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 possibilities are endless.
Kara Thrace hadn't known a person could get more tense than she already was. This insane plan of hers had actually been put into action, and now the fate of the Fleet lay in the hands of someone else. Granted, that someone else was the only man she thought had even a hope of getting the job done. But still. He wasn't her.

True, Apollo was almost as good at flying a Viper as she was. She could never tell him that to his face, of course. It would be admitting that she was not the only indispensable person in the Fleet. That maybe since he showed up, there was someone else capable of doing the crazy things that had become her trademark. Relinquishing her title was not something she would willingly do. No matter how good he was. No matter how much of a challenge he posed for her to keep herself one step above. No matter how many of her nasty character traits he had begun to display.

One in particular must have been the cause behind this current move because now he had decided to take his Viper into a conveyor belt that might just end abruptly instead of going straight through to the refinery. Certain death lay in front of him.

Which conveniently explained why she suddenly wanted to either punch the nearest subordinate or frak the first attractive guy she could get her hands on. Sex and violence, those were the only two things that could keep her calm.

And right now, she was anything but.

She had a bad feeling about this.

"Galactica." His voice rang through the CIC. "Apollo. Mission--" A small chuckle trailed through the airwaves. "--accomplished."

The laughter and screams that erupted around her were overwhelming. Add to it the fact that Apollo had not closed the comm channel yet and the sound of his laughter was carrying through to her ears, and she wasn't surprised that she suddenly felt the need to cry for the first time in a long while.

She impulsively pulled the President into a hug before realizing what she was doing with the leader of the Twelve Colonies. After a quick apology and a fair amount of blushing on her part, she was surprised to feel the President embrace her once more, this time a little more tender and a little less enthusiastic. For one second, Kara remembered what it had been like as a little child during those rare times when her mother showed her affection.

She vaguely heard the President thank her for securing enough tylium for the Fleet to last the next few years. Instead, her mind was caught up in memories of her mother and her childhood on Caprica and memories of the times she had spent with Lee, doing crazy things that usually ended up with one of them getting into a brawl. Things were easy back then.

"You still feel rather tense, Lieutenant. The operation was a success. You can relax now. I won't be punishing you for keeping me in the dark."

Kara gave her a nervous smile. "I know. I just have this hunch that that was way too clean and easy for what we had supposed would happen. Things don't usually go like that when I'm involved." Her eyes darted for a few seconds to the display pinpointing the positions of the fighters still out in the field. Everything seemed to be fine. "These people are all I have," she whispered in a small moment of honesty.

As the words came out of her mouth, she felt the CIC tense up again and grow silent. She took a step away from the President and peered down at all the motionless bodies before her. Something was definitely not right.

That's when she picked up on it. There was barely any sound in the whole ship. Apollo's comm channel seemed to be the only thing emitting noise.

"Galactica. Apollo. I repeat, there was one last Raider on the mining base. I took it out, but…" His voice cut off. Kara knew what he was going to say even before it came out of his mouth, and she suddenly wished that she hadn't been so harsh to him before he had left for this mission. "…but it took out my port engine. I'm not going to be able to make it back to Galactica."

The transmission became choppy, and she could hear Apollo start to swear at his control panel.

And then the CIC fell into complete silence.

"Commander Adama," Lieutenant Gaeta started. When the Old Man turned to look at him, she could see Gaeta suddenly get nervous, and his words caught in his throat. Unable to speak, he simply pointed up at the board tracking the ships around Galactica.

Kara followed his eyes and saw the blip that indicated Lee's Viper disappear.

He was gone.

Lee Adama pulled himself from the currently smoking Viper where it had crashed into the mining planet he had worked so hard to take control of. His right leg flamed up with pain as he fell the few feet from the cockpit to the gravely earth. He must have jarred it during the landing while he had been trying his best to keep the ship from exploding under the stress.

After a good amount of hobbling and pain, he turned around to watch as the last Mark VII the Fleet had went up in smoke a few yards away.

"Frak," he hissed. He had been hoping that he would still be able to use the comm channel to tell Galactica that he was planetside and would be waiting for them to send a rescue shuttle to get him.

Staring down at his wrist, he saw that he had enough oxygen to last three hours. That should be plenty of time for Kara to realize he had gone missing and start a frantic search of the planet for him. He would expect no less.

And even if Kara wasn't there to make sure someone sent help, he had a feeling his father would be picking up the slack.

When Kara's Viper had been shot down earlier that month, he had asked his father whether he would have spent so much time searching if it had been him stranded alone out there somewhere. His father's answer had been if it was Lee, the Fleet would have never left.

He hoped his father hadn't been exaggerating. He really didn't fancy dying on an asteroid in the middle of nowhere.

Sighing, he sat down on the ground to take a look at what was wrong with his leg.

Kara threw her cane to the floor of the bunkroom as she raced to her locker. Her flight suit was exactly where she had left it, in a pile at the floor of her locker. There hadn't really been time to hang it up after the whole crash-landing, knee-frak-up catastrophe. Plus, it wasn't like she was going to be using it anytime soon.

She slid into the suit while causing only a minor bit of pain to her knee. Zipping up, she ignored the voice of reason in her head that said she should pick up the cane and use it. Her heart was telling her that it would only slow her down. And every second was precious right now.

So leaving the cane behind, she made her way down the corridor to the busy hanger bay. She couldn't help but notice the victory celebration that should be happening was not. It wouldn't be very appropriate considering the hero of the day was out there somewhere, wasting away on an asteroid.

"Chief," she screamed as she did her best to slid down the ladder from the scaffolding above the deck without jarring her knee. "Tell me you have a fraking Raptor that's launch-ready."

"I have one, sure. What do you plan on doing with it?"

"I plan on flying it out of here and picking up our lost CAG," she growled. "Which one is it?"

The Chief shook his head. "I can't just let you take out one of my ships without the Commander's approval."

"Approval?" she yelled. "Why the hell do you need his approval? In case you've forgotten, it's his son out there."

"I still need at least a verbal confirmation."

"Frak verbal confirmation. Just tell me which Raptor is ready and I'll do the rest. I don't care if they haul me to the brig the second I get back. We don't have time to waste arguing about how to do this properly. Lee needs us." She flinched slightly at her use of Apollo's first name. She tried to keep the professional relationship separate from what she felt for him personally. Sometimes it wasn't easy.

"I know that we need to get out there to get the CAG. But I can't just be handing a Raptor over to you. We're running out of ships. I can't risk it unless the Commander gives the okay."

"Lieutenant Thrace!"

