One For The Money, Two For The Show ...

"So what are we going to play tonight? Helo shuffled the deck expertly, shifting the lollipop from one side of his mouth to the other with just as much precision.

"Deuces and jacks?" someone suggested.

"Seven in the hole," was someone else's idea.

"Strip triad?"

There was much cheering at that idea.

"Come on Starbuck, you know better than to suggest something that's against regs," Lee warned.

"Because I always follow the regs?"

Gaeta snickered.

Kara laughed. "More rule-breaking goes on around here than you could shake a stick at Apollo. Come on, live a little!"

Lee flushed as cheers and entreaties to allow it this one time were raised. He looked across the room and met Kara's eyes. She was flushed and her eyes were pleading with him. He walked over to the hatch and dogged it.

"I'm in. Anyone got a shirt to spare?"

Hotdog stripped off a tank and threw it at him. Lee caught it neatly and hung it over the small window in the door.

"Ooh, Hotdog's already stripping," Racetrack teased. "You gonna go all the way?"

Hotdog puffed out his chest. "You know it baby. You know you want a piece of me, come on, admit it."

She snorted. "Not if you were the last man left alive."

"I may very well be someday." He waggled a finger at her. "You might have to eat those words."

"As long as that's the only thing she's eating," someone called out.

Lee made a face as he sat down across from Kara. "Ew. That's a mental picture I didn't need."

"That's what happens when you descend into the gutter Apollo," Helo said with a chuckle.

"You should do it more often. Maybe we can get that stick out of your ass one of these days." Kara grinned widely and Lee wasn't sure if he wanted to punch her or drag her across the table and frak her senseless. Keep it together Adama, he cautioned himself, forcing his eyes away from her.

"You volunteering?" Helo smirked at Kara.

She flipped him a finger but Lee couldn't help but notice her blush out of the corner of his eye.

"Strip triad it is," Helo decreed, beginning to deal. "Ante up. One piece of clothing is the price." There was much protesting. "Come on folks, we're all grownups here. It's not like we haven't seen it all before." He dealt out the cards expertly.

"You ever give up flying you could become a professional dealer," Hotdog said, admiration in his voice.

"We ever reach Earth and I'll consider it," Helo returned, crunching the last of his lollipop before pulling the stick out of his mouth.

"You do that and I'll open my bar - we can go into business together," Lee offered.

"You? A bar?" Racetrack was surprised. "You don't even drink."

"Sure I do. Just not to excesses usually. Besides, haven't you ever noticed bartenders tend not to be drunk? Bad for business if you're always spilling the drinks and forgetting to collect people's money."

"Guess I've never noticed," she sniggered. "I've always been too drunk."

"I know who your best customer would be," Hotdog suggested, ogling Kara ostentatiously.

She stared back with mock contempt. Then she put back the last of her shot. "Fill 'er up," she said, holding out her cup. "And let's get this show on the road. I've got CAP in the morning and I need at least four hours to sleep off the hangover before I get out there."

Lee rolled his eyes but wisely said nothing. A half hour later when he folded with a crappy hand, he had to admit strip triad was much more fun the the usual kind. People tended to be more serious about losing money and possessions than clothing. Modesty had no place in this environment.

The game went on a few more hands with some skin being exposed but no one really showing off much.

"Last hand" he announced. "Those that have duty shifts in the morning need their rest and it's already almost 0100 hours." He held up his hand to silence the protests. "The great and wise Apollo has spoken."

The ambrosia spewed from Kara's mouth like a projectile missile - straight at the pile of clothing in the middle of the table.

"Hey! Those are my only clean tanks!" Gaeta yelled crossly.

"Not anymore," Kara snorted, half laughing and half choking at the liquid burning her nose and throat.

Gaeta frowned at her. "The Commander's gonna kill me."

"Not if he doesn't know. Just don't let him close enough to smell you," Hotdog suggested with a hiccup. His eyes shone gleefully.

"I've nearly destroyed two of his birds and I'm still alive to tell the stories," Kara slurred. "I'm sure he'll overlook your slip in the regs this once." She giggled and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "More?" she said hopefully as she held up her glass.

