Ok, the end is here. It is longer. I could have split it up, but nah…. I don't promise to answer all your questions… Course, I'm not promising a sequel any time soon either! Thanks!
Gradually, Lee was able to remain awake for longer periods of time. Each day he grew more aware and more equipment was removed, though his strength was slow in returning. Kara arrived after her latest CAP to find him curled up on his side. He seemed to be doing well that day. He still had an IV line for the litany of medicines he continued to receive, but he looked as if he was taking full advantage of his newfound freedom. From the expression on his face, it was a contented sleep.
She succumbed to an inner desire and ran her fingertips lightly through his hair. She whispered. "You need a haircut, Captain."
"I know." It began as a faint mumble and grew stronger. "Think they'll let me go to the barber?"
"Not yet, Champ." She watched his blue eyes drag open. "You keep a meal down yet?"
Lee grimaced and rolled onto his back. "Blech! Food?" It was thus far the greatest obstacle to his recovery. He couldn't keep food down. It was a reaction to the Cashermet. Had he been able to tolerate the Demerten, he might be stronger. It had gotten to the point that the mere sight of food induced his gag reflex. "It's highly overrated."
"But necessary to get tight-assed captains back on their feet."
"I got most of a protein drink down earlier."
"Most of one won't get you back in the cockpit or even behind the desk. Frak, Lee. I'm tried of doing your job. Get out of this bed." She slapped him lightly on the arm.
"Don't encourage him!" The stern voice surprised both of them. Adama walked up to the pair. He glared at his son. "I heard you tried for a stroll this morning." Lee flushed a bit, but said nothing. Adama continued. "What was so all fired important?"
"I'm sick of this bed? Sick being 'treated'. Sick of Life station…" Lee groused to himself.
Adama smiled at his son's attitude. "Sick of being alive?"
Lee ceased his rant. He sobered. "Any luck with figuring out who did it?"
"No." No one wanted to accept that it was someone close to him. Not that anyone on the ship really was truly close to him, aside from those present.
Lee's head lapsed to the side. He stared at the railing designed to keep him in bed. He brought his hand up to the bar and gave it a light shake. It felt like being in hack. Then his head rolled back and looked over his father's shoulder to the marine standing guard just across the room. Visitors had come, but they couldn't get close to him. How long would that continue? "So, I'm back to square one."
"Maybe, they've given up?" Kara asked optimistically.
"Given up? Who's giving up?" Major Cottle joined the group.
"No one." Lee complained. No one argued with him.
"Good. Since you have help now, why don't we try officially getting you on your feet?"
Everyone expected Lee to be excited. Yesterday, Cottle had told him he could leave Life Station when he could walk the length of the room unassisted and keep food down for several days. Lee had been thrilled to have a goal. Cottle had been quick to note it might be months before he certified him for full duty, much less flight. Just getting out had seemed to help. The affect on his spirits was short lived though. So far, the food hadn't worked, so that morning Lee had taken it upon himself to try walking. He absentmindedly touched the scrape on his cheek. He'd managed to sit up and swing his legs over the edge, but had promptly fallen the minute his feet hit the floor. It was then that the safety rails on his bed had been reinstated.
Cottle handed Adama the robe from the end of the bed. "Care to help your son learn to walk?"
Adama grumbled teasingly. "I guess. I was there the first time, might as well help the second."
Lee raised an eyebrow at his father. Of course, he had no memory of learning to walk but he highly doubted his father had been there for his first steps. Adama read his mind. "I was on leave. You were ten-months old. You'd been crawling and guiding yourself around furniture, but nothing more. We were at the lake for a picnic. Your mother set you down on a blanket and went to get the food. I was still at the water holding onto your floating toy. You saw me and came right for me." Adama stopped long enough to see the slightly embarrassed smile on his grown son's face. "Your mother panicked. She thought you were going to drown."
"But you were there."
"Yep. I caught you. It wasn't hard. As soon as you hit the sand, you went straight down. You kept trying to walk but it was hard. You kept stopping. It was like you were trying to figure out how to get to me."
"Why didn't you come to me?"
"Why?" Lee scowled. His father demanded him to walk alone as a baby. It made sense.
"You were learning. I didn't want to mess that up." He was silent a second. "It's an amazing thing to see your child learn and grow. You watch out for them, but you can't always save them. We learn the most from our mistakes. I didn't get those moments often." He hadn't intended to say that last part out loud, but when he saw Lee's face, he was glad he had. Lee's face was open to him, perhaps stunned. For the first time in a very long time, there was a bond between them.
Kara Thrace was engrossed in the story. She'd never heard the Commander speak like this. She knew he had a soft, sentimental side, but seldom did anyone see it. A Colonial Commander could ill afford to be seen as soft. She felt privileged.
A cheeky grin spread across Lee's face. "You do know I was going for the toy, right?"
Adama cuffed him gently on the back of the head. Lee feigned pain, but then smiled. He was finally lightening up. "Does this mean we get to go to the beach?"
