This chapter is dedicated to DGainey2003, who kept at me to update this fic, without her this story would never have been updated. So this one's for you Deb!

Chapter 6: Artemis' secrets…

Status Quo.

They were back to status quo, the teasing, joking, flying, fighting, it was all back to normal. It was ironic, if you had asked Lee what he wanted after his fight with Kara and her flight to Caprica it was for things to back to usual.

Before he had messed it up by attacking her for sleeping with Baltar, before hitting her, before Caprica had changed her and it had changed her.

Kara was a brilliant actress, always had been, she had perfected her 'tough as nails' Starbuck persona, always noticed yet never too deeply.

Except for him, he had always seen Kara, ever since they met as teenagers he was intrigued by her ability to lie so efficiently, that nobody ever noticed, it was why she always so deadly at the triad table.

But she had never hid from him, not since they became friends; it was disconcerting to see her lie to him so overtly and efficiently. To be honest it hurt him, more than anything, worse he wasn't sure if their friendship could survive him calling her on it.

He wasn't the only one watching her; he had noticed Helo keeping an eye on her, so Lee figured his instinct had been right; that whatever Kara was hiding from him was about Caprica.

He wasn't sure what had tipped him off first, but for the last week now he had been noticing little things, Starbuck smiled more than ever, was more boisterous than ever but Kara hadn't.

Kara had also been avoiding people; most noticeably his father and for some reason Doc Cottle. He had found the latter out the day before when he had offhandedly asked her to pick up some reports from Doc Cottle in the infirmary. He had not expected her reaction, her face had frozen in fear just for a second and then her barriers were up once again. He later found out that she had passed off the assignment to Hotdog.

But the most glaring of all clues, were the scars on her stomach, he didn't know what was more confusing the scars themselves or the fact that he knew they were medical.

When and where on Caprica did Kara manage to find a doctor to fix her up? He knew in his heart that the likely-hood that Kara had managed to find a human with a medical background was slim, but is mind didn't want to explore the alternatives.

He was tempted to ask Helo, more than tempted. But he knew Helo would protect Kara, and Lee wanted Kara to tell him, herself. So he had decided to wait, until she was ready.

But it was becoming harder each day, watching her punish herself, with long hours in her viper, in the gym or working on her viper. It was all she did, day-by-day she was falling into a pit of depression, and he didn't know how to get her out.

But enough was enough he would have to do something and soon, she couldn't keep this pace up much longer. She hurt someone or more likely herself.

He had barely had time to finish the thought when the condition one alerts came one and the order to launch alert fighter came on overhead. His body reacted automatically as he began shouting out orders, and started putting one his flight suit.

He saw Starbuck do the same out of the corner of his eye; it took all off his will power not to ground her. Kara then met his gaze and just shook her head at him, as if she knew exactly what he was thinking.

It was as Starbuck got into her viper that Lee realised that this was probably exactly what she needed, a way to work out whatever was troubling her. As his viper launched, Apollo almost felt sorry for the cylon's they were about to encounter, Starbuck's wrath was legendary and painful, as the cylons were about to find out.

XOXOXO

'Free'

It was closest word Kara could think of as she effortlessly manoeuvred her viper in space; she was free, relaxed, and calm like she hadn't felt in weeks, not since Caprica, since the farm.

Here in space Kara could be herself, could breathe. She had been exhausted, every night she was plagued by nightmares of what cold have happened if she hadn't escaped the farm. During the day she was expending all her energy putting on her façade, she was bone weary, but right now, that very moment in space Kara felt rejuvenated.

Starbuck had a goal, to destroy as many raiders as she possibly could, she finally had her moment of retribution and the cylon's would pay, she would make them pay. Starbuck couldn't stop the deep-throated laugh as she moved onto a course to intercept the raiders; she barely noticed the orders Apollo gave. It was only as he came up to her wing that she gave him her full attention.

XOXOXO

"Starbuck, do you copy?" Apollo asked for the third time.

"Apollo?"

"You with me Starbuck?" Apollo asked a hint of worry creeping into his voice.

"Always" Kara replied her voice glib, but underlined with steel.

Lee as always understood her deeper meaning, but was worried about the timing of her declaration; he prayed to the gods that she wasn't about to do something irrevocably and unbelievably stupid. He couldn't stop his voice from shaking as he called for her to explain.

"Ka-ra?"

She knew what he was asking, what he needed from her, so she replied without thought or care that everybody could hear their conversation. This was about them, Starbuck and Apollo, Lee and Kara. Nobody else mattered.

"I need to make them pay Lee, help me teach these frakking toasters a lesson they'll never forget." Her voice was a hard as ice but burned with a fury that only humans can possess.

"Always, you know you can count on me, what did they-" he broke off unable to articulate fully; he needed her to tell him, to choose to tell him. But before Starbuck could reply the raiders were within range.

"Hawk, lead blue squadron on the right flank, Bingo you take red squadron and attack on the left, I want you to box them in. Yellow squadron, and raptor 345, act as our last line of defence, cover the civilians as they jump, any raiders get pass blue or red, then take em' out. Got it?"

Apollo barked out his orders. After affirmatives came from all squadron leaders and Helo in the raptor, he continued.

"Starbuck and I are going to cover any holes, do not worry about us, we can handle ourselves just hold your lines and you'll be fine. All squadron's weapons free and attack!" Apollo's last order began the intense campaign against the 4 squadrons of long range scouting raiders.

XOXOXO

Helo watched and listened as Apollo gave out his orders, he knew Apollo had been worried about Kara as well. He had noticed the CAG watch her with an unreadable expression on his face.

