Title: The Steward
Author: mondavis
Characters: Tigh, Adama, A/R-implied
Rating: teen
Disclaimer: None of these folks are mine. I just play with other people's stuff.
Spoilers: Season 2, through Resurrection Ship, Part II.

A/N: This was one of those "had to be written" fics that wouldn't leave me alone all week. Had to sacrifice some sleep but here it is.

Summary: Colonel Tigh wonders why Adama isn't happy.

"Colonel, sir, you'll want to take a look at this," Gaeta said with a barely contained grin.

Saul Tigh raised an eyebrow to him. Of late, good news was few and far between and Gaeta looked like he'd just gotten laid for a month. Tigh wordlessly took the proffered printout and began to read, secretly hoping that the Astral Queen had exploded in a mysterious accident and that Starbuck had been onboard.

Release from the Office of the President –

Tigh rolled his eyes. Good news coming from that woman? That will be the day, he thought to himself and grumpily refocused on the printout.

Effective immediately … promotion … Commander William Adama to rank of Rear Admiral of the Colonial Fleet

Tigh froze in disbelief and reread the memo three times before he could feel a rush of urgent giddiness filling his chest. "Well, I'll be godsdamned," he murmured. He looked up at a still-grinning Gaeta. "Has he returned from Colonial One yet?"

"Still in route, sir," Gaeta reported.

Tigh nodded, already putting his plan together. "Spread the news, Lieutenant," he ordered. "And let's get down there to greet the Admiral."

It wasn't so much of an honor guard greeting Bill Adama as his raptor docked as it was nearly three quarters of his crew crowding into the hangar deck and the corridor leading to it.

And the look on Bill's face in response to scene was so priceless that Tigh burst out laughing in the middle of his salute. After a handshake and a slap on the back, he lost sight of the new Admiral as he waded through the crew, accepting congratulations along the way.

Instinctively, Saul knew that Bill was heading to his cabin and not to CIC, so he went to his own quarters, hoping that Ellen wasn't there so that he could snitch a bottle from her ambrosia stash. Saul wanted to celebrate his friend's promotion but he wanted to do it right. Tyrol's hooch was good enough most of the time but this occasion was special. Besides, he doubted Ellen would notice anyway. She'd been very preoccupied with something lately. Saul wasn't sure what, and truthfully, didn't care.

Retrieving a nearly full bottle from the closet, he headed out. At Bill's door, he entered without knocking and closed the hatch behind him. Bill was sitting at his desk, holding a jeweler's box in one hand and rubbing his fingers over the small bits of gold inside. He barely glanced up as Saul entered.

Frowning, the colonel put the bottle on the desk and went to get two glasses from the cabinet. He poured them both three fingers and handing one of the glasses to Bill, who managed to stop fingering his new rank pins long enough to accept it. He set it on the desk without taking as much as a sip.

Saul was torn somewhere between being annoyed and worried. "Well, I didn't notice anybody pissing on your parade," he said with a half-frown, "but it looks like you got drenched pretty good."

Bill looked up at him briefly with a small smile. He picked up his glass and took a long drink before he went back to staring at the jewelry box.

Tigh tried again. "I'll hand it to Roslin. I still think she's a loony schoolteacher but she's a smart one to promote you. Should help with the Pegasus issue. There should have been a ceremony, though. You deserve that much."

With a sigh, Bill shook his head. "No," he said softly. "As you said, she's smart. She did it exactly right. A lot of pomp and circumstance would have pissed off the Pegasus crew." He paused and downed the rest of his drink. "Besides, she wouldn't have been able to conduct a ceremony."

Tigh frowned and topped off the glasses. "What do you mean?"

Bill's left index finger circled the rank pins on the black velvet. "Have you seen her lately, Saul?" he questioned in a low voice.

"No. I try not to deal with her that much."

Bill nodded. "Just as well, since you two can't stand each other." He managed what looked to Tigh like a very, very sad grin but it faded quickly and he went back to staring at his rank pins.

They were quiet for a long time, several minutes, while Tigh sipped at his drink and waited for Bill to open up about whatever was bothering him so much at a time when he should be thrilled. He had known Bill Adama for a long time and had only seen him this pensive on two, perhaps three, other occasions, one of which was Zak's death… Maybe the thing with Apollo during the mission… Tigh's eyes narrowed and he thought that he was just beginning to understand when Bill started talking.

"She's going to go soon," Bill said softly, his voice full of emotion. "She's so weak. I guess I'd gotten used to seeing her standing tall. Even when I put her in the brig –"He broke off and frowned at the memory. With a sigh he continued. "Even then, she was standing tall. But you should have seen her, Saul. She's so weak and she's given up hope. That's what these are." He indicated the rank pins. "She's passing stewardship of the fleet to me because she's ready to lie down and dammit, I don't want her to go." This last was almost choked out of him and Tigh was startled when his friend looked up at him with such profound sadness, with tears streaming down his face for a woman he had once considered an enemy.

Enemy no longer, certainly, Tigh now fully understood. He had known that they had developed a good working rapport since Kobol. Initially, it had irritated Tigh that Bill had been the one to back down when Roslin had been solely at fault but even he could see that Adama and Roslin working together was a hell of a lot better than them working against each other. But all of the meetings with just the two of them, the calls, the smiles and laughing had definitely sparked something more than just new-found professional respect. Somehow, all of that had even leapfrogged straight past friends to something else.

"Holy frak, Bill," he breathed with a shake of his head. He wanted to scream at Bill for what was already proving to be a terrible choice, wrought with heartache. He wanted to laugh because of all people that his friend could fall for, frakking Laura Roslin was the absolutely last person he would have imagined. He wanted to kick himself for feeling relieved that she would be dead before she could do any further damage. But instead, he reached out and covered Adama's contracted fist with his hand and squeezed.

"I'm very sorry, my friend," Saul Tigh said sincerely.

Bill nodded, pressing his lips together tightly, and sniffed. "I'll see you in CIC later," he mumbled with a clenched jaw.

Taking the hint, Saul drained his glass and recapped the bottle. He was about to take it with him but left it where it was.

"Keep it," he said at Adama's questioning look. "You need it right now more than I do."

He pulled himself to attention and gave a full, proper salute. "Admiral Adama." He didn't wait for a return salute but instead pivoted on his heel and left the man to his grief.