This story includes some of the characters and events from "Settlement" and "Generations Untold" from a different point of view. You don't have to read the other stories for this one to make sense.
Later he asked her if she remembered smiling at him that day. She didn't. He did, though.
* * * * *
He came too soon, their son. Too soon and too sick. Mark prays but he hears nothing in reply. Laine lies down, huddled into the tiniest shape she can make, arms curled around her smaller stomach. She doesn't look at him and tears slide out from beneath her closed eyes to the blanket underneath her.
Jonah is dead. Everything feels dark and empty, like a hollow ringing sound that never ends because there's nothing to stop the echo.
He takes care of Laine for as long as she needs it. They don't talk. When she stops crying and pulls away from him, he leaves.
Mark wanders without paying attention to his direction, days and nights passing in monotonous sequence. Mostly his path goes downhill, because it's easier. Grassy hills pass in front of him in a green-gold blur.
One morning he doesn't get up. He lies on the ground underneath a tree, watching through the leaves as clouds slowly gather, then dissipate. The day passes into night. Staring at the sky, he doesn't see patterns in the stars. Once he believed that God had brought them here but Mark doesn't understand why anymore. He thought God had a plan for him, that the Cylon could make reparations and join the stream of humanity, but now he sees everyone dying and the stream drying up to a barren desert.
He doesn't know what's waiting for him after this body. Before, it was another life, another body. If he abandoned it now, would he be free? Disappear? Suicide is a sin.
He gets up and walks again in no particular direction.
The next morning he smells something rotten. An animal resembling a Picon bear lumbers into view. Mark looks at it, waiting. It yawns, large jaws wide open and long teeth visible, and the smell becomes stronger. Then it shuffles off, leaving him alone.
Two days later Mark arrives at the ocean. He walks into the water and floats on his back, gently moving an arm or leg to stay on the surface. The sky is blue overhead; the sun burns his chest and face.
Eventually he swims back to shore and picks and eats some half-dried berries still clinging to a bush. He waits for night. Sitting on the coast, his hands on his knees, he stares at the dark water. The breeze ruffles his hair; he smells the salt air and feels the chill from it. He thinks about Laine and the others; he knows now that he believed on some level that God had given them a son to help Mark atone for her lost children. Jonah's death means the disappearance of that hope.
During the first real conversation they had Laine told him that he couldn't pay the debt for her loss. He didn't believe it then. He does now. He can't expect God to fix the wrongs the Cylon have committed.
Mark doesn't understand the role this experience plays in his life but it matters to him. A bond exists now, threads binding him to mortality, to the people around him. He thinks that he's not ready to give it up, even though it still hurts, even if he can't see yet beyond death.
The next morning he takes his path inland again. Carrying a small bag of salt and a large bundle of light-colored clay he dug up, he walks slowly toward the place that's now his home.
* * * * *
It's been months since Jonah's death. Mark tries to reform a relationship with Laine but he doesn't know what to say to her. She doesn't pull away from him but there's no real closeness; a barrier exists between them. He takes pleasure in her company and in her occasional smile but he can't find the way to make it into more. He doesn't know the right words.
They're collecting kindling in the middle of the nearby woods with a troop of children from the settlement; the children are supposed to gather wood but they're also playing games and giggling. When Laine organized it, he offered to help.
At a moment when all of the children are in view but not close, Laine tells him, "I've been thinking about us." He looks at her and she continues: "I've been wanting to be with you again--." Laine glances at him and at the nearby children. "You know?"
He understands; and with the children around, she's watching her words. He nods his head.
"Are you interested in the same thing?"
"Yes." Mark starts to move closer to her but she's not finished.
"Great. But it can't be like last time. There are guidelines I was thinking about."
A little boy draws her attention for a moment and she yells, "David, stop chasing your sister and get to work!" with a glare. Mark smiles.
"Well." She looks away for a moment. "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."
Glancing back at him, she pauses and then goes on. "That means that we can't be intimate just whenever we want. I'll have to count the days to avoid conception."
