Fic: Prayers to the God of Earth
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica 2003
Pairing: Kara/Leoben. Other characters include grownup!Kacey, Caprica Six and D'Anna. Minor m/f and f/f pairings.
Rating: PG-13 (same as canon) for non-explicit sex and disturbing themes.
Spoilers: Through the finale, minor spoilers for The Plan and Caprica.
Warnings: General warning for disturbing themes, particularly related to religion and to religious violence and coercion. References to teenage marriage and pregnancy and to canon character death. Also, although there is no non-consensual sex, there are other possibly triggery non-consensual things, on the same level as canon.
Summary: Kara is no longer human and Leoben is no longer a prophet, but they each still have a destiny, and Kara wants to give Leoben what he has given her. Set post-finale.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. The Lords of Kobol and One True Cylon God are based on BSG canon and any resemblance to real-world religions, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Note: In the BSG universe love redeems even those who don't deserve it.
Chapter 1: God's Justice
In the name of the One True God. In the name of the Earth on which we stand. In the name of the prophets who taught us and the mothers and fathers who gave us life. In the name of all that has gone before, and in the name of all that we and our people have done.
Heavenly Father, watch over me as I tell this tale. It is a tale of the deeds of my ancestors, and of the Prophet whose words brought us to this place.
They landed on Earth in springtime. The planet was lush and green. For Leoben, it was strange to be outside. This was the third planet on which he had walked. It felt greener than it should be, greener than he had imagined. The sky warmed but did not burn, and in the distance there were no fires.
Leoben had seen Kara's body on the fallen Earth. He had entered her dreams, he had led her into a maelstrom and told her not to fear death and she had taken the destiny he offered. There is a place between life and death from which any of God's children can return, and she led her people like a living angel. This is what he had told her. This is what he had seen. Her body lay twisted on Earth, where she had died, burning, in pain. He had done this to her, he had led her to this death. He was no longer a true prophet. Nothing that he had ever seen was true.
The first night Leoben slept on this new green Earth he felt Kara in his dreams. She knew how to enter his dreams, since he had done it to her, and she was now far stronger than he had ever been. She had dreamed his hands into shackles and wrapped a rope around him, tying him to a flat metal chair. None of his restraints yielded to his pull, and Kara bent over him like an angel.
"What are you?" he asked. He needed to know what he had done, what had happened once he had killed Kara Thrace.
The room shifted, and it was a dungeon on a ship. Of course, she was the one asking questions here. "What was the destiny you saw for me?" she asked. "What did you see?"
He had seen her kissing him, smiling and passionate, at peace and at home in a house that he had built. He had seen her pregnant with his child, radiant in the glow of fulfilled destiny. He had seen their children and their children's children, not Human and Cylon but something else, something Leoben didn't have words to imagine. He remembered when he had been so certain. You're going to hold me in your arms, you're going to embrace me, you're going to tell me that you love me. "Lies," he said. "I saw lies."
She grabbed his shirt and hit him, her fist to his jaw. It felt good to have her hands on him. It reminded him of the happiest days of his life, before he had seen her body burned in the ruins of a destroyed world. "What are you?" he asked again. He was begging this time, but she had seen him beg before.
"What did you see?" she asked. She leaned forward. He angled his face towards her, almost close enough to reach. "I know this isn't all of it, not just bringing the fleet to this place. I didn't have to die for this."
"I saw." he began, Kara's body twisted and burned. "Lies," he finished. "That's all I ever saw. Just tell me what you are."
She looked at him as if she were looking through him, and Leoben wondered if Kara could simply reach into his mind and take the memory. He wouldn't be surprised. It was something he could have done, when he had believed himself a prophet, and she was stronger now than he had ever been. "You did something for me, once," Kara said. "You said I had a destiny. You helped me figure out my path when I was lost. So, I suppose I owe you."
"Then you'll tell me..." he began. She gestured with her head and his mouth sealed shut.
She laughed. It was good to see her smile. "Frak. Wish I could've done that when I was alive." She kept laughing, watching him splutter in silence, and then he started to laugh as well. He understood nothing, and she was even more beautiful than he had remembered.
"You'll find me," she said. "You'll need to look, but you'll find me." He will. He couldn't speak so he thought it, knowing she would hear. He would seek her until the ends of the Earth.
She led him, still shackled, down stairs to the place where he had kept her. There was blood on the floor, mostly his, and she stood in front of him with her hands placed flat on his chest. "It's different now," she said. "I'm making my own destiny."
The dream faded and the restraints melted away. In the last moments of sleep Leoben felt Kara's breath on his cheek, tickling him like the beginnings of a kiss.
