This will be a series of stand-alone stories which deal with the choices that the characters on Battlestar Galactica have made throughout the mini-series and first season (I'll be posted in as much of the order of the season as I can). I want to explore what would have happened/changed if things had gone differently. Some of the stories will be angst, some will be shippy, some will be funny. There will be different pairings throughout. Don't feel like you have to check out each one to understand the others. All I ask is that if it intrigues you, then give it a try. Hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!

There are pivotal moments in one's life where if you take the wrong path everything may change. Those changes may be for the good or for the bad. The possibilties are endless.

Boomer stared at the readout on the computer panel in front of her. It said that there was useable water right in front of her. She could see that.

So why the frak couldn't she say that to Crashdown?

Her vocal chords hadn't been working for the past few sweeps. Each time the Raptor swept down close to the planet and the useable water message popped up, she lost the ability to tell anyone. It wasn't like she couldn't talk in general. She just couldn't say those words.

"Are you ready to go back home and disappoint a lot of people?" her ECO asked her.

A glimmer of something caught her eye from farther down on the planet. "What's that?" she said.

Crashdown gave her a funny look. "Where?"

"Down there. There was a small light burst."

"I didn't see anything."

"You weren't looking." She hit a few buttons, and the ship began to dip downwards. "Humor me. I'm going to take the Raptor closer to check it out."

"Fine. But if it's a Cylon base or anything like that, you're dead."

"If it is, we're both dead. But if it's water…" She let her words trail off and sink in.

Boomer pulled the Raptor closer to the planet's surface and slowly took it over to where she saw the light shine. "Do you see that?" she asked as the fog split and disappeared.

"That's an ocean," Crashdown whispered, looking at his monitors. "A frakkin' massive ocean. And it's free-running, not frozen like the rest of the planet. What are your readings saying?"

Boomer's heart dropped out. There it was again. Another useable water source. The only problem was this time she wasn't the only one who could see it. Maybe he would test it himself, and she wouldn't have to worry about trying to get the words out.


"I can't tell." She stared down at the readout. "Frak it! It's perfectly useable. Why the frak can't I say that?"

"You just did," Crashdown said, giving her a weird look.

Realizing that she had indeed just said that out loud, she started to laugh. Maybe she was just under too much stress. Her mind was shutting down, trying to convince her that she didn't even have the energy to form her lips into words. But she could do just that it seemed.

"Let's go celebrate," Crashdown suggested, pulling the scanning equipment into the Raptor. "You and I are the newest heroes of the Fleet."

She gave him a big smile, struggling to make it seem real. She knew she should be happy about finding this water source that would sustain the remainder of the human race. Crashdown was right. They were heroes. Still, something bothered her.

Why all the sudden was she able to voice her discovery? What made that particular moment easier to speak? And what the frak had happened to her the first ten times she had tried?

She pushed her thoughts out of her head and took the Raptor back up into the atmosphere. The nagging feelings weren't going away, but at a time like this, they were easier to ignore.

Kara Thrace made her way through the corridors of Galactica, stumbling from one side of the hall to the other. Her usual patrols never made her this dizzy. It had always taken her a second or two to get used to gravity once again, but it usually went away just as quickly as it came.

This time she was out of her Viper and halfway back to the bunkroom and she was still dizzy. And nauseous. And feeling like she just had a run-in with a bottle of ambrosia and the ambrosia won.

"Lieutenant Thrace?" called a hesitant voice.

Forcing herself to open her eyes a millimeter but unable to stop leaning against the wall, she stared at the young girl in front of her. Specialist Cally.

"You don't look so hot," Cally continued.

"I don't feel so hot."

"Okay. So we're agreed." Cally took a deep breath. "Promise not to hit me. I'm going to take you down to sickbay. The doctor should look at you. Something's not right with you."

Kara wanted to protest, but it hurt too much. Cally slid her arms around Starbuck's waist and supported a large portion of Starbuck's weight with her own legs. "It shouldn't be that far."

"Good. Because I don't know how long a stick like you could haul me all by your lonesome."

Cally let out the breath she hadn't known she was holding. If Starbuck could still joke, then things weren't as bad s she thought.

The duo stumbled as best they could down the hall, both choosing to ignore the weird stares they received. As Cally made the last turn down the hallway housing the hatch to sickbay, she almost ran over Captain Adama and the Chief.

"Chief," she said, sending him a weird look. Her boss was in nearly the same position as she was, holding up Apollo with his strength alone. Although all things considered, Tyrol seemed to be having an easier time.

"What the frak happened to you, Lee?" Kara teased half-heartedly, ignoring the looks being exchanged between the two "saviors". "You look like you've been run over by a Battlestar repeatedly."

"And you look surprisingly like shit, too," he said. His mouth turned up slightly in a smirk. "If it wouldn't make me throw up, I'd hit you."

"Same here," she admitted.

Cally and Tyrol had finished their non-verbal exchange, and both hauled their patients through the hatch. "Get Doctor Cottle," the Chief hissed at the nearest medical worker. "And get me the Commander or the XO on the phone. We have a big problem."

