Adama sighed in relief as his office door slid shut behind him. Sometimes he wished he weren't President. Sometimes he wished he weren't The Commander, with, as he'd heard Omega say once, not knowing he was listening, the very definite article. Or, barring that, if he had to be the commander he could have wished for no Council. Not that he had ambitions to become a military dictator, at least not on his good days, but he couldn't help but think how restful it would be, simply saying "Do this" and having it done.
It was so very annoying when he had to spend a couple of centares he could ill spare from the business of running the Fleet coaxing the Council into agreeing with things they wouldn't, in the old days, have paid much if any attention to. Nowadays they wanted to micro-manage. It was perhaps understandable, and after all it wasn't as though there was actually much else for them to do, but still. He dropped the files on his desk (he routinely scandalized Tigh and the rest of his bridge staff by carrying his own files) and sighed heavily again. You couldn't say that hating change was a feature of old age, of course, but nonetheless it seemed to him that the Council was filled with old men who wanted desperately to keep as many things as they could precisely as they had once been. Again, he understood their motivation, but nothing they could do could restore the Colonies to their former glory, or anything even vaguely resembling it. Even if they had shaken the Cylons (and Adama was beginning to allow himself to hope that, a secret small hope), it was ludicrous to believe that they would not encounter other life out here, life which might be as implacably xenophobic as... many humans are. He felt in his bones that the fleet was hardly done fighting its way to Earth, and even when they arrived it would be cap-in-hand, poor relatives who had thrown away their heritage in despair, Dark Ages, and warfare. It wouldn't be very surprising to him, he thought at times in his own darkness, if their brothers of Earth gave them a little corner of that shining planet to live in by themselves, with a fence and a warning sign or two...
But that was in the future, and an unknown amount of time at that. He'd allowed himself to hope earlier, they all had. Well, he had to smile: not all. Starbuck at least had resisted the general euphoria, the hope that the Beings of Light had meant they were close. "How d'you get to Umbra from Caprica City?" he'd asked. "Walk due west.... about six thousand metrics. It's gonna take a while." And he was right, of course; whoever they had been, the Beings hadn't thought to include a timeframe with their course. Forty-nine yahrens wandering in the wilderness... that's how long it had taken the Kobolians to reach Caprica. He rather hoped it would be much less this time around.
It would seem like seven times seven sevens if he had to fight the Council the whole way.
He laughed, then. Perhaps that was their plan: make him retire. But if so, he had a surprise waiting for them. In the first place, he could outlast many of them, and in the second, he wasn't retiring until Apollo was ready to take his place.
As he had centurons of times already in the past eleven or so sectares, Adama paused to give heartfelt thanks to all the gods and the Lords of Kobol that he had given in to his formless urges and brought all his children under his wing, calling in favors to have assignments changed. Apollo had worried about charges of nepotism; Adama hadn't, being serenely aware that his oldest was more than capable of proving such charges irrelevant if not untrue. Ila had been angry that Athena's promised tour at the General Staff in Cap City had been postponed, but Adama was sure she was now, and had been since the day itself, glad their daughter hadn't been on Caprica on the Day of Destruction. Zac... Well, perhaps nothing could have saved his youngest. At least he'd had the gift of as good a death as one could have.
Adama sat down and picked up a picture from his desk. It was the only one there was in existance of all three of his children together in uniform. Athena had gotten someone to take it the day after Zac had arrived; Adama had seen the whole cartridge (the rest were Zac and Athena clowning together as they always had) and this was the only one with Apollo in it. He didn't precisely look as if he wished his graceless younger siblings had left him alone to go and do whatever it was was waiting for him, but in his proud and fond smile was a hint of indulgence. Zac was standing beside him, half a head taller and young enough to still grow, looking sideways at him, hoping for that pride to be there and glad it was... He had died trying to impress his brother, but he had died well, not foolishly, and perhaps strengthened by Apollo's presence. Adama hoped so. Easing Apollo's grief and guilt had not been easy, though it had helped him to have his living son to focus on...
And Apollo had emerged from that stronger and more determined than he had been before. Grimmer, a bit, and less yielding, soberer and more cautious, and yet at the same time even more inclined to take risks on others' behalfs, and far less tolerant of anyone who put those under his command in needless jeopardy. Adama could have wished that the end of Zac's young life hadn't ended Apollo's youth quite so ruthlessly, but he had to admit that having a third in command who might as well have had fifty or sixty years in uniform was a blessing as things stood. Already he had startled the Council, and if they thought he'd be easier to deal with once in command, they were in for Hades' own surprise.
Though he hoped by then the Council would be made up of people who were themselves more adult. Not that he had any great hopes for that: people tended to elect those who appealed to their emotions, not their reason, and thus politicians, many of them, tended to be creatures of emotion themselves, and to argue in emotional terms even if they were not. As witness this morning's argumentthis morning's acrimonious fight, more honestlyabout the new regulations. About the final sentence of the new regulations, to be exact.
"It's bad for morale they always say, but exactly how it's bad was somehow assumed to be self-evident. I know I never thought about it," Tigh had said to his raised eyebrows. "I don't like it, but thinking about it I realized why, and it's not reason enough to penalize good Warriors so drastically." At Adama's invitation he'd shrugged and elaborated, "I'm not comfortable with having a man make a pass at me. But women have been saying 'no' for millenia, haven't they? I suppose I can learn how, assuming it ever comes up, that is," he'd added, "which I hope it doesn't. And I suppose there's no real basis for assuming that many flit warriors won't abide by the harrassment regulations; most straight ones manage."
But such straightforward and plain thinking had been beyond the council. Of course, Adama had refused, in case of failure, to offer them the name that had made Tigh actually start thinking about it. Tigh had told him, confident that no matter what was eventually decided Adama would take no action against his flag lieutenant. But Adama wouldn't have put it past some on the Council, had they succeeded in defeating the proposal, to insist on action, self-destructive as that would have been. Recognizing self-destructive behavior wasn't their long suit, as recent events had borne witness to, in case he hadn't already known it.
One or two of them had the wits the gods had given barnyard fowl, but not more than that. Tinia, Ariana, maybe Anton... and even Tinia had needed to be hit up the side of the head very hard, as Zac would have said, to change her way of thinking. Though she had... Still, she was a politician first and he wasn't forgetting that, no matter what else occurred to him.
