Dislcaimer: not mine
Pairings: Sharon Agathon/Karl Agathon, mostly. Kara Thrace/Sam Anders, a bit.
Rating: pretty PG, really.
Warnings: violence, sexual innuendo, Kara/Anders, cuteness.
Length: 7,000
Notes: This was written for the Kindreds Secret Santa exchange. I'd like to note I had no idea where to start, and thus I needed a hook. Now, if you're me, that means you start singing the BSG Twelve Days of Christmas on the drive back from St. Louis. They don't all fit, of course, and this is quite non-linear.
Spoilers: This contains speculation for season four, iirc.

Twelves
by ALC Punk!

1. -twelve signs to Earth- It was Doc Cottle who figured out the drawings, smoking one of his last cigarettes and ignoring Athena's glare as she listened to him lecture her on her eating habits. Hera was doodling, as she always did, clumsy baby fingers staining the sheets of precious paper with crimson and blue, muddling them into a color that was neither.

The paints were cadged from Kara Thrace, who gave the remnants of her paintbox up grudgingly to the tiny child who seemed so sad. The reluctance disappeared when Hera pulled her down and tugged her fingers into the paint, too.

"That's Earth," Cottle said, breaking off to stab his cigarette at the half-finished drawing. He narrowly avoided brushing the burning end against Hera's hair, and Athena nearly smacked his hand, scattering ashes on the bed and floor, wasting the rest of the oh-so-precious cigarette.

"What?" Confused at his sudden derailment, she blinked at him.

"Earth."

Athena looked down at the image Hera was creating, an image similar to the half-dozen others she'd finished so her doting parents could tack them to the walls of their quarters. She sucked in a breath, feeling a strange connection to what she'd seen before, and what she was seeing now. "Doc--"

It was like the mandala Karl had told her about, the haunting image that foretold Kara's destiny and her role in their journey. Now there was a further piece to the puzzle. There were eleven pictures up on the walls of their quarters, and this would be the twelfth. A sense of things clicking into place gripped her, and Sharon decided it was time to take the doctor's advice about her health.

2. -eleven unlaid plans-

She appears to him in a dream after a particularly large drinking contest which Starbuck claims to have won. Ripper thinks she reminds him of someone, but can't quite name her.

"You die," she says, looking at him with sad brown eyes. "I never get to meet you. I don't get to meet a lot of people, of course."

Ripper has always thought he'd die, probably in battle. Either when the colonies skirmished again, or when the rumored Cylon return occurred. Not that Ripper believes in the Cylons, much. He knows the history, he knows the stories. And he knows they're something parents threaten their children with when they've been bad. His sister does it, when he sees them on holiday.

"I'm sorry you die--" the girl turns away, as though distracted. "--so many people..."

Trying to get a grip on things, Ripper reaches out--or thinks he reaches out, and can't, quite. It's a dream. Like standing still, his feet stuck in mud, his hands are coated in something and he can't quite move, can't touch her to find out if she's real (she's a dream, and he should remember that).

"Would you have found Kobol?" the girl asks suddenly. "If you had lived? The potential is there, the potential is always there. But you would have turned north while Starbuck turned south. And the rest can't find the mouse in the chicken-coop."

Now he knows he's dreaming again, since that last bit made no sense. He wants to shake her, or himself, until it does.

"They tell me all of this has happened before. My mother--" but that seems to be more than she intends, and she stops, mouth closing. Her eyes blink once, and Ripper suddenly realizes he knows those eyes.

He sees them every morning when he hands out raptor assignments. Sees those cheekbones when he does, too. It shakes him to the core, and the feeling is all it takes to drag him awake.

Trying to remember the scattered edges of his dreams, practicality asserts itself. He didn't really have a dream about the daughter of Sharon Valerii. That would be absurd and pointless. Besides, she never looked twice at Agathon.

3. -ten deckhands decking-

Hera dashed across the deck as fast as her legs could carry her, laughing with delight. Behind her, Helo called for her to stop, though he was laughing, too. It had been one of Those mornings, which had inevitably led to him running late and Hera escaping from day care, and now he was chasing her halfway across Galactica. But he was laughing, because he could chase her.

And possibly because she was so adorable, even while being naughty.

"Hey!" Cally yelped as Hera dashed under the viper she was working on and came out the other side, almost knocking into her. A not-quite-experienced mother yet, Cally lunged, but missed the small child.