She managed to hold her questions back until Apollo and Starbuck had been deposited on the bed. "What's the problem? Seems like a healthy dose of food poisoning to me. Since Apollo and Starbuck seem to be on the same non-existent diet of protein shakes and meal bars, it only makes sense. That can be cleared up with some meds in a few hours."

Tyrol rolled his eyes. "I thought I taught you to pay more attention to the going-ons of this ship."

Before he could explain more, the sickbay worker held out a phone receiver. "Commander, sir," Tyrol said after being greeted by the gruff voice on the other end. "I'm sorry to disturb… No, I know you're busy so I'll get right to the point. I was with Captain Apollo in the hanger bay, looking over some of the Vipers needing repair when he turned white and sat down on the floor, mumbling something about feeling faint." He paused. "No, sir. He's seems to be fine right now."

Cally smiled, imagining the Commander's worry for his son flaring up. No matter how distant those two were, they were still family. And family was all that mattered now that most of the world was gone.

"I was just getting to my point, sir. I ran into Specialist Cally on my way into sickbay with Apollo. She was carrying Lieutenant Thrace in, looking about as worse off as Apollo. It didn't occur to me why Apollo would be sick until I saw her." He smiled, and Cally could see that the Commander had been able to put together by himself what she could not. "Exactly, sir. I'm sure Doctor Cottle will recommend quarantine until we can find out more information."

Tyrol hung up the phone and turned to his young crew member. She was staring at him with her hands crossed across her body. "Now can you tell me what is going on?"

"Boomer and Crashdown brought in a sample of that water they found on the latest planet."

"That's right. It was the only part of the planet that wasn't frozen solid."

"It was run through a few preliminary tests earlier, and it seemed to be safe. Dr. Baltar told the Commander those findings who then told Captain Apollo to let the pilots know the water had a good chance of being useful."

"Yeah. The other pilots were letting me know that when they filtered back down to the hanger bay after their briefing was finished."

"Well, it seems Starbuck stayed behind. I don't know what her reasoning was, but the way gossip goes is she grabbed a glass of the sample and took a drink, saying she was dying for fresh water. Apollo grabbed the glass from her and told her she was stupid not to wait for more conclusive evidence that it was okay. To which she replied, 'Frak it. I'm thirsty and the best pilot in the Fleet deserves a reward every once in a while' or something of that nature and tried to get the glass back. Seems like there was quite a struggle, and Captain Apollo ended up drinking the rest of the glass to keep it out of her hands. They didn't show any signs of sickness, so everyone just ignored it."

"Until they both ended up in sickbay with the same ailment."

"And you've finally caught on."

"So, what's with this quarantine?"

"We can't be sure the water doesn't have some airborne component to it that is going to make anyone sick. They're probably already moved into there by now."

"Where's there?"

"An observation room off the main corridor. The XO just had me fix some electrical wiring in it the other day. He said that they were expecting to find some of the Cylon models lurking throughout the Fleet, and they want somewhere quiet to put them."

Cally shook her head and followed her boss as he left the sickbay. "Starbuck is just going to love that."

"FRAK!" Kara yelled throwing the metal chair in front of her against the door. "How the frak can they keep us in this frakkin' cell of a room for an unlimited amount of time? How do they expect us to frakkin' survive?"

"They are feeding us," Lee said, pointing to the sandwich still lying untouched in front of her.

"I'm not hungry," she mumbled, glaring at the plate.

He noticed her calming down from her outburst immediately, which, if he could remember correctly, meant that her anger wasn't really there. She probably just thought this kind of behavior was expected of her. "Still nauseous?"

"At the idea of being stuck with you, the man who cannot communicate on a human level if his life depended on it."

He held his hand to his groin and feigned pain. "Ouch. That was a low blow, Kara."

"It's not like we even have pleasant conversations anymore, Lee," she pointed out, turning to look him in the eye. "All we do is fight or avoid each other." She held up her hand before he could respond. "It's easier that way, I know. Easier to keep people at a distance. Trust me. It's what I usually do. But somehow I thought you and I might be different."

They stared at each other for a few moments before she couldn't take it anymore and turned away. Lee continued to watch her in silence as she went back to playing with her untouched sandwich. They were still trying to figure out what the two of them were now that they were stuck together on Galactica with no other place to run away to. No place to go home to. No place to be assigned to, tearing them away from each other. No reason to avoid the fact that they were a lot closer to one another than either cared to admit. A lot closer than was safe in the world they were forced to live in.

Lee coughed and noticed that she had begun to poke her food in earnest, as if it was going to get up and move. "Are you really not hungry?"

"Do you want it?" she said, already sliding it across the table to him without another thought. She turned her attention back to the large mirror that took up a good portion of the wall to her right. "So do you think anyone's watching us?"

"No. There's no point. It's not like the doctors expect us to start having weird behavior or anything."

"Nope, just the usual vomiting, swearing, bitching thing." She sent a scowl his way. "At least from me."

"You must have gotten all the ickiest parts of that water," he said with a full mouth, her sandwich already half gone.

"I must have. I don't know how you have an appetite."

"Eating distracts me from remembering that there is no one out there in the Fleet doing my job as the CAG right now because my frakkin' idiot of a lead pilot thought it wise to quench her thirst before having the water properly checked."

