All Mixed Up

Chapter Six: "The Hand of God" - part 1


Adama meets me, Apollo, and Starbuck when we come out of the decon chambers. He wants to hear all about what we'd found—a Cylon base star. I hadn't expected his reaction. Adama, angry as I've never seen him. Used as I was to my father's emotional swings, somehow seeing the calm Adama so angry was... energizing. Since he wasn't angry at me, anyway. "I'd hoped we had lost them for good!"

And my response, "We all did, Commander." After all, it wasn't running, this; it was saving the race. I've come to see it.

Tigh and Omega on the bridge, poised, calm. I take another look at the tall lieutenant, still amazed at how much Bojay loves this man, so different from Mao. So quiet, so controlled. So good for Boj. Tigh, turning. "We're still too far out to pick up the base star on our scanners, but nothing has left that solar system except our patrol. They couldn't have picked a better spot to lay a trap, sir."

Adama, thinking. "That's why they're sitting where they are... enticing us in."

Apollo, distracted as he often is, looking beyond the immediate problem. Dreaming. "You think that transmission we picked up originated on that base star?"

Adama, still thinking. "Most likely. It's an elaborate lure, precisely the type I'd expect from the Cylons."

And Apollo, still wondering. "I'm not so sure."

Starbuck, impatient with reflection and wonder both, focussed on here, focussed on now. Wanting action. "Whether it is or not, what are we going to do?"

The colonel, so careful and cautious. No wonder Tolen had disliked him when he was on the Pegasus. "I just explained, Lieutenant. There's nothing we can do except turn back."

And then Adama, surprising them all. "We can attack!" Us all... He almost sounds like Father. Maybe this is how he got the First Fleet; maybe his caution is forced on him by all those lives...

Tigh, of course, still cautious. "Commander, we haven't dared tangle with a base star since we fled the colonies."

"My father did."

"Yes, he did," says Adama.

And Tigh, predictably, "And we haven't seen the Pegasus since."

He has our back!, I don't say. And Adama points out, "Cain attacked two base stars; we'll only be taking on one." And then he adds, "I'm certain that when we eluded the Cylons, they spread their base stars throughout this section of the galaxy to find us. This is probably the only one in this vicinity. For the first time since we fled the colonies, we have an advantage. And even if we didn't, I'm tired of running, Tigh."

And amazingly: "Adama—so am I!"

"Then let's take her on!" says Adama.

~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

The interior of the Raider is cramped, cold, sterile... I know intellectually it's far roomier than any Colonial fighter, even one of the intel platforms I flew in my earlier career before I let Starbuck cajole me into Vipers, before I met Apollo, but my hindbrain isn't listening to my cerebrum. This is a death trap, it's screaming. I look at them. "When you two get done romping through that base star, we don't want this fighter blasted by one of us. So I rigged this." I hand it to Apollo. Not Starbuck.

They don't notice. Apollo asks, "What is it?"

"An identification transmitter, set to our attack frequency. If one of us gets on your tail, we'll get a flashing red dot on our attack scanner. We'll know it's you and not fire." And that's all I can do. It's killing me, but that's all I can do.

"You sure it'll work?" Starbuck asks.

"It'll work."

Apollo clips the device to his web belt. "Thanks, Boomer. Did Doctor Wilker get a chance to enhance that transmission we picked up?" he asks, like that's the most important thing happening today. Maybe it is, to him.

"Not yet," I say.

Starbuck rolls his eyes verbally. "Still think it didn't come from the base star?"

Apollo just says, "I don't know... I've got a funny feeling it didn't."

Noise behind me almost makes me jump. I turn to see Sheba and Cassiopeia. I've been half expecting them. Sheba just stands there, looking around. Cassie says, and she's grim, "Starbuck. I want a word with you."

I can't stay here, even if I was wanted. "Ah, it's getting a little crowded in here. Think I'll check on Wilker." I run as soon as I can.

~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

"What is it, Cass?" I ask. It's not like her to get in the way of mission preps.

"Alone," she says. Then, "please."

Well, that doesn't sound good. "Would you two excuse me a centon?" Like they'll care. I hope.

When I catch up to her in the bay, Cass is crying, which throws me. "Why does it always have to be you?" she says.

I'm so taken aback by her sudden tears I actually tell her the truth instead of a joke. "Apollo's going!"

"I'm not in love with Apollo!" she snaps.

Oh, gods. What does she want me to say? I am? She knows that. I'm not? I've never lied to her before and I'm not starting now... no matter what she wants to hear, because this isn't a moment for a light love-lie that neither of us believes for a micron longer than the embrace. I look at the deck, and then at her. "Cass, you know me... I'll make it."

"Knowing you, you'll probably find some beautiful female prisoner on that base star to rescue." She's frustrated, or angry, or something.

"That's crazy," I say. She's got me at a loss for words.

We have to pause then as Sheba walks past us. She's got tears in her eyes. Apollo, you idiot, I think. She wasn't there anything like long enough, and those don't look like just-got-Promised tears to me. Gotta get Apollo to apologize, again. She stops for a beat and smiles at us. Or maybe just me. "Good luck, hotshot." I think it's still friendly. Of course, her and Boj... But he doesn't want Apollo, and she doesn't want Omega. But it sounded friendly. Then she walks on.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they're watching-my-man-go-off-to-war tears, though that's not what I'd expect from Sheba. Of course, she doesn't do a lot of watching...

Cass starts crying again. "Has everyone gone crazy?" I ask.

Cass stares at me. "You just don't understand. Do you?"

I decide to be serious. "No, Cass. I do understand. I just don't see the sense in dwelling on what might go wrong. It's a lousy way to live." Look for the good, 'cause you won't find it if you don't, that's my motto.

Cass just looks at me for a couple of microns, and then she reaches for me, and we kiss. I can't help it. When she pulls away, I say, real soft, "I'll be back... promise."

She smiles at me through her tears; she's so goddamned beautiful even when she's crying. "If you're not," she says, "I'll kill you!" Then she breaks into a run after Sheba.

I'm not sure. Did we just Promise? Well, if we did, it'll work out. She knows me. And if Apollo and Sheba... maybe if we are, it'll push him. Them. Yeah. It'll work out. So I'm smiling when I go back into the Raider.

~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

I wish I knew why Sheba had come here. I hope it's just to give Cassiopeia an excuse to talk to Starbuck, but I doubt it. She looks like she's got something planned. She's a lot more devious than I'd thought; all that time she knew about Bojay. It's just, I can't think what she could have to say to me that can't wait. I know she can handle her half of the wing just fine, and I'm morally certain she knows it, too. She takes the seat behind me and I continue checking instruments, waiting.

She says, "It takes three Cylons to fly this fighter."

I see. "Uh-uh. We need you and Boomer to lead the squadrons. Besides, the third Cylon just sits where you are and gives orders."

"Very well," she says, but not like she means it. She's quiet again, and I brace myself. "Who picked you for this mission?"

"I guess I did." And I don't have to justify it to her. I won't send anyone to do something I won't, not even... I clamp down the thought. There's no one in the whole Wing I'd send when I can go. No one.

"You want to get yourself killed, don't you?" she says, and she's deadly serious, no irony at all.

