Adama went to bed, finally, when he realized he was beginning to nod off over the files on his desk. He was startled to see how late it was. Since the Destruction a half-yahren ago (only that?) it seemed as if the twenty-four centares in each day were not nearly enough for all the work that had to be done. He was feeling his age, suddenly.
He was worried about his children. His remaining two... Zac was beyond all worry, now, beyond all care and concern. Adama grieved for him in the depths of his being, and thought that he always would. Yes, even though the time might come when Zac's name evoked the bubble of laughter it always had before, the fond pride and the good memories, even though that time might come, even then Adama would grieve at least a little when he heard the name. A father should not have to bury his son, he thought, or see him die...
But he worried over the other two. Athena grieved still for Zac herself, he knew, though she did her best to hide it. She was of all his children most like her mother, not made to conceal her emotions, and yet she tried, for his sake and for the uniform's, and being his daughter what she tried to do she did well, if not happily. She didn't want to remind him of his loss; he wished he could find the words to tell her that there was no single centare that passed that did not bring with it a remembrance, that there was no way she could make it worse. But he, unlike his wife, did find it difficult to put his feelings into words. He sighed as he tried to make himself more comfortable in the bed, tired to the bone and yet not sleepy. Athena worried him. There was more bothering her than Zac's loss, though they two had always been close, and more, he thought, than losing Starbuck to Cassiopeia. He wished he knew what.
He turned slightly and thought of Starbuck. Not his son, of course, though very dear (and the more because he had been dear to Ila), and not, apparently, his son-in-law, either. He was worried about Starbuck now, as well. Once he was certain that Athena wasn't hurt by losing Starbuckand she'd been angry, but not hurthe had been pleased to think the young man had finally found someone, even more pleased when she left her somewhat reprehensible trade (Adama was not Gemonese, and he was Kobolian). Starbuck's true love, of course, wasn't his, though Adama wouldn't have objected had his elder son been of a mind to reciprocate, but Starbuck had apparently learned early in his life how to make do. Adama wondered if sometimes Starbuck hadn't learned that lesson too well, but the young man wasn't his to instruct or advise. But losing Cassiopeia to Cain had to have been a bitter pill.
Cain... Adama sighed. Dearly as he was fond of that wild man, he had to admit that two yahrens on his own had been perhaps the worst thing that his old friend could have had. He'd lost all sense of community, of responsibility... Like a little king of ancient times, he'd done what he wanted, not what he should have, and he'd nearly destroyed the fleet with his willfulness before Adama had realized how far he'd gone. That his desire for glory had led him to go out in a blaze of it, saving the Galactica and the ragged fleet she protected, didn't alter the fact that it was he who had put the fleet into danger in the first place. And his rivalry with Adama, born almost the first day they had met so many yahrens ago, had spilled over, perhaps irrevocably. There was at least one young Warrior in the Life Center who had balanced on the knife-edge that separated honest dissent from mutiny, torn between personal loyalty and loyalty to the greater good... Bojay had been a fine Warrior once, and perhaps out of Cain's immediate influence would be again.
Not that Apollo was willing to believe it. But, Adama shifted again in the darkness, his elder son (his only son) was not only his son, and thus personally antagonistic to Cain, but he had been the man facing Bojay at that dangerous moment... No, Apollo would not forget easily, and he would forgive even less easily, though he would follow Adama's orders, and he would never let his antagonism color his professional behaviour. Just as he never let his affections color it. Adama was more grateful than he could say that both of his son's dear friends, indeed, Apollo's only close friends, had survived Cimtar. Without Starbuck and Boomer, Apollo would have been even more lost than he had been, then and after the untimely death of his wife... Adama had been fond of Serina, was more than fond of her young son, and though he'd worried slightly over Apollo's leap into marriage, he'd remembered how Ila had told him she'd known within the centare of meeting him... But Serina's death had hurt Apollo deeply. Adama had been pleased beyond words to hear his son speak so glowingly of Sheba, back when it still seemed possible that the Pegasus and the Galactica would take on the task of saving their people together.