Another interruption from a girl with a scratched finger; they both show concentration on it until she's satisfied with the attention she's getting and wanders off. Laine shoves more branches into a pile and says, "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 indicated the world around them with a hand gesture.
He tells her, "I haven't been with anyone else in this body."
"Oh." She looks surprised and a bit pleased. He looks down and smiles.
Laine finishes with, "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 nods his head and they finish tying cords around the last of the bundles. As they give each of the children a stack to haul back to the settlement, Mark thinks about what she told him. She hasn't made a declaration of love but by asking him for this she's shown that she trusts him--and desires him. That's more than he would have dared to hope for.
He once considered leaving, finding a place to start over, maybe look for someone else with whom he could form a relationship but it didn't seem right. Not his path, though he wasn't sure why. Now he's particularly glad he stayed.
Mark understands the conditions Laine wants. She's right about the risks of pregnancy at her age in this place and he doesn't know if he could bear to go through that experience again anyway. He doesn't need to wait another day before giving an answer.
The youngest child in the group, Nathan, runs out of energy and Mark carries him back. When they arrive back at the settlement Mark makes sure Nathan gets back to his mother. The he walks over to Laine, takes her in his arms and kisses her, wanting to communicate all that he can't explain. He slides his fingers into her hair. Her lips open against his mouth and tongue and he feels the warmth of her skin. Yes, he thinks, and tugs gently on her lower lip with his teeth. They breathe in at the same time. When she pulls back a bit her eyes are wide and dark. After a moment she smiles and in his eyes it's dazzlingly bright.
"How soon?" he asks.
She repeats the question back to him and then says, "Oh. Two more days."
"Okay." He smiles and walks back into the main building and tries to think about anything but sex. It doesn't work very well. Just two more days.
* * * * *
They're all still adjusting to life with a mixture of cylon and human. Mark thinks it's easier with no other Twos here, though he envies Deb and Cathy's closeness. Taren and Marie as well--the Sixes aren't as sisterly as the Eights but they're still a support for each other. After Clea's death the first winter in a hunting accident they've learned not to presume that their time here is unlimited.
As for his relationship with Laine life on Earth doesn't allow much time for romance--or even just quick sex. Survival is more important and since they're not trying to create a next generation their moments alone together are limited.
Laine is confident about her body, comfortable with sex with him. She's affectionate. It frustrates him that he can't define exactly what he's missing, other than the nebulous thought that she's too careful with him in some way.
Some of the other members of the settlement decide to hike to the coast for a fishing expedition; he convinces Laine to go with them, though she's initially hesitant. They fish and dry their catch, collect coastal berries and small game, then swim at dusk. Inside their makeshift tent at night, he kisses her and she tastes like salt and fruit. She teases him about his sunburned skin while hers turns a darker brown.
After returning they develop an easier rhythm to their joint existence in the colony. Everyone has to find some way to contribute to getting enough food, shelter and clothing to survive. Laine continues to make pottery in the evenings, her hands twining strands of clay into useful shapes. They're still spending nights in the main building, the first one they completed after arriving here. The effort required to build homes means that only families with children have them so far. Laine curls up behind him as they sleep, her arm draped across his chest.
Whatever intimacy she's chosen to allow, it's more than what he had before.
* * * * *
Counting days worked for a few months but Laine's body doesn't cooperate. He can sense the changes shortly after the conception. When she finally tells him he says that he's glad. He is, but he's also scared; he can hear the fear in her voice as well.
It's different. Last time they'd been doing a careful shuffle around each other, Laine trying to figure out how to raise a baby and still keep him at a distance, him trying to be supportive, unsure how or whether to push down all the walls she put up between them. Now he worries about her and the baby and him and the many what-ifs. He wants to know how this pregnancy compares with the others she had but he doesn't ask.
He says to Taren, "Laine is pregnant again." They're chipping at layers of rock in a quarry not far from their settlement and then loading it into a makeshift wheelbarrow. Mark doesn't try to seek out opportunities to be alone with his fellow Cylon, but they're strong and agile; these jobs fall to them more often than not.
"And it's yours." Taren glances at him, her light blue eyes full of some unidentifiable emotion.
"And he's mine. Ours."