That certainly isn't what I expected to hear. "What are you talking about?"

"Ever since you lost Serina you've been taking every high-risk mission on the board."

"Serina has nothing to do with it," I say. She does, of course, but not like Sheba means. No one else goes off to die on my watch. No one.

Sheba won't let it alone. "She was a lovely woman, Apollo, but she's dead."

I'm suddenly angry. She's got no right talking about Serina. She never met her. She doesn't know anything. "Sheba," I say, "drop it!"

"I won't drop it! Apollo, you don't have a corner on loneliness!"

And, o gods, of course she's convinced herself that's it. "Sheba, I'm sorry. I didn't realise..." I can't finish that. I don't know what to say.

"It's all right..." Sheba says, smiling suddenly. "We've both sort of been at each other's throats, from the moment we met."

She thinks so? Well, we have, a bit, I suppose. "Yeah. We have, haven't we?" At any rate, it's easier to agree. I don't know if I could explain myself to her if we had centares. I don't know that I want to.

"Except lately, you've included me in your tight little circle of friends. And I appreciate it, Apollo."

I turn back to the instruments, avoiding looking at her. I don't know exactly what to say to that. Starbuck is out there getting cornered by Cassiopeia, and Sheba is what I've wanted all along, isn't she? Still...

Before I can think of something, she says, "Lately... I've begun to realize that two people who snap at each other for no reason... do it to avoid their real feelings."

Oh. Again I can't think what to say. I should be glad she's doing this on her own; I am glad; but I'm without a response.

She adds, and she sounds closer, "I've realized that for quite a while now."

I turn, and she's right there. I'm surprised, partly because I didn't hear her move, and partly because she's suddenly reminding me of Serina. I stare at her. "You have?"

She nods and kisses me. Just like that. I'm shocked, but I kiss her back. After a bit, she pulls back and smiles. "Yes, I have," she says, and then she's gone.

Gods, I hope it was better for her. Next time I won't be so surprised.

Next time...

~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

I watch them get ready to leave. Gods, I've never hated anything like I hate this. I want to run the others out, the ones who weren't at the bar to begin with. I have to watch them go and I want to be alone when they do. But I'm not getting anything I want. Except...

I take my eyes off Apollo long enough to ask Starbuck, "Did you set the timer?"

"A one centon delay," he says, like he might have forgotten it if I hadn't reminded him.

I reach out and check the IFF on Apollo's belt, making sure it hasn't dropped off or that he hasn't knocked it out of whack with a chunk of the solenite. "Whatever happens, don't lose that transmitter. It's the only way we'll be able to tell you from the Cylons."

I've said it too often. Starbuck's looking at me funny. He does what he does, tries to lighten the mood. "If we do, I'll waggle our wings."

"You would," I say. I can't help it.

Apollo looks at me, those green eyes narrowing, wondering what's going on. "Boomer... I've never seen you fuss like this."

I can't let him see the thoughts I'm trying so hard not to think. I push them down (I won't have them in my head) and let him see the rest of it. "Yeah... well, I'd feel better if I was going." And by all the gods, that's the truth. Me and Starbuck would do this better. Give Starbuck Apollo to come back to and nothing this side of the seventh hell would keep him.

Apollo says, all serious and trusting, "We need you to lead the squadron."

"That doesn't change how I feel," says I.

They look at each other a micron or two, and then they're reaching out their hands to me, like the old days. We grip fists, and the warmth of their hands drives out anything else. I watch them leave, my best friends. "Good luck," I say.

Good luck. Come back, both of you.

~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

This is exactly the kind of place Apollo would like. Romantic and useless. I wish Sheba hadn't asked me to come, but soon enough she'll have to be getting ready for combat. Then I can think about what I've just done. Suddenly, Sheba points ahead. "There they are!"

We stand there, watching the obscene shape disappear into the stars, carrying her Apollo and my Starbuck. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Ours? I don't think so. They've gone off to die together. I don't want that. But they were unstoppable.

"They're gone... so soon." So terribly soon. Too soon to even make sense out of it. I understand that we couldn't wait once they'd decided to fight but... why do we always have to fight? I barely remember being that angry woman who appreciated it; Paye and Salik are better teachers than they know. They, and the broken bodies that come into the Life Center. And soon, so terribly soon again, there'll be even more. War... gods, how I've come to hate fighting. Why did I ever fall in love with a warrior?

Sheba says, "I don't know."

I turn to look at her, and realize she's answering me. I said that aloud. I'm losing my control... at least I didn't say a name. Sheba thinks it's Starbuck. And she's thinking of Apollo, so she's not really paying any attention to me. I look back out into the stars. I wish it was Starbuck.


Athena sat at her position, monitoring the routine signals with half her mind. She supposed she should be concentrating on the upcoming attack, but quite frankly her part in it was going to be a no-brainer. Unless the bridge was hit and her father, the colonel, Omega, and a couple more people all got killed. And that simply wasn't something she wanted to think about.

It was an all-or-nothing gamble, this, and some people thought it was very unlike Adama. She didn't. He father could be reckless, very reckless; it wasn't from their mother that Apollo and Zac, especially Zac, had gotten that trait. Apollo had learned caution, like Adama had, but it was a learned skill, not a natural one. Adama thought the gain outweighed the risk, this time, and he was going for it.

He thought the purchase worth the possible price.

She automatically adjusted a couple of tuners and thought about that price for just a centon. At its highest, it was, well, everything. At its lowest... She shook her head. At its lowest, of course, the Lords of Kobol granted them a miracle and nobody died except Cylons. That wasn't likely. Even if they managed to sneak up on the base star, it wouldn't go down with one blow.

She wondered what the civilians thought, out on the ships, watching the Galactica go off. She didn't envy Yadro and Memnet; if the battlestar went down, their little frigate and patrol ship wouldn't stand a chance and yet they'd be all there was between what was left of the Colonies and the enemy. Her father had told her Tigh had thought about transferring her and Omega and some of the rest of Operations to the Akkadia Furious.

"Hedging your bets?" she'd said lightly, determined she wasn't going.

"Covering all the bases, Tigh said." He'd looked at her, his brown eyes (so like Zac's) worried. "I overruled him about Omega; if things go bad we may need him too much here. I'd be easier in my mind knowing you were on her, Athena, though."

"Is that an order?"

"Would you obey it?"

They'd looked at each other a long moment then. "I won't be sent to safety, Father. I'm your daughter as much as Apollo is your son, and I'm a Warrior, too. I have a duty to carry out."

He'd nodded. "I didn't expect otherwise. But you can't blame me for trying?"

"Of course not," she'd hugged him. "I love you, too."

Neither of them had pointed out to the other that if the Galactica was destroyed there would be no safety, anyway.

She wondered what the Council was thinking of this high-handed decision. When she'd mentioned that to Omega, as they'd come on shift just like it was a normal day (if you ignored the fact that they were going on at 1400 instead of 0800, so that First Watch would be on duty and fresh when it started, Apollo and Starbuck leaving at 1670, the pilots assembling at 1750, launch at 1800—all that tight control over what they could, before it collided with the enemy), he'd laughed and said he expected they were cloistered together and complaining that Adama was out-manuevering them. "If we win, his position will be unassailable."

