Hidden Currents

part three



Giles looked up when the door opened. Maybe it would be somebody who'd tell him why he was in the life center, in a locked room, when nothing much seemed to be wrong with him. He was guessing he'd come out the worse for his encounter with Nestor, which was depressing—a drunken pilot took him out?—but he didn't even have a headache, let alone a blaster wound. He probably had taken a clip on the head, since he couldn't remember the fight, but it didn't seem to have damaged him despite the tubes attached to him.

Of course, being locked in wasn't a good sign. Maybe he'd killed him. Minimum force or something like that, wasn't that what Security was supposed to use? Frack it, he thought, I'm not Security.

So when the door opened he looked around.

"Well, you noticed," said Dr. Paye. "That's an encouraging change."

Giles blinked at him.

"It's been five days, sergeant," Paye said.

"Five days?" Giles couldn't believe it.

"Actually, more like five and a half. Would you like to see Lieutenant Starbuck?"

"Starbuck?" Giles blinked again. "Did he get hurt?"

Paye cocked his head to one side and pursed his lips. After a moment he said, "Yes, he did. He was shot. But he'll be fine. He'll probably be released in a day or two." He paused, watching Giles closely. "If you want to see him, that can be arranged."

Giles shrugged. He didn't know why Paye thought he'd want to see Starbuck. He was glad the lieutenant wasn't dead, but—

Starbuck was dead on the office floor, covered in blood. Lightfoot was dead at the foot of the wall, covered in blood.

He stared at the images in his mind, vaguely aware that Paye was saying something. He could smell the blood. He could taste it. He shivered, scooting back against the low railing and wrapping his arms around his knees, pulling them into his body.


"He's dead."

"No. No, he's not," Paye said. "He'll be fine."

"Not him."

Paye fell silent.

Giles hugged his knees closer. Moonlight and blood and pain... When he finally looked around again, he was alone.


He sat unmoving on the bed, his memory playing for him everything he'd refused to think about for yahrens. He'd never felt so cold in all his life.

Five days...

The next time the door opened, it was for a medtech who brought him a tray and removed the tubes, though she left the IV needle in the back of his hand, capping it off. It didn't escape Giles's notice that a much larger, male tech stood in the doorway till she was done. Nor that he hadn't been given a knife.

He wasn't particularly hungry but he ate, anyway, having learned in the 23d's life centers that if you didn't eat they just kept you longer. He wondered if they'd come if he rang for a tech, but short of enough coda or something to knock him out he didn't want anything.

Nothing he could have, anyway.

The tech came back in half a centare and took his blood pressure and temperature. He didn't see the point, he wasn't sick, but he didn't put up any objection, and not just because her friend was back, too. It was just too much effort and wouldn't accomplish anything. Besides, they were already treating him like he was some dangerous lunatic (not so dangerous). The last thing he wanted was to find himself in restraints. He sat quietly and let her do what she wanted, and then watched her take the tray.

When she was gone he found the lights and put them out. A centon later he put them back on. The darkness was... too full. Too hard to deal with. Closing his eyes probably would be, too.

If he didn't sleep, maybe they'd give him something. Or lock him up and throw away the key. If they hadn't already, that was. He got up and started pacing, hoping to tire himself out. And tried not to think about Argo.

Like that worked now.

Frack. I go fifteen yahrens not thinking about it at all and now I can't do it for a centon.

He climbed onto the bed and, after a while, he wasn't sure how long, lay down and curled up, trying to forget and failing.

Lightfoot was dead at the foot of the wall, covered in blood. Moonlight, fitfully showing through the clouds, silvered his hair and body and gleamed off the dark blood and then disappeared, drowning the whole scene in darkness that couldn't hide the picture from his memory.

Sometime he did fall asleep. And this time when the nightmare woke him up, he remembered it all. Lying on the bed, pulling the covers around him and shivering, he missed the hell out of Boomer.

In the morning, after they brought him breakfast, Paye showed up and ordered a head scan. But after that they left him alone again for a couple of centares. When the door opened again, a tall woman in medical dove-gray came in. She had hair a much darker gray than her uniform and eyes of a brilliant green. "Sergeant," she greeted him in brisk tones. "My name is Sekhmet. I'm a counselor."

"They think I need counselling?" Giles asked with an effort.

She quirked the corner of her mouth as she dropped a file on the bedside table. "Sergeant," she said, "you were, to use a technical term, completely out of it for five days. And, to use another technical term, you lost it totally that night. You think you don't?"

