Title: time, again
Summary: Four times the Eleventh Doctor saved the Twelve Colonies of Kobol (and one time he couldn’t)
Characters/Pairing: Adama/Roslin, Kara/Lee, Eleven, Amy.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be.
Author's Notes: I initially posted parts of this under the working title "will you still love me tomorrow?" The title changed a bit. Many and deepest thanks to trialia for being a gem among gems and catching all my little typos, repeat words, and odd turns of phrase. She is the kindest for putting up with my pitiable attempts at Brit English :D All my love, lady!
Hi, fandom! Missed you!
Funny thing, not dying. Makes you think.
Makes you think about not dying when you should have. Not dying when you deserved to die. Not dying amid so many deaths in the long, cold space of the universe.
The Doctor has been dwelling on it a lot lately, this Not Dying business. On Those Who’ve Died as well. On all the times he should have and didn’t. Times that he could have died, would have died, and here he’s still breathing, still stumbling along, still fingers and toes and bow-tied and not ginger.
Not dead, either.
The Time Lords thought the Fall of the Twelve Worlds was a fixed point - an event that could never be altered, could never be undone. But the Doctor sees things differently from anyone else in the universe, and he’s seeing things even more differently now -- stranger and different-er than he ever did -- so it’s a bit of a mystery. And it’s the safest bet this side of time and space that whenever there is a mystery bumping about the universe, sooner or later the Doctor will have a looksee.
“We’ll call it experimenting!” he says to the TARDIS, who does not agree that ‘experimenting’ is either the proper word or the proper course of action, but, like the Doctor and Time, they’ve always agreed to disagree.
“Now,” he says, drumming his fingers against the smooth curve of her console. “Where shall we start?”
Apparently parking your time machine in the private office of the highest-ranking government official is as much of a diplomatic faux pas by Colonial standards as it is in 20th century America. Still, the Doctor really can't help it if the invisibility shield has been a bit wonky these days. Well, all days, really, and Nixon wasn’t much of a fan of being barged in on, either, but no one laughs when he shares that little anecdote with the redhead in charge.
She glares at him in measured astonishment, which causes the Doctor to point out: "Oi! That is just the face - just that face, that very face - that Tricky Dicky made when I dropped in on him!”
The next sound he hears is the cold, melodic resonance of multiple safeties being released at once and he doesn’t have to see the band of guards or marines or agents or whatever name they go by here to know that they’ve got their sights trained on his head. You’d think he’d be used to this reception by now. The Doctor isn’t, although he is.
“Take it to the airlock,” the redhead demands.
“Right,” The Doctor replies, feeling put out. “People used to offer a cup of tea when a visitor dropped round, not, you know, ritual execution. Bit rude if you ask me. Which - fair enough - you didn’t. Still!”
He huffs, smoothing his lapels and tweaking his bow-tie, fairly puffing with indignation. “Bit miffed about the whole thing, really.”
Beyond the ring of gun-barrels staring him down, Red just raises an eyebrow. “You know, I’m afraid we’re all out of tea.”
She crosses her legs and leans back against her desk, studying him with curiosity as she says - maybe a bit too sweetly for his liking - “But I’m sure we can rouse up something, if you’d care to talk.”
“I don’t like this,” Grumbly Face growls. He’s wearing a uniform and glaring with great and dedicated purpose.
“You don’t say,” Red quips in response. She doesn’t move from where she’s leaning against the wall, her arms folded across her chest. She just glances at Grumbly Face and does her eyebrowy thingy again at him, looking briefly amused. “I’d never be able to tell.”
The Doctor chuckles, which is more than a touch painful given the handcuffs on his wrists and the bindings tying him fast to a very uncomfortable chair. Still. Red’s a bit funny. He perks up enough to ask, “You don’t have any mouthy Scottish daughters in the 21st century, do you?”
At this, the Grumblepuss does a decent impression of Red’s eyebrowy thingy-thing.
“No? Just thought I’d check. Ginger genes, you never can tell.”
“Admiral,” the woman says, stepping away.
“Yes, Madame President?” She beckons him close, saying something the Doctor cannot make out.
