasses.
Something was off, though. She felt unlike her normal self. She'd snapped at Nathan the other day and was tempted to throw one of her own plates across the room over nothing. Her sleeping patterns changed too and her dreams were vivid and nightmarish.
She finally connected all of this to her other physical symptoms: the tenderness of her breasts, the backache. Maybe she was pregnant again. Though she'd known this was possible she'd hoped to avoid it a second time with Mark. Laine watched and waited a few more days until she was reasonably sure.
Now that it had happened, her feelings were a mixture of excitement, disappoint and intense fear. She couldn't decide if she wanted to hug Mark when she told him or just threaten to remove his genitals.
Maybe he already knew. Thinking back over the past few days, he'd acted differently. Of course, it could have been the plate-throwing gleam in her eye that had made him wary.
Raising a child here scared her. Co-parenting with a cylon scared her. Realizing that this meant yet another tie between the two of them scared her. None of those things made any alteration to her possibly-pregnant state. She decided not to tell Mark about her emotions in connection with him. He was a cylon but she'd known that going into this relationship.
Gods, she hoped this baby lived.
She held off a bit longer before telling him; with no pregnancy tests here to confirm anything she didn't have the confidence right away. Finally she decided it was time. That evening she asked him to come talk to her, took his hand and walked them to the closest grove.
"I think I'm pregnant," she said.
"I knew that you knew!" She smacked his shoulder. "Did you do this on purpose?" The question was half in jest, half serious.
He took the hand that she'd hit him with and kissed her fingers. "No. I followed your rules. But I'm glad."
She formed a fist and lightly tapped his chin, then sighed. Mark tugged her toward him and sat them both on the ground, her sprawled across his legs. He slid his hand under her shirt, holding it against her belly, a concentrated expression on his face.
"Can you sense something?" she asked, curious if he was able to tell something that she couldn't.
"No," he replied. He didn't say anything else but continued pressing against her stomach, smiling.
She leaned her forehead against his. "So much for counting days."
He didn't answer. Finally she couldn't stop herself from asking, "What if there's another infection?"
He looked anguished, his face stark. "I don't know." It was an odd sort of comfort, the fact that he was scared too.
They sat quietly, him with his hand against her skin.
* * *
This time she was more nauseated. Laine wondered if the constant apprehension exacerbated it. At the same time as she took delight in the growing baby, in all of the symptoms that normally annoyed her, she was gripped with fear. She thought about baby names--impossible for her to avoid it--but she refused to talk about them. When the others in their colony started building a cabin for them she wanted to tell them to stop. Superstition wasn't usually in her nature but she found herself trying to avoid repeating some of the events from during Jonah's pregnancy.
Rochelle visited. The nurse did her best to reassure them but her direct nature made it impossible for her to assuage all their worries. The infection before had been rare but possible. Laine was at a slightly higher risk of the same problem, having had it once before, but it was unlikely. There was still no medical option available if it happened again.
Spring edged into summer. It was hot; she'd been dreading the misery of pregnancy in summer with no air conditioning. She felt huge much earlier than with Jonah or with her two children on Picon.
Mark had switched places with her, sleeping behind her soon after she'd told him about the baby. He liked to slide his hands around her growing stomach. As the air heated up she moved further away from him, telling him that she couldn't take the extra warmth. Instead he gently ran his fingers through her curly hair; it was soothing.
Starting the third trimester her fears multiplied, but everything was going well--no fever. Their child wiggled day and night.
* * *
The eighth month; still no fever and no arrival. They moved into their house. Her energy finally returned; she wanted to arrange things in their small home but there wasn't much to move around. It was wonderful to lie down and sleep in private, though. The heat diminished slightly, especially at night. Even though she was too big to sleep comfortably for very long, she didn't feel quite so overheated.
In the privacy of their little house she would unbutton the borrowed men's shirt she wore and they would watch the visible movements of their baby, touching and speculating about what body part they could feel under her skin. Laine talked to it, singing rhymes that she used to repeat for her other children. Mark didn't have any childhood rhymes or songs; instead he listened quietly.
Scared but encouraged by each passing day, they waited.
* * *
The contractions finally started. At first they were light and she kept working on a clay vessel she was making. Everything would go well, or not--there was no intervention.
When the contractions strengthened Mark stayed with her and Ray, who was worried, went to get Rochelle.
Their son arrived even before Ray and the nurse returned. He cried loudly, an exultant sound to Laine's ears. Mark took care of the cord and cleaned him up.