"Sorry," Helo tossed as he dodged around the viper rather than going under it like his daughter had.

"I'll go this way--" suggested Cally, raising her voice and shouting for Seelix and the other two working with her to come help catch Hera.

Grateful for the help, Helo went one way while they went another, splitting up as Hera wended her way deeper into the tangle of ships and stacks of scrap metal. A little concerned for her safety, Helo put on some speed and almost caught her before she rolled under a raptor.

Crouching down, he looked underneath to find Hera had stopped, just out of reach and was watching him, giggling. "C'mere, Hera."

She shook her head, crawling backwards.

With a sigh, he dropped to his belly and wriggled underneath after her. He didn't want to consider the state of his once-pristine uniform jacket, but he was sure the quartermaster would have certain words for him. Hera, having realized she might get caught, scrambled backwards even faster.

"She's over here!"

Seelix and Carlos crawled underneath the raptor from opposite sides, both looking torn between amusement and irritation. Karl waved a thankful greeting to them and wriggled closer to Hera, "Hera, stop running, please? Daddy's not angry, Daddy just wants you to be safe."

Another set of giggles escaped Hera and she popped out from under the far side of the raptor and rolled to her feet only to be snatched up and tucked under Chief Tyrol's arm while she shrieked in glee and surprise.

"If you three are done playing under there, we have work to do," the Chief suggested, his tone amused.

Figuring there was no point in going back the way he'd come, Karl continued to the other side while Seelix and Carlos scrambled backwards. He pulled himself out and stood up, looking down at his uniform and letting out a sigh for the streaks on it. "Thanks, Chief."

Tipping Hera back upright, Tyrol handed her over to him, "Try not to loose her this time, sir."

"You hear that, Hera? No getting lost." Karl said, shaking his finger at her. "And no running out of daycare again, ok?"

Hera heaved a sigh, but giggled again before she nodded.

4. -nine crewmen crewing-

It was a rescue mission. Get in, get out, leave no one behind. Helo tasted the fear at the back of his throat and ignored it as best he could. He knew he'd soon be so caught up in the adrenaline rush that it would fade.

"Five seconds to perimeter," 'Track muttered, then she shut up. Silence was the order of the day.

Karl didn't bother acknowledging her as he turned to gesture at the others in their party. Right behind him, Kara's mouth was set in a grim line. Two marines were behind her, eyes equally hard--Sergeant Matthias had promised they were the best. She would have come with them, but Adama had thought sending all his best people might be a bit much.

The idea that someone could walk onto Galactica and just take his little girl with no one noticing froze the blood in his veins. He was sure that Roslin was somewhere, gloating about how she'd been right about Hera being a liability. If she'd been right in front of him, he would have punched her, president or not.

They'd been lucky--Dee had caught a transmission from one of the kidnappers when he'd reported his mission a success. So far, there hadn't been any ransom demands--or worse, but Karl wasn't letting himself think about the worse--but Adama assumed it would only be a short while before they'd make their demands known. With the transmission and a little luck, they'd triangulated the destination of the call.

Behind the marines, Sharon moved almost mechanically, like she was locking down every emotion in preparation for the worst. Every emotion except for the cold anger in her eyes that promised death to the people who had stolen her child.

'Track stiffened and then moved to the side, her hand-signal all the order Helo needed.

He was up and out of his cover, running for the door they needed to get through, hands already pulling the explosive free of his pocket and slapping the detonator into the clay-like substance. He smashed it against the door, then ducked back.

The explosion echoed loud, the concussion knocking Karl off his feet. 'Track hauled him to his feet as she passed, Kara and the marines ahead of her, their job to lay down the covering fire.

Confusion reined in the room they'd blown a hole in, surprised people diving for cover, most shot and spinning to the ground, blood flying as Kara, Sharon and the marines aimed with deadly accuracy. Someone got organized enough to start firing back, and Karl knocked Sharon to the ground before the hail of bullets could take her head off. They rolled away from each other, coming up to fire from the scant cover just inside the door.

A shout from the back went almost unheard until Karl focused on it.

"Stop shooting, or we kill the child."

Helo's eyes went wide and he shouted at Kara, at Sharon--the order was relayed, and suddenly, only the other side was firing.

They stopped, their leader calling for the marines to come out from their cover.

About to call an objection, Helo didn't as the man appeared, Hera in front of him. His gun was buried in the side of her neck. "I suggest you obey, or the child dies. Now."