Kara turned to stare at the deckhand who had called her name. She thought his name was Soaksinus or Sosignknee or some other ridiculous word. It made her wish that deckhands got call signs, too. Things would be a lot simpler. Maybe she would be able to learn all their names.

"Commander Adama is on the phone. He wants to know--" The young deckhand cleared his throat and tried again. "He wants to know, and I quote, 'what the frak a hotheaded pilot who is not even cleared to fly is trying to pull with a stunt like this'."

Kara bit her lip and debated whether she actually had to take the phone or if she could just convince the Chief to ignore the man who called the shots and let her take out that bird. Figuring she didn't really have a chance either way, she reached out to grab the receiver and nodded at the deckhand. "Starbuck, sir."

"Kara, you cannot just jump into a Raptor no matter how much you want to get Lee back."

He must be in his quarters if he was willing to talk so candidly. "I'm sorry, sir. Do you not want me to get your son back?"

"You saw it just as I did, Kara. The position indicator on a ship only goes out when it's a particularly bad crash. The probability that Lee actually survived it is--"

"Good enough to warrant a search," she interrupted. "We have to try. You can't say we don't have the fuel to wait here for a little while just in case."

Adama sighed. "Fine. You win. You can take the Raptor. But you have to make sure it's one hundred percent flight ready. You have to take another officer with you in addition to the usual ECO. I want someone to be there to take over if the flying gets to be too much for your knee."

"You're not going to make me stay behind."

"I couldn't make Lee rest for a second when you went missing. I'm not up for another failed challenge like that."

"Understood. Is that all then, sir?"

"You have to promise me that you won't stay out there forever. If you can't find him within a few hours, there's nothing to find. Don't hold on to another ghost, Kara."

She tensed at his subtle mention of the few months after Zak's death when she was convinced that somehow he had made it through the fiery mess in that landing bay and was alive out there somewhere. It wasn't a phase in her life she was proud of, and she would always be eternally grateful that the Old Man was the only one who knew of its existence. "He's not dead so he's not a ghost," she finally answered.

"All right. Bring my son home."

She smiled and hung the phone up. Turning to the Chief, she smirked. "I think I just got your damn verbal confirmation. Where's my bird?"

Lee smiled and gave a little wave as he saw the Raptor approaching. Twenty minutes. She must have broken some sort of record, getting help out here that quickly. Either that or she had flown the shuttle herself the second she realized he was in trouble.

Kara Thrace might be a pain in his ass most of the time, but when he needed it, she was there for him. Which is why he had a feeling she would be the one behind the controls of his rescue ship.

The Raptor shook the ground under his feet slightly as it made contact with the asteroid. The ramp slid down, and he wasted no time in racing up the platform and on to the vehicle. He could just imagine what choice words Starbuck would have for him about screwing up what could have been the perfect operation.

It would be refreshing to hear her yell.

Plus, she might congratulate him on completing his mission. Maybe even apologize for not having faith in him. He had never been so happy to prove someone wrong.

"So start screaming, Ka--" He stopped in his tracks when he realized it wasn't Kara at the shuttle's controls. "Boomer. I wasn't expecting you. Can't Starbuck pilot a Raptor, bum knee or not?" He winced, knowing that he shouldn't have let on so quickly that he had expected it to be his lead pilot in front of him. Everyone probably knew how much he favored her, but it still wasn't good to draw attention to it.

"She figured it would just be easier for me to swing by and pick you up. That way she could save most of her energy for the verbal thrashing she plans on giving you for scaring her so much."

Lee let out a chuckle that he hoped didn't betray the eerie feeling he suddenly had that something was not right. He knew Boomer was just trying to keep the mood light, but her comment didn't make a lot of sense. Number one, if Kara was fit to pilot a Raptor, she would be the one picking him up no matter who was in a closer position. She wouldn't trust that job to anyone else.

Number two, there's no way the Kara he knew would admit to anyone how much it bothered her when he was in danger. They had made a pact when they had first realized they were going to be serving together on Galactica for the long haul. It was a pact mostly out of self-preservation. No one would take too kindly to knowing that the CAG and the Fleet's best pilot were emotionally attached to one another.

Therefore, she would have never publicly said that she was mad at him for scaring her.

For fraking up her mission, sure. But scaring her? No way. Not Starbuck.

Number three, there was a critical piece missing from Boomer's Raptor that was starting to bug him more and more each second he was aboard. There was no ECO in the command chair in front of him. "Boomer, where's Crashdown?"

"Sir, it's a long story. Why don't you strap yourself in and I'll tell you all about it while we make our way back to Galactica? I don't know about you, but I could go for a good celebration in that hanger bay right about now."

Lee nodded and stepped over to the empty ECO chair to strap himself in. He only flinched slightly when the Raptor's doors banged shut. Sighing as he felt the pressure level change in the ship and the atmosphere pump all around him, he unlocked the collar of his helmet and slid it off. "It's nice to be able to breath--"

He stopped short as he felt his head become light. "Is the atmosphere functioning right, Boomer? It feels a little off. Try to adjust it by hand." He rubbed his neck and nodded at her. "Even if it doesn't work, I think you might want to get it checked by the Chief when we get back."

Boomer smiled and hit a few buttons on the control panel. "Maybe this will help for now."

Lee watched the monitor in front of him in confusion as the oxygen levels decreased. Before he could even get a word of protest out, he felt his head becoming heavy as he lost consciousness

Boomer powered up the FTL drive and made her way into the blind spot behind the asteroid. She smiled as she saw her ship briefly drop off of Galactica's sensors and then hit the button to jump her Raptor out of the system.

He woke suddenly and tried to take a look around him. The brightness of the room he was in caused him to cringe and make an attempt to shield his eyes. He must have been out longer than he thought if a little thing like light was hurting him so much. He vaguely felt himself trying to remember what had happened to make him lose consciousness, but he just couldn't make his head stop spinning for long enough to remember.

It was at that moment that he realized his arms and legs were tied down to whatever he was currently laying on. He pulled lightly on his bonds and tried to figure out why they were there.

"You're awake."

He opened his eyes a little bit so that he could make out the shape of Sharon Valerii. She was sitting on a chair next to the bed he was laying on. "Lieutenant. Am I in sick bay?"

"Of sorts, yes." She smiled at him and grasped his hand. "You really impressed them. Otherwise they wouldn't have sent me to pick you up."

He let out a laugh. "I don't think my father would have left me there even if I had failed in my mission. And I sure as hell know Starbuck wouldn't have, no matter how much of a disappointment I was."

