Title: The Purple-Hearted
Author: Karen T
Rating: K+ (for violence)
Disclaimers:
The BSGverse is not my creation. Domer, with all his issues, is.
Classification: Drama, set somewhere in the middle of S1.
Spoilers: Nothing major.
Notes: Thanks to Jojo and Michelle for their beta help. Written for Christina K's The Common People challenge.

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He can't sleep.

That's the biggest issue he has with working the third shift. While most of those on the Galactica are tucked away in their racks, dreaming of raiders getting blown out of the sky, he's at the CIC, stifling his yawns. And while he skulks around the ship, careful not to disrupt anyone's precious slumber, that same courtesy is never afforded to him. Do people care he's just finished an eight-hour shift and is only heading to bed as they rise from theirs? No.

Every morning he covers his ears with pillows in an attempt to muffle the ship's daily soundtrack. It never works, though. Nothing ever works. He can still hear the discussions and the laughter, the pounding of feet and the slamming of hatches.

He hears it all while praying to the gods -- begging, really -- for sleep. Any sleep.

But his prayers go unanswered.

He just wants sleep.

-----

"XO has the deck." The last word is lost in a slur as the lieutenant yawns into his right palm.

"I'll try not to take that personally, Domer," Tigh says dryly, shooting the man an annoyed glare.

"Sorry, sir. It's been a long night." Tired. Very, very tired. And he's only been on duty for half an hour. Domer shakes his head to clear his thoughts. "Dradis is clear, sir. Looks like it'll be a quiet night."

"That's what I like to hear." Tigh assumes his position on the bridge, placing his mug of coffee on top of Gaeta's calculations for the next FTL jump. Domer tries not to think about how those calculations are almost a personal affront to him. Gaeta isn't the only one on the Galactica with the skills to compute FTL coordinates. He himself can do them in his sleep, if he were ever to sleep again. But no one asks him to use those skills. No, they prefer to rely on Gaeta. Smugly smart Gaeta, Adama's pet.

Domer catches himself balling his hands into fists and takes several deep breaths. He can't get wound up now. It's too early into the shift and riling himself up would only leave him exhausted in an hour or two. His mind might be preoccupied with sleep, but he still prides himself on doing his duties well.

"Arieh, instruct the CAP to cast a wider net," Tigh commands the petty officer. "If anything jumps into our space tonight, I want as much notice as possible."

Tigh gives the same order at the beginning of every third shift, and everyone's come to expect it. But Domer still watches intently as Arieh nods and flips several switches. "CAP, Galactica. Please broaden formation, per the XO's orders. Repeat, please broaden formation."

A second or two passes until Arieh's bass voice announces, "A wider net has been cast, sir."

It's the same routine, night after night after night.

Domer's eyes are already burning.

"Good." Tigh brings his mug to his lips and takes a long sip. Domer can't help but wonder if coffee's the only liquid in the cup. Habits are hard to break. And speaking of habits ...

He waits until the CIC has settled down before making his way to the XO. Tigh doesn't acknowledge his presence when he stops beside him; Domer struggles not to take it personally.

He clears his throat. "Sir?"

Tigh turns his head and draws his eyebrows downward. "Something I can help you with, Lieutenant?"

"Well, sir, I--" Domer's voice fails him as he becomes undone by nerves and his words catch in his throat. He has to cough several times and Tigh's expression grows increasingly annoyed with each cough. "I was just wondering if, well ... You, sir, personally know, from personal experience, how--"

"Care to just spit it out, Domer?"

Domer winces at the harsh volume of Tigh's voice. He pinches the skin of his left wrist to focus his thoughts. "Yes, sir. I was hoping to speak to you about the duty schedule." He says the last sentence in a rush, spaces between words be damned.

"You have a problem with the schedule?"

Again Domer winces at the loudness of Tigh's voice. He can already see several petty officers lift their heads and incline an ear towards his conversation with the XO. Dammit. He hadn't wanted an audience, especially not for this conversation.

"No, sir, of course not," he says, his own voice dropping an octave in hopes that Tigh will pick up on his cue.

"Then what are you trying to say?" Tigh's voice remains as loud as it'd been, if not more so. Domer's head begins to pound. "You either have a problem with the schedule or you don't. Which is it, Lieutenant?"