Well, perhaps they had, in Cain's own way. But Cain had died doing it...
And Sheba, his old friend's daughter. Injured and orphaned, her troubles were obvious. Perhaps Apollo's evident interest would help. Or perhaps it wouldn't. All he himself could do was open his heart to her.
Adama closed his eyes and drifted to sleep. And dreamed of Ila.
The door chime rang. Sheba ignored it. She was off duty, and it was the middle of the night. So she hadn't been able to sleep; she didn't care and she sure didn't want to talk to anyone. She wasn't used to her new status on the Galactica but she was pretty sure that she didn't have to let people bother her if she didn't want to. If it was official, they'd comm her. It rang again, and then settled into a prolonged buzzing ring as if whoever it was was leaning against it.
Great, she thought, finally climbing out of the bed and grabbing the robe Athena had given her. She hated the robe. She hated having to take it. She hated being here... She tied the pink thing around her waist, bunching the top up so she wouldn't step on the hem, and stomped to the door. Somebody was going to have his head handed to him, and she didn't care if it was the Strike Captain.
The door opened under her annoyed punch and the man who had, in fact, been leaning on the signal straightened up. "Hey," he said softly, "thank God this really is your room."
"Boj?" she said, finally getting her voice back, "my Gods, Boj, when did they let you out?" She grabbed for him, hugging him tight, feeling his arms come around her to press her close.
"They didn't, exactly," he said. "I was going crazy in there. So I broke out."
The door hissed shut behind them as she pulled him inside. At his final sentence she let go and stepped back, raking him from head to foot and back again with a critical eye. He was paler than she liked, and whoever had donated his shirt and trousers was less his size than Athena was hers, but he was steady enough on his feet and didn't look like he was about to pass out. Still, the thought conjured up the memories of him in agony and bleeding on Gamoray, him so close to death on the shuttle, him lying so still in the Life Center... She hugged him again. "Why didn't you just come in?" she asked, covering the fear.
"You changed your code," he reminded her.
"Damn, that's right," she said. "The four's out on this pad and that's low priority maintenance. Old story, huh?" She tugged his hand. "Get off your feet, you idiot."
"I'm all right," he said. "Barely hurts."
"Hah," she said. "Sit down. You want a drink? They manage to have a lot of ambrosa here."
"No," he said. "Sheba" he caught her arm gently. "Is it true?"
She swallowed. She'd already had to do this eight times, but this was the hardest. Her father had loved Bojay almost like a son, had chosen him to be the Pegasus's new Strike Captain. I want you to take Bojay and shuttle him back to the fleet. And Bojay had worshipped him... He would take this as hard as she had.
"It is," he said, reading her accurately. "Oh, God..." He reached behind himself and found the arm of the couch and sat, hard. "They're all gone?"
"Two shuttle pilots," she said. "Ten others... a couple of mechs including Hereward, two medtechs, four from Ops... Dawn, Hathor, Rustam, Silas, Mercury, Iolaus, Harper, Noah, Glyn, Hakim, and Rory. That's all. And Glyn and Noah might not make it."
"That's all? Just twelve?"
She nodded. He was silent a moment; she understood his emotions. None of his particular friends were on that very short list, though he and the tech lieutenant, Hereward, got along all right. She sat down on the couch beside him and leaned her shoulder into his ribs. Almost automatically his arm went around her shoulders and he hugged her to himself.
"They're gone," he said softly. "Really gone... Oh, God, girlyour father."
I love you, baby. And I want to see you again.
"Boj..." It was all she could get out before she was crying, clinging to his shirt and sobbing.
