Title: "Stay This Way Forever"
Spoilers: through 2.13
Summary: Day nineteen on the Pegasus, and she was still alive. In the personal biography of Captain Kara Thrace, that probably deserved a commendation.
Stay This Way Forever
The first transfer request came down five hours after the funeral. When she hauled Chiller into the office, he was stupid enough to say, "The current environment on Pegasus contradicts my religious beliefs, Sir."
It was bullshit. She knew it. He knew that she knew.
Then Chiller's glare settled on her chest, and not in a sexy way.
"Transfer request denied. Deal with it, Lieutenant. Dismissed."
Another pointed stare and a half-assed salute, then he walked out. Starbuck ground her teeth and ripped her own transfer request to shreds. Bastards would just have to learn to live with a bitch in charge, and they'd frakking like it.
By the end of her shift, two more requests came across her desk. She denied both.
Senior officers here had their own small dining room, with teak paneling and spot-free glasses. Each meal saw it full of colonels, majors, and captains, none of whom she knew yet, nor did she particularly want to. So she sat alone, and it was fine. Their passive avoidance was still better than the active shit in the main Mess.
The CAG position came with private living quarters. It was about damn time. Sure, the Pegasus was cold, but at least it was deluxe. At first, she'd tried to crash in the pilots' racks, but the looks those guys shot at her left her sleepless and vaguely ill. Might as well take advantage of the job's few perks.
When she found a full bottle of whiskey at the bottom of a file cabinet, she grinned so hard that her cheeks hurt. She carefully rationed it, using her fingers as a guide. But that first sip tasted so damned good going down that she muttered "Frak it" aloud and raised the bottle to her lips.
Twenty minutes later, the bottle was half-empty. Half-full. Whatever.
That night, she slept like a baby.
On day three, she shuttled over to the Galactica to retrieve the rest of her crap. Everything in her old locker was just as she'd left it, which shouldn't be a surprise, but it was.
She stared at the photograph of her, Zak, and Lee for a minute before shoving it to the bottom of her carry-all and getting the hell out of there.
"Where's Apollo?" she asked Dualla, who wouldn't quite meet her eyes.
"He's in a meeting with Tigh and a few of the pilots. Should I call him here?"
Starbuck adjusted the bag's shoulder strap. "Nope. A CAG's work is never done, huh?"
Dualla half-smiled and stared at her monitor.
On the way back to the shuttle, she pulled Chief Tyrol aside. "Could you send over a crate of that rotgut? My pilots could sure use it."
Tyrol laughed. "So could all of us." And she laughed along with him.
That night, she finished off the bottle of whiskey. The private bed was soft and warm, and she slept great. And the morning shower in the tiny en-suite head felt even better. Maybe she should've kissed more asses along the way if this was the result.
She blow-dried her hair and slicked it back with gel. Something was missing, though. Poking through her toiletries kit, she found a stash of makeup she'd bought ages ago as a joke. The lipstick easily slid over her mouth. Her hand shook a little as she attempted the mascara, but she eventually managed.
Kara stared at herself in the mirror. Reddish lips, dark eyes. A frakking paragon of female professionalism. Good.
Two Lieutenants (Junior Grade) got themselves thrown into the brig for drunk and disorderly. They claimed the ambrosia was part of a private stash. She sat in on their hearing and nodded at the sentence. "Serves them right. This ship hasn't survived this long with its pilots drunk off their asses," she muttered as the guys were led away.
Striker stopped and turned to her. She waited for him to throw her own history back in her face. Instead, he practically growled, "Those were two of my best Raptor ECOs. They've never done anything that stupid before."
"They're not your ECOs anymore, Lieutenant Taylor."
She could see his lips form around an invitation to go frak herself, then he ground his teeth. "Maybe you should get to know your pilots better, Captain."
She didn't look behind her on the long walk back to her office, and her chin remained high as she sunk into the plush leather desk chair. But she booted up her computer and inserted an optical disc containing the entire fleet's pre-war service records. Millions of soldiers, active and retired (and most now dead), all on one six-inch bit of plastic. She'd marvel at the technology if she bothered to give a damn.
