DISCLAIMER: "Battlestar Galactica," the characters, and situations depicted are the property of Ron Moore, David Eick, SciFi, R&D TV, Sky TV, and USA Cable Entertainment LLC. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for the Fragments of Sappho challenge-athon over at the Shatterstorm Productions web-site. Praises and worship to selenay_x for beta work.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Care for a Twirl?
By AsianScaper


Part I

The bustle of the CIC was a low, intermittent hum, chattering in her ear when a report or a signal clucked from her receiver.

She stood a few meters from the main tactical area, which was a wide table that glowed with its own power source. The Old Man did his rituals there usually with Gaeta by his side, who relayed messages from the rest of the CIC's divisions.

Commander Adama looked to her at least once or twice every hour, reminding her with that understated glance of severity that she was the only connection the entire ship had to the outside: beyond Galactica's walls and its anti-nuclear plating, beyond even the innocent chatter of its crew and the cramped stories they created for themselves.

Dee always wore a look of seriousness here on the CIC. For now, she calmly went over her panels, her thick lips set tight in concentration; she was slightly pleased that the six hour extension to her twelve hour work day was drawing to a close. Looking at her watch and close to nodding off, she told herself that she'd probably have to defer dinner with Billy.

But, her job also had its exciting interludes; right at this moment, she could hear the newly christened Hotdog howling at the other end of her receiver as he chased Lieutenant Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace through a planet's belt of little moons.

"Well, Lieutenant," Hotdog crooned. "You missed a shot."


"Did, too!"

"No," Starbuck hissed. "That wasn't a target. It was a…piece of space debris."

Dee's job was a world in itself, a squadron of voices at one time, intimate exchanges at another, and at rare occasions, tranquil sessions of listening to message traffic. Through hearing, she could tell if a Viper was down, if a ship had a Colonial signature, if the Astral Queen needed more grain or if Kara Thrace was working up a temper.

Dee chuckled, mostly to herself, and was careful not to laugh aloud. She was intent on joining the Triad table and it wasn't wise for her to goad the Lieutenant; nobody could sit long enough through a card game without Kara Thrace's endorsement.

"I'm sorry Lieutenant," Dee said. "That was a missed shot. I believe you've managed to single-handedly lower your squad's average."

Hotdog chortled; the lieutenant sniffed. "Whatever."

"Viper Wing Leader, prep for the next run. Chase the Sparrow sequence one-eight-zero."

"Copy Galactica proper. Commencing Chase the Sparrow sequence one-eight-zero." Then to her rookie wingman, "Watch me fry your hotdog, Hotdog."

"Don't wander too far and happy hunting," Dee said.

"Copy Galactica. Let me nail the rookie's ass."

The squad chewed the fat with yowls, grunts of disappointment, the occasional curse, a few prayers to the gods for a higher shooting percentage…through it all, Dee was able to piece together a picture of what was happening; from Kara's badgering to the flighty little Viper that Hotdog piloted.

It was a picture that slowly dimmed as she leaned to one side and…

Gaeta shook her. "Keep it together, Dee."

"Sorry about that."

A red light blipped on her console. She grabbed Gaeta's arm. "Did you see that?"

"See what?"

"That…" Dee blinked, unsure of what to say. Fear began in her belly, hesitant to be named." Never mind."

Five friendly green dots were present on her dradis sweep screen, Viper Wing flew in formation as Hotdog, the Sparrow of the game, was chased by an indignant Kara Thrace and four of her untried but enthusiastic class of nuggets.

Thrace was losing ground; Hotdog howled into his mic, apparently pushing his ship forward with his main thrusters, and enjoying the extra G's.

"Why you slippery little dog," Kara fizzed. She sounded more amused this time.

"Not too far, Hotdog," Dee warned.

The red light appeared again, this time darting towards Hotdog's Viper. Dualla found her initial fear brimming to her throat as she lifted her head and found that the main tactical displays mirrored her own. Oh Lords of Kobol…

"Dradis contact!" she yelled.

