Date: 71 ACH
Location: Genesis Recovery Ward/Morpha Dreamland
Rhea floated, listless, somewhere between consciousness and dreaming. Around her she heard noises, felt vague sensations. The soft patter of nurses' shoes. Voices. The distant, dull ache of where the Centurion's bullet had torn her stomach. It all seemed outside herself. Distant.
"You know, I always figured a machine was going to be the death of you. Though I rather thought you'd have the sense to go out in an FTL explosion. Or some wonderfully pyrotechnic damage control fire. Something with a certain technical flare."
He was dressed in officer blues, glasses perched on his nose in that school-marm way she'd always teased him about. Clean-shaven and whole. So different from the last image of him in her head. After the attacks. After the Persius. After half her universe had exploded.
He was smoking a cheap Picon cigarette. The kind they'd sold on the base, and shipped out to battlestars by the carton. He'd loved those things. She'd hated the way they smelled. "I turn my back on you for one minute and you fall off the wagon?"
He smiled that boyish smile of his. "One of the perks of being dead, my dear. You don't have to worry about lung cancer anymore."
"Dead and smoking again. Jesse will be proud."
"Pfft. He was never as good at corrupting me as he wanted to think. Did a good deal to steer me away from my greatest stupidities, actually. Don't tell him, though. I wouldn't want damage his pride."
"Ever the gentleman. Hmph."
"Not always, dear. Not often enough. We had our moments, though."
She couldn't smell the smoke. It seemed the sharp, spearmint scent of aftershave hung in the air. She'd loved that smell of him. "I'm sorry I haven't written. I guess I haven't known what to say."
"It's not as if I'm in a position to receive post, you know. Elysian Fields as I'm in. Or Kobol. Or a vast cosmic expanse of nothingness. I'm not telling. Wouldn't want to spoil the surprise."
"Did you love her?"
Smoke curled up through his fingers. He'd been so deft with cigarettes and pens. You'd never know what a klutz he was at trying to fix the littlest things. "No good way to answer that, is there? I think it's fairly clear I didn't. But you've a gift for self-flagellation, so I won't try and convince you. It wasn't about her, you know. It was always you and me, Rhea. Good or bad. We had our share of both. I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
"I gave him your books."
"Good. At least someone's appreciating them. I always got the feeling Kataris and 'Searider Falcon' were rather lost on you."
"I loved them because you they were yours. Didn't mean I had to read that high-brow flack."
"I never expected you to."
"Reece misses you. He gets to look more like you everyday."
"Funny. I always thought he looked like you. Has your eyes."
"I guess we see in our kids what we want to see. The parts of ourselves we like. Parts we wish we were more often. All the frak-ups we made that we hope they'll somehow avoid."
"True enough, that. Anyhow. He's a fine boy. We managed that, at least."
"Yeah, we did. And damn well, too." She paused a breath. "I wouldn't have left you. I would've been damn angry but…"
"I love you. And I love him."
"I know that, too. You needn't apologize for it. It's not about me anymore, is it?"
"I just hope I don't frak it up again…"
"Well, no way to know until you've tried, is there?"
"Hmph. Comforting. … I miss you…"
There was no answer. The smoke was gone, the smell faded to hospital antiseptic. She felt suddenly, utterly alone.