DISCLAIMER: Battlestar Galactica is the property of Glen A. Larson, Sci-Fi Channel, R & D TV, Sky and NBC Universal.
SERIES/SEQUEL: This is the third story in the 'Hide and Seek' series, following Water and Act of Contrition.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
You Can't Go Home Again
"Frak the odds. We're going to find her."
Laura was taken aback by the Commander's words. Not that she hadn't heard such language before, she was even known to use it herself every now and then, but in a conversation between a Commander and his President, it was quite shocking. She did, however, completely understand his frustration and appreciate his determination.
When Billy had told her a pilot was missing, Laura had immediately asked who it was. When she had been told the missing pilot was Kara she had immediately used her influence, perhaps undue influence, to convince the captains of the other ships in the fleet to help in the search. If Billy had wondered why she was becoming personally involved, he had kept his questions to himself. For her part, Laura had avoided asking herself whether she would have lobbied as hard for help in the search if the missing pilot hadn't been Kara. She hadn't been sure she would have liked the answer.
"I'll coordinate their efforts with your CIC. Continued good luck."
Laura tried, futilely, to concentrate on the paperwork Dr. Baltar had handed her. Eventually, she gave up, signed the requisition and handed it back to the odd man. Rationally she knew the loss of Kara Thrace would be a blow to the entire fleet. She was, after all, the most gifted pilot in the squadron and a valuable asset in the fight against the Cylons. Laura studiously ignored the voice in her head that was eager to point out that Kara was much more than just an asset to the Fleet as far as the President was concerned. She was trying to ignore the gnawing ache in her stomach at the thought of Kara never coming home when Dr. Baltar broke into her thoughts.
"Madam President, I don't mean to be impertinent, really, but do you honestly think this is wise? You are compromising the security of the entire fleet while we search for one solitary pilot."
"It is a risk, but those pilots put their lives on the line for us every day."
She could no longer ignore her inner voice when Doctor Baltar's assertion that he knew the missing pilot 'personally' caused a surge of what was unmistakably jealousy to shoot down her spine. "Oh?" Laura narrowed her eyes as she took in Baltar's frame, wondering exactly how 'personally' the strange young man knew Kara. Did he know how soft her skin was? How she tasted? Did he know how Kara Thrace sounded when she came -- that throaty groan of release followed by a call for mercy to the Gods -- a sound that still rang in Laura's ears as she lay in bed alone at night? Looking at Baltar, Laura quickly decided that he didn't know any of those things. If he knew those things -- had experienced them -- he wouldn't be so eager to leave the remarkable young woman behind.
Pushing down the irrational urge to wipe the smug look off Baltar's face, Laura smiled thinly and assured him that Commander Adama was taking all factors into consideration.
"I need your help. Do you know that your father just redeployed the Combat Air Patrol?"
Laura admired the dedication of both Adama men. They were certainly committed to finding Kara. It was the fact that they were blindly moving forward with the search without regard for the safety of the rest of the Fleet that troubled her. Laura wanted Kara found as much as anyone else, maybe more than anyone else, but knew that her primary responsibility was to the almost 48,000 other souls entrusted by fate to her care.
"Maybe I'm missing something about the tactics involved here, but isn't the fleet defenseless without the CAP?"
"Only for a short time, because after that....because after that, Kara's oxygen will be gone and she'll be dead."
"Are you very close with Lieutenant Thrace?"
"I'm close with all my pilots."
She knew she shouldn't have asked the question the moment it was out of her mouth. She wondered what compelled her to torture herself with thoughts of Kara with someone else -- first Baltar and now Apollo. Why shouldn't Kara have a relationship with either one of them? Laura certainly had no hold on her. If her status as President hadn't made sure of that, the fact that she was dying certainly did. She had no right to begin a relationship with Kara, or anyone else for that matter. She sighed, knowing that her useless jealousy may well be a moot point. The search would be called off one way or another in a matter of hours. As Captain Apollo had said, they would either find Kara or her oxygen supply would run out and she would be dead, if she wasn't already.
When she read the note Billy had solemnly handed her, Laura excused herself and went into her private quarters. Once there, Laura Roslin, the President of the Twelve Colonies, wept. For the first time since the war began, she let down all her defenses and wept. She wept for all the lives lost on their home worlds and she wept for those lucky enough to escape the initial onslaught only to succumb to injuries or disease since they had been running from the Cylons. Most of all, she wept for Kara Thrace, a woman whose vibrant soul had touched her own, ever so briefly, nearly nineteen months ago. She wept for the woman whose infectious grin she would never see again. Though she knew a relationship with Kara would have been impossible, she irrationally mourned what might have been.