The gods threw a blanket of activity on the CIC and Bill Adama bellowed, "Gaeta, report!"

"Where the hell did that come from? Dee?" Dualla flipped a few switches and fed Kara's Viper information. "Oh frak. Got visual contact. It's a Cylon raider." Hotdog's blue location dot, a few kilometers ahead of Kara's squadron, was directly on the enemy's signal. "Hotdog, do not engage. I repeat, do not engage! Stall the raider 'til I get there! Evasive tactics alpha! Viper Wing, return to home base!"

"Kara," the Commander was saying. "Don't let that raider out of your sight." He studied the dradis screen a few feet on top of him. "It must be a scout. Spin the FTL drives."

The conversation on Dualla's comm. channel was taking a turn for the worse.

"Hotdog! The frak do you think you're doing!"

"Doing what I was trained to do? Following your example?"

"What the…! Hotdog!"

Dee removed her headset as a scream overshot the tolerance of her ears. One less dradis contact on the sweep screen and Dee realized that the blue dot was gone.

Bill Adama's voice was cold. "Take out the raider, Kara."

Starbuck's silence ran counterpoint to the coldness running down Dualla's spine. A few muted grunts of effort on the comm., and the red dot on the sweep screen disappeared.

"Got him, sir. Didn't have a chance in hell to jump out."

Kara's Viper hung on the spot Hotdog's ship had disappeared, a tiny memorial in a sea of space as Dee looked on and knew, deeply and truly, that this must have been her fault.


Part II

Kara couldn't feel her own legs during her trip to the showers. Opening the hatch, pushing it outward…no sensations, not even in her arms or the hand that slowly turned the water on.

Then she saw her: an expression just as weary, soaked in eighteen hours of standing, of hearing ship-wide transmissions, of not watching closely enough. Guilt in the almonds of her eyes as she peeled her uniform from glistening, dark skin.

Kara Thrace found her unfeeling fists make contact and down she went, the lady in half an officer's uniform, staring up at her as she wiped blood from her lips. Kara noticed that Dualla was almost always transparent in crisis. Deer-in-the-headlight eyes, her usually dark complexion pallid and her lips in a tiny 'o'.

Kara heard herself say, "Frak you." She spat on the floor. "Frak you, Dee."

Specialist Dualla didn't move. "Don't dump your baggage on me, Thrace."

"Watch it. I heard you talk to Gaeta. You saw the toaster before you saw it again; I heard you…"

A voice interrupted behind Kara. "Hey, hey." Lee, that righteous son of a…! He grabbed Kara's arm. "Hitting fellow officers isn't…"

"Frak you, too, Lee." She pushed him away.

Of her own volition, down she went, against the tiles, staring straight ahead and none of the pain near enough to the surface. It was always like this, the baggage piling up with no place to go. Kara stared at Lee's bare feet and remembered that Zak had the same chubby toes.

She heard her CAG address Dualla, "Leave it. Just take the aft showers."

He crouched next to her. "Hey," Lee said, softer this time. "Come on." Like the pseudo-brother that he was, Lee averted his eyes as she washed, walked behind her as she made her way, very slowly, to their quarters in a towel.

An air of disbelief stank in their quarters like a pair of old socks. Racetrack's back was to her, lying on her side. Boomer flipped through some cards, not likely to meet anyone's gaze until somebody vocalized their feelings.

Kara glanced at the picture in her locker; the one that hung perpetually on its flap and reminded her of loss like a dog bite at her neck. A thumb caressed Zak's figure, frozen in time and in her embrace.

"Services are tomorrow, at oh eight-hundred," Kara said aloud.

She piled her things on the table, fingering a rolled stick of tobacco before putting it back inside.

Half to herself, and half to Lee who watched her, "Sometimes I think I teach them too well. Don't run away from a fight. Don't leave a man behind. Gods! Why do they have to follow those rules literally? Why do they have to follow them at all?"