He put the picture down and glanced through the transparent partition across the bridge. He'd been less surprised by Tigh's information than he had been by Tigh's giving it to him, if the truth were told. There wasn't anything he could have singled out, but if nothing else he'd never shared his old friend's belief that there were no flit people serving on the First Fleet's flagship. By the law of averages there were probably two or three, and considering that anyone so devoted to his career that he would sink his private life so deeply into the shadows was probably very good at it, any number of his unmarried officers or senior enlisted might well be flit. What he'd wondered at, and wondered at now as he watched Tigh and Omega discuss something, was who it was Tigh hadn't mentioned. Though he might be able to guess, if he were so inclined, which he wasn't, or had the time, which he didn't. Which he most certainly did not.
He squared up the files and decided he was not going to put dinner this evening back by so much as a centon, despite having lost time to the Council. He could work late tomorrow if need be, but tonight he was dining with his family. On time. He shook his head. Not having to deal with the Council would make everything so much simpler from all perspectives. Especially given that the Service's traditional distrust of politicians was at least as strong as the reverse, and stronger now with almost everyone in uniform still blaming the Council for the Destruction to at least some degree. Perhaps they didn't all go as far Starbuck's "Twelve Old Idiots", but then again, not all of them (or even many) were as insouciant as his son's friend. Though there was Tigh's undiplomatic "I wouldn't trust that lot to lead me across a street." And Omega's hyper-correct formality which, if you knew him, translated into contempt rather than respect. And his own son's monosyllabic growls about politicians (and how he could turn that word into a monosyllable was beyond Adama's understanding). And junior officers' pointed avoidance of the councillors, and the mutters that faded instantly when he came into view. And he didn't even want to contemplate what the enlisted men were saying; it might have been decades since he was placed to hear the sergeants talking, but he doubted they'd lost their command of invective.
He had to smile and then chuckle. On sober second reflection, perhaps the only difference between Starbuck and the rest of the Galactica's crew was that he didn't scruple to make his comments out loud and at Adama's table.
His table... He sighed again. He was very glad he'd made the effort some sectares ago and pulled Starbuck back into the family when he'd been in danger of drifting away. Athena had felt awkward, and Apollo... Well, Apollo had been the one to really cut Starbuck loose in the first place. He'd wanted him back, but he'd had no idea how to reverse his actions. No. He'd known how, but he hadn't been able to do it. Apollo and Starbuck: in some ways they were closer than he and Tigh had ever been, but with that extra dimension to it that he and his old friend had not had. That would always complicate things between them, even without a wife for one. He and Ila had thought, but they'd been wrong, though Adama had only been sure of that when Starbuck's eye had fallen on Athena. He had known that Apollo would not let his sister be used, in any way. And then Apollo had married himself, and now was thinking of remarriage, and Adama had finally come to understand the younger men, his son and his friend.
Sheba was a wedge between them, though if Starbuck married Cassiopeia it would at least keep them in the same life-stage. Once that wouldn't have been so important for serving Warriors; Tigh had married nearly forty yahrens before he had even met Ila. But now, with wives here, it would serve as a break point, and Adama thought Starbuck had been willing to accept that. He hadn't wanted to, though, and when Adama had cornered him and told him to come to dinner he had offered only one sentence of token resistance. Being Apollo's informal foster brother was obviously more desirable than being only his wingman.
And that wasn't counting the foster sister, nephew, and father that came along with the position, though Adama was fairly sure that if the choice came to it, Starbuck would take Apollo alone over the three of them. Because any doubts he'd still had about the quality of Starbuck's feelings had been put to rest, once and for all, when Apollo had died. Apollo himself treated that like a rather ordinary medical marvel, but neither Starbuck nor Sheba were able to. Adama had been shaken listening to Starbuck's description of it and that was while knowing that Apollo was alive in the next room, returned to them. He understood his son's reluctance to have much made of it; even as a boy Apollo had worried how those who were miraculously cured of something were ever able to live normal lives without being labelled more the message than the medium. Plus, in an apparently unspoken confederacy, both Sheba and Starbuck tended to downplay it when they spoke to, or even around, Apollo. But Adama was not fooled. For Sheba, not yet in love with Apollo, it had still been one more death and one for which she still, if Adama wasn't mistaken, felt a lingering bit of guilt. For Starbuck it had been devastating, an emotional whipsaw that had left him bleeding inside and doing his very best to hide that from Apollo.
Adama had remonstrated with him over that, but he'd been firm. Apollo didn't need to see it, it would only make him feel guilty at best; he'd get over his nightmares, seeing Apollo every day would do that; Apollo would hate it, would see as being fussed over; no good purpose would be served... He'd had more to say but Adama had capitulated. And indeed Starbuck had recovered his equilibrium, at least outwardly, in good time. The only real symptom that hinted otherwise was his unflagging resolve to keep Apollo and Sheba together. Adama couldn't really quarrel with that, it made Apollo happier than the visible, if mild, distress his marriage to Serina had caused Starbuck, but of late it had occurred to him that Starbuck seemed to want that marriage more than either of the principals did.
His gaze drifted across his desk to the image of his wife. What would you think of Sheba and Apollo? he wondered, and then he wondered exactly when he'd stopped thinking of her in the present tense. Abruptly he wanted to see his family again. Looking at his chrono he decided he could leave, and he rose and went out onto the bridge.
Tigh and Omega were still talking, but when Tigh saw him he broke off. He was used to Adama's eccentricities, but even after five yahrens Omega still wanted to announce "Commander's on the bridge": Adama could tell by the way he stiffened slightly and then relaxed. Tigh raised an eyebrow as Adama joined them.
"Success, Colonel," Adama said. "And I'm going to celebrate it by leaving a few centons early." Another thought struck him and he added, "And the two of you do the same thing."
"Commander?" Tigh asked.
"Go," Adama said, making a slight shooing motion with his hand. "I see Lieutenant Charis is already here, so neither of you have an excuse. I suspect a time and motion study would show you both spend two-thirds of your time here anyway, or very nearly, so go. Relax. Enjoy yourselves."
With a perfectly straight face Omega said, "We are enjoying ourselves, sir."
