Disclaimer: not mine Rating: er... 18ish. violence, language, sex Pairings: Kara Thrace/Sam Anders, Tory Foster/Sam Anders, Diana Seelix/Sam Anders, Karl Agathon/Sharon Agathon.
Characters: Sam Anders, Karl Agathon Spoilers: Through the end of the season, let's say. (apparently, one of the deleted scenes was... yeah)
Set: post-The Son Also Rises Length: 1,900+ Notes: Sadly, I doubt the last two episodes will be this interesting.

Burns Within by ALC Punk!

It's been three months since the beginning of Baltar's trial, and the deliberations are dragging on. Not that Sam Anders really cares. To him, the trial is nothing but a sham. He knows damn well that Gaius Baltar should have been put out an airlock the instant he arrived on Galactica--and frequently regrets bringing him back, but the decision hadn't been his at the time.

As a pilot, Sam puts his life on the line every time he goes out there.

He has his moments of stupid, though. One reception on Colonial One, and he leaves drunk and almost unconscious. Jean tells him later that Tory probably won't ever speak to him again.

And Sam's not so sure he even remembers who she is.

The days blur into one another, most nights, he ends up drunk and someone puts him to bed.

Some days, too.

A bad CAP, with two of the younger nuggets almost hitting the Double Nickel, and all of them are a bit too high afterwards. Chief's yells about the condition of his birds can be heard four decks up, but none of that matters, 'cause they're all alive.

The four of them fall into Joe's, where Sam's at his usual spot already--early CAP, for him, and he's already on his third drink.

Sam toasts them.

They toast him. He doesn't notice when Seelix joins the group, but he does notice when she puts her hand on his knee.

He's drunk by the time Seelix drags him back to quarters and puts him in her rack. But he's not too drunk to bring her off, not caring how hard she comes or if she cries out. She might be druink enough not to notice his whispered "Kara."

In the morning, he's gone before she wakes. In the gym, mindlessly pounding into the punching bag, feeling the heat in his muscles, he tries not to think.

There's a comfort in not-thinking, in pounding his fists against the bag. The rhythm never falters, even when there's sweat sliding into his eyes and the muscles of his back start to shake. He doesn't wonder if Kara used to do this (he knows she did), he doesn't consider that her sweat and blood are laced into the leather of the bag. He simply hits it until that's all there is in his world.

"Hey, Sam."

Karl's voice pulls him out of the moment, and he almost misses his next punch and staggers slightly. Now, his arms are complaining and he drops his hands, shaking them out, feeling his knuckles start to un-numb themselves. "Karl."

"You ok?" His voice is careful, tentative.

They're all like this. All worried about him and careful. As though he might break (again). It pisses him off, but he doesn't lash out. He gets it, even if he hates it. "I'm good."

"Yeah?" Karl doesn't believe it, but he doesn't push, either. "How's the leg?"

It only twinges on the days when it's cold. Or when he pushes too hard and too often to learn to fly. "Fine."

Karl doesn't believe that lie, either, but he lets it go.

"Heard a new rumor 'bout you."

"I'm famous. There's lots of rumors about me."

Karl snorts, "Not like this one. Now you're Mr. Love 'em and Leave 'em."

Which is ironic, considering who he'd been married to. Sam flinches, and corrects himself. Who he is married to. "Just emulating the best."

"Yeah. Why don't you take some downtime, man? Catch a break before you do too much and get stupid."

The suggestion is well-meant, but Sam wants to rip his head off for it. And it's that, more than the idea that taking time off would be a good thing, that makes him decide to do so. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right." Take some time off, a day, at most. Before he starts hitting the few people he considers friends.

Helo smacks his shoulder, "You're a good man, Anders. Go, have fun. Try not to expand the Galactica legend."

--

This had been a mistake. When he'd still been a civilian, Sam hadn't really noticed the little slights and insults directed Galactica's way. Now, having spent days and nights with the people who kept them alive--sometimes in quite an intimate fashion--he notices. The little comments about how Galactica gets more supplies. How the pilots are rowdy asses, how the flight crew doesn't do shit, how the officers prance around, as though there's not a care in the world. Sam has stood shoulder to shoulder with these people and held back the Cylons. He wants to react, but he can't.

Reacting would add to the reputation, and that's not fair to the rest of them.

So he ignores them, as best he can, hunkers down over his drink and tries to block out the world.

Even though this was a stupid, stupid idea.

Conversations weave around him, not all dealing with the Galactica, or matters that Sam would care about. Some are talking about life on the Colonies, making bread, and someone in the back is trying to read poetry. Either that, or the man is really drunk.

Sam shakes his head and tosses back his fourth shot.

There's a pause, as he slams the glass onto the bar, and a sentence drops into the quiet.

"--stupid bitch deserved to die."

Sound rushes back in, to fill the gap, but the words pull him from his thoughts. Sam concentrates, filtering the crowd to find out who just said that. Not that it means anything. Could be D'Anna, could be Sharon, could be half a dozen Cylons being refered to.