The Admiral and the President. Which makes them Adama and Roslin. Bill Adama and Laura Roslin, if he’s got his alternate realities right. If they’re who the Doctor thinks he thinks they are (and he thinks his thinking is right), then that also means the TARDIS is hanging about inside Colonial One, which is parked on the flight deck on this much bigger and much battle-y-er ship. Which can only be...
“The battlestar Galactica!” The Doctor exclaims, looking around in earnest at his realization. “Grandest lady of the First Colonial Fleet, greatest military museum there might ever have been, but for a nasty nuclear annihilation across four star systems. Always something, innit?” He whistles in delight. “‘Course,” The Doctor says, “I may be able to prevent that,” he drops in casually, looking around him with renewed interest. “Oh, she’s a beaut, isn’t she?”
A beat passes. The Admiral and President have a silent exchange before she says, “So. You wanna get the airlock keys, or should I do it?”
“Oh, you’re trouble,” the Doctor breathes in delight. “I like you.”
“Can’t take her anywhere, can you?” He joshes to Adama with a cheery little leer and leans back to sling one cuffed arm over his chair.
The Admiral’s only response is to give him (if possible) an even stonier glare than before.
The Doctor claps his hands, sitting up: “Right. ‘Course you can’t: It’s a spaceship.”
“You don’t expect us to believe this crap,” the Admiral growls. “You show up in some strange box that doesn’t open and say you can change the past?” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Tell me this is a joke, Laura.”
She sighs and looks to the blank ceiling. “Would that the explanation were that simple.”
“It is!” the Doctor cries.
They leave, suspicious and afraid.
Days pass, and their tests determine he is not one of the Cylons they so deeply fear.
The Doctor believes this fact that might be a comfort to them, but for one small matter: In the process they have also concluded he is not human. He doubts this aids his case. (Probably helps that he hasn’t tried to kill anyone, though.)
The President takes a short breath through her nose and exhales slowly. Her nails are chipped and thin, but hard, and they tap sharp staccato notes against metal walls. “Tell me again.”
Being hunted through space by killer robots has done little to broaden the Colonials’ sense of possibility. The Doctor thinks of them as “skeptical.” Roslin and Adama prefer to think of him as “raving.”
“Back to the beginning, Laura Roslin,” the Doctor says, rubbing his hands together (not easy, with handcuffs, mind) and tips his head askance. “As you wish.”
“That little blue box in your office is a time machine, and I travel through time in her. She’s called the TARDIS and she’s bigger on the inside; come take a look sometime, I’ll show you Rome. Rome’s great. Romans, especially. Well, except, perhaps, when the Visigoths come to town. Not so great, then, Rome. Or the Romans. Or, I suppose, ‘round when Mussolini started mucking things up. Come to think, plague was a bit nasty; Lazio vs Roma is a nightmare; Papal oligarchy is really only a hair’s breadth from dictatorship on the absolute best of days. Not to mention Berlusconi...”
He sticks his tongue out, looking faintly nauseous. “So! Got its ups and downs, Rome!”
His uncertain audience glance at one another, still unaccustomed to his rambling.
He comes back to himself from his oratorical amble then, leaning forward across the stark, cold tabletop.
“Point is...I can change certain events - lots of events, see - and I’ve been thinking about one event in particular. One event that might save billions and billions of people. One event that might change everything.”
The two human leaders stare, each looking wildly unnerved to be so blithely hanging on his every word.
“You see, Admiral Bill, President Laura,” the Doctor says, and looks between their grim, suspicious faces. “I plan to stop the Fall of the Twelve Colonies.”
They don’t believe him, which is natural. Perfectly rational, even for an absurd species like humans. They also seem to think he’s mad as a hatter (not wrong, entirely) but that he isn’t dangerous (not right, entirely) and spare him the handcuffs after a while.
“You think you can change the past?”
The three stand upon a metal catwalk, watching the flight deck from on high, looking down upon a crumbling expanse of graceless creation.
It’s only the second time the Admiral has asked the question aloud, though the Doctor is quite certain little else has been occupying the thoughts of the gruff military-minded man since the TARDIS arrived.