Giles wondered if that was normal counselling style or if she'd been talking to his friends, finding out what he was like. The only counselors he'd dealt with before had been the ones giving him the pre-enlistment checkup, and they'd been, well, pro forma. He nodded reluctantly. "I see your point."

"Good. Because I understand you want to stay in the service, and we need to find out what's going on with you before they'll approve that."

Giles shrugged. "It's not going to interfere with my flying." He liked having someone to talk to, it helped to have someone to focus on. The memory wasn't so dominating. If they'd let him out of this room, give him something to do, he bet he could function. After a while, anyhow.

"Perhaps. But you can understand they want to be sure. Would you like to have a seat, or is the bed fine?"

"It's the closest thing to a couch in the room."

"As you wish," she said, settling herself in the chair next to the bed. "Dr. Paye is concerned that you said you didn't want to see Lieutenant Starbuck."

"Why should that concern him? Or anybody?"

She raised a dark eyebrow. "Why? According to your records, you practically had to be pried off of him."

That was startling news, to say the least. "Pried off?" he repeated.

She nodded, speaking calmly. "You were hanging onto Starbuck and wouldn't let go. You didn't respond to anything anyone said to you. Several people tried. Dr. Paye is of the opinion that you're," she flicked her eyes to the file, "emotionally attached in some fashion and now denying it, possibly to yourself."

Anything anyone had said to him? Giles swallowed hard. Had Boomer tried to talk to him? Had he ignored Boomer, while hanging on to Starbuck and not letting go? He flinched from that. Oh, gods... now he was lost.

Which he could not let her see. He looked at her through his lashes. "Why should I care about Starbuck? We're not even in the same," he almost said platoon, "squadron."

"That's a good question. What do you think the answer is?"

He shrugged. He'd pushed the bed into the far corner of the room that morning, the wall something to put his back against, and now he leaned into the junction of the two walls, resting his wrists on his knees, his hands hanging loosely.

"Don't you want to know?"

He shrugged again, not looking directly at her. "If I did, I might, but since I don't, well, I don't."

Sekhmet was silent for so long he had to look. She was sitting quietly, making notes on her pad with a silver stylus. Waiting.

Yaroslav had waited like that sometimes.

He could wait, too. And he'd learned in a harder school than her, he'd bet.

She raised her head and those green eyes hit him like a slap. But he was ready for her, ready for anything, and he knew it didn't show. She sighed—he was sure it was deliberate even though he didn't know her—and said, "You're sure?"

"I'm always sure."

"Are you always right?"

"It's better to be sure."

She paused; he had the feeling he'd startled her but he wasn't certain... not that he'd let that show, either. "Then why did you react that way?" It sounded like a pure question.

He shrugged. "I don't remember reacting that way."

"What do you remember?"

Now he paused, examining the question. But he couldn't see any harm in answering it, and it might help him get out. "I remember coming back to the orderly room and hearing Nestor going at it with Lieutenant Starbuck. Lieutenant Nestor," he corrected himself. "He sounded drunk and angry and I was sure Lieutenant Starbuck didn't have his blaster with him, so I went in."


"And, that's all I remember. I thought I took a clip on the head. I still do," he added.

"No." She shook her head. "You were checked out very thoroughly, sergeant. You weren't injured."

He shrugged.

"Don't you want to know what happened?"

Of course he did. But he wasn't going to ask. He shrugged. "I've pretty much figured it out."

"You haven't asked about Lieutenant Nestor," she observed.

He shrugged again, looking at her sideways. "He did Lieutenant Starbuck bad enough he's still in life center, and him not armed."

"You remember that?"

He shook his head. "I know that. Lieutenant Starbuck had got out of bed to watch the comm while I did a walk-through, and he was going right back. He wouldn't have his blaster. He probably didn't have his boots on."

"Is that why you went in?"

Was she for real? "You don't leave someone to get killed," he said.

"Not even to call for help?"

"Help for the dead?" He snorted. "You don't leave someone. I wasn't trained to do that. Lieutenant Starbuck's alive. Lieutenant Nestor? I don't care about him."

"No curiosity?"

"I figure he's taken care of." He paused. "What, they let him out?"

"He's dead."

And I killed him, he concluded with no effort. "He needed to die."

She looked at him, hard.

"He needed to die," he repeated. It really was that simple. "Is it supposed to bother me? It doesn't. I'm a grunt by training, remember?"

"So you are," she nodded. "But if your fugue wasn't caused by terminating Lieutenant Nestor—?"

