Characters: Persephone "Seph" Thrace, Hera Agathon, Leoben Conoy, Kara Thrace, Lee Adama, several OCs
Summary: Part of the "No Haven" Universe - in the woods, a seven-year-old Seph encounters a man from her past that she doesn't remember, and she can't seem to shake him from her life.
Length: ~4500 words
Warnings/Notes: Generic Leoben creeperness, mentions of New Caprica. Thanks to scifishipper for all her help!
“There it is.”
Hera points up the hill, where a small cabin is hidden among the trees. Seph squints, trying to see past the window, but all she can see is bright sunlight bouncing off the glass.
“I don’t see anything,” Seph says, trying to pull herself up as tall as her older friend. But even on her tiptoes, she’s still half a foot too short.
Hera crouches down behind a bush and tugs on Seph’s arm. She stumbles and sways and lands on her butt. “I’m telling you he’s in there,” Hera whispers. “I saw him!”
“Yeah, well, so what if he is?” Seph folds her arms across her chest, pretending like her heart isn’t thumping harder than it ever has. “I’ve seen cylons before. Your mom is a cylon!”
“Not like this one.” Hera shakes her head. “I heard some of the others say there’s something wrong with him, like he’s broken or crazy or something. He stays in there all by himself, all alone, and never goes into town or anything.”
“How can you tell!” Seph shouts. Hera claps a hand over her mouth and shushes her. She tries again, quieter this time. “How can you tell? They all look the same.”
“They can just tell, okay?” Hera insists. “Why are you so whiny?”
“I’m not whiny!”
“Is it ‘cause you’re chicken?”
“I am not!”
“I’m not! I’m not!”
“Then prove it.”
“Fine! I will.”
Hera presses something cold and hard into her hand. “If you’re not chicken, you’ll throw this at his window.”
Seph stares down at the rock in her hand and turns it over. She’s not a chicken. She’sStarbuck’s daughter, and no one is going to get away with calling her a coward. Not even her best friend. She ignores the beating in her chest and gathers herself up.
Padding softly through the clearing, she makes her way closer and closer and closer until she knows she can hit it. Seph gathers up all her strength, pulling her arm back, and launches the rock at the window.
The glass splinters and sparkles as it comes apart, sprinkling down.
“What in God’s name—”
Seph hears Hera shout, “Run!” But by the time she turns, Hera’s already halfway down the hill. Seph’s feet take a second too long to catch up with her brain and she manages to trip over a tree root sticking up out of the ground.
She can’t help but cry out when she hits the ground, sudden pain shooting from her knee. Rolling over to sit, she studies the fresh tear in her pants. Momma is gonna be mad at her. She can already imagine the look on Momma’s face, her eyes squinty with anger and mouth in a frown. She hates it when Momma looks like that.
And then there’s blood. Seph hates the sight of blood more than the sight of Momma mad.
That’s when the shadow falls over her.
“This was not what I expected today.”
Seph stares up at the figure standing over her, the light behind him so bright she can’t see his face. She doesn’t want to cry or doesn’t want him to see her cry. She throws her arms over her head and closes her eyes. “I’m sorry! I’m really, really sorry! I didn’t mean—”
“You did,” the man says, very calm, not angry at all—not like he should be after she broke his window. “You came here to do harm and you have.”
“No!” she insists. “I didn’t want to—”
“Humans hurt that which they do not understand.” Seph hears him moving, crouching down next to her. “You’re bleeding.”
“Please don’t hurt me.” She peeks from behind her arms. It’s one of the Twos. She’s seen them before in the town before, but Hera’s words circle in her head. Wrong. Broken. Crazy.
The Two reaches out, touches just around the hole in her pants where the cloth is starting to turn dark with blood. “You’ve been hurt enough. We should get you cleaned up and back to your mother. She’ll be worried about you.”
He stands and walks back to the cabin. Seph only has a few moments to wonder if she can get up and run before he comes back, but her leg hurts too much and she knows she won’t get very far. So she sits, picking grass out of the ground, until the Two returns with a bowl of water and some cloth.
He dips a piece of cloth into the water and wrings it out, before wiping away the mess on her knee.
“Are you going to tell Momma what I did?”
“This cut isn’t very deep at all,” he says, like he didn’t even hear her. Seph looks down at the scrape, even though she doesn’t want to. It might not be deep but it keeps getting red even after he keeps cleaning it. It doesn’t look like he’s fixing it at all. “Does this hurt?”
“No,” she says, even though it kinda does.