"You've seen him?"
He understands that she means in a vision. "Yes."
"And you saw nothing with Jonah."
"No. This is the first vision I've had here." That's not entirely true but close enough.
"Do you think that she loves you?"
He doesn't answer Taren's question. Instead he tells her, "It's not love that makes a baby."
After a moment she says, "You know the stories of the gods of the humans." It's a statement, not a question. All of the Twos studied the myths of humanity's gods, looking for a pattern to understand them.
Taren continues, "We played the roles of their gods. The whims, the powers, making them our toys." She glances at him. "Even a Two who stole a human female, like Hades."
His brother's act, but they all knew of it. Mark thinks of those gods and stories of their interactions with humanity. Taren is right about that; the Cylon had acted the same.
She interrupts his thoughts. "Maybe in giving up the behavior of their false gods we can become true children of our God now."
"Like when we gave up resurrection," he says. The theory pleases him, though he recognizes his desire to create designs where none may exist. His own tenuous idea was that this land was chosen to unite them, humans and cylon. They'd been led here after finally forging a real truce.
They load more layers of rock. Finally he says, "It doesn't really matter why. What we have to do now is raise the next generation without the same hatred."
"So say we all." Taren smiles after she says it, mocking and sincere at the same time.
He imagines their lost brothers here. Five, in his bright suits, striding around this landscape; an incongruous picture. Four, exploring the new world. One. Mark stops there; too much betrayal on both sides.
* * * * *
Laine's showing now, her belly curved enough to be distinct. She complains about being hot. It is warm in the main building; they've started building a small cabin again but it won't be done until later. The few people left in the shelter have put up cloth and animal pelts from the ceiling for privacy. Laine grumbles about them because she says they block the breeze. As they lie in the dark, trying to sleep, he runs his fingers across her scalp and through her dark curly hair until she starts to breathe more deeply. When he slides his hand across her stomach she mumbles, "Thomas."
His hand stops and he hears her take a quick breath. "Mark," she says. "Sorry." She shivers, though it's not cold.
Her husband, Thomas. Father of her first two children. They all died during the attacks. It's partly his fault that she's not with Thomas now, living a quiet life on Picon.
He processes the emotions that burst through him upon hearing the name; the things he wants to say to Thomas. It's my son growing in her now and I'm sorry I separated you and your children from her.
Mark stares in the dim light at the calluses on his hand, the traces of the work he's done here to try and make recompense. No scale will weigh them in the balance for the lives they'd taken.
* * * * *
Rochelle, who's been trained as a nurse and functions now as a doctor for the three neighboring settlements, is giving him instructions on what to do during the birth process. Laine leans against the wall with her shirt unbuttoned, large belly visible for Rochelle to examine. He already knows about human birth; he downloaded the information after the attacks, when he'd gone to Caprica to work with the Fours on their reproductive farm. He knows not to tell them this. Mark repeats Rochelle's phrases back to her because humans find it reassuring.
When Rochelle leaves Mark moves next to Laine and puts his hands on the places where he can see movement under her skin. Their boy--another piece of information he doesn't tell her, even when she asked if he knew.
Laine's fingers pull his hands to a spot just below her left breast. Tiny kicks press under his palms. "The hands," he says. He guesses wrong on purpose because it makes her smile.
"No, those are his feet." She's started using male pronouns, just because he does. As he hoped, she smiles at his incorrect answer and slants a glance at him under her lashes. Maybe she's figured out his ruse. She rubs a spot on her skin and sighs. "I'm getting stretch marks on my stretch marks," she complains.
He debates over telling her she's beautiful; instead he massages gently across the tight skin of her belly. Laine makes a humming noise in the back of her throat and slowly, carefully slides down the wall until she's lying on her back. "Keep doing that," she tells him, and closes her eyes.
* * * * *
Andrew's birth goes exactly as it should and he's terrified because she hurts so much and he can't make it go away. At first she walks between contractions, gripping his arm tightly when they come. Later she alternates between kneeling and lying on the floor of their finished cabin, curled on her side and whimpering when the waves hit. She gasps and he tries to tell her to breathe more slowly. "Shut. The Frak. Up," she yells between breaths and he does.
