Boomer got to his feet, a bit unsteadily. "Good night, gentlemen," he said.
"You going, Boom-Boom?" Starbuck, carefully refilling his glass, had apparently missed Boomer's last statement, Apollo realized.
Boomer reached out and tousled the blond's hair, something Apollo had wanted to do since he first met him. "Yes, I am," he said. "Some of us have to be on duty in the morning."
Starbuck blinked up at him. "We're all in Blue," he pointed out after a moment.
Boomer laughed. "One of us is the captain, though, and he can arrange his schedule anyway he likes. And you aren't reinstated yet, Bucko, and I fully expect you to milk that for every micron of off-time you can get. I would."
"You would not."
"After that? I certainly would. I'd figure they owed me."
"I owe you," Starbuck said. "Both of you."
"You'd do the same for us," Boomer said with that little embarrassed smile he always had in circumstances like this. "Maybe not as well," he added, leveraging his refusal to be thanked into his customary humor.
"Probably not." Starbuck refused to be amused.
"Hey, come on, buddy. You're out, exonerated, everybody falling over their own feet to say they're sorry. I know it was hard but don't dwell on it. I mean, that's your motto, isn't it?"
Starbuck blinked up at him and then a wry grin tugged at his lips. "Yeah," he said. "Dust under the feet of the gods or something like that. I'd say at least I found out who my friends were if I hadn't already known who they were."
"Narrow definition of friendship, there, Bucko."
Both Apollo and Starbuck stared at him.
He shrugged slightly. "Plenty of people who are your friends think you'd kill someone before you let him kill you."
That seemed to be a new idea for Starbuck. Apollo watched him mull it over. "And that I'd lie about it?" he asked finally.
"Well, honestly, Starbuck, being your friend doesn't preclude one from thinking you'd lie about something. In fact, it kind of predisposes one to think you will."
Starbuck laughed shortly. "You didn't."
Boomer sighed and sat on his heels to look straight into Starbuck's eyes. "Knowing you well enough to know what you will and what you won't lie about, that's not something you let a lot of people do. Me, I've known you a dozen yahrens, and you don't fool me much anymore. If Ortega had drawn on you, I hope you'd be the one standing, but I don't think you'd lie about it, and if you did I don't think you'd be that clumsy, and either way I don't think it would roll off you like, what's the saying? water off an anaseran? But may I remind you it was less than half a day before you went on trial? A lot of people couldn't even decide if they were guilty in that length of time."
"You know," Boomer said, slapping his shoulder. "So stop being such a sulky Saggy about it. You're depressing Apollo on his night of triumph." He stood up back up, and then stretched. "Now I am leaving. Don't come back to the BOQ tonight, okay? Those friends you haven't got will want to celebrate and I need my beauty sleep. This was a hades of a day all the way around."
Starbuck made a rude noise, but he relaxed against the wall.
Apollo watched Boomer leave, trying to decide whether he was gladder that he'd come or that he was going. It was ridiculous to be jealous of Boomer, who had after all known Starbuck four yahrens, or was it five, more than he had. But lately it seemed that between Cassie and Sheba he wasn't getting much time with the other pilot, and Boomer seemed to be there as often as not.
"Am I?" Starbuck interrupted those selfish thoughts.
"Are you what?"
"Depressing you on your night of triumph?"
"How could I be depressed? You're here, like Boomer said, out and exonerated and, well, here."
"Not in a very good mood, though."
Apollo resisted the urge to put his hand on Starbuck's head. As much as he'd had to drink, and as strongly as he'd been scared today, it was just not a good idea. The prospect of failure had never carried such a high price tag, never terrified him as much as it had today. Starbuck, convicted. Starbuck, dead, because he'd never survive on the Prison Barge. He stared straight ahead in the dimness of his quarters and said, "I don't give a snitrat's snout what kind of mood you're in. You're here to be in a mood; that's enough for me."
Starbuck sighed gustily and then got to his feet. Before Apollo could say anything, though, the blond dropped heavily into Boomer's vacated spot on the couch and swung his feet up onto the kava table. "Oh, sorry," he said and took them off again, and then laid his head on the back of the couch. "I don't know why I'm so irritable. I ought to be grateful."
"You were. You still are. It's just all catching up to you," Apollo said. "It hasn't been twenty centares yet since we were on the Rising Star playing Triad."
"Sagan. Feels like twenty sectares."
"And you spent most of it cooped up."
Starbuck snorted. "I still can't believe I'm not being brought up on charges for breaking out of the brig."
"You went back," Apollo said. "Besides, you're innocent."
"Not of that," the blond pointed out.
"True. And I'm supposed to punish you. Consider yourself severely chastised." He paused, remembered, and added, "And your pay's being docked for the vid unit."
And that made Starbuck laugh. "It was worth it just to put my fist into Zara's face, if only vicariously."
"I thought she had... an interest in you?"
Starbuck grinned. "Why do you think she was gloating about my brilliant career being all over?"
"You turned her down?" Apollo asked.
"Of course I did. Please. A reporter?"
Apollo couldn't think what to say.
"Oh, Sagan, I didn't mean... It's just, she's not my type."
"I know what you meant," Apollo said. "Zara's nothing like Serina. Not that Serina had better have been your type, mind you," he added with mock ferocity.
"I liked Serina."
"I know." She hadn't liked him much, though, unlike Sheba. Or perhaps she just had thought he took up too much of Apollo's time.
"She wasn't my type, but she was yours... I was sorry she died."
And how he'd wished for just a tiny sign of gladness. He was glad the room was dark. "I know you were."
"And I'm glad you've found someone else."
"Well," Apollo temporized, despite his intentions. "We're not exactly promised yet."
"I know. But you're at least getting out of your quarters again."
And how to explain that one reason he'd started seeing Sheba was that Starbuck had broken up with Cassie? Not the only one, of course, but... "Speaking of getting out of my quarters"
"You tired? I could go to Cass's, that's where I was supposed to be tonight anyway"
"No," Apollo said quickly. "I was about to offer you the couch if you wanted it. But I'm not tired anyway. Though I expect you'd rather go to Cassiopeia's..." His voice trailed off as the bitterness in Starbuck's registered, that and the verb mood. "But stay a while anyway."
"Okay." Starbuck sighed and reached over the end of the couch for the bottle. He held it up to Apollo, who nodded and extended his glass. He didn't drink much, but tonight was different. Starbuck set the bottle down on one of the tech journals on the table and leaned back again. "I might never move again."
"That could be awkward." Apollo was proud of that tone. "And Boxey might have a few questions."
"Which reminds me: what was that damn-fool stunt you pulled with Baltar, anyway?"
"Besides what proved your innocence, you mean?"
"You could have found a safer way to do it," Starbuck said accusingly. "Not only does Boxey need you, but we do. The Fleet, I mean. Plus you could have gotten killed out there and I'd have, we'd all have been just sitting there listening."
For just a moment Apollo flashed back to Sheba's telling him the same thing, as he stood with her in the turbolift, making his way from the landing bay to the Tribunal Hall. "You could have gotten yourself killed, you know."
"Are you going to tell me I shouldn't have done it?"
"No." She'd smiled ruefully at him. "How can I say that to you when I know perfectly well I'd be just as reckless for Bojay?"
And he still hadn't sorted everything that little exchange meant. But he put it out of his mind for the moment. "I thought the prize was worth the risk."
"What makes you think I want you to die for me?"
"I don't remember asking your permission." And then it struck him funny, and he chuckled. "Look, Starbuck, I appreciate it, but I feel the same way about you. I couldn't let them find you guilty just because I wasn't willing to run a little risk."