"It's true," Tigh added.
"Although I believe it," Adama said, smiling, "it's a sad commentary on the state of things. Both of you run along and have fun. That's an order."
Tigh chuckled. "You must be having the family in this evening. That always makes you feel paternal. Or patriarchal, perhaps? No," he shook his head. "I don't think patriarchs say 'run along now'." He looked at the younger man. "I think we have our orders. Lieutenant Charis?" She turned from her inconspicuous position. "You have the bridge."
Tigh started to walk off with Adama but paused. "Lieutenant Omega?"
"There are a few things I need to bring Lieutenant Charis up to speed on. I won't be five centons behind you."
"Amazing, that boy," Tigh observed softly as they left. "Never smiles on duty, no matter what the provocation."
"Never?" Adama lifted an eyebrow.
"Well, hardly ever," Tigh chuckled. "He has been known to, once or twice... What's your game, Adama?"
The turbolift opened for them. "What makes you think I have one?"
"After ninety yahrens you have to ask? But I doubt he's going to go out and fall in love tonight, you know."
"I don't expect him to. But all work and no play, isn't that the saying?"
Tigh replied comfortably, "My version of that ends, 'makes Jack good at his job', but I take your point." The turbolift halted and the doors opened. "Enjoy your dinner."
"Thank you. I believe I will. Tigh" An idea had struck him.
The colonel turned back to him. "Yes?"
"Set up a dinner next secton, why don't you? You, me, Apollo, Omega... Charis, Tellerat, and the squadron leaders as well. In the Officers' Club."
"Senior Staff Suppers?" Tigh asked, referring to a tradition that had flourished when they were junior officers. "Why not? It's probably a very good idea."
"I'm glad you think so. We need to stop living as though we're in a state of emergency: that much I'll give the Council."
"That much is enough," Tigh said firmly. "I'll see to it."
Yes, Adama thought as he walked to his quarters, it's high time we stopped living as though we're in crisis. We are, of course, but it's time to begin behaving normally again. He keyed himself in. His batman had brought dinner already; it was warming in the serving room and filling the air with a tantalizing aroma and Adama realized he'd missed lunch. Again. The table was set and the room inviting. He poured himself a glass of nectar and sat in his favorite chair to savor the quiet which would soon be broken by a boisterous seven-yahren-old boy. Not that he didn't love Boxey, of course, but a steady diet of anything soon becomes bland. The door chimed. Even quiet, he thought and got up to let in his family.
The table balanced better without Boomer, he had to admit, or would have if it hadn't been for Boxey. Cassiopeia and Sheba on either side of him, and Starbuck and Apollo at Athena's sides. He'd debated putting Boxey between her and her brother but had opted for her and Starbuck, instead. Apollo could quell his son across the table without feeling the need to spend all evening dealing with him, and though Athena was thus stuck between her brother and her nephew that was probably better than between her nephew and her ex-boyfriend.
Adama regarded her across the low, flickering candles in the center of the table. She was still bright and keen, but tonight she seemed quieter. Not subdued, no; but calm. As if, he thought reflectively, she'd found her own center at last. Perhaps she'd learned to seek it in herself and not in a man, Adama thought, thinking back over the last few sectons and seeing the change as having begun at the same time that she and Boomer had stopped seeing each other. She was still so young, his daughter; her whole life was ahead of her (if not the life he'd dreamed she would have), and he'd hated to see her trying to define herself by whether she had a boyfriend or not. He wanted her to be happy, but he didn't think that meanthe blinked in surprise at the turn his thoughts had taken. Well. Tigh, my old friend, perhaps I could not have guessed after all.
But if she was at ease, the others weren't. The strain was less than it had been on other nights, but it was still there. And he wasn't missing the glances that Athena was exchanging with Sheba, though he didn't know precisely what they meant... Oh, dear. Not that he would object, but awkward wouldn't begin to describe the situation.
Aware that that was an excuse for something he'd been thinking about doing anyway, he waited until Boxey was monopolizing Athena and the others were talking to their partners and then opened his mind to them, listening again...
Starbuck and Cassiopeia were the same: bright edges and layers on layers and hints of love and resignation. Not for the first time he noticed how alike they were, but tonight it struck him that she, too, had that feeling of making-do that characterized Starbuck. In a way that relieved him, for he'd become fond of her, too, but it was a bit disquieting. A thought that had been teasing at his mind for a long time crystallized: no wonder IFB has found that romances are their most popular shows, we're all settling for second... For just a moment Tinia's face crossed his mind, but he dismissed her and looked at his son instead."Father?" Apollo's voice was concerned. "Are you all right?"
Apollo, not surprisingly, was still impervious. Still guarding his privacy. Adama wondered just when, if ever, and with whom, if anyone, Apollo would ever relinquish that, and if his somber son would ever truly be happy if he didn't. Someday, if he could ever find a few spare centares, he would have to have a long talk with him. But not tonight. He moved on before he grew too tired to do this.
Sheba was still missing her father, of course, but the pain was lessening. In time it would recede to a fond memory, even as Athena's thoughts of Ila were now bearable; children losing parents was natural, after all, and the mind took care of it. Parents losing their children... that was an ever green shock. He dismissed that to concentrate on his old friend's daughter, and realized that she was no longer focussed on Apollo. She was content enough to be there, at his side, but more than her grief had gone. The bright strength remained, but her emotions were for someone else, but it was someone not here tonight, though she wasn't familiar enough for him to be sure who. And she didn't think Apollo cared one way or the other, really. I do have to talk to him, Adama realized. Soon.
And, finally, he looked at Athena... Here was the good news he'd hoped to find; she was as much at peace as he had ever known her, or more, her denial gone and in its place a calm certainty. He could sense that the future was bright for her, and in that joyful discovery he finally gave in to the strain and the sense that he was being called and let go...
"I'm fine, son," he said. "Just woolgathering." He contemplated bringing up the new regulations, but if his suspicions, any of them, were correct he had no desire to put Apollo on the spot like that. "Just thinking of the problems facing us if we try to start training officer-cadets in the whole curriculum."
"Must we, sir?" Starbuck said irrepressibly. "I've certainly not found that being able to take sines and cosines and arc tangents, or remember dates or lines of verse, or even, really, understanding political science has made me a better officer."
