Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Rating: C FOR CRACK. Um. I'll go with R to be safe.
Word count: 7671
Notes: I don't even know where to begin. The idea for this started as a silly email exchange with schiarire, and I thought it might be fun to fic out. But what was meant to be a short burst of pure crack decided to grow pairings and structure and about four sub-plots whilst still not having any main plot, which I thought was quite impressive. But there's girlkissing and snark and popcorn fights and bad poetry and all those good things, so on the whole I'm feeling quite good about it :D This is set directly after Final Cut. Cylons are referred to by name rather than number because a) I haven't seen Downloaded yet and b) it's less confusing on all counts.
Thanks go to peri_peteia and stars_like_dust for being encouraging, and liminalliz for her determined poking and our shared love of Leoben's meditation tapes.
Enjoy. Preferably with popcorn. And most importantly: do not take any of this at all seriously. Unless you want to.
“Is all in readiness?”
Darkness flooded the room, broken only by the soft glimmer of metal and a few specks of colour blinking on and off in asynchronous time.
“And they still don’t suspect a thing?” Sharon asked, thin fingers tapping gracefully on the leather armrest of her seat.
“No.” Doral’s smile was triumphant. “As ever, we move within and between them and they are blind to our machinations.”
Images splashed suddenly onto the huge screen at the front of the room and they watched carefully, the silence broken by the occasional whisper or soft noise of surprise. After a minute or two a splintered line of light appeared, as the side door opened and disturbed the darkness.
“Sorry, sorry.” Six’s thin heels clicked and echoed on the polished floor as she sauntered to her seat. “Have I missed anything?”
“Be quiet!” Sharon hissed. “Cally and the Chief are about to have their first real conversation since their drunken encounter in the supply closet last night!”
“You lot,” D’Anna Biers announced disgustedly, “are pathetic.”
“Silence is the mirror through which the fractal raindrops of the universe can be glimpsed,” said Leoben, and threw popcorn at her.
“I don’t see why I have to be the one to do this.”
“Stop whining, Doral.”
“I refuse to believe that you are in danger of breaking a nail if you use the manipulation software.”
Six tapped her foot, an impressive feat considering the height of her red stiletto heels, and looked impatient. “D’Anna left cameras in every corner of the Galactica, and half the time the feed is nothing but blank metal walls or people carrying baskets of linen to the laundry. If you didn’t go through and edit the most interesting bits together, the whole system would be drastically inefficient.”
“Couldn’t we just get Leoben to make an algorithm –”
Her loose curls bounced as she shook her head. “You know that only our models have the sophistication to analyse the situations effectively.”
“Sharon’s threatened to reprogram her hormone cycles if you stop,” Six cut in, with the smug air of someone laying a hand of full colours down on the triad table. “She’ll be PMSing nonstop for months. All of them.”
Doral’s mouth dropped open. “She wouldn’t.”
“With her love of melodrama?” Six crossed her arms, her scarlet fingernails curving around to dig lightly into her own forearm. “You know she would.”
Doral glared. “But there are, as you said, a lot of cameras –”
“There are at least twenty of you around the place,” Six told him scathingly. “Somehow, I think you’ll manage.”
“Look, I –”
“Oh, you idiots.” Sharon groaned and threw a peanut at the screen. It bounced off Billy’s worried expression.
“I’m off rotation for ten hours from 1800,” Dee said, her tentative smile pushing through the palpable awkwardness between the pair.
“Good! Yes!” Sharon bounced in her chair.
“Shh,” Six said.
“Well. Um.” Billy ducked his head and tried to lean casually against the nearest wall, but he misjudged the distance and managed to just overreach his centre of gravity. Dee pressed her lips together, her eyes widening with the effort not to giggle audibly.
Doral snorted. “The kid’s pathetic.”
“You could invite me on a tour of Colonial One,” Dee suggested. The laugh was still in her voice.
“Petty Officer Dualla.” Billy found his balance again and gave a bow, an echo of her smile finding its way onto his face. “If you’re interested, the Colonial One shuttle kitchen makes an excellent dish that pretends to be casserole and steamed vegetables.”
“Trust me, it’s better than anything served in Galactica’s mess.” She stepped closer and slipped her arms around his waist.
“Yes, I know.” His lips brushed against hers.
“Sir.” Dee snapped hurriedly to attention and turned, saluting.
“Look, it’s your boyfriend, Sharon.”
Sharon threw another peanut in Six’s direction, not taking her eyes off Karl Agathon and the way his attractively rumpled tanks left his arms bare. “I have good taste, I’ll give me that much.”
“Sorry…Dee, have you seen Starbuck?”
“I believe the Lieutenant is in hack, sir,” Dualla said, fighting a serious expression onto her face.
“What? What for?”
“Striking a superior officer, sir.”
Helo sighed. “Who now?”
“Captain Adama, sir.”
“But she’s always –”
Dee took pity on him. “Yes, sir. Captain Adama, um, insulted her flying. Sir. She’s been trading slots, taking on too many shifts.”
“So she – oh.” Helo laughed. “Clever of him. How is she?”
“Sleeping like a baby, sir.” Dee grinned and put her arm back around Billy’s waist.
“Carry on, Petty Officer.” Helo nodded at them both and headed off.
Billy raised his eyebrows. “Carry on, hey?”
“I’m under orders,” she murmured, pulling him down and kissing the tip of his nose.