"I was thirsty," she mumbled, throwing herself down onto the bed in the room in a spectacular display of pouting. "And I didn't force you to drink the rest of it. That was your choice."

Lee leaned back in the metal chair he was sitting in. "Most people just walk down to the canteen to get a protein shake when they're thirsty, Kara. They don't drink lab samples."

"And most people would just let their lead pilot be an idiot and drink all the water." She narrowed her eyes at him, all the while laughing in her head. She had longed for this banter that they had always had between them. She had forgotten the way she could make him mad in seconds and the way he always seemed to understand what she was thinking before she said it. In short, she had missed him over the past two years. But she wasn't sure how she could tell him that. Instead, she just growled at him, "And would you stop sounding superior? I've always hated the way you do that."

"Always?" He chuckled at her, and she was surprised to see his face harden. She had never remembered him sneering before. "How long have we known each other that you could know me to understand what you always hated about me?"

His words were cold and unfamiliar. "We've practically been family for over three years."

"The first year of that, I barely had time to talk to you. I was going through officer's training, and we both know how ridiculously hard that was. Anyway, you were so wrapped up in my brother all the time that I couldn't get a private word in with you even if I had had time."

"If you had just tried to talk with me, that wouldn't have been a problem. I wanted to be your friend, Lee. As much for my sake as for Zak's. We're pretty damn similar when you get down to it." She tried her best to lighten the suddenly dark mood. "I think the Chief's taken to calling us kindred souls or something. It seems we both have the same talent for screwing up the engines of our Vipers."

He ignored her comment and the thinly veiled attempt to bring the conversation to a more emotional level. "Then, in the past two years when you've been on Galactica, I've only talked to you in passing and mainly about stupid things like our assignments or the latest flunk-outs in the academy. I don't even know what went on with you in those two years." He looked her over.

There had been a few noticeable physical differences and quite a few internal differences that he was only beginning to pick up on. He found himself really wishing he had known what went on with her in their time apart but pushed that desire out of his head. He didn't have time for something as trivial as catching up with an old friend. Not with the state of the world as it currently was.

"What about that year before I became your brother's fiancée? We were constant rivals in those simulations the academy put us through. You and I used to log in hundreds of practice hours on those machines together. That's what I would call getting to know one another. Hell, I christened you with your call sign."

"And don't think I didn't resent it," he said, glaring at her. "Being stuck with the name of a god sets a very high bar. A lot higher than Starbuck, whatever that means."

"My call sign is my business," she said, glaring at him. She could feel her muscles tense as the temper inside her began to flare. She hated it when people made fun of her call sign. The last one to do so got punched in the jaw until he couldn't see straight. It just so happens that poor guy was the XO. But that was his stupid mistake. Tigh knew her call sign was off limits to taunting, and he still persisted.

"Anyway," Lee said, interrupting her thoughts, "I hated you during that year so I don't really count it."

He shrugged slightly, signaling that was all the information he was willing to volunteer. Kara had noticed he really hadn't like talking about his training at the academy since Zak died. Most people would just understand that and let his refusal to answer go. Too bad Starbuck had never been one of those people.

"You hated me?" she said, sitting up and staring at him with interest. "How so?"

"Well, maybe not hate, but you were a pain in the ass."

"And you weren't? Every where I frakkin' turned, you were there to point out the rules I was breaking."

"And every time I tried to get in a little spare flight time, you were already there, hogging the simulators. You were the reason it took me so long to make Lieutenant."

"Bull shit!" she screamed, shoving him hard. It satisfied her to see him almost tip over in his chair. "You made Lieutenant as soon as you got your head out of your ass and decided to start taking some chances in the air. You got your promotion when you finally started to fly for flying's sake and not to prove to someone that you were good enough."

Suddenly, she decided that she really wasn't satisfied with almost making him fall over. There was a few things she had been storing up inside and now was as perfect a time as any to get them out. Who knows when she'd get Lee alone again for an extended amount of time? Plus, they were locked up in a room where he couldn't get her thrown into the brig or where no one was present to pull them apart before they killed one another. It was now or never.

Without another thought, she picked up her right foot and gave him a swift kick to the shin.

"Shit!" he hissed as the pain flared up his leg and the chair tipped back. He landed with a bang on the floor, and Kara could practically feel the pain and anger erupting from his eyes. That had been effective.

"That was for denying me my chance at Captain," she said with a wink from where she hovered over him. "You thought I didn't know that the flight instructors at the Academy were deciding between you and me to get that promotion. If it hadn't been for you, I might never have been saddled with the job of training nuggets to fly."

Lee grabbed both her ankles and yanked as quick and hard as he could. Her butt hit the floor with a resounding bang. He saw her face wince in pain and felt the gratification rise up from his stomach. If she could hurt him, he was just going to hurt her right back. It was how things were done between them. "You were the one that got drunk and ended up in the brig the night they were making the decision. Tell me how that makes me responsible for you losing the promotion."

"Only because you took me out to celebrate the fact that we were graduating from the academy."

"I didn't do it on purpose."