"If we lose, he'll be pretty unassailable, too." She'd paused. "Sorry; that just sort of slipped out."

"We'll just have to make sure we don't lose, then," he'd said.

She'd put her hand on his arm to stop him going onto the bridge. When he looked down at her, she said, "Are you worried? About Bojay, I mean."

He'd hesitated and then nodded. "I am, a bit. It's new, and I'm not sure I like it." He'd smiled then. "Of course, he tells me not to; he says he's the best combat pilot I'll ever meet. He seems to think that will set my mind at ease."

She'd smiled at him. "They do, pilots. They tend to believe that if you're good enough, you can't die. It's a survival mechanism, I think."

He'd nodded.

"They'll hold their own against the Raiders, you know that," she'd said. "It's the base star we have to worry about."

"Yes," he'd said. "They'll do their jobs. We have to do ours."

She looked across the bridge at him now, calm and collected. You'd never guess he was worried. She personally didn't want to be in a situation where he showed it, not on duty anyway. It was her ideal, the state she strove for. Tigh could weep on the bridge and people said, 'what heart' or 'how horrible things are', but when she did people murmured that women belonged in the support roles. The same with anger...

She shook her head. If you don't want to get angry, Athena, you shouldn't think about things that make you angry. That's so simple, why can't you learn it? She glanced automatically over the quiet boards and then looked out over the bridge. This time on tomorrow's shift the Cylons would be dead. Perhaps not all of them, of course, but the ones who were here, after them. They'd be free. Not home free, not yet, but soon enough...

She smiled to herself, picturing the future. No Cylons. Maybe they'd never run across anyone else who insisted on fighting with them. Just a long peaceful voyage to Earth, which would be a shining planet, or (she hoped) a green one, and plenty of room for them. Sunshine and mountains and beaches... Even if it took forty-two yahrens of wandering, she'd only be, what... sixty-six. Well, sixty-six, that's not so old. Look at Adama, look at Tigh, look even at Cain—he'd had Cassie at a lot older.

Cassie... If she hadn't been practicing to keep calm on the bridge she'd have been smiling for everyone to see as she visualized Cassie in... let's be optimistic. Ten yahrens... on a beach beside an ocean as blue as her eyes, golden and laughing and watching two or three little girls playing in the lapping waves and a couple of older ones half supervising and half practising to be above it all, and best of all, sitting on a blanket close enough to touch...

She remembered what she'd thought once about Omega, nearly a yahren ago: there was no spark when she was with him. At the time she'd thought it was him, and of course it was, but it was her, too. It takes two for a spark to catch fire.

And now she understood what was wrong, always, with the men she dated, or rather what was wrong about those dates. They were trying to make sparks, and she wasn't. Not really. It was why she was so comfortable with Omega, and with Starbuck lately. Nobody was trying to make sparks.

She hadn't missed that game.

And she hadn't tried, not for sectares, to start another. She'd decided she didn't want to rush into a relationship just to prove that she could.

And so she'd settled into a routine of work, working out, and being alone, starting to get to know this woman she'd become, or always been but never known. She'd still gone out for nights with Cassie and Sheba, and she'd still gone to dinner at her father's, but mostly she'd been on her own.

Her father had accepted the new behavior. Her brother had, too, but only after going through several stages. First he'd been annoyed that she'd broken up with Boomer. Then he'd been worried that Boomer had maybe broken her heart and dumped her and that only her pride was making her say it had been her idea. She'd had to laugh at him, though she knew he'd meant well: she could just picture him trying to order poor Boomer back into dating her again. Then Apollo had taken to giving her compliments. That had been so wierd she hadn't known quite what to do or say. She'd finally realized he was trying to boost her self-confidence, and then she'd really had to laugh, though she'd managed not to around him.

She hadn't known what to say to either of them. Not for a while.

She'd almost told her father after his narrow escape at Baltar's hands, but she and Apollo had both been preoccupied with Siress Tinia just then and, well, somehow it had been another secton before she'd gone to see him after getting off duty one long, boring shift. He'd welcomed her in, and they'd talked about this and that, the conversation getting a bit more stilted every few centons as she tried to get to what she wanted to say and couldn't find a graceful way to do it, and he realized that she had something important to say. When she had realized that, she had just taken a deep breath and, bracing herself, said it straight out: "I'm flit, Father."


She'd waited a minute but that seemed to be all he had to say. "I hope you're not disappointed—"

"Athena," he'd interrupted her. "I have never in my entire life been disappointed in you, and I'm not now, not because you're being honest with me. I confess to being at a loss for words, but I want to assure you that even though I'm not sure what you want me to say to you, I love you and always will."

She'd smiled, surprised at how tremulous it felt to her, and the next thing she'd known she was wrapped up in his arms, in a hugely comforting embrace such as he'd given her back when she was a little child, yahrens ago. She'd sighed and clung to him, comforted.

After a few centons he'd said, "I suppose I was trying to think of a graceful way to ask if you're seeing someone."

She'd pulled away and sat on the floor beside his chair, as she had back in her girlhood. Pushing her hair back behind her ears she'd shaken her head. "No. No one at all. I'm not even sure that I'm going to."

He'd raised a heavy black eyebrow. "Oh?"

She'd shrugged. "I know it'll be awkward for my career." She smiled quickly. "I know, it'll be two or three yahrens before I'm even eligible for promotion again, maybe longer, but still... I'd like to make lieutenant. I want you to be proud of me."

"I can't conceive of not being proud of you," he'd said. "Whatever you decide, and whoever you choose."

She'd smiled up at him, feeling impish in her relief. "Whoever? That's a lot of leeway."

And he'd smiled back at her. "I know my daughter," he'd said serenely.

They'd talked of other things then, but when she'd gotten up to leave, he'd put his hands on her shoulders and looked at her, seriously and lovingly. "I'm proud of you every centon of every day, Athena, and your mother would be proud of you, too. Be true to your heart and your soul, daughter, and we'll never be anything less."

Her brother was harder to talk to, of course. He was so prickly about his own private life, and he still thought of her as about fourteen. If that old. She'd kept meaning to tell him but she'd never figured out how to bring the topic up. And then he had, after the new regulations were published.

And, she thought, it was typical of Adama that he hadn't mentioned them to her when they'd spoken. Knowing that she would be free if she chose, he had allowed her to weigh all her options and come to her own decision, a moral exercise he'd approve of. She momentarily wondered if he'd added that rider for her benefit—it was obvious the intended scope of the regulation was fraternization—but she'd decided that it wasn't possible from the time element alone. After all, the Councilor for War had to sign off on regulations, if not (her grasp of political details was tenuous) the whole Quorum, and the regulations had been published only one day after she'd talked to Adama.

She'd been a little giddy after the colonel had drawn the shift's atttntion to the new regulations. Reading them she'd been pleased for Sheba's sake and then she'd hit the last line, almost an afterthought, and it had taken her several centons to realize exactly what it meant for her. Then she'd thought of Omega, his secret affair, and she'd smiled, hoping that whoever his lover was was an officer, or a civilian, so that he could be happy again. He'd been happy when she'd first met him...