Laine watched them, tired. When their boy attached himself easily to her breast to nurse it was like a weight had been lifted. He fell asleep later and she counted his breaths, reassured by the results.
"We have to give him a name," Mark said, watching them with a gentle smile on his face.
"Yes." She kissed their sleeping son on the forehead.
When she didn't give a suggestion right away, Mark murmured, "I was thinking about Andrew... in honor of Samuel Anders, who helped create the seven cylon models. And also because it starts with the same letter as his oldest brother's name." He looked hesitant as he said this.
Alec. Her first son was Alec.
"It's perfect," she told him. "Hello, Andrew. Welcome to the world." Andrew blinked his eyes once then closed them again.
Rochelle finally arrived. Andrew had nursed again and Mark was holding him carefully in his arms. When she saw them her eyes filled with tears and her face lit up with a big smile. "It looks like everything's going well," she said, her voice trembling a bit.
"Yes," Mark answered. "This one is strong. And blessed."
Rochelle examined Andrew, clearly pleased by the cries he made as she disturbed his sleep.
The first weeks Laine woke up frequently, worried that Andrew had stopped breathing or was running a fever. As he progressed, healthy and happy, her fears abated--as much as any parent's fear could diminish on this world.
Her favorite part of any day was watching Mark carry their son around. Two of his old shirts were transformed into a baby-carrier; Mark would take Andrew on as many errands as possible, his sleeping form strapped closely to his father's back or chest.
* * *
Andrew grew. He was an unexpected joy, this son she hadn't planned to have with the man she hadn't wanted to care about. His light brown skin and curls were a paler copy of hers; his eyes were like his father's, blue-gray.
Five years old and already getting too old for snuggling with his mother; Laine could convince him to sit with her when she combed through his hair. She knew she left it too long, the curls like a wild mane around his face. A few other mothers had let their sons' hair grow even longer, tied back with leather cords. Most still used the few pairs of scissors to keep it short.
Turning his head in spite of her admonitions to sit still, Andrew asked, "Why can't I have a sister?" Laine knew the reason for this question; Damar had given birth to a second girl a few days earlier. It was her fourth child.
Laine replied, "You remember how I told you about the special tiny eggs inside Mommy? After a while they don't come out anymore, so no more babies."
Mark said, "You had an older sister." Laine held her breath for a moment. This wasn't a topic they'd talked about together with Andrew before.
"Your mom had a girl and another boy a long time ago, so you had another older brother and an older sister. They died before you were born." Andrew knew about death. Just within the last year they had added two more graves to the site near their settlement. Mely, a three-year-old, had died of illness and an older man was killed in an accident.
Laine had seen Mark take Andrew to Jonah's gravesite before; he knew of his brother whose one day of life happened here. She hadn't talked about Jonah with Andrew, though. She couldn't do it without speaking of his other siblings, the half-brother and sister whose deaths the cylons were responsible for--cylons like Andrew's father. That wasn't a burden she wanted to put on Andrew's shoulders.
Even now, with some of that ache lessened by time passing and by Andrew's presence, she wasn't sure she wanted to talk about her two children on Picon.
"It's an important story," Mark added, looking at her.
She mouthed older over Andrew's head. Complying, he said, "I'll tell you about it when you're older."
He did. When their son was old enough to understand, Mark told Andrew of sentient beings made of metal and their exploitation at the hands of the human race. Of the human-looking descendants who took an immeasurable, unforgivable vengeance. Of explosions that bloomed like deadly flowers into the air and genocide. Of Andrew's sister and oldest brother and the realization of the sins that the cylon had done. Andrew listened intently, his eyes looking into his father's. Laine wondered what else her son saw and understood as he watched his father tell their story.
* * *
She didn't quite make it to see her first grandchild. Andrew was twenty; his wife was pregnant. An abscessed tooth led to spreading infection that Laine couldn't fight off.
Mark lived to see multiple grandchildren. He died of a hunting accident--the same thing that had killed the first cylon of their colony. That title didn't mean much anymore, though. The children of cylons from their settlement and the neighboring ones were viewed no differently from other kids. Cathy never had children but Deb did, as well as Taryn. Ray had ended up having a child with a brown-haired Six from the next settlement, though the relationship didn't last.
They had little time to teach history and little paper to record it. Stories around a campfire weren't as real as the fact that the cylons had made their life here immeasurably better. Even the tales exchanged in the evenings lost some of their horrific edge because those who had committed the acts were part of the audience. The Twos more than any others, cylon or human, told the truth of what had happened--to their own children or to an entire colony.
When they were all gone no one knew why they'd been called Two any more.