When he asks her to shift positions so he can see how far she's dilated, tears come out of her eyes and it's all he can do to not to say he takes it back, that he'll never touch her again.
"It's time to push," he tells her. She yells and he sees it--her dying, his emptiness. Life and death hanging in separate sides of a scale, an image made of stars. Galaxies whirl past, moving him further away and he thinks, No. He falls back to their home, a warm sun lighting the sky. "Push!" he tells her, his voice cracking with fear.
Their son finally comes into the world, wailing angrily, tiny cries that are the best sound he's heard.
Later, when he's cleaned up and Laine is trying to nurse him for the first time, Mark watches his son. Small fists peek out from the cloth they'd wrapped him in. He's as dark as his mother, though his skin is more red than brown right now.
They talk about names; before his birth she refused to discuss it, as if avoiding the topic would keep their unborn child safe from his brother's fate. Laine agrees that Andrew is a perfect name and Mark grins at the adoring smile on her face as she looks at their boy. Maybe it's the oxytocin produced by childbirth but he can feel it too. Everything has changed. The world is different now with their son in it.
* * * * *
Six weeks since Andrew's birth; wispy brown hair curls away from his head. His skin has lightened a few shades though his eyes haven't changed color. When he's nursing he stops sometimes to look up at them. It's always amazing to Mark. The statistics he knew about child development feel fuzzy and hypothetical now that it's his own son he's observing. Instead he marvels that with all the sleeping and eating Andrew has learned to track their movement with his eyes and to recognize both of his parents.
He's been reviewing the vision he had during Andrew's birth. It's about mortality and loss. Now he sees variations on the theme--his own death, and Laine going hungry. Laine dying and Andrew starving. Andrew's death, and Laine pulling away from him. Laine older, Laine now... her pregnant again, dying in labor.
"No more babies," he tells her.
"It's not like we were looking to have this one," she answers, giving Andrew a quick kiss on the forehead as if to apologize for making the statement.
"There are too many risks at your age."
She raises one eyebrow. "I could argue with you, because it's my body, but we're in agreement. In fact, this sounds rather familiar." Laine looks amused, but he doesn't smile back.
"I'll make sure of it," he says.
"Good luck with that," she says with a lopsided grin.
It's too precarious, this mortal life, and there's so much more for him to lose. Apprehension wasn't something he'd been made for. Faith, belief, inquiry. Certainty of bringing a future to fruition. This is all new.
* * * * *
Babies have to be portable here; it's not like life anywhere else that the humans and cylon have experienced in millennia. Mark improvises a carrier out of two old shirts; they're valuable for the material but it's worth the sacrifice to keep their son with him and safe. Andrew sleeps curled in close to his chest. As he gets older he starts insisting on being turned so he can see what's happening around him. Astonishing how clear his wishes are even though he can't form words yet.
Mark is worried when Andrew doesn't start pulling himself up to stand by nine months. Laine laughs at his concerns and says something about parents being the same everywhere, even on a new planet.
* * * * *
Andrew is two years old and he wants to walk everywhere by himself, with no regard to his own safety. He's headstrong. Marks wonders when this will get easy. "Never," Laine tells him. "At least not in my experience."
Taren tried taking care of Andrew alone once and sent him back after less than an hour. It makes her more nervous about her own approaching motherhood. Laine has gotten closer to Taren. It's a bit unexpected, their budding friendship; they hadn't shared much before. Maternity gives them a bond.
Mark's envy over never experiencing a child's life disappears. It's replaced by the certainty that the Five who had made them created them as adults because they would never have survived childhood otherwise.
Andrew's saving grace is that he looks so much like Laine, brown skin and curls and the same smile. When his son is at his most exasperating, when Mark thinks he can't put up with him anymore, Andrew gives him a big kiss on the cheek and tells him in badly-pronounced words that he loves him. With those big eyes looking at him like he can do anything Mark can't stay angry for long.
Little by little the problems with this stage diminish... or maybe Mark just gets used to them.