"William Adama and Kara Thrace are inconsequential. They have been tested and found wanting. You on the other hand…"

The voice rang sweetly in his ears, and turning his head, he took in the appearance of a pretty blonde wearing a skintight red dress. He had seen her before somewhere. He just couldn't place it.

"How are you feeling, Lee? We were worried that Sharon had shown a little too much enthusiasm in completing her mission. At least she didn't permanently damage the goods. "

"What mission?" he said, his brow furrowing in concentration. He didn't remember Boomer being assigned any other mission besides keeping a lookout on the Cylon forces while Lee's squadron snuck in to take out the mining base.

The pretty woman smiled and motioned for Boomer to step back, which she promptly did. "She was to collect you. It seems your actions have interested our god."

"God?" he said, his face clearly showing his confusion at the use of the singular term. At this point, he really wasn't sure he had actually woken up. Everything was just a little too odd. And this woman was still giving him major flashes of déjà vu.

"You seemed to have become a valued commodity to the human race and therefore you are of value to us. Testing you should prove very enlightening."

Lee felt himself begin to panic as he realized that he wasn't dreaming and there really was something wrong with this picture. If he was in sick bay, where was his father? Where was Kara? Why wasn't there a doctor there monitoring his condition? He pulled against his bonds once more. Why hadn't it occurred to him that if he was really on Galactica, he wouldn't be tied down? "Who the hell are you?" he hissed, glaring at the two women now that his eyes had adjusted to the light in the room.

"I'm Six, and she's Eleven," the blonde said with a smile even though she knew her words made no sense to him. "And you just might be the basis for Thirteen. We'll see if my hunch was right and you really are as important as our god thinks. If you are, we can certainly use you. You could get us into places we never dreamed we could."

He did a double take as two more blondes who bore an identical resemblance to this Six woman entered the room with some medical equipment. They both smiled at him in the same way that the first had, and he felt his blood run cold.

"And if you're not useful to God, well, I'm sure I could come up with something fun to do with such a strapping young man like yourself." Her words made his blood run cold.

"Don't be afraid, Apollo. A god of the sun has nothing to fear from a few machines," the woman he had known as Sharon Valerii said in a sort of fakely reassuring tone from where she stood a few yards away.

And suddenly it all clicked in his head.

The Cylon mole within their Fleet. The inside information as to where his damaged Viper had landed. The use of the singular term god. Numbers instead of names for his captors. The reason why Kara was not piloting the shuttle.

It seems he had drawn the unwanted attention of the Cylons.

Kara sat in the empty hanger bay, her hand lightly touching the coffin next to her. She knew that within the hour, it would be flushed out of the airlock. It didn't matter that his body was not inside. It was still too painful for her to accept.

She had convinced the President to let them keep searching for Lee for three solar days. They had found his wrecked Viper within half of an hour that first day. Because there was no body inside, she had been able to argue that he might be on the asteroid somewhere. She ignored the medical personnel who told her that if he had been inside when the Viper exploded, there would be no body.

He wouldn't have just sat there in a damaged Viper, though. Apollo was too smart for that.

Eventually, it was clear that if he had gotten out of his Viper and was alive down there, his oxygen would have run out long ago. She doubted he had been as lucky as she was in figuring out how to work a damaged Cylon Raider.

Resting her head against the cool metal beside her, she shut her eyes and willed away the pain.

The only reason he had done something as stupid as risking his life in that conveyor tunnel was because she had told him that she had no faith in his ability to get the job done. At the time, it had seemed like the right thing to do to motivate him to succeed. Now, she just wished she could take it all back.

She wished she could tell him that she was only irritated that she couldn't fly with him. That she hadn't meant what she had said. That she knew if anyone besides her had to blow up a Cylon mining station, it should be him. She did have faith in him.

"Too much, it seems," she whispered to the coffin. "My faith killed you. You wouldn't have done anything half as stupid as you did if you thought that there was another option. If you thought that you could have finished the mission in your own style. Because, damnit, Lee, you were good enough to do it. You didn't have to do something so frakin' stupid."

Her voice suddenly failed her as the emotions came flooding back. Shrugging back the tears, she sat up and looked around the hanger. It had been decorated by the deck crew in a final farewell to the hero of the Fleet. His death had given them all a real shot at staying alive.

The decorations from his funeral had not been taken down. It seemed like she was not the only one who was having a hard time putting Lee's memory to rest.

Boomer hadn't been able to sleep one night since that day. She said every time she shut her eyes, she imagined what the CAG had done to save her when she was piloting that Raptor back from Caprica full of survivors from the holocaust. He had talked with her quietly the next few weeks about leaving Helo behind. He had understood the pain she was going through.

Specialist Cally hadn't been able to make it through a full shift without crying. She kept remembering the way Lee had taken on all those prisoners to get her the medical attention for the gunshot in her abdomen. He had been her personal savior. She hadn't even had time to properly thank him.

Kat had been in and out of sickbay with various excuses why she could not fly the patrols for which she had been scheduled. She had been flying as Lee's wingman since Kara had hurt her knee, and it seemed like having a new person by her side in the air was just a little too hard to bear right now.

Dee was still doing her job in the CIC with as much efficiency as she ever had. So she had to take periodic breaks because her mind kept replaying Apollo's final transmission and the grief was too much. No one faulted her for that. Especially since she spent her free time talking with anyone she could find lounging around the break rooms. She was the one who refused to let everyone else forget how much he had meant to the Fleet. Dee had told Kara that as soon as she felt up to it, she would gladly relinquish that responsibility to her.

Trying to blink back the tears along with the memories, she looked back down at the coffin and rubbed it gently with her hand. "So. You finally did it, Lee. You've forced me to grow up. I'm the CAG now. Seems like I'm the only one who can get this group of screw-ups in shape now that you're go--." She paused and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry for being such a frak-up. I made it a lot harder for you than it should have been. You think with how much I love you that I would have done everything to make you comfortable on this ship. But that's not my style. No. I like to tease and yell, throw a couple of punches, whatever I could do to get you riled up. Well, I don't feel like doing any of that no more. You finally broke me of my bad habits."


The voice made her jump to her feet, but she really wasn't that surprised to know that he was there. "Commander, sir."

"It's time."

She glanced over at the empty coffin before looked over at him. He flinched at sight of all that pain welled up in her eyes. "No. Not yet. I'm not ready. I… I can't."

"The funeral was over three weeks ago. We have to get this memorial to Lee out of here. We have to give him the proper goodbye that he deserves. And then we need to move on."

