Heaven to Touch
Author: Karen T
Disclaimer: Love 'em, but they don't belong to me.
Classification: Boomer/Adama (no, not like that), angst, post-"Kobol's Last Gleaming Part 1"
Archive: Please ask first.
Notes: I know this fic will be rendered AU once KLG2 airs, but it demanded to be written. Thanks and pb cups to Julie and Jojo for their marvelous beta help.
Seven of his crew and the vice president have crashed on Kobol, their condition unknown. His best pilot has gone AWOL, taking with her the fleet's one hope of penetrating the Cylon defenses surrounding the planet. And one of his Raptor pilots lies in the medbay with a hole in her face. Commander Adama decides he's earned the right to take a moment and brace himself with a slow, deep breath.
I believed in you. I believed in Earth.
Adama turns to see Dr. Cottle stepping through the medbay hatch, an unlit cigarette pressed between his lips. "Doctor."
No more words are exchanged as Cottle appears to focus all his attention on flipping open his lighter and lighting his cigarette. Adama observes his movements - the smooth flick of the doctor's wrist, the tuck of his chin to lower the cigarette to the small flame, the release of wrinkles in the man's forehead as he inhales.
"How is she?" Adama asks once Cottle's ingested two good lungfuls of smoke.
"She tried to blow her brains out. How do you think she is?"
"She says it was an accident. She was cleaning her firearm and forgot to empty the chamber."
Cottle lifts an eyebrow and blows a stream of smoke off to the side. It's clear the doctor considers anyone who believes Lieutenant Valerii's story is a fool.
"Right," Adama says to no one in particular. "Will she heal?"
"She'll need surgery to repair her shattered zygomatic bone. And some facial reconstruction."
The unspoken 'but' is loud in Adama's ears. "So she'll heal, but she might try again."
Cottle shrugs and pulls another cigarette from his lab coat pocket. "I just patch 'em up, Commander."
"Yes." Adama sighs and claps Cottle's shoulder. "Thank you, Doctor."
As Cottle's retreating footsteps echo off the corridor's walls, Adama takes one last deep breath before opening the hatch. Lieutenant Valerii is currently the only occupant of the medbay, which, he supposes, is a good thing. But she strikes him as unusually small when he sees her tucked in her bed, surrounded by nothing but emptiness.
Her eyes are closed and she doesn't stir until he clears his throat. She opens one eye first - her left one, Adama notices; he wonders if it's difficult for her to open the right one due to the bullet wound - then makes a feeble attempt to salute him.
"At ease, soldier," he says, closing the distance from the door to her bed with four long strides.
She nods and quickly looks away from his face. It's a gesture of the guilty.
He doesn't know what to say, what to do. He knows military strategies, Viper maneuvers, and maybe even some long dormant parenting skills. But the right words to say to a suicidal rookie Raptor pilot were definitely never covered in any of his War College courses.
Adama swallows, his throat feeling swollen and constricted, and reaches out for her hand. "Lieutenant Valerii ..." He stops when his hand is centimeters from hers. Just a little more and he would be touching her, perhaps returning stability to her with his small offering of empathy. But he can't quite bring himself to do it.
He instead moves his hand to the top corner of her bed, away from her body, and pretends that's where he'd been aiming for all along. "Lieutenant-" Again he stops himself, but this time it's to soften his tone. "What's going on, Boomer?"
"It was an accident, sir," she says, her eyes still avoiding his.
"We both know that's not true."
"I wouldn't recommend lying to me."
"I was ... cleaning my firearm."
Like an interrogator who's aware of when he's broken a suspect, Adama notices that the lieutenant's words have lost strength, conviction. "A soldier of your caliber wouldn't forget to check the chamber."
"I-" Her voice hitches and her hands clench into fists.
He leans in for the kill. "What happened, Lieutenant? Why did you pull that trigger?"
A tear trickles down the good side of her face before she turns and looks him squarely in the eyes. "I'm a Cylon," she whispers.