"All right!" Helo called. He set his gun down and held up his hands, glancing frantically towards Kara and the others, hoping they would do the same. The life of his child was at stake, and he couldn't risk her. Not when the man looked so calm about it all. "We're coming out."

Slowly, the six left their weapons and stepped out into the open. One of the marines had taken a bullet and was bleeding, supported by 'Track. Kara looked angrier than he'd seen her in a long time, and Sharon--Sharon looked blank. He shivered. It would take very little for her to snap the neck of the man in front of them.

"Who are you?" Karl demanded.

"Someone interested in the future," the man replied smoothly. He loosened his grip on Hera, the gun sliding away from her cheek, but still hovering. "And she is the future, isn't she."

Not a question. Karl wouldn't have answered it, anyway. "I asked who you were."

"You barge in here and shoot my people, and you want introductions?" The man laughed.

Something behind him, some movement, caught Helo's eye, and he did his best to stay focused on the man as Jean Barolay waited for her shot. The man's gun was still too close to Hera. Trying to get it pointed elsewhere, Helo stepped forward. "Captain Karl C. Agathon."

The gun moved to cover him a little more.

Hera watched them all, her eyes calm, and Helo had the oddest sense that she understood far more about what was going on than a child her age should. "Please let her go," he whispered. He wondered where the man's other people were--there had been at least two more, firing at them. They hadn't ever appeared.

Anders appeared behind the man, blood smeared on his amrs, though the rifle in his hands was steady as he brought it up to aim at the back of the man's head.

Taking a chance, Helo moved again, gaining the kidnapper's full attention. And now there was something that might have been dawning understanding in his eyes. He started to drop his hand to point the gun at Hera again, but it was too late. Barolay and Anders took their shots, bullets shattering his skull.

Sharon was past Karl before he could blink, dropping to her knees and pulling Hera into her arms, babbling nonsense. Karl couldn't blame her. He dropped down and wrapped his arms around them both, ignoring the sounds of the others retrieving their weapons and clearing the rest of the room.

Eventually, though, someone touched his shoulder and he looked up to find Dee, the third member of Anders' party,, watching them with concern. "We should return to Galactica, sir."

"Right. Yeah." He kissed the top of Sharon's head and slowly stood, then reached down to pull her and Hera up. "Let's go home."

Only Kara was waiting at the door, her rifle still held as though she wanted to shoot someone.

Karl frowned and looked at Dee, "Any casualties?"

"Private Deakins took a bullet in the arm and Barolay has a scratch or two." She reported. "None of them are left alive to question, unfortunately." Dee didn't sound exactly sorry about that.

Karl certainly wasn't. He wondered, again, as they walked back down to the landing bay and their raptor, just which race was worse: humans or cylons.

5. -eight raptors raiding-

They'd gotten the all-clear, and Athena was spinning her raptor down to the derelict base ship when all hell broke loose. Wireless chatter erupted in a high-pitched electronic squeal and she swore, yanking her helmet off and trying to block out the still-echoing sound as behind her, Helo worked at the board to minimize it.

"What the frak?"

"Don't know!" He called back.

Athena stared at the other raptors around them, watching as they arrested their descents, hanging as though paralyzed-- "Helo, is it an attack?"

"No--" he broke off as the sound stopped.

The blessed silence made her breathe easier, and she kept scanning the area, listening for the tell-tale sounds of incoming cylons appearing on dradis. But there was nothing, but the sound of slowly-renewing conversation from the other raptors, and a sound-out order from Galactica.

"Galactica, Raptor 152. Helo and I are fine," she reported, then added, "What the frak was that, over?"

"Raptor 152, Galactica. We don't know yet, Athena. Hang tight for new orders. Out." Dee replied, her tone brisk.

"That was fun," Helo muttered.

Athena snorted in agreement, and noted the approach of the CAP from the far side of the base ship, where Starbuck and Dragon had been playing tag. The two vipers streaked past, angling down to buzz the base ship again, obviously looking for signs of life.

"Galactica, Starbuck," crackled the wireless, "Still nothing down here. Recommend sending in one of the raptors with an escort, unless we're scrubbing this whole plan."

The reply from Galactica acknowledged the suggestion, but didn't accept or deny it. Then Dee's voice rang softly in their raptor, "Raptor 152, Galactica, you're cleared to continue descent, but be wary. Notify immediately if there's hostile action, and try not to bump Starbuck on your way in."

