Today is a new beginning for all of us. We share a unique destiny, but our future is ours to shape and our past cannot be forgotten.
The Long Night
Willow's mind was racing.
Tara, her wife, the woman she loved, stood face to face with a Cylon centurion and that frakking 'skin-job' Faith. There was also another human standing next to Tara. With her bald head she looked vaguely familiar to Willow but on the small mirror into which she was looking she couldn't make out enough of the face to really recognize her.
"Ok," she whispered to Sergeant O'Reilly, "As far as I can tell the skin-job isn't armed. That leaves us with one alert chrome-job. So we need to take out that thing first and then that skin-job."
"But don't kill it. We don't want it to download right away," Rosenberg pointed out. O'Reilly checked his weapon for the right explosive ammunition. Willow took a step away so the sergeant could take aim at the centurion.
"Ready?" Willow asked and got a silent confirmation. She then took up the mirror again to peek around the corner.
"Sir!" O'Reilly whispered urgently and at once Willow knew what he meant. Something was happening. The woman with Tara was fingering with something on her front, Tara turned around grapping her hand. Willow spotted her gun at once, as did the centurion. Before O'Reilly had a chance to shoot, the centurion fired and Willow's heart missed a beat. But in the same moment, Tara was toppled over by the bald woman, taking the bullets instead.
"Fire!" Willow yelled and O'Reilly pullet the trigger and blew the centurions head up.
"Everybody move, move ,move!" Willow ordered. "Westbroke cover fire!"
Westbroke was the one carrying the heavy rifle. He was just about to cover their advance on Tara and the skin-job when they were fired at from behind, some more centurions, so he had to take care of them first while Willow ran together with O'Reilly towards Tara.
Tara who was now threatened by Faith holding a weapon! Willow tried to aim at the Cylon but that was not easy while running over rough terrain with a cane. Just in the very moment that O'Reilly took aim and the other marines had destroyed the toasters behind them, Willow saw Tara bring up her gun in one single swift motion and kill the humanoid Cylon Faith with one single bullet right between her eyes. It was an image, Willow knew, that would stay with her for the rest of her life.
"O'Reilly, Westbroke, Saunders cover us!" Willow ordered. "Siehl, med kit, attend to the civilian she's injured!"
Willow holstered her gun and keyed the headset she was wearing so she could contact the Raptor standing by.
"'Rice-Patty' 'Red-Dyke' do you copy?" she yelled over the noise of all the sips launching around them. "We need a pick up, over!" She gave Dana Kim the coordinates of their current location. "Make it fast, one injured! Area is not secured - stay alert!" She advised and cut the connection as soon as 'Rice-Patty' had acknowledged the signal.
"Tara, are you all right?" Willow asked her wife. Tara was still kneeling besides the injured woman who was now being taken care of by Rebecca Siehl.
"She saved my life," Tara wept.
"Sir, she's wearing a bomb!" Siehl called out, making Willow and Tara look up at her.
"It's okay," Tara said quickly, "she defused it."
Willow look at Tara who was still holding the hand of this young suicide bomber. Then Siehl carefully rolled the woman on her back and for the first time Willow could see her face. "Oh my gods Dawn!" she cried out.
"She wanted to blew herself up with Faith," Tara explained weakly, pointing at the now dead Cylon. She kept on talking but her voice were lost in the blast of Dana Kim bringing down the raptor close to them.
Dana came down with an open hatch and so as soon as she'd touched down Saunders jumped aboard while Westbroke and O'Reilly kept on covering them, and returned with a stretcher onto which Dawn was carefully put.
"Retreat!" Willow bellowed and following the two marines caring Dawn, jumped aboard with Tara who she manoeuvred into the co-pilot seat.
"All aboard!" O'Reilly yelled, closing the hatch.
"Okay take us up!" Willow in return yelled to 'Rice-Patty' and sat down at the Raptor's Dradis.
They were gaining height fast and Willow was already spinning up the FTL Drive when Rebecca Siehl called out to her. "Sir, we need to get her into a sickbay right away or she won't make it!" Willow turned around, looking down at a feverish and barley conscious Dawn. Then she glanced back at her screens again. Both Galactica and Pegasus where still up in orbit, engaged with two Cylon Basestar's - at once Willow made her decision.