"How can you let him go so easily?" Kara asked quietly.

"It's hard, but it's what he would have wanted. Even if he had survived his crash, we didn't find him in time. I promised him once that I would never leave him behind. If that planet had a better atmosphere, we wouldn't be leaving. But he couldn't survive this long in it. So I have to let him go. For the good of humanity, I have to move on."

"I can't believe he's gone."

"He is, though."

She sniffed lightly and gave him a small smile through her tears. "I loved him."

William Adama didn't say anything. He didn't have to.

Instead, he just leaned against the wall next to her and slipped his hand into hers.

Kobol. The birthplace of the gods.

It was breathtaking.

Boomer looked back at Crashdown. "We should get back to Galactica. I think they're going to want to hear firsthand what we've found."

Crashdown nodded. In the back of his head, he knew it would be just the thing to renew the hope of the Fleet. There had been a definite shift in morale since Captain Adama had sacrificed himself for that source of tylium a month ago. No one would admit to it, but it had almost been a worse blow than if their operation had failed.

Maybe the presence of the birthplace of humanity would help them move past the pain.

Smiling, he watched the planet drift by as Boomer flew them back towards their home.

Maybe it was the thought of a new hope. Or the fact that they had managed to pull off a miracle discovery yet again. Or the sheer beauty of what was in front of their eyes.

Either way, they were too preoccupied to notice a small Cylon Raider work its way silently through space and latch itself on to the bottom of their Raptor, out of sight.

Lee stepped outside of the alcove he had been hiding in for the past two hours. It had been a risky move to disengage from the Raptor and land his ship in a 'hot' launch tube. Equally risky was him stepping outside the ship when he still wasn't sure there wouldn't be another launch from this particular tunnel. He had guessed that he would have enough time to wait until he felt secure enough about stepping out into Galactica without being noticed by any of the personnel.

His guesses and suppositions had paid off, though. There wasn't one single sign of life in the tunnel.

Stepping into the nearly-deserted hangar bay, he felt a familiar twinge in his right leg. It had never really healed from the crash he had that day on the asteroid. Granted, the Cylons had re-broken it a few times to test his healing capabilities, so that couldn't have helped any.

He pushed his thoughts of the Cylons out of his head and made his way through the shadows to the nearest equipment locker. The door beeped open with the code he punched in. For such an efficient ship, they really should change the security codes periodically.

It only took him searching two cabinets to find what he needed. A standard issue handgun given to all pilots when they are assigned a ship to serve on. He wouldn't need more than a handful of bullets to do what he had come here to do. After that, he had no idea. All he knew was he had to finish this.

There was a small noise at the hatch, and he pushed himself into the small space between the cabinets as someone entered the locker. He knew that he had no chance of accomplishing his mission if anyone knew he was on Galactica, but he really didn't want to hurt any innocent people in the process.

"Jesus, Cally," he heard a young man say. "If the Chief knew that you had left this locker wide open, he would have your head on a platter."

"I told you, Socinus. I didn't leave it open."

"You were the last to use it."

"I locked the door after myself." He smiled as Cally came into his line of vision. She was one of the people he had missed the most when he had been gone. She had never confused him or done anything out of the ordinary. She had just been there to help him fit into life on Galactica. Memories of her were one of the few untainted things he had left.

He shut his eye for a moment, willing the memories to go away. He needed to be focused, and remembering what his life had been like a short time ago would only distract him.

Cally's gaze swept around the equipment locker. "Nothing looks out of place. Let's lock it up and get out of here. These armory lockers give me the creeps."

"Good. I have to get down to Launch Tube 3. The Chief says something's blocking the air filtration system."

Lee heard them shut the door and waited a few seconds before sliding out of his hiding spot. He was glad that they hadn't taken the time to properly check to make sure everything was in place. As much as he wouldn't have wanted to hurt them, he couldn't let them alert the rest of Galactica to his presence. Not until his job was done.

He slipped into the hallway after checking to make sure it was clear. Taking a few out of the way passages and a stairwell that probably hadn't been used in years, he made his way slowly to the CIC. He had picked up on a few words of gossip as he snuck his way through the ship. That was where she would be. After their discovery of Kobol, Boomer would be taking in the praise of all the ship's commanding officers at this central location. Right about now, the CAG would probably be placing some sort of medal of honor on her shoulders.

Letting himself forget for a moment why he had chosen to return to Galactica and the dirty job he had ahead, he wondered who they had gotten to replace him.

Kara held her hand out to Lieutenant Valerii to congratulate her. Finding Kobol was a big feat and a giant step towards escaping their Cylon tormentors. Smiling, she pinned a medal on Boomer's dress blues and rattled off the expected words of gratitude. She really wasn't sure if she was cut out for this whole CAG thing.

Granted, she was slightly distracted by the memory of the Cylon she had interrogated and what Leobon had implied. He had said they would find Kobol and it would lead them to Earth. How had he known this would happen? She couldn't help but wonder if they were playing right into the toasters' hands by staying here in this system.

She kept up her mask of excitement while she joked with Crashdown. It seemed like there was a herd of female CIC personnel standing by to offer him congratulations. She couldn't let an opportunity like that go by without a little teasing. And if the teasing kept her from thinking about how Lee should be there to see this, then all the better.

She was about to mention a certain Ensign who would be upset to find him with so many admirers when a movement caught her eye. There was a man working his way silently through the crowd of congratulators. He appeared focused on what he was doing.

It wouldn't have seemed out of place if the man's clothing hadn't looked like they had been soaked in oil and dirt. True, they had let hygiene protocol slip slightly since their world had been destroyed, but this was pushing it. Something was not right.

She was about to ask Crashdown for a second opinion when she saw the man pull out a gun.

"Gun on deck!" she yelled and launched herself toward the stranger. There was no way she could have stopped him. She was quick but she wasn't that quick.

By the time she had tackled the assailant, he had pumped at least five bullets into Sharon Valerii with a precision she hadn't seen in a long while. Boomer had collapsed in a heap right in front of the whole CIC. There was blood everywhere. Starbuck shut her mind to it. She had a job to do. There was a man currently underneath her that needed to be subdued.

She pulled her fist back to start fighting with the man she had tackled when she realized he wasn't fighting her at all. He wasn't even trying to struggle. She looked down at his face and almost fainted. "Lee?" she whispered, eyes widening in disbelief. Her grip on the collar of his shirt loosened.

"Miss me?"

His smile, different but still so familiar, took her breath away. "What the frak are you doing?"