A similar message was obviously relayed to Starbuck, as one of the vipers peeled away from the other and moved to an escort position. The wings waggled, and Athena couldn't resist a grin along with a slight waggle back.

The base ship had obviously been ripped open during a fire-fight, half the star-shape spinning slowly away from the main section. It was a miracle the thing was even vaguely intact, given the structural damage. Athena looked at it, wondering if it had been squeezed from the inside, the heart exploding and causing the multiple fractures in the hull they could begin to make out as they moved closer.

"Damn." Helo let out a low whistle, having come to look over her shoulder for a moment.

"Yeah." Feeling sad, Sharon turned the raptor to search for a good spot to land.

Helo moved back to his station, reporting his readings to Galactica as she continued the sweep.

"Athena, Starbuck, I think I've found us a place to set down."

"Starbuck, Athena. Lead on." she replied.

The viper slipped closer, then turned to the left, dropping down a bit. With the viper leading her line of sight, Athena spotted the large room that hadn't been exactly visible. She eyed it as they got closer. The raptor would just fit inside, with room for the viper. Grateful that it was Starbuck and not one of the rooks, Athena maneuvered into the space, almost bumping the wall before she settled down.

"Nice." Starbuck radioed and then the viper was landing in the space left. They'd have to manually shove the viper out when they needed to leave, but that would take all of two seconds, given how close it was to the edge.

Besides, vipers were fairly light.

"Helmets on," Athena called, reaching down for hers, having left it off after the weird transmission.

"Yessir."

Stepping off the raptor and onto the deck wasn't like coming home. Sharon had been living on Galactica for too long for a base ship to be anything but foreign (except occasionally). She had her side-arm out, and so did the other two as they made they way through the open hatch.

The corridor was as empty as the exterior seemed to be and Athena turned on her torch, trying to orient herself. There used to be a running joke about all base ships being the same, except that they weren't. As the hybrids grew, they changed the ships around them to suit their own preconceived needs. It was a synthesis Sharon hadn't ever really understood, but it meant she couldn't simply declare either way the correct route to the command center.

"Athena?"

"Let's try this way," she turned to the right. Sharon (Boomer) had once dated a film student, who talked theory as he kissed his way along her skin--he'd been far more fascinated by his own voice than her--and she still occasionally wondered if the habit of choosing right over left was because of him.

It wasn't until they were closer to the heart of the ship that they began to find signs that the place had once been occupied. Cylons, even human-looking cylons, needed little in the way of things. With their ability to project onto their surroundings, they could be anywhere, doing anything. It was one of the things Sharon didn't miss at all. She preferred tangible objects under her fingers, broken seams and buttons that fell off with poor darning to glittering ball gowns and endless forests that never really existed.

Their first body--or what was left of one, the vacuum of space having kept the shattered machine preserved--they found floating right outside the command chamber.

Starbuck shoved it with the nose of her gun and they all jumped a little when it hit the far wall with a crunch. "Sorry," she muttered.

"Next time, just shoot it," Helo suggested.

Ignoring them, Sharon shoved at the hatch, getting it open enough to shine her torch inside. More bodies littered the area, some broken beyond recognition, and she wondered what had happened to this place.

"Athena, Galactica. Sit rep, over." Dee's voice broke the silence, causing Sharon to slip a little as she stepped over the threshold and she tumbled into free-fall for an instant before Starbuck grabbed her leg.

"Galactica, Helo. We've reached the command," reported Helo. "There are dead cylons, but no apparent cause of destruction. Over."

"Is it safe to send the rest of the raptors down?" Dee asked a minute later, obviously relaying the question from Admiral Adama.

Sharon pushed the husk of a Three out of her way and eyed the broken command computer relays. She wasn't sure she wanted to try linking up just yet. With no power, she might get nothing--and she didn't want to risk causing the base ship to deteriorate further if she activated anything accidentally. Still, she could try accessing the logs... "We don't know yet, Galactica. I'm going to attempt to access the logs. Over."

"Hey, is it safe to do that?" Helo asked, sounding like he wanted to object.

"Well, if she goes insane, we could shoot her," offered Starbuck.

Sharon doubted Kara was serious, even though she knew the other woman would kill her to save the rest of the fleet, if it was required. At least, she thought Kara would. Sometimes, it was hard to tell.