Yope. She'd slid around and nailed him. He just looked at her.

After a moment she said, "I understand you wanted to go back to the infantry, sergeant."

And who had told her that, he wondered, not answering.

"This past yahren has been extremely stressful for everyone. Has anything in particular been stressing you? In your professional life? Perhaps your professional life interfering with your personal life?" She'd been pausing to let him answer, but he wasn't going to. Now she stopped and sighed again. "Talking to you is a bit like pulling teeth." There was a faint accent on is; he wondered who'd said what to her. "I can't do this by myself, sergeant."

He shrugged. "It doesn't actually need to be done."

"It does if you want to go back on duty." She rose to her feet. "I don't have all day to sit here, though. I'll let you think about it for a while. I'll be back."

He bit down on the automatic thanks for the warning and watched her leave.

In the silence that followed, he missed her. He'd been occupied enough to keep the memories at bay. But on the other hand, he had to deal with them, and do it himself, so it was just as well.

But he wished he didn't have to do it in solitude.

Much later, when he was beginning to wonder about dinner, the door opened, and Giles was slightly startled to see Bojay enter. The lieutenant glanced behind him and said, firmly, "This is fine, thank you." After a momentary pause the door shut behind him.

"Sir?" Giles stood.

His squadron leader—and that was what this was about, of course—shook his head. "Sit, sergeant. How are they treating you?"

"Fine, sir," he said automatically.

"I hope so. Getting in to see you turned into my project for the day. If you were under arrest you'd be easier to get to. If they're not, I'll be happy to complain up the chain of command for you, though to be honest I don't know what good it would do. Once the doctors start running things," he shrugged.

"That's all right, sir." There was a short silence, somewhat awkward. Giles broke it by asking, "I'm still on the roster?"

Bojay smiled, the smile that didn't reach his eyes and made a lot of people uncomfortable. "Yes. They tell me you'll be back once you're cleared for duty, so I'm resisting a replacement. I still want you on my wing."

And that was more Wing politics but still Giles was glad to hear it.

"I was asked," the lieutenant added, "if I'd known you wanted a transfer. I told them you said you'd liked the infantry better and were only mildly disappointed you didn't get it. They'd already talked to the colonel and the captain." He didn't add anything about whatever grief Apollo had given him for not mentioning it.

It had come from Tigh, then. Well, that made sense... Giles nodded.

After another silence Bojay said, "Is there anything I can do? Anything you want?" The smile again. "Except out?"

Giles echoed the smile. "No," he started, and then, "wait. That book—Signs and Lying Wonders?"

"You were reading that." Bojay sounded pleased to have solved that mystery.

"Yes, sir. If you're done with it?"

"No problem, sergeant, I'll bring it. Or send it. And I've got The Brightness of His Coming, too. The sequel?"


"No problem," he repeated. "Anything else?"

Giles had been searching for a casual way to mention Boomer, but he hadn't found one. Especially not to Bojay, who was, after all, not a friend, who was here out of his sense of duty. "No, sir. I'm good."

Bojay nodded. "The squadron sends their good wishes. Flight Sergeant Greenbean, and Lieutenants Jolly and Boomer from Blue as well."

"Thank them for me, will you, sir?" he said, as though Boomer was the same as the casual others, even though just hearing his name had shaken him. Not enough to show; the lieutenant's light hazel eyes didn't flicker as he nodded. Giles clamped down hard on his emotions. "I'd ask 'em to stop by for a game, but I don't think the staff would take to the idea."

Bojay smiled wryly. "I have to agree." The door opened behind him. He didn't look that way, just put out his hand. "Get well, sergeant," he said; Giles wasn't sure if it was a pleasantry or an order.

"Thank you, sir," he answered, avoiding the issue of whether he was sick to start with.

Bojay nodded and left. The medtech brought in a dinner tray, still knifeless, and left. While he ate he was able to focus on the food, but after he was alone again, till morning if the pattern held, he found himself wishing Bojay was still there. It wasn't as though they'd had an actual conversation, or would have had anything more to say, but even pleasantries were a distraction. Another presence in the room, even silent, would have helped.

He didn't sleep for a long time. The nightmare came but he didn't wake. He'd been remembering it all evening.

In the morning after breakfast and another head scan, he was not surprised to see Sekhmet. At least the medtech had brought new life-center garb with the food, and he was turbowashed and wearing clean clothes. He was still barefoot, but that had never bothered him unless it was cold. He sat cross-legged on the bed and watched her sit down.

"Good morning, Sergeant Giles," she said.

