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For [livejournal.com profile] kappamaki33....

Title: Faith and Forgiveness
Summary: One summer morning, Jesse gains a new congregant
A/N: From the The Space Between Us universe, set on Atlantis. Hope you like it, Kappa!

The smell of pine was strong. Jesse walked through the wood shavings, watching the way they curled under his feet. All around him he could hear the sounds of construction: hammers on nails, saws, whistling, swearing. Atlantis was growing. Almost a year after the landing, Jesse couldn't believe how much work had been done.

The sun was strong as well today, and Jesse hung the sign on the tent that still served as his church. His congregation was small- most people seemed to flock to listen to Baltar. But the truth was, Jesse liked it that way. With a small group he stood the chance of knowing them all. And they could do something like this; meet down by the river instead of in a single location.

He walked down to the water and slipped out of his shoes. The sun dappled jewel-like patterns on the small waves in the stream, and he sat down on a rock. He leaned back on his hands, face tilted up towards the sun, just letting the moments wash over him.

"You look happy."

He started, because that was not a voice he knew. It wasn't Cylon, and it wasn't one of the small number of humans that came to his services. Jesse opened his eyes to see a man with a long face standing above him.

"I am," he said. "It's hard not to be on this beautiful day."

"So you say." The man didn't look so happy. "You're Jesse Conoy, right?"

"That's right. Would you like to sit?" Jesse offered the spot beside him. "You'd be more than welcome."

The man folded his legs under himself awkwardly, and as he came to eye level, Jesse recognized him. A pilot from Galactica. "I'm sorry," he said, when the name didn't come to him, "I know you were a pilot, but I don't remember your name."

"Oh. I'm Brendan," the man said. "Hot Dog."

Hot Dog. Louis had spoken occasionally about Hot Dog, always amused and somewhat condescending. It was Racetrack (like everyone else, Jesse couldn't quite manage to call Zarek's wife "Maggie") that spoke so highly of him.

"It's very nice to meet you," he said, smiling. "Are you here to join our worship service?"

"Yeah," Brendan said, but without much confidence. Then he shook himself. "Yeah," he said, this time sounding stronger. "I mean, I'm not sure I'm ready to commit or anything, but I really wanted to hear what you had to say." He frowned. "The gods… I kind of believed in them all my life, but it just seemed so strange to think of a bunch of gods sitting around on a mountain, you know? And I tried Baltar's services, but… well, I like a little guilt in my religion."

Jesse laughed. "Faith isn't about guilt."

"No," Brendan agreed. "But religion should be about morality. And there are still some things we should feel guilty for. You know?"

"I do," Jesse agreed. He spotted two Eights and a Five walking towards them and waved. "I think you might like today's sermon, then," he told Brendan. "I'm glad that you're joining us."

"Yeah," Brendan said, pulling back a little, "I am too."


They sat in a circle on the grass, a group of fifteen. There were ten Cylons and five humans. The stream burbled behind Jesse, and the sunlight filtered through the thick green leaves of summer.

"But I don't understand," the Five, now named Gary, insisted. "We can't find absolution, and yet you say we shouldn't wallow in grief and guilt. Which is it?"

"Absolution is not forgiveness," Jesse pointed out. "Absolution is saying 'you never did anything wrong in the first place.' Forgiveness… forgiveness is…." He struggled to define it. Although the sermon was more of a discussion, no one picked it up.

"Forgiveness is when you have every reason to hate someone, and you can wish them well." Brendan spoke up suddenly. Everyone looked at him, and he flushed uncomfortably. "That's what my temple teacher always said. I used to think she was just blowing wind, but now I…" he trailed off, like he wasn't certain what he thought, or that his opinion was valid. But those words had resonated so deeply within Jesse that he knew they were truth.

"When you have every reason to hate someone, and you wish them well," Jesse repeated. "There you go."

"It's a lovely sentiment," an Eight named Sheva said, "but it seems… flimsy."

"No. It's not." Jesse leaned forward. "I remember the first time I found forgiveness. I didn't see it then… I didn't see it until Brendan said that just now. It was when I first met Louis." It was like a light behind his eyes, seeing that moment again, as if for the first time. "I thought Sarah was dead. I thought my world had ended. It felt like my world had ended. I went to the Galactica's memorial wall seeking solace, and I asked Louis if this was grief. This terrible feeling of loss… this empty burning inside. He told me it was, and when I realized that this was what we had given humans… all I could say was I'm sorry.

"He didn't tell me that it was all right, or that I was forgiven. We just talked about the people we thought we had lost, and eventually, he asked me to join him for a drink. But in those actions, he forgave me. He acknowledged what I had done, and yet, he wished me well. That was not human forgiveness, and not Cylon forgiveness, but the forgiveness of God, working in us both."

"Is that what we're working for?" a Six asked, her face screwed up in concentration. "That sort of relationship? You've mentioned your friendship with Louis many times before, and it strikes me as very… unattainable for most of us."

Jesse shook his head. "In an ideal world, it would be. But to live, side by side. Not so much that friendship, but that first step. Where we can each say 'I'm sorry for what I've done', and where we each can open our hearts enough to wish each other well."