"No shooting my wife, Starbuck."

"And if she shoots you first?"

"She won't."

Helo's quiet confidence was touching. Sharon couldn't resist the grin that formed on her lips as she turned to look at them. "No shooting, please. Knock me unconscious."

"Bash your skull in. Right," Starbuck saluted, grinning back.

Helo made a sound of disagreement, but no further protest. Sharon flashed him a slightly deeper smile, then turned back to the console.

Locating the part of the 'stream' that looked like she might be able to access it, Sharon carefully reached out and touched it, letting her fingers slide through the substance. Even through her glove, she could feel the strange electric oiliness she always associated with interfacing with cylon equipment. Her eyes drifted closed as some spark of power drifted through the data banks.

There...

A flash of images downloaded themselves into her brain, and she pulled her hand free, stepping back and finding Helo there, steadying her. The after-image burned into her brain, Sharon wanted to rub her eyes to remove it. She sucked in a breath, then released it. "They were attacked by another base ship."

"Why?" demanded Starbuck. She kicked at a pile of rubble, causing the pieces to scatter across the room.

"It didn't say," replied Sharon, tone exasperated. "It just showed up, and fired until it had caused the chain-reaction in the engines that destroyed this ship." She reached up to rub the dull, throbbing pain behind her eyes and cursed when she hit the faceplate of her helmet. "And now I have a frakking headache."

"Galactica, Helo, did you get all that?"

"We did, Helo. Sending the other raptors to start stripping supplies now. Galactica out."

"Wish I had a cigar on me," Starbuck muttered as she headed for the other door. "You two coming? We have supplies to look for."

Helo patted Sharon's shoulder and then started after Kara. "We're coming, Starbuck. Hold your damned horses."

Looking down at the sightless eyes of the Three she'd moved, Sharon felt a shiver go through her. She hated this part of the job, but she understood the need to get supplies anywhere they could find them. Reaching out, she turned the Three so her eyes were facing the other way, and then she followed Kara and Karl, intent on doing her job.

6. -seven marines training-

The first time Hera said 'frak', Sharon just thought it was a random collection of sounds that couldn't really be her two-year-old daughter saying one of the few words she was hoping she wouldn't pick up until she were at least ten. And it wasn't as though Hera was all that talkative, anyway, although they were pretty sure she'd mastered 'ma' and 'da', or some facsimile thereof.

But frak?

No way.

And then she said it again, as Sharon was changing her diaper. Sharon herself nearly said the word in response as she stared at the smiling baby, waving her hands at her. "Don't say that, sweetie."

"Frak." Hera replied cheerfully, this time perfectly legible.

Sharon considered, as she finished her task. She and Karl had tried to be careful not to swear around her--mostly because having a daughter who could swear like a marine seemed a little silly. Which meant someone else had, and Sharon didn't think it was the people at the daycare, since they were members of Roslin's small corps of teaching professionals (as professional as one could get without certification courses, tests, or real materials to use). And Hera didn't have much contact with anyone else, outside of--

Oh.

"Who taught you to say that, Hera?" Sharon asked, wondering if she were right in her supposition.

Hera wriggled free and climbed off the bed to the floor, leaving her pants and socks behind while Sharon watched in bemusement. There was something precious about seeing her daughter be happy and playing, even if it meant letting her get her way a little more than Sharon should have.

Careening around the room, Hera made vroom-ing noises, arms outstretched. She made a turn and came streaking back to Sharon, catching herself against Sharon's legs with a giggle.

Leaning over, Sharon scooped her up. "Someone who flies, huh?" she asked.

Hera nodded, then said tried to say a series of syllables that were too complicated for her, and came out garbled. Sharon narrowed her eyes, recognizing a few of them. "Starbuck did, huh?"

"Ya!" Hera beamed. Hera liked Starbuck, and strangely, Starbuck seemed to like Hera. Or at least, she didn't flinch away from her. And Sharon had the distinct impression Kara wasn't all that fond of children. Especially given their argument after the farm.

"Starbuck is a bad influence, Hera." Sharon chuckled suddenly, "But I bet she likes it that way, huh?"

"Frak," agreed Hera, her tone solemn.

"Next time I see her, we are totally having a discussion about child-appropriate words," Sharon muttered as she maneuvered Hera back onto the bed so she could get her dressed for daycare.