Taren gives birth to her own little boy, small but perfectly formed. Mark thinks somewhat spitefully that he can hardly wait for her son to get to this age.
* * * * *
He brings Andrew to his brother Jonah's small grave sometimes. At five years old Andrew has already seen death multiple times--life here is hard. He wants to tell Andrew about his siblings on Picon but he doesn't feel he has that right as a Cylon. Finally he mentions them briefly in their home when Andrew said something about wanting a sister. Mark tells him about the half-sister and brother he never knew. Laine asks him to wait until Andrew is older before saying more and he respects her wishes. But he often thinks about how he can do justice to the past. How can he explain to his son how his brother and sister on Picon died? How will he explain about the Centurions, brothers of the biological Cylon, and their slavery by the humans?
He makes the trek to the next colony with some humans from the settlement to barter for goods; he's carried lots of Laine's pottery, among other things, on these trips in the years since they settled on Earth. They stay a night at the village and Mark talks to the Two he sees there now, David. He's carrying his young daughter Eva in his arms, to keep her from running around for the moment. Her clothes are too big and they're patched up with multiple fabrics. It's like this in all three settlements in this area--they have no way to weave cloth that has the same strength or fineness that they knew from before.
"Where's James?" Mark asks David. James is the other Two who lives in this settlement.
"He left months ago."
"To go where?"
"I don't know. He headed north." Eva stares at the two of them, her eyes wide open as she looks back and forth, thumb in her mouth. "He never stopped using projections and we--" David points toward the village. "We wanted to live the life we have here."
Eva takes advantage of the brief pause and tells Mark, "I can do a somersault now." She looks like the little girl their brother took and presented to Kara Thrace, with her blonde hair and dimples. All of this has happened before.
"That's good," Mark answers. Remembering the rocky terrain around them, he says, "Maybe you can show me later." She nods her head enthusiastically, then puts her thumb back in her mouth.
Mark resumes his conversation. "About that. I was thinking that we have to remember the past. For our children and for the humans. The next generation shouldn't forget the errors of the past."
David looks at him for a moment. "You mean, tell the story. Make sure everyone knows it."
"Yes." As Mark watches him, he realizes that it's no longer just like looking at himself in a mirror. He doesn't know what David's thinking.
Finally David tells him, "We agree. I mean--I think it's a good idea." He holds Eva bit closer. "But you know that it won't be easy. It could even be dangerous."
"Yes, but we have to face up to it. If there's a price to pay, so be it."
Mark doesn't need to seek consensus but he feels relieved to have it--or something like it. This next step seems as unknown as all the others that he's taken: abandoning eternal life, uniting with the humans on Earth.
He doesn't want all of this to have to happen again.
* * * * *
When he comes back home he talks to the Cylon in his settlement. Mark tells them, "We need to retell the story of our past, both Cylon and human, to everyone."
Cathy, the Eight who doesn't have any children, immediately replies, "No."
Taren looks at him for a moment then says, "He's not asking us for consensus."
Deb and Cathy look at each other; then Deb turns to him and says, "They may never forgive us, even without us reminding them."
"Maybe they shouldn't forgive us. But some are already forgetting."
Cathy asks, "You're willing to tear apart the peace we've established here for this?"
"What kind of peace is it if all we're doing is avoiding the topic?" Taren asks in reply.
"I don't want this," says Cathy, and turns to walk away. She stops after a moment and adds, "Don't you dare make examples of us. Don't say what we each did." With that final word she leaves, walking quickly away from them.
He waits briefly but Deb doesn't leave. She looks concerned, her dark eyes watching Cathy walk away. But she stays; so do Taren and Marie.
Marie tells him, "She's right about that. You can't tell our own stories. You can only tell your story. And I don't know that it's one you'd want your own family to hear."
Marie and Taren watch him as he thinks. So much alike, yet so different. Taren's hair curls on her shoulders; Marie's is cut short. The Sixes always loved their individualization more than the other models.
He wasn't planning to tell the story of a specific cylon. Knowing any particular act might be unforgivable. Looking at his sisters' faces, he knows he has to find the right balance--to show what they did and still allow for their ongoing shared existence with humanity. Like cleaning a wound to allow it to heal correctly while trying to avoid causing further injury.