"Is it?"

She paused. "That will probably depend a great deal on you."


"Your squadron leader came to see you," she said. "Did he give you any advice?"

"He doesn't," Giles said; it was one of the things he liked about the lieutenant. "Not if you don't ask."

She raised a dark eyebrow. "Another thing you won't ask for?"

He raised one of his.

"You won't ask for help. You won't ask for advice. You won't ask for someone to visit—"

He raised his head. "I can ask for someone?"

"You can ask," she said. "I'm sorry, sergeant; I didn't mean to raise any false hopes. I was just thinking aloud, I'm afraid."

He settled, wishing he hadn't fallen for such an obvious trick.

"I am sorry."

He shrugged.

"Is there anything you ever do ask for?"

He snorted. "I've asked you to leave me alone."

She smiled. "So you have. Do you ever ask for anything you actually need?"

"I don't actually need anything."


He answered her tone. "Air. Water. Food. Clothes. Climate control. I got that. What else is there?"

She shook her head. "I'm not playing that game with you, sergeant."

He shrugged. "Suits me."

"Then why do you keep starting it?"

"Why do you keep coming back?"

"Because it's my job to help people who need it, even when they won't admit it."

"I'm fine," he said, feeling impatient and sounding it, too. "No offense, but this is a waste of time."


"No perhaps," he cut off her almost certain if you make it so. "I'm fine."

"At this moment. But had you been asked how you were five centons before the incident with Lieutenant Nestor, what would you have said?"

He didn't answer. She was a doctor, and while doctors weren't exactly officers they sure had all the perks and privileges thereof. Plus she was the one who had the key to the door. It would be just stupid to say the wrong thing; he'd learned to hold his tongue if not to say the right things.

"Normally I would say to you, 'if you want to walk out that door, accept a medical discharge, and be barred from further service, or flying, or any employment in which a repetition of a five-day fugue would be dangerous, feel free. I can't force you to stay.'" She shrugged, apparently oblivious of the way he'd stiffened. "However, things aren't normal and you don't have that option now, sergeant. You're in the military, and you're too valuable a commodity for them to let you go."

The moment of stark terror had passed as soon as she'd quit using the conditional tense. By her last line he was back to normal. He bit his automatic response back, but she said it for him.

"Of course, they can't force you to get well. But they can make you very sorry you aren't trying."

He had a sudden and unnerving vision of a future spent locked up in this room. But what he said was, "I'm not sick."

"You're not well," she observed.

"I. Am. Fine," he said. "And I'm not in denial."

She smiled at that. "No. You're just lying."

He shrugged again.

She sighed. "And once again our time is up." She rose and looked down at him. "Sergeant, I wish you'd spend some time today thinking about why you're lying. And what you want to accomplish by it. And maybe, just maybe, whether it's a good method of doing that. I'll come by again later today."

Then she left.

And he leaned back against the wall and stared into the vision of Argo by night, and clenched his fists until his muscles hurt, trying to stop the shakes.

But Bojay was as good as his word. When lunch arrived, two books were on the tray with the food. He tossed them negligently onto the otherwise empty bedside table, but as soon as the tech had come and collected his tray, he grabbed the top one as though it were a lifeline.

He'd read three quarters of it before, but he started from the beginning, immersing himself in the words on the page. Anything but his own thoughts.

Each group's a word. Each letter's a sound...

He closed his eyes. No. He took a deep breath and looked at the page again. Focus. Pisco, Kendo province, four and a half millennia ago. Wandering swordsmen. Some other place, some other time...

The door opened. Giles didn't look up from the book; it was probably going to be Sekhmet again. Or Paye, wanting more head scans. For somebody who hadn't gotten a head injury, he was sure getting a lot of those. But the voice he heard snapped his head up.

"Bojay said this was better than the brig, but the brig at least has IFB."

"Boomer?" And though he wanted more than anything to go to him, touch him, kiss him, all he did was stare, not moving. "How in the seventh hell did you get in here? You didn't ruin your career, did you?"

"Ruin my—Like I give a damn. But, no. I got in here because I was exasperated."

"What?" That didn't make any sense.

"I got in here 'cause I was exasperated." And now he sounded like it. "That counselor said anybody who got that exasperated talking about you might do some good talking to you."


Boomer shook his head, and then reached out and took the book out of Giles's hand. He dagget-eared the page and dropped the novel on the table and then sat down in the chair, scooting it a lot closer to the bed than Sekhmet ever did. "Are you worried about my career? Is that why you won't talk to her?"