7. -six civvies shaving-

While he'd been growing up, Helo had shared more than his share of school bathrooms with other kids. Once in the military, he'd shared larger heads with the people he crewed with. But nothing had really prepared him for the sight of able-bodied adults using the school bathroom at Delphi Union High. The room was busy, as the resistance moved in and out, taking care of their morning routines.

Feeling a little like he'd never left grade school, he jostled his way between two of the smaller members of Anders' resistance. It was laughable, really. He was bigger than most of them--except maybe Hillard. And they were people. Alive, vibrant, real people. Not fakes or copies or machines. He shuddered a little, trying to decide whether that was just some mental defense against Sharon or not. He loved her, but...

Someone elbowed him, trying to get space at the sink, and he looked down to find Sue-Shaun glaring at him. "Hey."

"Need all this space for your delicate ablutions, Lieutenant?" She mocked, before leaning over the sink to rinse the toothpaste from her mouth.

"Yep," he agreed, sticking his well-used toothbrush under the same faucet she'd just used. He didn't want to think about the fungus that had probably grown on the thing since he'd been on the run for so long. He just counted his blessings that he had it. His mama used to tell him his teeth were the most important thing he could keep clean. He'd been brushing with soap for two months, now, it was nice to use mint-flavored paste again.

Sue-Shaun snorted her opinion of that, but moved out of the way, since she was done with her morning routine.

Brushing his teeth gave Helo time to consider what to make of Anders and his people--they weren't military, but they'd survived better off than he had. The running water at the school meant that he'd gotten his first real shower in months the night before, and damn if it hadn't felt good. He'd been reluctant to put his flight suit back on and Anders had loaned him scrounged sweats. The clean fabric was almost heaven. They were surviving, and doing more than that. They were trying to fight back--sure, they weren't organized in their methods, but that was probably why they were still alive.

Quick, unexpected attacks were surprising the cylons far more than concerted, carefully-planned ones would have. Although the humans couldn't afford the same sort of casualties as the cylons could--and Karl tried not to think of Sharon, and her never-ending supply of ready bodies.

"Helo!" Kara barreled into him, hugging him good morning and stealing his toothbrush.

"Hey--" he objected.

"Can I borrow this?" she asked, already rinsing it off and reaching for the paste.

Spitting out his mouthful of water, Helo snorted, "You aren't afraid of germs, Starbuck?"

"If I get halitosis, I'll blame you, Helo." She comforted, patting his shoulder and starting on her teeth.

She seemed bright and cheerful for such an early morning. And she looked rumpled. Helo narrowed his eyes, noticing that she was indecently happy for someone stranded on a nuclear-wasted planet. "You have a good night, Starbuck?"

Her answer was garbled by the brush in her mouth, but seemed to be in the affirmative.

Rinsing again, Karl grabbed for the towel someone had left on the nearby rack and scrubbed his face dry. "You seen Anders this morning?"

A smug look crossed Starbuck's face, and she nodded.

"He dressed yet?" Karl asked dryly. He'd always known Starbuck was fast when she had her mind made up. But usually, she was drunk off her ass and the indiscretion was forgotten in the midst of her morning hangover.

She spit into the sink, then shook her head, "I left him a little worn out. Poor man has no stamina."

Karl was a little surprised at the pang of jealousy that touched him. Kara made it look so easy. Nothing about he and Sharon had ever been easy, and now--now she was a cylon, and the enemy, and he couldn't help still loving her. She'd become a person, to him. "Yeah?" he asked lightly.

"I could cut him some slack, what with the whole cylon-invaded planet," Kara waved Karl's toothbrush in her hand, then noticed it and rinsed it off. "But when the hell have I ever been nice?"

"Never."

"Right." Tossing the now-clean brush at him, Kara grabbed the towel.

Karl caught it before it hit the floor. "You're all heart, Kara."

"Heart don't get you nowhere, Karl. You know that." She patted his shoulder, seeming to remember Sharon for a moment. Her eyes turned serious. "She was a cylon. It'll pass."

"Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

She was gone before he could say something stupid about love, which was probably for the best. Helo packed up his kit and tossed the towel at the last member of Anders' crew. Barolay caught it, looking amused, then ignored him.

8. -five viper jocks-

"Money where you mouth is, Helo!" called 'Track as she waved a finger at him.