Helo didn't know what to make of Apollo, before the attacks during the decommissioning ceremony he had seemed like an uptight and cold bastard. And since his return to the fleet, Helo's relationship with Apollo had started badly and remained the same. The only thing they had in common was Starbuck.

Helo still couldn't figure out how Apollo and Starbuck were friends, and best friends at that. Ever since his return he had heard plenty of stories about the legendary Starbuck and Apollo, sim fights, tattoos, training and something about pink dye? He knew there had to be something more to Apollo, and his friendship with Starbuck was indefinable.

Helo let out a sigh of relief as Apollo promised to help Starbuck. He prayed that Apollo could keep watch over her; he knew that Kara was still troubled about Caprica, and he could only hope that the battle to come would help her exorcise some of her demons.

He didn't know how right that prediction was.

Starbuck was in her element, Helo could only watch as she reined destruction down on any and all raiders within range. Her fury was unsurpassed but only matched by Apollo. They both weaved in and out of vipers and raiders alike, shooting down raiders like flies.

The cylons were outsmarted, even with superior numbers they could barely deal with the vipers out flanking them. But the real danger was the two vipers darting behind the cylon lines, causing massive amounts of chaos and destruction. If any raider had the forethought to attempt to take out one of the vipers, the other would destroy the raider within seconds.

Helo could only stare in awe, the entire battle on his dradis screen played out like a war game in front of his very eyes. Apollo's strategies were working, it was pure genius, and he had lost count at how many raiders Apollo and Starbuck had taken out personally. Over two third of the cylons had been destroyed when the call came from Galactica to return home.

XOXOXO

Apollo heard the call to return, as he locked on to a raider attempting to target Starbuck and gave out his order as soon as he had killed the raider within his sights.

"Negative, belay that order, all vipers are commanded to finish the job. I want no raiders to survive, is that understood. Finish them off. Apollo out."

"Galactica to Apollo, you are ordered to bring your squadrons back to Galactica."

"Negative, Galactica we need to finish them off-" Apollo began but was interrupted by Starbuck.

"Apollo's right Galactica, we can afford to let the cylons know that our tactics can beat them…"

"Or what our tactics are." Apollo finished off.

And with that the three viper squadrons made fast work of finishing off the remaining raiders. In the end it was the second battle in a row with Starbuck and Apollo at the helm that resulted in victory for the human fleet without a single loss of human life.

The pilots had a huge reception waiting for them back on Galactica, even the President made an appearance.

XOXOXO

Kara was happy, truly happy for the first time (outside of a cockpit) in a long time. The battle with the cylons seemed to have drained all of the tension from her body. Her body was alive and thrumming with energy, left over from the fight. She felt charged, unbeatable like she could do anything.

Kara's attention was wandering as first the President, then the Commander and finally Lee gave congratulatory speeches, it was only as her name was yelled out repeatedly that her attention focused back onto the party.

"STARBUCK…SPEECH!"

"YEAH COME ON STARBUCK!"

"SPEECH!!!"

Kara was ironically speechless, she hated public speaking, always had, pilot briefing's was the largest audience she could handle. It was then that she witnessed Lee's smirk, he knew how she felt about speeches, his grin was insufferable.

But she matched it with one of her own trademark Starbuck grins. Oh he had no idea what he was in for, she felt a moment of devious genius that she hadn't felt since before Caprica, her grin got wider…this would teach him to smirk at her.

Let the games begin; she still owed him for the pink hair prank. Now it was time for retribution, public humiliation, Starbuck style.

"Alright, alright calm down…" she began, as she jumped on the impromptu stage.

"I know you all want to hear about the battle with the cylons, but I'm not going to tell you about what I did during the fight."

XOXOXO

Apollo watched fearfully as Starbuck got on stage, he ignored the groans of the audience being denied their action filled battle recap. In the 10 years he had known Kara, he had never, ever seen her voluntarily get up on stage, even to accept medals.

So it with more than a little trepidation that he watched as she began addressing the audience; on the plus side she was acting more like the Starbuck/Kara he knew, but then again that was hardly a positive. He just knew in the pit of his stomach that he was going to regret this.

XOXOXO

"No, instead of telling you all, tales about the battle we just fought I am going to talk to you all about something soooo much better, much more interesting. Who wants to hear about 'Golden Ba-'sorry, Apollo's escapades at the Academy and at War College?"

Kara yelled into the congregation, all of whom agreed boisterously and wholeheartedly, the majority were well on they're way to being plastered.

Lee paled, 'oh gods, she wouldn't. She so would!' Oh he was beyond screwed, he couldn't get her off the stage, so unless the cylon god heard his prayers and attacked right now.

He would have to make a strategic retreat, and pray to the gods that everybody was too drunk to remember whatever tale Starbuck told them.

'That was his plan, strategic retreat and pray for mass amnesia…it could work.' Lee had only managed to take one step back when he collided into a rock hard wall. As he turned around he realised that the rock hard wall was actually his father, 'oh crap.'

"Son, where do you think you're going, I know you don't want to miss Starbuck's speech, now do you?"

There was an unmistakeable hint of glee in William Adama's eyes as he blocked his son from exiting, or rather from running away.

So with a heavy hand on his son's shoulder Bill forced Lee to listen to Starbuck regaling the masses with one of the many misdemeanours of his youth.

XOXOXO


Sorry about the obvious delay in updating, I won't bore you with the numerous issues I had with this particular fic, to be honest I'm not 100 happy with this chapter but I was at a point where something was better than nothing. To anybody who still followed this fic, thank you.

PS: I still have to write Broken Wings chapter 7, so there may be a delay. Duty chapter 9 is next in line to be updated.

Let me know what you thought about chapter 6, old and new readers alike.

Inara