"Little," Starbuck grumbled, sounding a bit embarrassed.
"Well, I doubted Baltar would let me die."
"Apollo, Baltar would let you die a dozen times any given day, and two dozen on First Day."
"Not if he was going to go next. Which he would have. Believe me, he wished he had some alternate course of action, but I made sure he knew he didn't."
"Mmmmph. I wish I didn't owe him my life."
"You don't. You owe me. Or rather, I'm starting to pay you back."
"That's what wingmates do... I'm not keeping track."
There was a comfortable silence which Starbuck finally broke. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. But for what?"
"That was easy enough."
"Apparently not. You and Boomer were the only ones who did."
Apollo hadn't realized how much that had rankled. "Starbuck"
"I was the one locked up, Apollo. I was the one watching Zara and Sire So-long on IFB. Gods, you know what, don't you? I'm going to be running into people for sectares who saw them blandly discussing my obvious guilt and inevitable punishment and missed my being proved innocent."
"No, you won't," Apollo reassured him. "IFB gave that even bigger play. Baltar, conspiracies, a framed hero, blackmail, children left behind... it had everything."
"I probably rated a sentence... Gods, I hate vidjournalism."
"It did leave a few things to be desired."
"Yeah. So does the whole damned justice system, if you ask me... And I gotta tell you, it didn't do my morale any good that the commander didn't believe me."
"Starbuck, he believed you," Apollo protested.
"Yeah? Funny way he had of showing it."
"He has to follow the law." Apollo found it odd to be defending his father when he'd been arguing with him on this very point just centares ago. "And the law follows the evidence."
"And by the evidence I was guilty. I know, I've heard it. Solon dropped by to give me a last chance to plead self-defense, you know. He quoted it to me: 'Witnesses may lie or be mistaken but the circumstances do not.' Fracking circumstances can obviously be falsified, though."
"You and Boomer were the only ones who didn't believe the circumstances. You believed me. You damn near got killed believing me."
"Father believed you," Apollo said more forcefully. "He just couldn't do anything. And Athena believed you; there wasn't anything she could do either. I'm sure there were others. Plenty of them."
"You didn't mention Cass."
Uh-oh. "I didn't talk to Cassie." He had talked to Athena, and she'd been coldly furious. But his little sister was the 'damn the charged plasma, flank speed ahead' type, who'd be happier breaking her man out of prison than seeing him plead to get off in the first place. Starbuck's blonde was a lot less confrontational.
"I did. She wanted me to plead self-defense."
Apollo took a moment to think before he answered. "She was probably afraid you'd be wrongfully convicted."
"She was afraid I'd done it."
"Did she say she thought you had?" If she had... but if she hadn't said it, even if she'd thought it, Starbuck could be brought to forget it once he'd calmed down. He didn't carry grudges; he'd said once that Life hands you enough baggage without you adding your own. Of course, he lumped goals and standards in there, too... Apollo shook that thought off, too, and concentrated on his goal, the irony of his trying to fix Starbuck's love life not lost on him though he refused to think about it just now.
Starbuck hesitated. "Well... No. But she didn't deny it."
"Starbuck, she'd just seen you have a nasty altercation with Ortega, and maybe you don't carry grudges but he sure as Hades did. And she had to be worried about the evidence. Not to mention what Solon would make her say in Tribunal. You know that didn't help you."
"Yeah," Starbuck said, "despite the lack of correlation between unsealed sex and premeditated termination. Not that I think Yadro's ever been laid in his whole life."
Apollo rather doubted it, too, all things considered. The commander of the Fleet's lone frigate was a dried up martinet and very unpopular with everyone. He had almost certainly accepted Starbuck's lack of 'morals' as proof he could kill, and while Captain Memnet wasn't so close-minded, he was a stickler for correct behavior. It was unfortunate that the only command-grade officers in the Fleet were his father and those two...
"It would have been better," Starbuck added, "if she'd just said it straight out. But Solon's enough to put anybody's back up."
"Sheba said Cassie was miserable." Funny how Sheba had come around to liking Cassie after making no secret of her dislikehatred was probably closer, if he were honestat first. But then, Cassie had saved Bojay's life, and with Cain gone there wasn't anything to come between the women...
He could think that because Starbuck had said automatically, "It wasn't her fault," and then fallen silent.
"Did you tell her that?" Apollo nudged after a centon.
"I didn't tell her anything." Starbuck laid his head back again. "I guess I should."
"Yes, you probably should." He could do this; he could pay Starbuck back for keeping him in Sheba's good graces when he got preoccupied or annoyed. "Maybe you should call her."
"She's probably asleep."
"You really think so?"
Starbuck looked at him in the dimness, and then stood up and punched Cassie's number into the comm unit.
It rang twice, and then, "Yes?"
"Cass," he said with a little questioning rise.
"Starbuck?" That came out sleepily.
"Sorry. You're asleep" He reached to cut the comm off; Apollo moved to stop him but Cassie's voice did it first.
"No." She sounded wide awake now. "No. If you want to talk, please."
He hesitated. "Actually..."
"Come over if you want." Her voice had softened.
"I'll be there in a little bit."
He did cut it off then and stood, looking at Apollo a bit uncertainly.
Before he could say anything, Apollo did. Before he could change his mind, say something to Starbuck that would cost him what he'd been more than willing to die to save. "Listen to her before you yell," he said. "Like Boomer said, it's been a hades of day for everyone."
Starbuck took a deep breath. "You're right, of course. I won't say thanks again, you're getting annoyed with it, but I want to... Get some sleep or you'll have a hangover tomorrow."
"Good night, Starbuck."
"Good night, Pol." And then he was gone.
Apollo leaned against the wall for a centon, and then went to bed. The morning would come too soon.
Starbuck was mildly surprised that by the time he reached the corridor where Cassie's quarters were he hadn't been accosted by anyone from IFB. They had swarmed him after the Tribunal; with Boomer flanking him and answering half the questions he'd been able to keep his temper and say "No comment" until Apollo had shown up, drawing the fire. He hadn't thought about it when he left Apollo's quarters, but halfway down the corridor it had occurred to him that someone might be lying in wait. Perhaps Boomer had told them he was staying all night. Oh well, if Apollo was ambushed in the morning he'd know how to handle them.
He could not believe he'd made that crack about reporters, though. He thought he'd recovered from it well enough; he was sure Apollo didn't know how very much he and Serina had not liked each other...
"Apollo doesn't know what you are, but I do; I've seen eyes like yours around the studios far too often. You keep your distance from him, and from my son, or there'll be trouble like you've never seen, understand me?"
He'd understood her, all right. He'd been fairly sure Apollo did, in fact, know "what he was", and he'd also been fairly sure that Apollo would never believe he'd be a danger to Boxey, but he'd seen more than one man cut his coat to suit his cloth after he'd gotten Sealed and he'd known Apollo would hate scandal. He hadn't exactly intended to get himself killed, but it had crossed his mind on the basestar that it would solve a lot of problems. Then fracking Baltar hadn't obliged, and Serina had died...
Baltar. Gods, he would almost rather be dead than owe his life to Baltar. And this made twice. At least it had never been at his asking... just that some god or gods really had it in for him. He didn't know which he hated more, those gods, or Baltar, or journalists. Oh, and Solon. Typical Opposer rhetoric, his astrum. Adama was gutsy enough to vote his conscience even after Solon had all but said on IFB that if he voted innocent it would be because he was biased, but it was a crawlon's play. And toothy little Zara: "it seems to this reporter that, barring a miracle, Lieutenant Starbuck's brilliant career will pass into history." Well, here's your fracking miracle, sweetheart; go light a candle, why don't you? And please don't worry about apologizing, I know you were just calling it like you saw it. He'd meant it, about putting his fist through her face. He meant it about them all. They were crowding the Cylons for first place. Just once he'd like to hate somebody he could put his hands on.