"'Rice-Paddy' take us into orbit!" She called out. "We're going for the nearest Battlestar! Standing by on FTL!"
"Everybody hold on tight!" The pilot yelled, pushing the power level to the max, sending the Raptor shooting through the sky up into space and right into the middle of a huge battle.
"Galactica just jumped away," Willow called and watched Pegasus taking heavy fire from the two Basestar's.
"Pegasus signals 'Abandon ship!'" 'Sorceress' called out, who had taken over communications. Willow looked out of the front windows, while her fingers danced over the console, finalizing the jump prep.
"Ready in five four three..." Starting the countdown, Willow watched the mighty Pegasus gaining ramming speed and while the last evacuation Raptors launched and jumped away right after clearing the dying Battlestar, crash headlong into the nearest Basestar destroying it completely before blowing up herself.
Judging from the huge pieces of wreckage being shoot into every direction, Willow gathered Pegasus would be taking out the other Basestar as well.
'What a glorious way for a Battlestar to go,' she thought.
"... two one jump!"
"Galactica Pegasus Raptor eight six niner, we're declaring an emergency," Willow called out over the wireless, as soon as they had completed the jump. "We have a critically injured person aboard, requesting permission for emergency landing!"
"Pegasus Raptor eight six niner, copy that. Port landing bay is being cleared right now." Came the immediate reply and on her Dradis Willow could see some Vipers fly out of the landing bay again. "Hands on. Speed 106. Checkers red. Call the ball."
"Copy that," Dana answered to flight control and to the persons in the raptor she called out, "Hold on everyone, we're coming in fast!" In no time she had touched down and the secured raptor was brought down to the hangar bay.
"Pegasus Raptor eight six niner, a med team is standing by and will come to you as soon as the bay is re-pressurised."
"Copy that," Willow answered to flight control, calling out to the people around her. "Stand by to open the hatch ASAP!"
A minute later Willow keyed the hatch to open and as it slowly motored up, she could see two paramedics run towards the Raptor caring a gurney. They were closely followed by Dr. Mike Robert, a civilian, who Willow knew had been on New Caprica too. O'Reilly, Westbroke, Siehl and Saunders jumped off the Raptor to make room for the medics and Doctor Robert.
Willow remained at her station and watched the doctor quickly look over Dawn's injuries. "We need to get her into surgery quickly!" he said and helped the medics to place her on the gurney and carry her off the Raptor. Looking out, Willow could see a shocked Buffy run up to her sister. Buffy gently took Dawn's hand and walked beside her as the medics hurried towards the nearest elevator.
Willow, Tara and Dana remained seated while the Raptor got moved into the hangar bay. The place was absolutely packed with people - refugees.
Cries of "Adama, Adama, Adama!" echoed all over hangar bay, as the people celebrated Admiral Adama and quite rightly so. But Willow didn't feel like celebrating, how could she? With her best friend's little sister standing at death's door. Willow had known Dawn for all her life. She was as much her little sister than she was Buffy's.
"Thank you Dana," Willow said, after the Raptor had come to a complete standstill.
"You're welcome Willow," Dana answered, looking as tired and hopeless as Willow was feeling herself. For the second time in less than three years they had to run. And who knew how many people died during the Cylon occupation and the battle that went with their escape.
Having secured the dradis, Willow slowly stood up and reached for her cane. "Home sweet home," Willow said to nobody particular and turned around. To her wife she said, "You coming? I'm pretty sure I can get the quarter master to assign us to our old rooms again. She watched Tara lift herself out of the co-pilots chair with some difficulty. "You need a hand?" Willow asked, but Tara shook her head in decline. Maybe it was the fatigue following combat or because the level of adrenalin was coming down in her bloodstream again that made Willow miss the stressed expression on Tara's face as she followed her to leave the Raptor.
Outside the calls of "Adama, Adama, Adama!" were still going strong and Willow had just gotten of the Raptor's wing when the weak cry of her wife made her turn around fast. Tara's angelic features were twisted in a grimace of pain. With her left hand she grabbed onto the Raptor's hatches frame, with the other she grasped around her lower belly.
Willow jumped back onto the wing of the Raptor.
"It's too early!" Tara whispered through gritted teeth. "It's too early!" Tara repeated, before she collapsed into Willow's arms. Her cane slipped out of her hand and dropped onto the deck as Willow let herself be pushed against the hatch frame, in order to hold Tara and not falling off the wing.
