Title: Left Behind
Series: BSG2003 mini-series
Content: suitable for all ages
Disclaimer: This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. Acknowledging Glen Larson, Ron Moore and all the creative geniuses that bring us BSG; no copyright infringements were intended.
Summary: What did Apollo leave behind when he found himself stranded on Galactica? (complete)
Every morning, I thank the gods I was assigned to Battlestar Atlantia.
Sure, it's an honor to serve with Fleet Admiral Nagala. But the real perks on the Admiral's flagship are the cabins. Only four racks to a cabin - for the pilots anyway.
Right now, with Nightowl gone on weeklong escort duty and Sidekick off on shore leave in Caprica City, there are only two racks occupied in our cabin - mine and Apollo's. And every morning, at least since he busted his wrist and got put on limited duty, Apollo gets up at the crack of dawn (not that we ever see the sunrise) and he hits the gym. Somehow he must find some apparatus he can use with his right arm in a splint. And after that he runs laps around the corridors. I think he's trying to sweat out all that pent-up energy from not being able to fly a Viper for the last three months.
And so I get to sleep in. There's nobody slamming locker doors at oh dark thirty; nobody to stand in line behind to hit the showers when I do finally roll out of my rack.
Like I said - sweet.
Except today. Which happened to be my day off too. The lights came on and by the time I got my arm up over my eyes in self-defense, there was the rattle of someone rummaging in a locker to make my misery complete. I rolled over to look. Who else but Captain Lee Adama, call sign Apollo.
I squinted at my watch. He hadn't had time to hit the gym or run this morning. I should still be asleep and I let him know it. "Frak, Apollo! Do you have any idea what sweet dreams you just ripped me out of?"
"These racks have curtains for a reason, Hunch. If you wanna sleep in…. " Apollo sighed and didn't finish. We've known each other since War College; flown together since we graduated. He knows me better than anyone else on the Atlantia, and he knows that sometimes I get, well, a little claustrophobic. I just sleep better with the curtains open. Flying a Viper doesn't bother me, because I can see an endless expanse of space through the canopy. It's just closed-in spaces with no outside view that sometimes gets my heart pounding. Apollo's given me grief about a lot of things over the years, but never about that. He reached for the dimmer switch.
"No, frak it, I'm awake now. I'm up." I swung my legs off the top bunk and as my eyes adjusted to the light, I realized there was something different.
Given that Apollo wasn't wearing anything but a towel, it wasn't hard to notice.
"You got the splint off!"
Apollo grinned. In that moment, he looked happier than I'd seen him since that disaster on Scorpion three months ago. "I got it off yesterday afternoon. Where've you been?"
I indulged in a little self-satisfied smile myself. "I went out with that little red-headed med-tech, Maggie, again. I guess we got back a little late … and don't change the subject! Well?" I nodded toward the bum wing. Wrists are dicey things to mess with and it had been a bad break. They'd put the pieces back to together with pins and screws and I knew there was a chance there might be a permanent disability. As in career-ending, out-of-the-military, never-fly-again kind of disability. The surgeon couldn't make any promises. Wait and see was all she said. I'd been waiting outside Apollo's room when the doc was talking to him and I overheard the whole thing.
I expected Apollo to be shattered at the news, because boy, you never saw the exhilaration on his face like when he practically bounced out of the cockpit after a good mission. To be told you might never fly again…. Well, maybe it was the drugs dulling his reaction, because all he said to me about it then, in a quiet voice, was "It would serve the Old Man right if I was out too."
Now, though, Apollo waggled his fingers and looked a little triumphant. "Clean bill of health," he said. "No nerve damage. A little stiff and sore now, but a few weeks of rehab and it'll be good as new!"
"So … you're not quitting the military after all?" I had to ask. Because much as he loved flying, over the last couple months I knew that Apollo was seriously thinking about what life would be like if he was medically discharged. A life where you didn't have to work 12+ hour days. Didn't have to follow orders without question. Didn't have to worry whether independent thinking (like what happened on Scorpion) would get you promoted or put in the brig. A life where you sometimes got to feel the sun on your face, for frak's sake.
Heck, if I keep thinking along those lines, I'll talk myself into some other career too!
Apollo shrugged and didn't answer. He just looked at me calmly and I knew that whatever he chose, he was relieved that he would get to make a choice – he wouldn't be forced out. Apollo always was a guy who liked to make his own decisions.
"Well, as long as you're going to be on Galactica, why don't you talk to your dad about that?" I suggested, very casually. "See what he thinks."
The calm look vanished. "I don't expect I'll be talking to my father," he growled, a muscle in his jaw clenching. He turned his back on me, reaching into the locker for his clothes.
"Isn't that the point of being sent there – for the decommissioning ceremony? Your dad's the commander on Galactica – you're bound to see him."
"My orders are to participate in the ceremony. Nothing more. I'm sure I'll see him, but there's nothing in my orders about having a heart-to-heart!"
O-kay. I know when to back off. "So - when does your flight leave?" I asked him.
"As soon as I get to the flight deck."
It was then I realized he was pulling out his flight suit, not his dress blues.
"You're not – you didn't get cleared to fly already?" I couldn't help notice a grimace or two as Apollo struggled with zippers and buckles.
"Yep. I didn't even have to ask. Doc said she figured I was going stir crazy all these weeks and she cleared me to take my Viper out for a spin."