“You’re a very strong girl.” He puts the cloth back in the bowl and takes out a fresh one. Two pushes up the leg of her pants and wraps a bandage around her knee. “Just like your mother.”
“You know Momma?” Seph asks, raising an eyebrow.
Two sets the bowl aside and stands, holding his hands out to her. “I’ve known your mother for a very long time, since before you were born.”
After a moment, Seph takes his hands and he helps her to her feet. “It’s this way,” Seph says, turning to walk towards home.
“I know,” he says. And that’s all he says almost all the way back to her home. But then they reach the edge of the woods and it turns out he had heard her after all. “Do you think your mother should know about what you did?”
Seph doesn’t answer, just looks at her shoes. There’s some blood on her shoe, too. “Yes,” she says, quiet enough that maybe he can’t hear her. But he can, because even a broken cylon is still a cylon and they’re really good at things. Like hearing stuff, apparently.
Momma’s sitting on the porch when they get home; she’s got her knife out and she’s carving something out of wood. “Momma!” Seph shouts, and even though her knee hurts she picks up speed and runs up to her.
Momma puts down the knife and wraps her arms around Seph, pulling her in for a tight hug. “You’re late, nugget. Where’ve you been? And what happened to your leg.”
“Um… I fell down. But I’m okay; he helped me.”
That’s when Momma finally looks up and sees the Two. The look on her face is sharper than the knife.
“She’ll be fine,” he says. “It’s just a small scrape. Your daughter is growing up into quite the remarkable girl.”
“Seph,” Momma says sharply. “Go inside.”
“I said ‘go inside’. That’s an order, young lady.”
Seph thinks sometimes that it really bites to have parents from the military. She drags her feet all the way in the front door. Before the door is shut, she can hear the Two talking.
“She’s beautiful, Kara. Just like you.”
Seph closes the door but presses her ear to the crack. She wishes she had cylon hearing.
“What did you do to her?” Momma’s voice is quiet and low and dangerous. Seph’s never heard her talk like that before.
“I didn’t do anything but dress her wound. She was up by my home; you’re lucky she didn’t end up some place dangerous.”
Momma lets out a laugh but she doesn’t sound like it was funny.
“Your daughter broke my window with a rock.”
“Clearly, I’m not raising her right. She should have broken your skull.”
Seph’s stomach does a somersault and she steps away from the door. She doesn’t want to hear that voice coming from Momma anymore. It hurts. Not like her knee, but somewhere else in her it hurts to hear that voice. Seph turns and heads for her room.
Collapsing on her bed, she pulls her pillow over her head just in case yelling starts. She stays buried there until she hears the front door open and close. “Seph!” Momma calls out.
“I’m in here,” she says, putting her pillow aside. She looks up as Momma appears in the doorway. Momma is quiet for a long moment before she sits down on the bed next to Seph.
“Did he hurt you?” Momma pushes a stubborn lock of hair behind Seph’s ear a few times before it stays put.
“No,” Seph says, looking down at her knee. “He was really nice to me.”
“Seph, look at me.” Momma’s voice is sharp as she puts her palm against Seph’s cheek. “He is not nice. He’s dangerous.”
“But he’s not a stranger. He said he’s known you for a long time,” Seph protests.
“That doesn’t make him safe.” Momma’s voice sounds shaky in a way Seph has never head it before. “He acts nice, he smiles, but he’ll confuse you and trick you and hurt you. You need to stay away from him. Persephone Leigh Thrace, promise me, you’ll never go near him again.”
Seph has never seen Momma scared before, didn’t know Momma could be scared. “Okay. I promise.”
Momma holds Seph close until the front door opens and Daddy calls out to them. Momma doesn’t tell him what happened, so neither does Seph. Later that night, Daddy takes her out and shows her the stars and Momma’s already asleep when they get home. Seph goes to bed that night thinking about pomegranates.
Four Years Later
Seph is awakened by a sharp poke in the shoulder. She opens one eye and stares up at Hera who is watching her with an impatient look. “We need another person on our pyramid team!”
She stretches, not really wanting to move from her spot in the sunlight. “’m’tired,” she says, rolling onto her side. There had been thunder and lightning the night before, and her little sister, Tamara, had kept her up all night crying. She’s already fallen asleep during math class, and her teacher wasn’t exactly happy about it.
“Forget it!” someone yells. Seph recognizes the voice as Andrew, a tall boy in Hera’s class. “She obviously doesn’t want to be on your team, toaster.”
Even without opening her eyes, Seph knows that Hera’s face is already twisting up.
“Don’t call me that!” Hera growls.