“They’re so cute,” Sharon said.
“In the splintered universe next to ours, their destinies diverge like –”
“Like a river, maybe?”
“Find some new material, Leoben.”
“Days of Our Battlestar.”
“Why do we even need to give it a name?”
“I’m more interested in the nights, personally.”
“Technically it’s their battlestar…”
“God, Doral, could you be any more pedantic?”
“I like the fact that we’re watching over them,” Sharon said dreamily. “Like a kindly force of nature, or a parent.”
“Perhaps last time we were the parents, and they the children.”
Nobody paid much attention to that; but then, nobody ever really paid much attention to anything Leoben said.
“A beloved cousin, maybe,” Sharon continued. “Or, I don’t know –”
“A benevolent sibling?”
“That’s a stupid name.”
“It’s better than Days of Our Battlestar.”
“Adama’s Creek,” said Leoben.
“Nobody cares about your water fetish, Leoben.”
“It sounds like something out of rap music.”
“You’re such a snob, Simon.”
“I would have destroyed the human race just for rap music.”
“We know, Simon.”
Eventually Benevolent Sibling won the unofficial vote, mostly because Six threatened to pout or scream or both if she had to watch something called Days of Our Battlestar. That settled, they all sat back and watched Starbuck, Helo and Apollo swap reminiscences about the Flight Academy.
“…had to spend the night putting up with your last-minute exam panic. Frakking nervous insomniacs, the both of you.” Helo grinned.
“That’s right.” Apollo’s humming laughter echoed in his metal mug. “And I was sick the flight testing week, so I couldn’t fly against Kara for our one-on-ones. Ice Cap had to fill my slot, and he was scared shitless of her all through that second year.”
“Oh, like you could have taken me.” Starbuck paused in the process of digging in her locker for a fresh bottle and leaned down to snake a teasing arm around his neck. “You’re lucky you were sick. It saved you the embarrassment of having the whole Academy watch me kick your ass from one horizon to the other.”
“Dream on, Kara.”
“My dreams are never so boring that they’d include you, Apollo.”
“That sounded like a challenge.” Apollo turned his head in a fluid motion that closed the space between their faces. The sudden indrawn hiss of Starbuck’s breath was barely audible, melting into the camera’s background static.
“I didn’t think the great Lee Adama rose to juvenile things like challenges,” she said unevenly. One strand of her hair fell forward to brush his cheek.
Something that was obviously trying valiantly to be a cough rather than a laugh came from Helo, and the eyes of both Viper pilots slid in his direction. “Don’t let me interrupt,” he said with impressive innocence, his mouth twitching.
“Sorry, Helo.” Starbuck dropped a showy, lightning-fast kiss onto Apollo’s temple before pulling away. “You’ll have to find someone else to indulge your voyeuristic tendencies.” She threw them both a sloppy salute and jogged out of the room, leaving an amused look on Helo’s face and a slightly unnerved one on Apollo’s.
“Whoa,” said Six.
“This is so trashy,” said D’Anna.
“There should be more kissing,” said Sharon.
“How’s it going, Dee?”
“Not too badly, Lieutenant.”
“So, Petty Officer. I’ve been hearing some very interesting rumours about you.”
“Is that so, Lieutenant?” Dee stared at her hands, scrubbing them industriously.
“It seems that an unofficial lending system of…” Gaeta coughed and looked at the ceiling. “…delicate material has sprung into existence aboard the Galactica.”
“I may have heard something of that nature.” Her voice was neutral.
“You wouldn’t happen to know who is responsible for coordinating this system, would you, Dee?”
“Not a clue, sir.” Dee looked at him.
“Ah.” He nodded slowly. “Well, that’s a pity. I had a few requests to pass on…for a friend. With the appropriate payment, of course.”
They stared at each other for a while longer. Dee was obviously struggling to keep a straight face. “I suppose I could do my best to, um. Pass that on for you, Lieutenant.”
Gaeta smiled. “Why, thank you.” He leaned closer and murmured in her ear. Only a few words were audible, but they were enough to raise smirks amongst the Cylons.
“Gaeta.” D’Anna paused. “Really, we could have come up with a slightly less unfortunate name.”
“Couldn’t we be watching something a bit more stylish?” Simon muttered.
“Like what?” Six was making something that looked like a giant web of names, gnawing thoughtfully on the end of her pencil and occasionally adding a wobbly arrow labeled with things like ‘frakked once or twice’, ‘not speaking to each other’, or ‘friendly rivals’.
“Well, I know that I for one downloaded the contents of the Aerlon cultural media archives before the day of our attack, and there are several excellent independent projects –”
“Oh, that folder. I think Leoben deleted that from the mainframe to make room for his meditation tapes.”
“God moves in mysterious ways. And it is my personal opinion that He doesn’t like boring arthouse films any more than the rest of us.” Six turned and called over her shoulder. “Hey, Sharon, did Seelix and Flicker ever sleep together again?”
“Nope. That was strictly a one night stand.”
“Damn.” She started patting her pockets. “Anybody got an eraser?”
“Thanks for doing this, Cally.”
“No problem.” Cally perched on top of a trolley in one corner of the flight deck, rubbing absently at a grease stain on her knee. “Anything for the President.”
Billy flipped back a page on his notepad. “Shoot.”