"It's not your fault. It's not anybody's fault."

"How can you say that?"

"We all make mistakes."

"That was a very big mistake, Lee."

"Are you talking about Dee or yourself?"

Kara half-sat on the table, uneasy under Lee's scrutiny. "She'd likely suffer more from my self-pity than hear me admit to anything."

"Figures." He squeezed her shoulder. "Card game at twenty hundred. Be there."

The hard patter of footsteps tricked Kara into waking. A gray bulkhead, illumined only by a single light from someone's cot. Voices congealing into her consciousness.

She noticed that Lee had accosted Boomer into a card game for practice. Kat, drying her hair, was watching the animated exchange while Racetrack had fallen asleep.

Watching the slumbering pilot, Kara felt the weight of grief. She raised herself, reaching out for her light and was about to put her hand in the Old Man's pit of books, when a familiar figure loomed over her alcove.


"Hey yourself," Kara said.

"I just came to apologize."

"I don't want your apology."

The room quieted down and Dualla, who managed to be arrogant and regretful all at the same time, only spurred Kara's sadism.

"I made a mistake. I…"

Kara cut in, "I said, I don't want your apology, Specialist."

Lee Adama looked positively miffed. Dualla stared at her, at them, very unsure of what to do. This was pilot territory and pushing too far would probably alienate her from the pilots, for longer than anyone intended.

Dualla left. Kat made a disgusted noise, and Boomer shook her head.

Lee said, "You know, she's better for admitting her mistake."

"Shut up."

"You're being childish about this."

"I said, shut up Lee."

Boomer cut in, "We're on your side, Starbuck, but you have got to figure out that Dee and you are on the same side." She sighed. "This is stupid. It was nobody's fault."

"And you can frak off, Valerii." Kara turned in her cot, forgetting the book she had intended to read.


Part III

No one was a stranger to losing and Billy was an unfortunate member of the group. He looked chagrined as Helo twirled in his second-best tie. Alcohol-mist was in the air, puffed by the likes of those whose ambrosia was half-drained. Helo and Kara had a hoard of five shot glasses each.

"Nice," Kat applauded.

"Thank you, presidential aide." Helo spun triumphantly before stumbling back into his chair.

Billy, in a show of sportsmanship, doled the cards out. Dualla first, Helo second, then Kat, Lee, Kara, and finally Boomer.

Kara kept her silence about the Specialist's attendance; it was as friendly an overture as Dualla was going to get. People needed their breaks, needed gambling, and alcohol and sex; and Kara was secretly annoyed that this particular break was numb with strain. Somebody ought to throw the first stone.

She wasn't surprised when Kat pushed a boulder. "So Dee, why do you have to spend your 'feminine wiles' on a guy like Billy? You can practically sleep with anyone you want. Take Starbuck for example." Kara glared. "No offense, Lieutenant."

"None taken," Kara said.

"Well, why is it that you do, Starbuck?" Billy retorted. Dualla looked taken aback. This wasn't his fight.

"And no offense taken, Billy," Kara told him. "Just keep your bitch on a leash."

Dualla didn't flinch. "Excuse me?"

"I meant, watch your dradis screen when you have the time."

Boomer whistled. "Low blow, Starbuck."

"I'll take 'em as low as she likes." They gawked at Dualla, unsure of what to make of her statement.

Sheer stupidity, or rock-hard guts, who knew? Someone beyond the table said, "Get a room, will ya?"

"Well," Dualla breathed, picking a card from the pile. "I would, if she'd let me."

The table's occupants either chuckled or kept an uncomfortable silence, entertained beyond the finites of the triad game.

Kara felt that a reaction wasn't appropriate. She never expected her arsenal of insults to be drained at a time like this and she felt a tiny spark of fear as Dualla stared directly at her, her last words echoing.

"I'm all done anyway," Dee said. She surrendered her cards, relegated to the post of observer.