“What are you going to do about it, toaster?” he mocks.
“Don’t call her that,” says another kid, Lucas. “She’s not all toaster, and she’s not human either. So she’s not really anything.”
Before Seph can get on her feet, Hera already has Lucas by the front of his shirt. “Say that to my face!” she yells, and throws him down on the ground. “You wanna say that again!?”
“Hera Agathon!” Mr. Jason, the sixth grade teacher, shouts as he crosses the playground. “That is it, you have lost your recess privileges for the rest of the week.”
“I don’t want to hear your excuses.”
“It’s not her fault!” Seph jumps up, trying to get between Hera and her teacher. “They started it.”
Mr. Jason shoots her a dark look. “I suggest you stop your lying right now, Persephone, unless you want to be spending recess this week indoors with Miss Agathon.”
Seph can see Lucas grinning, even as he swipes dirt off his scraped elbows. She quickly shuts her mouth but resolves to deal with him as soon as the teachers can’t see.
Miss Claudia, one of the teacher’s aides and also a cylon with bright blonde hair puts her hand on Hera’s shoulder. “It’s alright, Mr. Jason. I’ll take her back to the classroom if you want to take Lucas to the nurse.”
Hera looks like she’s trying really hard not to cry as she walks away with Miss Claudia.
When Mr. Jason is out of sight, Seph grabs Andrew by the shirt and pulls him behind a tree where none of the teachers can see. “Hey,” she growls, pinning him to the bark.
“What the heck!?” Andrew says almost laughing. He’s taller than her and almost knocks her away, but Seph digs her feet in hard and pushes him back.
“Listen to me!” Seph snaps as his head hits the bark. “You tell your friend, all your friends, if anyone calls Hera a toaster or half-toaster or nothing again, I’ll mess up your face so bad you’ll look like nothing.”
Andrew’s grin wavers as his eyes meet Seph’s. “Yeah right, what are you gonna do?” he asks.
Seph swallows hard holding back words she knows are going to get her in trouble. But maybe if she speaks quiet enough and cold enough he’ll be too scared to say anything. So, she holds his eyes and grins. “I know where my mom keeps her knife.” She lets go of him and steps back. “Now get out of my sight.”
Andrew nearly trips on his way back onto the playground.
Seph counts to ten before she follows. As she leaves the woods, she could swear she hears a voice from behind her.
Your mother was always good with a knife.
“Who’s there?!” Seph shouts, spinning around. But there’s no one there—no one she can see, anyways. She runs back out onto the playground as quickly as her legs can carry her.
Just in time to see Andrew telling on her.
Her teacher sends her home that day with a note for her parents. Momma and Daddy are not gonna be happy when they find out she can’t go in for school tomorrow. Seph drags her feet, walking in circles and taking the long way home. She scuffs her feet in the dirt trying to figure out which way to go.
The sound of a twig snapping jerks her out of her thoughts. She spins around towards the woods and this time she knows she sees something. Arming herself with a rock, Seph edges towards the woods. “I know you’re in there!” she yells. “Why don’t you show your face, if you’re not a coward!?”
Movement again—this time further. Seph pushes past the treeline, and up ahead in a clearing, she can see him. Him. Even though he looks like every other Two in town, Seph knows it’s the one living alone in that cabin. “You want to tell me why you’re following me?”
“Do you want to put down that rock?” he says with a crooked little smile.
“I don’t think so.” Seph remembers listening through the door, what Momma said about smashing his skull. “My mother told me to stay away from you.”
He sits down on a broken stump and watches her with almost-sad eyes. “Then why are you following me?”
“You were watching me at school!” Seph shouts. “You’re being really creepy!”
The Two is quiet, just watching her. “You are so much like your mother, did you know that? It’s not just your face, your hair, the way you look. There’s a fire in you, Persephone, burning brighter than you can even see.”
A chill runs down her spine, every muscle in her body tightening. She doesn’t know if she is going to throw the rock or run. “How do you know my name?!”
“I told you,” he says. “I’ve known your mother a very long time. I was there when you were born, when you took your first breaths in this world.”
Seph can hear her heart beating in her ears. “No. You’re lying, that’s not true. I was born on Galactica and there weren’t any cylons there! Okay, there was one cylon but it wasn’t you!”
“That’s a nice story.” His face shifts, just a little. It almost looks like he pities her, and she thinks she wants to hurt him just for that. “But it’s a lie.” He rises to his feet again, stepping towards her. Seph’s legs feel like jelly and lead at the same time. “I was there for the first moments of your life, for the first months of your life.”
