"Poor Lee. Your life is so hard, isn't it." Kara said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Lee's mind rapidly flashed back over the last month. Dressing changes, physical therapy, pain and boredom. Yeah, his life was a frakkin' bed of roses.
"You mean since I got shot?"
10 days earlier...
Lee picked at his lunch. Food in life station was even worse that the stuff from the galley. He absently wondered how that was possible. Didn't all the food come from the same place? Cottle had removed the chest tube that morning. They had given him morpha first, but if it had helped, he couldn't tell. He didn't expect it to hurt almost as much to be removed as it did when it was put in, but it came close. At least the pain hadn't lasted too long this time and with the chest tube gone, Cottle had given the okay for his IV to be removed as well. He was finally able to take a real shower. If he ever had another sponge bath it would be too soon. Best of all, he was able to wear his own clothes instead of a hospital gown. His father had brought him a pair of sweat pants and his tanks that morning. He felt much more human wearing them.
Dee still seemed ever-present, when she wasn't on duty of course. Admiral Adama came less frequently now his son's condition was much less serious, but he still made it by for at least a few minutes every day. However, Kara had still not bothered to visit. Lee had moved on from being annoyed at her absence to being downright insulted. When she'd said there was nothing between them, he didn't think she meant they were no longer friends, just that she didn't want there to be any more than that. Now he wasn't so sure.
He had been doing some basic exercises for the last few days. The physical therapist, Rachel, had promised him a trip to the gym when the chest tube was out. She showed up with a wheelchair promptly after his lunch tray was taken away.
"Ready to go?"
Lee managed a halfhearted smile. No was what he wanted to say, but he knew no wasn't an option, so he settled himself into the chair and sat back for the ride.
They passed a few people in the corridors. They waved or had a word of encouragement. He tried to smile back at them. He knew they would expect it. Soon they had arrived at the gym. Rachel had him warm up for a few minutes before starting to use any of the equipment. They began with the leg press. She said something about starting with a major muscle group that wasn't directly affected by his injury. He was completely surprised when he was winded after only fifteen reps. They moved on to several other pieces of equipment before coming to the bench press. Lee almost laughed when he saw the weights on the machine. A kid could bench press more than that.
Rachel noticed his smirk. "You won't think it's funny by the time we're done," she promised. Lee merely raised his eyebrows at her as he lowered himself into position on the bench. He easily lifted the bar, the first three times. By the time he'd made ten repetitions, he decided privately perhaps she was right. Rachel had stood close, spotting him, and helped him replace the bar. "That's enough for your first day." Lee gave her an "If you say so" look but inwardly was relieved. He wasn't sure he could have lifted the bar another time.
Next they moved to the mat. "Let's try some crunches. Start with fifteen," Rachel suggested.
Lee had thought crunches only used the abdominal muscles so he was surprised to feel the strain in his chest as well. He had to force himself to finish the set. He lay back and took several deep breaths. "Okay, do ten more." Rachel had obviously decided he'd rested long enough. He set his jaw and managed to do what she'd asked. "Catch your breath for a minute and then try some push-ups."
Lee wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand and grunted softly as he turned over. A month ago, he could easily do fifty, and could push himself to do one hundred. Today he managed four before collapsing to the floor in pain and exhaustion.
"That's it for today, Captain," Rachel patted his shoulder as she spoke. "Let's get you back to sick bay."
Lee stayed on the mat, breathing hard, as she brought the wheelchair to his side. He managed to climb into it own his own, waving off her offer of assistance. He had wondered initially why she'd made him use it, thinking it was a bit like driving a car to the gym back home. If the idea was to get some exercise, why not walk? However, he now doubted he would be able to make it all the way to sick bay from here, so he guessed she knew what she was doing after all. His shoulder felt like it was on fire as they traveled back to sick bay. He crawled gratefully into his bed and promptly fell asleep.
"Captain Adama. Captain Adama! Wake up!" The nurse shook her patient gently when he didn't respond to her calls.
"Hmmm? What?" Lee mumbled.
"Your dinner's here." She raised the head of his bed as she spoke. "Try and eat more than you did at lunch, okay?" she admonished and was gone.
Lee stared at the unappetizing tray. He sighed and picked up his fork. Or he tried to. His right arm seemed to be made of rubber. It felt like overcooked pasta. He literally couldn't lift it. It wasn't that it hurt to move it, it just wouldn't move. He sighed again, raising his eyebrows, and reached for the fork with his left hand. He could eat left-handed. He certainly wasn't going to admit to anyone that he'd overdone it today.