The Doctor shrugs and looks down the line of the rails. After a moment’s consideration, he hops up and steps lightly on the railing, arms out wide and a metaphor in his hands.
“Think versus know; can versus do,” he says, walking slowly down the length of metal. “If I hold this bag of chocolates up in the air, sensibility says it will fall to the floor if I just let it go. But perhaps not. Perhaps whatever device is imposing the gravitational force upon this ship will kick out at that moment. Maybe a hole will be shot in your hull. A bomb. An airlock. You never can say for certain, just with some measure of certainty.”
“Time’s like that. Universe is like that. Tricky. Troublesome. Terribly good and terribly awful.”
Below, he watches a slip-thin girl with brown hair and the worried press of motherhood in her posture whisk around the deck, checking off lists on a clipboard and barking out orders. “Oi!” The Doctor calls, and tosses the bag of chocolates to her.
The arc it takes is perfect, and the path into her hands is a foregone conclusion.
Until a sparking wire from the tail of a large vehicle snaps up violently, sending a shower of sparks into the air. The jumping wire collides with the cellophane bag in mid-air, sending a spray of melted chocolate and burnt plastic to the floor.
The President watches the small brown-haired girl mournfully pick at the broken candies and the Doctor wonders what she sees with such mourning in her expression. Much of her, the Doctor is beginning to see, goes with her people; in all their joys, and in all they suffer. From the hollows beneath her eyes, it would seem she suffers with them.
The Doctor follows the President through the halls, where the Admiral is never far from her side. He trails at their heels, half-listening as they talk cabbages and kings, answering the odd question with a faint “Yes...” here, a distracted “No...” there. Mostly he just twists and turns, staring and stumbling and studying the great, austere architecture of the ship. The cold metal, the narrow halls and sweeping concrete flight decks.
A manifestation of the Colonial psyche, in many ways, though one forty years removed. A ship from the age of the Cylon War, though the heavy silences it contains speak to far more recent hostility. Only 40,000 survivors in all of humanity, and some only by half. Voids in the void.
The Doctor stops as they pass a kind of memorial wall. It’s a hodge-podge of photos and notes and candles burned down to the wax, long since gone. It reminds him of other memorials, in times gone and those that will come, sooner than he will ever like.
They return to the Ward Room, and before they enter, he studies the cold and distant stars, far beyond the starboard porthole. “In your past, this universe’s past, a small change need only take place and any one of a number of alternative universes will take over.”
The Admiral and President trade a reluctant look measured with what might be hope.
“Fun, isn’t it?!” The Doctor says, taking a seat. “I like the one where you and he end up having a charmingly improbable baby. She’s the cutest thing, really. Who doesn’t love a good baby?” he says, bouncing from side to side in his chair, looking approvingly from one to the other.
Laura Roslin appears to be one twitch away from sending him down an airlock without an oxygen corridor at the end. Adama, for his part, looks away.
“Right: dirty nappies, Quorum for preschool, and Tigh’s your babysitter. Rubbish, babies,” he says, shaking his head. “Slim chance, that.”
The teasing grin falls from his face as the gravity of their situation is restored. The Doctor folds his uncuffed hands on the table and looks each of them in the eye, one and then the other.
“Still. An alternate universe will prevail, if you wish it be. What is your choice, O Lords of Humanity?”
There is something in the unhuman boy’s eyes that makes Laura Roslin half-believe that his wildly ridiculous claims are not at all ridiculous. (Quite the impressive feat on his part, given everything else he says.)
Then there’s the matter of his strange blue box, which remains parked firmly in her office on Colonial One, registering readings like music and mucking up their DRADIS ten times out of twenty.
Kara Thrace volunteers to test his absurd, not-at-all-possible time-travel scenario, which surely will be the end of it.
The trouble is, Laura’s read too many trashy mysteries over the years to truly believe that this bizarre episode is nearing its conclusion, and so she is hardly shocked when, of course, it isn’t.
When Kara returns - sweaty and filthy and heaving with a breathy apology for being gone so long, though all of ten seconds have elapsed, her story is filled with something about beetles and new cities and rocks that roll.