But there wasn't anybody outside Cassie's, either. He tried to be glad of that as he keyed himself in, and he hoped it didn't mean she'd talked to them earlier and sent them off any way but with a pulex in their ear. All things considered, she really had been upset enough as it was without Zara and Co. knocking at her door to discuss her "very close friendship" with him. Of course, she wasn't the only one... Boomer had been right. And the day wasn't over yet, much as he wished it were.
Her tiny front room was dark, but as the door shut behind him he heard her voice. "Starbuck?"
She was standing in the door to her sleeping room, one light on behind her, haloing her pale hair and leaving her face in shadow. She was wearing that dark knee-length tunic she slept in and her whole posture was tentative. He couldn't tell for sure, but he'd bet she was biting her lower lip.
He always wanted to kiss her when she did that.
"Starbuck?" she said again. "Are you all right?"
A dozen answers flashed through his mind, and none were true, and all were, and he couldn't bring himself to say any of them.
"Don't talk, Cass," he said. "Let's not... There have been too many words today, too many words. I don't want any more words. Not tonight."
She held out her hand. "Then come to bed, Star," she said.
So he did.
And though there were other words lying between them, words they'd have to deal with"No matter what I love you." "I love you too."for right now the wordlessness in which he held her close and the wordless croon with which she stroked him until he slept were all he wanted.
In the morning he woke to her gently shaking his shoulder. "What?" he asked.
"You're going to be late."
He looked at his wristchrono, which he hadn't taken off, and started to get up, and then changed his mind. "No," he said. "Sagan, Boomer was right. I'm taking today off."
"Just like that?"
"Apollo knows where I am. If he wants me, he can come get me." He heard the words and closed his eyes for a moment before rolling over onto his back and staring at the ceiling. "What about you?" he asked.
"I'm on break today."
"Good," he said. "If you don't mind me cluttering up your quarters, I mean."
"I've never minded that," she said with a little smile.
He closed his eyes again, reaching out blindly to pull her closer. "Good."
When he woke again, she was up and he could smell kava in the air. He looked at his chrono; three centares had gone by. It was definitely time to get up.
He took a quick turbowash and pulled on the shirt and trousers he kept there and went into her serving room, so tiny there was barely room for a table for two, and no room for both the fooder and cooker doors to be open. Cassie was there, wearing what he recognized as one of his old shirts, dark blue over a pair of scruffy tan trousers. "Good morning," she said, handing him kava. "Are you hungry?"
"Not particularly," he said, though the kava was welcome. He sat down and she joined him, wrapping her hands around the cup. He recognized the signs and almost asked for breakfast, but that would just be... postponing the inevitable.
"We need to talk, Starbuck. At least, I need to. I said some things yesterday I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry."
"It's all right, Cass," he said; he didn't want to talk about it. Talking just made things so you couldn't ignore them. Not talking was better. Like last night. She was different, though, she always wanted to talk. He tried to cut to the chase. "I know why you wanted me to plead self-defense."
"If you say you didn't do it I believe you." "You don't really believe me. All of you want to believe me but you have your doubts." "Will you plead self-defenseeven if you didn't do it?"
"I'm sorry, Starbuck," her voice cut into his thoughts. "I really am. I shouldn't have asked you to do that. But I was afraid."
"That I'd killed him?"
"That they were going to kill you." She touched his cheek briefly. "You'd never last in prison."
He paused. He'd been going to ask her again if she had believed him, but what was the point, really? Boomer was right, he would have killed Ortega rather than die himself if he'd been in that situation. None of his friends thought him some cold-blooded monster who'd use a laser to settle what his fists couldn't. So it came down to Cassie thinking, or maybe thinking, or probably thinking, that he'd lied. And what could possibly make her think he'd do a thing like that? Better not to even get started on that.
"It's all right, Cass," he said finally. "Let's just put it behind us."
"I wish we could," she said. "But too much happened yesterday to just pretend it didn't."
"I'm talking about before Ortega got killed."
He remembered: he and Ortega had been about a micron away from a genuine fight when Cassie had shown up, laying down the law, threatening to report them both, get them grounded... He laughed suddenly.
He subsided to a wry grin. "I told you you were postponing the inevitable, didn't I?" As if either of them could forget that phrase, or how Solon had made it sound. "But, well, maybe I gave Karibdis a nice convenient patsy, but if I'd still been there when he came by"
"He'd probably have shot you both and made it look like you killed each other," Cassie said acerbically, "and that's how it would have gone down in the records."
"You're probably right," he admitted. "It was over in less than ten centons"
"That's barely enough time to turbowash and dress!"
"Yes," she said softly. "That's what I'm talking about."
"You're asking a lot."
"I'm going to ask more. Be on it or don't try to see me later."
He shrugged. "You were trying to keep me out of trouble. I knew that yesterday, it's why I showed up after all."
"In a tearing hurry to get off the Star. Trying to get away before Ortega told everyone you were, what's the term?"
"It doesn't matter what the term is. I'm not, you don't, and I just..." His voice trailed off. Maybe if he was in love with her, he wouldn't have minded the ultimatum, but he wasn't and he had. But he'd caved to it. At least when he'd shown up she hadn't looked like she'd expected him to, and then he'd realized that he'd set a bad precedent but hadn't known what to do, and then Apollo and Boomer had shown up and the day had gone straight to Hades. Without passing 'Go' and definitely without collecting two hundred sixteen cubits.
"I'm sorry. I had no right to say that to you."
"It's all right, Cass. I know you were just trying to keep me out of trouble," he said again. "It's not an easy job, that, I don't know why you took it on."
"Somebody has to," she said with a shadow of her impish smile, the one that made him know he'd met his matchand liked it. Then she sobered. "But, well, the thing is, Starbuck, I was halfway hoping you'd get mad at me."
"Yesterday wasn't a good day for me. I know, it was much worse for you, but what I meant was... I didn't show up well at all."
"I guess neither of us did," he said.
She shrugged. "I think it's to your credit a boray like Ortega didn't like you, or you him. And you stood your trial and were vindicated, so anything else that happened won't be remembered long."
Won't it, he thought. Apollo's disappointed eyes were going to be with him for a while, even though the eyes themselves had gone from disappointment to relief to joy.
"But I mean me. And not about Ortega. About us. I didn't have the right to talk to you like that, but, well," she made a little moue and a smaller noise of frustration. "Well, the thing is, I thought Athena was in love with you."
"You thought what?"
"Well, she's not in love with Boomer, and I thought
"Athena's not in love with me, and she never has been."
And he could understand that; the brunette had certainly acted jealous when he was dating them both, sectares ago. But that was just the Adaman possessive streak coming out in her, he thought, or possibly that wicked Adaman sense of humor that ran closer to the surface in her than the men of her family, the surviving men anyway. It wasn't love, or she'd have Sealed with him when he asked instead of telling him he was too likely to get killed for her to want to get involved with him. He could still remember how that get involved had made him feel: he'd thought they were involved already. "Never," he said, shaking it off; after all, he hadn't been in love with her, no more than he was with Cassie now. "What made you think she was?"
"She's in love with someone," she said, "and she hasn't told me who, so I thought..." She shrugged.
The concept of an Athena who'd let friendship get in the way of love boggled his mind for a moment, and then he realized what Cassie was saying. "So you were going to get out of the way?"
"Cass," he said firmly, "I don't love Athena, except maybe like a sister. Okay, sort of," he backtracked. "But that's it. If she did love me, that would be all the more reason for me to stay away from her. You understand what I'm saying? We'd end up at each other's throats."