Helo droned, "If I win this round…"

"There is no way you're winning this round," Kara said.

"You'll kiss Dee and make up."

"And if I win, you'll suck Tyrol's dick."


Boomer's head snapped. "Why do you go through such lengths to fulfill your lesbian fantasies?"

"I'm drunk," he drawled.

"And I win."

Kara put her hand down, a panorama of full colors. Helo's faced sagged. "Damn. Tyrol won't be happy."

"Neither will I," Valerii conjectured. Her expression was horrified, then thoughtful.

Dualla and Kara re-established their staring game. In a table of seven, they were suddenly as distant or as close to each other as a voice in one's ear. Kara in her cockpit, Dualla at the comm. station, and this unusual silence, this delicious strain, created an allure that started a slow burn in Kara's gut.

Dualla – irreversibly the triad loser – stood to leave.

"I had an interesting time," she said, putting a hand on Billy's shoulder. He discarded his hand while Dee nodded the proper respect to the table's owner.

Kara's words flared out like an after-burn, "You're welcome, Dee."



Part IV

Dualla literally fled from the officer's mess, pulling Billy to her as they stumbled to the first empty cabin and made do with a frozen light and the absence of cabin mates. When Billy rolled off her, sated in the aftermath of their fastest love-making in a month; Dee's thoughts rose in rebellion.

She was a proper officer; none of Kara Thrace's instabilities, none of her short-winded insults that flared like sunspots and left just as much damage, both to the pilot and to those who cared for her.

Dualla was probably better at her job than Gaeta ever would be, but nothing could quite prepare her for the incongruities of communication with the Viper Wing Leader. Dee had expected the emotional wall, knew it for a fact, enough that she had braced herself for a week of just trying to apologize and getting nothing but flak.

But during that card game, the proverbial wall had actually softened and Dee had bitten into it with relish, teeth into marshmallow goodness.

She had actually enjoyed shooting holes into Starbuck's hide.

"Nice ass, Dee."

Dualla jerked her head around, suddenly horrified to see that she and Billy had intruded on Helo's bunk. Dualla was in her underwear, and Billy's coat had fallen somewhere near the cabin's hatch, as well as their shoes and numerous other articles of clothing.

Billy was already falling all over himself, picking up his clothes and hers. "Oh gods. I'm sorry…"

Dualla indicated the tent in Helo's pants. "Your friend looks enthusiastic."

"More of that later…"

Boomer, who had stepped in Helo's wake, absorbed the scene with aplomb, "Stop flashing it, will you? Aren't you getting enough of that from the Chief?"

"Haven't you?"

"You're pathetic. Those were five shot glasses. Starbuck had seven and she's still playing cards…and winning."

"Give me a break, Boomer. Starbuck's bionic and I haven't had any, won't have any. Except maybe Tyrol's dick." Helo made a face.

"Okay stop; the mental images." Boomer made a vomiting noise, before picking up Dee's discarded tank and handing it over to her. "Here. Get dressed. They'll be done in a while."

Unfortunately, Kara Thrace already stood with hands akimbo at the mouth of the exit.

"We're done already."

She was less drunk than Karl. Lee was beside her, helping her stand and carrying her pile of winnings, which included Billy's tie. Dee was used to the Old Man's son making his presence known during predicaments but he seemed resigned to letting Kara handle this her own way.

"Put some clothes on, Lieutenant," Kara said. Which Dualla did in under ten seconds. Billy sat primly on one side, looking very much like a little boy, caught with a hand in the cookie jar. "And Billy, I suggest you run along. This is between me and Dualla."

Dee gave him her assent and the presidential aide snuck out of the pilot's quarters, looking unhappy about leaving Dualla to the sharks.

Helo, who was dead to the nuances of the conversation, started rambling. "Y'know, Kara, you've got serious issues. First you drove Hotdog too far…"

"Helo," Boomer warned.

"…now this little weird thing with Dee. You're just so used to running away from yourself."

