Will I lose my dignity?
The Long, Twilight Struggle
Tara held on to the door frame while she watched the crowd in the hangar bay celebrate William Adama; she didn't feel like celebrating.
Not with the price that had come with surviving the Cylon occupation and escaping from New Caprica. How many people had died during the occupation? How many on this very day? How many more loved ones could she bear to lose before it all became too much? Before it would break her pained soul in two? Dawn was dying, Tara didn't need to be a doctor to know that. The only comfort she had was that Dawn would not be alone when her time came, that her sister Buffy would be at her side.
‘Poor Buffy,' Tara thought. ‘To lose her last living relative, after all those months (PLURAL J) of hoping and praying that Dawn would return from New Caprica alive. Despite the almost three and a half months she had spent with Dawn in one tent, Tara hadn't had the slightest idea that Dawn had been gay or bisexual.
Someone once said: "It is always too early to say goodbye and never too late to say thank you." And in this regard Tara would always be grateful for having been allowed to spend some time with Dawn, even though the conditions on New Caprica had been less than hospitable and Dawn had been keeping to herself.
Tara was just about to get of the Raptor and join her wife when a sharp pain, emanating from her tummy and spreading throughout her in one wave made her gasp for air. Grabbing the door frame again and holding onto her tummy with her other arm, she cried out for her wife. Through half-shut eyes Tara saw how Willow jumped onto the Raptor's wing and reaching her side in no time.
Willow said something to her but being completely overwhelmed by fear and pain Tara couldn't hear her. "It's too early," she said weakly, before another wave of indescribable pain washed over her, taking her consciousness with it into darkness.
‘It's too early,' Tara kept repeating over and over again in her mind.
Tara drifted through complete darkness. She tried very hard to spot anything surrounding her but the darkness was impenetrable. There were voices though, distant, but strangely close at the same time. Tara could barely make out the words and what she could understand sounded like a foreign language to her - medical talk. That was it! Tara was sure that she was indeed eavesdropping on doctors and medics, giving and receiving orders. She was obviously listening to an ongoing surgery in progress and from the tone of voice Tara deducted that things were critical for the poor soul lying on the operating table.
Again Tara tried to see when slowly but steadily a few questions entered her mind. Like, why was she listening to something happening in the sickbay? Why was she in the sickbay at all? And most of all, why couldn't she see?
The answer to these questions came rather quickly to Tara. Suddenly she knew that she hadn't gone blind. There just wasn't nothing binding her to herself - no body. It was like she had left her body and was floating freely over the scene and that meant...
Tara's spirits froze in the sheer terror of the truth tumbling down on her. Doctor Cottle and his people were fighting for her life and that of Hope! But why was she able to listen to it? Or was she already dead? No that couldn't be! So maybe she was in a kind of coma, but again why? What had happened to put her onto a stretcher? The memories came in sharp flashes, painful and horrible.
Tara thought's reached out the tiny being that was her daughter. A wave of relief floated through her consciousness as it briefly touched Hope's. That relief however was soon replaced by fear and panic as Tara felt that Hope was in great distress.
‘This can't be happening!' Tara thought desperately. ‘Not after Dawn and all the others! Hope as to be alright or I'll go crazy!'
Desperately Tara pushed against her own consciousness, in order to force herself to wake up and to plead with the doctors to save the life of her child. Then suddenly she could no longer feel her daughter and her depression and sadness echoed throughout the sphere of her own self - so loudly it ought to be heard in the entire universe.
"No! Please Gods no!"
‘Poor Hope' Tara thought and retreated even further into herself. ‘It was too early and it's all my fault. I'm certain if I had stayed aboard Pegasus this all wouldn't have happened. I would have been evacuated with the others and you wouldn't have been born so prematurely and to early to live.'
‘But what about Dawn?' asked another voice. ‘She still would have died but because you were down there with her she did not die alone among enemies or blowing herself up. Because you were down there on New Caprica, it was possible to bring her back to her sister so she was with her when she died, they could say their goodbyes.
‘But she only got herself shot in the end because she wanted to protect us,' Tara answered herself, ‘and if Hope really didn't...' she could not think it. ‘Then Dawn's sacrifice was in vain.'
Tara could hear Willow talking to her. Even though she couldn't understand the words, she could feel the love and the pleading to come back to her. How could she ever come back? How could she come back and face the woman she loved, when she had lost the child of love?
In her mind Tara knew very well that she was being a coward and that despite what ever had happened she and Willow would face it together. But in her heart she was simply too afraid of fighting her way back.
There was no comprehension of time and so Tara had no idea how much time had passed since she had returned from New Caprica and she didn't care either. Too great was her fear to really face the fact that Hope hadn't made it. And the longer she resisted the greater her fears grew, threatening to eventually engulf her completely.
‘What was that?' Tara thought, as she felt a sudden change in her surroundings.
