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This is it – the epilogue is here and the story is completely finished.

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Another Way: Epilogue

Three days later…

"GET YOUR FRAKKING CLAWS OFF ME!"

Intravenous lines were pulled tautly and Ishnay half-expected to see the IV stand come crashing down on her head at any second.

"YOU BASTARDS AREN'T GOING TO TAKE HIM – OVER MY FRAKKING DEAD BODY!"

"I need some help in here!" Hollering over her shoulder, she heard the sound of running footsteps as she skewered the frightened nurse standing on the other side of Starbuck's gurney with an accusatory glare. "What the FRAK did you do?"

"Nothing! I was taking her vitals and the next thing I know she's-"

"I SAID FRAK OFF!" Bucking and thrashing, Starbuck was hell bent on getting away from whatever she was seeing in her head.

Two more orderlies, one in the shape of Gunny, pushed aside the sterile plastic and rushed in to assist.

"She's delusional, you twit! Didn't you read her chart? Didn't you see how high her fever is?" Reaming the other nurse a new orifice with her scathing questions, Ishnay looked at Gunny. "I want each of you to get a hold of her upper arm and her wrist. I need you to hold her steady for just a few seconds."

Manoeuvring around the men, she dashed out and ran to the med-station. Grabbing a syringe and a bottle of sedative, she filled the needle and tapped out the air bubbles. Wasting no time, she cleared a path to Starbuck's room just in time to see Cottle drop what he was doing and head in her direction.

"What the hell happened here?" Cottle barked.

"I'LL SEND EVERONE OF YOU FRAKKERS TO HELL!"

Pointing to the nurse pressed back against the blood-pressure monitor, trying to silence the alarm as Kara's blood pressure skyrocketed, Ishnay brought him up to speed with a disparaging twist to her mouth. "Talon-woman here didn't wake Starbuck up before she decided to take her pulse."

Wedging herself between Gunny's biceps and Kara's upper arm, she didn't even bother to swab the site before she stuck the needle into the pilot's arm and pressed the plunger. She didn't have the time to watch Cottle grab the nurse's hands and examine her overly manicured fingers as the fight suddenly went out of Starbuck. She was focused on watching the sedative take effect.

She did share a smirk with Gunny when she heard Cottle reduce the other nurse to tears.

"You're on bedpan duty until further notice. Get out of here, now!"

Not sparing the dumb-ass a second glance as she made her way out of the room, Ishnay looked at Gunny, Cottle and the assisting orderly. "Thank you."

Shaking out the blanket that had fallen to the floor and spreading it out over a knocked-out Starbuck, Gunny looked a little shell-shocked. "What happened to her?"

Crisis solved, for the moment, and leading everyone out of the room, Cottle fished around in his pockets and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Lighting one up, he didn't answer until he had inhaled two full drags.

"I've seen that happen before, back in med-school with vets from the First Cylon War. She back-flashed; the nurse has overly-long nails that looked like Centurion claws to her fevered brain. When she went to take Starbuck's heart-rate, Thrace's internal panic button went off."

"At least it's over." Relief and concern had the Marine briefly looking over his shoulder at Kara before turning to face Ishnay and Cottle. Gunny's soft spot for the Viper pilot was known ship-wide.

Exhaling blue smoke, Cottle waved his cigarette at each of them.

"Don't send out for the cheerleaders just yet. It's gonna get worse before it gets better, people."

……….……….

Two days later…

Sitting and finishing up her end-of-shift reports, a tall blond woman striding out of Life Station with a camera swinging from her hand had to be ignored because every alarm to every machine in Kara Thrace's room was sounding.

Kicking back her chair, Ishnay collided with a gurney that had been propelled by a fever-strong Starbuck. Rivulets of blood were streaming down her neck from where she had ripped out the IV ports from her neck as she lurched her way across Life Station.

"Stop her! Stop the Cylon! There's a Cylon in here!" Kara's raspy voice rang out and commandeered everyone's attention. Panicking, those who were not sick headed for the door and into the outside corridor.