A half an hour later, Laura had pulled herself together enough to place her official condolence call to Commander Adama. When the Commander told her Kara might have had a reserve supply of oxygen, relief and hope flared through her soul. That feeling was quickly replaced by sadness when the futility and truth of the situation set in and Laura realized that the Commander was grasping at straws, hoping, in the face of all known evidence, that Kara was, somehow, still alive. She knew that Commander Adama had a special place in his heart for Kara. She had, after all, almost been his daughter-in-law. She also knew those feelings were returned in equal measure by Kara. She held Adama in the highest regard and would do anything for him.
Her heart went out to William Adama, knowing that part of the reason he was so determined to find Kara was that he didn't want to lose another child, albeit a surrogate one. Her compassion then gave way to anger because she knew the Commander's loss of perspective could lead to the destruction of them all. The longer they stayed in one place, the more likely it was that the Cylons would find them.
Threads of a softly spoken conversation came to her as she considered her options.
"Earlier, in the bar, you said you owe Commander Adama. What did you mean?"
"Zak, the Commander's son and I were....close. I trained him in flight school. He...I never should have passed him. He didn't belong in a Viper, but he wanted it so much. He wanted it for the Old Man, you know? I didn't have the heart to......He was killed about six months ago in an accident. He lost control of his ship and....anyway, when the Commander requested me, I couldn't say no."
"Close? So you and he were...."
"He asked me to marry him right before he....."
"Me, too. I decided that day -- the day he died -- that I wouldn't ever let my personal feelings get in the way of doing my job again."
Remembering Kara's words from that night strengthened Laura's resolve to correct what was happening aboard the Galactica. "Billy, have my shuttle pilot meet me in the docking bay. I am going to the Galactica."
Laura knew that neither Apollo nor the Commander wanted to lose another member of their family or their last link to Zak, but, no matter how much it pained her, she needed to convince them to do just that. The challenge was that she wanted to hold to the same sliver of hope onto which the two men were grasping. In her heart, Laura could never be sure that Kara hadn't survived, somehow, against the overwhelming odds. She resigned herself to adding the name Kara Thrace to the piece of paper that already bore the names of the souls onboard the Olympic Carrier and Cami, the young girl with whom she had shared a moment aboard the botanical cruiser before she had ordered all Faster Than Light capable ships to make a jump in order to escape an impending Cylon attack, leaving the young girl, and so many of her other fellow citizens, behind to face certain destruction. She would sadly, and with great reverence, add Kara Thrace's name to that list -- a list that she knew with a gnawing certainty would grow longer still.
Before leaving her office she turned to the whiteboard and, with shaking hands, erased the eight and replaced it with a seven, bringing the total number of survivors in the fleet down to 47, 957.
"Madam President, would you like to return to your ship?"
"Thank you, I'll stay here. I'd like to see how the professionals do it."
"As you wish."
As much as she wanted to return to her ship and grieve in private, Laura couldn't cower aboard Colonial One while these brave men and women had the courage to do what she had convinced them to do. She needed to be near others who cared deeply for Kara Thrace. She needed to share, in some small way, this horrible moment with the only other people who could understand. She needed to be there when they left Kara behind.
As jump preparations began, it took all her self control not to order Adama to stop the count and continue looking for Kara until the last drop of fuel had been used and every resource exhausted, but she held fast to her duty, knowing that she was honoring the brash young pilot's memory by pressing forward.
The Cylon Raider surprised them all. Its sudden appearance halted their jump sequence and, in the process, saved Kara's life. By extension, Laura wondered if the Raider's appearance hadn't also saved her own soul. The sheer joy she felt when Apollo told them Starbuck was flying the Raider stunned Laura so much that she didn't participate in the jubilant celebration that took over CIC. As cheers rang out, tears sprang to her eyes and she, simply and quietly, placed her hand over her heart, thanking the Gods for Kara's safe return. As relief washed over her she came to a decision. She needed Kara in her life, even though they could never achieve the closeness they once shared.
Kara Thrace lay in bed in the infirmary, an arm thrown over her eyes. Relief combined with an emptiness born of guilt ran through her. Although the words were never actually said -- between Commander Adama and Kara they rarely were -- forgiveness had been offered and accepted. While Kara was nowhere close to being able to forgive herself, the Old Man's absolution was enough. For now. Forgiveness for her role in Zak's death was much more than she ever expected or, in her mind, deserved.
The bottom line is, your son didn't have the chops to fly a Viper. And it killed him.
'I killed him. He was my responsibility and I killed him.' It was the reason she had been so eager to take on eight raiders by herself. She had accepted the fact that the consequences of the impetuous act would likely be her death. She had known that the Raiders would overtake her squadron of trainees before the alert fighters could reach them and she would not allow her nuggets to be hurt -- even if she had to die herself. It was no less than they deserved. It was no less than she deserved.
A hand on her arm brought Kara out of her destructive thoughts.
"I don't need anymore meds right now. Leave me the frak alone."