Helo pulled the bottle close and snuggled it like a baby. "Not a chance. You're too dangerous. We can't afford to waste any of this stuff."

"We're classifying Starbuck's mouth as a dangerous weapon now?"

"You've been at the receiving end of it Costanza," Lee said. "You ought to know how painful it is."

Hotdog stared thoughtfully for a moment. "Yeah, she sure knows how to bruise a guy's ego."

"Excuse me," Kara said, waving her hand in the air. "I'm still here you know. You can stop talking about me in the third person."

"We're talking about your mouth Starbuck, I don't think that qualifies as talking about you in the third person," Lee said, brows furrowed as he struggled with his thoughts. They were disturbingly fuzzy. He usually tried to nurse his drinks while everyone else got hammered but tonight he'd been so intent on making sure he ignored Kara's direct sexual advances that he'd had more than usual.

"My mouth is a very big part of me I'll have you know," she retorted, sucking back the last dregs messily.

"And how," Racetrack echoed. "It's the biggest part from what I've heard."

"And the best," Hotdog mused thoughtfully. "Or so I've heard. I wouldn't know from personal experience. But I'd like to ..." he added wistfully, then blushed furiously as Lee's angry face was suddenly right in his.

"Don't you talk about her that way!" Lee growled menacingly, grabbing the man's sole tank in his fist.

"Hey, back off Apollo," Hotdog said, arms outstretched in a gesture of surrender. "I didn't mean anything. I've just heard stories ... "

"Keep them to yourself from now on."

"Yes sir," Hotdog said meekly, with a mock salute. "No more talking about Starbuck. Gotcha."

"So what are we going to talk about then?" one of the rookies piped up, feeling warm enough from the ambrosia to break into the legendary pilot's banter. "There's nothing else worth talking about."

Kara stood, pushing her chair back so hard it fell. She wobbled unsteadily on her feet. "That's it. Frak you all. I'm going to bed."

Lee got in her face. "Hey don't go yet, we haven't even got you naked," he protested. "That was supposed to be the highlight of the evening." He smirked.

"You want me naked Apollo?" she said saucily, winking at him. "Aw how sweet. C'mon back to the bunkroom with me. I'll be naked in two shakes of a cat's tail."

His cheeks flushed bright red. "I didn't mean ..."

Kara linked her arm in his. "Don't back out on me now Apollo, this could be fun."

"Kara, I ..."

She put a finger across his lips. "Shhhh, don't tell them we're going back to my rack to have sex," she whispered loudly, winking conspiratorially.

"Boots out," Helo announced. "At least leave your boots out. We don't want to disturb the great and wise Apollo in the midst of his ... duties."

"Oh for frak's sake!" Lee began, rolling his eyes. "My duties don't include frakking Starbuck!"

"Your duties include keeping the pilots who work under you happy, don't they?" Kara teased. "Or would you rather be under?"

Lee felt himself grow very hot. "For frak's sake Kara ... "

"Exactly," Kara stage whispered. "Frakking, frakking and more frakking. Don't think I'm going to let you off easy just because you're drunk." She leaned in close and smiled at him.

"I'm taking you back to our quarters and putting you to bed," Lee announced. "You need to sober up."

"S'long as you join me in bed I'll come willingly. Otherwise I'll put up a fight." She let go of his arm and put her fists up, jabbing lightly at his face.

"Then I'll be forced to drag you to the brig Lieutenant."

Kara draped her arms around his neck and pressed herself against him. "Which is further away than the bunkroom. Isn't it just easier to take me to bed? You won't have to carry me and you'll get a reward afterwards."

The room erupted in cries of 'Go Apollo!' and Lee couldn't take it anymore. He dragged Kara out the door and into the corridor, slamming it shut behind them. He turned in the direction of the officer's quarters.

Kara leaned in to whisper in his ear. "I knew you'd make the right choice," she whispered.

His body erupted in goosebumps but he said nothing. When they got to the bunkroom he helped her undress, turning deaf ears to her endless drunken chatter. He watched as she climbed into her bunk, clad in nothing but a bra and panties.

Then he walked over to the hatch, slipped off his boots and slung them out onto the handle.

fin