He wrapped her in his embrace, holding her close, rubbing her back. He said the sort of things you say when someone's crying all over you, in that mix of Piscon, Gemonese and Standard that was their private language, and she was so glad he was there, alive, with her, that she wasn't alone, that she cried harder. Finally, when she was cried out and just holding him, he said, "Have you just been being his daughter all this time?"
"It's who I am, Boj," she answered tiredly. "What else should I do? I am his daughter, they're all looking at me, the Galacticans too just differently. They've said they're going to give us our own squadron, Adama's being so nice, Athena gave me clothes and the only people from the Peggy were in the Life Center and"
"Whoa, girl." His fingers were gentle on her lips. "Take a breath."
She looked up at him, his dear face and thinning brown hair blurry from the tears still in her eyes. "Boj," she said. "Oh, Gods, I'm so tired."
"I'll just bet." He shook his head and slid his right hand under her knees, standing up with her in his arms. Atavistically she closed her eyes and clung to him, surrendering all the decision to someone else, if only for the moment. Everyone needed someone to do that with, someone they could cry on and be weak in front of... But after three limping steps she realized what she was doing and pushed against him.
"Let me down, you idiot. Your leg"
"I think I can manage this far," he said, turning sideways to go into her sleeping room. He laid her down on the bed and tugged on her robe. "You sleep in this?"
"No," she said, letting him strip it off her and then pull the blankets up. After only a centon she felt him slide in next to her, his arms pulling her up close. She closed her eyes, feeling the angular strength of his body along her back and legs and his chin on the top of her head. She reached up and caught hold of his arms, sighing softly. "Oh, Gods, Boj... I missed you so much."
"Just sleep now, Sheba," he said. He slipped a hand under her short sleeping shirt and rubbed it in comforting circles on her stomach. "Just sleep. I'm here."
She relaxed into his hold, feeling the warmth of him and the safety. Momentarily she wished he was straight, but it was, by now, a fleeting wish and barely even registered. She had never in her life had a friend like him and never needed him more than she did now. She knew he should probably still be in the Life Center, but she couldn't even say so, let alone do anything. She tightened her hold on his arms and let her secton's exhaustion carry her off, secure in his company.
Apollo sat alone in his front room. Boxey was asleep, finally: they'd been to dinner at his father's, just the family. Adama and his son and daughter, and his son's son. And Sheba.
He thought Boxey liked her. He hoped so. His stepson was still very young, but in a way that was to the good. He'd been devastated when his mother died, but he was resilient. He'd gotten over it. Over her. A new mother wouldn't be a trauma.
A new mother. That was the first time he'd put the thought into words. For a man who'd barely dated till he was thirty, he was acting very precipitately this yahren, marrying Serina after a sectare and now thinking about marrying Sheba barely a secton after meeting her. But he knew why.
Oh, he thought they'd get along well. She was beautiful, if not as beautiful as Serina had been. And though Serina had had Boxey, she'd been a high-strung prima donna of a vid star, a famous journalist with her own show and a huge following, used to getting her own way. Not that Sheba wasn't, he had to admit; as Cain's daughter and a Viper pilot of long standinga damned fine pilot, tooshe clearly wasn't used to staying in what anybody else thought was her place. But things were changing in the Fleet, too: two squadrons' worth of women pilots proved that. And he thought Sheba was a nicer person, deep down, than Serina. She had friends, people liked her, not her image...
Oh, there was Bojay (and Apollo didn't much like what little he'd seen of the man, but the circumstances hadn't been good and he'd been brave enough down on Gamoray), but she said they were just friends, just wingmates, and she didn't act like she wished Apollo would ignore her. And she and Bojay hadn't been inseparable when they were on the Galactica before. Sure, she'd taken his getting shot hard, but, Hades, how had he taken losing Starbuck? Or, maybe more to the point, hopefully more to the point, how had Boomer?
And his father liked her. Apollo knew his father's approval was important to him, maybe too important sometimes, but he loved his father. Didn't want to disappoint him. He didn't think he'd marry to please Adama, but why go looking where you knew he wouldn't like what you found? Why not just start looking where he would, and then find what you liked, too?
