My thanks, as always, to my readers, reviewers, and my awesome beta, Uberscribbler!

This chapter is a long one, and our characters are processing a lot of things internally. Many elements have to be set in place for the action sequences to ahead : -)

EVENT HORIZON: OFFENSIVES

Book II. Chapter 3: What We Must Become

"The Past is to be respected and acknowledged, but not to be worshipped. It is our future in which will find our greatness." Pierre Trudeau

"If men saw that a term was set to their troubles, they would find strength in some way to withstand the hocus-pocus and intimidations of the prophets." Lucretius

"I run to the river and dive straight in; I pray that the water will drown out the din

But as the water fills my mouth, it couldn't wash the echoes out." Drumming Song, Florence and the Machine

Sit Rep: Dr. Martin's Quarters, Pegasus, Eight Weeks after the Rescue, Six weeks Since the last Cylon Attack

Dr. Martin sighed in exasperation as she picked up the items that Kara had pushed to the floor in a fit of pique only moments before; she glanced over at the young woman furiously moving a paintbrush across the canvas, wondering what she was going to be able to pursue with her next.

"At least the painting seems to refocus Kara," the doctor thought, grateful there weren't any valuables that could be tossed around.

Reflecting on the recent 'conversation,' if it could be called that, Dr. Martin worked to assemble the sequence of topics that had led to Kara's outburst. It had started out well enough; Kara had been able to discuss some of the things Leoben used to say to her and the two of them had worked on how to re-direct Kara's thinking when the memories pressed in. Kara was uncomfortable with the 'psychology' approach, but she seemed willing to test out a few of the suggestions.

Then Dr. Martin had tried to get Kara to think about other kinds of work she could take up until she was cleared for flying again. At this point, the young woman had begun pacing around the room, looking a bit like a panther seeking a way out of its cage. She tried to explain that flying was the only thing she could do or wanted to do—nothing else would be an acceptable alternative.

Dr. Martin chewed slightly on her inner lip, puzzling over the trigger for Kara. Only seconds after she'd said she wouldn't tolerate anything else, Kara had swung her arms wildly, knocking all of the things that had been on the table and sending them flying. She had a feral and yet panicked look in her eyes, as though she was going to punch the doctor next to run out the door. That's when Dr. Martin essentially ordered her to start painting, explaining Kara had to find other outlets when she reached that kind of frustration. To the doctor's surprise, Kara had actually moved to the canvas and started sketching something.

Looking up again, Dr. Martin saw Kara had stopped and was just standing there, staring at the picture, a light sweat on her face.

"Tell me what you drew, Kara," the doctor said quietly.

Kara shook her head, tears welling.

Still baffled by what was going on inside this person's head, Dr. Martin walked over to view the canvas. She saw the shape of flying creature—a bird, she realized—with its wings mangled, diving uncontrollably towards the ground.

The doctor was alarmed. She'd honestly believed Kara was feeling a bit better emotionally, day by day, but this image suggested she saw herself as broken and heading for a bad end.

"Is this really how you see yourself? Broken and plunging towards the ground?"

Kara looked surprised. "No…I mean…well, not the way you said it. It's—" she stopped, words seeming so inadequate in trying to capture what she meant by the drawing.

"Tell me, Kara—what does it say to the person viewing it?" The doctor kept her voice even and soft.

"I don't feel broken, I am broken. I can't fly. My hands, my reflexes…" she took in a sharp inhale as she choked on the tears she didn't want to let loose.

Moving in a little closer, Dr. Martin tried to make eye contact. "I don't understand—help me understand."

Leaning back against the wall, her eyes closing, Kara struggled to breathe as she tried to talk. "I went to—it was a level I simulation, any nugget could make it through…but when I—I couldn't do it. My hands…I kept shaking, and I missed every target. Every one. Even crash landed," she said finally, a dark, sarcastic chuckle coming from her chest.

"And you think that means you won't be able to fly again—your wings are gone," Dr. Martin finished, handing Kara a glass of water and gesturing for them to sit down.

Nodding, Kara sank into the chair, suddenly exhausted.

"Okay, so let's use the approach we were just talking about before. Discuss the injuries you've been recovering from first."

Kara went through the list.

"And what else happened—what did Dr. Cottle say about the tremors you've experienced since you've been back?"

"He told me it was probably the heavy medications Leoben had given me, especially because that went on for a long period of time." Kara caught the doctor's gaze.

"And he was pretty sure the problems would eventually resolve, but it might take several months, right?"

"Yeah…" Kara said at a whisper.

"Kara, it's only been eight weeks since you've been back, and for most of that time, you've been in Life Station or in the Bunker. You haven't had much chance to exercise, let alone pursue any kind of physical therapy, and your body is still working on recovery from a lot of damage. The mental stress affects everything too—steadiness on your feet, stamina, reflexes, confidence to take action in split-second decisions.

"You haven't given yourself a chance yet. I suspect that's a problem you've encountered before—not giving yourself any leeway—but today, that's going to change. It has to. The only way you're going to regain your whole self is to take the time to claim it. I wish there was a way that could happen in one fell swoop, but it won't. The path is putting each building block in place, not blasting a way through."

"So what's the first building block, doc? Seemed to me that a nugget simulation was—"

"Kara Thrace, stop. Stop!" Dr. Martin's voice became loud and firm. Kara's mouth fell open a bit in shock.

"You diminish each step, thinking it's 'so easy an idiot could do it' and you just make yourself feel small. What's the point in that? Don't treat yourself like a cadet, Kara—you're a strong officer with a plan. You'll have to work each step, and you can't skip around—even though I'm sure that's your nature to want to leap ahead. Like it or not, this is one period in your life where you're going to have to do things in sequence."

"And that is?"

"You tell me, Captain Thrace. You've seen what war recovery looks like—what's involved?"

Shaking her head, Kara inhaled. "Okay, it starts with physical therapy—exercises to build back muscle, retrain reflexes, speed up reaction times."

"And then…"

"And then, computerized activities—games that increase mental agility, push responses, improve hand-eye coordination."

"Before you finally…"

"Get into the simulation machine and start training runs."

So it sounds like you need to set up some time with someone who knows the physical therapy routines, and I think you already realize who could help out there," Dr. Martin responded, laughing lightly.

"Lee," Kara said, a little sheepishly. It really hadn't occurred to her before, but now that they were walking through everything, it seemed strange she didn't see it sooner.

"Right. He can help you learn the activities, and then other people can practice with you. Plus I'm sure you already know some of the routines yourself—just don't take on too much too fast, or you'll set yourself up for frustration."

A sound at the hatch signaled time had run out for the session. "Work the plan, Captain," Dr. Martin encouraged as she walked Kara to the exit.

Sit Rep: Tory Foster's Private Quarters, Pegasus, Eight Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Tory threw her writing pen in frustration onto the desk before dropping her head into her palms, elbows propped up against the desktop. She was so tired and she wasn't sure what her role in the future was going to be.

At the moment, Roslin had her working on a communications strategy for the new fleet structural talks and elections for a congress as well as a president and vice-president. It would lay out the reasoning, the timeline, and the actions individuals should take who were going to be interested in running for offices once the structural plans were agreed upon and finalized. Tory knew, though, she didn't have any 'official' job; they were using her for the time being because they didn't know whom else to call on. As soon as things stabilized a bit, she was sure they'd realize they wanted someone else.

Tory had never felt Roslin liked her or even trusted her all that much. She'd been picked because she'd been a marketing manager in her former life, and some of that work had included political campaigns for low-level municipal quorum members in Delphi and a few province house candidates. She was confident she'd done an effective job for Laura after Billy's unexpected death, but Tory knew well she and Roslin didn't see eye to eye on much of anything.

Oddly, it had been much easier on New Caprica to feel useful and even important, in a way. She had been viewed as more of an equal—consulted on decisions and asked to take on significant responsibilities. Now, Tory was beginning to feel like a lackey again. It wasn't that the work itself wasn't of value—it was—but no one talked to her any more. She felt like she was just issued orders and expected to go off and complete her tasks as quietly as possible.

She'd begun contemplating how to extract herself from her current situation, wondering if would be possible to move to a different ship and start over. Maybe, following Lee Adama's plan, she could apprentice to learn a new job and make some kind of meaningful contribution. A change of location, a chance to make new contacts, alternate work—it sounded very appealing right now.

But something kept her from taking the first step towards realizing these ideas. Really, someone. Because Tory did know someone who'd appreciated her as her own person, a man she'd helped nurse back to health and had worked beside and respected. Someone who made her laugh and come out of herself.

Looking back, Tory could see she'd developed deep feelings for Sam Anders in all those months working for the Resistance. It was a close friendship, certainly, and when he'd kissed her two weeks ago, her body told her something her mind hadn't allowed for: she was attracted to him too. Intensely, as it'd turned out—which had led to an unsettling lapse of judgment on her part.

A part of her wanted to go to Sam, to be the friend she was sure he needed about now, and return the favor he'd done for her when Tom was dying and she didn't know how to cope. At the same time, the anxiety in her gut hadn't gone away. It seemed so wrong to carry these emotions for Sam when Tom hadn't been gone for very long at all and Sam himself was still involved with his wife, whether they were staying together or not. All the same, Tory couldn't bring herself to really think about leaving her current situation just yet.

Worn out from the roller coaster of feelings she'd experienced in the past few days, Tory decided she wasn't going to get any other work done on the communications plan. She got up from the desk and crawled into the bunk, grateful for the comfort of a pillow and warm blankets as she finally sank into a deep sleep without the anguish that had been a part of her routine for nearly eight weeks.

Sit Rep: Observation Deck, Pegasus, Eight Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Helo stretched out contentedly on the couch, savoring the ambrosia in his flask. Lee was on another couch nearby, taking the flask every so often for his share. They'd come to discuss the rising calls for Lee to run for President, but given the nature of the topic, both men wanted to focus on other things first.

"Kara seems good," Helo offered casually, breaking the comfortable silence. He was glad they had the place to themselves, to give them the space to catch up on everything.

"Ummm," Lee replied, noncommittally.

"Well, that wasn't the response I expected from you," Helo said, sitting up a bit straighter.

"She's getting better, Karl, but it's very day-by-day—I'm never sure where she'll be emotionally from one sighting to the next." Lee laughed ruefully.

"That doesn't sound any different from the Kara we knew before New Caprica," Helo gibed affectionately.

"Seriously, I'm still worried about her. Our relationship is going well—the best we've ever been—but I can tell she's still struggling with a lot of demons from that bastard Leoben and I feel helpless when she has the nightmares."

"Is Dr. Martin helping?"

"Yeah…I mean, I think so. Gods know what they do in their time together—if the doctor has a secret to getting Kara to talk, I'd pay a lot to know what it is." Lee sighed and reached for the flask, taking a long draw.

"She'd do better if she could box with Kara—literally—that's when she tends to share the most."

"That's a great point, Helo—I'm going to try that myself."