Because suddenly she was becoming aware of her own body again and also of something warm and light resting on her chest and suddenly she knew. She didn't need to open her eyes to know that it was Hope who was lying on her. It was like that she had been wandering through a dark maze - lost - and finally Hope had found her and lead her out of the darkness.
Tara felt her hand move and gently caress her daughter's tiny head. Then slowly and cautiously Tara opened her eyes and looked into the eyes of her daughter and Hope recognized her mother at once. Tears ran down Tara's face as Willow moved into her sight and she knew that now she was reunited with her family again.
"Now it's time for you to get some sleep too," Willow said, after she had helped medic Cheryl put Hope back into the incubator and sat down at her side again, taking her hand.
"But I don't need to sleep," Tara protested weakly, though the yawn that followed betrayed her.
"Tara, you're tired," Willow said, "you can hardly keep your eyes open as it is."
"What if I don't wake up again?" the blond woman asked fearfully.
"You heard what Doc Cottle said sweetie," Willow said and gently caressed Tara's cheek with her fingers. "You'll be perfectly fine." Her mouth twitched with a suppressed grin. "I'll make sure you'll wake up tomorrow morning. I think the old ‘Sleeping Beauty' routine should do the trick. "And if that doesn't work," by now her smile was far from innocent, "I'll splash some water onto your face."
"No you wouldn't," Tara protested and then dryly added, "yes you would."
"You are going to be fine," Willow said and gave her a passionate kiss. "I promise to stay all night at your side, so you're not alone."
"No," Tara said vehemently. "You need your sleep too and I'm going to sleep a lot better if I know you're sleeping in our old bed. We did get our old quarters?"
"Yes we did," Willow answered and pouted. "And that's your revenge for me sending you to your quarters when I was lying here because of my knee, right?"
"That's right!" Tara said and gave her red-haired wife the brightest smile she could muster and Willow surrendered.
"But only after you've fallen asleep kay?"
Tara closed her eyes and enjoyed the sensation of Willow holding her hand and softly brushing her hair at the same time. She couldn't fall to sleep though, despite being really tired. The aspect of sleeping... of dreaming filled her with dread. What dreams, what nightmares would be waiting for her on the other side? After a while of faking sleep Tara felt Willow tenderly kiss her lips and leave the room.
Tara didn't like lying to Willow even if it was only pretending to be asleep. She opened her eyes and turned her head so she could see Hope sleeping in her incubator. ‘What a miracle such a tiny baby is,' she thought. Of course Hope hadn't been the first baby Tara had seen in her life but this was different. This was her baby, her blood.
"But what kind of future can we offer you, Hope?" Tara whispered.
When she had agreed to carry their first baby she had believed that New Caprica might actually be the safe haven they had been looking for all this time and that both of them and the baby would some day go down to the surface to live there under a real sun again.
But that was all in the past and the second exodus had began. Again they were on the run and more than ever Tara doubted that the Cylons would ever stop pursuing them. Another hour later Tara could no longer fight it and gradually drifted into sleep.
Tara hurried through the old Opera house in the City of the Gods on Kobol, though how she knew this she could not tell. She walked through the grand hallways, impressed by what she saw. The entire time Tara had the distinctive feeling that she wasn't the only person in this great building and that's she was suppose to look for something or someone.
With the cry still on her lips Tara sat up fast, being wide awake and with being awake came the knowledge that Dawn really was dead. She knew it even though Willow hadn't told her yet.
"Are you okay, Tara?"
Forcing her mind to focus, Tara saw Buffy standing at her bedside, placing a comforting arm around her shoulders.
"Buffy?" Tara asked weakly. "What's the time?"
"About four o'clock in the morning," the blond pilot said and answering Tara's unasked question she added, "Just came off patrol duty and I wasn't tired so I thought I might look in on your baby. How is she?" She turned around to look at Hope sound asleep in her incubator.
"Doc says she is going to be fine," Tara said, with a motherly smile.
"I'm glad to hear that," Buffy said. "Better leave you now so you can go back to sleep."
"No, no stay if you like," Tara hurried to say. "I rather not try to sleep again right now, you know, nightmares. Just help me sit up properly." Buffy got another cushion, then helped Tara to sit up. She then sat down on the chair at Tara's bedside.
Both woman remained silent for a while, until Tara broke the silence, knowing what her best friend desperately wanted to talk about.
"I'm so sorry about Dawn", she said.
"You heard?" Buffy wondered, tears glistening in her eyes.
Tara shook her head, "didn't have to. Your face and Willow's said it all. And I saw how badly she was wounded, so..." Her voice broke and it took her a while before she could go on. "Back then I knew that I was lying to her when I said, ‘You're going to be okay'."
"What happened?" Buffy finally asked the question, that was clearly lying heavily on her mind.