“No! I lived with my mom and my dad and—just who the hell do you think you are?”
He smiles at her—nice as you please. “I’m Leoben.”
“…he smiles, but he’ll confuse you and trick you and hurt you…”
Her head hurts, full of words and noise and truths and lies and secrets and this is not anything that Seph wanted. A pained cry rips its way out of her throat as she throws the rock. She doesn’t even bother to see where it lands, just turns and sprints off towards home—running away feeling like a coward.
Words keep racing in her head—Momma’s warning to stay away from the Two, Leoben saying her parents are lying, and Daddy talking to Momma—
“...I’m just trying to help. I wasn’t there when Seph was born, I just want to be here now...”
Seph isn’t afraid that the Two is lying to her. She’s afraid he’s telling her the truth. As much as she wants to believe that she’s always been with her mother and father, together, she’s known that something was wrong—the way Momma and Daddy stop talking when she walks in the room sometimes, they’ve been hiding something from her.
Seph runs and runs and runs and doesn’t stop until she bounds up the steps on the porch and bursts through the front door. Daddy looks up from where he’s working in the kitchen to shush her.
“Tamara’s sleeping, don’t wake her up.”
He loves that baby more than he loves me.
Before Seph even knows what she’s doing, she’s hitting him. Her hands are balled into tight fists, hammering away at his stomach. He wasn’t there when she was born. He doesn’t love her as much as he loves Tamara, maybe he isn’t even really her father.
“Seph!” he says, grappling to get ahold of her hands. “Stop this, right now.”
“I hate you!” she cries. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!!”
“Seph, what’s wrong? What happened?”
Tears are running down her cheeks now. “You lied to me!” She tries to pull her hands out of his grip but she can’t, so she kicks him in the shin. Her father grimaces as he gets down on his knees so he can look her in the eye.
“What are you talking about?” He asks softly. “What’s going on?”
“You’re a liar!” she shouts, her legs starting to feel like jelly again. “You weren’t there! You said you were there but you weren’t! You weren’t there when I was born.”
He watches her, lips in a tight line as he meets her eyes. “Seph… who told you that I wasn’t there?”
Daddy’s eyes go wide and he lets go of her wrists. “Oh gods.” He wraps his arms around Seph and pulls her into his lap holding her tight. She doesn’t want to be touched. She squirms and hits, but he doesn’t let go of her, and then he says, “I’m sorry.”
Hiccuping, Seph slumps heavily against Daddy’s chest as he smoothes back her hair. “I lied. We lied,” he says. “But we did it to protect you, because we thought you would be happier if you didn’t know the truth.”
The front door creaks open. “What’s going on?” Momma watches them with nervous eyes.
“We’re… we’re having a bit of a rough day,” Daddy says, his voice is tight and almost squeaky.
Momma looks to Daddy and suddenly her eyes go wide, like everything is suddenly making sense. She rushes over and crouches down next to them. “What happened?”
“Kara, I think it’s time Seph knows about... you know.”
All of Seph’s muscles tighten as she looks up at Daddy. She bites down on her lip almost afraid of asking the question, afraid of what the answer is going to be. It feels like there’s a big dark hole in her chest as she stares at his face. “Are you my real dad?”
“What?” Daddy almost smiles, almost laughs, looks relieved as he hugs her close. “Yes. Of course, I am.” He kisses Seph’s face and his chin feels scratchy and familiar and good.
“Then why weren’t you there?”
Momma sits down next to Daddy and pulls Seph into her lap. Her eyes almost look shiny, like she almost wants to cry. “It wasn’t his fault,” she says. “It was…” Momma cuts herself off, swallows hard and shakes her head. “Right before you were born... back during the war, I was taken away.”
Tears keep trickling down Seph’s cheeks, her hands curling in Momma’s shirt like she might disappear if she let go. “Where did they take you?”
“A prison, it... it looked like a home, but the doors were locked. I couldn’t leave.” Momma takes a long breath, her hand turning into a fist.
Seph swallows hard. “Was it Leoben?” she asks quietly.
Seph frowns, thinking about Momma sitting alone in the dark with the creepy cylon. She puts her hand on top of Momma’s. “He took you away from Daddy?”
“Not exactly,” Momma says quietly. Her eyes skip over to Daddy’s and he holds her hand, too.
“We were fighting. We weren’t talking to each other,” he says.
“It doesn’t matter,” Daddy says.
“I made a mistake,” Momma says.
Daddy squeezes Momma’s hand. “It seems so stupid, now. But that’s why I wasn’t there.”