A second passes. Then another. And another.
I believed in you.
"I'm a Cylon," she repeats, more tears wetting her face and the bloody bandage.
Adama straightens and stares hard at the blank wall above the lieutenant's bed. "Maybe we're all Cylons."
She shakes her head. "No, you don't-"
"We lie," Adama continues, ignoring her protests. "We kill. We'll break each other's spirits if we think it's for the best. We made the Cylons, so maybe we are them as much as they are us."
"No." The lieutenant reaches out for Adama's hand, her fingers skimming his skin. "I have thoughts. Dark thoughts."
Shaken out of his reverie, Adama narrows his eyes and wishes he knew her better. He'd walked into the medbay assuming he would be dealing with an emotionally immature pilot who was overwrought over the recent end of an affair. But her face is fixed in an expression of determination, and he finds himself genuinely off balance.
"Dr. Baltar's test-"
"Was wrong," she finishes.
This he refuses to accept. "The test result is not wrong, Lieutenant. What possible reason could Dr. Baltar have for constructing a Cylon detector that provides erroneous results? What benefits could he expect to ..." Adama's voice trails off as reality descends upon him. He gave Baltar a nuclear warhead for his detector. The man has unfettered access to whatever he wants on the fleet. He's the new vice president.
"I'm not human," she says, interrupting his barrage of thoughts. "I'm not, sir."
The declaration sinks slowly into his conscious and he takes his time accepting it. Despite everything, he can't help but think she's just a child. And then he realizes how destructive that line of thinking can be. He's still reluctant to move away from it, though.
"You're sure this doesn't have anything to do with Chief Tyrol?"
"I wish it did." Her voice has thinned, and her eyes moisten at the mention of Tyrol's name. "Because then I'd only hurt myself."
He watches her, unblinking, and wonders if it's possible he dismissed all the signs like he'd done with Baltar. The bomb onboard her Raptor. The hatchcombing that was conveniently left open while she kept Tyrol preoccupied. He'd let it all slide because he hadn't wanted to believe she could be one of them. That any of his men could be one of them.
I want you to remember one thing, I do not regret anything that I did.
"Something ... changed in me, sir. After the first Cylon attack." Her lower lip and hands begin to tremble. "I don't know what it is, but it scares me. And I'm losing control over it."
Isolate the threat. Neutralize the threat.
That has been the backbone of his philosophy since War College, and it's served him well. But the world's changed and he desperately wishes it were an emotionally immature pilot lying on the bed before him.
"You know I'm telling the truth, sir. You can feel it."
I do not regret anything that I did.
"I don't want to hurt anyone here. Please don't let me. Please."
Lowering his head, Adama walks to the back of the medbay where boxes of emergency kits have been stacked one on top of another. He knows any box will do, but he spends a precious minute choosing between the identical containers. When he knows he shouldn't wait any longer, he grabs the one closest to him, undoes the latch, and holds his breath as his fingers wrap around several hypodermic needles marked 'Anti-Radiation'. Like most things in life, the medicine can act as either a savior or a killer.
He turns back to face the lieutenant and watches as a gamut of emotions flickers across her face once she sees what's in his hand. Fear. Anger. Hope. Fear.
Again he thinks of how she's merely a child.
As he nears her bed, she nods and presses her lips together. Tears gather along the brims of her eyes. She holds out her arm, lays it out flat against the mattress with her median cubital vein facing upwards.
"It's been an honor to serve with you, sir," she says, her voice struggling to remain even and strong.
"No, Lieutenant," he says as he smiles and brushes her hair away from her forehead with a cold hand. "The honor's been all mine."
And as he holds her gaze and forces himself to maintain his gentle smile, he slips the tip of a needle into her vein and empties the syringe's contents.
Be sure that whatever you're going to do, you're not going to regret it later.
Regret is a human emotion, he assures himself as he injects a second dose of anti-radiation medicine. But today he feels far from human. He doubts he'll ever feel human again.