"I thought you'd be happier with someone who was in love with you." She sounded shaken by his vehemence.
"I can't fall in love with her. It's not going to happen; my heart belongs to someone else, and you know that, and I can't get it back to give her or anyone."
Cassie's soft sad voice: "Whatever happens I love you." And his: "I love you too."
It wasn't the same. He hoped it wasn't. He plowed on, "It's not like telling Boomer to keep trying, 'cause maybe she'll fall for him. If she's really in love with someone else, Boomer shouldn't. And if it was me, which it's not," and he was sure of that, if nothing else, "she shouldn't. I mean," he scrubbed a hand through his hair, trying to find the right words. "I mean, being in love with someone who's in love with someone else is a recipe for disaster. Well, sealing with them is, anyway. I won't do that. Not with someone who's in love with me."
"I hadn't thought of it like that. You're right. And you're right it's not you, too."
Well, he'd been sure of it but it was a relief to hear anyway.
"I talked to her yesterday, and it was obvious. Oh, she was sure you were innocent, and she was angry and scared and all that, but she wasn't any of it the way she would be if she was in love." She sighed. "I'm glad I didn't leave you with nowhere to go. I won't do that again, I promise."
He reached out and pushed her hair behind her ear and then cupped his hand over her cheek. She leaned against his touch, her eyes on his. "Look, Cass," he said carefully, "I know we're not... but we're good the way we are, aren't we? Since everything else is the way it is?"
She smiled at him, and he caught himself hoping, just a little, that whoever it was had broken her heart never showed back up, because it would hurt to get out of the way and let her go. Only knowing how easily he would go himself if the miracle ever took place made him sure he would for her happiness' sake. "Yes," she said softly. "We are. All things considered."
"And all things have to be considered, don't they?"
"Yes," the smile was getting more impish. "They certainly do."
"And I think we should consider that we had plans for last night that sort of got derailed. Didn't we?"
She was definitely one of the more mischievous Fay now. "Did we? I suppose we did. But don't you have to go on duty?"
"Like I said, Apollo knows where I am. If he hasn't called yet, I'm assuming I have the day off."
"You know what they say about assumptions, don't you?"
"Hey, didn't I earn a reward?"
"Well," the tip of her pink tongue poked through her lips for a moment. "I suppose you did, at that. What did you have in mind?"
"I'll think of something," he said, leaning over the corner of the table and kissing her.
"I'll bet you will," she said. "Come to bed, Starbuck."
So he did.
Athena followed Omega off the bridge, but waited until they were in the corridor before speaking to him. "Could I buy you a drink?" she asked.
"I wouldn't say no."
"Good," she smiled. "I've got a bottle of Father's good nectar that he gave me when I made Operations Officer last sectare. Kylary '39. It's certainly better than anything they'll offer us in the Club bar."
"Kylary '39? I can't think when I last had Kylary of any vintage, let alone the '39. I definitely won't say no to that," he said, smiling back.
"I was hoping you'd feel that way. Bribes are hard to come by nowadays."
"That will do. Not that you have to resort to bribery, though now you've promised me Kylary it would be rude not to follow through, mind you," he added, gently teasing. "Why this sudden craving for my company?"
"It has been a while, hasn't it?" she realized.
"I actually didn't mean"
"I know," she said. "It's not like we don't see each other virtually every day, after all. I was just thinking, it's been a while since we spent any time just us two together. And besides, I want to ask your advice."
"Really?" He looked surprised but gratified.
She was glad. She wasn't much in the habit of asking advice. But she needed to, because she really couldn't decide what to do about her life. And it wasn't a feeling she liked much, either.
But having decided she needed someone to help her sort though the tangled mess her life had become, she couldn't think of anyone better than Omega. Even if he had no constructive advice to offer (and she couldn't imagine that), he'd understand the question. He'd understand the idiom of the question. You could actually say words like "duty" and "responsibilities" and "should" and "expectations" to him without either feeling like an alien or getting defensive.
Of course, you could with Apollo as well, but she couldn't ask him about this. For one thing, it would make him uncomfortable to talk about it, it cut so close to his bone. And it wasn't as though she didn't know what he thought: his whole life was a demonstration of his surrender of "want" to "should". It was unfair to ask him to tell her she could do what he couldn't, even if that was what he'd say, which it might not be. But if it was, well, it would just be locking the door even harder on any hopes he might still cherish in the depths of his soul... and that would be cruel. She loved him too much to ask him.
"It's a bit of a mess, I'm afraid, but it's not too bad." She keyed open her door and waved him in ahead of her. "I'll get the nectar," she said. "Make yourself at home." Then she laughed.
"What?" He raised an eyebrow.
"I always think of that silly movie when I hear that," she said. "When he takes her at her word and cleans up her place with magic."
"Your place isn't quite that bad," he said gravely.
"Oh, please," she said, "if you want to clean it up, by all means do so."
He laughed. "Perhaps some other time."
When she brought out the bottle and the glasses he was sitting on her newly-cleared couch, all her books and papers now stacked on one end of the kava table. Her quarters weren't really the disaster area Apollo always called them, but there was no doubt she was considerably less compulsively neat than he. She like to think of her rooms as "lived in". At least they weren't sterile.
And, she thought as she watched Omega open the bottle, Boomer had never seemed dismayed by her clutter. It was one of his many nice qualities. She sighed. Boomer had so many nice qualities and she liked so many things about him. She just didn't like him. Well, no, not exactly that; she liked him. Liked more than she had Eamon, or River, for that matter. But only that. Only liked.
Or at least liked. It all depended on what you could expect, didn't it?
She realized Omega was holding a glass out for her. "Sorry," she said, taking it from him. "Must've been a million parsecs away."
"That's all right." He leaned back into the corner of the little couch, his body turned slightly towards her, one ankle on the other knee. "What did you want to ask me about?"
She took a drink, the deep ruby nectar sliding easily down her throat leaving a warmth and a slight taste of nut and fruit behind. "Suppose," she said, "that you decidedwell, it's me, of course, but the generic 'you'suppose you decided, or maybe realized is a better word, that everything you were expected to do was not what you really wanted to do, I mean really deep down inside you desired to do."
She chuckled. "Well, no. Not everything. Just... the really basic things. The fundamental things."
"You want to resign your commission and become an actress?"
"No," she shook her head. "Though, frankly, I'm not at all sure that the service is the life I'd have chosen for myself back in upper school. But certainly now I've no desire to quit. No serious desire, any way. Service is the way of life I was brought up to, I suppose, and that part of the expectations I can meet."
"Ah," he said. "So it's more that you're afraid you can't meet expectations than that you don't want to?"
"Well, a little. A lot," she admitted. "But I can meet them, I think, just badly and without grace and certainly without enjoying it. I just don't know if rejecting it is, well, acceptable."
"Anyone, really." She laughed almost angrily and picked up the bottle, filling both glasses. "Oh, I know, I've heard all the 'to thine own self be true; and it follows, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man' stuff, the 'follow your own star'..." She shrugged and drank. "But while you're letting the chips fall where they may, someone's got to clean up after you."
"And some of us actually hate making others do that."
"Yes." She shrugged. "Is it so impossible to want to do what you're supposed to? Even if it's not what you want to do?"
"No," he said. "It's not impossible at all."
"Needing to please people"
He interrupted her. "I doubt you need to please others, at least not in a pathological way. And I'm sure it's not 'people' in general. You want to please a certain few, and why not? Going through life doing only what makes you feel good at the moment is sociopathic."
She laughed. "Where were you when I had the prototype of this argument back in upper school?"