Sheba was smart, she was talented, she was brave. She was well-bred, for what that was worth now. And she was definitely not going to embarrass him by being incompetent: in fact, she was likely to prove better than he was in the cockpit.
But all of that was insignificant next to the important fact, and he knew it. Knew it all, though he'd never admit so to a single person. Knew that since the Destruction, just when it was most important for him to be responsible and a leader, he'd been tempted, strongly tempted, to be otherwise. To say, "what the hell" and go for what he wanted, to snatch joy from death's jaws. Tempted to give in to the desires that had plagued him since adolesence.
Tempted by his wingmate.
He shook his head sharply and refused to let his thoughts run after Starbuck. On top of everything else, Starbuck was a ladies' man. Very much so, enjoying them as much as they enjoyed him, which was a lot. So even if by some warped logic Apollo could convince himself that it was all right to make a move on Starbuck, the blond wasn't likely to do anything but reject him. And he'd be lucky if that was all. He'd managed to survive the previous eight yahrens as Starbuck's friend; he didn't think he could survive losing that.
Wanting the moon never got anybody one. But poking out your eyes so you couldn't see it, that was insanity.
Courting Sheba... that was just the rational thing to do. You couldn't have the moon, maybe, shouldn't ask for it, but a nice fire on the hearth was warmer, anyway.
Athena leaned back in her chair, her fingers cradling her kava, and listened to Omega's recounting of an incident on the bridge yesterday, when she'd been off. Apparently Altair had reverted to primary school mindset and tied a couple of styli to Rigel's looped-up braids, and when she'd found out, she'd dumped a cup of hot kava down the back of his uniformjust as Colonel Tigh came out onto the bridge.
Anyone watching them would have wondered why Athena was snickering and then laughing out loud, Omega's manner was so grave, but that was his customary demeanor: his eyes were dancing with humor as he told the story. Once you got to know him, Athena mused as she giggled at the image of Rigel with styli dangling down behind her, you realized Omega had one hell of a wicked sense of humor, buried under that oh-so-correct exterior. He reminded her, a little, of her brother. Just better looking and more fun to be with.
Which made her wonder why he'd never been married. He had all the requisites: looks, money (well, before the Destruction, anyway), a good career, good sense of humor, wonderful manners... But she could answer herself, if she thought about it. She liked him very much, but there was no spark when she was with him. Fun to be with he was, but like her best friend from school, not like, say, Starbuck. And even Apollo, Sire Stiff-and-Formal, had gotten married.
Still, if she was right she didn't care, except to feel sorry for Omega. But then again, he was five or six yahrens older even than Apollo and he seemed content with his life. Like everyone, the Destruction had hit him hard, like many of the Galactica's crew he had lost his whole family. If he'd lost someone else, you'd never know it talking to him. Of course, if she was right, he wouldn't have. But he'd never let on that there was a someone of any sort... Athena wasn't even sure whether to wish there had or hadn't been. Was it really better to have lost than not have had? She didn't think so, but others disagreed.
However, presumably Omega could manage his private life to his satisfaction. Gods knew, she thought amusedly, he managed everything else. And to Colonel Tigh's satisfaction, which was probably a good deal harder. Plus, she thought selfishly, this way she had someone to spend time with besides Cassieand if Starbuck and the medtech were fighting, she'd find it hard to stay friends with them both. And since Starbuck was her brother's best friend, avoiding him would be hard.
She shook her head at herself. Sometimes she thought she'd gotten incredibly selfish since the Destruction. But before she could chastise herself too much, Omega interrupted.
She realized he'd caught her headshake and told him part of the truth. "No, it's just, that sounds like something my brother Zac might have done. Except," she added with a chuckle, "he'd have ended up going out with Rigel instead of getting a kava-bath."
