Note: Another Maelstrom piece trying to cover some of my dissatisfaction at the rather pathetic end to Kara Thrace. Please review!

Disclaimer: I don't own Battlestar Galactica.

William Adama stared at the pieces of wood and twine that used to be his model ship. He didn't bother to wipe at the tears forming in his eyes; for the first time in his life he had cried before his crew in the CIC today, so why not in the privacy of his own room?

"You shouldn't have done that," a voice sad, and he nearly pulled a muscle in his neck jerking his head up to see who was speaking. He gaped. She smiled, not the benevolent-angelic smile he half-expected, but the cocky, arrogant smirk he was so used to and so sure he would never see again.

"Kara?" he rasped, rubbing at his eyes to clear away the tears as though that would make the apparition disappear as well.

"Yeah," she said simply, sitting on the edge of the table and watching him intently. "Temporarily back from the dead, or wherever it is I went when my viper blew up."

"What—" He was losing his mind. That was it.

"See, the voice in my head—Leoben, but the nice version—kept saying 'Kara, you must fulfill your destiny.' Giving me orders. Well, you know how well I take orders." The light in her eyes made his chest ache.

She seemed to be waiting for a response. He gave her one. "You don't. You don't take orders."

"Not from the likes of him, anyways," Kara agreed. "So I told him to shove it, and I hurried my way back here—spiritually, if not physically."

"Why?" he asked, slumping back in his chair as he stared at her. "To talk to Lee?"

She raised an eyebrow. "To Lee? What's there to say to Lee? He and I—we know where we stand. We've always known where we stand. He'll put my picture on the wall, and he'll mourn, and he'll blame himself for my death, but he'll move on. He'll be Apollo. He'll be the CAG. He'll manage."

"Anders, then?" he asked doubtfully. He would never have suspected that their relationship was strong enough to pull Kara back from the grave, but perhaps he was wrong.

She snorted once, her eyes wide with good humor, then erupted into real laughter, holding her sides, bending over, shaking. He felt his brows furrow into a frown.

"Sorry," she choked, catching sight of his darkening humor. "Sorry. It's just—for someone who knows me so well—and for so long—you can be rather, well, dense, sir."

He felt his expression clear. "You're here to talk to me?"

"Don't sound so surprised," she said, sounding a little offended. "If the gods were going to let me come back to talk to anyone, I'd think they'd let me come to talk to the admiral of the fleet!"

"Well, I mean—" it wasn't like him to stutter, so why was he stuttering? "—I just thought that…spirits…came back because of unfinished business, or something like that."

"Well, yeah," she said, watching him expectantly. She pushed a strand of short hair behind her ear.

"We have unfinished business?"

Ah, here was the Kara temper he knew so well. "What kind of question is that?" she demanded. "Of course we have unfinished business! Are you kidding me?"

"You're talking about the incident in the rec room," he said with a wince.

"Yes, I'm talking about the incident in the rec room," she said, pushing herself off the table and walking away, turning away from him as if unable to meet his eyes. "You disowned me. You called me cancerous. You struck me."

"I'm sorry, Kara—"

"I don't want your apologies!" she shouted, whirling on him, and she looked so alive that he could have sworn she was really there. "It's not like that was the first time someone I thought of as a parent did those things to me. My mother did worse. It's not like I couldn't handle it. What I couldn't handle, sir, was what happened afterwards, when you acted as though things had never changed. As though we had gone back two years and the cylons hadn't yet invaded."

"The nothing but the rain comment." He picked up the Aurora figure from his table, watching it rather than her as he spoke.

"That was an exchange you began before the worlds ended," she said, twisting her hands, her face as full of emotion as he could recall having seen. "Or before New Caprica, even. But not since. Not since my behavior made you decide not to love me any more. And—I didn't know what to make of it. Still don't. Because what I don't get, Admiral, sir, is why you seem so saddened by my death—when you were the one who first said goodbye. I can't think of any other reason you would have brought it up, now, of all times. I mean, seriously, you haven't asked me 'whaddya hear' in months, if not years. Sir."

"It's not what you think, Kara," he said, placing the figurine on the table gently and meeting her eyes. "I wasn't—wasn't saying goodbye. I was just—I missed you." When it looked as though she might speak, he held up his hand to forestall her. "I pushed you away, Kara, I know that, and I shouldn't have done it. And because I pushed you away, not the other way around, I couldn't fix it. I couldn't swallow my pride and go to you. So I had to try to make it up in the small gestures. A hand on your shoulder, here. An encouraging word there. But never anything, never enough, for you to realize that—I have never hated you. I have never thought of you as anything but the daughter of my heart."

She clenched her jaw, her usually unreadable face twisted by some emotion he couldn't name. "You have plenty of 'daughters,' sir," she gritted out. "Sharon—excuse me, Athena. Kat, even."

"You overheard me with Kat?" he asked cautiously.

"Let's say I did."

He shook his head. "Kara—I feel guilty about what I said when I was with Kat."

"What—you lied, and you don't wish you'd had a daughter?" She wasn't making this easy for him.

"I didn't need to wish," he said gently. "I'd had a daughter for four years, and her name was Kara Thrace. I felt guilty because I was with Kat on her deathbed, and when she asked me that question, the one I was thinking of was you."