And then it had turned out to be Sheba's friend, Bojay. They had wasted no time moving in together; clearly the secrecy had been more chafing than Omega had let on, and for Bojay as well.

"Sheba knew," Apollo had groused when he met Athena on their way to dinner. "She says they all knew, all those Pegasans. Apparently Cain didn't let it bother him, not if Bojay made lieutenant."

Athena couldn't remember the topic ever coming up between them before. There was no particular reason it should have, of course. She'd said, "Maybe it didn't. I don't suppose it bothered Sheba, either, which is nice."

Which was his cue to ask why, but instead he had shaken his head. "That's not the point. It doesn't bother me either but it was against regs. He shouldn't have made lieutenant."

"It wasn't a regulation," she pointed out. "And do you mean you never look the other way? Ever?"

"There's a difference between overlooking something you don't officially know, and openly approving of it." He'd had that look in his eyes and that edge in his voice that meant he was in fact doing something he shouldn't be and was getting defensive about it. Zac had been able to spot it faster than she and to exploit it, but she just knew to avoid whatever topic had raised the signs.

"It wasn't a regulation," she'd repeated, backtracking. "It was just the way things were done."

He'd shaken his head again. "Those are the hardest to change and often for good reason."

"Just as often for bad," she'd said. "What's so horrible about it?"

"It's bad for morale."

"Really? Isn't that what they used to say about women in combat? But you got used to that fast enough, all of you."

He'd sighed and stopped walking, waving to Boxey to run on down the rest of the corridor to Adama's quarters. "I know things are changing. It's just, sometimes I don't know if the right things are changing or in the right way. Don't fight with me, Thenie. I'll follow the regs, I won't get into your friend's life, I'm just..." He'd sighed again, and when he'd looked at her his eyes had been bleaker than she could remember them in nearly a yahren, since Kobol. Since Serina... "I just wish," he'd added a bit savagely, "that people could keep their private lives out of my job, that's all, and I know they can't any more, I just wish—" He'd bitten off whatever the rest of that had been going to be.

Why, she'd wondered, was it that it was so hard for them to talk to each other? Even if a conversation started well, which this one hadn't she had to admit, it usually wasn't long before they were at cross purposes. Not necessarily fighting, but not understanding each other. Was it just because he was eight yahrens older than she, so that by the time she was a real person with real ideas he'd been gone from home already several yahrens? Because they'd never been together except when she was a nuisance or a usurper, someone to look after or play with or run away from, when he was a god, remote and perfect, someone to adore or defy or pester? He'd barely had time to adjust to her being on the Galactica before the Destruction... And, she had to admit, she hadn't helped, being a bit defensive about him and their father. And Starbuck.

Starbuck hadn't helped at all.

She'd sighed herself and put her hand on his arm. "I'm sorry. I know—" The flaring emotion in his green eyes had made her change her sentence in mid-utterance. "—it's hard for you sometimes, but it comes with the territory, doesn't it? And it's not always possible to keep things all neat and tidy, not when people are involved."

"What do you mean, Thenie?" he'd asked, quietly.

"I'm flit, Apollo." The same words she'd used for their father.

But Apollo's reaction had been very different. His eyes had narrowed and then, "I see," he'd said. "Were you—are you seeing somone?"

"No," she'd said. "Not yet."

His next question had puzzled her. "Did you tell Tigh?"

"No," she'd said, and then added, "But someone I did tell might have."

"How many people have you told?"

"Three," she'd said. "You and Father, and Omega."

"Omega..." he'd said ruminatively.

"Why, anyway?"

"These new regs," he'd said. At her blank look he'd elaborated, "This is going to cause problems for Father. His enemies on the Council will claim it's nepotism. Or favoritism, or something anyway."

She'd stared at him. "Are you seriously suggesting I pretend to be straight to save Father from a bit of peevish sniping?"

To his credit, the minute he'd heard it expressed in clear and unequivocable Standard he'd been horrified. "No, of course not," he'd protested.

But he had meant it, in a way, and she'd known it before she'd talked to him. It was why she'd taken so long to do it. After all, it was how he lived his own life. She wished very much that he'd accept advice from her, because she'd dearly love to tell him he should reassess his own life. But he wouldn't...

And that was to be expected, from him, and it was too bad, but there wasn't anything she could do about it. If she tried, he'd get angry and defensive, and poor Starbuck would the one to suffer for it. Besides, her own life was slowly coming into focus, and that was taking all her energy.

She'd spent time over a few sectons with various women, not just the girls' nights out with Cassie and Sheba once a secton, but, for a while, with others. Dietra, Brie, Tara, Haruka... One good thing about dating all those men: she could recognize it when it was happening the other way, too. In fact, it was happening less, partly because she was being circumspect and partly because none of them had any interest in her at all that way.

But that was all right with her. Or so she told herself until the night that she felt the spark leap across the table like touching a felix in winter and she realized that didn't feel the same way about Cassie and Sheba at all.

She liked Sheba. She was smart and funny and pretty, and Athena enjoyed being with her. She liked her enough to be glad if they became sisters, but that was all. Cassie... Cassie was brilliant, and sparkling, and beautiful. Sheba was good company, but being with Cassie was like... like... like something she'd never experienced before. All she could think of were clichés.

And Cassie.

And Cassie was Starbuck's. As much as anyone was Starbuck's, that is. But he wasn't hers.

Athena had always liked Cassie, from the beginning, even when she was so furious with her for dating Starbuck. Now she understood that anger. That jealousy. She hadn't thought she was jealous, because she'd known she didn't really want Starbuck, but now she understood that she could probably give Apollo a half-metric headstart and catch him easily in the Possessive Stakes.

But she wasn't jumping in like he did, even now that she had recognized who she loved. She'd told herself that Cassie was with Starbuck, but... She could hear Zac now: C'mon, Fee. If you don't go for it, you'll never get it.

She'd had, found, or made up, many reasons why none of the men she was with was the right one. They hadn't been very consistent, though she'd never let that stop her, and of course they'd none of them been the real reason. But of them all, the best one was the one she'd had for Starbuck. He doesn't love me, he loves someone else. In the end, she hadn't been willing to try for he'll come to love me, if I love him hard enough: she hadn't had the will to make the effort. Just as well, probably, all things considered, but now she thought about that reason.

Cassie had had a yahren to make him love her. She hadn't. Maybe she was ready to stop trying.

Maybe... Probably not, of course, but maybe. And either way, there was no real reason to think she wanted to try with a woman. What Athena felt might be all on her side...

But she'd never know if she never asked.

When Starbuck had asked her to Seal with him (which he had, in his own graceless and casual way, whatever he might say now), she hadn't told him the real reason she was saying no. She'd told him, and at that time, on that day, she'd meant it, that she didn't want to risk letting someone in who was so likely to go out and get himself killed. In the circumstances it had been a silly stand—gods knew they were all in line to get killed—and she'd abandoned it, but there was a kernel of truth to it. Just... reversed.