Looking over at Lee, Karl realized he wasn't joking—he was thinking over the possibilities of what he might glean between jabs and feints.

"Let me know if it works for you too," Helo said, smiling.

"And Hera and Sharon—how are they?"

"Every day is like another miracle, as far as I'm concerned…Hera is precocious and Sharon's wonderful with her. I think Sharon would like to be more involved in work than she has been—with the concerns still high over possible future hate crimes against her as Cylon, the Admiral's limited her duties to 'safe' locations where Marines are nearby."

Lee sat up, drinking again as he stared out at the star field. "I wish there was something else we could do."

"Well, there will be something, when you become President," Karl offered quietly.

"Umm. That. I suppose we should talk about it now…" Lee looked over to his friend.

"You know what I'm going to say already, Apollo."

"Yeah, but I don't feel any more certain about it than before," he replied, standing up to pace. "I've spent my life in the military; I never paid much attention to politics, at least not the kind related to elections."

"But you always had an interest in the law, Lee, and you certainly've always cared about ensuring justice was done."

"Which is hardly the same thing as running a nation, Karl."

"Think of it more like a town—30,000 people—that's not really so intimidating, is it?" Helo smirked light-heartedly.

Lee's face grew more serious. "That's the whole thing, Karl—that's all that's left of us. 30 billion human beings—now one ten-thousandth of one percent remains. It is intimidating."

"I'll concede that point—I'm sorry if I seemed glib. And I'll suggest this: you've already been responsible, with a small group of people, for the safeguarding of the Colonials. The responsibility isn't different—just the way you'd be meeting it." Helo stood up and walked to Lee's vantage point.

"Lee, we've worked closely together, and already shared experiences that defy anything we could've imagined when we were on Caprica, before the end of the worlds. I didn't always trust you or frankly even respect you all that much, so when I say to you now I firmly believe you're the best person we could have for this role, it comes from a place of deep understanding. Who you were and who you are—it's been a dramatic shift. It didn't happen overnight—you earned it through work and suffering and taking risks. The things you've gone through have prepared you—it's time to fully step into the role of leader."

Shaking his head, Lee crossed his arms over his chest, studying the floor. "Gods help me, but that's scarier than facing a hundred Cylon raiders by myself."

"Only because you've defeated raiders before and you've never been President—it'll pass, Lee."

"You don't know that I'd be elected, even if I put my name out there…"

"Well, if your homecoming after the kidnapping was any indication, I think you're already on your way." Karl clapped him on the back.

Lee turned to face Helo, his expression one suddenly almost pleading. "Be my wingman on this, Karl—run with me."

"Wh-what? I mean, run where?"

"Vice-President!" Lee laughed at his friend's confusion. "I guess you're feeling how scary it is now too?"

"Umm-hum," Karl managed to get out, coughing slightly. "I don't know what to say. I'd do anything for you, but that's…"

"Karl, we make a great team—we've proved that in the past months. If I'm going to do this, I'd like someone by my side who'll understand how I think and realize when to push back or tell me what I'm going to do is frakked-up. I don't want to take the fleet down the wrong course, and I trust you the most to make sure I won't."

Helo sat down on the couch again. He was silent for five minutes, breathing hard as he tried to figure out what to say to his friend. Lee took up his place again on the nearby couch, taking a new draw from the flask.

Karl shuddered slightly as he started talking again. "Lee Adama, I am going to be at your side—so will Kara, so will your father, so will Roslin and Tyrol—even Tigh and Anders. When you become President, I'll be willing to be a part of your administration—Chief of Staff, if you want—something behind the scenes. Assuming your father will let both of us leave the military, which isn't a given. But I can't…I have to think of my family. I won't make them targets any more than they already are, and I can't put Sharon through that kind of worry, making myself so visible and endangering all of us."

Lee bowed his head, somewhat embarrassed for his lack of sensitivity and his fuzzy thinking, borne out of a kind of desperation. "Of course, Karl. I should've realized…I feel so vulnerable myself, I guess, thinking about doing this. I just wonder if it's something I'm meant to do when I feel so damned uncertain and reluctant."

"Which is why you'll be good at being President; you don't want the role for the power or the attention and you don't think you're the smartest person in any room either. You aren't isolated, Lee—it won't be all on your shoulders. There'll be a congress, the votes of the people—it isn't like commanding a battlestar or an armada. Even when you want to, you won't be able to rule by fiat."

"Then I won't have to worry about becoming just like my father, will I?" Lee laughed a little sarcastically.

"Your father is a special leader, Apollo—you know that. And he's best in the role he has—you never were that similar, in certain important aspects. But you have his spirit and his soundness of judgment, the qualities someone would want to adopt from William Adama."

"What you said before, though, it's true—can the Admiral afford to lose two senior military officers in what remains of our forces? And the flying—gods, I don't know how to give that up, Karl." Lee was up and taking quick strides across the length of the deck, agitated once more.

"You said it yourself—we have to develop others, fill out our ranks. There are some strong candidates from the troops we trained for the rescue mission; I can begin discussing with the Admiral different assignments for some of them."

"But we need pilots," Lee murmured to himself.

"And you're a great one, but not necessarily irreplaceable, even if you are named after a god," Helo offered good-naturedly. "As for the feeling of flying—I'm sure the Old Man would let you take a viper out for a game of tag team with Starbuck. When she's ready," he added more soberly.

"I'd love to experience that again," Lee whispered. "Right now, neither of us is sure we'll be able to get back in the cockpit."

At a loss for words to counter his friend's sadness, Karl offered him the last of the ambrosia in the flask. They sat in the still darkness for a time, preoccupied.

"Lee, it's too soon to tell how much you can get back physically; same for Kara. But there was a time, right before you ended up on Galactica, you were going to leave the military altogether. You've never felt that was the life that called you, and it was only fate that extended the role."

"The gods extended the role, Karl—"

"And the gods have made it clear you have a different one to fulfill going forward," Helo reproached.

"Arrggh!" Lee let out emphatically. "They never used the word President—that was Roslin's idea!"

"It makes the most sense! How else can you be the leader of colonization? It can't be a soldier, Lee—not a Commander or an Admiral. He wouldn't be able to convince the people not only of where to go, but the way to get there. And what about when we arrive at Earth—have you thought of that? We'll need someone who represents all of the Colonials and their interests; we can't send a military person without creating a panic and a mistrust of our intentions."

"Assuming I even became President, it doesn't mean I'd be the person on the job when we arrive at Earth. For gods sake, we don't truly don't have any idea if Earth exists, or in what stage of development it might be in!" Lee ran his hands through his hair in exasperation.

"Gods, man, you're about to drive me mad enough to toss you out into those stars out there! Look, you saw the placement of Earth in the constellations chamber on Kobol. We were given information about the Eye of Jupiter when you had that—vision?—during your speech before the rescue. I'm confident that we'll learn more about how to locate Earth once we arrive at the Eye."

"Which would be when, do you think? It could be decades…"

"But it isn't. Lee, these are all just distractions from the real point, which is whether or not you're going to put yourself out there in a vastly different light than anything you've tried before. The rest will happen as it's intended to unfold. Myself, I predict we'll reach the Eye within the next twelve months, likely sooner, and Earth won't be decades off."

Lee stood, staring at Helo for a long moment. "Let's go with the idea, then, that I'm running for office. I'll need a campaign manager…"

"Which should be Roslin."

"You've got to be frakking kidding me! We'll kill each other first." Lee started cracking his knuckles in anxiety.

"There was a time you genuinely liked her," Helo countered, surprised by Lee's reaction.

"And you know that her judgment is pretty extreme. She suggested assassinating Cain, she stole Hera, she chose Baltar as her Vice President—"

"All true. And there's no affection I carry for Roslin, not remotely. However, she's a great strategist in politics and she knows how to manage a campaign, how to write a speech, how to forge alliances and cut deals. Most of all, she wants the job and she's already started functioning that way, if you'll admit it."

Lee gestured towards the exit, signaling he was reaching his limit as far as uncomfortable topics were concerned and needed to focus on other things for a while. "Agreed then. I'm running for office, Roslin's my campaign manager, and you'll be my Chief of Staff. I still have no Vice President, but I can't concentrate on anything else for now."

"Just let me know when you decide to clue everyone else in, so I'll be ready," Karl said jovially as they reached the hatch and left the Observation Deck.

"Do you have time for a few rounds of boxing? I'm too wound up to see anybody yet," Lee asked as they sauntered down the corridor.

"Yeah, I think I can manage that. I owe you a few punches for grilling me back there!" They laughed as they headed to the gym.

Sit Rep: Brig, Pegasus, Eight Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Caprica was careful not to speak a word to Boomer until they were finally alone in their new cell. It was a real room—walls and two beds with mattresses, rather than cots. A toilet, sink, and shower were enclosed by a circular plastic curtain in one corner, while four shelves were found along one side of the cell and a built-in desk/table with two chairs was located on the other side.

To the surprise of both women, a few supplies had been placed on the desk, including paper, pens, a scientific calculator, and a few manuals on different types of Colonial FTL drives. Over on the beds, they could see extra blankets, additional clothing, and basic toiletries—soap, toothbrushes, and combs.

But the most important thing they now had was each other. Boomer surprised Caprica by giving her a hug—a gesture foreign to most Cylons—and both of them welled up.

"It's almost strange to be around another person again," Caprica said with some astonishment.

"We're going from complete isolation to continuous companionship, Sister—you may grow tired of it," Boomer said, smiling.

"Somehow I doubt that. We definitely have a lot of work to do, though." Caprica was still trying to adjust to the sound of her own voice—her throat was slightly hoarse.

"I know," Boomer acknowledged resignedly as she sat down on one of the beds. "The sooner we can build the prototypes, the sooner we'll gain the trust of the others. I'm worried, Caprica—the Cylon Cabinet has to be planning a counter-attack of significant proportions."

"I agree—it's been a long time since I've heard the alarms on the ship. They haven't attacked the Colonials in at least—"

"Six weeks, according to Galen. He was afraid to say too much, but he did tell me that."

"I can't believe we were in isolation cells for that long. It was…an unnerving experience." A thought struck Caprica then. "I know there're cameras in here; do you suppose there's audio too?"

"No. At least, not from anything I can find—I know what the microphones look like and where they'd usually be placed, and I don't see them."

"That's a relief. I'd rather not deal with that too. We need to be able to talk freely to build any progress—I can't imagine what they'd make of discussions of Cylon technologies." Caprica sat on the other bed, eyeing the bathroom area.

"The first item on my list is to enjoy a long, hot shower. I feel like I've been cold to-the-bone for the entire eight weeks!"

"Me too. I can't wait to take one myself. And to get into some other warm clothes—I'm grateful Galen arranged for those too."

"Have you seen him recently?" Caprica pressed, as she began moving items to shelves.

"He came two weeks ago, to tell me we'd be moved, and had the guard slip me a note yesterday. It said we'd be expected to work in a science lab with Baltar starting in another 48 hours."