"You could use it. You're still more pasty than normal." Kara moved closer, prepared to help. Adama offered a strong arm to help him sit up, which Lee accepted. Kara noticed a truce seemed to have formed. She didn't think the war between the Adamas was over, but a treaty had been signed.
Once Lee was sitting upright with his legs dangling over the side of the bed, Adama wrapped the robe around his son. "Scuttlebutt says that a view of your tight ass would fetch a pretty sum among the ladies in CIC, but let's not make it now." Lee's eyes flew open and red flooded his face. He was speechless. Kara burst out laughing. She laughed so hard she had to step back. Even the doctor couldn't contain his laughter.
Lee needed to move. He started to push himself off the bed. Kara wanted to help, but stayed back. This was a moment for father and son. Adama grabbed his son's arm and wrapped it around his own shoulders. "Easy, Son. This is just like the sand. You have to go slow."
"You helping or talking?"
"I'm here. You ready?"
"Ready. So, to the launch bay, perhaps?" Lee was feeling strong.
Adama laughed. Internally, he wished his son could go that far. "How about the next bed?"
A stranger watching the recovering pilot would have never expected him to make it even to the next bed. In truth, it took all the strength Lee could muster. He relied heavily on his father's support. With each slow, unsteady step, Adama wondered if he should let his son go any further. He eyed the finish line, the pristine, neighboring bed and debated letting Lee rest there before making the return trip to his own bed. He started to turn Lee to help him sit, but Lee shook his head. "No, let's go back."
With dogged determination, Lee made it back to his own bed. He was sweating profusely, his limbs quaked visibly and his chest heaved to gain air. Adama and Kara exchanged nervous glances. It was obvious it had been too much for him. Doctor Cottle saw to resettling Lee. He checked all the appropriate vitals. Once Lee was comfortably tucked back into bed, Adama bid him good night and turned to leave. Kara stayed. A dinner tray was delivered and she decided if she entertained him as he ate, the food might stay down.
Once clear of Lee's sightline, Adama ducked to the side of the room and waited for the doctor to join him. "How is he?"
"You saw him, he's improving."
"Don't frak with me." Adama sensed there was something further wrong with his son.
Major Cottle took a deep breath and directed the Commander through a side door, which led into a lab. Once inside, he dispensed the truth. "The Cashermet doesn't kill it."
"What?" Adama was stunned. His son had come back from the brink of death. "He's alive and getting better daily."
"I know and I don't expect it to be a problem…"
"In the lab, the Demerten destroyed the poison. There was nothing left of it."
"But the Cashermet?"
"There are still minuscule traces of the toxin in his blood."
"So, it just needs more time to work?"
Major Cottle looked away. He'd run through the possibilities for several days now. He'd debated whether or not to mention the situation to the Commander at all. It wasn't as if the Major considered Lee to be a threat. "The trace amounts haven't changed since the initial treatment." He studied the Commander's face for a response. Seeing none, he continued. "It's as if a few molecules got a chance to go dormant before we could kill them."
Adama drew in a deep breath, considering this new information. "So, it could strike again at any moment?"
"I don't think so."
"You don't think so? That's not good enough, Doctor. In another month, when he's back to full strength, if the traces are still there, will you certify him to fly?"
That was it. The question Cottle had been trying to avoid. "I don't know." It was the truth. He didn't yet have an answer.
If the statement alarmed the Commander, he didn't show it. "What if he stays on the Cashermet permanently?"
"That's not a good idea. If we did that, he'd most likely develop a tolerance and for his future health, we can't risk that."
"We can't risk going through this again, either."
"I know. If he's in a cockpit, or…"
Adama waved him off. He knew the risks. "Who else knows?"
Cottle thought he knew where this was going. "I've been running the latest tests."
"So, no one else knows?"
"Does he know?"
"Don't tell him."
The doctor's eyes widened in surprise. "Sir?"
"Lee can't know about this."
"But, Sir. I can't withhold this information from him. He's my patient."
"He's my son." He quickly added. "And my CAG. I'm making it an order. Until we know more, he knows nothing."
Cottle shook his head. "I can't…"
Adama knew he was abusing his command. The request was personal. He softened his approach. "At least until we know more. Lee worries about enough already. Don't add to his burdens."
"Yes, Sir, but he needs to watch for…" The doctor stopped. He saw the look in the Commander's eyes. Lee Adama would not know about the residue.
Later that night, Kara was with Sharon after an evening workout and they met the Commander in the hallway. "Have you checked in on Lee since dinner?" Kara asked.
"No, I was just on my way."
Kara grinned. "You got him on his feet. I got food into him."
Adama raised an eyebrow in wonder. "He kept it down?"
"Yes, Sir. He did. Even dessert."
"We'll have him back in no time. I give him two days."
"I hope so." The words were quiet. He hadn't meant to say them aloud.
"He'll be back in no time. Good night, Lieutenants."