"There's nothing for me to talk to her about. And I shouldn't worry about your career?"

"My career ought to be about the last thing on your list, yeah. But you never do do things like everybody else, do you?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Let me worry about my career, Gi, okay? You focus on yours. Which starts by getting out of here, and as soon as possible."

"They're not making it easy."

"They aren't? Or you aren't? Like I have to ask." He paused. "I didn't know you didn't want to fly any more."

"It's not that. It's just... " Giles paused, and then shrugged. "It doesn't matter, anyway. It didn't happen."

"It does matter," Boomer insisted softly, like he always did. "Why did you want out? What were you trying to get away from?"

Giles examined him closely. "Or who, you mean." Boomer's little flinch answered that. Frack. He shook his head. "Not getting away from anything, or anyone. Trying to get a little closer, in fact. I wouldn't be a junior sergeant in the infantry; I'd have had my own quarters. And us in different branches of service..." He shrugged. "Would have been better."

Boomer's relief was palpable, though he probably thought he was hiding it. "That's all it was?"

"Well," he tried for some levity, "I can't say I'd mind getting away from Brie."

Boomer grinned. "Apollo's a little annoyed that you didn't talk to him about a transfer—"

"What was there to talk to him about? He'd have just tried to argue me out of it."

"Probably," Boomer nodded. "But I was going to say, he's been worried about you. He wanted to see you yesterday, but Bojay got in the way, being your squadron leader and all. You how know he gets."

"So, how'd you get in next?" 'Cause I know how Apollo gets about regulations.

"I told him we were friends. Asked him who he'd rather see if he was laid up, Tigh or Starbuck. He saw my point. Bucko said to say hi, by the way."

"How's he doing?"

"Fine. He's out. Pleased 'cause he got to keep all the money wagered on Deianara. Nobody guessed Jolly," he added when Giles hiked his eyebrows.


"Yeah. They're getting sealed next secton. They're hoping you can come. So am I."


"Giles, you have to talk to the counselor."

He looked down at the bedcovers. After a moment, the mattress shifted underneath him and he looked up to see Boomer settling down on the bed in front of him.

"Giles. Listen to me. You have to talk to her. You have to let her help you."

Despite Boomer's nearness, despite his urge to fling himself onto the other man and never let go, Giles couldn't move.

"I was scared," Boomer said, not even an admission, just a simple statement. "Hell, I was terrified. You were... I mean, when we pulled you off Starbuck so the medics could get at him you were... not there. You're always so much there. I know it's mostly anger but you're always so vibrant. And you weren't. At all. I was scared you weren't ever coming back."

"I'm here."

"I know. This time. But what about next time? And don't say there won't be a next time; would you have said there'd be a this time? Gi, please..." Boomer paused. "I know you don't trust me." Giles looked away but Boomer's hand on his chin gently but firmly brought his head back around. "I knew it almost from the beginning. And I know it's not me, it's you. I knew I had to wait till you got over whoever it was had let you down. And then," he raised his eyebrows in the gentle deprecation he engaged in instead of the anger that would be more understandable, "I realized that 'whoever had let you down' was pretty much everybody you had ever trusted, and I knew it would take a long time. I didn't mind. I still don't. But, Gi, things are different. I can't stand here and watch you drown because you won't put out your hand."

"I'm not drowning."

"The hell you're not. Gi, your squadron leader is in lieu of family, and Bojay hasn't let Salik get away with much. And I," he swallowed, "asked him to tell me."

Giles put his hand on Boomer's. For him? When Boomer could barely stand being in the same room with Bojay? He didn't know what to say.

Boomer apparently knew him well enough not to wait. "So I don't know everything but I do know you were... someplace else for five days."

"And I got back."

"This time. Damn it, Gi. I'm not asking you to tell me anything. I haven't earned that, it's okay, I'm not asking it. I'm asking you to tell somebody."


"Giles, please. Just listen to me. I love you, remember? I want you back. I'm asking you to stay here. To do what it takes to stay here."

"I'm not going anywhere," he said.

"That's not enough. Giles, please. You have to get help."

"I don't need any help."

"Yes, you do. This time you do." He didn't sound angry.

"I can—"

"Take care of yourself. I know. But even if that's true, you don't have to. There's no... virtue in doing by yourself when you don't have to." He reached for Giles and rested his forehead against his, looking down into his eyes. "Please. Let somebody help you. Please."

Please. Giles was shaken; he didn't know what to say. Boomer's eyes were only centimetrons from his, their expression familiar and puzzling: worried, loving, pleading. "Boomer..."