"Baltar?" Caprica dropped what she was holding, and bent over to pick it up. "I didn't expect that." Boomer noticed Caprica's hands shaking. She walked over to the woman, lightly rubbing her arm.

"You won't have to deal with him alone, Sister—remember that. I didn't realize he would upset you that much…"

"He was so different on New Caprica, not the man I knew before. Especially after he developed his surprising addiction to Lethe. He kept hallucinating about some woman named Vivian, and later he actually started a sexual relationship with Three."

"Why did those changes bother you?" Boomer hadn't heard Caprica talk about Baltar very often since the first days of the "experiment" on that planet; she knew there were feelings involved, but until this moment, hadn't considered they might have been of greater significance.

"To be honest, I don't know. I was happy to see him at first—I guess I'd enjoyed my assignment with him more than I realized at the time—and I was…upset when it was clear he wasn't very interested in me. We had sex again on New Caprica, but it wasn't like before; he wasn't present in it, somehow.

Caprica was quiet for a few seconds, lost in reverie. "Believe it or not, I took some wonderful trips with Gaius in the months before the second Cylon attack. We spent a great deal of time together, really—I was at his house more often than my own apartment. I'd thought we could re-establish that…connection…and it proved impossible."

"And when he developed a 'connection' with Three—"

"I felt…strange. Anger, pain, sadness—emotions I'm unaccustomed to."

"I think the humans would call it jealousy, Sister. You wondered why he responded to Three, rather than you."

"Yes, that's exactly what bothered me so much—enraged me, honestly. I'd never been so—furious—but it was also something else, a feeling I can't put a name to. I cried, Boomer—more than once. I didn't really know what to make of what was happening to me."

"Rejection is painful—it creates sensations of loneliness. That's what Galen felt when the other Eight, the other Sharon, fell in love with Karl Agathon."

Caprica nodded as she began understanding Tyrol's previous reactions better. "He was angry, hostile when you approached him during the Colonial Rescue Mission, because of his pain."

Sharon gave a bittersweet smile. "Things are better now between us," she murmured. "I was able to explain, to express that I still love him. Boomer didn't reject him; another Eight, a person completely separate from me, did that." She gripped the bed sheets tensely. "He's still conflicted, though. It's confusing to him that we look identical but we aren't, in terms of personality or feeling. All the same, I'm encouraged by renewed feelings growing between us, even though we've only seen each other a few times in these months."

"Do you think…maybe Gaius had a similar feeling, when he saw me on that planet." Caprica was deep in thought.

"There's no way to know what his emotions were for you before he learned your real identity as a Cylon. After he realized he ended up unwittingly helping the Cylons win the Second War in giving you the access codes to the defense systems, he had to be conflicted." Boomer considered what she'd observed about Baltar's character.

"Baltar's primarily amoral, Caprica, but he isn't without a conscience. And when you consider the circumstances at the time he saw you again—forcing him as President to surrender the Colonials to Cylon control—it probably felt like a repeat of the same crime, from his perspective."

Caprica turned to Sharon, squeezing her hand, grateful for her insights. "I'm glad we're together, Boomer," she said with intensity. "I didn't realize how much I…the thoughts I've been weighed down with."

"I know, Caprica, I know. It's a lot to absorb without any guidance. There're so many emotions we can experience, and we're like human children when we first stumble into them. It's not easy to figure out what we're going through, how to identify the feelings; learning how to manage them poses other challenges."

"I guess I should expect Gaius to react the way Galen did, when we see him in a few days."

"Probably…but don't assume Baltar doesn't have positive feelings for you too. If he spent that much time with you before the attacks, when he didn't know your identity, I suspect he was genuinely attached, emotionally.

Boomer tilted a look at Caprica. "Do you want to connect again with Baltar now, even in light of what you've learned about him?"

The other woman sighed, sitting back down on the bed and bowing her head. "I'm not sure, Boomer. I can only admit I'm anxious, and at the same time, looking forward to seeing him. I guess it's what the humans would call 'hope'—I can't let go of the idea I might have the chance to be closer to him again."

"Hope is a powerful force. Hold onto that; it'll make the next few months bearable. The Colonials aren't going to accept us easily, I'm afraid."

"Which brings us back to the original topic: what's the Cylon Cabinet up to? They're holding back for a reason, Boomer—I don't believe they haven't been able to track the humans in a six-week time period."

"I don't believe that either. Maybe they're arguing over what to do—I have to think Cavil would rather wipe out the Colonials at this point, while some of the others want to leave the fleet to its fate and focus on other priorities."

Caprica thought back, trying to recall the snippets of information that had been coming over the Colonial comms on the last day of the Colonial Rescue Mission. "Based on the few transmissions we could hear when Galen was piloting our ship to Pegasus, I think a significant number of Cylons were killed on that day of battle—they had no hope of resurrection. A massacre of our race could have generated renewed hatreds for the humans. They might want to exact a specific revenge."

"There's no reason to believe something that horrifichappened, Caprica!" Boomer was alarmed by this idea; it made her afraid. She didn't know how to accept the concept of death for Cylons on any scale.

"We'll have to ask Gaius. Hopefully he'll be able to tell us what actually happened—how the Colonials managed to escape that day."

"In the meantime, we shouldn't waste time on further speculation of Cylon plans; it just leads to misery. Why don't you take your shower, and then we can get started, comparing our notes for the FTL specs."

Caprica nodded. "It'll feel good to have something useful to do." The two women set about getting ready for the work ahead.

Sit Rep: Lee Adama's Private Quarters, Pegasus, Eight Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Slowly unbuttoning his uniform jacket as he entered their quarters, Lee was unsettled momentarily when he didn't see Kara, but then he registered the sound of the shower running. He was grateful to get out of the formal military garb; it felt strange to wear the clothes when he wasn't really involved in military activities for the time being. Dr. Martin had approved him for a return to administrative duty, and he had taken some shifts in the CIC, but for the most part, he'd been leading the talks with the insurgents and guiding the dialogue on how to revamp the government to reflect the new realities of life in space.

He was enjoying the work, when he gave himself the space to admit it; Lee also knew, though, that the next time the claxons sounded announcing a Cylon attack, he'd be frustrated that he couldn't get out there in the fight. It wasn't that he wanted to risk his life, per se, but he missed that adrenaline rush and sense of immediacy—where you knew in a split second if you'd made the right call or not and success was countable—how many raiders taken out, how many minutes surviving in battle.

Pushing those thoughts aside, Lee stripped down and considered surprising Kara in the shower. For the first time he could remember, he and Kara were alone together on a regular basis—and they were taking advantage of it. It often felt like they were earnestly making up for every previously missed opportunity—every wet dream, every fantasy, every sexually charged moment they'd denied themselves before. The more they had, the more they wanted. And Lee tried to make sure he reveled in each moment, knowing the depth of longing he'd been living with for so many years.

He was already rock hard by the time he reached the shower, and her smile when she saw him slip into the space behind her was all the encouragement he needed. As he pressed against her back, she laughed wickedly.

"I was just about to take matters into my own hands…glad you're here instead," she said playfully.

"Ummmm. I know where my hands want to wander…." he murmured before he kissed her neck. His fingers danced from her waist up to her breasts, stroking lightly. He grinned as he felt her lean into him, his fingertips kneading her nipples as his erection twitched in the small of her back. Dragging one hand slowly down her torso, he toyed with her curls before sliding his middle finger to the right spot, applying just enough pressure to draw a low moan as Kara tilted her head back.

He alternated his attention to each nipple as he rhythmically stroked her, letting his nails flicker across the most sensitive point at random moments. He lowered his mouth against her neck, his tongue mercilessly working the erogenous zone just above her spine. Closing his eyes, Lee listened to the erotic sound of her panting breaths and soft whimpers as she came to the brink. He was so worked up, it was difficult to control his own demands, but he knew Kara would give as good as she got.

She arched back, a guttural, staccato cry escaping as she climaxed. Not yet even steady on her feet, she reached behind as she bent over, guiding him inside. He growled as the intense pleasure hit him, the way his shaft slid in slowly and the heat and pressure wrapped his length.

Kara braced her hands against the wall, shuddering with the power of the sensation of his entry. No matter how many times she'd experienced this in recent days, it never stopped surprising her, the depth, the angle, the sheer ecstasy of making love with Lee. Her mind floated back to that morning at the Academy, when he'd taken her exactly the same way and she'd first understood how much trouble she was in, the way she responded to this man, the way they moved in synch until there was no separation. She sucked in her lip in anticipation, as he began thrusting in long, fluid moves, his fingers grasping her hips possessively.

He withdrew unexpectedly, and Kara protested at the loss; she was drawn to face Lee. He kissed her deeply, waiting until she was breathless before holding her to the wall and lifting her to ease over him again, regaining their rhythm as her legs tightened around him. Lost in the experience, his arms holding her close, nuzzling her as she clasped his neck, he came, the release as potent emotionally as it was physically. She followed, her breath catching as she felt her body let go.

Turning the water off, they staggered out of the shower, grabbing towels and quickly moving to the bed, their legs still uncertain under them. For a few minutes, satiated, they just enjoyed the closeness, drifting into a light sleep. About a half hour later, Lee opened his eyes and found Kara's arm draped over his chest, her body turned on her stomach. He nudged her awake.

"Hey," she responded, turning towards him, still drowsy.

"Hi," Lee said as he brushed her hair from her face. "Tell me why we weren't doing this a long time ago? This is just…"

"I know. I can't quite wrap my mind around it either, how good we actually are together. Not only the—"

"Not just the amazing frakking…"

She smacked him playfully. "Well, pretty good."

He slapped her lightly on the ass. "You crush my ego, Starbuck."

She chuckled, sitting up a bit. "Not possible, I'm afraid. So…what were you working on today, all dressed in your Commander mode?"

"Half a shift in the CIC, then meetings and more meetings." He made a face feigning boredom.

"I don't know how you stand it, Apollo. The endless arguments over stupid points of order…"

"It's not that bad," Lee answered quickly, wondering what she would think if he actually ran for office.

Kara scoffed at his comment. "I'd rather scrub the latrines than listen to that."

"Yeah, but then words and talking have never exactly been your favorite activity," Lee countered genially.

"True enough," Kara offered. "But I watch you—a part of you is actually sort of enjoying this stuff, aren't you?" She was looking at him intently, a genuine question in her eyes.

"I am. It's challenging, but…there's a real sense of accomplishment when you can get people to agree on how to move forward. There's an excitement with the work we're doing at this point—creating something based on our Colonial past, yet reflecting our new configuration and new priorities."

"Listen to you, all dreamy-eyed about ideals and government. Just don't get too caught up in it, 'cause someday you'll need to get back to your 'day' job, Commander." Kara smiled as she spoke the words, but Lee could hear the irritation in her voice.

"You don't see me as a political wonk, crafting policy?" He braced himself for what she might toss out as a retort.