“Hmm.” The Specialist’s mouth curved in a thoughtful smile. “Greenback and Petty Officer Adams have been seeing a lot of each other. Ellen Tigh has stopped trying to get into Captain Apollo’s pants for the moment and has moved on to Lieutenant Helo.”
“Well, this is handy,” Six said. “It’s almost like a recap.”
“Wait…wait…okay.” Billy scribbled fast. “What else?”
Cally rested her chin on her knees. “Rumour has it…Gaeta and Doctor Baltar.”
“Gaeta and Doctor Baltar what…oh.” Billy’s eyes widened. “The Vice President likes men?”
“Gaeta likes men,” Cally corrected him. “The Vice President likes attention.”
“I…well, yes. I suppose he does.” Billy made a few urgent underlining motions on the pad. “How did you find out about this?”
“Hmm.” Cally looked at him consideringly. “You know about your girlfriend’s porn business, right?”
Billy dropped his pen.
“You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?” D’Anna said.
“I’ll admit, it’s gratifying.” A light smirk danced around Six’s mouth as they watched Baltar pace around his lab, throwing the occasional wry comment to an innocuous chair.
“I’ll admit, it’s gratifying,” Baltar said, in exactly the same tone. D’Anna snorted into her hand. “I’ve not exactly had many overt expressions of interest since – oh, you know you don’t count, darling.”
“Yeah, darling,” Doral muttered, but it became a stifled yelp as the thin heel of Six’s shoe came down hard on his instep.
“Who are they talking about?” Simon asked.
“Gaeta, obviously. Keep up.” Sharon waved a hand to shush them.
“Of course I’m not interested,” Baltar continued. “But you know I’ve always been susceptible to a certain form of flattery, and he’s – oh, don’t look at me like that.” He lifted a hand to cup an invisible cheek, an eerily tender gesture. “You look rather silly when you pout, you know.”
“You do,” Simon put in.
“You only wish you pouted half as attractively as me.” Six tossed her head, unconcerned.
On the screen, Baltar was staring ardently into thin air. “You haven’t been this prone to petty jealousy since I slept with Starbuck –”
“He what?” Sharon and Six shrieked in unison. Leoben just looked sullen and muttered something about chaotic ripples.
Simon let out a low whistle. “Girl gets around.”
“It doesn’t actually mean anything,” Sharon said quickly. “Her heart belongs to Apollo. Obviously.”
“Getting a little invested, aren’t you?” D’Anna frowned.
“She loves him too much. She’s afraid of losing him,” Sharon explained.
“That explains everything,” Simon said with heavy sarcasm, watching Baltar start to unbutton his own shirt. “This is getting disturbing. Someone change it over so we can see what’s happening in Adama’s quarters.”
“Showing an interest at last, Simon?”
“I like the décor.”
“ – and they fight because it’s the only safe way they have to act on their unspoken attraction –”
“Sharon, you’ve been raiding shops for bad Tauran romance novels again, haven’t you?”
“Leoben. Back me up here.”
Leoben blinked at her. “What?”
“Starbuck! And Apollo! True love! Destined! Right?”
“All of this has happened before,” Leoben said meaningfully, and went back to admiring Adama’s crystal glassware.
“Look, Billy –”
“You didn’t think I was worth telling about this?”
“It’s a rumour. Cally’s gossip isn’t always reliable, you know.”
“And you’re not even going to confirm or deny it.”
“What, I’m supposed to tell you every little thing? Is that what you’re saying?”
“This is fairly major, Dee. I told you about my…” He lowered his voice, looking around the CIC. “My first time, and that time I got drunk on Cloud Nine...”
There was an immediate chorus of protest from the audience.
“Doral!” Six snapped. “We never saw that conversation! How are we expected to stay on top of the situation when you edit out these things?”
“Sorry.” Doral shrugged and nabbed a handful of popcorn. “It didn’t seem important at the time.”
“Shh!” Sharon waved a frantic hand “Damn, I missed what she said. Billy looks really pissed off.”
Billy did, indeed, look very pissed off. He turned on his heel and walked away, leaving Dee standing at her post, staring at his retreating back.
“Ooh.” Six tapped her fingers against her armrest. “Drama!”
The rec room was always good for live feed, even if Leoben did tend to spend his time making loud comments about the triad cards and the patterns of their distribution and the fact that they were all, in fact, pieces in great cyclic games beyond their imagining. One evening the game was slow and most of the pilots fidgety, so it finished up early and the room was soon empty apart from Kat, who was yawning as she perched on the edge of the table, and Racetrack, who had lost her tags in one of the sillier mock-betting rounds and was now engaged in an irate search for them.
“What did you want to talk about, Racetrack?” Kat said, covering her mouth as an even bigger yawn threatened to escape. “They’re up here, by the way. Helo twisted them around his mug.”
“Oh.” Racetrack pushed back an errant strand of hair and walked over. “I just wanted to enquire how your hopeless crush on the Captain is going. I mean, the Lieutenant. I mean –”
“Frak you,” Kat snapped.
“Like I’d put out for an arrogant Viper jockey.” Margaret raised her eyebrows, a hard edge to the mockery in her voice.
“Like I’d want to proposition an ECO,” Kat fired back, but she was obviously thinking about something else. “All right…which one?” she said eventually. A challenge.
“Both of them.” The other girl looked very pleased with herself. “Bit of a doomed choice you’ve got going on there. Unless they’re into threesomes. I wouldn’t have picked Apollo as the type, but you never know –”
“Oh, shut the frak up.” Kat kicked out, stopping Margaret from reaching the table so that she could retrieve her tags. “Do you think everyone knows?” she asked sullenly.