"Perhaps," Athena and Apollo said simultaneously; she smiled and gestured to him and he finished, grinning, "if you actually could do any of that it would."
"Tell me you were going to agree with me, Theni."
"I would, but I've sworn off lying," she laughed.
"At least the commander agrees with me, don't you, sir? You did say 'problems' and 'try', didn't you?"
Adama laughed; one could always count on Starbuck to lighten the moment. "I did," he said. "But perhaps I should only say that we cannot count upon all our cadets being like you."
"Gods forbid!" Apollo said, apparently sincerely, and the rest of them laughed, except for Boxey, who said,
"Well, I think it would be good if they were all like Starbuck. If they can't be like you, that is, Dad."
"Good save," Starbuck grinned.
And Athena said, apparently to no one in particular, "Frankly, I'm not sure which would be worse."
After the laughter died down Sheba offered, "Surely there are people in the fleet who could teach? Or at least who know the subjects? I'm sure Iolaus could teach mathematics, and you must have Warriors who were good at something you want cadets to learn" That was delivered with a quick, almost impish grin at Starbuck.
He shook his head and leaned over to stage-whisper to a giggling Boxey, "You're my only friend, kiddo."
Sheba added, "And there must be civilians with some knowledge out there."
"We'd have to have some way of verifying their credentials," Apollo said.
"Does that mean you have to know they're teachers?" asked Boxey. "'Cause you can take mine."
"That's very generous, Boxey, but I don't think we can deprive you and the rest of the children of a good education."
"But Warriors are more important, aren't they?"
"Nice try," said Starbuck. "But I believe the preferred response to that is, 'Children are our future'."
"I could go to instruction in the future."
"Oh, you will," Starbuck assured him. "For about, oh, fourteen more yahrens. Maybe more."
"None of you are still going!"
"Bless you, Boxey," Athena laughed. "But even I am more than fourteen yahrens older than you. Not much more," she added.
"And I'm still going to school," Cassiopeia said.
"But you're going to be a doctor! That's hard."
"Yes," she said gravely, but her lapis eyes were full of the laughter she was suppressing. "Much, much harder than being a Warrior."
Boxey looked a bit doubtful. Starbuck said, "Your dad would have been going back to school in a yahren or so, if the Senior Staff College still existed."
"More than that," Apollo protested.
"Are you thinking about that as well, Father?"
"It's a much lower priority," he said, "but you can see the difficulties."
"Well," Athena said firmly, "you're entitled to woolgather over them, but not on our time."
"I'll endeavor," he said, "to refrain."
"See that you do," she smiled at him. "Now, what's for dessert?"
Bojay gave the dark head on his shoulder an irritable glance and shrugged sharply to dislodge it, adding a touch of elbow to the ribs as he did. Jolly, his snores not interrupted in the slightest, slumped to his other side up against the wall of the shuttle. Bojay sighed. There were plenty of pilots he'd not mind having fall asleep on him, but Jolly wasn't one of them. He liked Jolly all right, that wasn't it, but the burly man weighed more than half again what he did, and he snored, and, well, his just wasn't a face Bojay wanted to see from that close.
He yawned, keeping his mouth shut with an effort even though there wasn't anybody looking at him. He was tired, too; they all were, in fact, but in the last half-yahren or so, ever since leaving the Peggy, he'd been unable to sleep in public no matter how tired he'd become. He supposed that he could have slept if he'd been exhausted, but here you rarely got that worn out without a break. They had plenty of pilots, and they weren't running strikes around the clock. He sighed softly to himself. We have plenty of pilots, and we aren't running strikes around the clock.
But he was getting better at that, he told himself. He was finally starting to think of the Galactica as home instead of the place where he was trapped. Home... he almost laughed. Even when he'd been stationed here before, he hadn't really felt at home on her. He heard himself chuckle. Actually, it had felt almost exactly like home, just without the occasional getting smacked around, which is why he'd been so willing to accept the transfer opportunity when it came along, just as he'd scrambled for one of the open slots at PMA. The prestige of the First Fleet hadn't meant much to him; it and a cubit would buy him a cup of kava. But he hadn't expected what he'd found on the Peggy.
And not just Mao, either. The Skipper. He remembered Mao saying once, sleepily, that the only thing about serving openly under Cain was that you couldn't go someplace else to move your career along. Bojay, a lieutenant and a squadron leader at the time, neither of which he by rights ought to be if Mao was going to be sleeping next to him in his quartersin their quartershad merely said, running his hand along that golden, naked back, "And where exactly is it you want to be besides here?" But it was true; he was tied to Cain in more ways than one.
Waking up on the Galactica, realizing that he was there for the foreseeable future, that part hadn't mattered so much. None of it had... Mao had been dead and so had his career, and so soon enough, he figured, would he be.
But here he was, alive and probably in love and a lieutenant... And if these new regs were for real, maybe he could stay all three. That was why they were all tired; Apollo had called a meeting of the whole Wing at oh-dark-fifty that morning to go over them. The captain had probably been the only one in the room carefully not looking at someone when he'd gone over the new officer/other ranks rules; most eyes had gone to either Lieutenant Robin or Flight-Sergeant Giles, though neither of them had looked at the other. Nor had they reacted; Giles, who was Bojay's favorite of the wingmen he'd flown with since coming over, might be reckless but he wasn't stupid. But they'd been forgotten as soon as the chain-of-command rules were laid out, and people began eyeing the captain and Sheba instead. Bojay had wondered a bit, well, Sheba had wondered a bit too, if Apollo was slow because of the fraternization regs, despite precedent. Or even, perhaps, because of precedent. He'd contemplating taking it up with the man, but never had and now perhaps just as well. Not that the man would have appreciated it from him under the best of circumstances.
He glanced sideways at Jolly. Nice that the man didn't mind sleeping on top of someone else, he supposed, given the general uneasiness that the third reg had provoked. He'd thought Apollo had looked at him when he'd read it, but he was probably just being paranoid. Or not, he supposed, considering that the regulation change meant he wouldn't be in line for demotion... Maybe Apollo was just saying he didn't care but letting him know he'd known. A man like the captain would hate to let you think he'd been fooled... Not that it mattered. Or should matter, anyway.
