Disclaimer: not mine.
Pairing: Kara Thrace/Sam Anders Spoilers: Maelstrom Length: 4,000+ Rating: meh. PG13.
Notes: Much thanks to karmaaster for listening to me whine about how I couldn't finish anything. This is... the third Maelstrom fix-it that I started.

For What it's Worth by ALC Punk!

Lee Adama was frantic, yelling at the viper below his. "Kara, pull up! KARA!"

A faint reply came, "Let me go, Lee. They're waiting for me."

The explosion was bright-hot, splashing across his eyeballs. "KARA!"

And Sam Anders jerked awake, gasping for breath and trying to remove the image of his wife's viper exploding into nothing, with her in it. Kara... He was soaked in sweat, shaking, the visceral nature of the nightmare clawing at his skin.

Gods...

Knowing there was no point in sleeping further, he swung himself out of the rack, feet slapping against the deck, and stood.

It took four corridors before he finally stopped shaking, and even then, the adrenaline was still coursing through his veins.

Finally, unable to stand it, he headed for the bridge for something to do. Halfway there, it hit him that there was a shuttle leaving in less than fifteen minutes. He could be on that shuttle, could give her no chance to tell him to go away.

Reversing his course, Sam went back, grabbing the first shirt and pants in his locker. It wasn't that he wanted to annoy Kara, but he had to see her. He had to make certain she wasn't dead.

The nightmare had felt far too real. Like the nightmare of waking up to find her taken by the cylons on New Caprica.

He hadn't been able to do anything, then.

Here and now, he could piss her off by visiting her without her asking for him.

--

The flight had been boring, and Sam was the only passenger getting off on Galactica. He looked around the hangar deck, but didn't really notice much. He was mostly intent on getting to Kara's rack, having her yell at him, and then leaving again.

Making his way to crew quarters was like putting on an old glove. He'd been here so many times, he was pretty sure he could find his way to Kara's rack blind-folded.

Once there, he found her rack empty. Hot Dog stuck his head out of his bunk when Sam cursed, and shrugged, "She's gone down to run CAP."

"Thanks, man." Not even bothering to wave, Sam took off for the hangar deck. Dammit. He'd just been down there!

Running, he made his way back, blowing through the three checkpoints with barely time to show his id. Luckily, since he'd just been through there, and most of the marines had known him before--and a few had even been part of the New Caprica resistance--they waved him through. Once back in the hangar, he searched almost frantically for Kara's viper and heaved a sigh of relief when he saw it was still there.

She was in it, blonde head bent as a specialist ran a checklist with her.

Jogging over, Sam tugged at the specialist, "May I?"

Pollux blinked at him, then shrugged and slid down the ladder so he could climb up. He took the clipboard with him. Propping his arms on the lip of her cockpit, he simply watched her for the moment. She was unguarded and so real and alive she took his breath away.

With a sound of irritation, she turned to him, glaring, "Nex-- What the frak are you doing here?"

"I can't visit my wife?" Sam asked, perfectly willing to argue with her if it kept her here where he could see her. Not that he'd keep her from flying. But for just a little while, his dream would be a lie.

"Sam." She sighed.

"Hey. I know, you call the shots. I just wanted to see you, ok?" He held up the clipboard, "What's next?"

"You're the one with the clipboard." She glowered, then relented.

With her prompting, they finished the checklist, Sam making certain that every dial and device in her cockpit was responding properly. After it was finished, Sam set the clipboard down and looked at her. "Kara. Promise me something."

She rolled her eyes, but asked, "What?"

"Come back to me." He knew there were more connotations to the phrase than a simple request she live. He didn't care.

"I--" She met his eyes, something dark and uncertain in hers. "Sam..."

"Please. Y'know, normally, I wouldn't ask." He shrugged, "Normally, I don't even think about it. Just. Something about the day. I don't know, maybe it's an anniversary of some crappy pyramid game."

"What?" Now she was confused, though there was something like laughter in her eyes.

"Promise me." You always keep your word, Kara.

"Fine." She rolled her eyes, "I promise to come back to you, Sam."

"Good." In a lightning-fast move, he pulled himself further up and leaned into the cockpit, one hand catching the back of her head and holding her for a brief brush of his lips. "Sealed with a kiss," he whispered.

"That was not a kiss," she informed him, grabbing his t-shirt and holding him half-in and half-out of her cockpit so she could kiss him properly.

Yeah, Sam decided a bit fuzzily, that was a much better kiss. When she released him, he pulled back onto the ladder and smirked at her. "Try not to miss me too much out there."

"Frak you," she quipped.