“Please,” Racetrack said, contempt flickering across her face. “I credit myself with a little more perception than most. You’re probably safe, as long as you tone down the smouldering glances at Starbuck. They’re about as subtle as an accelerating Raptor.”
“And you’d know, wouldn’t you?” Kat shot at her. “Sitting in your cozy cockpit, wishing you had the chops to fly a real bird.”
Margaret gave a low laugh and leaned closer. “That’s all you know, jock. At least I’m not compensating for the dick I wish I’d been born with by flying something emphatically phallic.”
Kat opened her mouth, eyes flashing, and then looked almost surprised at the laugh that bubbled out through her lips. “The what?”
Margaret held her gaze for a few seconds and then smiled as she shook her head and looked away. “Automatic defense. Sorry.”
“You’re not,” Kat drawled, running her hand over the table and picking up Racetrack’s tags.
“I’m not,” Margaret agreed, her smile flashing cynical and – abruptly – predatory.
Kat’s own smile faltered in the face of it and she stood up, tossing the other girl’s tags in her hand once or twice before inspecting them and handing them back. “Lieutenant Margaret Edmonson. That’s a frakking handle. What do your friends call you?”
“My friends call me Racetrack,” the girl said, slipping the chain over her neck. Her look said: duh. But after a few moments in which Kat shifted her weight from foot to foot, defiant and awkward, the ECO’s expression broadened out into something darker, softer, subtler. “My lovers call me Meg,” she said, tensely casual.
Kat’s lips fell open by half an inch, but she covered the surprise with a slow smirk. “Is that right.”
Margaret gave a sigh and stepped closer, her fingertips ghosting down Kat’s shoulders. “Louanne Katraine,” she said thinly. “Either you’re going to kiss me, or you’re not. But you need to make up your mind now, because I’m back on duty in three hours and currently you’re just wasting my –”
“Don’t give me orders, Meg.” And Kat’s hand lifted in something that was close, very close, to being a blow. But it served to lift Racetrack’s chin upwards, and Kat kissed her with a violence that forced her to shift back a step, and steady her feet, before her mouth opened and her hands tightened on Kat’s shoulders.
Racetrack managed to pull back just far enough to murmur something that sounded like that’s more like it, and her slim arms lifted as Kat tugged at the hem of her tanks, their mouths still meeting in quick harsh kisses and bites –
– that melted, seamlessly, into grey static.
Simon, who had been acting just as disaffected as ever, shot upright with a sudden look of dismay. “What just happened?” he demanded.
“Looks like the frakking camera shorted.” Doral looked even more upset.
Sharon nabbed the remote and changed the screen to show the starboard bathroom, which was generally considered to be an entertaining default when nothing more exciting was happening. There was always someone indulging in a bit of surreptitious primping. She reached over and stole Doral’s popcorn, as he was in no state to notice.
“Well. Frak.” Simon ran a hand over his head in a belated effort to look like he didn’t care about the abrupt absence of borderline-pornographic live feed.
“Someone has to fix it!”
“And how do you propose we do that, genius?” Six chewed the side of her lip and sent Doral a scornful glance.
“We could activate Gaeta,” he hazarded.
“No.” D’Anna clasped her hands on her stomach, looking somewhere between smug and stern. “Too risky. It’d be such a waste if he got caught. Pass the popcorn, Sharon.”
“You can’t activate him now,” Sharon added, obeying. “He hasn’t slept with Gaius yet.”
Six choked on a peanut. “That being the really important thing, of course.”
“Think how tormented the little scientist will be when he finds out that his last lovers have all been Cylons.” Sharon gave a slightly evil-sounding laugh.
“And Starbuck,” Leoben reminded them. Leoben, when he deigned to stray within the realms of lucidity, was the resident Starbuck expert.
“Come on, Sharon,” Doral appealed to her. “Think how much you’ll miss out on if the rec room camera is permanently out of order.”
That tore Sharon’s attention away from where Dee was frowning worriedly at her hairline. She turned her liquid brown gaze onto D’Anna with an earnestness that would have set Karl Agathon’s biceps rippling in sympathy. “That’s true. We’ll have to send someone in undercover to fix it.”
“Well, none of us can go.” Leoben yawned.
After a moment, five pairs of eyes swiveled hopefully in D’Anna’s direction. She paused with one butter-stained finger halfway out of her mouth. “You’re not serious.”
“You are the only one who isn’t recognizable as a Cylon. And you’ve probably got the best chance at finding an excuse to be allowed on board the Galactica again.”
“Hmm.” She inspected the bottom of the popcorn carton with a meditative expression. Breaths were held. “All right. But I’m not picking up souvenirs.”
“Hello, Mr. Vice President.”
“What brings you back on board the Galactica?”
“I left one or two essential camera parts here after my documentary, and the Commander was kind enough to let me back on board to have a look for them. I shan’t be in anyone’s way.”
There was a smattering of pleased laughter from the Cylon audience.
“Oh, well done.”
“One or two camera parts. Ha.”
“Wait, wait.” Six leaned forward and steepled her fingers, smiling. “He’s going to try and wrangle another interview. I bet you anything.”
“So, ah…” Baltar made a valiant attempt to toss his hair back, but it wasn’t even in his face to begin with. “I imagine this is just a brief visit. No time to find a story.”