Domer's hands have balled up into fists again, and this time he doesn't bother to uncurl his fingers. He hates how wracked with exhaustion he is. He hates how no one else on the third shift is willing to lodge a complaint against the nonsensical duty schedule. He hates having to beg the goddamn drunk of the fleet to take pity on him and reassign him to a different shift.

"There's been no rotation through the duty roster," Domer says through clenched teeth. He fights to keep anger out of his words. "Those of us who were assigned to this shift after the Cylons stopped tracking us have remained assigned to this shift. With respect to fairness, wouldn't it be more appropriate for personnel to be rotated through all the shifts?"

"Fairness?" Tigh spits the word out as if it tastes bitter in his mouth. "Please tell me you're not presumptuous enough to lecture me about fairness."

"Of course not, sir." He can tell Tigh wants him to back down, to kowtow to his rank and slink off with his proverbial tail between his legs. But he won't do it. He has, after all, nothing left to lose.

They lock eyes, both refusing to look away, and the CIC grinds to a halt. All heads have now turned towards them.

It's Tigh who ultimately breaks eye contact when his wife's voice drifts into the room. "Saul? Oh, Saaauuulllll." The XO drops his head and sighs into his chest. When his head raises, he shoots Domer a cursory glance and says, "You'll need to speak to the old man. He's taken over shift assignments." And then he's off to intercept his wife before she wakes the entire ship.

Domer releases the breath he didn't know he'd been holding and surveys the CIC. Everyone avoids looking in his direction and this leaves him curious as to whether he should be pleased.

Not knowing is yet another thing he now hates.

-----

The CAG, he decides, is the worst of them.

The man either lacks complete common sense or received more than a glancing blow when he set off that electromagnetic pulse onboard Colonial One.

First there's the joking. Everyone knows a CAG doesn't joke with his men. He orders. He inspires. He conjures up the wrath of gods if he has to. But he does not joke.

Then there's the arguing. With his father. With Starbuck. With his father, again. (And again and again and again.) Doesn't the old man tire of it?

And then there's the singing. The incessant singing. The singing that Will. Not. Stop.

"I don't know but I've been told ..."

The CAG's overly cheerful voice trickles past his hatch as he presses his pillows more closely to his ears.

"Kara Thrace has knees of gold."

"Gods, Lee. Can you just shut up?"

He mouths a thank you to Starbuck and pulls his scratchy wool blanket over his head.

"Want a different tune? Your wish is my every command, Starbuck. Oh Kara Thrace, oh Kara Thrace. Your running makes an old man weep."

Shrieks of laughter -- some low (the CAG's) and some higher (Starbuck's) -- trespass into his bunk and reverberate off the walls.

"Frak, frak, frak!" he yells, tossing a pillow at the wall opposite his rack. He knows no one will hear his bellow -- who could over all the other noise? -- and this knowledge only feeds his anger.

All he wants is some frakking sleep, and he's now willing to do whatever is needed to get some.

-----

He still has thirty minutes before he's due to begin his shift at the CIC, but Domer knows he has to rush through the corridors if he wishes to intercept Commander Adama before the man retires for the night. After having followed him for almost a full week, he now knows the commander's schedule by heart. He knows when he has the most meetings, when he's most likely to be off the ship, when he's sporting the smallest entourage.

Domer takes a sharp right and smiles when he sees the commander heading towards him, right on schedule. Dualla walks beside him, handing him sheet after sheet to sign. The Chief and O'Brien bring up the rear, each holding a folder that no doubt contains more papers that require Adama's signature.

It's when Dualla is about to switch positions with Tyrol that Domer decides it's time to make his move. "Commander Adama." He likes how upbeat and confident his voice sounds.

Adama lifts his eyes and almost instantly half-smiles. Domer can't tell if it's because the old man's happy to have a break from scrawling his signature or is happy to see him. He prefers to believe it's the latter.

"Lieutenant Domer. It's good to see you."

Domer nods and beams. "Likewise, sir."

"How are you holding up during those third shifts? I know they're difficult, but I appreciate your readiness to do them."

Domer can feel his smile waver and forces it to remain strong. "I'm ... holding. Actually, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, sir, I was hoping to speak to you privately before my shift begins."