"Maybe later, baby." With a last look at her, Sam stepped down and off the ladder, turning the clipboard over to Pollux. "I think she's ready."

--

Galen let him stay, but only if he did some actual work. So while the vipers were out on CAP, Sam followed Pollux around, picking up hoses and clamps and getting the deck prepped for the next launch. It was scutwork, but it was important. They also double-checked that the two SAR raptors were fueled and ready. Sam didn't know why, but he made sure both had two grapple-guns with tow lines attached. If in the event of an emergency, the raptor ECO could stand in the hatch and fire one at a downed viper, giving them the chance to tow it to safety. The invention had been Tyrol's, since he hated leaving viper parts behind when they might need them for repairs. It was a variation on the ECO spacewalking to the drifting viper and simply attaching the line.

Once that was accomplished, they wandered over to a group playing cards, waiting for the next job to hit the pipeline.

With one ear, they all listened to the chatter over the wireless. Starbuck occasionally making jokes at Apollo's expense.

"Five bucks." One of the younger men said, "They're doing it ten minutes after they get back."

Those who'd been around for a while studiously drew back and didn't look at Sam.

"I'll take that bet," was Sam's lazy reply, "But only if you want to lose your shirt."

"Oh, come on," the kid looked up, and then seemed to realize who'd taken the bet. He flushed, "Oh. Mr. Anders. Um..."

"It's ok, kid. Apollo had his chance, he didn't take it. This?" Sam nodded his head at the chatter, "Is just her mocking him."

And then the chatter died as Starbuck spotted a heavy raider in the clouds and took off after it.

Sam felt a sense of disquiet touch him. It grew as the chatter became Lee telling Kara to stop. When Lee shouted at her to pull up, Sam stopped noticing things like the Condition One lights flashing. He didn't hear the Admiral's tinny voice ordering all hands to prepare for emergency jump.

All he could hear was Kara's promise to come back.

The flicker of movement from the right caught his eye, and he turned to find Sharon standing nearby, listening, her head bent as though she were trying to will Starbuck to get out of there.

"Hey." Sam moved towards her, "Sharon. You gotta get in the air. Now."

"What?"

"Just--" he ran his hand through his hair, remembering the nightmare, and knowing that if Kara went too low, she wouldn't make it back up. She'd need a tow. "Trust me. Get in the air and get ready to pull her out of there. Please."

Something in his eyes made her stiffen, and she nodded. "Right." Her tone sharpened, "Chief! I need my raptor ready to fly, now."

"It's all set, Lieutenant."

Sharon looked around, spotted Racetrack. "'Track, you up to playing ECO for the day?"

"Do I gotta choice?" Racetrack demanded, not sounding all that happy.

"No. Move your ass, Lieutenant."

"Yes, sir."

The two of them moved off, and Sam felt something ease within him. But the tension coiled worse as Kara dipped lower. Hurry, he thought.

--

Athena was listening to the sound of Kara Thrace giving up. Her mind flashed back to Caprica, to explaining that Leoben had said she was special. Not so special now, unless this was the destiny he'd predicted. Angered, Sharon kicked up the speed a notch, calling over her shoulder to Racetrack. "We might need that tow cable fast. Be ready."

"What the frak do you think is happening down there?"

"I don't know."

But she did. Kara was coming face to face with demons and angels. Sharon just hoped she'd make the right choice.

"She's gone too low to make it back out." Racetrack called. Glancing back, Athena saw the other pilot attaching a harness to herself and securing it to the hull.

"You realize--"

"I realize. And if we loose Starbuck, the Old Man'll never let us live it down. Just don't drop me." With a grimace through her helmet, Racetrack double-checked her clips and then hit the hatch release. Once it was open, she steadied herself on the door for a moment before climbing out to attach the end of the tow cable to the locking clamps. Once that was done, she returned, nervously checking her clips again before hefting the spear-gun containing the other end of the cable and a barbed spike. "Now, we wait."

Athena turned her attention back to keeping them steady as they rode the storm, heading for where Starbuck and Apollo were.

--

I'm not afraid to die. Kara wanted to tell the dream Leoben that, but the words didn't seem to want to come. As she stood by her mother's bedside, as she watched her past unfold, she couldn't understand why the words wouldn't come.

Flickering into reality, she opened her eyes and stared death in the face... and told it to frak off.

Or tried to. She could feel the seduction of giving up, the lure of never having to work or strive again. It would be so easy to let herself slip away. No more work, no more pain, no nothing.

'Come back to me.'

Leoben was telling her that her destiny was to die. To die for nothing other than to be dead. To leave everything behind and stop carrying the weight of life... Leoben was fucked in the head if he thought that was really what she wanted.

Frak that.