Not knowing what Kara was seeing this time in her fever-induced hallucination, Ishnay was too late to stop an orderly from approaching Kara. Attempting a head-on approach, the orderly got a bare foot firmly implanted into his scrotum. Keeping one eye on Kara, her peripheral vision caught a glimpse of Captain Adama threading his way through the people trying to leave Life Station.

"Captain Adama – its Captain Thrace!" Yelling over patients and staff members trying to get control of the situation, she saw him nod. He heard her. He was going to get Starbuck.

Lee could see Kara's fever bright eyes sweep Life Station with all the intensity she used when getting lock-and-tone in her Viper as she stumbled over the downed orderly. Bouncing off of a hip-high medical tray, Kara didn't even look down when the instruments clattered to the floor. She was on a mission and wasn't going to stop until she succeeded in finding the Cylon that only she could see.

He had to get to her before she hurt herself any more.

Sidestepping a wheelchair and coming around the backside of the duty-desk, he could see her fighting to keep her balance as she step-staggered forward.

Just a little closer…

A surge of speed had him right behind her and his two arms wrapped themselves around her waist, carefully avoiding her knitting ribs.

"NO! NO! LET ME GO! I'VE GOT TO GET HER!"

"Kara – listen to me. It's me – it's Lee!" Locking her head against his neck with his chin, he breathed into her ear. "Listen to my voice, Kara – it's me. You're safe. There are no Cylons here."

Using his weight and saving his strength for keeping her tucked against his body, he brought them both to the floor. Still struggling but feeling the adrenaline wearing off, he heard her tell him she wasn't making it all up.

"No, Lee – you have to believe me. I was asleep and when I woke up, she was there. Number Three was standing on the other side, watching me. She was there, Lee. I swear to you – she was there."

Murmuring into her hair but not releasing the hold he had on her, "Its okay Kara. You're safe, now."

Bright green eyes tinged with red looked up at him. "How do you know that, Lee?"

"Because I promise you that you are, Kara." Waving off Ishnay and her syringe, he whispered, "Dad and I are going to make sure of that, Kara."

The way she slumped in his arms as fevered exhaustion overtook her was all the answer he was going to get.

Scooping her up, he carried her all the way to her bed. Settling her down on her stomach and resting her cheek on the face-pad, he looked at Ishnay and took in her grateful expression. Thinking about telling her how he had just gotten off-shift from CIC and had been on his way to visit with Kara when all hell broke loose, he opted to say something else all together.

Tersely, he ground out four words that carried as much weight as any order he had ever given to one of his pilots under his command.

"Take care of her."

"I will." Readjusting the monitors and signalling for a nurse to bring some more equipment, she looked up at the tightly wound Captain. "If we can get her through the next forty-eight hours then she'll be through the worst of it. The question is, Captain, is whether or not she'll let us take care of her or if she's going to fight us every step of the way."

Bsg……….xxx……….bsg……….

Eleven days later…

She might have been out of the loop for a while, but she hadn't forgotten that when second shift gave way to third shift was the quietest time on a Battlestar. CAPS were switched up, nocturnal duties were taking place and everyone who was scheduled for down time was in their racks, sleeping.

Cottle said she could go 'home' tomorrow and technically, it was tomorrow and, hence, she was out of there. If there was an upside to being as sick as she was, it was the fact that she was either too 'out of it' or too busy 'getting better' to be able to think about anything. Now that she was more than on the mend, her mind was spinning at a million parsecs per second and it wasn't showing any signs of slowing down any time soon.

Still wearing Lee's socks and easing a pair of soft pants up and over her hips and knotting the string, she reached for the button-up shirt Cally had left for her. A sudden flashback of stripping a Simon model of his dress shirt had her dropping the plackets she held in her hand like they were a pair of venomous snakes about to bite her.

It was odd how the smallest things would send her off into flashback so vivid that she actually believed she was reliving what had previously occurred. A nurse taking a blood sample when she was half-asleep ended up in a struggle between her and the three orderlies that fought to restrain her for the few seconds it took to administer a sedative. Coming out of it a couple of hours later, Helo told her what happened after they knocked her out. Once Cottle heard about it, he lit into the nurse for not thinking about what she was doing and made a decree that Starbuck was to be fully roused whenever anything had to be done to her.