The Twelve Colonies had needed to fall. It was God's will. This is what Leoben had told his sisters the Sixes and Eights as they, along with their brothers and sisters, prepared their final attack. They are the instrument of God. They will bring justice on God's worlds, the words that had fallen to the sin of idolatry, and when the destruction has passed a greater nation will rise to serve the One God.
One of his sisters, a Six, was not sure. This one had no name yet but would be given one by the world they would destroy. She was his favorite sister, the one whose faith was most strong, and when she was newly emerged from the shaping-bath he had braided her blond hair and told her of the man she would one day love, a man of broken faith and brilliant beauty, and of the promised child that she and her human beloved would have together. Leoben knew that she had found this man in recent days, knew it in her radiance and fear. She caught Leoben alone, when the other brothers and sisters were not watching. "How can I love Gaius," she asked, "if we are to destroy him?"
Leoben had seen the visions, and they were clear. His own Kara would die in a maelstrom, and would return. He had seen her die, and he had seen her alive. It was as the Hybrid has spoken: Love outlasts death. Apotheosis, the Hybrid said, is both the end and the beginning. Leoben knew this to be true, from his visions and from his faith. "The first principle of faith," Leoben explained, "is that this is not all that we are."
The one to be called Caprica nodded, glanced towards the planet that would name her. "I think they'll be grateful," she said. "Once they learn to believe."
She is the harbinger of death. How had Leoben not understood?
Leoben told his sister Six about the dream, and about Kara, and explained that he would have to go. She understood. She remembered when he had come to her on New Caprica and told her, calmly and simply, that he had seen a vision and needed to build a house and a prison for Kara Thrace. "There's got to be another way," she had said, but there hadn't been, not to fulfill the vision in all its details: a darkened place, a house he had built, a child who was and wasn't theirs, an embrace, a kiss, certain words. It all seemed so very important. His sister had helped him build the house, and helped him bring Kara to it, and helped clear away his bodies one by one.
His sister had found her own truth now, and her own forgiveness, in the home she shared with Gaius on this new world, but there was none there for him. She understood, he would have to go, it would be a long journey. He might never come back. She nodded and forgave him. Heavenly Father, Leoben prayed, Guide me on my path.
By the time he reached the desert it burned with the heat of summer. He touched the land, and saw thunder, lightning, storms. A true teacher would come from this place, and it was not a land for false prophets. This was sacred ground. It was not the place where Kara would be waiting.
He walked further and when he reached as far as he could walk he built a ship and sailed until he reached an island off the central coast of a northern continent. He pressed his ear to the ground and felt a city, the nerve-center of an empire, two towers reach to heaven and then fall, burnt, bodies twisted in metal wreckage. This too was sacred ground.
There was no justice on this new earth, none in this spring that falls for the righteous and the wicked. Leoben took a fistfull of grass in his hand. It was greener than he would have expected it to be, and Kara was not with him.
He dreamed of Kara almost every night. She was not in his mind, he would know if she were, these were just dreams. Sometimes she was killing him: water, knives, bedsheets, her hand down his throat. She was creative, there were always new ways. Sometimes she held him before killing him, and then he didn't so much mind the dying.
"What am I?" he heard Kara's voice shouting behind him, once, in a densely treed forest. He turned, and the forest was empty.
He walked inland from the coast, and on the third day he reached a village of perhaps fifty homes. A six-year-old child bounded out to greet him and he almost didn't recognize her until she wrapped her fingers around his hand.
"Kacey," Leoben remembered her full name. "Cassandra."
Julia was with them in a moment. "You're the Cylon who took my child," she said.
It was God's plan, he thought to say. It was necessary for the work that brought us here. For Kara, so that she would become what she always was, a bright light of God to lead her people to their end and their home. Then he looked at Julia's village, the thatched single-room houses and the meager, half-frozen fields, and he could not think of any reason why Julia or her daughter should care. "Next year there will be a drought," he said. "I've seen it. You should store extra grain. I'll help you." Julia nodded. Leoben touched the ground. "Kacey will live long, and see much, and she will know the face of God in this lifetime. She will wed a great leader, who will found a city that will last for ten thousand years." And in the hundredth century it will fall, he did not say, and its inhabitants will be scattered, and most will die, hungry, their bodies covered by the encroaching ice. The few survivors will join another civilization, which will thrive, and too will fall. The cycles turn and twist and only love can shape them. Or can break them, like Kara's body burnt in her Viper. "I would like to stay," Leoben said. "If you will allow it."
"I don't want you here," Julia said. "I don't trust you."