"Tara, Tara!" she whispered and then out loud she cried, "Somebody help! Get a doctor!"
Her voice carried all over the hangar bay and instantly the Adama calls ceased and Dana emerged from within the Raptor, "I got her Willow," she said, carefully wrapping her arm around Tara, holding her and taking the weight off Willow.
Willow just wanted to yell for help again when two medics ran through the crowd pushing a gurney. They were closely followed by Doctor Cottle who too had just returned from New Caprica.
"What happened?" the doctor asked once he had reached the Raptor. While Willow struggled for an answer, Dana helped the two medics to carry Tara down the Raptor's wing and lie her on the gurney.
"She was in pain," Willow explained, slowly making her way down to the deck. "Then she lost consciousness and Cottle, she's bleeding!" Only barely Willow registered Jean Lefebvre passing by, handing her back her cane.
"It's too early isn't it?" Willow asked Doc Cottle who was examining Tara now. "I mean it's the twenty seventh week and if..." Her voice broke and unshed tears burned in her eyes. It was just unbearable to think that anything could be happening to Tara and Hope.
"Let's get her to the sickbay!" Doc. Cottle ordered the medics and then to Willow he said, "Major, I'm afraid that both your wife and the child are in serious danger. We'll have to operate at once if we want to save them both." Not waiting for Willow to reply, Cottle hurried after the medics and Tara.
For the longest moment Willow kept standing next to the Raptor, praying to the Lords of Kobol to not take her love away from her. 'I know there are those who say that the sacred roles condemn our love,' she prayed. 'But I don't believe that. I believe that you are gods of love. Not caring if it is the love between a man and a woman or two women. 'Lords of Kobol hear my prayer, save my wife and daughter, they are all that I have left, all that's worth living for.`
The sound of something heavy falling to the ground brought Willow back to reality, the hectic hustle around her in the hangar bay had resumed and neither the medics or Cottle were anywhere to be seen. Cursing herself for not having gone with Tara to sickbay right away Willow ran as fast as she could towards the nearest elevator. Unfortunately Willow was in such a hurry, she overlooked a toolbox standing in her way. Tumbling over it, she felt down headlong to the ground, hitting the floor with her injured knee first, sending a sharp pain throughout her body. She hit her head too and had she not still been wearing her combat helmet, she would've gone out cold.
Instead Willow continued to lie the floor, tears of embarrassment, anger and pain burning in her eyes. Finally Willow struggled to get back to her feet again.
"Let me help you," said a kind and familiar voice she hadn't heard in some time. "That was quite a fall you took there Mayor," Ludimila 'Mouse' Barkas said as she helped Willow to her feet.
"Thanks," Willow mumbled, biting her teeth as her knee protested against the weight she put on it. Willow tried her best to ignore the pain for now. She was certain the pain would go away in time. She had overstrained her knee today, that was all.
"Here, Mayor, your cane," Katharina Barkas said and handed Willow her walking aid.
"Thank you Katharina," Willow answered.
Both mother and daughter Barkas looked pretty battle-worn like everybody else down in the hangar bay. But at the same time they both radiated the happiness of those fortunate enough to have escaped the Cylons in what later was to be known as: The Second Exodus.
"I need to get to the sickbay," Willow said, finding it difficult to walk.
"I would certainly say so," Ludimila observed, lending Willow a supporting arm. "You hit that deck pretty hart."
"No! It's Tara. She's being operated right now!" Willow cried out and added, "She's pregnant!" and without any further ado Ludimila lead Willow to sickbay. Here upon Ludimila's insistence, Willow and her knee were being looked at by medic Cheryl who gave her a shot of a light painkiller. For the next hour Ludimila and her daughter waited with Willow outside the operating rooms until they had to leave, since they still had to see the quartermaster for their accommodations aboard Galactica. 'Mouse' also wanted to speak with the CAG 'Kat' to see if she could return to Galactica's duty roster as a Viper pilot.
Hour upon hour Willow sat in the waiting area, waiting to be informed about Tara's and Hope's condition. But no one of the tons of people going to and fro the sickbay had anything to say to her about her wife. Another hour later Buffy came slowly out of one of the rooms. She looked very old, her face ash grey, her eyes bloodshot and puffy. There were no words necessary, Buffy's face said it all.
