Title: Fallout Boy (Or Five Things That Never Happened To Billy Keikeya)
Rating: Whatever PG was.
Spoilers: Through "Lay Down Your Burdens " pt. 2, but only tangentially. Definitely up to 'Sacrifice' though.
Summary: Am I more than you bargained for yet? Five things that never happened to Billy Keikeya.
This is the third time in a week he's going to have to wash finger paints out of his pants. Today, it's green.
Last month, Jei-jei, one of the youngest in his assigned section, vomited on him before starting to cry. He's very sure that his illustrious education in public policy and history was damn near useless at comforting a five-year-old girl whose lunch has just betrayed her. But he'd managed.
Ten minutes of reassurance and a change of clothes later, she'd been smiling and snuggled up to him as he'd read everyone a story.
He's gotten very, very good at managing in the last two years. And keeping new clothing nearby.
Before he'd left on that final trip from Caprica, his sister had spent nearly half an hour teasing him over the wireless about how he was turning into a woman, packing all those extra shirts and ties.
"You're a clothes whore, Billy," she'd laughed at him while he'd mentally debated between the red and the paisley before throwing both of them into the compaction bag.
He thinks how damn useful all of those shirts were on Colonial One, and how much more useful now that he's a teacher's aide.
"Okay, everyone, line up for reading" he announces, finally abandoning the drying splotch on his thigh. Ten little faces turn all at once, curious about today's story. Most of them brighten when they see him holding a very specific book - it's green too - up for them to see. It had been a present from Admiral Adama to the school, a book of folk tales and myths that was beautifully illustrated and terribly fragile.
"YEAH!" The voices surround him, bright and happy at this special treat. In the distance, he sees Laura Roslin turn in the middle of what he knows is her science lesson and smile briefly in his direction before going back to what she was doing.
The approval and relaxation ingrained in that small, quick smile warms him the way no high mark ever did.
He doesn't miss politics, he realizes. He misses his sisters and he misses his parents and oranges and real movies and in depth conversations with people over the age of seven, but he doesn't miss the fear or the games. And not for the first time, he is very glad he decided to follow Laura Roslin into hell and back.
Because it's brought him here. No where he ever expected, but somewhere pretty wonderful.
There is a sharp tug on his sweater and the round curious face of Jei-jei is staring up at him from under a mop of bright, curly red hair.
"Mr. Billy?" Her eyes are solemn, face completely straight. It's all he can do not to break down and laugh, but if there's something he's learned doing story time, it's that children have just as much right to be serious as everyone else. His response is just as intent has the little girl's.
"Can you read to us 'bout Ariadne again?" The lower lip pops out in a pout.
The rest of the group – except for Joey who whines about girls AND spiders – cheers their agreement.
He smiles at them, taking the Jei-jei's hand in his, all the while folding himself down to floor-level. "I think we can do that."
He doesn't have to look over to know that Laura Roslin is smiling at him again when he opens the book and starts to read.
"Welcome to Caprican Outdoor Adventures, my name is Billy and I will be your guide for the next two weeks."
Billy runs through the speech without actually listening to it. He knows he's been doing this too long because he doesn't even have to think about it, and everything sounds rote and modulated in pitch in that way that only happens when something's been said a million times and is going to continue being said many, many more times.
The group in front of him looks bored and annoyed, but he's frakking sure none of them are as bored or annoyed as he is, so he just keeps going.
"As you know, the owners of your team have paid Caprican Outdoor Adventures a very tidy sum to push your endurance levels to the limit and beyond. This course is the best your trainers can buy and we intend to earn that money by putting you through hell."
He's not sure, but he thinks he hears one of the hotshot Pyramid junkies in front of him snicker. It's likely. From looking at him, no one actually believes that he could survive one day on one of the Colonies' most notorious training grounds, let alone guide a full group.
Then again, he's been working here for almost five years to pay for University. There are parts of the coming track that no one but him can navigate easily. Which is probably why they keep offering him insane amounts of money to come back.
"Caprican Outdoor Adventures owns close to sixty thousand kilometers of surrounding wilderness, so in fact, everything out there will be your training ground. The mountains will be your stair-climbers and the survival packs we send with you will be basic but adequate. Additionally, two of your captains will be issued hunting rifles for game."
That had been a bit of an altered rule for this group, but the Buccaneers had apparently paid for the Platinum package. Not that Billy is going to complain. Much. After all, he's going to have more 'perks' than the group of professional athletes in front of him. Which would be a frakking first.
Oh, no, he wasn't bitter. Really.
Yeah, he is going to enjoy his sleeping bag. A lot.
