Disclaimer: Not mine. Rating: er... 18+. Adult language. Spoilers: Season 2! Valley of thingie!
Pairings: Kara/Helo, mention of Boomer/Helo, Boomer/Tyrol.
Genre: Episode insert (Valley of Darkness), angst, humor.
Summary: Some things are the same, other things are so wildly different, Helo doesn't know if he can cope.
Length: 1,200+ words

Echoes of Yesterday
by ALC Punk!

Helo's been staring up at the ceiling. There's paint up there, splatters and fingermarks. He figures Starbuck must have had a ladder. Or maybe she threw it.

The music keeps playing on repeat now. The same song, and it's haunting and burrowed under his skin. It reminds him of walking into the tool room and seeing the Chief laughing with Boomer. Seeing Sharon smile at him, then lean in to kiss him. He doesn't want to think about that.

"Hey."

Tipping his head back down, he looks at her. "Yeah?"

Her gaze is speculative, and it's a look he recognizes, that he hasn't seen since before the world ended. It's something familiar, in this scattered moment of time. "Come here." She sets the cigar to the side and shoves the arrow off the couch, patting the cushion next to her and smirking.

"Starbuck--"

"Oh, come on, Helo, I just--"

"You're injured, that Cylon beat you up, you can't seriously--" Actually, he figures as she snorts, she probably can be thinking of sex. It's Starbuck, after all, "--ok, you can. But, Kara, I don't..."

She sighs, her head flops back. "Sharon the Cylon." Her tone is flat.

Helo wonders if it's just the way she seems defeated that makes him think she matches this strange apartment now. He also wonders exactly why she thought he'd have sex. Here and now, in this place, with things as they are. He wonders if perhaps she's gone a little mad. Or if she just never really knew him at all.

Or maybe she really is just that insensitive.

"Hey." She's looking at him again. "Let it go, Karl." Her hand doesn't shake as she picks up the cigar again, drawing deeply on it, her eyes sliding closed as if to block out the world.

"Yeah." A shrug, and he's leaning back again, staring at the ceiling.

Karl wants to tell her he's sorry, that they should go. Anything to break the suddenly uncomfortable silence. He wants to demand to know why she has to change them, why she has to act like this here and now. But then he remembers she's Starbuck and she's as ungovernable as an explosion.

"You're right."

He doesn't look at her, continues tracing a line of grey through the splatter of orange and red on the ceiling. "I am?"

"Yeah. Sex. Bad idea. Worst idea I've had in a long time." She snorts, and he wonders if it's blood at the back of her throat from the bloody nose or something else. "Although I'm sure there are worse."

"Kara."

"Helo."

And he tries not to flinch at the impersonal bite in her voice. "You're not an idiot. You're just tired. So shut the frak up." He finally looks at her, "Besides, I seem to recall a night of debauchery that included a bar fight which spread three blocks and almost called down the wrath of the CAG on our heads."

"The man was cheating."

"So you said."

The music swells again, and he wonders how long this will go on. Or if they're stuck here in some insane holding-pattern because Starbuck finally broke.

"Frak you," she says, but there's a dullness to the phrase, as if she doesn't really believe it.

It's an effort to get up, and he's halfway around her scrubby table, trying to ignore the smell of rotting food (take-out that's weeks old, and he wonders how long it's been since she was here, anyway) before she notices. She doesn't say anything as he folds himself onto the couch next to her. The cushion is lumpy, and something is poking upwards that he suspects is a broken spring, and a cat has obviously peed on it at some point.

But now they're sitting side by side, and he can nudge her with a shoulder, prop his feet next to hers, and imagine (for an instant) that they're before the world ended, just taking a breather from a night on the town.

In five minutes, she'll be done with her smoke, and she'll turn to him and smirk. They'll egg each other on to the next daring game. Maybe she'll convince him to flirt with the redhead from Geminon, or he'll trick her into kissing Lieutenant Simmons.

"What are you fighting for?"

"I don't know."

"Yeah." Her shoulder nudges his.

He nudges back.

Kara's elbow pushes into his ribs, and he yelps. There's a smirk on her lips when he turns to glare, "You're gettin' old."

"Brat."

"Yeah." Her eyes flicker, the grin changing, then she's looking away and they're back to the old days again.

Except that he can still see the strange fragility in her, the weariness that dragged them in here. It's not something he's used to. He never thought he'd consider Starbuck human. And some part of him wishes he hadn't had to. That he could have gotten back to Galactica and found her presiding over the card games with her smirk and cigar. Mocking everyone to cross her path and winning every hand with glee.

It occurs to Helo that he has no idea who's still alive on the battlestar. That he should be curious, should ask about them. But then, if he asks, and she talks about Sharon the Cylon again--he doesn't want to hear it. Doesn't want to feel the strange sense of betrayal that knowing she's alive in more than one place has caused before.

Again, he can hear her laughing with Tyrol, smiling at him, kissing him.

"Hey." Kara's shoulder bumps him. "You're thinkin' hard. Try not to break anything."

"She's still back there."

"Yeah." There's no question about who he's referring to in her voice. "I'd heard..." A shrug that bumps him again. "She hasn't been happy."

There's some odd quality in her voice that makes him look at her, "Kara?"

"Right before I left there was an accident." She snorts and takes a quick drag on the cigar. And this time he can see that her hand is shaking slightly. "Apparently, she was cleaning her side-arm when it went off."

Something clenches in his gut, and he's the one shivering. "That's not Sharon."

"They're all Sharon," she points out, logic on her side.

"She's not like the others," and he thinks he's insisting on his own behalf more than Sharon's, because it means she wasn't just using him.

"No, no," the cigar ends up stubbed against the wood of the table, and Starbuck winces as she moves too fast for her bruises. "She's just like them, Helo. Trust me on this one. Their goal is to frak our heads and then wipe us out."

"Then why am I still alive?"

"Maybe she thought you were cute."

The flippant attitude makes him angry, but he ignores the anger, studying her for signs of weakness. "Yeah. Maybe."

Her fingers flick absently, and they're shaking again.

"Hey." He carefully slips an arm around her shoulders. "It could be worse."

"Oh?"

"You could be stuck here with Colonel Tigh."

The suggestion is enough to make her laugh, which makes her wince in pain. Helo likes the laughter, and settles back against the couch, trying not to smell it. "You are such an ass."

"But I'm cute."

Her elbow shoves into his ribs again. "Your ego's talking again."

"Ow."

"Baby."

"Bitch."

She sniggers.

Things aren't the same anymore, but then, the world ended and Helo figures this is how the universe works now. As Kara stops laughing and sighs, eyes drifting close as the music starts again, he thinks he can handle it.

For now.

-f-