" Comm'on, Lee—what a question! You've proven yourself a great military officer, a pretty damned good pilot, and we're still in a fight for survival here. You don't have a background in law or politics; you're a soldier. And that's where we need you. You haven't really bought into all of the 'presidency' crap, have you? I'd really have to give you an attitude adjustment, if you've been smoking those fumes!"

She was indignant now, sitting up and running her hands through her hair in consternation at the idea. Lee watched her reaction, his stomach tightening. He'd honestly left his conversation with Helo believing it was the right thing to run for office, but he hadn't expected Kara to be so negative about the idea, or about his chances at making a go of it.

Unsure of himself, and not wanting to ruin the atmosphere between them, Lee decided he wouldn't say anything else yet. "No attitude adjustment needed, thanks. I've seen what you'd do."

Kara smiled more brightly at that answer. "That's a relief-I have a busy schedule. Not sure how I'd have fit that in, straightening out your sorry ass."

Changing the subject to updates on people they both knew, time passed quickly until they were ready for sleep. As Lee settled in with Kara and listened to her soft breaths, he tried to manage his anxiety about what would come next. He needed to be sure he understood why he might really run for office; after all, he was likely to get as much push-back from his father as he had from Kara, and there was a lot to risk. Lee was in a good place with two people who were very important to him, and he'd have to be much more certain about the reasons for making a move to leave the military and seek the presidency.

Sit Rep: Science Lab Under Guard, Pegasus, Nine Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Driven to wretched frustration, Gaius shoved all of the objects on the lab bench aside, heedless to the breaking glass and chemical solutions spilling on the floor. He hung his head in despondency, unable to stop the anguish from burning in the back of his throat, threatening to overwhelm his control.

The attempts to develop a cancer treatment that might work on Roslin's type of carcinoma were failing utterly. He'd underestimated the complexity of the issues, especially given the limitations in available chemical compounds and ways to manipulate them. Even glass was precious; he had been utterly foolish to allow anything to break just moments ago.

Despite the copious amounts of sand on that godsforsaken planet they'd left, no one had considered the importance of bringing it along. Cottle had figured sand bags were loaded aboard some of the ships, surely, during the exodus, but none were readily located and no one cared enough about the work of a pariah to push for an actual search. With great effort, a proper furnace had been built on New Caprica to melt the sand and blow glass; that had probably been left behind. Even if Gaius could get his hands on the material, he wouldn't be able form new glass without the right tools, and he needed so many laboratory instruments—test tubes, microscope slides, a condenser, not to mention more beakers of various sizes. This wasn't a laboratory, it was a shell of one, and he wondered how he was supposed to make progress with the obstacles before him.

As Baltar began to carefully clean up the mess he'd made, cursing himself for his temper, he assessed his situation. The only thing that had been progressing was his development of the model for the potential Cylon bio-weapon; he'd finally succeeded in creating a "dead" version of the molecule, and felt it was only a matter of time before he could determine the missing aspect for a "live" version.

The key to that research, though, ultimately rested in understanding how those damned Cylon nanites worked. As Baltar sat down at the lab bench, listlessly scanning his files on the laptop he'd brought with him from New Caprica, he kept turning over the nanite problem in his mind. Neither he nor the Cylons had ever been able to isolate and "unlock" a single nanite. The nanotechnology worked perfectly, to the level of its design, as frightening as that was to observe in action.

Its greatest strength—perfect copying—was also its greatest limitation. For the ten thousandth time, Gaius tried to reason out the grander design behind the use of the nanites. All things in nature evolved—mutations were introduced, for better or worse, and survival often depended on improvisation. So why would the creators of the human-Cylon models opt for a non-adaptive "organism?" And why wouldn't the secret to nanite design have been provided to those Cylons? Who were these creators?

Equally puzzling, there were only three instances where nature had evaded the nanotechnology's abilities to eradicate anomalies: the two virus incidents Gaius had learned about, and the Cylon-human pregnancy of Sharon Valierii. What did those three things have in common?

With some nervous excitement, Gaius searched for the files that provided three-dimensional models of nanite groups. They normally appeared in clusters of hundreds, but occasionally, there were smaller groupings numbering in the 'teens. He pulled up a video of one of the smallest groupings, then magnified the view to 100,000X. He stared at the video play, watching the movement, the way the nanites appeared to "shuffle" together, and noticed small arcs of electricity flickering between them. That was apparently how they communicated, similar to nerve firings, only there were no chemical receptors involved—were there?

He re-played the video in slow motion, and concentrated on the visible mechanisms in the translucent objects. They appeared alive, and in a sense, they were, just the way the human-Cylons themselves were mechanical and alive at the same time. He could see something that appeared to be a liquid swirling along a particular pathway; he could observe the arcs of electricity pinpointing specific "dots" in various sequences.

An insight occurred to him: what if he could interrupt those arcs? In fact, what if he could somehow stop all of the "communications" between several nanites in a single moment? That might enable him to actually separate one. If he was really lucky, it might even defeat the lock mechanism on that nanite, the defense response that prevented a scientist from dissecting it. Until now, the Cylons hadn't been able to scrutinize the nanites even in their groupings because of this defense mechanism. No one would be able to reprogram the single unit until the nanite was isolated and its functioning was understood.

A rush passed through Gaius as he realized the avenue he needed to pursue now, to solve the bio-weapon problem, the cancer treatment problem, and the procreation problem. He had to put all of his efforts into solving the mysteries of the nanite. He knew, when he'd used the umbilical cord cells to treat Roslin's cancer two years earlier, the application had worked for a time. It stood to reason the effect was linked to the nanites doing their work fixing the "errors" in the cancer cells. The question he had to figure out was why that stopped—what changed?

Perhaps it had something to do with the relative "age" of the nanites. They were bio-mechanisms; they might not mutate, but that didn't mean they didn't "grow" or mature. To date, the Cylons wouldn't know; they created replicas that were fully adult in development; the nanites began at the mature stage. Hera, though, as a human-Cylon hybrid, had obviously started out as a fetus, growing into a baby and continuing to mature in a normal human timeline (at least it appeared that way).

Maybe there was something different in the "young" nanite. If Gaius could isolate and compare single nanites of each type, he would likely be able to meet his three goals in fairly short order.

For now, all he'd have access to were "adult" nanites in Cylons. Caprica and Boomer were going to begin working in this same lab tomorrow; he could surely get blood samples from them. It was unfortunate the child Hera had perished; otherwise, he would have been able to study her blood sample too. No tissue remained from the umbilical cord either, since the small amount of material he'd preserved originally had been on Galactica, which no longer existed.

Nonetheless, Gaius reasoned, he might be able to accomplish his aims. It all depended on isolating the mecho-organism and using the knowledge of the virus to help him figure out how to disable the organism or modify it. This approach had limitless potential, really—addressing various types of illnesses, creating a weakness in Cylons, and providing a bargaining chip with them regarding their reproduction/resurrection issues.

It would be a boon to humans, if he could do what he planned; it would be like a limitless supply of stem cells. Theoretically—and assuming humans would accept the injection of Cylon technology to literally become a part of their bodies—nanites could be programmed to slow aging, if not stop it entirely; support re-growth of tissue, organs, even limbs; and serve as the ultimate defense against diseases, eliminating the need for things like antibiotics.

In a life dictated by the continual hunt for very scarce resources, nanite modification might be a solution for many issues that plagued the existence of a motley group of humans living endlessly in space who never had the luxury to settle down and build anything. It might also ensure humans would survive long enough to reach a destination—Earth or whatever the Colonials decided they would nominate as "Earth" one day.

Gaius smiled; he might just been seen as a hero if he could pull this off. The thought amused him and spurred his energy. He was ready to begin this research in earnest.

As soon as the smile lessened, Gaius experienced a strange sensation behind his eyes, almost as though there was a surge of electricity across his corpus callosum. That was ridiculous, of course, since the brain did not have its own pain receptors, but what was happening? He immediately though it might be eye strain….until he heard her voice.

"Hello, Gaius. You're looking much better than the last time we met. Congratulations on finding the path at last."

"Viv—Vivian? Is that really you? Gods, how I've longed for you…"

"God, Gaius—give thanks to the one God. I've missed you too." She came into view from behind the lab bench.

"Does this mean Starbuck found her path too?" he asked, remembering Vivian's last words to him.

"It does, indeed. The time's approaching for the six of you to step under the watchful gaze of Jupiter. The humans will find Jupiter's Eye in a matter of months; you, however, need to hurry in your specific work, because your window is shorter."

"Mm-my window's what?" Gaius was unnerved and for some reason frightened by her words, even though he'd been hoping for a long time be with her again.

"Your window of opportunity is limited. They'll be coming for you soon, my love, and they need these answers as much as the humans do."

"Who does, Vivian—what answers?"

"You already know what answers they seek. And you realized a long time ago this isn't meant to be your home—not yet." Vivian walked over to Gaius and began stroking his hair. She kissed him, deeply, and he eagerly let his hands reach for more, but she broke away from the embrace before he could get far.

"I love you, Gaius. I want you to be able to connect with a real woman, someone who'll be there to support you in ways I can't."

"You are a real woman, Vivian—I can't imagine anyone more—"

"I meant 'real' in the sense of corporeal, Gaius—tangible, permanent. More than a projection in your mind." She pulled Gaius into a close embrace.

"You feel completely tangible, my love," he said breathlessly, eyes closed, reveling in her touch.

Yanking Balter's head back, pulling hard on his hair, Vivian stared down at his surprised face, shaking her head 'no.' "I'm more than your imagination or wishful thinking, and yet less than a living being. It isn't enough, and it won't be in the future either. Besides, I was never meant to be more than a guide. And a reminder of the one connection you know is true, the one connection you actually invested in—despite your denials now."

"A guide from where?" Gaius was working hard to focus on her messages, because he had the distinct feeling she was explaining something he needed to finally accept, to see things as they really were.

"From God, my love. I've never deviated on that point, have I?"

"No…I don't suppose you have. And the reminder of the connection—who's that?"

"Oh, Gaius. For a smart man, you are just so…look at me. Who am I?"

"Your'e Vivian," he hissed, beginning to chafe under her condescension.

"No, that's the name you gave me, though it's always been a bit hard to fathom why. Who was I to you before?"

"I…you were…you look like Caprica. Or Six. Or whatever 'name' she would go by." He spoke in a pained voice; it was never easy, thinking about that history.

"Exactly. Every single thing has a meaning and a purpose, Gaius. You think of her, of Caprica, as your downfall, but that's not really the truth. She was the mirror to help you finally see your flaws, comprehend your failures. But mirrors reflect everything—the good, the bad, and things still inchoate. As much as she exposed of your shadow self, she can reveal of your best self."

Gaius lunged towards Vivian, gesturing angrily. "I'm getting tired of this talk! I am in love with you—I don't want anyone else, and I certainly don't want to be reminded of a person who—"

"Shhhh. Shhhh. There's no need for so much turmoil, Gaius." She gave him a gentle, soft kiss. In his ear, she whispered, "it's time to remember her, the two of you, the way you felt around her before everything. It's why you pursued Gina…it's why you're angry now. Caprica meant a great deal to you. She still does."