"The point of this exercise is to keep you in peak physical condition and push you beyond. The only food you will have is that which you scavenge and hunt. If you're unsure of something, run it by me. If you're convinced you're right on something, run it by me. If you decide to do more than run around, run it by me." He pauses, making eye-contact with each of the team members. "I actually have experience with this area. I've been working it for five years. You don't. Don't get cocky. Don't get stupid. You do either and you're bounced back to base camp and your investors are informed, understand?"
He waits for all of them to nod before smiling and gesturing towards the main path. "Please gather your gear and move towards the dining hall. We'll repack it, correctly, and head out after lunch."
The team nods and moves towards the low log-constructed building on the far side of the parking area. As soon as all of their backs are turns, he takes a whole fifteen seconds to grin like an idiot. Samuel Anders of the Caprica Buccaneers was here in his training ground.
Billy'd lost nearly six hundred credits on that last game.
This was going to be fun.
Petty Officer Anastasia Dualla's funeral is possibly one of the best-attended funerals the fleet has had since that first glut. This is notable only to Billy in the periphery. He doesn't really notice the full compliment of pilots, or that Admiral Adama gave a stirring speech. That registers later.
Mostly he is just staring at the shrouded figure draped with the Galactica flag and continuously leaking.
He knows he shouldn't be crying this hard. Should be stoic and manly and a hundred other 'masculine' adjectives that he can vaguely hear the voice of his father shouting in his head. And he's not crying, exactly. It's just water keeps coming out of his eyes. He's not sobbing.
He's just sad.
And very, very angry. But now really isn't the time.
Dee's dead. He doesn't have the emotional resources to cope with the fact that she was dumping him too. And dating Captain Adama.
He'd proposed to her. Looked her in the eye and asked. And she'd been ready to let him go completely.
Gods, what had he even been doing?
In front of him, one of the priests is saying the last rites of Kobol over Dee's remains. Singing the song of mourning and citing her loving spirit and the voice that will be missed the fleet over.
She's dead. Gone.
And a terrible little part of him is pointing out how he's glad.
She didn't even tell him she was unhappy. That was the worst part. Yeah, he'd missed a few dates in the past month. Cancelled at the last minute because of work or because the shuttles weren't running. It was the pitfalls of having an inter-ship romance. Those things happened. She hadn't even told him.
But watching her face in that bar...
It hadn't been because of the missed dates or the cancelled appointments that she'd decided to date Lee Adama. It was something else. Something that he, Billy Keikeya, just couldn't give her. And that hurt like hell.
Absently, he notes the priest finishing the Sagiteran death lament. The service is almost over, his brain says. He really doesn't feel like moving.
He'd loved her. Loved her. Wanted to marry her. Had looked at the future and seen her smiling at him. Maybe children. He'd seen life and promise and hope in Dee. In being with Dee.
She hadn't seen it in him. And that was that.
But now, she didn't have anything.
One moment, she was sitting there, terrified out of her mind and crying, and the next minute she was bleeding to death on the deck in front of him. Those beautiful green eyes going dim, with him doing his best to hold the blood inside of her body. Failing.
And for the first time since this nightmare reality crashed down on him, he's realizing just how very bad it all is.
Because if Dee's dead, then that means anyone can be next. President Roslin. Admiral Adama.
He could die. At any time.
And then the President's hand is on his back, warm and real in this suddenly very scary world.
"It's time to go, Billy," she says. Her words are quiet but firm. They have jobs to do.
Life moves on. That's what everyone says. It moves on.
Walking slowly away from the shrouded body of the woman he still, even with everything, loves, Billy is suddenly, painfully unsure what they're doing is living.
Later, he locks the debate ring back in his suitcase and tucks it back under his bunk.
Billy didn't even bother with the last ditch run down the tarmac. There was no point. Long and graceful, the transport ship rose up out of dock 47 of the Caprica Main Ship Yards, disconnecting from its clamps and into the brilliant blue sky above.
Leaving him, Billy Keikeya, newly minted assistant to the Minister of Education stranded at the gateway with nothing but an impending sense of "I am SO FIRED" and a rather heavy carryon.
"You missed your transport then?" He jumped, not having noticed the pretty transport worker standing next to the ticket podium a few feet away. She was pretty and tall with almond-shaped eyes and a snappy red suit.
Unfortunately, his impending sense of "I am SO FIRED" wasn't in the mood to let him enjoy the brighter things in life. He'd worked for close to six years for this position. Scrimped and saved - okay, his parents had, but he'd heard enough lectures on the subject to qualify him - through undergrad and graduate, then forwarded close to two hundred applications.
This assignment had been a gods-send. Actual personal assistant to Laura Roslin. Who actually knew the President of the Colonies.
And he'd managed to frak it up by getting on the one transport that had magically stopped half a station away from his destination. And sat there for four hours.
He blinked, dredging his mind from the mire of screwed up public transport systems and their rules against letting people out onto the tracks only to find the pretty attendant waving a hand in his face.