“Sorry.” D’Anna smiled and tossed back her hair, which worked rather better. “Now, Doctor, I don’t suppose you could point me in the direction of the recreation room? I remember dropping a camera bag there, and some of my equipment may have rolled out.”
“Of course.” Baltar visibly swallowed down his disappointment and put a polite hand at her back. “This way, Ms. Biers.”
“Right.” Six changed the feeds over to the crackling static that was currently the locker room. “Let’s see if she can install the new one without being noticed.”
It only took a few minutes. They jumped as D’Anna’s face, enormous and contorted, appeared on the screen.
“Well,” she said, pulling back from the camera, sounding quite self-conscious. “Er. Oh, change the frakking channel, you lot, there’s nothing exciting going on here. I think Lieutenants Agathon and Thrace are currently having a kickboxing match in the gym, if that helps.”
Sharon snatched the remote.
“What have you got for me, Cally?”
“Nothing much new.” Cally swung her feet. “Ellen Tigh –”
“Oh, I heard about that.”
“The whole fleet did, I think.” She giggled.
“Sorry, sorry.” Doral waved over his shoulder. “I can’t keep everything in, you know.”
“What about you, Mr. Keikeya? The rumour mill says you’ve been having some relationship troubles of your own.”
“What about you?” Billy quirked an eyebrow. “I never get any gossip about Specialist Cally. This hasn’t escaped the President’s notice.”
“Oh, I’m boring.” Cally grinned at him. “Very boring.”
“Cally – and – the – Chief,” Billy said slowly, making large deliberate letters on his pad.
“Hey!” She kicked out at him. “You shouldn’t listen to vile gossip, you know.”
“Just nice clean gossip?”
“That’s right.” Cally brushed her hair from her eyes. “Now. Starbuck and Apollo are yet to get their heads out of their asses, as far as anyone can tell…”
“What is this, Leoben?” Sharon brandished a piece of paper in his face.
“I can see that.”
“Leoben writes poetry?”
“I write poetry,” Simon declared.
“We know, Simon.”
“Your poetry makes no sense, anyway.”
“It’s art. It doesn’t have to make sense. I bet Leoben’s doesn’t make sense either.”
“Nobody expects me to make sense,” Leoben said with maddening calm.
“It’s about Starbuck!” Sharon waved the paper some more. “And the eternal frakking cosmic stream, of course, but. Starbuck!”
Leoben looked at her and smiled, not losing a fraction of his cryptic serenity. “Please. Every time anyone has a conversation that doesn’t end in kissing, you go away and write a version that does.”
Sharon’s mouth opened. Closed. “Not for everyone,” she said.
“Pots and kettles.” Leoben stood up and took the piece of paper from her unresisting fingers. “If you’ll excuse me, some of us have important epics to be getting on with.”
D’Anna looked over. “What does he mean, pots and kettles?”
“Just one of those Leoben things, I expect.”
Silence reigned supreme, as Sharon had a habit of enforcing it with violent smacks on the arm as soon as Starbuck and Apollo were alone together.
“What the frak was that, Lee?”
Even when they were fighting. Especially when they were fighting.
“That was me stopping you from making a fool of yourself, Lieutenant.”
Kara shoved forward into his personal space, glaring and snapping. “Really. Because I’d say that you shooting down a perfectly legit plan of mine in public made me look pretty frakking foolish. Tigh was sneering at me. The bastard.”
“I gave you my honest opinion,” he told her, “and I won’t apologise for that.”
“It’s not a – what was it? – a suicidal, foolhardy plan.” Her chin jutted out. “Take that back.”
“I mean the things that I say, Kara.” Something rippled across his face. “And as I recall, I’m not allowed to take them back.”
“Would you like to?” Starbuck crossed her arms, but didn’t step back. “Go on, Lee. Limited time only. Free takebacks, yours for the asking.”
“I’ll stay, thank you,” he said, looking back at her. “On all counts.”
The defiance struggled to remain on her face, but lost. Kara let out a long sigh and rested her hand hesitantly on his arm. “Look, Lee,” she said, looking intently at her own fingers, “you know –”
Beep beep beep.
“Shit.” Starbuck tore away and fumbled at the hatch wheel. “Incoming.”
The pilots dashed out of view and Sharon slumped back into her seat with a groan. “For the love of the one true God, will someone take the remote control with the Launch Raiders button away from D’Anna?”
“Careful, Sharon,” D’Anna said coldly. “You lose sight of the larger picture. Our goal is not to be sacrificed for the petty relationships of humans, regardless of their entertainment value.”
“Huh.” Sharon did some more glaring at the screen, which now showed nothing but running crew members and flashing alarm lights. “Someone at least switch it over to the CIC cam.”
“You’re going to have to let something happen between Starbuck and Apollo sooner or later,” Leoben murmured, “or Sharon will get mutinous.”
“But it’s so much fun to watch them panic.” D’Anna tapped the remote fondly and lowered her voice. “Besides, where’s the suspense if they get together now? All that lovely UST will just become RST, and that’s not nearly as satisfying.”
“I see the thread that binds them. I see the spinning orbits that you will not be able to deflect for long.”
“Oh, shut up.”
“It is important that you remember these things.” Adama paused and adjusted his glasses, looking back down at the podium. “That you hold to the people around you – trust in the people around you. It is this that sets us apart from the Cylons.”
