mr_gaeta: (the dream of New Caprica)
Felix Gaeta ([personal profile] mr_gaeta) wrote2013-04-17 10:35 pm

[Milliways grounds]

It's spring, as far as Gaeta can tell, but the days don't seem to be getting any warmer. The nights are worse: after he was released from the infirmary -- sans prosthesis still -- he attempted a half-hearted return to his PT routine with a walk around the lake, but barely made it a hundred yards before doing an about-face and hobbling back to the bar. No matter how many layers he puts on, it never seems to get any better.

It never stops, the voice still whispers, and with every repetition Gaeta feels himself curling tighter. Maybe if he's lucky, he'll curl up so small that he'll finally wink out of existence.

He can't leave. He won't do that to Louis again. But Louis still hasn't come back, despite the promise to return as soon as Gaeta was out of sickbay, and all he can do is hope to every god that something got frakked up between the passage of time here and on Galactica. The other alternative...he can only bear so much.

Especially since the worst thoughts have deepened and darkened ever since their conversation. Some days, he has to spend an hour or more before he convinces himself to get out of bed and get the frak downstairs. Once or twice, he gives up and doesn't move any more than necessary: just stares blindly at the wall and tries not to think of all the ways he could circumvent Simon's opiate ban. (In particular, the idea of hacking into the infirmary's medical files has settled in like a bad roommate, taking up space, stealing the mental energy he desperately frakking needs to direct elsewhere.)

Then one day, in a burst of need to do something, he asks Bar for a bucket of baseballs.

He can't balance on his crutches, toss a ball, and swing a bat all at the same time anymore. Gaeta has to settle for parking himself on one of the bleachers near the baseball diamond out back, where, one by one, he winds up and hurls the baseballs toward center field. Most of them barely make it any farther than the pitcher's mound: he's not in the best shape since all his focus was diverted toward his one remaining leg. But Gaeta still moves through the bucket with methodical patience, feeling the muscles along his arms and back strain with unaccustomed movement, until there's nothing left in the bottom of the container but tin.

Well, that killed a whole thirty minutes, he thinks. Sighing, he hooks the bucket onto one crutch and hobbles out to collect the baseballs -- except somebody's already gotten to them first. Near second base, something large and squat bends over a ball, twisting its head from side to side as it tries to get a better look. As Gaeta approaches, the swing of his crutches slowing down at the sight, it looks up.

"Plock," it says.

It's...well, it's a bird, but a giant and godsdamn ugly one. Shaped like a baseball itself, the animal's covered in a fluffy gray down that vanishes entirely by the time it reaches its face. A cluster of tail feathers curl every which way, and its beak is so large it looks like it ought to tip the whole creature face-first into the ground.

"Um," says Gaeta.

"Plock."

"Can I have my ball back?"

It ruffles its feathers, spreading wings so tiny it takes Gaeta a second to realize they are wings, and waddles back a step to peer up at him. It doesn't have to peer far; the bird's so big it almost comes up to Gaeta's waist.

Cautiously, he unhooks the bucket, then bends down to scoop up the ball. The bird waits until he's straightened up before waddling forward to butt its overlarge beak against his leg. With a noise of surprise, Gaeta rocks back, quickly stabbing one crutch at the ground to keep his balance. The plock that follows sounds faintly apologetic when it nudges Gaeta's leg a second time.

He frowns, just a little. With the curiosity of a scientist, he lobs the ball a few feet behind the bird. It watches it go, unconcerned, before turning all its attention back to Gaeta.

"Okay," he mutters, and goes to retrieve it. The bird trundles after him, quietly plocking to itself.

It continues to follow Gaeta as he limps through the field. With each baseball they locate, it bustles ahead to perform a thorough examination, nudging the ball from side to side and delivering gentle taps with its beak. Only after it's passed inspection does the bird step aside to let Gaeta scoop it up. If he had somewhere to be, or something else to do, he might be a little irritated by the holdup. But...neither of those seem to be likely prospects today.

He tries to draw the line when, after finishing his collection, the bird attempts to follow him inside. "No," he says sternly, like he's talking to a misbehaving puppy and not something that looks like a mutated pigeon. "Stay there."

It pauses, as if taking this suggestion under advisement, then ignores Gaeta altogether and trots along at his heel. Sighing, he shakes his head and pushes open the back door with one shoulder.

Aside from a small plock of distress when Bar reclaims the bucket, nothing about Milliways seems to faze the animal. Maybe it's been inside before; maybe, thinks Gaeta wryly, it's another patron that fell into some kind of magical mishap. But instead of parting company with him, the bird keeps a few paces behind through his entire walk across the bar -- and up the stairs, and to the door of room 372.

By that point, he guesses it might as well frakking stay for a night. He'll turn it loose back on the grounds tomorrow.




That evening, the Eight pays him a visit.

They're alone on the Raptor, frost discoloring their skin, and her hands feel like they've been plunged in ice water when she grasps Gaeta's fingers. She gives him a gentle tug to lead him along; when she smiles, blood trickles out from between her teeth.

She cracked open the hatch of the Raptor a few minutes before. The corpses of the rest of the crew float just beyond. Shuddering, Gaeta tries to look away, but her hands clamp onto his face -- digging in hard enough to leave bruises -- and wrenches his head back as if trying to break his neck.

There's no snap; no end. Just another line of corpses drifting above them like clouds: eleven Quorum members riddled with gunshots, their nameplates twirling gently beside them. And more, and more, he realizes -- they're too far away for any starlight to reach them. The dots he sees extending into infinity are bodies.

One of the corpses bumps against his shoulder. Then another. He's making a noise that doesn't sound human, and he can't stop, cold blood trickling from the fingernail marks in his cheeks as the Cylon keeps smiling at him.

"You know their names, don't you?" she murmurs sweetly. "Plock-plock."

...What?

The momentary confusion wrenches Gaeta from the Eight's grip. He surfaces, gasping and shivering, scrambling to try and pull the blankets closer. They won't budge. A weight pins them down near his shoulders, and a good five seconds pass before Gaeta realizes what it is.

"Plock," murmurs the bird. It pushes its beak against his shoulder again, more firmly this time, then tilts its head. If he didn't know better, he'd swear there was worry in its tiny eyes. "Plock-plock?"

"Oh," whispers Gaeta, and blinks hard as his eyes start to well up in gratitude.

Satisfied that he's finally awake, the bird fluffs its feathers and settles closer. After a beat's consideration, it drapes its head onto a bit of pillow just above Gaeta, then grasps some of his hair with its beak to start preening it.

The weight, the warmth, and the gentle repetition of movement eventually lull him back to sleep.

He doesn't dream again, but he does hear himself think, All right. Maybe another night or two wouldn't hurt.

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