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 sixth story in the 'Hide and Seek' series, following Water, Act of Contrition, You Can't Go Home Again, Six Degrees, Flesh and Bone and Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Anything through Hand of God.
Hand of God
Kara sat in her rack listening to the short wave radio. Laura was giving a press conference about the fuel shortage -- the fuel shortage for which Kara was responsible. Guilt flared through her body as she thought about how much fuel was wasted looking for her after she has crashed on that frakking planet. Shaking her head, Kara refocused on Laura's voice. The beautiful woman sounded as confident as she always did. Kara was continually impressed by how the woman handled herself with that pack of wolves called the press corps dogging her every move. Of course, since the interrogation and subsequent execution of the Cylon, Leoben, she had learned that Laura was much stronger than she appeared on the surface. Her poise and quiet confidence was one of the reasons the people had followed her when the world had ended.
She was always self-assured and supremely confident, especially with the press, so when Kara heard Laura stumble over her words and seem to lose her train of thought in the middle of the press conference, she immediately knew something was wrong. She wished she could see Laura -- make sure she was all right. Since they had shared that kiss on board the Colonial One shuttle, they hadn't seen one another, even though Laura had been on the Galactica quite a bit. Kara knew Laura was avoiding her. Kara had hoped they would have an opportunity to talk about what the kiss meant and she worried that the longer they didn't talk about it the more it wouldn't mean anything, but Kara had already reconciled herself to the fact that she would trust Laura until the older woman gave her a reason not to.
Snakes. Visions. A dying leader. Elosha was convinced Laura was fulfilling prophecies from the ancient scrolls of Pythia. Laura was convinced she was reacting to the well known side effects of the chamalla extract she had been taking, but she couldn't ignore the the similarities between what was happening to her and what had been foretold in the scrolls.
"3,600 years ago, Pythia wrote about the exile and the rebirth of the human race. And the Lords anointed a leader to guide the caravan of the heavens to their new homeland. And unto the leader they gave a vision of serpents numbering two and ten as a sign of things to come."
"Pythia wrote that?"
"She also wrote that the new leader suffered a wasting disease and would not live to enter the new land. But you're not dying. Are you?"
Dying. Other than the doctor and Billy, Elosha was the first person to whom she had admitted she was sick. Laura had not really accepted the dire diagnosis she had received. She was still living in denial. Intellectually she knew that she would die, but emotionally she was still shielding herself from that reality. Her denial was the only way she could continue on with the job she knew she had to do. She had to be a leader -- a dying leader.
"Yes, Billy." Laura looked at Billy expectantly, anxious for any reprieve from the morose thoughts that were consuming her.
"Commander Adama has requested your presence on the Galactica. They've found some tylium, but apparently there's a problem."
'A problem. I should think so.' Laura's relief at having found such an abundant source of tylium was quickly tempered by the knowledge that they would have to destroy an entire Cylon base in order to retrieve any of the valuable ore. She was standing next to the 'big board', a strangely simple platform filled with models of various ships in the fleet. She was incongruously reminded of watching the children she used to teach as they played with toy ships locked in imaginary battle. She listened intently as Kara outlined the strategy she had devised to take the tylium from the Cylons, trying desperately to ignore the warm feeling spreading through her as she watched Kara's strong arms move the tiny ships into various positions.
Kara looked at Laura pensively as she explained the battle plan, or at least the parts of it that Commander Adama had approved her to reveal. She was uncomfortable not being completely candid with Laura, but she also saw the advantage of keeping command secrets. With the possibility of more Cylons hiding in the fleet, and not knowing what they might look like, they couldn't be too careful. If word of what they had planned leaked out and was transmitted to the Cylons they would all be well and truly frakked. Not that Kara suspected Laura of being a Cylon, but her staff was still suspect, as was almost everyone else, at least until Baltar perfected his little Cylon detector.
Laura noticed the silence that fell over the group and realized she had been too lost in her contemplation of Kara's hands to see that the group of officers were waiting for her to approve the scheme that had been laid out. She drew her eyebrows together and inwardly chastised herself for losing track of such an important conversation. Knowing she couldn't very well ask Kara to explain the whole thing again, she looked at the vibrant young woman and fell back on the one thing she was sure of -- her trust in Kara.