She rolled her eyes. "It's really not that big a deal. I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to get my revenge on you. It seemed like a good time. I'm over it now."

Lee rolled his eyes. He knew that her little outburst had nothing to do with getting revenge and everything to do with trying to get him to talk. When they had been flying simulations together at the academy, she would always toy with him in the air in order to get him to start a line of chatter between them. On the ground was no different.

"Have any other needs for revenge that I should know about? Because next time I'll make sure to wear some padding," he said, rubbing the back of his head.

"Is it bleeding?" she asked as she sat down on the floor next to him and reached up to feel the giant goose egg that was already forming on the back of his head.

"No, I don't think so." He hissed as her fingers hit the wrong spot. "If I have a concussion from this, you're dead."

Figuring he was going to be okay, she pulled her hands away. "Whatever that was, it's in the past. I don't hold a grudge for any longer than it takes for me to get revenge."

"I could throw you in the brig for striking a superior officer, you know?" He smiled as he saw her blush slightly at that statement. "Oh, that's right! You already knew that, didn't you? You seem to have a track record for slugging your superiors."

"It's not going to stop if you're the CAG," she threatened, picking herself up off the floor and sitting back on the bed. Lee followed suit and set his chair back up on end before leaning back in it once more.

"I could ground you, you know."

His words hung in the air as an empty threat while they returned to silence. Lee reached over and finished off the last few bits of her sandwich while she pretended to be fascinated by the rust on the metal walls. That little eruption of anger was the only real conversation that had had since he showed up on Galactica, and they both knew it.

"Lee?" she asked hesitantly, still looking at the wall. When he didn't respond, she continued, "Can I ask why you hated me that first year?"

"You had such a natural feel for flying that it was almost scary. I had to work so hard for the little talent I managed to gain, and you would just hop into the cockpit and do maneuvers without really having to learn the theory behind it. It was damn near frustrating."

"Not to mention I was a girl," she pointed out, slipping her hands behind her head and slapping a cocky smile onto her face. It always went back to her being a woman. She never would have thought so many people would have a problem with that little fact. Turns out she was wrong. Almost every pilot she flew with couldn't accept her role as the best pilot in the Fleet.

"Your not being a man had nothing to do with it, Kara. You were good. Naturally good. And it pissed me off because I had to try so hard to be on your level. That's all it was."

"But you still were at my level," she added. "I flew all those simulations with you, Lee. You had the talent even if it took a lot of work. It was in you. Besides, I never would have wasted my time practicing on you if I didn't think you were a challenge."

"And Starbuck just loves a challenge, doesn't she?"

She narrowed her eyes at him. He was being openly obstinate and confrontational again. When she had hit him, he hadn't been afraid to get physical right back. She had yelled at him, and he hadn't taken one step down. That was about as unlike the Lee Adama she had once known as he could get. "You have changed a lot in the past two years without me realizing."

"That's what happens when your brother dies, and you blame it on your father. Incorrectly, might I add."

Kara took a deep breath and braced herself for the conversation they had been dancing around for days. She had felt it coming since the moment she confessed her sins to him before taking on those Cylons. "So we're back to that again?"

"You didn't expect it?"

"No, I did. I just wondered how long you would dance around the subject before actually asking me."

"Fine. You want blunt? I can be blunt. Why did you do it? I mean, really, why did you pass him?"

"Like I said, I let my feelings cloud my judgment. I loved Zak, and he loved flying. He really, really loved flying." She looked up and met his eyes, shrugging. She had been desperately trying to shove the pain of talking about the man she had thought she would spent the rest of her life with to the back of her head, but she was fighting a losing battle. On the other hand, if there was anyone she could talk to, it was probably the man sitting in front of her. "That's something we can both relate to. The only problem with him was he just wasn't any frakkin' good at it. You knew that."

"I did. And I told him that as often as possible."

The meaning of what he was trying to say hit her like a knife.

"Prick," she mumbled to herself, turning to face the wall. She wasn't even going to respond to such a blatant accusation like that. If she did, she would probably end up ripping his head off.

A thought suddenly occurred to her. Maybe this Lee wasn't the person she wanted to be talking to. Maybe it was the Lee of her memory that she wanted to talk to. That person didn't exist anymore. He had seemingly died along with his brother that day in the Viper crash. She was going to have to be a little more forgiving of this new Lee. He was still working through a lot of his misdirected pain. Letting his words sink in completely, she took a deep breath before turning over and trying to speak rationally.

"You think that I should have just told him that he had no talent and he should drop out before I had to flunk him? That would have ripped him in two, Lee. He already had the person he admired most telling him that he wasn't good enough. I don't think he could have taken the same treatment from the woman he loved."

"Are you blaming me for his death?"

"No, not at all." Kara paused as she realized that she couldn't fix whatever was broken between them by continuing to lie to him to keep herself safe from his anger. She wanted desperately for this agonizingly hard chapter of her life to be over. She wanted to fix what was broken, and if that meant making sacrifices of comfort, so be it. "At least I don't blame you entirely."

"Then are you saying it wasn't your fault? Because the way I see it, Zak wouldn't have even been in the air that day if it wasn't for you."