That he’s been telling the truth is mind-boggling and fanciful, like something out of a fairy tale. But Laura can not honestly say she is surprised, even in the middle of what must be the strangest debriefing in military history.
“Not beetles,” the Doctor cries. “The Beatles. New York City, 1968! The Beatles! Bob Dylan! Jimi Hendrix. She’s a musician, you think she’d be one to appreciate the moment in rock’n roll history,” he says to the Admiral, scandalized.
He turns on Kara and accuses, “You got to play “All Along the Watchtower” with Jimi! Drink with Bob! Cat around with John Lennon! Have a little respect - everyone who has ever been born in the USA has wanted to do that, to say nothing of the rest of the planet and about a 137 others. He pauses and takes a moment to scribble something down on a piece of paper from his pocket. “Remind me to call Bruce later.”
He flutters a hand, popping up on the Ward Room table and crossing his legs, looking for all the world like a bored monarch unamused by his court. “Fine. Back to the crisis in space, yet again.”
“The point is...” Kara says, and starts to shrug out of her combat jacket, revealing a T-shirt that is decidedly not military issue. Upon it is the emblem of a small white bird cradling a blue and green sphere above a single phrase:
PEACE & LOVE FOR MOTHER EARTH
“It’s insane. It’s impossible,” Kara admits, glancing at the Doctor sidelong. “It just also happens to be true. He’s a time traveler.” She pulls her shoulders back, looks from Laura over to the strange visitor, once more the soldier. “And I think he can stop the Cylon attack.”
The Doctor rolls his eyes. “That’s what I’ve been saying!”
His quarters are empty but for himself, the President, and the man from beyond time who calls himself the Doctor.
Beyond the hatch there are Marines, but the time traveller has never given his captors reason to use force.
“Can we do this?” Bill asks, sitting at his desk. Laura shrugs philosophically. She’s leaning against the desk at his side, so close his knee rests against the side of her thigh.
“I’m not sure we have a choice,” she sighs.
The Admiral considers the Doctor where he sits, slumped in a chair by his shelves. “You were always going to do it, weren’t you?”
The Doctor nods.
“So why come here at all? Why bother setting foot in this fleet at all?” Bill asks.
The Doctor does not move but for the smallest appraising tip of his head as he folds his hands across his middle. “Because I wanted to know if you deserved it.”
In the end, they can’t decide if it’s a military or a civilian decision, and so the Admiral and the President simply give the order together.
"Geronimo," whispers the Doctor.
Humans, he thinks, standing at the hatch, watching Adama wrap his arms around the President’s small frame, bells going off in his head like klaxons.
Happiness can bring them to tears.
Saving the world can bring them to grief.
The Doctor goes and tells them to sleep. When they wake up, it’ll be a new world.
(“Well, not a new world exactly. New universe. Whatever. Take two, we’ll call it!” is what he actually says, but neither the President nor the Admiral is truly listening to him by that point)
Bill pours them each a drink and sits beside Laura on the sofa. She slides next to him, folding her legs across his lap as he puts his arm around her shoulders. The material of his uniform is threadbare, seams mended in multiple places with off-color threads in uneven stitching. Her shirt and jacket aren’t in any better shape. Tomorrow will be three years ago, and everything here, gone.
She kisses the tears that tumble down the old scars on his face and it isn’t till he does the same that Laura reaches up and sees that she is crying as well. “I love you,” Bill says to her, and she hums so very happily.
“I love you,” she says in exactly the same way, as if she had been the one to say it first.
“How can we do this?” he asks, cradling her face. “How can we undo our lives these last years?”
“Bill,” Laura says, taking his hand and leading him to his rack. She discards her blouse, lets the skirt fall lightly to the floor as she whispers, “Love is why we can.”
“What will it be like?” the Admiral asks, though it isn’t the Doctor he is looking to.
The Doctor pauses a moment, his chin dipping a moment before he says, simply:
“It will be as if this never happened.”
The sun is shining on Caprica.
The steps to the Ministry of Defense are simple enough to climb, even in human-fashioned footwear. She re-corrects for the imbalance the heels create, and computes the precise navigational speed in order to stride with calculated purpose.