Anyway, he supposed that once these fair flowers so worried about their virtue realized that they weren't so much the answer to love's young dream as they thought they were things would settle down. At some point they'd have to understand that few people really wanted to sleep with someone who was repulsed by them... On the other hand, he'd heard Dietra remarking caustically that it would do men good to be on the receiving end of a few force-majeur fantasies, might make them clean up their own acts for a change.
Still, now that he had a few centons of peace and quiet to think about it, what he was wondering was, was it going to make any difference to Him. He wasn't even sure if He was in the Service. He knew he’d never seen him aroundwith the best will in the worlds you couldn’t pretend not to recognize that height, after all. So he was probably a civilian, or high staff… He was from some old Caprican family, Bojay was sure of that; he was frequently afraid that He had a wife tucked away somewhere, or had had one anyway, and that it wouldn't change a thing for him to know that Bojay could be open now... Might even make him break it off to suggest it. He turned his head, staring out over Jolly into the starfield, and sighed. Nothing is ever, ever simple.
"Life isn't simple, Jay, unless you're an amoebon, of course. And even then you have to worry about hydrons."
He laughed to himself. Thanks, Mao. I'll remem
He almost sprained his neck, he turned so quickly, staring at the IFB broadcast on the vidset across the aisle. "If you want to become part of the team that's defending the fleet..."
"Jolly, who is that? Damnit, wake up, Jolly." The elbow in the ribs was demanding this time.
"...request an open channel to Galactica recruitment."
"Who is that?"
"We need you." And then the ad was over. He was gone.
"Who is who?" Now that it was too late, Jolly was sitting up.
"On IFB," Bojay said. "That ad."
"What ad? How would I know anyway? I'm not connected with IFB."
"That recruiting ad. He's in uniform, he's gotta be senior staff." And wasn't that the macropedia definition of irony, come to think of it: Him making recruiting ads?
"I don't pay any attention to recruiting ads," Jolly said defensively. "I don't even watch IFB if I can help it."
And neither did Bojay; he'd gotten out of the habit, and never had he wished more that he hadn't. "Come on, Jol," he said, "you have to know."
"Omega," said Robin, peering over the seat back in front of them, her startlingly blue eyes vivid in her dark brown face. "Lieutenant Omega from Ops makes that ad." She was obviously consumed with curiosity and too polite to ask. He didn't oblige her, just said his thanks and sat back. After a micron she shrugged and abandoned it to resume her conversation with Brie, and Jolly just shook his head and went back to sleep.
And Bojay replayed the ad in his mind, though he was certain of it. The way the man walked, the sound of his voice, even that little smile at the end of the ad, the I'm-supposed-to-smile-now smile: it was Him.
Omega. Lieutenant Omega from Ops. And not just a lieutenant: the flag-lieutenant, the colonel's adjutant and senior staff officer. Sheba had said once that Athena had told her he was in line for a command of his own before the Destruction. No wonder he'd buried his private life behind closed doors and masks.
But he wasn't going any higher now, barring a catastrophe. And if those regs were for real... Bojay pondered that. Omegahe caressed the name in his mindwould be best placed to know that. If they were, this changed everything. Because he knew from Sheba that Omega didn't have a wife tucked away somewhere, and hadn't had one. He lives for his career, she'd said, trying a bit of match-making. He smiled. He should have taken her up on it instead of pointing out how many commanders, including her father, married late.
But back then it might not have made a difference, even to him.
Once he'd had ambitions of his own. Strike Captain, Wing Commander... Maybe he'd have had to have stayed in the Fifth Fleet, but there was plenty of room there. But after Molecay career progression had been meaningless; after they'd confirmed the Cylons' annihilation of the Colonies it had been profane as well. Putting on Volodymyr's captain's pins had been something to keep the structure alive, not a step to anywhere but destruction for the enemy.
And after Mao died his whole life had just... greyed out till there was almost nothing left but killing.
Sheba had apologized to him when she'd told him that she was getting the Spar squadron on the Galactica. "Come on, girl," he'd said, "it's not your fault. And it's not like you aren't qualified or that I won't follow you."
She'd bitten her lip and looked up at him. It was her cute don't-be-mad face; he'd never told her it had been cuter, probably, when she was thirteen and was in fact a little out of place on a grown lieutenant. It was just part of her. "I know you're senior, but Adama offered it to me, and..." She'd let that trail off.
"And," he'd finished it, "Apollo doesn't trust me as far as he can throw me."
"That'll change when he gets to know you."
"Maybe." He hadn't said that getting to know him was probably not high on Apollo's list of things to do this millennium. It wasn't like getting to be buddy-buddy with his new strike captain was high on his own. "Anyway, it's better that it's you."
And he'd believed that at the time. Still did, for that matter. It helped that looking back at him now he could see that that Bojay had been fairly deranged. The whole ship had been, from commander to the lowest food-service tech 3rd... He wouldn't have trusted that Bojay, either. But now, now that he was, well, ranged again, ambitions were coming back. Or maybe not ambitions so much as, as a sense of self-worth that had a place again. After all, he'd been the senior pilot on the Peggy, captain and Gold Spar squadron leader. He'd taken Ector's place when Sheba had gone out to sniff around whatever the tinheads were doing that allowed them to counterfeit Colonial signals, and then he'd followed her lead to slide into the Gamoray mission to make up for, well, things which was a nice cover term for mutiny, if he was being honest about it. So even though he’d been the one to come to briefings with the Skipper, the Galactica's crew had assumed he was her wingman, and by the time he'd figured that out it hadn't seemed worth it to correct the impression. Or to let Sheba take flak for not correcting it herself. But lately he'd found himself wanting a squadron again. It had felt very good, warming, to hear that Cain had meant to give him the Wing on the Peggy; it had almost made him wish he'd still been there. That was never going to happen here, but a squadron? Yeah. He wanted one again.
Not, he thought, staring off into space, that that was likely to happen even now. If he'd come out back then, it certainly wouldn't have. Now it depended on Apollo and Tigh and neither of them were exactly presidents of the Bojay fan club.
But Mao had balanced his ambitions before. To be a squadron leader and as good as married was better than to be a strike captain and alone. To be a flight leader with someone would be better than to be a squadron leader without, or with someone but just halfway like they were now. At least, he thought so. Maybe Omega would think it balanced not having his own ship... And that's just a little arrogant, isn't it? he told himself. But still... Maybe he will. And if he doesn't, maybe we can still see each other around, have dinner. And if not, at least I know his name.