Somewhere along the way he fell asleep again. His father found him like that when he stopped by. Bill took the fork from his son's limp fingers and pushed the tray away. Lee never stirred as his dad lowered the head of his bed and pulled the covers up over him. "Guess I need to come by earlier if I want to actually get to talk to you, huh?" Bill said quietly. "Sleep well, son." He patted Lee's good shoulder softly as he spoke. He had heard from the staff that Lee had spent a lot of time in P/T that afternoon and remembered how exhausting it was to try to force your body to respond as it used to. However, Bill was sure that it wouldn't be long before Lee was back in shape. He had youth on his side, after all.
The next morning, Rachel showed up not long after breakfast. "You get two sessions today, Captain. Morning and afternoon."
Lee was thinking it would go better today, but his muscles were sore from his efforts the day before, and he actually did worse. Even his thigh and calf muscles were sore. He couldn't remember a time in his life when he'd been this out of shape. Rachel told him this was normal, that it took less than a week of inactivity for one's cardiovascular fitness to deteriorate. He knew she meant that to be reassuring, but he actually found it discouraging. He had lost this much ground in only three weeks? He had expected his arm to take some time getting back to full strength, but not his entire body. And six weeks to recover? Or longer? No, that was not encouraging in the least.
The next couple of days were no different for Lee. He worked himself into exhaustion by doing exercises that wouldn't have even made him break a sweat before. He found it immensely frustrating. Despite that, he was released from sick bay. He wasn't ready to resume his duties, but he didn't require medical care any longer. Cottle told him there was no sense in him taking up one of his beds. Lee was more than happy to go sleep in his own rack where at least no one would bother him if the curtains were closed. There was no such privacy in sick bay. His only orders were to continue physical therapy and report back for his recertification physical in a few days.
Rivulets of sweat trickled down Lee Adama's chest and back. His face was a mask of concentration as he moved the weights up and down on the lat machine. His muscles rippled with the strain. The only sounds were Lee's breathing and the clinking of the weights. Lee liked to come to the gym when he knew no one else would be there. He would not admit it to anyone, but he was self-conscious about how weak he still was. He had tried running for the first time that morning, but found he could barely make it half a mile before wheezing like an out-of-shape nugget on his first ten mile hike. Lee had actually enjoyed those runs back at the academy. He had started running in high school, and used to get up and run several miles before breakfast. It was a great way to relax and get some time to think. Even now, aboard Galactica, he could run and feel solitude even as he dodged crewmembers in the narrow corridors. Finished with his repetitions on the lat machine, he moved to the bench press. He used to win bets at the academy on this piece of equipment; he could bench press more than most guys twice his size. Not anymore. He still wasn't up to even half of what he could do before. In resignation, he lowered himself on to the bench and gripped the bar. He'd never had to force himself to exercise before. It had always come naturally to him. This was all foreign to him.
At least he was on his own now; Rachel had cut him loose a couple of days ago. She had given him a strict schedule of slowly increasing his work-outs and threatened him not to go too fast or he would do more harm than good. He had actually not intended to follow her well-meaning professional advice, but found himself unable to push himself beyond the parameters she had set for him. He was quite exasperated with his body. He wanted to will it to respond as it always had in the past. As he continued to lift the weights, he realized that Rachel was right and rebuilding his top-notch fitness level was not going to happen easily. He'd never considered himself to be vain, but now that such a fundamental part of himself had been altered, he was forced to recognize how much of his self-esteem was tied up in his physical abilities. Lee may not be the biggest or the tallest, but he was a force to be reckoned with in a fight. Back in high school, he had been picked on for being one of the smaller boys. That's when he'd discovered the benefits of lifting weights along with long distance running. Once word had gotten around school that he could either outrun you or take you out, Lee had been left alone. The fact that girls had been impressed with his ripped muscles had been an added bonus. Of course he had been much older before he started to develop a real chiseled physique.
Lee replaced the bar and moved on to the leg press. At least this machine was just tiring, not painful. He rubbed his shoulder lightly as he pressed the weights with his legs, gingerly tracing the scar on his chest. Rachel had assured him it would fade over time. Of course, it would never disappear entirely. Sighing, he got up and grabbed a towel. He scrubbed it over his hair and then wiped some of the sweat from his chest, carefully avoiding his right shoulder. He grabbed his tanks from where he'd tossed them earlier and headed for the showers.
The warm water cascaded over aching muscles, and Lee sighed with contentment as some of the soreness dissipated. He couldn't allow himself much time to experience this pleasure; water was a precious resource. He quickly soaped his hair and his body and rinsed, again enjoying the sensation of warmth for a few moments before turning off the spray. He toweled the excess moisture from his hair and dried himself, carefully patting the area near the healed wound. He wrapped the towel around his waist as he stepped out of the shower. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror. Lee wasn't naïve. He knew his body was attractive to women (and truth be told, to some men as well). He couldn't help noticing that despite his infirmity, he still looked good. Maybe he had lost just a bit of definition in his abs and back, but nothing overtly conspicuous. Realizing with sudden horror that he was unintentionally flexing his muscles for himself to admire, he turned away from the mirror, grabbed his clothes and quickly dressed. He would have been beyond mortified had anyone entered and found him doing that. A few drops of water dripped from the still-wet ends of his hair and some moisture still clung to his arms as he left the head. He was looking very deserving of his call sign. No one who saw him would have guessed that the powerfully built outward appearance of Lee Adama concealed pain, frustration, and insecurity.