"What was that? Six yahrens ago? On the Hesperian Dream. Or possibly here, depending on exactly when it was." He smiled, and then said, "It often requires more courage to do what you should than it would to do what you will. At the very least you rarely find yourself defending 'it's what I want to do' as much as you do 'it's what I should do'. But," he shrugged elegantly, "what's sometimes overlooked is that living within the expectations of others can be what you want."
"Was it for you?" she asked.
He paused, thinking. "I was fortunate," he said. "I did want to do most of what I was expected to do, and much of what I wanted to do wasn't unexpected. I mean, it wasn't," he paused again, this time clearly looking for the word.
"I know what you mean," she said. "They didn't object."
"Yes," he said. "The restrictions only are if you want to wander outside them. And I wasn't the only son, or the oldest." His gaze drifted to the distance for a centon, and then came back to her. "I'd like to be sure I know what I'm talking about."
She looked down into the dark red nectar. "My whole life I've felt... out of step. When I was little I sometimes wished I were a boy. I got over that, and I'm quite happy being a woman, but..." She took a deep breath. "I've never really enjoyed being with a man as much as I thought I should have. I'd about decided I was just cold when, well, Iblis." She had to snicker at the look in his dark eyes. "No, I don't mean that. What I mean is, sometime in there I was with a woman, I don't remember who, and even through that muddled memory I know that was right." She looked up. "It's who I am."
"But not who you're supposed to be."
"No," she felt grateful for his calm. Of course, she'd picked him to tell this to because she was sure he'd understand, but still it was good to be right about it. "No matter how hard I try, I can't make it feel right."
"You shouldn't try."
"First," he raised a finger and she fell silent, "there's a huge difference between not doing what you want and doing what you don't want. Not fulfilling all the expectations is not the same as disregarding them."
"That's true," she realized. "Father wouldn't want me to marry someone I didn't love even if I were, well, normal."
"You're perfectly normal," he said as sharply as she'd ever heard him say anything. "You may not be in the larger of the groups, but you're normal. Not," he retreated to safer ground, "that I'm biased or anything."
"No, you're right. At least I hope you are." She poured more nectar for them and then asked, "And second?"
"Are you sure the expectations are as narrow as you think?"
"What do you mean?
"I've worked with your father for five yahrens now. Yes, he's quite pleased by your presumptive sealing and the prospect of grandchildren, but I'm not by any means convinced that he wouldn't be just as happywell," he corrected himself conscientiously, "nearly so, if you were partnered with a woman, as long as you were happy."
"Maybe so. I hope so. But would the service?"
"The service is your father," he pointed out.
He knew what she meant. Shrugging, he said, "Perhaps. But he altered regulations when he made your brother's promised his wingman. You would not be asking him to do that much, simply make it clear that one's private life need not impact upon one's ability to carry out one's duties."
"I suppose so. But I can't bear the thought of hurting him again. He's had so much this past yahren, not even a whole yahren. And I know he's hardly the only one who's lost, but... he's not only the commanderyou said it. He's not just the service now, he's the fleet. He's the Colonies. And he's my father. And I can avoid hurting him, at least now."
Omega nodded. "That's true. You're still young; you have lots of time ahead of you."
"I certainly hope so. But I don't need to tell him I'm flit."
"There is something else you should think about."
"If you choose to live your life fulfilling the wants or the expectations of others, that choice is valid. No one can fault you for choosing that way over any other, not if they are honest about your right to choose. But it is an entirely different thing to bring another into that life under false pretences."
And that was it, really, wasn't it, she realized. That was what was bothering her probably the most. Lying to Boomer about what she wanted. She sighed. "You're right." Then she added, "How did youno, never mind."
"I was fortunate," he said again. "I met someone who was willing to live within the bounds. But I was always honest with him."
"And it was different," she said. "You wanted him."
"I'm sorry." She was; she hadn't meant to stir up old and clearly painful memories.
"It's all right," he said. "I don't mind thinking about him." He smiled ruefully. "I don't so much anymore, in point of fact. But yes, it was different. To be honest with you, I don't actually know what I'd have done if he hadn't been willing to accomodate himself to me. But"
"But," she realized, "it was completely different, wasn't it? I mean, you were dealing with the truth. You weren't asking him to live a lie that he thought was true. And asking him to live a lie knowing it's a lie..." Her voice trailed off, and she only realized she'd changed who she was talking about when Omega answered her.
"He might be willing to do it. But you owe it to him to tell him that's what he'll be doing."
"And if he is willing, he deserves not to have to. Besides," she added pragmatically, "that kind of willingness would probably get on my nerves so fast it wouldn't be funny. If it lasted."
He smiled at that, and then laughed. "I must admit I don't think you'd be happy with a doormat for very long."
"He should know his place," she agreed, "but that really wouldn't be under my feet." Then she sobered. "And he wouldn't be a he, for that matter."
Omega nodded. He poured the last of the nectar, filling the glasses nearly to the top. After a few silent but comfortable centons he said, "At any rate, you don't have to face a solitary life. You may find someone."
"A secret affair?" she asked lightly. "Why not? I know there are others who do, some not even so secretly, though they do have the advantage of being straight."
"You may find secrecy more chafing than you might imagine, given the circumstances we now live under."
"Have you?" she asked curiously, and then immediately said, "No, I'm sorry. I've had too much nectar, I must have; that's none of my business."
He half-smiled. "I have, I think, and I am. Again, I think."
She reached out and put her hand on his shoulder. "I'm so glad for you."
"Anybody I know?" She caught the expression in his eyes. "No, sorry; that is none of my business."
After a brief pause he shrugged. "I'm not the only one involved; when I can tell you I will."
"I've always been far too nosy," she said. "Just ask my brother; he'll be glad to tell you."
He smiled. "I know how seriously to take brothers."
She laughed. "Being one, you mean?"
"Having them, I meant," he said with dignity.
"I'm sure." Their eyes met and then they both began laughing. "I suppose," she said when she could, "sisters are not much more reliable."
"In my experience," he agreed.
He stayed a little while longer, but Boomer was coming for dinner and she needed to get ready for the evening. When he left she hugged him. "Thank you," she said. "I really appreciate everything you said."
"I hope it was helpful."
"It was," she said. "I know what I have to do now."
He put his hand on her shoulder. "If you want to talk again"
"I know your comm-number," she said. "But I'll be okay. Thanks."
He paused, and then said, "Call if you need to talk," and left.
She let the door shut behind him and leaned against it for a minute. Then she straightened. She had things to do.
Omega walked towards the O Club dining room, hoping his advice had been good. He'd gotten out of the habit of giving it, not that she'd been in the habit of asking him for it. Or indeed of asking anyone, certainly not about her personal life. He doubted she asked so much as what color dress to buy even of her father or brother. At least the one still aliveshe might have the younger one, the one she'd spoken of so fondly until the Day of Destruction and then almost never again, or at least in his hearing. Not even today.
He got a table right away, and ordered something when the waiter appeared, but he wasn't really paying attention and within microns he had forgotten what. Just as well, perhaps; it probably wouldn't taste like whatever they'd called it, and he'd enjoy it better not knowing what it was meant to be. Athena would do better by her soon-to-be ex-lover, he thought; she would do well by him all around, in fact. She was her father's daughter, feet on the ground and eyes on the horizon...
He hoped he'd helped her achieve the confidence with which she'd said good-bye to him, helped her decide her future, and hoped, too, that it was the right decision. Advice was hard, especially when one's own life was in disarray, as his was. Although the temptation to align another's was strong the fact was that he was particularly vulnerable to the charge of not following his own advice. To the question: "So why don't you?"