When the shuttle docked Bojay told the others to take off, he'd report back to the captain. It wasn't like "Career Day" on the Orphan Barge was going to require a debriefing. Nobody argued; they were better than two centares past shift change as it was and they all looked like they had something to do. It was too bad it was Seconday but then again it would give him time to think about what to say. He made his way to the wing and found Apollo gone but his exec still working.
"How'd it go?" Boomer asked.
"Really?" Boomer leaned back and smiled slightly. "They loved you?"
"Well, nobody threw anything," Bojay unbent a bit.
"That's probably a good sign. Thanks."
Interpreting that as a dismissal, Bojay headed out before Boomer could change his mind. Not surprisingly, the exec didn't like him much if any more than Apollo did. Maybe you should work on that, he thought, but it wasn't the first thing on his list at the moment. He thought about going back to the barracks but decided he'd rather get something to eat and maybe a drink so he headed for the O Club instead. Once there, he decided against the bar; he wanted to think and not be interrupted or distracted. So he went into the so-called Blue Side.
And paused in the door, staring across the floor at a man sitting alone at a table for two. He couldn't remember ever having seen him in here before, but then he didn't usually come in this side. Maybe twice before the whole time he'd been aboard. Maybe he should have come in here more often. Or maybe he wouldn't have recognized him without having seen the ad, having seen him move and heard him speak, but he didn't think so. He thought he'd have known.
He thought he'd have known at once. Anywhere.
And he knew Omega wasn't waiting for anyone, because he wasn't sitting like he was, not with a glass of nectar and an open book in front of him. Bojay knew what him waiting looked like, because he'd seen it at the Club Cibola, especially two sectons ago after he'd missed a Seventhday to be with Sheba. Remembering that night, he decided he didn't need to think about it, didn't need to make plans. He just needed Omega.
"I was looking for someone to have dinner with," he said, stopping by the table.
Omega looked up sharply. and then paused, his eyebrows drawing together in an expression Bojay fell in love with seeing it for the first time. "What have you done to your eyes?"
Bojay blinked at him. and then remembered. "They're hazel, not brown. The uniform turns 'em this color. If I was in Ops, they'd look blue all the time, I guess."
"What am ISit," Omega gestured and turned it into a wave for the waiter. They came here as quickly as at Cibola, Bojay noticed amusedly and ordered a glass of dark ale. "Dinner?" Omega asked. "I ordered already but"
"Anything that you can get out here at the same time as Lieutenant Omega's," Bojay said, hearing his voice linger on the name despite his best intentions. "Soup will be fine."
"So," Omega said when they were alone again, "if you wear that nice jacket your eyes will be as I remember them?"
"More or less," Bojay said. "The mask probably helped."
Omega rested his chin on his hand, his dark eyes fixed on Bojay's face. "Hmmm..." He blinked and smiled. "I had you down in my mind for infantry. What is your name?"
"Sorry. Bojay." He was almost holding his breath; gods knew what the other man had heard about him from Apollo over the past sectares, and the unaltered truth from the early days would be bad enough.
"That explains the scars, then. I was sure you had been in ground combat."
"Yeah, we pretty much ran out of infantry a while ago. We didn't do a lot on the ground, but when we did," he shrugged.
Omega smiled, that slow smile that sent shivers along Bojay's spine. "I'm glad you're not doing it any more."
"Me, too," he admitted.
The food came and they were quiet while the waiter set down dishes and bread. Bojay had indeed gotten soup, something creamy and thick, and more bread; Omega's meal was more substantial, protein and primaries cooked to at least resemble a Caprican steak dinner. Bojay began eating but he couldn't have said what the soup was meant to be. The waiter finished messing about and left.
"Bojay," Omega said; it was clear he was trying it out. "Do they say 'Boj'?"
"Most do. 'Jay', too, a few."
"Jay..." He smiled again, and so did Bojayhe'd picked the right one. A moment longer, and then Omega asked, "Where are you from?" One of the forbidden questions, asked as eagerly as if he had someone who'd say to him, 'But you don't even know'
"Pisco. Kenji province on Pisco, a small coastal town called Hokkai, of which, you don't need to say, you've never heard."
"I haven't," he admitted, as if it was a failing.
"No one has," Bojay assured him. "And you? Caprica, I know, but where? Caprica City?"
"Natacapra." It was almost a confession. "You've heard of it."
"Yes." He was startled. Even though he'd known Omega practically dripped money and breeding, he hadn't expected Natacapra. It wasn't a playground for the rich and famous of the Colonies only because no tourists, no matter how rich or celebrated, were allowed, just the fortunate few whose families had always been there...
"It doesn't matter now, even as much as it ever did."
Hadn't been a playground... Bojay shook his head. "It matters. I mean, it shaped you. Nicely, too," he added.
"I suppose so"
"Take it from me," Bojay deliberately misunderstood him. "It's a very nice shape."
Omega smiled at him and for a centon or two they just looked at each other. Then, "Bojay," Omega said. "Lieutenant, Piscon... Kenji on Pisco... Wayist?"
Bojay grinned. "Close. Shin-Wayist, actually, at least my mother. My father was Kobolian but fairly well lapsed. I'm not much of anything, really, but when I have to I put down Shin. You must be Kobolian. And I know you had siblings, but how many?"
"Three brothers, two sisters. One of each older. All but one sister married, and an assortment of nieces and nephews. An aunt and uncle and a couple of cousins." He didn't add 'all dead'; Bojay knew that already, just as he knew that Bojay had a sister who'd died before the Destruction. Before Molecay, he could guess now. But details could wait for some other evening, and it looked like there'd be other evenings, at least on some level. "And a lover," he added after a moment.
That was no surprise, either, but Bojay nodded and said, "Me, too."
Another brief silence followed. Bojay was sorting out the new information, trying to fit it to what Omega had let slip over the last few sectares, when the other man asked, suddenly, "When did you find out who I was?"
"It's funny, actually; not even a centare ago. I obviously should have watched a lot more IFB."
"Which is funny, too, really."