He knows his request must have caught the commander off guard, but Adama's too well trained to let on. "Of course," the old man says after only the slightest of hesitations. The others fall back without having to be asked.

It's not long before Domer's the one by Adama's side. He likes how it feels to be there.

"Is everything all right, Lieutenant?" Adama asks softly.

The differences between Tigh and the commander almost overwhelm him. "Well, yes, I just-- I ..." Domer hesitates, suddenly unsure of the tact he's chosen to take. He graduated from the Academy. He knows how dangerous it can be to the rock the boat, especially when said boat is the last remaining battlestar. Perhaps it'd be better for everyone, especially himself, if he kept his mouth shut and figured out some other way to switch out of the third shift.

The words "Never mind" are on the tip of his tongue when a recognizable shriek of laughter filters down the corridor. Memories of countless sleepless mornings spent tossing and turning flood Domer's mind. Why the hell should he be the one who sacrifices his sanity? There are over two dozen other lieutenants onboard the Galactica and he's sick and tired of taking one for the team.

Straightening his back so he's standing at his full height, Domer says, his words crisp and precise, "I'm not sure if you're aware of this, sir, but those of us who work the third shift have been assigned to it ever since you lowered the alert level to Condition Two. While we've been more than happy to work that shift, it's beginning to take its toll."

Adama's initial response is silence and Domer can't help but wonder if he should have followed his reservations and just left well enough alone. But then the man slowly nods his head, his forehead furrowed in deep concentration. "I feel like I should apologize, Lieutenant."

"Sir, I never meant--"

The commander silences him by raising a hand. "I know. What I meant is that I've never intended for you and the others to be assigned to the third shift for perpetuity. I've always planned to rotate people in and out of the shift, but have delayed doing so because I knew how difficult it'd be to do that and I was grateful for how well all of you have been working. But you're right, Lieutenant. I've been unfair and I'll rectify the situation as soon as I can. It'll take some time since I can't have my men working back-to-back shifts, but you'll be rotated out soon. I promise."

Domer's never been one to gloat (a lot, anyway), but it takes every bit of restraint within him to remain calm and composed. "Thank you very much, sir."

"Was there anything else you needed, Lieutenant?"

"No, sir. Have a good night."

Stepping aside, Domer is so impressed with his success that he fails to notice the exchange of bemused glances between Dualla and Tyrol, as well as the hard stare O'Brien gives him as he passes by.

-----

The irony is he's asleep when the attack begins.

For the first time in weeks, he actually falls asleep soon after his head hits his pillow. And that's why he doesn't hear the hatch to his quarters creak open, or the hushed whispers that follow, or the shuffling of regulation boots along his floor. No, the first thing he hears is "Get your ass out of bed!" right before his blanket is yanked off his body and strong hands grip his arms and shoulders.

The disorientation is immediate.

He can't tell how many people have their hands on him and it takes him much too long to realize that's because a pillowcase has been thrown over his head. With his arms wrenched behind his back, he stumbles off his rack. Shock and fear keep him silent.

"Think you're so frakking special?" a gruff, male voice demands as the backs of his knees are kicked in so he'll buckle to the ground. "Think you're too good to work the third shift?"

"No, I--"

The blow to his face snaps his head back and almost renders him unconscious. He tastes his blood before he feels it dampening his skin.

"Should've kept your mouth shut, Domer." The voice has changed, but the ferocity of the subsequent kick to his ribs is just as brutal.

He tries to curl into a ball to protect himself and doesn't care when the laughter and jeers start.

"Frakking baby!"

"Go cry to the old man! It's what you do best!"

"Staying on the third shift doesn't sound so bad now, huh?"

He loses count of the punches and kicks and is only vaguely aware of how someone props him back up every time after he falls to the floor. And just as he's ready to beg for mercy, he thinks that surely someone roaming the corridors must be able to hear the beating and will come to his rescue. But then he realizes that the very noises that have kept him awake day in and day out are the same noises that will muffle the sounds of his attack.

He's grateful when a vicious blow to his left temple pitches him to the floor and darkness finally closes in.