“Shot!” Sharon crowed, raising her glass of ambrosia.
“Are we counting that for ‘trust’ or ‘reminding them of their humanity’?”
“Both, I suppose. Two shots!”
“This is a ridiculous game,” said Simon, but he drank just as readily as the others.
“It’s more fun than CIC Bingo.”
Adama was looking thunderous and determined. “We’ve all lost someone. We’ve all had our families broken, and we’ve all had to mourn. Start to rebuild. Find new families in your shipmates.”
“He mentioned. Family. Family there.” Doral frowned, his glass wobbling unsteadily in his hand. “Is that one or two shots?”
“Just one.” D’Anna took a long sip.
“So say we all!”
“So say we all!” came the enthusiastic, drunken echo from the Cylons.
“Two shots for – no, wait! He’s slowclapping! Shit!” Six scrambled for her glass. “Bottoms up, people!”
Sharon was laughing so hard that she made gurgling noises into her glass before she managed to down it.
“He looks like he’s trying to crush the skulls of babies between his palms.” Leoben stared over the rim of his empty glass. “The skulls of our poor hypothetical children.”
“Ignore him, you know how maudlin he gets when he’s drunk.”
On the screen, the clapping died down and Adama stood silent in front of the Colonial flag. “I know that sometimes hope and peace may seem very far away…”
“That wasn’t the end?”
“…and every day it may seem harder and harder to wake up and keep going…”
“Lookit fish ace. I mean. His face. Hee.” Sharon collapsed sideways into Six’s lap.
“Sharon, you are such a lightweight.”
“…but sometimes, you have to roll the hard six.”
“I,” Sharon announced, “have had a brilliant idea.”
Simon started to say something that was probably less then complimentary, but Leoben dug an elbow into his side.
“You’ll see soon enough,” she said, beaming.
“Er.” Doral wandered into the room, looking a little glazed. “I, er. Left in quite a lot of footage today.”
“That’s good! That’s fine!” Sharon said loudly, sitting down and planting her feet on the seat in front. “Let’s see it!”
Doral stared at her. “Did you do that?”
“Hey.” Sharon shrugged one shoulder. “Are you complaining?”
“Do what?” D’Anna demanded.
“Just watch, ladies and gentlemen,” Sharon said. “Just watch.”
For a long time.
“Genius,” Six said under her breath.
“Doctor Baltar? Lieutenant Gaeta?” Tigh stood in CIC in his tanks, wiping his forehead off with one hand as he glared at the consoles. “Can’t you do something about this frakking heat?”
“I’m…I’m sorry, sir.” Gaeta’s fingers danced nervously across the keypads. “It’s obviously a virus of some kind, though it doesn’t seem to be attacking anything but the ship’s interior temperature regulator. It’s very specific.”
Baltar was skimming a printout of code. “If I’m reading this correctly, it’ll time out and restore the normal environmental settings at zero hundred hours, Colonel. All we can do is wait it out and make sure everyone stays hydrated.”
“Well, it’s ridiculous,” Tigh snapped, looking around the room. Not a single man or woman was wearing more than their shorts and tanks; half of the men were completely topless and more than a few of the more confident women had stripped down to their bras.
“Where’s Agathon?” Sharon asked, looking quite put out. “Doral, couldn’t you have put in some more footage of him?”
“I elected to cut it,” Doral said with great dignity, “in favour of the next bit.”
“This had better be good.” She glared at the screen as it changed to show the rec room.
“Starbuck, what are you doing?”
“Oh,” Sharon squeaked, staring at Apollo’s complete lack of a shirt, and the way his muscles moved as he wandered around pushing in chairs and picking up forgotten uniform jackets.
“Just looking,” Kara said innocently, leaning back in her chair. She was, obviously, one of the girls who had elected to wear only their black regulation bras. “No rules against looking, right, Captain? Otherwise half the ship would be in the brig by now. And that would just suck, what with the crowded conditions, everyone all hot and sweaty…”
“Not now, Kara,” he said, his voice tired, rubbing at his face. “Shouldn’t you be in your rack? We’ve got that recon tomorrow.”
“Shouldn’t you, sir?” She stood up and met his gaze.
A small smile appeared on Apollo’s face. “I asked first.”
“Nervous insomniac,” she said, her eyes still locked with his.
The silence stretched out for a few more agonising seconds before Starbuck muttered something vaguely profane under her breath and took three determined strides forward to trap Apollo against the wall.
“Kara,” he began, unsteady.
“Shut up,” she breathed. “Just shut the frak up, Lee, and this might be all right.”
“What about you?” But his hands lifted, wavered, slid around to rest on the bare skin at the small of her back.
“Me?” She snorted down a sudden burst of laughter that barely skated the edges of hysteria. “Remember me, Lee? I’m a frak-up. If I don’t stop talking in the next ten seconds I’m going to say something totally stupid and ruin everything and –”
Lee kissed her, covering her half-open mouth with his own and biting gently at her lower lip until she was silent. Her eyes fell closed.
“Oh,” she said, very quietly.
Lee looked as though he might be about to say something, but instead he smoothed back the hair from her forehead with his thumb. A faint smile appeared on Kara’s face, but she didn’t move. She didn’t move as his thumb brushed down the side of her face, and she didn’t move as he dropped slow, careful kisses on her temple and cheek and jawline, and she didn’t move as his fingertips trailed down her bare arms.