"I'll stay outside the village until you do," Leoben said.
He built a house for himself of wooden logs a short walk outside the village. Chopping wood was easy because he was strong. Stones from the river could be shaped into knives, trees could be cut and bent and broken with his hands. Every day he cut wood and placed it just outside the village and watched as Julia collected it and brought it home to her family. When the leaves turned and fell they needed more wood, and he worked dawn until night. Finally, after the snow first fell, Julia came to his cabin to invite him to share a meal at her home.
"It wasn't my idea," she said. "Kacey wants to see you."
Kacey was quiet, and at dinner little was said, but while Julia was clearing the dishes Kacey grabbed Leoben's hand. "I remember," Kacey began. "When I was little. I don't remember much. I remember you took me to a place that was dry and clean and safe and warm, where a lady hugged me like I was her child, and when I hurt my head you bandaged me."
Julia was back and watching them. "A lot of children died on New Caprica. Kacey lived. Maybe you saved her."
That wasn't why I did it, Leoben thought, but he was willing to accept the welcome.
Near his cabin a stream flowed. Sleep the stream said, so he lay down beside it, placed his head on a protruding root, and slept. In his dream, Kara was beside him. The roots grew around his neck and legs so he couldn't move as she touched him, as she tore off his clothes until he was naked beneath her. Starlight was in her hair as she straddled him. When she collapsed on him he felt the heat in her body burn through the wooden restraints holding him. He reached for her, but her skin parted under his touch and he felt bone. The flesh melted from her face and body and she became ashes in his arms.
He woke, sweating. It was only a dream, this time. He thought.
Seven years passed. In the winter he cut firewood and in the spring he plowed the newly-cleared fields. He spoke little to anyone. He thought to continue wandering, but although the forest was too green he couldn't imagine where Kara could want him to find her other than here, with the daughter that was never hers.
Sometimes Kacey would come out to his cabin to watch him. She would stand at a distance, not speaking. He wondered what she saw, or why she sought him out, but he did not approach her. Finally, in her thirteenth year, Kacey planted herself down outside his cabin. "I want you to teach me about God," she said.
"I'm not a teacher," said Leoben, and kept walking.
"I know you know," said Kacey. "I remember." Of couse she would. Leoben stopped, turned around, and sat down next to Kacey. "I keep remembering more," she said. Her childhood memories would come back to her, and some of them would be memories of what he was, of what he had done.
"And what do you remember?"
She was silent, remembering. "You prayed. You died. You came back. Then you died again, and now you're here."
"That isn't because of God," Leoben said. "That's because I'm a Cylon. Do you know what a Cylon is?"
"I'm not stupid," she said. "Of course I know that." He waited. "My mother prays to the Lords of Kobol. But they're not real, are they?"
"How do you know?"
"I smashed one," she said, and smiled brightly. "My mother's statue of Aphrodite. Then I threw it in the fire. If even a stupid Cylon can come back after being killed then so should a god, and it didn't." The reasoning, Leoben had to admit, was flawless. He wished, not for the first time, that Kacey had truly been his child.
"There is only one God," Leoben said. "His name is unknowable and cannot be spoken. He manifests in the Cloud of Unknowing, and in the Love that Binds all things together."
"You can see that love," Kacey said, "can't you?"
"Yes," he said. It was a strange thing to admit. He was a false prophet, and all his visions had been lies, but still he had seen God's love. He had seen it in his sister Sharon and in his sister Six called Caprica, and once, bafflingly, in Kara's eyes. Perhaps he was seeing it now.
"Show me," Kacey said, and perhaps she had a right to know. Her path will be difficult but rewarding, and she will know the face of God in her lifetime. He led her to the stream that passed by his cabin and placed her hand in the water alongside his. The stream flowed through Kacey's fingers and her eyes fixed on a point in the distance. Love binds all things, Leoben thought, and could not understand the miracle that had allowed Kacey to forgive him.
Kara was waiting for him that night in the forest. He knew he was not asleep and it didn't feel like a dream, so she was alive and she was real and she was in his arms faster than he could feel himself move. He felt the strength of her muscles, the tension in her back and waited for the inevitable punch or stab, whatever it would be it didn't matter, just to be close to her. Instead, she held him close, clinging to him, her face on his shoulder, her breath urgent on his neck and he pressed his mouth to her neck and her hair was soft in his face. It lasted for a moment, long enough to feel her heart beat once, twice against his and to feel her breath that tasted nothing of ashes. Then his arms closed around empty space, and she was gone.
In the name of the One True God.
Next Chapter: Kacey learns about God, Kara hunts, and Leoben gets an answer to his question.