Seph hangs her head, her face all hot with embarrassment. “And... I was born in a prison?”
Momma’s hand cups Seph’s face and tilts it up to look at her. “Yes. And you were so, so strong.”
“I was a baby,” Seph whined, feeling even worse now. First she hit her father, now she finds out she couldn’t do anything to help her Momma when she needed someone. “I wasn’t strong. I just didn’t do anything.”
“That’s not true.” Momma holds Seph close to her--so close that she can feel her heart beating. “You gave me something to keep fighting for. Remember, Seph. I would do anything to keep you safe.”
Just like the bedtime story Momma always told her. “Just like Demeter did everything to keep Persephone safe from Hades.”
And even though Momma still looks like she might cry, she smiles. “Exactly.”
Daddy scoots closer, putting his arms around the two of them. Now Seph can feel his heartbeat, too. “And it worked. We’re all here, and we’re all together, and the rest of it isn’t worth a damn.”
Daddy lets out a long sigh as he gets to his feet. “Duty calls.”
Seph laughs as he leaves the room.
“What’s so funny, nugget?” Momma asks.
“He said ‘doodie’.” Seph giggles. “It’s funny because ‘Mara has stinky diapers.”
Seven Years Later
A warm summer breeze rustles through the trees, birds cry out, a momma bear forages for her cubs, lizards crawl and ants march and in the middle of it all, Seph sits and waits and watches with her bow drawn, waiting for her moment.
The deer she is watching moves slowly through the brush, pausing every so often to nibble at a plant. There’s a small pit in her stomach--the poor thing has no idea what’s coming, but it’s the circle of life, Seph reminds herself. Ever since her mother had re-injured a bad knee, hunting duties had fallen to her. It’s a good thing Momma has taught her well.
“You really do look just like her.”
She knows the voice, doesn’t even need to turn to know. “I have a weapon, you know.”
“You won’t use it,” Leoben says. “Not on me.”
Seph takes her arrow from the bow and puts it back in her quiver. “You’re right, but not for whatever frakked up reason you’re thinking.” She pulls herself up, almost tall enough to look him straight in the eye. “You never give up, do you?”
“I have my reasons,” he says.
He looks different somehow. Maybe it’s because she’s older, taller, faster than the scared little girl he kept finding in the woods, but he looks... tired. Sad even. She doesn’t want to have any compassion for him. “I don’t care. It’s over. Whatever sick reasons you have to sticking around and pissing off my family, you need to get the frak over them. We’ve moved on.”
And he smiles, again, that insufferable little smile. She has far fewer issues putting an arrow in his chest, but she doesn’t. Hurting him isn’t going to take back pain and the fear and the anger he caused.
“So, you know?” he asks. “You know everything now?”
“I know you kidnapped my mother, locked her up. Tortured her, you may not have physically hurt her because gods know that would have been easier. And you used me to do it.”
“Good. Now I can tell you what you needed to know.”
He leans in. Whispers. And Seph steps away.
“Then we’re done,” she says. “I don’t want to see you ever again.”
Seph doesn’t watch him go, just gathers up her things and heads back into town. She walks the familiar path to the center of the village, to the bar that her father was so proud to open--the bar where Momma plays cards with the other veterans every night. She can hear Mom laughing proudly before she even opens the front door.
She drops her stuff as she walks inside. “Sephi!” Tamara yells, from her seat at the counter. “Look at what I made!”
Dad looks up from where he’s cleaning glasses and smiles an amused but tired smile. “She’s working on making a ‘battlestar’ out of toothpicks.”
“I’ll be right over,” she says.
“And after all this time, still the undisputed champion,” Mom says, laying her cards on the table with a triumphant smack. “Full colors.” She grins widely, raking in the coins, despite the groans from the others at the table.
“Leave them something, Mom,” Seph says, placing her hands on the back of Momma’s chair. “No one’s going to want to play with you if you beat them all the time.”
“We’re used to it, by now,” Uncle Helo says, gathering up the cards to shuffle.
Momma turns in her seat and smiles up at Seph. “Anything good in the woods?”
Seph shrugs. Maybe she should tell her, maybe it would help--or maybe it would be too painful to bring it up again after all this time. Maybe this was just something she was going to carry for herself. She bends down and puts her arms around Momma, hugging her tight.
“Gods you two look so much alike,” Nicky’s dad says. “It’s almost scary.”
“That’s what everyone says.” Seph glances back towards the bar. “Okay, ‘Mara. Show me what you’ve got.”
She crosses the bar in even, steady strides, remembering the voice in the woods.
No destiny is greater than the life you make.