She hadn't asked him that, but he was thinking it now, and he kept thinking about it as he ate whatever it was he had ordered. As she had pointed out, his situation and hers weren't analogous, of course, but he was, even as she, conforming to the expectations of others. He always had. Different ones, now, of course, but...
Still, he'd been telling her the truth, though not all of it, when he'd said his soldier's name wasn't his to give. It wasn't, even if he'd known it. His soldier (that was how he thought of him) had his own set of expectations, and he had to live up to them as well. When he'd first let the soldier get under his guardthat first night, if he was honest about ithe'd known he'd be right back hip-deep in secrets again.
He smiled wryly to himself and poured another glass of nectar. Secrets had been his lifestyle since before he'd gone to the academy. He wasn't entirely sure if he could figure out how to live without them. The soldier, too, he was used to secretshe was too flit, too old, and too long in the service not to be. He might even be a sergeant, Omega thought sometimes. When I enlisted, he'd said once, and after I signed updead giveaways that he was, or had been, other ranks. Other things he'd said led Omega to think he'd gotten a promotion to officer grade, but he'd never said so directly, just like Omega had never said what he did outside the Club. He'd never even said he was still a soldier, for that matter, though his scars said it for him, that and his "I have to be on duty" that first night.
He wasn't one of the Galatica's infantry, thoughtoo much Omega had said had meant nothing to him. But you couldn't actually ask outright, "Were you on home leave, then?" That was too blunt, too against the rulesthe soldier never asked anything like it, anything at all, and Omega wasn't going to risk losing him over something like details of his life. Besides, he had the kind of details he neededthey'd never watched all their words as carefully as they were supposed to, they'd talked about books and sports and vid. He was content, or nearly so. and keeping it all a secret was a price, but not one too high to pay. And not one he didn't know how to handle.
He sighed, looking into his glass. The line, to change metaphors, was getting harder to walk every secton, though. And there was no alternative nowfor anyone, not just the flit. How many times now had he sat quietly while the colonel and the commander had argued about the Rising Star? And merely about the propriety of letting off-duty officers go there at all, let alone not putting the bulk of it off-limits. Or even shutting it down completely and turning it into more refugee housing, as one or two on the Council wanted to do. Tigh wouldn't have minded that, though it wasn't his agenda to tell civilians what to do. It was the commander who insisted that there needed to be somewhere where Warriors could relax, let off steam away from the military environment. Better that, he would say in his gentle but inflexible way, than that they act as humans will act and do it in a manner that undermines discipline. "We are a people who have suffered a massive bereavement, Tigh," he would say. "We need to be focussed and disciplined, yes, but would you have us become like the crew of the Pegasus?"
That was always a Capstone, of course, given Tigh's experience on the lost battlestar. But the colonel had been able to get several establishments made off-limits to uniformed Warriors, and a few more to all. Fortunately for Omega's peace of mind, the Club Cibola was not on that short list, though only because nothing had ever spilled over outside its doors. For all the colonel could prove, no Warriors ever went there. Still, it was definitely on his watch list, though the places he complained about were the ones where Warriors got drunk, fleeced, or into fights.
Still, for Athena's sake if nothing elsefor the commander's sake, perhaps he should speak up. Perhaps he should drop a word where the colonel would have to find it. It was true, what he he'd said to Athena: the commander was the fleet. But no man could carry the weight of his entire people alone. Adama depended on Tigh, on his support and his friendship. If the colonel were predisposed to come down in favor of the traditional way of handling openly flit Warriors, it would be better if he were warned of the facts about the commander's daughter. Tigh wouldn't want to distress the commander. On any level.
And he might not be so predisposed, for that matter. Omega had never heard him say one way or the other. Not that the topic had ever come up; this was the flagship of the First Fleet, after all, and anybody assigned to it had a clean record. Or, he allowed himself a moment's internal chuckling, at least anyone who wasn't a combat fighter pilot. And even then they weren't openly flit. That wasn't, of course, to say they were straight: he wasn't, for example, but no one in the Galactica's current crew complement was open.
There had been... he couldn't remember the name now, a pilot just before Apollo had transferred here. But he hadn't stayed; he'd put in his resignation and it had been accepted. No one else had ever told the Service they were, just as he himself hadn't. If you wanted to progress beyond Officer, Flight or Engineering or Operations or whateveror beyond corporal for that matterthen you didn't. You just compartmented your life and went on with it.
As he had done. He turned his glass in his hand and watched the light sparkle on the liquid within. From a position on the Sang to command of the bridge of the Hesper to the bridge of the Galactica to his own frigate in fifteen yahrens: it was a good career, a very good career. That he didn't actually have the frigate was beside the point; the posting had been announced. Ruaraidh had taken him to the islands to celebrate...
But he wouldn't have been there when Omega had taken command of the Akkadia Expectant, as he had never been there for anything that Omega wouldn't have gotten if he'd acknowledged Ruaraidh's existance. He accepted that, they both did: it was the way things were done in the Service. Everyone accepted it. You knew going in how things were.
He put the glass down. Because of course that wasn't always true. Athena couldn't be the only youngster caught up in the war who had understood themself too late to make a decision before putting on the uniform. And now the option of resignation simply wasn't there. Promotions would be few and far between unless things changed drastically, but it seemed very wrong for her never to get any further ahead. For her sake and for the Fleet's. And even more wrong for her never to have the chance of any sort of private life, because as things now stood there was no way to have any meaningful relationship and keep it a secret, only a hole-in-the-corner thing, and he found his sensitivity rebelling at that for Athena. His own life was probably irrevocably screwed up, but hers shouldn't be.
And maybe, the thought whispered in the back of his mind, if they relax things for her, it'll convince your soldier his career's not on the line. He shook his head. Not likely; gruntsand he was sure that was the man waswere hung up on flitness in their own special way. Whatever Command said, an infantry officer who said he was flit would probably be shooting down his career. But not so on the bridge, not if the colonel and the commander enforced the regs and not the unwritten rules.
For that matter, he thought, the regs were already not being enforced. And hadn't been since the day Adama had put Serina into the strike wing, let alone made her the captain's wingmate... That needed to be addressed, too, and it made a good opportunity for settling several things.
And no better time than now, he decided. Standing up, he headed for the bridge.
As he'd expected, Tigh was still there. The colonel straightened from the display he was examining and waited for him to make his way across the floor. As soon as he was close enough to be spoken to, Tigh said, "I thought I told you to take at least a entire day off not a whole shift ago."
"Yes, sir, you did."
"Then why are you back?"
"Colonel, something's come up that I need to discuss with you."
Tigh raised his eyebrows. "What?"
"In private, sir."
Tigh gave him a long look and then turned to Charis, second shift's ICOB officer. "I'll be in the ready room."
"I thought we might leave the bridge, sir."
Tigh, already two paces away, stopped and turned around. "The ready room isn't the bridge," he said, but fortunately he didn't sound annoyed, more a little bemused.
"I thought perhaps we might pretend we thought Charis could take care of the bridge and go somewhere else entirely."
Charis, who couldn't help but overhear them, blushed up the back of her neck. Tigh saw it, too, and a reluctant smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, though he didn't let it get any further. "Very well," he said. "Lieutenant Charis, you have the bridge."
"Yes, sir," she said, turning and saluting.
Tigh returned it gravely and led the way off the bridge, Omega at his heel. In the corridor he paused to let Omega come up beside him and asked, "Is this personal and confidential, Omega?"
"Not personal, sir; it's a matter of ship's morale and discipline."
"Confidential, then... let's go to my quarters." He pushed for the turbolift which was always held there and got in. "I suppose," he added, "we do tend to hover."