Her fist was flying through the air before she could even think twice. It connected with his jaw in a satisfying crack, sending his chair toppling over once more. As soon as she did it, she knew that it probably wasn't the best method to fix whatever damage was between her and Lee. But no matter how hard she tried, most times her temper tended to get the better of her.

This was one of those times.

"Frak you, Lee. It's about time you stopped placing your guilt on other people. I was responsible for Zak's death as much as you and your father, but for those same reasons, I was not alone. I just don't understand why you're being so damn determined to fix the blame on one single person. Why does the whole thing have to be one person's fault when really it was all of us making mistakes in order to do what we thought Zak wanted most?" She sighed and walked over to crouch down where he lay on the cold, metal floor, putting herself eye to eye with him in the relatively tiny little room. "How bad did I get you?"

"No more damage than you've done before. I've gotten used to it." He touched his jaw and let out a small hiss as pain darted through his body. "I'm going to have an interesting bruise to explain when we get out of here along with the concussion."

"You were asking for it. Both times."

"Maybe, I was."

"You've been asking for it since you found me that day in hack," she pointed out.

He shrugged. "You might have a point."

"I think the constant pain fighting brings makes you feel alive. I should know. It's the same way for me."

"I figured that out a long time ago," he admitted. "About you and about me. But let's not get away from the subject at hand. I think we might have actually been getting somewhere."

His words made her smile but only faintly and only to herself. Obviously she wasn't alone in wanting to repair whatever had been ripped apart between them when Zak had died. She would just have to keep pressing his buttons until he admitted that out loud. "So?"

"I still think that you're trying to hide something from me even after your sudden confession of sins in the hanger the other day."

"Why don't you just stop trying to analyze it and just be glad that at least I gave you your father back? Because that was my point in telling you. I didn't want to be the reason that you hated him."

"You think that you gave me my father back?" Lee shook his head and laughed loudly. For some strange reason, it gave her chills and not the kind she wanted. "Nothing's changed between us. He still can't look me in the eye most of the time. He'd never admit it, but he sees a lot of Zak in me."

Kara reached out and grabbed his hand. "I see a lot of Zak in you, too."

It surprised her when he ripped his hand away from hers with an anger she had never seen before and stood up, walking to the other half of the room. She had been trying to reach out to him, something that she never did for anyone on this ship. It stung to fell herself being rejected so brutally. There was still no logical explanation as to why he was so angry with her. There was no explanation why he wanted to dwell in the pain.

There was no explanation on why he was trying so hard to be like her.

And now he was scaring her with his pulling away. It was all just too familiar. She didn't know how to deal with this behavior when it surfaced within her. How the frak was she supposed to know how to handle it when it was coming from him?

"Lee?" she asked hesitantly.

"I'm sorry," he apologized immediately. "That was just not what I wanted to hear coming out of your mouth right now."

She let out the breath she had been holding. Lee automatically apologizing was something she knew. It was something she could understand. "Why did you say it then?"

"Because I am nothing like him," Lee said shortly, and she could feel him pulling back from her once more. But before she could brace herself for another bout of yelling, she felt her stomach turn.

"Oh, frak," she mumbled, getting up and running to the small bathroom connected to the make-shift quarantine cell. As she felt what little she had left in her stomach coming back up, she heard movement from the cell. There was a pair of strong hands suddenly pulling her hair back out of her eyes, and she could hear the familiar reassuring tone of Lee's voice whispering to her.

When she had finally calmed, she grabbed a towel off the sink and wiped her mouth. "I'm sorry you had to see that."

"It wasn't a problem," he said simply, standing up and moving back to where he had sat in the cell only moments before.

"I don't know why I'm still sick and you seem just fine." The jealousy was clear in her voice, and she didn't care.

"Maybe it's because I take better care of myself."

"And what the frak does that mean?" Kara stood up from the bathroom floor and did a little spin. "I think that I'm doing just fine."

"Oh, you are. If you ignore the chain smoking, binge drinking, and general lack of sleep." When she raised her eyebrows in surprise, he just gave her a shrug. "I'm the CAG. It's my job to watch my pilots and how they behave."

"Are you afraid that I'm going to drink myself to death? Or maybe you think my unhappiness is going to drive me to kill myself?"

"Suicide is an option for every pilot," Lee recited. It was practically rule number one for a CAG. In the tough world of the military, suicide was the easiest option to escape the pain of every day life. And that wasn't even taken into consideration what would change if the world was at war.

"Not the strong ones," she said, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "Suicide is not an option for the strong ones."

"Are you strong?" he asked, standing up and walking over to stop in front of her. "Seriously. Are you really as strong as you like others to think? Because I've seen you be weak before, Kara. I've seen you lose it completely, and you're on the edge of falling down that path again."

"You sure do a thorough job for a CAG." She tapped him lightly on the chest. "Or maybe there's a little more behind this watching thing when it comes to me."

Lee just stared at her, apparently not planning on responding to the accusation she had thrown at him or the way her hand was lingering on his body.

"For a man who seems to not even consider me his friend, you sure do worry a lot."

"You give me a lot to worry about. You're needlessly reckless most of the time, and I can't figure out a way to keep you safe."