"I thought it was a bit... incongruous," Omega nodded. "But there was no good way to turn it down."
"I was trying to decide how to approach you and then, here you were," Bojay said.
"I was wondering about the timing," Omega said carefully.
"Ah. Of course. I would have spoken to you anyway, but I'd have understood if you wanted to keep it dark."
"However you want it. You're in a much better position than I am to judge how seriously to take these new regulations. And," he shrugged, "it's easier for me. I don't have a career."
"You're a lieutenant," Omega pointed out.
He laughed shortly. "Even Apollono, that's unfair," he admitted. "Even feeling the way he does about me, Apollo wouldn't break me just for being flit and getting away with it. But I don't expect a promotion out of him."
"You must have been rather senior," Omega said, his tone betraying a mild touch of don't-expect-me-to-believe-that. "The colonel noticed who was at the pre-mission briefings with Commander Cain even if the captain didn't."
He ducked his head. and then said, "Yes, well, I don't expect a promotion out of him, either." No sense in bringing up his old rank; he'd had to lose it and that was that. Only one captain on a battlestar.
"You might be surprised, then; he's a fair man."
"Still, any career ahead of me is small change next to yours."
"Which is most definitely stalled out, gods willing."
"There is that. But your career is still more than mine, so it's up to you."
Shadows flickered in Omega's eyes. Bojay swore at himself for a micron; he'd had Mao openly but Omega had been in the Stainless First, and there was no chance he'd ever been able to. He was probably nervous about it
Omega interrupted the thought, shaking his head. "It's up to you. You can move in tonight if you don't mind being the test case. I think my position's safe enough, but I have been wrong before, and I don't know about yours"
Bojay cut in. "Don't worry about me. I'll take you anyway I can get you, but if it's up to me? I don't care if I never get a squadron again, or a flight even, or get busted back to ensign, not if it means having you in public."
There was a moment of silence, and then Omega's dark, level stare softened and that slow smile came back. "In public? I'm a bit too Kobolian for that, I'm afraid."
More than half their food was still on the table, but Bojay quite suddenly wasn't hungry any longer. He leaned forward across the table and caught Omega's hand. "In that case," he said, "either you'd better stop looking at me, or we'd better go somewhere." He let go and leaned back before he lost control of himself. "Your choice, but I hope it's the latter."
Omega looked at him, those dark eyes actually smoldering, and then did something that startled Bojay. He reached out and ran his fingertips across Bojay's cheek. and then pulled his hand back quickly. From the look in the other man's eyes, it had startled him, too. He spoke before Bojay could. "Yes, let's go." He signed the chit the waiter had left on the table and stood up.
Bojay followed him. "Where to?"
Omega gave him an amused look, though his eyes were still smoldering a bit. "My quarters"
"You have quarters? Of course you have quarters, you're senior staff," Bojay realized. Then, "You have quarters," he repeated, savoring the phrase as the full force of it struck him.
"I have quarters," Omega nodded. "I meant it when I said you could move in."
"I will, I will, just... Do you mind if I wait till later to get my stuff?"
"Mind?" The turbolift arrived. "I insist on it."
"Not that I have much stuff," Bojay said, leaning against the wall with his hands behind him, because if he didn't talk... And they'd been joking, of course, but still he didn't think Omega was ready to make out in the turbolift. For that matter, he wasn't sure he was.
"I've got plenty of room," Omega said. He too seemed to be talking for its own sake. "I'm sure you'll fit in with no trouble."
"I'll take trouble if I have to," Bojay said, and watched Omega's quick smile, and realized, incredulously, we're both as nervous as teenagers. Who would have guessed it, after so long? But it was true. In some ways, the man on the other side of the lift car was a stranger to him. This was like a first date, almost.
He was glad when the doors opened. Omega led the way down the corridor, nodding to someone they passed in ops blue, and stopped in front of a door. "Four six nine eight," he said, keying it as he spoke.
The door slid open and they went in. Bojay barely got a look at the rooma wall unit filled with books and pictures, most of people who looked like Omega; a couch; a couple of chairs and low tablesbefore Omega pulled him into an embrace. The nervousness vanished and only the desire was left...
His blaster followed his jacket onto the low couch. The feel of the other man's hand unstrapping the holster from his thigh made him moan with hunger and pull Omega up for a long kiss while his own hands stripped the blue tunic off the familiar body. Omega helped and then pulled at the brown one, pausing as his hands encountered the slick pressure suit. Bojay cursed softly and began unfastening it, showing him how.
"What shift are you on?" Omega asked as he pulled the tight sleeves down. "You're not due somewhere at ten, are you?"
"I just got off," Bojay said. "Worked extra today..." He panted as Omega, distracted, began sucking at a nipple, leaving his arms half-pinned by his sleeves. "...not back on till six." After a delirious moment he managed to add, "I'm in Red right now, First through Sixth, that might change again, oh god..."
That was the last thing he said for a while, or at least the last thing he could remember saying. He managed to get his arms free and bury his hands in that thick brown hair, darker than his, soft as he'd known it would be. They were on the couch for a while; he managed to get his blaster onto the end table beside yet another book and a picture of a redhead with a huge rough-coated dagget and then all he was conscious of was Omega. He wasn't sure precisely when they got to the bed, or even precisely how, and he wasn't sure if his boots and the rest of his uniform, or Omega's for that matter, were in the front room or on the floor by the bed or strewn in between. He was only aware of Omega's body covering his, filling and possessing him, needing him...
They came together, and afterwards lay quietly, trembling and quiet. Omega kissed him between the shoulder blades and fished an old soft undershirt from under the pillows and gently cleaned them. Then he sighed, once and very deeply, and rolled over to lie on his back, staring at the ceiling.
After a moment, Bojay asked, "What's worrying you?"
Omega shook his head. "I don't know... It seems..."
"Fast? I know what you mean."
"We don't know each other."
"You don't want me to move in?"
That brought Omega's head around in a hurry. "No, I do. Oh, gods how I do. It's just..." He sounded frustrated by his inability to produce a coherent sentence.
Bojay raised himself on his elbow and looked at him. "It's not just sex."
"I only just learned your name."
"But you knew me," he said with certainty.
Omega opened his mouth. and then closed it. After a moment he nodded. "I do, don't I? I do know you."