"Fine!" Starbuck yelled.

Dee squeaked. "Fine?"

"Fine?" Boomer echoed.

"Yes, fine!" Kara took five long strides towards the Communication's Officer.

Kara pushed Helo away and –smelling sweet with ambrosia and heady with tobacco –kissed Dee right smack on the lips.


Part V

They were alone at the forward lounge, drinking in the scene of stars and the dozens of ships hanging loose like run-down décor against a black background.

This was the first day in nearly fifteen that she and Billy had gotten together after that fiasco at the pilots' quarters. Dualla couldn't fathom – rather, wouldn't fathom – her reasons for being so reckless, or the terrifying reaction she had gotten from the Lieutenant. At least, not yet.

But damn, was Kara Thrace a piece of work. Robust in that raunchy way she had ground into Dualla's half-naked body then suddenly aghast – but deliciously soft – muttering as she fell into her bunk and slept.

"I kissed a woman a few weeks back."

"Wow, that's exciting," Billy said.

"No, it's disconcerting."

"Why? Unless it meant something?"

"That's true." Dee paused. "I have a feeling it did."

"It most likely would if that's what you think."

It was almost two weeks after the incident, Dualla and Starbuck had sustained a more civil rapport, especially on the comm. Not that they had a choice, since their conversations were broadcasted to the entire CIC. When they did pass each other at the corridors, neither could look the other in the eye.

Knowing Helo and the bunch down under, who gossiped like a neighborhood of midwives, Kara probably heard as many versions of the "scene" as there were people on the hangar deck.

Dee put her lips on Billy's cheek. "You're a good man, Billy."

"She's a good woman, Dee. Just a bit short-tempered."

"You know?"

Billy sighed. "I remind President Roslin of Adar. I'm not that naïve."

"Sorry, I have a tendency to underestimate people."

"Thrace's the last person you should be doing that to."

"I know."

He checked his timepiece. "I should go. And you need time alone."

"Yeah." She studied his face, loved the way he observed people.

Billy Keikeya soaked up their nuances much better than any recording equipment in the Fleet. Laura Roslin had the best by her side.

Dee felt a painful tug as he drew back, compassionate and rarely jealous. "You're a good man, Billy."

Billy smiled. He left her to her thoughts, and to the impossibilities of tomorrow.

Kara couldn't work out Bill Adama's reasons for lending her these books but she had withdrawn to the pile's less ancient bunch, to the Old Man's mystery novels, reading a few minutes every night, in much the same way the more religious pilots read their ancient scrolls. It came to a point that she ignored anybody who chose to interrupt her during her twenty, precious minutes.

Just another reason to spend less time thinking.

In mockery of Kara's sudden bibliophilic tendencies, Helo put up a game; Kara knew he was up to something, because the bunk across hers was his, and he kept scribbling on tiny pieces of paper.

The height of his plans was announced one day in the mess hall, just as Kara was about to leave the card table. He held a box, a mischievous grin, and was smoking a cigar that muffled his words.

"Alright, ladies and gents!" He gestured widely. "Gather around!"

People were smiling in healthy expectation of Helo's antics.

The game was simple, Kara heard him say. They would each receive a quote. Right after which, Helo would assign them a person. They were to be extremely creative about how they were to treat these persons in the context of their quotes. Votes on the most ridiculous, most creative deed would be tallied by a separate body –Gray Squadron, someone said.

There was one very big hitch. It was to be a public, non-injuring feat and it was to be done tonight.

Those who didn't participate would be ignored for an entire month, something that was debilitating to life and limb for anyone who flew a Viper. The person who won received a prize and my, did pilots like prizes.

"Which is…?" Kara hollered.

Any one of them would've done it for free: a hastily painted banner and a wrench for a trophy. Triad only got them so far; anything that would allow them to beat their contemporaries on grounds other than flying and cards was a treat.

Helo gave her his attention. "Two nights at Cloud Nine."

