Chapter One

Kara ordered another drink from the barman and looked at her watch, scowling. This was the first proper leave time she'd had since the Cylons had attacked, and she didn't want to waste a second of it.

Unlike some people. It almost made her regret she'd gone to the trouble to make sure they'd got leave to go to Cloud Nine at the same time.

Almost.

"Your name Thrace?"

Kara looked up at the barman in surprise as he put her drink down in front of her. "Yes."

"Call for you." He passed her a phone. Kara had to lean forward to reach it; the cord was stretched nearly to breaking point.

"Kara, I'm really sorry-"

Kara grinned to herself, but kept her voice irritated. "Where the hell are you, Adama? Our leave time is ticking away, you know."

"I know. There was a minor technical crisis in CIC, and then more problems with the water re-distribution-"

"Save the excuses, Captain." Kara couldn't help a slight feeling of relief. For a moment she'd been worried that something had happened to him. "All I want to know is when you'll be here."

"As soon as I can get a raptor over to Cloud Nine. An hour, maybe?"

"Don't make it more than two. Remember, that double cabin is waiting impatiently for us." Kara laughed and cut the connection before he could reply.

She passed the phone back to the barman and turned to look around her. There must be something to do here for an hour besides propping up the bar. She spotted a couple of card games, but she only liked to play triad when she was in it for the long haul. Plus when she played outside the military she tended to end up in a fight, and that was not how she wanted this evening to end.

Then she spotted the pool table in the far corner, where a man about her own age was idly knocking the balls around.

Perfect. She hadn't played pool for ages, and the guy obviously needed an opponent. And he was certainly easy on the eyes, she thought, as she wandered across the bar. Extremely hot, even. A nice bonus. She could look, even if she couldn't touch.

She leaned on the edge of the table and smiled cockily. "Want a game?"

The man was bent over his cue, focused on his next shot. His eyes flicked upwards at the sound of her voice. "Maybe." He looked back down along the cue and made his shot. It was an awkward angle, but he'd judged it perfectly, and the ball dropped neatly into the pocket.

Kara lifted her eyebrows. "Nice. But I'm better."

The man straightened up, looking her over consideringly. "Is that so?"

Kara nodded.

"Better prove it then," he said, and passed her a cue. "Let's play out the rest of the table."

They played out the table, mostly in silence. Her opponent didn't appear to be much of a talker, or else he took pool very seriously. He was certainly a good player; Kara had to pull out all her stops to keep pace with him. She did though, and potted the last of her balls with a particularly difficult shot. She whooped in triumph as the ball hit the pocket.

Her companion put down his cue and applauded. "Guess you proved your point," he said, grinning.

His smile was infectious, and Kara found herself grinning back. If there was one thing she liked better than a worthy opponent, it was a worthy opponent who wasn't a sore loser. "Want another game?"

"Definitely." He looked at her empty glass. "You want a refill?"

"Thanks." Kara retrieved the balls and set up the table while he went to the bar. When he returned, she took her glass and nodded in thanks.

Smiling, he clinked his glass against hers. "Here's to a good game of pool. I'm Alex, by the way."

"Kara." She took a swig from her glass. "You want to break?"

"No, no." Alex smiled and waved a hand mockingly. "Ladies first."

Kara shot him an amused look. "You're going to regret that." She made the break, and stood for a minute staring at the results and considering her next move.

"So, you're from Galactica, then?"

Kara pulled a face. "That obvious, is it?" She looked down at her jeans and sparkly black top. "And I thought I was blending in nicely."

"Oh, you are. Very nicely." Alex smiled, his eyes looking her over appreciatively. "I've just got military radar; comes of growing up on a base. I can spot you people a mile off."

"That makes me feel better." Kara potted an easy ball, and lined up for her next shot.

"Here looking for some R&R?"

The tone of Alex's voice made Kara look up sharply. The nature of the smile on his face confirmed her suspicions.

Time to put him straight. "I'm just passing some time waiting for a friend. If you catch my drift." She smiled pleasantly, hoping he wouldn't walk out on the game. She was enjoying it.

"I do." He grinned easily, brushing it off. "Fair enough. You going to take your shot sometime this century?"

Kara glared at him and lined up her cue. Her angle was slightly off though, and she missed by a fraction. She swore, gritting her teeth.

"My turn." Something in Alex's smooth voice made Kara wonder for a moment if he'd distracted her on purpose.

Alex chalked his cue. "So what are you? A marine?"

Kara spluttered through a mouthful of beer. "Hell, no! Viper pilot."

"Really?" There was a flash of envy in his eyes. "A friend smuggled me into a viper sim once. One of the best experiences of my life."

"Sims?" Kara snorted. "Nothing like the real thing. It's like watching pyramid on TV instead of going to a live game."

"I bet. I'd love to try it." There was a note of pure sincerity in his voice, and Kara looked at him with renewed interest.

She put down her beer on the edge of the table. "What about you? What do you do?"

"Oh, I'm a pilot too." He smiled ruefully. "Freighters, though. Not quite the same thing."

Kara shrugged. "It's still flying. Nothing quite like it."

"I'm with you there." Their eyes met with a flash of understanding, and they both smiled.

They cleared half the table, on fairly even terms. Kara was watching Alex take a shot when she heard a familiar voice behind her.

"Kara! Sorry I'm so late-"

She turned to look up into apologetic blue eyes, trying to look stern. "You know I don't like to be kept waiting."

"All due to circumstances beyond my control, honest. I got here as fast as I could," he said, using that particular beseeching smile she could never quite resist. "Am I forgiven?"

Kara felt a smile tugging at her mouth. "Maybe, Zak, maybe. If you grovel sufficiently."

Zak took a step closer, eyes fixed on hers. "I've always grovelled better in private."

"Really?" She smiled slowly. "Good thing we've got that double cabin then, isn't it?" And she wanted to make use of it right now. It had been far too long.

She turned to put her cue back on the table, and smiled at Alex apologetically. "I have to go."

He was looking highly amused. "So I see. It was a good game. Another time, maybe?"

"Hope so," she said, finding to her surprise that she meant it. She sent him a farewell smile, and turned back to Zak.

Who had gone pale, his eyes wide and staring.

"Zak?" She pulled his arm impatiently, but he seemed rooted to the spot. "Zak, let's go."

Zak didn't reply, in fact he barely seemed to hear her. Kara followed his line of sight, and realised that he was staring at Alex.

"Zak?" she said again.

Zak's lips finally moved, but his eyes stayed locked on Alex.

"Lee?" he said hoarsely, in a tone Kara had never heard him use before. "Lee, is that you?"

TBC