She'd seen it in Omega's eyes that morning when he'd told her what Bojay had said to him, and she'd heard it in his voice, in both their voices, the last time she'd eaten dinner with them. Thinking back on it, it had been in her mother, too: the possibility of losing love made it more precious, made it something to hold more tightly, not turn away from. If you really loved them...

It was why she'd almost told her father the day after he'd been hostage to Baltar and those lunatics from Terra—Starbuck had always said there wasn't any danger of humans getting wiped out, they were spread like rodents throughout this end of the galaxy and maybe the whole thing. She'd always ridden him about his simile, but 'rodents' was a kind word for those people. And maybe she was as parochial as Starbuck, but she didn't care about humans. Only Colonials.

Only her own.

She wanted to win today, not just to win a little but to destroy the Cylons. To make the Fleet safe again. Safe for the first time. Whatever. Safe.

To make the ones she loved safe.

To have a future with them.

If you really loved them, you told them. You didn't let them die not knowing it. Did you?

She glanced at her chrono. There was a half a centare before Apollo and Starbuck would reach their last checkpoint, another five centons before the Viper pilots were scrambled. If you could call it scrambling when it was scheduled, she smiled to herself. There was time. She looked around and caught Remy's eye. "Watch my position?"

He nodded, having nothing at all to do until the Vipers were flying.

"Thanks." She got up and crossed over to Omega. "I need about thirty centons."

He didn't even glance at a chrono. "You can have forty five," he said. "But then you have to be back here."

"Thanks." She smiled at him and left.

As it turned out it was a good thing she had the extra centons, because Cassie wasn't in the Life Center, though she was due there soon, and she wasn't any of the other places Athena tried. Frustrated, she headed finally back to leave her a note in the Life Center, but then she saw her, walking down a corridor with Sheba. They both looked worried, especially the pilot, whose eyes were a little red.

"Cassie," Athena said without preamble or more greeting to Sheba than a nod, "I have to talk to you."

"Me?" the blonde said, sounding surprised. "Now?"

"Yes. I really do."

Cassie paused, and then nodded. She reached out and touched Sheba's arm. "It'll be all right," she said. "But you have your own mission, you know."

"I know. I'll see you later." Sheba glanced at Athena as if thinking about saying something and then shrugged. "You, too," she said. "Good luck."

"Good hunting," Athena said.

The pilot laughed. "Thanks," she said, sounding more like herself.

"Sheba," Cassie said as she started to walk away. "You should probably wash your face before you get to the ready room."

"Oh... Ain't it the truth?" she asked. For just a micron all three of them stood looking at each other, and then Sheba strode off.

Cassie looked at her, slim and deceptively fragile-looking in her uniform dress. "What are you doing off the bridge, anyway?"

"Like you and Sheba, I suppose," Athena said, deliberately not asking what they were doing together, or why Sheba looked like she'd been crying. She was going to say this and damn the consequences so she didn't want to hear anything that might slow her down. "We're just waiting, too. But I don't have much time before I have to be there."

Cassie stood there, waiting. Athena could see longing in her eyes, or thought she could; who was it for? Starbuck? Most likely... Well, that was not news. But maybe it wasn't true, either. And even if it was, Athena knew she had to speak now.

"We might not live through this day. Any of us. Pilots, bridge crew, medics..."

"I know," said Cassie.

"So, there's something I have to say. In case. Because I wouldn't want to have not said it."

"Athena, if this is about Starbuck—"

"It's not about him. I mean... No. It's not about him. I suppose he'll come up, but it's about me. And you." She took a deep breath and almost missed the change in Cassie's expression. She wasn't sure what it meant but she didn't let it stop her. "I don't have time to lead into this, so, well, I love you."

Cassie blinked. "You what?"

"I love you. I want to be with you. When this is over—"


Now it was Athena's turn to blink. "Yes? Yes, what?"

"Just trying to save some time," Cassie said, smiling, and the radiance in her eyes was definitely real. And definitely spark-making. "Yes to whatever. I love you, too, Athena. I have for a long time. Starbuck's sweet, but he's definitely second choice."

"He is?"

"He is. And not to Cain, either. To you."

Athena stood there, and then she began laughing. "Oh, gods," she said. "Is this happening or did I fall asleep at my board?"

"Would they let you?" Cassie was laughing, too, a sweet, happy laughter that conjured up that beach. That future. "I can prove you're not, though." She took a step closer.

"I have to be back," Athena said, breathlessly.

"Just one kiss," Cassie said. "You have time for that, don't you?"

"Oh, yes."

It was unlike any kiss she'd ever had. Cassie's lips were soft against hers, her jaw fine-boned and delicate under her palm. She was soft against Athena's body, curved and yielding, and her shoulders fit inside Athena's arm. Not asleep... most definitely not asleep, though she took a second kiss, "just to make sure."

They stood for a centon then, Athena's arms holding Cassie close and Cassie's arms around her, and the warmth was like a banked fire on a hearth. "I love you, Cassiopeia," Athena said softly. "I love you."

"I love you, Athena," she answered. She raised her hand and lifted the heavy fall of dark hair and laid her head on Athena's shoulder, letting her hair cover her face. When she spoke again, her breath was warm on Athena's throat. "I've loved you so long, so long..."

"Oh, god. I could stay here forever—"

"But duty calls. I know." Cassie stepped away, and then reached a careful but proprietary hand to put her hair right. "Me, too. But when this is over—"

"Oh, yes. As soon as this is over." She caught Cassie's hand and brought it to her lips.

Cassie smiled and then said, "I'll have to talk to Starbuck."

"Starbuck." Athena tightened her hold without thinking about it. "I'd actually forgotten him."

"Me, too. But don't worry."

"I don't want to hurt him."

"But?" Cassie prompted.

"But I'm not letting him have you."

Cassie smiled again. "I'm not his first choice either. We've been together a long time, but we both knew we were making do. Don't worry, he'll be happy for us."

"I hope so."

"He will be. I'll talk to him. You'll see."

Her wrist-chrono was telling her she had to leave. She kissed Cassie's slim fingers quickly. "We'll both talk to him. But—"

"You have to go. I know. Athena," she freed her hand and touched Athena's cheek, "I'm fond of him. I love you. Now go."


Boomer left the barracks almost right away after Starbuck and Apollo did, as soon as the pilots who were there started discussing the odds of their actually making it far enough to blow the Cylon control center. None of them were even speculating that they might make it back. Clenching his jaw so hard it hurt he walked down the corridor to the Admin area and started to open the Strike Captain's door. Then he stopped. No.

He went into the squadron leader's office. Dietra, whose Green was nominally the ready squadron, was there. He waved her back behind the desk and sat in one of the other chairs.

"When do you want the pre-mission brief?"

"I don't think one's necessary," he said. "What is there to tell them? Tigh said it all already."

"No last minute words of inspiration?"

He laughed. "I don't think 'make sure your wills are on file' is all that inspirational, do you?"

She laughed, too. "Probably not... We're going over it, aren't we?"

He nodded. "As soon as Sheba gets here. Either of you think of something I don't, we'll tell 'em when we assemble." He looked at his wrist-chrono: 1740.

"She'll be here," Dietra said in her calm way.