An innocent trip to the showers became a disaster. Escorted by an orderly, the attendant turned the spigots to a reasonable temperature and left, leaving her to wash up. Kara stepped underneath the spray and froze. Literally. She couldn't get the water hot enough. Not even when she turned off the cold-water feed and cranked the regulator all the way to the right could she make it hot enough. Steam pooled along the ceiling of the lavatory and still she wouldn't get out or let anyone inside the shower area. It wasn't until Sharon, of all people, stepped under the nozzle did she start to separate reality from fantasy.

Leaving the shirt where it was and letting her hospital gown fall back around her knees, she looked around. Her eyes fell on the sheets of hermetically sealed sterile plastic that had been her 'room' for nearly three weeks. Not being allowed to have visitors as she battled the infection that ravaged her body didn't stop Lee, Cally and Helo from writing messages for her to wake up to, or, as she recovered, playing kids' games just to pass the time. She didn't care if the next person had to look at it. Let them. Maybe it will help them as much as it helped her.

Slipping past the Marine detail still stationed outside Life Station to keep people away from her was something she pre-arranged with Gunny. Sometimes it paid to have friends in positions of authority.

The path to D Deck hadn't changed. Nor had the brig on that deck been relocated since she had been gone and come back again.

Spinning open the hatch and stepping over the threshold, she saw that the duty desk was vacant. Good. That meant that there wasn't anyone assigned to hack. Snagging the key from its usual hiding spot, she toyed with it as she made her way to her 'favourite' cell. A hint of amusement pulled at her jaw. Wouldn't do to lock myself in now, would it?

Catching an eyeful of Karl Agathon on the bed in the cell she was planning on spending the night in had her stopping in her tracks.

"Can't sleep, Starbuck?" He had his trade-mark easy-going smile on his face but his green eyes held concern.

"You know me, Helo. I wanted to make sure my favourite brig cell was still here."

One of the best things about having a best friend like Karl was that telling a bald-face lie for all the right reasons was never held against either one of them.

Getting up off the cot and walking past her, he stopped and gestured to the hatch.

"Let's get out of here. Come on – I've got something to show you."

Letting him usher her out of the brig, it was three decks later before they stopped in front of a door at the end of Galactica's Visitor's Section.

Yanking open a specific hatch, Helo pressed a kiss to her forehead before she could step away. "I'll see you tomorrow. Good night, Kara." With that, he closed the hatch behind her once she crossed the threshold.

The room was dim but not dark. It was quarters for a visitor – sleeping area, sitting area and a small bathroom with a shower only – rounded out the medium-sized space. Sprawled in one of the chairs with an ankle across his knee, sat Lee.

"It was my idea, but Tigh signed off on it. And before you go getting defensive, this is not just for you."

Gods, how he can read her! Looking at him warily, she let her expression speak for her. He chose to keep using words.

"All of us will have nights that'll be tougher than others; things are going to happen where a little bit of privacy will go a long way for everyone at some point in time." A suggestive eyebrow lift from her had him amending his statement. "No, this is not a frakking room, Kara. It is a place for us to go when we need to… retreat for a little while."

"I'm not looking for privacy, Lee. It's just… I know I won't be sleeping for a while, or at least sleeping quietly, and I won't deprive anyone of precious rack time because of me. I can't have that, too, on my conscious. Not on top of everything else."

"I know. Which is why, for you, this room will be your sleeping quarters for the next couple of weeks. You'll still have your locker, and bunk. But, you will sleep here." Pointing to a door tucked into a corner of the room, he added, "And you can clean up here. No more 'just washing up' or waiting until the Officer's Head is nearly empty before taking a shower."

"I am not ashamed of my back." Her head came up defiantly. "I know it was something that was done to me, on my own terms, not something I deserved." In her ears, she could hear herself taunting Number Three into beating her into unconsciousness so that she could make her plan work.

"No, you aren't. And you're very good at letting people hear what you want them to believe. But you don't want to be treated any differently because of it either nor do you want anyone else to feel guilty, like there was something they could have done to prevent it from happening in the first place."

Now she got it.

"Like you?"

"Yeah, like me, Kara."