She raised her eyebrow at him. "You want to keep me safe?"

"For my father's sake," he said, obviously holding back something they both knew. They had both actively shown their desire to keep the other one safe when they were in their Vipers fighting the Cylons. The Fleet laughed about the fact that Apollo and Starbuck were unofficial wingmen because at the end of each dogfight, you could always find their ships side by side taking out the last few enemies. They just naturally drifted to one another when there was danger.

"Of course." Kara walked over and sat down on the bed. "For your father's sake."

"Don't you worry about anyone?" he turned and asked as he made his way over to sit down beside her.

"I worry about myself," she volunteered. "Sometimes I make stupid decisions."

"Take it from your CAG and someone who knows your m.o. You make stupid decisions more than sometimes. I might even venture to say all of the time."

"My stupid decisions have saved thousands of life."

"It's almost like a penance in a way," Lee said without thinking. He immediately regretted his words when he saw the look of remembrance and hurt on her face. It had been years since he had put that look there, and he hadn't missed it. He may have missed her, but he had not missed that look.

It switched almost instinctively to a look of anger, and he found that he had not missed that one either. Granted he saw it on a daily basis, so he was used to it. But he knew that it was usually followed with a killer left hook. And that made it the worst look she could possibly make.

"You think I don't realize that's what's going on? That I don't understand my own motivations? The only reason I agreed to come to Galactica when your father called for my reassignment was because I thought at least there my death would be useful. I knew that then. I know that now. I can be useful here."

"He really meant a lot to you." It was more of a statement than a question. They both knew how much Zak had meant to them. For years, he was all either one worried or cared about.

"I would have died for him," she whispered.

"That's strong words."

"It's the truth. Zak had such a carefree sense to him. He was constantly doing stupid daredevil things, and I put my ass on the line to protect him time and again." She smiled to herself. "For a while there, I reminded myself of you. So strict and demanding of him."

"Strict and demanding?" Lee spit out.

She looked up and saw his face begin to get red. She had hit a sore spot. Round Three in their little sparring match might be coming up. Maybe he would hit back a little harder this time. "You loved your rules."

"I still do. Which is why I think it's frakkin' ridiculous that you would be willing to give your life up for someone else. An asset like you is too important to give up your life for someone else. You never could think politically. It was always all emotion, all the way."

This time it was Kara whose face turned red with anger. Maybe Round Three was already here. "So, you're telling me that if I had had the chance to save Zak's life, if I had the chance to exchange my life for his, you would have wanted me to let him die still? Because I loved him and I couldn't do that. I would have given everything and anything to keep him alive."

"I would have done almost everything. But giving your life up is pushing it."

She suddenly felt compelled to lash out at him in order to point out what a stupid, selfish bastard he was being. This urge hadn't occurred within her for the two years since she last saw him. It seemed like Lee Adama might be the only man she readily wished pain on.

"See?" she said, biting her lip. Her words seemed measured and calculating. "This is why I wouldn't die for you."

The look of hurt flashed across his face for a moment before he was able to push it away. It caught Kara's attention and made her instantly regret listening to her gut reaction to hurt him. She realized he had expected her to tell him that she would put her life on the line for him. Sure, she had kind of, sort of proved she would by head bunting his Viper to deliver them back to Galactica safely so she could see how he might misinterpret. But then, in that particular situation, she had never really been on the brink of dying herself. If her tactics hadn't worked, she just would have left him behind and flown back to Galactica.

Wouldn't she have?

In her head, she was startled to understand that she wasn't just trying to wound him with hurtful words. She had really meant that she wouldn't die to save him. There was something more to it, but she didn't have the energy to reason it out right now. She didn't have what it took to explain to him how stupid an idea dying for him would be. How it wouldn't amount to any sort of benefit.

Dying for Zak made so much sense to her. For the very same reasons, dying for Lee would be pointless for everyone.

"I see," Lee said finally when he had recovered from her confession. She had been staring at him quietly, lost in her thoughts. "You would die for Zak because you loved him so much. That's the way your mind works. It hurts to admit it that mine works different. I don't think I would be willing to do the same. It wouldn't have helped anyone, not in the long run. I would like to think that my mother and father, my brother, even you Kara, would have been just as upset if I had died. That would not have helped anything."

She gave him a confused look. "Are you saying that you would have been just as destroyed if I had died instead of Zak?"

When he got noticeably embarrassed and looked away, she smirked. She wanted to keep pressing the issue, but she knew now was definitely not the time. "All right. I'll let that one go. We'll go back to the fact that I cannot believe you're saying that you wouldn't do anything for Zak. You loved him more than any of us. He was your little brother. And you're telling me that you wouldn't have given your life up in his place, even if it caused a lot of pain to the people you loved. Knowing he was alive and well wouldn't be enough for you?"

"I thought about it long and hard over the past few days. The Lords of Kobol fated him to misjudge that landing for a reasoning, Kara. I think that they wanted to put all the players into position for us to survive the Cylon Holocaust."

"How logical of you," she teased.

He chose to ignore her joking. "Or at least the gods wanted us to have a chance to make it through the next few days after the destruction happened."