"Being the hero. Saving your collective asses. It seems to be my newest skill." He shifted slightly in order to hold the gun that was in his hand out to her.

She suddenly realized her fist was still in the air and lowered it to take the weapon from him. In the back of her head, she wondered if this could be a Cylon-induced daydream. "I don't understand."

"Look at the body," he said, pushing her down so she straddled his waist and he had a little more range of motion. He used his elbows to prop himself up so that he could do a scan of the CIC. Not really paying much attention to the woman on top of him, he continued to talk. "Look past the blood. It's all for show."

"She's got no pulse," someone screamed through all the chaos.

"Sir?" Kara called out to whichever commanding officer could hear her. It came out more as a squeak than yell. She could feel herself begin to panic. She could handle a lot, but this might just be a little too much even for her.

She was currently straddling her supposedly-deceased best friend who was claiming that there was some good reason as to why he had shot one of the best Raptor pilots in the Fleet point blank five times. And he was demanding that she do what he told her to. She had no idea if she should.

She really wished someone would just tell her what the right decision to make was.

"Someone get medical personnel down here now, and get the Marines. I want this situation under control, and I want it done now," the Commander yelled.

"Sir?" she tried again. This time it came out a little louder.

"Starbuck, hold that man until we can get him escorted to the brig. I don't want to see him move an inch! If he does, shoot him in the head."

"SIR!" she yelled. Adama finally turned to pay attention to her. "Check the body." She looked down at Lee who was still staring at her with that stone-cold look. "What are they looking for?" she whispered.

"Mechanical parts," he said, smirking.

She nodded, still obviously dazed and confused by what was happening. Something told her that she might not be thinking this through enough. After all, Lee was supposed to be dead. She had no idea when her life had become so surreal.

"Check for…" She looked down at Lee, rolled her eyes, and shook her head. "You owe me." She cleared her throat. "Check to see if she's a Cylon."

"What?" the young man standing above Boomer's body yelled.

"Just do it before I come over there and fraking make you," she threatened in her most intimidating voice, the one that she usually saved for when Lee really pissed her off. Her heart did a little jump as she realized that she might actually have an opportunity to use it again.

The young man paled at her command but wisely did as he was told. After a moment, he froze and stood straight up, turning to look at the leader of Galactica. "Commander Adama, sir. There's a lot of blood but…" His voice trailed off as he seemed to get lost in his thoughts.

"But?" The Commander turned his attention away from where Starbuck still sat, blocking his view of whomever had done this horrible act, to the fallen body of one of his men. Why wasn't the medical team here yet?

"But she's definitely not a human, sir."

Seeing how there hadn't even been one sign of a struggle, he figured Starbuck had the assailant under control and he could divert his attention elsewhere. Adama rushed across his command deck to look down at the body of Sharon Valerii.

It was as clear as day. The woman responsible for finding the fleet water, tylium, and Kobol was one of the enemy. There were signs of small metal pieces where the bullets had burnt her skin upon entering her body. She still looked entirely human except for that little detail. Adama turned back to stare at Starbuck. "How the hell did you know that?" he demanded.

Smiling, she stood up and offered the man below her a hand. "You shouldn't be asking me that. You should be asking your son. He just saved the Fleet from a world of hurt."

William Adama's face went pale as he took in the sight of the son he thought he had lost.

Lee shifted uncomfortably as the whole CIC turned to gape at him. "You should probably get the President and Colonel Tigh on the line, Commander. You're going to want to interrogate me in some private room. Word will get out that I'm back."

Kara gave him a weird look. He didn't even seem happy to be home. Shaking her head, she turned back to Adama. "Sir?"

"Get the President here from Colonial One," the Commander yelled to Dee, ignoring Starbuck for the moment. "Then track down the Colonel and tell him he's in charge of the ship."

"Sir?" she asked again.

"Starbuck, escort Captain Adama to the nearest conference room. Place two guards at the door and stay with him until I show up."

She nodded and motioned for Lee to follow her. When he didn't move, she narrowed her eyes at him. What the frak did he think he was doing?

"You're going to want to shackle me. There are a few more people in this Fleet that are on my hit list." He gave her a smirk and held out his hands. "I wouldn't want to get you in trouble by accidentally killing someone else on the way to that conference room."

"Fine. If that's what you want, Apollo." She motioned one of the newly arrive Marines over and took a pair of cuffs off of him. She slipped them on Lee without another word, and together they moved out of CIC and down the corridor.

"Sir," Lieutenant Gaeta said as soon as Starbuck and Apollo were out of earshot. "I wanted to point out that it's highly likely that the Cylons had Captain Adama. And they may have done something to him."

"He's a threat to the Fleet. I'm aware," Adama growled. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have an assassination to figure out."

And a way to discover if his son had really come back to him.

But he didn't say that out loud. He couldn't.

Kara sat back and watched as the President of the Twelve Colonies and the Commander of the Fleet tried their best to figure out what had happened to Lee Adama.

"Where have you been all this time, Captain Apollo?" Laura Roslin asked as soon as she had taken a seat at the conference table.

"I got picked up by one of the Cylon models. The woman we all knew as Sharon Valerii. She implied she was there to take me back to Galactica, and she used the internal atmosphere of her Raptor to cause me to pass out."

The President nodded silently. She was obviously as thrown off by Lee's straight-forward explanation as the rest of them. They had all expected Lee to launch into a tirade on why he was not a threat to them the second they had all gathered in this room. Instead, he had just sat there looking at them and waiting until the questioning began.

"What happened next?"

"I woke up in some sort of lab. There was a Cylon Model 11. That's the one that looks like Sharon Valerii. And a blond model they indicated as Number 6. It took me a while to place where I knew her from. She had the same face as that woman Shelley Godfrey."

"What did they want from you?"

"They wanted to test me. The blond Cylon indicated that they had been watching me for some time and that I intrigued them. They said that I felt more than other humans they had studied and yet I was more efficient at fighting them. They wanted to understand why. Their end goal was to create a Cylon model that was based off of me."

The Commander raised an eyebrow. "And did they?"

"They tried. My internal programming didn't agree with their attempts."

Kara rolled her eyes. She had no idea what that was supposed to mean but it definitely sounded like something he would say. She stiffened as she noticed Lee staring at her intently.

"It seems that the other models they based off of real people such as Model 11 all had one thing in common. They didn't fight the Cylons when they were killed. I fought."

She desperately wanted to ask him why. Why had he fought when he thought that the whole Fleet must have abandoned him? Why had he fought after she made it clear that no one onboard Galactica thought him capable of doing his job? What did he have to fight for?