"Please? Talk to the woman."

He couldn't say the words, couldn't say he'd put himself in someone else's hands. But he nodded. And the relief that filled those dark eyes was more rewarding than he'd ever expected. He relaxed in Boomer's hold, and the other man hugged him, wrapping his arms around him. He realized he was trembling; before he could disengage, Boomer pulled him even closer, and after a conflicted centon he let go and surrendered.

"I love you," Boomer said softly. "You know that, don't you? I love you."

Giles nodded; he knew he should say something. Wrapped in Boomer's arms it was easier than he'd thought. "I don't love Starbuck."

"What?" Boomer sounded a bit startled, but also a bit relieved.

"I don't love Starbuck. I don't care if—well, I'm glad he's not dead. But I don't care about him. You're the only person alive I care about." And then, to his dismay, his voice broke and then he was crying. He hadn't done that in yahrens, not since Lightfoot, but he couldn't stop. And Boomer only held him closer still.

The medtech woke him with supper. He was tucked up in the bed; he didn't remember that. After he ate he found the note: I hope you slept well. Remember what I said, please. I'll talk to you again. I love you.

He did think about it. And when Sekhmet came in that evening he waited until she was seated and then said, "I won't lie any more."

"I'd say 'good'," she said after a micron's pause, "if I weren't afraid that meant you weren't going to talk anymore."

"I'll talk," he said. "I still don't know what good talking will do, nothing will change, he'll still be dead. But I'll talk."


"It's not Starbuck," he said. "It was never Starbuck."

She looked levelly at him.

He looked back at her, uncertain if she was believing him or not. One thing he knew about counselling: if they didn't think you were telling the truth you were labelled as 'in denial' and never, ever got out. Even if you were. "This is confidential?"

"Of course," she said, not offended. "I have to tell them whether you're cleared for duty, but that's all."

"I'm not in love with Starbuck. I never have been. He was just... I've been with another officer for nearly a yahren now. It's fraternization, so he can't.... but it's real." I hope. "Lieutenant Boomer."

An expression crossed her face too quickly for him to be certain of it, but then she nodded. "I see. But—"

He shrugged, looking sideways at her. "He was just reminding me of something else. Someone else." Again she looked at him levelly and he realized what he was doing. He sat straighter and shrugged slightly. "Someone I'd forgotten."


Lightfoot was in his memory from the beginning. Exactly how and when he'd attached himself to the older boy he couldn't remember, but as he got older he knew it was the best thing that had ever happened to him. It had probably saved his life. It had certainly made it worth living.

At first, Lightfoot treated him almost like a pup or other pet. At five or six, some eight yahrens younger, Giles was a tag-along who learned to walk quietly and avoid drawing attention. Their natural environment was rooftops and alleys, and one of his earliest memories was of crawling across a narrow parapet with Lightfoot's arms on either side of him, protecting him from a fall down more storeys than he could count. And feeling completely safe.

He was maybe eight the first time the older boy boosted him through a broken window in a warehouse to find whatever he could steal. And it wasn't more that two sectares after that that Lightfoot brought a book to the abandoned, falling-down building they were living in at the time. "This is the ocean," he said, shaking his long blond hair out of his face. "Remember, we were talkin' about the ocean last secton?"

"Yah," Giles nodded. "Water as far's you can see, you said." He sounded a bit skeptical.

Lightfoot tousled his hair. "Well, look." He pointed at the picture.

Giles stared at it for a long time. "You ever seen it? Th'ocean?"

"Nah," he said. "But I knew someone who did, once. Not this ocean, though; this'n's on Caprica."

"How d'you know?" Giles was willing to believe Lightfoot knew everything, but he wanted assurance.

The blond shrugged. "Says so."

"Oh." Giles ran his finger along the line of printing under the picture and then turned the pages. "C'n you read all this?"

Lightfoot blinked at him. "Sure... Hey. You need to learn t'read. Life's too hard if you can't." He'd taken the book away and turned to the beginning. "Sit here," he pulled Giles up next to him. "Now, see here, how there's a little space between each group of letters? Each group's a word. Each letter's a sound, though it's not always the same sound... You follow, okay? After you learn some words, it'll make more sense. 'Each Colonial World has its great oceans,'" he read, touching each word with his finger, and Giles obediently followed along, trusting the method and learning quickly. It was a long time before either of them realized that the younger boy's memory, which caught each word and held it for ever, was the only reason he learned to read. He was sixteen before he got a method for learning new words quickly; what he was doing now was learning them as if they were ideographs, and barely distinguishing Libran's script from Standard's.