His regret and the way he held himself accountable were etched in every plane of his face and the locked muscles of his shoulders even as he spoke to the floor. Lifting his head, he locked his blue eyes with her green ones and held her as long as it took for the next words to be spoken. "You are not alone, Kara."

Her resolve was crumbling. If he didn't let her go, she was going to lose it.

"You have a lot of people who care about you, Kara."

It was her turn to speak to the floor.

"Like you?"

She heard him rather than saw him stand up. She felt the vibrations under her feet rather than seeing him walking towards her. Heat from a large, male body reached her before firm gentle hands bracketed her shoulders and drew her a little closer.

"Yeah, like me." His voice was deep, husky, a little shy but candid.

Kara matched him timbre for tone as she let the truth shine in her eyes.

"You know I can't go there right now, right?"

"Yeah, I know. But I don't want to know a life without you in it, either Kara. All I am asking for is for friendship. The kind we should've had all along, the kind that's been there waiting for us since the beginning."

"You know that's harder than 'going there', for me – right?" She shook her head and lifted her hand only to press her open palm against his chest – right over where his heart thudded underneath his t-shirt – but she didn't push him away. She needed the connection, but the symbolism of having him at arms length was not lost on either of them. She shifted her eyes to that interesting spot on the floor as she tried to explain herself. "I mean, I love you – nothing will change that…"

"Kara – I know that. I've spent the better part of my life doing the same thing. To do this," he mimicked her by pressing his open palm against her chest and waited for her to look at him again before he tried to make her understand what it was he was trying to say, "makes me want slip into being Apollo and be a match your Starbuck. But Starbuck and Apollo already know and trust each other. Officer Adama serves along side Officer Thrace. To let myself – the real me – the one that I don't even particularly like a lot of the time – stand on his own two feet and let the darker aspects of myself be available to anyone else but me… The only thing keeping me in this room right now is knowing – really knowing – that you are the one person I ever considered doing this with. Love is unconditional, Kara and I am the most judgemental person I know."

"Lee – you gotta know – I'm the wrong person to be put up on a pedestal. There are things that I have done, events put into motion…" She couldn't bring herself to look at him as twenty years of maternal conditioning and self-judgement played out in her memory. Not to mention her part in the Cylon Manifesto or the horrible chain of events that brought about the end of the worlds. "I brought down Viper after Viper for weeks on end. Gods know how many pilots and ECO's I've killed."

"You didn't kill a single one, Kara." Her disbelief made him put more emphasis behind his words. "Kara – people are alive because of you. I am one of those people." Knowing what he said wasn't enough for her, he kept going. "You need to atone for what you perceive you did – I get that. You and I will sit down and hammer out how you were able to breach our defences and chase us from one quadrant to the next. We'll work out new CAP rotations, manoeuvres and re-train our people so that the next time the Cylons attack, all their data will be outdated and useless. With what you have in your head, we can organize a counter offensive, should we ever need it."

His strong voice flowed over her, but what she saw were images of flybys over Galactica's hull, Raptors performing rescue missions and wings separating from Vipers, all on her orders as her Raiders swooped in and broke through Colonial defences. A single moment separated itself from all the others – it was the millisecond when her finger pulled the on the trigger and released the bullet that killed Zak.

"If it weren't for me, Lee, Zak would still be alive."

There. She said it. For the first time in two weeks Zak's name was said out loud.

"Zak made his own choices when it came to you. For all we know Kara, Zak could've been hit by a transport, died of an illness or been obliterated in the nuclear attacks. Who's to say? What I do know is that events between Cylons and Humans have been taking place for fifty years. My family and your family are – somehow – involved but it takes a race to go to war. Zak was a victim – in whatever capacity that means – but he was. That is the only way I have been able to come to terms with what happened to him and I think you should too." Fishing for something in his pocket, he pulled it out and gave it to her. "You never answered my question, Kara. Was this taken before or after?"

It was her picture of the three of them.

Taking it from his hand, she looked at it. She thought about the man she made love to, the man she tussled in the back yard of his child hood home and she thought about the machine that claimed to love her so deeply that he was willing to kill every human in the Fleet to get her – not to mention what he did to her once he had her in his grasp.