A man leaning on one of the columns of the portico blocks her path.
“You’re looking for trouble, I think,” the man says. “In there I mean.”
“I’m looking for Doctor Baltar.”
“I’m the Doctor.”
“You’re Doctor Baltar?” Six responds, incredulous. Six knows the man she is seeking out, and though he cuts a similar figure to this man - the accent, the foppish hair - from what she knows of Gaius Baltar he wouldn’t be caught dead in a bow-tie and suspenders.
He makes an indignant sound and tousles his hair. “Rude! You don’t see me calling you names, do you?” he huffs, offended. “What’s your name?” the man asks.
“I really don’t see...”
“Your name,” he presses, curious.
He smiles. “Six isn’t a name, it’s a number.”
She says nothing.
“Of course, you wouldn’t need a name. Just a model.”
Her mouth opens. She is shocked.
“No name and not human,” the Doctor muses. “I know a bit of what that’s like.”
He extends his hand. “Would you like me to show you?”
The sun is bright on Caprica that day.
When it falls, the bombs do not.
“I don’t understand. Everything just...goes back?”
“Essentially,” the Doctor lies.
The Admiral places his glasses on the desk. They are old, and broken at least once over. “Is it worth it?”
The President is silent. When she speaks, her voice is broken.
Apart from the Commander’s strange speech, the Decommissioning is an uneventful affair.
Laura Roslin is grateful to leave the strange environment of the battlestar once the ceremony has ended, wearily rubbing her tired eyes as she walks through the strange play of blinding luminescence and shadowy halls a final time.
Back on planet, she hands in her resignation to Adar, who accepts with an air of reluctant satisfaction. Maybe he wouldn’t have precisely wanted to win at this cost, but Richard was never one to turn down a victory. Leaving the Government Plaza, she knows it will be the last time she does so. She’s suddenly very tired. Of politics. Of...everything. The fight in her is all but gone.
When Bill Adama reads the obituary of the former Cabinet secretary in the paper eight months later, he’ll linger a moment over the picture of the pretty, annoying woman he’d once met, then turn the page to the sports section, where he sees that the Picon Panthers have had their third consecutive defeat in as many games.
It is the greatest loss he mourns that day.
“Will we remember anything?”
“No,” the Doctor says. Then he shakes his head. “Maybe. Possibly. Sometimes people do. If they can. But you must keep a memory in your mind. Something powerful. Something good. A memory you could never, ever forget.”
Hanging on the wall is one of the Admiral’s antiques, a chest plate of burnished gold and uncertain design. The Doctor touches the shoulder a moment as he says, “Even when it is gone, hold a memory close enough, and you might find it yours again.”
There is a vase of flowers, but they are old and moldy. Outside, dusk falls and paints the sky ochre and lilac. Far beyond the trees, the very top of Caprica City’s skyline can be seen, shimmering with the last glimmers of the fading sun. A breeze slips in through the windows, bringing the woody smell of pine trees and the wildflowers that grow in the mountains.
The house is silent, and Bill Adama is alone.
On the mantle of a large stone fireplace is a photograph, and by the smile Bill is wearing in it, it must have been one of the better moments in his life.
It looks as though it was. He wishes he could have been there for it, and shakes head at who he both was and wasn’t.
Beside the photograph is a scrap of paper, torn hastily from a newspaper. It is crumpled and yellowed, like it’s been balled up once or twice. But the gray powder on one side, it appears to have spent some time in the fireplace below. Fallen in, maybe.
Bill reads the words on the old newspaper, and he knows why the paper has been in the fire. He’d like to burn the words out of existence himself.
But it won’t stop them from being true.
Laura Roslin, 1,954 - 2,009, the obituary begins.
The gold band on his finger isn’t the one he’d worn before the Fall. Bill slips it off, and finds her initials inscribed with his on the inside. With them, a few small words.
The rush of new memories makes his head spin, most very happy, some very sad. He’d remembered that day, the day the worlds hadn’t ended when they knew they once did.
So had Laura.
Under his palm, the warm stone mantle. is all that keeps him upright. The violent crush of grief is a pain as keen as if the Twelve Worlds had been lost all over again.