"It's probably because we don't have much else to do."
"Probably. I daresay we need to make sure both Charis and Tellerat understand we don't doubt their abilities, even if we do to some degree."
"Yes, sir." Charis was capable enough, but Tellerat had been promoted right after the battle of Cimtar and was really not ready to have the ship himself. On the plus side, he knew it. On the minus, he was more ready than anyone else with enough time in grade. But that was an old problem, one much discussed already, and one without a solution until Athena was promotable. And by then, of course, the problem would be what to do with Tellerat...
"I agree," Tigh said, not surprisingly. They'd worked together for five yahrens, after all, and they'd had that particular discussion sectonly, if not oftener, for nearly ten sectares. They knew what each other thought, and about more than that. The colonel added, "But that's a problem that will have to keep a while yet." There was a faint rising intonation in his voice.
"Yes, sir," Omega agreed promptly.
The lift door opened and Tigh led the way to his quarters, keying open the door and gesturing. Junior officers first in, last out was a rule that applied only to vehicles; Tigh was being a host. Omega wondered if it was conscious or habit. "I'll get us something to drink," the colonel said, and that was that answered.
Omega glanced around the room as he waited. It was, of course, larger than his quarters, and less austere. He'd never have guessed the colonel to be fond of decorative art, but dozens of bijou little statuettes were scattered on every available surface. Many dozens... one caught his eye and he carefully picked it up, startled once it was in his hand to discover that it was not the glowing piece of porcelain it resembled but instead some light wood, painted in jewel-tones and gilt. Barely a dozen centimetrons tall, yet the wistful expression on the child's face had been caught even more clearly than in the porcelain copywell, original he supposed, or at least authorized copythat his father had given his mother for her birthday over twenty yahrens ago, and every buckle and strap on the pony's tack was clear, every braided lock and fold in cloth... She reminds me of Hestia his mother had said, and She reminds me of you, the first time I ever saw you, his father...
"Do you like it?"
He put it down and turned to the colonel. "Yes, very much."
"It's my wife's," Tigh said, holding out a glass of nectar. "Rosé is fine, I hope? Or there's ale," he added a bit deprecatingly and lifted his own glass to show.
"This is fine," Omega said automatically; trust the colonel to have drawn his own conclusions about such things. "Your wife's?" There had been a note of pride in Tigh's voice. "She carved this? These?"
Tigh smiled, a mix of pride and sadness. "Yes. After she'd done the preliminary sketches she always worked it out in wood."
"These are originals?"
"Yes. Once production on a piece was done, she always sent it to me. I suppose hardly any of the ones she sold survived."
"She was brilliant," Omega said honestly. "We had this one, my parents did."
"Really?" Tigh was pleased.
"I didn't know your wife was the artist. I wish I had; I could have told her in person."
"Did you ever meet my wife?"
"Yes, sir, I did. Twice. At General Staff College functions."
"Oh, yes, I suppose you did." Tigh looked around the room. "She was... shy of discussing her work." He blinked and looked down into his ale. "I used to have only the latest one or two out, but..." He shrugged. "Still, you didn't come here to discuss artwork, or at least I'd be surprised if you did."
"No, sir." Omega followed him to the chairs in front of the vid unit and sat down after he did.
"So, what is it?"
"I wanted to talk with you about personal relationships. Amongst the crew," he added.
"Ah. In what way?"
"They're young and they're healthy and they're isolated," Omega said. Tigh nodded. He continued, "They have no families at home and no furlons to civilian worlds. They have each other. The shock is passing and the mourning is overand they're human."
"Why do you think I've agreed to let the Rising Star keep functioning? The commander's right, humans will act like humans and this way things can be contained off the battlestar."
"Sex could be, if that was all there was. But in the long run it won't be, and shouldn't be, if the crew's emotional health is to be maintained. If they're going to have meaningful emotional relationships to go along with the sex," he shrugged, "they're going to turn to each other. In fact, the emotional ties that already exist will probably turn into sex for a lot of people."
"Of course. Though not necessarily across rank structures, more likely among wingmates and teammates."
Tigh canted his head and said, "Since we let women fly combat."
"Women have been in operations and support for centuries," Omega pointed out.
"I suppose you're right. I don't like fraternization, though; it's bad for morale."
"Under normal circumstances I would agree with you. But these aren't normalor, rather, what's 'normal' has changed. You can't have a wife, or a husband, back home any longer. And the commander set a precedent when he let the Strike Captain's promised be his wingman."
Tigh grunted softly; he'd opposed that decision when it was made, but Adama had stood firm. Omega thought the commander had hoped it would ease his son's mind about having his wife flying combat missions if he could be with her. How that would have turned out, who knew?
"I don't say it was a good decision," he conceded, "but it is a precedent."
"Yes." Tigh thought about it for a moment and then said, "What I really don't like about that is chain-of-command."
"And that of course is still going on."
"Yes." Tigh shook his head. "The commander approves of that as well; though there may be other factors in play."
"There may. But precedent has been set and confirmed."
"So, then," Tigh said, raising his eyebrows, "if precedent is already set, what is you think we need to do?"
"Make a statement," Omega answered. "Publish an actual modification of regulations in acknowledgement of the new reality."
"New reality." Tigh pronounced the words as if they were leaving a bad taste in his mouth. "I suppose that's what it is, at that. At least if we quantify what's acceptable and what isn't, we can contain the more destructive behaviors. Officer-enlisted relationships, for instance."
"And it needs a direct reference to something you alluded to before, but then ignored."
"And that would be?"
That hung in the air for a few centons. When Tigh finally answered neither his expression nor his tone betrayed his point of view. "You think we have that problem?"
Omega shrugged. "The flit, like the poor, we have always with us. Like the straight they no longer have partners at home, nor chances to find any out of the fleet. And the main incentive they've always had to be circumspect is gone."
"They no longer have their careers to consider."
"No," Tigh agreed consideringly. "That's true."
"Flight officers might make lieutenant, or engineer officers, but lieutenants have no promotions to look forward too. Even tech sergeants or corporals understand that they're going nowhere," Omega drove home the point. "We have to keep the structure of the fleet intact; we can't maintain order otherwise."
"I see that." Tigh was silent for another centon or two. "So you're of the opinion that we're going to have wingmates sleeping with each other?"
"I'm of the opinion that we already have wingmates sleeping with each other. What we're going to have is wingmates who don't particularly care who knows about it." After a moment he added, "I'm also of the opinion that fighter pilots are not the only people we should be considering."
"And now we come to it?"
"Why you wanted to talk to me tonight. You did say something had 'come up', after all. You've been very good about not naming any names, but I know who you left the bridge with. I've known her all her life, but I wouldn't have guessed this was the reason she hasn't made a go out of any of the chances she's had... Is she going to tell her father?"
Omega didn't bother to deny it. He'd heard the rumors that Tigh had sold his soul to the forces of darkness and while he didn't believe that for a micron, he did understand what had started them. The colonel was rarely caught wrong-footed. "Not immediately, possibly not even soon. But she won't lie to him forever."
"No. Well, that does add a new dimension to it, even if it shouldn't."
"Yes." Omega hesitated and then said, "The commander's well-being is of paramount importance."
"You never said a truer word. Butdid she ask you for advice?"
"About telling him?"
"Yes. I'm not sure what I had to say made much difference there." He shrugged. "Especially since I don't actually know what he thinks."
"If she asks you again, be definite: Adama would be far more hurt by her fearing to tell him the truth than he would by whatever the truth would be. His expectations are stringent for their professional behavior, but as far as their private lives go, he wants them to be happy. As he was."
"I thought so."