"How did you get away from them?" Roslin asked.

"I didn't," he shrugged. "They let me go."

"They let you go?"

"It seems like they must have gotten what they were looking for."

"The Cylons don't let people go," Adama growled, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

"They did this time."

"Excuse me for stating the obvious. But how can we be sure that you're not a Cylon?"

Kara tensed. She had no idea how the Old Man could speak so coldly when it came to his son. Openly accusing him of being a toaster wasn't the direction she thought this conversation would head. No one had even said how glad they are to have him back. No one had thanked him for doing what had to be done to save the Fleet.

"You have no way of knowing whether I'm a Cylon or not."

Kara finally found that she couldn't stay silent anymore. Someone had to stick up for Lee, and it looked like that person was going to be her. "Yes, we do. Dr. Baltar's Cylon detector. We just have to take a blood sample and test it. Then we'll know."

Lee smirked at her. "Just like we knew that Boomer wasn't a Cylon? She was the doctor's first test subject, wasn't she?"

Kara's face blanched. She hadn't thought of that. "It must have been a mistake in his calculations."

"Or your beloved Dr. Baltar isn't playing for our side." Lee's words hung over the room for a few moments before he went on. "By the way, if I were you, I wouldn't let me near Gaius Baltar. I was able to pick up a few little bits of information while I was being tortured. None of this would have happened if he hadn't been helping the machines."

"But he saved us," the President protested softly.

"No, he condemned us, sir."

The President studied him for a moment before nodding and turning to the man seated next to her. "Commander. May I request that you get some of your men to escort Dr. Baltar to somewhere safe? Somewhere we can keep watch of him like the brig should suffice."

"Are you suggesting we place him under arrest?"

"I think it would be the safest decision right now." She turned to look at Lee. "I'm not sure if I can trust you yet, but we want to be safe. If you're wrong, then I'm sure the doctor will forgive us."

Kara felt herself agreeing. The message had finally hit home. The Cylons could be anyone in the whole Fleet. They could be people she trusted. People she had known since as long as she could remember. Hell. She might be a Cylon herself.

She realized with a start that she had been zoning out. Lee was explaining what the Cylons had done to him. She winced as he described the testing of his pain thresholds. It was beyond anything she could have imagined. She had no idea how he had found the strength to make it back to Galactica. She couldn't even figure out why he would want to.

But there was something there. Something had made Lee come back. She just wasn't sure what or if she even wanted to know

The President held up her hand to cut off his detailed explanation. "There are a few questions I have about how you got here to Kobol that I would like answered."

Lee nodded, and she could see him shifting in his thought process. "I stole a Cylon Raider."

"But you said before the Cylons let you go?"

"They did. If they hadn't, I would not have made it ten feet from their base."

"So you stole a Raider that you didn't know how to fly."

He glanced at Kara before turning back to face his panel of interrogators. "It's been done before."

"How did you know that we would be in this system? How did you even know this system existed?"

"Simple, actually. I was already here."

Commander Adama sat straight up in his chair. "Are you saying that the Cylon base…"

"Is on Kobol. I took the Raider off the planet only to see Galactica jumping into the system. I hung back until I saw the Raptor being dispatched to investigate the planet. I latched on and rode the ship into the launch tunnels. The Raider is still in Tube Three in case you wanted to know."

Adama motioned a man over, whispered something, and then looked back towards Lee. "Continue."

"I care enough about those that are trapped on this ship to want to eliminate the Cylons aboard and their allies."

"Are there many?" the President asked.

"A few. Dr. Baltar and Sharon Valerii are the only two in powerful positions."

"I am still not sure if we can believe you," Adama admitted.

Kara expected Lee to act hurt or at least to get angry. This was his father talking to him, after all. When instead he just shrugged, she found herself wanting to slap him and demand to know what had made him change so much. His coldness was no longer confusing her. It was downright pissing her off.

"Lieutenant Thrace. Commander Adama. If you two would please, I'd like to have a word alone with the Captain."

"Are you sure that's wise?" Kara asked.

Lee smirked. "Don't worry. She's not a Cylon."

She glared and shot up out of her chair, sending the piece of metal furniture back into the wall with a bang. The three remaining people watched as she stalked out of the room. Commander Adama sighed and stood up, following her out of the room.

"Starbuck!" he yelled down the corridor. He was happy to see her stop in her tracks and turn around to face him. "What was that?"

"You can't tell me that seeing him act like that doesn't frustrate you."

"Act like what?" Adama said as he stopped in front of where she stood.

"So cold. The way he talked. He was just there to relate the facts. He had a job to do and that's all that mattered."

"His job involved saving every person he cares about. I have to say that isn't that cold of a thing to do."

She shook her head, and for the first time, William Adama noticed that she was holding back tears. He placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. "What's really got you so angry, Kara?"

"I didn't even have time to apologize to him," she choked out.

"To Lee?"

"For taking too long to come and get him. I could have hustled a little more, demanded that the Chief let me take that Raptor out without permission. Something. Anything. If I had been a little quicker, the Cylons would not have been able to get a hold of him."

"It's not your fault, Kara. You got out there as soon as it was possible and not a second later. There's no way you could have known."

"He wouldn't have let it take so long if it was me out there."

William Adama didn't know what to say. When it came to either his son or this woman he considered a daughter, he found that all his wisdom went out the window. "I know he wouldn't want you to suffer."

"Did you see him in there? Because the Lee in that room had been keeping score. He would want me to know that I wasn't good enough. When it came down to it, he was the one who could get the job done."

"I think you did just fine. Or did you forget the fact that you could easily have killed him when he shot Lieutenant Val-- that Cylon?"

She nodded, understanding his hesitation to refer to Boomer as anything but a machine. It was a hard adjustment that was actually coming a lot easier than she would have imagined. Sighing, she wiped her hand across her face in a less than graceful manner to get rid of the tears.

"You make me proud every single day. Both you and Lee. I don't say it as much as I know I should, but you two are what gives me hope that we're going to make it through this. That's why you're both important to the Fleet. All anyone has to do to see why we're fighting is look at the two of you. Especially when you're together." Adama cleared his throat as his words started to get to him. "So buck up. I need you to be at your best if we're going to get through this."

She nodded again, and he let go of her shoulder. "What do you hear, Starbuck?"

"Nothing but the rain, sir," she said with a slightly forced smile.

Giving her a final nod, he walked down the corridor and tried to figure out what he was going to tell the Fleet about what had happened to bring his son back to the fold. And whether or not he could really treat his son like a Cylon until they figured out a way to fix this mess.

