There was only one place he could think of to go where they could evade fleet security, but Apollo could find him if need be. He kept hold of Rene's hand and wove his way through the engine compartment, only letting go to grab hearing protection, but when he reached for her hand again, she held his tight. He mouthed to her, "Don't let go."
Once up the ladder, he closed the hatch, blocking out the roar of the engines. It was then that Starbuck had second thoughts about his choice of hideouts. As he looked at Rene he realized they probably should have taken refuge in the Life Center.
"That fracking boray," Starbuck said, reaching for the wet rag from her, the ice mostly melted from the heat of the engine compartment. The left side of her face looked mostly purple, with her eye beginning to swell closed.
"He missed my nose," she said as he put the rag to her face.
"But he got your beautiful eye," he answered. "We may have to bleed it so you can see tomorrow. Otherwise, you'll be grounded."
"I've had worse," she said offhand and it set Starbuck cursing louder. He took her hand and brought it up to hold the compress in place. He needed to hit something. He turned away and kicked at the base of the console, enjoying the feel of his boot making contact.
"This is so fracked up. No one, I mean no one would ever do that to you here. And not just because of me. It's how it is. We don't motivate people with our fists."
"I know," she said softly. "You don't have to recruit me Starbuck, I want to be here."
"So why are you still dealing with them then? Just tell them to frack off and be done with them!" He kicked the metal again.
Rene let the ringing of his fury fade away before she answered. "You know why." She said it very quietly, but in the still of the dome, with the protective metal covering closed, he heard it loud and clear.
"Okay, okay, sorry." Starbuck turned to her, taking her free hand in both of his, "I guess what I mean to say is why are we waiting around? Let's just do this. Once that boray takes off, we get a team to head for the Zakar and you and I go get your family. That's the plan. I don't care what other plans or phases, or whatever you have, that is what is happening and we are doing it now!"
He was surprised when she looked sad and lowered her head. "Hey, what sweet lady? I thought that was what you wanted?"
"I just thought . . ." She sighed deeply before looking up to him, dropping the rag to the floor so she could reach up and touch his face. "Pretty boy," she chuckled. "I thought I would have more time. I thought my friends would be able to get things going on their own. I didn't think I'd be alone."
"You're not alone." He said, reaching up to touch the unbruised side of her face, leaning in to kiss her gently. He felt her hand squeeze his. When he broke away from the kiss he saw that her eyes were shining with an intensity he had not seen before. He didn't have time to wonder what it meant as she leaned towards him kissing him gently at first, then deeply, almost fiercely. He didn't resist it, instead feeling himself give in to it, his excess of adrenaline from the fight he didn't get to finish being instead refocused. But he did wonder at the reason why. He pulled away from the kiss and his raging emotions to question her. The last thing he wanted to do was to abuse the situation, especially after she'd just been basically beaten up.
"Rene?" Was all that he managed to get out before she was dropping to her knees and reaching for the buckle to his holster. She had it quickly undone and was dropping his weapon to the floor and reaching for the buckle to his belt before he completely grasped what she was doing. "Rene? Hey?" His words did not halt her actions as she undid the belt quickly and was reaching for the button to his pants.
"Hey, no!" He reached for her hands, capturing them only for a moment before she pulled them away to continue what she was doing. "Rene, NO!" He grabbed at her wrists pushing her hands away from him and pulling her up to her feet. "Is this how he does it? Beats you up and then expects you to…pay for the privilege?" He had a hard time hiding the disgust in his voice. She just looked at him, not really comprehending what he was saying. He shook her wrists hoping it would snap her back to the here and now. It worked as he saw the look of shock cross her features before the spark of anger.
"We don't talk about that!" she said, pulling a hand away, but Starbuck tightened his grip.
"Then don't treat me like I'm Dante." His words hit the mark and he saw her anger disintegrate into comprehension before she looked away.
He softened the hold on her wrists, sliding his hands down to hold her hands more lovingly. He hadn't meant to say those words out loud, but they were said and he wanted her to understand what he really meant. He squeezed her hands to get her attention.
"Pardon me, sweet lady, if I'm not in the mood after watching some boray beat the pogies out of you. I may like my triad rough, but I don't like my love making that way."
"I just thought," she said, but then faltered.
"You thought what beautiful? I needed a reward for rescuing you? Hey, it's what I do, the famous Starbuck, rescuing damsels in distress, or at least keeping them from making mistakes they'll regret later. Was the knife really necessary? You could have killed him."
She smiled at him evilly for a fraction of a micron before looking away.
"Hey, Sweet Lady," he said drawing her back to him before she retreated behind the fortress walls she had built. "I don't blame you. It made the fight fair and he had it coming. I'm sorry I couldn't get to you sooner. Those snakes of his tripped me up. I'm just glad I got there before you could do some real damage. Things might have ended differently."
"Yeah, it would have been bad if I killed him. It's still going to be bad." He saw the shiver ripple through her before she gripped his hands hard. "I just thought, since we were here, you, me, and things are about to get really serious…I just wanted to be young and alive for a moment, this moment. I just wanted to enjoy what's left of my life before it ends. Can we just pretend that the whole human race isn't riding on all this and not think? I just want to lose myself for a centon or two in those blue eyes, in your arms."
He smiled. "That's how I try to live my whole life, enjoying what there is to enjoy. Yeah, we can do that, but let's keep it a mutual enjoyment, okay? The other, well, just feels too much like…" he didn't say what he was thinking, that it made him into the same kind of Sagan's sludge as Dante. "Come here," he said pulling her to him and wrapping his arms around her. He felt her relax into him, a shudder as the last of the tension left her. He looked down at her deep blue eyes, wishing he could take away the fear they held.
"I'm sorry. No one is ever going to hit you like that ever again. I promise." He meant it with all his heart and it seemed to chase away some of the darkness in her eyes. He leaned down and kissed her gently, aware of the bruises she was sporting and that they must hurt. He deepened the kiss and reached up her back to help her to shrug out of the jacket before entangling one of his hands in her hair. He was just shrugging out of his own jacket when he heard the hatch screw turning and the seal break. Engine noise leaked into the dome and into their moment as they both pulled away.
It was Boomer's head that appeared at the edge of the hatch, climbing up partway, but not bothering to climb all the way into the dome. "They need you on the bridge," he shouted over the engines. "Both of you."
Rene looked wistfully at Starbuck. He quirked an eyebrow in apology before reaching down and handing over her jacket. "Another time, that's a promise."
She nodded as she shrugged back into her uniform and he reached to fasten his belt and his holster.
Boomer hadn't waited for them, giving them the privacy they might need. They donned their ear protection and climbed down to head for the bridge.