Maybe he's chosen an impossible task for himself. He's just one individual; what gives him the right of judgment, the responsibility for this?
Because no one else is doing it, he thinks. Deb makes reassuring statements to him when he expresses doubts. Marie is more forthright and Taren points out that he doesn't have to decide on anything right away. They've been on this planet for almost eight years now.
He starts slowly, in the evenings when they're finishing their work, telling of the first war and what motivated the Centurions. Sentience in a machine is a difficult concept, even for the humans who remember that part of past. Mark tells pieces of the past when people will listen; he hopes that he'll have the right words for his own son later.
* * * * *
Taren has a daughter now as well as a son. Andrew as an eight-year-old is big enough to carry baby Alice in his arms. He's slender but strong. His brown curly hair is short now, at his insistence (and Laine's dismay).
The adults in their settlement have to travel farther to hunt and gather food for their growing population. It's sharp, this edge between survival and death. Illness, lack of food, accidents--anything can happen here to take someone away from their community.
Mark begins telling Andrew about the past and it's so difficult. He sees his son's hurt and anger at what he learns. Andrew is too young to understand all of it. Telling it with as much fairness as he can manage, Mark knows it sounds horrifying; he finds it hard to resist making excuses like we didn't know or I wasn't born, I was made. How can he explain to a child how formative childhood is? Any justification would be thoroughly inadequate.
He's avoided projections for a decade now but thinks that Andrew will understand better if he can see the past. Uncertain if it will work with his son, he offers, "I can try to show you," and Andrew nods his head. After concentrating, Mark can see the image he wants to create. He touches Andrew's hand. His son flinches, then glances around, eyes wide. They both look at the baths with hundreds of Mark's brothers, not yet activated.
Andrew explores, tentatively at first, looking at the still bodies that are identical to Mark's. They used to be, anyway. He feels care-worn, seeing the copies of himself as he once looked. Walking from one tub to the next, Mark explains about their creation, the ability to resurrect that they've given up, and their origins.
The Centurions frighten Andrew, as does the idea that Mark is related to them. It's more than enough information for one day.
The next morning Andrew says, "Dad, I don't want to see your pictures anymore, okay?"
Mark wants to hug him and tell him it's okay but Andrew's body language makes it clear this isn't what he needs from him right now. So he nods and tells him that he can decide when he wants to know more.
* * * * *
It takes Andrew some time but eventually he hears all of it--or at least as much as a boy his age should know. Telling it has changed their relationship. Mark reminds himself that all children have to let go of the idea that their parents are infallible but it still hurts.
He recites their history to those in their settlement around the fire on winter nights. Twos had the ability to make lies sound like truth, to spin deceit into a trap. Mark rejected this skill a long time ago. Knowing why he was designed this way, to infiltrate and create doubt, was reason enough to abandon it. Was it their brother Ones who created that particular gift?
Now he finds himself like the woman in the tales, the daughter of a king who was cursed to tell truths and be rejected for it.
Those who lived through the attacks on the Colonial homeworlds react with anger or sadness; some don't want to listen. The younger humans dismiss the tales as irrelevant to their lives now.
Maybe they're right. The children in their settlement have no common ground to understand. How can he explain about the Centurions to a group of youngsters that only knows metal as something to be carefully melted and shaped into crude wheels and wagon frames?
One day he may be deemed as mad if he continues. When everyone forgets his stories will sound like fairy tales, with the Cylon as spiteful, wronged sorcerers and the humans as vain, haughty royalty.
Mark is grateful that he can feel this body age and decay. He won't be Cassandra forever.
* * * * *
Andrew hunts with the other adults now. He's agile and strong and has a quick mind for strategy when chasing some of their more furtive prey.
At age nineteen Andrew gets married. It's a celebration for the whole settlement, complete with the traditions they've created here. "So young," Laine says to Mark in private. Choosing a partner and having children has been happening earlier here than in the Colonies but the mortality rate dictates it, as does the lack of contraceptives. Cami is smart and as stubborn as Andrew. They're a good match.