"I don't know." Her torn thoughts trembled her chin. "I honestly don't know, Lee."

"Then keep it Kara. Let it be what it always was to you – a token of a time that made you happy and a way to remember him as he should be remembered, by both of us."

Her impulse to reach out to him was one she didn't deny. Her arms stretched around his back as one of his hands tangled her hair and the other he used to pull her close. Wrapped up in each other, feelings and emotions that had as many names as there were moments in a lifetime, swirled around them and made any further conversation un-necessary.

Tucking her head just underneath his chin, he slowly walked them backwards and lowered the both of them onto the bed. Minor adjustments were made and with the thrum of a Battlestar cleaving its way through space, they slept.

Bsg……….xxx……….bsg……….

Cracking her eyes open, lying on her side, the warmth of a hand splayed over her hip brought the events of last night crashing back on her. Not the moments they shared before they fell asleep, but the way Lee was able to soothe her once her nightmares began. Not sleeping for more than an hour at a time, she would wake up, just as her dream would get violent, to having her hair caressed, or, if it took more than that to rouse her, a gentle shake and quiet words of reassurance that she was 'okay' and 'safe'.

Shifting his hand from her hip to his own, she swung her feet over the side of the bed and stood up. The hospital gown she 'escaped' in was far from fresh, but so be it – it wasn't like she had anything else to change into at the moment. Her replacement clothing was still a couple of day away from arriving.

Making her way to the hatch, she was about to spin the handle when she looked over her shoulder. Lee was still asleep and the doorway to the small bathroom had yet to be opened. Letting go of the door, she backtracked. Opening the door to the head as quietly as possible, she took in the lavatory and shower stall. Next to the sink was a new toothbrush and toothpaste. On the back of the toilet tank was an oversized towel and a note.

Don't run away. Lee

Turning on the hot water spray, she made it point to take Lee's note with her into the shower to keep her from back-flashing. Setting the soggy mess that was her note back where she found it, she was grateful. Mindful of the scabs that still criss-crossed her back, she loosely wrapped the ends of the towel around her. Fluffing her hair with her fingers, she wrinkled her nose at her dirty clothes. Stuffing them into the laundry bag wedged underneath the sink with a mental note to rinse them out later so she would have something to wear, she slipped out of the bathroom.

Lee was still there. He hadn't run away either.

"Hey."

"Hey."

The verbal exchange wasn't much, but it was just as well. She didn't know what to say to him as it was. The dark of night was one thing; the glare of day was an entirely different matter.

"I'll be right back." Getting off the bed and making for the head, Lee stopped just to the side of her and fingered her longer hair. Slipping a wet end behind her ear, he moved on to the bathroom.

Lee's simple gesture was a parallel for how 'Zak' had complimented her and it was eerie. The two men were brothers, but at the same time, they weren't. It still was something that messed with her head but there was one major difference. Lee wouldn't hurt her – not like that. He would return any barb or any swing she sent sailing his way, but he wouldn't let her be treated like a lab rat or force her to do…. She was so caught up in her thoughts she didn't notice that the sound of running water had stopped.

"I've got something for you." Re-dressed in the same clothes as the night before and rubbing a small towel over his head, he hung it over the back of a chair. "Lie down on your stomach, Kara."

"Why?"

Reaching into a duffle bag stashed underneath the table, he pulled apart the zipper. Two pairs of sweat pants, two pairs of socks, and two pairs of underwear were separated by size and gender. A zip-up sweatshirt and a casual black t-shirt nearly emptied the bag. They were clothes for her to change into as well as a fresh change of clothes for him. A tin of ointment was the last item Lee set on the tabletop.

Picking up the tin, he unscrewed the top and showed it to her. "Look familiar?"

'That's the stuff Cottle said would keep the scars to a minimum." She wasn't vain, but the prospect of having to either make some allusion to the marks on her back whenever someone saw them or always be aware that someone was going to say something about the silvery lines on her back wasn't something she was looking forward too.

In Life Station, Ishnay had been the one who had spread the salve for her. Now that she was 'free', she had figured that she would just reach what she could and suck up what she couldn't. Maybe now she didn't have too – the question was: did she trust herself enough to let Lee get that close to her?