"Did you miss your transport?"
He bit off the urge to roll his eyes. What else would have him running full-tilt down the tarmac? Sudden desire to stimulate the blood in his veins? "Yes. It was the transport to the Galactica decommissioning."
A thought occurred.
"Is there another one?" He tried not to sound too pathetically hopeful.
He obviously failed from the warm, piteous gaze the woman was shooting him.
"I'm sorry, sir. There isn't another one out to that quad for another day and a half..."
"...and that isn't going anywhere near Galactica. I'm sorry?"
He sighed and resisted the urge to beat his head into the nearest wall. He still had Minister Roslin's briefing book in his bag.
So. Very. Fired.
"Are you okay, sir?"
"No. I missed that transport, and I think I just got myself fired. On my first day."
The woman makes a sympathetic noise then, then pats him on the arm. "I'm sorry, hon."
"Stupid Caprica Transport." He didn't mean to sound twelve. Really.
The woman patted him again, rubbing her hand up and down his arm. "Well, it's just a job, right? There are lots of other ones. It's not like the world ended." She is pretty in red before him, and in ten hours time he will think of her like this, exactly like this, with just those words on her lips, when the sky glows red and everything ends.
"No," he hears himself say, voice and body language resigned. "I guess not."
Billy never realized how much power he actually had until his boss ordered him to cut supply lines to 'non-essential' smaller vessels. Consolidation, he'd said.
It would have meant the deconstruction and incorporation of nearly two-thousand people into the already-over crowded larger passenger carriers. Carriers that were complaining constantly about their lack of supplies and need for redistribution of already existing populations.
"Do it," Baltar had said.
Billy had been on the wireless ten minutes later, hammering out a somewhat different plan of redistribution for the seven vessels. A cautious word with all of their captains had resulted in a surprising level of cooperation between them and three of the more over-crowded liners. In the end, each of them had agreed to take on another fifty people.
Billy's pretty sure Baltar doesn't even know that the ships are still flying.
No one had even questioned why they'd been talking with Billy instead of the new President. They'd just done as he'd asked and moved on. The various fleet captains were used to dealing directly with Billy. President Roslin's declining health in the last months hadn't stopped the glut of day-to-day details, and as her aide, he'd just naturally taken them on.
The only difference now was that instead of running them by the President, he actively avoided the man and just kept doing what he had been doing.
Two months in, he still woke up sweating, terrified someone would notice.
He doesn't know how no one has noticed.
"Ah, Billy." The President is smiling today. He looks self-assured and not at all like he's been arguing with himself. This is probably bad.
Billy's actually still surprised how well suited for the job of Presidential Aide he is. Before signing on as aide to the Minister of Education, he'd had some foggy ideas of possibly going in to corporate finance, but nothing definite. But he's good at this. At learning ticks and interpreting data. He learned to read Laura Roslin in less than two days. Baltar is a little harder but that's mostly because he can't be counted on to have the same personality two days in a row.
But something Billy does know is that the President tends to rubber-stamp things when he looks like he's gone five rounds with the wall and a pencil.
Billy shuffled the wireless reports in something that might have been a random order, making sure to stick the monthly supply queries into a folder for the next day. The minor supply ships were having a rather large fit about the lack of new orders, but it could wait another day. It had to wait another day.
Most of the reason they were so cranky had to do with the last time Baltar had gotten his hands on the reports.
"Mr. President." Billy straightened up and fixed his gaze a few inches above the man's left shoulder. "Are you ready for your morning briefing?"
The other man smiled again, leaned back in the chair and steepled his fingers, apparently trying for a focused and calm look of anticipation. "Of course, William."
Absently, Billy wondered how in Tarturus the man had attained the position he is in. Baltar is clearly insane. Talking-to-himself-hallucinating insane. Guess it just went to show that handicaps really don't matter in the long run.
"It's Billy, sir, and where would you like to start?"
Baltar smiled wider. Oh, hells, today was going to be impossible. "William is a more appropriate name for a man of your maturity and position though, don't you think?"
Mentally, Billy counted to ten before responding. He thanked the ghost of Laura Roslin profusely for setting such a good example in masking her actual thoughts. "Well, yes sir, it probably is. However, my name isn't actually William, it's Wilhelm, so 'Billy' is actually my preferred alternative."
The other man had the presence of mind - for once - to look slightly abashed. "Ah, understood, Billy. Right. What's our first order of business then?"
"Cloud Nine is requesting your presence for its inauguration day. It is three weeks off and there is an opening in your schedule that would allow you to attend. Should I let them know you will be coming?"
And so it went. Distraction and misdirection on the highest level. Wave something shiny for Baltar and his insanity to fixate on so that everything else could function. So the small details and the supplies and the internal machinery the former President had been so careful in building could continue to function.
Because there wasn't anyone else.