"We ran into a humanoid Cylon and her centurion bodyguard," Tara began, "but not just any skin job, oh no. But my ex - Faith. I see you remember her," she added seeing Buffy's eyes widen, probably remembering the former viper pilot holding her at gun point. "At that point the occupation was over and the Cylons knew that, as did Faith. But she made it perfectly clear that she wouldn't let me go. I don't know if she intended to keep me as a sort of pet or to play family with me and Hope on a Basestar."
She sighed before she went on, it was so hard to recall those terrible moments on New Caprica. "There was nothing I could do to stop her and Faith told me that as well. "Maybe she can't!" Dawn cried, "but I can!" I knew at once that she wanted to blow herself up with Faith and the centurion. She stood behind me and I turned around because I wanted to stop her. I really tried Buffy. But by turning around I exposed my weapon, the centurion saw it and he would have shot me, if Dawn hadn't pushed me to the ground... she got gunned down by the bullets that were meant for me... for me and Hope..."
Tara stared into the space in front of her.
"Dawn," she whispered, "she saved my life and the life of little Hope. But for the rest of my life, I will have to live with the knowledge that it was my mistake that got Dawn killed."
"Why do you think it was your mistake?" Buffy asked quietly and Tara could spot no trace accusation in her voice.
"Because the centurion spotted the gun I carried and opened fire."
"But he could also have detected the explosives Dawn was wearing," Buffy said calmly. "Who knows what sensory capabilities these robots have. So I guess we will never know what might or might not have happened.
"Strange that you should be the one to comfort me, when it should be the other way around," Tara said.
"Why shouldn't I?" Buffy asked back. "I know you loved Dawn as much as I did. And I know that you have been there for her when you two were stuck in New Caprica City." Buffy paused and took a deep breath. "And I want you to know Tara that I don't blame you for Dawn's death."
"How can you not?" Tara cut in weakly.
"Because I love you, Tara. You've always been like a second sister to me. You are the wife of my best friend," Buffy explained. "I know I will never completely understand what happened down there on New Caprica but I know that I will lose you too if I start pondering whether or not I should blame you for what I can't change anymore. I've lost so many people dear to me already. I can't stand losing any more."
"You look surprised?" Tara observed after a while of silence between them.
"Well, I am," Buffy said back. "I didn't expect myself to say what I just said. But I know that it is true nevertheless." Both woman fell silent and holding each other's hand they sat together, knowing that what they had between them was beyond family, beyond friendship.
"It will be of some comfort to me, that Dawn didn't die in vain but to save the lives of you and Hope," Buffy said. "There's just one thing I don't understand.
"Dawn was wearing an explosive belt. But Col. Tigh insisted that she was not one of the suicide bombers from his resistance cell.
"She wasn't," Tara said carefully.
"But she was wearing a bomb!" Buffy cried out. "And he's been the one sending people out to blow themselves up."
"I'm sure he did," Tara explained patiently. "But he only send members of the Colonial forces, no civilians, and Dawn didn't know Col. Tigh. I don't know how but she managed to get her hands on some explosives "
"But how, when she didn't know Tigh?" Buffy wanted to know. "And what was it that she wanted to blow up?" She sat back, trying to calm herself down.
"A few days earlier Dawn saw Faith for the very first time," Tara said and then she told Buffy about the woman Dawn knew as Roxie Hart and that she had been in love with her.
"She thought the love of her life killed back on the colonies and when she found out that she had actually been in love with the enemy - a Cylon - I guess it was too much for her and she wanted to kill Faith / Roxie and herself at the same time."
"She went through so much," Buffy said to herself. "She was always the more sensible one of us and with the destruction of the Colonies and her kids killed on Cloud Nine..."
"I don't know if it is of any comfort to you," Tara said, "but when I found her in all the chaos of the rescue operation, she no longer wanted to kill herself. She had already disconnected the detonator from the explosives." This, Tara could see, really was of some comfort to Buffy.
Looking around the room, Tara was surprised to see the parka she had been wearing that day. She briefly wondered how it might gotten there but then she remembered something else.
"Buffy," she asked. "Could you get me my wallet from my coat pocket?"
"Sure," Buffy said and stood up. Picking the pockets for a bit she returned with Tara's wallet. From it Tara produced the strands of Dawn's hair she had put there and handed them to a now crying Buffy. She looked at it like the most precious thing she had ever seen in her life.
"Thank you so much Tara," Buffy said and gave Tara a hug. She then excused herself and left to get some sleep.
Lying down again Tara watched Hope still sleeping soundly. "How much I'm looking forward to hold you again," she whispered. "And I can't wait for the two of us to get released from the sick bay and go home."
She paused for a bit, "home," she repeated more loudly and she knew that right now and despite everything, these two windowless rooms, deep within a mighty war machine - a Battlestar, really was the home of Hope, Willow and herself.