Take two, too late.
Bill Adama curses the Doctor with the magic box, then. The young man with the ancient eyes, able to save all the worlds and yet he, like Bill, given too much of Time.
“What about the course of events? Doesn’t changing what happens then change this new... future? What happens to people?”
“Sometimes,” the Doctor says, “things work out as they should. Happened to a friend of mine. He fell into a crack in the universe and out of existence. He was never supposed to have been born at all, but instead of dying, he just woke up a Roman.”
The Doctor laughs.
“You humans, very surprising. And very crafty, too. The things you invent. The things you do. You travel faster than light. You create artificial intelligence.”
The light is very dim in the Admiral’s quarters, and in it the bow-tied Doctor’s smooth features are cracked with grief.
Far too old to be so young, she thinks.
“You are always amazing, you humans. Even when you hurt one another, so deeply. Just amazing. Even to me.”
Six months out from the fight with his father at the Decommissioning, Lee takes a bad bird off the deck of the Atlantia and gets a spacewalk for his trouble. It’s a jarring experience, and it changes something in him.
Sitting out in the big black alone, looking down at the distant nightside of Gemenon, he cannot help but begin to dwell on the kinds of things people get to wondering in their final moments. Something about that long, cold silence comes back with him when the rescue ship finally finds him, ten hours later.
It leaves him shaken.
In the weeks after, Lee finds himself weighed down as he has not felt before. He finds himself rethinking many of the choices he’s made as a pilot, and as a man. Choices he’s made as a son, as a partner, as a friend. He reconsiders a lot in those weeks, how he’s dealt with his parents and their demons. Gianne and the abortion. Kara and...
He puts in a call to the Academy when he’s planetside on his next leave and is only a little surprised to learn that Kara Thrace has been dishonorably discharged. It had been a threat for so long that it had lost much of the weight it once had. When a Lt. Edmundson pulls up her file, the real thing on Lee’s mind is what had been the last straw.
“Ran my mouth,” Kara says over a bottle of whiskey at Rowdy’s, the pilot bar just off-base. The name fits. “You know me and superior assholes.”
“That’s the best you could do?” Lee taunts. “Toss off an old line to some jerk captain who got in your face? What, were you drunk?”
She takes a long drag from her cigar before an equally long pull from her glass. “I was at my finest.”
“That’d be a yes, then?”
“Obviously.” Kara pours them both another round and raises her glass. “Cheers.”
Lee rolls the glass between his palms. “So what are you gonna do now, Kara Thrace?”
The music from the bar fades out and for a moment, they’re back in that kitchen, back before...everything. Before life got in the way of living.
Lee kisses her first this time.
He thinks he does, anyway, and that last time she did, but Kara has a way of making up seem like down and wrong seem like the best damn thing he’s ever seen, and why should the reality of things be any different? At least they make it to the bedroom this time.
I love you, Lee wants to say afterward, as Kara slips his shirt on and perches on the edge of the bed. He can see the ridge of her spine through the fabric, the black ink of her first tattoo.
“It was me,” she says, her unnatural small voice breaking the silence. “I killed Zak.” The story spills out, each word she says is like a sucker punch. Kara always knew how to throw a good one.
“It’s okay,” he says, whispering to the darkness, and as he wraps her in his arms. “It’s gonna be okay.”
“Lee,” she cries against his chest. He kisses away her tears, hardly aware of the way they mingle with his own. They fall asleep, and before he does, Lee kisses her hair and dares to wonder what the morning will bring for them. Wonders, and hopes.
He wonders for the rest of his life, because in the morning, Kara is gone.
Lee never sees her again.
“How do you know it will work?” she asks.
The weight of a great many unspoken things echoes throughout the room.
“I don’t,” he says.
Laura Roslin wakes, but it’s not to Caprica, and not in Elysium. The Doctor sits on the log near their fire, and hangs his head in his hands.
“I couldn’t,” he says. “I missed it. I wasn’t looking properly.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Think of a map, see. Two dots, each marking an individual location. But, if those points are close enough, one of them big enough, it’s as if they look like one. Only they’re not. It’s just perspective. Just how you’re looking at it that makes it seem that way, and I hadn’t gotten close enough to see...”
