Summary: Billy's two mothers.
Spoilers for Sacrifice.
It is seven in the morning when William Wallace Keikeya is born. He’s the youngest, and the only boy, and when he is handed into his mother’s arms he is a small, warm weight. His eyes are blue, and there isn’t any hair on the smooth skin of his soft head. His father holds onto his ankle gently, and says, “Maybe he’ll be tall, like me,” with a thick, choking voice.
His mother draws a finger over his sleeping cheek and smiles without saying a word. When she brings him home, she lights three tall candles at the shrine in the living room. She asks Athena to give her son sense, which is more important than wisdom. She asks Poseidon to give her son adaptability, asks that William be able to change like the sea. She asks Apollo that her son might live in the light, so that no matter what may happen to him, he will always be able to find joy.
The candles burn the whole night through, and fill the house with the scent of sage and juniper.
There are trees behind the house where Billy grows up. They’re old and they creak, groan in the wind. In Spring on Aerilon there are angry storms that hiss across the salt flats, into the cities and towns crouching low beside the coast. Billy’s bedroom is closest to the yard, on the second floor beneath the wide spread canopy of one of the bigger trees.
When the thunder and wind come at night his room shakes, and Billy gets afraid. He slips out from under his covers and presses his face against the window. He stares at the branches for a long time, at the bowed head of a robin in its nest, and spreads out his pudgy fingers along the glass. Another clap of thunder hits, and he skitters across the warm wood floor, tumbles down the stairs and trips into his parent’s bedroom.
His father sleeps heavily, barely even rolls over as the door bangs open and Billy runs in, but his mother’s eyes flutter open, and with her long, sure hands she pulls him onto the bed.
“What’s wrong?” she asks, but Billy just presses his head against her chest and clutches at her arms as the world outside breaks apart. He’s five years old and getting heavy, but she pulls him into her lap, and smoothes back his hair from his hot forehead.
“It’s all right,” she tells him, her voice soft and low. “It’s all right, sweetheart. No need to be afraid.”
He murmurs something she can’t hear, and then falls asleep, his fingers tight on her nightgown. In the morning, he wakes before she does, and she finds him outside, kneeling in a puddle and cupping a broken bird’s nest in his hands.
“Billy?” she calls, softly, and when he turns toward her, his face is dirty and tear streaked.
There are shattered blue eggs in the nest, and Billy says, “I wanted to bring them inside, but I was too scared last night. I wanted to get them. I could have saved them,” and his voice breaks.
“Oh, it’s not your fault,” she begins, putting a hand on his shoulders, and he rubs a muddy sleeve over his nose and takes a deep breath before looking back up at her.
“Will you help me bury them?” he asks, all blue eyes and small, sad mouth.
“Of course,” his mother tells him. Later, in a dry enough spot they find beside the kitchen, Billy’s father digs a hole, and his mother says all of the appropriate prayers, and Billy’s little hands try so hard to fit the jagged edges of the speckled eggs back together before placing them tenderly into the wet earth.
Billy is rarely in trouble, and so when his school calls during the middle of the day, his mother is surprised. Even more surprised when she finds him sitting in the principal’s office, his cheeks flaming, his eyes narrowed into angry slits, with his arms crossed and a mutinous expression on his round face.
He’s eleven years old, and his mother has only seen him this angry a handful of times before.
“What happened?” she asks, but he just sets his jaw and turns farther toward the wall.
“ ‘Mnot going to apologize,” he practically growls.
The frosted glass door opens, and the principal shuffles in, looking tired. “Mrs. Keikeya – ” he begins, and that’s when Billy’s mother notices Billy’s scraped knuckles.
“My gods,” she says, “was he in a fight?”
“They started it,” Billy mutters, and opens his mouth to say more when the principal holds up a forestalling hand.
“He was protecting a smaller classmate from bullies, and accidentally, I believe, broke one of the other children’s arms,” the man tells her. He rubs at his eyes and sits down across from her and Billy slides lower into his chair. His hair sticks up at the top of his head, and his mother sees the sand stuck into the collar of his shirt for the first time, the slight tear of his shirt, his scuffed shoes.
“Please, just take him home for the day. I can’t get away without some disciplinary action in this, but frankly, I don’t believe your son has done anything wrong,” the principal tells her, and Billy looks up, surprised.
“It’s okay?” he asks, and the principal smiles at him faintly.
Billy’s mother puts a hand on her son’s shoulder. “Was anyone else hurt?”
“No, but Mason may have been if it hadn’t been for the intervention of your son,” the principal says. He smiles again, and says, “Mrs. Keikeya, you have a very kind son.”
Billy’s eyes widen and she smiles back, smoothing his hair down. “Yes,” she tells the principal. “I know.”
By the time Billy goes off to university, his mother’s head fits beneath his chin when he hugs her. His bedroom is packed up, and he’s headed out on the next flight to Caprica City, and her home will be empty for the first time in nearly thirty years.
“You be careful,” she warns him, squeezing her arms tight around his ribs.
Billy smiles at her and promises he will be when she finally pulls away. She fusses with his shirt, and cups his cheek before drawing him down to press a kiss to his forehead.
There’s a honk from the driveway, and Billy’s father yells that it’s time to go. Billy stands in the doorway, and he’s so tall, so grown up, this boy of hers. She presses a hand to her throat, and tells him to leave.
“Mom,” he says, eyes wide and blue, “I love you.”
“I know,” she tells him, and he leaves, the door slamming a little behind him.