They were drunk, or 'Track was drunk, her hair spilling around her shoulders like she'd done it on purpose--she hadn't. Dee had teased the frak out of her earlier about gussying up for Connor until 'Track had threatened to shoot her and the comms officer had given her tips on looking less like a grease monkey. Which had led to some sort of bet that Helo hadn't even heard all of the details of, but which seemed to involve stealing underwear. He wasn't sure he wanted to, either.

"HELO." 'Track threw a piece of pretzel at him. "Galactica to Helo. Are you in, or are you out?"

"If he's out, I'm out," said Dragon, never one to risk too much.

A snicker came from Starbuck, "You're always out."

She would be why, too, Helo figured. Starbuck could charm the cards like nobody (except Dr. Baltar, though Helo didn't believe that story, no matter how many people told it to him), and if she was grinning and confident, she would win.

"I'm out," he tossed in his cards.

Dragon followed suit, leaving the game to be battled between Starbuck, Gaeta and 'Track.

It was over pretty quick, Starbuck almost dancing in her chair as she raked in the winnings, cigar clenched between her lips, "You are all so easy! I should play with you every time."

"Then you'd lose your touch," 'Track shot back.

"Yeah. Guess I'd have to play with non-idiots, sometimes."

'Track threw a peanut at 'Buck, then quickly scrambled free of her chair when 'Buck bounced up, like she was going to punch her. Helo got ready to grab one or both of them in an effort to keep them out of hack this week. On the other side of the table, he saw Dragon tense to do the same.

A laugh ripped free from Starbuck and she headed off to the bar, with a mocking comment about 'Track's ability to take a joke.

9. -four quorum members-

They confront Roslin on a Friday. Or what would have been a Friday if the old colonial calendar hadn't been a bit mixed up during the five days, year on New Caprica, and various other crises.

"You hid the child," says Zarek. He's starting, because this is his idea and he is the impetus on so many ventures now.

But it's Sarah who takes up the task of talking, of poking until Roslin is in a corner that she can either lie her way out of, or give her faith to. And so Roslin chooses faith, as she has before. As she did while she lay dying, the cancer eating down through her soul (the one Adama claims she saved when she gave Baltar the election and let him destroy too many of her people).

Zarek is the least surprised, and there's a fervor in Sarah's eyes that almost frightens her. But it's the other two they must talk down from their plans for the destruction of what they term the abomination.

It's one of the only times Roslin has to walk away before she comes to blows over the safety of the child she stole.

Later, Zarek reports that they have kept the secret amongst only the full quorum, but Laura suspects the inevitable will occur, and public opinion will shift again. Fleetingly, she misses Billy, and his faith in the people rather than the Gods.

10. -three cylons talking-

Sharon wasn't sure why Sam wanted to join her on her weekly visit to Caprica. Maybe he wanted to find out if he'd known her, or something. His half-explained reason had been convoluted, confusing, and obviously a lie. Still, he wouldn't be able to hurt Caprica, and Sharon understood the need to confront your demons, no matter what shape they took.

Caprica watched them through the glass, her eyes lightening as she met Sharon's. She looked puzzled as she spotted Anders, but didn't ask as Sharon motioned the guards to open the door.

Their conversation would be monitored, of course. It always was, and Sharon was always careful in what she said (ten times as careful as she once might have been, considering the listeners were looking for a reason to airlock both of them). She gestured at Sam, "Caprica, this is Sam Anders. Sam, this is Caprica."

"I know who you are," Caprica said, an odd intensity in her words. Then she smiled, "I used to go to pyramid games, sometimes, I'd watch your team. I was never very picky about it."

Sharon glanced back at Sam, raising her eyebrows, knowing this was his conversation, not hers. When he didn't say anything, she shrugged and looked back at Caprica, "How've you been?"

A shrug and Caprica leaned back in her chair, half-turning away as though listening to something.

It was something she did often, and it bothered Sharon. As though she should know what was going on, or perhaps understand it, at least. She dug the ragged-eared deck of triad cards from her pocket and moved to take the seat across from Caprica. "Five-card stud, anyone?"

Sam let out a soft sound and then moved to take the other chair, "Only if you promise not to cheat, Sharon."

"I never cheat," Sharon objected, surprised into a smirk.

"Kara taught you," replied Sam accurately. He grinned back, "Not that she ever needed to--" He looked away, then, his gaze crossing Caprica's. A shiver went through him, and an expression Sharon couldn't identify--or perhaps didn't want to--slid across his eyes.