"Now is not the time to tell me that you finally got religion, Lee," she said shaking her head. The anger was still there, but it was slowly simmering down. He did seem to have that mildly calming effect on her. Once she hit him that first time, she didn't feel compelled to resort to physical violence for at least an hour. That was the typical way she got rid of her anger and the way it weighed on her mind.

"Not like you do, no."

Or not.

The anger bubbled back up, and she felt the need to slug him again. Religion was as taboo a topic as her call sign. "What the frak is that supposed to mean, Adama?"

Lee flinched. He had always known Kara's spirituality was a touchy subject, but he knew that was the only button he could remember to push besides poking fun at her call sign. And for some reason, it seemed like he wanted to cause her to be angry at every turn in this quarantined conversation. Maybe it was something about the mild claustrophobia he had had since the incident where his Viper had been taken out by a Cylon and he floated in space, knowing that everyone would be forced to abandon him for the good of the Fleet. One didn't resign oneself to death without there being permanent consequences.

"Answer me, Lee," she hissed, grabbing his arm roughly.

"I just meant that your faith has always been more solid than mine. You would believe that the gods would not have wanted my brother to die because it caused so many people so much pain. Me? Not so much."

"Then answer me this. Why would the gods want such a young man with such potential like Zak to die in such a horrible way?" Her grip tightened, and he felt pain begin to shoot up his arms rather violently. "Why would they want him to burn himself alive, being trapped in that Viper, knowing that there were plenty of people around to save him? And why the frak would they want me to be yards away, watching him die, hearing him scream? Answer me! Why would they want that? What purpose did that have?"

By the end of her rant, she was hysterical. Her grip would have bruised him thoroughly if her blows earlier had not already done so. He hadn't felt her falter in keeping hold of him as tightly as she could even as her voice got more emotional and her eyes welled up with tears. She knew there was pain coming from her grip, and it didn't seem like she cared. To be honest, he was holding on to her just as tightly. It seemed that whatever was going on between them was more important than the realm of physical pain at the moment.

"Why, Lee?" he heard her whisper as he threw all common sense to the side to pull her over into his lap and circled his arms around her. He wanted to have her close to him, just to make sure that this was really happening. She was actually letting her feelings out for the first time he could remember. He could feel her sobbing against him still. She was letting her guard down all the way for once.

"His death still hurts you, doesn't it?" He felt a slight nod on his chest and gave a small sigh. "Me, too, Kara. Me, too."

She took a deep breath and pulled her head out of where it had been hiding against him. There was a small sniffle before she got herself to choke out the words, "Every day I feel like he's dying all over again."

He nodded. "And the pain gets so great that you're not sure you can take it."

"And the only thing that keeps me going…"

"…is being up in the air, flying," he finished for her. He tried to send her a reassuring smile, but she seemed to be avoiding eye contact. "I know. That's the only thing that gets me through a day, too." They branched into a comfortable silence. "I still wake up to think he's out there somewhere."

"I still feel him beside me in my bunk some days," she admitted, slipping her hand into his.

Lee was surprised she was actually giving in to the physical comfort he was offering. The typical Starbuck reaction would have been to push him as far away from her as she could as quick as she could. Hadn't he done the same to her just moments before? It seemed like maybe this was another change that he hadn't been around to witness.

"This is what makes you so different from Zak," she whispered. "That's what makes you you."

"And what is that?"

She sighed and pulled herself out of his lap to lie beside him. He didn't fail to notice that she still kept her hand in his. Physical contact had always offered her comfort. At least that hadn't changed. "I need to explain something first. When I said I wouldn't give my life for yours, I meant it. I didn't know how I meant it, but it was the truth."

"We're back to that," he said, tensing up rather noticeably. "I don't think I want to hear what you have to say."

She could hear the pain in his voice. It no longer sounded satisfying to her. Something had shifted between them when she had broken down. Harsh words and punches were not going to help them communicate any more. "Before I explain what I meant by that, I have to ask you one thing. Do you really not think of me as your friend? Even after everything we've been through, do you still think of me as just another one of your pilots?"

"You're the only ally I have on Galactica and in the whole world, it would seem." He gave her a small shrug.

"But I'm not your friend?"

He sighed and rubbed his face. Being honest with her was one of the hardest things he would ever have to do. "The Kara Thrace I knew two years ago was, but you're a completely different person than the girl I used to know in academy. I think that once I get used to the changes, we could be friends again. But at this moment, I don't even know who you are."

"Fair enough." She took a moment before giving him a small smile, hoping it appeared brave and reassuring. "You've changed a lot, too. Don't think I haven't noticed. I'm appalled at how many of my bad habits you've managed to adopt while keeping me at arm's length."

Seeing the color drain from his face as her dig about his self-imposed exile hit home, she threw her hand up to hide her face and shook her head. "Forget that I said that. We were just having a real conversation for the first time since we got thrown in this damn cell. Hell, for the first time since you've showed up on Galactica." She lowered her hand and looked him in the eye. "I don't want to ruin that."

"Already forgotten," he said, stretching out to lay the full length of the bed.