Hours later, when her husband comes home, Billy’s mother has spread out all her pictures of him on the long wooden table in the living room. She pours them both a glass of wine, and they point from one glossy picture to another.
Here, Billy is eight years old, and there is a huge gap in his smile. He’s at the beach and his sister is covering him with sand, and only his flushed, happy face is visible.
Here, he’s just learning to walk, and wearing a yellow and blue jumper that his mother made for him. It’s still in the attic, beside the boxes of baby shoes and old school books.
Here, it’s his oldest sister’s birthday, and he has icing from her cake smeared over his cheeks.
Here, there’s a blur of motion around his arms, and he’s too skinny and tall – one of the growing spurts had just caught him. He’s playing Pyramid with his school team, and his legs are too long and too pale.
“Beanpole,” his father says, affectionately, his fingers stroking the edges of the picture.
His mother wipes her eyes, and smiles. “Tall like you,” she says, and her husband kisses the top of her head.
“He’ll be all right, you know,” he says. “He’s smart, and strong, and he’ll be fine, even though it is so far away.”
She touches Billy’s round, sleeping face in one of the baby pictures of him. “I know,” she whispers. “I know.”
It is eleven thirty in the morning when Laura Roslin meets Billy Keikeya. He drops a stack of files when he holds out one hand in greeting to her.
“I’m, uh, I’m your new intern, Madame Secretary,” he stammers, flushing, and she smiles at him, helps him pick up the papers. “My name is Billy Keikeya and I’m a student at Caprica University, studying politics and – ”
“Hello, Billy,” she says smoothly, handing him one of the folders. “Please, call me Laura.”
He smiles back at her, and with his round, pink cheeks and wide blue eyes, he looks younger than Laura can ever remember being. A tall little boy in man’s clothing – nervous, eager.
“Okay, Madame – Laura,” he says, and she laughs.
In the week after the attack, Laura watches Billy. When he sleeps, he’s still, and he makes quiet, hurt noises. There are deep purple circles under his eyes, and when the blanket slips off his shoulders during his ten minutes of rest, she’s surprised to find herself tucking it back up.
He’s too young for this, she thinks, looking at his smooth, round face. She forgets that thought when he wakes up. His eyes snap completely open, and his mouth gets tight and his hands are steady as he hands her the latest death toll.
Around the hundred and sixtieth hour without any real sleep, Billy is talking to her about the scarcity of grain based foods throughout the fleet, and it occurs to Laura that she has no idea how old he is.
He’s startled when she asks, and then stops for a second to half chuckle and it sounds broken, hollow. “Uh, actually I think I turned twenty…maybe two days ago now,” he tells her.
“Oh,” Laura says, because there’s nothing else to say. And then the clock strikes the thirty-three minute mark, and they brace for a jump.
When Billy sleeps next, she digs through her purse until she finds a chocolate bar she’d brought with her from Caprica. She gives it to him and wishes him a happy birthday, and when his red eyes fill a little, she hugs him. He holds onto her tightly, and she rubs gently at his neck.
She doesn’t tell him it’ll be all right; they both know it won’t. But she wants to.
It’s two months after the Cylon attack, and Colonial One is quiet, for once. Billy sits before Laura, scratching notes onto his pad of paper, and his hair sticks up behind his ears, and she finds herself reaching out to smooth it down. Her hand falls to her side, and she half laughs at herself.
“What?” Billy asks, and she shakes her head.
“Nothing, I was just thinking,” she tells him, and he watches her a second longer before going back to his work.
Laura thinks that if she had a son, he’d be a little older than Billy, probably. But when she tries to picture her own child, all she can think of is Billy’s face.
What Laura remembers most about collapsing in her office is Billy catching her. Then she remembers white light, and scratchy sheets, and Billy’s suit hovering over her as she’s wheeled through hallways. She tries to say his name, but he doesn’t hear her over the doctors, and then her eyes shut again.
She wakes up and it’s dark. Billy is staring at his shoes and sitting next to her bed. His cheeks are wet.
“I thought,” he says when he sees her watching him. “I thought there would be more time. I knew you were sick – ”
She raises her arms, and they shake a little. “Come here,” she says, and he puts his head on her chest and his body shakes a little while he cries. She’s tired, and it hurts a little, but she runs her hands across his back over and over and presses a small kiss to his forehead.
“You’ll be okay,” she tells him, as he sits up and rubs at his red nose. He takes a deep breath and wipes at his face. “I know you will.”
“What do you need me to do?” he asks her, and Laura has never been as proud of anyone in her entire life as she is of Billy at that moment.
He dies at three twenty-three in the afternoon. Laura hears the report of casualties crackle over the line in the CIC, and she has to grip tightly onto the chair in front of her so that she doesn’t fall.
His body is cold when she sees him. His cheeks are wrong – pale, and drawn, and slack. His eyes will never open again. Her lungs clench when she breathes, and she fixes his hair so that it lies just so.
When she goes home, she lights all the candles she has. “Lords of Kobol, hear my prayer,” she manages, taking deep, shuddering breaths as she sobs, “I send into your hands the soul of Billy Keikeya.”
In her hands, she holds his tie. It’s stained with blood and the knot is half undone. She runs her fingers over it again and again. She closes her eyes, and starts again. “Lords of Kobol, hear my prayer. I send into your hands the soul of my son.”
The candles burn long after she falls asleep, exhausted, tie in her hands and her face marked by tears, and when Laura wakes, all she can smell is salt and ashes.