But Lightfoot was trying. Remembering his own childhood he relentlessly corrected Giles's grammar, though pronunciation he didn't notice. And if he found a book someplace, he stole it. The boys spent many a long summer's evening trying to make sense of books over both their heads; Giles, years later, could see pages of text before his eyes and finally make sense of it.

Lightfoot remembered his mother, who'd disappeared one day after telling him to stay put and wait for her. She'd never returned, and the Lippies had picked the boy up and taken him to a care center. He'd stayed there for a few days and then run away, back to the park where his mother would be returning to find him. She never came back; eventually he had had to accept that. Giles's parents, on the other hand, were a complete unknown. Where he came from, why he was out in the streets, he didn't know; all he knew was his name. Lightfoot guessed the little red-headed boy, too, had been in the way, but he didn't know for sure. "It doesn't matter, though," he said. "You got me. I'm your family now."

"My really family?"

"All the family you'll ever need," the blond boy said fiercely. "I'll look after you, Giles. Don't you worry. I'll look after you."

The summer of his tenth year had proven that to him. The Knights had moved into Riga, expanding their territory. Lightfoot hated the gangs and kept clear of them as much as he could, warning Giles that they'd swallow him up in their eternal warfare and eat him alive. But one evening he'd gotten careless, and the Knights had found him, on their territory, with a sack full of stolen food.

Lightfoot had kept him safe enough. Most of the loners who haunted Riga and the neighboring districts assumed that he was Lightfoot's tail and left him alone, because the blond had a reputation of crazy fearlessness. He'd gotten knocked around some, even, possibly especially, the two times he'd been too slow to avoid the Lippies and ended up in a DC while they tried to find his family; both times Lightfoot had helped spring him, showing him the ways out. But he'd never been more than that.

The Knights didn't care about Lightfoot's rep. All they cared about was that they'd caught a punk stealing in their streets, and he wasn't affiliated.

He wasn't ignorant. He knew how they meant to mark him, bring him in and make him their property. He fought as hard as he could, but one ten-yahren-old against seven late teeners was no match. And then one, and a second, Knight had gone down hard, knocked off their feet by stones slung with deadly accuracy. "Run!" Lightfoot had yelled and Giles had.

Much later Lightfoot had crawled into the hole they were sleeping in that sectare, bruised and bloody. Giles had been scared and tearful. "Shh," Lightfoot had said, pulling him close and hugging him, wincing when he did but not letting go. "It's all right. You're safe."

"You're hurt," Giles said, tears starting. "They hurt you."

"But they didn't hurt you," the blond had said with satisfaction, pushing Giles's dark red hair back out of his face and smiling at him. "That's what counts. They didn't hurt you... I'll never let anyone hurt you."

Giles had fetched water and helped him clean up, and fallen asleep snuggled up to him. The next morning Lightfoot had been feverish, and Giles had spent four worried days watching over him, but not once had the older boy said anything that blamed him. "We're family," he said. "We watch out for each other. You belong to me, right? I'll keep you safe."

And Giles felt safe no matter what was going on in the streets around them: gangs, Lippies, drunks fighting, crazies...

And then...

Lightfoot was ahead of him. The double moons breaking through the ragged clouds turned his hair to silver. Before them the dark wall rose, sheer and high. But Lightfoot leapt easily, catching the top and pulling himself up without effort. Giles stared upwards, knowing he'd never make it, and then Lightfoot lay down on the wall, hooking his foot over the far edge, and reached down. Giles jumped and their hands met, and Lightfoot pulled him up as though he weighed nothing. They sat on the wall, looking out over the lights of Argo; Giles leaned into Lightfoot and sighed happily.

Lightfoot laughed softly and hugged him one-handedly. "Pretty, isn't it? Despite what you know, it's pretty."

Giles nodded. It was a moment of pure happiness.

And then the shot, and Lightfoot fell.

Giles jumped down. The wrong way, he knew when he was doing it; Lightfoot would have wanted him to run away. But he couldn't leave him, even though he knew it was dangerous. He couldn't... He hit the ground hard, falling down. He scrambled to his feet. Lightfoot was dead at the foot of the wall, covered in blood. Giles dropped to his knees beside him, pulling at his body, begging him to be alive. Moonlight, fitfully showing through the clouds, silvered his hair and body and gleamed off the dark blood and then disappeared, but not before Giles saw the three men approaching, the pale light illuminating the Knights' insignia on their jackets...