"It's more than sex," Bojay said, soft but insistent. "It's never been just sex, not ever. You remember the first time?"
And he watched Omega's dark eyes soften with the memory. He remembered it himself. He'd been looking for more than sex, he'd been looking for someone to keep him from being alone, if only for a little while, someone to hold him and not let him drift into darkness. He'd found him, and they'd broken the rules, staying together after, holding each other in wordless comfort, the other man's need seemingly as great as his. He remembered the next time, too, when he'd gone back after only one night away, unable to stay away. He remembered seeing the man at the table, knowing him instantly; remembered seeing him hesitate and being uncertain what it meant: are you him, I've been waiting for him, or was it you're him, I don't want to repeat myself. But the man had said 'yes' and from then on it was just him Bojay went to, just each other though neither of them had been able to be sure of that, neither daring to ask. Not till the day Baltar had nearly escaped, when Bojay had missed going altogether, for Sheba...
I wasn't sure what had happened, you'd never missed Seventhday before, never, I didn't know, I was late myself
Late himself, no doubt, Bojay thought now, wondering that Omega had been able to get away at all. Neither had explained, but they'd known then that they were actually having an affair. And probably it wouldn't have been too many more sectons before one of them had taken the risk. Omega, probably, Bojay knew; he'd thought Bojay was infantry, but Bojay had thoughtfearedthat he was a Councillor's aide or some such, and all too probably attached. He sighed now and leaned forward, and they kissed, long and slow and loving. When they finally had to breathe, Omega pulled him down on top, cradling him against his chest.
"I love you, Bojay," he said softly.
"I love you, too."
They were quiet for a time, and then Omega asked, "Red Squadron, you said... Squadrons rotate shifts, don't they?"
"Yes, they do, though it's always the same days off. But I don't mind trick work, I've done it for yahrens. On the Peggy, in fact, we usually pulled eight on-eight off, round the clock, till the medicos said we needed a full twenty-four-centare break."
"That can't have been fun."
"I didn't mind it. It kept us busy, and we needed to be busy..." Omega's hand, that had been absently stroking his shoulder, stopped. Bojay tightened his hold a little and added, "Not that I object to working less, mind you. Or having two days in a row off every secton."
"I'm sure you don't," Omega's voice was light again, and his hand resumed its stroking. "I can't guarantee to be able to change shifts, though. In fact"
"In fact you can just about guarantee you can't? Being flag and all?" Bojay shrugged. "It's not a problem. When we're on the same shift, it works. When I'm on third it won't be a problem, either: I'll sleep while you're on, and you'll wake me up when you get home and you'll sleep when I leave. When I'm on second, same thing, just you'll have to get used to sleeping in the afternoon. I'll bet you haven't had to in a while."
Omega laughed. Actually, Bojay thought, he snickered. "I'm used to sleeping at some very odd hours indeed," he said. "We're short on good bridge officers at the moment."
"What does that mean? You work too much, I'll bet that's what it means."
"That's been said," he answered a bit self-consciously.
Bojay wondered by whom. Who did Omega have for friends, who told him when he was strung too tight and needed to take some time off, or just stop for a few centares? From what he'd heard, or at least what he remembered, the consensus was that the flag-lieutenant was Tigh all over again, never off duty. Probably nobody. He thought about that redhead in the front room; he might have. He might have been enough to stop it, if, Bojay remembered, he'd ever gotten within ten metrics of Omega's professional life. Well, he had an advantage there. "Well," he said, "that stops. I mean, I'm high maintenance. Like my Viper."
"I intend to be, anyway."
Omega ruffled his hair and ran a finger along his ear. "That could be fun... I've heard things about combat pilots, you know."
"Really? Good things?"
"Interesting things. I hope they're true."
"Ummm... Me, too."
"Of course, now I'll be worried every time there's a battle. Personally worried, I mean." That sounded a little bit pensive.
"Why? There's nothing to worry about, I never even get scratched."
"You're considerably more than scratched," Omega pointed out.
"That," he said indignantly, "was not in combat. That was on the ground. It's all from on the ground. I happen to be the best combat pilot it will ever be your privelege to meet."
"Really?" Now he sounded amused again.
"Yes," Bojay said with conviction. "Oh, maybe Starbuck's as good, but I don't think so. Anyway, he's not your type."
Omega laughed at him. "Are all pilots so uncomplicated?"
"If you think I'm uncomplicated, you're in for a surprise," Bojay said without worry. "I'm just not much for secretsand don't laugh."
Omega was, though, a soft chuckle. "I had best be grateful for that, then."
"Yes, you had." He caught the hand that was stroking his ribs and held it, resting their joined hands next to his throat. "But I am tired. I'm going to sleep, and when I wake up it will be here, and you'll be here, and I won't have to run... I can go to sleep again until morning. That's what I want."
"That's easy enough." Omega put his other arm around him and pulled him closer. "But you're not asleep yet."
"So?" He yawned.
"So, tell me one thing more tonight."
"When did you have a squadron?"
"Hmmmm?" Bojay blinked at him sleepily. "What do you mean?"
"You said, you didn't care if you never got a squadron 'again'."
"Did I?" He sighed. "You're very bad for my self-control."
"I'm glad to hear that's mutual. But I've had, or so I'll guess, more practice than you, so: when did you have a squadron? On the Pegasus?"
"Yes." He grinned then. "And it didn't seem to destroy morale. Of course, you could argue we were all a bit crazy, but then again I had it before Molecay."
"Really. Cain may have had his own reasons for it, but that was just one of the traditions he threw out. Look," he raised his head and looked into Omega's thoughtful face, "don't worry about it. I don't; it was a lifetime ago."
"Times change and we change with them, isn't that it?"
"That's it... Also tempora mutant leges et mores... All right," he smiled suddenly. "I won't worry."
Bojay looked at him a moment longer. Leges was the only word in that to give him trouble, and he had it nailed, he thought. Leges... legal. Time changes laws and customs... It was on the tip of his tongue to say, 'and don't make anyone else worry about it, either' but he didn't. Omega knew the ins and outs of ship's politics, this ship's politics, far better than he. And after all, he did want a squadron again. He said, softly, "Good," and laid his head back down, and closed his eyes, and slept.
|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|
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