"Yeah?" The man's slurring as he asks his friend, "What makes ya say that, Randy?"

"'Cause the bitch hit me, once. Gods, Greg, she ain't never said she was sorry for it. Stupid Starbuck. Everybody loved 'er, 'cept me."

"And me." The other man swears, "High and mighty, hoity-toity little bitch."

It's a little like having a gut-wound ripped open again. Sam is half-off his stool, listening as they continue to deride Starbuck, enumerating half a dozen rumors that deride her sexually, physically and emotionally. When they broaden the derision and insults to include the rest of the pilots of Galactica, Sam decides he has provocation.

Getting up the rest of the way, he makes his way down the bar to them. Once there, he taps the larger man on the shoulder. "Hey."

"What?" The man looks stupid.

"You're talkin' shit about the pilots of Galactica."

"Yeah, so?"

"I'm a pilot from Galactica."

He snickers, "Bet you knew that Starbuck tramp real well, then. You could tell us how well she frakked--"

Sam's hands are light as they grip the man's collar, and he leans in, practically spitting into his face. "Say that again." He's a little worried about how calm he suddenly feels. Like the pain is gonna hit in a minute and he's not going to get up again.

"Whoa, man--" Greg grabs for Sam's arm.

Sam's hand shoots out and grabs the other man by the throat. "C'mon, man. Tell me to my face all the things you want to say about Starbuck."

"Well, she's dead, for starters." The man snickers, "What, you never got 'tween her legs? You want pointers on gettin' a real woman? Or maybe you did and now she's given you a rash y'can't get rid of?"

"Y'should be glad she's dead, then," suggests the other man, who can still breathe.

Sam's fingers tighten around Greg's neck, cutting off the flow of air. "No. No, I don't think I am."

With a move perfected by throwing a pyramid ball, Sam slams Greg's head into the bar, then releases his throat to block the punch Randy's aiming at his head. The fight is short and as brutal as he can make it, leaving both men unconscious on the floor, one with a broken nose, the other with broken fingers. Sam calmly moves up to the bar and orders a drink.

A hand closes on his arm, "Sir--"

"She was my wife," he replies calmly, shaking the hand off and grabbing the drink that arrives.

"I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to come with us."

"Fine." Sam lunges over the bar and grabs a bottle, then turns. "Lead on." They'll have to beat him up to get the bottle back. And with the whole not feeling the stinging in his knuckles, he's pretty sure he wouldn't feel it. Not feeling anything is nice. He downs a large mouthful and follows the very disturbed-looking security officers.

--

"You know, when I told you to take a break, I didn't mean it literally."

Sam turns his head and looks at Karl, disinterest in his eyes. They took the empty ambrosia bottle from him ages ago, or he would have probably thrown it at the wall, just to see the broken glass. "Aw, it's the CAG. Come to get me out of hack, sir?"

"Funny. Real funny, Sam." Karl shakes his head, "What the frak's got into you, man? You don't just beat up a bunch of civilians on a whim."

"You didn't hear what they were saying."

"No, but I know the stupid shit civvies say--hell, Sam, you WERE a civvie not that long ago, you know the kind of crap they pull!"

"So, I should just take it when they tell me how happy they are my wife's dead?"

Karl's face blanks with surprise, and he stares at Sam for a moment, before shaking his head. There's still pain in him from the loss of Starbuck.

"Yeah." Sam turns away, staring up at the ceiling. "I'll get right on that, sir."

A sigh escapes Helo, and he says, "Sam."

It's the tone that sets him off, drags him to his feet. And he is, suddenly, incandescently angry. "Don't." The word is snarled as he stalks towards the bars. "Don't you dare tell me she's dead and she'll never be back, Karl. You know better than that. She's just--" he's gripping the bars now, knuckles white, "--taking her gods-damn time."

There's something almost pitying in Karl's gaze, but he doesn't contradict Sam. "I'm gonna bail your ass out of here, and then you're grounded for a week. Chief's already got some ideas what to do with you."

"Yeah. Fine. Whatever." Releasing the bars, Sam shrugs. He doesn't care. He's marking time until Kara returns--or the Cylons take him out. Whichever comes first doesn't matter. It's just irritating that the Cylons are taking their time getting on with it. He'd thought becoming a pilot would hasten his death.

Instead, it seems to be stretching it.

Karl gives him one last look, then leaves him pacing the cell to deal with the administration side of things. Sam finds himself almost wishing he hadn't shown up.

Ten turns, and he only counts every other one, pass before Karl returns. Sam's jailor is with him, and the very tall security officer unlocks the cell without a word. He waits until Sam is out before saying, tone pleasant, "You will not be returning here, Mr. Anders."

"Wasn't planning on it. The company wasn't all that interesting." Sam smiles, but the expression doesn't reach his eyes. He turns away, dismissing the man without a thought, "Let's get the frak out of here."

Helo simply leads the way from the brig area to a raptor. Sam settles back by the ECO console and closes his eyes for the ride.

Tomorrow, he'll get up and go down to the gym. He wonders, briefly, if he can punch his knuckles bloody.

-f-