When they'd decided to make four oversized squadrons, instead of keeping two gargantuanly unwieldy ones, Boomer had finally gotten his own command. Sheba, as a genuine squadron leader, had been given Red right after the Pegasus left, but now she moved over to the reconstituted Silver Spar and Boomer got Red. The fourth had been up for grabs, more or less; few senior personnel had survived Cimtar and there wasn't a clear-cut front-runner. Apollo had picked Dietra himself; clearly she'd impressed the pogees out of him more than once. He'd told Boomer that Colonel Tigh had approved the choice, and also that he'd suggested that they put all the women, except Sheba (who'd clearly impressed him as someone inclined to rather definite insubordination if provoked, even if Adama hadn't promised her the Pegasus survivors), into the same squadron. Apollo had considered it briefly, if only because they were already quartered together, but in the end he'd rejected it. Didn't want to imply that the women were second class, and Pink Squadron, as Starbuck called it, would have done that.

Dietra was a good leader. Boomer had asked her to dinner once or twice, but they'd never hit it off that way. He liked her, but she was a detached person, living for her career. Or her revenge, one. Inevitably, of course, some people had speculated that she'd lost a lover with the Atlantia. And some that she was flit. If she was, though, she hadn't come out after the new regs were published.

That made him think of the three pilots who had. Sergeants Greenbean and Barton had turned out to be a rather long-standing item and, as Bean had put it, "we're gonna get tied now that we can without messin' up our careers so can we get a room, please?" But they'd taken a secton to decide Tigh had been serious. The other one had jumped that very day—and Boomer wasn't the only one startled at where he'd landed.

Apollo's reaction had been complex: partly surprise like everyone else, partly annoyance that he had been surprised, and partly outright indignation that others, namely everyone from the Pegasus, had known and kept quiet, even the rather oppressively pious Glyn, who didn't scruple to condemn a lot of things. Even that tech they'd gotten, Hereward, who was now in charge of the Armaments Technical Maintenance section, had been heard to say, "Bojay's been flit as long as I've known him. Doesn't bother me any. It's not like he ever made a pass at me; that sharp little Arian he was living with kept him too busy for that sort of thing."

It had been the closest thing to an argument Boomer had seen Apollo have with Sheba, at least since she'd joined the crew. "What, Apollo?" she'd demanded. "You were going to break him back to Flight Officer? He's been hiding it since he set foot on this battlestar; why should any of us betray him?"

"It wouldn't have been a betrayal, damn it," Apollo had said. "No, I wouldn't have demoted him but you know how things are supposed to be done. I thought. I thought you all did."

"Things were different on the Pegasus."

"Yes, well, you're back in the service now. Regulations count. Anything else you let slide when it was just you?"

Not surprisingly, Boomer thought, Sheba had not taken him up on that somewhat less than gracious offer of amnesty. She hadn't even hit him where that argument was weakest, pointing out that it hadn't been an actual regulation in decades while relationships like Robin and Giles, which Apollo was working hard to not know about officially, were still forbidden. Boomer wasn't sure if that was because she didn't want to be the one who got them busted or if she actually felt a bit guilty over seeming to choose Bojay over Apollo. Probably a bit of both, he thought, with a large dose of least said, soonest mended thrown in for good measure.

For himself, he understood why none of them wanted to expose one of them's weakness. Most of them had settled in well enough, but they'd always have those two yahrens to bind them, and the last seven sectares of them thinking they were all that was left of the Colonies... Forty-two yahrens from now that bond would still be there; if Glyn needed help Bojay would give it and vice versa, no matter how they felt about each other. And Sheba and Bojay? They were very tight, as tight as he and Starbuck, maybe more. A hundred and forty-four yahrens from now, if Sheba needed someone killed, Bojay would get off his death-bed to do it, and she for him the same and more. Vulnerable there himself, Apollo hadn't made the slighthest effort to come between them, but now Boomer was inclined to look on that as a hopeful sign, because Apollo really did dislike Bojay more than just a lot.

Of course, he wasn't all that fond of him, but he was willing to accept that if Sheba liked him, and Starbuck liked him, then there must be something there to like. And in the end, he hadn't started shooting, or even swinging, in the Pegasus's landing bay, so Boomer was inclined to decide that he probably wouldn't have. Or at least if Apollo had given him any reasonably graceful way out. After all, they'd drawn first, not Bojay.

He stopped thinking about that day with an effort, because one of the reasons Apollo hadn't been inclined to was that, subconsciously if not more, he'd seen Bojay as a rival. Not just for Sheba, either, but that was there all the time. After the Gamoray mission, it had been out in the open, and yet since neither of them seemed interested in each other that way, and Sheba had started going out with Apollo... Boomer shook his head. That disinterest was explained now, but the interest, Apollo's, was still there. And when Apollo came back, well.

And Apollo was coming back.

The door opened, pulling him out of his increasingly more depressing thoughts. He looked up and Sheba came in. He stood up automatically. He started to cover that by saying, Nice of you to join us, but he didn't even get the first word out. She looked... off-balance, somehow. He wished he'd pumped Starbuck for details on what had happened in the Raider after he'd left.

"Sheba? Are you all right?"

She looked at him and blinked a couple of times. "I don't know," she said.

He swallowed. Of all times this was not the one to say the wrong thing to her, and he didn't know what was the right one. He settled on, "They'll make it. You'll see."

She didn't answer, just turned away, not looking at him or Dietra. He was staring at Sheba helplessly when Bojay came in the office. At least, Boomer thought, watching her turn to the other man with a hand almost unconsciously reaching out, at least if he was living with Omega you didn't have to wonder about him and Sheba. Flit guys always had women friends, that was how you could pick them out in upper school, wasn't it?

"Hey, Ace," Bojay said, his voice hard-edged but his delivery gentle. "Get your game face on, girl. There's a job."

She blinked and him and then smiled, if a tiny bit unsteadily. "Sure, Crash," she said. "You're right." She took a deep breath and when she turned back to Boomer she was once again a lieutenant. "I thought you'd be in the captain's office," she said. "I looked there."

"No," he shook his head. "I didn't think..."

"Wrong symbolism," Dietra put in. "Smart decision."

"He left you a letter," Sheba said. "On the desk."

"A letter?" For a moment Boomer was nonplussed.

"There's one for Boxey, too. And his father and his sister." She stopped there, her voice bleak.

"I don't have time to mess with that now," Boomer said. "If it was mission-related, he wouldn't have left it in a letter. He'll be glad I didn't read it when this is all over, anyway."

"That's the truth, for certain," Dietra said. She stood up. "Any last thoughts before we go to the ready room?"

"You're taking Blue?" Sheba asked, nothing but business in her face now.

That was different than taking his desk. Boomer nodded.

"Who's leading Red, then?"

He shrugged. "Apollo forgot to say. I guess I'll take both."

"Against a base star?" Sheba shook her head. "Tigh said you all hadn't dared tangle with a base star since you left the Colonies."

That might well have been Tigh's exact phrase, but Boomer bristled anyway. "We're daring now."

Sheba wrinkled her nose. "No, that's not what I mean. A base star—it's different. It's big, and there'll be hundreds of Raiders. This isn't hit-and-run, it isn't cover-the-retreat. You've got a lot of people who've never done this before. It's no time to spread yourself too thin."