Kara’s eyes snapped open just as Lee’s fingers closed around her wrists, and in that instant the atmosphere in the room changed as surely as if a switch had been flicked.
“Devastated,” she said hoarsely, but the end of the word was lost as Lee tensed his arms and pulled her around, taking two quick circling steps to press her against the wall in turn. The instant he released her arms she made a low hissing sound and fumbled at his shoulders, her grasp slipping and then tightening abruptly as he slipped his hands around to lift her bodily off the ground. Kara gasped with the change in balance and locked her legs around his waist.
“Frak,” she said, breathing hard, her hands sliding down to splay out on his bare chest.
“That’s the idea, Lieutenant,” and Lee lifted his head to that her sudden pleased laugh hummed and faded against his lips, her mouth opening immediately as he hitched her higher. Kara’s palms skimmed his shoulders, his neck, and she couldn’t quite seem to stop laughing into the kiss. Eventually the angle became too much and she tilted her head back instead, tugging at Lee’s hair as his mouth explored her neck.
“Down,” Lee said eventually, loosening his grip and forcing her to find footing on the ground again.
“Weakling,” she shot at him, grinning through her reddened lips.
Lee ducked the punch and used her recovery time to slip an arm around her waist and pull her tightly against him, the fingertips of his other hand just brushing the line of her stomach where it met the material of her bra.
“Frak, Lee!” Kara twisted, laughed, lifted her arms, and there was just enough time to see her bra jerking upwards before the two pilots stumbled out of the view of the camera.
There was a long, awed pause.
“Holy shit,” said Simon.
After the stunning success of Sharon’s overheating plan, there was a general brainstorming session to think up new interventions. Six stuck her chart to one wall and waved a red pencil around excitedly. After discarding the idea of killing Gaeta as too inconvenient and the idea of sending D’Anna back to start randomly writing more cryptic poetry on the walls as too frakking bizarre, thank you Leoben, they eventually agreed upon sending a scrambled signal on a rarely used frequency that, when decoded, simply said Billy Keikeya is a Cylon.
“Because his life is so dull at the moment,” Sharon explained. “This ought to liven things up.”
And it did.
“Leoben!” D’Anna snapped, marching into the room. “Those infiltration logarithms were meant to be done by now. You’re wasting time.”
“Time is meaningless,” Leoben said, but he sounded distracted.
D’Anna sighed and collapsed into a seat. “What’s going on?”
“Roslin is telling the Adamas and Tigh that these are obviously unfounded rumours meant to sow discord and break the fleet apart, and that Billy has her complete trust. I think Tigh wants to throw the kid out an airlock, but that’s mostly because his wife got bored last week and hinted that she might be sleeping with him.” Leoben held out a carton. “Popcorn?”
That particular storyline kept them entertained for a good two days, until Baltar finally waved around some scientific printouts and made a public announcement supporting the indisputable humanity of Billy Keikaya. Six watched the way the scientist’s eyes kept jerking to the side whilst he was speaking, and smiled.
Doral fumbled with the remote, changing camera feeds and trying to keep Billy himself on the screen as he made his way through Galactica, peeking through open hatches and ignoring the quiet murmurs of the people he passed.
“The head, she’s in the head!” Sharon hissed, and the picture flickered solid just as Billy halted in the hatchway.
“Dee,” he said quietly.
Dualla’s eyes were very wide, and she didn’t quite manage to hide her jerk of surprise. “Billy. Hi.”
Billy fiddled with the cuffs of his shirt as he crossed the room. “Look, I’m –”
“I’m sorry,” she cut in.
Billy put his hands on her shoulders. “I’m not a Cylon,” he said, sounding very young. “I’m not.”
Dee chewed on her lip and then reached out to touch his cheek gently. “I am a porn merchant,” she admitted, “but I love you anyway.”
Sharon beamed. “That’s so romantic.”
“I bet they have really boring sex,” Six put in, eyeing them.
Simon stared at her. “Porn merchant.”
“Boring, vanilla se – oh.” Six closed her mouth and watched with fascination for a few moments. “Did she just stick her hand down his pants?”
Simon tilted his head. “It’s hard to tell.”
A strangled sound emerged from Billy’s lips, and Six smirked. “I stand corrected.”
“Our forces are in readiness,” D’Anna said, very pleased. “This should leave the fleet crippled, and our –”
“D’Anna?” It came out as something akin to a squeak. Sharon cleared her throat and lifted her chin. “D’Anna.”
“Yes?” D’Anna looked up from her plans.
“We think – that is, um –”
“Out with it.”
Sharon took a deep breath and shot a look over her shoulder at her backup. But as her backup consisted of Six, who was inspecting her nails with her usual studied expression of bored sensuality, and Leoben, who appeared to be scratching some odd symbols into the metal of the hatchway, this did not prove to be enormously helpful.
“Doral has uncovered some intelligence about Galactica’s plans for tonight that we believe should spur you into considering a postponement of the attack,” Sharon said, speaking very fast.
D’Anna just raised her eyebrows and waited, twirling a pen in her fingers.
There was a very pregnant silence in which D’Anna decoded this and considered it. Her eyebrows rose a little further. Even Six’s eyes drew away from her manicural inspection and fixated on D’Anna’s pen, which was being flicked and twisted with ominous precision.
“Hot dang,” said D’Anna.
“I don’t think we’re really going to need this.” Kat waggled a bottle of lethal-looking alcohol before setting it in the centre of the circle.