Kara waited for the President to leave the conference room before entering. She had been pacing up and down the corridor wondering if now was the right time to talk with Lee. Her mind had gone back and forth, listing the pros and cons of entering that room and either getting to the bottom of what had really happened to him or punching him as hard as she could as many times as she could until he was beaten back into the Lee she knew.

Now that she had the opportunity, she wasn't sure that either option was the right thing to do.

She paused in the open hatch for a moment to watch him. He was sitting motionless in the chair, waiting. It was almost as if he knew she was going to want to talk to him. He didn't have to look over at the doorway to tell her that he knew she was there. They both had always known when the other was watching.

She slid the hatch shut and leaned against the wall just inside the doorway. "So, what did the President have to say?"

"She needs me to go on a mission for her. For the Fleet." He still wasn't looking at her.

"Oh, she does? She wants a man we suspect of being a Cylon to go on a mission for the good of the Fleet? I'm calling bullshit and telling you that now is not the time to be joking. There's a hell of a lot of tension building between the military and the civilian government."

"And you have to know what she said so you can protect my father from her." He shook his head and finally turned to meet her eyes. "I'm not picking sides in this one though you clearly have already. My father is doing what he thinks is best for the people he's in charge of, and President Roslin is doing the same. One is my last living relative, and the other is the only person who seems to want to trust that everything I did was for the good of the Fleet and not because I'm another Cylon mole infiltrating the Fleet."

She pushed off of the wall and walked over to take a seat on the table by where he sat. "And what about me? Or did you forget the fact that I haven't once accused you of being anything other than yourself?"


Kara stared at him a moment, studying him. She didn't know what he wanted from her. She didn't know if she even had anything to give. Sighing, she went back to her original train of questioning. "So, tell me. What did President Roslin really want?"

"To start, she wants to use me to figure out if Dr. Baltar is really in league with the Cylons. His Cylon detection system should be easy for someone to check. They're going to take some blood off the corpse of the Cylon I killed and run it through. If the system works, then they're going to test mine. Once that's done, I can leave."

She chose to ignore what he meant by saying he would leave. That was not something she could deal with right now. Instead she focused on something she had always been good at. Pointing out his mistakes. "There are some major flaws to your plan."

"No, there aren't."

"Really? Well, what if the Cylons got enough information that they could make a brand-new Apollo model of toaster? Do you want to be tested every single time the Fleet needs you to take a position of power?"

"I'm going to be injected with a transmitter once everyone agrees that I'm human. If anyone bearing my resemblance enters Galactica or any other ship in the Fleet without that transmitter, the CIC will be alerted immediately. The Cylons won't know about this device because only a few of us will be privy to how it works. And they can't get into any new information I've picked up now that I'm no longer with them. That should give us a small window of time in which to sort out the problem without anyone being the wiser."

"Very logical. You've really thought this out."

"You'd be surprised how much time you have when you're busy wishing you were dead."

Again, his cool demeanor set her on edge, making her want to punch something really, really hard. It also made her want to start crying again and never stop. No matter what the Old Man said, this change in Lee was her fault. She was responsible. In the back of her head, she wondered if maybe there was some way she could force him to admit that he blamed her for what had happened.

In the end, though, she didn't care. That hadn't been why she came in here. Not really.

"I'm sorry for not finding you," she whispered, looking down at where he sat still slumped in his chair. For the first time, she noticed how lost he looked.

"There's no way you could have done anything to stop it. Events were set into place long before either one of us thought of that mission. The Cylons wanted me, and they would have done anything to get me. At least this way, I was the only one hurt."

"They hurt you real bad?" she asked, trying to hide as much of her concern as she could under the guise of professionalism.

"I've had worse. Only this time it was physical so I have the scars to show for it."

Kara knew that he was talking about what she had said to him before he went out on his mission to take down that mining base. He was referring to her lack of faith in him. She frowned slightly, knowing her suspicions were right. He had been hurt by what she had done, and in turn, he blamed her for everything that had happened after that point. She had expected that.

"But we really don't have to worry about that now." He stood up out of the chair and walked a few feet down the table before turning back to look at her. "I'm not going to be around much longer."

She sent him a confused look. She had never pictured him to be the type of guy to have a pessimistic attitude. Or a death wish. "You just got back to the Fleet. Of course you're going to be around for a while. We still have to prove that you're not a toaster and then it's going to take forever to get you back up to flight-ready."

He shook his head. "You don't understand. The President has asked me to take one of the Cylon Raiders to Caprica. Apparently, we left something behind that we need. I agreed that it was probably the best option for me right now. I'm leaving to retrieve this little artifact as soon as the tests are done."

Kara's mind recalled the gossip which had been circulating the fleet as to prophecies and what the gods were intending for them to do. "The Arrow of Apollo."

Lee nodded. "So you know the prophecy?"

"The human race will die and be reborn again. There will emerge a dying leader who holds all the signs of being worthy in her possession. When the birthplace of humanity is discovered, the Arrow of Apollo will lead the people to the Temple of Athena. From there, the leader will show the way to promised land." She looked at him sheepishly. "I learned it when I was little."

"The Arrow of Apollo will lead us to the answers we seek. How to get to Earth and away from this lousy way of life."

"You shouldn't go. It's ridiculous to risk your life for something that can't be confirmed."

Lee let out a laugh. It was odd. She hadn't noticed it before. For as long as she could remember, his laughter had been something that could make her relax and let go of whatever was bothering her. Now it only served to make her more tense.

"For someone as frakin' spiritual as you are, I thought you would understand why I'm doing this." When she made like she was going to deny what he said, he held up his hand. "I've seen you praying with your idols when you think no one is looking. The Lords of Kobol mean something to you. You believe in their words."

She really didn't want to get into a discussion on her spirituality right now. "Don't do this, Lee. At least think about it before hoping in that Raider and jumping away from the Fleet."

He stood up. "I can't think of any reason not to. The Cylons won't be expecting it. The Fleet doesn't need me to survive."

"The Fleet does need you."

"They've done just fine without me for however long I was gone. This place barely looks like it's changed."

"You aren't looking hard enough," she spit out, trying to keep her hurt feelings inside. She knew how much the ship had changed while he was gone. If he couldn't see it, then he was blind. "And in case you wanted to know, it's been a month. Thirty-four days if you count today. And it's been the worst thirty-four days the Fleet has had to go through."

"I doubt that."