Omega smiled. "I'm sorry I didn't get to meet him properly."
"He'd have driven Apollo mad," she said, "but I would have enjoyed having him here. We were closer, he and I; Apollo's so much older, you know."
"I know how that is," he nodded. His chrono beeped once and he glanced at it. "Time to go."
She finished her kava and stood up. "I hope the colonel's over yesterday."
Omega snickered. "Not as much as Altair and Rigel do."
She laughed and accompanied him to the bridge.
Cassie closed her eyes and recited under her breath. "The severity of a burn depends on its depth, its extent, and the age of the victim. Depth is classified as first, second, and third degree. First-degree burns cause redness and pain (e.g., sunburn). Second-degree burns are marked by blisters (e.g., scald by hot liquid). In third-degree burns, both the epidermis and dermis are destroyed, and underlying tissue may also be damaged. The extent of a burn is expressed as the percent of total skin surface that is injured. Extensive burns involving 30 percent or more of the body's surface can be life-threatening because they disrupt the skin's ability to fight infection, prevent fluid loss, and... and... and regulate body temperature. Persons under 1 yahren and over 40 yahrens old have a higher mortality rate than those between 2 and 39 for burns of similar depth and extent. Inhalation of smoke from a fire significantly increases mortality." She opened her eyes and checked the text. Okay.
She glanced up through the open door to the Life Center's admit area, but no one had come in. And who are you expecting to come in? Starbuck? Not likely... She sighed and then laughed at herself. She didn't exactly expect him, but she'd been hoping for him all night. Which was ridiculous, if you thought about it: not only had she pretty thoroughly dumped him ("I'm getting ready to jump into an inferno, and you want to talk to me about Cain?") but he'd never had any trouble finding women before now. She'd had to use every trick in the book to keep him...
And speaking of books... She sighed and looked back at the medical text. It wasn't as... interesting as Starbuck, but it was a lot easier to deal with. And she'd have to be a much bigger fool than she was not to know that Sheba had buried the hatchet because she'd been there to save that other pilot's lifewhat was his name? Bojay? And not to realize that once Apollo had been told that Sheba wasn't sleeping with Bojay, that they were "just wingmates", he'd be after her like a daggit on heat. Well, in rut, she supposed she ought to say... men.
Not that that was fair. Apollo was smitten, to be sure, but he'd never do anything so crude as chase Sheba. Not just because he was Sire Adama's son, either, and used to being the target, but because he was that rarity: a well-bred, restrained young man, with manners and a veneer of confidence over a shy nature. Plus, of course, that Caprican Kobolian upbringing that made Starbuck swear eleven times out of twelve.
And her, too. Kobolians... Somehowwhat did she mean, somehow? Adama was the reason, just as he was the reason they were aliveCaprican Kobolians outnumbered everyone else in the Fleet put together. And although Adama was the soul of tolerance, it was pretty clear that other ways were tolerated, which meant that the Council had the right to stop tolerating them someday. Libran Old Believers, Piscon Diwests, Tauran Aldebarians, Gemonese Otori, Arian Submitters, Sagittan Soldiers of God, Wayists from all over: all were definitely second-place religions now. Not that she grieved for any of them, and it could have been worse. But Caprican standards were pretty middle of the road, and Virgon line marriages and Tauran troikas were also pretty much frowned on. Let alone the same-sex marriages Gemoni, Leonis, and Libris had permitted.
Which brought her back to Starbuck again... She'd thought being Cain's lady would have been preferable, but now she wasn't so sure. Marrying Starbuck wouldn't be a slap in the face, that was certain. And it would make people stop looking at her. Sure, Sheba had been won over by her medical skills, but she couldn't expect to save the life of half the Fleet so the other half would forget her past. Even if she managed to qualify as a Medtech First Class and get into one of the medical classes Dr. Paye was talking about, to alleviate the doctor shortage in the Fleet, there would still be people who'd think all she wanted was to get their man, or them if they were the man, into bed. Like that had ever been the end-goal.