“Ah, but how else does one get an empty bottle?” Greenback reached for it and filled his mug before passing it to Helo.
“We have one empty bottle, people.” Kara said eventually, shaking the last few drops out into her brimming mug. “Who’s first?”
Flicker’s spin landed on Piper, one of the quieter nuggets who turned a bit pink as they kissed. Helo’s first two spins both landed on Apollo; though he elected to keep spinning, which left a disappointed look on Kara’s face.
Sharon mirrored it. “Pity.”
Helo’s next spin fell on Kara, who grinned and let him plant a loud, friendly kiss on her lips.
“Apollo!” Helo pushed the bottle in his direction. “Stop looking so much like you’re observing training drills, and join in.”
Lee shrugged and set the bottle spinning with one finger. Just as it was slowing, however, Kara’s foot shot out and blocked its spin precisely as the neck was pointed, very clearly, in her direction. The look on her face dared anyone to raise an objection.
After a difficult pause, a wide grin broke out on Hotdog’s face and he raised his mug. “Does this mean we can stop pretending we don’t know?”
Laughter broke through the tension and became a mocking, messy group toast. Starbuck and Apollo sat through the cheering, Kara’s glare slowly becoming more and more smug.
“All right, nuggets,” she said finally. “Let me show you how it’s done.” She leaned over, half in Lee’s lap, and locked her arms around his neck. “How about it, Captain?” she murmured, although it was a suspiciously loud and showy murmur. Lee laughed and pulled her closer, ignoring the awkward angle of her knee against his stomach. The kiss started out deep but fairly average, until Kara pulled back just enough to whack Lee in the side of the head and demand that he get over himself and put some frakking effort into it. He responded by tonguing his way up the side of her neck, and Kara was laughing breathlessly by the time their mouths met again.
Almost a full minute after that, Kara’s tanks were bunched up under her breasts and the cheering had restarted. Helo dug an elbow into the small of Kara’s back and she toppled over on top of Lee with an audible mmmff, both of them crashing backwards.
“Someone else’s turn,” Helo announced loudly, whilst limbs were untangled, mugs were sipped from, and Kara’s smirk glued itself even more firmly to her lips. “Kat, you’re up.”
Kat snorted and gave the bottle a forceful spin. “At least some of us are prepared to play by the rules.”
“Rules are boring,” Kara drawled, dancing her fingers up Lee’s arm.
“Are you going to let her get away with insubordinate talk like that, Captain?”
“Absolutely not,” Lee said amiably, swatting at Kara’s hand. “Two days in the brig for you, Lieutenant.”
“The frakking game, people,” Kat said, as the bottle swung to a halt.
“Awesome,” Hotdog said in a fervent tone. All eyes followed the neck of the bottle and landed on Racetrack, whose eyebrows were creeping upwards as she met Kat’s gaze.
“Don’t get too excited, stud.” Flicker punched the other man on the arm. “She’s allowed to spin again. Rules are rules.”
“But I’m allowed to stay, too.” Kat lifted her chin and grinned, clearly enjoying the attention.
“If I agree,” Racetrack pointed out, not looking any friendlier.
“Too chicken for a simple kiss?”
“If I kissed you it wouldn’t be simple, little girl.”
“Put your mouth where your…mouth is.”
“Let’s not kill them,” Doral said, finally breaking the fascinated silence in the theatre room. “Life would be so less entertaining.”
On the screen, the circle of pilots looked like they were watching a particularly vicious one-on-one pyramid game.
“I’m beginning to think you’ve got a raging crush on me, Katraine.”
“You only wish. You just haven’t got the guts for this.”
“Hmm.” A smile appeared on Margaret’s face with uncanny abruptness. “Maybe I haven’t got the incentive for it.”
“What, you want me to buy you dinner first?”
“Gentlemen?” The ECO stretched, the picture of casual boredom as her gaze swept the room. “Incentive?”
After a very brief pause, Greenback fumbled in his pocket. “I’ve got nine cubits on me.”
The impromptu whip-round raised an impressive forty-one cubits, which Racetrack scooped towards herself. Her smile grew.
“I like this one,” Six declared.
“Right then,” said Kat, something odd in her voice, and her knee scattered the pile of shining coins as she leaned in.
“Gnnf,” said Hotdog after a while.
“Um…yeah.” Greenback stared at Racetrack, who was cupping Kat’s face and kissing the other girl with a tortuously slow, teasing brush of lips and tongue.
It was generally agreed by pilots and Cylons alike that nothing was going to top that particular display. The game continued for a while longer, but as mugs were drained and people lost interest the rec room became emptier and emptier.
“Hey.” Kat’s call stopped Margaret in her tracks as the girl was leaving. “I think you owe me some cubits.”
“Go on,” Margaret told Piper, and walked back over to the Viper pilot. “Really.”
“At least twenty.”
“You’re not going to fight me on the last cubit?”
Kat shrugged awkwardly and looked at the ground. Margaret waited for the last group of people to leave the room before closing the distance between them, her voice much softer than usual. “Your cue, Kat. This is where you insist you’re only in it for the sex and the money.”
Kat took a breath and looked up. “Look, Meg,” she said roughly. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”
“Yes?” Racetrack stepped a little closer, her eyes skittish and oddly hesitant, her finger straying along the edge of the other girl’s collar.
Beep beep beep.