Lee spent the next several days eating, sleeping and working out in the gym. Not in that order. He'd managed to work up to running a mile and was steadily adding weights to the resistance machines each day. Lee had joined in a few games of triad, but mostly kept to himself. He wasn't really up for company and everyone else was pretty busy anyway. Despite his physical gains, he still didn't feel anywhere near back to normal but he had been ordered to report to sick bay for his recertification physical that afternoon.
He had run into his father in the corridor as he'd left the gym that morning. He hadn't seen much of him over the last few days. Lee presumed the Admiral was catching up on the paper work he must have let slide while spending so much time in sickbay the past few weeks while Lee was so sick. They'd exchanged pleasantries, and Bill had asked when he thought he might be returning to duty. He'd seemed surprised when Lee had told him possibly as early as the next day, depending on what Cottle had to say that afternoon. Then he became serious and told Lee to come by his office before he reported to the doctor.
Lee had grabbed a quick shower and something that passed for lunch, then dressed and reported to the Admiral's office.
Lee knocked on his father's door, wondering what he wanted. It had sounded like an order rather than a request, but he was still off duty after all.
"Come in, Captain." The admiral opened the hatch and ushered his son inside. "I know you're expected in sick bay soon. This won't take long." Adama indicated to Lee to take a seat. Lee knew the use of his rank meant this wasn't just a personal visit. He looked expectantly at the Admiral, unsure what this was about. He didn't have to wait long. Adama sat down across from him and began speaking.
"The addition of Pegasus to the fleet has changed a lot of things. We've been functioning as two separate ships. We need to be a team. A united force against the Cylons. I need someone to oversee the air groups of both ships, make them a cohesive fighting unit. I also want that person to oversee the construction of new vipers and raptors and deal directly with the supply and labor facets of that operation. In addition, I want the flight instructor to report directly to this person, in order that newly minted pilots can be assigned to whichever ship would be the best fit for them."
Lee took a deep breath. He had a good idea of where this was heading.
Adama saw Lee's thoughts play out across his face. He nodded at his son. "Yes, I want you for this position. You have the knowledge and the skills to handle it." He waited a moment, allowing Lee to absorb what he'd said. "And with responsibility comes privilege." Adama stood as he continued. "You are hereby promoted to the rank of major, with all the rights, responsibilities and benefits thereof, effective immediately. You will begin your new duties as soon as you are released from Dr. Cottle's care. Which I presume will mean you start tomorrow. Congratulations, Major."
Lee rose to shake his father's proffered hand. He wasn't sure what to say. He swallowed hard, feeling a bit overwhelmed. He'd finally gotten comfortable with his role as CAG and now he was being handed even more responsibility. However he was also pleased that his father thought he could handle it. He knew the admiral didn't give compliments lightly and wouldn't have chosen him unless he truly thought he was capable, but he couldn't help the nagging feeling he had in the back of his mind. It didn't seem his new duties would leave much time for flying. He wasn't quite sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
Seeing his son's uneasiness, Adama finally spoke, transitioning from commanding officer to father. "You'd better go on, you don't want to keep Cottle waiting," he smiled. "Hey, how about joining me for dinner tonight?"
"Thanks Dad, but I...um...I have plans already."
Adama smiled. He had a pretty good idea who his son's plans involved.
"Another time, then. Enjoy yourself, son."
Lee wasn't sure what to make of that either. "Thanks," he managed, and headed down to sick bay.
He didn't think he was actually late, but Dr. Cottle was waiting for him when he walked in.
"Good. You're here." He handed Lee a gown and indicated for him to change, pointing him towards an exam room.
Lee gingerly pulled his tanks back on and then slipped into his pants. He sat on the edge of the exam table to put on his boots and then shrugged into his jacket. Cottle had poked and prodded him to within an inch of his life. The doctor took certifying a man to be fit for duty very seriously. He had finally finished his thorough examination and told Lee to get dressed and then come to his office.
He knocked on Cottle's door and entered when the doctor motioned him inside.
"Sit down, Captain."
Lee sat. He didn't like the way the doctor was looking at him.
"It's, ah, major now, actually." Lee said hesitantly, not quite used to the idea himself.
"Well, then. Major." Cottle nodded, noting the new insignia on Lee's collar. "I suppose congratulations are in order. Good. Didn't seem right that you and Thrace had the same rank."