"Kara--"

"Shit." She yanked back, and the nose of the viper slowly started to climb. "Shit. Lee, I don't think I've got enough to break free of gravity."

"Dammit."

"Not a problem, Starbuck." A new voice crackled over the comms, "You get your ass most of the way up, and we'll grapple you."

"Athena?" Surprised, Kara almost released the stick. That, however, would be suicide. "What the frak are you doing here?"

"Little bird suggested I try to save your ass."

Sam... Kara couldn't explain to herself why she was so certain, but he'd been there, earlier. "Yeah? That little bird better be ready to have his ass kicked when I get back to Galactica."

"I'm sure he'll be happy to submit."

"Hey!" Racetrack cut in, "Leave the kinky chatter for another time, people, I'm gettin' sick of hanging my ass out in the wind."

"I'm coming up to the top of my climb," Kara reported, feeling the shift as the engines stopped being effective against the gravity well. "Might wanna--"

With a metallic crunch, the barbed head of the grapple punched through the skin of her viper. Right on the tip of the nose. "You were saying?" Athena asked mildly, as the viper jerked upwards.

"Thanks. Chief is going to have your head."

"He can have it after I get your ass back." Athena's voice changed, sounding worried, "Apollo, you can get out of there now. We've got her."

--

Racetrack cursed from behind her. Once she'd hooked Starbuck's viper, she'd closed the hatch and moved back to her console. "He's not going to make it. He was down as close to the deck as Starbuck."

The next words over the wireless confirmed her theory, "Uh, don't suppose you've got another tow cable there, Athena? Or a friend?"

"Frak."

"Athena." Racetrack's voice sounded disturbed, "We've got another tow cable and gun. There's room to clamp another line out there. We can do it, but he's going to have to get higher or we'll get stuck in the planet's gravity, too."

"Right. Listen, Apollo, you need to climb as high as you can--burn out your frakking engine if you have to. Got it?"

"On it."

While he did that, Racetrack moved back to the hatch, muttering under her breath. It took her less time to attach herself and move out on the wing to clamp the cable. The raptor dipped slightly, as Starbuck's viper pulled slightly.

Athena growled, "Starbuck, hold still, dammit!"

"I'm trying!"

"Almost there, ladies."

It was a tense few seconds before Racetrack called, "He's good. Firing tow cable."

A second later, Starbuck cursed, "You missed him, you idiots!"

"Frak. I thought I had him--" Racetrack cursed a steady stream as she retracted the cable. "Apollo, you're starting to fall back."

"Get him, this time." Athena snapped.

"My engine--"

The raptor lurched as the second grapple crunched home. "Got him!" Racetrack crowed before yelping as the movement of the raptor sent her spinning out the doorway.

"Racetrack!"

"I'm--shit!--in!."

The sound of the hatch crunching closed was all she needed. Sharon didn't wait to make sure anyone was stable. The raptor had been dragging, with one viper. Now it was practically bucking. She guided it up, heading for space, praying to a God she was sure the others mocked that they would make it.

--

There was nothing she could do, but Starbuck was frustrated. To be so close, and to be reduced to twiddling her thumbs--hah. She kicked in her afterburners, feeling the slight surge. The drag would be less on the raptor, and with any luck, they'd be free.

"We're clear!" Athena's relief was obvious.

Kara's viper jerked once, engine dying.

Inertia pulled her and Apollo free of the gravity well.

--

"Galactica, Athena." Now, she could pay attention to the squawking.

"Do you have them?"

Damn. Adama was on the line. Athena felt her spine straightening, "We do, sir. We're going to need help landing, though. I've got two towed vipers, coming in with engines frakked."

"Bring them home, Lieutenant."

--

It took the better part of an hour to maneuver both vipers and raptor into landing positions. Once there, though, they were taken swiftly inside the Galactica, and the elevator shunted them down to the hangar. Chief stared at the javelins through the noses of two of his birds, and cursed softly. "That's gonna take a lot of pounding to get out."

"Yeah." Sam wasn't paying any attention to him. His eyes were stuck on Kara's viper.

"Still, it could be worse. They could be painted purple."

"Yeah."

Galen snorted, and waved a hand in front of Sam's face. "Hello, Sam. Anyone in there?"

A blink, and then Sam Anders focused on him, "Sorry, I..."

"Why are you still standing here?" Amused and irritated, Galen shoved him towards the vipers, "She can only bite your head off, Sam."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

Shoving him again, Galen started them walking, "I need to see the damage up close, Sam."

"Yeah, but--"

Starbuck climbed out of her bird, cursing companionably at Athena as the raptor pilot stood nearby. Sam stopped, and Galen glanced at his face.