"No, no, Vivian, you're wrong…" He clung to her, tears falling.

"Is it coincidence, out of the multitude of variables surrounding your arrival here, that Caprica ended up in the same place? That's as much happenstance as Lee Adama and Kara Thrace ending up at the same place. God is present, Gaius, and there are no accidents. Never forget that." She placed her mouth over his, letting her tongue dance as he swept her into his arms completely, lingering that way for several minutes.

Reluctantly letting go, Vivian turned away. Head over her shoulder, she gave him a smile. "I need to leave you to your work. I'll visit again, when God knows I can be of help. The research must be finished quickly, my love, and you need to also be prepared for the Eye of Jupiter."

Gaius closed his eyes against the pain as she vanished, his face streaked with more tears.

Sit Rep: Tory's Private Quarters, Pegasus, Nine Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Tory kicked off her shoes as soon as the hatch shut and rushed to get her jacket off. She reached under her shirt to undo her bra and wove the straps over her arms to yank it off in one smooth movement. In short order, she'd pulled on a pair of cotton knit leggings and swept a long-sleeved sweater over her head. With a long sigh, she sank onto the bed, swinging her legs up and stretching out.

Eyes closed, Tory reflected on recent events, trying to assess her feelings. When she'd met with Lee Adama a few hours ago, she hadn't expected anything extraordinary—they'd been working together on the communications plan, finalizing it for distribution. She'd thought he might bring up running for the presidency—Laura Roslin had certainly been making preparations as though she predicted he would agree to it sooner or later—and she'd already determined she wasn't going to participate. She doubted, still, that he would have wanted her involved anyway, but she had been prepared with her explanation, just in case.

What the Commander brought up instead stunned her. In a way, it was an answer to prayers for a different life, a new start. But it was also daunting and hardly something she felt prepared for. To accept the assignment also meant working closely with someone she didn't know—Anastasia Dualla. Could they handle the job Lee Adama wanted them to do?

Tory was familiar with many parts of Lee's plan for the "floating nation"—the intent to identify skills and talents of all of the remaining fleet members, organize training, apprenticeships, and schools, and then find work for every person. Structuring that, however, was a huge undertaking. She still couldn't quite understand how he had decided on her, even though Lee had provided a detailed justification.

Reflecting on the conversation, Tory considered his reasoning. Lee had explained that both Bill Adama and Laura Roslin were impressed with Tory's work with the Resistance on New Caprica; Sam had said she was able to handle significant pressures and served as an important conduit in bringing messages and keeping up relations to deflect suspicions. The Commander thought those were the qualities needed for this new undertaking. With her public relations and communications background, she understood how to frame ideas and decisions.

Captain Dualla was also skilled in working with many different groups of people and helping individuals focus on unifying goals. Dualla's previous responsibilities gave her a platform to learn a great deal about every ship in the fleet and develop a deep understanding of the work that needed to be done to create a fully functioning society, especially from a supply and services perspective. Finally, the officer's attention to detail would be invaluable in a project as complex as this one would turn out to be.

Lee had made one other important point: Tory, having lived on New Caprica and served in the Resistance, partnered with Anastasia, who had been instrumental in planning and leading the Rescue—civilian and military working together—would provide the visible balance and integration needed to project credibility and build trust among the people.

In the beginning, Lee envisioned Tory and Ana would spend their time working on plans and meeting with different groups and individuals to gather information and develop a strategy and timeline. During this development phase, the Commander would train a junior officer to take over Dualla's responsibilities; for at least twelve to eighteen months after the new officer was in place, Dualla and Tory could focus exclusively on the project to launch and implement it fleet-wide. He had tentatively given the project a name: FutureWork.

Tory was struck by Lee's compassion; he'd asked her to think about the idea for the next two weeks and encouraged her to meet with Ana Dualla to get a better sense of how their partnership might work. She was already leaning towards agreeing to take on the role, but Tory worried about the scope of the job ahead. It felt so far beyond her capacities, and she didn't want to fail the Commander or the members of the fleet. So much would be riding on the outcome of this experiment in society-building, including the creation of a bounded economy.

A knock at the hatch surprised Tory. No one usually came to see her at this hour. With a groan of consternation, she got up and opened the door, shying away slightly at the unexpected sight of Sam Anders standing to meet her.

"Hi, Tory. I know it's been a while…"

"Yeah, it has. We've all been busy," she offered, not wanting to rebuff him directly.

"Um, I know it's unplanned, but I was hoping we could talk for a few minutes…if this is an okay time?" His voice was uncharacteristically tentative.

She gave him a tired smile, gesturing him inside. "I've got a little while, but I need to get to sleep soon—too many meetings to get through tomorrow to be fuzzy in my thinking."

Sam nodded as he stepped through. The room was small—a bunk along one wall, a closet at the end, and a wide ledge that served as a desk, with a chair tucked underneath. It was cozy, though—somehow Tory had managed to find some colorful coverlets, a real lamp for the desk, and a few items to put up on the walls that made it look more inviting and less military. With only the desk lamp on, everything was soft around the edges, smudged in shadows.

Figuring sitting on the bed would be too invasive, Sam pulled out the chair, sitting at an angle to the bed so he could face her and still stretch his legs out. Tory moved onto the bed, pulling her knees up to wrap her arms around her legs as she leaned against the bulkhead.

"So tell me how you've been doing, Sam—how's it been working out, this assignment with the Marines?"

"It's been tense, to say the least, with the threats of the insurgents and Lee's kidnapping, but now, things have settled a bit, and truthfully, I appreciate the people I'm working with. They've treated me with more respect than I'd have expected, and that means something."

"Are you going to continue there?" Tory was grateful he was willing to talk about straightforward subjects, for the moment.

"Umm, yeah. At least, that seems to be how things are heading. Supposedly the Admiral is going to ask me to officially sign up."

"You mean, join the military formally?"

"As a Marine. I never pictured myself as a soldier, but since the end of the worlds, that's how I've spent much of my time—fighting and protecting people and places—so I guess it's as good a spot as any to end up. I need to have some purpose, something that makes me feel like I'm not just taking up space."

Tory studied his face. "Sam, you've done so much already, and you're always there to reach out and help—you've never just taken up space."

Sam closed his eyes, emotions shifting across his features. "Well, I'm not so sure of that. Ever since Starbuck originally rescued the group of us…even all that time on New Caprica before the Cylons came…I sort'a felt like a third wheel. Not quite belonging anywhere, y'know? I never felt I had much to offer—I was a Pyramid player because that was the only set of skills I thought were worth anything to anyone."

"Believe me, Sam, I understand those feelings. I don't agree with your assessment, though—you've got much more to offer. And no one saw you as a 'third wheel' during the Resistance—it was clear how much the Admiral, Roslin, and Zarek trusted you and cared about you. We'd never have made it back here without your leadership and quick thinking—that's not an exaggeration."

Startled by the intensity in her voice, Sam allowed himself to look directly at Tory again. He thought he saw deep emotion there, but wondered if he was just hoping, filling in what he wanted to see.

"Thanks, Tory. You've always been generous with your praise, and I value your opinion." He offered a small smile. "Now, tell me about you…I've been a little worried, honestly, because you've seemed…tense." He ventured his chair a bit closer to the bed.

She nodded. "I've been thinking a lot lately, and not sleeping well either. It's never a good combination."

Reaching forward, Sam gently took her hand, as she shifted positions and tucked her feet under her. "So, I'm here…talk to me. I remain your friend, Tory, devoted as ever."

She was caught in his gaze, the warmth in his eyes and his voice contrasting with the anxiety she could sense in him just below the surface.

"It hasn't been the same since…I need you, Sam," she found herself saying before she could think better of it. Slightly embarrassed, she quickly added, "your friendship."

"Me too." He was struck with the impulse to change places, to sit beside her on the bed, and he decided he was going to be that forward, after all.

Tory continued holding his hand as she explained, in a low voice, what Lee Adama had shared with her earlier.

"You'd be wonderful in that position, Tory—I really hope you'll consider taking it."

"Sam, I need you to be honest—do you see me doing that kind of work? It's such a large-scale project—"

"Which you are very capable of handling and will manage with your usual quiet resolve. Lee's even smarter than I gave him credit for, if he realizes you're the person with the right talents to take on something I think is pretty important to him."

Tory smiled, her head tilted back as she laughed softly. "That's one of the things I admire about you, Sam Anders. Your generosity of spirit. By all rights, you should be angry as hell at Lee Adama, and here you are, giving him a compliment."

"I'm not so noble as that, Tory. I still hate him…in moments. But it turns out—well, it just turns out that Lee and Kara have a history most people didn't know about. Including me. And if I'd realized the extent of that past, I probably wouldn't have married Kara when I did." He let out a long exhale, the revelations of the last days spilling out.

"She proposed to me, and like a kid, I said yes without wondering why or asking the right questions. I was living in the moment—which is fine, as far as it goes—but sometimes it's important to really get to know someone. I mean, their heart—what drives them, leading them one place or running away from another."

"I'm sorry, Sam, that it didn't…that she wasn't able to…commit to you." She lightly stroked his arm.

They sat silently for a while, dealing with their personal wounds and appreciating the value of having someone else there who understood what the costs had been. Tory, her eyes drifting shut, shook herself into alertness and stood up, offering her hand out to Sam to help him stand as well.

He grabbed her hand and groaned as his tired muscles complained over the change in positions. He over-compensated for the momentum, and pulled into Tory. She fell back slightly; he gripped her shoulders to steady her. Standing so close, he was sure he felt an electricity between them, something more than friendship. He kept his hands on her arms, rubbing lightly, watching to see if she stepped back for more distance. She didn't.

Tilting her head to look up at him, Tory searched his eyes, trying to figure out where they stood. The sexual tension was suddenly obvious and she knew she should break the contact and encourage him to go, but she just couldn't bring herself to take the steps.

"Tory," Sam began, his voice resonating with feeling. "I know you were spooked by what happened when…and I can handle it if you just want friendship—yours is worth so much to me. But I have feelings for you, other feelings…they go beyond that and it's more than just attraction. I need you to know, to understand…because I wouldn't use you, or push you, or—"

She leaned in, her head resting on his chest, arms slipping around his waist. He gratefully pressed her warmth against him, kissing the top of her head gently.

"Sam," she murmured, hesitancy in her tone, "I'm in the same place. But it just seems like it would be a re-bound relationship, and that could leave us in an uncomfortable situation, potentially ruining our friendship. When you realize its no substitute for being with the person you love—"

He pulled her chin up to look into her eyes, then bent down to kiss her. It was supple, exploratory, with a genuine openness he hoped would quell Tory's fears. Her hands touched his face, her lips moving with more urgency as she yielded to the sensations.

Pulling back lightly, a soft sound of release escaping her lips, Tory closed her eyes briefly before asking, "Can you stay, and just hold me?"