She stared at him. "Really?" He couldn't remember her voice ever sounding so small in life. Maybe when she told him about her role in Zak's death.

He stood and walked closer to her, his step slow as if he were approaching a wounded animal. He stopped, and wished he could touch her, as he had once caressed her cheek when he met her on Kobol after her desertion. "Kara, I've made so many mistakes with you," he said roughly, his voice catching in his throat. "I reacted badly when you told me about passing Zak, I wasn't the father I should have been to you when I asked you to assassinate Cain, and I certainly have not acted towards you as I should have since you came back from New Caprica. But please believe me when I say that I love you, Kara. You are my daughter, my only daughter, and always will be."

She smiled tremulously. "I love you too, sir," she whispered, a single tear splashing down her cheek, disappearing as it fell toward the carpet. "And, for what it's worth—I forgive you. For everything."

He hadn't realized how much he needed her to say that.

"Is Zak—is Zak waiting for you?" he asked, sounding broken. "Are you returning to him?"

"No," she said, and now there was something a little ethereal about her expression, something so at peace that he knew she had never looked that way in life. "Zak isn't—there. He's here, right now. By your side. He always has been."

Adama closed his eyes, and for the first time in a very long time he almost felt that he could feel his son's presence. "Will you tell him that I love him?" he whispered.

"He knows," she said. She smiled abruptly, a tearful smile, but there was a hint of Starbuck in it. "You Adamas really are amazing men," she remarked. "All of you—in your own way—charismatic, strong, loveable. You hold each other up, and you hold up everyone else in the meantime."

He was crying again, and again he didn't mind. "You're mostly right, Kara," he said. "Except that we don't hold each other up; we've never been able to. You've been the one to do that."

"You'll get by without me," she said, a faint blush painting her cheeks at his praise and obvious affection. "You'll find Earth, and Lee and Dee will settle down and give you lots of grandchildren, and you'll all tell the new nuggets about Starbuck and her exploits, and sooner or later—it better be later, sir, or you'll answer to me—you'll come to be with Zak and me and we'll fly vipers forever."

"You've seen that?" he asked tremulously, feeling as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders—the weight of age and worry and care that he barely realized he had been carrying.

She shook her head, but there was no regret in her eyes. "No," she murmured. "I haven't seen the future, or anything mystical like that. But I know it's true. I'm still watching out for you Adamas, you know, just like I always tried to. I know you'll succeed." Her gaze moved past Adama to the broken fragments of his model ship. "I don't think you can fix that," she said sadly.

"No," he agreed.

"But you can build a new one," she continued. "A better one." She paused, then grinned wryly. "I've gotten as cryptic as an oracle," she said self-deprecatingly, but then her expression became serious again. "What I'm trying to say is—don't waste your time mourning me. I'm not saying not to mourn me at all—I think I'd be offended if you didn't—but don't kill yourself thinking about might-have-beens. Things will turn out for the best. You'll see."

He nodded, but his eyes and soul were still full of doubt.

She took a step towards him, then turned her head and spoke as if someone were standing next to him. "Oh, shut the frak up," she said crossly. "Frak the rules, Leoben—if you think I'm just going to sit back and let them tell me what to do… So what if they're the gods? Look, if you want me to fulfill my destiny, pal, then you'd better…That's right." A self-satisfied smirk crossed her face, and before Adama had time to process what had just happened, she took one more step forward and wrapped her arms around him in an honest-to-gods, real warm and real Kara hug. He stiffened in shock for just an instant, and then his arms came around her, and suddenly they were clinging to each other as if to never let go. "I never did this in life," Kara whispered into his neck, his chin resting on her hair, "never quite dared, but now that I'm dead I guess I can go ahead and do it." She took a deep breath, as if to steady herself. "I love you…dad."

And before he could respond, she was gone forever. His arms closed around empty air, and he felt himself stumbling back, falling into his chair, staring at the place she had just been as he tried to recover from the most realistic hallucination he had ever had.

Something pressed against his leg, and he was about to reach for it when a quiet knock sounded on his door and Lee poked his head in. His son looked as tired and drawn as he had felt before whatever had just happened happened.

"Hey," Lee said quietly. "I just wanted to say goodnight." He paused, frowning as he stepped inside. "Are you okay? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Adama blinked. "I'll be alright," he said. "Just—" he rubbed his eyes "—just tired, I think."

Lee nodded once. "Get some rest," he said quietly. "And, I know it goes against protocol, but would you mind—would you mind if I stand next to you at the funeral tomorrow?" There was no body to eject, but they had filled a coffin with mementos of the pilot the entire crew had known and loved/hated that would act in its stead.

"I wouldn't have it any other way."

They would have hugged, but Adama didn't rise from his seat, for fear that he might lose the sensation of something pressing against his leg.

"Well—goodnight. I love you, dad." Those were certainly some words that Lee didn't say often.

"I love you too, son."

The door shut behind the younger man, and Adama sneaked a hand into his pocket, feeling something hard and metallic. He knew what it was before he pulled it out, spreading the chain across his fingers and staring at what he saw there.

Lying on his palm, gleaming and pristine when by all rights they should have been blown to smithereens, were a pair of dog tags and an engagement ring on a standard fleet-issue chain. The dog tags were engraved with three simple words, and he didn't even need to look to know what they were.

Kara "Starbuck" Thrace.