Fic: The Voice of Angels
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica 2003
Characters/pairing: Kara, Paulla (Kara/Leoben implied)
Spoilers: Through the finale
Series continuity: Set during the first chapter of Prayers to the God of Earth but should work on its own.
Rating: PG. No warnings.
Summary: Paulla writes for angel!Kara a sermon about love. Christmas-fic.
Disclaimer: The BSG universe belongs to its creators. 1 Corinthians 13 belongs to the Bible. Both were used without permission. As usual, all religious or moral positions taken by any of my characters are theirs and not mine. But, seriously, BSG writers, if you are going to give me a religious leader named Paulla as the leader of a monotheistic religion at the end of the series, I am going to have to draw some connections.
Many thanks to green_maia for the real-time beta!
Though I speak with the voice of humans and angels, but have not love...
Paulla had one statue of Artemis, rescued from the burning of idols that had cleansed their colony in its first years on Earth. This Artemis carried a bow, as was customary, but also a hammer, as if she were an as-yet-unknown goddess of thunder or war. Paulla liked to look at it as she was writing her sermons. It reminded her that God cannot be known, must remain unseen, as the legends told of curses poured on the one who saw Artemis bare. It helped her remain humble. Gaius had always told her to work on her humility. She hoped it would help inspire her as she wrote her sermon for their prayer meeting to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their colony's founding.
As inspiration was forthrightly refusing to come Paulla heard a knock on the door of her one-room cabin. When she opened it, careful not to let in the rain, she was amazed to find the angel that Gaius had revealed to them, what seemed like an eternity ago on Galactica. She had died and been reborn, as a proof of God's love for us all. Now, ten years later, she looked exactly the same. Well, wetter and more tired. "I need your help," she said. "Can I stay with you for a while?" Paulla welcomed her in. "Don't tell Lee I'm here," Kara said quickly.
Paulla promised that she wouldn't, offered her dye for her hair and different clothes and a space on her floor (near where Paulla herself slept) for as long as she needed.
"I don't know what I am," Kara said. "Gaius said I was an angel. But an angel should go back to the Gods when her work is done. I'm still here. I don't know why."
"Maybe God still has a plan for you," Paulla said.
"Maybe the Gods do," said Kara, "but I don't know what it is."
Kara worked tirelessly in the fields when the rain stopped. Paulla was grateful, they could use the help. It had been a weak harvest. No one recognized her. Perhaps she was simply not someone anyone ever expected to find. Lee perhaps could have known her, or Gaius, but Lee was wandering in distant lands and Gaius had gone with his Cylon wife to a farmstead in another village.
At night Kara slept on the floor beside Paulla. Paulla could hear her moaning at night, thrashing, whispering words of longing and need. It made her think of Gaius. It made her think of her husband, dead on Picon with the rest of their world. For so long she had wondered if she deserved to live, with her husband gone. Her husband had been the kind one. She had been violent, bossy, headstrong. And still she was alive.
"Who were you dreaming about last night?" Paulla asked Kara in the morning. "Was it Lee?"
Kara shook her head. "No." She scowled at the floor. "Not only. But it's not any of your business."
"I do hear confession," Paulla said.
"Would you absolve me in the example of the Gods?" Kara smiled wryly. Paulla hesitated. "Didn't think so," Kara said.
Though I speak with the voice of humans and angels, thought Paulla, but have not love.
That day was in fact confession day. Marriage problems, mostly. Some quarrels between siblings. And a Two. All the Twos loved to confess, she had at least one every confession-day, more often even than the Sixes. They confessed, over and over, for the most trivial transgressions, but never for any sin committed prior to Earth. This one was named Julian by his human wife Tracy. "Bless me, Mother," he began the liturgy, "for I have sinned against the Heavenly Father." It was the same as the Pagan liturgy, just with names changed. They really should get to writing another one.
"Proceed," Paulla said, "in the name of the Heavenly Father."
"I have seen a vision," Julian said, "of an angel, glowing with the light of God."
The Twos and their visions. "There is no sin in this," Paulla said.
Julian looked up at her from where he was kneeling. His eyes were like fire. "In one hand she carried a bow, in the other a hammer, and she strode the heavens like a warrior."
Had Julian found her blasphemous statue? "You have still not told me a sin," she said.
"I have lost my faith." The words sat there in the small cabin. "I was wrong about everything. I was wrong about this too. I thought the human gods were dead. Now I know they are alive."
Julian had been with them from the beginning of the colony. He had worked to clear fields, to plow, to plant, to build homes for all the village. She had never imagined his faith would be so weak. "And you repent for your doubt."