She sighed again and began reading the text. Focus and Compartmentalization, the secrets to a socialator's success. Or at least sanity.
"You look like you were up all night, buddy. Again."
Starbuck gave Boomer a jaundiced look. "Don't start with me," he warned.
"Sorry." Boomer backed off immediately. "Bad night?"
Starbuck knew what Boomer meant: nightmares. They all had them, now and again. Hades, how could you have survived Cimtar and then seen the Colonies destroyed and not? And this whole thing with the Pegasus had brought older scars to painful throbbing as well. He was tempted to let his old friend think that was the problem, but Boomer was the one he let see the pain. They'd roomed together at the academy, after all, and Leonids were a broad-minded people. Still, he eased into it sideways. "Yeah. Bad. You were on OOD, Cassie was on the night shift, and Athena was at a family dinner. With the commander and Apollo. And Sheba."
"Ow," Boomer said sympathetically.
"Yeah." Starbuck slammed his locker shut and picked his blaster up off his bunk where he'd dropped it. Boomer knew what that meant, all the ramifications of it: Starbuck had used to be 'one of the family' for those dinners, back when he was dating Athena. He'd been there the night Apollo had announced his and Serina's Promising. A couple of times since Kobol he'd been asked to go by Apollo... but now it was Sheba.
"You know, what I'm about to say is going to sound so inconsiderate I should probably duck after I say it, but... buddy, you'd better get used to it."
"I am used to it."
"No." Boomer shook his head. "If you were used to it you'd have a big callus there where you're bleeding."
Starbuck avoided his friend's eyes by buckling on the blaster. "I don't like it," he said finally, "but I know it's how it is. I'll get used to it. He wanted her the first time he saw her picture. And now she's here."
"Sans Cain, which has to be a huge improvement."
Starbuck laughed slightly. "Yeah. Even though Cain's always been his idol, or so he told me."
"Well," Boomer slapped him on the shoulder, "she's not sans Bojay."
"Oh, he told me she said they were friends, not romantically involved." He took a deep breath. He knew Bojay's secret, but it wasn't his to hand to Boomer even though the Leonid wouldn't care. "Not that it would matter, Boomer. He obviously wants a wife. I don't qualify."
"Sorry." Boomer meant it. "But it won't kill you, right?"
"You mean am I going to fly my Viper into the side of the battlestar?" He manufactured a smile, a nice bright Starbuck Number Two. "Not this kid. And in a way, it's a lot easier now that he's heard his biological clock going off. No more sitting around wishing..."
Boomer shook his head. "You're a real masochist, Bucko. If it was me, I'd be asking for a transfer to another squadron."
"Nah... Who'd keep Apollo from turning into a drone if I wasn't around?"
"You do relax him." Boomer's tone was thoughtful.
Starbuck hastened to intervene. "Don't start, Boomer. He's not interested. We're friends, as far as he's concerned. That's how he wants it. He's just... affectionate. Once you get through that barrier he puts up 'cause he's so shy. That's all."
Boomer didn't laugh at the description; Apollo was shy as well as introverted; he'd just learned to hide both characteristics. Instead, he sighed. "I suppose you're right."
Now Starbuck slapped him on the shoulder. "You know I am. Cheer up. We all have a lot more and bigger problems."
"And you've always got Cassie." He paused. "Or whoever."
Starbuck grinned. "That's right. Or whoever."
|Prolog||Chap 1||Chap 2||Chap 3||Chap 4||Chap 5.1|
|Chap 5.2||Chap 6.1||Chap 6.2||Chap 7.1||Chap 7.2||Epilog|
|Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans|
|Original Fan Fiction|
Star Wars |
Power Rangers |
Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
Space 1999 | Alias Smith and Jones | Jurassic Park III
|Go Back to List of Karen's Fiction|