"As long as whoever's she picked is a decent woman..." Tigh managed to keep that from turning into a question.
Omega smiled slightly. "She hasn't picked anyone. She told me that she's simply done with trying to find a man."
"That might set his mind at ease right there." Tigh sighed and shook his head. "We're going to want to promote her as soon as it's decently possible, you know that. Of course you do. Have I told you lately how very glad I am you're still on this ship?"
"Thank you," Omega said. "And yes, I do know it. It's one of the reasons I decided to tell you. I want her promoted, too."
"I'll put something together for the end of sectare meeting, and get it to you for your input in a couple of days. I suppose I should ask Apollo for his, as well."
"He may be more a problem to her than her father," said Tigh, and then he shook his head. "And that was indiscreet of me, and I pray you don't repeat it to anyone."
"I'm rather hoping this entire conversation stays here myself."
Tigh smiled then, his teeth very white in his dark face, an unusual sight. "Oh, I think that can be arranged quite easily."
Omega smiled back. "Thank you."
Tigh grunted again. "Another glass?" he offered, and when he'd come back and sat down again he said, "I don't mind telling you, since things are staying here, that I was more than a bit surprised by what you said earlier. I'd been expecting to hear that you and Athena were going to be involved as soon as she'd finished getting rid of Lieutenant Boomer."
"We're truly just good friends," Omega trotted out the tabvid line.
Tigh smiled. "I suppose so. Do you mind my asking you, then?"
"What you're doing about your emotional health?" He shrugged slightly, smiled even more so. "I do have a vested interest in it."
Omega shrugged. "I don't mind your asking, sir, but I'm not doing much of anything at the moment."
"I met your parents once, probably at the same thing where you met Ruu. But..." He let that trail off.
"I wasn't married," Omega said carefully. He wasn't going to lie, and he expected the colonel had guessed the truth. But what was happening now still wasn't his to tell anyone. "I had my career." And he still has his.
"Did you?" Tigh looked at him for a long moment. "I see. Only your career?" His voice was unexpectedly soft. He'd clearly guessed.
"There was someone, but," he shrugged as surface-casual as Tigh had been when he'd spoken of putting out all his wife's artwork.
"I am sorry," Tigh said, and then offered, "I had no children, you know, but Ruu and I were married a long time. Over seventy yahrens."
"I'm sorry," Omega said in turn.
"Yes..." Tigh picked up his ale. "The old reality had its flaws, Omega, I don't pretend it didn't. But I infinitely prefer it to the new one."
"I can drink to that."
So they did. Many times.
Boomer headed toward Athena's quarters and his dinner-date with a mix of trepidation and resolution. He'd woken up that morning knowing he had to break up with her, and now. He wasn't sure exactly what had been the breaking point: one too many 'lammie-boos' or arch references to chocolate desserts or public embraces, most likely, but whatever it was, he'd passed it. She was not in love with him, and he wasn't in love with her any more. Being around her was awkward and strained and even sleeping with her was... okay, he'd have to admit he'd miss regular sex. But it wasn't a case of two people using each other to get laid, which would have been different (not that he was sure he'd be able to do that for very long but then again...). What was that old saying: men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love? If that was the case, Athena wasn't getting her end of the bargain.
He wished he hadn't let Starbuck talk him into continuing to date her a couple of sectares back. He should have broken it off then. In fact, he wished he hadn't let Starbuck talk him into dating her in the first place. The blond was a hopeless romantic, and just as hopeless at fixing people up. Boomer had been watching him try and fail since they'd met at the academy, and still he'd fallen for it. Idiot.
He was aware that his pace had been slowing ever since he had gotten off the turbolift. He had to break up with Athena, but he wasn't in the least looking forward to it. More than one person had told him he was crazy to date her. Not only was she the commander's daughter, which wasn't a bit like Sheba going after the commander's son, given the differences in the way fathers look at those who want to frack their daughters as opposed to those their sons want to frack, but she was Apollo's sister. And Apollo could be seven hells' worth of bastard when he wanted to, and messing with his sister might just give him that motivation. In fact, the only time there'd really been strain between him and Starbuck had been when Starbuck was dating Athena...
His steps slowed even more as her door came in sight. Worst of all though was Athena herself. It was definitely Galactica lore, the time she'd steam-purged Starbuck and Cassiopeia and very nearly put them both out of commission for a long time. Sure, she'd throttled it back and they'd gotten nothing worse than terrorized and first-degree burns, and somehow Starbuck had managed to charm his way into taking all the blame and yet remaining friends with her, but still... And Boomer didn't have Starbuck's natural charisma. At least he was just breaking up with her, not cheating on her. Maybe he'd live through it.
He realized he was standing still and sighed. "Come on, feet," he said out loud. "Do your duty. Onward to death or glory..." He laughed at himself and took the last two steps to signal at her door.
She answered, still in uniform. Good smells wafted through her tiny front room from the service room, though, and the combination of that with the way the uniform made her look, shining eyes and glowing skin and that cloud of dusky hair, set his worse nature to whispering that maybe he should wait and break up with her later. After dinner... or even in the morning... But his common sense asserted itself immediately. In the morning? As your last act in life!
She shut the door and they turned to face each other.
"There's something I have to say" Boomer broke off because Athena had said it at the same time.
They both laughed a little. "Go ahead," she said.
"No, you first," he insisted, glad of a good excuse to put it off a few centons and then wishing he hadn't. What if she was preparing to propose to him, which he wouldn't put past her if she felt like it?
"Boomer," she said, "you're a wonderful man, and I mean that."
He almost passed out on the spot. Thank all the Lords of Kobol, she was breaking up with him! He was saved.
"But," she continued, "I'm sorry. I'm just not in love with you. And I won't ever be. So, I'm calling it quits with you. I think you know I'm right: we wouldn't ever work out."
"I do," he said. "I'm sorry about it, but I know you're right. I hope you find the right man someday, Athena, and I wish it had been me, but it's not, and, well"
"You're glad I figured it out?" Her eyes were twinkling when she asked that, he was relieved to see.
"Was it that obvious? I'm sorry, but..." He found himself smiling at her, unable to resist her laughter. "I am, actually. We aren't working out."
"And I've been a bit over the top lately, haven't I? It's just because you're such a good catch," she said. "I couldn't believe I didn't want to land you." She sobered. "It's absolutely nothing you've done, Boomer, I want you to believe that. If things were different, if I were different, I'd snap you up in a heartbeat. But," she raised her eyebrows and shrugged with her palms up, "they're not. I'm glad you're not hurt."
"I would have been earlier," he admitted. "But we hung on too long. Now I'm just" He broke off, appalled at what he had almost said.
She laughed. "Boomer, Boomer, Boomer! For future reference, that's not the best thing to say..." She grew serious again and put her hand on his arm. "But I'm glad to hear it. I hope we can stay friends with each other."
"I hope so too," he said and essayed a little joke of his own. "If only so your brother doesn't take it out on me."
"Don't worry," she told him. "It's me he'll be annoyed with. Will you stay for dinner anyway? Just friendly?"
"Well, it sure smells better than the anything the Officers' Mess will be serving," he said. "Thank you."
"I'm so glad you aren't angry," she said, heading to the service room.
"Not as glad as I am you aren't," he answered, but too softly for her to hear, and then followed her, feeling as if a whole new universe of possibilities had just opened up in front of him.
|Prolog||Chap 1||Chap 2||Chap 3||Chap 4||Chap 5.1|
|Chap 5.2||Chap 6.1||Chap 6.2||Chap 7.1||Chap 7.2||Epilog|
|Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans|
|Original Fan Fiction|
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Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
Space 1999 | Alias Smith and Jones | Jurassic Park III
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