From the odd look on Laura's face Kara thought for a moment the President had seen the holes in the mission and would call her on them. Instead, she said, "The freighters are yours. Good hunting everyone."
Kara stifled a smile when she heard the phrase, knowing that Laura was using it because of her advice. As ridiculous as it seemed, hearing Laura say 'good hunting' made her feel a little closer to the distant woman. She had hoped to catch a moment or two with Laura before they started the operation, just to touch base and make sure she was all right -- make sure they were all right. The longer they didn't talk to each other, the more a part of Kara feared Laura would want to forget the kiss had ever happened.
Kara rubbed her forehead and sighed. She couldn't think about the situation now. She had other things on which she needed to focus. She needed to hit the gym and make sure her knee was up to the stress she was about to put it through.
"Not Lieutenant Thrace?" Laura asked, surprised.
"Doc Cottle says her knee can't take the strain."
Laura looked at Adama and thought for a moment about how Kara would have taken the news. "I imagine she was upset. Did the Doctor survive the conversation?"
Adama offered the president a small smile and said, "I told her myself."
"At least she couldn't kill you. You are the boss after all," Laura replied with a raised eyebrow.
"That's wasn't a sure thing, but that's why we have a chain of command."
"A good point, but, of course that would mean Colonel Tigh would assume command and, unless I am reading her wrong, Kara would sooner be confined to the infirmary for the rest of her life than let that happen."
"She does enjoy tormenting him. She always has. I don't really understand why."
"How did she take it?" Laura asked.
"Alright, I suppose. She's disappointed, but each of us, eventually, has to accept that we are not fit enough to be in the field anymore. For Kara, it's only temporary, but I want her to warm up to the idea of leadership. Sometimes that means delegating duties and watching other people do all the work. Take all the risks."
Laura nodded and felt an overwhelming need to find the young woman and make sure she was all right. She knew Kara's pride, more than anything else, would make the Commander's decision difficult to accept. She also hoped that perhaps now was the time to speak to Kara about the impossibility of their relationship.
"Frak!" Kara put a fist-sized dent in her locker. Ever since the old man had pulled her from the mission, she had been frustrated. She wasn't used to sitting on her ass doing nothing. This was her mission -- her plan -- and she was being relegated to the sidelines. It wasn't fair.
"What did that locker ever do to you?"
Kara bowed her head and took a deep breath, immediately recognizing the owner of the voice behind her. "I should be going with them."
"According to the doctor, your knee isn't ready."
Kara didn't turn to face Laura and instead kept looking at the dent in her locker. "This whole frakked up deal is my fault anyway. If I had been a little more careful, if I hadn't crashed on that frakking planet, none of this would be happening. They burned most of the fuel looking for my sorry ass."
"Well, I've heard from a reliable source that being careful isn't in a fighter pilot's job description. You were protecting your trainees, Kara. There isn't anyone who blames you for the fuel shortage. Even if we hadn't had to search for you all of this would still be happening. It just wouldn't be happening so soon. Who knows, if it had happened later, we would have been in an entirely different star system and we might not have found such a plentiful source of tylium. And, for the record, I happen to like your ass."
Laura winced as she realized she had said that last part out loud, but Kara didn't seem to notice her flirtatious comment or her logic. "I could do it if I had to."
"Your don't have to. Captain Apollo will be fine."
"You don't think he can do it," Laura stated, surprised, and somewhat concerned, by Kara's lack of faith in her commanding officer.
Kara took a deep breath and turned to look at Laura. "Lee is a good pilot, but he's so far inside his head he doesn't let the Viper do what it wants to do." Kara saw Laura's confused expression and continued, "It's hard to explain. So much of combat flying is about instinct -- your body anticipating things a split second before your mind kicks in. It's much more an art than a science or even a skill."
"Just wait right there for a minute."
As Laura waited at the top of the stairs, Kara galloped down and lit some candles on the coffee table, placed the batteries in the media player and turned as strains of classical music began to play.
Kara shrugged. "They keep turning it off. Something about not paying the bill."
Laura shook her head, a small smile on her face.
"Are you gonna come down?"