"How'd you manage that?" somebody asked, incredulous.

"A good magician never reveals his secrets."

Kara knew better. Someone had been talking to Gaius Baltar, or Zarek, or the President herself.

Her suspicions were confirmed when Lee Adama was offered the box first. He peered into his paper and Helo said imperiously, "Laura Roslin."

"This is incredible," Lee said, without any of the surprise Kara was feeling. "Where did you get the time to do this?" If Kara didn't know better, he looked just as uninvolved as Helo was.

"Between frakking the Chief and flying," Kara put in.

Helo passed the box to Kara. "I'm going to forget you said that."

The box was a pit of vipers; she knew it, because when she reached in and unfolded her paper, she realized that hers came from a very prominent, very ancient, very distressing writer. The same writer she had chosen to discard at the onset of the reading virus.

Just as quickly, she found Karl 'Helo' Agathon in front of her, his hand on her head. "Dualla," he said.

"Can I request for a change?"

"Sorry. No can do. Everyone's been accounted for." Then Karl leaned in and whispered into her ear, "You can't run away forever, Kara Thrace."

"Lee was in on this, wasn't he? You two were…"

"Sssh!" he admonished. "The magician's tricks, remember? Now just play along or I'll make sure Lee here consigns you to deck cleaning or worse."

Kara gave him an exasperated look. The boy had the smarts, alright. He was a clown most of the time, people tended to forget themselves around him but sooner or later, the tall, striking, young man would bite them mercilessly on their asses with his wit.

She threw her hands upwards, drank the last shot of ambrosia, and took off in a huff.

It took a while for Helo to finish with everyone but he knew that his work was done the moment he said Dualla's name.

"Are you sure this'll work?" Apollo asked him.

"Trust me; women take care of each other."

"You've read too much of the Old Man's books."

Helo shrugged. "Nothing quite beats my wet dreams, Captain, like a lesbian poet."


Part VI

Sharon 'Boomer' Valerii had a distinct feeling that not all was right with the world. Death was a constant on the Battlestar but losing Hotdog had been a blow, partly because she saw him everyday on the hangar, and won against him during triad, and took showers with him and the other nuggets.

But he was gone and she was here, shivering violently as gaps in her memory grew wider and terrified her. She wondered what it would be like to simply not be, to not have to worry, to not have to endure waves of guilt regarding what she must have done without knowing.

No, something definitely was not right. She couldn't remember burning her elbow and searing into her jacket, or slipping her body into tight spaces with engine oil. She was black all over. Hurriedly, she unzipped her jumpers.

"Hey Boomer." Kara Thrace emerged from their quarter's hatch. "You're filthy. Where have you been?"

"Rolling around with the Chief." The lie hurt her just as much as not knowing what the answer was to Kara's question.

"I'm hitting the showers. Care for a companion?"

"Um." Boomer studied her grease-covered hands and thought that refusing would stir Kara's suspicions. "Sure."

Kara indicated the mess, and Boomer's fingers that wiggled in the grease. "Are your hands any good?"

There was a hint of a smile on Starbuck's face and Boomer felt her anxieties drain slowly and inevitably away. There was nothing quite like Starbuck for an awful day at work.

"Good in what? Stroking the good stuff?"

"Sure, the good stuff."

Boomer bit her lip, her eyebrow raised. "You can't be..." she said, incredulous. "You can't be suggesting…no. No way."

"Uh-huh." Kara nodded, grinning widely and stepping towards her with a menacing look of mischief.

"Oh frak you."

Viper Wing Leader spread her arms invitingly. "Go ahead. As long as you use the pleasurable services of your hands."

"You're so gonna owe me." Boomer put a hand on Kara's shoulder to steady herself as she got out of the rest of her uniform. "And everyone's going to watch?"

"Yeah. Extra brownie points for that."

"Heh. Alright. Show me what you've got, Lieutenant, and don't blame me if the crowd loves me instead of you."

"Tough, Boomer; no chance of that happening."