She had known that it would be hard to make him believe that he had such a large impact on Galactica. She wouldn't have even guessed how much he mattered to them if she hadn't seen firsthand what his absence had caused. This was a battle she knew she could win eventually. But for now it wasn't working. There wasn't enough time to break through his icy shell the easy way.

Looks like she was going to have to get personal. As hard as it would be for her, she was willing to do anything to fix what she had done.

"Please don't do this, Lee. I can't lose you again," she said, standing up and moving towards him.

He let her look at him a moment and hesitantly touch his cheek with her hand before stepping away. She knew that he noticed her hand had been shaking just as she knew that he wouldn't say anything about it. Instead, he looked at her with eyes that she had seen in her mind every day that he had been gone.

And then he broke her heart.

"I want to let you know before I leave that I understand what you meant when you said that I wasn't good enough to get the job done."

She shook her head forcefully. "That was just me being a screw-up. I didn't mean it."

"Yes you did. I've never been good enough. There's a reason for that. I didn't understand at first, but it makes sense now. When I fail on this mission, the Fleet will have lost nothing."

She looked at him in horror. "How can you say that? If you die, the Fleet will have lost everything."

"I mean nothing in the grand scheme of things." He let out another unfeeling laugh. "I mean nothing to anyone on board this ship. I wasn't even supposed to be on Galactica in the first place. Don't think I've ever forgotten that. This is just the gods' way of fixing the mistake they made. It will be better this way. With me out of the way, things can return to normal."

She couldn't believe the words coming out of his mouth. This wasn't the Lee she had always known and silently respected. This wasn't even close.

He watched as she took a few unconscious steps back away from him. "What's wrong, Starbuck?"

She shook her head and continued to stare at him with wide eyes. "You're really scaring me, Lee. The way you're acting is so cold and hard. It's not like you. What did they do to you?"

"Nothing that I didn't want."

"I don't understand you. You seem happy about how distant you've become."

"And you aren't?"

"No. How could you think I would take pleasure in the way you've become?"

"Isn't this what you wanted, though?" he yelled, holding his arms out in exasperation. "Isn't it?"

Her heart soared just a little bit. Finally. A reaction.

Too bad she had no idea what he was talking about. "I don't know what you mean. I never wanted this."

"You always yelled at me for being too kind. For feeling too much sympathy. For caring too much." He looked at her as his anger subsided as quickly as it had come. "There isn't much that I care about anymore."

"That's not true."

"You know, it's kind of funny. All these years, I would have said that if there was one thing I cared about, if there was one constant in my life, it was you. For years while we were in Academy, all I could think about was how I could make myself good enough for you. What could I do to prove myself worthy? So I threw myself into my studies, worked hard, spent as much time in the simulators as I could. And I came out as the second best pilot in our class. But you never noticed me."


"Let me finish. I finally realized where I went wrong while I was being interrogated by the Cylons. The men you always took up with, they were rude, hard, cold. They didn't take your shit, and in fact, they pretty much treated you like you were a piece of shit. For years, I had been trying to get your attention by being supportive, by being there, by being just Lee. But that's not what you wanted." He grabbed her by the arms and pinned her up against the wall. His face leaned in and she could feel his words as they whispered across her ear. "This is what you wanted."

She could feel his fingers threading themselves through her hair. "Lee. You're scaring me."

"Good. Because it's only the ones that scare you who you let in."

She bit back a gasp as he closed his fist and pulled her head towards him. His passion was so great that she could feel herself being practically devoured by him. Not even breaking away from her lips for a second, his hands trailed up and down her body like he had been doing this for a million years. He was issuing her a silent challenge to keep her desire and the sudden urge to moan deep inside her. Eventually he rested his hands at the buckle of her pants, and she could feel the teasing in his touch that suggested he was far from done with her.

It would be lying if she said that she didn't want him to throw her down on that table and frak her brains out without a care to who might walk in on them. This new, harsh Lee was exactly the type of guy she fell for.

And the fact that she knew that and was willing to admit to it disgusted her.

That was the reason why she was finally able to muster up the strength to push him away even though her body was screaming at her to let him do whatever he wanted with her.

"Stop it," she panted as she tried to catch her breath. Her hands were still resting on his chest while she did her best to keep him away for at least a moment. "Just stop."

"I thought this was what you wanted."

"You thought wrong." She glared at him. "From any other person, this would be what I want. But the whole reason I let you in past the walls I put up is because I knew that when I finally had the chance…" Her words caught in her throat. "When I finally was ready to hold nothing back, you wouldn't be like the others. You'd be different."

Her heart leapt as she saw the pain suddenly register in his eyes. Funny she hadn't noticed it before, but this was probably the first emotion besides the small flare of anger a few seconds earlier she had seen him display since he returned. She knew from the way he was struggling that this was definitely the first emotion that he hadn't planned on showing.

But like that anger, it was gone as quickly as it came.

He backed away a few feet away from her. "I have to go get ready for my mission to Caprica."

"Don't shut me out," she demanded, taking a step towards him.

"Haven't you already frakked with me enough, Lieutenant?"

His words made her stop in her tracks.

"Go back to your pilots. Teach them the things that I wasn't man enough to. Show them how to work through the pain and grief. How to store it all away for the day when they can finally let it out." He let a small smile out. "And when that day comes, I hope you can get them to understand why I abandoned them."

"You're abandoning me, too," she choked out as she backed herself slowly into the wall of the conference room. She couldn't believe this was happening. Had she really just gotten him back to lose him again?

Because that was what would happen.

It had taken her a little longer than she would have guessed, but she had finally realized that Lee was right. If he took that Cylon Raider to Caprica, he wouldn't be back. If he did this, he wouldn't be coming back.

Her hands braced themselves on the wall as she felt her knees slowly begin to give out under the realization that she was about to lose him and there was nothing she could do to stop it. All she knew right now is she would not self-destruct in front of him. She owed him that much.

"I hope you can forgive me for that someday, Kara."

Her breath caught in her throat. That was the first time he had said her name since he got back. He had been holding that last little piece back from her all this time, and she hadn't even realized.

She watched him back his way to the door, his eyes still locked with hers, and she wondered if she could go through another round of this. Without a sound, he turned and opened the hatch. And she knew that she could go through another hundred rounds of this if only he would say her name again.

She called out hesitantly. "Lee?"

She could see him pause for a moment, but then he stepped through the hatch. The second the door clicked closed, she slid to the floor and finally let the tears fall.

He was gone.

He had finally given up on her.

He wouldn't be coming back from Caprica.

Maybe her grief would be easier to handle the third time around.