When the Lippies finally got there, they had to pull the bruised and abused boy off the corpse. He was covered in blood, not all of it his, and he fought them to stay where he was. They took him to the nearest DC, where he was treated and locked up.

Two days later he was gone, back into the streets. This time, on his own, he wasn't safe. But he had to be there.

He never even found out where Lightfoot was buried.


Dr. Sekhmet had seen him twice a day for the first secton after their initial conversation, and once a day for a secton after that. When he left the life center, back on duty, he was scheduled to see her once a secton for "a while. Because you must admit it's not precisely normal to forget something so completely. We have to make sure you're as okay as you seem to be."

He'd already done something he'd never thought he would: accepted the commission that Adama had decided to grant to all the enlisted pilots. Seemed like some of the Wing's officers, like Apollo and Boomer, had registered their dissatisfaction and, more importantly, understood and agreed with it. As a class, they were gone: corporals were now flight officers and sergeants were lieutenants. Giles had always sworn he didn't want a commission, but Sekhmet had helped him realize that his rejection of responsibility was part of his past: if he didn't take responsibility for anyone he'd never fail them. What he liked about her was she didn't care one way or the other if he took the commission, only that he understood why he did whichever he did.

She'd helped him put himself back together. Now when he thought of Lightfoot, it hurt, but he could do it. And in a way he wouldn't have believed, even the pain was good. Lightfoot had loved him.

Yaroslav, he thought, I've learned how to cry.

Their last conversation hadn't been about the past at all.

"So," Giles said pensively, "when I finally fell in love—despite Yaroslav's predictions I did manage to—I chose to fall for someone who is as close to a complete opposite to Lightfoot as I could find."

He hadn't meant it as a question, but it got an acknowledgement anyway. "So it seems."

Seems? Giles laid it out. "He's a man, 'cause I'm flit, but otherwise... I mean, he's dark, his eyes are brown and his hair's black, he's middling in height; Lightfoot was a tall, fair, blue-eyed blond. And Boomer's steady and quiet and low-key and... you know. Lightfoot was, well, manic almost. High-strung and volatile."

"Sounds like someone I know."

"Maybe..." Giles had figured that out, too. Why Starbuck was so attractive and yet so, well, scary at the same time. But that wasn't the thing. "But what now?"

"What now? What do you mean, what now?"

"I mean, now that I've remembered or stopped forgetting or whatever... now that I know about Lightfoot and why I fell for Boomer, does it end? What kind of basis is that for a relationship? Is it even a real relationship?"

"Do you want it to be?"

"Of course I do. What's that got to do with it?"

"Everything. You're looking at the surface. You have to look deeper to find the truth. Boomer and Lightfoot may appear to be polar opposites, but underneath the surface they have one very strong thing in common: you. Loving you. That's the important thing."

"Huh," he said, realizing after he did that he'd gotten that from Boomer.

"So don't get hung up on the outside. Why we're first attracted to someone is not half as important as why we fall in love, why we stay. If Boomer loves you and you love him, it's as real as a relationship can get."

So now he sat in the ready room, new lieutenant's pins on his jacket and a really bad set of cards in his hand. Starbuck had slapped him on the shoulder when he came in and dragooned him into the game.

Beneath the surface... That was where the truth lay, sure enough. For him, and for Boomer, too. Those deeply hidden currents that swirled under the surface, whether that was apparently still and placid or roiled and breaking—they ran in a different direction and at their own pace, and they could grab you and carry you far from where you'd started. But the surface altered with every passing wind. The deep currents ran true.

Boomer had welcomed him back that morning calmly, but his eyes had been anything but. Joyful, concerned, patient... loving. Above all else, loving. Now he was sitting next to Giles, to all appearances concentrating on his cards, but Giles had spent too long in a life where he had to be aware of every nuance not to know that Boomer was actually focussed almost exclusively on him. Waiting to see what happened next.

And that was another thing Giles had spent too long a time doing. He looked at his hand, and then collapsed the cards and transferred them to his left hand so he could reach for his chips with his right. He tossed in his first bet and then laid his hand on Boomer's wrist. Boomer turned sharply and looked at him. Then he smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling and his teeth showing white in his brown, beloved face. In those eyes, as dark as a mystery and as bright as life, Giles saw the current moving, catching him and pulling him in, carrying him off, away from where he was and towards where he wanted to be. He tightened his hold momentarily and smiled back.

the end

part 1 part 2 part 3


Original Fantasy:
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