"I don't think she'd consider our current position to Galactica just a 'spin', my friend."
Mention of his destination set Apollo to glowering again. He flexed his wrist tentatively and however it felt didn't improve his mood any. "It's not combat; it's not aerial maneuvers and flight formations – it's just auto-pilot all the way. Almost no hands-on. Easier than working the remote control in the Vid Room."
I hopped down and perched myself on the lower bunk. "If you say so."
Apollo sat down to wrestle his feet into his boots and I was reminded how I had to help him tie his shoes when he first got the splint on his arm. He wasn't embarrassed then to be seen as weak. Now, however, he glared at me, making it clear he didn't want me witness to his struggles. So I turned my attention back to his open locker.
Not much on the shelf. He always was a Spartan kind of guy.
There were some snapshots of Apollo and the rest of the ball team celebrating a Pyramid win, back in the Academy days. Another one of the two of us at our graduation from War College, laughing at something and looking ridiculously pleased with ourselves.
But no pictures of his family.
The only photo that was in a frame was a picture of his girlfriend Beka, and her little boy Danny, down on Caprica. Her husband had been a pilot too, KIA when his Viper had crashed after its engine failed while flying at low speed in atmosphere. She'd be happy if Apollo left the military life behind. In fact, she's been urging him to consider law school. But honestly, I don't think they'll stay together. I think Apollo's more attached to the little boy than he is to Beka, and the two of them just haven't figured that out yet.
Besides the photos, there was a short stack of books on the locker shelf. (That reminded me, I still needed to finish one I had borrowed from him. It was sitting in my rack.) In front of the books sat a new prescription bottle. And next to that there was an old, slightly rusty harmonica.
Apollo's not musically inclined. I knew it was Zak's. He'd left it behind the last time he visited and Apollo never got a chance to return it.
I knew all about Zak.
Apollo stood and reached one last time into his locker. He pulled out his dress blue uniform to pack, and his hand brushed the harmonica as if he thought of slipping it into a pocket, but then he resisted the impulse and shut the locker door.
"You ought to at least take the pain-killers with you," I suggested. "Flying might be tougher than you expect and whatever you took already will wear off by tomorrow…."
He looked at me, expressionless. If he wanted me to read his mind, okay, I think I've known him long enough, I could do that.
"Tough guy, huh? You're going there and back in one day."
He shrugged, and buckled on his sidearm.
I wished Apollo would sit down. I wanted to sit him down and talk some sense into him. Tell him that it's time he made peace with the old man.
Yeah, I know that Commander Adama pulled some strings to get Zak into the Academy. His grades were fine; Zak just wasn't good at timed standardized tests. But he wouldn't have passed flight school if the instructors thought he couldn't do the job, so I'm not sure I'd blame the Commander for thinking Zak could cut it too.
After all, I don't think Commander Adama knew Zak all that well, gone as much as he was. Or maybe that was the point, to Lee. If their father had been around more, maybe he would have known Zak better and wouldn't have encouraged him to apply to flight school.
I'd gotten to know Zak, the times he came out to visit Apollo. And Apollo told me a lot more, when he was vocalizing his worries and not keeping everything bottled up. Zak had the courage, the brains, the fitness and the desire to be a good pilot. What he didn't have were the instincts. A pilot, especially a combat pilot, has got to be able to think fast, make smart decisions with confidence. His instincts had better guide him to the right knee-jerk reactions. Or he'll be dead. As simple as that. And as long as everything was going as expected, as he was trained, Zak was fine. But throw him something unexpected, on a standardized test or in a cockpit, and he would hesitate. Every time.
Apollo knew that. And as much as he blames his father for encouraging Zak, I know he also blames himself, because he knew Zak's shortcomings and couldn't convince him. I took Apollo out to get drunk the night he learned about Zak's crash, and he told me then that maybe if he'd stayed out of the military himself, rejected his father's "a man's not a man till he wears the wings of a Viper pilot" creed, then maybe Zak would have realized it was okay for him too. Zak always did look up to his big brother; wanted to follow in his footsteps.
He won't admit it to anyone, but I think Apollo blames himself at least as much as he blames his father. It's when that gets so bad he can barely live with himself that he re-directs it by lashing out against the commander.
And I think if he could find a way to forgive his old man, he might start to forgive himself too.
As Apollo turned to go, I got to my feet and for reasons I still don't understand, I stuck out my hand. "Be safe," is all I said.
Apollo looked a little puzzled – he was only going to be gone a day. Then he put his hand out too and we shook. I could see that even shaking hands was painful, though he quickly masked it. As he walked away, I found myself hoping he wouldn't have to shake too many hands aboard Galactica.
Maybe Starbuck can talk some sense into him when he gets there. Last I heard, she was posted on Galactica too and I think he'll try to see her, even if he succeeds in mostly avoiding his father. But I have to admit, whatever is broken between Lee and his dad isn't going to be healed in a day.
I just had a hunch that things were going to get worse. I don't know why.
Well, I'll be ready when Apollo gets back. I'll just make sure my locker's got some fine ambrosia waiting for him. That's what friends are for.
Maybe I'll even return that book I borrowed. So I climbed back into my bunk and opened the book and settled back to enjoy my day off in peace and quiet onboard Battlestar Atlantia.