A few quick steps had her next to the bed. Holding onto the towel as she moved to the middle of the bed, she rested her arms flat against the bedcovers.

Fingers gripped the edges of the terry cloth never touched her skin as her towel was pulled down and folded over her bottom. Starting with the backs of her thighs and tracing the welts that were there, Lee worked his way up her body with feather-light touches and careful consideration. By the time he had reached the small of her back, drowsiness had started to make her eyes droop. It wasn't long before she found herself asleep.

She didn't know how long she slept, but there was a light sheet covering her and her cheek was pillowed by her hands.

Lee, though, was gone.

The only thing that gave proof that he had been there were the carefully folded clothes on the table.

Slowly getting up and stretching out the kinks from her nap, she put away the sheet and smoothed out the bed. Stepping into the pants and slowly easing the sweatshirt over her shoulders, the socks were the last things she put on.

Making her way to the bunk room, she kept her head down and her stride purposeful. She wasn't up to her full strength, she could feel the muscles in her legs tiring underneath her skin, but she was determined to get there.

Second Shift had started and the bunk room was all but abandoned as duties such as Maintenance, CAP and CIC called all the pilots and ECO's to different parts of the ship.

Pulling aside the privacy curtain on her rack made her brace her arm against the adjacent ladder. Three separate piles were spread out across her rack. One pile was made up of a plain, but pretty, bra and panty set and three books, one of which was a collection of poetry by Kataris, and a pair of running shoes. Pulling out the note curled into the heel of her new running shoes, it read: For Kara. Next to it was a new set of officer's blues and dress greys, complete with a couple of sets of double-tanks and formal sash, adorned with all her accomplishments. The note pinned to the sash read: For Capt. Thrace. The third pile contained another zip-front sweatshirt, a new deck of Triad cards, a pack of stogies, and another note: For Starbuck.

Every single note was written in the same script: Lee's handwriting. As well as the note taped to her locker: Open Me.

Tripping the latch on the locker, a feeling of no longer being alone in the bunk room crept up her back.

It was Lee.

Swinging the door to the locker wider, she caught his reflection in the mirror and then flicked her eyes to her locker. There are more clothes in there than when she left. Two interchangeable casual outfits for off-duty hours, a rather spiffy outfit for a night out, even a dress complete with a pair of dress shoes wouldn't break her feet if she wore them. Nothing outlandish, but items she could see herself wearing. As well as every thing she else she needed for day-to-day living.

"Where did you get this stuff?" She had filed a requisition request with the quartermaster and expected the blues, a set of sweats, running shorts, boots – everything she would need, but still just the basics.

"We went shopping. It was amazing what your money can buy, especially when in the company of a woman who has a very effective pout."

"Cally." Kara named the woman who he went shopping with.

"Add rather tall, intimidating, fairly buff man who knows how to make a small space even smaller when the word 'no' is being tossed around."

"Karl…" She could see her large friend be physically dominating when he needed to be. Turning around she looked him and softly added, "And I'm sure that a certain Captain with a mission to complete only brought along 'back-up' as a courtesy rather than a necessity?"

His smile and self-acknowledgement told her she was right.

Catching onto what he said, she reached for the cigar box that also served as her hiding place for her money. Shaking the box proved to be an exercise in what silence sounded like. He raided her cache of cubits.

"I knew it would be important to you to know that you owned everything you had and that you didn't owe anyone anything."

"You were right." Feeling the cuffs of her sweatshirt brush her finger tips, she looked at him for a long moment as he looked back.

"We're going to let this – this amazing connection between us – work, Kara. We are both going to run and we are both going to screw up and we both are going to know that no matter what-"

"No matter what, Lee, we are going to push each other's buttons and we are going to get in each other's faces. I get that. But, I can promise you this: I'm not going anywhere and I don't want anyone else."

"Neither do I, Kara."

Tracing her fingers along the edges of her – his – sweatshirt, she didn't stop him from placing his hands on her shoulders or a gentle kiss on her cheek.

Breaking the quiet and letting her go, he said, "See you in fifteen on the hanger deck? There's something I want to show you."