"That's good, because I don't have any to offer."
Turning her head to face the owner of the new voice, Kara's eyes widened as she recognized her visitor.
"Lau-- Madam President."
"How are you feeling, Lieutenant?"
"I'm good. Well, the meds are good," Kara responded with a slightly goofy, drug-induced smile.
Laura smiled and looked at Kara's knee, encased in a brace and surrounded by an air cast. "Is it the same knee?"
"Yeah," Kara replied slowly.
Laura followed as Kara led her to the bedroom. Taking a moment to look around the space, she saw new facets of the already complicated young woman. Trophies and Pyramid memorabilia littered every horizontal surface. More abstract paintings adorned the walls. In a small corner of the room she saw an altar that held candles and small statues of Athena and Artemis. She felt the weight of Kara's eyes on her as she surveyed this new landscape.
"You play Pyramid?"
"I did. It's what got me into the Academy. A scholarship. I was good enough to turn pro but I blew out my knee my junior year and that changed everything. I fought like hell in rehab to get it back into shape, but no team wanted to take a chance on me."
Kara shrugged. "It's just as well. After that, I got turned onto flying and now I can't imagine doing anything else. It's what I was meant for."
"You really love it, don't you?"
"Yeah. It's the most amazing feeling -- having this incredible machine under you, knowing that you can completely control it, but also knowing that you'd be nothing without it. Defying gravity. You can't not love it."
"I just...I'm surprised you remember."
Laura ducked her head as she said, "I remember."
The two women were silent for a few moments, neither knowing how, or if, to continue the conversation until Kara asked, "What are you doing here? I mean, on the Galactica. You're usually on Colonial One."
Laura took a deep breath. She owed Kara the truth about her presence onboard the Galactica. Kara should know who had almost signed her death warrant, regardless of the consequences. "I'm here because I was trying to convince -- had convinced, actually -- the Commander and Apollo to abandon the search for you and jump to a safer position."
Kara looked at Laura, nodding thoughtfully and said, "Good."
"Good?" Laura asked. "Kara, we almost left you behind."
"You should have. Frankly, I'm surprised the Galactica was still here. They should have called off the search as soon as my oxygen ran out. Not that I'm complaining....."
"I think if it was anyone else, they would have, but they had faith in you. More faith than I did, it seems."
"Faith is overrated most of the time. You were doing the right thing." Kara was strangely pleased that Laura had the courage to do what she herself hadn't been able to do all those years ago with Zak -- put her duty ahead of her personal needs.
While Laura knew what Kara said was true, she couldn't seem to dislodge the weight of the guilt she felt at being the person to convince everyone to give up. "Well, thankfully, all the Adama men seem quite attached to you."
"Well, who can blame them really?" Kara asked with the same cocky grin that Laura feared she would never see again.
"Not I," the older woman said softly.
The women were, again, silent for a few moments, until Laura asked, "What would you have done?"
"What do you mean?"
"If we had been gone when you made it back. What would you have done?"
Kara sighed. "I don't know. Maybe find a Base Star and see how much damage I could do, but I probably would've tried to figure out the FTL drive and jump home." Kara paused for a moment, remembering her home world, before shaking off those thoughts. "But you were still here and...." Kara froze for a moment before tearing her eyes away from Laura's compassionate gaze, "I mean, the Galactica was still here, so...."
The part of Laura that was thrilled by the admission it seemed Kara was about to make struggled with her ever-present sense of responsibility and duty. She still believed that a relationship with Kara should be out of the question, but she couldn't help being drawn to this young woman in a fundamental and profound way. Dismissing her internal struggle for the moment, she said, "Well, I'm glad I didn't have to add your name to my list."
"In my pocket," she said, drawing out a slip of paper from her skirt. "I have a list of people who have suffered because of a decision I made. Things I regret. I'm glad you're not on it."
"So am I."
Laura paused, reluctant to leave the young woman's company, but knowing she needed some distance from Kara in order to sort out her confusing feelings. Despite her urge to flee, she slowly reached for Kara's hand and held it in her own, revelling in the warmth it provided. "I should go. Get some rest. Take care of yourself."
Kara looked at the hand that held her own. "I will. You, too."
With a sad smile, Laura gave Kara's hand one final, gentle squeeze before releasing it and turning to leave the infirmary. She hadn't taken more than a step before she turned around and impulsively brought her lips to Kara's forehead, unknowingly kissing the same spot Commander Adama had. "I'll see you soon," she whispered with closed eyes and then turned on her heel and left.
Kara gently raised her hand and touched her forehead. She allowed herself to hope that, perhaps, Laura still felt something for her. With a small smile she allowed the pain medication to overtake her and she drifted off to sleep, hoping it all wasn't too good to be true.
As Laura fell into a fitful sleep aboard Colonial One, the whiteboard read 47,958.
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