Lee couldn't help but smile at this logic. He'd never admitted it, even to himself, but that had bothered him, too.
"The good news is I'm cutting you loose. You're fit to resume administrative duties."
Lee sighed inwardly. Despite being bored with only being able to hang around the pilots' quarters or do rehab exercises in the gym, he wasn't anxious to return to duty. He didn't feel anywhere near 100. His chest was still pretty sore and if he moved his arm the wrong way it really hurt. However, he knew Cottle was expecting him to be pleased so he nodded and raised the corners of his mouth a little. He was also acutely aware that conversations that began with the words "the good news is" did not usually end well. He waited tensely, wondering what was coming next.
"So...there's also bad news?" Lee didn't think the doctor had called him into his office just to tell him he was cleared for duty.
Dr. Cottle took a deep breath and nodded. "There's no good way to say this so I'll just come right out with it. Due to the nature of your injuries, you're not going to be physically capable of recertifying as a viper pilot. Not now, not ever. Chest trauma and all those Gs do not mix. The risk that your lung could collapse again is just too high." Cottle waited for the explosion he was sure was about to occur.
Lee stared straight ahead. He thought he was prepared for whatever the doctor might say, but he hadn't been anticipating that. He pressed his lips together in a thin line as he contemplated the ramifications of the doctor's prognosis. He knew Cottle was expecting him to be angry or upset. He wasn't, though. He just felt...nothing. He felt nothing. He wasn't happy or sad or angry or bitter. He was...empty.
An awkward silence ensued.
"I see," Lee finally said quietly.
The doctor knew this was devastating news for the young man, but he also knew there weren't any words that would make it better. The captain - major, he mentally corrected himself – would simply have to adjust.
Lee left sick bay, not really paying any attention to where he was going. His mind was a jumble of thoughts. He hadn't been eager to get recertified for combat before he'd been injured, but he wasn't sure how he felt now that it was no longer being possible. He felt angry, relieved, sad, and confused all at the same time. If he wasn't a viper pilot, then what was he? If the Holocaust hadn't happened he would be given an honorable discharge from the service. He could go live happily ever after on Caprica. Or maybe Picon. Damn the Cylons. He hadn't thought it was possible to hate them more than he already did. But he was tired of fighting them. He was tired of everything. He eventually ended up in his quarters after running into his father again. He now had official orders for tomorrow. He took off his jacket, laying it aside. He looked briefly at the new insignia on the collar before checking his watch. He was supposed to meet Dee for dinner. They didn't have the luxury of going to Cloud Nine, but he wasn't really anxious to go back there anytime soon anyway. They were just going to meet in the galley. Not that exciting, but hey, what is, Lee thought morosely.
After dinner, they wound up in Lee's quarters. Kara had been sent to Pegasus several days earlier and he was to join her first thing in the morning. He wasn't looking forward to it. He hadn't seen her since that day on Cloud Nine. Not once. Now it seemed she had managed to rub the new CO of Pegasus the wrong way and it was going to be up to him to sort it all out. Great. Cleaning up after Kara - his favorite thing to do. Why was he thinking of Kara when there was a beautiful woman with her arms around him. Dee obviously wasn't ready for the evening to end. He knew what she wanted. She smiled beguilingly at him as she hung her boots outside the hatch. He supposed he should be glad; he hadn't been with a woman in some time. It had been four weeks since he'd been shot, and how long before that had it been? He decided not to think any more along those lines. Not counting the sex-that-wasn't with Kara, he guessed it had been Shevon that he'd last been with. At least he wouldn't have to pay Dee extra if they fell asleep afterwards, he thought morosely. Part of him felt guilty for using her, but he rationalized that since this was her idea it didn't really matter so much. Then she was pulling off his tanks and they were kissing and he didn't think of anything or anyone else.
The next morning he was stiff and sore. She had done most of the work, if you could call it that, but he had still exerted himself a bit too much. He winced as he put on his uniform and moved his shoulder the wrong way. Dee noticed. He hadn't thought she wouldn't.
"How do you feel?"
"Not great." He didn't have the desire or the strength to put up a front for her. "But Cottle's given me the thumbs-up and it's been almost a month, so I guess it's back to work."
Dee came up behind him and put her arms around him. She made a fuss over his major's insignia. Lee couldn't help but wonder if his father had known what Cottle was going to tell him. But how could he have? He'd met with his father before his physical. He frowned, remembering Cottle's words. "Chest trauma and all those Gs don't mix." Had Cottle known his prognosis even before he did the exam? He decided it really didn't make a difference if he did or not. The result was the same. His life had once again been radically changed through no impetus of his own. He had no choice but to make the best of it. He sighed inwardly as he finished buttoning up his uniform and headed off into the belly of the Beast.