He was staring at her like she was most precious thing in the universe. Like there was nothing but Kara Thrace, for him.

Galen wondered if anyone had ever looked at her like that before, and doubted it.

"Right. Go to her." Sam started moving towards Starbuck, steps slow.

She looked up when he was halfway there, and her expression went blank, as though she wasn't sure what to think of anything.

--

The look Sam was giving her made her want to turn and run. Kara held her ground, instead, determined to make him pay for unsettling her. "Kept my promise."

"Uh-huh." He didn't stop until he was standing in her personal space.

If she breathed in, her breasts would brush his chest.

"Always keep 'em. If I can."

"That's good."

Last time they'd had this sort of emotion, they'd hugged. They'd both been relieved to see each other alive, and they'd hugged. But Kara wasn't so sure a hug was good enough anymore. "Sam..."

"I'll go. If you want." He looked uncertain.

"Where?"

He frowned, "Back to the Luna II?"

A snort escaped her, "Feeling dense today, Sam?"

Eyes narrowing, he reached for her, tugging her closer. "That mean you're going to ask for that leave, Kara?"

Kara settled her hands on his waist and pushed up to brush her lips against his. He caught the back of her head and pulled her even closer, lips firm against hers.

"Captain Thrace?"

The hand that accompanied the questioning tone tugged at Kara's arm, forcing her to pull back from Sam. She sighed and looked at the specialist. "What?" Kara kept a firm grip on Sam's belt, not letting him move away. She wasn't about to let him go--not yet, at least.

Looking uncomfortable, the specialist held out the clipboard, "You need to sign this, sir. Please."

"Hey, Kara," Lee was there, too, smiling, "The Admiral wants to see both of us."

Dammit. She looked at Sam, "No leaving. I'll see you when I'm done, ok?" She kissed him passionately, to remind him why he shouldn't go anywhere, then released him.

"Yeah." Sam grinned, "I'll be at Joe's."

--

Sam was feeling contrary, at Joe's. He spent several hours doing what he normally did: talking, laughing, playing the cheap-ass pyramid game that Connors had set up specially for him and Barolay. He didn't drink except for two shots. And he sometimes watched the 'door', waiting for her to appear.

When she didn't, he started to think that maybe she'd changed her mind.

It wouldn't be the first time they'd gone one step forward and immediately jumped five steps back.

As the evening got later and later, he stopped laughing and started drinking.

Sam had a higher tolerance for alcohol than he'd had when he played pyramid--he didn't need to worry about being in peak physical condition anymore, for one thing. And he needed to be able to keep up with his wife.

Who was standing him up.

About the time Connors called for last call, Sam wasn't entirely certain where he was, or why. He just knew he needed a place to sleep, and Charlie patted him on the shoulder and found him a spot in one of the cargo holds. It wasn't the best, but he'd had worse.

--

After a long meeting with the Admiral, who granted her request for leave, Kara ended up getting drafted to help Helo sort out the nuggets into classes, and figure out who could teach them. After that, he dragged her back to his and Sharon's quarters.

Knowing Sam was probably fine where he was, she went. The room was pretty spacious, better then pilots' quarters.

"Hey, just think. You talk to the Admiral, and you and Sam could have a place like this," he said cheerfully as he moved to settle Hera in her crib.

The baby was surprisingly quiet, which made Kara happy. She snorted, "Yeah, well, that's not the way we work, ok?"

Karl shrugged, "Yeah, ok." He changed the subject, holding up a bottle of ambrosia, "How about a toast?"

"Sounds like a plan." She grinned, glad at the subject change.

One toast led to another, and by the time Sharon came home, they were both drunk off their asses. She glared at Karl, checked that Hera was still asleep and then firmly kicked Starbuck out, telling her to go find her own damned bunk.

--

Kara's bunk was empty.

It took her several minutes to realize why that was wrong, and once she did, she stopped trying to get her clothing all the way off and headed for Joe's.

Which was closed.

She stared at the darkened bar, hunching into her unzipped sweatshirt, wishing she and Karl had stopped after a few sips. But she'd been nervous. She knew Sam, she knew how much he'd try not to push her, and how much it wouldn't help, because everything would feel like he was pushing.

"Captain?"

Kara turned and looked at the Chief, then sighed, arms wrapping around herself, "I seem to have misplaced my husband, Chief."

"Yeah." He wasn't all that happy to see her, and she suddenly remembered yelling at him, shouting stupid things, earlier.

With a sigh, Kara met his eyes, "Hey. No hard feelings for the comments, yeah?"

"Nah, no hard feelings, sir," but his eyes were still dark. He looked like he was going to be silent, but then he said, "Do you even know, sir?"