“To see what?”
“The second dot. The second fixed event. The real fixed event. We -- I-- always presumed it was when Cylons attacked,” he says, holding one index finger in the air. He pulls his other alongside it, close, but not touching. “But ‘big’ is not the same as ‘important’. The big event: the attacks. But the important event, the crucial moment in time...Was the instant that Karl Agathon gave up his seat for the man who let the attack happen in the first place.”
Laura sighs, not surprised how the universe seems designed to save Gaius Baltar.
“Gaius Baltar had to survive. Hera Agathon had to be conceived. Both to save you, Laura Roslin, and both...for something more.”
“For Earth, take two?” Laura quips.
“Something like that. But maybe we’ll stick with just plain old Earth, yeah? Keep the confusion to a minimum. Plus, Earth 2 was a rubbish programme.”
Laura hums, and shakes her head. “At the end of it all, I don’t believe I was ever that important,” she says, quiet. “None of it matters, now. Not the prophecies and not the prophet.”
“Oh, Laura,” the Doctor says. “I’ve been to one end of the universe to the other and back for almost a thousand years now and I’ve never met someone who wasn’t important. The last person I told that to was almost as stubborn as you, but even he came along in the end. Keep the faith, eh?”
He gives her a sad smile, then hangs his head once more. He holds her hand tightly, like it might absolve him of his failings. “I couldn’t stop it,” he says. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, Doctor. It wasn’t you who started it,” Laura says, trying to sit up. It feels strange, but she manages. “It was never your war to end.”
“No. I wanted to, though,” the Doctor says. “I couldn’t save your worlds, but I can fix this.” He brushes the wig off her face. In the firelight, the fine hairs along the curve of her scalp seems to glow, as with fire of their own. He smiles mischievously, twirls his sonic screwdriver in the air, once, twice, three times now, then tucks it safely in his breast pocket. “I’ve always wanted to be a ginger. What’s it like?” he asks, looking like a small child at Solstice.
“It’s good,” she says with a small, but wild, smirk. “Fantastic even.”
“I’ll bet,” the Doctor grins wider, and Laura begins to understand.
If it wasn’t the Lords of Kobol that heard her prayers, well, then...someone else surely did.
“What is it like, outside of time?”
“Lonelier than you could ever image, Laura Roslin.”
Laura hums sadly and squeezes his hand. “Keep the faith, Doctor,” she murmurs, echoing his own words. “In another life,” she says, looking up to where her red-colored hair should be. “You never know.”
“You never, ever know,” he replies, and touches her cheek. “Sometimes, there’s another chance.”
She presses a hand to her mouth for a moment, overwhelmed. “Come see for yourself someday,” she says when she can speak again, her throat aching with the swell of joy.
“I will,” the Doctor promises.
He rises to leave, then turns and calls out. “Oh, and I made some minor...well, we’ll just call them corrections. Just a few alterations here and there. Moved a few pulsejet detonations around, emptied one or two F799 chambers and diverted a couple hiking trails on Space Canada.”
“Space Canada?” She repeats.
“I call it Space Canada,” he counters. That slow, revealing smile again. “You lot, now, you call it by a different name. An older name.”
Laura shakes her head and smiles, totally lost, and not for the first time around this strange boy. “Goodbye, Doctor.”
He waves a fond salute. “I’ll be seeing you, Laura Roslin." He kisses her hand and whispers in her ear before he turns to go. "Remember,” he calls, retreating into the darkness. "Geronimo!"
When she falls asleep, she is confused as ever she has been, but never more content.
One year later.
The sweet breeze sweeps through at dusk, clearing the dust from the air as the moon glows brighter in the darkening sky. Air thick with the scents of plants and flowers for which they have no names.
Laura runs a hand along her neck with a damp cloth. On days when the sun is in full force, the heat relentlessly scorching from the first of daybreak, Laura finds herself wishing her hair hadn’t grown back out. It’s brushing almost past her shoulders by now, and clings to her neck in the unbearable humidity, ever as thick as it once had been and twice as wild.