Lt.(JG) Esau Bolton hailed from Picon. A handful of commendations, but nothing stellar. Lt.(JG) Marta Stanley was equally bland; no fancy reports from her supervisors, and no indications of previous trouble. She remembered their faces at the hearing, and how they'd looked so damn young. Starbuck could easily request that their sentence be commuted, but what was the point? Only two weeks in the brig. They'd be able to handle it.
She drummed her fingers on the glass desktop for a few minutes, fighting the urge to look up her own file. "What the hell," she muttered, and typed her name into the search window. And right above her name was "Lieutenant Damaris Thrace (Retired)".
Blood pounded through her head, closing her throat. And though she knew so frakking much better, she clicked on her mother's file.
Commendations for her management skills. A transcript of her training coursework as a maintenance systems analyst. An early transfer to the Icarus, one of the flagships. The usual promotions and transfers and service reports. A notation that Lt. Thrace had married, a daughter eight months later, a divorce after three years. Then the kudos stopped, replaced by denied transfer requests, mandatory psych visits, and all the trademarks of a stalled career.
Frak this. She didn't need to read all of that crap. She'd lived it.
Kara reopened the search window and typed Cain's name, then read the file start-to-finish three times.
Coordinating two CAPs was a bitch, even more so when the ships had grown accustomed to different procedures. She'd always hated by-the-book procedures, but at least they made her job easier. Cain had had the right idea, there. Kara realized now that she'd had a hell of a lot of good ideas.
Still, the damned flight schedules refused to cooperate, especially with forty-plus pilots under her command who weren't exactly any more warm or cooperative than she was. Rubbing her forehead with one hand, she reached for the inter-ship phone with the other.
Two minutes later, Lee's voice echoed on the other end of the line.
"I'm just doing things the way we've always done them, Starbuck."
"Yeah, yeah. I know." She sighed. "I'm going to messenger over our current schedules. Could you check them for overlap?"
"First chance I get."
She leaned back in her chair and stared at the monitors on the opposite wall. "Hey, how's it going over there? Are you managing to survive without me?"
He either coughed or laughed – she couldn't tell. "We're just fine."
"Great." She fingered one of the buttons on her jacket. "How about I bring the schedules over, myself? We could kick back and grab a drink, maybe get all this settled the old-fashioned way."
A pause, then he said in a perfectly Lee voice, "Sorry, I'm really busy right now."
"Oh. Okay." She knew when to take a hint. "Guess I'll let you get back to work."
"Thanks. Good hunting, Captain." Then all she heard was a dial-tone.
Kara stared at the phone for a minute before slamming it back into the receiver. She took a deep breath and blinked. Navel-gazing over all this was stupid. They were both busy. No big deal. She had better things to do than think about how she suddenly missed Lee Adama so much that her chest hurt.
She reached for a manila envelope and shoved the flight schedules inside, then picked up the intercom and called for a messenger.
Tyrol's crate of homegrown grain alcohol arrived a few minutes before the end of her shift. She laughed at how he'd scrawled "Screwdrivers" on the top of the box, just to throw off any thieves. It was so perfectly Chief that she felt an intense wave of love for him. She'd have to send over a thank-you note later.
But the cardboard box was worn and flimsy, just like everything else these days. A few yards from her quarters, the bottom finally gave out, scattering plastic bottles all over the corridor. She swore loudly and dropped to her knees, trying to grab them all before someone came along and wanted a piece. And, sure enough, soon she was joined by a guy in a Petty Officer's uniform, reaching for the last bottle.
"Is this ambrosia?" He stared at it. "The Admiral doesn't... uh... the Pegasus is a dry ship."
She drew herself up to full height, trying and failing to look dignified with five bottles in her arms. The officers' handbook probably had some stupid script for situations like this. Instead, she glared at the guy and growled, "What, are you going to report me?"
"Let me keep this bottle, and I'll forget I ever saw any of this."
They stared each other down, with him looking far more arrogant than an enlisted had a right to be. His face wasn't half-bad. Almost handsome, even. And she realized just how long it'd been since she'd worked off some tension, so to speak. Drinking alone had served her well the past week, but drinking with someone else was better, even if he was one of the grunts.
She walked over to her quarters and opened the hatch. Glancing over her shoulder, she asked, "Are you coming?"