Squabbling like children would accomplish nothing, "Fine. Caprica can deal."

Caprica chuckled, then accepted the cards, as though she'd expected this outcome all along.

11. -two heavy raiders-

"And then Starbuck's bird flipped over and fired, taking the second raider out."

Helo paused in the doorway of the room set aside as a day care. There were twenty-three children on Galactica, all with varying schedules, thanks to their parents being in the military. Luckily, there was a never-ending roster of off-duty marines (Sergeant Matthias considered day care duty mandatory to keep her people remembering there was more out there than a war, plus, there was something inherently hysterical in seeing a six-foot, two-hundred-fifty pound marine on his knees while he argued with a five-year old about the crayon she was using) and two of Roslin's carefully-hoarded childcare professionals. Lieutenant Dualla was sitting cross-legged on the floor, hands illustrating the story she was telling to three small children.

The kids were watching her, eyes wide with interest as she described the vipers defending the fleet from the cylon attack. From what he could tell, the story was mostly fabricated, probably based on the experiences Dee had had as the voice of Galactica during such tense times.

It was just different to find Dee there. Karl leaned against the side of the door, listening and watching--as caught by the story as the children were. He had no idea if Dee had ever planned to have kids, but given her competence with them here, he was willing to bet she'd make a good mother.

The story finished with a flourish and Dee grinned as the kids clapped. She glanced up and spotted Helo in the doorway, and straightened a little. "Sir."

"Hey, Dee."

Hera, hearing his voice, bounced to her feet and came running over to him, babbling about vipers and Starbuck and explosions. He swung her up into his arms and hugged her, "Exciting stuff, huh?"

"Yeah!" Hera agreed enthusiastically before kissing his cheek.

"The normal daycare assistant had to run down to the infirmary with Nate Grey when he broke his nose falling off of something," Dee explained as she started helping the other two build a tower with blocks.

Helo shook his head, "Kids," he said, tone rueful.

"Yeah," Dee agreed, still smiling. "Hera seems to be doing well."

"She is, yeah." Startled to realize he was becoming a man with few roads of conversation, Helo shifted his stance a little, and asked, "Heard any rumors about her lately?"

"Not really--" Dee broke off, frowning, as though she'd just remembered something. "No, wait. There is one that's running around the fleet. Something about her being the savior of humanity, but that one's also got a suggestion about Starbuck being her mother, so I'm not sure I'd trust it that much."

Kara as a mother? Yeah, Karl could see that happening. If they lobotomized her, drugged her, and shoved a tube--basically, if Kara were locked in a farm again. He shook his head, grinning, "Guess I shouldn't tell Hera that. Might inflate her ego."

Dee chuckled. "Go home, Helo. I'm sure Sharon's waiting for you two."

"That an order, Lieutenant?" he teased, tucking Hera against his side so he could have a hand free, just in case.

"No, sir."

They both laughed a little, and Karl headed off as she'd suggested, right hand free to grab for the side-arm at his hip. It wasn't that he was paranoid, it was just that he was careful.

12. -one big happy family-

Karl wasn't sure what had woken him up. He knew he'd been dreaming, though about what he didn't know--given that he couldn't feel adrenaline pumping through his veins, he assumed they'd at least been boring dreams. Probably filled with paperwork and mountains of refugees asking for shelter. Sharon was curled against his back, snoring lightly as she slept--it always amused him a little that a cylon snored.

Something poked his nose.

There were only a few things that could be poking his nose, and while Karl thought the cylons might invade Galactica at some point, he was pretty sure there would have been, say, alarms going off by then. Which left Starbuck, or the slightly scarier possibility.

Opening his eyes, he found himself looking at his daughter.

She smiled at him, one hand fisted in the sheet, the other stretched towards his face. He could see her problem: she hadn't been able to climb onto the bed with them. Although she had been able to climb out of her crib.

"You are not supposed to be up," he whispered at her, reaching out and scooping her up onto the bed.

She made a noise that might have been assent and snuggled up against his chest.

Karl kissed the top of her head and tried to convince himself it wasn't the end of the world that Hera could climb out of her crib and walk. She was just precocious.

Probably, if he'd been more awake, he would have been proud of that fact. But being mobile meant that she could be in more danger, if she slipped away from them and went exploring on her own. He shoved the worry away and closed his eyes. If it happened, they would deal with it. For now, he was going to have to tell Sharon her daughter was trouble.

-f-