Spoilers: Some for mini, s1 so far. .
Rating: Adult: sex (not graphic) and language unsuitable for kids.
Disclaimer: Not mine, RDM's and Sci-Fi. But used lovingly, with respect and with no intent to profit.
A/N: This story is AU; there is no Zak. The first six chapters have been published on LJ, but ch7 and those that will follow it are new.
"You're not supposed to be here."
Starbuck didn't look up from her desk, hoping that if she looked focused enough on her flight review paperwork, her CO would just give up and go away. "Sir?"
"Cut the crap, Kara. You're on leave, remember? The leave you haven't taken in three years? The leave that's etched in titanium in the Fleet Code? The leave that will hopefully make you stop scaring the crap out of the nuggets and everyone else around here and make room in the flight schedule for some other pilots to get air time?"
"Frak it, Deak. I don't want leave, I don't need leave. Consider it taken. And if all the little flyboys and girls aren't scared of me, then I'm not doing my job."
Colonel Deacon Metsfield, Commanding Officer, Sparta Fleet Academy of Picon, ran fingers through his thinning hair and exhaled noisily. "I can't consider it taken, not this time. Not again. This isn't just about me being your boss, Starbuck. It's about the review board wanting to know why your name is always up on the flight roster, even while you're supposedly off base. And the medical supervisor wanting to know when you're going to report for your annual from last year, let alone this year. And most of all, it's about me watching you pushing things too far, again, and wondering if this is the year you break."
She put her pen down, tried not to snarl her response. "Sorry to be such an inconvenience, Colonel."
"Don't be a bitch. You need to get out, Kara. You need to shake your head loose from these idiot kids and brass-plated orders and remember how to be yourself. Take time off. Please."
"Gods, Deak... this is me you're talking to: Starbuck, remember? The one who routinely ignores regs and ranks and does whatever the hell she wants? I get plenty of fun..." It was true, as far as that went; there was never an order given her that was followed without condsideration of the alternative, even if there was no reason to balk other than simply to rattle whoever had given it. She went out in her off-duty hours, entertained herself and her fellow pilot-instructors, occasionally got drunk or laid or involved in a brawl to burn off some energy. How could anyone even contemplate the idea that she needed a break from her job? from the base? "It's not like I have anything else to do," she added, a sly grin slanting at her boss.
"And that's my point. I get that you love your job; I do. You're career Fleet, it's written all over you. I think you need the rules and regs, as much to buck against as follow, but it isn't all there is to life. You know that. Three years is long enough to spend ignoring it."
"My last shot at the civillian trimmings didn't work so well that I'm keen to try again," Kara muttered.
"Nobody says you have to buy real estate and build a picket fence," Deak told her. "Just... get off base. Stay away from the usual bars, from the same old crew. Remember what the whole point of having a Fleet is for: to protect the good things in life, the things we tend to give up while in service. Sleeping in, food that isn't on a chow line, lack of schedules and stupid formalities and people knocking on your door fourteen hours a day."
The way he described it, real life sounded almost inviting. "Medical really on your back about me?"
"Frak, yes. Terwillger even pulled me aside at the pyramid game last night to tell me you missed your appointment again. And while I know you thrive on confrontation, Starbuck, I don't. I told him you were on leave - like you are supposed to be - so please. Back me up. Don't make me make it an order."
Kara sighed, closed the file full of reviews and shoved it in a drawer. "What's the minimum time I can take?"
"Two weeks. I'd say three but I don't think you'd make it that long."
Fourteen days. Frak, she'd be climbing the walls after four. "One."
"Don't try it. You're officially relieved of duty for the next fourteen days, Kara, and if I see you set foot on this base for anything short of a new Cylon war until fifteen days from now, I'll officially haul your ass up to Terwillger myself." Deak wasn't kidding.
"Can't I stay in quarters?"
"No. I won't expect you to get off Picon or even out of Sparta City, but you are going to be off Fleet territory. Get a hotel. Leave allowance covers accomodation expenses, and you have enough accrued to stay at the godsdamned Constellation if you want." Her C.O. leaned over, ruffled a hand through her short hair and grinned. "I've got tickets to a Panthers game on the sixth. You can use one, call me if you're free. Now scat."
He mock-cuffed her and let himself out of her office, calling back over his shoulder when she didn't get up from the desk. "You have an hour before I send Wilkins to escort you off base, Kara."
Frak. It would take her an hour to find her civvy clothes, let alone pack them. "Frakking regulations" she muttered at his back, and went to get started.