Not surprisingly, Cami gets pregnant soon after the ceremony. Everyone pitches in to build their house, as they've always done here. The pattern repeats from generation to generation.
Then Laine gets sick--a simple tooth infection that would seem painful yet mundane on the Twelve Colonies. Here they have little recourse. Mark does everything he can to help her but death is unyielding. Laine doesn't tell him how bad the pain gets but he knows what she's asked of Taren. If it's too much, if there's nothing left to do, she wants it to end quickly. They've found some plants that they can use for that.
In the end that doesn't matter. He prays but Mark knows what's coming; he can feel it. The night she finally slips away, he's fallen asleep. Her head was resting on his shoulder; he wakes up when she stops breathing. Knowing the end doesn't mean he accepts it. After checking for a pulse, Mark curls in closer to her and murmurs the word no over and over again. Don't go. I'm sorry. Please stay.
His words fade quietly into the night. He cries until his eyes hurt and he feels a sharp pain in his chest. When he sees the pale light of dawn through the window he dries his tears and goes to tell Andrew.
Cami's standing with her hands curved around her belly. When he tells them, she brings her hand up to her mouth then says, "I'm so sorry." Andrew sits on the ground and she joins him. He leans into her and takes a deep breath that sounds like a sob; Mark feels like an interloper and steps back outside the cabin door, waiting in the sun.
They dig her grave together. Mark lets Jimmy say the traditional prayers to the Colonials' Gods; they aren't his Gods but he knows Laine would prefer that to prayers to one God.
The emptiness is familiar and strangely comforting. If I knew the right words to say to God, if I could have found the right medication, if... He goes through the first weeks like he's walking through water; every step takes more energy, time and concentration than on dry ground.
Mark worries about Andrew--and worries that Andrew will worry about him. He's grateful for Cami and for the baby that's coming soon, for the consolation they bring to his son.
If life were fair Laine would be able to see her first grandchild. It's not fair. None of it is.
* * * * *
Cami gives birth to a healthy boy. They name him Stephen.
Carrying a baby in his arms again is joyful and terrifying at once. Being a grandfather is different--like a fast-forward button has been activated. First Stephen rolls over, then crawls, then walks, and it happens so quickly.
Life continues in the same pattern as they work to stay alive. They still go hunting--Andrew is more cautious than he was when he had fewer responsibilities. Their time together becomes more personal than before. On the first anniversary of Laine's death Mark tells Andrew about when she gave Mark his name, and how he thought she might throw dried manure at his head that day. Andrew laughs and Mark wonders, Is this what happens to all of us? We become a collection of stories to share?
He thinks it's both reassuring and saddening.
* * * * *
Cami's third pregnancy ends with a stillbirth and hemorrhaging. Mark looks after Stephen and Reesa while Andrew takes care of his wife. All of it brings back memories of Jonah's one day of life. At least Laine hadn't been in physical jeopardy then.
Stephen is old enough to know that something is wrong but Reesa is only two; too young to understand why she can't be with her mother and father that night. Mark carries her, walking around the edge of the settlement while she cries. He's repeating the words, "It's okay, it's okay," to her while thinking, God, please let it be okay. Let Cami recover.
After she stops crying, she sniffles into his chest; for a moment Mark wants to laugh at how familiar it is: the runny noses and petulance. He kisses the top of her head and she looks up at him with disdain. "Not my daddy," she tells him.
"Nope. Not your daddy." She knows who he is, although she hasn't mastered the word grandpa yet.
Reesa finally falls asleep against his chest the first night; after that she doesn't let him out of her sight until she and her brother are able to go back home again.
Andrew and Cami's faces bear the brand of this new loss. Mark knows to avoid the platitudes meant to comfort. He tells them he's sorry as they hug their two children close.
The next time they go hunting together Andrew tells him, "I used to ask Mom to tell me stories about Nyssa and Alec when you were gone on treks." They were Andrew's two half-siblings on Picon. Only Laine had any memories of them; they died in the Cylon attacks on the Twelve Colonies.
Mark nods. "Did she tell you very much?"