Starbuck led the way and Boomer, her grubbiness and memory lapses forgotten, walked alongside her, laughing.

The entire flight deck crew and the day's last batch of pilots, with the exception of their CAG, were huddled in a little space, like bees on a hive, buzzing and talking and making an exceptional amount of noise.

The rest of the hangar deck was empty and a lone figure crossed his arms against his chest, rolling his eyeballs as he made his way to the closest officer.

"You've robbed me of my entire deck crew, Agathon. What's happening?" Chief Tyrol stood on tip-toe, trying to see past the crowd, and saw that they were scrutinizing his intercom.

"Listen," Helo said, putting his ear to the device and releasing the 'talk' button. Then louder, "Hey frakkers, shut up!" Everyone shifted and settled down. "Okay, here's the low-down. She's told the entire Viper Wing, plus the Raptor pilots to be at the mess or to tune in to the open channel at twenty-three-hundred."

"Shouldn't we be sleeping by now?" Racetrack complained.


The intercom beeped and Lee Adama's voice flowed clearly through the speakers.

"Guys, are you there?"

"We're here. Speak up, CAG."

"Good. You won't believe what kind of trouble Kara went through to get you this show."

Helo rubbed his hands while everyone hooted in glee. "Mess hall it is."

Like the Queen Bee, Helo led the group from the hangar, leaving Chief Tyrol as confused as before, and wondering at why the frak his deck was suddenly empty.

He stared at Cally's discarded tool belt lying on one of the ammunition containers and the spread of pilot-less helmets. After realizing that this just wasn't going to do, he sprinted after them.

Billy and Dualla were sharing drinks in the mess, celebrating or mourning their little fall-out with a few stolen kisses and a few feel-good stories of what was and what could have been.

The mess hall was relatively empty and the hours had turned dream-like since she and Billy had taken their third shots. A make-shift stage with its glittery curtain –which had been used earlier for some stand-up antics –seemed to be the only bright reminder of the waking world.

But just as Dualla raised her glass in a toast for the fourth, miserable drink of ambrosia, the lights went out.

"The frak?" she said.

There was a noise on the stage, a few giggles. The stage's spotlight went on in an instant while the rest of the room remained bathed in darkness.

Dualla was greeted with the most bizarre sight to grace the Twelve Colonies since the Cylons had invaded the home-worlds.

It was a very tantalizing Sharon on a stool, seated with one bare leg and looking directly at their table with a smile.

Sharon Valerii's dress was blood-red, the low V-cut emphasizing the elegant sweep of her shoulders and her long, perfect arms. Her feet were dressed in three-inch stilettos; she sat with an uncanny elegance, her back straight and her curves threading into the thin material of her dress.

The look blighted Dualla's gut with warmth.

The hatch to the mess hall opened, spilled light into spaces and a shadow snuck to the stage in a hurry. It was Felix Gaeta, mumbling his apologies for being late. He was still in uniform and he held a piece of familiar equipment in his left hand.

A microphone?

"Dee," Boomer greeted. She spoke gently, with just a hint of sultriness to complete her act. "You're probably wondering what this is about but I suggest you keep one, very important thought in mind. This is for you, and only you, from a very special…" Boomer winked. "Friend."

Dualla could only guess. She could see Billy at her sight's peripheral, ogling.

No, this wasn't the presidential aide's idea.

Gaeta opened a non-descript, black box at Boomer's feet, extracting a hand-crafted guitar before handing it to Boomer. Boomer molded over the instrument like a vine on a pillar and her fingers were the leaves that hung –poised –over its stalk.

She began to pluck a soft, titillating melody, set to old-Caprican blues and Gaeta began to sing. His low, rumbling tenor eased the room into a heady, unfathomable haze. The song was strangely familiar as his words flowed like thick, leisurely honey into Dualla's ears.

Gods handed me the cup of Fate

And deeds one used for loving;

A touch on her shoulder and she turned.