Lee Adama tugged the thick leather of his coat more snugly around his frame, ducked his chin towards his chest: he'd forgotten how chilly the springs of Picon could be. No, he amended, flicking a glance at the lowering sky, not forgotten. Willfully disregarded. Blocked out, perhaps. He hadn't enjoyed his three years of cadetship so greatly that anything about Sparta formed part of happy recollections, but the chill - unseasonal by Caprican standards - of late Gaia held some particularly unpleasant associations. Some of them guided his steps now, turning him resolutely away from the district patronised by the general run of Colonial cadets, carrying him further down the rain-shimmered esplanade towards the commerical center. Chill air whispered around his ears, so he hunched further into the collar of his jacket and wished he were anywhere else. Anywhere, he thought bitterly, including Hades, so long as it's warmer and nobody calls me 'Apollo'.
The thought sliced through him again: if only it were as easy to ditch his surname as it might be to abandon his callsign. And everything that came with either appellation. No such luck. The Adama name carried weights he had no hope of shedding, and even his callsign was half in reference to his descent, a sad, sarcastic joke at first that became an entirely new insult later on. "Frak that," he hissed into the wind. "I'm on leave for two weeks. And I'm not going anywhere near the base. This is the last respite I'll have for a year from all of that... and I'm going to need every second of it."
Nobody was on the street to hear his muttered invective; most people in the coastal city, long inured to this kind of weather in the month of Gaia, were well indoors, more genially occupied. But those who noted him through their car windows or from the glazed facades of their office buildings knew what he was, if not whom. Stride military-brisk, his long coat doing nothing to counteract the fact that he carried a Fleet duffel slung over a shoulder, his confident and graceful steps the heavier type, like those of someone accustomed to the adjusted gravity of an abode in space. The doorman of the hotel he selected at random from among those on the shore was a former marine, and with the instinct of a man who'd spent his life in the military, knew an officer when he saw one.
Lee almost winced when the man tossed him a casual salute, tried to keep his face expressionless when he returned a reluctant nod. The desk clerk, a prettyish woman with a no-nonsense smile, lifted an eyebrow at his driver's license. "You may not be aware, Mister... Adama, but we have special rates for those with Fleet I.D..."
That was the difficulty with taking every scrap of leave one could lay their hands on; officially he was not due for leave for another three months, but he doubted he'd make it through to that point with his sanity intact. So, with the help of Orion's CMO, the leave had been granted, but he didn't have the same benefits as someone who waited in line. Most of these two weeks would be coming out of his own pocket; he'd only come to Picon - and Sparta in particular - because it was close, relatively economical, and quiet this time of year. It still cost more than he liked, but as far as Lee Adama was concerned, it was a question of survival. He had to get away! Still, it would be stupid beyond principle to ignore the fact that he could get his room cheaper by admitting he was Fleet. Hopefully it was the last such admission he'd ever have to make.
Ten minutes later, after half the reception staff had been made aware that their newest guest was a viper pilot and a captain and Lee's remaining reserve of patience was nearly exhausted, he finally stepped into the elevator and let it carry him up. With the peculiar awareness of someone who lived shipboard, he could feel the flex and roil of the sea breeze buffetting the building; every minute movement of the structure, he felt. After the absolute stillness and void of space and the relatively cramped conditions of his Orion posting, the small apartment seemed luxurious, even lavish, and the slight shift beneath his feet reminded him constantly that he was not on a battlestar.
If only the well-meaning concierge and her cronies would let him forget; if only his luck held, and his family, such as it was, didn't come looking for him.
He emptied his duffel on the bed and stowed the clothing haphazardly in the wardrobe, leaving out a pair of black jeans and a burgundy shirt. It was not by accident that he possessed nothing gray or navy that wasn't part of his uniform; neither was it chance that he had none of those articles with him. Along with the rest of his kit, they were back in the quarters assigned him on the Orion; he'd left them there, travelled down in civilian gear on the first available shuttle, and made to disappear. Apart from his ID, there was only one other item that proclaimed his military status: his tags, which, legally, he wasn't permitted to remove without orders.
Like he cared. He tugged the chain off over his head, tossed it on the night table, and disappeared into the unaccustomed luxury of a private bathroom for a long shower. His last two weeks of leave. Then one more year, one more year of required service, and he could forget he was ever captain of anything. He'd get a job with Aerospace on Caprica or Leonis, save his credits, buy a little bar-bistro where the only orders ever heard were demands for another round, or a plate of the evening's special. One more year. He planned to store up as much reality as possible in the next two weeks, to get him through that year. Starting that night.
With any luck, he'd time his emergence with the end of the working day, lose himself in the civilian crowds which would throng the waterfront entertainment district. Like any number of them, he planned to spend this week's end night cozied up to a bar, and maybe later to a blonde; preferably one sassy and rebellious, someone who didn't belong in a uniform and couldn't give a frak about rules and regulations.