"She'd tell me funny things they did, or how they got into trouble."
They continue walking toward the herd that they're planning to cull. After a moment Andrew says, "Do you think it upset her when I asked about them?"
"I don't think so." He reflects for a moment and adds, "I think she'd be glad that someone else knew about them. That they weren't forgotten."
Andrew looks away and blinks quickly, then says, "Yeah. That's what I think, too."
* * * * *
"I used to have nightmares about the Centurions," Andrew tells him. "After you showed me what they looked like that one time." It's quiet as they sit around the fire; some of the logs hiss and crackle, but there are no insect noises. Too cold, although it's really only a mild chill. The worst winter they've had here only brought two brief snowfalls.
"You did?" Mark asks. Earlier he was telling some visitors from the next settlement a little of cylon history. Now he's enjoying his moment with Andrew. Sleeping in the main building again means he's rarely alone but he's never completely at ease there.
"Yeah. It finally stopped when I made a picture of them and told them they had to leave people alone."
"You made a projection."
"I guess I did," Andrew replies. He smiles for a moment.
Mark feels an odd sense of pride and loss. He chose to stay here and become part of the stream of humanity. The cost was the things that made him different from humanity. Projection, consensus... he hadn't given up religion but he can't talk about it much.
* * * * *
Mark has five grandchildren now. Once upon a time, he thinks, I had thousands of brothers and no offspring. That time feels so distant, like a fairytale echoing from centuries ago. Laine would laugh at him for getting maudlin--or maybe not. She loved her children: Andrew and Jonah, Nyssa and Alec. She would have loved these little ones too.
Is he the wicked sorceror, the haughty aristocrat or the honorable peasant in this fable? He's waiting for the end of the tale; he can feel it coming.
Hunting with Andrew, he's the first one to spot it--that animal that looks like a Picon bear, just like the one he saw after Jonah's death. He shouts and the others move quickly to get out of the way and bring it down.
Not fast enough: he doesn't move as fast as he once did and it catches him, tearing at him. He doesn't remember the next part--being carried back to the settlement.
"We killed it," Andrew tells him when he's awake. The gashes burn and throb along his chest and down his leg. People come and go each time he blinks, or so it seems.
"You're going to be fine." Reesa's eyes are bright, her smile too firm to be believable. She grips his hand and says it again, like she can make the statement true by force of will.
Taren visits him. When he's awake, they talk about religion. He's missed that; the topic was off-limits when Laine was alive and then Andrew had no interest in cylon theology.
The fever stays. He sees D'Anna and tries to ask her what she sees in the space between life and death.
One time he dreams that he dies here on Earth and downloads into a new body on a baseship. He tries frantically to get back home and can't. He wakes up gasping for air. Reesa calms him down, rubbing a damp, cool washcloth on his forehead.
"I'll miss you," he tells her.
"Then don't go," she counters. He remembers then--she's still so young. Thirteen now? It's hard to concentrate.
He must have slept because Andrew's there again. He's here every day, Cami tells him. She brings the baby with her when it's her turn to stay with him.
It's enough, he thinks. His body isn't going to heal, and this life has been enough. "I feel better," Mark tells her. It's not really a lie. This is better than life before Earth, before Laine.
"Let me tell you a story," he says.
* * * * *
They had finished the shelter the previous day; the first building for their settlement. Everyone crowded in, relieved to be out of the rain.
He overheard a woman defending his right to sleep there with the humans. What he knew of her: Laine, human female, age forty, healthy, familiar with the basics of construction. That night he slept near the walls, close to the door. Laine ended up sleeping next to him; it was crowded, full of warm, damp, tired bodies.
The next day the sun weakly lit the sky; a boon after the constant moisture. As he put a kettle of water on the outside fire to boil, Laine stepped out and smiled at him. She said, "The sun's out!" and didn't stop smiling at him even though he was a cylon. He felt the warmth of the sun on his skin, Laine's smile bright. She stretched her arms and laughed.
She didn't remember it later. "Did I?" was her response when he asked if she remembered smiling at him the first day after the shelter was done.
He did, though. He remembered everything.