That was reasonable. Boomer unbristled and gave her a half-grin. "You're right. Give me a centon; I'll think of the right name."

"Bojay's led."

He looked at her, and then at Bojay, who was looking back almost impassively. Almost. And it was that glint in those light-colored eyes that made Boomer suddenly think, of course he has. Of course. He should have realized it before now: that man who'd stood going face-to-face with Apollo on the Pegasus flight deck was not merely someone's wingman, not just another pilot. He'd been an alpha male as much as Apollo, he'd been someone everyone in the hangar bay had been programmed to follow. That's why it had been so dangerous.

And though Apollo bragged about Sheba being good enough to get a weapons lock on him, the fact was that Bojay had locked on Starbuck, and Boomer knew which was the harder. And he'd seen Bojay fly... If he'd had a squadron on the Pegasus (later, later, for why nobody had mentioned it though maybe he could guess) then he'd be up for this kind of fight. Apollo hadn't thought about it, none of them had, just "you and Sheba lead the squadrons", but she was right: no one could keep track of twenty-four extra fighters in a mess like they were heading into. And it wasn't like it was a promotion, because Apollo was coming back.

Plus, there had to be a little extra there. Bojay had to wonder if he wasn't getting the job because he was flit or because Apollo hated the sight of him. The problem with that latter guess was, and if he hadn't figured it out already he would soon, Apollo didn't let his personal feelings get in the way. He'd learned at the master's knee, had Apollo: his dad's. He didn't favor Starbuck a millimetron, and he wouldn't penalize Bojay. The other thing? Boomer honestly didn't know what Apollo thought, since the topic hadn't come up until recently. He did know Apollo would follow the regs, and he rather thought Apollo probably hadn't approved of the 'way things were done' beforehand.

All of that flashed through Boomer's mind as he stood there, much too fast to sort out; it wasn't until later that he was able to lay it out in neat sentences and consider it. And later, too, he'd wonder what he would have said if it hadn't been Sheba asking. Now he just nodded and said, "Right, then. You take Red for this one."

Bojay nodded; his only words were a laconic, "Thanks, boss," that made Boomer feel confident he'd made a good decision.

What Apollo would think... they'd go into that when Apollo got back.

And just maybe he'd find out why the man hadn't left a letter for his girlfriend.

Right now he said, "I'm taking Jolly with me. You'll have the two first-orbit cadets, Bojay; keep an eye on 'em. But like Sheba said, we've a lot of pilots who'll be maidens on a base star. There's not much plan to this thing: like the Commander said, we go out and hopefully draw all their fighters onto us. He says two to one, but that's to make us feel good. Let's plan on—" he looked at the Pegasans "—what do you think? Three to one?"

"At least," Sheba nodded.

"Four to one if we get lucky," said Bojay, serious under the flippant tone. "If we see that many, the Galactica will have a clear run no matter what."

No matter what. Boomer pushed the thought away without recognizing it because he didn't have the time to do otherwise. "Let's offer 'em a temptation, then," he said. "Sheba, you and me will take our squadrons in first, and sloppy. Like we're a long way from home—"

"We are," Dietra murmured.

"—and you two close up on us once the shooting's started. And then..." He shrugged. "And then we keep 'em busy until the Galactica takes out the base star."

None of them said, and if she doesn't? With luck, none of the pilots in the barracks would either.

He looked at his chrono. 1763. He took a breath and blew it out. "It's getting close. Let's go wake 'em up."

"Ours? Or the Cylons?" Dietra asked with a rare smile.

"Well, let's start with ours."

"I'd rather put the tinheads to sleep," Bojay said.

"Sounds like a plan," Boomer nodded. "After you, lieutenants."


Omega leaned over a console to get a better look at the display. Most of the smoke had been scrubbed out of the bridge, but traces of it remained, and his eyes were still stinging a bit. Third Watch had come on at their regular time, but First Watch had still been involved in the immediate crisis and had been trickling off the bridge in ones and twos only for the last centare or so. The commander had told them to take the next day off, Fourth Watch would fill in for them. Omega had reminded three or four of the more senior that they needed to stay on the Galactica just in case, and he intended to come in the next day himself. Fourth Watch, which basically filled in for those on the others who were on their off days, didn't have an ICOB of their own and Charis and Tellerat didn't need to pull two long shifts in a row.

The colonel was still here, of course. The commander had left the bridge for the landing bay as soon as it was confirmed that Captain Apollo had made it back. "Go on, Adama," the colonel had told him; "we can handle it here. The fighting's over; this is just clean up."

The commander had hesitated only a moment, and then he'd hurried out, following the Viper pilots and that pretty medtech who had barely said a word the whole time she was here. She was supposed to be Starbuck's girlfriend, but his life had made Omega a keen observer and he rather thought she wasn't. In fact, those three had all been tense in the wrong way for straightforward friends and lovers.

Though he might be wrong, he admitted. Many people had been acting out of character today. The commander for one, staking it all on one audacious move. And the colonel for another. He smiled to himself as he straightened and entered the data on his pad. It would be a long time before he, or anyone else who'd been on the bridge, would forget the sight of Tigh pounding the commander on the back and whooping, "You did it, Adama! You did it!"

But he, and they, had sobered up quickly enough as the squadron recall went out and the casualty list began to be compiled. Damages were, as Omega had reported, extensive, but not crippling. Casualties were heavy, but actual deaths remarkably light. At least, light on the battlestar. In the fighter squadron it was a different matter. They'd sent out ninety-six. Seventy-three came back. Nearly one out of four hadn't lived through the fight.

Omega hadn't realized how hard he was listening for one voice until he'd heard the simple exchange on channel one. "Boj, you take charge in Alpha; Dietra, you've got Beta." And the acknowledgments, the first of which had, disturbingly, actually made him miss the second and several more exchanges from the sound of the next one that registered. He'd been equally disturbed by the realization that crept into his mind, as he tallied the deaths for the colonel, that he wouldn't have minded, really, if even more had died as long as Bojay hadn't.

He'd been horrified at the thought, and his upper-class Caprican upbringing had made him rebel at least as much at losing control of himself on duty. He thought he'd had all of his personal feelings locked up where they wouldn't interfere with his performance. Resolutely he'd shoved it all aside again, saving it for later, when he wasn't on the bridge. When he had the leisure to deal with what should stay private.


He turned, half his mind on the fires and most of the other half on the other details, the rest of it locked up again, very tightly, or so he hoped. He hated working at 80%—if it was that high—but no one had seemed to notice. He wasn't sure if that meant he was usually that much better than competent, or if today they were all off their game a little, or if they were making allowances. He preferred the first option, for all its arrogance; he certainly didn't want anyone making allowances for him. "Only three fires still burning, Colonel," he said. "And two of them are expected to be out within five centons. The third is under control and projected to be out in—"

Tigh shook his head. "Omega."

He blinked, not sure what the colonel wanted. That wasn't a familiar feeling. "Sir?"

"Lieutenant Tellarat is here."

The significance of that was escaping him entirely.