She nodded in agreement.

"See you in fifteen."

She never got a chance to tell him that he did get one thing wrong. She wasn't a Captain.

Bsg………..xxx……….bsg……….

Wearing a set of blues, smoothing down the still-fresh creases, it was a couple of minutes before she felt like she could walk into the one place she always felt welcomed.

Running a hand along the hulls of a couple of downed Raptors and ducking underneath the robotic arm of a high lift, the sight in front of her terrified her more than coming face-to-face with the entire Cylon Armada.

Forty-three people, who she didn't know, were spread out in a semi-circle around her. Each person wore a sash, depicting the name of the ship in the fleet which they captained. In between these ships captains were her nuggets, Gunny and his Marines, as well as Cally, Helo, Tigh, Chief, Kat, Hot Dog, Sharon. Behind them rested her Viper – she would know him anywhere – with a length of tarp draped over the cockpit and trailing to the deck, covering up where her name plate would normally be seen. Flanking the tarp were the Commander and Lee. Everyone was arrayed in their dress greys and formal wear.

Pulling his right hand level with his eye brow, Adama was the first one to speak.

"I have an officer and a pilot standing here before us because the woman that she is made it possible."

Passing something small to left, every Colonial officer snapped her a sharp salute and sincerely stated, "I am here, because of you."

Every ship's captain that received the small item also snapped a salute and said proudly, "We are here, because of you."

Hearing those same words come from Helo, Cally, Tyrol, Kat and Hot Dog made her lift her chin higher so that she wouldn't let them see just how much it affected her. She had been beating herself up so much that she never considered what other people thought of her actions. She assumed that they would think like she did – that she was the one who nearly destroyed the Fleet. Instead, they were vindicating her! She couldn't understand it. Didn't they see what she nearly did? Seeing Lee receive the item from the captain of the Aerilon Maiden, she minutely shook her head and pleaded with him mentally: please – don't do this.

"I'm here, because of you." Giving her a slight wink, he snapped his hand to his brow. His response to her plea? If you aren't going to believe me, then try telling everyone here just how wrong they are.

His father's quiet authority reached every corner of the hanger deck.

"Step forward, Lieutenant Thrace."

Watching Kara walk up the middle of the assembly, all did a half turn as she took her place in front of the Old Man.

In one of his hands, Lee could see a velvet box, slightly worse for wear, clutched in his palm. One by one, he freed the Lieutenants Pins from Kara's lapels and replaced them with Captain's Pins. Done, he waited.

It was Kara's turn to salute. A shaky hand shielded emotion filled eyes from everyone who wasn't an Adama.

"Thank you, Sir."

Accepting her symbol of respect, Lee felt all eyes turn to him as he stepped forward and secured what everyone in the room held at least once: her wings.

Speaking loud enough to be heard only by her and his father, he said, "Everyone as a skill, Captain. Yours is making sure everyone knows what it means to alive."

Stepping back and letting Helo and the Chief come forward, the two men grabbed fistfuls of tarp and gave it a strong yank. Fabric pooled on the deck and the new name plate the deck crew created in the initial weeks after her surrender gleamed in the overhead lighting.

Captain Kara Thrace

Starbuck

A round of applause nearly drowned out Commander Adama's words.

"Permission to launch granted, Captain Thrace."

Xxx……….bsg……….Xxx

In deep space…

Faces illuminated by the lights of a BaseStar's control centre, all seemed excited about the latest news.

"Do we have confirmation that she is still alive?" Doral asked.

"Yes." D'Anna answered. "Our spy in the Fleet made visual contact and transmitted the data."

"Then all is not lost?" Leoben was hopeful.

"No – quite the contrary – she is poised right where we want her to be." Boomer seemed pleased.

"Then that is a good thing, then," Simon sounded reassured.

"That is a very good thing," Six purred seductively. Craning her neck to where a last minute delegate appeared in the doorway, she asked, "Wouldn't you say so, Number Two?"

"Kara Thrace's destiny has just begun to play out." Straightening his clothes, Samuel T Anders, new activated Number Two, looked at his fellow Cylons one at a time. "So say we all?"

Seven voices spoke as one.

"So say we all."