Laura looked at Kara speculatively, knowing that if she wanted to back out of the encounter this was going to be her last chance. She quickly scanned the living room, illuminated only by candlelight.
"You're an artist?" she asked as she made her way down the stairs.
"I wouldn't go that far. It just something I like to do," Kara said as she watched Laura examine her paintings.
"They're very good."
Laura took a few moments to read the words scrawled on the wall.
Methodically smoking my cigarette
With every breath I breathe out the day
With every delicious sip I drink away the night
Stroking my hair to the beat of his heart
Watching a boy turn into a man
"And a poet?"
"No. That's just something I wrote a long time ago. Do you want a drink or something?"
"Whatever you have."
While Kara made her way into the kitchen, Laura continued to study her surroundings. "I have to say, Kara, I'm surprised."
"As a military pilot I expected your apartment would be more regimented, not quite so....free form."
Kara laughed. "That's the most polite way of saying 'your apartment's a mess' I have ever heard."
Laura laughed as well and said, "This music is wonderful, too. Another of your hidden talents?"
Kara shook her head and said, "My father. He was a concert pianist. He died when I was young. The recordings are all I have left of him. Well, and this jacket."
"I'm sorry. And your mother?"
Kara smiled that same seductive smile Laura had seen at the bar. "Did you come here to talk about my parents?"
Laura suppressed a shiver as she watched Kara approach her. "No."
"I didn't think so."
"And you're an artist." Laura's mind started connecting things she knew about Kara and building a more clear picture of the woman. She remembered the furious, abstract paintings she had seen in Kara's apartment that night on Caprica. At first glance they seemed without form, but when you looked more closely the paintings revealed a startling amount of detail and nuance, much like Kara herself. Shaking herself free of memories of that night so long ago, Laura managed to focus on the subject at hand. "It's your plan. You've done everything you can to make sure it succeeds."
Kara sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "I'm just not used to sitting around while other people do all the work. Have all the fun."
Laura laughed. "Welcome to my world."
Kara allowed herself a moment to enjoy Laura's melodic laugh before sobering. "It's all I've ever done, you know. All I know how to do. Be in there, mixing it up. Fighting. It's who I am."
"It's a part of who you are. Not all. This injury is only temporary."
"Hopefully." She stared in disgust at the metal monstrosity she needed to help her walk.
"Even if it's not, you once told me that playing Pyramid was how you defined yourself. Your knee changed that, too, but you moved on and there's not a person in the Fleet that isn't grateful for that. You being a professional Pyramid player wouldn't do any of us any good now, would it?"
"Maybe," Kara said, refusing to allow logic to ruin her foul mood.
"Do you believe in the battle plan you explained to me?"
Kara froze for a moment, knowing that the most important part of the attack scenario remained a command secret. She hadn't wanted to keep the pivotal part of the plan from Laura, but Commander Adama had ordered her to keep silent. She answered carefully, "The attack, as it's planned, and if properly executed, will work. I don't have any doubt about that."
"Then you have to trust Apollo and the other pilots."
Kara grimaced and sat on the bench, skaking her head. "There's that word again."
"It's a tough one, but as I've said before, I trust you. If you tell me your plan will work, then I know it will work."
Kara looked up into the eyes of the woman that had come to mean so much to her. "The plan will work."
"Then that's good enough for me."
Laura reached out to brush Kara's hair back and took a deep breath. "Kara, I need to talk to you about something...."
Kara looked at the older woman, hopeful that they would finally talk about their kiss and what it meant. Suddenly, the hatch opened and Laura abruptly pulled back to a more professional distance. Kara silently cursed whoever had interrupted them.
"Oh. Excuse me, Madam President, Lieutenant. I didn't realize..."
"It's all right, Hot Dog. We were just leaving." Turning her attention back to Laura she said, "As I was saying, Madam President. It's a big ship. It's easy to get turned around. May I escort to flight operations, sir?"
"I'd appreciate that, Lieutenant," Laura said with a nod before turning her attention to the other pilot in the room. "Good hunting, Private."
"Thank you, sir."
"After you, Madam President."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
As the two women made their way to the flight operations room, Kara finally noticed that Laura was alone and asked, "Where is your security detail?"