"Go home, Omega. Lieutenant Tellerat can do this; your shift is over. Debriefing for the squadron leaders isn't until tomorrow morning. And I'm rather surprised he's not up here pointing at his chrono." He smiled suddenly. "Go home."

Omega looked at him, and then his emotions said to hell with this and kicked down the door he'd locked them behind. There was absolutely nothing he wanted more than to do just that, and no reason at all why he shouldn't do what he wanted. No good reason. He smiled back. "Yes, sir," he said and handed the data pad to Tellerat. "You have the bridge, lieutenant."

He keyed opened the door and walked in. Boj's jacket was lying on the couch, his holstered blaster was curled up on the kava table ('you can't have been this disorganized in the barracks!' 'didn't have this much room in the barracks...'), and his person, half-dressed, was advancing out of the sleeping room.

"It's about damn time." With which romantic greeting he backed Omega up to the door and made him wish he'd come home sooner.

A lot sooner.


In the depths of the night Adama lit a candle in the Fleet Chapel's main nave and thanked the Lords of Kobol for their grace that day. The enemy had been destroyed.

From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears... He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those that hated me; for they were too mighty for me... the enemy have vanished in everlasting ruins...

And this time he had been spared his son.

He had feared for Apollo beyond words, and he had feared the bargain he had made with Baltar to save him. To save the fleet, yes, but Adama had known at the time he did it that it was because Apollo was taking on this mission (as he would always do) that he had thought of Baltar. And he had feared: that Baltar had betrayed them, not caring about his own death if he could take them with him; that Baltar's information would prove outdated; that it would be correct but that Apollo would die saving the fleet.

As Zac had...

Adama bowed his head and prayed for the souls of those who had died this day, and of those who had not.

Tigh sat in his quarters. The last of the fires was out, and Salik, looking like death warmed over, had reported that the last of the casualties was out of surgery. It would be touch and go for a few days for a few of them, but he had looked reasonably satisfied. It would have to do, Tigh had thought, and then had looked around the bridge, said good-night to Tellarat, and gone... home.

He turned his head. The room was dark, but he knew where everything was, every piece of furniture and each little sculpture. Rising, he walked unerringly to pick up 'Waiting', a woman sitting under a tree. He ran his fingers over the intricately braided hair, the folds of the long skirt, the infinitely contented expression on her face... "If you get there before I do," he said softly, quoting her favorite song, one which had made her cry happily every time she'd heard it, "don't give up on me. I'll meet you when my chores are through. I don't know how long I'll be, but I'm not going to let you down, darling, wait and see. And between now and then, till I see you again, I'll be loving you. Love me."

He moved his hand to keep the tears off the statuette, but otherwise he just stood there, in the darkness. "Not before I should," he promised her again, "but as soon as I can. As soon as I can..."

Down the corridor, but still in senior staff housing, Bojay came back to bed after relieving himself and snuggled up next to Omega. He ran his fingers through the thick dark hair and was gratified at the way his lover turned to get closer even in his sleep. A good day... he yawned and put his arm over Omega's shoulders and slid back into sleep.

In junior command officers' country, Athena woke, unsure why, and then heard the murmur by her shoulder. She turned over and touched her lover's face gently. "Cassie?"

Cassie woke without moving, those dark blue eyes even darker in the dimly lit room and fixed on Athena. For a micron or two they were blank and then recognition flowed into them, and content. "Thee," she said softly.

Athena blinked back a sudden and unexpected tear. If Zac had been able to say his th's properly as a toddler that's what he would have called her.

"What is it?" Cassie asked, raising herself on one elbow. Her skin gleamed in the dimness like pearl, but she wasn't hard like pearl.

Athena pushed the tousled blonde hair back and smiled. "Nothing, love," she answered. "Only... do you know how much I love you?"

"As much as I love you, or I hope so."

"Never leave me, Cassie."

"I never will, Thee. I never will." And she kissed Athena, bending over her, her delicate hand gentle but strong on Athena's breast.

Athena kissed her back, surrendering gladly to the joy she had finally found and would never willingly give up again.

In the squadron leaders' office Sheba leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling. She could have delegated this, she supposed. Only one flight of Silver Spar had to be at ready tonight, said the colonel, and she could have given command of it to someone else. But it was an excellent excuse.

And the truth was, she needed an excuse. She felt as though her emotions had been on a carnival ride today. She had things to sort through.

A lot of things.

Boomer sat at the bar in the "Star Rose" and drank, looking over the available talent. He didn't have any business being here and he'd get in trouble if he was spotted, and either way he was going to feel like something the dagget threw up at the debriefing in the morning. When the man sat down next to him he didn't even turn his head.

"Here you go," the man said, laying the package on the bar. "A hundred fifty, like I said."

Boomer put the money down on the bar next to the package.

The man let go of the package. "Mind tellin' me what you're gonna do with it?"

Boomer turned his gaze on the man. "Yes."

"Hey," the man raised the hand that wasn't collecting cubits. "All right with me." He got up quickly and left.

One of the talent took his place, smiling professionally. "What's in the package, luv? Something I can help you with?"

Boomer smiled back, amused at the slight change in her eyes. "I don't know. How are you with a laser micro-soldering iron?"

"Get stuffed, hentai." She left, only just not checking that he wasn't following.

Hentai. Even he knew that piece of slang, though not where it came from. Pervert. He smiled again and finished his drink, and then picked up his package of black-market electronics and left. If only you knew, sweetheart, he thought. He glanced at his chrono as he left the bar. Another twenty centons before the shuttle came. And he'd be up all what was left of the night making this gamma frequency signal booster, but with Wilker's lab destroyed in the attack, it was all Apollo would have to go on for his quest after that elusive signal.

Starbuck drained his glass and looked around the O Club bar. It wasn't empty, but no one he particularly liked was here. It occurred to him, not for the first time, that most of his friends were involved with someone, and tonight was a night to be with whoever that was. Unless you were unlucky, that was, he thought as he gestured for the bartender to give him another. Cass was on duty in the Life Center until 0350, and she'd be exhausted when she got off. Not to mention in that irrational angry mood she got into after combat anymore. It wasn't that she blamed him precisely, but she didn't have a better target to take it out on. And he just wasn't in the mood for that tonight. Not that he ever was, actually, but usually he got laid after getting chewed out and tonight he figured she'd probably fall asleep while yelling at him.

Oh, well. No clouds without silver linings. He wouldn't mind taking any of these losers for half their sectonly pay...

Apollo sat on the side of Boxey's bed and watched him sleep. He was sorry Sheba was on duty tonight, but on the other hand he was glad to be alone. He was in the wrong mood to be with anyone just now. He'd only say the wrong thing to them, whoever they were. Coming close to dying always did this to him, he'd be all right in the morning. He just needed to settle down, let his emotions get untangled so he could sort them out and put them back where they belonged.

"Dad?" Boxey was half awake.

Muffy's servos whined as he sat up. Apollo pushed the drone down with one foot as he leaned forward. "I'm right here, son," he said.

Boxey reached out his hand. Apollo took it and the boy held on tightly while his eyes closed.

"I'm right here," Apollo said again, and leaning forward, he kissed Boxey's cheek. "Everything's all right."

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


Original Fantasy:
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Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
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