Zak teases her about it, says he preferred the bald look, and likens her to the “lead singer of some post-apocalyptic punk band.” Dee is quick to defend, threatening to shave his head if he likes it so much.
Billy treks up when he can get away from the settlement for a day, which means whenever Lee and Romo are sick of listening to his endless suggestions and additions to the Quorum agenda. So much energy in him, her Billy. “Even the Minister for Strategic Planning and Community Development needs a break,” Lee always insists, and will send him off to the cabin for a few days respite. He spent four days with them last month, and visited with Ellen and Saul not long before that. Laura would rather he had a girlfriend and babies than a surfeit of pseudo-parents, but having him here is a miracle. A miracle that might require only a little bit of meddling.
Their house - the cabin that fed her hope, in a promised land she was never meant to see - is a few hours’ walk from the main settlement. The town, built in the lush lowlands below three high, snow-capped peaks that rise like beacons from the valley floor, is much smaller than New Caprica ever was but beginning to thrive in ways that their last community never had. The Colonists called the town Underhill, and if it was not the great metropolis that Caprica City had once been, it gave the survivors something of what they had lost those long years ago.
Elosha visits often. Lee, when he can. Sometimes the Tighs, sometimes the Agathons. Not many more. Their existence here on the outskirts near the valley rim is a quiet one.
Kara has been gone a long time. Most assume she’s dead, perhaps for the last time now.
Laura has other ideas. Starbuck had vanished the same night as a madman with a time machine, after all. All that time and space...
Above, the stars begin to sparkle in the rich swath of eastern sky.
Laura thinks that if she were a younger woman, she’d have been tempted to follow him, too.
Bill is sitting in his chair on the porch reading. The fading light is bad for his eyes, but she says nothing, just joins him by easing into his lap and giving his brow a kiss. He gives her that big, leading-man smile, the one he’d given each day of this past year, whenever he’d find her soaking up the light of this bright new sun as she grew stronger.
It was the way he’d smiled that morning after the Doctor left, when Lee came looking for them with Zak and Billy in tow. Miracles all.
Laura is resting her chin on her husband’s crown when a flash of light beckons from their garden.
“We have visitors,” Laura smiles, rising to her feet.
“Not visiting.” Bill stares, squinting through his frames. “Someone is home.”
He’s right. The figure is unmistakable.
“What do you hear, Starbuck?” he calls to the smiling woman sauntering up the dirt path.
“Nothing but the rain, Boss,” Kara Thrace responds.
With her is a slim, pretty young girl with red hair, who sidles up to the cabin and knocks her hands upon her hips, looking confused. “But, I thought we were going to your home home. The Colonies! Caprica! Picon! See, you know...Colonial things! The kind that doesn’t involve butter-churning and those horrible corner hats!”
Kara grins, looking not at all sorry. “Doctors lie. So do Viper pilots,” she says. “This is the closest thing I have to home now.”
“Irritating space girl,” the redhead huffs. “Well. This is it then, yeah? Fine. Hullo,” she waves. “I’m Amy. From the future.”
“From the 21st century,” Bill remembers with a chuckle. He glances up at Laura, pointing out, “He had a point. She’s pushy.”
“Oh, shut up,” Laura says fondly. “Where is that strange man?”
“How’d you know...” Amy asks, but waves her hands, dismissing the matter. “I’m sure it’s a long story.”
“Bet they all are,” Bill says. “For him.”
Starbuck looks the same, but new. Brighter, maybe. Or lighter. It doesn’t matter. She’s home.
“Are you finished, Kara?” Laura says, eyes trailing over the strange blue box.
Starbuck nods, drawing a long breath. Her eyes close and an unreadable expression passes over her features, her eyes once again to the horizon. “Yeah. I think I am.”
The Doctor’s last words ring out in Laura’s mind.
Even the longest life is short, Laura Roslin h said. Don’t let that keep you from living. She wanders to the TARDIS, wondering. Wondering.
“Are you ready?” she hears Amy’s lilting voice ask.
“For what?” the Admiral asks.
Laura already knows. She might even be ready.