-----

"XO has the deck." Domer grimaces at the pain that shoots along his jawbone. Between all the swelling and bruising, he's impressed his words aren't completely unintelligible.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Tigh says, his voice muffled by the mug he's sipping out of. "How's the dradis look tonight?"

"All clear, sir. No raiders in sight."

"Good. Let's hope it stays this quiet."

"Yes, sir."

Moving as quickly as his two bruised (possibly broken -- he doesn't know for sure since he's not about to pay Doc Cottle a visit) ribs will allow, Domer settles himself at the radar station. He wonders if it'll be possible for him to keep his face averted from Tigh for the whole shift. It won't be easy, but it's not impossible. As long as Tigh stays by the bridge and doesn't feel the need to venture near him, then there should be no reason for any face-to-face interactions.

"Lieutenant, will you please--"

Every muscle in Domer's body tenses when he hears Tigh's voice, which is only inches away. And when Tigh's sentence goes unfinished, Domer doesn't have to turn to know the XO has caught sight of his pummeled face. His left eye is purple and almost swollen shut, and he has a fat lower lip. Those, in addition to all the other colorful bruises, make his face rather alarming to see for the first time. Domer's just thankful his uniform hides the majority of his injuries.

"Turn towards me, Domer." Reluctantly Domer does so. "What the frak happened to your face?"

"Walked into a door, sir." The lie flies off his tongue much easier than he'd expected it to.

Tigh, however, doesn't seem to buy it. Leaning in, he stares directly into Domer's bad eye. "You got that black eye by walking into a door?"

"Yes, sir," Domer says as he keeps his gaze trained forward. "Just one of those ... things." Tigh cocks an eyebrow and sweat begins to gather in Domer's armpits. The last thing he can afford right now is the XO snooping into the real cause of his injuries. "Sir, would you--"

"You're not hiding anything from me, are you, Domer? Because I won't stand to be lied to, and neither will Commander Adama. If something happened to you, then it's in everyone's best interest that you tell me."

Domer has no doubts about what's in his best interest so he says, slowly, "I walked into a door, sir." He's pleased by the neutrality of his voice. "It was an accident. I swear."

He holds his breath and prays that that'll be the end of Tigh's questioning. As the XO further examines his battered face, Domer forces himself to remain rigid, emotionless. He won't fold under Tigh's scrutiny. He can't.

But just as Domer becomes convinced that another round of questions is about to be unleashed, Tigh instead shrugs and walks away. "You should be more careful, Lieutenant."

"I know, sir. I'll definitely try to be." He exhales a shallow breath and clasps his hands together to keep them from shaking.

"Oh, I spoke to the old man earlier today. He mentioned talking to you, and it sounds like you managed to convince him to rotate people out of this shift. Congratulations. You might even get to be one of the lucky--"

"That won't be necessary!" Domer blurts out, alarm pushing his voice up an octave. "I mean," he hurries to add when he sees Tigh turn and look at him, "I've been thinking and ... it's an honor to work this shift. It's where I belong, sir."

Tigh studies him through narrowed eyes, his expression one of disbelief. "You're telling me you're willing to give up your chance to get out of this shift?"

"I think you'll find that all of us here can't imagine working a different shift." Domer's relieved to see heads around him bob up and down.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Tigh surveys those in the CIC, his gaze lingering on each man's face for a second before moving on. When he's circled the entire room, he again looks directly at Domer and asks, "Lieutenant, are you sure there's nothing--"

"Shouldn't we instruct the CAP to cast a wider net, sir?" Domer interjects. The strength of his words belies the panic that's grasped his vocal cords with a vise-like grip.

Tigh smirks at Domer's challenging tone and Domer sets his mouth into a straight line. I will not break, he assures himself. I can do this.

With amusement flickering over his face, Tigh reaches for his mug with one hand and rifles through the paperwork left on the main console with the other. "As you wish, Lieutenant. Arieh, ask the CAP to cast a wider net."

Tuning out the sounds of the CIC returning to action, Domer sucks in a breath and half-winces at the pain that rips through his midsection. He tries to smile and take pride in how he didn't break.

Unfortunately, the rapidity of his heartbeat and his sweat-drenched tanks remind him of the truth.

-----

He can't sleep.

He doesn't dare.

-the end-