It was Kara Thrace, inclining her head in greeting with a hand extended as though to invite her to dance.

Confused and bold, I come to you

Such lunacy in pining

She wore a black dress that hugged her musculature with impeccable worship. Earrings glittered in the light and Dualla was tempted to wipe the gloss from Kara's mouth, to see if it was as soft and luscious as it looked.

Dualla, by no fault of hers, felt her mouth go dry and heard a little voice telling her that Billy was watching.

"Take her hand, Dee," she heard Billy say, as he pushed her gently in Kara's direction. "Go on."

"Take my hand," Kara whispered.

And she did.

Time gone could not convey what's true

Or calm this constant churning

You cool my mind, and grip, and sate

What parts of mine are burning!

There was a shuffling like the feet of marauders on the threshold of a treasure trove.

"Hey! That's her quote," Lee said, listening to the ship-wide transmission from outside the mess hall door. They had all crowded at its frame, careful not to step past the doors as though incense was burning and priestesses had enacted their rituals inside.

Helo's was more than a bit awed by the tunes trickling through. "And that's Franz Capella blues. Starbuck set her poem to Franz Capella."

Someone interjected in afterthought, "Boomer plays the guitar?"

"With hands like hers, I don't see why not." They all turned to Tyrol.

Helo and Apollo shared a look. "Yeah, he would know," Karl said, thoughtfully.

They were silent for a few minutes, the song streaming from the ship's speakers as they reminisced, chased aspects of their pasts through fathomless corridors and wondered about Starbuck's chutzpah that would –from here onwards –be very, very hard to top.

"How'd you like to be in Dee's shoes right about now, Captain?" Kat asked her CAG. She could barely keep the envy from her voice.

Apollo tried to push further into the crowd. "Sure as hell would pay more than Billy's tie. Or coat. Or pants."

"I never knew those two had talent."

"Well," Helo said. "Boomer's missing, isn't she? And Gaeta isn't in his bunk."

"You checked?"

Helo shrugged. "I'm a fan. What can I say?"

Dualla didn't know when Kara's hands had crept slowly around her waist or when tender, if somewhat cold, fingers tipped her neck against Kara's own.

"Just my way of apologizing," Starbuck said matter-of-factly.

Dee reveled in the entire warmth of her, which soothed all other voices of reprisal. "This goes far and beyond those rules, Thrace."

"And you can call me Kara for starters."

They danced through an interlude in silence, breathing in the certainty that the night pointed to something hot, and fast, and fiery. But for now, they took it like a slow ride through water, gliding in their dancing shoes and allowing their senses to absorb Gaeta's throbbing lullaby and the notes from Sharon's guitar.

"The dress. It suits you."

"I'm a handsome devil, aren't I?" Kara gushed.

Dee simply smiled. "I'd still want your forgiveness, Thrace."

Kara was solemn, swinging both their bodies to the front of the stage. Light filtered into the dusk of Kara's dress, lending her eyes the vivacity of a Caprican sky. "I'd forgiven you long before you asked me for forgiveness, Dee. I just have a hard time taking apologies from pretty ladies."

"I wonder why that is…"

"'Coz I could barely come to forgive myself sometimes."

Dee pushed forward, and placed a kiss of Kara's forehead.

"No," Kara said. "Not there. Here."

Kara leaned towards her, mending Dualla's uneven breaths as she merged them on her lips and drew sweet flavors from her tongue.

The bunch of them looked absolutely dejected.

"With an ensemble like that, there is no way she'd lose your two-days-at-Cloud-Nine prize."

"Didn't expect her to lose," Helo said.

Tyrol was still on his toes and could still see nothing amidst the sea of people who had taken the time to watch. "What're they doing?"

"Dancing." Apollo had somehow found a way to the front, pulling rank or yanking other people's uniforms to get there.


Helo grinned. "Care for a twirl Chief?"

Tyrol looked at him doubtfully. "I'll pass. Thanks."

The End

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