"I'm not so sure I can do that." The speaker was a human, a young woman named Eliza. "To let Alex back in-"

"No!" Sheva said, laying a hand on Eliza's arm. "Don't let him back in. After what he did to you… after we had to see Cottle…"

"No," Jesse agreed. "It's not being a doormat. It's not forgetting, or going back to what was going on before. But here… right here, in our own group, we see another example of what Brendan was talking about. After everything that has gone on between our two races, Eliza felt comfortable enough to tell us what happened with her and Alex, and we all were able to help her. That is what we should be striving for- that forgiveness that lets us see each other for what we do in the here and now, not what we've done in the past. It's the greatest gift we can grant each other, and the greatest gift we can give ourselves."


They broke up after a while; there was work to be done and jobs to attend to. Jesse himself had to be somewhere in fifteen minutes, helping to build the schoolhouse. But Brendan approached him, and Jesse suspected he'd be late.

"I hope you didn’t mind that we built off what you said," Jesse said. "It really was beautifully put."

Brendan flushed. "I didn't mean to send you off on some tangent or anything. I hope I didn't wreck anything."


"Can I ask you something?" Brendan said. Jesse nodded. "You mentioned Sarah. I know that's your wife. And you mentioned Louis. I know that's Admiral Hoshi. But neither of them are here. Why not?"

Jesse smiled. "Well, Sarah's working with Doctor Cottle. He keeps her quite busy, and when he doesn't, Gabriel does. She rarely attends any organized service. And Louis… Louis will attend when he is ready, I'm sure."

"Oh. Yeah, I can understand that," Brendan said. "I mean, lots of people are still mad at the gods, you know? I mean… oh, frak. That's one hell of a thing to tell you, isn't it?"

"Relax, Brendan. It's nothing I don't tell myself every day."

"Yeah, but…" Brendan shoved his hands in his pockets. "It just seems rude," he said lamely. "See, the thing is," he rushed on before Jesse could speak, "I have a kid. Well, I'm raising a kid. I really don't know if he's mine or not, but I really don't care, you know? But one thing I do know is that his mom believed in the Gods. And I don't know how she'd like me bringing him to a service with Cylons."

"I see."

"But this is the first time I've been to a service since the – no, ever, and I thought I could believe. Really believe. I don't know what to do. I don't want to dishonor her memory, but at the same time…."

"I see your problem." He looked so scared, so earnest in his belief. And suddenly, it made sense why he'd asked about Sarah and Louis, if they shared his faith. "Faith is a very personal thing, Brendan. No two souls share every aspect of it."


"Teaching your son what you believe is not dishonoring the memory of his mother." He frowned. "And his mother was not defined by one single belief."

"That's true," Brendan said hesitantly.

"Brendan, there is a God, and this God… he or she is all-knowing. If I can understand this, that your heart is torn between duty and faith, then don't you think a God can see into your heart and understand far better than I could? It's all right to have doubts, it's all right to falter, and it's all right to question. Faith is not about blindly accepting, and it's not about falling into line. Faith is about finding something to sustain you through the questions, and to come back to when all of your options have been exhausted. Faith isn't something that needs to be strict and unbending, but changing as you add information. You're going to struggle, and you're going to doubt, because we all do. But I promise that we'll work through it all together."

Brendan nodded and extended his hand. "Thanks," he said, after swallowing hard. "Guess I'll see you in a few days, huh?"

"I hope so," Jesse said, and watched him go.

Thirty five years later, Jesse passed away. And although his best friend and his wife had both preceded him to his grave, everyone agreed that Brendan Costanza was the right one to deliver the eulogy, no matter who was left alive.

Date: 2010-08-29 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kappamaki33.livejournal.com
Aw, this was lovely. I love Hotdog's worries about how Cally would've felt about going to a Cylon service, and especially that last paragraph. Thank you so much!!

Date: 2010-09-01 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lls-mutant.livejournal.com
Thanks! This was a fun prompt- I've always meant to do a bit more Jesse on Atlantis. He sort of gets neglected.

Fun prompt- thanks!

Date: 2010-08-29 08:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rose-griffes.livejournal.com
Glad I clicked. This was a beautiful set of scenes.

Date: 2010-09-01 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lls-mutant.livejournal.com
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it :)

Date: 2010-08-29 09:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lorrainemarker.livejournal.com
Forgiveness is when you have every reason to hate someone, and you can wish them well.

I think this may be my favorite line from any of your stories. It so describes what forgiveness is and isn't. The line coming from Hot Dog is perfect. For all that it is easy to think of Hot Dog as a clown he has a great deal of wisdom and was one of the few characters who didn't grow calloused over the course of the series. This bit of wisdom coming from him seems perfect.

Date: 2010-08-30 12:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] geekbynight.livejournal.com
You were right, in a way this was very...cathartic for me. I like the differences Jesse made between absolution and forgiveness especially. That hit home on multiple levels. I think you protray Brendan's struggle with his faith as well as the Cylon's own struggles in a very realistic way. The bit with the Eight, Sheva, talking about how flimsy the sentiment seemed had so much truth to it.

Thank you for pointing me here!


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