Dawn Summers, who Willow had known since she had been a little baby, was dead. Taken from the world long before her time. Tears were running down Willow's face and silently she took Buffy into her arms, pulling her down to sit beside her.
"Thank you Willow for letting me say goodbye to Dawn," Buffy whispered and then she started to cry so hard her tears soon started to dampen Willow's uniform jacket. But Willow was crying just as hard by now. Crying for Dawn as much as for Tara and Hope.
Gradually they both regained some control, as their tears eventually dried up. Dried up for the time being. Though they both knew they would shed many more tears over Dawn Summers and her tragic and untimely death.
"There was nothing he could do," Buffy talked away. "Doctor... Doctor... I don't even know his name. He's a civilian."
"Dr. Robert," Willow helped her out."
"Yes Robert... Dawn's injuries were far too severe."
Willow didn't really wanted to know about what injuries Dawn had suffered from the centurions weapon. But she understood that Buffy needed to talk and as a good friend she listened patiently.
"She regained consciousness, after they given her something against her pain. Which was all they could really do," Buffy went on, staring into the air ahead of her. "I told her that she was going to be fine. She called me a liar.
"You know, she could always tell when I wasn't telling the truth. How much I hated that when we were kids - remember?" Willow nodded, remembering how Dawn used to call her big sister the worst liar in all of the Twelve Colonies.
There was a long silence between the two woman before Buffy spoke again. "She apologized to me. Can you believe it? Dawn apologized to me!"
"Apologized for what? Willow wondered.
"Everything! For going down to New Caprica with just a short note of goodbye." Buffy led out a painful cry before she went on. "She even apologized for cutting her hair! Her beautiful long soft hair!" Tears sprang to Buffy's eyes again and Willow remembered how Buffy had used to brush her sister's hair every evening before they went to bed as kids.
"And then," Buffy said, her voice not louder than a whisper and Willow took her into her arms again. "She said goodbye," Buffy whispered into her ear. "She said goodbye and closed her eyes and she died. She had no pain, it was like she was simply falling asleep. Dawn's at peace now.
"But by the gods, what am I to do now, that she's gone?!" Buffy cried out, her body ragged with sobs. Willow continued to hold on to her friend, crying silent tears herself.
After a long while, Buffy calmed down again.
"I think you should try to get some sleep," Willow carefully suggested and after some weak protest Buffy agreed. Luckily enough, right that moment Galactica's CAG, Captain Louane Katraine walked by and she took it upon herself, to find the Pegasus CAG her bunk. Willow gave Buffy another hug and then sat down again, to wait for Doc. Cottle to tell her about Tara's and Hope's condition.
Willow had lost all sense of time when finally the door of the operating room opened and a very tired looking Dr Cottle walked out. Willow started to get to her feet but the doctor signalled her to remain seated and sat down beside her. He rummaged through his lap coat pockets for his cigarettes. He took out a package extracted a cigarette and lit it. Willow felt to exhausted to protest but luckily he only did two puffs before he dropped it again and stepped it out.
"It was a close call," he cut straight to the chase. "A really close call Willow. She was lucky that all the stress of the evacuation had triggered contractions."
"But she was way too early," Willow cut in, "so how could she have been lucky?"
"She was lucky," Doc. Cottle went on, "because if we hadn't performed that c-section right away; your daughter would've been dead in less than half an hour after you landed."
"But what...?" Willow fell silent, not really understanding what the physician was telling her.
"The umbilical cord had come to lie around the baby's neck. She would've been strangled by it if it hadn't been for that emergency c-section."
"And that she been born so early?" Willow asked early.
"Don't worry about that," Cottle said comfortingly. "Even though your daughter's been prematurely born, she's otherwise all healthy and strong. I'm sure she'll make it.
"A weight of 1549 grams and a body length of about 29 cm are a good starting ground for a premature born like... Did you already decide on a name?"
"Hope," Willow said absentmindedly, "Hope Alexandra."
"That's a rather nice name," Doctor Cottle said with a small smile. "Nice and meaningful."
The smile on his face faded and for the first time since he had come out, Willow realised that until now he had only told her about the condition her daughter and somehow she feared that his other news might not be as hopeful as those concerning Hope Alexandra Maclay.
Stealing herself for his answerer, Willow finally asked: "Doc, how's Tara?"