Sam nodded, saying nothing as he smoothly took off his boots and his casual jacket before sliding his arms around Tory's body, gently lifting her into the bunk. He let her arrange herself comfortably on her side, then moved in to fold himself over her as he pulled up the covers.

"Okay?" he whispered.

"More than okay," she offered, lifting his hand to her lips and entwining her arm with his.

He moved close to her exposed right ear, breathing softly as he struggled with the right words to express what he'd been thinking. "This isn't the same as a rebound, reactive thing. I've been in those, and I know the difference. I don't know what'll happen next between us, Tory; we've both been through a lot and I realize we'll have things to sort through. But whatever this is, this connection between us, it's real.

"And I wouldn't've been able to acknowledge it before, but ever since we made love, I've understood—I've felt something deep for you from the moment you saved my life on New Caprica, risking so much to get me into that Cylon hospital, staying there right next to me until I was really out of the woods. So I promise you, we'll move slowly, because that connection is strong and we'll figure things out if we give ourselves room."

Squeezing his arm tightly, Tory didn't say anything. Sam closed his eyes, allowing his own exhaustion to have sway, and then he snapped awake as he realized she was responding. "You're right—it's real between us. And I'm glad you're here, that you stayed, Sam."

"Me too," he acknowledged, kissing her ear. "Try and sleep now, Tory. We're safe and warm and together."

Sit Rep: Dr. Martin's Quarters, Pegasus, Ten Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Dr. Martin welcomed Lee Adama into the room, offering him some tea. It was real, after a fashion—she'd managed to purchase some dried leaves from a man who'd lived on New Caprica and he had sworn the taste would be similar to tea. He hadn't lied, and she'd discovered the brew had a beneficial side effect, calming nerves. Much like chamomile, she thought. Hopefully it would work its magic with the Commander, who looked ready to jump out of his own skin at present.

"So, Lee, you seem a bit worked up today. What's on your mind?"

He pulled on the legs of his pants, shifting in the chair. "Something I've avoided talking about until now, but have to deal with."

She waited patiently for Lee to work up the resolve to continue.

"There's been a lot of talk about me…people wanting Lee Adama to become President."

She let the sentence hang in the air for a minute, before asking, "What have your own thoughts been on this?"

"In the beginning, it was anathema to me. I didn't see myself wanting anything to do with that kind of life."

"You said, 'in the beginning'—how do you see things now?" She warmed up his cup of tea.

He clenched his fists, struggling with a way to explain his internal conflicts without also sounding like a delusional leader with fantasies of divine appointment. "Several people who are important to me have challenged my view of myself—my interests and my skills. They've encouraged me to put aside my doubts and step out there."

"But these people, though important, aren't the voices that matter most to you, I'm guessing." She could see the uncertainty in his face.

"No—I suppose that's an accurate way of putting it," Lee conceded with a sigh.

"What does Kara say, Lee?"

"Well, I haven't discussed it with her directly, but even mentioning the idea in passing, she was clearly of the mind I'm needed in my military role."

"Was that all she said?" His level of anxiety didn't match that straightforward statement.

"It wasn't what she stated, it was the way she stressed it. She saw it as an ego trip if I bought into the whole thing."

"Doesn't it strike you that Kara might approach the idea that way because she's always viewed both of you as pilots—Starbuck and Apollo—and it frightens her to consider that dynamic changing?"

Lee acknowledged that. "But her opinion about it matters to me, no matter how she arrived at it."

"You have to live your life based on an internal compass, Lee, not according to the desire of others. That road leads to dissatisfaction and anger—you've already traveled that way." She spoke slowly and with compassion, hoping he took in the meaning. "Which begs the question…"

"I'm not clear about it; I feel exhausted just thinking about all of the elements—"

"You need to stop thinking, Lee. What do you feel is your path at this juncture?"

"That doesn't seem the right approach, Dr. Martin—this is a decision that has to be reasoned out, weighing the pros and—"

"Really? Is that working, Lee? See, I believe you do know what you want to do. You don't think it, you sense it—a feeling—a surety of purpose. Commander, military—President, civilian. Where are you called—not where others try to beckon, but where you are drawn to go?" Dr. Martin was careful not to raise her voice as she challenged him—this was a delicate process and she had to coax him into finding his own answers.

Lee went silent, his eyes shut in concentration. He slowed his breathing, using the techniques he'd learned long ago from the post-traumatic stress counselor to quiet his mind. It was vital to be in the present moment, to see what came to the surface when he wasn't struggling with himself. In seconds, he was able to hear Dr. Martin's shallow inhale, as well as the carefully pitched hum of Pegasus' main engines. The light whoosh of the ventilation system lifted the hair on his neck slightly.

"I want to help the people in a new way… to serve as President." He opened his eyes, taking in a deep gulp of air.

"Good, Lee. What do you sense now, internally?" She could see the tensions had left his body, and hoped he would recognize the shift.

"I'm…the anxiety's subsided. I don't have the knots in my stomach anymore." He gave Dr. Martin a forceful look. "I did know the answer," Lee said almost under his breath.

"Now, your task is to let those closest to you know of your choice. Trust them, Lee—convey your certainty, and they'll accept what you're doing as the natural path, what fits you as a person. Those who love you want you to be true to yourself; it may take a little time, but they'll accept the decision, whether or not they embrace it."

Sit Rep: Gym, Pegasus, Ten Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Nervously, Lee grabbed the boxing equipment as they entered the room reserved for practice. Kara seemed to be in a reasonably good mood, which gave him a better chance for a positive outcome, but he understood she was likely to react in a hostile way to what he needed to tell her. He figured this way, when she went to deck him, he'd be prepared and he wouldn't feel guilty for taking a swipe in return.

"Okay, so you remember this is just for the exercise, right? No stakes, no winners…"

"Yeah, yeah, Apollo, I got it. You wanna protect your pretty face," Kara countered a little dismissively.

"Well, more like I want to save my much-abused leg that I wounded saving your pretty face," Lee whipped out amiably. "I know you like to play a little dirty, knocking people on their asses, and I'd rather not go there." He smiled as he started putting his gloves on.

"Fine, I'll at least leave you standing," she challenged as she began preparations too.

Suited up, they began circling each other. Lee was a little worried he'd left out his mouth guard, but he wasn't going to be able to talk otherwise, and he couldn't afford to lose this opportunity to explain his plans. Announcements were going to be coming out in another few days, and he had to handle the fallout with Kara, if that's what it was going to be.

She got a few decent jabs in before he landed one with her; he didn't want to piss her off before he even launched into his real agenda. They sparred for a few minutes, and he finally worked up the courage to start talking.

"So, I've been thinking a lot about the future," he began, his voice a little breathless from the exertions.

Kara raised an eyebrow, and circled again, taking a swing. She didn't say anything, though, and Lee pressed forward.

"Before the end of the worlds, I was going to leave the military."

"I remember," she said, her face growing slightly more wary.

"And I spend some time studying Colonial constitutional law—"

"When in the frak did you do that?" She was genuinely surprised.

"In my last months in the test pilot program; I was taking some classes at night and I'd set up an internship with the courts in Caprica City, so I was studying up to begin work there."

"Where's this going, Lee?" Kara said, stopping her movements for a moment. A little desperate, Lee landed a jab on her face, forcing her to start up again and guard her front.

"When I put the Restoration Plan together, I had a vision for what the fleet could be, to learn to do more than just survive. And I've realized I want to make that a reality."

"Get to the frakking point, Adama," Kara hissed, working harder to land a few blows. She clearly had an idea where this conversation was headed, and she wasn't happy about it.

"I've decided to run for the presidency, Kara," Lee announced with more confidence than he felt.

Her right hook landed on his chin, and he staggered back, realizing the swings were increasing in speed and intensity.

"Guess you figured out I don't support this, flyboy," she spat out as she went after him in earnest. "Smart planning, though—this way your black eye's explainable."

He grunted as a firm punch in the gut sent him doubling over. He managed to stay upright and shuffled backwards to miss the next hit aimed at his chest. With great effort, he managed to return the damage, knocking her in the ribs three times. She struggled to catch her breath. Lee paused to assess her condition; she took the advantage, squarely landing one the left side of his face. Blood began running from his eye and his nose.

Without warning, Kara stopped altogether, shaking her head as she used her teeth to loosen the gloves.

"Kara, don't walk off! Why the frak does this piss you off so much?" Lee hurried to get his gloves off as well, knowing he might have one chance to catch her arm before she stormed out of the room.

She spun around, her eyes full of fury and anxiety. "Don't do this, Lee. If you want this relationship, if you want there to be an us, don't put yourself out there like that!"

"Why? Why the ultimatum, Kara? What the frak is this to you?" He was torn between rage and abject fear; something in her voice told him she meant what she was implying.

"Gods, Lee, you can be so frakking stupid! If you run for office, where would that leave me? Do you think I'd be some arm drapery, charming congressional members for you? Could you honestly see me as a politician's wife?" She was gesturing wildly, moving into his space.

"And if you're on another ship, what then? Right now, I don't even know if I'll be able to fly again; I'm sure as hell not leaving the military. I did that once, and lived to regret it. There's nowhere else where I can go, Lee, nowhere else I belong. If you were to become president, I'd be left behind. I have no interest in tagging along on your star, and you're frakking insane if you think I'll help you do this!" She started crying, the anger and pain burning.

Lee tried to stop her before she undogged the hatch, but he was struggling to see, with blood in his eye, and his nose was beginning to gush, leaving him light-headed. He fought back the tears as he grabbed a towel, holding it against his face as he headed to Life Station. She'd already run down some corridor by the time he stepped outside the room; he lumbered to sickbay, grief-stricken.

Two hours later, with three stitches to his eye and his nose taped up for the second time in a month, Lee wearily entered their quarters. It was late, and as his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he realized Kara had already gone to sleep, choosing the single bunk that was originally hers. He took a shower to wash the blood and sweat off, and to mask the sobs wracking his body. She'd run away before; he'd just given her the perfect opening to do it again, and he still couldn't comprehend the fact she was that ready to break things off if he decided to go ahead with this plan. He felt as trapped as he'd ever been, in a way he'd never actually expected; his father had insisted on the military, and now Kara was acting like that was the only path she'd consider acceptable either.

It was obvious to him he wasn't going to survive another separation from her; if the only way he could stay with her was continuing in the military, he'd do it. But it was also obvious a part of his soul would wither away in the knowledge of that tradeoff—forced, not selected. He wanted to comprehend how he could have misunderstood Kara's values on such a fundamental level. Lee never believed she'd frame things as an ultimatum; not because she hadn't done that before, with other people, but because he truly thought their unspoken pact was different. They'd hurt each other in countless ways, to be sure, but they'd never drawn lines in the sand in that way—"do this or else".

He fell into the bed, the absence of her warmth keenly felt. Reluctantly, his body yielded to sleep.