Over a half-bottle of the rotgut, they bullshitted stories of how ridiculously boring this ship was, and he told her all the gossip she should've learned on her own by now. He said some other stuff that made her feel kind of uncomfortable, but she ignored it in favor of the great buzz she'd achieved.
When she let him frak her, it wasn't great, but it was good. She kept her mouth shut as she rode him; no way would she say another man's name this time, and she didn't know this guy's name, anyway.
Then it was over, but she didn't feel any better. As she watched him dress, she thought about threatening to demote him if he breathed a word of any of it, but she couldn't be bothered. On her list of stupid moves over the years, frakking a petty officer wasn't exactly a first, not that she gave a damn. So she watched him leave, then she reached for the half-empty bottle. It felt really good going down.
Day nineteen on the Pegasus, and she was still alive. In the personal biography of Captain Kara Thrace, that probably deserved a commendation.
Except her feet wouldn't cooperate when she hauled herself out of bed that morning, and she sported a truly spectacular hangover. She somehow managed to take a shower and get herself dressed, ignoring how her uniform had gotten a bit too loose lately. She tossed another empty bottle of Chief's booze into the wastebasket and rinsed a glass before filling it with water. It didn't get rid of the head-pounding, but it was a start. Two aspirin helped, too.
By the time she applied her mascara, her hands no longer shook. But bloodshot eyes stared back at her, and yesterday she'd finished off her bottle of eyedrops. Frak.
So she blinked and rubbed until they looked human again, which just set off her headache. Today's agenda included a trip over to the Galactica for a routine briefing. Maybe she'd stop by Cottle's office and ask for some of those stims.
The idea of doing that brought on a sudden fit of laughter, and she kept on chuckling all the way to her office. She grabbed the files she'd need for the briefing, then stopped short when the intercom announced, "Captain Thrace, please report to the hangar deck."
Starbuck glanced at the clock. Twenty minutes late. Oh, shit.
She didn't run all the way to the deck, though. She was the CAG now. They could wait for her.
Kat had turned into a royal bitch. Dualla wouldn't quite look her in the eye. New names on the pilots' roster, and now the President was wasting away in the Sick Bay. She wasn't sure how she felt about all that.
The frakked-up ammo gave her an excuse to track down Captain Adama. CAG business, of course. Bonus points for giving her a chance to find out why the hell he wouldn't return her calls. As she headed toward the Ready Room, she wondered if she'd hallucinated that whole scene in the rack right after Cain's funeral. Maybe his "I didn't want to make it back alive" had been metaphor. She'd never been good at picking up on that crap, anyway.
She found him staring at the whiteboard, his shoulders so tense she could probably bounce that ammo off of them. "Hey," she called out, training her mouth up in a smile.
A dazed look on his face, he stared at her for a second before returning the greeting.
Kara walked over to stand next to him. "Everything going alright?"
"Yeah. A couple of my pilots got injured on the last patrol, so I'm rearranging the schedules."
"They did? Nobody told me."
He shrugged. "Just a temporary setback. No big deal."
More silence. She thought about getting him to talk, but the words settled in the back of her throat. Something about him felt different now. She should know what it was, except she didn't. It was probably nothing, anyway. They hadn't seen each other for days. That's all it was.
Then he set the marker in the metal tray and turned to her, just staring for a few moments. Examining her face, down her body, then back up to her eyes. That slow burn he was so damned good at. The kind that would normally turn her on, except now there was something weird about it.
"Who are you?" he finally muttered.
She blinked. "I'm Starbuck. Hello?"
Eyes narrowed, he stared some more. "I know, Kara. It's just –"
"It's just what?"
A beat, then another, and while she tried to figure out how the hell to get him to explain what the frak he meant, he shrugged. "Never mind."
She flinched. He didn't seem to notice. Or maybe he just didn't care.
Kara licked her lips, her tongue sliding over the waxy red. She was Starbuck. Always had been, always would be. And he was Apollo. Both of them CAGs now, but everything else was the same. Right?
Once again, she tried to form the words to get him to talk to her, but they wouldn’t come. Maybe she just didn't know how.
So she reached for the Pegasus pilots' roster and started comparing it to the names on the whiteboard. Lee soon fell into step, and then there they were, arguing over schedules and procedures. Just like old times. Nothing had changed. Hopefully, it never would.