"I asked them to wait in operations. I knew I'd be in good hands. I needed to talk to you..... but I suppose it can wait," Laura finished, cursing herself for her cowardice.
Kara frowned. She didn't like the hesitance in Laura's voice and started to get the feeling she was going to hate what Laura had to say, if she ever actually got around to saying it. Wanting put that conversation off as long as possible, Kara relied on more familiar banter. "Good hunting?"
"I'm told it is the thing to say," Laura said with a sly grin.
"So it is," Kara nodded as they continued walking. With a mischievous lilt in her voice, Kara leaned in, so as not to be overheard by passing crewmen, and said, "Now, what was that about my ass?"
"Now we play for all the marbles. Starbuck, it's your plan."
"Lieutenant Thrace, why didn't you tell me we had another attack force hidden in the freighters?"
Kara's heart sunk at the controlled anger and disapproval in Laura's voice. "We...uh..."
She was saved from having to answer by Commander Adama, but his reply didn't shield her from the barely-veiled disappointment in Laura's eyes. The look was quickly replaced by what Kara thought was hope and something else she couldn't identify.
"So, you still might pull this off."
While Laura was upset that the pivotal part of the mission had been withheld from her, she couldn't help but be impressed by the secretive plan, as well as feeling a sense of pride that the strategy had been Kara's. There was still a chance the mission would succeed and, if it did, the young woman would be responsible for their victory.
Tense moments followed as they listened to the sounds of Apollo and his squadron attempt to complete their mission. Laura shared Kara's nervousness and frustration as they could only listen to what was going on and not control any of the action. She also shared Kara's sorrow when they heard 'Chuckles', one of Kara's trainees, die a painful death when his Viper had been hit in the firestorm near the surface of the asteroid. The tension only mounted when Apollo navigated through the conveyor tunnel hoping to reach the refinery and drop his weapons. The room waited in a restive silence for Apollo to report on what had happened.
"Galactica. Apollo. Mission....accomplished."
Those four words caused the room to explode in a cacophony of applause and cheers as the victory was celebrated. Kara felt a relief like she had never known and a profound sense of accomplishment that it had been her plan, as executed by her best friend, that secured much-needed fuel for her family to survive a little while longer. From the corner of her eye she could see a radiantly happy smile on Laura's face. Before she could stop herself she grabbed Laura in a heartfelt embrace. Almost immediately she realized what she was doing and quickly released the older woman.
Her apology, while sincere, was still textured by the joy she felt as she continued to celebrate their success. "I'm sorry, Madam President. I'm sorry."
The sudden embrace surprised Laura, especially given the number of people in the room. She quickly gathered her composure and said, "No need to apologize, Lieutenant. Thanks to you we have enough fuel to last us a few years."
Laura stood still for a moment. Other than when Kara had kept her from falling in the hallway a few weeks ago, she tried to recall the last time someone had truly held her. Searching her memory she realized it had been that night on Caprica with Kara. Her position as President dictated that no one get too close, but even before the destruction of their civilization she had kept herself at arm's length from people. She realized she missed the feeling of touching and being touched. She missed the comfort of being held securely in strong arms. More than that, she missed being held by Kara.
She looked at the young woman who was quickly becoming more important to her than anyone else ever had been. Kara was, by her very nature, a physical person who was entirely comfortable with human contact. Laura had never been that way. She had always been physically reserved. It had been a problem with the few lovers that she had had in her life. Her hesitance at physical contact, particularly in public, gave people the impression that she was cold and uncaring. She had never really seen it as a problem, even though it had led to the demise of several relationships. Truthfully, she had never cared enough about any of them to work to change that aspect of herself. However, looking at Kara, she knew the younger woman shouldn't have to compromise such a large part of herself -- of her nature -- if they were going to continue to build something with each other.
Build something with each other. The thought was contrary to everything she had been thinking prior to this moment. It was contrary to all logic. She was dying. Kara shouldn't have to be saddled with a woman whose life was to be short, but looking into Kara's eyes made it all a moot point. Her decision made, Laura grabbed Kara by the shoulders and pulled the young pilot into her body. She felt Kara stiffen slightly before relaxing into the embrace and sighing contentedly. Laura closed her eyes and marvelled at just how right it felt to hold Kara and to have Kara hold her.