Sit Rep: Lee Adama's Private Quarters, Pegasus, Ten Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Waking up, for the first minute Lee felt normal, before memories of the previous evening's events came into mind and weighed down his spirits. He sat up, noticing Kara was gone. It didn't look like she'd taken anything with her, though, suggesting she was planning on coming back later. Gingerly, Lee stood up and stretched, the pain in his face radiating. He walked over to the sink to take a pain killer, staring into the mirror studying his swollen face.

The sound of the hatch opening caused him to start; he turned around to see Kara walking in, her face ashen.

"Went for a run," she declared, quietly. Her breath hitched as she absorbed Lee's appearance.

"Stitches?"

"Um, yeah, three. The nose wasn't re-broken, but given the previous injury this month, the doc thinks I may have to have corrective surgery, at some point, to regain my profile." He gave a brief smile, as much as he could manage, but it hurt too much.

"Well, I have to hand it to you, Apollo—as far as strategies go, using boxing exercise as a way to break bad news was definitely original. Not necessarily wise, but certainly creative."

"I can't say I'd choose it again myself," Lee acknowledged ruefully. "I was hoping it might provide a way for us to 'talk' it out, but I guess that was a crazy idea."

"It wasn't a loss, Lee. I got my anger out first, by the time I walked out—"

"Glad to be of service there," he interjected sarcastically.

"Let me finish…I got my anger out, and could actually reflect on things afterward."

Lee looked at her, a small hope rising in his chest. "And what did you come up with?"

Kara moved to the couch, sitting down, and indicated she'd like Lee to come next to her. Leaning over her legs, elbows on her thighs, Kara sighed deeply.

"I realize this is important to you, Lee. And I shouldn't have reacted with an ultimatum like that. We agreed we'd see this thing to the finish, wherever it goes. I'm not welching on that."

Kara could see Lee's body physically unclench. "Look, I didn't mean to make you feel caught, the way your father did, about being an officer. I've known for a long time you would've chosen something else, were on your way to something else, before the Second Cylon War. I just…." she struggled to keep control of her emotions.

"I feel so untethered, Lee. Flying is all I ever wanted to do, all I know. Everything's changed, including me, and I can't figure out which way is up. Sometimes I want a drink so bad…"her voice trailed off at the admission, ashamed to confess that out loud.

Not knowing what to say and afraid to do anything that might stop the flow of words, Lee opted to rub her back lightly to acknowledge her pain.

"So…how does this work, Lee? What is Kara Thrace doing, if Lee Adama is President?"

He took her hand, studying the graceful line of her fingers. "Well, I can tell you what she isn't doing—she isn't hanging on anyone else's arm, and she isn't secondary to her partner or anybody else. Although I did notice you used the words 'politician's wife' before—so I can hope that maybe Kara Thrace sees a long-term future with the guy, even if he does end up being a political geek."

Her neck flushing, Kara shifted uncomfortably on the couch, embarrassed she'd let that thought slip out. Every once and a while, she allowed herself to consider the idea of a traditional commitment with Lee, but she never lingered long over that thought, too overwhelmed by the implications and emotions it engendered.

"And if I'm a viper jock, or CAG? And you're on Colonial One? We'd never see each other—"

"First of all, my father developed a relationship with Roslin under similar conditions, so I don't buy the argument we'd be ships passing in the night. Regardless of that point, though, I know I want to see you in my arms every single day of my life from now on, so I wouldn't consider separate quarters acceptable either. I'd insist on remaining on the Pegasus. We'd already set up the space for Hamathos—there's no reason that couldn't work for whomever is President. We could also dock Colonial One inside the Pegasus hanger—it's definitely large enough. I don't see living arrangements as a big obstacle."

Lee reached out his hand to turn Kara's face towards his, peering intently. "But we still haven't touched on the thing that upsets you the most…"

She shook her head 'no.'

"Is it what you said when you talked about being left behind?"

"Yes," Kara managed to get out.

"Kara, you are the love of my life. I don't see any scenario where I'd let you slip away from me again—I've already spent far too much time without you, and I bear the scars to prove it."

"But I can't just be this person attached to someone else, Lee—"

"I don't understand what makes you think I could or would diminish Kara Thrace, the great Starbuck—you can be CAG, or Commander—"

"What if I'm not, though, Lee? What if there's no more Starbuck, and I'm just Kara, a screw-up with nothing to offer? If I can't be the hot-shot pilot any more?"

"Then you'll be Starbuck, the hot-shot of something else. You know, I'd gleefully string your mother up with my bare hands, Kara, for how she convinced you that you have so little value. She was a frakkin' psycho, that woman—she wasn't to be believed then and isn't to be believed now."

Kara's throat stung with the strain of holding her tears back. "I'm afraid Lee," she said almost inaudibly. "I don't know if I'll be able to be the jock I used to be, and I can't see where else I would fit in. It's not like I could teach nuggets if I can't be out there in my own bird, and I can't picture being a knuckle-dragger on a permanent basis either."

"A knuckle-dragger, no, but I could see you as an aeronautical engineer—you've always had an amazing understanding of ship design and function. To this day, when I think about your skill in figuring out how to find the breathing apparatus on that raider when you'd crashed on that planet, let alone learning how to fly that thing, including waggling the wings—I've reflected more than once I'd have died in that godsforsaken place, 'cause I don't have that level of knowledge—never did."

At that, Kara giggled, catching Lee completely off guard. "What's so funny?"

"Well, I'd have to agree you don't have the best memory about ship construction. I saw those blueprints you've been working on for the battlestar, and frankly, they were missing a few things—like half the hydraulics systems!"

Lee turned pale. "How did you see those drawings? I had them in my desk…"

"It was in the unlocked drawer. Don't look so worried—I didn't pry open the locked one! Gods, what do you have in there you'd be so freaked out about?"

"Nothing, just some papers and photos—mementos. And I'm not freaked out that you looked in the desk, I'm just unnerved that somebody actually reviewed those blueprints, those ideas. They weren't ready for anyone to look at…"

"You're wrong there, Apollo. The set-up was fine; it just needed to be fleshed out. Here, I'll show you." Kara got up to pull the file off her shelf, and spread the sheets out across the floor. They both got down on their knees to study the documents together.

"See, I added in the schematics for the hydraulics, and started sketching out the locations for the weapons systems. There's a lot of equipment parts we don't have, but when I talked to Major Parker, he seemed to think we could fashion quite a few of them in the ship-building station on the Pegasus—he said you'd already had a number of machines developed for the finer pieces that were needed for the vipers constructed for the Rescue Mission."

"You talked to Parker about this already?" Lee was really stunned.

"Wasn't that okay?" Kara grew suddenly worried, as she took in the expression on Lee's face. "Sharon had suggested he was the guy who'd know what we could get our hands on…"

Lee chuckled. He gently pulled her towards him, kissing her. "It's fine. It's great, actually. I had no idea you'd been so busy, or that you'd warm to the concept so much. I figured everyone would think it was a ridiculous idea, too far to reach."

"It's a long shot, Apollo—you know that. A lot of things would have to line up to make it happen, and that includes finding planets or asteroids with the right chemical elements, like copper and mercury. But I've had some ideas about how to locate those too, so—"

"Kara," Lee interrupted excitedly as the reality struck him, "I think this is exactly what you were searching for, a project to take on that would add value!"

"Huh? Oh, no, Lee, I don't think—"

"Why not? Like I said, you're a natural with aeronautical engineering. Tyrol can lend his expertise in mechanics, when you need it. This is a huge undertaking and we need this battlestar, Kara. I'm sure of it. Losing Galactica was a significant blow, not just psychologically, but physically, in our ability to adequately defend the fleet. We've got to try and better our odds. I'm also convinced it would be a tremendous morale booster for all of the Colonials, if we could make this idea a reality."

Kara pursed her lips, her teeth worrying the lower ridge. "Lee, I appreciate the vote of confidence—I really do. But I need to make physical therapy my first priority—I want to get back in my bird."

Lee sat cross-legged, grasping Kara's hands in his own. "I believe, with my whole heart, Kara Thrace, you'll fly again. And we both have to make physical therapy a priority; I'm not ready to give up that adrenaline rush either."

"Did they discover new crystal balls while I was away? 'Cause you sound a lot more positive about this than the facts warrant."

"When I didn't think I'd make it back into the cockpit, after Eos, Tom—Lightening—was a gods-send. He knew what to do; every exercise, every trick. It wasn't easy, and it took longer than I wanted, but he laid out the rehab plan and it worked. If could come back from that, Kara—as messed up as my shoulder and my arm had been, not to mention where my head was at in those days—I have complete faith you'll be able to make it back now. You have more drive and fighting spirit than I ever did."

Kara cursed as her eyes filled up with tears. "You sure know how to charm a girl," she managed to say, laughing remorsefully.

"I need you to hear this too, though. You can work on rehab and still start on the plans for this new ship. It'll give you something to focus on in the other hours—there's no way to rehab every hour of every day—and it'll serve as a built-in back-up plan, to put your mind at ease about what the future looks like if you aren't the CAG right away."

"This still doesn't get you off the hook, Adama," Kara said, snuffling. "I don't like this Presidency idea. I need you, godsdamnit, and I don't say that with pleasure." She looked at him, catching his intense gaze.

"No, I don't suppose you do," Lee countered, chuckling again. "But that's okay, Thrace, I promise I won't let on that I know."

"Lee, I saw what that crowd was like when you came back from the insurgent ship. I watched what happened to Roslin over time. Everyone else will want a piece of you, and that changes a person. No matter how much you want to, you won't be able to be present, emotionally, for the off-hour things. I'll resent that, and I can't—"

Interrupting her, Lee firmly pushed Kara on her back, kissing her deeply until she was completely enthralled.

"I will be there for you, Kara Thrace. I'm not your father, or your mom, or Zak. We've made it through the literal end of the worlds and found our way back to each other; I will not surrender to anything or anyone who might try to come between us. If I am actually elected as President—and there's no crystal ball saying I will—we'll talk about how it's affecting our lives. You come to me and tell me it's become too much, I'll quit."

Kara examined his features, staring into his eyes for a long moment. "You mean that?"

"Yes, I mean that. Don't underestimate my love for your, Kara, not any more." He fell to her lips again with a renewed passion.

She reached up to caress his cheeks as he finally pulled away. "I can't tell you I'll be comfortable with you running, Lee. But I'll root for you, if this is what you want, and I'll hold you to your promise. 'Cause I finally have this chance with the…the love of my life too."

Sit Rep: Admiral's Private Quarters, Pegasus, Twelve Weeks After New Caprica Rescue

Rushing to his father's living quarters, Lee tried to quell his irritation. He hated command appearances, and it had been made clear to him he was expected to be present this evening. The Admiral hadn't explained what the meeting was for; Lee assumed it had something to do with the election plans or a new set of military strategies. It could be related to the development of the enhanced FTL drives, but Lee thought it was too soon for Caprica and Boomer to have made any progress in that regard. Whatever it was, Lee thought, it could've waited to be handled in duty hours.