"Exactly. That displays the exact point I was trying to make. The one thing that hasn't changed about you in all these years is your willingness to put others before you. You might be driving yourself completely insane, but you would keep on working just as hard as long as it meant keeping your pilots safe. Which is why my willingness to trade my life for yours means nothing. It's not what you would want from me."

"That sounds an awful lot like the opinion I had earlier that you were criticizing."

"My thoughts on you and my thoughts on Zak are not similar," she said, shrugging slightly. "It's messed up and has no reasoning behind it, but it's true. I would give my life to have him back in a second. But it's not that easy for you." She squeezed his hand lightly, sliding down to lay next to him. "You always liked to make things hard on me."

He felt her roll up against his side and slid his arms around her like old times. "We haven't just lain like this in years."

"I know," she said, letting out a deep breath. "I haven't needed you to support me in years. That's why you're making this hard on me. How am I supposed to tell you my point when you're making act so weak?"

"You're not weak."

"When I'm around you, it sure seems like I am." She punched him lightly on the chest. "You're making it hard on me again."

"Just tell me what you're trying to say."

She knew it was going to sound corny coming out of her mouth, but there was no better way to say it that she could think of. "I wouldn't die for you, Lee, because I'm too busy living for you."

Her words hung in the air as silence was the only thing passing between them.

"You live for me?" Lee finally asked hesitantly. He pulled himself away from her side so that he could look her eye to eye. He really had no idea how to interpret what she was trying to say to him. Truth be told, he had never really understood her, not even for a moment. She was just so damn confusing all the time.

"The past few days, the only thing that has kept me going is knowing that you need me to keep going. The other pilots unknowingly look to me as an example, and you need me to be the right kind of example. You need me to keep on going through the motions so that your job is as easy as it can get in the current circumstances. I see that."

He watched as another tear fell down her cheek. Without thinking, he reached his hand up and brushed it away.

She continued explaining, "And I know that you need me to keep going just as much as I need to know you're out there. I live for you because I know dying for you would destroy whatever you still have inside you that keeps you going. As much as you might deny it, you need me to stay alive in order to get your job done."

Not wanting to analyze what was happening between them any more, she simply chose to launch herself into his arms again. After a moment, Lee hugged her back, and she felt the tension leave her body. He had understood what she was trying to tell him. Finally she had gotten her point across to him. Maybe now some of the pain of the past two years would begin to melt away.

She pulled back from him and looked up into his eyes. What she saw only served to confuse her. She had not seen that particular look in a man's eyes since before Zak had died. It was even longer since she had found herself to be the cause of that look. She couldn't remember one time in all their years together when it had been Lee giving her that look.

So why didn't it feel weird? And if it wasn't weird, then why did she feel scared?

When she realized that she was mirroring that look back to him and he slowly lowered his head towards hers, she didn't find that weird either. Whatever was happening, she knew that it was what she wanted. She wanted Lee to kiss her. It was frakked up, but it was what she wanted.

As his lips moved agonizingly slow towards hers, she felt a familiar sensation in the pit of her belly. Talk about ironic timing. "Frak," she yelled, pushing him away and running as fast as she could towards the bathroom again. She didn't even have time to enjoy the look of pain that flashed across his face as his back smacked against the wall.

Within moments, Lee was up and standing next to her in the bathroom, holding her hair back. Again, there was gentle reassurance in his words as he whispered to her until the worst had passed.

"This is so embarrassing," she finally said, sitting back on her legs and holding her head in her hands.

Lee crouched down and wiped the tears from her eyes with his hands gently. He wasn't sure if it was the embarrassment of throwing up in front of her CAG or her previous admission that he meant a lot to her which made her ashamed. Time for a well-placed topic change. "So how long do you think we're going to be stuck in here?"

"I don't know." Inside, she was breathing a sigh of relief. He wasn't going to mention what they had been about to do before she got sick. There was such a thing as small miracles. She would have to remember to thank the Lords of Kobol for that when she got out of this cramped up room.

"Do you think you could get yourself to stop throwing up?" he asked with a smirk. "I think every time you do, it extends our visit here in the Cylon Room."

"Frak off. Do you think I'm doing this on purpose?" she yelled.

He shook his head, standing up and offering her a hand. "You should get some rest. Something tells me it's going to be a long night of running to the bathroom."

She slipped her hand into his and let him lead her over to the bed. Lying down, she pulled him with her so that they lay with her back nestled into him. Feeling his warmth next to her drew her mind back to the night of Zak's funeral. She had slipped into Lee's old room at the Adama's household on Caprica, expecting it to be empty. No one had told her that Lee was spending the night at his house. He must have heard her open the door because she could see him through the little bit of light the open door let pour into the room. He was supporting himself with one hand while holding his other hand out to her in an invitation to join him.

She had taken his invitation that night, knowing that it was the start to her long healing process.

"This is a start, too," she whispered over her shoulder.

"What did you say?" he asked.

"Nothing, Lee." She turned over to look him in the eye. "I was just reminding myself to tell you I've missed you before I forget."

"I've missed you, too, Kara" he whispered before drifting off to sleep.

A new beginning.

It didn't sound so scary anymore.