Kara didn't want to hear what he had to say. Not then, not ever, "Chief." Her tone was cold, "Where is Sam?"

"Connors found him a spot in one of the holds. He's so drunk, he probably doesn't remember his own name. He remembers yours, though." The words were precise, meant to cut, and they did, a little.

"He's an idiot, then."

"Aren't we all." The Chief gestured towards the hatch, "Two corridors over, just past the junction at causeway B."

Kara didn't thank him, too tired and worn-out to care about things like social niceties. She just wanted her husband, she realized, angry with herself. She'd let the Admiral and then Helo distract her, knowing that he was here. And she'd thought... she'd thought he would go, that he'd figure it out and go, and let her be. But he hadn't.

And if she was honest with herself, a small part of her had counted on that. Counted on knowing that Samuel T. Anders was in it for the long haul with Kara Thrace.

Being honest with herself wasn't something she did often, if she could help it.

Then again, almost dying put a lot of things in perspective.

Kara found the hold, and asked the marine on-duty where Sam had been stashed. He shrugged and pointed to a group of pallets against the far wall. Walking between the aisles of sleeping people and jumble of things, Kara tried to be quiet. She stumbled twice, but no one woke up. Or no one said anything, at least. Once in the corner, Kara saw that several men were sleeping there.

But only one was snoring loud enough to wake the dead. Kara poked Sam with her toe, and he didn't stop.

Tired and still full of alcohol, Kara dropped to her knees. "Sam?"

He didn't wake, and given the fumes on his breath, Kara figured he wouldn't. Frustrated, she punched his shoulder, then sighed.

Shoving at him, she got him moved over enough, then plopped down next to him, cuddling as close as she could. If nothing else, she might actually sleep.

--

Sam woke up with Kara in his arms. Since he'd been dreaming that (albeit with less clothing), he went with it, groping her. Which earned him a growl, and one hazel eye shooting open. "Sam."

Neither of those told him it was reality. "Hey, baby," he murmured lazily, before kissing her.

The kiss was way better than his dream had been. He pulled back and stared at her, the night suddenly coming back, all of it. "You're not a dream."

"Frakkin' hope not," she snapped, shoving at him, "You snore, Sam."

He rolled, pinning her to the lumpy pallet. "You stood me up," he accused.

"I didn't..." She stopped, eyes clouding briefly, and then she sucked in a breath and met his gaze, "Ok, I did. Sort of. Because this scares me shitless, Sam. You scare me. You never give up on me, and I don't understand why."

"That's not true." He sighed and brushed a thumb over her cheek, then rolled onto his back and sat up. "I've given up on you at least twice, Kara. I'm sorry."

"The circle." It wasn't a guess. They both remembered her pushing him away, hard enough that he'd given her back one of the few things she'd ever given him other than herself. Kara turned onto her side and looked at him, "Sam, it's ok." Her hand reached out to touch his knee.

He took her hand, wrapping his strong fingers around hers, "It's not."

"No. It is." Suddenly sure of herself, Kara shoved herself up, crossing her legs and looking at him. "Sam, I..." She reached up under her collar, tugging at the cord she'd slid around her neck the morning before. She didn't remember why she'd pulled it on, she just had. "You forgot this, last time you were here."

Sam half-reached for the dog tag dangling from her hand, then stopped, "Kara, I... Are you sure?"

A painful knot formed in her throat as she looked at him, "Do I have to knock you over and sit on your chest to make you take it back?"

The silence stretched way too long, and then he closed his hand over hers. "Maybe you do."

"Fine." Snorting, Kara lunged at him, knocking him backwards and landing on his chest. She wasn't exactly sitting, though, and he was laughing as he looked up at her. "Gonna take my dog tag back, honey?" she teased, nipping his nose.

"Maybe I shouldn't," he fired back, hand snaking up the back of her shirt.

"This is not an offer open for much longer, Samuel."

"Oooh, you must be pissed." He pushed up, hand cupping the back of her head long enough for him to kiss her, and then he settled back down, looking almost smug. If hungover. "Yes."

"Good. 'Cause otherwise, I'd have to kick your ass." She informed him, hands moving to pull the cord over his head.

"You and what army?"

Kara glared at him, "You're hungover, Sam. Don't tempt me."

He chuckled, then tugged her mouth back to his, kissing her rather thoroughly.

-f-

Final not: I do actually know that Kara had already given Sam the dog tag back prior to Maelstrom (another key scene with them we didn't get in favor of something stupid like Disco Basestar or Baltar, or badly-done social commentary). But I never actually plan on writing that scene, so this is the close it gets.