Reluctantly, Kara withdrew from Laura's arms. She spared a quick glance around the room to see if anyone had noticed their display before looking back to Laura. She expected to see some regret or embarrassment in the older woman's eyes, but saw nothing but joy and affection. Kara's smile widened as she realized Laura wasn't concerned about other people having seen them. She leaned in and whispered, "I need to get down to the flight deck. I should be there when Lee lands."
"Stay. Please. I'd like to see you -- for a few minutes at least."
The warmth of Kara's breath on her neck was quickly making rational thought a distant memory. Laura could only nod and mumble, "I...um...have a press briefing. I won't be able to stay long. Where?"
Kara was also finding it difficult to think. Laura's scent was invading her senses and interfering with her synapses. "Um...the starboard flight pod. It was going to be the museum gift shop. No one ever goes there. Half an hour?"
Laura could only nod as she stepped away from Kara. She watched the younger woman leave the room amidst hugs and congratulations from her fellow crew members. She took a deep breath to steady herself, looked at the clock and sighed. 'It will probably take me at least a half an hour to find the starboard flight pod on this maze of a ship.'
Laura paced nervously as she waited for Kara in the starboard plight pod. All her good intentions of talking to Kara and explaining why they couldn't start a relationship, why they couldn't be together, flew out the window the moment she was near the younger woman. Her physical attraction to Kara was like nothing she had ever experienced before. She knew one of the things that attracted her to Kara was certainly the pilot's body -- a body that she had had the privilege of coming to know quite intimately, at least for one night, but Laura knew that it wasn't just the physical things that drew her to Kara. Her vibrance and zest for life were palpable. It was a vibrance that Laura had lost a long time ago. Somehow between her public life and her private sorrow, when she cared for her mother as the woman became more and more ill, Laura had lost her joy for the simple act of living.
Her mother had noticed it, even as her body wasted away in those final months. She remembered the day, not long before her mother passed, when the wise woman had looked at her, in one of her final moments of lucidity, and told her that life was a journey and the love of another person was the difference between that journey being a trial or a triumph. That day her mother had made her promise to live a triumphant life. As she thought about what her life had become since then, Laura realized that she hadn't kept her promise and that now, given her own illness, she didn't have very many chances left.
Arms snaked around her waist from behind and she felt Kara's warm breath bathe the back of her neck.
"I was afraid you wouldn't be here," Kara whispered.
Laura's hands covered Kara's as they rested on her stomach. "How is Captain Apollo?"
Kara smiled broadly. "He's obscenely pleased with himself."
"As well he should be."
"I think the Chief is going to have to widen the hatch to Lee's quarters so his big head will fit through."
"A small price to pay." Laura turned in Kara's arms to face the young woman. "Your head's looking pretty big too, actually."
"Stop. All this sweet talk is gonna make me blush," Kara teased with a smile.
"You were brilliant today, Kara," Laura said as she traced Kara's cheekbone with her fingers.
"Mmm, true," Kara said as she pulled Laura tighter to her body with a even wider smile. "In fact, I was so brilliant I think I deserve a reward of some kind."
Laura returned her smile and asked, with feigned innocence, "Is that so? What did you have in mind, Lieutenant? I could arrange for a medal ceremony in front of the fleet. I'm the President. I can do that, you know."
"Actually, I was thinking of something a little less....public," Kara said, taking Laura's face in her hands.
Their mouths came together in a languid kiss. Laura's hands moved to the back of Kara's head and held her in place as they explored each other. After several minutes they parted, eyes closed, foreheads and noses still touching. "How was that, Lieutenant?" Laura whispered, afraid that speaking too loudly would break the moment.
"For a reward like that, I'll do just about anything you want," Kara responded, in an equally quiet voice.
Laura sighed, soaking in Kara's warmth. They stayed there, wrapped in other's arms until Laura regretfully pulled back. "I need to go. The press is waiting to hear about your successful exploits."
Laura's eyes widened at the word Kara had used. "What did you say?"
"You should say 'triumphant', it sounds a lot more impressive."
"And more appropriate," Laura said quietly. She pulled Kara in for one more heated kiss, before releasing her and saying, "Soon...."
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