Stepping into the main area, he was surprised to see Karl and Sharon, Tyrol, Sam Anders and Tory Foster, and Kara standing there—he didn't realize this was meant to be such a large production, and the mix of people seemed a bit strange. Moments later, Dr. Cottle, Tigh, and Ellen walked in too. Then Dualla and Major Parker showed up. Nonplussed, Lee walked over to Kara, who was conversing with Karl and Sharon.

"What's this about?" He asked them, under his breath. "This isn't the usual group for a strategy session."

"We're not sure either," Helo offered, his forehead creased in puzzlement. There was a collective intake of breath as a path cleared between the people milling around and a priestess, in full regalia, made her way to the far wall in the area.

"Brothers and Sisters, you've been brought here to witness a special ceremony—the union of Admiral William Adama and Laura Roslin. Would Lee Adama, Kara Thrace, and Sam Anders come up here?"

Lee felt frozen in place, unable to quite comprehend what was happening yet. Helo had to push him gently to get him to move.

"Lee, as William's son, you're asked to stand beside him and present the first ring, which I give to you now." She carefully placed a simple band into his hand.

"Kara, you've been asked to stand with Laura and present the other ring." She repeated the same movements she had with Lee.

"Finally, Sam, the couple would be honored if you'd be responsible for presenting the bride to the groom." All eyes turned to the man, who blushed, shocked he had been chosen for this role.

"If I can ask the others in attendance to step back, to give room to the couple," the priestess continued, as people shuffled positions and Roslin and the elder Adama emerged from the bedroom. Laura was wearing the warmly-hued plum dress Lee could vaguely remember seeing before at the Groundbreaking Ceremony on New Caprica; Bill was in his full formal ceremonies uniform.

Smiling, the priestess gestured for Lee, Kara, and Sam to get into place, pointing out the right locations. As the Admiral approached his son, face actually beaming, Lee couldn't help but grin widely in return. "I hope you don't mind the surprise, Son," Bill whispered as he hugged his Lee quickly. "I wanted to tell you, but Laura thought we could keep it simpler if we didn't say anything to anyone beforehand."

"I understand, Dad. I'm happy for you." Lee realized, as the words left his mouth, he truly was very pleased; to the extent Lee felt he understood his father, he really believed the love with Roslin was built on a strong foundation of trust and respect. Unlike the marriage with Lee's mother, these two people had the experience and the commitment to make it last.

As Laura came close and Kara positioned herself, Lee was struck by how pale Roslin looked. The color of the dress brought out the beauty of her complexion and hair, but something in her eyes said she was weary and a little shaky on her feet. It was probably just nerves, he reasoned, but his stomach flipped and he couldn't escape the sensation something else was going on there. Roslin's face, though, was radiating joy; she was definitely in love with the man she was marrying.

Sam, having escorted Roslin to the center spot and already stepped back, reflected on the honor he'd been given, still trying to figure out why they'd chosen him. Tigh seemed a more likely person for the role, especially given his long relationship with the Admiral. Sam felt close to William Adama, getting knowing the man authentically through all of those months of the Resistance. He'd always thought, deep down, though, the elder Adama was kind to Sam primarily because of his marriage to Kara. Now, it was dawning on him, maybe the Admiral and Roslin saw him as his own person.

Reciting the simple words of the ceremony, the priestess invoked the power of the gods to sustain this union, holding these people in loving regard. The rings exchanged, the vows repeated, and the ritual complete, Bill kissed his wife tenderly, to the applause of those in attendance.

A short period later several people arrived carrying in food. There was nothing fancy to offer, but it was enough to share a meal together and enjoy the last two bottles of high-quality ambrosia that had remained from the original tenant's command. Music was playing through the speakers, adding to the mood of celebration.

It didn't escape Kara's notice that Sam and Tory were spending most of this time together; they whispered in each other's ears and exchanged glances that seemed tinged with sexual attraction. She experienced a twinge of jealousy, before acknowledging that it was none of her business any more. Sam had every right to be happy with someone. What gnawed at the back of her mind, though, more darkly, was the question of when Sam and Tory had become close.

The woman certainly hadn't hung out with them on New Caprica before Kara was captured by Leoben; that meant they must've developed some kind of friendship during the months of the Resistance. A sharp anger surged in Kara's chest when she touched on that idea—while she was imprisoned and being tortured by that psycho frak, Sam was free, making friends and still living some kind of life.

He'd obviously become close to the Old Man too, another sore point for Kara; Bill Adama wasn't supposed to have any other surrogate "children". Kara wanted to be mature and graceful about the fact Sam had been developing his own life, but she felt flushed with rage as the thoughts kept building: her broken bones and constant fights to the death with the Cylon, juxtaposed with imagined scenes of Sam laughing and joining in with the key leaders, a group that had apparently included people like Tyrol and Tory.

In another second, her mind shifted to an even darker thought: what if Lee had carried on a relationship with someone else while she was in that horrible and frightening place? She tried to push the suggestion out of her head, to apply reason, but it was impossible. The heaving of forceful emotions brought tears to the back of her throat; she was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to get some space, and frantically worked the hatch to get out of the room.

Lee didn't see Kara leave; he was lost in his own musings. He wondered how Tigh was feeling since Sam and Lee were asked to be a part of the events while his father's best friend stood to the side. Something about the involvement of Anders pissed off Lee to no end; he knew it was irrational and immature, not to mention out of place on what should be a joyous occasion, but he just felt like Sam was always in his way.

Maybe "surrogate son" was somewhat less painful than "Kara's husband," given the givens, but it was unbelievably disturbing to Lee all the same. He wanted the man to disappear, to stop showing up in Lee's life, and it just wasn't happening! Apparently, the gods had some purpose in mind for San Anders, and Lee was going to have to swallow that.

It was also obvious, at least to Lee, that Ana was doing fine without him. It'd never occurred to him she might be interested Major Parker, but as he tried to work out why the two would turn up together, that was the natural conclusion. Lee had been studying their interactions off and on over the evening, and he wasn't sure if they were romantically involved yet. It seemed like a matter of time, though, the way Parker catered to Ana and she flirted with him—Lee certainly recognized Ana's body language, since she'd used the same tactics with him.

He wasn't jealous, exactly—he knew he wasn't in love with Dualla—but there was something about the finality of it all. Lee had been so proud of himself, asking Dualla to take on a new role with FutureWork that would be important for the fleet; he'd been under the ego-inflating illusion he was rectifying wrongs and building Dee up. It was suddenly clear that she didn't really need Lee Adama to do anything for her, and he was only making himself feel important. That realization hit him in the gut with embarrassment; despite his efforts to maintain a more humble mindset, he'd fallen into arrogance again.

And then, there was the meaning of the evening itself. His father was now re-married. Lee didn't know why he felt so bewildered; gods, William Adama had been single for decades and Lee's mother, Carolyanne, had perished in the Second Cylon War. Despite that knowledge, it seemed sudden and rash, words Lee didn't normally associate with his dad.

Part of the problem, Lee could see, was the timing in relation to the revelation of their romantic involvement; even though the Admiral was clearly carrying on something with Roslin before the Cylon occupation of New Caprica, Lee hadn't known about it until the conclusion of the Rescue, an event that'd only taken place three months ago. In Lee's mind, the two had been a couple for all of twelve weeks. It wasn't reality—he had to absorb the facts—but he just couldn't quite embrace the full truth or the implications of what had happened tonight.

Most of all, though, Lee was grappling with the urgency, the push to take the same actions himself. He knew he wanted to marry Kara, and her recent slip in using the word "wife" gave him hope that maybe he could convince her to take that step.

Oddly, despite her engagement to Zak and her marriage to Sam, Lee had never been sure Kara was really the kind of person who'd "walk down the isle." The presence of that damnable tatto, in Lee's mind, was a sign Kara had been tremendously uncomfortable with the whole concept—her way of taking on her fears and forcing herself to confront the uneasiness every frakking day. Even before that, when Kara had been his brother's fiancée, she'd only reluctantly agreed to wear a ring, and that had been on her thumb.

Of course, it was possible this was all simply a matter of Lee's rationalizations for behaviors he found too painful to accept, like Kara choosing Zak or her willingly enduring pain for hours to get that frakking large tattoo. Meanwhile, he'd lacked the courage to ever discuss the future with her.

On some level, Lee understood it was too soon to approach Kara about something as permanent as marriage. They both needed to legally dissolve their previous commitments, and they'd only recently begun an actual relationship, in the sense of spending significant amounts of time together and having real conversations about events of the past.

They'd barely initiated the steps towards making joint decisions about their future, a brand new experience for them. Unlike William Adama and Roslin, or even Lee with Dee, Sam with Kara—Lee Adama and Kara Thrace had a complicated history to resolve. Maybe even a divine wound to heal, if the words of Pythia were to be believed.

As much as Lee wanted to announce to the world, definitively, that he and Kara were joined for life, he was going to need more patience. He clenched his jaw at that insight, rapidly wishing he could get very drunk and dampen the deep restlessness still sitting in his chest.

At that point, coming out of his self-absorption, Apollo looked around. The event was winding down, with only Helo, Sharon, Tigh, and Ellen still present, talking to the newlyweds. Kara wasn't there, a fact that immediately alarmed him. Lee stepped inside the bedroom, checking the head; no one was there. He approached Helo, stepping close to discreetly ask him if Kara had said anything before leaving. Karl shook his head, and immediately saw the worry in his friend's features.

"Lee, I'm sure she's fine—you know how Starbuck can be. She never had a long tolerance for social events. I'll bet Kara went for a walk and'll be back in a few minutes."

Apollo nodded absently in response, uneasy. For some reason, he felt afraid—he wanted to lay eyes on her, now.

As the hatch opened and Kara re-entered the Admiral's quarters, Lee let out the breath he'd been holding without realizing it. He briskly stepped towards her, quickly grabbing her hand to pull her away from the others.

"Where's the fire, flyboy?"

She pushed the statement out sarcastically, annoyed by the look on Lee's face and irritated at being handled' as she came back into the room. Kara had always hated lovers who hovered over her, and she was already out of sorts, despite the stroll to clear her head.

Immediately dropping Kara's hand at those words, Lee stammered an excuse. He knew well how touchy Starbuck could be when it came to PDAs or behaviors she interpreted as clingy. He could also feel the edgy energy radiating from her.

"No fires, Starbuck. Let me know when you're ready to go." He stepped back, masking his thoughts as he headed over to where Tigh and his father were conversing.

Kara winced, watching Lee walk away. She'd been sharper than she needed to be, and Apollo always shut down when he thought she might unleash her temper. Regretting her first reaction, she promised herself she wouldn't dwell on her painful, irrational fears.

Lee Adama loved her and he'd rescued her from Leoben, at great risk. Sam may have formed attachments to other people while Kara was trapped with that evil Cylon, but Lee had focused solely on the Rescue, on getting her back. He was stronger than Sam, and she could wholly believe in him, trust him.

Quietly signaling to Lee she wanted to go back to their own quarters, Kara made up her mind to show him again how much she appreciated their new beginning.