"No," he said. "I don't think I do."
Julian and Tracy left the village soon after to join another settlement. Others followed them. They spoke of a goddess who walked at night, who came to them in dreams. They said that they would build a temple to Artemis. Or Athena. Or perhaps Aphrodite.
Kara worked diligently, silently, in the fields. The winter harvest was better than expected, better than it had been even in spring. At night Kara moaned, sighed, cried out. There were many kinds of angels, Paulla supposed, bringing many different kinds of messages, cruel and vengeful as well as kind. This angel prayed to the false gods, the false gods for which some of her people were leaving the village she had built. Finally, one morning before dawn, Paulla put a hand on Kara's shoulder as she sighed and moaned in her sleep.
Immediately, Kara grabbed Paulla's wrist and flipped her over. "You frakker," she growled, wrestling Paulla beneath her. Paulla had never been a trained warrior like Kara but she knew how to fight dirty, had practised enough on Galactica. Pinned under Kara, she managed to maneuver for herself enough room to grab Kara's hair and pull, hard enough to get her attention.
"It's Paulla," she said. "Not whoever you're fighting." She held Kara still above her, waited as her breathing slowed to normal.
"Kara," Paulla said. "What are you doing to my community?"
Kara pulled back, looked at her, her face hard. "What are you doing to my Gods?" she said.
So that was why she was here. But perhaps not the only reason. Perhaps there was another reason, and through it Paulla could reach her. She had said she needed help. "Who is it that you dream about?" Paulla asked.
Kara rolled off her and wrapped her arms around her knees. "He was a prophet," Kara said. "He got some things wrong. A lot of things. Most things. But there were some things he understood." Her voice caught. "I don't want to talk about it."
Paulla didn't need to hear any more. She had heard of the prophet that had foretold the angel, and of the wrong that he had done. It was one of the many, many sins of which her Twos did not speak. Though I have the gift of prophecy, Paulla thought, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have not love I am nothing.
"Let me show you," Paulla said. "Let me show you why I have faith. Why this village matters."
She led Kara to the hilltop where they could watch the hunt. Hera was in the lead, a powerful hunter already at thirteen. Her mother Sharon followed her and with her ten of their people, humans and Cylons together. "That's why," Paulla said.
"I've known Hera since before she was born," Kara said. "I don't understand..."
"Do you remember," Paulla said, "how we used to wonder if humanity deserved to survive?"
Kara was silent. Of course she did. Of course she would.
"I wondered," Paulla said. "We all did. On Picon, I liked battle games. We played at shooting robots. Thinking creatures, made just for the slight pleasure we would take in slaughtering them. We didn't even think about it. And as we were running, I thought we would lose the last bit of humanity we had left. We tortured, we raped, we said it didn't matter. I said it didn't matter. I felt God's power in me, telling me to smite, to burn, to destroy. I thought I didn't deserve to survive. But I do. We all do. Because of Hera."
Paulla was used to speaking like this. It was what she did, she spoke to her people about God and repentance and love. But there was something about speaking about her faith to this unbelieving angel that made her want to shake, to weep like Kara had wept in the night.
"The Cylons destroyed our worlds. All of them." Her husband, dead without a last word. Her daughter had not lived long enough to speak. "Killed so many of us. Like they killed you." She remembered Kara's dog tags when Gaius held them, taken from her burned and rotting corpse. Though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. "They killed us," Paulla said, "and we live with them. We've raised Hera together. Any God that can create love like that has got to be real." Paulla noticed the tears on her face. "And no one can tell us that we don't deserve to survive. Not after we've done this. Not any more. No one can even think it."
Though I speak with the voice of humans and angels. "We can't doubt it," Paulla said. "We all deserve to live. Humans and angels. Maybe that's why you're still here. Why God didn't take you back."
"Maybe," said Kara. Her mind was on something distant, her gaze on the horizon. Then she smiled. It looked like forgiveness. "You are absolved," she said, "in the example of the gods." Then, in an instant, with no warning, she was gone.
Paulla understood. This angel would be kind. For now. Some of her people would go, to follow the the ancient gods. Others would join her, and her faith would go on. There was no further need of destruction. They all deserved to live.
When Paulla returned to her home she saw that her statue of Artemis was gone. Presumably Kara had taken it. It didn't matter. Paulla had her sermon.
Though I speak with the tongues of humans and angels, but have not love
I have become a sounding brass or a clashing cymbal
And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge
And though I have all faith, so that I could move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I give away all I own, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I shall know as I am known.
Written for Christmas 2010.