"Night, Sir." Kara watched his back as he left. Her gut told her something was wrong.
"Did he seem a bit off?" Sharon wondered the same out loud. She hadn't been able to bring herself to say anything in his presence.
"Yeah. I suppose, but he's been through a lot."
Sharon smiled. "I'm glad Apollo's going to be alright."
Kara glared at her. "You in a hurry to replace me as CAG already?"
"I am sooo not telling him that."
Sharon checked her watch. "I have early recon. I'm gonna hit my rack."
"Thanks for coming to see him." Kara stated frankly. "He doesn't have many people on board."
Sharon nodded. "That's all I could do. See him. That guard keeps a close eye on people visiting him."
"Do you want to be the one to let the Commander's son get killed?" Kara questioned. "I wouldn't want his job."
Sharon cringed internally at the question. "You had his job, didn't you?"
Kara laughed. "Yeah, see how good I did? I've been replaced."
Sharon chuckled as well. "I'm just happy to see him getting better." She walked off toward the pilot's quarters, tossing a "Night!" over her shoulder. No one on the ship would ever know how happy she was Lee Adama had lived. She struggled to handle the guilt and fear that plagued her. She prayed to the Lords that it was truly over. She wondered if there was anyone with whom she could confide her sins.
Lee was released from Life Station four days later. He managed to walk by himself to his quarters, although both his father and Kara stayed close. He paused outside the door to read the new sign, stating his name and title. He grinned shyly. He was having a hard time admitting how much it meant to him.
"It's your welcome back present from the squad." Kara eagerly added, noting his reaction.
"I'm not back, yet." Lee mused.
"Soon enough, Son. Soon enough." Adama pushed the door open and Lee stepped through.
"Frak!" Kara saw the chronometer on the wall as they entered. Lee might have made his way home under his own steam, but it had taken longer then she expected. She was going to be late for her CAP. "I gotta go. I'll check in when I get back."
"Behave!" Lee called over his shoulder as he walked to his bed. Sitting on the edge, he bent over to try and get his boots off. Forgetting his father was still present, he muttered out loud. "Frak it. I'll leave 'em on." He glanced again at his boots. He shook his head, for a moment it seemed like his laces had turned to snakes. They slithered around his feet. He groaned at the mess the meds were making of his head. He leaned back and pulled his legs onto the bed. He was exhausted.
Adama watched and wondered if his son had fallen instantly asleep. He approached the bed and saw the steady rise and fall of Lee's chest along with the sheen of perspiration on his face. He smiled. For a moment, he contemplated the secret he kept concerning his son. He shook it off and drank in the sight of his son, sleeping in peace. He gently took a boot and untied the laces. He pulled it off and moved on to the second. Taking a blanket from the couch, he spread it across his son.
"Thanks." Came a quiet voice from under the cover.
"You shouldn't sleep with your boots on."
Lee turned to face him and grinned sleepily. "No, I mean for everything."
He didn't want Lee to see how much those words meant to him, so he replied with his own, "Thank you."
Lee thought for a moment. His father couldn't accept his thanks. He wondered briefly why he bothered. "For what?"
Lee was too tired to keep second-guessing his father. He opted for humor. "I hear I'm stubborn."
Adama smiled. "I hear you get it from me."
Lee chuckled. "I suppose there are worse traits I could have gotten."
Adama laughed with him. "I guess so."
Adama leaned over and tousled his son's hair. He hadn't done it since Lee was a boy and yet at that moment, it felt natural. "You need a haircut."
Lee's laugh revealed his drowsiness. "So, I hear."
"Get some sleep, Son. I'll be back at dinner."
Lee was already asleep. Adama watched him a few more minutes, thanking the Lords for saving his son. A page to CIC interrupted the moment. He stopped in the doorway on the way out and glanced back at his son. He whispered. "I love you, Son."
Adama checked on things in CIC. "Sorry to interrupt. Is Lee settled in?" Colonel Tigh seemed frustrated.
"Yeah. He's already asleep. What did you need?"
"Those reports just came in. It seems people all over the fleet think Lee's attack was designed to cover a Cylon attack."
"Where'd they get that idea?"
"I have one guess." Tigh thought back to his conversation with Baltar. He was fairly certain the doctor had leaked the fear.
"The President wants you to be at a press conference ASAP to reassure the fleet."
"Reassure them of what?"
"I don't know. I half expected an attack myself."
"Yeah. Me, too."
"What did the toasters hope to gain?" Tigh wondered aloud.
"No offense to Lee, Sir, but how does attacking Lee give them superiority?"
Adama drew in a deep breath, gauging his words. "They've now clearly shown us they can get to anyone, anytime and we can't stop them."
Tigh was silent. The concept was too overwhelming.
Adama went to his private office to get caught up on paperwork. As he entered, the first thing he noticed was the small, folded paper resting on a stack of books. He immediately thought back to his first cryptic message. He unfolded the note and read its words. "Safe for now."